December 31, 2014

Predestination (2014)

Predestination (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: The Spierig Brothers
Country: Australia

Movie Review: With a bewildering plot and incisive storytelling, “Predestination” is a quite surprising sci-fi thriller that pelts us with a positive, intriguing ambiance. It’s the third feature film from Spierig brothers who counted with Ethan Hawke in the main role for the second consecutive time, after the not so convoluted “Daybreakers”, released in 2009. Sarah Snook, in a sort of DiCaprio style, also stars as a disgraced unmarried mother whose life was ruined when forced to become a man after being picked by a Government recruitment bureau that traces virgin teen girls with sublime skills in order to accomplish their mysterious missions. Later on, with the help of a Temporal Agent (Hawke) who’s in possess of a time-machine in the form of instrument suitcase, she will have the chance to get back to 1963 and revenge what they done to her. A discreet start misleads us to think that this would be another banal story, but after an entire hour of preparation, a key element in this case, the film shifts into action - risky missions, time travels, procedural routines and vicious cycles that may be baffling but widely satisfying. The film presents all the attributes to please, not particularly the lovers of visual sci-fi (since the special effects weren’t stunning), but the ones who fancy intricate plots set up in labyrinthine forms, in a similar way to “Looper”, “12 Monkeys” or “Inception”. Shot with good taste and vigorous colors, “Predestination” revealed to be creative enough to keep us ‘alive’ till the end, even if some plot elements, after thoroughly analyzed, leave us ruminating about its logic. Right after “Under the Skin”, this is another satisfying sci-fi release for this end of the year.

December 30, 2014

Pride (2014)

Pride (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Matthew Warchus
Country: UK

Movie Reviews: In his sophomore feature film “Pride”, the British filmmaker and dramatist, Matthew Warchus, gracefully composes a lively picture based on the real events that took place during the UK miner’s strike in 1984, where the small mining village of Onllwyin, in south Wales, decided to open their doors and accept the support of an activist group composed in its majority by lesbian and gays. The movement, entitled LGSM (Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners) will prove their dedication and competence, showing at the same time that they don’t ‘bite’ whoever is straight. United against the government of Margaret Thatcher, both gays and miners will embark in a successful cooperation never seen before, going even further later on, and promoting the ‘Pits and Perverts Benefit Concert’, an initiative that definitely conquered the miners, bringing some more inhabitants to fight for the cause. The characters are stereotyped but sympathetic, and “Pride” works more as a crowd-pleaser than a faithful portrait of the events. However, Warchus was able to create an entertaining, feel-good atmosphere by putting heart and soul in the right place, promoting a salutary coexistence, and trying to sensitize and open the minds utilizing effective humorous strategies. Although not totally surprising, “Pride” is an agreeable hymn to friendship and solidarity, taking well the opportunity to pass on the message that is urgent to abolish hate among people whose differences have to be respected. The fantastic soundtrack from the 80’s was mind blowing, while the cast responded accordingly to the demanding challenges proposed.

December 29, 2014

Two Days, One Night (2014)

Two Days, One Night (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne
Country: Belgium / others

Movie Review: The talented Dardenne brothers never needed complex ideas to make an interesting film and “Two Days, One Night” proves exactly that, following the steps of “The Kid With a Bike”. The realism of every scene is almost everything they need to engage us in their contemporary stories where a lot of emotional stuff is going on, compelling us to identify ourselves with the misfortunes and joys of the characters. After going through a torturous depression, Sandra is apt to return to work. However, she is informed that her future in the solar panel factory where she works, will be decided by her 16 co-workers, who will vote to choose between keep her in the company or receive a deserved annual bonus for their hard work. Sandra has exactly two days and one night to talk personally with every one of them, explaining how important, to her and her family, is to keep that job. It’s noteworthy how the Dardennes easily manage to play with the viewers’ conscience and put us in a situation where it would be hard to make a choice, in case we had too. On the one hand, I felt sympathy for Sandra, thinking she deserved her place back in the company, while on the other hand, I understood that for some, a €1000 bonus, which would pay a year of gas and electricity, could be difficult to decline. Reactions and motives were distinct, making the unstable Sandra oscillate in her depressive state. Marillon Cotillard, even playing a depressive role, was capable to enchant, in her best performance since “La Vie en Rose”. The brothers’ direction was outstanding, preferring a modest but realistic closer look into the situation, in detriment of visually intense scenarios or beautiful background landscapes. Socially pertinent and simultaneously composed of sadness and triumph, “Two Days, One Night” definitely, is a drama to be watched.

