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Haunting Russian satirical comedy about the transformative power of art
Original Russian satirical comedy, without fanfare, that brings the intellectual honesty of a Russian theater director and the transforming power of art to the realm of the unexpected and the absurd, providing hilarious moments while simultaneously entering the field of the disturbing.
Roman is a young and rigorous theater director who works for the main Russian official theater. There comes a time when he finds an unexpected job opening in the porn industry.
The obvious title in Spanish alludes to the concept of psychological depth in the construction of characters. And Mikhail Segal's film is a satire about the depth of the Russian soul and the acting methods of one of his theater schools; and how this can be reinterpreted and used transposed to other unexpected situations for the protagonist and the viewer.
The film focuses on the coherence of Roman with his principles and his artistic training despite the changes of scenery, which produces very funny situations, although with the absurdity the film goes into disturbing paths. In other words, a film that addresses nothing less than the intellectual honesty of an artist and the transformative power of art.
This is an original comedy that never falls into stridency, that boasts great timing, where the performance of a notable Aleksandr Pal stands out as the imperturbable and tenacious Roman and that brings us an epiphanic ending.
The Witcher (2019)
A brilliant medievalist fantasy series
The Witcher is a brilliant and brief medievalist fantasy series, of great strength and concise narratives, that will surprise us at all times and we will wish that it never ends. Powerful characters, novelties in each chapter (which develop independent and varied stories and challenges but inscribed in a wide narrative arc), impressive production design, a highly original time structure and a fascinating sorceress with whom we will fall in love.
The series follows in the footsteps of Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill, a lonely wandering sorcerer who makes a living hunting monsters, the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra) and the young princess Cirilla (Freya Allan), a fugitive after their kingdom was invaded, in a fantasy world of medieval imprint, but fortunately removed, due to its narrative treatment, from the dynamics of Game of Thrones.
The Witcher is based on the saga of stories and novels Saga by Geralt of Rivia or The Witcher Saga by the Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski (also co-writer of the series). The series has brilliantly capitalized on and combined this dispersed origin in two fundamental aspects of its narrative structure. In the first place, because each episode develops a central event that shows a certain independence, but at the same time is at the service of a narrative arc that encompasses the entire series and maintains the interest of the viewer. Secondly, because of the highly original temporal structure with which it develops the course of its three protagonists.
As for the characters, it will cost us a little to empathize with the witch Geralt at first, until he conquers us with his phlegmatic, almost ironic apathy. Princess Cirilla is not likely to generate much excitement either, although her palatial setting is very interesting, with the energetic Queen Calanthe (Jodhi May), her grandmother, at the helm. But without a doubt, the most powerful character in the series is Yennefer, the young sorceress, and her fascinating evolution throughout the story. The English actress of Indian origin who plays her, Anya Chalotra, is a real find. Another magnetic character is the sorceress and instructor Tissaia, in charge of the Swedish actress MyAnna Burning, who recruits and prepares sorceresses for an interesting role that the series will reveal to us quite soon.
The development of the series will not spare fights with very diverse monsters and in different contexts, magical elements from their sorceresses, political and palace intrigues, battles and a love story, but always with a careful painting of its characters, dialogues that always they move the story forward, an ideal balance between intimacy and action or display scenes, moments of heroism that will never be seen as empty or bombastic, and wisely placed hints of humor.
The production design is impressive: the costumes, the crowd scenes (which always look real), the locations.
In short, a brilliant and brief medievalist fantasy series, of great strength and concise narratives that will surprise us at all times and we will wish that it never ends.
Electric Dreams (2017)
A generous taste of the Philip Dick universe, with a brilliant cast and great production hype
Remarkable anthology series, a collection of ten independent chapters based on the science fiction and fantasy short stories of Philip K. Dick, with a dazzling production and the attractiveness of a numerous first-rate cast in atypical roles and settings that includes Brian Cranston, Geraldine Chaplin, Steve Buscemi, Anna Paquin, Sidse Babett Knudsen (the protagonist of Borgen) and Vera Farmiga among many others.
In the midst of an offer with so many series that in general develop (and often stretch) a story and the same characters throughout several chapters (and seasons), the generosity of a series that displays such variety and conciseness with that makes.
Philip Dick's Electric Dreams is an anthology series made up of ten independent chapters based on stories by Philip Dick.
The stories include several constants of the famous writer of a science fiction of social and psychological projections and the occasional moralizing message in generally dystopian worlds: the human condition as opposed to that of humanized machines, loneliness, guarded societies, alternative realities, uchronies, the differences between reality and representation or fantasy, dystopian worlds, mutant beings), distributed, however, in a varied range of stories that cross science fiction or the fantasy genre with family or couple dramas, noir, police or political-social conflicts and with rather lonely protagonists faced with an adverse reality and who do not fully understand.
This Channel Four series unfolds a dazzling production that turns each episode into a wonderfully photographed, cinematic-grade medium-length film.
On the other hand, Electric Dreams brings together a cast of top-level actors and actresses in atypical roles and settings, far removed from those in which we usually see them. Thus parade, for example, Bryan Cranston as a space commander, Sidse Babett Knudsen (the protagonist of Borgen) as a disturbing and very particular femme fatal, Steve Buscemi as a gray employee of a biotechnology company, Geraldine Chaplin as an old space traveler, Timmothy Spall as a troubled train guard, a notable Essie Davis (far removed from her detective Miss Fisher or her mother in the horror film Babadook) composing a woman abused by her military husband on a space base but far from resignation and Vera Farmiga as a fearsome right-wing leader.
In the midst of an offer with so many series that in general develop (and often stretch) a story and the same characters throughout several chapters, the generosity of one that displays such a variety of stories, characters and settings and the conciseness is appreciated. With what it does.
Here is a brief review or the triggers for each chapter.
1. Real Life (based on Collectible Piece)
Anna Paquin is a policewoman from the future whose mind oscillates between two bodies and alternative realities.
2. Autofac (based on Automation)
In a dystopian future, a factory continues to compulsively distribute its products while exercising a fierce vigilance on consumers.
3. Human Is (Human is, based on the homonymous story)
Bryan Cranston is a military commander of a spaceship that makes an incursion into another planet and is married to Vera, an official played by Essie Davis, with whom he has marital and political disagreements.
