Showing posts from August, 2010

Snapshots - #42: Thor: Ragnarok, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, LBJ

Thor: Ragnarok (2017), (♦♦♦♦½): Thor has saved earth twice by now and has, for the last two years, wandered the universe searching for infinity stones. He hasn't found any. He has, however, become prisoner of an enemy of Asgard, Surtur, who tells Thor that his visions of Asgard engulfed in flames is a premonition of Ragnarok—the destruction of Asgard, which is already in motion. Thor frees himself and arrives at home to find Loki sitting on the throne, passing as Odin, and neglecting his duties to protect the Nine Realms. With Odin's exile, Asgard's enemies have been reassembling, but Odin's death may just free Hela, a goddess against whom neither Thor nor Loki are enough.
It was in Thor: The Dark World where Loki, an antagonist, first threatened to steal the show. He became the villain that Marvel fandom loves to hate. While Loki is at his most charming in this film, the director, with the help of a sparkling screenplay, has very much exploited the great chemistry of t…

Dustin Hoffman's Filmography

For more than forty years, Dustin Hoffman has been a cinematic icon. He may have an unassuming presence, but his performances, however small, pack a punch. Among the 16 Hoffman’s movies that I have seen, I have only rated four with low marks, namely The Tale of Despereaux (♦♦), Sphere (♦♦♦), Wag the Dog (♦♦♦) and Hook (♦♦♦). The Tale of Despereaux is an animated movie with a star-studded cast about a mouse that is different to all others because he has big ears, big dreams and is not afraid of cats. He falls in love with a human princess and sets out to win her heart. The story is meant to be charming, except I’ve never understood Hollywood’s fascination with portraying mice as cute and funny creatures; those animals spread serious diseases and should not be taken lightly! In Sphere, an alien spacecraft falls into the sea and a team of scientists of different backgrounds are sent to investigate; in the process they discover that is not an alien but a human spacecraft came from the fut…

Julia Roberts' Filmography - Part I

I love Julia Roberts’ acting. She is the one actress whose movies I have seen the most. Roberts has an unusual talent for comedies; however, that ability has been both a blessing and a curse in her career since the public, who seem to adore her in comedic roles, is prompt to dismiss her in more serious ones. Unfortunately that has limited her career somewhat, but directors have luckily found some middle ground to tackle major topics in a humorous light in whatever film she stars.

In her early acting years she dabbled into several genres. In Mystic Pizza (♦♦♦), Roberts stars as a teenager of modest upbringing who works in a pizzeria and falls in love with a rich boy. Her sister falls for an older man who doesn’t disclose he is still married, and their friend has equal problems of her own. A slow movie and not at all important, except it jumpstarted Roberts career. A major break comes along with Steel Magnolias (♦♦♦♦), for which she receives an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actre…

Julia Roberts' Filmography - Part II

In Ocean’s Eleven (♦♦♦♦♦), Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (♦♦), Ocean’s Twelve (♦♦♦♦), and Valentine’s Day (♦♦♦) Roberts guest-stars with relatively minor but good roles among star-studded casts. I love the stylish heist in Ocean’s Eleven, even more so because they didn’t have to kill anyone to get the money. The entire cast was charismatic and lovable. I dare to say they felt they were playing rather than working, reason why they went on to film two other motion pictures in the franchise. I didn’t like Ocean’s Twelve as much as Eleven, though the same elements of the prior movie remain. I believe that Valentine’s Day is as ordinary as it gets. Garry Marshall tries yet again to replicate the success of Pretty Woman with, in my opinion, pitiful results. Furthermore, I strongly dislike Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (♦♦) directed by George Clooney. I am willing to see this film yet again given the positive reviews I have read about it.

Roberts finally won a Best Actress Academy Award …

Trade (♦♦♦♦)

I just finished watching this movie and must say it was shocking almost from the very beginning until the end; not in the visually striking or awesome kind of way, but because of the reality of the subject covered. It is so utterly brutal and the same time real that makes one wonder how it’s possible that those things happen in today’s world.

