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El rey del Once (2016)
Waiting for Usher
Ariel, an economist, now based in New York, is preparing to go to his hometown, Buenos Aires with Monica, an aspiring ballerina. His father interrupts his preparations for the trip with the request of a pair of Nike sneakers with Velcro ties for a friend who is in hospital and needs those shoes. Needless to say, Ariel only finds regular sneakers, something his father did not want.
Thus begins this story that to this viewer reminds of the "prodigal son" parable. Ariel gets back to the place of his birth, a place he hardly recognizes. Having been brought up as Jewish, his past comes back to confront him in unexpected ways. Being away from the religion of his childhood, Ariel is resentful of of the environment where he has come back to. His father, Usher, is the spirit of a foundation that helps the poor Jewish inhabitants of the Buenos Aires' neighborhood called "Once". Usher is everywhere, but his interaction with Ariel and the people of his community is always done on the phone. We never see this man, although his presence looms large throughout the story.
We get to know the reason for Ariel's resentment against his parents. Usher, being so involved in the community, neglects to attend an important date with Ariel. An absent mother also contributes to Ariel's unhappiness. To make matters worse, Usher keeps pressing his son to get involved in things he cannot attend himself. Slowly, but surely, Ariel comes to understand the role of his father and the way a lot of people depend on the kindness of Usher. Ariel's involvement takes him back to his Jewish roots and understands his father's mission. Ariel might have been away from his religion, but he rediscovers the importance of his upbringing. Then there is the presence of the mysterious Eva, a helper at the foundation with problems of her own. The attraction between Ariel and Eva plays a lot with the outcome of the story.
Daniel Burman, one of the best directors working in the Argentine cinema, sets this story in the colorful location where life is not easy for most of the poor older Jews eking a living in a city. Mr. Burman knows the people well; his tale of reconnecting with one's faith and acceptance works well as he spins his tale with a light touch that works in unexpected ways. Alan Sabbagh, who plays Ariel is perfect as the man at the center of the story. He gives a performance that is consistent of the type of character he plays. Mr. Sabbagh is the main reason for watching the film. Lovely Julieta Zilberberg is perfectly mysterious as Eva. As far as the main character, we get to see him in the last section of the film. He is a "presence" always heard, but never seen.
The Lifeguard (2013)
Leigh, a writer in New York, is involved in a bad relationship. Her life in the big city is not going anywhere. What is a young woman without a meaningful relationship to do? Leigh decides to go back home to the small town where she grew up. The return to her parents house turns out to be exactly the opposite of what she was expecting. When her mother recriminates for being thirty and not knowing what she really wants, Leigh gets offended. Why, she is only 29!
In such a small community, the jobs are not exactly plentiful. Applying for the lifeguard job at the town's pool means a minimum wage salary, but living home, Leigh figures, she can pull it off. In Going to see her old pals Mel and Todd, Leigh figures she will rekindle her teen age years, but evidently she has never heard of the old adage: you can never go home again.
What follows is Leigh's own discovery that as at almost thirty, those wonderful youth memories are nothing but that: memories. Her involvement with young Jason will only end badly. Her friends from the past prove to be living in a different world from her reality. Even life at home turns for the worst as her mother cannot put up with an adult daughter trying to act as a teen ager.
Liz W. Garcia wrote and directed this indie film that chronicles a life of a woman at a time when confusion and lack of direction, create a conflict within Leigh as she attempts to relive her past with bad results. Ms. Garcia has given the film a great look, although some things in the story do not add up to create the complex character this young woman is supposed to be. The acting, in general, is good. The director gets excellent results from her cast. Kristen Bell's Leigh feels right. Mamie Gummer gives a credible performance as Mel. David Lambert as Jason shows possibilities for a good career in films. Amy Madigan does not have much to do as Leigh's mother.
John Peters captures the rural setting, as well as the Manhattan scenes in glorious tones. The film score is by Fred Avril.
En plats i solen (2012)
Someone is seen securing a house from the outside, as the episode begins. This person is up to no good, so when gas is filtered to the interior through the air conditioning vents, we watch, in horror, as a boy, first, then a woman succumb to the lethal gas.
Meanwhile, Annika is asked by Schyman, her boss, if she would like to take over for the retiring Spiken, and be in charge of the news division. Annika reaction could not be more explicit: she is a natural reporter, what would she do stuck in an office? Naturally, she would be miserable. The job goes to the odious Patrik Nilsson, a man with no talent. In the first staff meeting Annika, who has picked up the news about a family being asphyxiated in Malaga because they are Swedes. Patrik decides to get rid of his nemesis by sending her to investigate the strange incident.
Annika, like anyone unfamiliar with a foreign country, has problems following the trail that will allow her to perform her duties as a criminal journalist. Her luck changes as she goes to see Niklas Linde, a Swedish police liaison, working in Malaga. What Annika is not prepared for the web of crime surrounding the death of the well known Swedish athlete Sebastian Soderstrom, his wife Veronika, and the two children. She will also go through a complicated scheme of how drugs are sent to Sweden via Spain.
