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Firefly: Our Mrs. Reynolds
Episode 3, Season 1

An hour of perfect television
I know it may sound like hyperbole, but no matter how I look at it, I reach the same conclusion: This episode of Firefly is one of the most perfectly constructed pieces of entertainment I have ever seen. It has absolutely everything you could possibly wish for: humour, intrigue, sex, romance, moral dilemmas, action, a neat twist... Moreover, it is a self-contained enough story and so engrossing in itself that even someone watching who is new to the show can still be thoroughly entertained, yet for those who already know the characters, it develops and advances them in subtle but crucial ways. You just couldn't ask for anything more. This should be a blueprint for what every episode in every TV show should strive to be. Firefly was a good show overall, certainly, but this episode alone would more than justify its existence.


Please don't waste your time with this
Do not believe the hype about this movie. It is just a load of pretentious cack. In "Atonement", I thought Joe Wright did a remarkable job, with some striking directorial flourishes such as the famous Dunkirk tracking shot, but all in the service of the story, embellishing and enriching it. In this too-wannabe-cool-for-its-own-good "film" (if you can call it that, because it feels rather like a two-hour music video), however, the effect is the exact opposite: every scene, every frame even, is overloaded with capricious extravagances, in what looks like a desperate attempt to mask how hopelessly formulaic and one-note the plot actually is, making it nigh impossible for the viewer not to be jolted right out of the narrative at every turn by the avalanche of distractions. Even Ronan, who has received so much praise, felt miscast to me, too lithe and ethereal to be believable for even one second in her role. But the worst sin, probably, is that after all the hullabaloo, it all boils down to an unbelievably weak and forgettable ending.

From Dusk Till Dawn

Instructions to watch From Dusk Till Dawn
If you have never seen From Dusk Till Dawn, I think the experience will be more enjoyable for you if you follow these simple instructions:

  • Put the DVD/Blu-Ray into the player and press "Play"

  • Yow will start watching a movie about two fugitive robbers, one of them a paranoid, sex-obsessed psycho, who cross paths with the family of a preacher who has lost his faith after the tragic death of his wife.

  • Enjoy the tense and riveting thriller, which boasts some great dialogue, brilliant direction, and good performances from a cast that oozes charisma; even Tarantino does a decent job. (The only weak point is the Chinese lad who plays Harvey Keitel's son, and who seems incapable to convey any emotion whatsoever, but it's just a minor drawback.)

  • When the characters arrive at the Titty Twister, you might notice the film starting to become a little corny, but don't worry, just hold on for a minute, the best scene of the movie is coming up.

  • Marvel and drool at the phenomenal physique of Salma Hayek, whose body is so perfect in this movie she seem almost superhuman. Even if you're a lady, you will have to agree that her scene is definitely something out of the ordinary.

  • As soon as the music ends and George Clooney says the famous line, "Now that's what I call a f***ing show!", STOP THE PLAYER.

  • Not just stop the player, but eject the disc, put it in the box, and take it back to the video store right away. This is to avoid the temptation you might have to press "PLAY" again sometime later in the day, which you would regret.

  • Now go for a walk, or sit in your favourite a bar with a drink, and try to imagine how the story might continue from that point on. Maybe Tarantino jumps on Juliette Lewis and forces Harvey Keitel to finally confront the brothers and bring them to justice (with the help of Satanico, who ironically turns out to be a devout Christian); maybe when Carlos arrives he turns out to be an undercover Mexican Federal working with the FBI and the brothers continue their escape taking the family (and Satanico) with them deeper into Mexico and becoming more and more desperate along the way; maybe "Carlos" double-crosses them and they are all forced to hole themselves up in the bar and fight together for their lives against the Mexican mob...

  • but WHATEVER you come up with, I guarantee you this: it will be better than the absurd silliness that Tarantino and Rodriguez cooked up, ruining what could have otherwise been a very good film. Therefore, your viewing experience of From Dusk Till Dawn will be better than that of all the people who have had the misfortune of watching the whole thing from start to finish and witnessing how something that could have been great was trashed by a childish whim.

