April 21, 2014

Oculus (2013)

Oculus (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Country: USA

Movie Review: Mike Flanagan gave life to “Oculus”, basing himself on his 2006 short “Oculus: Chapter 3 - The Man with the Plan”. After “Absentia”, the American filmmaker confirmed his predilection for the horror genre, having another one in agenda to come out in 2015, entitled “Somnia”, which like the object of this review has been co-wrote by Flanagan and Jeff Howard. “Oculus” tells the story of brother and sister, Tim (Brenton Thwaites) and Kaylie Russell (Karen Gillan), whose parents died tragically ten years ago, supposedly shot by Tim. Now with the age of 21, the latter is given as psychologically apt and gets out of protective custody seeming ready to move on with his life. However, his still affected sister brings the subject all over again, after suspect that the cause of the misfortune could have been an old mirror that keeps leaving a track of blood or insanity in every house it passes by. The film was technically well executed, presenting a chilly atmosphere that could have been fruitful in case the plot has showed more creativity. By using a structure that is very conventional in the genre, “Oculus” needed some more credibility in terms of plot to be more spooky and less derivative. Basically, it is more of the same, and I wonder if Flanagan should have bothered doing this teen-horror-show with a magic mirror, which turns out to be tense in several occasions but also falsely complex and a bit dull in its backbone. The film was the second most voted by the audience at Toronto Int. Film Festival.

April 20, 2014

The Railway Man (2013)

The Railway Man (2013)
Directed by: Jonathan Teplitzky
Country: Australia / UK

Movie Review: Australian film director, Jonathan Teplitzky, drastically changes tones with “The Railway Man”, his new drama based on the real experiences of British soldier Eric Lomax during the WWII, comparatively with his abuzz work dated from 2011, “The Burning Man”. The film stars Colin Firth as Lomax, a traumatized and railway enthusiast British soldier who was made prisoner in 1942 by the Japanese forces in command, having been heavily tortured and accused of conspiracy with the Chinese. Deeply affected, Lomax counts with the help of his understanding and patient wife, Patti (Nicole Kidman), and his best friend, Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard). After years of suffering, he decides to meet Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada), a former Japanese translator who was responsible for many of the inflicted tortures. Making him prisoner, Lomax will teach him a late yet valuable life lesson that will ease their tortured souls . Despite the challenging score, the film was never unsettling and couldn’t totally escape to sentimentality. Moreover, the uneven pace makes the film drag in several occasions, giving the sensation of being much longer, while the performances, especially those by the young Japanese soldiers, didn’t seem so authentic as expected. Humanity and forgiveness are always to praise, but I felt that the unstimulating “The Railway Man” needed so much more to triumph as a drama, and thereby follow the success of Lomax’s bestselling autobiography of the same name. Garry Phillips’ cinematography deserves to be mentioned but my final verdict is: skippable.

April 19, 2014

Me, Myself and Mum (2013)

Me, Myself and Mom (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Guillaume Gallienne
Country: France / Belgium

Movie Review: French actor Guillaume Gallienne wrote, directed and starred in “Me, Myself and Mum”, an autobiographical film that exposes his sexual dilemmas and the exceptional relationship with his very blunt, yet elegant mother. Adapted from his 2008 one-man stage show, multifaceted Guillaume plays the mother and himself, providing us some amusing scenic situations and pertinent dialogues. At the age of five, he remembered his mother calling him and his brothers to the dinner table, saying: ‘boys and Guillaume, to the table!’. Since that time, he got pretty confused about himself, but other occurrences of his childhood were also determinant, like when he was talking with his mother on the phone and she ended the conversation with ‘take care my big girl!’. These situations brought a great uncertainty in the effeminate and sports hater Guillaume, who really believed he was a girl in a man’s body. Becoming an attentive women’s observer to better understand his sexual tendencies, the charismatic and faint-hearted Guillaume will go through some awkward situations that include a traumatic visit to a Bavarian spa, a call for military service, and his first sexual encounter with a man. His late conclusions will end up in a creative play focused on a man who decides to assume his heterosexuality after his family has decided he was gay. Smartly written, funny, and accessible, “Me, Myself and Mum” excelled not only due to the brilliant performance of Gallienne, but also through his sturdy direction.

