October 31, 2013

All Is Lost (2013)

All Is Lost (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: J.C. Chandor
Country: USA

Movie Review: J.C. Chandor’s sophomore feature film, "All Is Lost", proved the filmmaker’s abilitiy behind the cameras, since this one-man film carried so much intensity and let us prostrate with so many frustrating situations along a turbulent journey. The simple plot covers the afflictive story of a solitary sailor, performed with sobriety by the legendary Robert Redford, whose boat is accidentally hit by a shipping container that was drifting in the Indian Ocean. Struggling against time and facing adverse weather conditions, this man will try to remain calm and use up all the possibilities to save himself from drowning. It was noticeable that Redford committed himself to this role with all his soul and the result is a real test to our nerves and comfort. Being limited in story and almost speechless, it was incredible how strong and powerful the images were, making impossible to take our eyes off the screen. Every minute was worthy and Chandor’s sense of direction was astoundingly surprising. If in “Margin Call” he employed a talkative approach to tell a story wrapped in some complexity, here the strategy was completely opposite, yet not less efficient. Even with a predictable finale, the film was rigorous in its details and realistically depressive in its calamitous occurrences, ensuring that the viewers remember it as a reference in survival genre. Mesmerizing, “All is Lost” also makes us anticipate Redford in the run for the coveted Oscar.

October 30, 2013

Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight (2013)

Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Stephen Frears
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight” is an innocuous drama disguised of documentary, directed by English filmmaker Stephen Frears who gave us great works in the past, such as “Liam”, “The Queen”, “Dangerous Liaisons”, “High Fidelity”, and “Dirty Pretty Things”. The story, written by Shawn Slovo (“Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”, “Catch a Fire”), focuses on boxer Cassius Clay’s court battle against US when he refused to take part in the Vietnam war. Clay had changed his name to Muhammad Ali after embrace Islam religion, and invoked religious beliefs for his decision not to defend his country in war. This cost him his Heavyweight Champion title at the time. What Frears offers us here is more the fight among Supreme Court’s jurists, headed by John Marshal Harlen (Christopher Plummer) who, after vote to condemn Ali, decided to reverse his decision, influenced by his recently hired lawyer Kevin Connoly (Benjamin Walker). The exhibited footage of Ali’s fights and statements were the most interesting part, while the story’s recreation never created the desired impact. My interest was brought down by the way Frears chose to address and depict the matter, failing to gather the right elements to make it enjoyable. Sometimes I thought I was watching a TV movie; even when the tempers flared in the justice office, I remained comfortably sleepy in my chair. Unbalanced and devoid of any thrill, this is probably one of the weakest movies in Frears’ career.

October 29, 2013

Lost On Purpose (2013)

Lost On Purpose (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Eshom Nelms / Ian Nelms
Country: USA

Movie Review: Nelms brothers, Eshom and Ian, had to ask for a financial help via Kickstarter to release their second feature film, “Lost On Purpose”, which became satisfying along the way after a boring start. The story, set in the rural Californian area of San Joaquin Valley, focuses on two brothers, Fever (James Lafferty) and D-1 (Aaron Hill), who are part of a group of five friends hired to work in a ranch owned by Ms. Liz (Jane Kaczmarek), a determined third generator farmer with alcohol problems. Struggling with health and financial problems, Ms. Liz is doing what she can to keep the ranch working properly, avoiding doing business with Delbert Furgeson (C.Thomas Howell) a greedy and successful co-op owner who wants to buy her ranch. The story, narrated by Fever, also provides us with more information about each of the friends: their relationships, frustrations, concerns, family environments, and dreams, which include to be successful with their band. We already have seen this stuff before but the truth is that the story, being simple and realistic, gets better as it reaches the end. Cinematography by Johnny Derango has some credit, as well as most of the performances, while direction was fair but not remarkable. Not everything ends up fine in this low-key independent film but one lesson can be taken: sometimes dreams don’t become more than dreams, but if you have a clean conscience and the support from your friends, life will be easier to endure. Better the story than its execution.

