The Horseman 

Last night I decided to watch a revenge movie. Why do I watch such violent films? I do not have the answer. I selected The Horseman, an Australian movie that stars Peter MarshallCaroline Marohasy, and Brad McMurray. Before I begin, you might ask why is this movie called The Horseman because this film has nothing to do with horses or the men who ride them.

The Horseman follows Christian (Marshall), a pest control man who drives a van and carries with him a big toolbox full of all sorts of handy stuff. He uses many of these tools to inflict pain and remove body parts all up and down the East coast of Australia.

The Horseman starts with a brutal killing and doesn't let up until the credits roll. When Christian discovers his teenage daughter has died he is distraught. When a VHS video arrives in his mailbox showing his daughter in an apparent stupor being tag teamed by multiple guys he sorta loses the plot.

Christian spends the next few days getting to the bottom of things, making sure he needn't backtrack by dealing with each and every responsible party at the time he meets them. Where ethics and fairness get blurred is where it seems that more innocent – or at least less guilty – members often receive the same treatment as the deserving. 

Most people probably would not enjoy the graphic violence which is central to this movie; thus, I do not recommend this movie.


The Shape of Things 

Searching the HBO GO catalog, I came across The Shape of Things and I decided to watch it because I enjoy seeing Rachel Weisz movies because she is such a good actress in just about everything she does. The Shape of Things is mainly an uneventful movie with a shocking surprise ending. Besides Weisz, Gretchen Mol, and Paul Rudd star in this movie.

Adam (Rudd) is a shy, nerdy college student moonlighting as a museum guard when he first meets Eveyln (Weisz). She's an artist who is about to deface a statue of Zeus as an act of protest. Sparks fly between the two, and they're soon an item. Adam's engaged friends – quiet Jenny (Mol) and domineering Phillip (Weller) – are at a loss to understand the attraction, since Adam and Evelyn are complete opposites. Jenny is wary of Evelyn, but for Phillip, it's hate at first sight. Gradually, as he spends more time with Evelyn, Adam begins to change – he loses weight, turns in his glasses in favor of contacts, gets a haircut, starts wearing hip clothing, and agrees to a nose job. And, in addition to re-shaping his appearance, Evelyn gradually insinuates some of her own ideas and characteristics into Adam's personality. The consequences of this, especially as they involve Jenny and Phillip, are not entirely what Evelyn expects.

I will not reveal the ending but it makes me mad for many different reasons. This is a good movie and I recommend it highly.



Wow, I have been lucky in my selection of films to watch. Last night I saw a really excellent French movie, Séraphine. It stars Yolande MoreauUlrich Tukur, and Anne Bennent. Yolande Moreau's acting in this movie is worthy of an Academy Award but it was a winner of seven Césars, the French version of the Oscars.

The film is set in the village of Senlis outside of Paris where Séraphine, a frumpy cleaning woman (Moreau), lives alone and must take odd jobs just to pay for her painting supplies. Séraphine is a visionary, a devout Catholic who believes she is guided by a guardian angel and her exotic paintings of flowers and plants describe her feelings of closeness to spirit.

Treated with disdain by her condescending employer, Séraphine's life takes on new meaning when a tenant, German art critic Wilhelm Uhde (Tukur) hires Séraphine to clean for him and accidentally discovers one of her paintings that her boss had tossed aside. A champion of modern artists who is credited with early recognition of Picasso and Rousseau, Uhde is portrayed as a quiet, unassuming man who lives with his sister and a gay lover. He recognizes Séraphine's talent but never shows much enthusiasm, preferring to keep their relationship on a very business-like basis.

Impressed by Seraphine's passionate art, Uhde offers to become her patron but, feeling estranged in France, must soon leave the country to return to Germany as the First World War begins. What follows, the bulk of the movie, is the the amazing rise of Séraphine, and her terrible fall. I highly recommend this excellent movie.


Fallen Angels

While searching for a movie to watch last night I came across Fallen Angels, a Hong Kong film in Cantonese written and directed by the famous writer and director Kar Wai Wong. I thought I would give it a try. I did not know what I was going to watch because this movie is very different from most films that I have ever watched. It is a film noir that has two principals plots that have nothing to do with each other plus a lot of other strange things thrown in. Yes, it is a confusing but interesting film. Hence, it is difficult to describe.

