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.

October 16, 2014

Maps to the Stars (2014)

Maps to the Stars (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Country: USA / Canada / others

Movie Review: Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg, after the dispensable “Cosmopolis”, brings us a spicy satire about Hollywood film industry, portraying at the same time a dysfunctional family that tries to succeed and find happiness, directly or indirectly, in the world of celebrities and movies. After has burned down her parents’ house, the lunatic Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikowska) comes out from a psychiatric facility in Florida and returns to LA to make amends with her family. Meanwhile she starts seeing Jerome (Robert Pattinson), a limo driver who aspires to become an actor-screenwriter, and ends up being hired by the unstable actress, Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore). The latter does whatever it takes to play her mother’s character in a film. The ghost of the mother occasionally teases Havana who finds a supernatural relation in the arrival of the burn-scarred Agatha whose teen brother Benji Weiss (Evan Bird) is having a huge success in film industry but needs an urgent detox. Their father, Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack), is a well-respected analyst and coach with the mission of helping Havana with her disturbed mind. “Maps to the Stars” is simultaneously funny and vulgar, incisive and uneven, always using sarcastic tones that are often taken to the extreme. Who needs to see Julianne Moore farting in the toilet? Or a stoned silly kid shooting his friend’s dog? A provocative, even exaggerated cinema that doesn’t always stick with you for the best motives, exhibiting a very captivating start, but letting us down by the second half. General good performances, though.

October 14, 2014

Latitudes (2014)

Latitudes (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Felipe Braga
Country: Brazil

Movie Review: Co-written by first-time director Felipe Braga and Teodoro Popovic, “Latitudes” was shot in eight different countries, falling in the category of drama-romance. Renowned Brazilian actress, Alice Braga (“City of God”, “Elysium”) gives shape to Olivia, an inveterate traveler and fashion editor, who is always in a rush but suddenly gets trapped by love, after one-nigh stand in Paris with photographer José (Daniel de Oliveira). Despite being committed in distinct relationships, and trying to avoid extra commitment at any cost, both will meet again, incidentally or not, in luxurious hotel rooms around seven other countries, including England, Italy, Brazil, Portugal, and Turkey. The film really starts in a languid way, seeming too familiar (Linklater’s ‘Before trilogy’ eventually comes to mind), but over its course “Latitudes” was able to find its own way, putting itself in a place where we can see it with different eyes. Jealousy, doubt and contradictions intrude in the relationship of two wanderers whose dialogues are not always absorbing. The direction of Felipe Braga (no relation with Alice Braga applies) is sufficient but not without some distracting elements that blur the painting. I would say that the story is simultaneously contrived and engaging in its looseness. There’s still time for love? Maybe, but only if it’s the right one. “Latitudes” got a multi-platform release that includes Youtube series, network TV show and theatrical feature-length film.

October 13, 2014

The Equalizer (2014)

The Equalizer (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Country: USA

Movie Review: “The Equalizer” was better than I thought, but also promised far more than it gave. Denzel Washington is Robert McCall, a retired black ops government operative who decides to avenge the mistreatments inflicted to Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), a teenager prostitute working for a dangerous Russian network in Boston. McCall will have in Teddy (Marton Csokas) his most intelligent and dangerous opponent, but the head of the Muscovite gang, Vladimir Pushkin (Vladimir Kulich), is the final target. The thriller was directed by Antoine Fuqua who does much better than in the disastrous “Olympus Has Fallen”, in a plot written by Richard Wenk (“The Mechanic”, “The Expendables 2”), inspired on the TV series created by Richard Lindheim and Michael Sloan. The tension created deserves some emphasis, but as the majority of the action thrillers, there is an abuse in terms of violent scenes that surpasses both meaning and message of the story. We can still find a bit of entertainment in the middle of its darkness, but since the start we become aware that “The Equalizer” doesn’t deliver any novelty on conception and execution. Despite of Washington’s predisposition for avenger roles, the standard procedures shown are aggravated by an expected finale that touches the dullness. One last positive mention is the influential score by the experienced British composer Harry Gregson-Williams. The plot in “The Equalizer” could have been handled differently for better if Fuqua wasn’t so concerned to impress us graphically.