October 28, 2013

The Past (2013)

The Past (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Asghar Farhadi
Country: France / Italy

Movie Review: Asghar Farhadi’s first cinematic experience totally made outside Iran wasn’t so rewarding as his previous two masterpieces “About Elly” and “A Separation”. Set in France, there is no question about “The Past” being an adult film, but the plot didn’t shake me or intrigued me, and I felt a sort of distance towards the characters. I watched it with eagerness for some kind of astonishing revelation or a better twist, but the film let me dry in the end. The story follows Ahmad who travels from Teheran to Paris to finish his divorce procedure with his wife Marie whom he didn’t see for 4 years. He stays in Marie’s place, taking the opportunity to be with her two daughters from two previous marriages. But for his surprise, Marie is pregnant and has been living with another Arab, Samir, whose wife is in a coma due to suicide attempt. Samir also has a son, Fouad, who is showing problematical behaviors and reveals a clear need of attention. Marie’s older daughter, Lucie, becomes a key-character in the story’s climax, hiding a relevant secret that justifies her deplorable state of depression. “The Past” ends up being a modest family drama that, taking all the aspects into account, seemed more planned that complex. Nevertheless, and in the same line as his prior works, the film conveyed great simplicity of processes, composed with sharp images that were quite appealing to the eyes. Farhadi’s direction was never in cause, in a story about breaking up ties with the past, that despite likable, failed to enrapture.

October 27, 2013

Imagine (2013)

Imagine (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Andrzej Jakimowski
Country: Poland / Portugal / others

Movie Review: Shot in Lisbon and spoken predominantly in English with some occasional Portuguese, “Imagine” is the third feature film from Polish director Andrzej Jakimowski, better known for 2007’s “Tricks”. The film follows Ian (Edward Hogg), an enigmatic blind teacher who arrives at a residential school for blind to make a total revolution through unconventional methods. Sustaining that blind people are able to walk without a cane, Ian will embark in an adventurous but dangerous trip into the outside world when he challenges quiet Eva (Alexandra Maria Lara) for a walk in the bright sunlight of Lisbon’s streets. Other curious young man, Serrano (Melchior Derouet), wants to follow them, showing signs of fascination by Ian’s sites descriptions and rich imagination. However, disillusion and mistrust will come up in this game of sounds, where we, viewers, also imagine and search for something well aware of our senses. Innovative in concept and very European in style, we have here a good alternative to Saramago’s “Blindness”, which cinematic adaptation by Fernando Meirelles didn’t run so well. Even if sometimes we may notice an inconstant pace and intermittent efficiency in the narrative, “Imagine” became an unprecedented experience and deserves a good, relaxed watching. Jakimowski was considered best director and won the audience award at Warsaw.

October 26, 2013

The Attack (2012)

The Attack (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ziad Doueiri
Country: Lebanon / France / others

Movie Review: Former first assistant cameraman turned director Ziad Doueiri gives us a completely different angle on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, seen from the perspective of a respected Arab surgeon who lost his beloved wife in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, where they worked and lived. But “The Attack”, based on the novel by Algerian author Yasmina Khadra, is not as simple as that, because the said woman was accused to be responsible for the bombing and consequently for the death of 17 people. In shock and denial, Dr. Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman), decides to search for the truth in Palestinian territory, getting exposed to perils he wasn’t prepared for. The idea wasn’t bad at all but a better success was hampered by the lack of suspense and the option to discard any type of artistic approach. Thus, the questions aroused by the sensitive thematic were depicted in a raw and talkative manner, only interrupted from times to times by Amin’s recollections of some key moments with his wife, and the sad confirmation of reality. Episodic use of handheld camera efficiently gives the sensation of despair and confusion in Amin’s head, in this thoughtful thriller, which counted with an unshakable performance by Ali Suliman (“Paradise Now”, “Lemon Tree”). Auspicious and thought provoking, “The Attack” was never totally involving, but can be seen as a movie of considerable cleverness.

