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Angel Has Fallen (2019)
Dull action movie
1. The hero is a dull civil servant, tired (ala "too old for that s." only without the comic relief) all-around best boy in the universe but with a broken back,
2. the villain is the typical "nemesis in a booth" that was so well executed in Speed (but it was Dennis Hopper and he was not supposed to take on the POTUS),
3. and worst of all, as mentioned in another review, all the other good guys are just crash test dummies (special award to the extra dull special agent fully played by Jada Pincket Smith)
In the end it feels a lot like a MoW (does it still exist in the Netflix era) with some SFX/CGI. I see that Robert Mark Kamen credited here: I should have known better, you pay monkeys, you get bags of peanuts.
Boring, boring, boring. Self-complacent ramblings about nothing
To say that this movie is self-complacent would be a gigantic understatement. As gigantic maybe as Tarantino's memory, overloaded with scores of details that he doesn't care to sort out. So he unloads them in bulk. The result : it's like you go to a promising party but end up cornered most of the night by some drunk guy who absolutely wants to share his opinions about everything.
Right from the start you get vignette after vignette, self-indulgent, overlong spoof sequences that bog down the main narrative. What with all the stuff Tarantino has learnt about movies he can't shorten exposition to clever ellipses ? Once upon a time I thought he was very good with dialogue, but I guess it is no fun to toil and write fine lines (no just snappy one-liners from time to time) when Sony will greenlight anything you want to shoot.
Once upon a time in Hollywood does not have a plot. It is the New Wave auteur in Tarantino who does not think he needs a plot. He has a couple of characters, a dozen anecdotes and the rest is talent. Self-conscious talent, lazy talent, talent isolated in the middle of a creative process. More like naked skills, each trying separately to express its full potential.
The hero and his sidekick are losers: how do you build a story around losers ? You need rhythm and some kind of McGuffin (wasn't it all there in Pulp Fiction?), not some vague exploration of the meaning of life. The plot is limited to the draft premise: a has-been TV actor and his stunt double cope with reality in Hollywood around the time of the Manson Family murders. The backdrop of the murders is the only narrative asset. We are teased all along, we even have an extensive reconstitution of life at the Spahn Ranch... all this just to toy around and end with the kind of ultra-violent carnival that Tarantino fans seem to revere. Clearly the challenge of mentioning the sordid Tate-LaBianca murders of August 1969 was not only above Tarantino's mental ability, but grossly using background anecdotes from it as fodder for his inspiration was within his moral scope.
As always I am judging this movie on its merits from a movie enthusiast point of view. But Tarantino is much more than a movie enthusiast. He is a guttonous movie fanatic. He is a guru with followers who let themselves be impressed, just like with Charles Manson. Many more followers than Charles Manson; fortunately Tarantino followers are only trained to see the fun in violence.
On ne meurt que deux fois (1985)
Audiard's last words would not let the movie take a life of its own
The only way to enjoy the movie is to listen to Audiard's bitter last words. After the death of his elder son François (10 years before he penned this last movie) all his personal work took a sharp turn from the silly burlesque comedies he directed to deep dark psychological murder mysteries.
These murder mysteries are a vehicule for dialog to reminisce the dead, understand who he was, finalize an inventory of the remorse not to have known the intriguing victim better, not to have lived a life closer to his. Apart from this very personal subtext this movie is lamely directed. Minimalistic direction works most of the time for noir film, the problem here is that the dialogue eats up all the story.
So if you are not interested in listening to profoundly dark words by Audiard you will be disappointed to see Michel Serrault embody a sinister character ghostly floating along the lines of the master wordsman.
I am not giving to much away with the last line: Audiard looks back on his life and wonders if he ever was sincere enough or too much of a boasting showman wording his way away from simple things.
The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)
They no longer make those... fortunately
I was curious to track down The Flight of the Phoenix because I regularly found DVD copies of the 2004 remake (when there seem to be so many copies of a movie I never heard of at the time, it definitely confirms the scathing reviews). What I found was one piece of outdated production which only stands to this day thanks to the adequate performances of its stellar cast.
