August 1, 2015

July films / películas de julio

In July I had the opportunity to enjoy mega-productions as well as cinéma d'auteur. Let’s start with Terminator Genisys (2015). After the very disappointing Terminator 3 and 4, I was a bit hesitant about a new installment in a franchise I’m so fond of (as a matter of fact, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is in my top 100 best films). However I must say that Terminator Genisys is much better than T3 and T4, and not only pays homage to the original first 2 Cameron films, but also builds upon them, exploring time paradoxes, a doomed future, Skynet, and all the things we were expecting to see here. Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the Terminator (I absolutely loved the way he explains his aging) and Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) is Sarah Connors. Great action sequences, good acting and a clever plot turn this into one of 2015’s best Hollywood blockbusters. 

This is the first time I see a Marvel production about a character I’m not too familiar with: Ant-Man (2015). Instead of focusing on the original Ant-Man (Hank Pym), here the protagonist is Scott Lang. However, Paul Rudd is so likeable that I immediately stopped worrying about Marvel continuity. Ant-Man is very entertaining, and tremendously funny. I laughed out loud several times, to the point that I would suggest that this is more of a comedy than a proper superhero flick, and that is precisely why it works so well and why it melts our hearts and makes us burst into laughter over and over again. The cast includes the extraordinary Michael Douglas (Fatal Attraction) and Evangeline Lilly (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug). 

However, the best new release of this month is Woman in Gold (2015) directed by Simon Curtis (who had already impressed me with My Week With Marilyn). After WWII, Helen Mirren (The Queen) becomes the only survivor of a wealthy Austrian Jewish family, and after living in the US for decades, she discovers that there might be a way to retrieve the paintings the Nazis stole from her family, especially the portrait of her aunt, painted by Gustav Klimt (and valued at over 100 million dollars). I found the story captivating, perhaps because I love art, or more likely because the 40s is a fascinating historical period; although the story takes place in the late 20th century, there are constant flashbacks that allow us to see the protagonist’s past. Helen Mirren’s performance is absolutely superb, and Ryan Reynolds (Paper Man) surprised me with the best acting I’ve seen from him ever, the rest of the cast is spectacular: Daniel Brühl (Krabat), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Max Irons and Tom Schilling. I really recommend this one.

Godzilla (2014) was a gigantic let down (or a monstrously bad remake). I guess I had high expectations, especially considering the marvelous cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass), Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai), Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Juliette Binoche (Chocolat), but clearly neither the director nor the screenwriter made an effort here.

The Legend of Hercules (2014), starring Kellan Lutz (Twilight: Breaking Dawn), was another major disaster. It looks so cheesy and cheap. Furthermore, the bad direction and the poor writing make it unwatchable.

Although I’ve seen many takes on the Middle East war, I haven’t found one as riveting and as honest as Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor (2013). Based on true facts, Lone Survivor is the shocking chronicle of a group of American soldiers trapped in hostile territory in Afghanistan. Berg shows us the brutality of war; the violent sequences are unforgettable and the suspense is unbelievably strong, but perhaps what I liked the most was how the director reveals the extreme differences between two Afghan ethnic groups (in fact, Pashtun villagers save the life of the last American soldier, protecting him from the talibans). The cast includes Mark Wahlberg (The Happening), Taylor Kitsch (John Carter), Emile Hirsch (famous for his role as a gay teenager in The Mudge Boy) and Ben Foster (famous for his role as a homosexual writer in Kill Your Darlings).

Craig Zisk’s The English Teacher (2013) is a bit of a cautionary tale and also an inspired take on the controversial issue of teachers having sexual relationships with their students (or in this case, former students). Julianne Moore (Still Alice) is a respected teacher, who tries to encourage one of her former pupils Michael Angarano (The Art of Getting By) to keep writing, but he feels miserable after everyone in New York refused to produce his play. The teacher decides to make the play in coordination with the high school drama department (Nathan Lane is spot on as the flamboyant theater director). With a healthy dose of black humor and an insightful analysis on loneliness and the creative nature of the artist, The English Teacher sure deserves the highest grade. A must-see.