October 10, 2014

Os Maias (2014)

Os Maias (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: João Botelho
Country: Portugal / Brazil

Movie Review: João Botelho’s modern and sympathetic adaptation of the Portuguese naturalist novel from 1888, “The Maias: Episodes of Romantic Life” by Eça de Queirós, shows some poetic humor but moves away from the artistic freedom exhibited in “Disquiet”, which celebrates the controversial poet Fernando Pessoa. The casting was one of the good aspects of the film, together with the curious option of manipulating settings to illustrate outdoor landscapes and surroundings. These settings even gave some exquisite, picturesque taste to the well-composed photography by João Ribeiro, but “Os Maias” evinces some issues that are difficult to ignore. The biggest of them is that the passion of the aristocrat Carlos da Maia for Maria Eduarda (the fulcral point of the plot) was less impressive than the friendship with his libertine friend João da Ega, the character that keeps us watching the film with interest. The crucial romance never attained high temperatures to make us sweat, remaining stuck in the formalism of the scenes and polished dialogues that almost ruined everything, especially in its first part. Moving forward in an uneven manner, the story turns out to be watchable due to the effort of the actors and some inspired visual ‘reconstitutions’. Botelho’s best film so far is minimally competent, but leaves the sensation that it could have been shortened, less focused in trivial details of the period, and more concentrated in extracting the emotions needed from the plot. The film was shot in 50 days with a budget of 1,3 million Euros, and clearly missed the opportunity of becoming a more fulfilling reference in the Portuguese cinema scene.

October 09, 2014

A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)

A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Scott Frank
Country: USA

Movie Review: Liam Neeson dresses the role of Matt Scudder, a former alcoholic cop turned into private eye, who is hired by the drug dealer Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens) to find more about his wife’s kidnapping and murder, even after her ransom has been paid. The investigation leads to other similar cases of women’s abduction, and Scudder will work with the unwanted help of TJ (Astro), a curious teenager who admits to be a fan of the famous fictional detectives Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. Approaching witnesses and suspects, Scudder will try to capture the psychos behind the crimes. With a typical mysterious atmosphere, this thriller steps into commonplace territory, never impressing, even in its most agitated situations. The investigation ends up in a collective operation that left me absent-minded, hampering me from caring about the conclusions of a story so many times explored before. “A Walk Among the Tombstones” is the sophomore feature film from Scott Frank, screenwriter of so different films such as “The Wolverine”, “Minority Report”, “Marley & Me”, and “The Lookout”. It was based on Lawrence Block’s novel of the same name, and counted with more than twenty names in the production (executive and non-executive), including Tobin Armbrust, Michael Shamberg, and Danny DeVito. Liam Neeson’s performance became the positive factor in a film that used routine processes as weapon. Not even the bad guys were interesting, and consequently, the result is a wobbly exercise on the conventional, and a too comfortable approach in the action thriller genre.

October 08, 2014

The Guest (2014)

The Guest (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Adam Wingard
Country: USA

Movie Review: After the good indications left on horror with “You’re Next” in 2011, American filmmaker Adam Wingard cooperates again with screenwriter Simon Barrett, in this brand new “The Guest”, a bustling option for the action-packed-thriller enthusiasts. The story focuses on David (Dan Stevens), a mysterious former soldier, returned from Afghanistan, who joins the family of a deceased companion, in order to give them all his support. Dan Stevens gives an exemplary performance, revealing the eyes of a meek goat but the agility and brain of a sly fox - a disturbed killing-machine ready to destroy without any remorse. The film, ridiculously funny, showed to be strained in several moments, making me smile openly while filling my eyes with energetic action and exciting moments. “The Guest” is not to take seriously and its dark conclusions are expected anytime, but at the same time I never stop to vibrate with its rowdy scene sequences, and consequently I was never bored. An aspect that deserves to be praised is the boldness assumed by the pair filmmaker-screenwriter, who embraced a provocative plot without complexes, sticking to each new scene with a conviction that embarrasses similar films that manifest more serious aspirations. Regardless its unsweetened tones, “The Guest” is an explosive treat, well-wrapped in modern colorful paper, but taking us back in time to the cult thrillers of the 80’s where the mood of “Terminator” and reference names such as John Carpenter or Brian de Palma come to our minds. Wingard is confirmed as an emergent director to follow closely in his next moves.

