There are secrets in a lot of people's eyes, but the one thing that isn't a secret in the eyes of the Academy members that select the Oscar winners is that they love maudlin shit. I went to see The Secret in Their Eyes with average expectations, unsure of how much I've trusted Argentina since Eva Peron kicked the bucket, but lately, it is a country that seems to be beating its chest, what with their World Cup dominance and winning an Academy Award for best foreign film. What I got in exchange for my neutral outlook was something vaguely resembling a telenovela. And if I wanted that, I could just watch Univision or Ugly Betty.

The story begins, like so many stories, in the present. Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) is a recently retired investigator for the court in Buenos Aires. With all of his newly acquired free time, he finds himself dwelling on a case that began in 1974, and never truly resolved itself. Plagued by what is referred to as the Morales case, Esposito decides to sit down and write a book about it. He finds himself unable to stick with an introduction until he talks with his old boss and the love of his life, Irene Hastings (Soledad Villamil). Writer-director Juan José Campanella weaves the present with the past rather effortlessly, and somehow makes the 1970s look like a fairly dynomite time to live in (in spite of the existence of catch phrases like dynomite and the whole stagflation thing taking the world by storm).

Esposito essentially falls in love with Irene the moment he sees her, and his affection for her is only partially deterred when a homicide/rape case crops up involving a woman named Liliana Colotto (Carla Quevedo). When Esposito informs her husband, Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago), of what befell his wife, it is as though they have an immediate personal connection, Esposito all too aware of being consumed by love for a woman who has been taken from him. Unfortunately, in what is the norm for South American justice, the police are more concerned with pinning the crime on anyone rather than actually solving it. This leads Esposito to enlist the help of his alcoholic and, accordingly, ribald friend, Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella).

After some highly precise detective work that involves poring through most of Morales' photo albums, Esposito notices one man in particular that keeps giving Liliana a "rape face" (you know, staring, wide eyes, tongue sticking out, that type of thing. Walk down Crenshaw in booty shorts if you can't picture it). The man in question, Isidoro Gomez (Javier Godino) is actually apprehended within a year, but then released early instead of carrying out his life sentence due to the handiwork of a nemesis of Esposito's seeking retaliation. The plot sort of drags on from there, detailing the power and energizing effects of avengement and unfulfilled desire. I'll leave it at this though: The ending has the same eeriness of discovering Norman Bates' dead mother rotting in the basement at the conclusion of Psycho.

Micmacs à Tire-Larigot, which translates to "Non-stop Shenanigans," doesn't quite live up to the title or the typical amazingness of a Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie. While it follows a similar formula to that of Jeunet fan favorites Amélie and Delicatessen, it is possibly for that very reason that there seems to be something overly stylized, overly conventional (for Jeunet) about this addition to his directorial repertoire.

Our introduction to Bazil (Dany Boon) is vaguely reminiscent of the one in Amélie, wherein we are shown a childhood shrouded in tragedy. In this case, Bazil's father is killed by the war artillery manufactured by two major weapon companies, one specializing in bullets and the other in land mines. The tragedy does not end there for Bazil, and no, it's not just because he grows up to work in a video store and repeat the dialogue to The Big Sleep to himself while waiting for a customer to come in. A random shooting outside of the video store results in catastrophe when the gun falls onto the floor, goes off, and hits Bazil right in the forehead. The sadness could've ended there, but no, Bazil had to survive.

After spending a bit of time in the hospital, Bazil reemerges into the world to find that his apartment has been leased and his job has been given to someone else. And yeah, it does represent how every cog in the wheel can be ruthlessly replaced. But unlike others, who might be inclined to jump into the Seine, Bazil hangs out and uses cardboard boxes as blankets. One day, while dancing in the street for money, Bazil is found by another guttersnipe called Placard who offers him refuge in the comfort of a group of other misfits and societal rejects.

Bazil quickly grows close with his adopted family, particularly with the blonde contortionist (quelle surprise). But Bazil's gratitude is temporarily trumped by the discovery that the man responsible for manufacturing the bullet that is lodged in his head works in a building directly across from the man responsible for manufacturing the land mine that killed his father during the war (which war, I don't know, there's too fucking many to choose from). It is then and there that a plan is hatched in Bazil's bulleted brain: Pit these two men against each other until their desire for vengeance destroys them.