4. Crazy Diamond (based on Ad Campaign)
Ed (Steve Buscemi) is a married man who works in a genetic engineering company in a particular dystopian world, and is related to the disturbing Jill (Sidse Babett Knudsen), a very particular femme fatal.
5. The Hood Maker (based on the homonymous story)
In an imminent confrontation between the Normals and the telepathic mutants, a Normal cop (Richard Madden) and a telepath work together to investigate him.
6. Safe and Sound (Safe and sound based on Foster, you're dead)
A teenage girl moves with her mother, an anti-policing activist (Maura Tierney), to an area of the US with privatized security to continue her studies in high school.
7. The Father Thing (The father-thing, based on the homonymous story)
A boy (whose father plays Greg Kinear) begins to realize that the humans in the suburb where he lives are being replaced by aliens.
8. Impossible Planet (The impossible planet, based on the homonymous story)
An old woman (Geraldine Chaplin) hires a space tour to visit Earth, in search of a reunion with her past.
9. The Commuter (based on The Subscriber)
Ed (Timmothy Spall), an employee at a train station with a troubled family situation, she begins to worry when a traveler repeatedly requests tickets to a town that does not appear on the route.
10. Kill All Others
An employee of an almost totally automated factory begins to perceive disturbing signs of social and media violence in a hypervigilated and authoritarian society in solitude.
Viaggio sola (2013)
Like a spy
This friendly and interesting Italian dramatic comedy accompanies a secret auditor of 5-star hotels, staging what this profession implies affectively for its protagonist, a beautiful and elegant woman, quite sure of what she wants, but not exempt from being reconsidered facing certain situations. And she does it without underlining or falling into the obvious or morals and avoiding the temptation of the tourist postcard.
Irene (Margherita Buy) is a secret auditor who tours 5-star hotels around the world verifying if she meets the standards according to that rating. Of course, to fulfill this function she registers as a common traveler without revealing her condition, and she only makes it express at the time of check-out.
A Five Star Life is a kind and interesting dramatic comedy by Maria Sole Tognazzi about what this apparently ideal job implies for Irene: being permanently on the road and the impossibility of establishing stable relationships and starting a family, this impossibility being also a choice.
Irene's closest affections are her friend Andrea (Stefano Accorsi), with whom she has an interesting relationship, and her sister Silvia (Fabrizzia Sacchi), married with two daughters, who as a woman who has started a family functions in some way as counterpart and mirror, but without falling into the obvious. The film sporadically dwells on them, especially in the role of the sister. The contrast between Irene's "real" life and the one she leads in those expensive hotels is marked only at the right point, avoiding schematics.
It is interesting to accompany Irene on her tour of the luxurious hotels and to follow her in her meticulous and highly professional check of her benefits, in a task that, as she says, has overtones of espionage. Although there are very beautiful locations and the film makes us travel with the protagonist (and this is very much enjoyed in these times of confinement), she does not fall into the temptation of the tourist route with her postcards. Irene never stops recording and, ultimately, working. In addition, the cuts and ellipsis of the story contribute to prevent any tourist gluttony.
Margherita Buy gives us an extraordinary performance because of her naturalness, which she conquers us from minute one. She endorses the sobriety with which the film raises the conflicts of Irene, a beautiful and elegant woman, quite sure of what she wants, but not exempt from rethinking herself in certain situations, without recharging the ink. This tone is not a limitation but the achievement of a film that avoids sentences and morals.
A daring world of warriors, skirts and jingles from Candy Crash
Originally intended for children and pre-adolescent female audiences, this return of the characters from the cult anime series Sailor Moon Crystal as a film preserves their almost exclusively female universe of warriors and villains and their ability to perplex (and somewhat overwhelm) adult audiences. With its lysergic display, its complex and delusional temporal and narrative structure, its humor and the audacity and naturalness with which it proposes gender, sexual orientation and relationship issues for its characters.
When a total lunar eclipse occurs in the city of Tokyo, time stops and the Sailor Guardians meet again to face the agents of the Dead Moon Circus and a power that commands them and that wants to take over the Golden Crystal.
Return as a film of more than two and a half hours (there were previous ones), divided into two parts, of the Japanese cult series and gay icon Sailor Moon (in particular from the Crystal saga), Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie, Called by Netflix as suitable for ages 7 and up, it unfolds a complex, crazy, romantic and apocalyptic story that is not easy to follow.
The film shows us a universe of heroines and villains almost entirely female, of warrior princesses who reunite from their "civil" life. It is a world with characters that change age, gay and non-traditional families, trans and androgynous characters, romantic relationships between girls and adults, princely but irrelevant boys and where the celebrated transformations of the heroines (the Sailor Guardians ) with its crystals, skirts and stylized nudes, young people and women in a state of permanent amazement, a magical world with jingles of Candy Crash and outbursts of humor.
The film respects the simple and bright anime graphics of the original series and allows interesting licenses with respect to the occasional character in that regard.
In short, intended primarily for children and pre-adolescent female audiences, this return of the characters from the cult series Sailor Moon (and a few more) retains its potential to perplex (and somewhat overwhelm) adult audiences with its lysergic display, its complex and delusional temporal and narrative structure and the audacity with which it proposes gender and sexual orientation issues.
A paleontology of crime
Although it exhibits certain reiterations in its narrative scheme with respect to previous seasons , Unforgotten continues to be an elegant series that continues to intrigue and captivate due to the precise description of its characters, the difficulties it adds to the detective work (with its reopening and task of paleo-investigation on closed cases opportunely labeled as disappearances , given the absence of a corpus delicti), their great performances and the charisma of the leading couple of detectives.
A skeleton is found in an excavation on the side of a London motorway, and detectives Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker) and Sunil Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) are summoned to investigate the case.
Just as Mare of Easton picks up elements from Happy Valley, Unforgotten's affiliation with the legendary and founding crime series Prime Suspect starring Helen Mirren is undeniable, with her delving into the psychology of policemen and suspects, her abundant and tense scenes from interrogations and the practically total absence of firearms.
