Saturday, 30 August 2014

HORROR MOVIE REVIEW: AT THE DEVIL'S DOOR



3/5


A young girl agrees to play a strange game for 500 dollars.

An ambitious realty agent discovers an evil presence in the house she is ready to sell.
A young artist is chasing after her sister's killer.

The destinies of the three women connect  through time and though a curse -  a demon in search for a new home.

The original name for AT THE DEVIL'S DOOR was HOME, and although it is less pretentious it is better suited for this creepy chiller that defies expectations. The only problem with the film is that it cannot decide between non linear narrative and a simple one. It is a bit confusing to make sense out of all the happening, especially considering that the story itself is extremely simple.

The movie has some genuinely creepy moments and the acting of all three heroines is top notch, but there's a feeling that the film only pretends to have fresh ideas, instead it serves a familiar dish under different, but less glamorous sauce than it deserves.



AT THE DEVIL'S DOOR is a decent horror movie, but it's unpredictability is not designed by the plot, but by the montage of the scenes. It may be fun to watch, but a bad aftertaste afterwards may just stop you from saying that you've liked it.


Friday, 29 August 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: THE CALLING


3/5

Hazel is a middle aged little town detective who loves with her mother, drinks too much and having trouble dealing with a loss of her baby many years ago. When a particularly gruesome murder happens with one of the elderly town residents she is hot on a trail of a man who she believes to be a serial killer. What is the culprit's motivation? And what is the connection between the victims who are all of a different ethnicity and age? Hazel, who had little direction in her own life, will have to face an unlikely killer, who has more faith in the goodness and order of the world she had ever had?

The calling is a very slow movie, and this is probably it's biggest flaw. It has an interesting premise, some unusual twists and turns and a colourful heroine - Susan Sarandon had done a great job. Unfortunately, in many ways, it looks like a pilot for a TV show, and TV shows being of such a great quality these days it simply cannot compete. The calling is based on a book and it is easy to see because the story is well structured, but what will work in a book may not transpire so well on screen. The menacing atmosphere of a sleepy town that harbours secrets here seems a little boring. The other fault of the movie may be the identity of the killer, which is revealed almost straight away. But the story is more interested in the killer's motives and his personality, than who actually did it, and if you accept it quickly you will enjoy the rest.

The calling is not the worst thriller around and Susan Sarandon's performance is very entertaining. When the final credits will roll you will not be disappointed... If you last until then.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

HORROR MOVIE REVIEW: KRISTY


31/2/5

A young student Justine is left alone on campus during the thanksgiving holiday. She spends her days enjoying the solitude and sharing jokes with two security guards. But one night, when she was out buying snacks at the petrol station, something had followed her back to the empty campus. Then Justine is being stalked by a group of masked killers who are calling her Kristy. Now our victim to be will have to figure out the way to survive. And the only thing that is left for her is to fight back.

One does not need much to satisfy a horror fan and Kristy is exactly that - it is not much. It has a cliche premise and typical villains, but who can stay away from a film about a fragile heroine fighting back some masked psychopaths? I guess it also helps that the director Oliver Blackburn takes time to introduce us to Justine (Haley Bennett) and spend with her some suspenseful moments at the empty campus grounds, moments that have no action, but are incredibly atmospheric and prepare us for what comes next.

The film cannot be called a gore feast, there are a few kills, but none of them are particularly gruesome. Surprisingly KRISTY is all about suspense. It is cleverly shot and put together. The script is not perfect, but avoids any major flaws, broken logic and does not have continuity problems. Every segment of the campus (AKA swimming pool, library, kitchen) that we were introduced in the prelude will eventually play it's role when shit hits the fan.  Justine does not make stupid mistakes, runs the right way to escape the killers and acts believably under the circumstances.

For such a small and simple film, in my opinion, KRISTY achieved a lot. It will definitely not let down a veteran horror fan but also has enough drive for a potential sequel.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

MIFF MOVIE REVIEW: A HARD DAY





* * * * *

Go Geon-So is a corrupt cop, but he is not a killer. One rainy night, being late to his mother's funeral, he runs over a man with his car and kills him. With no witnesses in sight he hides the body in the boot. The events start to escalate when his car is stopped for breathalyser check and his office is raided by internal affairs. Insure which problem to solve first our hero goes deeper into the web of lies until he puts in jeopardy himself and everyone he knows. When someone starts to blackmail Go Geon-So, he has no other choice but to face it all in one bloody and grotesque showdown. Let the Hard Day begin!

