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.
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.
Fear Me Not (Den Du Frygter, 2008) – [rate 3.5]
I didn’t score this movie as well at the festival, for a simple reason: it’s not really a fantastic film. Sure enough, it’s about the world as we perceive it and how our perception of it shapes our reality. But isn’t any drama with an intro-spective main character? You could compare this one to Special, but that one has a fantastic theme to itself, even if you take the drugs and their effects out of the equation. Fear me Not doesn’t but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. Quite the opposite in fact, it’s engaging, well-paced and has a cool style about it that reminded me of Haneke movies.
The story is kept small and plays out in few locations, with a focus on the characters and their changing situation. A good story about grief and growth, this one is recommended for anyone with a taste for gloomy scandinavian drama.
Chocolate (2008) – [rate 3.5]
If you watch a kung fu movie that manages to impress and entertain with the same force as something like The Matrix (1999), you have to give it extra credit. More so if it was achieved with nothing but conventional means like good stuntwork, choreography and camera action. Chocolate is all that and a bag of chips.
Quickly introducing the characters and their background, the movie makes good haste to get to the good stuff: kung fu fighting of the kind that riles up the audience and gets them cheering for the main character.
The basic premise of Chocolate is simple: a yakuza hotshot and a Thai woman that is also connected get involved. He is forced out of Taiwan, being yakuza, and she remains, pregnant of their daughter. The daughter turns out to be autistic, which makes her hard to raise, but she turn out to have a real knack for picking up on fighting techniques. Soon, occasions arise where she can put her acquired skills to the test.
Don’t expect a whole lot more from the plot than what I just told you and really, with this kind of movie such trivialities would only get in the way. This is pure, unadulterated, uncut kung fu and it is all good. Some fights are humorous, others gut wrenching and some just plain beautiful. The choreography makes great use of the environment and the stuntwork is amazing (though rather painful as the title roll ‘making of’ shots show).
Not for everyone, but if you like watching a good mock fight, this is it.
100 ft. (2008) – [rate 2.0]
The premise of 100 ft. was good and had me interested because of an interesting angle on a tried and true thriller format: the haunted house. In 100 ft. a recently released convict, played by Famke Jansen, returns to the house where she killed her abusive husband in self-defense. She’s under house arrest and gets an ankle bracelet that makes it impossible for her to leave the house for more than a few minutes without the police showing up.
Adding to the interesting situation is the fact that her husband used to be a cop himself and his former partner is now assigned the case. Her husband may be dead, but as the character puts it herself: he isn’t taking it so well. Haunting ensues and you can pretty much guess what the bulk of the movie looks like.
But though the setting may be original, the setup is good and Famke Jansen portrays a strong, modern woman in a believable way, this movie didn’t work for a number of reasons. First of all, besides the main character, this movie is filled with stereotypical, shallow characters that are all over the place. Her husband’s paranoid partner seems to be ready shoot and kill whoever thinks about breaking the law one moment and is all loving and caring the next.
You can act like there’s no tomorrow and give the best performance of a career, but if the script has your characters make stupid decisions and gives you lousy lines, there’s no saving the movie. This is Famke’s plight. And the special effects are pretty and impressive in some scenes, but corny and needlessly over the top in others.
With a better scenario, better extra’s and another director, this would have had potential, but as it stands, I would only recommend it to the fans of a genre and even then, only to pass the time.
Before the Fall (Tres días) (2008) – [rate 4.0]
Considering the fact that deaths are more common than the end of the world by a few dozen orders of magnitude, you might say that the latter gets an inordinate number of movies written about it. But often a movie will focus on what happens after the world has ended. Or the actual ending of the world is portrayed with lavish use of sfx and Hollywood stars. With movies about death, it’s generally the other way around; they tend to focus on either dealing with the death of others, or preparing for one’s own approaching passing.
Before the Fall is more like that than most apocalyptic cinema, but with a twist. At first it reminded me of Last Night (1998), which also shows people in the knowledge that the world is about to end. But Before the Fall doesn’t just tell the story of average people in an agricultural are and the way they might deal with the situation (a rock falling from the skies). It focuses on a single family that seems to have more pressing matters that need to be dealt with before the fall.
This wasn’t at all what I expected it to be and that contributes to how much I liked it. Believable characters, effective use of effects and surroundings to make the situation believable. Interesting cinematography and overall a movie I would recommend.
Notorious (1946) – [rate 4]
A classical spy movie and an undeniable Hitchcock. It has it all, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, oodles of suspense, intricate and complicated cinematographic novelties, the works. If anyhting is wrong with this movie is that a lot of movies like it have been made over time, including quite a few by Hitchcock. In its genre, it has some original twists and it makes effective use of a love interest to drive the plot, but I still feel it falls well short of a masterpiece. Continue reading Notorious (1946)
Rope (1948) – [rate 4.5]
What never ceases to amaze me about Hitchcock pictures is that they seem so modern. Rope is no exception. The acting, the camera work, the dialogue all seem well beyond 1948 – though not quite 2008 of course. It’s an amazing feat of cinematography, shooting a psychological thriller in only 5 shots (did I miss any cuts?) with clever transitions. Rope follows all three Artistotelian unities: it takes place in a single appartment, sometimes even shooting other rooms from within the main living room. It takes place in the timespan of a single afternoon and evening. And it just deals with the murder that the movie starts with. Continue reading Rope (1948)
Burn after Reading (2007) – [rate 3]
After No Country for Old Men, this definitely feels more like a ‘classic’ Coen-brothers production. The characters all seem to be confronted with situations that are outside their ability to deal with things. Greed leads otherwise innocent characters down a dark path of punishment, which I think is a recurring theme in their movies and everything is soaking in a fairly bleak humorous light. Continue reading Burn after Reading
I am Legend (2007) [rate 2.5]
I like how movies are picking up more and more on the wealth of visual storytelling that comics have to offer. With recent successes like Sin City (2005) and 300 (2006) and perhaps slightly less successful offerings like V for Vendetta (2005) (which was not all bad in my opinion), the genre is building a nice position for itself. I am Legend adds a nice piece to that line, though I think it could have been a lot better. Continue reading I am Legend