(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...)

By using the same vivacious and quick style present all over their previous blockbuster “Ice Age”, Twentieth Century Fox’s latest picture offers another simple –but still fresh and effective- story with a handful of animals as protagonists.

“Magascar” combines numerous enjoyable moments (above all those involving the hilarious penguins’ activities, which really make us laugh) with a few others, kind of dull and boring (that we secretly feel were not needed).

The 3D characters and the environment, like in a two-dimension cartoon, don’t look real, but didn’t mean to, either. Still, the chosen abstraction works, showing roles that, despite not being human, look familiar and believable to our eyes. All encapsulated into a scarce-in-details atmosphere which also works out.

Except for some easy jokes about cartoon-like falls and blows, which actually happen in a couple of occasions, the movie holds itself on a neat and clear storyline, dressed with very few sub-plots. It almost reaches unexpected deepness, however, but apparently the reflections such an event would have led us to would not have been appropriate for a U-classified (suitable for children) film.

So fun that does not go any further then, but is absolutely worth enjoying.

Hellboy 2: The golden army

Yep. I'll do it this way because I can.

Once more that beautiful word, “respect”, comes to mind. Respect to an author like Hellboy-creator Mike Mignola, who has earned the reverence of his peers and the interest of readers all over the world with his solid and original characters, and his very personal, apparently simple and yet so complex style and enjoyable stories. But also, respect to the audience, us. We don't go to the cinema to watch a bad film, we subconsciously expect the best and, if rightfully feel disappointed when we don't get it, we may even feel betrayed when we are lured to a film with false hopes and lies.
In the comic-book, Hellboy -despite his appearance- is quite a human character. His believability and sense of humour contrasts with the very essence of his stories, in which he often sees himself involved with mystery, darkness and monstrous creatures, while remaining someone we can identify with.

Director Guillermo del Toro and his producers take all this and, quite lightly, turns it all into a mixture of forms and colours where you can hardly identify which character is which. After the success of Pan's labyrinth, he, apparently backed up by Mignola himself, seems to think that the key to a good film is to pack it with his typical creatures, and so he creates an unrealistic (but not fantastic) and more often than not even ridiculous world populated by dozens of ugly monsters, supposedly ON creativity's sake. Characters' arcs are clumsy and vague, as are their personalities (so to say). Over and over again, we are forced to see visual and make-up effects which are so careless most of the time that one would think that not even the crew liked the film, not even during the making.

In other circumstances, this Hellboy 2 would only be a poor film. Being an adaptation, however, it denotes either a complete lack of interest or too lax a criteria when working with someone else's character. This is an offense to good, solid stories (like the original Hellboy's), and to the audience.

Let's be professional. If adapting, let's do serious research before embarking ourselves in this fascinating although dangerous journey of transformation. OR let's create our own characters and then, if we so wish, let's destroy (or rape!) them. But in this case, don't expect the audience to come back for Hellboy 3.

The dark knight

A film for a villain

Christopher Nolan's second episode of his Batman film series contains some excellent scriptwriting and quite a few powerful moments meant to stay in our memory. Not that we need any incentive to go and watch it (and enjoy it, despite its excessive length), after such a huge advertising campaign. It would appear that the producers' decision of using Heath Ledger's death as bait in the campaign was quite a wise one. Business is business, after all.

Ledger's character, the delicious joker, undoubtedly is the best treat of the film. From his first moment on screen, it is clear that we are before an intriguing character, that throughout the story becomes one of the most convincing and terrifying villains we have come across.

Sadly, the Batman character (played by whispering Christian Bale) is not rendered as that captivating, and the human dimension of his decisions ends up being nearly totally eclipsed by both his infinitely more interesting arch-villain, the rest of a luxurious cast, and the high-tech atmosphere (more suitable for the Mission Impossible saga, really).

All in all, a film worth watching, as well as an interesting social theory about duty , responsibility, and what makes us human.

Hotel Rwanda

(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...)

Director Terry George found in the material that inspired “Hotel Rwanda” a perfect excuse to let the inhabitants of ‘the first world’ know about African struggles. This particular story, although sadly real and shockingly human, is just an example of what usually happens in those forgotten areas of the planet.

Whether or not the film fulfils one of its missions (the main one, the director says) of raising people’s consciousness about the situation that the movie shows, “Hotel Rwanda” is a beautiful and touching story properly shot and told.

In general, the actors know how to create intense personalities and give outstanding performances, favoured by the propitious and hopeless war environment.

Don Cheadle plays Paul Rusesabagina, a man who finds out what kind of human being he actually is during the terrible events. His character -a real person, by the way, who did save more than one thousand people from the slaughter that many other suffered- is difficult to separate from the rest of the movie since, in a way, they both are the same thing.

The appropriate choice of shots, containing all that the audience needs to know in order to feel along with the protagonist, undoubtedly helps him. But Don Cheadle’s work amplifies what happens on the screen, widely supported, for his part, by the rest of the cast. This is the case with the seemingly passive Nick Nolte or the awesome Sophie Okonedo, Don Cheadle’s wife in the film.

Apart from the actors, there are some breathtaking moments in which we can barely blink because of the intensity of the emotions that spill out of the screen. Some Don Cheadle’s lines, like the conversation with his wife in the roof or the meaningful speech to his guests, are especially remarkable.

The director counted on a very tasty material at his disposal: war between neighbours, families, brother against brother, the evasive attitude of the rest of the world (“the civilized part”), … But, instead of getting too excited, he wisely handles all these ideas without overusing of ghoulish or bloody resort.

His crew’s choices also achieve an adequate atmosphere, which makes us feel empathy, guilt and responsibility. The light and the music, for example, are appropriately used for this purpose.

Since that’s not my task here, I won’t finish this cold piece of writing trying to tell the reader, in a moral-like way, what they should do after watching the movie (or what we should have done before). I won’t even wonder if Joaquin Phoenix’s words in the movie, speaking about some shots of the conflict that he has shot, are truth: “If people see this footage, they’ll say: ‘Oh, my god, it’s horrible’, and then go on and eat their dinners”.