Thursday, 29 May 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: BABADOOK



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It's hard to be a single mom, especially if your husband died on the night your son was born. Especially if your only son is violent and seeing monsters everywhere. When a blood-red book appears on her son's bedroom Amelia doesn't think too much of it. It is a creepy book however and as her son Samuel continues to insist Mr. Babadook is real, she has to show what's the proper parenting is about.

Borrowing heavily from THE SHINING and Wes Craven's New Nightmare, BABADOOK has it's own evil heart at its core. It introduces its own kind of monster. It is called grief. And the longer you deny it the stronger it gets.

Babadook is not free of horror cliches: we get squeaky stairs, dark closets and insects infested kitchen, but this does not take away it's impact. The scene of Babadook appearance in Amelia's bedroom is probably the scariest sequence on screen since The Conjuring.

BABADOOK would have never felt so real if not for a fantastic performances from Essie Davis as mom and  Noah Wiseman as young Samuel. Their mother-son dynamic, their stand against the world which does not understand them, is what makes the movie tick.

BABADOOK is a film about people who are different, vulnerable people who can only find the strength to carry on in each other. With the awkward final scene being it's only weakness, BABADOOK is a small budget gem that deserves all the praise it can get.

MOVIE REVIEW: MALEFICENT


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Young fairy Maleficent lives in an enchanted forest without a care in the world, until a terrible betrayal of the one she loved turns her into a monster. Maleficent seeks revenge and puts a terrible curse on a new born princess Aurora. 

Years later Aurora is all grown up and bonds with Maleficent, who little by little starts to regret what she has done. But the curse is still there and the day of Aurora's sixteenth birthday is approaching…

MALEFICENT is a real treat for the fans of Angelina Jolie, who plays Disney's greatest villain with a likeable energy, straightening up the illogical moments in the story with one mischievous look. This is a superhero fantasy movie with all the elements of a modern comic book pop culture.  Maleficent goes through a typical stages of an Avenger - she fights evil, she looses to evil, she is consumed by the darkness but finds her way back to make things right, she even temporary looses her powers and she has a deadly weakness - a sort of a Kryptonite. Yes, Disney and Marvel has much more in common than it seems.

But let's not forget we are watching a fantasy. We are treated with all the beloved elements from the GAME OF THRONES: there's a  evil hiding in the forest, there's a huge battle scene and there's a dragon. The good news that all this glory clocks off just after an hour and a half. One thing we know for sure - Maleficent is not going to be a trilogy.

The second most annoying element of the movie (the first place I give to the semi-redundant Prince Charming) is the narrators voice, that would not shut up. We do live in an age of over explaining and it is not long that American movies for Australian audience will have to have a different cut. Like everyone else I read Sleeping Beauty.   Do you really think I need clarifications on the matter?

On a positive note there are a few genuinely sad and touching moments in MALEFICENT and Angelina Jolie's performance goes far beyond what was written for her in the role.

The new version of Disney's classical fairy tale is far from being innovative, but it is great fun. Let's wait and see if Maleficent The Super Hero will soon get her own comic book treatment.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: GODZILLA 2014



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The time is now and a giant lizard emerges from the ocean. It’s existence had been known for decades, but never before it had stepped a foot on a soil. When another deadly threat shows itself, it is time for GODZILLA to rise to restore the balance on earth… or take us back to the stone age.

GODZILLA trailers sold us a dark, realistic take on the Japanese franchise. It was shown as well acted, dramatic movie, a GODZILLA film done right.

Did the makers deliver on the promise?

Let’s start with GODZILLA himself, because for the fans it is the key element they were waiting for. No one will be disappointed in that department. GODZILLA kept its original look, but at the same time is very believable  His face with the traces of some intelligence is far from fearsome, it is even a little bit cute. You would really care for you pet lizard if it looked at you this way. It also inherited most features of the Japanese version. I have to praise the writers on this occasion - they managed to come up with a probable concept that will explain all the GODZILLA abilities.

Now the downside. 

What brings the monster down is the script. The story thirty minutes on seems well written, character oriented, with some serious suspense not including giant monsters (at least not their visuals). Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Juliette Binoche bring in a human element to the story early on, and their performances resonate through the whole film. All is going well until the first monster sequence kicks in. And then…

It is hard not to spoil anything by expressing my disappointment, but let’s just say that what GODZILLA has in authenticity it lacks in originality. Yes, the monster battle sequences will take you straight to your childhood if you are nostalgic for the original GODZILLA. But will the movie make you believe that what is happening on screen is real? I very much doubt so.

