July 31, 2012

Here (2011)

Directed by: Braden King
Country: USA

Plot: Cartographer Will Shepard hits the road for his latest job in Armenia. During his assignment, he forms a bond with an Armenian expatriate and art photographer.
Review: A very natural way was chosen to present the evolving relationship between an American man working temporarily in Armenia and a local woman who has recently returned from abroad. Both decide to cross the country, sharing experiences. With a simplistic story, a very slow pace and no startles to make you come out of the chair, this is a road-movie that should not be seen when tired or sleepy. Definitely not for everyone, the contemplative way of filming and acting may please the fans of the realistic genre but it will be labeled as boring by the ones looking for excitement. Give it a shot.
Relevant awards: CICAE award (Berlin).

July 30, 2012

The Road (2011)

Directed by: Yam Laranas
Country: Philippines

Plot: A 12 year old cold case is reopened when three teens are missing in an old abandoned road where a gruesome murder is left undiscovered for three decades.
Review: “The road”, a low-budget horror movie from Philippines, despite far from perfection, has left its mark. Yam Laranas is the brain behind it, showing up as writer, director, editor and director of photography. The scary scenes, instead of being stand-alone imagery trying to impress teen-agers, are supported with a good story. The narrative is quite absorbing and its spooky atmosphere result in one of the most satisfying horror movies recently released. When everybody speaks about a possible American remake, we can only congratulate Laranas for his best achievement so far.
Relevant awards: -

July 28, 2012

Wild Bill (2011)

Directed by: Dexter Fletcher
Country: UK

Plot: Out on parole after 8 years inside Bill Hayward returns home to find his now 11 and 15 year old sons abandoned by their mother and fending for themselves.
Review: Certainly this is not the most original movie but encloses every ingredient to be successful - the drama isn’t cheesy; the humor is subtle but efficient; and the action is wild and exciting. Furthermore, all the acting performances were noticeable and the direction was convincing. 46 year-old experienced actor Dexter Fletcher, inspired by Guy Ritchie’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, makes his debut in direction/writing, showing substantial capabilities to become a serious promise for the forthcoming works.
Relevant awards: -

July 27, 2012

Declaration of War (2011)

Directed by: Valérie Donzelli
Country: France

Plot: When their young son is diagnosed with a brain tumor, young parents Roméo and Juliette unite in the fight for his survival.
Review: Following “The Queen of Hearts”, “Declaration of War” is the second feature-film from Valérie Donzelli. Racing against time, a Parisian couple tries the best way to accept their baby’s brain malignant tumor. The movie depicts the importance of family and friends, as well as the parent’s concerns in having the best assistance for their son. The problem was maintaining the narrative levels throughout the story. An honest movie denoting some rhythm oscillations.
Relevant awards: Best film, actor and actress (Gijón); jury and audience award (Paris Cinema); best screenplay (Etoiles d'Or).

July 26, 2012

As If I Am Not There (2010)

Directed by: Juanita Wilson
Country: UK

Plot: A harsh dose of cinematic realism taken from true stories of Bosnian War.
Review: An appalling story depicting Balkan War with an enormous psychological burden. Much of the film shows destruction in many ways: villages burned, men killed, imprisoned women with wrecked self-esteem, mistreatments and sexual abuse. It is very hard to watch all this destruction without being affected and for most of the time this is what the movie has to show. Fortunately, the ending bestows signs of hope for the future in some very touching image sequences. We can then sigh with relief and smile.
Relevant awards: Best film and director (Irish Awards); FACE Award (Instanbul).

July 25, 2012

Bi, Don't Be Afraid (2010)

Directed by: Dang Di Phan
Country: Vietnam

Plot: In an old house in Hanoi, Bi, a 6-year-old child lives with his parents, his aunt and their cook.
Review: Delicious images emerged in this first feature film from Vietnamese Dang Di Phan.  Bi, a 6 year-old child observes with curiosity all members of his family: a busy mother, an aunt with a strange behavior, a drunk and absent father and a sick grandfather who returned home after many years abroad. Bi spends his time wandering between his home, the surrounding fields and an old ice factory, becoming more and more lonely. Magnificently directed with a lyrical style and with many answers to be sought.
Relevant awards: Best feature film (Cannes).

