August 31, 2012

Love.Net (2011)

Directed by: Ilian Djevelekov
Country: Bulgaria

Plot: Follows the parallel stories of a number of characters who are trying to change their lives via the Internet or are simply having fun online.
Review: A movie with high aspirations, albeit being unable to deliver anything worthwhile. John Lawton, old vocalist of the rock band Uriah Heep, has a small role here but could not do better to avoid the "off-key" mood of this movie. A monotonous sequence of intercalated stories about love, involving people who are addicted to the Internet's dating chats. The acting wasn’t strong and the movie simply couldn’t be funny, or deep, or dramatic…A failure.
Relevant awards: -

August 30, 2012

Magic Mike (2012)

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Country: USA

Plot: A male stripper teaches a younger performer how to party, pick up women, and make easy money.
Review: Soderbergh, better than anyone else, knows how to join commercial and independent style. A story about male strippers was a bold step to take, but he managed to turn it into an uncommon film. Despite of the dispensable cheesy romance, “Magic Mike” is a natural, funny and entertaining movie. Filled with objectivity, it makes you aware of the dangers and risks behind the scenes in this kind of night job. The sturdy direction by Soderbergh and a thorough performance by Matthew McConaughey made this one a movie to consider. 
Relevant awards: -

August 29, 2012

Guilty (2011)

Directed by: Vincent Garenq
Country: France

Plot: A real story about a man who battles to prove his innocence.
Review: The intriguing and sordid story of Alain Márecaux and his wife, both accused of having sexually abused their own son and other children. Expectation is present until the end, when we anxiously try to find out if they are guilty or mere victims of the accusers. The despair and humiliation felt by the characters will make you uncomfortable in a movie that calls into question the competence of the judges and police investigators. The second feature film from Vincent Garenq is well worth, with solid acting and a juicy story.
Relevant awards: Label Europa cinema (Venice).

August 28, 2012

I Wish I Knew (2010)

Directed by: Jia Zhang Ke
Country: China

Plot: Focuses on the people, their stories and architecture spanning from the mid-1800s, when Shanghai was opened as a trading port, to the present day.
Review: Jia Zhang Ke continues his brilliant career with another elucidating documentary, which happens to be a tribute to Shanghai. We have an historical and political lesson about this city by listen to the testimonials of known personalities, most of them related to cinema. Sometimes it can become a bit confusing, especially if we are not familiarized with the Shanghai’s history, but Zhang Ke had the wit to fascinate us with superbly composed frames of desolated and abandoned landscapes, just as he already did in “Still Life”(2006) or “24 City”(2008).
Relevant awards: Best documentary (Dubai).

August 27, 2012

For Lovers Only (2010)

Directed by: Michael Polish
Country: USA

Plot: An American photographer runs into an old flame while on assignment in Paris.
Review: A romantic essay from the Polish brothers (as usual: Mark writes and performs, while Michael directs) with a total different approach so far. Filmed on black-and-white, “For Lovers Only” shows an extra-marital affair occurring in France between a man and a woman in love. The story takes time to evolve but was able to catch our attention, aided by a musical score that served well its purposes. The main drawback was the excessive fashionable images that overlaps all the rest, creating some kind of artificial aesthetic. Polish brothers best films still are the early ones: “Twin Falls Idaho” (1999) and “Northfork” (2003), the latter being a true masterpiece.
Relevant awards: -

August 26, 2012

Hemel (2011)

Directed by: Sacha Polak
Country: Netherlands

Plot: During her nightly escapades Hemel searches for the difference between sex and love.
Review: Some substance was found in this character’s study but with savorless results. A disturbed girl sleeps every night with a different man, always searching for something new but feeling nothing more than indifference. An exception to this, seems to be a married man. The movie also emphasizes the odd and dependent relationship with her father, with whom she lives. “Hemel” is all about sex, loneliness and family (or the lack of it), making use of a rambling structure and pale imagery. 
Relevant awards: FIPRESCI Prize (Berlin).