Already the first chapter displays an almost overwhelming range of characters apparently disconnected from each other, to later reveal their links in the following, in a classic structure of this type of police force and that in this particular series refers to circumstances that go back to a past several years ago. This adds complexity to the plot, as the circumstances of each character in general have changed since the time of the crime: current ex-wives and wives, job changes, sons and daughters who grew up, friends who have lost touch over time. And, of course, it adds many difficulties to detective work, a true reopening and paleo-investigation work on closed cases opportunely labeled as disappearances, given the absence of corpus delicti.
In this case, the suspects belong to different social backgrounds and dissimilar occupations, with personal situations that range from failure and precariousness to notoriety and success. The murderer will be revealed as a cold and fearsome character, with a truly disturbing performance by the performer of him.
As for the family problems of both detectives, they are still present, but to a lesser degree than in previous seasons.
In sum, although it exhibits certain reiterations in its narrative scheme with respect to previous seasons, Unforgotten continues to be an elegant series that continues to intrigue and captivate due to the precise description of its characters, its great performances and the charisma of the leading couple, in particular of Nicola Walker, an actress with many resources, but also with several acting tics that as time passes she knows better how to control, gaining in sobriety and forcefulness.
A soulles story
It was a challenge to focus on the life of an arrogant, abusive, frivolous, and little known designer to the general public and to get the viewer to empathize with him and his story. And Haslton unfortunately does not succeed, resulting in a soulless miniseries, perhaps in part because of the solvent composition but somewhat lack of nuances of Ewan McGregor and surely because of a script that turns this biopic into a series of common places (whose succession is repeated almost entirely in each chapter) and that reduces almost all the other characters to mere interlocutors
Halston is a biopic that recreates the career of clothing designer Roy Halston Frowick from his first moment of fame as a designer of Jackie Kennedy's hats to his last stage.
There are several factors that contribute to making Halston a failed product. First: was his figure interesting enough to maintain an exclusive role? Ewan McGregor does a solvent but partial job of character composition recreating this arrogant, vain, frivolous, capricious and abusive individual of his ties and collaborators and certainly irresponsible. Obviously, Halston's personality and behavior do not lead to empathize with him, but neither does McGregor's characterization and especially the script, since this journey through his life is an inventory of topics that are already beginning to be too busy: from the remanufactured flashbacks about his childhood in Iowa to the relationship with the financiers who supported him (Bill Pullman appears in a great job), going through the falls and promotions, the creative abductions, the crises with his collaborators and lovers, the rudeness and the tantrums , with a practically complete reproduction of this series of events in each chapter. Perhaps the only thing that grows in the story is his addictions. The locations have been achieved, some reflections on creation occasionally attract some attention and the glamor appears, but in a somewhat mechanical way.
Halston's story is also that of his group of collaborators, who achieved individual transcendence once they left his surroundings. However, almost all the characters are reduced to the role of mere interlocutors, with very few exceptions, said this without claiming an exhaustive development of all of them. The series is also petty when it comes to the celebrities he dealt with, focusing almost exclusively on the bond with Liza Minelli in a rather superficial and unspecific way.
Perhaps Halston will acquire a certain meatiness in its last chapter and in the scenes that perhaps constitute the best of the series: the interviews he holds with the character played by Vera Farmiga and with his financier David Mahoney (Bill Pullman).
Mare of Easttown (2021)
Mothers who suffer
Adult mothers, very young mothers, single mothers, mothers who suffer, mothers are the main protagonists of this powerful police drama that takes place in the endogamous town of Easttown, with an impressive Kate Winslet in the role of the police officer Mare. A series that recalls Happy Valley for its tone and its protagonist and also gives us unexpected and bright flashes of humor that make the pain that reigns everywhere more tolerable.
Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) is a police officer who works in the small town of Easttown, Pennsylvania. She generally has to deal with thefts. She lives with her mother Helen (Jean Smart), her daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice), and her grandson. But the calm ends when she Mare must take charge of the investigation of a murder that occurred near the town and will have the help of detective Zabel (Evan Peters).
Mare of Easttown is a powerful and deep police drama that slowly reveals aspects of the past of its protagonists, starting with that of Mare herself. In Easttown everyone knows each other and it is this inbred element that causes the characters to intersect all the time and in constantly changing roles.
Although the police intrigue works very well and provides moments of high tension, the strength of the series lies in its dramatic component, with their very young mothers who must raise their children in solitude, marriages broken or in crisis, secrets, losses and duels. Although several suspects parade, in general our point of view coincides with Mare's or is ahead of him a bit and the miniseries is honest in terms of the information it provides. However, among the salient elements of her are her outbursts of humor, which arise at the most unexpected moments and prevent her from falling into gravity.
Kate Winslet gives a huge performance, in an anti-glamorous, tough and suffering character, reminiscent (and the series too) of the policewoman who played Sarah Lancashire in the English police extraordinary Happy Valley. She is notably seconded by the great Jean Smart (with whom she has incredible chemistry) and Evan Peters. That Mare's romantic interest is played by Guy Pierce seems like a nod to the couple who also formed in Todd Haynes' miniseries Mildred Pierce a few years ago.
The Witches (2020)
Routine and ... childish
A children's film unfortunately without double reading for adults, second adaptation of Roald Dahl's novel, somewhat routine and obviously with more digital effects than the first version, with an unleashed Anne Hathaway as main witch and an endearing Octavia Spencer.
After a car accident, a boy is orphaned and is adopted by his grandmother (Octavia Spencer). To change the scene, the grandmother decides to spend a time with the child in a luxury hotel where a congress of witches who detests children at the beginning of the 60s is held.
The Witches is the second adaptation of the homonymous novel by Roald Dahl, and not the only one where the writer takes children (and their parents) as targets of ironies and violence. In this case, the anecdote is quite minimal, since the boy and a friend are victims of a spell and then they will try to disrupt the secret coven with the help of the grandmother, who knows the world of witches.
Unlike many animated films that admit a child and an adult reading, in this comedy everything is hopelessly childish and plain, with many digital effects absent in the first version. The leader of the witches is an unleashed Anne Hathaway (fearsome only in some moments) and perhaps the best thing about this Robert Zemeckis film is the initial realistic section when the depressed orphan begins to live with his grandmother. When you see them heading to such a hotel, an element of tension appears because one wonders if they would admit two African Americans at that time, but the script uchronically resolves that they would.
