Category Archives: movie

Fear (James Foley, 1996)

Fear by James Foley is a story of a young girl, a teenager, who started dating seriously for the first time in her life. Her choice, a boy named David, seems perfect in everything, but certain people who are especially sensitive pick up some chilling vibe from him. Despite their arguments, she goes with him, and over time she gets to know him much better, she becomes closer to him and soon is able to peek past his masks and into his true self. Real problems begin when he starts getting ‘no’ for an answer more often than he can handle. And it’s when the conflict transitions to the open stage the hell breaks loose.

Mark Wahlberg here is wonderful: he plays a creep who tries really hard to pretend a real person, and he succeeds at that for a long time thanks to his appearances and the fact that most people do not look too deep. His acting is consistent through-out, and powerful at the moments when the truth is being revealed. Witherspoon was okay. The overall level of acting is pretty high. However, the direction could’ve been better. For one thing, he didn’t even try to hide David’s vibe in the beginning, while drawing it out little by little would’ve served to a more accurate and focused narrative – that is only one example. Seems to me, mr. Foley did put things together, but then he barely touched them, choosing to let them grow on their own for him to watch how it happens.

All in all, the result is quite good, although I doubt the director is to be praised for it. It’s a decent entertainment; violence is used with skill; it’s captivating and feels comfortable. The story in general is predictable and not very original, but there are some truly great moments there. Watch it or skip it, nothing will change much.

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Sasha (Dennis Todorovic, 2010)

Sasha is a story about a family of Montenegrins who moved to Germany. Their older son (Sasha) is a brilliant pianist apprentice in the middle of puberty and in the process of becoming aware of his homosexuality. A girl, named Jiao, who is supposed to be his girlfriend, becomes the first one to know the truth, and through that, by way of sticking with him acquires his friendship. When the family finally learns Sasha’s secret, the story nearly ends in tragedy, but gets a continuation of mutual concord and peace instead.

Although, the story, as presented by Dennis Todorovic, is relatively interesting and surely consistent all the way (which makes this film at least a professional one), it is also kind of soft, because for certain nuances of  the concept their importance is overestimated, which distorts the overall picture, especially side-by-side with a larger scale view. What’s worse, though, is that everything about this story is completely derivative; there are no original ideas here, – all of them I’ve seen somewhere before, for sure, – and in addition to the story’s triteness, there is nothing really special about anything in the execution: the acting is fine, the image could’ve been better, but whatever, the sound is ok, etc.

All in all, you won’t miss anything if you were to skip this one. It’s fine, but nothing special.

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People Will Talk (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1951)

People Will Talk is a drama about a brilliant medical doctor Noah Pretorius who loves helping other people. Once he meets a pregnant girl named Deborah and becomes so fond of her over time he looses the ability to imagine his life without her. At the same time an investigation is being conducted in order to prove his unfitness to the profession, specifically – through his relationship with his servant-type friend mr. Shunderson. Is the doctor really as good as he seems?

(spoiler alert: yes, he is. In the finale, when all the pieces to the story are brought together, the hero triumphs and his ill-wishers stay covered in shame.) An impudent happy ending in the finale makes obvious what was surreptitiously sensed before – this film tries too hard to be, or at least, seem perfect. The weak story, however, spoils whatever stylistic findings Mankiewicz and his crew can boast with – really, using general goodness of the heart as a primary motivation for the main character is pathetic. Moreover, the guy is too perfect, unnaturally so, like a Ken doll; the girl is almost the same way, but at least she’s nice to look at, while Cary Grant’s type is not that cool anymore.

The combination of all these factors with outdated style and just an okay direction sums up to a mediocre movie that tries really hard to look better than it is, but still fails. All in all, nothing really interesting here, no part of this film is in any way outstanding. It is a little entertaining, though. But considering its age, only a tiny bit. Not really worth it. Names and figures

The Firm (Nick Love, 2009)

The Firm by Nick Love is a story of a young boy in the 1980s, who joined the group of football fans under the influence of their leader, which cased complications in his relationship with the family and old friends. However, quite soon the leader of the firm made some questionable decisions that led to rather unfortunate events, and on account of that the boy started having doubts and eventually pulled off of that company.