Annika is told by Linde to hire a local translator. She gets more than what she bargained for in the person of the duplicitous Carita who obviously is well connected in Spain, as well as in Stockholm. Her investigation will take her to Gibraltar and Tangier, where she goes looking for Suzette Soderstrom, a missing piece in the puzzle. Finally, she will get into a confrontation with the kingpin of the drug trade, in which she could lose her life.
The final episode of this fine Swedish series came with a bang. Based on the work of Liza Marklund, the episode was adapted for television by Alex Haridi, and directed with fantastic pacing by Peter Flinth. The episode moves fast, leaving the viewer wanting more. In Marin Crepin, the creators of the series struck gold. This young actress is terrific. Her Annika is a complex young woman, balancing a career she loves, with her own personal life, which suffers on account of the hours she spends away from home, and family. The rest of the ensemble players are just as wonderful.
One can only hope there will be another season soon.
A police patrol car is called to investigate about shots in an apartment. Nina Hoffman, the female cop, has reasons to fear the worst, after all, she knows the occupants of the place, her friends David and Julia Lindholm. The discovery of David's bleeding body, makes Nina think of the worst, the fate of Julia and her son Alexander. Julia is hysterical, and babbling, but little Alexander is missing.
Thus, begins the fifth episode in the series about a courageous young newspaper reporter, Annika Bengtzon, who is sent to get information on the tragedy. Being both policemen, the Lindholms' case takes priority within the department. Nina, who is contacted by Annika,is reluctant to share any news about her friends. After all, there is a secret code of honor with the police, not to reveal anything that might be wrong among its members.
Annika gets lucky when she talks to the man in charge of the department of police, Christer Bure, an enigmatic man who has a lot at stake if the facts about his personal life are revealed. One thing that comes clear is that Bure and David Lindholm have had a lot in common, not only as members of the police, but have been involved in a business enterprise that has made a lot of money.
At the same time, Annika, is going through a terrible time in her own life. Having separated from Thomas, she wants total custody of Kalle and Ellen, the children both want. Because of the nature of her work, Annika gets into trouble when it comes to the care of the kids, something Thomas constantly makes a point in his favor. Added to the situation is the threat to Annika's life from the people connected from Bure, masked people who are constantly following her.
Directed by Ulf Kvensler, this chapter follows the basic premise presented in the books by Liza Marklund. The Swedish television adaptation is by Antonia Pyk, who wrote a plausible treatment that works well in the medium. The central character is played by Marin Crepin, a young actress who exudes intelligence, as well as the smarts for the jobs she is assigned to cover. The wonderful supporting cast does a wonders to follow Ulf Kvensler's direction.
Den röda vargen (2012)
The ghost of the past
We are given a recreation of a terrorist incident where a military plane is blown by persons obviously against the government. To aggravate things, no one of the perpetrators were ever caught. Now, after so many years, Benny, a journalist who never lost interest in the case, is the victim of a voluntary hit and run as he is getting home. Linus, a young man coming home from a hockey practice, witnesses in the shadows how the driver, not content with having struck the victim, returns and runs over his moribund body.
Annika Bengtzon is asked to go to the town of Lulea to get information on the incident. She finds herself in a hostile environment, as it appears no one in town welcomes her presence. She gets lucky in finding Linus, the young hockey player, who tells her what he saw. Unknown to Linus, the same assassin, has a surprise for him, when the unknown man returns to take care of him.
Annika's own life is in turmoil. Her domestic situation is a mess. To make matters worse, her own husband, Thomas begins an affair with a colleague, something Annika discovers in a strange fashion. At the office, her situation could not be more complicated with her boss. With the help of Bertil, Annika is able to go to the past and the activities of the Red Fox leftist gang. She will come close to being a casualty, but her intelligent approach to the case, helps her unmask the culprits, in a surprising ending.
Directed with style by Agnetta Fagerstrom-Olsson, this series is a winner. Based on Liza Marklund's novels, the figure of an indefatigable newspaper reporter, Annika Bengtzon is a woman with high principles who believes in the pursuit of justice by the power given to her by the newspaper where she is clearly, the star. This episode was adapted by Bjorn Paqualin and Antonia Pyk. The casting of Malin Crepin is key to the success of this series. A lot of Swedish excellent players, many seen in other series, show up here to create an ensemble unit that probably made the director happy to rely on them to deliver.
Happy birthday, Mr. President
A pleasant surprise this film turned out to be, when it showed unexpectedly on an international cable channel recently. The story is set in a part of France that, for all practical purposes, could have happened in Alaska, or Siberia,since this town, in the Franche-Comte region of the country, is one of the coldest spots in Europe.
David Rousseau, a crime writer, travels to hear the disposition of a relative's will, where he gets nothing out of the estate. On his way home, he stumbles into a murder that has shaken the community. A young beauty, Candice Lecouer, is found dead in a snowed field. Something does not fit well with David. He had sneaked into the morgue, where he examined the dead woman's body, discovering signs she had been murdered, something which he is an expert in the field. David Rousseau's investigation traces the young woman's life, which reveals the details of the crime Candice was a victim.
