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.

November 12, 2014

Land Ho! (2014)

Land Ho! (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Aaron Katz / Martha Stephens
Country: Iceland / USA

Movie Review: Adventurous American-Icelandic comedy, “Land Ho!”, focuses on two ex-brothers-in-law who go off on a trip to Iceland to enjoy life and celebrate their friendship. In their 60’s, Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) prove to be in good shape for their age, trying to add some youth to their solitary lives. Mitch is a divorced doctor who likes to party, talk with strangers, lose himself in the middle of the mountains and smoke joints. In turn, Colin, a former French horn player, is more attentive, relaxed and a good listener, having become the perfect friend for Mitch who sometimes needs someone to ease his solitary moments. During the leisure vacations, the pair will welcome Mitch’s cousin and her friend, two young university students, and meet fortuitously with other strangers, always evincing a special charisma and humor. Besides Reykjavik, visits to the Golden Circle and Landmannalaugar became part of the funny itinerary where the visual aspect is enhanced by the beautiful landscapes and peaceful Nordic waves. The fluid conversation and casual style adopted is closer to Martha Stephens’ last work, “Pilgrim Song”, than Aaron Katz’s mystery thriller, “Cold Weather”. The film often feels like a derivation of Winterbottom’s “The Trip” with special encounters. Its main problems are the use and abuse of ‘feel-good moments’ and an intermittent discernment in the narrative. The good part is that “Land Ho!” was never judgmental or preachy in any occasion, existing to show that everyone should enjoy life freely, in the company of their loved ones, no matter at what age.

November 11, 2014

Abuse of Weakness (2013)

Abuse of Weakness (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Catherine Breillat
Country: France / others

Movie Review: Breillat’s bold cinema always has something pertinent to say and is not always pleasing to watch. That’s exactly what we can expect from “Abuse of Weakness”, a semi-autobiographical work, that is simply a bitter tale of obsession and loneliness. Isabelle Huppert gives a tour-de-force performance in the role of Maud, a cult filmmaker who debates herself to recover from a stroke that almost took her life away. Her convalescence went better than expected, and despite impaired from the left arm, Maud was capable to return to her new film. While watching a TV interview with Vilko (Kool Shen), a crook who served twelve years in jail for tricking both rich and poor, she decides to offer him the main role in her next movie. Becoming fascinated with his arrogance and insolence, and more and more dependant of his companionship, Maud starts to endorse him checks with large sums of money. Vilko, spends the money with his wife and kid, gambling, and in his secretive private life, while Maud sinks herself in debt. However, she never loses face, or tries to change her sarcastic, unaffecting and contemptuous tones and behaviors. Regardless her threatening illness, this film is mostly about money, greediness, and manipulation of people in order to satisfy needs and whims. There’s plenty of craziness in this episode, and the ending confirms exactly that, when confronted with her children’s questions, Maud states: ‘it was me... but it wasn’t me’. The usual efficiency and control in Breillat’s direction, places “Abuse of Weakness” in the list of complex real-story films to watch.

November 10, 2014

Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Country: USA

Movie Review: In the science-fiction adventure, “Interstellar”, the brilliant filmmaker Christopher Nolan, teaming once again with his brother Jonathan on screenwriting, fails to match the breathtaking levels of his previous masterpieces. The film focuses on Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), an engineer-turned-farmer whose passion of flying leads him to go back to Nasa, and to a delicate mission into space, traveling through a wormhole located near the Saturn’s orbit to find new inhabitable planets for the threatened human specie. Sacrifices had to be done, and Cooper leaves his two children behind. His sharp-witted daughter, Murph (Jessica Chastain), in spite of heavily disappointed with her father for having abandoned her on the Earth, will be of extreme importance to solve the final equations of the puzzle. Cooper will create a strong bond with his fellow traveler, Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway), daughter of the mission’s mastermind. Each of the three hours of “Interstellar” is a different part, which doesn’t convey the same amount of satisfaction. The first part takes time to set off, the second was slightly thrilling, while the third one, exhibiting multi-dimensional layers brings “Inception” to our minds, even though in a completely different level. The visuals, more moderate than it’s habitual in this kind of movies, end up being effective, however the drama didn’t triumph. McConaughey and Hathaway’s performances were decent but we never found a good chemistry between them. Although more refined and crafted than other spatial expeditions, like “Oblivion” or “The Last Day on Mars”, I expected much more from “Interstellar”, an uneven film that turns out to be Nolan’s weakest so far.

