August 29, 2014

The Congress (2013)

The Congress (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ari Folman
Country: Israel / others

Movie Review: Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman (“Waltz with Bashir”) blends drama, sci-fi, and animation in “The Congress”, an adaptation of the novel ‘The Futurological Congress’ by Stanislaw Lem (“Solaris”). In this story of dual worlds, Robin Wright plays herself as an aging actress who deals with several difficulties in her professional career but still believes in her performing capacities. She is reluctant to accept being part of a new technological program set up by Miramount Studios, represented by the ambitious Jeff Green (Danny Huston), that offers her the last performance of her life -  a digitally scanning to obtain her image rights for a computer-character. Dedicated to her son Aaron, who needs medical attention, Robin will be convinced by Al (Harvey Keitel), her agent and the father of her children, to embark in the program. Twenty years later she was turned into the star of a widespread TV show called ‘Rebel Robot Robin – Street Fighter, and decides to enter in the animated world of showbiz created by Miramount. But inhabiting an artificial world of dreams and wanna-be’s, doesn’t bring the peace she needs since her main concern is not knowing about her son, left to the cares of his specialist, Dr. Barker (Paul Giamatti). Conceptually challenging and gorgeously designed, “The Congress” is both a complex and sophisticated creation that worked out much better than “The Zero Theorem” or the lame “Transcendence”. Michal Englert’s cinematography was significant, while the Israel-based production company Bridgit Folman Films Gang was responsible for the animation. Concerning the great cast, definitely no computer-characters are needed for them.

August 28, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez
Country: USA

Movie Review: Frank Miller, the author of the graphic novels, and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez gather again for the sequel of the much-appreciated “Sin City” from 2005. The sumptuous visuals make part of this new adventure, but it doesn’t cover up the plot’s deficiencies and an unchangeable mood that has its benefits at the first glance, losing strength in the final parts. A lot of frustration can be seen in Sin City’s characters, ending up in a spiral of violence and revenge. The film is a combination of uneven little stories that sometimes fail to cause a beneficial impact. The luckiest gambler, Johnny, decides to teach a poker lesson to his estranged father, the powerful Senator Roarke, whose evilness is feared in the city. He doesn’t mind to risk his life but at least will be remembered as the man who defeated Roarke, twice. Private detective Dwight McCarthy is tempted by his manipulative former lover, Eva, who is only moved by material possessions and thirst of power. Fortunately he will get the help of his buddy beast fighter, Marv, and another former lover, Gail. In the last segment Nancy Callahan tries to cope with the death of John Hartigan, now turned into a ghost unable to calm her down. She will try to avenge his death by killing Roarke with Marv’s help. Despite the positive threatening aura hovering every scene, the far-fetched action never satisfied me completely. The problem of “Sin City: a Dame to Kill For” was giving us the same atmosphere and visuals of the original, without putting much effort in the stories or causing surprise with its characters. I still think it can be entertaining; however what we get is clearly style over substance.

August 27, 2014

War Story (2014)

War Story (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Mark Jackson
Country: USA

Movie Review: I really don’t know what American filmmaker Mark Jackson was thinking when he wrote, conjointly with Kristin Gore, his sophomore feature film “War Story”, a depressing drama executed in stodgy tones that drags itself along 90 minutes. The story follows Lee (Catherine Keener), a war-traumatized American photojournalist who returns to Sicily and tries to help Hafsia (Hafsia Herzi), a young refugee woman she had met in Libya in frightful circumstances. The latter is pregnant and desperately wants an abortion, so many times refused by the Italian medical services. She also intends to leave for France where she thinks she will have better opportunities. At the same time, Lee also contacts her former lover and mentor, Albert (Ben Kingsley). The beginning still sparked some curiosity, when I was trying to figure out Lee’s inconclusive behaviors. Was she sick? Was she a voyeur? What was she doing in Italy and how wrecked her life was? But this search only lasted 15 minutes, since my patience faded away with the slow cadence and excessive meditative atmosphere. The story somberly presents us racial prejudices, infinite sadness, and the misery of two persons who are trying to start again and gain confidence to go on. Mark Jackson’s directorial choices were questionable, like when he opted for a distant long shot of a conversation between Lee and Albert, which after a while becomes boring. In a film where I never cared about the fate of its characters, only Keener’s performance was noteworthy.

