Saturday, November 12, 2011

Movie Review: Strangers

Movie Title: Strangers
Erez Tadmor & Guy Nattiv
Actor(s): Lubna Azabal, Liron Levo
Language: Arabic, English, French, Hebrew
Subtitles: English
Rated: Not Rated (nudity, sexual situations)
Genre: Foreign
Run Time: 85 mins
DVD Release Date: 18 October 2011
My Rating:

A chance encounter in Berlin sparks an improbable, passionate affair between an Israeli man and a Palestinian woman. Handsome Eyal (Liron Levo) and Rana serendipitously meet when their backpacks get swapped on the subway during the 2006 World Cup finals. Over six days, they get swept away by romantic desire, soccer mania and competing political loyalties. When Rana suddenly return to Paris, Eyal must make some bold choices that could alter their lives forever.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: Strangers was a movie I had been looking forward to seeing for a long time. I heard about the film about a year ago and was annoyed that it had only been released on dvd overseas. Normally this does not stop me from viewing a film-- I have my ways of changing the region coding on foreign discs. However, the movie was going for over $30 dollars at the time and sorry, but I refuse to pay that much. My patience served me well because I found out it was going to be released in the US in October.

This is going to sound weird but Strangers was in one hand interesting and in the other disappointing. It started out as I expected. We follow Eyal first as he arrives in Germany and travels to his ex-girlfriend's house whom he made a pact with years ago. They promised each other they would go to the World Cup together no matter what, even if they broke up. Well keeping his end of the promise, he shows up at her house only for her not to answer his phone calls or answer the door. As he searches for a place to sleep for the night, he meets Rana on the subway. They accidentally switch bags which later results in them meeting back up. This leads to them spending time together, going to the World Cup together, and sharing a place to sleep for the remainder of their stay. Basically they do a lot of talking, drinking, love making, and cigarette smoking (which I am fine with up until later).

Things start getting interesting once Rana receives a mysterious phone call and tells Eyal she has to go back to Paris. As she is about to board the plane, she tells him to not call her, basically to forget about their little affair. I figured maybe she had a husband waiting back at home, or maybe family that would completely freak out at the thought of her being with an Israeli man. Of course Eyal is a total romantic (as shown in the beginning when he keeps his promise to his ex) and decides to fly to Paris to surprise Rana with a visit.

Once in Paris, Eyal gets settled in at a hotel and starts searching for Rana. After getting some info from a cafe that she frequents, he surprises her on the subway. Of course, she tells him he shouldn't have come. He gives her a card from the hotel he is staying at just in case she wants to talk to him.

The twist is *MAJOR SPOILER ALERT* Rana has a little boy that has serious asthmatic health issues to the point where he must use a machine. One night she wakes up to him having trouble breathing and takes him to the hospital. While filling out paperwork, it is revealed that Rana is staying in Paris illegally and the shitty nurse calls immigration. She has no family in Paris, so the only person she can call to watch over her son while she is locked up is Eyal.

Okay so up until this point I was hooked. Did I think the beginning was a little slow and boring? Yes. But once she left Berlin to go back to Paris and Eyal follows her, things really started to heat up. Being able to see that she is a single mom, struggling to make ends meet and to provide the best kind of care to her little boy who is sick, definitely touched a chord in my heart. And obviously I was curious to see Eyal's reaction to not only finding out that Rana has a child, but that he literally has to take care of him until further notice.

Here is where things go down hill and unrealistic for me. The first thing that confused the hell out of me is when Rana gets released. The people from immigration gave her such a hard time and from what is said in the movie, they had proof that her papers had been expired for awhile. How and why was she released??? It is never mentioned. I have watched movies before dealing with immigration and they never just release you 24 hours later. I guess maybe if there had been some sort of explanation I would have been okay. But what was the point of adding that plot device if they weren't going to further explore it?

