Posts Tagged ‘Drama’

Playing catch up. Again. I make no apologies.

February 28, 2009


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This Tim Burton-esque animated fantasy is visually stunning and effectively creepy.  Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is a precocious tween who’s largely ignored by her workaholic parents (who, ironically, both work from home).  The family has just moved into a new apartment converted from a large old house.  In her attempts to fight boredom, Coraline befriends her quirky neighbors and discovers a portal to another dimension.  At night she visits the other world, which appears to be a perfect version of the world she inhabits during the day…except for everyone has buttons for eyes.  And things become increasingly disturbing.

I’ve seen a lot of weird movies, but this is one is way up there on the bizarre-o-meter.  It’s dark, twisted and downright morbid.  Definitely not suitable for young kids.  But the visuals are amazing.

Perfect for: Tim Burton, animation or fantasy fans.


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In addition to watching Why Did I Get Married, I also watched The Family That Preys and Madea’s Family Reunion this month as part of festivities sponsored by the White People Who Like Tyler Perry Movies club.  (It was just me and my friend, who after watching two movies back to back, suffered from Tyler Perry fatigue  and dropped out.  No hard feelings.)  After watching Madea Goes to Jail, I think I might change the name of the club to White People Who Like Tyler Perry Movies In Moderation.

Tyler Perry’s comedies go from Deathly Serious to Hi-Larious Hijinx within moments of each other.  This time around, the Deathly Serious story revolves around Joshua (Derek Luke), an Atlanta assistant D.A. who stumbles upon (in court, no less) his old friend Candy (Keisha Knight-Pulliam), during her arraignment on prostitution charges.  Excusing himself from the case and handing it to his fellow assistant D.A., fiancee and villain of the movie, Linda (Ion Overman), Joshua spends most of the film trying to get help for Candy.

The Hi-Larious Hijinx part of the film comes from Madea (Tyler Perry), the sassy senior citizen with a violent temper, whose frequent run-ins with the law have forced her to go to anger management therapy sessions with Dr. Phil (yes, that Dr. Phil) that end up going nowhere.   When a snooty white lady takes Madea’s parking spot at K-Mart, Madea exacts revenge by destroying the lady’s car with a forklift.  And then–you guessed it–Madea goes to jail.

I simultaneously like and dislike the Madea movies, because the humor is so broad and obvious, and knowing it’s kinda’ stupid, still has the power to make me laugh.  I should know better.

The character of Madea reminds me of characters found on Saturday Night Live–the less you know, the funnier they are.  Unlike the other Madea films (Diary  of a Mad Black Woman and Madea’s Family Reunion), this one fleshes out Madea’s character (do we really need to know that in her younger years she was a stripper???) and in the process, some of the humor about the character is lost.

Perfect for: Fans of Ernest P. Warrel movies.


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You’ve Got Mail is, in my opinion, the greatest romantic comedy of all time.  It’s funny.  It’s clever.  It’s filled with great performances.  I figured that This is My Life would be an alright movie because a) it’s directed by Nora Ephron (she directed You’ve Got Mail and wrote When Harry Met Sally) and b) I like movies about showbiz.  I was wrong on both accounts.

Julie Kavner (unmistakable as the voice of Marge Simpson) stars Dottie, as a middle-aged single mom who gets her big break in stand-up comedy.  Gaby Hoffman (Field of Dreams) and a frumpy Samantha Mathis (Little Women) star as her daughters, Opal and Erica.  The film tries to tell the story from both Dottie and Erica’s points of view, but ends up focusing more on the latter.  The real story that needed to be told was from Dottie’s side, but things like stand-up routines and dealing with agents get glossed over whereas Erica’s first romance gets way too much screen time (including a sex scene that really pushes it for a PG-13).

The film is, on the whole, rather tepid and unforgettable.  If nothing else it shows how far Ephron has come as a director.

Perfect for: Hmmmm…..


DVD Review: ‘Why Did I Get Married?’

February 9, 2009

I am fascinated by Tyler Perry.  I’ve seen a few of his movies (Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea’s Family Reunion, Meet the Browns), I’m still trying to decipher them.  I don’t find them to be very good–they tend to flip flop between wocka wocka funny and drama with a capital D–but I do find them strangely watchable.  And clearly, I am not the target demographic Perry has in mind (last time I checked I was not a middle-aged African American female), but  I keep watching them.  He’s pretty prolific, too:  not only do audiences show up for his films, he churns out about two a year.  That’s pretty impressive.

