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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

[9.50/10] Martyrs (2008)

Martyrs (2008)

"Martyrs" is probably the most extreme French movie ever, and cannot be compared with any other film I have seen before. The first half or so is prime horror rib eye - sound design, timing, blood, and a certain amount of ambiguity keep the adrenaline pumping and the brain wiggling to figure out what's coming next. The second half is somewhat different, but that's already saying too much. "Martyrs" goes far deeper than most horror movies, and not just in terms of its violence and gore. It gives far greater consideration to the traumatic psychological impact of violence, while also looking at the religious and intellectual implications of suffering. It will have you thinking about the ideas contained in its script for as long, if not longer, than you think about its brutality. The work of Pascal Laugier was not only great on the screen writing field, but also on the directing field, because the cold and at the same time relentless tone of the movie makes everything to feel very realistic. Myléne Jamponoí and Morjana Alaoui bring extraordinary performances, because they are 100% credible and intense on every scene they appear. "Martyrs" is one of the sickest and most disturbing movies I have seen, but its numbing violence is not used only to shock, but also to provide a fascinating insight into the people's voyeuristic nature. Moreover, it tries to explain the tragic events taking place in the film in a painfully rational manner. Beneath the sick, perverted and horrific exterior "Martyrs" is a horror masterpiece.

  • My Rating: 9.50/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 50% (5.7/10)
  • IMDb: 7.0/10

[5.75/10] From Within (2008)

From Within (2008)

Short review: "From Within" is a decent horror flick is set in a small Maryland town, where a suicidal curse has been unleashed on a bible belt, due to the murder of a practicing witch who was accused of killing a local in a nearby river. "From Within" is overall quite good and does exactly what you expect, a decent story that relies on physiological scare as apposed to blood and gore, even though there is some b&g in it. The scares are rather good and they come at enough regular intervals to keep you engaged. The film has really great visual style, which isn't a big surprise, since film's director is also an excellent cinematographer, and there's also an impending sense of doom that hangs over every scene of "From Within". Acting is pretty decent, with the exception of the lead, Elizabeth Rice, who is flat and sometimes just unbearably average when she has to go for the big emoting scenes. She's more of a TV actress, than someone who can command attention in a horror movie. All in all, "From Within" is surprisingly well-made and entertaining little horror movie, that delivers what it promises.

  • My Rating: 5.75/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 50% (4 Reviews)
  • IMDb: 5.7/10

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

[9.25/10] C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)

C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)

The story of "C.R.A.Z.Y." concerns a French/Canadian Catholic family living in the Quebec suburbs in the 1970's and centers primarily on one of the son's, Zachary. His coming to terms with being gay is the plot thread that runs through the film but it also covers many years and many characters through the years, Christmas, weddings, births and deaths. The film presents us with a very charming look at life while at the same time providing us with a kind of film making that is ambitious and unique. It's hard to make a film as epic as this one because people expect it to have major world events in them. What this film does instead is provide a kind of childlike aspect of the world and how fragile and sad being young and different really is. Coming-of-age genre is so over-done and when it's done originally and refreshingly like it's done here, it's remarkable. The performances are simply brilliant. Zachary was incredibly portrayed by both Émile Vallée as a child and Marc-André Grondin as the teenager. We see his childlike wonder and innocence slowly transform into an adolescent identity that is based on fear, confusion and a strong desire to please his father. Gervais, played by Michel Côté, is man who truly cherishes his family but has a sometimes rough exterior. He struggles with the idea that his children's happiness may result from things that he can't control, despite how badly he may want to. It is amazing to watch both characters grow into men who are mature enough able to let go of themselves and of each other. Vallée does an incredible job of keeping some of the characters at arm's length, while maintaining their believability and importance to Zachary and Gervais. The film has a great soundtrack which changes the atmosphere of the different eras and also depicts teenage life throughout the 70s to a tee. The imagery is dream-like and artistic and the storyline and characters are well detailed and realistic. "C.R.A.Z.Y." is an exceptionally powerful and emotional film experience. Jean-Marc Vallée has put together a timeless film that will appeal to many, crosses all cultural boundaries easily and is satisfying from opening scene to the end.

