August 31, 2013

I Declare War (2012)

I Declare War (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jason Lapeyre, Robert Wilson
Country: Canada

Movie Review: It’s almost impossible not to think about “Lord Of The Flies”, “Stand By Me”, or “The Hunger Games” when we watch “I Declare War”. This is a film about the kids' nature, made exclusively with kids, which shouldn’t be seen by kids. We follow a group of them playing war games in the woods, but their uncontrollable thirst for winning and power falls into real torture and physical violence, causing many rules to be ignored. Friendship, jealousy, and loyalty are in the basis of the behaviors, putting leaders and followers of each team in a constant mental and emotional strain. Among rebellions and war strategies, they also spend some time in discussions about God and faith, philosophy, love, and even giving wings to their imagination. It was curious that only one feminine player was present, functioning as seductive element with the goal of disorienting the troops for the sake of her little boyfriend. Despite the intensity of the performances, I didn’t find the story so thought provoking as I was expecting, and gradually became indifferent to what might happen to these antipathetic young teenagers. We already know that kids can be ambitious, competitive, and very mean to one another when they want to. So, what this film has to offer beyond this idea and compared to other similar movies? Absolutely nothing. Production values are solid enough, though.

August 30, 2013

The Girl From Nowhere (2012)

The Girl From Nowhere (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jean-Claude Brisseau
Country: France

Movie Review: I was never an admirer of Jean Claude Brisseau’s movies, and “The Girl From Nowhere” still didn’t exceed my expectations. Brisseau himself plays the main character, Michel, a retired math professor whose true passions are cinema and philosophy. One day he sees a girl being spanked by a man in the stairs of his apartment building. Letting this homeless drifter named Dora (Virginie Legeay) stay with him until she recovers, will lead to contentment, unusual feelings, and illusions. While Michel talks about an unfinished book, his deceased wife, and philosophical theories about life and religion, Dora shows a tendency for being inquisitive, self-assured, and to have special abilities to deal with the supernatural. As usual in Brisseau’s works, all the conversations and scenes carry a sexual tension; only this time he added a mystic factor that revealed to be the best aspect in the film. The ghosts' spooky appearances were one of the few things worthy of admiration. As for the rest, “The Girl From Nowhere” was never capable to achieve successfully its artistic pretensions, losing itself in devised conversations given in literate, philosophical, or nostalgic forms. All these aspects were carried out with inexpressive performances and a sense of fakeness in the most of its scenes. The film ended up winning the Golden Leopard at Locarno Film Fest.

August 29, 2013

Wild Girl Waltz (2012)

Wild Girl Waltz (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Mark Lewis
Country: USA

Movie Review: Indie spirit is alive in Mark Lewis’ second feature-film, “Wild Girl Waltz”, a comedy that takes us into an uncontrolled street adventure. Tara (Samantha Steinmetz) and Angie (Christina Shipp) are two friends who wanted more than the boredom of their day in a small town, and decided to take some ‘goofy pills’ to cheer life in a better way. Tara’s boyfriend, Brian (Jared Stern), will be their protector for all the afternoon, yet conniving with some of the girls’ pranks until they come back to normal. This low-budget film was shot in a raw way during only eight days; so don’t expect anything elegant or sophisticated. It was based on a simple and realistic plot that tries to involve us in some funny scenes. It’s far from perfection, though; there are issues in light setting, and the dialogues are not so special. The good aspects of “Wild Girl Waltz” are the direction/acting, which conveys the untidiness and freedom absolutely necessary for this kind of tale, as well as some occasional (what a pity they were so few) unexpected situations that gave a jolt to its regular pace. As for the jokes, I can’t say I was much impressed with all of them, but the ones that hit the spot made me laugh heartily. In terms of performances, Christina Shipp stood out among the trio, in a minimally entertaining film that, even with some setbacks, did a lot with so little.

