November 30, 2013

Nairobi Half Life (2012)

Nairobi Half Life (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: David Tosh Gitonga
Country: Kenya / Germany

Movie Review: “Nairobi Half Life”, Kenya’s first official entry for foreign-language film Oscar, presents us the dangers faced by young Mwas (Joseph Wairimu), who decides to leave his poor village to try his luck as an actor in Nairobi, by joining a street company that performed in his town. However, the adventure becomes turbulent, since Mwas is robbed at his arrival and then arrested for something he hasn’t done. Our sympathetic hero, always with a smile in his face, will manage to make some friends and ask for help, forcibly becoming a thief and gangster in order to survive in a merciful city ruled by corruption, prostitution, and crime. Whether some diverting episodes tried to ease the harshness of the story, like the way Mwas dealt with prostitutes, others simply imply that you need some madness (natural or fake) to keep going. Living in two incompatible worlds, he will try his best to get out of crime and stick to acting, which is his true passion. The consistent script is depicted with the help of several images where chaos and savagery reign, giving the precise idea of the overwhelming atmosphere lived. I found the cinematography very appealing, an aspect that is not always well achieved when it comes to African cinema. Sometimes disgustful, sometimes gritty, “Nairobi Half Life” loses some strength in its final third but succeeds in capturing the city vibes, giving us at the same time the personal story of a young man who refuses to give up his dreams.

November 29, 2013

Gloria (2013)

Gloria (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Sebastián Lelio
Country: Chile / Spain

Movie Review: Set in Santiago, this film compellingly depicts a complicated phase in the life of Gloria (Paulina Garcia), a 58-year-old Chilean woman and her problematical relationship with Rudolfo (Sergio Hernandez), an ex-naval officer she got to know in one of the local night clubs she often attends. Both divorced, they face life and deal with their children in a very distinct manner. While Gloria is more detached without stop being sensitive, Rudolfo has in his daughters a big obstacle in life, and gets constantly tied up in family affairs. What could have been a beautiful love story between two mature adults ends up in a sequence of challenges that will compromise their relationship. The film was carried out in a very natural and cozy way, making us watch its episodes with curiosity and fondness. Gloria’s life is portrayed in such a way that leaves no doubts about her habits or personality. And all the merit goes to the performances of Paulina Garcia (best actress at Berlin) and Sergio Hernandez, who put every feeling and behavior in the right place. The sex scenes were raw and nudity was embraced naturally and without complexes. Some scenes are hilarious, like when Gloria furiously discharges a paint-ball gun at Rudolfo; yet some others are touching, exemplified when Gloria suddenly gets the notion of her age while seeing a skeleton puppet show in the street. Sensible and insightful, "Gloria" was awarded at Berlin and San Sebastian Film Festivals.

November 28, 2013

Gagarin: First in Space (2013)

Gagarin: First in Space (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Pavel Parkhomenko
Country: Russia

Movie Review: “Gagarin: First in Space” is the first biopic of Soviet pilot and cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, the first man to reach the outer space, when in April 12, 1961, his spacecraft Vostok 3KA completed an entire orbit around the Earth. Presented in radiant colored tones that recreate decently the 60’s, this state-funded film doesn’t hide its patriotic exacerbation, reinforcing the Soviet strictness, military determination, and national enthusiasm about the man who would open the frontiers of unexplored space. The story focuses on the period right before the tough tests that Gagarin was subjected along with a competitive group of 19 pilots, until his return from space. However, some flashbacks take us to several episodes of his poor childhood, involving his humble parents and brother, and how he met his wife for the first time during a dance ball. Despite his irreproachable career, his private life didn’t reveal anything particularly remarkable, and even his unwarming relationship with his incredulous father was depicted exactly in the way he always behave when facing a stressful situation: cold and unemotional. The fact that production designer turned director Parkhomenko (who worked in Alexey Balabanov’s films) has left behind the last seven years of Gagarin’s life, including the jet crash that caused his death in 1968, and the speculations about conspiracy involving it, must seem incomplete in the eyes of many. Production values are strong, while the special effects aren’t exuberant but appropriate.

