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Seen but don't make the cut: Inception True Grit The Fighter 127 Hours Black Swan
The Lost Language of Cranes (1991)
One of those unseen gems coming from TV
The less I say about this, the better. I will just say that it is powerful, touching and moved by two extremely powerful performances by Brian Cox and Eileen Atkins, that, had this been a feature film, probably would have easily taken the BAFTA and would have had a strong chance at the Oscars.
Don't expect safe filmmaking or themes, it's a hidden treasure. Whether you like it or not in the end, for sure it won't let you indifferent. One of my favorite TV-Movies of all time, and one that should have been released theatrically. Of noting, also, John Schlesinger making a cameo appearance (which hints how important the film themes are, so Schlesinger would get in front of the cameras for a small role, hopefully raising some extra attention to the film).
A different view on an old story.
I understand why people can be extremely frustrated by the end of "Passengers". It's actually difficult to review this movie without spoiling it... so for starters let's say that the movie intends to be several movies at once, that's what prevents it from a better rate and enjoyment... it's part romance, it's part thriller and it has a twist that launches it into a whole different direction while at the same time tying everything together nicely, explaining all the implausibilities that we have witnessed. I'm not going to go into spoilers, but let me summarize you in 2 things: the plot ain't actually cheating on you at all, point of view is the key word here. The second thing is that Rodrigo Garcia is more interested in the feelings, in the emotions than in making the movie a tongue-in-cheek thriller... this becomes more like a film that would have been made in Europe. But of course, by the end of the movie, it is difficult not to think that this is a repetition - in a different fashion - of some recent hits of fantastique. I'd recommend it, with some caution, don't have any expectations.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
Just a good movie, nothing more... and nothing less!
My Big Fat Greek Wedding *** (out of five) by Joel Zwick with Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine and a good ensemble.
So, this is the cinderella story of the year, in and out of the screen... the word-of-mouth phenomenom that has stormed America and put itself as the outsider for a Best Picture nod.
I really can understand that the movie has survived the maelstrom of the summer box-office, as its appeal is almost universal... but what I really can't understand is... why 200 million?
OK... it's a just good movie, with good performances (Michael Constantine and Nia Vardalos as standouts, if there's really any in a perfect ensemble), some good laughs, but NOTHING we haven't seen before and better.
I'm Spanish, and I can assure you that changing some details, this could have been My Big Fat Spanish Wedding... or My Big Fat Arab Wedding (as I was born in a city whose half population is muslim)... or whatever...
Actually, the movie has two parts: first we get to the required cinderella story that fuels the introduction of the characters... when at the middle of the movie we get to the wedding plot itself, I was too much reminded of the excellence of The Wedding Banquet, one of Ang Lee's masterpieces and that Nia Vardalos obviously has not only seen but loved.
Vardalos has written a good screenplay with plenty of laughs here and there and a good sense of pacing and what's funny. Kudos to her, but one thing is to write a good screenplay, avoiding plagiarism and another is to avoid falling into common places (even if you disguise them with the blue and white colors of the Greek flag)... Joel Zwick directs just correctly and without a defined personality this material that in other hands - Ang Lee, Paul J. Hogan - could have result in a very good movie... but instead we have a merry hour and a half of tender - not sappy, thanks God - cultural clash and an ode to the mediterranean sense of family.
At the performances, we have the explanation of the movie's success... we haven't here the Oscar worthy showy roles that one could expect given the buzz, but the perfect definition of comedic timing in an ensemble piece. Nia Vardalos obviously gets the more screen time, as John Corbett and Michael Constantine become the two main male pressences that divide Vardalos' character development... but it wouldn't be fair to highlight them as the movie belongs to the whole cast. I foresee a well deserved Best Ensemble nomination at the Screen Actors Guild...
However, Miss Vardalos may score a double nod at the Oscars... Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. As good as she is at both categories, I think that she doesn't really deserve any of these nods... Same can also be said for Michael Constantine's performance... he's really good, but not Oscar worthy, even thought that this one is a golden chance to give him some well-deserved recognition (bearing in mind that he may never be honored with a life-time achievement Oscar).
