August 20, 2014

The One I Love (2014)

The One I Love (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Charlie McDowell
Country: USA

Movie Review: It’s weird when you watch a movie whose ideas are immediately identified from other movies. That’s exactly what happened with Charlie McDowell’s debut feature film, “The One I Love”, a supernatural romantic comedy that explored the same ideas of parallel realities used in “Coherence”, but using them in a totally different approach, waiving the thrills and threats in favor of romance and some mild humor. In one scene towards the end, it also reminded me the German drama “The Wall”, when Duplass’ character bumped into an invisible wall when tried to escape his other ‘self’. I know it’s confusing but allow me to explain. Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss), in a marital crisis, are advised by their therapist to spend a weekend in a vacation house. The first night started well: a romantic dinner, relaxing conversation, and they even smoked a joint smoked to facilitate their interaction. But they made an intriguing discovery, realizing that another Ethan and Sophie live nearby, in a different reality that can interact with theirs. A strange dance of dual realities starts, along with a constant search for what is or what is not ‘real’, most of the time using a volatile unfolding in Justin Lader's script. The fact of the other ‘selves’ have been accepted easily, turned the film into a bland exercise that becomes a bit messy in terms of feelings by the end. The humor wasn’t so clever as I expected, and for me “The One I Love” wasn’t particularly surprising or satisfying. The performances by Duplass, who also produces, and Moss, were crucial to make it stand in the limits of watchable.

August 19, 2014

Finding Vivian Maier (2013)

Finding Vivian Maier (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: John Maloof, Charlie Siskel
Country: USA

Movie Review: Fascinating documentary about Vivian Maier, a mysterious street photographer, housekeeper, and nanny, whose work was discovered only a couple years prior her death in 2009, when co-director John Maloof acquired the most part of her negatives and other belongings in an auction. After being refused by MoMA, it was thanks to Chicago Cultural Centre that Maier’s work gained the deserved reputation and success. Daughter of a French mother and an Austrian father, Vivian was born in New York, never revealing anything about her past along the years that she worked for several families in Chicago. While some of her employers and their children defined her as an extremely reserved person who evinced an intriguing behavior and made up things about herself, famous street photographers such as Joel Meyerowitz and documentary photographer icon, Mary Ellen Mark, evaluated her sharp eye and outstanding work where the sense of humor, tragedy and life, combined in perfection. I was amazed by how she was able to collect so many things along the years, including piles of newspapers, and dragging them inside of suitcases to wherever she went. Maloof and Charlie Siskel were capable to increase my curiosity and suspicion about Vivian’s traumatic past, structuring the documentary in a clear way and leaving notions of bizarreness and darkness in the air. “Finding Vivian Maier”, as the title implies, was a wonderful discovery for me, both for Vivian’s shadowy life and superb capture of reality.

August 18, 2014

Waar (2013)

Waar (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Bilal Lashari
Country: Pakistan

Movie Review: “Waar” is a Pakistani action thriller, result of the ideas from two debutants, filmmaker/cinematographer Bilal Lashari and screenwriter/producer Hassan Waqas Rana, and that’s noticeable along its two hours. The film is episodically divided, and despite a handful of good-looking images, it's disconnected, showing a lot of failed aspects. Spoken in a mixed language of Urdu and English, the film is also a frustrating blend of Bollywood sentimentality and Lollywood action. The story follows Major Mujtaba, a retired Pakistan army officer who is practically forced to defend his country from a serious terrorist threat. Used to work in the shadow, Mujtaba still struggles with the loss of his family, but eventually accepts to join the field operation leader, Ehtesham, and intelligence agent, Javeria, to dismantle the terrorist group and avoid a national catastrophe. The recurrent flashbacks didn’t work, and “Waar” simply didn’t intrigue me, nor catch my attention, nor surprised me, defrauding my expectations created when I realized this was a massive local success in its country of origin. The final physical fight was more trivial than invigorating, while Amir Munawar’s score was annoying and invasive. All the clichés can be found there – the lost, suffering heroes; the evil enemies; the same old words; the awaited conclusions… I believe this local crowd-pleaser will continue to be a cult film for many, but I couldn’t help being unexcited with the pointless counter-terrorism presented by Lashari and Rana.

