Cassandra's dream

Woody gives himself another treat.

No other director can beat Woody Allen's possibilities of doing whatever he wants on screen. His stories continue selling, all the actors he wants to use will say yes without even reading the script, so he keeps filming in whichever country he chooses and doing one film per year.

By using his particular modus operandi he has produced some of the most beautiful, human and entertaining films of the last century. Still, out of such a matchless wealth of production, (and since, unsurprisingly, most of what we all do is not as good as our best) most of them turn out to be average productions. I personally don't think it has to do with Allen's age, but rather with his seemingly endless energy for film making. In fact, although unquestionable gems such as Annie Hall or Manhattan belong to his universe of past productions, the more relatively recent Deconstructing Harry is to me the most enjoyable of his extensive filmography. In any case, Cassandra's dream is to be counted as one of those poorer films which, unlike the above, won't resist the passage of time.

This time Allen treats himself to the nearly ubiquitous and always charming Ewan McGregor. Unfortunately, his looks are not enough in this occasion and, except for a few moments more purely entertaining than remarkable, the Scottish actor contributes with very little to the film. The same can be said about Tom Wilkinson, both seem to get seriously affected by the unavoidable frivolity of their characters. Colin Farrell is blessed which a much more interesting role, and his deeply human performance doesn't disappoint.

As usual in his Allen's films, it does take a while for the film to get started, but one it does (and here we have again another one of the newyorkian's hilarious settings) the rhythm is elegantly maintained during most of the story. It is throughout the middle part, where so many other films fail, that the script shows the most interesting, witty-dialogue-packed scenes, and the best examples of apparently unintended humorous treatment.

Don't expect anything radically original, or a classic meant to go down in history. But if you, too, usually enjoy Woody Allen's films, Cassandra's dream will certainly entertain and make you have as good a time as any other average Woody Allen's.

Stories in general -and films in particular- in a rapidly changing world

I haven't written any film reviews for a couple of years -damn it, time does fly-. I used to, for an independent student site. I had this crazy idea that it would help me both with my language learning (I had just arrived in the UK from Spain back then) and with my writing skills.

Surprisingly, it was a rich experience that did help me in both these aspects (yey!), and even beyond. It got me thinking about films' flaws and strong points in what I thought it was sharp and incisive way. Well, it wasn't that sharp, actually, but it did force me to understand a little better how stories are structured (that and several script books, god bless Robert McKee), which in turn helped me -and still does- write my own stories, not for modest less in need of a good old-fashion structure.

When that review-writing period ended (mainly due to my editor and myself not getting on very famously), I was sorry to stop writing altogether. But since I was also busy with a new study program that lied ahead at the time and it wouldn't have been easy to keep doing it anyway, I just let it go.

In this time, I have continued going to the cinema. Sure. My films-per-week average doesn't go below two unless something VERY serious happens. I love stories. All sorts. And I believe that films still are one of the most powerful ways of telling them. I also believe that, as long as we don't forget that entertainment has rules, and that they need to be respected (“please don't bore me”), or at least understood before we can break them, films still have at least a little life longer before being taken over completely by the new media platforms. But only if they don't forget. Ironically enough, these new platforms are also giving everyone the chance of speaking up, of saying “I really hated that” or “I couldn't believe how good this other one was!”. Every day, millions of people make the global wisdom grow by modifying a wikipedia page, adding an entry to their blog, or posting their new vision on youtube. And those views affects other people's, and help them making up their minds. And I believe it also affects the way that stories, and films as one type of them, evolve.

Today, with no frill but with quite a lot of excitement, I start using this site again, powered by my renewed resolution of publicly writing again and contributing to this wonder. Like all those other people before me, I take the chance to speak about what I love, and to share my views and material with all of you who regularly lean regularly into this fascinating universe which the web is becoming. Let this be my humble contribution to this new and increasingly complex world of opinions, stories, and entertainment.

Indiana Jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

Neither Lucas nor Spielberg are in need of popularity, and certainly not money, which is the main reason for any sequel. It seems that Lucas will manage to stretch the Star Wars product forever, and Spielberg... well, he didn't get the nickname of Hollywood's King Midas for nothing. From the very beginning, it was clear that “Indy 4” would be a present from them to the fans. Take it as what it is, a present. Deeper insights will probably ruin your experience.

Yes, everything is there: they have made sure that all the elements common to other films of the series are present: punching fights, innumerable chases, humour, the charismatic sidekick, bugs and reptiles, dark catacombs,... Just hearing another character calling Harrison Ford “Dr. Jones”, or having the main theme on the big screen again after such a long wait makes it all worth it.

However, certain aspects of the film deviate from the atmosphere present in the previous three films. A few far-fetched situations, even for Indiana Jones, somehow manage to ruin the credibility of all other things, humanly impossible and still believable, that the character has done in previous films (Indy is not 007!). Some scenes, like the very first one, seem to be unnecessary long and reduce the pace of the film and makes it harder for the spectator to get into the story. And of course, there is what Indy's new adventure is about: it seems to fit perfectly with the others when, suddenly... well, we are taken in a direction where we don't want to go! (you'd better watch and judge for yourself).

Something similar happens with the load of visual effects. Just as we saw in Star Wars, the urge is felt, it seems, of making use and overuse of the new technologies where they hadn't been needed before. The result, rather than Indy, feels more like watching its putative relative, The Mummy. Actors don't seem to get along with the new technologies either and so sometimes they just stand there looking around, unable to interact with the digital part of the set, fact which contributes to a couple of unsuccessful scenes.

One would think that after managing to go on without Sean Connery in the project quite believably, Spielberg would be able to rely on the rest of the cast (Karen Allen, from the first film, among them) to put strong empathetic characters into play, just as he usually does. Sadly, there are quite a few occasions in which the characters either don't seem to know what to say -or how- or they just come into the scene for no reason, and leave as clumsily. The combination of the relationship between the characters and the high level of adventure is not handled as successfully as it would have been expected, and we are left with a certain thirst for more personal moments and less action (and explanations!): moments to show us more of this new, older Indiana Jones, which is taking more and more after his father, or to enjoy Indy's reunion with his very first film girl.

Let's hope this is a momentary lapse for Spielberg's otherwise excellent craft, and that he is not finally listening to Lucas' directing suggestions.