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This Week's Film Reviews (Apr 15, 2011)

14 Apr 2011

Opening this week are SCRE4M and RIO.

The Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film IN A BETTER WORLD also begins its run.

IN A BETTER WORLD (Denmark 2010) ****

Directed by Suzanne Bier


Life is filled with problems.  The film title IN A BETTER WORLD ironically hints at each of the film’s characters striving to achieve this impossibility, and yet with disastrous results.

Anton (Mikael Persbrandt) is a doctor who commutes to war-torn Africa, where he confronts a steady stream of tragedy.  Back home in Denmark, Anton’s estranged wife (Trine Dyrholm) is concerned about their 10-year-old son Elias (Markus Rygaard) getting picked on by a class bully.  But when Elias befriends a new boy Christian (William Johnk Nielsen) in class, their alliance threatens to destroy the town idyll forever.

Bier chooses to tell her tale from the point of view of Christian.  The move is a correct one with the film building in intensity from start to finish.  The drama that connects the brutal life in an African refugee camp is contrasted with the everyday routine of a sleepy Danish town.  But both share the common problem of what to do when one is totally bullied.

Director Bier must like the underdog.  In the film too, there is a racial comment about the Swedes (she is one) being inferior to the Danes as the story is set in Denmark.  That comment is never challenged, which goes with the flow of the film where it is a better person not to provoke a fight.

Of all the actors, it is William Johnk Nielsen that steals the movie.  With his angelic blue eyes and blond hair, he embodies the perfect looking, intelligent Danish boy, reminding one immediately of Damien in THE OMEN films.  IN A BETTER WORLD follows this horror structure in a way, and in fact this could be argued to be a horror film.

One main flaw about the film is the way Bier sensationalizes (if that be the right word used) two key scenes.  When Christian (William Johnk Nielsen) takes the bicycle pump to bloody up the school bully, the segment is so effective that it would not be surprising I the audience stood up an cheered.  The other is when Anton, bringing along the 3 children, confronts the car mechanic who had slapped him in the face to ask for an apology.  The confrontation results in three more slaps in the face.  Anton drags the kids out telling them that the mechanic is the big jerk and loser for not apologising.  But Anton clearly looks the coward and the one lacking the respect of the children who hilariously start changing the term Anton used for the mechanic to biggest as*hole and biggest pr*ck.  For a film whose message is pacifism as opposed to violent revenge is clearly compromised with these two, ironically, very dramatic segments.

The film won both the 2011 Academy Award and the 2011 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.  It is clear to see why.  The film deals with pacifism, hot current world issues in Africa and is a moving riveting film from start to finish.  But flaws and all, there is no argument that IN A BETTER WORLD is a gripping film with not a dull moment.

RIO (USA 2011) ***
Directed by Carlos Saldhana


Who would dislike like an animated film about colourful singing birds?  To add to the film’s box-office potential, Fox sets the film in Rio (Rio de Janeiro), the capital of Brazil during Carnival, the largest street celebration in the world.

The result is a very colourful film, especially in its visuals and CGI effects made even more invigorating by being shot in 3D format.  But the film is catered to the younger crowd with the adults basically having to tolerate a bit more in RIO.  RIO is also filled with many colourful characters, in fact too many, with many wasted ones ending up making no impart (like Wanda Sykes as a Canadian goose).  The potential for humour is not fully tapped.  RIO is not as funny as the recent animated features RANGO or HOP, but in terms of animation (for example, in the details and colour), RIO more than makes up for it.  The best sequence is the Rio carnival parade where the climax is set.

The colour begins with the title character called Blu (Jason Eisenberg), a rare blue macaw captured by illegal smugglers from the jungles of Brazil and brought to Minnesota where he is domesticated by Linda (Leslie Mann).  A scientist and love interest for Linda, Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) convinces the two to travel back to Rio to breed with a female macaw (Anne Hathaway) or the species will be ended.  The story is no marvel.  The two lovebirds are captured by other smugglers but with the help of an assorted group of birds providing some humour and guest voice characterizations, the smugglers are caught and the two set free to breed.  But not before a great escape during the Rio carnival.

RIO ends up typical family entertainment with more colourful and better animation than recent entries despite its slant towards a younger audience.

SOLUTIONS LOCALES POUR UN DESORDRE GLOBAL(France 2010) ****
Directed by Colin Serreau


BAD FOOD, GOOD FOOD (English title) is a riveting documentary about the devastation that industrialized agriculture has inflicted on traditional farming.  It is directed by one of my favorite French directors Coline Serreau.

