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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Cecile de France

The Kid with a Bike (2011)

Every kid needs a bike to get by in life.

Abandoned by his father and practically everyone else around him, young Cyril (Thomas Doret) begins to act out in anger, causing all sorts of havoc and constantly finding himself in trouble. In a way, it almost seems like it follows him everywhere he goes and it’s as if Cyril will never be able to escape the darkness that swallows up his whole life. However, there is one light to be found in Cyril’s relatively bad life: His caretaker Samantha (Cécile de France), who took the opportunity to watch over him on something of a whim and is finding a lot more than she can chew. But seeing as how Cyril’s got nowhere else to go, but an orphanage, or even worse, a juvenile delinquent center and becoming another little boy involved with the system, she decides to stick with it and realizes that it may be worth it. And after much time together, yeah, Cyril gets used to Samantha, her rules, and the way she lives her life, which is relatively peaceful and nice, by his standards. But as per usual, Cyril’s past always comes back to bite him in the rear-end when constant attempts to connect with his dad seem to turn sour and piss Cyril off even more.

Good luck watching over that kid.

The Kid with the Bike is one of the Dardenne’s more interesting flicks, because it not only seems to have something resembling an actual plot, but seems to be a lot sweeter and more optimistic than their other flicks. Sure, it’s about a young whippersnapper who causes all sorts of problems, gets into trouble, and doesn’t have the best life imaginable, but it also has some solid glimmers of hope, too. In fact, a good portion of the movie is dedicated to Cyril getting better at life, at family, at love, and at realizing that there’s more to everything than just sitting around all day and being mad at the world around him.

Sometimes, it’s best to just smile and be grateful, as easy as that may be to say.

And yes, as usual, the Dardenne’s keep up with their naturalistic approach, where it seems like the movie’s a documentary, and yes, it works. But what really keeps the Kid with the Bike compelling is Thomas Doret in the lead role of Cyril, who proves to be a smart kid, despite also being chock-full of angst. The Dardenne’s have a knack for casting talented young actors in their somewhat difficult roles, because half of what they’re doing is just showing, rather than just saying; you can say that’s all of acting, but when you’re a kid, and half of what you’re being told to do is simply just standing there and reacting, it’s a pretty hard feat to pull off. But Doret does just that, showing that there are true, honest, and relatively sad layers beneath Cyril’s sometimes infuriating actions.

Brat.

As is usually the case with Dardenne protagonists, Cyril doesn’t make the best decisions, but because he’s a kid and is so hot-headed, it sort of works and makes sense. And considering she could have easily turned into a silly, sappy type that these types of stories love to have, Cécile de France feels real and honest as Samantha, a gal who doesn’t know what she’s gotten herself into, but knows the end results of what happens if she walks away, so she sticks it out, the best that she can. The two have a lovely little bit of chemistry, seeming as if they’re getting to know, as well as love one another, gradually over time, with the usual hurdles having to be climbed over.

But hey, that’s how family.

But the reason why the Kid with the Bike isn’t, in my book, considered one of the Dardenne’s best, even though it can come very, very close, is its cop-out of an ending.

And that’s all I’ll say about that. Just see it and you’ll know what I’m saying. Hopefully.

Consensus: Despite a folly ending, the Kid with the Bike is typical of the Dardenne’s, in that it’s sad, honest, heartfelt, and surprisingly warm, given the underlining of darkness always there to be found.

8 / 10

Well, maybe he’s got some charm.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Mesrine (Killer Instinct & Public Enemy No. 1) (2008)

Tony Montana ain’t got nothing on the French.

Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel), was a notorious French gangster who rained supreme during the 60’s and 70’s. He did it all, and then some. And believe it or not, escaped jail not once, not twice, not even three times, but escaped jail four times.

Yeah, talk about some skill.

Yes, Mesrine is, essentially, split into two-halves, rather than take up any time, I’ve decided to review both movies, together, as if it was all one, long, four-hour gangster flick. Is that a better way to watch it? Eh. I’m not sure. It depends, really.

