December 17, 2014

Inherent Vice (2014)

Inherent Vice (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Country: USA

Movie Review: Gifted American filmmaker, Paul Thomas Anderson, picked up Thomas Pynchon’s novel to create his seventh feature, “Inherent Vice”, a psychedelic trip into undercover agents, peculiar LAPD detectives, drugs, hustlers, prostitutes and curious mysteries in the fervent Los Angeles of the ‘70’s. Joaquin Phoenix, in his second consecutive collaboration with the director, gives a magnificent performance as Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello, a hippie private investigator who decides to help his former girlfriend, Shasta (Katherine Waterston), finding her missing lover, the real-estate mogul Micky Wolfmann. Coincidently, a man asks for Sportello’s services to find the whereabouts of Wolfsmann’s bodyguard, saying he owes him money. Our cool detective starts his investigation, not without partying whenever he can, but ends up with the awkward LAPD Lieutenant Christian ‘Bigfoot’ Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) going after him everywhere he goes. Along the eccentric ride, he visits an obscure corporation named Golden Fang where he meets the crazy Dr. Rudy Blatnoyd (Martin Short) and his helpful young patient Japonica Fenway (Sasha Pieterse). The recreation of the era is fantastic and the story provides an eccentric ride, however I expected more from the detective story, without getting disappointed either. Its strong images and libidinous postures are effective, but I didn’t find the humor so remarkable, while the pace, now and then, seems also affected from a good dose of weed. Notwithstanding, it’s well recommended for its inherent, fashionable excitement.

December 16, 2014

The Blue Room (2014)

The Blue Room (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Mathieu Amalric
Country: France

Movie Review: Actors Mathieu Almaric and Stéphanie Cléau star and share the writing credits of “The Blue Room”, a mystery crime tale à la Chabrol, based on George Simenon’s novel of the same name. The film starts passionately with stylized images of two secret lovers, Valentin (Amalric) and Esther (Cléau), whose bodies interweave in a modest room. She bit his lips and now asks if his wife will make questions about it. A moment later, she was asking the inevitable question: ‘are you sure you can be with me for all your life? Won’t you be afraid?’ The story then shifts to an investigation of a murder where Valentin, detained, seems to be the main suspect. From what was he accused? Once the questions are all about his relationship with Esther, we get to know that she is involved. There’s something dangerous and yet attractive in her character. At first the structure baffles us, but progressively we realize that it’s not just the murder of Esther’s husband that’s in question, but also Valentin’s wife, Delphine (Léa Drucker), who also died in sordid circumstances. Director Amalric opts for a steady camera to ‘paint’ the tasteful pictures, assisted by the efficient cinematography of Christophe Beaucarne. Gregoire Hetzel’s score invokes some grief, a feeling transposed to Valentin’s face, especially when confronted with the coldness insanity of his lover in court. Non-thrilling in an unconventional way, the film is also far from being detailed, which in this case is not a bad thing, since when the film ends, its characters remain intriguing.

December 15, 2014

Dear White People (2014)

Dear White People (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Justin Simien
Country: USA

Movie Review: Considering the recent happenings in the US regarding racial discrimination, especially involving white cops and black citizens, “Dear White People” can be seen as a courageous satire, sometimes provocative, yet not so meaningful or conclusive. Debutant director Justin Simien evinced some issues in terms of pace, struggling to make the film coming out of its torpor. The story follows four African-American students living at the campus of the predominantly ‘white’ Ivy League College, Winchester University. Sam White, Troy Fairbanks, Lionel Higgins and Coco Conners will lead a black riot when the white students decide to give a party whose theme is ‘African-Americans’. The surprises in the plot, instead of boosting the story, just increased the sensation of fabricated romances and multi-racial tension. The last twenty minutes stir some energy but there were never answers for the questions raised, while the characters seemed to be built in the most convenient way in order to accommodate Simien's pretensions. The humor was fine in several moments, aiming to catch American audiences who, most likely, will turn “Dear White People” into a local success. Taking into account the subject matter and genre, it’s almost inevitable a comparison with Spike Lee who, in my eyes and in spite of his recent lack of inspiration, would have made “Dear White People” a more gripping experience than it was. Justin Simien was awarded at Sundance, Palm Springs and Seattle film festivals.

