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In this page we share brief reviews of movies we saw lately.




   

Our Movies Database

Violeta Went to Heaven - Directed by   Andrés Wood

This biopic movie about Violeta Parra (Francisca Gavilan), a Chilean singer and artist is the story of a compassionate woman dedicated to make known the folklore, art and songs of her country worldwide, while struggling with the tragedies of her personal life.

Violeta is the daughter of an unfortunate, poor singer father. During the movie we will often see flashbacks to the times her father performed and played the guitar, which was also the only item that she inherited from him. Left alone at a young age, Violeta's artistic life starts with guitar in hand exploring the Chilean folk songs, interviewing the old peasant singers and searching for interesting sources to the national tunes and poems. She has a strong desire to promote her country's national music in the international arena and even in places far from her home. It is this desire which drives her away from home to Poland where she attends a folk festival.

A career competing with family life is never easy for a woman. Often one has to make a choice.  Violeta will not turn down the opportunity to travel in order to realize her dreams. When she is away from home, her baby dies suddenly. This unfortunate incident will hunt her all the remaining of her life. Her falling in love with Gilbert who is 20 years younger then her is another aspect angle to this turbulent life.  Ultimately Violeta will commit suicide before her 50th birthday.

Fransisca Gavilan is very convincing in the role of Violeta. The moving, beautiful songs full of power which are sung by Gavilan herself, are one of the best assets of the movie. The flashbacks during the movie seem to be too frequent and also become confusing sometimes ,as they affect the chronological  flow of the story. For anyone who likes the South American music and lore this film is more than recommended. 

Rating : 7

 

The Hunt (Jagten)  - Directed by Thomas Vinterberg

A quiet life can be abruptly turned upside down by an unfortunate event. The tragedy is much bigger when this event is a false accusation.

Lucas (Thomas Lindholm) is divorced and living alone in a small town. His son, whom he is trying to get custody of, lives in a distant town, with his mother. In this small town, everyone knows the other. Hunting is the main event which brings together all the men of the town. They hunt, drink and sing in unison in their occasional get-togethers.  Lucas works as an assistant in a kindergarten. A couple of times he accompanies home a little girl, Klara whose parents often neglect to pick her up  on time.  

 It is this Klara who will disturb the harmony of Lucas' and the town's life, by a naïve, unexplained lie when she will tell the mistress of the kindergarten that Lucas has molested her. From then on, we will see a helpless man trying to fight  a baseless accusation. His plans of getting custody of his son will vanish as he will lose his job. The once friendly town people will start to treat him like he was a monster. 

Even for us, the spectators it is frustrating to see how the whole town turns against an innocent man. The act of child molestation which he is associated with is a taboo crime and no matter what the circumstances are, it is very hard to prove one's innocence. One can't stop wondering if sometimes society does not fall victim to its prejudices and biases. We all hope that something will happen and Lucas will be proved innocent.

The subject is contemporary; the plot is enthralling. Thomas Lindholm 's play is outstanding,  This is a movie you enjoy watching and you continue thinking about afterwards.

Rating : 8

 

Lore – Directed by Cate Shortland

How do we judge the people who were involved in a war in general and in the WWII with its atrocities, in particular? What will think the teenagers of that time, of their parents who were involved in the war? Those are not easy questions. It is this theme that Lore somehow addresses.
 
Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) is in her teens when her vati (father in German) and her mutti (mother) leave her with her four younger siblings and go to surrender themselves to the allied forces as the war comes to an end. She is bound to reach their grandmother in Hamburg, which is hundreds of miles away. Roads are demolished, bridges are destroyed, trains not running. They go by foot, by boat, hitchhiking,
Everywhere there is hunger, misery.

In this gloomy environment, Lore is trying to find food for her siblings, selling the jewelry her mother gave her, asking people who themselves have lost much of their dignity. However, in this painful road, there are also clues of the wartime atrocities. On her way she encounters pictures depicting the gas camps, the maltreatment of the Jews. There is no way for Lore to overlook the possibility that her parents were involved actively in these events.

When on their way they meet a mysterious refugee who will help them in overcoming the hardship of the long journey, Lore is reluctant to get help from someone who was taught to hate. However, it is this man who will help them to survive and reach safety in their grandmothers mansion. The grandmother who is still living in the past, acting in the past., but Lore is does not want to know this past which brought so much pity.

The film is not easy to watch. The photography depicts the bare and destroyed environment, corpses along the way being run by fleas and worms. However, this surrealism is in fact the realism of war.

It is a different angle to look at the aftermath of the war. This time the victims are different. But anyway, can there be someone who is not a "victim" after a war?

 

Rating: 7

Les Miserables (2012) -Directed by Tom Hopper

Les Miserables is a powerful musical production based on the well known French novel by Victor Hugo bearing the same name. The agony and the hope of the poor in  the 19th century France are vividly depicted in this picture side by side with the dramatic life of a man who has fallen victim to the hardship of the times.

Jean Valjean  (Hugh Jackman)  who commited a crime by stealing a loaf of bread is hunted by the policeman Javert (Russel Crowe). It is a priest in the church who protects Jean by covering up his misdeed. Jean will become a distinguished mayor who cares for his people and workers. At the death of his employee Fantine (Anne Hathaway), who had to work as a prostitute to feed her daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) , he decides to take her under his protection. Javert will continue his ruthless persecution. All this happens in the 19th century France which is shaken by the aftermath of the revolution.

Anne Hathaway as Fantine,  gives an excellent performance in the short time she appears throughout the movie. Hugh Jackman is also very impressive in the role of the man overwhelmed by the guilt of his crime and by the fear of his persecutor. The moving music and vocals accompanying the drama result in a very powerful production.

Even for those who are not big fans of the musical genre, this more than two hours movie is really an extraordinary audiovisual experience.

Rating : 9

 

Secretariat (2010) - Directed by Randall Wallace

The story of the famous, champion horse of the 70s as well as the story of a woman standing behind a successful male, be it a stallion or a man.

Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) is a descendent of a family of horse breeders. Upon the death of her mother she goes back to the house of her childhood in the countryside. Her old father suffers from dementia and can not take care of the farm or horses anymore. Penny refuses to sell the farm, which seems to be the only sound option considering the financial burden it has become. She gets more and more involved in the old family business of horse breeding and spends more time with the horses in the countryside than with her family in the city. When a promising colt comes her way she decides to invest all her time and resources to make him a champion. The horse is the famous Secretariat who will turn to be the most successful and renowned racehorse of all times. Penny hires the retired, somehow weird horse trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich) in order to realize her goal. Her determination to succeed in her task, in spite of the skepticism surrounding her, in this very macho, chauvinist environment, will be exemplary.

The movie transmits to us the exhilaration and excitement surrounding the competition world. Throughout the 120 minutes we are a true fan of this exceptional champion. Diane Lane, in her good, convincing play, raises our sympathy and obtains our full backing with her outstanding determination. John Malkovich feels very much at home, in his role about the somewhat eccentric horse trainer. The change in the hats he ever wears, very well express his different moods, as well as the evolving story of the champion. Margo Martindale's hearty remarks help Diane Lane in her harder moments and add much to the story. Afterall, this is as much the story of a special champion horse, as it is of the people standing behind him and giving him the possibility to become what he is.

A true story of determination and success.

Rating: 7

 

Joueuse (2009) -Directed by Caroline Bottaro

This movie is about a "simple" woman, a maid, playing a complicated game, and playing it well.  To the amazement of everyone surrounding her, she decides to learn and play chess.

