July 03, 2015

A Second Chance (2014)

A Second Chance (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Susanne Bier
Country: Denmark

Movie Review: Promising were the first scenes of “A Second Chance”, a psychological crime thriller from the Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier, who filmed again in her country after the unexcitable American-French drama “Serena”, which once more gathered the trendy leading actors, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Unfortunately, the disquieting beginning soon slides into something, not only dark but ghastly, as well as revelatory but also disproportionate and strained. The grim plot, written by Bier’s long-time collaborator Anders Thomas Jensen (“Brothers”, “In a Better World”), is certainly his heaviest, and tells the story of Andreas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a cop who reconnects with a known dangerous psychopath and heroin addict, Tristan (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), whose girlfriend, Sanne (May Andersen), called the police in an attempt to protect herself and their baby who was lying down inside a closet in deplorable conditions. This instance had emotional repercussions in Andreas who ran home to make sure his own little baby and his fatigued, vulnerable wife, Anne (Maria Bonnevie), were ok. At a first glance, everything was fine, but when unexpectedly the baby dies, the couple acts in a very distinct way. She completely freaks out, acting insane, while he maintains an earnest calmness but already with a not less insane plan in his mind: drop off his inanimate baby at the heroin junkies’ and steal theirs, in an attempt to ease the suicidal Anna. The brute Tristan, only thinking about how to avoid being sent to jail again, decides to simulate a kidnapping. Cold, depressing, and quite messy, “A Second Chance” takes the emotions to an extreme that doesn’t make it easy for the viewer to empathize with any of the unbalanced characters. Among the grievous performances, Mrs. Bonnevie stood out, in a screwed up tale that, even before halfway, made me lose hope in its personas. Mrs. Bier delays getting out of the tortuous cinematic paths she keeps embarking lately.

July 02, 2015

Who Am I (2014)

Who Am I (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Baran Bo Odar
Country: Germany

Movie Review: Bustling enough to cause some apprehension, but unoriginal in approach and storytelling, “Who Am I” is a German cybernetic thriller directed by Baran Bo Odar whose previous “The Silence” had given positive indications about his filmmaking aptitudes. The film stars Tom Schilling as Benjamin, an uncommunicative young man who, since childhood, has a crush on Marie, and wishes to have superpowers and invisibility. Being an outsider in the real world, he gains some self-respect on the Internet, as he becomes one of the most wanted hackers in Germany. Benjamin, seated on a chair with his hands tied, and bent over a table, tells to the suspended female inspector, Hanne Lindberg, how he was sentenced to 50 hours of community work for breaking into the university servers in order to help Marie. While carrying out this light sentence, he bumps into his dissimilar, Max (Elyas M’Barek), an insubordinate impostor who introduces him to Stefan, the one who can find any bug in any system, and Paul, a hardware expert, with whom they create a computer hacker group baptized as ‘CLAY’ that stands for ‘clowns laughing at you’. Mostly aiming at wealthy corporations and governmental services, which includes the foreign intelligence agency of Germany (BDN), the reserved and yet bright Benjamin will have to fight the most venerated online pirate, MRX, who allegedly belongs to the Russian mafia hacking group known as ‘Fr13nds’ and is implicated in a crime. The film can be described as “The Social Network” meets “The Prestige”, but still using familiar tones and well-worn narrative timbres, setting a bunch of clichéd situations that spin around with consecutive twists and turns without creating a beneficial impact. The score by Michael Kamm often transmits a sensation of more danger than what the film actually gives. I still have faith in Mr. Odar’s films, only this one didn’t work so well for me.

July 01, 2015

Inside Out (2015)

Inside Out (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen
Country: USA

Movie Review: Have you ever looked at someone and wonder what is going on inside his head? This is the premise of “Inside Out”, a mind-blowing adventure from Pixar Animated Studios and released by Walt Disney, that takes us on an inventive trip into the mind of the 12-year-old Riley Anderson. Going through a delicate phase after moving from Minnesota to San Francisco with her parents, the responsive Riley struggles with disparate emotional states. These emotions actuate inside her head, each of them exhibiting a cute graphical personification. Joy has a luminous female representation, displaying a modern blue hair and a casual green dress; the melancholic, chubby Sadness shows huge round glasses over a blue face; Fear is an anxious gentleman featuring a thin body and long nose; Disgust is a green lady with no much expression; and finally, Anger is a red man whose head turns into a flaming missile whenever the situation justifies his actions. All of them have access to complex mechanisms in Riley’s mind, place where we can also find islands of personality (honesty, friendship, etc.), golden spheres that represent memories, and the so important core memories. Also fantastic places such as Imaginationland and Dreamland can be reached, and if you want a shortcut to the headquarters, nothing better than call Riley’s childhood imaginary friend Bing Bong, a pink creature that is part elephant, part cat, part something else. It was funny to see how Joy and Sadness had to cooperate to help, and how everyone intervenes when Fear and Anger dominate. The American Oscar-winner, Pete Docter, keeps up the fantastic work both as a writer (“Toy Story”, “Wall.E”) and director of animation (“Monsters Inc.”, “Up”), here assisted by Ronaldo Del Carmen. Lovely design, tactful and intelligible story, and rewarding message make of “Inside Out” the animated feature of the year.