It is after a few rather insignificant attempts at sabotage that Bazil realizes he could use the help of his ragtag gang. Hilarity ensues, etc., etc. and presumably there is an underlying message about arms dealing, but Micmacs is something of a disappointment after waiting for five years for Jeunet to direct a new movie. I'm not saying he should have stopped at A Very Long Engagement, but I might if the next effort doesn't bowl me over.

It doesn't matter what Spain does or, more accurately, doesn't do. Its unapologetic economic languishment is irrelevant as long as they've still got a filmically productive Pedro Almodovar. With the auteur's most recent emotionally wrought effort, Broken Embraces, the country's state of atrophy is more than forgivable. Employing his muse for the fourth time, Penelope Cruz stars as the tragic character of Lena, an aspiring actress who occasionally falls victim to the monetary temptations of hooking, but generally works as a secretary for a Spanish mogul named Ernesto Martel. Promotional poster for Los Abrazos Rotos

Although Lena is determined to live honestly in her quest to make it as an actress, her father is unexpectedly diagnosed with stomach cancer and her family cannot afford the medical expenses of a sympathetic doctor. Enter an eager Ernesto, just waiting to pounce on the opportunity to make Lena feel indebted. At first she tries to go back to the bordello (under the pseudonym Severine), but Ernesto already knows about her alternate occupation and calls her as soon as she reenlists. This foils her plans completely, forcing her to ask Ernesto for the money as a secretary, not a prostitute.

She works hard for the money: Lena becomes the mistress of the wealthy Ernesto Martel because, let's face it, having money is much better than not having money, regardless of having to let an old man lie on top of you

The other side of the coin in this story is writer-director Mateo Blanco, who we are introduced to as Harry Caine, a blind scriptwriter who picks up women that offer to help him cross the street. Initially, Almodovar does not weave the two plots together; in fact, it seems like each story could be its own separate film. Mateo's agent, Judit (Volver's Blanca Portillo), along with her son, Diego (Tamar Novas), often visit Mateo to make sure he's okay and to collaborate with him on various film projects. It is not until Diego mixes MDMA with a bit of meth laced with Coke (the soda kind, just to be clear) that the entire story unfolds, including the reason for Mateo's blindness. Diego's curiosity about a man named Ray X who comes to Mateo with an idea for a movie irritates and unnerves his mother before she leaves to scout locations in Barcelona. After Diego recovers from his ill-fated journey into clubland narcotics, Mateo offers to tell him why Judit is so afraid of Ray X, a disturbed and newly open homosexual that just so happens to be the recently deceased Ernesto Martel's son.

Evoking a Spanish Marilyn

At this point, the two disjointed stories merge into one and Almodovar settles into the visual aestheticism that is Penelope Cruz. Like any man who likes men, Almodovar knows what makes a woman beautiful. He is a master in the field of cultivating the most attractive features of his feminine inspiration. He centers entire scenes around Cruz's elegance and allure, finding any excuse to dress her up garishly, as with the donning of a variety of wigs before Mateo shoots the film Girls and Suitcases and in the scene in which she puts on the most ostentatious gold necklace to be worn since the musical heyday of MGM.

Lena stars as the daffy heroine of a screwball comedy entitled "Girls and Suitcases"

Almodovar may have evolved his directorial tactics over the years, but the intensity of his scripts and the overall presence of a karmic balance remains evident in what is undoubtedly the best foreign film of 2009.

Yojimbo is the 1961 samurai classic from Akira Kurosawa. Toshiro Mifune plays the baddest badass samurai of all time, Sanjuro. Here's a small glimpse of how amazingly badass our samurai is, with one of his many brilliant one-liners:

I'm not dying yet. I have to kill quite a few men first.

Death Trance, (2005) directed by Yuji Shimomura, is a crazy over the top story about a coffin and it's magical powers that it can grant your wildest dreams. I really don't know how they came up with this but, I thank God they did.