The direct translation of this film is "Take it to the End" and is better suited to this relentless thriller that will captivate you from the first opening shots. Every separate element of A HARD DAY is not original, but together they come as unpredictable and terrifying patchwork, making it a very unusual film. You may not feel sympathy for the protagonist, whose endless troubles are mostly the result of his own doing, but you can't help applauding his sense of humour and invention he uses to pull himself out of each impossible situation. You rarely see a movie that will be cheered on by the audience so much as A HARD DAY.

I guess the benefit of the film is that Go is such an unlikely hero. He only has loyalty for himself, with his sole weakness being his little daughter. Even his rough colleagues and partners in crime are more generous than he is. What deserves praise is his ability to never give up, something anyone can aspire to. His character takes it to the next level time and again, when things go from bed to worse, and finds the most unusual ways out.

Someone said that A HARD DAY is a film that's easy to love and this is very true. It will appeal to all ages, men and women and parts of it can be retold as a funny joke. A HARD DAY would be a comedy if not for the darker tone of the film and some rather violent scenes. It's great to see a movie that have a potential to become a cult classic. I do hope that its success at Cannes and other various festivals will get it a wider release. A spark of humour and optimism in a desperate situation is something that can be appreciated by everyone.



MIFF MOVIE REVIEW: THE YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T.S. SPIVET




* * * * *

T.S. Spivet is a ten year old boy who lives at the farm in Texas with his parents, his twin brother and older sister. T.S. is  a young prodigy who is obsessed with science, but generally misunderstood by his parents and teachers. When he wins a prestigious award for creating a perpetual engine model, TS runs away from home to Washington to receive it and make a speech. But there's also something he is running away from. On an incredible journey of healing and adventure he meets different people who aid him in his quest, the true meaning of which is the reunion with the family that has stopped noticing he was there.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet is one of the few cinematographers whose unique vision is always recognisable from the first sight. Short scenes with quick witty comments, quirky static shots and optimistic look at the world is his signature card. He likes making movies with the first person narrative and TS Spivet is not an exception. The style of the film can be compared with the young years of Forest Gump if he was a prodigy. The idilic life of T.S. at the farm can reflect on many children's novels, such as Ann of Green Gables, but it is a painful secret lurking underneath that is a catalyst for all the events to come. As usual Jeunet is dealing with serious matters with a lighthearted tone, which makes T.S. SPIVET a family movie   - there is enough adventures and quirky humour to keep both kids and grown ups entertained.

The cast does a fantastic job, especially Helen Bonham Carter, in unlikely role of farmer's wife. Her character's obsession with insects does not stop her from being a housewife and a cook. Also Helen Bonham Carter has never looked so pretty in a film, reminding us that behind her usual quirky appearances in film she is a very much classic beauty.

Making film in 3D is a new thing for Jeunet, and his usage of technology proves that even a drama can benefit from it. Taking TS on a train journey the story gives an opportunity to explore some spectacular country side visuals. The original book, the selected works of T.S. Spivet, on which the film is based, is full of drawings and diagrams that highlight  the boy's attention to detail. In the movie they pop out from all sides of the screen and look great in 3D. All of the above is the reason why TS SPIVET won the 39th Cesar award for the best cinematography.

This latest work of Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a great combination of compelling storytelling and spectacular visuals that won't let you go all day after you finish the film. The girl who gave away 3D glasses mentioned that after you've seen the movie the rest of the day will seem black in white. She was right.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

MIFF MOVIE REVIEW: PATEMA INVERTED




* * * *

Since  the world changing incident young Patema and her family had lived underground. But Patema dreams of the outside world and determined to uncover what is beyond the passages of the tunnels. One day she goes too far and finds herself falling into the sky. Saved by the young boy Age she discovers herself in the land of inverted gravity. The boy and the girl strike an incredible bond, even though their worlds cannot coexist together. Will the love conquer all? And will they be able to uncover the mystery of the catastrophe that had befallen the world?