July 24, 2012

On The Ice (2011)

Directed by: Andrew Okpeaha MacLean
Country: USA

Plot: In Barrow, Alaska, teenagers Qalli and Aivaaq find their bond tested when a seal-hunting trip goes wrong, resulting in the death of their friend.
Review: This story about an accidental crime in Alaska was interesting to follow. Without anything really transcendent, it touches however in some points that deserve consideration – issues like alcohol and drugs abuse, night parties (despite of the sun never sets), friendship and family, in such an isolated village was well documented. The uneven acting was the main issue with this movie, but the coherence of the plot makes us watch it till the end without boring moments.
Relevant awards: Best debut film and Crystal Bear (Berlin); Jury Prize (Woodstock).

July 23, 2012

Trishna (2011)

Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Country: UK

Plot: The story of a tragic relationship in India.
Review: Winterbottom is one of the most versatile filmmakers in active. His talent is undeniable and can be confirmed with works such as “24 hour party people”, “in this world”,“road to Guantanamo” or “the trip”.Switching between biographies, documentaries or fiction, he always has something to say. “Trishna”, based on a novel by Thomas Hardy, despite of showing the recurrent realistic approach, wasn’t so sparkling. Some inert moments end up in a final almost amateur-style. The images from India were what moved me most in this film.
Relevant awards: -

July 21, 2012

Altiplano (2009)

Directed by: Peter Brosens/Jessica H.Woodworth
Country: Belgium

Plot: A former war photographer and her physician husband are caught up in a riot in an Andean village.
Quick comment: Two women, one Peruvian and other Belgian, will cross paths. The former, is fighting a sickness that starts spreading across her village due to mercury spill in a mine exploration. The latter, is a photographer trying to recover from a traumatic situation. “Altiplano” delivers artsy images within a well-intentioned story but its approach isn't always totally satisfying. Despite of some narrative issues and the evident eagerness to be art-house, it still worth for its exceptional landscapes and mystic creeds.
Relevant awards: Golden Kinnaree (Bangkok).

July 20, 2012

2 Days in New York (2011)

Directed by: Julie Delpy
Country: France

Plot: Manhattan couple Marion and Mingus, find their comfortable family dynamic jostled by a visit from Marion's relatives.
Quick comment: “2 days in New York” follows 2007’s “2 days in Paris”. This time, famous actress/director Julie Delpy introduces a very peculiar French family in action, Chris Rock having long conversations with an Obama’s poster and even Vincent Gallo buying souls. It tries to look wacky and delivers some craziness that worked fine for a few times, but most of the situations were completely neurotic silliness. In sum, this is a confrontation between French and American cultures that doesn’t take us anywhere.
Relevant awards: -

July 19, 2012

Friends With Kids (2011)

Directed by: Jennifer Westfeldt
Country: USA

Plot: Two best friends decide to have a child together while keeping their relationship platonic.
Quick comment: Very few movies of this kind (comedy /drama/romance) had impact on me, excepting for the classics. In the latest years I can name “Punch-Drunk Love” or “Sideways”. On this one, the boring dialogs and little jokes about dating, sex, marriage and kids weren’t particularly amusing. For me this was like some TV-shows – when watching it, you have one or two laughs and then there's nothing to remember of. I tried to look for some message here, but there isn’t any. A vulnerable plot stuffed with rubbish talk.
Relevant awards: -

July 18, 2012

Polisse (2011)

Directed by: Maiwenn
Country: France

Plot: A journalist covering police assigned to a juvenile division enters an affair with one of her subjects.
Quick comment: A gripping look at the lives of police officers working at the Juvenile Protection Unit. It is very interesting to watch the behavior of these people depending of the situation that might appear. Sometimes stern, sometimes frivolous, they just have to deal with all types of complaints and requests. The movie successfully shows the difficulty to separate such stressful work situations from private lives. A tense movie, relying on natural acting and unfolding harsh conclusions.
Relevant awards: Jury Prize (Cannes).

