awake (2007)

by zEke

awake posterAnesthesia awareness occurs when a patient has not had enough general anesthesia to prevent consciousness during a surgical procedure and remains awake and aware although unable to communicate. This is the interesting premise of awake. Unfortunately, by the time it ends you feel like the main character and wish you were not awake through the scarce eighty minutes it lasts.

The movie is divided into two halves. The first half tries to ineffectively introduce the characters. Clay Baresford (Hayden Christensen), a wealthy New Yorker in need of a heart transplant, is engaged to Sam Lockwood (Jessica Alba), his overprotective mother’s assistant. No need to say that Lilith Baresforth (Lena Olin) does not know anything about his son’s engagement. Dr. Jack Harper (Terrence Howard), a friend of Clay is the one in charge of the surgical procedure. Half an hour seems too much time to spend describing such archetypal characters. Mainly when nothing they tell is going to help you understand what is going to happen.

The second half, that could actually survive on its own, starts with Clay laying on the stretcher about to be put to sleep. At least they try. After that, the movie reminded me (just that) of essentials Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s breakdown (1955) (seventh episode of the first season of alfred hitchcock presents (1955)), and Dalton Trumbo’s johnny got his gun (1971). It did for around forty two seconds. Joby Harold’s scriptwriting and direction skills are those of a beginner, which he cannot hide, even though he is able to deliver a couple of remarkable instants (rather than moments).

Towards the end, the movie splits into what is going on in Clay’s head and what is going on in the real world. Unfortunately, the editing does not really help. On top of that, we are surprised with not one, but three twists, one right after the other. And do not worry if you are one of those people that need to watch these kind of movies twice to close all the knots. They will try to explain what is going on with both tricky flashbacks to the first half of the movie and a past we did not know about.

The cast, as everything else, is, at the most, mediocre. I am still waiting for Jessica Alba to find that role that turns her into a cute good actress. As for now, she is just cute. Christensen, as always before, bad, although I will say that improved since we saw him as Anakin Skywalker. Howard and Lenin are certainly under their possibilities. I have the feeling they did not buy their character either. But then again, who does?

All in all, an interesting idea surrounded by a whole load of nonsense. A short movie might have been a better fit for this plot. Nevertheless, the same way Ashley Judd has found her audience, some people will actually enjoy this ride.

For the deadhours of those about to put themselves under the effects of general anesthesia.

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the holiday (2006)

by zEke

the holiday posterThose who frequently stop by, know already that romantic comedies is not a genre that I particularly visit. But every now and then someone asks me to and I politely do. Most of the times only to remember right away why I tend to keep myself away from them. Nowadays romantic comedies, most of them at least, are nothing but predictable stories drunk of clichés too cute to digest. the holiday is all this, predictable, typical, and cheesy, times two. And over two hours long. Thus, only those whose own romantic comedy has something to do with the one they are watching, or those who die to own one, will let themselves be seduced by its charm.

Amanda Wood (Cameron Diaz), snob and workaholic, breaks up with his boyfriend after he cheats on her. Iris (Kate Winslet), smiling and sensitive, is in love with a man that has been taking advantage of her love for three years and is now engaged to someone else. In need of a change, and being Amanda in Los Angeles and Iris in Surrey, they find each other through a home exchange website. Thus, Amanda and Iris sit their butts in a plane to England and California respectively. In Surrey, Amanda meets-cute Graham (Jude Law), Iris’s brother. In Los Angeles, Iris meets-cute Miles (Jack Black), Amanda’s ex-boyfriend’s friend. Do I need to say more? Of course, it is Christmas.

Nancy Meyers writes and directs, as she did in something’s gotta give (2003). And certainly, other than the feminine touch, she adds nothing to a genre whose untold rules are hardly broken. It is annoying being able to figure out every single thing is going to happen in a movie when it has not even introduced all the characters. But then again, it is not its fault. It might be someone else’s fault. Those who religiously fancy romantic comedies, actually. And let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with that.

Despite Diaz’s (over the top) hysteria, Winslet’s (free) tears, Law’s (excessive) cuteness, and Black’s (high for his standards) seriousness, it is Eli Wallach’s character the one you will remember, a once famous grumpy old scriptwriter that will teach you what a meet-cute is.

All in all, a chick flick, whatever that means, too cute to be true.

For the deadhours of those who like to know the present they are getting for Christmas the day before, or even earlier.