So, yeah, this is film about passion related decisions and their consequences. It’s quite good, but on the other hand – nothing really special. The story is not exactly original; the cast is okay, but barely more than that; correspondingly, acting was just fine, far from great. All in all, the film leaves an impression of second-tierness, although once again – it’s dramatically quite decent, and at least interesting because of the characters’ accents and speech patterns. This seems like a case when the writing is almost good, but the direction is not so much. Not that it’s a complete waste of time, but you won’t lose anything by skipping this one.

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Black Tape (Michelle Kranot, Uri Kranot, 2014)

Black Tape is a tiny little animation with no particular plot, but a far-reaching concept. Swift-passing characters here are broken down into pairs who are engaged in a sort-of dance, a tango of oppression. Everything happening is in absolute harmony with the music, and looks absolutely stunning. There are probably some elevated ideas this movie should (and surely can) awaken in a person’s mind, but me – I just enjoy the precision and the beauty. Here, you try it:

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Calvary (John Michael McDonagh, 2014)

Calvary by John Michael McDonagh is a hardcore drama from the life of small congregation somewhere in Ireland. A local priest, who has never wronged anybody, accepts a confession from a man, who tells him first off that he was raped by a catholic priest when he was just 7 years old. He then warns the priest that he is going to murder him in exactly one week, because there’s no use in killing a bad priest, while killing a good one is bound to make a splash. The priest spends the following days doing his usual rounds: he visits people, helps whoever he can help and hears the rest, mends the relationship with his estranged daughter, etc. – all with a background anticipation of forthcoming death, which he can prevent by going to the police (because, unlike the audience, he knows who that man is), only he doesn’t. For 7 days of screen time we observe what really lies beneath a seemingly peaceful surface of a small Irish community, and then it ends with a bang, not a whisper.

At first the movie seems a little out there, but as the picture acquires more and more details, more and more colors, the true face of life starts to emerge from behind the smiling mask. Not gonna lie to you – it ain’t pretty. Seems like every single character in this story, except maybe for the central figure, is broken in that way or another, is poisoned, and spreads the poison around him- or herself. The story is ruthless and honest, and that makes it very powerful, – that, and the skill with which McDonagh assembles it piece by piece and then brings it to the expected, but still shocking finale.

The tempo is pretty slow, although not without several rather intense peaks. The cast is really strong, and, curiously enough, includes several actors who are better known as comedians. All the actors did very good, but Gleeson – especially so. All in all, this is a dark, even gloom tragedy, a cinema of very high quality. Recommended, by proceed with caution.

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Chumbak / Magnet [A House Wife’s Dilemma] (Prabhakar Meena Bhaskar Pant, 2017)

Chumbak is a short story that was apparently inspired by real-life drama of one Indian family. An adopted boy wakes up one night because of horrible mortal groans and sees that his foster-father is murdered by the wife… Or is he?

This movie is a little strange. It tells about a collision inside a dysfunctional family, and their attempt to find a way out, but not only that attempt is weird as hell, it also doesn’t work. This is a pretty interesting work, but it lacks information; at the end, like it often happens, there are notes about subsequent development in the characters’ lives, and even though they do clarify the picture a little bit, too much is still left unsaid. The film leaves a feeling of incompleteness, which is probably the biggest problem with it. Everything else, however, is pretty good, including acting and the overall directorial style. You may wanna check it out:

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White Shirt (Sumit Arora, 2017)

White Shirt is a story of a relationship that has come to an end. A white shirt that he can’t bring himself to get from her house for a long time becomes a symbol of that relationship, and when she finally returns it, it means that she got over him.

