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Some of my favourite movies, among others, and in no particular order:
The Fly (Cronenberg)
The Odd Couple
The Shawshank Redemption
Requiem For A Dream
Scarface (de Palma)
Cidade de Deus
NOTE: No, The Godfather Part 2 is not in this list
Firefly: Our Mrs. Reynolds (2002)
An hour of perfect television
I know it may sound like hyperbole, but no matter how I look at it, I reach the same conclusion: This episode of Firefly is one of the most perfectly constructed pieces of entertainment I have ever seen. It has absolutely everything you could possibly wish for: humour, intrigue, sex, romance, moral dilemmas, action, a neat twist... Moreover, it is a self-contained enough story and so engrossing in itself that even someone watching who is new to the show can still be thoroughly entertained, yet for those who already know the characters, it develops and advances them in subtle but crucial ways. You just couldn't ask for anything more. This should be a blueprint for what every episode in every TV show should strive to be. Firefly was a good show overall, certainly, but this episode alone would more than justify its existence.
Please don't waste your time with this
Do not believe the hype about this movie. It is just a load of pretentious cack. In "Atonement", I thought Joe Wright did a remarkable job, with some striking directorial flourishes such as the famous Dunkirk tracking shot, but all in the service of the story, embellishing and enriching it. In this too-wannabe-cool-for-its-own-good "film" (if you can call it that, because it feels rather like a two-hour music video), however, the effect is the exact opposite: every scene, every frame even, is overloaded with capricious extravagances, in what looks like a desperate attempt to mask how hopelessly formulaic and one-note the plot actually is, making it nigh impossible for the viewer not to be jolted right out of the narrative at every turn by the avalanche of distractions. Even Ronan, who has received so much praise, felt miscast to me, too lithe and ethereal to be believable for even one second in her role. But the worst sin, probably, is that after all the hullabaloo, it all boils down to an unbelievably weak and forgettable ending.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Instructions to watch From Dusk Till Dawn
If you have never seen From Dusk Till Dawn, I think the experience will be more enjoyable for you if you follow these simple instructions:
- Put the DVD/Blu-Ray into the player and press "Play"
- Yow will start watching a movie about two fugitive robbers, one of them a paranoid, sex-obsessed psycho, who cross paths with the family of a preacher who has lost his faith after the tragic death of his wife.
- Enjoy the tense and riveting thriller, which boasts some great dialogue, brilliant direction, and good performances from a cast that oozes charisma; even Tarantino does a decent job. (The only weak point is the Chinese lad who plays Harvey Keitel's son, and who seems incapable to convey any emotion whatsoever, but it's just a minor drawback.)
- When the characters arrive at the Titty Twister, you might notice the film starting to become a little corny, but don't worry, just hold on for a minute, the best scene of the movie is coming up.
- Marvel and drool at the phenomenal physique of Salma Hayek, whose body is so perfect in this movie she seem almost superhuman. Even if you're a lady, you will have to agree that her scene is definitely something out of the ordinary.
- As soon as the music ends and George Clooney says the famous line, "Now that's what I call a f***ing show!", STOP THE PLAYER.
- Not just stop the player, but eject the disc, put it in the box, and take it back to the video store right away. This is to avoid the temptation you might have to press "PLAY" again sometime later in the day, which you would regret.
- Now go for a walk, or sit in your favourite a bar with a drink, and try to imagine how the story might continue from that point on. Maybe Tarantino jumps on Juliette Lewis and forces Harvey Keitel to finally confront the brothers and bring them to justice (with the help of Satanico, who ironically turns out to be a devout Christian); maybe when Carlos arrives he turns out to be an undercover Mexican Federal working with the FBI and the brothers continue their escape taking the family (and Satanico) with them deeper into Mexico and becoming more and more desperate along the way; maybe "Carlos" double-crosses them and they are all forced to hole themselves up in the bar and fight together for their lives against the Mexican mob...
