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The Two Faces of January – Movie Review 08/10/2015

Posted by Films to consider in Academy of Science Fiction, Action/Thriller, Based on a novel, British, Drama, London Critics Circle Film Awards, Online Film & Television Assoc., Thriller.
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The Two Faces of January (British) 2014

Directed by Hossein Amini
Starring Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, and Oscar Isaac

AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS:
NOMINATED, Saturn Award-Best Independent Film, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA
NOMINATED, Breakthrough British Filmmaker ALFS Award (Amini), London Critics Circle Film Awards
NOMINATED, OFTA Film Award, Best Feature Debut (Amini), Online Film & Television Association

In the early 1960s, Chester MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst) live an upscale lifestyle, supported by Chester’s skill as a swindler. As they are traveling across Europe, they meet up with Rydal (Isaac), a young guide who does some small scale cheating of his own. When Chester accidentally murders a private detective hired by some of his American victims, Rydal agrees to help the couple and the three get caught up in emotional turmoil.

A pretty good thriller, despite some plot holes that must be overlooked. The film is based on a novel by the prolific Patricia Highsmith, who also wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train. Director Hossein Amini garnered a few nominations for his debut film.

96 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
The Two Faces of January

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Disgrace-DVD Review 06/03/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Australian, Australian Cinematographers Society, Australian Writers Guild, Based on a novel, Emotional Drama, Film Critics Circle of Australia, Taipei Film Festival, Thriller, Toronto International Film Festival.
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DISGRACE (Australian/South African) 2008
Based on the novel by J. M. Coetzee, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Directed by Steve Jacobs
Starring John Malkovich, Jessica Haines, Eriq Ebouaney, and Fiona Press

WINNER, Award of Distinction-Feature Film (Arnold), Australian Cinematographers Society
WINNER, Awgie Award, Feature Film-Adaptation (Anna Maria Monticelli-screenwriter), Australian Writers Guild
NOMINATED, FCCA Award, Best Screenplay (Monticelli), Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards
WINNER, International New Talent Competition – Grand Prize (Jacobs), Taipei Film Festival
WINNER, International Critics’ Award (FIPRESCI), Toronto International Film Festival

In Capetown, South Africa, middle-aged Professor David Lurie (Malkovich) is accustomed to taking advantage of his female students. When he gets caught having a relationship with one, he chooses to leave in disgrace rather than defending his actions as expected. He visits his daughter Lucy (Haines), who lives alone on a remote farm. Despite the obvious dangers in her surroundings, he cannot convince her to leave.

I read Coetzee’s novel, which won the 1999 Booker Prize, recently and was interested to see how it fared as a film adaptation. It is a story with some very grim aspects; director Jacobs treats them fairly, with the same measured tone as the novel, and without sensationalizing them. John Malkovich’s reserved manner suits the role of the self-centered professor, who knows he has done wrong but doesn’t seem able to feel sorry about it.

119 min. Rated R.

For more info:
Disgrace

Elena-DVD Review 04/20/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Cannes Film Festival, Drama, European Film Awards, Ghent International Film Festival, Moscow International Film Festival, Movies, Psychological Suspense, Russian language film, Suspense, Thriller.
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ELENA (Russian) 2011

Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
Starring Nadezhda Markina, Andrey Smirnov, and Elena Lyadova

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Un Certain Regard-Special Jury Prize; NOMINATED, Un Certain Regard Award (both Zvyagintsev), Cannes Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Markina), European Film Awards
WINNER, Grand Prix-Best Film, Ghent International Film Festival
WINNER, Russian Film Clubs Federation Award (Zvyagintsev), Moscow International Film Festival

Elena (Markina), a middle-aged woman, marries for a second time, and her husband Vladimir (Smirnov) turns out to be a domineering man who is wealthy but tight-fisted. Even after Vladimir has a heart attack and comes close to death, he refuses to help Elena’s son financially.

The director makes good use of striking images and outstandingly suspenseful music (Philip Glass). The film is labelled a thriller on the DVD case, but I’d consider it more of a psychological suspense.

109 min. Not rated. Adult themes.

