May 31, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Country: USA

Movie Review: Bryan Singer directs his third X-Men, and best so far, “Days of Future Past”, having another one already announced for 2016 with the name “Apocalypse”. The screenplay was entrusted to Simon Kinberg (also co-producer) who already had worked in two previous X-men sagas: “The Last Stand” (as writer) and “First Class” (as producer). In order to combat the implacable robot-soldiers known as Sentinels and preserve their own existence, the X-Men reunite to find the best way to deal with the situation. The solution adopted was to use Professor X’s telepathic powers to send Wolverine to the past. The mission consists in convincing the young Professor X itself, as well as Erik Lehnsherr (future Magneto) to help him to save Sentinels’ creator, Dr. Trask, a huge brain in a small body, who is the key to spare both humans and mutants from suffering terrible consequences in the future. The story, despite not really outstanding, was well written and told in a fast pace, managing to keep a beneficial balance between the action scenes packed with special effects and a perceptible narrative. Some heroes are depicted in such a way that we want to keep following them, trying to understand their personalities, as well as the motives and motivations behind their actions. I particularly liked Magneto and Mystique, but the stirring happenings were not always neat, placing “Days of Future Past” slightly below “Captain America: the Winter Soldier”, this year’s best Marvel flick. The fantastic cast includes: Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy.

May 30, 2014

Underdogs (2013)

Underdogs (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Juan José Campanella
Country: Argentina / Spain

Movie Review: Acclaimed Argentinean helmer, Juan Jose Campanella, who brought us wonderful films like the comedy “Son of the Bride” or the praised thriller “The Secret in Their Eyes”, returns with “Underdogs”, a big-budget 3D animated movie that marks a new experiment in his career. The film is structured as a story inside the story, as a father tells his past adventures to his son, after seeing his fascination for some loose figures unscrewed from an old foosball table. Amadeo is an ace in the foosball table game, being the first and unique to beat the boaster Grosso, a bad loser kid who challenges everyone. Several years later, Grosso returns to avenge his defeat, control the small village and its people, and kidnap Laura - Amadeo’s beloved girlfriend. Amadeo will get the precious help of the foosball figures, which even competing against one another to determine who is the best scorer, will join forces to make justice. The film ends up with a decisive soccer match between the dwellers and the invaders, to decide the future of the village. Impeccably illustrated with irresistible colors, “Underdogs” was very well executed but not completely satisfying in its blend of sports and romance. A few funny moments, visual creativity, and an adventurous energy, were the most positive aspects of the film, but the lack of strength in determined segments of the story, together with a finale that slightly disappoints, threw this animated feature into standard territories. It’s competent and most probably will be a success near the younger ones, but I can’t avoid asking Campanella to return to his best comedies and thrillers.

May 29, 2014

Miss Violence (2013)

Miss Violence (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Alexandros Avranas
Country: Greece

Movie Review: Giorgos Lanthimos (“Dogtooth”, “Alps”) has another disciple in Alexander Avranas whose filmmaking style evinces the same heavy atmosphere, underdeveloped blunt dialogue and absence of surrounding music. “Miss Violence”, his sophomore feature film, opens with a birthday party in which the birthday girl, Angeliki, commits suicide by jumping out of the balcony. Welfare department starts an investigation, since there were no apparent reasons for the succeeded. Angeliki was living with Eleni, her disturbed single mother, two minor siblings, a suicidal teenage aunt, and her grandparents. Pain seemed inexistent among the family members who demonstrate to be unaffected with the death, but soon we realize they share terrible secrets. Eleni is pregnant and we never see any other men around, fact that made me instantly think of incest, while her father, a slacker who doesn’t want to work, lives exclusively to control and exploit his family. This psychologically aggressive tale about a dysfunctional family and domestic abuse can be very disturbing, but can’t compete with masterpieces such as “Dogtooth” or “Happiness”. Despite one or other new nuances in the plot, I had the impression that I had seen this before, pretty much with the same elements and mood, but much more intriguing and better told. Notwithstanding, Avranas did an appreciable job on direction (‘Silver Lion’ at Venice), while Themis Panou and Eleni Roussinou were absolutely terrific and convincing as father and daughter.