August 16, 2014

Jealousy (2013)

Jealousy (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Philippe Garrel
Country: France

Movie Review: French filmmaker Philippe Garrel, continues his stories about lovers, encounters, and irregular relationships in “Jealousy”, a drama shot in a balanced black-and-white and starring Louis Garrel, his son and frequent first choice, and Anna Mouglalis. The script was inspired on Philippe’s father, the actor Maurice Garrel. By comparison, and leaving the very unique “Le Revelateur” aside, I would say that “Jealousy” is better than his last couple works, “Frontier of the Dawn” and “A Burning Hot Summer”, but less interesting in concept than “Regular Lovers” or “J’entends Plus la Guitarre”. The film starts with a separation between the struggling actor, Louis (Garrel), and Clothilde, the mother of his daughter. In the next sequence of images, Louis looks very happy near his new girlfriend, the jobless and emotionally inconstant actress, Claudia (Mouglalis). Their attachment seems quite solid but the truth is that both of them flirt with others. While he resists to his theater colleague, Lucie, and other conquests, she is decided to get a job and a bright, spacious new apartment. With that in mind, she gets closer to a man who promises her everything she wants, leading to a painful rupture with Louis that almost ends up tragically. In gorgeously languid tones, them and us, never know where the lies end and the truth begin, a suspended state that keeps us wanting more, even after the end, where we glimpse that only family and theater can make Louis move on with his life. “Jealousy” conveys a constant sadness and doesn’t reinvent the formula, representing a very plausible slice of real life without losing the charm along the way.

August 15, 2014

Coldwater (2013)

Coldwater (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Vincent Grashaw
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Coldwater” is a wishful but conventional grim tale that depicts the story of Brad Lunders, a teenage boy who is sent to a juvenile rehabilitation center located in the middle of nowhere. Colonel Frank Reichert, a retired Marine with no scruples, supervises the place, making the inmates’ lives into a hellish nightmare. His correction method towards readjustment goes from physical work, sleep deprivation and severe punishments, to a revolting negligence in cases of sickness or injuries. Concerning this last aspect, he uses Dr. William Jenson to cover up his slips on violence and careless mistreatments. At the same time, we are presented with flashbacks that despite helping us understand the reasons that led Brad to the facility, also breaks the flow of happenings. The last part of the film is particularly violent, however is also what saves the film from the accommodation evinced in scenes and postures that everybody identifies from past movies. Even with technical and structure fluctuations, such as unarticulated narrative and several too dark images to be fully enjoyed, “Coldwater” had the merit of conveying the message loud enough to turn our eyes into the problem and think about it. Debutant actor P.J. Doubousqué, Ryan Gosling’s young lookalike, had an acceptable performance without particularly standout from the rest of the cast’s youth, while James C.Burns played the tyrant Colonel with conviction. This was the first feature film from Vincent Grashaw who had participated as an actor in the obnoxious “Bellflower” from three years ago.

August 14, 2014

Belle (2013)

Belle (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Amma Asante
Country: UK

Movie Review: “Belle”, written by Misan Sagay, is the sophomore feature film from the Londoner Amma Asante, former TV series’ actress. The story is set in 18th Century England, a colonial empire and slave trading capital, where the illegitimate mixed-race young girl, Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), born in the West Indies, is entrusted by her father, Admiral John Lindsay (Matthew Goode), to his aristocratic uncle, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson). In times of great prejudice against black people and mulattos, Dido will be raised properly but her lineage falls in a social condition that prevents her to have all the privileges as any white woman. She’s too high to be with the servants but too low be with certain members of the family. These restrictions get her disgusted and concerned about love and marriage, despite the big inheritance left by her beloved father. Dido will find the love of her life, John Davinier (Sam Reid), a vicar’s son whose conviction is to fight for equality, but eventually ends up engaged with Oliver Ashford, brother of her cousin Elizabeth’s fiancé, the vile James. In parallel, we follow a polemic slavery case, which is in the hands of Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice. Dramatically compelling, “Belle” turned out to be a gentle period drama that triggers some indignation, most of the times inherent in several situations and scarcely bursting out. Its cadenced pace flows smoothly with graciousness, enhanced by the splendorous settings and elegant costumes. The only mishap has to do with Mr. Davinier who looked and sounded too dramatic in his interventions.

