Showing posts from January, 2011

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…

The Hurricane (♦♦♦♦)

In 1963, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (Denzel Washington) was at the pinnacle of his boxing glory and he had a loving family. All was taken away in one night when he was accused and convicted to three life sentences for three homicides he did not commit. Police officials bent the truth, forged documents, coerced some witnesses and made others recant their testimony, all to put Rubin Carter behind bars. At fifty years old, Carter had spent 20 years fighting his case and being defeated in court. Then, with the help of a high school student inspired by Carter’s autobiography, which he wrote in prison, and three Canadian activists, important evidence was uncovered which led Carter to petition his lawyers to try his case in a federal court, where he was finally absolved.

This is one magnificent performance by Denzel Washington for which he rightly received an Academy Award nomination; it isn’t however the best performance I have seen from him. I think that he was perfectly corrupt and equally…

Secretariat (♦♦♦♦)

When her mother dies unexpectedly, Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) has to go to her family farm and take care of the horse breeding family business. Penny’s brother favors selling the farm, but Penny bets her housewife reputation on her horse nicknamed Secretariat, which becomes the 1973 Triple Crown winner, the first horse to achieve that feat in more than 25 years.

This is a great family movie: safe topic and even safer use of language. Despite having a predictable ending, it gets your adrenaline pumping as only sports can do. It’s nice to know that you’ve been offered eight million dollars and after declining the offer being proved right.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, Swedish, 2009 (♦♦♦♦)

If you have been following the story, you probably know that in the previous installment Lisbeth went to confront her father and found out, among other things, that she had a half-brother. Both, her father and half-brother, shot Lisbeth and buried her.

In the third and final installment of the “Millennium Trilogy”, Lisbeth Salander faces a charge for attempting to murder her father, a former Russian spy named Alexander Salachenko. The intelligence community won’t allow, if they can help it, Lisbeth’s life story to be revealed, which Millennium Magazine intends to uncover in a special issue dedicated to Lisbeth. Mikael Blomkvist is determined to expose the injustices that authorities have committed against Lisbeth, all for protecting the identity of her father.

I must say that this is a nice ending to the trilogy. The acting is as good as in the previous movies. The characters that we already know are still there, but complemented by new characters that support the storyline. The viol…

Oceans (♦♦♦♦)

Oceans is a feature-length Disneynature film that details the lives of creatures big and small in all the seas around the world. But aside from its entertaining value, Oceans has the mission to teach its audience and plead for a better care of the environment.

Oceans is smoothly narrated by Pierce Brosnan. The music is lovely and it coordinates with the movement of animals throughout the film. As it is expected from a Disney production, the dynamics of prey and predator are not explored fully; they just barely scratch the surface, but if they had done so they would have scare rather than please. Some scenes are pretty cool, such as the one where a diver is swimming next to a great white shark.

Overall, a crowd pleaser!

L.A. Confidential (♦♦♦)

In 1950s Los Angeles Police Department there are all types of policemen: those like Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), who feed stories to paparazzi in exchange for money and fame; those like Bud White (Russell Crowe), who have a short-fuse but also a good heart, often used by his superiors as a “muscle”, but with enough brain to become a homicide detective if given the chance; then there are those like Edmund Exley (Guy Pearce), politics-savvy, willing to make a name despite his idealism…And the crooked ones, who think they can get away with anything.

When several people are violently murdered in a diner, LAPD appear to solve the crime rather swiftly, but all is not as it seems... Stolen drugs, a prostitution ring with movie stars look-alikes as hookers, politicians and corrupt cops, collide to provide clues for solving the diner’s murders.

I wasn’t crazy about this movie despite its all-star cast. I have seen some of those characters before, played by the same actors. The ensemble cas…

The Other Woman (Love and Other Impossible Pursuits) (♦♦♦♦♦)

Natalie Portman delivers another searing performance as Emilia, a Manhattan attorney who has an affair with married lawyer Jack Woolf. Jack’s marriage crumbles under his affair with Emilia, and given that she is pregnant with his child, they get married. Then, tragedy strikes…Emilia’s loved ones know that she deeply cares about them and that she is reeling with despair, but she keeps saying hurtful words to them, not releasing her pain but keeping it inside. Then, she makes a stunning revelation to her husband and their marriage seems doomed. Emilia’s opportunity to forgive herself and others, come in the form of people she never expected.

