Life

Life

Rating: 2.5/5

From IMDB:
A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

Review:

I actually watched this movie a while ago but found it so unremarkable that I forgot to write a review.

It started out well enough and the photography was quite enjoyable, as expected. The didactic aspect of life in space is not usually portrayed in films of the sort so that was good. Although naming the alien Calvin was a bit too much, in my opinion.
The familiar environment made the team immediately grow on me and I wish the characters had been further developed. The only one that I did like was the first to die. Go figure.

However, after a point, it was bad decision after bad decision and some reactions felt so unnatural that they completely broke the pace and brought the quality of the movie well down. Also, too many developments require much too much suspension of disbelief and my disappointment only grew. Just a tiny example: the alien just happens to destroy the specific thing that causes communications to the exterior to go kaput. Whaaat??

Also, the description of the alien was creepy but beautiful and yet that thing that was described as being brain and muscle and eye in its entirety, suddenly develops a face and linear vision throughout the film. It’s like everything that was unique about the movie was absolutely wasted to make it fall into the same old clichés of amazing graphics in determent of plot.

The set-up for the ending made no sense and made me anticipate it early on. Kudos for originality but it could have been less obvious.

Alas, Life had a few pleasant surprises but overall it was an unremarkable and forgettable film.

The Handmaiden

Ah-ga-ss

Rating: 3/5

From IMDB:

A woman is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, but secretly she is involved in a plot to defraud her.

Review:

The photography in this movie is absolutely stunning. The landscapes are amazing and so are the indoor shots. The manipulation of colour is done masterfully as well.

But other than that I had trouble finding any substance to the film. I enjoyed some scenes, the interaction between actors, but most of them did not feel real so I didn’t really take anything from it.

There are several slow parts where scenes are replayed from a different perspective and it’s mostly interesting for the sexual discovery the characters partake. Actually, there is not much to it other than the sex.

It was okay, different from what I usually watch, but I was expecting something more special, especially after watching such an amazing trailer.

A Man Called Ove

En man som heter Ove

Rating: 4.75/5

From IMDB:
Ove, an ill-tempered, isolated retiree who spends his days enforcing block association rules and visiting his wife’s grave, has finally given up on life just as an unlikely friendship develops with his boisterous new neighbors.

Review:

This was my first experience with Swedish cinema and I have to say I am so pleasantly surprised. I absolutely loved this film.

It portrays the life of 59-year-old Ove as he gives up on life; his routine is interspersed with scenes of his past that tell us how he has become the man he is today. I have to say the performances were right on top. The two actors that portrayed this character were right on. I can see how the young Ove became the older one and why he resents everything and everyone – the light of his life, who made him the way he is, has gone.

I thought this would be more depressing than it actually was. Yes, there were moments when I got teary-eyed because you can’t help but relate to this guy and everything he is and has been through. However, I laughed out loud in more than one occasion and so did other folks in the audience. At the same time it is so tender and touching. Ove struggles all the way but his new neighbours, particularly the mom with her perpetual sunny smile on her face who is not afraid to rant right back at him cannot help but snap his out of his bad humour and make Ove open up to life.

The photography is beautiful. The pace is as well. I thought there would be slow moments but there was no such thing. The scenes are every-day stuff for the most part but the interactions of Ove with other characters or animals or even his monologues at his wife’s grave always have an element or two to perk things up, usually Ove’s humour.

There were only a couple of things I thought were overdone, like the bureaucratic character that seemed too vilified and a few other occasions that were exacerbated for comical value. However even despite that I cannot recommend this movie enough. It really is brilliant, a work of art. I am sure there is something in it that everyone can relate to.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Rating: 3.75/5

From IMDB:
A father and son, both coroners, are pulled into a complex mystery while attempting to identify the body of a young woman, who was apparently harboring dark secrets.

Review:

The Autopsy of Jane Doe started SO freaking well. I was enthralled right from the opening scene, which first few seconds played with perspective and focus. We are carried from a peaceful environment to a grotesque scene where I jumped a little from my seat just by the exacerbated sound of a camera flash. The photography was stellar. The detail, the angle, the light, everything was superb and simply chilling. There’s a lot of play with perspective and the close-ups of simple objects contribute to the eerie atmosphere. For me, it was easily worth 5 stars till then point.

When we meet our two protagonists, father and son who will perform the autopsy on Jane Doe, I was still excited and in awe. The interaction between characters was believable and I enjoyed seeing how those two handled the work and each other, Austin his father’s pupil, trying to learn his father’s business as best as he could. The photography was still amazing and I was immediately hooked by how familiar the creepy workplace worked. These guys could not be more normal and this was their home. Sure, it had the potential to be creepy, but it felt safe and normal, if that makes any sense.

Throughout these scenes there were several suspenseful moments where the director had me slowly nudging towards the edge of my seat. I never knew if something really bad was going to happen. And the fact is, it usually did not, not in the way I am used to. There were no easy scares up to this point. There were several freaky elements that contributed to a creepy atmosphere but all in all it was a serious approach to the reality of two coroners. The gross stuff came so naturally I didn’t ever see it coming until it was in my face. The sounds were so graphic that I actually gagged on more than one occasion.