November 07, 2014

Jersey Boys (2014)

Jersey Boys (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Country: USA

Movie Review: Biographical musical drama, “Jersey Boys”, marks a fragile return from the acclaimed filmmaker and co-producer, Clint Eastwood, who based himself in a Tony-award winner jukebox musical. The film tells the story of Frankie Valli and his mates of the pop/rock band The Four Seasons, which attained international success in the 60’s. In the early 50’s, guitarist Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), already leader of his own trio, introduces for the first time the talented 16-year-old singer Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) to the audience. Tommy and Frankie, who ambitioned to be as big as Sinatra, first stood between a promising musical career and the temptations of the local mob, represented by Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken), a serious admirer of Frankie’s voice. Nick Massi and the songwriter Bob Gaudio, recommended by the amazing actor Joe Pesci, form the rest of the band that will start falling apart after serious financial problems arise. Despite the professional success, Frankie will have a hard time with the separation from his wife and the death of his daughter due to drug overdose. The film exhibits the spirit of an old gangster movie, where the decades are well reconstructed, but musically and emotionally, it lacks vitality. Or Eastwood didn’t have firm hands for this, or the story wasn’t strong enough to captivate us. Although some narrative inabilities (the characters thinking out loud directly to the camera was a lousy choice), I bet more on the second motive, where “Jersey Boys” would continue being lame, boring and full of pose, even if directed by another filmmaker. In one word: inefficient!

November 06, 2014

The Judge (2014)

The Judge (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: David Dobkin
Country: USA

Movie Review: Leaving behind vacillating family comedies like “Wedding Crashes”, “Fred Claus” or “The Change-Up”, director David Dobkin adventures himself in a sentimental courtroom melodrama that brings us very few motives of enjoyment. Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr. are completely wasted in a clichéd story created by Nobkin and Nick Shenk (“Gran Torino”), and adapted for the screen by the latter together with debutant Bill Dubuque. Hank Palmer (Downey Jr.) is a respected lawyer who left his small hometown long ago to settle in Chicago, where he defends both criminals and victims with the same conviction. When his mother dies, he returns home to attend the funeral, finding his father, the conservative judge Joseph Palmer (Duvall), accused of a serious crime. In spite of the father-son divergences, Hank decides to defend his father, calming down the tense relationship that grew between them. The film occasionally adopts a frolicsome style that withdraws some seriousness. Not even actors with this caliber could drag me into a wordy, dense, and exhausting tale that was able to remove any interest we might have in the characters. Dobkin’s formal filmmaking never backed up the already overstuffed screenplay. Lacking surprise and tension, “The Judge” is relegated to a lower level when compared with other movies of the genre.  Discouraging since an early stage, this shortsighted family-meet-the-law film is too decrepit to recommend.

November 05, 2014

John Wick (2014)

John Wick (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: David Leitch / Chad Stahelski
Country: USA

Movie Review: Keanu Reeves returns to action thrillers in “John Wick”, after the superfluous “47 Ronin” and “The Man of Tai Chi” have failed to brighten his career. The film, directed by debutants David Leitch and Chad Stahelski (both regular stunt coordinators), and written by Derek Kolstad, is nothing but a tale of revenge that uses the same old approach as many others do. The story is not new, focusing on the title character, a retired hitman who grieves the death of his wife and is targeted by Iosef (Alfie Allen), the immature, disdainful son of the Russian mob’s header, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist). Iosef makes the mistake of steal Wick’s priceless 69’ Mustang and kill his puppy, a special gift from his wife. Viggo still tries to minimize the conflict, but Wick was already determined, setting up his revenge furiously and meticulously. I can’t deny that “John Wick” is formulaic in many aspects, stretching itself in massive killings and repetitive karate strikes, but it presented other positive factors that were important for my evaluation. Among them we have coherence and clarity in the screenwriting, some favorable twists, and a commendable passion applying the old formulas. The presences of other professional assassins, such as Marcus (Willem Dafoe) or Mrs. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki), and how they position themselves in regard to the conflict, were fundamental to prevent that Wick became weak. I also found this urban ‘Rambo’ adventure slightly more interesting than other action-packed flicks such as “The Equalizer” or the dark “The Rover”, where in a similar way, a car is stolen, triggering a ruthless vengeance.