April 18, 2014

Violette (2013)

Violette (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Martin Provost
Country: France / Belgium

Movie Review: “Violette” has the particularity of being the second biopic about a French female artist directed by Martin Provost. In 2008, naïve-style painter Séraphine de Senlis was depicted in “Séraphine”. Now it’s time for us to know about the flickering literary path, frontal personality, and complex relationships of feminist novelist Violette Leduc (1907-1972), known for writing about sex and abortion as never before, according to the words of her admirer colleague, supporter, and object of desire, Simone de Beauvoir. The latter became Violette’s obsession, in a suffering, loving passion that was never requited, despite the great veneration that these bold and visionary women authors felt for each other. Other famous personalities made part of Violette’s unstable life: cases of writers Maurice Sachs (in a theatrical first section that wasn’t so strong as the following) and Jean Genet, and the rich industrial Jacques Guérin, but was her mother, Berthe, the cause of every emotional instability. In her search for love, acceptance and human contact, Violette ends up more and more isolated – ‘alone in my desert monologue’ as she referred. Despite of the bad start, the film presented appealing images reflecting rigorously the period of time covered (cinematography by Yves Cape), and some of Leduc’s refined poetry excerpts, which was often combined with a disconsolate classical music. Emmanuelle Devos did a great job as Violette, pulling out all those uncontrolled emotional impulses, while Sandrine Kiberlain was also noticeable as Beauvoir, even showing a more unexpressive personality.

April 17, 2014

The French Minister (2013)

The French Minister (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Bertrand Tavernier
Country: France

Movie Review: Veteran French filmmaker, Bertrand Tavernier, known for his distinct styles used in films such as “Round Midnight”, “Coup de Torchon”, or “A Sunday in the Country”, directs a comical political satire that has everything to amuse the fans of the genre. The film cleverly adopts the same methods – legitimacy, unity and efficiency - of the mad French minister of foreign affairs that depicts. Legitimacy can be felt when the young Arthur Vlaminck is hired for the invisible ‘language department’ within the minister’s office, accepting patiently the authority of his picky superior. Unity marks the second part of the film when everyone sits down, not only to discuss the best political strategies and speeches, but also to help the minister in his cultural lunches with famous authors, poets, and philosophers. Finally, in the last third, we have efficiency, when all the philosophical theories, nitpicks and stubbornness are left behind in detriment of a short, clear, and pragmatic speech. With its tones of mockery and loquacious style, “The French Minister” fulfills its role, becoming closer to Costa-Gavras’ “The Capital” rather than Pierre Schoeller’s “The Minister” whose boldness we could not find here. Don’t expect complex conclusions, since Tavernier abruptly cut irony and sarcasm all at once, but expect to meet the modern ‘Tintin’ of French politics, superbly performed by Thierry Lhermitte. Tavernier took inspiration from the comic book by Abel Lanzac (pseudonym for Antonin Baudry – former minister Villepin’s speechwriter between 2002 and 2004) and illustrator Christophe Blain.

April 16, 2014

The Raid 2 (2014)

The Raid 2 (2014)
Directed by: Gareth Evans
Country: Indonesia / USA

Movie Review: “The Raid 2” continues the saga of undercover agent Rama (performed once again by Iko Uwais), started three years ago with “The Raid: Redemption”, but without achieving the same surprise effects or impact. Right after the first mission, our hero subjects himself to a few years in prison in order to protect his family. Once there, he deliberately becomes friends with inmate Uco, an unscrupulous, greedy gangster whose father, Bangun, co-rules the city of Jakarta with the Japanese Goto clan. This operation aims to dismantle Jakarta's organized crime and uncover the corruption in his own police force. The interminable physical battles use the same astonishing choreographies to impress our eyes but the action festival becomes somewhat repetitive and consequently tiresome throughout its intense 150 minutes. The plot, written by Welsh director Gareth Evans, didn’t present anything really new apart from the quantity of deadly tools: hammers, different sorts of knives, swords, pickaxes and clubs. The places where the fights occur were also diverse: in the mud of a prison, in the snow of an alley, or even inside cars in movement. Using frequent close-ups to enhance Rama’s determination as well as the severe posture of the other men in face of danger, Evans’s direction wasn’t so brilliant and crushing as in the previous adventure, which takes place inside an old, claustrophobic and labyrinthine apartment building. Despite less appealing in conception and over exalted in its scenes of violence, “The Raid 2” provides sufficient energy to please the followers of the genre.

