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Alps (2011)
42 out of 58 people found the following review useful:
What a disappointment., 24 June 2012

With the singularly compelling premise of a mysterious group offering to take over the roles of recently deceased people to provide relief for their loved ones, it came as quite the shock to me that Greek writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos's follow-up to his 2009 Oscar-nominated "Dogtooth" (one of my all-time favorites) ultimately failed at living up to its concept.

Throughout the entirety of "Alps", I felt I was gazing in awe at a beautiful seed sadly incapable of germination. The film barely got anywhere while maintaining an incredibly slow pace and irritating visual style consisting of incessantly restrained deep-focus cinematography. There was so much potential wasted on scenes far too peculiar and insignificant to add any depth to the story or further develop the characters. Seldom did anything rightfully earn its place in the film; the multiple sex scenes seemed to be there with the sole purpose of being extremely awkward and obscene, while all the attempts at absurd humor felt slightly forced and weren't as effective as they should have been due to the narrative's intermittent solemnity.

This brings me to the film's greatest problem, which was that— on top of struggling to find its own voice and tone in its ridiculously irrational approach— it never really figured out what message it wanted to convey to its audience. Evidently Lanthimos was trying to say something about human nature and the craziness of consumer society, but he didn't succeed in delivering his thoughts coherently this time around. I hate comparing, but I must say I found the profound social critique that seeped through the bizarre surface of "Dogtooth" to be far superior in elaboration.

The end result of "Alps" was a confused, detached (albeit well-acted, especially by Aggeliki Papoulia) jumble beyond anyone's realm of comprehension, so overwhelmingly filled with unjustified senselessness that the most I could do was simply sit and stare at the screen, patiently awaiting some real substance, only to be disappointed by sheer staleness.

I suppose I somewhat admired "Alps" for all that it could've been following its eccentric uniqueness, but I can't see how anyone in their right mind could have truly enjoyed it.

32 out of 36 people found the following review useful:
Transcendent. Sublime., 24 March 2012

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Jean-Marc Vallée returns to his beloved Québécois roots with his latest work, "Café de flore", one of the many films that screened at TIFF back in September (and that I was lucky enough to see). The story is composed of two interwoven narratives that-- only at first glance-- seem completely unrelated to one another.

The first story is set in present-day Montreal and centers on a recently divorced father of two girls, Antoine Godin (Kevin Parent), who leads a successful life as a professional DJ. Despite having found true happiness in his relationship with his girlfriend Rose (Evelyne Brochu), he feels a little remorseful for having left his ex-wife Carole (Hélène Florent), for whom he still cares deeply. Antoine understands that she continues struggling to move on with her life, heartbroken. And to make the situation in which they find themselves even more difficult, their eldest daughter persistently plays their nostalgic love song with hopes of reuniting her parents.

The second story is set in Paris in 1969 and focuses on Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis), a self-sufficient, loving single mother who becomes the embodiment of perseverance and selflessness as she promises to devote herself both physically and spiritually to her son Laurent, who has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. She spends every minute of spare time with her beloved young boy with the goal to elongate his limited life expectancy. One day, when Laurent begins to be infatuated by Véronique, a new girl in his class-- who, incidentally, also has Down syndrome-- Jacqueline is struck by an overwhelming feeling as she fears that her inseparable bond with the only person she loves will be be lost with time.

Up until the very end of the film, it seems like the only link between both stories is the music the characters listen to (the jazz album "Café de flore" appears in the second story while a certain remix is featured in the first one), but as we progress further into this mystical mystery, we learn that there is something much deeper tying together the characters and their stories of love and loss.

Knowing that "Café de flore" would be composed of intertwined stories, I was initially a little reluctant to seeing it and very worried that its structure would collapse within the first few minutes of the film. To my pleasant surprise, this modern approach to storytelling proved to be ultimately rewarding. I believe credit is due to the film editor, who is-- believe it or not-- Jean-Marc Vallée, again. It's nice to hear that he had control of almost every visual aspect of his own work of art. With Vallée's perfectly orchestrated editing, the audience is able to follow the story without ever sensing an abrupt switch between story lines. In the film's entirety, not once did I feel that some scenes were fragmented or disjointed from others. Vallée always progresses deeper into his creation by carefully and seamlessly shifting between narratives just at the right time, creating a smooth, fluid tempo. Briefly, everything flows like a river.

