(IMPORTANT: This is an old review. No matter how fast you run, it won't be showing at the local cinemas when you get there. You can always get in on DVD though...)

“Ray” covers the early years in the life of the pioneering musician Ray Charles. The movie tells us about what the road to fame is like, going through the different steps and aspects of this intense experience quite faithfully. But it’s also the story of a man –who, despite being amazingly good at playing piano, singing and composing, is as any other- struggling for a chance to live his life without becoming a monster in the process.

Only someone like the director Taylor Hackford, who, as we realise during the first minutes of the movie, deeply admires Ray Charles, would have been capable of going through such a difficult and long project (which, incidentally, involved Charles himself in the early stages, before his death). On the other hand, this vast love ends up ruining some moments of the film (and some others that, because of the same kind approach, were never created) in which the behaviour of the philandering and heroin-addicted soul singer remains unscathed instead of being condemned by the eventually too belligerent director.

The same thing happens, in some way, with the subplot that takes us to explore the past from time to time. Although it’s in general well handled, it becomes quite tedious by the end. And the almost celestial final image is definitely too much and doesn’t contain any new meaning: after an almost-three-hour film –seemingly longer because of the constant fades by the end-, the director feels he forgot to include a deep moral (which is not needed) and hurries to ruin another moment of the story.

Yet “Ray” is an enormously human story, in part because of a meticulous script and in part thanks to the actors.

The choice of Jamie Foxx -by the way, approved by none other than Ray Charles, who also taught ‘some piano tricks’ to the actor- as the protagonist give us the chance of enjoying a delightful unrepeatable performance. Foxx, also pianist, looks and sounds like the original Charles. And he offers nerve and authenticity while playing and pretending to sing his recordings.

Let's not forget the impressive Sharon Warren, as well, in the role of Ray’s mother, so shocking and decisive at all times like a whole life of maternal schooling encapsulated in a few minutes.

But, the way I see it, the best present that we receive from director and scriptwriter with “Ray” are various wonderful scenes, two in particular: one, belonging to Ray’s childhood, in which he falls over already being blind; and another, close to the end of the movie, in which Ray’s wife tells him about what he could lose if he didn’t give up drugs. I still feel something special while I write these lines. Scenes like those remind me of the power of good storytelling and would make the movie worth watching even if it told nothing else.

The music is, as expected, one voice more, speaking about that period and its composer’s attitude before it (as the gospel music subject). It’s easy to fall in love with the toe-tapping rhythm as you watch the movie. And particularly enjoyable are some parts in which lyrics completely integrate into the story to tell part of what is happening.


They would never let us down.

Pixar, the production company responsible for diamonds like Toy Story, Finding Nemo or The Incredibles, keeps doing it. They keep making compelling human stories with each of their films. And they do it with all of us in mind, knowing what we like, how we understand stories, what is too obvious and must be discarded, or what is too clever and might go overlooked. How we react to what happens on the screen. They know their job. After decades of film making, we should be able to delight our senses with this level of craft all the time, to find that our likes have been learnt from and respected for making the next film in line. But the reality is different, and the nature of the business often causes the beautiful entertainment side of it to be undervalued. The capability of keep respecting us as spectators, rather than any other compliment that I could try to fill this article with, is what makes Pixar special.

Wall-e, the most tender and human of all the robots, lives his adventure among a full set of human and robot characters that move us, make us hold our breath, smile and laugh out loud. Some of them, we only see for seconds, but even so, they often become a story in themselves, and rarely aren't examples in characterisation.

Nothing to say about the 3D itself. As usual, Pixar makes it all believable. And this is the greatest achievement. The animation becomes reality and, when it comes to characters, beautiful performance. Computer generated actors will have to qualify for an academy award one day if we want to make this world a little bit less imperfect, just like Wall-e attempts to do with its ending moral in the film.

Wall-e is one the films one can't miss. However, despite its brilliance, the incredible The Incredibles is still the best Pixar ever made. To me anyway. Maybe it's the patent division between the two parts of the film in Wall-e (although it doesn't affect the rhythm greatly), or maybe it's just a personal priority for the genre. By the way, when I wrote the review for The Incredibles, the article turned into an ode in the end too...

The incredibles

(IMPORTANT: This is an old review. No matter how fast you run, it won't be showing at the local cinemas when you get there. You can always get in on DVD though...)

Incredible indeed!

The Incredibles” is the last CG film (completely generated by using computers) made by Pixar, who already surprised us with “Toy Story”, “Monsters Inc.” and “Finding Nemo”. As any Pixar film, this is a movie which appears to be sometimes a very funny comedy, sometimes a moving story capable of touching the toughest spectator. And, as any Pixar film (it doesn't matter if they use toys, bugs, monsters, fish or super-heroes) it remains a powerful story about relationships between human beings.