December 12, 2014

The Trip to Italy (2o14)

The Trip to Italy (2o14) - Movie Review
Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Country: UK

Movie Review: Michael Winterbottom’s docu-style comedy, “The Trip to Italy”, stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, the same actors-comedians who have made of its predecessor, “The Trip”, a feel-good success. In this second trip to transalpine lands, the duo will take the opportunity to enjoy beautiful wine, beautiful food and beautiful landscapes, traveling onboard of a convertible Mini Morris, at the sound of Alanis Morissette. On the contrary of the first film, the cheerful conversations weren’t so consistent and engaging as expected. The film relies mostly on dialogues in tones of gossip, casual behaviors, and a lot of impersonations – from Tom Hardy to Al Pacino and Robert de Niro. Visually, only the well-composed Italian dishes had some impact, in a comedy where the occasional funny moments were completely obfuscated by the considerable number of unsuccessful ones. It seemed more like a wordy TV show with culinary presentations than really a theatrical release with a consistent plot. Winterbottom’s direction didn’t excel either, and not even the arrival of other characters and family, by the end, brightened up this unnecessary road trip. As the pair of friends, I felt not only lost in the outskirts of Rome but also disappointed with the way “The Trip to Italy” was carried out. Long, pointless and often adrift, this is a reunion that gets stuck in the limits of watchable. I really didn’t find many motives to follow these two fellows in their talkative little adventure.

December 11, 2014

Force Majeure (2014)

Force Majeure (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ruben Ostlund
Country: Sweden / France / others

Movie Review: Ruben Ostlund is one of the most, if not the most, interesting Swedish writers/filmmakers of our times. Great dramas, such as “Involuntary” and “Play”, made him a solid reference of contemporary Swedish cinema. His new comedy drama, “Force Majeure”, is another motive for us to have him in high esteem, even considering that this one wasn’t so incisive as the two mentioned above. The film involve us in its sensational start but as it moves towards the end, loses itself in forced situations that could have been handled differently. A Swedish family on vacation is caught up in an avalanche while having lunch at an Alpine restaurant. Tomas, the husband, runs away in a sudden impulse, abandoning his wife, Ebba, and two children to their own fate. This microsecond decision will deeply change the couple’s relationship during their six days in the mountains where the family seems to start breaking apart. Ostlund creates a challenging perspective on how people see and react in a particular frightening situation, bringing up more stuff than needed to the question, especially in the last part of the film. The amazing tension and emotional expressions created, especially during the dinners with friends, denoted some influence of Bergman, while the exaggerated drama of Tomas’ final confession was a bit of a letdown. I should say that Ostlund was incapable to find the best resolutions for the genuine situations generated. Nevertheless, and as a challenging piece of entertainment, “Force Majeure” is recommended, with all its mordacious exposures.

December 10, 2014

One on One (2014)

One on One (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Kim Ki-duk
Country: South Korea

Movie Review: The cinema of prolific Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk is growing viciously violent, with superficial scripts, and exhibiting very few aspects of interest. While in “Pieta” (2012) he had the merit of combining violence scenes with a psychologically intense story, last year I wasn’t convinced with “Moebius”, another brutal family drama transformed in a bloodbath. This current year, “One on One” focuses on a personal vendetta and numerous ways of torture, relying basically in graphic violence and poor reflections on human conduct and moral values. I would say this is one of the most low-spirited films of the year and almost unbearable to watch, where everything takes nauseating proportions. The screenwriting here is pretty vulgar and can be summarize in the following lines: seven people, forming a sort of anti-communist militia, kidnap seven men who, directly or indirectly, had something to do with the murder of a young high school student on May 9th. The culprits are savagely tortured before signing a written confession, and then released. The immoderate physical abuses divide the avengers whose leader believes that anger and desire of vengeance keep him alive, assuming an uncontrolled madness. Evilness, political fanaticism, human misery, bosses and lackeys, snitches and crooks, everything is tastelessly presented in this brainless thriller. The tortuous repetitions of violence showed scene after scene, disgusting characters, and lousy finale, turns “One on One” into rubbish for sadists. You cannot imagine how relieved I was when it came to an end.

