Archive for the ‘Foreign’ Category

WildTales_PosterDistress is a part of everyday life. For some, it comes in small bursts. For these six collections of people, distress turned from an emotion to a real potential for chaos. Salgado and Isabel meet for the first time on a flight, but they quickly learn that their paths are more intertwined than just being passengers. A common acquaintance means much more than a simple shared story. For a cook and a waitress in an empty diner, a gangster named Cuenca’s arrival provides a perfect opportunity to enact some revenge. Diego and Mario are two men on a highway, but a passing altercation turns into so much more as they battle for dominance through violence and crude acts. Simón, a demolitions expert, seems to keep having the city’s corrupt parking enforcement ruin his life. Mauricio and his family are devastated by his son’s deadly actions and are forced to make difficult decisions about bribing his way out of it. Romina and Ariel are newlyweds, but a secret held by Ariel has the potential to unravel the entire evening in dramatic fashion.

Review: This truly was a wild one. Each of the six stories were filled with moments that foreshadowed the coming chaos. In some cases, the distress resulted in the demise of those involved, while others were relatively surprising outcomes.

The first story (Pasternak) was more straightforward. The airplane was full of people who had a common person who brought them together. After realizing that they may have had negative experiences with this man, they feared for the events to come. While more predictable, it also had a fun flow to how the story played out.

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In Las Ratas, the waitress had a sad tale of family ruin at the hands of a gangster. When that man happened into the diner, she recounted on her past horrors. The cook was much more action oriented. While the waitress was content with just getting through the encounter and watching him leave, the cook took matters into her own hands. This story of vengeance was an extreme example of attempting to make someone feel pain similar to your own. As the situation got more complicated, the waitress feared for her safety, making it a very conflicting encounter.

El Más Fuerte was a story of masculinity gone wild, mixed with a dash of road rage. While Diego was impatient and rude in passing Mario on the road, he never could have imagined that his flat tire would allow him a second encounter with the man with a short fuse. While he hoped to just apologize and let it go, Mario went ballistic and the two men found themselves in a deadly game of one-upping the other’s insanity.

In Bombita, Simón was a man who let the world walk all over him. He was successful in his work, but his family was teetering on the edge of failure. To push him over the edge, the city’s parking enforcement seemed to find every way to infuriate him and ruin his life. Vowing for vengeance, he saw an opening to use his demolition skills to take down the system…or at least one of the parking enforcement depots.

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La Propuesta was a more somber tale, with the distress coming in the form of covering up a hit & run and entangling multiple people in a series of lies. While the son was feeling the guilt for his actions, the father was more concerned for the future of the family. As they devised and carried out the plan, the extortion of each member involved put more pressure on following through, leaving the father to debate whether it was worth it in the first place to commit so much for his son’s screwup.

In the final story (Hasta Que la Muerte Nos Separe), a newly married couple had no clue that their wedding reception was going to be as big of a disaster as it turned out to be. While things were smooth at the start, a revelation of betrayal caused Romina to devise her own version of revenge. Though devastated, Ariel had no intention of letting her get away with it so easily.

While there were clear holes in each of the storylines, the grandiose, fantastic, and depth of each short story was intriguing and a departure away from most foreign films to hit the US market.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5

gett_ver2Having grown out of love with her husband, Viviane Amsalem decides to take her husband to court to achieve a divorce through the rabbis. When he fails to show up on multiple occasions, Viviane’s lawyer, Carmel Ben Tovim, pushes the board to force him to show. After a few months and multiple missed appearances, Elisha finally appears in the courtroom. When asked if he will grant her a divorce, he immediately refuses. What unfolds over the next several months is a series of courtroom battles with witnesses attesting to the legitimacy of Viviane’s claims and desires to divorce Elisha. As Carmel and Elisha’s brother continue to battle over the case, there seems to be no end in sight. Will anything cause Elisha to budge from his position to force Viviane back into a loveless marriage?

