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510 reviews in total 
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Hijacking Money, 23 October 2015

A too virile and dry story on the surface to be sure, so it would not be surprising to see many viewers detract attention from the drama unfolding. But behind the cold calculations and handling of the situation (what follows when a cargo ship belonging to a big Scandinavian company is hijacked by modern-day pirates), there is the intense drama of the hostages, their families, the hijackers and the negotiators. The realistic treatment of the film gives equal prominence to the almost dispassionate, sinister and calculating ways the economic system rules to the point of sparing one or two human lives to save a couple of million dollars. Very good performances, tight direction and real settings all help and contribute to the effectiveness of this motion picture.

A Note on the Vanguard Edition, 19 October 2015

For a moment I thought of stopping the player… Subtitles were reading like this: "I thought you were coming the day you…" or "I saw you when you were…" The lines of dialogue were incomplete! But then after a couple of minutes trying to fill the gaps, voilà, the subtitles appeared in full for… what a beautiful movie!!! Maybe a bit sentimental here and there, but at the same time gripping, strong, touching, especially in those very spiny moments when individual politics clash with love, family and friends. A very good cast of unfamiliar faces is a big plus, because you don't waste time seeing how much your favorite star has aged. I recommend it highly.

'71 (2014)
Fine Opera Prima, 18 October 2015

"'71" contains, at least, two masterful moments under the direction of new filmmaker Yann Demange: the mise-en-scène and hand-held camera of a sequence of an extremely violent riot on a Belfast street, between British soldiers and Irish civilians, followed by the evasion of the protagonist (Jack O'Connell), a soldier who is abandoned by his platoon in the middle of the riot, while members of the young faction of the Irish Catholics chase the soldier to kill him. Brilliant. Then, there is a moment that leaves us spectators astonished, when a bomb explodes in the middle of the night, right behind the soldier, who falls on the pavement and then slowly stands up and enters the place in flames, while sound is low, as if he and we have been left partially deaf by the explosion. Equally brilliant. My only complaint against the film is that the conflicts between England and North Ireland contain so many nuances that it is sometimes difficult to follow. In the film the British soldiers are mostly working-class men who are nothing but "meat" for the posh and highly corrupt officers, the moderate Protestant Irish, the terrorist Catholic Irish, Loyalists, the antagonistic young and old IRA activists. It may be clear for the United Kingdom audience, and surely for those who are well-informed about world politics, but many of us simply cannot "read" it with clarity. Fortunately the film goes beyond these specificities: it deals with intolerance, army corruption, the distortion of libertarian ideals among the struggling people, and these topics appeal to all persons. It is a very well made motion picture that fluidly achieves moments of high tension. Highly recommended... and I must say that I am not particularly into this kind of cinema.

She Beast (1966)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Funny Way to Exorcise a Hag, 3 October 2015

I had read negative reviews about this film all these years and also that director Michael Reeves was "horrified by the outrageously comical final car chase scene shot by the second unit", but, as a matter of fact, all the film has a comedy tone and funny elements, even in its creepiest moments (as when the she-beast throws away the sickle she has used to kill, and it falls on top of a hammer, forming the communist symbol). The story takes place in Transylvania, so there are constant jokes (in the Cold War style) about the backwardness and inefficiency of the Romanian authorities, capitalist characters make fun of communist characters and vice versa, and it goes on like that until the happy ending with lovers reunited (and a final little joke, delivered by Barbara Steele). As a matter of fact, this treatment makes the film seem better than it is, although it is not as bad as some claim. Steele spent only one day with the production (a day in which she was used to very good advantage), so most of the action is left to a very young and thin Ian Ogilvy (he was only 23), New Zealander John Karlsen as a descendant of Dr. Van Helsing, Mel Welles chewing the scenery, and the ugliest witch you will ever see in a movie (called Vardella, by the way, but apparently Martha Reeves never heard about this).

