March 31, 2014

Hide Your Smiling Faces (2013)

Hide Your Smiling Faces (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Daniel Patrick Carbone
Country: USA

Movie Review: Although not totally gratifying, there’s a lot going on in “Hide Your Smiling Faces”, a dissimilar coming-of-age drama from debutant Daniel Patrick Carbone. After a terrible and mysterious accident that took their neighbor friend’s life, two adolescent brothers become deeply affected, suspecting the victim’s father. Wandering aimlessly throughout the fields, these young boys try to continue with their wrestling games and pranks, but their heads are occupied with the idea of death, a consciousness very present not only on the human side but also in the animal, which represents an important part in the narrative. Youth in rural America is portrayed with sobriety, giving the exact sad sense of non-supportiveness from the family, but in the other hand is clear some apathy in diverse occasions along with narrative breaches that hamper its ambitions to become more fruitful. The performances by the young actors Ryan Jones and Nathan Varnson were solid enough to transmit a concealed anguish that no person can notice but is always there, ruminating their minds and souls. Other relevant aspect in the film is the constant presence of guns, a grave problem faced in our societies, especially in US. Creating a particular mood that comes pretty close to the works of David Gordon Green, “Hide Your Smiling Faces” is penetrating and occasionally haunting, keeping the line that divides life and death so close, that nature itself becomes more suffocating than the harsh summer humidity. Carbone’s resolute direction gives good indications for the future while dialogues and narrative sequence have a bit more to be improved.

March 30, 2014

Noah (2014)

Noah (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Country: USA

Movie Review: Brooklyn-born Darren Aronofsky became one of the most respected filmmakers due to remarkable cinematic pieces such as “Pi”, “Requiem for a Dream”, “The Wrestler”, and “Black Swan”. However, his latest feature, “Noah”, probably his weakest achievement so far, brings us a monotonous entertainment exercise that mixes fantasy, romance, ferocious battles, family drama, and miracles, all in the same Biblical epic story. Noah (Russell Crowe) was chosen by the Creator to accomplish the difficult task of saving the innocent animal species from a flood that will destroy the world. For that, he’ll have to build a gigantic wooden ark and get rid of the diabolic forces of Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone), at the same time that his faith is put to test, leaving him with the cruel choice between the love of his own wife and children, and obedience to God. The Watchers, who were nothing more than fallen angels living inside a massive rocky body, add a fantastic side to a plot that never held my breath for more than a couple of times along its 138 minutes. The performances were not to remember, while the visual effects and characterization - curious how everyone got old in the course of time with exception of Noah’s wife (Jennifer Connely) and grandfather (Anthony Hopkins) – never had the desired impact. In the end, I realized how I miss Aronofsky’s narrative complexity and visionary bold plots from other times, since overall “Noah” is an absurd and speculative tale, which lacks the faith it wants to transmit, becoming quite unstimulating in its constrained family crisis.

March 29, 2014

Cesar Chavez (2014)

Cesar Chavez (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Diego Luna
Country: USA / Mexico

Movie Review: Mexican actor Diego Luna, most known for his role in “Y Tu Mama También” and other supporting roles in “Frida”, “Milk”, and “Elysium”, chose Cesar Chavez’s inspiring deeds to direct his first English-language film, a biopic whose good intentions didn’t come to be nothing more than… good intentions. Set in Delano, California, the film covers the period from 1962 to 1970, when Chavez assumed himself as a civil-rights activist and labor-organizer, forming the United Farm Workers union and pacifically fighting against the injustices and discriminations that Filipino and Mexican farm workers were subjected to. To achieve his purposes, Chavez embarks in a strike hunger and promotes other non-violent strikes, inevitably forcing his employer, Bogdanovich, to sign a fair contract many years later. John Malkovich, in his habitual class, had a noteworthy performance, while Michael Peña, as main protagonist, played his part acceptably. As happened with another recent biopic, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”, ”Cesar Chavez” seemed more concerned in touching the viewers’ hearts and gain sympathy for the cause it depicts, than really presents us with an insightful portrait sustained by a solid narrative. The sentimental inclinations evinced throughout the film were reinforced with Chavez’s family life, particularly regarding his bullied son, Fernando. Diego Luna showed difficulties to escape the unchallenging approach and structure, basic visuals, and one-speed pace, which turn “Cesar Chavez” in another bland biopic.

