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Worn out idea
The first half of the movie is boring. The real action begins halfway through, but it's not that exciting. The movie is unfunny, everything that is supposed to make you laugh is forced and stupid.
The best part of the movie is near the end, when the adventure culminates with a grand finale. But the only reason it's impressive is because it's special effects. And computer special effects have never been the main reason for the existence (and success) of the series.
By the way, there's another impressive CGI: an atomic explosion at the beginning. Only we are left to wonder: was it necessary? It's not that is offensive. It's just that I think is a filler.
Ray Winstone is wasted in a clichéd role. John Hurt is simply out of place for an actor of his stature. Harrison Ford is still adequate for the character, he doesn't spoil the movie, as many would fear. But is really little that you can do in a movie which formula seems tired and unoriginal.
Sean Connery's decision of not to participate in this movie might be the wisest, since Keanu Reeves discarding Speed 2.
To throw a little X-files topic in the mix may have seemed a good idea, but they didn't know how to execute it. That's the problem with digesting a bad idea for a long time: out of exhaustion, it may seem like a good thing at some point. This is exactly what happened with this movie. As such, it should have never been released.
Be honest, Indiana Jones buffs. This one represents something different: in your heart, you know that is the first movie that you would not recommend. It's not up to the standard of the series.
Everything, but original
If you have seen (or read) 1984 and FARENHEIT 451, and also have in mind THE MATRIX, you won't find anything fresh here. OK, EQUILIBRIUM has a great message, but it was already in the aforementioned novels. And it has "exciting" action sequences, but you can never forget that you have seen something like it in the latter movie. But it's not really a waste of time, since this movie has a good style, and it's entertaining. But as good as that entertainment is, it's light. It's not like it will provoke philosophy and meditation. OK, maybe it will, if you haven't watched 1984 and FARENHEIT 451. And if you have lived in the wilderness, and haven't watched THE MATRIX (or maybe you were born yesterday) you'll find the action sequences fascinating.
La muerte de un burócrata (1966)
A very good movie with lots of imagination to spare
For a movie that was released 40 years ago, this one has aged particularly well.
I think I'm not exaggerating by saying that this movie represents something of a precursor of the Monty Python movies, alas, not so irreverent. But the way it deals with the topic, and the imaginative gags and inter-cuts that it has, can only remind you of those English geniuses.
But is also many things. A little of Three Stooges here. Even a little Chaplin there...
How you can make something funny out of the situation of a family (the main character and his aunt) that cannot get his relative buried, and have to keep him home until the red tape is overpowered, without losing sight of the human touch and their despair?. You'd need a very skillful director to juggle all that successfully.
I Haven't seen or heard of a Latin American movie like this one. It must be considered a milestone in Latin American cinema (and certainly, in world cinema). Regretfully, not the style, or the genius of the director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, seem to have had dedicated followers. I'm afraid that has something to do with the Cuban origin, not because of Cuban backlash, but because of lack of interest or attention over Cuban art during the 60's. Latin America has produced a lot of movies, but most of them are dead serious. When somebody comes with the idea of a comedy, it is very light, unfunny and clichéd, nothing to tell the world about, with very few exceptions.
That's why I was surprised by LA MUERTE DE UN BURÓCRATA and I highly recommend it, if you can find it somehow.
An interpretation of the end (Spoilers)
I won't make an extensive commentary, but an interpretation of the end.
Nowadays, when there's a part of a movie that is hard to understand or put together, it is easily explained through the device (somewhat overused) that it was all part of a dream, or it was all product of the character's imagination When I watched VERTIGO, that's one explanation that I had: everything that happens after Madeleine's suicide (and so, we are stating that HER suicide was true) only happened in Scottie's (James Stewart Character) imagination.
CLUES: Just a little after the suicide occurs, there's a trial. Or sort of. I'm not very familiar with these kinds of trials or investigative proceedings, but this one looks very informal. Anyway, the proceeding never leave Scottie out of responsibility. In fact, every time the coroner speaks, he establishes again and again that Scottie's fear of heights produced his lack of will to act, and that in turn did not avoid the suicide of the one he was taking care of.
Those words are recriminating, like those from the voice of one's conscience. Next time you see this scene, pay attention and you will hear that the coroner is merciless against Scottie. It's my opinion that in this theory, this trial represents the fight in Scottie's mind against his conscience, that is telling him again and again that he is guilty, What happens after the "trial"? We see Scottie walking towards Madeleine's grave. This represents him facing the consequence of his acts, facing the need to still deal with it.