November 04, 2014

Nightcrawler (2014)

Nightcrawler (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Dan Gilroy
Country: USA

Movie Review: Highly entertaining, “Nightcrawler” marks an auspicious debut on direction from screenwriter Dan Gilroy (“The Fall”, “The Bourne Legacy”). Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Lou Bloom, a thief and obsessive psychopath who whimsically decides to gain his life in the nights of modern L.A., covering shocking occurrences after purchase a police scanner and a small video camera. From accidents to crimes, everything is a pretext for Lou to build up his ego, no matter at what cost. With a morbid determination, he builds his own career in the freelance crime journalism with the help of an admirer, Nina (Rene Russo), an experienced program director of a sensationalist TV news channel. Exhibiting a mighty confidence, he hires an assistant and even gets a faster car and a top-notch camera. His desired moment of fame arrives when he covers a triple homicide in Granada Hills, considered a safe neighborhood, hiding however the identities of the two murderers who went on the run. “Nightcrawler” has an uneasy pulsation that grabs our senses from the beginning, attaining the peak in its twisting last part. Not for one moment I doubted of Gyllenhaal, who plays the role flawlessly, showing how versatile he can be. Curiously we know that the disturbed Lou is capable of everything but we can’t help to be shocked with his coldness and abnormal premeditated acts. He’s not only a hunter of disgrace, he praises and participates in that same disgrace, the disgrace of others, for his own vanity. If you fancy crime thrillers don’t let this intimidating portrait of a sociopathic cameraman slip through your fingers.

November 03, 2014

Whiplash (2014)

Whiplash (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Whiplash” is one of the greatest movies of the year, period. This indie musical drama was superbly controlled by writer-director Damien Chazelle, and had on the actors Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons the perfect vehicle to triumph. Andrew (Teller) is a 19-year-old drummer who enrolls in a demanding NY music school with the goal of being the best. Simultaneously, he invites Nicole (Melissa Benoist), an employee of the cinema where he usually goes with his father, to get out with him. Things seem to run smoothly and Andrew is even chosen by the intimidating jazz musician and professor, Terence Fletcher (Simmons), to be part of his immaculate band. Fletcher plays a major key in the story, since he seems to admire Andrew’s way of playing, pushing him to his limits, but in the next minute he’s breaking the kid apart, discouraging him with nasty words. Andrew ends up losing Nicole for the sake of jazz, missing the chance of having a happy life with her. When he wanted to go back, it was too late. Learning well this lesson, he will not blow his last chance to show what he’s capable on drums, even with the vindictive Fletcher standing up on stage and trying to embarrass him in front of a perceptible audience. The film spreads a contagious energy through all the pores of the skin, never losing nerve, balance, or the capacity to canalize completely our attention to what is being told. There are so many lessons to be learned here, for both students and teachers. In addition to a great finale, “Whiplash” is a monumental drama replete of raging jazz beats that reach the deepest of our souls. Unmissable!!

October 31, 2014

Fury (2014)

Fury (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: David Ayer
Country: UK / USA / China

Movie Review: Finally a decent WWII movie coming from Hollywood, “Fury” stars Brad Pitt (also co-executive producer) as Sergeant ‘Wardaddy’ Collier, the man leading a Sherman tank and its five-men crew, with an obsessive determination of spreading terror in German territory and drive the Allies to victory. His mission will become even more complicated when a rookie soldier from Chicago arrives to join the team. Wardaddy forces him to experience the coldness of killing and presents him the general horrors of war. Director David Ayer gets back on track, giving continuity to the good work done two years ago with “The End of Watch”, after an unsuccessful experience with “Sabotage” last year. Brutality and tension are everywhere, while a very sarcastic humor draws giggles from the crowd, especially in the moments when the experienced crew is reunited. Regardless its stereotypes and familiarity, “Fury” depicts these men’s bravery with a pungent realism, and the power of its score and images cause us both amazement and anguish. The hardening, meanness, and bitterness caused by the war are perfectly noticeable here, but in the other hand we can also witness slight occasions of tenderness and humanity. “Fury” doesn’t have the visual beauty and claustrophobic intensity of the Israeli “Lebanon” (2009), or the supernatural mysteries of the Russian “White Tiger” (2012), but is still sufficiently implacable, unsentimental and devastating. Fantastic cast also includes Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña, Logan Lerman, and Jon Bernthal.

