Showing posts from March, 2011

Circe by Madeline Miller (♦♦♦♦)

Granddaughter of Oceanus, daughter of Titan Helios and sea nymph Perseid, Circe was different from the start. While her siblings discovered their unique gifts very early on and gained their independence—either by claiming their inheritance, like Perses and Aëstes, or by marriage to a wealthy demigod, like Pasiphäe—, Circe remained among her family in the halls of the gods. Her love for young fisherman Glaucus changed everything. Circe used a potion to transform Glaucus into a worthy suitor. Glaucus, seeing his station changed, fell in love with one Circe’s cousins, a sea nymph named Scylla. Out of jealousy, Circe put a potion on Scylla’s bath and, unintendedly, transformed her into a monster. Circe’s confession forced Helios to go to see Zeus, for witchcraft is something that gods fear can tip the balance of power. Zeus declared an eternal banishment for Circe from the halls of the gods to the island of Aiaia.

Exile was not easy but, as Circe learned, it had its advantages; being away f…

All Good Things (♦♦♦♦♦)

David Marks (Ryan Gosling) is a real estate heir who has lived a life of privilege, but has also grown picking up the pieces left by a family tragedy he witnessed when he was a child. In a story that spans three decades, young David meets Katie McCarthy (Kirsten Dunst) and they get married. David and Katie decide to leave the city for a quiet country setting, until his father, Sanford Marks (Frank Langella), intrudes and offers him to work for him, something David had promised himself he would never do.

Married life is perfect for the first few years, but little by little the situation deteriorates until one day Katie vanishes. Twenty years later, the case of her disappearance is reopened and bodies of people close to David and the case start to pile up making him the prime suspect.

This movie should have been better titled as All Good Things (Must Come to an End). In an understated way this film packs quite a punch. I didn’t know what to expect from it. I like Ryan Gosling; he has …

Fair Game (♦♦♦♦)

When former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn) wrote an article in the NY Times challenging Bush administration’s rationale for declaring war on Iraq, he didn’t anticipate what would lay ahead for him and his family, for administration officials reciprocated by leaking to the press the fact that Valerie Plame Wilson (Naomi Watts), the Ambassador’s wife, was a CIA agent. Since her covert status was blown, and her husband was at war with the White House, the CIA fired her. Her ongoing operations throughout the Middle East got suspended or reassigned. The unwavering apparitions of Joseph Wilson in the media, despite provocations and attacks, concluded in a congressional investigation and the indictment of Scooter Libby as the person responsible for the unlawful leakage.

This searing, political drama based on Valerie Plame’s memoirs, was directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity). I wasn’t expecting a good movie, despite its good premise, but this film grabs you by the neck and …

Water for Elephants - Trailer

The excitement is mounting up for the release of the motion picture Water for Elephants. I must say I am part of that excited mass. I just hope that the film remains true to the book not only in the plot but in spirit.

I read Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen several years ago, and it became one of my all-time favorite books. In the story, Mr. Jankowski, now a senior living in a senior home, narrates to his nurse how he dropped out from college, and joined the Benzini Brothers Circus as a veterinarian, and how he fell in love with Marlena and Rosie, the elephant. The book was sometimes funny and at other times dramatic, and that’s what I mean when I say that I hope the true spirit of the book doesn’t get lost in the film. Mr. Jankowski as a senior plays as big a part in the book as does his younger counterpart.

I have some misgivings about the casting of Robert Pattinson as the young Jankowski. I would have preferred Tobey Maguire or Jake Gyllenhaal, but these two are too old to pla…

The Tourist (♦♦♦)

British belle Elise Ward (Angelina Jolie) is being tailed by British and French Police. She is the lover of Alexander Pearce, a British fugitive, guilty of embezzling millions of dollars. When Alexander Pearce summons Elise to a rendezvous in Venice, she is supposed to make police believe that a random man in the train is supposed to be him, so she chooses Frank (Johnny Depp), an American tourist on his way to a good time, or so he thinks. Frank is bedazzled by the British beauty; he can hardly believe his luck when Elise kisses him in the suite of a luxury hotel, but cold reality soon intrudes when Russian thugs try to kill him.

I think that this movie had the potential to be good, maybe not great, but at least really good. Unfortunately, the premise did not deliver despite its twisted ending. The shoots of Venice are simply amazing, and Angelina dazzles in beautiful dresses and even more gorgeous jewels, but that’s about it. The chemistry between Jolie and Depp in non-existent, whi…

Fantasia (♦♦♦♦)

Fantasia is a fusion of classical music and animation, where the characters dance away at the sound of music. The Philadelphia Orchestra interprets pieces such as Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, which in this film depicts the origin and evolution of life on Earth up to the disappearance of the dinosaurs. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice shows Mickey Mouse as the apprentice who wears his master’s hat and causes chaos. During Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, fairies and fallen leaves dance away to the tune, while the seasons go by. During Beethoven’s Pastoral, fauns, centaurs and Pegasus party in Mount Olympus.

