December 31, 2013

August: Osage County (2013)

August: Osage County (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: John Wells
Country: USA

Movie Review: Counting with George Clooney and Weinstein brothers as producers and based on Tracy Letts’ celebrated play with the same name, “August: Osage County" cinematic adaptation by John Wells was part satisfying and part disappointment. In the summer heat of Oklahoma, the three Weston sisters, Barbara (Julia Roberts), Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), and Karen (Juliette Lewis), reunite with their drug-addict, poignant, and sick mother, Violet (Meryl Streep), for her husband’s funeral after he has committed suicide. The story can be resumed by the following formula: failed marriages + meanness + secrets + fucked up parents/children relationships = solitude. John Well’s direction oscillates between raw and stagey, and the cast saves the film from bitterer outcomes. When tension is forced everywhere and on every single character, I involuntarily just stop to care about them, but then the genius of Meryl Streep came up again, taking the film to those sarcastic, funny places, where we can’t help having a happy laugh, even in sad circumstances. Julia Roberts wasn’t bad at all as bossy, aggressive and angered daughter, but for my second best performance I pick up Margo Martindale who played Violet’s sister in a very funny and natural manner. Comparing with two other 2013 films that are both directly and indirectly related with dysfunctional families, “August: Osage County” was wittier than “Cold Turkey” but less assertive than “The Way Way Back”. Definitely, it will be better remembered for its stinging humor rather than for its dramatic side.

December 30, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Country: USA / New Zealand

Movie Review: The second part of Hobbit’s trilogy, “The Desolation of Smaug” was released in early December, following the example of the other episodes of the saga, with slightly better results than its precedent “An unexpected Journey”. The fierce battles to retrieve the dwarf kingdom of Erebor continue - in one side, the new ring holder, Bilbo Baggins, his 13 Dwarves friends, and the good wizard Gandalf; in the other side, the misshapen Orcs, the spiteful and gigantic dragon, Smaug, and the most accomplished fighters and sometimes helpful, Elves. By comparing this one to the first part, I can tell that a much darker side has been set up in detriment of festive humor, to the story’s benefit. The forests surrounded of darkness and shadows and the sinister atmosphere adopted, created a better impact, together with a hand of memorable scenes that filled our eyes with its colors, fierce fights, and magical fantasy. I’m remembering of giant spiders’ attack, some action moments involving the Elves, or the awakening of the dragon, so concerned in protect his occupied land and treasure from thieves. Other situations, in turn, were not so accomplished, like the battle in the river that immediately accentuates the notion of digital sceneries. “Desolation of Smaug” improved in many aspects where “An Expected Journey” failed, and Peter Jackson’s effort was noticeable to make the things right. Nevertheless, the film wasn’t always balanced, and most of all, was completely unable to surprise us along its invariably long 160 minutes of action.

December 29, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Country: USA

Movie Review: Iconic filmmaker Martin Scorsese, inspired by the memoir of former stockbroker from Wall Street, Jordan Belfort, creates an effusive portrait of a world of shame, pelted with heavy drugs, sex, and luxury. The film was very efficacious in the way it shows the ability of these cunning 'wolves’ to deceive vulnerable people for their own profit, and Scorsese did it bluntly and wryly. The first hour was irresistibly hilarious, denoting a bouncing pace and establishing wittily the foundations of the story, which captured my attention right away. In the following two hours the excitement was maintained, even considering some ups and downs in the narrative, along with a few purposely overdone scenes of delirious partying and a risky yet funny boat trip, which not everybody will go for it. The performances were astonishing, with a perfect DiCaprio in the front (it’s been the fifth collaboration with Scorsese), well followed by Jonah Hill, P.J. Byrne, and a brief but unforgettable appearance by Matthew McConaughey as unrestrained boss, Mark Hanna. What is ironic here is to realize that artful men like Belfort will continue to take advantage of his corrupt past life to profit, from selling books to giving motivational speeches. But you know what? It always feels good when these big bad wolves are unmasked, so the world can see what they really worth. I wouldn’t say this is Scorsese’s best film, but is surely a special one.

