Gerardo Herrero

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Everybody Has a Plan [Todos Tenemos un Plan] Review


OK

While it's fascinating to see Viggo Mortensen starring in an Argentine thriller, the film itself is disappointing and dull, keeping all the compelling emotions so internalised that we find it difficult to care what happens. It's skilfully shot and edited, and Mortensen's dual performance is excellent, but the central relationships are so vague that the film never draws us in.

Mortensen plays Agustin, a successful Buenos Aires doctor whose marriage to Claudia (Villamil) is strained by her persistent desire to adopt an orphan. Just as he's about to snap at her, his twin brother Pedro (also Mortensen) arrives to tell him that he's in the final stages of cancer. When he dies, Agustin sees a route of escape: he assumes Pedro's identity and returns to their family home deep in an isolated wooded river system. There he discovers that Pedro had been involved in a reckless kidnapping with childhood friend Adrian (Ganego). And as Agustin tries to clean up Pedro's mess, he begins to fall for bee-keeping assistant Rosa (Gala).

Mortensen is essentially playing three characters here: the sharp but frazzled city doctor, the wheezy country bumpkin and a combination of the two as Agustin pretends to be Pedro, although only Adrian seems to fall for this ruse. What's intriguing is the way Mortensen so thoroughly internalises his performance, revealing his thoughts and feelings through his eyes. This holds our interest more than anything else in the film, and gives his interaction with the other characters a jolt of raw honesty. Otherwise, we never really believe the romance between Agustin and Rosa, and Adrian is evil for evil's sake, which makes him a cartoon villain.

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The Method Review


Good
The reality television metaphors come flying at you fast and thick in Spanish filmmaker Marcelo Piñeyro's The Method, which provides for a lot of easy audience identification -- hey, I've seen Survivor -- but makes it just a bit too recognizable for comfort, at least until the end, when its existential modus operandi becomes terrifyingly clear. There are plenty of other comparisons to be drawn from this exercise in business-world gamesmanship, from Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross to LaBute's In the Company of Men, though Piñeyro's has a more gender-neutral agenda: in short, women are just as exceptional bastards as men.

Set almost entirely in a nicely-appointed conference room in a Madrid office building, The Method begins with a very telling split-screen montage: As we watch the characters go about their morning routines, traffic is piling up and the streets thickening with protestors. The IMF-World Bank conference is in town and the anti-globalization forces are marshalling for a Seattle-esque day of angry confrontation. But this is of little concern to the seven, who have taken advantage of the protests (many offices have shut down for the day) to go to a group interview for an executive job at Dexia Corporation. Of course, we are never privy to knowing what it is that Dexia does, but such specifics are entirely beside the point.

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The Aura Review


Good
Before his untimely death earlier this year, Argentinean director Fabian Bielinsky had been stretched to near-death over the Hollywood rack. Bielinsky debuted in 2002 with Nine Queens, a smart heist flick with a simple premise, and was immediately gabbed about as a rising star. Instead of immediately giving him money to do his next movie, Warner Brothers bought the rights to the film, remade it, and drained it of all charm and potency. Four years later and five months after his death, Bielinsky's second and last film is finally getting released.

It all starts with a taxidermist named Esteban (the great Ricardo Darin) and a boring job at a museum. When he's not stretching animal fur over plaster of Paris, Esteban has a knack for figuring out heists and bank robberies in his mind. So, when a botched hunting trip with a friend leaves Esteban to help on a small robbery in Bariloche, his reserved demeanor and special talents become a rare instance of utility.