Helen (Sandrine Bonnaire) is a simple maid in Corsica. She is married and has one child. Her life is monotone and boring. She is overwhelmed by the financial hardship which haunts everyone in her lower middle class. However, her life will change when she, by chance, will witness a chess game between two young lovers in the hotel room she comes to clean  She is attracted by the game as much as by the young woman who looks so fascinating in her silk chemise. This scene will haunt her till she will find a game board in Dr Kroger's (Kevin Kline) house which she regularly cleans.  Unexpectedly, she gathers the courage to propose Dr Kroger to play with her. The surprised, aloof doctor will accept to play, but with disdain

This first game will be followed by many more, till she will start to excel in her playing and beat her teacher. Her boring and banal life will be colored by her looking forward to the "Tuesday afternoon games"   It is the doctor who will advise her to enter a chess competition. Everyone is perplexed by a maid who wants to enter a chess competition and some even mock her. However Sandrine is determined to follow the challenge. In her words, she is ready to take "the risk in spite of the probability of losing than not taking it and lose beforehand".

We watch the good play of Sandrine Bonnair in her role of the maid whose enthusiasm borders an obsession for the game. The soundtrack changing its rhythm according the scenes is, simply, excellent. Soon we all turn out to be the fans of this woman who challenges her environment, her dull daily life, her mediocre occupation.

A light, nice and very pleasant movie.

Rating: 7

Unknown (2011) – Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Loss of memory is probably the utmost disaster which can strike a human being. In this movie it is deftly intertwined into an intricate plot which grabs the viewer throughout the whole movie.

Dr Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) and Elizabeth Harris (January Jones) arrive to Germany to attend a scientific conference. Upon the arrival Martin has a car accident and ends up in the hospital. Before his release the doctor tells him that he may experience a memory loss as a result of his injury.  From then on, the plot develops into a total mystery, where the spectator is lost as much as our hero is. We are astonished to meet another Dr Martin Harris and we wonder which the genuine one is. However this is not the only puzzle to be solved. The role of the Harris couple, in the conference which they came to attend also turns out to be not so conventional.  Our Martin Harris gets the help of Ernst Jurgen (Bruno Ganz), the enigmatic old guard who used to be a communist secret agent in the former East Germany and of the innocent girl, Gina who is an illegal foreign worker, afraid of getting caught and being deported.

This is a fast moving, mystery filled thriller. Liam Neeson is in his native ground personifying the hero struggling to survive among all the twists of the plot and trying to solve the intertwined mysteries. The tale is quite original and takes the spectator to a fast, mystifying trip of 100 minutes.

A recommended thriller.

Rating : 7

 

The Waiting City (2010) - Directed by Claire McCarthy

The Waiting City is another story of a couple which can't have children. This time the solution is to adopt.

Fiona (Radha Mitchell) and Ben (Joel Edgerton) is an Australian couple. They came to India to meet and get the child whom they have adopted by correspondence, remotely. They arrive to Calcutta, a crowded city overwhelmed by poverty and filth. The culture difference is a total shock which affect their lives and relationship. This is coupled with the anxiety of meeting and adopting a child whom they have never seen. Each one of them reacts differently to those tense and unfamiliar conditions, which also endanger their whole marriage.

The movie is a dull story which also has some overly tragic unnecessary twists. Like many other films shot in third world countries, the scenes depicting the local life taken in a novelty, unfamiliar environment can be an interesting part to the viewer who likes that kind of "lonely planet" genre. The gravity point of the story is shifted from what was supposed to be a psychological story to a film loaded with local life sights and sounds. In such a psychological movie the characters should have been better developed. .

If you like to watch travel movies, or to see the calamities of the third world daily life from the comfort of your armchair…this can be a good movie for you.

Rating :5

 

 

The Next Three Days – Directed by Paul Haggis

When one knows he didnt commit a certain crime which he is accused of, and he does not have any chance to prove his innocence, what is he supposed to do?

 

 In The Next Three Days the Brennan family is in an impasse. John (Russel Crow) and Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks) are living an uneventful, peaceful life with their little son.

This peace is soon disturbed when Lara Brennan the wife and mother is accused of the murder of her own boss. There are clues and proves which are almost unarguable. She is detained and later goes to jail leaving behind her husband and little son. John, will strive to take care of his son as a single parent and also fight for the freedom of Lara. He is totally convinced that his wife never committed the crime she is accused of. However, when he meets her lawyer to file an appeal he is rejected by the claim that this will never pass the Supreme Court. 

Desperate, John will try to find an extreme solution, a daring way to release his wife.

The idea of the story is an original one. The plot holds the audience interested and intrigued. However as the thriller develops, it starts to be unrealistic. So many coincidences and last minute happenings are simply not possible. Thus what could have been a good thriller turns out to be series of implausible events. Also the length of the move is not justifiable and becomes exhausting.  Still the movie is watchable.

Rating: 6

 

The King's Speech 2010 – Directed by Tom Hooper

The true story of a person who has to overcome personal limitations and become the King of the most powerful kingdom of its times, a title which he neither looked for, nor wanted.  
Prince Albert, called Bertie (Colin Firth) in the family circle is the younger son of King George V.  He has a speech disorder and he stammers. The movie starts with a scene in which he is giving a speech to an audience which is as anxious as he is to see its end. They are all embarrassed. Later , with the help of his wife (Helena Bonham Carter), he will undergo different treatments for this condition.
His father King George V is very aware of the changing times and of the importance of the media and live broadcasting. In such a period, not to be able to talk fluently is a very serious limitation for a prince. Much more so when his older brother Prince David, is more interested in his American divorced girlfriend than in succeeding his father.  

In his search for solutions Albert is introduced to Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist without a formal title or education, who started to practice following his earlier experience treating war victims whose speech capabilities were impaired. Lionel agrees to treat the prince but he wants to establish with him a dialogue and relationship on a peer to peer basis. Albert is not very enthusiastic about this kind of a relationship. However sensing that the therapy can be effective he somehow continues to frequent Lionel's "clinic".


King George V dies and Prince David becomes his successor, but not for long. Due to his "unacceptable" relationship to a divorced American woman, he is impelled to quit the throne. Albert will succeed him as King George VI and lead Great Britain through the WWII years.


It is Lionel Logue who stands by him in all the critical moments and speeches. 
The special and odd relationship between a King and a commoner in such critical times makes a very interesting story. The characters of Prince Albert and Lionel Logue are extremely well developed throughout the film. Colin Firth is outstanding in the role of the prince who has suffered in his infancy and ended up handicapped. Lionel Logue in the role of the charismatic, outspoken, speech counselor is very pleasant and renders very likable every scene he appears in. The historic background of this true story is very well established throughout the film. The costumes and the settings will take you back to this historic period. The casting personifies the known political and state figures of those times.
A great movie!


Rating: 9

 

Welcome to the Rileys (2010) -Directed by Jake Scott

 

Refusing to live a lifeless life...or refusing to be a living dead. That's exactly how feels the hero of of this light drama, which at times borders to be a comedy,

Doug Riley (James Gandolfini), and Lois (Kristen Stward) are a middle age couple who has lost its daughter in a car accident. Following that sad event Lois has withdrawn from life and does not even go out of her house. She is like a living dead person. Under these circumstances her husband Doug is leading an affair with a waitress. However, his mistress suddenly dies of a heart attack leaving Doug alone and sad. Doug refuses to withdraw from life and join his wife in her apathy. During a business visit to a trade show in New Orleans, he meets Mallory (Kristen Stewart)' a young strip girl, and realizes that he does not want to go back to his wife and their sad boring life. In spite of Mallory's tempting him, Doug refuses to have sex with her. His perception of their relationship is totally different. Most probably he sees in her the daughter he lost. When Lois joins them in New Orleans they start to look like a family.