December 28, 2013

Computer Chess (2013)

Computer Chess (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Andrew Bujalski
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Computer Chess” is definitely one of the weirdest films of the year. An offbeat indie comedy that takes us to a hotel in the early 80’s, time amazingly recreated and painted in an old-fashioned yet appealing black-and-white, where we can follow a group of obsessive computer nerds gathering for a weekend chess tournament intended to software programmers. You won’t learn how to play chess here, and is not required that you know something about it; despite of the several mentions to the strategy board game, the film simply focuses on weird people whose strange behaviors and difficult human relations project us to a completely different dimension. The characters were definitely smartly built, but for me the film only had positive outcomes now and then, never constructing a sufficiently solid narrative sequence to get me totally involved. The inclusion of a therapy group that was having their private sessions in the hotel and their posterior contact with the nerds, was determinant to create some more disarray in the plot, getting away from complex technological considerations about hardware and software (was this really possible?). “Computer Chess” is sometimes intriguing and challenging, but other times can be also dense and pointless. By presenting an irreverent posture within an original context, the film becomes peculiarly watchable, but I never found true valuable aspects that make me want to watch it a second time.

December 27, 2013

Wrong Cops (2013)

Wrong Cops (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Quentin Dupieux
Country: USA

Movie Review: If the plotless adventures of “Wrong”, released last year, were in the edge of being watchable with its purposely ambiguous machinations, “Wrong Cops” is simply unbearable, being a satirical film about police corruption that was taken to the extremes of ridiculousness. After a promising start, the film quickly falls in such stupid and childish situations that are nothing more than forced and unfunny attempts to shock, making me gradually exhausted and completely drawing out any effective surprise factor with its obnoxious characters and cheap jokes. Some good ideas, like a cop selling rats stuffed with weed that he buys from the Chinese, are wasted in the whirlwind of other inconsequent scenes and impertinent humor. In the end I had the perfect notion that film director Quentin Dupieux (also known as Mr. Oizo in the world of French electronic music) dug a big hole with absolutely nothing inside, since most of the scenes seemed unfinished, contributing for the glaring disconnections evinced in the poor script. So, how could I recommend a pretentious, hollow movie? If you’re searching for a smart, balanced, and funny story, don’t waste your time with these imbecilities. “Wrong Cops” is just another wrong film taken out from the wrong mind of Dupieux who seems incapable to create something more coherent or smarter than this cartoonish foolishness.

December 26, 2013

The Towrope - La Sirga (2012)

The Towrope - La Sirga (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: William Vega
Country: Colombia / others

Movie Review: Art-house Colombian drama “La Sirga” is a dazzling feast for the eyes, punctuated by heavy silences, occasionally broken by howling wind blows that causes rattling sounds coming from the corrugated zinc of ‘La Sirga’, an old hostel placed in a remote swampy field near La Cocha lake, Southwest Colombia. The film, written and directed by debutant William Vega, follows Alicia, a 19-year-old Colombian girl who is fleeing from the guerrilla war that victimized her family, arriving to La Cocha to heal her psychological wounds, which are reflected in her nocturnal somnambulism. Reticent uncle Oscar, who warns about the rough work required in the area, will accept her in his house as a member of the family, despite of peeking into her room every night when she undresses, along with his son Fredy. The magnificent cinematography composed of grey skies, luxury vegetation, soaked fields, and foggy atmosphere, probably won’t be sufficient to please every audiences. The same analysis applies to the quiet pace and story’s development, which associated to the elusive plot, can be seen as a setback. Intended or not, the fact is “La Sirga” will stick to your mind, not for its floating narrative or impenetrable metaphors, but for its images and sound. William Vega showed to have the film controlled in every moment, addressing traumas of war and consequent human response in a subtle and original manner. Uncertainty is what reigns in realistic “La Sirga”.

