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    • A History of Violence (DVD) / DVD / 92 Readings / 86 Ratings
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      17.05.2007 08:49
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      ...how to rebuild a life, trying to forget a past behind that same reconstruction?

      I won't be too far from the truth if I tell you that David Cronenberg is a director that you love or you hate. Several of his movies can seem "weird" if we look at them as a series of events more or less unique and if we don't try to understand the reason why those images are presented to us in such a particular way. It is in this context that "A Story of Violence" comes labeled as the director's most accessible movie in many years...


      But let me get you involved by the movie and soon you will realize that's a Cronenberg's masterpiece by excellence. Looking at the main character on the movie Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), it's his identity (thematic so many times worked by the Canadian director), the main subject of this film; or putting it in another way, how to rebuild a life, trying to forget a past behind that same reconstruction?


      Tom Stall lives in Millbrook, Indiana, a small American village (the way how Cronenberg creates the village's environment is another great detail of the movie), he's married with Edie (Maria Bello) with whom he has two children, teenage son Jack (Ashton Holmes), and daughter Sarah (Heidi Hayes).


      The destiny chooses to play with Tom's future and decides to make him a hero... Two armed men try to rob his humble restaurant, and for the sake of his clients, his staff, and his own life, Tom saves everyone by killing the two crooks, in an act of extreme and courageous violence. Tom's elevation as a hero will, however, bring up a past that he has been trying to hide for a long time, a past that not even his family was aware, a past that Tom will try to deny as much as he can.


      The first perturbation on the movie is, indeed, the way how Tom deals with his personality/ies (and here Mortensen reaches the top of his interpretation); there's no schizophrenia, but an attempt to keep at all cost Tom Stall’s identity. Why? Maybe because Tom thinks he found the “American dream”: he has an exemplar family, lives in an almost perfect community and he’s happy (there is a reason why Cronenberg insists in showing that during almost 20 minutes (!)).


      In this line of though, it’s very important to notice Tom’s relationship with his wife Edie (another great performance), especially in their intimacy. Sexuality is another great subject for Cronenberg, and in this film there’s no exception, and as usual, there’s a message behind these scenes too. The first time they make love, nothing had happen yet, and the scene is a demonstration of an enormous affection. However, in the second time, when Tom’s identity is now a interrogation for Edie and their relationship is destabilized, the scene is a lot more ferocious, even “rough” - Is this another way to questioning the violence in our life and how a past (that, in this case , is exactly of violence), can interfere with the present?


      But the question of the violence reaches its biggest interrogations when Tom finds himself forced to face his yore. He reunites then with his brother Richie (William Hurt, who was only in the movie for 8 minutes (!) and managed to be nominated for “Best Supporting Actor” at the Academy Awards!) and ends up doing what is necessary to prevent his past to interfere with his harmonious present.


      All this just to find out that that will never happen as the last scene of the movie shows us – Not only because now his family knows his life story, but especially because Tom had to face it after all those years. Tom has now realized that the past is part of human life, either if you try to hide or not.


      Cronenberg shoots the violence effects, the past as a portion of the identity, but also questions the safety of your family life, when this one is taken for granted. He questions after all, as Canadian, the myth that many call as “the American dream”…


      © pimentelteixeira2007

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      • Sin City (DVD) / DVD / 56 Readings / 51 Ratings
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        14.05.2007 00:18
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        Between love and hate, "Sin City" is a movie that divided the public and the media's opinion...

        Between love and hate, “Sin City” is a movie that divided the public and the media’s opinion all around the world (why??!)… I personally just love it, I love the first, and I’m almost sure I’ll love the second…


        The doors of (Ba)Sin City are the entrance for a distorted and violent world, with criminal politicians, corrupt cops and beautiful, I mean, beautiful women.


        A world with a natural hate for females, chauvinist and sexist, where the way these girls dress leaves little space for your imagination (not that you’re not a creative person, but they’re really only half dressed…), and they don’t hesitate a second to defend themselves; resuming, just the crucial ingredients for a graphic novella.


        Why a “graphic” novella? This is a story where the heroes & villains don’t die unless they want to. In Sin City, the audacious characters are shot, run through, electrocuted, and after bleeding “white”, they just play an “extra life” and carry on with their rescue missions…


        And in the middle of all this “remix”, what most seduces in the movie is the absolutely faithful way that Robert Rodrigues transfers to the screen, Frank Miller’s comic-books. And I think that about this, even those that hate this movie, agree with me, relating to its techniques this movie is a masterpiece.


        It is a cinematographic revolution, the reinvention of film noir… cinema made by computer, shot digitally with the actors performing in a “green room”. A cinema technically thought… A movie that revolutionizes cinema, and if it didn’t, it did provoke a lot of reflexion about it… Is it really cinema? It is for me, and a very good one…


        Anyway, let’s carry on… four stories, all written by Miller: “The costumer is always right”, “The Hard Goodbye”, “The Big Fat Kill” and “That Yellow Bastard” are the basis of the main characters: John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Marv (Mickey Rourke) and Dwight McCarthy (Clive Owen).


