Review: ‘Half Brothers,’ starring Luis Gerardo Méndez and Connor Del Rio

December 4, 2020

by Carla Hay

Luis Gerardo Méndez and Connor Del Rio in “Half Brothers” (Photo by John Golden Britt/Focus Features)

“Half Brothers”

Directed by Luke Greenfield

Some language in Spanish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Mexico and the United States, the comedy film “Half Brothers” features a cast of Latino and white characters representing the middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Two half-brothers—one who’s Mexican and the other who’s American—have conflicts with each other when they’re forced to go on a road trip together as part of their father’s dying wish.

Culture Audience: “Half Brothers” will appeal primarily to people who like dumb comedies with obnoxious main characters.

Juan Pablo Espinosa and Ian Inigo in “Half Brothers” (Photo by John Golden Britt/Focus Features)

What does it say about a movie when a goat is the most appealing character in the film? A goat is used as a “cute pet” gimmick in the awful and dimwitted comedy film “Half Brothers,” which takes a very unoriginal comedy concept (two opposite people who don’t get along are forced to spend time together) and shoves it in viewers’ faces in extremely annoying levels. The movie is also filled with hateful stereotypes about Mexican and American cultures without any sense of witty irony. And the movie becomes so repetitious that many viewers will be bored enough to fall asleep.

“Half Brothers” (directed by Luke Greenfield and written by Eduardo Cisneros and Jason Shuman) is the type of movie that seems like it could’ve been a made in a previous century when people were more accepting of stupid comedies that rely too heavily on broad ethnic stereotypes. What’s worse is that “Half Brothers” is one of those movies that thinks it’s funny but it’s not, so it uses the same type of ethnic jokes for the entire movie. That’s not to say that racial and nationality differences can’t be used in comedy, but there has to be some intelligence behind it or something that will make people think about race and nationality in a more important context, instead of just spewing hate.

Everything about “Half Brothers” reeks of toxic masculinity and the misguided idea that being loud-mouthed or a jerk automatically means that you’re funny. And this is one of those movies where almost all of the women with speaking roles are literally only in the movie to play characters who either marry the men, work for the men, or be nuns. It’s just such a disgusting display of small-minded, outdated and idiotic sexism.

There’s supposed to be a big “treasure hunt” aspect to the story that has an outcome that is incredibly predictable to anyone smart enough to notice the obvious recurring theme about the father/son relationships in this movie. The beginning of the film takes place in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico. Viewers see a father named Flavio Murguía (played by Juan Pablo Espinosa) watching while his son Renato (played by Ian Inigo), who looks like he’s about 10 or 11 years old, is flying a remote-controlled toy plane.

Flavio (who is an aviation engineer) and Renato both love planes, and Flavio promises Renato that one day, he will build a real plane for Renato. However, Renato is quite the little brat because he likes to fly his toy plane as a way for it to pester people, scare unsuspecting victims, or do property damage. Flavio thinks it’s hilarious that Renato uses the remote-controlled plane to cause mischief, and he encourages his son to irritate people with pranks. Sometimes Flavio gets in on the pranks too. Flavio also lets his underage child drink beer with him. It’s all Flavio’s way of bonding with Renato, who is Flavio’s only child at this point.

Renato is too young to know that any parent who acts this irresponsibly is going to end up hurting people emotionally. And that’s exactly what happens to Renato, as well as Flavio’s wife Rene (played by Bianca Marroquin), who is Renato’s mother. She’s one of those passive wives who has a “boys will be boys” attitude when she sees how her husband is teaching their son some questionable morals.

San Miguel De Allende is hit hard by an economic depression. Businesses in the area are shut down, and unemployment is high. The Murguía family sees a news report on TV that the demand for the U.S. dollar is much greater than the Mexican peso. Flavio ends up reluctantly leaving his family to travel to the United States with a group of other Mexicans to try and find work.