One plot line follows a hit man and his beautiful female partner who share separate parts in a hotel room. For some strange reason she scrubs the place down before her shift, kneeling on the floor in her leather dress and mesh stockings. The second plot line follows a man, an ex-convict, who stopped speaking after eating a can of outdated pineapple slices. He makes a living by "reopening" stores that are closed for the night, and has an uncertain relationship with a young woman who acts out her emotions theatrically. There is another woman character wandering about in a blond wig who encounters the mute man. 

In Fallen Angels you see scenes when the hit man bursts in gangsters' seedy lairs with two guns blazing. He kills them all. Another strange scene is when the mute ex-con forces a health-conscious family to eat massive amounts of ice cream. So you can see this is not your average film. 

It definitely takes a film lover to enjoy this movie. I cannot recommend this movie for most movie goers.


Mozart's Sister (Nannerl, La Soeur de Mozart)

Mozart's Sister, a French film, has been on my Amazon Prime watchlist for a long time because I always seem to select another movie for the night. Well, last night I watched Mozart's Sister and I am glad that I did. It is an entertaining film that shows the realities of the Mozart family. It stars Marie FéretMarc Barbé, and Delphine Chuillot.

Mozart's Sister is the story of Maria Anna "Nannerl" Mozart. Forced by their father, Leopold, to tour under hellish circumstances, young Wolfgang and Nannerl traverse Europe year-round, performing recitals for aristocrats who often stiff them. But the real humiliation occurs when teenage Nannerl, forbidden by her father from writing her own music, is reduced to accompanist for her baby brother. At that time women simply are not composers or serious musicians. Her father's edict sets the course for Nannerl's bitter life, most of which is told at the end of the movie.

An important subplot of this movie is Nannerl's meeting and friendship of a young princess-turned-nun, Louise de France, who asks Nannerl to carry a letter to her love, a tortured, married young nobleman who lives in Versailles with her brother, Le Dauphin. This requires Nannerl to cross-dress so they can meet Le Dauphin without arousing suspicion. As you would expect the Le Dauphin discovers she is girl and falls in love with her.

I think this is a good film, and I recommend it.


Ginger & Rosa

Last night I was so happy to find Ginger & Rosa. I was looking for a drama that takes place in the 1960s, a time that I sometimes like to relive. Well, I selected a terrific movie that I enjoyed because of the story, acting, and the excellent music from the 60s the was threaded through the movie. Ginger & Rosa stars Elle FanningAlice Englert, and Oliver Platt.

Ginger & Rosa is film about growing up in London in the turbulent early 60's. The director, Sally Potter, gets just about everything right. You can smell, feel and touch England in the 60's. The characterisation is excellent, from the self-indulgent and irresponsible adults who provide poor role models to the young girls who collectively endure a myriad of emotions and motivations as they engage with a changing and insecure world.

Elle Fanning plays Ginger, a 17-year-old, who is still inseparable from Rosa (Englert), her best friend since birth. They do everything together, from shrinking their blue jeans in the bathtub and ironing their hair to experimenting with cigarettes and the occasional kiss from a boy; they even dress alike for their first meeting of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, an obsession of Ginger, who has grown up in the shadow of atomic annihilation.

Ginger is encouraged in her tentative activism by her father, Roland (Alessandro Nivola), a pacifist professor, as well as her godfathers, a gay couple played by Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt. Her mother, Natalie (Christina Hendricks), is more wary, especially when it comes to Rosa, whom she suspects of being troubled. And indeed, as Ginger & Rosa unfolds, the girls face a series of ruptures, the first having to do with Ginger’s embrace of politics while Rosa drifts toward the church.

That is all I will say because I do not want to give away too much of the excellent drama. I highly recommend this film.


Flor de Fango

Last night I watched the Mexican film Flor de Fango, Mudstained Flower. It was intense. Today I found that the story was based on a true story from the UK. I probably would not have watched this movie but the main character was a chemistry professor who gets tangled up with a young lady, a story that I am somewhat familiar. 

Flor de Fango tells the story of middle aged professor, Augusto (Odiseo Bichir) who visits the hospital where his wife's former nanny is dying. At the hospital he encounters the daughter of the dying woman, a 14-year-old girl called Marlene (Claudia Zepeda) in a hospital hallway. Their first encounter sets the tone for the rest of the movie as Augusto stops and stares (unconcerned by what others may think) at the young girl sitting on the floor with the camera dwelling. This is a preview of what is coming in this movie.