December 25, 2013

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Saving Mr. Banks (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Country: USA / others

Movie Review: “Saving Mr. Banks” is centered on 1961 troubled Walt Disney Studio’s cinematic adaptation of the famous novel ‘Mary Poppins’, written by Australian-born British author P.L. Travers. In a delicate financial position, traumatized-by-childhood Pamela Travers (Emma Thompson) is advised to travel to America in order to meet Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) in person and work with his staff to prepare the film. A big headache for all of them, since her cockiness, unconscious rudeness, and pickiness, got everybody intrigued and frustrated, with exception of Ralph (Paul Giamatti), a driver whom she had a special consideration. Flashbacks to her inscrutable past are presented, making us better understand her personality and the importance of Poppins’ existence as well. In the end, Disney’s psychology, care, and understanding were able to soften a shielded Pamela and relieve her from her hardest pains. The film was elegantly presented and directed by John Lee Hancock who has here his best work so far, after the sloppy “The Blind Side” released four years ago. Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks gave another ‘explanation’ of why they already won a couple of Oscars each. The moderate, well-mounted “Saving Mr. Banks” has its little problems, especially sentimental ones, but has its gravitas on the heart and bestows the spirit of the old, affectionate, and tuneful Disney films.

December 24, 2013

Phantom (2013)

Phantom (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jonathan Soler
Country: France

Movie Review: “Phantom” is an experimental drama wrapped in a dreamlike atmosphere and narrated completely in voice-off by its pair of protagonists. Jonathan Soler’s first feature film was shot in Tokyo, exposing a bunch of personal thoughts in Japanese about the world, life, and people, in a logical order. Since the beginning, I could anticipate what the story would be. A woman (Yuki Fujita) arrives home and goes to bed alone, but instantly begins a long conversation with her boyfriend (Masato Tsujioka) who appeared from nowhere. She confesses her sadness for not feeling useful in a world where people are evaluated for their status and salary. After this topic, a lot more would come, including the search for self-identity, financial problems, environmental issues, the changes of turning into adult, the roles played inside their families, and their dreams and hopes for the future. In precise moments, a clear connection could be found between the images and what was being told, but most of the time Soler gives us merely shots of the couple inside the room or walking along the city, all intercalated with Tokyo’s out-of-focus landscapes. I can understand this approach (once phantoms don’t talk or sleep, and got no influence in the world), even if sometimes its repetition didn’t allow a better outcome. Adopting Hong Sang-soo’s melancholic and talkative posture in order to point many of today’s main problems, “Phantom” is far from being faultless, but definitely is a film to discover for whoever fancies different experiences.

December 23, 2013

Her (2013)

Her (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Spike Jonze
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Her” is the latest creation from inventive writer, director, and filmmaker Spike Jonze, four years after the not so catchy “Where the Wild Things Are”. This character study, set in a super technological L.A., follows a curious phase in the life of lonely and disoriented Theodore, a writer who circumstantially falls in love with the female sexy voice and enigmatic ‘personality’ of his brand new operating system. Coming from a failed relationship, and in the middle of a divorce process, Theodore’s struggle visibly carries pain disguised through the gentle delineation of an undecided and mildly shy temperament. Well aware of his problems dealing with emotions and feelings and avoiding serious commitment, Theodore starts to live a dangerous cybernetic adventure, involving us in its tangle of sadness, hope, frustration, and excitement, which feel very authentic. Joaquin Phoenix was not so brilliant as in “The Master”, but he was still amazing in a different way, thoroughly conveying his confusion, dependence, and uncertainty. Almost in a dreamlike atmosphere where melancholy prevails, the film carries deep sadness, but thankfully, from time to time, this dominant mood is broken up with a few hilarious moments (the peak was a virtual creature living inside a computer game). In “Her”, the weird obsession of “Lars and the Real Girl” mixes with the dreamy romanticism of “To the Wonder”. The result isn’t any masterpiece but its conception and execution were no less than thought provoking.

