Los Reyes


Chasing after tennis balls can be exhausting.

(2018) Documentary (Self-Released) Football, Chola, Sebastián “Negro Seba” Añiguel, Paulina “Pauly” Herrera, Sebastián “Chico” Alcalde, Tomás “Wence” Alul, Victor “Lulo” Bañados, Ignacio “Nachito” Bañados, Charlye Joses Rey Zapata, Elizabeth “Eli” Cabeza. Directed by Iván Osnovikoff and Bettina Perut

Santiago (the capital of Chile) like most other urban metropolises is both busy and often chaotic, sometimes leaving residents with heads spinning and hearts pounding. Lives move at hyper-speeds through the busy streets that are choked with automobiles and foot traffic. Towering office buildings, towering apartment complexes and bright neon shopping districts jostle one another for the attention of the eye.

Parque de los Reyes is an oasis in the urban ballet. Located on the Mapocho River, it contains within its green borders Santiago’s oldest skatepark. At any given time, the skatepark has its share of skaters, mostly adolescent males. Their conversation is pretty typical for skaters; issues with parents, getting stoned, wondering why expectations are set for them when all they want to do is skate and of course, girls. Their same conversations could be overheard at any skatepark in the world.

However, the uncrowned kings of Los Reyes are Football and Chola, a pair of stray dogs who live in the park. With often disinterested eyes they observe the goings-on, sometimes sleeping and sometimes sunning themselves. Rarely do they interact with the skaters although the skaters will from time to time throw a ball around, a game the dogs thoroughly enjoy – just like dogs everywhere.

In many ways the two dogs are like the skaters themselves, living a life of simplicity, interested mainly in food, drink, sex (when they can get it) and taking it easy. Football and Chola don’t need a lot to survive and the city has thoughtfully provided them with dog houses to offer shelter during the rainstorms that are a regular occurrence during the winter months.

We almost never see human faces in the film other than as reflections in water or shadowed inside hoodies, although we hear the skaters chatting in the background. While we hear the skaters talking about the things important to them, we are almost looking at the dogs, concentrating on their indolence, enjoying the insect and bird life that also lives in the park. This is as close to being a dog as you are likely to ever get.

It’s hard not to be enchanted by these two dogs, even if you aren’t particularly a dog lover. The bond between them is absolutely genuine and they each have definite personalities; Chola is an extrovert whose favorite game is to take a tennis ball (or other ball) and coax it to the lip of a one of the skating areas, and then gradually nose it down the ramp whereupon she chases after it. Football loves to bark, so much so that he gets hoarse by the end of the movie. He has a bit of an oral fixation; he’s always got something in his mouth from a plastic beverage bottle to a tennis ball to a rock. Both of them are as sweet as pie.

I did have a bone to pick though; near the end of the film one of the dogs (neither of whom are named until the end credits) shows signs of being terribly sick. We get close-ups of insects infesting the dog’s ears, larvae emerging from the skin – it’s not a pretty picture. Dog lovers – including this one – are going to be wondering if the camera crew took the dog to the vet or gave it any sort of comfort beyond filming the misery of its final days. It is a difficult sequence to watch, made even more poignant by the plaintive howl that the surviving dog makes after their buddy is gone.

The relationship between the dogs isn’t a made-up one nor are the canines anthropomorphized at all. We see them being dogs, doing what dogs do. This isn’t a DisneyNature documentary meant to dumb things down for audiences of kids. The life of these dogs isn’t always pretty but all in all it isn’t a bad life either. For a dog nut like myself, this is absolute candy.

REASONS TO SEE: This is about as close as you’re ever going to come to seeing life through a dog’s point of view. The interplay between the dogs is poignant.
REASONS TO AVOID: Dog lovers may find the last third troubling.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a fair amount of profanity and some drug use.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The documentary was originally intended to focus on three of the skateboarders but the filmmakers found the dogs to be a much more fascinating subject.
CRITICAL MASS:
As of 3/19/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 100% positive reviews: Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Kedi
FINAL RATING: 8/10
NEXT:
Birds of Passage

And Soon the Darkness


And Soon the Darkness

Both these girls need to take Horror Movie Heroine 101 over again

(2010) Thriller (Anchor Bay) Amber Heard, Odette Yustman, Karl Urban, Adriana Barraza, Cesar Vianco, Michel Noher, Luis Sabatini, Daniel Figuereido, Jorge Booth, Gia Mantegna, Javier Luna, Andrea Verdun.  Directed by Marcos Efron

Travel is one of life’s sublime pleasures. Seeing a new place, investigating a new culture can be a good way of broadening your horizon and gaining new perspective. Travel in a foreign  country however can be exceedingly dangerous as well.

Stephanie (Heard) and Ellie (Yustman) are a couple of cute American girls who decide to break off from their tour group in Argentina and go biking around some of the more rural parts. Two young girls alone, who don’t speak the language biking in a rural part of a country not known for being the safest place on earth. Sounds reasonable to me.

They stop by the Hotel Ass End of Nowhere and are warned to stay away from a certain lake by the desk clerk (Barraza). They need to get up early to catch a bus that will take them back to their group, so of course they go out and party the night before. While Stephanie is the responsible one, Ellie never met a guy she didn’t flirt with or a drink that didn’t make her shout WOOOOOOOOH! (the international mating call for college-age girls). Of course that leads to a tussle in which  strong silent guy named Michal (Urban) kicks the shit out of a local who is getting too familiar.

Of course in the struggle the alarm clock gets unplugged, they miss their bus and decide to go to the forbidden lake to sunbathe in skimpy bikinis. Of course they have an argument and Stephanie storms away. Of course Ellie disappears. Of course the police, in the form of Calvo (Vianco) dispute that Ellie is gone. And Michael, who claims to be looking for his own girlfriend, complicates matters. Is he really looking for his girlfriend or is he in fact the one who took Ellie?

Director Efron based this on a 1970 British film of the same name. I actually saw that one a long time go; there are some images I remember from it but little else save that Pamela Franklin played the good girl and Michele Dotrice the party girl – OK I remembered Franklin but I had to look Dotrice up on IMDB.

Heard is an appealing actress who is one of those performers who always puts on a performance that no matter how bad or how good the movie is, is always a strong effort. She has kind of a stock horror movie role of the plucky heroine and there really isn’t a lot she can do with it, but she makes the best of it. Yustman is a beautiful girl who sometimes gets roles that basically has only that element to them –  the pretty party girl. She does it well enough but I get the sense that she has much more in her than that. I hope she gets to show off her range one of these days.

One of the problems with this movie is that it is based on a movie that really has a lot of clichés built into it. The original could have used a little more originality and the remake doesn’t give the original any twists, nothing that would set it apart from the rest. Karl Urban, who was so good in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, plays the suspect with a likable performance but you never get the sense that Michael is seriously the culprit.

You should figure out what’s going on pretty early on. This is one of those movies where the heroines put themselves into jeopardy by acting in a way no intelligence young woman (whom Stephanie is purported to be) would ever act. Sorry guys; if you’re going to get two young women taking a bike tour on their own in Argentina, you’re going to need a better way than this to get them isolated and vulnerable. You’re also going to need a better movie than this to get my attention.

WHY RENT THIS: Some genuinely thrilling moments. 

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: An extremely derivative movie that could have used some stronger performances from its stars.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s a lot of violence, a bit of brief torture, an even more brief bit of sexuality and a little bit of bad language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: While this movie is set in Argentina, the original British thriller it’s based on was set in France.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There is a director’s video diary here if you like that sort of thing.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: Not available

FINAL RATING: 4/10

TOMORROW: One Day