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"Machines should do the work and people should think", 19 April 2015

IBM hired Jim Henson to develop a film on their latest development: Magnetic Tape Selectric Typewriter (aka IBM MT/ST), a revolutionary word processor destined to extinguish the high amount of paperwork used in offices out there, hence "The Paperwork Explosion" given as title for this promo material.

Bottom of line: practicality is always what matters in terms of technology, less time spent doing a function and the more function it does, the better. MT/ST lasted very briefly - starting in 1964, becoming obsolete in the following decade and discontinued in 1983 - and despite all the remarks provided by their executives in this film (Frank Oz is hidden among them), the product doesn't seem to diminish the paperwork, it's all put into tapes, it wasn't an electronic device and it was quite complicated to use it (Google about it). We won't get to the topic on the environmental problems those machines caused...and we know they all did.

Meanwhile, Henson's film is quite interesting but considering that this is a promo for a company it goes for too long. The scenes, the music, the curiosity built on what could possibly be so fascinating and so incredible to the point of causing a revolution in everyone's lives...that's what matters, and that's where Henson gets it right. He sold the product with perfection.

The business executives say at the end: "Machines should do the work and people should think". Such innocent times. Barely they knew that in the 21st Century it would be all about machines doing the work and the thinking, so that we poor humans could do nothing and neglect our own existence. 8/10

Faster (2010)
"Faster"? More like Slower, 14 April 2015

This movie premise is not original and that alone wouldn't be a problem because at least it's gripping just to hear about it: man is released from prison and seeks revenge on a group of people who were responsible for his imprisonment. That story was told a thousand times before. And with The Rock starring in it, you're already hooked and trust this will be good, entertaining at best. However, his first action flick since "Doom" (oh boy!), doesn't go nowhere, misses a lot of marks and delivers almost nothing. And the fault lies not only with the lazy screenwriters, or the poor direction but also comes from the casting director. I'll return to that later.

I don't know if the blame should be put on the director since he selected as main focus the drama story rather than the thrills and the excitement for the action; or the writer for writing this exact script. Something was strangely wrong with this picture. Neither of those people and their choices worked for the better development of this wreck. Too slow, too uninteresting, with minor accomplishments and even those managed to be overlooked by audiences. And since both workers opted for odd choices why picking Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson as the leading man? Hear me out: his character is a real menace for every one he meets not because of his towering height and dangerous looks but simply because of a tattoo, code to something dangerous that gets people killed when they cross this guy's path. Not to mention, The Rock barely makes use of his muscles, he's always carrying a gun. Hold that idea. If the tattoo is the great threat why not choosing Danny DeVito for the role? We would get something meaningful, dramatic and the action is just a tool to make the story move.

In any case, everything moves with no interest, sloppy and carelessly. Some of the twists and the revelations were intense and good to see but almost everything else was silly or not great enough to make you care about this movie. OK, I liked the dirty detective played by Billy Bob Thornton, dividing his time between investigating the murders of many folks (all killed by the main character) and trying to find some quality time for his kid; his partner the honest detective in charge of the case, played by Carla Gugino; and the methodic killer played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen, easily the best part of the movie, in my opinion. People complain about his acting abilities, so-and-so, but his character was really something (and hot as hell, let's face it!). You keep the whole movie trying to figure out what's the real deal with his pursuit to the "hero".

Not a complete waste of time and manageable in some ways, "Faster" is just a distraction and sometimes we can use that - but it's so much better if you devote yourself to something else. 5/10

Historical and symbolical piece but not controversial as it should have been, 29 March 2015

"Manhã Cinzenta" ("Grey Morning") is a minor yet important register from the Anos de Chumbo (Lead Years) of the military regime that took place in Brazil between the 1960's and 1980's. The curious about this film is that it was released right after the AI-5, the Instituional Act that censored all forms of material against the government, took liberties from left and the right and was quite a mayhem in terms of what the nation leaders could do to any person. Even with all that, this short film was made, not sure if actually released to major audiences, some Latin American nations had exhibitions of it, the word got out and its director Olney São Paulo was arrested, tortured and was forced to deliver all the negatives he had of this film. Many thought it was a lost film but just the opposite, it's easily available (only this year that I actually heard about this preciosity) despite the poor audio and image quality. It remains as the most realistic criticism to the regime from the period, competing with the masterpiece "Terra Em Transe", released two years earlier.