Just like in "C.R.A.Z.Y.", music is a vital element to this film. Jean- Marc Vallée selects many tunes with ethereal, ambient qualities to match the profound thoughts and feelings of all the characters. While he features some more Pink Floyd ("Speak to Me/Breathe"), he makes of Sigur Ros's "Svefn-g-englar" the film's most haunting musical piece-- by far.

There are far too many impressive performances in "Café de flore" to name. Vallée must be what one would call an "actor's director", because he seems to continuously squeeze out the most confident, natural performances from all of his actors-- young or old-- in order to achieve his goal to craft a realistic family drama. He even went to the lengths of finding two children who have Down syndrome in real life for the roles of Laurent and Véronique (these are two "performances" that will make your jaw drop). This is proof of his everlasting adherence to realism as a filmmaker.

In sum, "Café de flore" is a sensual, deeply touching chef-d'oeuvre that will have you shivering every minute in pure emotional awe. It never comes across as overly sentimental, but rather genuinely heartfelt. I can't recall the last time I found myself on the verge of tears while simultaneously smiling at the bittersweet beauty of a film. Come to think of it, there isn't a single movie from 2011 that I could recommend seeing more than this one. I believe it's an essential viewing for anyone who has felt the most fundamental of human emotions. (That means you... I hope)

Shame (2011)
312 out of 462 people found the following review useful:
A Masterpiece!, 29 September 2011

"Shame" centers on Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a lonely, self- alienated man in his thirties who tries his best to appear as your average New Yorker with an office job whenever he finds himself out in public. The trouble with this young man-- or his tragic flaw-- is that whenever he finds a minute of privacy in his day, he hastily delves into his own fabricated reality: a world of excessive sex, pornography, and masturbation. The day Brandon's distressed, disruptive sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) barges into his condo looking for a place to stay until things wind down and her sorrows disappear, his life begins to spiral out of control. He grows increasingly frustrated with her as he feels her invasive presence will bring about the exposure of his deepest and darkest secrets. However, we see that this is just a manifestation of his feelings of intense shame and regret for leading the sad, artificial life he believes is the only one fit for him. Steve McQueen has the sheer audacity to go where very few filmmakers have dared to go before by making a film about sexual addiction and its effects on the human mind. In this ambitious boldness, he doesn't want to hold back on anything and he isn't afraid to show everything, so the result is a film with enough full nudity and explicit sexual content to receive an R-rating in Canada, which would probably translate to an NC- 17 rating in the US, unfortunately. There are several scenes in the film where you literally see every inch of skin on the bodies of the actors (Fassbender is probably the most physically exposed). Having said that, this is never something that comes across as frivolous and it only enhances the film's shock factor as a whole. Michael Fassbender delivers the performance of a lifetime in "Shame", and I currently can't see anyone else winning the Oscar for Best Actor at the upcoming Academy Awards. He seems to understand his sad, lonely character just as well as the screenwriters who gave birth to him (Abi Morgan and Steve McQueen). Brandon is his own worst enemy, for he longs to find solace in someone and discover genuine human affection, but the other side of him remains too caught up in a shameful world detached from real feelings and emotions. There are some scenes in the film where we, the audience, are left alone with nothing but his introspective, subdued presence as he reflects upon his actions in regret. These scenes say more than most movies can say within their entirety. It's thanks to Michael Fassbender's pitch-perfect performance that we can step into his character's shoes and get to feel what he's feeling. They say actions speak more than words; with "Shame", acting speaks more than the inclusion of any sort of narration ever would. Don't worry; I didn't forget about Carey Mulligan! I thought I would highlight her performance separately, too. If I had to say only one thing about it, I would emphasize how amazed I was at seeing her in such an unusual, singular role. She has a tendency to play soft-spoken, prim and proper characters-- but that's not the case with "Shame". She really submerges herself into this disastrous, uncontrollable mess of a young woman who never conceals her deepest feelings to the world-- be it joy or sorrow. There's this one very memorable scene in the film where she sings her own rendition of the jazz standard "New York, New York" in a lounge (she's a singer who does gigs here and there), and for the duration of the song, the camera stays focused on her face. There are no cuts nor camera movements for a good five minutes (of course, this won't come as a big shock to you if you have seen Steve McQueen's "Hunger"), yet somehow, this scene is absolutely mesmerizing-- almost hypnotizing. Just the way she naturally glances about apprehensively as this beautiful voice is unleashed (although it probably isn't hers) is enough to send shivers down your spine. What can I say about all the other aspects of the film? Well, since Steve McQueen was the man behind the direction and shot composition, it's no big surprise that "Shame" is expertly crafted in every little detail. McQueen used the same cinematographer (Sean Bobbitt) and editor (Joe Walker) of his first feature to achieve the same impressive aesthetic look. Some parts of the film must have required so much time and effort from the editor, it's hard to believe what was accomplished! As for the cinematography, I'm sure you'll be floored by it within the first five minutes of the film. In this opening scene, Brandon finds himself staring at a woman sitting across from him as he is riding the subway. He misunderstands her frightened glances and nervous attempts to display her wedding ring as romantic advances, so when she gets off in a panic at the next stop, he immediately follows her. In one of the most beautiful, gliding shots I've ever witnessed-- with an emotionally shattering musical composition by Harry Escott playing all throughout-- we see Brandon running up the station stairs and looking around for the woman, only to realize that she had run away from him. His failure to comprehend human interactions in this scene already gives us a distinct perception on this poor character's serious vulnerability. In sum, Steve McQueen's "Shame" is a masterful character study with top- grade performances from Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan and a raw power unmatched by any other film I've seen. This is surely not a film for everyone, as it deals with dark, gritty topics often labeled as far too controversial for the big screen. But if you're open to true cinema, here's a devastating powerhouse of a film that will chill you to the bone and forever stay with you.

