April 30, 2014

The Butterfly's Dream (2013)

The Butterfly's Dream (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Yilmaz Erdogan
Country: Turkey

Movie Review: Good intentions aside – the film pays a tribute to forgotten poets from the past and gives a good look on beautiful friendship - “The Butterfly’s Dream” wasn’t so inspired in its conception, despite the fantastic cinematography of Gokhan Tiryaki (known for his work with the acclaimed director Nuri Bilge Ceylan) and solid performances in general. Film director, actor and also poet, Yilmaz Erdogan, wrote, starred and directed this mournful drama with Hollywood film stereotypes in mind, and that was the main issue, asphyxiating the aspirations of a decent plot, which presented sufficient arguments to be a triumph – impoverished but spirited poets, Muzaffer and Rustu, enjoying life, friendship and love, searching for recognition, and fighting against tuberculosis in 1940’s Turkey. Both poets, who had the poet Behçet Necatigil (performed by Erdogan) as friend and mentor, will end up finding the love of their lives, until their short happiness be interrupted by sickness and a couple of painful goodbyes. An adventurous episode is presented when Muzaffer and his beloved Suzan disguised themselves to descend into the grueling world of coal miners. The narrative tones used were familiarly common, whereas the score, intrusive most of the times, has a too dramatic effect, taking us to the melodrama. “The Butterfly’s Dream” is watchable as a story, yet could have been so much better movie if Erdogan had gathered the right elements to compose the ideal atmosphere.

April 29, 2014

Attila Marcel (2013)

Attila Marcel (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Sylvain Chomet
Country: France

Movie Review: Acclaimed French director, Sylvain Chomet, known for his successful animated achievements, “The Triplets of Belleville” and “The Illusionist”, the latter adapted from an original screenplay by Jacques Tati, returns with actors in flesh and bone for his first live-action feature, combining comedy, drama and musical in a satisfactory way. The story follows 33-year-old Paul (Guillaume Gouix), a gifted pianist who stopped talking at the age of two, after witnessing his parents’ death. Raised and spoiled by two incredible aunts, Annie (Bernardette Lafont) and Anna (Hélene Vincent), who suspect he’s doing drugs, Paul will be helped in secrecy by a terminally ill neighbor and activist, Mme. Proust (Anne Le Ny). To complete his life changing, he will find the future mother of his child, and his attitude will improve after becoming the winner of an important piano competition he’s been pursuing for years. “Attila Marcel” mixes the universes of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Jacques Demy, with its colorful visuals, dreamy ambiances, introverted romance, and introducing joyful jazz sequences into the classic tunes from the past. Its sweetness and extravagancy, brings some funny moments, most of them in the second half, exactly when the tough memories become clearer in Paul’s consciousness. This compensates the not so auspicious starting, which seemed to take the film to boring places. Gouix was great in its role, even saying just one word throughout the entire movie, while Chomet gives a step forward from his comfort zone.

April 28, 2014

Blue Ruin (2013)

Blue Ruin (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jeremy Saulnier
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Blue Ruin” is an absorbing American indie thriller, directed by Jeremy Saulnier (also screenwriter and cinematographer), which depicts a sequence of unstoppable revenges involving two families. Homeless Dwight (Macon Blair) roams the streets with his long hair and beard, taking every opportunity to break into some house to have a bath. All he possesses is an old car and the clothes he’s wearing. When informed by the police that Wade Cleland is about to be released from prison, Dwight’s eyes became wide open and his hands started shaking with rage. Supposedly, Wade murdered Dwight’s parents and now will have to suffer the consequences. Highly determined but inexperienced in the act of killing, Dwight fulfills his purpose but leaves a track behind – he forgot his car keys in the local of the crime. In the next step, the hunter becomes hunted by Wade’s siblings, doing everything he can to protect himself and his sister, and asking for the help of an old friend who is an expert in guns. Some scenes contain explicit violence but the film doesn’t rely on these particular moments to impress, since the story is involving and the motives that led to this situation put us in a state of curiosity and anxiety, without ever losing grip on visuals or atmosphere. Blair’s performance had something that captivated me, in one hand he shows to be a merciless punisher, but on the other, he tries to find reasons not to continue killing. “Blue Ruin” can figure among other recent, competent thrillers, such as “Blue Caprice” or “Joe”.