August 26, 2014

Soulmate (2013)

Soulmate (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Axelle Carolyn
Country: UK

Movie Review: Belgian actress-turned-director Axelle Carolyn brings us a mystery tale, involving humans and ghosts, which effectively catches the eye but heavily disappoints as a story. Audrey tries to cope with the death of her husband and finds a secluded cottage in rural Wales to recover from a suicide attempt. At night, she starts to hear unusual noises and witnessing unexplainable occurrences that lead her to conclude that there is a presence in the cottage. She resorts to the only people she know in the nearest village, Theresa and her husband, who evasively try to convinced her that there are no ghosts and the problem could be just in her head. Actually, the ghost of the former owner of the cottage, Douglas Talbot, starts to appear in a human form and talk to her. A beautiful friendship begins when they find several pains in common, but the melodramatic tones and boring conversation never awoke me from its melancholy, and not even the pale face of the ghost was sufficient to stir the insipid developments. What caught my attention were the beautiful shadowy images and autumnal atmosphere outdoors, sometimes well combined with the score of violins and cellos. A nearly perfect atmosphere that became worthless, given the dull story and failed attempts to create humor, thrills, seduction or anything else. Anna Walton’s performance was far from authentic, but nothing compared to the lousy presence of the unconvincing ghost. “Soulmate” lacked intensity, and was nothing more than a naive exercise on horror/thriller that doesn’t take us to any part of this world or the other.

August 25, 2014

Love is Strange (2014)

Love is Strange (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ira Sachs
Country: USA / France

Movie Review: If “Keep the Lights On” from two years ago had already given a considerable boost in Ira Sachs’ directorial career, “Love is Strange”, co-written with Mauricio Zacharias, has the merit of being a near-perfect drama that takes into a higher dimension. John Lithgow and Alfred Molina are amazing as a gay couple who are together for almost forty years. They go through several financial problems after one of them has been fired right after getting married. This setback forces them to sell their beautiful apartment located in one of the best areas of New York city, and live temporarily apart with friends and family, while looking for a new place. The two men will have different experiences: George (Molina) stays with two gay cops who live in the lower floor and constantly give parties all night long, while Ben (Lithgow) goes to his nephew’s in Brooklyn, affecting deeply the professional life of his nephew’s wife, Kate (Marisa Tomei), as well as the private life of their teen son, Elliott. The film feels incredibly real and was conceived with superior cleverness. There’s so much sensitivity in every interaction without resorting to sentimental tricks, and every relationship is crafted with such confidence by the actors, that “Love is Strange” becomes one of the most accomplished and comprehensible dramas of the year. It depicts complexity in a simple way, and how people are vulnerable to abrupt changes in their lives. Funny, straightforward, involving at all occasions, tragic, and finally rewarding, we stand before a mature, modern narrative in which love is the only factor that is not in question.

August 22, 2014

On My Way (2013)

On My Way (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Emmanuelle Bercot
Country: France

