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Where does the rabbit hole lead?
In "Storm" we have our slacker-hero, DD, who is introduced to us in a humorous way. There is nothing special about him, or so it seems.
The adventure begins when he encounters a mysterious heroine, who constantly fights off mysterious thugs.
There is a supernatural action movie element going through the narrative leading to the reveal of a big secret/twist.
Starting off as lighthearted comedic action entertainment, the story takes an 180 degree turn into the psychological drama direction, which can either elevate or ruin the story for the viewers.
The somewhat inconsistent tone made me care less about the supporting characters but ended up elevating and fleshing-out the protagonist from a funny caricature to a man with depth.
It was an interesting movie, I suggest giving it a chance knowing as little as possible about the story.
A Most Violent Year (2014)
Atmospheric dark drama
Having seen it a few days ago, the more I think of "A Most Violent Year", the more I like it.
This is not a spoiler, but a friendly tip: don't expect a lot of what the title implies, because the movie does not focus on violence.
While there are tense and violent moments, the movie's strenght lies in the performances and the interactions between characters.
Oscar Isaac plays Abel, a businessman who is trying to make a clean living while being more and more pressured by an unknown threat. The competition plays dirty while he wants to stay an honest man.
Abel's moral struggle is what the narrative revolves around. Jessica Chastain play Anna, Abel's wife and business partner. She is equally as powerful, assertive and dominant as he is, if not more so.
The director did a wonderful job at creating a tense, sad and dramatic mood throughout. The cinematography is wonderful, the subtle moody soundtrack plays a big part in creating a feeling of impending doom throughout the entire movie, and I am very impressed by the recreation of a 1981 New York. It's very immersive.
While nothing mainstream audiences will drool over, I find "A Most Violent Year" an excellent drama. If you like this movie, you should give "The Two Faces Of January" a chance as well. Not only you would notice what a chameleon Oscar Isaac is, but you might enjoy the classic mood and character-driven vibe of that film as well.
A real disaster
I consider myself fortunate not to have known much about the movie. Actually, I was expecting a french disaster-flick in the vein of "127 Hours", a post-avalanche survival tale, because of the promotional poster.
Boy, I was wrong. Being misguided often gets me irritated, but "Force Majeure" was shockingly impressive.
The narrative follows a Swedish couple on a ski-holiday with their children, and the aftermath of them facing a somewhat life- threatening situation. The disaster here is not a force of nature, but a force of human emotions.
With no intention of spoiling a movie you should know as little as possible about, this is a hard hitting emotional drama about human frailty, marriage, inner torment and moral dilemmas when it comes to love, and the authenticity of love.
Very much recommended to lovers of layered, intelligent drama. And I repeat, this is not a natural disaster movie.
I Origins (2014)
Going into watching "I Origins", I had no expectations. I like Michael Pitt in some of his roles, but I was never crazy about him.
From almost the very beginning, I found the movie very underwhelming. There is something artificial and unemotional in the narrative that runs throughout the movie.
It is an admirable effort, and the story did keep me interested until the very end, but I highly doubt I would watch it again.
While it looks nice, with a nice score and nice ideas, that is where it is stuck. In the "nice" territory.
I honestly believe "I Origins" had more potential but is only an empty shell of what could have been. It occasionally reminded me of other low budget films that actually touched me, such as the brilliant "Primer" or the somewhat interesting "Coherence", with a touch of Terrence Mallick.
The performances are certainly not bad but the narrative never seems to elevate itself to its full potential, making this a one-time viewing for me.
It's not bad, not to be avoided, but nothing special neither.
Rough around the edges but just smooth enough
This is a hard core war movie. This movie is rough as a cold steel piece of war machinery.
We follow the travels of a tank crew towards the end of the 2nd World War. These are hardened men, a group of pit-bulls with a very thick skin.
We are introduced to the characters through the eyes of a newbie, who is a real innocent lamb when he first joins the team.
Several battle scenes keep the pace up, but the brotherhood confined in the metal death-machine is the real heart of this story.
The characters are beasts, more or less stripped of their humanity, hardened and mentally scarred by years of war. This is really well portrayed and performed, there is a credible organic bond between these men.
