Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Joshua Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Sam Shephard

"Fear the sky"


A totally boring movie which resembles a computer/video game. 3 Stealth pilots do nothing all day but fly around in their million dollar jets and bomb terrorists in foreign countries. Burma, North Korea, Tajikistan are naturally the standard terrorists portrayed in the film. 1 hour and 30 minutes into the movie - Jamie Foxx is killed, Jessica Biel is stuck in North Korea and Josh Lucas is in Alaska with Edi (the talking plane) Murky plot, totally boring script. The only good thing going for this film is watching Josh Lucas in his pilot uniform. What a hunk!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Bruce Willis, Kevin Pollack, Ben Foster

"Would you sacrifice another family to save your own?"


A Bruce Willis flick where he portrays a police negotiator who botches up the job so he ends up being a small town cop. His daily criminal reports consists of fender bender accidents. Naturally something big has to happen so he can be thrust into his hero mode. 3 delinquent teenagers decide to take a man and his children hostage inside their really modern state of the art mansion. But this isn't just a simple hostage taking, negotiator movie - you have other subplots which try to grab your short attention span. Too many loopholes as well which just make your mind spin with questions towards the end of the movie. Bruce Willis is a natural with such roles. Suffice it to say, he does end up being the hero after blasting away all the villains. Ben Foster, the actor who is known as Russell on "Six Feet Under" is convincing as a menacingly evil person. Something about him is creepy in this movie as well as the aforementioned HBO series.
I don't really recommend this tedious action flick but if like me, you go to the video store only to find out you have seen most of the films there, then by all means borrow this film. Just try not to fall asleep. A bit difficult to do with all the guns blasting scenes.

Friday, October 21, 2005

17 Octobre 1961

Clotilde Courau, Thierry Fortineau, Ouassini Embarek

TV 5

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A vivid portrayal of what occurred on that fateful day of October 17, 1961. 30,000 Algerians marched through the streets of Paris in a peaceful demonstration to protest France's invasion of Algeria. The FLN, the movement which represents the cause of Algeria in France organizes a peaceful protest stressing that the participants should be unarmed. The paranoid French government doesn't believe it would be peaceful so they deploy about 1000 police officers to disperse the rally. The long night ends with about 200 Algerians missing, most of them thrown off bridges into the River Seine, others shot and beaten to a pulp. They cover up the atrocities and claim the protesters were the ones who provoked the police force. An enterprising journalist who happens to witness a brutal scene comes forth and exposes the truth. A sort of documentary type of film although they cast several actors to portray real people. A film with social and moral relevance which depicted a shameful past in France's colorful political history.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Takako Matsue, Masatoshi Nagage

Greenbelt 1, Cinema 2


A really simple movie set in feudal Japan. A time and place where the samurai warriors are no longer needed, where they are taught to be more modern, to use guns instead of their swords. Amidst the background of picturesque snow capped villages and lush mountainous areas lies a touching yet forbidden love story. Between a samurai lord and his maid, both destined for each other yet separated due to their difference in stature and their caste system. There isn't much fighting scenes as you would expect from a samurai movie. Yet the scenes where they use their skills as warriors is a very vital part of the movie. It is also about corrupt feudal lords and a conflict among friends. Strange enough, we only get the meaning of the title, Hidden Blade towards the end of the movie but the act itself is really justifiable.
I have to admit I am not a fan of Japanese movies, but if only they made them as simple and endearing as this film then I would surely watch them more.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Herod's Law
Damian Alcazar, Leticia Huijara, Pedro Armendariz, Jr

Greenbelt 1, Cinema 1

Spanish Film Festival

Since it was a Friday night and we managed to finish our dinner at Banana Leaf just in time, we said ok what the heck, let's watch it. We were not disappointed at all. It was a political satire about government (Mexico), corruption and idealism. The story is set in the 40s in Mexico where a janitor is sent by his political party to assume the mayorship of a rural town. A very backward place inhabited by Indians who don't speak Spanish, a corrupt priest, a brothel, a righteous doctor all bunched up together with farm animals. It was quite hilarious as we are privy to the inner conflict of the newly appointed idealistic mayor to make his town a better place without succumbing to corruption and the greed of power. But eventually in his effort to please the higher authorities of his political party, he does falter and gives in to the system. Watching the movie, I cannot help but be reminded of our current political turmoil. How most politicians begin their term of office with lofty ideas and are very idealistic that they can change the system, yet most of them if not all end up being sucked into a never ending cycle of greed, corruption and power grabbing tactics. Unfortunately, the town and its citizens end up suffering. The movie was a bit grainy in texture but it managed to convey its message across - which just might be that no matter how hard we try to beat the system, eventually we all succumb to it. How tragic!