When Flavio arrives in the U.S., life is tough for him because he doesn’t speak English at first. In the movie, it’s implied that he’s an undocumented immigrant. Therefore, he can’t get a job in his chosen profession. He has to do menial jobs with other Mexican immigrants.

There’s a scene where Flavio is in a group of Mexican immigrants who are hired on a farm as cheap labor to replace the American workers. The scene literally shows the Mexican immigrants walking past the laid-off American workers, who stare at the Mexicans with hatred. This movie is not subtle at all about its intentions to fan the flames of bigotry in many of its scenes.

It’s not shown right away in the movie, but it’s eventually revealed that Flavio has learned English and gotten a job working for an American aviation company in Chicago. Because he’s supposed to be “brilliant,” according to this movie, Flavio comes up with some clever engineering ideas that catches the eye of a woman whose family owns the company. Her name is Katherine (played by Ashley Poole), and she and Flavio end up having an affair.

Flavio has feelings of guilt about the affair and plans to go back to Mexico to his family. But Katherine gets pregnant (Flavio is the father) and gives birth to a boy named Asher. Through a serious of circumstances, Flavio never goes back to Mexico, and he essentially abandons his first family to start a new life with Katherine and Asher. Flavio also becomes a successful executive at the airplane company.

Flavio dumps his wife Rene over the phone. She and Renato are devastated to find out that Flavio is not coming home as promised. Rene and Flavio eventually get divorced. Flavio marries Katherine and spends the rest of his life in Chicago with her and their son Asher, who is the only child they have together. However, Asher is a strange and hyper kid, and Flavio isn’t that great of a father to him either. Flavio doesn’t really emotionally connect with Asher, who grows up feeling doubts that his father truly accepts him.

Years later, Renato (played by Luis Gerardo Méndez) is now a 35-year-old ambitious and aggressive entrepreneur who has started his own successful aviation company in Mexico. He is engaged to be married to a single mother named Pamela (played by Pia Watson), whose son Emilio (played by Mikey Salazar), who’s about 7 or 8 years old, is someone Renato feels uncomfortable being around because he thinks Emilio is too weird. Emilio does things like walk around wearing gory Halloween masks, and he uses squirt guns filled with green goo on Pamela and Renato. It’s an obvious cry for attention, but Renato just treats the kid like a pest.

The adult Renato is also extremely prejudiced against Americans. He hates America so much that he refuses to expand his company into the United States. In an early scene in the movie with the adult Renato, he’s doing an interview with an American female reporter (played by Shira Scott Astrof), and Renato spews a lot of hateful rhetoric about Americans. Renato’s publicist Perla (played by Nohelia Sosa Crisafulli), who is there during the interview, nervously tries to change the subject.

Renato’s rant includes him telling the reporter his list of reasons for why he despises Americans: “They’re entitled, they’re ignorant, they think Mexico is just a bunch of drug cartels and Cancún. They’re idiots. And you know what else? They’re fat!”

Even after this incredibly xenophobic tirade, this movie excuses Renato’s ignorant mindset by having the two women laugh it off. It makes all of them look stupid. And it’s a gross display of how the filmmakers think it’s funny too.

At home, Renato is just as insufferable as he is at work. While going over the guest list for their wedding, his fiancée Pamela points out to Renato that he only has three guests, while she has 60 guests. She half-teasingly comments that Renato has no friends. It’s one of the few things in this movie that makes sense, because Renato is a self-centered and arrogant bigot.

Meanwhile, when Pamela mentions to Renato that her son Emilio is being bullied at his school, she asks Renato to give Emilio a pep talk to make Emilio feel better. Renato reluctantly talks to Emilio, and Pamela notices that Renato makes only half-hearted and awkward efforts to bond with her son. Pamela wonders out loud to Renato if she should marry someone who can’t really love her son like a father should.