Review: Taking place entirely in a courthouse, Gett explored the strict rules and culture governing the process of marriage and divorce. Ronit Elkabetz (Viviane Amsalem) had a quiet desperation in her performance, except for the few moments of real passion. In those scenes, the intensity of the moment rose and she was able to press forth a real challenge with the system. In contrast, Simon Abkarian’s (Elisha Amsalem) quiet performance was one of true stubbornness and spite. It was hard to get a clear read on him, as he was both claiming that his faith prevented him from being able to quite their marriage and allowing his anger to dictate a very controlling relationship with his wife. Menashe Noy (Carmel Ben Tovim) and Roberto Pollack (Rabbi Amsalem) also had a great back and forth, as they cross-examined each of the witnesses and pleaded their cases. Evelin Hagoel (Head Rabbi Salmion) represented the debate of head versus heart, as he had to manage the rabbinical law compared to the facts presented in the case.

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A court proceeding that should never have developed as it did, this trial was compelling for the social rules that guided the testimonies and the rules that governed the overall process. As each witness was gathered and question, the social courtesies seemed to get in the way of the truth. At first, each witness would be praised for their stature and praise Elisha for his commitment to the community. It was not until Carmel pushed the real line of questioning that the truth of Elisha’s personality or Viviane’s inner pain surfaced. As a woman, Viviane was treated as less than, while nearly all of the power stayed with Elisha. He was able to avoid court on multiple occasions and simply continue to refuse the divorce and keep her locked in a loveless marriage. The court seemed powerless to even drag him in. When Viviane finally had enough near the end of the trial, her outburst shed light on the hypocrisy of the process. Regardless of the outcome, she was never going to leave the marriage cleanly with the power Elisha had and the rules of the system.

While certain moments were a little artsy and the static feel of the setting could not paint the whole story, the film gave movie-goers the similar experience to judge the trial like the rabbis and the drama between the couple, the lawyers, and the court.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5

ida_ver2Nearing the day of her vow to the convent, Anna is brought into the Mother Superior’s office to discuss an opportunity to meet with her aunt before the big day. This was a big opportunity considering that she was an orphan when she arrived at the church. She sends Anna on a trip to meet Wanda and discuss her past before taking the vow. Upon arrival, Wanda is a bit abrasive, but she warms to the idea of helping Anna learn more about her past. Wanda reveals to Anna that her name is really Ida and that she and her parents were actually Jewish. Ida, formerly Anna, decides that she wants to find out how her parents died and visit their graves. Wanda agrees to drive her on the search and help ask around to find out the truth.

Review: The overall feel of this movie happened to be very art school-like, with the two lead actresses having very dichotomous ways about there presence. Agatha Trzebuchowska (Anna/Ida) had an extremely reserved and tempered presence. Her character was inquisitive, with the way that she seemed to stop and soak in the world around her; but she was also extremely quiet and conflicted, as she had to take in a lot of earth-shattering information in such a short period of time. For Agata Kulesza (Wanda), her character was more outgoing and confrontational. Considering that Wanda was a former prosecutor, she pushed her will in several moments with the townspeople in her investigation.

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The film looked at the challenge of having one’s world turned upside down with news from the past that challenges choices for the future. Ida had pursued Catholicism nearly her entire life without the understanding of her Jewish past. While learning this could have changed her path immediately, it only caused her to learn more before attempting to return to her life of worship. On the journey, she learned the reality of what happened to her family and why the journey was so important for Wanda. Once the journey was over, doubt set in and caused her to question whether she could continue her Catholic life.

Wanda’s journey was secondary to the film but still an important one to be told. Ida’s arrival was an excuse to go find the truth about the young boy in the photo with Ida’s parents. While it was not the biggest surprise, she was searching for answers about her son. Learning the truth seemed to not have an effect on her initially, but her suicide revealed that she felt like she had nothing left.