April 15, 2014

Joe (2013)

Joe (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Joe”, David Gordon Green’s so much expected feature after the acceptable remake of Icelandic “Either Way” under the title “Prince Avalanche”, is a pungent Southerner drama and thriller, featuring Nicolas Cage, Gary Poulter, and the young Tye Sheridan in the main roles. Joe (Cage) is a problematic lone wolf and ex-con, who decides to hire 15-year-old Gary (Sheridan), for a job that consists in clearing the backwoods by poisoning sick trees in order to make room for more suitable species. Joe naturally becomes Gary’s protector when he realizes the difficulties he has to keep out his mother and dumb sister from the multiple abuses perpetrated by his drunk, slacker, and malicious father (Poulter), known as G-Daawg. Joe also has his own problems, haunted by his past and emotionally smashed by a depressive and often turbulent day-to-day. He’s constantly confronted by the police and stalked by Willie-Russell, a coward but dangerous psycho who’s looking for revenge regarding a past brawl. Gordon Green created tension everywhere through a very personal and commendable direction, enhanced by the somber cinematography by Tim Orr and the truly creepy score by the duo David Wingo/Jeff McIlwain. Nicolas Cage had a fantastic performance as a disreputable man who tries to make the right thing, but for me Gary Poulter exceeded the expectations as the perfect representation of vileness. The taciturn and intriguing “Joe”, shall please both art-house and commercial audiences.

April 14, 2014

It's All So Quiet (2013)

It's All So Quiet (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Nanouk Leopold
Country: Netherlands / Germany

Movie Review: The fifth feature film from Dutch helmer Nanouk Leopold is a resentful and quiet drama inspired by Gerbrand Bakker’s debut novel “The Twin”, depicting homosexual repression and rural isolation. Helmer (Jeroen Willems) is a 55 year-old solitary farmer who, not with signs of impatience, waits for his father’s death. Visibly embittered, Helmer is stuck into a life he didn’t choose, having to take care of his bedridden and demanding father, and do all the work in the dairy farm by himself. He feels attracted to a milk trader of his own age but always resists to his approaching attempts. When his father gets worse he moves him upstairs, so he can rent the available room to a young farmer, Henk, whose presence will try to break the ice of Helmer’s self-denied homosexuality. The main character presents a bitter coldness and carries so much frustration that is almost impossible to feel any sympathy for him. A little wickedness is particularly visible when he refuses to call a doctor for his father, or tries to avoid the visit of a friendly neighbor, Ada (the unique feminine presence), or seems reluctant in turning on the heating for the room upstairs. Vague insinuations are suggested about their difficult past relationship but “It’s All So Quiet” becomes as painful to watch as the lives of the ones it depicts. Its immutable sad tone characterized by a slow pace and absence of any kind of thrill won’t be for everyone’s appreciation, only increasing the lack of human warmness. It’s indeed an interesting story, yet very arduous to endure.

April 13, 2014

Metro Manila (2013)

Metro Manila (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Sean Ellis
Country: Philippines / UK

Movie Review: The third feature film from English filmmaker Sean Ellis, "Metro Manila", is a thrilling trip into despair of having to start a new life from scratch in a dangerous place. Facing severe financial problems, Oscar Ramirez (Jake Macapagal) and his wife Mai (Althea Vega) leave their farm in the Philippine Benoue province, in the company of their two young daughters, to try their luck in Manila. Astonished with the city’s intensity, they’ll soon learn that nothing is too easy in an inhuman jungle where everyone tries to survive the best they can. Swindled in the day of their arrival, Oscar and Mai will have different lucks in their following jobs, being exploited in two very different manners. While she starts working in a hideous bar for gentlemen, he gets an apparently steady position in an armored truck company, being trained by his helpful but tricky partner, Ong (John Arcilla). The couple is about to inhabit a merciless and destructive world of ambition, greediness, and exploitation. Effective in capturing the vibrancy of the city with its accurately shots, Ellis conducted the story in a gripping way, triggering never-ending situations on how a chaotic society can take advantage of one’s innocence and impoverishment. Story's tragic outcomes were far expected, conjointly with the suitable pace adopted, in a film that works very well as a slow-burning drama, heist thriller, and bitter analysis of a problematic country. Having been nominated for the BAFTA awards 2014, “Metro Manila” was awarded at Hamburg and Sundance film festivals.

