November 28, 2014

The Drop (2014)

The Drop (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Michael R. Roskam
Country: USA

Movie Review: With his new crime-thriller “The Drop”, best screenplay in San Sebastián Film Festival, Belgian filmmaker Michael R.Roskam moves his lens to Brooklyn, USA, after attain considerable success in his country with the plodding drama “Bullhead”, released three years ago. “The Drop” was based on the short story “Animal Rescue” by Dennis Lehane (“Mystic River”, Gone Baby Gone”), who extended it for this feature and then adapted the script into a novel. Michael Hardy plays Bob Saginowski, a bartender who works for his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini). Their life will become complicated when the bar, constantly used for ‘dropping’ money by the local gangsters, is robbed by two men in a mask. While trying to find the culprits, Bob finds a wound baby pit bull in a trash can, belonging to Nadia (Naomi Rapace). They decide to save the puppy that once belonged to Nadia’s former boyfriend, Eric (Matthias Schoenaerts), a pushy and dangerous thug who becomes a severe threat to Bob, in the moment he starts a relationship with Nadia. Slow burning and never ostensive, “The Drop” remains for too long in blah-blah-blah, relegating the action scenes to a secondary plan. Only in its final part, the violence assumes its role, in addition to a more effective tension and dark humor. I had the sensation that Roskam and Lehane weren’t so successful in turning the short story into a feature, which most of the time feels familiar and foreseeable. The general good performances provide an acceptable viewing, but don’t expect so much creativity or excitement.

November 27, 2014

The Sleepwalker (2014)

The Sleepwalker (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Mona Fastvold
Country: Norway / USA

Movie Review: “The Sleepwalker” is a Norwegian/American dramatic exercise, a result from the collaboration of Norwegian actress-turned-writer/director (for the first time), Mona Fastvold, with the American actor Brady Corbet who also co-wrote. The story follows a young couple, Kaia (Gitte Witt) and Andrew (Christopher Abbott) who unexpectedly see their lives agitated by the arrival of Kaia’s unbalanced sister Christine (Stephanie Ellis), and later by her fiancé Ira (Corbet), the most interesting of the four unattractive characters. Mixing strong sexual components with the usual family quarrels, the film fails to convey the intended psychological factor that seeks from the first minute. The score, created by Fastvold’s husband, Sondre Lerche, enforces a floating ambiance instead of a tense one, while the dialogues fall many times in banal territory. Instead of provoking us and trying to mess with our heads, “The Sleepwalker” just numbs us with a hopping narrative, monotonous tones and a single-speed pace. Fastvold’s direction was fair yet unremarkable, while the performances were acceptable but whether through interactions or isolated actions, never helped to compose any decent whole picture. In the end, this ineffective drama doesn’t take us anywhere beyond an old, closed garage door. The film, a production from diversified media company, Tandem Pictures, competed in the US dramatic competition at Sundance.

November 26, 2014

The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jennifer Kent
Country: Australia

Movie Review: “The Babadook” is a curious new horror movie, written and directed by former actress and emergent director, Jennifer Kent, based on her short film “Monster” dated from 2005. The story focuses on Amelia (Essie Davis) who still lives in the grief of her husband’s death occurred seven years ago in a car accident, and struggles to cope with the strange attitudes of her six-year-old son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman). The latter has a special taste for magic, monsters and the supernatural, in a way that his mother considers abnormal. Samuel’s morbid behavior suddenly increases when he finds a dusty old book in his shelf called ‘Mr. Babadook’. Amelia, clearly in a verge of a breakdown, eventually becomes influenced by her kid’s precise descriptions of Babadook, the monster with top hat and long sharp nails, who threatens in his book and, according to Samuel, wanders through her house. Truly impressive the almost animated sequence of images when Amelia reads the reconstructed book collected at her doorstep, while other scenes mix ridiculousness and creepiness in a smart way, accomplishing the main goal of conveying tension at every frame. The young Noah Wiseman was brilliant as the brave, pale Samuel, the only one whose love can save his mom. This one has everything to provide a creepy night for the fans of the genre, however its finale was the only aspect that didn’t quite work for me. It’s a case to ask if Babadook just needed to be fed to let himself be tamed so easily. Original yet strained, this Australian devilish fairytale deserves attention.

