February 28, 2014

Two Lives (2012)

Two Lives (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Georg Maas
Country: Germany / Norway

Movie Review: Germany’s submission for the 86th Academy Awards, “Two Lives” is the second fictional feature by Georg Maas, focusing in the story of Katrine Evensen-Myrtal, an evasive yet affecting Norwegian-German woman who dedicates herself to her husband, daughter, and mother. The place is Bergen, Norway, and the year is 1990, right after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Katrine (Juliane Kohler) and her mother, Ase (Liv Ullman, former Ingmar Bergman’s muse), were victims of the famous Nazi program known as Lebensborn, being the unique case that both mother and daughter were found. A young lawyer is trying to persuade them to testify in court against Norwegian Government for having cooperated with the Germans. By refusing to testify in the case, Katrine will call the attention for her secret past as Stasi agent, compromising the happiness and stability of her family life. “Two lives” was well structured, as well as visually representative of the time and place where the story occurs. There were occasions where a narrative impasse was noticeable, with the revelations near the end becoming very welcome in a time where impatience seemed to start taking care of me. Gladly, the interest and satisfaction increased as the story proceeded to its sad conclusions. Performances were extremely credible, in a sober thriller that exposes the discomfiture of seeing dark secrets exposed to the ones we truly love.

February 27, 2014

The Ravine of Goodbye (2013)

The Ravine of Goodbye (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Tatsushi Ohmori
Country: Japan

Movie Review: Tatsushi Ohmori adapts Shuichi Yoshida’s novel for the big screen, in this depressive drama shaped in familiar tones and hidden mysteries. The film starts with Shunsuke Ozaki (Shima Onishi) and his lover, Kanako (Yoko Maki), sharing intimate moments while their neighbor next door is arrested for the murder of her own little son. The couple seemed not to be much affected by this happening, despite knowing the victim and his mother. A few days later, Ozaki is also arrested for supposedly involvement in the crime, after a phone call from his lover telling the police that he was in a sexual relationship with the neighbor. In order to find all the answers, journalist Watanabe (Nao Omori) whose wife is giving him a hard time, starts his own investigation and coming to the conclusion that Kanako is the same woman Ozaki raped 15 years ago when he was a promising baseball player at college. Not very expeditious in its development, the film moves in sinuous ways, never reaching acceptable levels of discernment or even transmitting truthfulness. Some scenes that were meant to mix sadness, seriousness, and tension, ended up becoming artless and trapped in innocuous dialogues. Awarded at the 35th Moscow Film Festival with the special jury prize, “The Ravine of Goodbye” was imprecise, fastidious, and misrepresented in psychological terms, factors that won’t contribute for us to keep it in mind.

February 26, 2014

R100 (2013)

R100 (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Hitoshi Matsumoto
Country: Japan

Movie Review: Japanese helmer Hitoshi Matsumoto creates an original and bizarre universe in his latest comedy “R100”, a film that can be seen as a sort of vicious, dark comics about sadomasochism. Katayama (Mao Daichi) is a furniture salesman who becomes inconsolable and depressed with his daily life, deciding to join an obscure S&M club for gentlemen in order to distract himself. While his wife is staying in a hospital for a long time in a vegetative state, their little son is almost exclusively raised by his father-in-law. Katayama seems constantly daydreaming and is frequently beaten up by different ‘femmes fatales’ (implacable Queens who appear without notice to play with his body and mind), but at night he returns to his family, trying to act normally in front of his son. Fed up and exhausted, Katayama decides to quit the club, but not without fierce opposition from the foreign CEO (great show by Lindsay Kay Hayward) who arrives to solve the problem, in a memorable and furious appearance. The film also tries to leave some smart cues in sneering tones, joking with the menace of earthquakes, seen as the reality of modern life in Japan, and presenting us with an inscrutable film inside the film. “R100” was meant for minorities and conceived to be a modern cult-film that can be seen whether as a challenging surrealistic experience or as a pointless macabre feast. With an unruly attitude, Matsumoto combined pale colored images predominantly brownish with a joyful music (including Beethoven) that goes against the sinister happenings.

