Showing posts from August, 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…

Matar a Lutero by Mario Escobar (♦♦♦)

Germany, 1521. It’s been a few years since doctor Martin Luther has published his 95 thesis against the selling of indulgences, idolatry, etc, common practices in the Catholic Church. After publicly burning a papal bull by Pope Leo X and facing condemnation edicts imposed by Roman Germanic Emperor Charles V, Martin Luther is forced to flee Wittenberg and hide in Wartburg castle for several months under the protection of an influential prince.

Meanwhile, Pope Leo X, worried about the division of the faithful and church in Germany, and Emperor Charles V send mercenaries to kill Martin Luther. After three failed attempts against his life, Luther finds the strength to return to the pulpit and preach against the radical currents threatening the Reformation.

This book is full of short dialogues and even shorter chapters, which make reading easy but do not contribute to a full understanding of Martin Luther’s personality and character. We know that Pope Leo X and Charles V want to kill him,…

Matar a Lutero por Mario Escobar (♦♦♦)

Alemania, 1521. Hace unos años que el doctor Martín Lutero ha publicado sus 95 tesis en contra de la venta de indulgencias, la adoración de ídolos, etc., prácticas comunes en la iglesia católica. Tras quemar una bula del papa León X y enfrentarse a edictos de condena del emperador Romano Germánico Carlos V, Lutero es forzado a huir de su rebaño y esconderse en el castillo de Wartburg por varios meses.

Mientras tanto, el papa León X preocupado por la división de los fieles y la iglesia en Alemania--que podría extenderse a otros lugares de la cristiandad—y el emperador Carlos V, envían fuerzas para eliminar a Lutero. Luego de tres atentados contra su vida, Lutero halla fuerzas para volver al púlpito y desde allí rechazar las corrientes radicales que amenazan la Reforma.

Este libro está lleno de diálogos y capítulos cortos, que si bien facilitan la lectura no contribuyen a un completo entendimiento de la personalidad y el carácter de Lutero. Se sabe que el emperador y el papa quieren el…

The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand (♦♦♦)

Adrienne Dealey has left behind a bad boyfriend in Aspen and has moved to Nantucket Island. She only has three hundred dollars in her pockets, borrowed from her dentist father. A stranger on the train suggests her to ask for employment at The Blue Bistro, the trendiest restaurant on Nantucket.

Adrienne arrives at the bistro early in the morning, in time to meet Thatcher Smith, the restaurant’s owner, who over breakfast conducts an informal interview. Adrienne doesn’t have any previous restaurant experience, but she has extensive customer service experience in the hotel industry. Given her background, Thatcher offers her the job of welcoming guests and anticipating their needs as an assistant manager.

Adrienne soon discovers that Thatcher likes her; he even goes as far as admitting that he loves her. However, Fiona, the bistro’s chef and co-owner, comes first. He is so close to Fiona that they act like an old married couple; their friendship dates back to their childhoods. Meanwhile, …

The Eagle (♦♦♦)

In 120 A.D., 5000 Roman legionaires ventured to the North Britain territories and vanished forever, with them disappeared the golden Eagle—symbol of Roman honor. To avoid further loss of men, Emperor Hadrian ordered the construction of a wall in the frontier with North Britain.

No one ventured beyond the wall in twenty years, until Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum)--the son of the centurion in charge of the Ninth Legion—accompanied by Esca (Jamie Bell), his Briton slave, decided to restore his family good name by bringing back the statue. It helped that Esca spoke Gaelic; a former centurion living in the forest conveyed rumors of the Seal tribe having the Eagle. To retrieve the statue they would have to deceive the tribe, and so they did, but how to escape with no one helping?

