Wonder Woman ***

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I would put it alongside Martin Campbell’s Green Lantern as a mid tier superhero movie that was likewise clearly rushed and relied on CGI and green screen for the third act. Also like Green Lantern we are not really privy to what the limits of WW’s powers are. At the end she seemingly can generate energy balls like a Dragonball Z super saiyan even though this is never shown in the comic books.

The movie starts strong with some backstory about the Amazons, but it seems unlikely that they would have no idea about World War I if they are supposedly sworn to protect the innocent people of the world. It’s just one of many plot holes. Another one is the fact that Diana chose to intervene in the end of WWI yet did nothing of note during WWII (when she would have been even more badly needed)… or any other conflict on record for that matter. What has she been doing for the last 100 years?

The villains are never fleshed out or given much of a backstory – except for the god Ares – who, as a god, is not relatable. The music was better than Green Lantern yet it only had one or two themes. The CG was Snyder-rific with lots of fast to slow money shots. But much like BvS and Green Lantern there was just way too much of it. Wonder Woman just shows that a DC movie doesn’t have to be good to be a hit, it just has to be watchable. BvS and Suicide Squad could not even achieve that level of mediocrity.

3 stars outta 5

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets ***

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Inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar Luc Besson gambled all of the good will he harnessed by producing Taken and Lucy into the most expensive indie movie of all time. And it shows.

This is animation and vfx so good it had to be Weta, and they ain’t cheap. Not only that but ILM also did a huge chunk of the movie. It is THE vfx movie of the year, no doubt. Digital characters (hundreds of them) look so real that you almost think they are. Only problem is… he forgot to write a compelling story.

The film moves from one eye candy set piece to another with really interesting, never-before-seen action, but sadly all this viewer cared about were the visuals themselves. The two stars are much too young to be believable as space cops. They are given no backstories and are just our human connection on a space station full of CG aliens. Rihanna is in the movie… why? To have a million dollar Weta-enhanced dance number of course! Ethan Hawke is also in this scene for some reason.

It’s a strange movie to review because I do recommend seeing it, just to watch a madman burn hundreds of millions of dollars on fx work. There are some very interesting concepts and futuristic weapons and vehicles that are also worth the time. The design alone should win some kind of award, but in the end it’s a missed opportunity as Besson went for splash and not story.

If you have any bags of drugs lying around, after popping in this blu-ray with the surround sound turned up, I would suggest taking them.

3 astroships outta 5

Blade Runner 2049 **

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The hype is undeserved. Multiple critics said that the sequel was better than the original. That is simply a crazy thing to say. The entire movie is a callback. The look, the music, the characters, and the plot all would not exist without the first one. The sequel adds very little to the mythos. We still never leave Earth and rarely leave Los Angeles. The writing was fairly weak and has major plot holes.

Jared Leto is the new Tyrell. He is blind, a callback to Joe Turkel’s version who also had bad vision and got his eyes ripped out. They really don’t even try in Hollywood anymore do they? He wants a child that the first pregnant replicant gave birth to. That is the plot. Apparently if one wants a slave army it would be faster to impregnate female replicants rather than make them in the lab because it takes too long. Um… does this corporation realize that it takes 20 years to grow a baby into an adult? Really it takes 20 years to make a replicant? The original never mentioned this… because it’s fucking ridiculous.

Right off the bat we know Gosling is a replicant, so we don’t really care much about him. Then we find out that his girlfriend is an interactive piece of software, a basement dwelling nerd’s wet dream cum true. This makes us like him even less and of course we don’t give a shit about a character who’s made out of code. I thought that Leto’s performance was very good actually. He should have had more screen time. Gosling was fine, but he plays it deadpan. Ford was tremendous as always, but he also is barely in the film.

I was wishing that they had gotten Rutger Hauer for this because maybe he could have saved it. The main baddie is a two-dimensional female terminator, not exactly the poetic psychopath Roy Batty. It starts off strong with a good performance by Batista, but he’s quickly out of the movie. They have a great fight scene but that’s the last action you will be seeing for hours. Did I mention that this movie is 2049 hours long? It felt like it anyways. And for no reason really. It’s a fairly simple detective story that leads to an unsatisfying ending where plenty of loose ends are left hanging. They must have planned a sequel but that’s not going to happen now as this bombed at the box office badly. I can see why people didn’t turn out. It’s boring. There is a little more action at the end but it was not nearly enough. The story loses momentum by Act 3.

