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Pa negre (2010)
Could be better...
Pa negre could have been an interesting movie, but it feels a bit rough around the edges as a whole. It's sort of exaggerated in its evilness, the lies are so many that it would have been impossible for the characters to remember what they had just said and to keep any kind of contact with reality. This exaggeration probably comes as an inheritance from Pan's Labyrinth, but unlike its inspiration Pan Negre lacks subtlety and magic. As for the children, they are cruel and borderline psychopaths, except for the main character who is cold enough as to avoid going crazy. The scenes which portrays animal cruelty are indeed disgusting, I hope no animal was harmed in the making of the film.
It's not surprising to find so many different opinions about the same movie, given not only its broad reach but also the recent changes this saga has known. Many of the first trilogy fans would just plainly refuse to see it changing hands, and would abhor further modifications.
I must confess I felt quite suspicious at the beginning, even failing to realise that the presence of Max von Sydow was a very good sign. I think it was only by the time that Rey hears a calling that I stopped resisting the film, and found my way through its magic. With Rey's calling I felt like entering an initiatic well, where I found that magic: perhaps the magic that is present at Alexander's room in Fanny and Alexander, in Pan's Labyrinth or perhaps in farther references like Sprng, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring. And this is what cinema is about, at least great cinema, if this cliché can be excused.
So, yes, The Force Awakens feels sometimes as the very first Star Wars, the IV one, but it really does not matter, for it is a rebirth. I loved Disney way to do it too, the only thing that I'd probably try was to make a less obvious Han Solo, but this is such a small detail.
Some good taste
I usually avoid every sort of mainstream movies, let alone those who admittedly belong to the sub-genre "popcornis". However, as my boy-friend is a Marvel fan and at the same time wanted to see a non-existentialist film for a change, I held my breath and thought that I could always sleep during the movie, as a last resource. That's to say I had no hopes for this film whatsoever, and knew nothing about it beforehand as well.
The thing is, I have to admit that I sort of liked Thor. At least, I enjoyed some details, like some of the design, the textures used and even the choice of colour in some of the fantasy scenes; there's evidence of some good taste here and there. Of course the 3D almost ruined everything, as usual.
Unfortunately the screenplay was much too puerile, even for its genre. Despite some good jokes, evidently this film didn't take itself too seriously in this aspect. Too bad it didn't, because the film could be like a pearl lost in the mainstream space otherwise.
Just in the end I got to know it was directed by Kenneth Branagh. That might explain why I sort of liked it after all!
Shi is most certainly a good movie, and yet it fails to be a masterpiece, so I am inclined to believe that some viewers might have felt disappointed in case they had such hopes for this film, based on the Cannes award and on the fact that, well, it's a Korean movie.
While Shi is not designed to be a thriller, I found it rather similar to Madeo, which is a masterpiece by the way, and the things is - as a thriller, Madeo has the exact dimension, feeling and intensity, the right qualities for the genre, and the ones that helped it in its road to perfection. In this sense, Shi is sort of lost, trying to be an artistic and humanistic movie; nonetheless, it still has the duty to be able to tell a story, and to have a coherent plot.
Unfortunately, Shi stops half-way and fails to reach a high artistic level (but it should be noted that it is still good in this sense) and fails completely to tell a coherent story. It is rather too long, and while it didn't help to make better art, it also didn't work in the sense of making it precise and logical enough. Like many, I failed to understand the end in logical terms (it's like part of the story is missing, despite the abundance of scenes), even though I could grasp the ending at some emotional level - which is not enough, though.
Having said that, I want to note that I liked Shi very much, and I think that Lee Chang-dong is a most promising director.
Loong Boonmee raleuk chat (2010)
Uncle Boonmee isn't what I was hoping to see
After reading some (bad) reviews about this movie, I decided to watch it regardless, after all I'm quite used to boring movies, if I were to believe the reviews.
The problem is, I didn't find Uncle Boonmee to be boring (well, at least not too much boring), or even too pretentious, it's just the case that it was not what I thought - not at all.
Where I had hoped to see a deep movie guided by a spiritual tone, I found a rather political piece (with nothing to do with past lives by the way), and I'm one of those who can't find a connection between politics and spirituality. On the other hand, as I was watching it, I was thinking if IMDb had classified this movie as a comedy - and bingo! Then there was the problem with all the relatives - I still cannot understand who Uncle Boonmee is uncle of. Sometimes the woman (not the ghost) is pointed as being Boonmmee's sister-in-law, sometimes like his sister. Sometimes the gorilla ghost is pointed as the son of that woman, sometimes like Boonmee's son. The gorilla ghosts are rather ridiculous by the way, and I took that part as an element of comedy in the film (but maybe they are some obscure political metaphor that i could not grasp, or even a reference to Star Wars).