December 09, 2014

Mr. Turner (2014)

Mr. Turner (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Mike Leigh
Country: UK

Movie Review: Beautifully conceived and thoroughly engrossing, “Mr. Turner” is a biographical drama about the Romantic landscape painter known as ‘the painter of light’, J.M.W. Turner, brilliantly impersonated by Timothy Spall who is habitual presence in director Mike Leigh’s films (“All or Nothing”, “Topsy Turvy”, “Secrets & Lies”). Turner, being recognized as a talented painter, suffers a lot after the death of his father who had been working as his studio assistant and lived with him for 30 years. Criticized by many, Turner was a music lover and an interested learner in general. However, his behavior baffles us with frequent rude manners and particularly a total contempt about his daughters, opting for painting shipwrecks instead of going to his daughter’s funeral. In the other hand, he gets deeply touched by a 22-year-old whore who lies down on a bed, not for sex, aspect reserved for his maid, but for posing for his new painting. Mike Leigh, as usual, takes us into Turner’s life with rigor and an accuracy on details that makes all the difference. It might seem exhaustive or overzealous to some viewers, but Leigh’s great deed was to make such an attractive biopic of a repulsive character who spat in his paintings, emitted grotesque noises, and evinced a lot of reproachable behaviors. “Mr.Turner” benefits from an immaculate direction, outstanding production design, dazzling cinematography, and the excellence of Spall’s performance, fact that gave him the prize of best actor at Cannes. Avoiding sentimental tricks and other eccentric schemes, this is a film that Turner himself would classify as ‘exceedingly compelling!’ in its overall simplicity.

December 08, 2014

Wild (2014)

Wild (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée
Country: USA

Movie Review: Another great accomplishment for Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club”), “Wild”, was written by Nick Hornby (“An Education”), adapted from Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir of the same name. In 1994, Cheryl decides to hike 1,100 miles alone on the Pacific Crest Trail, an adventure of liberation and self-discovery that served to better cope with a complicated past. Along the way she is haunted by memories of a contented good mother (deceased due to cancer), a violent alcoholic father, a reckless brother, an accessible ex-husband, and some uncomfortable experiences driven by heroin and damaging behaviors. Making justice to its title, the film starts very frantically, with Reese Witherspoon - very convincing as Cheryl - getting angrily mad after losing a toenail and a boot in the mountains. The film keeps showing her untamed posture for a while until she calms down in the last moments of redemption and confidence regained. Along the journey a large number of strangers cross her way. Some of them are good souls and helpful, others are tricky and threatening, some others are TPC hikers as well, however the last encounter was memorable as she bumps into a kid and his grandmother in the most touching moment of the film. Vallée was brilliant on direction, focusing the fatigue and physical sores of a harsh journey that has simultaneously the aptitude to heal the mind. “Wild” can be as much rewarding for the viewer as it certainly was for Cheryl, and together with “Tracks”, also released this year, becomes another engaging biographical drama depicting a solitary journey along the nature. Not to miss!

December 05, 2014

Still Alice (2014)

Still Alice (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Richard Glatzer / Wash Westmoreland
Country: USA

Movie Review: Julianne Moore stars in “Still Alice” as Dr. Alice Howland, a Columbia linguistics professor who has the life she always wanted: a brilliant career, a stable marriage and three beautiful adult children. In the day after her birthday, after reuniting the family in NY for a cozy dinner, she flies to L.A. to give a lecture, taking the opportunity to see her daughter Lydia who lives there and with whom she maintains some crispation. The lecture didn’t go as smooth as usual, since Alice forgot what she had to say in a crucial part of her presentation. Constrained but not giving a special importance to that fact, she returns to NY. Her worries will increase when, while running on campus, she started feeling disoriented and lost. The visit to a neurologist confirms Alzheimer disease in a rare variation, which also can affect her children. As expected, the drama intensifies itself as the time passes, bringing a scary new scenario, which at the same time feels familiar due to the recollection of other movies about the same subject matter, like “Iris” or “Away from Her”. Moore conveys the intense fear, stress and struggling of a clever woman whose mind is going away too fast. To quote her own words: ‘I’m learning the art of losing everyday. We become ridiculous, incapable, comic – but this is not us, this is the disease’. It’s impossible to stay indifferent in face of Alzheimer’s, however I didn’t develop particular feelings for Alice or her family, which seemed always a bit detached to me. The pair of filmmakers, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, don’t explore tears, which is positive, but “Still Alice” lacks the proper emotional impact to involve us. Competent, though.