I enjoyed this motion picture very much. I liked the coordination of the animated characters with the music I’m so fond of. This is a true classic!
Fantasia (Special 60th Anniversary Edition)

An Affair to Remember (♦♦♦♦)

Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) is soon to marry an heiress. Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr), formerly a cabaret singer, has lived with her wealthy boyfriend for five years. When Nickie and Terry meet in a cruise on their way to Europe, they fall in love. They promise to each other that, if they can make a living in that time, they will meet again in six months and will get married. However, the day of their meeting tragedy strikes and changes the course of Nickie and Terry’s relationship.

The ending of this movie is so poignant it made me cry, and most movies don’t have that effect on me. I liked the acting and the singing, particularly the song “An Affair to Remember”, sweetly interpreted by Deborah Kerr. There is a great chemistry between the main characters, and the romance is not corny, which make the film adorable.

Hereafter (♦♦♦)

Marie LeLay (Cécile De France) is a re-known French journalist in her last day of vacation when a tsunami strikes. Marcus is a young boy (Frankie and George McLaren) who has been struck by a family tragedy. George Lonegan (Matt Damon) is a gifted psychic refusing to acknowledge his gift (or curse as he calls it). These three characters’ paths will cross in the streets of London.

This movie has been directed and produced by Clint Eastwood. The music is also his. The musical score that appear in most of his films (haunting guitar chords, piano and violin) are ever present. As always, shadows engulf the characters to enhance the drama.

Although haunting, this movie is unlike other films that Clint Eastwood has directed. It doesn’t have the same resonance as Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven, Changeling and Gran Torino. However, its main topic, what happens after death, is explored with care even if no definitive answers are provided.

I liked this film more than my rating reflects. The act…

All the King’s Men, 2006 (♦♦♦♦♦)

A Southern, populist politician wins the election for Governor, but behind closed doors he is just as underhanded as the politicians he defeated.

In All the King’s Men star Kate Winslet (The Reader, Titanic), Sean Penn (Mystic River, Milk), Jude Law (Alfie, Cold Mountain) and Mark Ruffalo (Zodiac, 13 Going on 30). Patricia Clarkson and James Gandolfini (Sopranos) co-star. If you ever want to know the end of every populist politician and every violent revolution, then this movie is made for you. If you think that the world is all good, then don’t see it because you won’t get it! Most violent revolutions end up destroying the very ideals they said to defend, just as every populist politician says exactly what people want to hear. That is exactly the topic of this movie, brilliantly accomplished by a star-studded cast.

Never Let Me Go (♦♦♦)

Kathy H. (Carey Mulligan, An Education), Tommy D. (Andrew Garfield, The Social Network) and Ruth (Keira Knightley, Atonement) are three classmates in the fourth year at Hailsham College. They know that, as their fellow classmates, they are special. They eat their vegetables, take their vitamins at bedtime, and must stay healthy.

At Hailsham no one challenges the status quo. Miss Lucy, the only guardian who has dared to do so—revealing the reason of their existence and their ultimate mission in life—has been left unemployed. Miss Emily, the college’s principal, runs a tight ship. To prove it, there abound numerous rumors, awful by the way, about what happens to children who wander outside the gates.

Kathy H and Tommy D developed a strong bond from early on in their lives. They loved each other, but Ruth, Kathy’s best friend, became Tommy’s girlfriend, a relationship that lasted well beyond their eighteenth year. Kathy always had the hope that Tommy and Ruth would split, but then she b…

Let Me In (♦♦♦)

Twelve year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) lives in an apartment complex surrounded by adults, that is, until twelve year-old Abby (Chloe Moretz) moves in, accompanied by a man. Abby warns Owen early on that they cannot be friends, but an unlikely bond is progressively formed when Owen shares his toys, favorite snacks and eventually a school secret (he is constantly bullied by three classmates). Abby cannot share her secrets because they are otherworldly, but advises Owen to stand up to his bullies and teach them a lesson they may not forget.

This is the American adaptation of the Swedish film Let the Right One In, which I reviewed under the title Favorite Foreign Movies – Part III. All the elements of the story are preserved in this version, but to be honest, I prefer the original Swedish film; it is much more poetic, more captivating, haunting. This movie has been released after the vampire frenzy that has overtaken the worldwide market. The vampire hype does no good to this motion pi…

The Silence of the Lambs (♦♦♦♦♦)

This movie is an Anthony Hopkins’ masterpiece for which he won an Oscar in the Best Actor category. In it he stars as Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist with cannibalistic instincts. Young FBI trainee Clarice Starling, Jodie Foster also in an Academy Award winning role, is summoned by her superiors to go to prison to pick Lecter’s brain regarding a case of young women’s corpses with missing patches of skin. The FBI has labeled this killer as Buffalo Bill, a former patient of Lecter. But Starling doesn’t know what she gets herself into, or better yet, she doesn’t have any choice for she isn’t the one running the show. Lecter kills and goes free while the clock is ticking to find the next victim before it’s too late.

