October 29, 2012

The Amazing Spider Man (2012)

Directed by: Marc Webb
Country: USA

Summary: Peter Parker finds a clue that might help him understand why his parents disappeared when he was young.
Review: Peter Parker’s story, before and after he becomes the amazing Spider Man. The movie takes good advantage of some sensitive moments in the story but exaggerates on the effects. A giant lizard and some impossible imagery have made this Spider Man much more exhibitionist than it used to be. Of course that a super-hero movie has to be spectacular, but not so much to look like a circus on Christmas time. The plot could have been better availed and it was a shame that director Webb (“500 Days of Summer”) has opted for a modernistic transformation of the hero that was born in the 60’s.
Relevant awards: -

October 28, 2012

Thale (2012)

Directed by: Aleksander Nordaas
Country: Norway

Summary: Norwegian folklore turns out to be real when Leo and Elvis encounter Thale in a basement.
Review: Nordic low-budget horror movie “Thale” is seen with curiosity but revealed weaknesses that leads to disappointment. It fails mostly on the ability to scare us. The characters are uninteresting, even when exposing their personal problems, and the horror scenes aren’t sufficiently persuasive or intense for us to hold our breath. The story basically consists in two crime-scene cleaners who find a strange girl in a basement, after years of captivity. She is connected with some forest creatures that constantly lurk around the place. If this is your kind of movie, I rather suggest “Troll Hunter”(2010), which will cause much more powerful sensations.
Relevant awards: -

October 27, 2012

Ruby Sparks (2012)

Directed by: Jonathan Dayton / Valerie Faris
Country: USA

Summary: A novelist struggling with writer's block finds romance in a most unusual way: by creating a female character he thinks will love him, then willing her into existence.
Review: This comedy, with or without fantasy, is a gem. An original romantic comedy, filled with mystery, funny situations and a wonderful ending. The plot got me from the beginning with its offbeat mood and had the particularity of having been written by the actress Zoe Kazan, who plays Ruby Sparks. The direction was handled by the same duo who directed “Little Miss Sunshine” in 2006, which I also recommend. Thus, we are before an enjoyable, smart and sometimes disarming picture. And yes!…like most of the comedies it has a couple of silly moments, which in this case worked wondrously.
Relevant awards: -

October 26, 2012

Your Sister's Sister (2011)

Directed by: Lynn Shelton
Country: USA

Summary: Iris invites her friend Jack to stay at her family's island getaway after the death of his brother.
Review: A good surprise, since I’m a bit picky with this kind of romantic dramas. A movie with only three people involved that worked perfectly by maintaining the story interesting till the end. This would be impossible if the acting wasn’t so natural and truthful – Emily Blunt, Mark Duplass and Rosemarie DeWitt were fantastic. A handful of non-forced comic situations helped to set the climate, in a story where friendship and love walk side-by-side. The dramatic side of the story was explored without being too sentimental but the conflict’s resolution was set up too quickly, without maturation, being the only drawback.
Relevant awards: -

October 25, 2012

Conquest 1453 (2012)

Directed by: Faruk Aksoy
Country: Turkey

Summary: After the death of his father Murat II, Mehmet II ascends to the Ottoman throne.
Review: This showy production from Turkey was a big disillusion. The historical context of the plot wasn’t enough to save it from all kinds of clichés that you can imagine. Based on the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks with Sultan Mehmed II in command, “Conquest 1453” is overextended and hyper-saturated both in colors and battles. Made for the masses, its musical score just creates an illusion of great intensity warlike scenes and dramatic situations without any positive effect. To avoid!
Relevant awards: -

October 24, 2012

Argo (2012)

Directed by: Ben Affleck
Country: USA

Summary: One man will try to rescue six fugitive American diplomatics from Iran.
Review: Ben Affleck is better successful as director rather than  actor. He smartly picks up interesting themes that he transforms with mastery in appealing and rousing pieces of cinema. “Argo” is a political thriller with an enormous amount of tension. The story was based in a real incident, when the members of US Embassy in Tehran were made hostages by Iranians in fury, during the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Six people, however, were able to escape and sought refuge in Canadian Ambassador’s residence. It was curious to see how the CIA cooperated with the movie industry to address the problem. Quality is present in the political movie of the year.