  • You're welcome :-)

Balada triste de trompeta

From now on, in Spanish dictionaries, next to the word "pretencioso" ("pretentious") there should be a still from this film to illustrate the concept
I cannot understand how this disastrous film is earning so many awards. I was *this* close to walking out of the cinema, honestly, I could hardly stand it. The story is utterly ridiculous, and clumsy to the point of verging on the childish, full to the brim with incongruences, jarring shifts in tone and artificial dialog; and it overflows with pretentiousness, De la Iglesia trying to give it the depth it so sorely lacks by interweaving it with famous real-life events, and grotesquely trivializing Spanish history in the process by turning it into a mere setback for his absurd psycho-killer clowns. The acting is also weak, with only Antonio de la Torre, the one with by far most acting chops of the leading trio, managing to give his character some semblance of believability; then again, it can't be easy to achieve a credible performance give the awful lines the actors had to deal with.


Visually, it's stunning. Narratively, a clunker.
First of all, know this: if you think you will ever want to see Tron Legacy, even if you have no more than a passing interest, then I urge you to do it at the cinema. It is a breathtaking visual spectacle of the highest magnitude, in the category of Avatar, and this being the greatest strength it has to offer, you will be certainly missing out if you leave it for the DVD. Narratively, however, it's a disappointment. It's sketchy, chaotic and unsatisfying. It's not like the original could boast the strongest or most coherent of screenplays, true, but it got by on its originality, its zippy energy, its humour and its wide-eyed naivety. This sequel, inflated with grandiosity, too somber and overambitious, has none of those things. And you get the feeling that the plot is just a mishmash of half-baked ideas. I found it quite baffling and disappointing, for example, that Cillian Murphy (probably the second most famous actor in the entire cast!) made a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance at the beginning as Dillinger's son, no less, and then never showed up again! And there are a couple of important details about it that struck me as particularly wrong and at certain times almost threw me off the story completely: one, Michael Sheen, who is an actor I admire but whose absurd histrionics here were absolutely, completely out of place; and two, the rendering of the young Jeff Bridges is simply not life-like enough (even if he is not actually supposed to be a "human", other "programs" around him, starting with Olivia Wilde and Beau Garrett in their slinky outfits, certainly look and feel human enough!). The technology is not quite there yet, I'm afraid. It is one thing to be able to integrate a non-human character like Gollum in a live-action film and make it work, but a we, as humans, have a very fine-tuned perception of what another human is supposed to look like (and especially a famous one like Bridges) in a real environment, and computers still can't trick us that far.

The Hurt Locker

Didn't really work for me, I got a bad vibe from the political undertones
Given the critics' enthusiasm, I went to see it with high expectations, and I came out frankly disappointed. The atmosphere felt realistic and some scenes (the sniper duel, the man with the explosive vest) made quite an impact; but I really had a problem with the central character, William James. I may be overpoliticized, but I just couldn't help perceiving him as a perfect embodiment of George W. Bush's America: Gung-ho, arrogant, reckless, impulsive, willing to put the lives of his comrades at risk and to abandon a loving family at home in order to pursue personal vendettas and get his adrenalin rushes... and, as I do with Bush, I despised him; I was almost rooting for him to get blown up, to be honest, because I thought he was a complete idiot who did almost everything wrong, and that he had no place in any serious professional army (something confirmed by opinions from war veterans I have read later). And yet Bigelow seems intent on portraying him as something of a "misguided hero", the classic rogue who doesn't go by the book but whose heart is in the right place. Therefore, it felt to me as if the movie, by condoning this man's reckless attitude, was somewhat also condoning the U.S. military campaign as something maybe equally misguided but nevertheless brave and noble. I have no idea where Bigelow stands politically, and I realize this might not be the message she wanted to convey at all; but it's the one I perceived, and it left me quite uncomfortable.

Celda 211

Not bad, but I wasn't quite convinced
"Celda 211" is very well paced and directed by Monzón, and Luis Tosar gives one of the best performances of his already impressive career; but other actors do not fare quite as well (Antonio Resines, for example, is clearly miscast in a role that demanded someone much more brutal and unsympathetic), and, more importantly, at certain points the story hinges on increasingly implausible turns of events in order to move the plot forward, which in the end left me with a feeling of skepticism and detachment. I suppose they are the kinds of things that work on the written page (the film is based on a novel), but just don't translate well to the realism and immediacy of the screen. Not quite as good as I was hoping then, though it still stands out among Spanish filmic output.

