This Week's Film Reviews (Mar 23, 2012)

22 Mar 2012

The big one opening this week is THE HUNGER GAMES, the most anticipated film so far this year.

Also going on is Cinefranco, in its 15th year – a celebration of francophone film.

FOOTNOTE (Israel 2011) ***

Directed by Joseph Cedar

Israeli films are known for their dead seriousness.  Israelis often make films about their past, religion and politics.  Writer/director Joseph Cedar’s (known for his lighter work such as CAMPFIRE and BEAUFORT) latest entry is full of anger, fury and tension.

The film tells the story of a father-son rivalry; Eliezer (stage comedian Shlomo Bar Aba) and his son Uriel (Lior Ashkenazi) are both eccentric professors in Talmudic Studies at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.  Eliezer specializes in minutiae, his only claim to fame a footnote in an obscure tome.  Uriel takes a broader approach that brings him accolades.  Then suddenly Eliezer learns that he is to be awarded the prestigious Israel Prize.  But in a darkly strange turn, Uriel is forced to choose between the advancement of his own career and his father’s.  But in his choice his fury is unleashed, to both his lazy son and his long suffering wife both of which just take the abuse.

It would be interesting to see what would happen in an American film as wives and sons would definitely give more than s*** back.  Acting is good, story is well paced out and the music (sounding like a Bernard Hermann score from a Hitchcock thriller) heightens the tension.

The film won the Cesar the Best Screenplay Award at Cannes this year and an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.  There is really nothing wrong with this film except that audiences might find the film too intense.

ONE LIFE (UK 2011) ****
Directed by Michael Gunton and Martha Holmes

BBC Earth films’ nature film is comparatively more if not as captivating than the Disney Earth films like AFRICAN CATS and WATER.  In ONE LIFE, there is no restriction to African cats or fish or animals in the Polar region.  Almost all the animals (and insects) are included in this otherwise fascinating documentary.

The film celebrates the beauty and continuity of life, and hence the appropriate title.  It begins with the birth of several species, goes on to survival by focusing on both predator and hunted in the animal and insect Kingdom.  The film ends with mating of male and female of different species.  The link of one segment to another appears superfluous but all things considered, the film flows quite smoothly with all the connections made.  Daniel Craig narrates with his stern James Bond voice.

as in all films with shots on predator and hunted, violence is inevitable.  The younger crowd will likely cringe at the scene where the cheetahs devour a captured ostrich.

The camera marvellously captures some amazing sequences.  It is a wonder how much time and effort have gone into obtaining the precious moments.  Among the most spectacular are the hatching of baby octopus, the trapping of insects by the Venus Fly Trap, the circling and hunting of fish by the dolphins, the rescue of a baby elephant stuck in the mud of a swamp and of course, the savage cheetah/ostrich sequence.

Needless to say, the film is highly educational.  I am sure there are many segments and things here never imagined by the most knowledgeable of audiences.

The message in this doc is that all species share one life on the planet and that this planet is precious to the survival of all living.  Though the film does not explicitly demonstrate the message, it seems mandatory that nature films of this kind deliver some message.

THE RAID: REDEMPTION (USA/Indonesia 2011) ****

Directed by Gareth Evans

THE RAID was a major surprise at the Toronto International Film Festival last September. It clearly ranks as one of the best action movies of the year, the film voted by the public at TIFF as the Best Midnight Madness film.

The Indonesian film, shot and filmed in Indonesian traces the escape of a SWAT team trapped in a tenement run by a ruthless mobster and his army of killers and thugs.  The film focuses on one SWAT member, Rama (Iko Uwais, who also choreographed the fight sequences) and his expectant wife.  She hopes he can return home safely from work daily.  But this day is different, as the SWAT team takes on a sort of suicide mission.  Rama is a martial-arts (Indonesian Silat) kicking and boxing expert.

Evan’s film is all action from start to finish.  But with Rama as the protagonist, he keeps the story in focus and the human element in.  From then on, the audience is on the edge of their seats with non-stop action.

The film works mainly from the excellent fight sequences.  Every martial arts move, every kick or killing is swift but clean and the audience can also clearly see the grimaces on the faces of the guys being hit.  But mostly the sound effects are amazing.  Besides being clear, the imagination of the sound technicians must be credited.  There is one sequence in which the sound evolves into a soft but high pitched tone, the sort one experiences on a flight landing.  The fights are exciting.  And one swears that Evans and fight choreographers Uwais and Yayan Ruhian (who plays Mad Dog) have figured out more than one million different ways of being killed.  The extended fight sequence between Rama and his colleague against the superior skilled Mad Dog is one to remember.

Despite the used storyline (corrupt cops, psycho villain with super fighting expert bodyguards, traitors and heroes), the action sequences will not disappoint.  But beware as the film is filled with blood splattering and violence.


Best Film Opening: The Raid: Redemption
Best Film Playing:We Need to Talk About Kevin
Best Action: Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol
Best Drama: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Best Foreign: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and King of Devil’s Island
Best Comedy: Casa de mi Padre
Best Family: Dr Seuss’ The Lorax
Best Documentary: One Life

Avoid: Friends with Kids

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