Mondays in the Sun
Javier Bardem, Luis Tosar, Jose Angelo Egido

"This film is not based on a real story. It is based on thousands."

Greenbelt 1, Cinema 1

Spanish Film Festival

Clearly a film that stars Javier Bardem is not to be missed. He is one of the best Spanish actors in moviedom. Although I have to admit I purposely chose NOT to watch "The Sea Within". The sensitive theme of the film (euthanasia) didn't appeal to me. Anyways, "Los Lunes al Sol" was very touching. It refers to the idle nature of unemployed people so they spend their Mondays under the sun. They lose all track of time because everyday is the same. Yet there is a deeper meaning to that phrase, because in this case, they were fired from the shipyard where they worked. We witness how each character cope with their 'lost'. Lino is hopeful despite his advanced age that he will still find a job so he dutifully applies at the employment center. Amador hides the fact that his wife left him. Jose relies on his wife to provide him the basic necessities but is highly insecure when he is termed as 'the inactive' member of the family. And Santa (Javier Bardem) is the angst ridden one who believes that the world owes him something. At times, you can't help but laugh at their situation but most of the time, you feel sorry for them. It focuses on the growing problem of unemployment and the harsh economy in modern day Spain.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Javier Camara, Candela Pena

Greenbelt 1, Cinema 2

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A movie about a simple couple who are forced to venture into the adult film industry. Alfredo is a struggling encyclopedia salesman. His company in an effort to make it more profitable venture into the audiovisual research on sexuality department. In essence, they are erotic films to be distributed only in Scandinavian countries. Suddenly, Alfredo and Carmen (his wife) are given all the props needed to contribute to the project. To make their project exciting, they get into several role playing characters. The x rated scenes are not offensive in any way and it was funny to watch them adapt to their new roles. Their wardrobe, the vehicles as well as the music was befitting the 70s era. "Torremolinos 73" refers to the title of the full length movie which Alfredo wrote and directed. He based it on an Ingmar Bergman movie and a Danish crew flies in to help him in making the movie. It was seen only by a few people in Spain but it established Carmen as an international sex star in the Scandinavian nations. This is the fourth movie I watched in the Spanish Film Festival starring Candela Pena. All of her roles were different thus showcasing her versatility as an actress. Alfredo is portrayed by Javier Camara, who I first saw in "Habla con ella" but I didn't recognize him here because he was bald and sported a moustache. A really funny film!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Running Out of Time
Carmelo Gomez, Candela Pena, Ruth Gabriel, Javier Bardem

Greenbelt 1, Cinema 2

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A rather slow moving film that tells about a small commando cell of the ETA terrorist group. They were in charge of wrecking havoc in Madrid. One of them, Antonio poses as a press photographer to hide his true identity. He gets involved in lust with his married young neighbor, Charo. Dealing with her sleazy roommate and low lifes she hangs out with. The movie doesn't really focus much on the intricacies of the terrorist group. It deals mostly with Antonio's passionate relationship with his neighbor. Javier Bardem as Lizardo, the drug addict/pimp friend of Charo gives a good performance as usual. Carmelo Gomez as Antonio is subtle yet projects a strong presence on screen. A strange twist towards the end is in my opinion, the highlight of the entire movie.

Sunday, October 9, 2005

Take my Eyes
Laia Marull, Luis Tosar, Candela Pena

Greenbelt 1, Cinema 2

Spanish Film Festival

One dark night, Pilar leaves her husband Antonio, she takes her son Juan runs away to her sister's house for refuge. Most men who physically abuse their wives are in denial. They claim it was rage. I believe that it is a sickness. They need proper guidance and psychological help. But it doesn't mean I condone their behavior. Because no matter what these men say, they will never change. Of course it is easier said than done - that it could just be as easy as leaving but sometimes some women have no place to run off to. Lucky for Pilar, she has her sister, Ana. She got a good job offer in Madrid where she can start her life anew. Far from Toledo and Antonio. This is a very moving film about healing broken relationships, about rediscovering herself and her worth. About moving on after years of physical abuse, but most of all the emotional anguish of being constantly humiliated by her husband. The actors are very expressive with their body language, their eyes speak. Sometimes words are not spoken yet you can see their true emotions coming across. A simple story about a very sensitive issue - domestic violence in Spain. But it can happen anywhere, not just in Spain. It was the second Spanish film I saw on a single day and I'm glad I did.