April 27, 2014

Locke (2013)

Locke (2013)
Directed by: Steven Knight
Country: UK / USA

Movie Review: Static and minimalist on visuals, and expeditious in words, “Locke” is a one-man drama, totally set in the streets of England inside of a car. While travelling from Birmingham to London, successful construction foreman Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) engages in a sequence of serious phone calls. Assuming a compromising mistake in the recent past, he just made the most courageous decision in life, putting at stake his family, his career, and his own mental state. Evincing an admirable cold-blood within a stressful situation, he tries to control himself and simultaneously calm down his wife, his partner who will have to prepare everything alone for the next fundamental day at work, his demanded boss, and the future mother of his new child who is about to be born. Director/screenwriter Steven Knight (“Redemption”) presents us an original and bold concept in his directorial sophomore feature film, unexpectedly creating tension through the conversations we witness. Certainly this won’t be a film for those who are searching for thrilling action moments or mysterious plots, since “Locke” lives much from Tom Hardy’s memorable performance and from what the viewers feel by putting themselves in his place. In the scarce moments in which he doesn’t talk to anyone, he imagines conversations with his deceased father, a fact that shows his despair and loneliness. The low budgeted “Locke” takes us purposely to commonplaces in terms of visuals, but even contrived, captivated my attention with its simple story of a man’s downfall.

April 26, 2014

Mikra Anglia (2013)

Mikra Anglia (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Pantelis Voulgaris
Country: Greece

Movie Review: “Mikra Anglia” is a grievous drama directed by veteran Greek filmmaker Pantelis Voulgaris, based on Ioanna Karystiani’s novel of the same name. The film is set on the Greek island of Andros in 1930, where many women mourn for their beloved men, dead or lost at sea. Orsa is madly in love with Spyros, a brave seaman who promises to marry her after his return from the next trip, which will make him captain, a fundamental condition for the marriage to happen. Spyro’s retired uncle, Emilius, is the one to talk to Orsa’s mother, Mina, to ask for her permission but the answer was a short 'no', since his family is far from the wealth she wants for their daughters. Tormented and abandoned, Mina tries to protect her daughter from having a fate like hers, since her husband, captain Savvas, lives most of the time with his other wife and kid in Argentina. When Mina forces Orsa to hastily marry captain Nikos, Spyros, now a respected captain too, decides to have his revenge asking for the hand of Orsa’s younger sister, Moscha. The situation seems unbearable when the entire family starts living under the same roof. The film takes its time to makes us absorb completely the torments lived by each of the characters – repressed love, absence, guilt, infidelity, fear of losing the loved ones – they’re all silent sufferers who are trying to find some solace in their lives. Will it be possible for the two sisters count with each other? Poetic in words, precise in its images, and sad as a Greek tragedy, “Mikra Anglia” depicts a plausible and bitter reality in tones of homage for all those anguished women.

April 25, 2014

In Your Eyes (2014)

In Your Eyes (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Brin Hill
Country: USA

Movie Review: Have you ever imagined having a long distance conversation just with the power of your mind? Well, that’s exactly what you’ll find in “In Your Eyes”, a telepathic romance written by Joss Whedon (“The Avengers”, “Much Ado About Nothing”) who also appears as executive producer, and directed by Brin Hill – his sophomore feature. The solitary Dylan (Michael Stahl-David) is an ex-con who’s trying to give some meaning to his boring life in New Mexico. Rebecca (Zoe Kazan) in turn is the insecure wife of a reputed doctor who puts business in front of everything. These two characters will learn they can communicate telepathically, feel what the other feels, and even see what’s going on, in the other side of the country. Like lunatics, they keep talking into the air, sharing their problems and concerns, and (guess what?) occasionally slapping themselves in the face as a punishment when the other deserves a lesson. Whedon’s concept defies the so trendy online relationships, but “In Your Eyes” touches the melodrama in several occasions and becomes pretty much unpersuasive. With a relaxed country music playing, some situations transpired humor, which was the most positive aspect of the film, while the plot, more dull than inventive, might warm your heart and numb your mind. Actress Zoe Kazan, however, confirmed to have talent and sensibility for roles of this kind, capturing my attention since her participation in the very much auspicious comedy “Ruby Sparks”, which she wrote.

