Review: Swedish film 'Force Majeure' asks hard questions about manhood and family
Credit: Platform Produktion AB

Review: Swedish film 'Force Majeure' asks hard questions about manhood and family

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And answers them with both wisdom and a surprising streak of humor

CANNES -- What if you were to learn that you are not the man you think you are?

And even worse, what if your family learned it at the same time you did?

That is the question that is cannily posed by "Force Majeure," a new film written and directed by Ruben Ostlund, and with one minor quibble, I found myself deeply impressed by how complex and smart the movie is, and how well it sets up that question and then spends time digging deep to try and answer it. Ostlund pulls off a remarkable balancing act of tone throughout the film, and while many movies feel like they work overtime to try and reach some sort of profound statement, "Force Majeure" effortlessly offers up an examination of just how difficult it is to define and live up to modern ideas of masculinity.

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'Godfather" D.P. Gordon Willis, Hollywood's Prince of Darkness, dies at 82
Credit: MGM/UA Home Video

'Godfather" D.P. Gordon Willis, Hollywood's Prince of Darkness, dies at 82

One of our titans has fallen

One of the most joyous sequences in American film is the opening of Woody Allen's "Manhattan." As Allen's character Isaac speaks in voice-over, Gershwin's remarkable "Rhapsody In Blue" plays.

"Chapter One. He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion. No, make that… he romanticized it all out of proportion. Better. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin. Mm. No. Let me start this over."

Don't bother, Woody. You got it right the first time, and to provide that black-and-white counterpoint to the soaring sounds of Gershwin, cinematographer Gordon Willis shot some of the greatest images of New York City ever burned onto celluloid. Black-and-white felt like a perfect form of expression for Willis, who was referred to by many filmmakers as "The Prince Of Darkness," and "Manhattan" is not just Woody Allen's best looking film… it may be one of the best looking films of all time.

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Review: Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska struggle to stay afloat in turgid 'Maps To The Stars'
Credit: eOne Films International

Review: Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska struggle to stay afloat in turgid 'Maps To The Stars'

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C
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Cronenberg's latest just doesn't ring true

CANNES -- Last time I was here on the Croisette, David Cronenberg was here with "Cosmopolis," and his son Brandon Cronenberg was here with "Antiviral." It was interesting seeing Brandon make a film that felt like it came from the young and squishy heart of his father, while David made a movie that felt like a genuine explosion of anger without a clear target to land on.

It is easy to say that filmmakers lose steam as they work, that age and success mellow even the most genuinely furious artists, but I don't think that's the case with Cronenberg. After all, since the year 2000, he's made three films that I think are all very strong in their own way and very different than anything he'd done before. "Spider" is an upsetting glimpse into a damaged mind, one that traps us inside looking out rather than trying to explain or excuse. "A History Of Violence" did an exceptional job of digging into the secret faces that even the most intimate of married couples can hide from each other. "Eastern Promises" is just a lean, mean, solid crime thriller with a truly sordid side. And while I don't care for "A Dangerous Method" at all, at least I can understand why Cronenberg would want to tackle a story about the birth of the language we use to dissect modern sexual pathology.

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Review: 'It Follows' offers up some fresh horror ideas from a rising indie filmmaking star
Credit: Northern Lights, Two Flints

Review: 'It Follows' offers up some fresh horror ideas from a rising indie filmmaking star

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It may not all work, but it's got some teeth to it

CANNES -- David Robert Mitchell's "The Myth Of The American Sleepover" was a low-key, low-fi charmer that came out of nowhere a few years ago. The title struck me as perhaps a wee bit on the ambitious side, but the film wasn't out to make grand generational statements. It was just a well-observed film about the sort of night that is important to teenagers precisely because of how loose and free and dangerous it feels, and it marked Mitchell as a guy who had something to say, and a very particular way of saying it.

"It Follows" is his second feature, and it feels very much like it is a companion piece to "Myth." It takes place in the same sorts of neighborhoods, on the same sorts of streets, and many of the scenes play out in that same sort of dreamy loose manner, the way many real conversations play out for teenagers. The difference is that Mitchell's got a very different goal in mind this time, as "It Follows" is an unabashed horror film. There's something really compelling about watching what feels like his first film suddenly erupt into a supernatural nightmare, and it feels like Mitchell's just as much of a soft spot for Carpenter's Haddonfield as he does for Linklater's Austin.

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Review: Argentine dark comedy 'Relatos Salvajes' is dazzling and wicked
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Review: Argentine dark comedy 'Relatos Salvajes' is dazzling and wicked

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Damian Szifron, it's nice to meet you

CANNES -- As I was standing in line last night outside the Salle Debussy, it was obvious that things were out of the control of the people running the festival. For those unfamiliar with the way badge hierarchy works at these events, Cannes has a carefully segregated caste system. If you have a white badge or a pink badge, the world is your oyster. You are able to walk in first, and you are given your choice of location. If you have a blue badge, you have to wait until white and pink have all been seated. And then beyond that, there are at least two more colors that have to wait even longer, and there's a good chance many of those people don't even make it inside.

I'm rocking a blue badge this year, somewhere in the middle of the pecking order, which means I need to spend some extra time in line if I want to try to guarantee myself a seat. The line for "Relatos Salvajes" was unusually long by the time I arrived, though, and it took me a moment to find the end of it amidst the crowd that's always gathered in front of the Palais. There was no clearly marked space, though, and people with every color badge started to pile in from the sides, creating more of a mob than a line, and as they started letting in, things got volatile very quickly. I saw people forcing their way in ahead of people who had been waiting, and within moments, I started to worry that I genuinely wouldn't get a seat.