Ana Torrent, Fele Martinez, Eduardo Noriega

"My name is Angela. They are going to kill me."

Greenbelt 1, Cinema 2

Spanish Film Festival

A thrilling film from Amenabar circa 1996. A student, Angela while doing research for her thesis on audiovisual violence stumbles across a snuff tape. Those really violent tapes where women are kidnapped, tortured then killed while being filmed. It caters to a massive underground market who get a kick out of watching such sadistically brutal scenes. It is a thriller interspersed with really violent scenes of the snuff video. Some parts can be dragging but you just stay glued to the screen trying to figure out which of the characters is the main culprit in the snuff video. It reminded me of that Nicholas Cage flick, 8mm which also featured snuff films. If you have a sensitive stomach and cringe easily at violent scenes, then I won't recommend this movie. But if you can just cover your ears to the screams, and close your eyes when the gory scenes are shown (like I did) then you should do alright. After all, it is just a movie. But surely, these snuff films are a harsh reality in certain sectors of a sick society that feed on such violent behavior! I guess to each his own, huh?

Saturday, October 8, 2005

All About My Mother
Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, Antonia San Juan, Penelope Cruz

Greenbelt 1, Cinema 2

Spanish Film Festival

Excellent film by Pedro Almodovar. You have a strange mix of characters - all of them strong willed women. Manuela, a nurse whose son dies in a vehicular accident. Esteban, her son by a transvestite named Lola was a huge fan of Huma Roja. She is a famous stage actress essaying the role of Blanche Dubois in the play "A streetcar named Desire". You have Nina, her co actress in the said play. Rosa, a nun/social worker who is pregnant with Lola's baby. My favorite character, Agrado, a transvestite friend of Manuela. It is a poignant film about these women, their lives, their hopes and dreams. Great cast led by Cecilia Roth whose facial expressions are very descriptive of her emotions. Penelope Cruz in a Spanish film is more believable than in her Hollywood movies. No wonder this movie won the Best Foreign Language award at the 2000 Oscar awards and the Golden Globe.
It is flawlessly good!

Friday, October 7, 2005

Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman

"Mo Cuishle"

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I'm not really into boxing. I believe it is a cruel sport and I wince every time a boxer punches, maybe I'm a tad bit sensitive. This movie though isn't only about boxing, it's about taking risks, having dreams and being passionate almost to the point of obsession over something. Hilary Swank deserves her best actress award, she portrays the determined boxer with such panache and character. She is ably supported by Clint Eastwood as the gym owner who is trying to reconnect with his daughter and Morgan Freeman as the former boxer who is the moral conscience of Frankie. This movie is effusively fluent and it just touches you in many ways. Towards the end, the sensitive issue of euthanasia is raised. Morally, we all know it is wrong yet somehow in such a case, it is justified. Morgan Freeman quoted earlier in the movie: "If there's magic in boxing, it's the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance, beyond cracked ribs, ruptured kidneys and detached retinas. It's the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you." And Maggie "Mo Cuishle" Fitzgerald did it, she conquered her dream. A good inspirational movie with a lot of heart and soul.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James, Amber Valletta

"The cure for the common man"

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I took a break from reading subtitles while watching Spanish films and decided to borrow this romantic comedy. Will Smith is always a hoot to watch. Portraying a date doctor to teach guys how to get women suits him well. Kevin James, though, is the real darling of this movie, cutesy teddy bear type who gets the supermodel rich babe. There is justice in the world or maybe only in movies! Fairly entertaining, funny dialogue and peppered with cheesy quotable lines - you can't go wrong. Not that you can actually learn a few tricks about the behavoir of guys during dates, but what the heck it is just a movie, right? Besides Hitch said it all when he mentioned: "I'm a guy. Since when do we get anything right the first time?"