April 12, 2014

Afflicted (2013)

Afflicted (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Derek Lee, Clif Prowse
Country: Canada

Movie Review: Co-directors, writers and actors, Derek Lee and Clif Prowse, introduced themselves in the first minutes of “Afflicted”, before elucidating us about the dream trip around the world they’re about to record on video. Yes, this is another footage film, so in vogue nowadays, that tries to get close to the documentary format. But only a few minutes were necessary to realize that everything here is an inventive creation from the duo’s minds. Apart from Derek’s brain disease, the trip starts in an uneventful way, but everything changes in Paris, after he meets with a strange woman who turns him immortal and bloodthirsty. From the minute 45 on, we can follow Derek experiencing the unexplainable, in sequences of scenes varying from gross (vomiting blood or taking an eye out), funny (asking for blood in Italian), and moderately scary (having seizures or committing a live suicide). As expected, all the film was shot with super-shaky hand-held cameras to maintain an appealing intensity, and the result is simultaneously pointless and effective. This could be a good choice for vampire aficionados, depending of their taste. If you like elaborated dialogues and a more stylish approach, I would recommend “Only Lovers Left Alive”. In turn, if you prefer a raw and dirty style, “Afflicted” can do the trick. After all, considering the low budget, it presents some good ideas that will leave you wondering about the motives that led to disgrace: evilness or kindness? The film was worthy of the special jury citation at Toronto Film Festival.

April 11, 2014

The Conductor (2012)

The Conductor (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Pavel Lungin
Country: Russia

Movie Review: Delivering less than it promised, “The Conductor”, presents a mix of stories inside a group of performers from a famous Russian orchestra that travels to Jerusalem to perform the religious oratorio ‘St. Matthew Passion’. The drama is centered on the feared conductor Slava Petrov (Vladas Bagdonas) who receives a fax informing about his son’s death in Jerusalem, a few days before his departure. Once there, he’ll learn that his artist son became member of a secluded group, having collected several debts that led him to hang himself. He just left a painting, a replica of the famous ‘The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb’, in which Christ is replaced by his father. In parallel, we can follow the insecurities of a lonely singer who believes he’s not wanted in the orchestra, and the end of a marriage of another singer, Sergey, who feels tied up in the relationship with his jealous and religious-obsessed wife, feeling attracted to Olga whom he met in the plane. Meanwhile, Olga will lost track of her two kids in the perilous market streets of Jerusalem. Despite its fine performances and appealing images, “The Conductor” revealed some trouble embracing the stories and giving them a final strong conclusion. The religious chants created a special mood (the most valuable aspect in the film) that not always corresponded to what the pic was showing us. Made of fatal coincidences and ‘deaf’ dialogues, it adopts serious tones in its attempt to balance all the guilt, pride, faith, and repentance of its characters, a goal that wasn’t totally achieved.

April 10, 2014

The Auction (2013)

The Auction (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Sébastien Pilote
Country: Canada

Movie Review: Sébastien Pilote’s sophomore feature, “The Auction”, is a compelling Canadian drama starring Gabriel Arcand in the role of an aging, dedicated farmer. Gaby Gagnon lives alone in his countryside farm after his wife has left him 20 years ago to go live in the city. A few years later his two daughters, Marie and Fréderique, also left home in order to live their own lives. Fréderique, with an emerging career in the theater, never shows up or give signs of wanting to be with the family, while Marie is expected soon with her two children and husband. Arriving just with the kids, Marie confesses she is divorcing and needs urgent money to keep the house. Gaby promises to help her out, but the bank refuses the loan he asked for, leaving him with the unique and toughest solution in hands: sell the farm in the local auction. Pacific and contemplative in style, yet profound in dramatic terms, the film evinced emotional insight and a true sense of family and friendship that define completely the main character. In this story of sacrifice and guilt, Gaby’s silent affliction was quite painful and his determination will be tested through his neighbor friends, who got very sad with his departure, or his opponent brothers who wanted a share from the farm’s sale. It’s a bittersweet tale that confronts the happiness of a conscious father (even knowing that his daughter is taking advantage of him) and the extreme sadness of an innate farmer. “The Auction” is a mature and tender drama that moves in crescendo, deserving to be seen.

