Review: Tsotsi (2005)

Written and directed by Gavin Hood, Tsotsi, set in Johannesburg, South Africa, explores six days in the life of a young gangster. Presley Chweneyagae stars as Tsotsi, the ruthless leader of a township gang.

One evening, Tsotsi attacks a gang member who taunts him and suggests avoiding violence acts. To release his aggression, Tsotsi ventures into the suburbs and he attacks a woman entering her home. He steals her car, only to discover her infant sleeping in the back seat.

What results is a poignant tale of redemption. He takes responsibility for the baby with the help of a local widow (Terry Pheto). Through this child, Tsotsi’s soul is awakened as he confronts his past and sees a future he never thought existed. Tsotsi learns to value love and human life.

Tsotsi is a riveting and emotional experience, although sometimes difficult to watch. It offers an honest look at crime, revival, and hope for the future. Above all, it is a thrilling and touching journey into the soul of a lost individual.

Updated October 12, 2010


Reviews: Four Movies I’ve Seen Recently

I’ll be away for the next 4 days so I’m leaving 4 mini-reviews of some movies you should (not) check out over the weekend.

Up and Down (2004)

This Czech film opens as two low lifes discover an abadoned child and consequenly sell it on the black market which leads to a series of unique events. Director Jan Hrebejk overlaps three plotlines of a childless couple, an emigre who returns to Prague to confront family issues, and the two criminals to tell this comic, satirical, and tragic tale of loss, family, love, and acceptance. Memorable scenes and humorous characters combine to create an above-average film.


Head-On (2004)

Sibel (Sibel Kikilli) and Cahit (Birol Unel) are Turkish immigrants living in Germany who are both trapped by their lives. Sibel is surrounded by her overbearing and traditional family and Cahit is a bum with no hope for the future. Upon meeting at a hospital, Sibel asks Cahit to marry her so she can escape her family. What happens next is a touching, passionate, profound, and exhilirating love story. A lovely film and a magnificent cultural experience. Ultimately worth the trip.

2046 (2004)

Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung) is a writer who has created a science fiction masterpiece about a train, 2046, that goes nowhere and after boarding you can never exit. This story, with its vivid imagery, becomes the subplot for another.

Set in 1960’s Hong Kong, the writer lives a party lifestyle and his relationships with three girls, including one played byZiyi Zhang, is the center of movie . 2046 is a story of memories, love, and the future and it is one that should not be missed.

Off the Map (2003)

A coming-of-age story set in the remote New Mexico desert. 11-year old Bo’s life is nothing short of unique. Her family lives “off the map”, on an isolated farm that has no electricity or running water. They survive on less than $20,000 per year. One summer she watches as her father battles unexplainable depression. It is during this summer that a stranger (Jim True-Frost) emerges and through him Bo learns about love and lost. Joan Allen is beyond excellent as Bo’s mother, a part Hopi-Indian with Earth Mother tendencies. Each scene is filled with humor, originality, and beaut y. A lovely, little-known wonder of a movie that leaves you wanting more.

Review: The Best of Youth (2003)

When I told my friends that my weekend plans consisted of watching a six-hour Italian movie, they thought I was insane. But let me tell you, it was well worth it.

The Best of Youth, directed by Marco Tullio Giordana, follows two brothers Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio) and Matteo (Alessio Boni) from 1966 to the present. The film opens as the brother’s are about to set out on a road trip. However, they take a detour that will forever change their lives. After this moment, they go their separate ways; Nicola becomes a successful psychiatrist and Matteo enters the police force.

This is a movie of epic proportions that tells the story of family, friendship, and love. For such an extensive and long movie, it never misses the fine points of characterization. The film will draw you in and at the end I guarantee that you will say, “Wait a second, there should be three more hours.”

The Best of Youth is film making at its best, with amazing performances, stunning images of the Italian landscape, and a certain intimacy that made me take in a second viewing.

Reviews: Six Movies I’ve Seen Recently

East of Eden (1955) – James Dean stars in the screen adaptation of John Steinbeck’s modernization of the story Cain and Abel. With this film, a new era in film and an American screen icon were born. Elia Kazan directs the legendary story of two brothers, both seeking their father’s affection. But it is Dean who pulls you in through his captivating performance as Cal.

Since Otar Left (2003)- The story of three generations of women living in  Georgia. There is Eka (85 year old Esther Gorintin), Marina (Nina Khomasuridze) and young Ada (Dinara Drukarova). Life has been hard for the women since the fall of the Soviet Union, but letter’s from Otar, Eka’s adored son, bring joy to family. A beautifully touching film about different generations, culture, grief, and above all, the strength of family.

Grizzly Man (2005) – The maestro of non-fiction films, Werner Herzog, brings to screen the story of Timothy Treadwell, better known as the “Grizzly Man”. Treadwell lived with the grizzlies for 13 summers in isolated Alaska and he came to believe that only he could protect the animals. Treadwell fought against poachers, anti-environment advocates, and his own demons until one day in 2003 when one of his beloved Grizzlies killed him and his girlfriend. Herzog skillfully edits Treadwell’s own footage and interviews with those for and against his actions, to create perhaps the best documentary of 2005, in a year where true life stories reigned.

Murderball (2005) – Another excellent documentary from 2005, about the American Paralympic Rugby team. These men wish to be seen as athletes, not as quadriplegics, as they battle it out in full-contact rugby. Overcoming unimaginable pasts, each player has a different story and the rivalry between the Canadian and US teams is frickin’ awesome.

The Beat that My Heart Skipped (2004) – A Hitchcock-esque thriller from France. Thomas (Romain Duris) has reached a critical point in his life. He debates following in his father’s footsteps as a greedy landlord or rediscovering his passion for concert piano. But his thuggish past is never too far behind him. It won eight César Awards including best film and director

The Producers (1968) What would the world be like without Mel Brooks? A lot less funnier, that’s for sure. Before the hit Broadway musical and the current movie, there was this gem of comedy. Two producers (Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder) scheme to create the biggest flop in Broadway history, all to make mucho dinero. Their muse is Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. A hysterical film and a must-see before you watch the rehashing.

Updated October 10, 2010

Review: Turtles Can Fly (2004)

Turtles Can Fly is the third feature from acclaimed Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi. As the first film shot in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the film takes a dark and heart-wrenching look at affect war has, especially on children.

The action occurs in a Kurdish refugee camp somewhere between the Turkish and Iraqi border on the eve of the American invasion of Iraq. There lives 13-year-old “Satellite” (Soran Ebrahim), who has earned his nickname through his ability to install satellite dishes and translate news of the pending invasion to the camp’s elders. He also organizes his fellow orphans into land mine-collection teams so they can earn money.

Satellite develops a crush on the quiet and beautiful Agrin (Avaz Latif), who arrives at the camp with her brother Hyenkov (Hirsh Feyssal). Her brother is only known as “The Boy With No Arms” to the other orphans and he skillfully disarms the land mines using his teeth. There is a child with them, Risa, who we are led to believe is their brother, but we later learn that this child is the cause of Agrin’s obvious pain.

The children are at first excited for the US invasion; no one wishes to see Saddam Hussein captured more than these children. However, the movies events only lead for the children to see the true grievances that war causes. In the last scene of the film, Satellite and his friend are watching the American troops march into Iraq. Satellite is upset from what he has seen and his friend asks him “Didn’t you want to the Americans come?”

This is not a political film. It is just a story about children attempting to survive in an endless war zone and the final product is unforgettable and extraordinarily moving.

Updated October 7, 2010