Video Corner

By Kam Williams

The Sea Inside, (Mar Adentro)

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13
In Spanish, Catalan and Galician with subtitles.

Based on the autobiography of Ramon Sampedro, a quadriplegic whose right-to-die case became something of a cause celebre in Spain, this Best Foreign Film Oscar-winner was directed by Alejandro Amenabar. The picture chronicles the 28-year crusade to legalize euthanasia mounted by Ramon in the wake of the tragic diving accident that left him paralyzed while still in the bloom of youth.
It stars Javier Bardem who exhibits an impressive range of emotions as Sampedro, in spite of the limitations inherent in playing the bed-ridden protagonist. Most of the film transpires on his family’s farm in Galicia, where Sampedro is lucky enough to enjoy a panoramic view of a rolling hillside while being attended to by his father (Joan Dalmau), brother (Celso Baglio), sister-in-law (Mabel Rivera) and nephew (Tomar Novas).

The ensuing gut-wrenching drama that unfolds involves two women with diametrically opposed agendas. Ramon’s lawyer, Julia (Belen Rueda), sympathizes with her client’s predicament because she herself is suffering from a degenerative disease. And then there’s salt-of-the-earth Rosa (Lola Duenas), a factory worker and single-mom intent on convincing Ramon that he still has much to live for. A most unlikely romantic triangle evolves, resulting in a tender tug-of-war for both the man’s brain and his heartstrings.

Besides addressing the obvious right-to-die issue, “The Sea Inside” simultaneously makes significant statements about the meaning of loyalty, love, fear, justice, morality, relationship, friendship and of life itself. Bardem grades out highly for rising to the challenge of playing a person immobilized from the neck down. Director Amenabar does assist a bit in this regard via several escapes into magical realism during daydream sequences.


Team America: World Police

Poor (0 stars)
Rated R

Don’t be misled into believing that “Team America: World Police” is a wholesome puppet flick appropriate for young and old alike. Despite its patriotic plot line revolving around a squad of super-heroes out to save the United States from a terrorist attack, the film also involves enough graphic depictions and lurid descriptions of explicit sexual acts that it deserved an NC-17 rating.
Who’s responsible for peddling this smut so seductively wrapped in red, white and blue trimming? No surprise, it’s Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the brains behind “South Park,” the irreverent cable-TV cartoon series with its own cast of foul-mouthed kids.

“Team America” is pretty much an in-house effort, with Parker directing and sharing a scriptwriting credit with Stone, while the two also supplying the bulk of the voice for the marionettes. The pair do dreadful, lazily-executed, one-note impressions of well-known celebs such as Janeane Garofalo, Danny Glover, Alec Baldwin, Samuel L. Jackson, Ethan Hawke, George Clooney, Martin Sheen, Liv Tyler, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Michael Moore, ridiculing each for their liberal activities.

This makes the movie seem more like an arch-conservative rant than comedy. But far worse is the offensive ethnic stereotyping. For instance, Trey’s caricature of Kim Jong Il milks most of its humor out of the diminutive North Korean leader’s mixing-up the letters “l” and “r” when speaking.

The film repeatedly suggests that it’s okay to hate people just for being different. Perhaps it’s unfair to expect more from such a sleazy, cheesy, sophomoric production, but it’s hard to imagine that anyone would be interested in such an irredeemable exhibition of ethnic intolerance and moral depravity.

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