April 09, 2014

Eastern Boys (2013)

Eastern Boys (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Robin Campillo
Country: France

Movie Review: Awarded at Venice Film Festival, “Eastern Boys”, is a realistic and inviting French drama focused on the homosexual relationship between a middle-aged man and a much younger illegal immigrant who is a member of a Eastern European gang based on a cheap suburban hotel of Paris. In a train station, Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin), a middle class man approaches a teenager named Marek (Kirill Emelyanov) who promptly offers him sexual services for the price of 50 euros. They set up an encounter for the next day in Daniels’s apartment, but for his surprise, a different boy appears followed by some other invaders, ready to begin their own private party. Tension grows fast in this first third, spreading an enigmatic feel that was quite positive, just to lose some grip in the second act, when Marek returns alone to Daniel’s apartment, this time for the sex they had agreed. The film enters in a more intimate and personal field as we see Marek’s insecurities increase as the relationship becomes steadier, although our doubts about his intensions remain. During the last third, tension is retrieved once again, to finish in an appropriate thrilling climax. “Eastern Boys”, although overextended and now and then unsteady, was a solid sophomore feature by Robin Campillo, known for his work with Laurent Cantet as editor and screenwriter (“Human Resources, “Time Out”, “The Class”), as well as for his 2004 zombie flick “They Came Back”. The leading pair of actors, Rabourdin and Emelyanov, had conspicuous performances.

April 08, 2014

Under the Skin (2013)

Under the Skin (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jonathan Glazer
Country: UK

Movie Review: I don’t have enough words to praise “Under the Skin”, Jonathan Glazer’s innovative sci-fi film, based on the novel with the same name by Michel Faber, and starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien embodying an attractive young woman who installs itself in Scotland to collect human skin that will serve to ‘dress’ her spatial invader friends. Her preys, very well selected, were allured and inevitably taken into a sophisticated process that removed their blood, flesh and bones. Emotionless at first, the visitant strangely starts to change after interact with a disfigured man, who she spared in an act of compassion. From this moment on, she becomes curious about what humans feel, going through different experiences that inevitably will lead her to the sad notion of how evil and scary our nature can be. The final scenes will remain in my head for a long time, and the idea that we, humans, can be very maleficent to one another, is so vividly exposed, that I couldn’t help wishing the alien’s revenge. The stylized, eerie, and hypnotic “Under the Skin” was cleverly conceived in order to grab our senses, proving Jonathan Glazer (“Sexy Beast”, “Birth”) as a filmmaker to follow, and giving Johansson an opportunity to shine in another memorable performance. I couldn’t find nothing to rebuke here, apart from the Scottish accent, which sometimes makes the dialogues very difficult to understand. The distinguished plot and its exquisite execution make “Under the Skin” a modern sci-fi masterwork to watch and rewatch again!

April 07, 2014

Bad Words (2013)

Bad Words (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jason Bateman
Country: USA

Movie Review: Jason Bateman directs (for the very first time) and stars in the insubordinate, yet ultimately flat comedy, “Bad Words”, picking up a story by the newcomer screenwriter Andrew Dodge. Guy Trilby (Bateman) is an impertinent, deceitful and mouthy 40 year-old eighth grade dropout who possesses a soul of a brat, expelling bad words everywhere and behaving like a hooligan. He had everyone astonished after qualify himself for a national children’s spelling bee, where his most direct opponent, Chaitanya Chopra () of only 10 years old, unexpectedly becomes a very special friend. The film also focuses in Guy’s casual relationship with a female reporter who found who his dad was. Causing the parents’ wrath and booed in his interventions throughout the competition, Guy takes us to the extremely predictable final duel, making extreme decisions that completely adulterate the rules of the contest. A film relying on words shouldn’t have been so inarticulate, and still the posture adopted just shocked for the worst reasons. In truth, there’s absolutely nothing we can learn from this trivial exercise that offers successive goofy situations created by an obnoxious character whose friendships don’t seem genuine. Too childish to be valued by adults, and too inappropriate to be seen by kids, “Bad Words” falls in the category of the most uninspired comedies of the year.

