domingo, 20 de enero de 2013
miércoles, 12 de diciembre de 2012
miércoles, 7 de noviembre de 2012
miércoles, 17 de octubre de 2012
lunes, 24 de septiembre de 2012
sábado, 25 de agosto de 2012
domingo, 29 de julio de 2012
sábado, 16 de junio de 2012
sábado, 5 de mayo de 2012
jueves, 3 de mayo de 2012
domingo, 8 de abril de 2012
lunes, 20 de febrero de 2012
“The Artist” could be seen as a gimmick but there’s a good story behind its stylistic choices. We meet a star of the silent era about to enter his decline and the rise of a plucky actress on the birth of the “talkies” (the first talking pictures). Dujardin perfectly fits the role on what seems like a variation of the Douglas Fairbanks-type. He shows great screen presence (along with a fantastic smile) and seems already poised to win the Academy Award for best actor. And if he wins I hope he brings his four legged companion to the stage.
It seems astonishing to have “The Artist” in the same year as such callow entertainments like “Transformers” and “Twilight”. How many of today’s kids have seen a movie in black and white, let alone a silent one? But the film seems to already be a crowd pleaser and destined to be the big winner at the Oscars.
2011 was the year of nostalgia as Scorsese’s “Hugo” and Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” seemed to cherish the past (“Hugo” was not only a love letter to cinema but also a cry in favor of film preservation). “The Artist” doesn’t gloat in any kind of ambition; it’s a fun film, meant to inspire curiosity for silent film but mostly made for audiences to enjoy a feel-good story. This is one of the most entertaining and charming movies of the year.
lunes, 23 de enero de 2012
Larson’s books were adapted to Swedish films with Noomi Rapace playing Salander. Her performance was mesmerizing, going deep into her darkness and yet, creating empathy for the character. In “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” she meets Blomkvist, the disgraced editor of Millennium magazine who has been hired to solve the disappearance of a teenage girl almost 40 years ago. Their quest will involve a killer of women.
Of course, this seems prime material for David Fincher, who has done his share of movies about violent men but his take on this material seems somewhat redundant and overdone. He piles on the darkness with a claustrophobic feel and an invasive soundrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. This time Salander is played by Rooney Mara, creating a very different character from Rapace. Her Lisbeth is wounded and fragile, more victim than perpetrator and with a heavier emotional link to Blomkvist (played by Daniel Craig).
The movie starts with a brilliant title sequence that seems to conceptualize Salander’s inner violence (it also helps to have a rocking cover of “Immigrant Song” by Karen O and Reznor). But the energetic scene doesn’t reflect the rest of Fincher’s approach to the material. He keeps it surprisingly low key focusing on small and contained spaces and the dire and cold winter of Sweden. There are enough differences between the versions to avoid calling it a copycat (and some might argue that it’s a more complete adaptation from the novel). This version also changes the ending, and goes a bit heavy with its epilogue trying to tie everything neatly.
Fincher’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” isn’t one of his best efforts but it still shows great craftsmanship and as a thriller works very well. But, if one were to choose the better movie I’d go with the original (and its interesting sequels).
miércoles, 11 de enero de 2012
“Drive” is a cool movie, plain and simple. It has an electrifying soundtrack (by composer Cliff Martinez and featuring the catchy song “A Real Hero”), great performances (the most notable by Albert Brooks, playing his first role as a villain) and a bolstering directing style from Nicolas Winding Refn (one of the most exciting of European filmmakers, see “Bronson” and “Valhalla Rising”). In “Drive” his camera focuses intently on Ryan Gosling, playing a man of few words and controlled emotions but who’s capable of inflicting terrible acts of violence.
The driver (he isn’t given a name) lives in a lonely apartment next to a woman (played by Carey Mulligan) whose husband is in prison. He befriends her and her son and soon enough is entangled in a plot to help her husband once he arrives. But the details are almost collateral pleasures next to the sheer act of watching a movie of such marvelous control of tone. Once it’s over we kind of forget of the conventional plot points and remember specific scenes, like the driver’s first date, the explosive violence on an elevator and a sequence where he wears a stunt mask to stalk a mobster. Those moments burn in the memory and make the film into a sort of urban dreamscape of daring imagination.