Directed by Gerald Hustache-Mathieu, who co-wrote the screenplay with Juliette Sales, keeps the viewer involved in the crime that was committed. The plot capitalizes on the fact the murdered woman identified with Marilyn Monroe, her idol, whose legendary life intertwines with Candice's own. The young French counterpart was coveted by many of the citizens of Mouth in ways that both lives parallel the famous model, right down to their choices of men who loved her and those who desired Candice for their own passions. David Rousseau retraces step by step the murder of the local beauty, by comparing events in both women.
Jean-Paul Rouve does a credible job with his David, a man who not being a detective, but with his writing experience, knows where to go to find justice. Sophie Quinton's Candice is wonderful to watch. She exudes intelligence and beauty. Gullaume Gouix, seen as the friendly local police, is a nice addition to the film.
Beware of the repairman
"Trespass" directed by Joel Schumacher, shows how even with the best intentions, projects with what appear the right ingredients can be derailed by plots that might look as sure hits, but end up as misfires. The main problem lies in the screenplay by Karl Gajdusek, an exercise in futility that does not make much sense.
This type of crime drama relies on such ingredients as isolated homes where the inhabitants are vulnerable to home invasions as the one we see at the heart of the movie. A beautiful woman, who might, or might not have had an affair with a repairman, a rebellious daughter and a husband who might be hiding things from his wife, figure prominently in the plot. The invading criminals, after the initial surprise, one realizes are just posturing, pointing guns to the head that will never be fired.
Nicolas Cage, for a change, does not play the action hero he has been used to play in the movies. Nicole Kidman has the difficult task to appear playing a double role. There are no chemistry between these two, and wonders what kept them together.
Miguel y William (2007)
Shakespeare in love
William Shakespeare's world is shattered when he meets Leonor, a Spanish lady from Castille. He decides to follow the beautiful woman to Spain. Unknown to William, Leonor, is the intended woman for the widower Duke of Obanto, a powerful man. The shock for Leonor in finding that William has followed her, could not come at the worst time, she is going to marry the Duke.
The arrival of Miguel De Cervantes to the Obanto's castle, creates a tension in the household as he immediately falls under Leonor's spell. Leonor, torn between the attentions of the two suitors is in a quandary, will she marry the Duke, or should she follow her heart?
An intriguing idea by Ines Paris which brings together two giants of literature together in this fictionalized tale of romance and love. Ms. Paris gives the comedy whimsical turns as Shakespeare gets inspired to write tragedies starting to write Othelo and there are nods to Don Quixote, as Cervantes rides with Sancho, the servant, to the windmills. The director, working on a text of Sixto Calero, adapted the material with Miguel Angel Gomez and Eva Cruz. The tone is picaresque, something that adds to the enjoyment of the comedy.
Beautiful Elena Anaya appears as Leonor. The wonderful Will Kemp is seen as Shakespeare, and Jose Luis Galiardo plays Cervantes. Among the supporting players are veteran Geraldine Chaplin, Jose Maria Pou, Malena Alterio, and Jorge Calvo who has a lot of funny moments as Sancho.
Nestor Calvo, the cinematographer gets the most of the castles where the film was shot, as well as the beautiful Castillian countryside. The musical score by Stephen Warbeck plays well in the background.
Mains armées (2012)
A French crime thriller by Pierre Jolivet, shown lately on a cable channel showed a lot of promise, so we decided to watch. A Marseille based detective, Lucas Scali, is following the trail of a Serbian gang trafficking arms belonging to NATO, stolen from the conflict in that country. Scali and his team follow the criminals to Paris, where his estranged daughter, Maya, also a police detective has been involved in an investigation with illegal drugs being pushed by the same Serbian criminals.
The encounter of father and daughter could not have been less auspicious. Maya, working with a dirty police superior, Julien Bass, has been sharing illicit money and drugs, from the different busts all over Paris. Maya resentment on a father she only saw on rare occasions, comes to work with her own team. Her loyalty to Bass comes into play as she realizes the judgment error in teaming up with a dirty superior as she joins forces with her father's team, something that will make her reflect on aspects of her life breaking the same laws she was asked to uphold.
The basic problem with the screenplay lies in the fact that most things remain unexplained as the actions meanders wildly all over the place without logic. Mr. Jolivet wrote the screenplay in collaboration with Simon Michael. The cast is headed by Roschdy Zem, a busy actor in the French screen. He is made up as an older man, in contrast with most of his other roles. Best in the film is Leila Bekhti, who is excellent as the woman playing both sides of the law. Marc Lavoine does justice to Bass, the dirty detective. The supporting players do good following M. Jolivet's direction.
