June 29, 2012

Goodbye First Love (2011)

Directed by: Mia Hansen-Love
Country: France

Plot: A chronicle of the romance between Camille and Sullivan, which begins during their adolescence.
Quick comment: This movie is about the difficulty of a young girl to let go her first boyfriend. It took several years of her life.  In some occasions it brought to my head Eric Rohmer’s tales, without the intense dialogs that distinguished them. A very natural acting was fundamental to induce the typical French realism and honesty. But I also sensed that the story, in its slow pace, could have had some more spirit in considerable moments. It is not exceptional nor fundamental, but deserves a good look.
Relevant awards: Special mention (Locarno).

June 28, 2012

Suicide Room (2011)

Directed by: Jan Komasa
Country: Poland

Plot: Dominik stops going to school and withdraws, drifting into a virtual world where there are no hateful classmates.
Quick comment: Dominik is a lonesome troubled young adult. A couple of incidents at high school and the lack of attention from his dysfunctional family, lead him to join a site on the Internet entitled “Suicide Room”, in order to get help. Unfortunately, this call for help became just a game for the other members. A dark polish tale that leaves its mark, unveiling how harmful this kind of virtual refuges can be. Be aware of the depressing atmosphere.
Relevant awards: Best film (Geneva, Molodist, Polish and Stockholm Film Fests)

June 26, 2012

The Source (2011)

Directed by: Radu Mihaileanu
Country: France

Plot: A comedy/drama set in a village and centered on a battle of the sexes, where women threaten to withhold sexual favors if their men refuse to fetch water from a remote well.
Quick comment: The awesome landscapes from a small Arabian village in addition with the valuable message that conveys, doesn’t make this a movie to remember. The courage showed is to praise but it opted for a speech that works as a cheap pedagogy about the women’s rights, which in certain moments become annoying. The images should have been enough to "talk" by themselves. Moreover, some scenes tend to be cheesy. Not so consistent but with respectable intentions.
Relevant awards: -

June 25, 2012

In Darkness (2011)

Directed by: Agnieszka Holland
Country: Poland

Plot: A dramatization of one man's rescue of Jewish refugees in the Nazi-occupied Polish city of Lvov.
Quick comment: Based upon a true story, polish director Agnieszka Holland returns to the World War II disclosures, after “Europa Europa” has achieved wide notoriety when it was released in 1990. Perhaps the movie could have been shortened out of its 145 min., but that fact didn't remove its inspiration. Besides the sharp cinematography, I was touched with one of the most joyful finales seen in a war movie.
Relevant awards: Audience award (St. Louis)

June 23, 2012

Sleepless Night (2011)

Directed by: Frédéric Jardin
Country: France

Plot: A cop with a connection to the criminal underworld finds his son's life in jeopardy.
Quick comment: In resume, what we have here is: cops against cops, cops against bandits and bandits against bandits. “Sleepless Night” has convincing physical fight scenes but suffers from the same debilities as the majority of this type of action movies – The back-and-forth of the storyline just delays what we already know it will happen. Without big surprises, it still entertains and guarantees a satisfactory dose of adrenaline.
Relevant awards: -

June 22, 2012

This Is Not A Film (2011)

Directed by: Jafar Panahi
Country: Iran

Plot: This clandestine documentary, smuggled into France in a cake, depicts the day-to-day life of acclaimed director Jafar Panahi during his house arrest.
Quick comment: Panahi is a terrific Iranian director who is being victim of an enormous injustice perpetrated by the government of his country. His scripts were censored and he was condemned to 6 years of prison. Also, for the next 20 years he is not allowed to film or even leave the country. This is a pacific protest, a scream of anger and frustration against this humiliating repression. In the limited space of his home, Panahi just did one more time what he knows best - good and interesting cinema!
Relevant awards: -

June 21, 2012

Keyhole (2011)

Director: Guy Maddin
Country: Canada

Plot: Gangster and deadbeat dad, Ulysses Pick, embarks on an unusual journey through his home.
Quick comment: A surrealistic journey through the lost memories of a gangster (turned into a ghost), who is desperately looking for his wife in their forsaken mansion. As usual, Maddin adopts an atmospheric dream-like ambiance, blurry and bizarre imagery in black-and-white and adds some supernatural content to it. No need to tell that I was constantly struggling to grasp what was going on. The searching is endless and the conclusions are few, but the movie sticks into your head for some time. A challenge!
Relevant awards: -

June 20, 2012

Snow On Tha Bluff (2011)

Directed by: Damon Russell
Country: USA

Plot: The story of Curtis Snow, a thug who made a documentary about his life.
Quick comment: It was a challenge for me to understand the slang throughout this pretty original documentary about Curtis Snow – a gangster and drug dealer from “The Bluff”, Atlanta – who stole a camera from some college kids as well as the idea of filming everything, and began frantically recording his criminal life in the ghetto. We may doubt about its authenticity but all seemed very real and shocking. I wonder what will become of the children dwelling in that neighborhood... the answer to this question is provided by Curtis Snow during the movie.
Relevant awards: -