12 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
Spectacular, 20 September 2011

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Many of you who have seen Lars von Trier's notoriously disturbing "Antichrist" are probably curious to find out exactly in what direction the director is headed with his films. Does his latest effort, "Melancholia", measure up to his other work? Does he explore new terrains here or does he continue to aim for the usual edginess seen in his most controversial crafts? Answers to these questions can be found in what's written below. So, you kind of have no other choice but to read on...

The opening sequence of the film is magical and sublime. Lars von Trier toys with our minds by making us sit through what appears to be a series of insignificant, nonlinear shots; simple bits and pieces arranged in a dreamlike progression. There is no dialogue or sound in this sequence, but rather powerful classical music (Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde") that does a swell job accompanying some of the most gorgeous slow-motion photography I have ever seen. Lars is teasing us with all of these nonsensical shots; this spectacular, operatic prologue is really just a sneak-peek or preview, setting the tone for all the bizarre sights we will soon come to discover in this motion picture. Did this opening ever blow me away! And you should have seen the faces of the other audience members throughout these first 10 minutes! Most of them looked as bewildered as any human being would be while watching the famous ending of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey".

If you've seen a Lars von Trier film before, you probably have a pretty good idea of what his style is when it comes to composing shots. When he isn't shooting in slow-motion, he employs his trademark Dogme 95 influenced unsteady, "moving camera" cinematography, with tight close- ups and recurrent jump cuts that make for more of a mesmerizing, absorbing cinematic experience. If you're new to the man's work-- and especially if you're a fan of smooth, subtle shots-- you'll probably be irritated by this. But trust me, this unique filmmaking vision should grow on you with time-- or rather, with more viewings of his movies. (Come to think of it, the only gliding shots I can remember are the helicopter shots of Justine and Claire horseback riding on a beautiful, foggy, countryside road.)

"Melancholia" is breathtakingly beautiful all throughout. Most of it is shot on location in what must be Denmark, Sweden, France, or Germany (how am I supposed to know in which country it was filmed!). But somehow, in these natural conditions, the lighting is able to be fiddled around with to achieve an aesthetic brilliance nearly unmatched by any other film. I can recall the particular beauty of the nighttime scenes shot outside of the estate, where the tall, trimmed hedges cast a line of shadows over the well manicured lawn. The first thing that came to mind then was Alain Resnais' "Last Year at Marienbad". Furthermore, it's obvious that a fair deal of CGI was used to transform the landscape and atmosphere (mostly the sky) into something out-of-this-world, yet it's so well done you wonder how anyone could have accomplished such visual perfection.