October 25, 2013

Jump (2012)

Jump (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Kieron J. Walsh
Country: Uk / Ireland

Movie Review: “Jump” is an Irish/UK drama based on a stageplay by Lisa McGee and directed by Kieron J. Walsh who has been recently engaged in TV movies and series. The plot, set in Derry’s New Year’s Eve, follows Greta (Nicola Burley), who explains her mother died due to an overdose and her father, the local crime-boss Frank Feeney (Lalor Roddy), just gives her money but not love. She decides to kill herself by jumping from a bridge, wearing a coat with angel’s wings but saying she doesn’t believe in heaven. That’s when Pearse Kelly (Martin McCann) appears, saving her life. He was desperately searching for his missing brother, Sean, a former employee of Limbo’s club whose owner is Greta’s father, and was fleeing from some thugs, accused of stealing a great sum of money from the place. In parallel, we see Greta’s friends, Marie and Dara, night partying, and ended up being involved in this chained story of failed love and crime. The film presents a stirring pace, but many times in a disjointed way, despite of the numerous connections that take place among the characters. While the coincidences were too strained, the structure was interestingly set up with time shifts, and the performances quite satisfying. Although the action side of the story has been OK, the sentimental one just didn’t work well, preventing “Jump” to get even close to those efficient British crime films, such as “Snatch” or “Wild Bill”.

October 24, 2013

Thursday Till Sunday (2012)

Thursday Till Sunday (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Dominga Sotomayor Castillo
Country: Chile / Netherlands

Movie Review: Chilean Dominga Sotomayor Castillo’s directorial debut, despite its good intentions, was not a film for me to remember. Set in Santiago, the story follows a family road trip, seen by the perspective of Lucia (Santi Ahumada), the eldest child of a couple who struggles to stay together. Lucia, being sensitive and smart, certainly will remember this small vacation period, since she gives subtle signs of preoccupation about her family’s future. The performances were naturally convincing but this film seems more an exercise on dispersed life details than an effective story with beginning, middle, and end. Within the first hour of its 96 minutes, nothing really relevant happens and I got a bit lost in the apathy and vagueness of the most frivolous occurrences. After that period, we start to glimpse in a clearer way the director’s intentions but my patience had already gone away, making me wish the end of this little tale. The cinematography by Barbara Alvarez never impressed me with its highlighted whites in daylight and almost imperceptible moves in the dark of the night. The script, also written by the filmmaker, was too basic for the screen and presented with a sleepy and inconsequent sequences of images. It was a pity, since I really enjoyed the performances and the subject matter had potentiality to become much more appealing to the viewer. Notwithstanding, the film collected prizes in several Festivals, including Buenos Aires, Rotterdam, and Valdivia.

October 23, 2013

We Are What We Are (2013)

We Are What We Are (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jim Mickle
Country: USA

Movie Review: Jim Mickle’s third feature film, “We Are What We Are”, gives continuity to the interesting experiences on horror/thriller that characterized “Mulberry Street” and “Stake Land”. Actually, the object of this review is much darker and moody than the two mentioned before. The story starts with the death of a woman whose body, when autopsied by Doc Barrow (Michael Parks), revealed to suffer from a very rare disease mostly present in particular tribes. This woman left a husband, the rigorous Frank Parker (Bill Sage) who also presents symptoms of sickness, and three children, little Rory (Jack Gore), the sensitive and angelical Rose (Julia Garner), and fearless Iris (Ambyr Childers). The family acts in a very reserved way, hiding a dark secret carried for long years. All this coincides with the discovery of human bones that are coming to surface after a big storm. The authorities believe they can be from one of the three girls who, in a span of 20 years, disappeared in town. Frank’s sense of family and tradition falls into madness and the story, in its final minutes, ends up in intensive gore, which impressed me somehow. Jim Mickle’s stupendous way of filming enhances the obscure atmosphere, creating a few mesmerizing images. The plot is surprising and its execution was able to extract all the coldness, agony, and suffering from the characters. With the sentence ‘It is with love that I do this. God’s will be done.’ as background, “We Are What We Are” is not so frightful as it could be, but surely is psychologically disturbing in many ways.