        Four different stories separated by time, that go backwards and forwards, and all with a place in common, the “Kadie’s bar”.


        (1) A Salesman (Josh Hartnett), a Customer (Marley Shelton), a cigarette, a kiss… a gunshot… It’s the opening sequence of the movie and the one Rodrigues used to convince Miller to let him adapt his comic books to a movie.


        (2) Hartigan, the only honest cop in Sin City, is pursuing Roark Junior (Nick Stahl), a sick paedophile that while trying to rape the young Nancy Callahan (McKenzie Vega) is caught by Hartigan that teaches him some good manners. Eight years later, the same innocent little girl is now a sexy stripper (Jessica Alba) that agitates Hartigan’s sexagenarian heart.


        (3) Marv, the sensitive thug that hound the city to find the murderers of his dear Goldie (Jaime King) with whom he enjoy only one night of pleasure, before being framed. He fights the cops, a wolf, and before being spanked by the lovely Wendy (Goldie’s identical twin), he’s attacked by cannibal serial killer Kevin (Elijah Wood, what happened to good old Frodo (?!)).


        (4) Photographer Dwight McCarthy, Shelley’s (Brittany Murphy) boyfriend that also hides a past with Gail (Rosario Dawnson) is the “hero” of this story, but here the women rule. After Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro), Shelley’s ex-boyfriend and a well-respected police officer is killed, the “war” begins, with the prostitutes, the cops, and a bunch of mercenaries, all shooting at each other…


        Any resemblance with “Pulp Fiction” – interrelated narratives that progress during a single day and are constructed by episodes that meet at a particular moment of the movie – is not just a mere coincidence. Rodrigues and Miller use a successful formula already tested and legitimated by Tarantino, special guest director of the movie.


        To every dramatic sequence, not only the comic-books’ esthetic is used, but also the organization of the information in pages, that with quick cuts, give us the impression that we are actually turning to the next page.


        “Sin City” was all digitally processed and was recorded with high-definition digital cameras, without the use of one single centimetre of celluloid in the entire process. The virtuality is always present in the making of the movie. In the studios, the only real elements, apart from the actors of course, are the guns and the cars. Everything else was born algorithm…


        Rutger Hauer is great (Is it possible to have a more distinct villain?) and Mickey Rourke interpretation of Marv fits like a glove (He should have gone for the Hulk as well… just covering him in green).


        Finally and putting the movie in perspective, looking at it as a cultural phenomenon of our time, what Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller did in “Sin City” if is not a revolution, is a movie connected to our era. The era of digital culture, of the remix, of the original copy, of the clone… the era of the interface.


        © pimentelteixeira2007

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        • Reservoir Dogs (DVD) / DVD / 51 Readings / 43 Ratings
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          12.05.2007 11:14
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          ...a "gangsters" movie doesn't need an exorbitant budget to be (...) a great success....

          Je suis malade.

          Last night… 4.30am… Something is wrong with me, I can’t sleep. Tired I am, of trying… With a sudden jump I get out of bed, just to, dizzy, fall straight on the floor. Tripping on myself I manage to stumble to the bathroom and wash my face, and it was then that I realize something is definitely very wrong with me!


          I’m not one of those people with an illness addiction, very rarely I get out of my natural physical condition, so, what’s happening to me today…? Deeply staring at myself in the mirror, I remembered a soundtrack that would certainly help me get through this… “Lookin’ back on the track for a little green bag, Got to find just the kind or I’m losin’ my mind”: I’m losing my mind! – Voices wouldn’t stop calling me… “Lookin’ for some happiness, But there is only loneliness to find, Jump to the left, turn to the right, Lookin’ upstairs, lookin’ behind…”


          I’m sick.

          I can’t walk. The floor is always cold and I, standing there, admiring that climatic stability – “my life is not lost, it isn’t…!” I thought in calling for someone, but it’s too early… this lack of communication makes me feel like that old man without ink left to write uses his own blood to finish the script… My body wants to give up; I don’t have too many minutes left… On a last effort I hold myself to the sofa and turn the TV on… No images though, I turn off the antenna tired of the public TV crap(!), only my movies can save me now, and there it was… smiling for my disgrace, like the eternity could be of any interest for me, and dumb I whispered… “Au revoir, les enfants…”


          1992. When everyone’s attention was upon “A Few Good Men”, “Scent of a Woman” and especially “Unforgiven”, “Mr. Brown” was trying to finally finish a movie after the failed attempt with “My Best Friend’s Birthday” (1987). Considered by a considerable number of movie enthusiasts as “coolest” cinema director ever (I personally think that he is a lot more than just that…), Master Quentin Tarantino had in “Reservoir Dogs” his second directing work, (by many labelled as his debut feature film as a director), and the opportunity to show to the world that a “gangsters” movie doesn’t need an exorbitant budget to be simultaneously a great success in the box office and a classic among its genre.