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Soldiers of Salamina
Ariadna Gil, Ramon Fontsere, Joan DalmauGreenbelt 1, Cinema 2
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I missed the first 10 minutes of this film but it was fairly easy to understand the flow of the story. Lola is a writer who stumbles on the story of Rafael Sanchez Mazas, a Fascist writer/leader during the Civil War era in Spain. She decides to make him the subject of her next book yet midway through the novel she is sidetracked by another story. The soldier, Mirelles who let Mazas escape after he managed to sneak away from an execution. His story is much more intriguing and entails a more fascinating read. 

Black and white shots of the Civil war scenes are interspersed within the movie. It doesn't really provide much historical background about the Civil War in Spain. But it is a poignant movie about the veterans of the Civil War who are long forgotten for the services they rendered to their country. The soldiers who fought together in the battlefield. Those who don't have streets named after them. 

Without their brave efforts, Spain or any country for that matter would not be able to enjoy the democratic processes and civil liberties, we tend to take for granted, nowadays.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Ferpect Crime
Guillermo Toledo, Monica Cerveza, Luis Varela

"Striving for the 'perfect life'"

Greenbelt 1, Cinema 2

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A really funny and entertaining Spanish movie. The setting is in a big fashionable department store in Madrid. The protagonists are two salesmen vying for the position of the floor manager. Fast paced and never a dull moment, you are drawn into the hugely competitive department store industry with their huge discounts, bimbo like salesgirls and picky customers. The central character is a guy named Rafael Gonzales, a gigolo type salesman who basks in his own self centered world, strives to lead a perfect life based on his own idea of glamour and elegance. It follows him through his highs as well as his downfall. The title comes from a typographical error of a tape, he borrowed from the video store, instead of "P", it was misspelled with a "F"! A dark comedy definitely worth watching!

Monday, October 3, 2005

Nancho Novo, Teresa Hurtado

Cinema 1, Greenbelt 1

Pelikula, Pelicula

I caught this movie at the Spanish film festival in Greenbelt. True enough, it has nothing to do with rocket science or astronauts. It is a simple tale of a man trying to rebuild his life after being an addict. He bases his happiness on a decalogue, a 10 step plan he believes will put him in the right path. Simple adage like Socializing, Healthy Body, Healthy Mind, Healthy Food, Sex and Exercise guide him. Suddenly a young girl shows up at his apartment and she ends up helping him achieve his formula for a successful life. The film ends on a sad note, you are left wondering if he makes it or if he retreats back to a useless life. Most Europeans movies have a tendency to end that way. You are left hanging. I guess, the purpose is that people formulate their own conclusions. Make us think, make us use our brain. Because isn't that just how real life is? We have no clear answers.

Sunday, October 2, 2005

Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Wiesz, Danny Huston, Billy Nighy

"Love at any cost."

Cinema 3, Greenbelt 3

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You certainly can't go wrong with a movie based on a novel by John Le Carre and directed by Fernando Meirelles. He directed that hauntingly realistic film about the slums of Brazil, City of God. It focuses on poverty, the inner intricacies of diplomacy, the blatant abuse of 'disposable' people in Africa by greedy multinationals and in essence it is also a love story. Meirelles uses the same technique of showing flash backs, as well as shots of crowded places amidst the backdrop of photographic aerial shots of Africa. At first, the story progresses at a slow pace, then you are drawn into the whole conspiracy without losing track of the main theme. There will always be companies that will take advantage of the down trodden, the so called 'disposable people' just because they are too poverty stricken to speak against the injustice. Moral conscience is at play here. As long as there are cause oriented persons like Tessa (Rachel Weisz) - these malpractices will be exposed. Even though she paid dearly for it with her own life. Good performance as expected from Ralph Fiennes in his underacting style. His  broodingly sensitive portrayal of a shy, low ranking diplomat assigned to Africa suits him well. The scene (he is back in London at their apartment) where he breaks down in tears outside in the rain while scenes of his happy life with Tessa is flashed on screen is very powerful. Good supporting cast ably carries the entire film. Although, it is based on a book by an author famous for his spy thrillers and conspiracy theories scenario, I can't help but believe that such grave injustice really happen on a daily basis in third world countries.
The harsh truth is people simply don't care!


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