Depending on who you talk to in 1921, Florence Cathcart(Rebecca Hall)… MoreDepending on who you talk to in 1921, Florence Cathcart(Rebecca Hall) is either a hero or the devil incarnate. That's what comes from busting up supernatural hoaxes for a living. For Robert Mallory(Dominic West), she is hope. See, at the boarding school he teaches at in Scotland, there have been reports of a ghost for years that has also recently resulted in the death of a student. At least, when she finally decides to take the case, Maud(Imelda Staunton), the school matron, is also happy to see her, as she is a fan of her work.
On the plus side, "The Awakening" emphasizes atmosphere and psychology over horror in its exploration of broken people putting their lives back together after World War I, dwarfing anything 'Downton Abbey' would attempt on the delicate subject.(And why do we need to invent hell when there are already wars and boarding schools?) All of which gives Rebecca Hall the chance to play the hero for once which she does with verve.
But at the same time, "The Awakening" forgets the first rule of any genre film which is to keep it as simple as possible. The problems start with the awful and cliched introductory sequence which establishes this as a movie that will rely on deception too much for its own good. That leads to the story confusing things so much that it lacks much in the way of common sense. Just because the movie ties itself into a bow instead of a knot, that does not mean it ends on a good note.
In occupied France, Younes(Tahar Rahim) works in the black market.… MoreIn occupied France, Younes(Tahar Rahim) works in the black market. During an immigration dragnet, he is arrested while his cousin Ali(Farid Larbi) escapes. Younes is given a choice, either cooperate with the authorities and spy for them or be deported. He chooses to stay and is assigned to infiltrate the mosque presided by Ben Ghabrit(Michael Lonsdale). It is there that Younes encounters Salim(Mahmoud Shalaby), a young singer, using a dabrouka as a calling card.
"Free Men" has a few things going for it, like its unique angle on occupied France, just as nationalism for North Africa was starting to kick into gear with immigrants being pulled in two separate directions at once. But even with a milieu as neat as this one, you need a decent story which is missing here. Plus, the lead character is more than a little lacking.(Whether this is because Younes is only a composite character and Salim and Ben Ghabrit were real people is up for debate.) But then somebody should have told Michael Lonsdale, possibly miscast as he is, that this wasn't his movie, as he steals it simply through the careful application of quiet dignity.
In "Silent Souls," Aist(Igor Sergeev) is the son of a famous poet.… MoreIn "Silent Souls," Aist(Igor Sergeev) is the son of a famous poet. Having failed to write anything of his own, Aist works in a paper factory. While making time with a female security guard, he is called to the office of Miron(Yuriy Tsurilo), his boss. It's not about that, however. See, Miron's younger wife Tanya(Yuliya Aug) has just died and he needs help in attending to the appropriate funeral rites. Since this might take a few days, Aist, takes along the birds, buntings, that he just bought.
"Silent Souls" is a rather beguiling movie. If it is oddly so, it is perhaps the way an outsider, or the viewer, sees the customs shown which are fading away in this modern world.(The scene in the box store exemplifies this clash of worlds.) In any case, the narration is definitely necessary, as else we might come to a thoroughly different conclusion as to what is really happening.(Like for instance, that Miron murdered the unhappy Tanya which I am not entirely ruling out.) We see all of this mostly over the characters' shoulders which does make it kind of hard to focus on them at times while the movie's deliberate pace does wonders in establishing a keen sense of loneliness. Even with the funereal mood, I am wondering how seriously to take the movie at times, considering the awful poetry, not as bad as Vogon poetry, mind you, but still bad, which is pretty ridiculous.