April 24, 2014

Labor Day (2013)

Labor Day (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jason Reitman
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Labor Day” was too miserable to make me believe it came out from the hands of Jason Reitman, who holds in his career such respectable films, as are the cases of “Thank You for Smoking”, “Juno”, “Up in the Air”, and “Young Adult”. The film was based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Maynard who, for the second time, sees her literary work adapted for the screen, after Gus Van Sant’s “To Die For” in 1995. Adele Wheeler (Kate Winslet) is a depressive mother who lives alone with her adolescent son Henry (Gattlin Griffith). This young boy tries everything to please her and get her out of an unnatural apathy. One day, while shopping, they are approached by a wounded stranger named Frank (Josh Brolin), who first asks for a ride but immediately invites himself into their house. The man is a fugitive, formerly convicted to 18 years in prison for murder. The story starts to take ridiculous proportions since an early stage, when Frank ties Adele through slow and sensual movements while a tense music floats in the air. After the initial suspicion, acceptance arrives and the kind tones reveal they had become a family. Frank even shows he’s a skillful man in the kitchen for Adele’s satisfaction, while Henry struggles with the common problems of adolescence. Providing that the romance was too cheesy and the action/thriller too insufficient, what attracted me more in “Labor Day” was the amazing peach pie baked by the family! However, and since everyone deserves another chance, I’ll keep waiting for that stroke of genius that Reitman once accustomed us.

April 23, 2014

The Missing Picture (2013)

The Missing Picture (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Rithy Panh
Country: Cambodia / France

Movie Review: Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh exposes once again the atrocities and terrifying atmosphere imposed by the authoritarian communist regime Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, between 1975 and 1979 in Cambodia. Looking in vain for a missing photograph taken in that time by Khmer Rouge, evincing mass murder, Panh resolves to narrate his own story, at the same time that recreates in an artsy way – through scenarios composed by clay dolls and the use of new and old footage - the impure and corrupt environment of Phnom Penh, where poor common people, capitalists, and intellectuals were eradicated and destroyed. The film starts with a big close-up of Panh’s hands carving clay to shape a little figure that symbolizes his father, a dignified man who starved to death as protest against the inhuman conditions lived in those killing fields. The scene then shifts to footage where we can see children submitted to forced labor, sick people who lost their dignitiy, and deep misery in every sense. The creative scenarios mingled with harrowing images of a sad reality, left me with an unexplainable sensation – almost like hypnotized by the narrator’s melancholic voice, absorbed by Panh’s beautiful creativity, and furious with what these innocent people had to suffer. Not so blunt or striking as the ‘Indonesian’ “The Act of Killing”, “The Missing Picture” shows personal sensibility and grief. Rithy Panh showed to be confident behind the camera and his panning shots prove what he wanted to: ‘a picture can be stolen but a thought cannot’.

April 22, 2014

The Immigrant (2013)

The Immigrant (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: James Gray
Country: USA

Movie Review: American film director and screenwriter, James Gray, reunites Joaquin Phoenix (for the fourth time – “The Yards”, “We Own the Night”, “Two Lovers”), Marion Cotillard and Jermey Renner in “The Immigrant”, a drama set in the 20’s. Ewa (Cotillard) and her sister Magda got into a ship and came to America from Poland, looking for a better life and with their chests full of hope and dreams. When they arrive to Ellis Island, doctors find out that Magda suffers from a lung disease and the two sisters are separated. While Magda is taken away to receive treatment, Ewa was going to be deported if it wasn’t for Bruno (Phoenix), a well-connected man who offered his help, but for a price. He forces her into prostitution and gradually gets impressed with her good nature allied to a determined power of negotiation – ‘I like money but I don’t like you’, she says. The story, evolving slowly and without putting all the energy possible in the scenes, gained some relevance when Bruno’s magician cousin, Amil (Renner), decides to openly demonstrate his true love for Ewa, entering in a competitive dispute with his cousin. Visually rich, using mostly yellowish tones for indoors and a fainted sepia for outdoors, “The Immigrant” was emotionally demotivating, failing to convey passion in its most crucial moments. Cotillard’s performance as sweet and submissive catholic woman who needs to make money to survive, messed a bit with my nerves, while Phoenix wasn’t so brilliant here as in his two last appearances ("The Master", "Her"). Production design and cinematography were outstanding.