June 30, 2015

Advantageous (2015)

Advantageous (2015) - New Movie Review
Directed by: Jennifer Phang
Country: USA

Movie Review: Set in a near future where economic power keeps strangling the chances of happy lives, “Advantageous” tells the story of Gwen (Jacqueline Kim) who opts to sacrifice everything she had built for the sake of her talented 12-year-old daughter, Jules (Samantha Kim). Gwen is an independent single mother who has been the face of a cosmetics company during most of her life. Bad news arrives in many ways: first she acknowledges that her daughter, despite the high intellectual capabilities demonstrated, wasn’t accepted in Arcadia school. Instead, she’s going to Eastern school whose tuition is double. Simultaneously, the company’s chief, Dave Fisher (James Urbaniak), informs her that her contract won’t be renewed and that they’re already looking for a younger candidate to replace her. Deeply concerned with her daughter’s future, a few difficult options will come to Gwen’s mind: call her estranged mother and ask for money; expose the situation to Jules’ father, confronting him for the first time and triggering a family crisis since he’s married to her cousin Lily; and the toughest one, requires her to make permanent changes by adapting her mind into a younger body, a tech operation that also demands enduring pain, take a shot every two hours for a year, and being reminded about everything that’s important. Directed with an advantageous sobriety by Jennifer Phang, this slight sci-fi flows at a consistent pace, impelling us to be supportive with the dedicated mom. The camera moves with confidence and objectivity, pulling out images with a tasteful sense of aesthetics, in a mix of real world, as we know it, and an understated imagined future that conveys mystery at every shot. Mrs. Phang’s approach is comfortable and exquisitely sophisticated while Jacqueline Kim is superb as Gwen, displaying sadness and inner anxiety while weighing the pros and cons of a step that has no turning back.

June 29, 2015

Glass Chin (2014)

Glass Chin (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Noah Buschel
Country: USA

Movie Review: The term ‘fighter’s chin’ is used in a figurative way to specify the ability of a pugilist to absorb blows in the chin before being knocked down. In this particular sports crime thriller, “Glass Chin” refers to the protagonist, Bud Gordon (Corey Stoll), a former boxing champion who tries to put order in his personal life after being let down by his chin. Still affected, he reacts badly when a homeless guy recognizes him and addresses his weak final fight. On the other hand, Bud feels both support and pressure whenever he returns to his New Jersey’s apartment because his confidante girlfriend, Ellen (Marin Ireland), wants him to find a propitious job. However, Bud spends his days on two very different activities: one of them is noble - training a new promising young boxer called Kid Sunshine; the other is unsafe - working for J.J. (Bill Crudup), a dishonorable restaurateur who hates everything that’s ordinary, like doing the laundry, and dedicates himself to other activities, including criminal ones. Bud is easily framed, right after he starts collecting money from a few terrified debtors under the orders of the ruthless Roberto (Yul Vazquez), J.J.’s devoted disciple, who justifies that his boss likes to own people. Restrained indignation and tremendous courage will intertwine when J.J. requests the adulteration of Kid Sunshine’s next fight. Far from the graciousness of his previous film, a fetching romance entitled “Sparrows Dance”, writer/director Noah Buschel presents us with a crude filmmaking style where the dark images overwhelm us with its objectionable looks. A lukewarm pace and a too ponderous approach didn’t help this quiet crime thriller having real thrills. Similarly, the story lets us down, being equal to other stories that we’ve seen a million times before, never adding that discerning touch that would allow emotions to come out clearly and genuinely. As for the acting, it lacked authenticity in several occasions and only Stoll sparingly seems to fit.

June 26, 2015

Dope (2015)

Dope (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Rick Fumuyiwa
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Dope” is a diverting juvenile comedy set in the tough L.A. neighborhood of Inglewood. Its first frame defines three possibilities for the word that composes its title and each definition relates somehow to the story of Malcolm (Shameik Moore), a geeky black high-school senior who is introduced to us when he stops pedaling to stare at Nakia (Zoe Kravitz), apparently a girl beyond his reach. Always followed by his also geek friends, Diggy (Kiersey Clemons), who dresses as a boy and doesn’t admit white guys to call her ‘nigga’, and Jib (Tony Revolori), a Latino who is totally accepted as part of the clan, the Harvard-aspirant Malcolm will disregard important school exams and interviews when in possession of a backpack containing dope and a gun, material belonging to Nakia’s dealer boyfriend. Without knowing what to do and chased by other dealers, the three friends end up relying on Will, a white, dope-addict partygoer who suggests selling the stuff online. The scheme is carried out with some risk, like entering the school and avoid being frisked by the complacent security guard. But the real key to success is the indirect help of Lily (Chanel Iman), a wasted, frivolous, wild girl with whom they come across. She triggers the nastiest scene of the film when pukes on Malcolm’s face while jumping naked on top of him. Rousing and well disposed, “Dope” only wasn’t better because of some improbable situations portrayed in the sometimes-shaky script by director Rick Famuyiwa - one of them was the romance between the horny Malcolm and Nakia. While most of the jokes are effective, the supposedly funny scenes aren’t so good after all, with exception of a raucous stealing of a sneaker and the fact that the trio of pals, being devoted to the hip-hop of the 90s, plays a totally different style in their band, creating a deliberate case of absurdness. “Dope” is a teen pleaser, and Mr. Famuyiwa gives a positive step in a directorial career that had been trivial until this release.

