Thursday, 31 December 2015



A brother and a sister are on a trip to the lake house to save their sibling who seems to be losing his mind. He has someone or something locked up in the basement. Is it just another delusion or the monster is real? 
They will have to get down, to find out.

If you fast forward to 19 minutes into the movie you may have a better ride with this little indie horror. There is too much senseless  badly written dialogue in the beginning, and it does not add anything to character development that is not clear later in the film.

POD could have been fun if not for the some slow pacing and very ordinary acting. Performances aside, all characters look like they have just walked out of hair dressing saloon, that includes the deranged brother, who should look sweaty and unwashed (there doesn't seem to be a shower in the house, but even if there was, would he be thinking about washing up under the circumstances?) 

On the bright side the location is spot on - here is the real house with a spooky character. Too bad the protagonists are unlikable, the story is disjointed and the cinematography (apart from a  few outside shots of frozen lake and the house)is mediocre. Yes, the team behind had very little money, but the real problem of the film is not the budget, but writing.

POD manages to deliver a few real scares, but is just too tedious to be enjoyable.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015



The year is 1925 and Imperial Japanese army in South Korea is focused on one thing only - to catch the infamous tiger Dae-ho - the King of the mountain. As all their efforts are in vain, they ask for help the hunter Mun-duk, unaware of his special relationship with the animal. When Mun-Duk refuses, Japanese find a way to apply pressure. It's not before long that things get out of control and a tragedy strikes at the hearts of both - the animal and the man.

Director Park Hoon-Jung is thriving on period action drama, heavy with CGI effects, which until recently was impossible in small Korean market. Balancing visual spectacle with deep and meaningful drama, he gives us a dark fairy tale - a memorable story on a touching subject. He carefully recreates the period piece with masterful attention to detail, but the real winner here is nature. The mountains and the forests of South Korea are on display with colourful season change, giving us a perfect impression of the landscape and creating a stage for the high drama.

Choi Min-Shik as the Hunter Mun-Duk gives us a father and a man of nature. Deeply aware and understanding of his surroundings, he is not coping very well with the changes inflicted on his life by humans. His slow transformation from the medicine collector to a fearless hunter is heartbreaking as he is pushed to the limit of his human and spiritual strength. The villains of the film, however, are nothing more than caricatures and a food to the tiger - they are moving the plot forward, but it is special relationship between the tiger and the man that is the focus of the film.

Heavily promoting the message that nature cannot be only taken from, the movie dwells on the subjects of killing and compassion. Delivering high on action and melodrama the film seems to achieve what it planned to do, giving us a sad but hopeful ending, promising that no matter what, the man and nature are one.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015



A small frontier town in the old west has been invaded by the tribe of crazy cannibals. They kidnap a deputy and a medical woman - Samantha O'Dyer. A rescue expedition includes Samantha's husband Arthur, sherif Hunt (Kurt Russell), and few others. They embark on a journey through the wilderness, only to find out that they bit more than they could chew. Their trip is even more complicated because of Arthur's broken leg - an injury he sustained before his wife's kidnapping. The men come face to face with the true terror, that my be the real representation of the land they came to possess. Stripped of the remains of what defined them as civilised men, they are now locked in the battle for survival.

The first adjective that comes to mind when describing this directorial debut by Steven Craig Zahler is "long". The film's running time (over two hours) is the movie's biggest flaw. 30  minutes or so could be easily edited out, however the lengthy dialogues between men about life and death add some additional meaning to the finale.

The film works well in character department. The four men are properly fleshed out, each with his own backstory and motives. They are not friends, but united by the spirit of comradery, and are surprisingly blind to the suicidal nature of their mission.

The violence in the film is random, but effective. Music score is a bare minimum. Deaths come in a sudden and brutal fashion. The kills are rare but effective. The final showdown is not very cinematic, but presented, however, in a very intense and realistic way. There is very little explained about the villains of the story, but their obscure origins is what make them scary.

BONE TOMAHAWK would have been a disaster if not for is well built protagonists. It is also painfully long, but those who last the ran will not regret it.

