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Cidade dos Homens (2007)
Better appreciated after a second viewing
I remember when I first saw this movie in 2008, I walked into it heavily comparing it with "City of God" and expecting to see the same fast-pace storytelling, same witty dialogue and same amount of violence C.O.G. had. About 30 minutes into this movie I started to realize that this movie was a completely different animal, although with many of the same actors and same director serving as one of the executive producers. Needless to say, I walked out of this movie heavily disappointed. Fast forward to six years later, the movie is now out of Netflix and by now I have had more than my fair share of Brazilian reality-based films such as "Elite Squad" and "Elite Squad 2" among other Brazilian films which take place in the infamous Rio favelas. After watching it a second time and taking it for what it is, I now appreciate the art of this movie much more.
The movie touches not only on poverty but also on young unplanned parenthood, the responsibilities and obligations that come with it, on different types of loyalty and betrayal, forgiveness of oneself and others and it shows you the true meaning of friendship. Rather than focusing on the violent setting itself and on carnage and violence like C.O.G. did, those things take a backseat and the movie shows you the real people who inhabit the favelas. It's a story of friendship, survival, and the choices people make when they don't have a choice.
I am not familiar with the TV series, as I never got a chance to watch a single episode, but I can tell that this movie faithfully and successfully translated the story to the silver screen while keeping the essence of the original characters. If you like true slice of life dramas, City of Men surely delivers the goods.
Overall I give City of Men 8 out of 10.
Django Unchained (2012)
Tarantino Only Keeps Getting Better
If you're a die-hard Tarantino fan. This is a must-see for you. If you're not, and even if you've never heard of Quentin Tarantino, you should still see this movie. While it's not a film that's 100 percent accurate in its historical accounts and it might contain a few anachronisms here and there for the super nerds out there trying to spot them out, the movie is still enjoyable from beginning to end.
Jamie Foxx, as the lead character, delivers a strong, solid performance as Django, a recently freed slave, with lots of heart and a quick learner, who is out for revenge after a gang of hillbilly criminals snatched his beloved wife, tortured her and sold her to a different slave owner. Christoph Waltz, gives an unforgettable performance as King Schultz, a German bounty hunter and former dentist who partners up with Django and later assists him on his quest for vengeance. Waltz steals the show in every scene he is in, with his witty, sharp dialogue and incomparable comic timing and delivery. Leonardo DiCaprio, as the main villain Calvin Candie, gives another mesmerizing performance to add to his long resume as a cruel and racist plantation magnate. Kerry Washington also delivers as the beautiful, bilingual wife of Django, Broomhilda Von Shaft, a constant victim of humiliation and cruelty by her owner, Calvin Candie. Samuel L. Jackson gives another memorable performance to add to his very own Tarantino resume as Stephen, an outspoken and powerful house slave who is very sharp and observant and who instantly despises Django upon meeting him.
There are also other names and familiar faces you will see on this film that also give good supporting performances such as Don Johnson, James Remar (playing two characters) Tom Wopat, M.C. Gainey, Jonah Hill, Michael Parks, among others. Even Tarantino himself makes a small cameo. The movie is filled with the classic Tarantino brand of superb dialogue, bloody scenes, hilarious random conversations, etc. It's everything you go to the movies for. If you want an accurate historical account of the slavery era, you will not get it from "Django" what you will get is what you pay for, A Tarantino masterpiece full of what he does best, make great, intelligent and wildly entertaining films! Highly recommend it!
Boricua's Bond (2000)
How do I start? I decided to give this movie a chance expecting to see a movie depicting the positive and negative aspects of the South Bronx, but all I saw was the negatives all the way. Almost every single character in this film is a lowlife, with the exception of Tommy, Allen and Rose. Tommy was supposed to be everyone's role model in the film, yet, most of the time he stood around and did nothing when his posse of low lives he so called "friends" did stupid and highly embarrassing things to other people. The heavy set guy taking off his clothes through half of the movie was supposed to be the comic relief, but I just found him obnoxious and not at all funny. Another major flaw of this film is its lack of story line. There is none, whatsoever. All we see for an hour and 35 minutes is the director showing almost every Puerto Rican and black in the film act like savages with absolutely no class or manners.
If this film was trying to be anything like past classics such as Boyz 'n the Hood, Do The Right Thing or Menace 2 Society, it failed miserably. At least those other films showed many other positive aspects of African-Americans and those films actually had a storyline and plot.
