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349 reviews in total 
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Corny Love Story, 5 June 2014

Susana Canales is Marta, a dying young woman who is fooled into putting Pedro Armendáriz in jail. He is at his meanest as Diego Lombardo, a nasty peasant who kills a man working for a "general" who wants to rob the land Diego owns with his brother Juan, a widower who has a little son called Raulito. Marta runs a home for children with her priest brother, and the day she goes to the Lombardo farm to pick up Raulito, she witnesses the gunfight in which Juan is accidentally killed. Then out of the blue she falls in love with Diego, who treats her badly and even abuses her physically in dreams and in one scene in which he hits her and, as he wipes the blood off her face, voilà!, he discovers he loves her! Marta is also crazy about the man, and they sort of communicate telepathically, until a very cheesy ending, done with complete conviction by director Julio Bracho, who made better films as "Distinto amanecer" (1943) and "Crepúsculo" (1945), or interesting experiments as "El monje blanco" (1945).

Dark Skies (2013)
Aliens and Child Abuse in Elm Street, 4 June 2014

An ambitious script with weak spots affects the overall effect. It starts very well with the dramatic account of a family in a difficult financial situation, living in a community all too willing to raise accusations of child abuse without any proof (including the mother herself, accusing her husband), within the frame of a science-fiction plot. But then it is loaded with too many horror concessions, and formulaic solutions more often seen in action films. The first sight of the alien is quite an impact, but the rest does not live up to the expectations that shot created, and you start to get mad with the characters, the motion picture and the filmmakers, when they make the parents insist on leaving their little child alone in his room, after so many disturbing night events. The alternate ending added as bonus in the DVD edition is way much better than the one that was finally chosen.

Fine Entertainment, 31 May 2014

I definitely saw another movie than the one seen by those who have given this two stars or less, or who complain that they have not seeing anything worst than this. Well, they have seen very little or perhaps they have not realized how often they are fed with very bad movie junk, under the disguise of art or top entertainment... As I enjoyed the films animated by Ray Harryhausen, with their cyclops, harpies, Medusas, fighting skeletons, or giants as the unforgettable Thalos (from Jason and the Argonauts), what I saw I enjoyed very much -except for the score, which has become a plague in almost all American cinema of today, a mixture of pastiche sounds inherited from Jerry Goldsmith and all the others, plus the obnoxious little rock number for the end credits. The tension falters a bit in the very last moment, when the thousands of corpses are about to be reanimated, but for the rest it was fine airhead entertainment. If you are looking to have a good time with another fable of the struggle of agents of Good against the Evil, with no romance out of place (between the monster and a scientist?), efficient special effects and the fast rhythm of American (or Australian, for the case) adventure film, watch it, and leave Malick, Weerasethakul or Sorrentino for another time. (P.S. I did not see Mary Shelley's name in big letters in the end credits, so if it is there somewhere, I guess one has to look for it with a magnifying glass, among the endless list of line, executive, associate and whatever producers).

Ma George, 30 May 2014

Rhythm is often defined by locales - while mountain people seem to be rather slow by nature, those born close to sea shores appear to be faster in their movements. So I wouldn't call this film "slow", but idiosyncratically paced, admitting that I might be wrong: maybe Nigerians are faster than what I believe, judging from this film. Then it would be a decision taken by director Andrew Dosunmu, making dialogs and reactions calm to the extreme. I could take this, but what really distanced me was composition within the frame: too often actions are seen in close-ups, even in moments when large crowds are gathered. Maybe we have been conditioned so much by traditional cinema that we expect to see a reaction from a listener when told something that might shock him or her... as the moment when the pregnant Adenike confronts her brother-in-law in his apartment. But once this is accepted and dealt with, one can enjoy this strong drama of choices, tradition and deeply-rooted beliefs, beyond any moral judgment of what is right or wrong. In spite of the endless list of producers and executive producers who capitalize on the work of the creative team, the most remarkable features in "Mother of George" are (besides the performances by Danai Gurira and Yaya DaCosta, as Nike and Sade, the two young women subjected to matriarchy rule and dumb males) the cinematography by Bradford Young and Mobolaji Dawodu's beautiful traditional costumes. The brightness and colors brought by the use of natural and artificial light and the garments, create an atmosphere of hopefulness and joy in the midst of so much sadness and obsession with parenthood. See it.