August 13, 2014

Welcome to New York (2014)

Welcome to New York (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Abel Ferrara
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Welcome to New York” marks a polemic return from American independent filmmaker, Abel Ferrara (“Ms.45”, “Bad Lieutenant”, “The Funeral”), who co-wrote the script, inspired on the sexual scandal that involved Dominique Strauss-Khan, a French economist and politician, when he stayed in a New York’s hotel for one night. The story starts with Devereaux (Gerard Depardieu) participating in some intense debauchery scenes where drinks, food and carnal pleasures, seem to enchant him. When a hotel maid enters in his room proffering ‘housekeeping’, Devereaux gets out of his bath and forces her to have sexual contact with him. A sexual assault that sent him to prison, triggering a series of investigations and legal procedures in order to find the truth. I wonder why Ferrara’s cinema is so involving and the answer basically resides in his fearless of assuming what he wants to tell. It’s raw, it’s direct, it’s bold… it’s repellent in so many ways, but it’s what he believes, delivering the message bluntly. A sarcastic humor balances quite well all the sad spectacle witnessed, and even knowing that the film is tendentious and speculative in a way, I couldn’t get my eyes off of the screen. Provocative, incisive, and highly entertaining, “Welcome to New York” brings us perfect performances by Depardieux and Jacqueline Bisset as the ‘monster’s wife, and shows us that Ferrara returned to good shape with a very natural filmmaking, precise camera work, distinctive image composition, and exhibiting great confidence in what he intends to point out. All good motives for you to watch it.

August 12, 2014

Coherence (2013)

Coherence (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: James Ward Byrkit
Country: USA

Movie Review: Psychological sci-fi thriller, “Coherence”, demonstrated good ideas not always fully materialized in practice. Waiting for the passage of a comet, a group of eight friends reunite to have dinner at the house of one of them. What should be a perfect moment to relax from the day-to-day life, ends up into a strange convergence of different realities, aggravated with the semi-chaos created by cracked phones, as well as lack of electricity and Internet. A mysterious box containing photographs of everyone present, taken in that same day and marked with numbers in the back, increases the puzzle. Once outside the house, along dark streets, some of the present found exact 'copies' of themselves. The tension was smartly created, through uncanny conversations, cyclic situations, and scary conclusions that take us to a quirky ‘twilight zone’. I just felt that in its middle part, the development of the story mitigates the thrills, an aspect only extinguished when Em (Emily Baldoni) tries to force her entrance in another reality by committing a murder.  With a hand-held camera always in movement, debutant director/screenwriter, James Ward Byrkit, achieves the effects required without exaggerate. “Coherence” works more as a mysterious game than anything else – dices, markers, pictures, flashlight's colors, numbers, and clashing realities, are part of its reality. It’s far from perfection, but its flaws are passable, perhaps because the cast believed in this curious low-budgeted project that did something non-futile without resorting to gimmicks or fancy special effects.

August 08, 2014

Get on Up (2014)

Get on Up (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Tate Taylor
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Get on Up” is a biopic drama focused on James Brown, considered the king of funky music and the godfather of soul. Tate Taylor, who achieved fame with his 2011’s hit “The Help”, directed the film according to the screenplay by the Butterworth brothers (“Fair Game”, “Edge of Tomorrow”). The structure goes back and forth in time, making us realize Brown’s difficult childhood, and understand from where all that strength and anger came from. I was aware of some facts presented – the travels to Vietnam to support American black troops, while other occurrences were completely new to me, like when James entered in a church and disturbed the peace with a shotgun, or when he was arrested for stealing a suit, meeting afterwards his musician friend Bobby Byrd for the first time. A few scenes made me doubtful, seeming too polished and sometimes fabricated for the sake of the film. Individualist, James Brown was always a controversial character that lived in tough times of discrimination against black people, but for me, what moved me more in “Get On Up” were the music, energy, and soul on stage, and not so much his private life. After having been praised for his performance as the baseball legendary star Jackie Robinson in “42”, Chadwick Boseman has here his second big role as main character, and he didn’t miss the opportunity to shine, being one of the best reasons for watching the film. Despite of its dynamism and rhythmic turbulence, I honestly expected much more from James Brown’s story.