The film is characterized by James Gandolfini's good play. He fills the movie. The character of the man who is trying to do everything to continue a normal life after a tragedy  combined with some funny scenes will probably raise the sympathy of most spectators. The contrast between Doug's and Lois' approach to life after the loss of their daughter, the activism versus the withdrawal results in a nice entertaining story.

Rating: 7

 

 

127 Hours – Directed by Danny Boyle

127 Hours is the true story of the strength and will of a human being to stay alive, to survive.

Aron Ralston, an avid mountain climber, is exploring a canyon in Utah as he gets trapped in a narrow slit when a rock falls on his arm and blocks it. Aron cannot release his arm and gets stuck in this narrow canyon strip. The canyon is in a remote place where probably few humans have ever been. The probability of being rescued is certainly very low. It is in this isolated spot that Aron will strive to stay alive and try to find a way to get back to the world.

We will watch Aron for 127 hours fighting his verdict. Trying not to "lose it", dreaming of the past, imagining the different people in his life, taking pictures with his small camera and videoing what can be his last messages, his will.

This is a grasping movie. In spite the fact that for more than 90 minutes all what we see is one man, in one place, there is not a single dull moment and suspense is kept high throughout the whole film. We closely watch the will of a human being to survive, the unending fight to find ways to stay alive and to escape. The state of mind of a lonely man in such a time of extreme distress comes strikingly to the screen. There are moments of hope and moments of despair, times of memories and times of dreams.

The editing of the movie is excellent and helps in coping with the unchanging scenery. The close-ups are used as an effective window from which we can closely see and feel our hero. At times the realism in the scenes can be too strong and too hard to watch for some, but this is what it really is.

The story of those nerve breaking 127 hours is turned into a very good movie full of suspense.

Rating: 8

 

Shanghai (2010) – Directed by Mikael Hafstrom

A good thriller story in a historical ambience embroidered by strong feelings of friendship, betrayal and hate

An American spy, Paul Soames (John Cusack) comes to Shanghai following his friend and colleague.  However he arrives too late, and his friend has already been killed. He is left with the task of trying to solve the mystery behind the murder. The times are WWII times, just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Shanghai is divided into districts controlled by the superpowers. The Japanese who control most of China have not captured Shanghai yet. Chaos and corruption reign everywhere in the city.

Paul Soames comes into contact with many powerful figures during his quest to reveal the details of the murder. Tanaka (Ken Watanabe) is the commander ruling the Japanese district of the city.  Anthony Lan-Ting (Yun Fat Chow) is the well connected Chinese figure who is controlling much of the corrupted city's dark sides. Anthony's young and attractive wife, Anna Lan - Ting (Li Gong) is much more than an innocent woman enjoying her husband's riches.  Amid the chaos, intrigues and violence Paul finds out a complicated web of relationships which will lead him to the core of the murder.

In this complicated plot the suspense of a thriller is combined with the sensibility of human relations. Under the surface of every tough character there is a softer human being, a true devotion to friendship and even love.

The war time Shanghai is brought to us in a very vivid way. We can feel the fast pulse of a boiling city. The characters are very well developed.  John Cusack is excelling in his role. Ken Watanabe plays the role of the tough commander impeccably. The exotic figure of Anna Lan Ting, together with her good acting add a lot to the movie. The character of a femme fatal, the dark scenes invoking mystery and crime, the suspense converge into a good film noir.

A good spy store in an bracing historical setting.

Rating :7

 

 

The American (2010) – Directed by Anton Corbijn

A film made according the minimalistic trends of our "Google" times.  A grasping thriller

Jack (George Clooney) is a professional assassin. His last mission in Sweden has turned sour and he barely escaped being murdered. After his escape he meets Pavel (Johan Leysen)  - the man whom he works for - and ask for his help to get rid of the threat on his life.
Pavel criticizes Jack's relationship with a woman in Sweden and reminds him that he should not come close to any people. He sends him to a small town in Italy and tells him to wait there till he will settle the matters. Jack suspects Pavel and changes his destination for another small town close-by. While in the town he gets a mission to build a special gun for a woman client. There he befriends a priest with whom he has some philosophical discussions. He also frequents a hooker whom he comes close to
Life in this small and remote town seems to be peaceful, quiet.

This is the story of the lonely life of a professional killer. Although he meets some people here and there, Jack is a loner. The movie is minimalistic in many aspects. There is not much talking and only the necessary is said. The scenery is mostly bare. There is not much action and what we know about the characters is minimal. The movie is thus kept "clean" and surrounded by a veil of mystery. George Clooney is very good in his role as the cold, calculated, impassive assassin. His round character is very well developed throughout the film, more by images than words. There is much more seen than said.

A good thriller

Rating: 7

 

I Am Love (2009) – Directed by Luca Gudagnino

In this beautiful Italian film we see how the Recchi family is losing its haute bourgeoisie trait, following the death of the grandfather.

The Recchis are a wealthy industrialist Italian family living in an exclusive style in Milan.  Born in Russia, Emma Recchi (Tilda Swinton), is the bride married to Tancredi Recchi, who has met her in her native country and brought her to Italy.  They have three children and they are living in an expansive house with a multitude of servants. 

The family head, the grandfather Recchi is old and soon passes away.  Times are changing. The family business needs to depart from its traditionalist line. Edoardo, the oldest son, together with his father, are appointed heirs of the family business, However Edoardo, like his mother, is a romanticist, and tries to oppose the changes and the parting from the traditions. His sister, Betta, gets involved in a lesbian relationship.

Emma is the wealthy mother and wife, but she still retains the traces of her earlier humbler life.  She still embroiders and cooks form time to time. She looks at the pictures of her native Russia and lives its memories. She also falls in love with Edoardo's best friend.

Things are evolving, changes are everywhere.

The movie depicts romanticism in an haute bourgeoisie environment. The setting is a vivid replica of the aristocratic lifestyle. We are exposed to the lively parties, long banquets, multitude of servants, and exclusive residencies. Tilda Swinton is great in her personalization of Emma.The wealthy woman who has adopted the Italian life style but still has much of her foreign past buried in her and eventually falls in love and gets involved in a scandalous relationship. The movie is adorned with beautiful scenes of nature. The frequent and sometimes extreme close-ups increase the involvement of the spectator and makes the feelings and tastes come to reality. A good story, a good actress, and attractive cinematography make this a recommended watch.

Rating: 7

 


Certified Copy 2010 - Directed by Abbas Kiarostami

Can a copy be as good as its original? What is a copy anyway? Even an original piece of art made in the image of something or someone, isn't it still a copy? Those are some of the arguments the heroes of this movie try to analyze and discuss in a long dialog which lasts throughout the movie.

Elle (Juliette Binoche) is a single French woman living in Italy with her young son. She owns an antiques shop. James Miller (William Shimell) is an English writer who has come to Italy to promote his new book which has lately been translated to the local language. Elle invites William to meet her and autograph a number of his books. Their meeting will develop in a day long touristic journey, around the small Tuscany village of Lucignano.

This day long trip turns into a long philosophical dialog between the two.  Although they are supposed to be strangers to each other, a feeling of familiarity lingers throughout their conversation.  They seem to share similar memories and maybe a common past. The secret of the nature of their relationship is the only thing which is supposed to maintain the interest of the spectator throughout their long conversation.
The philosophical aspect of their conversation is too weak to keep one's interest and the dialog soon becomes dull and interminable. The three languages, English, Italian, and French used by the actors in their film-long chat do not contribute to much more than a futile confusion. A very long scene in the car which is accompanied by visual reflections on the windshield is tiring and senseless even if it was meant to remind us of the relationship between originals and copies. The pleasure of watching Juliette Binoche, or the beautiful scenery of Tuscany is not sufficient to keep the spectator's interest throughout the movie. If you still intend to see this movie, it would be recommended to see it after a good and long nap.

