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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.
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.
Sexy Beast (2000)
Neat little crime-tale
Jonathan Glazer's "Sexy Beast" is an art-house dramedy. The lead character, wonderfully played by Ray Winstone, is a retired criminal living in Spain.
Ben Kingsley's character comes into the pictured and stirs things up, asking help for a heist. And he is quite the vicious, sick and messed-up character.
The performances are impressive, Kingsley really pulls off the phycho character. Some wonderful cinematography, stylish editing and dark humour make the movie flow beautifully.
My only complaint is the length. For me, it feels a bit too short, and I was already missing the characters as the credits rolled.
While I am no serious Arnold Schwarzeneger fan, I do consider many of his movies a guilty pleasure, with one or two notable titles ("Predator","The Terminator").
David Ayer is no Kubrick, but his previous directorial and writing efforts keep my eye on him. But the combination of these two entertainer is quite a disappointment for me.
The premise is more-or-less interesting but there is a big inconsistency throughout the film. It's basically a dirty-mission gone wrong for a DEA strike team. The acting is often above average, there is a good organic relationship between the team members. But it stays on a superficial level.
I find the gore and foul language okay within the context of the story, but the writing (or allowed improv) is really weak. Attempts at humor in the most unrealistic manner (example: just after finding a team member dead), silly character motivations, no suspense build-up.
The editing, camera-work and music combined are straight-to-video quality. For me it feels like it has been rushed. Funny that Ayer's previous movie, a "found-footage" type of film, felt more immersive.
"Sabotage" could have been a solid hit, and don't be mistake, Arnie is actually okay in it. But he could have been excellent, with a better script.
I doubt I'll watch this movie again.
End of Watch (2012)
A harsh ride worth taking
If you've seen the director's previous work, you pretty much know what to expect. But that's no reason not to check it out.
"End Of Watch" is a buddy-cop movie, set in South Central LA. One major element that might require an effort to accept is the visual style. The film adopts the "real-life footage" style, mixed with normal viewpoints. The cheap cinematography is worth accepting and embracing, it really fits with the atmosphere.
While the story is not very complex and there are obvious hints of where it all leads to, I was never bored or fully aware of the third act.
The best thing about the movie are the two main characters. The chemistry between them is so organic, humorous and credible. I'm sure Pena and Jake stayed friends after shooting this movie.
There is profanity and violence throughout, but it's not really glamorizing any of it. I recommend "End Of Watch" if you like movies such as "Colours", Boys N The Hood", "Harsh Times" or the TV show "The Shield".
Interesting surreal mystery
I'm not sure how to review "Enemy". It's wonderfully directed, with smooth cinematography and moody music, the acting is good but there are several more-or-less surreal elements that made me question the whole plot.
While the tone is as serious as it can get, the ending left me stunned, and then laughing as the credits rolled by.
This movie is a puzzle and I feel the need to watch it again.
My only complaint is the exaggerated color saturation of the film. I have to say I prefer Villenvenue's "Prisoners" over this one, but it's not really fair to compare them.
Watch it with an open mind, this is certainly no popcorn flick.
De behandeling (2014)
Captivating, edge-of-your-seat thriller
"The Treatment" is very dark Belgian thriller, wonderfully directed, never boring, with great music and a brilliant damaged main character.
In the wrong hands, the movie could have turned out a big cliché, but narrative is so well done, that it pretty much keeps you guessing how it ends.
It's not a movie for the squeamish due to several scenes of abuse. Even the implied, off-screen brutality might not be for everyone.
I was very surprise of the high production quality. Until now, "Bullhead" was for me a Belgian film that set high standards in the dark crime genre, but "The Treatment" is a far more balanced and gritty movie.
If you like the "Prisoners", "Se7en", "True Detective" or "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", be sure not to miss this!
Under the Skin (2013)
A wonderfully chilling experience
"Under The Skin" is a visual treat. Raw, yet subtle, with a chilling soundtrack that compensates the story perfectly.
We see the world mostly through the eyes of Scarlet's character. The narrative is atypical, minimal on dialog. Very reminiscent of the style of Stanley Kubrick, Nicholas Winding Refn or Paul Thomas Anderson.
My only complaint is that I knew who/what the main character is, simply from the promotion/IMDb info for the movie. It would've been an even better experience not having known "that" particular detail.
