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Favorite films: The Godfather, Seven Samurai, Leon.
Favorite bands: The Frames, Rush, Pearl Jam, The Band, The Rolling Stones, Belle and Sebastian, The Decemberists.
Favorite shows currently airing: Breaking Bad, Suits, Ray Donovan, The Newsroom, Mad Men.
Favorite classic Actors: Marlon BRando, Jimmy Stewart, Rita Hayworth, Gene Tierney.
Favorite directors: Sergio Leone, John Ford, Tom McCarthy, Alexander Payne, Coen Brothers, Clint Eastwood
Favorite word: Tolerance
Least favorite word: No
Favorite movie villain: Anton Chigurh
Hobbies: Cooking Asian food (Indian, Thai, Lebanese, Vietnamese), writing, watching movies, reading, trying new kinds of tea and coffee, playing chess, doing yoga, working out.
Occupation: English Teacher
Wouldn't like to be: a papparazzo
Would like to be: a writer
Favorite writers: Ross Macdonald, PG Wodehouse, Richard Ford, Cormac McCarthy.
Favorite books: The Lord of the Rings, The Accursed Kings, The Instant Enemy, The Lensmen Chronicles.
A minimalistic piece of cinematic beauty
"Gravity" is a perfect example of how special effects can be used in an extraordinarily clever fashion to enhance the story instead of trying to tell it.
This very minimalistic movie, with only two characters on screen, is visually stunning. It follows the aftermath of a space shuttle being hit by debris which leaves two astronauts adrift in space with all the odds against them.
Space, with its vastness, unpredictability and empty silence becomes a character all in its own as our protagonists try to survive. That's when the special effects create a fantastic, wondrous world that captures the audience as it lays trap after trap for Ryan and Michael, played wonderfully subdued by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Especially the former, who totally plays against type and succeeds.
You're never at ease, you never what know what's coming, what's true or what's an illusion and I don't think you'll ever feel the same about going into space.
The short running time, the tension build-up, the intensity and the (for me) very satisfying ending make this a movie that you really shouldn't miss; it is a unique and beautiful piece of cinematic art. Movies which generate this kind of hype usually draw a lot of regular movie goers while driving away those with a more sophisticated taste. This time I'm pretty sure neither group will be unhappy.
The Sessions (2012)
Acting and storytelling at their best
The Sessions brings to the screen the last years in the life of Marc O'Brien, a polio patient who decides to lose his virginity at age 38. To do that, he gets the approval from his priest, and hires a sex surrogate who will guide him in the ways of love. So far, a little unusual maybe but nothing that would make you go "why should I watch this?". You should for two reasons: the first one is the acting, starting with the criminally underrated performance of John Hawkes, who gives tremendous emotional depth to his character, a man prostrated for the rest of his life who manages to charm everyone around him, including the audience. Everyone else involved give very low-key, realistic and heartfelt performances: Helen Hunt and William H. Macy especially, but also the rest of the supporting cast. The acting is so good that at one point I forgot I was watching a movie and felt like I was listening to real people going through their experiences.
The second reason is the story itself. I did some research on line about the life of the real Marc O'Brien and the film is pretty accurate and consistent with the facts; Marc's life is nothing short of extraordinary, especially if you consider that the film is based on an article of his that he had to type with a pen in his mouth. The people he met, the relationships he formed and how he formed them, all that is part of a very uplifting story which truly happened and is not adorned to make it more Hollywood-esque.
All of the above elements make for a very satisfying movie-going experience which I can't recommend highly enough. Everyone I know who's seen the movie has shared my feelings and it's exactly what I'm trying to convey to you: go see it and you won't regret it.
Life of Pi (2012)
A truly extraordinary adventure
Amidst movies like The Hobbit, Jack Reacher and Skyfall, all packed with action, fighting, shooting, killing and breaking, comes "Life of Pi", from director Ang Lee, someone who brings a different kind of cinema to audiences.
I should tell you that I'm a fan of Ang Lee's and he's only let me down once (Hulk, anyone?), but I went into this film with an open mind and ready for whatever came my way.
"Life of Pi" follows the life of Pi Patel from his very early childhood to his grown up years as he tells it to a writer interested in his unusual life story. We get a glimpse of Patel's life as a boy in India, his relationship with his parents, brother, God and.....animals. As a teenager and after surviving a shipwreck, Patel will experience loss, faith and the loss of it as well, but he will also develop a bond with a Bengal tiger that will change and shape him forever, and challenge everything he knew about life.
Most of the movie is spent in showing this relationship and its effects in the leading character. Nothing can really prepare you for what's in store for you: I suggest you abandon any preconceptions you might have and simply enjoy the experience because as simple as it sounds, this story is absolutely surprising and there's no way to tell where it will go and how it will end.In fact, the characters in the movie didn't know it either and this helps your own disbelief.
