Onto this week's MOVIE REVIEWS!
TANGERINES (2014) Director: Zaza Urushadze
I honestly didn't know they grew "Tangerines" in Georgia. Georgia, the former Soviet Republic that's still to this day, who's independence is still a source of contemptment wit Russia. There's a lot of the country's history that I'm still looking up myself, but basically, at some point in the country's history, here was a major Estonian immigration community that moved to the country at one point, and then, during a war in the early nineties which was, I think and somebody can correct me, basically a Civil War, although one side was mostly Chechen mercenaries on the side of, a region of the country called Abkazia. You'll have to excuse me for my lack of history regarding this area of the world, it's actually quite rare that a film from this area hit on my radar. "Tangerines" was the first movie from Estonia, to get an Academy Award Oscar nomination, although the film is technically a combined effort from Estonia and Georgia. The story involves Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak) and Margus (Elmo Nuganen) a pair of Estonians who live in what's apparently neutral area in the middle of the war. Ivo is a carpenter who lives nearby Margus's tangerine crops which he's hoping to sell as soon as possible to go back to Estonia, while Ivo is more reluctant to leave, one ot the last ones to do so. Soon, there's a battle that breaks through them. Multiple people are dead, and only a Chechen soldier Ahmed (Giorgi Nakashidze) and a Georgian soldier Niko (Mikheil Meskhi) are injured and they bring them to heal them back to health. Naturally, you can pretty much tell where the story goes from here, two enemy soldiers in a house, healing. First they swear to kill each other, then the swear not to, then, they slowly start to get to know each other, etc. The steps aren't unusual per se, but it's told incredibly well told. It's meditative, quiet, and it's completely compelling and engrossing. It's probably more powerful to people in that part of the world than it is to me, although I certainly appreciate the film, but to me it's a very good another typical story about the two sides of a war, able to learn and understand each other, two pawns, finding out what war they're actually fighting about, and the people who are fighting and the people caught in the middle. There's great writing and great performances at the center of the movie, so that's what I recommend most about it. It's a strong feature, and a worthy Oscar nominee for Estonia, and a good introduction for us to cinema from both these countries.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) Director: George Miller
"Mad Max" has always been one of the strangest of movie franchises. For one thing, it's centered around one of the most enigmatic and picaresque main characters in cinema history. Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is..., well actually, there isn't much too him. In the future, his wife and kid were killed, and he got revenge on the people who killed them, a la, "Death Wish" in the first movie, and then that's it. Other than that, he just seems to walk the Earth like Cain or something and running into these strange whatever's in the world. The next strangest thing about the series, is the universe that's created. I guess it's sorta still relevant, but the original series took place, during an era when there was a lot of discussion of oil and gas shortages in the world and it wasn't until "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" did they even introduce the idea of this future where alternative fuels could possibly exist, and the world, is this bizarre combination of reconfigured vehicles and objects from the past to create,... I don't even know anymore. It's just bizarre, this skeletal universe that's created and continually growing, it's definitely unique even among this over-obsession of dystopian and apocalyptic universes we're going through, seriously, we have way too many goddamn apocalypse universes in literature! The other strange thing about this series, is that, the movies continually get better. "Mad Max: Fury Road" is definitely a great film, one of the very best action movies I've seen in years, and this is pure action. It's a long chase scene pretty much, and not much else. We meet Max, as he's been captured and enslaved for his blood for this,...- oh god, how the hell do I describe this place. Well, apparently, there's a place where people can grow things now, and the monster who's taken over and runs the place, has enslaved most of the people, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who was actually the actor that played the original villain from the original film). He's sent out Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to trade fuels with some other clans, but she's taken his wives and gone out on an escape mission to something called the Green Place, because, of course it is in this movie. I had numerous thoughts throughout the film, for one thing, I realized that George Miller probably should've directed "Gladiator" instead of Ridley Scott, 'cause this is the kind of world that film should've been. I also forget just how great a director he can be, and this visionary world of his is absolutely fantastic to sit through. It definitely is a film that plays better in the moment than when you go back and think about it, but it's literally just a thrill ride. The editing in this movie is amazing; if this film doesn't at least get an editing Oscar nomination, than the Editor's Branch needs to be investigated for being bought off, 'cause this is almost impossible to edit and it's done magnificently well here. I don't know how or where or what this even has to do with any of the "Mad Max" movies, or any of them have anything to do with each other anymore, but just as a piece of adrenaline-fueled action, "Mad Max: Fury Road", accomplishes it's lone goal of keeping us on the edge of our seats.
FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (2015) Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Yes, I'm recommending "Fifty Shades of Grey". Cause it's a fantasy. Yeah, this has been annoying me for a while, but I think we've all become so obsessed with, I don't know, "Lord of the Rings," King Arthur, "Game of Thrones", whatever lore that we've all pretty much become obsessed with, you know, back before we started learning to read, I think we've forgotten what that other kind of fantasy is. Look, I'm not gonna pretend this is a great piece of literature, I read the book, I wrote a blog about the book already, it's trash, and not even good trash, but it's not trying to be great literature either. It's a fantasy, and yes, it dives into the consequences and mindset of it's characters, but that's just padding to make a book have some kind of structure, all Harlequin books have them. All movies should have them too, but despite that, this isn't realistic, as a movie, a story about BDSM, as anything, but it's a fantasy, the same way that a wet dream is a wish you're genitals make, and it's one that I can actually get behind, and that smack in the ass. Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), is a 4.0 GPA in English Romantic Literature virgin who meets Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) a rich 27-year-old multi-billionaire businessman bachelor who every girl wants to date, and young Anastasia begins to date, almost against her will, no pun intended. Things get iffy when it turns out, that Christian has a playroom which basically was a raid of Kink.com's studios, and... alright, I'm not going over the stupid plot. Let's get down to the basics: "Is the movie any good?" Yeah, it's well-made, it's well-shot, mostly well-acted, I don't quite think Dornan is cast that well to be honest, he not really the suave devonair type to pull off this character, although I don't think too many people are, (I'm not sure which character is more unrealistic really.) and this is a tough story to really adapt well to the screen anyway, but I think they did an okay job. Now, is it sexy? Well, yeah, actually. It's not NC-17, and that's unfortunate, it really should be, but it is pretty erotic and despite the cop-out of the last sex scene, I don't know if they needed much more than what they showed, and I'm not sure if they showed too much more that it would've still been sexy, so I'll say that it was successful. Plus, let's face it, this is there aren't enough of these films these days. The erotic thriller/romance is basically a dead genre and it shouldn't be. There's better movies than this one if you actually want to see a good movie about a BDSM romance, "Secretary" or "9 1/2 Weeks" comes to mind, but this is basically a fantasy expanded to a movie because it was so popular. So, on that note, I'm recommending it. As a fantasy, it holds up, enough. Not by a lot, but I'm taking it. We're not getting "Fatal Attraction"'s or "The Big Easy"'s anymore, not in America anyway and until we start making more of them, this will would me over. I wish it was a little better, but it is a fantasy of the mind, it's allowed to not be exact.
I'll SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS (2015) Director: Brett Haley
Reading a few of the reviews of "I'll See You In My Dreams", I'm wondering if somehow I watched a different movie. Some people really liked this film apparently and I barely remember this film at all, despite having just watched it. I mean,-, yeah, I'm barely wondering now why I'm even recommending it and apparently it got a lot of praise. The movie begins with Carol Peterson (Blythe Danner) putting down her beloved dog. She's alone and her only main outside companionship involves playing bridge with some friends of hers at a nearby retirement community, played by Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place and June Squibb, basically playing variations of the characters they're all known for playing before, and that's fine, and they're entertaining. She also begins engaging in a tender friendship and romance with Bill (Sam Elliott) and just based on those idea, it's worth recommending, 'cause the dynamics between these actors with at least a decent set of dialogue and story is good enough to watch, but other than that there's not too much here. It's a cute little, I wouldn't even say it's a full story, it's basically a character piece, about very subtle character change, and that's fine, and can be spectacular when done well, but this is just a nice little film independent film, but honestly I'm kinda stumped about this one. If you take one element of the plot that I'm not explaining, then, this movie is basically just a week or so in a life of a character. It's actually kinda underwritten, like the actors come in and basically create the roles from scratch, it almost has an improvised feel to it now that I think about it. "I'll See You In My Dreams" is just an average film of getting old and coming to grips with some of the things that entails. I wish it was more than that, but that's all it is.
EXHIBITION (2014) Director: Joanna Hogg
"Exhibition" is about two artists and the townhouse they live in that they're arguing with each other about, although you might watch the whole movie and not even realize that. The "Exhibition" in the title, is hard to describe, but it can either be the house itself, or the art that's made in it, or both. The film mostly consists of the wife, D (Viv Albertine) posing half naked in front of her window in various poses, which is actually part of her art as she's some kind of performance artist. Sometimes we she her trying to place her body in places around the house and whatnot, and then, we see her and her husband, H (Liam Gillick) together, usually having sex, not always, although, usually together, usually naked. The dynamic between them is the voyeuristic appeal of the movie. Trying to get ahold of them, knowing that, there's definitely something between them but what? This isn't a movie that provides a ton of exposition, but it's intriguing enough to observe. There's no resolutions or anything of that nature, it's basically just, like we are, outside of the window, looking in on D performing, or is she performing, or is everything a performance, including their marriage? "Exhibition" straddles those lines even if I'm not quite positive it knows what to say about it. The film is visually fascinating no matter what's on screen, sometimes 'cause we're trying to figure out what's happening and what's onscreen. "Exhibition" is precisely like staring into a painting, trying to figure out exactly what we see in it, or we see in them. "Exhibition" is one of those movies I could watch multiple times and see or think something different about it. I guess it's easy to see and say there isn't anything there, but no, this is definitely a film that looks at this, dichotomy between art and artists and how the personal moments reflect upon one's art and vice-versa.
I WISH (2012) Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
I watched "I Wish" after watching Hirokazu Koreeda's last film, "Like Father, Like Son", which was a great film about two families who find out that their kids were separated at birth and are now going through the process of inevitably switching the kids back as both the family and the kids must deal with their own emotions and experiences. "I Wish" also has a lot of similar themes; it's about two brothers who were separated after their family got divorce, with one kid Koichi (Koki Maeda) went off to live with his mother (Nene Ohsuka) , while his younger brother Ryu (Ohshiro Maeda, yes they're real-life brothers) went off to live with his father (Joe Odagiri). and then begin living in different parts of the country. Koichi soon learns that there's a bullet train that's being built that connects the two different cities and he gets an idea that you can make a wish while looking over the two trains as the pass each other, then the wish could then come true. A few other kids hear about his idea, and they decide to begin making a wish too and onto the train they head, to a point between the two cities. I won't go into all the details, but there is something nice and innocent about, you know, these children running around Japan, without adult supervision, okay, it's weird. I tried, and I just didn't get the same emotional core with this film that I did with Koreeda's last film. Not that it's bad, quite the contrary, it's a little slow, but it's not a bad film however; it's just either one of those films where you're either gonna buy into the fantasy aspects of it or not, and I didn't quite buy into it. It's got some touching moments and as a kid's adventure tale, it's harmless and enjoyable, if a bit too long and elongated edited-wise for me to fully engross in it.