October 07, 2014

Lilting (2014)

Lilting (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Hong Khaou
Country: UK

Movie Review: “Lilting”, the debut feature film from Cambodian-born filmmaker Hong Khaou, is a British drama with Asian connotations, following Junn (Pei-pei Cheng), a Cambodian-Chinese mother who doesn’t cope with the fact of having been placed in a shelter home for elders by her gay son, Kai (Andrew Leung), recently deceased in a car crash. Junn fantasizes with her son’s presence when she’s not with her new friend, Alan (Peter Bowles), another shelter dweller who nourishes strong feelings for her. The problem of communication between the two is going to be eased when Richard (Ben Whishaw), Kai’s former boyfriend, hires a meddler non-professional translator, Vann (Naomi Christie), in order to allow them to express their feelings. However, what we thought it would be helpful to get them even closer, drifts them apart, showing that sometimes the communication and verbalization of ideas can be a deterrent. “Lilting” was impeccably shot, denoting a simplistic way of processes that make the film flow without a fuss, but its pace didn’t always seemed self-assured, trying a timid humor and a warm interaction among the characters that were sparsely succeeded. Khaou’s effort in trying to extract the best of each image was a relevant factor to praise, whereas the story is presented in a sensitive manner, with a sort of languidness that sometimes was felt dragged and other times too mellow. Amongst all its irrelevant flashbacks, the low-key “Lilting” never freed itself from what was established since the beginning: a web of relationships lost in translation.

October 06, 2014

The Maze Runner (2014)

The Maze Runner (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Wes Ball
Country: USA / Canada / UK

Move Review: The adaptation of James Dashner’s novel dated from 2007, “The Maze Runner”, is a floppy combination of several films from the past, taking us on a trip into the vagueness. The film makes us recall “Cube” - with the particularity of taking place in an open-sky labyrinth, the leadership/submissive relationships among the youngsters in “Lord of the Flies”, and the fierce attacks and battles depicted in “Alien”. The story is centered on Thomas, an oblivious 16-year-old who joins other boys in ‘The Glade’, a cryptic place surrounded by changeable huge walls. Only a couple of these boys, called ‘runners’, know more about what’s beyond these walls and the secrets about the Grievers, the ugly alien creatures that inhabit the dark maze. The courageous Thomas, obeying to an impulse to save his mates, will adventure himself in the other side, being the first one to survive and decipher the enigma. “The Maze Runner” is marked by the lack of rigor and dispersion of the plot, along with the confusion of its images when depicting the chaos of battles or panic in the group. Never exciting, the film never passes any sensation of freshness, so vital to avoid the typical conclusion ‘I’ve seen this too many times before’. First-time director, Wes Ball, never found focus in the writing of Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Meyers, and TS Nowlin, in order to clarify the viewer or provide the visual satisfaction that we seek in a good sci-fi movie. The formulaic approach removed any interest we might have in its fastidious heroes, as well as the curiosity regarding the next chapter, expected a year from now.

September 22, 2014

Vacations Time!!

After an intensive year on film, AWGM film blog will be on halt for approximately 10 days for a deserved vacation period.
Thanks for your support and understanding.