November 27, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Country: USA

Movie Review: The second part of The Hunger Games trilogy, “Catching Fire”, was directed by former music video director Francis Lawrence, giving continuity to the adventures of dauntless Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) who keeps fighting for her life. As winners of the 74th Hunger Games, she and her friend Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), abandoned their homes to take the Victor’s Tour of the districts, eventually falling in the hands of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), the head behind the games, who trap them with the preparations of a special 25-year event named Quarter Quell. “Catching Fire” is slightly better than the previous one, as it is more substantial. The story was well thought and had its good moments, although the last part (the games themselves) was the weaker section, still presenting clichés and artifacts, which create the well-known situations of danger and suspense with occasional bustling, where the special effects oscillate between acceptable and ignorable. This time, the participants’ goal was simply try to survive rather than competing with one another, and this change of strategy brought beneficial results, along with the unexpected final revelations that left everything in suspension until the last part of the saga is created. Definitely not a must, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, despite its conventional patterns, is a watchable blockbuster.

November 26, 2013

Doomsdays (2013)

Doomsdays (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Eddie Mullins
Country: USA

Movie Review: Darkly funny and sufficiently anarchic in concept to arise curiosity, “Doomsdays” contributes to maintain the American independent cinema in good health. The story follows two buddies, Dirty Fred (Justin Rice) and Bruho (Leo Fitzpatrick), who fearing the end of the world, decide to live aimlessly, breaking into empty rich houses in upstate New York where they stay until be discovered. Once inside a house, the buddies act very distinctively. While Dirty Fred quietly sits, reads, and drinks compulsively, Bruho entertains himself destroying cars and whatever comes to his mind. Their favorite games vary from punching each other’s arms to pissing in the face of whoever falls asleep. Seemingly enjoying this adventurous life, the pair will be joined by other two wandering fellows, the discarded teen Jaidon and the attractive Reyna. The story succeeds in part due to its dark humor and complete commitment from the actors, who confess that some of the scenes became accidentally improvised. In the other hand, some stuff seemed too childish to totally engage but the film was never pretentious or seemed out of reality, despite the outer-reality of its characters. At least, former critic and debutant writer/director, Eddie Mullins, was able to put originality in a story that lives from the individual experiences and transformations of its characters, rather than looking for a logical sequence of a plot, which as a whole was not so valuable. 

November 25, 2013

Nebraska (2013)

Directed by: Alexander Payne
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Nebraska” is one of those films you won’t easily forget. Director Alexander Payne (“About Schmidt”, “Sideways”, “The Descendants”) grabs this wonderful story by Bob Nelson, and with masterly simplicity builds a near perfect portrait of Nebraska, along with one of its typical families. Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is a stubborn, hard of hearing, and alcoholic old man who, motivated by a scam letter issued by a marketing company saying he won a million dollars, persuades his son, David (Will Forte) to drive him from Billings, Montana, where they actually live, to Lincoln, Nebraska. Along the way, they take the opportunity to revisit their hometown, Hawthorne, where they will meet Woody’s older brother (almost a copy of himself) and his family, and some old acquaintances who certainly won’t be missed. Woody’s outspoken wife, Kate (June Squibb), and his well-succeeded older son, Ross (Bob Odenkirk), will also join him later towards a splendid and unforgettable family adventure. The characters were well thought and fantastically built through the excellent performances by Dern (best actor in Cannes), Forte, and Squibb. The serenity, transparency, and honesty evinced here, are big lessons to those dramas that use cheap machinations to depict reality. Deep and damn funny, “Nebraska” stands as a timeless road trip drama reinforced with amazing landscapes painted in cool shades of grey. Assuredly, it is a major accomplishment of the American cinema.