Lost River (2014)
5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Fine First Work, 19 September 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ryan Gosling wrote and directed a fine first film, a tale about ordinary people surrounded by myth and decay, in an almost abandoned town in Michigan. However, the movie was submitted to the wrong film festival: you know, Cannes means tough competition and the French can be haughty. With the tone of an apocalyptic fable, «Lost River» would have been more appreciated in specialized events, as the fantasy film festivals celebrated in Porto, Neuchâtel, Brussels, Málaga, Amsterdam, Gérardmer, Puchon, Austin or Buenos Aires. «Lost River» strongly belongs in those festivals and it could have been awarded with several prizes: first work by a new director, for its cinematography, screenplay, or for a couple of good performances. Handled by Warner Brothers, the company did not know what to do with this beautiful motion picture, so it considered "selling the distribution rights to another company" and finally decided to limit its exposure to on- demand exhibitions. Or simply put: it just decided to kill it. «Lost River» belongs to a special lineage of American films that portrait people and places of the United States that are often ignored or mistreated in mainstream cinema by filmmakers without any compassion or understanding of their situation: see how Alan Parker portrayed poverty in Mississippi, with a "chic touch" in the deplorable «Angel Heart». I refer to a lineage as old as King Vidor's «Street Scene», to Robert Altman's «Thieves Like Us», David Lynch's «Blue Velvet», Michael Moore's «Roger & Me», and many other independent films that came to my mind, as Harmony Korine's «Gummo», Jeff Nichols' «Mud», Daniel Patrick Carbone's «Hide Your Smiling Faces» and Kat Candler's «Hellion». As an individual of these times, Gosling was audio-visually "trained" from watching television and films since childhood, so he wrote a fragmented script, but it does have a linear Aristotelian plot with well- defined three acts, precise plot points, a satisfying resolution and well-structured characters (some are fascinanting). In the story, a single mother (Christina Hendricks) tries to keep her childhood home and her little family together (she and her two sons) in the dying town of Lost River. To do so she accepts a job offer from a bank manager (Ben Mendelsohn) in a night club literally from hell, where the main attraction (Eva Mendes) dances to "Moliendo café" as sung by Lucho Gatica, to be suddenly beaten and killed by a hoodlum, and her blood spreaded on the audience, all as part of the show. In this way the mother enters a sordid and morbid sector of society (imagine that all clients are Dennis Hoppers from «Blue Velvet» times 50, plus the naked and masked bourgeoisie of «Eyes Wide Shut»). Simultaneously her adolescent son (Iain de Caestecker) tries to help her by extracting and selling pieces of copper found in derelict buildings, which are claimed by a psychopath (Matt Smith) who controls what is left of Lost River. As he runs from the guy, the boy incidentally discovers a submerged town in a lake. His girlfriend neighbor (Saoirse Ronan) tells him that her grandmother (Barbara Steele) --who decided to remain silent when her husband died-- has predicted that the day someone brings up to the surface a fragment of anything belonging to the lost town, Lost River will be freed from a curse. Although what is being told is very violent in spirit (and overtly so in a few scenes), Gosling moved his story with a smooth and gentle pace, unfolding the tale in a calm manner, rarely unaltered, which brings me to my only objection, a factor that did alter this tone of serenity: the music score by Johnny Jewel. Not because it is bad music, but for being unnecessary in most of the cases. This is not only a problem in Gosling's film, but in almost all movies, especially in American productions. Filmmakers seem to mistrust the power of the images they create and allow composers, editors and sound crew to overemphasize what is obvious. Besides Jewel's cues are too short and have a spasmodic effect: they accentuate a phrase, an expression, an action, and then fade until the next reaction. But fortunately the film transcends this limitation. As you watch «Lost River», it is true that you may remember one or two works from Lynch or Nicolas Winding Refn, but I do not see the point of making a fuss about this, when all filmmakers, from Woody Allen to Brian De Palma, show their influences and no one complains. They are even exalted because of copying Ingmar Bergman or Alfred Hitchcock. This said, as a whole «Lost River» is a satisfying motion picture, with good performances by all: even Barbara Steele in her silent role is remarkable. Forget what some say about this movie and watch it. You will like it.

Let the Music Play, 18 September 2015

Different elements were combined to create one of the most moving documentaries about music of any kind and people from the world. Director Heddy Honigmann selected charming musicians to directly interact with the camera, chose fragments of fine music pieces among the 50 concerts the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam performed to celebrate its 125th anniversary, and captured the resonance of social conflicts and the hopes brought by music in three cities with dramatic stories: Buenos Aires, Soweto and St. Petersburg. So while we experience beautiful music, watch wonderful images of our planet or see and listen to the musicians happily talking about their relationships with the instruments they play, we also experience Heddy Honigmann's humanistic approach to an Argentinian taxi driver, a Russian victim of both Stalin's and Hitler's regimes, and two teenagers and an artistic promoter from Soweto. In all these little portraits life is related to music experience. Echoing the works of other documentary filmmakers Honigmann has contrasted within the frame of a single work the different realities on planet Earth, the easy living of some human beings to the struggles of others. We perceive beauty in the same places where violence and death once ruled, the hope and joy of living and the sad memory of past experiences. But what foremost prevails here is music, including a private little concert to a bakery worker and a huge popular concert by the Amsterdam canals that will surely move you as the concerts given in big concert halls and theaters. A joy to watch and to hear.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Mrs. Parker and the Algonquin Crowd, 14 September 2015

