JULIA’S EYES aka LOS OJOS DE JULIA (2010)
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Julia’s Eyes is an occasionally effective and nicely photographed movie that tries to be a combination of Italian Giallo and Hitchcockian thriller, but doesn’t quite succeed at either. Eyes is the story of Julia (The Orphanage’s Belén Rueda) a woman with a degenerative sight condition who is investigating the suicide of her twin sister, who was also afflicted. What follows is a somewhat convoluted tale as Julia, with her rapidly diminishing sight, tries to track down an almost phantom like character who she feels is responsible for her sister’s death.
There are some very effective scenes in this Spanish thriller especially the spooky opening scene and the climactic confrontation, but there are a lot of slow spots in between and some of director and co-writer Guillem Morales’ ideas and plot directions border on the silly. Morales shows potential to be a good director, there is some nice atmosphere and everything is well framed and shot. There are some solid scenes of tension and he also gets good performances from his cast, especially from leading lady Rueda. Morales just needs to rein his scripts in a bit and try to not let his story stray outside of what is necessary to tell his tale. The flick feels about 10-15 minutes too long with some scenes playing out far longer than they seem like they need to. Perhaps at a tighter 90 minutes, Julia’s Eyes would have been more of the thriller he was going for.
Julia’s Eyes is produced by Guillermo del Toro and is still worth a look despite it’s flaws. Guillem Morales has worked only sporadically since, despite showing potential here, while ironically, co-writer Oriol Paulo has gone on to have a successful career as a writer and director.
Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) eyes
MAS NEGRO QUE LA NOCHE (Blacker Than Night) (2014)
Spanish film is a remake of a 1975 flick and is a fun and very gothic haunted house movie. The story finds pretty Greta (Zuria Vega) inheriting an old mansion from her Aunt Ofelia (Lucía Guilmáin), as well as, her fortune and her strange black cat, Becker. She moves in with her three friends, Maria (Adriana Louvier), Vicky (Ona Casamiquela) and Pilar (Eréndira Ibarra) and soon things start to get strange. When Maria kills Becker, whom she suspects savaged her beloved ferret, the unexplained apparitions and strange behavior of the house’s occupants starts to build to a shocking and bloody conclusion, where dark secrets are revealed both past and present. This is a fun flick as written and directed by Henry Bedwell and has some very gothic atmosphere to go with it’s ghostly apparitions, revealing flashbacks and possibly spirit-influenced behavior. It’s taken seriously but, there is a sense of fun about it, as our four beautiful Latinas start to feel that there is something very wrong in this house…and obviously there is. A haunted house thriller and a bit of mystery too, adds up to an entertaining flick with some nice eye candy as it’s lead characters. Gets the whole gothic drama thing far better than Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows did. Also stars Margarita Sanz as the housekeeper Evangelina, who obviously knows more than she’s saying. Not great but, fun.
BIG HERO 6 (2014)
I enjoyed Big Hero 6. it’s a fun, colorful and fast moving animated adventure about a group of teens and their lovable robot Baymax, who are forced to become superheroes to thwart a masked villain. As a kids movie it’s got enough action and likable characters to keep the young ones occupied but, as an adult, I kept seeing bits and pieces lifted from other movies. This would be fine if the film was a homage and acknowledged it’s influences but, this Disney flick seemed to flagrantly borrow designs and ideas without giving those sources a nod. There are designs and concepts taken from Tron and Stargate as well as scenes lifted from films like Spider-Man 2, Kick-Ass and even last year’s Star Trek Into Darkness. They even ruin a great post credits cameo by showing the surprise guest in a portrait about halfway through. So, while the film did it’s job and entertained, I just felt it could have been so much more if the makers either came up with more of their own ideas or at least had the decency to give their influences a bit more of a nod.
Without a doubt, Jake Gyllenhaal gives a dazzling performance as creepy thief and con-man Lou Bloom, who, after a chance encounter with a crew filming a car wreck, decides he can make good money following the police bands to film the aftermath’s of crimes and accidents to sell to the news media. The more gruesome events he catches and the more money he makes, the more the immoral and unethical Lou sees profit in manipulating events to get that money shot…regardless of the laws broken or innocents that may get caught in the way. Despite a very intriguing premise and Gyllenhaal’s fantastically sleazy portrayal, I found this film was overall predictable and ran out of gas about halfway through. You can see clearly, early on, where this is heading and it goes exactly where you expect and with the predicted results. I definitely give this extra credit for the acting and the interesting idea but, overall was a bit disappointed that the film, directed by Dan Gilroy, didn’t really grab me and hold on to me like it should. Worth a look but with cautioned expectations. Also stars Rene Russo as an equally unscrupulous newswoman.