Anna (2019)

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Direction: Luc Besson
Country: USA / France

With Anna, the 60-year-old French director Luc Besson descends to an even lower level when in comparison with his previous efforts. The director is known for some heavy-handedness and an enduring fondness for having attractive women playing violent characters - Anne Parillaud in La Femme Nikita (1990), Rie Rasmussen in Angel-A (2005), and Scarlett Johansson in Lucy (2014), are some examples.

Wrapped in tawdry schemes, this debilitated espionage action thriller and trashy femme fatale charade is symptomatic of the incapacity and obtuseness demonstrated by the filmmaker over the years.

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The sloppy, tone-deaf script rushes things out when not repeatedly jumping back and forth in time, shaping Russian model Anna Poliatova (Sasha Luss) as one of the most feared assassins working for the government. Lascivious and ultra-violent, she flirts with the KGB and the CIA and dares to play chess with her superiors. Besson, however, contradicts the necessity of having a strong winning strategy and a wider vision. Overdoing the action scenes to the point of ridicule and infusing them with every little cliche you can imagine, he delivers a terrible film. Not even Helen Mirren as the head of the KGB saves Anna from being a torturing experience.

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Gemini (2018)

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Directed by Aaron Katz
Country: USA

I see Aaron Katz’s “Gemini” as a boring C movie. The director, a Portland native, caught my attention in the past with pretty solid moves, cases of the mystery-drama “Cold Weather” and the amusing road trip comedy “Land Ho!”.

Carrying insipid erotic tones, this unemotional new drama turned into a bland detective story stars Zoë Kravitz (daughter of rock star Lenny Kravitz) and Lola Kirke (“Mistress America”), respectively Heather Anderson, an ennuied movie celebrity, and Jill LeBeau, her loyal personal assistant. After a last-minute refusal to participate in a Hollywood movie that had been in production for five years, Heather makes a bunch of people furious, including Greg (Nelson Franklin), the writer-director, and Jamie (Michelle Forbes), her agent.

Out of the blue and without a purpose, the actress borrows a gun from Jill, who shoots it accidentally in the morning of the same day that she found her friend lying dead on the floor of her own apartment with five bullets in her body. Not only the characters mentioned above threatened to kill her but also her sly ex-boyfriend Devin (Reeve Carney), who desperately seeks an alibi for the night of the murder. Just in case.

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Other persons who have interacted with her recently are Stan (James Ransone), an extremely impertinent paparazzo, top model Tracy (Greta Lee), our celebrity’s secret new girlfriend, and a nosy fan who upset her with a forbidden question about her love life. The one in charge of the murder case is Detective Edward Han (John Cho), who seemed too condescending and trivial in his procedures to solve it efficiently.

Gemini” reveals a blatant tackiness in the way the scenes are mounted and delivers extremely poor dialogues. Although talented, Katz ran out of ideas for his latest effort, arranging the scenes frivolously and setting highly inconsistent moods throughout. According to one of the characters, three factors lead to a killer - motive, opportunity, and capacity. In my eyes, Katz overlooked all of them.

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Mother! (2017)

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Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Country: USA

Only very few great filmmakers didn’t stumble in their careers. Stanley Kubrick is certainly one of them, occupying the top of a list that also includes Billy Wilder, Luis Bunuel, and David Lean. As an example of the present time, I can point Paul Thomas Anderson.
 
This introduction is just to say that this is not the case of the American helmer Darren Aronofsky, who conquered me with superlative works such as “Black Swan”, “The Wrestler”, “Pi”, and “Requiem For a Dream”, but failed to engage with trifles like “The Fountain” and “Noah”. However, if the latter two demonstrated to be shaky and debilitated in their conception, his brand new thriller, “Mother!”, feels highly formulaic and infuriatingly decrepit, not to mention pathetic.

Forcing ambiguity and obscurantism, the director not only messed up his writing with futile symbolism, but also didn’t give names to any of the characters.
Javier Bardem plays a vain literary author who is struggling with writer’s block. He lives secluded somewhere in the country with his insecure, childless wife, embodied by Jennifer Lawrence, who manages and fixes everything in the huge house when not paralyzed with uncanny seizures.

