Sunday, 27 March 2016

TV SERIES REVIEW: DAMIEN (Pilot episode)


31/2/5

Damien Thorn has a strange life. His parents are both dead in accidents and ever since his childhood he feels constant presence of something dark, like a cloud above his head. On the day of his thirties birthday a strange accident throws his life into a turmoil and makes him question everything and everyone. He cannot run away from the truth however, which is that he is a son of Satan - Antichrist.

The new TV series from A+E Networks is a direct sequel to 1976 movie, ignoring all the other films that were subsequently made, it is set in modern day New York.  The pilot reviewed here does not quite manage to capture the dark and paranoid atmosphere of the original, but it is a modern show, focused on giving as much action as possible in its not so lengthy 43 minutes run, so the atmosphere is sacrificed for action.

The pilot introduces a handful of characters, some of them die as quickly as they appear, so one thing is expected – the body count will be high. The characters, unfortunately luck personality, for the exception of Ann Rutledge, masterfully played by Barbara Hershey – a smiling assassin, whose presence oozes as much mother’s warmth as it does menace. She has only a short scene in the pilot, but it is clear we will see more of her. 

Bradley James as Damien Thorn, so far, is no more than a pretty poster boy, however his performance may improve as the series progress.

The original movie is famous for its inventive and gory death scenes. It would be silly to expect the same from a TV show, but while not very clever, the deadly set pieces are satisfying enough, with some extreme gore present during the dog attack scene.

The soundtrack from Bear McCreary is a glorious combination of churchy cords, mixed with choral and served as a modern electronic track – a homage to the original score and a perfect background for a TV series about Antichrist.

It is nice to see the take on OMEN with the characters, who are out of high school (it would be very easy to present DAMIEN series as a teenage soap opera). At this stage it is hard to imagine how the pilot can lead to a multiple season series, however lets hope there are more surprises in store.


Not perfect, Damien is a series the fans of THE OMEN had been waiting for, and one of the new shows that deserves a look.

Monday, 21 March 2016

HORROR MOVIE REVIEW: THE VVITCH


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The place is New England and the year is 1636. Superstition rules the world. A family starts a farm on the edge of the forest. As a babe disappears from its cradle an adolescent girl is accused of  witchcraft. And all hell breaks loose when the members of the family turn on one another.

THE VVITCH premiered during last year’s Sundance festival and made a big splash, however this is a film better watched unprepared. Scoring raving reviews worldwide it almost reached the status of a blockbuster, but it is a very small art house film. Saying that, THE VVITCH still boasts realistic setting, great cinematography and impressive acting, particularly from the young actors. Giving enough small details, as well as vast beauty of the landscapes and the forest, THE VVITCH creates the world where God is replaced by fear and the love equals religion. This film is about damnation and religious fanatism and a very small line between them.  

If you have forgotten how to be scared at the cinema by little more than the atmosphere, this is a perfect example how it can be done. There are practically no jump scares, and all the terror masterfully achieved through the visuals and mis-en-scene.

THE VVITCH is a scary movie, but it is also an exploration of faith. When the unity of the family breaks apart the word of a prayer has very little meaning. The religion is there to support love and not to replace it. When the family becomes nothing but a combination of strict religious rules, love can be easily replaced by seduction of evil. It is a very scary thought.

The deeper meaning for a small horror film comes at a price – THE VVITCH cannot be called particularly engaging. There is also a lack of originality in the script and character development. There’s no one particularly likable in the film, so it is very hard to care for any of the characters. (the little twins were so annoying I was hoping the witch will come for them sooner than later).  I also found the ending less than satisfying.

With its interesting message and scares delivered spot on, I did not find THE VVITCH particularly entertaining, but this is an impressive directorial debut and an independent film that deserves to be seen. THE VVITCH is hard to like. But it sure is hard to forget.

Friday, 11 March 2016

FFF MOVIE REVIEW: MY KING (MON ROI)



31/2/5

Tony is recovering from a leg trauma in a rehabilitation centre on the border of the sea. But the real trauma is in her soul. Reflecting on what brought her to this point in life she is remembering the affair with handsome and unpredictable Georgio, and their turbulent relationship over the last ten years. It brought her happiness but also a lot of pain. How soon will she be back on her feet again? Will she ever?

If you like dramatic love stories you may instantly recognise the premise of the film, it had been used hundreds of times. A heroine walking down the memory lane to figure out what had gone wrong. There’s one thing, however, that makes MY KING stand out – it is a very honest film with a very real, raw feel to every scene, performance and dialogue. Intelligent but plain looking Tony seems like an odd match to charismatic and larger than life Georgio, however the sparks that are flying on screen cannot be ignored. Their affair and their relationship are believable, and over the course of the film you will learn them as intimately as if they were your close friends.
 
There are a lot of jokes, but also a lot of sadness. The film's episodic structure may be a turn off for many, but the director is always in control, fixing things up as soon as the narrative begins to stumble a little.

