Spain

Foreign Objects - Large

Love is a complicated thing, and whether you believe in soul mates or that it’s all a crap-shoot of the heart you’d be hard-pressed to deny that’s it’s an elusive, fragile and all together dangerous emotion. It’s especially complicated when the two people involved aren’t anywhere near the same page. And when you add socio-political commentary into the mix? Hallmark doesn’t have a card for this one. It’s post-WWI Spain, and Tristana’s (Catherine Deneuve) mother has died. Before she passed the woman entrusted a “friend” named Don Lope (Fernando Rey) to take on the role of guardian to the teenage girl and protect her into womanhood. He takes Tristana on as his ward, but what starts in innocence quickly leads to more physical desires triggered by a casual glimpse at her breasts beneath a nightgown. A see-saw relationships develops between the lusty old man and the sweetly optimistic teen, but as time passes emotions and loyalties shift in dramatic fashion until the couple they are and the couple they were bear little resemblance.

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31 Days of Horror - October 2011

They said it couldn’t be done. A fifth year of 31 Days of Horror? 31 more terror, gore and shower scene-filled movies worth highlighting? But Rejects always say die and never back away from a challenge, so we’ve rounded up the horror fans among us and put together another month’s worth of genre fun. Enjoy! Synopsis: A small town in upstate Spain starts losing citizens to a garden pest when carnivorous slugs decide they want to move up the food chain. Mike Brady (Michael Garfield), once a happily married architect with a blond wife and six kids is now just a happily married county health inspector with a brunette wife. He’s the first to suspect the salt-hating gastropods are to blame for the town’s recent rash of gory deaths, but the other authorities are slow to believe him so he joins forces with the local waterworks man and a British slug expert in the hopes of stopping the slimy onslaught before it’s too late.

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Movies about corrupt cops have been around almost as long as cops have. Not because cops are inherently corrupt mind you, but because the police are people just like the rest of us. And people are inherently corrupt. The general narrative in a film about police corruption usually involves a lead character who struggles to avoid falling in with the dirty boys in blue and subsequently sees his life and career endangered. Alternatively, the lead can be corrupt in entertainingly acceptable ways usually involving a Dirty Harry-ish attitude towards suspect rights. No Rest For the Wicked takes a different tact all together, and the resulting movie becomes a thrilling exploration of the old ‘ends justify the means’ axiom. Santos Trinidad (José Coronado) is not a cool cop like Harry Callahan. He’s an ornery, disgruntled drunk having a rough night trying to find an open bar. He finally reaches the end of his patience and kills three innocent bar employees whose only crime was refusing him service. A fourth person escapes, and Santos sets off after him to silence the only possible witness to his crimes. Santos is a bad guy, clearly, and not someone to root for… except his investigation soon reveals some secrets about that potential witness. Secrets that could lead to far more deaths if he isn’t stopped. So now who do you root for?

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Foreign Objects - Large

The romantic comedy is a genre represented most frequently by stale, generic films that follow a paint-by-numbers formula devoid of personality and charm. To be sure, even the best examples follow a well established structure, but they also manage to make their characters endearing and likeable in situations both entertaining and recognizable. That recognition factor is important, so it’s rare to find a rom-com willing to take chances with its setup and subvert expectations along the way. Julio (Julián Villagrán) awakens in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar apartment with a vaguely familiar woman. He sees Julia (Michelle Jenner) walking about clad only in a t-shirt, but whatever magic worked the night before to earn him an invite back to her place is apparently in short supply the morning after. She hurries him along, hustling him on his way, but they’re interrupted by Julia’s nosy neighbor, Angel (Carlos Areces). Angel has a crush on his beautiful neighbor and is immediately jealous of Julio’s presence. Further complicating matters is the arrival of a man named Carlos (Raul Cimas)… Julia’s live-in boyfriend. The remainder of writer/director Nacho Vigalondo‘s film, set mostly in and around the apartment, sees the quartet dodging and weaving with the best of their rom-com brethren. Julio and Julia flirt (and fornicate!) beneath Carlos’ nose while he occupies an odd amalgamated role that’s part cuckold and part catalyst for third act drama. Angel meanwhile becomes a thorn in the cheating lovers’ sides as he threatens to blow their secret […]