June 25, 2015

Runoff (2014)

Runoff (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Kimberly Levin
Country: USA

Movie Review: First time director, Kimberley Levin, presents us a sensitive small-scale drama about a Kentucky farm family that keeps struggling with financial problems, questioning aspects such as human necessity and the morality of some decisions, also sparking impactful ecological considerations. Betty Freeman (Joanne Kelly) is a dedicated beekeeper and caring mother of two sons - the self-assured Finley, who keeps drawing quietly with the goal of attending an art school in New York, and little Sam, who likes to play with his friend near the river despite the warnings of his parents not to do so. She also maintains a stupendous relationship with her husband, Frank (Neal Huff), who administrates antibiotics to the animals in the nearest farms of the region. However, the business became slow due to the unmatchable fierce approach of a concurrent larger corporate named Giga, which gradually is leading the Freeman Farms and other similar small businesses into bankruptcy. In the imminence of losing their property and confronted with Frank’s deteriorating health condition, supposedly due to the use of chemicals, the couple will glimpse a way out when proposed an illegal business made by Scratch (Tom Bower), an old dairy farmer. Compellingly done, deeply felt, and consciously scary, “Runoff” could have put some more thrill in one or other scene. Regardless the quiet posture adopted, which enhances more the inner states of the characters rather than creates real tension, the film presents other aspects to be recognized, like the accomplished performances of Joanne Kelly, Neal Huff, and particularly the young Alex Shaffer as the eldest son, as well as Levin’s thorough filmmaking, so attractive for the eye. This is a promising, eye-opener debut.

June 24, 2015

She's Lost Control (2014)

She's Lost Control (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by:Directed by: Anja Marquardt
Country: USA

Movie Review: Anja Marquardt’s directorial debut is a slippery, low-budget indie drama, set in New York, which is unable to suppress a painful superficiality of a plot about a sexual surrogate who, in a prohibitive way, falls for a client. About to finish her masters in behavioral psychology, Ronah (Brooke Bloom) is a gentle, self-assured woman who helps men with high levels of anxiety and problems in achieving intimacy in a relationship. When Johnny (Marc Menchaca), a reticent nurse who takes care of his handicapped sister after work, signs the agreement and pays, Ronah was far from imagining she would fall for him after breaking the initial emotional impasse. This situation, besides compromising the trust that was patiently built in their professional relationship, triggers other dangers for her to be closely exposed. Apart from this central topic, Ronah has other concerns such as freezing her eggs for the future, dealing with construction issues at her apartment and the imminence of a lawsuit, and giving all the support she can to her brother while he takes care of their sick mother. The film is sluggish and yet mysterious in a first phase, but after a while it sticks solely with the sluggish. The highly structured images oppose to a series of happenings that are presented in a disorganized and underdeveloped way. Choppily edited by Marquardt and Nick Carew, “She’s Lost Control” seems more a set of collages that slowly lead us to an upsetting ending. Mrs. Marquardt has several narrative constraints to analyze in her premier, regardless the controlled technical routines of her filmmaking style and a droll cinematography by Zack Galler. Even Brooke Bloom seems not to fit quite well, and the depth of the accounts portrayed here was never satisfying.

June 23, 2015

Shrew's Nest (2014)

Shrew's Nest (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Juanfer Andres, Esteban Roel
Country: Spain / France

Movie Review: Executive producer, Alex de la Iglésia, presents a psychological horror film, set in ‘50s Spain, about two unstable sisters with a complicated past and present. The film was passionately directed by Juanfer Andrés and Esteban Roel, two newcomers who also co-wrote with Sofia Cuenca based on an original idea by Emma Tusell, editor of the last Spanish cinematic sensation, “The Magical Girl”. Relying on the extraordinary performances by Nadia Santiago and especially Macarena Gomez, the story feels simultaneously familiar and tonally consistent, if occasionally fluctuating in pace. Montse (Gomez) always played the role of a protective mother regarding her younger sister (Santiago), who she calls ‘la Niña’. Both live alone in a comfortable apartment after the death of their mother and the mysterious disappearance of their father 14 years before, during the war. The latter (Luis Tosar), religiously strict and morally judgmental, often visits the subconscious of Montse, a neurotic dressmaker who never goes out due to suffering from agoraphobia. Besides, Montse is a victim of other strange attacks, acting very aggressive and severely punishing her sister who just turned 18 and meets with a boy right under her window. This fact brings about jealousy and fear of loss in Montse who keeps inflicting guilt and embarrassment in the frightened yet courageous girl. Secluded, petty, and haunted by a traumatic past and an overwhelming awe of God, the older sister gains strong hopes of recovering, besides the drops of morphine that a client brings to her, when she literally kidnaps her neighbor, Carlos (Hugo Silva), after he has asked for help with a bump in his head and a broken leg. Even if not totally fresh or devoid of missteps, “Shrew’s Nest” reserves good surprises for the last 30 minutes, time when the gore images assault you, well programmed to enhance the climax. More morbid than creepy, this is a palpable psychological material whose major faults can be easily forgiven.

