May 31, 2012

Silenced (2011)

Directed by: Dong Hyeuk Hwang
Country: South Korea

Plot: A new teacher is appointed to a school for hearing-impaired children in Gwangju. There he discovers that children are being physically and sexually abused by their teachers.
Quick comment: Since it started, there was no time wasted and we follow with stupefaction the horrible revelations. The initial mystery and suspense soon gave way to endless court sessions. Unfortunately the movie wasn’t able to keep the level shown in the beginning - decaying slowly towards the end. Based on a real story, this movie can be noble for the huge social impact that has had in Korea, but makes us wonder about the efficiency of its narrative and approach. Watchable.
Relevant awards: -

May 30, 2012

Miss Bala (2011)

Directed by: Gerardo Naranjo
Country: Mexico

Plot: The story of a young woman clinging on to her dream to become a beauty contest queen in a Mexico dominated by organized crime.
Quick comment: Reveals a smart plot within a clumsy style, where lots of betrayals take place, involving police, government and drug cartels. The title of the movie was inspired in a famous Mexican pageant named “Miss Baja California” which is a dream for many girls. The movie shows how easy it is for any innocent person to be tangled in the schemes of the corrupted mexican system. It's only a matter of being in the wrong place at wrong time.
Relevant Awards:

May 29, 2012

The Cabin In The Woods (2011)

Directed by: Drew Goddard
Country: USA

Plot: Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods.
Quick comment: I was expecting more from this movie but it revealed to be a big disappointment since the beginning. Its special effects and some jokes were ok while the complex script was completely unlikely and dull.  Besides, the movie didn't benefit with the juvenile temper adopted… so, the horror I was expecting just turned out in a few laughs. Exhaustive and boring...
Relevant Awards: -

May 27, 2012

Hell And Back Again (2011)

Directed by: Danfung Dennis
Country: USA

Plot: What does it mean to lead men in war? What does it mean to come home? This documentary has the answers.
Quick comment: The hell goes on for Sergeant Harris after being shot in Afghanistan War where he was leading his platoon on a mission. Seriously wounded in a leg, he was forced to return to US and has become a drug addict  in order to avoid the extreme chronic pain. Using intercalated images of war and post-war time, it revealed to be more depressing than informative by only showing another singular case of a man with particular taste for killing and whose life was wrecked by war.
Relevant Awards: best documentary (Moscow); jury prize (Sundance).

May 25, 2012

Into The Abyss (2011)

Directed by: Werner Herzog
Country: USA

Plot: Conversations with death row inmate Michael Perry and those affected by his crime serve as an examination of why people and the state ... kill.
Quick comment: Starting from a real case of murdering in Texas, Herzog conceives this superb documentary about death penalty. Not only focusing the alienation or the motives of the murderers, he rather goes deeper, by showing the side effects felt by the victim's families and also by ones working on death row. Having clarified his own point of view, Herzog leaves at the same time a wide margin for being debated on this matter.
Relevant awards: -

May 23, 2012

The Lady (2011)

Directed by: Luc Besson
Country: France

Plot: The story of Aung San Suu Kyi as she becomes the core of Burma's democracy movement, and her relationship with her husband, writer Michael Aris.
Quick comment: Suu Kyi is an example to follow regarding resistance to tyranny all over the world. However this movie wasn't so captivating as it should be. In the first 30 minutes has shown some suspense and no idle moments but soon softened with the help of a repetitive oriental score throughout the film. I was pleased to know more about this woman but the movie didn't impress me. Worth watching taking into account the information provided.
Relevant awards: -

May 22, 2012

4:44 Last Day on Earth (2011)

Directed by: Abel Ferrara
Country: USA

Plot: A look at how a painter and a successful actor spend their last day together before the world comes to an end.
Quick comment: Ferrara picks up the trend and releases a movie about the end of the world. The lull that most of the characters have shown was a bit hard to swallow. This apparent acceptance of their fate sometimes bursts in insanity and suicidal chaos with people trying to carry on till the presented lousy “end”. What I have seen was only a scream of anger against what’s happening to our planet but nothing more than that. Not solid enough.
Relevant Awards: -

May 21, 2012

Kooky (2010)

Directed: Jan Sverak
Country: Czech Republic

Plot: Young Ondra has asthma and so his mom throws away his favorite toy: a musty old stuffed bear named Kooky...
Quick comment: “Kooky” fits in those kind of movies which will please parents as much as their kids. Mixing up animation (handcrafted puppets) with real landscapes and people, it manages to be technically efficient and visually stunning. The story despite being stereotyped and showing repeated wild action, turns out to engage, following the same path of Sverak’s previous works where fantasy, comedy and family entertainment are common. As advice I urge you to look for Sverak's master work named "Kolya"(1996)
Relevant Awards: jury prize (Karlovy Vary).