Was all this a dream, something out of the character's mind? Well, that's what the movie is telling us. Inmediatly, we see Scottie in his bed, as if everything that has just happened came from his subconscious. And then, his mind begins to run wild. He begins to hallucinate.
His conscience hasn't liberated him from guilt, and that finally drives him completely mad.
Then we see Scottie in some kind of clinic or asylum, completely blank. From then on, we can assume for sure that everything is happening only in his crazy mind.
When Midge (Scottie's friend) speaks to the doctor, he says that Scottie has a great deal of feelings of guilt. Now we know that the movie tries to make a big deal about it. Now we confirm that his insanity has been caused by his guilt, and in his mind he's trying to make up a theory that set him free from his guilt.
It's kind of strange that after he leaves the clinic, that is, the whole final part of the movie, Midge never appears again. Obviously, she's got no place in the story that Scottie is inventing in his head (it would be logic to see her at least once, since she was his closest friend. But this wasn't the real world...).
Since his conscience hasn't liberated him, he has to resort to something else, something that could explain things in a way not only to present him as not guilty, but, even better, as a victim. So then on we see how a conspiracy theory against the real Madelaine, and in turn, against him, is discovered little by little. Or, better said, is invented little by little.
The fact that Madeleine, this time as Judy, dies again, can only mean that Scottie didn't find a real answer to his guilt: no matter how he tries to fool himself, he will never get rid of his responsibility. Now, that's a mind playing tricks on you !!!. We can rest assured that poor Scottie never awoke from his madness.
Is this theory plausible? I guess so. Could it be contradicted? Yes of course. But then again, all the theories that you could imagine about Vertigo are not flawless, and that's the great thing about this movie: it could mean a lot of things, but those meanings are never conclusive.
You can blame too much MULLHOLLAND DRIVE for this kind of theory. But it's interesting to think that movies like Vertigo could have inspired such great style of movies.
Of course, some will argue that the final scene that was included in the English version (and in the American DVD as an extra) spoils this interpretation completely. But since it was taken away (by a the director's decision or whomever is responsible), it has left the puzzle incomplete, and so we are left with the option of making sense of it all.
La vida sigue igual (1969)
Strictly for Vintage Julio fans - SPOILERS
This movie tells a very simple story. It dramatizes Julio Iglesias' own life, whom a car accident left him temporarily paralyzed, and permanently away from professional soccer, in which he was a goalie. But those blows of destiny are surprising sometimes. Were it not for this, probably Julio would have never become the most famous singer from Spain and from the Hispanic world.
The movie begins with the news of his long-awaited debut in the first team of the Real Madrid, but the accident happens that very same day. Then, it comes a period of physical and mental recovery, that, of course, will not be easy, and will demand lots of will.
Basically, the movie shows us that the character, through this experience, got to cherish the important things in life, as exemplified by: a) He dumps his former girlfriend, who abandoned him in the most critics moments of his illness, for the girl that wanted him and helped him get in shape again. And b) He decides not to see some record executives because he rather visit a child, that admired him and who is paralyzed, and that needs his friendship and help. Sounds cliché? Yes, the whole concept is corny, although the message has meaning still.
It's not hard to criticize negatively this movie, from the formal point of view. It's filmed as a soap opera. The edition is poor, the accompanying music begins and ends abruptly, just like the scenes changes in some instances. Camera movements are clumsy at times. The movie is completely "dubbed" (in Spanish, that is) the way some Italian movies were made, and so the movie doesn't feel natural because of the lack of ambient sound. I assume that the only occasion that we get to hear Julio's ambient voice is at two thirds of the movie, when before his friends he grabs a guitar and sings the first line of "Life goes on", to show them how it's supposed to be sung.
The movie intends to be more a comedy that a drama, which is surprising, considering the topic involved. However, done with style, this movie would have functioned marvelously. As it is, the movie comes and goes from life drama, romantic drama and comedy, without succeeding in neither aspect, mainly because it has no depth at all.
All this formal and technical flaws should not be blamed on the longevity of the movie, because by the year 1969 the movies had great advance in those fields (but, to be honest, I'm not that familiar with the state of the Spanish cinema of that time).
Actually, I think that all is due to the main intention of the filmmakers: that this movie would serve simply as a vehicle to promote Julio Iglesias, regardless of the technical quality. And maybe, in that purpose, it fulfilled its objective. At least, we have to recognize that the movie is honest in that aspect: it wanted to promote its star, not try to turn him into an "actor".