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Even still bonded by love, their life is immersed in cold monotony for quite some time, and nothing better, according to the novelist, than housing a weird, dysfunctional married couple to stimulate creativity. 
The strange man (Ed Harris) is a doctor and also a staunch fan of the writer. In fact, he is dying, and the kind invitation to stay with his idol for an indefinite period of time is accepted like a grace. He brings his nosy, impertinent wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) to stay with him, causing discomfort and anxiety in the confused Lawrence. Serious trouble coincides with the arrival of the strangers’ unbalanced sons.

Up to this occurrence, one still searches for something palpable, giving Aronofsky’s plot the benefit of the doubt. Illusion! From this moment on, the film falls into ludicrous situations, including anarchic home invasions, which not even Lawrence's charm was able to repair. Moreover, Bardem’s character, choosing fame over family, feels phony in his vanity. The actor was never accomplished in his role.

"Mother!" may be visually arresting but it’s hollow at its core, embracing an implausible, nearly-surreal darkness that is inept and devoid of any sense.
As one of the worst movies of 2017, this is a clear sign that Mr. Aronofsky needs urgent help for his next script.

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The Circle (2017)

Directed by James Ponsoldt
Country: USA

The Circle” is a drag of a psychological thriller, in which nothing works favorably. I was expecting something more exciting from James Ponsoldt, a skillful director who brought us little gems such as “The Spectacular Now” and “The End of the Tour”. He co-wrote the script with Dave Eggers based on the latter’s 2013 novel of the same name.

Emergent actress Emma Watson embodies Mae Holland, who enthusiastically embraces The Circle, an Internet-related organization headed by Mr. Bailey (an apathetic Tom Hanks), who is persuasive about his ideas and generous in his gratifications.

Blinded by ambition and boosted by self-confidence, Mae undertakes a delicate role in the company after being rescued from an unsettling solo kayak adventure. Her obsession with the job costs her one good friend and puts her parents in a very embarrassing situation.

Chip implants, fancy minuscule cameras, overwhelming control techniques, and powerful communication systems based on the Internet are all technological baits that ended up being pointless in a story where the dramatic side was ridiculously feeble.

Other films, like “Red Road”, have succeeded in addressing surveillance as a relevant conditioner of freedom, but that is not the case in “The Circle”.
On top of ineffective, intellectually limited, and emotional parched, the film is way too long, lacking proper tension and fluent narrative.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

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Directed by Guy Ritchie
Country: USA

The legendary King Arthur, his powerful sword, Excalibur, and his heroic deeds in medieval times were addressed a few times before in the movies with variable outcomes. Some of them opted for a more classical approach like the interesting “Camelot” by Joshua Logan or “Excalibur” by John Boorman. Some others are a total waste of time like Antoine Fuqua’s 2004 “King Arthur”. To me, the more successful ones were those that added some creativity and a hint of boldness to the tale such as the beautifully unorthodox “Lancelot of the Lake” by Bresson and “Percival” by Rohmer, which are directly related to the topic.

Guy Ritchie also intended to do something creative on “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”, but roundly failed his test. He lamentably relied on too many frivolous fireworks and a lousy plot that among other feeble aspects, lacks fantasy, charm, and any sort of interest. 

The trio of screenwriters, Joby Harold, Lionel Wigram, and Ritchie, were the ones who set up this repulsive machination, which is devoid of any possible magic and mysticism by incorporating giant monsters and terrible slo-mo fighting sequences. The tale takes a similar path and activates the same strategic baits of those terrible apocalyptic catastrophe fantasies embraced by Roland Emmerich.

The story typically follows Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) on his efforts to retrieve the legitimate throne that was taken from him by his evil uncle and king of Mordred, Vortigern (Jude Law). To achieve his mission, he teams up with a small legion of rebels composed of old and new friends, and benefits from the help of Maggie (Annabelle Wallis), the villain’s maid who resolves to help the Resistance.

Over the course of two infinitely tedious hours, we can observe that Ritchie dropped the medieval atmosphere in favor of a sloppy urbanity whose unpolished settings were recklessly framed by the cinematographer John Mathieson (“Gladiator”, “Logan”). Moreover, instead of a king or, at least, a knight, Hunnam looks like a rock singer while the combination of imagery and music could only be useful for a promotional video clip of some heavy metal band. 

It’s hard to believe how the director of the praised “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” could have descended so low.

There is no heart and even less soul in this mish-mashed lackluster film, already one of my first choices for the worst film of the year. 
Do yourself a favor and stay away from this aberration!