October 22, 2013

12 Years a Slave (2013)

12 Years a Slave (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Country: USA / UK

Movie Review: Steve McQueen is a superb director who really knows how to handle a good story, no matter what its subject matter. After covering the true story of an IRA activist in “Hunger”, and the life of a sex addict in “Shame”, McQueen now turns his focus to slavery in “12 Years a Slave”, another powerful film based on the true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free-born African-American from Saratoga, New York. In 1841, deceived by two rascals who offered him a job in Washington, Northup would be drugged and kidnapped, becoming a slave on the plantations of Louisiana for twelve years, after being released through the help of a Canadian abolitionist carpenter named Bass (Brad Pitt). He will be a continuous victim of physical and psychological abuses by several ‘masters’, especially Tibeats, a revengeful carpenter (Paul Dano), and Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), the plantation owner. With a fantastic pace, the film never loses grip, showing atrocity after atrocity with an excruciating precision. If Tarantino, in his “Django”, could make an amusing version of the theme, McQueen addressed it with seriousness, rigor on details, and in a quite distinguishable manner. A scene I cannot get off my mind is when Northup is hanged by the neck, barely touching with his feet on the ground, and many people pass through as if it nothing happens. Historically important, the film was based on Northup’s 1853 autobiography, and without a doubt represents one of the most solid achievements of the current year.

October 21, 2013

Child's Pose (2013)

Child's Pose (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Calin Peter Netzer
Country: Romania

Movie Review: I was not wrong in expecting quality in “Child’s Pose”, since its script was written by creative Razvan Radulescu, co-writer of “The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu” and “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”. Built with well-worked dialogues and severe postures (nobody smiles here), the story follows Cornelia, a super-protective mother who lives to control her adult son, Barbu. When the latter kills a humble 14-year-old boy in a car accident due to excessive speed driving, she will use her high-society connections and influence to assure that every report and witnesses’ statements would be altered favorably. The title of the movie is quite explanatory, since Barbu is nothing more than a spoiled and irresponsible man who needs desperately her mother to cover up his reckless deeds but at the same time is completely suffocated by her obsessive control. Therefore, “Child’s Pose” works simultaneously as a compelling character study and poignant criticism of a decaying society where the power of money and socialite connections see no limits. Cornelia’s contempt regarding the victim’s family was outrageous and was able to infuriate me. However, an ambivalent finale expects you to make your own judgment of the situation. Netzer’s direct approach and shaken zooming camera not always led to good results, but the story was too interesting, for us to bother with it. The film won this year’s Golden Berlin Bear and counted with an inspired performance by Luminita Gheorghiu.

October 20, 2013

Haunter (2013)

Haunter (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Vincenzo Natali
Country: USA

Movie Review: Vincenzo Natali continues his explorations on horror and supernatural, although still without achieving the notoriety of his first work dated 97, the paranoid and psychological “Cube”. “Haunter” is the story of Lisa (Abigail Breslin), a 16-year-old girl who after establishing contact with a mysterious presence at her house, sees herself trapped in a timeless world populated by living and dead. Establishing contact with the identity that whispers for help, she will follow dark hidden places at home until find several objects that once belonged to missing girls who died in that place. Her waking dreams and repeated visions of her family in weird situations, will lead to the horrible conclusion that, together with all these girls, she and her family were also murdered by a sinister man (Stephen McHattie), a serial killer who lived in that house and continues haunting its dwellers. The film was well shot, evincing curious details and creating shadowy images that caused a desirable impact. But when the truth starts to be disclosed, the mysterious atmosphere vanishes, and the story becomes less scary or intriguing. Horror aficionados may find something entertaining here, but I must confess that nothing fresh was found in this mediocre, perpetual battle for justice and salvation. This is a perfect example of an interesting setup that turns to be useless as the story approaches its volatile conclusions.

October 19, 2013

Camille Claudel 1915 (2013)

Camille Claudel 1915 (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Bruno Dumont
Country: France