The lack of patriotic mumbo jumbo strips down the narrative to one of basic human survival. The Germans are given more human features but are still mostly faceless shadows, almost being demonized as in so many other movies.
There's some beautiful imagery, with a lot of beautiful wide well composed scenes. Hard to believe the director made "Sabotage" earlier.
Stephen Price deserves a mention- the soundtrack is impressive.
Is "Fury" worth a watch? Yes, if you are an adult that is not bothered by a lot of profanity, blood and graphic gore.
A cinematic bath in the sea of hopelessness
"Leviathan" is a David and Goliath story set in a desolate Russian fishing-town.
We've seen it before- a man desperately tries to keep his property being taken away from rich greedy fat cats.
But this is also a strong family drama, a tale of friendship, betrayal, corruption, hope, hopelessness...
Impressive acting overall, the very slow paced narrative and almost no music besides two fitting Philip Glass pieces make this a movie to remember.
The cinematography also deserves a mention, there are countless wonderfully framed scenes.
Excellent slow burning drama.
Waiting for August (2014)
Wonderful dramatic documentary
This is a wonderful documentary about a contemporary issue in Romania: parents leaving their children to work abroad for a better pay.
It is a sacrifice, because with financial gain they lose the necessary close parent-child connection.
In this case, we follow six children, of which three not even teens yet, through a 8-9 month period, living by themselves and waiting for August, when they will see their mother again.
It would be easy to judge the mother of negligence, (no father is in the picture by the way) but this is a common social issue because of a born-again but crumbling democratic country.
The documentary is very well shot, accurately representing Romanian society and a lower middle-class family. The editing is very cinematic and the children act so natural as if there was no camera in their confined rooms.
And there's a natural chemistry between the siblings, three teenagers and three younger children. It's a mixing pot of honest emotions: joy, anger, disappointment, bonding and love.
I applaud the director for this effort, it is a very touching documentary. It's simple, but goes straight to the heart.
Hide and Seek (2014)
A somewhat interesting tenderness
"Hide and Seek" is a tale of 4 young adults, who chose to move to the countryside, live in nature, share everything, be perfectly equal and free.
The two boys and two girls find innocent ways of entertaining each other and making the weeks pass, as if they want to reduce life to an infinite melancholic childhood experience.
This concept of pure escapism also involves the protagonists loving each other equally. The movie does not hold back on displaying sex and sexuality and it requires an open mind to appreciate it.
"Hide and Seek" is certainly no commercial entertainment and the narrative as it is makes it feel more like an art project than a fictional movie, but for a first-length feature the director show her talent and the brave performances of the cast are impressive.
To mikro psari (2014)
A good, very slow-paced drama
The movie tells the tale of Stratos, a weathered hit-man, who more-or- less wants to leave the past behind him. But as we know from other gangster-stories, once you get in it's hard to get out.
This is a very slow-paced crime drama. Well directed, with an impressive lead actor and good, believable cast. There are many well-composed scenes that create a desolate world, and one has to wonder how close to the real Greece that is.
The only (but important) element that bothered me was the length, which is mostly due to an exaggerated amount of minimalistic long scenes. The story was compelling enough, I wish it was just edited-down a bit. But I respect the director and his vision.
After the screening, here at the Ghent Film Festival, I've overheard someone say "this is like the Greek Drive, but at least Drive had style". I disagree with that remark and would not compare the two films at all.
Gone Girl (2014)
A captivating tale
The less you know about this movie, the better. I consider myself lucky enough to have had no expectations.
While I don't dislike Ben Affleck, the director is whom I'm a fan of. "Gone Girl" seems to be a typical mystery/thriller on the surface (and it is, to a certain extent), but there were quite a few unexpected turns and shifts that made me wonder what genre it really belongs to.
With a two and a half hour runtime, the narrative and pace never got me bored. Several elements could have been so cliché in the hands of the wrong storyteller, but here they were handled effectively.
The acting is overall credible, Ben's performance believable even though his body-language makes him more often than not look like a bull in a china-shop. Rosamund Pike shines here. I'm not familiar with her work but her role will certainly reverberate strongly in her career in many years to come.
My only slight surprise was how low-key Fincher was in his style, in comparison to his previous work, such as "Panic Room" and "Fight Club".
I recommend this movie for a mature audience.