          Inspired by Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs” (1971) and “the Reservoir movie” as Master Quentin would prefer to call “Au Revoir, Les Enfants” (1987), (he couldn’t pronounce it anyway), Tarantino combines both titles to get “Reservoir Dogs”… His first masterpiece…


          Released on the theatres two years earlier than “Pulp Fiction” this movie reveals the geniality of Tarantino as screenwriter and director. When the movie starts, with the pop hymn “Like a Virgin”, sounding like an interpretation of the Ancient and the New Testament, it’s easy to understand that popular culture will be all around the film. Master Quentin is not an erudite and he doesn’t pretend to be one. He deals with the undeniable aptitude of the images, figures, colours, narratives, and sensations that the XX century’s urban culture “cooked”; The “funky” vibration and that “cool” attitude so oblivious to the gravity of the world, and at the same time so close of what is believable and presumptuous.


          With the music of the 70’s he draws a tune and a rhythm to the movie, and with references to Lee Marvin or Charles Bronson, tough among the toughs, he creates a game of mirrors for his own characters, he puts up a plaque as a tribute and typifies their iconophile – where you can fit as well, the film noir, the spaghetti western, the oriental cinema or the comics. Master Quentin loves to tell stories, you’ll pick that straight away in this first movie and you will understand it even better if you take a look to all the other ones or to any interview with the director. The art to narrate is not something simple, is not a democratic faculty. If not a privilege is a vocation. Tarantino, a natural cinephile, shows us he knows quite well that some of his cinema’s historic strength comes from his capacity to create illusions, manipulate expectations, surprise or confuse (the references to Corman or Godard are, in general, an exact illustration of it).


          Anyway, six men are hired by a mob boss and his son to carry out an armed robbery to a diamante’s warehouse. However, nothing goes as plan and the six colour-coded men (Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker) and Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino) are taken by despair and possessed by madness. Not knowing each other the heist should have been perfect, but there’s someone in the “gang” that’s not quite what he looks like…


          Intrinsic to the best fiction are always the artificial and the demagogy: the lying truth. And Tarantino knows that more than comfort, the spectator loves the provocation. “Reservoir Dogs” is a movie with a provocative narrative. Recurring to a non-linear style (not flashbacks!), he makes the story go backwards and slow down so he doesn’t push us straight to the abysm. The story starts by the middle and ends up on the right moment: one, two, three, four gunshots and a black screen, echoing the sadness, the pain and the betrayal…


          You will soon notice that the characters in this movie talk a lot. They scream, ironize, complain, revindicate, and compromise themselves. It’s not a polished language; it’s a “gang” language, from the streets, from the underground. It even gets to be laughable and sometimes irritant. A dialogue can be a circus number or a texture study, the timber, the speech’s rhythm. The characters fire words with the same aptitude – masculine, heroic and nostalgic – that they pull their guns. They tell stories, loads of them, none really pedagogic though, some even getting very close of the absurd. And realising this you will easily understand how much Tarantino loves the language games. There are people like this, using the verb as a trampoline…


          These characters live from their virility, from the ceremonial (just pay attention to the shooting scenes), but I wouldn’t say that the movie transmits an anti-feminist feeling. Maybe it is there, involuntarily, unconsciously, it’s hard to know. There are no feminine characters that I can tell you. But as James Brown would say “this is a man’s world”. Not an insensible one though, otherwise there wouldn’t be the affection, the betrayal, the “dead-end”, the tragedy, that after all is the moral key of the movie. There are several models of the man, and something that unifies them – maybe the honour, the link that shortens any human gathering, as we know from other stories of cops, gangsters or the army. Here, one life may not be worth more than one bullet, but one death may symbolize the integrity of justice – as you will know by the end.


          “Reservoir Dogs” is a violent movie without any doubt. Not during or after the movie is it easy to relax. Just focusing on the well-known ear-cutting scene, the violence here is of an intolerable domain, unacceptable really. You will prefer to be blind, to look around, to force the ignorance just to protect yourself; and even knowing that you will not be able to really see it in detail as Tarantino hides it, the image of violence stays, engraved in your mind in a way you can’t claim against...


          Among other things, engraved in your memory one more thing will stay: the (photo)graphic elegance of the movie. The contrast between the black suits and the red of the blood; the reference, on the final scene, to a figurative stereotype of the occidental imaginary: Mr. Orange in the arms of Mr. White, emulating pieta; It’s the dramatic density achieved in these long shots that, through real time, allow us to absorb the most subtle detail of every movement or expression; the virtuosity of a phenomenal cast; More than enough to make “Reservoir Dogs” a cult and of Master Quentin a genius of the cinematography.


          A final word for the sensational soundtrack, a superb mixture of dialogues and songs from George Baker’s entertaining rock n’ roll in “Little Green Bag” to Joe Tex’s “I Gotcha”. Another special mention to “Stuck in the Middle With You” originally from Bob Dylan, here on a (just) famous version by the Stealers Wheel, and to Bedlam’s killing version of “Magic Carpet Ride” (Steppenwolf) entitled this time “Harvest Moon”. Closing the movie with a golden key there’s Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut”, and by the way, I’m not dying anymore…


          © pimentelteixeira2007

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          • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (DVD) / DVD / 38 Readings / 35 Ratings
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            11.05.2007 09:43
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            When "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is not a crime story, (...)then it is a comedy for sure.

            Can a film noir have hot colours and be a comedy?