“Drive” is one of the best movies of the year. It’s exciting and original and drenched in atmosphere rewarding multiple viewings.
viernes, 2 de diciembre de 2011
The story of the underdog is the most clichéd and predictable in the sports genre. Last year we got “The Fighter” in which Mark Wahlberg became a boxing champion whilst dealing with the drama of his family that included a controlling mother and a drug addict brother. The movie gave Oscars to both Melissa Leo and Christian Bale but beyond their performances it is predictable and monotonous in its portrayal of a family’s struggle. In many ways, “Warrior” is the movie “The Fighter” wanted to be, a rousing, powerful and moving drama that focuses on interesting characters and gains momentum in a series of well choreographed fights (so involving that members in the audience at my screening were cheering).
The film focuses on two brothers who went to take on very different lives. Tommy, played by Tom Hardy, became a marine after taking care of their mother (who ultimately died of cancer) and Brendan, played by Joel Edgerton, became a physics teacher after he married his high school sweetheart. Both became fighters from a very early age but Tommy was always the strongest one. Now they both enter a mixed martial arts tournament for a prize that might save Brendan’s family from losing their home and give a sense of closure to Tommy, who wants to give the money to the widow of his best friend.
Both Hardy and Edgerton are convincing in their roles and the script gives them moments of raw and intense emotion. Nick Nolte is also great as their alcoholic father (a role that maybe strikes too close to home for Nolte), living a life full of regrets.
I must confess I wasn’t very familiar with MMA fighting but after watching “Warrior” I found it to be ugly and brutal but cinematically very visceral and exciting. The tournament scenes bring energy and tension and the final confrontations packs an emotional wallop. “Warrior” is a movie that doesn’t avoid clichés but enhances them through character development turning it into a compelling drama.
viernes, 25 de noviembre de 2011
Few filmmakers portray passions as vividly as Pedro Almodovar. With a lush and vibrant visual style and heavy and operatic themes running its narratives, his movies are dense and melodramatic while they juggle between a morbid fascination and heartfelt emotions. “The Skin I Live In” takes a detour into the queasy and perverse while still maintaining his usual motifs of lust and obsession. It performs a risky high-wire act in telling its revenge story (it’s wise to avoid spoilers beforehand, especially with a shocking revelation in its final act).
The film is fragmented in dissociative scenes of underlying resonance giving the audience pieces of information that seem to confuse early on but intrigue us throughout. Almodovar also does something quite interesting in revealing snippets of back story to the audience without sharing it between the characters.
Antonio Banderas plays a brilliant plastic surgeon who lives in a mansion whilst keeping a young woman who, for some unknown reason, remains his captive (she is played by the lovely Elena Anaya). As the film reveals flashbacks of characters we haven’t met yet we begin to find ourselves adrift en Almodovar’s messy narrative game but, in a strange way, hooked on the possibilities and outcomes of its diabolical predicaments.
“The Skin I Live In” is a fascinating experiment that holds an eerie power. It’s a film that’s rough around its edges, cool and glossy on the surface but raw and ugly on its center. It’s an uncomfortable and unforgettable psychological thriller that belongs in my top ten movies of 2011.
martes, 8 de noviembre de 2011
miércoles, 2 de noviembre de 2011
There’s no guide to parenthood. Eva wasn’t certain she wanted to be a parent but still did the best she could to give her son, who was problematic almost from birth, a fulfilling childhood. Kevin is every parent’s worst nightmare, a malicious and calculating little ingrate without pity or remorse. In many ways he is the representation of pure evil; an evil oblivious to everyone except Eva, who understands his darkness (his father, played by John C. Reilly, remained painfully naïve his whole life).
“We Need to Talk About Kevin” argues that malice is inbred and that violence inevitable. Eva lives a life of guilt and a constant harassment that follows her everywhere. The film cuts back and forth in time showing us a happy marriage, a frustrated period of motherhood and at 16 the culmination of a terrible act of violence that changes both the lives of Kevin and Eva.
Tilda Swinton is a great actress and here delivers a fantastic performance that is bound to get an Oscar nomination. The movie is a hard and uncomfortable watch with an emotional climax that leaves us in shock and disbelief. Eva and Kevin have a complicated relationship that is somehow tied within a pain they’ve shared their whole life (when Eva accidentally breaks her son’s arm in a dispute, he recalls it later as the most honest thing she ever did for him).
