Thursday, October 31, 2013

CARRIE (2013)

Written by Lawrence D. Cohen & Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Directed by Kimberly Peirce

Where & When:  Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA.  October 25, 2013 5:45PM

"Carrie"  is an uninspired and unnecessary remake of the classic 1976 film by Brian De Palma which was based on the debut novel by Stephen King. The film clumsily attempts to modernize this tragic tale of a a bullied girl pushed too far by merging the quiet, simpler setting of the original with the fast-paced, digital age we are currently living without much finesse or reason. The story essentially remains the same as Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) remains a shy, sheltered and God-fearing teenager living in Maine. She has been forced to attend public school as a senior against the wishes of her extremely devout mother, Margaret (Julianne Moore) who had been home-schooling her daughter. It should be no surprise that Carrie has difficulty fitting in with the other kids.

While showering after gym class, Carrie has her first period but since she has never been given proper sex education, this causes her to thinks she is dying. Freaking out in front of the other girls, Carrie is taunted and tampons thrown at her until Miss Desjardin (Judy Greer), the gym teacher puts a stop to the cruelty. However, Chris (Portia Doubleday), the leader of the mean girls filmed the ugly episode on her phone and secretly uploads it on YouTube.

The video is later discovered and Miss Dejardin informs her students that they will have to endure a brutal gym class as punishment with anyone who didn't finish would be unable to attend prom. Playing victim, Chris refuses to participate and tries to start a coup with the other girls but no one will join her. A furious Chris blames Carrie for her trouble and determined to get back at her.

Carrie soon discovers that she has a special gift; the ability to move objects with her mind. She researches telekinesis and learns how to control her powers. Carrie wishes she could share this with someone but with no friends along with a fanatic mother who intensely believes that fornication (even with one's spouse) is pure evil and already fears her daughter is heading down a path in to Satan's arms, she has no one to confide in.

Feeling guilty for her participation in teasing Carrie, Sue (Gabriella Wilde) decides that the gym teacher's punishment didn't go far enough. She insists that her boyfriend, Tommy (Ansel Elgort) take Carrie to the prom instead of her. Although both are reluctant and wary, Tommy eventually talks Carrie in to attending the event with him. When Chris hears the news, she creates an elaborate plan to ruin Carrie's night which involves rigging the election so the couple win prom king and queen and a bucket of pig's blood. However, she has no idea who she's messing with as Carrie, in a blind rage, releases a torrent of blood and mayhem all on her own.

I really hate to bash director Kimberly Peirce for this disaster as this is only her third feature film since her terrific debut, "Boys Don't Cry" way back in 1997. Her follow-up film, the underrated "Stop-Loss" didn't happen until over ten years later. It's hard not to believe that her gender played at least some part in this lack of output as a male counterpart with as much buzz for their first film that she received would most certainly have made at least double that number by this point. It's understandable why Ms Peirce would be brought on board for this remake as she could deliver some emotional heft to this horror flick but the director seems overwhelmed by the scale of this production. She's had little experience with a budget this large and with worrying about the big, visual effects and attempting to distance her version from the legacy of the first film while maintaining the spirit, Peirce is unable to find the right tone or direction.

Ms Moretz may be closer to the age of the character than the original actress who portrayed her, Sissy Spacek (who was twenty-seven and meaning no offense to the Oscar winner) but she is simply too pretty to be convincing as the plain and awkward Carrie. The now sixteen year old actress has been a professional actor since a child and has impressed in varied roles but here she appears lost as Ms Moretz doesn't register as an unpopular outsider. The twitchy, exaggerated facial expressions the actress displays hardly helps matters. The supporting cast seems to have been raided from an episode of "Gossip Girl" with the high schoolers all uniformly attractive and bland, and I had great difficulty telling them apart (male or female). The only one who comes out of this mess relatively unscathed is obvious. The veteran Julianne Moore is completely wasted yet she's able make the brief moments she's on screen electrifying with another reliably razor-sharp performance.

Even if you take the De Palma feature out of the equation and judge.this new version of "Carrie" on it's own merits, it still offers nothing that could possibly make this exercise in routine film making remotely worth viewing. By the time the film reaches it's climax at the high school prom, the results are less terrifying and more laughable with cheap, ineffective scares.