I would say that this was a missed opportunity but really that occurred in 1993 when the Ridley Scott Director’s Cut came out on video. It sparked a new interest in the film and that would have been the time to bring it back.

The whole “is Deckard a replicant” theory is weakly not dealt with. At least take a stand on it one way or the other. There are vague hints about it from Olmos but nothing certain. The music also was a big letdown. They didn’t even try. For the ending they just straight up replayed Vangelis.

I also did not like the way the movie fucked with the original story. They really just couldn’t come up with their own, they had to add a ridiculous swerve to the 1982 film for no reason. I am saddened by the knowledge that this director is going to remake Dune.

2 skin jobs outta 5

The Executioner #2 “Death Squad ” by Don Pendleton ***

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This book picks up right where War on the Mafia left off. Mack has a million dollar bounty on his head and every mobster in America wants to collect it. Bolan realizes that he may need some help. He recruits ten of his old ‘Nam buddies, all ruthless killers in their own right, and assembles a crack assassination squad. It would have been better if Pendleton had only shown Mack bringing in two or three old war buddies. With so many characters, it’s not possible to flesh them out in such a short novel. Half of them are pure stereotypes like the hippie, the Indian, etc. All of them easily agree to work for Mack, risking their lives and their freedom, merely for the thrill of killing and whatever spoils they can collect along the way. A little more conflict among the gang would have helped flesh out this straightforward story.

Because this is a team book it differs from the other Executioner novels. Mack is merely one of many characters which includes not only the Death Squad but also a cast of mobsters, hitmen, and cops. There is one glaringly absent character type… women. As in, not a single one. Mack doesn’t get laid even once, he’s just too busy killing. And kill he does. Now with a team he can wipe out entire Mafia families in one fell swoop. It is only when Mack finally underestimates multiple families ability to work together that things start to fall apart. Ten trained and heavily armed assassins can cause a whole lot of damage but there are only so many armed men they can kill at one time. Needless to say, after this experience, Mack decides that it’s best to work alone.

3 satchel charges outta 5

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? *****

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You would think that I would be reading old Batman comics this weekend with the death of Adam West, but instead I decided to read a more appropriate Superman story that I finally picked up. Heralded as one of the greatest Superman yarns of all time, “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” was originally published in Superman #423 and Action Comics #583 in 1986. When one hears the words “greatest comic story of all time” one name always comes to mind, Alan Moore. And so it is with this finale of the original superhero. Moore was hot off of Watchmen and retiring long-time editor Julie Schwartz wanted the best for his final send off. The most famous Superman artist of the sixties Curt Swan was brought back to draw both issues with George Perez and Kurt Schaffenberger inking them.

The story is an “imaginary tale” of Superman’s last days. It has an epic, Lord of the Rings feel to it as Superman makes his final stand at the Fortress of Solitude, surrounded by his closest friends and lovers. All of his greatest villains team up all at once to make sure he dies for good. Even formerly mischievous and comic villains like Bizarro and Mr. Mxyzptlk turn to chaotic evil as they are simply sick of their foe’s existence. Superman realizes that he cannot take them all on at once, even with his great power. Lex Luthor’s mind and body are taken over by Brainiac who leads the assault and Superman’s lesser villains start to wipe out his secret identity, Metropolis and his friends.

The primary obstruction to Brainiac’s plan is of course the Justice League, so he forms an impenetrable force field around the Fortress that they can’t get past. Batman and Wonder Woman end up having to merely watch the final battle from the outside. What follows is complete carnage as Jimmy Olsen and Lana Lang are slaughtered and the Fortress of Solitude is destroyed by a nuclear blast. Superman himself is forced to kill for the first time as it’s the only option. Batman has only one line in the story after the forcefield is dropped, but it’s a good one: “It’s like walking amongst the fragments of a legend.”