PATEMA INVERTED could have been a perfect Ghibly movie. It has a great premise, wonderful characters and fast pacing script. Entering the outside world, Patema faces the realm of danger where nothing can hold her on the ground and the beautiful blue sky is the abyss that can swallow her any minute. Clever  camera angles and  inverted shots make you see the earth through Panema eyes and this is the greatest achievement of the movie.

With a few strokes of a brush director Yasuhiro Yashira creates a totalitarian world. The movie is not long enough to provide every detail, but it is believable and terrifying.

Apart from original idea the script still manages to deliver a few surprises on the way, showing just how much the star crossed lovers ready to sacrifice for each other.

The soundtrack from Michuru Oshima, who has done a lot of work for computer video games and was approached by the director because he liked her previous work, delivers short but memorable passages in a very traditional anime way. The titled song lacks the usual J-Pop pace however, but will appeal to those who likes epic songs the likes of Joe Hisaishi.

PATEMA INVERTED could be called an indie film, first promoted with online shorts, it gives us a compelling storytelling with only one writer at the hip - it shall make Hollywood feel envious. Yasuhiro Yashira seems like an artist with a great potential and a talent to succeed. I will be looking forward for what he does next.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

MIFF MOVIE REVIEW: IT FOLLOWS








* * * * 

A girl meets a boy. They like each other. They have sex.  Sometimes summer romance leads to a broken heart. But for 19 year old Jay it’s a beginning of a deadly nightmare. Her lover had given her a personal monster through sex. And the only way to get rid of it is to sleep with someone else…

Here comes the first horror movie about a sexually transmitted curse! Ever since the RING there had not been a film with such simple and effective premise. The plot crunch could be laughable, if it wasn’t so terrifying.  And there hadn’t been a soundtrack so effective since Goblins’ Suspiria. The music was composed by a band called DISASTERPEACE, and it plays a huge part in this atmospheric movie about the randomness and unpredictability of death.

IT FOLLOWS is a second full length feature of director David Robert Mitchell and is an inspired one. He has the ability to show you nothing at all and make you feel terrified. Turning a genre on its head he portrays scary the peaceful streets full of people going about their business, while empty spaces, abandoned houses, beaches and playgrounds are a safe haven. In the world of IT FOLLOWS anyone walking behind you can present the mortal danger and the only escape is not to let it to catch up with you.

The movie slows down in the second act, proving that the most original premise can wear itself out after a while, but the inventive final act brings to mind the best monster fights you could see in horror.


Focusing on the idea that somewhere your death had already started walking towards you IT FOLLOWS delivers on every level. It’s hard to get the thought out of your head, that the death’s pace may be slow, but sooner or later it will catch up with you and when it does you will not see it coming.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

MIFF MOVIE REVIEW: LOVE IS STRANGE






* * * * *

Ben and George had been together for 39 years before they decided to get married. Their marriage has unexpected consequences. When George loses his job the couple decides to rely on friends before they find a new more affordable home. What happens next is a separation that takes a hard toll on both men and an uncertain future which lies ahead. Life is unpredictable and strange, just like love.

LOVE IS STRANGE received a universal acclaim. This little movie had not had a bad review. It is simple, but elegant, a love story that addresses social issues without preaching and above all praises life and love. The plot introduces a handful of characters, mainly focusing on the family of Ben's nephew who took him temporarily under his wing. Ben's life in their household can be summed up with one phrase he shared with his partner: "Sometimes you learn about people you live with more than you care to."

Growing old and becoming a burden is a hard issue for anyone, but being a sexual minority makes things even more awkward.  Growing up is hard either. The conflict of generations is reflected in an unlikely friendship between Ben and his teenage great nephew, which towards conclusion of the film becomes its focus.

In many ways LOVE IS STRANGE is about New York and it's people, it's special life and it's imperfect society that is hard to be a part of and even harder to let go. There's nothing not to like about LOVE IS STRANGE. This film is for everyone who had ever been in love and learnt that it may be all that you need. But can you survive on love alone? Who knows. Stranger things happened!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

MIFF MOVIE REVIEW: AMONG THE LIVING (AUX YEUX DES VIVANTS)





* * * *

Three boys run away from school to spend the afternoon at the abandoned film studious. Getting into trouble is nothing new for these three thirteen year old delinquents, but they are going to get into a kind of trouble they never even dreamed of. When the kids uncover the traces of some terrifying presence they are mocked by the local police and punished by their parents. But when the evil follows them home a true night of terror begins.
The new film from Julienne Maury and Alexander Bustillo is more atmospheric treat than a gore feast. I guess in many ways it is dictated by the young age of the cast and it is not fun to watch children die in terrible ways even for the hard core horror fans.