The documentary is standard in structure.  Serreau makes her point, often working the audience into a frenzy and offers viable solutions.  Her film has scenes illustrating her points and includes world renowned scientists and agriculturalists.

As a documentary, Serreau injects many segments that keep it intriguing.  Her film shows and explains why pigs eat each other’s tails, why featherless chickens were created and then undone and mind boggling statistics of 200,000 Indian farmers committing suicide, many by drinking pesticide.

Her interviewees are impressively chosen and just as spirited.  Indian physicist Vandana Shiva looks ready to murder those responsible for killing the earth.  French microbiologists Claude and Bourguignon magnify a clump of organic earth that shows
live organisms aerating the soil and turning it into a “couscous” texture.  Her film moves across France to India, Brazil, Morocco and to the Ukraine.

There has been an absence of Serreau’s films in North America.  I have seen three of hr fiction films 3 HOMMES ET UN COUFFIN (3 MEN AND A BABY), LA CRISE and ROMUALD ET JULIETTE.  Her films are very original, funny and inventive but share the same trait that they are very spirited.  A key scene in LA CRISE occurs when the wife of a typical family brings home her taxi driver lover for the family dinner. The husband and hr kids chide her.  But the wife breaks down saying with full convincing emotions; O really don’t care!  He makes me happy and that is all that matters!”  It is of great pleasure to see Serreau tackle in a documentary a key global issue and devote her spirit, emotions and care to make her point.  It is a very important step to get the planet to rejuvenate itself again.

SCRE4M (USA 2011) ***
Directed by Wes Craven


After what was decided to be a trilogy, producer Bob Weinstein decided, with reason, for a 4th instalment.  Combing once again the talents of director Wes Craven (SCREAM, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, THE HILLS HAVE EYES) and writer Kevin Williamson (SCREAM and SCREAM 2), SCRE4M holds the spirit in terms of scares and fun of the best of the SCREAM films.

SCRE4M is one above the normal slasher films in that besides the blood and gore killings, there is the whodunit element.  The identity of the killer behind the mask of ghostface is revealed at the very end with a neat plot twist.  This film is supposed to rewrite the rules of the slasher film – i.e. gays and virgins can now die but what is also cool and not mentioned is the fact that in this film, the lead victim never dies and keeps popping up, instead of the killer.  Audiences and fans of the SCREAM series would die to know if the survivors would be done away in this one, as things are supposed to done differently.  Well, all that can be divulged is that Williamson has engineered a smart, manipulative script.                                                                                                              The story takes place several years after the events of the last SCREAM movie.  Celebrity Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to her home town of Woodsboro on the 15th anniversary of the murders for a tour of her new self-help book, where she encounters former allies now Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette, looking better than in the other films – this actor has been working out!) and entertainment journalist Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), as well as her younger cousin Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts), her best friend Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere), aunt Kate Roberts (Mary McDonnell), and several of Jill''s high school friends. However, with her return to Woodsboro also comes the return of past slasher-killer, who is starting to stalk and kill Jill''s friends and several other people in the Woodsboro area. The killer is now taking reference from horror-movie remakes by basing their murders on those similar to ones committed in the movie STAB, only with more twists on the 21st-century horror movie: in order to survive, Sidney, Dewey, Gale, Jill, and her friends must band together and follow the conventions of 21st-century horror films to determine who the killer is and stop them before the murders spiral out of their control.

Most of the original stars have been recruited for SCRE4M.  Kristen Bell and Anna Paquin have guest roles of teens done away before the credits roll.  Newcomer Hayden Panettiere, looking like a young Tippi Hedren steals the show.  The best and most amusing parts of the film actually occur before the opening credits.

For a film so detailed and accurate on the horror film genre, one would expect dialogue uttered by the characters to be grammatically correct.  In the parking garage scene, the killer ends his sentence incorrectly with the words, “…..you doesn’t”.

SCRE4M is still entertaining cheeky fun.  It will definitely do a good turn (almost everyone I know wants to see it) for both horror writer Williamson are desperate for a hit after directing the disastrous TEACHING MISS TINGLE and Bob Weinstein who could do with another hit for his company.

Best Bets of the Week:-


Best Film Opening This Week: In a Better World

Best Film Playing: Hanna
Best Horror: Insidious
Best Family: Hop
Best Documentary: Solutions Locales pour un Desordre Global
Best Foreign: Winter in Wartime

Avoid: The Dilemma

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