27 March 2012

Film Review: Ricardo, Miriam y Fidel (1997) by Christian Frei, ****


Like so many thousands of other Cubans, Miriam Martínez means to emigrate to the United States with her family. The daughter of a man who played a crucial part in the victory of the revolution, she finds that this is far from easy, for her as well as for her father Ricardo.

Almost forty years ago Ricardo quit his job as a journalist and left for the Sierra Maestra to join Fidel Castro's rebels. Under the guidance of Ché Guevara he founded Radio Rebelde. Their nighttime broadcasts became the most efficient means of spreading their revolutionary ideas.

26 March 2012

Recensione film: Operazione Valchiria (2008) di Bryan Singer, ****


Tratto da una stupefacente storia vera, Operazione Valchiria, è la cronaca del coraggioso e ingegnoso piano per eliminare uno dei più perversi tiranni che il mondo abbia mai conosciuto. Orgoglioso della divisa che indossa, il colonnello Stauffenberg è un ufficiale leale che ama il suo paese, ma che è stato costretto ad assistere con orrore all'ascesa di Hitler e alla Seconda guerra mondiale. Ha continuato a servire nell'esercito, sempre con la speranza che qualcuno trovasse il modo per fermare Hitler prima che l'Europa e la Germania fossero distrutte. Quando si rende conto che il tempo stringe, Stauffenberg decide di entrare in azione e nel 1942 cerca di persuadere i comandanti del fronte orientale a rovesciare Hitler.

Poi, nel 1943, mentre si sta riprendendo dalle ferite subite in combattimento, si unisce a un gruppo di uomini inseriti nei ranghi del potere che cospirano contro il tiranno. La loro strategia prevede di usare lo stesso piano di emergenza di Hitler per consolidare il paese nell'eventualità della sua morte - l'Operazione Valchiria - per assassinare il dittatore e rovesciare il governo nazista. Con il futuro del mondo e il destino di milioni di persone, oltre alla vita della moglie e dei figli, appesi a un filo, Stauffenberg da oppositore di Hitler diventa l'uomo che deve uccidere Hitler.

Film Review: Valkyrie (2008), by Brian Singer, ****

On the front lines in North Africa, German Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) grows increasingly opposed to Adolf Hitler's policies. Following the Allied invasion of Normandy, von Stauffenberg spearheads an elaborate plan with confederates to smuggle a bomb into the Fuhrer's tightly guarded military headquarters. Based on a true story, this crackling war thriller directed by Bryan Singer ("The Usual Suspects") co-stars Kenneth Branagh, Carice von Houten, and Tom Wilkinson.

21 March 2012

Film review: Forrest Gump (1994), by Robert Zemekis, *****


"Stupid is as stupid does," says Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) as he discusses his relative level of intelligence with a stranger while waiting for a bus. Despite his sub-normal IQ, Gump leads a truly charmed life, with a ringside seat for many of the most memorable events of the second half of the 20th century. Entirely without trying, Forrest teaches Elvis Presley to dance, becomes a football star, meets John F. Kennedy, serves with honor in Vietnam, meets Lyndon Johnson, speaks at an anti-war rally at the Washington Monument, hangs out with the Yippies, defeats the Chinese national team in table tennis, meets Richard Nixon, discovers the break-in at the Watergate, opens a profitable shrimping business, becomes an original investor in Apple Computers, and decides to run back and forth across the country for several years. Meanwhile, as the remarkable parade of his life goes by, Forrest never forgets Jenny (Robin Wright Penn), the girl he loved as a boy, who makes her own journey through the turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s that is far more troubled than the path Forrest happens upon. Featured alongside Tom Hanks are Sally Field, Gary Sinise and Mykelti Williamson.


Forrest Gump is a landmark film, touching on many delicate aspects of human life, love and values. "Life is like a box of chocolate: you never know what you are going to get." Oh so true! Fatalistic? Not really, as a strong implication of the movie is that you have to work hard at your life, no matter what you find in your box of chocolates.

It is just a "feel good" movie as many have written? I don't think so, it goes deeper than that. And in fact it did not make me feel good at all. In the end I could not help but feeling angry at Jenny for what she did to Gump. Of course, most of us men have had our "Jenny" in our lives. Mine (now history, thanks God!) even looks like Jenny in the film!

I could not help but smile at discovering that Bubba, the black shrimp fisherman in the movie, inspired a real company that is now very successful!

The Blu-ray disc is very good, containing interesting interviews with Hanks and the director, as well as other "behind the scenes" material, including the making of special effects which were painstaking to produce and quite advanced for the time. The European version on sale on Amazon.co.uk is in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish, with subtitles in these languages plus all the Scandinavian languages.