The morale? Resilience, perseverance, courage and a love that goes beyond appearances.
The Kindness of Strangers (2019)
A film against miserabilism in vogue
In the midst of so much gratuitous misery that seems to be fashionable in today's cinema, where the protagonist faces a series of despicable characters, Lone Scherfig's film lives up to its title, since its protagonist, a mother with two children, he finds a true solidarity network that brings light and hope to a situation of sudden and absolute helplessness
Clara (Zoe Kazan) escapes with her two children to New York from an abusive husband, a policeman (Esben Smed), with a car as all capital. In the city, her path will meet Alice, a nurse (Andrea Riseborough), Jeff, a giddy young man (Caleb Landry Jones) and Mark, who runs a peculiar Russian restaurant (Tahar Rahim) owned by a phlegmatic Bill Nighy.
As in any choral film, the way in which all the characters converge at the hand of Alice (a true fairy godmother of what we could precisely define as a fairy tale or a Christmas tale) can be somewhat forced. Each of the characters carries a backpack and it will be seen if she manages to alleviate it and lighten those of the others.
Following Clara (a middle-class mother suddenly faced with homelessness) we will enter the world of social assistance in New York City, with an approach that avoids outrageousness, although for some it may be indulgent or naive.
The cast performs solvently, from the charming Zoe Kazan (notable in The Plot Against America) to a Tahar Rahim on the antipodes of his assassin from The Serpent, to the multi-faceted, altruistic and committed Alice of Andrea Riseborough.
In the midst of so much gratuitous and schematic miserabilism that seems to be fashionable in today's cinema, where the protagonist faces a series of despicable characters, Lone Scherfig's film lives up to its original title, as Clara meets with a true solidarity network that brings light and hope to a situation of sudden and utter helplessness.
Madame Claude (2021)
Much more than a "madam"
Interesting and at times controversial biopic of the most influential pimp woman in France. Also a film about the many and sometimes surprising but inevitable derivations of high-end pimping.
Madame Claude is concerned above all with the heyday of who was the most exalted and famous pimp woman in France during the presidencies of de Gaulle and Pompidou, how she ran her "house" and her "mansion" and her relationship with the circles of power.
This Silvie Verhayde partial biopic of Fernande Grudet, aka Madame Claude, focuses on three aspects. On the one hand, she was the pimp of the most exclusive network of female prostitution for more than a decade, which led her to link with circles of power, organized crime and others that the viewer will discover, striking a dangerous balance between them. Coupled with her sixties setting, this sometimes surprising but unavoidable aspect of high-end pimping lends the film, at times, a fascinating and sophisticated spy-movie climate. Do not demand a broad development of these subplots from this film as if it were a documentary or a miniseries; they simply place us in what the protagonist negotiated, trafficked and dealt with.
The other two aspects, closely related to each other, have to do with his private life and the way in which he managed his network, concentrated in high-end brothels (houses and later mansions), describing how he related to "his" prostitutes and the "Community" or "family" that they made up, which the film describes in an unbiased way, but without sparing any of its facets. This description of the intimate realm of VIP prostitution (and by extension of prostitution in general) will be controversial for some. In particular, Madame Claude's bond with whoever was her right hand, the enigmatic Sidonie (in a very good performance by Garance Mallinier, protagonist of the notable Voracious), develops. The director and actress Hafzsia Herzi also appears in the role of another call girl.
Karole Roche carries out a very good interpretation, combining toughness, dryness and passion of her difficult and complex character, showing a Madame Claude determined to make a place in the male power plot, exercising tight control of her prostitution network with a imprint that went from the maternal to the despotic and ruthless and going through the difficult relationship with her family.
The re-enactment of the period is very successful, with a soundtrack with French themes from the period very conveniently located and the usual European casualness in the intimate scenes.
Army of the Dead (2021)
Innovative, adrenaline-pumping, and visually stunning
In this film (reviled by the conservative world of fans of the most conservative subgenre of terror perhaps for its virtues), Zack Snyder dares to introduce some innovations in the zombie world, avoids solemnity, includes discreet notes on the present pandemic, notes from humor, some charismatic characters and, fundamentally, it displays extraordinary action scenes, adrenaline, fast-paced and very well resolved visually and from the soundtrack, giving us 2 and a half hours of pure entertainment.
The city of Las Vegas has been invaded by zombies and turned by the government into a kind of ghetto. The owner of a casino hires Scott Ward, a veteran (Dave Bautista) to rescue a fortune that was locked in the safe of the same, within the city. Ward will form a small squad to carry out his mission.
I am not a particular fan of zombie movies, a horror subgenre in general less innovative than vampire stories and that even makes a cult of rigidly maintaining certain premises. I think this partly explains the anger this Zack Snyder film has unleashed among conservative fans of the subgenre. The director and co-writer does not take his story too seriously, but he does introduce some innovations in the zombie world (generally chaotic and anarchic): humanization, hierarchical and social organization traits that provide some of the best and most powerful moments of the game. Film.
The introduction and titles of the film act as a true and accomplished summary of how Las Vegas got there. Its status as a ghetto that has its days numbered and that is surrounded by a wall and the presence of an adjacent medical camp establishes clear connections with the current pandemic moment and the Trump wall (in the latter case with an ironic undertone).
Znyder also does not take too seriously the personal stories and the links between the members of the brigade (in charge of a cast without stars), with their pending accounts, frustrations, expectations, dark points, betrayals, disagreements and reunions. But fortunately he does not fall into parody or self-awareness. The dialogues seem to function more as plot points of rest, almost as separators, in a group dominated by very frustrated Latino and African-American members. Perhaps the best developed and integrated links to the story and with more chemistry are the one that develops between the German safe expert Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer, a find) with one of the members of the group (Omari Hardwick) and ironically another on the zombie side. Another situation, the deteriorating relationship between a father and his rebellious daughter, is already too busy.
But the strong point of this film is its extraordinary action scenes, adrenaline, fast-paced and very well resolved, supported by a great soundtrack, with our antiheroes facing all kinds of zombies (some of which run very fast, unlike the traditionally hesitant) in different situations, with abundant dose of gore, in a reconstruction of a semi-destroyed Las Vegas as a mind-blowing setting. Let us bear in mind that the operation takes place before our eyes practically in real time.