I say adequate because all characters are cut and dried so it takes quite a bit of talent to raise their profile above their boring definition and rank in the plot. I acknowledge I had high expectations based on the premise but the pace at which Aldrich patches his chapters together makes it all mostly boring.
Hollywood was losing it in the 1960s, only pedestrian directors (or directors that where tamed into submission) were put in charge. This movie is a perfect example: it could have been shot 30 years before with a more line-efficient script and edgier directing. And that is why I'd rather watch again The Lost Patrol than this one.
Manbiki kazoku (2018)
Sensitive direction and a marshmallow storyline
I will not expand here on the delicate direction and sensitive story. I guess plenty of people have been writing and singing about this but, if I may be a tad insensitive, mastering direction and having a nice storyline is not sufficent to make a great movie.
I enjoyed it, as I always enjoy the craft of highly-skilled/gifted directors, but come on, Shoplifters really plays it easy with its sugar-coated storyline. "Subtle" here means a recipe where you bundle 100% golden-heart characters with some potentially darker but not-so-important backstories that audience is allowed to know in the end. The emotional stress stays the same all along, aside from the little girl's situation (which stays pretty generic) there is no one you can really empathize with. Basically, gentle characters are well directed within an empty shell.
In a nushell I enjoyed the craft but kept waiting for another dimension to materialize, and in the end this movie stands light years behind references like de Sica's Bicycle Thief or Kurosawa's Donzoko.
Bastille Day (2016)
Badly crafted actioneer with a couple of good things in it
Bastille Day, as it was originally titled for release, is so badly crafted it never reaches the status of a real action feature film. On the whole it is hardly worth more than direct-to-video stuff.
Sure action scenes are well done and some plot twists are nice, but the result is just a rushed up series of action scenes and transition/exposition talk scenes. To me it looks like the director is good at shooting music videos or short clips but is totally at a loss with the idea of creating a real rhythm spanning 90 minutes or so.
Idris Elba is underused, as usual in movies, so he is not able to bring much more life to that stubborn reckless character. The rest of the cast is OK, they also have very little to work on.
Worst of all is the plot. Although some twists revealing part of it are good, in the end it only succeeds in being both nauseous and stupid. Bastille Day graduates here into the Z movie realm: just don't be fooled by the budget and competent cast, producers wanted a quickie and they got what they deserved with this stinking quickie.
Le septième juré (1962)
Fine premise and fine actors with a wet paint coat of social commentary
I was curious to track down this movie for all the praise it got by IMDb reviewers. Some were so ecstatic as to rank it as a major directorial effort from journeyman Lautner. They were openly lamenting 'too bad he did not keep up with this kind of bravado'.
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King
I guess these movie buffs must be watching too many bad movies as they compete to review the long tail of IMDb's inventory. This sets their expectations pretty low. Sure 'Le septième juré' has a great cast lead by the magnificent Bernard Blier, although characters are more picturesque than deeply engaging, and its story-line is compelling.
The social commentary does hold it together, but honestly this is really not done masterfully here. Voice-over narration fast turns a nice movie into a verbose hack. All the more so when the voice-over delivers a bitter ironic social commentary. Actually this is very much a literary device: that is why I won't mistake Bernard Blier forceful performance with a directorial tour de force.
I may be forgetting a couple of details but frankly I cannot see where the direction lifts the script and the cast well above their raw potential. Rhythm, suspense, cast interaction (let alone real chemistry): all these rank pretty low here in my scale of expectations.
All in all this is an OK movie, worth watching if you're a fan of Blier (and of Maurice Biraud or Francis Blanche). Don't expect to much and you will be rewarded by the fine performances. Now personally I was much less impressed by Blier here than in Quai des Orfèvres (whose director's ability doesn't call for a lengthy debate) where he has less screen time.
I would rather recommend tracking down Non-coupable (1947) on a similar premise. In this one the work by director Henri Decoin is unmistakably excellent (rather than adequate, at best, in the Le septième juré). There the social commentary is actually blended in the story, not painted over it. And of course on the topic of a juror stepping in for a weak defence you always have the excellent Twelve Angry Men. Le septième juré is nowhere near half as good as any of those 3 movies by Clouzot, Decoin and Lumet, so if this is really the best Lautner could do, no wonder he never came close to acclaimed directors.