But what I feel is the strongest point (Ensemble aside) of the movie is that beautiful and merry greek score that has been seriously overlooked by oscar-watchers. The music really gives the mood of the movie in those transitions from one sequence to another and keeps the film alive. If the year isn't much strange, this music could make company to "Signs"' at the Best Score final quintet of the year.
To summarize, a good movie whose best recognition is the huge box-office success it has scored, and that really doesn't need to go beyond that. It isn't by far, one of the year's best, but being just a good movie is enough in my opinion. Not many movies can claim to be one.
A great disappointment for comic lovers.
Lisistrata (2002) * 1/2
directed by Francesc Bellmunt with Maribel Verdú, Javier Gurruchaga, Juan Luis Galiardo, Teté Delgado, Jesús Bonilla, Aitor Mazo and Albert Trifol.
OK. Let's suppose you don't know who Ralf König is. This guy is a german gay comic author whose comics have been previously adapted to the big screen ("Maybe, maybe not", "The Killer Condom") with different result. Lisistrata is his adaptation of Aristófanes' play about a woman from Athens that begins a women strike in Athens and Spartha till war between both cities is over. You may wonder: what's the big deal with the strike? That they don't have sex with their partners, so they carry all day gigantic erections that prevent them of making war with a minimum of dignity. That is, till the gay and lesbian community of both Spartha and Athens notice that this is a golden chance. How the situation develops leads to one of the funniest comic-books ever written, a comic that spread all over Europe becoming a cult classic. It is not strange that the adaptation comes from Spain.Thinking about it twice, only spanish and italian film-makers could have done a good job. And Francesc Bellmunt was in the list of possibilities for developing a good comedy. Add to the cocktail "Y tu mamá también"'s Maribel Verdú as Lisistrata and some good spanish actors and I can't understand how this went so wrong. The problem? It's called "over the top, mediterranean style". The movie never leaves the ground and the funny stuff becomes mostly unfunny (with some exceptions: Aitor Mazo and Albert Trifol's relationship gives the best moments of the movie which have some hilarious shots and situations, but develops with a feeling of "am I supposed to laugh?" most of the time. I won't get further in a movie that doesn't need a more extensive review to disqualify it. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate it. It's just simply forgettable.
Go, look for the Ralf König comic-book, read it, and only check out this movie if you're really curious about how it got translated to the big screen.
800 balas (2002)
The "Scream" of Westerns?
800 Balas (800 Bullets) **** 1/2 by Alex de la Iglesia with Sancho Gracia, Angel de Andrés López, Carmen Maura, Eusebio Poncela and Luis Castro. OK, people. Here's the "Scream" of the Western genre. Only it is not set in America, but in the fake America in Spain where masterpieces as Lawrence of Arabia and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly were shot. And it is not set in the XIXth Century but in 2.002. And everything is fake, the mirage of times already past.
Alex de la Iglesia's career is truly awesome. His first short, "Mirindas Asesinas" (*****) was hailed by many critics as the BEST spanish short film EVER. Then Pedro Almodóvar himself financed de la Iglesia's film debut, "Acción Mutante" (*** 1/2), a science-fiction terrorist comedy that open new possibilities for spanish film industry. Then he changed his producer to "Belle Epoque" producer Andrés Vicente Gómez, who financed his later films: the legendary "Day of the Beast" (*****), "Perdita Durango" (*****) - the movie that de la Iglesia choose to make instead "Alien Resurrection" - "Muertos de Risa" (**** 1/2) and "La Comunidad" (**** 1/2). A truly awesome career, in my opinion. His trademark wild and surreal humor, grotesque violence and the social subtext of almost all of his movies makes him one of the most extraordinary and unique "auteurs" worldwide.
No wonder that besides "Talk to Her", the most anticipated film in Spain of 2002 was "800 Balas". Did he - once more - deliver the goods?
Yes. A big YES.
The plot: Carlos (Luis Castro) the nasty 11 years old - more or less - son of Laura (Carmen Maura) an executive of a construction company discovers - thanks to his dead father's mother (the great Terele Pávez) that his grandfather is alive and escapes from home to find him in Almería's Hollywood. The situation when he arrives is not good. The Western Hollywood stunt attraction is all that survives from the golden past that land saw in the 60's, the land where Clint Eastwood, David Lean and George C. Scott made great movies (spaghetti westerns, Lawrence of Arabia and Patton: yes, they were shot in Spain!). A land where the last important shooting was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - and so it's kept a photograph of both Spielberg and Lucas at the entrance of the theme park.
