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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 common 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.
The Two Faces of January (2014)
A pleasure to watch
I have to applaud Hosseini's directorial debut. "The Two Faces Of January" takes us mostly to the 1960's Greece, with three main characters in focus.
Beautifully shot, this visually stunning period-piece (if I can call it that) relies on story and characters rather than trying to impress with extravagant plot twists and special effects. The narrative is very well balanced and restrained from the hyperactive traps of modern cinematic storytelling.
Good acting from everyone involved and my compliments to the music composer too, for providing a very fitting soundtrack.
This is classic film making. Nothing innovative but very beautiful to look at, a fitting choice to watch on a lonely evening.
The Salvation (2014)
"The Salvation" drew my curiosity for two things: the lead and the fact that it's a Danish western.
The atmosphere of the wild-west is really well done and has immersed me in the mid 1800's, and with a well-paced narrative and suspense of a typical revenge-story told effectively.
Mads Mikkelsen shines as the lead but the overall cast is good. Compliments to the screenwriter, too, for creating several characters that I would wish to see more of.
However, what stops me from giving "The Salvation" an 8 or more is the ending, the very final scene. For me, it feels out of place, fake- looking and preachy. It's funny how less than a minute of a scenery- footage can lessen the quality of the entire story.
If you like Open Range, 3:10 to Yuma, True Grit and Unforgiven, you should certainly check this movie out.
A very rough diamond
It's only fair to have high expectations from a new Luc Besson film. After all, he made "Leon", "The 5th Element" and a few other classics.
"Lucy" starts off well, as a promising action/mystery mixed with dark comedy. The protagonist gets infected by an experimental drug and gradually becomes superhuman.
While I don't mind a guilty-pleasure sci-fi, the story here went overboard with existential speculation, special effects overkill and pretty shallow characters. I somewhat cared about Lucy, but only in the first 30 minutes or so.
I expected more subtlety from the writer/director, and ended up watching something that's on the same level (or lower) as some films he produced: "Danny The Dog Unleashed", "District 13", "Taken" or "Taxi".
The story follows a boy's childhood, from age 6 to 18. I find it interesting and somewhat admirable to film this over 12 years.
The narrative is straightforward and the story is very down-to-earth and real. The main themes are family, love, bonding, difficulties, finding direction in life, knowing who you are or could be.
With a running time of nearly three hours, "Boyhood" didn't feel a minute too long. The acting is okay, Hawke and Arquette at their best, and the children did a good, believable job as well.
It will certainly not appeal to everyone, but I really liked the humble simplicity of it.