“San Andreas” feels real; a new disaster might not be what we want (Our grade: C+)

Paul Giamatti as Lawrence and Archie Panjabi as Serena, in a scene from the action thriller, “San Andreas.”
Paul Giamatti as Lawrence and Archie Panjabi as Serena, in a scene from the action thriller, “San Andreas.”

Roger Moore

Disaster movies, which pre-date the zeitgeist’s fascination with a world falling apart around us, are always great measures of the state of the Hollywood art of special effects.

In “San Andreas,” you will believe the ground is rippling under Los Angeles, the cracking collapse of the Hoover Dam and that a tidal wave is submerging San Francisco.

» Read full review on MyStatesman.com | Find showtimes for “San Andreas

‘Results’ offers a twist on romantic comedies (Our grade: B)

Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce star in director Andrew Bujalski’s “Results.”
Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce star in director Andrew Bujalski’s “Results.”

Austin director Andrew Bujalski scored favorable reviews in Sundance for “Results,” an offbeat romantic comedy starring Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce. It got a favorable reception when it played at South by Southwest in March, as well.

The responses were justified.

Smulders plays Kat, a high-strung, demanding fitness instructor who works for a small, independent gym run by Trevor (Pearce).

» Read full review at MyStatesman.com | Find showtimes for “Results”

“The Connection:” A well-known crime epic from a European perspective (Our grade: B)

Jean Dujardin, who won an Oscar for “The Artist,” stars in “The Connection.”
Jean Dujardin, who won an Oscar for “The Artist,” stars in “The Connection.”

Not to be too vernacular about it, but Cédric Jimenez loves him some classic post-war crime movies, several of which star Al Pacino.

On the surface, the French director’s “The Connection” — a 2014 picture now distributed by Drafthouse Films — is a riff on William Friedkin’s iconic and, admittedly, Pacino-less 1976 film “The French Connection.” It is the same story from, if you will, the other side, a saga of French law enforcement trying to smash one of the era’s most notorious heroin rings.

» Read full review at MyStatesman.com | Find showtimes for “The Connection” 

“Aloha” feels like a goodbye to the Cameron Crowe we knew (Our grade: D)

Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone star in Cameron Crowe's "Aloha."
Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone star in Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha.”

Roger Moore | Tribune News Service

Cameron Crowe fans — and that includes most movie critics — have cut him a lot of slack over the years.

Our love for “Say Anything,” “Almost Famous” and “Jerry Maguire” made us embrace the big romantic gestures and little traces of heart in “Elizabethtown,” “Vanilla Sky” and “We Bought a Zoo.”

But “Aloha” is a breaking point, a movie that makes you start to see the guy’s just, well, full of it.

» Read full review on MyStatesman.com | Find showtimes for “Aloha”

Robert Rodriguez hired for live-action “Jonny Quest”

Deadline reported Tuesday that Austin director Robert Rodriguez has been tapped by Warner Bros to direct a live action version of the animated classic “Jonny Quest.” Rodriguez and Terry Rossio are working on a script from a draft by Dan Mazeau.

The latter wrote “Wrath of the Titans” (ouch). Rossio wrote the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies (better…) and “the Lone Ranger’ (oof).

320px-Jonny-quest-logoFor those who have no idea who the subject is, “Jonny Quest” was a 1964 cartoon created by comic book artist Doug Wildey.

Prior to “Jonny,” Wildey was best known for gorgeous comic book art in the Western/cowboy genre. But “Jonny” changed everything.

Known for fluid animation, cutting-edge design and generally being pretty awesome, “Jonny Quest” concerned young Jonny, who young adventurer who traveled with world with his scientist dad, Dr. Benton Quest, his bodyguard Race Bannon and Jonny’s young friend Hadji (the latter of whom was a pretty sketchy ethnic stereotype, turban and all).

While lasting only 26 episodes, the show is a cult property that has become both nerd culture staple and scenario ripe for parody.

(Jonny was the focus of a custody battle on an episode of the Adult Swim cartoon “Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law;” another Adult Swim cartoon, “The Venture Brothers,” started as a take-off on “Jonny Quest.”)

There have been a couple of runs at making a live-action version of the thing; we’ll see how this goes.

Cannes awards: ‘Dheepan’ takes Palme d’Or

Charles Ealy reports on the big prizes from France:

French director Jacques Audiard won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday for “Dheepan,” about three refugees from Sri Lankan fighting who try to make a new home for themselves in the low-income suburbs of Paris.