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hitman (2007)

by zEke

hitman posterPodría comenzar haciendo hincapié en la mediocricidad de todos y cada uno de los videojuegos que hasta ahora han dado el salto a la gran pantalla. Salto mortal me atrevería a decir, porque ninguna de estas adaptaciones ha gozado del beneplácito ni de la crítica ni del público. A lo más, indiferencia, que ya es algo si uno tiene en cuenta títulos como street fighter (1994), lara croft: tomb rider (2001) o super mario bros (1983). Pues bien, a todos aquellos que todavía albergan una esperanza, les recomendaría que hicieran algo útil, castillos de naipes por ejemplo, durante los escasos noventa minutos, y gracias, que dura hitman.

En cuanto al videojugo, cuatro son los capítulos hasta la fecha de una serie altamente influenciada por los asesinos de Luc Besson y Quentin Tarantino. Y lo cierto es que, si más no, resulta interesante. Nuestro objetivo es llevar a cabo todos y cada uno de los trabajos que se nos encomiendan, al son de una banda sonora basada en piezas clásicas, haciendo el menor ruido posible y así convertirnos en un asesino silencioso. Pues bien, parece imposible, y más después de haber sido testigo de productos tan irrelevantes pero entretenidos como shoot ’em up (2007), que Skip Wood, guionista, y Xavier Gens, director, no fueran capaces de orquestar algo decente. Parece imposible, pero, a las pruebas me remito, no lo es.

47 (Timothy Oliphant) es un asesino a sueldo que trabaja para una misteriosa agencia que lo mantiene entretenido alrededor del mundo. En San Petersburgo, 47 recibe la orden de llevar a cabo un asesinato que lo convierte en la cabeza de turco de una conspiración política. Para limpiar su nombre deberá cuidar de Nika Boronina (Olga Kurylenko) y hacer frente a la policía secreta rusa, a dos agentes de la interpol y a otros agentes calvos a los que, al igual que a él, le tatuaron un código de barras en la parte de atrás de la cabeza cuando eran niños.

La casi hora y media que dura poco dice sobre el origen de la organización para la que trabaja 47. Dice poco también, por no decir nada, del pasado de 47, lo que, por otro lado, no es necesariamente dañino. No lo sería si Gens fuera capaz de firmar una decente película de acción, pero no nos engañemos, no lo es. Y no lo es porque se toma demasiado en serio a sí mismo y se distrae una y otra vez con un argumento ya no vacío, sino ridículo, y una historia de amor, y perdón por el atrevimiento, que da grima.

El reparto está a la altura de la mediocricidad de la producción. Oliphant demuestra que lo que mejor sabe hacer es mirar al suelo. Aunque, qué se le puede pedir a alguien que debe interpretar a un personaje que, a pesar de afeitarse la cabeza y lucir un tatuaje en ella, pasa desapercibido una vez sí y otra vez también. Kurylenko, por su parte, demuestra que no tiene ningún inconveniente en desnudarse gratuitamente.

En fin, una película que pasará sin pena ni gloria por nuestros corazones y que aquellos que la veamos seremos capaces de olvidarla, con suerte, en un abrir y cerrar de ojos.

Para las deadhours de los que prefieren los tatuajes faciales.

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robin hood: men in tights (1993)

by zEke

men in tights posterMel Brooks es famoso, sobre todo, por the producers (1968), película que en su día fue un gran fracaso de público y crítica, pero que poco a poco fue encontrando su sitio de la mano de su sarcasmo descarado. Después llegaría el musical que todavía hoy seduce a cuantos se pasean por Broadway. Y llegarían también blazing saddles (1974) y young frankestein (1974), y, así, su momento de gloria. A partir de ahí, inercia. Inercia que todavía hoy dura, y que en televisión, cine y teatro, lo ha ligado siempre a la comedia más absurda, aunque no exenta de mala leche. La excepción que confirma la regla quizás sea the elephant man (1980) que produjo pero no dirigió, precisamente por esta inercia, de la que el público era sabedor. robin hood: men in tights es una de las últimas películas dirigida por Brooks, y de eso hace ya unos años, película que sin ser infiel a los orígenes del artista, dista, y bastante, de la frescura de sus propuestas de juventud.

La película nos cuenta las aventuras de un ceñido y cruzado Robin Hood (Cary Elwes) que regresa a Inglaterra después de huir de Jerusalén. En Inglaterra, en ausencia del Rey Ricardo (Patrick Stewart), su hermano, el Príncipe Juan (Richard Lewis), y el Sheriff de Rottingham (Roger Rees) hacen y deshacen, y deshacen. Robin Hood deberá acabar con ellos y enamorar a la bella Marian (Amy Yasbeck) para así ser felices y comer perdices. O sea, lo mismo de siempre.