  • My Rating: 9.25/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 100% (7.9/10)
  • IMDb: 8.0/10

[8.25/10] I'm Not Scared (2003)

Io Non Ho Paura


I'm Not Scared (2003)

"I'm Not Scared" has an intriguing plot about a group of typical youngsters leading the carefree existence of childhood in the rolling hills of southern Italy in 1978. While playing in the ruins of a deserted farmhouse, one of them, Filippo, discovers a hidden underground bunker. Curiosity leads to the discovery of a shackled young boy imprisoned therein, with whom Filippo builds up a certain rapport, as they both happen to be same age. What starts out as a seemingly innocent depiction of friendship soon unfolds as a dramatic and gripping story. As the story continues to unfold we wonder how this might conclude, since the major plot point must have resolution. And as we have been treated to several eyebrow-raising moments along the way, it suffices to say the ending is equal to the setup. Beautifully-directed, captivating, and yet managing to draw the fine line between a story about young friendship, and a kidnapping, "Io Non Ho Paura" has everything. You can truly empathize with the boys' story, as you are drawn deeper into it. This is a film that can best be described as truly alive. Giuseppe Cristiano's portrayal of Michele is commanding and sensitive, backed up by a more than capable performance from Mattia Di Pierro as Filippo. The children are a joy to watch, exuding raw talent and emotion throughout every scene. You are completely drawn into a world of innocence, beauty, friendship and ultimately, danger. The artistry is good in terms of superior cinematics, effective use of color, good camera angles, and exceptional scene balance. It features great locations, and it's beautifully photographed and directed by Italo Petriccione and Gabriele Salvatores. "I'm Not Scared" is a film about that culminating moment of childhood, when you finally find out the real nature of the world you had been born into, when you discover the evil faces behind the masks of joyful light-heartedness. This is high-grade populist filmmaking, with strong performances from both adults and children, and thoughtfully directed at every step.

  • My Rating: 8.25/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 91% (7.5/10)
  • IMDb: 7.6/10

[6.00/10] Exam (2010)

Exam (2010)

"Exam" is about eight candidates competing for a high-ranking position in an exalted company, who are called into a room by a mysterious man known as the Invigilator and asked to sit an exam as part of the final stage of a job interview. However, when they turn their papers over, they discover that the pages are blank, so they quickly realize they'll have to work together in order to figure out how to pass. "Exam" is low budget British thriller, that is smart, consistently entertaining and has production values that are all far better then you might expect, despite its single setting. It's also intense, mysterious and very atmospheric, and most importantly, it's thought provoking. As the events in this enclosed room unfold, there is no shortage of visual and physical excitements, suspense and thrills. Direction is pretty simple, as the whole movie is made in one tiny little room. The performances from all the actors are actually quite good and they give the limited setting more motion and interest. Unfortunately, none of the characters are particularly likable, so I didn't care about who wins or loses. The audience is well-entertained by the play on the precision in the use of language. The climax is somehow unsatisfying though. Another is a failing is, that despite those eight strangers are closed in one dark room, claustrophobia never creeps in. That would had added some much more intensity to the overall atmosphere. All in all, Stuart Hazeldine's minimalist thriller is a solid and pretty watchable, despite its unlikable characters and disappointing ending.

  • My Rating: 6.00/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 56% (5.4/10)
  • IMDb: 6.8/10

Monday, June 28, 2010

[4.50/10] Repo Men (2010)

Repo Men (2010)

"Repo Men" is a sci-fi action thriller set in the near future, where a corporation called The Union supplies its customers with artificial organs to keep them going again and help them lead healthy lives. But there's a downside. If you don't pay for your artificial organs in time, The Union will send repo men to come after you and repossess your organs, even if your alive. The premise sounds pretty original, yet the execution of it is unfortunately very poor. The film starts off slowly, save a few surgical scenes and a bit of moral dilemma, nothing much else happens. The second part is twice as dull and the ending is especially ludicrous. In the performance department, Jude Law is fine, yet he looks a little bit uninterested in few scenes. Forest Whitaker, on the other hand, gives an excellent performance as his friend. Liev Schreiber, playing Frank, has nothing much to do with the script he was given. Alice Braga and Carice van Houten both give decent performances. Yes, this is a talented and well-known cast, but the film's violence and stupid mistakes become redundant. The actors sometimes rises above the material, but that is too far and in between. Some of the killing is cool, but there's so much of it, it's exhausting. The film's art design is ugly, modern and dystopian of course, but not in an interesting way, and the film stock itself appears grimy. All in all, "Repo Men" just takes itself too seriously, and at the end, it just doesn't work, because it is completely unrealistic and we can't understand anyone's motivations. It also lacks atmosphere and energy, and its directing is all over the place, which is a shame, since this film has such an intriguing premise and some great actors starring in it.

