June 30, 2014

Calvary (2014)

Calvary (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: John Michael McDonagh
Country: Ireland / UK

Movie Review: Miles away from the cheerfulness and hilarity of “The Guard”, “Calvary” is another stimulating effort from English-born (of Irish descent) filmmaker John Michael McDonagh, this time in a dark drama with religious connotations. The film starts with a man confessing to a priest he was raped by another priest as a child. He asks which remedy will ease his pain and threatens to kill the priest next Sunday; the priest nothing has to say to him at the moment. The well-natured priest is Father James Lavelle who grieves with the problems of the inhabitants of his small Irish country town, while hosts his vulnerable daughter, Fionna, after a suicide attempt. Then we are introduced to a lot of problematic different characters. Some of them are connected with evil forces, some of them are really repented of their sins, and others are just good souls trying to balance an unbalanced world. As Father James is going through his calvary we wonder if he will definitively have to be sacrificed for the sins of others and his church, or if he will be able to help such desperate souls. The film exposes loss of faith, the roles and responsibilities we have in this world, and reaches us with forgiveness, the final and necessary conclusion for such a dark film. McDonagh’s direction was praiseworthy often using close-ups to emphasize the characters feelings, and Brendan Gleeson’s performance was compelling enough to make you want to see this film, even considering a slow start that only gains bigger proportions in its last third. “Calvary” won the Berlinale’s Panorama prize attributed by the Ecumenical Jury.

June 29, 2014

Tattoo (2013)

Tattoo (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Hilton Lacerda
Country: Brazil

Movie Review: Love is free and censorship is severe in “Tattoo” aka "Tatuagem", writer-director Hilton Lacerda’s debut fictional feature film. Set in Pernambuco, Recife, in the well defined political context of 1978, the film starts to introduce us with ‘Chão de Estrelas’, a cabaret and night club where theater, poems, dance, and music in the forms of traditional fanfares, samba and Brazilian popular music, compose the subversive enjoyment and freedom of expression censored by a feared military dictatorship. Cléssio is the choreographer of the show and also performer, while Paulete is the real star of the company, an expressive exhibitionist who gets jealous when his sister’s boyfriend, an 18-year-old soldier, gets involved in a torrid gay romance with Clécio. The latter manages to bring all the crew of the show to live in a big house, in a sort of commune, including his partner Deusa and their son, Tuca. The film, in all its libertinism, is based on jealousy and unstable relationships, at the same time that tries to get a hand on the political situation and the repression lived at the time, an aspect that was not so well accomplished. A restless camera moves from one side to the other, capturing the visual richness and warm colors of the places, in a direction and sound design that were a sight for sore eyes. “Tattoo” counts with impeccable performances by Irandhir Santos, Rodrigo Garcia and Jesuita Barbosa, mixing moments of seriousness, flamboyance, anarchy, and humor. The film achieved local success at Rio de Janeiro, Gramado and São Paulo film festivals.

June 28, 2014

Alien Abduction (2014)

Alien Abduction (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Matty Beckerman
Country: USA

Movie Review: The Brown Mountain Lights phenomenon that can be observed in North Carolina, served as inspiration for “Alien Abduction”, the directorial debut feature from producer Matty Beckerman. It starts claiming that what we’re going to see is leaked footage from the US Air Force that found a camcorder from 11-year-old Riley who disappeared with his family when camping in that area. In a time where found-footage films are becoming tedious and banal, “Alien Abduction” doesn’t bring any creativity or novelty to the psychedelic digital effects and noises that follow the blurred and shaky camera. While the camera movements continues to annoy, the clichés used in the script are numerous, including the family lost on mountain roads in a foggy day, driving a car that is running out of gas, and threatened by mysterious creatures that we only have a glimpse, without having the possibility of asking for help. The concept is borrowed from a thousand other films and “Alien Abduction” becomes nothing else but a tedious exercise in the genre. A totally new approach and storytelling were needed to escape the cathartic panicking of the characters and all those gimmicks that the film relies and just don’t work anymore. I cannot praise the flat performances, which didn’t help to improve this thriller of being formulaic, fatiguing and extremely slavish in its execution. There are very few things to recommend in one of the most dismal abductions in the history of cinema. It was simply too vulgar to be worthy of our time.