Movie Review: Celebrated French actress, Catherine Deneuve, stars in “On My Way”, a road movie that depicts complicated relationships within a family. Emmanuelle Bercot who has a parallel career as actress and hadn’t directed a feature film since 2005, co-wrote and directed. With self-confidence and a certain charm, Deneuve gives life to the discontented widow and former beauty queen, Bettie (Deneuve), a woman in her 60’s who is struggling with several financial problems in the restaurant she owns, and feels broken-hearted with an unrequited love for Ettiene, a married man. In the verge of a breakdown, the only thing that calms her down is a cigarette, a good motive to talk with some strangers or hang out in pubs where she might have some occasional adventures. She will start to see other meaning in her life after accept a request of her estranged daughter, Muriel (Camille), to drive her grandson, Charly (Nemo Schiffman), to his paternal grandfather. With a conveniently nostalgic score, grandson and grandmother will get to know each other better, while the problems seem to slowly vanish during the slow-burning and many times tedious developments of the trip. After the storm of the first two thirds, comes the calm, and everything ends up in perfection, with everybody around the table, singing and enjoying the company of one another. The restaurant might be lost but the family was retrieved. Bercot’s direction was acceptable, using a non-static camera in several occasions, but the plot didn’t touch me a bit, and "On My Way" was just another instantly forgettable super chewed drama.

August 21, 2014

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared (2013)

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Felix Herngren
Country: Sweden

Movie Review: The Swedish comedy “The 100-Year-Old Man…” is a feel-good movie adapted from Jonas Jonasson’s best-selling novel. The third feature film directed by the actor Felix Herngren, wins points with the jokes and dark humor but also loses some with the absurd number of coincidences of a scatterbrained plot. We follow Allan Karlsson in the day he turns 100 and decided to run away from the nursing home where he lives, involving himself in a dangerous adventure with an international gang, in the company of his recent friends. Simultaneously, we dive into Allan’s rich past to know he was discouraged as a child to think about the problems of the world. Orphan since an early age, he lived all his life as a bon-vivant, drinking, eating, and exploding whatever he could – a passion that took him worldwide, allowing him to have amiable relations with several top personalities such as Franco during the Spanish civil war, Truman during the Manhattan project, the French government for which he worked as a spy, and even Stalin who gave him a hard time in a Siberian gulag. Very bold and athletic for his age, the forgetful Allan evinces a political ingenuity, insensibility regarding the others, and an unawareness of danger that is really funny. This adventurous and eventful comedy knew exactly where it wanted to go, but I believe that with a little more cleverness in the screenwriting, and suppressing some strained aspects, it would have become less messy and more distinctive. Even with all its faults, it still provides a few good laughs, entertaining us with its inconceivable life story.

August 20, 2014

The One I Love (2014)

The One I Love (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Charlie McDowell
Country: USA

Movie Review: It’s weird when you watch a movie whose ideas are immediately identified from other movies. That’s exactly what happened with Charlie McDowell’s debut feature film, “The One I Love”, a supernatural romantic comedy that explored the same ideas of parallel realities used in “Coherence”, but using them in a totally different approach, waiving the thrills and threats in favor of romance and some mild humor. In one scene towards the end, it also reminded me the Austrian drama “The Wall”, when Duplass’ character bumped into an invisible wall when tried to escape his other ‘self’. I know it’s confusing but allow me to explain. Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss), in a marital crisis, are advised by their therapist to spend a weekend in a vacation house. The first night started well: a romantic dinner, relaxing conversation, and they even smoked a joint smoked to facilitate their interaction. But they made an intriguing discovery, realizing that another Ethan and Sophie live nearby, in a different reality that can interact with theirs. A strange dance of dual realities starts, along with a constant search for what is or what is not ‘real’, most of the time using a volatile unfolding in Justin Lader's script. The fact of the other ‘selves’ have been accepted easily, turned the film into a bland exercise that becomes a bit messy in terms of feelings by the end. The humor wasn’t so clever as I expected, and for me “The One I Love” wasn’t particularly surprising or satisfying. The performances by Duplass, who also produces, and Moss, were crucial to make it stand in the limits of watchable.