Carlos' grandfather, Julián (Sancho Gracia) is the shadow of the man he once was. He plays his usual stunt unconvincingly along with his fellows, including Cheyenne (Angel de Andrés López) with whom he fights at the saloon entrance in a very bad western style. When Julián learns that Carlos is his grandson, guilt resurrects as he's partially to blame of his son's death when playing a stunt many years ago. But things can only get worse when Laura finally finds where is her son.
And I will stop here. I don't want to spoil the fun for you. And yes, I know that this is set for drama, not for comedy. How the situation develops is outstanding. Meet the people of the "theme park". Meet their families. Meet the muslim immigrants. Meet the whores. Meet the Guardia Civil. Meet the Police. Bring 800 bullets, and alcohol, and drugs, and The Pogues' "Fiesta". And you have another de la Iglesia's wild ride to the darkest spanish spirit.
Making sutile references to a lot of westerns and taking even a couple of shots from "Seven Samurai" - which we can admit is some kind of western - de la Iglesia's direction is bizarre, daring, grotesque, strong, and ultimately, unique. And the same can be said of the cast and their performances. Sancho Gracia and Angel de Andrés López are simply awesome in their roles. Some of you may remember Angel de Andrés López from Almodóvar's "What have I done to deserve this?" and "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" (althought his part in this one was very small, as a cop)... but both are two of the most underrated spanish actors. In exchange, Carmen Maura is one of the most known spanish actresses - and one of the best - and it may surprise many that her part is not the starring one... The whole supporting cast is great, and even the kid, Luis Castro, who has a very funny sex initiation sequence with a whore (R rating for sure in the USA!) is really funny (when the movie starts, he is playing alone disguised as an islamic terrorist!).
Add to this Roque Baños homage to classic western music at the score, a great cinematography and art direction, stunts, and a nostalgic feeling mixed with a riot and you have one of the best spanish movies of the year, althought some - lesser - pacing problems prevent me of giving the "Masterpiece" rating.
So, an advice: go rent "Day of the Beast" and "Perdita Durango" (Dance with the Devil). If you love or simply like these movies, you'll enjoy "800 Balas"... if you hate them, go check something else.
Maybe THE horror movie of the year.
Darkness (2002) **** ½ Directed by Jaume Balagueró With Anna Paquin, Lena Olin, Iain Glen, Stephan Enquist, Fele Martínez and Fermí Reixach
You may don't know who Jaume Balagueró is. You may ignore his debut film, `The Nameless' (Los Sin Nombre) which - undeservingly - became a cult film worldwide. Well, I am one of the few film lovers who knows Balagueró work
since his breakthrough shorts `Alicia' and `Días sin Luz', two visually stunning and disturbing films that put him in the map of Spanish fantastic cinema. While `Alicia', was promising but obviously overrated, `Días sin Luz' showed that this man could do one day an horror classic. When `Los Sin Nombre', his debut film appeared, my hopes were high, and buzz was that it was great. My deception ranks between the biggest I ever had while watching a movie. `Los Sin Nombre' was complete, absolute garbage... obsessed in being the new `Se7en', the acting wasn't engaging and the stunning visuals were completely empty. Worst of it all is that I could see the great story beneath the trash that was offered to my eyes. I hated Balagueró.
But years pass and I hear news that one of my favorite actresses, Anna Paquin has signed to star in Balagueró's new movie, `Darkness'. I seriously didn't know what to think. After thinking a bit and learning about the shooting in Barcelona, my interest grew. It reached the point of really anticipating the movie when I heard that Lena Olin and Giancarlo Giannini joined the cast. The acting, this time, simply couldn't go wrong, could it? Three Academy Awards nominees (one of them, winner) couldn't be that bad. But then I remembered `Los Sin Nombre' and fear came back.
So, I went to see this movie just after watching `Austin Powers in Goldmember' dubbed to spanish in one of the WORST dubbings I've ever heard in Spain (I had previously seen the movie in English, so I can judge the movie in its own merits, ***) and I was feeling a little disturbed... was it going to be two deceptions in a row?
