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A Somewhat Gentle Man-Movie Review 08/13/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Amanda Awards, Berlin International Film Festival, Chlotrudis Awards, Dark Comedy, Hans Petter Moland, Movies, Norway, Norwegian language film, San Diego Film Critics Society Awards.
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A Somewhat Gentle Man (Norwegian) 2010
En ganske snill mann

Directed by Hans Petter Moland
Starring Stellan Skarsgard, Bjorn Floberg, Gard Eidsvold, Jorunn Kjellsby, and Jannike Kruse

WINNER, Best Actor (Skarsgard); NOMINATED, Best Film; Best Editing; Best Supporting Actress (Kjellsby), Amanda Awards, Norway
WINNER, Reader Jury of the “Berliner Morgenpost” (Moland); NOMINATED, Golden Berlin Bear (Moland), Berlin International Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Actor (Skarsgard), Chlotrudis Awards
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, San Diego Film Critics Society Awards

A dark comedy from the north country, with a suitably quirky sense of humor and a very amusing cast of characters.

When Ulrik (Skarsgard) is released from prison after serving a 12 year sentence for murder, he tries to escape from the revenge plot put into action by his former associates.

103 min. Not rated. Suitable for adults and older teens.


The Usual Suspects-Movie Review *** 01/14/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, Dark Comedy, Golden Globes, Movies, National Board of Review, Thriller.
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The Usual Suspects (American) 1995 ***

Among many other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Supporting Actor (Spacey); Best Screenplay (McQuarrie), Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Editing; Best Screenplay; NOMINATED, Best Film (Singer), BAFTA Awards
WINNER, Best Supporting Actor (Spacey): Best Screenplay (McQuarrie), Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
NOMINATED, Best Supporting Actor (Spacey), Golden Globes
WINNER, NBR Award, Best Ensemble (for nine actors) and Best Supporting Actor (Spacey), National Board of Review, USA

Directed by Bryan Singer
Written by Christopher McQuarrie
Starring Kevin Spacey, Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Chazz Palminteri, and Pete Postelthwaite

A recent post by a friend prompted me to re-watch this movie. It’s a thriller, but one with a lighthearted twist, and was well worth a second look.

Verbal Kint (Spacey) is a small-time con man, rounded up for an unusual lineup – with four other known criminals. During his interrogation, Kint describes the convoluted happenings that led to many killings and a huge explosion on a ship docked in the port of Los Angeles.

Kevin Spacey is one my favorite actors, and he won many kudos for his role as the unassuming and not-very-bright Verbal Kint. Although a few critics panned the film, the response of most critics, and of the general public, was overwhelmingly favorable.

Highly recommended.

106 min. Rated R. Violence, bloodshed, and general mayhem.


The Outskirts-Movie Review 11/04/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Berlin International Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Dark Comedy, Dark Drama, FIPRESCI Award, Movies, Political Thriller, Pyotr Lutsik, Russian language film.
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The Outskirts (Russian) 1998

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Don Quixote Award (Lutsik), Berlin International Film Festival
WINNER, FIPRESCI Prize, (Lutsik), Chicago International Film Festival
WINNER, Philip Morris Award (Lutsik), Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
WINNER, Jury Prize (Lutsik), Sarajevo Film Festival

Directed by Pyotr Lutsik
Starring Yuri Dubrovin, Nikolay Olyalin, and Aleksei Pushkin

A group of neighbors leave a collective farm and trek across the countryside to find the person who sold much of the land to oil interests and bring him to their brand of “justice.”

A very dark comedy that’s also listed as a political thriller. In fact, the darkness of the DVD itself (as the liner mentions) is literal, and you will probably have to turn up the brightness of your television. The film is shot in black and white, adding to the drab and often depressing landscape and interiors.

I came across this DVD accidentally, and its deadpan humor might not appeal to everyone. There is likely humor that gets lost in the subtitles, and political references that would not be understood. The director received several prestigious honors. Worth a try if you like to see something a little different; it certainly wasn’t predictable!

95 min. Not rated. Not suitable for children.


Paris, je t’aime-Movie Review 08/28/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Cannes Film Festival, Comedy, Dark Comedy, Dark Drama, Emotional Drama, French language film, Movies, Romance.
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Paris, je t’aime (French) 2006

OFFICIAL SELECTION, Un certain regard, Cannes Film Festival

A collection of very short pieces by twenty noted directors, whose sole directive was to create a film with the theme Paris, je t’aime (Paris, I love you).