April 21, 2014

Oculus (2013)

Oculus (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Country: USA

Movie Review: Mike Flanagan gave life to “Oculus”, basing himself on his 2006 short “Oculus: Chapter 3 - The Man with the Plan”. After “Absentia”, the American filmmaker confirmed his predilection for the horror genre, having another one in agenda to come out in 2015, entitled “Somnia”, which like the object of this review has been co-wrote by Flanagan and Jeff Howard. “Oculus” tells the story of brother and sister, Tim (Brenton Thwaites) and Kaylie Russell (Karen Gillan), whose parents died tragically ten years ago, supposedly shot by Tim. Now with the age of 21, the latter is given as psychologically apt and gets out of protective custody seeming ready to move on with his life. However, his still affected sister brings the subject all over again, after suspect that the cause of the misfortune could have been an old mirror that keeps leaving a track of blood or insanity in every house it passes by. The film was technically well executed, presenting a chilly atmosphere that could have been fruitful in case the plot has showed more creativity. By using a structure that is very conventional in the genre, “Oculus” needed some more credibility in terms of plot to be more spooky and less derivative. Basically, it is more of the same, and I wonder if Flanagan should have bothered doing this teen-horror-show with a magic mirror, which turns out to be tense in several occasions but also falsely complex and a bit dull in its backbone. The film was the second most voted by the audience at Toronto Int. Film Festival.

April 20, 2014

The Railway Man (2013)

The Railway Man (2013)
Directed by: Jonathan Teplitzky
Country: Australia / UK

Movie Review: Australian film director, Jonathan Teplitzky, drastically changes tones with “The Railway Man”, his new drama based on the real experiences of British soldier Eric Lomax during the WWII, comparatively with his abuzz work dated from 2011, “The Burning Man”. The film stars Colin Firth as Lomax, a traumatized and railway enthusiast British soldier who was made prisoner in 1942 by the Japanese forces in command, having been heavily tortured and accused of conspiracy with the Chinese. Deeply affected, Lomax counts with the help of his understanding and patient wife, Patti (Nicole Kidman), and his best friend, Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard). After years of suffering, he decides to meet Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada), a former Japanese translator who was responsible for many of the inflicted tortures. Making him prisoner, Lomax will teach him a late yet valuable life lesson that will ease their tortured souls . Despite the challenging score, the film was never unsettling and couldn’t totally escape to sentimentality. Moreover, the uneven pace makes the film drag in several occasions, giving the sensation of being much longer, while the performances, especially those by the young Japanese soldiers, didn’t seem so authentic as expected. Humanity and forgiveness are always to praise, but I felt that the unstimulating “The Railway Man” needed so much more to triumph as a drama, and thereby follow the success of Lomax’s bestselling autobiography of the same name. Garry Phillips’ cinematography deserves to be mentioned but my final verdict is: skippable.

April 19, 2014

Me, Myself and Mum (2013)

Me, Myself and Mom (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Guillaume Gallienne
Country: France / Belgium

Movie Review: French actor Guillaume Gallienne wrote, directed and starred in “Me, Myself and Mum”, an autobiographical film that exposes his sexual dilemmas and the exceptional relationship with his very blunt, yet elegant mother. Adapted from his 2008 one-man stage show, multifaceted Guillaume plays the mother and himself, providing us some amusing scenic situations and pertinent dialogues. At the age of five, he remembered his mother calling him and his brothers to the dinner table, saying: ‘boys and Guillaume, to the table!’. Since that time, he got pretty confused about himself, but other occurrences of his childhood were also determinant, like when he was talking with his mother on the phone and she ended the conversation with ‘take care my big girl!’. These situations brought a great uncertainty in the effeminate and sports hater Guillaume, who really believed he was a girl in a man’s body. Becoming an attentive women’s observer to better understand his sexual tendencies, the charismatic and faint-hearted Guillaume will go through some awkward situations that include a traumatic visit to a Bavarian spa, a call for military service, and his first sexual encounter with a man. His late conclusions will end up in a creative play focused on a man who decides to assume his heterosexuality after his family has decided he was gay. Smartly written, funny, and accessible, “Me, Myself and Mum” excelled not only due to the brilliant performance of Gallienne, but also through his sturdy direction.

April 18, 2014

Violette (2013)

Violette (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Martin Provost
Country: France / Belgium