Let’s face it, Roland Emerich’s effort, with all is popcorn glory, wasn’t so bad after all. There’s nothing bad about pure pop corn fun, unless you had been promised otherwise. And this is where GODZILLA truly fails - it’s the heart. The second hour seem to be written by a different man than the one who had penned the first act. When action kicks in, it is all TRANSFORMERS and BATTLEFIELD. There may be nothing wrong with this, but I was promised a serious GODZILLA movie. I was promised to have a decent mega budget film about the failings of humanity and its helplessness in the presence of GODS. I was promised to believe. Alas, I did not.

But let’s forget the believable part for a moment, let’s just focus on action - it is slow, uninventive and pretty much boring. I do not consider it a spoiler saying that there’s only one battle between the monsters. It lasts long, I have to admit, but you do not really see anything slightly original. So many opportunities missed!


As much as I wanted to like it I have to admit that for me the re-birth of GODZILLA did not happen. But I do hope that the sequel, if it comes to it, will fix these mistakes and deliver something a true GODZILLA fan truly deserves.

Friday, 16 May 2014

MSFF MOVIE REVIEW: TO KILL A MAN (MATAR A UN HOMBRE)




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Jorge lives a quiet with his wife, son and daughter. A chance encounter with the wrong crowd and a dispute at night sends a street thug to jail. Two years later Jorge starts receiving disturbing phone calls. The man he accused has returned seeks revenge on him and his family. The abuse is getting worse and in the end it seems that Jorge has only one choice left.

TO KILL A MAN is a little story about a little man who is quietly making a decision to take another man's life. The plot might have been done to death (pardon the pun), but it is meticulous proportion and structure that make TO KILL A MAN to stand out. Camera work puts you into Jorge's mind with static shots, calculated and measured, just like the insulin shots Jorge gives himself - a part of his daily routine.

The film never spirals into a nailbiting thriller, but everything happening on screen feels real and raw, and therefore fascinating.
TO KILL A MAN is full of interesting little ideas and holds quirky visual secrets to discover for a patient viewer. The camera often keeps on shooting the static scene, even when the characters has already abandoned it. You can almost feel their energy still there, conflict unresolved, hanging in the air. TO KILL A MAN may not have much to offer in a plot department, but it has been cinematically told in a fresh and unpredictable way.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

MSFF MOVIE REVIEW: LIVING IS EASY WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED (VIVIR ES FACIL CON LOS OJOS GERRADOS)


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LIVING IS EASY WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED is a line taken from the John Lennon song STRAWBERRY FIELDS. The film tells the real story of an English teacher Antonio who travels across SPAIN in order to meet his idol John Lennon.

On his way he picks up two young hitchhikers, both escaping a pre-ordained fate. Our trio spends time bonding, talking and even falling in love, little by little figuring out what their next step towards the future shall be.

Road trip movies are a genre of its own and the characters will either make them work or flop. LIVING spends a great deal of time introducing you to the leads (maybe a little longer than necessary), but as the trip begins everything comes together: the dialogue is sharp, the chemistry is perfect and the sunburned Spanish landscapes are breathtaking.

The writers make you genuinely care about our heroes' fate. Also, being limited by the genre, one will find it hard to imagine anything bad happening to any of them.

LIVING would be a perfect film if not for it’s predictability: half way through you can easily guess how each character’s story ark would pan out.


One cannot live in fear of the future - it is the long standing message of the film, and the ending will convey another: a chance encounter with a decent man could be just enough to put you back on your feet.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

MSFF MOVIE REVIEW: THE FOREST (EL BOSC)


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Dora,her husband Ramon and their baby daughter Rosita own a piece of land not far from a small town in Spain. The year is 1916 and as revolution takes over the country Ramon’s life is in danger and he is forced to flee. The family has a secret - on the eve of the same night every year some strange lights appear in the forest. According to the legend those who enter the lights will find themselves in another dimension. As Ramon is swallowed by the forest Dora is to shoulder all the hardships of war all by herself waiting for his return… 

One cannot avoid comparing THE FOREST with GUELLIERMO DEL TORO’s famous PAN’S LABYRINTH. Both films mix the realities of war with supernatural, both have similar structures and strong female protagonists. THE FOREST, however, has its own unique voice and a story to tell. It focuses on the role of a woman at the heart of war, positioning her as a true protector of land and the only reminder for men of their slipping humanity. While men wage wars, women guard what’s left of peace.  THE FOREST is about Dora's relationship with war. 

For Dora the magical door to another dimension is easier to understand than the constantly changing rules of the real world. Dora’s only way to fight her way through the hard times is to remain true to herself, her home and her unlikable husband.

Maria Molins, as Dora, holds together this period drama and makes believable the supernatural part and Tom Sizemore's small role, as a likable American captain Pickett, adds a magic touch to a film.

THE FOREST has a good pace, but like many fantasy films is hard to wrap up. There is a moment close to the end when with growing feeling of disappointment I expected the credits to roll…  but that was not quite the end and the final five minutes gave THE FOREST the ending it deserved.