March 28, 2014

Ilo Ilo (2013)

Ilo Ilo (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Anthony Chen
Country: Singapore

Movie Review: Anthony Chen’s fictional film debut, “Ilo Ilo” is a tremendous drama, set up in Singapore in times of economical crisis and uncertainty about the future, about the relationship between a dysfunctional family and their newly arrived Filipino maid, Teresa, who left her own 12-month baby behind to search for a better life. Realizing how turbulent the lives of these people were, she will have an important role in appeasing the problems of the young Jianle, a troublesome kid who does everything to put her in a bad position. After a hard time of adaptation, Teresa will conquer the heart of the boy with her comprehension and good attitude, fact that will trigger the admiration of his parents but also some jealousy from the mother. Jianle found the attentive mother he was looking for, while Teresa found the son she missed so much. Everyone has to deal with their own problems, in a film where there are no heroes or villains, just life as it is and its complicated processes of learning, sharing, and understanding. Promising helmer/writer Anthony Chen assures great personality in the direction, while the cinematography by Benoit Soler is memorable with its predominant whites and occasionally unfocused images. The plot was magnificently constructed, making us indignant in diverse occasions, but also making us believers of the goodness present in human nature. “Ilo Ilo” collected important prizes at the festivals it competed, including Cannes, Dubai, Golden Horse, Molodist, and Tokyo, among others, and is one of the most compelling dramas to arrive this year.

March 27, 2014

Snowpiercer (2013)

Snowpiercer (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Joon-ho Bong
Country: South Korea / others

Movie Review: Korean helmer Joon-ho Bong’s English-language futuristic action thriller, “Snowpiercer”, lacks the humor of “Memories of Murder” and the psychological quietness of “Mother”, but find other arguments to stand as a dazzling adventure occurred inside a super-tech train that carries the last human survivors, after the outside world has become frozen due to a failed experiment against global warming. Inhabiting the poor tail section of the train, popular leader Curtis (Chris Evans) moves forward with his longtime uprising plan against the violent regime headed by the unapproachable Wilford (Ed Harris), the eternal engine mentor and ruler who unexplainably ordered the kidnapping of two little kids from tail section. Curtis will team with some mates, including Namgoong (Kang-ho Song), a drug addict who was behind the implementation of the doors security system in each of the cars. Surprises and twists will come up as the men advance towards the front. The plot, based on the French graphic novel “La Transperceneige”, was superbly executed in all its technical aspects and precise action moves, which became a delight for the eyes. Assertive, fantastic, and impossible, “Snowpiercer” reveals a deep dark side but doesn’t forget hope, taking the excitement of this trip to its maximum strength. Tilda Swinton’s performance as Wilford’s train-cult devoted, Mason (a somewhat feminine version of Austin Powers), was simply memorable in the most recent action gem of the year.

March 26, 2014

The Rocket (2013)

The Rocket (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Kim Mordaunt
Country: Australia / Laos / Thailand

Movie Review: Written and directed by Kim Mordaunt, “The Rocket” is a gentle Australian drama set in Laos, bringing us fresh adventure filled with rituals and traditions, perseverance, well-defined characters, and even supernatural connotations. In a full-moon night, Mali gives birth to twins, helped by her mother-in-law, Taitok. The first baby comes healthy but the second was born dead. An ancient village creed says that one of the twins is always cursed, bringing bad luck, while the other is blessed. Mother and granny decide to keep the baby alive, hiding the secret from everyone, with hope he can be the good one. Ahlo is his name, and at the age of ten, he shows to be very clever and full of life. One day, they are informed that a second dam is about to be constructed in the area, which will make the village disappear underwater. Relocated with promises of hot water and electricity, the family encounters a completely different reality, but will discover friendship, trust, self-respect, and an amazing Rocket Competition that can change their lives. The characters are stereotyped and the pace not always expeditious, but Mordaunt finds some balance through affectionate strokes, while the images with exotic landscapes in the background catch our eye. James Brown is joyfully revived with his funky tunes and through the character of uncle Purple, a semi-conscious traumatized of war. “The Rocket” was an award conqueror at Berlin and Tribeca film festivals.