August 28, 2013

Stories We Tell (2012)

Stories We Tell (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Sarah Polley
Country: Canada

Movie Review: After experiencing drama with “Away From Her” and romantic comedy with “Take This Waltz”, filmmaker Sarah Polley makes her debut on documentary with “Stories We Tell”, a very personal film in every sense of the word, since it uncovers a secret of her own family. The film works as a tribute to her mother’s memory, as well as a description of the process that led to her biological father. Narrated with a perfectly articulated voice by Michael Polley (her non-biological father), the film travels to the past, making us know what happened to Sarah’s mother, the genuine and intense actress Diane Polley, now deceased. This documentary, according to its creator, tells a story that had to be told due to its beauty and richness, and we can see it was made with appreciable affection and sensibility. Challenging the truth, interviews were made with everyone who was still alive and wanted to talk about the case, including her dad, half-siblings, her mom's presumed lover, her mom's real lover, friends and confidents. Among recollections, confessions, and revelations, super-8 footage was incorporated to better recreate the story and help us be acquainted with the characters. “Stories We Tell” is a touchy, funny, and incredibly interesting film that was conceived with a praiseworthy courage and high accuracy by a talented filmmaker who has so much to give. Recently this year, Toronto Film Critics Association has considered it the best documentary and best Canadian film of 2012.

August 27, 2013

The World's End (2013)

The World's End (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Country: UK

Review: The ones who watched Edgar Wright’s previous comedies certainly know that good humor, lots of energy, and creative plots, mark a constant presence. Therefore, that’s exactly what you get from “The World’s End”, another absurd, revolutionary, and irreverent film, which falls in the same category of “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun Of The Dead”. The plot follows five friends who get together again in their hometown, Newton Haven, to try what they have failed 20 years ago: finish a pub crawl composed by 12 different pubs in which the last one is called The World’s End. Along the ride towards their goal, they will take the opportunity to see old acquaintances, clarify some past problems, and literally fight the end of the world since some robots created from the DNA of real people had invaded the city. The boisterous scenes of drubbing were mixed with lively conversations under the alcohol effect about whatever. The inveterate drinker Gary King (Simon Pegg, who also co-wrote the story with Wright) headed the troop constituted by the powerful-pissed Andy (Nick Frost), the passionate Steven (Paddy Considine), the wimp Peter (Eddie Marsan), and the considerate Oliver (Martin Freeman). All the cast was great, while the 90’s soundtrack which includes Primal Scream, Soup Dragons, Happy Mondays, and Stone Roses, was delightful. I must confess I didn’t like the ending but that didn’t prevent “The World’s End” from becoming one of the most intense and hilarious comedies of the year.

August 26, 2013

Sparrows Dance (2012)

Sparrows Dance (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Noah Buschel
Country: USA

Review: The fourth feature-film written and directed by Noah Buschel is assuredly his most interesting work, once it represents a compelling indie romance with considerable amounts of freshness added. The plot is firmly based on the character of a young actress (Marin Ireland) who lately lives enclosed in a small apartment due to suffer from agoraphobia. And what a curious character she was! Her day consists of routines such as watching TV, order food by phone, peeking through her windows, training on an exercise bike, and occasionally stimulating herself when she hears her neighbors having sex. Despite trying to avoid everyone who might come to her door, one day she was forced to let a plumber in when her toilet overflowed. Wes (Paul Sparks), the plumber, revealed to be attentive and talkative, arising the woman’s curiosity, especially after she finds that he was also a skilled saxophone player. A romance was on sight, and the woman’s need for human contact increases, but how will he handle a relationship with such a strange, complicated woman? Pure, weird, intelligent, and engaging, “Sparrows Dance” gives a new perspective to the romantic genre with delicious details on direction. At night in the bedroom, the couple’s faces illuminated by a blinking red light from an outdoor neon sign, triggers shy, quiet, and intimate conversations, which will lead to the not so innovative but quite rewarding consideration that love changes everything.