April 06, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Country: USA

Movie Review: Finally here is a “Captain America” who unexpectedly rocks, being smarter in terms of plot and much more interesting in terms of battles and physical confronts than its predecessor from 2011, “The First Avenger”. Marvel comic-books spirit was truly invoked this time, and Russo brothers were able to offer much more than mere standardized action scenes and unbridled explosions made to impress in 3D, so characteristic of the majority films of the genre. Steve Rogers, the super soldier known by Captain America, forms his own alliance with Falcon, Black Widow, and Agent 13, to avenge the supposedly death of Nick Fury after a mysterious attack by Winter Soldier, a powerful assassin with a metal arm who happens to be an old lost friend, now working for Hydra under the orders of the senior SHIELD official, Pierce, and the Nazi scientist Zola whose evil brain was saved to a computer when his body was proclaimed dead. Some of the reserved surprises didn’t really work as a surprise, yet fantasy and action were treated decently in order to provide a vigorous experience. Only in terms of wittiness, it couldn’t get close to the great “Iron Man” from 2008. The film stars Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sebastian Stan as recurrent choices, here very well reinforced by a sly Robert Redford, a winged Anthony Mackie, and the marvelous and outstanding Scarlett Johansson as Russian agent Natasha Romanoff. I suppose that, like me, you must be tired of repetitive exercises of this kind, but in case you’re a devoted Marvel fan give yourself a chance and watch this one.

April 05, 2014

The Lunchbox (2013)

The Lunchbox (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ritesh Batra
Country: India

Movie Review: “The Lunchbox” is a generous drama about life and its problems, presented in a light and sporadically funny atmosphere of a long-distance romance, and marking a promising debut by Ritesh Batra on direction. Ila is going through a big crisis in her marriage, passing her days alone and only speaking through the window, to an elderly aunt who lives right above her flat. Every day she makes a lunchbox that a carrier was supposed to deliver at her husband’s office, but instead he was delivering at a wrong address and the beneficiary was Saajan, a solitary and taciturn widower who is about to retire and lives unhappy since his wife died. Both of them start a strange correspondence by letter (hidden inside the lunchbox) where they speak about their lives and concerns, making them better tolerate the difficult situations they were going through – she didn’t feel so lonely and anguished, while he became more cheerful and open at work, helping his future substitute, Sheikh, a friendly and smiling orphan who turned out to be his friend. I took some time to really enter in this letter game, but the more the film moved forward, the more I got involved, becoming curious about what these two common and grieving souls had to say. Even though, I expected some more from “The Lunchbox”, which being unable to utterly enchant or shake my emotions in its plenitude, certainly did it with my stomach, every time I imagined the smell and taste of Indian food. Simple, warm, and direct, it leaves us with an open ending and provides us with a few pensive reflections on life.

April 04, 2014

Dom Hemingway (2013)

Dom Hemingway (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Richard Shepard
Country: UK

Movie Review: American film director Richard Shepard, committed to TV series in the last six years, brings us a comedy-crime drama (a more vulgar version of Guy Ritchie’s old flicks) focused on the brash character of Dom Hemingway, a deranged safecracker looking for an opportunity after coming out of prison, where for 12 years he didn't snitch on his mates. Dom goes to his boss’ French villa to demand a good compensation but his plans are thwarted by a car accident and a greedy femme fatale. Penniless and angered, he returns to London to reconnect with his long-lost daughter, later realizing that she must be his priority. In the meantime, the vain Dom will have to come to terms with Lester, an old acquainted who hates him since he killed a cat called Bernard. The film is episodically demarcated through explanatory sentences in the beginning of each adventure, and intends to be a feast of dirty jokes and savage behavior from its unrestrained, petulant and defiant main character whose anger and vitality can make you love him or hate him. The plot is somewhat overdone in many aspects and sometimes loses track of balance and consistency, remaining watchable till the end only due to Jude Law’s great performance. In all his craziness, Dom just needs a deep breath to calm down and admit he’s a charmless monster, but inevitably and gradually, Shepard shows us that all he needs is love. Production values are good and score includes Motorhead, Pixies, and a sweet version of Waterboys’ “Fisherman’s Blues” by the actress Emilia Clarke.

April 03, 2014

For Those in Peril (2013)

For Those in Peril (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Paul Wright
Country: UK

Movie Review: From Scotland, arrives another valuable drama that starts with an impressive chilling mood accompanied by tenebrous images of an agitated sea. Aaron (George MacKay) is the only survivor of an unexplained boat accident that victimized his older brother and four other young men from his small fishing village. In a state of shock and without recalling what happened in that fatidic day at sea, Aaron keeps looking for his brother, being blamed by the superstitious villagers and getting more and more isolated in his own tortuous thoughts and deliriums. I felt sorry for the hopeless Aaron, realizing that sooner or later, the tiredness of body and mind he is subjected to, might end in another tragedy. Scenes of the brothers’ childhood are depicted under the form of ghostly flashbacks, helping to frame a chant of despair and loneliness that brings us a very sad awareness of loss. Erik Enocksson’s score was fundamental to create the low-spirited and fearsome atmosphere chosen by newcomer Paul Wright whose writing/direction was simply triumphant. George MacKay and Kate Dickie’s performances were worthy and co-responsible for turning “For Those in Peril” in a creepy experience. The surreal finale, recalling “The Tree of Life” or “Werckmeister Harmonies”, can be a letdown for many, but didn’t affect the pleasure of watching its enthralling images, or the curiosity of following Aaron’s somber mind.