November 25, 2014

Beyond the Lights (2014)

Beyond the Lights (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Country: USA

Movie Review: The new drama from writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Love & Basketball”, “The Secret Life of Bees”) begins in South London, 1998, where the teenager Noni Jean (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is happy to be singing Nina Simone in a young talent contest. Macy (Minnie Driver), her single-mother, seems even more nervous and excited. When the first prize is given to another participant, Macy gets mad and doesn’t take the fact kindly. Years later, Noni, now adult, was turned into an emergent pop star, Rhianna and Beyoncé style, who continues to be managed/controlled by her ravening mother. She even wins a Billboard Music award, letting millions of fans proud of her success. But is she happy? This question is answered right away when Noni throws herself out of the hotel’s balcony, being saved at the last minute by Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker), the police officer assigned to guard her that night. Noni and Kaz start dating, assuming a public relationship that becomes troubled by the entrancing world of show biz, Macy’s disapproval, and the proximity of Noni’s former boyfriend, the rapper Kid Culprit. The film deals essentially with special circumstances that make tough being ourselves, in addition to family problems. The message is clear and valuable, but the film was mounted as an American soap opera with happy ending, where both sentimentality and show-off makes it cheesy enough to run away from it. The clichés are more than recommended and the formulaic strategies are only meant to grab the inattentive ones. Really, is very hard for me to cope with the immediate success of a film of this nature, where not even the music is commendable!

November 24, 2014

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour
Country: USA

Movie Review: A solitary woman walking alone and freely on the streets of Iran would be very unlikely and dangerous. However, Ana Lily Amirpour makes it possible in Bad City, a fictional ghost town where a mysterious woman (Sheila Vand) silently stalks people to violently suck the blood from their necks. In a completely different context, Arash (Arash Marandi), struggles with the debts incurred by his inactive, drug-addicted father (Marshall Manesh), being forced to pay a clownish local smuggler with his own precious car. Arash and the vampire-woman will meet in hilarious circumstances – she was wandering at night on a skateboard on her way home, while Arash, coming from a party, was lost and under the effect of drugs, dressed as Dracula, and staring at a street lamp. Not particularly scary, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is tagged as the first Iranian vampire Western, and lives from its suggestive black-and-white visuals, rigor in terms of plot and its coincidences, and great humor. It also worked fine as an (almost) impossible romance, taking advantage of an inviting international/local soundtrack and committed performances. The only aspect that Amirpour could do better has to do with the choice of constantly changing the camera’s depth of field, where the consecutive focus/unfocus shots became a bit repetitive after a while. Despite we’ve never been told how and why this woman became a vampire, the truth is that when the credits began to roll on the screen, I wanted to see more. Expressive visuals integrate a contemporary uncommon Iranian tale that takes vampires into a completely new level.

November 21, 2014

Foxcatcher (2014)

Foxcatcher (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Bennett Miller
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Foxcatcher” tells the vile story that, in the 90’s, involved the golden-medal wrestler brothers, Mark and Dave Schultz, and a manipulative schizophrenic millionaire coach, John du Pont, who wanted more credits than he actually deserved, after sponsoring and bringing them to his private Foxcatcher Center in order to prepare the American team for the Olympics. Constantly seeking in vain for his mother’s recognition, du Pont was also a philanthropist, ornithologist, philatelist, ultra-patriotic, sporadic cocaine consumer, and sufficiently insane to kill Dave with three gunshots, after the deterioration of their relationship. Du Pont had already created several problems with Mark, so important to promote the Foxcatcher team, but ultimately discarded after the arrival of his older brother. The fraudulent coach slyly took advantage from the fact that Mark feels himself inferior to his brother, a true model both as a family man and athlete. Scrupulously built, the narrative absorbs our attention since the first minutes and leaves us appalled in its conclusion. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo were great as the doomed brothers, but it was Steve Carell, as the self-centered paranoid, who shone with a phenomenal, Oscar-worthy performance. Bennett Miller, a distinguished filmmaker who already had gained our respect with “Capote” and “Moneyball”, remarkably handled the bizarre happenings of this sad case, which put a black stain in the American sports history. Among all the real-life stories that are constantly being released on film, the hauntingly atmospheric “Foxcatcher”, assuredly deserves a place on the podium.