Lo mismo de siempre, pero esta vez Mel Brooks nos cuenta la historia del arquero en forma de parodia. Parodia en la que tiene cabida, sobre todo, robin hood: prince of thieves (1991), aunque también un sinfín de referencias más, muy en la línea de este tipo de producciones, entre las que se incluyen él mismo y los Monthy Python.

Quizás lo más gracioso de la película sean algunos de los juegos de palabras, en su mayoría ejecutados con excelencia por Roger Rees (miedo me da pensar en el doblaje de los mismos). Es quizás su interpretación la única destacable, si bien este tipo de producciones no destacan por la notoriedad del reparto. Por lo demás, un sinfín de ocurrencias con mayor o menor gracia que a buen seguro satisfarán a más de uno. Ocurrencias que van desde un jovencísimo David Chapelle a bordo de unas Reebok The Pump hasta un caballo que las prefiere todo lo contrario que Javier Gurruchaga. Y, de verdad, hay a quien todo esto le gusta, y mucho. Conozco gente capaz de recitar el guión de arriba a abajo, canciones incluídas.

Una película que hará reir a bastantes, aunque a la mayoría, estando sobria, menos de lo que a Brooks le hubiera gustado.

Para las deadhours de los que van a buscar setas en mallas.

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resident evil: extinction (2007)

by zEke

extinction posterI still remember when I first played resident evil 2 (1998) on my Sony PlayStation. Probably, together with metal gear (1987) for MSX2, whose film adaptation seems to be on for 2009, my favorite video games ever. As of now, there are six main series video games and seven spin-offs for many different platforms. Sequels and prequels to the original turned to be, actually there are two main series video games to be released soon, another turn of the screw that resulted on more complex plots and the obvious technical improvement. This tends to diminish the number of enthusiasts as the story gets too winding. To the point that early episodes of the main series have been remade for new platforms. But resident evil is not just a video game franchise, it is a media one, and comic books, action figures, motion pictures, etc., have been made following the success of the video games.

With this one, there are already three film adaptations of the media franchise. None of them directly inspired in any of the video games, but both, movies and video games, made out of the same ingredients, those are heavy horror elements, puzzled plots, and action. The movie trilogy, trilogy so far, adds Milla Jovovich to the cocktail, who saw a gold mine for her career in action movies after her impact in the fith element (1997). And truth is that ones starts already to see her as Alice, or Project Alice, as you might prefer.

The world is on verge of extinction while Alice saunters around a desert United States of America in search of a better place to live, or survive. Along her journey she meets up with a convoy leaded by Claire Redfield (Ami Larter, or Jessica Sanders from heroes (2006)). Stuck in Las Vegas, whose post-apocalyptic look is both, impressive and clearly influenced, as the whole futuristic western this movie pretends to be, by mad max (1979) and sequels, they decide to go to Alaska, where the infection seems to be non-existent. Nevertheless, Alice, hunted by the Umbrella Corporation might have to take care of a few things before.

resident evil: extinction adds pretty much nothing to the trilogy. The movie is an amalgam of action scenes and dialog around an irrelevant plot that serves as an excuse for the first. Some of the action scenes, mainly around fights between infected and non-infected, are well shot. They are, but they also contribute nothing new to the whole thing and, in the end, they turn out redundant. Lessons you will learn after watching this movie, a couple, women will be in charge in case of a world wide plague, the Umbrella Corporation will have unlimited resources in their underground facilities, but just a shabby fence around the infected surface entrance, and, of course, most important thing, you should go now and get an helicopter license, just in case.

Hopefully, and despite the ending, this one will be the last one. Otherwise, and even though I think only the first one is worthy, my guess is that I will end watching it again. Yes, I know, there are things I do not understand either.

For the deadhours of Max, mad or not.

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ghost rider (2007)

by zEke

ghost rider posterI can think of three reasons that would make someone that is reading this want to see this movie. One, Nicolas Cage; two, it is based on a comic book; and three, you are not able to sleep when in a plane 10,000 feet height. And four, Eva Mendes, I know I said three. By far, not the best Cage’s product. By further, not the best comic book adaptation. Maybe, just maybe, if you are lucky, it will help you sleep.

Johnny Blade (Matt Long first, Nicolas Cage later; despite the obvious differences I thank whoever decided not to try to make Cage look like a teenager) is a motorbike rider in a local show where he performs side by side with his famous father, who would be a complete role model for him if he did not smoke. Guess what? As a consequence of his addiction he has a lung cancer. One blue filtered night a flaming Devil offers Johnny to cure his father in exchange of his soul. What Johnny does not know yet is that the contract he signs is good for his dad’s lung cancer, which is miraculously cured the following day, but not for the deathly motorbike accident he suffers. Several years later Johnny, who still feels responsible for the death of his father, has to pay the Devil back, regain the love of Roxanne Simpson (Raquel Alessi first, Eva Mendes later), and kill four demons that want to take over his contractor reign.