The photographic work sometimes is very good, but most of the time it is simply above the average, and it is a "different" kind of movie with no doubt. However, I'm disappointed in this film, because it turned out to be rather shallow after all.
Delicate, subtle and powerful
If I could describe Hanyo with just one word, I'd say it is personality. Indeed, both the film and its characters have so much of it that they evolve beyond the viewer's expectations, unfolding themselves at their own pace and rhythm, subtlety telling their story.
The settings are amazing, such as the house in which most part of the story takes place. However, there is also where some inevitable frontal collisions with reality occur, since there's not too many people in the world who could afford a house like that, and in case they could, they would not possibly employ just two maids to take care of it. Still, such an unrealistic approach reduces the number of characters in the story and therefore makes the drama even more intense and stronger.
The actors are all great, and some of the performances brought to my mind names like Bette Davis, while the overall line of direction seemed close to the very best of Park Chan-wook (that's to say, Oldboy).
Hanyo is a poetic, artistic and extremely well written and conceived movie that can boast to be amongst the best films recently made, if not of all times.
Ang-ma-reul bo-at-da (2010)
Plain and obvious
I went to see Akmareul boatda with great expectations as it won my favourite section of our local film festival, but I can't say I liked it - at all. It's not because it's disgusting (Taxidermia is also disgusting but it is a great movie) nor because it's too violent (there are so many good, yet violent movies around), but probably because it has no artistic element in it and the plot is so ridiculously plain and simple that it is almost an insult to the viewer's intelligence.
I cannot state the much I got disappointed in this Jee-woon Kim film, considering he is the same director of one of my favourite of all times, Janghwa, Hongryeon, which is a masterpiece, nor the much my heart ached to see Min-sik Choi, who I consider to be a great actor, to play such a silly role that seemed to be conceived to sound like the Coen Brothers.
Not good at all - actually that's the Korean film that I liked less so far - and I sincerely hope I'll be able to praise next Jee-woon Kim's movie, because he certainly can do much better than this.
A lighthearted and well-balanced movie
As Hahaha was the first Sang-soo Hong movie I saw, I found it unusual, and certainly different from the Korean movies and directors I am already acquainted with.
Far from the raw beauty of Hwal and the dark mysteries of Janghwa, Hongryeon, Hahaha's main virtue seems to be the equilibrium found in the different sides of the same story, almost like a documentary made of fiction.
In this sense, Hahaha is not a deep film in itself, even though it is quite intellectual in its approach and structure. The final result is a lighthearted, refreshing and very entertaining movie, with a nice camera work and interesting settings.
The narrative is a bit tricky now and then, and probably it is a good idea to see this film at least twice to untie some secondary knots, even though the story gets clear enough from the first viewing.
All in all, a nice movie that certainly deserves to be watched.
Saw 3D (2010)
Saw lost its way
I could understand the first Saw's raison d'être as a tribute to the wonderful Dr Phibes and Vincent Price, even though Saw could have never been compared to its inspiration. Indeed, Dr Phibes was filled with amazing sets and was a quite funny black comedy, whereas Saw's atmosphere could have been inspired by a butchery.
I really cannot understand why some film makers seem to believe that some decadent men's room and ugly (and yet ridiculous) masks are enough to provide enough darkness to a "horror" movie (not that Saw is one), as it also apparently happens in "Let the Right One In"'s American version, and could not care less about suspense, plot and acting. This is exactly what Saw 3D is: a group of ugly things bundled together, totally deprived of subtlety, elegance and charm. And yes, of any kind of story too, as if it never mattered anyway.
The 3D element is horrible, and just serves to point once again the completely lack of commitment in artistic terms, as if it was needed to reinforce what was already clear and bad enough. So, if the first Saw was intended as a homage to Dr Phybes, Saw 3D is some sort of insult to it.
Anyway, what was the point of every Saw after the first one? None. It just got boring and uglier. I wish I could believe this was really the last one, but I don't think so...
Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)
Boring to tears
I was going to write this review yesterday, because I believe that reviews should be written just after watching the movie, but I could not - a huge headache, caused by the camera movement and the abrupt, extremely annoying amateur-like "cuts" left me literally prostrated. I experienced other symptoms as well, like having my eyes filled with tears, at the same time that I felt utterly disgusted. The diagnosis was simple and self-explanatory: I was bored to tears.