December 28, 2014

Leviathan (2014)

Leviathan (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Country: Russia

Movie Review: Russian cult director, Andrei Zvyagintsev, doesn’t stop to astonish me with precise contemporary tales set in his country of origin. “Leviathan”, presents the same quality as his three previous masterpieces - “The Return”, “The Banishment” and “Elena” – this time introducing some mythological tones, inspired on the Book of Job, and moving in the same measured way, to rub hard in our faces the hypocrisy, injustice and corruption of a rusty, yet dangerous Russian system composed by unscrupulous politicians, dishonest cops and selfish representatives of the church. In order to cope with these shameful realities, the common people drown themselves in vodka, whether to forget the miseries of life, or to celebrate a relaxed time together. The script, co-written by Zvyagintsev and his habitual partner, Oleg Negin, is centered in Kolya, an ordinary man who is ordered to leave his house, located in a remote peninsula, since the dishonored mayor has other plans for that piece of land. His last hope is the arrival of Dmitri, an old friend from the times when he served in the army, now turned into a respected lawyer with good connections in Moscow. When the case was evolving favorably, Kolya finds out that his wife, Lylia, is having an affair with Dmitri. He eventually forgives her, to notice afterward that it’s Roma, his depressed son, who seems to require the most urgent attention. Not neglecting some humor, the grim “Leviathan” strikes us with its landscapes, truths and symbolism, leaving us frozen in our chairs but boiling inside with all the cynicism and terrifying procedures of Mr. Putin’s regime and his vassals. Oddly, the film counted with the support of the Russian Ministry of Culture but didn’t get a screening permit in the country.

December 26, 2014

Buzzard (2014)

Buzzard (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Joel Potrykus
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Buzzard”, is an independent black comedy directed and co-starred by Joel Potrykus, who counted with Joshua Burge in the main role, as it happened previously, in the two first films of his Animal trilogy, the short “Coyote” and the feature “Ape”. Marty (Burge) is a scammer who is highly bored with his daily job. Solitary and moody, he seems a bit happier when listening to punk-metal music with a horrible mask on his face or when working on his modified Nintendo magic glove. Marty’s only acquaintance is the weirdo Derek (Potrykus), a co-worker in the mortgage company, who considers him a dangerous psycho. Irritating, video gamer and solitary as well, Derek, will become closer to Marty after letting him stay for some days in his basement, a.k.a. party zone. The funniest situations of the film are created in this space, where Derek tries to beat his record eating bugle snacks, or when the two friends fight with their special weapons after Marty starts acting bossy. Marty’s depressive state results more energetic than apathetic, however his character becomes more abhorrent than likeable. A long shot of him eating spaghetti with meatballs in a luxurious hotel room in Detroit exemplifies what I’m talking about. The low-budgeted “Buzzard” may lack some polish in several occasions but contains all the ingredients to become a cult film - eventful, depressively funny, totally focused on its anti-hero, and provocatively sad after all. Potrykus shows vision and creativity, while Burge was outstanding as a furious, anti-capitalist misfit who, in the end, runs towards a way out. Or it would be towards the following scam?

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (2014)

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ned Benson
Country: USA

Movie Review: Two times Oscar-nominated, Jessica Chastain, phenomenal as usual, and James McAvoy, play a damaged couple in love, but having to endure a separation for undetermined time in order to deal with the worst wound of their lives: the lost of their only son. Eleanor (Chastain) tries to retrieve her balance after a failed suicide attempt, deciding to ‘disappear’ from the life of her friends and especially from Connor (McAvoy), her husband, who doesn’t give up on her while struggles to keep his restaurant. For some time, she consents to live with her parents who show different postures towards her. Her father, Julian (William Hurt), is a respected professor who adopts a talkative and helpful attitude, while her mother, Maria (Isabelle Huppert) is a French musician who seems a bit cold and evinces a sort of indifference regarding her daughter’s emotional state. Returning to college, Eleanor only feels some solace with her father’s colleague, professor Friedman (Viola Davis), and when is in the company of her sister Katie (Jess Weixler). Writer-director Ned Benson creates a mournful family portrait composed by trauma and sadness, where the pace is constant and the narrative often chokes in its characters’ suffering. Benson tries to minimize these moments with a couple of happy scenes from the past of the couple. Even emotionally flawed in its final part and relying on a few aspects that simply didn’t work out for me, “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” was capable to deliver a strong message: everyone has a different process to heal wounds; a ‘disappearance’ can be of vital importance in cases like this.