A true masterpiece from the past decade, The Others (2001) was directed by the talented Alejandro Amenábar. It is an indisputable gem of the horror genre and a beautiful and surprising project. Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole) is a woman who lives alone with her two children in a huge mansion, cut off from the world and clinging to the memories of a husband that is no longer there. However, as soon as she hires some new servants strange things start to happen. Slowly, she begins to feel the presence of others. There are absolutely frightening scenes and a unique and dense atmosphere that contributes to a feel of dread and oppression that builds on with every new scene. After “Abre los ojos”, Amenábar was at the top of his game as a filmmaker, and The Others is not only one of his best titles but also one of my all-time favorite films. 

Although Sam Raimi does a poor job as the director, The Quick and the Dead (1995) is still a highly enjoyable and charming western, thanks to an all-star cast: Sharon Stone (Bobby), Russell Crowe (Noah), Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road) and Gene Hackman (The Royal Tenenbaums). It was such a delightful experience to see all of them sharing the screen.   

Falling Down (1993) proves what a great director Joel Schumacher was at the time (before ruining the Batman franchise). A highly motivated director and a brilliant screenwriter work in unison to create a wonderful and unexpected urban tale about Michael Douglas (Behind the Candelabra), a desperate man that takes out his frustration on everyone he runs into; and Robert Duvall (Apocalypse Now), the detective in charge of this intriguing case. Social criticism, crime, and the debacle of the American dream come together in this truly outstanding production.

Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me (1986) is considered a classic by many critics, and I have to agree with them! Based on a Stephen King novella, Stand by Me is a deeply poignant, coming of age tale, focusing on a group of boys that take on a journey that will change their lives. Camaraderie, friendship, male bonding and, above all, the naiveté and awkwardness of puberty, are masterfully depicted by Reiner. Although I had seen it before, it gets me every time. Moving, hilarious and with a life of its own, Stand by Me perfectly captures the point of view of a 12-year-old kid. The cast includes Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation), River Phoenix (famous for his role as a gay teen in My Own Private Idaho), Corey Feldman (The Goonies) and Jerry O'Connell (Scream 2).

En julio tuve la oportunidad de disfrutar de un par de mega-producciones y también del cine de autor. Empecemos con “Terminator Genisys” (2015). Después de las muy decepcionantes Terminator 3 y 4, estaba un poco indeciso ante la nueva entrega de una franquicia a la que tanto aprecio (de hecho, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” está en mi top 100 de las mejores películas). Sin embargo, debo decir que “Terminator Genisys” es mucho mejor que T3 y T4, y no sólo rinde homenaje a las 2 primeras películas originales de Cameron, sino también hace una gran contribución mediante la exploración de paradojas temporales, el futuro condenado, Skynet, y todo lo esperábamos ver aquí. Arnold Schwarzenegger regresa como Terminator (me encantó la forma en la que explica su envejecimiento) y Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”) es Sarah Connors. Grandiosas secuencias de acción, buenas actuaciones y un guión ingenioso hacen de esta una de las mejores superproducciones de Hollywood del 2015.

Esta es la primera vez que veo una producción de Marvel sobre un personaje con el que no estoy muy familiarizado: “Ant-Man” (2015). En lugar de centrarse en el Ant-Man original (Hank Pym), aquí el protagonista es Scott Lang. Sin embargo, Paul Rudd cae tan simpático que inmediatamente dejé de preocuparme por la continuidad Marvel. “Ant-Man” es muy entretenida, y tremendamente divertida. Me hizo reír varias veces, al punto que yo sugeriría que es más una comedia que una película de superhéroes propiamente dicha, y precisamente por eso es que funciona tan bien, derritiendo nuestros corazones y haciéndonos estallar en carcajadas. El reparto incluye al extraordinario Michael Douglas  (Fatal Attraction) y Evangeline Lilly (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug).