Medium: All in the Family
Episode 9, Season 5

Oh please no! Not AGAIN!
Oh Dear God. It's bad enough that this show had to use the old, stale plastic surgery schtick once to resolve a plot (as they did in #3.12), but to resort to it yet again is just unacceptable. And this time, it makes even less sense than before. It's just preposterous. One person replacing another to the point of deceiving her own MOTHER? Even the voice is supposed to have been changed or what? And what about the brother who from now on has to make love to HIS OWN SISTER for the rest of his life, at least as far as the looks are concerned? She may be hot, but not every guy who has a hot sister is keen on incest, you know. Bah. What a waste of time. I wished I had just skipped this throwaway episode.

The Hunt for Gollum

Not much substance here
I'm sure I will going to get a lot of negative votes from the fans for this comment, but after reading so many glowing reviews I feel I need to tell my truth.

It's true that the visuals of the film are pretty impressive (at times, not all the time) for a no-budget short, and that the makers have made a mighty good attempt at reproducing the atmosphere of Jackson's movies at a tiny fraction of the cost; also, there is a notably well choreographed fight scene of Strider against the orcs; but once you get past all the shiny packaging, it's impossible not to notice that the plot is not just thin, but practically non-existent. There are absolutely no surprises, and in 40 minutes it hardly manages to go beyond its one-line synopsis. All the film seems to do is its own little riff on some of the characters of Jackson's trilogy without adding anything new or meaningful. It certainly serves as a good calling card for the director, but it left me with a feeling of... nothingness.

Lost: ...In Translation
Episode 17, Season 1

I can't get over how racist this episode is
I know that in this episode there's other stuff apart from what I am going to discuss, and in fact I think it has some virtues; for example, the fact, after we had been given a very negative opinion of Jin from seeing Sun's flashbacks in "House of the Rising Sun", we get to see Jin's side of things and get a new, more balanced understanding of his life.

But there is an element in this story that made me so deeply uncomfortable that it greatly dampened my enjoyment of the whole episode. Before now, in the scene where Jin appeared with blood on his hands and shirt, it had been hinted that Sun's father was someone who was getting rich through shady, illegal methods. I thought maybe he was a mob boss, even; mobs operate in Korea, just like in almost every other country in the world, so it was a reasonable possibility. However, in this episode we learn that Sun's father is in fact the boss (or a top executive) of a Korean automotive company, and that what Jin had been doing was physically attacking a government official (who was actually going to be murdered) on his behalf.

I may be especially touchy about this because I happen to work in the automotive industry, but I would say it is SPECTACULARLY offensive and racist to even suggest that this kind of thing goes on in Korea; that huge, serious companies like Hyundai or Kia (which must be the model for this fictitious car company, as they are the only ones that actually exist in reality) operate with these mafia-like methods, instead of like any normal automotive company of the West. it is just unbelievable to me that the writers would have the gall to write something like that into the story, and that there hasn't been an uproar in Korea over it. It feels like extraneous "Buy American!" propaganda, portraying foreign car companies as criminal, untrustworthy, third-world outfits.

Terminator Salvation

Visually spectacular, narratively nonsensical
As a Terminator fan, I am divided. On one hand, it was undeniably pulse-quickening to finally witness the full rage of the war against the machines depicted with such brutal intensity. The action and the effects were just spectacular, and even though the design of the new robots obviously borrowed from other movies such as Matrix and Transformers, they were still pretty cool. Full marks to McG for the visuals and the direction of the action sequences. But on the other hand, I could not possibly forgive the veritable avalanche of trailer-truck-sized plot holes, which not only disrupt the internal logic of the film itself, but also severely contradict the previous films of the saga, particularly the first one, so close to my heart. Therefore, even though I really wanted to like it, ultimately I cannot approve this installment. Others not as concerned with the canon as myself might not be so bothered...