May 28, 2014

Bethlehem (2013)

Bethlehem (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Yuval Adler
Country: Israel

Movie Review: Israeli Yuval Adler has an auspicious debut on direction and screenwriting with “Bathlehem”, a thriller with dramatic tones centered on Israeli-Palestinian war. The story is centered on disoriented teen Palestinian Sanfur, whose fugitive brother, Ibrahim, is the Al-aqsa brigade leader of Bathlehem who became a symbol of Palestinian resistance after killing 30 Israelis. Unlike his brother, Sanfur is seen as a useless fighter by his father who only praises Ibrahim, and that fact is on the base of why he agreed to collaborate with Razi, an Israeli secret agent who trusts him like his own son. When Ibrahim is killed by an ambush organized by Razi, everything changes, not only in their relationship but also inside the Palestinian forces whose intern crisis triggers an intimidating conflict among the Palestinian Authority, brigades Al-aqsa and Hamas. Needless to say that Sanfur, moving dangerously on both sides of the fence, will be confronted with a final decision after has been detected as an informer – or he escapes to Israel, or he kills his agent friend to save his honor and become a martyr. Tension is everywhere and is delivered at a regular pace, while betrayals and impasses are a constant throughout the film, mirroring the huge complexity of a devastating conflict. In this aspect, we can compare it with Hany Abu-Assad’s “Omar”, which I found more involving and thrilling. In turn, “Bethlehem” is more raw and direct, and not less disturbing in its conclusions. It won six prizes from Israeli Academy, including best film, director, and screenplay.

May 27, 2014

Hawaii (2013)

Hawaii (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Marco Berger
Country: Argentina

Movie Review: With works such as “Plan B”, “Absent” or “Sexual Tension: Volatile”, film director Marco Berger is promptly associated to Argentinean queer cinema. His new feature film, “Hawaii”, stars Manuel Vignau, retrieved from 2009 “Plan B”, and Mateo Chiarino, as two childhood friends who meet again in their hometown, now as adults. Martin (Chiarino) came back to his village in the countryside to look up for his cousin, who disappeared without a trace four years ago. Almost by chance, he asks for a summer job to Eugenio (Vignau), a childhood acquainted who is taking care of his former house that now belongs to his uncle. Since the first minutes together, it was clear that Eugenio is physically attracted to Martin whose behavior is more ambiguous but often enters in tense games with his host friend. As the pair starts to be curious about each other’s past, some recalls from their forgotten childhood come to mind, and the doubt if they are really in love is carried out till the final moments. With a pace that was not particularly involving, “Hawaii” relies in the mood created around the relationship. There were some issues in letting the emotions come out, and most of the time the timid, reserved and cold tones weren’t enough to hold our attention. The expressive score by Pedro Irusta, who also produces, almost evokes the dramatic silent films from the past, combining with the languid progression of an optimistic gay love story, which didn’t reach so satisfactory levels as “Weekend” or “Keep the Lights On”.

May 26, 2014

F*ck You, Goethe (2013)

F*ck You, Goethe (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Bora Dagtekin
Country: Germany

Movie Review: With a fast pace and presented with flamboyant colors, but also too forced and exaggerated to be sufficiently consistent, “F*ck You, Goethe” promised a lot in the first minutes but degenerates in uneven situations after a short period. Zeki Miller (Elyas M’Barek) is an impolite, inconsiderate, and uneducated ex-con who applies for a vacant position of janitor in Goethe School but ends up as substitute teacher. Without any interest in the job, Zeki just wants to have access to the new gym of the school, constructed precisely where his prostitute friend had buried his bag of money at the time he was arrested. Quarrelsome and impatient, Zeki will impose some respect to the rebel students by making their life a living hell, on the contrary of his colleague Lisi (Karoline Herfurth) who was born to be a teacher but doesn’t have strength to control the constant pranks of the kids. As expected, and as the film approaches its end, Zeki and Lisi help the kids finding their own way of expression, becoming ‘cool’ teachers, while true romance is inevitable. Some jokes and situations that were supposed to be funny didn’t achieve their purposes (the whimpers are so stupid that drove me nuts), while some others, despite tolerable, can be considered polemic (references to Nazism, prostitution and drug dealing). The second feature film from Turkish-German director Bogda Dagtekan, creator of TV series “Turkish for Beginners”, is a teen movie for adults with so much of ridicule that has the same effect as fast food: my stomach can’t tolerate it anymore.