May 18, 2012

Hors Satan (2011)

Directed by: Bruno Dumont
Country: France

Plot: A miracle reveals an unseen side of a village loner.
Quick comment: Those who have watched the turkish “Kosmos” (2010), directed by Reha Erdem will instantly perceive the similarity on the storyline followed there. Darker but not so loose than its homologous, "Hors Satan" strongly relies on the chosen country landscapes and actor appearances to create Dumont's depressive mood. Always concerned in shocking us somehow, this feature represents the eternal battle between good and evil wrapped in supernatural ambiguity. Bewildering but not original.
Relevant Awards: -

May 17, 2012

Monsieur Lazhar (2011)

Directed by: Philippe Falardeau
Country: Canada

Plot: At a Montréal public grade school, an Algerian immigrant is hired to replace a popular teacher who committed suicide in her classroom.
Quick comment: Nothing could have been more convenient than the encounter between school kids who are facing the suicide of their former teacher in classroom and an algerian refugee who fakes to be a teacher and him too, tries to deal with the death of his family. Despite this obvious arrangement, I would recommend it since it manages to be light and sensible within such a heavy subject as death. At the end you’ll feel comforted.
Relevant Awards: best canadian film (Toronto); best screenplay  (Valladolid).

May 16, 2012

House of Pleasures (2011)

Directed by: Bertrand Bonello
Country: France

Plot: Claustrophobic, frank and unexploitative account of life in a smart parisian brothel between 1899 and 1900.
Quick comment: The ascension and decline of "L’apollonide" brothel gives us an ideia of how the prostitutes had to cope with all types of fetiches and sometimes mistreatments indulged by their clients. Each of these women have revealed to be dead inside, stucked in their vain hopes of having a decent life and struggling to put an end to their infinite debts and anguish.  We can feel their pain even without overdramatic or sentimental scenes showing up.
Relevant Awards:

May 15, 2012

Haywire (2011)

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Country: USA

Plot: A secret agent seeks payback after she is betrayed and set up during a mission.
Quick comment: This new feature from the versatile and experimental Steven Soderbergh proves that a great cast doesn't always make a good movie. For me it looked like a baffled though unsalted espionage story with a bunch of karate strikes in order to look fancy. By embracing an overworked theme, Soderbergh took some risks but at the end not much is left to be remembered.
Relevant awards: -

May 14, 2012

Shame (2011)

Directed by: Steve McQueen
Country: UK

Plot: Brandon is living in New York and reveals himself unable to manage his sex life. After his wayward younger sister moves into his apartment, his world spirals out of control.
Quick comment: After “hunger”, “shame” is the confirmation of a compelling director. A study of a sex-addicted character amazingly portrayed by Michael Fassbender. A curious aspect here to notice is that many questions will be raised about the motives and the past of characters but none of them will be answered. It simply shows us in a raw way how the things are, unfolding the pain underneath the actions and leaving us with a bitter taste in our mouths. An heavy experience.
Relevant awards: Fipresci - best film (Venice)

May 11, 2012

Le Havre (2011)

Directed by: Aki Kaurismaki
Country: Finland / France

Plot: When an African boy arrives by cargo ship in the port city of Le Havre, an aging shoe shiner welcomes him into his home.
Quick comment: Talented finnish director Kaurismaki is back with this wonderful story about illegal immigration in France. Through a poignant humor and an uncanny style that gives particular attention to the image composition, he continues to fill the screens denouncing society issues and telling us that if you do the good you’ll be rewarded. I also recommend from this director:"a man without a past", "the match factory girl", "ariel" and "lights in the dusk".
Relevant awards: Best film, director, script and cinematography (Jussi awards); Fipresci prize (Cannes).

May 10, 2012

Weekend (2011)

Directed by: Andrew Haigh
Country: UK

Plot: After a drunken house party with his straight mates, Russell heads out to a gay club. Just before closing time he picks up Glen but what's expected to be just a one-night stand becomes something else, something special.
Quick comment: A fearless movie  putting on the screen a story of a gay relationship between two men who just have a weekend to figure out what they really feel for each other. It touches on certain crucial issues concerning the clash between assumed gays and society. We are before an outspoken movie...simple but effective.
Relevant Awards: moviezone award (Rotterdam); jury award   (Ghent); special mention (Dinard).

May 09, 2012

Detachment (2011)

Directed by: Tony Kaye
Country: USA

Plot: A substitute teacher who drifts from classroom to classroom finds a connection to the students and teachers during his latest assignment.
Quick comment: 12 years after the acclaimed “american history X”, Tony Kaye’s “detachment” focuses on another eminent social problem. The issues and concerns faced by school teachers are presented. Their own personal problems are also a key factor and Kaye plays with it to manipulate our feelings. Demonstrating to be pretentious in many ways it has simultaneously the ability of grabbing some of our attention.
Relevant Awards: Audience award (São Paulo) and best artistic contribution (Tokyo).