August 25, 2012

Albert Nobbs (2011)

Directed by: Rodrigo Garcia
Country: USA/UK

Plot: Albert Nobbs struggles to survive in late 19th century Ireland, where women aren't encouraged to be independent.
Review: Albert Nobbs wasn’t much a sympathetic character. The good performance by Glenn Close, who also wrote the screenplay, didn’t put this movie on top of my preferences. The story isn’t bad. Actually, it has something to say about women’s independence in 19th century’s Ireland, but the way it does isn’t so absorbing or emotional enough to avoid some indifference. The characterization of Mr.Nobbs (Glenn Colse) was good, while the one from the painter Hubert Page (Janet McTeer) didn't convince me. Not powerful enough.
Relevant awards: Best actress (Tokyo); sebastain prize (San Sebastian).

August 24, 2012

Last Ride (2009)

Directed by: Glendyn Ivin
Country: Australia

Plot: A young boy travels across Australia with his father, who's wanted by the law.
Review: An interesting trip through the amazing Australian landscapes, where a man is on the run after committing a brutal crime. As a single parent he is forced to take his son with him. Sleeping in the streets, their only concern is to get food and water. The father-son relationship was very well conceived and Hugo Weaving’s performance, alternating between tenderness and bursts of anger, deserved more than a few nominations for best leading role. Although the end has been a bit strained, Mr.Ivin used his skills to make this story touch our feelings and subsist in our minds.
Relevant awards: -

August 23, 2012

The Squad (2011)

Directed by: Jaime Osorio Marquez
Country: Colombia

Plot: A team of Colombian soldiers are sent to an isolated outpost after losing contact with their comrades in arms.
Review: The similarities of this story with the Serbian “The Enemy”, reviewed five days ago in this blog, are too much evident. The screenwriters from both movies were not the same and the movies are from the same year. I just wanted to share this curious fact. Anyway, the Colombian “The squad” was much more efficient and scary than its twin Serbian competitor. Maintaining a certain ambiguity and the tension levels at top from start to end, it also revealed to have a great direction and musical score behind the story. Aberrant and creepy!
Relevant awards: -

August 22, 2012

The Minister (2011)

Directed by: Pierre Scholler
Country: France

Plot: Political drama following Minister for Transport, Bertrand Saint-Jean, as he struggles to cope with personal problems and the darker side of being in a position of power.
Review: A detailed look at life of Bertrand Saint-Jean, French minister for transport and a man from the people, who only lives for his profession. Here, we can witness the constant stress and schemes as part of political games, the loneliness felt when things don't go right, the back and forth in crucial decisions, and many more. With a lot of dialog over almost 2 hours, “The Minister” is what it is, and doesn’t really want to show anything more than a man’s obsessed dedication to his image and career. It just has a peculiar and engaging way to show it.
Relevant awards: FIPRESCI prize (Cannes).

August 21, 2012

Himizu (2011)

Directed by: Shion Sono
Country: Japan

Plot: Two teenagers living in post-tsunami Japan embark on a campaign of violence against evil wrong doers.
Review: “Himizu”, unsurprisingly, is another crazy and chaotic movie directed by Shion Sono. Being a master in the art of shocking, Sono dares to mix so distinguished subjects such as Fukushima’s tsunami, parental abuse, Japanese mafia and miserable suicidal characters. Although provocative enough, it suffers from the usual use and abuse of repetitive beatings and violence that leaves you out of breath. Nevertheless, the open and hopeful finale was able to raise our expectations, showing how important is not to give up quest for self-identity.
Relevant awards: Best acting (Venice); critic's prize (Deauville).

August 20, 2012

The Snows Of Kilimanjaro (2011)

Directed by: Robert Guédiguian
Country: France

Plot: A union pensioner and his wife are robbed, but find that merely getting the assailants brought to justice is not enough for their consciences.
Review: There are no doubts about the good intentions of this film. Humanism is evident and every single actor worked hard to show exactly that (specially Ariane Ascaride). However, the beauty of the story didn’t spare us from a sensation of discontentment due to various reasons. The film drags too much in familiar barbecues’ and tepid conversations, never reaching our true feelings. Furthermore, the musical score didn’t fit well, becoming often annoying. I wonder, if Aki Kaurismaki had directed this plot, perhaps he would turn it in something more effective. 
Relevant awards: Best film (Valladolid).

