Forgive Us Our Debts

Forgive Us Our Debts – Italian Drama, Available on Netflix

Forgive Us Our Debts is a drama that feels like a sour treat matching wonderful camera work with a compelling, witty and melancholy script.

Forgive Us Our Debts revolves around Guido(Claudio Santamaria) a recently fired down on his luck middle-aged man. The story focuses on his new job as a debt collector and Guido being mentored by a seasoned debt collector named Franco(Marco Giallini). Guido struggles with the wicked demands of the job but feels an unwanted emotional stimulus from holding power over someone. Guido is stuck between the shame he feels being a debt collector and the money and power the job brings. Struggling between two worlds is a common theme for most characters in the film. Guido, Rina, a temporary bartender, and guido’s only friend, a man he calls the professore, all struggle with their identity. Caught in between their old selves and the people they want to become. Each character being so dynamic gives the plot of the movie much-needed depth. Rina is my favorite character, she is just worried enough about Guido to give him hope but she is always going to have to leave the country. Franco is also a standout, he is an unforgiving and cold debt collector who changes little.

All four main characters are acted well but Flonja Kodheli is a real standout. She added much more gravitas to every scene and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her the whole film. Marco Giallini made me hate Franco at multiple points, so he’s also a standout.

The Camerawork is a style not often seen in modern filmmaking, but I enjoy it. The long static cuts, which are abundant in the film, add a sense of reality. It makes the characters and the situations feel real instead of situations manufactured for maximum pleasure. Although, the most impressive cut in the movie uses a moving camera focused on Rina, showing the talent of the cinematography work.

Forgive Us Our Debts is worth a watch for any cinephile, but moviegoers who dislike a slow building plot and a melancholy story should look elsewhere. Also, it’s in Italian so you have to use subtitles.  

3.5/4 Stars

Cargo

Cargo has a promising start but tries to fit just about every post-apocalyptic trope into one movie which makes the plot and film direction a mess.

The first twelve minutes of the film set up what could have been a decent post-apocalyptic thriller but derails itself by overuse of common tropes. The filmmakers manage to try and fit man low on time, modern society poisoning earth causing earth to fight back with a disease, horrid decision making under pressure, country survivor who immediately lost all humanity, sound attracts the zombies( but only when it advances the storyline), zombies needing to hibernate, all into one movie. Predictably the end product is a jumbled mess. The film never manages to focus itself on a few storylines, which is a shame because a few could have been expanded on to success. Strangely, the main emotional pull other than Martin Freeman doesn’t start playing a real role until two-thirds into the movie. Thoomi doesn’t have enough time to create a bond with the audience so her part during the finale falls short. For a thriller, it’s not scary whatsoever. It isn’t engrossing enough to suspend belief of its

To Cargo’s credit, the setting is new you don’t see South Australia often. The set pieces in the final third are clever, leading to an enjoyable ending. Susie Porter her role well, even if she is in the movie for about fifteen minutes. Cargo isn’t long, but the time could have been better used focusing on Thoomi and the Aborigines storyline instead of Martin Freeman experiencing every post-apocalyptic trope possible.

You should skip Cargo unless you really like post-apocalyptic movies and don’t care about overused tropes. 1.5/4 Stars

Kodachrome

 

Kodachrome

Kodachrome is a road trip redemption film with a groovy analog aesthetic and a solid triumvirate of performances from Jason Sudeikis, Elizabeth Olson, and Ed Harris. Yet the film is held back from being a memorable one by its ham-fisted and predictable screenplay.

You could say the cinematographer Alan Poon is the real star of the movie by creating an embracing warm color scheme accentuated by close up shots using natural lighting. The director Mark Raso also isn’t afraid to shoot important scenes in low light which highlights this films cinematographic range. This warm color scheme is matched by a soundtrack populated by classic rock hits that are always a crowd pleaser. The marriage of music and lighting creates such a groovy aesthetic it keeps the film enjoyable throughout.

The screenplay is the predictable at best, the writers certainly don’t subscribe to the iceberg theory of writing. It honestly feels like the writers think the target audience are stupid. Every time they manage to make a subtle point through action or dialogue, Elizabeth Olson character then explains that point in detail. This ham-fisted approach to the writing is also perpetuated in how predictable the movie is. The director mine as well have had flashing text fly across the screen reading “Foreshadowing” or “character life symmetry” at multiple points throughout the movie.

This type of writing inherently makes the characters dry and predictable as well, but even with their limitations, they are played very believably by the actors. Elizabeth Olson does very well as her character is easily the most shallow and least thought out. Jason Sudeikis and Ed Harris have more dynamic characters as the movie revolves around their father-son relationship. They start to build a nice chemistry, which is necessary as all the conflict is dialogue driven between them. Unfortunately, it feels like they build that chemistry too late. The first two-thirds of the film is slow as the interaction doesn’t have much emotional gravitas. The final third achieves that emotional stimulation but the ending is so predictable it almost cheapens the entire experience. I found myself really wanting it to be over in the last five minutes.