What they produced is a motley set of films characteristic of the individual directors: some are touching, some are funny, some are romantic, some are weird. The theme of “loving Paris” is sometimes approached from a very tangential angle.

Many familiar faces appear, such as Natalie Portman, Elijah Wood, Marianne Faithfull, and Juliette Binoche. Altogether, this is a very enjoyable DVD, and I don’t know that I’d be able to pick a favorite piece, since they are so very different. There were only a couple that I thought were not up to par with the majority.

Even the piece with mimes took an unusual approach that I could identify with (a prisoner begs to be released from the same jail cell as a pair of mimes).

There has since been a similar project, New York, I Love You, that I haven’t seen. The reviews are not as favorable.

120 min. Rated R. Language and drug use. Adult themes.


Nói the Albino-Movie Review 07/27/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Dark Comedy, Emotional Drama, Icelandic language film, Movies.

Nói the Albino (Icelandic) 2003
(Nói Albinói)

Among many awards and nominations:
WINNER, New director’s Award-Special Mention (Kári), Edinburgh International Film Festival
WINNER, Movie Zone Award (Kári); NOMINATED, Tiger Award (Kári), Rotterdam International Film Festival
WINNER, Actor of the Year (Lemarquis); Director of the Year (Kári); Best Film; Screenplay of the Year (Kári); Supporting Actor of the Year (Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson), Edda Awards, Iceland

Directed and screenplay by Dagur Kári
Starring Tómas Lemarquis and Elín Hansdóttir

An emotional drama, tinged with occasional dark humor, about an isolated teenage boy growing up in an isolated Icelandic community. Nói Kristmundsson (Lemarquis) lives in a fishing village located on a fjord in the north of Iceland. In winter, the fjord becomes a frozen island, cut off from the rest of Iceland. In every direction, the landscape is blinding white snow and stark upright mountains.

Nói looks different, and he is different. He struggles in school, where he is viewed as either retarded or a genius, he struggles with his father, and finally he struggles with his desire to leave the community with Íris (Hansdóttir) his new girlfriend.

The director uses the natural landscape and lighting, which has a bluish tint, to great advantage. A good film to watch on a hot summer day.

90 min. Rated PG-13. Adult themes and brief nudity.


The Maid-Movie Review 07/13/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Comedy, Dark Comedy, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards, Light Drama, Movies, Sebastián Silva, Spanish language film, Sundance Film Festival.
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The Maid (Chilean/Spanish) 2009
La Nana

Among many wins and nominations:
WINNER, World Cinema-Dramatic Jury Prize (Silva); Special Jury Prize-Acting (Saavedra), Sundance Film Festival
WINNER, Breakthrough Award (Catalina Saavedra), Gotham Awards
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Film, Independent Spirit Awards
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Golden Globes

Directed by Sebastián Silva
Starring Catalina Saavedra and Claudia Celedon

A dark comedy. Raquel has worked as a maid in the same household for 23 years, taking care of the family’s four kids. Now, realizing that the older ones are growing up and no longer need her, she starts to develop headaches and reaches a breaking point. The mother of the household, Pilar, wants to make Raquel’s life easier by hiring some more help, but Raquel sabotages her actions every step of the way.

Kudos to director Silva and actress Catalina Saavedra for maintaining feelings of sympathy for the character Raquel despite the despicable things she does.

94 min. Unrated. Adult themes and some nudity.


In Bruges-Movie Review *** 06/02/2011

Posted by Films to consider in British, Dark Comedy, Dark Drama, Irish film, Movies.
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In Bruges (British/Irish) 2008

Among other awards and nominations:
Winner, Best Performance-Comedy (Farrell), Golden Globes
Nominated, Best Writing-Screenplay (McDonagh), Academy Awards
Winner, Best Screenplay (McDonagh), BAFTA Awards
Winner, Best International Film; Best Script for Film (McDonagh); Nominated, Best Actor (Farrell); Best Actor (Gleeson); Best Screenplay (McDonagh), Irish Film and Television Awards

Directed by Martin McDonagh
Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes

When new hitman Ray (Farrell) accidentally kills a little boy on his very first job, he and his mentor Ken (Gleeson) get sent to the Belgian city of Bruges to lay low. As they await word from their boss, Harry Waters (Fiennes), Ken tries to get Ray to appreciate the medieval beauty of the city.