This story is centered around the relationship exclusively, and there is absolutely nothing more to it, which means it’s a soap. Even though it might be a step forward for stereotypical indian cinema, it’s too small, and also – in the wrong direction. Not worth the time, but check it out if you’re into nonsensical tear-jerkers:

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Everest (Baltasar Kormákur, 2015)

Everest is a drama based on real story, when in 1996 20 different teams started ascending mount Everest at the same time. Rob Edwin Hall, one of the team leaders, gets the feeling that under these rather unusual circumstances something is bound to go wrong, so he joins forces with another team leader and his friend Scott Fischer. Reaching the top proves to be extremely hard indeed, but getting back turns out to be even harder when the storm hits those who got delayed.

On the one hand, the level of professional execution boggles the mind – pretty much every aspect of the story is done right, especially the special effects (I can’t even imagine how they did all that), and the acting, – and the cast, by the way, is rather amazing. On the other – the story, even though it’s based on real events, or maybe exactly because of it, is really plain, meaning there is nothing unexpected there, no real story turns: even if you don’t know anything about the story behind the script, it’s pretty easy to predict the development of events, which kind of makes the story not interesting. I mean, it’s still quite thrilling and all, and, like I said, the actors do their absolute best, but without any intrigue whatsoever, simple attractors, like mortal danger due to weather changes, do not work very well. And besides, this whole thing is about a bunch of people, who were too bored with nothing special happening in their lives, so they inflicted an ordeal on themselves, and the mere fact that not all of them survived it does make it tragic, but doesn’t make it any less stupid.

All in all, this is definitely a great entertainment, you won’t be disappointed if that’s your purpose, and there is a lot in there to enjoy, but it’s more like a documentary re-enactment, it’s kind of little too close to life.

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Ouch (Neeraj Pandey, 2016)

Ouch is a short film about a man and a woman meeting in a hotel room. Both were supposed to inform their respective spouses about their affair, but only the man actually did it thus ruining his marriage. The woman, on the other hand, not only didn’t do the same, but came down to break up with the lover instead.

The subject itself seems like a decent one: story about an affair going the wrong way is subtle and significant at the same time, which is quite unusual for Indian cinema, so kudos for the attempt. However, the execution is terrible, even though the actors seem to be good professionals. Dialogs are poorly written and unbalanced. I’m guessing that the situation in the center was intended as an amusing one, but it just doesn’t work. Direction is like there is no director at all. This is downright bad. A childish imitation of real cinema. I wouldn’t waste the time if I were you, but I gotta give you the choice anyway:

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The Chekist (Aleksandr Rogozhkin, 1990)

Chekist is a screen adaptation of a novella by Vladimir Zazubrin called “Schepka [The Wood Chip]” that was written back in 1923 and that depicts the everyday operation of the newly formed soviet secret service Cheka (which is short for Special Committee). Basically, all they were doing is executing people for not supporting soviet authorities enough. The hero of the book (and of the film, too) is one Srubov, a head of the regional Cheka department and chairman of the special troika, which is a tiny commission consisting of 3 members, whose sole purpose was condemning people to death via a brief discussion, – or releasing them, but that was more of an exception to the rule. Another part of his routine was overseeing executions being served, and so, watching dozens of people go through the his death basements every day, including those he knew personally, he slowly looses his mind, up until he snaps.

This description may seem like a rather straight-forward story, but it actually wallows in the nightmare of constant atrocity; there are other characters, each of whom handles the situation differently, and all of theirs actions and words amalgamate into a solid picture of the mortal horror. This is a very disturbing movie (same is true for the book as well, maybe even more so), mostly because death is such a common thing, such an everyday thing in this story, it stops matter at all. Murder becomes the humdrum, people lose sensibility completely, which eventually destroys their souls and their minds. The scariest thing about it is that the depiction is historically accurate.

The execution is amazingly strong on the one hand, because it’s ruthless and devoid of shame, which makes it not just convincing, but feasible; but on the other – it only follows through with Srubov, but not with the other heroes, which feels like an omission. There’s something else about, which I cannot put into words, but I feel like it could’ve been better. Maybe it’s about the technical quality, I don’t know.

All in all, this is one of the most dreadful movies I’ve seen, and it’s not even a horror. It is truly distressing, so proceed with caution.