March 25, 2014

Blood Ties (2013)

Blood Ties (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Guillaume Canet
Country: USA / France

Movie Review: Set in New York 1974, “Blood Ties” has an explosive and noisy start with a home invasion by the police, an action led by officer Frank (Bill Crudup) who proceeds to the arrest of a man accused of being involved in narcotic business. The latter now lives with Frank’s former girlfriend, with whom he has a child, fact that makes us suspect the integrity of this determined police officer. In parallel, Frank’s older brother, Chris (Clive Owen), is released from prison after 12 years serving time for murder, but shows inability to lead a straight life, dragging himself into the world of crime and matching with his ex-wife, Monica (Marion Coutillard) in his greedy attempts to have an easy life outside the law. Inevitably, the plot steps into the brothers’ past, just to let us know that they were mistreated by their addicted mother, and later raised by their lonely father, who still struggles to keep the harmony. Love and hate are mixed in obfuscating ways to put family bonds into a test. Guillaume Canet (“Tell No One”, “Little White Lies”) directed the screenplay he co-wrote with James Gray (“We Own the Night”, “Two Lovers”) based on 2008 “Rivals” from Jacques Maillot, but unfortunately the results don’t always mirror the story’s potentiality, especially in dramatic terms. The protagonists’ amorous issues didn’t really work and the talented performances weren’t enough to make this blood ties really bleed the screen. Among its uneven ways, “Blood Ties” stood out for the period recreation.

March 24, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Country: USA / Germany

Movie Review: Another sympathetic and imaginative comedy from American director Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, is a German-British co-production that tells the incredible adventures of M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), a very solicited concierge of the famous and luxurious Grand Budapest Hotel located in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka, and his best friend and lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), who unexpectedly becomes the hotel’s owner. The eventful plot, also of Anderson’s authorship, was inspired on writings from Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, presenting the expected peculiarities and efficacious humor that, being very own, became staples in his filmmaking style. The scenarios, a feast for the eyes, were vividly photographed by Robert D. Yeoman, while the story was structured in a captivating way, never being boring or softening up. The numerous funny situations include: Gustave’s careful dedication to insecure, blond, and rich old women; a fantastic shooting inside the hotel; a great escaping from prison; and a perilous adventure in a top-mountain monastery, among many others. With a remarkable cast, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is an irresistible feel-good movie that will provide you with a wonderful laid-back time. You won’t regret being a guest in the sumptuous Grand Budapest and get to know its eccentric personnel.

March 23, 2014

Enemy (2013)

Enemy (2013)
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Country: Canada / Spain

Movie Review: Acclaimed Canadian filmmaker, Denis Villeneuve, presents us an inscrutable exercise on suspense, obscurity, and surrealism, where von Trier meets Cronenberg. “Enemy” was based on the novel “The Double” by Portuguese Nobel Prize winning author José Saramago, and adapted for the screen by Javier Gullón who took the premise: ‘chaos is an order yet undeciphered’ to good terms. How would you react if you find that another man looks exactly like you? David Bell is an introverted history professor, whose life seems not to be fulfilled, especially in regard to his amorous relationship. One day, while watching a movie, he discovers Anthony St. Claire, a self-assured small actor who is exactly his look-alike. Ruminating about this discovery, Adam decides to meet Anthony, in a strange move that will mess with their heads in completely different ways. The two men will switch houses and women, trying to find more about each other and themselves. Visually oppressive with its pale filtered tones and aerial shots showing the geometrical arrangement of the buildings, “Enemy” is an organized delirium (chaos) that invites its viewers to decide what they want to do with this inscrutable story - a bad dream, a longstanding hallucination, a traumatic situation triggered by arachnophobia, or even a movie inside the movie. You are still confronted with the choice if Adam and Anthony are two opposite sides of the same person or two identical persons with opposite personalities. The non-answering ending might be a frustration for some but for me was almost impossible to escape from the spell of “Enemy”.