Nicolas Cage is a mediocre actor and leaving las vegas (1994) might be the exception that confirms the rule. Otherwise, he tries really hard to prove me, and some other, right. He should know by now, after experiences such as con air (1998), I still remember his long curly hair and white tank top, that he has never been and will never be a decent action hero. Why? Three examples from ghost rider. One, he is mostly tense, on a physical way, on screen, maybe trying to exalt a musculature that he does not have, either that or he is hiding a constipation. Two, his face, which strengthens the constipation theory, does not reflect his emotions, no matters if he is trying to show himself funny or tormented. And three, his new, and yet another, hairstyle. As a side note, let me say that Bruce Willis only became a decent action hero when he accepted he was bald, coincidence? Eva Mendes will be remembered again by her tight dress, which after several movies, seems to have become a trend. The rest of the cast, with the exception of Sam Elliot who plays himself once again, does his best at reminding us that they are just extras with more or less time on scene.

The movie only works when Nicolas Cage sets himself on fire and burns everything but his leather clothing, including his hair. The mostly blue filtered action scenes are quite well shot and will keep the attention of those viewers with lower expectations. Unfortunately, the director does not remotely survive the mixture of light romance, straightforward characters and CG action the adaptation offers him in the first place, and delivers a product that fails both in the essence and the shape.

Every single new comic book adaptation adds one more to an already never ending list, and sometime soon we might get tired of them unless they manage to offer something new. ghost rider is not the one that is going to break the inertia of a genre that seems to have run out of ideas, cinematographically speaking, even though there are many more adaptations coming out soon, any hope?

For the deadhours of those who does not read their contracts.

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yo soy la juani (2006)

by zEke

yo soy la juani posterAcabo de ver yo soy la juani y lo único que me ha quedado claro es que la película no está hecha para el tipo de público del que yo formo parte. La duda es la siguiente, ¿para qué tipo de público está hecha? Probablemente, aunque dudo que esa fuera la intención original del director catalán, estamos ante una película de falsos adolescentes recién emancipados para un público adolescente. Lo de falsos adolescentes lo digo porque, una vez más, la mayoría del reparto hace varios años que celebró su mayoría de edad.

Bigas Luna, que firma también el guión, intenta reflejar un sector de la población que existe, pero en lugar de ahondar en la esencia de su naturaleza se empeña, una vez sí y otra vez también, en presentarlo a base de tópicos. Y claro, a la que uno se da cuenta de esto la cinta se convierte en algo ciertamente previsible. Y si por lo menos pasara algo, pero es que a uno, después de los alrededor de cien minutos que dura la película, le da la sensación de que ésta se limita únicamente a presentar los personajes y que lo que sea que tenía que pasar, nunca pasó.

Juani (Verónica Echegui) es una dependienta de un supermercado que sobrevive en un barrio de una pequeña ciudad española. Un padre alcohólico, una madre sumisa y Jonah (Dani Martín), un novio que se aprovecha de ella. Un buen día abre los ojos o, mejor dicho, se los abre su novio y su amante, y decide irse con su amiga Sandra a Madrid con el objetivo de ser actriz. A partir de ahí, poco más hasta un final, que parece un principio.

A pesar de lo gris del resultado final y de las pocas ganas que a uno le quedan de escribir sobre ello hay ciertos aspectos, algunos buenos otros no, dignos de mención. Primero, el más que digno debut de Verónica Echegui, que fue elegida entre una multitud de actrices noveles en un casting popular. Segundo, la confirmación de que Dani Martín es, a pesar de no cantar en la película, mucho mejor cantante que actor. Y tercero, el atrevimiento de Bigas Luna, que se atreve con un formato colorido, innovador y fresco, cercano al público adolescente aunque no necesariamente excluyente, al que la historia, por desgracia, hace un flaco favor. También merece un dudoso aplauso la capacidad del estilista de Verónica Echegui capaz de que en algunos planos la susodicha parezca un híbrido entre, y ahí queda eso, Penélope Cruz y Natalie Portman.

Algo que pudo haber sido y no fue pero que a pesar de todo hará las delicias de algún que otro adolescente capaz de simpatizar con los personajes de la película. Muchos deberían abstenerse de su visionado y en caso contrario hacerlo siendo conscientes de lo que es. Por último me gustaría mencionar que el calificativo de película feminista que más de uno ha utilizado para referirse al largometraje está cogido con pinzas, una roja y otra azul.

Para las deadhours de adolescentes adictos a los SMS.

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