O.J.: Made in America (2016)
A mesmerising telling of OJ Simpson's story, before, during and after the 1995 trial
I couldn't wait to watch this acclaimed documentary since I had only a superficial understanding of what happened during the 1995 trial. At the time of the resounding 'Not guilty' verdict I remember thinking that in America money could buy you out of prison even with overwhelming evidence against you.
Ezra Edelman's documentary brilliantly adds maximum perspective to the original verdict. That OJ Simpson was, at heart, a man from the ghetto who would talk himself out of most situations (even if that meant leaving his buddies behind to save his neck) and as a man who reneged on his roots to enjoy the high life as the equal to other affluent (white) people. This last point is essential since this makes playing the 'race card' during the criminal trial even more outrageous (if that is indeed possible), but it also explains that the man was so obsessed with his image that he became just a big psychotic narcissist: an affable successful man in public and an extremely insecure (jealous and paranoid towards others but in denial about himself) thus prone to bursts of violent rage in his private life.
The documentary also does a great job of describing the history of LAPD abuses against minorities. Simpson's defence posse eventually tried to connect this ugly context with the criminal case. Actually it was enough for the jury (already prejudiced in favour of Simpson) to think there was at least a reasonable doubt that all the evidence pointing at OJ's unmistakable guilt was not reliable. Which is silly because the defence strategy was about describing a litany of hypothetical doubts, not proving any actual weaknesses in the prosecutor's case, and wrap it under the argument that the LAPD has a history of gross misconduct against black people.
As good as the documentary is presenting the facts, giving us a fascinating insight into the so-called "Trial of the Century", I felt I lacked something. I mean the 'Non-Guilty' verdict is even more disturbing after this comprehensive review. You just cannot believe that the "race card" just won the case. So I went on the read Vincent Bugliosi analysis of the trial (Outrage, the 5 reasons why OJ Simpson got away with murder) and I was thus able to link the dots: the prosecution fumbled his way through a truckload of sound evidence (plus another mountain of circumstantial evidence). You actually have a hint of this in Made in America: Christopher Darden is presented giving in to the defence tease to have Simpson try the gloves on. But for the most part direct testimony from Marcia Clark weights in on the overall 'Fatality thesis': this case was doomed from the start for the DA's office. It's like bad things happened for the poor prosecuting team (there were 2 dozens attorneys working the case !) but they had no way of preventing it or making up for the lost ground...
I understand it is difficult to line up witnesses to sit in front of the camera and kind of stab them in the back by pointing the finger at them. I understand the focus of the documentary cannot be lost on a deep analysis of the trial yet there lacks one essential commentary at some point between the 5th and 7th hour of the storytelling. More precisely it seems strange that Mark Fuhrman is left alone defending himself for what happened when the prosecutors dumped him like a pestiferous witness in 1995, and with Marcia Clark continuing to blame him 20 years after (despite her dismal work in court she earned millions to write her whining account).
I just realized that direct-to-video no longer means much nowadays, but well it used to mean a movie made on the cheap. Actually Erased, aka The Expatriate is pretty well-made technically: camera work, editing and Aaron Eckart are pretty fine. But both titles sound like a cheap movie and the script is cheap indeed. It is all about a boilerplate conspiracy chase with action every other reel and bits of exposition in between. So instead of feeling fast-paced it feels shaky, all the more so as the conspiracy is lame and the daughter character is very weak.
Get Out (2017)
Works on a basic level but covers too much territory
As an horror/thriller movie it works pretty well. It is very well shot, very well acted but the whole story is made obvious way too soon to keep us scared by the whole setup. Said differently what is really going on is way too technical, mundane in itself to keep the movie at the same level of anguish, horror, fantasy...
I discussed it with a friend and he gave me a very good explanation of the subtext, ie. the social commentary. Most reviewers mistook the premise for a take on Racism 3.0 while it is definitely about the appropriation of Black Culture.