October 23, 2012

To Rome With Love (2012)

Directed by: Woody Allen
Country: USA/Italy

Summary: The lives of some visitors and residents of Rome and the romances, adventures and predicaments they get into.
Review: Woody Allen continues to direct one movie per year. As a creative, no one doubts of his capabilities for delivering wonderful stories, but sometimes the pressure might not help. “To Rome with Love” is his new comedy, with all the attributes that make his style recognizable, even though this time the plot isn’t strong enough to remain with us. His tribute to Rome consists of a few goofy stories about being a celebrity (or becoming one) mixed with some adultery situations that don’t take us anywhere. Not particularly funny, we may say that this was another trip of Woody Allen into the more and more trivial world of his ideas.
Relevant awards: -

October 22, 2012

The Door (2012)

Directed by: Istvan Szabo
Country: Hungary

Plot: This is a story of a special relationship between two women.
Review: Based on semi-autobiographical writings by Hungarian Magda Szabó (1917-2007), “The Door” didn’t enchant, but didn’t disappoint me also. The plot concerns the odd relationship developed by a young woman-writer and her maid. After “The Queen”(2006), Helen Mirren has another superb performance, being the key element for maintaining the movie in acceptable levels. The main characters conveyed affection and care for each other without being slushy, but I didn’t feel much intensity or enthusiasm in the story, maybe because it was too straightforward in its narrative and didn’t give us enough time to absorb some details. Easy watching, though.
Relevant awards: -

October 21, 2012

Killer Joe (2011)

Directed by: William Friedkin
Country: USA

Plot: When a debt puts a young man's life in danger, he turns to commit a murder.
Review: “Killer Joe” is the new feature film from the 77 year-old director William Friedkin, who is mostly known for two essential classics of the 70’s: one in horror genre – “The Exorcist”; and the other in crime/thriller – “The French Connection”.  Adopting a completely different style when compared to his previous works, we can find sarcastic humor mixed with violence outbursts in a very dark tale about a family that hires a professional killer to commit an hideous murder. The characters alternate between daft and rough, while the plot is never predictable or flat. Maybe the final scene could have been better set up, but in general “Killer Joe” accomplishes its purposes with distinction.
Relevant awards: Golden mouse (Venice).

October 20, 2012

Code Blue (2011)

Directed by: Urzsula Antoniak
Country: Netherlands

Plot: Marian, a middle aged nurse, devotes herself to her patients like a saint. 
Review: “Code Blue” is depressing and unbalanced as its main character. Marian is a lonely nurse with a sexual frustration to solve. That frustration will lead her to humiliation in many ways. She is kind to her patients, which are old people in the verge of dying. Often, she even gives a hand for helping them to pass away but the guilt and discomfort of doing that is reflected in her life. The second feature film in two years by the Polish-Dutch director Urzsula Antoniak is very painful to watch and leaves you with a sensation of sadness and uneasiness. Vague on many aspects, some crucial situations seemed purposely created just for the pleasure of shocking. 
Relevant awards: Best cinematography (Nederlands)

October 19, 2012

The Orheim Company (2012)

Directed by: Arild Andresen
Country: Norway

Plot: Jarle Klepp gets a message that forces his mind back to something he'd rather forgotten - his childhood with his father in Stavanger.
Review: “The Orheim Company” is a Norwegian drama about how tough can be growing up inside an unhealthy family environment. The story can be taken seriously, with good acting in general and a confident directing. Alcohol problems are in the basis of the plot, with some embarrassing and tense situations that worked in a very compelling manner. But the movie has another side, which is not so favorable. The story is not sufficiently original or stimulant to be recalled. I consider it a movie to watch, but not to be part of my first choices.
Relevant awards: best actor and supporting actress (Amanda awards, Norway)

October 18, 2012

Looper (2012)

Directed by: Rian Johnson
Country: USA

Plot: In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits.
Review: “Looper” is my type of action movie: creative, venturous and knowing exactly what has to deliver. The story moves between present and future and sometimes can be hard to follow. Being futuristic, its special effects make justice to the plot, which compels you to be constantly on the verge of happenings in order to unveil its mysteries. Clearly above the average of most of thriller/sci-fi movies, it confirms Rian Johnson as one of the most interesting writers of the moment. I couldn’t fail to mention the little big actor Pierce Gagnon (in the role of Cid), an emerging talent with a bright future in the world of cinema. 
Relevant awards: -

October 17, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

Directed by: Colin Trevorrow
Country: USA

Plot: Three magazine employees head out on an assignment to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel.
Review: Auspicious, is the best we can say from “Safety not guaranteed” after watching it. A likeable comedy that began in a spirited mood but wasn’t able to handle the levels of satisfaction till the end. Without being charming, the characters were meticulously constructed and its odd behavior within an inventive story, gave it a fresh look. Some warm feelings and dark humor are both present too. However, I felt that the story was gradually losing “spirit” when approaching the finale, which was a kind of disappointment to me. With its languid sci-fi, the safety may not be guaranteed but a good dose of entertainment surely is.
Relevant awards: -