March 22, 2014

A Birder's Guide to Everything (2013)

A Birder's Guide to Everything (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Rob Meyer
Country: USA

Movie Review: Passable but far from impressive, “A Birder’s Guide to Everything” is an independent coming-of-age drama co-written and directed by debutant Rob Meyer. The central character is David, a sensitive 15-year-old boy who is going through a hard time since his mother died of prolonged illness. David doesn’t cope with the remarriage of his father with his mom’s former nurse, deciding to take an adventurous trip to Connecticut with his two best friends, Matt and Pete, in order to find a duck specie that everyone says to be extinct. Helen, a solitary girl dedicated to photography, will join the trio right after their departure in a stolen car. This passion for birds, also shared by his two best friends, seems to attenuate his concerns and occupy his time, but proves to be insufficient to completely erase the problems that are bothering him. Practically anything new was seen in this drama, where the scenes succeed one another in a soft, unforced cadence, but with some plot elements not being fully availed. The basic formulas adopted by the most films of the genre are present: an adventure trip, the beginning of a sweet teen romance, a funny guy, a quiet guy, confessions related to sex, and familiar problems. I cannot say this is a bad film, is just common and familiar in every sense. Despite humble and delicate, I never felt the great feeling of discovery mentioned in this birder’s guide due to its conventional paths and highly predictable ending. Ben Kingsley makes a short and inexpressive appearance as Dr. Konrad, an enthusiastic bird expert.

March 21, 2014

Cheap Thrills (2013)

Cheap Thrills (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: E.L. Katz
Country: USA

Movie Review: E.L. Katz’s directorial debut is a noteworthy dark comedy and thriller, focused on Craig (Pat Healy), a recently fired and evicted family man who will embark in an unforgettable wild night with his long time acquainted Vince (Ethan Embry). While drinking at a bar, the two men will be tempted by a wealthy vicious couple, Colin (David Koechner) and Violet (Sara Paxton), who are prepared to pay them good money to enter in their strange games. Every task proposed by the capricious Colin becomes a fierce competition between desperate Craig and envious Healy, both losers in their own way, who start hating each other for money. It starts with drinking competitions at the bar, but soon the games degenerate into stupid suggestions and assignments, including sexual perversion and body mutilation. As the greediness increases, the game becomes more and more dangerous for the pleasure of the manipulative couple, eventually bringing tragic consequences. The electrifying ambiance created was perfect, reinforced by hypnotic music and great performances by the quartet of actors, especially Pat Healy who showed great acting quality. The plot, written by David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga, has its dose of childishness but compensates with lots of fun and excitement, capturing all my attention throughout the time. Demented, wild, and visceral, “Cheap Thrills” is a nasty silly game that I can’t understand, but is unquestionably hugely entertaining.

March 20, 2014

Why Don't You Play in Hell? (2013)

Why Don't You Play in Hell? (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Shion Sono
Country: Japan

Movie Review: Presented as the Japanese “Kill Bill”, “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” is a virulent action film and slapstick comedy, written and directed by Shion Sono, which works as a sort of incendiary homage to cinema. The inventive yet sometimes exhausting plot centers on Hirata, a young filmmaker whose dream is to direct a masterpiece for the sake of art, not money. He and his crew will find the perfect character, Sasaki, a quarrelsome young man who keeps fighting in the streets. The goal is to turn him into the new Bruce Lee from Japan. In the other side, authoritarian yakuza boss, Muto, and his vengeful wife, are capable of everything to turn their daughter Mitsuko into a successful actress after her first TV ad for a toothpaste brand has became noticeable ten years ago. At the same time, Muto will fight his fierce rival, Ikegami, who also developed an uncontrollable obsession for Mitsuko. Shot in an unstoppable rhythm and creating unrestrained scenarios, this samurai-yakuza extravaganza doesn’t dispense violent blood baths and a keen humor that keeps us watching it. The issue isn’t the madness conveyed or even the electrifying hysteria of some characters; it’s more the mess, sequentially created by overdone scenes that form a mix of poetic, crazy, and grotesque parody, not always gratifying or endurable. Unlike the ambitious Hirata, I didn’t feel any blessing by the ‘Movie God’ here, but in turn, we can witness Sono’s rebel attitude and creative screenwriting.

