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M. B. Alcat "Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back" (Hanoi, Vietnam)

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) [Adult Edition]
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) [Adult Edition]
by J. K. Rowling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.49

5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Going away with style..., 20 July 2007
Yesterday was July 20, 2007, a special day for all "pottermaniacs". It was once more time to wait anxiously for a new Harry Potter book. Only this was nothing less than the last book in the series. It is easy to understand that I was eager to read it, happy but feeling somewhat bereaved at the same time.

In this occasion I didn't have to wait until midnight to pick up my copy of "Harry Potter and the deathly hallows", as 8 pm in Buenos Aires (Argentina), is exactly 12 pm in London. Strangely enough, local bookstores just realized that in time for the release of Harry Potter 7, when all the pottermaniacs had to wait until after 12 pm (local hour in Argentina) for the release of previous books. But I'm digressing :)

What do I think about the new book? I believe that it is a great ending to the series, even though some of the new developments were troubling.I would like to say that I like the way in which the characters grew, and specially how Harry and his friends behaved when faced with extremely difficult choices. I don't want to tell you about what happens, because it will spoil the surprise. Just know that it is worth reading...

From my point of view, "Harry Potter and the deathly hallows" is a dark but great addition to the previous books in the "Harry Potter" series, and it brings a measure of closure to the story we started so long ago. I don't want this series to end, but if that has to happen, it is a good thing that this book allows Harry to go away with style. Highly recommended!

Belen Alcat

PS: Staying up all night in order to read this book was worth it. Now it is time to sleep...


Woodstock: History and Hearsay
Woodstock: History and Hearsay
by Anita M. Smith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £24.29

4.0 out of 5 stars An unique combination of facts and legend that manages to engage and inform the reader..., 19 Jun. 2007
"Woodstock: history and hearsay" is a history of Woodstock, even before its beginning as an arts enclave, when the land was occupied by Native Americans. This beautiful book includes both facts and legends, a unique combination that manages to engage and inform the reader, leaving him wanting to visit the place he is reading about.

Written by Anita Smith (1893-1968) and first published in 1959, this book doesn't let us know what happened after that year, but gives us plenty of clues regarding the reasons why the legendary Woodstock Festival of 1969 ended up being celebrated there. What better place, after all, than a town that always gave great importance to music and art?

This second edition of "Woodstock: history and hearsay", prepared by Weston and Julia Blelock, includes extra material that gives Smith's work the opportunity to shine even brighter. I especially enjoyed the addition of some of her paintings of the Woodstock area, not included in the first edition.

Do I need to say more? Of course, highly recommended . . . .

- Belen Alcat, June 2007 -


Cafe Lumiere [2004] [DVD]
Cafe Lumiere [2004] [DVD]
Price: £5.75

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Café Lumiere" is a peculiar movie, the kind that some love, but others hate..., 18 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Cafe Lumiere [2004] [DVD] (DVD)
"Cafe Lumiere" is the homage that Hou Hsiao-hsien, a Taiwanese director, paid to Yasujiro Ozu, a Japanese director renowned for the way in which he managed to depict the dynamics of family life and the inner life of his characters.

Did he succeed? I think so, due to the fact that he manages to put the spectator in the place of Yoko, a young woman that is pregnant but doesn't feel like marrying her boyfriend, a grown man that remains too attached to his mother. As we watch "Cafe Lumiere", we want to know what she thinks, and how she is going to react to the new development in her life. The spectator is also interested in her friend, a bookstore owner that seems romantically interested in Yoko, and that has an unlikely but strangely poetic hobby.

Are you likely to enjoy this movie? I really don't know, because "Café Lumiere" is a peculiar movie, the kind that some love, but others hate. I can tell you that it is a beautifully made film that pays extraordinary attention to little details, but that has an extremely open ending. Can you like that kind of film? According to your answer, you will know what to do...

- Belen Alcat, June 2007 -

PS: I liked "Café Lumiere" well enough to give it at least 3 stars out of 5.


Coast Guard [DVD] [2002] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Coast Guard [DVD] [2002] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £17.95

3.0 out of 5 stars How dangerous and far-reaching can an act of violence be?, 10 Jun. 2007
Did you know that South Korea's coastline is monitored by soldiers that, after dusk, shoot anybody in sight in order to prevent the infiltration of spies? I didn't, but I learnt that peculiar fact after watching "The Coast Guard" (2002).