Hey, gangsters gotta love too, right?

Hey, gangsters gotta love too, right?

How much time do you have on your hands? Better yet, how much time do you have where you want to enjoy yourself and pretty damn riveted from start-to-finish, for a total, combined run-time of nearly four hours?

Does that sound appealing to you, then yes, watch Mesrine‘s two parts, together, in one sitting.

Despite this being quite a long take on a tale that, quite frankly, could have probably been narrowed-down to one, whole, regularly-timed movie, director Jean-François Richet definitely pulls out all of the stops by making it as interesting as humanly possible, while also not forgetting about the small details. He starts off on a risky move right at the beginning, which would have killed any other director’s momentum, but doesn’t here. He gives us a story all based on facts and true accounts, and one that can easily be read about online, but where’s the excitement in all of that?

The first-half of Mesrine has some of the best action, especially because it’s us watching as the titled-character is jumping head first into this world of crime and violence. Also, it helps that Richet doesn’t try to go hard for the whole over-stylized way of action, but instead just shows it off as a gritty act of violence that just so happens to be all true. It almost reminded me of something straight out of Heat and it reminded me of the good old days of Mann, when he was showing characters off as being as utterly remorseless, but interesting, as possible.

But the issue is that after the initial wham and bam of the first-half, it all kind of settles down.

The second-half is much longer and changes everything up both with it’s tone and pace; it’s a lot more slower and melodic as we focus more on the characters and what their motivations are behind every act, but the tone is also a lot different as it’s a bit darker than the first, but also has some nice comedy mixed in there as well. It’s a very strange mixture that ends up working quite well and still kept this film entertaining, even if there wasn’t any awesomely memorable action scenes here, as there was with the first one.

The problem with this whole film is that you already know the ending.

Clearly Mesrine was puffing that magic dragon.

Clearly Mesrine was puffing that magic dragon.

Yes, that’s a lame excuse since it’s pretty obvious that this guy would not have this story to be told, while he’s still out there running around and doing big, bad things like he always did. Understandable, but seriously, when all of the tension goes away and we’re left with barely any action scenes left to show, it just feels like a bit tiresome since we are just waiting and waiting for the end of this guy’s life to eventually just play out. He isn’t all that interesting of a character, and feels like every other person-turned-crime-gangster in other movies, and if it weren’t for the sympathetic girls he shacked-up with, he would have been downright reprehensible.

Although, of course, the person in real life still was, regardless of who he shagged.

But still, Vincent Cassel is solid here and despite being in almost every shot, he owns each and every one of them as Jacques Mesrine. Cassel is known for over-doing it a bit too much when he really doesn’t have to, but here as Mesrine, we don’t get nearly as much of it; even when we do get the screaming, shouting and letting it all out, it feels deserved and believable because this character he is playing is such a live-wire with almost everything he does. The guy gets thrown in jail and the first thing on his mind isn’t how he’s going to change his life, it’s how the hell he’s going to break loose and be able to get some sweet cash once he is out. This guy lives the life of a stereotypical gangster: Fast money, fast cars, fast guns, fast women, and overall, a fast life. But it’s not all fun and games with this dude, no, in fact he actually brings it down to Earth sometimes with his softer, gentler scenes where you see that there is a lot more to him than just one scary son of a bitch. The guy is still a person and deep down inside, cares for the people that are closest to him but can never ever be with them since he always seems to be on the run.

The rest of the supporting cast that comes in and out of this movie (just like Mesrine’s life) are all spectacular and may even be more interesting than Mesrine himself, at some points. Gerard Dépardieu plays the head gangster that takes Mesrine under his wing and shows a very dark and gritty side to him that’s not always shown; Matthieu Amalric plays a guy that escapes from jail with Mesrine and is actually a very interesting character to watch since you never know what his intentions are and what he plans to do with Mesrine and the money that they make together; and all of the beautiful ladies that come into Mesrine’s life (Elena Anaya, Cécile De France, and Ludivine Sagnier, to name a solid few) do fine jobs as well by not only serving up some perfect eye-candy, but some perfect dramatic scenes as well.