In the end, when this movie was over, I felt sick to my stomach of watching every single negative stereotype of Puerto Ricans in a single film. I don't even think the title is fitting. What is this bond that Boricuas share according to Val Lik anyway? A lifetime of violent behavior, promiscuous sex, irresponsibility, drugs? is that the bond? Where is the positive message? Please, do yourself a favor, especially if you're Puerto Rican. Stay away from this film, you will thank me later.
Entertaining but not great
I must say this film was entertaining at best. The best performances coming from Matt Dillon and Tip "T.I." Harris. The actions sequences, while very intense, were ruined at times by the shaky camera movements, especially during the chase sequences. The storyline, while it had original elements, was flawed and certain scenes you could see coming from a mile away. The only thing I admire from this film is that it tries to give all of its stars equal screen time and importance, just like the far superior film it tries to emulate "Heat". Takers, attempts to be an heist film with a heart to which the younger generation can connect, but fails to deliver the goods. I commend T.I. for his performance and executive producing this project, but I think it still needed work as far as the storyline and the filming are concerned. My suggestion is to skip it and wait for it on DVD.
The funniest movie ever!
Borat, has to be one of those films where I literally couldn't stop laughing and where I laughed so hard, tears constantly streamed down my face. If a movie can make me laugh that hard, then damn it must be a funny movie. Borat stars Sacha Baron Cohen in his first mainstream feature film, where he pretends to be a journalist from Kazakhstan. Borat is sent by the govt. of the glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, along with his assistant and friend Azamat (Ken Davidian) to do an investigative report on the American culture, but is later distracted from his mission when he discovers on TV the most beautiful woman he's ever laid eyes on..Pamela Anderson on Baywatch..this motivates Borat to instead, go on a cross country trip in order to meet, and according to him, marry Pamela Anderson, whom he believes is a virgin. The movie is like a reality show (think Jackass) except with a lot more creativity and comic genius from Baron Cohen. The way he preys on those unsuspecting Americans is just to die for. Some people might say the movie is anti-Semitic, misogynistic, racist, sexist, blah, blah, blah. But what the movie truly shows is just a mirror for American people to look at themselves at. The stuff in this movie is shocking, and not just the stuff coming from Baron Cohen and company, but also from some of his victims as well. I say if you're a person who gets easily offended, especially if you're Jewish or from the glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, don't go see this movie, but if you have an open mind and want to laugh your ass off with a movie like you haven't with any other movie in your life, then you're ready for "Borat". An instant classic! 10 out of 10.
Maria Full of Grace (2004)
This is a movie that will capture you from beginning to end. It's a movie about a 17-year old girl in a small town in Colombia named María (Catalina Sandino Moreno) who works in a factory cutting roses, but is unsatisfied with her job, and is the sole provider for a family that includes her mother, her older sister, and her sister's baby. María, deep down has a wild, adventurous side, which is shown when she is climbing to a house's roof without a ladder, and her boyfriend, does not want to do the same. María eventually finds out she is pregnant from her boyfriend, which freaks him out and they end up breaking it off. María, later on, after putting up with an abusive boss at work, decides to quit her job, which angers her mother and sister, who ask her to apologize to her boss and take the job back, but María defiantly declines to do so and takes off with a guy she met at a local party, to the big city, to find a job there. This new guy, Franklin, is who introduces María to the world of drug trafficking. María, out of desperation, accepts to do this job. Later on, without her knowledge, her best friend, Blanca, also joins her in the journey which will take these two 17-year-olds, along with a new acquaintance, Lucy, to New York City. Once in NY, they meet up with some ruthless drug dealers, and then something happens which makes María and Blanca run away from where the dealers are keeping them until they complete the transaction. The movie is filled with very tense moments and you will find yourself biting your nails and at the edge of your seat all throughout the movie. This movie is beautifully shot and the story well told. It definitely deserved all the awards it won and Catalina Sandino Moreno gives a powerhouse performance. "María Full Of Grace" is based on a 1001 true stories of women who have found themselves in a position in which they have had to risk it all to escape poverty. 10 out of 10. don't miss it!
A journey not to be missed
"Viajeros" is a realistic picture of what Dominican immigrants go through when they decide to leave their country for a better life, even if it means risking their own lives in order to provide a better life for themselves and their loved ones.
