Friday, February 19, 2016


A War (Krigen)

A War official site Without physically being in a battlefield, the chaos and brutality of war can often seem abstract and remote to us. The concept of collateral damage during a war can also become merely statistics and headlines. That detachment is completely diminished when you watch Danish writer-director Tobias Lindholm's third feature "A War" (Krigen | Denmark 2015 | in Danish | 115 min.). Nominated for best foreign language film Oscar, this intelligent and thought-provoking film vividly decodes those concepts with a story in Afghanistan's war zone, and shows us how the war continues after the soldiers come home. You can't help but wonder what you would do if you were in the same position as the film's protagonist.

Stationed in a remote village in Afghanistan and led by Commander Claus Pedersen (Pilou Asbæk), a Danish company routinely patrols the empty mountain roads to keep Taliban out of sight. When a soldier is blown up by an IED, the entire team is devastated, especially Lutfi "Lasse" Hassan (Dulfi Al-Jabouri) who is visibly shaken. One soldier bluntly complaints to Claus that the patrol is pointless and only exposes them to grave danger. However, Claus sees it differently. He believes their presence outside the camp is crucial for the locals to feel safe from the Taliban.

Back home, Claus's wife Maria (Tuva Novotny) struggles to take care of their three young children. Claus's absence in their daily routines starts to show significant impact on their growing up. Despite the difficulties Claus's young children may face, their lives exhibit a sharp contrast to the lives of the children Claus encounters in Afghanistan.

One day, when Claus leads his company into a village, they are under furious attacks from the Taliban and Lasse is severely injured. Desperately trying to end the enemy fire and to save Lasse's life, Claus calls for air support which leads to tragic consequences that everyone must confront.

A War Official Site

After making acclaimed "A Hijacking" (Kapringen 2012), the writer-director Tobias Lindholm once again tells a gripping story by taking us right next to those soldiers as if we were the cameras mounted on their helmets. The hand-held camera's violent moves mirror the nerve-wrecking atmosphere perfectly. Everything looks like a threat even in a deserted location and even during an encounter with children. The edgy feeling of sensing that something bad is going to happen is almost unbearable. A soldier declares: "You can't imagine what it's like out there." The film realistically shows what it's like out there.

During the second half of the film, the physical war in Afghanistan is carried over to the mind and soul of these soldiers after they return to Denmark. Although it is a different kind of war, its intensity is never eased. The moral and ethical compass is challenged following the aftermath in the war zone. The war never ends, it simply changes its battle ground.

The film does not speak loudly with an anti-war message, but it makes you wonder if these soldiers should get involved in the Afghanistan War in the first place. Everyone seems to have the best intention, but the brutal war continues to create so-called collateral damage both physically and mentally, abroad and at home.

"A War," a Magnolia Pictures release, opens on Friday, February 19, 2016 in San Francisco Bay Area.

Friday, February 12, 2016



Deadpool official site As the award season winds down toward the grand finale at the Oscar ceremony later this month, the super-hero movies based on Marvel Comics begin to wake up from hibernation for the upcoming summer. With endless adaptations of sequels and prequels flooding into the movie complex every year, it is hard and pointless to keep tabs on which is what and who kills whom. They are often predictable, formulaic, mindless, and always violent. With that expectation in mind, I am surprised by this year's first super-hero movie "Deadpool" (USA 2016 | 108 min.), a funny, raunchy, tongue-in-cheek, and violent feature directorial debut from the director Tim Miller. He seems to know too well about the state of super-hero jukebox. Instead of inserting another familiar piece into the overly stuffed super-hero library, he pokes fun at the genre as well as those Marvel Comics characters. That strategy pays off nicely when the film's characters spill smart-ass one-liners as fast as they shoot the bullets.

The film's audacious opening credits sets the playful and spoofing tone when it tells us the film is written by "The Real Heroes," produced by "Real A-hats," and directed by "An Overpaid Tool." The following opening scene violently depicts the bloody background images shown during the opening credits. Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) in the funny mask is the one who starts the fight and causes the carnage. He claims that he is not a hero, but just a bad guy who fucks up worse guys.

Once he finishes his story, you may feel he is entitled to lash out on the other worse guys. However, these guys are super-beings who cannot really be killed, which makes their fight meaningless, but none of them has figured that out yet.