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Review: Robert Pattinson and Guy Pearce sizzle, but slow-moving 'Rover' still disappoints
Credit: FilmNation

Review: Robert Pattinson and Guy Pearce sizzle, but slow-moving 'Rover' still disappoints

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C+
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This the way the world ends, not with a bang but a yawn

CANNES - David Michod's "Animal Kingdom" was a venal little crime drama with strong, unsparing character work, and it garnered him international attention, with Jacki Weaver eventually landing an Academy Award nomination for playing a mother who was only slightly less terrifying than the Alien Queen. Little wonder he was able to attract some big names to his new film, "The Rover," which is making its premiere as part of this year's Cannes Film Festival.

It's been programmed as part of the Midnights section here at Cannes, but I would imagine any audience coming off of a long day of screenings who tries to actually sit through this at the tail end of their day is going to find themselves struggling. Glacially paced and intentionally minimalistic, "The Rover" tells the story of how a man living in Australia ten years after "the collapse" hunts down the men who took his car. That's it. That's the entire narrative arc of the film, and while there are other characters and certain events that serve as digressions, it all eventually comes down to a man pursuing some other men because they took his car and he wants it back, and while there are some very strong performances in the film, the movie is inert, dramatically speaking, and covers such familiar ground that I can't really recommend it.

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<p>By far, this is still my favorite Duran Duran album cover. Boy, the &#39;80s were fun.</p>

By far, this is still my favorite Duran Duran album cover. Boy, the '80s were fun.

Credit: Gabriel Polsky Productions

Review: 'Red Army' offers up a smart and funny documentary about Cold War hockey

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Yeah, I wouldn't have picked this one as a laugh-fest, either

CANNES -- When I was a kid, the Soviet Union was the source of many long nights worth of nuclear nightmares, the Communist empire that we were warned would be coming for us one day. They were The Enemy, and we were indoctrinated with an infantile form of geopolitics, Us Vs Them. The Cold War was a constant presence, drilled into us from the moment we were old enough to understand the basics of "There are bad guys, and they want to kill you." Even today, when I talk to people my age who never shook that programming off, I am amazed how well they drilled that message into us, and how pervasively ugly it was.

As much as there were financial and political issues in play, the ideological war of Communism Vs Democracy was the biggest thing they tried to teach us. Never mind that they weren't technically communists and we're not technically a democracy. It made for a compelling narrative, and it seemed to motivate any number of advances for both nations. One particular triumph on the Soviet side involved their hockey program, and the film "Red Army" tells the story of how that happened.

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Chris Pratt calls 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' 'mind-blowing' from the London set

Chris Pratt calls 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' 'mind-blowing' from the London set

This is just the start of our coverage on this one

There are so many things I want to tell you about the time I spent in London on the set of "Guardians Of The Galaxy."

Today, though, we're still embargoed on the vast majority of it, and so we're going to focus on one of the interviews that we conducted as a group. Seems like Chris Pratt's a good place to start in any conversation about this film, since this will be the biggest film role he's ever had, and much of the success of the film hinges on how the audience takes to him as Peter Quill aka Star Lord.

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Review: 'How To Train Your Dragon 2' soars above most Hollywood franchise films
Credit: 20th Century Fox/Dreamworks Animation

Review: 'How To Train Your Dragon 2' soars above most Hollywood franchise films

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How did they make it look so easy?

CANNES -- Before the screening of "How To Train Your Dragon 2" started, there was a special trailer that was put together just for this event, celebrating 20 years of DreamWorks Animation bringing movies to Cannes to premiere.

What I found most impressive about it is how they managed to make even the films I really enjoyed from their studio look terrible by emphasizing the loud, the coarse, the most obvious of the jokes. It played more like a threat than a celebration, and it makes me wonder… is this what DreamWorks thinks works best with their films? Is this what they want every one of their movies to look like?

If so, the "How To Train Your Dragon" series must drive them crazy.

With this second film in the series, Dean DeBlois (who both wrote and directed the movie) has turned this into the most exciting overall property that DreamWorks has, live-action or animated. The film has an immediate confidence, and they don't spend much time trying to explain the first film. This is a sequel that has its own story to tell and that gets right down to it, and it expands on the ideas from the first film, but in a way that tells a thematically satisfying and complete story. In other words, this is how franchises are supposed to work.

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Review: Atom Egoyan's kidnapping drama 'Captive' is arch and ridiculous
Credit: eOne Films International

Review: Atom Egoyan's kidnapping drama 'Captive' is arch and ridiculous

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D
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'Prisoners' doesn't have anything to worry about

CANNES -- It's hard to know where to start when analyzing what went wrong with a film as preposterous and phony as Atom Egoyan's "The Captive," a kidnapping drama that kicked off the first Friday of this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Egoyan is a frustrating filmmaker these days. In the early part of his career, his work was distinguished by a chilly, clinical style and a fascination with perspective. "Next Of Kin," "Family Viewing," and "Speaking Parts" all displayed enormous promise, and he hit his stride with films like "Exotica" and "The Sweet Hereafter." Lately, though, his films feel half-baked, increasingly distanced from any recognizable human behavior, and with "Devil's Knot," his dramatic take on the story of the West Memphis Three, it felt to me like he'd gone completely off the rails as a storyteller. I couldn't even figure out what point he thought he was making with the material that had already been so thoroughly (and expertly) mined by documentarians.

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