October 30, 2014

Felony (2013)

Felony (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Matthew Saville
Country: Australia / USA

Movie Review: “Felony” is an Australian cop thriller, written by Noel Edgerton, who also stars and co-produces, and directed by Matthew Saville, filmmaker with a solid background on TV series. The film starts with the tough detective Malcolm Toohey (Edgerton), driving under the influence of alcohol when off-duty. He accidentally runs over a nine-year old kid, calling the emergency number and pretending he found the body by chance. Two other detectives will take opposite sides dealing with the case. While the amoral chief detective Carl Summer (Tom Wilkinson) tries to cover up Malcolm, who confesses the crime to his wife and struggles with his conscience, the obstinate newcomer detective Jim Melic (Jai Courtney) finds the truth and wants to deal accordingly, especially after developing a crush on the kid’s mother. The three detectives embark in a moralistic ‘dance’ that unveils crime, corruption and the weight of conscience. Saville gives an attentive look to certain details and doesn’t fall in the temptation of rushing the scenes. However the narrative construction suffers from an apathy that left me with a foot in and a foot out. In a sleepy cadence, it throws up a lot of situations that we already have seen before. This morality tale seemed apathetic, and its characters old and worn. As has been usual, Tom Wilkinson showed his enormous talent, turning the tepid “Felony” a little more bearable, where the bad script and non-shiny execution couldn't go unnoticed.

October 29, 2014

20,000 Days on Earth (2014)

20,000 Days on Earth (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Iain Forsyth / Jane Pollard
Country: UK

Movie Review: British artists and documentary filmmakers, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, bring us an interesting look on Australian musician, songwriter and author, Nick Cave, who celebrates on the screen his 20,000th day on earth by sharing some of his personal life and the creative process that followed him along the years. Cave, as an open book, seemed to have made everything easy for the filmmakers, since he talks without reservation or concerns about his relation with his wife Suzie, his twin sons, his beloved hometown – Brighton, early memories of his first sexual experience, his childhood and particularly his father, his past on drugs and brief interest for religion, and his past days in Berlin and how he was influenced by the weather in England. This is what concerns his private life, but then comes the explanations about how a big transformation occurs while performing live, the interaction and commitment in studio, telling us amazing happenings in weird concerts and how his first band, The Birthday Party, attracted all the type of psychopaths and weirdoes. His writings are also referred, his fertile imagination that creates worlds of violence, monstrous creatures and odd characters. Conversations with his friend and band mate Warren Ellis, as well as with Kylie Minogue, among others, can be followed. At the sound of intense songs (most of them performed live) loaded with nostalgia and feverous, creepy stories, “20,000 Days on Earth” is certainly a treat for Nick Cave’s fans but can also be a mild experience for the others. Never exploitative, this work was done with smartness and accuracy.

October 27, 2014

Revenge of the Green Dragons (2014)

Revenge of the Green Dragons (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Andrew Lau / Andrew Loo
Country: USA / Hong Kong

Movie Review: Hong Kong filmmaker, Andrew Lau, achieved major success in 2002 with “Infernal Affairs”. After that accomplishment, his career has been punctuated with ups and downs. In the American-Chinese gangster story, “Revenge of the Green Dragons”, surprisingly executive produced by Martin Scorsese and based on true events, he got the company of co-writer Andrew Loo in direction, returning to the style he identifies himself the most: crime thriller. But instead of surprising us, Lau and Loo try to manipulate the viewer through repetitive words, moves, and postures coming from the obnoxious characters depicted. The narrative starts in 1983 in Flushing, Queens, where two undocumented immigrants and inseparable childhood friends, Sonny and Steven, join the criminal gang ‘Green Dragons’, encouraged by its charismatic leader Paul Wong whose bait consisted in ‘you can’t be anything but a fisherman in China’. The gang will have the fierce opposition of an FBI agent, performed in an unrefined way by Ray Liotta, who investigates a crime related to the New York’s Asian underworld. Stepping in adverse territories, “Revenge of the Green Dragons” is a depressing tale filled with cycles of violence, where the absence of creativity in the plot and taste in the execution, relegates it to those C-action movies where there’s no message and absolutely nothing to be learned. Its atrocious scenes are the only aspect that we furiously keep in mind. No positive things to take out from this weary gang scene.