Just give me back my coffin and I won't kill you

In the alternate reality that is Death Trance, there are bunch of monks protecting a mysterious coffin. They turn away all who come to claim it by turning them into stone figures. The film opens with an unknown warrior (Tak Sakaguchi) attacking the monastery and he kicks some serious monk ass. He destroys all comers and steals the coffin, which is chained up by a thousand chains, without even unsheathing his sword.

A young in experienced monk named, Sid (Kenatro Seagal) must now set out and find this warrior and reclaim the coffin. Why you ask? Well because what everyone believes is that the coffin will grant you any wish your heart desires. In reality, the monks know that the coffin houses the Goddess of Destruction, (Yoko Fujit)who will destroy the world if let loose in the magically forest to the east. Two more contenders enter the mix both trying to capture the coffin for their own gain but our warrior disposes of them. He then opens the coffin and craps his pants when he realizes what he has done. Then the warrior and the Goddess of Destruction have a crazy trippy rose pedal fight in a vacuum. The film ends open ended because the filmmaker knew how badass his movie was.

Is that a rocket launcher? What? When does this take place? Nice hair.

The first thing you notice about this film, besides the crazy action that rivals any kung fu film and the metal music accompanying the fights, is the fact that you don't know when this takes place. Everyone uses swords and dresses in traditional clothes but there are guns, giant Final Fantasy size swords, and motorcycles. I don't even think the characters know. Most of the film you will be scratching your head trying to figure out what the subtitles aren't telling you. The acting is bizarre and at times you can't read the characters thoughts so well. But if you look past the lack of information given to you it is a great film.

Visually it is stunning. The style and look of the film draws you in because it is so different from the Crouching Tigers of the world. The journey that the audience and the characters go on is something out of a comic book. The craziest moments in the film come from enemies and weapons in the film. There are spider people who are real people who just use rope as their web. The unknown warrior doesn't have a sword, he has a gun in a sword's sheath. How cool is that? He also triple wields weapons in one fight, two guns and one sword. If that doesn't scream awesome I don't know what does.

Overall the film is solid but only because it is so new and different. There are better films out there in the genre. The hair styles should have won some award. They are out of this world.

Nazis and zombies, two great tastes that have been haunting our dreams since 1939. Dead Snow has undead Nazi's terrorizing some Scandinavian medical students over a nice Easter Holiday, and it sucks. I'm really disappointed because I wanted to like this one. Nazi zombies what's next? Confederate Vampires?

It starts out like all good western horror movies, with some girl lost in the words being chased. You wonder, will this play a part in the overall scheme of things? Then you are dropped into a boring and drawn out formulaic set up of six friends out in the wilderness with no cell phone service. It's funny when movies make fun of their genre then fail to deliver on any real entertainment. After a less than terrifying warning from an old man, zombies enter the picture. I know...what a concept.

They debate whether or not to go back or to stay in the cover of the cabin, but really all they are doing is taking screen time away from zombies in SS uniforms. They discover that chick in the beginning is dead, and that they are staying in a house with the gold the Nazis want. Naturally they have a huge show down with these undead Aryans, much like in the style of Shawn of the Dead (that movie was a good zombie - this movie is not). And not to ruin anything, because let's face it - this is a foreign film, why would America care - but everyone dies.

You are going to need more than that to save this movie.

The preview for this film tricked me more than any summer blockbuster failure. It had everything going for it and I guess I'm old fashioned, but zombie films are supposed to be relatively scary. This had a ton of gore and blood, but no suspense. Everyone had their intestines out in this one for some reason. One dude runs into a tree and gets his small intestine caught on it. Can you even do that...?

The real problem with this film was that it was trying to be American. It was trying to out do our B horror films, starring reality show stars. Dead Snow is a great concept that never gets out of the snow-covered grave. Most of the movie is during the day and the only thing that makes the zombies "Nazis" is their uniforms. I am personally tired of video games, movies, TV shows, etc. poking fun at their genre then falling victim to those norms. If you want to make a spoof shoot for Spaceballs, don't settle for Dance Movie. If your are making a zombie movie, remember they are undead beings, with an insatiable hunger for human flesh, the work is done for you.

Dead Snow is making it's rounds in the independent theaters, so don't bother and wait until your friend buys it and watch it at their house.