July 31, 2014

The Signal (2014)

The Signal (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: William Eubank
Country: USA

Movie Review: “The Signal” is the sophomore feature film from the cinematographer-turned-director, William Eubank, grounded on sci-fi genre, just as his first film from three years ago, “Love”. This time, adopting more thrilling tones, the story focuses on three MIT students, Nick (Brenton Thwaites), Jonah (Beau Knapp) and Haley (Olivia Cooke) who went on a trip to California, deciding to tracking down a hacker known by the name of ‘Nomad’. At night, while entering in a secluded house in Nevada, the two boys pass out after hearing the screams of Haley who was dragged in the air by a strange unknown force. The three of them wake up in a super equipped facility where Dr. William Davon (Laurence Fishburn), protected by his Hazmat suit, is running tests on them, believing they were contaminated by an EBE – extraterrestrial biological entity. Indeed, Eubanks surely knew what he wanted in visual terms and the cinematographer, David Lanzenberg, corresponded in the best way. There are scenes that are memorable but in its will to impress through minimal and predominantly whitish sets, words, and sounds, the mystery itself never enraptured me, even with the surprises reserved by the plot. Its ambiance alternates between static scenes frequently adorned by the mechanical voice of Laurence Fishburn, or the delirious, almost uncontrollable energy of Nick. This human integration with alien technology was a decent one but didn’t gain me as a follower of its far-fetched incursions. Just for sci-fi enthusiasts.

July 30, 2014

Fading Gigolo (2013)

Fading Gigolo (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: John Turturro
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Fading Gigolo” could be a Woody Allen’s romantic comedy but it’s not. It was written and directed by John Turturro, adopting the same Allen’s posture – a nice jazzy score, some effective jokes about Jews, and a romantic story involving a middle-aged gigolo, which became the most uninteresting aspect. The film opens with Murray (Woody Allen), a broke bookshop owner, telling his friend Fioravante (Turturro) that Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone), a rich dermatologist, asked him if he knew a man interested in a ménage a trois. With Fioravante in mind, he said yes but added that the price would be a thousand dollars. Reluctant at first, Fioravante finally accepts the challenge, becoming a gigolo and paying the appropriate commission to Murray, assumedly his new pimp. The scheme falls out of the routine when Murray convinces a young Jewish widow and mother of six kids, Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), to get out of her loneliness and find human contact. The best situations, some of them hilarious, are those that had nothing to do with the central story. I’m remembering when Murray arranges a baseball game for the kids in Brooklyn – African-American (the children of the woman he lives with) against the Jews (Avigal’s kids), or when he is forced to go to a Jewish court. With a competent direction and the lightness commonly associated to the genre, “Fading Gigolo” had its really funny moments but was incapable to show any chemistry with its ‘fading’ love story. Moreover, Turturro should find his own voice since the mood adopted, together with Woody Allen’s presence, bring to our mind the films of the latter.

July 29, 2014

Lucy (2014)

Lucy (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Luc Besson
Country: France

Movie Review: “Lucy” marks Scarlett Johansson’s second sci-fi incursion in a row, after this year’s modern masterpiece, “Under the Skin”. The result is very contrasting when compared to the latter, proving that Luc Besson, considered a cult filmmaker in the 80’s and beginning of the 90’s (“Subway”, “La Femme Nikita”, “Leon: the Professional”, “The Fifth Element”), is far from the good shape evinced before. The story follows Lucy (Johansson), a young student living in Taipei, forced by her boyfriend to deliver a mysterious briefcase to a Korean gangster chief, Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik). In a blink of an eye, her boyfriend is killed while she is made prisoner and used by the Koreans as one of their drug mules. The valuable new drug, called CPH4, is introduced into her abdomen still as a package. When she is kicked in the belly by one of the captors, the package starts leaking, and Lucy has a psychedelic trip, acquiring both mental and physical capacities that permit her see beyond the human reality. She decides to counter-attack, counting with the help of an old professor (Morgan Freeman) and a French cop (Amr Waked). A very good premise that was compromised since its second half, where it became more and more far-fetched, preferring mechanical action scenes instead of paying attention to details or even working to become more thrilling. Despite some real funny lines thrown in the first minutes (the best moments of the film), this ‘Nikita with super-powers’ didn’t revealed enough conceptual strength, aggravated with a flashy execution.