May 25, 2014

Go for Sisters (2013)

Go for Sisters (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: John Sayles
Country: USA

Movie Review: American independent film director and screenwriter, John Sayles, noted by works such as “Matewan” and “Lone Star”, and other minor deeds like “Casa de los Baby”, returns with “Go For Sisters”, a drama-thriller combination that features LisaGay Hamilton, Yolonda Ross and Edward James Olmos in the main roles. Bernice (Hamilton) and Fontayne (Ross) were close childhood friends who cut ties some years ago, coming across again in a totally different circumstance that finds them in opposite sides in life. Fontayne is a former drug addict recently coming out of prison, while Bernice is her parole officer. A strong bond will be established again, when Bernice asks for Fontayne’s help in order to find her missing son, near the Mexican border. Detective Suarez (Olmos), a retired SDPD cop with good connections and an expert in finding people will join them in a risky adventure to the ruthless world of illegal immigration. Along the two hours of Sayles’ methodic filmmaking, we can note Mason Daring’s non-intrusive original score, and an aptitude to naturally extract some mystery from the characters and dialogues, rather than thrill us with the dangerous situations depicted. In terms of mood, “Go for Sisters” reminded me Jim Jarmusch’s “The Limits of Control”, getting me curious about how the story will evolve. Another positive factor was the realness of its three main characters, which in any moment gave the sensation of being fabricated. Solid enough for a good watching!

May 24, 2014

The Dance of Reality (2013)

The Dance of Reality (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Country: Chile / France

Movie Review: “The Dance of Reality” marks the so much awaited return of distinguished Chilean-French filmmaker, screenwriter and producer, Alejandro Jodorwosky, after a layoff of more than two decades. This autobiographical film showcases his turbulent childhood in Chile, where the traumatic episodes, most of them involving his Jewish-Ukranian parents, follow one another. The last part of the film left aside the young Alejandrito, happily living in his hometown Tocopilla with his melodious mother, to focus on Jaime Jodorowsky, a father whose arduous path in life transformed him from a tyrant atheist-communist to a God-devotee and zealous family man. All the elements that made the filmmaker famous in the past - surrealist scenes, bizarre characters, intelligent symbology, an imaginative yet aggressive way of exposing the facts, lyricism and poetry, politics and religion - are present to give its precious contribution to the artistic outcomes. The ingenious narrative was never unstable and in its own way, the film shocks us as much as seduces us, just like “The Holy Mountain”, “Santa Sangre” or “El Topo” did, yet without achieving the same impact as those ones. Alejandro’s son, Brontis, was fantastic in the skin of his own grandfather, whereas the score, cinematography, and remaining production values were first-rate. There’s no age to be creative and that’s why we want more from Mr. Jodorowsky!

May 23, 2014

Salvo (2013)

Salvo (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Fabio Grassadonia, Antonio Piazza
Country: Italy / France

Movie Review: Winner of the critic’s week grand prize at Cannes, “Salvo”, the debut feature from Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza, tells us a standard story of crime and romance set in the torrid Palermo, presenting it in a non-standard way. Salvo (Saleh Bakri) is a quiet, determined and unmerciful hitman who works for the Sicilian mafia. When trying to ambush a traitor inside his house, he bumps into Rita (Sara Serraiocco), the blind sister of his target. Salvo, accomplishes his task, killing the man, but in a mix of pity and admiration spares Rita, keeping her hostage inside the house. An act of compassion that, going against the mafia rules, consequently puts both their lives at stake. It was interesting to notice that Salvo, visibly tired of living in the shadows, was starting to humanize himself – his love for Rita made him a better man and he seemed enjoying that beneficial effect. This notion was observable when he returns the kindness of his landlords for the first time. The film plays with a variety of atmospheres, in which the use of light, sound, and silence, have preponderant roles, at times causing claustrophobic sensations. Its minimal dialogues and decelerated pace can be an obstacle for some viewers, and the love story never transcends itself into something memorable, but in the other hand, the sensorial experience provided and the changeable moods through a different way of filmmaking, worth the ride.