August 07, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: James Gunn
Country: USA

Movie Review: Marvel strikes again with “Guardians of the Galaxy”, a sci-fi adventure filled of substantial special effects, space battles, and sharp humor, which was a crucial factor for its success. This wasn’t the first time that writer/director James Gunn directs a super-hero story – “Super” in 2010 wasn’t so successful as this one. The film exhibits a fantastic characterization and uses a nostalgic rock soundtrack, played through audiocassette by our hero, Peter Quill, who will join forces with the combative Gamora, the jocular raccoon, Rocket, and the latter’s loyal tree-like humanoid friend, Groot. Together, they will try to defeat the creepy Ronan and Gamora’s sister, Nebula, whose objective is to first destroy Xandar, the home world of the Nova Corps, threatening the entire universe. With an orb, containing a coveted Infinity Stone, jumping from hand to hand, we are thrown to a stunning entertainment created from an eventful plot. Even if not so smart as it wanted to be, the action-packed “Guardians of the Galaxy” reunites the right elements to please not only the fans of the comics, but also wider, general audiences. Some weirdness presented in several moments was very welcome to escape the monotony of other competitors of the genre. The cast did a great job and includes Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Lee Pace, John C. Reilly, Michael Rooker, David Bautista, Benicio del Toro and Glenn Close, among many others. Most of them will certainly be present in the sequel already announced for 2017.

August 06, 2014

Hercules (2014)

Hercules (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Brett Rattner
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Hercules” was never substantial enough with its Greek mythological story. Filmmaker Brett Ratner (“Rush Hour”, “The Red Dragon”, “X-Men: The Last Stand”), whose action executions are commonly showy and made to impress the eye, forgot once again to create an intriguing mood, while the screenwriters should have added some smartness to increase the viewers’ interest. There’s nothing different here from the usual approach adopted for this kind of adventure. I’ve seen this so many times before that my indifference along the way increased substantially as the film approaches to its farcical end. Half human, half God, Hercules, son of Zeus, rushes to aid the king of Thrace and his daughter, in a battle against the forces of evil commanded by Rhesus. Reuniting his group of mercenaries, which includes among others, his storyteller nephew Iolaus, a childhood friend Autolycus who is an expert in knife-throwing, and the agile archer Atalanta, we are presented with interminable body combats, furious roars, and a sense of humor that feels more stupid than witty. Dwayne Johnson, despite the enviable muscles, seemed stuck in the disorganized, endless battles. With so much chaos and disorder and a plot that doesn’t help, “Hercules” ended up being an inefficient blockbuster, becoming one of this year’s most unexciting, staged, and inarticulate exercise on the genre. Maybe Ratner thinks his filmmaking style is much spectacular but the whole thing is just a huge fakeness, completely unable to cause positive reactions.

August 05, 2014

Pod Mocnym Aniolem (2014)

Pod Mocnym Aniolem (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Wojciech Smarzowski
Country: Poland

Movie Review: The films from Polish filmmaker Wojciech Smarzowski are always interesting to follow, no matter what theme he chooses – whether the dark crime thriller of “The Dark House”, the humorous drama of “The Wedding”, the coldness of war in “Rose”, or the severe accusations of corruption and power abuse made by Polish police in “Traffic Department” – each of them had something valuable to say in its harshness and objective rawness. “Pod Mocnym Aniolem” (translated “The Mighty Angel”) is another powerful drama focused on alcoholism and based on Jerzy Pilch’s successful fourth novel with the same title. The film follows Jerzy (Robert Wieckiewicz), an intelligent and talented writer who can’t keep off from the bottles of vodka, even doing frequent treatments in a rehabilitation house and attending group sessions. Evincing a corrosive sense of humor, his denial takes him to a cynicism and to a spiral of degradation that not even the woman of his life is capable to bear. He wanders and writes in a sort of limbo state where reality and imagination interweave. We are taken through the stories told by other alcoholics, but also to Jerzy’s memories of his drunken father. Horrible images haunt us, depicting embarrassing situations, deliriums, vomiting, and crazy hangovers. It’s a sad film, about suffering, about loss, about fate… Its finale is simply devastating, even cruel. I was touched in two ways – one given the last hope sought by Jerzy, and the other through the creepy loneliness that can ruin everything again. Although with a slow-burning start, “Pod Mocnym Aniolem” won me over.