Love, Death & Robots (2019)
Volume 2: With the prodigious visual quality of always
The second volume of this remarkable anthology of animated shorts is on Netflix, with its usual variety of themes, genres, characters and situations and its astonishing and varied visual quality
The second volume of this anthology series comprises 8 animated short films (with durations ranging from 7 to 18 minutes) that cover, as in volume 1, a wide range of themes, situations, characters and genres: the automation of housework, races in menacing places, eerie breaks on a train journey, amazing Santa Claus, odyssey in remote places, genetically modified people and cyperpunks, space warriors, robots with inerperated behaviors, monsters, immortal human beings.
In terms of genres, dystopian science fiction dominates (some refer to the universe of Philip K. Dick) but there are some wonderful fantastic stories - one of them Lovecraftian - two of which are among the best in the series (The grass Alta and The Sleeping Giant) and others with some touches of black comedy (Automated Customer Service and The Visit)
In any case, the greatest merit of the anthology continues to be its extraordinary quality and visual variety, with a palette that goes from the comic line (Ice) to others of an astonishing hyper-realism (Refuge, Evolutionary Response and the aforementioned The Drowned Giant), going through other aesthetics closer to the Disney universe (automated customer service and The visit), stop motion and something from the visual world of video games.
In short, a juicy and varied collection of shorts ideal as an aperitif before watching a movie and not bingeing on them.
1) Automated customer service
A housewife must deal with the unusual setbacks caused by a malfunctioning robot vacuum cleaner.
A group of modified teenagers challenge a common one to a race on a dangerous icy surface.
3) Pop Sqad A police officer must fulfill a strange task to preserve the immortality conquered by humans.
4) Snow in the desert
Snow is a loner who lives in the desert and is targeted by several bounty hunters for one of his attributes.
5) The Tall Grass
When a train stops in a place of tall grass, one of its passengers decides to investigate some strange lights that appear in the distance.
6) All Through the House
A bizarre Christmas tale about an unexpected visit for two little brothers on Christmas Eve.
7) Life Hutch
A space warrior makes an emergency landing on a planet and when entering a shelter he must face an anomalous situation.
8) The Drowned Giant
A naked giant seems stranded on a beach in a coastal town and arouses the curiosity of its inhabitants.
La vita davanti a sé (2020)
"When you lose hope, good things happen"
I must confess that I had the worst precautions against this film, fearing a maudlin or demagogic product. But I have come across a remarkable painting of its two protagonists, the octogenarian Madame Rosa (Sophia Loren) and the little Momo and a story about the meeting of two survivors and their helplessness, of two very beaten destinies, at the end and at the beginning of their lives.
Although the story sticks to a sober realism at times quite hard, it does not skimp on opportune touches of a very Italian humor by Rosa herself and genuinely moving moments where deep sadness, the irremediable, hope and consolation are mixed .
As Madame Rosa says: "when you lose hope, good things happen"
Madame Rosa (Sophia Loren) is a former Auschwitz surviving prostitute. In her home, Bari, she temporarily shelters the sons and daughters of sex workers and also cares for them while they work. One day, her doctor and her friend Dr. Coen (Renato Carpentieri) entrusts her with the care of Momo, a 12-year-old Senegalese orphan of whom she was her guardian (Ibrahima Gueye), with whom they will begin a conflictive coexistence. .
I must confess that I had the worst precautions against this film by Edoardo Ponti (Loren's son and the also legendary producer Carlo Ponti), fearing a corny or demagogic product. But it has surprised me for good.
The painting of the two protagonists is very successful, an octogenarian Madame Rosa carrying as she can certain traumas from her past and the growing ailments of age and a Momo unwilling to give up her freedom and a certain economic independence, based on sales work of drugs on the street for a local dealer.
From now on, the issue of African immigration to southern Italy is brought to the fore, as well as a very evident class gap when we see Momo and her clients. Like every child, Momo desperately needs male and female guardian figures to guide and nurture him.
Madame Rosa's encounter with Momo is that of two survivors and their helplessness, that of two fates that were hit hard at the end and at the beginning of life, and although the story sticks to a sober realism at times quite hard, it spares no opportune touches of a very Italian humor by Rosa herself and genuinely moving moments where deep sadness, the irremediable, hope and consolation are mixed.
Loren gives us a great character, totally anti-glamorous and lovable, while the little newcomer Gueye perfectly interprets that combination of disoriented child and small adult.
The Woman in the Window (2021)
Unfortunately, a rehash rather than a tribute or rereading of several suspense classics. Summary: Wright does a rehash of classics by Hitchcock, De Palma and Polanski, but h
Wright does a rehash of classics by Hitchcock, De Palma and Polanski, but he only uses them as formal shells, he does not re-read them; he does not reinvent or resignify them. To classify it as a tribute is to use a term that is too big for it.
Also, when insanity creeps in to enable any narrative license and play with the point of view of the story and the viewer, a script can suffer and jeopardize credibility and empathy with the characters if it is not solid. And that is what unfortunately happens in this movie.
Anna Fox (Amy Adams) is a child psychologist who lives secluded and medicated in a huge multi-level house in Manhattan. She struggles with depression and cannot overcome the agoraphobia that afflicts her. She likes spying on her neighbors, especially a family that has recently moved into the apartment across the street and whose members she will begin to interact with.
Director Joe Wright and his screenwriter have set out to rehash several suspense classics (by Hitchcock, De Palma and Polanski) and try to combine them (the film, in turn, is based on a best seller). The most direct model (beyond the obvious one that is Rear Window) for all the cites it combines is a Brian de Palma film that I will not reveal. But while he reinvents what he somehow cites in that film (two Hitchcock classics), Wright remains on the surface of each of his models since they function only as shells or formal and narrative resources and not as re-readings. To classify The Woman in the Window as a tribute to those classics is to use a term that is too big for it.
Also, when insanity creeps in to enable any narrative license and play with the point of view of the story and the viewer, a script can suffer and jeopardize credibility and empathy with the characters if it is not solid. In this case, the narrative knot is that Fox (and we with her) is a witness to a crime. But then the story makes us doubt, misplacing our point of view as spectators. This would not be bad if the script was consistent and did not engage in certain manipulation maneuvers.