Friday, 18 December 2015



Kate Abbot (Milla Jovovich) is the only survivor in an explosion where all her colleagues had died. Being the only suspect  and with a merciless killer (Pierce Brosnan) hunting her down she has no one to turn to. She can only count on herself to uncover a global terrorist conspiracy and stop the unthinkable from happening.

SURVIVOR has a familiar set up of Nick of Time, Red Eye or Non Stop, but with a lesser budget and simpler script. Director James McTeague, the famous creator of "V For Vendetta" gives us a disappointing and uninspired piece of work. It's resembles an episode of 24, only without character development. Every turn of the script is obvious from miles away and Milla Jovovich gives a woden performance and lacks vulnerability and charisma required for the role. The image of a merciless killer suits her much better. As for Pierce Brosnan, he plays well against the stereotype, portraying a cold blooded bastard with ease, however the script does not give him any back story to work with, so his character, inspite of his efforts, remains a one dimensional baddie.

On the bright side the movie has a decent cinematography and action. It is always fun to watch Milla running away from Pierce, looking scared, and as the stakes grow higher towards the end of the film, it even manages to deliver on suspense department. The script of SURVIVOR will fall apart like house of cards if you start analysing it, but may be enjoyable if you overlook the faults and just go along with it. With its generic story and cliche characters, SURVIVOR can be enjoyed by some and well deserves its place under the sun.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015



Following the final testament of late "M" James Bond is tracking down the syndicate of killers, unaware that for him it's going to become the most personal battle yet.

James Bond films are famous to have an easy one line synopsis. The plot of SPECTRE is designed to finish the quartet of Daniel Craig journey as Bond, with story coming the full circle, uniting the elements and the characters from the previous films. 

Using familiar plot devices like putting the secret agency on the brink of extinction (latest Mission Impossible movie) and  creating an all seeing worldwide computer security system ("Captain America: Winter Soldier" and "Furious 7" played with the idea), it continues to give us a very human version of Bond. Here, once again, he is falling in Love.

What SPECTRE does best, however, is to preserve the atmosphere of a Bond movie the way we remember it, awakening nostalgia mixed with the sense of adventure, and a pure pleasure for those grew up with Bond Films. 

The sky battle above Mexico city, just before the opening titles, is probably the most spectacular sequence in the film. The later action is rather more meaningful then simply impressive, and the film is always focused on characters more then the next car chase.

Lea Seydoux has a fresh look for a Bond girl,  being very attractive she is, however, is not a perfect beauty. While Monica Belucci is exquisitely beautiful at 50, she, disappointingly, has only a brief appearance in the film. Christopher Waltz as the main villain gives a familiar performance and is quickly upstaged by Dave Batista's Mr Hinx, who does not talk, but bursting with monster energy, is a tribute to the old-fashionably brutal super-villains of the past.

The plot, overarching multiple films, seems a little too far fetched, but SPECTRE does more rights than wrongs, giving us one of the better Bond films and a perfect farewell for Daniel Craig.



The conflict between two brothers, one - an idealistic surgeon and the other - a ruthless lawyer, escalates to a point of no return when when their children commit a heinous crime.

Based on a bestselling novel "OUR BOYS" the film's premise is even more shocking, as the script re-writes the original premise and turns one of the teenagers into a girl.

THE DINNER seems deceptively lighthearted for approximately the half time of its run, and starts gradually growing darker giving us a sudden and shocking conclusion.

The script is precise and concise and gives away just enough information about the characters to make your you mind and then turns it all upside down. Cinematography is simple enough, with all focus on the performances and the story.

The film raises interesting argument about what it really means to be true to one's values and how everything changes when the dilemma has a personal touch. Don't expect an easy viewing. You will need a stiff durink when the credits will roll.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015



After having a successful career overseas, beautiful and talented architect Selena feels nostalgic and decides to return to her home country, Italy. But the only job she can find is in a restaurant. There she meets Francesco, who she instantly falls for, but to her dismay it does not share her feelings. Things get complicated when Selena poses as a man to get a job at a company that has prejudices against women. To help her to get away with the deceit she asks help from Francesco. In exchange she offers  to help him to reconcile with his son. A hilarious comedy of errors awaits.

