Saturday, May 23, 2015

Movie No. 29 (2015): CORN ISLAND

Corn Island (2014)
Director: George Ovashvili
Cast: Ilyas Salman, Mariam Buturishvili
In Russian, Georgian, and Abkhaz, with English subtitles

I see the film as almost a manifesto of hard work. The way the narrative unfolds is high art. This is traditional cinema at its best. 

The dialogue is scant, but the visual presentation of an almost idyllic setting is marred by occasional sound of gunfire and patrolling soldiers passing by. The camera never leaves the Corn Island, a small piece of arable land floating in the river that separates two small countries in conflict, Georgia and Abkhaz. At the start of the movie, we see a conquest, where an old man is seen discovering the almond-shaped land. He tests the soil using his four senses: sight, scent, taste, and feel. Then during rest of the film's running time, we see hard work documented as the old man, with the assistance of his obedient daughter in the brink of womanhood, painstakingly transforms the island into an agricultural feat. The film ends in the same way it opens. I don't want to make details at this point.

The film is for the patient. I have to give myself a pat on the shoulder for having finished the movie without having to wrestle with drowse or slumber. Ironically, it aroused my interest, which kept me wide awake in awe. For the record, blockbuster, action- and effects-loaded movies almost always effortlessly send mo to sleep because they fail to tickle my imagination. Corn Island, despite its being almost a silent film is a resounding triumph of "pure" cinema.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: May 21, 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015

Movie No. 28 (2015): CALVARY

Calvary (2014)
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Cast: Brendan Gleeson

The first scene shows a priest in a confessional listening to a parishioner who relates he was sexually abused by a now-dead priest. This sets the tone of the narrative. The "confession" concludes with the parishioner threatening to kill this priest  (with whom he shares his story) the following Sunday. The priest in the confessional recognizes the parishioner's voice. The audience don't. This threat makes the movie captivating and suspenseful.

The days before Sunday, the priest attends to his routine priestly duties. We get to met an intricate set of characters. I imagine these characters as microcosm of the "fallen society." The priest is good, but he has to live with the stigma that priests are pedophiles while he remains loyal to his faith and service. This is translated very well in the movie's narrative using effectively the language and grammar of cinema. Brendan Gleeson's performance is assured, sincere, and monumental. The cinematography is itself a "character," i.e., something the movie can't do without.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: May 21, 2015

Friday, May 1, 2015

Movie No. 27 (2015): AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans. Chris Hemsworth, Paul Bettany

The plot is simple. The Avengers (will) save the planet from Ultron's destructive hands. This simple plot is seen as great opportunity to showcase special effects and fantastic action sequences because there's nothing to explore with that simple plot. In this aspect, the film triumphs. But honestly, it's in the nitty-gritty details that, in my opinion, the movie fails. Die-hard fans of this franchise are either so forgiving or just oblivious because all they're concerned about is to be entertained by sequences they already have ideas about. I'm not a fan. So, when I saw the movie I looked at the movie as a movie like nothing I knew about when I entered the theater. And I saw a lot of inconsistencies and editing loopholes. The script lulled me to sleep at some instances because sequences became so uninteresting. While destruction left and right were shown, I didn't see a single death, except of course that which became of one of the avengers. And it's annoying that one or two scenes showcased how one Avenger tried to save just one man from falling. Can those people breath well in the clouds? Well, I'm not sure if in the comic book certain laws of physics were defied. 

Well, honestly, I almost walked out and wished I should have stayed at home and slept.

Rating: 1.0/4.0

Date seen: April 25, 2015

Movie No. 26 (2015): THE GUEST

The Guest (2014)
Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe

The Guest uses well the typical formula of a Hollywood film that's really meant to entertain. The result is a believable amalgam of mystery, gore, sci-fi, action, and almost horror genres. There's even the subtle coming-of-age tale of a minor but integral character. Dan Stevens as 'the guest' delivers a cunning performance that will never be forgotten for the next few years.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: April 3, 2015