August 19, 2014

Finding Vivian Maier (2013)

Finding Vivian Maier (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: John Maloof, Charlie Siskel
Country: USA

Movie Review: Fascinating documentary about Vivian Maier, a mysterious street photographer, housekeeper, and nanny, whose work was discovered only a couple years prior her death in 2009, when co-director John Maloof acquired the most part of her negatives and other belongings in an auction. After being refused by MoMA, it was thanks to Chicago Cultural Centre that Maier’s work gained the deserved reputation and success. Daughter of a French mother and an Austrian father, Vivian was born in New York, never revealing anything about her past along the years that she worked for several families in Chicago. While some of her employers and their children defined her as an extremely reserved person who evinced an intriguing behavior and made up things about herself, famous street photographers such as Joel Meyerowitz and documentary photographer icon, Mary Ellen Mark, evaluated her sharp eye and outstanding work where the sense of humor, tragedy and life, combined in perfection. I was amazed by how she was able to collect so many things along the years, including piles of newspapers, and dragging them inside of suitcases to wherever she went. Maloof and Charlie Siskel were capable to increase my curiosity and suspicion about Vivian’s traumatic past, structuring the documentary in a clear way and leaving notions of bizarreness and darkness in the air. “Finding Vivian Maier”, as the title implies, was a wonderful discovery for me, both for Vivian’s shadowy life and superb capture of reality.

August 18, 2014

Waar (2013)

Waar (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Bilal Lashari
Country: Pakistan

Movie Review: “Waar” is a Pakistani action thriller, result of the ideas from two debutants, filmmaker/cinematographer Bilal Lashari and screenwriter/producer Hassan Waqas Rana, and that’s noticeable along its two hours. The film is episodically divided, and despite a handful of good-looking images, it's disconnected, showing a lot of failed aspects. Spoken in a mixed language of Urdu and English, the film is also a frustrating blend of Bollywood sentimentality and Lollywood action. The story follows Major Mujtaba, a retired Pakistan army officer who is practically forced to defend his country from a serious terrorist threat. Used to work in the shadow, Mujtaba still struggles with the loss of his family, but eventually accepts to join the field operation leader, Ehtesham, and intelligence agent, Javeria, to dismantle the terrorist group and avoid a national catastrophe. The recurrent flashbacks didn’t work, and “Waar” simply didn’t intrigue me, nor catch my attention, nor surprised me, defrauding my expectations created when I realized this was a massive local success in its country of origin. The final physical fight was more trivial than invigorating, while Amir Munawar’s score was annoying and invasive. All the clichés can be found there – the lost, suffering heroes; the evil enemies; the same old words; the awaited conclusions… I believe this local crowd-pleaser will continue to be a cult film for many, but I couldn’t help being unexcited with the pointless counter-terrorism presented by Lashari and Rana.

August 16, 2014

Jealousy (2013)

Jealousy (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Philippe Garrel
Country: France

Movie Review: French filmmaker Philippe Garrel, continues his stories about lovers, encounters, and irregular relationships in “Jealousy”, a drama shot in a balanced black-and-white and starring Louis Garrel, his son and frequent first choice, and Anna Mouglalis. The script was inspired on Philippe’s father, the actor Maurice Garrel. By comparison, and leaving the very unique “Le Revelateur” aside, I would say that “Jealousy” is better than his last couple works, “Frontier of the Dawn” and “A Burning Hot Summer”, but less interesting in concept than “Regular Lovers” or “J’entends Plus la Guitarre”. The film starts with a separation between the struggling actor, Louis (Garrel), and Clothilde, the mother of his daughter. In the next sequence of images, Louis looks very happy near his new girlfriend, the jobless and emotionally inconstant actress, Claudia (Mouglalis). Their attachment seems quite solid but the truth is that both of them flirt with others. While he resists to his theater colleague, Lucie, and other conquests, she is decided to get a job and a bright, spacious new apartment. With that in mind, she gets closer to a man who promises her everything she wants, leading to a painful rupture with Louis that almost ends up tragically. In gorgeously languid tones, them and us, never know where the lies end and the truth begin, a suspended state that keeps us wanting more, even after the end, where we glimpse that only family and theater can make Louis move on with his life. “Jealousy” conveys a constant sadness and doesn’t reinvent the formula, representing a very plausible slice of real life without losing the charm along the way.