Movie Review: “Violette” has the particularity of being the second biopic about a French female artist directed by Martin Provost. In 2008, naïve-style painter Séraphine de Senlis was depicted in “Séraphine”. Now it’s time for us to know about the flickering literary path, frontal personality, and complex relationships of feminist novelist Violette Leduc (1907-1972), known for writing about sex and abortion as never before, according to the words of her admirer colleague, supporter, and object of desire, Simone de Beauvoir. The latter became Violette’s obsession, in a suffering, loving passion that was never requited, despite the great veneration that these bold and visionary women authors felt for each other. Other famous personalities made part of Violette’s unstable life: cases of writers Maurice Sachs (in a theatrical first section that wasn’t so strong as the following) and Jean Genet, and the rich industrial Jacques Guérin, but was her mother, Berthe, the cause of every emotional instability. In her search for love, acceptance and human contact, Violette ends up more and more isolated – ‘alone in my desert monologue’ as she referred. Despite of the bad start, the film presented appealing images reflecting rigorously the period of time covered (cinematography by Yves Cape), and some of Leduc’s refined poetry excerpts, which was often combined with a disconsolate classical music. Emmanuelle Devos did a great job as Violette, pulling out all those uncontrolled emotional impulses, while Sandrine Kiberlain was also noticeable as Beauvoir, even showing a more unexpressive personality.

April 17, 2014

The French Minister (2013)

The French Minister (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Bertrand Tavernier
Country: France

Movie Review: Veteran French filmmaker, Bertrand Tavernier, known for his distinct styles used in films such as “Round Midnight”, “Coup de Torchon”, or “A Sunday in the Country”, directs a comical political satire that has everything to amuse the fans of the genre. The film cleverly adopts the same methods – legitimacy, unity and efficiency - of the mad French minister of foreign affairs that depicts. Legitimacy can be felt when the young Arthur Vlaminck is hired for the invisible ‘language department’ within the minister’s office, accepting patiently the authority of his picky superior. Unity marks the second part of the film when everyone sits down, not only to discuss the best political strategies and speeches, but also to help the minister in his cultural lunches with famous authors, poets, and philosophers. Finally, in the last third, we have efficiency, when all the philosophical theories, nitpicks and stubbornness are left behind in detriment of a short, clear, and pragmatic speech. With its tones of mockery and loquacious style, “The French Minister” fulfills its role, becoming closer to Costa-Gavras’ “The Capital” rather than Pierre Schoeller’s “The Minister” whose boldness we could not find here. Don’t expect complex conclusions, since Tavernier abruptly cut irony and sarcasm all at once, but expect to meet the modern ‘Tintin’ of French politics, superbly performed by Thierry Lhermitte. Tavernier took inspiration from the comic book by Abel Lanzac (pseudonym for Antonin Baudry – former minister Villepin’s speechwriter between 2002 and 2004) and illustrator Christophe Blain.

April 16, 2014

The Raid 2 (2014)

The Raid 2 (2014)
Directed by: Gareth Evans
Country: Indonesia / USA

Movie Review: “The Raid 2” continues the saga of undercover agent Rama (performed once again by Iko Uwais), started three years ago with “The Raid: Redemption”, but without achieving the same surprise effects or impact. Right after the first mission, our hero subjects himself to a few years in prison in order to protect his family. Once there, he deliberately becomes friends with inmate Uco, an unscrupulous, greedy gangster whose father, Bangun, co-rules the city of Jakarta with the Japanese Goto clan. This operation aims to dismantle Jakarta's organized crime and uncover the corruption in his own police force. The interminable physical battles use the same astonishing choreographies to impress our eyes but the action festival becomes somewhat repetitive and consequently tiresome throughout its intense 150 minutes. The plot, written by Welsh director Gareth Evans, didn’t present anything really new apart from the quantity of deadly tools: hammers, different sorts of knives, swords, pickaxes and clubs. The places where the fights occur were also diverse: in the mud of a prison, in the snow of an alley, or even inside cars in movement. Using frequent close-ups to enhance Rama’s determination as well as the severe posture of the other men in face of danger, Evans’s direction wasn’t so brilliant and crushing as in the previous adventure, which takes place inside an old, claustrophobic and labyrinthine apartment building. Despite less appealing in conception and over exalted in its scenes of violence, “The Raid 2” provides sufficient energy to please the followers of the genre.

April 15, 2014

Joe (2013)

