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This Week's Film Reviews (Feb 14, 2014)

15 Feb 2014

n time for Valentine’s Day, 3 big romantic films open. ABOUT LAST NIGHT andENDLESS LOVE are remakes (not reviewed because of screening ashes) and the fantasy romance WINTER’S TALE.


The $130 million blockbuster has an early Wednesday opening.


GLORIA (Chile/Spain 2013) **

Directed by Sebastian Leilo


            Paulina Garcia won the Silver Lion (Berlin) Award for Best actress as Gloria a 12–year divorcee looking for love once again.  And what is wrong with that as everyone is human wants to be loved.  This she finds in the form of ex-Navy man keeps his life with his ex and two daughters away from her.  Worst still is that he disappears and abandons her for no apparent reason.

When the film opens, the scene is in a club.  At the bar, having a drink is Gloria standing alone, wanting to dance.  She takes to the floor, her sour face turning cheerful as she meets with Rodolfo.  But what expects to turn out to be an edgy, hilarious and maybe eye-opening comedy turns out quite plain with a single layered story of a woman unable to find love once too often.

No doubt Garcia delivers a wonderful both charming and sad performance, but one wishes the script would do more justice to her role than a rather humdrum film abut a failed woman who finally gets her revenge.  She does bare all in the film.

GLORIA was selected as Chile’s entry for this year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar but did not make the grade.

Trailer:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9PrVESAYeA


HERE COMES THE DEVIL (Mexico 2012) ***

Directed by Adrian Garcia Boglian


HERE COMES THE DEVIL begins with a well-executed lesbian scene that progresses from darkness to daylight while in total mayhem.  The audience’s attention is grabbed though one will argue later on if this scene has anything substantial to do with the film’s storyline.

As the eloquent straightforward title HERE COMES THE DEVIL implies, this is a graphic horror film. The story however is short, simple and nothing that has not been seen before in other films in this genre.  While on a short car trip holiday, the children (Alan Martinez and Michele Garcia) of a couple Felix (Francisco Barreiro) and his wife (Laura Caro) disappear one night after an excursion to the hills.  But they show up the morning.  They start exhibit strange behavior.  It becomes apparent to the mother that something is wrong.

But to the director’s credit, he has assembled quite a few scary footages.  The sight of the two children constantly holding hands and going to the hills is enough to awaken the deepest fear in any parent.  The subplot of the deterioration of the husband and wife relationship works well – in fact garnishing more interest than the actual plot of the film.  The local police investigation of the murder of the town’s weirdo also creates Hitchcockian suspense.

But one wishes that there is more to the story that demon possession of the children.  Once that has been revealed in the film, the film loses the audience’s attention.  Bogliano often indulges in excesses of violence, blood and gore to get his story across.  But despite that, director has created enough scares and anticipation from the audience to make up the price of the admission ticket.

The film won Best Horror Film at the Fantastic Fest 2012 where it also swept prizes for Best Director and Screenplay.

Trailer:  http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi2984421401/ 

ROBOCOP (USA 2014) ***
Directed by Jose Padilha


Based on the 1987 Paul Verhoeven classic of the same name, ROBOCOP 2014 is distinguished by the presence of Brazilian director Jose Padilha, famous for his doc on the bus hijacking BUS 173 and his action packed two ELITE SQUAD films.

Though ROBOCOP is pegged as an action flick, the action really is secondary to the more important issues the film addresses such as police corruption, conglomerate politics and crime control.  But when the action comes, it arrives fast and furious.  Yet despite the low percentage of action segment time, Padilha’s film is still compelling to watch as he keeps the audience attention maintained by the use of close-ups and concentration of key emotional factors.

As in the Verhoeven film, the story is set in the year 2028 (actually 2029 in the original, but close enough) in crime ridden Detroit.  OmniCorp wants their robot to oversea crime but the public has voted against it, as they are afraid, for the robots have no human emotions.  So when Officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman from EASY MONEY) is critically injured by a car bomb, Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman) puts the human in the robot, which serves to satisfy the public, much to the delight of Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), the villain of the piece.

The script for both films is noticeably different, though it is doubtful if audiences can remember mucho the original.  Alex Murphy’s last cop partner is removed from the story.  Alex’s wife, Clara (played by Abbie Cornish) has a much larger role and she provides much of the film’s emotion.  But audiences will remember how satirically funny the original is.  This version, the humour is replaced by drama and emotion.

Gary Oldman is excellent as Dr. Norton torn between his principles and the funding of his research program.  Samuel L. Jackson provides the only humor in the film as Pat Novak, a TV personality prejudiced with OmniCorp. His greased groom hair is enough to keep one laughing.  Joel Kinnaman, the Swedish-American actor, in my opinion is the most handsome actor at present, and he is totally watchable on screen.

While the Verhoeven film is definitely the better film showing director Verhoeven at his prime, Padilha’s version is not without merits.  For one, the special effects are stupendous as is the sound, which makes the film ideal to be seen on IMAX screens.

Trailer:  http://www.tribute.ca/trailers/robocop/19492/



Directed by Akiva Goldsman


WINTER’S TALE is director Akiva Goldsman’s (un-credited director for BATMAN FOREVER and BATMAN AND ROBIN) directorial debut but unfortunately, it is an awful one.

Based on the novel of the same name by Mark Helprin, the film is a $46 million fantasy romance with big stars, glossy cinematography and high aspirations, like the plot that deals with destiny, true love and the fight between good and evil.  Unfortunately if a director cannot tell a coherent story, then what would mean is millions of dollars flushed down the toilet.

Within the first 15 minutes of running time, the film, set in NYC, already flips among three times – 2014, 1895 and 1916.  A story that is set in 3 different times that takes place only in the forward direction need not be told going forward and back and forwards in time, obviously creating confusion.  The voiced over narrative (in flowery language – make sure you listen or you would be lost soon) explains what is happening but it is basically telling us to listen as to what will occur onscreen will make little sense.

The plot involves a present day thief, Peter Lake (Colin Farrell spotting the worst haircut in any actor’s career) falling in love with a dying girl, Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay).  The thief is under chase through time by Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe) under instruction from Lucifer (Will Smith) himself.  Nothing else makes much sense.

Farrell, normally not too bad an actor is at a total loss here  as the helpless romantic.  Crowe looks as if he also did besides time travel, film travel, emerging here from His Inspector Javert role in LES MISERABLE.

Never mind the poor story telling and that the film is all over the place.  Nothing is explained.  How did Pearly Soames get the job of miracle crusher?   And the fact that Lucifer (Will Smith looking totally ridiculous here and getting laughs when on is first appearance) suddenly comes into the picture?  So, Peter saves the girl with tuberculosis, but what about the millions of other dying children (like those in India of AIDS)?  WINTER’S TALE is totally set for the romanticized and totally out of sync with reality.

If there is only one reason to see this film, it is for Eva Marie Saint (NORTH BY NORTHWEST) playing the adult Willa who provides the must needed humour and bite to the story.  In the film, a person who dies might transform to a star in the sky.  Well, this film died ten minutes into its running time and turned into a film with a one star rating.

Trailer:  http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/wb/winterstale/#videos-large



Best Bets of the Week:

Best Film Opening: Robocop

Best Film Playing: The Selfish Giant

Best Animation: The Lego Movie

Best Drama: The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Action: The Hobbit2: The Desolation of Smaug

Best Documentary: Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia

Best Foreign: The Great Beauty


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