He’s made some films without his most popular character, Madea (which, for the uninformed, is Perry in drag), but until now I had not watched any of them.  So I rented Why Did I Get Married? to see how Perry fares when he plays a dude (sidenote: not only does he write and direct his films,  he always casts himself.  Could Perry be the black Woody Allen?), and to see what he has to say about the institution of marriage.  Not surprisingly, he endorses it, even though no marriage is perfect.

What’s it about? Every year four married couples spend a week together in some exotic location to work on their marriage.  This year they’ve chosen a swank log cabin in Colorado (probably Aspen or Telluride, but the movie never says where exactly).  And, of course, each couple comes to the cabin with Issues:

– Power couple Gavin (Malik Yoba) and Patricia (Janet Jackson) have a Deep Dark Secret that threatens their seemingly perfect marriage.

– Pediatrician Terry (Perry) wonders why his workaholic lawyer Dianne (Sharol Leal) won’t have sex with him.  (She has a Deep Dark Secret that threatens their seemingly perfect marriage.)

– Loud-mouthed (and frequently drunk) Angela (Tasha Smith) can’t stop telling people how it is, especially her semi-spineless husband, Marcus (Michael Jai White), who has a Deep Dark (and Burning) Secret that threatens their extremely tumultuos marriage.

– Jerk of the year Mike (Richard T. Jones) makes his overweight wife Shelia (Jill Scott) drive by herself to the retreat when she’s deemed too fat to fit into one airplane seat.  He also invites Trina (Denise Boutte), his and Shelia’s friend, to the retreat, even though it’s couples only.  The “friendship” between Mike and Trina threatens his already-in-jeopardy marriage.

The first half of the film has  everybody cooped up in the cabin, breathing in the fresh mountain air, waiting to exhale.  When the requisite crap-hits-the-fan scene finally happens, everybody leaves, packing their dirty laundry.  The second half is the aftermath.  The long, tedioius, aftermath.

What’s good about it? Scott’s performance as Shelia, the heavy-set wife desperate to make her husband love her, is the real star of this show.  You believe every word Perry wrote for her, no matter how trite or schmaltzy.  Jackson is also pretty good.  I really think if she wanted to make a real comeback, she should switch to acting instead of relaunching herself every two years as a crazysexyhott singer.  Miss Jackson, you are over 40. It’s okay to be over 40!   Quit Mariah Carey-ing it up and get in some good acting roles.  You can do it.

I have a hard time coming down too hard on any film that ultimately is pro-marriage and pro-religion.  We could always use more of them.  I only wish they didn’t have to be so preachy.

What’s bad about it? Perry’s films tend to overstay their welcome, and Why Did I Get Married? is no exception.  Perry likes to linger on shots, none of which make you say, “now that’s a movie!”  The film feels like a filmed play, which is not surprising, because it’s based on the stageplay he wrote.

Perfect for: people who like their movies extra soapy, but hope that everything will come out in the wash.

Review: ‘Rachel Getting Married’ – One of the Best of 2008

December 9, 2008

I love the tagline in the trailer for Rachel Getting Married:  “This is not your family.  But it is your family.”   I love it because the family portrayed in the film is nothing like my own, yet I identified with these people so strongly.  Jonathan Demme’s first narrative feature since 2004’s The Manchurian Candidate is a testament to the power of family, and no matter how much you sometimes can’t stand the people you’re born with, they’re yours, and you’re theirs.

What’s it about? Rachel Getting Married is a story of a young woman who tries to make right so many wrongs, and still can’t forgive herself for her drug-induced negligence that led to a terrible accident years before.Kym (Anne Hathaway), a former model, checks out of rehab for the weekend to attend her sister Rachel’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding to Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe).  Kym’s one of those unpredictable hurricane types who can’t help but to storm through people’s lives and leave nothing but a path of destruction.   Amid numerous guests who parade around the house all weekend, the family does its best to keep the airing of dirty laundry to a minimum, but Kym has a way of bringing out the hurt in others (and not always intentionally, either).

What’s good about it? Demme’s film is shot like Lars Von Trier’s 2000 film Dancer in the Dark–hand-held camera work with long takes (similar to the Dogme style of films), with performances so raw you’d swear you are, in fact, watching a documentary.