June 19, 2012

Twixt (2011)

Directed by: Francis Ford Copolla
Country: USA

Plot: A writer with a declining career arrives in a small town as part of his book tour and gets caught up in a murder mystery involving a young girl.
Quick comment: Nothing went right in the latest film from master Copolla. The script was too weak and the performances were not brilliant. What was supposed to be a thriller, turned out to be a boring and clouded story, leading me to the tiredness of trying to find anything that made sense. Even the apparition of Edgar Allen Poe was ridiculous and meaningless. This is a thorn in the career of an iconic director.
Relevant awards: -

June 18, 2012

Jeff, Who Lives At Home (2011)

Directed by: Jay and Mark Duplass
Country: USA

Plot: Dispatched from his basement room on an errand for his mother, slacker Jeff might discover his destiny (finally) when he spends the day with his brother as he tracks his possibly adulterous wife.
Quick comments: This comedy about “signs” didn’t convince me at all. It is sustained on the theory that nothing happens by chance and everything/everybody are connected somehow through the “signs” that are constantly appearing throughout life. I found it very predictable and the infinite coincidences that lead to the final have some kind of absurdity. I may believe in signs…but not in these ones.
Relevant awards: -

June 17, 2012

The Avengers (2012)

Directed by: Joss Whedon
Country: USA

Plot: Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together a team of super humans to form The Avengers to help save the Earth from Loki and his army.
Quick comment: It was with satisfaction that I watched some of the comic heroes of my childhood in action. Normally, I am not an enthusiastic of this genre, but we have to recognize when a movie is well done. Despite the lack of originality, the special effects, frantic action and the humor of Phillip Stark (Iron Man) are there to marvel the fans. Powerful enough to save the Earth from enemy hands. My favorite still is “Iron Man”(2008) directed by Jon Favreau.
Relevant awards: -

June 16, 2012

Pariah (2011)

Directed by: Dee Rees
Country: USA

Plot: A Brooklyn teenager juggles conflicting identities and risks friendship, heartbreak, and family in a desperate search for sexual expression.
Quick comment: “Pariah” begins discreetly, but soon evolves to a heartfelt sensitivity that might touch you deep down inside. A story about a coming-of-age lesbian girl who is trying to make the right decisions in life, as she attempts to gain acceptance and support from her parents. This is a very promising debut of Dee Rees in feature-film, after having released a 27-minute short in 2007 about the same subject and with the same title.
Relevant awards: Best cinematography (Sundance).

June 14, 2012

Bellamy (2009)

Directed by: Claude Chabrol
Country: France

Plot: A well known Parisian inspector becomes involved in an investigation while on holiday.
Quick comment: Claude Chabrol was known for his closely-observed characters. That’s what we get in “Bellamy” - his last feature-film before his death in 2010 at the age of 80. The personal life of the famous inspector Paul Bellamy is analyzed, as he investigates a strange murder case. It’s true that there is not much vitality or grandeur in this movie, but it is tidy and the dialogues and acting are solid enough to make it worth a look.
Relevant awards: -

June 13, 2012

Toomelah (2011)

Directed by: Ivan Sen
Country: Australia

Plot: In a remote Aboriginal community, 10 year old Daniel yearns to be a gangster, like the male role models in his life.
Quick comment: "Toomelah" could have been a success. The story is intense, the filming location is perfect and it succeeds in denouncing how the aboriginals were forgotten and are currently living. But this can’t be all in a movie…and all the good intentions and expectations were hampered by terrible performances from the non-professional actors and by a wobbly direction as well. At some point I really felt that what was happening on the screen was fake. 
Relevant awards: -

June 12, 2012

Cirkus Columbia (2010)

Directed by: Danis Tanovic
Country: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Plot: A story set in the former Yugoslavia and centered on a guy who returns to Herzegovina from Germany with plenty of cash and hopes for a good new life.
Quick comment: Danis Tanovic (“No Man’s Land”) returns to the Balkan War stories with this hilarious comedy where family issues were combined with political struggles in old Yugoslavia. A crazy story with a few funny situations, shows solid characters and also works as a strong criticism of a divided country. Actually, there was nothing that we hadn’t seen yet and the story needed a push in some instances, but it flows all right, and I was amused for almost 2 hours.
Relevant awards: Best foreign film (Antalya).

