Saturday, 30 July 2016

MIFF MOVIE REVIEW: BLOOD OF MY BLOOD (SANGUE DEL MIO SANGUE)



8/10

In 17th century Italian convent a nun is accused of interacting with Satan when her priest lover commits suicide. Priest’s brother Federico comes to the convent to plead for his brother not to be ostracized and not to be buried on a donkey cemetery, where the suicide victims end up. His only chance is for the accused nun, Benedetta, to confess she had a pact with Satan to mislead his brother. As Benedetta goes through medieval  trials Federico struggles with his own passion towards the fallen nun. Is there a way for him to escape the seduction of flesh?

Flash forward to modern times, the same town, the same church is now a derelict building where a mysterious old man called Count Basta is hiding. He had disappeared from sight eight years ago, and now thought to be a vampire, only coming out at night. When his home is under threat of being sold to a wealthy Russian businessman, he is forced to come out to sort out this problem. What he sees is the world he struggles to accept. But even with the modern globalisation  no priest or vampire can withstand the eternal beauty of love.

BLOOD OF MY BLOOD is made by Italian master Marco Bellocio, a cult figure in italian cinema. Raised catholic, his many films focus on church, its shortcoming and influence on people and the time itself. Giving us two seemingly unrelated stories, he switches between the serious and sarcastic without damaging the atmosphere or credibility. For a viewer it is a bit of a challenge, because one will have to have a certain trust in a filmmaker, whose real goal is taking you on an emotional journey, instead of giving all the answers.

The movie is slow, but gloriously shot. The transfer to the modern time could have happened more seamlessly, and a bit of a shock to an unprepared – the story of the tested nun is very engaging if you allow it and you would want to know what had become of her. 

Both storylines are given brief but satisfying endings, however you would want to discuss them with someone when the credits will roll. This is the film you should be watching in the company of a fellow movie lover!

The movie is said to have conflicting reviews from both international and Italian audiences, however in the end it all comes down to an individual. BLOOD OF MY BLOOD is unlikely to come to Australia in general release, but it’s a thinking person movie that will stay with you for a long time.

QUICK FACTS

Town of Bobbio where movie takes place is a director’s hometown and features in his many films;

The story of the nun Benedetta is based on the real case of 16th century "Nun of Moza" who had been walled inside her convent for many years;


A cover version of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” is heard during the 17th century story ark of the film and does not feel at all out of place;

Friday, 29 July 2016

MIFF MOVIE REVIEW: AFTER THE STORM (UMI YORI MO MADA FUKAKU)




 

7/10

Ryota is a middle aged man who is frustrated with his life. Many years ago he had high expectations of becoming a famous writer and had even published an award winning novel. Now he is working part time in a detective agency, pretending it's a research for his new book, he spends time gambling and spying on his ex wife who since had moved on with a new man. Why did his future turn out like this? An approaching storm will reunite him with his ex wife and his son for one night at his mother's apartment. Will they finally find understanding and what happens next when the morning breaks?

Reflecting of how one sometimes has to let go of some ambition to enjoy everyday life, the movie contemplates that people need time to develop their "flavour". Just like a stew, as the mother of the main character wisely admits.

AFTER THE STORM is a subtle drama, a very Japanese movie which unfolds slowly, taking time introducing the characters and situations. It is not a crowd pleaser by any means, but if you give it time to develop you will be pleasantly surprised by the funny dialogue and the discovery of authentic daily life in modern Japan.

Actor Hiroshi Abe is too tall and too good looking to play a down on luck hubby struggling the ends meet. But he is a good actor and does his best. The movie is for the lovers of Japanese cinema and would hardly appeal to a broad audience. Taking part in this year's special Cannes presentation "Un Certain Regard", an unofficial line up for "original and different" films, says exactly that: it is a movie for movie lovers. It is not nearly boring, but requires your full attention from the beginning till the end, that maybe too much to ask for a modern drama lover.


Quick facts:

Story takes place in director's hometown Kiyose, a suburbia of Tokyo.

The low renting houses where film is shot are called “danchi”, a sort of equivalent of Australian cheap townhouse apartments.

Japanese title is different from the international release and is taken from the song by pop idol Teresa Teng and means "deeper than the sea";

On its opening weekend at the Japanese box office the film was 5th in the charts;



Sunday, 24 July 2016

MOVIE REVIEW: STAR TREK BEYOND



6/10

Jim Kirk, Spock and the team are following a distress call to some unchartered territory, only to be attacked and brought down, Enterprise destroyed. Scattered in a foreign world the team has to find one another, escape the clutches of their persuaders and figure out what is the formidable foe they are up against.

This new adventure is full of thrills, but I was thoroughly missing JJ Abrams' take on Star Trek universe. While Justin Lin does a decent job, some things are lacking. Abrams’ strength is to introduce depth to the character through action and some very concise dialogue. Justin Lin was given a great script, but some funny lines fall flat, and the character dynamic is lacking. The dilemma of Kirk and Spock whether to stay with the crew of Enterprise has a predictable resolution and the action pieces, up until the last 20 minutes, lack originality.

The big explosive finale partially redeems the film, and there is a mystery surrounding the main villain Krall, but he is still hard to hate. The stakes get high in the end, and there are some cool scenes with the use of gravity, which makes for exciting viewing.

STAR TREK was always known for building exciting worlds, here it is Starbase Yorktown, with its upside down cities and quirky gravity fields. Seeing it in such detail made me cringe, as I knew that all that beauty was introduced to only being demolished in the film grand finale… I was partially correct. If nothing else, the one  scene of Enterprise arrival to Yorktown is worth the price of admission ticket.