February 25, 2014

Heli (2013)

Heli (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Amat Escalante
Country: Mexico / others

Movie Review: Part of the Latin-American new wave cinema, “Heli”, is a powerful film set in Mexico, that starts with a memorable scene in which two harmed men are taken in the backside of a pickup truck and one of them is brutally hanged in a bridge. The story then shifts back in time to makes us get to know Heli, a car factory employer who shares house with his dad, wife, baby daughter, and younger sister, Estela. The latter is in love with a young police cadet who wants to marry her and runaway from small town, but choosing the wrong way to do it. Well informed, he steals a couple of cocaine packets, propriety of an unscrupulous gang, that were hidden in a remote place. This action will change the life of everyone, since the drug was placed inside the external water tank at Heli’s home. The visceral scenes of violence will stay in your head for a while, and to tell the truth, the film never lost meaning and was quite penetrating till the end. An adjacent subplot, regarding Heli’s marital crisis, ends up oddly related to the main one, and even here, we cannot stop being curious or get disarmed by the occurrences. “Heli” is an agonizingly depressive film that gives us a prospect of ruinous future for its characters through well-established frames. Helmer Amat Escalante won Palm Spring’s Cine-Latino award and was considered best director at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

February 24, 2014

Omar (2013)

Omar (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Hany Abu-Assad
Country: Palestine

Movie Review: “Omar”, the first fully financed film of Palestinian cinema industry, combines skillfully a painful love story and tragedy of war. Hany Abu-Assad, mostly known by the powerful drama/thriller “Paradise Now” dated from 2005, has here a great return after a despicable experience in American soil with “The Courier” in 2012. Omar is deeply committed in the fight for freedom of Palestine, side by side with two childhood friends, Tarek and Amjad. While preparing his first operation against Israeli troops, Omar swap love letters with Tarek’s sister, Nadia, with whom he intends to marry. Things eventually go wrong and Omar is arrested and tricked by Israeli troops, being forced to work as an informant in exchange of freedom. With Nadia in mind, other deceptions will come up, leaving the restless Omar completely alone in a blind alley with no other option than solve the problems by himself. Debutants Adam Bakri and Leem Lubany were very convincing in their performances, complementing Abu-Assad’s assertive direction, in a riveting film that presented traumatized romance, compelling espionage, and striking chases over narrow passages. Balance was maintained throughout all the film, making “Omar” a guaranteed option among other choices of the same subject matter. The film is nominated for best foreign language film by the Academy, and won the special jury prize of ‘Un Certain Regard’ section at Cannes.

February 23, 2014

G.B.F. (2013)

G.B.F. (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Darren Stein
Country: USA

Movie Review: Too basic to seduce other audiences than teen ones, “G.B.F.”, which stands for gay best friend, reveals to be slightly better than Darren Stein’s previous films, “Sparkler” and “Jawbreaker”. The three most popular girls of North Gateway High School compete fiercely to be the next prom’s queen, trying to find the ideal gay best friend to escort them, once the outdated rules are changing and everyone sees this as a new cool trend. The victim is Tanner whose popularity increased in school but eventually will break up with his boyfriend, Brent. Tanner suddenly became the queens’ friend, advisor, and company for every occasion, at the same time that had to deal with the harassment of a devout Mormon guy. The best and funny aspects of the film were the supportive roles played by the parents when confronted with the truth about their sons. Brent’s mother even watched a few queer movies in a row at his side, to cheer him up and show she was there for whatever was needed, while Tanner’s parents were more concerned about the unsubstantial talk about Abraham Lincoln than really with his revelations. As for the rest, the story ran pretty artificial, with the speech lines hitting occasionally the target, but most of it relapsing in crappy conversation and ‘bitch’ language. The sensibility it tried to convey was phonier than ever, and the film ends as it began: in a frivolous manner.