On to matters of greater importance (at least, in your eyes): the acting! Is it possible to describe how mind-blowing Kirsten Dunst's performance is? Perhaps it isn't, but I'll give it my best shot. I've never been much of a fan of her work, but by the end of this film, I had a new appreciation for this fine, young actress. I think she owes credit to her director, though, because obviously it isn't a coincidence that he always gets the most outstanding performances out of his female leads. For the first part of the film, you really get to see Justine's level of emotional vulnerability thanks to Dunst's spot-on portrayal of her character. I think she gets better as the film progresses into the second part, though. When she plays a woman in a state of deep depression, you could swear she was actually going through a hard patch in real life. She makes her character feel so apart from the rest of humanity; so aware of things that she has purposely disconnected herself from reality. I wouldn't be surprised if she snagged an acting nomination at the upcoming Academy Awards.

As for the rest of the cast-- I'm not just saying this to sound proper-- everyone does a fine job at getting into character. Some remarkable performances would be from Alexander Skarsgard as the husband who isn't quite familiar with his wife's distant attitude, Charlotte Gainsbourg (who would be the runner-up to Dunst in my book) as Justine's loving, nervous wreck of a sister, and Kiefer Sutherland as Claire's continuously aggravated husband, who happens to be the one to deliver all the comic relief in the film. Even the actors and actresses I didn't name have glowing performances in the film. "Melancholia" could almost be placed alongside "Network" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" for having some of the best acting from an entire cast.

"Melancholia" is a one-of-a-kind, visionary film that uses gripping storytelling to keep the audience on the edge of their seat. It manages to be an extremely intense, sensational movie-watching experience without relying on the same old formula of most apocalyptic films. I love how it doesn't get too caught up in its own imagined version of the end of the world, but instead chooses to focus on subjects involving humans in a much smaller, deeper, and more personal scale (such as the troubles of dysfunctional families). This is without a doubt one of Lars von Trier's greatest works, as well as one of my favorite films of the year. Very highly recommended.

Le Havre (2011)
63 out of 77 people found the following review useful:
A sweet, simple film with a dark sense of humor, 14 September 2011

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I started off my experience at this year's Toronto International Film Festival with Aki Kaurismäki's "Le Havre", a rather obscure, small production that was competing for the Palme d'Or at Cannes (it was Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" that was the big winner). The question is: Did I start off on the right foot? Read on to find out...

"Le Havre" centers on an elderly, working-class shoe shiner named Marcel Marx (played by André Wilms), living with his loving wife Arletty (Kati Outinen) in the French port city of... Le Havre. Although his profession only leaves him with enough money to get by, he never gives up hope and always finds great joy and warmth in all the people in his life-- be it his friendly, selfless, next-door neighbor or the kind owner of the local bar. Marcel's life takes a bit of a turn when he must send his ill wife to the hospital, hoping she will get better soon. But that's not it-- soon after, when he finds himself alone, eating a sandwich at the harbor, he discovers a young African boy named Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) hiding in the water. Marcel befriends him and learns that he had been hiding with many other illegal immigrants in a shipping container, with hopes of arriving in London to meet up with his aunt. The old man voluntarily goes out of his way to keep him away from authorities and completely out of sight, but soon, this situation quickly transforms into a cat-and-mouse game, lead by the persistent, intimidating, wolf- like police inspector Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin).

With its simplistic plot, clearly defined characters, and inviting setting, this film has all the qualities and characteristics of a great short film-- if you don't count its feature-length runtime. Is this a bad thing? Hardly! I find that this makes the film all the more absorbing and enjoyable, though slow in progression at times and thus able to make your average modern-day moviegoer lose interest. But I still believe that sometimes, it's nice to just sit down and follow a naturally flowing, straightforward story, when most of the movies you see today are flashy and overly stimulating to the point where they bore you. "Le Havre" is something refreshingly different, for a change.

Rarely do films combine comedy with drama in such a natural, uncontrived way. With this film, Aki Kaurismäki proves to be one of the few working directors able to pull off a mixture of dark, ironic, and deadpan humor while maintaining the same upbeat, cheerful, and optimistic tone throughout the entire film. A great example of this guy's exemplary sense of humor is the opening scene of the film, where we see Marcel going around with his shoe shining materials, looking for a paying customer. He finally lucks out when he approaches a suspicious looking type holding a suitcase in his hand. As he shines this man's shoes, we see two other mysterious figures watching from a distance. It's clear that something's up. When Marcel finishes his job, the man pays him and quickly tries to escape. But it's too late; we hear gunshots, a tire squeal, and a scream as the camera lingers on Marcel, whose facial expression remains pleasant. He simply says: "Luckily he had time to pay.". Of course, since it's more of a visual gag, it's much funnier when you see it for yourself. Having said that, there's no denying that this film has very smart comedic elements.