Joe (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Joe”, David Gordon Green’s so much expected feature after the acceptable remake of Icelandic “Either Way” under the title “Prince Avalanche”, is a pungent Southerner drama and thriller, featuring Nicolas Cage, Gary Poulter, and the young Tye Sheridan in the main roles. Joe (Cage) is a problematic lone wolf and ex-con, who decides to hire 15-year-old Gary (Sheridan), for a job that consists in clearing the backwoods by poisoning sick trees in order to make room for more suitable species. Joe naturally becomes Gary’s protector when he realizes the difficulties he has to keep out his mother and dumb sister from the multiple abuses perpetrated by his drunk, slacker, and malicious father (Poulter), known as G-Daawg. Joe also has his own problems, haunted by his past and emotionally smashed by a depressive and often turbulent day-to-day. He’s constantly confronted by the police and stalked by Willie-Russell, a coward but dangerous psycho who’s looking for revenge regarding a past brawl. Gordon Green created tension everywhere through a very personal and commendable direction, enhanced by the somber cinematography by Tim Orr and the truly creepy score by the duo David Wingo/Jeff McIlwain. Nicolas Cage had a fantastic performance as a disreputable man who tries to make the right thing, but for me Gary Poulter exceeded the expectations as the perfect representation of vileness. The taciturn and intriguing “Joe”, shall please both art-house and commercial audiences.

April 14, 2014

It's All So Quiet (2013)

It's All So Quiet (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Nanouk Leopold
Country: Netherlands / Germany

Movie Review: The fifth feature film from Dutch helmer Nanouk Leopold is a resentful and quiet drama inspired by Gerbrand Bakker’s debut novel “The Twin”, depicting homosexual repression and rural isolation. Helmer (Jeroen Willems) is a 55 year-old solitary farmer who, not with signs of impatience, waits for his father’s death. Visibly embittered, Helmer is stuck into a life he didn’t choose, having to take care of his bedridden and demanding father, and do all the work in the dairy farm by himself. He feels attracted to a milk trader of his own age but always resists to his approaching attempts. When his father gets worse he moves him upstairs, so he can rent the available room to a young farmer, Henk, whose presence will try to break the ice of Helmer’s self-denied homosexuality. The main character presents a bitter coldness and carries so much frustration that is almost impossible to feel any sympathy for him. A little wickedness is particularly visible when he refuses to call a doctor for his father, or tries to avoid the visit of a friendly neighbor, Ada (the unique feminine presence), or seems reluctant in turning on the heating for the room upstairs. Vague insinuations are suggested about their difficult past relationship but “It’s All So Quiet” becomes as painful to watch as the lives of the ones it depicts. Its immutable sad tone characterized by a slow pace and absence of any kind of thrill won’t be for everyone’s appreciation, only increasing the lack of human warmness. It’s indeed an interesting story, yet very arduous to endure.

April 13, 2014

Metro Manila (2013)

Metro Manila (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Sean Ellis
Country: Philippines / UK

Movie Review: The third feature film from English filmmaker Sean Ellis, "Metro Manila", is a thrilling trip into despair of having to start a new life from scratch in a dangerous place. Facing severe financial problems, Oscar Ramirez (Jake Macapagal) and his wife Mai (Althea Vega) leave their farm in the Philippine Benoue province, in the company of their two young daughters, to try their luck in Manila. Astonished with the city’s intensity, they’ll soon learn that nothing is too easy in an inhuman jungle where everyone tries to survive the best they can. Swindled in the day of their arrival, Oscar and Mai will have different lucks in their following jobs, being exploited in two very different manners. While she starts working in a hideous bar for gentlemen, he gets an apparently steady position in an armored truck company, being trained by his helpful but tricky partner, Ong (John Arcilla). The couple is about to inhabit a merciless and destructive world of ambition, greediness, and exploitation. Effective in capturing the vibrancy of the city with its accurately shots, Ellis conducted the story in a gripping way, triggering never-ending situations on how a chaotic society can take advantage of one’s innocence and impoverishment. Story's tragic outcomes were far expected, conjointly with the suitable pace adopted, in a film that works very well as a slow-burning drama, heist thriller, and bitter analysis of a problematic country. Having been nominated for the BAFTA awards 2014, “Metro Manila” was awarded at Hamburg and Sundance film festivals.

April 12, 2014

Afflicted (2013)

Afflicted (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Derek Lee, Clif Prowse
Country: Canada

Movie Review: Co-directors, writers and actors, Derek Lee and Clif Prowse, introduced themselves in the first minutes of “Afflicted”, before elucidating us about the dream trip around the world they’re about to record on video. Yes, this is another footage film, so in vogue nowadays, that tries to get close to the documentary format. But only a few minutes were necessary to realize that everything here is an inventive creation from the duo’s minds. Apart from Derek’s brain disease, the trip starts in an uneventful way, but everything changes in Paris, after he meets with a strange woman who turns him immortal and bloodthirsty. From the minute 45 on, we can follow Derek experiencing the unexplainable, in sequences of scenes varying from gross (vomiting blood or taking an eye out), funny (asking for blood in Italian), and moderately scary (having seizures or committing a live suicide). As expected, all the film was shot with super-shaky hand-held cameras to maintain an appealing intensity, and the result is simultaneously pointless and effective. This could be a good choice for vampire aficionados, depending of their taste. If you like elaborated dialogues and a more stylish approach, I would recommend “Only Lovers Left Alive”. In turn, if you prefer a raw and dirty style, “Afflicted” can do the trick. After all, considering the low budget, it presents some good ideas that will leave you wondering about the motives that led to disgrace: evilness or kindness? The film was worthy of the special jury citation at Toronto Film Festival.