Audiard, who also played Cannes with 2009’s brilliant “A Prophet,” has a history of focusing on people on the margins of French society, and his violent tale, which culminates in a major shootout, obviously appealed to the jury headed by the U.S. team of Joel and Ethan Coen.
The grand prix, or second prize, went to Hungary’s Laszlo Nemes for “Son of Saul,” an inventive reinterpretation of life in concentration camps during World War II. Many thought “Son of Saul” would take the top prize, but it’s clear that it had the respect of the jury and press as well.
The other awards were more questionable. Hou Hsiao-Hsien took the best director prize for “The Assassin.” Earlier Sunday, Variety was speculating that the high-art film would take the Palme, but the jury is limited to one award per film, so Hou, who is a legendary Chinese director, won the prize. The movie has very little box-office potential at U.S. theaters, but it is gorgeous to watch.
In probably the most controversial award, Rooney Mara shared the best actress prize for “Carol” with Emmanuelle Bercot of “Mon Roi.” The latter film was widely derided by Cannes critics, while “Carol” was considered a frontrunner for the Palme. But “Carol” had to settle for sharing the best actress prize, much to the surprise of some critics who felt that Cate Blanchett’s performance was worthy of an award.
The best actor prize went to Vincent Lindon, who plays a man who is laid off and ends up with a rather menial job in “The Measure of a Man,” directed by France’s Stephane Brize.
The screenplay prize went to “Chronic,” directed and written by Mexico’s Michel Franco. It stars Tim Roth as an end-of-life health-care worker who becomes strongly attached his patients.
The jury prize, or third place, went to Greece’s Yorgos Lanthimos for the dystopian tale, “The Lobster.”
It’t not at all clear why Italy’s Paolo Sorrentino, the director of “Youth,” was shut out of the awards. But it’ll stand the test of time and probably do well in the States. The same can be said for Canada’s Denis Villeneuve, director of the Mexican drug war drama “Sicario.” And it’s a real mystery as to how Bercot beat Blanchett and Emily Blunt of “Sicario.”
Yet another surprise came with the snubbing of Nanni Moretti’s “My Mother,” which took home the Ecumenical prize from a separate jury that votes for the most humanistic film.
And as you might expect from previous stories, Gus Van Sant’s “The Sea of Trees,” starring Austin’s Matthew McConaughey, was shut out, too. It was the lowest-rated competition film in critics’ polls.

Cannes Day 11: ‘Macbeth’ closes the competition

Director Justin Kurzel, Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender pose for photographers during a photo call for the film Macbeth, at the 68th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
Director Justin Kurzel, Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender pose for photographers during a photo call for the film Macbeth, at the 68th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

Director Justin Kurzel has a way with visceral action, as was seen in 2011’s “The Snowtown Murders.” That same verve is keenly present in his new adaptation of “Macbeth.”

Unlike the play, the movie opens with the death the child of Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) and Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard). The three witches appear later with their prophecies, but the opening scenes are virtually wordless, with the child’s cremation on a funeral pyre leading into a dramatic battle scene featuring Macbeth’s loyalist forces battling Macdonwald, the traitor.

The battle is furious, with stabbings and swordplay worthy of the TV cable series “Spartacus.” And only after the battle is over does Macbeth hear the prophecy that he’ll become king.

Kurzel’s strategy in changing the opening of the play highlights what he sees as a central theme of “Macbeth” but that others may not so readily endorse: that Macbeth was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, not only from his brutal battles but also from the death of his child.

Certainly, Shakespeare is open to interpretation, and Kurzel has every right to make such an assertion. But this strategy also nearly wanders into the territory of justification, or perhaps empathetic explanation, rather than focusing on Macbeth’s tragic ambitions.

At the press conference after the screening, Fassbender said he thinks Kurzel’s PTSD interpretation is valid. “People say it’s a story of ambition, but I think it’s a story of loss … of a child and of their sanity.”

As Macbeth, Fassbender is excellent, especially in the scene where he kills Scotland’s King Duncan (David Thewlis). And we immediately begin to sense that Macbeth is descending into madness, perhaps out of guilt but also out of a lust for power.

As Lady Macbeth, Cotillard has a bigger challenge in mastering the rhythms of Shakespeare’s language, but she has always had the ability to reach out to an audience and make even unlikable characters somehow appealing.

The movie was filmed in Scotland, during the winter, and the landscape adds a brutality to the already-brutal war scenes.

But while the fighting is well-staged and the actors are nearly flawless, there’s one problem. The score intrudes on some of the soliloquies, and it’s sometimes hard to hear the actors. That doesn’t make the movie significantly flawed, especially if you know the play. But it’s irritating and easily fixable. Let’s hope they do so.

“Macbeth” closes the Cannes competition, with the awards being handed out Sunday. It has a shot at the Palme, but many critics are still leaning toward “Son of Saul,” “Carol” and “Dheepan.”

CANNES DAY 10: U.S. woman wins top shorts competition prize

For the second year in a row, a U.S. woman has won the top prize in the Cinefondation shorts competition at the Cannes Film Festival.

Pippa Blanco, representing the AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women, won the student shorts competition for “Share.”

Last year, Annie Silverstein of the University of Texas won for her short, “Skunk.”

“Share” focuses on a 15-year-old girl who returns to school after someone shares an explicit video of her.

“Skunk,” last year’s winner, focused on a teenage girl who had to save her dog from a dogfighting ring.