Sin embargo, el mejor estreno del mes es “Woman in Gold” (2015), dirigida por Simon Curtis (quien ya me había impresionado con My Week With Marilyn). Después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Helen Mirren (The Queen) es la única superviviente de una acaudalada familia judía austriaca, y después de haber vivido en Estados Unidos durante décadas, ella descubre que puede haber una manera de recuperar las pinturas que los nazis le robaron a su familia, especialmente el retrato de su tía, pintado por Gustav Klimt (y valorizado en más de 100 millones de dólares). La historia me pareció cautivante, tal vez porque me encanta el arte, o más probablemente, porque los años 40s son un periodo histórico fascinante; aunque la historia ocurre a fines del siglo XX, hay constantes flashbacks que nos permiten ver el pasado de la protagonista. La actuación de Helen Mirren es absolutamente magnífica, y Ryan Reynolds (Paper Manme sorprendió con la que considero su mejor actuación a la fecha, el resto del elenco es espectacular: Daniel Brühl (Krabat), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Max Irons y Tom Schilling. Realmente la recomiendo.

Godzilla (2014) fue una gigantesca decepción (o un remake monstruosamente malo). Supongo que tenía grandes expectativas, sobre todo teniendo en cuenta el maravilloso reparto: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass), Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai), Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) y Juliette Binoche (Chocolat), pero es evidente que ni el director ni el guionista se esforzaron.

The Legend of Hercules (2014), protagonizada por Kellan Lutz (Twilight: Breaking Dawn), fue otro gran desastre, visualmente barato y de mal gusto. Además, una mala dirección y un mal argumento hacen que esto sea intragable.

Aunque he visto mucho sobre la guerra en el Medio Oriente, no había encontrado algo tan fascinante y tan honesto como “Lone Survivor” de Peter Berg (2013). Basada en hechos reales, Lone Survivor es la impactante crónica de un grupo de soldados estadounidenses atrapados en territorio enemigo en Afganistán. Berg nos muestra la brutalidad de la guerra; las secuencias violentas son inolvidables y el suspenso es increíblemente fuerte, pero tal vez lo que más me gustó fue cómo el director revela las diferencias extremas entre dos grupos étnicos afganos (de hecho, los aldeanos pastunes salvan la vida del último soldado estadounidense, protegiéndolo de los talibanes). El reparto incluye a Mark Wahlberg (The Happening), Taylor Kitsch (John Carter), Emile Hirsch (famoso por su papel como un adolescente gay en The Mudge Boy) y Ben Foster (famoso por su papel como un escritor homosexual en Kill Your Darlings).

The English Teacher (2013), de Craig Zisk, aborda acertadamente el controversial tema de los maestros que tienen relaciones sexuales con sus alumnos (o en este caso, ex alumnos), a la vez que advierte sobre las consecuencias. Julianne Moore (Still Alicees una respetada profesora que trata de animar a uno de sus antiguos alumnos, Michael Angarano (The Art of Getting By) para que siga escribiendo, pero él se siente desalentado después de que se negaron a producir su obra de teatro en New York. La profesora decide hacer la obra en coordinación con el departamento de teatro de la escuela secundaria (Nathan Lane está sensacional como el extravagante director teatral). Con una saludable dosis de humor negro y un análisis profundo sobre la soledad y la naturaleza creativa del artista, “The English Teacher” merece las mejores calificaciones. 

Una verdadera obra maestra de la década pasada, “The Others” (2001) fue dirigida por el talentoso Alejandro Amenábar. Es una joya indiscutible del género de terror y un proyecto hermoso y sorprendente. Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole) es una mujer que vive sola con sus dos hijos en una enorme mansión, aislada del mundo y aferrándose a los recuerdos de un marido ausente. Sin embargo, apenas contrata a tres sirvientes nuevos, cosas extrañas comienzan a suceder. Poco a poco, ella empieza a sentir la presencia de los otros. Hay escenas absolutamente aterradoras y una atmósfera única y densa que contribuye a una sensación de miedo y opresión que aumenta con cada nueva escena. Después de “Abre los ojos”, Amenábar estaba en su mejor momento como cineasta, y “The Others” no sólo es uno de sus mejores títulos, sino también una de mis películas favoritas.
my drawing (color version) / mi dibujo (versión a color)

Aunque Sam Raimi hace una pobre labor como director, “The Quick and the Dead” (1995) sigue siendo un muy agradable y encantador western, gracias a un elenco de primer nivel: Sharon Stone (Bobby), Russell Crowe (Noah), Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road) y Gene Hackman (The Royal Tenenbaums). Fue una experiencia tan agradable verlos a todos compartiendo la pantalla.