            Can a screenwriter direct an excellent movie at the first attempt?

            Can Val Kilmer perform as a gay cop?

            Well the answers in this case are: yes, yes and… yes!
            “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is Shane Black’s debut movie. The name probably doesn’t sound familiar, but I can tell you he is a follower of the buddy movie style, and the creator of scripts like “Lethal Weapon” (1987) and “The Last Boy Scout” (1991).


            The production of Joel Silver and a reduced budget (Warner Bros. was willing to produce the movie with a larger budget if Harrison Ford were to play Gay Perry, the detective) proves to be of extra value and attracted a trio of actors in their comic moment.


            Robert Downey Jr. plays Harry Lockhart, a little thief that by irony of the destiny becomes an actor. After a failed robbery, while running from the police, Harry finds himself “trapped” in the middle of an acting audition.


            Suddenly the “new talent” moves from the “tuff and no bulls**t” New Work to the “immoral and cruel” L.A., pompous by parties, partnering with a virile cinema consultant, that works as a private detective and whose name, not by coincidence, is Gay Perry (Val Kilmer).


            Not very far of the character he played in “The Singing Detective” (2003), is up to Downey Jr. to narrate the movie in the tradition of the most refined film noir… well… more or less… Remembering Dan Dark ego’s key question in that movie: “Who’s the woman?... There’s always a woman”, in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” the woman is not a femme fatale, and she’s not amazingly blonde…


            She’s hot, sexy and a hard bone to chew. She’s Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan) – Lockhart’s first love that swapped the little village in Indiana for Los Angeles so she could become an actress. She is the one with the mystery for the pair Perry/Lockhart to solve. A suicide, a homicide, and a girl with pink hair. Dead body after dead body, clue after clue.


            When “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is not a crime story, (or a buddy gay film like Kilmer describes it to the media, “(…) was weird when he slipped me the tongue. And Robert is a better kisser… I think he bit my lip. He's angry.”), then it is a comedy for sure. Looking to the characters of Harmony and Lockhart is an unresolved love story that we cross our fingers to finally work.


            Shane Black’s passion for crime/detective literary works materializes in one of the most refreshing scripts I have seen in the last few years, a comedy that surprise us by inverting all those Hollywood rules about how to make a successful movie. Finally he adds to all this CSI’s photography director, Michael Barrett and voilá - an unmissable movie, one of the best of 2005… I wish they could all be like this one…


            © pimentelteixeira2007

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            • Inside Man (DVD) / DVD / 49 Readings / 47 Ratings
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              08.05.2007 08:26
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              ...and what about if this robbery wasn't more than an Alfred Hitchcock's Macguffin?

              I could give you a “Synopsis” as some like to call it and start this review with a “Spoiler” warning (that most don’t do)… and then just tell you the entire movie, saving you the time to watch it, but I won’t… No details about the plot, no suggestions about the endings… It’s a Spike Lee’s movie, and as all the others he directed, you should watch it…


              So, we have a robbery… and what about if this robbery wasn’t more than an Alfred Hitchcock’s Macguffin? Not that Spike Lee directed a suspense movie like the old master, even being in its majority a thriller in a heist style, but the truth is he used the robbery to reach what he really had in mind.


              Just like Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) infiltrates in the bank, Lee does it in New York’s criminal and political world, approaching not only racial conflicts as usual, but also politicians’ dirty lobbies, rotten richness and dubious police force in the way they act.


              Even more important: Lee carries on shooting mostly in his hometown New York, and just like he has been doing in his past movies he reminisces, to remind us that September, 11 occurred and still has reflections in New York’s day-to-day life: Spike Lee never forgets that cinema is essentially a way to think about the world we live in.


              The robbery, planned by the character played by Clive Owen – that personates it in a fantastic way, with a safe and attractive performance – is, in his own words, the “perfect” robbery.


              The situation involves a high number of hostages and it is Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington, an excellent actor, even more when works with Lee), the “negotiator” responsible for the case.


              The (impeccable) Madeleine White (Jodie Foster) is a power broker (or “modern” mercenary if you prefer) that represents the interests of a third-party. And relating to the “brief résumé” is enough because it is the least important…


              What really matters is Spike Lee’s vision, not of this robbery, but of the people involved in a crime like this. It’s here that his intelligence and attention to “his” society (New York, always important to remember) expresses itself.


              If you think in the way the bank founder, Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer) built his fortune, you can see the doubt behind the high agglomerations of money, and the way he creates himself, behind a philanthropic facade. If you then reason about Case hiring Madeleine to camouflage the origin of his money, you will change your doubts for condemnations.


              And more, if you reflect in Foster’s character, using blackmail to get in the bank and speak with the terrorist against the cops velleity (serving her client because after all she’s there to make money), you will find yourself not only facing the condemnation of such a creature but also all those political lobbies (with even the Mayor included) that allow its existence.


              Finally if you look on the character performed by Washington, even being the best cop of the entire team, clearly not worried about the innocent people involved (the beating up of the supposed terrorist is symptomatic), not even him escapes to the greed of a better life, using everything he gets from the robbery for his own benefit.


