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PAULIE SAYS, POPCORN TIME

REVIEW: IT – ABAJO TODOS FLOTAN

Muchas de las fotos de mi infancia muestran una pequeña yo, regularmente de cumpleaños, gritando y llorando aterrorizada por payasos. Cuando le pregunté a mi mamá por qué me hacía eso de contratarlos si evidentemente les tenía pánico, me respondió sin mayor remordimiento de conciencia: “a los otros niños le gustan”. Gracias mamá.

La verdad Eso no se llama “el payaso come niños”, pero es la referencia que tengo desde mi infancia. It, adaptación de la novela de Stephen King es un clásico del terror psicológico que atormentó a toda una generación que aún tiene secuelas de coulrofobia. Y así como Pennywise, el payaso, vuelve más que una tabla de Ouija, el director Andrés Muschietti (de la fama de Mama y Mamá, porque este señor aparenta haber tenido una infancia horrenda con mommy issues) nos lo trae nuevamente y más creepy que nunca.

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PAULIE SAYS, POPCORN TIME

REVIEW: BABY DRIVER!

Pocas veces he regresado a casa de ver una película en el cine sintiendo que debo investigar y escribir antes de irme a la cama. Baby Driver, o como Ed la bautizó: “The Fault In Our Cars” me voló la tapa del coco mientras disfrutaba de mi criminal contrabando de Krispy Kreme.

Dirigida por Edgar Wright (de la fama de Scott Pilgrim, Shawn of the Dead y Ant Man) y con dirección musical de Steve Price (Suicide Squad, Gravity y Fury). Menciono la dirección musical porque es una parte fundamental del éxito de la película y algo que le da peso a la trama, los planos secuenciales y su desarrollo.

En la era de Rápido y Furioso, al pensar en una película de acción mezclada con autos, pensaría que Baby Driver iba a seguir el mismo patrón que muestran estos films, quizás el diseño rosado de los posters la harían similar al drama que fué Drive con Ryan Gosling, pero más que un film de acción ruda fué un musical de acción meticulosamente coreografeado al son de una lista de canciones retro y otras contemporáneas.

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EDGAR SAYS, NERD SPOT, POPCORN TIME

In review: X-Men: Apocalypse

The first act of 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse is so palpably dissimilar to the rest of the movie, that it should be considered a different film.

The first 30 minutes of Apocalypse are not a good movie. It’s passable at best, and clearly aimed at millennials almost exclusively. From the clearly tacked-on-by-a-script-doctor narration at the very beginning (about human flaws in superhuman beings), to the relentless barrage of blurry 60 fps frames, the third installment in the First Class trilogy starts with disappointment. Initiating with a confusing sub-plot full of already-developed characters that are consequentially inconsequential to the viewer, the film shoves En Sabah Nur’s transference ceremony to the audience amid a grand Egyptian setting that tells us in medias res that Apocalypse spent most of his story buried underground while “wreaking havoc throughout human history”, only to be awoken by the magnanimous power of daily sunlight.

Meanwhile, Magneto has adjusted to society, leaving his tragic past behind, using no mutant powers and no mutant name, while operating low key as a construction worker in Poland. Because this is an X-Men film, there has to be nostalgia, so naturally, it’s set 10 years apart from its prequel, as that prequel before it did. And because Magneto is Michael Fassbender ,and it’d be a sin not to overuse him as an actor, we need to see Magneto cry indignant tears of rage against an unjust universe. From a combo death that’s pathetic in every way, the Villain of the movie reloads in full form, portrayed by Oscar Isaac, whose only acting fault is that he can’t act what the script and direction don’t give to him.

Overall, though, X-Men: Apocalypse is a good movie, and the line can be sort of crossed around the first genuine line of dialogue between Moira and Charles regarding how the CIA would kill for Cerebro.

Following this quality of film-making, Singer raises his Apocalypse from the ashes until it soars as fan-favorite Jubilee remains yet un-showcased, but most other characters develop as quickly as teenagers. Some essence of First Class and a considerable essence from Days of Future Past permeates through this work, which combines Fassbender’s and McAvoy’s classic style of elegant theater school with a touch of the hip, the fast and the Quicksilver-paced. The movie isn’t tone-deaf as much as clearly stitched together by many different teams, minds, and cooks. This results in a work that’s polarized within itself yet ultimately redeemed by veteran filmmaking.