The Neon Demon (2016)

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Country: USA / France / Denmark

Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn is capable of the best and the worst. His latest film “The Neon Demon”, which he also co-wrote, confirms his recent lack of inspiration and an increasing necessity of shocking us through stories with no substance. The strategy is somehow related to that one used in his nauseating previous work, “Only God Forgives”, his second association with Ryan Gosling after the well-accepted “Drive”.
As expected, the story is soaked in blood and wrapped in darkness and mystery, however, it fails roundly to bring something original, interesting, or even entertaining to our contemporary cinematic universe.

The film is as vulgar as the world of fashion it depicts, and follows Jesse (Elle Fanning), an ambitious and attractive 16-year-old orphan who signs a contract with an established modeling agency from L.A. with the condition to tell everyone she’s 19. She befriends Ruby (Jena Malone), a make-up artist who seems worried about her well-being, offering prompt help for anything she might need. 
Not only Jesse’s naivety is misleading, but also everything else around her. From photographers to models, everyone seems to have something to grasp and take advantage of, or something to envy in regard to the young and inexperienced Jesse, a sad and lonely rising star in a field of delusions. The only character with a minimum of decency is Dean (Karl Glusman), a young man who nurtures some true feelings for Jesse, but is quickly put aside due to his reluctance to play dishonest games.
In parallel to Jesse’s career account, there’s an uninteresting mystery story regarding the cheap motel where Jesse is installed.

With the music and visuals playing a vital role, Mr. Refn sets up a depressingly macabre scenario where lust and blood intertwine in a surreal way.
His characters are clearly sick in the mind, the tones are morbid, and the posture is tendentiously abhorrent, despite the little moments of curiosity it might arise.
The contrived “The Neon Demon” showcases beautiful women whose intellectual emptiness makes them repellent.
Mr. Refn gets lost in pretentious trivialities and unintelligent strategies that frustrate more than captivate.

Ghostbusters (2016)

Directed by Paul Feig
Country: USA

The new “Ghostbusters”, released by Columbia Pictures and directed by the comedy expert Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”, “The Heat”, “Spy”), is now part of those unnecessary remakes adulterated for the worse.
The comedy, written by Mr. Feig and Katie Dippold, was adapted from Ivan Reitman’s 1984 original version, which starred Bill Murray (he has a brief appearance here too), Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis as three paranormal savvies whose goal is to keep the Big Apple clean from mischievous ghosts and evil spirits.

In this new adventure, Mr. Feig makes a significant alteration, though. He replaces the three original male characters for three feminine ones, played by Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon. While the former two actors had previously worked under the guidance of the director, McKinnon joins him for the first time with a surprising wallop.

Drs. Abby Yates (McCarthy) and Erin Gilberts (Wiig) were partners in a book that considered and supported the existence of ghosts. However, each of them took their own way when the book revealed to be a disappointment in terms of acceptance. 
The two women will enthusiastically reunite again to investigate a serious case related to the haunted Aldridge mansion. Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon), an atypical and presumably gay engineer who researches the paranormal in the Columbia University together with Yates, joins them in the mission that fails to entertain due to its ridiculously forced details. 
Before that, a maleficent ghost was seen flying over the subway tracks by Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a fearless MTA employee who was promptly accepted as a Ghostbusters member due to her curiosity, bravery, and availability.

Besides fighting against countless ghosts - some of them are winged and green like creepy aliens, others take a more human shape or look like toys - the team also has to deal with the Mayor Bradley (Andy Garcia) who considers they operate unsafely and are causing a mass hysteria in the city. However, their main concern is Rowan North (Neil Casey), a freak that is summoning ghosts through his devices and assumes the form of the Ghostbusters’ logo in giant proportions.

With insipid jokes and predictable action scenes populated by uninteresting characters, “Ghostbusters” is a stereotyped comedy that spreads more goofiness than cleverness.

Honeyglue (2015)

Directed by James Bird
Country: USA

“Honeyglue”, a lugubrious romance written and directed by James Bird, got trapped in its own melodramatic tones and couldn’t free itself from that sticky viscosity. 
Fastidiously overstaged, the film never manages to convince and takes a steep decline after just a few minutes.