March 19, 2014

Personal Tailor (2013)

Personal Tailor (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Xiaogang Feng
Country: China

Movie Review: Abandoning for now commercial big productions (“Aftershock”, “Back to 1942”), Chinese helmer Xiaogang Feng embarks in a modest, yet witty comedy that makes diverse social-political considerations about the actual Chinese regime, its big leaders, art and artists, wealthy aristocrats, and environmental issues. Written by Shuo Wang, who already had collaborated with Feng in “If You Are the One 2”, the story is centered in a company called ‘Personal Tailor’, dedicated to selling impossible dreams to their eccentric clients. Presented with farcical tones and counting with poignant, half-true-half-parody jokes, the episodic adventures start hilariously when the company enacts the capture and torture of a woman by the Nazi regime, moving afterwards to an incorruptible chauffer who eagerly whishes to be one of the big leaders of China (what a great laugh he puts!), but occasionally suffering crisis every time he becomes aware of reality. We can also follow a tasteless filmmaker struggling to create something art-house but eventually becoming victim of high-culture shock, and a money-fanatic woman whose bigger pleasure consists in pay exorbitant prices for whatever. This satire ends with a nostalgic touch, apologizing to nature and everyone else for the damages done in our planet. “Personal Tailor” exhibits a few good thoughts within the addressed topics, biting more through its cynical posture rather than its fluctuating execution.

March 18, 2014

Veronica Mars (2014)

Veronica Mars (2014)
Directed by: Rob Thomas
Country: USA

Movie Review: Inspired by the popular TV series, “Veronica Mars” is a dissimulated comedy-thriller that holds very few convincing elements. Former teenage private eye, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), leaves New York City where she had a good opportunity to make a career in the law field, to return to Neptune, California, city of her past. The reason has to do with her former boyfriend, Logan (Jason Dohring), who asks for help after being accused of the murder of Bonnie De Ville, an emerging pop singer found electrocuted in her bathtub. Filmmaker Rob Thomas wasn’t able to fully dissociate this debut feature film from the TV approach he assumed for the series, between 2004 and 2007. The thin plot very soon was revelatory of its own problems, being treated in a too soft and careless manner for the seriousness the story should try to convey - after all we’re talking about a murder. The movie’s lightness opposes to Veronica’s toughness, in a combination that touched the pathetic in several occasions. Kristen Bell was the obvious choice to give life to Mars whose direct personality and lushly air couldn’t hide superficial tones that turned the story dubious. With an unarticulated pace and unnecessary voiceover as prop, “Veronica Mars” is nothing more than a tedious investigation that works more like an episodic joke set up with teenage spirit, rather than the essential detective thriller it aimed to be.

March 17, 2014

Honey (2013)

Honey - Miele (2013) Movie Review
Directed by: Valeria Golino
Country: Italy / France

Movie Review: Italian actress Valeria Golino (“Rain Man”, “Respiro”, “Frida, “Quiet Chaos”) directs her first feature film, “Honey”, based on the novel “A Nome Tuo” by Mauro Covacich. Jasmine Trinca stars as Irene, a young woman who uses the codename Miele (Honey) when she dedicates, body and soul, to assisted suicides. Often traveling to Mexico in order to easily obtain the right drug to apply on the multi-age terminally ill patients, Irene is seen as a gift by the despaired ones, in a task she considers respectful and necessary. One day, her conscience will be violently shaken after she meets with Carlo Grimaldi, an old Roman engineer who evinces his wish to die due to simple boredom of life. “Honey” moves in the right direction, being simultaneously humane and severe in its analysis but without always show the expected intensity to involve me deeply. It showed so much potential but left me with the sensation that could be better explored in terms of ambiance. Notwithstanding, its plot brings moral and other pertinent questions to be careful examined, and its visuals are aesthetically engaging. Trinca was very appropriate for the role of an anguished woman, trying to do the right options in life and struggling to be in peace with her conscience. Golino’s “Honey” resulted more effective when compared with other films about the same topic, such as the also Italian “The Dormant Beauty”, but lacking the emotional impact of “The Sea Inside”. Choosing to die, and in which conditions – that is the question!