June 27, 2014

Yves Saint Laurent (2014)

Yves Saint Laurent (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jalil Lespert
Country: France

Movie Review: “Yves Saint Laurent” is an uninspired biopic of the famous French fashion designer whose happiness in life didn’t match the success achieved in his professional career. Directed by Jalil Lespert, who also has a parallel career as actor, the film was loosely based on the book by Laurence Benaim, using a compromising narrative. The episodes, depicted in a cold way, follow one another without giving us many motives to care about the characters. For several times I thought it would become interesting and would grow as a whole, but I was wrong. The story starts with Laurent being hired by the distinguished designer Christian Dior, and then taking a prominent position in Dior’s company after his death. Suffering from frequent nervous depressions, he is fired and takes the opportunity to open his own creative fashion brand. Nothing of this would seem possible without the help of his lover Pierre Bergé, the film’s narrator, with whom he had a complicated relationship filled with betrayals and little revenges from both sides. Pierre decided to deal with his jealousy by having a sexual episode with Victoire, a model who had been proposed to marry Laurent in the beginning of his career. In turn, years later, Laurent falls in love with Jacques de Bascher, a socialite who had a long-term relationship with another recognized fashion designer, Karl Lagerfeld. This love, along with an eternal dissatisfaction, will push Saint Laurent to a spiral of drugs and alcohol – he was right when said ‘apart from my work, I feel lost’. Too formal, “Yves Saint Laurent” uses the word elegance too many times, but is emotionally detached, regardless the thorough performance by Pierre Niney.

June 26, 2014

Miraculum (2014)

Miraculum (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Daniel Grou
Country: Canada

Movie Review: “Miraculum” was conceived by two minds utterly connected to Canadian TV series: Gabriel Sabourin, actor and writer, and Daniel Grou, the director. However, this wasn’t the first time that the two collaborators work in feature film, and “Miraculum” diverged from that format for its own good. The celebration of love, the end of love, religious fanaticism, and even hope, are presented with a cheerless posture. All of these aspects were coordinated with an imminent fatalism, turning it into a pertinent, reflective exercise, which in the impossibility of surprising us in its whole, was capable of sparking the debate about Jehovah’s witnesses beliefs, the difficulty of making irreversible decisions, and the mysteries of fate. The multi-narrative encompasses eight different people, who momentarily interconnect – Etienne, slowly dying of leukemia, refuses to receive blood in accordance with the strict principles of his Jehovah family, while his girlfriend breaks the rule; a man who returns from Venezuela loaded with drugs inside him and eager to meet with his young niece with whom he has a strong bond; an elderly couple, both employees in a casino, who leave their marriages behind to embark in a life together; a powerful businessman, lost in his addiction for gambling, is left for good by his alcoholic wife. Structured in an involving way and demonstrating well-controlled camera movements, this cerebral drama counts with the actor, writer and director, Xavier Dolan, in its powerful ensemble cast. Though not every little story (and character) has the same impact, “Miraculum” still provides us with a few thoughtful moments.

June 25, 2014

Fossil (2014)

Fossil (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Alex Walker
Country: UK

Movie Review: “Fossil” is the directorial debut feature film from Alex Walker, who also wrote, edited and produced. The story focuses in a married couple, Paul and Camilla, whose increasingly cold relationship take them to try an injection of fresh air when they decided to spend some days in a secluded house in the French countryside. Soon we learn that something is wrong, since the visibly distant Camilla says she needs some space and is taking the birth control pill against her husband's will. Suddenly, their vacation plans will be altered when another couple, Richard and Julie, is caught using the swimming pool without authorization. Camilla, needing different people to talk, promptly invites them to stay while Paul is very disturbed with the situation. Anxiety and pressure will increase among the quartet, and tragedy will mark this small vacation. Not totally fresh in concept and with a flawed script, “Fossil” lives from embarrassing situations and tension (sexual included), which were never enough to make me absorbed in what it wanted to show. In the last 20 minutes, its dramatic tones are transformed in thriller, taking us to a dark ending and making us wonder what will be the future of Paul and Camilla, who added another problem to their tainted relationship without resolving the ones they already had. The picture was shot in warm tones and the performances were consistent, but like Paul and Camilla, the story needed some kind of freshness since there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before, aggravated with a few scenes depicted with disregard.