If you liked Alan Rudolph's "Choose Me", "Remember Me", "Trouble in Mind", "Afterglow" or "Welcome to L.A.", if you especially liked his movie "The Moderns", if you like film scores by Mark Isham, if you liked Robert Altman (who produced this film and a few others by Rudolph) and if you like Jennifer Jason Leigh (great, great, great, with no Oscar, while one or two other hags flaunt two), do not miss, if it ever comes your way, "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle", a fascinating cinematic biography of the even more fascinating writer Dorothy Parker, and her circle of critics and authors of the New York literary scene who were integral part of the "round table" of the Algonquin hotel in the city in the 1920s. A deluxe cast: Campbell Scott, Matthew Broderick, Andrew McCarthy, Jennifer Beals, Nick Cassavetes, Lily Taylor, Martha Plimpton, Wallace Shawn, Stephen Baldwin, James Le Gros, Rebecca Miller, Sam Robards, Gwyneth Paltrow, Peter Gallagher, Heather Graham, Stanley Tucci, Keith Carradine.. For those who love the literary world and writers of "brilliant pen", "sharp tongue" and smart repartee in debates, this is your motion picture. I rate it 10/10. Those who don't, it's up to them to raise objections. Beautiful film. Memorable performance by Leigh and, by the way, a very good one by Andrew McCarthy too, as Mr. Parker: considering his previous works (all pretty eyes and little substance), he truly made a good impression on me.

Pina (2011)
The Works of Pina Bausch as Seen by Wim Wenders, 9 September 2015

I saw Wim Wenders' «Pina – Dance, Dance, Otherwise We Are Lost» after watching the fine documentary «The Salt of the Earth (A Journey with Sebastião Salgado)» (which he made three years later), and the inversion proved disappointing. When Pina Bausch died unexpectedly, without the dancer and choreographer by his side (as he projected the film since the 1980s), the end result is only fair. I do not know why Wenders thought that 3D could be the "solution" to film dance, when in the past this performing manifestation has been registered in more than adequate ways, without relying much on visual technology: for instance, Norman McLaren made his shorts «Narcissus» and «Pas de deux» with less resources, just as Carlos Saura did «Bodas de sangre», without diminishing the beauty of dance or making its filming less effective. In the end, the majority of living beings who will watch «Pina» will do so in two dimensions. On the other hand, I did not see the need to move the choreographies to exteriors, sometimes in ugly locations (a quarry, for example, or the urban streets with signs of drug stores, lottery or the "big M"), when the best images and moments are those registered in sets of ambitious (and achieved) expressiveness, decorated with few elements, as the sets for «Le sacre du printemps», «Café Müller» and «Vollmond». Beautiful testimonies by Bausch's dancers, come from all corners of the world, and the choreographies rescue this documentary, which goes on for 100 minutes that sometimes seemed endless to me. Yet I would not tell anyone not to see Wender's film: more for dance reasons than for cinematic value, «Pina» is a registry of the work of a great artist, of a daughter of two centuries. It deserves to be recommended, the more so because there are many persons who will enjoy it to the fullest.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Catholic Adventure, 7 September 2015

If we had a Catholic western as "The Bravados" with a big star (Gregory Peck) in 1958, why not a Catholic adventure drama with two stars three years later? It is a pity that the drama becomes a melodrama, and the adventure turns into an endless "mano a mano" between Tracy and Sinatra. The fun and the excitement of the perils the cast has to face vanish in the last 30 minutes, which is the time when all the dramatic and adventure elements reach their peaks, but they are all knocked down with the silly dialogues and situations that plague the final act (most concerning Grégoire Aslan's fear of leprosy, and Bernie Hamilton's sudden spiritual enlightenment). I spent most of that time spotting "dramatic" stretches that could have easily been cut without affecting the central plot and effectiveness of the film. It also becomes too predictable, as the characters begin to disappear, and --what is worse-- after being announced that they will be soon out of the action (for example, the flower that falls before Fleur's death). Still it is not terribly bad, it is entertaining for the most part and the cast makes it work.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
King Vidor and Social Differences, 2 September 2015

Barbara Stanwyck is very good in this melodrama, but I believe little praise has been given to King Vidor, whom I have grown to appreciate in recent years as one of the best classic American filmmakers of all times. Precisely for this reason I finally acquired this film and enjoyed it very much, especially as he shows great perception to depict the cruel and too frequent irreconcilable differences that end relationships. In movies like «The Crowd», «Our Daily Bread», «Street Scene», «Hallelujah!» and even «Bird of Paradise» or "Solomon and Sheba» Vidor intelligently dealt with social, cultural, ethnic, economic or ideological differences, that still affect people and quite often impede any one of us to find happiness. Perhaps the ornamented Stella is a bit overdone, especially in the hotel sequence after she has previously demonstrated how to control her tendency to be excessive and vulgar in dress, make-up, hair style or social manners, when Mr. Dallas picks up their daughter to spend Christmas with him. But most of the time Vidor keeps everything tight, including Sherman Todd's film editing, and even Alfred Newman's melodramatic string overflows are well measured. I must add that the rest of the cast is all good, making «Stella Dallas» a rewarding film experience.

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