It's not just that his film is bad - it is especially bad, as if boredom were some exquisite dish that could just be cooked by the worst chefs and tasted only by an elite. The unique spices of boredom are all there, masterfully mixed: a non-story, lack of argument, poor acting, a camera that is horrible beyond description and so on. Still, there must be some little secret ingredient, because the result is superb: this is probably the most boring film of all times. For this achievement alone I thought about rating it 10 stars - but no, 1 is enough, considering there is no 0 stars rating available here.
Io sono l'amore (2009)
Shame and scandal in the family
Well I went to see this film thinking "this is going to be another wanna-be 'film of art', pretentious, boring and shallow movie". And guess what, I was right.
However, unlike most wanna-be films of art neither the photography nor the camera work were worthwhile, and weren't enough to disguise the incredibly shallow argument and totally passionless acting.
We are supposed to feel empathy (?) for the main character, I suppose, who finds herself to be in love (????) with his son's business partner. Not that we notice that they are in love by the way, for the guy seems constantly upset and bored, while she looks insane, but not with passion - just insane, that's all.
So we are supposed to admire her for her braveness (more like deeply deprived of any kind of feelings and selfish in some outrageous way, in her case) to break (zzz...) with the rich man (zzzz...) she's married with. Of course she has to be very brave to do so, after all the film is set during the passage of the millennium (I mean, the latest passage, rather than 1000 years ago) and everybody knows how things are tough in the XXI century after all.
Maybe she had never heard about divorce in her life? Still more pointless and ridiculous than the plot and acting were some forced references to Visconti. They should have let Visconti alone, for heaven's sake, for this film is completely unable to reach his genius.
Drawing Restraint 9 (2005)
This film makes me ill
I've just watched Drawing Restraint 9 again, maybe I did this because I wanted to give it a second chance... But no, it certainly doesn't deserve any praise from me, and for the second time it made me feel ill.
Why? Because Matthew Barney probably thinks that it is OK to make "art" out of extinction, death and ignorance, and thinks it's a nothing to make a movie inside the Nisshin Maru, the protagonist of more than a deep scar on Earth's oceans history. By stating that his film is apolitical and refusing to take any position about whaling, he can be paired with all the brainless creatures that "think" that wearing a fur coat is OK, taking this sort of cheap appeal as something better than Nature and the Beauty of living beings.
This film would be as bad as one refusing to take a position about human rights or such... so no Mr Barney, as much as I love good photography and while I think that your film has some merit in this particular point, it soon becomes very ugly when the slaughter you didn't want to make explicit becomes as clear as you metaphors about it... And please, once it was filmed inside the ship itself, don't expect me to believe that it carries any anti-whaling message underneath it...
Shame, shame, shame on you Mr Barney. It's not art - it's just something cheap and very ugly at the end of the day.
Not bad, all in all
This review is just intended for the users who already saw the movie, so please don't read it if you have not seen it already because it does contain spoilers.
I liked Kick Ass with some reserve. The biographic start would have been average or even good if they have not tried so hard to sound funny. Someone dying abruptly in a movie can be funny in certain contexts (like in Monty Python's Holy Grail when King Arthur and the knights are saved because the cartoonist died all of a sudden and thus could not develop the scene where the monster was about to kill them all), but certainly not in the situation portrayed in the beginning of Kick Ass. Well, that this movie wasn't written by any John Cleese became clear soon enough, given the amount of failed, bad-taste juvenile and brainless jokes throughout the movie.
On the other hand, I was not impressed by the violence that followed the biographical introduction, for I've seen much worse in horror/ gore movies, so while the violence was not a point against the film per se, it served to show once more (a bit like Park Chan-wook's Thirst, perhaps, but in a milder way here) that action is not enough to keep the pace in a movie, if such action adds little to the plot. So, there's not much happening in the first half of the movie and I kept wondering why they have made the film at all. At the same time, some qualities also start to show since the very beginning - good photography and camera work, and I as value such attributes a lot, even the first half wasn't so boring after all.
The film sort of explodes into the second half though, when the direction seems more defined and follows an intelligent path. Unlike most viewers, I'm not going to give to Chloe Moretz all the credit for bringing life to the film - while I think that her scenes were probably the best, it would not have happened just because of her acting (or choreography in the fighting scenes), but also for an incredible direction, music and camera work - in other words, her scenes were the best cared for. If the jokes kept being sort of dry in the second half, the references to other movies could make up for them (like the allusion to Tarantino's movies, subtly hinted by the music played in the scene at the hotel's hall). The cartoon part was pure genius, achieved in a superb way.
I gave 6/10 because in overall terms it cannot still be compared to the incredible, eternal movies that have sadly just scored 7 or even less in IMDb, so this 6 is a sort of absolute mark. In relative terms, and thinking mainly in the movies we are seeing in the first half of 2010 (saved by Dr Parnassus so far), I'd give 7 or even 8 stars to it, because it's well above the average nowadays.