June 24, 2014

The Mafia Only Kills in Summer (2013)

The Mafia Only Kills in Summer (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Pierfrancesco Diliberto
Country: Italy

Movie Review: Italian TV star, Pierfrancesco Diliberto a.k.a. Pif, has his directorial debut with the valid but not essential, “The Mafia Only Kills in the Summer”, a romantic comedy mixed with politics and crime, in which he also stars. Arturo, the film narrator and central character, is a young boy whose first word was mafia. In fact, the film shows that the Sicilian Mafia, in one way or another, always had considerable impact in his life. Since a young child, he nourished a sweet passion for his classmate Flora, but the dangerous circumstances lived in Palermo led them to lost contact for several years. Misunderstood by his father, he gains an early fascination for the chairman of the board and future president, Giulio Andreotti (amazingly depicted in the film “Il Divo” by the master Sorrentino), after listening on TV to one of his speeches. This passion for politics and the curiosity for the criminal actions lived in the city he was born, will push him into journalism. Arturo will go through some uneasy incidents before an unexpected reencounter with Flora in political circumstances. “The Mafia Only Kills in Summer” was not so funny as I was expecting, but smartly exposes in a more lighthearted than profound manner, a good slice of the agitated history of Palermo and its spirit lived in the eighties and beginning of nineties. Diliberto achieved much better results by exposing the assassinations perpetrated by the Mafiosi and how the people dealt with them, than properly in the romantic side, which required some more seasoning to better engage. Arturo’s final message was much appreciated, though.

June 23, 2014

Night Moves (2013)

Night Moves (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Kelly Reichardt
Country: USA

Movie Review: Whoever is acquainted with Kelly Reichardt’s previous films would know that her style is realistic, frequently passive, and sometimes dry in emotions. “Night Moves”, written by Reichardt and her habitual collaborator Jonathan Raymond, shows us exactly that, becoming in her most accessible work so far. The story follows Josh, Dena and Harmon, three radical environmentalists who decide to blow up with a hydroelectric dam. This clandestine intervention was carried out in the silence of the night, being planned not to cause casualties, but unfortunately the reality was very different, making the characters be consumed by fear and guilt, until starting to act completely out of control. Despite occasionally atmospheric, “Night Moves” is not a thriller in the most conventional way - it’s slow burning and quiet in such a way that the dialogues are almost dispensable. I must say I expected something more, especially at the end, but we have to accept Reichardt as she is: sharp behind the camera, direct on approach, time consuming in details, and disconcerting in the conclusions – sometimes some of these aspects can be mistaken with emptiness, which is not true in this particular case. Definitely not for everyone, “Night Moves” is a melancholic eco-drama disguised of thriller, that points to a new direction in Reichard’s career. It deserves a chance, even if like me, you miss more the rawness of the indie road-movie “Wendy and Lucy”, or the offbeat western “Meek’s Cutoff”. Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning’s performances were solemn and quite compelling.

June 22, 2014

Palo Alto (2013)

Palo Alto (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Gia Coppola
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Palo Alto” is a self-confident debut feature on writing/direction for Francis Ford Coppola’s granddaughter, Gia Coppola, based on the short stories by James Franco, who also stars in the film. It addresses juvenile problems both with clarity and charm, focusing on a few interesting characters who are ready to experiencing whatever life may throw at them, and finally decide what path they want to go. April is a sweet girl who has a crush for Terry but let herself be trapped by her deceitful soccer coach. Terry is also in love with April, but during a night drinking party he screwed up his chances with her, when drunk, he allowed himself to be grabbed by Emily, a lonely girl who just wants to fall in love with someone and is always available for every boy around. Finally, Terry’s best friend, Fred, is an insane misfit who no one gives credit, bringing trouble everywhere he goes. There’s so much going on in this well-observed drama that I almost didn’t notice the time passing. From start to finish, I was taken by the powerful subtleness of its exposures, and was amazed by the perfect light and color of Autumn Durald’s cinematography. In spite of its dreamy tones, “Palo Alto” is far from a sweet look at teenage conducts, giving us enough motives to appreciate but also to think about it. Above all, it’s a film about choices and even if not entirely new, in my eyes it seemed pretty fresh. Emma Roberts, Nat Wolff and Val Kilmer’s son, Jack Kilmer, gave noteworthy performances.