Nobody is racist in this movie, they just overtly envy Blacks. This is just the opposite sin, the materialist stance that views other people as a way to enrich your life without giving something back. This is not ugly racism, this is only class egoism. This would be the same with the same affluent WASPs having a paternalistic behaviour with poor whites (there are movies about this: Rich bored guy goes out to have fun with simple peasants then goes back to his comfortable condo with a year-worth of shrink realization). Only here WASPs have a very specific history of poaching on new frontiers and appropriating Black Culture.
So yes, despite its strengths and original premise Get Out covers too much territory from horror to thriller, fantasy and social commentary. My guess is the social commentary is lost for most... except black people but it made for an eerie backdrop which all the same mesmerized most of the viewers.
The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
Lovely romance marred by an abysmal premise
How telling! I picked up this movie on VOD yesterday, thinking I had skipped it when it was released and actually I had gone to watch it but had only the faintest recollection.
Obviously the movie was not very good. Worse than that, there was absolutely nothing interesting and new in it. Granted the romance is okay, but it is only the starting point. The whole premise, that Adjustment Bureau is a failure. Basically it is about dead-serious Men in Black, so you've got a pompous metaphysical backdrop that bogs down the entire movie (obviously since it is the premise from Philip K. Dick's short story). This is a similar mistake as the one they made with Dark City: this is not sci-fi enough or fantasy enough.
Seriously who thought there was room for a movie, let alone a good one, about a police force with absolute power on the course of our lives? The moment the hero is told about this the whole story falls flat because it is a goddamn gigantic hole that they would let him know without resetting him the minute after, and even if they thought he was worth the dare it would take sloppiness over sloppiness from the AAA+ uptight Adjustment crew to let a prominent profile slip through its claws. A hero chased by some obscure force, this could make a fine noir movie, but a clear 'Hats-n-Doors' overwhelming organisation??? There simply is no story.
Some imposing bone with no beef around
The opening Heist and the bigger one are very fine outlines, clearly not very plausible but we are all here because we want to believe what we're showed and told.
But suspension of disbelief only works if the whole movie is tense, with sharp characters, straightforward action (by action I mean a rhythm consistent in making all the parts hold together), basically a make believe game where everything comes together. Just like in a carefully planned Heist. You can't take it for granted that the movie-goer will just be baffled by a couple of goods brought together.
In Heist you are supposed to accept some incongruities, mostly with characters that are very stereotypical. You have some great actors but at some point you can't throw in a couple of weaker characters without endangering the whole balance. Simply put, the movie-goer will start thinking harder while you had created the atmosphere for him to relax and listen to your story. Then things no longer feel urgent and compulsory, you try to second-guess the writer and as a result nothing you are watching really is captivating you.
This was the 3rd and hopefully last movie penned and directed by David "Lazy Me" Mamet for me (the 2 others being House of Games and The Spanish Prisoner). I wanted to see a heist movie with Gene Hackman so I sealed of my prejudices about Mamet... but they just flowed out to tell me I should never have lost another 2 hours with that fraud of a storyteller. Big twists patched all around (and in Heist you have plenty of time to see those coming - or maybe I am Mamet certified level 3?) with utility characters and one dull homely broad in the middle. That is the Mamet trademark. Or recipe if you accept there are bad recipes to fool those with the ultra low expectations of a MOWed brain.
The List of Adrian Messenger (1963)
Dull mystery fudged with (disguised) cameos aplenty
The title appealed to me and I was expecting a fine spy thriller, alas The List of Adrian Messenger is nothing but an old-fashioned whodunit. It very precisely includes a (repeated) reference to Agatha Christie's Ten Little Ni99ers ('and then there were none...') but the tag-line stated it precisely too: we are dared to guess who is the murderer.
John Huston's directing is adequate for a thriller but when the thriller never materialises you get really bored at this dull mystery. Pairing the gigantic George C. Scott with Marcel Dalio works for about 15 minutes then it's a drag as they say. Whodunnits may work for cheap reading, but they render as flat and dumb movies. The idea here was to add some humour and play with the viewer to dare him to spot the cameos... which is utterly counter-productive (and it is the very reason why Hitchcock, who rejected whodunits, ended up making his cameo very early in his movies).