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Wire Cutters (Jack Anderson, 2014)

Wire Cutters by Jack Anderson is an animated short about 2 autonomous robots extracting mineral resources on a distant planet. They worked each on their own at first, then they met and managed to form a sort of cooperation to enhance the outcome, but soon slithered into unhealthy competition, which led to both their demise.

Although this film was clearly inspired by Pixar’s Wall-E, its story still is pretty original, but most importantly – it’s really well-elaborated and consistent from beginning to end. There is nothing superfluous about the situation, individual robots’ operations, as well as their relationship, develops in a logical fashion and leads to a natural, albeit tragic, outcome. The animation is quite brilliant, too. All in all, this is a wonderful work of art, no doubt about that. But go on, see for yourself:

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Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear (Eric England, Nick Everhart, Emily Hagins, Jesse Holland, Miko Hughes, Andy Mitton, 2013)

Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear is a horror anthology consisting of 5 short movies and centered around the senses, with each film called after one of them. At first shorts seem to be unconnected, but later a semblance of a common plot emerges, which includes a mysterious corporation with unclear intentions and wicked methods. Signs connecting each particular film to that plot can be witnessed in every one of them, although most are overly subtle. Unfortunately, it would seem like that general story was a later idea specifically invented to tie the shorts closer together, and it doesn’t really work, first and foremost because the goals of the corporation remain vague and unintelligible even after the last of the films is over, and also because the shorts are quite different in terms of the story quality.

Smell. This one is about a looser who works in an office, and to whose house a woman comes one morning to give him a free sample of a pheromone-based perfume that is supposed to make people attracted to him and through that improve his life. And it does work, only with a really bad side-effect: it makes his body decompose in an extremely unpleasant fashion. Apart from the fact that pheromones are not applicable to human beings (which makes the idea preposterous), it’s not a bad movie as it shows quite naturally the behavioral development happening under the influence of changed circumstances.

See. An eye-doctor, who found a way to steal his patients recollections using some sort of equipment, once finds out that one of his favourite patients is a victim of domestic violence. He lures her husband into his office and applies some nightmare-like visions to him hoping that it would make him stop, but it only makes things worse and turns the guy into a clear-cut murderer. Seems like this story is based on a presumption that memories are stored in eyes and not the brain, which is ridiculous, of course, but aside from this it’s actually pretty good, because it’s about unpredictable (and horrible) consequences of good intentions.

Touch. This one is about a family of three (a mother, a father, and their blind son) who got into a trap when driving for a vacation place. The boy, who remains relatively unharmed in the accident, leaves to seek help and finds a lair of a serial killer (a further development of the husband from “See”). This story is probably the best of the collection, because there are no absurd stretches here, everything is rather realistic and plausible. Besides, the boy is really a great finding.

Taste is probably the most ludicrous of them all. A guy, who later is revealed to be a talented hacker, is brought to the corporation’s headquarters in a limo, and is suggested a job. He refuses, and instead of trying to change his mind, the girl interviewing him drugs him and mutilates and murders him in front of a lot of people, who simply watch it happen. It definitely looks gruesome, but what is the meaning of all it? Why this happens as it does? No explanation is provided, and none arises from the context.

Listen explores a popular theme of a mysterious tune that would make anybody who listened to it in full immediately commit suicide in the most disturbing way possible. A couple of filmmakers come by a collection of VHS tapes (delivered to them from multiple sources), which, if put together in the right order, would become a sort of journal of a recording session for a song written by some composer admitted to an asylum. None of the test subjects is able to play the music from beginning to end, so the experimenters simply deprive some poor guy of his hearing entirely, and make him play the tune while several other people listen to him playing (all die dreadfully). After the complete song is recovered, it gets leaked to the web causing disastrous outcome. The film is quite consistent, and its style and professional implementation are superb, but the core idea is extremely dubious, so there’s that.

The execution quality for the whole anthology is pretty high. The actors are very good, every one of them is a strong professional, and there were no deflections from their part whatsoever. Special effects, including makeup, seem to be exactly the way they should be. So the weakest part of this project is the stories (which were based on outdated and ridiculous ideas), and especially the common plot (which was not thought-out very thoroughly). Still, it’s a decent entertainment – for a horror, that is.