October 25, 2014

Listen Up Philip (2014)

Listen Up Philip (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Alex Ross Perry
Country: USA

Movie Review: After “Impolex” in 2009 and “The Color Wheel” in 2011, writer-director Alex Ross Perry returns more mature and solid in this “Listen Up Philip”, an independent American dramedy that does a great job on exposing the damages caused by the ego. Jason Schwartzman plays Philip Lewis Friedman, a respected writer who waits for the publication of his second novel. Philip grows increasingly unsatisfied with life in general, including his relationship with Ashley (Elisabeth Moss), a photographer with whom he lives for some years. We can notice that he gets upset, either when people don’t care about him, or when people praise him too much. Struggling to get some solace and extremely tired of the noisy NYC, the selfish, unsentimental, and disconcerting Philip will try to find peace by isolating himself in a country house, accessing an invitation of his idol, the writer Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce). The blend of arrogance and loneliness is perfectly conveyed by Schwartzman, but the film doesn’t confine itself to this character-study. All the other characters deserve a look, and in the end we get elucidated of how these interveners are, and how they think. A cozy light and warm colors compose the captivating images brought by a handheld camera frequently in movement, adorned with discreet jazz tunes or pop songs. In a smart way, and despite of revealing itself too dense, Alex Ross Perry avoids the rigidness and artistic pretentions usually associated to this type of film. Everything feels very human.

October 24, 2014

Jimi: All Is by My Side (2014)

Jimi: All Is by My Side (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: John Ridley
Country: UK / Ireland / USA

Movie Review: André Benjamin’s magnificent performance doesn’t hide the weaknesses of “Jimi: All Is by My Side”, a British-Irish biopic that I expected much more about the legendary rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix. The film was burdened in controversy since the beginning, since it couldn’t count with any Hendrix song, denied by the company that owns the rights, Hendrix Experience LLC. Director John Ridley (sceenwriter of “12 Years a Slave”) did what he could, deciding to tell Hendrix’s story before he attained fame, between 66 and 67, in the period after he left New York to go to London. In this city we can see Hendrix devastating Eric Clapton on stage under the astonished look of his manager, being victim of racism by the British police, but also using of physical violence to keep his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham in order. Kathy publicly denied Jimi’s violent actions depicted here, sinking the film in more polemics. The structure is floating, and the introduced characters are so many that sometimes is hard to focus. In truth, we sense that some scenes are fabricated, as a pretext to fill the gaps of a period that failed to show the real explosion of the guitar master. Charming images pictured the cool waves emanated by Jimi Hendrix, but “All By my Side” never sets us on fire, probably because our hero, victim of sabotage, was inaccurately portrayed and relegated to a phase of his life, which doesn’t represent the best he gave us.

October 23, 2014

Camp X-Ray (2014)

Camp X-Ray (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Peter Sattler
Country: USA

Movie Review: Debutant writer/director, Peter Sattler, creates a fictional drama set in Guantanamo Bay detention facility, known as Camp X-Ray. Amy (Kirsten Stewart), a small town-girl, becomes part of a new group of guards specifically assigned to camp Delta. Right in her first intervention, she learns that her stay won’t be easy, not only with respect to the detainees, but also with respect to her colleagues in the profession and the unstable structure of the system itself. While delivering books to the cells, she is constantly pushed into conversation by Ali (Peyman Moaadi), a talkative detainee who complains about the inexistence of one of Harry Potter’s volumes. After an unpleasant incident, Amy’s curiosity about this man grows strong, leading to an improbable friendship. The film, well-intentioned yet overlong, leaves positive impressions in several aspects: confident direction, committed performances, depiction of the problems affecting guards and their procedures, but fails on that one that could have made it tolerable – authenticity. There’s some sweetness, even some lightness, associated to several scenes that feel inadequate, and the postures and dialogues were just occasionally followed with attentiveness. This friendship was never truly convincing, forcing me to look into “Camp X-Ray” as an unimportant fictional exercise showing superficial insight about a grievous subject matter.