Also following Days of Future Past’s thematic relic, the fate of the Mutants can be determined by what the news media say about them. Guided by news media, Raven Mystique asks Prof. Xavier for help in rescuing her only other true ally: Erik Magneto (meaning both had left mutant life behind but were forced back into it). Thankfully, this touching character interaction is mirrored adeptly through Cyclops and Jean Grey, two characters who are much younger but who could also destroy the whole world by themselves. Starting from the death of Xavier’s favorite tree by his newest rising star, coursing through a sibling legacy to avenge, and ending as sloppily as Angel appeared, became Archangel and then ???, the film sort of just ends. It’s a tribute to entropy’s rapid decline. But the movie finishes with a strong portrayal of both Charles Xavier and Magneto, probably the most important constant in the trilogy. To be fair, this relationship never faltered in the movie, and its pace was appropriate and suspenseful enough for its source material.

Something to condemn was how relentlessly aggressive its marketing campaign ended up being, slapping YouTube ads with lines barely present in the movie (Apocalypse could control literally none of the Mutants). But its punches were so deservedly epic that Weapon X’s appearance wasn’t even gratuitous. Phoenix’s tease wasn’t even cryptic, and Charles Xavier was made of admirable star dust, challenging the Mutant epitome of Natural Selection itself.

From a first act of mismatched editing, poor writing and bland cinematography, to a second act of superb improvement, the film touts that only the strong will survive. Surely so, the film stands up from its crippled position in order to place the man who “wanted students, not soldiers” in its altar to transfer all power to him. Being defiant by nature, he challenges this notion, urging all citizens of Earth to use their power for helping those who have none.

The third act in filmed in an IMAX-size format, and the tension is managed accordingly well. Only one horseman out of four goes full circle from hero, to villain, to redemption. Another one becomes one of the good guys out of admiration for Mystique, but the other two become brand fodder as they disappear into the sunset. I do think this is just one of many X-Men films to come, but certainly the last with the First Class cast. Film perfection is rare, and it should be preserved in memories, like when Charles asked Erik to find power between anger and serenity. He reminds him that through all the loss and tragedy, there is still good in the world. And if anyone dares take it away, there is only pity for the poor soul who tries.

Ultimately, the X-Men series is all about hope for a better future. Walking out of the movie, it’s easier to yearn for a world that returns to its natural roots, free from weapons and war, from discrimination and inequality, and from Fox vs. Marvel.

NERD SPOT, POPCORN TIME

Captain America: Civil War – Movie Review

Having only directed episodes for nine TV series and three TV movies besides one feature-length comedy, brothers Joe and Anthony Russo weren’t necessarily regarded among the best filmmakers of their time prior to Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 2. But Captain America 3: Civil War leaves no excuse to disregard The Russo Brothers. Helmed by Disney, Marvel was smart enough to sign the siblings into both of the parts that will close the Avengers film series, concluding the era of superhero movies that so many skeptics are looking forward to seeing collapse.

latest-2In a time of readily available information, it’s becoming increasingly important to ask why in general. Not only in matters of questioning authority or finding oneself, but also in analyzing and thusly understanding the world we live in. Why are superheroes so popular? Why are they so hated by others in return? Why are love and hate of things mutually exclusive concepts? Civil War does not answer those primordial questions, but it does bring some fine quality entertainment for masses who enjoy mainstream accessibility.

Be it 3D, 4D, or good ‘ol 2D, Captain America’s final trilogy chapter closes so many loose ends and opens up so many new worlds of possibilities, in such carefully crafted ways, that even the most hard-hearted of purists would be delusional if they denied that Marvel actually makes good cinema that acknowledges the parts within its continuity.

Let’s start from the script. The very first slam superhero movies get is for being too formulaic, almost engaged in a tragically Oedipal romance with Joseph Campbell, immortalizing his name as the daddy of screenwriting clichés. Hero rises, falls, rises again. People weep in awe at the Phoenix and all ends as it started, only improved. But why is this bad? At one point does a story stop being full of conventions and instead become full of organic parts? My personal answer is that it isn’t. Superheroes are definitely a stage of film history (hell, Marvel was smart enough to divide it in Phases), and it will eventually end. But even the fall of its empire is entertaining to watch. After all, that’s all it’s supposed to be: entertainment. And entertainment itself is a human necessity. Ergo, superheroes are just a part of a human need.