On the other hand, there is some theatrical dynamics in the story, to the extent that aspects of its protagonist are slowly revealed that explain her present and round out her identity. Let's say that the house is also the protagonist of the story and the director knows how to use it well, also giving away some beautiful frames. Danny Elfman's music is at times reminiscent of the classics that are being quoted.
The solvent and impressive cast does what they can and significantly, one of the best moments of the film is a very calm and natural one shared by Amy Adams and Julianne Moore (in the role of her new neighbor).
An anguished reconstruction of identity
Oxygen is much more than a film about confinement or a mere claustrophobic exercise that takes place in real time: it is a spatial elegy that tells us about the indissoluble relationship between identity and memory, about the anguished reconstruction of the latter and that at the same time time that wears elegant and sober high-tech devices, lavishes moments of ineffable poetry and more than one epiphany.
It is another of those films with many merits (and undeniable affiliations) that instead of analyzing it for what it is, some criticize it for what it is not or for what it "should be".
The film begins with Elizabeth Hansen (Mélanie Laurent) "waking up" in a cryogenic capsule that has a virtual medical assistant called MILO (in the voice of Mathieu Amalric) who informs her that due to a technical malfunction, the oxygen levels in the module are dropping. Constantly. But who is Elizabeth? Why is she there? Where is that capsule? The protagonist will look for answers and a possible way out of her distressing situation.
Oxygen is another of those films with many merits that instead of analyzing it for what it is, some criticize it for what it is not or what it should be according to them or establish superficial comparisons or affiliations with others. It is an intimate science fiction film where the protagonist must face an initial situation of absolute confusion (she does not know who she is, or where she is or why), as if her awakening were a new birth, a chrysalis trying to get out of her confinement. That is why Oxygen is much more than a film about the confinement or a mere claustrophobic exercise.
The film takes place in real time inside the capsule and constitutes for the protagonist a strenuous exercise of rebuilding her identity from memory (with her exterior screenshots), interacting with the friendly but relentlessly algorithmic MILO (reminiscent of the HAL of 2001 but also of current virtual assistants)
The director Alexandre Aja knows how to make the most of the successful design of the capsule and skilfully does not incur repetitions (filming in such a narrow location is a challenge) counting on the great performance of Laurent (in a true tour de force acting ).
If we have to look for affiliations, I would point to Gravity and 7500 (which takes place almost entirely in an airplane cabin) and others that I cannot reveal, although in this case the coordinates are clearly futuristic science fiction.
There is in this film a certain ineffable poetry and more than one epiphanic moment, aided by ROB's remarkable electronic music.
Oxygen is a spatial elegy that has all the resources to move the viewer.
El baile de los 41 (2020)
"Some duties cost more than others"
Remarkable approach from the melodrama centered on a love triangle of a social, political and sexual scandal that occurred in Mexico in 1901. A dazzling staging and a first-class script and performances in a film with Viscontian echoes.
A testimony of the homoodium of that time (which did not stop at class privileges) and which continues to have renewed echoes in the present that are far from being silenced, particularly in countries like Mexico and many others.
The film begins with the lavish engagement party of the ambitious deputy Ignacio de la Torre (Ignacio Herrera) with Amada, the daughter of Mexican president Porfirio Díaz (Mabel Cadena) back in 1900. What nobody knows yet is that Ignacio is a A covered homosexual who attends a kind of clandestine gay club and ends up linking up with Evaristo Rivas (Emiliano Zurita), an employee of Congress.
This remarkable film by David Pablos brings together a host of successes. First, because it bets on melodrama to address a scandalous historical event that occurred in 1901 in Mexico City and that no one had dared to address, concentrating the plot on the love triangle that Torres, Amada (a true irony that was called that) and Rivas constitute. , with its progressive and complementary stories of love and heartbreak. However, the scenes that take place in the club are enough to describe the profile of its members, their codes, their dynamics and the activities that took place there. On the other hand, the socio-political context is very clearly exposed and without annoying underlining. This approach marks a huge difference from Hollywood "fact-based" products that are information-saturated in their all-encompassing claim that produces schematic developments of their characters.
Monika Revilla's script (not coincidentally also the scriptwriter of Someone has to die) is extremely precise, in a story where the characters speak only what is necessary.
The staging is dazzling: the setting and the costumes conveniently place us in the high social extract of the characters, the photography is wonderful and the director achieves an accumulation of effective, expressive and virtuous sequences that accompany, when necessary, to their characters. As in all good melodrama, irony and a certain bitter humor are not lacking, as in an anthological scene in which Amada plays the piano.
The performances of the protagonists are very good, in characters that present various nuances within their well-defined profiles in a story that is a true pressure cooker.
Dance of the 41 is a testimony, on the one hand, of how not even money and privileges could put a free and private sex life absolutely safe from homophobia, homo-hate and the derision of the political, religious and social establishment of the Mexico (and the world) of then and that continues to have renewed echoes in the present that are far from being silenced, particularly in countries like Mexico.
The Cakemaker (2017)
Remarkable film about the meeting of two mournings: that of the German lover of an Israeli engineer and that of his widow. Sober, subtle, intense and moving.
Thomas (Tim Kalkhof) is a pastry chef who runs his own café (Konditorei) in Berlin. He strikes up a relationship with Oren (Royal Miller), a married Israeli engineer with a daughter and they see each other every time Oren travels to Berlin. After a long absence from the latter, Thomas learns that his lover has passed away and decides to travel to Jerusalem to connect with his surroundings.
The film by Ofir Raul Greizer slowly and subtly builds what constitutes a meeting of two mournings: that of Thomas, who seeks to recover (and rebuild) Oren through everything that was his life in Jerusalem and that of his widow Anat (Sarah Adler), who must move on to her newly opened cafe, where Thomas will end up working. The encounter between the two first makes one fear a perverse and even fetishistic plot on the part of Thomas, but the evolution of the story becomes deeper and more comprehensive, leading both characters to deep rethinking. Some normative religious questions also arise about this type of business and family members who are the custodians of this tradition. It is also - and nothing less - the meeting between a German and an Israeli.
