Over his 44-year career behind the camera, Clint Eastwood has time and again shown himself to be one of the finest American filmmakers working today. Now the notoriety and controversy swirling around his latest, American Sniper, has handed the 84-year-old director of Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby his biggest hit to date. It’s the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), the deadliest marksman in US military history, with 160 confirmed kills clocked up on four tours of Iraq. Based on Kyle’s own 2012 memoir, the film has been accused of oversimplifying the Iraq conflict and glorifying its death-dispatching central character. On the other hand, both Eastwood and Cooper have defended it as an anti-war movie that, through its portrait of Kyle’s difficulties adjusting to life back home with wife Sienna Miller, examines the neglect of returning war vets. Make up your own mind when it is released in Spanish cinemas this week.
From director Jorge Gutierrez, guided by producer Guillermo del Toro, The Book of Life is an exuberant and colorful digitally animated folk tale rooted in Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival. Guitarist and reluctant bullfighter Manolo is vying with warrior-type Joaquín for the hand of the vivacious María. Observing their contest, spirits La Catrina, queen of the vibrant Land of the Remembered, and Xibalba, chief of the desolate Land of the Forgotten, place a wager on which of the pair will be successful, threatening a ruler role reversal and setting Manolo off on an epic journey through the underworld. Featuring the voices of Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum and Ice Cube, the movie may be American-made but its sensibility is as Mexican as tequila and tacos, from the folkloric storyline to the wild, charmingly lopsided design, featuring characters rendered like Day of the Dead wooden dolls. Moving at a whip-crack pace, its intricate animated world keeps you ever under its spell, even when the story occasionally starts to drag.