Friday, November 25, 2011

Eu cand vreau sa fluier, fluier (If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle)

Another not so great movie from Film Movement.  I've said before that while some Film Movement films aren't that great story wise, they show a glimpse of life in another culture that might make the movie worthwhile.  If I Want to Whistle does so only if you're interested in the culture of a Romanian prison for juvenile offenders, and then it doesn't even do that very well.

Silviu is about to be released from the juvenile lock-up, and his mom returns to Romania to take Silviu's little brother back to Italy with her.  She had ditched her family years before, and Sivliu had been taking care of his brother.  He looks forward to resuming his caretaker role upon his release.  Already distressed about his mother's actions, he gets into trouble and jeopardizes his chances of being released, so he takes the pretty prison social worker hostage.  Chaos ensues.
How do you get what you want? Hint: not like this.
Desperate men do make desperate choices; I realize that is a reality of life.  But I get frustrated with this type of portrayal, in which reason and rationality seem to be tossed aside by the filmmakers.  This film had difficulty getting from point A (desperate young man) to point B (hostage situation).  It reminds me of the old cartoon, where the scientist has a blackboard full of equations, and in the middle it reads, "Then a miracle occurs. . . ."  If I Want to Whistle is not without some decent acting, but it's lacking in exposition.

Bottom line, 1 1/2 stars.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Un homme qui crie (A Screaming Man)

I finally published a new movie review Monday, after a 17-day break!  On the one hand, I haven't been watching quite as many movies lately.  On the other, I've watched higher-than-normal number of dogs. 

Calling A Screaming Man a dog may be a bit too strong, but I have to say it fits the pattern of most of the Film Movement movies I have watched recently: a well-made film that presents an interesting snapshot of a particular cultural milieu, while telling a rather uninteresting story.  In this case, Adam and his son Abdel work at a hotel pool in Chad.  Adam was a swimming champion in his heyday; the decades since then have been dedicated to the pool.  With Chad in the grips of a civil war, and the hotel under new ownership, Adam loses his place at the pool and struggles with his purpose.
Screaming on the inside?
Despite the loud title, A Screaming Man is a pretty quiet movie.  Not necessarily boring; there are a few laughs and likable characters.  But it does lean toward being a snoozer.

Bottom line, 1 1/2 stars.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

La sconosciuta (The Unknown Woman)

Irena, a Ukrainian immigrant, seems obsessed with an Italian family, but never approaches them directly.  She befriends the doorman in their apartment building and the family's housekeeper, rents an apartment across the street, and stalks the family.  Eventually, she gains their trust and becomes their housekeeper (after killing her friend, their current housekeeper!).  Gradually we get hints of her motivation.  When a bad dude from her past begins to call, then shows up, we learn that she was actually a slave who escaped by violently attacking her master.  Flashbacks reveal the horrific nature of her captivity, eventually tying into her obsession with the Italian family.
She's watching . . . what's she watching for?
The slow reveal of Irena's past and motivations make this movie.  As Irena's past catches up with her, things begin to spiral out of control, throwing Irena's whole project into question.  I am reluctant to reveal much more than that; this movie is best enjoyed knowing little about the story.  I will say, as a word of caution, that the flashbacks to Irena's captivity, though brief and fleeting, have some disturbing images. 

The Unknown Woman is a little creepy, not horror movie creepy, but creepy in the sense of an almost understandable obsession.  Irena crosses the line, but as she does so, I sympathized with her plight.

Bottom line, 3 stars.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Green Hornet

I'm a sucker for super hero movies.  I don't enjoy the dark, brooding heroes so much, like Batman.  Goofy heroes suit me fine.  I wasn't previously familiar with the Green Hornet radio and television shows, so I can't vouch for whether The Green Hornet movie's goofiness captures the personality of those earlier incarnations.  I can vouch for this: Seth Rogen captures the personality he portrays in his other movies, that of an annoying, overgrown kid, who's mildly funny but not funny enough not to be annoying.
Jay Chou as Kato outshines Rogen.
In The Green Hornet, he plays Britt Reid, the good-for-nothing playboy son of a newspaper publisher.  Due to his father's unexpected death, he is thrust into the role of publisher.  Not satisfied with publishing stories in the paper about crime, he decides to become a crime fighter.  It just so happens that his father's chauffeur, Kato, is a martial arts expert and an engineer/inventor/weapons expert who can make anything; Kato becomes Reid's sidekick, and together they fight crime in some rather unorthodox ways.  Their crime fighting exploits are entertaining, the action and special effects are well done, and the story is actually OK.  Rogen doesn't quite kill the movie, but I would have liked it much better without him.  I guess I can handle action stars adding comedy better than I can handle comedy stars doing action.  At least in this case.

Bottom line, 2 stars.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Choking Man

I'm on a pretty good string of disappointing Film Movement movies.  The strength of the Film Movement films is primarily the cultural record.  In the case of Choking Man, the story revolves around a dishwasher at a diner in an ethnically diverse neighborhood in Queens.  Jorge, an Ecuadorian immigrant, can scarcely speak, due to his shyness, or perhaps even an undiagnosed autism or similar condition.  Above his washing station, monopolizing his view all day, hangs a Heimlich maneuver poster.
Jorge has very little to say.
The acting isn't bad, and Jorge gets a little bit of sympathy since he's so pathetic.  But the build up of the story is a slow fizzle.  Even the surprise element at the end doesn't have much impact.  I didn't completely choke on Choking Man, but, in spite of a good effort, I couldn't completely swallow it.

Bottom line, 1 1/2 stars.