Tag Archives: Italy

La Vita e Bella: Life is Beautiful

This movie has been a personal favorite of mine. It’s touching and heartwarming nature, despite the context and parts of the film, have made it a classic since the day it came out (December of 1997 to be exact). Pulling off the feeling of being filmed at the time of the content’s occurrance, this atypical film about the Holocaust and its effect on a recently formed and loving family reshapes just exactly what the years of WWII were. And I would argue, for the purpose of this film at least, that despite all the death and destruction, there was an underlying element of hope.

There are two halves to this movie. Sorta like Hostel. Not one parts boobs and one part blood (not to degrade this film to a horror movie, as good as that horror movie may have been for the genre). This particular movie is one part love and whimsy and one part survival and protection. Directed, written, and starring who I would consider to be the

Greatest family of all time? Yes.

greatest foreign actor of all time, Roberto Benigni, comes a movie that holds within it just what it means to be a decent human being in a time of great struggle. Begnini plays Guido Orefice, a peasantly and pleasantly kind and funny man out to make his way in Italy. He finds love, adventure, and the courage to do for his son what I imagine would be the hardest thing on Earth.

Ahhhh, true love of the silver screen.

Let’s start with the beginning of the movie to keep it light. Guido comes to meet this beautiful girl while travelling with his friend. This brings about one of the greatest lines of all time. “Buongiorno Principessa!” Upon every time that Guido runs into the love of his life Dora (Nicoletta Braschi, his actual wife) he utters this phrase, surprising her and sweeping her off her feet with love. Eventually, through his slapstick-like antics, he goes out of his way to encounter Dora and steal her from the stiff and businesslike man who has been arranged to marry her.

A wonderful duo.

I have to say that I love these opening scenes in this movie. With the first 50 minutes of the film comes some of the best crafted scenes of chance and happenstance that I’ve seen in any similarly styled movie. Convincing an Italian government man to eat what someone else didn’t want, attending the school in which Dora works by impersonating that man, and mesmerising Dora with all the things that happen on their romantic date in the rain is just straight out of the older films of the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. By even evoking this style comes a sort of magic you wouldn’t expect from a movie of the 90’s.

And then comes the turn. Happily married, Guido, Dora, and their small

A father who will do anything for his son.

wonderful child Giosue (Joshua, performed by Giorgio Cantarini) live happily in a fantastic old mansion of Guido’s uncle’s. In the rising regime of the Italians comes Mussolini and his sympathies and alliances with Hitler. What does that mean exactly? That means the persecution of Jews. Guido, a Jew himself is hauled off one day with Giosue and his uncle. Being the person that he is and the fun and laughable father that every child would need at Giosue’s age, Guido comes up with the idea to shield his son from what is actually going on around him in the Italian Axis Nazi camp.

The ultimate sacrifice.

Throughout the second half of the movie, there is still humor. There is still love felt between Dora and Guido and the son they have raised. But there is a looming danger of death around any corner. Giosue must hide at all times from the German guards in order to avoid the gas chambers that eliminate the young and elderly. Guido must perform hard labor in the yards with next to no food, water, or rest. And yet, every day Guido comes to find some way to describe their experience in this concentration camp as a game. A game, that, if won, will bring the winner a tank. Through every loving action of his father, Giosue comes to realize, as an adult we never actually see, that his father made the ultimate sacrifice in order to save him and his mother.

This is wonderful to know. Life truly is beautiful.

With a heartbreakingly sad scene towards the end, you still see Guido shining until the very end. Guido and Giosue are never in pain, never upset, never crying or despairing over their situation. Despite what every viewer of this movie knows about the Holocaust and what could happen to any of these characters, you have this hope for them that they will make it out. And, if not, you realize just how amazing of a dad that Guido truly is. If I had to give him a level of Dad Points for this film, he would set the high for it. Let’s see:

In the course of this film he:

1. Finds love and creates a child.

2. Cares for that child so deeply that he will do anything in order to make his son’s life better and despair free.

3. Sacrifices his life in order to save his son’s and his wife’s.

4. His son remembers the sacrifice his father gave and is forever indebted to him.

5. Guido as a dad was just to legit to quit.

You bring together all of these elements and you have a Dad that gives a million and one percent. For sure. And, told in one of the most amazingly

Buongiorno Principessa!

heartfelt and romantic ways possible for any film of this genre, and you have made a classic ahead of its time. I am in love with this film. Its title truly does justice to what the aim of this film was. Life is Beautiful. So appreciate it while you have it and know that with the love and life you put into it, great things can come of it. 10 out of 10.