I really enjoyed the movie till about two thirds or so. Then it all started going downhill for me.
The father’s theory about what was happening seemed farfetched, Austin annoyed the heck out of me cause he kept putting his face in harm’s way and the acting or script was just bad, I still can’t figure out which. I mean, who peeks through a hole, suddenly sees a corpse looking back at him, just nonchalantly begins to figure out the next step? I am ashamed to admit I shrieked in that scene because I was firmly convinced nothing would happen, considering the previous setup, and that guy does even twitch. Eurgh.

Towards the end I felt like such a great work of art was being mistreated for no good reason. The film just became a mockery of what it had been until then – even though the scariest scene of the movie, for me, came then. And when I thought I could not be more annoyed, the last second of the movie proved me otherwise.

I don’t get it. I swear I don’t get how anyone could butcher such an awesome movie, a gem amongst all other horror stuff out there. So yeah, I am still a bit upset.

Fences

Fences

Rating: 3/5

From IMDB:
A working-class African-American father tries to raise his family in the 1950s, while coming to terms with the events of his life.

Review:

I actually watched this movie a couple weeks ago but I have had trouble putting my thoughts about it on ‘paper’.

It’s not that I think the movie was bad… It actually surprised me quite a lot on more than one occasion.

However, even the performances were not very satisfying and I can’t even say why. Everyone was amazing, as was expected. But it’s almost as if some scenes were made to make the authors shine, especially Washington and Davis.
No matter how much I absolutely love Denzel Washington, at some point I just wanted to say okay, I get it, you’re the protagonist! And Viola Davis, who has left me awestruck in performances such as Doubt and The Help, here just came across as either bland or over-dramatic on several occasions. In others I have to admit she was fabulous, just like Denzel.

I really wish I had seen more of other characters and their own story, especially Troy’s son.

Most of the scenes took place in their backyard and boy there were some lengthy monologues. Memorising those lines must have been a pain! But yeah, I actually yawned a couple of times.

Still, I appreciated the events that unfolded and there was plenty to appreciate in the movie. Some supporting actors were pretty darn amazing, especially Stephen Henderson and Mykelti Williamson.
Some close-ups of the characters were chilling and the ordinariness of the scenes portrayed made everything more relateable.

After a point things did feel rushed, though. I had hoped for more closure and, again, to have better insight into the lives of some characters. And the final scene felt almost cheesy and utterly unnecessary. I could not look at Viola Davis’ obviously strained expression.

Fences has an out-of-the-ordinary approach, that’s for sure. Maybe because it’s adapted from a play?
The movie took some turns I had not expected, it is very rich in content, and it addresses many issues that everyone can relate to in one way or the other. However, for some reason I still can’t properly identify, to me, it just failed to completely deliver.

20th Century Women

20th Century Women

Rating: 4.9/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
The story of three women who explore love and freedom in Southern California during the late 1970s.

Review:

My goodness, what a lovely movie! I adored pretty much every single part of it. It made me laugh out loud on several occasions, grow sad, shocked, amazed and nostalgic for a time I didn’t even live. Wow, just wow.

All the actors were absolutely wonderful, in my opinion. All the characters were very different, they had their own voices and struggles and I enjoy getting to know each and every one, even when I could not sympathise with their actions. Everyone is just so real, so genuine.

The camera work was very good as well and the visual effects were appropriate and entrancing. That scene of the ocean… I could almost smell the saltiness in the air.

This movie made me crave for a time when things were so much simpler and reminded me how we take happiness, family and friends for granted until we no longer have those things and are left to contemplate them from afar. It could be a depressing movie, but it is not. I hope you will watch it and that it will have you go through that kaleidoscope of emotions.

The Eyes of My Mother

The Eyes of My Mother

Rating: 4.5/5

From IMDB:
A young, lonely woman is consumed by her deepest and darkest desires after tragedy strikes her quiet country life.

Review:

Boy, am I glad I watched this in daytime.

To say The Eyes of My Mother was chilling is a gross understatement. To think that a child could evolve into something that morbid is absolutely terrifying and even though this is fiction it definitely had me wondering about all sorts of things.

The fact that the film is entirely shown in black and white added to the isolated and grisly atmosphere. The sounds, especially the wind, had much the same effect. And the way the scenes were filmed, following Francisca around, emphasised her gracefulness in all movements, regardless of whether affection or horror inducing.

Being Portuguese, it bothered me that the mother and child characters did not speak the language well, especially when the grown Francisca was obviously native. However, they were both amazing and I only wish I could have seen more interaction between them.

From then on, most of what happens is very disturbing but also very subtle, requiring you to use your imagination to fill in the gaps. I had not even grasped that Francisca’s mother had died until a couple of scenes later. However, there is also plenty of gore, even if muted thanks to the B&W, and the result of this delicate balance is a gruesome film that I am so glad I managed to watch, as it is truly special. There is such a psychological depth to this movie, and a perfect balance between macabre and normalcy that I never knew was possible in a horror film.

Even if not perfect plotwise, The Eyes of My Mother will surely stay with me for a long time. It is one of the few I can safely say I would like to watch again.

Now let’s just hope I won’t have any nightmares tonight.