Consensus: Split into two, Mesrine doesn’t fully add-up, nor does it work as well together, but still, provides enough entertainment, excitement, and solid acting to be more than worth one’s while.

8 / 10

Shades are always cool.

Why so grumpy, Vincenzo? 

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Roger Ebert, Metacritic

Hereafter (2010)

Jason Bourne: Ghost Whisperer.

Three different stories across Earth come together because of one major factor one experiences in his, or her life: Death. There’s George (Matt Damon), who has a “gift” in which he can speak with people’s lost ones through the after-life, and considers it more of a curse than anything else. Then, there’s French journalist Marie Lelay (Cécile de France) who has a near-death experience when she vacations to Thailand during the infamous 2004 earthquake and tsunami, and finds herself in a bit of a trance-like phase afterwards when she has to get back to functioning in everyday, normal life. And lastly, there’s twin-brothers Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren), who both stick by one another as their drug-addicted mum gets worse and worse everyday, only to then be left alone when one of the twins die in a car-accident. All three people deal with death in their own ways and somehow, through the sheer power of fate, chance, or maybe even luck, connect while still looking for the same answers: Just what exactly happens to one when they die? Is it all just dark and blank? Or, is there more beauty and wonder to being dead?

At the time of this movie’s release, Clint Eastwood was 80-years-of-age and still going strong with life (as well as with the ladies) I presume. However, even a bad-ass mofo like himself has to at least accept the reality that yes, even he may die one of these days. And yes, for a man of his age, that could mean anytime soon.

"Come play with us, Danny."

“Come play with us, Danny.”

Though that sounds morbid and all, I only mean it as a way to understand his inspiration in deciding to direct a movie such as this. See, it’s all about the idea of death, what happens to us when we succumb to it, and what is there left to do after? Do we all just float around like ghosts, spooking people in horror movies and occasionally being spotted in strange photos? Or, do we live in this glow-y, supernatural after-life in which we all just hang out, party it up like no tomorrow and just wait for our loved-ones to eventually join us whenever their time on Earth is up? It’s never been proven which actually happens or not, and even though there are some people who like to say that they know exactly what happens, there’s still not enough fact to fall back on.

That said, Eastwood’s movie makes a pretty interesting claim that it doesn’t matter if we know or not, living this life on Earth is what matters most. We have to make the best of it and not get bogged down by the fact that people we know are dead and that we will be soon; we just got to keep calm and chive on, or so I’m told.

Which brings me back to what I was originally going on about: Eastwood’s age meaning something. Because see, even somebody of Eastwood’s respected stature among masculine-men, has to eventually realize that he soon will die and be gone from those he loves, or anybody else in the world for that fact. Once again, I know it sounds depressing, but it really isn’t – at least not in Eastwood’s case who is actually leaving a large body of work behind him as his legacy, where most people have just their regular, everyday lives. Still, not saying one person’s death is less important than another’s, I’m just saying that I wouldn’t be surprise if the reason as to why Eastwood decided to get behind this movie and direct it, had a little bit to do with the fact that he himself is getting up there in age and closer and closer to being gone.

And with Eastwood here, his direction is very surprising. The choices he makes (like barely any score heard in the background, dim-lighting, long-winded scenes of dialogue) keep this movie interesting, in a small, contained way. It’s not something we often see from Eastwood or his flicks, however, it’s something that made me think that even though he’s older, he still has new, creative ways to show that he can shake things up, if only ever so slightly. You get a sense that Eastwood not only wants to pay attention to the themes about dying and the after-life, but also to the story and these characters, without really trying to get in the way of what it is that they do with their time on Earth. It would have been easy for him to do so, too, but Eastwood, being the dignified man he is, leans back and just lets most of the characters speak for themselves with their actions, wants, and needs.

