Movie Review: Salt of The Earth (1954)

Herbert Biberman directs this film, and it stars Rosaura Revueltas, Juan Chacon, Will Geer, Henrietta Williams, Clinton Jenks, Joe T. Morales, and Clorinda Alderette.

This movie is based on real events of the strike from zinc miners based in New Mexico, and it focuses on the Quintero family. Ramon Quintero (Juan Chacon) is a zinc mine worker, who decides to go on strike to protest for better working conditions and equal pay in comparison to other mine workers. Esperanza (Rosaura Revueltas), the wife of Ramon, finds herself in a difficult position as she tries to raise their kids and live day to day with the little income they receive. As the strike continues, the men are prohibited from continuing protesting and are ordered (by the court) to stop the strike or face the consequences.

As many may know I’m currently working on my Film and Media Studies degree and a film I had to watch was this one. This is the first film in film history to have Mexican Americans as protagonists and to have their struggles portrayed in a movie. It’s normal for some to think that I’ll have a bias towards this film, but believe me when I state that this film should be seen not only because it has Mexican Americans in it, but because the overall story is remarkable and deserves to be known. This movie was independently made, and it addresses many non-traditional themes and issues. It was made with professional and non-professional actors (the leads) and showcased the discrimination Mexican Americans faced (not only racially but gender-wise too). The film industry and many major studios did everything possible to stop the production, distribution, and exhibition of this movie. Immigration officials harassed the lead actress, Rosaura Revueltas, and eventually deported her before the film was finished filming. The close-ups of her at the end of the film were shot in Mexico. This film wasn’t well-received since it was considered a communist propaganda because the majority of the filmmakers behind this film were blacklisted. Before giving my thoughts and review on this film, I’d like to inform, anyone who wants to watch this film, that it’s available in its entirety on YouTube and also on Amazon Prime.

I usually don’t do spoilers reviews, but this will be the exception. So here is your last warning there will be spoilers in this review.

I went into this film without reading the synopsis and knowing that it was controversial due to its filmmakers being blacklisted. Let me start by stating that I loved this movie. I was expecting a film about Mexican American miners protesting for better working conditions and higher pay. I got more than that! This film is about civil rights, conformity, and the notion of family. This movie starts with Esperanza (7 months pregnant) being concerned with the condition her family lives under and her frustration is such that in a moment of desperation she prays to the Virgin Mary for her unborn child to be born dead. Ramon soon comes home, also concerned and frustrated of the situation, and takes his frustration out on Esperanza accusing her of being selfish. For which Esperanza replies, “I have to think of myself because you don’t,” which placed a smile on my face. Ramon goes to the mine and works he then goes and has a few drinks with his coworkers. They all speak of a possible strike and discuss the pros and cons of doing so. In the case of the Quintero family, Ramon is planning to begin a strike for equal treatment (in comparison to other miners), better pay, and humane working conditions, yet he goes home and treats his wife similarly unfair. It’s well known that women in those days had only one purpose; to create and take care of their family. I wasn’t expecting this movie to be as feminist as it is, but boy was I pleasantly surprised while it was unfolding. When the other miners’ wives start to talk about what they can do to have a voice in the union and to improve their sanitary conditions, Esperanza can’t help but to silently agree as she is well aware that being vocal won’t go well with Ramon. After an accident occurs and a miner has severely injured the miners, with the support of the union, decide to go on strike.

The mineworkers are at the picket line and the wives go out to support them by taking them food and such. Eventually, the injunction will stop the men from protesting; otherwise, they will have to suffer the consequences. One of the wives of the miners reads the order carefully and notices that the rule states “men” and says nothing about women. It was at this moment that the women begin to speak up about their demands to stop the strike and they also ask to have a vote in the union. Now the women are at the picket line, and the men are on the side, just looking. Eventually, the men must take over the house chores and parenting. It was at this part in the film that I completely fell in love with it. The men have to do the laundry and cook for the family, and they experience first hand why the women are demanding for sanitation and commodity. The owners and police officers are now faced with a new problem and decide to arrest some of the women, particularly the wives of the men who were the leaders of the strike. Esperanza gets arrested with her newborn baby and youngest child. The women that get arrested continue to protest as they are all placed in the same cell and have no bed, food, and no space to move. The women are released and begin to have their meetings to discuss what to do next. Ramon continues to disagree with the women being involved and argues with Esperanza, where he nearly hits her and stops himself after seeing Esperanza strong and expressing no fear towards him. The last resort of the mine owners and police is to evict the Quintero family for which the community gets together and prevent the eviction. I loved that the film ends with this situation because it sends the message of unity and how working together towards the same goal will end with a positive result (the majority of the times). This film is more than a minority group asking for better wages and humane working conditions; it’s also about family and how the traditional family can function with the gender roles reversed (based on the norm). Also, this film showcases how a community has the power to demand and therefore make changes.