Rating: 4

 

The Kids Are All Right 2010 – Directed by Lisa Cholodenko

The story of an unconventional family is brought to us in this movie which in spite of its unordinary subject is still quite dull.

Nic (Anette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are the parents of this unusual family. The family is unusual, because both its parents are women.  They are lesbians who gave birth to their two children by artificial insemination. The donor in both cases was the same man, Paul (Mark Ruffalo). As soon as they are 18, the kids look for and find their father, whom they slowly bring into their daily lives.

Nic and Jules who are together for about fifteen years, have a life much similar to the one of a heterogeneous couple. They experience issues which are typical of middle age marriages. Jules feels that after their long time relationship Nic is taking her for granted and maybe neglecting her. Nic, a medical doctor, is the one who provides the family's financial needs, whereas Jules is trying to find a second career and is contemplating being a gardener. They have concerns similar to an ordinary middle aged couple. It is curious to see that such a couple is worried that their son may be involved in a homosexual relationship and how they are relieved when they discover that this is not the case. Also it is interesting to see how Nic is concerned that Jules may be turning "straight" and sooner or later one wonders if this couple will also end up divorcing. When the sperm donor "father" appears all gets even more complicated.

In all this mess are the kids still all right? Not sure. They are as much confused as one can be. Maybe the movie wants to show that such a peculiar family is still a family, with all its conventional members, a father as Nic and a mother as Jules and the two kids. However, the fact that this was the subject of a movie is the best proof that this combination is still very uncommon and is expected to arouse curiosity among all the people who are unfamiliar with such a life style.

Anette Bening and Julianne Moore are very good in their roles as one would expect. The setting is very similar to a middle class environment and elaborated with all its details as such. The film is more a drama than a comedy, and its end can be predicted as would be in a conventional banal family story. If this was a straight couple, it would be too unoriginal to be the subject of a story. It is watchable because it has two good actresses.

Rating: 6

 

Tony Manero 2009 - Directed by Pablo Larrain

What can obsessions do to someone?  Can they take him as far as killing people?  At least in this story they can…

Raul Peralta (Alfredo Castro), in his forties, is obsessed by hiss passion to imitate Tony Manero, the hero in the movie Fever, played by John Travolta.  His problem is that he does not have the talent required for that. He is a clumsy dancer and has a strange personality. However, he does not see to be aware of his shortcomings. He prepares himself for a live TV show in which the best "Tony Manero" will be selected from a group of candidates. Till the competition, he works in a local low-key club, where he has some odd personal relations to the other members of the group as well as to the owner of the locale.

Lacking the financial means he is tempted to steal a TV set in order to watch the dancing shows, tries to devise ways to acquire the exotic tiles he needs for the dancing floor,  and keeps going to the theater to watch time and again his favorite movie, "Fever" and learn its lyrics by heart.

His will to be "Tony Manero" is obsessive and the goal sanctifies all the means.  However, still, when he goes as far as murdering people, one does not know if this is to reach its goal or because he is simply a psychopath and a serial killer.

Whatever the reason, including violent murders in a film, which beforehand seems to be nothing more than a comedy, may be not the cup of tea for every spectator. This is probably the story of a psychopath killer more than a funny clumsy dancer.

Still the movie stands for its dark originality and Alfredo Castro personalizes quite well the strange character he is supposed to be. The dark and sloppy shooting represents well the poor ambience of the setting of the movie.

If you are in the mood for a different thing you may like it, but if not you can certainly skip this one.

Rating: 5

 

Soul Kitchen 2009 - Directed by Fatih Akin

A comedy pertaining to a bohemian lifestyle….vivid, funny, lively, entertaining..

Zinos Kazantsakis (Adam Bousdoukos) is the owner of a modest restaurant located in an old warehouse. The food is mediocre the decoration is poor, but it has its customers. Zinos's brother Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu) is in prison for petty theft crimes he committed. Zino also has a girlfriend who is both beautiful and rich  His life will start to be troubled as his girlfriend leaves for Shanghai, his prisoner brother gets a permit from prison to work during daytime in the restaurant and an exotic chef starts to work for him alienating his clientele who is used to his simple food. Zinos who also gets a back pain during his work, will struggle throughout the film with the bad luck that seems to hunt him.  However, he does this in good humor and maybe this is one of the messages of the movie to its spectators, "no matter what happens , one can still can cope without falling into a black hole".

The shooting and editing are good...the narrative makes a sweeping, original comedy...the characters are funny ...the music is appealing...Fatih Akin does a very good job in this comedy. Also, Adam Bousdoukos fits very well into the character of the young, easygoing, careless restaurant owner who is trying not to drown in the multitude of problems of what was once used to be a peaceful life.

Enjoyable 90 minutes of entertainment full of fun and cheerfulness,

Rating: 7

 

Kisses (2008) - Directed by Lance Daly

"True friendship, sharing common problems and the will to change their world and lives", link two young teenagers in a one day adventure which is outstanding for its simplicity and yet arousing awe for its the naivety .

Kelly(Kelly O' Neill)  and Dylan (Shane Curry) are neighbors living next door to each other. For a valid reason, Kelly wants to get away from her older cousin who has come to visit the family for Christmas. She is uncomfortable at home. Dylan, witness to another fight between his jobless and violent father and his mother, is in the need to escape from his father who he has wounded in the course of a fight. The two teen neighbors are mocked by the children in the neighborhood for being close to each other and a tender love seems to reign between them.

When they decided to run away from their homes and go to the big city (Dublin) to look for Dylan's brother who has left from home 2 years ago, they go into a mysterious and unfamiliar world. The 24 hours episode taking place in Christmas starts with the delightful new adventures of the innocent kids revealing a environment totally unknown to them. They meet new people, buy new clothes and gadgets with their savings. As the day wears on and the dark falls the magic worlds starts to transform itself into a fearsome place with darker people. The fun is replaced by worries and fear. However, the affection and solidarity between the youngsters are their strong allies in those difficult times.

This is a movie with a low budget and without stars. Nothing is there to taint the innocence and simplicity of the young kids. And it is this innocence which makes this movie so special.

Rating :6

 

Mother and Child (2009)-Directed by Rodrigo Gracia

This is the story of three women interrelated in a complicated relationship involving motherhood and childhood.

Karen (Annette Bening) is a single middle aged woman living with and taking care of her older mother. Her history impedes her from getting involved in close personal relationships. Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) is a 37 year old woman who had been adopted when she was a child. She is a successful lawyer and she is ambitious, rugged and unfeeling, or at least trying to be so. Lucy (Kerry Washington) is a young married woman who can't bear a child and therefore, together with her husband, decided to adopt one.

In this good drama we look at the disturbed world of three women, each of whom has either scars from the past or worries about the future. We look at the inner world of those women and how it affects their daily lives and their interactions with other people. The lifelong affects of a mother-child relationship is elaborated throughout the movie. The complicated nature of child adoption is elaborated through out the narrative.

The interesting and loaded subject, the very good play of Annette Bening and Naomi Watts are the assets of the film. Rodrigo Gracia who was the creator of the TV series Fathers and Sons is familiar with this genre and this film which was directed and written by him is recommended to all who like a good family drama.

Rating 7

 

Winters Bones 2010  - Directed by Debra Garnik

You don't have to be asked about what you ought to be given...says the big sister to her hungry little sibling. In this very good movie she is the person in charge of taking care of the whole family after her father's disappearance. 