DO YOU SEE ME takes some time to get going, but once it introduces the main plot points it will take you on a wild ride. It has all the elements of a great comedy. It is funny enough, it's original, it has its dramatic moments and gives just enough clever commentary on the social issues to be considered clever. On the downside it has an uneven tone and the parts of it feel disjointed and overwritten. The leads give decent performances, but the luck chemistry between the leads takes away a bit of the movie's charm. DO YOU SEE ME is a one time affair that is easy to enjoy but even easier to forget.

Monday, 5 October 2015



It's a testing time in Margherita's life. She had just broken up with her boyfriend, there are endless problems on the set of her new movie, her daughter doesn't want to study, and on top of all her mother is dying in the hospital. What lessons, if any, are in store for Margherita, as she battles her way through this life crisis.

MIA MADRE is a slice of life movie, that echoes Fellini's "8 1/2". While it draws a lot of inspiration from that film, the movie tells its own, very personal story.   

Director Nanni Moretti mixes dreamlike sequences with a daily routine, which  creates a unique style, it sucks you in from the very beginning.

John Torturro is a welcome presence with his larger than life character Barry Huggins - an unfortunate Hollywood star that wrecks havoc on Margherita's shoot. But any comedy is quickly absorbed by sadness of Margherita's brother Giovanni, played by the director Nanni Moretti himself. His well hidden depression is a reflection of the extreme grief Margarita may succumb to at any moment. Margherita Buy as Margherita delivers the depth and emotion well, but her performance is undermined by the others around her - a true director she wants to direct not just her films but her own life, but it does rob her from being "a star" of her own story.  Margherita stumbles through her days leading to the unavoidable and is literally drowning. One of the scenes when she wakes up in a flooded apartment is a symbol of that.

The movie is hard to watch at times, especially the scenes with Margherita's fading away mother - she really is the centre of it all and the main point of unresolved conflict in the drama created around her, although she is totally oblivious to this. Margherita's mother is naturally and tenderly portrayed by a veteran actor Giulia Lazzarini.

Dealing with regrets of a middle aged life, the movie, it seems, attempts to grasp for the moment and hold it in the palm of its hand. MIA MADRE is a remarkable little film where sadness prevails over joys of life.

Saturday, 3 October 2015



Dimitrio Perez is a low ranking lawyer who had lost his way in life. His job is a dead end, his wife had left him and his daughter is dating a gangster. A chance encounter with the band of thugs on the street, when his life is threatened, makes him re-think his existence and accept a deal from a mob man he is defending. This deal is supposed to be the solution to all his problems, but he needs to be one step ahead of of his adversaries. And for a man who had never made a single risky decision in his life it may be just too much to bear.

PEREZ is a modern slow burning noir, unpredictable both in character and plot department. Italian mega star Luca Zingaretti is brilliant as a reserved and broken man who has nothing left to lose. The plot puts his character into an impossible situation, and makes him crawl out of it by sheer planning, plotting, improvisation and keeping his head cool. Saying that, PEREZ is not full of action. The story develops slowly but gradually, building up to a tense and satisfying climax.

On the negative side, the film is just too serious. The are many scenes that are screaming for some dark humour inserts, but are just too somber for their own good.

Naples is a stage for the movie, and you had never seen Naples on screen like this - a modern quarter, built of glass and iron, which belongs in Singapore rather than Italy. For the characters, the city presented as a cage of their ambitions and desires, and  the techno soundtrack delivers the sound of broken glass from time to time, as if signifying their attempts to break free.

Perez is a thinking man thriller with great performances, clever cinematography and gives you something to dwell upon when the credits will roll.

Thursday, 1 October 2015



Ermanno and Giacomo are two friends and partners in a small furniture business. As their finances are running dry threatening the closure of the factory an incredible thing occurs - they discover the the oil on their backyard. To put the oil on a production rails requires a significant investment of money and effort, and the two old friends go head to head when their opinions on what to do with the grand discovery differ. What will win, the honest stubbornness or practicality?

There are films that are not intended for an international market and PARTLY CLOUDY is one of those films. Oriented mainly for the family viewing it includes animation sequences that are too unoriginal to attract younger viewers while the two middle aged men arguing over the oil does not make an intensive enough experience for an older audience either. Even the charisma of the ever popular  Luca Zingsretti in the role of Giacomo is somehow inefficient in this well written, but weakly shot comedy.

