September 30, 2012

Wedding In Bessarabia (2009)

Directed by: Nap Toader
Country: Romania

Plot: Love and wedding business in the time of transition.
Review: Presented with a big dose of irony, “wedding at Bessarabia” is a well-disposed movie that parodies with the possible motives for a Romanian boy to get married with a Moldavian girl. All this happens in Bessarabia, a region of Eastern Europe that once was dominated by the soviets, and for several years was disputed between Romania and Moldova. The wedding has its peak with the lemon dance, but also contains other points of interest - the suspicion involving each family; a best man with a forbidden passion for the bride; and a lot of inspired jokes concerning the economical situation - are some of them. Despite of a finale in need of better inspiration, this is a lively movie.
Relevant awards: -

September 29, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Directed by: Wes Anderson
Country: USA

Plot: A pair of young lovers flee their town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them.
Review: Adopting a kind of kitsch style (see Bill Murray's trousers), "Moonrise Kingdom" is another unpredictable comedy from the amazing director Wes Anderson ("Rushmore", "The Royal Tenenbaums", "Darjeeling Limited", "Fantastic Mr. Fox"). His typical style and awkward mood are recognizable at once, in a very engaging love story between two adolescents who ran away from their homes to live in an old refuge that once belonged to an indian tribe. The uncanny approach and poignant humor that is continuously taking out from Mr.Anderson's magical hat, wisely didn't leave the feelings or emotions behind. A cheerful piece of art.
Relevant awards: -

September 28, 2012

Cosmopolis (2012)

Directed by: David Cronenberg
Country: Canada / others

Plot: A 28-year-old billionaire start to see his world falling apart.
Review: "Cosmopolis" is an odd and complex movie. It lingers in abstraction for a lot of time, until we finally unfold what is going on. The movie didn't gain my admiration but let me tell you that the idea was bold and certainly found its inspiration in the world's current economical situation. A bored and depressed wealthy man, keeps wandering through the streets of NY, inside of a futuristic limo, having weird encounters with several people. His concerns are economy, sex and health. In a city inflamed by severe protests against capitalism, future and technology, will this man be able to get rid of the pressure? False espionage or simply prophecy, its monotone and tricky dialogs didn't catch me. 
Relevant awards: -

September 27, 2012

Chico & Rita (2010)

Directed by: Fernando Trueba
Country: Spain

Plot: Chico is a young piano player with big dreams. Rita is a beautiful singer with an extraordinary voice.
Review: What a joy was to realize that Spanish director Fernando Trueba returned to the big movies. "Belle Epoque" marked my adolescence and I will always remember it with yearning. The cuban-jazz of "Chico & Rita, sought some inspiration in some life details of Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés. The story was very well cooked and the option for animation was accomplished with success, conveying all the richness and colors of jazz blended with the passion of romance. As a jazz fan, I was delighted with the appearances of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Ben Webster and Chano Pozo, even in animated shapes. A fulgurant story!
Relevant awards: Best animated film (Gaudí, Goya and European Film Awards).

September 26, 2012

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (2011)

Directed by: Tsui Hark
Country: China

Plot: Set three years after Dragon Inn, innkeeper Jade has disappeared and a new inn has risen from the ashes.
Review: Tsui Hark is a respected chinese director, who usually combines entertaining storytelling, fantastic imagery and frantic action mostly based on martial arts. His last movie, however doesn't show much consistency in the plot. The huge number of characters make the viewer's job harder and only increase the mess of the story. I am convinced that Hark's only concern was to provide us with frantic action and computer manipulated imagery. Completely dispensable, "Flying Swords of Dragon Gate" is a step back when compared with 2010's "Detective Dee".
Relevant awards: -

September 25, 2012

Teddy Bear (2012)

Directed by: Mads Matthiesen
Country: Denmark

Plot: Dennis would really like to find true love. He has never had a girlfriend and lives alone with his mother in a suburb of Copenhagen.
Review: Dennis is a middle-aged bodybuilder, who lives with a possessive and dependent mother. His attempts to build solid relationships with women, are hampered by psychological problems related with sex. This frustration will lead him to plan a trip to Thailand, where according to his uncle, is easier to establish contact with a woman. The character of Dennis was very well projected and compellingly performed by Kim Kold. The fact that we can't guess what's coming next is the plot's biggest virtue. This is a simple but serious movie about maturity, willpower and the difficulty to break some dearest yet unhealthy family ties.
Relevant awards: Direction (Sundance).