For more info:
Elena

Fear Me Not-DVD Review 10/20/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Bodil Awards, Danish language film, Dark Drama, Mar del Plata Film Festival, Movies, Psychological Suspense, Suspense, Thriller.
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Fear Me Not (Danish) 2008
Den du frytger

Directed by Kristian Letring
Starring Ulrich Thomsen, Paprika Steen, and Emma Sehested

Among other wins and nominations:
WINNER, Best Actor (Thomsen); Best Screenplay; NOMINATED, Best Film (Letring), Mar del Plata Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Actor (Thomsen); Best Supporting Actress (Sehested); Best Supporting Actress (Steen), Bodil Awards

A pretty good psychological suspense thriller in which Mikael (Thomsen), unknown to his family, takes part in a trial of antidepressants that completely alter his outlook on life. When the trials are discontinued, Mikael continues to take the pills anyway. Soon his personality undergoes radical changes; he feels free to be himself as he has never done before, leading to unforeseen consequences that affect his family (to put it mildly).

Star Ulrich Thomsen may look familiar; he has appeared in many films worldwide. On films reviewed on this site, he stars in Adam’s Apples and The Inheritance.

95 min. Unrated. (Violence; not suitable for children.)

Check it out on Netflix
or
Amazon: Fear Me Not

Winter’s Bone-DVD Review 03/31/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, American, Based on a novel, Emotional Drama, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards, Sundance Film Festival, Suspense, Thriller.
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Winter’s Bone (American) 2010

Adapted from the novel by Daniel Woodrell
Directed by Debra Granik
Screenplay by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, and Dale Dickey

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Picture (Rosellini and Alix Madigan); Best Supporting Actor (Hawkes); Best Leading Actress (Lawrence); Best Adapted Screenplay (Granik and Rosellini), Academy Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actress-Drama (Lawrence), Golden Globes
WINNER, Best Supporting Female (Dickey), Best Supporting Male (Hawkes), NOMINATED, Best Cinematography (Michael McDonough); Best Feature; Best Director (Granik); Best Female Lead (Lawrence); Best Screenplay, Independent Spirit Awards
WINNER, Grand Jury Prize-Dramatic (Granik); Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award (Granik and Rosellini), Sundance Film Festival

In a poor backwoods area of the Ozarks, seventeen-year-old Ree (Lawrence) is forced to care for her two younger siblings when her mother goes into a depression and her father goes missing. Despite warnings to leave matters alone, she sets out to find her father.

Although it received critical acclaim and many awards (above is just a small selection), Winter’s Bone is one of the lower grossing films nominated for Best Picture by the Academy Awards. Here’s a chance to see a gripping performance by young actress Jennifer Lawrence before her new release, The Hunger Games.

100 min. Rated R for drug use, language, and violence.

For more info:
Winter’s Bone

The Bank Job-DVD Review 03/23/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Based on true events, British, Edgar Allen Poe Awards, Movies, Suspense, Thriller.
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The Bank Job (British) 2008
Based on true events

Directed by Roger Donaldson
Written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais
Starring Jason Statham and Saffron Burrows

NOMINATED, Best Motion Picture Screenplay (Clement and La Frenais), Edgar Allen Poe Awards

Happily married and settled with a family, Terry (Statham) becomes intrigued by former girlfriend Martine’s (Burrows) idea about tunneling into a bank’s temporarily unalarmed vault. The vault, she assures him, is filled with safe deposit boxes containing millions in cash and jewelry. Terry assembles a team of petty thieves to pull it off. The entire plan seems highly unlikely, but timing, as they say, is everything.

There’s a good twist to the story: Martine has other motivations. The actual bank heist took place in 1971, and the cash and jewels were never recovered.

112 min. Rated R.