August 15, 2014

Coldwater (2013)

Coldwater (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Vincent Grashaw
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Coldwater” is a wishful but conventional grim tale that depicts the story of Brad Lunders, a teenage boy who is sent to a juvenile rehabilitation center located in the middle of nowhere. Colonel Frank Reichert, a retired Marine with no scruples, supervises the place, making the inmates’ lives into a hellish nightmare. His correction method towards readjustment goes from physical work, sleep deprivation and severe punishments, to a revolting negligence in cases of sickness or injuries. Concerning this last aspect, he uses Dr. William Jenson to cover up his slips on violence and careless mistreatments. At the same time, we are presented with flashbacks that despite helping us understand the reasons that led Brad to the facility, also breaks the flow of happenings. The last part of the film is particularly violent, however is also what saves the film from the accommodation evinced in scenes and postures that everybody identifies from past movies. Even with technical and structure fluctuations, such as unarticulated narrative and several too dark images to be fully enjoyed, “Coldwater” had the merit of conveying the message loud enough to turn our eyes into the problem and think about it. Debutant actor P.J. Doubousqué, Ryan Gosling’s young lookalike, had an acceptable performance without particularly standout from the rest of the cast’s youth, while James C.Burns played the tyrant Colonel with conviction. This was the first feature film from Vincent Grashaw who had participated as an actor in the obnoxious “Bellflower” from three years ago.

August 14, 2014

Belle (2013)

Belle (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Amma Asante
Country: UK

Movie Review: “Belle”, written by Misan Sagay, is the sophomore feature film from the Londoner Amma Asante, former TV series’ actress. The story is set in 18th Century England, a colonial empire and slave trading capital, where the illegitimate mixed-race young girl, Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), born in the West Indies, is entrusted by her father, Admiral John Lindsay (Matthew Goode), to his aristocratic uncle, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson). In times of great prejudice against black people and mulattos, Dido will be raised properly but her lineage falls in a social condition that prevents her to have all the privileges as any white woman. She’s too high to be with the servants but too low be with certain members of the family. These restrictions get her disgusted and concerned about love and marriage, despite the big inheritance left by her beloved father. Dido will find the love of her life, John Davinier (Sam Reid), a vicar’s son whose conviction is to fight for equality, but eventually ends up engaged with Oliver Ashford, brother of her cousin Elizabeth’s fiancé, the vile James. In parallel, we follow a polemic slavery case, which is in the hands of Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice. Dramatically compelling, “Belle” turned out to be a gentle period drama that triggers some indignation, most of the times inherent in several situations and scarcely bursting out. Its cadenced pace flows smoothly with graciousness, enhanced by the splendorous settings and elegant costumes. The only mishap has to do with Mr. Davinier who looked and sounded too dramatic in his interventions.

August 13, 2014

Welcome to New York (2014)

Welcome to New York (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Abel Ferrara
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Welcome to New York” marks a polemic return from American independent filmmaker, Abel Ferrara (“Ms.45”, “Bad Lieutenant”, “The Funeral”), who co-wrote the script, inspired on the sexual scandal that involved Dominique Strauss-Khan, a French economist and politician, when he stayed in a New York’s hotel for one night. The story starts with Devereaux (Gerard Depardieu) participating in some intense debauchery scenes where drinks, food and carnal pleasures, seem to enchant him. When a hotel maid enters in his room proffering ‘housekeeping’, Devereaux gets out of his bath and forces her to have sexual contact with him. A sexual assault that sent him to prison, triggering a series of investigations and legal procedures in order to find the truth. I wonder why Ferrara’s cinema is so involving and the answer basically resides in his fearless of assuming what he wants to tell. It’s raw, it’s direct, it’s bold… it’s repellent in so many ways, but it’s what he believes, delivering the message bluntly. A sarcastic humor balances quite well all the sad spectacle witnessed, and even knowing that the film is tendentious and speculative in a way, I couldn’t get my eyes off of the screen. Provocative, incisive, and highly entertaining, “Welcome to New York” brings us perfect performances by Depardieux and Jacqueline Bisset as the ‘monster’s wife, and shows us that Ferrara returned to good shape with a very natural filmmaking, precise camera work, distinctive image composition, and exhibiting great confidence in what he intends to point out. All good motives for you to watch it.