July 28, 2014

Miss Granny (2014)

Miss Granny (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Hwang Dong-hyuk
Country: South Korea

Movie Review: After “Silenced” released three years ago, Korean filmmaker Hwang Dong-hyuk directs “Miss Granny”, a pop comedy-drama that turned into another local box-office hit. The film starts by establishing an imaginative parallel between women and different types of balls used in sports. Right after that our attention falls in Oh Mal-soon, a 74-year-old widow who runs her own restaurant and reveals an overbearing side, sharp tongue, and strong character. She can be as much protective regarding her musician grandson, as a teaser to her daughter-in-law who ended up in a hospital with more complications in her debilitated heart. Realizing she was being a nuisance in the family, she decides to leave for a while, entering by chance in a photo studio called ‘Forever Young’. Surprisingly, she comes out from there with 20 years old, joining his grandson’s heavy metal band, falling in love with a young music producer, and finding the long lasting love of her restaurant employee, Mr. Park. She decides to adopt the name Oh Doo-ri (Au-d-rey) in homage to her favorite actress, Audrey Hepburn. Despite technically competent, the first hour was interminable and boring, and I was convinced that no more interesting twists in the plot would happen. The truth is that “Miss Granny” gets slightly better in the final part, showing a feel-good attitude and a more efficient humor. Regardless the aspects referred before, they came too late and were never enough to pull the film out of the banal zones composed by clichés and sentimentality.

July 27, 2014

Cold in July (2013)

Cold in July (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jim Mickle
Country: USA

Movie Review: The title “Cold in July” is not by chance, since Jim Mickle’s fourth feature film is a glacial thriller written by Micke and Nick Damici, based on the novel from the American author Joe R.Lansdale. The story, set in Texas, follows Richard Dane (Michael C.Hall) who was forced to shoot an intruder that broke into his house in the middle of the night. Visibly disturbed, Richard was told by the police that the victim, Freddy Russell, was wanted for a long time due to his violent past. When the ex-con Ben Russell (Sam Shepard), the victim’s father, evinces a menacing behavior towards Richard’s son, he takes every precaution to save his family. However, the reality was much different and the supposed rival men are dragged together into a dark conspiracy that involves the police and some unexpected characters. The film has an amazing start, great suspense and visually gripping, to change radically in its final part, triggering violence and brutality. Adopting the same kind of mood as “Out of the Furnace”, it’s very clear that there’s no space for cheerfulness here, where the story itself is pretty macabre and is executed with ominous tones. The efficient film director Jim Mickle, after depicting the darkness of a cannibal family in “We Are What We Are”, brings us another gloomy tale that came out from the most horrible side of the human nature. Like fish in the water, he handles very well this (a)moralities, and “Cold in July” will leave the fans of dark crime thrillers much satisfied.

July 26, 2014

Love Eternal (2013)

Love Eternal (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Brendan Muldowney
Country: Ireland

Movie Review: Adapted from a Japanese novel written by Kei Oishi, the Irish dark drama “Love Eternal” generated a duality of feelings that confront each other. Although sometimes it seems ridiculously out of sense, others it feels like a gentle, meditative portrait of a grotesque taste for death. The story focuses on Ian, a depressive young man who spent 10 years locked at home, after a few traumatic experiences related with death - at an early age he sees his father die when he was playing with him, and years later he finds a young girl hanged in a tree. The best thing his reticent mother could do before die was writing a sort of guide to helping him with the most basic things, including a list of things to avoid in order to feel better, how to cook and also deal with his finances. Ian, completely obsessed by death, starts to meet up with some Internet forum friends who share the same desire to die. At the same time that studies the process of decomposition of human body, he helps a fellow girl ending her life, bringing her dead body home, and even taking it for a good walk outside in a sunny day. Filmmaker Brendan Muldowney decided to use an awkward music and narration, turning “Love Eternal” into a taciturn, melancholic exercise that could have created a better impact on me, if only I were able to establish some kind of sympathy for its main character. Unfortunately (or not!) that didn’t happen, and “Love Eternal”, with its pseudo-atmospheric story and indistinct dynamism, just let me a bit sleepy.