House M.D.: Simple Explanation
Episode 20, Season 5

Bad idea
OK, so they had to write Kal Penn out of the show because of his new job in politics. That's fine, I can accept that, I knew I would miss Kutner, but I love every character in this show, so I didn't mind that much, I would still be entertained by the rest. I just wanted it to be well done. And the writers botched it. Sorry, but they did.

Reading through previous comments, I am very surprised to find that only one points out the glaring fact that suicide is completely contradictory with Kutner's personality. It would be like Cameron killing herself. It just wouldn't happen. The point of Kutner's character was that he was bubbly and always looked at the bright side of things, that he had been able to get over his traumatic childhood precisely because of the way he was, because he had never let his past drag him down and he had always looked ahead. Having him kill himself denies all the character development that came before, it's absurd. We can buy Taub having attempted suicide in the past because we can see he is a conflicted, tormented person; we could have bought it with 13 because of her illness. Damn, we could have even bought it with Foreman because after all these years he may feel stuck in life and unable to advance. But Kutner? Never! They could have gotten rid of him in so many ways! He could have caught a deadly virus while heroically exposing himself to save a patient, or he could have died in a car accident, or in an actual murder (like House suspected), or he could have just left the hospital to start his own clinic. Why did they have to make him kill himself?

I still give the episode a 5, mainly because I thought the case with Meatloaf and his wife was quite good. But making Kutner suicidal was a VERY BAD IDEA

No Country for Old Men

I think I must have seen a different movie from everyone else because I just don't get it. The film I saw was an engaging but plot-hole ridden cat-and-mouse chase story which suddenly came to an abrupt and anticlimactic conclusion, and then for half an hour went off into extraneous tangents. I didn't feel satisfied. At all. Besides, I wasn't that impressed with Bardem's performance, he seemed very artificial to me.

I don't know, maybe I will have to try watching it again to see what everyone else seems to see in this. But the prospect of watching it a second time is not very appealing, to be honest.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Good but not great
Despite not being one of Allen's best efforts, VCB is above other recent outings. It's an interesting and adult story, a bit of a throwback to his late 80s/early 90s sex/love/relationships dramas, after a stint of crime stories and silly comedies. The exceptionally good looking cast and setting (my city :-) also help maintain the interest, of course, and the photography is brilliant. The story is irregular, however, in that it strains credibility at some points, while at others you feel it doesn't go as far as it could have, some characters seeming to be let off too easy from their predicaments; and the performances are irregular as well, Cruz and Hall being the obvious standouts, and Johansson the weakest link. The voice-over narration, while necessary, is a bit excessive. And the songs are, quite frankly, unbearable!

Slumdog Millionaire

Can't really see what the fuss is about
When a film hinges on some improbable coincidence in order to push the story forward, it is generally considered bad or lazy writing... so I can't help but wonder why this film, in which the crux of the story is a gigantic, ludicrous combination of very improbable coincidences, is being regarded as a masterpiece. I suppose it still works as something of a modern fairytale, like Pretty Woman, and it definitely does have a couple of very good moments, but ultimately it was just impossible for me to take seriously such an exaggeratedly contrived story.

After it ended, my fiancée said that she was half-expecting it to end with a Usual Suspects scene, in which the whole thing would be revealed to be an elaborate tale invented for a policeman's ears by a street-hardened conman; I would have found it to be a much better film if it had been that way, actually!

That '70s Show: It's a Wonderful Life
Episode 1, Season 4

Adding insult to injury
After the disaster that was the break-up at the end of season three, I felt that this episode sadly only made things even worse. Donna is supposed to have prompted the break-up because of her fear to a long-term commitment to Eric, but in this alternate world she has no qualms about tattooing Hyde's name on her body, and eventually marrying him. What are we to understand then? That she is only afraid of committing to Eric, but not to another, more adventurous man? This is extremely wrong, because a) it represents a savage humiliation of Eric's character, of the not-funny kind (Isn't this the main character? Aren't supposed to LIKE this guy?); and b) it is a betrayal to the love story we have been following for three years, because it implies that her love for him was never as deep or passionate as what she would be able to feel for another. Which, again, makes absolutely no sense, from what we have seen in previous seasons.