With one child, Jiale(Koh Jia Ler), being a pain in the neck and… MoreWith one child, Jiale(Koh Jia Ler), being a pain in the neck and another one on the way, Hwee Leng(Yann Yann Yeo) decides to hire a maid, Teresa(Angeli Bayani) who is from the Philippines to help with the housework and to pick up Jiale from school which he does not cooperate with.(Upon hiring her, Hwee Leng confiscates her passport whose numbers she uses for the lottery.) While Hwee Leng has the unthankful task of having to type out pink slips at work, her husband Teck(Tian Wen Chen) also has more than his share of troubles at his sales job before he himself loses his job.
While by no means a reinvention of cinema, "Ilo Ilo" makes the most of its familiar plot in order to tell an endearing story about family that demonstrates ably how people can turn out to surprise you. This is in Singapore, a multicultural country without any apparent traditions of its own. What is universal about the story is how people gamble on both the lottery and the stock market(the movie is set in 1998 during the Asian Financial Crisis) no matter where you go which only end up adding to their troubles.
"The Retrieval" starts in Virgnia in 1864 with young Will(Ashton… More"The Retrieval" starts in Virgnia in 1864 with young Will(Ashton Sanders) seeking shelter at a station on the Underground Railroad which turns out to actually be a ruse for Burrell(Bill Oberst Jr.), a bounty hunter he works for, to recapture escaped slaves. That night Will and his partner Marcus(Keston John) enjoy the profits of their labor. But not for long, as Burrell has another job for them in locating and returning Nate(Tishuan Scott), another escaped slave, with the threat of death hanging over them if they do not succeed.
"The Retrieval" is a suspenseful and unpredictable period piece. As far as history goes, it conveys that also in naturalistic tones of an era where it is much more about survival than judgment for the characters. The nuanced tone leads to a movie where less is more, not only as far as dialogue is concerned, especially in its exquisite opening sequence. In any case, it is a little difficult to carve out some of the backstories amongst the deceptions and lies. At the center of which is Will seeking his lost father amongst surrogates at a personal and moral crossroads while the United States is at its own crossroads.
Even with her imminent engagement to Van(Bill Camp), this looks like… MoreEven with her imminent engagement to Van(Bill Camp), this looks like it will turn out to be a very long day for Sandra(Ann Dowd) in her job managing a fast food restaurant in Ohio. That starts with food spoiling from the night before leading to a critical shortage of pickles and bacon. And then Police Officer Daniels(Pat Healy) calls to report that Becky(Dreama Walker), one of her employees, has been accused of stealing from a customer. Taking her to the side, Sandra cannot find the missing money in her belongings, so Daniels tells her the search will have to be more thorough...
The first thing they tell you(or should) in any creative writing class is that just because an event happened in real life does not automatically mean it will make for a good story. Case in point: "Compliance" which is inspired by true events(According to the endnote, something like this has happened at least 70 times.) and does not make for convincing drama in the least, even if it probably gets the day to day operations of a fast food restaurant right. In fact, with the movie observing events from a comfortable distance, it comes off as condescending, wondering how the characters could have possibly let this happen. And then it pushes things beyond simply an R-rated PSA into the dubious realm of exploitation.
For their thirtieth anniversary, Nick(Jim Broadbent) and Meg(Lindsay… MoreFor their thirtieth anniversary, Nick(Jim Broadbent) and Meg(Lindsay Duncan) travel to Paris by train. And then promptly get lost trying to find their hotel. What they do find is definitely on the anti-climactic side, especially after a long climb up the stairs. In trying to find something more suitable to their tastes, they find a hotel to their liking but there are no vacancies. Luckily for them, a suite opens up for them which will do after assurances that it has been sanitized since Tony Blair stayed there.
"Le Week-end" is a thoughtful movie that nails the intricacies and bargains of any long term relationship, in this case involving two people at a crossroads in their lives who feel that life has simply passed them by.(Mortality is an important theme, especially after visitng the cemetery to look in on Nick's heroes.) Since they feel they have no future left, with Nick facing early retirement due to an insensitive statement to a student, they act recklessly like teenagers. Some of that might have to do with the lack of perspective on their own situations, exemplified in the dueling speeches that serve as the de facto emotional climax of the movie. None of which would be as successful without the right actors at the top of their respective games in the leads. Now, if only I could figure out what all the climbing and descending stairs is supposed to mean.