October 16, 2012

Savages (2012)

Directed by: Oliver Stone
Country: USA

Plot: Pot growers Ben and Chon face off against the Mexican drug cartel who kidnapped their shared girlfriend.
Review: “Savages” brings back Oliver Stone to the style he likes most. A coarse style with some good results in the past but that really doesn’t work well when the plot is full of holes. Blake Lively, whose voice is adorned with a fake sentimentality, narrates the entire story. A story that tries to be cool by all the means but has no juice enough to make us ask for more. I was anxious for the movie to end, just to confirm that nothing is distinguishable in “Savages” to deserve a look.
Relevant awards: -

October 15, 2012

Kill List (2011)

Directed by: Ben Wheatley
Country: UK

Plot: Nearly a year after a botched job, a hitman takes a new assignment with the promise of a big payoff for three killings.
Review: The excessive outbursts of violence are the mark of British “Kill List”, which fits all right in the horror/thriller genre. The story has Jay as the main character, a psycho thug who lives with his wife and son. Without working for eight months, things at home start to get nasty and Jay, with the help of his friend Gal, decides to accept a job from a strange organization, which consisted in killing three people. What seemed to be a simple job quickly ends as a nightmare, in a movie that reserves all the surprises for the last 15 minutes. The boost was welcomed but not sufficient to put this movie in a top level. Still, we can draw some creeps of it.

October 14, 2012

Dark Horse (2011)

Directed by: Todd Solondz
Country: USA

Plot: Romance blooms between two thirty-somethings in arrested development: an avid toy collector who is the dark horse of his family and a depressed woman on the rebound.
Review: Known by the strong psychological content of his movies, Todd Solondz has a flair for pessimistic and intense dramas. The sad story of “Dark Horse” is no exception, uncovering loneliness, incomprehension and frustration. The plot is not forced, as in some previous works, and the scathing dark humor makes the right balance to the despair conveyed by characters. The main character is Abe whose self-contempt and revolt are consequences of family issues since childhood, making him frequently detached from reality (he often dreams awaken). A bitter movie, yes, but authentic.
Relevant awards: -

October 13, 2012

Caesar Must Die (2012)

Directed by: Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
Country: Italy

Plot: Inmates at a high-security prison in Rome prepare for a public performance.
Review: Lately, the Italian cinema is in needing of inspiration, but fortunately, Taviani brothers are still active to fill our hearts with hope. Originality and simplicity was always a constant in their works and in the good and bad, they are to praise for having such a different approach. This time the idea was to join some inmates from a high-security prison and put them to rehearse a Shakespeare’s play, introducing it to the outside world. Even without achieving great dramatic expression, the movie succeeds in two ways: Honoring the art of theatre and give to these men the chance of dreaming with a better future by exploring their artistic capabilities. An unmatched play!
Relevant awards: Golden Berlin Bear in competition.

October 12, 2012

Unforgivable (2011)

Directed by: André Téchiné
Country: France

Plot: A crime writer living in Venice while working on his new novel meets and soon marries his real-estate agent.
Review: “Unforgivable” is all about relationships. Told in a simple manner, the ideas flow, without really being engrossing. Veteran actor André Dussolier plays a writer who can’t write when in love. Besides, his head is too stuffed with concerns related to other people around him: a missing daughter; a wife who is much younger than him; a problematic son of a dying friend. With a structure organized in four parts, each one representing a different season (Eric Rohmer did the same approach with great success but in four different movies), “Unforgivable” shows baffled feelings within a futile imbroglio of relationships.
Relevant awards: -

October 11, 2012

The Angel's Share (2012)

Directed by: Ken Loach
Country: UK

Plot: Narrowly avoiding jail, new dad Robbie vows to turn over a new leaf.
Review: The name of Ken Loach brings a lot of good movies to my memory. The rawness and realism are his main traits, not forgetting the humor and independent approach. No need to tell that the formula worked fine once again, even if the plot doesn't show the realism or steady consistency seen in other works. “The Angel’s Share” makes another shot on comedy with an unlikely yet original plot. After the disappointment that was “Looking For Eric”, released three years ago, Loach with the help of his regular screenwriter Paul Laverty, definitely assumes to have a knack for funny situations.
Relevant awards: Jury prize (Cannes).