December 22, 2013

20 Feet from Stardom (2013)

20 Feet from Stardom (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Morgan Neville
Country: USA

Movie Review: “20 Feet from Stardom” is an appreciable documentary about some of the most known backup singers who have been playing with the greatest bands and musicians along the years. After watching it, I got the clear notion of their powerful work, both on stage and backstage, and the tough life that sometimes their confident voices can conceal. The film gives us historical insight on how everything started, explaining the transition from white singers (called ‘readers’ due to their inability to improvise) to black singers, in times where cultural differences were seen as an obstacle. Songs such as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”, “Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” or David Bowie’s “Young Americans” revealed to be of great cultural importance in music history. Actually, it was quite rewarding to hear musicians such as Springsteen, Botti, Sting, or Jagger, affirming the pleasure they feel when giving enough space to backup singers, so they can loose and create something by themselves. These opportunities to shine represent what music should be: a joyful communion among all the musicians involved. Additionally, we can learn more about the motivations, expectations, and past lives of these magnificent singers, featuring Lisa Fischer, Merry Clayton, Marlene Love, and Judith Hill. Regardless if the stories carry sadness, happiness, mischance, or lucky, each one of them seemed rich and talented enough to turn “20 Feet from Stardom” into a conclusive and fascinating documentary.

December 21, 2013

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Justin Chadwick
Country: South Africa / UK

Movie Review: Not so pertinent as it could be, “Mandela: a Long Walk to Freedom” is a limited biopic that inform us of some facts and ideas that persisted in Nelson Mandela’s life, without append anything else worthy. Initially, it showed some passion and was presented through eye-catching frames, but suffering from continual problems in the most varied details, that hampered the film from being satisfactory. The first half was far more interesting, showing the first steps of a young Mandela towards the historic liberation of his people from the white oppressiveness in South Africa called ‘apartheid’. In turn, the second half was very poor, with the scenes dragging one after another, at the same time that gave the sensation of being condensing a lot of information and leaving something behind. Considering its conventional approach, it was quite clear that helmer Justin Chadwick tried to please audiences, in detriment of risking any bold move that could make it distinctive. Idris Elba’s performance was the best aspect in the film, despite the awful characterization he was subjected to (close to a wax figure) and the fact of bearing a weak resemblance to the real man. Nelson’s wife, Winnie, well performed by Naomie Harris, still aroused some curiosity by taking an opposite position with respect to the conflict resolution, but even here, where the familiar tension should be imperative, Chadwick didn’t know how to take advantage of it, and remained stubbornly in his lack of vision and flawed narrative.

December 20, 2013

Tango Libre (2012)

Tango Libre (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Frédéric Fonteyne
Country: France / Belgium / others

Movie Review: “Tango Libre”, 2012 Venice’s special jury prize and Warsaw’s grand prix, is a shallow drama with humorous touches that completely fails to be credible. The story is based in a fatal attraction that develops between a prison guard, J.C. (François Damiens), and a lonely young mother, Alice (Anne Paulicevich), after they met during a tango class. Emotional conflict arises when he finds out that Alice’s jealous husband, Fernand (Sergi Lopez), together with her depressive lover, Dominic (Jan Hammenecker), are both inmates in the same prison he works. At first sight, this already confusing threesome relationship didn’t have enough space for another person, but J.C., violating the prison rules, will try anything to gain the trust of husband, son, and lover, just to be close to Alice. Everything was wrapped in Argentinean tango and an irritating, self-indulgent pose that takes beyond proper limits the already strained plot. The tense moments seemed untrue and from an early stage, I lost the interest in what was coming next. Do you imagine incarcerated tough guys giving tango lessons to their fellows in prison? I don’t! “Tango Libre” wanted to be so ‘libre’ that seemed widely ridiculous, superfluous, and never funny, becoming a film to be skipped.

December 19, 2013

Out of the Furnace (2013)

Out of the Furnace (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Scott Cooper
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Out of The Furnace”, despite its familiarity, is far from being a bad film. It could have been better, in case the plot, written by filmmaker Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”) conjointly with Brad Ingelsby, has presented some more substantial and surprising elements. The story takes place in economically depressed Rust Belt region, where Russell Blaze gets ready to revenge the death of his brother, Rodney, a traumatized former soldier who makes a living participating in illegal fights, ending up brutally killed at the hands of ruthless Harlan DeGroat. In the first half, the characters were introduced and we can see the happenings that led to Rodney’s murder, while in the second one, we follow Russell’s search for his missing brother and consequent fall into darkness caused by a merciless revenge. With a high-quality cast featuring Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, and Casey Affleck in the main roles, “Out of the Furnace” is a grim and violent tale, set with dark hues to enhance the ill-fated destinies depicted. This particularly repellent mood, along with the physical aspect of its characters and hunting sequences, brought to my mind the recent “A Single Shot”, whose darkness didn’t show the same consistence when compared to this one. Cooper tries to represent a slice of inevitably doomed life, at the same time that gives the idea of a violent America with its maladjusted criminal justice system. He might not have been brilliant or fresh, but the film haunts us for a while due to its direct, fearless, and relentless approach.