December 04, 2014

Magic in the Moonlight (2014)

Magic in the Moonlight (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Woody Allen
Country: USA

Movie Review: Set in the 1920’s French Riviera, “Magic in the Moonlight” is the latest romantic comedy from prolific American director Woody Allen, who confronts reality, illusionism and spiritism, all wrapped in vivid colors, hot swing jazz, and a relaxed lightness that became inefficient to avoid turning this cinematic experience into one of his less accomplished films. Stanley Tapinger (Colin Firth) is a master English magician whose super rational character takes him to unmask Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), a psychic seen as visionary and required to conduct séances among friends. Her frequent guesses and mental vibrations seem not to convince Stanley at all, but slowly he will not only be converted to her extra-sense, as he will also fall for her. The initial moments keep us entertained but the film loses steam very soon, even before reaching its halfway. No special chemistry was felt between Firth and Stone whose performances revealed to be discolored and unstimulating, while Allen’s script continued to fall in the same ordinary gimmicks of the genre. In any circumstance, the film was able to capture my attention, and the boredom took care of me right after the interesting beginning. This rugged romantic ride, in its inability to draw any legitimate laughs, is condemned to be instantly forgotten, and sadly never delivers any magic in a moonlight that was never seen. Hopefully, Woody’s genius will come back next year. We just have to be patient.

December 03, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I (2014)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Country: USA

Movie Review: Becoming an instant top box office, “The Hunger Games – Mockingjay part I” is the first of two films adapted from the novel “Mockingjay”, which consists of the final part of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games Trilogy. Screenwriting was entrusted to Danny Strong and Peter Craig, while Francis Lawrence directs once again after “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”. If the latter had raised my faith in the games, Mockingjay was a big disappointment, showing no good vibes, no decent action and a boring plot that lacked nerve in crucial moments, evincing fake pace accelerations that confounds and leaves us waiting for more. The same despair and anguish can be felt in Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) who accepts to be the leader in a rebellion against the Capitol of president Snow (Donald Sutherland). However, her sense of justice and urge for action are dried by the appearance of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who she thought dead and now opposes himself to the rebellion. Driven by the motto ‘if we burn, you burn’, the film creates glimpses of tension that are never transformed in thrilling moments. It promises to deliver more but remains restrained and too much centered on the psychological little game of Katniss and Peeta. With this sequel I reached my levels of fatigue, confirming that I was never a big fan of these adventures. Jennifer Lawrence didn’t need to do her usual stunts in Mockingjay, a boring exercise that reveals to be the weakest of the games so far. Who wants to watch the second part? I’m out!

December 02, 2014

Before I Disappear (2014)

Before I Disappear (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Shawn Christensen
Country: USA / UK

Movie Review: “Before I Disappear” is a very personal project by Shawn Christensen who wrote, directed, produced and starred in this drama based on his 2012’s Oscar-winning short film “Curfew”. Immersed in a complicated life, Richard (Christensen) is a depressive, indebted and lonely guy, who passes most of the time getting his concerns out of his chest by writing letters to a long-gone friend named Vista. His disturbances make him cut his wrists in the bathtub (so typical scene), action interrupted by a phone call from his estranged sister (Emmy Rossum), asking him to take care of her 11-year-old daughter, Sophie (Fatima Ptacek). Uncle and niece create an unlikely bond while wandering through New York City, in a messy adventure that tries to touch a lot of genres (from drama to mystery/thriller; from comedy to staged musical) in distinct moments, without being exactly well succeeded in any of them. The vision of a dead girl lying on the floor of a nightclub’s bathroom due to an overdose haunts him throughout his painful days, fact aggravated when he finds that she was his boss’s girlfriend. This subplot also didn’t create the desired impact, and despite well shot, “Before I Disappear” sinks itself in a sort of indie lethargy that lacks the vigor and confidence present in the short that served it as inspiration. Right before the credits roll, at the sound of Billie Holiday’s ‘I’ll be seeing you’, I was sure of my cruel indifference towards Richard’s life and his family.

December 01, 2014

The Imitation Game (2014)

The Imitation Game (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Morten Tyldum
Country: UK / USA

Movie Review: Norwegian filmmaker Morten Tyldum has in “The Imitation Game”, biopic thriller set in WWII about the British mathematician, cryptanalyst and pioneer computer scientist, Alan Turing, his first cinematic experience in American soil. The film was written by Graham Moore based on Andrew Hodges’ book, being set up with an advantageous dosage of humor but lacking the thrills or excitement of “Headhunters”, Tyldum’s successful Norwegian crime thriller that boosted his career in 2011. There’s no question about the interest and importance of what is depicted here. Our hero had a bright intelligence, an obsessed determination and the patience required to break the ‘unbreakable’ Nazi cipher machine called Enigma. To achieve that, he created another machine, which he baptized as Christopher, homage to a very close friend from High School times (presented in recurrent flashbacks). He also became the scientist to receive highest praise by Winston Churchill for his contribution to the Allies and its victories against Germany. However, his assumed homosexuality, despite of seeming completely swallowed by work, was punished in the UK at the time, forcing him to cope with a hormonal treatment that will lead him to ruin. Tyldum scrupulously followed the Hollywood conducts in a drama that many accuse of being an Oscar-bait. We can’t deny Turing’s merit but “The Imitation Game” never rushed to fill our eyes or touch our deep feelings. A very consistent performance by Benedict Cumberbatch, makes it acceptable, but in my opinion and regardless the efforts, Oscars shouldn’t come in this direction.

