Quick Review : Force Majeure (2014)

Rotten Tomato Score – 93%
IMDB Score – 7.5

Directed By – Ruben Östlund
Starring – Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Kristofer Hivju, Fanni Metelius, Vincent Wettergren, and Clara Wettergren

A family on a ski holiday in the French Alps find themselves staring down an avalanche during lunch one day; in the aftermath, their dynamic has been shaken to its core, with a question mark hanging over their patriarch in particular.

What would you do in a situation where your life could be in immediate danger? It’s the classic fight or flight scenario that really can’t be answered until the time has come. Tomas and his family found the answer to that question after their vacation lunch is interrupted by a controlled avalanche, or so it seems controlled. What follows is a unique, entertaining, cringe worthy film that deals with the aftermath of such an event. I didn’t expect it to be so funny.

I like to think that I would be the kind of man that stares danger in the face and puts up a fight. Fact is, I have no idea if that’s true or not. I’ve been in some situations where I was able to handle myself. I was in a car accident, helped rescue a hurt ATV rider calling for help in the woods, and two friends pass out on me, one from heat stroke and one from exhaustion. All these however were instances where I wasn’t involved or wasn’t involved minimally. The car accident was a low speed rear ending. My life has never truly been in danger. The lives of my friends and family have never been in danger. I’m waiting for the day that I’m walking down the street with somebody I care about and get approached by a man with a knife. Would I run? Would I shield my loved one? I’d like to think the latter, but can I be sure? The reaction is pure instinct and that’s where this film stores all of it’s interest. It provokes these thoughts in the viewing while simultaneously conjuring thoughts about the characters in the film. It was very entertaining.

The film should have been included in this years Oscar ceremony, but what are you going to do? There were so many scenes where family members and friends are trying to get a hold on what happened and how they feel about it. Those instances show the true person behind all the presentation we show other people. It was fun getting to see how this is handled, by both the people affected by the decision, and the person who made it.

Did I mention Tormund Giantsbane is in this? His beard is still amazing. Don’t know what I mean? That’s too bad, I’m not telling.

The film is also shot very well with many standing shots of the Alps with the action happening around the frame, like a moving picture. There was so much white filling every space that it really made you appreciate the darkness and the shadows, much like how we explore the parts of ourselves that aren’t bright and in your face.

It’s a great film.


Film Review : The Lunchbox (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 96%

Directed By – Ritesh Batra
Starring – Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Lillete Dubey, Nakul Vaid, and Bharati Achrekar

A mistaken delivery in Mumbai’s famously efficient lunchbox delivery system connects a young housewife to an older man in the dusk of his life as they build a fantasy world together through notes in the lunchbox.

Would you count this as a Bollywood movie? Every time I think of Bollywood movies, THIS scene sticks out in my mind…

My knowledge of Bollywood has been reduced to a horse sliding under a truck as if it has been frozen in place. I think I may have the notion that all Bollywood films rival the low budget B movies that we see in grindhouse theaters in America. My ignorance couldn’t be more apparent. The country pumps out more movies than one could count and while a lot of them consist of special effects shots as shown above, there are a great number of quality cinema coming from India. While I haven’t seen any of his films, the work of Satyajit Ray has made it’s way to the eyes of American film nerds. I think I should make the nice Indian woman who works at my library happy and finally take her up on her suggestions to watch his films. Tonight though I decided to start with a more recent film from the country of India, The Lunchbox.

My local art house was playing this for a couple weeks but I couldn’t get myself to make the drive over there. This is the problem with living across the river from New York City. I fucking hate going anywhere else. The theater is a half hour drive west and I just couldn’t find the time. I was interested in it because I have this weird romantic film itch I’ve been scratching lately so when it was available on Netflix DVD service I added it to the top of my queue.

If this film was made by an American production company, Rachel McAdams and Richard Gere would have starred and it would have been directed by Lasse Hallstrom. It would have rivaled Nights in Rodanthe or whatever that slop of a movie was called and would have been attended by every house mother in the nation. The film centers around two adults in India who correspond through lunch due to an error in the infamous lunchbox delivery system. The woman, played by Nimrat Kaur, is neglected by her husband so when she finds out she’s been making lunch for another man, played by Irrfan Khan, she continues to do so. The two build a relationship through letters and what looks like delicious food and BAM we have our movie. You see what I mean about the America thing? They’d call it “Lunch for Two” and it’d gross 100 million dollars. Somebody is going to read this and it’s going to happen. Watch.