Seventeen years old, Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) lives together her younger sister and brother in a remote village. She has to take care of her mentally debilitated mother as well. Her father, Jessup, a drug dealer, has disappeared after having committed the family house as collateral for his bail. If the father does not show up in court, they will lose the house. Ree starts to find out the whereabouts of her father. The people she approaches to ask for him prefer the silence and discourage her from continuing her search. Jessup's brother Teardrop (John Hawkes) shows incertitude in his helping her to find him.

The young teenager, act as the family's leader trying to cope with all their issues and particularly with their extreme poverty. Doing all that, Ree raises a feeling of respect with people she meets and talks. She is pitied but also admired for her tenacity, determination and maybe even pride.

Amid scenes which sometimes are overly dark, the movie has a film noir aspect. Jennifer Lawrence is outstanding in her role. Ree's character is round and deep. Teardrop is also a very intense character, full of converses. The spectator is brought to admire the strength of this young girl amid the poverty and the misery that surrounds her. She probably inherited much from her father's tenacious character showing that one can convert some character traits and use them in a positive way.

Full of emotions and feelings...A great film

Rating 8

 

 

La Rafle 2010  - Directed by Roselyn Bosch

The Holocaust is one of the most liked themes of film makers. The suffering of the Jewish people has been elaborated in a very large number of movies. However, a theme no matter how popular it may be is not sufficient to result in a good film. It still all depends on the movie and this one is one of the less good examples of its genre.

The year is 1942. The place is France. The characters are the Jews of Paris. To appease the Germans demands, the Vichy Government accepts to deliver 24,000 Jews to the Germans. To be exterminated. They are gathered in the Velodrome D'Hiver, the closed bicycle racing arena in Paris in very poor conditions. Among all the detainees there are many children, arising pity. Many of them are sick. Dr David Sheinbaum (Jean Reno), the Jewish physician, who is the only doctor among them, is trying to struggle with the illnesses and epidemics of this crowd. He is aided by a single catholic nurse, Annette (Melanie Laurent) who is stunned to see the suffering.

The movie is unnecessarily long and it seems to be stuck with the reccuring scenes of the suffering, showing the Jews in different pitiful conditions. At times it looks like the repeating pictures in a promotion clip. The characters are shallow and do not develop. If the purpose of the movie is to raise pity it does that. However, a good film should do much more.

Rating: 5

 

Le Premier Cercle – (Inner Circle) (2009)
Directed by Laurent Tuel

The different approaches of the successive generations in a crime family are the subject of this French film.
The film is about an immigrant Armenian family (the Malakhains) which turned to crime. They live and act under the leadership of Milo Malakhian (Jean Reno), the patriarch of the family. As one could expect he is an old guard hardliner - rigid, suspicious, prejudiced, and unyielding. His son Anton (Gaspard Ulliel) is his choice for succession. However, Anton, is more progressive. He has questions and mostly he has doubts about his willing to follow the same road. He is also more tender due to a love affair he is involved. . However, it is not east to break such a line, hard to walk away.
The movie follows in a sleek style. The photography of the locations is good. The black costumes of the actors, their fashionable cars are all examples of luxuriousness. Both Jean Reno and Gaspard Ulliel are playing very well their part. Although, the characters they represent are quite flat. However, the bloodbath and the violence towards the end take this quite realistic movie to a realm close to fantasy.
Also, the connection between the Malakhian family and its Armenian origin does not go beyond the introduction and leaves the spectator wondering if there was a meaning at all in the family being Armenian. The hint given in the very beginning of the movie, about the atrocities to which the Armenians were subjected by the Turks in the beginning of the 20th century is not developed any further and remains unattached and pointless too.
A bearable crime movie.

Rating :6

 

 

My Name Is Khan (2010) – Directed by Karan Johar

There is only one distinction between people: "There are good people and there are bad people. This is what Rizwan's mother tell him when he is a little boy and this is what he will remember and repeat to himself during his whole life even when he goes through difficult moments which he can hardly cope with.

Rizwan Khan (Shakrukh Khan) suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a kind of autism. He is born in India and lives his boyhood there. He is raised by his single mother who protects him from the external world due to his mental condition. However, when she dies he is left alone and he is compelled to join his married brother in San Francisco.

Due to his psychological state, Rizwan's behavior and thinking resembles that of an innocent naïve young boy. He struggles with life and succeeds in finding a job and after a long love story he even gets married to to the beautiful Mandira (Kajol). They live a happy and quiet life till the 9/11 events.

The hatred for the Muslims following 9/11 disrupts the harmony. Rizwan, who has believed all his life that people can be either good or bad and that nothing else will differentiate them, falls victim to discrimination due to his religious background. Astonished at what goes around him he fights to prove he is a good guy and not a terrorist.

The contemporary social aspects of the theme are worked in a beautiful story. The question of people making generalizations and hurting groups of innocent people is elaborated successfully.

When we see all the suffering of this innocent soul we ask ourselves who is responsible for his suffering. The strangers who consider him dangerous and evil because he belongs to a religious group? Or the people with a background similar to his that committed the atrocities and stained all their community? There is no doubt that no one should be judged because of his religion, nationality or race. However, on the other hand, people have the right to suspect more some particular groups from whose ranks evil emerged, if this will help in their defending themselves and their children better. .

Shakrukh Khan's acting is outstanding. He is playing his role impeccably and making it impossible for all of us not to love him. The authentic music is another strong point of the movie. In addition we have the wonderful views of nature and places throughout the film. The theme is captivating and the narrative fascinating. In spite of its relatively long duration, one does not want it end.

In short a great Bollywood movie not to be missed

Rating: 9

 

 

Salt (2010) – Directed by Phillip Noyce


An Angelina Jolie movie. Yeah, because there is not much to the movie except her.

In Russia small children are recruited and grown in a restricted environment as genuine Americans. The plan is to lay them as moles and use them at the right moment, hoping they will deliver what they are supposed to, when called to duty.

This is an action movie reminding us the "cold war" era spy movies. Since then, Russia is not the Soviet Union it used to be and the cold war theme has almost frozen. If we are to judge according this film, it seems the movies of this genre also have lost their luster they used to have. The movie lacks the style, the sophistication and the suspense of a good spy movie. It has a lot of action but little else.

The chase scene at the beginning of the movie continues for more than 35 minutes, and it repeats later again. At times the movie looks like a long trailer, a clip featuring Angelina Jolie, made to show her in different stunts. If you want to see her with blond hair, black hair, short hair or long hair, you will have all of it there. There is not much to this movie except her, and with all the due respect she is far from a superspy character one could expect in such a movie.

Rating 6.

 


Solitary Man (2009) – Directed by Brian Koppelman

Some don’t want to get old. However, is that ever possible? Can anyone fight nature? If you have a doubt about it, you will not have it anymore, after seeing Solitary Man.

Ben Kalmen, in his fifties, (Michael Douglas) is a successful card dealer. He is proud of his wife, Nancy (Susan Sarandon) with whom he shares a good family life. All this, till his doctor finds out in a routine check-up that he might have some problems in his heart. He wants to make further tests to check the situation. But Ben evades the tests and decides not to find out. Instead, he wants to live the rest of his life, without any limitations or obligations. He cheats on his wife and leaves his home. He starts to chase and have sexual relations with women younger than his daughter. He starts to mingle with young people and believes he is one of them.

In this new lifestyle he leaves his wife, estranges his daughter, angers his girlfriend, loses his business, and is left without anything. The only person who is ready to help him is his roommate from the college days who he used to disregard.