The worst in my opinion are the deceptive credits who clearly bill Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum and Frank Sinatra alongside the actors playing the main characters while they barely are disguised cameos. On the whole you expect something big and they only deliver a cheap little mystery. Forget it and (re)watch 'Kind Hearts and Coronets (qv)' which really knows what kind of a story it is telling.
Feels like a TV movie
The quiet lives of a team of Border Patrol officers are very well depicted: they enjoy what they do and life isn't too difficult for our nice civil servants from Texas. But things change and it is tough to make strong decisions when you have settled in with your nice little habits.
Frankly, don't watch Flashpoint if you already know the basis for the premise. So don't watch it because how would you have heard of this HBO TV-movie from 1984 were it not for its premise? BTW the premise is heavily introduced in a dumb prologue and then nothing until it is heavily exposed in the dumb epilogue, so seriously, don't expect too much of it.
It could have been much better if all the chapter in the movie had been better connected. As such it is really difficult to root for the buddies since you have plenty of time to wonder about what they are doing.
The Unknown Known (2013)
A disgusting individual, disgustingly having it his way throughout
Either Errol Morris underestimated Donald Rumsfeld or he was overly confident about the power of his medium, but the result is far below The Fog of War.
Sure McNamara had had time to mellow and he wouldn't deny mistakes while Rumsfeld won't move an inch, except for the staged emotional bit, so in the Unknown Known we only have politics at its worst: unabashed dissimulation, total rejection of any form of empathy (while it was one of the Eleven Lessons from Robert S. McNamara, Empathize with your Enemy) all wrapped up in the flag and under the pretence that "We, the Best Breed of Politicians, have to make important decisions that are way too complex for you, Little Man, to begin to understand".
Watching Rumsfeld having it his way, no less than during his own press conferences where he toyed around with journalists, is a profoundly disgusting and distressing vision. He unflinchingly tell us "Ok, eventually there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Irak, intelligence was flawed, but going after Saddam Hussein has made the world a better place all the same". Intelligence was not just flawed, it was distorted and even fabricated to please the warmongers.
Bad things (like torture) just happens. Even when you are doing a heck of a job. That is Rumsfeld definitive argument and Errol Morris gets stuck in the "beauty of evil rhetorics" like a deer in the headlights. It is distressing to think that someone watching this without knowing all the subtext would think of Rumsfeld as a role model for Statesmen. The only redeeming part is that the documentary succeeds in suggesting how big a SOB Rumsfeld has been during his career, so much so that Reagan picked his rival George HW Bush as his running mate, sparing the World the disaster of having Rumsfeld President in the 80s. Then he had to work for Bush Jr and his former deputy, yet maybe that gave the same general disaster (geopolitical, economical...) as having Rumsfeld officially in the Oval Office.
Executive Action (1973)
Interesting as a futile exercise
As an exercise in creating a provocative perspective on the Kennedy assassination, Executive Action is successful. Basically it is as if you would take some time to listen to a conspiracy theorist able to lay out his view without too many vague allegations. Above all it is very interesting as a reflection on conspiracies (groupthink and escalating violence).
It is futile because it tries too hard to fill in the blanks so it deliberately stems from a clever thought-provoking mockumentary to a crazy conspiracy movie. If you know little about the facts it holds up pretty well, which is dangerous as far as conspiracy theorists are dangerous with their loose thinking. If you want to challenge it, there is plenty of room, yet that would be futile too.
The main point IMHO is that Executive Action has it all wrong as a movie. A conspiracy movie cannot be told from the perspective of the masterminds. It is usually told from the external perspective of someone who suspects it and uncovers part of it, or it can be told from someone that is only a pawn in the conspiracy. On the contrary if all the conspiracy is laid out as a clear plan with motivations also made heavily clear, where is the mystery? The tension between what we think we know and what we crave to know?
No wonder Executive Action bombed in 1973, failing both as a movie and as an open for discussion account of events from 10 years back.