August 25, 2013

Vanishing Waves (2012)

Vanishing Waves (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Kristina Buozyte
Country: Lithuania / others

Review: “Vanishing Waves” came up from the collaboration on writing between the Lithuanian filmmaker Kristina Buozyte and artistic director Bruno Samper. The pair already had worked together in 2008, when Buozyte released her first feature “The Colectress”. The story is centered on Lukas (Marius Jampolskis), a scientist who volunteers to be part of an experiment that involves a subconscious interaction with a comatose woman named Aurora (Jurga Jutaite). The objective was trying to understand in what emotional state Aurora could be, but Lukas broke the stipulated rule of avoiding physical interaction with the patient. Since the first transfer, Aurora attracted him in such a way that Lukas couldn’t escape to a voluptuous adventure. At the same time that he notices her strong sexual impulses, he also senses her grief and pain. Obsessed with this strange woman, he goes deeper in the experiment, without unveiling to the rest of the investigators what he really sees in those dreams and how much they affect his reality. Psychological tension arises from uncontrollable carnal scenes, making “Vanishing Waves” a hypnotic experience. The score by Peter Von Poehl also does a great job in this aspect, aided by the simple but not less effective visuals, and an interesting cinematography. The cerebral and light sci-fi presented here, makes us guess a favorable future for Buozyte whose creativity was awarded in Karlovy Vary and Neuchatel Film Festivals.

August 24, 2013

The Butler (2013)

The Butler (2013)
Directed by: Lee Daniels
Country: USA

Review: The real life of Eugene Allen, a butler who worked for the White House for more than 30 years, was the inspiration for this top box-office drama written by Danny Strong and directed by Lee Daniels. Historically significant, the film eventually stumbled in its execution filled with stereotypes, which took the story too far in the sentimental terms. After the trauma concerning his father’s assassination in the 20’s, Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) seems to have found some stability when he was hired to be a butler in the White House in 1957. He served consecutive administrations, starting with the president Eisenhower and finishing with Ronald Reagan (so many bad choices for the actors who played the presidents!), becoming an emblematic employee. But Cecil had a lot to struggle with, starting with his two sons: Louis (David Oyelowo), an important voice of the civil rights movement, and Charlie who would become a victim of the Vietnam War. The support of his wife Gloria (Oprah Winfrey) was fundamental for him to move on, in a country that always had treated the African-American without respect. With a non-rigorous narrative, Daniels’s propensity for the overemotional didn’t produce the same effective results as in “Precious”, and regardless the moral values associated to its story, the film never reached the genuineness needed to provide a staunch satisfaction. Oprah and Oyelowo were never convincing, in opposition to Whitaker who played the butler with assurance and plainness.

August 23, 2013

Thérèse (2012)

Directed by: Claude Miller
Country: France

Review: Claude Miller’s last film before his death in April 2012, “Therese Desqueyroux” (original title), is far from being a gem on drama but is a completely followable old-fashioned story about the influence of family in the conservative society of 20’s in detriment of individual happiness. Based on François Muriac’s novel, the plot describes the fight for freedom put by Therese Desqueyroux (Audrey Tautou) against her irritating husband Bernard (Gilles Lellouche), after taking into account the case of her best friend and sister-in-law, Anne (Anais Demoustier), who was locked in home when in love with a liberal neighbor of Portuguese origin. She just chose the worst way to do it, disgracing her life and becoming rejected by everyone around her. Using an indolent pace, the story flows emotionless just like its main character, but conveying all the baffling psychological complexities associated to Therese’s behaviors. Audrey Tautou, despite not so much fiery, was able to play accordingly the role of a defiant woman who tried to escape to an inevitable fate by what she thought to be the only possible way. Lellouche was very convincing too in his passion, rigidness, and hypochondria. Another version of this same novel, directed by George Franjus and starring Emanuelle Riva and Philippe Noiret, was released in 1962, presenting considerable better results. Nonetheless, Miller’s goodbye is fair enough to worth a look.

