Reviews written by registered user
georgep53

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72 reviews in total 
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13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
A Not-To-Be Missed Drama from the Philippines, 4 September 2014
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A very impressive achievement by director Lav Diaz and his co-screenwriter Rody Vera. In "Norte,The End Of History" they take 250 riveting minutes to tell an epic story about the journeys of two men who choose radically different ways of coping with a morally indifferent universe. Archie Alemania's Joaquin is a poor family man struggling to feed his wife and 2 kids after a disabling injury leaves him burdened with debt and Sid Lucero's Fabian is an angry law student who feels no need to be governed by a political establishment he sees as beyond redemption. Lucero is brilliant as the affable, chameleon-like student who enjoys debating abstruse political issues within his circle of friends while also possessing a darker side. Alemania is compelling as the polar opposite of Lucero: faithful and uncomplicated. Angeli Bayani is excellent in her role as Alemania's wife. A woman of few words her expressions speak powerfully of the unintended victims of injustice. Also noteworthy is the performance of Soliman Cruz as a sadistic inmate. Cinematographer Lauro Rene Manda eschews close-ups relying heavily on long shots which emphasize how little natural or man-made environments share the concerns of the characters. This is a great piece of cinema, one of the best films I've seen in some time. It may take some doing to find it but for any serious cinephile it's well worth the effort. 10/10

38 out of 46 people found the following review useful:
David Lowery's Memorable & Courageous Period Piece, 30 August 2013
8/10

David Lowery has constructed a beautiful, atmospheric, little indie film with this 1970's Texas crime melodrama. At every point where Lowery could have added Hollywood flourishes and gimmicks to make the film more commercial he refuses to do so. The result is a thin crime & punishment type plot that functions as a canvas for this tone poem about passion and tragedy. I don't know if I could say there's anything ultimately redemptive about these sad, doomed characters but perhaps it's enough to say that they possess a degree of humanity that makes us pity them for the choices they've made. This is another triumph for Rooney Mara who is excellent as a strong, young woman who desires a better life and a man who can't get it for her. There's great irony in the way events turn out for her and it's all totally believable. I was also impressed with Casey Affleck's performance as her lover and small time criminal. In supporting roles there's Nate Parker as a friend of Affleck; Ben Foster's sympathetic police officer and Keith Carradine soaring as a town elder and father figure to Rooney and Affleck. "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" is a great looking picture and Bradford Young deserves all the praise he has earned for his cinematography.

1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Gosling & Cooper Shine In "Place Beyond the Pines", 19 April 2013
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Derek Cianfrance's new film is a terrifically humanistic experience that's welcome relief from the usual Hollywood nonsense, an epic that captures a fallen world and the overarching power of destiny. Cianfrance's tale unfolds in 3 parts: Luke Glanton's story; Avery Cross's story and the story of the succeeding generation. Luke is a loner who makes a living as a daredevil motorcyclist in carnival shows. Gosling gives a riveting performance as Luke, a man on a mission to embrace paternity over what has heretofore been the fiercely independent narrative of his life. Bradley Cooper is excellent as Avery, a lawyer who works as a dedicated law enforcement officer on the Schenectady police dept. Emory Cohen and Dane DeHaan are convincing as A J and Jason, the sons of Avery and Luke. Cohen is the angry young man bitter about living in the shadow of his "hero" father, a man who has never taken the time to really know him. DeHaan hasn't known the advantages of A J and has no idea who he is. Eva Mendes gives a grittily realistic performance as a waitress and Luke's former girlfriend.

"The Place Beyond the Pines" is the city of Schenectady and like the rest of contemporary America it has seen better days and now is forced to cope with economic doldrums and corruption. Cianfrance isn't afraid to paint with big, bold strokes that pack an emotional punch. This film should satisfy serious filmgoers and leave you with plenty to think about after the final shot.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Absorbing Romanian Drama, 9 April 2013
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Beyond the Hills" is a remarkable film that depicts a world straddling between the superstitious past and the secular present: the desire for peace, tranquility and certainty versus a yearning for freedom and personal fulfillment. The Orthodox convent we see beyond the hills is inhabited by a priest and nuns living spartan lives of work and prayer. As we would expect they are largely disapproving of changes going on in the outside world. When, Alina, a childhood friend of one of the nuns arrives for a visit with an electric candlelight they can't use because they have no electricity it is a precursor of problems Alina will have adjusting to religious life with its emphasis on rules and conformity. In time it becomes evident that Alina is a deeply troubled girl. At one point she is rushed to a local hospital where she encounters an indifferent medical bureaucracy that can offer little more than band aids for the tsunami of societal ills. A wonderful thing about this film is its refusal to stereotype characters. The doctor at the hospital is well-intentioned. He does what he can given the limited resources at his disposal. Likewise the priest in charge of the convent is no villainous cult leader. He tries to help in ways consistent with his belief that aberrant behavior is symptomatic of demonic forces. The performances are excellent. Cosmina Straton is outstanding as Voichita the nun who desperately wants to help her friend but is unable to give her the one thing she desires. Christina Flutur brings outward toughness and inner fragility to the role of Alina. Bringing great credibility to their roles of Priest and Mother Superior are Valeriu Andriuta and Dana Tapalaga.