What I love just as much-- if not, more-- about this little film is how authentic and down-to-earth the characters are in their interactions. Every scene is made into such an accurate portrait of life thanks to all of the real, human performances from the entire cast of lesser-known actors. The only thing that threw me off was how the couple of Finnish actors in the film let their accents slip through as they were speaking French. But this would be barely noticeable for those of you who don't speak either one of these languages.

Although this film is Finnish, it's obvious that it's shot on location in France. I was breathless as I got to admire the beauty of the ocean and the quaint coziness of the old city buildings. Sadly, this is the closest I've ever gotten to visiting France! No wonder these sights took me away.

In sum, Aki Kaurismäki's "Le Havre" is a simple, human tale that remains light and pleasant while brushing on topics of illegal immigration and the illness of a loved-one. It's a soulful film that mixes smart humor with true emotion, without ever feeling artificial. I recommend looking for this hidden gem. You might just like it.

Trishna (2011)
23 out of 34 people found the following review useful:
Something completely different, 14 September 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was lucky enough to attend the world premiere of Trishna at the Toronto International Film Festival. Here is what I thought of it: The story is based on one of the most celebrated pieces of literature of all time, Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the d'Ubervilles". Director Michael Winterbottom takes this classic tale and adapts it for modern audiences by changing the setting to contemporary India. Does this work? Surprisingly, it does, and this is coming from someone who hasn't ever read the novel nor seen the 1979 Academy Award winning film adaptation from Roman Polanski, "Tess". The titular character, Trishna (Freida Pinto), is a humble, soft-spoken young woman and the eldest daughter of a poor, rural, Indian family. While working at a nearby resort to help pay the bills, she is swept off her feet by a young British businessman, Jay (Riz Ahmed), who finds himself in India to manage a hotel at the request of his father, a wealthy property developer. When Trishna's father is severely injured in an automobile accident, Jay asks her to work for him, and she shyly accepts. Their feelings for each other grow the more they spend time together. However, Trishna isn't easily torn away from her beloved family nor her traditional life nor her ambition as a dancer, and she's in for some drastic changes when she moves to Mumbai with her lover. To be honest, I really didn't know what to expect from this film. I entered the theatre only knowing two things about it: (1) the story is based on a classic novel and (2) it's set against an Indian backdrop. Never would I have guessed-- even at an hour and a half into the film-- that this simple premise would progressively turn into something a lot more shocking, to say the least (the last 10 minutes made the whole audience gasp simultaneously). This is a unique kind of cinema that really transgresses the boundaries of conventional filmmaking with the way it develops a seemingly simple story and with the many reactions it gets out of the audience as it unfolds. I guess you could call the film a little deceiving, because it never goes in the direction you imagine it would go. But I'm not suggesting that there's a plot twist at the end, so please don't go expecting that. What makes the ending so shocking, then? It's all due to the gradual, subtle buildup that does a great job developing the characters of Trishna and Jay as their relationship becomes increasingly odd and discomforting for the viewer. I don't know if I was alone here, but as I was watching the film, I was kind of going through what Trishna had to go through-- emotionally, of course. I believe this confirms that Freida Pinto still has what it takes to deliver a solid performance since her "Slumdog Millionaire" fame. The acting isn't anything amazing or noteworthy, but there's no denying that she does a good job in her role, despite being a little inconsistent in some scenes of dialogue between her and Riz Ahmed, the male co-star who plays Jay. He was surprisingly decent for a relatively unknown industry newcomer, but-- once again-- nothing extraordinary. To be honest, if it weren't for this ending, the film's many flaws would be significantly more distinctive and visible for me. I just can't get over how well everything is tied together in the last few scenes. This is where Michael Winterbottom finally achieves in putting his point across; in making sense out of the film as a cohesive whole. Apart from the unique structure and progression of the story, "Trishna" has many other memorable elements. I was particularly blown away by the beautiful, on-location shots and nearly candid cinematography that gave us a very realistic perception of life in India, and the clearly-defined division between both social classes. I loved how a great deal of non- actors were used in the production of the film (for instance, Freida Pinto claimed that her character's family was in fact a real family in rural India who cooperated with the crew). Throughout the entire film, there's so much absorbing beauty in all the outside locations in India that you won't believe your eyes! For the mere fact that what you're seeing in the background is completely real, you should be as blown away as I was while watching the film! It's breathtaking! This exquisite imagery is backed up by a powerful original score from Mike Galasso that complements the Indian countryside and the Mumbai cityscape without ever sounding too traditional or foreign. Music plays a key role in enhancing the emotion of this particular film. Despite all of these admirable aspects, this film is far from being perfect (though the concept of perfection is, in itself, flawed). I still question the pertinence of certain scenes in the film, as well as the strength of the narrative structure. Will "Trishna" stand the test of time? Will it live up to its original power upon multiple viewings? I'm inclined to say "no" to both of these questions, despite being very affected by this piece of cinema. It was clear that most of the audience wasn't very impressed by such avant-garde cinema, but I'm sure I wasn't the only one who admired it in so many ways. To me, this film feels like a one-time experience; an interesting artistic vision capable of marking you and staying with you for some time. So, go ahead! Whenever you get the chance to see this film, I say "go for it!". It's something refreshingly unconventional that you might find yourself drawn by for the same reasons as me! I recommend seeing "Trishna" because of its ultimately shocking, thought-provoking nature. Come on! You have nothing to lose! (Except a small sum of money, perhaps.)