July 24, 2014

Starred Up (2013)

Starred Up (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: David Mackenzie
Country: UK

Movie Review: “Starred Up” depicts a violent action-drama focused on a father-son relationship, with the particularity of being depicted inside a prison. When the super-violent Eric Love (Jack O’Conell) of 19 years old is transferred from a young offended institution to an adult prison, he bumps into his long-lost father, Neville (Ben Mendelsohn), a respected veteran convict who, despite estranged, tries to protect his son from the other inmates. The problem is aggravated when the hostilities come from the responsible for the security of the facility. After an accident, the untamed Eric will be given one last chance, having to behave correctly and attend a group therapy lead by the psychotherapist Oliver Baumer (Rupert Friend) in order to learn how to control his raging anger. After being informed that Eric is marked by trauma and abuse, his father will try to join him in the sessions. Jack O’Connell’s performance was tightly convincing, in an explosive mix of madness and fury, and one of his best so far, making “Starred Up”, directed by the English filmmaker David Mackenzie (“Young Adam”, “Perfect Sense”), more than just an ordinary prison drama. The story never loses grip, and in any occasion slows down. Even when the quietude reigns, we have the perfect sensation that someone is up to something, and most of the times we think it might be the unpredictable Eric himself. The script was written by Jonathan Asser, based on his real experiences with the most fearful inmates of the HM Prison Wandsworth, located in the Southwest London.

July 23, 2014

Aberdeen (2014)

Aberdeen (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ho-Cheung Pang
Country: Hong Kong

Movie Review: Much more assertive on drama than comedy, filmmaker Ho-Cheung Pang brings us a mature vision of modern Hong Kong through the analysis of the Cheng family members. Their joys, ambitions and concerns, are showed via personal relationships, professional lives, and interior battles. A fragile woman, Ching, whose husband is having an extramarital affair, is highly traumatized due to her unaffectionate mother, deceased 10 years ago. Highly concerned with his reputation, her brother Tao is a tutor whose wife, a model in the end of her career, tries to resist to some ‘temptations’ related to the profession. Both are concerned with the fact that their daughter, Chloe, isn’t so beautiful as they wanted, predicting she could face rejection. Ching and Tao’s father, Dong, is a fisherman-turned-priest totally dedicated to reincarnation rituals and to his much younger girlfriend who owns a nightclub. The family members try to adjust their own balance and make the right decisions to embrace happiness. “Aberdeen” (an area known as Little Hong Kong) was a good surprise, especially taking in consideration that I found Pang’s previous comedies, “Love in the Buff” and “Vulgaria”, an authentic waste of time. Using colorful scale models of the city to represent dreams, along with powerful camera shots that revealed a good eye for image composition, “Aberdeen” succeeds in depicting every character in order to compose the whole picture of a family whose individualities are caught in the middle of past and present.

July 22, 2014

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (2013)

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani
Country: Belgium / others

Movie Review: Directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani use the same saturated reds, blues and greens to create even more bold images than in “Amer”, their promising debut from 2009. With precise camera work, there’s no doubt that its weirdness stimulates us visually and intellectually, even considering the intentional dispersion of the script to baffle us. This was the main reason why the film didn’t work so well as a narrative, despite the mysteries of its strange associations, false leads and intricate dream layers, it turned out progressively exhausting with the repetition of ideas, most of them involving blood footprints, erotic sensuality and sharp knives ready to tear up bodies or piercing heads. The story starts when Dan Kristensen returns home after one of his frequent business trips and finds his apartment locked from inside and his wife missing. The mystery seems to be related with the building itself where its patterned connected walls hide the secrets of so many weird and untrusted tenants. There are times that we questioned if the problem is not Dan himself, and there are others where we don’t know what to think, such is the abusive confusion and dazzle created. Showing so much talent and a propensity to prevail artsy (including a great sound design), Cattet and Forzani should work a bit more in putting some light in the scripts without exclusively worry with the stylization of their pictures. Anyway, I can’t refrain from recommending this outlandish thriller for those who like vague insinuations and blurred conclusions.