June 11, 2012

Marley (2012)

Directed by: Kevin Macdonald
Country: USA

Plot: A documentary on the life, music, and legacy of Bob Marley.
Quick comment: Besides the great music left, Marley had a remarkable life. He amazes me for what he once represented and still represents in the political fight against racism and war.  The only issue with this movie lies in its overlong duration -  due to one or another not so relevant testimony. From the Scottish director Kevin Macdonald (“The Last King of Scotland”, “Touching the Void”, “State of Play”).
Relevant awards: -

June 10, 2012

Oslo, August 31st (2011)

Directed by: Joachim Trier
Country: Norway

Plot: One day in the life of Anders, a young recovering drug addict, who takes a brief leave from his treatment center to interview for a job and catch up with old friends in Oslo.
Quick comment: Joachim Trier has been revealing himself as one of the most interesting norwegian directors. If “Reprise” (2006) had left a good impression, “Oslo August 31st” does even better. This is a believable story which made me feel a bit uncomfortable. A lonely man is trying to face the world the best way he can after being in a drug rehabilitation center. But it becomes very hard to believe in himself when everyone else has given up. Not to miss!
Relevant awards: -

June 08, 2012

The Hunger Games (2012)

Directed by: Gary Ross
Country: USA

Plot: Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister's place for the latest match.
Quick comment: The futuristic scenario was well set and the concept behind the games worked fine. The problem was that along the course of its story, I wasn't able to be convinced. Predictable in its twists and turns, it didn’t surprise me much. For me it was just another action movie without much to think or discuss about. For better games, I recommend the japanese “Battle Royale” from 2000, now running in IFC Cinema, NYC.
Relevant awards: -

June 07, 2012

The Deep Blue Sea (2011)

Directed by: Terence Davies
Country: UK

Plot: The wife of a British Judge is caught in a self-destructive love affair with a Royal Air Force pilot.
Quick comment: This story about a relationship condemned to fail, was based on a famous play by Terrence Rattigan and directed with the habitual rigor by the British Terrence Davies. However, these facts, along with the good performances, weren’t enough to make this movie a must-see. Love, obsession, depression and suicide are carried in a slow pace and extreme sadness. The truth is that for most of the time I felt indifferent and didn’t really mind when it came to an end.
Relevant awards: -

June 06, 2012

Dark Shadows (2012)

Directed by: Tim Burton
Country: USA

Plot: An imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins, is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.
Quick comment: Tim Burton didn’t want to stay out of trend and provides us with vampires, witches and werewolves. Counting with his regular and favorite actor Johnny Depp, this time the plot and imagery weren’t so appealing. Having exaggerated on the number of stunts and witchcrafts, only the dark humor has saved the film from a disaster. It’s ok as entertainment but is for sure the weakest Burton in years…
Relevant awards:

June 05, 2012

Snowtown (2011)

Directed by: Justin Kurzel
Country: Australia

Plot: Based on true events, 16 year-old Jamie falls in with his mother's new boyfriend and his crowd of self-appointed neighborhood watchmen, a relationship that leads to a spree of torture and murder.
Quick comment: Another case to be analyzed in psychology – the story of the Australia’s worst serial killer is bleak and cold. Daniel Henshall (winner of 4 international awards) plays magnificently well the role of John Bunting, a confident and absolute ruling man who fancied himself as a superior being. I don’t feel like visiting Snowtown after watching this! An hypnotic and scary independent film.
Relevant awards: special mention (Cannes).

June 04, 2012

21 Jump Street (2012)

Directed by: Phil Lord / Chris Miller
Country: USA

Plot: A pair of underachieving cops are sent back to a local high school to blend in and bring down a synthetic drug ring.
Quick comment: I must have a problem with this kind of comedies. This one in particular will be remembered more for its unmannerly approach than for its jokes. Most of the gags were too formulaic and too dumb to be funny. In a quick summary: I got bored most of the time and I don’t recommend this one.
Relevant awards: -

June 03, 2012

Breathing (2011)

Directed by: Karl Marcovics
Country: Austria

Plot: A 19-year-old is coming out of prison and trying to build a new life but he can't deal with his guilt.
Quick comment: Austrian actor Markovics (known for his role on “The Counterfeiters”) makes his debut as director and the result is “breathing” – a movie with personality. Without any kind of sentimentality, it shows the struggle of a young boy to reintegrate himself in society after spending his life first in an orphanage and then in a juvenile detention center.It shows how important it is for a person in this situation to feel support from others in order to move on. A director to keep an eye on.
Relevant awards: Grand prix (Melodist); label europa cinema (Cannes).

June 01, 2012

Life, Above All (2011)

Directed by: Oliver Schmitz
Country: South Africa

Plot: A touching mother-daughter relationship that reflects the modern South Africa.
Quick comment: I don’t remember of another movie about AIDS in Africa that had interested me so much. Thorough cinematography, genuine acting and a stylish directing is what you can find in this artsy south-african movie. It starts with a funeral and ends with a funeral, with misery and fear mixed up, but not everything is bad here. We can also feel the warmth of human feelings and friendship. You’ll feel rewarded.
Relevant awards: 2nd place for best film (Dubai).