The wedding is five days away when Renato gets an unexpected call from Katherine, his father’s second wife. Katherine tells Renato that Flavio is dying (she never says what kind of illness he has), and she asks Renato to come to Chicago to see Flavio before he passes away. Renato’s immediate reaction is to say no, but Pamela talks him into going on the trip.

When he arrives in Chicago, Renato’s rideshare driver Irene (played by Mona Malec), who picks him up at the airport, is his worst nightmare because she’s every stereotype that he thinks about Americans: She’s overweight and ignorant about Mexican culture. Upon hearing that Renato is from Mexico, Irene starts speaking to him louder and slower (as if he can’t understand English) and then asks him what Cancún is like. Irene is also shocked to hear that Renato has never ziplined in his life, because she thinks that ziplining is the main leisure activity in Mexico.

At a coffee shop, Renato is standing in line when he sees a loudmouthed red-haired man doing a livestream on his phone, as if he’s some kind of social-media star. After he finishes his livestream, the man gets behind Renato in line and asks him for money to buy a donut. A disgusted Renato says no, but the man keeps pestering Renato to give him money.

The motormouth redhead notices that the barista behind the counter has a nametag with the name Beatrice, but he insists on pronouncing her name as Beat Rice. When Renato gets to the counter, he tells the barista Beatrice (played by Teresa Decher) that he wants to buy all the donuts in the shop, and he wants her to immediately throw the donuts away. He flashes a wad of cash to make it happen, while the pesky redhead behind him tells Renato that what he just did is cruel. Renato just smirks.

But is this the last time that Renato will see this irritating loser? Of course not. When Renato goes to the hospital to visit Flavio on his death bed, who walks in the room just a few minutes later? The redhead from the coffee shop. And it should come as no surprise to anyone but Renato that this guy is his half-brother Asher (played by Connor Del Rio), who becomes more and more obnoxious as the story goes on.

After Flavio very awkwardly introduces the brothers to each other, he tells them that he has a gift for them. It’s an envelope with a message that leads to some clues for a hunt to what Flavio hints is a big treasure. They have to find someone or something named Eloise at the end of the trip. And Flavio insists that the only way they can get the treasure is if they do the hunt together.

And of course, it’s a cross-country trip because there would be no “Half Brothers” movie without a contrivance of these two cretins being stuck together for days during this road trip. The brothers are too greedy not to find out what this treasure is. And there’s a “race against time” because Renato needs to get back to Mexico in time for his wedding.

Keep in mind that Renato met Asher just five days before his wedding. Flavio dies very soon after Renato and Asher meet each other. But somehow, this moronic movie crams in Flavio’s funeral too, even though it would take at least a few days for the funeral to be prepared, thereby taking time away from the road trip. Therefore, the timeline of the road trip doesn’t add up. But the “Half Brothers” filmmakers think people watching this movie are too stupid to notice a big stinking plot hole like this one.

During the road trip, Renato takes on the role of the “smart” brother, who is condescending to “dumb” brother Asher, whose job experience includes being a “brand ambassador” (someone who hands out flyers) and a failed waiter at Chili’s. Renato likes meticulous planning. Asher is impulsive. You get the idea of how the rest of the movie is going to go.

The goat comes into the picture early on in the road trip, when Renato makes the mistake of falling asleep while letting Asher drive the bright orange Mercedes-Benz 300TD Turbodiesel that they take on the trip. When Renato wakes up, he sees Asher running away from a farm with a young goat in his arms. Some angry farm employees are chasing after Asher, but he’s able to put the goat in the car and drive away before he can get caught.

Asher stole the goat because he thought the goat was silently speaking to him to free it from the farm. And why did Asher stop at the farm in the first place? He saw a road sign advertising that the farm was open to visitors. Renato is furious when he finds out that Asher took a detour of more than 100 miles to go to the farm. The goat is really the only adorable thing about this terrible movie.

