Monday, May 2, 2016

Man in the High Castle

Existence is complicated. Existence is weird. Existence is a novel. That's probably how a marketing tagline would look for the book written more than 50 years ago by P.K.Dick. Probably one of the first tries of alternate history where WW2 had a different ending, which got a Hugo at that time. And brought recently in a series that deviates quite a bit from the original, but offers though enough to catch the viewer, and keeps a decent level of PKD feel in it ... At least for the first season. We'll see for what's following ...

Unfortunately, I don't have the proper mood to extend the description, but considering that I'm lately neglecting my blog, I said it might be a good idea to catch up at least with a brief recommendation :)

"It is far from easy to be a good man. In fact, as one gets older, it becomes more and more difficult to know what a good man is. Yet it also becomes increasingly important to at least try." (Man in the High Castle, series I, episode 10)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Remember "Cloverfield"? I'm writing again in a hurry, at 4:30 AM before 2-3 hours of sleep, after which I have to prepare my luggage and get to the plane. So don't ask me to search my blog and check how much I rated it and when I did that. All I remember is that's a forgettable movie. "10 Cloverfield Lane" is a whole different story ...

I had one "serious" reason to watch this movie: I like Mary Elizabeth Winstead (MEW). I did not expect to see much more than the alien invasion shot a la Blair Witch in the first part (I suppose that's what happened there considering the events presented now, because as I said, the first iteration is forgettable). So, what's the story here? A careful fellow (played extremely well by John Goodman), not to say a paranoid one, built a bunker. When the events in the first movie start, he decides to use it. By chance (or not) on the way to the respective compound his path intersects with Michelle (MEW). By hitting her car = so the poor girl ends in crotches, and also in the bunker, because well ... she needed to be rescued. How much was this actual help, how much not, in what shapes the monsters come in this movie (as stated by the poster), who else resides in the bunker, who wants to get in, who wants to get out, and other questions :) find their answers in the movie..

"10 Cloverfield Lane" has something of "Dawn of the Dead", "Shining", "Alien", "Misery", "Panic Room", and maybe others, put together. Not directly referencing them, and definitely not in this order as consistency of material. The dynamic of the movie is excellent. You have a start with lots of thrills that might make you think on Goya's line that "sleep of reason produces monsters" who are more horrible than anything else. After that we have a calm settling, when the sleep of reason doesn't seem exactly a sleep, and therefore it can't give birth to monsters. Just that, towards the end, without notice, to have a shocking blow that brings us to the final and gruesome showdown. But surprise ... that's not the final showdown, where we actually have another type of enemy, and also seemingly some other type of action. You can say that it's still a "run for your life", but I - going back to the list above - have seen an almost instantaneous passing (spoiler) from Jack's wife in "Shining" (much better in MEW's version, as subjective as I might be) to the rebirth of Ripley from "Alien" (much better than Noomi Rapace's version in "Prometheus" for all aspects of that part). And I doubt it can be said we have the same character :) Well, see it and judge for yourself ;) ...

Rating: 4 out of 5

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Kon-Tiki (2012)

I have another blog entry to write, but first I have to cover fast something else. Which actually follows my fault of saying last time that Norwegian movies are cold. Well .. they are, but "Kon-Tiki" seems to be an exception.

Somewhere in a corner of my mind where the memory wasn't erased yet, some info was retained somehow sometime, telling me that this movie's subject is an expedition in an ocean somewhere with a more particular mean of transportation. That's all. To conclude: perfect to watch before going to sleep. Fail. I've seen all the story of a journey made on a .. raft, built by centuries old design, from Peru to French Polynesia (6900km), driven by a group of 6 crazy Norwegians, all of them surviving till the end.

The movie is the real version of the classic epic stranded-on-the-wide-sea story (who is not actually stranded in this movie). Meaning, the type of film that presents a ton of problems that show up in the middle of the ocean. The unbelievable part is the happy ending (a real one), and the movie somehow manages to keep that spirit up from start to finish = you don't really get a reason of doubt. And this comes in a context where is impossible not to think that in 9 out of 10 cases the ending would've been different. Not here ...

Rating: 3 out of 5

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Royal Affair (2012)

I managed to see "A Royal Affair" in two rounds, during last weekend, after having the movie on my "to see" list since around 3 years ago when it stirred some interest among the European productions that typically don't get into other cinemas besides their origin country. What we have here is a "history piece" made in Denmark, which tells us a political episode happened there, probably not very known, and let's say ... rather surprising ...