Additionally, the film is a visual feast. Unlike some other visually stunning films, however, the effects here are used to tell a story and to actually enhance it, not to dazzle the audience with outstanding visual effects. As beautiful as it is, the story is the most compelling part and though it might not be 100% original (we've seen movies of human befriending animals before), I guarantee you, as a movie junkie that I am, that you have never seen one like this; I think the fact that the protagonist is Indian and the director Taiwanese helps this film to be culturally and philosophically very different to what we're used to and this factor made the experience all the more rewarding.
As a side note, this movie is ideal for families: the movie theater was full of kids and they all enjoyed it. There are no scary scenes, no brutality, no cursing: just life, with its share of sadness, love and happiness.
I wouldn't go as far as saying this is the best film of the year, but I can say for sure that you will not see another film that even slightly resembles this one in terms of story, visuals and life lessons. Go see it, you won't regret it.
Expected joy with unexpected revelations
I went into this movie having read the book and pretty much knowing what to expect, after reading many reviews of all kinds.
After seeing it, all I can say is this: no matter what expectations you have, this movie will surprise you on many levels. Martin Freeman as Bilbo is an absolute revelation; he captures the character in a way you would never suspect. The Hobbit is not a dark book, and yet, while remaining faithful to the source material, the movie itself has some dark moments that are awesome. Freeman as Bilbo brings the light, kindness and resilience that are so present in the book. Another surprise is the exchange between Gollum and Bilbo, which is a total show-stealer; Andy Serkis brings such depth to Gollum that for those few minutes he's on screen you are absolutely glued to it. Richard Armitage as Thorin will be another surprise; his screen presence is enormous and for those who have seen the original LOTR trilogy, his character as the dwarf prince will remind you of Aragorn in his inner strength and sense of loyalty and honor.
If you've read the book, I'm sure you'll be fully satisfied. The beginning of the movie drags a little but it picks up speed shortly thereafter. The action scenes are exciting and again, faithful to the book but in Peter Jackson-style.
If you haven't read it nor seen LOTR, but you like fantasy movies, this film is perfect for you: it has all sort of interesting creatures (elves, dwarfs, wizards, hobbits, goblins, trolls and orcs), action, a good story, good acting all around, mystery, you name it.
The audience at the movie theater was varied: from seniors to kids, and although the theater allowed +7 kids, I would not recommend it as several scenes are pretty violent for children. That being said, everyone seemed to really enjoy it and was totally involved, laughing, gasping and gaping throughout. Fan or not, this movie will be time and money well spent if you know what you're getting into.
La sagrada familia (2005)
Has its flaws, but an interesting character study
To understand this film, it's also key to grasp the how Chileans are an extremely classist society, with well-defined socio-economic strata. The economic and social elements of each class have been and are clearly distinctive. Anything not within the accepted boundaries of that class is considered "alternative", "offensive", "wrong", etc. For Chilean upper (and generally ultra conservative) class, such issues are homosexuality, drug use, non-traditional career choices and these are the exact themes of "La Sagrada Familia".
The film follows a traditional Chilean couple and their son who decide to spend (as many people in the country do) their Easter weekend at their beach house, where they will finally meet their son's girlfriend: an oversexual drama student who does drugs galore, is anti-Catholic and who will wreak all kinds of havoc with those who meet her. The weekend will also be an opportunity for the son to create new and stronger bonds; especially touching is the relationship with his sweet, non-speaking neighbor, who secretly loves him.
Although the issues might have been dealt with many times before in film, it is because they are so unspoken of and repressed in Chile and because of the actors' ability to portray that internal turmoil with such brilliance that the film shines. Each conversation, each revelation, each glance, feels raw and genuine; in fact, when the film abandons this and becomes overphilosophical in its approach is when it fails and drags. Fortuntately, those moments are few and far between and the end result is a satisfying one. The final act is refreshing and honest, and absolutely consistent with the the characters and the story. I totally recommend it.
Excellent film. You won't be disappointed.
First, let me start by saying that some knowledge of the events depicted in this film would come useful. I'm Chilean and lived in the country at the time so I knew what to expect, but foreigners and especially younger audiences might not. Back in 1989, there was a referendum to decide if Augusto Pinochet, Chile's dictator for the past 15 years, would stay on for another 8 or democratic elections would be held instead. The choices were "YES" for 8 more years of military dictatorship and "NO" for democratic elections to be held at the end of 1989. This film is a depiction of the political, social and creative aspects that shaped the ad campaign created by those who supported the option "NO" (hence the title of the film) the problems they faced in creating it and the memorable result achieved.