17 March 2012

Film Review: You've Got Mail (1999), by Nora Ephron, ****


The stars (Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan) and director (Nora Ephron) of Sleepless in Seattle reteamed for this charming audience favorite. Greg Kinnear, Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton and more great co-stars add note-perfect support to this cinematic love letter in which superstore book chain magnate Hanks and cozy children’s bookshop owner Ryan are anonymous e-mail cyberpals who fall head-over-laptops in love, unaware they are combative business rivals. You’ve got rare Hollywood magic when You’ve Got Mail.

Sad to hear of Ephron death in June 2012.  


Hanks and Ryan are a perfect match for a deliberately  paced, if somewhat incredible, love story in New York. I found myself smiling thinking back to the dawn of internet chatrooms in the 1990s... I used them myself though of course I grew out of them and have since moved to dedicated forums for my various interests (travel, photography, music...) and dating websites for meeting potential partners. Listening again to the whirring and hissing of narrow-band dial-up connection had a nostalgic effect on me!

A wonderful feel-good story but much more. It is also the story of modern cities, where traditional family businesses are jeopardized by megastores which offer larger selections and lower prices. It is happening all over the world. Megastores in turn are threatened by e-commerce. I don't share the romantic view that it was better in the good old days of small stores, where one was forced to choose from a smaller selection of goods on offer (be it books or anything else) and had to pay higher prices. Old stores, like everybody else,  must adapt to the new world or they will inevitably disappear. Long live Amazon!

European DVD

European Blue-ray

Buy Amazon's instant video of this film:


15 March 2012

Filw review: The Pacific (2012), by Carl Franklin and David Nutter. ***

recensione in italiano di seguito in questo post


This limited collector's Blu-ray edition includes a bonus 7th disc entitled "Inside the Battle: Peleliu."

The Pacific is an epic 10-part miniseries that delivers a portrait of WWII's Pacific Theatre as seen through the intertwined odysseys of three U.S. Marines - Robert Leckie, John Basilone and Eugene Sledge. The extraordinary experiences of these men and their fellow Marines take them from the first clash with the Japanese in the haunted jungles of Guadalcanal, through the impenetrable rain firests of Cape Gloucester, across the blasted coral strongholds of Peleliu, up the black sand terraces of Iwo Jima, through the killing fields of Okinawa, to the triumphant, yet uneasy, return home after V-J Day. The viewer will be immersed in combat through the intimate perspective of this diverse, relatable group of men pushed to the limit in battle both physically and psychologically against a relentless enemy unlike any encountered before

Inside the Battle: Peleliu: An exclusive look into the battle of Peleliu. Combining exclusive historian and veteran interviews with real footage from the battle of Peleliu, this featurette illustrates the massive undertaking of the battle for Peleliu in the Pacific theater of World War II.

John Basilone

10 March 2012

Film review: Taxi Driver (1976) by Martin Scorsese, *****


Paul Schrader's gritty screenplay depicts the ever-deepening alienation of Vietnam Veteran Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro in a tour-de-force performance), a psychotic cab driver who obsessively cruises the mean streets of Manhattan.

This edition has the following extras:
Introduction to DVD - Martin Scorsese - this was recorded in 2006 and lasts about 15 minutes during which Scorsese talks about the influences that created Taxi Driver (Jean Luc Goddard etc).

Introduction to DVD - Paul Schrader
Commentary - Paul Schrader
Commentary Robert Kolker (Author)
Loneliness and Inspiration - Documentary
Cabbie Confessional - Documentary
Producing a Cult Classic
Taxi Driver Locations - Then and Now
Animated Photo Gallery
Storyboard to Film Comparisons
Behind the Scenes Documentary
Theatrical Trailer


A monumental film about human nature, about the aftermath of the Vietnam war, about New York in the seventies. These are the several layers of reading this film lends itself to and they are all worth the viewer's time. For this reason this is a film that must be seen several times to get all it has to offer. It can not be metabolized in one viewing. One of the best films of the seventies.

The BD version is very good, and quite a few extras complete an excellent deal.

02 March 2012

Bodyworlds exhibition

Carrying your own skin is possible
Today I have finally visited Bodyworlds, in Rome. An idea of Gunther von Hagen to display plastinated human bodies.

It took me some time. The first couple of attempts I made when the exhibition was in Belgium failed miserably when I was too impatient to stand in line for hours as long lines of waiting viewer snaked around the building where the plastinated bodies were on display.

This time it was easy. Few people and almost empy halls. A perfect afternoon to look at how we are made inside.

Many exhibits, and they change all the time in different cities. Plastinated men and women displayed in many everyday poses and performing normal activities that look altogether different in this context.

Couple mating
Playing cards
Fascinating to find out that the total length of our blood vessels is some 96,000 km, more than twice the earth's circumference at the equator, and almost all of that is capillary veins and arteries which are much thinner than our hair.

As I walk out I am thinking it might me interesting to be plastinated, though I felt a bit queasy at the end, when a plastinated man was encouraging volunteers for his job from a wall board:

"I was like you are now: alive. You will be like I am now: dead."

Strongly recommended, the visit if not necessarily the volunteering. The exhibition tours the world, you will find its calendar here.