March 16, 2014

Nymphomaniac: Vol. I and II (2013)

Nymphomaniac - Vol. I and II (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Lars Von Trier
Country: Demnark / others

Movie Review: Polemic filmmaker Lars Von Trier needed two parts of almost two hours each, and eight chapters, to tell the story of Joe, a self entitled nymphomaniac who recalls the most important details of her life in the presence of Seligman, a literate man who found her beaten up on an alley. Always provocative, as “Breaking the Waves” and “The Idiots” once were, “Nymphomaniac” mixes meditative observations of every kind – personal, social, artistic, religious – with explicit and incisive sexual moments whose occasional aggressiveness and psychological intrigue maintain the experience unique. The involving complexity showed in Joe’s behavior, her fearless risky games, fierce impulses, and constant demand for new sensations, put her in the limits of pleasure and suffering. Joe’s narrative touches in crucial points such as childhood and adolescence, loss of virginity, her love for Jerome with whom she had a son, obsession for sex, uncomfortable situations involving a married man and his family, the peculiar relationship with her loving dad and contempt of her mother, the ineffectiveness of group therapy, and final disillusions when she met a younger woman. Charlotte Gainsbourg became a natural choice for von Trier after the notable impressions left in “Antichrist” and “Melancholia”. Demanding some effort from the viewers, “Nymphomaniac” is aggressive, raw and deliberately explicit, but also philosophical in its analysis (human and artistic) and grievous in its finale. It’s a relentless study of an obsessive woman who desperately needs some humanity and compassion. Smiles and disturbance are guaranteed for the ones who see it with an open mind.

March 15, 2014

Venus in Fur (2013)

Venus in Fur (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Roman Polanski
Country: France / Poland

Movie Review: Roman Polanski’s new staged drama, “Venus in Fur”, creates a scenario of female domination and male subjugation that grows in intensity as it progresses to the end. Emmanuele Seigner and Mathieu Almaric run the show, putting some soul in their performances and extended dialogues that try to better characterize this male-female nature study. At the end of the day, Thomas Novaceck, the writer-director of a new play adapted from Masoch’s 1870 “Venus in Furs”, is disgusted with the poor auditions for the main role of Wanda von Dunayev. His disposition will change when a seductive woman named Vanda shows to be the perfect choice for the role, slowly manipulating him with her observations, suggestions, discussions, and alluring power. Less funny than “Carnage”, “Venus in Fur” adopts the same theatrical tones (now in a real theater), having its dose of success by creating a nervous tension through inflamed words of disagreement, while its protagonists slightly get off the play and enter in an entrapping reality. The phone calls interrupting Thomas were crucial, trying to bring him back from an obsession that grows without control. Not everyone will be pleased by the film's cunning changes and tangled discussions, which sometimes fall in repetitive cadences, but in several occasions, it can be very sensual (thanks to a Seigner in great shape) and deliciously evil. Definitely it’s worth a look, even if its genre isn’t among my favorites.

March 14, 2014

A Place on Earth (2013)

A Place on Earth (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Fabienne Godet
Country: France / Belgium

Movie Review: After her directorial debut in 2005 with “Burnt Out”, followed by the documentary “My Great Escape” two years later, Fabienne Godet presents us now her second fictional drama with “A Place on Earth”, a story about obsession, depression, and self-confidence. Antoine Dumas (Benoit Poelvoorde) is an alcoholic photographer whose latest works aren’t having the desired results in the agency he works. Instead of going to another boring New Year’s party, he decides to stay home, taking care of his best friend, Matéo, the little son of his constantly absent neighbor. Allured by Chopin piano pieces played by Elena (Mariane Labed), a neighbor who lives across the courtyard, Antoine will be witness of her suicide attempt. The woman survives and Antoine will develop a strange obsession for her, retrieving little by little his self-confidence. The film oscillates according to its characters, showing pondered moments in one hand, and occasionally bursting of interior liberation needs, in the other. Intriguing only in its first part, it started losing interest as the end approached and became indifferent as its mysteries revealed to be ineffective. The subplots, regarding Matéo or Elena’s addicted friend Margot, didn’t add anything relevant to a drama that failed to provoke or stimulate our minds. Godet tried to use depression as her best trump but the conclusions/moral that passed in “A Place on Earth” were too contrived to achieve admirable results.

