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Not for all tastes
20 June 2005
After a promising short film ("Hongos") and an excellent feature length debut ("Piedras"), director-writer Ramón Salazar surprises all with "20 centímetros", a compelling musical which won't leave anyone indifferent.

Certainly this is not for all tastes. Instead of taking the easy way out of mixing musical and comedy, Salazar chooses drama and depicts the sub-world of prostitution with such a raw perspective that many people felt extremely uncomfortable during the film. "20 centímetros" is, after all, the love child of Von Trier's "Dancer in the dark" and early Almodóvar. As I said, not for all tastes.

Mónica Cervera, who was in Salazar's previous directorial efforts, is the star of the film, and she really shines in her one-woman-show. She sings her heart out and gives a terrific performance as Marieta, the transvestite hooker who dreams musical sequences in which she is the sole star. Other cast members include Lola Dueñas, Rossy de Palma and Najwa Nimri in brief roles, and also Pilar Bardem in a cameo. Unknowns Concha Galán and Miguel O'Dogherty play pivotal roles in this eclectic musical. Pablo Puyol, Marieta's leading man, plays Reponedor, a simpleton, gracefully and shows that he could surprise everybody if he's given the right chance.

What I liked most were the musical numbers, though. Some of them are extremely effective in narrative terms "Parole, parole, parole", and others are so well made that it doesn't matter if they don't add anything story-wise ("Quiero ser santa" is a prodigy of make-up, scenery and costume). My favorite, however, is the one in which Marieta and Reponedor sing a song each at the same time.

If you are willing for something new give "20 centímetros" a chance, specially if you like musicals and you are not afraid to watch some of the most marginal strata of our society. Also, watch it for the great performance of Mónica Cervera, an actress that could be huge in the future.
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Queens (2005)
Gómez Pereira, back to top form
10 April 2005
Manuel Gómez Pereira was one of the finest Spanish directors in the 90's, with such comedies as "Boca a Boca" or "El Amor Perjudica Seriamente la Salud". His latest projects, however, tanked ("Off Key" was a failure both economically and artistically) or simply didn't deliver ("Cosas que Hacen que la Vida Valga la Pena" was plain and average).

"Reinas" is Pereira's return to top form, with a clever and engaging plot which uses the celebration of the first gay wedding in Spain as a macguffin to tell the story of six gay men who are about to marry and their parents, especially their mothers. The film avoids clichés in an intelligent way, so the gay sons are portrayed as people from different social strata and conditions. The actors also avoid the affected mannerisms with which gays are often portrayed in cinema. Special mention to Gustavo Salmerón in a fine performance, although the rest are also very good.

However, the film belongs to the mothers. They are in fact the "queens" the title refers to. Pereira has been lucky enough to assemble a bunch of our greatest actresses: Carmen Maura, Marisa Paredes, Mercedes Sampietro and Verónica Forqué. Betiana Blum, an unknown Argentinean actress, is, however, the standout with her over-the-top character, Ofelia.

The story is very nice plot-wise and treats gay love stories in the same way it treats straight love stories. The screenplay manages a few laughs from the audience, and it is so action-packed that you never loose your attention from the film. The only flaw I can find is that it ends so abruptly that some of the story lines are left unexplained and some character arcs end up being implausible.

In any case, I found the film highly satisfying and very entertaining, so if you like spending two hours with a good comedy you won't feel disappointed.

Overall rating: 8/10
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Entertaining soccer comedy
5 April 2005
After two breakthrough performances in "Días de fútbol" and TV's "Aquí no hay quien viva", Fernando Tejero lands his first leading role in yet another soccer comedy. He gracefully passes the test and proves that he can successfully carry a movie, but maybe he should start looking for different kinds of characters if he doesn't want to be typecast.

In "El penalti más largo del mundo" he plays Fernando, a complete loser who suddenly has to stand in for the goalkeeper in the decisive match that can grant his team the victory in the local league. The final penalty is postponed for a week, during which the spectators witness the events happening to the substitute goalkeeper.