As such vehicle, and as it is customary with other movies that try to promote artists, the main objective is to put whole songs that the singer performs (lip-synchs, I should say) to the delight of his fans. Sometimes they are comfortable attached to the story, but sometimes they are forced into it. By the way, in this case, the songs are from the record "Yo canto": "I sing", "Someone who passed by", "In a barrio in the city", "Little girl", "I had a guitar", "Some years ago" and of course, "Life goes on". Except for the first one, the rest are alternate versions. (Note: I translated the Spanish names due to this site restrictions, that don't allow to write many foreign words).
In spite of the formal flaws, I must say that Julio's performance is not bad. Convincingly, he represents the fragile, confused and bitter character that comes after the accident, and then the bright and happy individual that surfaces when the strength and the love come back to his life. Of course, he is performing himself, and some would say that then there is no merit in that. But we have seen some other examples like this in the past, with very bad results.
What happens is that, in spite of everything, those who saw this movie years ago, even if we were very young, and those who liked Julio Iglesias' music since that time, could not despise this document. It's a nostalgia affair, more than anything else. Therefore, this movie has a reason to exist and be seen only for the old fans of Julio, specially those who liked his record "Yo canto". Those without this qualifications, should steer clear.
A final note: I think this movie is only available through the collection "100 años de oro de cine español". It's region 2 and PAL system. The sharpness and quality of the transfer are surprisingly good, although the sound is just satisfactory. Moreover, this version has no subtitles whatsoever.
Boring, boring... boring !!!
Let's see: This movie has no suspense. The story is bad. The performances are amateurs and laughable. The movie plays like a SAW wanna-be in some parts. The message? There is a message, but it's obvious that its delivery was the lesser of the intentions for the filmmakers. As it is hinted, it does not justify the movie. So what are we left with? Well, of course, with the "visual impact", the thing that this movie is getting famous for. But since we are so concentrated in THAT, we expect a lot from THAT. And guess what? The gore is handled with so little style and impact, leaving well evident the intention of the filmmakers of producing shock, that it doesn't work either. It would have helped a little that the actors playing the victims could act more convincing during the torture scenes. But their performances are so laughable, that we lose any sympathy for them, and just wish for the torturer to finish them right away. It's ironic that this movie is in some way related to Quentin Tarantino, since he has made graphic violence and gore something with style in his movies. But that's exactly what we miss here: in the hands of another director, it may have been a better product. As it is, it's a very good movie...for the 15 year old crowd. All of the sudden, SAW I and II seem to be masterpieces !!
Jeux interdits (1952)
Criterion Collection DVD...at last
Forbidden Games deals with the reaction of a couple of children Paullette, who losses both her parents as the consequence of an air attack, and Michel, the youngest of a peasant family in which Paullete finds refuge- in the context of the horrors of war, in this case, the second world war, in 1940.
The movie (unlike others dealing with children and war, like "Germany, Year Zero") does not portray a miserable and deadly environment. Certainly, war is sensed all the time, and the danger of falling bombs is ever present. However, the movie is set in the seemingly peaceful countryside, not among ruins and combats. That doesn't diminish the tragic context of the movie at all. Because we have witnessed what Paullette has gone through. And although Michel doesn't seem to have had any kind of traumatic loss, he's old enough to know what's going on, and what Paullette is suffering. Maybe, this explains the way Michel wants to please Paullette, in her way to direct her pain. Their game of stealing crosses to complete a "big" animal cemetery could be seen as a morbid and macabre play by children spoiled by the war, transformed into monsters. However, we never question the innocence that remains in the main characters as children that they are: what's macabre is not what they do, it's the war that they are witnessing. They just channel the influence of war and its implicit dead without malice.
Whether this topic is analyzed as the simplicity of an ill influenced child's play, or through any psychological or mental connotations or meanings that could be applied, Forbidden Games is still, even today, a very original piece of cinema, that would hardly reach the same meaning if it's filmed today, without the context and recent history that influenced it back in 1952. Anyway, nowadays, any director that would try to make a movie like this would find himself being very cautious, and I think he would end up doing something too tragic or too simplistic. René Clement did the right thing with the material that was handed to him, and the story and its meaning is so powerful and well executed that can still be enjoyed today. And what seems to be an open ending, is useful to reminds us that in war, for children there are no happy ending stories.
Unlike what one might think about a movie made in 1952 and with children as the lead actors, acting is flawless. I said that we never question the innocence of the children, and that is due in great part to the looks and great work of Briggitte Fossey and Georges Poujoly, whom give great credibility to that premise.
Criterion Collection has made available this magnificent movie on DVD for the first time. As usual, it's a commendable work of restoration in many senses: in the sense of allowing more people like me- to get to know this movie, and in the sense of giving it the best quality that the latest techniques allow.