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Short Anthology

Alien׃ Covenant. Prologue׃ The Crossing

The title of this one speaks for itself. I’m not sure why they present it as a short when it’s more like a trailer. Doesn’t have any artistic value on its own.

Time: ~3m
Released in: 2017
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Entertaining quality4 out of 5
Art quality:  – out of 5


Big Catch

Big Catch is a really stupid story about a shark trying to get to a fisherman. Very crude animation style, too. I’m guessing it’s supposed to be funny, but really it’s just dumb.

Time: ~4m
Released in: 2010
Directed by: Moles Merlo
Entertaining quality3+ out of 5
Art quality2 out of 5


Dust Buddies

Dust Buddies is a CGI short about so-called dust rabbits (i.e. random lumps of dust) who are fighting with evil represented by a french-looking maid with a vacuum cleaner. Animation is fine, but the story is commonplace and ridiculous at the same time. Nothing really interesting.

Time: ~5m
Released in: 2016
Directed by: Beth Tomashek, Sam Wade
Entertaining quality:  3+ out of 5
Art quality:  4- out of 5
IMDB page: link


Oktapodi

Oktapodi is a short animation about a couple of octopuses who are fighting with a delivery driver for their life. It is a little bit funny, although mostly it’s ludicrous. Animation is okay, but hardly more than that.

Time: ~3m
Released in: 2007
Directed by: Julien Bocabeille, François-Xavier Chanioux, Olivier Delabarre, Thierry Marchand, Quentin Marmier, Emud Mokhberi
Written by: Julien Bocabeille, François-Xavier Chanioux, Olivier Delabarre, Thierry Marchand, Quentin Marmier, Emud Mokhberi
Entertaining quality:  3+ out of 5
Art quality:  4- out of 5
IMDB page: link


In a Heartbeat

In a Heartbeat is a short story about a boy who fell in love with another boy, and whose heart showed him the way. Literally: the heart here is a separate character and main driver of the story. All in all it’s pure, undiluted romance, without a hint of originality or significance. It’s so upbeat and romantic, there’s hardly any place for intelligence left there. I suppose, some brainless little girls would love it, but it doesn’t have any value whatsoever. Except, maybe, for animation, which is okay, but nothing special.

Time: ~4m
Released in: 2017
Directed by: Esteban Bravo, Beth David
Written by: Esteban Bravo, Beth David
Starred by: Nicholas J. Ainsworth, Kelly Donohue
Entertaining quality:  2 out of 5
Art quality:  1- out of 5
IMDB page: link


Launder Man

Launder Man is a horror short about a woman who went to do some laundry in a laundromat and got lured and attacked by a mysterious disguised man. Most of its frightening power (if it’s even a proper term here) comes from loud noises and weird makeup and props. There is no context to the story, and that makes it kind of empty, un-scary. It’s only 3 minutes, but still not worth the time.

Time: ~3m
Released in: 2017
Directed by: Landon Stahmer
Written by: Landon Stahmer
Performed by: Sean Brison, Belinda Gosbee
Entertaining quality:  3+ out of 5
Art quality:  2 out of 5
IMDB page: link


Winter’s Here / Zima prishla

Zima prishla is an animated short film about how the change of seasons. A boy dreams of the world turning all white as the winter takes over. There are characters in that play, which are traditional heroes of Russian fairy tales – the fox, the rabbit, the bear, – but no particular story outside the theme. The style of animation is exceptionally vivid and includes claymation and string art. The picture is strange and beautiful; the music is in great harmony with the image; and the overall result is quite impressive. It is sort of meditative, too. I believe, it’s worth checking out:

Time: ~6m
Released in: 2012
Directed by: Vassiliy Shlychkov
Written by: Vassiliy Shlychkov
Entertaining quality: 4 out of 5
Art quality:  4 out of 5
IMDB page: link

(v. 4.8)
®shoomow, 2017

Good Business (Ray Sullivan, 2017)

Good Business is a sci-fi short about humanity’s presence on a new planet with intelligent life. A team of humans makes a deal with local population’s representative and sells them some weapons. With risks that any weapon deal traditionally implies.