August 22, 2013

Scenic Route (2013)

Scenic Route (2013)
Directed by: Kevin Goetz, Michael Goetz
Country: USA

Review: Goetz brothers’ directorial debut was promising enough to make us wonder what will be their next move. “Scenic Route” stars Josh Duhamel, here diverted from the latest minor works he has been involved (“Fire With Fire”, “Safe Haven”), and Dan Fogler who appeared very briefly in the newly released “Europa Report”. The story, written by Kyle Killen - the creator of TV series “Lone Star” and “Awake”, follows two longtime friends, Mitchell (Duhamel) and Carter (Fogler), who get stuck in the middle of a Californian desert after the car they were travelling in has broken down. The unemployed and homeless Carter then takes the opportunity to show his jealousy by starting a very strange conversation about Mitchell’s wife and her influence in the change of their friendship. The confessions of these two dangerous minds, always filled with poignant humor, will lead them to an unforgettable adventure in which their lives will be at stake. The film bestows the proper energy to keep us interested, even considering the portion of absurdity associated to the protagonists’ behaviors. The states of mind change a lot along the story; funny arguments, wild and raging violence, brooding despair, frustration, joy, and ultimately an outstanding finale, make “Scenic Route” a hell of a ride! Now imagine all that, ironically presented beyond the limits of insanity.

August 21, 2013

Magic Magic (2013)

Magic Magic (2013)
Directed by: Sebastián Silva
Country: Chile / USA

Review: “Magic Magic” is a psychological thriller directed by Chilean Sebastián Silva, better known for the odd comedy “The Maid” dated from 2009. This time the dark tones didn´t work for me, and everything in “Magic Magic” seemed a bit contrived. Alicia (Juno Temple) is the girl who gets our attention with her constant insomnias, hallucinations, and deliriums. Joining her cousin Sarah and her friends for a vacation’s trip to a Chilean remote place, Alicia starts to show signs of serious disturbances and seems to be detached from reality. Everything gets worse after one of the boys try to hypnotize her, leading to several happenings that will confirm Alicia’s urgent need of help. A very slow starting, where nothing really happens for almost 45 minutes, seemed to have thrown my expectations away. The tension created, never attained its limits, and the scenes seemed too restrained and inconsequent to scare. In a mix of Spanish and English, the film slowly approaches to its terrible ending, a sort of ritual where some villagers will try to purify Alicia’s soul, while the despair takes care of everyone present in the room. Temple’s great performance convinced me of her character’s madness but didn’t absolve Silva from an obtuse plot that didn’t even know what to do with its ending. “Magic Magic” is a totally expendable thriller that lacks nerve.

August 20, 2013

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
Directed by: Jeff Wadlow
Country: USA

Review: Juvenile super-hero Kick-Ass arrives once more to the big theaters, this time by the hand of Jeff Wadlow who counted with Matthew Vaughn (director of “Kick Ass” from three years ago) as producer. If the first one didn’t impress me, the second didn’t have much luck either, presenting the clumsiest super-hero of the modern age fighting a league of super-villains with the help of his friends. David (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) decides to return to fight crime but is frustrated to be working alone as Kick-Ass. He will do his best to convince Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz) to help him in this task as Hit-Girl. “Kick Ass 2” is a total waste of time, just showing action scenes that can be defined as super violent, witless, and clumsy. The plot also uses family relationships as dramatic bait, but without creating any impact or interest. The actors, just like the story, didn’t stand out, despite of the weird characters they were playing, exception made for Olga Kurkolina’s physic, in her debut as Mother Russia. All of the bizarre villains seemed to have come from a freaking Halloween party. Lastly, I just wanted to say something about the humor, which proved to be more pathetic than clever; I remember to have laughed a couple of times, one of which had to do with Eisenhower, the dog. Every single character in this film can aspire to be super-something, but “Kick-Ass 2” is assuredly miles and miles away from being a super-movie. No more sequels of this crap... please!!