August 12, 2014

Coherence (2013)

Coherence (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: James Ward Byrkit
Country: USA

Movie Review: Psychological sci-fi thriller, “Coherence”, demonstrated good ideas not always fully materialized in practice. Waiting for the passage of a comet, a group of eight friends reunite to have dinner at the house of one of them. What should be a perfect moment to relax from the day-to-day life, ends up into a strange convergence of different realities, aggravated with the semi-chaos created by cracked phones, as well as lack of electricity and Internet. A mysterious box containing photographs of everyone present, taken in that same day and marked with numbers in the back, increases the puzzle. Once outside the house, along dark streets, some of the present found exact 'copies' of themselves. The tension was smartly created, through uncanny conversations, cyclic situations, and scary conclusions that take us to a quirky ‘twilight zone’. I just felt that in its middle part, the development of the story mitigates the thrills, an aspect only extinguished when Em (Emily Baldoni) tries to force her entrance in another reality by committing a murder.  With a hand-held camera always in movement, debutant director/screenwriter, James Ward Byrkit, achieves the effects required without exaggerate. “Coherence” works more as a mysterious game than anything else – dices, markers, pictures, flashlight's colors, numbers, and clashing realities, are part of its reality. It’s far from perfection, but its flaws are passable, perhaps because the cast believed in this curious low-budgeted project that did something non-futile without resorting to gimmicks or fancy special effects.

August 08, 2014

Get on Up (2014)

Get on Up (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Tate Taylor
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Get on Up” is a biopic drama focused on James Brown, considered the king of funky music and the godfather of soul. Tate Taylor, who achieved fame with his 2011’s hit “The Help”, directed the film according to the screenplay by the Butterworth brothers (“Fair Game”, “Edge of Tomorrow”). The structure goes back and forth in time, making us realize Brown’s difficult childhood, and understand from where all that strength and anger came from. I was aware of some facts presented – the travels to Vietnam to support American black troops, while other occurrences were completely new to me, like when James entered in a church and disturbed the peace with a shotgun, or when he was arrested for stealing a suit, meeting afterwards his musician friend Bobby Byrd for the first time. A few scenes made me doubtful, seeming too polished and sometimes fabricated for the sake of the film. Individualist, James Brown was always a controversial character that lived in tough times of discrimination against black people, but for me, what moved me more in “Get On Up” were the music, energy, and soul on stage, and not so much his private life. After having been praised for his performance as the baseball legendary star Jackie Robinson in “42”, Chadwick Boseman has here his second big role as main character, and he didn’t miss the opportunity to shine, being one of the best reasons for watching the film. Despite of its dynamism and rhythmic turbulence, I honestly expected much more from James Brown’s story.

August 07, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: James Gunn
Country: USA

Movie Review: Marvel strikes again with “Guardians of the Galaxy”, a sci-fi adventure filled of substantial special effects, space battles, and sharp humor, which was a crucial factor for its success. This wasn’t the first time that writer/director James Gunn directs a super-hero story – “Super” in 2010 wasn’t so successful as this one. The film exhibits a fantastic characterization and uses a nostalgic rock soundtrack, played through audiocassette by our hero, Peter Quill, who will join forces with the combative Gamora, the jocular raccoon, Rocket, and the latter’s loyal tree-like humanoid friend, Groot. Together, they will try to defeat the creepy Ronan and Gamora’s sister, Nebula, whose objective is to first destroy Xandar, the home world of the Nova Corps, threatening the entire universe. With an orb, containing a coveted Infinity Stone, jumping from hand to hand, we are thrown to a stunning entertainment created from an eventful plot. Even if not so smart as it wanted to be, the action-packed “Guardians of the Galaxy” reunites the right elements to please not only the fans of the comics, but also wider, general audiences. Some weirdness presented in several moments was very welcome to escape the monotony of other competitors of the genre. The cast did a great job and includes Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Lee Pace, John C. Reilly, Michael Rooker, David Bautista, Benicio del Toro and Glenn Close, among many others. Most of them will certainly be present in the sequel already announced for 2017.