August 04, 2014

The Calling (2014)

The Calling (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jason Stone
Country: USA

Movie Review: Debutant South African film director, Jason Stone, reunites an encouraging cast for its dark thriller, “The Calling”, based on Inger Ash Wolf’s novel of the same name, and adapted to the screen by Scott Abramovitch. Names as Susan Sarandon, Christopher Heyerdahl, Ellen Burstyn, Topher Grace, and Donald Sutherland, can be a valid motive to spike our curiosity for the film, which in the end delivered a mix of satisfaction and frustration. A mysterious serial killer (Heyerdahl) chooses the quiet Canadian town of Port Dundas to murder a devoted catholic woman. He based himself on a catholic prayer, believing that a man can be resurrected after sacrifice twelve people. The case will be handled, with authorization or not, by the detective Hazel Micallef (Sarandon), an addicted on alcohol and painkillers, who will have the help of a rookie cop (Grace) recently transferred from Toronto. Sarandon conveyed authenticity in her performance, sometimes very degrading but very human too. Her determination to unveil the mystery and solve the case worked almost like a cleansing for her stained past. Despite of the thrills created, I got the sensation that the film stepped into something already seen, while some of the characters should have been better explored and the relationships among them better defined. Notwithstanding, the grey atmosphere of the town and the mix of grief, religious connotations, and occasionally dark humor, provide a fair watching. The film is coming to New York theaters on August 29th.

August 03, 2014

Viola (2012)

Viola (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Matias Piñeiro
Country: Argentina / USA

Movie Review: Filmmaker Matias Piñeiro, considered one of the new voices of Argentinean cinema, brings us a philosophical drama about relationships that was a bit hard to digest. A group of young actresses from Buenos Aires discuss love and life, while rehearsing for William Shakespeare’s play “Twelfth Night”. In a parallel story (not without a point of intersection), a young woman pedals through the city, delivering her boyfriend’s original music in the form of CD. Despite its 63 minutes, I found very difficult to penetrate in the spirit of "Viola", and be attentive to the torrent of words thrown out by its characters. It was constructed with mild tones, cyclic speech lines, and quiet conversations, blending quite well real-life and theater without making me entirely connect with its insinuating plot. In this ode to art, Piñeiro often seeks intimacy using multiple close-ups and gracious camera movements, and in several occasions the film even gave some indications, whether through images or speeches, that it could change into something more palpable or efficient, but “Viola” keeps riding freely in its own web of encounters and dialogues that felt more hollow than conclusive. If you like challenging movies with intellectual pretensions, maybe you’ll be extremely happy with this one. I like them myself, but this one in particular was unable to keep me thinking about it. Let’s wait for the next move of the emerging director/screenwriter Matias Piñeiro who showed potential to do more and better.

August 01, 2014

A Most Wanted Man (2014)

A Most Wanted Man (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Anton Corbijn
Country: USA / others

Movie Review: Based on John Le Carré’s bestselling novel, the post-9/11 espionage thriller, “A Most Wanted Man”, didn’t have the same good effect on me as “Control” or “The American”, the two previous successful features from the Dutch filmmaker Anton Corbijn. We have to give it some credit, since tension moments were created without any action, but the real motive to see this film is Philip Seymour Hoffman, a hugely talented actor who says here his definitive goodbye. He plays Gunther Bachmann, a German spy operating in Hamburg, whose mission is to reach terrorism suspects using credible Islamic information sources. When the tortured Issa Karpov, a half-Chechen half-Russian man, arrives illegally in Hamburg to claim an inheritance, he sees him not as a threat but as a way to lay hands on Dr. Faisal Abdullah, an old suspect of financing terrorist groups. The task, carried by Bachmann’s team with the help of CIA, is difficult and will need patience since Karpov’s lawyer, the soft and sensitive Annabel Richter, along with the banker Tommy Brue, have to be convinced to cooperate in the operation. In spite of never losing balance or direction, the outcome was not entirely surprising, probably due to premature insinuations of some crucial characters’ posture. The absence of action and thrills might be a disillusion for the ones looking for agitation, while dramatically the story never pushed us into something stable. “A Most Wanted Man” will mostly appeal to enthusiasts of political movies characterized by strategy and accentuated verbal communication.

