Saturday, February 20, 2016

What's new on Netflix:Marshland (La Isla Minima)

Due to the fact that Mother Nature has not yet released her grip on winter, I've been staying in and catching up with films and TV shows that I've not had the chance to watch. Marshland or La Isla Minima, as it was called in it's native Spain is a 2014 movie dealing with two detectives from Madrid traveling to a small town in Andalusia to investigate the disappearance of two sisters. The setting is the first years of the fledgling democracy after Franco's death and the secrecy and fear still present in the society. Implied is the fact that these detectives are being punished by taking the case. The younger wrote a scathing letter about a general to a newspaper. The elder has secrets as well but they are part of the story.

The most compelling aspect of this piece is the cinematography in which the camera manages to frame the scenery and action as if it's on an artists canvas. Impressive since the locations are mostly ugly small towns and marshlands.  Special mention also goes to the actors, especially the two leads who manage to take sparse, undefined characters and make them seem human and not heroes or villains.  Indeed this story is more of a character piece, with it's slow pace rather than the American fast pace cop dramas. Finally it is a male dominated film and there are no lead females, but  the women of the villages are the ones who help the story along by serendipitously giving information that leads to the real culprit.

The only real weakness of the movie is that the actual story has been done numerous times, indeed if one is a fan of crime drama, the actual culprit becomes clear partway through. Most reviews link it to the True Detective genre and while the atmosphere is the same, the crimes and pace are very different. I'd urge anyone who likes foreign films with subtitles or anyone who enjoys crime drama to check out this Spanish thriller.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Why the best SciFi show of 2016 is from Spain.

A year ago on my blog I reviewed a new Spanish TV series called El Ministerio del Tiempo  or The Ministery of Time. The premise is that during Queen Isabella of Spain’s rule she found out about a series of doors that transports people throughout Spanish history. Naturally, she dedicated a ministry to it and only a select few persons including the Spanish PM know of it.  In the first season we met three new recruits, Amelia a brainy university student from the 1880s, Alonso, a soldier from the 1500s and Julian, a medic who’s wife was killed by a car in 2012. The series followed their adventures in trying to steer history in the right direction if the doors have been breached by others. At the end of the series, Amelia met her granddaughter and found out that she and Julian may or may not have had a daughter together. Julian tried to go back to save his wife and ended up facilitating her death instead.

The second series opens with Julian returning to the Ministry after months of therapy and instead of returning to his group, he is relegated to being in charge of the infirmary. Amelia and Alonso are assigned to go back in the time of El Cid to see why there are two sets of bones supposedly of El Cid.

The reasons why I love this show are below:

-The mixture of drama and humor. While there is a history lesson in every show, the second series shows enough humor to let you know this is not to be taken seriously. The plot is tightly written and understandable.

-The characters feel three dimensional. Rather than being stereotypes, most of the characters feel real-like you can meet them on the street. That is in no small part to the quality of actors from the veteran Nacho Fresnado who plays Alonso to Aura Garrido, who seems more sure of her character Amelia and has emerged as a wonderful female role model able to be smart but not play into the quippy, flirtatious River Song ideal of SciFi women. I enjoyed her character immensely and am interested in how she evolves.

-It’s a great way to learn modern Castillian. The RTVE website for the show includes Spanish subtitles so you can follow along easier. 

With the void left from a Doctor Who-less 2016, Javier Olvidares and the other writers of  MdT have written a top notch time travel show. I can only hope that an English speaking network buys the show and translates it into English so others around the globe can enjoy it as much as I.