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Assassin’s Creed II

Now I haven’t done a game review in a long time, but this game needs to be blogged about. I’m a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise and I now have recently acquired all the games. It’s not just the gameplay, that’s pretty standard throughout the games. For me, it’s the plot. The intricacies of the game and the secrets uncovered are just earth shattering. This particular game takes place in Italy, more particularly, Venice. With accurate building schematics and a bevy of real life characters altered to fit the contexts of the game, there is nothing that stands in the way of this game being just as good as the first and just as good as all the others.

This games kicks off with a little bit of a continuation from the last. Desmond Miles is a test subject under the jurisdiction of Abstergo, known as the Animus project. There’s this bastard, Warren Vidic, who has kept you holed up for way too long. The entire first game takes place in this testing laboratory in which there is no outside contact and no concept of what exactly is going on. Desmond is forced, through

The city is yours. Lay waste to it.

futuristic technology, to relive the past lives of his ancestors, members of a special assassin’s guild. First it’s Altair, and now it’s Ezio Auditore da Firenze. I’m gonna give a nod to Roger Craig Smith for the voice acting on that one. Ezio is a strong protagonist who really thrives on the revenge of his family’s death and he will do absolutely anything to fulfill it.

How is this not breathtaking?

And, through the course of the game, you parkour, slice, and lay waste to the guards and streets of Italy as you travel from your home base of your Uncle Mario (“It’s a me, Mario!”) and all over Florence, San Gimignano, Forli, Venice, and Rome. Let me tell you, the sneaking and wreaking of havoc all over the Vatican is something to remember. It almost makes me want to travel there in order to find the secret hidden underneath. The famous buildings all over every city is quite exquisite and down to the last detail correct. There’s an element of National Treasure/Indiana Jones (more the latter) in all of the hidden seals you must find in order to unlock the armor of Altair, sealing your memories of the two assassins together.

Let’s talk about the gameplay here. Okay, the free run system, I would like to argue, is one of the most advanced and best of any game currently on the market. Flowing consistently through every game, Ezio can run through the streets and, at any moment, you can be scaling a building and jumping from rooftop to rooftop. For those of you who know the game, you feel like a combination of Spiderman without the tights, and Batman with all his gadgets, just a bit more lethal though. And that’s another thing. Weapons. There is a damn shizzload of them. Throwing knives, double hidden blades (even poisoned), and swords and maces out the whazoo. With lots of different armor combos and capes to conceal and run train, this game leaves no battle up to chance.

Talk about intricacy...

Speaking of battling in the game, there’s a whole new stock of finishing moves to discover. With every weapon comes a new way to kill. You can even pick up the weapons of fallen enemies in order to exact your revenge. I gotta say, try the pike, its magnificent. And another nice thing about the game is that it’s one difficulty. That leaves it accessible to those who can figure out how to play the game and doesn’t get much more difficult. The achievements are easy to unlock and master, leaving you with a heightened sense of achievement. I can really appreciate a game that doesn’t make an achievement secret or ridiculously hard to master. There is only one achievement that I find to be the bane of my existence. The feathers. How is that a fair task to put to Ezio? Those feathers are impossible to sight in a free run on the map and to collect 100 of them? Those with a lot of free time can try to figure that out…

But this all comes back to the plot and characters. The Medici family, Borgia and all the villains

Awwwww yeah da Vinci.

politically connected. The tragic story of the Firenzes and the use of Leonardo da Vinci in the game. It’s just a big eye opener. For sure, you have to discover the secret video files in all of the hidden areas of the cities. It’s connection to the origins of the world and the suggestion to the end of it really blew me away. It may seem a bit hard to follow or, on the flipside, contrived and a bit hard to believe, but, in the end, it really made me want to believe what I was witnessing. And I can’t wait to play the next two. These games just keep getting better. A definite 10 out of 10.

Get to work. It's time to run train.


The Rite

I gotta tell you, I’m a sucker for exorcist/devil related films. Any horror movie that tries new ways to prove the Devil walks the earth, I’m on board with believing it. These movies are usually more frightening than gore/slasher/paranormal films. Why? There are a lot of people out there who pray for their immortal souls. Why? Because demons and the Devil himself walk among us, waiting to corrupt us and enter our bodies. In The Rite’s case, no human being is an exception. We are all judge and condemned by spiritual forces. By God himself.