July 31, 2014

The Signal (2014)

The Signal (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: William Eubank
Country: USA

Movie Review: “The Signal” is the sophomore feature film from the cinematographer-turned-director, William Eubank, grounded on sci-fi genre, just as his first film from three years ago, “Love”. This time, adopting more thrilling tones, the story focuses on three MIT students, Nick (Brenton Thwaites), Jonah (Beau Knapp) and Haley (Olivia Cooke) who went on a trip to California, deciding to tracking down a hacker known by the name of ‘Nomad’. At night, while entering in a secluded house in Nevada, the two boys pass out after hearing the screams of Haley who was dragged in the air by a strange unknown force. The three of them wake up in a super equipped facility where Dr. William Davon (Laurence Fishburn), protected by his Hazmat suit, is running tests on them, believing they were contaminated by an EBE – extraterrestrial biological entity. Indeed, Eubanks surely knew what he wanted in visual terms and the cinematographer, David Lanzenberg, corresponded in the best way. There are scenes that are memorable but in its will to impress through minimal and predominantly whitish sets, words, and sounds, the mystery itself never enraptured me, even with the surprises reserved by the plot. Its ambiance alternates between static scenes frequently adorned by the mechanical voice of Laurence Fishburn, or the delirious, almost uncontrollable energy of Nick. This human integration with alien technology was a decent one but didn’t gain me as a follower of its far-fetched incursions. Just for sci-fi enthusiasts.

July 30, 2014

Fading Gigolo (2013)

Fading Gigolo (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: John Turturro
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Fading Gigolo” could be a Woody Allen’s romantic comedy but it’s not. It was written and directed by John Turturro, adopting the same Allen’s posture – a nice jazzy score, some effective jokes about Jews, and a romantic story involving a middle-aged gigolo, which became the most uninteresting aspect. The film opens with Murray (Woody Allen), a broke bookshop owner, telling his friend Fioravante (Turturro) that Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone), a rich dermatologist, asked him if he knew a man interested in a ménage a trois. With Fioravante in mind, he said yes but added that the price would be a thousand dollars. Reluctant at first, Fioravante finally accepts the challenge, becoming a gigolo and paying the appropriate commission to Murray, assumedly his new pimp. The scheme falls out of the routine when Murray convinces a young Jewish widow and mother of six kids, Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), to get out of her loneliness and find human contact. The best situations, some of them hilarious, are those that had nothing to do with the central story. I’m remembering when Murray arranges a baseball game for the kids in Brooklyn – African-American (the children of the woman he lives with) against the Jews (Avigal’s kids), or when he is forced to go to a Jewish court. With a competent direction and the lightness commonly associated to the genre, “Fading Gigolo” had its really funny moments but was incapable to show any chemistry with its ‘fading’ love story. Moreover, Turturro should find his own voice since the mood adopted, together with Woody Allen’s presence, bring to our mind the films of the latter.

July 29, 2014

Lucy (2014)

Lucy (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Luc Besson
Country: France

Movie Review: “Lucy” marks Scarlett Johansson’s second sci-fi incursion in a row, after this year’s modern masterpiece, “Under the Skin”. The result is very contrasting when compared to the latter, proving that Luc Besson, considered a cult filmmaker in the 80’s and beginning of the 90’s (“Subway”, “La Femme Nikita”, “Leon: the Professional”, “The Fifth Element”), is far from the good shape evinced before. The story follows Lucy (Johansson), a young student living in Taipei, forced by her boyfriend to deliver a mysterious briefcase to a Korean gangster chief, Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik). In a blink of an eye, her boyfriend is killed while she is made prisoner and used by the Koreans as one of their drug mules. The valuable new drug, called CPH4, is introduced into her abdomen still as a package. When she is kicked in the belly by one of the captors, the package starts leaking, and Lucy has a psychedelic trip, acquiring both mental and physical capacities that permit her see beyond the human reality. She decides to counter-attack, counting with the help of an old professor (Morgan Freeman) and a French cop (Amr Waked). A very good premise that was compromised since its second half, where it became more and more far-fetched, preferring mechanical action scenes instead of paying attention to details or even working to become more thrilling. Despite some real funny lines thrown in the first minutes (the best moments of the film), this ‘Nikita with super-powers’ didn’t revealed enough conceptual strength, aggravated with a flashy execution.

July 28, 2014

Miss Granny (2014)

Miss Granny (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Hwang Dong-hyuk
Country: South Korea