For close to two hours one watched as Aquila and Esca ventured into the unknown, but the threats turned out to be more imagined than real. Were most of the legionaires dead? That question surfaced often and the an…

Sarah’s Key (♦♦♦♦)

Julia Jarmond-Tézac (Kristin Scott Thomas), an investigative journalist, is given the task of writing a ten-page exposé of the Jews roundup by French police in Paris in July, 1942. So begin two parallel accounts: one of Julia in present day Paris and another of a Jew family in 1942.

On one hand, Julia discovers that her in-laws’ apartment in the Marais used to be owned by the Starzynski family, three of whose members were shipped to concentration camps. When the police arrived at their apartment, Sarah Starzynski, a ten year-old, led her little brother Michél to a closet—making him promise not to come out--and closed it with a key. Taken by the police, along with her parents, she became desperate when realized that there was not going back to her old life. What would happen to Michél?

With the help of a French guard and in the company of another girl, Sarah escapes the camp. On her way to Paris, she meets an old couple who helps her get there, but once in her old apartment, now inhab…

The Help (♦♦♦)

This movie takes place in the segregated South in the 1960s.

Eugenia Phelan, a.k.a. Skeeter (Emma Stone) is given a job as a backup writer for a housekeeping column in a newspaper at Jackson, Mississippi. She asks Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), a black house maid in the house of white folks, for help. Aibileen accepts to help Skeeter, but the latter soon has another idea: she plans to write a book telling revealing stories of white folks from their maids’ perspectives.

At first Aibileen refuses, but a sermon at church makes her change her mind. Then Minny (Octavia Spencer), a maid who has recently lost her job jumps onboard as well. As the Civil Rights Movement is beginning to take shape and raids on black people increase, more maids collaborate with their own experiences. The publisher asks one more condition before publishing: to include Skeeter’s tale of the maid that brought her up, but finding out what happened between her mother and her maid may be more than Skeeter bargained fo…

Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦)

Gabriel is enjoying retirement with Chiara in Cornwall, England. A trip to London for a new painting commission and some R&R takes a wrong turn when two apparently coordinated terrorist attacks take place in two of Europe’s most prominent capitals. During a walk with Chiara in Covent Garden, London, Gabriel spots a possible suicide terrorist—the third of the day—but is prevented by Met police from shooting the suspect. The bomb goes off.

Suddenly Gabriel is swept back to a world he thought he had left behind. To gain some needed equity with the current American administration, Gabriel agrees with Adrian Carter and the president to chase the men responsible for the recent wave of terrorist attacks and execute them. Gabriel brings his old team of Israeli operatives on board.

Gabriel’s team knows a few things before hand. There’s an American born cleric with tenuous links to two of the 9/11 hijackers, who was once a CIA asset and has gone rogue. His “beautiful and seductive tongue” …

Beastly (♦♦♦)

In this modern day fantasy, Kyle (Alex Pettyfer) is an attractive high school student, vain as only his father can be. According to Kyle, beautiful people are meant to rule the world while ugly people are marginal. When Kyle wins a student election over Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), invites her to a party, and then humiliates her in public, Kendra touches his arm and curses him with a year living with his ugly looking self. The curse will vanish only if within that year someone tells him that they love him.

Seeing his son’s face proves to be too much for Kyle’s father, who buys him an apartment overlooking the city and pays a blind tutor to give his sons private lessons. When Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens), a beautiful former classmate who is practically invisible at school, comes to live with Kyle, he changes his identity and tries to win Lindy’s heart by doing everything she loves. The only problem is…He is running out of time.

This is a charming, romantic movie for younger audiences. It has …

Soul Surfer (♦♦♦)

Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb, Bridge to Terabithia), the daughter of two professional surfers (Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt), was born to surf. Her family even called her a mermaid. Her chances of winning a regional surfing competition were truncated by if-you-blink-you-miss-it shark attack in which she lost her left arm. Devastated by this tragedy, but still willing to compete in the regional, she trained hard, but it wasn’t enough for the massive waves pounded her. Discouraged by this upset, she gave up surfing until a trip to Thailand after the tsunami disaster made her realize how much she still had by being alive and having a family who loved her. Upon her return from Thailand, Bethany received hundreds of letters of people inspired by her strong willingness to overcome obstacles and she was inspired herself to take up surfing again with the support of her family.