The immigrants here are presented as regular everyday people, each with their own story and motive for making that choice of hopping into a "yola" or raft and risking their lives for a dream. The movie also shows how ruthless and cold-hearted the people involved in this business can be. The acting is not above average but good enough to portray the message it's trying to send. The movie has some graphic scenes that you may not want your young ones to see, and some heart wrenching moments. Very good effort from Dominican movie makers to portray the reality of thousands of Dominicans who have gone through this experience, many not making it out alive. My hat goes off to them.
A timeless tale of an underdog who reached the top
"Scarface" is the story of a Cuban immigrant who arrives in the US through a boat sent by Fidel Castro himself to purposely send all of his criminals to American soil and crap on Uncle Sam. His name is Tony Montana (Al Pacino) Upon Tony's arrival in America, he is already spotted as a potential threat and is interrogated by customs agents who find out a little bit of his history and decide to send him to a special camp where all Cuban undesirables are sent. Some time later, opportunity knocks in the form of murdering a Cuban general, sent to prison by Fidel himself, who tortured and killed govt. officials back in Cuba and now one of those official's brother, who is a powerful man in Miami, wants him dead. Tony, his best friend Manolo (Steven Bauer), and a few other friends carry out this task and earn themselves a Green Card. But this is only the beginning....This powerful man, turns out to be Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia) a wealthy Miami drug lord whom Tony ends up working for. Frank Lopez's right hand man is Omar Suarez (F. Murray Abraham) a guy who does not like Tony Montana's determination and attitude and calls him derogatory names like "peasant" and "dish washer" but Tony is not exactly crazy about him either. We also meet Tony's sister Gina (Mary Elizabeth Manstrantonio) a beautiful 19-year old for whom Manolo falls for, but Tony does not want Manolo anywhere near his sister, because is the only pure untouched thing in his life and does not want her to be corrupted by his world, but eventually this does happen. Later on, Tony falls head over heels for Frank's sexy, young wife Elvira Hancock (Michelle Pfeiffer) who despite her beauty and wealth, is always miserable and does nothing but snort coke all day and never cracks a single smile. Tony starts making the moves on Elvira, until later on in the movie, snatches her away from Frank, but not before removing Frank from the map, but that comes later. During one of Tony's business trips we meet yet another character, The ruthless and even more powerful drug kingpin, Alejandro Sosa (Paul Shenar) a Bolivian landowner who has a drug empire that stretches all across South America. Tony does his best, at first to impress this new acquaintance, and when Sosa questions him about his loyalty, Tony is quick to assure Sosa that he is also someone not to be messed with and is a man of his word. When Tony reaches the top and is now more powerful than his boss, Frank, ever was. Manolo, Tony's right hand man begins to take care of Tony's finances, but, in Tony's words, Manolo cares more about women than business and therefore, does not trust him completely when it comes to money.
During the almost three hours of the movie we get to see Tony's rise and then, after a hot-tempered decision, his imminent fall. Scarface is a story of not only an underdog who works his way up until he reaches the "American dream", but of the consequences of living in the fast lane. Like one of the songs from the movie soundtrack talks about "Push it to the Limit" which, thanks to this movie, is now a classic.
Yes, this movie nowadays is idolized by pop culture and by rappers and gangsters all over the world. But the question is why a movie who did not do too well at the box office at the time of its release is more popular now than it was two decades ago?. Because the story and the message behind it is timeless. Perhaps because back in the early 80's people were not ready for an in-your-face, tell-it-like-it-is movie about something that is very real nowadays, drug trafficking, and for the standards of the time, the movie was very graphic. That perhaps, drove some moviegoers away and is maybe the reason why it was so panned by critics back then. But now, times are different and perhaps this movie speaks to the generation of today, who are more aware that these things are happening out there, or perhaps, because it sends out the same message their favorite hip-hop artists often talk about, which is making it to the top and earning respect through having balls and determination like Tony had. Yes, some people see it as a movie that glorifies crime and drugs and easy money. But the movie really has a deeper message. No one stays on top of the world forever. The world was his, yes, but not for long. In a few words..one of the best crime-drama movies of all time.
