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A well-made film, albeit unsettling and hard to watch at times.
Jagten, directed by Thomas Vinterberg, is about a man whose life is shattered when he is falsely accused of being a pedophile.
Mads Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a school teacher who works at the local nursery. He lives in a small community, the kind where everyone knows each other, and apart from occasional drinking and deer hunting with his friends, Lucas lives a mostly solitary life. He is divorced and currently fighting to gain custody of his teenage son, Marcus. One day, one of his students, Klara, while talking to the school's principal, happens to mention something that implied she was molested by Lucas. She was lying, but being 5 years old, Klara had no grasp of what the consequences would be. What started as a small lie quickly evolved and spread all over the small town, turning Lucas into a pariah.
Jagten was one of the contenders for Best Foreign Language Film in the 86th Academy Awards, and after seeing it, I have to say the recognition is well-deserved. It's affecting and provocative, the kind of film that lingers in your mind after you watch it. Mads Mikkelsen is excellent as Lucas. I'm used to seeing him play the villain (I love Hannibal), but he was effective as a good man struggling to maintain his dignity against all odds. Jagten, albeit unsettling and hard to watch at times, is a well-made film and easily one of the best I've seen recently.
We Are What We Are (2013)
We Are What We Are tells the story of a reclusive, small-town family harboring a dark and terrible secret.
When their mother dies days before Lamb's Day, a celebration that has been part of the Parker family for centuries, it falls upon eldest daughter Iris, with the help of her younger sister Rose, to make sure preparations for their ritualistic holiday are fulfilled. They seem hesitant to carry out their duties, especially Rose, who expresses her desire to abandon their tradition in favor of a normal life, but the will of their fanatic father Frank is too great to contest. The mystery behind the strange family unfolds when the local doctor acts on his suspicions after performing an autopsy on the deceased Mrs. Parker.
I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. It was okay, at best. For me, the only thing that made an impression was Julia Garner, who played Rose.
Watch it if you prefer your horror films quiet and restrained. This one fits the bill, except for the last few scenes. That's when the horror jumps right at the other end of the spectrum, giving us an ending that's quite shocking and unsettling.
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Tom and Tilda were perfect, but not enough to carry the film
Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play vampire lovers Adam and Eve in this film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch.
Adam is a musician living in anonymity in Detroit. His long years of living among humans, or "zombies" as he puts it, has left him so jaded, he actually contemplates taking his own life. Eve, his wife, flies all the way from Tangier, where she lives, to lift Adam's spirits. What follows is a few days in the lives of the lovers, and from their casual conversations we glean a sense of what it's like to see the world through immortal eyes.
I wanted to like this film, but there really wasn't much to like. Tom and Tilda fit their roles perfectly and their performances were enjoyable, but not enough to carry the entire thing. The story does not go anywhere, and probably the reason why I didn't enjoy it so much was that I was looking for a plot that wasn't there. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against plot less films. They can be great when done right. This one just didn't work for me. Basically, it was two hours of Adam and Eve talking, being cool, drinking blood, Adam sulking, Eve trying to make him feel better. At one point, Eve's mischievous sister, Ava, played by Mia Wasikowska, comes in to stir things up a bit. Adam and Eve's conversations about music, literature, etc. were interesting up to a point, but by the time the film ended I was as jaded as Adam had been in the beginning of the film.
It's not a bad film, and I can honestly see how some people would like it. Give this a try if you want to see a different kind of vampire movie. Stay away if you particularly dislike plot less films.
Far-fetched, yet rooted in reality.
Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet play Joel and Clementine, a couple who, when their relationship goes south, undergo a procedure to erase each other from their memories. It's strange, smart, sad, funny, and just overall brilliant.
This film left an indelible impression on me the first time I saw it many years ago. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen before, and I was utterly smitten. The material and the way it was translated on screen was appealing in its novelty and eccentricity. Though operating on a far-fetched premise, the film depicts a very real picture of how relationships are - sweet at the beginning, sour over time, and with at least one bitter casualty by the time it ends. What it ultimately asks though, is if it's worth it, taking in all the bad with the good. If the prospect of love is worth the potential disaster it'll leave in its wake. The film doesn't answer it for us, but I'd say the ending wraps up the whole thing in the best way possible.
It may be ten years old as of this writing, but Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind remains to be as fresh, wonderful and unique as ever.
Third Person (2013)
Less than the sum of its parts
Third Person features an ensemble cast including Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, and Olivia Wilde, and is written and directed by Paul Haggis, best known for the Academy Award-winning Crash. Like Crash, Third Person's narrative consists of several characters whose lives are interconnected, but the similarity ends there. While Crash mostly tackled societal fear and prejudice, this one focuses on more intimate relationships, and the theme revolves around love and loss, trust and betrayal, guilt and denial.