Morgan (Adriana Mather) and Jordan (Zach Villa) introduce themselves through video footage, adding that what we’re seeing is a digital love letter to each other and a farewell statement. Both have their heads shaved and they convey both assurance and a weird sense of fate.

The narrative immediately winds back to tell their peculiar love story. 
The couple met at a nightclub where Morgan, who was only given three months to live due to a galloping brain tumor, gets super curious about Jordan, a boy dressed as a girl. It was her birthday, and he seemed as much attracted to her as she was to him. Despite the instant chemistry between them, she gave him the wrong phone number while he stole her wallet. The next day, Jordan regrets the bad deed and pays her a visit to return her belongings. However, her parents get shocked with the way he dresses and talks.
Despite this prejudice, the couple falls in love and decides not only to get married, but also live the three months left doing everything that might come to their minds. The enthusiasm leads them to rob a little store, to pay a visit to Jordan’s estranged mother, and to become the center of the attention in a bar – the most contrived scene of the film.

I can’t find a good reason to recommend “Honeyglue”. 
If a story of this nature doesn’t touch you in the heart is because something is wrong with it. The ideas of tolerance, acceptance, and love are conveyed with a deplorable lack of freshness, likely because Mr. Bird has never found the adequate bright tones to do better than overload us with predictability and tedium. Actually, here, the word bright can only be associated to the tonality of its cinematography.

Endless Night (2015)

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Directed by Isabel Coixet
Country: Spain / France / Bulgaria

“Nobody Wants the Night”, a Spain/France/Bulgaria co-production, is a bummer of a drama directed by Isabel Coixet from a screenplay by Miguel Barros.  
I consider it one of the worse, if not the worst feature from the Spanish filmmaker whose uneven career comprises solid dramas such as “My Life Without Me”, “The Secret Life of Words”, and “Elegy”, but also other totally dispensable dramatic exercises, cases of “Yesterday Never Ends”, “Maps of the Sounds of Tokyo”, and “Another Me”.
Last year, the tolerable rom-com, “Learning to Drive”, starring the great Patricia Clarkson and the sober Ben Kingsley, seemed to bring Ms. Coixet back to acceptable standards. But unfortunately, “Nobody Wants the Night”, a disastrous blend of soapy drama and futile survival adventure set in 1908, proves the contrary.

The gifted French actress, Juliette Binoche, who did great in last year’s “The Clouds of Sils Maria”, was helpless to give depth to the character of Josephine Peary, the obstinate wife of the Arctic explorer, Robert Peary, who is trying to be the first man to reach the North Pole.
The super confident, Josephine, rejoices while hunting a bear and is very persuasive when she wants something. An insatiable yearning for her husband makes her embark on a perilous journey to join him. In the company of an experienced Irish guide, Bram Trevor (Gabriel Byrne), and a few Arctic indigenous, she hits the snowy and rocky landscapes with tenacity and recklessness when it comes to facing the hardships of the bitter winter.

Even losing her faithful guide in the way, the impulsive Josephine arrives at the shelter where her husband should be, but only finds one of his fellow travelers whose fingers were eaten away by the cold, and Allaka (Rinko Kikuchi), a smiley Eskimo woman who was also eagerly waiting for Robert Peary.
Expecting a severe aggravation of the weather for the following weeks, everyone departs with the exception of Josephine and Allaka who decide to wait for Robert, the man they both unconditionally love.

If the first part was bad, the second was abominable. 
The verbal interaction between the women is often irritating and dull while they keep trying to overcome the cultural barriers that make them apart.
At the time when their lives become threatened, they finally understand there's no other alternative besides stand together and unite forces in order to survive. During this last segment, both sentimentality and artifice take over the scenes until we get to the meager conclusion.
The cinematography, by Jean-Claude Larrieu, is the only positive aspect of a poor adventure-drama whose script is the weakest link.

Hardcore Henry (2015)

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Directed by Ilya Naishuller
Country: Russia / USA

“Hardcore Henry”, the super-violent directorial debut feature from Ilya Naishuller, is a pointless silliness that received wide acclaim in Russia, its origin country. 

Mr. Naishuller moves in every direction – sci-fi, action, thriller, horror, and even war – trying to convince us of his capabilities through the creation of anarchic scenarios and the manifestation of pseudo offbeat attitudes. Sadly, the best he could do was turning this dystopian nonsense into a terrifying bad movie.