August 18, 2012

The Enemy (2011)

Directed by: Dejan Zecevic
Country: Serbia

Plot: A couple of days after the Balkan war has ended, a group of soldiers in charge of clearing the fields from mines, make an odd discovery.
Review: A team of soldiers, while trying to dismantle their own mines, start to freak out after discover a man sealed between the four walls of a factory’s basement. A combination of war and supernatural, results in a very dark ambiance. The acting, directing and beautiful photography are very positive. On the other hand I found the plot a bit messy and unstable, frequently making us miss its intentions with some deliberate ambiguity. Anyway, this was a good effort from Dejan Zecevic, lately dedicated to TV-series.
Relevant awards: Audience award (Thessaloniki).

August 17, 2012

Wetlands (2011)

Directed by: Guy Edoin
Country: Canada

Plot: On a dairy farm in the Eastern Townships, in the middle of a drought and while the land is parching, a drama will disrupt the life of the Santerre family.
Review: “Wetlands” is the promising first feature film from French-canadian Guy Edoin. The plot unfolds the bitter story of a family of farmers in Quebec, who are trying to do their best to avoid bankruptcy. All gets worse when an accident kills the man of the house, who leaves behind a pregnant wife and a disoriented son. The arrival of a stranger offering help will then bring even more trouble. The content is rich and we can glimpse anger, anguish, loss, opportunism, forgiveness and search for sexual identity in a quiet but incisive film.
Relevant awards: -

August 16, 2012

A Simple Life (2011)

Directed by: Ann Hui
Country: China

Plot: After suffering a stroke, an altruistic maid announces that she wants to quit her job and move into an old people's home.
Review: “A simple life” is a beautiful story. Beyond the concept of family, this is a movie about real life in a very tender way. After watching this movie, I felt uncomfortable by thinking about getting old. It’s scary to imagine how will be our last days. In a movie without many tension or dynamic moments, director Ann Hui did a great job, getting the right balance to avoid viewer’s distraction. A powerful human story with a huge meaningful message is something to praise.
Relevant awards: Honorable mention and best actress (Venice); grand prize (Tallin); best director (Golden Film Fest., Taiwan).

August 15, 2012

The Dictator (2012)

Directed by: Larry Charles
Country: USA

Plot: The heroic story of a dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.
Review: Sasha Baron Cohen should consider change his performance style. He becomes tiresome after a while and only sporadically hits the target. After the complete failure of “Bruno”, “The Dictator” follows the same path and didn’t convince. As usually in Larry Charles’s films there’s some criticism involved but it always handles the jokes and funny situations in a quite dull way to be able to captivate. You can waste your time with “The Dictator” if you’re a big fan of this type of comedies but I would not recommend it.
Relevant awards: -

August 14, 2012

Bernie (2011)

Directed by: Richard Linklater
Country: USA

Plot: In small-town Texas, the local mortician strikes up a friendship with a wealthy widow.
Review: The true story of Bernie Tiede, a charismatic Texan and devoted Christian who decided to take advantage of a millionaire widow. It’s intriguing to see how a person that commits a terrible crime can be so loved and cherished by an entire community. Self-taught director Richard Linklater, has a strong return with a movie that doesn’t discard a smart and morbid humor merged with the seriousness of a brutal crime. It also makes us to have a good thought about how impartiality in a crime judgment is so fundamental. Good story!
Relevant awards: -

August 13, 2012

The Day He Arrives (2011)

Directed by: Sang-Soo Hong
Country: South Korea

Plot: Sang-Joon is a professor in the film department at a provincial university. He goes to Seoul and stays for 3 days.
Review: Korean cinema is very well represented with Sang Soo Hong’s movies. “The Day He Arrives” was shot in black-and-white and with its nostalgic mood, makes us look deep into friendship and relationships. Very concise in its approach, is a movie about encounters, promises, loneliness, and many drinks and cigarettes as possible. If you like intelligent movies with elaborated speech, a philosophy behind it and very close to reality, this is one not to miss. A gem of modern cinema with slight touches of classic.
Relevant awards: -

August 11, 2012

Punch (2011)

Directed by: Han Lee
Country: South Korea

Plot: 17-year-old Wan-Deuk comes from a poor family and his grades in school are equally poor.
Review: “Punch” is a funny and enjoyable movie - the fourth from director Han Lee.  The first half was very interesting to follow with the surprise factor coming up front, while the second was not able to hold the levels of enjoyment. Some jokes started to repeat a while and everything reminding us “Karate Kid” was pure coincidence… Despite this, the movie introduces some fresh ideas wrapped in funny moments. Good for having some good laughs in a relaxed environment.
Relevant awards: -