November 28, 2014

The Drop (2014)

The Drop (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Michael R. Roskam
Country: USA

Movie Review: With his new crime-thriller “The Drop”, best screenplay in San Sebastián Film Festival, Belgian filmmaker Michael R.Roskam moves his lens to Brooklyn, USA, after attain considerable success in his country with the plodding drama “Bullhead”, released three years ago. “The Drop” was based on the short story “Animal Rescue” by Dennis Lehane (“Mystic River”, Gone Baby Gone”), who extended it for this feature and then adapted the script into a novel. Michael Hardy plays Bob Saginowski, a bartender who works for his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini). Their life will become complicated when the bar, constantly used for ‘dropping’ money by the local gangsters, is robbed by two men in a mask. While trying to find the culprits, Bob finds a wound baby pit bull in a trash can, belonging to Nadia (Naomi Rapace). They decide to save the puppy that once belonged to Nadia’s former boyfriend, Eric (Matthias Schoenaerts), a pushy and dangerous thug who becomes a severe threat to Bob, in the moment he starts a relationship with Nadia. Slow burning and never ostensive, “The Drop” remains for too long in blah-blah-blah, relegating the action scenes to a secondary plan. Only in its final part, the violence assumes its role, in addition to a more effective tension and dark humor. I had the sensation that Roskam and Lehane weren’t so successful in turning the short story into a feature, which most of the time feels familiar and foreseeable. The general good performances provide an acceptable viewing, but don’t expect so much creativity or excitement.

November 27, 2014

The Sleepwalker (2014)

The Sleepwalker (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Mona Fastvold
Country: Norway / USA

Movie Review: “The Sleepwalker” is a Norwegian/American dramatic exercise, a result from the collaboration of Norwegian actress-turned-writer/director (for the first time), Mona Fastvold, with the American actor Brady Corbet who also co-wrote. The story follows a young couple, Kaia (Gitte Witt) and Andrew (Christopher Abbott) who unexpectedly see their lives agitated by the arrival of Kaia’s unbalanced sister Christine (Stephanie Ellis), and later by her fiancé Ira (Corbet), the most interesting of the four unattractive characters. Mixing strong sexual components with the usual family quarrels, the film fails to convey the intended psychological factor that seeks from the first minute. The score, created by Fastvold’s husband, Sondre Lerche, enforces a floating ambiance instead of a tense one, while the dialogues fall many times in banal territory. Instead of provoking us and trying to mess with our heads, “The Sleepwalker” just numbs us with a hopping narrative, monotonous tones and a single-speed pace. Fastvold’s direction was fair yet unremarkable, while the performances were acceptable but whether through interactions or isolated actions, never helped to compose any decent whole picture. In the end, this ineffective drama doesn’t take us anywhere beyond an old, closed garage door. The film, a production from diversified media company, Tandem Pictures, competed in the US dramatic competition at Sundance.

November 26, 2014

The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jennifer Kent
Country: Australia

Movie Review: “The Babadook” is a curious new horror movie, written and directed by former actress and emergent director, Jennifer Kent, based on her short film “Monster” dated from 2005. The story focuses on Amelia (Essie Davis) who still lives in the grief of her husband’s death occurred seven years ago in a car accident, and struggles to cope with the strange attitudes of her six-year-old son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman). The latter has a special taste for magic, monsters and the supernatural, in a way that his mother considers abnormal. Samuel’s morbid behavior suddenly increases when he finds a dusty old book in his shelf called ‘Mr. Babadook’. Amelia, clearly in a verge of a breakdown, eventually becomes influenced by her kid’s precise descriptions of Babadook, the monster with top hat and long sharp nails, who threatens in his book and, according to Samuel, wanders through her house. Truly impressive the almost animated sequence of images when Amelia reads the reconstructed book collected at her doorstep, while other scenes mix ridiculousness and creepiness in a smart way, accomplishing the main goal of conveying tension at every frame. The young Noah Wiseman was brilliant as the brave, pale Samuel, the only one whose love can save his mom. This one has everything to provide a creepy night for the fans of the genre, however its finale was the only aspect that didn’t quite work for me. It’s a case to ask if Babadook just needed to be fed to let himself be tamed so easily. Original yet strained, this Australian devilish fairytale deserves attention.