November 24, 2013

Shield of Straw (2013)

Shield of Straw (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Country: Japan

Movie Review: Mixing invigorating action scenes with some others often exaggerated or dull, “Shield of Straw” marks the return of prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike, now in a cop thriller that most of time evinced neither head nor tail in its concept. This way Miike continues to punctuate its filmography with ups and downs. Last year was a good example: “Ace Attorney” pleased me with its eccentric courtroom adventures, while “Lesson of the Evil” wasn't what I expected. “Shield of Straw” promised so much but ended up in silliness, telling the story of the police escort of Kiyomaru, one of the most dangerous psychopaths in Japan, responsible for several killings, including a seven-year-old girl whose influent grandfather demands her killer’s death in exchange of a great sum of money. Four agents were assigned with the tough mission of transporting and protecting him from a Japan in fury. By car, train, or walking, the threats come from everywhere and include other greedy cops, nurses, a plane sabotage, a truck with explosive materials, and citizens who were related with some victims. Nothing to say about Miike’s competent direction but the manipulative plot and some performances didn’t convince at all. More laughable than thrilling, and sank in doubtful psychology, the film sustains the moral question: ‘why protect a lousy criminal instead of innocent people’? Notwithstanding some sense here, the situations were addressed with obtuseness and never provided the desirable satisfaction.

November 23, 2013

La Pirogue (2012)

La Pirogue (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Moussa Touré
Country: Senegal / France / others

Movie Review: “La Pirogue” is a Senegalese drama that follows a group of African men who embark in the dangerous adventure of crossing the Atlantic in a fishing pirogue in order to reach Spain where they expect to find better life conditions. The pirogue will be handled by Baye Laye (Souleymane Seye Ndiaye in its debut), a Senegalese fisherman who is a truly connoisseur of the seas. Among the passengers there are Senegalese, a group of Guinean emigrants, one single woman, and a chicken. The perils of the trip could be felt, including some unlikeable surprises along the trip, dehydration, hunger, despair, and panic attacks. Frequent close-ups demonstrate the sadness mirrored in travellers’ faces, while joyful moments were very scarce. With a well-handled cinematography by Thomas Letellier, the film makes a curious introduction to its origin country through colorful scenes of African daily life, rituals, and rhythms, after definitely take off to the anguishing isolation of the ocean. The film was directed by Moussa Touré who counts with three feature-films and one documentary in a career that started in 1991. His 1998 comedy “TGV” got international recognition. Visually strong, “La Pirogue” wasn’t so original in concept but honestly conveys a tough reality, unfortunately more and more common nowadays. A questionable aspect here was the soundtrack, which sometimes gave the sensation of appeasement when tension was more appropriate to the situation. Not a big issue to discourage me from recommending it.

November 22, 2013

The Land of Hope (2012)

The Land of Hope (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Shion Sono
Country: Japan / others

Movie Review: Despair and hope walk side-by-side in “The Land of Hope”, the first film to depict the consequences of 2011 Fukushima’s nuclear disaster in Japan. Set in the small village of Oba Town, the story follows a family of farmers through their journey of separation, anxiety, and tough decisions, in order to protect one another and continue living a proper life. Yasuhiko is proud to be a farmer who takes care of his forgetful wife Chieko. With them, lives the rest of the family, their son Yoichi and his wife Izumi who are expecting a baby. As their property stands half in and half out of the evacuation area, the elder couple decides to stay and send the younger away in order to protect the coming child. In parallel, we follow another young couple who was trying to find their home, now transformed in a ghostly place. The images of destruction and desolation revealed to be more subtle than strong, in an intelligent story that addresses the particular instead of focusing in the whole problem. After a faltering start, the film step by step started to reach satisfactory levels. More realistic and dramatic, and less violent and shocking (this time immoderate images were left aside), “The Land of Hope” still is a Shion Sono’s film, carrying humor in the most unexpected situations, depicting the scenes with a strangeness that involves, and making a social criticism to the way people are deceived by the Japanese government.

November 21, 2013

A Chorus of Angels (2012)

A Chorus of Angels (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Junji Sakamoto
Country: Japan