The problem with PARTLY CLOUDY is not that it is not good, it simply not good enough. This is something that should have been written for a small screen and stay there. Things could have been different if the move was more fast paced, with gags and laugh out loud jokes. As it is, the film is not something I would recommend to anyone. You will go along with PARTLY CLOUDY if you have started watching it, but with so many other films on offer, it will be unlikely you will ever make time for it.

Saturday, 26 September 2015



In a kingdom far far away a mad queen is ready to sacrifice everything to get pregnant. A lustful prince is loosing his mind hearing the song of a woman and falls madly in love with her. And a young princess becomes a victim of her father's obsession with a gigantic flea.

It is not easy to describe the plot of TALE OF TALES. Based on the fairy tales by Neapolitan poet Giambattista Basile, who earlier than Brothers Grimm introduced the wider reader to such stories as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, the movie switches effortlessly from one narrative to the other, plunging us into the world of violence and sacrifice in the name of love.

 The three stories that the director Matteo Garrone had chosen for his film is not for the faint hearted. Boasting some grand visuals, creepy practical effects and impressive international cast, this film is as original as a modern fantasy could be. The plots has a dream-like logic and does not shy away from a straightforward horror. The final mix guarantees that the outcome will not go the way you expect. Which in case of TALE OF TALES is both, refreshing and frustrating at the same time. While there's no evident connection between the plot storylines, the main theme of selfishness for the sake of love prevails.

The full orchestral soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat is one of his finest works - the music is rich and impressive, just like the visual side of the movie. The film, maybe, a little overstretched and lacks the action and pacing, but it is curiosity that will make you finish it. Just like every great fairy tale, you would want to know how it ends.

Thursday, 24 September 2015



Vitoria is a beautiful and strong willed magistrate who is determined to singlehandedly take on Calabrian mafia. Trying to appeal to the wives of the mafioso bosses she is looking for an accomplice to stop the senseless killing of the young apprentices - the mafia sons. In fact, this seems to be the main focus of her quest - to protect the children whatever the cost, even if it means to take them away from their mothers.

LAND OF SAINTS is well photographed and has a few good performances, but the weak screenplay undermines the efforts of delivering a sensitive drama. The credibility of many scenes and dialogues is in question, and the central protagonist Victoria is the least real person in the story. We know very little about her, and the reason for her determination, or rather - borderline craziness, is never explained. So she hardly seems like a real person - just a catalyst inserted into the story to carry it forward. Valeria Solarino, as Victoria, is as good as she can be with the script she is given, but her perfect model looks did not help - she is an unlikely candidate for a reclusive, selfless protagonist who has nothing in her life but her work.

The action is slow, and predictable, and you soon realise you have seen it all before. The premise of the film had a lot going for it, so it's a shame that it ended up being so inconclusive. It is almost as if the director had too many ideas, and trying to fit them all in, had forgotten that the story needs to have an ending. As the screen will go black and credits roll, many viewers will also roll their eyes. LAND OF SAINTS is one of these films that could have been great. It is greatly disappointing instead.

Saturday, 19 September 2015



Guido takes it very hard when his wife leaves him for another man, but things quickly turn around when a young and extremely beautiful Silvia is moving in next door. Guido falls head over heels, but is Silvia just too good to be real? Meanwhile, unbeknown to him, another woman is seeking Guido's affection. Things get complicated when Guido’s friend finds out about Silvia something that can threaten the relationship. And to top it all, Guido’s parents arrive to Napoli to see his son’s bride. A comedy of errors insures.

WHAT A BEAUTIFUL SURPRISE is a twist of the classical tale DONNA FLOR AND HER TWO HUSBANDS, and deals with the dramas of middle aged loves and broken ideals we all have to face. The lead Claudio Bisio as Guido is as charismatic as he is entertaining. He has the perfect timing with his jokes and gradually turns what could be seen as grotesque and ridiculous into something endearing.

But the real gems of the film are Guido’s parents. They own all the best moments in the film, and get the most laughs from the audience.

Another great addition to the story is NAPOLI, the city itself, as the story plays out on the little streets and inside the charming old buildings, giving the film that special settings that make it right.