This movie made me cry, softly, but surely. Natalie Portman shines again and is truly convincing as the woman who is falling apart by her pain and guilt. This film doesn’t have the depth of “Black Swan”, nonetheless it is another jewel.

The Stoning of Soraya M., Iranian (♦♦♦♦)

Based on a true story, set in Iran in 1986, Soraya’s husband made all kind of demands to get rid of his wife and two daughters, to marry a younger woman. Soraya refused to grant him a divorce because he wasn’t going to provide alimony for her or her children. Determined to be free of his wife, Soraya’s husband seized an opportunity that arose when one of the village’s women died and the men asked Soraya to do house chores for the widow. Soraya’s husband started a rumor about his wife infidelity and ended up forcing false witnesses to provide their testimonies of Soraya’s betrayal. With enough witnesses against her, Soraya was found guilty and sentenced to death by stoning.

This movie made my blood boil. I just could not believe that that man could fabricate such lies to suit his purposes and convince everyone in town of them. That’s the power of a rumor! In this case the rumor had tragic consequences. Even her two sons were given stones to throw at her!

I thought the director of this…

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian (♦♦♦♦)

Wow. It has been a while since I have posted a comment about a book. I'm glad I really liked this one.

Laurel Estabrook was the victim of a sexual attack in her sophomore year of college that changed her perception of life forever. Cycling used to be her favorite pastime before the attack, but she gave it up; instead she undertook photography and swimming as hobbies. She even parted with most of her college friends, except Talia.

Laurel graduated from college with a Master’s in Social Work and went to work as a social worker for a homeless shelter called BEDS. One day, Katherine, the shelter’s director, gave Laurel the assignment of finding out the origin of some pictures found in possession of a former homeless man recently deceased. Laurel took the matter to heart and started to uncover the relationship between Bobby Crocker, the late homeless man, and the Buchanans of Long Island (Tom and Daisy Buchanan) and Jay Gatsby (all characters in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby)…

Million Dollar Baby (♦♦♦♦)

Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is a seasoned boxing trainer, cautious by nature, trying unsuccessfully to reconnect with his estranged daughter. His chance, to forgive himself for whatever bad deeds he may have done in the past, comes along when an aficionado fighter named Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) arrives at his gym, and asks him to be his trainer. “I don’t train girls”, Frankie says, but Maggie’s tenacity eventually wins him over. Maggie begins winning fights by knockout in the first rounds, and Frankie is left to figure out how to get her more fights since everyone refuses to fight her; so she is moved up a division, and that does the trick. Maggie faces rivals in Europe, and when she comes back to the States her reputation precedes her. It is then that her big opportunity to win a Championship Belt comes by facing “The Blue Bear”, an ex-prostitute from Eastern Europe, famous for fighting dirty.

Shadows contribute to enhance the drama in this movie, and so does the original …

Twilight Saga: New Moon (♦♦♦♦)

In this second installment of the Twilight Saga, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) goes to the Cullens’ house to celebrate her birthday and she cuts herself, prompting Jasper to go crazy for her blood. In an attempt to save her, Edward (Robert Pattison) pushes her aside, but with so much force that she is thrown against a wall and when she lands, she gets a gash on her arm. Oh, boy! Edward realizes that he and his clan are endangering Bella, so he makes the choice to lie to her and leave her.

Upon Edward’s leaving, Bella falls into a depression and increasingly avoids friends. Quite by accident she discovers that she can conjure Edward’s image every time she is in danger, so she starts getting into high adrenaline situations more often. Bella takes motorcycling as a pastime, and that’s how she comes to hang out with Jacob (Taylor Lautner). Jacob’s company, she realizes, makes her forget her pain; he makes her feel alive. That is, until Jacob starts avoiding her and starts hanging out with…

You Don’t Know Jack: The Life and Deaths of Jack Kevorkian (♦♦♦♦)

In this movie made for HBO television, stars Al Pacino as Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the physician that made waves in the nineties due to his assisting about 130 patients to commit suicide by administering a fatal combination of drugs via a machine. Dr. Kevorkian was put on trial five times and acquitted due to loops in the legal system, but he managed to bring to national attention the topic of euthanasia and the rights of terminally ill patients to decide when to end their journeys. Finally, in an attempt to plead his case in front of the Supreme Court, he assisted directly in the death of his last patient, was brought to justice for second degree murder and convicted on the basis of having had a disregard for law and having acted above it.