As the title insinuates, by the end, Superman is no more. The character was then rebooted by John Byrne in the Man of Steel mini-series that reset Superman’s timeline after Crisis on Infinite Earths. This would be a great story for Warner Brothers to make as an animated film. My only complaint is that two issues were two few. Four would have been ideal. As it is, the final twist is contained only in the very last page.

5 Legends Outta 5

A newly recolored version of the story can be read here

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood *

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It’s been out for 30 years, but I finally read this often mentioned epistolary novel by Margaret Atwood. I have not read any of her other books and this is her best known. It really should not even be called a novel. It is the unstructured, stream of consciousness, rantings of a dull kept woman. The book is a fragment of an audio diary kept by the main character Offred who lives sometime in the near future. She has all of the intelligence of a subservient Christian housewife with uninteresting and meandering thoughts about her situation. Other than describing her dystopian reality (not very well I must say) Offred goes on and on about her simplistic feelings and desires. She makes the perfect slave for her religious masters. She does as she’s told and never disobeys in any real way. I kept wondering why I was reading about this character. Surely someone else in this universe would be more interesting to follow and listen to, like her friend Ofglen. Offred is simply a massive bore with no real insights or observations. I would call her one of the dullest characters in all of literature.

Some notes on this future world: Congress and the President of the USA have all been executed by fanatical Christian MGTOWs. In a twisted version of Snake’s ultimate dream, women become slaves that can no longer legally own property, hold jobs, vote, or even have names. They must take their husband/owners name, that’s why we get “Of Fred.” Offred doesn’t have access to books and seems fairly uneducated so we don’t learn what exactly took the human population down, but it seems to be either a nuclear war or some kind of radiation disaster. So Offred finds herself as a nun-like sex slave whose only reason to exist is to create children for a high ranking military commander. She is told that if she acts up her legs and arms can be cut off as only her torso is required for sex. The commander’s wife is a dried up old hag who lays under Offred during awkward ritualistic inseminations.

Even if one looks at it as an allegory for the struggle for women’s equality, it’s still boring and plotless. Nothing happens. NOTHING. Offred is a paranoid but willing rape victim in a Puritan/Nazi theocracy, the end. Her job is to lie down and get screwed. That’s her life. And much like Offred’s occupation, I wanted to lay this book down every time I started reading it again. I had to finish it, but it was a struggle. In between fuckings she watches dissenters get executed and tiptoes around her masters so as not to find herself in a noose. I would recommend it to feminists maybe, but not to science fiction or dystopia fans. You can’t out-kafka Kafka, which is what Atwood was trying to do. If you want to feel oppressed and depressed than read it, but I personally hated it. I am not a fan of Kafka either. It’s depressing for depressions sake. You could see it as a warning about religious fanaticism, but I think Arthur Miller covered that already in The Crucible.

1 Dystopian Nightmare Outta 5

A Tale of Two Hamiltons

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Alexander Hamilton: Chernow vs. DiLorenzo

My dad would love all of this attention his hero Alexander Hamilton is getting. This is mostly due his life story being turned into the most successful Broadway musical of all time. Looking around my dad’s den I realized that the biggest picture on the wall was of old Alex. So the least I could do is read a couple of books about the guy.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

This is the book that inspired the musical. Chernow presents Hamilton as the prototypical American success story. Born in the Caribbean, Hamilton was an unlikely Founding Father of our country, but his life was anything but normal. The event that started it all was a scholarship from a wealthy patron on St. Croix island that sent young Hamilton to NYC. After some heroic actions in the Revolutionary War and a lifelong friendship with George Washington, his career was ready to rock. And it just kept rocking until the end. I can see why so many people find him inspiring and important. He amassed enormous power and influence over a young nation and he did have some sense of the history that was happening around him.

In case anyone reading is new to Hamilton I will just list some of the things that made him famous:

– Established West Point
– Founded the Coast Guard
– Elected to the Congress of the Confederation representing New York
– Wrote the majority of the Federalist Papers which lead to the Second Constitutional Convention
– First Secretary of the Treasury
– As a trial lawyer in New York he published the first manual on civil procedure
– Established the Bank of North America
– Wrote the Report on the Subject of Manufactures
– Founded the New York Post

Not a bad resume, and that’s only the cream off the top. Chernow wrote a page turning, entertaining biography that pretty much covers all of the bases. We go from birth to death and it even had a nice epilogue about Elizabeth Hamilton who lived until 1854 – long enough to become American royalty and almost long enough to see the Civil War.