WHAT A BEAUTIFUL SURPRISE is actually clever and funny, which is a rare combination for a romantic comedy. Without trying to pretend to be anything  deeper than it is,  it gives us two hours of escapism and good old fashioned humour.



Once upon a time there were three brothers, two were evil one was good. The evil brothers were in the mafia, smuggling drugs and living as riches. The good brother was a shepherd and lived peacefully in their family home. The good brother had a son, who wanted to be a gangster too. Will his decision lead to the family's undoing?

BLACK SOULS has a set up of a dark fairy tale, but the film produced has authentic and raw feel about it.  While the story plays out as classic tragedy, the value of the film is in the details. We get a clear idea how close this mafioso family is to their roots and of their values and lifestyle. The settings stripped of glamour, with most of the film taking place in a remote village - a family home of the characters. There's nothing new in the basic ideas of the film: Violence gives birth to violence, the sins of the fathers are carried on by their sons. There's also some dwellings about fate and that only the most radical ways can change it.

It was clear from the beginning that things will not end well for any of the characters, but nothing would prepare you for the sudden and shocking ending.

BLACK SOULS is based on a novel by an Italian author Gioacchino Criaco, and it is easy to understand why it was put into film - interesting characters and rich settings are perfect for a big screen.

Cinematography is tense, with a few scenes of gun violence, it slowly prepares you for outcome and gives you this "sinking" feeling that something terrible is about to happen.

The soundtrack is rather different from what we see in modern Hollywood films, with large symphonic pieces on display uninterrupted, but then the orchestra is silent for the majority of the film.

BLACK SOULS does not carry many original ideas but succeeds as a family drama, because of its memorable characters, beautiful countryside settings and attention to detail.


Sunday, 13 September 2015



A Moon Hye-Rim, a  young nurse in a Seul VIP hospital, is looking after the dying millionaire. The man needs an urgent heart transplant and his son Song Woo asks the nurse to play a detective and find the next of kin of a brain dead patient, a pregnant prostitute nicknamed Madonna.  As Moon Hye-Rim dwells deep into the life of Madonna she discovers a heartbreaking story of a vulnerable woman and her continuous spiral into peril from the moment she was born. Keeping her own dark secrets at bay, Moon Hye-rim is now determined to stop the heart transplant. But Song Woo has his own reasons to keep his father alive and will stop at nothing, not even murder.

If there was one word to describe MADONNA it would he "heartbreaking". It is a story of a vulnerable human being growing up in a hostile world. As Moon Hye-rim investigates Madonna's past life, the stories of two women intervene in the most unexpected ways. Their fates are much more similar than it seems at a first glance. The nurse Moon Hye-rim represents an older, toughened up version of Madonna, while the story of Madonna may be something that Moon Hye-rim herself had experienced in the past.

The film belongs to two leading ladies. While Seo Young-Hee in the role of the nurse is a talented well known actor, Madonna is portrayed by a newcomer Kwon So-Hyun - an inspired choice. Kwon's Madonna triggers all sorts of emotions, but the ones that prevail are the sympathy and the pity. Madonna is an odd person, and each of her efforts to fit in had an opposite effect. Madonna is quite unlikable and it is easy to understand why she had been treated so badly.

The film's unnerving topics such as violence against women and newborn murder leave nasty aftertaste, with one revelation towards the end being particularly shocking. This is the movie that makes it hard to sympathise with any of the characters, but you can praise them for trying, especially Moon Hye-rim, who frights tooth and nail for the remains of her humanity.

MADONNA is not an easy film to watch, but it is a mesmerising journey, with memorable characters and performances to match.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015



It's 1972 and a failing actor Kim Sung-Guin is groomed to become a double of North Korean  Dictator Kim Il-Sung. This performance of a life time does not find its audience, and thirty years later our failed dictator is in a retirement home, consumed by his fake persona. It all changes when his son bails him out in order to get his share of an inheritance. A hilarious and a sad journey to the past brings the two men together in this bitter sweet  drama, that is too good for its gimmicky premise.