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Let’s move on to the film: everything the viewer wanted was delivered like a checklist. Anyone familiar with Civil War knows and expects a set list of things: Iron Man vs. Captain America, Black Panther, Spiderman, Ant-Man riding Hawkeye’s arrows, Ant-Man becoming a giant, a speech of planting oneself like a tree and telling others to move on, and so on. In various comic book iterations, both Tony Stark and Steve Rogers eventually die at some point, so the source material canon has some pretty high stakes raised already. But even if you know nothing of this movie and the above stated elements were spoilers to you, you’re in for a fun ride.

The marketing for the movie was exceedingly clever, down to the things that the studios didn’t even control: Batman v. Superman was definitely meant to be released earlier. And it was totally meant to be a much less entertaining movie (for one, it has less characters, it has a much more serious tone, and its intent is to bring some cinematic solemnity to the Justice League). Following Joss Whedon’s beloved method of quippy remarks, the characters in Civil War breathe like regular humans. They bleed much less than regular humans, but they do so nonetheless, and they complain, they hurt, they hesitate, they repent, they improve, and even though they don’t… spoiler… die at all (only ONE character with a known name and speaking role dies in the movie… if you solely count sequences more than five minutes long).

Civil War does many things right: it continues the storyline, mood, and settings introduced by its predecessor (in a world where, for instance, Iron Man 3 is so disjointed from Iron Man 2, this is particularly noteworthy). It introduces characters in the best way possible (Black Panther is the only character truly shown for the first time in film), and it gives just enough screen time to the many characters is crams together without turning it all into a mess. Where Dawn of Justice stumbled and struggled while building a fearsome villain, setting up sequels and putting one side of ideals against its opposite (I thing BvS did all those things well, but you could feel the work it took), Civil War maneuvered seamlessly with little more than a few seconds of awkward editing that is expected in action movies. At least for once, we’re getting a properly packaged product where every scene promised in the trailer is actually shown to us in the movie itself. That’s a relief nowadays (and we even get to figure out who the mysterious bald woman in the Age of Ultron is).

captain-america-civil-war-posterAnd the core of the movie itself is about minimizing damages: sure, superheroes will always cause deaths, as the nature of a hero is to challenge the very concept of mortality. Following the ideology that saving a few lives is ethically “more right” than saving nobody at all, the movie imploded its capacity of failure into enjoyable plotlines that preserve the magic we all love in cinema. No hero is tarnished in the movie. Even its main villain is given a bitterly heartfelt moment to tragically grieve his motivations into the audience, and into a character changed for the better as a result of this apotheosis (what defines a hero). This movie is about consequences, and the anti-hero’s journey is almost the same as the hero’s (watching an empire fall), the only difference is that the hero attempts to stray the least from the rules (even though the system descends into synonymous entropy that following rules in full results in not doing the right thing) while the anti-hero writes his own, and then ignores his own rules.

Certainly, the movie itself is not about opposing forces, about the impossibility of true neutral balance, or about the Confederacy raising musket bayonets against the Union, as advertised in the title and as the least clever parts of its marketing would have you believe. But it is about many other related things, and it feels real in a world with routine news of terrorist attacks, increasing climate change, and unending conspiracy theories by self-proclaimed clickbaity journalists. Civil War is a needed breath in superhero movies. It is a necessary conclusion to storylines left hanging by the company that keeps the dreams of mice alive. It is a fair product of sacrifice and hard work, mostly by the screenwriters, actor, directors, and even the audience. And it is a deserved moment in comic book history, where nerdy fans can see their haven immortalized in what is arguably the most complete of all art mediums. I keep saying “in this world”, because in this world the superhero is supposed to die any time. But mark by words, heroes never die.

 

EDGAR SAYS, POPCORN TIME

A la deriva

Artículo escrito por Edgar C. Mans

Si a un antropólogo se le preguntara algo complejo y pesado como “¿cuál es la solución a la situación en el Medio Oriente?”, lo más probable es que responda comenzando con el origen de un conflicto y siguiendo con algo como “el primer paso es la comprensión. Porque solo sabiendo el por qué, se puede comenzar a solucionar una situación social”.