August 06, 2014

Hercules (2014)

Hercules (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Brett Rattner
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Hercules” was never substantial enough with its Greek mythological story. Filmmaker Brett Ratner (“Rush Hour”, “The Red Dragon”, “X-Men: The Last Stand”), whose action executions are commonly showy and made to impress the eye, forgot once again to create an intriguing mood, while the screenwriters should have added some smartness to increase the viewers’ interest. There’s nothing different here from the usual approach adopted for this kind of adventure. I’ve seen this so many times before that my indifference along the way increased substantially as the film approaches to its farcical end. Half human, half God, Hercules, son of Zeus, rushes to aid the king of Thrace and his daughter, in a battle against the forces of evil commanded by Rhesus. Reuniting his group of mercenaries, which includes among others, his storyteller nephew Iolaus, a childhood friend Autolycus who is an expert in knife-throwing, and the agile archer Atalanta, we are presented with interminable body combats, furious roars, and a sense of humor that feels more stupid than witty. Dwayne Johnson, despite the enviable muscles, seemed stuck in the disorganized, endless battles. With so much chaos and disorder and a plot that doesn’t help, “Hercules” ended up being an inefficient blockbuster, becoming one of this year’s most unexciting, staged, and inarticulate exercise on the genre. Maybe Ratner thinks his filmmaking style is much spectacular but the whole thing is just a huge fakeness, completely unable to cause positive reactions.

August 05, 2014

Pod Mocnym Aniolem (2014)

Pod Mocnym Aniolem (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Wojciech Smarzowski
Country: Poland

Movie Review: The films from Polish filmmaker Wojciech Smarzowski are always interesting to follow, no matter what theme he chooses – whether the dark crime thriller of “The Dark House”, the humorous drama of “The Wedding”, the coldness of war in “Rose”, or the severe accusations of corruption and power abuse made by Polish police in “Traffic Department” – each of them had something valuable to say in its harshness and objective rawness. “Pod Mocnym Aniolem” (translated “The Mighty Angel”) is another powerful drama focused on alcoholism and based on Jerzy Pilch’s successful fourth novel with the same title. The film follows Jerzy (Robert Wieckiewicz), an intelligent and talented writer who can’t keep off from the bottles of vodka, even doing frequent treatments in a rehabilitation house and attending group sessions. Evincing a corrosive sense of humor, his denial takes him to a cynicism and to a spiral of degradation that not even the woman of his life is capable to bear. He wanders and writes in a sort of limbo state where reality and imagination interweave. We are taken through the stories told by other alcoholics, but also to Jerzy’s memories of his drunken father. Horrible images haunt us, depicting embarrassing situations, deliriums, vomiting, and crazy hangovers. It’s a sad film, about suffering, about loss, about fate… Its finale is simply devastating, even cruel. I was touched in two ways – one given the last hope sought by Jerzy, and the other through the creepy loneliness that can ruin everything again. Although with a slow-burning start, “Pod Mocnym Aniolem” won me over.