May 22, 2014

Let the Fire Burn (2013)

Let the Fire Burn (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jason Osder
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Let the Fire Burn” sharply exposes how some controversial and contradictory decisions made by the Philadelphia Police Department conjointly with politicians in charge, were in the basis of a big fire that, in 1985, killed eleven members of a small urban group known as MOVE. This radical movement was founded by John Africa, a charismatic leader whose followers compared him to Jesus Christ. They believed in a non-aggressive posture, ‘green’ politics and a simple way of living, exposing the lie of the political system, as well as opposing to technology and science. This pacific behavior changed radically after a baby has been killed during a police raid, with the members of the group arming themselves with guns from that time on. In 78, a police attempt to vacate the reactionaries from their headquarters ended in a shootout that victimized a police officer. Nine MOVE members were sentenced, while the impressionable brutal violence used by the police remained unpunished. In their new headquarters, on Osage Ave., MOVE people became provocative and were subjected to several complains regarding child neglect, sanitation issues and harassment. All was finished on May 13, 1985, when the authorities decided to drop a bomb on their roof. Using exclusively old footage together with a superior form of narration, the disturbing “Let the Fire Burn” confronts every aspects without come to a conclusion (except for the police incompetence). Outlaws or innocent victims? Well-intentioned or terrorist cult? You decide!

May 21, 2014

The Golden Dream (2013)

The Golden Dream (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Diego Quemada-Diez
Country: Guatemala / others

Movie Review: The first feature film by Spanish director Diego Quemada-Diez, “The Golden Dream”, follows the same lines adopted by Cary Fukunaga’s “Sin Nombre”, becoming less stereotyped and considerably more appealing than that one. The film centers in three Guatemalan adolescent friends who join efforts and embark in a perilous illegal journey on train, and later on foot, towards the US border. Juan, Sara and Samuel leave their slums, just to be busted and robbed by Mexican migration forces. Sent to the point of departure, Samuel decides to stay, but Juan and Sara, well accompanied by a loyal Indian boy called Chauk, decide to try again. There’s some crispation between the two male protagonists, once they dispute Sara who travels disguised of a boy. Along the way, a lot of misery is seen - human trafficking, exploitation, and kidnaps for ransoms are a constant danger. The destinies of each one of them will differ but even those who make it through the border, attaining the so expected golden dream, aren’t free from disillusion. The solid camera work wasn’t a surprise, since Quemada-Diez is a former camera operator; the real surprise came from the incredible performances by the young actors, all of them non-professional, and worthy of the A Certain Talent prize for the ensemble at Cannes. Apart from the authenticity felt, “The Golden Dream” better achievement was to expose a powerful sad story without resorting to sentimentality. A great debut by a newcomer director/writer from whom we expect awesome things in the future.

May 20, 2014

Godzilla (2014)

Godzilla (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Country: USA / Japan

Movie Review: Gareth Edwards’ version of Godzilla, the Japanese radioactive giant monster, is a rowdy sci-fi adventure thriller that, despite visually crafted, lacks the spirit of other times (Ishiro Honda’s original from 1954 still rocks!). The story begins in Philippines where two scientists are called to investigate an enormous skeleton and two giant eggs found. Shortly afterwards, in Tokyo, a nuclear power plant is destroyed due to an earthquake, killing the wife of the plant supervisor, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), a nuclear engineer who narrowly escaped and doesn’t cope with the explanations given about the accident. According to his theories, an earthquake was improbable since the movement of the Earth registered was consistently patterned and not random. 15 years later Brody’s son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), returns to Japan to get his father out of the jail for having trespassing the quarantine zone imposed by the authorities. Together with the other two scientists, they will become aware of Godzilla, the king of the monsters, which is threatening humanity. This time Godzilla doesn’t come alone, bringing other destructive ancient creatures with him. The super graphical scenes and importunate score become the core of the movie with artificial battles taking one, or both, of the following formats: monsters vs. humans, and monsters vs. monsters. The technology sophistication soon is transformed in monotony with several repetitions of ideas and lack of substance in a story that tries to call in vain our attention for a threat of our planet and a particular family. Poorly conceived and boring.