  • My Rating: 4.50/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 22% (4.2/10)
  • IMDb: 6.3/10

[6.00/10] Unthinkable (2010)

Unthinkable (2010)

"Unthinkable" centers around one man, who has planted three nuclear weapons in three US cities set to go off in less than four days and his interrogator and their relationship, if it could be called that. Keeping aside the debate on if "Unthinkable" was a propaganda or not, lets just see if its worth as a movie itself. The narrative proceeds in a clear and obvious trajectory, meaning there are no big surprises along the way, every twist and turn are visible far ahead. This is not to say the film is without tension, it's just once the characters are established, the story does not have anywhere to go but the predictable path. Yet, although predictable, the movie takes its turn halfway through when the characters are really put in to pressure. It's as if the angels become demons and everyone realizes the devil has always been right. The acting was film's highlight! Samuel L Jackson delivers a strong, powerful and yet disturbing performance as an self-contracted interrogator who's social life is common to any other usual person despite his methods used in interrogating terrorists or spies. Jackson as "H" is the hyper-cruel torture artist you'll root for, and Carrie-Anne Moss is the attractive FBI agent who is morally opposed to torture. She also delivers great performance. Michael Sheen is quite good as the villain who has planted WMD devices in three American cities, although his physical visage isn't quite evil enough. While the premise of "Unthinkable" is a bit far-fetched, the film itself is decent and has an excellent cast, great acting and a good script. Overall, the film is very realistic and thought-provoking.

  • My Rating: 6.00/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
  • IMDb: 7.3/10

Sunday, June 27, 2010

[6.25/10] Dorothy Mills (2008)

Dorothy Mills (2008)

Short review: "Dorothy Mills" is more of a psychological thriller marketed as pure horror, but it still contains enough elements to get the attention of horror junkies, who want to see something more than just a gore. There is great variety of scares in "Dorothy Mills". Set in Ireland, Dublin based psychiatrist Jane Van Dopp travels to a small island where the troubled girl lives. Whilst working on the case she begins to suspect the multiple personalities are more than just figments of Dorothy's imagination. Undoubtly, the biggest surprise here is the performance of newcomer Jenn Murray as Dorothy. Knowing that this movie was small budget and comparing her performance with the rest of the cast, one can only be amazed by her raw talent and presence. The debut of Jenn Murray is spectacular and this young unknown actress is stunning performing different characters with her multiple personality disorder. Dorothy is a flawless character, not only thanks to Jenn Murray, obviously, but also because the writers did a marvellous job creating this character. The photography of Irish cliffs is stunning too. All in all, "Dorothy Mills" is refreshing, mysterious, pretty intense, and brilliantly-acted psychological thriller, that deserves to be seen.

  • My Rating: 6.25/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 100% (1 Review)
  • IMDb: 6.1/10

Saturday, June 26, 2010

[8.00/10] Tesis (1996)

Tesis (1996)

Spanish thrillers are rather rare but this one might be special as it's one of the first movies made by Alejandro Amenabar, the man who would surprise the world with "The Others" starring Nicole Kidman. The thriller genre is a difficult genre. And being a pure genre film, like this one is. It's very rare that you see a thriller that works as well as "Tesis" does. The story is about Angela, a young woman who is writing a thesis on violence in the media, in order to get her degree in communication science. Doing research, she gets to know Chema, a fellow student who is obsessed with violent movies. Angela finds a snuff video of a girl tortured to death, Chema recognizes the girl as a former student from their school, who disappeared several years ago. Angela and Chema get themselves into great danger, trying to find out who killed the girl. The direction is exceptional in this movie. The construction and the interesting visual nature of the filming is truly wonderful. The actors are all adept at adding nuance to their performances. Angela is the only person you actually can trust in the film. You never find out anything before she does. Ana Torrent works fine portraying her. Thrilling from the first to the last minute, and sometimes quite shocking and disturbing, "Tesis" is a movie that will definitely not disappoint you if you're looking for suspense. But not only is the movie tense, thrilling and hugely entertaining it also makes some very interesting points in the questions why people are fascinated with death and violence.

  • My Rating: 8.00/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 71% (6.8/10)
  • IMDb: 7.6/10

[8.00/10] Taxidermia (2006)

Taxidermia (2006)

Told in three parts, "Taxidermia" is about the last three generations of Balatony males, a trio of men each weirder than the next. Each member of the Balatony family seemed to exhibit the physical and spiritual traits of an animal – Morosgoványi as the lustful rabbit, Kálmán as the gluttonous pig, and Lajos as the vainglorious bird. "Taxidermia" is exhaustively demented and disturbingly grotesque, however I can't recall when such unrelenting ugliness has been so transformed by the beauty of cinema. The director, György Pálfi, has done an almost miraculous job presenting the very essence of what is displeasing to the senses in the most achingly alluring and captivating manner. One may not notice just how complex this film is until the final scene is played out in masterful fashion. The acting is very good, and the performers manage to make their deviant characters oddly human and sympathetic despite the increasingly surreal nature of the film. Technically, this film is extremely well-made - amazing camera angles, style, music score, and special effects. The cinematography of the film stays true to the different eras the three generations of men experienced individually. It is pretty disturbing however, and it's variety of extreme close-ups include genitalia, self-surgery, barfing, masturbation, and of course, taxidermia. "Taxidermia" is outrageous, nasty and carnal, from start to finish, but never vulgar in its approach and execution. It's also visually captivating, unique and thoughtfully original!