February 22, 2014

A Touch of Sin (2013)

A Touch of Sin (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jia Zhangke
Country: China

Movie Review: Being an admirer of Jia Zhangke’s past works, I must say that “A Touch of Sin” was beyond my expectations. It was less contemplative comparing to the rest of his movies, bringing action scenes to the screen with determination and vigor, to denounce political and social injustices in modern-day China, always with industrial landscapes in the background and a phantasmagoric desolation that remains in our memory. The film is divided in four acts, along different Chinese regions, each of them being a story of despair, loneliness, and revenge (made explicitly violent). The first story follows Dahai who was the only one to defy the atmosphere of fear lived in the mine where he was working in, when he decided to accuse his former schoolmate, and now rich mine owner, of fraud. The second act follows a motorcyclist who briefly appears in the first story, returning home to his wife and son but unable to comply with the rules of society, becoming another renegade, condemned to be an eternal traveler and fugitive. The third act tells the story of a woman struggling to have a stable life with the married man she loves, refusing to act as a prostitute in the spa where she works. The last story showcases family exploitation and the end of a love dream for a young worker of a textile factory. Zhangke’s cinematic rigor, narrative sense, and firmness, allied to the amazing performances and plot’s significance, make “A touch of sin” an unmissable eye-opening drama that deserves a good reflection.

February 21, 2014

Sunshine on Leith (2013)

Sunshine on Leith (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Dexter Fletcher
Country: UK

Movie Review: English actor-turned-director, Dexter Fletcher, enters in the world of dramatic musicals with “Sunshine on Leith”, two years after his energetic directorial debut “Wild Bill”. The film adapts the stage musical of the same name, featuring songs of the Scottish folk-pop-rock band The Proclaimers. Buddies Davy and Ally return to the family comfort in Edinburgh after a two months passage in Afghanistan while at the service of British Army. Ally intends to marry his longtime girlfriend Liz, who happens to be Davy’s sister, while Davy falls almost instantly in love with Liz’s friend, Yvonne, after some drinks at a local pub. Following these two romances, a third one will be added, formed by David and Liz’s parents, Rab and Jean, who are celebrating 25 years of marriage. All of a sudden, when everything seemed perfect, every single relationship becomes complicated, and every situation is a pretext for one more melodic song by the Reid brothers. The picture was painted too beautifully, but I found the drama pretty standardized and somewhat honeyed. Although “Sunshine on Leith” has presented a noticeable background work, its staging love stories didn’t warm my heart, leaving me indifferent for long lasting periods of time. If you’re an enthusiast of movies such as “Mamma Mia!”, then this is a film you must consider, but don’t even think in a comparison with “Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (as I’ve read somewhere), which for me is miles ahead, both in depth and execution.

February 20, 2014

Mystery Road (2013)

Mystery Road (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ivan Sen
Country: Australia

Movie Review: Set amidst Australian desolated fields and dusty roads, “Mystery Road” takes us into an obscure world of crime that promised so much with its intriguing first moments but ultimately faltered along the way. When the body of an Aboriginal teen girl is found in a deserted highway, local detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen), recently returned to rural town of Winton, Queensland, becomes in charge of his first big case. After make several probing inquiries to a bunch of unfriendly and elusive people who could directly or indirectly be connected with the victim, Jay will get more and more closer to the truth, learning that she was involved on drugs and prostitution business. Police involvement seemed pretty obvious to me since the first minutes, when the suspicions fell on sly officer Johnno (Hugo Weaving), caught in secretive operations in the middle of the night with his colleague Robbo (Robert Mammone), but the plot reserves some mildly surprising revelations. At the same time, Jay struggles with the possibility of his estranged daughter might be involved in the same wrong paths as the victim was. With a beautiful crepuscular cinematography and a boisterous shooting scene, this noir Australian drama presented discontinuous moments of thrill within an atmosphere that tries to get close of “Winter’s Bone” or “Frozen River”. The problem was the time the story took to evolve (I found the film overlong) and a sort of apathy in some scenes. Having said this, “Mystery Road” is watchable yet not unforgettable.

