Monday, June 15, 2015

Jurassic World, Madame Bovary, Live from New York!, Love at First Fight

Jurassic World
Madame Bovary

Live From New York!
Love at First Fight

Capsules on a mostly poor week of movies:

To quote the late B.B. King, the thrill is gone from the Jurassic franchise. The latest installment, "Jurassic World," clocks in at 2:03, and the extra three minutes involve waiting for Vincent D'Onofrio to lumber over to his mark. It's essentially a Godzilla picture, with so many laughable scenes of humans successfully running away from dinosaurs I stopped counting. Even the supposedly state-of-the-art special effects underwhelm; most of the chases look like they were filmed on green screens. 

We don't get good characters like those played in the original by Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill (I even remember Wayne Knight's death by velociraptor). Instead, Bryce Dallas Howard, she of the resting bitch face (as with Adam Driver, there's got to be a reason she gets the same part in "The Help" and "50/50" and here), plays a humorless park exec charged with watching her two nephews but preoccupied with the genetically super-sized new dino "Indominus Rex." Chris Pratt continues to be the best thing about bad blockbusters as the raptor whisperer who will thwart D'Onofrio and B.D. Wong's nefarious plan and save Howard and the two bros. He fills out a pair of jeans quite nicely, and director Colin Trevorrow (for whom I had higher hopes after the terrific "Safety Not Guaranteed") cuts to his backside whenever Howard mentions "an asset out of containment." Yee-haw!

The pick of the week is Sophie Barthes' living, breathing film of "Madame Bovary," with a lead performance by Mia Wasikowska that reinforces, by contrast, the simpering inanity of Carey Mulligan's turn in the recent "Far from the Madding Crowd." That's not to say Flaubert's protagonist is any more resolute or less trollopy than Hardy's. I like that her love interests - a romantic, long-haired law clerk (Ezra Miller) and a louche marquis (sexy Logan Marshall-Green) - represent only escape from her marriage to the country doctor Charles (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), not clear alternative directions. And I like that Barthes doesn't rely on the crutch of turning Emma's husband into an ogre (as in the recent "Effie Gray"). It's harder to make us feel sympathy for a character animated only by un-nameable desires and vague ennui. That we do is credit to the gifted Wasikowska - watch how tightly she grips Charles' hand for their first post-nuptial kiss, as if willing the marriage to fulfill her - and to Rhys Ifans (my way-outside-the-box pick for best actor of 2011 in "Mr. Nice"), deliciously insidious as Monsieur Lheureux, a purveyor of luxury goods who extends Emma unlimited credit upon her arrival but in time insists that she begin to pay.

A serious discommendation for the insultingly underfed 81-minute documentary "Live From New York!", about "Saturday Night Live." It feels especially unnecessary in the wake of the 40th-anniversary specials that wallpapered NBC not long ago. The tone is reverential (exactly wrong for its subject), the interviews unfocussed, the lack of organizational structure glaring. You'd want two things from an SNL doc: classic clips, and juicy behind-the-scenes anecdotes. "Live From New York!" offers way too little of either.

Finally, thumbs down for Thomas Cailley's intermittently amusing French import "Love at First Fight," about Madeleine (Adѐle Haenel), a nihilistic young woman intent on enduring the grueling training course required of enlistees in the army's parachute dragoon regiment, and Arnaud (Kévin Azaïs), the aimless young carpenter building her parents an outdoor hut who decides to follow her to boot camp. It has its moments, in particular a first kiss that extends into a scene of raw, surprisingly potent sensuality. But the punchy soundtrack - I especially like Kostrok's "Right Now (Yuksek Remix)," featured in the trailer - keeps threatening to kick the movie into a higher gear that never comes. And a bizarre focus on the eating of animals not meant for human consumption leaves a nasty aftertaste.

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