November 25, 2014

Beyond the Lights (2014)

Beyond the Lights (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Country: USA

Movie Review: The new drama from writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Love & Basketball”, “The Secret Life of Bees”) begins in South London, 1998, where the teenager Noni Jean (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is happy to be singing Nina Simone in a young talent contest. Macy (Minnie Driver), her single-mother, seems even more nervous and excited. When the first prize is given to another participant, Macy gets mad and doesn’t take the fact kindly. Years later, Noni, now adult, was turned into an emergent pop star, Rhianna and Beyoncé style, who continues to be managed/controlled by her ravening mother. She even wins a Billboard Music award, letting millions of fans proud of her success. But is she happy? This question is answered right away when Noni throws herself out of the hotel’s balcony, being saved at the last minute by Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker), the police officer assigned to guard her that night. Noni and Kaz start dating, assuming a public relationship that becomes troubled by the entrancing world of show biz, Macy’s disapproval, and the proximity of Noni’s former boyfriend, the rapper Kid Culprit. The film deals essentially with special circumstances that make tough being ourselves, in addition to family problems. The message is clear and valuable, but the film was mounted as an American soap opera with happy ending, where both sentimentality and show-off makes it cheesy enough to run away from it. The clichés are more than recommended and the formulaic strategies are only meant to grab the inattentive ones. Really, is very hard for me to cope with the immediate success of a film of this nature, where not even the music is commendable!

November 24, 2014

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour
Country: USA

Movie Review: A solitary woman walking alone and freely on the streets of Iran would be very unlikely and dangerous. However, Ana Lily Amirpour makes it possible in Bad City, a fictional ghost town where a mysterious woman (Sheila Vand) silently stalks people to violently suck the blood from their necks. In a completely different context, Arash (Arash Marandi), struggles with the debts incurred by his inactive, drug-addicted father (Marshall Manesh), being forced to pay a clownish local smuggler with his own precious car. Arash and the vampire-woman will meet in hilarious circumstances – she was wandering at night on a skateboard on her way home, while Arash, coming from a party, was lost and under the effect of drugs, dressed as Dracula, and staring at a street lamp. Not particularly scary, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is tagged as the first Iranian vampire Western, and lives from its suggestive black-and-white visuals, rigor in terms of plot and its coincidences, and great humor. It also worked fine as an (almost) impossible romance, taking advantage of an inviting international/local soundtrack and committed performances. The only aspect that Amirpour could do better has to do with the choice of constantly changing the camera’s depth of field, where the consecutive focus/unfocus shots became a bit repetitive after a while. Despite we’ve never been told how and why this woman became a vampire, the truth is that when the credits began to roll on the screen, I wanted to see more. Expressive visuals integrate a contemporary uncommon Iranian tale that takes vampires into a completely new level.

November 21, 2014

Foxcatcher (2014)

Foxcatcher (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Bennett Miller
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Foxcatcher” tells the vile story that, in the 90’s, involved the golden-medal wrestler brothers, Mark and Dave Schultz, and a manipulative schizophrenic millionaire coach, John du Pont, who wanted more credits than he actually deserved, after sponsoring and bringing them to his private Foxcatcher Center in order to prepare the American team for the Olympics. Constantly seeking in vain for his mother’s recognition, du Pont was also a philanthropist, ornithologist, philatelist, ultra-patriotic, sporadic cocaine consumer, and sufficiently insane to kill Dave with three gunshots, after the deterioration of their relationship. Du Pont had already created several problems with Mark, so important to promote the Foxcatcher team, but ultimately discarded after the arrival of his older brother. The fraudulent coach slyly took advantage from the fact that Mark feels himself inferior to his brother, a true model both as a family man and athlete. Scrupulously built, the narrative absorbs our attention since the first minutes and leaves us appalled in its conclusion. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo were great as the doomed brothers, but it was Steve Carell, as the self-centered paranoid, who shone with a phenomenal, Oscar-worthy performance. Bennett Miller, a distinguished filmmaker who already had gained our respect with “Capote” and “Moneyball”, remarkably handled the bizarre happenings of this sad case, which put a black stain in the American sports history. Among all the real-life stories that are constantly being released on film, the hauntingly atmospheric “Foxcatcher”, assuredly deserves a place on the podium.