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Only Human Review


OK
When the original Father of the Bride came out in 1950, it became clear that pre-wedding ceremonies were fertile land for moviemaking. It has spawned great movies (Late Marriage), great comedies (Meet the Parents),and a heap of charming but forgettable variants (chief example: My Big Fat Greek Wedding). Dominic Harari and Teresa De Pelegri's Only Human wants to be a great comedy but has moments of schizophrenia where it also wants to be serious. Head scratching is imminent.Rafi (Guillermo Toledo) has small lakes underneath his armpits from perspiration. His fiancée Leni (Marian Aguilera) suggests a quickie in the elevator before they reach her parents' apartment. There is much surprise when Leni's mother, Gloria (the fantastic Norma Aleandro), opens her arms without trouble to Rafi. The entire family, including an orthodox brother, a nymphomaniac sister, and a blind, war-obsessed grandfather, is happy to meet the shambling professor. That is, until they find out he is Palestinian. Gloria throws a fit, Leni threatens to leave, and Rafi gets so nervous that he accidentally throws a huge block of frozen soup out the window and almost kills a person.The wackiness only gets more demented as the injured man is dragged into the bus of a prostitute and the family invades Leni's father's office in an attempt to prove he is philandering. One could easily cast the film off as another in a long line of Meet the Parents-like escapades, but the comedy that is achieved here rings a much darker tone. Leni often questions the idea of morality in the face of staying with Rafi, who she loves more than her stature in god's eyes. Gloria often spills to both her girls that her sex life is all but dead and considers lesbianism.Trouble arises in a blunt, somewhat shameful argument that takes place between Leni and Rafi in the family bathroom. Where the political strife between the cultures had been a trembling bass line behind the humorous clamor, this argument suddenly forces all the implied attention into the opening. She spits angry sentiment about Palestine while he pushes back with generalizations about both the Jewish people and their faith. The actors strain to make this argument relative and real, but the scene is so obvious and turns all the film's energy into dead air. That clink you hear in the background is a wrench hitting the gears.For what is familiar territory by now, however, Only Human packs in the laughs and has an interesting enough array of characters. Its attempt at mixing the tommy-gun laughs of the Meet the Parents films and the venomous culture and class lines of Late Marriage isn't without its bravery and ingenuity, but it comes off clumsily and often puts the viewer in an awkward state of falling out of interest with the characters. The film succeeds in its bewildering dark sentiments but pushes them farther than they need to go.By the way, did you hear the one about the Palestinian and the Fundamentalist Christian who were stuck on an island together?Aka Seres queridos.

Don't Tempt Me Review


Weak
Fairly ridiculous but often fun, this supernatural satire has Victoria Abril and Penélope Cruz as angels on opposite sides of the war between good and evil. (Abril's an angel for heaven, where all is in black and white and everyone speaks French; Cruz is a servant of evil, where everyone speaks Spanish or English and works slinging food in a prison.

The battle plays out over the soul of a pathetic boxer named Manny (Demián Bichir), who makes next to no impression in the film. All eyes are on the leading ladies and the jaunts through heaven, hell, and earth. Whether Abril's performing in a cabaret or Abril is eating lunch in her waitstaff's uniform, this bizarre production keeps you wondering, well, what the hell is going on in this movie?

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Son of the Bride Review


Excellent
It's comforting to know that hard-working people everywhere suffer from stress just as we Americans do. Rafael Belvedere, the good-looking, divorced, 42-year old restaurateur in Juan José Campanella's Son of the Bride is proof. At the center of this Argentine/Spanish production (a 2002 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film), he is a foul-mouthed slave driver in the workplace, a forgetful Dad, an unfeeling son, and oh, he's about to have a heart attack. The health setback causes Rafael to rethink his path, and head for personal salvation; at the same time, Campanella redirects his own cinematic journey, turning a saccharine, overplayed concept into a smartly-written, touching family diary, full of drama and wit.

Just as the pre-cardiac arrest Rafa is vapid and unhappy, so is Campanella's film before the incident. Ricardo Darín, in the lead role, is a standout, sputtering dialogue like an angry boxer throwing jabs, but we've seen most of this before. He ignores the situations around him, works his fingers to the bone, and doesn't appreciate life. The prospects for an original, honest movie get worse when Rafa's aging father (Héctor Alterio) reveals his wish to renew his vows with Rafa's stunning mother (Norma Aleandro), regardless of her losing battle with Alzheimer's. Alterio's gushy proclamation is too sticky-sweet, and the film seems headed for soap opera territory.

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Sweet Sixteen Review


Excellent
If the title suggests beautiful teenagers graduating from high school, fighting their hormones as they contemplate the opposite sex, and colorful parties to celebrate the special occasion, director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty are here to tell you that the picture is decidedly less lighthearted on the uncordial streets of Greenock, an economically struggling suburb of Glasgow, Scotland. Here, where mutual respect is an alien concept, the possibilities for a promising 15-year-old boy gives a whole darker cast to the term, "coming of age." And, the only thing here that's beautiful is the finely structured screenplay that traces the evolution of youthful criminality with tempered control and believability.

Fifteen year old Liam (Martin Compston) is a standout among his peers for his natural creativity and audacious leadership, as he graduates his money-making enterprises toward increasingly illegal and remunerative use. We meet him as he and his closest mate Pinball (William Ruane) sell cheap fags to the gentry on the street and in a local bar. But the result is slim pickings, and not nearly enough to realize his dreams of providing a fresh start for his mum Jean (Michelle Coulter) when she gets out of prison. While this appears the noble desire of a dutiful son, it will become clear that it's more the obsession of a boy too immature to put relationships in their proper perspective.

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