July 17, 2012

Get The Gringo (2012)

Directed by: Adrian Grunberg
Country: USA

Plot: A career criminal nabbed by Mexican authorities is placed in a tough prison where he learns to survive with the help of a 9-year-old boy.
Quick comment: “Get the Gringo” brings back Mel Gibson to the action genre. Gibson also wrote the screenplay, together with director Adrian Grunberg and Stacey Perskie. All the clichés are there. The plot isn’t so much of interest and wasn’t so keen as it looked at the beginning. When everything is achieved so easily in a plot, it is normal for me to lose interest in it. In this particular case, we can see its slow fall.
Relevant awards: -

July 16, 2012

The Raid: Redemption (2011)

Directed by: Gareth Evans
Country: Indonesia

Plot: A SWAT team becomes trapped in a tenement run by a ruthless mobster and his army of killers and thugs.
Quick comment: This vibrant movie from Indonesia was a surprise, delivering intense battles between a cop squad and drug dealers inside an old labyrinthine building. I was impressed by how the physical fights were so accurate. The big issue with this movie was the use and abuse of detailed scenes of violence. Fortunately, there’s more here than just fights and shots, with the story revealing some surprising twists. Exhausting, but also an ebullient action movie.
Relevant awards: Best film (Dublin); people's choice (Toronto); silver screen award (Amsterdam).

July 14, 2012

Avalon (2011)

Directed by: Axel Petersen
Country: Sweden

Plot: Janne, a 60 year old party promoter is arranging a nightclub at the annual tennis week in the small coastal town of Bastad...
Quick comment: A look at the Swedish underworld is what Alex Petersen has to offer in his first feature film. We are before some interesting character studies in a very dark tale. In some moments we can really feel the strength and potentiality of this story. In others, we are convinced that it could have been better explored. Deliberately or not, everything on this movie was unemotional, which makes the viewer to keep some distance from what’s happening. However, the boldness showed in direction has sharpened my curiosity about Peterson’s future works.
Relevant awards: Discovery Prize (Toronto).

July 13, 2012

Eva (2011)

Directed by: Kike Maíllo
Country: Spain

Plot: A shy genius is employed by his former university to design robot software.
Quick comment: “Eva” didn’t make a significant impression on me. The story lingers too much in its first part. When finally tries to raise the levels of interest… it is too late. The rhythm, mood and even the special effects didn’t grab my attention. Very futuristic, although completely out of balance and predictable.
Relevant awards: Best first film (Saint Jordi, Turia); best new director (Goya); best special effects (Goya, Sitges).

July 12, 2012

Michael (2011)

Directed by: Markus Schleinzer
Country: Austria

Plot: A drama focused on five months in the life of pedophile who keeps a 10-year-old boy locked in his basement.
Quick comment: Markus Schleinzer doesn’t conceal the influence of Michael Haneke’s filmmaking, with whom he has been working as casting director. “Michael” is a compelling portrait of a monster, whose sick mind is hidden within an apparently normal life. The subject of this film is particularly strong by itself, but Schleinzer proved to have hands for direction and counted on flawless acting performances. Haneke’s influence don't suppress its merit of being a very well made movie. Cold and disconcerting.
Relevant awards: Best feature (Viennale); best actor (Dublin).

July 11, 2012

Collaborator (2011)

Directed by: Martin Donovan
Country: USA

Plot: A playwright whose marriage and career are in a free fall has an explosive run-in with his former neighbor, a right-wing ex-con.
Quick comment: Martin Donovan, an experienced actor who has participated in more than 70 movies, including some of Hal Hartley’s best works, have his debut as director. “Collaborator” can be seen as a private little “war” that starts growing slowly between two men who know each other from childhood but happened to have different lives. Left wing vs. right wing; rich vs. poor; success vs. failure and acting vs. reality, were some of the battles fought. Some originality is shown.
Relevant awards: FIPRESCI Prize and best actor (Karlovy Vary).     

