47 Ronin

47_roninUS release date: December 25

A fantasy version of the loyal forty-seven ronin legend. Hiroyuki Sanada is the samurai Ôishi, while Keanu Reeves is infused into the plot as Kai, the supposedly half-breed warrior, found by the noble Lord Asano on the edge of a mysterious forest as a child, then befriended Asano’s only daughter, the kind-hearted Princess Mika–and of course after time fell helplessly in love with one another. You’ve heard this kind of story hundred times before: a downtrodden warrior with an impossible love for a princess, sacrifices his life to save her, and a disgraced samurai fighting for the honor of his deceased Lord.
True, the fighting and battle scenes are a bit underdeveloped and quite anticlimactic, and in the end it still isn’t quite discernible how a mere 47 men could ever done something like Ôishi, Kai, and their friends did (In music score department the movie also really, really, needs a love theme for Kai and Mika!). But the screenwriters presented their generic storyline so self-confidently without being afraid to bore you at times if they must, and as the result, the movie doesn’t rush itself to death, and take as long as it takes to tell its story. A rare quality for Hollywood movies these days, especially after the epic crash of The Lone Ranger. So even if you may not like the finished result, even if you hated Keanu Reeves, 47 Ronin doesn’t qualify as a bad movie.

My Rating: 7/10

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All the Light in the Sky

All-the-Light-in-the-Sky2013 Nashville Film Festival – Winner Best Actress in a Narrative Feature.

US release date: December 20

The main character, Marie, a 40-something underemployed actress, wakes up one morning in her small cozy one bedroom Malibu beach house, shuts down an audiobook on her laptop, strips her clothes, changes to wetsuit,and goes downstairs straight to the sea, back from the sea, takes a shower and then talking to her agent on the phone. She meets some friend, talks with other friend, listens to her phone message, and then goes to bed in the night, turning on the same audiobook. Next morning, her aspiring-actress niece Faye is coming over to spend the weekend with her, they have some breakfast, she meets some geologist, and then Marie goes to bed in the night–again with the very same psychoanalysis audiobook, while on the living room Faye is showing her boobs to her boyfriend on video chat. The third morning, Marie and Sarah both strip their clothes, change to wetsuit and go downstairs to the sea. Then the movie follows day after day of Marie’s, and Faye’s, aimless and confusing love lives, and Marie’s continuous geology discussions.
It’s a realistic strong female-centric small mumblecore drama that wants to be as natural and authentic as possible. But showing Marie, and Faye, repeatedly putting on and off their clothes can also be a bit unnecessary. And by the way, if you notice–if you care at all–there’s a Ti West cameo in this movie.

My Rating: 6/10

The Past

past2013 Cannes Film Festival – Winners, Best Actress, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.
2013 Durban International Film Festival – Winner Best Screenplay.
2013 Oslo Films from the South Festival – Winner Audience Award.

US release date: December 20

Separated by a thick glass in the airport terminal, talk to each other without actually hearing one another. They ride a car, a rented car, later illegally parked and almost get fined.  Ahmad and Marie, soon to be legally separated by law ex husband and wife, separated by everything. Choices. Nationalities. Fate.
In France with her two daughters, Marie is currently living together, and going to marry Samir, a young technically-not-yet-widower with a son. But her eldest daughter Lucie is all against it. Marie has her reasons, Lucie has her reasons, and they’re both probably right. Heck, even Samir has his own right reasons. And what could Ahmad do? A soon to be legal ex husband. Soon to be legal ex stepfather. He could even unintentionally make things worse in the middle of these layers of trouble. It’s a crowd in their old, beaten-up, in the middle of unfinished repainting, house.

My Rating: 8/10

Hours

hoursUS release date: December 13

During Hurricane Katrina, Nolan Hayes is stranded on a local hospital where his wife died on a premature labor. His small baby daughter’s in incubator with ventilator and IV line. Grieving, and killing time, he strays into an empty corridor where he find his wife’s body. Later that night the authorities are evacuating the hospital, so now it’s just Hayes, his baby, vending machine snacks, sodas, and the flood. The electricity finally goes out and incubator’s defective battery only stands for about another three hours. And the IV is also running out. While Nolan waits and practically running a self-service NICU, the movie also kills time by straying into a series of unnecessary news clips, nostalgic monologues, and romantic flashbacks, and later even an imaginary dialogue scene, that quite severely reducing the story’s tension and diluting the sense of impending peril. Also, wouldn’t it be more useful if he just go–make a quick swim if he has to–to any nearby building, looking for actual help? This is downtown New Orleans, so it couldn’t be that far, right? Or at least try to recharge his dead cellphone with the hand-crank portable generator?
Goodbye, Paul. Rest in peace.

My Rating: 4/10

Tricked

steekspelUS release date: December 13

From scene one we knew Remco Albrecht’s 50th birthday house party was not going to be a normal birthday party. His bitter and cynical son was there, his cocaine addict and Rammstein fan daughter was there. His frustrated business partners were there. His 8 month pregnant ex mistress was there. Even his new mistress was there. The next day is not remotely better. At the office, his colleagues inform him that his construction firm is going bankrupt, and they, with a big help from the ex mistress, are forcing Remco to sell the business to a Chinese company. And now who can help him get out from this mess? Interestingly enough, it’s his new mistress; with a big help from the cynical son.

My Rating: 6/10

Trap for Cinderella

trap forUS release date: December 13

A remake of 1965’s Piège pour Cendrillon, the film opens with a mysterious explosion, and the victim, Michelle “Micky”, undergoes a reconstructive cosmetic surgery, and waking up not remembering much about her earlier life except flashes of incoherent images and fragments of memories. She’s being told that she will inherit her rich late Aunt Elinor’s fortune on her next birthday. She can’t resist the urge to reconnect with Jake, a guy she believe is, or at least was, her boyfriend. With additional information from Jake, Micky retraces her best friend, later explained as her childhood friend, Domenica “Do”, believed to be dead at the explosion. At her old apartment, Micky finally reads Do’s diary and the movie suddenly jump to what appears to be a flashback from Micky’s and Do’s point of view, as if the filmmaker just opt to do the easiest way to tell the story, while also swiftly unravel the mystery to the audience. Maybe, paradoxically, the movie would be much more interesting if Iain Softley didn’t put too much focus on the so-so (and not very logical) plot twists, present the storyline linearly, and just explore the much more intriguing strange and slowly growing bizarre relationship between Micky and Do.

My Rating: 4/10

Swerve

swerveUS release date: December 6

A man named Colin and a woman are involved in a road accident with a drug dealer in the middle of Australian desert. In the dealer’s car wreck he found a suitcase full of money. He report the car crash and give the suitcase to a nearby town’s police station. And the woman is turned out to be none other than the town policeman’s wife, Jina. Colin’s car needs some minor repair at the local garage–later also turned out to be where Jina works (it’s a small town after all, with all other people and other police officers seem to be lounging at the bar or in the middle of some daily marching band parade), so the policeman, Frank, invited Colin to spend the night at their house. And the moment Frank left the house, out of nowhere, and of course to show the audience some skin, Jina begins to seduce Colin. While a mysterious man, claiming to be an insurance officer looming around searching for the drug money, and murdering practically almost everyone on his path.
As the title suggests, this movie does feature some car-swerving, and some murders, and some failed murders. But one question remains: why does Colin have to go through all the troubles? If he doesn’t want the money he should just drive away from that wretched town. For Jina? A woman he just met one day before? Is he really that stupid?

My Rating: 4/10