And the movie started... it wasn't long into the movie when Balaguero's trademark visuals appeared. I was starting thinking in `Los Sin Nombre' when suddenly the plot and the cast hooked me. I must warn that this movie's first half is SLOW. Don't expect much to happen, but what happens NEEDS to be shown, in order to fully construct the movie. Paquin and Olin gave two remarkable performances, and Iain Glen and Stephan Enquist are two pleasant surprises, and is no wonder Giannini does a great job. Fele Martinez, however, doesn't shine but does a just OK job.
You may notice that I'm avoiding the plot. Confide in me, the lesser you know about this one, the better. I'll just hint films this movie somewhat resembles: `The Others', Robert Wise's `The Haunting', `Rosemary's Baby' and `In the mouth of Madness'. Yes, mix all those movies and you'll get close to what this movie offers. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised to hear reviewers blame Balagueró of copying, but it would be unfair. `Darkness' is a movie in its own, and deserves to become a classic horror movie.
Why? Because this one is all what `Los Sin Nombre' could have been and isn't. The same subjects lie beneath its frames. The same sad feeling. But this time, a superb cast and an inspired Balagueró (even thought he occasionally inserts too much) gave me a great experience.
I won't lie to you. Some people didn't like the movie at all. Even a couple walked away from the theater saying `even it wasn't an horror movie'... well, I wonder if they actually paid attention to the anguish the finale had. But apart of this couple, the rest of the people still were in shock. There are some twists that you can predict, and Balagueró knows that, so he just offer a wide range of possibilities, including of course the real one, and lets you guess for yourself what CAN happen next, but not what is going to happen for sure. From the movie's half, things begin to show, to happen, to puzzle the characters... when a great sequence is shown (the potatoes) and you think it won't be toped, the next one tops it... and so on till the magnificent finale that is LONG, and emotionally overwhelming and left the audience exhaust. It is not only horror, it is emotions... and there's a choice that can puzzle at first, but it makes total and horrifying sense.
So, summarizing, this movie is better than `The Sixth Sense' and almost as good as `The Others'. Go see this movie when it open in your country. This SHOULD be a blockbuster. This is the horror movie of the year, or so I guess.
Jaume, if you read this, I forgive `Los Sin Nombre'... what's next?
Los sin nombre (1999)
OK. Here we are.
One of the most buzzed fantastic spanish movies of the last years... and it is a complete piece of garbage.
Bad acting, good plot but with poor screenplay, and a waste of stunning visuals that can't hide the horrible - and not horrifying - reality of this movie. This is the kind of movie that could have been GREAT, but is lost by an obsession with - empty - visuals.
Avoid it, but watch out for Jaume Balagueró's next effort: "Darkness"
Road to Perdition (2002)
So close to being a masterpiece, that it hurts.
Road to Perdition **** directed by Sam Mendes with Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Tyler Hoechlin, Stanley Tucci and Jennifer Jason Leigh Problem is... what do we say when the only flaw we can see in a movie is that the obvious willing is not art or money, but Oscar?
When a movie has flawless direction, acting, a wonderful screenplay, amazing cinematography, a delightful score, perfect art direction... when it is perfect in every single detail... but it doesn't have soul?
This is my problem with Road to Perdition. I don't see the soul beneath the skin. It's - like many other films that usually show up at Oscar night - a skilled brilliant exercise that doesn't last. A great movie, for sure, but not in the same league as this year's Minority Report, One Hour Photo, Talk to Her or even Powerpuff Girls: The Movie.
What's the difference between one and the others? Well, it's quite easy. The four others are made by people who was able to give soul to their stories. Maybe the best example is to compare the two Toms performances in Perdition and Report... Tom Hanks gives his usual I-want-my-nod tone to skillfully portrait a hit-man who happens to be a caring and loving father, and of course, despite that little fact, he's the good guy. Tom Cruise, in exchange, gives it all as the Kafkanian character trapped in his own trap... there are multiple layers in his "hero", and good Cruise show them all, making us CARE for him. There are several times in which both Cruise and Spielberg made me forget I was actually watching a movie. This is not happening in Road to Perdition. The movie uses so showy techniques, it's SO beautiful that you really can't get trapped in it. Sam Mendes should see "lesser" movies as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", "Raising Arizona", "All about my mother" or even "Battle Royale" to understand what is energy in a movie, what is SOUL.