The film has a someone dreary, slow pace, but it is also quite powerful.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5

fid13933Story: Following a leave of absence for depression, Sandra finds herself still unable to pull her life back together. She receives news that her position at Solwal has been terminated following a vote by the other employees between saving her job or receiving a 1000€ bonus. While feeling completely defeated, Manu (her husband) and Juliette (her co-worker and friend) fight to set up a revote to save her job. With a new hope for her return to work, Manu and Sandra develop a plan to visit the co-workers who voted for the bonus over the course of the weekend to change their minds and earn their votes. As she starts talking to each person, she begins to go through a roller coaster of emotions, challenging her potential for advocating for her job.

Review: Though American movie-goers may not know much about the cast, Marion Cotillard (Sandra) has become a known acting quantity. Her character’s struggle with depression was clear through her performance, regardless of the amount of Xanax she consumed over such a short period of time. Each disappointment or delay had a palpable effect on her ability to keep pushing forward. While sometimes frustrating, her performance helped to highlight the challenge of living with or amongst clinical depression. Fabrizio Rongione (Manu) served as the counterpoint, with his character fighting where Sandra felt unable. While the rest of the cast presented a range of different reactions and struggles, the focus was truly on Sandra and Manu.

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The premise of the film was tough to comprehend. Having a boss who actually manipulated the rest of the staff to vote to fire a coworker seems insane. Sandra was already down because of the depression, but it appeared that her boss actively was trying to make her situation even worse. Sandra barely was able to get convinced to go on the support tour, but that even had its toll. Every vote of support helped her feel more confident in her ability to return to work, but every vote against or unavailable coworker dropped her back into serious depression.

The reality of depression was made clear through this film. Sandra was at a place where she had no energy or will to even do more than drag herself out of bed. She was living on Xanax through most of the story, at times taking well more than the recommendation dosage. Manu would notice that she was relying on the drugs, but even he felt powerless to try and stop her from taking them. While she appeared to pick herself up without the drugs toward the end of the story, it ended without an opportunity to get a real sense of her life moving forward.

The story of this film was interesting but the realistic acting by Cotillard was the spotlight to be recognized.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5

the-raid-2-posterHaving successfully survived raiding the crime syndicate, Rama learns that his fight is not over yet. Having exposed his abilities, he is forced to go undercover to protect his family and reveal the dirty cops caught up between the crime families. In order for him to integrate into the crime world, he is arrested and sent to prison. Having barely entered the facility, he is bombarded by a mob of prisoners and fights his way out of trouble. This catches the attention of one of the crime bosses’s sons, Uco, who tries to recruit Rama to his gang. Though Rama puts himself in danger by refusing to commit, he steps in during an attempted assassination and earns Uco’s respect. After getting out of prison, he joins Uco’s father’s organization and begins his search for the dirty cops. Meanwhile, the crime world is about to fall out of balance, as Uco is frustrated with his limited role in his fathers organization and a newer boss has entered the conversation and threatens to destroy the sense of calm between the families.

Starring: Iko Uwais (Rama), Yayan Ruhian (Prakoso), Arifin Putra (Uco), Oka Antara (Eka), Tio Pakusadewo (Bangun), Julie Estelle (Hammer Girl), Ryuhei Matsuda (Keiichi), Kenichi Endo (Goto), Donny Alamsyah (Andi), Alex Abbad (Bejo), Cecep Arif Rahman (The Assassin), Very Tri Yulisman (Baseball Bat Man)

The acting was not what made this film great, but there was more of it in this sequel than the original. Uwais was forced into a more complicated role. His original portrayal focused on a small bit of emotion with his wife and brother, but this film included more of a covert approach to managing his transition from rookie cop to undercover criminal. Putra showed the most energy on-screen, as he was easily able to represent his character’s frustration with his lot in life. Ruhian also gets his moment of passion and sadness to help develop more of a sense of who his character was.