November 20, 2014

Jimmy's Hall (2014)

Jimmy's Hall (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ken Loach
Country: UK / others

Movie Review: As an admirer of Ken Loach’s past works, I must say that “Jimmy’s Hall” doesn’t totally let us down but also doesn’t have the importance and beauty of some of his realistic works from the past. The film tells the true story of Jimmy Gralton, Irish communist and political activist in the 30’s, returned to his rural hometown after ten years in New York. Jimmy (Barry Ward) left due to political divergences, but this time he says he just wants quietness and to help his mom in the family farm. With the support of Oonagh (Simone Kirby), a former lover who still has feelings for him, and the aid of his old chaps and some new young followers, he decides to reopen ‘the Hall’, a place where people could talk freely, learn music and boxing, and especially dance. The town’s priest, Father Sheridan (Jim Norton), who will be joined by other conservative fanatics, saw this act as a sacrilege. Sooner than expected, church, politicians and army will start to stalk Jimmy and his friends, resolute fighters of a different battle, this time not against the English or their supporters, but against the overbearing, strict hands of an old-fashioned church. “Jimmy’s Hall” doesn’t have the thrilling intensity of Loach’s awarded Irish classic, “The Wind that Shakes the Barley”, and its words are not so inflamed that touch our souls, but on the other hand, it provides us with pertinent questions, allying festivity ambiances to the complex worlds of religion and politics. The performances were just regular, yet a word for the appealing cinematography of Robbie Ryan, who already had worked with this director in “The Angel’s Share” and in two modern indie gifts by Andrea Arnold, “Fish Tank” and “Wuthering Heights”.

November 19, 2014

St. Vincent (2014)

St. Vincent (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Theodore Melfi
Country: USA

Movie Review: Lightly entertaining but heavily predictable is a good way to describe “St.Vincent”, comedy written, directed and co-produced by Theodore Melfi, and starring Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy and Naomi Watts. When Maggie (McCarthy), a diligent single-mom, moves into a Brooklyn’s neighborhood, she has no other option than to entrust Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), her 12-year-old son, to Vincent (Murray), a very peculiar neighbor whose tendencies for gambling, cursing, smoking, drinking and spending time with ‘ladies of the night’, don’t make him the ideal tutor for the kid. Completely broke as he sank himself in horse gambling debts, Vincent seems to tolerate only his cat, showing contempt for people in general. However, and as expected, Oliver will open a breach in his tough heart and Vincent becomes his comrade and idol, in such a way that he is promoted to saint, in the most emotional scene of the movie. This typical comedy can be considered for a Sunday afternoon, however I cannot find many motives to recommend it, except for Bill Murray’s exceptional performance. Its warm conclusion doesn’t excuse the absence of real laughs or surprises along the way, despite of Vincent’s one or another inspiring words. However, the last scene (during the final credits) is memorable – Vincent listening and singing Bob Dylan while he hoses with one hand and smokes with the other. That’s him! A carefree, likable loser proclaimed saint by a smart kid. “St.Vincent” turned out to be limited as idea but very strong in the performances.

November 18, 2014

The Heart Machine (2014)

The Heart Machine (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Zachary Wigon
Country: USA

Movie Review: First-time writer/director and film critic, Zachary Wigon, has an engrossing debut with “The Heart Machine”, a contemporary tale about two online lovers who never met in person before. New York’s Bushwick dweller, Cody (John Gallagher Jr.), becomes paranoid after seeing a woman, in the city subway, that looks exactly like Virginia Walker (Kate Lyn Sheil), his long-distance girlfriend who’s finishing a project in Berlin. After telling her this strange encounter through one of their regular skype conversations, and observing closely her reaction, Cody starts to suspect that Virginia might be lying to him, actually believing she has never left East Village, neighborhood where she said to have an apartment. Obsessed and confused, Cody comes to Manhattan, determined to find the whole truth. While trying to find her apartment, he admits that the distance is breaking him apart. She, in turn, reveals that her return is about to happen. The mystery grabs us and the film conveys effectively the emotions of its characters. Wigon’s quiet, almost floating style, worked very well, which in addition to the technical simplicity and direct plot, makes the story so believable. Moreover, the interaction of technology with the matters of the heart is not so uncommon nowadays, and “The Heart Machine” creates a story over that matter and gives it space to breath. I found myself wanting so badly that Cody could put an end to his suffering and frustration. The couple eventually meet face-to-face, and motives, fears and expectations, even if not totally tenable, will be frankly discussed. Will the relationship survive or is it forever doomed? A twisted, worth watching romance.

