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21 reviews in total 
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Frailty (2001)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Interesting movie with a morally dubious ending, 30 August 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

(Spoilers) Some movies include in the end a twist that virtually no one in the audience would see coming, which would turn the whole vision of the movie upside down. Sometimes this unexpected ending is very clever and makes perfect sense, in fact it makes everything in the movie snap into place. Think Se7en, The Usual Suspects, The Sixth Sense, Mulholland Drive. Sometimes the twist is unexpected because it is so completely idiotic, that it has no right to be expected at all... like in, well, Frailty.

This story about a deranged man who claims to be commanded by God to kill certain people on the basis that they are 'demons' could have had any possible ending, but no, no, no, that the deranged guy is right and that God is actually behind the crimes. Only a complete bigot can reach this repellent conclusion or approve of it. Unfortunately, the movie conclusion is quite literally what it seems to be. You can suppose that the whole thing may be attributed to the unbalanced imagination of the self-appointed Angel of Death, but there is the thing about the video that denies this theory. However, if they insist on the supernatural there is an alternative hypothesis that the makers of this movie do not seem to take into account. Mind you, I don't believe this any more than I believe that God made them do it, but, if someone ordered the crimes, how do they know that the crimes were actually ordered by God and not by the Other Guy? Wouldn't it be very much like he who is, after all, the Father of Lies, to appear before his dupes under the disguise of God, in order to make them commit acts which are, after all, evil and foul? Oh-ho.

It is a pity that the ending ruins it, because Frailty is, all in all, very competently done. It keeps the suspense and manages to be quite gruesome and horrifying without any display of gore. The child actors are very good, in fact better than their adult counterparts. As a study of madness it would have been immensely interesting. However, it is not.

12 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Full of rewards for those who dare, 19 March 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

(Spoilers) This and probably most other reviews here contain spoilers; but in fact the best way to enjoy this movie is to watch it without learning anything about it beforehand, to have the pleasure to fit the pieces of the puzzle by yourself. This is the kind of movie you shouldn't try to make sense of while you are watching it, but after the movie ends, you can actually see all the pieces falling together; it's quite beautiful. It stays with you long after it's over.

As most people who got it have already said, the movie has two parts: a convoluted dream/fantasy part during the first two thirds, and what really happened in a last part that is in fact quite linear and straightforward. Diane does not want to face her real self and she cannot deal with the real story, so in the dream sequence she rearranges facts recasting herself and others in ways more pleasing to herself. The sordid affair becomes a beautiful movie-like adventure complete with damsel in distress and ugly Mafia henchmen. In her dreams her lover is pliant and defenseless, depending mostly on Diane, quite the opposite of the real thing. She puts the director she hates in every sort of ridiculous situations, and in her fantasy he doesn't choose Camilla because he loves or desires her, but because she has been imposed on him. Most importantly, Diane reinvents herself as dashing and resourceful, taking everything on stride, a bright young thing loved by everyone who meets her. She is no longer sullen, unloved and disappointed, she hasn't a failed acting career kept alive mostly because her former lover finds roles for her: she is full of hope, with her entire future ahead of her. Reality intrudes in the dream when Diane sees her real end, mangled and decomposing in her own bed, and the eerie Club Silencio, in which there is no band and no musicians, indicates that what we are seeing is smoke and mirrors, all illusion.

28 out of 55 people found the following review useful:
Did they really think this was love?, 19 March 2004

There are many things that went wrong with this movie, but even if there weren't, it would still be a failure, because something about the very premise it is based upon does not work: the story of a `robot' that is programmed to feel love. To see what I mean, it is enough to compare this movie with a vastly superior one: Blade Runner. In that movie, replicants are not programmed to feel love, pity, sorrow or rage about injustice, but they develop these feelings spontaneously and mysteriously. As a matter of fact, these human feelings render the replicants not only unusable but dangerous, and hence, they have to be eliminated. Blade Runner is about what makes humans human: if androids can have feelings that are real and not planned, if they have memories, if they can appreciate beauty, if they have a will of their own, aren't they human? Isn't destroying them murder? In A.I., there is never a question of David being human: he is nothing but a machine that smartly apes a real loving boy. The boy robot has a chip or whatever it is that programs him to feel `love,' being such `love,' if correctly interpreted (something the movie does not do), not real love, but an unhealthy fixation. A real boy who developed such an obsession with his own mother would be a Norman Bates in the making. Unlike Blade Runner, where we empathize naturally with the replicants, it is impossible to feel anything but irritation, at best, and horror, at worst, for David, and, indeed, it is easier to pity the bad mother: who wouldn't be unnerved by such unblinking adoration? (and unblinking it is; Spielberg erased Osment's blinking, apparently not realizing that a blinking robot would have been more lifelike and therefore, more useful to its purpose, to replace a real boy. Apparently, it was Osment who suggested the unblinking thing. Now, this is what happens when you listen to child actors instead of your own judgment). That's not the way the movie thinks, however. It assumes that this pre-packaged, superficial feeling is the real deal, which is rather disturbing.