Part fiction, part documentary, part real and part fraud, "Manhã Cinzenta" tells us about a young couple arrested by the police after taking part in political protests. The story is presented in strange flashbacks that gives some insight into the rebellion this couple and their group of friends have with the current political system, inter-cut with their arrest and torture, and real archive footage coming from the real protests that took place in 1968 and/or earlier. The latter is what makes this film quite explosive, politically charged and a great manifest in favor of liberty, the right to protest for civil and moral rights.

Too bad Mr. São Paulo didn't stick to the truth, he had to make a disjointed fiction that sounds and looks pretentious, confusing, borrowing elements from the cinema of Godard. Note that at no point Brazil is mentioned as the place where the story takes place (a fictional name was given, if I'm not wrong); the characters live in a fictional nation under the command of a robot surrounded by an army. Part of its purpose in making a statement and create a controversy is almost lost because of those fictional conveniences. This movie could be THE real thing from the period, the only daring piece of cinematic art to challenge the dictatorship. It's just a scratch - enough to cause harm to the director but not enough to be remembered (then and now) as the greatest slap in the face the regime ever took. I know this was done in order to avoid conflict but since they knew they would get it, why not bothering with throwing punches and name names, expose the whole and absolute truth? Remains historical, yes, but it's so dull and reserved that its effect now is hardly effective.

Doesn't go without positive aspects: its brilliancy comes with the prison sequences followed by John Philip Sousa's military themes, a hint to the real financiers of the regime and the real images from the students protests. Fine movie. 8/10

The Talk (2010)
The call we'll never get..., 20 March 2015

Yes, the magic of movies and too bad it's awfully damn short. "The Talk" is about the moments in life when we need that extra little act that becomes a great part in our lives...if only we had thought a little bit more, or if we had someone to help us. In this film, a guy seems to be trying to break-up with his girlfriend - we don't know the reasons, and perhaps neither does him - and in the moment he's about to bring the topic to her, he receives a phone call. The cell phone marks as "Me calling", which means, he's calling himself. Here comes the magic: his future self is calling the present self to warn that what he's about to do might be the biggest mistake of his life. Now it's up to the real man to make a choice.

Faster than the speed of the light, "The Talk" convinces and amuses for its simple story but I do think it could be longer, there should be a great dialog between the future guy and the present guy, establishing more things or some reasons on why is such a bad idea to leave the girl and why is such a great idea to not leave her . Whatever, it was great anyway and the couple is quite lovely. 9/10

Great visual concept carried by an outstanding performance by Alex McAvoy. But Floyd doesn't sound much interesting., 31 January 2015

Roger Waters concept criticizing Thatcherism and UK's involvement in the Falklands War in the Pink Floyd's album "The Final Cut" is also used in this movie as well, with the songwriter analyzing facts from his period and also a look back at WWII, as evidenced by his "alter-ago" represented by Alex McAvoy - the nasty teacher from "The Wall". This time, McAvoy plays a good character, saddened by the world he's living, no longer the nation he used to live and know. The recurring images of his father who died in World War II are just a way to contrast his idea of patriotism, he's sad because he lost his father but he can accept that it was for a noble cause, quite opposite to what he thinks was happening with the Falklands war. He can't be patriotic with that. And so, the teacher tries to find ways to overcome this pessimistic moment.

The movie comprises four songs from the album in one continuous way reflecting on Waters criticisms of England during the 1980's. They are 'The Gunner's Dream', 'The Final Cut', 'Not Now John' and 'The Fletcher Memorial Home'. The images that follow them compensate the soundtrack's lack of greatness, with memorable sequences such as the old man dreaming of killing political leaders gathered on an asylum; or the countless real archive footage used during one of the tracks. Gladly, the lyrics go in tune with the images.

Though being a fan of Pink Floyd, I don't know much about their album "The Final Cut", except that it was mostly a Roger Waters effort, to the point of leaving all the other members (except Richard Wright who wasn't there) behind a wall that later on dismantled the band that kept on without Waters. The brief medley of songs presented in the film left me unimpressed and not even feeling like listening to Floyd tracks - except the great 'Not Now John' but that song sounds like being a rejected track from "The Wall".

