Mini-Review Round-Up #1

This is something I’m going to do periodically. Basically, I will employ many means to qualify films for the BAM Awards be it either seeing the film theatrically acquiring a DVD either through purchase or on Netflix. This could lead to an influx of several new titles being seen in a short span of time which would be difficult to write full reviews for. At least this way the film gets some of its deserved attention and you get some notion of my thoughts on them.

If you have questions or comments feel free to respond. I always get back.

As always please refer to My Rating Scale for an indication of what the scores indicate and if you’re curious where these films might make a dent in my personal awards please check my BAM Considerations.

The Films

The Human Resources Manager

Papil Panduru, Mark Ivanir, Noah Silver and Irina Petrescu in The Human Resources Manager (Film Movement)

This was a film I was fortunate enough to win from Film Movement in a Facebook contest. Film Movement is akin to a book-of-the-month club for films. They send you award-winning foreign/indies usually before they’re released and that you can’t find near you. If you want to get a sampling of their films they stream many of their titles. The discs include a short as well.

This is an Israeli film about an HR man who faces a bit of a firestorm after one of his employees has been killed in a car bombing and he through a bureaucratic mix-up was unaware of her employment status at the time. Much of the film deals with how he tries to make amends for it and then becomes a journey as he returns her to her native Romania and struggles to get her buried.

The story is rather well told and moves along at a good clip. There are some surprises in store. A lot of the acting is quite good, however, the character and performance of the journalist very annoying.

8/10

Brotherhood

Jon Foster and Trevor Morgan in Brotherhood (Phase 4 Films)

This is a film about a fraternity initiation ritual gone terribly wrong.

This is one that starts off very strangely but do stick with it. There are surprising and intriguing plot twists in store and in a situation that’s extremely tense throughout there’s some really great acting especially the performance by Trevor Morgan who has the talent to become a breakout star but just hasn’t had that one project yet.

I got this film from Netflix and actually watched it twice in two days. It’s the standout of the bunch.

10/10

Even the Rain

Juan Carlos Adiviri and Gael Garcia Bernal in Even the Rain (Vitagraph Films)

This is an interesting tale about a Spanish film about Columbus in the New World being shot in Bolivia during civil unrest regarding price gouging for public water.

The film-within-the-film does fade into the background but there is a fantastic moment of symbiosis. There are some fantastic performances in this film and when the most notable one isn’t by Gael Garcia Bernal you’ve got a pretty good film on your hands.

Political sentiment pervades this film in a way that are not detrimental to enjoying it but rather necessary.

9/10

I Saw the Devil

Byung-hun Lee in I Saw the Devil (Magnet Releasing)

This is a tale of a man who seeks to avenge his girlfriend’s death at the hands of a ruthless serial killer.

There is a lot to this film that is done well in terms of cinematic technique and in terms of structure as well, however, there is a moment when my suspension of disbelief explodes and it turned my opinion on its ear. That happens about one hour in and there’s 90 minutes of film to follow and my sympathies don’t change they dissipate entirely and I’m left just watching the carnage and at the end I’m supposed to feel gutted but I don’t. Sorry.

5/10

Black Death

Eddie Redmayne and Sean Bean in Black Death (Magnet Releasing)

This is a tale of knights in England during the outbreak of the Bubonic plague seeking a village in which the plague has not come yet and there are rumors of necromancy.

The time of the Black Death always has been and I believe always will be an era which is rife with story possibilities and has to this date been under utilized. This film not only features stellar performances but takes even-handed swipes at all religions and uses their precepts very astutely in building this tale. It’s very intelligently done.

9/10

Hobo with a Shotgun

Rutger Hauer in Hobo with a Shotgun (Magnet Releasing)

I can’t say it better than a newspaper headline in the film does: Hobo stops asking, demands change.

There’s a lot to love in this film and the first thing you have to realize going in is that it’s outlandish grindhouse to the nth degree. If that redundancy didn’t make it sink in nothing will. The dialogue is frequently absurd and well-delivered. The cinematography is fantastic and the images are brilliant and saturated. There’s just one major story element which just didn’t work for me at all but I’ll leave it at that. Standout performances by Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Gregory Smith and Jeremy Akerman, who will always be Mr. Frawley from Pit Pony to me.

9/10

Trollhunter

Trollhunter (Magnet Releasing)

It’s a found-footage mockumentary about a group of college students who meet a real-life troll hunter and follow him on his exploits.

There are some very smart things and concepts in this film that are never fully realized. There’s a silly, short tag to the entire mess. At some point the pace just never picks and it galumphs along at an agonizingly slow rate and then no real payoff to boot. It’s hard to quantify this but it may have been the most boring cinematic experience I’ve had this year.

4/10

The Other Woman

Natalie Portman and Charlie Tahan in The Other Woman (IFC Films)

A young woman deals with the difficulty of the loss of a child, a relationship with her stepson and being newly married.

This is a film which is interesting structurally and gives Portman a chance to really shine. When I saw the trailer it smacked of Stepmom but what I was hoping for was a lack schmaltzy melodrama. I got that but it was replaced by a lot of armchair psychology. There are some surprises and also good performances by Scott Cohen, Charlie Tahan and Lisa Kudrow, who for the first time made me forget about Friends entirely until it was over. It just left me wanting a little but it was enjoyable.

7/10

So that’s the first round-up. I’ll try and get it up sooner next time maybe after five films if possible.

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