Reviews, Reviews & Reviews

Hereafter (PG-13) ★★

Clint Eastwood has done himself good as a filmmaker. Ever since his 1992 masterpiece Unforgiven, Eastwood's resume as director reads like a contemporary blackboard of flawed movie heroes/heroines, his newest one does not belong on a list that includes Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino. It's a real clunker that shows our man can't only do good. The difference here is that he doesn't have a script to accommodate his old school style. He concentrates on a variety of different stories, all involving death or the after-life without a sense of direction. Matt Damon is a psychic that wants to just find love and be normal, a french couple try to cope with the after effects of a natural disaster and a British boy loses his twin brother and tries to find a meaning to it all.

The opening sequence is astonishing as we see a tsunami wiping out an entire vacation resort and market. It's a powerful opening that sets the table for the after effects of an after life that is fascinates the characters inhabiting Eastwood's world of mystery. Too bad the rest of the film can't compete with the first 10 minutes and we are left with a hyperbole of sentimentality that negates what Clint is all about. It's a valid effort and I can see what he was trying to do but that does not mean it's a success. The reason why such an effort has turned into a dud is simple; As many filmmakers have found out over the years, it is an arduous and ambitious experience to translate the meaning of the after life on screen, just ask Robin Williams.

Soul Kitchen (R) ★★★½

German director Faith Akin has built his young filmmaking career over films that have had darkness in their souls. Head On and Edge Of Heaven were heavily subjected with black all over them, themes of isolation and death were the words of the day. With Soul Kitchen, Akin does a complete 360 in subject matter and films a comedy that is so silly yet so irresistible in content. Zinos -impeccably played by Adam Bousdoukos- owns a grungy restaurant that is quickly going down until he hires a crazy chef to take over the menu. The people start coming but Zinos feels a dissatisfaction with his life, it doesn't help his girlfriend has moved to Japan and his troubled brother has come out of jail and needs work. Worse, a scheming man with mob related ties is trying to steal away Zinos' restaurant to get more groundwork for his prostitution ring. I didn't believe a minute of it but it's all crazy, zany fun and Akin knows it. He makes the implausible plausible to our eyes and entertains us like no other Hollywood film can. I had a blast.

Never Let Me Go (R) ★★

Some are calling this one a sleeper. It isn't, then again if these people mean it could induce you to a nice, awesome sleep then yes it is a sleeper. Based on Kazy Ishiguro's masterful novel of the same name, it's a sci fi story unlike any other where cloning is done to have organ doning for human beings suffering of diseases such as cancer. It's a heavy subject that doesn't translate well on screen. If Ishiguro's novel had all the beautiful details right, the film version feels like one big messy edit. Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Alex Garfield play the clones that are guaranteed a short life span once their donations start. They try their hardest to bring out life to the surroundings but they can't ditto Mark Romanek's visionary eye, which can't help in the translation of this difficult and dark story.

Carlos (R) ★★★½

This is not a review of the 5 hour version which has been screened a bit everywhere around and has had its TV debut on IFC not too long ago. This is the reduced 160 minute version that nevertheless brings a real jolt to your nervous system. Director Olivier Assayas directs Carlos with an excitement that is near palpable. His telling of the renowned terrorist of the 70's and 80's, who shared an affinity for the Palestinian cause, has an urgency that you rarely see in film. Too bad most of it is disjointed due to the fact that it was cut in half for a normalized theatrical version.

There's an astonishing sequence that involves the hostage taking of OPEC members that can be described as a mini movie of its own. That very part of the film is its heart and soul as Assayas takes our breath away and induces pulse pounding intensity to what could have been a real drag to sit through. It zips along from room to room, plane to plane, country to country in a brazenly kinetic pace as Carlos tries to find a way out from his botched plan. Assayas' use of colors, lighting and camera stylization is breathtaking to behold. It's a 60 minute hypnotic ride to behold.

It's a real shame I didn't wait to just view the 5 hour cut, which from what I hear is just awesome. I'm gonna have to guess that that one is the inferior version of Carlos, which is why Assayas' film feels so disjointed and flawed in execution. Taking away close to 2 hours of time, the version I saw felt to me like it was missing character development and a sense of structure with its plotting. I'm recommending the version I saw solely based on the brilliant flashes that it possesses at its disposal - aka the Hostage sequence, a nifty, tense assassination at its beginning and an earth shatteringly great performance by Edgar Martinez as Carlos- but once I review the original cut I'll let you know how it really is and I'm sure it's even better.