Is “We Need to Talk About Kevin” a horror story? In many ways it could be called that, as the film pulls us into the lives of a psychopath and his victims but it’s also a fascinating portrayal of a woman and her life of misery. It is, without a doubt, one of the more interesting works of 2011.
martes, 25 de octubre de 2011
Movies rarely get more ambitious than “The Tree of Life” and also, rarely more polarizing. The reactions from the audience at my screening were mostly of frustration and tedium and even though it won the coveted Palme D’Or at Cannes, the movie was met with both applause and boos in equal measure. I’m not a huge fan of Terrence Malick (I think “The Thin Red Line” is one of the most exhausting and dullest war movies ever made) but I admire the craft of his movies even though most of the time they feel like meandering philosophical statements. “The Tree of Life” starts with whispers and an amalgam of scenes from a family in the fifties, the cosmos and an extended sequence on the creation of life on our planet that includes dinosaurs (this sequence my baffle viewers who don’t see a connection with the rest of the story).
“The Tree of Life” is a beautiful and haunting work of art. Whether it works or not as art depends entirely on the viewer but there’s no denying that Malick pours himself into the picture and dares to take the audience on an astonishing journey, the journey of life itself. The actors embody perfectly their roles (except for Sean Penn who wanders aimlessly through the movie; Penn himself wasn’t satisfied with his role and the final product since he feels it fails to represent the beauty of the script). So divisive is the movie that even Penn fails to grasp Malick’s intentions but I was so moved by the family scenes that I started to wander into my own childhood and my love for my mother, father and brother (feelings evoked by empathy towards this memory, even though it’s quite different from mine).
It’s rare to find spirituality in a multiplex but “The Tree of Life” is a communion for the believers. It’s a soaring work that goes deep in its humanity and delivers a transcendental experience. It’s by far my favorite movie of 2011.
miércoles, 12 de octubre de 2011
“A Better Life” was directed by Chris Weitz and it proves how he is able to create intimacy and drama in a story that could’ve easily become a Hallmark movie filled with forced sentiment. Weitz made this film after “New Moon” (yet another terrible chapter in this atrocious series) and I hope he continues making this kind of cinema since big blockbusters don’t seem to suit him (he was also responsible for the economic fiasco of “The Golden Compass). The movie gets the Latino culture right and plunges us in authentic locations. It also introduces tension after Carlos’s truck gets stolen forcing him to do what he can to get it back. The final scenes in the movie are powerful and the speech Carlos delivers to his son is heartbreaking.
“A Better Life” isn’t preachy and avoids being corny thanks to its fantastic performance. It’s definitely a movie that might open the eyes of many people in the audience (especially American ones).
lunes, 10 de octubre de 2011
“Melancholia” is about the end of the world. In Von Trier fashion, there’s a stylish prologue that confirms the doomed fate of its characters and the movie is divided into two chapters, the first one focusing on Justine (Kirsten Dunst’s character) and the second one on her sister Claire (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, who apparently didn’t mind working again with the director who made her appear in scenes of genitalia mutilation on his previous film). The first half of this movie takes place at Justine’s wedding party, with the usual assortment of character actors who make an impact even though we might, just as well, call their appearances mere cameos. I confess a certain fascination with these scenes even though Justine’s depression seems contrived at every turn. The second act turns Justine into a catatonic wreck, while subtly (or maybe not so subtly) suggesting some sort of clairvoyance psychic nonsense to her character.
Kirsten Dunst won the best actress award at Cannes and, to be fair, Dunst shows maturity in her role even though Von Trier doesn’t give her much to work with. The impending doom scenes drag down until we find ourselves just waiting for the damn planet to hit Earth already. Since the characters are miserable in virtually every scene, the end feels more like a relief to both its audience and its players. “Melancholia” is a movie designed to be discussed by those who really admire Von Trier’s body of work (and, astonishingly, he seems to gather a large following). For haters it offers no hope or redemption, no sense of purpose or reason; it’s conceptually within the boundaries of Von Trier’s continuous self exploration. In other words, it’s just another pretentious bore.
domingo, 4 de septiembre de 2011
“Kung Fu Panda 2” is a sequel done right. Here’s a beautifully animated and exciting adventure that pleases both kids and their parents. It’s curious how Dreamworks showed a lot more heart in this story than Pixar did with “Cars 2”, which was a departure for a studio that usually deals with emotions much more sophisticated than we are accustomed to in animated features. “Cars 2” is a shallow and forgettable action romp, boasting some impressive visuals but lacking a lot in the narrative department. Still, it’s an entertaining movie but it’s also a disappointing one from a studio that’s made some of the best family films of all time.