Of course it is not that "Road to Perdition" is a bad movie. It is great. But not one to treasure. Regretfully I can see now this people scoring 10 Oscars and being lauded as one of the bests of the year... technically, it deserves it, but my guts claim for other picks.
In the acting, Paul Newman is the stand out. He's on his way for a well deserved third Oscar (the first was an HONORARY! one, and the second for "The Color of Money"), this time as supporting. A pity, because he would kill all chances to reward the subtlety of newcomer Tyler Hoechlin, in one of the best child performances of the last years (just behind Osment's A.I. and The Sixth Sense) which has gone unnoticed by critics and audiences.
Jude Law, as usual gives a mesmerizing performance and is well deserving praise. Hanks, in exchange is good but not great. Tucci and Leigh take profit of their limited screen time, and give life to two undefined characters, which is saying a lot of their talent.
Technically, the movie is perfect and in its way to sweeping the nominations at this year's Oscars. But, I can't, with the hand in my heart, praise the movie itself with the adjective "masterpiece". A pity... it was so close...
En malas compañías (2000)
Shot in my town, this extremely well shot short film is one of the most interesting ones I've seen in the last years...
The story of a gay teenager who not only lives his homosexuality as openly as he can but also uses it as a weapon. The movie is fresh, and the main performance is simply amazing.
A trivia, one of the supporting characters is played by Julio Sanjuan, better known in Spain for playing one of the most charismatic characters in box-office blockbuster "Torrente, el Brazo Tonto de la Ley" (Santiago Segura, 1998).
Casa Paco (2002)
This short defeated mine... deservingly.
Málaga Fantastic Cinema Week, 2001. Shorts competition... the first short of the evening is "Adicción", by Jesús Alonso (me) and is well received... it's well received by the audience and I, after the stress of the screening, can relax to enjoy the other competitors for the prize... When "Casa Paco" arrives, I know for sure that this one was going to win (and of course won).
Reminiscent of Mario Camus' masterful "Los Santos Inocentes", this short makes you laugh in an hilarious way at first and then shocks you with one of the most disturbing finales you could ever think of. So simple, so great.
One Hour Photo (2002)
You won't see Robin Williams. You'll see Sy.
What is a masterpiece? Maybe a movie masterfully directed, powerfully acted, with a believable and deep screenplay and with a superb use of score, cinematography and art direction.
Is One Hour Photo a masterpiece?
I'm almost sure.
Mark Romanek, better known for directing videos for bands such as The Rentals, makes his feature film debut with an original screenplay of his own about loneliness and the alienation of our society. A sad story about sad people, and a frightening tale with ordinary life monsters.
Of course this is the kind of movie that is better watch without anything spoiled at all, so I won't bore you with the plot... instead, I'll go straight to the "artistic" evaluation of the film. Having said that, why not start with the cinematography? I have to say that this is one of the best uses of cinematography I've seen in the whole story of movie making... the cold, boring Sy (Robin Williams) life is full of cold colors that will remind you of Stanley Kubrick's "2001"... but the irruption of Sy's "family" is underlined by a subtle change into "Kodak" style colors... that's the line between Sy's increasing madness and "real" life. The score, which we could consider minimalist is also perfectly used to underline the increasing tension and is no wonder that Romanek has a lot of experience shooting videos... the only score flaw, however is that some rithym reminded me a lot of Filter's version of "One" (as published in "The X Files Movie" soundtrack). This is one of those movies in which everything (art direction, costumes, cinematography, sound, editing) seem to match to perfection.
For the acting, the supporting cast is believable, and Connie Nielsen is the stand out. She's a lovely wife and mother, but not a cliched one... she's believable. In fact, I bought this family as a real family, I easily forgot that these people were actors (the screenplay develop this characters to the exact point of making us actually care for them without distracting that the focus of our attention is Sy and his devotion for them).
So here we get to the whole point of the buzz surrounding this movie: is this the best Robin Williams performance ever?
This is not Robin Williams acting. This a candid camera work into Sy's life. How many times can you really say that after watching a movie? Not many, I guess. Robin Williams and Mark Romanek are under control of this movie and not in a single frame they lose it (well, I have just a problem with a shot... but it is a single shot and it is perfectly explained, so why really bother).
