Sunday, June 25, 2017

Movie No. 35 (2017): THE SECOND MOTHER

The Second Mother (aka Que Horas Ela Volta?) (2016)
Director: Anna Muylaert
Cast: Camila Mardila, Regina Case, Michel Joelsas
In Portuguese, with English subtitles


Val, who has been working as nanny for an affluent family in Sao Paolo more than a dozen years, is financially stable. The family she serves treats her well. However, she has daughter that she left under the care of her relatives in northern Brazil. Now, her daughter wants to live with her in Sao Paolo as she is entering college. The conflict begins when the daughter arrives in Sao Paolo and temporarily lives with her in the house of Val's employers while awaiting for the college entrance examination. 

The movie is a simple narrative that examines the dynamics of a different kind of mother-daughter relationship and its effects on people in their immediate circle. There's also this metaphoric commentary on social classes in modern Brazil. Regina Case is outstanding as Val.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: May 14, 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Movie No. 34 (2017): THE TARGET

The Target (2014)
Director: Chang
Cast: Ryu Seung-ryong, Lee Jin-wook, Jo Yeo-jeung, Yoo Jun-sang
In Korean, with English subtitles

It may take sometime to see the connection of the opening scene to what seem to be unrelated scenes in the succeeding series of events. But the tension created by such scenes is solid. When everything makes sense during the first 20 minutes the remaining scenes are just like the usual concert of rehearsed choreography of cat-and-mouse chase. I'm not suggesting the Hollywoodish formula. There's still the Korean cinema stamp, which makes the movie still interesting. The ending is predictable; but the road to that ending is pebbled with some interesting twists.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: May 7, 2017


Movie No. 33 (2017): AMERICAN CRIME (Season 2)

American Crime (Season 2) (2016)
Creator/Producer: John Ridley
Cast: Felicity Hoffman, Timothy Hutton, Regina King, Lili Taylor

Season 2 has uses practically the same main cast as Season 1, but with a completely different story and characters. This time, the crime is man-rape. What makes it controversial is it happens to a student in a private high school with good reputation. The news of the crime, allegedly committed by students of the same school, makes the internet. The school administration uses all resources to maintain the school's reputation. But, the mother of the victim brings the incident to investigation by the police. Like the in Season 1, this present Season 2 is also interested in showing how the people related to the victim and suspects are affected by the incident during the investigation. 

The series is effectively calculating in suggesting homophobia and racial tension interspersed in the narrative.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: May 1, 2017

Movie No. 32 (2017): 13 REASONS WHY

13 Reasons Why (2017)
Creator/Producer: Brian Yorkey
Director: Various (including Gregg Araki)
Cast: Dylan Minette, Katherine Langford, Brandon Flynn, Ross Butler

This is a popular TV series, a Netflix original. It's tacking of the topics of bullying, peer pressure, bullying, substance abuse, and rape among teenagers makes the show controversial, polarizing those who've seen it.

It's popularity makes me not want to write down a synopsis for the series. 

I like the series. But it's not perfect. When each episode should suggest one reason for the suicide of one major character, there are a couple reasons that, for me, are vague. Hannah baker is not a character you can sympathize with. But that's okay. It's not the reason for the story being flawed. One may feel shortchanged after patiently waiting to see what's in every tape. That is the reason? But, the overall feel is more of awe than sigh. I particularly like the episode edits and the careful selection of important scenes to apply the famed Bergmanian approach to flashback. All the actors are good.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: April 23, 2017

Movie No. 31 (2017): AMERICAN CRIME (Season 1)

American Crime (Season 1) (2015)
Creator/Producer: John Ridley
Director: Various
Cast: Timothy Hutton, Felicity Hoffman, Regina King, Lili Taylor

The story begins with Russ (Timothy Hutton) receiving bad news: his son, a war veteran, and daughter-in-law were attacked in their home, now dead. He flies to Modesto, California. There he meets his estranged wife (Felicity Hoffman). The rest of the episodes tackle how lives of those who are connected to the victims and to the suspects change during the course of the investigation and trial. Hints of racial tension make the story and characters multi-dimensional.

I particularly like the episodic editing and treatment. The characters are well written and effectively played by the actors, especially Felicity Hoffman and Regina King. All supporting characters and their corresponding scenes are really integral to the effective narrative flow.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: April 18, 2017

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Movie No. 30 (2017): TO THE FORE

To The Fore (2015)
Director: Dante Lam
Cast: Choi Si-won, Shawn Dou, Eddie Peng
In Chinese (Cantonese/Mandarin), with English subtitles

The movie is a fictional close look at the professional riders race competition. It centers on the three characters and their respective motivations. The characterization, conflicts, and resolution are formulaic. The formula is not a totally bad thing since the movie has executed them smoothly. What I admire most about the movie are the breathtaking cinematography and seamless editing during scenes involving races.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: April 17, 2017




Movie No. 29 (2017): UNDER THE SKIN

Under The Skin (2014)
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Cast: Scarlett Johansson

The movie is too abstract for me. This head-scratching movie is science fiction but for me it doesn't matter. Almost everything made sense when I had to jump back to the start of the movie a few minutes before the conclusion. Almost; not totally. But, the experience of seeing the movie is more important.

Scarlett Johansson is great.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: April 9, 2017

Movie No. 28 (2017): OUIJA, THE ORIGIN OF EVIL

Ouija: The Origin of Evil (2016)
Director: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Henry Thomas, Annalise Baso

I didn't expect Ouija: The Origin of Evil to turn out to be a decent horror movie with real suspense. Both the narrative flow and characterization are engaging. There are no cheap thrills. 

Thumbs up.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: April 8, 2017

Movie No. 27 (2017): THE RED TURTLE

The Red Turtle (a.k.a. La Tortue Rouge) (2016)
Director: Michael Dudok De Wit
Animated film

The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature early this year.

The movie is about a man who gets washed away in an uninhabited remote island. Every time he tries to to leave the island, his makeshift raft gets destroyed by a mysterious sea creature, a red turtle. The turtle is indeed mysterious since it will become part of his accidental exile in the island.

The movie is practically without any dialogue. But, despite the absence of dialogue, the narrative is crystal clear and it is fluid. Not a single scene is wasted. The story is classic, magical, and unforgettable.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: April 8, 2017

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Movie No. 26 (2017): UNDER THE SHADOW

Under The Shadow (2016)
Director: Babak Anvari
Cast: Narges Rashid, Bobby Naderi, Avin Manshadi
In Farsi, with English subtitles


The backdrop of the movie is the Iran-Iraq War. The protagonist Shideh is now married with a daughter. She is blacklisted from medical school for participating in protests against post-Revolution government during her days as student. Frustrated, she is left to look for her daughter in their apartment while her husband is serving as member of the medical team in the frontline. Air raids are everyday occurrence. The apartment building has shelter. But, one day, a missile hits the building. It doesn't explode. However, it brings forth strange consequences. Horror begins.

The movie is clever. The missile might be a metaphor for something sinister that Shideh must face. This is a rare movie of the genre.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: April 8, 2017