To sum it up, STAR TREK BEYOND will not disappoint, but this is not the highest standard of moviemaking achieved by the two previous installments.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

HORROR MOVIE REVIEW: LIGHTS OUT



9/10

When the lights go out the creature called Diana stalks the halls of Rebecca’s family house. With her mother Sophia suffering from mental illness and her young brother Martin experiencing sleep depravation, it is up to Rebecca to figure out what is going on and fight off the creature of the dark that is ready to consume her family.

LIGHTS OUT was introduced early in the year with a very effective trailer, showing a dark shape that can only be seen in the dark and disappears as soon as the lights come up. When the lights go out and come up again, the creature stands a little bit closer. Until it’s so close there’s no escape. 

That one gimmick shown in a trailer, has been thrown at you left right and center through the film, but it never gets boring. With its short running span of 81 minutes the movie cuts straight to the chaise, giving very little time for the audience to catch their breath. The flickering light has never been so unnerving, but the darkness is never too black to see what’s coming.

There were films similar to LIGHTS OUT, such as DARKNESS FALLS, which features a female monster who thrives on darkness, however it is Diana who makes LIGHTS OUT truly terrifying. She doesn’t talk much, but through her jerky motions you can feel her rage and her madness. She is a pure evil, a sort of an incarnation of a dirty family secret.

The characters are well fleshed out for the little time the movie allows for their development, in particular the relationship between Rebecca and her boyfriend Bret is so genuine you will be hoping they get a chance to be together!

Australian Teresa Palmer gives her Rebecca everything she’s got, creating someone tough on the outside, but also wounded and struggling. Her vulnerability is where her real strength comes from.  She is a perfect heroine to face off with monstrous Diana.

The final twenty or so minutes of the film is one big fight in the dark house, full of revelations and jump scares. While being  horror movie clich├ęs each of these scares have a fresh twist. I could hear audience applauding to one clever way of a character escaping a certain death, and that tells you something.


LIGHTS OUT is a delight for a horror fan. It is by no means a perfect film, but just about a perfect movie experience that can turn into a successful franchise.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

MOVIE REVIEW: THE INVITATION


8/10

Will is returning to his old home for the first time since the separation with his wife. She's got a new boyfriend and Will had also moved on. It is weird for him to enter the house that holds so many memories - some of them good, some of them terrifying. As evening unravels Will cannot shake off the feeling that something is very wrong. But is it his imagination or his ex wife and her new man have a sinister plan in place?

Think about it. When you visit someone's home, come for dinner, you put yourself at the mercy of your hosts, physically and emotionally. Playing on the fears of this vulnerability THE INVITATION effectively turns the safe environment of the old friends' gathering on it's head. The warning signs come in flashes and some bizarre behaviour of the guests. Although it is somehow hard to separate Will's imagination from what's real, the tension is just building up until the explosion of somehow expected, but nonetheless terrifying finale.

THE INVITATION is all about the camera work, the soundtrack and the atmosphere. The director Karyn Kusama has an uneven filmography, that includes Sci-Fi action  Aoen Flux and a social parody horror Jennifer's Body. Here, dealing with a much smaller budget, she thrives in this claustrophobic thriller, which suits best her talent as a filmmaker. The composer Theodore Shapiro, who has written music for many comedies, delivers a minimalistic soundtrack highlighting the characters and the tensions. It is more melancholic than creepy, keeping us in suspense, making us guess whether we are watching a straightforward thriller or a family drama.

I started THE INVITATION with high expectations and I had not been let down. The ending was somehow predictable, but it only makes the experience scarier, thinking I was in denial for an hour and a half just like the guests were. Violent and effective, THE INVITATION is a genuinely unsettling film that one will not soon forget.

Monday, 11 July 2016

MOVIE REVIEW: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN




6/10

Lord Greyctock has moved on from his past incarnation as the jungle lord, the only reminder of Tarzan being "penny dreadfuls" sold in London. He is a celebrity, however, and is invited by the King of Belgium to visit Congo once more. But this is a trap, and when his beloved Jane is taken hostage, Tarzan has to return to make things right. Let the adventure begin!

As a child I read all 24 Tarzan adventures, and entering the movie theatre I was hoping for one thing - that the film delivers on the atmosphere and makes me feel like a kid again. Did the movie achieve it?

Yes and no.

My main problem with THE LEGEND OF TARZAN is the plot. We only get a glimpse of the story of Tarzan's origin and his meeting with Jane, (not a bad thing), but at the same time it leaves too much to interpretation. There is a feeling you have missed the "Part 1" which lingers until the movie ends. For the lengthy run of the film Tarzan does not have enough exciting adventures. The grand finale redeems it, but only a little. Many critics complained about historical inaccuracy, but it seems strange looking for the chronological  errors in a fantasy film.

If there is a reason to watch THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, it's for the amazing African vistas and the quirky dynamic between the characters of Jane (Margo Robbie) and  Chris Waltz (Leon Rom). The sparks  are flying in their scenes together and they bring the movie alive. 

The presence of Samuel L Jackson as George Washington Williams is a necessary comic relief but he is redundant as a character. Tarzan would have to have a side kick, and Jackson is not the worse choice - his jokes have great timing and when allowed he owns the screen.

One of the complains, strangely, are visual effects for the animals, particularly gorillas, that look cartoonish and fake. Not a good look for a film where CGI is a primary concern. 

Tarzan did manage to bring my favourite character to life, but I was left asking for more. This predictable movie will not keep you on the edge of your seat, but is visually stunning and may awaken the sense of adventure you thought you never had.