February 19, 2014

RoboCop (2014)

RoboCop (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: José Padilha
Country: USA

Movie Review: José Padilha’s “RoboCop” was loosely based on Paul Verhoeven’s first version from 1987, lacking the impact and surprise created in those times. The story follows officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) who was severely mutilated during a criminal attack occurred in his own house, becoming the much-awaited police officer, half-man half-machine, responsible for cleaning the dangerous streets of Detroit in safety conditions. This achievement was possible due to the creativity of Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman), assigned by the grasping CEO of OmniCorp, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), to create an infallible agent who shows no anger or fear, but certain human emotions. At first, this human side showed undesirable instabilities in the line of duty, forcing Dr. Norton to reformulate his plans for Sellars’ satisfaction but for the sadness of Murphy’s family. This first part of the film was the most interesting, replaced in the end by the usual banality of indistinguishable machine-gun shots in confused action scenes. The heavy darkness evinced throughout the film, proves Padilha as a humorless helmer, much more efficient in depicting stressful Brazilian slums (“Elite Squad”) or factual shocking occurrences (“Bus 174”). Despite watchable and technically competent (some images are visually strong), I have no doubt that Padilha could have done much better, especially if we consider the lower budgets and quality of his past films.

February 18, 2014

Tangerines (2013)

Tangerines (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Zaza Urushadze
Country: Georgia / Estonia

Movie Review: Zaza Urshede’s fifth feature film is a moralistic war drama that puts face-to-face Georgians, Abkhazians, and Estonians, during the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict. Estonians Ivo and Margus are the only inhabitants of a piece of land fiercely disputed by the parts involved in the war. Their only concern is trying to pick up the maximum amount of tangerines they can, and do business while is possible. After a bloody shooting in front of their land, they were able to save two severely wounded young men, Ahmed, a Chechen mercenary with thirst for revenge, and Nika, a Georgian soldier who was formerly an actor in Tbilisi. Placed under the same roof, the two convalescents will promise to their savior they won’t try to kill each other while inside the house. Little by little the enemies start to open their minds while the appeasers Ivo and Margus were fighting another kind of battle that they call ‘citrus war’. At first, it seemed Ivo was hiding a big secret related to his granddaughter whose picture he proudly exhibited, but the reality was completely different. The film was nicely shot and directed, and undoubtedly well intentioned, conveying properly the idea that there are no villains in war and men are simply human beings, no matter which country they come from or religion they follow. However, the deep changes in the characters seemed too abrupt to form a perfectly credible scenario. The lucid and conscientious “Tangerines”, revealed some heart, soul, and even humor in bitter circumstances but needed more time to properly cook the morality that tries to convey.

February 17, 2014

Mold (2012)

Mold (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ali Aydin
Country: Turkey / Germany

Movie Review: "Mold", Ali Aydin’s auspicious debut on direction, is a joyless drama with a poignant look on hope and perseverance. Taking into account this is his first work, we have to recognize the enormous potentiality shown on different aspects, leading to noteworthy achievements such as Thessaloniki’s special jury prize, and Venice’s Luigi De Laurentiis award. The film depicts the inner torment and restlessness that Basri (Ercan Kesal), a quasi-retired railway guard who works in a small lifeless Anatolian town, carries for 18 years, time when his son mysteriously disappeared in Istanbul, when he was identified as anti-governmental protester. For years, he keeps writing petitions to the authorities, demanding to know if his son is dead or alive, but without practical results. One day, almost like a punishment, he witnesses a woman being raped by a co-worker, Cemil (Tansu Biçer), who after that becomes hostile and threatening. I was touched by the psychological suffocation of Basri, who couldn’t sleep or rest, having lost faith in everything, even in himself. With the help of a policeman who arranges a trip to Istanbul, Basri will have a last chance to find the truth. The brilliant cinematography by Murat Tuncel, a magnificent performance by the experienced Kesal, and Aydin’s pertinent and thoughtful screenplay, formed the essential basis for a very recommended drama, whose serene pace shall not dissuade art-house niches and fans of virtuous international cinema.

February 16, 2014

The Monuments Men (2014)

The Monuments Men (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: George Clooney
Country: USA / Germany

Movie Review: Probably George Clooney’s worst film so far, “The Monuments Men” surely won’t dignify the careers of its amazing cast, which includes Clooney himself, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Bill Murray, and Jean Dujardin. The film, based on Robert M.Edsel's book, tells the true adventures of a platoon assigned to rescue important pieces of art ready to be burned by Hitler’s forces during the WWII. The responsible for the mission, professor Frank Stokes (Clooney), soon started to bore me, during his first sentimental speech about the beauty and importance of the art. Visually the film reminded me some old war movies from the 50’s, but the story didn’t show any vitality or boldness to catch my attention. I was bored and more bored as the time was passing, to the point of being torpid by its dragging scenes, where the dangerous situations seem banal, and the banal ones seem interminable. The concept and execution adopted were as old as the monuments men to be glorified, and as consequence, anything fresh could be found in Clooney’s modest attempt to adapt effectively the cited book. The performances didn’t stand out (perhaps Blanchett was the exception) in this tedious experience marked by inexpressiveness, indifference, and a scattered narrative that pushed me away since an early stage. Mr. Clooney: next time we demand more endeavor in every aspects (humor included), since they are completely astray in the wasted "The Monuments Men".