Despite the minor derailments along the way, "The Final Cut" deserves to be seen. It accomplishes its mission of portraying valid criticism, though very early in time considering Thatcher was only four years in power, so it goes to show that Waters was a pioneer in making remarks on her; and above that, the movie has an excellent performance, credit must be given to Mr. Alex McAvoy who goes on a complete different direction from what he played in Alan Parker's film. I'd never imagine that he could generate sympathy after playing an unforgettable loud tyrant ("Poems, everybody!") in "The Wall" (if you haven't seen it, at least you probably know the clip taken from it). He doesn't say a word but manages to express a lot with his face and his eyes, conveying plenty of emotion without excess, going in plenty of directions, full of double meanings and it's up to us to discover what's inside his head. A poetic performance! 8/10

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Unusual but has its moments, 22 December 2014

The film's poster convinces us that what we're about to see is another ordinary action film, with touches of an empathic and gripping drama destined to make us support the main character's actions. Don't be fooled by that image. "After the Fall" is a good drama with small portions of action, and the latter isn't all that compelling or exciting. Wes Bentley stars as a desperate man who takes extreme measures after losing job and being unable to take care of his family, surrounded by debts after debts. His only option: committing crimes, mugging the residents of his small town. On his trail there's a decadent detective (Jason Isaacs) who is trying to catch this new suspect who appeared in town all of sudden, but they barely knew they would cross paths early on and become buddies who are stuck in saddening times, with their personal crisis and just trying to find a way to live their lives.

More artistic than entertaining, "After the Fall" treats its themes by appropriating itself of some of Terrence Malick's techniques - though more conventional to mainstream audiences - with the use of the main character's narration remembering the lovely times he had with his family in their big house and their pool, describing the love and care he had for his wife and kids; and also appropriates of some "Breaking Bad" elements, without ever getting on the same level of greatness. Mr. Saar Klein's debut as director comes across as simple-minded, clichéd yet manageable and interesting due to the performances of Bentley and Isaacs (who steals the show, this time without playing the villain). Bentley was a decent anti-hero, you get easily involved with his obstacles, and enjoy each time he tries to help people in worst conditions than him (like the female cashier - but hey at least she has a job, awful but still), almost getting close to being a hero (helping the old man who spotted him before a robbery at a drugstore).

And if the movie loses points is because of its lack of alternatives and unusual conceptions. Why the lead character never, at no point, tries to get another job? He's stuck in that weird business, still trying to impress his former boss when he's no longer part of the company in ages. That part was really strange. And since when stealing pocket money from other people can be enough to make one rescue his taken car? He survives from stealing to stealing, and it's all very unconvincing. I won't even mention the solution given at the conclusion which the writer simply fast forward with a plausible explanation.

Here's another modern treaty about the swifty American dream; there's always crisis and always unexpected solutions but family always comes first. Even though you're about to lose them. 6/10

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Decadence in its pure form, 7 December 2014

I know I shouldn't reference a classic movie while writing about this film but I have to because there's a certain strange connection between both, despite the different outcome each one had. The majority of viewers of "The Canyons" might never have heard of "The Misfits" (1961), that depressive tale starring Gable, Monroe, Clift and directed by John Huston, a reunion of washed up characters that never seem to do anything right in life, and behind the scenes it was another sad story as well, becoming the final films of Marilyn and Clark, and Monty's career already in ruins, didn't get better later on. Rumor has it, the movie was on TV the day he died, someone asked him if he wanted to see it, to which he replied with a 'no'. Yet that was a marvelous picture and still interesting to watch. What's Paul Schrader movie has to do with it? It's also a story about washed up people (in and off the movie) who try to do something with their lives but only manage to complicate things. Unlike "The Misfits", this excuse for a movie is simply dull, hollow and idiotic.

The same hands that wrote the great "American Psycho" and "Less than Zero" are the same that brings this movie to life. Can you believe that? Yep, Bret Easton Ellis tries to deliver a piece involving Hollywood and its nasty schemes of money, power, sex, lies, betrayal and love going out the window. In it, famous producer film Christian (porn star James Deen, trying his big break in conventional films) goes bazoork after finding out that his wife (Lindsay Lohan) is having an affair with Ryan (Nolan Gerard Funk), the leading man he selected to star in his new project. Conflict, or catch some might say: Christian doesn't mind sharing his lovely wife with other partners in orgies and wild parties as long as he's there as well, so it's kind of weird when he reacts in a psychotic way after discovering the affair. "I love you because I trust you" he says at the beginning, maybe it's the other way around, I don't know.