"The Coast Guard" is directed by Kim Ki-duk, a South Korean already well-known for previous art house movies ripe with symbolism. In this case, Kim Ki-duk wanted to make a film that helped spectators to understand what Korea is going through, as a country divided in two, enduring ongoing antagonism between North and South Korea. The director believes that only through knowledge and understanding can real reconciliation be achieved, and he strived to contribute towards that end with this film.

The main character is Private Kang (Dong-Kun Jang), a soldier from the Coast Guard Platoon that accidentally shoots a civilian, believing he is a spy. That event changes his life, and that of those around him, showing us how dangerous and far-reaching an act of violence can be.

Kim Ki-duk tried to juxtapose the natural beauty of Korea with the ugliness of war, and I think that he succeeded quite well. "The Coast Guard" is a film about tragedy, fear and despair, and as such is not the kind of movie most people are likely to enjoy. All the same, I believe that it is worth watching, and that is the reason why I give it 3 stars.

- Belen Alcat, June 2007 -


Millennium Mambo [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Millennium Mambo [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £70.95

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a movie for everyone..., 5 Jun. 2007
"Millennium Mambo", directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, is not a movie for everyone. The reason why I say that is pretty simple, as not much happens, and the story is somehow slow, unless you get caught up in what is happening to the main character. I did, and that is the reason why I enjoyed this dvd...

The main character of this film is Vicky (Shu Qi), and "Millennium Mambo" is just a way to allow her to tell her story, in her words, from a very subjective point of view. Vicky is an extremely beautiful young woman that lives in Taiwan and doesn't have a clue regarding what to do with her life. But is that her fault, or is that loss of direction something that has to do with the spirit of our time? And why does she make us care?

I should point out that this movie doesn't end neatly, so those who only like that kind of ending won't find it here. "Millennium Mambo" is open-ended, in more or less the same way that Vicky's own story is in the process of changing and doesn't have real fixed limits. I find that fitting, at least for this movie, and I think that you will deem it appropriate too. Recommended!

- Belen Alcat, June 2007 -

PS: I give this movie 3.5 stars out of 5 :)


Rashomon [1950] [DVD]
Rashomon [1950] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Toshirô Mifune
Offered by silvertiplibrary
Price: £6.98

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "If men don't trust each other, this earth might as well be hell", 5 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Rashomon [1950] [DVD] (DVD)
I usually watch many kinds of different movies, but I wasn't a fan of old Asian movies, at least not until a friend lent me this beautiful classic, directed by Akira Kurosawa. Now I know what I was missing...

"Rashomon" (1950), shot in black and white, is nothing short of stunning. The first scenes show us a priest and a woodcutter taking refuge in an old temple, in order to escape from the heavy rain. A third man shows up, and they start talking about a recent crime that troubles them. Despite the fact that these men were at the trial in which those involved were judged, they don't have a clue regarding what happened, due to the fact that they hear very different versions of the events that took place that fateful day. Will the truth ever be found out? And is there such a thing as truth, or an objective point of view?

This is the first film by Kurosawa I have watched, but it won't be my last. Highly recommended ! And... thanks, Rubén :)

- Belen Alcat, June 2007 -


Triple Agent [DVD] [2004]
Triple Agent [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Serge Renko

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "How much do we know the people we love?", 5 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Triple Agent [DVD] [2004] (DVD)
"Triple agent", directed by Eric Rohmer, is a movie that is highly likely to intrigue you. Set in an interesting historical period (1936-37 France), and based more or less loosely on the true story of a Russian spy, this film comes alive thanks to splendid performances by a wonderful cast.

Fyodor Voronin (Serge Renko) is a Russian living in exile in Paris, with his beautiful Greek wife, Arsinoe (Katerina Didaskalu). Fyodor, a former general, seems to have a regular job with the Russian Army Veteran's Association, but according to some, he deals with secrets he shouldn't know about. Is he a secret agent? A double, even a triple agent? His wife doesn't know, and doesn't really seem to care too much. But how far is a little ignorance a good thing?

Trust and lies are at the center of this beautiful film, that benefits from the historical perspective given by small clips of news that from time interrupt the flow of the story. This is not my favourite film but Rohmer, but it is one that I enjoyed, despite the fact that I didn't specially enjoy the ending. Recommended...