Movie Review: French filmmaker Bruno Dumont is back with a total different film but not less disturbing as his previous “La Humanité”, “Hadewijch”, or “Outside Satan”. As the title suggests, this is a biopic that intends to describe sculptor Camille Claudel’s life in the year of 1915, when she was incarcerated in an asylum located in the outskirts of Avignon, after ten years of confinement in her atelier with fear that her works could be stolen by her ex-lover and teacher, the famous Auguste Rodin. Camille shows all her anguish and sorrow due to her parents’ silence and absence towards her appeals to get out, stating that she is not insane. Only her brother, the writer Paul Claudel, pays her a visit from time to time, becoming her only hope to escape that unbearable place. In the last part of the film we get to know more of Paul’s ideas, a writer whose devotion to God made him blind, defending that Camille’s delusions of persecution and grandeur were more a case for an exorcism than sickness. Light was set beautifully, aiding Dumont setting up the perfect cold atmosphere and sorrowful portrait of Camille, magnificently performed by Juliette Binoche. The pace adopted is slow and invariable, reminding me Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method” but with much more emphasis on oppressiveness. The top-notch direction was filled with medium close-ups and medium long shots that efficiently help to describe the sad and tedious life of this great artist.

October 18, 2013

Somewhere in Palilula (2012)

Somewhere in Palilula (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Silviu Purcarete
Country: Romania

Movie Review: Awaited with great expectation by the fans of Silviu Purcarete, a renowned Romanian opera and theater director, “Somewhere In Palilula” didn’t disappoint, bringing a stirring story that works as a satire of the Romanian medical profession. Dr. Serafim is a fresh pediatrician who accepts a job in the phantasmagoric Palilula, a small city known for not having children, all killed at birth by the recently deceased Dr. Pantelica. In difficult times, where food was a whim and drink was a must, doctors and patients were immersed in alcohol and smoke, slowly pushing the unbusy Serafim for a life of excesses and debauchery. After a fast introduction, we get to know all the characters a bit closer: Dr. Gogu, a black man beloved by all women in town; Dr. Ilie, a choleric drunkard; the toothless and passionate Virgil; Barza, a rich Italian frog-seller; the spooky and newly arrived Kiki; negligent Leonardo and his heartless superior; a woman who turns man every half-moon nights; and many more. With a bold and stylish approach, Purcarete presents us insanity everywhere with appealing hints of surrealism, creating this way a disconcerting atmosphere of eccentricity that comes very close to Peter Greenaway’s works. Its bizarreness and dark humor fits as a glove in a mockery with social and political considerations. The only setback is that the film runs for too long, always with a lavish cinematography whose intensity sometimes becomes exhausting.

October 17, 2013

Dark Blood (2012)

Dark Blood (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: George Sluizer
Country: USA / UK / Netherlands

Movie Review: “Dark Blood” is George Sluizer’s unfinished film from 1993, forced to be put on halt shortly before its end due to River Phoenix’s death related with drug abuse. The story follows the adventures of a Hollywood married couple, Buffy (Judy Davis) and Harry (Jonathan Pryce), on a car trip throughout the deserted landscapes of Arizona towards a romantic weekend scheduled to help fix their relationship. After their car breaks down, a widower young man named Boy (Phoenix) rescues them, offering his home and promising to drive them to St. John, the next closest city. But instead of being helpful, the strange and unbalanced Boy develops a huge attraction for Buffy and decides to keep the couple hostage. At first his intentions were shared by Buffy who had already shown some signs of dissatisfaction regarding her marriage. Halfway things get out of control, but instead of getting tense or provoking, the story slows down somehow. Despite a certain mood created, the plot wasn’t as strong as it might seem during the first 30 minutes. This statement nothing has to do with the fact of this film hasn’t been properly finished; the way that the plot was handled in the last part simply didn’t fascinate me. Even flawed and with an overused score, “Dark Blood” can be seen as an exercise with the missing parts composed by a voice-over, but it lacks many essential factors to become memorable.

October 16, 2013

Paradise: Hope (2013)

Paradise: Hope (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ulrich Seidl
Country: Austria / others

Movie Review: Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise Trilogy comes to an end in great style with “Paradise: Hope”, the most interesting and balanced film of the trio. It starts with a gymnastics teacher preaching discipline to the teenager newcomers of a diet camp, a place to learn how to eat healthily and do appropriate exercise. Our eyes then turned to Melanie, a girl who gained a crush on the camp’s doctor after her first medical examination. All tension comes from this relationship, carrying a strong sexual component at first, but changing tone for the last half-hour. Will the doctor follow his voluptuousness in some circumstance? Melanie’s psychological background is shown through conversations with her dorm mates about their parents’ absence and sexual experiences. It was interesting to find that despite being at a very strict place in terms of rules, the girls easily fell into improper conduct, which includes alcohol, cigarettes, and striptease games. Visually, “Hope” is presented in the same line of the two previous parts, “Love” and “Faith”, adopting the same cleanliness, tidiness, and pale colors in the well-composed images. The major difference was in terms of plot, which was more consistent, and less shocking or forced. A connection with the first part of the trilogy is established when Melanie tries to reach her mother on the phone; as you may remember, she was looking for love and sex in Kenya. As usual, Seidl takes a cold look into a degrading society whose values and moral are called into question.