A dark story about guilt and redemption mixed in with a great deal of dark comedy, witty dialogue, and a fair amount of bloody violence. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are funny as an unlikely pair of hitmen, and Ralph Fiennes is creepy as a cold-blooded killer who pretends to show consideration for someone he’s about to do in.

Favorite lines (there were many):
Ray says to Ken, “I grew up in Dublin. I love Dublin. If I’d grown up on a farm and was retarded, Bruges might impress me. But I didn’t, so it doesn’t.”

Be sure to watch “A Boat Trip Around Bruges” in the DVD’s Special Features for a look at this lovely city.

107 min. Rated R. Bloody violence, drug use, and strong language.

White Night Wedding-Movie Review 05/27/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Dark Comedy, Icelandic language film, Light Drama, Movies.
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White Night Wedding (Icelandic) 2008

Official Entry-Iceland, Best Foreign Language Film, Academy Awards
Winner, Best Film, Best Actor (Gudnason), Best Supporting Actor (Gunnarsson), Best Supporting Actress (Jónsdóttir), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Set Design, Edda Awards, Iceland
Winner, Young Audience Award (Kormákur), Rouen Nordic Film Festival

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur; written by Baltasar Kormákur and Ólafur Egilsson

Starring Hilmir Snær Gudnason, Ólafía Hrönn Jónsdóttir, Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir, Laufey Eliasdottir, and Thorstur Leó Gunnarsson

Set in the beautiful but isolated Icelandic town of Flatey, during the midnight sun time of the year. Jon (Gudnason) is a former college professor about to get married to Thora (Eliasdottir), a much younger woman, but his previous marriage to Anna (Vilhjálmsdóttir) gives him the jitters about moving on. The plot switches between the time periods of Jon’s two relationships.

A great performance by Gudnason as Jon. He is surrounded by a collection of humorous and/or quirky characters, especially notable his friend Börkur, played by Thorstur Leó Gunnarsson.

94 min. Unrated. Adult themes, sexuality and brief nudity.


The Wedding Director-Movie Review 05/01/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Dark Comedy, Italian language film, Light Drama, Movies, Romance.
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The Wedding Director (Italian) 2006

Nominated, Critics Award (Bellocchio); David Award – Best Actress (Finocchiaro); Best Director (Bellocchio); Best Editing (Francesca Calvelli)
Winner, Best Breakthrough Actress (Donatella Finocchiaro); Best Cinematography (Pasquale Mari); Best Film, Golden Globes-Italy

Written and directed by Marco Bellocchio
Starring Sergio Castellito, Donatella Finocchiaro and Sami Frey

A tongue-in-cheek tale about Franco Elica (Castellito), a movie director who flees to Sicily to escape accusations about sexual misconduct from the women who audition for him. Under pressure from a fan of his, Elica ends up agreeing to film the wedding of the daughter of a prince.

As noted in the above awards, the cinematography and film editing deserve special mention. Reflecting Elica’s detached directorial view of the events surrounding him, they contribute to the satirical nature of the film.

100 min. Rated R.


Off the Map-Movie Review 03/27/2011

Posted by Films to consider in American, Dark Comedy, Drama, Movies.
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Off the Map (American) 2003

Winner, Audience Award-Best Film, Sarasota Film Festival
Winner, Taos Land Grant Award (Scott), Taos Talking Picture Festival
Nominated, Best Independent, Golden Trailer Awards

Directed by Campbell Scott
Starring Joan Allen, Valentina DeAngelis, Sam Elliot, Jim True-Frost, and J. K. Simmons

A family of three, living in an isolated area of New Mexico, has to adjust when Charley the father (Elliot) suffers from depression. While his free-spirited wife Arlene (Allen) tries to help him through, young daughter Bo (DeAngelis) plans a future away from the homestead. They have a visit from the tax man (True-Frost), who, for various reasons, ends up staying for a while.

This is an enjoyably quirky movie, with great performances from Elliot, Allen, and DeAngelis that keep it touching but light at the same time.

105 min. Rated PG-13.