Friday, October 29, 2010

Reviews, Reviews & Reviews

Hereafter (PG-13) ★★

Clint Eastwood has done himself good as a filmmaker. Ever since his 1992 masterpiece Unforgiven, Eastwood's resume as director reads like a contemporary blackboard of flawed movie heroes/heroines, his newest one does not belong on a list that includes Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino. It's a real clunker that shows our man can't only do good. The difference here is that he doesn't have a script to accommodate his old school style. He concentrates on a variety of different stories, all involving death or the after-life without a sense of direction. Matt Damon is a psychic that wants to just find love and be normal, a french couple try to cope with the after effects of a natural disaster and a British boy loses his twin brother and tries to find a meaning to it all.

The opening sequence is astonishing as we see a tsunami wiping out an entire vacation resort and market. It's a powerful opening that sets the table for the after effects of an after life that is fascinates the characters inhabiting Eastwood's world of mystery. Too bad the rest of the film can't compete with the first 10 minutes and we are left with a hyperbole of sentimentality that negates what Clint is all about. It's a valid effort and I can see what he was trying to do but that does not mean it's a success. The reason why such an effort has turned into a dud is simple; As many filmmakers have found out over the years, it is an arduous and ambitious experience to translate the meaning of the after life on screen, just ask Robin Williams.

Soul Kitchen (R) ★★★½

German director Faith Akin has built his young filmmaking career over films that have had darkness in their souls. Head On and Edge Of Heaven were heavily subjected with black all over them, themes of isolation and death were the words of the day. With Soul Kitchen, Akin does a complete 360 in subject matter and films a comedy that is so silly yet so irresistible in content. Zinos -impeccably played by Adam Bousdoukos- owns a grungy restaurant that is quickly going down until he hires a crazy chef to take over the menu. The people start coming but Zinos feels a dissatisfaction with his life, it doesn't help his girlfriend has moved to Japan and his troubled brother has come out of jail and needs work. Worse, a scheming man with mob related ties is trying to steal away Zinos' restaurant to get more groundwork for his prostitution ring. I didn't believe a minute of it but it's all crazy, zany fun and Akin knows it. He makes the implausible plausible to our eyes and entertains us like no other Hollywood film can. I had a blast.

Never Let Me Go (R) ★★

Some are calling this one a sleeper. It isn't, then again if these people mean it could induce you to a nice, awesome sleep then yes it is a sleeper. Based on Kazy Ishiguro's masterful novel of the same name, it's a sci fi story unlike any other where cloning is done to have organ doning for human beings suffering of diseases such as cancer. It's a heavy subject that doesn't translate well on screen. If Ishiguro's novel had all the beautiful details right, the film version feels like one big messy edit. Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Alex Garfield play the clones that are guaranteed a short life span once their donations start. They try their hardest to bring out life to the surroundings but they can't ditto Mark Romanek's visionary eye, which can't help in the translation of this difficult and dark story.

Carlos (R) ★★★½

This is not a review of the 5 hour version which has been screened a bit everywhere around and has had its TV debut on IFC not too long ago. This is the reduced 160 minute version that nevertheless brings a real jolt to your nervous system. Director Olivier Assayas directs Carlos with an excitement that is near palpable. His telling of the renowned terrorist of the 70's and 80's, who shared an affinity for the Palestinian cause, has an urgency that you rarely see in film. Too bad most of it is disjointed due to the fact that it was cut in half for a normalized theatrical version.

There's an astonishing sequence that involves the hostage taking of OPEC members that can be described as a mini movie of its own. That very part of the film is its heart and soul as Assayas takes our breath away and induces pulse pounding intensity to what could have been a real drag to sit through. It zips along from room to room, plane to plane, country to country in a brazenly kinetic pace as Carlos tries to find a way out from his botched plan. Assayas' use of colors, lighting and camera stylization is breathtaking to behold. It's a 60 minute hypnotic ride to behold.