Special effects are superior, although aside from unpleasant-looking local creatures there’s not much to look at. The story is simple (and rather predictable, too), but consistent and logical, which in my book matters more. The acting is good. All in all, the director is definitely an interesting craftsman, worth keeping an eye out for.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Tim Burton, 2016)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Tim Burton is a tale about a boy named Jake who thought himself to be ordinary but found out that he is a peculiar, and that there are other peculiar children out there. As the story goes, boy’s grandfather gets killed by a weird entity that also took his eyes. Before he died, he made Jake promise that he would visit the island where he grew up back in the 1940s and about which he told Jake earlier framing it as fairy tales. When Jake gets there, he learns all about the loops, and the Ingrines, and all kinds of peculiarity that some children possess. He also learns that there is a group of evil men who seek to destroy the beauty of peculiarity for their own sake.

The story is actually pretty complicated, and its charm would probably vanish if I’d try to lay it all there. Suffice it to say, the concept is quite original and consistent at the same time; and the story is rather fascinating with all its twists and turns, and amazing characters. The latter is one of the strongest suits of the film; there are a lot of wonderfully weird creatures engaged in the narrative, all of them well-developed; the most notable are Samuel Jackson’s, Eva Green’s, Asa Butterfield’s and Ella Purnell’s characters, although others are not at all inferior to them. Special effects are another powerful trait of Burton’s execution of this story – they are indeed flawless and beautiful, but not too distracting at the same time (for which end greatly elaborated story serves as a counterweight).

The film is not without certain drawbacks, or better say – omissions, but there are very few of those, and they do not impact the overall result all that much. I enjoyed the movie immensely, and they didn’t spoil the pleasure at all. All in all, it’s a great work of cinema, arguably one of the best works of Burton.

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Klementhro (Sue Dunham, 2015)

Klementhro is a very short animated film about a guy sailing on a float in the middle of the sea. It’s totally surreal, and as it often happens with surreal stories, there is no plot per se, but something large emerges from the separate events that constitute the narrative here. All in all, this is a simple, weird, and uplifting movie.

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Monster (Patty Jenkins, 2003)

Monster by Patty Jenkins is a biopic of a serial killer Aileen Wuornos. She was a prostitute for the major part of her life, but then she got too tired of constant disdain and abuse. Driven by loathing towards people in general on the one hand, and having tasted what it is to love and be loved on the other, trapped in terrible circumstances, she once killed a guy who was trying to murder her. That forced her to some very bad decisions, and eventually she ended up on a death row.

This is an incredibly sad story about a girl who never had a chance. For starters, she wasn’t very bright, and she didn’t have strong will, which, along with cruelty of those around her, determined her choice of life path. She never got to experience love, which is why she fell so hard when she met Selby – the intensity of her feeling was a very significant factor in the following events. She was a victim of circumstances, but she also made some very poor choices, and the film seems to be depicting the development of these preconditions with great objectivity.

The execution is really powerful; it consists of many various components, each of which ranges from good to great, but the most notable one, the really outstanding one is Charlize Theron’s image of Aileen and her amazing performance. Every beautiful actress can play a beautiful character, but playing a non-pretty one is the true challenge, and Charlize managed to do it so well, it’s mind-boggling. I never gave her a second thought, truth be told, but after this movie I really admire her.

But even though this film is pretty amazing, it’s still inconceivably sad, so be careful. I loved the way it handles life, but it still put me in a depressed state of mind.

