Tuesday, May 29, 2012

10 timer til Paradis (Teddy Bear) (2012)

It was sheer coincidence that I noticed this Danish offering in the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival listings. It caught my eye because it sounded reminiscent of Dennis, the short film about a shy Danish bodybuilder with mother issues. Turns out the short is the basis for this feature-length film.

Teddy BearDennis (Kim Kold) is 38, lonely and unable to get a second date, much less a girlfriend. He takes his recently-married uncle’s advice to go to Thailand and find a lady. He sneaks off telling his pint-sized yet overbearing and controlling mother, Ingrid (Elsebeth Steentoft) that he’s heading to Germany for a bodybuilding contest.

In Thailand, Dennis’s efforts result in call-girl types. When he meets Toi (Lamaiporn Hougaard), they struggle with Dennis’s feelings of being objectified. This, however, is nothing compared to the tumult that erupts when he returns home (with a tan) and fesses up to his mother that he met a girl. She proceeds to tell him he must end it immediately. Dennis defies her. When she eventually learns the truth in a mall lingerie shop, it’s his chance to claim his freedom but is he strong enough to finally stand up to Ingrid?

Teddy Bear suffers from an unfortunately translated title but it’s an excellent character study about a tortured man. Kold embodies Dennis so well, you forget you are watching fiction.

The Hulk has nothing on this behemoth.

Co-writer/Director: Mads Matthiesen

Country: Denmark

Genre: Drama

Run time: 91 minutes

Scale: 3

Kærlighed på film (Just Another Love Story) (2007)


Meet Jonas (Anders W. Berthelsen)—married father of two, crime scene photographer, suburbanite, owner of a beater car that works one minute and stalls the next. His wife Mette (Charlotte Fich) rallies for a new car. Jonas knows they cannot afford it. Following a car accident, Jonas takes a mistaken identity moment and runs with it, discovering a passionate new life for which he’s pined.

Jonas goes to visit the stranger Julia (Rebecka Hemse) at the hospital. She is near death following the wreck. When Jonas is mistaken for her boyfriend, Sebastian, he is unable to tell the truth. As her family begs him not to give up on her, they rally around her and become acquainted with “Sebastian,” the boyfriend they have only heard about. Julia comes to. She is blind and has amnesia. She gets to know Jonas’s version of Sebastian and falls in love, not remembering right away that she may have killed the real Sebastian (Nikolaj Lie Kaas).

Backstory is told via flashbacks. There are odd secondary characters. Jonas’s friends, Frank (Dejan Cukic) and Poul (Karsten Jansfort) are idiots. Poul laughs all the time, mostly at inappropriate moments. Frank has the same expression regardless of what is happening. Then, there’s Doctor Dichmann (Flemming Enevold), over the top in all his reactions. He deserves his own film but seems badly cast here.

(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)

The real Sebastian returns and the movie comes to life. Hemse’s Julia isn’t compelling enough to carry the story. By the end, her pained expressions and convulsions are tiresome. The supermarket scene where Jonas breaks up with his wife feels genuinely pained. Overall, the movie is slow. It has its noir elements, but the proportions don’t fit gracefully together.

Writer/Director: Ole Bornedal

Country: Denmark

Genre: Thriller

Run time: 100

Scale: 2.5

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods (2011)

The Unfortunate Five of Cabin in the WoodsCabin in the Woods teases you as it begins like the Bruce-Campbell-helmed Evil Dead trilogy. You still move down a singular path of gore and destruction but the path presents different obstacles. Five college kids—the dumb jock, the smart jock, the slut, the good girl (sort of), the stoner nerd. One cabin in the woods.

(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)

You soon learn that you are watching a reality show. Unknown to the hapless five, they are at the mercy of two producers in a control room who are working the events for maximum effect. To the producers’ chagrin, the kids aren’t succumbing as quickly as hoped to the overreaching plot they have hatched in an effort to save the world from eminent destruction.

Filled with a typhoon of unexpected events, The Cabin in the Woods throws plenty at you: a bevy of frightening and disturbingly armed fast-moving zombies and unexpected roadblocks. With homage to many horror flicks of the past, there’s creativity in the plotting including a visually non-stop sequence where creatures from the depths of your worst nightmares are unleashed. (The ding of an elevator is forever altered.)

The ending is unsatisfying. After the chaotic ride, the theatrics and the resilience of the final two, it left me feeling incomplete.

Co-writer/Director: Drew Goddard

Country: USA

Genre: Horror

Run time: 95

Scale: 4

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Serbuan maut (The Raid: Redemption) (2011)

theraidredemptionThe Raid begins as  SWAT team members sit geared up in their van, discussing the plan: how they will maneuver through the dark building before them. Many of them won’t make it through the mission: To bring down the drug-lord-run-historically-impenetrable 15-floor building and break up the crime syndicate.

The armed and uniformed men are tense. You get the hothead, a wanna-be hero, the calm & goal-oriented one. The music is fast and frenzied to match the mood. As they enter, the plot plays out like a video game—the team has 15 floors to climb and dethrone their man. He won’t go easily. In fact, once the team is discovered, the cunning slumlord unleashes his wrath.

What makes The Raid a stand out is the visually stunning martial arts. The actors perform their own stunts. Additionally, The Raid contains a delicious plot with a surprising kick delivered mid-way. (Another lovely result when you get same writer & director.)

The Raid has close-ups of stabbings, vicious beatings and a high level of blood that won’t let up. You might occasionally close your eyes and look away. The desensitized will indulge in its gore. Either way, you won’t be bored. What’s unclear is the name, The Raid: Redemption. The satisfying ending is left ripe for a sequel. What will that one be called now that Redemption has been used?

Writer/Director: Gareth Evans

Country: Indonesia

Genre: Thriller/Action

Run time: 101

Scale: 5