February 15, 2014

Jimmy P. (2013)

Jimmy P. (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Arnaud Desplechin
Country: USA / France

Movie Review: Based on a true story, the most recent drama from French director Arnaud Desplechin (“Kings & Queen”, “A Christmas Tale”), presents decent performances by Benicio Del Toro and Mathieu Almaric, who gave shape to a meritorious patient-doctor relationship throughout a complicated medical case with lots of psychology behind the scenes. Jimmy Picard (Del Toro) is a Native American rancher who, after return from WWII with a fractured skull, is struggling with sudden crisis, vivid dreams, and headaches that led him to lose partially his hearing. Sent to Kansas to be analyzed by a team of doctors who start to suspect of schizophrenia, Jimmy’s last hope will be French Dr. George Devereux (Almaric), a very humane person evincing profound knowledge of the Indian culture. Through psychotherapy and a non-judgmental behavior, Deveraux will reach those crucial moments in Jimmy’s life, making him revive childhood sexual traumas and guilt related to his ex-wife and a daughter whom he has never seen. Despite their occasional presence, women play an interesting role in “Jimmy P.”. Not only Jimmy deals with a repressed anger in the presence of women, but also Deveraux has his own psychoanalysis, trying to understand the relationship with his lover Madelaine, the wife of an admired colleague. Psychology lovers should see this film, while the ones who are looking for more energy and thrill may find it too slow.

February 14, 2014

Lucky Bastard (2014)

Lucky Bastard (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Robert Nathan
Country: USA

Movie Review: Destined to be a hit near teen audiences, “Lucky Bastard” is the first feature film from TV producer-turned-director, Robert Nathan. The movie title comes from the name of a popular pornographic website whose mentor, Mike (Don McManus), decides to pick up one of the fans to have sex on camera with the desired porn star Ashley Saint (Betsy Rue). The purpose was to record everything and make fun of the chosen victim, the weird Dave G. (Jay Paulson), but the plans became thwarted when he couldn’t hold more than one minute with her (a chemistry problem, as they call it). That’s when Mike resolves to discard Dave from being the lucky bastard; a decision that will cost many lives. Through the use of found footage, the film tries to pass the idea of reality but completely failed in its intentions. Every sulk, argument, or fear, seemed pretty fake to me, and the supposed horror, most of the times, will push you to anecdotic places. All my efforts to take something positive out of this commonplace were in vain. Revealing weak technical aspects, including an unappealing cinematography, “Lucky Bastard” was unpleasant and misleading in its story of violence and perversion, where even its dry humor was unconvincing. Therefore, we are before another poorly written plot whose intentions are simply shock through gratuitous gun shooting and sex images. Lacking cleverness or even creativity, nothing here is to be taken seriously.

February 13, 2014

Sunlight Jr. (2013)

Sunlight Jr. (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Laurie Collyer
Country: USA

Movie Review: Distant from feature films since 2006, time when she made her directorial debut with “Sherrybaby”, Laurie Collyer returned in 2013 with “Sunlight Jr.”, a dramatic story starring Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon in the main roles. Floridians Richie (Dillon) and Melissa (Watts) form a loving couple trying to get their lives straight despite several difficulties. Both make a life with lousy wages. While she works as cashier at Sunlight Jr. store where she is frequently harassed by the boss, he’s paraplegic and alcoholic, living from a small pension and some occasional electronic repairs. When Melissa finds she’s pregnant, the couple gets radiant, seeing the situation as a sign of change for their miserable life. Apart from this central guideline in the plot, Collyer sets up some derivative manipulations that includes family issues, Melissa’s former boyfriend, Justin (Norman Reedus), who keeps stalking her, and even a bedbug crisis. These elements didn’t add anything interesting to the washed-out sequences already presented. I’m convinced that Collyer failed to create the depth needed for this story to work better, a problem aggravated by the limp screenplay and unexceptional performances that made “Sunlight Jr.” seem empty and move into a sort of emotional triviality. More genuineness and determination would be very welcome in a film that never managed to get rid of mediocrity.