June 21, 2014

22 Jump Street (2014)

22 Jump Street (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Country: USA

Movie Review: With the success obtained in 2012 with “21 Jump Street” and boosted by the recently acclaimed “The Lego Movie”, film directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, presents us another juvenile adventure from the undercover cops, Schmidt and Jenko, performed by Jonah Hill (also producer) and Channing Tatum, respectively. Of course this sequel could be defined by the following sentence: two silly cops in a silly mission, results in a silly comedy. But surprisingly, “22 Jump Street” was more cheering than that, presenting some energetic action, funny situations, and a handful of pocket jokes that worked out. Assigned with the mission of finding the supplier of a new drug known as ‘whyphy’ at a local college, the two determined officers will proceed their work taking on different paths. Schmidt is going to operate more in the art field, being a reference in slam poetry and embarking in a prohibited affair with Maya, the daughter of his superior, at the same time that deals with her obnoxious roommate, Mercedes. In turn, Jenko stands out in football, becoming popular among the sportsmen. Evincing a cool attitude and boyish style, our two heroes will solve the case, not without an unnecessary, immoderate finale that sadly hampered the film to be more successful. Beatings, shootings and bullshit, is what to expect from a film that spread enough vitality and some intelligence in its plot in order to distance itself from other recent square comedies such as “Neighbors” or “This is the End”. Better than its predecessor, “22 Jump Street” is undeniably entertaining but leaves us with a pertinent question: do we really need another sequel?

June 20, 2014

The Republic of Two (2013)

The Republic of Two (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Shaun Kosta
Country: USA

Movie Review: If you like romance and complex relationships, “The Republic of Two”, Shaun Kosta’s debut drama can be the film for you. In spite of the huge differences of personality and behavior, Tim and Caroline are much in love. When they decide to live together, those differences will seem bigger and doubts will be part of their day-to-day life. Tim is applying for medical school without putting much effort on it, while Caroline has a steady job but doesn’t quite know what she wants to do in the future, even after being promoted. He is more social, active, immature in certain aspects, and impulsive, needing space for his friends and for his own things. She is more reserved, sensitive, and insecure, needing attention every time. Moody states, quarrels and misunderstandings soon become part of the routine, and the highs and lows in the relationship put their chemistry on halt, eventually leading to a beneficial separation. Brent Bailey and Janet Montgomery were so convincing that was hard to find a culprit here. If their actions were understandable, their problems seemed very real, like a slice of life itself where it’s imperative to live and go through several experiences to finally learn something. Addressed with honesty and tenderness, the film trembled in the last moments, but Shaun Kosta knew exactly where and how to create juicy situations and addressed them with heart. Who never went through all of this in a relationship? “The Republic of Two” is a funny little indie drama that stands above many other films of the genre.

June 19, 2014

The Cold Lands (2013)

The Cold Lands (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Tom Gilroy
Country: USA

Movie Review: Tom Gilroy wrote and directed “The Cold Lands”, his sophomore feature film and a sensitive drama that could have been set up differently for better. The story follows Atticus, a 13-year-old boy who lives in upstate New York with his controlling mother, Nicole, in very peculiar conditions. Atticus shows to be a lonely boy, without friends of his age around to play, and dependent of his strict mother who lives concerned about his education, limiting his scope of action. Nicole was already giving some signs of being sick, but when she dies unexpectedly, Atticus runs to the forest in shock. He starts imagining the rebukes of his mother, and frequently observes other apparently happy families – ‘do you think you would be happy living like this?’, his mother asks in his head. In one of the nights spent in the forest, he bumps into Carter, an elusive drifter whose main concern is watering his pot plants. An improbable friendship will arise and Atticus seems to adapt in perfection to his new wandering life, snapping out of the torpor he was in. Wyatt Garfield’s cinematography ended up being the strongest aspect of “The Cold Lands”, whose approach would have achieved better results if less idyllic and contemplative and more compelling, penetrating even more into the characters, and providing a more resolved pace in order to excel. In spite of observant and well acted, Gilroy’s drama is only half-satisfying, lacking boldness in its script and failing to stir any true emotion.

June 18, 2014

Hellion (2014)

Hellion (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Kat Candler
Country: USA