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Gareth Evans clearly knows how to make a compelling action film. The first story was a little light, focused on storming the crime building. There was a short bit of background with Rama’s family, but it was just a fleeting moment at the start of the film. For this second raid, the story took Rama through multiple environments and wove him into a much more complex story of corruption and rivaling families in Jakarta. Rama wanted nothing to do with another raid. He was still technically only a rookie. Since his actions against the drug lord brought some attention his direction, he needed to continue his work in order to keep his family out of the spotlight. Starting at the prison, he was able to do just enough to catch Uco’s attention and have an in with the Bangun’s crime family. Once in, he found himself engaging in debt collecting and monitoring Uco’s actions under Bangun’s request, but he also discovered that he would not be safe with Bejo inserting himself into the peace that had been established for the past 10 years.

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The action is the main reason people will see this movie thought. The first film reveled in its mind-blowing physical stunts and extended fight scenes. The second one does not disappoint, as it expands the locations, weapons used, and sheer number of fighters. Rama was clearly skilled beyond belief, but even he struggled to win every fight at every turn. He showed his prowess starting from his first fight of the film in the prison bathroom, fighting in an extremely confined space and injuring 15 other fighters in the process. The next fight scene went out to a muddied prison yard where all hell broke loose between prisoners and with the guards. The scene began to add weapons, with Rama able to use the guard batons at rapid speed to dispatch dozens of other fighters. The film’s climax started with an impressive battle on the road with guns and use of the vehicles, moved into a warehouse/club with warriors including Hammer Girl, Baseball Bat Man, and The Assassin, and finally in a suspenseful moment of survival after already exhausting nearly all of his energy. It was all edge-of-your-seat style fighting with moments of disbelief in their ability to choreograph such spectacular visuals.

The story can be just a bit difficult to follow, but the fighting was what this film was all about. Truly a spectacle in action and martial arts.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5

the-attack-poster01The day after being the first Arab to win a prestigious Israeli medical award, Amin is working at the hospital when a bomb goes off elsewhere in Tel Aviv. As the bodies come charging in, he ends up working a late night and returns to an empty house. In the middle of the night, the phone rings and he is called to return to the hospital. Upon his arrival, he learns that his wife was in the blast that killed 17 people and he is asked to identify her body. Collapsing from the sight of her, the Israeli police begin their investigation, with his wife as the primary suspect in the suicide bombing. The police aggressively question him, believing that he is withholding information. He becomes detached after getting released. Only his friend, Kim, stays with him to support him in his time of need while he seeks the truth of his wife’s death.

Starring: Ali Suliman (Amin Jaafari), Evgenia Dodena (Kim), Reymond Amsalem (Siham Jaafari), Dvir Benedek (Raveed), Uri Gavriel (Captain Moshe), Rubeh Salameh (Faten), Karim Saleh (Adel), Ramzi Makdessi (Priest), Nisrin Siksik (Leila)

Ali Suliman was fantastic throughout this film. Starting from a state of disbelief in the news about his wife, he traveled through the stages of grief in a somewhat chaotic manner. He made it easy to feel for him and desire closure. Uri Gavriel was a scary police officer, willing to push Suliman’s character to the limit to get the answers he craved. Evgenia Dodena’s performance was reserved but also balanced to give Suliman’s character just enough support. Amsalem and Benedek also gave moving performances.

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Ziad Doueiri’s drama asked questions about how closely one can truly know their partner and how far will one go to learn the truth. Amin’s life was at a high point, with success at work, a beautiful wife, and close friends. The attack on a Tel Aviv restaurant was surely a shock for Amin, one which drove him into a dark and dangerous place. Traveling through the stages of grief, he started from a place of disbelief, then became angry and detached, and eventually determined to seek out answers. While he received proof that Siham had committed the act, Amin had to go back to Palestine to track down the terrorists responsible for pulling her in. The answers he found out may have brought a sense of closure to his question of why but they did not bring a sense of relief along with finally knowing.