Movie Review: After “Silenced” released three years ago, Korean filmmaker Hwang Dong-hyuk directs “Miss Granny”, a pop comedy-drama that turned into another local box-office hit. The film starts by establishing an imaginative parallel between women and different types of balls used in sports. Right after that our attention falls in Oh Mal-soon, a 74-year-old widow who runs her own restaurant and reveals an overbearing side, sharp tongue, and strong character. She can be as much protective regarding her musician grandson, as a teaser to her daughter-in-law who ended up in a hospital with more complications in her debilitated heart. Realizing she was being a nuisance in the family, she decides to leave for a while, entering by chance in a photo studio called ‘Forever Young’. Surprisingly, she comes out from there with 20 years old, joining his grandson’s heavy metal band, falling in love with a young music producer, and finding the long lasting love of her restaurant employee, Mr. Park. She decides to adopt the name Oh Doo-ri (Au-d-rey) in homage to her favorite actress, Audrey Hepburn. Despite technically competent, the first hour was interminable and boring, and I was convinced that no more interesting twists in the plot would happen. The truth is that “Miss Granny” gets slightly better in the final part, showing a feel-good attitude and a more efficient humor. Regardless the aspects referred before, they came too late and were never enough to pull the film out of the banal zones composed by clichés and sentimentality.

July 27, 2014

Cold in July (2013)

Cold in July (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jim Mickle
Country: USA

Movie Review: The title “Cold in July” is not by chance, since Jim Mickle’s fourth feature film is a glacial thriller written by Micke and Nick Damici, based on the novel from the American author Joe R.Lansdale. The story, set in Texas, follows Richard Dane (Michael C.Hall) who was forced to shoot an intruder that broke into his house in the middle of the night. Visibly disturbed, Richard was told by the police that the victim, Freddy Russell, was wanted for a long time due to his violent past. When the ex-con Ben Russell (Sam Shepard), the victim’s father, evinces a menacing behavior towards Richard’s son, he takes every precaution to save his family. However, the reality was much different and the supposed rival men are dragged together into a dark conspiracy that involves the police and some unexpected characters. The film has an amazing start, great suspense and visually gripping, to change radically in its final part, triggering violence and brutality. Adopting the same kind of mood as “Out of the Furnace”, it’s very clear that there’s no space for cheerfulness here, where the story itself is pretty macabre and is executed with ominous tones. The efficient film director Jim Mickle, after depicting the darkness of a cannibal family in “We Are What We Are”, brings us another gloomy tale that came out from the most horrible side of the human nature. Like fish in the water, he handles very well this (a)moralities, and “Cold in July” will leave the fans of dark crime thrillers much satisfied.

July 26, 2014

Love Eternal (2013)

Love Eternal (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Brendan Muldowney
Country: Ireland

Movie Review: Adapted from a Japanese novel written by Kei Oishi, the Irish dark drama “Love Eternal” generated a duality of feelings that confront each other. Although sometimes it seems ridiculously out of sense, others it feels like a gentle, meditative portrait of a grotesque taste for death. The story focuses on Ian, a depressive young man who spent 10 years locked at home, after a few traumatic experiences related with death - at an early age he sees his father die when he was playing with him, and years later he finds a young girl hanged in a tree. The best thing his reticent mother could do before die was writing a sort of guide to helping him with the most basic things, including a list of things to avoid in order to feel better, how to cook and also deal with his finances. Ian, completely obsessed by death, starts to meet up with some Internet forum friends who share the same desire to die. At the same time that studies the process of decomposition of human body, he helps a fellow girl ending her life, bringing her dead body home, and even taking it for a good walk outside in a sunny day. Filmmaker Brendan Muldowney decided to use an awkward music and narration, turning “Love Eternal” into a taciturn, melancholic exercise that could have created a better impact on me, if only I were able to establish some kind of sympathy for its main character. Unfortunately (or not!) that didn’t happen, and “Love Eternal”, with its pseudo-atmospheric story and indistinct dynamism, just let me a bit sleepy.

July 24, 2014

Starred Up (2013)

Starred Up (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: David Mackenzie
Country: UK

Movie Review: “Starred Up” depicts a violent action-drama focused on a father-son relationship, with the particularity of being depicted inside a prison. When the super-violent Eric Love (Jack O’Conell) of 19 years old is transferred from a young offended institution to an adult prison, he bumps into his long-lost father, Neville (Ben Mendelsohn), a respected veteran convict who, despite estranged, tries to protect his son from the other inmates. The problem is aggravated when the hostilities come from the responsible for the security of the facility. After an accident, the untamed Eric will be given one last chance, having to behave correctly and attend a group therapy lead by the psychotherapist Oliver Baumer (Rupert Friend) in order to learn how to control his raging anger. After being informed that Eric is marked by trauma and abuse, his father will try to join him in the sessions. Jack O’Connell’s performance was tightly convincing, in an explosive mix of madness and fury, and one of his best so far, making “Starred Up”, directed by the English filmmaker David Mackenzie (“Young Adam”, “Perfect Sense”), more than just an ordinary prison drama. The story never loses grip, and in any occasion slows down. Even when the quietude reigns, we have the perfect sensation that someone is up to something, and most of the times we think it might be the unpredictable Eric himself. The script was written by Jonathan Asser, based on his real experiences with the most fearful inmates of the HM Prison Wandsworth, located in the Southwest London.