Anne Hathaway’s performance is more than an attempt to shed her Disney princess/safe romantic comedy persona; it’s an actual, Oscar-worthy performance that gives me hope that down the road fthat she’ll take on other diverse and convincing roles.

Also Oscar-worthy is DeWitt’s performance of the titular sister, who’s had to suffer in silence while Kym’s antics sucked all the energy from their parents and doesn’t want her sister to ruin her wedding.

Hathaway and DeWitt execute that sisterly bond with the utmost precision–they love and resent each other simultaneously.

This is one of those films that makes you realize how important family is.  You didn’t choose these people, and sometimes, if you weren’t related you might never have associated with them at all.  But that’s the  the blessing/challenge of family: to connect, to love and to be there for each other.

What’s bad about it? There’s some language and a very brief sex scene.

Perfect for: fans of The Family Stone.

Playing Catch-up, part 2: More movies I’ve seen of late

November 22, 2008


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A good friend of mine recommended I take a look at The Baxter, Michael Showalter’s 2005 comedy about a putz who tries to win back his fiancee from her high school sweetheart.  She noticed that I had not posted about The Baxter, and I told her I was hesitant because I really did not like the film.  (She was okay with it–she watched The Devil Wears Prada per my recommendation and hated it.)

The film feels like a big inside joke, like you need to be part of the New York improv/sketch comedy scene to enjoy it (writer/director/star Showalter is part of Stella, along with Michael Ian Black and David Wain; Black and Wain have small parts in The Baxter.)  Elizabeth Banks is the fiancee, Justin Theroux is the old boyfriend, and Michelle Williams is the girl Showalter wants to be with.  With the comedic pedigree behind The Baxter, you would think the film would actually be funny.  The only bright spot is a cameo by Paul Rudd, who can’t help but infuse energy into any film he’s in.


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Clint Eastwood has become one of Hollywood’s most prolific directors; since 2003 he’s directed five films (including Changeling) and he still has another one–Gran Torino–coming out in December.  His recent films have been real showcases for actors, and Changeling is no exception.  Angelina Jolie plays Christine Collins, a single mother in 1928 Los Angeles whose son goes missing.  The LAPD, in need of some good PR, recovers her son…only it’s not her son at all.  (He’s three inches shorter.)  When Christine persists in refuting the LAPD’s claim, she’s thrown into a mental hospital against her will.

This is an exhaustive, heart-wrenching drama that’s not easy to watch.  Jolie’s performance is Oscar-worthy, and Eastwood’s direction is deliciously spare and restrained.  But Eastwood’s got to lighten up.  With Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima and now Changeling, Eastwood has become the King of Despair.  Doubtful if Gran Torino will buck the trend.


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I LOVE Casino Royale.  Hands down, it’s the best James Bond film.  Rebooting a franchise is always a risk, and Casino Royale gave James Bond a certain gravitas that the prior films (obviously) lacked.  It was dark.  It was intense.  And Daniel Craig’s Bond was a bit of a sociopath (after all, he’s a killer).

Quantum of Solace, however, is a much weaker sequel (the first in the series, really; this one’s a continuation of Casino Royale, not a standalone story).  The Villain?  Weenie.  The Girl?  Uninteresting.  The Action?  More of the same, but far less exciting.  This may also be the only Bond film that had locations that I don’t want to visit: Haiti?  The Bolivian Desert?  Russia?  Blech.

The film is watchable, but it definitely is missing something.  And coming in at around 105 minutes, Quantum of Solace is probably the shortest of 007’s adventures.  I wonder, however, what wasn’t good enough to make the final cut.

Review: ‘W.’

November 3, 2008

I’m not a big Oliver Stone fan; I don’t mean that I don’t like his films, it’s just that I haven’t seen any.  Barring half of 1991’s JFK (I was bored and confused.  But I was only 14 at the time), my exposure for Stone’s liberal agendas and conspiracy theories has been minimal at best.  Sure, I know where he leans, politically.  But his films?  Haven’t a clue.

I was eager to see W. because I am not a fan of George W. Bush and have, admittedly, been caught up in the election hoopla.  (I myself lean to the left in a state so red it glows at night.)  I’m an Obamaniac, to be sure, and what better way to sit in the choir seats and be preached to than a scathing expose on the complete incompetence of our 43rd President?