Movie Review: Junji Sakamoto’s films were never recognized as important in Japanese contemporary cinema, and “A Chorus Of Angels” still isn’t a sign of change. The problems don’t lie in the technical aspects whose photography, lighting, and score (not for my taste) were awarded by the Japanese academy. The plot, with all its twists, flashbacks, and revelations, was the main setback, becoming too convoluted and sorrowful to be pleasant. The story follows Haru (Sayuri Yoshinaga), former teacher in Hokkaido who was forced to leave her job due to an accident that victimized her kind-hearted husband. Since that time, and along 20 years, she has been working as librarian. Unexpectedly, in her last day before retirement, she receives the visit of two policemen who just had started an inquiry regarding Nobuto (Mirai Moriyama), the youngest and most problematic of her former students, now accused of murder. Curiosity makes her travel to Hokkaido again to contact each one of the five students. More will be found about Nobuto’s case, along with other surprising disclosures. Sadly, the story didn’t tease me in any way, with the narrative being presented in somnolent tones and the characters carrying guilt and sorrow along the way. Too tidy, tolerant, and super-dramatic, “A Chorus of Angels” overuses the words ‘my fault’ without ever create truly (in)tense moments. This drama was based on a novel by Kanae Minato, the same author of “Confessions”, published in 2008, and transformed in a cinematic hit by Tatsuya Nakashima in 2010.

November 20, 2013

Breathe In (2013)

Breathe In (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Drake Doremus
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Breathe In” comes in the wake of “Like Crazy”, the previous film by helmer Drake Doremus, who also co-wrote together with Ben York Jones. With a direction that didn’t excel, he somehow managed to give something meaningful to a quite common story. When Sophie (Felicity Jones), coming from England, arrives in New York to study music, the Reynolds family welcomed her in their own house; Keith (Guy Pearce), who would be her music teacher, his wife Megan (Amy Ryan), and their daughter Loren (Mackenzie Davis), did everything to make her comfortable in every way. Sophie’s presence, in her simplicity and relaxed way, started to cause a strange effect on Keith, smoothing out his professional pressures. Inevitably, a mutual admiration and curiosity starts to grow between them, but if this wasn’t enough, Sophie also cast her charming spell on Aaron (Matthew Daddario), a schoolmate who Lauren was in love with. The plot's development, despite running slow, has everything in the right place. Things get pretty nasty for the last moments and everything falls apart, leading to irreparable, devastating consequences for all the characters. Well conceived and executed, “Breathe In” didn’t make my day, but I felt like I didn’t waste my time either. And undoubtedly that fact has to do with the brilliant performances, especially by Jones and Pearce, whose moments together, adorned with gentle touches and ethereal piano tunes in the background, created the intimacy needed to make the scenes work appropriately.

November 19, 2013

Bastards (2013)

Bastards (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Claire Denis
Country: France / Germany

Movie Review: Claire Denis has already proved her amazing capabilities, and “Bastards” confirms her biting efficiency within a complex story that balances among intriguing insinuations and the habitual rawness that characterizes her filmmaking style. Marco arrives to Paris, after the suicide of his brother-in-law, to give support to his sister, Sandra, and niece, Justine, who is hospitalized with severe damages in the genitals resulting of her involvement in a dirty prostitution business. Marco gives up his job and sells everything he can to help his family, now in bankruptcy. In an attempt to reach Edouard Laporte, the presumed responsible for all these tragic incidents, Marco rents an apartment in the building he lives, but unexpectedly becomes passionate lover of Laporte’s wife Raphaelle, an inactive housewife that lives for her little son. The film starts in a modest way, I would even dare to say in a pretty standard way, but as the plot develops, things becomes clearer and Denis waits for the perfect moment to blow us away with ruthless, shocking, and surprising revelations. The pace is unhurried, taking the time needed for us to absorb the characters’ personality and cheerless scenarios. The dusky photography by Agnés Godard, highlights the constrained atmosphere of despair, oppressiveness, and psychological insanity, aided by an intriguing, somber music. With great performances by all the cast and demanding a lot from the audiences, “Bastards” is undisputed leader for darkest film of the year.

November 18, 2013

Dust On Our Hearts (2012)

Dust On Our Hearts (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Hanna Doose
Country: Germany