Robot & Frank (2012)
Frank, an aging one time high class thief, is facing a difficult stage in his life. He has become forgetful and his son, Hunter, cannot cope making the trip to check on the old man forever. The solution? How about a robot to help him with ordinary things around the house and be his companion, not that he asks for it. To his amazement, Frank becomes dependent of the latest gadget in his daily life.
The small town where Frank lives, has seen the invasion of the newly rich who have bought into everything in the village and surrounding areas. Frank has read almost every book in the local library, which Jennifer, the old librarian, tells him is going to close for reforms, as well as reopen with a new vision. Frank finds himself at a loss with these developments, so he wants to teach some of the hateful newcomers there is still life in the old man.
A delightful comedy directed with wit and style by Jake Schrier was a surprise when it was shown on cable recently. Written by Christopher Ford, the film has its heart in the right place. Frank resents the intrusion in his world by all these strangers invading his way of life, making it more difficult for him to cope with his life as he ages and cannot accept changes to things he holds dear. It is his desire for justice that prompts him to take matters into his own hands, mocking the superficiality as well as the greed of the newcomers. The robot presents a new reality to his way of thinking, rejecting the good aspects of being helped, at first, then adapting the device to his own needs.
The great Frank Langella gives life to Frank. The actor is the whole reason for watching this movie because one can identify with a man that cannot comprehend what is going on in his world, as his mind plays tricks on him. The older man does not welcome changes to his way of living. Mr. Langella is a joy to watch. Susan Sarandon plays Jennifer, the librarian, who we learn later in the film has a deep connection to Frank. Peter Saarsgard is heard as the voice of the robot. James Marsden and Liv Tyler complete the cast.
11, 13, 17, 19, 41 and 47 are also prime numbers
An enigmatic film by Saverio Costanzo was shown recently on a cable channel. The adaptation of a novel by Paolo Giordano, comes to the screen in this story that is told in three different times and covers events in the lives of Alice and Mattia, two wounded souls who destiny brings together in surprising and mysterious ways.
Starting in childhood, Mattia and his twin sister Michela, who suffers from an unknown disease that has rendered totally dependent on her parents, and ultimately, his sibling make an odd pair. He is healthy, while she is obviously handicapped. Alice, on the other hand, seems to come from a happier background, but after an accident which has left her with a noticeable limp, she retreated to a world of her own.
In high school, both Mattia and Alice's path convene under strange circumstances. Alice an introvert soul, is bullied by her peers. She is the butt for all the cool girls jokes and derision. Mattia, who begins attending Alice's school, is in his own world, not mixing with the other boys. A cruel classmate, Viola, realizes Alice is in love with Mattia. Feigning to like the girl, Viola has a surprise in store as she humiliates Alice during her birthday party. Alice's confidence is shattered, and Mattia is unable to be of help.
As years pass, Alice, now a photographer, lures Mattia into accompanying her to Viola's wedding. Mattia and Alice repair to an empty space, avoiding the celebration, where she starts caressing the man she has been in love for so long. As fate has it, Mattia goes to follow his studies to Germany, while Alice by now married and separated seeks information about him with his mother. Mattia, concerned about Alice's welfare, returns for a visit, but he is too horrified to find an unknown Alice, who is clearly in a state of despair about the turn her life has taken. Is it too late for these lovers?
Saverio Costanzo directed as well as collaborated with Mr. Giordano in the adaptation of the text to the screen treatment of the material. The message seems to refer as how the prime numbers relate to these two strange lives that crave to be together, but cannot find happiness in any way they can connect. The staging of the story relies in the use of fog and rain in the key scenes of the film. The story starts slowly, as the viewer feels disoriented, as well as disconnected from the story, but to his credit, Mr. Costanzo, pulls us into the drama of lives wasted and opportunities that escape these souls that have so much to give one another, but never connect, like the prime numbers.
An excellent Alba Rohrwacher keeps giving amazing portrayals in whatever project she graces with her presence. She is an amazing actress who always surprises with her innate intelligence. Equally surprising is the work of Martina Albano, seen as the young Alice. She makes an impression in this film and no doubt she will continue to go to showcase her talent. We enjoyed Vittorio Lomartire as the young Mattia. Luca Marinelli, playing the older Mattia does not have much to do. Isabella Rossellini appears as Mattia's mother in a small, but pivotal role. Aurora Ruffino is perfect as Viola.
The production gets a fabulous look thanks to Fabio Ciancetti camera work. Mike Patton's musical score feels right for all the different eras in the story and the editing of Francesca Calvelli serves the film well. Saverio Costanzo is a talented filmmaker whose work merits a view by fans of the Italian cinema.
Modern Family: Yard Sale (2012)
Getting rid of junk
A good opportunity to clean the house, most people think on a garage sale as the perfect opportunity to get rid of so many things, and get some money in the process. After all, their junk might be a treasure find to the people who flock to these events.
Naturally, for Jay, this is a home invasion he is not ready to put up with. For Phil, parting with a long forgotten bicycle is the discovery of something from his past. Jay's motorcycle proves to be, in Phil's hands a dangerous object.