July 21, 2014

Closed Curtain (2013)

Closed Curtain (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jafar Panahi
Country: Iran

Movie Review: Simple in execution, sometimes baffling, but hard to forget, “Closed Curtain” is a valid representation of Jafar Panahi’s current inner state. Banned from filmmaking for 20 years, he is left to his own ghosts and frustrations, and even the words of encouragement from his friendly neighbors don’t always make him feel better. The film starts with a long shot through a window, showing the arrival of the first character, a writer who tries to pull out his creative side. He just wants to be in the company of his dog, which he hides from outside persecutors, since the dogs were considered unclean by some ‘unclean’ governmental law. With all the curtains shut, the quietness felt will be altered by the arrival of a suicidal, yet fearless young woman who is also running from the authorities for having participated in an illegal party. She’s the one who tries to open the curtains and rebel against this overwhelming lack of freedom and injustice. Obviously these two characters came out from Panahi himself, representing his inner battles, and gaining a very personal direction whose message is more than evident. Not so immediate as “This Is Not a Film”, "Closed Curtain" still demonstrates that Panahi can be inventive even with few resources available and surrounded by walls. Writer/director Kambuzia Partovi, who had been inactive since 2005, also co-directs and stars. The film was considered best screenplay in the last Berlin Film Festival.

July 20, 2014

Jodorowsky's Dune (2013)

Jodorowsky's Dune (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Frank Pavich
Country: USA / France

Movie Review: Frank Pavich’s fantastic sophomore documentary, “Jodorowsky’s Dune”, is about an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s “Dune”, considered the philosophical bible of science fiction, made by the creative mind of the filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, known in the avant-garde cinema for movies such as “Fando and Lis”, “The Holy Mountain”, “El Topo”, “Santa Sangre”, and more recently by his autobiographical “Dance of Reality”. Although described as a potential masterpiece by all the interveners, the film was never made due to lack of funding. Jodorowsky tells us about his huge passion and ambition for doing this movie, adapted to the cinema only once by David Lynch in 1984, with production of Raffaella de Laurentis and her father Dino de Laurentis as executive. A painful blow for Jodorowsky who had reunited a great team (later participants in “Alien”) of talented believers, including producer Michel Seydoux, designers H.R.Giger, Chris Foss and Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, Dan O’Bannon for special effects, and an honorable cast composed by Orson Welles, David Carradine, Salvador Dali, and Mick Jagger. We learned how Jodorowsky approached them one by one, and how he discarded the visual effects' pioneer Douglas Turnbull, famous at the time for having worked in Kubrick’s “2001”, for being more technical than spiritual. The music would be created by Pink Floyd (one of my favorite rock bands) and Magma. What this documentary did to me was to increase my appetite for watching an undone film, and appreciate even more Jodorowsky for his art and principles.

July 19, 2014

Life Feels Good (2013)

Life Feels Good (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Maciej Pieprzyca
Country: Poland

Movie Review: Polish filmmaker Maciej Pieprzyca, inspired by true events, brings us a compelling drama about a young man, suffering from cerebral palsy, who passes great part of his life trying to learn how to communicate. The boy is called Mateusz, who curiously narrates the film despite his inability to speak. Leaving that question aside, “Life Feels Good” is a respectable drama with some lessons to absorb regarding these special persons who refuse to be reduced to just a vegetative state. Presented in little chapters, we can follow Mateusz’s path since the 80’s towards his own personal victory, when he was given a chance to communicate while staying in a clinic for mentally disabled persons. His appreciation for the opposite sex was pretty clear, and he promptly reacts to a new volunteer with whom he creates a tight bond. However, her intentions were different and not everything will become good memories for the patient Mateusz. Using clear and sharp images, “Life Feels Good” wasn’t sentimental at all, showing that resignation is the last word to be learned by Mateusz, who clearly prefers those crucial sentences that follow him throughout his life experience: ‘never give up’ and ‘everything’s fine’. Less humorous than “The Sessions”, as well as less intense than “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, this Polish drama was engaging but not mind-blowing. Fantastic performances by Dawid Ogrodnik and Kamil Tkacz who played the adult and young Mateusz, respectively.

