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692 reviews in total 
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Bekas (2012)
6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Sweet, funny and with some sadness and tension too – not a masterpiece but it sure lives up to the unique premise, 5 May 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The word "bekas" means orphans (or something quite similar). The film BEKAS (Karzan Kader, 2012) is set in the Iraq of Saddam Hussein. A couple of orphan kids living in that place during that particular period is, without a doubt, synonymous of a difficult story, that will probably worry the viewer. The orphans, two little brothers, do have a complicated life, they need to work, but they're too normal kids, innocents, ready to be blown away by the magic of cinema. BEKAS is in general a very sweet movie about childhood, in which the protagonists provoke empathy and charm, some great laughs and constant criticism to the Hussein regime as well.

The film begins with a little homage to cinema, 'cause in Iraq they love it too and when SUPERMAN arrives everything is worthy to can watch the images projected. It begins an exploration to the impact that a movie can have in a kid, and at the same the same a reflection of the influence the United States have on Iraq and the rest of the world – SUPERMAN changes the life of the brothers, who now want to travel to the United States to meet that superhero in person (that's the premise that's just too attractive to miss). The boys, is worth adding, don't really know how to localize America in the map… and neither Iraq!

They're innocent but for us is sort-of difficult not to think I that issue that deals with cultural imperialism. Superman is famous in Iraq, as well as Coca-Cola and the king of pop Michael Jackson. However, and before you think of the film as criticism to the US, this is part of the comic side, truly hilarious stuff for moments, that more than anything just wants to celebrate kids and create meaningful situations. It's similar to what we got with EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED (Live Schreiber, 2005), with Ukrainian characters that are fans of American culture – the young man who loves hip-hop, Jackson and dresses himself like an African American, and the grandpa who decided to name his dog Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. in honor of the singer. It's very curious that in BEKAS the youngest brother decides to name Michael Jackson their (pet/transport) donkey! This kid seems to overact at first, but later it's clear that all is part of his (loud-mouthed) personality, and turns out very funny.

The dark side of the film has a constant: physical child abuse. To paraphrase a Hans Landa dialog, it's a hostile world for the orphans; and the director Karzan Kader achieves the transmission of that injustice feeling with some scenes that show adults mistreating the boys. The story goes for some common issues as well, typical dramatic stuff, and that's kind of annoying; the close relationship of the brothers, and their mission to get to the US, is threatened at one point thanks to a young girl (the oldest boy is in love with her). Still Kader manages to save the picture, and even has some time to give it a great dose of pure tension – the Iraq with military, people who want to get out of there illegally and explosive mines is present for the last minutes. BEKAS, being light-hearted, make us believe that the impossible will happen but at the same time it says that the best thing that could happen to a couple of orphans from Iraq is, simply, to remain together.

*Watched it on 01 May, 2013

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A complicated love letter to George Lucas; a documentary that's brilliant and fun and not just for "Star Wars" experts, 4 May 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's possible that THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS (O. Phillippe, 2010) is thought as a work done by STAR WARS (Lucas, Kershner, Marquand, 1977-2005) fans for the satisfaction of other geeks of George Lucas' magnum opus. And yes, the debate of who shot first (in a scene of STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE), if Han Solo or Greedo, is in essence only relevant for hard core followers of the saga, however exploring its origin take us to other discussions that without a doubt are incumbent on anyone interested in cinema, its social relevance (and mercantile production), or in the preservation of the arts.

THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS is presented in four episodes but the thematic is mostly divided in a couple of issues. Firstly you'll discover, or understand better for that matter, why STAR WARS is one of the most important films ever made. Authors like Neil Gaiman give us an idea of what was EPISODE IV back in 1977. Later, we examine why people now hates the mind behind the films that they still love. Even persons that worked in the original trilogy criticize Lucas, and it's certainly not gratuitous: thanks to Lucas and his necessity/stubbornness for actualizing/changing his work (even when he testified in 1988 against the colorization of black and white films), now is impossible to watch the original version of the 3 first movies on a home format extracted from the negative, unless you still own a LaserDisc. According to Lucasfilm the negative of the original was permanently altered to create the "special editions" of 1997.