- but WHATEVER you come up with, I guarantee you this: it will be better than the absurd silliness that Tarantino and Rodriguez cooked up, ruining what could have otherwise been a very good film. Therefore, your viewing experience of From Dusk Till Dawn will be better than that of all the people who have had the misfortune of watching the whole thing from start to finish and witnessing how something that could have been great was trashed by a childish whim.
- You're welcome :-)
Balada triste de trompeta (2010)
From now on, in Spanish dictionaries, next to the word "pretencioso" ("pretentious") there should be a still from this film to illustrate the concept
I cannot understand how this disastrous film is earning so many awards. I was *this* close to walking out of the cinema, honestly, I could hardly stand it. The story is utterly ridiculous, and clumsy to the point of verging on the childish, full to the brim with incongruences, jarring shifts in tone and artificial dialog; and it overflows with pretentiousness, De la Iglesia trying to give it the depth it so sorely lacks by interweaving it with famous real-life events, and grotesquely trivializing Spanish history in the process by turning it into a mere setback for his absurd psycho-killer clowns. The acting is also weak, with only Antonio de la Torre, the one with by far most acting chops of the leading trio, managing to give his character some semblance of believability; then again, it can't be easy to achieve a credible performance give the awful lines the actors had to deal with.
Visually, it's stunning. Narratively, a clunker.
First of all, know this: if you think you will ever want to see Tron Legacy, even if you have no more than a passing interest, then I urge you to do it at the cinema. It is a breathtaking visual spectacle of the highest magnitude, in the category of Avatar, and this being the greatest strength it has to offer, you will be certainly missing out if you leave it for the DVD. Narratively, however, it's a disappointment. It's sketchy, chaotic and unsatisfying. It's not like the original could boast the strongest or most coherent of screenplays, true, but it got by on its originality, its zippy energy, its humour and its wide-eyed naivety. This sequel, inflated with grandiosity, too somber and overambitious, has none of those things. And you get the feeling that the plot is just a mishmash of half-baked ideas. I found it quite baffling and disappointing, for example, that Cillian Murphy (probably the second most famous actor in the entire cast!) made a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance at the beginning as Dillinger's son, no less, and then never showed up again! And there are a couple of important details about it that struck me as particularly wrong and at certain times almost threw me off the story completely: one, Michael Sheen, who is an actor I admire but whose absurd histrionics here were absolutely, completely out of place; and two, the rendering of the young Jeff Bridges is simply not life-like enough (even if he is not actually supposed to be a "human", other "programs" around him, starting with Olivia Wilde and Beau Garrett in their slinky outfits, certainly look and feel human enough!). The technology is not quite there yet, I'm afraid. It is one thing to be able to integrate a non-human character like Gollum in a live-action film and make it work, but a we, as humans, have a very fine-tuned perception of what another human is supposed to look like (and especially a famous one like Bridges) in a real environment, and computers still can't trick us that far.
The Hurt Locker (2008)
Didn't really work for me, I got a bad vibe from the political undertones
Given the critics' enthusiasm, I went to see it with high expectations, and I came out frankly disappointed. The atmosphere felt realistic and some scenes (the sniper duel, the man with the explosive vest) made quite an impact; but I really had a problem with the central character, William James. I may be overpoliticized, but I just couldn't help perceiving him as a perfect embodiment of George W. Bush's America: Gung-ho, arrogant, reckless, impulsive, willing to put the lives of his comrades at risk and to abandon a loving family at home in order to pursue personal vendettas and get his adrenalin rushes... and, as I do with Bush, I despised him; I was almost rooting for him to get blown up, to be honest, because I thought he was a complete idiot who did almost everything wrong, and that he had no place in any serious professional army (something confirmed by opinions from war veterans I have read later). And yet Bigelow seems intent on portraying him as something of a "misguided hero", the classic rogue who doesn't go by the book but whose heart is in the right place. Therefore, it felt to me as if the movie, by condoning this man's reckless attitude, was somewhat also condoning the U.S. military campaign as something maybe equally misguided but nevertheless brave and noble. I have no idea where Bigelow stands politically, and I realize this might not be the message she wanted to convey at all; but it's the one I perceived, and it left me quite uncomfortable.