It is very interesting and moving to follow the transformations of both characters: a Thomas with his Germanic inscrutability and an enterprising Anat, perhaps the most interesting character, in a wonderful performance of Sarah Adler - a sort of Israeli Charlotte Gainsbourg - in a film that remembers for moments for its veiled intensity, to the also Israeli The Kindergarten Teacher.
Les faux-monnayeurs (2010)
Successful adaptation, with literary breath and Proustian atmosphere, of Gide's novel about certain forbidden loves in the Paris of the 1920s.
Based on André Gide's novel of the same name, the film follows in the footsteps and conflicting loves of two teenage friends, Bernard (Jules-Angelo Bigarnet) and Oliver (Maxime Berger) and their relationships with adults. The former leaves the family home to later bond with the latter's uncle and writer, Edouard (Melvil Poupaud), while Olivier, enters the publishing world early, associating himself with the noble dilettante Robert de Passavant (Patrick Mille).
The director Benoit Jacquot tactfully tackles the controversial subject within the book: "forbidden" homosexual relationships and loves between adults and adolescents (with their burden of disagreement, jealousy, hope and depression), within the framework of a time where, however , a certain Parisian bourgeoisie and even family environments spoiled them or at least turned a blind eye.
The film makes an opportune use of the first person of the off-screen or epistolary literary story to express what the characters do not dare to say to each other and uses correct ellipsis to suggest or avoid showing certain situations (I did not read the novel and I cannot know if it exhibits the same modesty). A certain subplot is reminiscent of Volker Schlöndorf's Young Törless, an inescapable reference (based on a novel by Robert Musil published in 1906).
The tone, story, and meticulous period reconstruction of 1920s Paris immerse the viewer in a successful, but by no means, pretentious Proustian novel atmosphere in a film that sports tight performances by its entire cast.
Things Heard & Seen (2021)
A marital drama about the fearsome
First of all, let's clarify that we are not looking at a traditional horror movie but a conjugal drama with fantastic elements that takes place mostly, yes, in what we could call a haunted house. That is why it unleashes the ire of viewers and certain critics who lose their position in the face of a combination of genres or a different approach to them or of those who confuse their intentions with those of those who made the film. In short, they cannot read where the terrifying sits, they do not recognize it.
Developed with a good narrative pulse, is a production that despite its length maintains interest, is filmed with a beautiful photograph and that, consistent with its premise and style, fortunately avoids the gratuitous underlines of so many traditional horror films.
George Claire (James Norton, seen in Happy Valley and The Nevers) is an art history professor who gets a recommendation to practice at a small university in upstate New York. His wife Catherine (Amanda Seyfried, whom we recently saw in First Reformed) is a restorer who agrees to accompany him to his new destination with their young daughter. The family settles in an old house with a dark past where disturbing phenomena soon begin to manifest themselves.
First of all, let's clarify that we are not looking at a traditional horror movie but a conjugal drama with fantastic elements that takes place mostly, yes, in what we could call a haunted house. That is why it unleashes the ire of viewers or certain critics who lose their position in the face of a combination of genres or a different approach to them or those who confuse their intentions with those of those who made the film.
Actually, it is a film similar to The Nest: the new house sets in motion a marital crisis that was latent because it unmasks the personality of her husband. In The Appearance of Things, the film rightly accompanies the point of view of both members of the couple and describes how, in some way, the house "accompanies" this crisis. And as for her approach to the genre, she follows the line of Babadook or Hereditary in terms of privileging drama.
In much of the film of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini a couple drama dominates where the divergent paths that both spouses begin to travel and the incidence of some secondary characters in it are developed with a calm but without pause. The fantastic backdrop relates to the ideas of the afterlife of the 18th century Swedish theologian Swedenborg and to the object of study of George, the 19th century painter George Innes, a follower of Swedenborg and one of whose works illustrates the cover of one of his books. But the introduction of the film had already warned us that something serious happened in the house and the film enters a later stage of its development into the terrain of the thriller, as a logical culmination of the accumulated tensions (although one regrets the breakdown of the calm narrative balance of the first part).
Seyfried and Norton are perfect in their roles, as well as Rhea Seehorn as Catherine's new friend, in a production that despite its length maintains interest and is filmed with a beautiful photograph, which fortunately avoids the underlining of so many horror films and whose key question would be where does the terrifying lie? It seems that many viewers are unable to see it.
Treat your virtual assistant well
Mind-blowing, creative and adrenaline-pumping narrative roller coaster about a family that is forced to face a planetary rebellion of robots and other machines (with an unthinkable leader), in the very heart of Silicon Valley, with an enormous visual display, an unbeatable humorous timing and ironic criticisms of connectivity, virtual assistants and online life as a panacea. An up-to-date warning about the dangers of computer fascism.
Katie lives with her parents and her younger brother. She gets accepted to a film school, but her father cancels her plane flight and decides to take her to school by car with the whole family. In the middle of the journey they are surprised by a world rebellion of robots commanded by an unthinkable leader (voiced by Olivia Colman).
Few doubt that, for some years now, the best scripts and the most creative ideas have been largely provided by animated films. And as in this case, they also endow their characters with a complexity and humanity often absent from their flesh and blood counterparts.
In this film, the family dynamics in the face of the crisis that it must face is very well developed: its members learn to know and respect each other and to redefine their roles. There is a vindication of the family that does not look conservative but rather as a collective and overcoming reconstruction and not as compliance with the previous status quo.
But undoubtedly, the strength of this Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe film is the mind-blowing, creative and adrenaline-pumping narrative roller coaster about this family (not forgetting their dog, the protagonist of a recurring hilarious conceptual gag) that is forced to face this rebellion. World of robots and other machines in the very heart of Silicon Valley, sporting a huge visual display (combining various animation effects), unbeatable humorous timing and ironic criticism of young computer geniuses and the bidding software vs. Hardware and connectivity, virtual assistants and online life as a panacea. And an updated alert about the dangers of computer fascism.
To see on the biggest screen you have.
Swiss Army Man (2016)
From eschatology to nonstop poetry
A daring, original and disconcerting film about the encounter between a castaway and a dead person that changes his life expectancies. With its multiple genres, it goes from eschatological to non-stop poetry and has all the elements to transform itself into a cult film.