September 24, 2012

Arbitrage (2012)

Diected by: Nicholas Jarecki
Country: USA

Plot: A troubled magnate is getting desperate to complete the sale of his trading empire.
Review: “Arbitrage” aims at New York wealthy class and belongs to those typical thrillers that do their job efficiently. The role of a man at the edge of collapse was well suited for Richard Gere, who was able to convey all his worries and tension to the viewer. We can almost sense his unease, when he was faced with bankruptcy, fraud, the death of his lover and family conflicts, all at once. This was the second feature film from the new director Nicholas Jarecki, who also wrote the screenplay and curiously was the author of 2002 best selling book entitled “Breaking in: How 20 Film Directors Got Their Start”.
Relevant awards: -

September 23, 2012

Red Hook Summer (2012)

Directed by: Spike Lee
Country: USA

Plot: A middle-class boy from Atlanta finds his worldview changed as he spends the summer in Red Hook with his deeply religious grandfather.
Review: Spike Lee turns his eyes to Red Hook, Brooklyn, to tell a story about a summer vacation with plenty of religion and social issues in the middle. Spike tries to claim our attention for some reproachable actions of the Church. However, the way he did wasn’t so appealing. I expected more from such delicate theme, and the movie only heats up after 80 minutes, where the quietness gives place to chaotic scenes and surprising revelations. Despite the courage in saying what needs to be said, there’s not much fervor in Spike’s preaching. 
Relevant awards: -

September 22, 2012

You Are The Apple Of My Eye (2011)

Directed by: Giddens Ko
Country: Taiwan

Plot: Ko-Teng has several close friends who had a crush on Shen Chia-Yi.
Review: This Taiwanese movie about coming-of-age is making a lot of success on its own country, as well as Hong Kong and Singapore, but actually didn’t work for me. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel from director Giddens Ko, this comedy/romance begins in 1994 and ends ten years later. One or two good jokes or funny situations, couldn't hide several issues. The direction didn't catch me, while the soundtrack was terribly cheesy. With respect to the story itself, I found it flabby with a lot of insipid characters. Moreover, the symbols constantly popping up on the screen, trying to look like a video game, were annoying and vulgar. Not recommendable.
Relevant awards: Best film (Hong Kong)

September 21, 2012

Wish You Were Here (2012)

Directed by: Kieran Darcy-Smith
Country: Australia

Plot: Four friends lose themselves in a carefree South-East Asian holiday.
Review: “Wish You Were here” is the directorial debut from Kieran Darcy-Smith, after some minor performances as an actor in two of the most successful Australian movies of the last years, such as: “Animal Kingdom” or “The Square”. The story guidelines basically deal with lie and guilt in very different ways. Structured with constant flashbacks, the movie was capable of sharpen my curiosity for a while but in the end, I had that strange sensation of wanting something more. It’s not a bad movie at all, just was not so emotional or intense as insinuated.
Relevant awards: -

September 20, 2012

Sing Your Song (2011)

Directed by: Susanne Rostock
Country: USA

Plot: Most people know the lasting legacy of Harry Belafonte, the entertainer.
Review: A movie that covers Harry Belafonte’s life since his birth in 1927, NY, until the current days. Narrated by Harry himself, we are elucidated about how he made his success in the show business, some details of his private life, but mainly about his political activism in US and throughout the world, playing an important role against race discrimination, war and poverty. Archive footage were intercalated with the narration of the story and several people were interviewed. I can’t say I am a fan of Harry’s music, but I surely identify myself with all he has been fighting for, throughout all these years.
Relevant awards: -

September 19, 2012

Prometheus (2012)

Directed by: Ridley Scott
Country: USA

Plot: A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe.
Review: “Prometheus” is another space odyssey by the hand of Ridley Scott. The similarities with “Alien” are obvious but not surprising, since Scott also directed that huge landmark of sci-fi cinema. The creators of mankind are the novelty, added to the usual humans, robots and aliens. The plot can’t hide some narrative issues and unexplained happenings, but on the other hand, the special effects are awesome and the moments of chaos are nicely crafted. Taking the end into account, it’s pretty obvious that a sequel is on its way, which I hope it will be as ravishing as this one.
Relevant awards: -

September 18, 2012

Warriors Of The Rainbow (2012)

Directed by: Wei Te-Sheng
Country: Taiwan

Plot: An indigenous clan-based people living in harmony with nature find their way of life threatened.
Review: More than 4 hours of cinema in Wei Te Sheng’s epic, concerning the Japanese occupation of Taiwan and the relentless opposition from the indigenous Seediq tribe. I believe that the duration could have been reduced as well as the number of chopped heads, but the movie gained my respect and consideration for all it conveys. I was touched by the bravery, courage, honor and creeds of this people. As true warriors, they chose to fight instead of being overwhelmed by the Japanese and lead a life of poverty and sadness. Lastly, I just wanted to mention the heavenly tribal chants, which left me in ecstasy. A fierce accomplishment.
Relevant awards: Best film (Golden Horse, Taiwan).