December 18, 2013

The Closed Circuit (2013)

The Closed Circuit (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ryszard Bugajski
Country: Poland

Movie Review: Known for the 1989 magnificent thriller “Interrogation”, Ryszard Bugajski returns to direction after a four-year gap with “The Closed Circuit”, another drama/thriller based on real events that devastated even more Poland’s moral and political dubious reputation. The story dates back to 2003 in Gdansk, where three smart entrepreneurs launch a huge high-tech electronics factory backed up with quality Danish equipment. Their success soon became coveted by corrupt, influent agents who worked for government law enforcement bodies. They will set up a dirty scheme to seize the factory and arrest the innocent owners, traumatizing them and their families forever. Characterized by its straightforwardness and talkative approach, Bugajski was able to infuriating me in a good sense, since the story seemed very real in its way to depict the abuses of power, greediness, and contempt for others’ lives, with strong ability and determination. The actors were perfect in their roles, especially Janusz Gajos as Kostrzewa, a frustrated and greedy district prosecutor with a shameful past, and his vassal Kamil Slodowsky, a thorough investigator who never hesitates to falsify evidences whenever threatened. Solidly structured, “The Closed Circuit” creates the required impact in its clear observation of the new Poland. Curiously, this accusing satirical feast didn’t receive any financial support from Polish government.

December 17, 2013

Hit The Road: India (2013)

Hit The Road: India (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Gor and Mushegh Baghdasaryan
Country: India / Armenia

Movie Review: In this travel documentary, directed by Armenian brothers Baghdasaryan, Richard Gazarian and Keith King arrive in India to make a 12-day trip rickshaw rally from Mumbai to Chennai. They will compete against other five teams, crossing 2000 km without any maps or GPS. Along the trip they will have to face adverse weather conditions and beat their increasing exhaustion, as days go by. The not infrequent mechanical problems that take a lot of time to be fixed, dangerous roads, intense traffic, lack of visibility, and the constant stress and tension that participants are subjected to, could very well have made this documentary more appealing that it was. As a viewer, I didn’t feel any real sense of danger, and all the excitement or frustration coming from the participants never reached me in a satisfying way. That’s why I didn’t feel involved and for me the experience of following this adventure had its enjoyable moments but was far from being completely rewarding. Some nice images of a unique country as India were presented at the sound of a great alternative rock score (despite the sound leveling issues detected), maybe the same music the men listened in their wireless music system mounted in the rickshaw. They also had time to visit a school and stop by a McDonalds where, unfortunately, no juicy cheeseburgers were being sold. Salutary sportsmanship was observable in a grueling trip that required more intense incidents to achieve higher relevance.

December 16, 2013

Hours (2013)

Hours (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Eric Heisserer
Country: USA

Film Review: Eric Heisserer’s directorial debut, “Hours”, will be topic of conversation for a while, not for any special good reasons since the film isn’t good at all, but because it was the latest film to be released with actor Paul Walker, who died last November at the age of 40, in a fatal car crash. In this thriller, he plays the unlucky Nolan Hayes who lost his wife when she was giving birth to his daughter in a hospital of New Orleans, precisely when hurricane Katrina arrives. The child lived but it was imperative to keep her for at least 48 hours in a ventilator. The difficulty comes when Nolan was left practically alone in the hospital after an emergency evacuation, with high risk of running out of electrical power, the necessity of staying awake (to manage the generator that keeps his infant child alive), and dealing with unexpected and unfriendly visits. I believe that the association made to hurricane Katrina, a subject exhaustively addressed, took away some strength, turning the unlikely plot even more uninspired. Occasional flashbacks recreating happy moments of Nolan and his wife, didn’t add anything relevant, while the imaginary conversations with her spirit were never characterized by any kind of smartness to be engaging. The slight thrill only comes from the fact of being a baby whose life is at stake, as for the rest, “Hours” comes completely out of time, and never surprised me, whether in terms of plot, direction, or production values. I guess not even an adrenaline shot would save me from drowsiness.