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The Coroner

Nobody tell Robert Fure, but my choice for this week’s Coroner’s Report is a bit lacking in the sticky red stuff. Even worse by his standards there may not even be any real deaths in the entire movie. But it does have mysterious happenings in a big, spooky house along with pain, suffering and one or two vengeful, scorned women. The Hidden Face (aka La cara oculta) is a Spanish thriller about a man whose girlfriend Belén disappears leaving him the number one suspect in the eyes of the police. He takes up with another woman shortly thereafter, but as the new girl, Fabiana, begins to spend time in the house alone she starts hearing noises and experiencing odd events. Could Belén be reaching out from beyond the grave for vengeance? Or is there something even more sinister at play…

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[REC]3: Genesis

The zombie genre has a long way to go before it becomes as annoying as the vampire one, but it’s well on its way to becoming just as ubiquitous. Most of them fall by the wayside into a generic pile of body parts and walk/run arguments, but there are a few that stand out for their inventiveness, energy and pure terror. Two of the best examples in recent years come courtesy of Spanish co-directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza. [Rec] and [Rec]2 tied the “found footage” trend to a zombie-like outbreak with both films consisting strictly of handheld (or helmet mounted) camera footage wielded by the characters themselves. They both take place in the same building and are ridiculously and wonderfully terrifying. (The zombie moniker is arguable as they most resemble the mindless ghouls from 28 Days Later, but just run with it. Or walk with it.) The third film, Genesis, loses Balagueró’s involvement as Plaza takes on solo directing duties. Unfortunately, he at some point inexplicably decided the [Rec] films were lacking in laughs and felt he could rectify that here. He tries to infuse comedy into the story, and even though he fails repeatedly each stab at humor lessens any hope for the horror side of things. Jokes fall flat. Terror, tension and fear are non-existent. And we quickly realize which half of the original directing duo held all the talent.

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The Coroner

The Quintanilla family has a house in Sitges that they haven’t visited in a decade, so all five of them pack into the car and head up for the summer. The two teens have vague memories of the home from when they were much younger, but it’s the local legend of a ghostly girl in the forest that catches their attention. They document their exploration of the house and the giant maze attached to their back yard on video, and soon they’re hearing strange noises at night and seeing mysterious figures in woods. When their younger brother goes missing the family rushes into the maze to find him, and, well, let’s just say the Quintanillas can get by with a smaller Christmas tree this year. Atrocious is the bastard Spanish love-child of Blair Witch Project and Insidious, and yes, in that scenario Insidious is the male who donated little more than a genre and a one word adjective for a name. It falls victim to some of the same problems that plague most found footage films… namely a meandering first half, segments consisting of little more than the camera being shaken repeatedly, and the nagging question as to why these people are still filming, but it also creates and builds enough solid tension and legitimately frightening scenes to mark it as one of the better examples of the genre.

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So far, the representative from Spain has bested the films it has gone up against with relative ease – seeing some of the largest margins of defeat in the entire tournament. In this round, Pan’s Labyrinth goes up against a bit tougher competition in the highly acclaimed City of God from Brazil. Both films are imaginative and desperate as dramas, but they are world’s apart in the final product. The wild black market of Movie World Cup betting (which is still illegal in the US) still favors Pan’s Labyrinth, but as we’re learning with the other matches in Round Three – the competition is now completely up in the air.

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After earning its slot in Round Two by defeating Amor y Frijoles in the first match, Mandrill now finds its super spy in the fight of his life against heavy favorite Pan’s Labyrinth. Spain was favored going in, and then delivered a 95-5 crushing victory against Switzerland. There are more than a few Mandrill fans out there, but will they be enough to see the movie go on to the next round of contests?

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Switzerland already upset Spain in the real World Cup, so it could be possible that we’ll see an upset here today in the Movie World Cup as the fan favorites Pan’s Labyrinth goes up against the fantastic storytelling in Vitus. Both great movies, both with strong followings, but of course Guillermo del Toro’s film is far more known on the international stage, especially in the United States. That should give him and his fawn and edge over the young piano prodigy.

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This Spanish thriller is best described as ‘Saw’ meets ‘Pi’ meets ‘Murder By Death’… but minus the central conceits of each of those films. And by that I mean this flick has no gory deaths, intense mathematical debate, or Truman Capote cameo.

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Sam Raimi will visit Room 205.

Sam Raimi and his Ghost House Pictures are heading to Spain and Denmark to mine what scares they can from horror flicks Anguish and Room 205.

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reydelamontana-1

Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to look for films worth visiting. So renew your passport, get your shots, and brush up on the local age of legal consent, this week we’re heading to… Spain!

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