Some might remember this summer for its sequels or superhero movies but I will remember it for “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”, easily the worst movie of the year and one of the most wretched so-called pieces of entertainments I’ve ever had to endure. To watch a movie this dumb, vulgar, senseless and mean and to watch it gross an enormous amount of cash at the box office is to witness a complete disregard for the value of cinema as an art form. And I know that we shouldn’t expect high art in a Hollywood blockbuster but at least we should expect an engaging storyline and characters we care for. “Transformers 3” is a 157 minute waste of time; utter garbage that cements Michael Bay as a showman for imbeciles and a freak impresario, eager to cash in from the puerile fantasies of the male adolescent.
The one bright spot about watching this movie is that it sets a standard so low that practically any movie looks good by comparison. That’s why I’m glad I saw Duncan Jones’s “Source Code” after Transformers. Here’s a smart sci-fi parable about a man reliving the same instant before a bomb explodes on a train. It is terrific entertainment and a nice tonic to the toxic waste of Bay’s spectacle.
One of the most eagerly awaited releases for the year was the final installment in the Harry Potter franchise (the most commercially lucrative series in movie history). After a chronically tedious start to the Deathly Hallows story, it basically redeems the weaker aspects and becomes one of the summer’s most exciting blockbusters. The film boasts terrific acting and special effects and a thrilling pace bringing the action back to Hogwarts and tying all the loose ends. For fans it’s an emotionally satisfying ending.
A couple of fantastic movies followed with “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Super 8”. “Captain America” is a gloriously retro adventure in the style of those Saturday morning serials from the 30s and 40s promoting so-called American values (the movie makes fun of its cheeky propaganda aspects). Chris Evans proved to be a great casting choice for the titular hero making the film one of the best of the summer and Marvel’s best offering (on par with “X-Men: First Class”).
J.J. Abrams “Super 8” is also a retro piece of entertainment that takes us back to those 80s Amblin movies where a bunch of kids find themselves on an extraordinary adventure. There’s a lot of debt to Spielberg in “Super 8” but Abrams crafts his movie with style and a special gift for casting since all of the kids are terrific. I confess that the monster is the less appealing aspect of the film since the story with the kids is much more engrossing. The one superhero I missed in theaters was “Green Lantern” but since its reviews ranged from mediocre to terrible I don’t think I missed on much.
One of the biggest disappointments of the summer was “Aliens and Cowboys”, an ungainly mishmash of genres that’s so clumsily executed that it works neither as a western nor an alien invasion picture. The cast is completely wasted with the usual array of stereotypes and the aliens are so generic they lack any menace.
The best was saved for last, however, with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, an impressive and surprisingly provocative work that goes beyond any of the Apes sequels and stands on its own as a fantastic summer entertainment. The CG in the movie is amazing and so convincing that it turns Ceasar, an animated ape, into a full living character that’s much more human than his real human counterparts.
Overall, the summer of 2011 provided a good time at the movies. There were some big surprises and some big disappointments but it was mostly a successful introduction to superheroes, reboots and sequels.
sábado, 25 de junio de 2011
In “Balada Triste de Trompeta” (released in the US with the silly title of “The Last Circus”), a wickedly dark and audacious comedy of sorts, we meet a clown who’s been suffering since his early childhood (his dad, also a clown, was killed during the war in Spain). As a young man he becomes the “sad clown”, destined to never make anyone laugh. Not that there’s a lot of funny material in Alex de la Iglesia’s movie (except for incredulous laughter for its brutal and grotesque scenes).