Those looking for a few laughs will not feel disappointed by this light comedy, which also boasts excellent performances by María Botto, Carlos Kaniowsky, or Enrique Villén. Benito Sagredo is a discovery here as the titular goalie, while Marta Larralde shows that she is no longer a promising actress but a fully skilled performer. However, I had the impression that the writers had lost a great opportunity to get deeper into the social aspects surrounding the character. After all, the film deals with unemployment, racism, and life in a working-class without getting any deeper into the topics. Thus, the film would have offered another layer to the film's topic, making it a lot more interesting.

In any case, this is a perfectly decent movie for those who want to have a good time watching a genuinely Spanish comedy that offers sheer entertainment and nothing else.
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Extremely watchable
29 March 2005
Four actors in a state of grace, a simple yet clever screenplay and an engaging story make of "El juego de la verdad" an extremely watchable movie. With only six characters and their relationships to play with, Álvaro Fernández Armero achieves his best film so far in the shape of an intelligent and entertaining comedy.

Tristán Ulloa is charming as the leading character, Natalia Verbeke has never been so sexy, and Oscar Jaenada plays winningly against type. But the heart and soul of the film is María Esteve, whose personal acting skills make all her performances appealing and unaffected. In this case she is the highlight of the movie as Lea, the protagonist's troubled girlfriend.

I don't think anybody will feel disappointed with "El juego de la verdad". If you're looking for a fairly entertaining movie and four great performances by four great actors, this is your film.

Overall rating: 7/10
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Easy to watch, easy to forget
28 March 2005
Victoria Abril is probably one of the best actresses in Spanish cinema, and has provided plenty of unforgettable performances in the past ("Amantes", "Nadie hablará de nosotras cuando hayamos muerto" or "Átame", to name just a few), but lately she seems unable to find worthy projects.

"Escuela de seducción" is an acceptable comedy which deals, for the umpteenth time, with the war of the sexes using misunderstandings and fake personalities as dramatic resources. The premise is by no means original, but this is something most films lack nowadays, and therefore the result could have been more than acceptable.

However, the film, instead of focusing on delivering an entertaining screwball comedy, seems to focus more on making the most unapologetic publicity ever seen in recent cinema (a brand of yogurt is not only the name of a character but also a key gag)and on inserting pointless video-clips (two Alejandro Sanz songs for no reason). Thus, the aim of the story falls somewhere along the tracks leaving the viewers unsatisfied.

In any case, I would like to remark that there is an extremely moving subplot in which an excellent Petra Martínez (also seen in Almodóvar's "La mala educación") shows once more that she can shine even with the smallest of characters. Her great skill certainly helps to raise the level of this comedy.

"Escuela de seducción" is a lot like the yogurt it advertises: it's smooth, nice and easy to swallow. It's a shame this film is also very easy to forget.
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Las cerezas del cementerio (2005 TV Movie)
Good adaptation with a blatant case of miscasting
21 March 2005
Lately Spanish public television has been making a series of TV-movies and mini-series which adapt Blasco Ibáñez's most popular books into the small screen. Now, as it seems, they've started adapting other well known writers from the same region, in this case Gabriel Miró. Whereas "Arroz y tartana" and some others have turned out to be quite good, others have ended up being quite a disappointment.

Plot-wise, "Las cerezas del cementerio" is one of the most interesting books by Gabriel Miró, so the TV adaptation was, in principle, quite promising. First cast rumors said that Cecilia Roth was to play the role of Beatriz, the beautiful and captivating woman who romances the young Félix Valdivia. For any unexplained reason, Concha Velasco landed the role and completely ruined the movie for me.

To be fair, Concha Velasco is a legend in Spanish TV, cinema and theater and has been very good in a great variety of roles. But we should not forget that Beatriz is supposed to be a woman in her forties whose beauty can drive a young man crazy. Roth, at 48, would have been perfect for the role, while Velasco, at 65, is a blatant case of miscasting. Her love scenes with Félix Gómez were, to say the least, disturbing, and instead of his lover she looked more like his granny.

Miscasting aside, Velasco delivers an acceptable performance and seems to perfectly understand the character. Félix Gómez plays the young Félix Valdivia with enthusiasm, while supporting players like Elisa Matilla, Empar Ferrer or Álvaro de Luna constitute the best part of the film. As usual in this kind of adaptations, the technical aspects are brilliant.

