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Thumbnails Jun 15

by Tony Medley

Testament of Youth (10/10): Almost hopelessly romantic, this is still a realistic tale of Vera Brittain’s (Alicia Vikander) experiences before, during, and after World War I. I’ve seen Vikander in three films to which I’ve given 27 total points out of a possible 30 (9/10 for A Royal Affair, 8/10 for Ex Machina, and 10/10 for this). And the main reason for all those high scores for those films is Vikander. She is not only drop-dead gorgeous, only 26 years old, she is as fine an actress extant, one for the ages. If you see any movie this year, let it be this!

Gemma Bovery (8/10): This is an inventive reworking of Flaubert’s classic “Madame Bovary,” written in 1856, which told the story of a doomed doctor’s wife who resorts to innumerable adulterous affairs to escape the doldrums of provincial life. Writer/director Anne Fontaine has converted Posy Simmonds’s 2014 novel into an intriguing film set in modern France. The highlight of the film is the way cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne sometimes films the beautiful Gemma Arterton, who plays the titular Gemma. In the many closeups she is irresistibly gorgeous in most scenes. But in others she can appear almost unattractive, undoubtedly due to the angles Beaucarne chooses. It’s a strange dichotomy and I wonder if it was intentional, making her changing looks a metaphor for her lifestyle, at once a loving wife and then as a cheater.

Mad Max: Fury Road (8/10): A more peripatetic, high octane, testosterone-fueled chase film you will rarely see about a heart-pounding pursuit across a bleak, post-apocolyptic landscape, made even more intense by the powerful music (Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL) which keeps the pace extremely high. In accordance with the protocol, it’s filled with ridiculous fights, car crashes galore, things blowing up, stunts that ignore the laws of physics, etc., etc., etc., all of which defy logic and common sense. But the action is so intense and constant that credibility is irrelevant. If you want entertainment from a film that won’t keep you looking at your watch, you could do a lot worse than this.

Pitch Perfect 2 (8/10): Highlighted by outstanding production values and upbeat, entertaining music, this sequel far outpaces the original. Much to my surprise (I loathed the first one in 2012, rating it 1/10, even though it was a surprise hit), mostly due to the music and choreography it overcomes a silly script (Kay Cannon) with annoying lines, characters, and relationships aimed mainly, I can only surmise, at teenaged girls. But the story and the characters and everything else in this film take a back seat to the music and production numbers which are enough to wow any audience. If there’s a tip, stay for the end credits.

In the Name of My Daughter (7/10): Although the opening titles lead one to believe that this is mostly fiction, in fact it is the story of the love and power struggle between Renée Le Roux (Catherine Deneuve), her daughter Agnès (Adèle Haenel), and Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet), which was an OJ-type headline case in France in the late ‘70s . Although the dialogue is undoubtedly invented, from what I can determine director/writer André Téchiné has stayed pretty close to the truth as it can be known. All three stars give fine performances and the script moves along nicely, although some might find it slow (my assistant did). In French.

Hot Pursuit (2/10):

There were a couple of comedies where I found out something about the technique of farce. It was interesting but I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know why it worked. Later, Mary Boland told me, “Comedy is the last thing you learn.” Because it’s the toughest. Mary Astor, “A Life on Film.”

Reese Witherspoon broke onto the A-list in a comedy, Legally Blonde (2001), so one would think that she had already learned something about comedy. Alas, this unfortunate attempt falls flat, primarily because it’s filled with painfully contrived situations and burdened by Witherspoon’s inability to translate her character’s OCD personality humorously.