The topic of this film is human trafficking. The movie starts with Adriana, a thirteen year-old Mexican girl, celebrating her birthday. Her brother Jorge crashes the party and brings with him a bike as a present for his sister. Their mother opposes the gift, but Jorge leaves it and goes out with friends. The next morning Adriana leaves the house, riding her bike, and is kidnapped in the street without any apparent witness. The rest of the movie is divided between the quest of the traffickers to deliver their cargo, and Jorge and a policeman friend (Kevin Kline) riding their car in a race against time to get to New Jersey where Adriana will ultim…

Funny Girl (♦♦♦♦♦)

Wow! I just finished watching this movie starring Barbra Streissand and Omar Sharif. What a man! What a couple! They look so beautiful together! I had so much fun! The music is lively and contagious; the plot so fresh and funny.

This film is about Fanny Brice (Barbra Streissand in an Oscar-winning role), a skinny, Jewish girl with an amazing voice and good comic timing, who starts working in a small theater and later becomes a Broadway superstar. Along the way she meets Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif), a gorgeous gambler with gent’s manners, and they fall in love…They get married, have a child, and just when life seems utterly perfect, things start to crumble and threaten to tear them apart. What starts as a musical comedy ends up being a drama that will leave you breathless!

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr (♦♦♦♦)

I enjoyed this book very much; it took me two days to read it. The story flows easily as if it were a book of fiction, but as it turns out it is based in real life. Caravaggio, one of the Great Masters in the history of art, lived a short life, by today’s standards, but enjoyed fame and fortune in his day, thanks to secular, wealthy patrons and commissions of religious authorities to depict religious themes in his paintings. One in particular, “The Taking of Christ”, also known as the “Betrayal of Christ by Judas”, was part of a collection that belonged to the Mattei family and that got lost through the centuries. The painting had an interesting history since the Mattei family lost its fortune and was forced to sell its estate. The picture was sold to a Scottish for one amount and its cost noted for another amount to avoid tax penalties when taking the painting out of Rome. Sloppy accountants reported the painting under the authorship of Honthorst, so it was missing and mislabeled fo…

Kate Winslet's Movies Reviews & Ratings

I love Kate Winslet’s acting. I also love her uncanny instinct to recognize demanding and award-winning roles. She is to me, the most versatile actress of her generation and it’s also commendable that she is scandal-free. What I don’t like is her readiness to undress however justified that may be; unlike other actresses whose skills reside only on it, that is not her case. Despite of it, her mark in the films she acts is indelible no matter how small her role is.

In Revolutionary Road (♦♦♦), Winslet stars opposite Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator, Blood Diamond) as a housewife with a seemingly perfect life, at least from the outside. Inside, the marriage is crumbling due to high life expectations that never quite crystallize. Overwhelmed by those expectations the couple fights all the time until tragedy strikes. I rated this movie with three stars because I just couldn’t get past all the arguments and screaming for two endless hours! In The Reader (♦♦♦♦♦), Hannah, Winslet’s character, c…

Anthony Hopkins' Movies Reviews

Ahhh…If only every actor out there were Anthony Hopkins! He is the class act that delivers his lines almost effortless, as if they weren’t memorized but of his own harvest. Among the Anthony Hopkins’ movies that I have seen, there are only three that I thought were below par, namely The Wolfman (♦♦♦), Hearts in Atlantis (♦♦♦) and The Lion in Winter (♦♦♦).

In The Wolfman, Hopkins stars opposite Benicio del Toro (Traffic, Things We Lost in the Fire) and Emily Blunt (Young Victoria, The Devil Wears Prada) as the father of two young men, one of who disappears in strange circumstances. Soon after the man’s disappearance, his beau (Emily Blunt) visits Lawrence Talbot, an actor who is her brother-in law (Benicio del Toro), to plead him to come back to his family estate to investigate his brother’s whereabouts. Upon his arrival, Mr. Talbot gets bitten by a werewolf and the tragic story of a family curse is revealed. In my opinion, there is an enormous waste of talent in this movie; I didn’t h…

Meryl Streep's Movies Reviews

I would like to confess, though millions may disagree, that although I believe Meryl Streep is one acting powerhouse, a goddess of the silver screen, I don't believe that all of her performances are Oscar-worthy. I say that because her being in a movie is usually enough to nominate her to an Academy Award. However, if there is one thing to be said about Meryl Streep’s career is that she is as adventurous in taking roles as she is versatile in portraying them.

