REVIEW: The Skin I Live In

The Skin I Live In
Directed by: Pedro Almodóvar
Written by: Pedro Almodóvar & Agustín Almodóvar (screenplay), Thierry Jonquet (novel)
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes and Jan Cornet

The art of the surprise twist is something you just don’t see a lot of in modern movies, but Pedro Almodóvar sure as hell pulls one off in The Skin I Live In (assuming that like me you haven’t read the source novel beforehand).  Almodóvar makes his horror debut with this film, though his aesthetic touches from recent films like Broken Embraces and Volver remain well in tact.

Beautifully art directed sets and the lusciously costumed stars combine quite well with the truly deranged story.  Antonio Banderas stars as the demented plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard, who is keeping a woman named Vera (Elena Anaya) hostage in his home to do synthetic skin experiments on.  After the tragic death of his wife, who committed suicide after seeing what she looked like after being burnt in a car crash. Ledgard becomes obsessed with recreating Vera in her image.

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REVIEW: Haywire

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Written by: Lem Dobbs (screenplay)
Starring: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender and Michael Douglas

Like a virus that won’t go away, Mallory (Gina Carano) jumps around the globe, slowing down or killing anything that gets in her path.  That is largely where the narrative similarities between her story and the one from director Steven Soderbergh’s last film, Contagion, end though.

Haywire is curious when placed with the rest of his catalog in that it focuses on a single individual but also contains a large ensemble cast.  Usually his films are one (Erin Brockovich) or the other (Traffic).  At the center of this semi-departure is MMA fighter Gina Carano, who Soderbergh saw fighting on TV and decided to build a movie around.  Carano’s ferociously physical performance as Mallory is by far the movie’s greatest asset.  Soderbergh films most of the action sequences in confined areas, letting her utilize the environment in astonishing and brutal ways.

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REVIEW: Shrek Forever After

Shrek Forever After
Directed by: Mike Mitchell
Written by: Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke (screenplay)
Starring: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, and Antonio Banderas

Outside of Pixar, the Shrek franchise is probably the most famous digital animation escapade.  The first Shrek is widely considered a classic, an uproarious send-up of the Disney fairy tale.  The subsequent entries have all had their share of laughs, but none have matched the first one for blending heart-warming story with beautifully done satire.

The same is true with Shrek Forever After, the fourth and (they say) final installment in the series.  This one finds Shrek (Mike Myers) discontent and emasculated as the head of his new ogre family.  His first part in the movie begins with an intentionally redundant montage sequence showing the repetitiveness of his every day life with his three kids and his wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz.)

The rest of the movie follows Shrek as he pays for his discontent by making a fool’s bargain with Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) and trades one day in his life for one day as an unhinged ogre.  The impish Stiltskin tricks him, taking back the day he was born and sending him to a world where he never existed.  From here on out, it’s a not so wonderful life.

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