  • My Rating: 8.00/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 80% (6.7/10)
  • IMDb: 7.0/10

Friday, June 25, 2010

[9.25/10] Toy Story 3 (2010)

Toy Story 3 (2010)

Back in 1995, "Toy Story" became Pixar's first masterpiece. In 1999, "Toy Story 2" became another and also one of the most well-received sequels of all time. Fast forward to 2010, Pixar completes their trilogy masterpiece with the highly intelligent, sophisticated, energetic, emotional, fun and visually stunning "Toy Story 3". Film's plot may be simplistic, but its subject matter challenges the viewer to connect with the characters. The toy characters are given complex problems that the audience cannot help but get sucked right into. Built on themes such as togetherness and learning when to let go, "Toy Story 3" is properly rated, but at the same time offers a ridiculous amount of maturity that's injected right into the heart and minds of its characters. "Toy Story 3" is movie magic at its finest. Unlike many animated sequels that come out today, this third chapter retains all of the charm and intellect from the previous films without ever coming off as cheesy or cheap. "Toy Story" franchise has one of the most interesting and colorful animated characters. Woody has always been a loyal friend to Andy and he is willing to make sacrifices to save his friends. Buzz is brave and heroic and is always there to lend a hand to Woody and the gang. The other characters like Slinky, The Potato Heads, and Rex all have unique characteristics, but are all equally as likable. "Toy Story 3" is an absolute technical marvel, too. The animation is top-notch and breathtakingly beautiful, with extremely detailed models and environments sporting flawless lighting. Characters have excellent facial expressions and look like they could be touched in real life. The movie sounds great as well, having top class voice acting from the likes of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack and more. The score by Randy Newman is effective, emotional and nostalgic. I can't really comment on the 3D effects, since I saw this film in good old fashioned 2D, and I didn't feel like I was missing out at all. All in all, "Toy Story 3" plays to its strength - its characters and its witty, moving script, and in doing so boils up an engaging story rich with legitimately bitter-sweet themes of separation, loss and transition. It's not just a great piece of animated storytelling, it's also an absolutely brilliant piece of film-making.

  • My Rating: 9.25/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 98% (8.8/10)
  • IMDb: 9.2/10

[7.25/10] Robin Hood (2010)

Robin Hood (2010)

Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood" is set up as a sort of a prequel. There is very little 'robbing from the rich and giving to the poor' going on here. Instead what we get is an origin story. The film finishes with the stage finally being set for the Robin Hood story we are familiar with. And that's one of the reasons why I really enjoyed this movie. The script is convincingly packing the pre-legend of the all-known outlaw into a 140 minutes long film with enough time for its characters. Some light and funny scenes involving Father Tuck and the three fellows of Robin save the middle part of the film from drifting into a slow, boringish story development. One of film's best elements is the ingenious and long-delayed pairing of fellow Aussies Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, both almost universally acknowledged as two of the best actors of their generation. After seeing the film as it is, it is impossible to imagine anyone else in their roles. Their romantic chemistry does not so much sizzle as simmer, but the intoxicating yet subtle tension that exudes from each glance and word exchanged, fills their scenes with spirit and energy. The supporting cast all offered enjoyable performances, but it did feel too much was crammed into the 2 1/2 hour film, leaving some likable characters too little screen time. The mood of "Robin Hood" is one of dirt and grime, and the medieval setting itself is very grim. But it still looks glorious and there's always something happening to please the eye - there are numerous breathtaking shots of the sweeping English countryside or the tumultuous sea. Overall the movie is produced on a very large and epic scale. There is a bit of CGI going on, but it's so subtle you wouldn't even notice it. With 2010 version of Robin Hood, Ridley Scott and Russell Crow once again deliver an action-packed adventure that is filled with lush scenery, epic battle sequences and likable characters, wrapped neatly around the solid and quite believable origin story.

  • My Rating: 7.25/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 44% (5.4/10)
  • IMDb: 7.0/10