July 18, 2014

Fanny (2013)

Fanny (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Daniel Auteuil
Country: France

Movie Review: Daniel Auteuil, a recognized talented actor, continues his directorial adaptations of Marcel Pagnol’s plays. After “The Well Digger’s Daughter” in 2011, this year he comes with a double shot with “Marius” and “Fanny”, a sweet drama that couldn’t get rid of the theatrical tones of Pagnol’s ‘Marseille trilogy’. The story, about a broken love, starts when Fanny (Victoire Belezy) is abandoned by Marius (Raphael Personnaz), a sea lover who went to work for five years on a ship. Fanny wasn’t the only one to be heartbroken, since Marius’ father, Cesar (Auteuil), also didn’t forgive his son for having left without a word. Panisse (J.P. Darroussin), a very wealthy man, proposes to marry Fanny who finds out she’s pregnant from Marius. Nevertheless, the couple gets married, in an agreement that seems to be suitable for everybody, including Cesar. The dramatic peak comes when the obvious happen: the return of Marius. The film was conceived in an old-fashioned way, both in approach and visuals, costumes and sets including. This way, “Fanny” becomes a classical remake of a classic, which doesn’t make much sense, since it doesn't reveal to be better than the older versions, directed by Marc Allégret in 32, and Joshua Logan in 61. Moreover, it was unable to disguise a little torpor in the dialogues and a lack of conviction in its critical middle part, where the film seems like a burden from the past. The super-experienced Alain Sarde co-produced, together with Jerome Seydoux.

July 17, 2014

The Attorney (2013)

The Attorney (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Yang Woo-seok
Country: South Korea

Movie Review: Newcomer film director Yang Woo-seok brings us a courtroom drama inspired on the early life of Roh Moo-Hyun, the ninth president of South Korea, then turned into an activist, and his ‘Burim case’ dated of 1981. Guided by the motto ‘never give up’, Song Woo-seok, even without a college degree becomes a voracious attorney, getting the life he always wanted. Professional success, lots of money and a beautiful family, makes him boasting around and expose himself as a wealthy man. But Woo-seok shows to have a good heart too, when he returns to a restaurant he used to go as a student in order to pay an old debt to the owner, a lady whose teenager son will be illegally arrested, tortured and forced to confess he is a leftist. The man who carries out these unacceptable operations is the highly patriotic police officer, Cha Dong-yeong. Disturbed by this injustice Woo-seok will radically change his life to free an innocent from the corruption of the Korean system and improper use of public power. Even if a bit melodramatic in the final moments and stepping familiar territories, “The Attorney” combined humor, drama, and a raging courtroom battle, in an appealing way. I would say that the aggressive performance by Song Kang-ho, along with the cynical one by Kwak Do-won, were able to maintain the film well alive, regardless of the director’s gullible attempts to draw some tears, especially in the end. Fortunately, this wasn’t enough to turn down the magnificent work from these two respectable actors.

July 16, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Country: USA

Movie Review: Media franchise ‘Planet of the Apes’ has its continuity with “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, this time by the hand of Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”, “Let Me In”), using a script with more deepness and avoiding relying solely on battle scenes and frivolous situations. Evincing competent technical aspects, the film puts humans and apes face-to-face, where this time around the greediness of ones are matched by the thirst of revenge of some of the others. A team of humans, leaded by the good-natured Malcolm, is assigned to convince the apes to give them access to their land, Muir Woods, where an old dam requires reparation in order to supply power to the city of San Francisco. Caesar, the judicious chief of the apes, agrees with the proposition, but the terrible Koba breaks the pact of peace previously celebrated and decides to act according his own rules. The constant changes about trust and distrust, and imminent threat of war, are what maintain the tension high throughout the film. I must tell I didn’t feel any special vibration or enthusiasm while watching it and the performances were just reasonable for the genre. However, the indignation consumed me and I regretted as much as Malcolm and Caesar, that the two intelligent species couldn’t avoid the war. Some gloomy images are mesmerizing, in a film that concluded its story in a suitable way for the sequel that will come in two years, directed once again by Matt Reeves. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” was sufficiently absorbing, and despite solidly recommended, is far from the masterpiece it aspired to be.

July 15, 2014

The Zero Theorem (2013)

The Zero Theorem (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Country: USA / UK / others