May 19, 2014

I Am Divine (2013)

I Am Divine (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jeffrey Schwarz
Country: USA

Movie Review: “I Am Divine” is a documentary about American actor, singer and drag queen, Harris Glenn Milstead, known as Divine in the world of showbiz. Directed by Jeffrey Schwarz, filmmaker and president of LA-based entertainment production company Automat Pictures (with more than 100 major releases since 2000, the year it was founded), the film obviously counts with the participation of trash-film director John Waters, whose long-time collaboration with Divine since the final 60’s until the 80’s, brought them some reputation. Without surprise, films like “Female Trouble” and “Pink Flamingos” are referenced, with particular attention to that famous scene where Divine agreed in eating a dog’s turd when Waters asked him to. Mouthy, polemic and grotesquely exuberant, Divine, is addressed here by his mother, Frances Milstead, his High School girlfriend, several friends from the artistic world, other drag queens, members of the psychedelic theater troupe ‘The Cockettes’, among others. “I Am Divine” was entertaining without being outstanding, featuring a person who could never pass as ‘normal’. It never grabbed me completely, and apart from giving the idea of what the wild parties of those times were (LSD was shared by poor, rich, gay or straight people), or how Divine met other celebrities (Elton John and Andy Warhol were just some examples), I got the sensation that its conception was too commercial and much based on what he liked or not liked, what he did or not did, without really going under his skin.

May 18, 2014

Human Capital (2013)

Human Capital (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Paolo Virzi
Country: Italy / France

Movie Review: Solid cinematic adaptation of Stephen Amidon’s American novel of the same name, “Human Capital” was directed by Paolo Virzi (“The First Beautiful Thing”, “Every Blessed Day”), considered an effective storyteller for the screen. The film is a poignant look into a rotten society, which is capable of anything to maintain their comfort in life and avoid to be swallowed by a rampant economic recession. The contrasts between middle and high classes are well delimited, as two families cross paths to face greediness, bankruptcy, infidelity, and even deal with a death. Dino Ossola, a middle class real estate investor is determined to get ahead in life. Taking advantage of the relationship of his daughter Serena with the spoiled son of Giovanni Bernaschi, one of the wealthiest hedge fund managers of Italy, he embarks in a risky business and without moment’s notice sees his financial life completely upside down. Intriguingly, the death of a cyclist in a crash with a car drove by the discredited Luca, Serena’s true love, will serve as salvation for some and misfortune for others. The film is divided into four chapters, where the first three report on the inconvenient greedy Dino, the insecure and unfaithful Carla (Giovanni’s wife), and the passionate Serena, in a determined period of time, while the last one, entitled ‘human capital’, represents the solution adopted to solve the problem. The compelling narrative structure and flawless direction were enhanced by the splendid performances, with particular mention to Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, best actress at Tribeca Film Festival.

May 17, 2014

Non-Stop (2014)

Non-Stop (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Country: USA / UK / France

Movie Review: After a starting career on horror with “House of Wax” and “Orphan”, Catalan filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra teams up once again in the action-thriller genre with Liam Neeson. “Non-Stop” follows “Unknown” from three years ago, using the same type of sensationalist approach to tell the story of alcoholic US Marshal, Bill Marks, the only man capable to control a threatened plane in route from New York to London. Receiving text messages from an unknown terrorist passenger demanding the transfer of $150 million into a bank account, Marks will have to play tough in a scenario where everyone is suspect. With deaths occurring at every 20 minutes and a bomb onboard, our hero will get precious collaboration from some passengers on several critical moments, not without being turned into a villain due to his aggressive methods and the news considering him as the possible hijacker. Serra knows how to put tension in the scenes, especially in the claustrophobic spaces of a plane where physical confronts succeed. However, the plot is undermined by too many improbable details, involving technology and sly strategies to take the plan forward. The final moments can be panicking for those who are not comfortable flying, but the sensation felt after watching this dishonest thriller is that everything is far-fetched and even occasionally cheesy. Neeson did a competent job, while Julianne Moore and the rest of the company had discreet appearances.