Creepy but so worth it!

Unknown (♦♦♦)

Liam Neeson (Taken, Schindler’s List) stars as Dr. Martin Harris, a scientist visiting Berlin, accompanied by his wife Liz–interpreted by January Jones (Mad Men)—where he is supposed to attend a biotechnology conference. Dr. Harris accidentally leaves behind a suitcase at the airport and he only finds out when he is at the entrance of the hotel. He decides to take a cab back and claim his luggage. Unfortunately, he suffers an accident on his way to the airport and falls into a comma for four days. When Dr. Harris wakes up, he only remembers scattered images from his life, but without any documents in his possession, he cannot prove he is who he claims to be.

Dr. Harris is released from the hospital and returns to the hotel where he and his wife are supposed to be staying. Upon finding his wife at a reception, he realizes that she doesn’t recognize him, and worse yet, another man claiming to be him is posing as her husband. With the help of a private investigator—a former Stasi member…

The Adjustment Bureau (♦♦♦♦)

The Adjustment Bureau is the agency in charge of correcting the mistakes people make along their lives, which cause them to deviate from the master plan set up for them from birth. The “case officers” are the hat-wearing men making sure that there are as few ripples as possible when correcting a course. The “Chairman” is a Higher power in control of people’s destinies.

David Norris (Matt Damon) is the youngest person running for U.S. Senate in American history. He is leading the polls in the race for a seat from the state of New York. When the New York Post publishes a picture of him mooning his classmates at a Class Reunion, his Senate race is over. His concession speech on Election Day, inspired by a young, beautiful woman (Emily Blunt) he meets in the bathroom, marks his political revival. Months later, David’s “case worker” in The Adjustment Bureau is supposed, unbeknownst to him, to make sure David spills his cup of coffee on his clothes, thus missing his bus to work. By missing…

The Island by Elin Hilderbrand (♦♦♦♦)

Birdie Cousins--Chess and Tate’s mother-- takes on the preparations of Chess’s wedding, which is supposed to happen in the fall. Around Labor Day, Chess calls Birdie in the middle of the night to let her know that her engagement is off. Chess doesn’t want to talk about it, except to say that she has realized she doesn’t love Michael Morgan, her former fiancé. Days later, Chess receives a phone call with horrible news. That’s how the summer starts.

Birdie plans a summer getaway with both of her daughters and India, her sister, to Tuckernuck Island, a privately owned land off the coast of Nantucket. In Tuckernuck there are no modern day amenities such as electricity, except the one provided by a generator, no phones, and no grocery store. The four women go to Tuckernuck Island with the intention of providing support for Chess, but soon after they arrive it becomes obvious that each one of them is harboring resentment and pain from past relationships. What seems like the perfect opportu…

Love and Other Drugs (♦♦♦)

Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal), a pharmaceutical representative, is given the task of convincing doctors to prescribe Zoloft instead of Prozac. He resorts to underhanded tactics to get his way. In a doctor’s office he meets Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway), a twenty-six year-old patient with Parkinson disease. Soon enough, Jamie and Maggie are attracted to each other and start having casual sex fairly often, until…They fall in love. All the while, the pharma company Jamie works for introduces Viagra to the market and the entire medical community goes wild for it, making Jamie a very popular guy.

I thought this movie was OK. The acting was good, but diluted by too much sex and profanity. They should have explored the Parkinson angle further, make characters more human; instead the story seemed rushed. The ending was good, though predictable considering this was a romantic comedy. I liked Jake Gyllenhaal in this role. I thought that Anne Hathaway was much better in Rachel Getting Marrie…

Burlesque (♦♦♦)

Ali (Christina Aguilera), a girl from a small town in Iowa, has big dreams of singing and fame; all that comes along when she leaves her hometown for Los Angeles and starts working as a waitress at a burlesque lounge. At first, Ali tries unsuccessfully to convince Tess, the cabaret owner (Cher), that she can sing and dance. However, when one of the dancers gets pregnant and is pulled from the show, an impromptu audition gives Ali the opportunity to become a dancer since she knows all the numbers. When a conniving rival (Kristen Bell) cuts the music in the middle of an act, Ali has to step up singing with her own voice and becomes the main attraction of the club.

Stanley Tucci, Eric Dane and Peter Gallagher also co-star.

This movie is entertaining, but none of the singing numbers are catchy enough to make me want to watch the film again. Christina Aguilera is good here, particularly because no much acting is required; she sings her heart out and dances with reckless abandonment and th…