Movie Review: After a handful of captivating bizarre films from the past such as “Brazil”, “The Fisher King”, “12 Monkeys” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, Terry Gilliam seems losing steam as time goes by. “The Zero Theorem” was somewhat hollow and tiresome in its conception and never surprised me. The story is centered on Qohen (Christoph Waltz), an intensive computer man who works desperately to find the meaning of life, expected to be revealed through a phone call, as well as the reason of human existence. He’s an employee of Mancom, an obscure futuristic enterprise, ruled by ‘The Management’ (Matt Damon) who attends to his request for working at home, with the tough mission to prove the ‘zero theorem’. Once at his luxurious mansion, he won’t find the peace he was expecting, being constantly interrupted by the impertinent Dr. Shrink-ROM (Tilda Swinton), Bainsley (Melanie Thierry), a lustful woman who just wanted to feel needed, and a 15-year-old genius kid called Bob (Lucas Hedges). Stressed and frustrated, Qohen takes us into an extravagant trip filled with doubts and deceit. Excluding the initial weirdness, the film drags itself in its uncertainty for most of the time, especially during the second half. I also felt that the sense of humor adopted didn’t belong there, and the romance wasn’t strong enough to win me over. As it already had happened with its previous “Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”, Gilliam was unable to place the story at the same level of the colorful, seductive visuals. Thus, this theorem of a film only proved to be flat.

July 14, 2014

Boyhood (2014)

Boyhood (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Country: USA

Movie Review: Richard Linklater proves why he is one of the best actual filmmakers. If the realism of the masterfully written ‘Before’ trilogy or the funny fiction of “Bernie” could arise any doubt to someone, here comes “Boyhood”, a witty film that stands so close to reality that we can’t help feeling so alive and experience a variety of emotions. The 166-minute drama, set in Texas and filmed during a 12-year period, depicts Mason Jr.’s life from the age of 6 until 18. His parents, Mason and Olivia, and sister, Samantha, are no less interesting characters too, well defined, and adding a beautiful richness to the story. Despite separated for so long, Mason Jr.’s parents were there for their kids, playing a fundamental role in their lives. Of course everything wasn’t just perfect, since some bad memories will be difficult to erase – the flaming arguments of Olivia with the men in her life, or a broken promise from Mason who didn't recall saying it, hurting his son’s feelings. Mason Jr. is a pretty regular kid, looking for his own identity, learning with the dilemmas and disillusions, and open to the life itself. Counting with flawless performances by Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Lorelei Linklater (director’s daughter), “Boyhood” presents us credible characters, an enjoyable slice of life and an incredible simplicity of processes filled with moments that are both touching and funny in so many ways. Complete and beautifully conceived, this is an essential film that I urge you to enjoy.

July 13, 2014

Spanish Affair (2013)

Spanish Affair (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Emilio Martinez Lázaro
Country: Spain

Movie Review: “Spanish Affair” is a very Spanish romantic comedy directed by Emilio Martinez Lázaro, taking advantage of the political questions that are in the base of the turmoil lived between Basque country, which seeks independence for several years, and Spain. The story starts in Sevilla where Rafa, a bon vivant who doesn’t know any other place beyond Andaluzia, was being the king of the night by telling some pretty good jokes about Basques. Irony of the destiny, since he meets Amaia, a Basque young woman who seemed bored for celebrating her bachelor party. After one-night stand, Amaia escapes without a word, but Rafa finds an excuse to travel to Basque country, becoming leader of the local separatists, as well as the suitable substitute for Antxon, Amaia’s fiancé who had broken up with her a few days before. Pretending to be Antxon, he will try to convince Amaia’s father, a rough fisherman, that he is a true Basque with eight surnames. Comedy of circumstances with political teasing, “Spanish Affair” is an easygoing film that plays effectively with language. In spite of the good timing of the majority of its gags, the conventional style adopted and predictable outcomes, prevented a greater satisfaction. It worths essentially for its chirpy nature and some inspired moments that revealed a good openness of mind regarding a turbulent internal conflict. The lamentable finale was a pity, but with the huge success in Spain, there’s already a sequel announced for 2015, with the same actors, writers, and director.

July 12, 2014

Benim Dunyam (2013)

Benim Dunyam (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ugur Yucel
Country: Turkey

Movie Review: “Benim Dunyam”, meaning ‘my world’, is a sleazy Turkish drama directed and starred by the actor-turned-filmmaker Ugur Yucel. Ela (Beren Saat) was born deaf and blind and their parents don’t know what to do with her or how to teach her to behave. Her father is growing impatient and believes that institutionalized her is the only solution. However, his wife decides to give a chance to an alcoholic old teacher, Mahir (Ugur Yucel), whose sister suffered from the same condition but was considered mentally retarded. Mahir’s methods are unconventional and even include some slaps, but the little girl needs to be tamed and learn the meaning of words in order to avoid being sent to a madhouse. He even has ambitious intentions: sending her to the university. Later on, it will be Ela who will try everything to help her former teacher, after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer disease. An excessive and forced sentimentality is present throughout the film, which also includes an indigestible score and uninspired approach. The toxic candidness of its longstanding narrative seemed eternal while exhibited a self-contentment in every tear shed. Visually pretty sharp, “Benim Dunyam”, doesn’t shine in any other aspect, becoming one of those slushy exercises that, from wanting to touch our feelings so frequently and easily, falls in complete banality.