November 20, 2014

Jimmy's Hall (2014)

Jimmy's Hall (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ken Loach
Country: UK / others

Movie Review: As an admirer of Ken Loach’s past works, I must say that “Jimmy’s Hall” doesn’t totally let us down but also doesn’t have the importance and beauty of some of his realistic works from the past. The film tells the true story of Jimmy Gralton, Irish communist and political activist in the 30’s, returned to his rural hometown after ten years in New York. Jimmy (Barry Ward) left due to political divergences, but this time he says he just wants quietness and to help his mom in the family farm. With the support of Oonagh (Simone Kirby), a former lover who still has feelings for him, and the aid of his old chaps and some new young followers, he decides to reopen ‘the Hall’, a place where people could talk freely, learn music and boxing, and especially dance. The town’s priest, Father Sheridan (Jim Norton), who will be joined by other conservative fanatics, saw this act as a sacrilege. Sooner than expected, church, politicians and army will start to stalk Jimmy and his friends, resolute fighters of a different battle, this time not against the English or their supporters, but against the overbearing, strict hands of an old-fashioned church. “Jimmy’s Hall” doesn’t have the thrilling intensity of Loach’s awarded Irish classic, “The Wind that Shakes the Barley”, and its words are not so inflamed that touch our souls, but on the other hand, it provides us with pertinent questions, allying festivity ambiances to the complex worlds of religion and politics. The performances were just regular, yet a word for the appealing cinematography of Robbie Ryan, who already had worked with this director in “The Angel’s Share” and in two modern indie gifts by Andrea Arnold, “Fish Tank” and “Wuthering Heights”.

November 19, 2014

St. Vincent (2014)

St. Vincent (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Theodore Melfi
Country: USA

Movie Review: Lightly entertaining but heavily predictable is a good way to describe “St.Vincent”, comedy written, directed and co-produced by Theodore Melfi, and starring Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy and Naomi Watts. When Maggie (McCarthy), a diligent single-mom, moves into a Brooklyn’s neighborhood, she has no other option than to entrust Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), her 12-year-old son, to Vincent (Murray), a very peculiar neighbor whose tendencies for gambling, cursing, smoking, drinking and spending time with ‘ladies of the night’, don’t make him the ideal tutor for the kid. Completely broke as he sank himself in horse gambling debts, Vincent seems to tolerate only his cat, showing contempt for people in general. However, and as expected, Oliver will open a breach in his tough heart and Vincent becomes his comrade and idol, in such a way that he is promoted to saint, in the most emotional scene of the movie. This typical comedy can be considered for a Sunday afternoon, however I cannot find many motives to recommend it, except for Bill Murray’s exceptional performance. Its warm conclusion doesn’t excuse the absence of real laughs or surprises along the way, despite of Vincent’s one or another inspiring words. However, the last scene (during the final credits) is memorable – Vincent listening and singing Bob Dylan while he hoses with one hand and smokes with the other. That’s him! A carefree, likable loser proclaimed saint by a smart kid. “St.Vincent” turned out to be limited as idea but very strong in the performances.

November 18, 2014

The Heart Machine (2014)

The Heart Machine (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Zachary Wigon
Country: USA

Movie Review: First-time writer/director and film critic, Zachary Wigon, has an engrossing debut with “The Heart Machine”, a contemporary tale about two online lovers who never met in person before. New York’s Bushwick dweller, Cody (John Gallagher Jr.), becomes paranoid after seeing a woman, in the city subway, that looks exactly like Virginia Walker (Kate Lyn Sheil), his long-distance girlfriend who’s finishing a project in Berlin. After telling her this strange encounter through one of their regular skype conversations, and observing closely her reaction, Cody starts to suspect that Virginia might be lying to him, actually believing she has never left East Village, neighborhood where she said to have an apartment. Obsessed and confused, Cody comes to Manhattan, determined to find the whole truth. While trying to find her apartment, he admits that the distance is breaking him apart. She, in turn, reveals that her return is about to happen. The mystery grabs us and the film conveys effectively the emotions of its characters. Wigon’s quiet, almost floating style, worked very well, which in addition to the technical simplicity and direct plot, makes the story so believable. Moreover, the interaction of technology with the matters of the heart is not so uncommon nowadays, and “The Heart Machine” creates a story over that matter and gives it space to breath. I found myself wanting so badly that Cody could put an end to his suffering and frustration. The couple eventually meet face-to-face, and motives, fears and expectations, even if not totally tenable, will be frankly discussed. Will the relationship survive or is it forever doomed? A twisted, worth watching romance.