Second prize in this year’s competition went to “Locas Perdidas,” directed by Chile’s Ignacio Juricic Merillan.

CANNES DAY 10: Good things happening for Texas filmmakers, including ‘Krisha’ director Trey Shults

After starting with the rather gloomy (but powerful) “Chronic,” my day at Cannes got brighter.

After “Chronic,” I met with Trey Edward Shults, the director of “Krisha,” which won the narrative feature competition at South by Southwest and was picked up for the Critics Week sidebar in Cannes.

Shults, 26, grew up in Houston, and still lives with his mom in Montgomery, Texas. A lifelong film fan, he started studying business at Texas State before dropping out. That’s when he started studying movies, not just watching them, he says. “I learned about film grammar,” he says. And while he was staying in Hawaii with his aunt, who stars in the film and is named Krisha Fairchild, he got a gig with Terrence Malick as a film loader for his upcoming documentary-style “Voyage of Time.” (His aunt has been a longtime actress and she has gotten to know the Malick family, who often stay in Hawaii, where they’re part of a small film community.)

At any rate, Shults got other gigs with Malick, most notably an internship, and he was able to travel around the world while Malick was filming his movie.

The experience helped inspire him to make a short, starring his aunt as a woman who comes to a family reunion/holiday event after a long absence. She clearly has a past with the family members, and they hope she can stay sober long enough to make it through the holiday. The short went on to get recognition at the 2014 SXSW festival, and this led Shults to begin a Kickstarter campaign for a feature-length film.

Shults shot the movie in his mother’s home, and it took a little over a week. He raised money through a $15,000 Kickstarter drive, and he came to SXSW this year with no publicist and no expectations. Then it attracted the attention of publicist Adam Kersh, and Kersh started pitching it to various critics. It went on the win the top prize in the narrative feature competition. And Kersh urged Shults to enter it into Cannes, where it made the Critics Week sidebar, despite being submitted late.

“It has been a surreal experience,” Shults says of being in Cannes with “Krisha,” which stars not only his aunt but also his mother, Robyn Fairchild, and other friends and family members.

The week in Cannes has paid off. The independent film distribution company A24 picked up the rights to distribute “Krisha,” and it also promised to finance his next project, a horror movie.

In other Texas-related news, Sony Pictures Classics has acquired the distribution rights to “Truth,” starring Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett. Redford plays Austin resident Dan Rather, and Blanchett plays Dallas’ Mary Mapes, who was Rather’s producer on the controversial September 2004 report that George W. Bush had received special treatment while serving in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.

The report was based on documents that were later suspected of being forgeries, and the uproar led to Rather’s departure from CBS. After the incident, Mapes wrote a memoir, “Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power,” on which the movie is based.

Sony Pictures Classics reportedly paid $6 million for the rights to the film, which is directed by James Vanderbilt, a former screenwriter who is making his directorial debut.

CANNES, DAY 10: ‘Chronic’ takes on a tough subject — the end of life — with powerful results

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 22:  Actor Tim Roth (L) and Michel Franco attend the press conference for "Chronic" during the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 22, 2015 in Cannes, France.  (Photo by Horcajuelo - Pool/Getty Images)
CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 22: Actor Tim Roth (L) and Michel Franco attend the press conference for “Chronic” during the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 22, 2015 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Horcajuelo – Pool/Getty Images)

Mexican director Michel Franco has been a rising star in Latin America, and his fourth film, “Chronic,” is one of the main films in competition this year at the Cannes Film Festival.

His previous movies include “Daniel and Ana” (2009), “After Lucia” (2012) and “A Los Ojos” (2013). But “Chronic” is his English-language debut, and it’s powerful. It’s also depressing, with a rather big twist.

Tim Roth stars as David, a nurse who provides care to terminally ill patients in their homes. It’s clear from the beginning, with his patient Sarah (Rachel Pickup), that he’s emotionally invested in his patients’ care. He has been with Sarah, who suffers from AIDS, for a long time. And when she dies, he moves through a succession of clients.

In all the cases, we see a close-up view of dying, from the accidental soilings to the bathings and in-bed exercises. David goes about his duties with care, even though he ends up being accused of sexual harassment in one case — unjustifiably so.

His most heartbreaking case is with Martha (Robin Bartlett), a wise older woman who has children who never visit her — and look for any excuse to stay away. We don’t know the reasons for this alienation, but Martha doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

When she begins chemotherapy, she hires David to help her get through the difficult days and nights. And the two begin to form a bond through the horrors that she starts facing. And when she gets the final diagnosis that her cancer has spread, she turns to David and asks the unthinkable.

As David, Roth does his usually expert job, trying to maintain a professional demeanor while facing some of life’s indignities.

But Martha is the one who’ll break your heart.

I doubt that this movie will play well in the United States, at least among most audiences. But Franco does a good job of taking us inside the lives of people who are dying, and the movie deserves a chance.