Falling Down” (1993) demuestra que Joel Schumacher fue alguna vez un gran director  (antes de arruinar la franquicia de Batman). Un director muy motivado y un guionista brillante trabajan al unísono para crear un maravilloso e inesperado relato urbano sobre Michael Douglas (Behind the Candelabra), un hombre desesperado y frustrado que se desquita con todos los que se cruzan en su camino; y Robert Duvall (Apocalypse Now), el detective a cargo de este extraño caso. La crítica social, el crimen y la debacle del sueño americano se unen en esta producción verdaderamente excepcional.

Stand by Me” (1986), de Rob Reiner, es considerada un clásico por muchos críticos, y estoy de acuerdo con ellos. Basada en un cuento de Stephen King, Stand by Me es una historia profundamente conmovedora, sobre el paso de la niñez a la adolescencia, centrada en un grupo de chicos que emprenden un viaje que cambiará sus vidas. La camaradería, la amistad, la dinámica grupal y, sobre todo, la ingenuidad y la torpeza de la pubertad, están magistralmente representadas por Reiner. Aunque la había visto antes, siempre me emociona. Conmovedora, hilarante y llena de vida, “Stand By Me” captura perfectamente el punto de vista de un chiquillo de 12 años de edad. El reparto incluye a Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation), River Phoenix (famoso por su papel como un adolescente gay en My Own Private Idaho), Corey Feldman (The Goonies) y Jerry O'Connell (Scream 2).


  1. You should really check out other Marvel movies. They are funny and action packed. Some were totally great but some was not but all of them have similarity. They exist in the same universe. Be sure to chek it out.

    1. I think he has. This is the first time with a character he is not familiar with, though. He knew the other characters better when he watched their movies.

    2. I misunderstand that sentnece. Yeah.. he did saw the other Marvel Movies. Hey follow me in my blog. Check it out and comment. Thanks

    3. César is right. I've seen every single Marvel movie starting with Blade in the late 90s, the first X-Men and Spider-Man movies, and all the other ones that came out before Marvel Studios entered into the game with Iron Man in 2008. However, next month I won't see Fantastic Four, as I cannot agree with this new altered version of Johnny Storm. It will be the first Marvel movie I'll miss in almost two decades.

    4. Following now.
      Arion, did you see the direct to video ones, like Man-Thing? I have never found it anywhere...

      I WILL see F4, though. I have to see it, even if it is with the hope that it will mark the imminent return (movie-wise) of the F4, Doom and Galactus to Marvel.

      Besides not liking changes just for the sake of it (or just to include his favorite friend actor), I just paid attention to the posters this weekend when I went to watch Ant-Man again, and I noticed the Thing has 5 fingers (or 4 fingers and one toe, for the ones who count it like that) in each hand.

      Is that the director's idea of making the movie "more real"? I assume he could think there was no reason why Ben's change would make him lose a finger, but then, it does not need to have a reason, it simply happens. And this comes from someone who liked Chronicle...

    5. Sadly there is no Man-Thing in my life (if you know what I mean). But seriously, I haven't seen the old, low budget Marvel movies.

      I haven't seen Chronicle but I'd love to it, especially because Dane DeHaan is in it, and I just love that actor.

  2. I loved Ant-Man. I did know Scott from the 90s Fantastic Four (and a Holidays issue of What the --? where he battles Doc Ock to help Santa after Cassie was a victim of the Doctor's plan). Then I read more of him in the Avengers Disassembled story, and in the Children's Crusade. I reckon you are familiar with Cassie, though, right? Surely you loved her in this movie.

    I did like Godzilla. Could you tell me what you disliked about it? I heard a lot of people in my city complain that Godzilla hardly appears in the movie, but that has been my experience in other Godzilla films, and I think that is to be expected: humans get the focus for the most part, and then Godzilla has some scenes, but He never gets that much time in the spotlight, I think.

    And Stand By Me definitely is one of the greats. I have a special edition with a soundtrack included. Lollipop, lollipop... LOLLIPOP! POP!

    1. I'm actually more familiar with Cassie Lang than with Scott Lang. Thanks to Young Avengers, of course.

      Godzilla had such a great cast but there is nothing memorable about the plot or the acting. There were a few good ideas in it, and moments that weren't so bad (and that could have been better), but I must say I felt completely disconnected to the movie.