April 02, 2014

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (2013)

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Country: France / Canada

Movie Review: Based on Reif Larsen’s novel “The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet”, the new film from the acclaimed French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a family-adventure film focused on a bright 10-year-old kid named Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet, who flees from his parents’ ranch in Montana to enter triumphantly in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, in order to receive the award of scientific excellence. Son of a cowboy and a peculiar scientist, T.S. will travel alone and in secret across the US, narrating his adventurous journey (almost totally spent onboard of a freight train) which will serve not only to recognize him as a little genius but also make him closer to his family and finally put aside the trauma he’s suffering since childhood due to an accident that victimized his younger brother. The pic doesn’t have the aura of “Amelie” or the vibrancy of “Delicatessen”, but is definitely more attractive in concept than Jeunet’s last film “Micmacs” whose humor didn’t please me. Visually, the film gives continuity to the rigor of color treatment and image composition evinced in previous works, with cinematographer Thomas Hardmeier being awarded with a French César. Some situations created in the final moments touched the pathetic, especially when T.S. is retrieved by his parents during a TV interview, but Jeunet still achieves some sustainability through the dramatic side of the story, providing the minimum amusement required to entertain all family.

April 01, 2014

The Meteor (2013)

The Meteor (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: François Delisle
Country: Canada

Movie Review: “The Meteor” is a Canadian dialogue-free drama that uses solely voice-overs to express the thoughts and feelings of its characters, all part of the same broken family. Like reading a book with melancholic images passing in front of our eyes, François Delisle’s fifth feature succeeds in its elegiac tones by creating a whole story without interaction. 40 year-old Pierre is arrested and condemned to 14 years in prison for the murder of a woman, in a desperate act related with drugs. This fact motivated a great shake and suffering in his direct relatives, including his father who died shortly after. His old and tired mother, in turn, recalls the happy childhood of his son, while prepare herself for another visit to prison, the only occasion that her lone son get out of his cell. Death frequently comes to her head, boosted by the news of her older sister’s cancer, and with a sad assurance that she won’t be with her son again in the outside world. Pierre’s ex-wife, Suzanne, explains her gradual, prolonged, and deeply felt separation, regretting not to have children of him, but admitting to be totally ready for a new life. We also have the opportunity to know what’s in Pierre’s head. Every single day, he regrets what he did and revives the trauma of being raped by a cellmate in the night he arrived. Words of anguish, regret, and painful resignation echo constantly, in a depressing film that didn’t become limitative by its unusual communication option, which exposes openly the deplorable psychological state of its protagonists.

March 31, 2014

Hide Your Smiling Faces (2013)

Hide Your Smiling Faces (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Daniel Patrick Carbone
Country: USA

Movie Review: Although not totally gratifying, there’s a lot going on in “Hide Your Smiling Faces”, a dissimilar coming-of-age drama from debutant Daniel Patrick Carbone. After a terrible and mysterious accident that took their neighbor friend’s life, two adolescent brothers become deeply affected, suspecting the victim’s father. Wandering aimlessly throughout the fields, these young boys try to continue with their wrestling games and pranks, but their heads are occupied with the idea of death, a consciousness very present not only on the human side but also in the animal, which represents an important part in the narrative. Youth in rural America is portrayed with sobriety, giving the exact sad sense of non-supportiveness from the family, but in the other hand is clear some apathy in diverse occasions along with narrative breaches that hamper its ambitions to become more fruitful. The performances by the young actors Ryan Jones and Nathan Varnson were solid enough to transmit a concealed anguish that no person can notice but is always there, ruminating their minds and souls. Other relevant aspect in the film is the constant presence of guns, a grave problem faced in our societies, especially in US. Creating a particular mood that comes pretty close to the works of David Gordon Green, “Hide Your Smiling Faces” is penetrating and occasionally haunting, keeping the line that divides life and death so close, that nature itself becomes more suffocating than the harsh summer humidity. Carbone’s resolute direction gives good indications for the future while dialogues and narrative sequence have a bit more to be improved.