For more info:
The Bank Job

Crónicas-DVD Review 02/24/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Based on true events, Cartagena Film Festival, Guadalajara Mexican Film Festival, Sebastián Cordero, South American/Spanish language film, Sundance Film Festival, Suspense, Thriller.
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Crónicas (South American/Spanish/English) 2004
Chronicles
Inspired by true events

Written and directed by Sebastián Cordero
Starring John Leguizamo, Damián Alcazár, Leonor Watling, and José Mariá Yazpik

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Silver Ariel Award, Best Actor (Alcazár); NOMINATED, Silver Ariel, Best Direction; Best Editing; Best Screenplay; Best Sound, Ariel Awards, Mexico
WINNER, Golden India Catalina, Best Actor (Alcazár); NOMINATED, Best Film (Cordero), Cartagena Film Festival
WINNER, Mayahuel Award, Best Actor (Alcazár); Best Film and Best Screenplay (Cordero), Guadalajara Mexican Film Festival
NOMINATED, Grand Jury Prize, World Cinema-Dramatic (Cordero), Sundance Film Festival

Popular television journalist Manolo Bonilla (Leguizamo) brings his producer (Watling) and cameraman (Yazpik) from Miami to Ecuador in search of a sensationalistic story about the child serial killer and rapist known as “The Monster of Babahoyo.” In a small town, the news team gets caught up in the aftermath of an accidental death of a child and the consequent attempted lynching of Vinicio (Alcazár), the man who caused it.

By only showing hints of what “The Monster” has done, the director keeps the horror level tolerable and the suspense level high. The several scenes between the single-minded, ambitious Manolo and the manipulative, emotional Vinicio escalate and lead to a horrible and unexpected ending. Although Alcazár seems to have won the most honors (see above), the talented Leguizamo also deserves mention. Apparently this was the first film in which he spoke Spanish dialogue, something he did not feel comfortable doing. It didn’t show.

108 min. Rated R for violence, sexuality and language.

For more info:
Cronicas

The Usual Suspects-DVD 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.

For more info:
The Usual Suspects

Amar a Morir-DVD Review *** 12/24/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Drama, Imagen Foundation Awards, Mexican/Spanish language film, Movies, Romance, Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Thriller.
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Amar a Morir (Mexican/Spanish) 2009 ***
Love Til Death

NOMINATED, Best Director-Film (Lebrija), Imagen Foundation Awards
WINNER, Best Spanish Language Film (Lebrija), Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Directed by Fernando Lebrija
Starring José María de Tavira, Martina García, and Alberto Estrella

The young Alejandro (de Tavira) wants no part of the life his powerful businessman father has planned for him. He leaves Mexico City and ends up in the tiny seaside town of Ocelotitl. There he meets the beautiful Rosa (García) and falls in love.

For two entertaining hours, the film alternates between the budding romance of the charismatic couple and exciting action scenes as they try to escape the vicious clutches of The Tiger (Estrella), a wealthy man who controls the lives of the town’s citizens.

Highly recommended.

120 min. Rated R (violence and adult themes).

For more info:
Amar a Morir

The Secret in Their Eyes-DVD Review *** 12/04/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, Argentinian Academy Awards, Argentinian/Spanish language film, César Awards, Drama, Movies, Romance, Suspense, Thriller.
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The Secret in their Eyes (Argentinian) 2009 ***
El Secreto de Sus Ojos

Among many other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Foreign Language Film, Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Film; Best Director (Campanella); Best Actor (Darín); Best Actress (Villamil); Best Screenplay Adaptation, and others, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Argentina
WINNER, Audience Award, Best Foreign Film, Turia Awards, Spain
WINNER, Best Foreign Film, César Awards, France

Directed by Juan José Campanella
Starring Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, and Pablo Rago

Billed as a mystery, a long-lost-love story, and a thriller, and excellent on all three counts!

Benjamín (Darín) is a retired federal court investigator who is writing a novel about a case that haunted him for twenty-five years. In Buenos Aires, the young wife of Ricardo Morales (Rago) was brutally raped and murdered. The case was eventually solved and the guilty party was captured but, not long after, he was released from prison in exchange for becoming a hitman for corrupt politicians. Benjamín was outraged about the injustice but could do nothing about it.

When Benjamín returns to his former department to do further research, he meets up with his chief Irene (Villamil), now a prestigious judge, and feelings of love are rekindled.

The film flashes seamlessly between past and present, and comes to a fitting and (in one aspect) chilling conclusion.

Highly recommended.

129 min. Rated R. Rape scene, violent images, graphic nudity, and language.

For more info:
The Secret in Their Eyes