The other theme of this installment on the series is whether Alex's new boyfriend, Michael, is gay, or not. According to Alex, the boy is straight, but given his mannerisms as well as his tastes, he might be hiding his true nature, something both Cam and Mitch can identify with.
The episode was written by Abraham Higgingbotham, and directed by Gil Mancuso. The cast responds with the usual excellent standard that has made the show the fun it is.
Giochi d'estate (2011)
A camping in the Tuscany shore is the setting of this tightly constructed dramatic comedy. As families gather near the sea in their tents, the children will look to bond with their peers. Nic and Agostino, two city brothers, start their vacation with a sour note as they make fun of a couple of girls and a Chinese kid, who is playing with them. Nic is going through a rough time with his father, a man who is facing a tough economic situation, venting his anger on his long suffering wife, Adriana, whom he beats up repeatedly in front of his two sons. They cringe in fear of the brute father.
The animosity Nic caused the two sisters, suddenly changes as the kids become fast friends. The discovery of a shed near a corn field is the center for the children playing. Their games take a perverse turn, cause in part by what Nic is feeling and because the older girl Marie is suffering. Her mother will not tell her about an absent father she is hoping to meet while on vacation in Italy. Marie discovers the possibility of finding her dad in nearby Porto Santo Stefano, which is on the coast near the camping. Marie is not ready for the terrible secret behind her parents failed marriage.
Nic, who presents a stoic front, making him a tough boy, is a deeply wounded young boy. Watching the abuse his own mother is experiencing, makes him present a different attitude to the situation he is living. As with all vacations, summer draws to an end, leaving Nic, grieving secretly. Marie also has to accept a reality she did not expect. The experience has toughen both young people as they discover their weak sides.
Rolando Colla, the director, clearly demonstrates he understands what make these seemingly happy kids tick. The actions of their older parents resonate deeply within their young hearts. Nic suffering from being helpless to aid his own mother against the blows of his father's fists. Marie, on the other hand, has to deal with wanting to find an absent father,who ironically, is so near,and yet so remote. To his credit, Mr. Colla shows an uncanny sense on how to get extraordinary performances from unprofessional young actors. Armando Condolucci and Fiorella Campanella, playing Nic and Marie give life into them in unimaginable ways.
A pleasant, and unexpected surprise, "Cavalli" turned out to be when it showed recently on an international cable channel. This Italian feature has its heart in its right place. It speaks volumes as one follows the story of two brothers and their love for horses, something that dominated their lives.
We first meet Alessandro and Pietro playing with home made cars in the hills near their home in rural Italy. Their playing shows two brother that love each other as they bond in play and against the figure of their brutish peasant father. Alessandro feels the attraction of the nearby city, something that does not appeal to Pietro, the brother that decides to stay behind tending to his beloved horses.
Alessandro, in the meantime has an easy time with ladies of easy virtue in the local brothel. He makes enemies in the process. Pietro meets and marries a local girl, Veronica, who comes to live at the farm. Alessandro with his wanderlust wants to explore other countries. Both brothers must deal with bad characters that come their way. After being reunited after each brother suffer at the hands of people that want to harm them, Pietro makes the ultimate sacrifice of pointing Alessandro toward the frontier he has always dream of crossing.
An incredible beautiful film by Michele Rho, set in the gorgeous Italian countryside. The movie is based on a Pietro Grossi short story, which lends itself beautiful to the adaptation by the director and Francesco Giacchio. Mr. rho shows a sensibility in dealing with the story and for the contrast between the brothers, their differences and the choices each one makes of hies life. There is not a false moment in the film, with a good pacing as well as excellent work by the two leads, Vinicio Marchioni as Alessandro and Michele Alhaique playing Pietro.
Andrea Locatelli, the cinematographer, catches the beauty of the countryside in vivid colors. Ultimately, the film showcases a new talent in Michele Rho.
Luke has had it with magic. He begs Claire to plead to his father to let him quit doing his tricks around the house. Phil, clearly disappointed, but not trying to show it, goes along with the request, only asking his son to do a last Butler's Escape skit. Luke does it almost effortlessly, while Phil, putting his own costume, cannot manage to get out.
Jay is having a tough time with Gloria's snoring. Not only him, but Manny is also bothered by the loud snores coming from his mother's bedroom. Jay decides to find a solution by pretending to go to San Francisco, but checks into a hotel. He is not prepared for a surprise he was not planning for.
Cam has a new job replacing a music teacher in Manny's and Luke's class. He is not prepared for the reaction of the kids in his class, for they do not appreciate his teaching skills. Meantime, Mitch has to take over his partner's chores with Lily, something that proves to be too much.
Directed by Beth McCarthy Miller, and written by Bill Wrubell, the episode gets things right with all three families. The cast does everything right, resulting in a fun time for the viewer.