March 30, 2014

Noah (2014)

Noah (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Country: USA

Movie Review: Brooklyn-born Darren Aronofsky became one of the most respected filmmakers due to remarkable cinematic pieces such as “Pi”, “Requiem for a Dream”, “The Wrestler”, and “Black Swan”. However, his latest feature, “Noah”, probably his weakest achievement so far, brings us a monotonous entertainment exercise that mixes fantasy, romance, ferocious battles, family drama, and miracles, all in the same Biblical epic story. Noah (Russell Crowe) was chosen by the Creator to accomplish the difficult task of saving the innocent animal species from a flood that will destroy the world. For that, he’ll have to build a gigantic wooden ark and get rid of the diabolic forces of Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone), at the same time that his faith is put to test, leaving him with the cruel choice between the love of his own wife and children, and obedience to God. The Watchers, who were nothing more than fallen angels living inside a massive rocky body, add a fantastic side to a plot that never held my breath for more than a couple of times along its 138 minutes. The performances were not to remember, while the visual effects and characterization - curious how everyone got old in the course of time with exception of Noah’s wife (Jennifer Connely) and grandfather (Anthony Hopkins) – never had the desired impact. In the end, I realized how I miss Aronofsky’s narrative complexity and visionary bold plots from other times, since overall “Noah” is an absurd and speculative tale, which lacks the faith it wants to transmit, becoming quite unstimulating in its constrained family crisis.

March 29, 2014

Cesar Chavez (2014)

Cesar Chavez (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Diego Luna
Country: USA / Mexico

Movie Review: Mexican actor Diego Luna, most known for his role in “Y Tu Mama También” and other supporting roles in “Frida”, “Milk”, and “Elysium”, chose Cesar Chavez’s inspiring deeds to direct his first English-language film, a biopic whose good intentions didn’t come to be nothing more than… good intentions. Set in Delano, California, the film covers the period from 1962 to 1970, when Chavez assumed himself as a civil-rights activist and labor-organizer, forming the United Farm Workers union and pacifically fighting against the injustices and discriminations that Filipino and Mexican farm workers were subjected to. To achieve his purposes, Chavez embarks in a strike hunger and promotes other non-violent strikes, inevitably forcing his employer, Bogdanovich, to sign a fair contract many years later. John Malkovich, in his habitual class, had a noteworthy performance, while Michael Peña, as main protagonist, played his part acceptably. As happened with another recent biopic, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”, ”Cesar Chavez” seemed more concerned in touching the viewers’ hearts and gain sympathy for the cause it depicts, than really presents us with an insightful portrait sustained by a solid narrative. The sentimental inclinations evinced throughout the film were reinforced with Chavez’s family life, particularly regarding his bullied son, Fernando. Diego Luna showed difficulties to escape the unchallenging approach and structure, basic visuals, and one-speed pace, which turn “Cesar Chavez” in another bland biopic.

March 28, 2014

Ilo Ilo (2013)

Ilo Ilo (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Anthony Chen
Country: Singapore

Movie Review: Anthony Chen’s fictional film debut, “Ilo Ilo” is a tremendous drama, set up in Singapore in times of economical crisis and uncertainty about the future, about the relationship between a dysfunctional family and their newly arrived Filipino maid, Teresa, who left her own 12-month baby behind to search for a better life. Realizing how turbulent the lives of these people were, she will have an important role in appeasing the problems of the young Jianle, a troublesome kid who does everything to put her in a bad position. After a hard time of adaptation, Teresa will conquer the heart of the boy with her comprehension and good attitude, fact that will trigger the admiration of his parents but also some jealousy from the mother. Jianle found the attentive mother he was looking for, while Teresa found the son she missed so much. Everyone has to deal with their own problems, in a film where there are no heroes or villains, just life as it is and its complicated processes of learning, sharing, and understanding. Promising helmer/writer Anthony Chen assures great personality in the direction, while the cinematography by Benoit Soler is memorable with its predominant whites and occasionally unfocused images. The plot was magnificently constructed, making us indignant in diverse occasions, but also making us believers of the goodness present in human nature. “Ilo Ilo” collected important prizes at the festivals it competed, including Cannes, Dubai, Golden Horse, Molodist, and Tokyo, among others, and is one of the most compelling dramas to arrive this year.