September 17, 2012

Nameless Gangster (2012)

Directed by: Yun Jong-Bin
Country: South Korea

Plot: On the verge of being fired, a corrupt customs official finds a haul of drugs and teams up with a vicious gangster to become the most powerful crime partnership in Busan.
Review: “Nameless Gangster” is an exciting movie. The story is all about power and follows a gangster whose bigger yearn is to become number one in the business. Choi Min-Sik ("Oldboy", "Lady Vengeance", "I Saw the Devil") was perfectly chosen for the main role, proving that he’s one of the most beloved and valuable Korean actors of the moment. Tension, action and humor are combined in the right proportions. Moreover, it’s all there: bribes, treason, violence, greed, lust, power and family…After all, this is a gangster’s movie!
Relevant awards: -

September 16, 2012

A Quiet Life (2010)

Directed by: Claudio Cupellini
Country: Italy

Plot: A man escapes to Germany and starts a new life, thinking he will finally enjoy a quiet life. All changes when his son arrives in town on a mission.
Review: In “A quiet life”, we can see Italian Mafia operating in Germany. This foreign “job” is seen by Diego as an opportunity to visit his father, Rosario, who fled from the Mafia fifteen years before, in order to start a new life. Everything goes badly when Rosario’s true identity is discovered, which forces him to take risky and radical decisions. The movie is stated in tepid tones and was never able to scoop any magical formula to surprise us. Although, far from the latest Italian movies about the same subject, such as "Gomorrah" or "Il Divo", it will still be able to provide minimum entertainment.
Relevant awards: -

September 15, 2012

Avé (2011)

Directed by: Konstantin Bojanov
Country: Bulgaria

Plot: Kamen is hitchhiking by the side of the road when he meets Avé.
Review: The idea for this movie was interesting but the outcome was not so unique or enthusiastic. It’s a road-movie, where a couple of lone teen-agers find their lives changing after met each other through hitchhiking. The young actors had confident performances, but somehow I started to lose some focus in the middle of the movie. Maybe due to its pace or the frequent little games and lies played by its characters, but something made me step back a little. Reinforcing my point of view: a plot with dashing ideas, yet without a glamorous execution. Watchable, though. 
Relevant awards: Best film (Fantasporto); best director (Sofia); FIPRESCI prize (Warsaw).

September 14, 2012

Bill Cunningham New York (2010)

Directed by: Richard Press
Country: USA

Plot: A cinematic profile of the noted veteran New York City fashion photographer.
Review: It was satisfying to know more about the life of Bill Cunningham, famous and elusive fashion photographer of New York Times who has dedicated all his life to his career. Light and honest, this short documentary kept me curious throughout its 84 minutes. The movie shows not only the energy and obsessive dedication of this man, but also his sadness and loneliness. After watching this, we keep wondering which of these factors has had more weight in his life. A likeable biography.
Relevant awards: -

September 13, 2012

Nothing's All Bad (2010)

Directed by: Mikkel Munch-Fals
Country: Denmark

Plot: Four people struggle with their sexual needs and their desire to be loved.
Review: First feature film from Mikkel Munch-Fals, wasn't so satisfying as expected. Adopting the typical despair and grief from Scandinavian dramas, focuses on different characters who are trying to cope with loneliness, sexual misfit and extreme psychological pain. The fear of not being accepted as they really are, associated with the idea that there’s always someone for you (no matter what problem you might have), is played here as a major key, but the movie happens to be too dense and cold to be fully enjoyed. Not a cheerful choice.
Relevant awards: New voices/visions grand jury prize (Palm Springs).