October 15, 2013

Escape From Tomorrow (2013)

Escape From Tomorrow (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Randy Moore
Country: USA

Movie Review: Randy Moore’s writing and directorial debut, “Escape From Tomorrow”, depicts a family’s troubled last vacation day in Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort, filled with strange adventures and presented in capricious, dreamy tones. Jim’s day starts in a lousy manner. He was fired with no reason by phone, got stuck in hotel’s balcony, and his overwhelming wife seems to drive them into a despairing marital crisis. Among acting childish, having weird thoughts, and showing paranoid behaviors, that day would become a tempting trip to Jim, since he spent most of the day following two French young teenagers, but ended up in bed with a weird woman who revealed to be a witch. Instead having a great time in family, Jim will spent the day as in a nightmare composed by intense witchcraft, futuristic scenarios, and sickness. Some creativity has to be recognized here but that doesn’t mean that every move has been achieved properly, especially after the film falls into a sci-fi thriller, losing some of the initial direction. The super-contrasting black and white photography was well chosen to reinforce the intended dreamlike atmosphere, while the mix of tension and humor worked fine in several occasions. Roy Abramsohn had a good performance as Jim, a curious character who, in my eyes, could have been even better availed. More visually attractive than intellectually challenging or funny, “Escape From Tomorrow”, still can provide some entertainment through its fantasies and ghastly dreams.

October 14, 2013

Captain Phillips (2013)

Captain Phillips (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Country: USA

Movie Review: Considering Paul Greengrass’s past works (“Bloody Sunday”, “Bourne Supremacy”, “United 93”), I was expecting something vibrant and thrilling, and that was exactly what he provided with “Captain Phillips”. The plot was based on the true story of Richard Phillips, a merchant mariner who, in 2009, was made hostage by four Somali pirates when they hijacked his container ship Maersk Alabama in Indian Ocean. Billy Ray (“The Hunger Games”, “Breach”, “State Of Play”), wrote the screenplay from the book "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy Seals, and Dangerous Days at Sea" by Phillips himself with Stephan Talty. Although comparable in terms of subject matter to the Danish drama “A Hijacking” (already reviewed in this blog), this one focuses less the psychological side and delivers a much more strenuous and invigorating trip on action. Greengrass continues using a handheld camera, which enhances the tension and realism of the action, and shows to be a master in this genre. His films are never boring and the energy concentrated in the scenes doesn’t give space to unnecessary or stagnant moments. Moreover, I truly believe that great part of its success was due to the amazing performances. Tom Hanks gives his best performance in more than a decade (third Oscar in sight?), bringing all the emotions and courage needed to make this believable, while rookie Barkhad Abdi was a good surprise as the sea pirate in charge. Satisfaction guaranteed for action/thriller enthusiasts.

October 13, 2013

Blind Detective (2013)

Blind Detective (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Johnnie To
Country: Hong Kong / China

Movie Review: If some weeks ago I have said that “Drug War” was one of the best films by Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To, now I have to say that “Blind Detective” is one of his worst. With a proven track in the action-crime genre, Johnnie To tries to add some humor into this distasteful plot and the result becomes too childish to impress. The film stars Andy Lau as the blind detective, Johnston, and Sammi Cheng as Ho Ka Tung, an attractive female inspector who becomes his partner in a special investigation case. Both actors had worked together for several times, including other rom-coms from this same director. During its overlong and mind-numbing 129 minutes, the film failed to be eccentric or funny, and the screenplay by the long-time collaborator Wai Kai-Fai (“Drug War”, “Mad Detective”) left much to be desired. The unintelligent humor never caught me, the dialogues were tiresome and almost unbearable, the attempts to create tension were never exciting enough, and finally as romance the film fell in the ridicule of stereotyped moves. I would be much happier if Johnnie To remained faithful to the underworld crime thrillers, which are what he knows to do best, instead of wasting time with these hollow experiences. “Blind Detective” became the biggest disappointment of the year so far.