However, there was something terribly “off” to this whole feature. And before anybody gets on my case and makes a point that “not every movie has to be played at a pace of 110 mph”, I will say this: It was not the pace of this movie that bothered. Even if it was slow and calm, it did not bother me; in fact, it did quite the opposite, it kept me watching. But no, what the real problem was that most of the movie felt like a smaller-scaled, less eventful indie that didn’t rely on the sheer-spectacle of its story, or the budget it was granted, but more of its characters, their feelings, emotions, etc.

But for some reason, by the end, Eastwood starts take steps further and further away from this mode of filming, and gets quite sentimental after awhile. Worst of all, he has most of this story ring false notes that I wish I didn’t see coming, but sadly, did. Meaning that when they did happen, they brought down the emotions going into this story and why it mattered to us that these three characters eventually find peace, love and happiness with their lives.

For instance, the character of George is a great example of what I’m trying to say. Here’s a guy who starts the movie out by contacting somebody’s dead wife and shows that what he has, is a total gift and is not a lie whatsoever. However, he doesn’t want to be known as “the guy who can talk to the dead”, whom everybody swarms and attacks, hoping that they too can speak with their lost, loved ones. You feel sympathy for him because he just wants to live a calm and peaceful life, yet, at the same time, also feel bad for him because he’s lonely and can’t really tell any person that he wants to be with for the rest of his life, who he really is, or what special talents he has deep in the pits of palms.

The French have always been known to be quick on their feet. Possibly an offensive joke. I don't know yet.

The French have always been known to be quick on their feet. Possibly an offensive joke. I don’t know yet.

It should be noted that, as usual, Damon is great in this role as George, because he’s pretty much the everyday man. Sure, he may have a unique talent that puts him in a different category from “everybody else”, but Damon plays him well to where it seems like this is just your ordinary, average dude who just wants to be happy, man. However, what ruins George by the end is that he makes some decisions that seem terribly contrived and only allowed so that he can eventually meet-up with the two other main characters in this movie. Didn’t quite work for me as much as I would have liked, and believe it or not, probably would have been a lot better off had it just been avoided in the first place.

With a movie like this, it’s almost expected that these three would eventually cross paths, but I feel like since their lives were each so miserable and painful as they were, that being separated from one another would make the movie more interesting, albeit, believable. But, as expected, Eastwood went with the conventional-route and made sure that these three eventually find ways of meeting one another and affect each other’s lives in big, meaningful ways; as hackneyed as they may have been.

As for the other two, or should I say, three, in this cast, Cécile de France and both Frankie and George McLaren are fine in their roles, although the latter two may not fair as well as de France. It’s not that I like picking on child actors, but when kids give bad performances, I recognize it and here, with both Frankie and George McLaren, they clearly can’t handle the material as well. Then again, they’re twins playing, essentially, the same character at most points, so I guess that’s a gimmick Eastwood himself couldn’t resist in trying out for size.

Sadly, it pains me to say that Clint may have been beaten-out. Yup, I went there and I find myself wanting to come back as soon as I just typed-it.

Please don’t hurt me, Clint.

Consensus: Hereafter is definitely made more interesting by the fact that somebody of Clint Eastwood’s stature and talents would get behind it, but sadly, even he succumbs to the more schmaltzy, sentimental happenings that overtake the last-half or so.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

The first date and she already wants him to contact the dead. Typical of women, am I right men?

The first date and she already wants him to contact the dead. Typical of women. Am I right guys?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Halloween Horror Movie Month: High Tension (2003)

I don’t care who you think it may be showing up to your door at 4 a.m, you always gotta bring a weapon or crazy shit like this happens.