December 24, 2014

Goodbye to Language (2014)

Goodbye to Language (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard
Country: France / Switzerland

Movie Review: Both experimental and philosophical, “Goodbye to Language” shows a creative Jean-Luc Godard who, at the age of 84, exposes his thoughts freely. Shot in 3D, the film showcases a personal stamp of ideas and metaphors, wrapped with a fictional story about the relationship between a single man and a married woman, who adopt Roxy, a stray dog. The man says the best inventions of the world were the infinity and zero. The woman, far more fatalist, disagrees saying it were sex and death. In an interspersed way, Godard makes considerations about the power of images and lost words, and brings us a bunch of references like Solzhenitsyn, Ellul, Rilke, Rodin, Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Monet, Riemann, Byron and Shelley, and even the Apaches, just to mention a few, while he tries to convey his own political and social vision of the world. Some notions are quite interesting while others get us completely lost, whether on ‘infinity’ or ‘zero’. In “Goodbye to Language”, Godard opts for a non-linear editing along with a fragmented narrative where the sequence of images, including black-and-white archive and multiple compositions saturated in color, multiply in front of our eyes. It might not be fully articulated, but it doesn’t disappoint either, in the sense that we’re pelted with valid personal thoughts presented with humor and a poignant sarcasm, that have wings to be explored (more than one viewing is required). That’s why Godard will always be remembered as a provocateur and a distinct cineaste. This is a philosophical trip only for those who take pleasure in watching plotless films.

December 23, 2014

Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)

Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Olivier Assayas
Country: France / others

Movie Review: “Clouds of Sils Maria”, the compelling new drama from the acclaimed director Olivier Assayas, gathers all the necessary elements to provide a focused, well structured, and mesmerizing session of contemporary cinema. We follow Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche), a celebrated actress who crosses the Alps on a train in the company of her dedicated assistant and friend, Valentine (Kristen Stewart). They’re heading to Zurich where she’s going to homage and receive a prize in the name of Whilem Melchior, the director who launched her career when she was 18. ‘Maloja Snake’ was the name of the play where she represented flawlessly a young girl who seduces and then destroys an older woman. Her plan to visit Wilhem at his place in Sils Maria after the event is thwarted by the news of his death. Soon she forgets about it, since Klaus, a new emerging director, invites her to participate in his version of the same play, but this time in the role of the older woman. Even feeling weird about it, Maria accepts, not without developing a strong curiosity about Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloe Grace Moretz), the polemic young actress who will be playing her former role. Assayas sets up a world of cynicism, moods, direct confrontations and put up postures, at the same time that insecurities, indecisions, and even superstitions, give shape to Maria’s character, in an absorbing, realistic way. Suddenly, aging became so difficult for Maria whose close relationship with Valentine is visibly affected by the play. “Clouds of Sils Maria” feels spontaneous, entangling us deeply along its perceptive observations.

December 22, 2014

Winter Sleep (2014)

Winter Sleep (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Country: Turkey / others

Movie Review: I can state that “Winter Sleep”, the new masterpiece from acclaimed director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, does the same for modern Turkish cinema, as “A Separation” did for the Iranian one. The film gives us three hours of pure delight cinema, showcasing the life of a cultivated, wealthy man, Aydin (Haluk Bilginer), a former actor who lives in a small isolated Anatolian village, where he also runs a hotel. As he struggles to make his business thrive in harsh winter, he also deals with family problems, since his wife, Nahil (Melisa Sozen), shows no more love for him and tries to recover her confidence again by organizing a fundraising to help schools in need of improvement. She recognizes Aydin as a refined, honest man, but can’t stand him anymore for his vanity, cynical arrogance, and pride. If this wasn’t enough, his idle sister, Necla, criticizes him heavily in his editorial writings for a small local newspaper. At the same time he’s suing two brothers, the tenants of an old house he rents since his father’s time. One of the brothers is a good man, while the other is a depressive ex-con who usually shows an errant behavior. This is a tale about money, morality, love and conscience, words so many times referred during the assertive narrative, which carries so much beauty and pain. Ceylan uses more words in this film, conserving however the penetrating aesthetic style for which we know him, composed by the excellent work of his habitual cinematographer, Gokhan Tiryaki, and occasional moments of contemplation and inner reflection. Palme D’Or at Cannes, “Winter Sleep” hides a ponderous complexity behind its simple images, and so far is my favorite movie of 2014.