August 19, 2013

Nobody's Daughter Haewon (2013)

Nobody's Daughter Haewon (2013)
Directed by: Hong Sang-soo
Country: South Korea

Review: Since 2008 that Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo faithfully makes at least one film per year. “Nobody’s Daughter Hae-Won” complies with the simplistic approach that characterizes its director, but the result, despite effective in many ways, didn’t show the spell of “The Day He Arrives”, or the charm of “In The Country”. Haewon (Jeong Eun-Chae) is a film student who feels lonely due to the following reasons: her distant mother is heading to Canada and came to say goodbye; she was having a case with a married professor who moved away due to his child born; almost all her colleagues from school think that she’s rich and arrogant. Even with her life upside down, Haewon shows to be a very strong person without being afraid of taking risks and make her own decisions. Once more, she starts to meet up with the professor whose jealousy, immaturity, and undecided personality, caused their relationship to be broken again. But Haewon’s adventure doesn’t stop here and a marriage proposal arrives from another much older professor who was teaching in US, becoming a possibility of escape and affirmation. Like in Sang-soon’s previous works, this is a film about encounters, which along its way constantly switches between intense and lenient. The performances are one of its strong features, and counted with the guest appearance of Jane Birkin.

August 18, 2013

Meteora (2012)

Meteora (2012)
Directed by: Spiros Stathoulopoulos
Country: Greece / others

Review: The second feature film by Greek helmer Spiros Stathoulopoulos adopts a simple storyline but delivers a lot of complexity in emotional and moral terms. The film, presented almost like a documentary, skillfully combines sublime images of the Greek city Meteora and animation that serves the purpose to better explain what was going on in the heads of the protagonists, as well as give a better context of the whole scene. A forbidden love story between a monk and a nun, who live in neighboring Orthodox monasteries with very little accessibility, is presented through beautiful shots and appealing contrasts of light. Their doubts and uneasiness can be perceived since the beginning when they ask: “what is humanity?” or “God, do you love the way we love each other?”. All the images carry a significant weight punctuated by strong symbolism that made me think of Theo Angelopoulos’s films, but here in an exclusively religious context rather than political. The profound silences are very intuitive and the scenes are processed slowly but with a firm conviction, making us absorb all the sensations. Stathoulopoulos shows us, not just what happens inside the monasteries with all of its rites and chants, but also outside them, in the fields where plantations and goats are handled by villagers as a form of subsistence. “Meteora” is a rewarding and incisive film about desire, sin, faith, and human conscience, which comes strongly recommended.

August 17, 2013

Lovelace (2013)

Lovelace (2013)
Directed by: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Country: USA

Review: “Lovelace”, the 8th collaboration between the former documentarians Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, was based on the real life of Linda Lovelace, a porn star who attained fame in 1972 with “Deep Throat”. Linda’s life can be followed from the moment that she got to know Chuck, who would become her abusive and exploiter husband. Coming from a strict religious family, Linda changed from embarrassed girl to desired porn celebrity, introduced into the pornographic industry just for Chuck’s profit. Some humor can be glimpsed once in a while, especially in the beginning, but Linda’s life was never depicted with enough depth, intensity, or total accuracy. I felt that the sentimental side of the story was explored in a silly way, failing to be provocative and assertive to make us care for its main character. Even considering that Linda had been a victim of violence, it seemed to me that the last part of the film tries to exculpate all that happened in her life by making us look at her as a completely innocent victim. Here is where the film truly failed by taking sides instead of leaving the question in the air. The film also makes reference of Linda’s book “Ordeal”, which according to her, served the purpose of helping other women fight similar type of exploitations. Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard’s performances were positive but incapable to save this film from being an ordinary biopic.

August 16, 2013

2 Guns (2013)

2 Guns (2013)
Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur
Country: USA

Review: Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur left his origin country once again towards Hollywood to present “2 Guns”, an action film that lacks charm, steadiness, and originality. I personally find his Icelandic films much more involving (“101 Reykjavik”, “Jar City”, “The Deep”) than the American productions (“Inhale”, “Contraband”), and “2 Guns”, based on a graphic novel by Steven Grant, only confirms that high budgets don’t necessarily mean better results. The story follows Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington) and Michael Stigman (Mark Whalberg in his second participation in a Kormákur’s film), two undercover agents impersonating crooks without the knowledge of each other, wanting to grab a great amount of money that supposedly belongs to a drug lord. Although cooperative, the two agents showed some rivalry, since Trench belonged to DEA and Stigman to the Navy. The film tries to mix violent action scenes with funny dialogues (most of them missed), and adopted a conventional approach that is very far from being stylish or enthusiastic. The insipid and messy plot, presented very few believable aspects, and the movie loses itself in uninteresting shootings and tawdry situations. “2 Guns” didn’t work for me, and I just hope that a talented director such as Kormákur returns as soon as possible to the inspired cinema, preferentially in Icelandic.