      I love Stand By Me, I saw it the first time not too long ago, actually, but ever since then I always try to re-watch it.

    2. After watching Zilla's movie (which is interesting, but is definitely NOT Godzilla), having the real item was enough to get me excited for this one, I guess.

      I just read below that Hank is Ant-Man for you. You did mention his taking other names, true. But I only see him as "Ant-Man" at the very beginning. He quickly became Giant-Man and almost never looked back. That may be part of the charm in the Kree-Skrull War interlude issue, where he becomes Ant-Man again to go inside the Vision (I really wanted the movie to use those ant names, but they went with numbers and with the "imaginative" Ant-hony...

      Then, the Hank I was first exposed with was simply Dr. Pym. He did not wear costumes. He did not have a code name. He did not change size himself (he changed the size of everything else, and he carried his mini lab everywhere).

      A few years later, when Scott entered the scene, he was Ant-Man. Not Giant-Man. We already had Bill Foster (Black Goliath) and Erik Josten (in his relatively recent identity of Goliath). Scott is the one who (along with Wasp) stuck to the size reducing.

    3. Sure, Hank Pym has gone through so many different alias, but he's the one character I've always run into when I was reading Avengers (or even Ultimates). I know the new Marvel title about Ant-Man focuses on Scott Lang, I've heard good things about it so maybe I'll try to get that.

  3. Wow you saw a lot of movies. Sounds like you had fun. I liked Ant-Man and understand why they chose Lang (he is the current Ant-Man and has been since the 80s).

    I thought Godzilla was okay. Much better than the previous US version, but somehow lacked something compared to the Japanese version.

    1. That's the funny thing, for me Ant-Man has always been Hank Pym. When I started reading Avengers by Busiek and Pérez, back in the late 90s, Hank Pym was Ant-Man (or Giant Man or whatever other alter ego he had at the time). Then when I read Civil War, Hank Pym was there, and he was there in Secret Invasion as well, and he was in Dan Slott's Mighty Avengers and so on. In fact, the only comic book issue I have that focuses 100% on Scott Lang is an Avengers issue from the 80s, which happens to be a solo story about Ant-Man (and quite a good one, I should say), And then I've seen Lang appearing in Avengers the Children's Crusade and a few other comics, but for me he's still the "replacement" Ant-Man whereas Hank Pym is the real one.

      This Godzilla version is indeed better than the rubbish from the 90s (Emmerich directed that one, if I recall correctly).

  4. Hey Arion! Interesting post and man do you watch a lot of movies at one go.

    Yeah I wasn't too familiar with Ant-Man either but I did a bit of reading up on it before watching it and writing my review on it. I think Edgar Wright did the right thing going in the direction he did. It would make the inclusion of Ant-Man in the overall Marvel movie universe easier (if that's possible what with so many things and characters involved). But that's for the hardcore Marvel fan. This movie is more for the average movie fan who wants a good story matched with good actors and I think the team behind Ant-Man achieved that, maybe not as successful as James Gunn and his team for Guardians of the Galaxy but still a lot of fun.

    As for Godzilla I thought it was pretty good. If it went in the direction done by the Japanese franchise I think a lot of people would have walked away disgusted at the attempt. The only thing I was disappointed with is how little we saw of Godzilla. More of him would be most welcomed.

    Stand by Me I saw ages ago. It's still a good movie after all these years.

    Hey thanks for coming by my blog ( I'll be watching Fantastic Four by this time tomorrow and will have my review of it as soon as I'm done watching it. Come by then!

    Have a fun day Arion!

    1. Thank you Gollumpus! I think the actors in Ant-Man were spot on. And of course I loved Guardians of the Galaxy and I wrote a review about it last year.

  5. I thought that ANT-MAN was very entertaining and had a lot of heart. It's not as good as say THE WINTER SOLDIER but was a nice change of pace after AGE OF ULTRON.

    1. Age of Ultron could've been better (and in fact should've been better). Fortunately Ant-Man was better than the Avengers sequel.

      I loved Winter Soldier! And I wrote about it as well.

  6. I agree that the Godzilla remake was terrible. I'm not sure why I heard so many good things about it.

    1. Well, I guess you heard good things because compared to the Emmerich movie this new version is an improvement.