Marlene's mother worked in a brothel and her father could be just about anyone in Mexico. There's a hint, told through similar tattoos on legs shared between the young girl Augusto falls in love with and his wife, that Marlene and Ruth worked in the same place. When Marlene's tough half-brother Genaro (Javier Escobar) arrives on the scene, the activities of Augusto's wife are hinted at in ever more damaging detail, but while Augusto is happy to defend his wife's honour, he is even happier to ask young Marlene to run away with him to the coast for a new life together. The grandparents of Marlene have asked Augusto and Ruth to look after the girl, but Marlene's half-brother is having none of that plan; before Augusto has a chance to run away with his teenage crush, Genaro snatches his half-sister and takes her, perhaps even willingly, we don't really know - to a life of seclusion in Mexico City's seediest brothels. Augusto, predictably, gives chase.

I have said enough. I do not recommend this terribly intense movie that shows the worst of people and Mexican inner-city culture.




Benny & Joon

I have always been a fan of Johnny Depp, and I had never seen Benny & Joon; thus, it was easy to select it from Amazon Prime's list of movies. I thoroughly enjoyed this most excellent movie from 1993. I enjoyed both the story and the good acting. Besides Johnny Depp, Benny & Joon stars include Mary Stuart Masterson, and Aidan Quinn.

Benny & Joon takes place in a small town in Washington State where mechanic Benny (Quinn) has devoted his life to taking care of his mentally ill younger sister Joon (Stuart Masterson). Their quiet small town existence has been working just well for them, even given Joon’s occasional fits, eccentric behavior, and inability to hold on to a housekeeper. But when Joon takes her brother’s place in his weekly poker game and loses, obliging him to take in his friend’s cousin Sam (Depp), things change pretty quickly.

Sam’s quirky behavior and devotion to Buster Keaton are fascinating to Joon and he is also a surprisingly good housekeeper. The two become quite close and romantically entangled without Benny’s knowledge, but when he finds out it forces the brother and sister to question the comfort zone they’d been living in for years.

I will say no more than I highly recommend that you watch this well-done film.



Bread & Tulips (Pane e Tulipani) 

After watching the intense, dark X: Night of Vengeance two nights ago, last night I was in the mood for something completely different. I selected the fun Italian movie Bread & Tulips. I especially wanted to see this movie because it primarily takes place in Venice. It stars Licia MagliettaBruno Ganz, and Giuseppe Battiston.

Rosalba Barletta (Maglietta) is content with her life, or so it would seem; she's a housewife with two sons-- aged sixteen and eighteen-- and a husband, Mimmo (Antonio Catania), who sells bathroom fixtures. Her contentment, though, is perhaps due to the fact that she's never considered the possibility of anything being otherwise. But that changes when, while on vacation with the family, she is inadvertently left behind at a stop. She watches the tour bus pull away and suddenly realizes that her husband and boys haven't even missed her. 

She decides to hitchhike home, but on the way, she decides to take a vacation of her own first. One of her rides is headed to Venice, a city to which she has never been but always wanted to go, and so she makes that her destination. And her vacation soon becomes more than that; it becomes an experience that opens up a whole new perspective on life to her, an adventure that reawakens her senses and fills her with an appreciation of life and what love really is. There is bad with the good, however, as it also makes her a woman torn between her old life with the family she loves but who take her for granted, and a new life, in which real love and personal fulfillment is possible. Whatever she decides, one thing is certain: This is one vacation Rosalba is never going to forget.

This is a fun movie that I highly recommend.


X: Night of Vengeance

X: Night of Vengeance is a strange Australian movie that I selected last night. I will say it up front that X is not a good movie, but it has some good acting and an excellent look at the seedier side of Sydney. X stars  Viva BiancaHanna Mangan Lawrence, and Peter Docker.

Viva Bianca is Holly, a 29-year old high-class call girl in Sydney who's about to retire to her dream life in Paris. Her time-honored one last job involves a threesome with a drug dealer and when her colleague slips in the shower and knocks herself out, Holly finds inexperienced 17-year old hooker Shay (Mangan-Lawrence) on the street and talks her into taking the job.

However, things quickly go wrong when, after the threesome, their trick is murdered by a corrupt cop  while they hide in the bathroom. Soon, Holly and Shay find themselves on the run and quickly realize they can't trust anyone except cab-driving wannabe magician Harry.

While some will be put off with the nature of this movie along with its nudity and sex, I can say that this is one of those movies that is neither good nor bad.