This could have been really good, but it has turned to be a vanity project for Velasco. However, I still give it a 6/10.
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Lobos (2005)
Canceled after only five episodes
21 March 2005
Manuel Lobo (Sancho Gracia) is a veteran lawyer who is also the father of a judge (Cayetana Guillén Cuervo), a forensic surgeon (Mar Regueras) and a somewhat lost young woman (Myriam Gallego). Tribunals and the Lobo family house were equally important plot-wise, so that it was more than a mere courtroom drama. Thus, we witnessed the events happening to this unlikely family as well as their professional activities.

All leading actors were great, and so were most of the members of the supporting cast (Sergio Peris Mencheta, Miguel Ángel Solá and Alberto Jiménez were specially remarkable). It was cleverly written, beautifully shot and extremely well directed. However, this show did not manage to find its own audience as soon as other shows do, and Antena 3 canceled it after only five episodes.

This is something common in Spanish TV lately, that TV channels are not patient enough so that to leave TV shows build their audiences slowly. Not all successful TV series were huge hits at the beginning, but they had to wait a little in order to let word of mouth spread. This was not the case with Lobos, and all its followers were left clueless about how the series might have ended.
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What a discovery!
25 February 2005
With a minimal budget, a running time of eight minutes and a great amount of imagination, Nacho Vigalondo has achieved one of the most moving shorts I've ever seen. The subtlety of the screenplay is really remarkable, since it doesn't give the ending away until the very last moment.

Don't let anybody tell you what the short is about, since you'll be able to enjoy it a lot more. Nacho Vigalondo is the discovery of the year for his one-man show: directing, writing and acting in this formidable short is the most remarkable effort I've seen in years. Also pay attention to the performance of Marta Belenguer, her reaction shots are incredible.

Overall rating: 8/10
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Better than Erin Brockovich
29 December 2004
"La suerte dormida" is the impressive directorial debut of Angeles González-Sinde, one of our greatest screenwriters. Based loosely on true events, it tells the quest of a lawyer who fights a big corporation to clear the accidental death of a miner. At times I was reminded of "Erin Brockovich", but this is certainly better and more realistic.

Adriana Ozores has the gift of making her acting look extremely easy, and her role here is no exception. That's why some people think she repeats herself constantly, but she has shown a great variety of performances in her career. In this case, she is excellent as ever as a grief-ridden widow who finds a new hope in her life by getting involved in this case and in a relationship with a younger man. The supporting cast boasts great performances by Félix Gómez, José Soriano and Carlos Kaniowski.

If you feel like watching a strong drama, this is highly recommended. However, expect no big twists like in most American courtroom dramas, this is of the realistic kind. Also watch it for the great performances by a solid cast.

Overall rating: 7/10
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La fiesta (2003)
Inoffensive fun
27 December 2004
Some people are apparently amazed by the fact that this film cost little more than 6,000 euros, but I'd say it looks exactly like a film with such a budget. However, it's good to see how these filmmakers came from nowhere and managed a moderate success with their movie.

The plot is nothing special, it's obviously inspired in American teenage films like "American Pie", but the filmmakers prefer to quote Kevin Smith as their source of inspiration. The eventual result is quite fun indeed, but it's also easily forgotten. Some of the performers are shockingly bad, and so obviously amateur. Only Alexandra Jiménez managed to call my attention playing Trini, a wannabe actress who works in a supermarket.

As a whole, I'd say I prefer to watch this instead of the latest American no-brainer, but Spanish cinema has much more to offer than "La fiesta". However, and just for the sake of having a good time watching it, I give it a 6/10.
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21 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Pocholo and Borjamari were the kings of the dance floor back in the eighties, and for some unexplained reason, they decided to remain the same for ever. Thus, they are now nearly forty and still live with their parents, go to university and lead a teenager's life. If they were admired in the eighties, now they are ridiculed by everyone, including their cousin Pelayo, a former geek and now a super famous snowboarder-singer.

At one point they meet Paloma, their female equivalent (a charming Pilar Castro, clearly the best part of the film), and the three of them start a quest for a surprise concert by their favorite pop group, which split more than ten years ago.