June 22, 2015

Manglehorn (2014)

Manglehorn (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Country: USA

Movie Review: Al Pacino is A.J. Manglehorn, an aging Texan locksmith who lives embittered in the company of his old cat since he let go the love of his life, Clara, many years ago. Instead, he got married to another woman with whom he had a son, a super-occupied, money-focused businessman. Manglehorn keeps addressing letters of love to Clara, expecting something to happen besides his usual routines, which consist in working, occasionally taking his granddaughter for an ice cream, playing slot machines while listening to the smooth-talk of his friend Gary, and flirting with Dawn (Holly Hunter), a gentle bank teller who is super excited to go out on a date with him. All at once, everything seems to collapse: the cat needs surgery after swallowing a key, Gary no longer has his trust after a ludicrous episode, his son asks him for money to financially rescue his company, and the date with Dawn goes wrong, triggering a soapy scene that sustains a melancholy that kept on growing. I suddenly became somnolent and discouraged, unable to find a way to connect with the characters. This time around, the lucid director, David Gordon Green (“George Washington”, “Joe”), didn’t have the ability to pick out Paul Logan’s primitively faint story and turn it inside out, giving it the right temper to entangle us. Actually, the only vivid things in the film are its colors because the rest lingers indefinitely in shabby tones, now and then interrupted by unreasonable incidents (even a musical one) and incongruous dreamy sequences. Acting in accordance with the title character, who confesses he's losing hope in tomorrow, I also felt the same hopelessness and indifference in relation to “Manglehorn”. Mr. Pacino’s voice was aggravating at times, and even he, so talented and committed, never balanced anger and love in a categorical way.

June 19, 2015

Eden (2014)

Eden (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Mia Hansen-Love
Country: France

Movie Review: “Eden” is a poignant drama that plausibly evokes the Parisian electronic dance music of the 90’s, being the fourth feature from the creative and always interesting filmmaker Mia Hansen-Love, who co-writes with her DJ brother, Sven, loosely based on his experiences. Félix de Givry responds with resolution to his first main role, playing Paul Vallée, a teenager who gives up finishing his studies to become an established DJ in the Paris underground dance scene, environment that offers him as much drugs and girls as he wants. Adopting the Chicago’s garage style (a blend of house and disco), Paul and his friend Stan form a duo called ‘Cheers’, supported by the depressive Cyril who draws the covers for their records, while other two friends start the acclaimed group ‘Daft Punk’. Regardless being a sensation, the reckless super-hip nightlife boy, unable to control his outgoings, falls into debt and becomes a cocaine addict, ultimately resorting to his mother’s financial help to get back on the right track. Among his numerous girlfriends, which include an American who decides to return to NY and a party-lover bourgeois who wants to spend the money he doesn’t have, there is one that keeps returning over and over – Louise, a flirty girl who never hid her attraction for Paul. However, jealousy, stagnation, and instability frustrate the chances of a more serious commitment. As hypnotic and contagious as the rhythms we listen to, “Eden” evinces an astounding realism, incorporating the characters, images, and music with zest, and ultimately composing a slice of real life whose course takes us from the euphoria of a successful youth to the sadness of its disappearance, together with the awareness that it’s time to grow up and assume responsibilities. By the end, in one of the strongest scenes, Paul, already clean of drugs, looks at a young female DJ with stupefaction and nostalgia. The siblings Hansen-Love assured that the time hops in the narrative work out seamlessly.

June 18, 2015

Danny Collins (2015)

Danny Collins (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Dan Fogelman
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Danny Collins” starts by saying that what we’re going to watch is ‘kind of based on a true story a little bit’. Dan Fogelman, known for writing screenplays for animated movies (“Bolt”, “Tangled”) and expendable comedies (“Crazy, Stupid, Love”, “Last Vegas”), directs for the first time, inspired by the life of folk singer Steve Tilston and relying on experienced actors such as Al Pacino, Anette Benning and Christopher Plummer, who were joined by Jennifer Garner and Bobby Cannavale. Mr. Pacino plays the title character with geniality, modeling an aging pop-rock singer who was predestinated to be rich and famous, but whose career is stagnant and life has degenerated into a spiral of drugs and alcohol abuse for more than 30 years. Although Collins admires himself, enjoying his popularity, he’s not completely fulfilled. When his best friend and longtime manager, Frank (Plummer), uncovers a letter written many years ago by John Lennon, Danny gets deeply touched and decides to change his way of living. Entrusting his unfaithful young fiancé to her lover, he travels to New Jersey to find Tom (Cannavale), the son he had never met, who pushes him away. However, the support of Tom’s wife and the help he provides to his hyperactive granddaughter by enrolling her in a special school, will bring the opportunity of reconciliation that he was wishing for. Simultaneously, the musician uses his charm and spirited lines to seduce Mary (Benning), the manager of the Hilton hotel where he’s staying, who keeps resisting to his invitation to dinner despite the chemistry that protrudes between them. The direction by Mr. Fogelman wasn’t ideal, transforming the story into a mushy drama that feels flat for most of the time. Nonetheless, he was able to set up one of the greatest humane finales I’ve seen lately. After “Stand Up Guys” and “The Humbling”, “Danny Collins” reinforces the aging theme as a persistent constituent of Al Pacino’s agenda.