Ice Station Zebra (1968)
Cold War Turkey, Drift Production
Gowd, this is close to awful. Sometimes people lament "They don't make them like this anymore" but hopefully they won't make them any longer like Ice Station Zebra! From the start the movie is slow, tepid and it progresses sluggishly to cruise by 3-4 key scenes (tops), none of which deserves a spot in an anthology of movie-making. I had to peel my eyes open and still it took me 2 seatings to complete the ordeal. Even if you could reduce this junk to under 90 minutes it would only be marginally better since the script is so dull, it just drifts away from a 60s TV series episode.
Some smart people must have thought the McGuffin by Alistair MacLean was the story so they didn't care about creating a real movie around it.
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Fine production values, loose horror/spoof/fantasy/gore proceedings
I most probably would have avoided The Cabin in the Woods if I had known earlier the creators were screenwriters on the Lost anything-goes-I-d-sell-my-mother-for-a-twist TV-series. Yet I admit it started out good with the challenge to create something new based on that stale horror flick canvas. The gently spoofy start with a scientific background bent was promising but I realise now that the dual storyline is just a routine screen writing device to stretch a flimsy concept in order to fill up a season or the 90-min feature length.
With all the back and forth between the two story lines you lose the tension and there remains only, on the surface, the curiosity about what it is all about. The climax is a Grand Carnival and it develops over the last third of the movie so either you'll feel that the main storyline is straight and efficient before switching to another movie or you will feel cheated of a real movie with substance while you get a bagful of popular horror culture, clichés and references all laid out as if it was a clever mix.
Routine Bond, mostly cashing in on Skyfall
Bond #24, aka Spectre delivers the goods, the usual bravado without the inner gist. Action goes bam, innuendo goes swift and fast, romance - yes actually this time around - goes splash. The point is all of this is edited finely to maintain a good pace but it all feels disjointed in the end.
The pace makes it entertaining enough, but when the end credits roll to the sound of the good old 007 theme (by Monty Norman, but Bond lovers know that John Barry actually created 90% of it) you feel that, indeed, they went for the surefire and easy kill.
I guess they were so pleased with their Bond's Early Years backstory from Skyfall that they just based the whole of Spectre on it. Whereas all 23 of the previous Bond movies were 100% standalone stories, this one is pretty much a Skyfall sequel. Which is not a bad thing per se, but the result is clearly a formulaic Bond, devoid of surprises and, worst of all, of real suspense.
To cap it all if, of all actioneers, you can judge a Bond flick by its villain, Spectre is a very weak entry. Since Christopher Waltz is a very fine actor I guess Sam Mendes over-intellectualised and asked him to play the villain straight. I mean we are all used to have our villain served with a little ham on the side. Javier Bardem in Skyfall was too much on the clownesque side but this time they did the opposite and gave us a Blofeld that seems to aim for a spot in the Actor's Studio Hall of Fame. Contained, clinical but emotional all the same: this would describe a great achievement in more realistic movies yet it totally feels out of place/pace/tune here.
PS Frankly, having Bond just taking a lovely trip to eventually walk right into the villain's secret base, surely it's visually beautiful, but could we please have more suspense than this cold testosteroned piece of numbing bravado?
Ex Machina (2014)
Clever premise and fine cinematography
Clever premise and fine cinematography are a good starting point. And if the movie doesn't reach beyond to create a compelling storyline, this automatically results in a whole lot of self-indulgence. It is the pitfall of many a young director who has earned some accolades for early efforts. Few are those who can see beyond the warm sycophantic hum-buzz and look at themselves in the mirror to see how much hard work they still can hammer in their careers.
Ex Machina is clearly an interesting premise, a very clever one for a low-budget independent production. The location and cinematography are great too. On top of this you have one hell of a gigantic flaw any aspiring screenwriter is bound to know: the main character is both weak AND passive. Since the movie is already designed as a very linear story cut up in 6-7 days of "work" (that is, a repetitive endeavour even if something gradually builds up), this does run against the amount of suspense and thrills the viewer is experiencing.
So if you scratch below the surface of all the clever talk about AI there only remains a weak movie that actually feels like a brilliant short movie blown up to feature length.
I, Robot (2004)
Robotic and really not clever enough
I had avoided this movie for over 10 years. My prejudice was it wasn't worth watching, I have just tested my prejudice and it stands firmer now that I have seen this very weak sci-fi endeavor.