February 12, 2014

I Am Yours (2013)

I Am Yours (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Iram Haq
Country: Norway

Movie Review: “I Am Yours” is an incisive drama coming from Norway, the first feature film by the actress-turned-director Iram Haq. The story is set in Oslo, where 27-year-old wannabe actress, Mina (Amrita Acharia), from Pakistani origin, lives a troubled life. Divorced from a successful architect and with a little son who needs constant attention, Mina is blamed by her parents for the situation she finds herself in. Despite the bad reputation among the family’s acquaintances and the continual rebukes from her mother, she seems to enjoy her freedom, having incessant encounters with other men and giving herself unreservedly in the relationships. When she gets to know Jesper (Ola Rapace), an unbalanced and insecure Swedish filmmaker, she finally hopes to settle down, departing to Sweden and taking her child with her. Will this be the opportunity she eagerly had been looking for? “I Am Yours” was made with attention to details and molded in an unambiguous way, leaving satisfactory impressions on how the impulsive and emotionally destructed Mina struggles in more than one front: family, love, profession, be herself. But for me, the most important factor was the visible concern with her son, and the persistent question hovering over her head: 'will I ever be a good mother?' With a competent direction, balanced performances, and a heartbreaking finale, “I Am Yours” was a positive surprise.

February 11, 2014

Una Noche (2013)

Una Noche (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Lucy Mulloy
Country: Cuba / USA / UK

Movie Review: Narrated through the sad voice of Lila, “Una Noche” shows a fatalist path of despair from the beginning, without being perfectly balanced in terms of visuals and narrative. Presented by Spike Lee and written/directed by debutant Lucy Mulloy, the story tells the true events that involved three Cuban teenagers who, despaired with their family situations and struggling to deal with the different pressures in a controlled and impoverished Havana, decide to reach Miami in a small, inflated boat. Lila is strongly attached to her brother Elio who, in turn, became fascinated with Raul, a voluptuous boy obsessed with leaving Cuba for good and meet with his missing father in Miami. The two boys slowly plan their escape while Lila was supposed to stay out of it. After discovering their intentions, she joins them without any hesitation, even without knowing how to swim. Mulloy shot it beautifully, capturing all the different energies, mostly from the streets but also from work places or dwelling interiors. These very living energies (despite the inherent sadness) differed substantially from the melancholy and heaviness of Lila’s descriptions/considerations. I felt that all the vibrancy came up from the images itself, not from the escaping plan or the protagonists’ interaction. During the boat trip, the absence of preoccupation evinced by the trio was somewhat contagious, and not even the agitated arguments, confusion, or shark threats, were able to raise my expectations. Its final conclusion produced some effect, though.

February 10, 2014

A Long and Happy Life (2013)

A Long and Happy Life (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Boris Khlebnikov
Country: Russia

Movie Review: Nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear, “A long and happy life”, is the sixth feature film directed by Russian helmer Boris Khlebnikov. The film depicts in gloomy tones, the sad story of Sasha, a farmer who is invited by the local government administrators to close his business, located at the Kola Peninsula, in exchange of a monetary compensation. Trying to fight for a land he put so many efforts in, Sasha realizes he is completely tied by the corrupt authorities and constantly struggles with the idea of having to open the door of poverty to his employees, most of them not so young. The situation gets more complicated when his girlfriend, Anya, who works for the government, doesn’t stay on his side when he decides to stand firm for his farm and workers. The film, with its contemporary story and paradoxical title, wasn’t so new in terms of plot, dragging itself in its heaviness for long periods of time. Don’t get me wrong with my previous statement, because good films not always have an original story. The problem here was simply technical. The direction was uninspired, presenting an excessively moving camera that was not always favorable, and shadowy images sometimes intercalated by two or three beautiful countryside landscapes. The uneven pace had a shake in its violent, yet somewhat predictable final moments, but this wasn’t enough to turn “A long and happy life” into a decisive and memorable film.