June 17, 2015

Kajaki (2014)

Kajaki (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Paul Katis
Country: UK / Jordan

Movie Review: Powerful, drastically visceral, and relentlessly tense, is how “Kajaki”, the first fictional feature length from Paul Katis, who also co-produces, can be described. Written by Tom Williams, the plot was based on the true story of Mark Wright, a British soldier who died near the Kajaki dam, located in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, in 2006, after stepping on a mine when he was trying to help harmed soldiers of his small unit. Despite the inspiration for the film has come from Wright, played by David Elliot, the main character here is the platoon’s brave medic, Paul ‘Tug’ Hartley, magnificently embodied by Mark Stanley. The soldiers were sent to a top hill observation post with a view of the dried dam, which revealed to be a treacherous minefield. We have to wait 28 minutes for the first raw scene that opens the hostilities with these occult enemies, silently waiting for someone to activate them and cause destruction. A few days after watching this shocker, several images are still engraved on my mind. The viewers shall be prepared to deal with agonizing frames whose realism conveys the human suffering, frustration, and despair, in a very impressive way. I utterly jumped from my seat at every burst, taken by surprise and completely appalled by the flesh-and-blood that get completely out of control when the morphine is not enough to produce the desirable effects, and when the helicopter that should aid them is not really helping at all, triggering even more tension and consternation. With mutilated young men lying on the ground, in panic, I wanted to cry with them. My indignation increased when, at the end, we are informed about the medals of honor given to these men – what do these medals mean, if these damn wars and operations can make you handicapped for the rest of your life, if not dead? “Kajaki” hits you bluntly, causing turbulent emotional reactions.

June 16, 2015

Jurassic World (2015)

Jurassic World (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow
Country: USA

Movie Review: The fourth adventure of the Jurassic franchise was given the name of “Jurassic World”, and basically presents us with what we already know, bearing some more visual flourishing on top of a flimsy plot. With no relation with the past installments, the story takes place at a dinosaur-theme park located on the Isla Nublar. Two unintimidated teenage brothers visit their extremely busy aunt, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) who happens to be the park’s operations manager. What should have been an agreeable trip of discovery and amazement, becomes a battle for survival, when a breach was detected in the tight security system, setting free an extremely dangerous, highly intelligent, genetically hybrid creature that has been raised in captivity and kills whatever crosses its path just for sport. If there’s someone who can deal with the situation is the dinosaur expert and trainer, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). However, his ability to minimally control other dinosaurs reveals to be inefficacious with the unpredictable creature baptized by the geneticists as Indominus Rex. In order to rescue her nephews who were at the wrong place at the wrong time, the obtuse Claire, who refuses to lose her charm by taking off the high-heels under threat, joins efforts with Owen in order to hunt the beast. If the raptors, including flying and aquatic versions, were not enough to deal with, there’s also the lab’s security’s header whose intentions are not noble. Despite some elaborate scenes, I felt they were not so diversified as they could be, limiting the fun. In addition to this fact, the plot is just another narrow creation packed with all types of creatures, standardized humor, and situations that never excelled. Moreover, director and co-writer, Colin Trevorrow, didn’t make me forget Spielberg (executive producer at this time), and the same happened to Pratt when compared with Jeff Goldblum.

June 15, 2015

Love and Mercy (2014)

Love and Mercy (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Bill Pohlad
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Love & Mercy” is an American biopic about Brian Wilson, the genius behind the Californian surf-rock band formed in the 60’s, The Beach Boys. The film was directed by Bill Pohlad, producer of cinematic wonders such as “The Tree of Life”, “12 Years a Slave” and “Wild”, being his second feature in 20 years. The drama, intently written by Oren Moverman and Michael A. Lerner, stars the reputed Paul Dano and John Cusack, who play Wilson in his young and middle-aged phase, respectively. Their majestic performances are well backed up by the phenomenal Elizabeth Banks and the versatile Paul Giamatti, who proves how awesome he is, even when playing an evil character. The movie is well structured, shifting back and forth, and counterpointing the past occurrences with the actual state of the overmedicated musician whose guardian and therapist, Dr. Eugene Landy, tries to control his life, manipulating all his movements and assets. This situation will slowly change after Wilson falls in love with the helpful and lovely Cadillac saleswoman, Melinda Ledbetter. A lot of tenderness and understanding will come out of this special encounter, but never the following incidents are subjected to an overdramatic treatment or intemperance. As we watch the adult Wilson struggling to get back his mental balance, desperately writing ‘lonely, scared, frightened’ in a piece of paper, as if he was screaming for help, we also have the young one, giving wings to creativity while trying to gain the approval of his insensible father, and dealing with ‘the voices’ inside his head. Mr. Pohlad compels us to be engulfed at every minute in a story that starts being so depressingly sad, but drives us into a limitless hope. I was never enthusiastic of The Beach Boys, a fact that didn’t inhibit me from cheering this stupendous reenactment of its leader’s experiences. A wise casting brought the solidness needed to make the steadfast plot work.

June 12, 2015

Amour Fou (2014)

Amour Fou (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jessica Hausner
Country: Austria / others

Movie Review: The contemporary Austrian filmmaker and screenwriter, Jessica Hausner, gives signs of a progressively remarkable career that became more noticeable five years ago when she addressed the mysteries of faith in the impeccable “Lourdes”. Now she spawns elegance with the classy period drama “Amour Fou”, set in Berlin, 1811, where a depressed romantic poet persuades an unhappy high-society lady to die with him. The story is based on the life of German poet, dramatist, and writer, Heinrich Von Kleist, whose melancholy is compellingly conveyed by the preeminent performance of Christian Friedel. Heinrich utterly suffers in this world, and love seems to be what feeds and inspires him, even if we think that he’s inclined to transform it into a tragedy. At first his choice was the well-positioned Marie, who doesn’t give him the importance he thinks he deserves, refusing to die with him, and announcing she’s about to get married. Then his eyes turn into Henriette Vogel (Birte Schnoeink), a melancholic married woman who convinces herself she’s gravely ill and nobody cares about her. Her husband loves her very much but often acts coldly while her own mother acts indifferently to her complaints; only her daughter Paulete is undoubtedly special. Filled with philosophical discussions and refined lyrical music, “Amour Fou”, which literally means ‘crazy love’, was given the appropriate title. Henriette, whose way of thinking was considered narrow-minded by her devoted-to-freedom poet friend, becomes under the spell of death, driven by the impetuous desire of leaving this world with someone who loves her rather than dying alone in a bed. Martin Gschlacht’s cinematography reminds us a perfectly illuminated canvas, often adorned with the stylish presence of a tall feminine servant, dressed in red and exhibiting gorgeous hats.

