In “Bird Box Barcelona,” Staying Close to the Nest Brings Both Blessings and Blunders

‘Bird Box Barcelona’

The 2018 thriller “Bird Box” quietly arrived on Netflix but soon became a massive hit, primarily due to two factors. Firstly, it starred the ever-popular Sandra Bullock as a resilient survivor in the aftermath of an apocalyptic event. Secondly, the film’s gripping plot, adapted from a novel by John Malerman, sparked a wave of memes and viral challenges where people imitated the characters’ blindfolded struggle, as they faced mysterious paranormal entities that drove people to suicide upon direct eye contact.

“Bird Box Barcelona” is more of a companion film rather than a direct sequel, and as such, it might not reach the same level of sensation. The movie jumps back and forth in time, depicting the impact of the invasion on Sebastián (Mario Casas), a Spaniard who tragically loses his wife and becomes determined to protect their daughter, Anna (Alejandra Howard). In his quest to find safety, Sebastián embarks on perilous journeys with questionable companions. Along the way, he meets the capable Claire (Georgina Campbell), who, with valid reasons, worries about Sebastián’s reliability as a traveling companion.

Taking some risks, the new writer-director duo, Álex and David Pastor, present Sebastián as a somewhat unstable hero. However, overall, this “Bird Box” installment follows a similar path to its predecessor. The threat remains intentionally enigmatic, represented through eerie sounds and levitating debris, functioning as a metaphor for any viewer’s individual fears—be it climate change, pandemics, or fanatics—leaving the interpretation open-ended.

The Pastors craft suspenseful sequences, and just like the first film, it’s intriguing to see how survivors adapt to the challenge of keeping their eyes closed as much as possible. Yet, the persistent refusal to define the antagonist made the original “Bird Box” occasionally feel generic, resembling yet another apocalyptic tale, with a “TBA” sign in place of a well-defined apocalypse. Regrettably, the “Barcelona” edition echoes the flaws of the first film, making it a somewhat repetitive experience.

‘The Jewel Thief’

In 1998, a Canadian man in his mid-20s executed a daring heist at Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace, where he replaced Empress Elisabeth’s diamond-and-pearl star with a replica from the palace gift shop. The audacious crime remained unsolved for almost a decade, and even today, the authorities are baffled about the methods used by Gerald Blanchard to accomplish it. In the documentary “The Jewel Thief,” directed by Landon Van Soest, Blanchard chooses not to divulge the details, as he fears potential charges in Europe despite having served time in a Canadian jail. Nevertheless, the film delves into other aspects of his criminal exploits, including numerous bank heists he carried out.

Although the theft of the Sisi Star is just a small part of “The Jewel Thief,” the documentary primarily focuses on Blanchard’s remarkable talent for burglary. From a young age, Blanchard had a chip on his shoulder and directed his intelligence towards two pursuits: outsmarting security systems and documenting his adventurous life. Van Soest uses archival footage dating back to Blanchard’s teenage years, showcasing how he and his friends engaged in stealing from gas stations. Additionally, the film incorporates audio from police wiretaps, revealing early encounters with Canadian law enforcement as they investigated Blanchard’s activities.

Throughout “The Jewel Thief,” Blanchard provides interviews, though he avoids in-depth self-analysis, and the movie follows a similar approach. The reenactments of the crimes are presented in a straightforward “just the facts” manner, devoid of sensationalism. Nonetheless, it remains engrossing to learn about Blanchard’s prolific criminal ventures before eventually facing the consequences of his actions. He emerges as part cunning thief, part Type-A task manager, with an insatiable urge to exploit vulnerabilities in stores, museums, or banks.

“The Jewel Thief” is rated TV-MA for language and has a runtime of 1 hour and 40 minutes. The documentary is available for streaming on Hulu.

‘The Attachment Diaries’

In Valentín Javier Diment’s visually stunning and passionately extravagant Argentine art film, “The Attachment Diaries,” one could attempt to label it as a melodrama, much like Pedro Almodóvar’s works, but that would not fully capture Diment’s unique twist on the genre—a twist that resists simple explanation. Jimena Anganuzzi portrays Carla, a pregnant woman seeking an abortion, who turns to a doctor named Irina (Lola Berthet) for help. However, when Irina reveals that Carla is too far along for the procedure, she proposes an alternative plan: Carla can move in with Irina, and together, they will arrange to sell the baby to a wealthy couple.

This initial premise is just the first of the peculiar twists that “The Attachment Diaries” takes. As the story unfolds, Carla and Irina develop an intense bond, leading them to protect each other fiercely, even resorting to violence. Diment gradually intensifies the elements of exploitation throughout the movie, introducing explicit scenes and a fair amount of gore. Around two-thirds into the film, he dramatically changes the visual style, shifting from the pristine black-and-white of the first hour to a garish and vibrant color palette. Unfortunately, the movie’s rushed and convoluted conclusion, along with a lack of a coherent central theme, prevents “The Attachment Diaries” from reaching the level of success achieved by Almodóvar’s films. Nevertheless, for enthusiasts of provocative cinema that explores the intersection of art and sensuality, this film presents itself as a deliciously dark indulgence.

“The Attachment Diaries” is presented in Spanish with subtitles and is not rated. It has a runtime of 1 hour and 42 minutes and is available on various video-on-demand platforms.

Also on VOD

“The Flood” unapologetically embraces the nostalgia of drive-in-movie classics, skillfully weaving together two thrilling and pulpy plots. In one strand, mercenaries cunningly take over an understaffed prison, setting the stage for intense and suspenseful confrontations. Concurrently, in the other narrative thread, enormous alligators wreak havoc on everyone trapped inside, following torrential rains that have turned the surrounding streets into a vast lake. While the visual effects may appear modest, the Louisiana accents are exaggerated, and the characters lack depth, the film finds its charm in the enthusiastic performances of seasoned B-movie stars. Nicky Whelan portrays a tough sheriff, Casper Van Dien embodies a notorious criminal, and Louis Mandylor takes on the role of the raiders’ leader—all of them fully committing to the movie’s delightfully cheesy spirit. “The Flood” is available for viewing on various video-on-demand platforms.

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