Muscle Shoals in the Memory, 27 May 2014

Of the several recent documentaries made about singers, musicians and producers of rhythm and blues, this 2013 production and the Pennebaker-Hegedus film, "Only the Strong Survive", are probably the best. Musically "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" has no equal, for it was conceived as a concert film, a record of a historical reunion of Detroit's jazz musicians known as The Funk Brothers, with guest appearances from great contemporary vocalists, all recorded with care; while "Twenty Feet from Stardom" is surely the weakest, a lost opportunity to make an outstanding documentary, starring some of the best background vocalists of yesterday (and a few from the present), due to an average approach, like an extended television report. Not that "Muscle Shoals" and "Only the Strong Survive" are cinematic masterpieces, but both cover controversial facts surrounding some of their subjects, including producer Rick Hall in the first case, or Sam Moore in the second. Their personalities and stories lift these works from the common place, and help to make them very fine achievements. Hall is indeed a very complex man, from his childhood in poverty, living in the wilderness, to his success as owner of Fame recording studio in Muscle Shoals, the city where Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Etta James and many others recorded hits. He omits nothing, revealing dark details from his family and work, and even making reflections about himself that reveal how the shortcomings and rejections he faced led him to achieve success. Due to the format there is fantastic R&B and rock and roll music that unfortunately is not enjoyed in its fullness (from Aretha to Duane Allman, among the many artists that recorded in Muscle Shoals), and very little live, new material, as the outstanding performance by Alicia Keys, several of the original session musicians and a gospel choir. But these are little complaints compared to the joy of seeing at last, a work on the fantastic music produced in those small recording studios in Alabama, and the group known as The Swampers. Don't miss it.

Gentle Viewing, 16 May 2014

If you pass the initial silly and rather uncomfortable repartee among adolescent demigods, strange-looking creatures and pedantic youngsters in the line of the Harry Potter crowd, you will enjoy this sentimental adventure film, which owes a lot to Ray Harryhausen's "concoctions a la Greek", with magic cloths curing maidens and evil creatures doing wrong. "Percy Jackson - Sea of Monsters" was surely thought as a motion picture for children, but it does not leave the older viewers out, but instead adds everybody's proverbial "child inside" to the fast and never boring search of the Golden Fleece. Let us only hope that the formula does not go on forever, wearing out the originality of the first installment, in future chapters.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Mother's Day, 11 May 2014