June 11, 2015

Spy (2015)

Spy (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Paul Feig
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Spy” is a bombastic action comedy, written and directed by Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”), that tells the ventures of the CIA agent, Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy), a hilarious feminine version of James Bond. Cooper is an ‘invisible’ deskbound analyst teaming with the ‘real’ spy, Bradley Fine (Jude Law), whom she admires so much. During a risky mission in Bulgaria, where a suitcase nuke bomb has to be found, Fine accidentally shoots his target, Tihomir, but is killed afterwards when he invades the house of Tihomir’s daughter, Rayna (Rose Byrne), the one who might lead him to track the suitcase’s whereabouts. Rayna partners in crime with her unpredictable thug boyfriend, De Luca (Bobby Cannavale), who becomes the first real target for Cooper, recently authorised to operate as a field agent. With the super-cool co-worker, Nancy (Miranda Hart), assuming her former place, and with the clumsy un-help of another agent, Rick Ford (Jason Statham), the big ‘Super-Coop’ reveals a lot of intelligence and agility on her moves and a ferocious determination when comes to knock out the foes. Somehow, she and Rayna become friends and the mission proceeds to Paris and Budapest, where a couple of plot twists and a few well-choreographed physical confronts entertain us, along with the sharp dialogues, so relished by the crowd. Ms. McCarthy does the rest, feeling like a fish under water in a role that was perfectly designed for her half-sweet half-rude acting style. The film does justice to its title, with the appearance of tricky double agents, weird informants, weapons dealers, and a bunch of situations that would leave 007 embarrassed but with a big grin on his face. Occasionally fatuous, “Spy” is not really a novelty in its methodologies, however, far from being a super movie, is the summer-fun film that everyone is looking for, gathering a sense of adventure, jocular speech lines, and a fueled performance by its main actress.

June 10, 2015

She's Funny That Way (2014)

She's Funny That Way (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich
Country: USA

Movie Review: Peter Bogdanovich, the veteran director known for admirable classics such as “Targets”, “The Last Picture Show”, “What’s Up Doc?” and “Paper Moon”, revisits the old screwball comedy classics, adding some Woody Allen’s maneuvers to the dialogues and postures. The charismatic Imogen Poots plays Izzy, a new celebrity who tells to a cynical journalist, how she stopped being a call girl and turned into a respected Broadway actress. The story winds back four years, leading us to the romantic Broadway director, Arnold Albertson (Owen Wilson) who, together with his sarcastic, popular actor Seth Gilbert (Rhys Ifans), is irredeemably addicted to call girls. After a wonderful night of sex with Izzy, Arnold offers her 30 thousand dollars under the condition that she must change her career in order to focus on her dream: to become an actress. Days after this, they bump into each other in an audition for a Broadway play. Arnold’s wife, Delta, doesn’t know anything about his adventures until one day when they went shopping at Macy’s, but in turn, maintains a secretive, long relationship with Seth. We also have an obsessive ‘dirty’ judge, Pandergast, who hires an indiscreet private eye to follow Izzy, who in the meantime, had one single session of therapy with the neurotic and judgmental, Dr. Jane Clermont (Jennifer Aniston), whose sensitive husband, Josh (Will Forte), also has a crush for Izzy and happens to be the writer of the play and the son of the private eye. All these characters’ intersections bring ludicrous, embarrassing, and wacky situations. The scrupulously edited, “You’re Funny That Way”, not only provides a set of diverting characters, but also flows at a sensational pace. Mr. Bogdanovich seeks inspiration in some of the immortal classics, from Capra to Lubitsch, and surprisingly the results are invigorating and humorous. Even lacking a good portion of originality, this was funny this way.

June 09, 2015

As the Gods Will (2014)

As the Gods Will (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Country: Japan

Movie Review: Prolific and talented, but often inconsistent, is how I see the Japanese film director Takashi Miike, who recently launched “As the Gods Will”, a loony computerized adventure targeting teen audiences, based on the manga work created by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Akeji Fujimura, here adapted to the screen by the hand of Hiroyuki Yatsu. The film basically consists in a videogame, or if you prefer, a word-chain death game, with many different levels, whose players are High School students denominated ‘Children of God’. A certain day, and out of the blue, the head of a teacher blows up in the classroom being substituted by a Daruma doll that keeps bouncing on his desk while the heads of the students keep bursting one after another. This first level only finishes when someone pushes the button located on the back of the irritating doll, before its clock reaches zero. Highly popular among the girls, Takahata Shun (Sota Fukushi), who first complained to God about his boring life, is the student showing more capabilities. His strongest opponent is a tricky boy he has met at a videogame store, called Amaya (Ryunosuke Kamiki). The film starts and finishes as pure nonsense, a distasteful goofiness that increases from level to level. Its absurd episodes include a big cat in a gym, eating students dressed as rats and yelling ‘scratch me more, meow’; a flying white cube that could be related to terrorism or aliens; four playful Japanese dolls that punish with death the player who can't tell which of them stands behind his back; an allegedly pure white bear who demands the truth; and the final stage whose tedious game is called ‘kick the can’. Miike sets up some great scenarios but plunges into absurdity with a plot that revealed to be a complete disaster. I don’t know about the Gods, but my will regarding this one is: ‘game over’.