March 13, 2014

The Fifth Season (2012)

The Fifth Season (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Peter Brosens, Jessica Woodworth
Country: Belgium / others

Movie Review: Belgium-based filmmakers Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth (“Khadak”, “Altiplano”) continue their audacious work on writing, production, and direction, with the lyrical and intimidating “The Fifth Season”, a sensational drama about the consequences of nature/climate changes on human beings. Instead of focusing in global chaos, the duo preferred to choose a small and isolated village in Belgian Ardennes whose community struggles to survive. Along four seasons, the viewer witnesses a progressive decadence, with the ‘angered’ Nature refusing to give them the basic needs - the bees fled from the beehives, cows no longer give milk and were taken out by the authorities, while potatoes didn’t germinate as they should. All these aspects are presented together with weird interactions and unexplainable communication among men and animals, along with inherent senses of fear and helplessness that produces deep changes in everyone’s behavior. Another very strong aspect in the film were the rituals, whether presented in the form of traditional parades, whether in form of sect gathering where alienation, sacrifice, or purification, become the new real threats to humanity. “The Fifth Season” was extremely satisfying in its approach, creating great impact through its disturbing score, haunting images, and constantly involving us in its grim story of survival pelted with supernatural forces and symbology. The film collected important prizes at Valladolid and Venice film festivals.

March 12, 2014

Torn (2013)

Torn (2013)
Directed by: Jeremiah Birmbaum
Country: USA / Pakistan

Movie Review: Producer-turned-director Jeremiah Birnbaum has in “Torn” his first directorial solo film. A drama that explores the anguish of two distinct families, one American and other Pakistani, after learn that their juvenile sons were killed in a moll terrorist bombing that victimized ten more people. Moreover, police has motives to believe that one of them was the responsible for the bombing, causing apprehension and revolt in their parents. The two mothers will maintain contact, not without some aggression and prejudice, but soon will realize their unfair behavior towards a very difficulties and inconclusive case. I found a bit forced the way Michael Richter, the writer, arranged all the pieces to turn the story upside down, creating unexpectedly the rupture in one of the families and reconnection in the other. With exception of Dendrie Taylor, the performances weren’t always convincing, making the film equal to so many others dramas that couldn’t find a way, both artistic and narrative, to excel in the genre. Birnbaum’s direction also didn’t satisfy completely, often allowing unpolished images with excess of whites, fact that on purpose or not, is not for my particular taste. In the end we are presented with instants of that fatal day – do they change anything? “Torn” was considered best feature film at Rhode Island International Film Festival.

March 11, 2014

We Are the Best (2013)

We Are the Best (2013)
Directed by: Lukas Moodyson
Country: Sweden

Movie Review: Plenty of attitude can be found in Lukas Moodyson’s seventh feature film, which tells the story of two 13 year-old girls who, in 1982 Stokholm, believe punk’s not dead and embark in their dream of forming a band. With a fragile aspect and disillusioned with their families, Bobo and Klara exhibit uncommon haircuts and adopt a rebel posture, not caring a bit with the sarcastic commentaries of their colleagues. Having big problems with sports, they decide to call “hate sports” to their first song, but as beginners, they realize that learning some more music is fundamental. After seeing Hedvig playing classical guitar at school’s fall concert, they decide to invite her for their band, trying to dissuade her to believe in God and converting her to punk music. Most of the situations are funny, but drama and jealous will also arise when Klara and Bobo involve themselves with Elis, a member of another reputed teen punk band. With their friendship in jeopardy, and the first live appearance scheduled for Vasteras, will they get over the situation? Evincing a tireless energy, the viewer can sense that pretty much is going on in the life of these young girls, and those things are far beyond studying. The urge to be different, strong personalities, and support from the families, were positive aspects to take into account, but there were others not so positive (but plausible), such as too much freedom and preconceived ideas. Moodyson returns to interesting scripts, effectively mixing the harshness of punk with the sweetness of these three little friends.

March 10, 2014

Mister John (2013)

Mister John (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Joe Lawlor, Christine Molloy
Country: Ireland / UK / Singapore

Movie Review: “Mister John” is an Irish/UK/Singapore subtle thriller directed by husband-and-wife duo Joe Lawlor and Christy Molloy. The film opens with the image of a body floating in a Singapore’s lakeshore. The victim is John, an Irish man who ran a night bar in Singapore with his wife Kim (Zoe Tay). The latter will meet her brother-in-law, Jeff (Aiden Gillen), who arrived at the hospital to identify the body and later to attend to his brother’s funeral. Having some problems with his wife back in London, the overtired Jeff gets dangerously closer to Kim, while trying to find more about the death occurred in mysterious circumstances. Suspicions fall in one of John’s best friends, Lester, but all the insinuations are both inconclusive and deceivable. Without much to do, Jeff still has time to interview young girls to be hired for Kim’s hostess bar called ‘Mister Johns’, after has been bitten by a snake. Most of these happenings were wrapped in dreamlike tones, and were causing Jeff’s pain and lack of control. The complexity of the main character oscillates between real and calculated, and the same happens with the plot – we never know what to count with or where the things are going. This could be an advantage, but in this particular case it didn’t work out satisfactorily. During its non-shocking final minutes, I had the sensation that all was too shallow to hide any profound secret. Gillen and Tay’s performances were acceptable, while direction showed positive aspects, hopefully to be used in a stronger future plot.