              So, putting all this together, after all “Owen” (that robs a bank because “he can”), is not the villain of the movie… In this film, Spike Lee doesn’t use bad or good guys, he just sticks them all in the same bag – it is his way to see the world through the city he knows like nobody else anyway…


              "Inside man" is not one of Lee’s best movies, that’s the same as saying it’s not a masterpiece, but (excluding Spielberg’s “Munich”) it’s more intelligent and relevant (while a political movie) than all the ones that were in the 2006 Oscars. Maybe that’s the reason why Spike Lee is, excluding rare occasions, ignored by the Academy…


              © pimentelteixeira2007

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              • Spider-Man 3 (2 DVDs) / DVD / 35 Readings / 27 Ratings
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                07.05.2007 10:15
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                ... this one explores the side that several people on this world prefer to keep hidden.

                I wish I had some popcorn, but as I don’t, I’ll have to satisfy myself with my beloved can of Foster’s… Now I’m ready to go, I press the play button and instantly close my eyes (to absorb it properly!) and it’s when it starts, the phenomenal music of Danny Elfman, in his own and particular style: symphonic, involving and emotive, defining only by itself characters and situations. In two simple words, always genial!


                Now I can open my eyes again… Just looking to this fabulous cast, I am already convinced that it will be worth a trip to the cinema. Just proving that there are still casts with a handful of credit…


                … “He said it was my fault, didn’t he?” Avi Arad pandiculates in his new office, home of the new founded Avi Arad Productions, not too far where he used to “clock the card” as Marvel’s Chairman and CEO. On his table, leaflets pile up; on the walls, posters of productions based in “his” heroes and in frivolous creations like “Bratz” and “Castlevania”. “I’m not calling him. Maybe it’s really my fault.” The “him” Avi refers to is director Sam Raimi. Months earlier, when questioned why he chose Venom, Sam pointed the finger at the producer, that had said the new movie needed to please the request of the younger fans, exactly, the inclusion of the “anti-spider”. Case closed.


                Not that Avi was reluctant in accepting the “blame” for anything that refers to Spider-Man 3, which erupts in the most ambitious adventure of ‘Spidey’ on the cinema. He, actually, couldn’t be prouder since he resigned from Marvel to embrace his own projects.


                And even though he still has his finger in the most recent movies of the “House of Ideas”, like the “Ghost Rider” (2007) and the “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” (2007), besides (still in gestation), the “Iron Man” (2008) and the (Incredible) Hulk (2008), Avi doesn’t give up the idea in maintaining Spider-Man’s series, like he says “in the family”. He has actually already denied all those that labelled the series as a trilogy, stating that this won’t be the last one. Not knowing yet when it would start being developed (everything points to 2009), he is absolutely convinced that they won’t stop here, not with so many marvellous stories to be told…


                Is it Venom or not?!


                This particular story was already in Sam Raimi’s mind three years ago, during the release of Spider-Man 2. Back then even suggesting that Sandman was one of his favourites when comes to classic enemies of the hero, he pretended that it was too early to talk about the third one. It wasn’t though: Sam was already working with fervency in this story with his brother, Ivan, while finalizing the battle between the hero and ‘Doc Ock’. “Each movie is a journey” he said to all those fans desperately waiting to find out who would divide the screen with the ‘web-spinner’. And if the journey on the first was about power and responsibility and on the second about if Peter has what it takes for that responsibility, this one explores the side that several people on this world prefer to keep hidden.


                It wasn’t difficult to start putting the puzzle together when Sony released the first image of Spider-Man 3 to the world: under a heavy rain, the hero appears in disappointment, as if the world was on his shoulders. Instead of the colourful usual clothes, his costume is this time black – maybe a reflexion of the conflict he brings in his mind. And of course the confirmation that Venon will be part of the new movie, joining Flint Marko, the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and to the New Goblin (James Franco, once more in the flesh of the perturbed Harry Osborn). But till this conflict was drawn, this new movie went through months under a veil of mystery, with fans presuming the plot and the characters without really knowing what was going on – something very rare in this era of instant online information. Thinking backwards, since the release of “Spider-Man 2”, till what precisely point where the “revelations” a lapse or a marketing strategy brilliantly orchestrated?


                Maybe even Raimi had planted the doubt with all his criticism about Venom three years ago. After leaving explicitly that he didn’t want to know about the character that represents all the comics’ exorbitance of the 90’s – which lead to a crisis only recently overtaken by the industry – the director and his team “slip” to the media that the villain with the same powers of the ‘Webhead’ could actually be on the movie, even without never confirming it. Everything was kept in suspense, since the announcement that Topher Grace would play the role as photographer Eddie Brock, Jr. (alter-ego of Venom in the comics) until, finally, the exhibition of the trailer that ends exactly with the image of the famous villain, months later.


                A cornucopia of villains…


                But, after all, why so many discussions about who ‘Spidey’ would face or not in his third adventure? And most important than that, what’s the big secret anyway? Battling this year against “Shrek 3” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” the competition is tuff, and Sam wants to win this battle for sure. And that’s why the importance to keep the movie always in evidence during all this time, and don’t forget that the production of the last one was three years ago. To be careful it’s never too much. Besides, with so many characters, the comparison with another “Super-heroes” movie with a handful of villains will be unavoidable: “Batman & Robin”. But this movie doesn’t commit a sin by excess, each character has a mission, each scene exists to tell the story.