And for the direction, I've just said it all: strong, accurate, perfect at acting and composition... the best director nod should be assured. Mark Romanek has achieved one of the best film debuts I can remember in a long time (maybe since Quentin Tarantino and Tim Robbins debuts in 1992 with Reservoir Dogs and Bob Roberts)... Romanek is not a promise, he is a reality.
This film will be compared (it was compared, due to the similarity of the origins of Romanek and Spike Jonze) with Being John Malkovich.. but it is not an accurate comparison. One Hour Photo is a serious approach to its issues, while "Malkovich" played with surrealism in order to surprise the audience. In "Photo", it is the use of icons (as unexpected as a toy, for example) which can surprise you with unexpected references. As you can see, I really dug this movie, which was leaving me in awe in every scene... till a point that I can't do anything but surrender to the fact that Romanek's movie will play a very influential role in the next years.
What about the Oscars? There is a difference between what it should and what it can be... Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Score, Cinematography, Film Editing and Sound nominations should be in their deserved way. Reality is that given the competition, this may be overlooked and simply in the best of the scenarios get an Actor and an Original Screenplay nominations (maybe even wins). But as the reviews are highly positive, maybe the top 10 lists will fuel its chances and we'll see a One Hour Photo's clip at Oscar Night.
Make Sy happy. Actually, he deserves it.
La soledad era esto (2002)
It could have been a masterpiece.
I saw this film at Málaga Spanish Film Festival, and didn't know what to expect about it...
Adapting a novel by Juan José Millás, and well acted by most of the cast (but it is Charo López's movie, and it is obvious since the movie starts...), the movie delivers a slow pacing and some good twists... but it is almost killed by these factors:
a) Ramon Langa, a superb dubbing actor that is better always off-screen than on-screen. His face is like a mask, and despite the emotions he can show with his voice, those emotions never show in his face.
b) The movie's pacing is too slow... at times I wondered if the novel was a short story. I can see what's the point in showing López wandering through the streets of Madrid... but it is overused.
c) Charo López is excellent at some points of the movie... but she wasn't flawless... I didn't buy her performance at several points.
d) The most interesting characters - apart from López's - are Iñaki Font's and Ingrid Rubio's... and they are clearly underdeveloped. Only Font's and Rubio's talent make them really believable, in what I thought were the best performances in the movie. I can see Iñaki Font scoring a nod for New Actor at 2001 Goyas.
To summarize... in Almodóvar's hands, we should be talking of an Oscar contender for several categories... It is a movie FOR Almodóvar... but instead it went to argentinian director Sergio Renán, that cold only deliver a correct movie with a huge casting mistake (Ramón Langa) in a key character.
Operación triunfo (2001)
Good marketing trash.
"Operación Triunfo" is nothing more than the "Fame" movie and series turned into a "Big Brother" style reality show. For months, we see sixteen young amateur singers (some more talented than the others) learn and compete between them to win this show, which has been hailed by critics as the comeback of good television.
But what lies beneath this good mood is just a marketing operation: the songs sung by the cast are the more mainstream you can ever imagine... there's no place for anything innovative or personal here. For months, we've suffered through the tearing of classics like "Nothing compares to you" and even the "Lady Marmalade" version of Moulin Rouge!
Of course it has sold millions of records, the concert tour all around the country was sold out even before it started, and the show got a record of 14 titles into the top 20 billboard album charts...
However, it is not as pointless as "Big Brother", "Survivor" and other similar shows. At least here we see people doing positive things to win, instead of fighting each other.
But, then I remember of how fanatic and hysterical are some fans of the show... and how did the producers almost killed any willing of the singers to do their own music. It is like they created sixteen Britney Spears and Ricky Martin wanna-bes.
Obra maestra (2000)
A good attempt.
So, you want to make movies? Then you must see this one.
Spanish comedians Pablo Carbonell and Santiago Segura gave an unexpected dramatic twist with this movie... pathetic wanna-be film-makers kidnap a huge star (Ariadna Gil) in order to shoot their own movie. What follows is a heart-breaking story about the distance between wishes and reality, between expectations and talent.
It's hard not to empathize with the characters, and the movie has a few great sequences, but, somehow it is too pathetic. Anyways, I really liked this one.