The script is well structured and the suspense is oozing from every scene to keep your eyes peeled. The film is full of wisely used cliches and some inventive kills that come in the second part of the film are spectacular. AMONG THE LIVING is not for faint hearted and the believable characters will make you care. 
As for the flaws, there is too much narrative and many scenes and character motivations are over explained. A few murder scenes seemed to be severely cut to achieve the rating, but that may not be the case as Maury and Bustillo are determined not to sacrifice the artistic freedom for profit. AMONG THE LIVING, surprisingly, could be almost called uplifting in comparison to directors' previous works. It is designed to terrify and not to push towards despair like INSIDE. AMONG THE LIVING is a perfect example of 80's horror with a modern twist.

Watch out for Beatrice Dalle in reverse from her role in INSIDE and many references to the old films you may or may not love, but cannot help knowing all the same.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

MIFF MOVIE REVIEW: HUMAN CAPITAL (IL CAPITALE UMANO)





* * * * *

A wealthy woman in search for fulfilment.
A greedy man in search for easy profit.
A young girl who had fallen in love for the first time.
And a lone bicyclist is pushed off the road and left for dead.

The story features three chapters, each retelling the same events from the point of view of one character. A clever reflection on Italian society, with its top notch performances, HUMAN CAPITAL never falters. It's is both story and character driven and is full of details that keep the key to the ending.

The revelations are never over the top, unlike many films of thriller genre these days everything is kept real. We get a glimpse of different worlds of modern Italy: a Middle class, an art community, those who are at the bottom and at the very top, but keeping the balance all the way. HUMAN CAPITAL is thought provoking, dramatic and unpredictable. A near perfect movie experience.  

In the society where a kiss, a lie and an expression of love can mean directly opposite to what they are perceived to be, which price is greater: the one of human life or a human soul?

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

MIFF MOVIE REVIEW:LIFE OF RILEY (Aimer, boire et chanter)



* * *

When six couples in Yorkshire learn that their best friend George Riley has only six months to live they invite him to take part in the amateur play in order to take his mind off his gloomy fate. George's illness, and the agitation that surrounds it, opens the can of worms. Secrets are revealed, passions are re-ignited and friendships are questioned.  How well do we know our partners? And how well do we know ourselves?

Life of Riley is based on the play of the same name by English playwright  Alan Ayckbourn, but the French name of the movie has direct translation as "LOVE DRINK AND SING". The film is a great way to see the play, but it doesn't deserve a wide screen release. Shot in a very stylised decorations, it is really a video recording of a stage production. The outside scenes look like stock footage and the static camera work places us at a point of view in an imaginary theatre, where we can see characters only from one boring angle. The extreme close ups during monologue shots have a cheap looking scratchy background that comes straight from eighties. All was intentional, but this approach by the director Alain Resnais seems awkward in modern day filmmaking. Resnais, who had passed away in March 2014 at the age of 91, should be praised however for the energetic tone of the film and the direction of some fine performances that are fun to watch.

Being a descent introduction to a very good play, Life Of Riley is a small film that belongs on the TV screen and not at the movie theatre.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

MIFF MOVIE REVIEW: MOLE SONG - UNDERCOVER AGENT REIJI





* * 

Young cop Redji never though he was particularly good at his job, so it doesn't come as a surprise when he is fired from police force. What comes as a surprise is an offer to become a police informant - to infiltrate yakuza and stop the trafficking of a deadly drug. On his way up in Japanese mafia hierarchy Reidji meets weird friends, acquires deadly enemies, looses virginity to the girl he loves and never forgets to wear his leopard coat. Here comes one of the most bizarre movies about yakuza you would ever see on a big screen!


Based on a popular manga, which spans more than 40 volumes, MOLE SONG is an acquired taste. Takashi Miike is one of the few directors who still manages to truly surprise and manipulate - the comedy is never too far away from tragedy in his films. Not trying to smooth the sharp angles, his film is a raw sketch - partly modern trash, partly stand up comedy. With his boasting colours and ridiculous dialogue THE MOLE is the one for the fans.

