Leonardo Sbaraglia

Leonardo Sbaraglia

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Wild Tales Review


From Argentina, this Oscar-nominated collection of six short, sharp stories leaves us gasping for breath due to both riotous black comedy and deeply unnerving plot twists. Each segment is about people who are pushed beyond the tipping point, finding revenge in an unexpected way that feels both deeply horrifying and disturbingly satisfying. And even though it sometimes veers wildly close to being over-the-top, the film is written, directed and played with such brutal honesty that it can't help but rattle us to the core.

The prologue is titled "Pasternak", set on an airplane on which passengers are surprised to find out that they all have a connection to Gabriel Pasternak. But what does he have in store for them all? Next is "The Rats", set in a roadside diner where waitress Moza (Julieta Zylberberg) is unnerved to serve a loan shark (Cesar Bordon) who destroyed her family. The chef (Rita Cortese) thinks she should poison his food. "The Strongest" follows Diego (Leonardo Sbaraglia), a wealthy man driving his shiny car down a highway when he comes up to Mario (Walter Donado) hogging the road with his rattling clunker. Passing him with a volley of obscenities, Diego is then horrified when he has a flat tyre and knows who's coming down the road behind him.

The fourth clip is "Little Bomb", about demolition expert Simon (Ricardo Darin), who engages the city's bureaucrats in a quickly escalating war when his car is erroneously towed for parking illegally. "The Proposal" is the most cerebral segment, centring on a wealthy man (Oscar Martinez) trying to clear his teen son (Alan Daicz), who has just run down a pregnant woman in the street. The idea is to find a scapegoat. And in "Until Death Parts Us", a bride (Erica Rivas) discovers in the middle of their marriage reception that her new husband (Diego Gentile) has been cheating on her. Her reaction is neither calm nor measured.

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Red Lights Review

Spanish filmmaker Cortes clearly thinks of himself as a Christopher Nolan-style filmmaker, as this thriller has heavy echoes of Inception and especially The Prestige. But the film drifts into self-parody just when it needs to take an intelligent twist.

Tom (Murphy) is a physicist who works with psychologist Margaret (Weaver) to expose fake psychics. They don't believe that the supernatural exists, much to the annoyance of psychic studies proferssor Paul (Jones). Assisted by students Sally and Ben (Olsen and Roberts), Tom and Margaret debunk noted mentalist Palladino (Sbaraglia) by looking for "red lights", anything that seems suspicious. But when Margaret's old nemesis Simon (De Niro) makes a comeback, she backs down from going after the famed blind showman. And Tom's secret investigation takes some bizarre turns.

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The City of No Limits Review

The City Of No Limits has just about everything: a health crisis, a 40-year-old mystery, three Dynasty episodes worth of backstabbing family intrigue, and an extended Spanish family battling over its destiny. There's never a dull moment.

The city in question is Paris, where Max, the family patriarch and owner of a large pharmaceutical company, has traveled from Madrid seeking treatment for a tumor that has left him slightly demented and close to death. By his side is his wife Marie (the formidable Geraldine Chaplin, as thin and cold as an icicle), who clearly has something dark on her mind. She's joined by her three sons, Luis (Roberto Alvarez), Alberto (Alex Casanovas), and the youngest, Victor (Leonardo Sbaraglia), who flies in from Argentina with his girlfriend (Leticia Bredice) for what may be Max's death watch.

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Cleopatra (2003) Review

As Cleopatra, a retired Buenos Aires school teacher who is struggling to get by after her husband's layoff, and whose children long ago moved away, actress Norma Aleandro has a real screen presence. Her character is meant to be one who impacts those around her, and in Aleandro you can see it: She has a way of drinking in what others tell her, her bright eyes pondering their words with a bird-like stare, and she has a long, beaky nose. When she speaks, she flutters her hands or clutches at nonexistent pearls, and there's a swing in her walk that recalls nothing so much as a pigeon. Her openness to life is telegraphed in her reactions. In one scene she's taken with a song she hears on the radio while driving; when the man singing it says that his journey of self-discovery has revealed that there's a woman inside him, "and it's me," she blinks in surprise, considers this revelation, and then continues with her appreciation.

Aleandro is at the heart of the 2003 Argentinean film Cleopatra, and her quirky charm carries the film. The story follows her adventures after a chance encounter puts her in the company of a much younger and very beautiful television star named Sandra (Natalia Oreiro); Sandra is fed up with her producer/boyfriend, who's more obsessed with Sandra's career than with Sandra herself, and Cleo is fed up with her husband, who's given up on life following the loss of his job. Together the two embark on their own journey of self-discovery, taking off into the Argentinean hinterlands without notice and without a plan.

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Intacto Review

Odds of winning the lottery are 1 in 23,000,000. Odds of having a royal flush are 1 in 649,739. Odds of becoming a millionaire in a casino are 1 in 600,000. In comparison, odds of being hit by an asteroid are only 1 in 20,000. Luck does occasionally strike, though, and the one fortunate winner is enough to inspire other players to continue gambling, despite the overwhelming odds. After all, players of the lottery only lose a few dollars each time they play.

However, some gamblers risk more than just pocket change. Some even risk their lives. Does anyone want to play a game in which the players run full-speed through a heavily wooded forest handcuffed and blindfolded, and whoever doesn't smash his or her face into a tree takes the prize? Or how about a reverse game of Russian roulette in which there is only one empty chamber in the loaded revolver? The gamblers in Intacto participate in these games and others so amazingly outrageous they belong in Jackass.

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Leonardo Sbaraglia

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