The story is totally told from the perspective of Henry, whose eyes we never see because they are represented by the annoying handheld camera that frantically moves and zooms around.
When Henry wakes up in a space lab’s water tank he can’t speak or remember how he got in there. Estelle (Haley Bennett), the scientist who’s replacing his limbs and reconstructed his body after a harrowing accident, says she’s his wife. All of a sudden, the lab is attacked by a telekinetic villain, Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), but the couple manages to flee, landing in Russia where more mercenaries are waiting for them.
Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) is an enigmatic British ally that rescues Henry while Estelle can’t help being kidnapped by Akan’s persistent troops. 
As a man of many lives, Jimmy is permanently in contact with death. Thus, he wants to make sure he gives the right orientation to Henry, who must find a man called Slick Dimitry and take his heart since it contains the fundamental charging pump that could keep him alive. 
He sets off on an excruciating journey with a triple objective: to prolong his life, rescue his wife, and exterminate the enemies.

The film shows an uncontrollable eagerness in shocking us through savage acts perpetrated by the despicable characters. It uses and abuses of chaotic situations that are often accompanied by a hardcore musical score (just to match its title).
Parched in terms of message and tastelessly directed, the barbaric “Hardcore Henry” feels gratuitous in its brawls, disorganized in its structure, muddled in its storytelling, and compromising as an entertainment.

Love (2015)

Love (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Gaspar Noé
Country: France / Belgium

Movie Review: Disgracefully, Gaspar Noé’s “Love” is one of the worst movies of the year. This whimsical creation from the shocking French filmmaker, author of the interestingly disturbing “Irreversible” and “Enter the Void”, depicts the tortuous relationship of a couple translated into a melodramatic sexual trip to nowhere, part of a null plot punctuated with hideous dialogues and an emotional chaos that feels staged all the time. The film starts with a steady long shot of Murphy (Karl Glusman), a filmmaker wannabe, and his former girlfriend, Electra (Aomi Muyock), masturbating each other at the sound of a classical tune. Open-minded with regard to experiencing drugs and exploring their sexuality, the couple occasionally turns into a threesome or embarks in obscure parties whose only purpose is discovering different people and pleasures among orgies. After taking us into these orgies through spasmodic flashbacks that unsuccessfully try to build a balanced narrative, Mr. Noé clarifies that Murphy has a son with Omi (Klara Kristin), a neighbor who had spent one night with the couple. However, the pregnancy wasn't a result of that particular night, but of an infidelity when Electra was out for the weekend. The relationship comes immediately to an end, leading to Electra’s disappearance and leaving the disconsolate Murphy abandoned to his miserable life and thoughts, which are transmitted by a voice-over along the film. Many scenes translate in a nauseating self-pity and a sporadic hysteria that aggravate even more the tasteless plot commonly illustrated by repetitive and unnecessary 3D sex scenes, psychedelic drug trips, and an overall artificial execution. The tacky acting and the lousy score by Lawrence Schulz and John Carpenter were other factors that roundly failed in “Love”, a self-proclaimed sentimental sexuality that it’s not even sexy. Here, the stupid insistence on presenting explicit sex should not be mistaken by boldness. Other filmmakers did it with better results – Vincent Gallo in “Brown Bunny”, Abdel Kechiche in “Blue is the Warmest Color”, and even Lars Von Trier in “The Idiots” took advantage of this factor in a non-monotonous way. What’s the point of introducing a close-up shot from the top of a penis ejaculating? In his eagerness of becoming original, Mr. Noé fell in muddy territory and the result is an infuriating pretentiousness a.k.a. a total waste of time.

Magic Mike XXL (2015)

Magic Mike XXL (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Gregory Jacobs
Country: USA