August 15, 2013

The Iceman (2012)

The Iceman (2012)
Directed by: Ariel Vromen
Country: USA

Review: Israeli-born film director Ariel Vromen’s third feature, “The Iceman”, was based on the real story of Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon), a dangerous contract killer and devoted family man. The film gives an idea of his life before has been arrested in 1986, to the surprise of his wife (Wynona Rider) and children who weren't aware of his real profession. Through his connection with Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta), Richard became a hitman by joining the Gambino family of New Jersey, but along his life he served other Mafia families in New York. As a sort of a joke, he used to say: ‘I’m Polish, so I work for everybody’. With more than 100 men killed by his cold hands, the suspicions and tension got out of control, and his family was put in jeopardy. “The Iceman” doesn’t present us anything that we haven’t seen before, relying on the same snitches, accusations, and consequent annihilations, but nonetheless I never lost interest in Kuklinski’s obscurity. The negative aspect here was Vromen’s direction, which not even Michael Shannon’s superb performance could conceal. Some scenes were abruptly introduced, seeming to have come from nowhere, and just giving us vague hints of important and determinant aspects in Kuklinski’s early life, especially regarding his violent father and criminal brother. “The Iceman” is watchable and occasionally gripping, but not so accurate in its story.

August 14, 2013

Elysium (2013)

Elysium (2013)
Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
Country: USA

Review: Neill Blomkamp’s sophomore feature didn’t disappoint me, even entering in a more conventional territory. Creative sci-fi is already associated to his name and “Elysium” hits this requisite, entertaining us with fierce battles, advanced technology, and urban chaos similar to his previous work “District 9”. Max (Matt Damon) is an ex-con who lives on the Earth and works for the corporation that made Elysium, an advanced space station where there is no poverty, sickness, or war. After having an accident with radiation while working, Max is fired and informed that he only has five days to live. His only hope is to enter in Elysium and use its advanced Med-Pods, and for that he will need a smuggler called Spider (Brazilian Wagner Moura from “Elite Squad”), who in turn asks him for a last favor. In all this process, he will inevitably bump into Elysium’s minister Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and a raging chaser of illegal immigrants, Kruger (Sharlto Copley). Spectacular action scenes are established among the warlike scenarios of a world where robots assure the security, and computer data is transferred directly to human brains. The colors, soundtrack, and camera work, created a stifling background in tones of noir, filled with merciless violence and fulminant moves. Never bland or uninteresting, “Elysium” is not totally unexpected but guaranteed my attention from start to finish.

August 13, 2013

Drinking Buddies (2013)

Drinking Buddies (2013)
Directed by: Joe Swanberg
Country: USA

Review: “Drinking Buddies” is a low-key rom-com directed by Joe Swanberg. The 32-year-old helmer from Detroit also appears as screenwriter, producer, actor, and editor. The story is about two co-workers, Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson), who really get along and whose physical attraction grows day by day. Both are already committed, but that should not be a problem because (guess what?) their partners, Jill (Anna Kendrick) and Chris (Ron Livingston), also showed to be attracted for each other. This slow-burning drama came labeled as comedy, yet I found very few real funny situations along the way. Furthermore, the story was totally predictable since its first moments, presenting minor surprises that weren’t sufficient to make me absorbed in what was going on into those couples’ lives. Sometimes it got close to those TV series, in which we can guess immediately the conclusions. The performances, not so inspired or compelling, had its share of responsibility in making the film uneventful. My advise here is: if you are an enthusiast of romantic films, go for it; otherwise don’t bother because “Drinking Buddies” is just another film that doesn’t stand out in any particular aspect.