Monday, October 21, 2013


The 2013 edition of the AFI Film Festival will be held November 7th through 14th in Hollywood at the historic TCL Chinese Theater. Once again, the AFI will be offering free tickets to all screenings in addition to Patron Passes that will be sold for reserved seating. For more information and a complete list of films, please go to:


This year's Opening Night Gala will be "Saving Mr. Banks", the true, untold story of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) struggling to convince P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the author of "Mary Poppins" to allow him to make a movie of her beloved character. "Inside Llewyn Davis", the latest from the Coen Brothers has been selected as the Closing Night film. Set in the 60's, it tells the tale of folk singer Davis (played by Oscar Isaac) who is trying to make a name for himself as a performer while maintaining his integrity as an artist. Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and John Goodman also star.

The iconic French filmmaker, Agn├Ęs Varda has been selected as this year's Guest Artistic Director with her influential 1962 film, "Cleo From 5 to 7" being screened as a tribute. Ms Varda has handpicked four films to be shown that have influenced her over a sixty year career.Those films are "Pickpocket"(1959), "A Woman Under The Influence" (1974), "The Marriage of Maria Braun"(1979) and "After Hours"(1985):

There are three films selected to be a part of the Centerpiece Galas starting with the world premiere of "Out of The Furnace", a suspenseful drama featuring an impressive cast including Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Forrest Whitaker and Zoe Saldana. Scott Cooper directs this follow-up to his acclaimed 2009 debut, "Crazy Heart":

Ben Stiller directs and stars in a remake of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", a romantic-comedy that also stars Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn and Shirley MacLaine:

Alexander Payne has made some of my all-time favorite films ("Election", "Sideways") and the director has finally returned with his latest, "Nebraska". It's a quirky, black & white, comedic drama involving a road trip with a father (Bruce Dern), his son (former "SNL" star, Will Forte) and an apparent lottery winning. A tribute to the film career of Mr. Dern will also be held during the festival:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Directed by Fabien Constant

Where & When: Laemmle's Muisc Hall, Beverly Hills, CA. September 21, 2013 3:00PM

In the documentary, "Mademoiselle C", the camera is focused on Carine Roitfeld, the raccoon-eyed French fashion stylist, former editor of Vogue Paris and muse to countless people in the industry who has decided the time is right to launch her own magazine, "CR". As a stylist, Roitfeld is not flashy or over-the-top as some of her contemporaries but she still offers a distinct vision that appears modern and forward-thinking. The film gives us a tiny peek in to her glamorous life that is a whirlwind of runways, photo shoots, parties and beautiful clothes.

Roitfeld has assembled a small staff of creatives to help her put together her publication, sets up shop in New York and then the work must begin.  We follow Roitfeld as she attends many fashion shows to select clothing as she praises the designers and rubs shoulders with the celebrities in attendance including a surprisingly subdued Kanye West who we see chat quietly with Roitfeld. She calls in favors from the top photographers and models of the world to contribute their talents which they all seem very happy to do for the opportunity to work with this legendary figure.

While the initial motivation behind this documentary was to go behind-the-scenes and witness the challenges and difficulties of starting yet another magazine devoted to fashion but what made this doc particularly intriguing was to learn more about who this stylish woman really is as Ms Roitfeld isn't well known outside of a select group of drooling groupies obsessed with every aspect of the fashion industry."Mademoiselle C" disappoints in this regard as we learn very little about her background or, more importantly, what inspires and motivates her work. The director, Fabien Constant mostly just observes his subject with his questions not particularly probing, seemingly to keep the somewhat reserved Roitfeld comfortable and compliant.

Ms Roitfeld is soft-spoken and simply very French with her bird-like frame and an effortlessly chic way of putting herself together. Also with her being French, the stylist speaks her mind but displays no strong desire to reveal too much or over share. Everyone from her staff to the designers to film and music personalities offer nothing but glowing praise for Roitfeld which is very nice but isn't nearly enough to make this documentary feel revealing or relevant. Nothing unseemly or unfashionable is ever mentioned like addressing such rumors as Roitfeld not exactly leaving Vogue on her own accord which is implied here.

She has been happily unmarried to Christian Restoin for some thirty years and they have spawned two beautiful and creative offspring; Vladimir, an art curator and his sister, Julia who has followed in her mother's footsteps as a model and fashion consultant (and was expecting the first grandchild of a very thrilled Roitfeld during filming). They all appear on behalf of the ordinary woman they love and not the style icon the world idolizes yet we still learn nothing more that can't be found on a Wikipedia page.

For those lovers of haute couture, "Mademoiselle C" will be a mesmerizing and inspirational experience. The film allows you to strut in the very high stilettos of a woman whose sharp eye and confident vision creates the perfect magical fantasy to present these clothes. While we may be seduced by Carine Roitfeld's Gallic charm and secretiveness but for those who expect a little more depth and substance from their documentaries, it would be best served to look elsewhere.