As I said when I discussed Amy Adams’ filmography, in Julie and Julia (♦♦♦) is Streep and Tucci’s talents that light up the screen and make the movie worth seen. In Adaptation (♦♦), I was so taking aback by marihuana-smoking Streep that I totally missed the point of the movie. However, I will give this movie a try sometime in the future to see if I still think the same way. In The Bridges of Madison County (♦♦♦), Streep stars opposite Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven, Gran Torino) as Francesca, a discontent housewife that has an af…

Denzel Washington's Movies Reviews

I believe without any shadow of doubt that Denzel Washington is one of the most gifted actors to ever grace the big screen. He is not only very handsome, but also charismatic. He is an actor whose movies I seek like guilty pleasures, and the ratings I unveil hereby are testaments not only of my devotion, but also of his acting skills. Among the Denzel’s movies that I have seen, I have only rated The Taking of Pelham 123 (♦♦♦) with so-so marks. In the Taking of Pelham 123, Denzel, who stars opposite John Travolta, is a traffic supervisor whose job consists in directing the route of NY City’s subs. Travolta is the criminal who kidnaps the train and its passengers in exchange for a handsome sum of money. Where have I seen that before? This movie is a remake of a more successful film, and I don’t think Denzel lacks luster in this installment; it is the movie that lacks finesse. That plot has been explored and exploited endlessly before, so this remake doesn’t make sense. In contrast to Pe…

Amy Adams

I particularly like Amy Adams in movies where other Hollywood megastars appear; such is the case of Julie and Julia (♦♦♦), were Amy Adams’s talent shines acting opposite none other than Meryl Streep. In Julie and Julia, Adams, whose character has a touch for good cuisine, decides to recreate the recipes of famous chef Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and blog about her experiences during that year. The movie owes more to the performances of Streep and Stanley Tucci’s than to Adams’, however, it leaves no doubt that Adams’ talent can shine provided there is a good script. Another example is Doubt (♦♦♦♦), for which she was rightfully nominated to an Academy Award, starring opposite Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. In Doubt, Amy Adams stars as a young nun who starts to have doubts about the parish priest’s treatment towards an African-American boy, and communicates her concerns to the mother superior; what ensues is an amazing face-off between Streep and Seymour Hoffman’s characters to…

Rasputin’s Daughter by Robert Alexander (♦♦♦♦♦)

I finally finished Rasputin's Daughter. Wow! What a book! The author does a great job at portraying Rasputin in all his human complexities. It's an eye opening look into the life and death of one of Russia's most vilified historical figures. My only regret is having taking years to actually finish the book.

The story begins with the capture and taking into custody of Maria Grigorievna Rasputina, Rasputin’s older daughter, by the Thirteenth Section, the committee in charge of interviewing witnesses of the events that led to Rasputin’s death. The book is divided in sections, though not stated so, and in the introduction of each section there is a narrative about a character that takes part in the assassination, but whose identity is not revealed until the final pages.

Telling the story from a daughter standpoint, Maria manages to portray him as both, a man and a larger than life figure. Rasputin, a monk from Siberia, deeply spiritual and gifted in the arts of healing and of …

A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah (♦♦♦♦)

Great book, horrible, but great; pick it up if you can, I strongly recommend it. If you "enjoyed" (and I use this term loosely) the movies Hotel Rwanda and Blood Diamond, then you'll definitely will appreciate this candid story, which as it happens, it's the biography of a former child soldier.

Ismael Beah was born and bred in a small village in Sierra Leone until war and death snaked their way into his life when he was only 12 years of age forcing him to take an active part as a child soldier in his country’s Civil War. For several years, using a cocktail of drugs and heavy artillery, he was forced along others to pillage country villages and kill in the most savage fashion, until he was rescued by a United Nations contingent at the age of 15. His recovery started first in a small hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, followed by a new opportunity to live normally with his newfound family. However, the political forces running the country threatened the frag…