I know some might say "man, don't take it so seriously, the whole thing is just a Scrooge joke. Eric is BURNED! Ha ha". That is, obviously, a Kelso reaction. We are supposed to be above Kelso's level (or else how could we laugh at him?). The pain and the humiliation cannot be ignored so easily. It may be a comedy, but the writers had decided to introduce a very dramatic turn in the life of a character we care for, and they should have been more thoughtful about how they were going to deal with it. You cannot build a connection between a character and an audience for three years and then expect that same audience to laugh at his extreme misery as if it didn't matter.

That '70s Show: The Promise Ring
Episode 25, Season 3

A badly scripted turn of events
Don't get me wrong please: I'm not giving this episode 1 solitary star just because I'm angry about the break-up itself. As much as I hated the fact that Eric and Donna broke up, I could understand that some problems in the characters' relationships are necessary for any story to maintain its momentum and not become boring. But what I really, REALLY hated was the unnecessarily painful and implausible way in which it was done. Eric's initiative might have been a little bold for someone so young, but Donna's reaction was a total betrayal to her character, because for much of the show she had been completely committed to the relationship. Knowing her as we know her by that point, her sudden fear of commitment just doesn't make any sense. Why the hell does her dream of an exciting life have to be incompatible with being with the man she loves? Like Eric says, how can she possibly love Eric if she can imagine a more attractive future in which he is not present? Eric's indignation is justified, and Donna's attitude made me hate her; but I realised she is just a fictional character, and I should be hating the writers for mangling her character in such a disgraceful way for the sake of a plot twist. A real pity.

Medium: The One Behind the Wheel
Episode 12, Season 3

Great setup, weak resolution
"The One Behind the Wheel" (sounds unintentionally like a Friends episode! :-)) is a "high concept" episode which begins with an extraordinarily intriguing, yet simple, premise. It hooks you instantly right from the start. Allison wakes up and she is not Allison, she's someone else, and everybody has to do what they can to figure out a) how to get her back and b) what happened to the person who is inhabiting her. It was foreseeable that the episode would not be able to sustain the expectations created by its exceptional opening (as is the case with most high concept movies too), but what disappointed me is that in the end it resorted to the old, tired cliché of the surgery-to-make-someone-look-like-someone-else. I thought we were beyond that, not only because everyone knows it's impossible (It might seem contradictory that I point this out, the show being about a woman who can "see dead people", but suspension of disbelief is selective), but mainly because it has been used so many times, from Tales From the Crypt episodes to James Bond movies, that it's just stale. I wasn't expecting the ending to blow me away, but certainly something a bit fresher would have been more welcome. Anyway, if we give a 10 to first half and a 4 to the second, it still averages to be a pretty good episode.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

It managed to turn me to the dark side for a little while there...
I am not a big fan of either Tim Burton or Broadway musicals, so a combination of the two sounded VERY unappealing to me and I avoided this film for a while. Just a as expected, when I finally sat down to watch it, for the first twenty minutes or so I could hardly stand it, and was very tempted to just stop the DVD player and forget about it. But I decided to hold out until my beloved Sacha Baron Cohen showed up (I'm a big fan of the guy), just to see him, and then the plot started to kick in, and slowly but surely I found myself having to admit I was being entertained (apart from Cohen's appearance, the mid-movie song about the various professions was another high point). The movie indeed gets better and better as it advances to its tragic, macabre climax, and that final image before the credits was rather haunting. So, still no masterpiece in my book, but I'll concede I'm glad I saw it.

Vantage Point

An absurd, nonsensical mess, made by people who clearly haven't got the slightest idea of how international terrorism works (or how a Spanish city actually looks), this waste of celluloid and acting talent lacks even the remotest connection with The Real World. I came *this* close to walking out of the cinema, which in hindsight, is what I should have done, although I would have missed the best bit, or more precisely the least-worse bit, which is obviously the car chase. What saddens me is that many Americans who don't know better seem to take this insulting garbage at face value, calling it "eye opening", as if any of this was realistic in any way.