December 19, 2014

Black Coal Thin Ice (2014)

Black Coal Thin Ice (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Diao Yinan
Country: China

Movie Review: The third feature-film from writer/director Diao Yinan, “Black Coal Thin Ice” mixes drama and mystery, in a neo-noir cop thriller set in Northern China, and occasionally becomes hard to follow. An alcoholic ex-cop and his former partner decide to investigate several connected murders occurred in the region, where parts of the victims’ bodies are dumped in different places via coal stacks shipments. These crimes were similar to other cases occurred five years ago. The clues take, the now private investigator, Zhang (Fan Liao), to Wu Zhizen (Lun Mei Gwei), an elusive laundry clerk woman, widow of one of the victims, who will become the key to the mystery, since every man who got close to her ended up dead. The film title alludes to the distinct atmospheres lived in the suffocating interior of coalmines and the bitter cold of the exterior, where the snow often erases crucial traces. The two main characters also live in different realities, only converging once after investigator and investigated start an unpassioned affair that can put them at risk. Yinan’s filmmaking style brings Tsai Ming Liang to our mind, especially in the nocturnal scenes and strongly accentuated colors, aspect that matched very well the dark tones of the story. “Black Coal Thin Ice” is almost phantasmagoric in its shadows and presences, but in spite of the inspired visuals and framing, there were scenes that I felt a bit out of context, in addition to a finale that was everything but unexpected. The film won the Golden Bear in Berlin, where Fan Liao was also considered best actor.

December 18, 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)

Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Country: USA

Movie Review: The unimaginative Biblical epic “Exodus: Gods and Kings” is brought by the respected English filmmaker Ridley Scott, and stars Christian Bale in the role of Moses, assigned by God with the mission of freeing 600,000 Hebrew slaves imprisoned in Egypt for 400 years. When this recognized Egyptian leader knows the truth about his origins, coping with the fact that he was born an Israeli slave, he decides to follow his illuminated soul and lead his people to Canaan and to their beloved God. The task won’t be easy since the envious Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), with whom he grew up as a brother, will oppose him with fear of losing the throne, as some prophets once predicted when his father, Seti (John Turturro), was still ruling. The film was entertaining until certain point due to the nature of its story, but not even one or another distortion in the plot, credited to four different writers, could provide us some thrills or surprises. Its execution didn’t convince as well, seeming exclusively made to impress the eyes and standing as an unorthodox exercise on shots from the top where the humans appear like ants crawling on a battlefield. Actually, the scenarios were never natural and the scenes never sufficiently striking in order to move us. Trying to escape to Christmas’s Hobbit-mania, I decided to give a chance to “Exodus: Gods and Kings”, coming to the sad conclusion that Scott blew it, making a super-long film whose episodes ironically felt short. Ridley dedicated the film to his younger brother and fellow director, Tony Scott, who died in 2012.

December 17, 2014

Inherent Vice (2014)

Inherent Vice (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Country: USA

Movie Review: Gifted American filmmaker, Paul Thomas Anderson, picked up Thomas Pynchon’s novel to create his seventh feature, “Inherent Vice”, a psychedelic trip into undercover agents, peculiar LAPD detectives, drugs, hustlers, prostitutes and curious mysteries in the fervent Los Angeles of the ‘70’s. Joaquin Phoenix, in his second consecutive collaboration with the director, gives a magnificent performance as Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello, a hippie private investigator who decides to help his former girlfriend, Shasta (Katherine Waterston), finding her missing lover, the real-estate mogul Micky Wolfmann. Coincidently, a man asks for Sportello’s services to find the whereabouts of Wolfsmann’s bodyguard, saying he owes him money. Our cool detective starts his investigation, not without partying whenever he can, but ends up with the awkward LAPD Lieutenant Christian ‘Bigfoot’ Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) going after him everywhere he goes. Along the eccentric ride, he visits an obscure corporation named Golden Fang where he meets the crazy Dr. Rudy Blatnoyd (Martin Short) and his helpful young patient Japonica Fenway (Sasha Pieterse). The recreation of the era is fantastic and the story provides an eccentric ride, however I expected more from the detective story, without getting disappointed either. Its strong images and libidinous postures are effective, but I didn’t find the humor so remarkable, while the pace, now and then, seems also affected from a good dose of weed. Notwithstanding, it’s well recommended for its inherent, fashionable excitement.

