I Declare War

IDW2012 Austin Fantastic Fest – Winner Audience Award Best Film.

US release date: August 30

Boys and wargames are inseparable. But aren’t kids supposed to be not playing outside much anymore nowadays? And, hey, there’s a girl in this game. Fifteen minutes into the movie the ‘enemy’ team is already in mutiny, and the protagonist’s team member persuades another team mate to eat dog crap for fifty dollars cash. The boys constantly talk about video games, internet, and computers, but spend a whole afternoon in the woods, sweating like pigs, torturing each other. And the girl, of course she ends up daydreaming. Romantic daydreams. Paris. Ugh.  And those girl-mindgames thing, it’s basically cheating, right? Internet and video games are way much better for these kids!

My Rating: 7/10

The Lifeguard

lifeguardUS release date: August 30

It is neat if you can run away from your life every time it goes sour, run back to your mom and dad, to your old friends, and to your old job. Luckily, Leigh London’s old job as a local swimming pool lifeguard in her small boring hometown is somehow vacant; and her old friends are suddenly decided to procure marijuana from some soon-to-be-dropping-out-from-highschool boys (Yes, they’re thirty years old and don’t have their own weed dealer). Out of nowhere, they also started hanging out with those kids, and then, maybe this is the only thing in the movie that make some weird kind of sense, Leigh falls in love and shags one of them.
Writer-director Liz Garcia wanted to create some kind of a reverse coming-of-age story, where ‘old’ Leigh, coming back from a deflated big city dream and big city love, coming back from the future, finally pops her ‘cherry of life’ with a sixteen years ‘young’ high schooler, in her small hometown. It might sounds like a worth pondering and poetic concept, but the real fact is: love always need reasons. Romeo loves Juliet because she’s beautiful. Humbert Humbert loves Lolita because, well, because he’s a pervert. Leigh and Jason? The old kids and the young kids are never have any real connections or any real reason to be together in the first place. Love story without reasons is a love story that is neither romantic, sexy, nor inspiring. In the end of the movie–when Leigh looks into the camera, to us–we will realize that she probably has screwed up everything for almost nothing. Of course we can’t run away from our lives. We can’t turn back time. We just have to move on. And we already know all that without screwing up like Leigh London.

My Rating: 5/10

Devil’s Pass

dyatlovUS release date: August 23

This movie is a pure Occam’s razor antithesis. It insists to explain and rationalize everything in the Dyatlov Pass incident. Handheld cameras are all over the place, have to see everything, in perfect cinematography, sometimes even with unexplainable zoom-ins.  The movie characters have to open, touch, and enter everything, even when they know they’re in mortal danger.  And yet, that is all the ‘answer’ the scriptwriter can offer us? Oh well. Some mysteries really do truly become more interesting, and more scary, when remained unsolved.

My Rating: 3/10

Drinking Buddies

drinkingUS release date: August 23

Don’t drink wine, drink beer. Working at a small brewery is certainly not a fancy job, but it works just fine for Kate. Things are also going more or less quite smoothly with boyfriend/future husband Chris, even though he’s more of a wine and whisky guy than a beer guy. But from the first ten to fifteen minutes of the movie we already see that Kate is more in-tune with fun guy, beer guy, co-worker Luke, and only a couple of scenes later Luke’s girlfriend/future wife Jill is also conveniently shown more compatible with Chris. So that’s that, and the next one hour plus of the story, the non-stop not so innocent half-hearted flirting game, and a bleeding hand, aren’t really change much of anything.

My Rating: 5/10

Thérèse

ThereseUS release date: August 23

Rich people only marry other rich people to retain their enormous family fortunes, not for love? Maybe. But surely not all of them? That exactly what is bothering Thérèse, when her childhood best friend Anne, her new sister-in-law, falls so happily in love with a man.  Not exactly a poor man, but a Jewish man–a Jewish man with tuberculosis–which her family, Thérèse’s own new family, profusely objected. What about desires, pleasures, and freedom? Every woman, including daughters of rich families, also deserve to experience at least some of it, right?
Audrey Tautou is certainly not at her best in portraying a complex woman who suppresses her emotions, and might appear ice cool on the outside but tortured inside. Director Claude Miller might have wanted a much deeper character interpretation rather than merely rehashing Emmanuelle Riva’s troubled girl persona in the classic 1962 movie, but Tautou’s version of Thérèse just mostly appears wooden, with many stiffly delivered dialogues.

My Rating: 6/10

Paradise: Faith

paradisefaith2012 Venice Film Festival – Winners, CinemAvvenire Award, Special Jury Prize.

US release date: August 23

What is faith exactly? Always on schedule for your daily prayers? Singing some “religious” songs?  Wearing “religious” attires? Enlightening those “unreligious” people? Teaching other people to pray? “Opening” their hearts? No free sex? Or even better, no sex at all? Or even doing some self-flagellation in the name of God? Always finding silver linings in everything? Always praying for others? Always helping others? Believing with every fibre of your being that your religion is, was, and always will be, the most righteous religion on earth forever and ever? Are you sure?

My Rating: 8/10

Check out my review on the previous movie of this trilogy: Paradise: Love

The Grandmaster

grandmaster2013 Shanghai Film Critics Award – Winner Film of Merit Award.

US release date: August 23

In this Wong Kar Wai’s version of the legendary Ip Man history, kung fu is not the usual lightning fast outburst of aggression. It’s a restrained, detailed, poetic, chess-like confrontation. A quarrel without words, cold as pouring rain, or maybe the falling snow. But this time perhaps, far too cold. The storyline is too episodic. And maybe it’s meant to be ‘ultra epic’, but endless slow-mo, extreme close-ups, and artsy blurry images can be quite excruciating.

My Rating: 5/10