Henning Mankell, the notable Swedish author, created one of the finest police detective in Kurt Wallander. Throughout his narrative, Wallander, a taciturn man, fighting his own demons, is at the center of the crimes being committed around the Swedish city of Ystad, and its surrounding area, where all kinds of mysterious incidents bring Kurt, and his police colleagues to solve murders, as well as disappearances, and all kinds of serious affairs in that part of Sweden.
Kenneth Branagh's take on most of the novels showcasing the police detective are being shown in the British version of the books, in contrast with the Swedish staging of some of Mr. Mankell's short stories of recent vintage. Mr. Branagh plays Kurt Wallander, emphasizing the darker side of the man at the center of the story. The actor offers a more cerebral, an darker take on Wallander in sharp contrast with what the Swedish series showed. As played by the wonderful Swedish actor Krister Henriksson, the British counterpart is more enigmatic and more introspective in comparison.
"Firewall" was a page turner, as most of the books were to this viewer. Kurt must solve a puzzling situation in which a man dies tragically one night after visiting the ATM machine in the town square. Connected to this incident are two people who want to create a chaos in financial markets, by creating a panic of worldwide proportions. Involved in the plot is a woman who befriends Kurt, who does not suspect her duplicity. Ironically, the woman, Ella Lindfeldt, gets more emotionally involved with Kurt, in spite of the erratic courtship they briefly share.Added to the action is the slaying of a taxi driver, who ties criminally with a young woman who was victimized by him, something tat gets Wallander occupied while the police is trying to solve the big mystery.
Niail McCormick directs this installment of the series. The adaptation is credited to Richard McBride and Richard Cottan. The suspenseful atmosphere is one of the assets of the television film with authentic Swedish locations. The director gives this chapter the right pacing. Kenneth Brannagh gives an intelligent account of the police detective. The supporting cast shines as an ensemble unity behind the star. Orla Brady makes an attractive Ella Lindfeldt.
Simple question de temps (2012)
Simply Line Renaud
This television film showed on a French cable channel recently. It is a vehicle for its octogenarian character, Laurence Delcourt, a famous pianist, now living her golden years in magnificent style in Cannes, in the French Riviera. Being on her own, she wants to find a compatible lady for company, since she is not an invalid. Unknown to her, there are outside forces willing to have Laurence's immense fortune for themselves.
Masterminding the scheme is Serge, the chauffeur, who has furnished the cellar with spying equipment. He has the solution for what he is planning to do in the person of Vera, a young woman, he tries to have Laurence hire as the companion. Vera, had been involved with Serge, but really in love with Marc, the old lady's estranged nephew. Laurence goes along with the ruse. At heart is the disposition of Laurence's will, handled by Philippe, a devious financial planner.
Directed and written by Henri Helman, the television film is predictable enough. The real excuse for watching is the wonderful Line Renaud, an actress with a long career in her native France. She makes a delightful, and intelligent Laurence Delcourt, a woman that is not easily fooled as she is usually a step ahead of the crooks around her. Yvon Back is perfectly deceitful as the mastermind of the plot. Oliver Minne is seen as Philippe, and the beautiful Romane Portail makes a good Vera.
Recommended for fans of light fare and for the great Line Renaud.
Brighton Rock (2010)
Graham Greene's novel gets another treatment by Rowan Joffe. This new remake glosses the story in ways that pales in comparison with the grittier early version. At the center of the novel was the religion issue that both, the principal character, Pinkie Brown, and the woman he chooses to be his wife, Rose Wilson, felt strongly about. Hell is a dreaded place neither one wants to face.
Pinkie is a remorseless thug who wants to rise among the criminal element operating in Brighton, the seaside resort, where the action takes place. Pinkie is an intense, and ambitious youth hell bent in avenging the death of his mentor, slain by a rival gang headed by the oily Colleoni, a powerful man in the underground. A set of circumstances influence Pinkie in the turn the story takes when he and Rose are photographed by a man at the pier with the man who Pinkie knows is responsible for the death of his friend.
In the background of this version there are two groups, the Rocks and the Mods, two youth factions that meet in Brighton to fight one another, to the consternation of the businesses in town. Ida, who owns a tea shop, had been romantically involved with the man that was murdered; her suspicion falls on Pinkie, realizing he is a ruthless youth making his name among the criminal element. Ida, who employs Rose, realizes her waitress can be easily manipulated because she is weak. The main reason behind Pinkie's marrying Rose is to prevent her from testifying against him.
Casting Sam Riley as Pinkie, changes the novel's tone. It is clear he is much older than an ideal man to portray the man at the center of the story. Not that Mr. Riley, a wonderful actor, is not up to task, but comparisons with the previous Pinkie of Richard Attenborough, he pales in contrast. Andrea Riseborough makes a mousy Rose and the excellent Helen Mirren is perfect as Ida. The supporting cast includes John Hurt and Andy Serkis among the players.
The Vow (2012)
The tragic accident of a vibrant young woman, at the center of this story, is the basis of "The Vow", a dramady which is an account of what really happened to Paige, a sculptor, who sees her life changing in front of her eyes, without a clue as to what her situation was like in the time that preceded the horrible crash in which she practically loses her recent memory.