Such a premise is packed with gags, some of which are very good but most of which are unreasonably bad. The original idea of two people who have refused to grow up and have remained the same for twenty years is promising, but eventually the writers took the easy way of the toilet jokes instead of aiming for a more sophisticated type of comedy.

Still, some of the performances are quite good, and Javier Gutiérrez is intermittently endearing as Pocholo. Santiago Segura, a formerly respected actor and director, hasn't made a decent film for ages and continues his path here playing Borjamari.

Overall rating: 5/10
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A feel-good comedy that fails to deliver
27 November 2004
Two lonely people meet and unexpectedly get involved in the strangest of love relationships. Both of them are burdened by complicated sentimental baggage, which won't make their love story precisely easy. This is basically the plot of every romantic comedy, and "Cosas que hacen que la vida valga la pena" is no exception.

Considering that this is a genre I particularly like, the premise is not as important as the film's atmosphere, the performances of the leading couple and the feelgood effect of the compulsory happy ending. In this case "Cosas que hacen que la vida valga la pena" works in some of these aspects, but fails to deliver in some others.

To put things straight, the best part of the movie is the charming leading couple. Ana Belén, who should be working more, is especially remarkable in her quirky turn as Hortensia, while Eduard Fernández (Jorge) keeps up with her for most of the time. Their performances might be irregular at times, but they make such a great couple that any possible flaw is easily forgotten.

Although the quality of the film is above standard, I could not fail to feel that something had gone wrong with this. I was particularly disappointed by the screenplay, which is generally the best part of Gómez Pereira's comedies. For one thing, character archs are mostly implausible and difficult to explain. Even with the excessive use of voice-over, the viewer fails to sympathize with the characters and understand their decisions. Besides, the plot centers itself so much on the leading couple that the great supporting cast (María Pujalte, Carlos Kaniowski and specially José Sacristán) are left with little more than a few scenes each. Maybe focusing a little on the relationship between Jorge and his father would have helped make the character more real.

I wouldn't like to finish my comment without mentioning the outstanding soundtrack, which features a few of the best Spanish songs ("Noches de bohemia" and "Princesa", for example) and a nice original song performed by Pasión Vega.

In a nutshell, this is a feel-good movie that has a little for everybody, but specially for those who love every kind of romantic comedies.

Overall rating: 6/10
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El Lobo (2004)
Our very own political thriller
20 November 2004
Although political thrillers are habitual in American cinema, Spanish cinema has been less inclined to translate our past and present conflicts into film. The conflict with Basque separatist group ETA has been depicted a bunch of times in the last few decades, but very seldom as acutely as Miguel Courtois does with "El Lobo".

Based on the true story of a Basque man who managed to reach ETA's highest leaders undercover, the film presents a poignant vision of the Basque conflict which is neither black nor white. This has so many shades and gray areas that the viewer has no other option than to give it second thoughts.

Eduardo Noriega has proved himself as a worthy leading man in the past, and his Basque accent here is more than acceptable. The supporting cast benefits from a few great actors playing bit parts (Roger Pera, Saturnino García...) but many of the important supporting characters are clichéd or underwritten (what can Silvia Abascal do with her character?).

The writing is brave and raises important questions, which is a point in favor. However, they could have avoided a few stereotypes with some advise from just anyone familiar with the Basque Country. In any case, this is a worthy film and worth watching if only for the value of the questions it raises.
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Look at Me (2004)
Beautifully written ensemble drama
7 November 2004
Lolita (the very promising Marilou Berry) is a somewhat disoriented young girl who has yet to learn to struggle with the difficulties of adult life. She feels burdened by her physical appearance (the eternal cliché of the fat girl) and by his father's fame (he is a well-known writer and editor). Truth is that she is thoroughly ignored by him in whatever she does, and this relationship will mark her attitude towards life and people.

Director-writer Agnès Jaoui shines in the role of Lolita's singing teacher and the wife of a struggling writer. She is brilliant in all her scenes, but specially remarkable is her performance in the party she attends with Lolita. Virginie Desarnauts is also excellent as Lolita's young stepmother and there's also a charming turn by Keine Bouhiza as Lolita's suitor. The greatest strength of the film, however, is its screenplay, deservingly awarded in Cannes. Jaoui and Bacri seem to have a gift for writing conversations, and they show to be at her best in "Come une image".

