Showing posts from June, 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…

Bridesmaids (♦♦♦)

Annie’s (Kristen Wiig) life starts to spiral out of control from the moment her best friend (Maya Rudolph) names her maid of honor for her wedding. The rivalry with her friend’s newest friend Helen, threatens to tear Annie and her friend apart.

The humor in this movie is crude despite of its almost all-female cast. The film still manages to be insightful towards love and friendship in spite of it all. The acting is not particularly great, but it convinces.

Funny movie, but not worth the theater admission price.

Hell’s Corner by David Baldacci (♦♦♦)

Skillful former CIA assassin John Carr, a.k.a. Oliver Stone, is summoned to the White House for a special mission that is going to send him south of the border. On the eve of his departure Oliver Stone stands on Lafayette Park, a place dear to him right across from the White House, when he hears a motorcade supposedly carrying Britain’s PM on his way out from a state dinner. As the PM is exiting his limo at Blair House, gunshots and a bomb go off in the park. Stone’s mission is soon replaced by the more urgent investigation on the motivations behind the attack and catching the people responsible for it.

Britain’s MI6 bring onboard Mary Chapman, one of its best field agents, to aid in the investigation, after all, the PM could have been a target in the attack. Chapman and Stone pair up with the backing of some administration’s higher ups. However, they soon run into a lot of trouble since their opponents prove to be more cunning and deceptive than anyone ever anticipated.

This book is…

The Tree of Life (♦♦♦)

A couple (Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain) with three children begins to question God and the meaning of life after a family tragedy sends them reeling. The movie is divided into two parts, however invisibly. The first part of the film is about the tragedy and the questioning of life’s purpose. The second part is about the family dynamics when the kids were growing up, from a carefree mother to an overbearing father. The questioning reappears again in the end as one of the children, now an adult, examines his existence.

This movie seems extremely long despite running for 138 minutes. It is short on dialogs. The first part is a visual feast of nature’s most spectacular events on Earth and in space, resembling documentaries from the Discovery Channel. The second part of the movie seems incoherent, in relation to the first, providing hardly any answers to the questions posed. The oldest child obviously feels closer to her mother, sometimes wishing his father dead, but his resentment appe…

Midnight in Paris (♦♦♦♦)

Gil (Owen Wilson) is a successful writer of screenplays in Hollywood, vacationing in Paris with Ines (Rachel McAdams), his fiancée, and his in-laws. Gil is writing a novel, but is stuck in its development. That is, until one enchanting night while roaming unknown alleys, at the stroke of midnight he is invited by a party of strangers to hop into their car, thus opening a gateway to 1920s Paris. Henceforth, every night Gil meets the likes of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Dali, Picasso and other illustrious characters of yesteryear.

This little movie is delightful, delicate and funny. Paris may be enchanting, but under the steady writing and direction of Woody Allen, Paris is simply magical. The music is lovely and transporting. The shots of Paris are breathtaking whether by day or night. Suddenly daydreaming doesn’t seem so bad…

I was particularly taken with the performance of Owen Wilson; it is refreshing and funny in a movie made for educated adults. In this film he has …

Top Gun (♦♦♦½)

Navy Lieutenant Pete Mitchell, a.k.a. Maverick (Tom Cruise, Knight and Day), is selected alongside his R.I.O. to be a part of the Top Gun program, an elite group of navy pilots. Maverick is among the gutsiest pilots in the navy, but he has a reputation for disobeying direct orders and disregarding the rules of engagement, which make him both unpredictable and dangerous; sometimes that’s what it takes to get the job done. The story is about Maverick’s friendship with Goose (Anthony Edwards), his R.I.O., and his rivalry with Iceman (Val Kilmer, Batman Forever), considered the best pilot in Top Gun.
Kelly McGillis (The Accused), Meg Ryan (You’ve Got Mail) and Tom Skerrit (Contact) co-star.

This movie is good on several levels. It works well as a love story, and as well as an action film and male bonding flick. The love scenes are very sexy and tasteful, unlike most films nowadays where the sex is as graphic as it gets. There is great chemistry between Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis. The …

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (♦♦♦)

Jesse James’ (Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) fame is legendary. His assaults on trains are as well known as his killings. He gets ready for a last adventure in the company of his older brother Frank (Sam Shepard, Fair Game) and a few men recruited on the road. The last addition to the men is nineteen year-old Bob Ford (Casey Affleck, Gone Baby Gone), who has a fascination with Jesse bordering on creepy.

Jesse has a sixth sense that helps him to avoid capture time and again, but after this last train robbery he begins to suspect his good luck is running out. Several events precipitate his end: some of the men involved in the robbery are plotting to turn him to the authorities in exchange for a handsome reward. Furthermore, Bob Ford kills Jesse’s cousin (Jeremy Renner, The Town) and Jesse suspects that the Ford brothers are guilty of it since his cousin went to visit them to settle a score and has since disappeared. When Jesse enlists the help of Charley (Sam Rockwell,…

Biutiful (♦♦♦)

Struggling to make ends meet, Uxbal (Javier Bardem, Vicky Cristina Barcelona)--father of two children--has a side business involving illegal aliens from Senegal and China. Both sides of his business suffer due on one hand to police raids and on the other hand to an unexpected tragedy. At the same time, Uxbal is dying from cancer, which forces him to face his own mortality. His employees’ tragedy also obliges him to face his own demons and those of the people closest to him, finding help to care for his children in an unlikely ally.

This film is directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, the director of 21 Grams and Babel. Unlike his previous works--where stories are told in non-linear fashion, characters colliding unexpectedly in the end—in this movie the story in linear, at times overwhelming by the slow pace and other times hallucinating as in the scenes in the disco bar. In my opinion, this is Javier Bardem’s best work to date; his performance is subdued, resigned yet forceful as th…

The Defector by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦½)

When former KGB agent, now Russian defector, Grigori Bulganov appears to enter willingly into a limousine in a London street, British intelligence officers think that he has re-defected. Every one of his movement the night of his disappearance seem to reinforce that opinion. Leave it to Gabriel Allon, master Israeli spy and assassin, to think otherwise.

Gabriel is living with Chiara, his wife, in Umbria, Italy. There he is restoring a painting for the Pope. When Grigori Bulganov disappears in London, Uzi Navot, “the Office” director of operations, travels to Italy to pick up Gabriel and Chiara and bring them safely to Israel. Gabriel buys time with Navot, meanwhile traveling to London where he proves that Russian oligarch and arms dealer Ivan Karkhov is behind Grigori’s disappearance. When Chiara’s bodyguards are killed at the entrance of the villa in Umbria, and Chiara is taken hostage, Gabriel and his team of operatives will start a rescue operation that will take them in a journey…