There were two big surprises about W.: 1) It’s kinda’ dull; and 2) If the film is anything, it’s a sympathetic (yet incomplete) portrait of man who, according to the film, had to become the most powerful man in the world to break out from the shadow of his father’s political legacy.

What’s it about? Uh, George W. Bush.

The film goes back in forth in time from the early 2000’s when Bush (Josh Brolin in an Oscar-worthy performance) and his team–including Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright), Donald Rumsfeld (Scott Glenn), Karl Rove (Toby Jones) George Tenet (Bruce McGill), Paul Wolfowitz (Dennis Boutsikaris), Condoleeza Rice (Thandie Newton) and Vice President Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss)–as they contemplate, argue and ultimately decide to have the US invade Iraq; to various defining moments in W.’s life in the late 60’s (drinking!), 70’s (drinking!) 80’s (drinking…and then getting sober…and helping Dad (James Cromwell) with his Presidential campaign) and 90’s (running for Governor of Texas!).

What’s good about it? Brolin’s performance is spot-on, and the scenes of Bush & Co. debating the feasibility of a war with Iraq (with Powell being the wet blanket) are fairly engaging.  I also admire Stone’s willingness to portray W. as a tortured soul (his rocky relationship with George Bush Sr. is the sole dramatic force throughout the film).

What’s bad about it? For starters, I must admit I’ve never been a fan of biopics.  I like my films to have a first, second and third act; biopics don’t work that way.  Mostly, they’re Stuff Happening.  And while some people’s lives are larger than others, there’s no real narrative thread to drive the story.  W. is no exception.  The film, clocking in at around two hours, is about a half-hour too long.  We know the basic storyline, so why do Stone and writer Stanley Weiser drag it out for so long?

The film also shows W. drinking.  All.  The.  Time.  Booze is everywhere.  He’s a boozehound.  I get it.  There are also a plethora of scenes where people eat that usually feature W. talking with food in his mouth.

Perfect for: Bush fans.  All eight of them who are left.

Netflix this: ‘Black Narcissus’ – Nuns gone wild!

November 1, 2008

Okay, so only one sister goes wild in Black Narcissus, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1947 film about nuns in the Himalayas.  But the entire film has a wild undercurrent of unease that sucks all the nuns in; some fight the current with all their might and some surrender completely to it.

While made in 1947, Black Narcissus feels revolutionary in some ways; the film doesn’t feel like an oldie, thanks in part to its breathtaking cinematography and art design (the film deservedly won Oscars for both).  It feels new and fresh, and had it been made today, I don’t think much would have changed.

What’s it about?  The film starts briefly in India, where Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr, The King & I) has been assigned to lead of group of sisters to start a school and clinic in the Himalayas.  The Palace of Mopu was donated by a rich general, who housed his concubines there. 

Clodagh does not get to choose her fellow sisters for this assignment, which include Sister Briony (Judith Furse), the strong,no-nonsense nun; Sister Phillipa (Flora Robson), the anguished soul; Sister Honey (Jenny Laird), the perky and compassionate one; and Sister Ruth (Kathleen Bryon), the one who’s a couple beads short of a rosary.

Upon arrival at Mopu, Clodagh instantly locks horns with Mr. Dean (David Farrar) a Brit who lives down the mountain.  Dean is there to help, but often his methods clash with Clodagh.  But there’s a subtle–yet never consummated–attraction between Dean and Clodagh; Dean is a bit of a louse at times, and Clodagh frequently calls him on his crap.  Their relationship never even rises to flirting,  but Ruth senses something illicit is going on between the two and jealously obsesses over their platonic relationship.

Life at Mopu is hard; the wind blows incessantly, as if there will never be calm to Clodagh and the sisters.  Clodagh catches herself reminiscing about her life prior to becoming a nun; we get glimpses into a life that seemed so full of hope and optimism, contrasted to what Clodagh has now become: stoic and unsure of her ability to lead the sisters.

Sister Ruth becomes and increasing concern for Clodagh.  Ruth’s deterioration into madness is the juiciest part of the entire film, and what she does to defy the sisters isn’t really that boundary-pushing, but is nonetheless shocking.

What’s good about it?  The cinematography–as I mentioned before–is absolutely beautiful.  Kerr and Farrar’s performances are solid, but it’s really Bryon’s Sister Ruth who steals the show.  She’s not only crazy, she’s down right frightening.