“Half Brothers” is a series of these not-very-funny scenarios that usually involve Asher doing something idiotic that causes a setback, and Renato getting angry at him and trying the fix the mess that Asher made. The brothers get into predictable fist fights too. And as for Eloise, this movie can’t even come up with a good mystery in this treasure hunt because it’s so obvious what the “treasure” is, if you think about what a guilt-ridden Flavio would give as his final gift for his sons to find.

Aside from the terrible jokes in “Half Brothers,” the movie’s road trip is very unimaginative and doesn’t show much appreciation for the different locales that are visited. The personalities of these two louts don’t get better as the trip goes on. They get worse, until the movie tries to cram in some phony sentimentality at the end that anyone with a brain can see coming. It’s enough to say that the ending of “Half Brothers” is as creatively bankrupt as the rest of the movie.

Focus Features released “Half Brothers” in U.S. cinemas on December 4, 2020.

Review: ‘Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy,’ starring Diana Kennedy

June 19, 2020

by Carla Hay

Diana Kennedy in “Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy” (Photo courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment)

“Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy”

Directed by Elizabeth Carroll

Culture Representation: Taking primarily place in Mexico and the United States, this documentary about celebrity chef/author Diana Kennedy (a white British woman whose specialty is Mexican cuisine) features interviews with white and Latino people representing the wealthy and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Kennedy became a leading expert in Mexican cuisine, but she’s always at some risk of being accused of cultural appropriation.

Culture Audience: “Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy” will appeal primarily to foodies and people who like biographies of celebrity chefs.

Diana Kennedy in “Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy” (Photo courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment)

“Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy” is a lot like the woman who is the subject of the documentary: matter-of-fact yet self-congratulatory and entrenched in tradition rather than experimentation. Born in 1923, British native Diana Kennedy (who participated in this film) is considered a leading expert in Mexican cuisine. This documentary that tells her life story follows the expected format of new interviews mixed with archival footage. If it weren’t for Kennedy’s sassy personality, the movie (which is the feature-film debut of director Elizabeth Carroll) would actually be pretty dull.

This is one of those laudatory celebrity documentaries where talking heads do nothing but praise the star of the movie. Celebrity chefs José Andrés, Rick Bayless, Gabriela Cámara, Pati Jinich, Alice Waters and Nick Zukin all gush about Kennedy in their separate soundbites featured the film. (Andrés and Zukin are two of the documentary’s executive producers.) The only real criticism of Kennedy actually comes from Kennedy herself, who describes herself as often being cranky, impatient and stubborn.

Cámara says about Kennedy: “I think she’s a legend. Many Mexicans are against admitting that she knows more than they do about their food.” Andrés comments, “You have to be Diana, to have the character she has, to achieve what she has achieved.”

Waters says of Kennedy’s influence on teaching Mexican cuisine: “She taught us the traditional ways and was not doing her own variation.” Bayless adds, “She’s the first person in the English-speaking world who first really mined the richness of regional Mexican cooking.”

Zukin gives this over-the-top compliment about Kennedy: “She’s a high prophet for Mexican food. Diana doesn’t care if people like her. She cares if Mexican food is evangelized … She’s going to tell you the truth.”

Jinich (the host of the PBS cooking show “Pati’s Mexican Table) has this to say: “I think Mexico as a country will be eternally indebted to her efforts.” Abigail Mendoza, a chef and native of Mexico who has been a close friend of Kennedy’s since the 1980s, “Thanks to Diana, Mexican cuisine is where it is … And she’s very Mexican in her soul and heart.”

You get the idea. Fortunately, the documentary keeps these effusive soundbites to a minimum. “Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy” (which is named after one of her cookbooks) is at its best when it just lets the camera roll to show Kennedy living her life. As she says in the film: “I’ve had a funny life. Let’s face it.”

Although Kennedy undoubtedly has immense talent to earn all of this praise and respect, her cookbook editor Frances McCollough asks a question that this documentary attempts to answer: “How can it be that a white British woman knows more about Mexican food than anyone else?”