Please feel free to DM me on any social media platform (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook  @Rosasreviews) if you’d like to discuss this film further or if you’d like to give any constructive feedback on this review.

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Movie Review: Dora and The Lost City of Gold

James Bobin directs this film, and it stars Isabela Moner, Eva Longoria, Michael Pena, Eugenio Derbez, Benicio Del Toro, Danny Trejo, Jeff Wahlberg, Madeleine Madden, and Nicholas Coombe.

This movie is the live adaptation of the famously Nickelodeon kids show Dora The Explorer. Dora was raised surrounded by the jungle, and when her parents decide to go to an exploration adventure, she must stay with her cousin, Diego (Jeff Wahlberg), who lives in the city. Dora then finds herself in an adventure of her own when she must find her parents get lost in the jungle.

What a fun film!!! A movie for the family to watch and particularly a film for Dora the Explorer fans to see. I love seeing a predominantly Latinx/Hispanic cast and for once in a great film. I would lie if I didn’t admit that I had a tear in my eye when I saw younger Dora and thought to myself that little girl looked exactly like me at that age. A younger me would have been happy and excited to see a little girl like myself on the big screen. I did love Dora trying to adapt to the city. I loved that this film knows what it is and plays around with it. I did laugh multiple times in this movie, and the jokes did land for me (both in English and Spanish). Derbez brings the comedic relief as well as some of the supporting cast. This film indeed stayed true to the roots of the television show. I also enjoyed the incorporation of the Inca civilization. I’ve always been fascinated with the Native American culture and their history from the Mesoamerican tribes (Mayas, Aztecs, Olmec) to the South American (Incas). This film has good messages for kids.

Isabela Moner is an actress to look out for in the future, and I loved her as Dora. She is charismatic, and her onscreen presence won me over. I was first introduced to her in Instant Family, and I enjoyed what she did in that film. I wasn’t aware she was multi-talented as she can also sing and dance. The supporting cast was great too (definitely an understatement). The actors and actress who played Dora’s friends were terrific, and this movie took the time to develop their characters so towards the end, you do have some attachment to them. I had a smile on my face throughout the entire film. I was happy to watch a movie that had some of the most important and influential Hispanic/Latinx actors and actresses in Hollywood. Eva Longoria broke down barriers by refusing to portray stereotypical Hispanic/Latinx characters on screen and taking more control by being a producer and even directing some television shows. Michael Pena is someone I can certainly relate to as he is born here, in the United States, from Mexican parents. Eugenio Derbez is an iconic Mexican comedian, who has created some of the most iconic comedic characters in Mexico. I grew up watching some of his television shows, and he has been someone that has continuously made me laugh throughout most of my life. Danny Trejo and Benicio del Toro have been in the industry for longer than I’ve been alive and their name alone is synonymous of a long and lustrous career. Overall a surprisingly great time in the theaters. Please see it! Vamonos al cine!!
I give this film an 8 out of 10

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Movie Review: Siqueiros; Walls of Passion (LALIFF)

This documentary is co-directed by Lorena Manriquez and Miguel Picker.

This film is about one of the most famous Mexican muralist, David Alfaro Siqueiros, who may have single-handedly influenced in the Chicano/Mexican American mural paintings in Los Angeles.

