Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The appeal of horror


                The horror genre lost its originality years ago. With the exception of few refreshing movies ("The Descent", "[Rec]", "Amer", original "Saw"), it's comprised of remakes, sequels, and multiple reiterations of the same themes done in the same way. Yet people still watch horrors. It's like there's some kind of need for brutality and gruesomeness. Can it be that getting scared and seeing other people die makes us feel more alive? "The Cabin in the Woods", a new horror directed by Drew Goddard from a script by himself and Joss Whedon, seems to think so and takes that premise to the extreme.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The levels of understanding


                "Cesare deve morire" ("Caesar Must Die") is the latest movie from brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, experienced (both over 80 years old) Italian directors and screenwriters. In February 2012 it won the Golden Bear, the main prize of the Berlin International Film Festival, and a very strong reception from the audience which seems to continue. So what's it about? Some time ago a friend told the Taviani brothers about the great experience she had watching a play in a small theatre in Rome and so they went to visit it. They went there, loved the actors, and decided to film them creating another play, Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar". All of that doesn't sound like something special but there's a catch. The theatre is in fact in Rebibbia, a high-security prison, and all of the actors are convicts sentenced for various crimes and to a various amount of time (some even for life). That's the most peculiar but also the most problematic thing about this movie.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Connecting the dots


                "El Prisionero del Cielo" ("The Prisoner of Heaven") is third in a series of four novels, written by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, telling the story about 20th century Barcelona, its people and its secrets. To write about the story would be unfair to those that haven't yet read any of the books so I will try to steer away from it. What is interesting about this book is that it brings together characters from the first two books and makes everything even more connected. The main characters of the series are the Sempere family: Sempere Sr., his wife Isabella, their son Daniel and his wife Beatriz, as well as Daniel's friend Fermín Romero de Torres and a writer named David Martín. How are they all connected is best you find out for yourselves. Nevertheless, I won't spoil anything if I say one of the key places in the story is the Sempere & Sons bookshop. That shows the importance that books have in the series and hints to a kind of meta-quality of it. But I should get back to the specific book.

The (in)effectiveness of action


                "Despite possible coincidences with the reality, this movie is a work of fiction." This is a disclaimer at the beginning of "Tropa de Elite 2 - O Inimigo Agora É Outro" ("Elite Squad: The Enemy Within"), a sequel to the fantastic "Tropa de Elite". It also constitutes the first difference between the movies. While most of the crew stayed the same, including director Padilha, screenwriter Mantovani and former BOPE member Pimentel, they didn't film real life inspired events like in the first movie. Although, one can easily assume what the sequel depicts isn't far from the reality. The other difference is that in "Tropa de Elite 2" the focus moves from the BOPE unit to the politics.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The repercussions of (in)action


                From October 2nd to October 6th 1997, Pope John Paul II visited Brazil for the fourth time. Since his first visit in 1980 the social inequality has grown exponentially and the safety conditions deteriorated. But as we all do, Rio de Janeiro tried to show itself in better light. Homeless families and children have been temporarily cleared off the streets and Pope's safety was entrusted to more than 20,000 detectives, military police officers and soldiers, amongst whom were the members of Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais (Special Policial Operations Battalion) better known as BOPE. BOPE is a special unit of military police concerned mainly with battle against organized crime and famous for its incorruptibility unlike the rest of the police.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fifteen minutes of fame


                "He'arat Shulayim" ("Footnote") is an Israeli 2012 Oscar contender, a 2012 Cannes screenplay award winner, and altogether a very highly praised movie. It tells a story about Eliezer and Uriel Shkolnik, a father and son, both Talmud scholars but with different amounts of public recognition. Eliezer devoted all of his life to comparing different versions of the Talmud but never published anything since his colleague beat him to it leaving as his greatest achievement a footnote in his mentor's book. On the other hand, his son Uriel wrote a lot of books on all kind of subjects and got praise for all of them. As a matter of fact, the movie opens with Uriel getting accepted to the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the honor which his father never got, and it's immediately clear that Eliezer doesn't take it well. The plot thickens when Eliezer finds out he won the Israel Prize, the most prestigious national award, after 16 consecutive failed nominations, and Uriel learns that it is he who should get it and his father got notified by mistake.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Adventures of the spirit


