In "Jauja," there is a war going on in Patagonia in the 1880's, as the… MoreIn "Jauja," there is a war going on in Patagonia in the 1880's, as the Argentine army seeks to destroy the native population. But Gunnar Dinesen(Viggo Mortensen) has other things on his mind. First, there is his job as an engineer. The second is keeping an eye on his teenage daughter Ingeborg(Viilbjork Malling Agger). Then, she makes a run for it with Corto(Diego Roman), a soldier, with her father in not so fast pursuit.
"Jauja" gets off to a promising, if slow, start, with its examination of a little known bit of history, and through that a pointed look at multiple levels of racism.(When Corto asks Ingeborg if Dinesen is her father, it does raise some rather interesting questions...) Plus, there is the always welcome and game Viggo Mortensen who is also credited with the movie's music. But once the desolate scenery starts changing, so too do the rules in arbitrary fashion, as this also gets increasingly ponderous as it goes on. And that's all topped off with a rather baffling cameo before a truly inexplicable ending.
Despite any number of professional accolades, Alexandre(Fabrizio… MoreDespite any number of professional accolades, Alexandre(Fabrizio Rongione), an architect, finds his marriage with Alienor(Christelle Prot Landman) in rocky shape. So, they travel to a lake in Switzerland to spend some quality time together, trying to recapture some of the old magic. What they find instead is siblings Goffredo(Ludovico Succio) and Lavinia(Arianna Nastro). And then Alienor surprises her husband by volunteering to stay in town to look after the ailing Lavinia while Goffredo continues his architecture studies in Turin with Alexandre.
"La Sapienza" gets off to a rough start, as the movie assumes that Alexandre's sour mood is solely from his atheism, not something less existential, like say, severe constipation. Thankfully, the movie eventually recovers, allowing for an occasionally heady exploration of art, history, architecture, romance and most importantly sideburns. At the same time, the tone tends towards the deep end of the pretentiousness spectrum, sometimes unnecessarily so. And I'm still not exactly sure what this whole sapience thing was about but then I guess that's what Google is for.
In "China Is Near," Vittorio(Glauco Mauri), a professor, has been… MoreIn "China Is Near," Vittorio(Glauco Mauri), a professor, has been selected to be the socialist candidate for councilman, despite his severe lack of experience. Well, he is from money, so there is that. That might also explain why Carlo(Paolo Graziosi), a bookkeeper, is so resentful at being passed over. In the meantime, Vittorio's sister Elena(Elda Tattoli) continues with her affairs, as if nothing important else is happening which only serves to irritate her brother.
"China Is Near" is a witty political satire aimed at the Socialist Party of Italy which here is accused of waffling between the Communists and the conservative Christian Democrats.(Is it just me or are politics in Italy really weird?) And that's when they are not sidelining women or being distracted by sex. That is kind of ironic because the movie does tend to get distracted in spots, even while managing to be quite entertaining in the end.
"A Hatful of Rain" starts with John Pope(Lloyd Nolan) paying a visit… More"A Hatful of Rain" starts with John Pope(Lloyd Nolan) paying a visit to his son Johnny(Don Murray) and pregnant daughter-in-law Celia(Eva Marie Saint) in New York City. However, this is not a purely social call, as he is inquiring about the $2,500 that his other son Polo(Anthony Franciosa), a bouncer, promised him that he needs for a nightclub he is planning on opening back in Florida. But Polo no longer has the money. And neither does Johnny what with his being in debt to a shady customer like Mother(Henry Silva) and just recently being secretly unemployed.
To its credit, "A Hatful of Rain" seeks to be an early serious look at drug addiction, while also being very much ahead of the curve in dramatizing the life of a soldier who came back from the war an addict. And as much as the movie makes great use of location shooting on the Lower East Side, it ends up clashing with the story's stage roots, very much in evidence.
At the same time, "A Hatful of Rain" suffers from a clear lack of focus. That is quite a dubious achievement when you notice that there are only four principal characters in the movie and it's supposed to be about Johnny's addiction. Instead there are tons of daddy issues...which are Polo's. That's not to mention a rather shaky love triangle going on at the same time.
While it is certainly true that movies have been accused and not… MoreWhile it is certainly true that movies have been accused and not without good cause of misleading audiences, "Wild Tales" delivers on its promise with its six short movies about revenge that while wickedly fun also do so with more than the normal amount of ambiguity. That starts off with perhaps the best pre-credits sequence ever that also makes a great case for never getting on another airplane.
Unless I'm mistaken, there is not a gun in the entire movie. Instead, there are cars, with three of the segments being centered around them, an Audi, Chevy and BMW respectively. For the record, that's not product placement. Rather, it represents different economic strata of society.
On the other hand, maybe the fourth and fifth segments do not work as well as the rest. But the fourth one has the great Ricardo Darin in it, so there's that. And while I just saw the latter scenario play out again on a television series, there are still a couple of twists to keep this version fresh.
And then "Wild Tales" ends on an up note with a wild and frenzied wedding reception that hinges on a massive dose of jealousy.
In "It Follows," Jay(Maika Monroe) has sex with her boyfriend… MoreIn "It Follows," Jay(Maika Monroe) has sex with her boyfriend Hugh(Jake Weary) for the first time in his car. Afterwards, he drugs her. When she wakes up, she is handcuffed to a chair and he explains that he just passed on a monster to her that will kill her if she does not pass it on to somebody else by having sex with them. In the aftermath, she has trouble taking it all it in with her being so rattled. But then the reality of the situation becomes clear as during class she finds herself stalked by something inexplicable. So, she goes to her friend Paul(Keir Gilchrist) and sister Kelly(Lili Sepe) for help.