July 11, 2014

Diplomacy (2014)

Diplomacy (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Volker Schlondorff
Country: France / Germany

Movie Review: “Diplomacy” is a classic film, in the true sense of the word, directed by a classic filmmaker, Volker Schlondorff, who got known mostly through his consistent war movies from the 60’s and 70’s, cases of  “Young Torless”, “Coup de Grâce” or “The Tin Drum”. “Diplomacy” gives continuity to his preferred theme of WWII, being a movie of words and not so much of action. This doesn’t mean that the film is boring. It depicts the negotiations and relationship between General Dietrich von Choltitz, military governor of Paris during the last days of German occupation, and Raoul Nordling, a French-born Swedish businessman and diplomat, who had a fundamental role to maintain Paris intact. With the Nazi regime in decadence, von Cholitz had orders from Hitler to leave Paris in rubble, planning the destruction of several landmarks such as bridges, the Eiffel tower and Notre Dame. Sick but determined, he seemed to be a stubborn, fearless man who is unable to surrender. Nordling’s mission is simply trying to persuade him to save ‘the city of light’. Technically strong and exhibiting appealing scenarios, it was rewarding to watch two men with different opinions and in antagonistic positions respecting each other, where the word diplomacy fits like a glove. Indeed, the two main actors, Niels Arestrup and André Dussollier, keep the film well alive. Difficult moral choices are in the base of “Diplomacy” whose adaptation from Cyril Gely’s play of the same name, even if not astonishing, was elucidative, earnest and interesting to follow.

July 10, 2014

Pizza Shop: the Movie (2013)

Pizza Shop: the Movie (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: George O'Barts
Country: USA

Movie Review: I didn’t find any good reason to recommend “Pizza Shop: the Movie”, George O’Bart’s debut on writing/direction. Opening with a scene that is more gross than funny, the film starts to give an idea of the bunch of retards who work in the pizza shop. The moments of tension are created among the shop’s employees, with frequent bullying situations and pranks, and between the deliverymen and the peculiar costumers, some of them ready to pay for the pizza with anything except cash. I understand that the goal of “Pizza Shop” is to ridicule every situation, taking them to the limit, but personally, I prefer intelligent humor. It seems that the film consisted in a reunion of friends who simply wanted to execute something to be catalogued as weird or radical. The outcome was more embarrassing than amusing, evincing an amateurish execution, a lousy production and poor performances. The annoying advertisement between episodes using the logo, just like a TV commercial, along with an invasive score in several scenes, and unnatural dialogues and behaviors, were other factors that didn’t help the final result. The toilet humor became more ridiculous than expected, and an approximation to the comic-horror genre with dramatic hints was also a failure, relegating “Pizza Shop” to immature audiences. Maybe for those, this film can obtain the acceptance that I was unable to consider. Too low-grade to be recommended.

July 09, 2014

Soul (2013)

Soul (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Chung Mong-Hong
Country: Taiwan

Movie Review: “Soul” is the kind of film that astonishes us through its images but whose story doesn’t meet entirely our expectations. This psychological thriller with hints of horror starts with A-Chuan, collapsing in the restaurant where he works. The doctors don’t find anything abnormal, suspecting of depression, while his co-workers describe his recent behavior as very odd. A-Chuan goes to live with his family on top of the mountains, but doesn’t recognize his father and sister. Tragedy occurs when he murders the latter, making a dark association with his father, Wang, who hides obscure past secrets and reveals a mysterious detachment in relation to his daughter’s death. Curiously, A-Chuan admits to be someone else who seeks for an identity, having occupied the body left by the real A-Chuan. A game of connected dreams and contact with the dead begins, taking the film to eerie places, only sent to reality again with the arrival of a constable brought by Little Wu, a police officer and old acquainted of the family. The film was able to create the tension intended, and the killing scenes were simply fabulous, set up almost in slow motion and interrupted by momentarily black screens. However, the Lynchian script, written by the Taiwanese director Chung Mong-Hong, was perhaps too ambitious and is not exempt of holes and setbacks. Other aspect that wasn’t always keen was the dark humor presented. Magnificently shot and sophisticatedly executed, “Soul” is a feast for the eyes but a bit too nebulous for the mind.