Movie Review: “Dust On Our Hearts” depicts a relationship of love and hate between mother and daughter, giving us at the same time the whole picture of a broken family. Kathi (Stephanie Stremler) is a 30-year-old single mother who is trying to be an actress without practical results. Her recent auditions keep going the wrong way and the financial dependence of her mom (Susanne Lothar in one of her last roles), a neurotic and manipulative life coach, affect her life deeply. Kathi sees herself in another weird situation when her dad, Wolfgang (Michael Kind), comes to live to Berlin many years after his separation from her mother, to try to get the family back together and meet his teenage son Gabriel for the first time. After an incident in a street market where her 4-year-old son disappears, Kathi loses the trust of her mother who tries to keep her grandson. Things didn’t seem so real in the scenes after the kid’s disappearance, when the family members act in a relaxed manner, while Wolfgang sees a good opportunity to infiltrate in her ex-wife’s house. Hanna Doose gives some good indications on screenwriting and direction, portraying a dysfunctional family where everyone is needy, but some scenes demanded a little more control to work better, exception made for a fight scene between mother and daughter that leads to their rupture. The fear of failing and be rejected, along with its consequences, played also an important part in this respectable but inessential study of characters.

November 17, 2013

It Felt Like Love (2013)

It Felt Like Love (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Eliza Hittman
Country: USA

Movie Review: Warm summer breezes could be felt in “It Felt Like Love”, a fresh coming-of-age tale set in southern Brooklyn. Written and gorgeously directed by debutant Eliza Hittman, the film centers on Lila (Gina Piersanti), a 14-year-old perplexed girl who is decided to find someone to start a relationship, after growing a bit envious of her best friend Chiara (Giovanna Salimeri) and her boyfriend Patrick (Jesse Cordasco), a couple whose intimate moments she likes to observe from a distance. Her choice falls on Sammy (Ronen Rubinstein), an older and tough boy whom she starts to pursue, creating a false illusion of commitment. This kind of obsession and every attempt to be someone she really wasn’t could have had much worse repercussions in Lila’s life. All her little schemes and insinuations grew uncontrollably, making her lose face in front of friends. The moving camera concentrates in different parts of the characters’ bodies and a resolute intimacy is achieved through colorful image sequences. The film revealed some limitations in terms of narrative, but in return, engenders a noteworthy ambience, sometimes awkward, that relegates a simple story of sexual awakening into something more artsy and appealing. Sporadic images brought to my mind Malick’s “To the Wonder”, while the score relied on vigorous hip-hop tunes. Controlled and unintrusive, “It Felt Like Love” always seemed right, despite its minor faults.

November 16, 2013

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor: The Dark World (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Thor: The Dark World” is just another superhero flick based on a well known Marvel character and directed by Alan Taylor (“Sopranos TV series”), who gives his first steps on the genre. The result was weak, in a story where banality is around, focusing more in the splendorous images and special effects than properly in any other aspect. The story follows the battle between Asgard’s heroes Thor, his brother Loki, and his father Odin, against the super-villain Malekith, an ancient menace for their peaceful kingdom. To heat things up, romance is also introduced when Jane Foster reunites the team, unfortunately already contaminated by Malekith’s poisonous substance called Aether. More pompous than complex, and much more visual than mindful, “Thor” practically didn’t have any impact on me. The truth is that I’m getting sick of these Marvel stories, more and more hackneyed with its cheap tricks and effects, lack of humor, and most important, a complete incapacity to create real amusement with its adventures. Thor, for instance, almost didn’t seem the main character, completely swallowed by his brother Loki’s charisma and presence. For my personal taste, fill the screen with action is not enough, and this new Marvel adventure, even in that aspect, wasn’t particularly tasteful, carrying out scenes that appeared to be reformulated for worse. Director Alan Taylor is one who must have enjoyed this experience, since another blockbuster, “Terminator”, is in his schedule with release announced for 2015.

November 15, 2013

Cold Turkey (2013)

Cold Turkey (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Will Slocombe
Country: USA

Movie Review: Messy family relationships filled with accusations, squabbles, and remorse, are depicted in “Cold Turkey” without presenting anything outstanding or different from other dramas of the same type. Heavy-drinker-bourgeois patriarch Poppy and his second wife Deborah are receiving their son Jacob along with his two half-sisters, Lindsay and Nina, for the Thanksgiving and Christmas. At first, all the attentions were centered in Nina, absent for 15 years and showing to be the most eccentric and frontal of the family. After some tense moments (some good, some bad) around the dinner table regarding stupid events from the past, the three children, one at a time, approach their father to ask for money. Nothing we weren’t expecting, but a surprise will be disclosed and the family won’t be the same anymore. Will be the changes for better or for worse? Slocombe’s direction didn’t pull any magical trick in a plot whose principal issues were lack of originality and imagination, a forced cynicism, and unavailability to develop a bit more its characters. Famous actor/director Peter Bogdanovich (“The Last Picture Show”, “Paper Moon”) has a great performance but unfortunately the rest of the cast was incapable of following him in creating a peculiar mood that was the only reason for me to keep on watching this film. Planned to be released in the festive season that is approaching, “Cold Turkey” showed to be a very cold and often banal plate for me to enjoy it totally.