November 17, 2014

The Theory of Everything (2014)

The Theory of Everything (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: James Marsh
Country: UK

Movie Review: James Marsh (“Man on Wire”, “Shadow Dancer”) gives an admirable biographical portrait of the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawkins, diagnosed with ALS since an early age. The film focuses in his successful work, the struggle against a lethal disease that was supposed to take his life in only two years (Hawkins is 72 years old), and especially in the relationship of respect, understanding, and sacrifice he had with his wife Jane, whom he met in Cambridge while student. It was in this particular chapter of relationships among the characters that “The Theory of Everything” most succeeds – the acceptance of a good-hearted man, Jonathan, who would become Jane’s new husband; the importance of Elaine (later would become his second wife), the woman who took care of him, giving him the strength he needed in a complicated phase of his marriage; or both families’ interaction. The subtle theme of religion with allusions to a universal creator was also very well approached, representing one of the many points of interest of the film. The story flows always in a good pace, never losing the appreciable broadminded mood, while the sentimentality presented was felt like genuine and never forced. I found this film very particular, despite the possible comparisons with “Brilliant Mind” or “My Left Foot”. The performances by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones were mind-blowing and Marsh’s direction, using lots of close-ups, easily brings the intimacy and emotions to surface. I cannot tell if the story is 100% accurate, what I can tell is that “The Theory of Everything” was a delicate, inspiring and constructive drama that worked pretty well within its genre.

November 14, 2014

The Homesman (2014)

The Homesman (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Tommy Lee Jones
Country: USA / France

Movie Review: Tommy Lee Jones directs, stars, co-writes, and co-produces the confidently paced western-drama “The Homesman”, a film based on Glendan Starthout’s novel of the same name, where a brave, bossy spinster named Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) offers herself to escort three insane women from Nebraska to Iowa, in a covered wagon. Realizing how tiresome and danger this long journey could be, she hires the aimless drifter George Briggs (Jones), to help her delivering the women safely to Ms. Carter (Meryl Streep), the benefactor wife of a minister. Along the way, we are subjected to good moments of tension, even if too brief. Threats and danger are everywhere, whether created by the appearance of spooky wild Indians, the kidnap of one woman who meanwhile had escaped from the wagon, or when Cuddy loses herself in the immense prairie while Briggs remained calm and unworried. Sporadic flashbacks show a few traumatizing moments in the lives of these poor women, guided by a goodhearted man who evinces Christian attitudes but also a desire of vengeance driven by the evilness of the various men that cross his path. “The Homesman” is a different western that surprised me a couple of times in moments where I wasn’t expecting, creating positive reactions and filling my eyes with its sharp, beautiful visuals, credit of the Mexican cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (“Babel”, “Argo”, “The Wolf of Wall Street”). Tommy Lee Jones feels like fish in the water by embarking in a style he knows as the palm of his hands. Solidly conceived.

November 13, 2014

The Way He Looks (2014)

The Way He Looks (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Daniel Ribeiro
Country: Brazil