Hereafter (2010)
6 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Clint's under-appreciated work of art, 24 October 2010

Probably the most under-appreciated movie of the year, Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter" is a very thoughtful film that demands our personal reflection. It asks many questions on the mysteries surrounding life and death, and life after death. But these topics aren't presented in an "in-your-face" sort of way (in fact, religion never comes into play with them); instead, they are left to self-interpretation. "Hereafter" ultimately asks you to reevaluate your faith and beliefs. Being an agnostic born into a Christian family, this was the perfect film for me. Not only did it make me wonder, but it also made me widen my scope of the world around me.

Since I never go over the plot in my reviews, I'll just skip to the other aspects of the film. Besides, movies are more enjoyable when you have no idea what they're about. It creates a sense of... mystery.

The acting in the film is generally quite impressive. Matt Damon, as always, is good as the top billed actor. Even better is Cécile De France, a foreign actress known for French films such as the thriller "High Tension". I was also surprised by Bryce Dallas Howard, who wasn't bad at all. However, the one performance that shines brighter than any other is actually from a minor character. Lyndsey Marshal, the British actress who plays the alcoholic mother of two little boys, is phenomenal. For the 5-10 minutes of screen time she has in this film, she is incredibly convincing. Everything she says is deep and heartfelt. I'm hoping that she snags an acting nomination at next year's Academy Awards, the same way that Viola Davis did for "Doubt". The only performance that didn't impress me too much was that of the little boy Marcus. At times, it felt like he was reading what he was saying off a piece of paper. But he wasn't bad. His performance was still above- average for a kid.

Enough about acting. Time to talk about Clint. At 80 years old, Clint Eastwood never ceases to amaze me. He offers some of the most beautiful direction of the year in "Hereafter". With the story taking place in different corners of the world, he incorporates some beautiful shots of the different landscapes and cityscapes. I liked how he recycled many camera movements used in his film "Mystic River". They still created a great emotional effect. Speaking of Clint, I'm really looking forward to his next film, "Hoover". I would love to see what could be done in a film where Clint Eastwood directs, Leonardo DiCaprio acts, and Dustin Lance Black writes. I can't wait!

Lastly, it would be a crime to leave out Peter Morgan of the whole picture. The writer of critical hits such as "The Queen", "Frost/Nixon", and "The Last King of Scotland", Peter Morgan is the man behind the smart, reflective screenplay of "Hereafter". Though a little flawed, his most recent screenplay is extremely compelling and humane. There were so many bits of dialogue that I was able to retain from the film.

Overall, "Hereafter" is a very intriguing work of art that focuses on an intelligent and engaging subject for once. With so many mindless movies out in theaters now (*ahem* "JACKASS 3-D"), this movie comes across as a breath of fresh air. So, WHY ISN'T "HEREAFTER" A CRITICAL HIT? WHY IS THERE SUCH A DIVISION IN ITS CRITICAL AND PUBLIC RECEPTIONS? I'll never know the answer to these questions. The only thing I'm certain of is that this is a must-see for anybody, especially for any fan of Clint's incredible body of work. DON'T listen to the reviews; buy a ticket to this with an open mind.