April 11, 2014

The Conductor (2012)

The Conductor (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Pavel Lungin
Country: Russia

Movie Review: Delivering less than it promised, “The Conductor”, presents a mix of stories inside a group of performers from a famous Russian orchestra that travels to Jerusalem to perform the religious oratorio ‘St. Matthew Passion’. The drama is centered on the feared conductor Slava Petrov (Vladas Bagdonas) who receives a fax informing about his son’s death in Jerusalem, a few days before his departure. Once there, he’ll learn that his artist son became member of a secluded group, having collected several debts that led him to hang himself. He just left a painting, a replica of the famous ‘The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb’, in which Christ is replaced by his father. In parallel, we can follow the insecurities of a lonely singer who believes he’s not wanted in the orchestra, and the end of a marriage of another singer, Sergey, who feels tied up in the relationship with his jealous and religious-obsessed wife, feeling attracted to Olga whom he met in the plane. Meanwhile, Olga will lost track of her two kids in the perilous market streets of Jerusalem. Despite its fine performances and appealing images, “The Conductor” revealed some trouble embracing the stories and giving them a final strong conclusion. The religious chants created a special mood (the most valuable aspect in the film) that not always corresponded to what the pic was showing us. Made of fatal coincidences and ‘deaf’ dialogues, it adopts serious tones in its attempt to balance all the guilt, pride, faith, and repentance of its characters, a goal that wasn’t totally achieved.

April 10, 2014

The Auction (2013)

The Auction (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Sébastien Pilote
Country: Canada

Movie Review: Sébastien Pilote’s sophomore feature, “The Auction”, is a compelling Canadian drama starring Gabriel Arcand in the role of an aging, dedicated farmer. Gaby Gagnon lives alone in his countryside farm after his wife has left him 20 years ago to go live in the city. A few years later his two daughters, Marie and Fréderique, also left home in order to live their own lives. Fréderique, with an emerging career in the theater, never shows up or give signs of wanting to be with the family, while Marie is expected soon with her two children and husband. Arriving just with the kids, Marie confesses she is divorcing and needs urgent money to keep the house. Gaby promises to help her out, but the bank refuses the loan he asked for, leaving him with the unique and toughest solution in hands: sell the farm in the local auction. Pacific and contemplative in style, yet profound in dramatic terms, the film evinced emotional insight and a true sense of family and friendship that define completely the main character. In this story of sacrifice and guilt, Gaby’s silent affliction was quite painful and his determination will be tested through his neighbor friends, who got very sad with his departure, or his opponent brothers who wanted a share from the farm’s sale. It’s a bittersweet tale that confronts the happiness of a conscious father (even knowing that his daughter is taking advantage of him) and the extreme sadness of an innate farmer. “The Auction” is a mature and tender drama that moves in crescendo, deserving to be seen.

April 09, 2014

Eastern Boys (2013)

Eastern Boys (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Robin Campillo
Country: France

Movie Review: Awarded at Venice Film Festival, “Eastern Boys”, is a realistic and inviting French drama focused on the homosexual relationship between a middle-aged man and a much younger illegal immigrant who is a member of a Eastern European gang based on a cheap suburban hotel of Paris. In a train station, Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin), a middle class man approaches a teenager named Marek (Kirill Emelyanov) who promptly offers him sexual services for the price of 50 euros. They set up an encounter for the next day in Daniels’s apartment, but for his surprise, a different boy appears followed by some other invaders, ready to begin their own private party. Tension grows fast in this first third, spreading an enigmatic feel that was quite positive, just to lose some grip in the second act, when Marek returns alone to Daniel’s apartment, this time for the sex they had agreed. The film enters in a more intimate and personal field as we see Marek’s insecurities increase as the relationship becomes steadier, although our doubts about his intensions remain. During the last third, tension is retrieved once again, to finish in an appropriate thrilling climax. “Eastern Boys”, although overextended and now and then unsteady, was a solid sophomore feature by Robin Campillo, known for his work with Laurent Cantet as editor and screenwriter (“Human Resources, “Time Out”, “The Class”), as well as for his 2004 zombie flick “They Came Back”. The leading pair of actors, Rabourdin and Emelyanov, had conspicuous performances.