Movie Review: Daniel Ribeiro’s coming of age drama, “The Way He Looks”, gained my respect for the positive messages put forward but never reached my deepest feelings or sympathy, as it draws the story of a blind teen student, Leo, who little by little discovers his sexuality. The film opens with a great shot, geometrically composed, of Leo and his best female friend Giovana having a relaxed chat by the pool. They talk about who will be the first girl to kiss Leo who grows more unhappy at home where his super attentive parents don’t give him enough space to live his life. Leo seeks an independence that would be almost impossible in his hometown, São Paulo, that’s why he shows a huge desire to leave and study abroad. In school, he’s subjected to improper behaviors of some colleagues who like to make fun of him. When his stability starts being affected, a new student, Gabriel, arrives at school, getting closer to him as they work on a project. The pair falls in love, fact that will trigger jealousy in Giovana whose friendship becomes vacillating. The only motive that made me keep following “The Way He Looks” relates to the fact that Leo is blind, consequently falling in love with his friend for what he really is, and not for his physical appearance. As for the rest, the film works much better addressing the vicissitudes of friendship than actually portraying a teen gay romance. Unfortunately, Ribeiro’s initial premise seemed to be stuck, where the mix of innocence and dissatisfaction of the main character, resulted more irritating than charming. Exhibiting an intermittent pace and an ultra-sweet finale, “The Way He Looks” failed to enrapture.

November 12, 2014

Land Ho! (2014)

Land Ho! (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Aaron Katz / Martha Stephens
Country: Iceland / USA

Movie Review: Adventurous American-Icelandic comedy, “Land Ho!”, focuses on two ex-brothers-in-law who go off on a trip to Iceland to enjoy life and celebrate their friendship. In their 60’s, Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) prove to be in good shape for their age, trying to add some youth to their solitary lives. Mitch is a divorced doctor who likes to party, talk with strangers, lose himself in the middle of the mountains and smoke joints. In turn, Colin, a former French horn player, is more attentive, relaxed and a good listener, having become the perfect friend for Mitch who sometimes needs someone to ease his solitary moments. During the leisure vacations, the pair will welcome Mitch’s cousin and her friend, two young university students, and meet fortuitously with other strangers, always evincing a special charisma and humor. Besides Reykjavik, visits to the Golden Circle and Landmannalaugar became part of the funny itinerary where the visual aspect is enhanced by the beautiful landscapes and peaceful Nordic waves. The fluid conversation and casual style adopted is closer to Martha Stephens’ last work, “Pilgrim Song”, than Aaron Katz’s mystery thriller, “Cold Weather”. The film often feels like a derivation of Winterbottom’s “The Trip” with special encounters. Its main problems are the use and abuse of ‘feel-good moments’ and an intermittent discernment in the narrative. The good part is that “Land Ho!” was never judgmental or preachy in any occasion, existing to show that everyone should enjoy life freely, in the company of their loved ones, no matter at what age.

November 11, 2014

Abuse of Weakness (2013)

Abuse of Weakness (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Catherine Breillat
Country: France / others

Movie Review: Breillat’s bold cinema always has something pertinent to say and is not always pleasing to watch. That’s exactly what we can expect from “Abuse of Weakness”, a semi-autobiographical work, that is simply a bitter tale of obsession and loneliness. Isabelle Huppert gives a tour-de-force performance in the role of Maud, a cult filmmaker who debates herself to recover from a stroke that almost took her life away. Her convalescence went better than expected, and despite impaired from the left arm, Maud was capable to return to her new film. While watching a TV interview with Vilko (Kool Shen), a crook who served twelve years in jail for tricking both rich and poor, she decides to offer him the main role in her next movie. Becoming fascinated with his arrogance and insolence, and more and more dependant of his companionship, Maud starts to endorse him checks with large sums of money. Vilko, spends the money with his wife and kid, gambling, and in his secretive private life, while Maud sinks herself in debt. However, she never loses face, or tries to change her sarcastic, unaffecting and contemptuous tones and behaviors. Regardless her threatening illness, this film is mostly about money, greediness, and manipulation of people in order to satisfy needs and whims. There’s plenty of craziness in this episode, and the ending confirms exactly that, when confronted with her children’s questions, Maud states: ‘it was me... but it wasn’t me’. The usual efficiency and control in Breillat’s direction, places “Abuse of Weakness” in the list of complex real-story films to watch.