May 08, 2012

The Iron Lady (2011)

Directed by: Phyllida Lloyd
Country: UK

Plot: An elderly Margaret Thatcher talks to the imagined presence of her recently deceased husband as she struggles to come to terms with his death while scenes from her past life, from girlhood to British prime minister, intervene.
Quick comment: Despite all the information that passes through, it reveals to be a shallow movie. It would need more enthusiasm and rhythm to avoid to fall in banality. A decided and firm approach were most needed to depict such a strict character as Thatcher. Just the oscar-winner Meryl Streep was able to save herself from this doomed drifting boat.
Relevant Awards: best leading actress at Academy Awards (USA) and BAFTA Awards (UK).

May 07, 2012

The Colors of the Mountain (2010)

Directed by: Carlos César Arbeláez
Country: Colombia

Plot: Manuel, age: 9, has an old ball and dreams of becoming a great goalkeeper. His wishes seem set to come true when his father gives him a new ball. But an unexpected accident sends the ball flying into a minefield.
Quick comment: A colombian childhood drama where the horrors of war are shared with the pleasures of playing soccer. In a standard way and without great prominence it was a good effort to depict friendship, discard of life dreams and swift growing up in a war environment where the behaviour and mind of a child can radically change.
Relevant Awards: Best colombian film at Bogotá Film Fest. (Colombia).

May 04, 2012

Tomboy (2011)

Directed by: Celine Sciamma
Country: France

Plot: A 10-year-old girl, settling into her new neighborhood outside Paris, is mistaken for a boy and has to live up to this new identity since it's too late for the mistake to be clarified.
Quick comment: Sexuality theme is depicted with strong personality by Sciamma. It was like this with “water lilies”(2007) and it is now with “tomboy”. Although the strong performances and eminent tension involved, there were a few staged situations (including the end) which did not enhance the final result. Curious enough to worth a look regardless the final impression that could have been better explored.
Relevant Awards: Jury award at Berlin Film Fest.(Germany).

May 03, 2012

The Silence (2010)

Directed by: Baran Bo Odar
Country: Germany

Plot: 13-year-old Sinikka vanishes on a hot summer night. Her bicycle is found in the exact place where a girl was killed 23 years ago. The dramatic present forces those involved in the original case to face their past.
Quick comment: An investigation of two similar murders with a gap of 20 years that will keep you with the eyes wide opened. I have no remarks concerning the story’s integrity. This plot could be true and it is from here that comes its main strength. As for the rest I shall warn you that this is a bitter film where everything and everyone involved are gloomy. Even the police men.
Relevant Awards: -

May 02, 2012

Kinyarwanda (2011)

Directed by: Alrick Brown
Country: USA

Plot: Rwanda civil war... A young Tutsi woman and a young Hutu man fall in love amidst chaos; a soldier struggles to foster a greater good while absent from her family; and a priest grapples with his faith in the face of unspeakable horror.
Quick comment: It was good to watch a lot of good things done among the chaos of such ferocious genocide. Alrick Brown chooses not to emphasize the atrocities but the effort of some in doing good actions. However this is less challenging than “hotel rwanda” or “munyurangabo” and as a consequence it stays a few steps below them.
Relevant Awards: Audience award at Sundance Film Fest. (USA).

May 01, 2012

Café De Flore (2011)

Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée
Country: Canada

Plot: A love story between a man and woman. And between a mother and her son. A mystical and fantastical odyssey on love.
Quick comment: The return of J.M Vallée to his peculiar mood which gave him so much success with "c.r.a.z.y"(2005). “Café de flore” was magnificently directed aided by a very well chosen soundtrack. As a remark I shall tell that in the last quarter the story slips a bit when everything got too evident and accepted in a blink of an eye. Nevertheless it still remains a haunting film.
Relevant Awards: best canadian film at Vancouver; best art direction at Jutra Awards (Canada).

Tadas Blinda. The Beginning (2011)

Directed by: Donatas Ulvydas
Country: Lithuania

Plot: A romance blooms between a noblewoman and a common man amid a peasant revolt against the brutal Russian army.
Quick comment: With an impolite style (amateur kind) the movie features Tadas Blinda, a lithuanian rebel hero (reminding Robin Hood) who has to free his country from enemy hands and at the same time falls in love with the wrong girl. Sometimes ridicule, sometimes bold, the expressed skills weren’t enough to get on my mind.
Relevant Awards: -