«Nicolas Winding Refn rules!», I would write in a newspaper, if I were still writing reviews professionally, but since now I do it because I want to, whenever I want to, I would add: «Quentin Tarantino is a sissy». While the Dane born under the sun of Libra has guided us through his own constructions of violence, death and desolation, his American colleague (ruled by the opposite sign, Aries), recycles all the films he saw as an avid moviegoer, from the martial arts quickies of the trashiest kind to the hyper violent cinema of Hong Kong, passing through European westerns of dubious quality, in creations that are –to the gourmet dished served by Terrence Malick, for example (or for this matter, Refn)- junk food disguised as gala dinner, in the "Friday's style", making us believe that we are having the best meals ever. Tarantino does know his trade, plus he can acquire whatever he may lack hiring good assistant directors, film editors, cinematographers, battle choreographers, specialists in visual effects, and other gimmicks of the post-modern flash; Tarantino did shake us all up long time ago, with a pulp fiction that once it was mounted he decided to invert, putting the second half at the beginning; and there is not any doubt that I admire his «Reservoir Dogs» (even if I was told later that he was recycling a couple of Ringo Lam films and who knows what else). But I still admire that film, and Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Lawrence Tierney in it. That said, enough is enough, Quentin. I admit that my admiration for Refn is unconditional: the «Pusher» trilogy, «Bronson», «Drive» and «Only God Forgives», which is the cause of my Sunday euphoria. Dedicated to Alejandro Jodorowsky, this is a hint this is not a realistic action film, and more something in the lines of «El Topo». To the surprise of many this is a classic tale of revenge with the high and strikingly emotional charge of a Greek tragedy, a Calderonian drama or an Elizabethan play. It is a reflection on parenthood (as well as motherhood of an incestuous nature), in which the defense of the characters' children is the central motivation for the deadly action. «Only God Forgives» is pure cinema refined in 89 minutes (not one of those 180-240 minute pieces of crap that tell us what we have heard a million times), in which only precise words are needed, in which images reign and the structure takes shape as blood hits the audience's brains in its run in and out of their hearts, allowing sentiments to add to the cathartic effect. Ryan Gosling (who has as many detractors as sycophants) is an example of restraint and control in almost all the motion pictures I have seen him in. It curiously works very well, for those traits seem intrinsic to the archetype he embodies, that of the modern Caucasian and English-speaking man, completely stunned by a bastard world dominated by those of his kind, the present-day savages of the North, until the times come for those living in the South, or we decide to live as human beings in peace all over the planet. Vithaya Pansringarm is the old Thai enforcer (Thailand and Apichatpong Weerasethakul are quite fashionable these days, what can you do, you have to forgive Refn for something), without Chow Yun Fat's syrupy charm; and Kristin Scott Thomas, looking badly aged, cheap and unglamorous, is the bitchiest mother of all bitchy mothers since the days of María Elena Marqués as the legendary «La llorona» (1960), Bette Davis in «The Anniversary» (1968) or Anjelica Huston in «The Grifters» (1990). I just hope Refn knows when it is enough and time to retire, and not end his days doing what Ford and others did in old age. Enjoy Mothers' Day watching superb «Only God Forgives» with mama.

Getting Even, 8 May 2014

Rather disappointing Academy Award winner for Best Documentary, the more so as it was competing against and won over «The Act of Killing», (photographerd by a former student of mine, Carlos Arango de Montis), which is by far the superior work, from any angle that you look at both. Some people claim that saying this is discrediting the struggle of female backup singers, which I do not believe is true. Those persons judge «Twenty Feet from Stardom» from what they consider is a higher standard of documentary filmmaking. And from that point of view, Morgan Neville's film is at least below the account of Indonesian murderers presently on power, which merited the Oscar or any other award more than the story of Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and others. Above anything else, this is a sentimental, nostalgic trip dedicated to the unsung talent of many great singers (among them, my friend Táta Vega), told in a fashion reminiscent of a television report, only extended to 90 minutes. There are though some major omissions, as Katherine Anderson Schaffner, an original member of The Marvelettes, a group whose artistic name –according to legend- was lost in a card game by Motown founder Berry Gordy; and ex-Supreme Mary Wilson, who could have told many a few controversial anecdotes, unless the filmmakers consider that she reached stardom during her Supremes years and thereafter. Maybe the Academy members were trying to make up for ignoring in 2002 two similar (and superior, for me) documentaries, «Standing in the Shadows of Motown» and «Only the Strong Survive» (both from 2002), that weren't even nominated.