On the one hand, it would follow that a modern horror movie like "It Follows" would have more than its share of cultural mentions, like say 50's science fiction movies, "Charade" and Dostoyevsky. Closer to the present, it could also be said that "It Follows" resembles "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" as seen through a Stanley Kubrick lens, which is accentuated by an odd electronic score.(And notice how quickly Jay's Scooby Gang comes together.)
Even then, "It Follows" is a highly creepy horror movie that more than stands on its own. In general, it seeks to explore boundaries of friendship, suburbia(we get a helpful shot of 12 Mile Road at one point to keep track of how far the characters are from Detroit) and between the real world and a darker, more imaginative one.(This would also explain the woman I saw in the cat costume on Fulton Street after the movie.) Thankfully, the movie never tries to explain the doppelganger(for lack of a better word).
At the same time, "It Follows" not having an ending does not work entirely against it, as it also prevents the narrative from starting to chase its own tail. That's a consequence of the story falling into the some of the same traps that other horror movies have also faced over the years that also allows the audience to begin second guessing the characters. And then there is the movie becoming a little unbalanced by almost being more about Paul than Jay at times which could also be a symptom of the casting.
In "Rebels of the Neon God," Hsiao Kang(Lee Kang-sheng) is going… MoreIn "Rebels of the Neon God," Hsiao Kang(Lee Kang-sheng) is going through a bit of a rough patch as he wants to drop out of cram school. First, he hurts his hand on a window and then his scooter is towed away. Not only does his father(Tien Miao), a cab driver, give him a ride but also talks about taking the rest of the afternoon off and going to see a movie together. But that's when Ah Tze(Chen Chao-jung) comes into the picture. He is giving a ride home to Ah Kuei(Yu-Wen Wang) who had spent the previous night with his brother in their flooded apartment while Ah Tze was out committing petty acts of larceny with his friend Ah Bing(Chang-bin Jen).
Even with his bittersweet first feature, "Rebels of the Neon God," Tsai Ming-liang shows remarkable assurance in crafting a story the is deceptively elegant and subtly told. All of which is in the service of depicting youth who are trying to discover themselves, while at the same time missing opportunities that pass them by. To be honest, they are not cognizant of the effects this has on their lives or on others because they are living purely in the moment. Hsiao Kang may know that he does not want to be another faceless cog in the machine. He just does not know what he wants. It is his parents who have an eye on his future because they have already lived it. So while they save every penny for his education, they cannot help to dream.
"Poor Folk" starts with A-fu(Zhao De-fu) and A-hong(Wang Shin-hong)… More"Poor Folk" starts with A-fu(Zhao De-fu) and A-hong(Wang Shin-hong) completing a successful smuggling run between Myanmar and Thailand. Back in Bangkok, they make contact with a businesswoman who seeks to facilitate goods between the two countries. In the meantime, A-hong is having trouble finding his sister. He knows she left Myanmar but does not know where she has been transported to.
"Poor Folk" is a movie that explores the life that refugees from Myanmar lead in Thailand, working on the edges of society in risky and illegal jobs just to survive. At the same time, there are hints here on what made them want to lead their home country so badly in the first place.(For example, one of the characters has never heard of Leo Tolstoy which some might consider very sad.)
And increases in digital film technology allow film makers like director Midi Z. to make films in places they would not have been able to otherwise. The drawback especially with this film is that the lack of production values can be just as readily apparent, especially as it applies to this disjointed narrative.
In "Flypaper," it is a quiet day at the bank where Kaitlin(Ashley… MoreIn "Flypaper," it is a quiet day at the bank where Kaitlin(Ashley Judd), a teller, has the time to help Tripp(Patrick Dempsey) deposit all of his loose change. That is until Peanut Butter(Tim Blake Nelson) and Jelly(Pruitt Taylor Vince) show up to rob the ATM's. That might have actually worked if Darrien(Mekhi Phifer), Gates(Matt Ryan, of "Constantine") and Weinstein(John Ventimiglia) had not shown up at the exact same time to rob the vault. That's not to mention the dead body on the floor of the bank.
On the surface, "Flypaper" may not seem like such a bad idea for a movie. At the same time, it is the very definition of scattershot, especially with the violence making a rather awkward combination with the slapstick comedy. Overall, while there may be one or two clever ideas at work here, this is a movie that is nowhere near as smart as it thinks it is.
One of the smartest ideas "Flypaper" has is to have Tim Blake Nelson and Pruitt Taylor Vince play a couple of hapless redneck bank robbers named Peanut Butter and Jelly and they don't disappoint in the least. On the other hand, Octavia Spencer being given so little to do is positively criminal. While Ashley Judd gets out acted by her own cleavage, the continuing appeal of Patrick Dempsey remains a mystery.
In "My Brother's Wedding," Pierce(Everett Silas), when he is not… MoreIn "My Brother's Wedding," Pierce(Everett Silas), when he is not working for his parents'(Jessie Holms and Dennis Kemper) dry cleaning business, takes the time to look in on his grandparents. In the meantime, he is getting reading for his brother Wendell's(Monte Easter) wedding. And then Pierce's friend Solider(Ronnie Bell) gets released from prison.
"My Brother's Wedding" depicts a working class African American milieu that is still rarely seen in movies today. Ironically enough, in this world, there is upward mobility and downward mobility(Soldier has a certain outlaw charm and charisma about him) but moving sideways or not at all like Pierce seems expert at is definitely frowned upon. But as insightful as that is, the movie suffers from a fractured narrative that can be frustrating at times.(This review and rating refer to the 2007 director's cut.) Even the ending that desperately tries to bring everything together, can also feel more than a little forced.