The original French soundtrack is included, along with the English dubbed, both of them monophonic. Of course, English subtitles are included.
As Bonus materials we have alternate opening and ending, that would have given the movie a different context, less realistic, if you will. But I cannot help but think that they would have given the story some more contrasting connotations. Also, there are interviews with the director alone and him with Briggitte Fossey (both from the 60's) and an interview with the actress in 2.001.
Unlike some other Criterion releases, there is no additional track with an expert shedding some light on aspects that might be of interest, but a little printed essay is included in a booklet.
My only complaint here is that in IMDb this movie has a relative low qualification, and few votes. I hope that the availability of the new Criterion release will change things in the near future.
Easily the worst movie Jodie Foster has ever been in
Once you know what the story is about, the movie becomes as predictable and cliché as can be. To get there, the first hour is pretty good, I'd say. But after wards, everything goes by the board. This movie should be like RED EYE: even though the latter's last part was cliché also, at least it was presented with a lot of excitement. In Flightplan, the climax is anti-climatic, and chances are that, by that time, you will be so bored that you won't give a damn. I didn't like either the way the movie tries to work in another level, in trying to portray the negative side of prejudice feelings against "arabs" in planes. The message is so heavy handed (it looks as it was intended for children to get it) that becomes ridiculous and out of place. The statement is valuable, and it deserves a little more respect than to leave it as a footnote in a so-so movie.
El 7º día (2004)
ELEFANTE ESPAÑOL (Spoilers)
It's hard to believe the facts depicted in this movie. In general, the same topic that was the basis for "Elephant" (Gus Van Sant) is present here: A killing spree, inspired by revenge, and madness. In THE SEVENTH DAY though, the deed is carried out by grown ups, and somehow that is harder to believe. We are informed that ELEPHANT was inspired by the tragedy in Columbine. As irrational as it was, the explanation was there: a typical reaction of outcasts, not coping with a society that alienate them. A crisis of teenagers. But what about grown ups?. Harder to swallow.
So, you tend to believe that the premise in THE SEVENTH DAY is possible, but not probable. That is until you know that this movie was also inspired in actual events. There was a killing spree that took place in Puerto Hurraco, Spain, in 1990, carried out by two brothers, supposedly instigated by their sisters. In the real events, it seems that an old dispute over lands, and a failed love, originated everything. In Carlos Saura's movie, those facts are fictionalized, but there's something more, that somehow is implicit in the real causes: the perpetrators felt alienated, hated, cursed by the rest of the town. So their anger and hatred, and their madness, accumulated for years, could only find one way out.
I got to know that the movie was based in actual events after I watched it, and I couldn't believe it. It gave me a completely new perspective about what I thought was an improbable scenario. What do you know? A sign of the times indeed. Elephant and The Seventh Day depict violent and irrational acts that not long ago were supposed to be only in movies, but regretfully, are part of our reality.
There are some formal problems in this movie that make me grant it a 7/10 qualification, mainly some secondary story lines that have no great interest or are treated superficially, and a narration that doesn't work well overall. But still, the story is not as fictionalized as to make it ridiculously improbable, and once you know that the main facts are true, you can tell yourself: yes, this is how it could have happened.
You'll be there
Lives that get entwined. Like in the everyday world. A pending tragedy, that of course, we all know it's going to happen. We become witnesses of all that.
ELEPHANT takes us closer to what it would have been like' if we had been given the chance of being in Columbine just minutes before the tragedy. Long minutes, enough to get, somehow, to know better some of those involved. I think that's the reason for the long shots. We are able to accompany some of the students as they walk through the campus. We' are with them' for a while, but long enough to care about what's going to happen to them. That's without the need of lots of information (which anyway is absent from every character), but just because of the fact that we don't see them as strangers anymore.
And then we have also long shots of the landscape, that appear during the movie from time to time. The sky, the clouds, the campus scenes sometimes beautiful, most of the times peaceful, without a care, as a remainder of a peace that is destined to be broken at any moment.
ELEPHANT is not exactly about what happened' in Columbine (it doesn't pretend to portray actual events or characters) but it's about the same tragedy.The movie is not perfect, and it demands a lot of patience from the viewer, not only because it's slow, but because it doesn't pretend to explain or justify anything. It just wants you to be in contact with the students (even the killers) and let you see what happened and leave you with your own conclusions. The reactions could be mixed. I admit some people may find this movie pointless, even exploitive. But it worked for me, and somehow it put a face to those that we, indifferently, had come to know only with the generic name of victims', in an event that, sadly, really happened.
9 out of 10.