                This story is marked by Peter Parker’s maturity (Tobey Maguire), that even though he has his job as a photographer for the Daily Bugle, and has now a stable relation with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), they still live on that same little corner of the second movie. MJ, by the other side, star of a Broadway musical, tries her best to accept, that the man she loves risks his life every time he puts that red and blue suit on.


                Everything starts getting more complicated when Harry Osborn (James Franco) takes the same drugs that amplified his father’s strength, adopting the identity of the New Goblin, and starts seeking vengeance. Harry, now disturbed by his father’s shadow, believes that the only way to carry on with his life is by destroying Peter. He (Harry), is part of Peter’s journey in this movie, but is not its nuclei. There’s an intention to tell a different story, a story on the other side of the power and what happens when it’s used without responsibility. The first seed of this conflict is sown when Captain George Stacy (James Cromwell) reveals to Peter and Aunt Mary (Rosemary Harris) that (Uncle) Ben Parker’s killer may have not been the man Peter confronted two years earlier: The real culprit would be Dennis Carradine (Michael Papajohn) accomplice, Flint Marko, a petty criminal that has recently escaped from prison – and that meanwhile, without anyone knowing about it, had a bizarre accident that altered his molecular structure, transforming him into the Sandman.


                Negative emotions


                It’s not the first time that Thomas Haden Church and Sam Raimi path’s cross. The Academy Award-nominated for his supporting Role in “Sideways” (2004), was designated to play Donnie Barksdale in “The Gift” (2000), but due to prior commitments his role was later given to Keanu Reeves. The villain performed by Church, doesn’t share the same egocentric motivations of the other enemies of the hero. ‘Quarryman’ is not a bad lad, but finds himself in a terrible situation, and actually he only escapes to stay closer to his ill daughter, that was taken away by his ex-wife. So don’t believe in all the bad things you can hear about Flint Marko.


                The problem now, is that Peter Parker knows that his uncle’s murderer is on the run, the past starts playing on his mind, bringing him revengeful thoughts. Saying this comes to scene the alien symbiote; a black mute and lonely parasite with a consuming desire of a host, that arrives to the earth in a meteorite (a simple and direct origin to the creature, different of its interpretations on the comics and in the hero’s animated series). Peter and his dark feelings will soon attract the creature and that’s when his colourful suit will be dissolved to become a radical and black version of the costume. But that’s not the only difference; the symbiote also increases Spider-Man’s strength and, as feeds itself of negative emotions, manipulates Peter till he satisfies his desire for revenge against the Sandman in a battle in a New York’s subway tunnel.


                The symbiote brings up a side of Peter’s personality that everyone has, but only few of us let it flourish. Anger, frustration, vengeance – at some point in this movie the hero will experience all these feelings and reprove them, especially because he is a responsible young man. The alien completely opens the gates, revealing this side of Peter that no one expects to see, not Mary Jane nor Eddie Brook, Jr. MJ that testifies her boyfriend flirting with Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), Peter’s lab partner and Dr. Curt Connors’ (Dylan Baker) assistant. (Connors is Peter’s physics professor and (on the comics) another Spiderman’s enemy known as the Lizard); and Brook Jr., a new photographer of the Daily Bugle that, even with some resemblances to Parker, does not have moral patterns about what is right and what is wrong and hates his work colleague because Peter has what Eddie will never have... Anger? Envy? Hate? A plate full for the alien symbiote…


                Secrets revealed


                Eddie Brock Jr. appears in “Spider-Man 3” as a reflex of Peter Parker. He is also an orphan, a photographer and shares the same taste for women. The big difference is that he wasn’t raised by Ben and May Parker, and so he doesn’t have the same moral values. Putting this together with a creature that is made of emotions and shares the same hate for Peter, the result has to be the biggest threat our ‘Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man’ has ever faced. And Venom will help to tell Peter’s story, his reflex deepens Parker’s journey. It may not be the villain as the fans know him, but it’s him, or a part of him.


                When Peter discovers that the symbiote is feeding itself of his own vital essence, he takes care of getting rid of the parasite – what will prove to be one of his most difficult tasks. The creature is sensitive to the sound, so Peter ends up in a church tower trying to rip his possessed black suit. The scene is almost “scary”, at every sound wave from the bell, the symbiote relinquishes a little bit more, becoming incapable to reattach over Peter’s body when he rips the suit off – the result is a protoplasmic black mass that drips through the tower till it covers Eddie, which tragically lands on him, who was standing below.


                But Venom is not only a hook introduced in the end just to open the fans appetite for a possible “Spider-Man 4”; Oh, no! He shows up in great style during the third act and is essential to make Peter return to the right path after “flirt” with his dark side.


