Boa Sorte

Boa SorteBoa Sorte: Carolina Jabor tells a story that is neither new nor interestingly told (for better or worse, any examination of mental institutions is mostly avoided); furthermore, the story feels overstretched, with many scenes that neither advance the plot nor enrich the underdeveloped characters (nor enrich the mood). Acting is uneven; Fernanda Montenegro, in her few scenes, is typically great, but the central pair (Deborah Secco and João Pedro Zappa) is uninteresting at best.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Pt 1The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1: Francis Lawrence’s film is heavy on set-up and light on payoff, a disappointing combination. The story continues to expand the world and its mythology, but what’s new is not particularly interesting (and it moves into a more generic dystopic setting); the main issue, however, is that there simply isn’t enough at stake for the main characters (in other words, the film is too light on action). Visually, it’s drab and unappealing. The veteran cast already knows how to play their characters, and the newcomers (Julianne Moore in particular) are a solid group.

Read also: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Hunger Games

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Men, Women & Children

Men, Women & ChildrenMen, Women & Children: Jason Reitman’s film presents some interesting ideas, but that doesn’t make the drama automatically engaging or strong. By one hand, there is a detachment (as well as some pretentiousness, particularly to Emma Thompson’s narration) in the way the story is told; by the other, most characters are too extreme, borderline caricatures. The mix makes the whole less relatable. The large ensemble is solid, but for the most part, given uninteresting parts to play; Kaitlyn Dever and Ansel Elgort, who have the most round characters, are the exception.

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Boyhood – Revisit

BoyhoodBoyhood: much like life itself, Richard Linklater’s story advances relentlessly in time; there are few seemingly important events. Therein lies the subtle greatness in this film: growing up is a sum of many small events, not a few big ones. All the while, it presents the viewer with characters that can be easily relatable and cared about. The cast (Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) build beautifully upon those characters. Visually, the film is unadorned; that puts the focus squarely on the characters and their story, however.

See what I wrote before: Boyhood

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Interstellar

InterstellarInterstellar: this film is a typical, if not as complex, Christopher Nolan’s mind-bender. If, despite the heavy exposition at times, the nuances of the story may not be easy to grasp, there is a great emotional clarity to it. The emotional core is very recognizable, therefore relatable and touching. The cast is in great shape; Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain are the standouts, but everyone else is solid. Lee Smith’s editing is a beauty, balancing the act of telling such a complex story seemingly with ease; Hoyte Van Hoytema’s camera work is equally good. The sound design is somewhat distracting, at times making Hans Zimmer’s score too preeminent.

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Living is Easy With Eyes Closed (Vivir Es Fácil Con los Ojos Cerrados)

Living Is Easy With Eyes ClosedLiving is Easy With Eyes Closed: David Trueba’s film is pleasurable enough, but ultimately it’s also rather bland and excessively neat. The plot is almost insufficient, as the focus are on the characters; however, the characters also feel undeveloped and somewhat uninteresting. Also, not much is told about the world where they live in. The cast is solid and have good chemistry, particularly Natalia de Molina and Javier Cámara, but they are not given much to do. The film looks good and convincingly portrays its time period, but it’s unremarkable visually, much like the whole.

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A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on ExistenceA Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence: Roy Andersson presents a film that is an spectacle of precision. The sense of humor is dry and mostly dark, but delivered always at the exact moment for maximum impact. The overall style is rather unique: light on dialogue, the camera always set static for the whole vignette, essentially no cuts; it suggests a rigor in the observation, but the action itself is always borderline (sometimes over the line) absurd. Every shot is beautifully framed by István Borbás and Gergely Pálos (and the color pallete, always consistent), allowing some action to happen in the whole space (the precision in the blocking here is paramount). Of course, this would be irrelevant if the sad stories didn’t resonate, in their very particular way. Wonderfully peculiar, peculiarly wonderful.

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The Rules of the Game (La Règle du Jeu)

The Rules of the GameThe Rules of the Game: Jean Renoir presents the viewer with a wonderful farce; the plot itself is not as important as the presentation (as well as the implied criticism) of the world where the story takes place. The characters are broad and simple, but the group is large and the multitude of relationships is always a joy to watch. Dialogue is sharp, replete with great one-liners. Performances by the cast are, generally, stylized (this is, after all, a comedy) but a perfect fit to the material; Marcel Dalio is the one that sticks the most.

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Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes)

Wild TalesWild Tales: Damián Szifrón’s film has the issue that plagues most projects that present multiple episodes: there’s a certain inconsistency about them. In this case, it’s less about the theme, since all stories share a common element, but the tone: the more the story veers away from realism towards black humour and the absurd, the best the episode is. They are never less than interesting, however. Very well-realized, the cast is generally strong (Erica Rivas and Ricardo Darín are the ones that stand out, mostly because they are given more to play) and it’s visually very rich. Javier Julia’s camerawork makes liberal use of unusual camera placements, but the overall absurdist tone justifies that choice.

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Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit)

Two Days One NightTwo Days, One Night: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne tell a sad, completely relatable story; it’s simple but there’s an undeniable humanity and sense of reality to it. The gallery of characters, all presented with the same conundrum, show various shades of the human soul; the variation is rich. The acting is uniformly great and Marion Cotillard as the main character is superb; she displays every nuance of her sadness, her frailty and her spirit. She gets no benefit, for the most part, from editing, as the action unfurls in many lengthy takes. The visual style is unadorned and functional, but Alain Marcoen’s camerawork gives the power for the cast.

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