However Chernow falls into a trap that is common among modern biographers, that is embellishing the past using “psycho history.” Not the kind invented by Isaac Asimov in Foundation, but the modern kind which uses psychology to examine motives and emotions of people who left no diaries. This is used by the well known plagiarist and Lincoln biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin. It essentially lets the biographer put words into the mouths of historical figures and should be discouraged. The matters of slavery and adultery in particular allows Chernow to erase anything negative about the man, so his tale can be spic and span. Chernow claims that Hamilton was an abolitionist while nothing in the historical record would lead one to believe this. He was no more an abolitionist than George Washington. We know for a fact that he bought at least two slaves. Chernow says they were for his brother and again with no evidence to support that claim. Chernow also uses kid gloves when describing another thing Hamilton is famous for, the very first public sex scandal. Not that any of that is really important.

Speaking of things not important, Chernow spends too much time discussing whether or not Hamilton was gay. Never mind that he was married, had affairs with women, and had eight children. No, he must have loved cock too. If he sucked a dick or two as a young military man, we will never know so there seems to be little gained from discussing it. But other than that, the book is fun to read even if it is biased in the positive. It reads like a novel.

3 Thrown Away Shots Outta 5

Hamilton’s Curse by Thomas DiLorenzo

I felt that I had to read another book on Hamilton to get the real facts. A short book that doesn’t mess around with any filler or homosexual speculation, Hamilton’s Curse by The Real Lincoln author Thomas DiLorenzo sets the record straight on the ten spot’s legacy. He examines Hamilton’s monetary policy and why it was not a national blessing (as Hamilton called the national debt) but a curse. Blatantly calling him an “economic ignoramus” DiLorenzo shows step by step how Hamilton’s lack of knowledge about business lead us to the crony capitalism we have today. Not stopping there, he also describes how Hamilton’s love of the British monarchy lead us to the imperial presidency of Abraham Lincoln and later Barack Obama, a man with so much power that even Hamilton would be shocked to behold.

Hamilton started the first central bank in the U.S. and it’s legacy is what we now know as The Fed, a destructive institution that causes the boom bust cycles in the market. The subtitle of DiLorenzo’s book is “How Jefferson’s Arch Enemy Betrayed the American Revolution–and What It Means for Americans Today.” Jefferson is still a more famous Founder than Hamilton, but it’s Hamilton’s monarchist America that we live in today. Jefferson’s ideas about a small federal government and laissez-faire economy was usurped by Hamilton’s strong federal government and interventionist monetary policy. It’s easy to see why. Those in power like it that way. So much like Abe Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton does not deserve the universal praise he receives from the mainstream historians. It is DiLorenzo’s contention that it would have been much better for us if Hamilton had never been born at all.

4 Constitutional Conventions Outta 5

2016 Oscar Nominated Film Round-up

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LA LA LAND  * outta *****

No shock here. Even some critics didn’t like this one very much. I honestly stopped watching it halfway through it was that bad. I wouldn’t usually review a movie I didn’t finish, but to do so would have been torture. It’s basically like watching a high school drama production shot on a stedi-cam. The staging, song quality, choreography, singing, and script were all amateur hour. Emma Stone has no Hollywood glamour and Ryan Gosling just seemed out of his element. I understand that he had to take piano lessons for months to play this role, well here’s a crazy idea… hire someone who can not only play the piano but also sing and dance! Was Justin Timberlake busy? Same with Emma Stone, she’s not a dancer or a singer, so why is she in this? I would barely even call her A-list. She hasn’t proven that she can headline anything more than a rom-com, unlike Amy Adams.