That side of the story is pure garbage, and the more the film tries to bring sensuality or just throw some sex scene, the more embarrassing it gets. It looks like a lousy carbon copy of a softcore (and trust me, there's softcore flicks with better plot and sexy moments than this thing), the sex is just presented very briefly, with no deep connection with the story, and even the sequences involving nudity are tame, prudishly captured. Wheter being a weird drama or a unsexy thriller, "The Canyons" doesn't hit right at anything. There's not even a bold or original take into Hollywood way of running things, no critique, no judgment, just the exploitation of us unfortunate viewers.

I only (slightly) cared about "The Canyons" in the sequences involving Ryan, the young and struggling actor caught in the middle of complicated situations, torn about acting in a good project - but what's it about, anyway? the movie never tells us - and staying with the love of his life, the decadent actress married with Christian, and Ryan also happens to be married. Throughout the film, he spends his time trying to find ways to be in the picture, no matter the consequences (since he's a drop dead gorgeous guy, he's frequently tempted by guys who have power in the business) he fights for that role mostly because it's the only thing for him to do.

Gathered here is the ultimate members of the decadent career group: Lohan post-rehab career, another low movie for her; the unlucky director Schrader - his latest ventures are quite troubled, specially with producers who remove the man cause he never delivers the movie they wanted (apparently, that didn't happen here but it happened with the fourth Exorcist and the recent "Dying of the Light") but at one time he was a gifted filmmaker and writer; and Ellis, whose script is just another proof that some novelists shouldn't write original film material. Coming out of the porn universe, Mr. Deen proves to be a suitable and good choice for the frightening character he plays, his alpha-male quality was powerful enough to make you believe this guy can do anything he wants and with anyone he wants. A little bit of acting classes and he might have a future in mainstream films. Also from porn, but just doing a bit uncredited part is Danny Wylde who should have a better and bigger cameo.

The only ones who escape without injuries are Nolan Funk, quite good in some moments, and one scene stealer Gus Van Sant as Christian's shrink. Just because it's a movie about decadence filled with down and out people that doesn't mean the final project should be like them. The fore-mentioned classic is a clear evidence of this. 3/10

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A sublime surprise, 7 December 2014

"Seventh Grade" is one of the best and most surprising coming of age stories to be produced lately, one that looks authentic, charming and filled with qualities despite its reduced running time (with creativity the director might find ideas to turn this into a successful feature film).

This short and sweet story deals with girls transition from playing dolls to dealing with more serious matters, which includes boys. Patrice (Maxine Turenne) stills clings to childhood and her toys, it's important to her though it's also a way for her to be curious about things that occupy pre-adolescent minds. The definitive turning point comes to her when her best friend Laura (Mia Guzman) is target of a mean rumor at school, and now Patrice wants to save her friend's reputation at the same time she's trying to understand the difficult process of growing up, which includes leave some innocence behind.

I can only advise you to watch this right away, won't tell what happens but I can honestly say that the solution to the problem really blew my mind away. I didn't see that coming. And besides the fascinating story, the cast is formed by great (yet unknown) talents, actors we look forward to see more and more in the future - the leading girl was amazing. 10/10

A Queda (1978)
One of Brazilian's best film of that lost decade. Tough watch but very rewarding, 23 November 2014

Good Brazilian films of the 1970's are truly hard to find. It's such a tricky and low decade both in quality films and also in the political terms that it's really to feel nostalgic about it, even though many old folks will argue to death that at least the educational system was better then. "A Queda" ("The Fall") is a rare diamond of that decade and one I can proudly say without any doubts and exaggeration that it's one of the best films ever made in the period. A real and depressive portrait on labor's exploitation and how low any working person in this nation has to sink in order to fulfill a job and lose his/her soul (most of the time) while others already lost it somewhere and don't think of ethical terms anymore, it's all about the money.

