Movie Review – Monsieur Lazhar

Monsieur Lazhar (2011)
Written by Evelyne de la Chenelière and Philippe Falardeau
Directed by Philippe Falardeau

At school in Montreal, two students discover that their teacher has hung herself in the classroom. The school works quickly to push the class past this event by repainting & rearranging the room while having a psychologist make periodic visits. A new teacher is found in a rush, Mr. Lazhar, an Algerian man who goes on about his experience teaching at a university in his former home country. Lazhar brings an approach unfamiliar to the students, emphasizing the techniques of grammar and spelling over more expressive forms of learning. He reads Balzac to the children and requires them to take dictation. One student, Alice, expresses her still simmering anger and confusion over the suicide of their teacher in an essay. This outburst causes Lazhar to re-evaluate his methods and the needs of his class.

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Movie Review – Elena

Elena (2011)
Written by Oleg Negin & Andrey Zvyagintsev
Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev

Elena has been married to Vladimir for two years, having met him when he was hospitalized, and she was his nurse. This isn’t the first marriage for the two, but it is a comfortable, content one that can see them into their twilight years. Elena lived on the lower economic fringes of Moscow, and so entering Vladimir’s posh upper-middle-class lifestyle has been a blessing. However, Elena has a grown son with a family living in a decaying tenement. Her grandson Sasha has reached the age where, if he is not enrolled in university, he’ll be faced with compulsory military service. Elena implores Vlad for money she can give to her family, but he sees the whole lot as shiftless layabouts. Elena worries further when Vlad’s estranged daughter Katya comes back into his life. A moment will happen when she takes drastic action, but can she live with what she does?

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Movie Review – Alps

Alps (2011)
Written by Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthymis Filippou
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

The Alps are a secret society of four weirdos who provide a strange service for people. If someone has lost a loved one a member of the Alps will learn everything they can about the deceased and recreate them for a fee, acting out moments from their life. One member, The Nurse has been spending time playing the role of a lighting shop owner’s wife and has crossed a line of intimacy while still playing her part. At her day job, she meets a young girl who was injured in a car accident. Eventually, the young girl dies and The Nurse volunteers to play her for her parents, while not informing the rest of the Alps of what she is doing. The Nurse becomes absorbed in this life, experiencing a kind of family she did not have and even becoming intimate with the dead girl’s boyfriend.

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Movie Review – A Separation

A Separation (2011)
Written & Directed by Asghar Farhadi

Simin and Nader’s marriage has reached a turning point. Simin wants to leave Iran while her husband wants to stay because of his ailing father, suffering from Alzheimer’s. Simin is adamant that their daughter Termeh be given opportunities that cannot be provided for her in Iran. As an act of protest, Simin separates herself and lives with her family waiting for Nader to at least allow Termeh to leave with her. Nader is forced to hire a housekeeper and nurse for his father during the days and settles on Razieh, a deeply religious young woman with a daughter. Razieh becomes distressed when she must change Nader’s father after he soils himself but keeps coming into work because her husband is in significant amounts of debt. One day a series of events transpire that lead Nader to believe Razieh stole money from his bedroom and left his father tied to a bed. An argument ensues with tragic consequences that will resonant within the lives of all people involved.

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Movie Review – Hugo

Hugo (2011)
Written by John Logan
Directed by Martin Scorsese

Hugo is a boy living in 1931 Paris, holed up in the clockwork behind the scenes of the Gare Montparnasse railway station. He has ended up in this strange place due to the death of his father and subsequent death by drunkenness of his uncle. The only thing Hugo has left to remember his father by is a broken automaton his parent recovered from the museum where he worked. Hugo swipes clockwork toys from a store in the station to use as spare parts in rebuilding the mysterious machine. Eventually, he’s caught by Mr. Georges (Sir Benjamin Kingsley), the toy store’s owner who is curious about the strange notebook of sketches in Hugo’s possession. Hugo befriends Mr. Georges’ goddaughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) and the two work to uncover the secret behind the automaton. However, looming over our protagonist is the specter of the station inspector and being carted away to an orphanage.

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Movie Review – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Written by Bridget O’Conner & Peter Straughan
Directed by Tomas Alfredson

In 1973, Control (John Hurt), the head of British intelligence sends Agent Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) to Hungary to speak with a general claiming a desire to defect to the West. Prideaux is shot when things go bad, and Control is forced to step down. Retiring alongside him is George Smiley (Gary Oldman), his longtime right-hand man. Shortly after Control passes away and Smiley’s wife leaves him (again). The twilight years appear to be a dark road ahead. Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) is a spy for the agency who has now gone AWOL and communicated with the prime minister’s office that there is a mole for the Soviets within the Circus (the nickname for intelligence). Smiley is pulled out of retirement to run a black ops investigation into the very leadership of Britain’s intelligence service, sussing out if the new head (Toby Jones) or his lieutenants are using their position to funnel sensitive information to the enemy. The deep Smiley goes the more he realizes that he’s lost himself in a world of paranoia and mistrust.

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Movie Review – Moneyball

Moneyball (2011)
Written by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Bennett Miller

The Oakland As general manager Billy Beane has just watched his team suffer a brutal defeat in the playoffs which leads to the departure of the team’s “superstar” players. With 2002 looming on the horizon, Beane has got to assemble a team who stands a chance in the division. On a trip to make trades with the Cleveland Indians, Beane meets Peter Brand, a statistician who sees the key to baseball as not finding stars but cultivating the guys who get hits and get on base. Beane and Brand present their potential players to the scouts and the team’s coach only to be met with stiff resistance. As the new team comes together, everyone must work to overcome the conflict, with Beane’s primary goal being an outcome that shows the Major League teams that baseball is more than a game of spending millions.

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