"The SOUTH PARK episode had more impact on Indiana Jones fans than INDY 4" – Brandon Kleyla, director of INDYFANS

SOUTH PARK has helped to spread this generalized feeling of frustration and disenchantment that huge STAR WARS and/or INDIANA JONES (Spielberg, 1981-2008) fans has developed thanks to the decisions of the creator of both universes (those decisions certainly include Jar Jar Binks!). However, and even when he wrote episodes like "The China Probrem" (2008), in which Indiana Jones is literally raped by Lucas and Spielberg (in allusion to the childhoods that INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL "raped"), the creator of SOUTH PARK Trey Parker can be seen in the documentary 6 DAYS TO AIR (Bradford, 2011) showing off his lego STAR WARS toys. The love/hate feeling for Lucas is omnipresent in THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS.

If SOUTH PARK has given voice to Lucas' fans, this documentary gives them full presence, and fanatics of all types express their opinions without reservations. Is really funny to watch the great compilation of fan works inspired by the saga (and some by Indy) – we get from parodies that combine the world of Luke Skywalker with SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (Donen, Kelly, 1952) to the classic stop-motion animations with the toys. Jean-Luc Godard said it: "In order to criticize a movie, you have to make another movie". And STAR WARS fans have done this over the years, creating their very own versions of editing the originals. Thanks to this, THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS becomes great as film criticism too.

With an exceptional work, interviews made in Spain, France, Japan and other countries, and correct use of stock footage (the life of Lucas is perfectly told with previous interviews), O. Phillippe dedicates to the man from Modesto, California a love letter that's truly complicated, and to us a documentary that's just fascinating on all levels.

*Watched it on 03 March, 2013

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Acapulco blues, 3 May 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With only 1 hour and 10 minutes the Mexican documentary VUELVE A LA VIDA (Carlos Hagerman, 2010), still playing at Mexico City's Cineteca Nacional, make us understand the essence of a peculiar man known as the "perro largo" ("the large dog"), as well as that of the old Acapulco, that paradise place that people from Mexico City and the US too chose for vacation or even to live. With only 1 hour and 10 minutes, VUELVE A LA VIDA also manages to offer a look to Mexico through American eyes and a great reflection that touches themes like nationality and defines the word "home". Yes, it's a quick documentary, but without a doubt it'll remain with you much more time than any of the recent Mexican fictions (like LLUVIA DE LUNA or 5 DE MAYO, THE BATTLE).

The protagonist, a diving expert from Acapulco, is omnipresent thanks to stories and memories from those who knew him while he was still alive. Those stories are about his experiences but we have as well those that he used to tell, some completely fictional that nevertheless have survived and now are immortal thanks to cinema. It's a BIG FISH (Tim Burton, 2003) sort- of thing, with the "dog" who, just like Edward Bloom, told stories full of fantasy (apparently a manta ray was in love with him!), although his main one, related with the sea and its big fishes, was lived by all of Hagerman's interviewees – a story about the hunting of a big fish (a shark in fact) that treated the Acapulco bay in times of JAWS (Steven Spielberh, 1975) and TINTORERA (René Cargona Jr., 1977 – regarded as the Mexican rip-off of the mentioned Spielberg picture, with the real Hugo Stiglitz!).

The documentary is mostly told from the conversations with two key people in the dog's life: his wife Robyn (a former model from the US) and his stepson John (who was also the film's DP). They are the protagonists of the other issues of the film, the one that's related with the US certainly. Robyn is the beautiful model (and junkie) who decided to live the "Mexican dream" and went to the Acapulco paradise. And John, the little blond kid who grew up far away from home, surrounded by dark-skinned people, and who learned to speak Spanish like any Mexican (although he now lives in LA).

