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Alleluia Review


Much more than an unsettling horror movie (although it is that too), this film gets under the skin to play with the audience's emotional response, eliciting dark sympathies with the killers. It's an uncanny trick that Belgian director Fabrice Du Welz (Calvaire) does extremely well. He's also adept at putting a fresh spin on a true story that's been filmed three times before (as The Honeymoon Killers in 1969, Deep Crimson in 1996 and Lonely Hearts in 2006) and has inspired countless other murderous-lovers-on-the-run movies.

This time it has an internet twist, as Gloria (Lola Duenas) finds Michel (Laurent Lucas) on a dating website. She prepares for the date by leaving her daughter with a friend (Stephane Bissot); he prepares by burning her photo and chanting, "May Gloria succumb to my charms!" Not that he needs to bother, because she falls for him, invites him home and even gives him some cash for the road. But when he fails to answer her calls, she tracks him down and rumbles him as he seduces another woman for money. Instead of denouncing him, she proposes a partnership, and they pose as brother and sister as he woos Marguerite (Edith Le Merdy). But Gloria has a jealousy problem that turns violently fatal, so they move on to another widow (Anne-Marie Loop), and then another (Helena Noguerra), by which time Michel realises he'll need to sedate Gloria.

Yes, there's a dryly comical slant to the story even as it gets increasingly violent and unnerving. But it only works this well because the filmmaking is fiendishly clever and the actors give bravely realistic performances. Duenas is astonishing as Gloria: funny, passionate and utterly terrifying. And Lucas is just as unflinching in his portrayal of Michel's weakness for women. Both of these characters have very dark souls, but they're great at hiding this from their unsuspecting victims until the last possible moment. The entire cast offers open-handed performances that are utterly transparent, and everything is more alarming as a result.

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


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.

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The Women On The 6th Floor Review

Spiky dialog and terrific characters make this French class comedy thoroughly enjoyable, even if there's not much to it. An especially strong cast and energetic direction add a zing if personality to both characters and settings.

In 1962 Paris, wealthy broker Jean-Louis (Luchini) and his wife Suzanne (Kiberlain) live in his family flat, oblivious to the Spanish maids who occupy tiny rooms on the top floor and gather in the park to gossip about their bosses. It's not until Jean-Louis and Suzanne hire new arrival Maria (Verbeke) to work for them that they discover this world of labourers. And Jean-Louis embraces it, finding new satisfaction in helping to make their lives better while flirting quietly with Maria. But Suzanne suspects something else entirely.

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The Sea Inside Review

The Sea Inside has Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Amenábar's (Open Your Eyes) auteuristic grip all over it. Besides directing, Amenábar also co-produced, co-wrote (with longtime collaborator, Mateo Gil), scored and edited this saga about a true-life quadriplegic who campaigned for 30 years against Spain's judiciary for the right to end his life. Paralyzed after a diving accident, Ramón Sampedro (Javier Bardem) is reduced to lying supine in a room of his older brother José's farmhouse. Day and night, year after year, Ramón is vigilantly cared for by José (Celso Bugallo), and his small clan. The slow grind of Ramón 's existence, salved only by his family's devotion, eventually wears the patient down to where he feels euthanasia is the only dignified option left.

Ramón's outspokenness wins the interest -- and the affections -- of a pair of women: Julia (Belén Rueda), the terminally ill lawyer who helps Ramón build his case, and Rosa (Lola Dueñas), a single mother drawn to Ramón out of loneliness and her admiration for his strength. But while the sensuous Julia, herself coping with illness, fully sympathizes with Ramón 's cause, the feisty Rosa sulks and frets whenever Ramón so much as breathes a word of his intentions.

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"The Sea Inside" ("mar Adentro") Review


After creating from scratch two breathtaking metaphysical thrillers in a row -- "Open Your Eyes" and "The Others") -- writer, director and composer Alejandro Amenábar's return to the big screen is rather disappointing: "The Sea Inside" is little more than a routine disease-of-the-week biopic.

Javier Bardem ("Before Night Falls") gives a tour-de-force performance as quadriplegic Ramón Sampedro, who, after 30 years in bed, wishes to die with dignity, but the film never shows any indignity. In fact, his life looks pretty good under the circumstances. He has beautiful women -- a lawyer (Belén Rueda) and a local woman (Lola Dueñas) who was inspired by Ramon's television appearance -- fawning over him, and a book of his poetry has just been published.

Amenábar manages one great scene in which Sampedro argues with a wheelchair bound priest, sending a messenger up and down the stairs with sacrilegious pronouncements. Otherwise the movie wishes only to make a soapbox stand about whether or not humans have the right to decide our own deaths, and never comes to terms with the how or why. It's very simple and streamlined, and all that's left is Bardem's bid for Oscar glory, emoting from his bed using only his eyes and his voice.

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