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Short Anthology

Pigeon: Impossible (Lucas Martell, 2009)

Pigeon: Impossible is a short animated parody on Mission: Impossible film series and heavily equipped cinema spies in general. It is sort of fun to watch, but only sort of, because the story is basically an anecdote: it is completely improbable, it doesn’t have a grain of truth in it, it is based on ridiculous prerequisites, and develops in even more ridiculous way. The animation is a bit too smooth and a bit too bright. All in all, it is irritating and entertaining in more or less equal shares. Not recommended (waste of time, I call it), but check it out if you want:

Time: ~6m
Released in: 2009
Directed by: Lucas Martell
Written by: Lucas Martell, Austen Menges, Scott Rice, Gopal Bidari
Entertaining quality4 out of 5
Art quality:  3- out of 5

IMDB page: link


A Perfect Break-Up (Abhinav Pratiman, 2014)

A Perfect Break-Up is some kind of an ad; it explores movie stereotypes connected to the process of breaking-up a romantic relationship, and suggests some new ones. It’s pretty fun to watch, although there’s nothing here that could make it stick in memory for longer than 10 minutes after it’s over – no story, no characters, no real drama.

Time: ~1m
Released in: 2014
Directed by: Abhinav Pratiman
Entertaining quality4 out of 5
Art quality:  3 out of 5


A Single Life (Marieke Blaauw, Joris Oprins, Job Roggeveen, 2014)

A Single Life is an animated short about a girl who received a mysterious package with a record that can manipulate lifespan of a particular person when played. There is no actual story here, but the idea is bright and funny, and its implementation is quite befitting. It’s really short, but manages to elevate the mood nonetheless:

Time: ~3m
Released in: 2014
Directed by: Marieke Blaauw, Joris Oprins, Job Roggeveen
Written by: Marieke Blaauw, Joris Oprins, Job Roggeveen
Entertaining quality5+ out of 5
Art quality:  4 out of 5


(v. 4.8)
®shoomow, 2017

My Home / Chez moi (Phuong Mai Nguyen, 2014)

Chez moi is a short animated film about a drastic change in the life of a little boy, whose mother brings home an alien person one time, brings him to stay, and that leads to certain estrangement between the mother and the son.

This is a delicate film about a very subtle story. The event in the center of it is not big, but it is significant, which is great to see appreciated – the finesse of this kind is a rare treat. Allegories constitute a large part of the implementation making the movie organically symbolical, but all the symbolism here is merely a means of storytelling and doesn’t have any value outside of this purpose. The animation style is quite notable, with colors dimmed and beautiful; one of Phuong Mai Nguyen’s strongest suits is delicate and precise re-creation of physics, especially that of movement. There are no dialogs, but all the necessary sounds are in place; the overall organization of the story makes the absence of the words seem pretty normal.

All in all, this is a sublime work of animation, totally worth checking out:

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Cracks (Jordan Scott, 2009)

Cracks by Jordan Scott is a period drama set in the middle on 1930s in a boarding school for girls in Great Britain. Within the school educational ecosystem there is a diving team trained by miss G, a young and audacious woman who once attended the school herself. She nurtures a spirit of contradiction in her fosterlings, inspires them to dream and not to take seriously whatever is forced onto them, sometimes pitching it too strong; her influence on the girls grows over time and eventually takes a semblance of a cult. This established counterbalance starts to crack once a new girl joins the team, – Fiamma, an offspring of a Spanish aristocrat, who turns out to be too strong and complicated for the entrenched situation to hold as it did before. Unhealthy rivalry appears inside the group when Fiamma becomes miss G’s favourite; and then it turns even worse when miss G doesn’t get the same attitude from her in return.

This film is basically about the power of desire and shame that follows the desire, and how this mix can lead to a tragedy. The story is not plain, it’s quite complex, in fact, with several very different layers connected into an intricate mechanism with lots of moving parts. That, along with wonderfully developed characters and great dialogs, makes the film really interesting. The cast is pretty amazing, especially Juno Temple and Maria Valverde, and, of course, Eva Green. The execution is on a very high professional level; the cinematography is particularly beautiful.

All in all, this is a very strong drama with distinct British accent, without any flaws (not that I noticed), but maybe a little too subtle for general audience.