November 14, 2013

The Look of Love (2013)

The Look of Love (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Country: UK / USA

Movie Review: Winterbottom’s “The Look of Love” is a biopic of UK's strip club pioneer, publisher of soft porn-magazines, and visionary real estate entrepreneur, Paul Raymond, who would become Britain’s wealthiest man and celebrity, being constantly sought by the press. After his daughter’s death of a heroin overdose in 1992, he became less and less sociable. The way Winterbottom addressed the story didn’t please me, giving us relevant info mixed with not so crucial scenes, causing the film to drag for several moments. The structure in its backs and forwards seemed to tremble, reinforced by a character whose life didn’t show to be so interesting or worth much attention. The most curious fact in the film was Raymond’s ex-wife becoming his model for a magazine, many years after their separation. He also tried to turn his daughter, performed by Imogen Poots, into singer/producer of his most expensive show, but her lack of talent just wasn’t enough. Steve Coogan’s performance was good without being memorable, being its fourth appearance in Michael Winterbottom’s films, following “The Trip”, “Tristram Shandy”, and the superb “24 Hour Party People”. Uninvolving and lacking some artistic artifacts, which I attribute to the filmmaker’s aptitude for independent productions instead of this kind of biopics, “The Look of Love” revealed to be disappointingly weak considering the calibers of its main actor and director.

November 13, 2013

The Act of Killing (2012)

The Act of Killing (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Joshua Oppenheimer / others
Country: Denmark / UK / others

Movie Review: “The Act of Killing” is a hard-to-watch documentary about a bunch of Indonesian executioners (gangsters or free men according to their explanation), who were responsible for the death of more than one million people during the 1965-1966 anti-communist purge. They were supported by the Government and protected by a dangerous right-wing paramilitary organization called ‘Pancasila Youth’. Since most of them showed no regrets for thousands of deaths, boasting themselves with the crimes committed against innocent people, I wonder what these men are made of. The objective here was to make them recreate their own past actions, including interrogatories, torture, and consequent extermination of people they accused to be ‘communists’, nothing more than opponents of a corrupt and intolerant regime. Excited to be in a film representing their dirty work, the men revealed to be ignorant in many aspects, cruel executioners, and money extorters, making this film risible and appalling at the same time. Their performances have the same effect of a bizarre circus, recreating horrible methods of torture with an easiness that is quite shocking.  With illustrious documentarians such as Errol Morris and Werner Herzog as executive producers, “The Act of Killing” discloses scandalous truths that won’t leave you indifferent. Former assassins Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry were the main protagonists in a film that gathers all the madness associated to its characters, proving in a cynical, yet exceptional manner that pure evil really exists. Essential viewing!

November 12, 2013

Don Jon (2013)

Don Jon (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Country: USA

Movie Review: Dramatically thin and set in humorous tones, Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut depicts the life episodes of Jon (Gordon-Levitt), an Italian American porn-addict and women’s conqueror who lives a carefree life till bump into Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a woman who seems to have everything he is searching for. When everything seemed perfect, Barbara finds out Jon’s addiction and breaks up with him. Desolated and feeling guilty, Jon tries to find solace in his daily praying, weekly confessions at church, and in a strange and sad woman named Esther (Julianne Moore) who will become his confident, lover, and kind of a sexual therapist. The film starts with Jon carefully explaining us all his motivations that boost him to watch porn videos on the Internet. In opposition to this, every time he goes to the movies with Barbara, he finds the chosen romances predictable, and that was exactly what I felt watching “Don Jon”. Not only one single move surprised me, and I didn’t find the film so funny or deep as I was expecting it to be. I remember to have laughed with Jon’s bossy father (a model to his son in terms of dressing) and hysterical mother, and not much more. “Don Jon” provides an unagitated watching with its mildly entertaining approach and despite clear in its message, its final result ended up being a contrived study on the undesirable effects that watching porn might have in real life. For a bold experience about the same subject matter, I would recommend Steve McQueen’s disquieting “Shame”.