This was an Emmy-winning performance by Al Pacino, and well deserved; not only did he physically resemble Dr. Kevorkian, but his drive and dark sense of humor made me endure this movie despite its morbid topic. Susan Sarandon and John Goodman’s perform…

Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno), Mexican/Spanish (♦♦♦♦♦)

Princess Moana, the daughter of the King of the underworld, escaped from her kingdom to the realms of the humans and died there. Her father has awaited her return ever since, reincarnated in another human body…

Spain, 1944. The Spanish Civil War has concluded, but small groups of resistance fighters still remain hidden in the forests, aided by fellow countrymen. Young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) moves with her mother to the countryside to live with her newly minted stepfather, who is no other than Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez), a man without scruples. Ofelia dreads the place, but finds solace on fairy tales that start coming alive. A fairy guides Ofelia to Pan’s labyrinth, where the faun gives her a book that contains instructions to three trials that she is supposed to pass to prove that she is princess Moana reincarnated.

Fantasy and gruesome reality entwine during the course of this movie. The Spanish soldiers torture resistance fighters, there is euthanasia practiced by a doctor, Ofelia…

The American (♦♦♦)

Jack/Edward (George Clooney) is an American assassin hiding from other assassins in Castle del Monte, Italy. While working on an assignment, he befriends Father Benedetto, the local priest, and also falls in love with a young, beautiful prostitute named Clara, which makes him consider abandoning that way of life for good. The consequence of that decision may prove deadly.

This movie is like a puzzle to me. Not only George Clooney’s acting is dispassionate and flat, even when he swears he is in love, but there are plenty of unanswered questions left; for example, why do the Swedes want to kill him? Why does his boss want to kill him when he wants out? Who was Mathilde trying to kill and why? Anyway, the only thing very clear in the film is that he can build an automatic weapon from scratch, and even the priest seems to figure that out, but that path is not explored further. The movie is short on dialogues, emotions and explanations. Not Clooney’s best!

Little Fockers (♦♦♦)

Pam (Teri Polo) and Greg (Ben Stiller) have been married for a few years, they have twin children and apparently the never-ending distrust of Jack (Robert De Niro), Greg’s father-in-law, seems to be vanishing. That is, until the twins are about to celebrate their fifth birthday and the in-laws come to visit. Kevin (Owen Wilson), Pam’s ex-boyfriend, also makes an appearance when his engagement is off. Suddenly, everything conspires to create problems. Greg gets an offer from a pharmaceutical salesperson, conveniently a young, beautiful woman (Jessica Alba), to speak at a medical conference where he becomes a sensation. Greg’s apparent straying fuels Jack’s suspicions and this time he is firm on getting Pam and Kevin back together.

Before watching this movie, I had read a bad review but I didn’t want to listen. Shame on me! This movie is a complete waste of time. They have brought onboard actors who are not funny, and even the jokes of the veterans in the franchise no longer work. Robe…

The King’s Speech (♦♦♦♦♦)

England, 1930s. King George V (Michael Gambon) has died leaving two direct heirs to the throne: David and Bertie (Colin Firth). David is the obvious choice to rule, but as he is pronounced king, his romance with a divorced American woman causes quite a stir in the corridors of power. Bertie has always been on David’s shadow, but when powerful men begin to object his brother’s rule, it is up to Bertie to overcome his limitations and fears and rise to greatness. His brother abdicates and Bertie becomes King George VI. With the help of Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), he overcomes a severe speech impediment and flawlessly delivers the speech that marks the entrance of Britain in World War II.

This is a WOW kind of movie. At the theater when it ended everyone stayed on their seats, not talking, just there. There are many, funny lines in this film, but Colin Firth’s performance is a tour-de-force, so are Rush and Bonham Carter’s acting. The movie is a shower of ac…