August 10, 2012

Play (2011)

Direcetd by: Ruben Ostlund
Country: Sweden

Plot: An astute observation based on real cases of bullying, occurred in central Gothenburg, Sweden.
Review: “Play” has a lot to say. Bullying is a very debated problem nowadays but certainly is very far away from being solved. After “Involuntary”, Ruben Ostlund returns to juvenile problem’s theme, being very objective in its message. This film is far more comprehensive than just bullying in Sweden. Different classes, inattentive parents, immigration problems, how the society faces this issue and trauma are some of the topics. Smart and sharp movie, with wonderful performances by all actors and a confident direction, “Play” happens to be a notable critical look to a specific problem and to society itself.
Relevant awards: Jury prize (Dublin); best director (Tokyo and Gijón); audience award (Tromso).

August 09, 2012

Burning Man (2011)

Directed by: Jonathan Teplitzky
Country: Australia / UK

Plot: An English chef with a chic restaurant on Bondi Beach trying to put his life back on track.
Review: Jonathan Teplitzky returns with “Burning Man”, eight years after his two first releases (“Better Than Sex” and “Gettin’ Square”) haven’t been very well accepted in general. There are significant improvements in this irreverent movie, showing how hard the life can be for a couple, when one of them is struggling with cancer. It showed something fresh and bold but perhaps its structure needed a different approach. The hero is Mathew Goode, who has an effervescent performance. Sufficient solidness.
Relevant awards: -

August 08, 2012

Girl Model (2011)

Directed by: David Redmon, Ashley Sabin
Country: USA

Plot: Follows a complex supply chain between Siberia, Japan, and the U.S. within the modeling industry.
Review: A kind of "indie" documentary, “Girl Model” makes its point regarding the business of model agencies throughout the world. The movie is centered in Nadya, a 13 year-old girl from Siberia, who after passing a first casting, is sent to Japan to do some jobs. Once there, nothing went as promised and her dreams, also shared by her family, fell apart. Other protagonist is Ashley Arbaugh, who tells us how she became a scout for modeling industry and how she isn’t proud for working in this field. Very honest woman, although being unable to quit a pretty profitable job. 
Relevant awards: -

August 07, 2012

Our Grand Despair (2011)

Directed by: Seyfi Teoman
Country: Turkey

Plot: The peaceful cohabitation of two 30-something bachelors is disrupted when they both fall in love with the charming young woman who moves in with them.
Review: Nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear, “Our Grand Despair” turned out to be a disillusion. The plot seemed promising at the beginning but never went further than that. Lacking passion, little by little becomes tedious until we feel completely indifferent to what might happen to its characters. By trying to play with so confusing emotions, the movie loses orientation and objectivity. Skip this one.
Relevant awards: Jury and people's choice award (Instanbul); Best film (Nuremberg).

August 06, 2012

The Eye Of The Storm (2011)

Directed by: Fred Schepisi
Country: Australia

Plot: Elizabeth Hunter controls all in her life-society, her staff, her children; but the once great beauty will now determine her most defiant act as she chooses her time to die.
Review: Veteran Fred Schepisi is a director with a vast different styles covered along his career, having made his best achievements with “The Devil’s Playground”, “The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith” and “A Cry in the Dark”. “The Eye of the Storm” is a pungent story that could have been harder to watch if it wasn’t so magnificently acted by Charlotte Rampling, Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis. It gives an insight look at an Australian bourgeois’ family extending its criticism to the society itself. Mature cinema.
Relevant awards: Special award (Melbourne); jury award (Rome).

August 04, 2012

Punk's Not Dead (2011)

Directed by: Vladimir Blazevski
Country: Macedonia

Plot: A group of crotchety codgers attempt to revive the punk-rock band they all played in 17 years earlier.
Review: Very entertaining, “Punk’s Not Dead” celebrates a way of life and reawakens an out-of-date music genre. Beyond giving an exact idea of how theses punks live in Macedonia, it makes funny of the long disputes between Macedonians and Albanians. The accelerated rhythm will make you unrest, in the same way the punk music does. There are so many things going on here, in this funny and anarchic musical comedy.
Relevant awards: East of West award (Karlovy Vary).