Instead of focusing on the fantastic performances from Vincent Cassel and Emmanuelle Bercot, I want to say a few words about Louis Garrel. He is only in a supporting role of Tony’s younger brother, however his presence adds realism to the story and a much needed comic relief. He is one of those actors who make anything he is in a little better.

MY KING gives us a very unusual relationship but highlights the problems everyone can identify with. Without preaching or judgment, this is an honest portrait of a marriage and love and everything else that comes with it.

FFF MOVIE REVIEW: THE WAIT (L'ATTESA)



5/5

Anna’s house is in mourning. As the mirrors are covered and the doors a locked, an unexpected guest walks through the front door. It’s Jeanne, the girlfriend of her son, who had arrived to spend  the Easter with him and his family. Seeing the opportunity to take her mind of her sadness Anna embraces Jeanne with all hear heart. But as the days go by, and her son does not appear, will she be able to tell Jeanne the terrible truth?

Piero Messina – assistant director of the Italian Oscar winner Great Beauty, creates a movie full of symbolism. With every frame holding some sort of meaning, the film is beautiful and deep, like the Sicilian lake on the border of which the story takes place.

THE WAIT is quite a cinematic journey for a small film, which is basically focused on two performances. Playing with themes of resurrection, the movie unravels to us the picture of grief, and by the end it will stand before us, truly exposed, just like unveiled statue of Virgin Mary in the final scenes.

Juliette Binoche is a great performer and she has an interesting role here. Her Anna is deeply damaged but climbing to life, finding a relief in her son’s girlfriend’s visit. For young and charismatic Lou de Laage in the role of Jeanne this is a big step up from her previous roles of troubled teenagers and shows just how much she grew up as an actor.

Focusing on the developing friendship between the two very different women, the movie always balances on the edge, where a few words can end everything.


With its beautiful imaginary and haunting score, THE WAIT is still not an easy experience, but it has the charm of a dark fairy tale and quickly draws you in. This is an intelligent piece of cinema that will benefit from multiple viewing.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

FFF REVIEW: COURTED (L'HERMINE)




5/5

Michele Racine is a judge (the president of court as he likes calling himself) and he is both feared and respected. His personal life is in a disarray, with the divorce settlement approaching. As he is about to start a new case he has to live in a hotel and is fighting a terrible flu. But all is about to change, when one of his jurors turns out to be the woman he once loved.

COURTED is a slice of life drama, and when real life is being imitated there’s always a place for comedy. Focusing on Racine in and out of court, the movie covers three days, introducing the line of quirky characters and a few genuinely heartbreaking moments. Following the disturbing details of a murder case, the film’s tone is never grim, giving us a warm atmosphere, delivered by the people of the story, and an interesting romantic development between Michele Racine (Fabrice Luchini) and Vitte (Sidse Babett Knudsen), a beautiful doctor Racine is falling in love with.

COURTED is a small movie with smartly written, lifelike dialogue and the portraits of small people, who come up very interesting given a second look. Fabrice Luchini gives one of his best performances. He had mastered the character of an annoying but charming eccentric. In COURTED, however, he gives us a personage with inner strength and values we learn to respect over the course of the film. Although Racine is not very likable, Luchini with his performance has clearly shown what a beautiful and smart woman like Vitte can see in such a man.
This charming movie is about real people, real lives and a maybe a little about dreams, that are also a part of living. Not trying to reach for the stars, this film shines in its own way, and is as comforting as a cup of hot lemon tea on a grey winter day.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

FFF MOVIE REVIEW: MARGUERITE




4/5

Marguerite Dupont seems to have it all – great riches, a husband she loves and a passion for music. On the inside, she is striving for her husband’s attention and her love of singing gradually turns into an obsession. She arranges private recitals and, with the help of some new friends, who have dubious agenda, is training to step on the stage of the real opera house. There’s only one problem, however. Marguerite’s singing voice is terrible.

Placed in Paris of 1920 and inspired by the real life story of Florence Foster Jenkins, MARGUERITE is about a woman who would not let the truth to stand on the way of her desire to sing. Director Xavier Giannoli has a special interest in all things infamous. All his previous films examine the short distance between the infamy and fame and what one is capable of to step into the limelight. His Marguerite is an eccentric with a heart of gold - a strong performance by Catherine Frot, the actor whose status in France can only be compared with the one of Meryl Streep.

The movie is emotionally charged and finds a perfect balance between funny and sad. However it is a bit overloaded with characters and not every storyline has a desirable resolution. With a lengthy running time and multiple story arcs, MARGUERITE could become a perfect miniseries, which may happen in the future, considering the interest the directors have to Florence Foster Jenkins these days.


A little bit too long, but never boring, MARGUERITE is an exciting film that will hold your attention all the way – an achievement for any film these days. With an exceptional performance by Catherine Frot, the movie’s character study is impeccable and the real reason to see this period drama gem.