Carlos Filipe Freitas

September 19, 2014

Stray Dogs (2013)

Stray Dogs (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Tsai Ming Liang
Country: Taiwan / France

Movie Review: This is not the first time that the acclaimed filmmaker, Tsai Ming Liang, accurately depicts the desolation of some miserable lives that wander on Taipei’s shore. From all his past movies, “The Hole” from 1998 is the one that gets closer to “Stray Dogs”, not in terms of plot, but in its visuals, where the constant heavy rain, muddy landscapes, and places in ruins, compose the background of a picture whose center is an alcoholic man who struggles to feed his two children. During the day, he earns some money holding up a signboard that advertises luxury apartments, while the kids spend the day in a supermarket trying to get food samples. Watching the father making an effort to stay away of alcohol by entrusting all his money to the older son, was really heartbreaking, or the satisfaction of the belly-pinched family eating at the end of the day, somewhere on a dark street. But the days in which the father changes his mind and asks for the money to drink, a deep sadness hits the heart of the kids, who unexpectedly become the protégés of a solitary woman, employee of the supermarket where they try their luck. Super-long shots with steady camera, a huge pain reflected in the characters’ eyes and captured through intense close-ups, and the gift to compose the anguish and wretchedness, are sharp arrows pointed straight to our hearts, in a way that only Ming Liang knows how to do it. In spite of my words of praise, be aware that the style demonstrated here requires some effort from the viewer. It's a powerful, intoxicating raw cinema, showing that not everybody is blessed with a good life.

September 18, 2014

Blind (2014)

Blind (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Eskil Vogt
Country: Norway

Movie Review: Bold, open-minded and self-confident are some ways to classify the Norwegian “Blind”, Eskil Vogt’s experimental comedy drama. Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Peterson) was affected by a rare disease that got her blind, staying home the most part of the time and giving wings to her imagination. Her creative mind not only rummages sexual fantasies and desires, but also her deepest fears regarding her husband, Morten (Henrik Rafaelesen). The structure is complex in such a way that I occasionally felt lost in its web of truths, lies, fantasies, and realities. It’s a voluptuous portrait of a neurotic woman whose blindness doesn’t stop her from dreaming. Characters like the voyeur and porn addict, Einar (Marius Kolbenstvedt), who always looked for the most hard-core and mundane in women before falling in love, or the solitary Elin (Vera Vitali) who is pregnant and resigned with her blindness. “Blind” has the merit of providing a different experience while tangle us in its difficult, puzzled relationships that never ceased to surprise. There’s something weirdly dark and humorous in its ‘fake’ quietness, and in spite of one or another technical aspect that could have been better worked out, the film revealed a fresh observant side allied to an enviable rigor on details. Writer and first-time feature film director, Eskil Vogt, responsible for the screenplays of Joachim Trier’s “Reprise” and “Oslo, August 31st”, collected awards at Berlin, Istanbul and Sundance, a wonderful showcase in addiction to the Norwegian prize of best director.

September 17, 2014

Kelly & Cal (2014)

Kelly & Cal (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jen McGowan
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Kelly & Cal” has a plausible story as background but never delivered enough intense motives to gain my appreciation. This drama marks the debut of director Jen McGowan and screenwriter Amy Lowe Starbin, a lumpy combination that only sparsely works out. What really stands out here is Juliette Lewis as Kelly, a former punk-rock singer who is now trapped into a complicated marriage and carries a crying baby in her arms. Feeling abandoned by her workaholic husband and exhausted, Kelly will find some ease in her frustration when she meets Cal (Johnny Weston), a 17 year-old angered boy in a wheelchair. They will develop an improbable relationship that both of them know pretty well can end up tragically. The film also addresses the meddling of family in the relationship of a couple, when suddenly mother-in-law and sister-in-law try to transform Kelly in something she doesn’t want to. The film steps in too widely known territories to surprises us, and the approach and mood didn’t stood out in order to leave a positive impact. I believe the problem of “Kelly & Cal” relies exactly in its worn execution, non-fluid pace, and a final part that tries to shake a little bit emotions without totally convince. Even if romantic dramas are your favorite plate, I dare to say that this ‘frustrating married mom meets a revolted young man’ only has performances as its most valuable aspect. The film won the Gamechanger award 2014 at South by Southwest (SXSW), which takes place in Austin, Texas.