June 08, 2015

Bad Hair (2014)

Bad Hair (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Mariana Rondón
Country: Venezuela / others

Movie Review: Set in a decadent neighborhood in Venezuela, “Bad Hair” tells the story of Junior (Samuel Lange Zambrano), a sensitive nine-year-old mulatto who struggles with his ‘bad hair’, doing everything to stretch it and to dress up as a singer, just to have his school photo taken. This obsession with his hair, together with other no less important factors – carrying a hairpin, dancing in a different manner, or staring at a young man who often gives him matches – leave his widow mother, Marta (Samantha Castillo), in such a pile of nerves. She takes him to the doctor in order to understand what’s happening with her eldest son, the one she avoids to caress and share a tender moment. There’s an obvious detachment from Marta and a consequent rebellion of the kid who demands to be accepted as he is. The only one who seems to understand the boy is his paternal grandmother, Carmen (Nelly Ramos), who suggests that Marta’s baby child is not her son’s son, and keeps offering large sums of money to have Junior living with her, accepting the fact that he might be gay. However, the kid only wants to be with his mother and will do whatever it takes to get the love that Marta seems incapable of giving. The film takes considerable time shaping the resentful mother who tries to retrieve her job as security, after screwing up somehow, even if for that she has to have sex with her employer in front of Junior, who was supposedly asleep. The way the kid reproves his mother’s behavior is by casting her a look that makes her feel uncomfortable. The helmer, Mariana Rondon, not only uses efficacious establishing shots - of a neighborhood that fills the entire frame with degraded buildings, small balconies, clothes hung to dry, and neighboring activity - but also was very assertive in the way she structured and set up every strong scene. First-time actors, Castillo and Zambrano, give irreproachable performances, in a sad tale that doesn't feel disproportionate in regard to several real lives.

June 06, 2015

A Pigeon Sat on a Brach Reflecting on Existence (2014)

A Pigeon Sat on a Brach Reflecting on Existence (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Roy Andersson
Country: Sweden

Movie Review: From Sweden, comes the last part of Roy Andersson’s trilogy about being a human being, carrying the emphatic title “A Pigeon Sat on a Brunch Reflecting on Existence”. It’s excused to say that this is not a film for everyone since its oddness and twisted humor can be a delight for some viewers and a horrible experience for others. Anderson continues relying on the absurdity of the situations created, often resorting in the repetition of ideas to become funny – the sentence ‘I’m happy to hear you’re doing fine’ is a good example. To be honest, “A Pigeon” didn’t always work fine for me, at least not as much as the two prior parts of the trilogy, the sensationally absorbing “Songs From the Second Floor” and “You, The Living”. The plot, loosely inspired on Vittorio de Sica’s “Bicycle Thieves” (who could guess?), tells the adventures of Sam (Nils Westblom) and Jonathan (Holger Andersson), two depressed salesmen who embark on a crazy trip where reality and fantasy get together. The eccentricities, a staple on Andersson’s filmmaking, have a good impact until a certain point, but after four or five incursions, they start losing the strength we were supposed to expect. There is an undoubted notion that we’re not before real-life episodes since a considerable amount of scenes end up seeming more theatrical than bizarre. However, and far from wanting to let the film down with what it has been said, the film also presents favorable aspects such as terrific visual compositions in tones of pale, a great casting, amusingly offbeat situations, and a constant tragicomic provocation in its approach. Unclassifiable, intriguing, and dauntless, Roy Andersson’s third reflection on existence is certainly not his best, but even fragmented, doesn’t embarrass the incomparable identity of a great filmmaker who philosophically ridicules about humanity. Still very virtuous, but I wanted to like it a bit more…

June 05, 2015

Still (2014)

Still (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Simon Blake
Country: UK

Movie Review: “Still”, Simon Blake’s debut as writer-director, is a drama in the guise of thriller that didn’t succeed neither as a piece of storytelling nor in the way it was approached and executed. The story, set in North London, revolves around Tom (Aidan Gillen), a photographer whose life spanned into alcohol and drugs after the death of his teen son in a hit-and-run accident. Tom tries to maintain a good relationship with his ex-wife Rachel, with whom he occasionally meets to visit their son’s grave. However, she doesn’t seem so lost or consumed by guilt as he is. Even depressive, he’s making an effort to put his life in order, relying on his new dynamic girlfriend, Christina, and on his long-time best friend, Ed, a journalist that starts investigating a case related to the murder of a bullied kid. Coincidently, when assigned for a school’s photoshoot, Tom becomes a great supporter of Jimmy, the brother of the kid who died, also a victim of bullying. If this coincidence wasn’t enough, he starts to be provoked and threatened by the same group of teen kids who keep spreading the chaos on the streets and at school, after he has accidentally collided with one of them. Fear dominates the man just until his girlfriend is raped and Jimmy is violently beaten up. From then on, the inebriate photographer will formulate his revenge that will push him into the darkness of an inescapable alley. Depressively inauspicious, “Still” nurtures a couple of good ideas at its core, which were never developed to reach favorable outcomes. It moves like a TV movie and its plot is excessively fortuitous. If only Mr. Blake had ripen his ideas and then set up a completely different atmosphere, maybe the film wouldn’t appear so much as a rudimentary draft. Consequently, don’t bother trying to look for thrilling or arresting moments.