November 11, 2013

The Great Beauty (2013)

The Great Beauty (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Paolo Sorrentino
Country: Italy

Movie Review: “The Great Beauty” is a sharp, well-observed, critical portrait of contemporary Rome, created through the life of Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a 65-year-old writer who doesn’t write for 40 years when his unique novel attained fame. Since that time, his life consists of interviewing some personalities, night parties, sporadic and inconsequent romances, lively chats with his literary group of friends, and lots of gossip regarding roman society. Jep confesses when he came to Rome with the age of 26 he wanted to be the king of highlife, but lately, he is feeling old and a bit tired of the city, an emptiness that starts to get worse when he observes attentively all his friends and sees old acquaintances dying. Very artistic, both in form and content, “The Great Beauty” is a Fellini-esque satire of a man and the city he lives. And believe me, there is a lot to look at here; so many meaningful scenes and important details projected this film into the limelight. The constant visual changings made by shadows and lights, reinforced the fun and sadness of Jep’s world, with all its pleasures and bohemia. Toni Servillo, who often marks presence in Sorrentino’s films (“The Consequences Of Love”, “Il Divo”), was fantastic in this role, playing with absolute commitment the man who enjoyed life looking for the great beauty to move forward. Sophisticated and elegantly presented, “The Great Beauty” is a true gem that restates Paolo Sorrentino as the most solid representative of modern Italian cinema.

November 10, 2013

Ender's Game (2013)

Ender's Game (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Gavin Hood
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Ender’s Game” is a flat sci-fi adventure written and directed by Gavin Hood (“Tsotsi”, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), based on the novel of the same name by Orson Scott Card. Asa Butterfly plays the hero, Ender Wiggin, a bullied teen student who unexpectedly brings to light all the requirements to become the protégé of Colonel Graff, performed by a discreet Harrison Ford. He will join his Battle School’s training program destined to protect the Earth from Alien creatures called formics. Once there, internal issues arise involving another leader called Bonzo, but eventually Ender ends up leading is own team. Defying gravity, Ender’s training battles are nothing more than boring, floating movements and random rays traveling the air, while the computer games turned into dreams seemed too stupid to deserve some credit. Even with its (minor) twists, the story remained uninteresting and especially non-thrilling till the end. Strategies’ definition along with simulations of war continues to be presented in a dragging pace, even after the former war-hero Mazer Rackham pulls Ender to its limits with the most difficult tests. Most of the time I had the sensation that the film was deceiving me somehow, with its pointless simulated scenes and confusing, patterned, and loaded special effects that seemed more fireworks in the sky. The generally well-accepted book from 1984 simply didn’t work on film, though a probable sequel relying on these production values just doesn’t excite me.

November 09, 2013

How I Live Now (2013)

How I Live Now (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Kevin Macdonald
Country: UK

Movie Review: Scottish helmer Kevin Macdonald has been recognized through some interesting works, not only on fiction with “The Last King of Scotland” and “State of Play”, but also on documentary, his career’s basis foundation, with “Touching the Void” and “Marley”. The brand-new apocalyptic romantic drama “How I Live Now” is perhaps one of his weakest works in terms of story and structure, along with 2011 “The Eagle”. Based on Meg Rosoff’s novel with the same title, “How I Live Now” starts with high premises but gradually falls in derivative movements that make the world threat seem a walk in the fields on a sunny day. The film stars Saoirse Ronan in the role of Daisy, a lonely American teenager who struggles with the huge amount of thoughts that keep coming to her mind, and finally encounters her happiness in England when she falls in love with her cousin Eddie. Sadly, the quietness of countryside and peace that blooms from love, are suddenly shaken with a nuclear explosion that leads to their evacuation and separation. Without neglecting the camera work and all the beautiful and clear images pulled out by Macdonald, the film failed in terms of credibility, conveying a sort of lightness that didn’t combine at all with the terror and anguish that should be present in a case of this nature. Ronan didn’t please me much here, in her abrupt transformation from a non-confident girl to a brave fighter searching for love. I’ve seen much better within the same genre than the soft existential issues and tepid romanticism depicted in this useless drama.