It's a real shame I didn't wait to just view the 5 hour cut, which from what I hear is just awesome. I'm gonna have to guess that that one is the inferior version of Carlos, which is why Assayas' film feels so disjointed and flawed in execution. Taking away close to 2 hours of time, the version I saw felt to me like it was missing character development and a sense of structure with its plotting. I'm recommending the version I saw solely based on the brilliant flashes that it possesses at its disposal - aka the Hostage sequence, a nifty, tense assassination at its beginning and an earth shatteringly great performance by Edgar Martinez as Carlos- but once I review the original cut I'll let you know how it really is and I'm sure it's even better.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My recap of the Film Fest

After close to 2 weeks of covering the local film fest, I'm completely movie'd out but I've had time to write about it through The Link and Awards Daily. You can read my thoughts over at Awards Daily by clicking HERE & The Link coverage HERE. If you're too lazy to click and can only scroll here's what I wrote on Sasha Stone's web site.

Montreal’s Le Festival Du Nouveau Cinema concluded its 39th edition on Sunday with Palme D’or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, a mesmerizing journey into the nature of life and death. Its puzzling nature was a reassuring sight to see at a fest that was filled with disappointing efforts from the likes of Clair Denis and Catherine Breillat. Sadly, I wouldn’t bet on Weerasethakul’s film getting nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, it is too visionary and ahead of its time to likely get recognized. However, Japan’s official entry in the Oscar race, Tetsuya Nakashima’s Confessions won a deserved Audience Award which is a good sign for its chances come nomination time. Nakashima’s film was THE summer hit in Japan this season and is riding high as a crowd pleaser in festival circuits worldwide. Was it as good a movie as Uncle Boonmee? Of course not but Confessions has an accessibility that the academy will likely cuddle to, in its depiction of a high school teacher seeking revenge on the students that killed her daughter.

Canada’s official submission Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies will also most likely get recognized with a Foreign Film nomination, in fact it might just be a masterpiece & has been picked up by Sony Pictures Classic for a 2011 release. Take that in mind and the fact that it won Best Canadian Film at the recent Toronto Film Fest and you got a real contender. Meanwhile Mexico’s Official entry, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Biutiful got a rapturous applause at its screening more than a week ago. I dug Inarritu’s first three directorial efforts but thought this new one didn’t live up to them and was a slight letdown in its depiction of a dying man trying to leave his children a better future before he dies. Javier Bardem is guaranteed a Best Actor nomination and is the reason why the film is even worth watching. As Uxball, a man haunted by his past and worried about his future, Bardem infuses a raw and unforgettable grittiness to his role. The film, despite its exciting visual style, was too conventional to get me all excited.

Although Bardem impressed, Lesley Manville gets my award for Best Performance of the fest as an alcoholically depressed middle aged woman looking for love in Mike Leigh’s great Another Year. Just like Leigh’s other films, Another Year is an actor’s delight and something truly special. We should cherish the films this man gives us because not many people make them like this anymore, simple and wonderful. The film is worth watching alone for Manville’s master class in acting. She infuses the film with a comedic and touching gravity that will astound you from the get go. As far as I’m concerned she will be competing with Annette Benning for the critics’ awards come December, they might just boost her to a nomination.

As far as animated film goes, nothing came close to touching Sylvain Chomet’s follow-up to Belleville Rendezvous, The Illusionist. It’s a real shame that this year has been wonderful in terms of animation but If I were the Academy this would be a cinch for a nomination. Chomet’s breathtaking visual style is a wonder to behold and if The Illusionist might not be as Inventive as his first film, it’s still got more to give us than any other animated film this year, save for maybe Toy Story 3.

Other films that I dug at the fest were Gaspar Noe’s incendiary Enter The Void which, just like Uncle Boonmee, gave a new voice to how cinema could be told with its frenetic camera movements and trippy images that test the patience of its audience- It reveals a spiritual side that I never thought Noe had ditto Mathieu Almaric’s Tournee (On Tour), which won him a Best Directing prize at Cannes. It’s his ode to the American Burlesque performance and he directs the film like a true veteran, infusing hand held camera with a loose narrative to give a kind of cinema verite style to his film.

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