July 10, 2012

Between Two Fires (2010)

Directed by: Agnieszka Lukasiak
Country: Poland/Sweden

Plot: A young mother with her daughter escapes Belarus just to end up in a refugee camp in northern Sweden.
Quick comment: A distressful story about a mother and her daughter, trying to escape from Belarusian Mafia to avoid sexual and physical abuse. Once in Sweden, hoping to be given permission to stay, they will not rest as expected. The film centers on the refugee’s problems in a legit way. But in the other hand, it’s frustratingly invariable in its suspenseful moments and lingers too much over sex scenes. You will not be disappointed, but you will not be asking for more either.
Relevant awards: -

July 09, 2012

Salmon Fishing In The Yemen (2011)

Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom
Country: UK

Plot: A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realize a sheik's vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert.
Quick comment:  A meek script, without any complex situations that may require further analysis. Some scenes seemed to be reckless and ridiculous in someway, like when Sheikh Muhammed's life is saved by Dr.Jones's fishing rod. Right after that, they just start laughing at the situation. Definitely, it showed not to be a significant achievement. It just guarantees a minimum of entertainment, somewhere between light romance and regular comedy.
Relevant awards: -

July 07, 2012

The Arbor (2010)

Directed by: Clio Barnard
Country: UK

Plot: Portrayal of the late Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar and family.
Quick comment: Heavy documentary based on a mournful story, which sometimes becomes difficult to watch. Motherhood is the topic. The life of British playwright Andrea Dunbar and her daughter Lorraine were analyzed. Some theatrical road scenes were added to recreate Andrea's writings. Even taking this in consideration, the power of words was enough to keep our interest focused on this true and shocking story.
Relevant awards: best documentary (Tribeca); best british newcomer director (London).

July 06, 2012

Margaret (2011)

Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan
Country: USA

Plot: A young woman witnesses a bus accident. That fact will change her life.
Quick comment: 11 years after his fantastic debut with “You Can Count On Me”, Kenneth Lonergan returns to direction. “Margaret” depicts the trauma of a young girl, who felt responsible for the death of a woman ran over by a bus. The story is ok, especially in what concerns to family relationships, but often loses its track in its subplots, becoming a bit messy. Among a luxury cast, there was an admirable performance by Anna Paquin.
Relevant awards: -

July 05, 2012

Being Flynn (2012)

Directed by: Paul Weitz
Country: USA

Plot: Working in a Boston homeless shelter, Nick Flynn re-encounters his father, a con man and self-proclaimed poet.
Quick comment: “Being Flynn” gathers one more time director Paul Weitz and actor Robert De Niro, after they have worked together in “Little Fockers” (2010). Once again, the result wasn't fruitful. From start to finish, this story has no surprises, just drags itself. Incapable to bring any emotions to the surface, we conclude that some “seasoning” was needed here - we just can’t blame DeNiro for that.
Relevant awards: -

July 04, 2012

Extraterrestrial (2011)

Directed by: Nacho Vigalondo
Country: Spain

Plot: Julio wakes up in a strange apartment after a night of partying and discover a giant flying saucer hovering above the city, which is now deserted.
Quick comment: I didn’t like the script. Boring and without life, it wasn’t capable to take me out of my lethargy. Even its atypical dialogs or the tensions of a forbidden love affair, were not able to deliver good results. The indifference felt when watching this movie, made me realize about the wasted time on it.  Not a movie from another world, just a very basic terrestrial one.
Relevant awards: -

July 03, 2012

Midnight Son (2011)

Directed by: Scott Leberecht
Country: USA

Plot: The story of a young man confined to a life of isolation, due to a very rare skin disorder. His world changes when he meets a local bartender and falls in love.
Quick comment: Believe it or not, there still are interesting vampire movies being made. This low-budget film is one of them. Being more realistic than the usual stuff and containing a very chilling ambiance, it pleased me with its contemplative and underground approach. A breath of fresh air is always welcome in a too much standardized theme. Also a scary love story, this is a completely different bite!
Relevant awards: -