February 09, 2014

Mother of George (2013)

Mother of George (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Andrew Dosunmu
Country: USA / Nigeria

Movie Review: Andrew Dosunmu’s sophomore feature film takes a sore and involving look into a Nigerian immigrant family living in Brooklyn. Ayo and Adenike, a married couple in their 30’s, are struggling to have a child. The African community sees this sensible aspect as a very important step, so the pressure is really high. Despite all the efforts, including rituals and homemade remedies, Adenike is the one to be blamed by her stern mother-in-law, for not getting pregnant, and the possibility of another woman at home becomes sadly real. After consulting a specialist, Adenike assures that the problem comes from her husband but there’s no way of convincing him to start a treatment, a posture that evinces accentuated cultural barriers and differences between free men and dutiful women in such a closed society (earn her own money and wear modern clothes are other signs that showed Adenike’s willingness for breaking the ‘rules’). When her despair comes to the limit she ponders on a last resort, one so dangerous that can destroy her life forever. Presented with elegance and vivid colors, “Mother of George” exhibited a great sense for detail, with Dosunmu’s direction alternating between sharp close-ups and a deliberately focus/unfocused approach. Cinematographer Bradford Young did another terrific job, winning the Sundance prize, while the avant-garde African music by Philip Miller fit like a glove. Despite small inconsistencies in pace, the film grows exponentially, becoming highly recommended.

February 08, 2014

Like Father, Like Son (2013)

Like Father, Like Son (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda
Country: Japan

Movie Review: Hirokazu Koreeda is certainly one of the most interesting contemporary Japanese screenwriters and filmmakers of our times. His latest film, “Like Father, Like Son”, despite not so irresistible as other previous works, presents us an inspired plot that bestows a different perspective to the so recurrent theme of switching babies at birth. As usual, the concept of family is the central point, here adorned by a quite curious character study of Ryota Nonomiya, a successful businessman but also an absent and demanding father who tries to prepare his son, Keita, to one day become like him. Contrasting with his good-natured wife, Ryota can’t hide his frustration when Keita reveals some difficulties to become the model he aspires. When the Nonomiya’s were informed by a public hospital that Keita is not their biological son, Ryota tries to get the custody of both kids. Once his plan failed by the refusal of the Saiki family, which showed to have a completely different posture in life, he seemed promptly decided to give up the child he raised for six years to recover the one of his own blood. “Like Father, Like Son”, adopting a more direct storytelling, didn’t evince the introspection or subtleness of “Nobody Knows” and “Still Walking”, or the sense of adventure of “I Wish”, but was able to maintain well elevated the levels of sensibility and simplicity of processes. With a fabulous direction and a particular ability to enchant us, Koreeda keeps depicting grounded family stories in a consistent way.

February 07, 2014

Love and Air Sex (2013)

Love and Air Sex (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Bryan Poyser
Country: USA

Movie Review: With the curious title “Love & Air Sex”, Bryan Poyser’s third feature is a wild, jolly, and (in)decent romantic comedy that spreads good vibes with a strong start, but ultimately struggles a bit in its final moments to maintain the same balance. Stan (Michael Stahl-David) travels from LA to Austin, Texas, when he finds out that his ex-girlfriend Cathy (Ashley Bell) will be there, coming from New York. What they don’t know is that their friends, Jeff (Zach Cregger) and Kara (Sara Paxton), who are going to welcome them in their homes, also broke up their relationship. Thus, men and women separately prepare a night of drinks. While the women decide to go to a night pub, the men start rehearsing for the Air Sex World Championship, a funny show currently taking place in the city, where people literally ‘fuck the air’. In either side, casual encounters with other people will bring uneasiness, despite of the couples’ pretention that nothing is wrong. The film was set up in a cool atmosphere, bringing up a few funny moments. In terms of romance, “Love & Air Sex” didn’t show so much warmth but was able to compensate in energy what lacked in substance. It was meant to please comedy fans in general or anyone who just wants to loosen up a bit and spend some laid-back time without worry with the inconsistencies of the plot.

