Thursday, 31 January 2013

Random Viewing: Catch-Up Edition, part 2

In this edition, two films that received 'honourable mentions' in my end of year post.
     Extraterrestre / Extraterrestrial (Nacho Vigalondo, 2012) was mentioned in the first post on this blog almost two years ago - it seems to have taken an absolute age for me to manage to see it (I watched it on Filmin and then bought the DVD, which has optional subtitles, from Spain). It's quite different to Los cronocrímenes / Timecrimes (Nacho Vigalondo, 2007) - that's not a negative, just a warning if you were expecting something in a similar vein as it threw me a bit on first viewing (it wasn't an issue with the second viewing). Extraterrestre is a warmhearted comedy, and despite the title is actually a romcom with a possible alien invasion as a backdrop, rather than an alien invasion film with a romantic subplot. Julio (Julián Villagrán) wakes up in Julia's (Michelle Jenner) apartment (and bed), unable to remember much of the night before. As they go through an awkward morning-after conversation that sees Julia not-all-that-subtly trying to get Julio out of her apartment they realise that all lines of modern communication are down and no-one is on the street outside. And then they look up at the sky....  Deciding to stay in the apartment, they are soon joined by Julia's stalkerish neighbour, Ángel (Carlos Areces) (staring daggers at interloper Julio), and Julia's boyfriend, Carlos (Raúl Cimas) (friendly towards Julio and keen to drop into survivalist mode to take on the invaders). This sets up two tensions: the slightly more serious (although occasionally outlandish) attempts by Julia to keep Carlos in the dark as the attraction between her and Julio becomes more palpable; and the more comedic attempts to keep Ángel quiet after Julio inadvertently spills the beans to him (the exchange of looks between Jenner, Villagrán, and Areces across the dinner table in the aftermath of the revelation is a masterclass in silent comedy). It is ultimately a very sweet-natured film, the cast are all excellent (at both heartache and slapstick), and I'm now looking forward to Open Windows (Nacho Vigalondo, forthcoming). The tennis balls? You'll have to watch the film.
    Lobos de Arga (Juan Martínez Moreno, 2012) [the film has been given a UK DVD release with the title Attack of the Werewolves] is a horror-comedy with Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004) style humour and gore, but with werewolves instead of zombies, and a very personable little dog. Tomás (Gorka Otxoa) is a young writer invited to a village connected to his family to receive an award. Or at least that's what they told him. In reality, as the youngest descendant of the Mariño family, the villagers think that by sacrificing him they can end a century-long Gypsy curse and rid the village of the deadly wolfman. Tomás has only his dog, his childhood friend (Carlos Areces, again), his literary agent (Secun de la Rosa), and his grandmother (Mabel Rivera) to help him -as the title suggests, more than one werewolf is soon at play and mayhem ensues. Again, this is a very sweet-natured and funny film with an excellent cast and well-written characters. I will buy the DVD at some point as I'm sure that some of the jokes passed me by (I watched it on Filmin without subs - although it would appear that sheep-shagging jokes in films with a rural setting are pretty much universal).
Both films are recommended.