Monday, February 27, 2017

Movie 19 (2017): THE SALESMAN

The Salesman (aka Forushande)
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Taraneh Alidoosti, Shahab Hosseini
In Farsi, with English subtitles

I wanted this movie to win Best Foreign Language Film in the 79th Academy Awards. However, I didn't expect it to win because Toni Erdmann was immensely popular. An upset would be remote. But, it did win. That's unexpected; a pleasant surprise.

This is the story of a couple in Tehran that are forced to find another apartment when the building where they currently live is on the verge of collapsing because of the vibrations coming from the construction in the neighboring lot. The couple are part of the company that currently stages Arthur Miller's "Death of A Salesman." The marriage of the couple starts to turn sour during the staging of the play and at the time when they're on a temporary apartment. There's an assault. There's a scheme for revenge. 

The movie succeeds in going into the details of a marriage that's falling apart. Asghar Farhadi is a master of this kind of narrative - about the middle class caught in unexpected circumstances. The strength of the movie is in the screenplay, editing, and performances. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 27, 2017

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Movie No. 18 (2017): MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Manchester By The Sea (2016)
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler

Lee Chandler left his tortured life in Manchester for Boston, where he has been working as a handy man. But, another tragedy forces him to go back to Manchester to face more grievous circumstances. The movie writes about grief and loss very well. Casey Affleck's performance is genius. That can be a performance of a lifetime. In fact, the ensemble acting is unforgettable. The movie echoes the same or a little more chilling effect of Robert Redford's Ordinary People (Academy Awards Best Picture in 1980).

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 26, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Movie No. 17 (2017): HACKSAW RIDGE

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Director: Mel Gibson
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving, Sam Worthington

A lot of movies about war, particularly World War II, have been made. However, only a few show the humanizing experience of the soldiers who fought from both sides. Hacksaw Ridge is successful in this aspect. In addition, it highlights the heroic act of one person that refuses to carry arms as he serves his country in the war.

Andrew Garfield delivers a sympathetic performance. It's easy to see and feel the character Desmond Doss in him. Direction is outstanding; the battle scenes are exquisitely choreographed and photographed. Gore is everywhere. I think that's necessary.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 19, 2017

Movie No. 16 (2017): THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

The Girl on the Train (2016)
Director: Tate Taylor
Cast: Emily Blunt, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Lisa Kudrow, Rebecca Ferguson

The most obvious good thing about the movie is Emily Blunt's outstanding performance. In this movie, Blunt is Rachel, who spends her time commuting while peering on a couple living in one of the houses that the train she is on passes by. She does this everyday to cope with depression caused by her divorce. One day, she sees something in the house's balcony that will consume her curiosity, and gets herself tangled into the couple's lives. 

The movie is of the mystery genre. Unfortunately, the editing and, partly, the script fail to sustain the mystery. It's not totally bad. I just find it wanting. Honestly, I was entertained. But then, in the end, I had this feeling that it could be better. At some point in the movie, I no longer cared how it would end.

Rating: 2.5/4.0

Date seen: February 19, 2017

Movie No. 15 (2017): DEEPWATER HORIZON

Deepwater Horizon (2016)
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, John Malkovich, Kurt Russell

The movie is based on the actual events surrounding the explosion of Deepwater Horizon, a drilling rig off the coast of Gulf of Mexico, in April 2010. 

I searched for news clips about the incident prior to watching the movie. So, how the movie would end was already a given. Like any other disaster movies based on actual events, the challenge (for the movie) is how to keep viewers engaged during the entire running time of the movie. The script has to be engaging and editing meticulous. Well, this movie's script and editing are okay, but not grand. Cinematography and sound, however, are great. And. it's good to see the great John Malkovich on screen again.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: February 17, 2017

Friday, February 17, 2017

Movie No. 14 (2017): LOST IN MUNICH

Lost in Munich (2015)
Director: Petr Zelenka
Cast: Martin Mysicka, Marek Taclik
In Czech and French, with English subtitles

The movie-within-a-movie (or movie about making a movie) format  of "Lost in Munich" is reminiscent of Francois Truffaut's "Day for Night." There is a single scene that makes me convinced that this movie is indeed a homage to the great Truffaut film. In addition: if Day for Night had a cat, Lost in Munich has a parrot, which is is old, gay, and racist.