This is a remarkable topic frequently seen in movies but that never stops amazing me. Hamilton’s life was saved …

One Summer by David Baldacci (♦♦♦)

Thirty-five year-old army veteran Jack Armstrong is dying from a rare disease. His last wish is to make it until Christmas…But on Christmas night his wife dies in a car accident on her way back from the pharmacy where she had gone to pick up Jack’s medication. Soon after his wife’s funeral, his mother-in-law offers to take his kids away and put him in a hospice to spend there his last days alone. As his kids are taken from him, Jack miraculously starts to recover, and after two months, he is given a clean bill of health and is discharged from the hospice.

After his recovery, Jack travels across the country to pick up his three kids who are living with relatives in the West Coast. With his best friend Sammy in tow, as well as Corey, Jack Jr. and Michelle--his three kids--Jack moves to a beach house he has recently inherited in the coast of South Carolina. As Jack befriends Jenna Fontaine--a town’s business owner and former DC lawyer—and her son Liam, his own issues with his kids and t…

The Bone House by Brian Freeman (♦♦♦♦½)

Glory Fischer, a native of a remote Wisconsin town, narrowly survives a deadly fire as a ten year-old. Six years later, she is found dead in a beach in Naples, Florida, where she had gone to vacation and to support her sister who was attending a national, college dance competition. The prime suspect is Mark Bradley who is also vacationing at the same resort with his wife.

Mark Bradley had it all: he was an attractive man in his mid-forties, he had a smart, beautiful wife who trusted him, a career at which he excelled and a house in an isolated part of the country, which he loved. His good name was taken away a year prior when rumors surfaced of him having a steamy affair with teenager Tresa Fischer, Glory’s older sister. He had been a substitute high school teacher but had been fired after the scandal. Mark wasn’t charged with a crime because Tresa denied the allegations. Despite of it, everyone in their community thought he was guilty and that Hilary, his wife, was a fool for trusti…

Friends with Benefits (♦♦♦½)

Jamie (Mila Kunis, Black Swan) is a successful headhunter. Dylan Harper (Justin Timberlake, The Social Network) owns an influential blog and is in conversations to head a well known publication. The problem is that Dylan lives in L.A. and would have to move to N.Y. City. Jamie convinces Dylan to take the new job with the condition that he can’t leave it for a year. Since Jamie and Dylan are both single and they haven’t been successful in any prior relationships, they decide to throw caution to the wind and be friends with benefits…Friends who have sex that is. Of course, that works well until they realize they are mutually the people they care about the most apart from family.

Patricia Clarkson, Woody Harrelson and Richard Jenkins co-star.

A lot of nudity and sex, but this movie manages to be really funny without sounding offensive. There’s solid acting by all characters, and the topic of Alzheimer’s is treated with care. There is great chemistry between Mila Kunis and Justin Timberl…

Captain America: The First Avenger (♦♦♦♦)

It is 1942. Europe is amidst WWII. Nazi Germany is in need of defeating the allied troops and for that purpose they engage in research for advanced weapons and related stuff. As part of the Hydra program, a German scientist (Stanley Tucci) develops a serum capable of altering body cells to create super soldiers. Before it is ready, Hydra chief Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), a power-hungry man, injects himself the serum and becomes sort of a mutant (this movie’s villain). The German scientist defects to the U.S. where he has the chance to perfect his invention and recruits Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a scrawny, young man intent on entering the army. When Rogers is injected the serums, he becomes a super version of himself; however he is warned that his best qualities will be magnified as well as his worst.

The army doesn’t take him seriously, but a U.S. Senator gives him the opportunity to help the troops by raising money for the cause. Wearing a colorful costume, Rogers becomes Capta…