Movie Review: In Kat Candler’s promising new feature film, “Hellion”, delinquency and family drama are mixed with salutary doses of sport. Despite far from outstanding, the film can be followed with interest, providing us with a sensitive story enhanced by rich performances from Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis, and the two kids Josh Wiggins and Deke Garner. 13-year-old Jacob (Wiggins) is a motocross enthusiast who is seen as a troublemaker in his rural Texas town, dragging his 10-year-old brother, Wes (Garner), to street rebel actions that includes smashing cars with bats during football games, set things on fire, and all that kind of immature behaviors proper of his age. However, his hostility comes from the fact that he feels abandoned by his drunken father, Hollis (Paul), who still couldn’t get over his wife’s death. Hollis isn’t harmful or rude to his kids, he shows to be affective and worried about them; he just doesn’t have control over the situations, being unable to become a good example and gain their respect. When the Child Protective Services takes Wes away from the house, placing him with his aunt Pam (Lewis), an open conflict will arise between siblings-in-law, and Hollis will make a huge effort to change his life style. The occasionally overdramatic tones in the third act are not welcome, but “Hellion” has an engaging strong script that refuses to leave us empty-handed. It was awesome to watch how this family struggled to get together, assuming responsibility for their actions. Candler has some aspects to work on, but this one let me curious regarding her next move.

June 17, 2014

The Treatment (2014)

The Treatment (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Hans Herbots
Country: Belgium

Movie Review: As much suspenseful as convoluted, “The Treatment” was based on the novel by the British crime-writer Mo Hayder, addressing a revolting subject matter such as pedophilia. Hans Herbot’s thriller, despite gorgeously shot and structured in a way to intrigue, doesn’t hide here and there some TV connotations, a fact that derives from the fact that Herbot has been strictly related to TV series since the beginning of his career in 1993. The story follows Nick Cafmeyer, a Federal Police chief inspector who lives haunted by the abduction and disappearance of his younger brother when he was a child. The principal suspect, Ivan Plettinckx, strangely claims to be the author of the crime, writing letters stating that Nick’s brother was his lover for several years. When an 8 year-old boy is reported missing and found dead in the top of a tree, Nick rekindles memories of his brother’s case. As the investigation proceeds, the word ‘troll’ is mentioned several times, adding a supernatural nature to the story, while a diversity of suspects are considered and questioned, including the kid’s father, a swimming teacher, and a woman who was accomplice of her brother’s sexual crimes. Along the tortuous path towards the dark truth, the right levels of tension are taken down by complex connections involving the numerous characters, all of them showing mysterious behaviors. The plot, not so neat as it was supposed to be, along with its dubious conclusions, most likely would have given a better TV series than a feature film. Shocking without being rude, “The Treatment” still managed to provide a few good moments of suspense.

June 16, 2014

Rob the Mob (2014)

Rob the Mob (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Raymond de Felitta
Country: USA

Movie Review: Set in New York City in the early 90’s, “Rob The Mob” was inspired on the true story of Thomas and Rosemarie Uva (Tommy and Rosie), a criminal couple who decides to rob several social clubs owned by the mob. After spending 18 months in the hole for robbing a flower store on Valentine’s day, superstitious Tommy finds his beloved, practical, yet a bit slow, Rosie, clean and with a steady job in a debt-collecting agency whose owner, a former convict himself, gives second chances to ex-cons. This is Tommy’s golden opportunity to lead an honest new life. Can he do it? The answer is no, because through John Gotti’s trial, he found out a way to rob the mob and avenge his father’s murder, a trauma follows him everywhere. Counting with Rosie’s help, the strategy consists in ripping-off a series of Mafia’s clubs where he learned guns where strictly forbidden. By their actions, they will be helping a reputed reporter to identify the members of the criminal organization, a task he had been working for 30 years, at the same time that their lives are getting more and more exposed. Directed by Raymond de Felitta (“City Island”) from Jonathan Fernadez’s script, “Rob the Mob” does better than dramatize the events, it takes advantage to withdraw some good fun of them. With some foolish scenes becoming funny, this comedy of crime turns out to be entertaining and very well performed by Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda. It was sufficiently eventful and its characters were particularly interesting to worth a look.

June 15, 2014

Manuscripts Don't Burn (2013)

Manuscripts Don't Burn (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Mohammad Rasoulof
Country: Iran

Movie Review: Everybody knows what’s happening to the movies coming from Iran, an authoritarian regime that imposes a tight censorship to the media. Mohammad Rasoulof is one of those persecuted filmmakers whose six films were never exhibited in his country of origin. By watching his latest film, “Manuscripts Don’t Burn”, we understand why the Iranian authorities were so concerned about the film and why Rasoulof was arrested in 2010 along with Jafar Panahi, another acclaimed director who refuses to shut his mouth. The film adopts a relentless narrative to tell the story of two men hired by the government with the mission of killing a writer without leaving marks. Furthermore, they have to do whatever is needed to take possession of a compromising manuscript and all its copies. The unstable but methodical ways used by the killers conditioned somehow the pace of the film, which takes its time to show how these illegal operations are carried out. The most interesting thing is to realize the motives of one of the killers who only thinks in earning some money for his sick kid. More political than entertaining, “Manuscripts Don’t Burn” is hard to watch and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but its socio-political denunciations are extremely important to let the world know how these regimes of fear operate in the shadow. Rasoulof assumes a straightforward direction, revealing harsh realities instead of trying to thrill us. For obvious reasons, the cast and crew refused to have their names exhibited in the final credits.