Why surprising? Well, first, a bit of history: we have a Denmark at the end of the 18th century, where the French Revolution movement didn't get yet. The state ruling is still dominated by the noble class, the church enforces very conserving rules, torture and executions are normal punitive measures, etc. On top, we also have an insane king ... harmless apparently considering he's used without any difficulty when signing the ruling council's decisions. There's still a problem .. actually two: 1. the king must have some heirs, so with or without his will he's married with a queen 2. the king must be calmed down somehow, so he's also getting a personal physician. "Bad choice" of options for both of the newcomers. Not for the country, but for the ministers who are suddenly getting some unannounced opposition. Getting back to the surprising part, somehow spoiling the plot a bit, in this whole context, a small town doctor manages somehow to gain the full power in the country for something like two years ... How that ends, and why we don't have only the doctor in the poster, remains to be seen in the movie.

"A Royal Affair" is an interesting picture. I don't know when I've watched last time another Danish production, and definitely it's been a while since seeing a non-American historical film. Still, either because I didn't have the right mood to watch another real case based drame, either because I thought that sometimes it's moving to a cold and dry direction more close to a Norwegian film, I can't say that I've seen something that impressed me much.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Saturday, March 26, 2016

In Darkness (2011) | Son of Saul (2015)

I finally got to see "Son of Saul" in a cinema filled with people probably brought there by the hype created around the best foreign movie Oscar award of this year. By chance, I've seen also "In Darkness" recently, other older nomination to best foreign movie, no award there. Let's see why I've put these two together ...

"In Darkness" is based on a real story. A sewer worker from Lwow, a Polish catholic, hides in the town's underground a group of jews during WW2, saving them from camp imprisonment. For a price. Initially. With minimum involvement in their sewer inhabitants life. Initially. The movie evolves gradually to an outcome that we can consider, let's say happy, when after more than a year in underground the survivors get to see the sunlight again.

"Son of Saul" is a fiction where a guy named Saul, inmate in Auschwitz charged with collecting bodies from gas chambers, decides some day that the corpse of a child deserves a proper burial instead the standard incineration. And also decides that the ritual for that is has priority over anything else. So he starts looking for a Rabi. The outcome is not happy (and I don't want to hear about artificially interpreted metaphors contradicting this conclusion).

The general story context in both movies is a delicate subject and it's not something to discuss on which is better than which. Considering the movie making on the other hand can be compared. "In Darkness" did not impress me with anything. "Son of Saul" did ... on the negative side. I've seen one of the worst camera work in a production on which you're supposed to have high expectations. I've heard praise on the editing. It's preposterous. The movie is really hard on the viewer's eyes. The camera is almost permanently close to the main character tracking him everywhere. In some shots you want to see more, but no ... no chance ... The framing is 4:3, so really no chance. With all the risk I can compare this with a 3rd person game in which you don't have a zoom-out option. Sometimes you get a change in the camera position, which makes things even worse. If it was from start to finish tracking the main characters at least we would've had something original, a continuous shot like in Lubezki's Birdman (well ... letting aside the horrible framing). I don't want to hear stuff like it brings us close to the character's feelings, etc ... Eye-tiring is eye-tiring. What's good in "Son of Saul" is the acting. Technically it's bad.

Bout movies are rough. Both movies bring the main character to a point where he sacrifices more than what can save just because he wants to save. The difference is the concrete, real situation in "In Darkness" where the will to save targets somebody alive, besides the concrete, imaginary situation in "Son of Saul" where who's to save is dead. And again, this time I'm not interested in what's beyond concrete .. you give me a real life documentary with all its misery, then leave the concrete there .. cheap metaphors meant to deepen the atrocity seen there are not appreciated. I prefer the one in "In Darkness" with finally getting out to the "light" from the sewer. Both movies shock. "Son of Saul" makes it more often. Sufficiently to become a new "Hotel Rwanda" for last year's Cannes jury, after the Romanian "4,3,2", and more recently, having not much competition in winning the Oscar. I can recently observe that a Cannes movie = fancy = must shock, otherwise the jury couldn't explain in its infinite wisdom the deepest meaning of the film. "Shock" simplifies all this, because it doesn't require explanation.

"In Darkness" - 3 out of 5
"Son of Saul" - 2 out of 5