September 16, 2014

The Skeleton Twins (2014)

The Skeleton Twins (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Craig Johnson
Country: USA

Movie Review: Directed by Craig Johnson (“True Adolescents”) and co-written with Mark Heyman (“Black Swan”), “The Skeleton Twins” is an efficient American indie dramedy that showcases amazing performances by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. Milo (Haden) lives in LA where he pursues an acting career. Severely depressed, he tries to commit suicide at the same time that his twin sister, Maggie (Wiig), whom he doesn’t see in ten years, is thinking in doing the same at her home in upstate New York. Both will reunite in this last location and help each other understanding where the problems might come from and how to better deal with them. While Milo, avowedly gay, tries to revive a problematic relationship, once wrapped in trouble, with a former professor, Maggie often cheats the goodhearted husband she loves, lying to him about wanting to get pregnant. Intelligent in the way that draws laughs and tears, “The Skeleton Twins” was able to shake feelings and make me care about the lives of these two tormented human beings who are desperately looking for a piece of solid ground in a muddy swamp. Johnson’s direction was pretty assertive and the performances by all the cast worked out wonderfully, thoroughly conveying the sadness of a, past and present, disjointed family, and the fear about the future. I see it as one of the most respectable and highly absorbing dramas of the year, enhanced by the great humor and several feel-good moments, which balanced the depicted tones of anguish. It bestowed all this with grace and focus, clearly standing out from the majority of the movies in the genre.

September 15, 2014

Honeymoon (2014)

Honeymoon (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Leigh Janiak
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Honeymoon” is an atmospheric low-budgeted thriller that marks the debut of Leigh Janiak in direction. The film only counted with four actors, two of them dispensable, and didn’t need spectacular special effects to immerse us in its intriguing mood. The story is centered in Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway), a freshly married couple that seeks the calm breezes of the woods for a perfect honeymoon. However, what should have been a few relaxing days dedicated to love and leisure, ends up in an anxious journey to the unknown. Following some weird occurrences during the night, Bea mysteriously disappears in the darkness. After Paul finds her, she starts acting differently, forgetful and distant. She states she’s completely fine, blaming sleepwalking, but was that really the motive of her absence? With an efficient camera work and a nice, warming light brightening the frames, “Honeymoon” revealed to be stylish and very attentive to detail. The fear arrives slowly but in a precise way, catching our attention to the puzzle. Lamentably, the conclusions were too obvious to surprise, and the film loses important points in those few final minutes. With a blurred reality, only the video recording of a distant wedding remains. Newcomer filmmaker, Leigh Janiak, who co-wrote the plot with Phil Graziadel, despite the lack of inspiration to finish the story accordingly, shows great aptitude capturing the images and creating ambiance, a fact that I hope could become more fruitful in future works.

September 12, 2014

Metalhead (2013)

Metalhead (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ragnar Bragason
Country: Iceland

Movie Review: “Metalhead” is an angry drama set in a small country village in Iceland, and focused on Hera, a 12 year-old girl who becomes traumatized after witnessing the death of her brother in an accident with a tractor. She becomes wayward, alienated, and lacking self-esteem, seeming lost in improper behaviors. Without getting any help from their untalkative parents who also have a few problems to solve, Hera refuges herself in a passion inherited from her brother: the heavy-metal music. The problem will follow her for the rest of her teenage years, but an unlikely hope comes from the new priest of the village, also an enthusiast of the dark and thick sounds of heavy metal. Despite the hopeful finale, “Metalhead” is low-spirited and not always well coordinated in the sequences of scenes presented to us. I felt the film needed to lose some more time in certain details, maturing them to better compose the outcomes. There are certain moments where the filmmaker Ragnar Bragason, whose career is connected with the world of TV series, couldn’t avoid some instability and even phoniness, especially when tried to introduce some humor and religious connotations. As the film moves forward the characters become uninteresting and the dramatic contour ends up increasingly disappointing. Its backs and forths are many times inconsistent and often fluctuated, in a way that the film works more as a noisy show off than anything else. Exasperating in its final part and ordinary in its whole, “Metalhead” never convinced as an insightful or profound psychological portrait of a lost, angered, and yet talented soul.