December 16, 2014

The Blue Room (2014)

The Blue Room (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Mathieu Amalric
Country: France

Movie Review: Actors Mathieu Almaric and Stéphanie Cléau star and share the writing credits of “The Blue Room”, a mystery crime tale à la Chabrol, based on George Simenon’s novel of the same name. The film starts passionately with stylized images of two secret lovers, Valentin (Amalric) and Esther (Cléau), whose bodies interweave in a modest room. She bit his lips and now asks if his wife will make questions about it. A moment later, she was asking the inevitable question: ‘are you sure you can be with me for all your life? Won’t you be afraid?’ The story then shifts to an investigation of a murder where Valentin, detained, seems to be the main suspect. From what was he accused? Once the questions are all about his relationship with Esther, we get to know that she is involved. There’s something dangerous and yet attractive in her character. At first the structure baffles us, but progressively we realize that it’s not just the murder of Esther’s husband that’s in question, but also Valentin’s wife, Delphine (Léa Drucker), who also died in sordid circumstances. Director Amalric opts for a steady camera to ‘paint’ the tasteful pictures, assisted by the efficient cinematography of Christophe Beaucarne. Gregoire Hetzel’s score invokes some grief, a feeling transposed to Valentin’s face, especially when confronted with the coldness insanity of his lover in court. Non-thrilling in an unconventional way, the film is also far from being detailed, which in this case is not a bad thing, since when the film ends, its characters remain intriguing.

December 15, 2014

Dear White People (2014)

Dear White People (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Justin Simien
Country: USA

Movie Review: Considering the recent happenings in the US regarding racial discrimination, especially involving white cops and black citizens, “Dear White People” can be seen as a courageous satire, sometimes provocative, yet not so meaningful or conclusive. Debutant director Justin Simien evinced some issues in terms of pace, struggling to make the film coming out of its torpor. The story follows four African-American students living at the campus of the predominantly ‘white’ Ivy League College, Winchester University. Sam White, Troy Fairbanks, Lionel Higgins and Coco Conners will lead a black riot when the white students decide to give a party whose theme is ‘African-Americans’. The surprises in the plot, instead of boosting the story, just increased the sensation of fabricated romances and multi-racial tension. The last twenty minutes stir some energy but there were never answers for the questions raised, while the characters seemed to be built in the most convenient way in order to accommodate Simien's pretensions. The humor was fine in several moments, aiming to catch American audiences who, most likely, will turn “Dear White People” into a local success. Taking into account the subject matter and genre, it’s almost inevitable a comparison with Spike Lee who, in my eyes and in spite of his recent lack of inspiration, would have made “Dear White People” a more gripping experience than it was. Justin Simien was awarded at Sundance, Palm Springs and Seattle film festivals.

December 12, 2014

The Trip to Italy (2o14)

The Trip to Italy (2o14) - Movie Review
Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Country: UK

Movie Review: Michael Winterbottom’s docu-style comedy, “The Trip to Italy”, stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, the same actors-comedians who have made of its predecessor, “The Trip”, a feel-good success. In this second trip to transalpine lands, the duo will take the opportunity to enjoy beautiful wine, beautiful food and beautiful landscapes, traveling onboard of a convertible Mini Morris, at the sound of Alanis Morissette. On the contrary of the first film, the cheerful conversations weren’t so consistent and engaging as expected. The film relies mostly on dialogues in tones of gossip, casual behaviors, and a lot of impersonations – from Tom Hardy to Al Pacino and Robert de Niro. Visually, only the well-composed Italian dishes had some impact, in a comedy where the occasional funny moments were completely obfuscated by the considerable number of unsuccessful ones. It seemed more like a wordy TV show with culinary presentations than really a theatrical release with a consistent plot. Winterbottom’s direction didn’t excel either, and not even the arrival of other characters and family, by the end, brightened up this unnecessary road trip. As the pair of friends, I felt not only lost in the outskirts of Rome but also disappointed with the way “The Trip to Italy” was carried out. Long, pointless and often adrift, this is a reunion that gets stuck in the limits of watchable. I really didn’t find many motives to follow these two fellows in their talkative little adventure.