The modern world of "Beyond the Hills" is a hostile, unforgiving place. Religion may offer solace for some but it's hampered by its adherence to antiquated rituals and practices. The healers whose job it is to piece together the human wreckage confront an impossible task and usually descend into pointing fingers and passing the buck. Directed with great deliberateness and sensitivity by Cristian Mungiu.

Reality (2012/II)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
An Entertaining Satire, 1 April 2013
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A horse driven coach beautifully adorned and accompanied by elegantly dressed coachmen makes its way to a wedding ceremony while the grubby business of daily life goes on around it. One can almost imagine the clock striking midnight and the coach reverting back into a pumpkin while the horses & coachmen become mice. Like the folks sitting in the coach we crave our escapist fantasies even though we know that when we wake up in the morning the world will still be the same old place. But what happens when a man becomes so desirous of fame & fortune that the real world seems fake and the dream world becomes reality? That forms the basis of Matteo Garrone's Cannes Film Festival 2012 Grand Prix winner--"Reality" a wonderfully entertaining comedy-drama starring Aniello Arena as Luciano a fishmonger who lives a quiet middle class life with his wife and children. His wife, Maria, played by Loredana Simioli works as a marketer for a dubious new device called the "Robot" which promises to revolutionize work in the kitchen. Arena's friend and employee Michele (Nando Paone)is devoted to religious iconography and can't seem to stop making the sign of the cross while attending church. After Luciano is persuaded one day to audition for the Italian version of "Big Brother" his determination to join the cast becomes the pivotal objective of his life so much so that his friends begin to worry that he may be losing his mind.

In "Reality" Garrone masterfully satirizes a world governed by superstition, consumerism and the ultimate hallucinogen-----television. Reality television is no more real than anything else on the tube. It's like sitting in a carriage that will turn into a pumpkin when the cameras stop rolling. Aniello Arena and Loredana Simioli are perfect as Luciano and his suffering wife. "Reality" vacillates between the poignant and the absurdly funny.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Garrett Hedlund Is Superb, 28 March 2013
8/10

Post World War II America: GI's are coming home to the factories and the GI Bill while women are leaving the workforce that supported the war effort and returning to the home and raising families. Somewhere in the midst of that were a group of rebels who rejected those prospects and opted instead to hit the road and explore living without boundaries. Known as the Beat Generation they loved living spontaneously, Jazz, embraced promiscuity, experimented with drugs and were forerunners of the counterculture movements of the late 50's and 60's.

One of the most famous literary works of that era, Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" has been adapted for the screen by director Walter Salles & Screenwriter Jose Rivera and for 2 hours I was thoroughly engrossed in it. The performances are first rate especially that of Garrett Hedlund who shines as the charismatic, hedonistic Dean Moriarty. Every movement needs a muse and for the Beats Moriarty is that flame that burns bright like a force of nature. Sal Paradise is an aspiring young writer who chronicles Moriarty's activities with almost religious fervor. Sam Riley is Sal and he envies Dean's free-spirited adventurousness while Dean envies Sal's talent as a writer. Together they are a team driving the blacktop towards the next destination tethered to nothing but their dreams. As has been noted this is a man's world and women don't fare very well. Kristen Stewart is terrific as Moriarty's first wife while Kirsten Dunst is the woman he leaves her for. There's an excellent supporting cast that provide some wonderful vignettes by Viggo Mortensen, Steve Buscemi,Elisabeth Moss, Tom Sturridge and Amy Adams. Salles direction captures the rambling, frenetic energy of those days and Rivera's script nobly endeavors to achieve a kind of cinematic stream of consciousness as the characters meander their way across the landscape. This is a great looking film thanks to the cinematography of Eric Gautier. "On The Road" is a fine effort to recreate the sights and sounds, pluses and minuses, dreams and grunge of a bygone age that still reverberates with us today.