This is my second film from the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF), and so far, I’ve enjoyed the screenings I’ve seen. This documentary is essential and a must-watch film. It’s about one of the most critical yet lesser-known Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974). This film consists of archival footage and informative interviews (with art critics, historians, family members). We get a brief biography of this artist which leads to a vital mural he did back in the 1930s in Los Angeles (next to Olvera Street) and how this mural will become the symbol of Chicano movement and influence the paintings of the walls all over Los Angeles. Siqueiros was widely known for his political ideologies and for always speaking up against the government. He lived through the Mexican Revolution and participated in it. Along with Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco, Siqueiros would define Mexican art by painting murals around Mexico. Siqueiros paintings demonstrate his perspective of the revolution as well as the impact it had on the poor population of Mexico. His paintings do more than tell stories they emote many emotions. Siqueiros firmly believed that any open public space (walls in a grocery store, walls in a park, etc.) should be used for art and not commercialism, which may explain why he was arrested continuously. David never backed down from his ideologies, and his constant criticism against the government would result in being arrested more than twenty times during his lifetime. Sadly his story and influence aren’t known because they have been removed from History/Art History books.

The mural’s name is America Tropical and was done as a project he was asked to do. He had finished painting the wall until the night before the unveiling, he decided to add an essential element into the mural, so after asking everyone to leave, he worked on it. He finished the mural during the night and had it ready in time for the unveiling. When the unveiling occurred, the majority of the people liked it, except the elite people who would eventually demand the mural to get whitewashed. This painting was the visual representation of the oppression of the Chicanos/Mexican Americans. The last-minute addition to this painting was the crucified person. So days later, this mural was covered with white paint.

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Decades will pass by, and eventually, the white paint will begin to peel off. The Chicano movement was at its peak when America Tropical resurfaced, and the Chicanos would embrace this mural as it symbolized the oppression of their people. This mural would be the inspiration of many future murals all around Los Angeles.

When the film ended, I sat in the theater trying to process everything I had seen, and luckily, the directors were present and had a brief Q and A session. I was fascinated to learn that the husband of Lorena Manriquez (co-director) was directly involved in conserving this painting and it was at that moment where she became interested in the history of this painting and of the man behind it. It’s an independent film that took nearly ten years to make. I am glad this documentary exists because I know it’s a story that everyone should be aware of. There is a line that I’ll never forget from this film which states that Siqueiros is the second most influential and important artist in the history of humanity only after Pablo Picasso. If it does have a theatrical released, I’d recommend seeing it.

 

Movie Review: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino directs this film, and it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, Luke Perry, Al Pacino, and Austin Butler.

This movie takes a look at the journey of friends Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) in 1969 Hollywood. Rick Dalton is an actor going through a rough period in his career, and he lives next to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Cliff is always supporting Rick (in his personal and professional life).

I’ve been thinking about this film for several hours, and I even had to listen to podcasts and read reviews to help me settle my thoughts. I will be honest and admit I haven’t seen all of Tarantino films (I’ve seen 4 of them) and I openly admit that I’m not his biggest fan. I wasn’t too fond of this film. Even though I’m aware of the era, this takes place, and who wrote it and directed it, I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable with some of the dialogue in this movie. I found this film too long, and I was a bit bothered with the editing. I’m sure that some side character scenes could have been completely cut off and that would have made this film a bit better. That ending completely pulled me out of the film. I understand this film may have been made as a fairy tale, hence the title, but I still can’t say I was ok with the ending. As a film in its entirety, I don’t like it, but some scenes are gold.

The acting in this movie is beyond stellar, and I enjoyed seeing Hollywood in the late 60s. I’ve never tried acting, but I can imagine that it’s not easy. To perform that you’re acting is perhaps a different level of difficulty that I thoroughly admire. Many of my favorite scenes have to do with Leo’s character and his challenges in his career. My favorite scene (which is in the trailer) is where he is in his trailer and is disappointed with his performance. The chemistry between Leo and Brad is excellent, and their scenes together seem effortless. I’ve read many reviews and heard some podcasts stating that Brad Pitt was their favorite part of this film and although I understand their perspective, I can’t agree with them. I think Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in this is some of the best I’ve seen him do and my personal favorite of this movie. I felt that the secondary characters were decent, including Margot Robbie. I was more excited to watch this film after seeing the documentary Echo in The Canyon, which is about four rock bands (The Byrds, The Mamas, and The Papas, The Beach Boys and Buffalo Springfield) from the late 60s that lived in Laurel Canyon (in Hollywood Hills). It was nice to watch iconic landmarks that I drive by daily on my way to work. I enjoyed most of the shots of 1969 Hollywood, and I admit that I’m very much tempted to purchase the soundtrack to this film. I frankly don’t know if I can recommend this film. Perhaps if your a Tarantino fan then give it a shot.