This film will probably suffer from comparisons with "Le gout des autres", the previous film by Agnès Jaoui and its superior. Which, incidentally, does not mean that this film is not really good. In fact, it has so many brilliant moments (especially towards the end of the film) that makes up for the few clichés and slight flaws in pacing.

Overall rating: 8/10
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Outstanding black comedy
1 November 2004
After his latest experiment with new genres (no less than a western) with "800 balas", Álex de la Iglesia goes back to his habitual black comedies and proves he is still in top form. "Crimen ferpecto" is probably his most accomplished film so far, and surely the funniest.

Looking back at his oeuvre, there are very good films ("La comunidad" is still his best) but also average ones ("Muertos de risa" had its edge, but was pointless). "Crimen ferpecto" is the deserving follow-up to "La Comunidad", after the failure of "800 balas", and keeps showing the evolution of the director/writer towards creative maturity.

Guillermo Toledo plays Rafael, de la Iglesia's best leading male character so far. He is at his best playing this womanizer in trouble, elegant, seductive and utterly charming. He is accompanied by Mónica Cervera, who will certainly break through in this film after his impressive turn as a retarded young woman in "Piedras". She plays the wicked witch of the men's department, ugly, manipulative, evil but yet a character one can sympathize with.

The high point of this comedy is certainly the part in which the couple visits the girl's family (Gracia Olayo is brilliant in a bit part as Lourdes' mother), the audience could hardly stop laughing. The rest of the footage combines lighter comedy, dark comedy, thriller and even a little share of action.

It's a shame, however, that I could not be pleased by the ending. It's difficult to find a satisfying ending when one has sympathized with both Rafael and Lourdes, who both have played the roles of "good" and "bad" in turns. Eventually both of them get what they deserve, but is life really like that? I expected an edgier ending, but still appreciated "Crimen ferpecto" as one of the best comedies of the year.

Overall rating: 8/10
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Periodistas (1998–2002)
High quality writing, directing and acting
30 October 2004
Although I normally try to skip generalizations, I would not doubt to say that "Periodistas" is one of the best Spanish TV-Series ever. I was an avid viewer at the time it was broadcast, and now that it's finished I miss it so much. New series have come and gone, but I still have fond memories of this outstanding series that portrayed the lives of the staff of a fictional newspaper.

Brilliantly written, directed and acted, "Periodistas" suffered mostly from pivotal cast members gradually abandoning the series to pursue a successful career in cinema or theatre. Thus, Amparo Larrañaga, José Coronado, Pepón Nieto, Joel Joan, María Pujalte and Esther Arroyo all abandoned the series, leaving just a few of the original cast members in the last season. Great performances from Alicia Borrachero or Alex Angulo still maintained the high standards of the series, but the heart and soul of the series was lost when José Coronado left. Judging from his latter choices (both "Código fuego" and "Los 80" were failures), maybe he could have stayed for a little longer.

In any case, "Periodistas" always managed to entertain audiences with high quality writing, directing and acting. Clearly an example to be followed by many recent TV-series.

Overall rating: 9/10
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El 7º día (2004)
Based on true events
30 October 2004
Carlos Saura has been one of our finest directors for almost five decades, and, after a bunch of irregular films in the nineties, returns in top form with "El séptimo día". Based on the tragic true events happening in 1992 in Spain, the film captures the essence of the maddening atmosphere that gave way to the slaughter of Puerto Hurraco.

In Spain there is little tradition of portraying real-life events in film. Writers Loriga and Saura were actually heavily criticized by some, as if their film would bring back the painful memories that most people had chosen to forget. However, their film portrays the slaughter and the events that led to it with gusto and with no sign of sensationalism.

In fact, a great part of the film is devoted to depict the summer romance of a young girl (Yohana Cobo, what a discovery) and a lifeguard (Oriol Vila, another breakthrough). Thus, the murderers (outstanding Juan Diego, José Luis Gómez, Victoria Abril and Ana Wagener) are relegated to a secondary subplot for almost half of the film.

