Sunday, November 30, 2014

El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes) (2009)

Today's film is El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes).  It comes to us from Argentina, and is the winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.  It didn't really read as a mystery to me; more like a crime drama.

Benjamin Esposito is a retired deputy who is writing a novel about one of his most difficult cases.  The crime happened over 25 years ago, when a woman was raped and murdered.  He visits his former coworkers and other people affected by the crime, and learns more about it as he goes along.

Benjamin has always been in love with his superior, Irene, but the love has never been quite returned.  She reads his draft of the novel. It ends with him riding on a train and her chasing after it on the station, you know, like the most cliche movie move ever.  She tells him how ridiculous that is, and if she was doomed to be alone for the rest of her life, then why didn't he take her with him?  So, he asks her out and she tells him it will be complicated.  Will they end up together? We don't know.

Benjamin also visits the victim's husband's house.  That's where he learns more about how he coped with his wife's death as well as his response to the killer's freedom.  Overall, it was a good film, but it wasn't anything outstanding.  I will give it a 7/10.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Badkonake sefid (The White Balloon) (1995)

Today's film is Badkonake sefid (The White Balloon) and it comes to us from Iran.  It's a pretty simple film with some decent children acting (child acting? I don't know).  If your kids are able to read subtitles (or if you describe it like I do) they might enjoy this film too.

So, in Iran, people are getting ready for the new year celebration.  This isn't the worldwide new year in January everyone celebrates, this is the solar new year, which next will happen on March 21st. Sort of like a Spring Equinox celebration.  Anyway, everyone puts a goldfish in their house to welcome new life for the new year.  A little girl named Razieh desperately wants a new goldfish.

Her family's pond in the courtyard is full of goldfish, except she wants to buy one, because you know how kids are.  Razieh reminds me of my daughter, Azalea, in a lot of ways. Except the speaking part of course.  They are both determined to get what they want and are very stubborn.  Also, they can whine like nobody's business.

Finally, the mom relents and lets her go buy a goldfish.  They cost 100 tomans, and she has a 500 bill she gives her.  I would have never given her money much less let her go by herself.  She almost loses it a few times, and finally it falls down a grate.  Some adults try to help her, and some don't.  Later, her brother comes and helps her fish it out.  Even though Razieh was careless in dropping the money, she was mature enough to figure out how to retrieve.  Still, I wouldn't give my child cash and expect something not to happen.  I will give this film a 7/10.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Captains Courageous (1937)

Today’s film was enjoyed by both my daughter and I together.  It is an old film, but still can be enjoyed by kids today. Today’s film is Captains Courageous.

So, our main character is Harvey, who is a spoiled brat.  His father is a business tycoon, who is very busy doing business all the time.  He shows his love to his son with gifts and money, not by spending time with him.  Harvey is the worst kind of child, who already at his age is using his wealth to get his way and also to be mean to other children.

Since Harvey was suspended from school for his behavior, his dad decides it's time for them to spend more time together.  He takes him on a boat trip to his next business trip.  While on the boat, Harvey falls overboard and is picked up by a fishing vessel.

Harvey soon learns that his money means nothing to these fishermen.  He has to wait a few weeks before going to shore because they're not going to give up on their fishing season.  Nobody coddles him and no one puts up with his whining.  The fisherman who watches over him the most is Manuel.  The only problem I had was having a hard time understanding Manuel, and yes, I speak Portuguese.  I just couldn't place his accent anywhere.  I looked it up, and apparently, Spencer Tracy based it on a Yiddish accent he used this one time in a theater performance.  So, just so you know, Yiddish=Portuguese obviously.

Harvey bonds with his new father figure, Manuel, who spent more time and attention on him than his real dad ever did.  Unfortunately, Manuel dies accidentally before they reach the shore.  At the shore, Harvey is reunited with his father, who is surprised at how mature he's become.  Well no shit, somebody actually parented him during that time.  Moral of the story: Spending time with kids is more important than spending money.  I will give this film a 7/10.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cidade de Deus (City of God) (2002)

Today's film comes to us from Brazil.  It's Cidade de Deus (City of God).  It shows the history of a slum (favela) near Rio de Janeiro, and how the drug trade affects residents there.  Many of the actors in this movie are from nearby neighborhoods.  They couldn't actually film inside the real City of God, because it is too dangerous.