I also don't agree with the description of the plot on IMDb. Perhaps in the book it is so, but Glazer clearly stated this is not a direct adaptation. He just used the premise.
This is no Hollywood popcorn flick, so I can only recommend it if you like films such as Valhalla Rising, Drive, The Rover, There Will Be Blood, The Tree Of Life.
Mildred Pierce (2011)
A decent time-travel back to the 1930's
First of all, I want to make it clear that I have not read the book this is based on, or have seen the previous film-adaptation. I watched it for two reasons: HBO and Winslet.
In "Mildred Piearce", we look mostly through the eyes of a struggling American woman, between the early and late 1930's. Without spoiling much, her new big chapter in life begins with a marital disaster.
Mildred is put in a desperate position where she has to overcome her own boundaries to be able to maintain her two children.
Although it's pretty much a kitchen-sink drama with feminist undertones, it's done well. The production values and talent behind this five part miniseries are top-notch. Add an excellent performance by Kate Winslet and overall good acting by the rest of the cast, and you are fully transported back in time.
Besides Kate, who has center-stage, I was very impressed by the unknown-to-me Morgan Turner as the younger version of the daughter Veda. Evan Rachel Wood plays her in the latter parts, and it's such a fitting casting choice that you might think they're the same person.
I was a bit underwhelmed by Guy Pearce's role, expecting more screen- time from him. But his character is very important to the story and he certainly incarnates a spoiled eccentric playboy perfectly.
"Mildred Pierce" reminded me a lot of "Revolutionary Road", with it's similar narrative tone.
The Rover (2014)
"The Rover" is one of those productions that remind me of everything I love about movies.
The director is a master of his craft, providing us a very captivating story with a slow narrative. The visual composition impressed me a lot, along with the great atmospheric soundtrack.
Guy Pearce plays the lead character so well. He deserves to win all awards that he will be nominated for. But the overall acting is top- notch, with Robert Pattinson giving a very good performance, totally immersing himself into his character.
While "The Rover" may not be everyone's taste, I believe anyone who enjoyed "The Road" or "No Country For Old Men" will like it. And for me, this is certainly up there with those two films.
Eastern Boys (2013)
A layered love-story with emotional depth
I had no expectations going into this film. And the first few minutes made me doubt my choice. But as the slow narrative starts to develop, it sucked me in and kept me captivated until the very end.
A very realistic, raw image of illegal immigrants and a very sensitive story of deception, love and protection.
I won't spoil the story, but if you are not homophobic and if you like movies such as Stephen Frears's "Dirty Pretty Things", this is a great cinematic experience. Hopefully this movie will get a wide enough audience and recognition.
Go watch it with an open mind.
American Hustle (2013)
I'm not sure how much of the story is true, it doesn't really matter to me.
All I can say about "American Hustle" is that it had a lot of energy, good acting (especially Christian Bale), three-dimensional characters and a good enough story to keep my interest until the end.
Keep in mind that this is a comedy at heart and I can not help but notice the similarities with "The Wolf Of Wall Street". While there are noticeable differences in style, the two movies can easily be considered spiritual-cinematic-siblings.
I recommend "American Hustle" to a mature audience with a (mature) sense of humor and appreciation of good acting.
Grzeli nateli dgeebi (2013)
The story revolves around two 14 year old girls, best friends growing up together in Georgia.
Although it's set in 1992, the time-line and history is merely a canvas for a tale of friendship and difficulties in a flawed culture and society.
We witness the hardships the two girls have to go through and negative or positive emotional bonds they have with friends/schoolmates/family.
There's not much dramatization or cheesy drama going on, since the narrative is documentary-style realism à-la "A Separation". I have to applaud the two young actresses for more-or-less carrying the whole story on their shoulders, with success. Not that the other actors are bad, they all contribute to the authentic atmosphere.
It's also hard to ignore the setting, the homes and streets that reek of post communist decay. This felt personal to me, having grown up in an "fresh" democratic Romania, where the circumstances were similar, even if not the same.
I can totally recommend "In Bloom" to anyone interested in a good story. This is no Hollywood moneymaker, but I also disagree with another reviewer writing that it's hard to understand for non-Georgians. Cinema is universal.