December 15, 2013

American Hustle (2013)

American Hustle (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: David O. Russell
Country: USA

Movie Review: Thoroughly entertaining, “American Hustle” is the new crime comedy by helmer David O.Russell, inspired by the Abscam scandal that took place in the late 70’s. Russell picks up four excellent actors with whom he had worked before and the result was a visibly comfortable and efficient interaction. Christian Bale was superb, showing how amazingly he adapts to his characters, this time appearing as Irving Rosenfeld, a swindler with a disgusting belly and artificial hair. His heart gets broken when his sexy partner in crime, Sidney Prosser (Amy Adams), makes a swap to the side of FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). This tempestuous cop makes a sort of an agreement with them, envisioning the arrest of Jersey’s political big fish associated to fraudulent actions. Irving seemed to have lost his beloved Sidney, but promptly uses his nosy wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) for the conveniences. Of all these fantastic performances, Cooper was the weakest, probably due to personify a not so exuberant or funny character compared to the others. The artful plot expresses occasionally some self-pride that could be sign of excessive confidence, but the sparse moments where the film doesn’t work so fine are quickly overtaken by throwing some irresistible gags. Besides, the story’s turns made me change sides along the way, which is positive. With all things considered, “American Hustle” doesn’t have the charm of “Silver Linings” or the impact of “The Fighter”, but its risky, messed up story, turned out favorably funny.

December 14, 2013

Xingu (2012)

Xingu (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Cao Hamburger
Country: Brazil

Movie Review: Brazilian drama “Xingu” was freely based on true stories, telling the path of courageous Villas-Boas brothers, Claudio (João Miguel), Orlando (Felipe Camargo), and Leonardo (Caio Blat) who changed from mere explorers to Indians’ protectors in a remote and unexplored western-center region of Brazil. Set in the 40’s, in a time where president Getúlio Vargas launched a campaign to boost progress and occupation of these regions, the brothers set off on a journey along Xingu River, creating a natural bond with Indians from different tribes. Aware of the white men’s machinations, they decide to fight side by side with the Indians for their rights and territory, threatened by the construction of a military base, illegal distribution of land, and finally the construction of a highway in an area inhabited by Kreen, the most isolated tribe. Claudio and Orlando were the responsible for the creation of a protective area called National Xingu Park, place where the Indians remain confined since 1961. Helmer Cao Hamburger transpired some style and even passion by telling a good story, but the film is not totally devoid of flaws. In some moments, especially in the first half, it showed to suffer from some apathy in its development and evinced a deficient political contextualization. Even so, and regardless some imprudence in determined aspects, the well-performed and nicely photographed “Xingu” is watchable, providing valuable historical information about Brazil and their almost unknown heroes from other times.

December 13, 2013

The Upper Footage (2013)

The Upper Footage (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Justin Cole
Country: USA

Movie Review: “The Upper Footage” is surrounded by controversy for the simple reason that viewers may have difficulty to find if the supposed recovered footage presented is true or false. This happens due to the description of the film, stating that it's based on the editing of a 393-minute video featuring a crazy night party on alcohol and drugs in NY’s Upper East Side that led to the tragic overdose death of 18 year-old Jakie Spearo. We were told that the video was posted on YouTube by an extortionist, who negotiated with both media and family of Blake Pennington, one of the four guys involved in the case. Allegedly, Quentin Tarantino ended up buying the video with the intention of making a future cinematic adaptation. The lack of information about the film, including full cast and crew, was strategically thought, but in some aspects it didn’t reveal to be totally coherent as it could (mostly related with the found-footage). However, the film succeeds at least in one thing: to show the sad reality of spoiled rich young people who are incapable of a worthy conversation and don’t have any responsibility in life beyond partying all night long. The last part of the film creates some bizarre impact, when the interveners ponder if they should get rid of the body. Handheld camera intensifies the rawness of the scenes and the film ended up grabbing me somehow with all the shocking, abusive, and disgusting behaviors from its characters. Yes, it’s fake, but wild enough to deserve some attention, just like happened in 1999 with “The Blair Witch Project”.