November 17, 2014

The Theory of Everything (2014)

The Theory of Everything (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: James Marsh
Country: UK

Movie Review: James Marsh (“Man on Wire”, “Shadow Dancer”) gives an admirable biographical portrait of the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawkins, diagnosed with ALS since an early age. The film focuses in his successful work, the struggle against a lethal disease that was supposed to take his life in only two years (Hawkins is 72 years old), and especially in the relationship of respect, understanding, and sacrifice he had with his wife Jane, whom he met in Cambridge while student. It was in this particular chapter of relationships among the characters that “The Theory of Everything” most succeeds – the acceptance of a good-hearted man, Jonathan, who would become Jane’s new husband; the importance of Elaine (later would become his second wife), the woman who took care of him, giving him the strength he needed in a complicated phase of his marriage; or both families’ interaction. The subtle theme of religion with allusions to a universal creator was also very well approached, representing one of the many points of interest of the film. The story flows always in a good pace, never losing the appreciable broadminded mood, while the sentimentality presented was felt like genuine and never forced. I found this film very particular, despite the possible comparisons with “Brilliant Mind” or “My Left Foot”. The performances by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones were mind-blowing and Marsh’s direction, using lots of close-ups, easily brings the intimacy and emotions to surface. I cannot tell if the story is 100% accurate, what I can tell is that “The Theory of Everything” was a delicate, inspiring and constructive drama that worked pretty well within its genre.

November 14, 2014

The Homesman (2014)

The Homesman (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Tommy Lee Jones
Country: USA / France

Movie Review: Tommy Lee Jones directs, stars, co-writes, and co-produces the confidently paced western-drama “The Homesman”, a film based on Glendan Starthout’s novel of the same name, where a brave, bossy spinster named Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) offers herself to escort three insane women from Nebraska to Iowa, in a covered wagon. Realizing how tiresome and danger this long journey could be, she hires the aimless drifter George Briggs (Jones), to help her delivering the women safely to Ms. Carter (Meryl Streep), the benefactor wife of a minister. Along the way, we are subjected to good moments of tension, even if too brief. Threats and danger are everywhere, whether created by the appearance of spooky wild Indians, the kidnap of one woman who meanwhile had escaped from the wagon, or when Cuddy loses herself in the immense prairie while Briggs remained calm and unworried. Sporadic flashbacks show a few traumatizing moments in the lives of these poor women, guided by a goodhearted man who evinces Christian attitudes but also a desire of vengeance driven by the evilness of the various men that cross his path. “The Homesman” is a different western that surprised me a couple of times in moments where I wasn’t expecting, creating positive reactions and filling my eyes with its sharp, beautiful visuals, credit of the Mexican cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (“Babel”, “Argo”, “The Wolf of Wall Street”). Tommy Lee Jones feels like fish in the water by embarking in a style he knows as the palm of his hands. Solidly conceived.

November 13, 2014

The Way He Looks (2014)

The Way He Looks (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Daniel Ribeiro
Country: Brazil

Movie Review: Daniel Ribeiro’s coming of age drama, “The Way He Looks”, gained my respect for the positive messages put forward but never reached my deepest feelings or sympathy, as it draws the story of a blind teen student, Leo, who little by little discovers his sexuality. The film opens with a great shot, geometrically composed, of Leo and his best female friend Giovana having a relaxed chat by the pool. They talk about who will be the first girl to kiss Leo who grows more unhappy at home where his super attentive parents don’t give him enough space to live his life. Leo seeks an independence that would be almost impossible in his hometown, São Paulo, that’s why he shows a huge desire to leave and study abroad. In school, he’s subjected to improper behaviors of some colleagues who like to make fun of him. When his stability starts being affected, a new student, Gabriel, arrives at school, getting closer to him as they work on a project. The pair falls in love, fact that will trigger jealousy in Giovana whose friendship becomes vacillating. The only motive that made me keep following “The Way He Looks” relates to the fact that Leo is blind, consequently falling in love with his friend for what he really is, and not for his physical appearance. As for the rest, the film works much better addressing the vicissitudes of friendship than actually portraying a teen gay romance. Unfortunately, Ribeiro’s initial premise seemed to be stuck, where the mix of innocence and dissatisfaction of the main character, resulted more irritating than charming. Exhibiting an intermittent pace and an ultra-sweet finale, “The Way He Looks” failed to enrapture.