Saura managed to assemble one of the greatest casts of the last few years. Apart from the aforementioned, José García, Eulalia Ramón, Carlos Hipólito and, in bit parts, Elia Galera, Juan Sanz and Carlos Kaniowski are worth mentioning for their excellent work in "El séptimo día".

The best: the cast and the good taste in filming a real-life tragedy. The worst: that some people criticized it before they had even seen it. They should not forget that we are bound to repeat our history if we choose to forget it.
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Hospital Central (2000–2012)
It gets better with time
29 October 2004
I confess I have not been an avid "Hospital Central" watcher until pretty recently. Until then I had been more attracted to the offerings of rival channels, but I eventually decided to give it a try.

Now, as episodes go by, I only regret having missed almost three years and six seasons of this great series. Besides, it keeps getting better and better with time, a thing one can say about very few TV series today. The similarities between this and "ER" are undeniable, but only on the surface. It might have followed the footsteps of its American counterpart at the beginning, but soon it gained its own place and its own personality.

Actors have come and gone, but they have been well replaced by great actors. It's impossible to name all the great actors that have impressed me all over the seasons, but I'd say Jordi Rebellón, Rosa Mariscal, Amaia Lizarralde and Alicia Borrachero have been my all-time favourites. The supporting and guest cast is also outstanding, and it's a joy to watch our veteran and forgotten actors appear in episodes even if it's only for a few minutes.

Overall rating: 8/10
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Comedy and mystery in Barcelona
23 October 2004
Pablo Tusset's novel "Lo mejor que le puede pasar a un cruasán" was an unexpected hit at the time of publishing. I read it from cover to cover in a long journey by train, and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I was really looking forward to the big screen adaptation. When I heard the first casting news, I pleasantly discovered that the main character was to be played by Pablo Carbonell, who seemed to have been born to play Pablo Miralles. José Coronado, Marta Belaustegui and Nathalie Seseña were also the ideal actors to play their characters.

So I had high expectations towards this movie, and I have to say that most of them were met by Mir's adaptation. Of course I liked the book more, but that's something usually happens with book-to-film adaptations. The film managed to capture the essence of Tusset's novel, but most of the humor and the complexity of the mystery plot were lost somewhere in between the book and the script. Still a passable comedy/mystery movie, it does not reach the high quality of the original. Pablo Carbonell and the rest of the cast do their best with their characters, José Coronado being specially remarkable as the main character's brother. If Spanish cinema were more keen on genre movies, Coronado might well be our very own action hero, judging from his scenes in this one.

If you're open for a few laughs you probably won't regret watching "Lo mejor que le puede pasar a un cruasán", but I would really recommend to read the book too.

Overall rating: 6/10
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Bi eta bat (1991– )
A classic of Basque TV
17 October 2004
Based loosely on American sitcom "Three's company", "Bi eta bat" tells the story of two young women who share their apartment with Joselontxo, the scruffiest of boys. Rather than basing all the gags on sexual double entendre as in its predecessor, "Bi eta bat" acts like a sort of precursor to "Friends" with a lighter yet funnier sense of humor.

José Ramón Soroiz, Elena Irureta and Ane Gabarain are the perfect comic trio, who would later team up in "Jaun ta jabe", yet another great sitcom for Basque TV. This series was a great success at the time of its release, and it's a personal favorite of mine. A model to follow to sitcoms everywhere, I hope they rerun it soon.

Overall rating: 9/10
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Hipnos (2004)
Well-filmed thriller
14 October 2004
In the last few years Spanish cinema has witnessed the proliferation of a series of new directors who devote their careers to horror films and thrillers. While some of them have been quite irregular, others (specially Jaume Balagueró) have provided a new insight to the concept of Spanish thrillers. David Carreras, in his debut film, has shown a very promising skill as a director and screenwriter.

Technically outstanding, "Hipnos" will make you bite your nails with only a few hints of blood and with no need of psychopaths or ghosts. While most thrillers are ruined by iffy endings, "Hipnos" is rounded by an acceptably believable third act. It could certainly have been better, but it should be praised by its value in technical aspects and storyline.
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Nostalgic portrait of Spanish post-war era
2 October 2004
Garci's "Tiovivo c. 1950" could be considered as a deserving heir to Camus' "La Comena", based on Camilo José Cela's marvelous novel. As its predecessor, "Tiovivo" has virtually no plot, and limits itself to representing the lives of a bunch of people in the Madrid of the post-war era.