November 10, 2014

Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Country: USA

Movie Review: In the science-fiction adventure, “Interstellar”, the brilliant filmmaker Christopher Nolan, teaming once again with his brother Jonathan on screenwriting, fails to match the breathtaking levels of his previous masterpieces. The film focuses on Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), an engineer-turned-farmer whose passion of flying leads him to go back to Nasa, and to a delicate mission into space, traveling through a wormhole located near the Saturn’s orbit to find new inhabitable planets for the threatened human specie. Sacrifices had to be done, and Cooper leaves his two children behind. His sharp-witted daughter, Murph (Jessica Chastain), in spite of heavily disappointed with her father for having abandoned her on the Earth, will be of extreme importance to solve the final equations of the puzzle. Cooper will create a strong bond with his fellow traveler, Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway), daughter of the mission’s mastermind. Each of the three hours of “Interstellar” is a different part, which doesn’t convey the same amount of satisfaction. The first part takes time to set off, the second was slightly thrilling, while the third one, exhibiting multi-dimensional layers brings “Inception” to our minds, even though in a completely different level. The visuals, more moderate than it’s habitual in this kind of movies, end up being effective, however the drama didn’t triumph. McConaughey and Hathaway’s performances were decent but we never found a good chemistry between them. Although more refined and crafted than other spatial expeditions, like “Oblivion” or “The Last Day on Mars”, I expected much more from “Interstellar”, an uneven film that turns out to be Nolan’s weakest so far.

November 07, 2014

Jersey Boys (2014)

Jersey Boys (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Country: USA

Movie Review: Biographical musical drama, “Jersey Boys”, marks a fragile return from the acclaimed filmmaker and co-producer, Clint Eastwood, who based himself in a Tony-award winner jukebox musical. The film tells the story of Frankie Valli and his mates of the pop/rock band The Four Seasons, which attained international success in the 60’s. In the early 50’s, guitarist Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), already leader of his own trio, introduces for the first time the talented 16-year-old singer Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) to the audience. Tommy and Frankie, who ambitioned to be as big as Sinatra, first stood between a promising musical career and the temptations of the local mob, represented by Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken), a serious admirer of Frankie’s voice. Nick Massi and the songwriter Bob Gaudio, recommended by the amazing actor Joe Pesci, form the rest of the band that will start falling apart after serious financial problems arise. Despite the professional success, Frankie will have a hard time with the separation from his wife and the death of his daughter due to drug overdose. The film exhibits the spirit of an old gangster movie, where the decades are well reconstructed, but musically and emotionally, it lacks vitality. Or Eastwood didn’t have firm hands for this, or the story wasn’t strong enough to captivate us. Although some narrative inabilities (the characters thinking out loud directly to the camera was a lousy choice), I bet more on the second motive, where “Jersey Boys” would continue being lame, boring and full of pose, even if directed by another filmmaker. In one word: inefficient!

November 06, 2014

The Judge (2014)

The Judge (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: David Dobkin
Country: USA

Movie Review: Leaving behind vacillating family comedies like “Wedding Crashes”, “Fred Claus” or “The Change-Up”, director David Dobkin adventures himself in a sentimental courtroom melodrama that brings us very few motives of enjoyment. Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr. are completely wasted in a clichéd story created by Nobkin and Nick Shenk (“Gran Torino”), and adapted for the screen by the latter together with debutant Bill Dubuque. Hank Palmer (Downey Jr.) is a respected lawyer who left his small hometown long ago to settle in Chicago, where he defends both criminals and victims with the same conviction. When his mother dies, he returns home to attend the funeral, finding his father, the conservative judge Joseph Palmer (Duvall), accused of a serious crime. In spite of the father-son divergences, Hank decides to defend his father, calming down the tense relationship that grew between them. The film occasionally adopts a frolicsome style that withdraws some seriousness. Not even actors with this caliber could drag me into a wordy, dense, and exhausting tale that was able to remove any interest we might have in the characters. Dobkin’s formal filmmaking never backed up the already overstuffed screenplay. Lacking surprise and tension, “The Judge” is relegated to a lower level when compared with other movies of the genre.  Discouraging since an early stage, this shortsighted family-meet-the-law film is too decrepit to recommend.