Hagerman uses some resources, like doing some sort of recreation of the facts and filming musical moments, but what stands out more is the spontaneity of his characters (like the man who firmly believes in aliens). Something curious is that at the beginning the typography used seems antiquated, almost giving the film a cheap look, but that is forgotten thanks to a nice ending, with the creation of the family tree and the cool credits that show what you need for a "vuelve a la vida" dish (the production crew and needs are listed as it they were food ingredients – "you need 3 extra cameramen and 3 years of editing", something like that).

This is the type of documentary that will make you accept its imperfections – Hagerman is a filmmaker who says something like "it doesn't matter that the noise ruined my shot, I'll use it anyway". It's a lot of fun too, with a truly interesting mix of cultures that can be resumed when we see the "dog" (the typical man from Acapulco) and at the same time we hear his stepson playing a blues (typical American music).

*Watched it on 27 April, 2013

This Is 40 (2012)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
This is pretty much Apatow's most personal film to date, not his best though, 2 May 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The "sort-of sequel" of KNOCKED UP completely forgets the main characters of that 2007 movie, the couple of Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl. The characters of Jonah Hill and Jay Baruchel don't appear as well and aren't even mentioned; these guys now perform for Tarantino and Scorsese (Hill) or for Cronenberg (Baruchel was in COSMOPOLIS).

So, they are all replaced with Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (Pete and Debbie) – the unhappy married couple that was a complement for the fantasy main story of the first movie, about the geek-stoner-slacker that ends with the sexy blonde (that aspired for more). In THIS IS 40,the fourth feature film from the godfather of modern American comedy Judd Apatow, everything seems to be closer to real life, or at least the stress that a married couple with two daughters lives is very well represented.

It's an extension of some scenes we saw in KNOCKED UP, with the woman that suffers because she's not a 20-year-old girl anymore and the man who's feeling suffocated and (now) stressed since his labor/financial situation is getting worse and worse. Plus, their daughters are at complicated ages (the teenager who's fan of technology and LOST, and who doesn't tolerate her 7-year-old sister) – the drama is totally convincing. Do you remember that THE SIMPSONS episode when Maggie is about to born? THIS IS 40 feels pretty similar, with a real issue that always keeps the characters worried, and at the same time with a dose of absurd humor that mostly works really good.

On one hand, Rudd is definitely a very funny protagonist. His character is compared, in a bad sense, with Ross from the sit-com FRIENDS but certainly is difficult to picture Ross exploring himself (in the search of a hemorrhoid) or going nuts with "Debaser" by the Pixies and defending Layne Staley. Equally, Albert Brooks (who leads the supporting cast as the father of Pete) is just hilarious. Once again the situation with this character is real, the father that needs economic support and so becomes a charge, but the result is quite cartoonish (in a good way).

On the other hand, Apatow had some excesses and used too obvious comedy. The cameos of people like Graham Parker and Billy Joe Armstrong, as themselves, are really irrelevant unless you're a huge fan of them. And Megan Fox gets involved in the most obvious thing of the film; everyone treats her right while her less attractive colleague is basically ignored – it's pretty much like seeing her appearance in TWO AND A HALF MEN.

So, THIS IS 40 never stops being a funny cartoon with actors since Apatow didn't lose his characteristics; lots of gags, scatological humor, tons of references to the pop culture (the names of Tom Petty and Justin Bieber are said in a same scene – the audience, by the way, only reacted with the Bieber joke!), citing his favorite movies, cameos or personalities, and doing all in more than 2 hours. There will be people who say that Apatow is just doing the same movie over and over again, but you have to recognize THIS IS 40 as his most personal yet and consequently the one more people will feel identified with.

*Watched it on 11 April, 2013

Quartet (2012)
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A film about the old age that's both refreshing and very conventional, 1 May 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Dustin Hoffman debuts as director at the age of 75 with a British cast that's mostly just as old, and with a story that's set at a retirement home for musicians. QUARTET is certainly a film about the old age, however more than exploring deeply things like diseases or having thoughts about that period of life, it focuses on a pleasing (and quite nostalgic) love story.