The cast is simply impressive, it looks like just any actor who was available was summoned by Garci to star in his film. However, we would have liked to see a bit more of some actors who appear in little more than glorified cameos (Fernando Fernán Gómez, Ana Fernández or Beatriz Rico, to name just a few). There are some extremely fine performances from the likes of Alfredo Landa, Tina Sáinz, Andrea Tenuta or, surprisingly enough, Elsa Pataky and Francis Lorenzo. All of them make the most of their bit parts in this ensemble piece, but the heart and soul of the picture is Aurora Bautista, who plays a destitute woman who sells religious stamps.

Taking into account that the movie has virtually no plot, there is no apparent reason to make a two-hour-and-a-half movie. There are so many great stories, but I couldn't help to wonder whether the film would have benefited if Garci had kept a few of them for a further project. The eventual result is overlong, and definitely not as good as "You're the one" or "Historia de un beso", but it is still worth a watch if only for the great performances.

Overall rating: 7/10
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Los 80 (2004)
Nothing special
27 September 2004
"Los 80" was a highly anticipated series at the time of its initial release due to the strong publicity campaign that preceded it. On the other hand, great actors such as José Coronado and Aitana Sánchez Gijón were in it, so what could go wrong?

It's not that the series is bad, in fact it is nearly perfect technically, but it lacks the charm and charisma of other similar "nostalgic" series (American "Wonder years" or Spanish "Cuéntame" to name two clear examples). Neither Coronado and Sanchez Gijón nor Félix Gómez and Bea Segura work as screen couples, so the romantic subplots are somewhat affected and definitely unbelievable.

As usual with Spanish series, the supporting cast is a delight to watch. In this case it is specially remarkable, since most of them are relative unknowns (Marisol Membrillo, Lilian Caro, Antonio de la Torre).

It is a shame this series turned out to be such a disappointment, since I really wanted this to be good. Maybe it will get better with time, but they should really shift the focus from the uninteresting leading characters and boost the supporting ones.

Overall rating: 6/10
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De moda (2004–2005)
Mildly entertaining
27 September 2004
"De moda" is quite an entertaining series that portrays the lives of a bunch of people who work in a boutique. The show's greatest attraction is the cast, including such fine actors as Mar Regueras or Diego Martín, but they are unable to compensate the many flaws in the script and even in the basic premise of the series.

To start with, the series is pretty unrealistic, and anyone even remotely familiar with the way shops work can notice that six shop assistants and a manager are quite a large staff for a small store. Besides, do they ever sell anything? The plot concentrates so much in the romantic concerns of the characters that it fails to portray the ordinary situations that make these kind of series so likable. The plot is nevertheless engaging enough, but the dialogue is often corny and affected.

In a nutshell, this is a fairly engaging series but it comes nowhere near the quality of other current Spanish series.
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Two Much (1995)
4 September 2004
After winning a Best Foreign Film Oscar for "Belle Epoque", Fernando Trueba's follow up was this comedy starring Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith. It was not the first time that Trueba had directed a picture in English with English-speaking actors ("El sueño del mono loco" starring Miranda Richardson and Jeff Goldblum was a critical success) but "Two much" seems to have gone out of his hands.

It might have looked good in the script, a comedy that captures the essence of the comedies from the 50's, but the eventual result is quite disappointing. The three leading actors (Banderas, Griffith and Daryl Hannah) have been much better almost elsewhere, and some of the jokes and gags are kind of cheesy. However, a superb supporting cast helps to save the show. Joan Cusack is a delight to watch in a role Thelma Ritter would have done a few decades before. Danny Aiello does as much as he can with his clichéd character, and Elli Wallach is also excellent, but his role is little more than a glorified cameo.

If you like Dean Martin comedies you might appreciate the effort of resurrecting these kind of comedies, but don't expect the result to be anywhere near those classics. If you are looking for a few laughs and an acceptably amusing comedy, then you might not be disappointed.
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