December 11, 2014

Force Majeure (2014)

Force Majeure (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ruben Ostlund
Country: Sweden / France / others

Movie Review: Ruben Ostlund is one of the most, if not the most, interesting Swedish writers/filmmakers of our times. Great dramas, such as “Involuntary” and “Play”, made him a solid reference of contemporary Swedish cinema. His new comedy drama, “Force Majeure”, is another motive for us to have him in high esteem, even considering that this one wasn’t so incisive as the two mentioned above. The film involve us in its sensational start but as it moves towards the end, loses itself in forced situations that could have been handled differently. A Swedish family on vacation is caught up in an avalanche while having lunch at an Alpine restaurant. Tomas, the husband, runs away in a sudden impulse, abandoning his wife, Ebba, and two children to their own fate. This microsecond decision will deeply change the couple’s relationship during their six days in the mountains where the family seems to start breaking apart. Ostlund creates a challenging perspective on how people see and react in a particular frightening situation, bringing up more stuff than needed to the question, especially in the last part of the film. The amazing tension and emotional expressions created, especially during the dinners with friends, denoted some influence of Bergman, while the exaggerated drama of Tomas’ final confession was a bit of a letdown. I should say that Ostlund was incapable to find the best resolutions for the genuine situations generated. Nevertheless, and as a challenging piece of entertainment, “Force Majeure” is recommended, with all its mordacious exposures.

December 10, 2014

One on One (2014)

One on One (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Kim Ki-duk
Country: South Korea

Movie Review: The cinema of prolific Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk is growing viciously violent, with superficial scripts, and exhibiting very few aspects of interest. While in “Pieta” (2012) he had the merit of combining violence scenes with a psychologically intense story, last year I wasn’t convinced with “Moebius”, another brutal family drama transformed in a bloodbath. This current year, “One on One” focuses on a personal vendetta and numerous ways of torture, relying basically in graphic violence and poor reflections on human conduct and moral values. I would say this is one of the most low-spirited films of the year and almost unbearable to watch, where everything takes nauseating proportions. The screenwriting here is pretty vulgar and can be summarize in the following lines: seven people, forming a sort of anti-communist militia, kidnap seven men who, directly or indirectly, had something to do with the murder of a young high school student on May 9th. The culprits are savagely tortured before signing a written confession, and then released. The immoderate physical abuses divide the avengers whose leader believes that anger and desire of vengeance keep him alive, assuming an uncontrolled madness. Evilness, political fanaticism, human misery, bosses and lackeys, snitches and crooks, everything is tastelessly presented in this brainless thriller. The tortuous repetitions of violence showed scene after scene, disgusting characters, and lousy finale, turns “One on One” into rubbish for sadists. You cannot imagine how relieved I was when it came to an end.

December 09, 2014

Mr. Turner (2014)

Mr. Turner (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Mike Leigh
Country: UK

Movie Review: Beautifully conceived and thoroughly engrossing, “Mr. Turner” is a biographical drama about the Romantic landscape painter known as ‘the painter of light’, J.M.W. Turner, brilliantly impersonated by Timothy Spall who is habitual presence in director Mike Leigh’s films (“All or Nothing”, “Topsy Turvy”, “Secrets & Lies”). Turner, being recognized as a talented painter, suffers a lot after the death of his father who had been working as his studio assistant and lived with him for 30 years. Criticized by many, Turner was a music lover and an interested learner in general. However, his behavior baffles us with frequent rude manners and particularly a total contempt about his daughters, opting for painting shipwrecks instead of going to his daughter’s funeral. In the other hand, he gets deeply touched by a 22-year-old whore who lies down on a bed, not for sex, aspect reserved for his maid, but for posing for his new painting. Mike Leigh, as usual, takes us into Turner’s life with rigor and an accuracy on details that makes all the difference. It might seem exhaustive or overzealous to some viewers, but Leigh’s great deed was to make such an attractive biopic of a repulsive character who spat in his paintings, emitted grotesque noises, and evinced a lot of reproachable behaviors. “Mr.Turner” benefits from an immaculate direction, outstanding production design, dazzling cinematography, and the excellence of Spall’s performance, fact that gave him the prize of best actor at Cannes. Avoiding sentimental tricks and other eccentric schemes, this is a film that Turner himself would classify as ‘exceedingly compelling!’ in its overall simplicity.