Movie Review: “Magic Mike XXL” is ridiculous at every level, starting with its title and finishing in the deplorable situations created along its nearly two fastidious hours. As you can guess, this is a sequel of “Magic Mike”, dated from 2012 and directed by Steven Soderbergh, which at that time, threw some originality to the screen, guaranteeing fair entertainment. Reid Carolin wrote the XXL version, just like the original one, but this time the script is simply a joke, a road trip of male strippers filled with embarrassingly unnecessary episodes, so devoid of insight or interest. If the writer’s job was a fiasco, the new director Gregory Jacobs was a disappointment exhibiting a heavy-handed style that can’t be compared to the sturdiness evinced by Soderbergh, key for the success of the previous version. If this was not enough, the star Matthew McConaughey didn’t return, so the film trusts solely on Channing Tatum, who plays once again the fantastic ‘Magic Mike’ Lane, to draw some excitement. However, he just couldn’t do it because the repetitive dance performances were never stirring and the bothersome episodes reserved by the plot didn’t work in any circumstance. Three years after he has renounced to the stripper life, Mike, takes a break from his own company to join the remaining ‘Kings of Tampa’, now preparing to retire in style. On their way to Myrtle Beach for one last performance, they’re subjected to a few meaningless experiences that switch from stupid to fabricated, or play both at the same time – to start, Mike flirts with Zoe aka Dolly Tits; then, he helps ‘Big Dick’ Richie retrieving the confidence in his sex-appealing; after that, they have a car accident that throws the driver to the hospital; the next cheesy episode is when Mike stops by a strip club he knows very well and reconnects with the mesmerized owner, Rome; before the last strip, the group still has time to reunite at the house of a middle-aged mom who was hosting a small party for her hysterical middle-aged friends. Shallow and staged, this XXL feels more like a lousy XXS. Did the fans ask for this?

As the Gods Will (2014)

As the Gods Will (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Country: Japan

Movie Review: Prolific and talented, but often inconsistent, is how I see the Japanese film director Takashi Miike, who recently launched “As the Gods Will”, a loony computerized adventure targeting teen audiences, based on the manga work created by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Akeji Fujimura, here adapted to the screen by the hand of Hiroyuki Yatsu. The film basically consists in a videogame, or if you prefer, a word-chain death game, with many different levels, whose players are High School students denominated ‘Children of God’. A certain day, and out of the blue, the head of a teacher blows up in the classroom being substituted by a Daruma doll that keeps bouncing on his desk while the heads of the students keep bursting one after another. This first level only finishes when someone pushes the button located on the back of the irritating doll, before its clock reaches zero. Highly popular among the girls, Takahata Shun (Sota Fukushi), who first complained to God about his boring life, is the student showing more capabilities. His strongest opponent is a tricky boy he has met at a videogame store, called Amaya (Ryunosuke Kamiki). The film starts and finishes as pure nonsense, a distasteful goofiness that increases from level to level. Its absurd episodes include a big cat in a gym, eating students dressed as rats and yelling ‘scratch me more, meow’; a flying white cube that could be related to terrorism or aliens; four playful Japanese dolls that punish with death the player who can't tell which of them stands behind his back; an allegedly pure white bear who demands the truth; and the final stage whose tedious game is called ‘kick the can’. Miike sets up some great scenarios but plunges into absurdity with a plot that revealed to be a complete disaster. I don’t know about the Gods, but my will regarding this one is: ‘game over’.

San Andreas (2015)

San Andreas (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Brad Peyton
Country: USA / Australia

Movie Review: “San Andreas” not only addresses a terrible catastrophe, as it is a catastrophe itself. Among an array of earthquakes that keep devastating California, the all-muscles hyper-confident helicopter-rescue pilot, Ray (Dwayne Johnson), flies over Los Angeles to save his wife, Emma (Carla Gugino), who was preparing to divorce him, and then departs for San Francisco to rescue their bright daughter Blake (Alexanra Daddario). The former was having lunch on the rooftop of a building while the latter got stuck inside a car in a subterranean parking lot, abandoned by her mother’s selfish boyfriend. Blake's savior is Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt), a timid young man who was waiting to be called for a job interview, and was perplexed with her handsomeness. He gets her phone number thanks to the help of his extrovert little brother who was in his company that day. In parallel, we follow the earthquake expert, professor Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti), a dull character who only screams ‘it’s coming!!’, hiding himself under the tables. Carlton Cuse wrote a plot where nothing comes out of it, even when squeezed until exhaustion. Being more concise: the plot is a sort of cheesy ‘nightmare’ while the acting, oscillating between the courageous and the sentimental type, becomes heavily discouraging. Relying on a shallow adventure that sucks whether it proceeds by air, land, or water, director Brad Peyton’s chances of becoming successful were even more dismissive if we think of the bumbling digital effects and swift camera movements that helped increasing the tumult. What’s the point of seeing the Earth cracking, buildings and bridges crumbling, and the water galloping into the shores, creating a ‘Venice’ of debris, while people scream and run with no direction? I couldn’t find any fun in it because the exaggerated “San Andreas” is simply one of the phoniest of the year. Did anyone mention a disaster?

