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

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Movie No. 25 (2017): AFTER THE STORM

After The Storm (2016)
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Cast: Hiroshi Abe, Yoko Maki
In Japanese, with English subtitles

It has been said that the works of Hirokazu Kore-eda reflect the contemplative style and pacing of Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang. These are usually conspicuous in all the family drama the director has made. After The Storm is not an exception. By saying it, I mean that I'm completely sucked into the narrative with that calculated but rhythmic pacing. 

Hiroshi Abe makes his loser character (Ryota) very human. We feel his struggle to be part of his son's life despite the divorce the broke the family. He's living alone, as a private detective, despite a promising career as a prize-winning novelist in the past. Then one summer, an unexpected storm forces the broken family, including Ryota's mother, to bond, resulting in certain realizations that may change the way they look at their relationships in the future.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: April 8, 2017

Friday, April 7, 2017

Movie No. 24 (2017): THE BYE BYE MAN

The Bye Bye Man (2017)
Director: Stacy Title
Cast: Cressida Bonas, Lucien Laviscount, Faye Dunaway

Three college friends move into a new housing and stumble upon objects associated with the Bye Bye Man. To avoid the curse of the Bye Bye Man all they need to do is "don't think it; don't say it." For me this is ridiculous. How can you avoid thinking about it when it's in your face or lurking or stalking you? That's why the screenplay fails miserably.

This is a horror movie. I expect to be scared. But, the movie uses cliches of the genre that make me irritated instead of scared. 

Rating: 1.0/4.0

Date seen: April 7, 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Movie No. 23 (2017): THE NIGHT OF

The Night Of (2016)
Director: Various directors
Cast: Riz Ahmed, John Turturro

This is a mini-series created by Richard Prince and Steve Zaillian. But, it 's still a movie, a very long one. The episodic treatment, of course, is inevitable. 

The story practically begins with the arrest of a Naz (Riz Ahmed), a student who is of Pakistani descent, suspected of the murder of the girl he had a one-night-stand stint with a few hours earlier. Then comes the eczema-riddled, opportunistic attorney (Jack Stone), who preys on small-time criminal offenders at just the right time. Stone is interested and, of course, gets involved in Naz's case.

The police procedural and the so-called due process that follows gives a glimpse of the complication in how criminal justice system works. The writing is effective in how it shows how this incident affects all the people that got entangled into it, including Naz family and friends, Stone and his colleagues and acquaintances, the dead girl's blood connection, the detective, police officers, prosecutors, etc. There is also a subtle touching on racism and hate crime. The suspense and mystery are sustained until the conclusion. The ending sends me chills just thinking about what transpired during the entire season of this series.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: April 5, 2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Movie No. 22 (2017): A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS

A Tale of Love and Darkness (2015)
Director: Natalie Portman
Cast: Natalie Portman, Gilad Kahana, Amir Tessler
In Hebrew, with English subtitles

Amos Oz, probably the most acclaimed contemporary writer of Israel, tells, in the form of a memoir, the events that led to the founding of Israel. The narrative is basically on the point of view of his troubled family. Natalie Portman, in her directorial debut, translates the book into movie. She also stars as the matriarch in the movie.

Portman's connection to the material is well put in her direction and performance. For a neophyte director tackling on convoluted story, this effort deserves praise. I have to mention the excellent cinematography.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: April 2, 2017

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Movie No. 21 (2017): KING COBRA

King Cobra (2016)
Director: Justin Kelly
Cast: James Franco, Christian Slater, Garret Clayton, Keegan Allen, Alicia Silverstone

The story is based on the so-called "Cobra Murder" involving a pornographer. The movie, however, is interested in the rise of a gay porn superstar called Brent Corrigan and his connection to the murder. James Franco and Christian Slater are cast as competing pornographers. 

The movie lacks substance. Blame it to poor script and editing. Even James Franco and Christian Slater, who could have positive contribution to the movie, are just caricatures. The movie looks like smut. It could have been as great as Boogie Nights but it fails miserably.

Rating: 1.5/4.0

Date seen: April 1, 2017