Michael Douglas is performing very well and is personalizing a character which is very suitable to what one would expect to see him in. At the beginning we see him in a suit which is fitting his business man status. Later we see Ben bare chested lying in the bed as he swallows his medication, a sign of the poor physical condition he assumes he is in. However, in most part of the movie he is in a black t-shirt and a black jacket, the classic outfit and color of people who want to remain young after they pass the age. The lively music also contributes to his willingness to stay and feel young.

In any case, for those who already know, that one can't fight time and can't stay young, the movie does not have much of a message.

Rating: 6

 

 

The Killer Inside Me (2010) –  Directed by Michael Winterbottom

If you measure films by the intensity of the feelings and impression they leave on you after watching them, then The Killer Inside Me does that. The violence in some scenes though, can be too much for some of the viewers. 
In short, this is a violent story of a psychopath deputy sheriff.  This story was told first by Jim Thompson in his novel with the same title written in 1952. Thompson was a well known pulp crime fiction author and wrote many novels which have been turned to movies. The Killer Inside Me, also has been considered many times before to be converted into a movie. However, it had to wait to Michael Winterbottom to finally make it

The movie starts with credits designed in the format of the pulp fiction novel covers. The graphics remind us of the drawings on these coarse papers. The setting is a small town in America, in the first half of the 1900's.  Lou Ford (Casey Affleck), is the aide of the Sheriff whose duty, at the beginning of the movie, is to drive away a hooker, Joyce (Jessica Alba), who is dwelling in the town. From the very beginning one can feel that something seems to be wrong with Lou. The voice over, the camera angles, the dull colors are all indications that something will go wrong soon. Indeed it does not take long for Lou to reveal to the viewer the psychopath killer he is. From then on, the whole film becomes the site of torrid violence coupled with atrocity and suspense.

Slowly, the town people surrounding the "serious, innocent, young, unsuspecting," officer seem to understand that something may be wrong with him. The sheriff expresses his concern the first time when he says "it is always lightest before dark". Indeed things get extremely dark for his young aide.

Made along the lines of pulp crime fiction, the movie does not spare from its viewers the details of acts of violence. For some people those details, and particularly the brutality against women can be really too much. However, The Killer Inside Me is still a noteworthy movie which I would recommend.

Rating: 7

 

 

The Square (2009) – Directed by Nash Edgertone

The setting is a small town in Australia. However, the corruption and the crime in this remote tranquil place go much beyond its size.

Raymond Yale (David Roberts) is having an affair with his married neighbor Carla Smith (Claire van der Boom).  In their relationship, they both seem to find the excitement they lack in their boring marriages. When Carla reveals a bag full of money hidden by her gangster husband, Greg, she tempts Raymond to take the money and flee. Raymond, who can't refuse her, somehow accepts her suggestion. During the course of securing the money and trying to flee, they get embroiled in a series of crimes which get more and more serious and go out of hand.

The small town becomes the scenery of bribery, stealing, cheating, fire setting and murder, where almost every character has his dirty laundry.

This is a first feature film for director Nash Edgertone who has been a leading stunt in the Australian film industry.  The square cover to the attic, where the stolen money is hidden, probably is also the source of the movie title. Throughout the movie shots with a rectangular frame repeat indicating the stress and pressure the characters are subject of. The relatively obscure grayish ambient color reflects the mood of the dark incidents in what otherwise would be a colorful little town.

Although the film sometimes seems to be too much based on coincidences and thus less realistic, it is still a very good thriller.

Rating: 7

 

Le Grain et le Mulet - The Secret of the Grain (2007)
Directed by - Abdellatif Kechiche

Immigrants, mostly live among themselves for generations. They keep their customs, songs, culture and even languages for a very long time.
This French movie tells the story of an immigrant minority keeping its lifestyle and continuing to live amid the French natives in a literally isolated community.

 

The setting is a seashore town in the South of France. A community of Moslem immigrants lives in this maritime town and they work in the sea related occupations like fishing, boat repairing etc …Slimane Beiji (Habib Boufares) is a long time worker in a shipbuilding yard and is being laid off, as a result of his age and the decline in his working capacity. He is divorced and lives in the hotel of his girl friend. He has good connections with his own grown up children as well as with the grown up daughter of his girl friend, Rym (Hafsia Herzi), a late teen ager who is trying to thrive and improve her living in this stuck community.. With the encouragement of Rym, Slimane embarks on a new project, to open a "restaurant in a boat".     

The film deals with the life style of this immigrant community which like many of its kinds remains with her own lifestyle and culture and does not mingles with the French majority. Their music, their food, their clothes, all bears the marks of their origins and their native culture.

The setup and the shooting reflect the modesty and poorness of its subject. The use of the moving camera used to make the film more realistic and to tune with the relatively poor environment, sometimes becomes excessive and disorienting for the spectator.  The whole movie develops in a very realistic way. As someone put it, at times it looks like a documentary. The young actress Hafsia Herzi's acting is outstanding and her fierce and convincing monolog scene as she talks to her mother is very remarkable and probably the best part of the movie.

Watchable if you are into independent foreign movies.

Rating: 6 

 

 

Cairo Time (2009)   - Directed by Ruba Nadda

The film often looks more like a travel documentary on Cairo more than the romantic tale it is supposed to be.
Juliette (Patricia Clarkson) comes to visit Marc, her husband,  who is a UN envoy to the Middles East. Being too busy with his duty in Gazze, he cant come to meet his wife in Cairo on time. Tareq (Alexander Siddiq), a former colleague of Marc, comes to meet her in the airport and takes her to the hotel.  Juliette is left all alone in a city, which a totally different scenery and culture of what she is used to in her Western lifestyle. She feels estranged in going out of her hotel room in this city, which is male driven.
Juliette's only acquaintance and rescue is Tareq, who is a sensitive, kind , and handsome man who represents the local culture "polished" by his taint of Western culture acquired in his earlier work. The story of their relationship constitutes the plot of the movie.
Cairo Time, gives more than a glimpse to the city life. It is loaded with views from the city, its customs, lifestyle and much more.
The pace of the movie is very slow, and sometimes can be even boring. The music also adds to its "boredom". The characters are shallow and the tale is simple. However, if you want to see a little about the lifestyle in the Middle East in a romantic environment this movie can be for you.

Rating: 5

 

 

The Last Station (2009) -  Directed by Michael Hoffman

A good story and a good example for the followers of a leader who often become more zealous than the leader himself,  a vivid illustration  of the French  "plus royalist que le roi" (" more royalist than the king")  phrase.

The film is about Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer)'s last years. The famous writer was the founder of an ideology based on the Gospel teachings of Jesus. Living in a commune, opposing private property, abstinence from sex, a vegetarian diet were among the principles of the world view of the Tolstoyans.

The struggle between the strict disciples of Tolstoyism, represented by Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti) and Tolstoy wife, the countess (Helen Mirren) runs through the whole film.  The countess, a worldly figure, tries to defend the right of her children, Leo Tolstoy's inheritors, against his followers who try to convince him to change his will and inherit his copyright privileges to the public. As with most new doctrines, some of the followers go beyond the leader in their enthusiasm as others get disappointed in the process and in what it offers.

Tolstoy himself is tore apart in the fights between his followers and his wife.  His love for his wife sparkles even at moments when we think he is conquered by his disciples will. This love refrain surges time and again through the whole story.

Helen Mirren is outstanding as the countess, which fits her actress image very well, and clearly explains why she was nominated for an Academy award for her role in the movie.

Good actors, interesting balanced story, an episode full of passion and love.

Rating :8

 

 

The Ghost Writer (2010) – Directed by Roman Polanski

One of those films that make us wish Roman Polanski would make more movies. A great thriller directed by a great master.

Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) , a former British Prime Minister is having written his biography by a ghost writer (Ewan Mc Gregor). At the same time, the PM is accused of having cooperated with the US administration and the CIA in secretly passing to them witnesses who could reveal terrorists plans and thus causing their submission to harsh investigation techniques.

His case is being brought to the Hague international court where he will be accused for cooperating in the torture  of the witnesses and thus committing war crimes.

The ghost writer is contracted to write the autobiography and for that reason has been brought to an isolated island in the US where the PM is temporarily residing. In the course of his work the writer gets involved in the intricacies and plots surrounding Adam Lang, as well as in getting familiar with his enigmatic wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams).

In our present world where everyone, including PMs can be accused and brought to court for war crimes, the story of the film seems to be very plausible. This realistic plot is brought into the screen in a very real way. The film is a an excellent thriller and sticks us to our seats without bordering any unrealistic twists.  We are made to follow the main hero and try together with him to solve the mystery surrounding Adam Lang.

The casting is perfect and all the leading roles are played by actors who very much fit into the characters they represent.  

A highly recommendable, real thriller.

Rating :9

 

 

The Back-up Plan (2010) Director Alan Paul

A coin on the ground….a good omen if it is "heads up"….that's what Stan (Alex O'Loughlin) is told by Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) when he picks it at the beginning of the movie. Does it bring the good luck it is supposed to bring?

Even Stan is confused whether what happens next is good luck or not. Zoe has recently undergone an insemination procedure to have children of her own, after her failures so far, to connect with a man.

Zoe realizes that she didn't expect to be pregnant so fast,  and having a hard time to deal with a future baby and a serious relationship with a man who is not the father of the bay, at the same time. Stan, is bewildered to find out he suddently is a candidate to be a father, a thing he neither planned nor expected and not even wished. .

The movie, a romantic comedy, does not deliver the fun it is expected. The story is quite non-realistic and has many silly sides to it.

Unless you are not a fanatic admirer of Jennifer Lopez and ready to spend two hours just watching her, you can skip this movie.

Rating: 4

 

 

Mao's Last Dancer (2009) – Directed by Bruce Beresford

"Fantastic" is the word the Chinese ballet dancer Li Cunxin (Chi Cao) uses when he first sees the streets and high buildings upon his arrival to America. The same word, "fantastic" is how I would describe the film which is the story of his life.

Li Cunxin was born in a remote village in China in the time of Chairman Mao. He was elected from a multitude of children to be brought to Peking and raised as a star ballet dancer. The times were when communism reigned in China, and as almost everything, ballet dancing also had a political meaning and aspect.

By coincidence he was elected to be the student who would go to summer school in the United States, representing his country.  Following the shock of his encounter with the Western culture and ways of life, he gradually becomes more and more the avid sympathizer of his hosting country. When time comes for him to go back to China, he is already full of doubts about the way of life he wants to follow.

The film shows the totalitarian regime of the times in China, as well as the poverty of his citizens and backwardness of their culture. The striving hard working peasants are manipulated and dominated by the ruling class. On the opposite side, it displays the well being and comfortable life in America, and its democratic system. Thus the deep contrast between the two countries and their cultures is vividly emphasized.

Along the film, parallel editing, emphasizes the extreme differences between the two countries. The wonderful ballet and dancing scenes, coupled with very good music makes watching the film a fantastic experience.

The dances of the actor Chi Cao, who is and actual ballet dancer, make great scenes. Although less time-stretched and more realistic scenes probably would have resulted in an even better visual experience.

A must see!  
  
Rating: 9

 

 

Remember Me (2010) - Directed by Allen Coulter

"Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it is important you do it, because nobody else will" ....maybe this is a good reason for doing things...or maybe because it is insignificant it wont matter if somebody else does them or not anyway.

In "Remember me", Tyler Hawkins (Robert Pattinson) is trying to do things that others won't do. Most of what he does is for his beloved little sister, who is the only family member to whom he is closely attached and who became even more significant in his life after the loss of his brother who committed suicide.  Tyler is the rebellious, frustrated teenager who strives with life in search of his own self. He is at odds with his father, the tycoon Charles Hawkins (Pierce Brosnan) who neglects his family and is interested solely in his business.  He is loosely related to his mother who remarried. On the other side we have Ally Craig (Emilie de Ravin) who had seen her mother being murdered when she was a little girl. Understandably, she is over-protected by her father. The two fell in love with each other and found serenity in the troubled world they live. 

The film develops in this melodramatic mood. However, we also see that not everything is as it looks. It seems the coldest father still has an inner world full of sentiments, and the peace Tyler seems to find with Ally is very fragile. The only fun character is Tyler's friend who tries to elate him all the time and constitutes the lighter side of the movie. 

This movie is for those who can cope with misfortunes and drama. We never know what will hit us and when. We better do the things swiftly and on time, whether they are significant or not, and not leave them for a "tomorrow".

The actors are good. Although in a minor, secondary role the play of Aidan Hall (Tyler's roommate) is outstanding and contributes a great deal to the movie. There is what to wait for in this move and for sure it is worthwhile to be seen.

Rating: 7

 

 

La fille du RER (2009)- Directed by Andre Techine
(The Girl from the Train)

People try to get attention and maybe mercy by doing odd things or willing to be  victims.

This is probably how one could sum up the very blurred message of this movie if it was intended to have one.

Jeanne (Emilie Dequenne) is a girl in her late teens living with her single mother, Louise (Catherine Deneuve) in a suburb of Paris.  She graduated from high-school and she is looking for work. Instead, she finds a boyfriend who seems to solve all her problems. Eager to leave home and her mother, she moves with her new boyfriend.  However, this attempt does not end well and she has to return home. In the second part of the movie, Jeanne claims, she has been attacked by a group of anti-Semites who thought she was a Jew, causing a big media upheaval.

In parallel to this main story, we have a separated couple, who is arguing about the Bar-Mitzvah ceremony of their single child.  Hard to tell how the being Israeli of the child's mother adds to the story. Also, Louise, meets again her admirer of long time ago, who is linked in a loose way to the main plot.

No doubt that there is a Jewish connection in the movie, in the Bar mitzvah of the kid and the Hebrew talking of his mother and even more so in the pretending of Jeanne to have been victimized as a result of being mistaken as a Jew.  One tends to think that Jeanne did this to get attention and sympathy as the victims of the Holocaust did, in which case this is offending to the victims who had a much more valid reason to be sympathized.

As in most French movies we are not given all the details and clarifications and we are led to go on thinking and "guessing" after the movie.

The nice repetitive music together with the recurrent beautiful cinematic scenes of the skating girl is the main refrain which keeps the, otherwise loose, movie together.

Rating: 6

 

 

It's Complicated (2009) – Directed by Nancy Meyers

A marriage can last for good or end in a divorce... And a divorce?  Does it last forever?

The Adlers, Jane (Meryl Streep) and Jack (Alec Baldwin) have been divorced for a while. Jack has remarried a much younger woman. Jack is tired of his new lifestyle being married to a younger woman and fathering her young boy. Jane lives alone, away from her grown up children, and worried of getting older. At their sons graduation Jane and Jack meet after a long time and get involved in an awkward relationship.

This relationship seems to suit both of them well and takes them away from their daily problems. However, is it possible to make a U-turn? Is it possible to go back? They have to face their surprised and scandalized children, to deal with the mixed feelings of the past and the present and "deal" with a strange emotional connection. ….Or is divorce a one way street?