It starts off in the '60s, where kids watch older teenagers commit crimes and learn from them. One kid, Lil Dice (later Lil ) starts off robbing a hotel and killing it occupants, and as he grows up, uses his thirst for killing to control the entire favela.  He deals drugs, and literally kills off his competition.  

Another character, Rocket, also grows up in the favela, but dreams of being a photographer.  He starts off small, but gets his chance when a photo he takes of Lil Zé and his gansters gets published in the newspaper he works at.  Meanwhile, a war erupts between Lil Zé and Carrot, the last remaining rival, which is made worse by their endless supply of weapons.  Rocket gets caught up in the war between the drug lords and the cops, when all he wants to do is take pictures and not die.

I liked how the camera shook sometimes.  It really showed the hectic pace of the scenes.  Other than that, it flows nicely from decade to decade as we see how the drugs take over the neighborhood.  It also shows that in what looks like a beautiful beach resort city has areas that are filled with crime and violence, that often go forgotten, and I think that's true in a lot of cities.  I will give this film an 8/10.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ringu (1998)

Today's film, Ringu, comes to us from Japan, and basically started our obsession with Japanese Horror films in the '90s.  It relies on tension and mystery to carry the story.  There are no jump scares, and no gore.

It starts off as an urban legend, anyone who watches a certain film will die within a week of seeing it.  Reiko Awasaka is a reporter researching the deaths of the teenagers that watched this film.  Her niece passed away of an apparent heart attack, which we know really came from watching the film.

Throughout the film, we follow Reiko as she uncovers the mystery of the film.  She also watches the film. So, she knows the film will kill her, but she watches it anyway.  She also makes a copy for her ex to watch.  They learn about who created it and where they last live, so they go up there.  Reiko's ex uses his straight up magic psychic powers to look into the past and see Sadako, who created the video as her curse.  Also, their son watches the video because they didn't lock it up properly like they should have.

They see that Sadako's dad pushed her into a well, which they determine is close to the site where the video was found.  They go there, and enter the space below to find the well. They decide to go into the well to find her body.  So, yeah, it's pretty gross how she's done there when she finds the skeleton.  Reiko's time is up, but she survives.  As a result, they believe that they have broken the curse.  But they didn't.  So, her ex dies and Reiko realizes why she lived and he didn't.  She had made a copy and he watched it.  So, to free yourself from the curse, you have to make a copy and make someone else watch it.  She has to find someone to watch a copy in order to save her son.  That's where the name Ringu comes from, it has nothing to do with an actual ring, it refers to the cyclical nature of Sadako's curse.

This movie was okay, but I think I already knew too much about it anyway.  So, it really didn't affect me as much.  I haven't seen the American remake yet, either.  I am giving this film a 7/10.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Out of Africa (1985)

Today’s film is Out of Africa.  I watched this film purely for the landscape shots.  I think that the countryside of Africa is absolutely gorgeous.  I would totally move there if not for the malaria and other diseases they have there.
Our main character, Karen, married for title and money, not for love.  Big mistake there.  She moves to Kenya from Denmark with her husband with hopes to start a plantation.  But her husband changes his mind, and his idea for a coffee farm loses them money.  Meanwhile, Karen falls in love with the rogue big-game hunter, Denys, played by Robert Redford. She totally cheats on her husband with him, but it’s okay, because it’s true love.

Meryl Streep did a great job in this movie as Karen, and her character holds the movie together.  Originally, she was not even considered for the part because the director didn't think she was sexy enough.  She got the part because during her meeting with him, she went all out, wearing a push-up bra, low cut shirt, and everything.  You gotta do what you have to the land the big parts.

Much romance and drama happens, and then Denys dies in a plane crash.  So that’s the end.  It would be a typical cheating-on-spouse love story, but what really sells it is the beauty of the surroundings.   I liked how they tried to keep their stuffy European ways even in a wild setting.  Some parts drag on, but it is an overall decent film.  I will give this film a 6/10.