October 12, 2013

Gravity (2013)

Gravity (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Alfonso Cuáron
Country: USA

Movie Review: Stunning is the first word that comes to my mind when I think of “Gravity”, an outer-space thriller starring Sandra Bullock as a bio-medical engineer in her first mission, and George Clooney as veteran astronaut. Both of them will try to survive to an accident that affected their shuttle, leaving them adrift in the vastness of space. Mexican Alfonso Cuáron returns to direction in top form, 7 years after the also resounding “The Children Of Men”. This time he had the collaboration of his son, Jonas, in a script that despite very simple in its basis, was extremely efficient on the screen. The realism and accuracy evinced in certain details, makes it the most interesting sci-fi film from the last years, relegating for a much inferior plan other big present-day productions of the same genre such as “Oblivion”, “After Earth”, or “Prometheus”, which weren’t able to entertain and shock us so thoroughly. And what’s funny here is that Cuáron didn’t need guns, rays, or space battles to turn it into a breathtaking experience from start to finish. Visually impeccable, technically perfect, and with an elementary story that was sufficient for its purposes, “Gravity” is a journey that you cannot afford to miss. Prepare yourself to breath heavily in this thrilling, agitated, and suffocating experience, which has the ability to make you simultaneously claustrophobic when inside confined spatial capsules, and agoraphobic (in its non-terrestrial variation) with such space immensity.

October 11, 2013

Bless Me, Ultima (2013)

Bless Me, Ultima (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Carl Franklin
Country: USA

Movie Review: Deeply involved in TV series since 1997, writer/director Carl Franklin (“One False Move”, “Devil In A Blue Dress”) took time to make a faithful adaptation of Rudolfo Anaya’s novel “Bless Me, Ultima”. The story, set in the 40’s New Mexico, depicts the special relationship between a sensitive young boy, Antonio, and an elderly healer called Ultima, who despite inoffensive has the reputation of being a witch. Both will join efforts to fight the evil, personified in the character of Tenorio and his malevolent daughters whose witchcraft practices almost killed Antonio’s uncle. Antonio revealed to be a likeable, large-hearted little boy with a strong personality, who was struggling to find answers for all his innocent but pertinent questions about God. Superbly narrated by Antonio’s adult voice, the film creates a sort of uneasiness by opposing beautiful images of the fields, blue sky, and quiet harvestings, to those of evilness and thirst for revenge. Tension was well set through the mystery, mysticism, and superstition associated to the eternal battle between good and evil. Some viewers may not identify themselves with this odd tale that asks ‘why there is so much evil in the world?’ without trying to answer it. However, the quality of Franklin’s filmmaking is undeniable. I have a little remark concerning the score though: the panpipe music was played perhaps too often.

October 10, 2013

The Unspeakable Act (2012)

The Unspeakable Act (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Dan Sallitt
Country: USA

Movie Review: “The Unspeakable Act” managed to tell an awkward story and turn it into a pleasant surprise. After eight years of absence, American filmmaker/writer/editor Dan Sallitt returns with an endearing work that beyond well developed in structure, also stands for honesty in the portrait created, and rigor regarding technical aspects. Jackie Kimball (Tallie Medel) tells us what bothers her right from the beginning; she believes to get into a nervous breakdown because her older brother Matthew (Sky Hirshkron) got a new girlfriend and is preparing to go to Princeton University. Her heartbreak takes such proportions that her inexpressive mother (Aundrea Fares) sends her to therapy, where she will admit to have a sexual attraction for his brother and occasionally crushes on girls. These therapy sessions were superbly depicted and just served to sharp our curiosity about Jackie and the emotional state in which she slumped. Another beneficial factor was the good dose of mystery associated to the family’s past. The subject matter, absence of music, and composed images created by static shots, which opposed to Jackie’s talkative way and natural thinking-out-loud narration in order to express herself, formed almost an improbable encounter between Lanthimo’s art-house and Rohmer’s fluent style. Newcomer Tallie Medel was impressive, becoming fundamental to achieve authenticity in this unexpectedly gripping character-study.