September 11, 2014

Of Horses and Men (2013)

Of Horses and Men (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Benedikt Erlingsson
Country: Iceland

Movie Review: “Of Horses and Men” is a pretty damn amazing comedy-drama written and directed by Icelandic newcomer, Benedikt Erlingsson, who counted with the experienced filmmaker Fridrik Thor Fridriksson (“Childrem of Nature”, “Mamma Gogo”) as producer, as well as Bergstein Bjorgulfsson (“Jar City”, “The Deep”) as cinematographer.  Short in duration (only 81 min.) but sufficiently intense in what intends to depict, the film is a collection of little stories (segments), confronting life and death in the most diverse ways, and putting face to face the animal and human natures, all with a bittersweet feel that grabs us since the very beginning. Occasionally, its well-observed images can be very painful to watch, however we always have the beauty of the Icelandic landscapes to calm us down afterwards. Each segment starts with a big close-up of a horse’s eye in which its owner is reflected in it. A lot of memorable scenes still persist in my head long after watching the movie. Among them, a stallion mounting a mare with its master on its back, a drunken man riding his horse into the freezing sea to buy vodka from a Russian boat, or a man sacrificing a horse to survive the bitter cold of the night. Exquisite and strange, the powerful “Of Horses and Men” is a feast not only for the eyes but also for the soul, according to the substance and spirit of its wonderful little tales. The throbbing folk soundtrack reinforces Erlingsson as the maestro of a well-orchestrated arthouse film.

September 10, 2014

Frank (2014)

Frank (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
Country: USA

Movie Review: American independent filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson (“What Richard Did”) picks up a plot written by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan, and creates an offbeat exercise populated with weirdness, mental illness, and indie rock. The writers sought inspiration in Frank Sidebottom, comic persona of the deceased English musician and comedian, Chris Sievey. Jon Burroughs (Domhnall Gleeson) is a keyboardist and songwriter who is trying to come out of his shell, looking forward to play with someone or be contacted by some band. After some letdowns, an invitation comes from a band whose eccentric leader, Frank (Michael Fassbender), hides himself behind a large fake head, triggering curiosity and fascinating everybody in many ways. Delicate mental conditions seem to be a problem in the band, which isolates itself in a forest to record the first album. Not only Frank is a good character to be studied here. Weird behaviors and out-of-control situations are depicted, while Jon struggles to turn the band famous through social media. A good opportunity to make a public appearance arises in a respectable venue, but will the band be prepared to play decently with so many internal/personal conflicts? Amusing and visually polished, the film takes us to its very own psychedelic world. As Jon says in the film, the objective in joining the band is to push him into the furthest corners of himself. Despite some inspiring moments, I didn’t feel it all the time, since Abrahamson’s endeavor to captivate us results fine, but the film becomes memorable not for its story but for its extreme weirdness and distorted sounds.

September 09, 2014

God Help the Girl (2014)

God Help the Girl (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Stuart Murdoch
Country: UK

Movie Review: The lead singer of the Scottish indie pop band ‘Belle & Sebastian’, Stuart Murdoch, makes his directorial debut with “God Help the Girl”, a musical drama written by himself, starring Emily Browning, Olly Alexander and Hannah Murray. Murdoch already had contributed for the soundtrack of several movies including “(500) Days of Summer” and “Juno”. The story turns around Eve (Browning), an anorectic teenager with aptitude for songwriting, who escapes the hospital facility where she was being treated to go to a concert in Glasgow. She easily becomes friends with guitarist/songwriter James (Alexander) who in turn, introduces her to Cassie (Murray), his music student. The three become good friends and the possibility of forming a pop band starts to take shape. Meanwhile, Eve starts a relationship with Anton (Pierre Boulanger), the selfish singer of a successful rock band, making James jealous. Lumbering and focusing on irrelevant details, “God Help the Girl” was quite monotonous along the way, never hauling articulated emotions from its characters to gain our sympathy. I just couldn’t be entertained with a story whose depicted problems never seemed to be real problems in my eyes. Even the sweet songs became pretty boring after a short time. Flaccid and far from innovative, Mudoch’s drama aimed a feel-good posture that annoys more than it is cool. Its ambition felt short, and God, help Murdoch in his next move because this one wasn’t so considerable.

