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The title says it all in the deeply moving 'Amour'

September 6, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 06--Pick of the week:"Amour" (R) A man strives to care for his increasingly ill wife after she suffers a stroke. This unbelievably tender story won the Oscar for best foreign language film and also got four more nods including best picture and best actress. And speaking of actresses, Emmanuelle Riva delivers one of the most magnificent performances I've ever seen. There is a scene in which her character's diaper is being changed by a caregiver who is training another woman to do the task. The camera slowly pans toward Riva's face as the two caregivers talk as if Riva is not there. Riva doesn't speak a word but the emotion in her face -- ranging from embarrassment and humiliation to anger and acceptance -- is one of the most remarkable feats in acting I've ever seen. A

"American Brawler" (unrated) A martial arts trainer whose studio is on the verge of closing joins an underground MMA fight club with his brother so they can earn extra cash. The Hispanic angle is refreshing and applaudable but everything else -- especially the fight scenes -- is derivative and predictable. B-

"Among Friends" (R) Low-budget torture porn in which a group of friends gather for a party that becomes a vessel for cruelty and murder. Much like "Would You Rather," released last month, the story takes an interrupting premise and does its best to apply interest within its financial restraints. The gruesome deeds are a bit more creative than those in "Would You Rather" but the results are the same: a cheapo production that isn't horrible but far from horrifying. B-

"At Any Price" (R) A farmer and seed salesman is bent on increasing his sales territory so he can leave the family farm to his sons. The chemistry between Dennis Quaid and Zach Efron make this film a whole lot better than it should have been. What an unusual premise. Seed sellers across the globe can finally rejoice that their story is being told. OK, snarky comments aside, this is a film that is far better than its synopsis implies. B

"Clear History" (unrated) Larry David plays a marketing wizard who quits the auto firm he's working for right before the car takes the world by storm, denying him a billion-dollar payday and prompting him to seek revenge against his former boss. David has played the snarky everyman who gets screwed over by everyone from CEOs to the waitress who doesn't refill his water glass in almost every project he's done and he does it very well. From the George Costanza character in "Seinfeld" patterned after him to his 11-year stint on the improvised HBO series, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," David has made us feel his pain and made us laugh every step of the way. "Clear History" is no different. David's thinking man's slapstick -- like Woody Allen in his early films -- is joyously over the top. "Clear History" is available at HBOGO.com to subscribers. B+

"Epic" (PG) A forest queen enlists human aid to save her world from an insect horde bent on destruction. There was an awful lot of big name talent involved in this film, including Beyonce, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Farrell and Christoph Waltz. It's too bad their vocal talents couldn't save this mess. Remember the "Arthur and the Invisibles" trilogy? Well, "Epic" takes many of those neat ideas and grinds them into generic roadkill. A most disappointing experience. C

"Evidence" (unrated) Detectives use found footage from the scene of a mass murder to piece together the crime. A remarkably well-known cast -- Rahda Mitchell and Stephen Moyer included -- star in this most unremarkable film. There haven't been too many horror films about killers whose weapon of choice is a welding torch with an unbelievably long hose to reach the victims. All in all, remarkably stupid. F

"The Great Gatsby" (PG-13) The sixth adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's timeless classic about wealth, power obsession and social status, does the best job of telling the story but frankly, I'm not that big of a fan to begin with. Baz Luhrmann's jazzed-up rendition with its terrific music mashups -- George Gershwin and Kanye West don't often make it onto the same soundtracks -- and perfect casting are commendable but I was contemplating suicide after the first million times Leonardo DiCaprio's Gatsby said "old sport." B-

"Pain & Gain" (R) Three bodybuilders hatch a scheme to extort funds from a Schlotzsky's franchise owner. Well, color me surprised. Director Michael Bay finally puts character and story development ahead of stunts and special effects and the result is his most genuine film to date. Of course, he is telling a true story so he probably couldn't stray from the script too much. Handling the true story with levity with its portrayal of the dimwitted bodybuilders was crucial to making it work. And it works so well. Mark Wahlberg -- who obviously went Method enough to puff himself into legitimate bodybuilder form -- hasn't played dumb this good since "Boogie Nights," and Dwayne Johnson's moronic inmate-turned-Christian could only be played by someone with enough brains to know how to use comedic timing the way he did. B

"Pawn Shop Chronicles" (R) There are several storylines in this kooky film that include a meth robbery by two white supremacist addicts, a man who spots his missing first wife's wedding ring in a pawn shop and a down-on-his-luck Elvis impersonator. The stories are all coherent, fleshed-out and dialogue-driven in a way that would make Quentin Tarantino proud. The conversations between the two addicts alone are priceless as they question why they hate Jews and black people. The biggest problem is with the missing ring storyline that leads Matt Dillon's character on a chase that transforms the film from hillbilly comedy to torture porn. Again, that probably would make Tarantino proud but it made the film disjointed and brings a graphic violence element to the film that was not necessary. If that's what you're ready for, you'll be thrilled. Oh, and an FYI to Norman Reedus fans who may notice his name prominently featured in the credits. Reedus' entire performance is done while wearing a gas mask so don't expect the former model and "Walking Dead" star to be easily spotted. B+

"Saturday Morning Mystery" (unrated) A team of paranormal investigators -- a la Scooby-Doo complete with an easily frightened mutt -- spend the night in a spooky mansion. Far more gory than anything Shaggy, Velma and the crew had to face, the gimmick is about all this film has going for it. C

"33 Postcards" (not rated) A Chinese orphan is elated to finally visit the kind Australian man who has sponsored her upbringing. What she finds when she and her choir visit Sydney is a far cry from the happy family she thought she would find. Forthright and honest, the film nonetheless has a strong case of the drags. Without really developing the story or the characters, things just take too long. B-

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(c)2013 the Midland Reporter-Telegram (Midland, Texas)

Visit the Midland Reporter-Telegram (Midland, Texas) at www.mywesttexas.com

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