October 09, 2013

Enough Said (2013)

Enough Said (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Nicole Holofcener
Country: USA

Movie Review: Considering that most of the romantic comedies recently released are just copies of one another, I must say that “Enough Said” presents a sweet touch of frankness that makes it quite better than the majority. The film stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini, in which was his last performance before his death at the age of 51. Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) and Albert (Gandolfini) are both divorced, having one daughter each. After meeting at a party, they start dating in a regular basis, seeming to enjoy each other’s company. The problem is that Eva also becomes friends with Albert’s ex-wife, Marianne (Catherine Keener) who without knowing, starts to poison their relationship by describing what she considered Albert’s most annoying behaviors and faults. In parallel, concerns regarding their children are also addressed in a very convincing manner, composing a complete picture of complex relationships. As in her previous work, “Please Give”, filmmaker Catherine Holofcener was able to create a mature script populated with rich characters, all of them with something valuable to say or show. I have to point that despite its honesty, some strategic moves were put together in a few crucial scenes, but the good news are that those moves were made charmingly, using prolific dialogues, searching for the funny side of drama, and effectively providing mixed feelings. If you’re in the mood for romantic comedies, try this one and your time will not be wasted.

October 08, 2013

Concussion (2013)

Concussion (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Stacie Passon
Country: USA

Movie Review: Despite the ambition showed in “Concussion”, Stacie Passon’s debut as a writer and director wasn’t totally satisfying. Well performed by Robin Weigert, the plot follows Abby, an unsatisfied lesbian who, for a while, decided to stay away from her wife, children, and work and become an escort for women. This urge came suddenly after she was hit accidentally by her son when he was playing baseball, suffering a concussion on her head. Under the name of Eleanor and charging eight hundred dollars per appointment, she will meet many peculiar women and act accordingly to their needs. The list includes a fat teenager with no experience, an impetuous woman who knows what she wants, a scared one who tries to escape, a woman from her hometown who was more experienced than she was, and a violent one with whom she wasn’t so comfortable. This hidden life of sensuality and pleasure brought both good and bad surprises. Sex is addressed freely and the necessity for new sexual experiences seemed to make sense in Abby’s life, but maybe I expected more from this story whose conclusions didn’t make me more responsive than I was at the beginning. I believe that with a bit more humor and less love scenes wrapped in white bedsheets, the film would have gained another impact. Without being misdirected, it lacked something in the plot to surprise and make us feel more involved in Abby’s world of pleasure. “Concussion” won the Teddy jury prize at Berlin Film Festival.

October 07, 2013

The Dirties (2013)

The Dirties (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Matthew Johnson
Country: Canada

Movie Review: Audacious and darkly funny are the best adjectives to characterize “The Dirties”, the directorial debut by Matthew Johnson who also plays himself in the main role, a bullied High School student whose plan consists on killing a group of bullies he calls The Dirties. The film starts in a provocative way stating that scenes of graphic violence are intended for mature audiences and out of respect for the victims and their families, the footage has not been altered in any way. Matt and his friend Owen Wilson despite isolated from the rest of the world, have each other as company. Although they not always agree, their irreverence and creativity are a constant presence in school. Their revengeful plan was well premeditated, including a shooting practice and obtaining of blue prints from school, but while Owen sees it as a mere game without taking it seriously, Matthew is really determined in carrying it forward. “The Dirties” is a compelling portrait on bullying, school violence, and alienated teenagers, that could not achieve even better results because its experimental filmmaking was technically carefree, presenting a sort of anarchy, which intended or not, wasn’t appealing for the eyes. The frequent use of shaky camera with sudden zooms, lurking from corners or windows is a good example. Nevertheless, it showed enormous merit in other aspects such as: the creative idea behind the plot, the rousing and sarcastic finale, and credible performances. Regardless its faulty execution, at least we can say it was done with the right attitude.