August 04, 2014

The Calling (2014)

The Calling (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jason Stone
Country: USA

Movie Review: Debutant South African film director, Jason Stone, reunites an encouraging cast for its dark thriller, “The Calling”, based on Inger Ash Wolf’s novel of the same name, and adapted to the screen by Scott Abramovitch. Names as Susan Sarandon, Christopher Heyerdahl, Ellen Burstyn, Topher Grace, and Donald Sutherland, can be a valid motive to spike our curiosity for the film, which in the end delivered a mix of satisfaction and frustration. A mysterious serial killer (Heyerdahl) chooses the quiet Canadian town of Port Dundas to murder a devoted catholic woman. He based himself on a catholic prayer, believing that a man can be resurrected after sacrifice twelve people. The case will be handled, with authorization or not, by the detective Hazel Micallef (Sarandon), an addicted on alcohol and painkillers, who will have the help of a rookie cop (Grace) recently transferred from Toronto. Sarandon conveyed authenticity in her performance, sometimes very degrading but very human too. Her determination to unveil the mystery and solve the case worked almost like a cleansing for her stained past. Despite of the thrills created, I got the sensation that the film stepped into something already seen, while some of the characters should have been better explored and the relationships among them better defined. Notwithstanding, the grey atmosphere of the town and the mix of grief, religious connotations, and occasionally dark humor, provide a fair watching. The film is coming to New York theaters on August 29th.

August 03, 2014

Viola (2012)

Viola (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Matias Piñeiro
Country: Argentina / USA

Movie Review: Filmmaker Matias Piñeiro, considered one of the new voices of Argentinean cinema, brings us a philosophical drama about relationships that was a bit hard to digest. A group of young actresses from Buenos Aires discuss love and life, while rehearsing for William Shakespeare’s play “Twelfth Night”. In a parallel story (not without a point of intersection), a young woman pedals through the city, delivering her boyfriend’s original music in the form of CD. Despite its 63 minutes, I found very difficult to penetrate in the spirit of "Viola", and be attentive to the torrent of words thrown out by its characters. It was constructed with mild tones, cyclic speech lines, and quiet conversations, blending quite well real-life and theater without making me entirely connect with its insinuating plot. In this ode to art, Piñeiro often seeks intimacy using multiple close-ups and gracious camera movements, and in several occasions the film even gave some indications, whether through images or speeches, that it could change into something more palpable or efficient, but “Viola” keeps riding freely in its own web of encounters and dialogues that felt more hollow than conclusive. If you like challenging movies with intellectual pretensions, maybe you’ll be extremely happy with this one. I like them myself, but this one in particular was unable to keep me thinking about it. Let’s wait for the next move of the emerging director/screenwriter Matias Piñeiro who showed potential to do more and better.

August 01, 2014

A Most Wanted Man (2014)

A Most Wanted Man (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Anton Corbijn
Country: USA / others

Movie Review: Based on John Le Carré’s bestselling novel, the post-9/11 espionage thriller, “A Most Wanted Man”, didn’t have the same good effect on me as “Control” or “The American”, the two previous successful features from the Dutch filmmaker Anton Corbijn. We have to give it some credit, since tension moments were created without any action, but the real motive to see this film is Philip Seymour Hoffman, a hugely talented actor who says here his definitive goodbye. He plays Gunther Bachmann, a German spy operating in Hamburg, whose mission is to reach terrorism suspects using credible Islamic information sources. When the tortured Issa Karpov, a half-Chechen half-Russian man, arrives illegally in Hamburg to claim an inheritance, he sees him not as a threat but as a way to lay hands on Dr. Faisal Abdullah, an old suspect of financing terrorist groups. The task, carried by Bachmann’s team with the help of CIA, is difficult and will need patience since Karpov’s lawyer, the soft and sensitive Annabel Richter, along with the banker Tommy Brue, have to be convinced to cooperate in the operation. In spite of never losing balance or direction, the outcome was not entirely surprising, probably due to premature insinuations of some crucial characters’ posture. The absence of action and thrills might be a disillusion for the ones looking for agitation, while dramatically the story never pushed us into something stable. “A Most Wanted Man” will mostly appeal to enthusiasts of political movies characterized by strategy and accentuated verbal communication.