Before he wears that funny mask calling himself Deadpool, he was Wade Wilson, a handsome cocky bad-ass mercenary who hangs out with his low-key bartender friend Weasel (T.J. Miller). After he meets a strip club waitress Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), the two hit it off like a fruit-fly landing on a loaf of cheese. But that happy episode ends quickly when Wade is told that he has cancer. Of course the film is not going to become a sappy romantic drama. Wade takes on an opportunity to become a self-healing eternal being in a lab operated by a sadistic Ajax (Ed Skrein). The transformation process is more like an S&M session without a safe word and it ruins Wade's handsome looks and turns him into "an avocado that had sex with an older avocado."

Furious about his disfiguring, Wade takes up the nickname Deadpool, puts on his funny outfit, and begins his revenge on Ajax.

Deadpool Official Site

It is quite obvious whom this film is aiming at when it constantly references, sometimes even brings in, other Marvel Comic superheroes and never shies away from showing off extreme violence. However, what sets itself apart from other superheroes movies is that this film does not quite play by the rules and it cracks jokes like popcorn machine to please the fan base. Even though some of the jokes may be off-putting to some audience due to its juvenile and sexist nature, they are pretty funny nevertheless and the filmmakers seem to care little about being politically correct. Actually the entire film is like an out of control party in some dudes' basement where they drink, curse, yell, scream, and raunchily enjoy themselves.

That mood can be remarkably contagious with its target audience. The good performances from the lead actors, especially the terrific Ryan Reynolds also help the film to exceed its expectation. Most people who come to this basement party can be sure to have a good time, unless you are Rosie O'Donnell or Sinéad O'Connor.

"Deadpool," a 20th Century Fox release, opens on Friday, February 12, 2016.

Friday, February 5, 2016


Hail, Caesar!

Hail, Caesar! official site Renowned writer-director Ethan Coen and Joel Coen brothers have made many films including a few master pieces. But when they intend to have some light-hearted fun, they also never fail in delivering sly humor and mischiefs. Their latest satire goofball comedy "Hail, Caesar!" (USA 2016 | 106 min.) is wildly entertaining and funny, despite the fact that it contains little plot and intellect. The film plays out like an ensemble of hilarious skits on Saturday Night Live with a straight-faced host—Josh Brolin.

The "host" in the movie is Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a "fixer" or a go-to guy in the '50s Hollywood studio system. Whether a celebrity is involved in a scandal or a production is stuck, Eddie is the one to take care of the mess whenever there is a problem. His latest problem involves a large scale production "Hail, Caesar! A Tale of the Christ" with a not-so-bright Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) as the lead actor. Before the last important scene can be shot, Baird is kidnapped by "The Future," a group of communist Hollywood writers who blame the studios for taking all the profit that they deserve to share. They ask for $100,000 ransom money for the release of Baird.

Even before the era of cellular phones, Eddie runs around like the most capable CEO who puts off fires and gets things back in order. He gathers religious leaders from different faith to counsel the subject of God for the Caesar production. He finds a father for the unborn-child of a pregnant mega-star DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson). He forces a director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) to cast a dumb cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) in a period drama. He fences off tabloid twin-sister columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton). He goes to confessionsat a rate even the priest thinks is too frequent. He meets a recruiter for career-changing opportunity. He checks out footages with a film-editor C. C. Calhoun (Frances McDormand). Of course, he still has time to deliver a suitcase of ransom money to get Baird back to the production. He is a true fixer, indeed.

Hail, Caesar! Official Site

As if they are giving us an exciting tour inside the sets of studios, the Coen brothers pay homage to the glory of cinema through each amusing skit. Even though these skits mostly seem independent from each other, their glamor and amusement are simply irresistible on their own. From a short scene such as film-editor C. C. Calhoun feeding the film projector to a long take such as an energetic Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum) tap-dancing as a sailor on a movie set, the film does nothing less to enchant the audience. It constantly feels like an opening performance at an Oscar ceremony.

Although Channing Tatum's character Burt is not very significant to the story, but his charming performance steals the show handsomely. He shows us once again what a great dancer he is in case you are not yet convinced by "Magic Mike XXL" (2015). When he turns his head with the Soviet song "The Sacred War" (Священная война) on in the background, how can anybody hold back chuckles with the Coen brothers behind the camera?

Obviously the Coen brothers are not offering anything serious by making this delightful film. They are just having some fun. There is nothing wrong with that, especially when their goofiness works.

"Hail, Caesar!," a Universal Pictures release, opens on Friday, February 5, 2016, and it will open the Berlin International Film Festival on February 11, 2016.

<< Home This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?