Marie (Cécile de France) and Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco) are two young women intent on spending a quiet weekend in the country with Alex’s family. When a brutal killer turns up and abducts Alex, slaughtering her family in the process, it’s up to Marie to save her friend before she becomes the killer’s next victim.

This is one of those infamous horror movies from the early 21st Century that dared to push the limit. This, along with other splatter-horror flicks like Hostel, Saw, The Descent, and many others just said, “Hey horror! We’re going to make you one bad-ass mothatrucka again and get you away from all of those sissy, J-horror remakes that are all rated PG-13.” Okay, maybe none of them said those exact words but it doesn’t matter, because these guys really pushed the element and one of those main directors who did was Alexandre Aja.

Now if anybody has seen Piranha 3D (the original that came out in 2010, not that sequel shit that ruined my eyes) you have to know what this director can do. He offers some blood, gore, tension, sleaziness, but altogether, a fun time. Here, that is exactly the case and it provides for one of the more enjoyable and tense pieces of horror that I have seen in quite some time. The story starts off boring with a bunch of lame-ass English dubs that almost make this movie look like a Bruce Lee kung-fu movie from the 70’s and I really thought it was going to be a whole distraction. Then, one of the girls start to masturbate and it’s really just random and I thought to myself, “Jeezus, this film is just losing more and more points by the minute.” But then, there’s a knock at the door, and then thankfully, that’s when everything really started to come together in one, full-swing.

One thing you should be warned about with this flick is that it is downright disgusting at points. Aja does a good job of keeping the violence very subtle at times, but when the guy wants to get in-your-face about it, then he doesn’t leave anything out at all. Not a single organ is left unseen here and it is at times, very gruesome and discomforting to watch, but it was pretty neat how he allowed the gore to bring real color to some scenes that seemed like it needed it. There’s this one scene that I’m pretty sure many of you people have seen where one of the girls gets into a car, and the bad-guy with the buzz-saw comes after her and just shreds-up the driver of the car and it creates a huge blood-splash that goes everywhere in the car. It’s a very wonderful shot and one of the very few instances where Aja knows how to use his gore to his effect and strength.

Seeing that this film is called High Tension, I went in expecting that and that is exactly what I got with this flick. The whole element behind this film that intrigued me was how most of it is shot in real-time where we are simply following the events as they happen and there is barely anything ever left out. This allows us to feel like we are right there for this torturous ride and some of the scenes that Aja places in here, just gave me chills going all throughout my spine and it had me wondering just what was going to happen next. Sadly, what happened next was probably one of the main elements about this film that pissed me off.

The whole film for about an hour or so, was absolutely kicking ass and I really could not get enough of it but then, for some odd reason, Aja felt the need to add in a nice little twist because all horror films need one, right? In horror films, people can’t just kill people because they like it, right? Without giving too much away, the twist at the end makes this whole film seem pretty dumb and almost very unbelievable. It’s sort of like the horror film Silent House that came out recently, it has a twist that’s supposed to be one, big clever change-up of the whole story, and it doesn’t add anything else other than a bunch of confusion from people who don’t need it, especially when they are just letting their brains rot on horror movies. It wasn’t so bad to the point of where I was almost fed-up with the whole film, but it definitely changed my opinion on my final score.

As for the acting, it’s pretty good even though they aren’t really given much dialogue to work with here. Cécile de France has a good look as Marie because she doesn’t really seem like the type of strong-willed chick that would be willing to stay alive and face-off against this dude, but somehow she shows a great deal of strength and aggression in a role that actually needed it, in my opinion. I also have to give bonus points to the guy who plays the killer because he doesn’t really get the chance to show his full face until the very end, but the whole time he is just terribly intimidating and scary, and it was a pretty good idea on the part of Aja to give us a faceless killer. Just adds more creepiness to him as a whole.

Consensus: Though the plot twist really shakes things up by the end, and in a bad way, High Tension still delivers on the, ahem, tension, blood, and gore that helps further the plot more and more into one sick journey that never seems to stop.

7/10=Rental!!