Now, I’m a realist. But I love losing myself in movies like this. Any preacher/demon interaction scenes give me goosebumps.

Colin O'Donoghue. Didn't know he was Irish...

A good shaking of the faith scene here and there is good too. And I love directors/writers who push the boundaries on exactly what it means to be possessed. Different symbolical entities that manifest themselves in unspeakable ways are always something of an interest of mine. Without a strong biblical background, I love the ways the Bible is used to push the envelope with demons and what they can do on a mortal plane.

But anyways, enough of my obsession with the possessed. This movie follows the religious experiences of one Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue). I’ve not seen this guy in any other films, but I was quite impressed with his “I don’t believe in faith” performance and the scientific approach he took. But Michael has two options in his father Istvan’s (Rutger Hauer) eyes. He can either pursue the life of a mortician or that of a priest/preacher. Choosing the less morbid/path his father didn’t choose, Michael begins his training as a priest.

Michael's first experience with an exorcism.

But his faith has never taken any form in Michael. And so Michael’s religious teacher, Father Matthew (Toby Jones) (Great little performance from a great English actor.) suggests Michael take an exorcism class in Italy. It is here that, with no faith in Father Xavier’s (Ciaran Hinds) teaching, is asked to seek the exorcistic teachings of Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins). And with this, Michael is shown the tricks of the Devil, and the demons in himself he must conquer.

Now, I need to extoll how good Anthony Hopkins performance is. For the first half of the movie, he plays the nonchalant exorcist. This guy goes around curing people of the Devil himself, no big deal. This guy could care less about whether or not Michael believes in the Devil. He plays the carefree teacher who doesn’t care about his pupil. But then, out of nowhere, due to a shaken faith, Anthony Hopkins channels straight Hannibal Lecter. Could not believe where this came from (can’t tell). But you have to watch how amazingly evil Anthony Hopkins becomes. (Interesting note, there’s a mention of a “Welsh priest.” Coincidence that a movie based on true events would include a role with a Welsh older man? Gotta be fate, or gotta be Hopkins.)

Another little kudos for this movie: special effects. There are 3 scenes in which computer graphics are

Anthony Hopkins. Are you scared yet?

employed. That’s it. Everything else: make-up artists/actual tricks of the camera. When a movie can pull of subtle elements of horror without overdoing the special fx function, then it deserves to be noticed. I feel as if this movie was overlooked as far as horror movies go. This movie has a great balance of horror and plot. Something to watch and take stock in. And that’s worth the few intense horror scenes that’re shown. This movie almost felt like it was the prequel/setup for The Exorcist. (Michael Kovak goes to Chicago to be a priest. Coincidence?)

Pray for your sins. The Devil is coming.

Great Italy shots of Rome and Vatican City. Beautiful buildings to function as B-roll between scenes. The buildings looked (could have been?) Actual religious buildings in Vatican City. It was a great visual experience. I give credit to Mikael Hafstrom, the director of this film. Having some horror movies under his belt already, this Swede really has it down in his 13th film. So thank you, all that worked on this exorcism film. It was great. 8.8 out of 10.


Have a MSWHITE Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! I have a short album review today for MSWHITE’s debut album, “Squares.” If you like the disjointed, yet melodic music of Norma Jean coupled with the drumming and singing of Underoath, then this band is probably right up your alley. On my way to Grandma’s (no joke) today, I decided to spice up my Christmas by listening to this album. To tell the truth, this album in its entirety is nothing too special.  Andrea Arcari needs work on his vocals to make it in a country where screamo is standard. Yes, MSWHITE is from Italy and may be the big thing in underground Italian screamo, but I feel to make it over here, they need to harness their canoli’s a bit more. The album starts off quite uniformly from “A Snake Biting its Tail” to “Young, Brave, Analog” and from there, the potential is rising. The instrumental track “V.I.T.R.I.O.L.” gives the feeling of Underoath’s “Define the Great Line” album. “Primavera” enters the album, giving it  a heavier side to it, and the album finishes strong with “22 Dots, 22 Stripes.” Overall, this album shows that this band has potential in the wide expanse that is screamo/alternative. I give the album 5 out of 10 and look forward to more music from them.

Here’s a little sample from MSWHITE, their single of the album, titled, “I Breathe the Sun.”