Speaking of…

ARRIVAL  *** outta *****

Arrival is a ridiculous premise and one of the stranger takes on first contact. That said, I was actively engaged in the movie the entire two hours which cannot be said for most films so I give it a 3. Now having said THAT, if you expect the movie to make any sense by the end, keep dreaming. There is an interesting twist that involves the magic of time travel but it is never explained. Amy Adams character makes a nonsensical and unethical choice at the end that really lowered my ranking of this movie. It was simply sloppy writing. Amy Adams carries the movie and I did like that it stays with her the entire time, but the whole thing hinges on this idea that the aliens would expect us barbaric humans to translate their language instead of them (with their obviously superior science) translating ours. IT MAKES ZERO SENSE.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA  * outta *****

Here’s another well reviewed movie to avoid. I can’t understand how a critic could sit through this dull-as-paint-drying-mopefest and give it a 5 star rating. It is one of the worst movies of 2016. Casey Affleck plays the same guy he always plays: monotone kid-faced sociopathic Boston guy. This time he’s a psycho because he accidentally killed his entire family and burned his own house down. Later in the film he leaves burning food on the stove and takes a nap. So after he’s killed his three children he plays with fire again. And we are supposed to feel sympathetic for this moron? His brother, Kyle Chandler, shows that he’s just as dumb by putting Affleck in his will to manage his own family and business after he dies suddenly. Bad idea. Affleck’s character can’t even get himself a beer without ending up bloody and beaten. So in the end, it’s a terrible movie with no story to tell, it’s a “slice of life” thing that’s set in the ‘90s for no reason.

MOONLIGHT ** outta *****

At least it’s not as bad as La La Land. That’s about all I can say about this slice-of-life Richard Linklater/Boyhood-esque “movie.” I only realized by the third act that there was no story and therefore no convincing conclusion. It starts off strong with good acting, music, pacing, etc. But then when Chiron finally grows up none of the lessons he’s learned in the first two acts pay off. This is widely described as a gay movie, but Chiron never even becomes sexually active, he’s more like a celibate. He thinks he’s gay, but never acts on it. So what is the point of this movie? You sympathize with him as a confused shy little boy, but then he just becomes a thug in the end. You would think that the point would be overcoming adversity or something. But no, he’s just an asexual gangsta drug dealer. Ok. It’s not a one star star piece of crap like La La Land, but it’s no where near a Best Picture of the Year award. Mahershala Ali (House of Cards) is the best thing about it so naturally he disappears in act one, never to be seen again.

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS ** outta *****

Similarly to Moonlight the best thing about Nocturnal Animals is it’s supporting star Michael Shannon. It would have been best if the whole movie was about his character. Unfortunately, not only is his character not the main character, he’s not even real in the movie. This is one of those travesties known as a “film-within-a-film.” Amy Adams (wildly miscast) gets a manuscript from ex-husband Donnie Darko and the movie is her reading it and imaging it was a movie in her head. So yes, the entire plot shown in the trailer is all in her imagination. Really ’nuff said. This movie sucked.

At one point she walks past a giant painting that says REVENGE as if the point wasn’t clear enough that this crime novel is about their marriage. See, she said he would never be a successful writer and divorced him. Now he can write a bestseller about what a bitch she is and get the ultimate REVENGE!!! HAHAHA!

Based on this film and the director’s previous one A Single Man, it’s obvious that he hates women. Amy Adams is portrayed as a superficial cunt and his last film was about gay dudes who think that women are basically children who should be ignored. Also the main reason to totally not see this movie is the opening credits. Just to drive home how much Tom Ford hates ladies, it’s five agonizing minutes of the most obese and wrinkled examples of the female form he could find; jumping around with sparklers in front of American flags. Apparently this is supposed to be a political statement of some kind. Just horrible. If Shannon wasn’t in this thing it would easily be a one star film.

‘Looking Out For #1’ by Robert Ringer *

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I do not think that his book works as a philosophy text or a self-help book. Ringer has learned a few things in his life and just as anyone becomes wiser with age some it is good advice. Stay away from toxic, abusive people – okay, seems like common sense. However, most of it is horrible, detrimental advice that should be avoided. As other reviewers have mentioned, Ringer is an egoist: the philosophy which states that it is unethical to consider others before the self. He rants against the “moralists” of the world who want to tell you what to do. He does not believe that ethics is based on scientifically derived facts and well considered logic. He thinks that everyone makes up their own ethics (or “morality” as he calls it.) Nothing could be further from the truth. Ethics is a science, not something that one can just invent for themselves.

