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Posts Tagged ‘Antonio Banderas’

Olivia Wilde, Oscar Isaac

“LIFE ITSELF” My rating: C- (Opens wide on Sept. 21)

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Having conquered the world of episodic television with the emotion-wringing family drama “This is Us,”  writer/director Dan Fogelman turns to the big screen with “Life Itself.”

Things don’t go well.

As the title suggests, Fogelman is here attempting nothing less than a God’s-eye view of human lives, all of them entangled — though at first that’s not obvious.  While “This is Us” appeals directly to big laughs and big tears, “Life Itself” is curiously muted, as if we’re observing the characters across vast distances.  Those looking for a good cry will probably leave looking for something to punch.

The film is perversely curious, for Fogelman has given us nothing less than a humanistic, non-violent parody/homage of Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.” Like that film, “Life Itself” is broken into specific chapters and employs a time-leaping narrative (something with which Fogelman is familiar…see “This is Us”). At one point characters attend a party dressed like John Travolta and Uma Thurman in “Pulp Fiction’s”  famous dance contest; at least twice in “Life Itself” the movie slows down so that characters can deliver long Tarantino-esque monologues. Tarantino regular Samuel L. Jackson even pops up in an extended cameo so weird it defies description.

So what’s the movie about?  Well, let’s break it down by  chapters.

  • In the opening sequence the bearded, unkempt Will (Oscar Isaac) is getting therapy from a shrink (Annette Bening). We gradually learn that his beloved wife Abby has left him (in flashbacks she’s played by Olivia Wilde).  We see their romantic meeting, their growing love, their relationship with Will’s parents (Mandy Patinkin, Jean Smart), their anticipation of the birth of their child. We discover that Will’s therapy was court-mandated after a suicide attempt and a few months in a mental ward. Eventually we discover what happened to Abby.
  • The next segment follows the childhood of Will and Abby’s daughter, Dylan (Olivia Cooke), who is raised by her widowed grandpa and grows up to be a smart/rebellious punk rocker, though tormented by the loss of the parents she never met. (more…)
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Antonio Banderas, Piper Perabo

“BLACK BUTTERFLY” My rating: C+

93 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Brian Goodman’s “Black Butterfly” is a moderately effective thriller with several “gotcha!” twists…until it delivers one gotcha twist too many.

Paul (Antonio Banderas) is a once-promising novelist and screenwriter now fallen upon hard times. He sits in his remote cabin home in the Rockies (actually, the film was shot in Italy) pecking aimlessly at his typewriter, drinking heavily and hoping for inspiration. It isn’t forthcoming.

Meanwhile a serial killer has been terrorizing the neighborhood, snatching young women who are never seen again.

During a confrontation at a local diner with a bad-tempered trucker, Paul is defended by Jack (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a mysterious drifter. Thankful for the intervention, he invites Jack to stay a few days at his home.  Jack agrees to make some repairs to the place, which the financially-strapped Paul must reluctantly sell.

But there’s something a bit off about this guest.  Jack keeps in his backpack newspaper clippings about the missing women. He can be surly and suspicious.

(more…)

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AltamiraBison“FINDING ALTAMIRA” My rating: C+

97 minutes | No MPAA rating

The conflict between science and superstition (not to mention stubbornness and stupidity) is nothing new.

In Hugh Hudson’s “Finding Altamira” a 19th-century archaeologist sees his life and reputation reduced to tatters over his discovery of spectacular prehistoric cave paintings.

Marcelo Sanz de Sautolo (portrayed here by Antonio Banderas) was a wealthy Spaniard and gentleman of leisure.  He was also an amateur scientist who loved getting his hands dirty digging up old things.

In 1879 Sautolo was excavating a cave discovered a few years earlier.  His nine-year-old daughter Maria (Allegra Allen) wandered off from the entrance and stumbled upon a magnificent chamber decorated with drawings of animals — mostly massive bison — rendered in red ochre and black ash.

Sautolo  concluded that this was the work of prehistoric man — but work of undreamed-of sophistication. As it turned out, that was the sticking point. No one — not even Europe’s most acclaimed archaeologists — believed primitive man capable of such efforts.

Sautolo was accused of forging the cave paintings to satisfy his own need for celebrity. Twenty years later he was vindicated posthumously after other such sites were discovered around southern Europe.

The screenplay by Olivia Hetreed and Jose Luis Lopez-Linages employs these historic facts as the backbone for a tale that takes on religion, professional pride and father-child relations.

(more…)

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the 33 20053“THE 33” My rating: B-

120 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

The rescue in 2010 of 33 Chilean miners — buried alive for 69 days after the collapse of a gold and copper mine — is a story guaranteed to nurture hope and raise the spirits.

In fact, you’d have to be a stone not to be moved by a tale this dramatic.

And “The 33” does a pretty decent job of laying out a complicated yarn and seasoning it

with dramatic moments as it twists and turns toward an uplifting conclusion.

But it’s far from a great movie. The four-person screenwriting team and director Patricia Riggen (“Under the Same Moon”) struggle to get their arms around so many characters, so many plot threads. The film has no central character, and its dramatic impact is diffused.

Nevertheless, it does the job because we know that as unlikely as it seems, it’s a true tale.

We are introduced to the working stiffs at the San Jose Mine at a weekend party. One of the guys is an Elvis impersonator. Another is a graybeard preparing for retirement.

There’s a young husband whose wife is expecting their first baby. A lothario who openly juggles both a spouse and a mistress.

Of course our eyes are drawn to Mario (Antonio Banderas), a husband and father who oozes charisma and leadership.

The work gang foreman, Don Lucho (Lou Diamond Phillips), is charged with ensuring the safety of his crews but keeps getting the runaround from superiors who don’t want to sink any more money into a 100-year-old mine that’s almost played out.

There is, of course, a new kid (Tenoch Huerta), a Bolivian who gets teased by his Chilean co-workers. (After they’re buried alive, the men grimly joke that he’ll be the first consumed, since “Bolivians taste like chicken.”)

And we shouldn’t forget the hopeless alcoholic (Juan Pablo Raba), whose older sister (Juliette Binoche) will become a thorn in the side of the greedy mining corporation.

The problem facing director Riggen is obvious. There are too many personalities here to really develop any of them. Many of these fellows are “types” rather than real people.

And things get doubly complicated because while the miners are trapped 2,300 feet  down in 100-degree heat with dwindling resources (mostly a few cans of tuna), back on the surface there’s another conflict brewing. (more…)

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Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya

“THE SKIN I LIVE IN”  My rating: B 

117 minutes |  MPAA rating: R

“The Skin I Live In” is one spectacularly sick movie.

I kinda loved it.

This heady mashup of “Frankenstein”/mad scientist horror story, sexual fantasy, revenge yarn and existential escape caper shows Spanish writer/director Pedro Almodovar indulging numerous of his well-chronicled obsessions.

The resulting film is simultaneously creepy and beautiful. Think of it as a less offensive (but equally disturbing) “Human Centipede” for the art house crowd.

Vera (Elena Anaya) is the only patient in a private clinic in the home of brilliant plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard (Almodovar stalwart Antonio Banderas).

Vera lives in a hermetically sealed, sterile-looking room. She wears a form-clinging body stocking outfitted with various flaps and zippers so that Robert can examine his handiwork. Clearly, Vera has undergone some major skin grafts.

What tragedy — accident, disease or birth defect — required such extensive surgery? (more…)

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