This time, they tell the story of a family of super-heroes using lots of references to super-hero movies, TV serials and comics, as well as adventure films. “The Incredibles” delights our senses with a powerful script full of sub-plots brilliantly treated, including several relationships inside the family (Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl’s love, parents and siblings, children's problems) which are easily believable as well as amazingly familiar.

By combining virtual people and real actors’ voices, the characters (all them, not just the main ones, but every single one) end up having more personality than many human actors: nice characters whom we get attached to and whom we worry about. Their bodies and faces make us believe in them and create a favourable atmosphere for humour. Pixar accomplishes the most difficult thing in this kind of movie: credibility. And this is the point: when a character is beaten, we know it hurts; when a character runs, we know he's going fast. When a door is opened, a train is trying to stop and people or objects are falling, we are sure that they are all heavy, as if they were real elements. From the character's expressiveness to the fanciest effect seen in the film, Pixar’s animators and programmers achieve the impossible.

Completely believable hair, muscles and fabric, including several costumes per character (for the first time in a movie like this). Explosions, water, explosions in the water, lava, ice, shattering windows, energy fields, invisibility effects, light beams, plane reactors, robots… everything is possible, even stretching human limbs. We have no reason to not believe in it because it’s very well done.

In regards to music and lighting, the film opts for a colourful environment typical of old-fashion comics and Saturday morning cartoons which turns into a James Bond-like environment as the story moves forward. Of course, every effect related with light and used to personalize each moment of the film (daylight, dust, clouds, fog) is perfectly created.

The “60's 007”-like look is reflected as well in the multi-location design of the film. From the interior of a volcano to the open sea, from remote forests to common cities, we visit many different beautiful sceneries. Furthermore the director consistently uses the camera intelligently throughout each set (he seldom overuses the fact that everything is 3D to take odd shots), so we don’t have to see spectacular yet absurd views.

It’s difficult to decide if “The Incredibles” is only one of the best animated movies so far or it’s one of the best super-hero films ever created as well. Whatever the case, this is not a story just for kids. In fact, this is the first PG (Parental Guidance) movie made by Pixar. And this only means that parents will enjoy as much as their children. Or perhaps even more.

So, technical perfection, an enjoyable story and tons of fun in a film which maybe is a bit long -for an animated movie- but is incredible in all other respects.


An oddly enough ride.

Hancock is enjoyable, but has three little drawbacks: Will Smith, the clumsy usage of visual effects and (how not so?) the script .

Although Will Smith has proven that he can act like an actual actor (see the heart-warming The Pursuit of Happiness), most of the films he gets involved in are just commercial blockbusters, with all their negative connotations (his first actual big-screen hit, Independence Day, may have set the tone...). And if he can get involved in the production (and he does again in Hancock) and show off a bit, better still. Show off chest muscles, or backside, or simply poses... You can tell he likes that. He shows off less minutes than in previous films, but he shows off. Just like in I, robot, or I am legend. Still, there's something about Will Smith's presence that stops you from hating him so much despite all this. Odd. Whether this is charisma or not, or whether this film should have been called “I am Hancock” is obviously not the purpose of these lines.

All the visual effects from the trailer and used as bait seem to happen rather soon in the film. Which is good, since they aren't anything special or unseen before. After that, for a moment, it seems the story will acquire deeply human overtones and leave effect in the background... but then the film takes an unfortunate and inexplicable path and we come back to visual effects ad infinitum. No surprises here.

But we also come back to a much darker atmosphere that changes the style of the film and that (again) seems to be uncalled for. There is a similar confusion with the genre itself: comedy, more dramatic at times, “adventure” parts, ... The surprising and unconventional approach probably comes from the intention of making a different superhero film. In practice, however, the producers truly seem indecisive about this, and so ended up creating a strange hybrid creature.

All the above, plus the fact that the relationship between characters is awkward and twisted results in, yes, an entertaining film, but one that doesn't make the most of itself or even reach the end of the story looking like it's the end of the story. If you are reading this in disbelief, go and watch it: the cleaners may have to kick you out, because you won't believe the film is over. As spectators, we are entitled to a fulfilling experience. And if a script doesn't give us this ultimate experience, then we feel emptiness in our film goer hearts. Subconsciously, we ask for more and we can't help cursing the experience.

Old film reviews (old the reviews, not necessarily the films)

I start re-posting some of my old reviews in Canalmanchester as well as new ones for the following reasons:

  • The main reason (and also the most outrageous one) is that, since they are already written, old reviews will save me some time and effort and may make me look like I'm a lot more productive than I actually am, leaving, at the same time, more time to dedicate to pleasures of life other than writing.
  • The original website where my old reviews were kept, is now dead and buried, and so I'd like to re-post these old reviews so I can have them on-line again and even link back to them like I did with my latest (new) review (comes in handy sometimes!).

Some of the Canalmanchester reviews in their original format.