June 14, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

The Fault in Our Stars (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Josh Boone
Country: USA

Movie Review: Written by the successful duo Scott Neustadter/Michael H.Weber, formerly responsible for scripts such as “The Spectacular Now” or “(500) Days of Summer”, “The Fault in Our Stars” follows the usual teen romance, but this time with the particularity of having cancer as the main obstacle. The story, based on John Green’s novel, takes place in Indianapolis where the 16-year-old Hazel (Shailene Woodley) was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was 13, now metastasized to her lungs. She is an isolated person whose boring life consists pretty much in watching reality shows, going to doctor appointments, and attending support meetings at the local church. All of this will change after she gets to know the confident and unembarrassed Gus in one of those meetings. Naturally, the strong friendship established, evolves to a passionate romance that was never able to reach my emotions. The predictable story plays excessively with the couple’s extreme happiness or sadness; in the first situation, the scenes were depicted with an uncontrolled sweetness, while in the second one, the result was an exacerbated sentimentality. Everything that falls out of these two situations can be called idiotic, involving Gus’ best friend Isaac, or a trip to Amsterdam to meet the admired novelist Peter Van Houten. Craftily manipulative in its intentions, occasionally derivative, and evincing a sluggish narrative, Josh Boone’s sophomore feature “The Fault in Our Stars”, didn’t stood out in any aspect, becoming much more sloppy than rewarding.

June 13, 2014

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors (2013)

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Sam Fleischner
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors” is one of the most compelling dramas recently released in the US, depicting the perilous adventure of Ricky, an autistic young boy who gets trapped in the huge New York City subway system. Ricky lives in Queens with his undocumented immigrant mother, Mariana, and his older sister, Carla. His father is absent working upstate and Mariana has to manage everything by herself. She is perfectly aware of her son’s special needs but even though she tries by all means that he remains in public school. Certain day, the reckless Carla decides to wander with her best friend Sara after school, leaving Ricky by himself. Disoriented, he will spend a few days lost in the dark labyrinthine underground, managing to eat, drink, sleep and relieve himself, even if not always in a conscious or planned way. At home, the helpless Mariana alternates between despair and hope, while Carla slowly seems to gain some conscience of her actions. Capturing the multicultural diversity of the big city through an often-blurry lens of autumnal pale grey tones, confident director Sam Fleischner, who also shares a career as cinematographer, was able to put up more tension than a large number of horror movies and create genuine dramatic moments without overdoing them. The simple yet sensational script was co-written by the habitual sound mixer, Micah Bloomberg, along with Rose Lichter-Marck. Debutant trio of main actors did a wonderful job, in a film that won’t be easily forgotten, also working as a call of attention for those who look without seeing.

June 12, 2014

Tracks (2013)

Tracks (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: John Curran
Country: Australia

Movie Review: The always-interesting Australian filmmaker, John Curran (“Praise”, “The Painted Veil”), returns with “Tracks”, a biographical drama set in warm colors and inspired on Robyn Davidson’s memoir of her 1700 miles journey across the Australian desert towards the Indian ocean. Mia Wasikowska very consciously incorporates the lonely adventurer, who travelled in the company of four camels and her inseparable dog. Inspired by her deceased father, Robyn started planning the trip in 1975, moving to Alice Springs to learn survival techniques in the desert and how to work with camels. In 1977, with the sponsor of National Geographic Magazine, she initiates the trip, occasionally followed by the talkative photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver), assigned to cover the adventure. She seemed disturbed with his presence but despite of her natural detachment, showed not to be restrained when the need of human contact knocked at the door. Her anti-social character was simply a shield of protection (she often recalls childhood), and she eventually admits she’s lonely and suffering because of that. Along the trip, the help from some locals will be precious, but Robyn will have to face both good and bad experiences on her own. The pacific, relaxed atmosphere is broken with brief moments of tension, so crucial to keep the viewer’s interest alive. Curran’s secret for success was merely reporting the facts, using its natural joys and sadness, confidence and doubts, without the usual stratagems to impress. Even the romance seemed authentic and sober, while the finale became very refreshing in every sense.