December 08, 2014

Wild (2014)

Wild (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée
Country: USA

Movie Review: Another great accomplishment for Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club”), “Wild”, was written by Nick Hornby (“An Education”), adapted from Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir of the same name. In 1994, Cheryl decides to hike 1,100 miles alone on the Pacific Crest Trail, an adventure of liberation and self-discovery that served to better cope with a complicated past. Along the way she is haunted by memories of a contented good mother (deceased due to cancer), a violent alcoholic father, a reckless brother, an accessible ex-husband, and some uncomfortable experiences driven by heroin and damaging behaviors. Making justice to its title, the film starts very frantically, with Reese Witherspoon - very convincing as Cheryl - getting angrily mad after losing a toenail and a boot in the mountains. The film keeps showing her untamed posture for a while until she calms down in the last moments of redemption and confidence regained. Along the journey a large number of strangers cross her way. Some of them are good souls and helpful, others are tricky and threatening, some others are TPC hikers as well, however the last encounter was memorable as she bumps into a kid and his grandmother in the most touching moment of the film. Vallée was brilliant on direction, focusing the fatigue and physical sores of a harsh journey that has simultaneously the aptitude to heal the mind. “Wild” can be as much rewarding for the viewer as it certainly was for Cheryl, and together with “Tracks”, also released this year, becomes another engaging biographical drama depicting a solitary journey along the nature. Not to miss!

December 05, 2014

Still Alice (2014)

Still Alice (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Richard Glatzer / Wash Westmoreland
Country: USA

Movie Review: Julianne Moore stars in “Still Alice” as Dr. Alice Howland, a Columbia linguistics professor who has the life she always wanted: a brilliant career, a stable marriage and three beautiful adult children. In the day after her birthday, after reuniting the family in NY for a cozy dinner, she flies to L.A. to give a lecture, taking the opportunity to see her daughter Lydia who lives there and with whom she maintains some crispation. The lecture didn’t go as smooth as usual, since Alice forgot what she had to say in a crucial part of her presentation. Constrained but not giving a special importance to that fact, she returns to NY. Her worries will increase when, while running on campus, she started feeling disoriented and lost. The visit to a neurologist confirms Alzheimer disease in a rare variation, which also can affect her children. As expected, the drama intensifies itself as the time passes, bringing a scary new scenario, which at the same time feels familiar due to the recollection of other movies about the same subject matter, like “Iris” or “Away from Her”. Moore conveys the intense fear, stress and struggling of a clever woman whose mind is going away too fast. To quote her own words: ‘I’m learning the art of losing everyday. We become ridiculous, incapable, comic – but this is not us, this is the disease’. It’s impossible to stay indifferent in face of Alzheimer’s, however I didn’t develop particular feelings for Alice or her family, which seemed always a bit detached to me. The pair of filmmakers, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, don’t explore tears, which is positive, but “Still Alice” lacks the proper emotional impact to involve us. Competent, though.

December 04, 2014

Magic in the Moonlight (2014)

Magic in the Moonlight (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Woody Allen
Country: USA

Movie Review: Set in the 1920’s French Riviera, “Magic in the Moonlight” is the latest romantic comedy from prolific American director Woody Allen, who confronts reality, illusionism and spiritism, all wrapped in vivid colors, hot swing jazz, and a relaxed lightness that became inefficient to avoid turning this cinematic experience into one of his less accomplished films. Stanley Tapinger (Colin Firth) is a master English magician whose super rational character takes him to unmask Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), a psychic seen as visionary and required to conduct séances among friends. Her frequent guesses and mental vibrations seem not to convince Stanley at all, but slowly he will not only be converted to her extra-sense, as he will also fall for her. The initial moments keep us entertained but the film loses steam very soon, even before reaching its halfway. No special chemistry was felt between Firth and Stone whose performances revealed to be discolored and unstimulating, while Allen’s script continued to fall in the same ordinary gimmicks of the genre. In any circumstance, the film was able to capture my attention, and the boredom took care of me right after the interesting beginning. This rugged romantic ride, in its inability to draw any legitimate laughs, is condemned to be instantly forgotten, and sadly never delivers any magic in a moonlight that was never seen. Hopefully, Woody’s genius will come back next year. We just have to be patient.