May 16, 2014

Honour (2014)

Honour (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Shan Khan
Country: UK

Movie Review: “Honour”, Shan Khan’s directorial debut on feature film, pointedly conveys a strong message, which doesn’t indicate that the means of expression chosen to do it have been the most appropriate. After the opening statement: ‘life is nothing without honor’, our attention is captured by a British couple provoking two Muslim women on a train. After a while we’re presented with a hideous crime – a brother (who also happens to be a well-connected cop) killing his sister, Mona, with the help and approval of his mother. The London-based Pakistani family was perpetrating what they call an honor killing, since Mona was planning to run away with a Punjabi man who was pledged to marry with another woman since childhood. Going back in time, the story leads us to the moment where the family hires a solitary bounty hunter to track her down, without ever dream that a dangerous empathy between hunter and prey could be possible. After the first hour, the fantastic mood was turned upside down when Mona, presumably dead inside a box, decides to rise up and run away once again. From then on, the film falls on cliché and predictability. The thrilling elements needed are there, along with an effective direction, but the plot hampered the chances of “Honour” become more valuable. The vile collective madness of a family boosted by its strict tradition is slightly confronted with the difficulties of living within a total different culture. A good idea needing maturation to better captivate us. Good performance by the talented Paddy Considine, though.

May 15, 2014

Chinese Puzzle (2013)

Chinese Puzzle (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Cedric Klapisch
Country: France / USA / Belgium

Movie Review: The adventures of Xavier Rousseau are best than ever in the bilingual “Chinese Puzzle”, this time with New York as background, after the two previous European stories, “L’auberge Espagnole” and “Russian Dolls”. The film, directed by a more mature Cedric Klapisch, stars Romain Duris as Xavier, a French writer in his 40’s, struggling to finish his novel in New York City, where he moved to be near his children. Xavier explains that life for most of the people resumes to move from point A to point B. But not for him who always has a problem with point B. In truth, Xavier life is a big confusion – he is in bad terms with the mother of his children; agrees to give a son to a lesbian friend who also moved to NY; is having a case with Martine - a French friend who speaks Chinese fluently and keeps visiting; and prepared a fake marriage with an American-Chinese woman in order to live legally in the US. Beyond that, he’s freaking out to find an apartment (all of them with crazy rents and tiny spaces) and a job that pays under the table, while dealing with the bureaucratic American lawyers and immigration services. Capturing so well the urban life of Manhattan and Brooklyn, this modern romantic drama puts us in face of the complex reality of human relationships, only interrupted by the imaginary visits from philosophers Schopenhauer and Hegel. Eventful, agitated and graciously funny, the American/French “Chinese Puzzle” is much recommended.

May 14, 2014

Tokarev (2014)

Tokarev (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Paco Cabezas
Country: USA / France

Movie Review: After a great return with David Gordon Green’s “Joe”, Nicolas Cage falls in another minor exercise on the action genre, this time by the hand of Spanish filmmaker Paco Cabezas. The daughter of Paul Maguire (Cage), a retired former criminal, is kidnapped after his house has been broken into. A few days later her body is found dead, and everything points to the Russian mafia, in what they suspect to be a revenge for a dirty job made in the past. Maguire, thirsty to make justice, will reunite two of his trustful gangster pals, declaring open war to the Russians and triggering a spiral of violence. Writers Jim Agnew and Sean Keller worked together again after Dario Argento’s “Giallo”, in a feeble plot that leads to a complete absence of interest, as the shootings and tortures follow one another without offering something sustainable or different. Instead of a more meticulous and suspenseful approach, Cabezas opted for showy rough scenes where the connections aren’t always clear, relegating the film for those tiresome C grade movies where you cannot identify with any character, no matter how much you try to. Not even Cage’s usual competence disguised the weaknesses and banality of a bad story transformed in an even worse film. The contemptible production values didn’t help improving the triviality presented here, and the film takes us to completely dull conclusions that are much more laughable than shocking. Completed on a $25 million budget, I wonder how better this film could have been made.

May 13, 2014

The Reunion (2013)

The Reunion (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Anna Odell
Country: Sweden