Paige met Leo, the man that fell hard for her. When he asked her to marry him, she accepts immediately, after all, Leo has shown a devotion and love like the one Paige has never experienced in her young life. It is clear both meant to be together for life. The accident changes everything. A layer of Paige's memory is erased from her mind and there is no way to get it back. Leo, who refuses to give up, continues to do everything in his power to get back to normal.
Many aspects of Paige's life are unknown to Leo, as she never told him anything about her family. All that comes to a shocking end as Leo meets his wife's wealthy, and influential parents. It is clear she comes from a different world. It is because of her father's manipulation, and the revelation of a horrible secret that Paige decides to get out of her surroundings, understanding, perhaps, Leo had always be true to her.
Directed by Michael Sucsy, the film is pleasant to the eye, made better by the presence of two handsome performers, Rachel McAdams, and Chaning Tatum, who make an attractive couple. The director goes for "cute", and thanks to the excellent team behind the high gloss production, succeeds in giving it the right look to the film.
La montaña rusa (2012)
Ada, a violinist with a string quartet, is an unfulfilled woman. She has not had an orgasm in her life, and wonders what it would be like to experience one. Going back to her early school days, when she was a popular girl with a lot of friends, now finds herself as an adult longing for that type of experience. She gets not one, but two opportunities to find out, when she runs into Luis, a former classmate, now a popular television host. Luis takes her to a sex club where "live performances" by a couple on stage, intrigues her. Another act by a clown reveals another childhood friend, Lorenzo, who is making ends meet working as a clown. Will Ada finally get to act on her wild imagination? Well, yes, and no!
The comedy, directed by Emilio Martinez Lazaro, who co-wrote the screenplay with Daniela Fejerman, goes for the easy laugh, targeting it to a probably local audience that goes for this kind of entertainment. The premise does not ring true from beginning to end. Veronica Sanchez, who plays Ada, has some good moments. The Lorenzo of Ernesto Alterio does not ring true. Added to that, his excessive makeup, highlighted by black eyeliner, would probably be a turn off for any prospective bed mates. Alberto San Juan does what he can with a role that does not add much to his career. Best of all, Luis Bermejo seen as the neighbor who is shocked by the noise coming out of the apartment across the hall. No wonder he repairs to the kitchen to bake his pastries.
Arne Dahl: Misterioso (2011)
Thelonious Monk plays Misterioso
A botched bank robbery sets the pace for this Swedish mini series. Ultimately, this event will play largely in the thriller. Based on a novel by Arne Dahl, "Misterioso"' which we had read some time ago. The two part series is an adaptation of the book shown recently on cable. The creators of this police drama were probably capitalizing in the newly popular "black novel" genre.
At the center of the story is Paul Hjelm, a detective who decides to act on his instinct, rather than with the guide lines set by the department. Paul walked into a hostage situation wounding the desperate African immigrant who stands to be deported. Knowing his job in the police department is in jeopardy, Paul is surprised when he is recruited by Jenny Hultin to participate in the team she has put together to investigate the slaying of several prominent business executives by an unknown killer.
To make matters worse, Paul's own problems at home with his wife, get even more complicated by the long hours he has to work trying yo unravel the mystery behind the murders. The team zeroes in the Russian mafia, as the ones responsible for the crimes, which operate out of Talinn, Estonia, and is muscling their way into the distribution of adulterated liquor that finds its way to most drinking places. One of the detectives, Chavez, is responsible for identifying the tune being played at one of the murder scenes. It is a rare piece played by legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. Paul gets lucky in correctly pinpointing the real culprit, going after the perpetrator.
Directed by Harald Hamrell, the series involves the viewer in surprising ways. The adaptation is credited to Cecilia and Rolf Borjlind, who expanded on the original Arne Dahl's text. The assembled cast does a credible job for director Hamrell. As an ensemble piece, everyone gets a chance to shine. Trolle Davidson, the cinematographer captures in excellent images the mood of the story.
Madrid, 1987 (2011)
Naked in the bathroom
David Trueba, like most of his Spanish fellow directors, is a man with lots of ideas, which unfortunately rely on gimmicks to present this basically two character film that feels claustrophobic, not only in its setting, which takes place in a locked bathroom where a couple cannot escape from. The film is hermetic in form, relying on the fact that the couple is trapped inside a room with no possible solution for getting out of their predicament.
Miguel, a respected journalist, is admired by a young Angela, who wants to write and figures she can create an interest in the older man, whose only interest, plain and simple, is to have sex with the luscious woman. As the two get trapped, one thing comes out clear, Angela, with her young, supple body, stands in stark contrast against the aging Miguel, whose aging body is a turn off for Angela.
Mr. Trueba gives the best lines to Miguel, while poor Angela has nothing to show but her charms. The director makes sure his male star, Jose Sacristan is only photographed from the chest up, hiding his manhood from indiscreet exposure, but Maria Valverde has the difficult task of being a vulnerable and naked Angela.