I give this film a 7 out of 10

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Movie Review: The Lion King (2019)

Jon Favreau directs this film, and it stars Donald Glover, Beyonce, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, John Oliver, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and James Earl Jones.

This film is the remake of the 1994 animation film. Follows Simba and his journey in becoming king.

Moment of truth! Drum rolls 🥁 This film is ok. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it either. This film certainly lacks the magic of the original movie. The visuals are breathtaking, and the animals’ appearance is realistic that their lack of facial expressions took me out of the film. These animals didn’t transmit anything to me. This movie is the exact shot for shot as the original movie, with some additional scenes. The opening of this film is iconic and watching it with this technology on the big screen moved me. I had a tear after that opening scene as I was overwhelmed with nostalgia. I was one of those kids who grew up with this film, and it’s been in my life (this film came out when I was six years old) for most of it. Sadly after that opening scene, I was taken out of the film. What brought me back into the film was Timon and Pumbaa. They stole this film, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a spinoff movie with them. When Hakuna Matata was playing, I had the biggest smile on my face (it’s my favorite song of the film). I’d heard that the song “Be Prepared” wouldn’t be part of this movie, but when it somewhat made an appearance, I was surprised but mostly disappointed. Perhaps I was expecting more from this song, but I do understand why they didn’t do it exactly like the original as it wouldn’t have been believable. I had the same reaction with the “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” song. I’m lukewarm on the new song from Beyonce in this movie, and I didn’t mind the additional scenes. The voice acting was decent, and of course, I loved what Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner brought to Timon and Pumbaa. There is a slightly additional scene (mainly replaced) where Timon and Pumbaa sing a different song while they help Simba claim his throne and I loved it!!!! I thought it was a brilliant move for this movie. The color palette in this movie didn’t work for me. Although it added to the realism for this movie, it also took away from the emotional aspect. Since the colors aren’t as bright as the original film (understandably so as I wouldn’t have believed it either), it takes away from differentiating which lion is which. Some scenes take place in a cave or an area where it’s darker, and the shadows are too overwhelming. It’s impossible not to compare this film to the original movie and frankly I prefer the first film over this one. After further analyzing this film, I think I would recommend seeing this film.

I give this film a 7.5 out of 10

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Movie Review: The Art of Self-Defense

Riley Stearns directs this film, and it stars Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola, Imogen Poots, Steve Terada, Phillip Andre Botello, David Zellner, and Jason Burkey.

Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) is a shy, reserved man who continually gets bullied. One night he gets attacked, and he decides to learn karate as a form of self-defense.

I first saw this trailer, and it caught my attention with their dry humor. Then I saw it was critically acclaim, so I went to watch it. Boy was I pleasantly surprised with this film. Many moviegoers complain that there aren’t enough original films, well here is one! I had a blast with the whole movie! Its dark and dry humor (which is slowly but surely becoming my thing) and its presentation of masculinity in a karate setting worked very well for me. While watching this film, I was wondering where this story was leading to, and then the third act happened, and boy was I not expecting what I saw. The dry/dark humor is my type of fun and similar to The Dead Don’t Die; I may have enjoyed this film a bit more than most people. The story was great and the acting was well done. Eisenberg’s acting is excellent, and Nivola manages to seduce me without even trying. In my screening, only six people saw this film, and I was the only woman in there. Ironically we somehow recreated the film itself (since there is only one woman in the movie) and as expected there are some jokes about women that I wasn’t particularly fond of, but all of my fellow movie-going audience did enjoy. This movie was a blast to watch, and I’d strongly recommend seeing this film if you’re seeking an original movie.
I give this film a 9.5 out of 10

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Movie Review: The Farewell

Lulu Wang directs this film, and it stars Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Zhao Shuzhen, Diana Lin, Yongbo Jiang, Aoi Mizuhara, and Lu Hong.

This movie is about a true story, and it’s about a family who has decided to keep the prognosis of the matriarch to themselves. Billi (Awkwafina) finds out about the situation and questions why she and her family won’t tell her grandmother about her prognosis.