August 12, 2013

Museum Hours (2012)

Museum Hours (2012)
Directed by: Jem Cohen
Country: Austria / USA

Review: “Museum Hours” mixes fictional story and documentary in a stupendous way. It tells the story of a beautiful friendship between Johann (Bobby Sommer), a guard of Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, and Anne (Mary Margaret O’Hara), a Canadian visitor who seemed lost among those immense works of art, and whose main purpose was to reach the local hospital where a childhood friend was hospitalized in a state of coma. Johann, as an inveterate observer (both inside and outside the museum), sensed her despair and offered help. Since that day, both became good friends, spending their free time having agreeable conversations about their lives, discussing art, and strolling around the city, which was depicted almost like a painting. So, you can expect a very artistic and didactic film, in which is almost possible to get acquainted to Vienna, at the same time that we learn detailed aspects and different visions about the Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel’s works. Jem Cohen presents us his unique vision through a distinguished screenwriting and remarkable direction, aided by the strong performances of the leading couple. The art contemplation, café conversations, and historical information, ended up establishing a regular, relaxed pace, which can be a setback for many viewers. But don’t be discouraged, since “Museum Hours” has so much to offer in an unpretentious way, that this trip to Vienna comes very much recommended.

August 11, 2013

Key Of Life (2012)

Key Of Life (2012)
Directed by: Kenji Ushida
Country: Japan

Review: “Key Of Life” blends humor, crime, and romance in the right proportions, guaranteeing pure entertainment for more than two hours. The story follows three characters who met one another in peculiar circumstances, leading to several misunderstandings and imbroglios. Sakurai (Masato Sakai) is a 35-year-old failed actor who lives in debt and is planning to kill himself. When in a bathhouse, he witnessed an accident involving Kondo (Teruyuki Kagawa), a professional assassin who lost his conscience after hit with his head. Sakurai takes advantage of the situation to swap their locker keys and assume the victim’s identity. In turn, Kondo gets temporarily amnesiac and will have to adapt himself to Sakurai’s life of poverty, a fact that will not prevent him to get to know a beautiful magazine editor who is desperately looking for a good man to marry. The humor was not hilarious, or nothing like that, but its jokes were subtly clever without being strained. The actors seemed to enjoy playing their parts and I felt an eagerness to know what would happen to them next. All the twists and turns concerning this acting/gangstering combination were well thought, leading to prizes for best screenplay attributed by the Japanese Academy and Shanghai Film Fest. Kenji Ushida's third feature film may bring him back the deserved international attention that he once had in 2005 with “A Stranger Of Mine”.

August 10, 2013

Prince Avalanche (2013)

Prince Avalanche (2013)
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Country: USA

Review: “Prince Avalanche” is David Gordon Green’s adaptation of “Either Way” (already reviewed in this blog), which was written and directed two years ago by the Icelander Hafstein Gunnar Sigurdsson. The story is almost a copy of the original version, denoting minimum modifications and being inserted in the thematic of the wildfires that devastated the Texas fields. It tells the adventure of Alvin (Paul Rudd) and his girlfriend’s brother Lance (Emile Hirsch), who are working together in an isolated place during another season, where they are responsible for the reconstruction of the country road. Despite their age gaps and personality differences, the duo will get along and help each other to overcome some issues involving women. As Alvin says in a letter to his beloved, this place sometimes is heaven and sometimes is hell, and that is exactly the sensation that we get by looking to its landscapes, which aren’t so appealing as the Iceland depicted on Sigurdsson’s version. As a matter of fact, it didn’t do any better than its predecessor, becoming even a bit boring along the way, especially for me who have watched the other film recently. With consistent performances and a competent direction, “Prince Avalanche” will probably work fine for those who are watching this simple story for the first time. Green was considered best director at Berlin for this low-key indie film, which accomplished its goals but didn't enchant.