June 04, 2015

San Andreas (2015)

San Andreas (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Brad Peyton
Country: USA / Australia

Movie Review: “San Andreas” not only addresses a terrible catastrophe, as it is a catastrophe itself. Among an array of earthquakes that keep devastating California, the all-muscles hyper-confident helicopter-rescue pilot, Ray (Dwayne Johnson), flies over Los Angeles to save his wife, Emma (Carla Gugino), who was preparing to divorce him, and then departs for San Francisco to rescue their bright daughter Blake (Alexanra Daddario). The former was having lunch on the rooftop of a building while the latter got stuck inside a car in a subterranean parking lot, abandoned by her mother’s selfish boyfriend. Blake's savior is Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt), a timid young man who was waiting to be called for a job interview, and was perplexed with her handsomeness. He gets her phone number thanks to the help of his extrovert little brother who was in his company that day. In parallel, we follow the earthquake expert, professor Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti), a dull character who only screams ‘it’s coming!!’, hiding himself under the tables. Carlton Cuse wrote a plot where nothing comes out of it, even when squeezed until exhaustion. Being more concise: the plot is a sort of cheesy ‘nightmare’ while the acting, oscillating between the courageous and the sentimental type, becomes heavily discouraging. Relying on a shallow adventure that sucks whether it proceeds by air, land, or water, director Brad Peyton’s chances of becoming successful were even more dismissive if we think of the bumbling digital effects and swift camera movements that helped increasing the tumult. What’s the point of seeing the Earth cracking, buildings and bridges crumbling, and the water galloping into the shores, creating a ‘Venice’ of debris, while people scream and run with no direction? I couldn’t find any fun in it because the exaggerated “San Andreas” is simply one of the phoniest of the year. Did anyone mention a disaster?

June 03, 2015

Uncertain Terms (2014)

Uncertain Terms (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Nathan Silver
Country: USA

Movie Review: Independent American film director, Nathan Silver (“Soft in the Head”), who briefly pops up as an actor, just needed 75 minutes to structure an interesting little drama about a group of young women who are admitted in a shelter home for pregnant teenagers. Actually, the facility located in the countryside, is the residence of Carla (Cindy Silver) who runs everything with excessive devotion. The girls are introduced mostly through conversations, in which they sadly explain their misfortunes and why they don’t have the support of their parents or the father of their kids. One girl, Nina (India Menuez), with a flamed-hair and freckled face, stands out from the others due to a melancholy that drags us to the personal problems with her pushy delinquent boyfriend Chase (Casey Drogin). With the arrival of Robbie (David Dahlbom), Carla’s 30-year-old nephew, whose heart is broken after catching his wife cheating on him, things will turn increasingly complex for Nina since they enjoy talking with each other, getting closer day after day. This evidence immediately triggers jealousy, not only in the puerile Chase, but also in some of the girls who start gossiping, throwing the matured-for-her-age Nina into an extremely difficult situation. Impelled by strong impulses, Nina and Robbie seem to know what they want, but life is not easy and the story, just like a well-orchestrated soap opera, takes its course toward a dramatic finale, which didn’t have the striking impact I was hoping. Notwithstanding, Mr. Silver showed to have strong teeth to chew low-budgeted dramas with solidness and personality. I found some resemblance here with the superior “Short Term 12”, based on people in need of attention who, in a dedicated facility, keep trying to find their own space and the best way to be loved.

June 02, 2015

Tangerine (2015)

Tangerine (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Sean Baker
Country: USA

Movie Review: Under the direction of Sean Baker (“Starlet”), who wrote once again with Chris Bergoch, the active “Tangerine”, executive produced by the Duplass brothers and entirely shot on Apple iPhones adapted with anamorphic lenses, absorbs our attention during its 88 minutes. The story starts focusing on the transgender prostitute Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), returned to the busy streets of the sunny Tinseltown on Christmas Eve, after spending 28 days in prison. Her best friend, and also transgender, Alexandra (Mya Taylor), is the only one who welcomed her, and the occasion should deserve celebration. However, when Sin-Dee is told that her pimp boyfriend, Chester (James Ransone), was cheating on her with a female prostitute called Dinah (Mickey O’Hagan), she starts an unruly searching for the couple in every possible spot of the ‘hood. We set off into a wacky trip without precedents, packed with lots of personal confrontations, funny situations, and some lamentable realities. Every character is genuinely unique and some of them gradually start gaining preponderance in the story – besides the strenuous Sin-Dee, who talks interminably with a terrific wild accent, we have: Ramzik (Karren Karagulian), a married Armenian cab driver and frequent client of the male ‘girls’, whose secret is discovered by his nagging mother-in-law; the super dressed-up, Alexandra, who pays from her own pocket to sing at minor local clubs; and of course, the manipulative Chester whose brief appearance provides the funniest moments of the film. “Tangerine” is insanely raw and only for once felt slightly machinated - when Alexandra hauls a guy along the street after his refusal to pay her services. Newcomers Rodriguez and Taylor were a revelation; Mr. Baker’s regulars, O’Hagan and Karagulian, were flawless; and Ranson was a priceless add. Sean Baker’s best film to date, also flares with an articulated sound design.