As a matter of fact, just like David, A.I. is a movie that wants to be what it is not. It wants to be profound and philosophical (we know that because from time to time some character, or the voiceover narration, says something sententious). Spielberg's unquestioning admiration for Disney has already landed him in trouble in some of his other movies, but never as devastatingly as in this one. Any hope to take the movie seriously is dashed by cartoonish stuff like the Dr. Know or the Blue Fairy, and by the sickening sentimentality that clogs the whole movie and reaches its peak in the completely stupid ending. I spent the last half-hour or so gaping at the screen, and I mean that literally. I felt (and probably looked) like the audience watching the Hitler musical in the movie `The Producers.' I was so nonplussed at the nerve of someone ending a movie in such a ridiculous fashion, I could not even feel rightfully angry as I should.

All things spoken, I did like Teddy. I wish I had one of these. But then, of course, when the only thing in a movie that keeps you minimally interested is a talking teddy bear, the movie in question is really in deep trouble.

One hell of a ride. A theme park ride., 23 February 2004

One good thing can be said that about this movie: that at least it is substantially less stupid than the original, which isn't much of a point. Unlike another William Castle remake, The House on Haunted Hill, which was flawed but rather hysterically entertaining, this new 13 Ghosts isn't much fun: it is, in fact, mostly boring. Its look and feel is that of a theme park ride. As a ride it would have worked very well, but movies also need things like plots, characters and the like.

The funny thing is, that their attempt to improve on the original ends up working against the movie. Namely, unlike the old version, in which only Emilio the cook and the lion-tamer and his lion are distinctive in any way, this new version individualizes the ghosts and even gives them rather poetic names. Unfortunately, one feels that their story would have been more interesting that the story the movie actually tells and about that we know nothing. Whose son was the First-Born Son? Why is the Torn Prince torn and the Bound Woman bound? Or the Angry Princess angry, for that matter? What was the deal with the Great Child and the Dire Mother? Why did the Juggernaut live (well, "live") in a scrap yard? Alas, we don't know. Now, isn't that a pity.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
You join a cult, this is what happen to you, 29 December 2003

It has been said that this movie was devised as propaganda for the Scientology cult; if so, it has failed on that level as well.

You only have to think this: that any cult that could drive a world-renowned movie star to produce and act in a flick that is not even attractive in the way many bad movies are, then this cult is definitely bad for you.

This is all I have to say about this.

The Matrix (1999)
Dumbed-down virtual reality, 27 January 2003

I think this is a nice little action movie that I would like a lot better if it had not developed a following that goes on and on about the movie's supposed originality and profoundity (and who refer to the movie's critics, derogatorily, as "intellectuals," which is kind of funny). Well, it is entertaining, but it is not profound and it is certainly not original. Even someone like me, who has read some sci-fi but not a lot, can quote a few examples in which every single allegedly original or profound aspect of the movie has already been written by some sci-fi author. Let's see: we have a computer-generated world designed to keep a person entertained (so to speak) in Philip K' Dick's "I Hope We Will Arrive Soon;" we have a computer-generated world created to fool people into believing they are living in a fictituous world, while they are lying immobile in pods... millions of them, in "The Angel of Violence" by Adam Wisniewski-Snerg; we have a false world, this time drug-inspired, crated to mask the unbearable reality of a devastated world, AND the use of a pill to "lift the veil" and see the world as it is, in "The Futurological Congress," by Stanislaw Lem. And I'm not going to mention the overuse of technology that renders humans helpless... that one was already in H.G.Wells and E.M.Forster. Now, nobody would be able to make a movie out of any of these very fine works, without some idiot piping up "Oh, just like in Matrix!" In fact, you cannot do anything about virtual reality without the Matrix comparison, which was already been made about things as diverse as "eXistenZ" and "Open Your Eyes."

And, and then there are all the philosophical concepts the movie filches from diverse religions and philosophical sources; I suppose this works for some people, but I don't enjoy my philosophy or religion dumbed-down and sugarcoated in a `Kung Fu' setup. About the thing about Neo being an equivalent of Jesus Christ, I'll give the moviemakers some credit and take for granted that they didn't intend it, because it is so unflattering. Neo's character as `the chosen one' does not include a high degree of intelligence or awareness, but merely his ability to move very fast and dodge bullets.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Makes you wonder if the good thriller is something like a lost art..., 3 October 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

(Spoilers) (Sort of, as if something could spoil this)

Lots of thrillers count on the audience being stupid; this one must be unique in the sense that it counts on the audience being not only stupid but also illiterate. If there is a character that introduces himself as Christopher Marlowe, and later on another claims to be called Goethe, anybody with some degree of culture smells right on there is something fishy about the setup. Presumably, this is aimed at an audience who never read anything above the Reader's Digest.