All Dom Hemingway(Jude Law) wants after spending twelve years in… MoreAll Dom Hemingway(Jude Law) wants after spending twelve years in prison for keeping his mouth shut is to be paid what he is owed for his last job. Spending three nights with two prostitutes is not a half bad downpayment, however, even if he hardly survives the experience. Back to the business at hand, Dom and his best friend Dickie(Richard E. Grant) travel to France to meet with Fontaine(Demian Bichir) to collect the rest. And everything goes well until Dom hits on Paolina(Madalina Ghenea), Fontaine's girlfriend, thus putting everybody's life in danger.
Since we never get to see it up close, it is hard to say whether Dom is right when he says that his penis deserves a monument on the Washington Mall.(Or the closest equivalent.) What I do know for sure is that everything that happens in "Dom Hemingway" is because of said penis. And as fun as the movie can be, that's pretty much it, as it is so improbable at times that it is on the verge of magic realism, ending on a rather abrupt note. Admittedly, Jude Law is quite good in an unselfconscious performance that has less to do with the paunch and male pattern baldness than with him playing a grandfather. But we've seen better. That leaves it for Richard E. Grant to steal the movie out from under him just with his greatly bemused reactions.
At a critical point in his relationship with Claire(Chiara… MoreAt a critical point in his relationship with Claire(Chiara Mastroianni), Martin(Mathieu Demy, who also wrote and directed) gets the news that his estranged mother has died in Los Angeles where he now has to dispose of her personal effects and repatriate her remains back to France. He is met at the airport in Los Angeles by Linda(Geraldine Chaplin), his mother's caretaker/friend, who does not share her friend's fond opinion of Lola, a longtime friend of the family's.
On the plus side, "Americano" is highly evocative and Matheiu Demy definitely knows his way around a movie camera, what with his eye for detail and the tracking shots. A particular highlight of which is the sequence involving the Doors' 'L.A. Woman.' And that's not to mention all the movie has to say on the subject of the unfairness of the United States' immigration policy.
But just as much, Demy can be his own worst enemy sometimes, not just because of his off-putting screen presence. See, it appears that Martin might not be the only one suffering from a Madonna/whore complex at a point in the movie where once it gets to its destination it hardly knows what to do with itself next except possibly circle the drain.
In 2018, the United States President(Stephanie Paul) sends a manned… MoreIn 2018, the United States President(Stephanie Paul) sends a manned mission to the moon to look for Helium 3. What they find instead is a Nazi base that has already been there for decades. In trying to escape, astronaut James Washington(Chirstopher Kirby) saves the life of Renate(Julia Dietze), an earthologist and teacher, who in return saves his life, only for him to be experimented on by her father(Tilo Pruckner). Klaus Adler(Gotz Otto), Renate's betrothed, has his mind set on bigger targets, like the invasion of earth for which he is going to require a better power source.
If you only see one movie about Nazis on the moon this year, then definitely check out the entertaining, daft, if a little predictable "Iron Sky." This comes from the venerable tradition of alternate historical fiction, as in this world the Nazis probably were further advanced in rocket technology while the Americans developed the atomic bomb earlier, allowing them to use it on Germany during the war. Overall, the movie makes the best out of its limited budget to come up with some inconsistent computer effects to help in detailing the steampunk of this world.
It should also be noted that none of this trivializes the evil of the Nazis in the least. Just as much, the movie is concerned with the modern world in a subversive way as it takes a pointed look at propaganda, thus making great use of a "The Great Dictator" reference and proving how right Bill Hicks was when it came to people who work in marketing. But in any case, Sarah Palin is hardly relevant right now, so it is hard to think of her being the center of attention in the near future.