As much as I hate criticizing alternative movies...
... I think that Delta is a very bad movie, in the sense that the plot is not not developed enough as carry the film and the acting is extremely poorly directed and conducted.
Paradoxically though, it has some of the most amazing photography and camera work that I've ever seen, so in a way it sadly becomes the purest example of what is the typical alternative European movie these days (with some exceptions, of course!): beautiful, but bad. So bad that it seems like some sort of sketch making a parody of European movies, so bad that it makes it even funny.
The main actor spends all the time looking down, probably trying to give the impression of living in some deep state of introspection. The girl gets raped every time she goes out. The nicest character is a small turtle playing the role of itself. They fortunately hardly speak. End of.
Delta wants to sound like some deep work of art, but it is just artificial and extremely pretentious in the end of the day. Horrible movie, wonderful painting.
Not the best sorry
If you love Korean movies for their delicacy and art, you'll probably not like Bakjwi - the photography is horrible and the camera isn't exactly amazing. If you like them for their intricate stories, forget everything about Old Boy - there isn't much of a story in this one. I could not manage to feel any empathy for any of the characters, who are just plain and childish. As far as action is concerned, it is more like B class gore. I wondered if they really meant this film in a serious way. All in all, it's boring. The sex scenes are boring. The dialogues are boring. The violence is boring. Maybe it's about vengeance again, maybe not - the plot is so childish that it doesn't matter much anyway. Why am giving 7 stars in 10 ten? because there is one scene that I liked a lot . when they are having dinner and the mother-in-law moves her fingers. That is the only scene worth of Park Chan-wook's name in the whole movie, otherwise killed by some extreme inability to express anything at all.
The perfect movie
Hwal is probably the best film I've ever seen in my life, in the sense of being the most beautiful and complete one. The camera and photography are superb, the acting is equally outstanding, the music is adorable and the story, even though it's a simple one, talks about the most important things in life - feelings, choices and destiny.
It goes deeper than the film's length though, if we care to try to understand a bit further than its rather clear metaphors and start wondering about its cultural roots - I may be mistaken here, but I believe that I could foresee some relation with this film itself and the I-Ching oracle that we can see painted on the ship's hull.
As an object of art, I gave 10 in 10 stars to Hwal because it fulfills what cinema is meant to be, well above the conventional, mainstream films that we are flooded with these days.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Bitter disappointment... or just far worse than expected
It's just natural that great directors manage to acquire a good reputation and a sound name in the industry of cinema. However, sometimes that means a genuine quality and faithfulness to his/her own ideas and creativity (as it is the case of non-trendy directors such as David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Godard and many others), but sometimes it is just used as a commercial power to hype their movies. Still, maybe a movie can be that hyped and fully associated with special 3D CGI effects and still be good... but I soon feared that it would not be the case of this Alice in Wonderland.
This was not a film for Tim Burton to make anyway - as much as hight is the quality of most of his works, he never truly managed to create a original narrative structure in his works, forever linked to the emo archetypes in some sort of sweet dark fashion.
Alice in Wonderland is, however, a surrealist piece rather than a fantasy, therefore lacking the easy handlers of sword adventures - even though the monster and the sword indeed appear in Through the Looking Glass (the book), as a very short-story written in a medieval way that Alice finds and reads. It's a small detail in the whole book though and I'm certain that it was never intended to dominate the whole opus, or change the surreal tone of the story.
Unable to pursue the essence of surrealism (well, he might not even tried to) Tim Burton followed the easiest rout and transformed Alice into a Joanne D'Arc involved in a fight of good versus evil. Just plain as that, so frustrating as that - yet, a formula guaranteed to please huge audiences.
In visual terms it is equally disturbing - the 3D caused me headaches, while I noticed that some major problems were happening in the movie, like the whole perspective being often distorted, colours suddenly changing and the background losing all resolution all of a sudden.
If taken just as fast entertaining this movie can still be viewed, but cannot be compared to other Tim Burton's movies. It's just sad to see that happening.
Historias del desencanto (2005)
A surreal love story involving a young artist, his teenager friend and a harpy.
I saw this film yesterday at Fantasporto, the International Movie Festival of Porto, and I liked it a lot. The aesthetics of this movie are intense and might even shock some viewers, for this film works like visual surrealism on some philosophy of dreams. It is like a dream looking at reality and finding it difficult to accept, even though there is a plot that is not that hard to figure. Excellent idea and a great work on the visual elements, I rated it 9/10 because I think there's just one shortcoming in this movie - it's a rather long one for its purpose, for sometimes it seems to develop a plot that should not be missed in surreal terms.