Those with some degree of culture may still enjoy the movie, because the characters' idiocy and blindness makes it so (unintentionally) hilarious. When Russell meets Marlowe, he tells us (in voice-over), that there was "something funny" about him... Really? Like what? Like his being all covered in theatrical makeup? Of course, in spite of presumably having gone to college and of quoting Aristotle, Russell never sees the Marlowe-Goethe connection... it is a county clerk who points it out for him! No one sees the connection between the actual murders and the book (though apparently the book did not even change the murder locations) until the killer sends the book to a detective... who never doubts that the book has been sent by Russell himself. In spite of his being chased by the police, Russell walks unchallenged all over the place, and when they do recognize him, he gets away without sweating in excess.

And what is it with the ending? What is he being on trial for? Corvus's murder or the lawyers'? And why is he acquitted? Because he has a hotshot lawyer? There was some potential for irony here, but then they spoil it all by claiming that "the weak sometimes win."

In a more intelligent movie, I would say they were being sarcastic. As things stand, I doubt it.

Not scary, but intriguing, 30 September 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

(Spoilers) In this very cool and cerebral movie, Mr Polanski is back to the subject of satanists, again after Rosemary's Baby. And, although the Baby was much better, I still have a soft spot for this latest effort. Maybe it is because I am a bookworm and I am tickled pink by stories about books and the power they wield. But in fact, beyond the inanity of the whodunit plot, the fact is that there is a very smart idea underlying the movie. And here comes the spoiler: I have to say that if you did not understand that the Girl is Lucifer himself (or herself, if you wish), there is nothing much left for you to understand, because it is a key point.

The idea is, you don't choose to follow Lucifer, but he chooses his companions himself. Or, you are not evil because you want to, but because you are. We know how evil Corso is: right in the beginning, he commits a very cruel deed (he swindles a rare book from the relatives of an old man, right under the nose of the book's owner, who has been rendered speechless by a stroke, so he cannot protest). He shows repeatedly that he cares for nothing or nobody. And, ultimately, the Girl chooses him, and discards all the wannabe satanists. The scene at the club ceremony, in which Balkan chides the cultists, saying that Lucifer would never deign to appear before them because they are such buffoons, is in fact heavily ironic, because the Girl is walking freely right before him and he never recognizes her.

The movie is not frightening (not as the Baby was), but it is still intriguing. Johnny Depp plays a flawless Corso and I liked Emmanuelle Seigner as the Girl: she plays it with a cool humor that goes very well with the movie. And I liked the off-the-wall details, like the mannish secretary or the book sellers who are identical twins. Only one thing bothered me: do the dealers of rare books really smoke so much among their merchandise? At one point, one of them drops ashes all over the Portas book... I actually cringed at that!

8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Quest for love, 8 September 2002

This movie knits a web of stories that revolve around the loveless wedding of a girl, concerning her mother and father, her sisters, her former boyfriend, the wedding party caterer, a girl accidentally met in a rainy evening, and the people these people meet: a Spanish man who brings the ashes of his dead German wife to Germany, to bring her to the rain and green grass she missed; an extravagant girl who seeks the attention of strangers by pretending she is handicapped or ill; the father's mistress who slashes her wrists in a clandestine visit to her lover's house; an abandoned old woman found by the younger sister in the airport.

The stories, located half in Germany and half in Spain, can be intensely poetic, or intensely brutal, or funny, or poignant, and make up an absorbing whole. All of them have to do with love, love being found, lost or hankered after. By the end of the movie the stories have not been brought to any closure; like in life, there are no neat endings.

An editor is sorely needed, 7 September 2002

I'm rather bemused by the kind of benevolence this movie has received from the critics. In one review I read, the critic rather sheepishly says that the movie is flawed but "there is some great movie somewhere in it." Hum. This is like saying that any blue-eyed blonde with an hourglassy figure can be a potential Marilyn.

The story starts out with a couple of losers who overhear a conversation about millionaires and surrogate mothers in a sperm bank and on that basis they hatch a harebrained plot for a kidnapping. If you've read enough hardboiled literature you'll know that things will go to hell soon enough, and they do, but in rather unexpected, and not very credible, ways. The increasingly confusing action involves a flight to Mexico, a mafia henchman with a rather supernatural skill to show up all over the place, the losers' loser "friend" who mysteriously turns out to be a friend also of the other bad guys, a stressed mafia boss, his deranged wife and his son, a doctor with a serious ethics problem and who on top of that, can't act.

And, for a Spanish-speaker like myself the movie has yet another reason to be grating: whenever the characters speak in Spanish, whatever they say is unintelligible. Starting with the name of the Mexican hotel, Nació Madre. In really hackneyed Spanish (I mean, no real Spanish-speaking person would use such a phrase, and much less name a hotel with it), this means something like "a mother was born." The meaning of that, as with most things about this movie, is for me as clear as the foot in my face.

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