- Belen Alcat, June 2007 -

PS: I give this film 3.5 stars. If you want to watch my favourite Rohmer film, give "L'ami de mon amie" a try.


Boffo: Tinseltown's Bombs & Blockbusters [DVD] [2006] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Boffo: Tinseltown's Bombs & Blockbusters [DVD] [2006] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "When it works, it is magic", 5 Jun. 2007
What is the difference between a blockbuster and a flop? This entertaining documentary, directed by Bill Couturié, tries to give an answer to that very difficult question, thanks to an eclectic montage of clips and interviews.

Truth to be told, "Boffo! Tinseltown's Bombs & Blockbusters" doesn't have the recipe for success in the film industry that so many would kill for, and you should know that now. I must also confess that this dvd is full of clichés, and doesn'have innovative ideas.

All the same, I liked this documentary well enough to give it 3.5 stars. The reason is simple: it is a dvd about the passion for movies, something I identify with. What is more, I enjoy watching people that feel strongly about cinema talk about something they know about, even if they don't say something new. Do you feel the same way? If that is the case, I'm pretty sure you will enjoy this documentary too.

Belen Alcat, June 2007


Das Leben der Anderen [DVD] [2007]
Das Leben der Anderen [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Ulrich Mühe
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £10.62

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "What is a director that cannot direct?", 7 May 2007
"The lives of others" (= "Das leben der anderen") is a wonderful film directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Truth to be told, I hadn't heard his name before, but I'm certain that I won't forget it now. This film, his debut as a director, is simply exceptional. An engaging political thriller, this movie is at the same time a complex study regarding the power of choices, and the way we behave when faced to our worst fears.

The story is set in East Germany in 1984, when the lack of freedom and the zeal of the Secret Police (Stasi) were pervasive. Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) is an agent that specializes in discovering "traitors", that is, those that don't agree with everything that the government says. Wiesler is very good at his job, and has no mercy for those that don't add up to his ideal of what a good socialist should be.

That is probably the reason why his superior assigns him the task of of spying on Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), a well-known socialist playwright that is nonetheless suspicious, due to his friends. Dreyman lives with his girlfriend, Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), a talented actress that loves him but has sexual trysts with a powerful government official that promises her that she will never be in the black list of artist that cannot work.

As Wiesler learns more about the couple, thanks to the hidden microphones his team installed in their apartment, he starts warming towards them. He even protects them when Dreyman becomes actively involved in "subversive" activities, as a reaction to the suicide of a friend that had been blacklisted. But how far will Wiesler risk himself? And can human beings really change?

Strangely enough, "The lives of others" tackles those difficult questions in a manner that leaves nothing to be desired, and makes you think almost involuntarily about many more that have to do with them. On the whole, I must say that I cannot recommend this film strongly enough. Please don't miss it...

Belen Alcat, May 2007


The Lives of Others [DVD] [2007]
The Lives of Others [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Ulrich Mühe

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "What is a director that cannot direct?", 7 May 2007
"The lives of others" (= "Das leben der anderen") is a wonderful film directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Truth to be told, I hadn't heard his name before, but I'm certain that I won't forget it now. This film, his debut as a director, is simply exceptional. An engaging political thriller, this movie is at the same time a complex study regarding the power of choices, and the way we behave when faced to our worst fears.

The story is set in East Germany in 1984, when the lack of freedom and the zeal of the Secret Police (Stasi) were pervasive. Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) is an agent that specializes in discovering "traitors", that is, those that don't agree with everything that the government says. Wiesler is very good at his job, and has no mercy for those that don't add up to his ideal of what a good socialist should be.

That is probably the reason why his superior assigns him the task of of spying on Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), a well-known socialist playwright that is nonetheless suspicious, due to his friends. Dreyman lives with his girlfriend, Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), a talented actress that loves him but has sexual trysts with a powerful government official that promises her that she will never be in the black list of artist that cannot work.

As Wiesler learns more about the couple, thanks to the hidden microphones his team installed in their apartment, he starts warming towards them. He even protects them when Dreyman becomes actively involved in "subversive" activities, as a reaction to the suicide of a friend that had been blacklisted. But how far will Wiesler risk himself? And can human beings really change?

Strangely enough, "The lives of others" tackles those difficult questions in a manner that leaves nothing to be desired, and makes you think almost involuntarily about many more that have to do with them. On the whole, I must say that I cannot recommend this film strongly enough. Please don't miss it...

Belen Alcat, May 2007


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