MY DICTATOR starts off as a straight forward drama, spirals into comedy, and then bounces back into a full dramatic mode. The plot is over the top with both, melodrama and comedy going overboard, but they always work. Focusing mostly on the father-son relationship it is about obsessions that come through generations and never let go.

The movie runs for over two hours, but it doesn't drag a bit. Instead it turns into a family saga. After credits roll one will get a feeling, that he had reached a conclusion of a very satisfying book. MY DICTATOR is quite a journey.

Kyung-gu Sol, one of the most popular actors in modern Korea, gives an inspired performance. His transformation from a loving dad to a dictator is believable and heartbreaking, but he also manages to bring the comic side out with the same ease, as he delivers the dramatic part.

MY DICTATOR maybe too serious for what it tries to achieve, but it also makes us to take it seriously. All the lose ends are perfectly wrapped up in the soaring conclusion. MY DICTATOR is one of these films that defy expectations and deliver on its promises on every turn.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015



Roaring currents tells the story of one of the greatest naval battles in the history of Korea, when in 1592, during the Japanese invasion, 12 ships, under the command of the admiral Yi Sun-Sin, had won against the Japanese fleet of 300. 

As unbelievable as it sounds, the movie is showing us, step by step, how the victory had been achieved. Avoiding the Hollywood cliches of love triangles aka Pearl Harbour film focuses solely on the battle and its strategy, and through action introducing us to the admiral Yi Sun-Sin and various other characters. Roaring currents is not a biopic, and maybe this is the reason it makes such a compelling viewing. There are barely any subplots, the movie only showing us one battle and its course. The characters are only important as the course of the battle. Surprisingly they are well developed. As we decide whether we like them on not, basing on their actions, it makes us learn about them and recognise them quicker than if we had a lengthy backstory.

The Japanese invaders are not shown as particularly infernal, but they are a smug enemy, too sure in themselves for their own good.

The visual effects in the movie look fantastic, and even the fleet of 300 ships is as real as it can possibly be on the wide screen. The scenes on water are the most expensive and difficult ones to shoot, the water in CGI also usually looks terrible. While I am sure GREEN SCREEN had been used in many scenes,  the movie avoided the ugliness it is known for, with the light and the backgrounds looking natural and realistic.

ROARING CURRENTS is full of action, but it is the sentimental messages about conquest of fear that gets under your skin. Without barely a love storyline in this war film, I could see a few ladies in the theatre wiping their faces. This may be a boys kind of movie, but will also appeal to the girls if given a chance.

The soundtrack is rich and intense and will surely make for good stand alone listening.

Unlike many Koreans films THE ROARING CURRENTS does not experiment with the genre and does not run for long. It has an intelligent and concise screenplay which is nearly perfect for what it is designed to achieve - create an eye popping spectacle and memorable characters through action.

ROARING CURRENTS was the very first film in South Korea that had grossed 100 million USD - five times its modest budget, maybe because it has a great repeat viewing value. A modern viewer had seen all the spectacles in the world, so the value now is in a good script. ROARING CURRENTS is this kind of a movie.

Saturday, 5 September 2015



CLEARER THAN YOU think is an anthology animation film from young and talented director HAN JI-WON, who is called “animation prodigy of South Korea”.

There are four stories in total. The plots are focused on simple life of everyday Korean people. The first is about a young man looking for love and doubtful of his future, the second is about an office girl dreaming of love, the third is focused on a broken friendship of the high schoolers over one of them quitting the band, and the fourth is a fairy tale journey of a pouch, who escapes home and befriends a flightless crow.

The common theme that unites the episodes is the illusiveness of a dream and the stand one has to take against the circumstances to follow it. The ability to find their way under pressure of the society in modern day Korea is highly praised by each storyline and shown as the only way to remain true to one’s self.

CLEARER THAN YOU THINK is not for everyone: some simplistic takes on character designs and backgrounds may turn the viewers away. There are also some lengthy scenes and confusing montage, but that's just a few negatives and the common feature of many independent films.

While the animation is very simple and a low key, there’s no doubt about the talent of the animator. HAN JI-WON has a natural ability to tell simple stories in an outstanding way, combining humour, irony and sadness. She has the perfect control of character and the style, and it would be interesting to see what she could do with a much larger budget when the time comes.