¿Qué sentimos cuando vemos el peso de la justicia caer sobre un culpable? El cine es el arte morboso que no permite un clímax en el cual un monstruo sufre, porque en la vida real la mayoría de injusticias ocurren sin retribución newtoniana, causando nuestra gran mayoría de frustraciones a pequeña escala acumulándose en enfermedades crónicas.

El cineasta Miguel I. González confesó que se le pidió que callara el tema del dietilenglicol, ante vítores y aplausos de un público justamente conmovido. Pero más allá de una historia de un director, A la deriva es la historia de tres mujeres y las ramas y raíces que se extienden y crecen de ellas. Las hojas de su vida, las flores de sus sueños y las semillas de su indignación.

Como izquierdista social, me alegró que el monstruo del documental no fuera la Caja de Seguro Social. Como humanista me pareció satisfactoriamente ético el enfoque en lo humano. Hasta el monstruo de la historia es humano: cada culpable del consumo de dietilenglicol. Como socialista, me agradó la perspectiva femenina en un mundo incrementadamente consciente de la igualdad de género, compensando por milenios de desproporcionado privilegio masculino. Como público, me cautivó el tono tan orgánico, las texturas tan vívidas, y el ritmo tan delicado con el cual el filme toca los temas más sensibles y acaricia la psique con un susurro de esperanza ante la más perseverante de las adversidades: el dolor constante.

A la deriva es en mi prematura opinión el paradójico ganador de una competencia en la cual no compite. El premio del público claramente es uno guiado por conmoción y empatía. Y la película, done o no a la causa con sus procedencias, es la pieza clave en este movimiento que no descansa mientras haya afectados por el dietilenglicol.

Si a mí me preguntaran, sin ser antropólogo, ¿cuál es la razón por la que olvidamos tan rápido? Mi respuesta sería: para vivir. Allison, una niña gravemente afectada a nivel neuronal por el dietilenglicol, se ve temprano en el documental luchando por comunicar que entiende el concepto del cero. En la película claramente vemos víctimas, pero más que nada vemos sus esfuerzos en sacudirse tal fúnebre título. Lo más fuerte de A la deriva es la cotidianidad de todo. Como confusiones burocráticas en expedientes médicos pueden poner vidas en riesgo. Como un envío casual de glicerina para producir anticongelantes puede terminar en medicamentos otorgados por una entidad gubernamental para mejorar la salud. Como un cambio de receta puede terminar en un padecimiento de por vida. Movimiento reducido, cansancio constante, debilidad muscular, desorientación y otra gran cantidad de síntomas afectan a quienes han tenido el compuesto químico C4 H10 O3 en su organismo sin tratar por más de un día. Y día tras día, las protagonistas de la historia no olvidan, sino que luchan para vivir una vida con un semblante de la dignidad que merecen, cercenada por los síntomas de la intoxicación.

La película busca justicia. El movimiento que genera es uno de indignación. La misma indignación que causa ver niños privados de acceso a sus sueños, a un aprendizaje pleno y a una vida con salud. La misma indignación que siente una mujer al ya no poder ser libre para caminar, para ser esposa y amante, para ser ama de casa o compañera de vida. Los héroes de A la deriva son puramente humanos, viviendo un día a día con una realidad incómoda, pero unida a cada silla en la que se sientan.

Apropiadamente, A la deriva no sucumbe a la trillada herramienta de cámara en mano. El pulso de este documental es tan solemne como debe ser: la fotografía se mueve junto a los sujetos que retrata. El sonido captura el ambiente en el que juegan niños, en el cual se desplaza una silla de ruedas, o en el cual un pincel revive el rostro de un esposo difunto sobre un lienzo.

La delicadeza que logra A la deriva es admirable, y es sin duda un fruto de amor. Un amor a la vida que sobrepasa la amargura por no tener justicia ante los culpables de una calamidad masiva que afecta a miles dentro de Panamá y otros miles en decenas de países diferentes. Y es por todo esto, por el montaje de respiro esperanzado, por los planos de un paisaje pulsante, y por el cariño con el que tres voces lloran y sonríen colores del pasado y el futuro, es que A la deriva es una obra audiovisual incambiable. Urgente en su llamado, permanente en su efecto, necesario en su voz.