While the film is (obviously) steeped in Catholicism, Black Narcissus isn’t really about religion.  It’s not a pick-me-up type of film.  It’s one of those films where people learn from their failures.  Sister Act this ‘aint.

What’s bad about it?  The film is on slow burn, so if you’re expecting Lots of Stuff Happening At Once, you’ll be disappointed.  

Perfect for: Deborah Kerr fans, cinematographiles, and anyone looking for a film with right amalgamation of drama, suspense and artsiness.

DVD Review: ‘Sweet Land’

August 12, 2008

Sweet Land is one of those films that takes its time telling a story. I don’t mean that as a bad thing, either.

Reminiscent of Kevin Costner’s 2003 film Open Range (yes, he’s made at least one good movie in the last ten years), Sydney Pollack’s Out of Africa (albeit on a much smaller scale) and Willa Cather’s novel My Antonia, Sweet Land is a pastoral love song to director Ali Selim’s Midwestern heritage. It’s a beautiful, touching film, simply told; it doesn’t worry about its running time (don’t worry, it’s under two hours).

What’s it about? The film takes place in 1920’s Minnesota. Inge (Elizabeth Reaser, The Family Stone) has finally made it from Germany to the US, arranged to be married to Olaf (Tim Guinee, who could pass as Nathan Fillion’s brother). From the train station to the chapel, Olaf and best friend Frandson (Alan Cumming) discover that Inge is not Scandinavian (as was originally thought). This seemingly inconsequential detail has massive ripples amongst the rural Minnesotans of Scandanavian descent.

When they arrive at the chapel, Minister Sorrensen (John Heard, Home Alone) discovers she’s German AND that she doesn’t have the proper documentation to even be in the US.

So Inge lives with Frandson, his wife Brownie (Alex Kingston, ER) and their nine kids. It’s not exactly what Inge expected, but hey, she’s the first to get the bath water.

Indifferent to what the townspeople might think, Inge begins living in Olaf’s house–she gets the bedroom, Olaf sleeps in the barn. This is when the film gets interesting: for a PG-rated film, you can cut the sexual tension with a knife. Their slow progression towards husband and wife is the true heart of this film, as we see them weave their everyday lives with each other.

What’s good about it? A great performance from Reaser, who in the film speaks German and Norwegian with impressive fluency. Guinee is superb as the hard-working farmer who leaves feeling emotion to others. And a tender performance by Lois Smith as Inge in her 70’s bookends the film.

This is a film about honoring one’s heritage. It’s about hard work, and refusing to be defined by the prejudices of others.

What’s bad about it? Some may view Sweet Land as having a liberal bent (big business and religion are the bad guys here). And, like I said ealier, the film moves at its own pace. Which means if you’re looking for something with breakneck pacing, you’re out of luck.

Perfect for: fans of traditional love stories.

DVD Review: ‘My Blueberry Nights’

July 21, 2008

My Blueberry Nights is a light and airy movie, sweetened by some heartfelt (if somewhat misguided) performances.  And while there are parts of the film that are a little bland and others that feel underdone, it goes down fairly smoothly with no bad aftertaste.

LOVE this DVD cover.

LOVE this DVD cover.

What’s it about?  Elizabeth (Norah Jones) enters Jeremy’s (Jude Law) New York City diner on the culinary trail of her boyfriend.  When she discovers her boyfriend has dined there with another woman, Elizabeth leaves his keys there, hoping that one day he’ll come back to the diner and claim them.  She keeps coming back, and instead of seeing her now ex, she develops a close friendship with Jeremy.

For reasons not entirely clear, Elizabeth ups and leaves, heading to Memphis, Tennessee, waitressing by day and tending bar by night.  At the bar she encounters Arnie (David Strathairn), an alcoholic incapable of letting his estranged wife, Sue Lynne (Rachel Weisz) move on with her life.  Elizabeth then heads to Nevada (just as inexplicable as her exodus from New York) and befriends Leslie (Natalie Portman, who looks twenty years older), a gambler with a patch of bad luck.

What’s good about it?  As mentioned before a nice performance from Jones is the highlight of this film.  The only other real standout from the cast is Strathairn–you see the ache and rage in Arnie’s eyes when he sees his wife in the arms of another man.  Some beautiful cinematography and a great soundtrack featuring Jones, Otis Redding, Cassandra Wilson, Ruth Brown and Cat Power (among others). My Blueberry Nights is like a dessert from Denny’s: it’s sweet, it tastes okay, but it’s not something you’ll tell all your friends they HAVE to try.