                Besides Venom, you can expect a climax even more exciting with the Sandman and the New Goblin all mixed together – but maybe not exactly fighting on the side you think they will be, and I can assure you, you will have some surprises. For me it’s the best story of the series, and the cast has never been so good. Raimi believes it’s the best movie of all times, I wouldn’t go that far, but depends in what way he’s talking about…


                © pimentelteixeira2007

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                • Good Night and Good Luck (DVD) / DVD / 35 Readings / 33 Ratings
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                  06.05.2007 07:42
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                  ...since it deals with the TV role as the possibility to build a better world.

                  George Clooney was a TV star that became a movie star with some interesting choices. Initially partnering with Steven Soderbergh to produce movies, he started directing in 2002 with “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”. I wouldn’t say it was an ascending path but a coherent one, and so it’s no surprise all the acclamation surrounding “Good Night, and Good Luck”.

                  This movie is a very personal project for Clooney, since his father used to be a journalist and an ardent devotee of Edward Murrow, but is also a project that echoes universally, making every sense its production in the XXI century, since it deals with the TV role as the possibility to build a better world. And more: what is discussed in the American television during the 50’s is the freedom of speech, ideologies. In one way or the other, let’s see the world we live in.

                  And Clooney shows exactly what he has in mind, achieving completely his objectives, through an excellent direction, revealing a narrative economy (a bit more of movie wouldn’t hurt) and a visual awareness with great level. In this last case, it’s amazing to think he lost the Oscar for Best Cinematography for example. It is fabulous, a black and white “oldie” for a rigorous recreation of those times (the movie was actually filmed on colour film stock in a greyscale set, and later colour corrected).

                  Building a movie completely filmed inside doors is another aspect of major importance for the creation of the environment Clooney was looking for: You can feel the newsroom intensity and the interaction of the characters in their common challenges and objectives.

                  It’s like if that newsroom was the mirror of the perfect American community. And related to this mirror, there is a delicious and key detail: the Wershba’s, Shirley (Patricia Clarkson) and Joe (Robert Downey Jr.) working together; forbidden condition in a newsroom at the time, that everyone there knows about it, but no one is against it. And the relationship between Edward R. Murrow (David Strathaim) and his editor (played by Clooney himself). Actually not only that, but the relationship between all those six extraordinary Americans who dared to tell the truth.

                  It is that community that fights the evil, in this case Senator Joseph McCarthy (not represented by anyone, the moments he appears are all from archive footages) and his “Witch’s hunt”. The message is transmitted and the movie is in the antipode of the flyers. And in relation to this, I just don’t really appreciate the jazz singer (Dianne Reeves).

                  Last word for the marvellous cast, full of great actors, several times forgotten in Hollywood (Clarkson, Jeff Daniels). A reborned (Downey Jr.) and Clooney showing that there’s no need for a physical alteration of "Syriana"(2005), only a group of luxurious supporting actors lead by a magistral David Strathairn.

                  © pimentelteixeira2007

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                  • Letters From Iwo Jima (DVD) / DVD / 40 Readings / 36 Ratings
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                    05.05.2007 09:06
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                    ...this is a war movie, raw and pure, breathing from the battle field...

                    “Flags of Our Fathers” & “Letters from Iwo Jima”, both from 2006, are together one double movie, not only very interesting, but touching and pedagogic (in the best meaning of the word). In a calm way, deep in the cinema’s essence, they make the spectator think about the war field and the counter-war field, fundamental states, not only of the cinematographic image but the image as a whole.


                    Works done in double always have a fascinating strange effect upon us, maybe because they usually have good results. Just mentioning two of them, I could refer to the masterpiece by Quentin Tarantino “Kill Bill”, or even the amazing success from Guns N’ Roses at the beginning of the 90’s, with the albums “Use your Illusion”. Just for that, Clint Eastwood’s option in making two movies about the conflict in Iwo Jima, each one under the point of view of both factions, was a winning idea from the beginning…


                    “Flags of Our Fathers”, the first part of this double project, is a movie about a battle under the American point of view: the winners’ side. It is also a movie about the deformations the war inflicts on a human being, just like “Apocalypse Now” (1979), as an example. “Letters from Iwo Jima” on the other side is a movie that approaches the same conflict but from a Japanese point of view: the defeated side. And this, this is a war movie, raw and pure, breathing from the battle field, hiding in the trenches during the conflict. Just like “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (1970) is another example…


                    Arthur Koestler once said “Woe unto the defeated, whom history treads into the dust”, and if Clint Eastwood was there at that moment he would have probably asked if he was feeling lucky… And that’s because Eastwood concentrated all his efforts in the Japanese faction, the defeated faction. That, deeply, even though all the ideological differences (imperialists things…), are just like the Americans on the battle field. If not in several other aspects, they both die just the same. Strangely enough it is an American directing such a nostalgic movie about the Japanese soldiers.