The movie is an excellent romantic comedy. Meryl Streep is at her best acting as the middle aged divorced woman and Alec Baldwin is very entertaining. This is a typical film for Nancy Meyers who made similar films in "The Holiday" and "Something's Gotta Give ".  Steve Martin is in a side role and somehow left in the shadow of the leading actors. This movie is a must-see for all who like the romantic comedies.

Rating: 8

 

Brooklyn's Finest (2009) – Directed by Antoine Fuqua

Cops and criminals and the very thin line that sometimes separates them whereas we would expect the distance between them to be the greatest, is the main topic of this action/ thriller movie.

Three cops in the NYPD are the heroes of this story. They are all in the shaded area between law and crime. Richard Gere is the cop close to retirement, who has to get a drink to get up in the morning, and who has been a mediocre cop all his life. Ethan Hawke is the cop, who turned thief, trying to provide his family with the drugs money he steals in the police raids. Don Cheadle plays the role of undercover cop infiltrating the drug gangs and even getting involved in their feud.

The plot runs through the separate tales of the three policemen drawing a more realistic image of the profession than the idealistic behavior one would expect from the law keepers. They will merge towards the end in a loosely connected ending.

The darker scenes expressing the shadowy character of a cops job, the violence kept to measure together with the good acting of the main characters are the strong point of the movie.

However as in most movies elaborating multiple parallel stories, the plot lacks depth, and the convergence at the end is too loose to give a sound meaning to the whole movie.

Rating : 6

 

Green Zone (2010) – Directed by Paul Greengrass

The arsenal of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) ..was it all a farce???

"Green Zone" is the tale around this subject. The US and Great Britain invaded Irak in 2003 and toppled its leader Saddam Hussein. The most aggreed reason for this attack among the Bush administartion before the war was the will to dismantle Irak's non-conventional waepons arsenal. In the aftermath of the invasion, none of the searches revealed any kind of substantial WMD. Was the presence of WMD orchestrated by some interetsed party or was it just a misevaluation?

The movie is based on a plot of an intended deception and its cover up by intelligence officers. Matt Damon ,a young military officer, finds himself entwined in the efforts to solve the puzzle. He slowly discovers a world different than the one he was used to and which was based on his idealistic military background.

It is not a surprise that the writer of this conspiracy tale is Brian Helgeland, who is an Oscar winner for his writing in "Mystic River" as well as for the screenplay of "Conspiracy Theory".  The film is directed by Paul Greengrass, who has directed movies with political aspects before, like "Bloody Sunday" a film based on the Ireland conflict.

Matt Damon does his job dutifully. The subject is interesting although dealt superficially. The characters are not worked in depth as was in Hurt Locker. The shots give a good view of the chaos going on in the invaded Irak. The chase towards the end of the movie goes on for too long and the scenes seem to be almost repeating themselves. This length does not add much to the movie except to its the overdone impression of suspense and action.

Worth to see for the fans of action and war movies.

Rating : 7

 

California Dreamin' (Nesfarsit) (2007)  - Directed by Christian Nemescu

This Romanian movie is a good example of how the mighty, rich Americans are perceived in the foreign countries.

The movie is about a convoy of American soldiers on a secret mission during the war with Serbia in 1999. The train convoy which is supposed to transport a radar system to the war zone is passing through Romania. It gets stuck in a small village due to bureaucratic reasons raised by the local corrupted station manager who has a long standing memory of his waiting for the American soldiers at the end of WWII when his parents got killed. Each peasant has a different approach and expectations from the
"potent" American soldiers who in reality are helpless in front of the difficulties raised by a clerk in a remote village.  Still when they move out of the village, they leave behind a trace of their fight against oppression.

The movie filmed in Romania was directed by Christian Nemescu, who died in a car accident, at the age of 27, before the movie was terminated. It received an important award in the Cannes film festival. Armand Assante, plays the role of the convoy commander in an impressive way.

Although the story has a good and interesting message, the film suffers from a low camera technique. It also goes on for a longer than needed time and in some instances it may get boring. One might rightfully think that if Nemescu was alive he would probably do an editing which would drastically improve the movie. However, in its present state lacks this polishing.

Since we are reviewing the movie and not trying to write an eulogy for Nemescu our rating is lower than one would expect for a prize winner.

Rating: 4

 

 

Proof (2005) – Directed by John Madden

 
The daughter (Gwyneth Paltrow) of a mathematician (Anthony Hopkins) suspects she can get the same mental illness her father got at a later age. After the death of her genius father, her sister comes to visit her and tries to convince her to move to New –York.

The movie is based on David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize winning play. The Oscar winner of Shakespeare in Love, Gwyneth Paltrow, is starring in the leading role as the as the unsure, shy daughter. Anthony Hopkins is the older, troubled, confused mathematician father.

The movie runs on a slow pace as the characters develop. The series of flashbacks takes us back in time as they slowly solve the mystery of the authorship of the mathematical proof, which is in the center of the plot. The movie elaborates the thin line between ingeniousness and madness, and how one can be confused about which of the two he is.

Rate: 7

 

Tetro (2009) directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

The movie in black and white and filmed in Buenos Aires tells the story of "Tetro", a man who wants to escape from his previous life in the USA and comes to live as unknown in Argentina. However, when his brother appears at his home one day, he has to cope up with all the memories he wanted so much to forget.

The actors Vincent Gallo and particularly Maribel Verdu are playing their parts very well. The film is bilingual in English and Spanish. The interesting accent of Maribel Verdu as she is talking English, the very good music and sound, and the wonderful scenery shots together with the slowly revealing of the mystery surrounding Tetro's earlier life makes this film a very recommended one.
Rate: 7.

 

 

Harry Brown (2009) – Directed by Daniel Barber

The film depicts the fight of an aged ex-marine against the neighborhood gang which deals with violence and drugs. The lonely single man tries to do what the whole police department could not.

As expected Michael Caine is the main character on whom the whole movie is based. He pulls the movie forward almost all alone. Emily Mortimer plays the part of the shrewd, young detective who is underestimated by the brass. The film is directed by Daniel Barber for whom this is probably the first full length film.

There are some violent scenes but it is not overdone and the film is still a drama rather than anything else. It develops in a sound pace which is neither too slow nor too fast.

Recommended to watch  
Rating: 7.

 

 

City Island (2009) – Directed Raymond De Fellita

Andy Garcia – Emily Mortimer

The story of a regular family life In Bronx and all the "little", "not evil intending" lies of each of the family members. However hiding the skeletons can be misinterpreted sometimes and may cause real problems.

Andy Gracia is doing an excellent work as the father of the family and as the "correctional officer". Emily Mortimer's side role could not express all her talent.

The music and the setup assisted the plot in building up the intrigues and resulting in the growing suspense of this hilarious comedy.

Wonderfully entertaining 90 minutes.
Rating: 8.

 

The Messenger 2009 – Directed by Oren Moverman


 
A story about a two-man team assigned to notify the next of keens (NOK) about the death of soldiers. Emotions involved in dealing with such a delicate duty are developed throughout the movie.

Woody Harrelson performs outstandingly the supporting role of the impassive, formal army officer which follows strictly the army protocol in fulfilling his task. Is he really unemotional?
 
 
The movie refrains from dealing with the subject of wars and their justifications and focuses solely on one its most devastating result, the fall of a soldier. 
Contradictions between the formality of the military protocol for the notification versus the heartbreaking feelings of the parents and wives of the fallen soldiers at this same moment are emphasized through the movie. The extreme difference and variations among the families of the victims when notified about their loss is very well elaborated. In one case the father of a victim attacks the messengers whereas in another, the wife of the fallen soldier thanks them respectfully.  At last the feelings of the stone-faced news breakers and their emotions come out in certain moments.

Rating: 8