When all is said and done, there is nothing but blah, blah, blah.
No et moi (2010)
Lou, a good student at school, is quite concerned about the homeless people she encounters all over Paris. She loves hanging out in the Gare Austerlitz, where she observes an enigmatic young woman who attracts her attention. She has written essays for her class, and with the encouragement of her Lycee teacher she decides to explore a world that is alien to her. Coming from a household in which her mother suffers from depression, getting to know Nora, who prefers to be called "No" presents a challenge for this middle class girl.
As it turns out, No, is at first flattered and confused by Lou, a girl so different from her, a good source for getting a drink, or a meal when she is down and out. Lou pleads with her parents to let her friend move with them. The parents are reluctant, at first, but decide to go along. Lou secretly watches Lucas, a classmate, who is popular with girls. He is a the product of divorced parents living alone in a huge apartment. With the arrival of No, Lucas takes an interest in Lou. Things go bad after No shows she is heavily involved with drugs and the kind of life her friend Lou gets to know through her, but realizes she does not fit in that sordid world.
Zabou Breitman, the director, shows her immense talent in taking us to uncharted territory in this story which involves two opposite characters that meet under extenuating circumstances. On the one hand we have a good soul, Lou who shows an extreme amount of compassion for those that are down on their luck, and juxtaposes her to the jaded No, who is beyond help. The path No has taken by living freely and not making an effort to take the wonderful opportunity Lou offers her. Ms. Breitman, who co-wrote the adaptation of a novel by Delphine De Vigan, with Agnes De Sacy, also participates in the film as the mother of Lou. She gets intense performances from the sweet Nina Rodriguez, seen as Lou as well as Julie-Marie Parmentier, playing the hard edged No. Antonin Chalon returns to work with a director he has been closely associated with.
La suerte en tus manos (2012)
Uriel Cohen, a divorced father of two children, is addicted to playing poker on line. His life seems to be on track, being the owner of a financial firm in Buenos Aires. He has come to the realization he will not like to have more children. For that, he needs to consult his doctor, who suggests he goes to another city, Rosario for a confidential procedure. He is lucky in finding a casino where he can enjoy playing poker. Unknown to him, as chance would have it, he meets an old flame, Gloria, who is also staying at his hotel. Remembering the good times he shared with Gloria, he realizes he cannot have intimate contact with a woman he once loved. Gloria is confused by what she feels is a rejection.
The lovers will come together again later on in Buenos Aires. By then, Uriel and Gloria decide to bring romance into their relationship, something both want. Unfortunately, Uriel had lied about his profession to Gloria, thinking a more glamorous job in the local music business will be nicer. The ruse backfires on Uriel, as Gloria finds out what her lover really does for a living, and to Uriel's amazement, she could not care less.
The film, a romantic comedy by noted director Daniel Burman, marks a change of pace for this talented filmmaker. Mr. Burman goes for a comedy that does not compare with his previous work. There are aspects of the story that ring false as he tries to inject cuteness to the story, especially in meeting a rabbi who is a gambler himself, who does not seem to find anything wrong with Uriel's gambling. The way Mr. Burman ends the film appears to be a cop out when Uriel's young son is allowed to play with a band of Hasidic Jews in front of a large crowd. The screenplay was a collaboration with Sergio Dubkovsky. And where the first half of the story showed promise, it does not keep the momentum.
Singer turned actor Jorge Drexler does what he can, but he is not in the same league as Daniel Hendler, an actor long associated with the director. Valeria Bertuccelli,who is seen as Gloria, continues to make an impression. Norma Aleandro, one of Argentina's best actresses, is relegated to a minor, unimportant role.
Mozzarella Stories (2011)
The Chinese invasion in all parts of the world is evident. Italy has not been spared, as most of Europe is experiencing the effects of a different culture which is trying to assimilate to the new markets. At the center of the story is Ciccio, a man who produces mozzarella cheese.to his amazement, there is a Chinese version of the product that, when closely examined is not as bad, as Ciccio believes it is.
Ciccio, a powerful figure in the Caserta region, has been producing a product that is typical Italian, now he must deal with a powerful enemy that wants his business. His daughter Sofi is married to Totone, a good for nothing singer, whose fame is just a memory. There are other sinister characters lurking everywhere. To complicate things, Totone is in deep trouble because money he owes. Eventually, things get out of hand, as everyone wants a piece of Ciccio's cheese making business, but only Sofi will prevail in getting the business.
An Italian feature conceived by Edoardo De Angelis. The problem with the film is that it plays as a comedy with so few laughs, it might have been better as a drama because the murky elements in the story. The film changes directions toward the end of the story. Perhaps the film made more sense to Italian audiences, but something is lacking to make viewers enjoy it more. Best thing in the picture is Giampaolo Fabrizio, seen as Ciccio. Lovely Luisa Ranieri appears as Sofi. The great actor Luca Zingaretti is totally wasted. American actress Aida Turturro shows up as Autilia, a singer.