July 08, 2014

Life Itself (2014)

Life Itself (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Steve James
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Life Itself” is a biographical documentary that homages one of the most prolific and acclaimed film critics of all times, Roger Ebert. It covers his life, not in complete detail, but in a practical and objective way, since its youth when he started working for Chicago Sun-Times until his harrowing final moments and consequent death last year from cancer. One of the most interesting aspects focused in the film was the love-hate relationship with other competitive film critic, Gene Siskel, of the rival Chicago Tribune, and the TV shows that both of them starred since the mid 70’s. Sometimes they seemed two little boys with a big ego, fighting for their ideas. Known for having introduced the ‘thumbs up and thumbs down’ on film reviews, Ebert had a very unique personality and his passion for movies was absolutely undeniable, to the point of analyzing an entire film frame-by-frame. His amazing aptitude to write perfect reviews gave him a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1975, while his particular taste for women, and the alcohol addiction in a determined phase of his life were also unveiled. The film presents the testimonials of his wife Chaz, colleagues in the profession, and filmmakers Rahmin Bahrani and Marin Scorsese who emotionally thanked Ebert. Directed by the documentarian Steve James (“The Interrupters”), “Life Itself”, is a sincere and deserved tribute to a courageous man who is still present on film in so many ways. It was conducted in the right direction, even if tough to watch.

July 07, 2014

Jack Strong (2014)

Jack Strong (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Wladyslaw Pasikowski
Country: Poland

Movie Review: With “Jack Strong”, writer/director Wladyslaw Pasikowski provides us with a thrilling espionage film based on the real story of Polish Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski who got known as one of the most important spies for CIA in the midst of Cold War tensions. Disillusioned with the Soviet domination and the loss of identity of his own country, Kuklinski decides to risk his life and his family’s by revealing important secrets of state, including secret nuclear operations. Using the code name ‘Jack Strong’ to communicate with the ‘enemy’, Kuklinski ended up awarded by President Carter for his glorious yet risky contribution. The story is told in flashbacks and was suspenseful enough to get me seated without move for more than two hours. Expect a constant asphyxiating atmosphere, tense score, and strong performances by the magnificent cast, which strengthened even more a well-connected story and its intriguing characters. With all these positive aspects we also have a fantastic car chase, one of the most spectacular scenes of this political thriller, along with a fulminant, bitter ending that left me perplexed. Shot with rigor and set up in an attractive old-fashioned way, Pasikowski proves that Polish cinema still has something valuable to give, even if in most of the cases, is invariably centered in WWII. If “Aftermath”, his previous film, was a disappointment, “Jack Strong” comes as an impressive feature and is solidly recommended.

July 06, 2014

Two Mothers (2013)

Two Mothers (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Anne Zohra Berrached
Country: Germany

Movie Review: “Two Mothers” is a lukewarm drama about a lesbian married couple, Katja and Isabella, who decided to have a child in Germany, a country that imposes so many legal issues, high fees and other obstacles in a very difficult process. They agreed to find a sperm donor (long part of the film relies in this aspect) but not a father, so they can educate the child without any exterior interference. The more reputable insemination clinics refuse to accept them and the treatments in minor clinics, besides too much expensive for their income, are not working out. The frustration led them to check sperm donors online, where they find their last hope: Flo, a man with already twenty children. The script shows potential but the film, not so fluid, could have been so much better executed. Set up with an unattractive light and dismal colors, “Two Mothers” counts with capable performances by Karina Plachetka and Sabine Wolf, and has the subject matter as the more interesting aspect. It was a pity that the debutant director and screenwriter, Anne Zohra Berrached, didn’t have hands to handle the story in a more absorbing way. The detachment that slowly occurs between the couple feels real and shows that Berrached knows how to extract something from the performances. However, the technical side wasn’t so strong, resulting in a deterioration of the final result. The director was awarded at Berlin Film Festival, while the two main actresses received a special mention at Potsdam Sehsüchte.