October 10, 2012

Eden (2012)

Directed by: Megan Griffiths
Country: USA

Plot: A young Korean-American girl, abducted and forced into prostitution by domestic human traffickers, joins forces with her captors in a desperate plea to survive.
Review: “Eden” offers a basic and drab story about the kidnap of a 18 year-old girl by a prostitution organization linked to a high ranked police officer. The strategy to escape adopted by this girl was based on the simple thought: “if you can’t beat them, join them”. Looking like a sort of B movie, what stood out at the end was a dreadful story in addition with an almost complete absence of aesthetic rigor in the image composition. Despite of the efforts made to turn “Eden” in a realistic and thrilling tale, the truth is that its goals weren't achieved, resulting in a totally forgettable movie.
Relevant awards: Best actress (Seattle).

October 09, 2012

Heleno (2011)

Directed by: José Henrique Fonseca
Country: Brazil

Plot: A biography of the tragic life of one of Brazil's greatest soccer players.
Review: Magnificently acted by Rodrigo Santoro, “Heleno” is a grey portrait of one of the most polemic soccer players from Brazil. Heleno de Freitas, idol of Rio’s team Botafogo in the 40’s, had a special talent for soccer, women and to upset everyone around him. Quarrelsome enough and lacking team spirit, Heleno’s career was stained by adulterous relationships, nightlife and drugs/alcohol addiction. Diagnosed with advanced syphilis, Heleno ended his days in a sanatorium, where he never stopped dreaming about the fame and glory of soccer. Absorbing and forceful enough to surprise us. In black and white.
Relevant awards: Best actor (Havana and Lima).

October 08, 2012

Fortress Of War (2010)

Directed by: Aleksandr Kott
Country: Russia

Plot: A war drama set during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, in which Russian troops held on to a border stronghold for nine days.
Review: Beautifully shot, “Fortress of War” is based on the real events happened in Brest Fortress, Belarus, before and after the invasion of the German troops in 1941. The peaceful scenario of the beginning soon changes to an authentic human slaughter. The violence is frequently too explicit - gunshots, explosions and dismembered people are everywhere throughout the film. For over two hours we can have an intense but also tiresome experience, testifying a real example of Russian patriotism and resistance. Recommended, for ones who have stomach for heavy content.
Relevant awards: -

October 07, 2012

Lawless (2012)

Directed by: John Hillcoat
Country: USA

Plot: Set in Depression-era Franklin County, Virginia, a bootlegging gang is threatened by a new deputy and other authorities who want a cut of their profits.
Review: So much was expected from John Hillcoat's "Lawless", which script was written by Nick Cave, (as in 2005’s "The Proposition"), but the final result was not so memorable. The movie is about three outlawed brothers, who had the monopoly of alcohol sales in Virginia, even in probation time. Everything changes with the arrival of Charlie Rakes from Chicago, who was determined to "clean" the city. We can't really say that the movie is incapable of entertaining. What we can say is that it could have been less superficial in many aspects, including its underdeveloped characters and wobbly plot. Guy Pearce's performance stands out above all the rest.

October 06, 2012

Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present (2011)

Directed by: Matthew Akers
Country: USA

Plot: A documentary that follows the Serbian performance artist as she prepares for a retrospective of her work at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Reviews: Controversial Serbian artist Marina Abramovic, in active since the 70's, has another good opportunity to promote herself through this documentary made by the hand of Matthew Akers. Basically about her work, yet focusing some important aspects of her private life, it shows with accuracy and objectivity the physical and psychological strength of this fantastic woman. Her dedication to work is undeniable and her new and original performance art was praised at MoMA and considered as a big success.
Relevant awards: Audience award (Berlin and Sarajevo).

October 05, 2012

Hara-Kiri: Death Of A Samurai (2011)

Directed by: Takashi Miike
Country: Japan

Plot: A tale of revenge, honor and disgrace, centering on a poverty-stricken samurai.
Review: Two years ago, Takashi Miike left the alternative approach to dedicate himself to samurai movies. After the stirring and ferocious "13 assassins" had been released in 2010, now arises "Hara-Kiri", an emotional and suffocating story which stands at the same level of the old time classics made popular by Akira Kurosawa or Masaki Kobayashi. The story, as many other times before, focuses on the tragic paths of the unemployed samurais in times of peace. Being heart-breaking and visually stunning, I can point it as one of the best Miike's works, carrying all the glory and honor of a samurai. 
Relevant awards: -