Movie Review: “The Reunion” marks the directorial debut by the controversial Swedish artist Anna Odell, known for having been charged by prosecutors in Stockholm 2009, in the sequence of a fake suicide attempt made for a final art project while student. The idea for this film came up when Odell wasn’t invited to her High School class reunion party. With a bold structure and adequate acting, Odell crosses the frontiers between documentary and fiction, breaking the film into two different parts – ‘the speech’ and ‘the meetings’. In the first part she decides to create a film of what the party could have been if she had been invited, featuring a lot of tense moments with the former colleagues of high hierarchies, cheerless recalls from the past, verbal confrontation and even physical violence. The second part, Anna decides to meet with some of them to show them the film and know their opinion. The goal is to unmask and ridicule those who always ignored her due to their status, bullied and tricked her, or were false friends. Some of them showed to be constrained, others showed to be inveterate liars, and some others just demonstrate they never grew up. Odell’s little revenge took an artistic form – the cinema itself, but is visible a restrained fury in her eyes and an enormous pleasure to confront her ‘little friends’ with the truth. “The Reunion” adopts the same Scandinavian weightiness of Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Celebration”, bringing into question how the human integrity can be affected due to certain behaviors.

May 12, 2014

Zulu (2013)

Zulu (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jerome Salle
Country: South Africa / France

Movie Review: As it has been frequent, writer Julien Rappeneau collaborates once again with French director Jérome Salle (“The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch”, “The Burma Conspiracy”) in “Zulu”, a crime thriller based on the novel of the same name by Caryl Ferey. The story, set in post-apartheid South Africa, follows a cop with a traumatic childhood, Ali Sokhela (Forest Whitaker), and his trustful detective partner, Brian Epkeen (Orlando Bloom), in a murder case investigation related to the use of a new illegal substance, and involving Cape Town’s organized crime. Both men and a susceptible third detective, Dan (Conrad Kemp), whose fate will end tragically, will see the line that separates duty from family getting thinner, as the investigation case turns into a very personal matter. Extremely violent, “Zulu” revealed to be as messy as the characters it depicts. The pace is acceptable but the narrative structure was a problem, in a film that tried to convey an extended panorama of South African crime scene rather than focus in the particular case. Salle didn’t have sufficient ability to grab this task and reconstruct it on the screen, and the film loses itself in a few irrelevant scenes that left me waiting for something more substantial. The personal relationships didn’t have the effect they should, being too peripheral to make us care. Overall, the encompassed visions fell flat, both personal and global, of a South Africa infested with new gangsters, weapons and drugs.

May 11, 2014

Chef (2014)

Chef (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Country: USA

Movie Review: American film director, producer, screenwriter, and actor, Jon Favreau, leaves the adventurous sci-fi genre behind (“Zathura: a Space Adventure”, a couple of “Iron Man”, and “Cowboys & Aliens”) to bring us an assertive feel-good comedy with lots of food, social media, and good disposition. When preparing to receive the visit of a successful food critic, prestigious chef Carl Casper tries to innovate in the L.A. restaurant he works for ten years by changing the whole menu. However, his long- time boss disagrees and persuades him to cook the same old menu. The reviews ended up being a flop and Carl challenges the critic for the second time via Twitter (becoming an online celebrity for the worst reasons), but again his boss gets in his way, making Carl quit without regrets. Frustrated and out of job, Carl moves to Miami, returning to the old times when he drove a food truck throughout the streets. He will also get the opportunity to better know his only son and reconnect with his ex-wife. Despite some stereotypes and a bit of sentimentality regarding the family matters, “Chef” puts some charm and soul, not only in the yummy dishes that presents but also in the character of a cook who loves what he does, never giving up and finally making peace with life in general. It’s the sort of predictable film that, nevertheless becomes much more engaging and genuine than other comedies that rely on gross gags and idiotic situations. To simplify: it's imperfect but articulated.

May 10, 2014

Still Life (2013)

Still Life (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Uberto Pasolini
Country: UK / Italy

Movie Review: “Still Life” works as a poignant drama and black comedy, consisting in the sophomore feature film from Italian-born, British-based director, writer, producer, and former investment banker, Uberto Pasolini. The story focuses on John May, magnificently performed by Eddie Marsan, a council caseworker who tries to find the absent relatives of recently deceased lonely people, trying to persuade them to attend the funeral. Oftentimes, John is the unique presence in those funerals and that certainly makes him feel terrible and frustrated. Although very tidy, obsessive, and meticulous in his work, John receives order to leave the premises for good due to department reorganization, after 22 years in service. But not without finishing his last case concerning Billy Stoke, an isolated man with a violent past, who lost contact with his daughter that no one knew about. To satisfy his own curiosity, John starts gathering the maximum info by meeting Stoke’s relatives and acquaintances in person. Marsan was simply brilliant; his presence and expressions (like when he was absorbed in old photo albums) stick to our heads for a long time after the film is over. After all, the morbid yet good-hearted John himself, is also looking for a meaning in his solitary life. “Still Life” is a grey, gloomy, and fatalist film in every sense, but nonetheless rewards us deeply in the end. With four distinguished prizes at Venice, Pasolini, with a classy direction, seems condemned to a big career.

