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I'm So Excited

A couple of ironies infuse this Pedro Almodòvar comedy.

The first is that the film detours from its melodrama-rich premise in favour of a pretty silly comedy.

Almodòvar has always fought the good fight keeping the woman's melodrama alive with gorgeously produced, female-centric efforts such as Volver, Talk to Her and Broken Embraces.

With I'm So Excited, Almodòvar gifts himself with a premise straight out of a big-budget Hollywood melodrama along the lines of Airport. An intercontinental flight carrying a variety of passengers -- one is famous, one is notorious, one is eccentric and a couple are criminals -- is en route from Madrid to Mexico City when the landing gear fails. Suddenly, passengers and crew must face the fact they may not live to see their final destination.

But the Spanish director perversely concocts a frothy, campy comedy -- Almodòvar at his most madcap.

While airborne, the situation comes to the attention of the plane's bisexual pilot and co-pilot -- yes they're both bisexual -- and filters to the first-class, and ultra-gay flight attendants, Joserra (Javier C°mara), Fajas (Carlos Areces) and Ulloa (Raù Arévalo).

They proceed to surreptitiously drug the second-class passengers and crew with a sedative, a strategy that apparently serves Almodòvar's prejudice that only people rich enough to afford first class will be interesting to the movie audience.

Bruna (the lovable Lola Dueñas of Volver and Broken Embraces) is a virgin psychic who can't intuit how this crisis will resolve, but she knows she would like to lose her virginity before it does. Norma (Cecilia Roth) is a former madam who has collected a library of incriminating evidence against Spain's most rich and powerful. Mr. Más (José Luis Torrijo) is a disgraced CEO who is facing prosecution, but in this life-and-death situation, is haunted by his alienation from his daughter, who now works as a dominatrix. Ricardo (Ricardo Galán) is a playboy movie star whose efforts to make amends to a girlfriend have strange repercussions down below.

The second irony of I'm So Excited is that the women are so much more interesting than the men. Almodòvar has always written interesting females, but given that so may of the male characters are gay or bisexual, it's dismaying how they come off as caricatured compared to the inevitably fascinating Almodòvar femmes.

All in all, this is a light, silly, pansexual summer comedy that might be all the more appreciated in this bitter winter.  ** 1/2 out of five


Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

This second film in the Percy Jackson series is, like the first, a somewhat belaboured attempt to wrangle the targeted kid audience into classic mythology.

Percy (Logan Lerman) is the bastard son of Poseidon -- imagine Perseus as a member of a boy band -- on a mission to protect Camp Halfblood, a refuge for the offspring of gods and humans like himself.

When that protected turf is breached, Percy seeks the Golden Fleece, a mystical skin that can cure any ill, in the Bermuda Triangle, a.k.a. the sea of monsters. Along with his usual buds (Brandon T. Jackson as a satyr, Leven Rambin as a warrior-woman, Alexandra Daddario as a goddess of the smokin' hot variety), Percy learns he has a half-brother who is also a cyclops (Douglas Smith). A much larger and more dangerous cyclops bars their way to the Golden Fleece.

Director Thor Freudenthal takes the directing reins from Chris Columbus and delivers a fairly satisfactory adventure in which big monsters -- including a gold mechanical bull and a hippocampus -- are far more impressive than the humanoid creatures. (The three oracles, who all share a single eye, are especially annoying.)

Watch for a cameo by Nathan Fillion as Hermes, the operator of a demi-god delivery service. Fillion gets to make a joke targeted particularly to Firefly fans, proving the movie's definition of classic evidently encompasses both ancient mythology and contemporary cult TV. ** 1/2 out of five

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 9, 2014 C12

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