June 11, 2014

The Notebook (2013)

The Notebook (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Janos Szasz
Country: Hungary / others

Movie Review: “The Notebook”, Crystal Globe winner at Karlovy Vary film festival, is a grim tale of survival based on the first part of Agota Kristof’s war trilogy, published in 1986. Set in 1944 Hungary, the story follows two inseparable twins who learned how to survive when they were left in a countryside farm at the care of their hostile grandmother, in order to escape the horrors of WWII. The bitter old woman, accused of having poisoned her husband, was constantly punishing the boys with no reason. The artful twins, focused in staying strong and keep on studying as their parents recommended, started training their bodies to endure pain, cold, and hunger. During these harsh times, they become friends with a strange Nazi officer, and with a retarded thief girl who lives next door. Some powerful scenes remain in our heads, like when the twins meet an insensitive anti-Jew woman who takes an erotic bath with them, or when they drag the prostrated grandmother through the snowy fields. However, other situations are a bit strained, particularly when trying to accentuate the boys’ determination (the fight with their mother’s new man didn’t convince) or their abrupt changing in the relationship with grandma. With sharp images composing the expressive cinematography by Christian Berger (Michael Haneke’s regular choice) and a mysterious score that sets an intriguing atmosphere, “The Notebook” is an interesting psychological study that evinces pure darkness hidden behind naive faces. A good time is guaranteed, despite the less successful aspects mentioned above.

June 10, 2014

Grand Central (2013)

Grand Central (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Rebecca Zlotowski
Country: France / Austria

Movie Review: Rebecca Zlotowski’s sophomore feature, “Grand Central”, is certainly not referred to the Grand Central Station but to a nuclear power plant in the suburbs of France, where Gary Manda (Tahar Rahim), an outcast even in his own family, finds the love of his life, Karole (Léa Seydoux). The problem is that Karole is the future wife of Toni (Denis Ménochet), one of the leaders of the plant, and a dangerous love triangle will be formed. The situation is aggravated when Karole gets pregnant, knowing that Toni is unable to have children according to his medical report. Divided and confused, she seems truly in love with Gary but at the same time keeps some kind of ‘loyalty’ to Toni, to whom she says she wants to marry. Apart from this ‘radioactive’ romance, French helmer Zlotowski, who co-wrote the script with Gaelle Macé (“Bélle Epine” was their first collaboration), plays with a series of dangerous accidents in the plant that puts everyone’s lives in danger. Some anxiety is drawn by these fatalist situations, while the romance frequently feels dry as the Sahara desert, even considering the accomplished performances by Rahim and Seydoux. In spite of the soft approach, the scenarios and characters felt real, and the idea showed potentiality, but never attaining sufficiently deep proportions and a solid development. In the end, I remembered to have thought: ‘and then what?’ I believe that “Grand Central”, similarly to its neglectful protagonist Gary, didn’t show enough qualifications to be a reference.

June 09, 2014

Frequencies (2013)

Frequencies (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Darren Paul Fisher
Country: Australia / UK

Movie Review: With the original title “OXV: the Manual”, Darren Paul Fisher writes, directs, and produces his third feature film, the best so far, after the first two disastrous experiences on comedy with “Inbetweeners” (2001) and “Popcorn” (2007). This time he conceived an inventive romantic/sci-fi story set in a strange futuristic reality, curiously depicted with no special effects. It focuses on the peculiar relationship between Marie (Eleanor Wyld), an extremely ‘high-frequency’ girl unable to feel any empathy for anything, and her opposite friend Zak (Daniel Fraser), a genial ultra ‘low-frequency’ boy who falls in love with her and becomes obsessed about the frequency mechanism imposed on the humans. After several years separated from each other, Zak returns, claiming he could help changing Marie’s frequency, in order to make her more human. His strategy consisted in stealing frequencies from the ones who have more than needed, balancing the universe and allowing communication between them. With a dreamlike ambience and an appropriate atmospheric score by Ben Mowat, “Frequencies” let me down in its last part, despite the daring concept. The theories behind the experiments are baffling (mind manipulation or side effects?) and the film could have placed a little more stimulation in several scenes. However, regardless the disappointing conclusions, it’s undeniable that Fisher created an auspicious, charming independent film that is a lesson for all the unoriginal Hollywood attempts in the genre.