 

POPCORN TIME

IFF PANAMA 

Roughly 2 weeks ago, the International Film Festival of Panama took place. On its 5th edition they showcased more local films than before, living proof that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Cultural projects are often neglected by the government and associations that are meant to support emerging talent. This event lasted around a week so naturally, with design and film titles under our belts and a thirst for entertainment, we managed to attend a few of them.

I might get a bit in trouble for saying this, but the organization and their ticketing system SUCKED. You weren’t able to buy them online unless you had a Mastercard. And when you tried purchasing them from an authorized seller (brick and mortar shops) you ran the risk of them telling you there was just one seat available or they ran out of tickets to print. It happened to me and I missed a couple of movies I really wanted to watch like Magallanes, Viva and The Thin Yellow Line/La delgada línea amarilla (and meeting some celebs as well, who roamed among us mortals during that time). Also, I couldn’t get in for the Opening/Closing galas. At $30/each, I couldn’t bring myself to shower them with my pretty pennies. The Thin Yellow Line was only going to be shown at the Closing event, so unless i cashed out and got all fancy for the night , I didn’t stand a chance.

On Monday night we attended the Premiere for Salsipuedes, a Panamanian film about life in one of Panama’s most famous neighborhoods – all of its idiosyncrasy and violence. Took us about two hours to get to this particular theater cause we got caught up in a Friday night traffic jam. The National Theater, which they used for this particular set of events, got shut down last year for lack of maintenance, so we got the Teatro Balboa left. 

The film itself… I give it a 3/5. I was expecting to finally be blown away by a national film but I left underwhelmed. The cinematography was nice, I believe they took a risk with some shots and they were a hit, but the acting left much to be desired. Apart from a few actors, I felt they failed hard at casting people aptly qualified for film (or they were not well trained for the part). You know how theater acting is different from film acting? That.

The storyline itself was a bit poor and predictable for my taste, but cinematographically I feel it succeeded.

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Now let’s move on to A la deriva. What a documentary. We waited at the rush line cause we failed at getting tickets (read above). 10 years ago, over 200 thousand cough syrup bottles were distributed to the Caja del Seguro Social patients. Little they knew they had used chemicals intended for the automotive industry. People died from poisoning and survivors live with permanent damage, inside and out. Physically and emotionally. It was a touchy subject with raw emotion that moved across the movie venue. It was filmed and edited almost flawlessly in my opinion. 5/5.

afiche-sin-filtroDays later, because our busy schedules kept us away from the venues… Sin Filtro. Technically, we didn’t watch it ~during~ the festival, but at a private screening from my workplace that took place simultaneously. It was featured at the IFF though. A chilean film about being your true self when with others. I felt identified with it. It was about a lady who had a seemingly well-put home life, a successful job…but she was a pushover and it was affecting her health, physically and emotionally. She worked at an Ad agency – hello! And they were trying to overlook her experience and hard work for a Youtube Vlogger with bird poop for brains. That, among other things. Until she began speaking her mind. It was wonderful, refreshing, hilarious and approachable. 5/5.

Last but not least…Dheepan. My boyfriend suggested we watched it. We saw “Indian themed things” and went for it without knowing what we were gonna sit down for, so we proceeded to buy the tickets and called it a date.

dheepan_1Dheepan was more than that. It was directed by Jacques Audiard, the same guy who brought us Rust and Bone. The story began in Sri Lanka, in the middle of a civil war, and was about a Tamil freedom fighter who fled to France, along with a woman he barely knew and an orphaned kid. They formed a family to the eyes of others, in hopes of building a better life for themselves in France, and relatively safe haven. It was raw, emotional and sadly, the true story of millions from anywhere and everywhere who have flown home just for a chance of a future, for better or worse. I liked it a lot. It was a bit slow at times, I attribute that to the director’s style, but it grabbed your attention right from the get go. 4.5/5.

And that’s a wrap! These reviews are based on no other than my personal opinion and experience. Thanks for reading and feel free to leave your own experiences, reviews and suggestions in the comment section below.

 

 

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