                    In “Letters from Iwo Jima”, General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) is the nuclei in the engine that gives movement to this movie. He is the sensible and wise official that will lead the Japanese in the bloody battle against the Americans for the control of Iwo Jima; and not only that since with his occidental ideas and his disbelief in the fanatical militarism of several of his comrades, he will have also to face conflicts with the internal opposition. Around this story, more will happen, not in a mosaic style, but more in a parallel one, even maybe perpendicular…


                    In common, all these stories have, besides the fear, the letters that the soldiers write to their beloved families: nostalgic pieces, that work as an escape from the hell they’re going through, and at that same time a requiem for those soldiers. And in common all these compositions have loneliness. Just like Eastwood in most of his roles (with his passivity he holds with Henry Fonda a similar way of “acting”, being for that a man of the future). Loneliness…: not because of a particular cause (unlucky destiny, psychological condition, geography, etc.), but because of the moments they share, the emotions they cross, the perceptions they have from the world obliging an answer, or a refuge, that only in their privacy can take place. And when in privacy, you are alone.


                    Is this condition of the characters from both movies that I would like to praise: the two soldiers (the Indian Marine Private, Ira Hayes and the Navy Medical Corpsman John “Doc” Bradley, but especially the Indian) from “Flags” and the General Kuribayashi. And the soldier – a Japanese soldier – that is constantly out of the war. In both movies the same fight between the image (the outside, the whole) and the heart (the part, the undiminishable part).


                    Everyone knows how the movie will end. It’s just like “The Passion of the Christ” (2005): no one goes to watch the movie waiting for a surprise at the end. Even the characters know how the movie ends. Just for that, “Letters from Iwo Jima” is not a movie about the war; it’s indeed a movie about the Japanese dying during the war. A two and a half hour hecatomb, that makes us get tired of watching so much suffering. And when you think that nothing else can affect you its then, when Eastwood “awards” us with scenes like the collective suicide and makes you feel terrible again…


                    “Letters from Iwo Jima” is a great movie, a lot better than “Flags of Our Fathers” – it’s inevitable to compare – Even because it is a movie closer to Eastwood’s style. We are not used to seeing him in big production. Saying this, his objective was the double project, and from that he clearly gets out a winner. Not only because he manages to tell the same war from both sides of the barricade but because he successfully shows how both are victims of this war – you will feel sorry for the Americans in the same way you’ll feel it for the Japanese. And this only proves that war is a stupid thing that doesn’t make any sense.


                    It is indeed, the same war, but what occurs (in the war and in each one of the movies) is a fight between the parts and the whole. The Indian and Gen. Kuribayashi (they’re not in the same movie) are, should I say, melted by war (the whole); “Doc” and the Japanese soldier (they’re not in the same movie), that for several times tries to desert and ends up being taken to the United States, are reformulated by the war. Eastwood’s pedagogy. Unmissable…


                    © 2007 pimentelteixeira.

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                    • Dreamgirls (DVD) / DVD / 38 Readings / 32 Ratings
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                      04.05.2007 15:12
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                      "Dreamgirls" adapts a successful Broadway musical show in the beginning of the Eighties.

                      “Dreamgirls” adapts a successful Broadway musical show in the beginning of the Eighties, directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett, and based on Tom Eyen’s book and lyrics (both already dead).


                      The story finds its inspiration in the foundation and progression of Motown Records (Jamie Foxx plays the role of Motown’s director) and, particularly, in the Supremes’ creation and success (The Dreams in the movie).


                      We don’t obviously see the Broadway show, but, in the movie, everything is a reason to create a song-atmosphere, to hear the excellent and vibrating R&B, Soul and Disco songs and music.
                      With great interpretations, especially from Jennifer Hudson (Effie White), it is worthy to hear (and see, because in Jennifer’s face and body there is something else): “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”, where in sublime despair she screams…“I’m not leaving without you!” and the fabulous “One Night Only”.


                      But that is about the songs. And the movie is a musical. Well, serving the musical is supposed to be director Bill Condon and his adapted screenplay (Condon has worked mostly as a screenwriter, and has already won two Academy awards, one for “Gods and Monsters” (1998) and the second for “Chicago” (2002), another musical).


                      Just like in “Chicago”, this movie is about a musical backstage (like in the musical’s good old days) and it is recurring (is about what happened back then on stage, as by the looks of it nothing similar to a musical is probable to happen there nowadays).


                      So, Condon surrounded the songs with little tricks trying to enrich what is no more than a little story (Effie White’s love and ambition, Curtis Taylor’s ambition and greed, the character played by Jamie Foxx, their allies and the ones left back) and with a few common sneak outs (racial issues, and more musical and racial issues, and... the wigs). But is all that enough to support the movie? I think it is curious to notice how much the song-atmosphere contaminates the action, or even when the action becomes a song, and that doesn’t happen just a few times during the entire movie. Actually excluding the action connected to “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”, it happens too often and almost in an abecedarian way.


                      After “Dancer in the Dark” (Lars von Trier, 2000) the spectator has the right to be more demanding: to expect a musical to be also a movie, and maybe even more movie. There are beautiful songs in “Dreamgirls” that sometimes you really want to start dancing. But its world is not only singing and dancing. Maybe it should have stayed only by the songs; maybe they would have created a movie…


                      Coinciding with the movie and (by the way it looks, only because) Condon’s directing, there is Beyoncé. And there is also Eddie Murphy, not quite like the one we are used to.


                      You won’t lose much if you only get the soundtrack…


                      © pimentelteixeira2007

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