November 05, 2014

John Wick (2014)

John Wick (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: David Leitch / Chad Stahelski
Country: USA

Movie Review: Keanu Reeves returns to action thrillers in “John Wick”, after the superfluous “47 Ronin” and “The Man of Tai Chi” have failed to brighten his career. The film, directed by debutants David Leitch and Chad Stahelski (both regular stunt coordinators), and written by Derek Kolstad, is nothing but a tale of revenge that uses the same old approach as many others do. The story is not new, focusing on the title character, a retired hitman who grieves the death of his wife and is targeted by Iosef (Alfie Allen), the immature, disdainful son of the Russian mob’s header, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist). Iosef makes the mistake of steal Wick’s priceless 69’ Mustang and kill his puppy, a special gift from his wife. Viggo still tries to minimize the conflict, but Wick was already determined, setting up his revenge furiously and meticulously. I can’t deny that “John Wick” is formulaic in many aspects, stretching itself in massive killings and repetitive karate strikes, but it presented other positive factors that were important for my evaluation. Among them we have coherence and clarity in the screenwriting, some favorable twists, and a commendable passion applying the old formulas. The presences of other professional assassins, such as Marcus (Willem Dafoe) or Mrs. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki), and how they position themselves in regard to the conflict, were fundamental to prevent that Wick became weak. I also found this urban ‘Rambo’ adventure slightly more interesting than other action-packed flicks such as “The Equalizer” or the dark “The Rover”, where in a similar way, a car is stolen, triggering a ruthless vengeance.

November 04, 2014

Nightcrawler (2014)

Nightcrawler (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Dan Gilroy
Country: USA

Movie Review: Highly entertaining, “Nightcrawler” marks an auspicious debut on direction from screenwriter Dan Gilroy (“The Fall”, “The Bourne Legacy”). Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Lou Bloom, a thief and obsessive psychopath who whimsically decides to gain his life in the nights of modern L.A., covering shocking occurrences after purchase a police scanner and a small video camera. From accidents to crimes, everything is a pretext for Lou to build up his ego, no matter at what cost. With a morbid determination, he builds his own career in the freelance crime journalism with the help of an admirer, Nina (Rene Russo), an experienced program director of a sensationalist TV news channel. Exhibiting a mighty confidence, he hires an assistant and even gets a faster car and a top-notch camera. His desired moment of fame arrives when he covers a triple homicide in Granada Hills, considered a safe neighborhood, hiding however the identities of the two murderers who went on the run. “Nightcrawler” has an uneasy pulsation that grabs our senses from the beginning, attaining the peak in its twisting last part. Not for one moment I doubted of Gyllenhaal, who plays the role flawlessly, showing how versatile he can be. Curiously we know that the disturbed Lou is capable of everything but we can’t help to be shocked with his coldness and abnormal premeditated acts. He’s not only a hunter of disgrace, he praises and participates in that same disgrace, the disgrace of others, for his own vanity. If you fancy crime thrillers don’t let this intimidating portrait of a sociopathic cameraman slip through your fingers.

November 03, 2014

Whiplash (2014)

Whiplash (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Whiplash” is one of the greatest movies of the year, period. This indie musical drama was superbly controlled by writer-director Damien Chazelle, and had on the actors Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons the perfect vehicle to triumph. Andrew (Teller) is a 19-year-old drummer who enrolls in a demanding NY music school with the goal of being the best. Simultaneously, he invites Nicole (Melissa Benoist), an employee of the cinema where he usually goes with his father, to get out with him. Things seem to run smoothly and Andrew is even chosen by the intimidating jazz musician and professor, Terence Fletcher (Simmons), to be part of his immaculate band. Fletcher plays a major key in the story, since he seems to admire Andrew’s way of playing, pushing him to his limits, but in the next minute he’s breaking the kid apart, discouraging him with nasty words. Andrew ends up losing Nicole for the sake of jazz, missing the chance of having a happy life with her. When he wanted to go back, it was too late. Learning well this lesson, he will not blow his last chance to show what he’s capable on drums, even with the vindictive Fletcher standing up on stage and trying to embarrass him in front of a perceptible audience. The film spreads a contagious energy through all the pores of the skin, never losing nerve, balance, or the capacity to canalize completely our attention to what is being told. There are so many lessons to be learned here, for both students and teachers. In addition to a great finale, “Whiplash” is a monumental drama replete of raging jazz beats that reach the deepest of our souls. Unmissable!!