This is a sequel to the classic "Os Fuzis" (1964) - still to be seen by me - but it doesn't ruin the view if you watch this first because the directors included some flashbacks from that movie to enhance and develop the main character's strong reactions and his sense of friendship. Our troubled hero is Mario (the great Nelson Xavier, one of the co-directors of this film), a hard working and responsible operator who watches José, his best friend and co-worker (Hugo Carvana) dies in a tragic accident after falling from a great height while working on the construction site of a subway station. The place's working conditions are the poorest ever, and the man died because he wasn't following the security procedures. Trying to hide the fact from almost everybody, the bosses decide to bribe the victim's family so they can't go the court and sue the company for their wrongdoings. That's where Mario enters to help the family and go against his superior (Lima Duarte) who also happens to be his father-in-law, to demand that the company will assist the family. And that will be Mario's downfall before society, torn between his responsibilities with the firm, his own work and his own family at the same time trying to assure that the family of his deceased friend get justice done - though not wrong but very naive about the issue, he contacts a lawyer and a reporter who'll help him in making this tragedy a case for the court and a case for the news.

Power, corruption and lies...and a majority of working people getting exploited, barely getting paid in order to secure the richness of a minority. "A Queda" has this as center of the matter and its presentation is brilliantly done, giving us time to reflect about our own experiences on the topic and making us put ourselves in Mario's shoes. Throughout the film you wonder a lot about Mario and Jose friendship (presented through brief flashbacks from "Os Fuzis"), the main reason that instigates our hero to help the people he loved and admired at the same time he's spiraling out of control while helping those folks. A summary of the previous film: they became acquainted while doing another risky job: in the Northeast of Brazil they were soldiers who were trying to stop the population from sacking a food deposit. The parallel established between both films is that a poor man's life doesn't mean much, whether you're on the side of the fence trying to do your job in the best possible way or whether you're too miserable and unfortunate with no job.

Mario's actions are highly commendable, if only we all had friends like him but we are forced to think that no one would go that far for anyone, friend or unknown. There were times when I kept wondering why he wasn't more selfish, even when things were going his way with his boss giving a new house for him and his wife (one of the most difficult scenes I've ever seen and all captured in one long take with the wife asking her father/his boss what Mario had to do in order to get the house, and the father kept dodging the question). But there's things that can't be shattered, it will remains important. "We've been through a lot together, we were... friends", he says at a breaking point.

Directors Xavier and Ruy Guerra offered a real picture, explosive with many valid points; and even with a great of artistic choices that work (the big bosses in their suits and ties are presented with faceless photo stills, drinking and partying and their voice-overs are heard, to the fact they're so on top no one sees them quite right) and others that though understandable shouldn't be included (the movie begins with poor people on a landfill, survivalism at its worst cause they only have garbage to eat but I'm not complaining about this comparison but to what comes next: a two minute sequence that takes place on a slaughterhouse and you probably know what goes there, so please do watch this movie but just fast forward this part.). The point made: it's all honest yet cheap and dirty forms of survivalism just like being a subway construction worker. Doesn't get any better in this land and in many others as well. The movie, however, is near-perfect. 9/10

Behind the scenes documentaries can be artsy as well, 23 November 2014

"Elephant" was pure art. At times groundbreaking and innovative, other times so enigmatic to the point of angering hearts and minds by the thousands but in the end Gus Van Sant managed to deliver an unforgettable piece that injected a deeper look to the clichéd high school flicks, and also made a poignant statement about violence in schools.

Interestingly enough, this behind the scenes documentary following director, cast and crew of "Elephant" destroyed the tired and boring concept of those productions to become a work of art that explores another work of art. Instead of interviews featuring Alex Frost, John Robinson and others explaining the movie and how they loved being part of the production, praising their director, this piece presents a difficult question and the actors, in the best way they can express, try to find possible answers on where does violence comes from (which is the main theme of the film) and why does it happen so often in schools. Bear in mind, the majority of the young actors featured in the film just had their film debut on the screen, so they don't have (and they don't need as well) the eloquence and the fluency of more experience thespians, yet they have more freedom and simplicity to share their views which works the same way.

And intertwined with those, we have Van Sant directing the actors, instructing the crew or receiving ideas from cinematographer Harris Savides on how to capture a certain moment of the film, and even we enter the lion's den of the movie, the editing room which was improvised on the school where the film was being shot. All of those moments don't come near the usual behind the scenes we are flooded each time we take a look at many DVD's extras out there. And there's classical music to go along with everything, like in "Elephant".

A delicate and different experience that worths a view. 10/10

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