December 12, 2013

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Country: USA

Movie Review: Near-perfect and Cannes’ winner, “Inside Llewyn Davis” brings the story of a homeless folk musician who struggles to survive in Greenwich Village, New York, in the early 60’s. Everything is complicated in Llewyn’s life, and is not just the fact of being broke. People don’t seem to take his work seriously, he lost his friend’s cat, and Jane, one of his married best friends, is pregnant of his child. Every Llewyn’s attempt to get his life straight was felt deeply, along with every search for a decent opportunity and the eagerness of being recognized by his music. The mild soundtrack sometimes creates the illusion of an untroubled atmosphere, however every minute carries a touching sadness and shows a prolonged tiredness that is evident in the main character’s look. Coen brothers had the ability of never falling in sentimentalism or futile scenes to tell their story, so naturally powerful and without artificial elements added. It was amazing how the humor came off so spontaneously, even associated to situations loaded with grief. Oscar Isaac gave his best performance so far, superiorly backed up by the brief, yet significant, appearances of John Goodman and Carey Mulligan. Folk songs are not for my particular taste, but I bow to Coens’ artistry, well grounded by Bruno Delbonnel's luminous cinematography (“Amélie”, “A Very Long Engagement”). As Llewyn stated after playing his folk song: ‘It’s never new, and never gets older’. The same definition applies to this remarkable film.

December 11, 2013

It Was the Son (2012)

It Was the Son (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Daniele Cipri
Country: Italy

Movie Review: Confrontational and witty, “It Was the Son” makes a deliciously poignant look into a Sicilian family marked by the misfortune of an accidental death and its own greediness. Presented as a story inside a story, the film manages quite well in combining drama and humor, which is carry out in a subtle and peculiar manner. Toni Servillo is brilliant in the role of Nicola Ciraulo, a father who lost his young daughter, Serenella, shot accidentally by the Mafia. After the first impact, Nicola decides to ask for a State’s compensation for his loss, being granted with 220 million lire after a long wait due to bureaucratic issues. For this same reason, the money was put on hold for another eternity and Ciraulo family got almost anything to eat, sank in more and more debts. Surviving with the help of suspicious loans, Nicola becomes desperate. But right after the money has been transfered to his bank account, he came up with an ironic solution: to buy a blue Mercedes, protected with determination by all the family members. The disgrace came when Nicola’s son, the apathetic Tancredi, convinced by his exemplar cousin Masino, decides to drive the car to the local cinema. Some details in direction deserve good attention, and the same is applied to the acute cinematography given in glossy tones (Golden Osella at Venice). The identity of the man who tells the story didn’t cause any surprise but the story’s denouement created a staggering impact. An effective tale of greed based on the novel by Roberto Alaimo.

December 10, 2013

Il Futuro (2013)

Il Futuro (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Alicia Scherson
Country: Italy / Chile / others

Movie Review: Chilean filmmaker Alicia Scherson travels to Rome, embarking in an ambitious project based on the last novel by Roberto Bolaño entitled “Una Novelita Lumpen”, dedicated to his two children and published for the first time in Spain, in 2002. The result was a powerful film that became easy to follow due to the curiosity aroused by their accurately built characters. The film is narrated by Bianca (Manuela Martelli), an orphan teenager who lost her parent’s in a car accident, has to keep an eye on her younger brother, Tomas (Luigi Ciardo), a reckless school skipper that hangs out with two bodybuilders of doubtful reputation. Not by chance, these characters installed themselves in the siblings' apartment since they had a plan to rob a blind, former actor and bodybuilder called Maciste (Rutger Hauer). For that, and with the future in mind, they persuade Bianca to act as bait, offering intimate pleasures to get access to his lugubrious mansion. A menacing sensation is constantly present, enhanced by the gloomy atmosphere and dim lights that surround the sinister character of Maciste. The confident direction can be sensed when the obscure scenarios become filled with a sort of enchantment ruled by strange forces and mixed with an absorbing psychological perversity associated to every act related to Bianca. Beautifully shot, “Il Futuro” is a confrontational coming-of-age tale about changing, where good and bad, present and future, sincerity and falseness, pureness and vice, are laid bare with purpose.