In the film we get to see a resident being taken to the hospital (with serious health problems) and the dialogs of one of the protagonists indicates how much he hates being old; but all of this becomes secondary material to give some space to the main conflict of the movie: the reencounter between Reginald (Tom Courtenay) and Jean (Maggie Smith), two retired musicians that once were a married couple.

We could think in QUARTET as the opposite film of AMOUR (Michael Haneke, 2012), in which the protagonists are a couple of (retired, as well) music professors. These two are films with elements in common but nevertheless very different from each other – in AMOUR we have actually the end of a marriage.

One of the first elements that stand out is the comedy that's leaded by Billy Connolly, playing the character (Wilf) that hates getting old. Wilf is the classic funny old man who's "chasing" young girls all the time; in specific the beautiful doctor Lucy (Sheridan Smith). The other thing that identifies the movie is, obviously, the music – we get some performances and there's also memorable dialog about the connection between opera and hip-hop, for example.

This music thing becomes part of the structure that follows the formula of the romantic comedies – the idea for a little concert emerges and this could be the successful reunion of four musicians (Reginald, Jean, Wilf and other lady named Cissy) that once shared the glory, as well as a great monetary benefit for the retirement house, but as the formula dictates, a problem will appear.

QUARTET lacks of surprises and as it goes on it becomes more and more conventional, still some refreshing moments can be enjoyed. Besides, the main objective of Hoffman is always something respectable and noble – paying homage to music exponents that now are old persons. In a curious final credits sequence we see pictures with the "before and after" of said exponents, and that confirms the great interest of Hoffman to immortalize with a film the musicians and his very own love for opera and orchestral music.

*Watched it on 19 April, 2013

Stoker (2013)
4 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Another extremely cinematic masterpiece from Park Chan-wook, 24 April 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

STOKER is a key piece in Park Chan-wook's filmography. It's his first American production, and that reaches a wide distribution in Mexico, but mostly is the only one until today in which he doesn't have a credit as writer. Nevertheless, the newcomer that begins watching the films of the Korean director with this one (there will be many for sure) will immediately notice the voice of an auteur, the beauty and perfection of each one of his shots, and his interest for exploring the violence of the human being.

In my country, at least, the film was sold sort-of like a typical horror picture "starring Nicole Kidman". I heard a young woman after the screening I attended saying that "it's horrible". You know, maybe the constant sexual tension between daughter (Mia Wasikowska), mother (Kidman) and uncle (Matthew Goode) wasn't enough to get this girl's attention; or maybe she expected something faster, gorier, in the vein of the new EVIL DEAD (Fede Alvarez, 2013).

What doesn't make any sense to me is the discredit of a scene that's 100% cinematic, with a simple yet beautiful symbolism: the father of the protagonist, India Stoker (Wasikowska), has given her each year, as birthday present, a pair of shows (we see how the shoes become smaller until the first present India got is shown). It's impossible and useless to explain a sequence like this one, so I just want to point out STOKER is something you have to experience/enjoy in the biggest screen.

The writer of the film is Wentworth Miller, famous for acting in PRISON BREAK. Without a doubt he deserves too a huge recognition. Hitchcok is the obvious influence. It all begins with a death that could have been murder, and the arrival of a familiar, the mysterious uncle. When we have in our heads the whole story, well, it's just a brilliant, violent tale of pure horror, which focuses on an evil that almost comes within the genes of a person.

So the script is great but still no other director could have achieved something similar to what Park Chan-wook did. Let's see… at one moment, after it's clear for us that India and his father spent many time hunting together, a scene that shows these characters while hunting appears but the outcome doesn't. And while any other director would have shown us everything, a simply flashback to see what India used to do with her father, Park Chan-wook, on the contrary, perfectly understands what hunting represents for the India Stoker character. He understands the connection it has with her present, and certainly he's interested in exploring the resources that are unique to cinema. Park is a master of the language of cinema and STOKER just confirms that.