The biggest let down, however, is the films pacing. THE MOLE is overloaded with senseless chatting and the drive to move the story forward is none existent. Protagonist Reidji lacks motivation and it is hard to understand why would he be so committed to the cause in the first place. Many gags are too loud and avalanche of unfunny jokes is too hard to understand for a non Japanese fewer. THE MOLE is not the best for Miike, but he stands true to his grotesque, signature style and bombards us with all he's got. This is the sort of a movie Quentin Tarantino would call an instant cult classic. And the true fans of Miike, who are many, would agree. I'm not one of them.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

MIFF MOVIE REVIEW: ABUSE OF WEAKNESS





* * * *


One morning Maude (Isabelle Hupert) wakes up in her bed - left side of her body paralysed. Thus begins a road to recovery. Some time later we see our heroine leading seemingly full life. Also never completely recovered from a stroke she is a successful director with many plans for the future. When she casts notorious con man Vilko Piran as a protagonist in her new film, their friendship makes a strange turn which leads  Maud towards self destruction.


Director Catherine Breillat is a legend of European cinema, known for deep exploration of sex and violence in her works. Even though she is almost prudent in this very personal account of her own story, ABUSE OF WEAKNESS is still a very hard film to watch. 


Catherine herself experienced a stroke in 2004 and had been forced into giving large sums of money to a real life con man, whom she later sent to jail. The movie is a harrowing account of the heroine's first physical, then emotional suffering. Maude is portrayed as a strong willed, unbreakable woman who loves to laugh her troubles away, but she still falls prey to a predator. ABUSE OF WEAKNESS is as manipulative, as a movie about a physically and emotionally handicapped person being led into a trap can be. While it is dealing casually with the rotten friendship between Vilko and Maude, little by little, a deep cavern in their relationship emerges, and it sucks out anything good that's left in the lives of both.  

Isabelle Hupert deserves every praise for her portrayal of a stroke patient. It is a physically demanding role and with the film's actual shooting time spanning only a few days makes it an incredible achievement for an actor.

ABUSE OF WEAKNESS is not entertaining, but is powerful. It's biggest flaw may be being too personal. No artist can be fully detached from it's subject. The scene where Maude is being interrogated by her family about giving her money away sums up it all: "It was me," she says. "But it wasn't me."

Just like Catherine Breillat, Maude is an artist. And aren't artists the biggest cons of them all?

Sunday, 3 August 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY



* * * * *

Five unlikely heroes - a loser, a killer, a talking raccoon, a walking tree and a green woman unite to save a peaceful planet from a terrorist's plan. Sounds crazy? It is. And it is also crazily entertaining.

Guardians of the galaxy tests out taste buds. What do we really want from a perfect film? The originality, the laughter, the tenderness, plus the thrills. Against all odds Guardians  manage to deliver all of the above and even more. 

It is a hallmark of what we really should be asking of modern blockbusters. And Hollywood studious, no matter how corrupt and cash oriented, can still deliver. I was cautious approaching this little tacky, mostly comical space opera, until I was totally hooked after the first five minutes. The Guardians is here to stay. It's an instant classic to be  reviewed and rediscovered. Here is why:

Say whatever you will about comic book heroes. They are cliche. They all have super powers, they are predominantly good and they are trying to save the world. the Guardians of the galaxy introduces you to the band of misfits. At first it seems that they do not have a single good bone in their body. But little by little something special is going to surface. And their coming together will make a perfect sense.

Guardians strongest points is a script: the dialogue and the character development. Forget the plot - the search for magical orb, or whatever, it was done to bits, and a dark hooded villain is scarcely terrifying. What terrifying is the peaceful world on the verge of war, and we all know too well how easily it can break out without warning. So the characters is why we care, and the eye candy worlds they visit is what makes it spectacular.  For a film where you can be certain that nothing bad can happen with the main characters The Guardians is surprisingly thrilling. Balancing comedy and sentimental, it manages to produce something unique for a summer blockbuster - an almost art house quality to multi million budget production.

The use of modern pop culture, songs and dance of the seventies, works to the films advantage where it is least expected and is responsible for the coolest opening to a sci fi blockbuster in years. The Guardians of the galaxy will convert any non believer and is highly recommended. If you are going to see one 3D action film this summer let it be The Guardians. Just like this movie you'll make history.