Babel, in my opinion, most definitely deserves an Oscar nod, at least for directing. This movie will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. The movie, in true Iñarritu fashion, does not have it's sequences in order but rather scrambled up like in Iñarritu's previous work, Amores Perros and 21 Grams. The movie takes place in three, or I should say four different parts of the world and three different continents. It starts off in a remote desert in Morocco, where we meet some preteen characters who are brothers, who bicker with one another like normal brothers. The younger one is always showing off to his older brother and between the horseplay and the show off he ends up doing something which will set off events in those three aforementioned continents. Also in Morocco, we meet an American couple, (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) whose relationship seems to be on the rocks and for unknown reasons are in that country, but the wife is anything but happy to be there and wishes to leave as soon as possible. In another part of the world, San Diego, California, we meet a Mexican nanny, (Adriana Barraza) who takes care of two American children like they were her own, later on, she is faced with the decision of attending her son's wedding across the border and leaving the children with someone else for the day, or staying and taking care of the kids whom she was trusted by their parents who are overseas at the time. She ultimately decides combine both and takes the 2 children across the border with her with the help of her nephew (Gael García Bernal). In yet another part of the world, Japan, we meet a deaf-mute girl (Rinko Kikuchi) who does not have a very good relationship with her father (Koyi Yakusho), and whose mother has passed away recently. She craves for attention but always feels like she is treated like freak when she is among normal people. As the movie develops, you will start to see the connection between these three totally different stories and the dots will start to connect. Irresponsibility and lack of communication are the main topics in this movie. There is a cameo by Crash's and WTC's Michael Peña as well as Clifton Collins Jr. The acting on this movie is superb, especially by Adriana Barraza and by Rinko Kikuchi, those two deserve an Oscar Nomination and deserve to win it too! There are very touching moments in this movie that will probably jerk a tear out of more than one moviegoer. Not for all tastes but if you're in the mood for a movie with good storytelling this is the one for you. 9 out of 10.
El Chavo del Ocho (1972)
One of the greatest shows of all time
This show is not the most recognized show in all of Latin America for nothing. Its simple slapstick family-oriented humor and colorful characters made it an instant classic from day one since it first aired back in the early seventies and is until now and for many years to come, one of the most aired shows in history. It's easy to see why, just watch one episode and you'll be hooked. El Chavo has slapstick humor but it's also a show with a lot of heart that children and grownups have loved for 33 years since the show first aired. First of there's the title character, Chavo which is Mexican slang for "kid", an orphaned eight-year old boy who "hides" inside his trademark barrel. He is not the brightest bulb but is very simple-minded and is always on an empty stomach. Then there's his best friend, whom he sometimes beats up for being a smart-ass, Quico, a spoiled nine year old boy who sometimes teases Chavo with toys. For ex: Chavo is playing with an improvised toy that he himself made and as soon as Quico sees him, he runs back to his house and comes out with a better more souped-up version of the toy Chavo's playing with, or he could tease him with food, being that Chavo is always starving and is the first thing on his mind, despite of it all Quico is his best friend. Quico is the second most hilarious character on the show, (Don Ramón being the most hilarious) his unique expressions and mannerisms and his large bulging cheeks that look like grapefruits in his mouth are out of this world. There's also Chilindrina, a somewhat tomboyish, nine-year old girl, who wears spectacles without glasses, who is a little smarter than Chavo and Quico, and sometimes messes with their heads a little bit, but has a secret crush on Chavo. Her father Don Ramón, is a man in his late 40's who is unemployed and never pays his bills. He's grumpy and short-fused, especially with Chavo and Quico, who get on his nerves the most. Don Ramón is my favorite character. Ramón Valdez, the actor who portrays him, was a natural on this role and had a very natural sense of humor and charisma which made him perfect for the role of "Don Ramón". Doña Florinda, Quico's mother, is an upper-class wannabe who thinks she's better than all of her neighbors in the "vecindad" but lives off her dead husband's life insurance with her young boy, Quico, but is in a somewhat better economical position nonetheless than the rest of her neighbors. She has a special dislike for Don Ramón, considering him vulgar and common, and whenever Quico screams, she runs out and slaps Don Ramón across the face assuming he's the one that made him cry, which sometimes he is, but because Quico got on his last nerve. Then there's the schoolteacher, Prof. Jirafales, a school teacher who must be about 6'8 tall and thus, is the target of many jokes from the students. His last name is a play on his massive height meaning something like Giraffish. Señor Barriga, or Mr. Stomach if you literally want to translate his last name, is an obese man who is the owner of the "vecindad" and who is always knocking on Don Ramón's door asking for the rent he never pays, and coincidentally, always gets hit with an object that Chavo happens to be throwing or swinging around at the time he arrives. Finally, Doña Clotilde or La Bruja (The Witch) del 71. A fifty-something year old woman who is unmarried and is head over heels for Don Ramón. All of these characters, who were probably born to play their roles, make this show one of the best things to ever come out of Spanish TV. Don't miss it! 10 out of 10.