September 12, 2012

The Other Bank (2009)

Directed by: George Ovashvili
Country: Georgia

Plot: A young Georgian refugee leaves the safe zone to look for his father.
Review: “The Other Bank” is irreproachable as an artsy achievement. The story tells a lot about the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, relying on mindful compositions to express thoroughly the spirit and people involved. Tedo, a 12 year-old Georgian kid, decides to leave alone for his hometown to look for his missing dad. The trip will be full of good and bad surprises. Whenever things go wrong, Tedo has a technique to make it better. He just closes his eyes tight to imagine a completely different reality than the one he’s actually living. This was the first and only feature film, so far, directed by George Ovashvili. Gripping, memorable and deeply moving.
Relevant awards: Best film (Fribourg, Molodist, Mons, Paris, Tromso, Yerenvan, etc.).

September 11, 2012

Grabbers (2012)

Directed by: Jon Wright
Country: UK

Plot: When an island off the coast of Ireland is invaded by bloodsucking aliens, the heroes discover that getting drunk is the only way to survive.
Review: “Grabbers” is clumsily funny, but not original. We already have seen this plot somewhere with the humor and horror working side by side. The new thing here was the solution to defeat the aliens, a kind of powerful octopus with big mouth and tentacles. The famous British humor, much sharper and efficient than the horror scenes, incites “Grabbers” to become a good choice for those who search for a pleasant time. Just don’t show it to your kids!
Relevant awards: -

September 10, 2012

Compliance (2012)

Directed by: Craig Zobel
Country: USA

Plot: When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no-one is left unharmed.
Review: Even if this movie has been inspired by true events, its story is absurdly foolish. Who would believe in a police officer who demands by phone for completely nonsensical procedures to be done by civilians, in a presumed robbery occurred in a fast-food store? Obviously, something was wrong with this since the beginning and I just couldn’t cope with such a mindless story. The movie’s credibility got shaken with the ridiculous and sometimes hilarious situations.  “Compliance” may be many things but a catchy movie. It is rather infuriating.
Relevant awards: -

September 09, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Country: USA

Plot: Eight years on, a new terrorist leader, Bane, overwhelms Gotham's finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy.
Review: Christopher Nolan already proved to be a master in action/thriller. Seven years after “Batman Begins” and four after “The Dark Knight”, comes the final sequel of Batman’s adventures. “The Dark Knight Rises” is the weakest part of the trilogy, revealing an excess of confidence as well as some lack of imagination on a few action scenes. Nonetheless, is always exciting follow the stunts of a hero so many times depicted in the world of cinema. Although visually impressive, it didn’t show the brain or the accuracy of his predecessors. 
Relevant awards: -

September 08, 2012

Sacrifice (2010)

Directed by: Chen Kaige
Country: China

Plot: To save the only child of the Zhao Family, whose entire clan was massacred, a doctor sacrifices his own son.
Review: Ones who are familiar with previous works by Chen Kaige, must be aware of his capabilities. “Farewell, My Concubine”, “The Emperor and The Assassin” or “Life on a String” will be remembered as top quality movies in its genre. “Sacrifice” is a typical Kaiges’s film. As usual, the importance of costume designs, characterization and appropriate scenarios, are well weighted. The weakness here is the plot, which is not so rich or appealing as in some earlier works. Lovers of the genre will be pleased with the action's effects, while the others can just take a look to pass some time. I may say that its purposes were achieved with competence.
Relevant awards: -

September 07, 2012

Snow White And The Huntsman (2012)

Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Country: USA

Plot: In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.
Review: This was a difficult movie to rate. It showed positive things, despite of some evident fragilities. Regardless of the “Hollywoodesc” approach and its obvious commercial concerns to impress through fantastic imagery, it still putted some emotion in it. Charlize Theron was simply amazing in Queen Ravenna’s role and her mirror was a very original creation. This completely loose version of the German tale, made popular by the Grimm brothers, was not so bad after all and even without making wonders, was able to provide some amusement.
Relevant awards: -

September 06, 2012

Damsels In Distress (2011)

Directed by: Whit Stillman
Country: USA

Plot: A trio of girls set out to change the male-dominated environment of the Seven Oaks college campus.
Review: With screenplay and direction by the New Yorker Whit Stillman ("Metropolitan"), "Damsels In Distress" is centered in a group of babbler girls, who work for a College Suicide Prevention Center.  By making long and considerable stupid conversations about men, depression and suicide, these student girls tried to use smart tones as well as a confident humoristic style, without practical results. Dance and music are present too but are unable to save the movie from superficiality and inconsequent jokes. And all ends with a dance music called “Sambola”….
Relevant awards: Best actress (Dublin).