I, Robot mostly feels like a MOW, or bits of animated interludes in a video game. The SFX really make the movie cheap and artificial... robotic. Will Smith is OK, he can't do much to lift this humming electronic shell above ground, but the female sidekick is a bore. Lame casting is one thing, but a script that stays so "PG-13, read back the order": that truly is a lethal sin. No wonder the rest of the script is just pedestrian and never brings anything genuinely gripping.
As for direction I can only remember show-off shooting angles in a totally uninspired storytelling approach. I remember Dark City as a disturbing sci-fi experience, yet it seldom relied on SFX so I can only imagine that Alex Proyas got himself into something too big for his own creative camera here.
Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
A spurious self-spoofing student movie
The pun in the movie title says it all: Grosse Pointe Blank is a brat movie, a movie students could have written (and shot for a portion of the budget) as a joke and a tribute to their teenage years.
Basically the dumb thing that cries "mediocre student joke" here is the discrepancy between reality and fantasy. If you're seriously about to make the best movie possible, you have to choose: to spoof or not to spoof. Spoof comedy is OK as long as everything is a joke and that it runs at Mach 3.9; conversely a serious hit-man drama/thriller is OK as long as you stay the course.
Spoof is already aiming at the lowest hurdle, but when you just spoof up an otherwise "straight" drama/thriller/romcom... (you name it) that is just blatantly incompetent. Cusack's fans and lenient teenage souls amongst IMDb reviewers rank this movie high yet the average reviewer is bound to be bored by the tone skids, the "funky violence" shootings that bury the attempt to tell a clever story about an isolated hit-man and a rush of nostalgia. Those shootings were gross and plundered a storyline which already verged to much on the spoofy side (cf. Blank's contracts before leaving for Grosse Pointe).
Un baiser s'il vous plaît (2007)
Artsy fartsy: would-be finely sentimental without a clue
How can people stand watching such abysmal film-making? It is an insult to any kid trying to tell an original story that, for over 15 years, Emmanuel Mouret has been making those bad empty supposedly sentimental unmoving pictures.
The story is classic high-brow sentimental, but it is executed with so little talent: dead-flat dialogue, dumb-numb directing. And seriously, watching Sir Emmanuel Mouret with his unflappable Droopy dead-pan for more than 5 minutes is quite a pain.
Actually this kind of movie is for pretentious sociopaths who revel in stuff that they, the True Believers only, can appreciate.
Papa ou maman (2015)
Quite funny despite the lack of rhythm/shy slapstick
Since most comedies are dumb and dumber I wait for positive word of mouth (from reliable viewers) to watch one. Papa ou Maman did quite well at the box-office and someone told me it was funny so I eventually checked it, my expectations set very low since comedy is seen by producers as a safe bet (to sell the project) rather than a fine challenge (to make a fine movie, discover talent, start a franchise...).
Papa ou Maman sports an enjoyable dose of slapstick, yet it doesn't go all the way to slapstick. That is its big flaw: many situations are just plain crazy but in between the main characters just seems ordinary, too ordinary, bordering boring. Be it a writing or producing defect, the result is a movie lacking rhythm and just stretched to fill the compulsory 85min.
So I'd say it was a fine surprise for someone expecting nothing, but it is basically just an interesting blueprint for remake. An English remake that would dare to go slapstick, with 2 furious parents, 2 spoilt brats and 1 fine kid.
Far less clever than Sleuth
... and about as much fun as a stale Colombo episode. I don't know about the original play but it appears much too stagey a story to be compelling from the start.
From the very sluggish start I think I can point the finger at the adaptation. Deathtrap is utterly boring for about 30-45 minutes. Maybe if I hadn't read the premise I would have been a tad more patient but the setup really wears down the plot in the first act.
The twisty second act is no more clever than a routine Agatha Christie whodunit. You are so well trained to think ahead of the characters by then that only the very ending can surprise you. And it is not really a surprise that lifts the lot above the pedestrian level of its trodden murder mystery snail-path.
So Deathtrap seems to me as the inopportune adaptation of weak stage material. The cast do their best but they can't make up for the lack of effective tension, resulting mainly from too much direct talk about death and traps.