July 23, 2014

Aberdeen (2014)

Aberdeen (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ho-Cheung Pang
Country: Hong Kong

Movie Review: Much more assertive on drama than comedy, filmmaker Ho-Cheung Pang brings us a mature vision of modern Hong Kong through the analysis of the Cheng family members. Their joys, ambitions and concerns, are showed via personal relationships, professional lives, and interior battles. A fragile woman, Ching, whose husband is having an extramarital affair, is highly traumatized due to her unaffectionate mother, deceased 10 years ago. Highly concerned with his reputation, her brother Tao is a tutor whose wife, a model in the end of her career, tries to resist to some ‘temptations’ related to the profession. Both are concerned with the fact that their daughter, Chloe, isn’t so beautiful as they wanted, predicting she could face rejection. Ching and Tao’s father, Dong, is a fisherman-turned-priest totally dedicated to reincarnation rituals and to his much younger girlfriend who owns a nightclub. The family members try to adjust their own balance and make the right decisions to embrace happiness. “Aberdeen” (an area known as Little Hong Kong) was a good surprise, especially taking in consideration that I found Pang’s previous comedies, “Love in the Buff” and “Vulgaria”, an authentic waste of time. Using colorful scale models of the city to represent dreams, along with powerful camera shots that revealed a good eye for image composition, “Aberdeen” succeeds in depicting every character in order to compose the whole picture of a family whose individualities are caught in the middle of past and present.

July 22, 2014

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (2013)

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani
Country: Belgium / others

Movie Review: Directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani use the same saturated reds, blues and greens to create even more bold images than in “Amer”, their promising debut from 2009. With precise camera work, there’s no doubt that its weirdness stimulates us visually and intellectually, even considering the intentional dispersion of the script to baffle us. This was the main reason why the film didn’t work so well as a narrative, despite the mysteries of its strange associations, false leads and intricate dream layers, it turned out progressively exhausting with the repetition of ideas, most of them involving blood footprints, erotic sensuality and sharp knives ready to tear up bodies or piercing heads. The story starts when Dan Kristensen returns home after one of his frequent business trips and finds his apartment locked from inside and his wife missing. The mystery seems to be related with the building itself where its patterned connected walls hide the secrets of so many weird and untrusted tenants. There are times that we questioned if the problem is not Dan himself, and there are others where we don’t know what to think, such is the abusive confusion and dazzle created. Showing so much talent and a propensity to prevail artsy (including a great sound design), Cattet and Forzani should work a bit more in putting some light in the scripts without exclusively worry with the stylization of their pictures. Anyway, I can’t refrain from recommending this outlandish thriller for those who like vague insinuations and blurred conclusions.

July 21, 2014

Closed Curtain (2013)

Closed Curtain (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jafar Panahi
Country: Iran

Movie Review: Simple in execution, sometimes baffling, but hard to forget, “Closed Curtain” is a valid representation of Jafar Panahi’s current inner state. Banned from filmmaking for 20 years, he is left to his own ghosts and frustrations, and even the words of encouragement from his friendly neighbors don’t always make him feel better. The film starts with a long shot through a window, showing the arrival of the first character, a writer who tries to pull out his creative side. He just wants to be in the company of his dog, which he hides from outside persecutors, since the dogs were considered unclean by some ‘unclean’ governmental law. With all the curtains shut, the quietness felt will be altered by the arrival of a suicidal, yet fearless young woman who is also running from the authorities for having participated in an illegal party. She’s the one who tries to open the curtains and rebel against this overwhelming lack of freedom and injustice. Obviously these two characters came out from Panahi himself, representing his inner battles, and gaining a very personal direction whose message is more than evident. Not so immediate as “This Is Not a Film”, "Closed Curtain" still demonstrates that Panahi can be inventive even with few resources available and surrounded by walls. Writer/director Kambuzia Partovi, who had been inactive since 2005, also co-directs and stars. The film was considered best screenplay in the last Berlin Film Festival.