What’s bad about it? This is one of those films that you’re supposed to like because of the pedigree behind it.  The only problem is that it doesn’t live up to its reputation.  Weisz’s performance is particularly jarring–it feels as if she took the role simply to try out her Southern accent.  She’s a good actress, but in this film she seems out of place.

Perfect for: Anyone who’s a fan of the cast.

Netflix this: ‘Two for the Road’

June 24, 2008

Love, hate, commitment, betrayal (and France!) get plenty of exposure in Two for the Road, a comedy-drama from Stanley Donen (the director of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Charade). I debated for a while whether or not to give the film my ‘Netflix this’ stamp of approval; it’s not a feel-good film about the ups and downs of marriage. Rather, it’s a melancholy dissection of the relationship between two flawed people who love and hate with equal fervor. It’s a gorgeous film with beautiful people who aren’t as perfect as they appear.

two for the roadWhat’s it about? Joanna (Audrey Hepburn) and Mark (Albert Finney) have been married for about ten years. The film is told in a non-linear style, showing five different periods in Joanna and Mark’s relationship, all taking place on trips throughout France: hitchhiking together and falling in love; as young newlyweds roughing it on the one of those worst trips ever that turn into cherished memories; a road trip with Mark’s former flame and her husband and daughter; a rocky period when their marriage is threatened by infidelity by both parties; and on the way to another social event where they must keep up appearances even though divorce seems eminent.

The way the story is told is remarkably fresh for being a film that’s over 40 years old. While Two for the Road jumps back and forth between the time periods, the effect is seamless. I don’t believe what we see are flashbacks per se, but rather the deliberate revelation of Mark and Joanna’s marriage one memory at a time.

What’s good about it? Hepburn and Finney are really good–they don’t pull any punches with their characters. Sometimes you love them, sometimes you only want to love them, and sometimes you despise what they do. While we see the sometimes cruel things they do to each other, we also see why they fell in love in the first place. We see those memories that keep them together even though it would be easier for both of them to go their separate ways.

What’s bad about it? This ‘aint a movie about the sanctity of marriage. Both husband and wife stray from their commitments, and their reconciliations feels more forget than forgive.

Perfect for: fans of The Apartment, Audrey Heburn, 60’s movies.

Netflix this: ‘Under the Same Moon’

June 17, 2008

Under the Same Moon is one of those children-in-peril movies where you know that it’s pretty near impossible for the kid to make it through the dangerous journey in one piece, and for that reason alone you could “yeah, right!” the entire film and roll your eyes in disbelief that the kid doesn’t die. (If you think that’s a spoiler, think about it for a sec. People don’t tell stories about kids traveling by themselves only to have them die at the end. Unless they’re fairy tales being told to wicked children.)

But I’ll be darned if Under the Same Moon didn’t win me over.

What’s it about? Carlitos (Adrian Alonso, Antonio Banderas’ kid from The Legend of Zorro) lives with this Grandmother in Mexico while his mother (Kate del Castillo) is an illegal alien working in Los Angeles. She’s been in LA for four years. Every Sunday when she calls home her guilt for leaving her son consumes her, and she’s having second thoughts about being so far away from him.

Grandma dies on a Monday and Carlitos, fearful of living with some shady relatives, decides to cross the border and make it to Los Angeles before his mother calls again next Sunday. What follows are incredibly difficult (and dangerous) challenges that put his determination to the test.

Under the Same Moon DVDTwo twentysomethings (America Ferrera and Jesse Garcia), trying to earn money for college, agree to hide Carlitos in a tiny compartment in their hunk-o-junk minivan. They clear the border check (just barely), only to have their vehicle impounded for unpaid speeding/parking tickets (with Carlitos still inside). More stuff like that happens to our little hero, but don’t worry—he doesn’t die. (See first paragraph for further clarification.)

What’s good about it? Adrian Alonso and Kate de Castillo’s performances are outstanding. It was also good for me to gain a better understanding of what illegals go through to get to the US and to stay there. It’s a hard life.

What’s bad about it? As I mentioned before, the “yeah, right!” factor his high. Just ignore it and enjoy the movie. Oh, about 75% of the film is subtitled. If you’re one of those who can’t stand reading your movie, you might want to pass.

Perfect for: people who like Bella, foreign films, or kid-in-peril movies.