September 06, 2014

Frontera (2014)

Frontera (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Michael Berry
Country: USA

Movie Review: Michael Berry directs and co-writes with the former art department coordinator, Louis Moulinet, the drama about immigration “Frontera”, his debut feature. The story focuses on Miguel Rodriguez (Michael Peña) who illegally crosses the Mexico/US border, searching for work and better life conditions, all with his new future baby in mind. He agrees to take Jose (Michael Ray Escamilla) with him, the disrespectful son of his father-in-law’s friend. Already in American territory, and guiltless, they will be involved in the accidental death of a woman on horseback who approached them to give them water and blankets. The innocent Miguel will be arrested and considered the man to blame, triggering the wrath of the woman’s husband, Roy (Ed Harris), a former Arizona sheriff who starts an investigation by himself. Meanwhile, Miguel’s wife, Paulina (Eva Longoria) pays a man to cross the border and join her husband, but ends up hostage. I was expecting other intensity from “Frontera”, a film whose conclusions came quickly and flavorless. Instead of elaborate or effusive, this ‘western’ drama is rather melancholic, derivative and drab, never presenting highlights along the way and opting for a continuous pace that only gives the sensation of being accelerated through the score, fetched from the old TV series. The performances remained in the shadow of a plot that got me impatient and dry, just like the incredible desert landscapes along the border.

September 05, 2014

The Longest Week (2014)

The Longest Week (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Peter Glanz
Country: USA

Movie Review: Using a relaxing flow, cordial narrative, and a cool score that includes piano jazz, swinging reeds, and violins playing Bach, “The Longest Week” is a friendly comedy that borrows the mood of Woody Allen’s stories and throws some personal touch in the way it is approached by debutant director Peter Glanz. The main character of this comedy-drama is the wealthy skirt-chaser Conrad Valmont (Jason Bateman) whose parents abandoned him since he was a kid to travel around the world, leaving him the luxurious Manhattan Hotel. Certain day he was told that his divorcing parents have disinherited him. Conrad astutely hides this detail from his best friend, Dylan Tate (Billy Crudrup), an artist who shows interest in his friend Beatrice (Olivia Wilde), an editorial model who already had caught Conrad’s eye. It seems that not even his analyst can do anything to avoid love and impoverishment, but a natural competition between the two friends will spike the film. I was able to follow the well-composed images with interest and the light humor always seemed unforced and with a perfect timing. The surprising conclusion of this tale also deserves some points, making “The Longest Week” a twisted rom-com that comes packed with graciousness and a good disposition when addresses the differences between sympathy and love, and being hopelessly romantic and romantically hopeless. Even considering its presumptuous airs ‘a lá Française’ and the too much obvious influences already mentioned before, “The Longest Week” still has something charming to deliver.

September 04, 2014

God's Pocket (2014)

God's Pocket (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: John Slattery
Country: USA

Movie Review: The lives of a group of inhabitants from a neighborhood called God’s Pocket are depicted in the debut film from the actor-turned-director, John Slattery, who co-wrote with Alex Metcalf, based on Pete Dexter’s 1983 novel. Even with a set of magnificent actors, such as Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro, Richard Jenkins, Eddie Marsan, and Christina Hendricks, “God’s Pocket” stubbornly varies between impenetrable and dull moments, becoming a shallow exercise on crime and a dispassionate attempt of giving shape to its miserable characters. The story follows Mickey (Hoffman) who tries to deal with the death of his racist stepson in his own way. By burying his body, he tries to hide the news from everybody without success. This is just another problem to add to his marital worries and future debts. Richard Shellburn (Jenkins), a newspaper journalist is the one who investigates the case and keeps writing about the reputation of the people. The film never attains what pretended, and for most of the time remains protracted, uneventful, and throwing out dispensable dialogues. All of a sudden, in one or two occasions, there are burst of gratuitous violence that just worsens the contrived, sometimes impenetrable, and non-atmospheric story. It’s basically a sum of unpleasant episodes that are vaguely connected, and for which I couldn’t feel many positive things. Surprising? Yes, but in a negative way. The quality of these actors was wasted, and that was the biggest surprise for me, since I expected much more from this frustrating American drama.