Overall rating: 7.7/10

Let Me In (2010/I)
290 out of 387 people found the following review useful:
What a shocking surprise!, 14 September 2010

As a fan of the 2008 Swedish film "Let The Right One In", I was originally very frustrated when I heard the news about the upcoming remake. "How do you ameliorate something that is already perfect?", I asked myself. I treated the remake with hostility and vowed to stay away from it. And then, I decided to open my mind.

I attended the world premiere of this film at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday, September 13. I am very lucky to live in the proximity. This was the first year that I've attended the festival. Before seeing "Let Me In", I saw "127 Hours".

I liked the idea of seeing the remake of a film that I recently gave a second viewing. I thought it would be a fun challenge to sit there and compare both films while watching.

Before the screening (or it might have been after), the director, Matt Reeves (who launched his career with "Cloverfield"), was welcomed on stage to say a few words. It surprised me to find out that he, too, thought the original was fantastic and didn't understand why he was asked to remake it. However, after reading the book as well, he had the desire to work on his interpretation of it. After this speech, I gained a significant amount of respect for this man.

When the movie began, I was only expecting something satisfactory. But as the story progressed, I was breathless. It was a very captivating, interesting take, and I loved all the little modifications. I honestly believe that "Let Me In" is one of the greatest American remakes of all time.

Nevertheless, I still see the original, "Let The Right One In", as a superior film. Although it may be a biased opinion, I preferred the mood, atmosphere, and cinematography in the original. While the remake seemed to take a greater interest in the horrific violence, the original had the perfect blend of genres (thriller, romance, horror, fantasy). Both films had many beautiful contrasts: coldness vs warmth, chaos vs peace, guilt vs innocence, darkness vs delicacy, and despair vs hope.

I must also mention that I preferred the sense of ambiguity presented in the original. Very few questions were answered, and the whole film was more of a mystery left to interpretation. In contrast, Matt Reeves was more clear and direct in his screenplay with the mystery surrounding his characters. It's all a matter of personal preference, though. I believe that most people will prefer what Matt did, since the original has a certain style that less people can appreciate.

Despite the comparison, I believe that they are both great movies that can be enjoyed by everyone. Fans of the original-- rather than being narrow-minded and boycotting this version-- should give it a chance and appreciate it for what it is. Wouldn't you want more people in North America to discover this mesmerizing vampire tale, anyway?

I really enjoyed every aspect of "Let Me In". The child actors, Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) were both excellent choices. They proved to us, once again, that they are among the only child actors who actually have talent. Now that I think of it, the only thing that didn't impress me was the music. For an original score composed by Michael Giacchino (Up), I was quite disappointed. It was mediocre, in my opinion. It didn't convey the same emotion as Johan Soderqvist's music in "Let The Right One In".

Aside from that, "Let Me In" is a surprisingly great film for the fans of the original. And it would probably be a bloody masterpiece for those who haven't seen it. And yes, that lame vampire pun was definitely intended.


127 Hours (2010)
12 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
Mind-blowing, 14 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

On Sunday, September 12, 2010, I was lucky to be among the first 500 people to see the world premiere of "127 Hours", at the Toronto International Film Festival. This film marked my first film festival experience, and-- due to its great impact-- it will be impossible to forget. It's definitely one of the most intense films I have ever seen. But on top of being a real nail-biter, it's also very emotional and deeply humane. What follows will be my in-depth thoughts on Danny Boyle's "127 Hours"...

In all honesty, I wasn't expecting much from this film. I only purchased tickets for its screening because it was one of the few "premium screenings" that wasn't sold out (I was originally excited for Black Swan and Hereafter, both of which were sold out after the first day of ticket sales). I was only looking forward to the festival experience.

I had already heard about the heroic story of Aron Ralston-- the true life-or-death experience that the film was based on-- and after hearing about the upcoming film, I must admit that I laughed quite a bit. I thought it would be a pathetic plot for a film, and that it would get nowhere at all. Was I ever wrong with my predictions!

While viewing "127 Hours", my low expectations were gradually surpassed. My final thoughts on the film soared way above my original ones. I've never been so surprised in my life.

