Malice in Wonderland

Malice in Wonderland (2009) – [rate 3.5]

Having recently seen the new Alice in Wonderland, it was interesting to watch this adaptation of the classic to fit the current day London underworld. Amusing translations, like the Mad Hatter getting angry at Alice for eating all his cakes – in Malice, the Mad Hairdresser (who happens to be a madam as well) gets angry at Alice for “losing her tarts”, because she drive a truck full of prostitutes down the road without closing the doors and some inevitably fall off.

It’s that kind of gags that make Malice enjoyable, as well as the inventive adaptation of the story to the plight of a 21th century well-to-do teenager. The acting is a bit flaky and the production isn’t top-notch either, but it doesn’t get in the way of the movie and overall it’s worth seeing.

Exam

Exam (2009) – [rate 3]

Exam is a good movie if you like films like Cube or The Game. It pulls off a very good story, without ever leaving a single room that contains nothing more than 8 desks, 8 sheets of paper, 8 pencils and 10 actors. Sadly, the plot contains some small holes and a few serious ones, that could have been easily prevented considering the kind of film it is.

Not unlike 12 Angry Men, the subject matter is explored and discussed by the people in the room and as they go along, the viewer is left to form an opinion and make up their own mind about the situation. If you pay close attention, you can pick up quite a few clues and there’s no deus ex machina required to bring it to a good end, so that’s a plus.

All in all, I felt it lacked some originality and some of the flaws in the story really matter for this film. If you haven’t seen Cube or The Game, this one is probably great for you. If you have, you will probably like this one too, but likely not as much as those.

Thirst

Bakjwi (Thirst) (2009) – [rate 2.5]

I was fairly disappointed with Park Chan-Wook‘s traditional vampire tale. Sure, it had some of the pacing of scenes that give Eastern movies their specific feel and some of the graphic violence is very explicit. But instead of focussing of on the attraction of violence instead of love, or digging a little deeper into the implications of a priest turning vampire, Chan-Wook turn it into the usual tragic love-affair that goes exactly where you expect it to go once you know what’s going on.

Fairly forgettable and only for Park Chan-Wook fans. If you don’t know his work, watch Oldboy or Sympathy for Lady Vengeance before you decide on this one. If you want to see a good vampire movie, there’s 100’s out there better and more interesting than this one. Certainly not a bad film, just not a very good one either.

Amer

Amer (2009) – [rate 4]

This is the kind of movie I expect to see at a festival like this. Amer gets in real close, it’s not for the squeamish and requires serious attention to follow, but in the end it is more than worth it. Its powerful imagery, it’s strange but clear characters and its odd pacing all serve to draw you in deeper.

As an ode to Giallo and with a styling that screams 70’s on all counts, this movie is not very likely to do very well at the box office, but every movie buff should still consider seeing it. It’s powerful film making and considering that Giallo appears to have been out of grace for quite some time, this is a worthy addition to the genre.

Oblivion Island

Hottarake no shima – Haruka to maho no kagami (Oblivion Island) (2009) – [rate 3.5]

Oblivion Island has a very original style, mixing a strange brand of hand drawn backdrops with perspective added in with computing, with characters that are fully rendered CGI. It’s a family movie and the plot is strongly reminiscent of Spirited Away. A bit too much, in my opinion, it becomes “one of those movies”.

The basic premise is clever: somewhere there’s an island where all the objects that mankind neglects are brought to, after being stolen bij fox-like serfs of some Shinto-deity. The creatures on this island have no technology of their own, but using whatever they can get their hands on and some moderate magic, they have shaped the entire island out of second hand goods.

The visuals are wonderful, but the movie is too long for its content and tends to drag on a bit around the middle. The plot is predictable, though that might be expected for a family movie, but there are hardly any surprises at all.

Recommended if you’ve already watched Spirited Away ten times and your kids are still clamoring for more.

Tears for Sale

Carlston za Ognjenku (Tears for Sale) (2008) – [rate 3.5]

Eastern European movies are in league of their own. Whenever I watch a movie from Chec(sp?), Polish, Russian or in this case Serbian movie, I get reminded that I should really plan a holiday to visit countries that have a culture so clearly separate (but no less interesting) from our own.

Tears for Sale has an exuberant, merry style – even though it is a movie about funeral wailers in a town where all men have been killed by war. It’s both serious and not at all serious and the crowded musical scenes and the whimsical characters reminded me of Hipsters. Most of the characters are stereotypical, but many scenes contain so many characters that it doesn’t matter and the plot certainly doesn’t suffer.

Recommended if you like the Eastern European style.

European Shorts #1

Always a lot of fun, the shorts. Watching the shorts adds to the flavour of the festival, although it can be hard to remember all of them, considering you’re watching a small dozen shorts back to back. The best was clearly saved for last with the excellent Logorama. But the ultra-short Barbie Butcher got a very good laugh as well.