*Watched it on 05 April, 2013

Evil Dead (2013)
11 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
Raining Blood!, 24 April 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The awaited remake of Sam Raimi's THE EVIL DEAD arrived with a sentence, written all over the poster: "the most terrifying film you will ever experience". While it's not, since there are things like MARTYRS (Pascal Laugier, 2008 – the most "terrifying" film of the new millennium in my opinion), the gore fest that Fede Alvarez offers is one of the most satisfying horror movies in recent memory.

Just like Eli Roth came with his "godfathers" Quentin Tarantino and Peter Jackson, the young Uruguayan Alvarez arrived with the backup of Raimi and Bruce Campbell and without many experience (EVIL DEAD is his very first feature film). Alvarez ain't the disappointment that Eli Roth was with CABIN FEVER and HOSTEL, and without a doubt his next project (it seems it will be EVIL DEAD 2) looks instantly attractive.

The elements of the plot change – the sister of the hypothetically "new Ash" (turns to be played by an actor who's too "juvenile") suffers of a severe drug addiction. It all starts with her new attempt of getting sober… inside a cabin in the woods, certainly. The transition feels natural and it all works: the friends of the girl, just like his brother, think the supernatural changes she's having (you know what type of changes) are just effects of the abstinence. Obviously, we know what it means to have those scenes with the camera quickly moving through the woods.

Part of that fun vulgarity of the original is present here too; there are some moments of pure black humor ready to be appreciated by fans of Raimi. The characters suffer and suffer again and from our point of view it all looks really f****** painful; it's a movie with enough mutilations. When I watched it on the big screen some people left the theater, so the deal is quite simple: if you like bloody movies, EVIL DEAD will not disappoint you for the lack of gore. It's fast, entertaining, and has an emblematic climax with blood literally everywhere, obscenities, and the classic chainsaw!

*Watched it on 02 April, 2013

"look kid, go f*** a duck", 18 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I first heard about THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT thanks to the DVD commentary of UNDERTOW (2004), featuring director David Gordon Green and actor Jamie Bell. Gordon Green expresses his love for Michael Cimino's debut feature; "I'm obsessed with this actor (Bill Mckinney) from THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT, he has an amazing role where he picks up Jeff Bridges and Clint Eastwood and he's got the raccoons in the car and the bunnies in the trunk. Have you seen that, Jamie? That movie maybe is the best movie ever made". After finally watching the film, plenty of years after hearing that commentary actually, I'm kind of surprised that Tarantino hasn't publicly expressed some love for it – maybe he has but at least I haven't heard any. Anyway, he must love it.

THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT is a sort-of mix of many elements – it's a road movie that becomes a heist one, and that's always a buddy film, all with some folk music. Seeing Clint Eastwood and young Jeff Bridges as new buddies in a car, and a folk song as background music, reminded me of the Jamie Foxx/Christoph Waltz/Jim Croce's "I've Got a Name" part of DJANGO UNCHAINED. And yes, this is too a Clint Eastwood picture of the seventies – one that begins with Eastwood as a preacher actually but that can't "pretend" it's "different" for more than 5 minutes, I mean, the runtime marks 6 minutes and preacher Eastwood is already dealing with some tough guy and some bullets!

Nevertheless the film does ends being something *different*. Like I said, first we have a road movie with Bridges' character "Lightfoot" seeking the friendship of Eastwood – on the road there's some chases, folk music and crazy characters (like the one Gordon Green mentions), but this is just the setting for the real deal: the heist picture. If RESERVOIR DOGS is a "heist movie without the heist", then this is a heist film with the heist and the preparation of it. Yes, I know that sounds like an average thing but trust me, the preparation of the heist is pretty darn unique – the whole thing becomes funny in a good way, like a great absurd comedy with, for instance, some of the criminals working as ice-cream vendors and having problems with their child clients!