Alex de la Iglesia is a director with a great sense of humor who almost always stamps his own brand of humor on each of his genre pictures. I remember one of his earlier comedies, the inventive “El Dia de la Bestia” about a priest trying to prevent the birth of the antichrist and therefore the end of days. It’s a funny movie that manages to be slightly blasphemous but terrifically entertaining (one of its stars is Santiago Segura, a comedian best known for his “Torrente” series). After “El Dia de la Bestia” I saw “El Crimen Ferpecto” (having missed Iglesia’s western spoof “800 Bullets”). The title is purposefully misspelled and its is a bit more grounded on reality than “Bestia” but, in a way, equally outlandish; it starts with a man desperately trying to become the general manager of a top retail store and ends as a grotesque battle between him and a very unattractive coworker who is obsessed with him. It ain’t exactly a love story.
“The Oxford Murders” is a strange departure for Iglesia. It’s his first English speaking feature, set in England and featuring Elijah Wood and the great John Hurt in a mystery thriller in the style of “The DaVinci Code”. Well, I hated “The DaVinci Code” and its sequel “Angels and Demons” (this one a little less I guess) mostly because those films are wall-to-wall with twists that cheat its narrative and make us care very little for any of their one-dimensional characters (Tom Hanks is especially dull as Robert Landon). “The Oxford Murders” is smarter, focusing on an intriguing premise and using a lot of mathematical and philosophical banter to solve its mystery and even though the ending is a little silly the movie remains intriguing and very entertaining.
“Balada Triste de Trompeta” remains Iglesia’s best movie because it transcends its genre and becomes a grotesque tragedy. It perfectly demonstrates Iglesia’s strange but compelling imagination and over-the-top sense of humor. He remains one of the most interesting directors in Spain.
jueves, 9 de junio de 2011
Marvel opened up the season with “Thor”, which was a fun adaptation of the comic book about a Nordic god stripped down of his powers and cast off to Earth (while his mischievous younger brother takes control of the mythological kingdom). “Thor” is by no means a great movie, but it’s lightweight and entertaining, with a charismatic cast who actually bring some gravitas to their silly roles (Chris Hemsworth proved to be an inspired casting choice for the title character).
“Thor” was followed by “Fast Five”, which actually takes the tired franchise on a fresh new direction. Instead of focusing on street racing, the story now develops into a surprisingly entertaining heist movie filled with impossible action sequences and a breezy pace (not to mention the exotic location of Rio de Janeiro). “Fast Five” was a surprise and a decent reboot which benefited from a marketing campaign that exploited the clash of action icons Vin Diesel and The Rock.
Next was the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, “On Stranger Tides”, which might be one of the most unnecessary sequels in recent memory. While the first Pirates was a genuinely original piece of Hollywood entertainment, its sequels felt like bloated and meandering cash cows.
Still, they all carried Gore Verbinski’s quirky vision which made for some surreal and entertaining moments. This new movie, directed by Rob Marshall, is so stale that even Captain Jack Sparrow is clueless as to why he is present for most of the picture. The addition of new and uninteresting characters only makes the experience more frustrating. “On Stranger Tides” is so forgettable and banal, that even Johnny Depp feels like he’s phoning it in (even though he was once nominated for an Oscar for playing Sparrow).
One of the most disappointing summer movies is “The Hangover 2”, which saw the return of the wolf pack after their hilarious series of misfortunes in Las Vegas. The first Hangover was a very funny movie that kept us interested with its mystery format and delighted us with its outrageous characters (especially Zack Galifianakis’s Alan). The sequel doesn’t push the story as much as repeat the events in a different setting. There are some funny moments in “The Hangover 2” but none register as powerfully as in the original (a movie that makes me laugh out loud every time I watch it). Even though it’s an inferior sequel, I would still go see “The Hangover 3” just to enjoy the company of the guys.
The best movie so far was also a pleasant surprise. “X-Men: First Class” is a prequel that actually goes back to basics and delivers a compelling story. “First Class” is blessed with an excellent cast and smart enough to create believable relationships amidst the special effects. Director Matthew Vaughn mixes the real Cuban crisis with the mutant revolution and creates an intriguing fantasy that holds our attention even though we know what’s in store for the characters.
There are still many movies to be released this summer including JJ Abrams’s Spielberg-like “Super 8”, another two comic book adaptations with Captain America and The Green Lantern, and sequels to Kung Fu Panda, Cars and Transformers among others.
To be continued…