                In 1977 Italian comic book author Attilio Micheluzzi started creating his most extensive work, a comics series called "Petra chérie" which was being published until 1982, reaching a total of 24 small episodes. The main character of the comics is Petra de Karlowitz, a young women living in the neutral Netherlands during the First World War. First eleven episodes tell mutually unrelated stories from her life, showing how she helped the Allied forces in every way she could, trying to maintain her identity hidden in the process to be able to stay on good terms with the Germans and Austrians. While in the first half of the series we get to know Petra, see her virtues and flaws, how she thinks and acts, in a sequence of unrelated situations, in the second half Micheluzzi creates a continuing story which takes Petra from Italy all the way to Soviet Russia, visiting many countries in between, and shows us how she changes and evolves during that journey.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

To be, or not to be, that is the question


                "Looper" is a new action Sci-Fi getting overwhelmingly positive reviews and comments and even named movie of the year by some, which is pretty unusual for a movie of that genre. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, it tells of a world where time-travel was invented and immediately prohibited but is still used by criminal organisations. When they need to get rid of someone they send him 30 years in the past when an assassin kills him. Those assassins are called loopers and we follow the story of one of them, a guy called Joe. Joe is the youngest looper but he does his job without mistake. That is, until he has to kill his older self. You see, in the future they started hunting old loopers and sending them back to their younger selves with a big payment. That is called "closing the loop" and essentially means early retirement. So Joe finds himself closing his loop but things go amiss and older Joe escapes. The criminal organization led by a man from the future named Abe immediately starts searching for Joe, Joe searches for his older self, and older Joe searches for the Rainmaker, a mysterious figure who rules by iron fist in the future and gave away an order to kill all loopers, but is just a little child in 2042.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Say you, say me, say him


                Many speak of "Savages" as Oliver Stone's return to form. It certainly looks that way at first glance. Gritty, violent story about Chon and Ben, two drug dealers trying to rescue their mutual girlfriend O from the hands of the Mexican mafia powered with such stars as John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro and Salma Hayek as well as youngsters Blake Lively, Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson in leading roles. But then I became sceptical. Oliver Stone hasn't made a noteworthy movie (documentaries aside) for more than fifteen years and the other writers don't have appealing resumes (one of them, Don Winslow, is also the author of the book which the movie is based on, but writing a good book doesn't mean you can write a good screenplay). Still, I couldn't help hoping this one would be a hit so I went to watch it.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Learning to read


                There are many books about World War II and the Holocaust and of course, they can't all be good ("Jeder stirbt für sich allein" by Hans Fallada, translated as "Every Man Dies Alone" or "Alone in Berlin", comes to mind as an example of a great one). But when I came across one with the story of a little girl learning to read and developing a special relationship with the books in the middle of Germany during WW2 and when I found out Death appears in it not only as the end of life but also as a character, I was intrigued and eager to read it. Some 500 pages later it turns out it's not as good as it sounds.

Monday, October 01, 2012



                "Shame", a new film by British director and screenwriter Steve McQueen tells the story of a troubled young man struggling with himself in a big city. Brandon is in his mid-thirties. He has a boring but probably pretty safe job in some office, the nature of his work not being relevant. He's a lonely guy. The only two persons in his life are his sister, who comes from out of town with no place to stay and is as troubled as he is, and his wife-cheating boss, who gets drunk and sleeps with his sister. Brandon is a sex addict. He spends every available moment masturbating or having sex with whomever he can. The problem is he doesn't enjoy it. It's a pain and torture to him, almost as if he's punishing himself for something.