October 22, 2014

Birdman (2014)

Birdman (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Birdman or "(The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” is the funniest movie from Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, a solid reference in the contemporary cinema, taking into account relevant titles such as “Amores Perros”, “21 Grams”, “Babel” and “Biutiful”. The story follows Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), once a famous actor associated with the superhero Birdman, who wants to shine again, this time through a Broadway play based on Raymond Carver’s short story. With abnormal capacities and listening to the voice of truth that comes from inside his head, Riggan will struggle to solve his own problems, at the same time that interacts with his estranged daughter Sam (Emma Stone), and with the rest of the actors he chose. In this last group we have the sexually unrestrained Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), Riggan’s frustrated girlfriend, Laura (Andrea Riseborough), and the insecure Leslie (Naomi Watts) who feels disrespected by Mike in the most hilarious scene of the film. Wild and eccentric, “Birdman” works as a weird delirium that puts together the surrealism of “Brazil”, the mood of Coen brothers, and some of Paul Thomas Anderson’s best narratives. Iñarritu knows exactly what he’s doing and what he wants from the audience, playing with us the same truth-or-dare game that is played by his characters. A note for the soaring sound of the drums that is heard along the film, so important to give the film the special flow it needs, and the outstanding cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezky (“Gravity”, “The Tree of Life”).

October 20, 2014

Automata (2014)

Automata (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Gabe Ibañez
Country: Spain / Bulgaria

Movie Review: Gabe Ibañez’s “Automata” is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller that feels more pretentious than efficient. The story is set in 2044 AD, in a time where atmospheric disturbances, reduction of the population, and technological regression, are compensated with robots that enforce the two protocols responsible for ruling the almost deserted world. Jacq Vaucan (Antonio Banderas), an insurance claim checker for ROC, the company that makes the robots, embarks in a one-man journey to assure the future of humanity. The chaotic scenarios are not so negative, but the film never transcends itself into something worthy. To tell the truth, we wait and wait for long periods of time, and nothing meaningful really happens, making us enter in a sort of melancholy that is very difficult to get rid of, even during the action scenes. There’s still time for some ludicrous scenes that include a sentimental dance between Vaucan and a robot, or a problematic cop who shows a compulsive ability to shoot robots in the head. Vaucan’s screams of frustration felt dried, and the world depicted in the heavy-handed “Automata” never provided any compassion or sympathy. The presence of Antonio Banderas was also insufficient to boost an unfocused plot, written by the Spanish director Ibañez together with Igor Legarreta and Javier Sánchez Donate, which ended up being an unenthusiastic assembly of small ideas.


October 19, 2014

Gone Girl (2014)

Gone Girl (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: David Fincher
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Gone Girl”, the new thriller directed by the acclaimed David Fincher (“Seven”, “Fight Club”, “Zodiac”, “Social Network”), provides fantastic moments of entertainment, trapping us into a vast sea of deceit, murder and obsession. The film was written by Gillian Flynn based on her own novel of the same name, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, who gave the best performance of her career. The story follows the couple, Nick (Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Pike), who are going through a big marital crisis, when suddenly Amy disappears in unexplainable circumstances on her wedding anniversary. Nick, showing some coldness and detachment about the matter, becomes the main suspect, whereas the doubts remain till the end. Intelligently written and directed, “Gone Girl” doesn’t have the boldness of “Seven” or “Fight Club”, but is a brutal piece of cinema whose calculated twists and moves didn’t fail to surprise or delight. There’s a memorable scene when a man bleeds to death with a deep blow in his throat, inflicted precisely seconds before having an orgasm. Visually intense and emotionally unsettling, this US top box office is not exactly a masterpiece, especially if we consider some questionable details, a fact that was not an impeditive to catch us along all the way, extracting the best of each scene in order to gain our attention. In resume, we are before an engrossing thriller with lots of funny dark moments and a cynical, creepy intensity.