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The interesting conflict of this film is that it takes a different approach to the Israeli-Paletsinian conflict. He had suffered through a challenging existence living in Tel Aviv prior to the attack, but he had also slowly earned the respect of his peers. While he had adjusted, Siham had not and she still felt a continued connection to her Palestinian homeland. In an effort to get redemption for Amin’s lost connection with his roots and integrating into Israeli life, Siham felt obligated to take action. She became a martyr back in Palestine, but Amin returning home was not seen as a supportive visit. Other than his family, he had been shunned and his refusal to support Sahim’s actions had left him disconnected with the Palestinian nation. Rather than feeling obligated to turn over the evidence to the Tel Aviv police, he decided that he was no longer attached to anyone, with no sense of home anywhere.

This film is complex and an impressive piece of storytelling. Suliman gave a strong performance and brought life to this tragic story.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5

FMF_posterFNL(1)Tarek, a young man from Nablus, is making a decision to end him life in the name of his people. While getting strapped up in the car on the way to Tel-Aviv, he is forced to remind his partners why he is sacrificing himself. When he arrives and gets to the busy market, he pushes the button…but nothing happens. Now he is trapped in a foreign city with explosives strapped to his chest and the pressure of his partners forcing him to try to find another way. Stumbling his way through the side streets, he finds his way to a Jewish repairman’s shop and tries to get a new trigger while hiding his intentions. Meeting the troubled and lonely Keren, the two begin to spend time with each other and develop a friendship. When she learns a little more about his past, she begins to feel closer to him, which challenges Tarek’s drive to continue his mission.

Starring: Shredi Jabarin (Tarek), Hili Yalon (Keren), Shlomo Vishinsky (Katz), Jony Arbid (Abed), Shadi Fahr-Al-Din (Salim), Rosina Kambus (Zipora), Oren Yadger (Shaul), Dina Golan (Sara), Chaim Banai (Rehavia), Michael Moshonov (Shlomi), Amir Yerushalmi (Avinoam)

Focused mostly on the performance of Shredi Jabarin, the film tried to portray the difficulty with entering into such a mission and feeling remorse for his decisions. Through the conversations with Shlomo Vishinsky, Hili Yalon and Rosina Kambus, he transformed a once committed directive into a confused and conflicted decision. Yalon was also quite lovely in her role, even with her sharp edges and defiant personality. Vishinsky provided more of the fatherly image that was lacking with the shattered relationship between the main characters and their fathers.

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Dror Zahavi’s film highlighted a regular problem in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but from a much more personalized perspective. Tarek’s involvement in the mission was one that appeared conflicted from the start. While he was able to prove his loyalty during the car ride and initially went to push the button in the market, the failure of the bomb caused him to have to take more time before completing the mission. It was unclear when Katz realized Tarek’s intentions, but his kindness and the romantic entanglement with Keren push him to the limit of abandoning the mission altogether. The reality was that the bomb was strapped to him regardless of what he did and he was going to die within 48 hours. The relationships with the few people he met in Tel-Aviv caused him to change his mind about fully going through with the plan but not enough to try to save his own life.

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The film’s premise focused on the things people do for and because of their fathers. Tarek’s decision to play soccer was on the premise that his father loved the sport. The reality was that he was supporting his son in an activity he thought Tarek loved. When all of his soccer dreams seemed to be squashed and he got in with the wrong crowd, he saw his decision to sacrifice himself as a way to provide for his father (who had since been shunned). For Keren, the shame brought about by the loss of her child outside of wedlock had created a rift between her and her father. She felt somewhat ashamed to return home and felt like she would not be accepted, which caused her to so passionately fight against the neighborhood bullies trying to send her home. Katz’s son had entered into the Israeli army and committed to all of the responsibilities, so his death changed Katz’s pride to sorrow at what he lost with his son’s passing.

This film may be a little disjointed at times and there are a lot of elements that are either tossed in or rushed, but the overall story is one that includes a lot of passion and emotional turmoil as it causes the viewer to think a little more deeply about the conflict in the Middle East and the individual stories of the people caught in the devastation.

Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5