I didn’t think Rocketman would get knocked out of my number 1 spot, but I hadn’t seen this film until this morning. Yes! I’m calling it! The Farewell is my favorite film of this year (for now). A movie about a family and how each member of this family copes and tries to accept (but most importantly understand) the terminal prognosis of the matriarch of the family. In many Chinese families, it’s common for the patient not to know their forecast. As they think it’s best for the patient to live their finals days to their fullest instead of worrying and living in fear. Wow!! I loved this film in its entirety. Of course, my mother’s death had plenty of influence on why I love this movie. It makes you think about what you would do if you were in this family shoes and why? Each member has a unique way of dealing with this situation, and it’s fascinating to watch it unfold onscreen. It also brings up the topic of different ideologies based on geography, mainly east vs. west ideologies. Majority of the family lives in China, but other members live in the United States and others in Japan. This film is surprisingly funny courtesy of the grandmother. The chemistry between Awkwafina and Zhao is gold. The acting is phenomenal, and I echo everyone else’s opinions on Awkwafinas performance, “she is a revelation.” I cried multiple times, and there is one specific scene towards the end that completely broke me, and I started sobbing. This movie surely made me miss my mother. I always tell others to call their parents or grandparents and tell them you love them because once they are gone, it’ll be too late. This film will undoubtedly persuade you to call your loved ones. The ending in this film will undoubtedly have you questioning the decision of this family. A little side note, don’t watch this film if you’re hungry because this film will certainly trigger your appetite. If you live in LA/NYC, please see this film not only to watch a great movie but to help it get a wide release.
I give this film a 10 out of 10

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Movie Review: Crawl

Alexandre Aja directs this film, and it stars Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Morfydd Clark, Ross Anderson, Jose Palma, and George Somner.

This film follows Haley (Kaya Scodelario) in search of her father, Dave (Barry Pepper), as nobody has been able to contact him and there is a dangerous hurricane approaching. Haley gets to her father’s house and finds him unconscious now she must find a way to save him and herself not only from a flooding house but from alligators too.

Oh my! When the trailers came out, I was intrigued then the first reactions came out and became excited to watch this film. I’ll say that I didn’t enjoy it as much as others, but I did have a good time seeing it. This film is thrilling and suspenseful. Had me at the edge of my seat and it got me in some scenes. Certain situations occur in this film to the extent that you weren’t entirely sure what would be the faith of the main characters.  I appreciated the straightforward story, and I was fond of having an entire film take place inside this one house. I’m generally good with preparing myself for jump scares, but for some reason, this film wouldn’t let me, and it got me a good three times. I’m not going to Florida anytime soon (nor Sweden). The acting was decent in this movie, and I liked the look on the alligators. Some of the dialogue is eye-rolling, but this film knows what it is (especially with that song at the credits). I’d say to see this film! If you’d like to have some fun in the theater with a movie that will keep you entertained and at the edge of your seat for the majority of it, then see this film. FYI this film has high rotten tomatoes (higher than the Lion King), it’s critically acclaimed.

I give this film a 7 out of 10

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Movie Review: Stuber

Michael Dowse directs this film, and it stars Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Batista, Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Karen Gillan, and Mira Sorvino.

Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) is an uber driver who picks up a passenger, Vic (Dave Batista), a cop who is after a criminal. Stu drives Vic to his destination, but Vic’s eyesight isn’t the best (after having laser surgery), so Stu finds himself involved in this chase and does whatever it takes to receive his 5-star rating.

Went into the film with low expectations as I’ve been reading many negative reviews. I had fun with this film. I’m very much aware that I enjoyed this film more than the majority of the critics. I agree with the audience; in this case, 80% of us enjoyed this movie. I think Batista and Nanjiani have great chemistry, and their comedic timing is perfect. Granted this film isn’t original and Batista’s acting isn’t great, but Nanjiani saves the film for me. His onscreen charm made this film watchable. I agree with the criticism about the recycled buddy cop story and how the plot overall is a mess. Batista isn’t the best actor working at this moment, but I enjoyed what he did here. I just recently watched a small documentary about him and his career as a wrestler and his transition to the film industry. I learned a few things about him and it gave me a new perspective about his acting career. I’ve been a fan of him since the wrestling days and I think if you watch this documentary (at the WWE network) you may have an appreciation for his current work and his journey to it. However, this movie proves that Dave isn’t quite ready for a lead role yet. I loved the diverse cast in this film and I wouldn’t be surprised if I see these two pair up again in the future. I had a good time and I’d recommend seeing this film.

I give this film a 7 out of 10

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