August 09, 2013

National Security (2012)

National Security (2012)
Directed by: Jeong Ji-yeong
Country: South Korea

Review: “National Security” uncovers a very dark side in South Korea’s history, addressing the tortures that were inflicted to innocent people when they became suspects of conspiring against their country in favor of North Korea’s communism. The film was based on the memoir by Kim Geun-tae, a democratic activist who was kidnapped and tortured for 23 days under the orders of the gruesome police inspector Lee Geun-an. The film basically consists in showing meticulously the techniques of torture and the sufferings and traumas caused on a human being. This is extremely uncomfortable; so if you don’t have stomach for strong content, don’t watch it because it may disturb you. The tortures involve beatings, sleep/food deprivation, water torture, and electric shocks. I believe that the film would have benefited if the interviews with the real victims of torture presented in the end, were intercalated along the story. Increasing Kim’s life scenes from the past, and dreams involving his family, were other possibilities to make “National Security” a somewhat lighter experience. In one side, we have to praise the courage to denounce these harrowing practices, but on the other side, we have a film that, in 90% of its content, only shows us pain, agony, and fear, in a repetitive way. I wonder if all these explicit images were truly necessary. Lying or not lying, the result was always cruelty, and in the end, even I felt ready to confess anything in order to stop witnessing those distressing and fatiguing atrocities.

August 08, 2013

The Son Of The Olive Merchant (2011)

The Son Of The Olive Merchant (2011)
Directed by: Mathieu Zeitindjioglou
Country: Turkey / France

Review: ‘I know that the truth carries the misfortune. Yet, I am not ready to renounce it.’ This is how Mathieu Zeitindjioglou and his wife, Anna, start “The Son Of The Olive Merchant”, a homemade documentary about the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman army in 1915. During their honeymoon, the couple decided to make a trip to Turkey and visit several cities including Mathieu’s ancestors’ land, Ani, now a bunch of ruins. The film features a tale and some personal conclusions in animated form, impressive historical footage from the massacre, several Turkish citizens being interviewed, and images from the couple’s trip that includes friends (and their opinion on the matter) and visited places. “The Son Of The Olive Merchant” places the Turkish revisionism in the center of the debate, creating some awkward and sometimes funny situations. I’m thinking of a museum director who tries to explain his point of view, or even the simultaneously sad and risible comments that we can hear in the street interviews. These people grew up with the lies taught by their political leaders and there is very little we can do at this point. Technically, I didn’t find the film very appealing; the camera work is far from being perfect and the way the interviews were carried out leaves much to be desired. Nonetheless, these aspects didn't remove its effectiveness in denouncing the extreme nationalism in Turkey and the cynicism involved in one of the most barbarian genocides in the history of mankind.

August 07, 2013

The Spectacular Now (2013)

The Spectacular Now (2013)
Directed by: James Ponsoldt
Country: USA

Review: I really enjoyed this inspired coming-of-age tale, based on Tim Tharpe’s novel and directed by James Ponsoldt (“Smashed”). The film’s success has much to do with the brilliant performances by Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, who were capable of involving us in their illuminated romance, and intense life of dramas and dilemmas. Setten (Teller) is a 18-year-old rollicking young boy whose appetence for parties and girls are letting him more and more afar from succeeding in the studies. Completely lost in his little schemes, addicted on alcohol, and dumped by his girlfriend, Setten’s life will take an unexpected turn after his encounter with Aimee (Woodley), an ‘invisible’ High School colleague who seemed to have very little in common with him. She will help him to abandon the spectacular life of now, and take a deep look into his own feelings, and most of all, into the future. The ability of letting everything happen in a logical sequence and natural manner, without forcing the situations, was what I appreciated more in this bittersweet drama. It also doesn’t give the common illusions that everything can be solved in one’s life. In turn, it describes perfectly how to keep the life going with hope, without pretending that problems don’t exist. If “Smashed” showed some signs of Ponsoldt’s cleverness and accuracy behind the cameras, “The Spectacular Now” stepped up one level, foreseeing a bright future for this young talented filmmaker.