Hank (Paul Dano) is a castaway who is about to commit suicide on a desert island, when he warns that the sea throws a corpse on the beach, a circumstance that will totally change his life expectancy.
The corpse is that of Manny (Daniel Radcliff), who becomes a kind of Swiss army knife for the protagonist (that's what his title alludes to in English), and with whom he will forge a curious bond.
The award-winning film by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert is one of those unclassifiable works that has all the elements to become a cult film. Combination of black comedy, fantasy cinema, love story, adventure and survival cinema, melodrama, zombie and learning story, with something of Quixotic and Frankenstein, it goes from the eschatological to non-stop poetry, supported by a great soundtrack.
A daring, original and disconcerting film supported by the great and played performances and the chemistry between Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliff.
I See You (2019)
A narrative chess full of forced situations
It is one of those typical films based on a concept and the narrative and genre twists that it entails. In this case it is about the change of point of view. But the script reduces the characters to mere pieces of a narrative chess and exhibits gaps and forced and unlikely situations designed to keep the viewer interested after the first surprise.
The Harper family lives in a huge house by the sea. The mother, Jackie (Helen Hunt) is a psychologist, the father, Greg (Jon Tenney) is a policeman. The relationship between them is not going well at all and this is reflected in the behavior of Connor, his teenage son (Judah Lewis). On the other hand, Greg is in charge of investigating the disappearance of a minor in a case reminiscent of others that occurred 10 years ago, whose culprit is in prison. But some inexplicable events begin to happen in the house ...
All of this would seem to indicate the starting point of one of those good thrillers or horror movies based on a good family drama. But unfortunately it is not like that.
Adam Randall's is one of those typical films based on a concept and the narrative and genre twists that it entails. In this case it is about the change of point of view and the new information that this provides to the viewer. But a good idea is not enough to make a good movie. In the first place, the characters do not develop and become mere pieces in the staging of a narrative chess. But the main problem is that the script presents numerous forcings, implausibilities and loopholes (see spoiler area below) that spoil a proposal that was interesting, perhaps in order to sustain the impact of the surprise it causes on the viewer.
Anyway, the film (in short, more a thriller than a horror one), while accumulating inconsistencies, achieves moments of good suspense and shows an elegant staging, with an effective soundtrack at times to shore up the weakness of the story.
My Octopus Teacher (2020)
Beautiful cinematography and a life story that hurts
A wonderfully photographed and mounted documentary about the surprising habits of a female octopus and its fascinating habitat, which is supplemented by the motivations of the documentary filmmaker and the judgmental "lessons" that he draws from the "bond" he establishes with the mollusk. A kind of life story that works as a totally unnecessary narrative excuse.
Winner of the Oscar 2020 for best documentary feature film.
A documentary filmmaker follows the habits of an octopus for almost a year in a kelp forest in the cold waters of the South African coast, establishing a kind of link with the mollusk.
First of all, a personal clarification: of documentaries about the natural world (and I would say that of documentaries in general), I will always prefer those in which the documentary maker does not appear on camera and all the material is focused on animals, plants and animals. / or ecosystems that are described. In the other type of documentaries, the documentary maker becomes one of the main characters of the film with elements of the making of it.
In My Octopus Teacher, this second aspect appears where the documentary filmmaker and environmentalist Craig Foster (also a producer) tells us that he addresses the behavior of a female octopus as a kind of therapy for to get out of a depression that afflicted him and the lessons that he is extracting (and the obsessive traits that he is showing) from relating and "communicating" with the animal while closely following almost its entire life cycle.
Is this interesting? Does this life story add anything? I would say not. It appears as a totally unnecessary excuse or narrative articulator. I would only rescue his reflections on the decisions he is making about filming. However, the directors of the film are Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, so most likely not all scenes were shot in the conditions that Foster is immersed in.
And I say that this narrative framework or excuse is unnecessary because the strength of this film is in its wonderful images of the octopus and its surprising adaptive resources to its fascinating marine habitat, displaying varied cinematographic resources (where the camera often becomes subjective) and without sparing dramatic scenes of danger for the animal. Of course, here there is also a story and a montage that sets up scenes and I allow myself to doubt its chronology.
An ethical space drama rather than an epic
This accomplished space science fiction film, which sports a realism that places it on the path of Gravity, is, above all, a tense ethical drama crossed by scientific pragmatism (and the privatization of the space race), with good performances and very beautifully filmed.
A spacecraft leaves for Mars on a science mission. Its crew is made up of its commander Marina Barnett (Toni Colette), the doctor Zoe Levenson (Anna Kendrick) and the biologist David Kim (Daniel Dae Kim). Shortly after take off, they discover a fourth passenger (Shamier Anderson).
Joe Penna's movie has many edges to analyze. First of all, let's say it's a science fiction drama and in that order. The presence of the stowaway (the stowaway of the original title) raises questions about why he is there and, added to the incident that causes his appearance, unleashes a series of questions related to the logistics of the flight from that moment on.
This ethical drama about the positioning of the protagonists regarding what to do in the face of this emergency takes place realistically along the lanes of scientific pragmatism, without the confrontation between the positions being resolved by the well-traveled path of the thriller. These positions and the roles that they entail may be uncomfortable or controversial or allegorical if we relate them to the origins of the characters. But the rational confrontation between positions does not naturally imply the absence of tension between the characters: it is the ethical debate that produces it and articulates the plot. Nor should we lose sight of the fact that the space mission is financed by a corporation (it is called Hyperion and remains totally and cleverly out of the field - great success of the script - and that it recalls the space endeavors of Elon Musk) or the role of authority the obedience.
The production gives us a ship with a wonderful interior design, with some sequence shots that allow us to go through it and achieves great tension in some scenes outside the ship. Perhaps some questionable element appears in terms of scientific plausibility, but I recommend to those who criticize, for example, the treatment of gravitational aspects, to guggle before giving their opinion.
Clearly, due to its realism and humanism, Stowaway is located in the path of Gravity and offers us an elegant ethical space drama but crossed by scientific pragmatism and the always imponderable deux et machina, with a very good quartet of interpreters.