June 08, 2014

Mea Culpa (2014)

Mea Culpa (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Fred Cavayé
Country: France

Movie Review: Film director Fred Cavayé is automatically associated to French action-thriller cinema, with three feature films, all belonging to the mentioned genre. If “Anything For Her” and “Point Blank” still provided some credibility and enjoyment, “Mea Culpa” failed to convince, mixing crime thriller and family drama in a mediocre way. Simon (Vincent Lindon) and Franck (Gilles Lellouche), two good friends and partners in the police of Toulon, are tired but happy after finishing another tiresome mission. When driving home, they have a car accident that victimizes two persons, one of them a child. Simon who was driving under the effect of alcohol is arrested and forced to abandon his career, while Franck continues being a cop. Years later, Simon gets out of jail, realizing he has nothing left – no job, no family. Divorced and disoriented, he decides to make an effort to bond with his 9-year-old son, Theo, who accidentally becomes witness of a dreadful murder perpetrated by the Mafia. A terrible situation, since the gang comes after the kid, a new target to wipe out, and Simon will have to do the impossible to protect his family. The busy yet unoriginal script, didn’t present anything we haven’t seen before, while the execution, relying on agitated action scenes that revealed to be merely baits to catch the eye, adopts an overused Americanized style that Cavayé should avoid in the future. With such a bustle, there was no space left for a decent suspenseful atmosphere, and “Mea Culpa” loses itself in its huge ambition for becoming spectacular. A disappointment both as a thriller and family drama.

June 07, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Doug Liman
Country: USA / Australia

Movie Review: Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt starred in sci-fi action film “Edge of Tomorrow” from the acclaimed director Doug Liman, most known for having started Jason Bourne adventures in 2002 with “The Bourne Identity”. Cruise plays major William Cage, a confident US army officer who is perfectly aware he’s not really a soldier but rather an advertising strategist. Used to other kinds of battles, and regardless the fear and inability to deal with guns, Cage is forced to go to war against the invaders, intelligent alien forces and time manipulators known as ‘mimics’, ending up dead in the battle field. For his surprise, as awakened from a dream, he’s transported to a previous point in time where he will have the possibility to repeat everything again and learn until being succeeded in the mission. This faculty of dying and reborn, which they call ‘the power’, is also shared by Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Blunt) who sees Cage as the key element to solve the perpetual lost offensive. The screenplay, based on Japanese novel “All You Need is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, was written by the Butterworth brothers, Jez and John-Henry, who already had worked with Liman in “Fair Game”, in collaboration with Christopher McQuarrie (director of “Jack Reacher”). The impressive scenarios and special effects will be a delight for the sci-fi aficionados but I didn’t feel any special vibrancy in “Edge of Tomorrow”, an invariable combination of “Alien” and “Elysium” with time-shifts. At least, both Liman and Cruise were far better here than in their last incursions on sci-fi, with “Jumper” and “Oblivion”, respectively.

June 06, 2014

The Sacrament (2013)

The Sacrament (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ti West
Country: USA

Movie Review: “The Sacrament” is a found-footage horror film, directed, written and edited by Ti West, an American filmmaker dedicated to the horror genre (“The House of the Devil”, “The Inkeepers”). Joe Swanberg’s participation as actor wasn’t so surprising, since he and West had worked together before in “Cabin Fever 2” and “Drinking Buddies”, while producer Eli Roth joins the team for the first time. The rest of the cast includes AJ Bowen, Amy Seimetz and Gene Jones who undoubtedly had the strongest performance as a persuasive and confrontational spiritual guide. The plot is based on an obscure, closed and well-guarded commune known as ‘Eden Parish’, established in the middle of the woods by a mysterious man who everybody calls ‘Father’. Patrick is a professional photographer whose sister joined the commune right after finishing her drug rehabilitation. He will be welcomed in the place, together with two journalist friends whose objective is to conduct an interview with the leader and document the life style and opinions of the parish members. As expected, the non-violent principles of the group that sacrificed comfort for humanity, was nothing what it seemed, and the end takes crazy proportions – confusion, fear, manhunt, immolation, murder, and mass suicide, are some of the elements used to forcibly shock and create chaos. The adopted strategies were taken a bit too far and you’ll need a strong stomach for some of the unsettling situations. Insidious, outrageous, and unpleasant, “The Sacrament” has Jones’ memorable performance as its stronger element.