Lost in Munich takes on the so-called Munich Betrayal, which Czechs are still bitter about. This historical event refers to the Munich Agreement - when France and Britain agreed to Hitler's demand to annex part of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany. The movie, however, does not dwell into the seriousness and touchiness of the topic. Instead, it successfully twists genre to the absurd. 

The movie was Czech Republic's submission to the Best Foreign Language Film competition at the 89th Academy Awards.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 12, 2017

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Movie No. 13 (2017): THE AGE OF SHADOWS

The Age of Shadows (2016)
Director: Kim Jee-woon
Cast: Gong Yoo, Song Kang-ho
In Korean and Japanese, with English subtitles

In 1920's Japan-occupied Korea, a Korean (Lee, played by Song Kang-ho) who serves the Japanese police force is sent to go after the Resistance fighters. The assignment puts his loyalty on the spot. He meets the leader of the resistance (Kim, played bu Gong Yoo) and, as a double agent now, agrees to help transport explosives to Shanghai. But, of course, there will be obstacles. 

I'd like to commend the movie for its ability to hold my attention from start to finish. The cinematography and art direction easily transform the places where important scenes take place into important and, sometimes, seemingly sinister characters. The artful action sequences are beautifully choreographed. The long sequence in the train that is "full of spies" creates and effectively maintains suspense. The great editing of the planting of the bomb and the "Japanese party", Ravel's Bolero playing during the whole sequence, makes the entire sequence unforgettable.

This is great entertainment.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 5, 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017

Movie No. 12 (2017): YOUR NAME

Your Name (aka Kimi No Na Wa) (2016)
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Voice cast: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi
In Japanese, with English subtitles

This dialogue basically summarizes the plot of this movie: "Connecting people is Musubi. So the braided cords that we make represent the flow of time itself. They converge and take shape. They twist, tangle, sometimes unravel, then connect again."

This animated film reminds me of South Korea's "Il Mare." But, it's conflict is much different from the Your Name's. The only analogy I can think of is Il Mare's use of the mail box (as the link between two characters from different times) as Your Name's use of a smart phone. 

Your Name succeeds in visual realization of the screenplay, which, by the way, may have flaws. The flaws may have been due to the complex story. But that's forgivable. The movie still manages to show the very essence of the narrative that it wants to convey. 

The final scene presages a happy ending, which suggests the realization of the what the dialogue in the first paragraph summarizes.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: January 30, 2017

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Movie No. 11 (2017): LION

Lion (2016)
Director: Garth Davis
Cast: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Sunny Pawar
In English and Hindi, with English subtitles

Lion's treatment is really Hollywoodish. Good thing is the story really happened. This fact, in mind as I watch the movie, makes me enjoy and actually cry in some scenes. I like how the movie discusses subtly determination, identity, hope, and courage (to live despite unforgiving circumstances). The movie shows everything on the point of view of a five-year-old child, even when the child is 25 years older. 

Both Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman deliver great performances. And the musical score is something noteworthy.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: January 29, 2017

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Movie No. 10 (2017): TANNA

Tanna (2016)
Director: Bentley Dean, Martin Butler
Cast: Marie Wawa, Mungau Dain
In Yakel dialect (Vanuatu), with English subtitles

Tribes in the Yakel Village of Vanuatu have rejected influences of colonizers and Christians. Two warring tribes preserve their traditions, which includes arranged marriage. Conflict arises when the bride (Wawa) who has been promised to the son of the chief of the other tribe, as peace offering, runs away with her childhood friend from the same tribe. 

The tradition looks familiar and the conflict simple. But, the movie succeeds in weaving the complexity of the problem into the narrative. The surroundings (thick jungle, spouting volcano, and vast ocean) contribute to the uncivilized nature of the situation despite the progress that are also in the surroundings of their realm.

The actors are first-time actors and they are all real tribesmen of Yakel. But, their portrayal are so genuine. Cinematography is awesome.

The movie is nominated as Best Foreign Language Film in
the 89th Academy Awards.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: January 28, 2017