May 09, 2014

Neighbors (2014)

Neighbors (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Nicholas Stoller
Country: USA

Movie Review: Written by Andrew J.Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, “Neighbors” is another unsubstantial comedy that relies in isolated situations, most of them based on sex or parties full of drugs and alcohol, to try to make us laugh. The film counts with the usual suspects: Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, “Get Him to the Geek”) as director, and Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as protagonists. For Mac and Kelly Radner, life isn’t what it used to be, after their baby daughter was born. They’re home most of the time, conditioned on their actions, and even the sex is compromised. An incredible appetite for being young again returns when their new neighbors, with ages around 20, arrive next door to open a fraternity house. In the next day of the opening party, which they gladly participated, they decided to call the cops since the noise was extremely loud and the baby couldn’t sleep. The quarrel takes bigger proportions and the little vengeances from both sides will be terrible. A stupid and artless effort is put in each scene to pull out the so much desired laughs, but without practical results since the misses are in much greater number than the hits. Situations like having sex in front of a baby or milking Rose Byrne’s tits are examples of the silliness that you can expect. Without any doubt, “Neighbors” will be another success near younger audiences or comedy aficionados, yet sadly I couldn’t find many motives to recommend it.

May 08, 2014

Transcendence (2013)

Transcendence (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Wally Pfister
Country: USA / UK / China

Movie Review: “Transcendence” wins the prize for the most despicable sci-fi movie of the year, since I didn’t remember the last time I was so bored in a theater. Cinematographer and first-time director, Wally Pfister, should take some more lessons from the notable filmmaker Christopher Nolan, who appears here as executive producer, because his directorial debut seems more convoluted and artificial than any type of super technological intelligence you can imagine. The story follows Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), a reputed scientist whose innovative discoveries in the field of artificial intelligence make him a target for an extremist anti-technological organization. Caster is shot dead, but his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), with the precious help of their best friend Max Watters (Paul Bettany), will continue to maintain Caster’s dream alive, making his consciousness inhabit a quantum computer and connecting it to the Internet. Executed on autopilot, the film is visually uninteresting and deficiently structured, being a catastrophe as a thriller. Jack Paglen’s worthless script made every performance go down in the same wave of ineffectiveness (and Depp and Hall even have my admiration!), in a film that was condemned to failure since the first moment it started to be filmed. The incredibly bad “Transcendence” is one of those films that keeps you eternally waiting for something creative to happen. Parched in emotions and opaque in conception, it’s the perfect example of what a sci-fi thriller should not be.

May 07, 2014

Winds (2013)

Winds (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Selim Evci
Country: Turkey

Movie Review: Set in Imbros, currently known as Gokçeada Island, “Winds” makes a nostalgic portrait of a loved one’s loss and the sad reality of an island abandoned by the exodus. Murat is a photographer and sound recordist who left Istanbul to capture the sounds of a Greek village in the cited island, the largest of Turkey. There, he will become friends with a solitary elderly woman, Madam Styliani, who discloses her life story and gives him a lesson in history that Murat will keep as a treasure in his old cassettes. Two years later, Murat returns to the island finding her door completely closed. Madam Styliani had already died, but her granddaughter, Eleni, the main subject of her proud narration, had arrived in the island from France. Murat and Eleni embark in a contemplative discovery of places and objects, while listen to the recordings. The concept of recording sounds is not entirely new - the Irish “Silence”, directed by Pat Collins, reveals to be a much more ambitious and ambiguous depiction than “Winds”, which adopts a direct and ultimately predictable development. The shots of the pair riding a motorcycle throughout the deserted roads of the island were pretty similar to Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s 2006 “Climates”, while in the final moments both a glimpse of possible romance and communication with the dead, didn’t bring anything remarkable. Perhaps too detailed and quiescent, “Winds” seemed overextended and failed to engage as a whole.