Just give it a try.
High Explosive (2001)
A missed chance.
The only tv movie (or movie) I know about Angolan's civil war - that is still going on after more than 30 years of horror - is a missed chance of getting a serious view about one of the most fascinating conflicts and countries worldwide. Having spent 5 months of my life working on relief in Angola, it is just frustrating seeing such a failure. But the redemption comes from showing a nearly realistic portrait of that situation, specially how the Unita guerrilla works. So... I recommend giving it a chance. I wonder where did they shoot this movie (it certainly looks similar to Angola, although not like Luanda's surrounding areas).
Good thriller screaming for an American remake!
Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo became famous in Spain by being nominated for the Oscar for best short subject with his short "Esposados", which I found refreshing but somewhat overrated. Anyways... he went to Hollywood, knowing that he didn't have a chance of winning and wanting to take his chances of selling the rights for distribution of three films to Miramax. The first of these films is called "Intacto", starring argentinian Leonardo Sbaraglia, spaniard Eusebio Poncela and swedish Max von Sydow (yes, "The Exorcist" in person).
The plot: The film starts at a casino in the middle of a desert. We know there two characters: Federico (Poncela) and Sam (Sydow). The first one is the protegee of the second, the master of luck... a man who has the power to get other people's luck (by touching - even hugging - them, and by getting photos of them)... well... Federico was the sole survivor of an earthquake, and Sam was also the sole survivor of a nazi camp... both has high amount of luck, and also Federico at this time is the only person allowed to see Sam's face!
Federico thinks it's high time he got his own way, away from Sam, who has raised him since childhood and that earthquake... so Sam is not going to let Federico go... with his good luck.
A few years later, we meet Federico searching fortunate people that can let him get back to Sam and have revenge... because Federico now has the "power" of give bad luck to the people who touch him... or that he touches. After a failed - another failed we suppose - attempt to find the right person with the right luck, he manages to meet Tomas, a thief that is the sole survivor of a plane crash and is in an hospital, under arrest. He frees Tomas, and offers him to play some games, in which anything but money is can be bet.
Then we know Sara (Monica Lopez), a female cop which wants to catch Tomas again, and has herself her own personal history with luck (good? bad? you can never tell: this is one of the most moving characters in the film)... and the hunt begins.
I won't go too far in details of what happens next, with the sole exception of that another important character is introduced, a bullfighter (Antonio Dechent) who retired without ever being harmed... and also likes to play the games Federico and Tomas NEED to play.
The ending of course will take place at the casino, with the five main characters being involved... it is no spoiler, since from the first minutes of the film it is clear that the casino is for Federico what Itaca was for Ulysses. The difference is that instead of Penelope's love, he's looking for revenge.
The acting: range from very good (Lopez, Dechent) to great (Sydow, Sbaraglia and Poncela). I foresee a best actor nod at the Goyas (Spanish Oscars) for Eusebio Poncela.
The flaws of the film... a few. The most important for me was that in a couple of times the director remarked too much some aspects (I think too much explanation is bad). And also it is maybe a little slow for the average thriller viewer, but this is more like "Unbreakable"... Yeah, it has many shares with "Unbreakable", but it is really different. To compare both films is just as dumb as to do so with "The Sixth Sense" with "The Others". Needless to say that "Unbreakable" and "Intacto" doesn't share endings at all... don't expect a twist ending in this one (and that is the first of the strenghts of the film is that one: FINALLY A THRILLER WITHOUT TWIST ENDING!).
The strenghts: Fresnadillo's direction is strong. When I saw the film, I somehow KNEW this one is going to go to America and success. Believe me. Another Fincher? I don't think so, but he's good enough. The landscapes (the movie was shot at the Canary Islands) and the game scenes are great!
How I rate this film? 8 points. 4 stars out of five. Could have been a masterpiece, but it delivers the goods. And it is fairly better than most of the thrillers I've seen in a long time.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Isn't it a masterpiece?
A ground - breaking film, which knows that true horror comes from the unknown. I really think it is one of the best films of the 90's. It is a shame that the Academy Awards didn't pay any attention to it, because it deserved nominations for Picture, Actress (Heather Donahue), Editing and Sound Editing... but of course, that would have happened in a fair world.