(IMPORTANT: This is an old review. No matter how fast you run, it won't be showing at the local cinemas when you get there. You can always get in on DVD though...)

”Robots”, the latest 3D production by “Twentieth Century Fox”, is built on a too obvious and little original story which eventually turns out to be only and excuse to fill the screen with lots of colourful robots during almost two hours.

It’s a true shame when something like this happens. The audience is asking for more and is actually able to absorb much more content. And since this need doesn’t disappear during the movie –because the script is too simple, like it was only meant for our kid brother- we appreciate the always amazing 3D environment but don’t enjoy it as much as we should.

Still, the film offers some hilarious moments, until we bitterly find out almost all the jokes are based on the fact that the characters are living machines and start to hate them. Again, this helps us to unconsciously switch our attention to different things; like the music, for instance (which is really enjoyable, by the way, but this is beside the point).

The messy cast contains millions of unnecessary characters, each of them with a different colour, slightly different shape and seldom showing more than one sign of personality. The good guys are kind and pleasant and have many merry friends; the bad guys have no feelings and of course no friends. Inside this context the audience doesn’t get to believe in them, since neither of them seem to have powerful motivations nor even show a different facet at some point.

On the other hand, our senses are delighted by a feast of 3D graphics, credibly created and satisfactory animated (along the lines of the fast and vivacious “Ice Age”). After a while, however, so many robots on the screen at the same time become tiring and pointless, as it happened before even with the numerous armies of evil creatures in the multi-award-winner “The lord of the Rings”.

As a computer-generated film, we must say that, although the 3D effects are in general believable (except maybe that oil which doesn’t convince completely…), “Robots” is not as daring as other recent products in regard to virtual effects development. By the time it was released, “Shrek” came up with the best liquid effects; “The Incredibles”, along with many other improvements, contained the first attempt to use create human character for the whole cast. But, what is it that “Robots” has to offer as its new and revolutionary contribution?

When the script heavily arrives at the ending, we are given the oldest and most overused message of the film history: “Be yourself”. Unfortunately, we are quite fed up with the movie in question by then and feel our intelligence has been insulted in some way. I wonder if even the little kids won’t feel the same.

In short, few surprises in a film which probably shouldn’t have been made and undoubtedly deserves oblivion.

La sopa (The soup)

I finally managed to add showy (well...) English subtitles to one of my old Spanish short films filmed in 2002 (oh, my god, I just realised, that is 6 years ago!). To be honest, the experience was rather painful (the subtitling, not the filming itself), as there seems to be no software capable of handling all the different steps in one go. This was little more than a test ("La sopa" can be understood without subtitles, I like to think), to see if I could subtitle the yeap-still-in-Spanish-only Eso que Pasó, a longer short film that I made in 2004 and that does need translation. I will do so at some point during the next few months, depending on other projects.

In any case, here is the link to the youtube video. I hope those of you who didn't know about this 7-minute oldie will enjoy it!

Thanks for watching.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The poorest fantasy world even summoned.

Unfortunately, not all the fantasy stories that make it to the big screen are of as good quality as The Lord of the Rings' latest film adaptation. There already are 5 Harry Potter films (plus 3 more on the making). The Narnia series is, too, a good example of how far we can go (Disney, in this case) in our effort for trying to reproduce the key elements of a hit of this kind. Although the result may be financially rewarding, randomly placed bows, magic spells and sword fights don't make a good fantasy film. More importantly, this sort of production may make audiences lose faith in next ones, as they would end up not expecting much of them.

Visual effects in this second “Narnia” deserve special mention. There is quite an impressive sequence in a bridge towards the end of the film. Other than that, it is not often that what may be a combination of lack of imagination, poor criteria and/or scarce interest results in such a huge amount of pointless soulless ugly creatures (right, the pointless and soulless side of it has to do with scripting and acting, but all together makes a terrible combination!). Not even films like Robots (with its too many meaningless machine-like characters) leaves you with such a bad taste in our mouth. It is hard to believe that there is still something in the fantasy line that we can't do convincingly with 3D computer graphics. Or maybe there is, but it sure has to be something more complex and creative than anything we can see in this film.

According to the director himself, the film is meant to make us reflect upon the transition to adulthood, the sacrifices that you have to make and those things that you have to leave behind. But since very often actors just stand there, in front of the camera, hoping the melodramatic musical background will do all the work and the script only collaborates with a few scenes that require the film to stop completely while torrents of explanations are given... well.. it doesn't quite work. Other than that, nothing more to say about a script that doesn't say much itself anyway.

Luckily, despite upsetting experiences like this, Disney doesn't seem to be totally dead. There seems to be life after its divorce from Pixar, and the trailer of Blast (first 3D film on their own) looks quite good and serves as evidence of an encouraging future. There are Let's hope they'll follow this path instead of going through the gate to Narnia again..