Eastwood's performance isn't his coolest of the period, certainly it can be seen as a minor work made between the DIRTY HARRY movies. Bridges steals the show for sure. I haven't seen a lot of young Bridges but this has to be one of the most distinctive roles from his early days; he's really funny and even dresses himself as a woman – crazy stuff overall, with a bittersweet conclusion in the vein of other seventies films.

*Watched it on 17 March, 2013

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Decent season finale (with a fantastic addition to the mythology of Mysterion!), 18 March 2013

Following the magnificent trilogy of episodes featuring Mysterion from season 14, the last show of season 15 is a proof that the cool Kenny-as-a-superhero stuff ain't over yet. This nice finale features a scene that has to be one of the sweetest moments in the history of the show – and yes, it deals with Mysterion.

"The Poor Kid" feels at the same time as something we have seen plenty of times before, especially since it offers typical Cartman material. An episode from season 14, "Poor and Stupid", had too Cartman's poverty being exposed. This time, we have Kenny being taken away from his write trash parents and therefore Cartman becoming the poorest kind around (of course nobody cares with the exception of Cartman himself!). It's definitely a situation that could have been explored long ago, I mean, there's even an entire season (almost) without Kenny! There's a nice reference to this at the ending of the episode.

There are good moments like this one but ultimately, "The Poor Kid" can't compete with other similar Cartman shows like the classic "Ginger Kids" (similar because in both Cartman becomes what he hates). There's this thing of having many variations of the same joke with Cartman and other minor new characters – it's a sort-of hit and miss situation, with some laughs but nothing quite memorable. The first episode of this season, "HUMANCENTiPAD", and its many variations of the same joke actually worked better (it's overall a funnier "Cartman vs. his mom" show).

So, "The Poor Kid" is a decent SOUTH PARK, perhaps just worth watching for the nice addition to the already fantastic Mysterion mythology. Well, it's fun but if you want a great Cartman show is better to check out any of the mentioned ones.

*Watched it on 17 March, 2013

Quite possibly my favorite short documentary of all-time!, 10 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I haven't seen tons of short documentaries but I can't imagine finding one that's more inspiring, definitive, funnier, crazier, and just better for the film aficionado than this piece by BURDEN OF DREAMS director Les Blank. With only 20 minutes you get a definitive portrait of one of cinema's greatest: Werner Herzog. And it's as simple as this: if Herzog doesn't inspire you here, if after watching WERNER HERZOG EATS HIS SHOE you don't end admiring him (or admiring more if you already did), well, why do you admire a filmmaker then if not for something related to their bravura? I mean, even if you haven't seen any of his films, this short documentary should be enough to get Herzog.

Here we have his views on television, filmmakers (he mentions big ones like Orson Welles and François Truffaut) and on film as a social issue. But most importantly, we have the proof that there's at least one filmmaker, 'cause yes he's still around in 2013 making one or more films per year, that's honest, daring, a bit f****** crazy, and that really cares for art.

The title perfectly indicates what we are going to watch but the reason why he'll eat his shoe is what matters – Herzog made a promise to the then unknown Errol Morris: if Morris could complete a feature film, Herzog would eat his shoe. Pushed by Herzog and his "having no money ain't an excuse to not make a film as you can steal a camera like I did" philosophy, Morris did complete his first feature GATES OF HEAVEN (1978), which I have yet to see (Herzog loved it).

Herzog's little speech on making your first picture should definitely be in any film student's mind all the time, not to mention his willingness to do pretty much anything (like throwing yourself to a cactus) for the people that work for you in a film. So there, if you don't know Herzog or his films, this could very well be a great starting point. It's extremely well made, really funny, inspiring, unique and crazy (certainly), hell, it even has Charlie Chaplin eating too a shoe!

*Watched it on 10 March, 2013

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