Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn) ** - Oh, God. This was a difficult one. This is a case of having great high-quality ingredients but coming up with a lackluster, AT BEST, dish. This is a film that's strictly style over substance, with spurts of shocking violence and features very unpleasant characters. All those don't necessarily make a bad film but in this, but writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn severely miscalculated nearly everything! The cinematography and art direction are nice to look at but often self-consciously artsy. It doesn't have enough of a sense of humor for it to become something campy (& fun) but instead comes off as at best ridiculous and at worst unpleasant. It doesn't have enough substance for it to justify the unpleasant things going on. It's an exercise in style but with really nowhere to go and all in all pointless. Plus the style that's in there has been done better by other directors and other films. It's too bad. There are REALLY good things there. It's really sore miscalculation on the part of an otherwise very talented filmmaker. It's an interesting failure of a film.
The Wolverine (James Mangold) *** - I
had relatively low expectations on this one but I thought what the hell. As it
turns out, it's pretty darn good. I thought the entire concept of combining
samurais, ninjas and the Yakuzas and just plopping Wolverine in the middle of it
was a pretty darn good idea. It felt like director James Mangold wanted to make
a Japanese action flick and the only way he could do it was to incorporate a
superhero on it. It was a cool conceit but the third act could have a hell of
lot better. Wolverine is still one of the more interesting superhero characters
and Hugh Jackman plays him very well. Decent enough.
Face to Face (Ingmar Bergman) **1/2 -
Liv Ullman gives an excellent performance as a prim and proper psychiatrist
whose life and sanity unravels after she is raped. This performance alone makes
this film very much worth watching in an otherwise lesser Bergman. If I didn't
know he still had Autumn Sonata and
Fanny & Alexander after this, I
would've said, "Oooh, time to retire." The film is quite derivative of his
previous works and occasionally borders of self-parody in parts. But Liv Ullman,
oh, man, she makes the film.
I also saw three films from the currently on-going Cinemalaya Film Festival which I will post in a separate entry.