Maggie (2015)

Maggie (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Henry Hobson
Country: USA

Movie Review: When the world becomes a dreadful stage populated by zombies, the ones who are not contaminated try, by all means, to follow the basic security procedures that allow them to protect themselves and their families. The only one who seems not to be conscious about the risks involved in the matter is Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a small-town farmer who defies everyone and everything to liberate his infected daughter, Maggie (Abigail Breslin), from the hospital’s quarantine and bring her home, despite the discernible reluctance of his apprehensive wife. Maggie, a spoiled teenager whose arm is increasingly putrefying, compulsively cries after realizing her horrible condition, and yet in the next scene, she unconcernedly laughs in the company of her bullheaded father, perhaps in a frivolous attempt to alleviate a mood that was never gripping. A multiplicity of dull situations is thrown at us, causing my impatience to grow exponentially as the time passes. I couldn’t help chuckle sarcastically when the family doctor rebukes Maggie for having chopped her finger off, underlining that her repulsive arm is to be kept in spite of the spreading wound. The dialogue is as rotten as Maggie’s arm, and the monotone voice of the ex-Governor Schwarzenegger, a stiff actor, dramatically speaking, contributed to the general discouragement. Lukas Ettlin’s unexceptional cinematography, in addition to David Wingo’s half-tense half-sentimental score, weren’t the fundamental keys required, since the script itself revealed a feebleness that relegates this post-apocalyptic zombie flick to the list of undesirables. “Maggie” was sloppy instead of thrilling, and feckless instead of captivating. It feels like a joke, impossible to be taken seriously.

Focus (2015)

Focus (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Country: USA

Movie Review: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (“I Love You Philip Morris”, “Crazy Stupid Love”) join efforts once again on writing and direction, and the result was “Focus”, top box-office until early this week, when it was overthrown by the artificial intelligence of “Chappie”. Despite its popularity among the masses, “Focus” lacks artistry on every single front. The film tries to play with the ‘prohibited’ love story between a master con man, Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith) and his seductive apprentice, Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie), as they focus on potential targets. Operating in New Orleans, where they defalcate an inveterate sports gambler named Liyuan (B.D. Wong), the couple inevitably splits up due to professional-ethical reasons, only to see each other again three years later in Buenos Aires. There, they will recommence the relationship and take advantage of the owner of a motor sports team who hires Nicky to corrupt a decisive race. Stiff, unimaginative, and devoid of thrills or fun, this silly creation does everything to trick us with its clichés, but the best it can do is bore us to death. The film’s sluggish narrative never attained an acceptable flow, and the script shows practically no twists to justify its viewing. Everything was set with a miserable sense of objectivity, deficient intensity put on the scenes, and mediocre performances, particularly by Will Smith whose character not only for once generated any sort of empathy. This poor piece of screenwriting by Ficarra and Requa (I even liked their “Bad Santa”!), feels amateurish and uneventful, making “Focus” totally out of focus. With one of the dullest of the year, are you willing to be conned?

Fifty Shades of Grey (2014)

Fifty Shades of Grey (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Country: USA / Canada

Movie Review: “Fifty Shades of Grey”, the long-awaited cinematic adaptation of E.L. James’ novel of the same name, is surely one of the worst movies of the year, making my patience and boredom drop very below acceptable levels. The film, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (“Nowhere Boy”) according to Kelly Marcel’s script, doesn’t bring anything worthy apart from some inspired lines that from time to time trigger some giggles as a deplorable way of dissimulating our deep disappointment. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan’s performances didn’t convince at all, unable to draw the desired intensity from their languorous erotic scenes. The story starts with a fatal attraction between Anastasia Steele (Dakota), a quasi-graduate of English literature, who accepts to interview the young businessman tycoon, Christian Grey (Dornan), substituting her sick friend. The foolish encounter ends up in a sadomasochistic relationship with the right to a signed contract, sealing the commitment between dominator and dominated. Grey slowly drags his new prey into his little games composed of wild sexual fantasies, which were never capable to jump out of monotony. There’s an excessive sweetness composing the lackluster scenes, throwing the romance to ruinous conventional territories. This is revelatory that Taylor-Johnson’s approach didn’t have the boldness necessary to handle the story in a more enticing way. Other crucial aspects that contributed to disaster were the inert pace, lame score, and a total inability to provoke us, whether with its emotional simulations, whether with its lascivious pretentiousness. Let’s hope they give up from the annunciated sequel, because “Fifty Shads of Grey” is unnecessary and scandalously ineffectual.