November 08, 2013

Hannah Arendt (2012)

Hannah Arendt (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Margarethe von Trotta
Country: Germany / others

Movie Review: German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt’s biopic is a compelling drama that captivates mostly for the realistic and sober way the scenes are presented. Known to be a great thinker of her time and student of Martin Heidegger, Arendt would become a political theorist who was many times misunderstood and criticized. Her work falls on themes such as totalitarianism, democracy, and authority. This film centers particularly on Arendt’s response to the 1961 trial of former Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann, in a series of articles for The New Yorker. Arendt’s personality and ideas were depicted through conversations with her intellectual friends, or in school during her classes. Without any kind of dramatic exploitation, we get to know that this polemic woman was in a German detention camp in France, and for her the US was a paradise of freedom. Barbara Sukowa’s performance was worthy, giving the real notion of a woman who died thinking about her famous topic, ‘banality of evil’. Despite all these favorable aspects, I believe some others could have been improved. The pace was steady, while most of the scenes were cold and straightforward, sometimes lacking motion and emotion. That’s why “Hannah Arendt” wasn’t made to please everyone. Margarethe Von Trotta’s risky approach must be praised since it is anti-sensationalist, but in several moments the film fails to engage, and we absorb the divided world created by this frontal woman with a certain distance.

November 07, 2013

The Wall (2012)

The Wall (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Julian Polsler
Country: Austria / Germany

Movie Review: A fantastic surprise coming from Austria, “The Wall” is a poetic and very human essay on isolation and survival. It was based on Marlen Haushofer’s novel with the same name, and directed by Julian Polsler who gives here his first step out of the TV scope. A woman (Martina Gedeck) gets mysteriously trapped in a delimited mountain area that became surrounded by a transparent, preventing her from any human contact. Assuming the rest of the world is dead, her only companies were animals: Lynx, a dog that belonged to her compulsive collector friend, Hugo; Pearl, a cat that appeared in a rainy day; and Bella, the cow that helped her to survive with its milk. Her concern for the animals took a considerable weight from her back, since she didn’t think so much in herself or in the abominable situation she was. In order to help her state of mind, she decided to create a kind of report where she annotated all the relevant occurrences that might happen. Her voice and occasional excerpts of Bach’s classical music were the only break of the forest’s heavy silences. Efficiently narrated and acted by Martina Gedeck, and dazzling us with its sharp cinematography, “The Wall”, created a prison that made me feel frustrated rather than claustrophobic. I was absorbed during all the film, which only came to an end when the paper was over and Gedeck was forced to stop writing. This lyrical mystery tale, winner of Ecumenical Jury’s prize at Berlin, comes with the stamp ‘required watching’.

November 06, 2013

We Are the Nobles (2013)

We Are the Nobles (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Gary Alazraki
Country: Mexico

Movie Review: “Nosostros Los Nobles” a.k.a. “We are the Nobles” is a Mexican comedy that was turned into a top box-office in its origin country. Gary Alazraki’s directorial debut gives us the story of a rich family that suddenly became poor, in a stratagem of Germán Noble, a protective father and owner of a well-succeeded company, who made all the arrangements to teach their three slacker children a lesson on how tough life can be. Javi works with his father but only wants partying and is lost in ruinous business ideas; Barbara is the most spoiled and arrogant, willing to marry an opportunist who tries to pass himself as Spanish; Carlos, in turn, is a zen guy who makes part of an anti-capitalist group and is having an affair with his teacher. Therefore, no other option is available for them than start working hard in order to have some food at the table. After create this pretended situation, even Germán will understand that he himself has many things to learn about their children. Eased by the solidly built characters, the cast did a good job, helping to turn this social criticism in a watchable film, even considering its familiar tones and here and there some exaggerated situations. Adorned with warm colors, and more moralistic than really believable, “We Are the Nobles” gains in entertainment what lacks in originality, becoming the second comedy coming from Mexico released this year, along with “Instructions Not Included”.