Nothing... happens...
"A 16 year old girl finds herself pregnant, and decides to give the baby up for adoption." That might sound like the setup for a movie. You would assume that this sentence would be just the starting block for a story, and then lots of other things would take place. But not in this case. This sentence is actually the synopsis of the entire movie.

There is almost no conflict at all in this story. Everybody loves everybody, everybody is supportive of everything, everybody is just fine most of the time; the one glitch that comes up along the way and which enticingly threatens to derail the proceedings, is swiftly resolved the next minute without much apparent consequence.

So it's all very nice and heartwarming, but not really conducive to an engaging experience for the viewer. I'm not saying it is a terrible film, actually it flows along pleasantly (if you can put up with the inordinate abuse of quirky incidental music with absurd lyrics, which I sometimes had trouble with), but it barely makes a ripple as it goes.

Camera café

This show's success is baffling
When this show began to be announced, I thought the idea wasn't bad at all, but that for it to work, the sketches would need to be consistently witty and funny, or else the novelty would soon wear off. What surprises me and leaves me scratching my head is that the expected wittiness is patently lacking, and yet the show is an astounding ratings success in Spain.

It's true that it has some very talented comic actors in its cast: Luis Varela, who was recently nominated to a Goya award for "Crimen Ferpecto", is a stalwart of Spanish comedy; César Sarachu's hilarious video sketches have been doing the rounds on the internet for years; Carlos Chamarro's TV adverts for a travel agency years ago made him popular overnight... But the team behind the camera, led by La Cuadrilla (last seen ruining celluloid with the execrable "Atilano Presidente"), are in my opinion rarely able to produce anything remotely funny. The dialog usually sounds artificial and stilted, and the stories are often too stupid and infantile to appeal to me. However, I seem to speak for a minority, for apparently most people in Spain will tell you they love it and watch it religiously. There's no accounting for taste, I suppose.

Pieces of April

Creates promise, then just bails out
Such a pity. This could have been a great film. One of those great independent little movies that everybody remembers. The idea is great, and the build-up is fantastic. As you witness April's adventure to make a decent thanksgiving meal and prove herself to her family, Bobby's efforts to create a good impression to his new in-laws, and April's family's unrelenting (and unmerciful) fear that it will all go pear-shaped (yet again, apparently), it's like you're watching two trains heading on collision course and you're waiting for them to crash. But, bafflingly, all this is a build-up to nothing. It's incomprehensible to me, that they threw away the movie like that. I get the impression that the writer just had this idea for a situation, but then couldn't come up with any kind of resolution, so the ending is just a feeble cop-out. Sad. Still a movie worth seeing (it's very short anyway), but nowhere near as good as it could (should) have been.

Medium: Jump Start
Episode 7, Season 1

Weak episode
This episode of Medium let me down. I generally regard this show in high esteem, but if anybody was to judge its quality from this episode alone, it would probably be dismissed as pap. I would have liked to explain its problems without running into spoiler territory, but I can't...


... because the problem lies with the denouement. Despite its documentary-like, ergo realistic-wannabe approach, its not unusual for this show to come up with convoluted resolutions sometimes. You accept them because they're usually clever. This one, however, goes way, way too far. When the truth is revealed, it is just totally implausible and unbelievable. The killer's motive is so tenuous and his plan so ridiculously complex, that you can't help but feel cheated by the writers. A pity.

This episode is fortunately an exception, though. They are usually a lot more satisfying!

Atilano, presidente

Dreadful. Just Dreadful
It's not funny. It's not engaging. It's not believable. It's not coherent. It's not logical. It makes no sense. It's badly acted, badly written and badly directed. I think you get the picture. This film is a disgrace, an unmitigated disaster. There's just nothing in it of any worth. No wonder La Cuadrilla disbanded and disappeared from view after this. A shame, given they had seemed promising when they began. (Update: they have resurfaced years later with the Spanish version of a French comedy show, which has been, inexplicably for me, an enormous hit).

What I hope is that nobody else ever sees this movie again. All copies of it should be burned, and the ashes dropped in a nuclear reactor for their complete evaporation, and the world would be a better place. You might think I'm being harsh, but that will only be if you haven't seen the thing. And believe me, you're much better off that way.

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