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
German Film Noir, 24 March 2013
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you're in the mood for a dark, compelling police procedural "The Silence" is well worth seeing. In Germany 1986 an 11 year old girl is murdered while bicycling home. Years later the community must come to grips with a similar murder of another young girl and the realization that they have a serial killer in their midst. The police response consists of a bureaucratic, supervising detective primarily concerned with allaying public fears; a detective who commiserates with the victims' families but who's also struggling with the loss of his wife to natural causes and a retired detective anxious to not allow the killer to escape justice this time. Director Baran bo Odar does an excellent job of creating a chilling atmosphere that never slackens. The term "nail biter" may be overused but I feel it's entirely justified in this case. The evil depicted here seems all the more terrifying because it is so banal. Almost like a Nordic "Fargo" this community hardly seems as if a dark day would descend on it and yet the rustic fields and lakes yield horrors. The cast is first rate especially Ulrich Thomsen and Wotan Wilke Mohring. Katrin Sab gives a beautifully controlled performance as the mother of the original victim. Sebastian Blomberg is the detective who spends as much time fighting his own demons as working on the case.

20 out of 42 people found the following review useful:
Not Exactly What Ella Fitzgerald Had In Mind, 19 March 2013
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Director Abbas Kiarostami has followed up his wonderful "Certified Copy" with this thoughtful drama involving a call girl, her volatile boyfriend and a retired professor. Akiko (Rin Takanashi)is a young,beautiful university student who moonlights as a call girl. One night she is driven to the home of Takashi (Tadashi Okuno) an educator who now works as a translator. No typical client, Takashi simply wants to talk and get to know Akiko. Her relationship with a boyfriend, a small auto shop owner named Noriaki (Ryo Kase), is spiraling out of control. His possessive, jealous rages are becoming more menacing.

Kiarostami also wrote the screenplay which seems completely authentic to time, place and character. It's remarkable the way he makes even the most mundane conversations seem important and revealing. Filmed with minimal editing "Like Someone In Love" with its many long takes makes you feel as if you're watching life as it's happening. The performances are exemplary. Rin Takanashi brings an almost childlike innocence to the role of Akiko. She's largely a pawn to the men in her life who pull her one way or another depending on their needs. Ryo Kase is a powder keg. A psychopathic personality he mistakes his obsessiveness for love. There's an underlying sadness and loneliness to Tadashi Okuno's character. Like other characters in the film he is searching for someone perhaps to love or something like it. "Like Someone In Love" is an odd and poignant film that centers around the randomness of human relationships and their unintended consequences.

Lore (2012)
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A Triumph For Young German Actress, 17 March 2013
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

At the close of World War Two an SS officer and his wife facing impending Allied imprisonment abandon their children to make their own way to safety across a war torn and devastated German countryside. Based on the book "The Dark Room" by Rachel Seiffert, the film focuses on the oldest child a teenage girl named Lore who suddenly finds herself acting as surrogate parent to her younger siblings. Lore is beautifully realized by Saskia Rosendahl. It's her face you see in the posters for the film and it reveals an innocence lost, a future life of Aryan privilege descended into one of fear and disillusionment. Kai Malina is Thomas an enigma who appears to bond with the orphans after encountering them on their journey to their grandmother's house near Hamburg. Although they don't entirely trust him they grow more and more dependent on his survival skills. I think of Thomas as an allegorical figure who embodies the unknown world that Lore finds herself navigating. The close-ups and unusual camera angles of cinematographer Adam Arkapaw do an outstanding job of creating a world in ruins and the people adrift in it. "Lore" offers a rare and powerful look at the aftermath of WWII from the point of view of the Germans and particularly their children pumped full of adult lies and indoctrination. Fine directorial effort by Cate Shortland in this only her second feature.

No (2012/I)
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Mad Men In Chile, 10 March 2013
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In 1988 a plebiscite was held in Chile to determine whether or not Augusto Pincochet would continue to lead the country. The 27-day campaign was simple: a "Yes" was a vote for Pinochet and "No" was a vote for change. Each side was given 15 minutes of TV time to state their case. Pablo Larrain's "NO" is a dramatization of that historic campaign and it succeeds on several layers. It's a social commentary on the way mass media is used to influence people to buy cars, fast food, soda pop and politicians. Even when confronted with a brutal dictator like Pinochet there are large segments of the population that remain indifferent to the prospect of change. There are always people who prosper under any regime and if no one in their immediate circle "disappeared" they may feel no need to change anything.

Gael Garcia Bernal is perfectly cast as Rene Saavedra an advertising man who enjoys a good middle class life with his wife and child. He's also cynical about human nature and politically indifferent. So when he agrees to join the "No" campaign orchestrated by leftist opponents of Pincohcet it becomes another opportunity to sell consumers (the electorate) on a product (freedom). On the other hand, Pinochet's supporters lead by Rene's employer must sell Chileans on the idea that he is no longer the brutal dictator. He has turned over a new leaf and only wishes the prosperity of his people. "NO" effectively recreates life in Pinochet's Chile during a transitional time in which opposition is tolerated for the sake of appearances but lurking in the shadows is the ever-present danger of retaliation from the regime. It also contains a good deal of satire and dark humor. "NO" is well worth seeing.


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