REVIEW: Broken Embraces

30 05 2010

The cinematic embrace provided by Pedro Almodóvar’s “Broken Embraces” eludes description.  It has its moments of tragedy, so it can’t really be called a warm embrace.  Yet it has such beautiful, soaring moments that it can’t exactly be called a bittersweet embrace.

The only thing certain about “Broken Embraces” is that its embrace will absolutely envelop you.  From the moment we encounter the blind filmmaker Mateo Blanco, now under the Americanized pseudonym Harry Caine, working through his disability, it’s impossible not to get hooked into the drama.  It dabbles in the occasional melodrama, but Almodóvar handles it with such skill that it can really only be noticed when looking back at the movie in retrospect.

I’m not sure that I would say that the writing floored me quite like a “Volver” or “Talk to Her;” nonetheless, I want to be careful not to reveal too much about the delicate plot.  Almodóvar develops a fairly intricate story, but it never feels like work for an audience to put it together.

Here’s what you should know: this is a movie about “sex, secrets, and cinema,” as the back of the DVD case so eloquently puts it.  Penelope Cruz may be the movie’s poster child, but her character Lena is hardly the focus.  Sure, she sets the plot in motion; however, this is Mateo’s movie.  Before he became blind, he made a movie called “Chicas y Maletas” (“Girls and Suitcases,” for you non-Spanish speakers out there) in which he cast Lena.  But she came with some baggage of her own: an obsessed lover, Ernesto Martel, who insists on producing the film and having his homosexual son document the production.  What follows?  I’m not saying.

Cruz is hauntingly beautiful as Lena, and it’s another role that she knocks out of the park.  None of her co-stars outshine her – but her director does.  Almodóvar commands this movie (as all directors should), and his passion for cinema exudes from the film.  Everything in the movie just seemed so orderly, from the beautiful sets to the bright colors to the precision of the acting, and “Broken Embraces” explodes off the screen.  B+ /

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Random Factoid #146

21 12 2009

As I sit here waiting for my screening to begin, I give thanks to the Angelika Film Center for having lots of movie-themed postcards out to grab. I was able to save four seats using my “An Education” and “Broken Embraces” postcards.

I grab these postcards whenever I can at movies. I’ve only sent one, and it was “Milk” themed. I have a few sitting in my desk





What To Look Forward To In … November 2009

7 10 2009

The holiday movie season begins to kick into high gear in the month of November, as does exciting Oscar season.  Accordingly, this post is longer than the previous monthly preview posts.  Brace yourself for movie mania coming your way in a few weeks.  Sit back, relax, and let Marshall guide you through the coming attractions.

November 6

From the mainstream movie perspective, the hot movie of this weekend will be Robert Zemeckis’ adaptation of “A Christmas Carol.”  Shot with the same motion capture technology that Zemeckis used to make “The Polar Express,” the movie will cash in on premium ticket prices from 3D and IMAX 3D screenings.  My main concern about the quality of the movie itself lies with its principal actor, Jim Carrey, who will act as Scrooge and all three ghosts.  I doubt Zemeckis will permit it, but I fear that Carrey will make a mockery of Dickens’ classic novel much in the fashion of Mike Meyers with “The Cat in the Hat.”  Regardless of what critics say, I will probably end up seeing this with the family for some good old-fashioned family fun at the movies.

“The Men Who Stare at Goats” is the first movie of the holiday season to which George Clooney lends his talents.  Here, he plays a a military man in charge of a secret unit that attempts to use psychic powers for military purpose.  One such activity is to attempt to kill goats just by staring at them.  The movie also stars Ewan MacGregor as the reporter who discovers it all; the cast also includes Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey.  The movie is directed and adapted by Grant Heslov, previously nominated for an Academy Award for his work on “Good Night, and Good Luck.”  The trailer seems to show Heslov’s approach as similar to the Coen Brothers who usually provide a fun-filled romp.  Maybe the film will be a bona-fide indie hit, and Overture Films will be able to claim their first movie to gross over $50 million.  But we’ll have to see.

I’ve already written about the Oscar favorite, “Precious,” in a previous Oscar Moment.  I’ll post the trailer here just for the sake of promoting it, but if you want to hear my thoughts, read the post.

Two thrilling movies also open this week.  First, “The Box” with Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, seems to have an intriguing premise: if you push the button on the box, you will get a million dollars, but someone you don’t know will die.  However, it looks to be more interested in cheap thrills than exploring moral issues.  The other, “The Fourth Kind,” looks downright scary.  If horror is your thing, this looks like the movie for you.  I saw the trailer at “District 9,” and even if you don’t want to see it, you have to ponder the validity of the “true story” behind the movie.

November 13

Disaster porn reaches its pinnacle this weekend.  “2012,” Roland Emmerich’s apocalyptic film, will have some of the biggest destruction and explosions the world has ever seen.  The trailer was so mind-blowing that I am willing to overlook all vices in the plot to see the world’s greatest landmarks get wiped off the earth.  My only comment is that if John Cusack somehow finds a way to stop the end of the world, I will be enraged.

The other major wide release of the week is “Pirate Radio,” a movie that Focus Features so desperately wants you to see that they changed the title from “The Boat that Rocked” just a few weeks ago to appeal to you. Are you flattered? You shouldn’t be. The movie seems like comedic Oscar Bait, but it didn’t do well Britain, the country of production. Focus scrambled to change their focus from awards movie to popular movie. So whenever this pops into a theater near you, be armed with the knowledge that “Pirate Radio” is merely a washed-up Oscars wannabe. But make the decision to see it for yourself.

New York and Los Angeles get the treat of watching Wes Anderson’s adaptation Roald Dahl’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”  I have the utmost respect for Anderson for not conforming to the growing trend to do all animation through computers.  Anderson’s film uses the stop motion technique, moving an object gradually to give the illusion that it is moving.  Even more exciting that Anderson’s eccentric style in an eccentric medium is the voice cast.  Clooney voices the titular character, the cunning Mr. Fox.  The cast also features Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, and Bill Murray.  What’s not to like?  (NOTE: The movie expands on November 20 and enters wide release on November 25.)

For those who like very obscure indies, “That Evening Sun” with 87-year-old Oscar bridesmaid Hal Halbrook has his latest shot at the gold.

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