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Films I Neglected To Review: "With Fronds Like These, Who Needs Anemones?"
by Peter Sobczynski

Please enjoy short looks at the French comedy/drama/musical "Beloved," the cage fighting epic "Brawler" and a little thing called "Finding Nemo 3-D.""

Despite what one might infer from its title, "Beloved" has absolutely nothing to do with Toni Morrison's ridiculously overpraised knockoff of "The Monkey's Paw" nor the not-especially-effective 1998 screen adaptation that was a failed bit of Oscar bait for star-producer Oprah Winfrey. It is, in fact, a romantic drama from filmmaker Christophe Honore ("Love Songs," "Dans Paris") that begins in the late Sixties with a young shopgirl (Ludivine Sagnier) who stumbles into prostitution for the unlikeliest of reasons, finds herself falling for a Czech doctor, only to lose him to infidelity and the Soviet invasion. Later on in contemporary times, she (now played by Catherine Deneuve) unexpectedly reunites with her one-time love (portrayed by celebrated director Milos Forman) while her now-grown daughter (Chiara Mastroianni, Deneuve's real-life daughter) has her own misadventures of the heart. Oh yeah, the whole thing is also a musical as well, though one of the laid-back street variety of Godard's "A Woman is a Woman" and Honore's own "Love Songs." For some viewers, this film may be a little too much to handle--the shifts in tone between the dramatic and the comedic are sometimes jarring, the musical conceit is a little too precious for its own good (especially since none of the songs are especially memorable) and the 140-minute running time is a little unwieldy in spots. And yet, despite all this (and possibly because of my admitted affection for most things French), I nevertheless still felt a certain amount of affection for the film--if nothing else, there is certainly nothing else like it out there right now--and the added bonus of three of France's best and most beautiful actresses in the same film is not to be shrugged off lightly. Put it this way--if you have read all of this and it still sounds intriguing, "Beloved" just might be up your alley.

On the other hand, I have never been able to work up much of an interest for the intricacies of cage fighting--that charming offshoot of boxing where two guys climb into a steel cage and punch, kick and rassle the bloody bejesus out of each other--and on that basis, I may not be the best judge of "Brawler," a low-budget indie film that hopes to do for the sport what "Warrior" did for mixed martial arts. However, I have seen more than my share of fight-related films over the years and can clearly recognize an uninspired take on material that moviegoers have seen endless permutations of over the years, most recently in the likes of "The Wrestler," "The Fighter" and, yes, "Warrior." Like that last title, the film centers on two brothers working the illegal riverboat-boxing circuit in New Orleans--one a level-headed type (Nathan Grubbs) and the other a hot-headed troublemaker (Marc Senter)--and the various melodramatic twists and turns that eventually result in the two of them landing in the ring together. When I discovered that the film was directed by Chris Sivertson ,who previously helmed the Lindsay Lohan camp classic "I Know Who Killed Me," I was hoping that he might find a spin to this material as equally deranged as the one he brought to that earlier effort but this one is disappointingly staid in comparison. To be fair, the fights are staged without too many overtly dramatic flourishes and on that basis, fans of the sport may find themselves getting much more out of it than I did in that regard. For everyone else, however, "Brawler" is a bit of a bore that will have most viewers tapping out long before the final bell.

When it came out in 2003, many things were said about the Pixar animated tale "Finding Nemo"--nearly every single one of them positive--but as near as I can recall, the phrase "Man, that would have been so much better in 3-D!" was not one of them. Nevertheless, the film has gone through the retrofitting process and has now emerged in theaters as "Finding Nemo 3-D" and to be perfectly honest, I am of two minds in regards to its existence.. On the one hand, this reissue is essentially serving as an advertisement for the upcoming Blu-Ray release and the addition of 3-D does little to the film as a whole other than to jack up the ticket prices. On the other hand, the film remains one of Pixar's finest achievements--something worth remembering in the wake of such recent disappointments as "Cars 2" and "Brave"--and no amount of multi-dimensional malarkey can fully take away from the film's lovely visual style, solid storytelling and the hilarious/touching byplay between co-stars Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres. Additionally, this reissue allows younger viewers who weren't around in 2003 to experience it for the first time on the big screen, where it was meant to be seen, and now-older viewers who did see it back then to rediscover it and laugh at the more sophisticated jokes that they didn't quite get the first time around. Of course, if you can somehow find it playing in 2-D, that would be for the best but as a whole, "Finding Nemo" is still such a great film that not even 3-D can quite screw it up.


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originally posted: 09/17/12 17:10:10
last updated: 09/17/12 18:17:13
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