One on One (2014)

One on One (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Kim Ki-duk
Country: South Korea

Movie Review: The cinema of prolific Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk is growing viciously violent, with superficial scripts, and exhibiting very few aspects of interest. While in “Pieta” (2012) he had the merit of combining violence scenes with a psychologically intense story, last year I wasn’t convinced with “Moebius”, another brutal family drama transformed in a bloodbath. This current year, “One on One” focuses on a personal vendetta and numerous ways of torture, relying basically in graphic violence and poor reflections on human conduct and moral values. I would say this is one of the most low-spirited films of the year and almost unbearable to watch, where everything takes nauseating proportions. The screenwriting here is pretty vulgar and can be summarize in the following lines: seven people, forming a sort of anti-communist militia, kidnap seven men who, directly or indirectly, had something to do with the murder of a young high school student on May 9th. The culprits are savagely tortured before signing a written confession, and then released. The immoderate physical abuses divide the avengers whose leader believes that anger and desire of vengeance keep him alive, assuming an uncontrolled madness. Evilness, political fanaticism, human misery, bosses and lackeys, snitches and crooks, everything is tastelessly presented in this brainless thriller. The tortuous repetitions of violence showed scene after scene, disgusting characters, and lousy finale, turns “One on One” into rubbish for sadists. You cannot imagine how relieved I was when it came to an end.

Benim Dunyam (2013)

Benim Dunyam (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ugur Yucel
Country: Turkey

Movie Review: “Benim Dunyam”, meaning ‘my world’, is a sleazy Turkish drama directed and starred by the actor-turned-filmmaker Ugur Yucel. Ela (Beren Saat) was born deaf and blind and their parents don’t know what to do with her or how to teach her to behave. Her father is growing impatient and believes that institutionalized her is the only solution. However, his wife decides to give a chance to an alcoholic old teacher, Mahir (Ugur Yucel), whose sister suffered from the same condition but was considered mentally retarded. Mahir’s methods are unconventional and even include some slaps, but the little girl needs to be tamed and learn the meaning of words in order to avoid being sent to a madhouse. He even has ambitious intentions: sending her to the university. Later on, it will be Ela who will try everything to help her former teacher, after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer disease. An excessive and forced sentimentality is present throughout the film, which also includes an indigestible score and uninspired approach. The toxic candidness of its longstanding narrative seemed eternal while exhibited a self-contentment in every tear shed. Visually pretty sharp, “Benim Dunyam”, doesn’t shine in any other aspect, becoming one of those slushy exercises that, from wanting to touch our feelings so frequently and easily, falls in complete banality.

Pizza Shop: the Movie (2013)

Pizza Shop: the Movie (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: George O'Barts
Country: USA

Movie Review: I didn’t find any good reason to recommend “Pizza Shop: the Movie”, George O’Bart’s debut on writing/direction. Opening with a scene that is more gross than funny, the film starts to give an idea of the bunch of retards who work in the pizza shop. The moments of tension are created among the shop’s employees, with frequent bullying situations and pranks, and between the deliverymen and the peculiar costumers, some of them ready to pay for the pizza with anything except cash. I understand that the goal of “Pizza Shop” is to ridicule every situation, taking them to the limit, but personally, I prefer intelligent humor. It seems that the film consisted in a reunion of friends who simply wanted to execute something to be catalogued as weird or radical. The outcome was more embarrassing than amusing, evincing an amateurish execution, a lousy production and poor performances. The annoying advertisement between episodes using the logo, just like a TV commercial, along with an invasive score in several scenes, and unnatural dialogues and behaviors, were other factors that didn’t help the final result. The toilet humor became more ridiculous than expected, and an approximation to the comic-horror genre with dramatic hints was also a failure, relegating “Pizza Shop” to immature audiences. Maybe for those, this film can obtain the acceptance that I was unable to consider. Too low-grade to be recommended.