Thursday, December 26, 2013

Film Review: Would You Rather

Copyright: IFC Films
Would You Rather is a horror/thriller built on a very simple premises. It involves a children’s game played by a group of people were only pain exists and every decision leads to it.

In the film, actor Jeffrey Combs, a TV veteran (in a Star Trek TV universe he played nine different characters) is the biggest pillar holding the story from crumbling. He plays Shepard Lambrick, head of a mysterious group that offers a young woman named Iris a chance to save her leukemia stricken brother.

His offer includes money, but also the influence that would help her brother to receive the necessary medical treatment. Everything she needs to do is to come to a dinner party, and along with other competitors, try to win first place in a game. Iris, broken by her failed attempts to find help and lacking any other ideas, hesitantly accepts.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Film Review: Out of the Furnace

Copyright: Relativity Media
Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana and Christian Bale are all part of this movie’s cast. It’s a story about two brothers. Russell, the older one, works in a steel mill and tries to do his best with not that much in life. His younger brother, Rodney is in the military, and has a bad temper combined with a fast fist. Their lives are a constant challenge, but one unpaid debt will cause Rodney to disappear and set Russell on an inquiry that will leave bodies, if not answers.

Apart from before mentioned actors, Sam Shepard and Forest Whitaker also star in this film. The director Scott Cooper had more fantastic artist in his cast than most A-list movies, and I can’t praise any one of them in particular, because everyone did a superb job. Even those with the least amount of on screen time simply shine in their roles, like Whitaker as the local cop who also married Russell’s former girlfriend whom he still adores.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

How to Promote Your Movie Reviews

We love movies (I can say this because you’re reading this article). Sometimes writing about them is fun and easy, other times it’s a burden. But after the review is written, we all wish someone would read it. Here are some of the things I learned about promoting movie reviews online.
Image source
First of all, as always, content still is the king. Your review has to be genuine; it has to combine your observation about the film as well as the observation about your own feelings that followed the viewing process. Movies, like any art form, are human experiences, both for the makers and the consumers. Translating those feelings and ideas (an act that is equally emotional and rational) isn’t easy, but you get better by doing it. From the technical standpoint, it’s important to write reviews that are at least 400 words long, because, as rumor has it, Google search crawlers put a lot less emphasis on posts that are shorter than 300 words. This is pure hearsay, but I think there is something to it. Also, from the perspective of the reader, 200 words can include a summary of the film and only a pinch of opinion. So, write longer, both for the Google indexing robots and your readers (this is of course untrue if you own a microblogging site or something like that).

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Film Review: Insidious: Chapter 2

Copyright: Stage 6 Films
Lucid dreaming combined with the ability to contact “the other side” is for me a great movie formula. In this film, James Wan revisits the world of malicious ghosts set on acquiring life through the act of possession of the living. Lambert family, fresh from their first meet with the ghost world, tries to get back to normality, in spite of the fact that the previous medium Elise was murdered in their home. Josh Lambert is determined to push on while his wife Renai, along with Josh's mother, suspects that the ordeal isn’t truly over. It’s not long before they realize something much more sinister is taking place, and decide to get some help.

Insidious: Chapter 2 follows the same formula as its predecessor, but this time Wan decided to add another element to the mix. This new element is the Specs/Tucker duo, former associates of Elise and something of a small ghost busting team. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Film Review: Don Jon

Copyright: Relativity Media
If you look at the façade of this movie, you might decide it’s about porn. Its main character is a New Jersey resident and a single bartender named Jon who loves only a few things in life: his friends, his car, his apartment, his muscles, his church, his one night stands with very attractive women he doesn’t know and his porn. He often has sex after he picks up girls in nightclubs, but admits to himself that only porn and masturbation in front of his laptop gives him the opportunity to lose himself.

The plot is simple as it sounds. Jon, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is satisfied with his life, but at the same time, perplexed why real sex with beautiful women (every one of them gets at least an eight on his ten-point-scale) doesn’t give him the same kick as porn does. Soon, he meets Barbara (played by Scarlett Johansson), a clear ten on his scale, who isn’t willing to become just another stranger Don welcomes to his apartment. Instead, she forces him to revise his way of life, and Don accepts. Yet still, porn prevails.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Film Review: L'illusionniste

Copyright: Sony Pictures Classics
Sometimes a movie in which only a dozen understandable sentences are exchanged is enough to remind us about the existence of cinematic magic.