December 03, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I (2014)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Country: USA

Movie Review: Becoming an instant top box office, “The Hunger Games – Mockingjay part I” is the first of two films adapted from the novel “Mockingjay”, which consists of the final part of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games Trilogy. Screenwriting was entrusted to Danny Strong and Peter Craig, while Francis Lawrence directs once again after “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”. If the latter had raised my faith in the games, Mockingjay was a big disappointment, showing no good vibes, no decent action and a boring plot that lacked nerve in crucial moments, evincing fake pace accelerations that confounds and leaves us waiting for more. The same despair and anguish can be felt in Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) who accepts to be the leader in a rebellion against the Capitol of president Snow (Donald Sutherland). However, her sense of justice and urge for action are dried by the appearance of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who she thought dead and now opposes himself to the rebellion. Driven by the motto ‘if we burn, you burn’, the film creates glimpses of tension that are never transformed in thrilling moments. It promises to deliver more but remains restrained and too much centered on the psychological little game of Katniss and Peeta. With this sequel I reached my levels of fatigue, confirming that I was never a big fan of these adventures. Jennifer Lawrence didn’t need to do her usual stunts in Mockingjay, a boring exercise that reveals to be the weakest of the games so far. Who wants to watch the second part? I’m out!

December 02, 2014

Before I Disappear (2014)

Before I Disappear (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Shawn Christensen
Country: USA / UK

Movie Review: “Before I Disappear” is a very personal project by Shawn Christensen who wrote, directed, produced and starred in this drama based on his 2012’s Oscar-winning short film “Curfew”. Immersed in a complicated life, Richard (Christensen) is a depressive, indebted and lonely guy, who passes most of the time getting his concerns out of his chest by writing letters to a long-gone friend named Vista. His disturbances make him cut his wrists in the bathtub (so typical scene), action interrupted by a phone call from his estranged sister (Emmy Rossum), asking him to take care of her 11-year-old daughter, Sophie (Fatima Ptacek). Uncle and niece create an unlikely bond while wandering through New York City, in a messy adventure that tries to touch a lot of genres (from drama to mystery/thriller; from comedy to staged musical) in distinct moments, without being exactly well succeeded in any of them. The vision of a dead girl lying on the floor of a nightclub’s bathroom due to an overdose haunts him throughout his painful days, fact aggravated when he finds that she was his boss’s girlfriend. This subplot also didn’t create the desired impact, and despite well shot, “Before I Disappear” sinks itself in a sort of indie lethargy that lacks the vigor and confidence present in the short that served it as inspiration. Right before the credits roll, at the sound of Billie Holiday’s ‘I’ll be seeing you’, I was sure of my cruel indifference towards Richard’s life and his family.

December 01, 2014

The Imitation Game (2014)

The Imitation Game (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Morten Tyldum
Country: UK / USA

Movie Review: Norwegian filmmaker Morten Tyldum has in “The Imitation Game”, biopic thriller set in WWII about the British mathematician, cryptanalyst and pioneer computer scientist, Alan Turing, his first cinematic experience in American soil. The film was written by Graham Moore based on Andrew Hodges’ book, being set up with an advantageous dosage of humor but lacking the thrills or excitement of “Headhunters”, Tyldum’s successful Norwegian crime thriller that boosted his career in 2011. There’s no question about the interest and importance of what is depicted here. Our hero had a bright intelligence, an obsessed determination and the patience required to break the ‘unbreakable’ Nazi cipher machine called Enigma. To achieve that, he created another machine, which he baptized as Christopher, homage to a very close friend from High School times (presented in recurrent flashbacks). He also became the scientist to receive highest praise by Winston Churchill for his contribution to the Allies and its victories against Germany. However, his assumed homosexuality, despite of seeming completely swallowed by work, was punished in the UK at the time, forcing him to cope with a hormonal treatment that will lead him to ruin. Tyldum scrupulously followed the Hollywood conducts in a drama that many accuse of being an Oscar-bait. We can’t deny Turing’s merit but “The Imitation Game” never rushed to fill our eyes or touch our deep feelings. A very consistent performance by Benedict Cumberbatch, makes it acceptable, but in my opinion and regardless the efforts, Oscars shouldn’t come in this direction.