Mini Reviews (July 2017)
Paris Can Wait, Viral
Paris Can Wait (July 8/17)
Innocuous and forgettable, Paris Can Wait follows Diane Lane's Anne as she takes a road trip through France with an associate (Arnaud Viard's Jacques) of her husband's (Alec Baldwin's Michael) - with the thinly-plotted storyline detailing the sightseeing and conversations that transpire along the way. Filmmaker Eleanor Coppola, making her narrative debut here, delivers a lackadaisically-paced diversion that often feels more like a pleasant travelogue than anything else, as the writer/director offers up sequence after sequence of the two central characters visiting ornate tourist attractions and eating elaborate meals in fancy restaurants. And although both Lane and Viard are quite good here, the actors' complete and total lack of chemistry together prevents the viewer from working up any real interest in their continuing exploits. (It's clear, too, that the movie's almost total paucity of dramatic heft contributes heavily to its gossamer-thin atmosphere, as there's never a point at which there seems to be anything real at stake for any of these people.) And while the movie boasts a handful of engaging sequences - eg Anne and Jacques visit the Lumiere brothers museum - Paris Can Wait, for the most part, feels like a watered-down take on Before Sunrise that never quite justifies its existence.
Viral (July 9/17)
Though relatively well made and acted, Viral suffers from an overly familiar storyline that's compounded by an often disastrously uneventful atmosphere - with the movie, for the most part, playing like a short film that's been awkwardly expanded to feature length. The narrative follows sisters Emma (Sofia Black-D'Elia) and Stacey (Analeigh Tipton) as their bland high-school existence is thrown into disarray after a deadly virus begins to spread, with the bulk of the picture detailing the siblings' efforts to stay safe within a town that's been quarantined by the military. Viral seems to hold a fair bit of promise in its by-the-numbers yet competently-executed opening stretch, as filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman effectively establish the central characters and their small-town concerns (eg boys, school, etc) - with the directors' decision to weave in background elements relating to the aforementioned virus cultivating a palpable undercurrent of suspense. The movie's transformation from passable to interminable, then, is triggered by a spinning-its-wheels midsection that's almost entirely devoid of compelling sequences, with the movie, which transpires mostly within the claustrophobic confines of Emma and Stacey's parent-free home, detailing the protagonists' uneventful exploits and their ongoing efforts at avoiding infected neighbors and strangers. And although Joost and Schulman have peppered the thin narrative with a small handful of tense moments (eg Emma comes face-to-face with a now-blind carrier of the deadly virus), Viral ultimately builds to a climax that couldn't possibly be less interesting and stirring - which ensures that it is, in the end, not difficult to see why the prolific Blumhouse Productions decided to keep this one out of theaters.