February 06, 2014

Wolf (2013)

Wolf (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jim Taihuttu
Country: Netherlands

Movie Review: “Wolf” is a rowdy drama that tells the story of Moroccan Majid Zamari, a talented kick boxer who has no reasons to be satisfied with his life in Netherlands, falling in a downward spiral of drugs and organized crime. Set in black and white, the first solo film by emergent director Jim Taihuttu, adopts a violent posture supported by a solid dramatic side that explains not only the anger and frustration of the main character, but also his sort of immoral and untamed behavior. So many bad things are happening in Majid’s life - his father doesn’t speak to him, being ashamed of his conduct; his older brother is dying in the hospital; he is unable to be a good example for his little younger brother who shows to have problems in school and is getting out of the track; his best friend, Adil, with whom he usually hangs out along the hood, is definitely not a good influence; his former girlfriend, Tessa, is now turned into a prostitute; and due to a great ambition and the will to protect his family’s interests, Majid starts working for the Turk dealer, Hakan, the feared header of a criminal gang. Despite the boasting airs exhibited here and there, the film is simultaneously vibrant, brutal, and depressive, with the latter being enhanced by establishing shots of the Dutch suburbs. Actor Marwan Kenzari, chosen once again by Taihuttu after the participation in his 2011 road movie, “Rabat”, makes proof of his talent, turning “Wolf” into a very credible odyssey into the Dutch multicultural underworld.

February 05, 2014

Borgman (2013)

Borgman (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Alex van Warmerdam
Country: Netherlands / Belgium

Movie Review: Nominated for Cannes’ Palm d’Or, “Borgman”, is a cold-blooded thriller coming from Netherlands that will leave you disconcerted, functioning as a psychological study of human evilness and showing the power of manipulation. The film didn’t disappoint after a magnificent start, when a raging priest and two other men embark in a manhunt, finding a camouflaged hole in the forest ground that served as a hideaway for Camiel Borgman (Jan Bijvoet), a merciless criminal who operates conjointly with his gang of four followers. Borgman, on the run, infiltrates within an unbalanced upper-class family, taking advantage of the unhappy and insecure Marina (Hadewych Minis), and setting a strange bond with her kids, especially the younger daughter, Isolde. A sinister game starts to be played, keeping the high levels of suspense and spreading a torrent of madness, here presented in bizarre forms together with sarcastic humor. The story lives pretty much of unexpected turns that kept the viewer searching for answers, deliberately left unexplained in order to baffle us and increase our curiosity. Filmmaker van Warmerdam directed with proficiency and refinement (evoking Pablo Larraín’s morbidness, dark humor, and cynicism), and also appears as an actor, playing one of Borgman’s gang fellows. In this hymn to insanity, Jan Bijvoet and Hadewych Minis were fabulous in their roles, playing ‘the game’ with diligence and daring to convert “Borgman” into a cult-film.

February 04, 2014

Real (2013)

Real (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Country: Japan

Movie Review: Japanese filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa has been making a solid career with interesting incursions on thriller/horror (“The Cure”, “Pulse”) and also drama (“Charisma”, “Tokyo Sonata”). In his new film, “Real”, he tries to combine both genres and still add some romance and fantasy, but the final outcome wasn’t what its premise made us to expect. The film tells the story of two lovers, Koichi (Takeru Sato) and Atsumi (Haruka Ayase), a famous distressed manga drawer who tried to commit suicide, remaining in profound coma for more than a year. Koichi will consent to be connected with Atsumi’s brain, through a modern machine, in order to understand what were her motives and try to facilitate her return to the real world. His findings and clues will project them to their past at Hikone island, their hometown, where some truths are revealed. There are some good aspects to be appreciated in this Kurosawa’s cinematic adaptation of Rokuro Inui’s novel, “A perfect day to plesiosaur”, especially in the visual field, but the narrative is inconsistent in tone and its revelations didn’t create significant impact. Among ghostly apparitions, which were not so spooky by the way, and ridiculous philosophical zombies who clearly aim Manga’s enthusiasts, “Real” relies on acceptable dreamlike tones to create psychological tension, but presents a romance devoid of chemistry and some sci-fi moments that were more laughable than atmospheric. Strong production values in an exhausting story that only satisfies partially.