The second problem I had with this movie was actually Rana's character. I think by the end of the film I was sort of pissed off at her, for lack of a better word. Here is why. Once I found out she not only had a child, but one that obviously is very sick and frequently, I started questioning her motherhood skills. She takes off for Berlin at the beginning of the movie and it is never explained why. I mean, did she just decide she wanted a vacation? If so, I think she took one hell of a risk to fly to Berlin and leave her kid with a neighbor/friend, especially being in Paris illegally. I guess once I put that all together, it started bothering me. What mother would just up and leave the country for a few days of booze and sex? Yes, yes, I know she didn't PLAN on meeting and sleeping with Eyal, but come on!

Okay so here is the biggest thing that annoyed the hell out of me about Rana. Her son is an asthmatic. I mean a serious asthmatic that is on medication and sometimes needs a breathing machine. Why in the hell would she be smoking cigarettes around her kid??? Once she gets out of immigration and she invites Eyal back to her place, all they do is smoke cigarettes in that little tiny apartment while her son is sleeping! WHAT THE HELL!!!!!!!!! It just makes no sense! He JUST got out of the hospital from a SERIOUS asthma attack and she is sitting there smoking away! Okay, I need to calm down! But seriously??? The other thing that further annoyed me was later when you see her and Eyal at a club, drinking and getting drunk. Where is the kid??? When they get back to the apartment you see him laying on the bed I think. What, did they just leave him there while they went out partying?

Yup, that is where I pretty much gave up on the movie. I was appalled at her unmotherly, teenage behavior. It kind of spoiled the ending for me which actually wasn't that bad. I guess I just stopped feeling sympathetic for her. As for Eyal...I think he had a little more common sense but hey, I had to fault him too because he was smoking right up in there with her and went out partying with her instead of staying home with the kid. Overall, Strangers wasn't a bad movie, but the writer(s) of the film should have thought things through a little better if they wanted people to feel more sympathetic towards the main characters.


Friday, November 11, 2011

L.A. Banks: R.I.P.

Back in May (2011), I reviewed the first book in a new urban paranormal series called Surrender the Dark by L.A. Banks. There are so many Angel romance and paranormal series circulating in recent years, but there was something about her new series that stood out. I immediately connected with the setting of the novel which is in Philadelpha, PA, literally 40 minutes from where I live. Ms. Banks has an amazing ability in giving her characters authentic accents--not every author has the patience or talent to write dialogue the way she does.

I recently just purchased the 2nd book in this particular series called Conquer the Dark. Right before I did, I noticed there was a contest giveaway for the novel on someone's blog. While I was on there, I learned the very sad news that L.A. Banks, at only 51 years of age, has died of adrenal cancer. Apparently she passed away on August 2nd, a few months before I even found out.

Leslie Esdaile Banks was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. She was an African American writer who enjoyed dabbling in several different genres which included everything from crime/suspense, to paranormal/horror, to African American literature, and romance. She wrote under numerous pseudonyms, such as LA Banks, Leslie Esdaile, Leslie Banks, and Leslie Esdaile Banks. She was a New York Times bestselling author and her most popular series, called Vampire Huntress Legend, have been optioned for Hollywood films by GothamBeach Entertainment and Griot Entertainment.

I think the thing that saddens me the most is despite her success and popularity as a writer, her medical expensives were so great that her family had to start a charity in her name. Other authors helped show their support (such as Charlaine Harris and Heather Graham) by helping the literary community start several auctions where the proceeds went to Bank's medical care.

I wish I could have known her sooner. And I hope this does not sound selfish, but I wonder if Conquer the Dark ends on a cliffhanger or if she was able to tie up loose ends. I am assuming this was her last book since it was published in September of 2011 and only book 2 in the new series she started. My heart goes out to her family and her fans. I know that sounds strange to say considering I am technically a fan as well. But I feel like I missed something, like I am the last one to jump on a train that has already been traveling for days. She has readers that have most likely been with her since the beginning that will mourn her greatly.