The film ended up being such a pleasurable watch. I think I watch films like these every once in a while because my viewing tendencies lean towards a lot of dark horrible shit. People dying or people killing. Rape. Ghosts. Mafia. Zombies. Violent Crime. All usual stuff going through my eyes and ears. I needed this. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a walk in the park. There are some pretty heavy emotional scenes in the film carried out by some pretty fantastic acting by Kaur and Kahn. The film builds the relationship and character of these two people with subtlety and care. There were no long conversations setting up backstory or details that didn’t need to be there. The details were revealed as they needed to be. The screenplay was tight but contructed in a way to let the film breath. Not a lot happened in the first hour. That was okay though. We were treated with some nice food preparation and Indian scenery with a bit of character development thrown on top. By the end, I was fully involved with how these two people ended up. The ending by the way…perfect. They didn’t insult my intelligence by assuming I don’t have a goddamn imagination. I like when filmmakers let me end the story with my mind. I don’t need a bow every time.

Like I mentioned, Kahn and Kaur were wonderful, Kahn especially. Ever since I saw him in “Life of Pi” I’ve been completely impressed with him as an actor in everything else he’s been in that I’ve seen. He’s on my list of completely underrated by extremely talented actors. Hell, even his small role in The Darjeeling Limited was great. Kaur had the scene of the movie. She was able to convey a whole range of emotions with just her eyes. Also, he conversations with her Auntie upstairs were fun to listen to.

The film is a great watch when you’re feeling shitty or just want to watch a warm, light hearted film about a small romance in India. It was genuine and superbly acted and written.


Film Review : The Orphanage (2007)

IMDB Score – 7.5
Rotten Tomato Score – 87%

Directed By – J.A. Bayona
Starring – Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep, Mabel Rivera, Montserrat Carulla, Andrés Gertrúdix, and Geraldine Chaplin

A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, which used to be an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend.

It’s funny how full of shit I am. I told myself that I would be watching a horror movie a night because it’s my favorite month of the year, October. You know how many I’ve seen this month? Two, including this one. That’s pathetic. My viewing schedule has developed a case of the crazy and I take what I can get. Tonight I took a walk down to the library to find some interesting films to watch over the week. I wanted mostly horror films but I couldn’t help take out a few Criterion films which I’ll be watching over the weekend. I guess I’ll just have to dust off the old Netflix account and browse the horror selection there. I’m sure I’ll be disappointed. The Orphanage has managed to escape me for years so I decided to finally pay it a visit which actually turned out to be a wonderful idea.

I loved the film for the most part. You don’t get many horror films like this.

Slow. Detailed. Well acted.

It reminded me of Ti West in the way he lets the atmosphere and natural creepiness of setting scare the viewer. I haven’t seen his newest film (heard it’s on Netflix, I take back my statement above), but the guy just knows how to make a horror movie that appeals to all of my senses. He still likes to throw at least one jump scare in though, a tactic that I find tired and overused. This is where The Orphanage differs itself from the pack. I honestly don’t remember one single jump scare. Sure there were some quick camera movements and figures appearing from a spot where there was once nothing, but those just felt earned. There was no ROARING CRASH OF SOUND accompanied by a lightning quick edit to some deranged murderous face, or better yet a fucking cat that jumps out of a closet. This film was just plain old creepy. It’s also a ghost story. I love host stories. I’ve been telling, reading, and writing them since I was a kid and this ghost story satisfied me completely. I was into the overall premise of the film. There were some holes that I should have bothered me but somehow didn’t given the fact that the movie could exist without filling them. Actually, I’d say the story was the weakest link of the whole film. It certainly pulled me in but I was really hooked by the overall aesthetic feel of the film. I made sure to turn the lights out and crank the volume for this and the film returned my diligence by giving me a great atmosphere for a horror film. The acting was also top notch, especially from Belén Rueda. She’s a natural.

Like many, I had a problem with the ending. I just felt like it was a total cop out to what could have been a seriously disturbing and unique conclusion. Those who have seen the film will remember the basement scene. Credits should have rolled from that point. The movie was over. What came next was just a very easy way to end what was a totally original and uneasy film. I understood the reasoning behind it but I honestly didn’t care for what happened to the characters involved. I didn’t shed a tear. I wanted the disturbing option A.

The ending disappointed me but the film overall couldn’t have been more enjoyable. I loved the creepiness. I loved the acting from Belén Rueda. It was a good scare on a nice, windy, chilly October night. I should do this more often.


