Guillermo Toledo

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I'm So Excited! [Los Amantes Pasajeros] Review


Good

Fans of more recent Almodovar films like The Skin I Live In or Volver should be warned about this one, because it harks back to his much cheesier 1980s films with its broad comedy, lurid production values and camp characters. But even if it looks fluffy and silly, there are some serious things going on under the surface, as Almodovar undermines stereotypes and plays with sexuality issues. Although this means that most of the humour is aimed at a gay audience.

It all takes place on a flight from Spain to Mexico, but shortly after take-off the pilot (de la Torre) announces that a mechanical fault means they need to make an emergency landing. Then the passenger Bruna (Duenas) reveals that she's a virginal psychic who sees death ahead, and everyone starts to panic. The flight crew (Camara, Areces and Arevalo) try to distract the passengers from impending doom by performing a choreographed number to the Pointer Sisters' eponymous hit. And when that doesn't work, they lace everyone's drinks with mescaline.

Each person in the first class cabin (economy is sound asleep) has his or her own crisis, including a notorious dominatrix (Roth), a businessman (Torrijo) on a quest, a shady hitman (Yazpik), a just-married groom (Silvestre) who prefers his wife to be asleep, and a man (Toledo) running from his suicidal girlfriend (Vega). And the pilots and flight attendants are also romantically entangled. All of this swirls together like a nutty 1970s Mexican soap, complete with flimsy-looking sets and a sparky mariachi score.

Continue reading: I'm So Excited! [Los Amantes Pasajeros] Review

during a press photo call at day 3 of the 41st Sitges Film Festival

Elsa Pataky and Guillermo Toledo - Elsa Pataky and Guillermo Toledo Barcelona, Spain - during a press photo call at day 3 of the 41st Sitges Film Festival Saturday 4th October 2008

during a press photo call at day 3 of the 41st Sitges Film Festival

Guillermo Toledo Saturday 4th October 2008 during a press photo call at day 3 of the 41st Sitges Film Festival Barcelona, Spain

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.

The Other Side of the Bed Review


Grim
Terribly ill-advised, this film combins a sex romp with a musical -- and neither side works very well. A sextet (or so) of Spaniards couple in various combinations. After they've got their rocks off, they espouse absurd theories about JFK, Marilyn Monroe, and the modern world. Then it moves on to song and dance numbers (with some truly awful singing and questionable dancing). This is all meant to be whimsical and not-serious, but it comes off as pathetic and sad. Basically, they forget that in a good sex comedy, the emphasis is on comedy.

Continue reading: The Other Side of the Bed Review

Mad Love Review


Grim
For some reason, filmmakers become overly inspired when it comes to helming historical epics. In writer-director Vicente Aranda's interminable, labored, and lumbering celluloid soap opera Mad Love (aka Juana la Loca -- translation, Joan the Mad), he sets out to paint a lavish portrait of passion against the atmospheric Spanish background of late 15th century sensibilities. Although Mad Love boasts a radiant aura of visual sophistication, this 2002 Best Foreign Film nominee is lackluster.

Mad Love tells the sordid tale of Joan/Juana of Castile (Pilar López de Ayala), daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella (the married monarchs who financed Christopher Columbus's boat ride to the New World in 1492). Juana ends up in a political marriage to Philip the Handsome (Daniele Liotti), the Archduke of Austria. Despite the arrangement, the couple manages to find a hidden mutual attraction. The result: six children. By this point, Juana is completely head-over-heels in love with Philip to the extent that it's obsessive. But Philip becomes noticeably indifferent toward his wife, dabbling in numerous adulterous affairs. Of course this adds to the increasingly insane jealously of Juana. An apparent emotional wreck, Philip's wife is due for a breakdown, and Philip looks to declare poor Juana legally insane and incarcerate her, thus giving him and his father a shot at the throne. But soon enough, Isabella dies, Philip dies, Ferdinand dies, and Juana gets shipped off to live in isolation before also dying, 40 years later.

Continue reading: Mad Love Review

Butterfly Review


OK

A compelling marriage of innocence and intellectualism, "The Butterfly" views the see-sawing political upheaval of 1936 Spain through the life of a worrisome, bookish little boy.

Our young hero -- an asthmatic tailor's son named Moncho (Manuel Lozano) -- becomes fascinated by learning through his affectionate tutelage under an old schoolmaster (legendary Spanish thespian Fernando Fernan Gomez, "The Grandfather," "Belle Epoque"), whose involvement in humanitarian causes and whose open eschewment of the church put him in the crosshairs of the right-wingers critical of the precarious current government.

But, understandably, Moncho more interested in playing in the fields near his village and learning about life and nature from his mentor than he is in the freedom newly tasted by revolutionary republicans like his teacher and cautiously activist parents (played with tenderness and depth by Uxia Blanco and Gonzalo Uriarte). He takes only minor notice of the way fear and paranoia about losing their newly won rights is a constant topic of conversation among the grown-ups around him.

Continue reading: Butterfly Review

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