Of course, there were several other aspects that sealed Pinochet's fate as President besides a creative ad campaign, but this movie is a worthy effort to show how a country really came together and changed its destiny focusing on joy and creativity and trying to leave behind fear and anger. It's filmed video-style which really gives it an 80s look and feel; there are several real-life images and video clips which are a nice treat, because they show what the charged social atmosphere was really like back in those months. You don't need to be a Chilean to like this movie; the script and acting are top-notch and it's not a propagandistic film at all. I actually thought it was pretty objective considering this is really a polarizing subject matter in my country; the audience laughed several times and seemed to truly enjoy it. For film lovers in general, it's an intelligent piece of cinema; for History buffs an objective perspective on how things went down. For everybody else, a fun film to watch regardless. I recommend it hands down.
This beautiful and melancholic film was a wonderful movie-going experience and I can't recommend it highly enough.
It deals with various things such as love, death, fear and, ultimately, new beginnings: for the father, a closeted gay coming out at age 75; for his boyfriend, several years his junior; for the son, dealing with death, confusion and a new relationship, and for everyone else involved, all of whom will have to get through the grief and the losses and find the inner strength to start anew. The question is: Will they?
Although melancholic in its mood, the film is filled with bittersweet humor, underlying optimism and the hope for something better. It is, however, not for everyone. Some will find it boring, some will find it slow. But that's just because the filmmaker takes his time to draw us in and experience what the characters are going through. Life doesn't happen in a flash it happens slowly, moment by moment, as does the film.
The acting is superb, very understated: smiles, looks and gestures say many times more than the dialogue itself, which is very minimalistic at best.
You can read about the plot and the story everywhere online; I wanted to write more about what you're likely to experience if you see it. Don't watch it if you're feeling sad or depressed or if you're not really into slow-building movies. Though it's been labeled a comedy-drama, there are not laugh-out-loud moments here and the comedic elements are mostly present in the form of irony. This is not a joyful film. It's a very introspective and contemplative character study, ultimately optimistic in its outlook, very enjoyable if you are in the right state of mind and worth watching if only for seeing Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor (and the Jack Russell dog, "Arthur") give the performances of a lifetime.
The Ides of March (2011)
Worth it, but funny aftertaste....
It's difficult to write a review about this film. It's so full of contradictions (artistic and otherwise) that it leaves you with a funny aftertaste. The film is about an idealistic young man working as a consultant for a campaigning politician and the conflicts and dichotomies he has to face if he wants to remain whole and with his integrity unbroken. Purely from the filmmaking standpoint, the movie will remind you of political thrillers of the 70s made by Alan J. Pakula or Sydney Pollack. It's beautifully shot, has a great script, a very ad-hoc music score, great performances by everyone involved. The way the story and main character evolved, however, lacked coherence and at one point I was under the impression I was watching a fragment of a different movie. Somehow it went from A to D, skipping B and C altogether. That alone changed my viewing experience from fully satisfying to one that, as I said at the beginning, left a funny aftertaste. The movie is more of a character study than a political thriller per se; as the former, it works mainly because of the performances by actors who are able to convey the inner conflicts they face. As the latter, don't expect to be taken aback with unpredictable twists or edge-of-your-seat suspense, because you won't find those here. I give it a 7/10.
See for yourself
By the time you read this review, you already know what the movie is about so there's no point going over that again. You know it's supposed to be a courtroom drama and a personal one as well as we take a look into Mike Weiss' demons and struggle with his drug addiction. Chris Evans' performance alone is worth the price of admission, but the movie itself, although well-intentioned, fails to deliver. It seemed as though the filmmakers didn't know how to make the two story lines converge coherently and thus gave us a shallow passage through both with an ending that.... Well, I leave it up to you to comment on it after you've seen it. Make no mistake, the movie is worth your time. But don't expect to be shaken or astounded by it; just go and enjoy a good piece of cinema that had great potential but didn't fully live up to it.
You'll need a strong constitution...
This documentary shows how corporate greed, without any concern for anything other than making a profit, is destroying one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world: the United States.
As another reviewer said, it's not about gas as in gasoline, but about how oil and gas companies are polluting the environment through a process called hydraulic fracturing, used in the extraction of natural gas.
The film is filled with unmistakable and undeniable evidence that this process is in fact forever altering not only the landscape in several states, but also their wild life as well as the health of regular individuals permanently. The images and testimonies shown will blow you away and you'll come out with a very different awareness level on what it means to be "enviromentally conscious".
I found it really gut-wrenching and I guarantee you you won't be able to get through to the end of it without wanting to go and do something about it.
We've seen in a number of different films how powerful industries will do anything to protect their interests and keep people quiet about their lies and methods for keeping the general public deceived about what they really do. What's really striking here is that is happening for real, in congress, and not in a movie.
The other aspect I found really positive is that the filmmaker tried hard to remain as objective as possible, which is more than I can say about any Michael Moore documentary.Everyone is given a chance to tell their part of the story and the audience is left to decide what to make of everything being said and shown.
I highly recommend it. You'll need a strong constitution to get through it; it's not for the faint of heart. But it'll be a very rewarding experience and hopefully one that will make you cringe every time you see a gas drill across your front yard.