Rafael Yglesias

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Les Misérables Review


Very Good
Believe it or not, this is the nineteenth adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel--and likely the last to star Claire Danes. I've never read it and I've bever seen the play, but it's a good enough flick, I suppose. The tale of Jean Valjean, a paroled criminal who tries to make a new life for himself, and Javert, the obsessed inspector who's always one step behind him, is a good one. But it flags in the third act, only to revive itself for a killer ending.

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Dark Water (2005) Review


Very Good
As perhaps a concession to the modern age, the haunted-house story Dark Water is set not in some gloomy old mansion but in the claustrophobic confines of a dank apartment building, and it's all the better for it. But in many other ways the film is a fairly classic scary story, albeit one that heightens a mood of mournfulness over incessant spine-straightening scares. Fresh off the wide acclaim for his young Che Guevara travelogue The Motorcycle Diaries, director Walter Salles seems an odd choice for this, his first Hollywood project. But it's a similar transition to that taken by another South American, Alejandro Amenábar, who he came to Hollywood and made The Others, another solidly classical spooker gussied up with sharp talent and moody atmospherics.

And Dark Water (a remake of Hideo Nakata's 2002 film Honogurai mizu no soko kara) is nothing if not moody. It begins in the gloom of a divorce, with just-separated Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly) and Kyle (Dougray Scott) fighting over who is going to live where - shared custody of their young girl Ceci (Ariel Gade) making commuting a big issue. Righteously furious Dahlia needs a cheap place near a good school and so ends up looking at a place on Roosevelt Island, the apartment-block-choked strip of land in the East River that makes most Manhattanites shudder and think, "There but for the grace of my broker, go I..." She and Ceci tour a grim apartment there with a chatty manager (a spot-on John C. Reilly) who tries to talk up the depressing view of rain-shrouded towers and smokestacks and the building's neo-Fascist architecture; only Reilly could say "Brutalist" with such perfectly smarmy cheer.

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From Hell Review


OK
Jack the Ripper remains one of the most enigmatic, heavily-studied serial killers in history. He was brutal, he was clever, he was also never apprehended... or was he? The directing brothers Allen and Albert Hughes take a substantial departure from earlier material like Menace II Society and Dead Presidents with From Hell, a kooky interpretation of the Jack the Ripper case and its associated conspiracy theories.

Based on a series of comic books, From Hell actually focuses on an investigator named Abberline (Johnny Depp), who works the lower-class Whitechapel district of London in 1888. Abberline, in keeping with the presumably sacred rule that any character Depp embodies must be a nutjob, is a Laudanum addict, drinks Absinthe, and has bizarre visions in his sleep that portend Jack's next victim. If only he'd been born a century later, he could have had his own 1-900 number.

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Death And The Maiden Review


Extraordinary
Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley are together in Roman Polanski's new film, Death and the Maiden, a haunting and powerful work of genius. Based on the acclaimed stage play, the story goes that Weaver is the wife of rich South American lawyer/politician Gerardo Escobar (played by Stuart Wilson), and they live alone in the wilderness of this unnamed country. One day, Dr. Miranda (Kingsley) shows up at the house after helping Escobar with a flat tire, and he comes in for a drink.

Paulina (Weaver) begins to inexplicably break down after his arrival, going so far as to sneak out of the house and destroy Miranda's car. Only when she returns do we discover the shocking reason for this insanity. Paulina suspects Miranda was the doctor who tortured and raped her 15 years earlier: the doctor, she says, who played the Schubert composition "Death and the Maiden" while he applied his evil ministrations. Paulina then turns the tables, tying Miranda up, beating him, and holding an impromptu trial to get his confession to the deeds.

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Rafael Yglesias Movies

Les Misérables Movie Review

Les Misérables Movie Review

Believe it or not, this is the nineteenth adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel--and likely...

Dark Water (2005) Movie Review

Dark Water (2005) Movie Review

As perhaps a concession to the modern age, the haunted-house story Dark Water is set...

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From Hell Movie Review

From Hell Movie Review

Jack the Ripper remains one of the most enigmatic, heavily-studied serial killers in history....

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