La grande bellezza, 2 May 2014

«La grande bellezza» is a catalogue of ideas, keys and open secrets for all ages, although I am almost sure that being coetaneous to the leading character Jep Gambardella, is some sort of privilege that allow us to enjoy this motion picture more. I have talked about it with a 27-year old good friend and scriptwriting colleague. We share the same opinion, that it is a beautiful, wise and distending work; as writers, we agree that it is rich, varied, complex and simultaneously transparent. Nevertheless I must add that for me, a man who is as old as Jep, the film turned into an illuminating, multifaceted experience, that told me many thing about the geographical determinism that many persons reject, it spoke to me about Roma-the city and Roma-the empire, and it told me many things about myself. I know that people from a given place bring their laughter, stride and shadow along, and they also bring the story of their city: as I saw the scene in which Stefano, the holder of keys, opens the doors of halls and rooms filled with beauty, history and art, not only did I think of Federico Fellini's «Roma», but of Roman persons I have known, and I thought all at once, "They all bring this cultural load behind their backs, maybe unknowingly"… Maybe that is why the simple assertion made by the old nun known as a Saint, has other resonance: "Roots are important", says she, referring to the roots she eats, but also to roots that define us. The film opens with a noisy and frivolous Roma, that evokes (also in other scenes) «La dolce vita», also by Fellini. But this apparently perpetual party becomes no longer a common place, but rather a distinctive feature without which I, we cannot imagine Roma. The idea of Roma-the empire has also had a strange fascination on me. Of the little that I have learnt in History courses, I hardly remember a cultural and geographical domain that had a bigger impact on me that the Roman empire. Not even the present-day American version of an empire, which I do not perceive in books but in direct, can strike me, with its daily boasting that our lives hang from their atomic fits of dominance. Roma-the empire strikes me as something great, cruel, impressive, wise, mad and vulgar too, in its beauty and exuberance. Finally I truly believe that, for a good part of my life, I was blatantly mundane as Jep Gambardella defines himself (in an extraordinary performance by Toni Servillo), as Jep is described on screen, and as we imagine how he should had been in his younger years, climbing and descending peaks of concupiscence, militancy, apprenticeship and pain. Each character –the moving stripper Ramona, the unloved playwright Romano, the dogmatic Stefania, the ideal boss and dwarf Dadina…- is a friend or someone we met on the road of life, each is one of our facets, an option yet to discover or dig deeply. In their script, Paolo Sorrentino (at 43) and Umberto Contarello (at 55) reproduce that sudden awareness of everything around us that comes to many with old age, that feeling of futility as we face past actions, that foolish and impertinent judgment we make of the meaning of life, as we see us in old age and find every action without any projective dimension, as something flat and despicable. Jep and his friends may also think of frustration, but it is a frustration determined by the dichotomy "winners versus losers", according to a system of values invented by a moronic TV host. Or hostess. I think that the greatest value of «La grande bellezza» is that it triggers (in the enlightened young or in the alert old) a flow of thoughts, sensations and emotions about this early 21st century, in which we are arguing if it is an aftermath or a prologue… We live it and sense that we are contributing to (or alienating from) the evolution to another order of things, at least minimally fairer than previous. Maybe this film can be used (if it were necessary to do so) to let us all know that our passage through the biosphere is not futile, even if we find no sense to it. Maybe this is "la grande bellezza", the real great beauty of life, and not the chimera that Jep Gambardella is after, to find inspiration and tell the world the story of "the king of the mundane".

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Absurdist Drama, 28 April 2014

This is an absurdist drama beyond belief in which a Mexican bandit (in the line of Robin Hood) fights Nazi collaborators hidden in a big hacienda, out in the Mexican countryside, during World War II. Pedro Armendáriz at his macho best plays Lupe Padilla (somehow related to one Padilla ambassador), a man that is about to be executed for robbing the rich and giving to the poor, and who is rescued by his men using an old colonial cannon placed -as if nothing- in front of the jail! It is more fun than it sounds (with Pedro Vargas singing in jail, Japanese poisoning, German chauvinism and a wedding proposal in the middle of an unexpected barbecue, in the most dramatic moment). Unfortunately very bad actor Charles Rooner as the meanest Nazi ever, almost ruins it all with his overacting and shouting. This is such a rarity that one watches it with more attention than it deserves, but I cannot deny that I was seduced by its oddity. In the cast, the most surprising presence, though, is director Luis Alcoriza's Austrian wife Janet (Riesenfeld), credited as Raquel Rojas, as she was known during her brief acting career, from 1939 to 1944. As Janet Alcoriza she became a well-known scriptwriter, whose works included the screenplays for Luis Buñuel's "El gran calavera" (1949) and "La hija del engaño" (1951).

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