 

1.5/4 Stars   Available on Netflix

 

 

Beerfest

Beerfest

Beerfest is a feel-good sports satire from the Broken Lizard comedy group that melds low brow humor with clever allegories of famous sports films, creating a surprisingly witty redemption story. The movie starts with two 1st generation German Americans who travel to Germany to spread their father’s ashes. On this journey, they uncover a long-held family secret and the international beer drinking competition Beerfest.

What ensues is the meat of the comedic bbq where the brothers are building the great American beer drinking team, which consist of five old college buddies, to compete in next years Beerfest competition versus the Germans, who consist of the brother’s half-cousins and half-uncle. The personal stories of the five American team members are all subtle takes on modern sports movie plots. This leads to both hilarious and heartwarming moments, mostly stemming from the team members own redemption stories.

The film editor and director deserve credit for the torrid pace to the editing, which leaves few if any scenes or jokes that inhibiting the progression of the plot. The pacing does create a small issue at the end, as the film ends on a climax. A common trope in sports films but not a terribly welcome one.

Set and character design are incredibly outlandish, which is common from the writing group broken lizard. It fits this film very well as the actors fully embrace how outrageous they look and play the part, especially the Germans. The one glaring video flaw is the CGI is horrible even for 2006. The seldom times CGI is used it’s very distracting. Which makes me wonder why it was even used, but a small complaint about an otherwise sound movie technically.

You’ll finish this movie and walk away glad you watched it, even if it is pretty shlock comedy. Beerfest is a good comedy for the consistent satire melding with a bevy of political and low brow humor, that turns Beerfest into a unique sports film.       

2.5/4 Stars

Icarus

Icarus

Icarus has a scale issue, as the subject material becomes much larger than the movie itself. Yet this is also what makes it so captivating.

The film takes a drastic shift from focusing on Bryan Fogel to focusing on Grigory Rodchenkov about 30 mins in, which leads to uneven pacing and unfinished storylines. We start by following Fogel who is attempting to dope for a bike race, almost all of his personal storylines are left unfinished, which is disappointing. Icarus is redeemed by the breathtaking story uncovered by the filmmakers of a Russian medical director(Rodchenkov) who designed a state-run doping program. Grigory Rodchenkov and Bryan Fogel work to help expose the secrets long held in the Russian anti-doping agency. Rodchenkov’s entire career in anti-doping is put under a microscope, not just by the filmmakers but at the time by the world. This attention on Rodchenkov makes the documentary feel more like a geopolitical thriller than a sports documentary. This political intrigue keeps the movie entertaining, as some more technical scenes tend to make the documentary drag a bit. My biggest gripe other than the biking storyline being left out to dry is that the middle of the movie just isn’t as interesting as the beginning or end causing me to become slightly disengaged. But thankfully the ending snapped me back to attention.

Even with its flaws as a film, Icarus is an occasionally thrilling and always informative dive into the world of sports doping. A must see for any serious sports fan interested in doping or anyone interested in the inner workings of the Russian Government.       

2.5/4 Stars

Game over, Man

Game over, Man

Game over, Man is not meant to be taken seriously, but still falls short of basically any comedic standard and has a real issue with the brutality of its action.

The comedy has a few clever quips but most of the jokes are too poorly designed to make any comedic impact. The low brow humor is fast and furious, without breaks for any other varying types of comedy. While the comedy hits occasionally, the action never does. It is unnecessarily brutal. Playing excess and brutal violence for laughs is a common trope in action comedies, but this film’s action is too jarring to be funny. I found myself not laughing, but cringing at multiple scenes.

The three main actors( Adam Devine, Blake Anderson, and Anders Holm) have good chemistry from their previous work together, but it can’t save the writing. The cast lack subtlety, their characters are heavily flanderized versions of action tropes and lack comedic impact. Plot devices not only fail but seem to be purposely sabotaged for bad jokes.

Game over, Man just isn’t funny enough to be worth a watch. You can easily find more clever and enjoyable movies in the genre.

1/4 Stars

Y Tu Mamá También

Y Tu Mamá También

Y Tu Mama Tambien is a comedic, dark, and innuendo-filled coming of age story featuring Gael Bernal, Diego Luna and Maribel Verda in lead roles.

The story starts with two Mexican boys about to start university and travel to an imaginary beach with a woman in her late 20s named Luisa. All three characters discover their deepest desires and secrets about each other. Luisa helps the boys understand the complexity of adult existence and the quarrels it creates. Their complicated relationship with Luisa continues as they travel by car across Mexico, which is engrossed in very tense political times. The naivety and slapstick comedic nature of the boys contrasted with the seriousness of their surroundings and makes for a nice dichotomy. This dichotomy is bolstered by the 3rd person narration which gives a perspective on each boys’ life and a historical perspective on the political atmosphere in 1999 Mexico, often cut back to back. This causes the movies emotion to sway between very serious moments and a road trip comedy. One bright spot is a fisherman named Chula and his family, who are a heartfelt addition to the story and break up long periods of tense character development. The ending is unexpected and one not to spoil.

If you want to laugh, feel nervous, inspired, aroused and maybe even cry; you cannot miss Y Tu Mama Tambien.     4/4  Stars