L' illusionniste (The Illusionist) is an animated film from 2010. It is based on a screenplay by Jacques Tati, a French actor and director, who was, several decades ago was, a very influential figure in the film world. Apparently, he wrote the story as a letter to his estranged daughter, with no clear idea of what kind of movie it will turn out to be (if any). But, the origin story of the movie is a little blurry, so this might be just a tall tale. Even if it is not true, I'm sure that work successfully addresses so many real feelings because of the obvious personal stamp that resulted from the difficult relationship between Tati and his child. This film, made nearly 30 years after Tati's death, is a great tribute to parenthood, no matter in what circumstances it reveals itself.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Film Review: How I Live Now

Copyright: Magnolia Pictures
Daisy arrives in rural England to visit her relatives. She is from New York and wears an outfit straight from the first row on a Ramones concert in the early 80s. With her style, she also brings a bad attitude, followed by a hectic stream of consciousness that reveals an obsessive, negative, self-undermining mental attitude. Daisy is complex and broody, while her relatives are easy-going, cheerful kids from the English countryside. In the background, information about an undefined conflict between the Western powers and an unknown enemy are shown, but no one is taking too much notice. While Daisy tries to fit in and stand out at the same time, slightly interested in one of her new neighbors, a strong detonation is heard. Soon, it starts to snow in the middle of the summer, and the kids retreat to their family home, where they learn that a nuclear explosion occurred in the London metropolitan area.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Film Review: Hammer of the Gods

 Copyright: Magnet Releasing
To be honest, I didn’t expect much from this film. The trailer I saw a few months back looked like something I saw many times, starting with The 13th Warrior, and right up to the History Channel’s Vikings. But, Hammer of the Gods managed to sunrise me. It’s a low budget movie, it’s all action and adventure, but done in a very smooth manner.

It looks to me that Farren Blackburn, the director, alongside Matthew Read who wrote this movie, did a lot of research on the subject of modern depiction of the Viking culture. They made a simple plot, in which a young Nordic prince named Steinar arrives in England in 871, as a vanguard of a relief army, sent to help his embattled father, king Bagsecg. Steinar finds his ruler and parent on his death bed. Mortally wounded, the king orders his son to find his long banished older brother, and thus, find the new king.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Film Review: 2 Guns

Copyright: Universal Pictures
The first thing I noticed in this film was the shirt that Robert Trench, played by Denzel Washington, wears. It’s wide, baggy and flows freely around him, and it reminded me of the same shirts he wore in film Man on Fire. I noticed this while Trench exchanged a long and ultra-cool conversation with his partner in crime, Michael Stigman, played by Mark Wahlberg. A minute later, the diner they were sitting in explodes, and they walk out like nothing happens, with the bonus of looking icy cold while glass windows get engulfed in flames only a few feet from their turned backs. Because, you know, cool guys don't look at explosions. But cool guys do wear shits straight from the closet of the hippest resident of a retirement home.

The script of 2 Guns plays on the current popularity of Mexico drug war culture. Two criminals, Stigman and Trench, decide to steal the retirement fund of a Mexican cartel boss, located in a small bank in the US. They are both tough as nails, and both work undercover for a different government organization. Of course, they are unaware that the other guy is also playing on the Johnny Law team. So, while planning how to deceive on the other one, as well as the cartel, they get mixed in even murkier and much more dangerous waters.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Film Review: Curse of Chucky

Copyright: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
However you look at it, Curse of Chucky smells like the eighties. At its core, this movie is a classic horror, combined with a dry black humor.

It starts with a death. An elderly, emotionally disturbed woman is found dead by her daughter Nica. She is bound to a wheelchair, so the rest of her family soon arrives to help her with the awful experience.

These include her commanding older sister Barb, her detached husband, their small daughter Alice and her extremely sexy nanny Jill. In minutes, Alice finds a mysterious doll that was brought to their house and starts to play with it. In a matter of hours, mayhem sets in.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Film Review: The Sound of My Voice

Copyright: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Somewhere in Los Angeles lives a woman who claims that she came from the future. Around her, a small cult-like group starts to grow, composed of people who actually believe her. More importantly, they believe in her.

For me, one of the key features of any good independent film is a successful acclimatization to the budget that is available. A lot of films have great ambitions, but the money that is at their disposal simply cannot transfer those ambitions in the right way to the big screen. Therefore, any indie filmmaker must be flexible, just like Zal Batmanglij in this case, especially if they’re interested in a genre like (or near) science fiction.

Sound of My Voice perfectly performs in the budget department. The beginning of the film shows a man and a woman in ordinary houses, who bathe and clean themselves, put on a pair of white robes, and then some unknown man puts plastic handcuffs and blindfolds on them. Blind and restrained, they are ushered into a van, which should lead them to an ordinary house. There, in the basement, the woman awaits them, and the movie kicks into gear in this everyday surroundings.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Film Review: Jug Face

Copyright: Modernciné
When Dawai makes a clay pot of a face that belongs to a member of a close knitted community in an undefined American outback, that person must be sacrificed to a pit. The pit holds incredible healing powers, but its gifts don’t come for free. Ada, a young woman in the same community, one day finds her own face on a jug, and everything in her world comes apart. But she isn’t ready for the pit, and she decides to do something about it.

The setting in Jug Face reminded me of Winter’s Bone, with its overwhelming poverty and complete closed towards the rest of the world. Family members seem a little too close, and moonshine runs like water. In other words, it’s Hillbilly central, but without the lighthearted comic element.