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Graduation / Bacalaureat (Cristian Mungiu, 2016)

Bacalaureat by Cristian Mungiu is a story about a local doctor who established over the years a reputation of incorruptible professional. Now his daughter is about to be accepted into a prestigious educational institution in Great Britain, but in order to secure that she needs her final examination grades to be top-notch. As ill luck would have it, she almost gets raped the day before one of the exams, and even though she wasn’t hurt phisically, it was enough to knock down her internal balance. Just to make things sure, her father, the doctor, contacts a patient of his, a high-ranking bureacrat, who in his turn contacts one of the responsible officials who owes him a favour. One favour exchanged for another, and the mechanism of reciprocal rescue gets launched incurring expected consequences, as well as those no one could predict.

As it usually happens with realistic movies, this is a very sad one. Not just because it’s about a man stepping over his principles in life, although it does constitute a huge part of the overall tragedy, but people around him are nowhere near to being happy or at least content. Everybody is in a dead end of one sort or another, and each of those dead ends seems to be hopeless. But the important thing is that all those situations do come together in a dark unison – the story in general is constructed with great skill; every element of it fits with the others perfectly well. Other aspects of implementation, such as the acting, cinematography, and so on, – all done on a great professional level. This work of cinema feels significant and is pretty much flawless.

However, it doesn’t arouse same kind of affection as previous Mungiu’s film (Beyond the Hills) does. I though about why this may be, and I came to the conclusion that it’s because Dupa dealuri was build around romantic love of a rather specific kind that had such derivatives as powerful passion and mental instability, while Bacalaureat has in its core not love, but will, and will, being of different nature, just doesn’t affect a viewer’s soul as strongly. Suffice it to say, this has nothing to do with quality.

All in all, this is a wonderful movie, but it’s quite depressing too. Proceed with caution.

Names and figures

Ahalya (Sujoy Ghosh, 2015)

Ahalya is a short film about a policeman who came to the house of a famous artist trying to investigate disappearance of a male model who was last seen there. At first nothing seemed out of the ordinary to him, except maybe for the dolls that kept falling off their shelf for no apparent reason, but then the host remembered that the guy was interested in the mysterious artifact that he owned, a stone that was supposedly possessing magic powers.

This is a rather ordinary mystical story implemented without any excesses usually characteristic of Indian cinema, meaning there are no singing, no dancing, nothing of the sort. It’s a normal work of cinema, rather professional on all levels, including acting, direction and cinematography. The story is based on Hindu mythology, and is relatively interesting, but doesn’t seem very original, because similar themes were explored by Hollywood for decades. All in all, it’s a nice intro into modern Indian cinema, curious and not at all repulsive. Bollywood seems to be outgrowing its childish reputation, and it’s a good thing.

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Alone (Brock Torunski, 2013)

Alone is a short movie about the last man on Earth, who happened to survive humanity-wide epidemic, and now is living our whatever years he has left in relative comfort and absolute solitude.

Nothing really interesting here. An ordinary post-apocalyptic story designed to take minimal resources for execution: a single character (with fleeting glimpses of other people) in the middle of decaying civilization scenery – this combination is not hard to organize. A lot of off-screen commentary, which is a sign of weak writing. There is a semi-expected twist in the finale that doesn’t lead to plot thickening (although may have been conceived as a cliffhanger) but is supposed to inflate viewer’s imagination. All in all, a mediocre and unoriginal work. But it’s also a short one, so check it out if you want:

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Frauds (Stephan Elliott, 1993)

Frauds by Stephan Elliott is a story about Jonathan and Beth Wheats, who were a rather ordinary couple, until the husband decided to pull an insurance scheme involving a fake robbery, and one Roland Copping, insurance investigator, who likes to play games with people instead of carrying out his direct duty. When the paths of these 3 meet, a big game starts, game with constantly growing stakes.

The film is pretty interesting, albeit implemented in a very out-of-date fashion. It is, basically, about 2 people who are obsessed with games meeting each other – as competitors, at least within the scope of this story, but after it’s over – who knows? The finale leaves quite a lot of space for wool-gathering. The direction could’ve been more subtle, but it’s good enough. The acting is pretty great, even though the drama is not very intense. All in all, it’s a nice, but facultative work of cinema.

Names and figures

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