April 08, 2014

Under the Skin (2013)

Under the Skin (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jonathan Glazer
Country: UK

Movie Review: I don’t have enough words to praise “Under the Skin”, Jonathan Glazer’s innovative sci-fi film, based on the novel with the same name by Michel Faber, and starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien embodying an attractive young woman who installs itself in Scotland to collect human skin that will serve to ‘dress’ her spatial invader friends. Her preys, very well selected, were allured and inevitably taken into a sophisticated process that removed their blood, flesh and bones. Emotionless at first, the visitant strangely starts to change after interact with a disfigured man, who she spared in an act of compassion. From this moment on, she becomes curious about what humans feel, going through different experiences that inevitably will lead her to the sad notion of how evil and scary our nature can be. The final scenes will remain in my head for a long time, and the idea that we, humans, can be very maleficent to one another, is so vividly exposed, that I couldn’t help wishing the alien’s revenge. The stylized, eerie, and hypnotic “Under the Skin” was cleverly conceived in order to grab our senses, proving Jonathan Glazer (“Sexy Beast”, “Birth”) as a filmmaker to follow, and giving Johansson an opportunity to shine in another memorable performance. I couldn’t find anything to rebuke here, apart from the Scottish accent, which sometimes makes the dialogues very difficult to understand. The distinguished plot and its exquisite execution make “Under the Skin” a modern sci-fi masterwork to watch and rewatch again!

April 07, 2014

Bad Words (2013)

Bad Words (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jason Bateman
Country: USA

Movie Review: Jason Bateman directs (for the very first time) and stars in the insubordinate, yet ultimately flat comedy, “Bad Words”, picking up a story by the newcomer screenwriter Andrew Dodge. Guy Trilby (Bateman) is an impertinent, deceitful and mouthy 40 year-old eighth grade dropout who possesses a soul of a brat, expelling bad words everywhere and behaving like a hooligan. He had everyone astonished after qualify himself for a national children’s spelling bee, where his most direct opponent, Chaitanya Chopra () of only 10 years old, unexpectedly becomes a very special friend. The film also focuses in Guy’s casual relationship with a female reporter who found who his dad was. Causing the parents’ wrath and booed in his interventions throughout the competition, Guy takes us to the extremely predictable final duel, making extreme decisions that completely adulterate the rules of the contest. A film relying on words shouldn’t have been so inarticulate, and still the posture adopted just shocked for the worst reasons. In truth, there’s absolutely nothing we can learn from this trivial exercise that offers successive goofy situations created by an obnoxious character whose friendships don’t seem genuine. Too childish to be valued by adults, and too inappropriate to be seen by kids, “Bad Words” falls in the category of the most uninspired comedies of the year.

April 06, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Country: USA

Movie Review: Finally here is a “Captain America” who unexpectedly rocks, being smarter in terms of plot and much more interesting in terms of battles and physical confronts than its predecessor from 2011, “The First Avenger”. Marvel comic-books spirit was truly invoked this time, and Russo brothers were able to offer much more than mere standardized action scenes and unbridled explosions made to impress in 3D, so characteristic of the majority films of the genre. Steve Rogers, the super soldier known by Captain America, forms his own alliance with Falcon, Black Widow, and Agent 13, to avenge the supposedly death of Nick Fury after a mysterious attack by Winter Soldier, a powerful assassin with a metal arm who happens to be an old lost friend, now working for Hydra under the orders of the senior SHIELD official, Pierce, and the Nazi scientist Zola whose evil brain was saved to a computer when his body was proclaimed dead. Some of the reserved surprises didn’t really work as a surprise, yet fantasy and action were treated decently in order to provide a vigorous experience. Only in terms of wittiness, it couldn’t get close to the great “Iron Man” from 2008. The film stars Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sebastian Stan as recurrent choices, here very well reinforced by a sly Robert Redford, a winged Anthony Mackie, and the marvelous and outstanding Scarlett Johansson as Russian agent Natasha Romanoff. I suppose that, like me, you must be tired of repetitive exercises of this kind, but in case you’re a devoted Marvel fan give yourself a chance and watch this one.