I've read some pretty harsh reviews for Third Person. I personally didn't think it was bad, but definitely there were aspects of it that could have been done better. Also, the runtime could have been a bit shorter. The mystery of how the lives of the characters were all connected was intriguing, but in the end, the payoff didn't feel like it was worth 2 hours (137 minutes to be exact) of my life. I liked parts of it more than the whole. There's a scene with Mila Kunis in an elevator that had me cringing in my seat. It reminded me of that intense scene in Crash involving a little girl, an invisible cloak, and a gun. I loved it.
Good effort from the actors as well. I don't think I've ever seen Mila Kunis in a more serious role. Liam Neeson takes a break from all the ass-kicking he's been doing lately. Olivia Wilde takes her clothes off. Adrien Brody's OK, but his nose is distracting as ever.
Boy A (2007)
Riveting and provocative
Andrew Garfield delivers a wonderful performance here as Jack Burridge, a young man struggling to redeem himself from the sins of his past.
The opening scene shows Jack as he is released from prison and prepares to join the outside world under the guidance of his caseworker Terry (Peter Mullan). With Terry's help, Jack assumes a new identity and a gets second shot at life. He gets a job, his own place, a couple of good friends, and even bags himself a girlfriend. Everything seems to be going well for Jack, but a happy ending doesn't seem to be in the cards, and we watch as his past finally catches up with him, swiftly unraveling the life he had just begun rebuilding.
I've always liked movies that leave you with something to chew on, and this one definitely fits the bill. "Who decides who gets a second chance?", asks the film's tagline. This is the question you will be pondering over and over once you finish watching this film.
Andrew Garfield shines in this one. He's believable as a young man who genuinely wants to turn his life around, but is constantly haunted by his past. He seemed to have just the right amount of charm and crazy in him. You're convinced that he's good, but you know his past messed him up real bad. Plus there's that unforgettable scene where he's tripping on E, which is simply awesome.
A Single Man (2009)
Beautifully directed, well-acted, and nicely written, A Single Man is one of a very few compelling films I've seen in a while. It's about a day in the life of George Falconer (Colin Firth), an English college professor struggling to cope with the death of his lover Jim, played by the dashing Matthew Goode *sigh*.
Tom Ford does a wonderful job with his directorial debut. I've read others say it was overdone, but I personally didn't think that was the case. It was very stylish, yes, but not disgustingly so. And I loved that effect where he plays with the color saturation at different moments throughout the film.
The actors, of course, were very good, and made the film much more of a treat to watch.
A film which strikes a good balance between style & substance, A Single Man is definitely something I would recommend others to watch.
Leaves of Grass (2009)
Edward Norton x 2!
In Leaves of Grass, Edward Norton plays Bill and Brady Kincaid, twin brothers who could not be more different from each other. Bill's a "famous thinker" and an Ivy League professor, while Brady's a pothead and a weed-manufacturing genius.
The movie had me smiling right from the opening scene, but it kind of went downhill for me towards the last quarter. I still think it's a very likable movie, though. I especially loved Bill and Brady's scenes together. Loved, loved Edward Norton in this one! It must've been hard having to trade lines with yourself, but Edward Norton pulls it off very well and manages to be believable as both characters.
The film delves into philosophy a lot of times and offers us some food for thought, but it's most of all a story about family and dealing with the emotional baggage they come with. It has comedy, drama, some action, and a bit of (in my opinion) unnecessary romance.
Watch it if you like dramedies about dysfunctional families. A must-see for Edward Norton fans like me.
The Road (2009)
Well, that was depressing.
The Road is about a father and his son's quest for survival in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian future. Father and son journey through a monochromatic world, where animals have long died out and big fires and earthquakes seem to come out of nowhere. There is no law, no order, no nothing, and we see man's regression towards his basic survival instincts, resulting to all kinds of violence, including cannibalism.
Throughout the film I couldn't help but think: In a world like that, why would the father raise his son to be such a wimp? The boy seemed too dependent, too helpless, too naive. But maybe that was intentional. A sort of nurturing of man's innocence and goodness. Though the father does, at some point, tell us he's preparing the kid for when he's gone, it wasn't really that convincing. Thank God the kid got lucky in the end. I shudder at the thought of him running into bad guys. He'd probably end up as dinner. Ugh.
The end of course, all things considered, is still a happy one. I didn't really know what to expect, not having read the book, but I was preparing myself for the worst. I was kinda expecting the film, as dark as it already is, to go even darker. Maybe have the boy die, 'The Mist' style. (man, that movie was depressing.) I'm not really sure if it would have been better that way though. Probably not. In the end, what we are left with is a glimmer of hope. Hope for the boy, and for Man. No thumbs, though.
Viggo was amazing in this one. The boy was just okay. I would've probably cried my eyes out at the father's death scene if the kid's acting chops were more like a young Haley Joel Osment's. Overall, I'd say it was a great movie.