December 09, 2013

Expecting (2013)

Expecting (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jessie McCormack
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Expecting” is an easy watching dramedy that still provides a couple of good laughs despite the messy plot, but former actress Jessie McCormack’s debut on writing, direction, and production, leaves mixed feelings. The story, at first glance not so inviting, just stands shakily on its feet due to the solid performances from the cast and an acceptable direction. It depicts the story of a couple, Peter and Lizzie, who are struggling for years to have a baby without practical results. Even attending marital counseling, with the extravagant and laid-back Dr. Grayson (the funnier character in the film), the couple remains very sensible to the matter. One day, Lizzie’s heart becomes filled with hope when her best friend, Andie, someone so needy of attention, reveals she got pregnant after a one-night stand. For her friends’ sake she decides to have the baby, planning to entrust her own child to the dissatisfied couple, right after giving birth (what a big heart!). Will this decision solve everyone’s problems? To increase the mess, Andie starts a relationship with Pete’s brother, who got out of rehab and is trying to adapt again to the real world, while Peter hasn’t much success as a real estate salesperson, especially with a particular annoying client. Insipidly written, “Expecting” becomes devious with the use of these subplots and doesn’t always feel real, only providing the minimum amount of entertainment.

December 08, 2013

White Reindeer (2013)

White Reindeer (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Zach Clark
Country: USA

Movie Review: Zach Clark’s “White Reindeer” is a cheerless drama labeled as comedy that depicts the terrible Christmas of real-estate agent Suzanne Barrington (Anna Margaret Hollyman). After her husband has been brutally assassinated during a house breaking, Suzanne will find out some of his hidden dirty secrets, including Internet pornography and frequent sexual encounters with his lover Autumn (Laura Lemar-Goldsborough), a striper whom she gets curious to meet. In a visible depressive state, Suzanne becomes friends with Autumn, often attending night parties and getting into the world of drugs and alcohol. To worse even more the situation, her parents decide to split up after long years of marriage, while financial crisis is inevitable once she starts compulsively shopping online. The strangest situation comes when she invites herself for a swinger party in her neighbor’s, which was depicted with some interesting scenes, increasing even more her psychological degradation. To culminate in beauty, she realizes she's pregnant and the nightmare seems not to have an end. Thus, if you think that there’s nothing better than a good comedy to enhance Christmas’ spirit, don’t be mislead by this unfunny dramatic comedy, that goes exactly in the opposite way. Despite its degrading darkness, the film presents some hope in the end, but nothing more than that, since all the rest are just feel-bad situations and sad occurrences that don’t take Suzanne, or us, anywhere.

December 07, 2013

La Playa DC (2012)

La Playa DC (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Juan Andrés Arango
Country: Colombia / others

Movie Review: Drugs and racism are addressed without any special feature in this drama focused on Tomas, an Afro-Colombian teenager who tries to survive in the streets of Bogotá after leaving home due to incompatibility with his mother’s white boyfriend. When he learns about the disappearance of his traumatized and drug addict younger brother, Jairo, he starts beating the streets, joined by his other brother Chaco whose dream is to leave for north. An opportunity to work as barber will be given to Tomas, but the good winds don't blow to his side, since he lost the confidence of his employer, all to save his brother from the drug dealers’ hands. Observant yet somehow bashful, “La Playa DC” seems to accept too easily the fate of these brave kids, painting a too bland and softened picture of a reality that requires some more stimulating vibes to be distinguishable. Debutant writer/director and former cinematographer, Juan Andrés Arango, despite the good intentions, lingers too much in stories about hair and haircuts instead of putting a bit more anger and frustration in the scenes. This way the film loses the additional strength that the drama needed to be placed above similar works. With moments of real tension being just a mirage, “La Playa DC” turned out to be another volatile, low-key exercise on street survival and broken family. Nonprofessional actor Juan Carlos Guevara did a competent job.