Let’s take something that is obviously unethical like eating meat. Ringer would call me a “moralist” for telling someone that eating meat when vegetables are available is wrong because it deprives an animal of it’s life unnecessarily. He would say that since the meat eater is satisfying his own interests, it’s perfectly fine. Ringer does say that one should not harm “others” but fails to define “others” or “harm.” Clearly he does not think that animals deserve any consideration, as neither did his idol Ayn Rand. Both writers clearly failed at logic. I really enjoy Rand’s science fiction novels and her promotion of atheism, however her ethical egoism is illogical. Yes, looking out for number one can, as a side effect, end up being best for everyone in some instances. However, this philosophy can also cause harm. Negative utilitarianism is the only worthwhile philosophical position. Everything else, including egoism, is crap.

Looking out for yourself, or your tribe, or your species is just irrational bigotry. You cannot be an egoist without causing harm. For instance look at Ringer’s own life. As an egomaniac he decided to bring four men into this world, a completely irrational thing to do, as it causes immense amounts of harm. But oh no! I’m a moralist telling an irrational idiot what to do! Shame on me for trying to prevent harm to someone else!

In a ridiculous article Ringer published about his son’s untimely demise he characteristically leaves out all details: how old he was, how he died, etc, and then goes on to stroke his own ego as a “member of the most solemn of all fraternities” when he says “Losing a child is something that cannot be fully comprehended by anyone who has not paid the fraternity’s oppressive membership fee.” This is just one of Ringer’s many lies. So because I have lost a parent and a brother I do not understand grief? I understand that Ringer made his son’s death happen by creating him. He did it to serve his own massive ego and did not care what misfortunes happen to his children. It’s all about HIM. This book is stupid, half-baked nonsense and a waste of paper. Ringer does not have the mind nor the education to be giving advice. He is simply a moron.

* star outta *****

Blue Is The Warmest Color *

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Oops… I… did it… again.

After subjecting myself the torture of 12 Years A Slave I had supposedly sworn off all critically acclaimed films. But… while I was writing my review of Slave I wanted to see if any other critics agreed with me that it is a zero star piece of shit. The self-proclaimed “smartest film critic in the world” Cole Smithey also gave it zero stars and as he and I agree on other movies (Robocop for one) I checked out his top ten list. One of his top films is the documentary about Big Star – which I liked – however his #1 movie of 2013 is a three hour French film about lesbians. I trusted his opinion until then so I watched it. Predictably, I want my three hours back.

Blue Is The Warmest Color (title doesn’t mean anything as far as I can tell) won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival which is about as meaningful as a Best Picture Oscar (i.e. not meaningful). It has a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes… I must be missing something because to me it was just a drawn out Skinemax flick. It only has an NC-17 rating because most of the sex is between women and the one graphic sex scene with a man shows an erection, but no actual penetration. Since they took it that far why just go full porno if they were only an inch away anyways? Strange that Smithey would recognize that 12 Years A Slave was nothing more than torture porn and yet not recognize that this film (that he gave five stars) is nothing more than lesbo porn. Also like Slave, there is no story. We follow 15 year old student Adèle as she fumbles her way through relationships, ruining them through her own selfish actions. She does nothing particually noteworthy or admirable. Why they told a story about this person, I don’t know. Scenes consist of either sex or pretentious discussions about dead artists. This is as French as it gets. As usual with Frog films the girls do not wear makeup, zits are not even covered, teeth are fucked up, etc. When an actress cries they don’t wipe off the snot and spit all over her face. Adèle apparently ages as the film goes on, as she goes from being a student to a teacher, but her hairdo does not. All I know is that she’s supposed to be a 15 year old in the beginning and showing her having sex is blatant exploitation.

The only thing somewhat compelling about the film came not out of an artistic plan but out of obsession. Lead actress Adèle Exarchopoulos is in 95% percent of the shots, most of them being close ups of her beautiful face. By the end the viewer knows every pore of her body. She has said in interviews that she will never work with director Abdellatif Kechiche again. Apparently he became obsessed with his star, following her everywhere with his camera. It does create an intimacy with the character reminiscent of The Wrestler. Too bad he wasn’t following anyone interesting.

1 Scissoring Outta 5