Celda 211 (2009)
Not bad, but I wasn't quite convinced
"Celda 211" is very well paced and directed by Monzón, and Luis Tosar gives one of the best performances of his already impressive career; but other actors do not fare quite as well (Antonio Resines, for example, is clearly miscast in a role that demanded someone much more brutal and unsympathetic), and, more importantly, at certain points the story hinges on increasingly implausible turns of events in order to move the plot forward, which in the end left me with a feeling of skepticism and detachment. I suppose they are the kinds of things that work on the written page (the film is based on a novel), but just don't translate well to the realism and immediacy of the screen. Not quite as good as I was hoping then, though it still stands out among Spanish filmic output.
Medium: All in the Family (2009)
Oh please no! Not AGAIN!
Oh Dear God. It's bad enough that this show had to use the old, stale plastic surgery schtick once to resolve a plot (as they did in #3.12), but to resort to it yet again is just unacceptable. And this time, it makes even less sense than before. It's just preposterous. One person replacing another to the point of deceiving her own MOTHER? Even the voice is supposed to have been changed or what? And what about the brother who from now on has to make love to HIS OWN SISTER for the rest of his life, at least as far as the looks are concerned? She may be hot, but not every guy who has a hot sister is keen on incest, you know. Bah. What a waste of time. I wished I had just skipped this throwaway episode.
The Hunt for Gollum (2009)
Not much substance here
I'm sure I will going to get a lot of negative votes from the fans for this comment, but after reading so many glowing reviews I feel I need to tell my truth.
It's true that the visuals of the film are pretty impressive (at times, not all the time) for a no-budget short, and that the makers have made a mighty good attempt at reproducing the atmosphere of Jackson's movies at a tiny fraction of the cost; also, there is a notably well choreographed fight scene of Strider against the orcs; but once you get past all the shiny packaging, it's impossible not to notice that the plot is not just thin, but practically non-existent. There are absolutely no surprises, and in 40 minutes it hardly manages to go beyond its one-line synopsis. All the film seems to do is its own little riff on some of the characters of Jackson's trilogy without adding anything new or meaningful. It certainly serves as a good calling card for the director, but it left me with a feeling of... nothingness.
Lost: ...In Translation (2005)
I can't get over how racist this episode is
I know that in this episode there's other stuff apart from what I am going to discuss, and in fact I think it has some virtues; for example, the fact, after we had been given a very negative opinion of Jin from seeing Sun's flashbacks in "House of the Rising Sun", we get to see Jin's side of things and get a new, more balanced understanding of his life.
But there is an element in this story that made me so deeply uncomfortable that it greatly dampened my enjoyment of the whole episode. Before now, in the scene where Jin appeared with blood on his hands and shirt, it had been hinted that Sun's father was someone who was getting rich through shady, illegal methods. I thought maybe he was a mob boss, even; mobs operate in Korea, just like in almost every other country in the world, so it was a reasonable possibility. However, in this episode we learn that Sun's father is in fact the boss (or a top executive) of a Korean automotive company, and that what Jin had been doing was physically attacking a government official (who was actually going to be murdered) on his behalf.
I may be especially touchy about this because I happen to work in the automotive industry, but I would say it is SPECTACULARLY offensive and racist to even suggest that this kind of thing goes on in Korea; that huge, serious companies like Hyundai or Kia (which must be the model for this fictitious car company, as they are the only ones that actually exist in reality) operate with these mafia-like methods, instead of like any normal automotive company of the West. it is just unbelievable to me that the writers would have the gall to write something like that into the story, and that there hasn't been an uproar in Korea over it. It feels like extraneous "Buy American!" propaganda, portraying foreign car companies as criminal, untrustworthy, third-world outfits.