March 09, 2014

Le Week-End (2013)

Le Week-End (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Roger Michell
Country: UK

Movie Review: “Le Week-End” is the third collaboration between director Roger Michell (better known by the massive hit “Notting Hill”) and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi, after “The Mother” in 2003, and “Venus” in 2006. The result is an agreeable romantic comedy that is kept alive by constant changes in tone, whether in terms of speech or behavior. Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg Burrows (Lindsay Duncan) form a long-married British couple who decides to go to Paris for a weekend and try to give a break on crisis, 30 years after have spending their honeymoon there. Several tribulations, unexpected encounters, hearty speeches at dinner tables, and a mix of laugh and sorrow, will mark this special and unforgettable weekend. Despite some common situations, the film was able to celebrate love over any possible trouble that might come, not without some friction, dispute, and irritation. After they bump into Morgan (Jeff Goldblum), Nick’s former fellow student, Meg promptly accepts his invitation for a dinner party at his house. While he smokes a joint with Morgan’s teen son, she accepts an invitation for a drink addressed by another man. Things don’t seem to go in the right path and the tension grows until the film’s disarming last moments. Michell and his trio of actors put sufficient charm in an adventurous romantic story that, at least, had the merit of never being corny.

March 08, 2014

Kill Your Darlings (2013)

Kill Your Darlings (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: John Krokidas
Country: USA

Movie Review: John Krokidas’ sophomore feature, “Kill Your Darlings”, is a biopic centered on poet Allen Ginsberg’s early life, featuring his family problems, big passion for a bohemian classmate Lucien Carr, and his libertine circle of intellectual friends that include future icons of Beat Generation movement, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac.  The film has a powerful start at the sound of a swinging jazz and absorbing images depicting the hot atmosphere in Columbia University where Ginsberg challenged the education system, inspired by Henry Miller and Yates, while experiencing alcohol, drugs, and becomes conscient of his homosexuality. The insecure and heartbreaking Carr served as a huge inspiration for Ginsberg’s first poems, in a tumultuous relationship that has never achieved stable proportions. Despite the accomplished performances by Daniel Radcliffe (remember Harry Potter?) and Dane DeHaan, along with the construction of some incisive tension, “Kill Your Darlings” ended too fast, at the same time that lost some grip in its final moments, even with a murder case involved. Krokidas maintained the desired objectivity for the most part of the time, but the major interest here was purely informative. Perhaps a bit more fervor was required to make the film grow in satisfaction.  

March 07, 2014

In Fear (2013)

In Fear (2013)
Directed by: Jeremy Lovering
Country: UK

Movie Review: After the experience gained with TV series, Jeremy Lovering’s first feature reveals to be a simple but watchable horror film that relies on the same old techniques to impress. After making a stop (shrouded by mystery) in the unique pub of a remote Irish city, Tom and Lucy hit the deserted and mazy country roads with the intention of finding a house hotel. Driving in circles and running out of gas, the couple’s apprehension and uneasiness will be noticeable in their facial expressions when the night falls, spectral appearances start to occur, and an uninvited guest joins them to give every indication. The concept is far from being new, but the film gains some points by causing some chills and excitement through nocturnal images of the roads surrounded by woods, only illuminated by the car´s lights. The doubt about what happened in the pub and the uncertainty of what’s coming next never abandoned me, with the question if the threat was coming from this world or from another starting to emerge in my head. Minimal in terms of plot and execution, sparse in intentions, and evincing an efficient camera handling, “In Fear” makes of ambiguity its better tool to scare, well sustained by dim light images and a balanced alternation between silences and music. Considering the low budget and minimum resources, the film partly succeeds, even not unclasping the habitual stereotypes of the genre.