Suggested Viewing – The Others, The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth, Tale of Two Sisters, Les Diaboliques (1955 version, fuck that shitty remake)

Film Review : Museum Hours (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.0
Rotten Tomato Score – 94%
Netflix Watch Instant

Directed By – Jem Cohen
Starring – Mary Margaret O’Hara and Bobby Sommer

When a Vienna museum guard befriends an enigmatic visitor, the grand Kunsthistorisches Art Museum becomes a mysterious crossroads which sparks explorations of their lives, the city, and the ways artworks reflect and shape the world.

With such recent film I’ve seen being action packed adventures featuring monkeys riding horses with AK47s, infinite stones and gun wielding raccoons, and train revolutions, films like Museum Hours are able to center you back into a place of calm observance. This film from director Jem Cohen went pretty much unnoticed last year as it traveled the film festival circuit. A film about two people meeting in a museum and talking about life and art isn’t going to draw great crowds. A lot of feedback from the film was that it was boring and tedious. Critically is was revered for its humane look at what it means to connect with people and yourself through art. I can agree with that. I can also agree that this is not a film for everybody. It’s an acquired taste.

The film centers around the relationship Johann and Anne. Johann, played by Bobby Sommer, is a very kind guard at a nice art museum in Austria. On one of his shifts he meets Anne, a woman from Montreal who is in town to be with her cousin who is very ill. Mary Margaret O’Hara, who plays Anne, gives a very layered and subtle performance as she seems to blend perfectly together with Sommer. The two remind me a lot of an older Jesse and Celine from the “Before” trilogy. They have such chemistry with each other and slide between pleasant conversations as if it were happening naturally. Anne particularly has an immense amount of depth to her. She hasn’t seen her cousin, who is in what seems to be a coma, for years but she seems saddened by what has happened to her. She sets the stage for the theme of the film, which is an examination of our own lives as if we are examining the intricacies of fine art. Through her friendship with Johann, Anne is able to start to figure out her life. Johann is our narrator. He describes his early life and the life he has picked out for himself now as a museum guard. He explains how he observes the patrons to the museum almost as if they are part of the galleries he helps maintain. When he’s not watching people he is admiring the art and listening to the words of the tour guides doing their jobs right next to him.

The film is more of an essay than a full narrative. There are plot devices that move the story forward but what we really have here is a look inside what makes people human and the stages our lives go through. The relationship these two had seemed very real to me and I had trouble imagining that the conversations they were having were scripted in any way. It’s a neat little film that will teach you about people but in a nice way will teach you a hell of a lot about art. There are a few segments in the film that are just people talking about paintings. The museum has many pieces spanning many subjects and time periods. Each room is like a little aspect on what it’s like being human. It was a nice little film.


Classic Film Review : The Killer (1989)

IMDB Score – 8.10
Rotten Tomato Score – 100%

Directed By – John Woo
Starring – Yun-Fat Chow, Danny Lee, Sally Yeh, Kong Chu, Kenneth Tsang, and Fui-On Shing

A disillusioned assassin accepts one last hit in hopes of using his earnings to restore vision to a singer he accidentally blinded, only to be double-crossed by his boss.

Am I an asshole? Am I an asshole for not liking this film? Look at those ratings. 8.0? 100%? I’m going to just assume that I’m a horrible person for thinking this film was one of the cheesiest things I’ve ever watched. I’m a bad person and you should stop reading. Seriously John Woo? SHRIMP HEAD?

I’ll be honest off the bat, I haven’t seen many Woo films. Growing up I had a steady dosage of Jackie Chan and Jet Li, but anything related to John Woo fell by the wayside. I’ve seen his American films but this was my first dive into his films with Chow Yun Fat. It started poorly.

First let me state that the police in this film are horrible. They may possibly be the most insanely inept squad of men I’ve seen in film. They let people get assassinated easier than whoever ran the parade in Dallas. Chow Yu Fat was sitting on a boat with a gun pointed at a very important man whom the police force KNEW could be assassinated and nobody spotted him. They were at a goddamn rowing race. There was literally a thousand people watching the water and they couldn’t see Chow Yun Fat with a bad mustache and a rifle. Then when a bullet blasted through his head, they covered him up and said he fainted. I could have spread that cheese on toast.

The whole film was cheese. The WHOLE film. Woo tried to portray serious emotion but when one of the characters is screaming over the loss of his buddy Shrimp Head, yeah you lost me. The movie also suffered from cliche action movie tropes such as endless ammo, endless villains, and endless times you get shot in the chest before you die. I guess I should be appreciating the action scenes and taking an 80s film for what it’s worth but I’m not going to do that. I hope Hard Boiled is better than this or I’m not even going to touch John Woo again.

Wait, Red Cliff was fucking awesome. This must have just been a mistake. Also, I know get the John Woo dove jokes now. I have arrived to that level of movie reference.