For those of you who are oblivious, "127 Hours" is about the true story of a mountain climber named Aron Ralston, whose arm was trapped under a boulder during a solitary canyon expedition in Utah. Although some people may consider this a SPOILER, I must tell you that the film focuses on his deepest thoughts, leading up to the moment where he resorts to severing his own arm in order to survive. Nevertheless, the whole audience was thrilled by this film, even though everyone was aware of the man's fate beforehand (Aron Ralston was presented on stage before the film was shown).

Right from the start, I was captivated and intrigued. And I wasn't alone; the entire audience was as immersed as I was. Every so often, the film would have the whole audience gasping, cringing, or laughing-- all in unison. And then there was the moment where James Franco's character finally cut off his entire arm. The whole audience clapped, instantly. Everyone was blown away, mesmerized.

Danny Boyle excels in directing, as usual. I loved "Slumdog Millionaire", so it was nice to see that he teamed up with the same screenwriter, Simon Beaufoy, on this project. I was particularly blown away by their ability to craft a film ("127 Hours") that stars one man (James Franco) and that is mainly shot in one restrained location (a gap in the canyon), while managing to captivate the audience. Wow. This marks a ground-breaking achievement in filmmaking. The viewer's interest is maintained throughout the whole film, thanks to the emotional glimpses of his deepest thoughts during all the suspense over his survival. It manages to be one of the most poignant, heartfelt stories of this year's cinema, while also being one of most thrilling and intense. It really puts you on the edge of your seat!

James Franco delivers an OUTSTANDING performance as Aron Ralston. He is so convincing that you can't help but slip into his shoes and feel the pain and suffering he is experiencing. He also manages to get numerous laughs out of the audience with little bits of humour here and there. I wouldn't be surprised if he snags an acting nomination at next year's Academy Awards, among all the other categories that this film is likely to contend in.

In the theatre, as the credits began to roll, the whole audience participated in a standing ovation that was sustained for five minutes. It was the greatest film reaction I have ever witnessed. Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, James Franco, Aron Ralston, and a few others took the stage afterwards to answer questions from the audience. They were very grateful of the wonderful reception this film got that night. Leaving the theatre, I had the opportunity to share my thoughts on the movie with the distributor, Fox Searchlight. They recorded my friend Shakyl-- also a cinephile-- and I, and asked us some questions on the movie. The footage will possibly be used in a promotional commercial! We'll have to see!

Overall, Danny Boyle's "127 Hours" is a masterful film that will blow away all audiences when it will be released in November. You really can't afford to miss this deep, intense, powerful, and emotional piece of cinema! It will always remain vividly in my mind as one of the most memorable theatre experiences of my lifetime.



16 out of 33 people found the following review useful:
James Bond in retirement, 2 September 2010

The American is a visually breathtaking film that is shot on many beautiful locations. The cinematography is quite impressive, and I fell in love with Anton Corbijn's directorial style before the opening credits appeared (10 minutes in). The second-time director who brought us the critically acclaimed biopic "Control" clearly has an eye for art and beauty. This is apparent when The American begins on a very quiet tone in a Swedish forest-- in fact, so damn quiet that everyone in the audience was expecting something to jump out of the woods and scare them. Extensive silence is very unusual for a summer blockbuster.

And if you're guessing that this silence only takes place at the beginning, you're wrong. It's something you must cope with during the entire film. Now, for a bold statement: THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST UNEVENTFUL FILMS I HAVE EVER SEEN. I can't believe that it was marketed as some kind of eventful James Bond movie (It's more like "James Bond in retirement"). I'm not exaggerating when I say that you could summarize this film's plot in just a few minutes. There's next to no dialogue, and it feels like there's absolutely no story. Who gives a damn about an assassin's boring, everyday life?

Anton Corbijn evidently extended certain scenes just to be able to give the film an average runtime. For instance, there's a sex scene that goes on for around five full minutes. While watching this, you can't stop thinking: "What's the point? This doesn't help move the story forward!". I would have fallen asleep, if it hadn't been for the amazing sceneries explored throughout the film.

Immediately after the film ended, my brother was told by his friend: "This is the last time that you get to pick the movie". The couple in front of us, hearing him say this, instantly burst out laughing. So, do yourself a favor, and stay away from this film; your bed at home is a lot more comfortable than the seats in the theater.

The American is like an illustrated book that is missing its text.