It’s pretty clear from watching the film that Kennedy is certainly an expert in her field, but she also had the privilege and connections to be handed a massive platform through the media and book deals. Perhaps equally talented native Mexican chefs haven’t reached the same level of success because of racial barriers in the culinary industry. Kennedy tells her version of her life story, which is edited in between scenes of her in the present day.

Born as Diana Southwood in Loughton, England, she doesn’t really talk about her childhood in the film. Instead, the documentary skips right to her tales of joining the Women’s Timber Corps during World War II. While in the Women’s Timber Corps, she learned to plant trees and developed her lifelong passion for the environment.

After World War II, she was invited to go to Jamaica. Kennedy comments on her decision to live in the Caribbean: “I was propelled by a lot of hormones.” She says that while she was in Jamaica, she was nearly kidnapped.

And then she moved on to Haiti, where she had a fateful stay at Hotel Olafsson in 1957. She checked into the hotel on the same day as a handsome stranger named Paul P. Kennedy, an older man who was a correspondent for The New York Times in Mexico. Diana moved to Mexico to be with Paul, and she says she fell in love with him just as she fell in love with Mexico. She says in the documentary that Paul will always be the love of her life.

She eventually married Paul, whom she describes as someone who was the life of the party and a person who had a warm and humorous personality that naturally drew other people to him. In her early years of living in Mexico, Diana  developed a habit that she has continued throughout her life: She would go to village marketplaces to sample the local cuisine, find out how it was made, and ask the local merchants what kinds of food that they and their families were eating.

Diana says that most chefs who study other cultures’ cuisines don’t take the time to interview local people to find out what their families are eating. She gives herself a lot of praise in the film for taking that extra step, and she says that’s probably why she has more credibility in Mexican cuisine than other chefs of Mexican cuisine who aren’t natives of Mexico.

In her early years of living in Mexico, Diana says she didn’t have a car, so she would take a “third-class bus” (the type that lets chickens and other animals on board) to make these excursions to various marketplaces. She definitely has a car now. Some of the funniest scenes in the documentary are of Diana nimbly driving her Nissan SUV and showing mild signs of road rage, as she impatiently curses other drivers underneath her breath. Diana has a real fondness for the car, which she says has taken her through every imaginable terrain and weather.

Diana and Paul had a happy life in Mexico, and she says she was lucky that he accepted her for being “crazy.” She worked at the British Council, while he continued to work for The New York Times. Diana says, “I certainly wasn’t the traditional housewife. I never wanted children.” (Paul already had two daughters from a previous marriage. Diana’s stepdaughters are not seen or mentioned in the film.)

But then, tragedy struck when Paul was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1965. Diana and Paul moved to New York City so that he could get medical treatment. But by 1967, he was dead. The following years that Diana spent as a widow in new York City were some of the loneliest and saddest in her life, she says. Diana never remarried.

But when one door closes, another one opens. After Paul died, Craig Claiborne, who was The New York Times food editor from 1957 to 1986, set Diana on a path to become a world-renowned chef whose specialty is Mexican cuisine. Diana had always loved cooking, but she didn’t see herself as becoming a professional chef until she got the motivation and help from Claiborne.

Diana says that she once offered to get a Mexican cookbook for Claiborne, and his response was that he didn’t want a Mexican cookbook unless she wrote it herself. At the time, Diana had been giving private cooking classes in her home to privileged society women in New York. Thanks to Claiborne, The New York Times gave Diana a prominent feature article about her cooking classes. This media coverage led to other opportunities, and the rest is history.

Diana eventually moved back to Mexico, where she still teaches small, private cooking classes in her home, which is a spacious villa called Quinta Diana, in Michoacán, Mexico. The documentary includes footage of her teaching a class of a diverse group of people, ranging from experienced chefs who have multiple restaurants to a relative novice who’s only been cooking for three years.

There’s also archival footage of Diana on her TLC series “The Art of Mexican Cooking With Diana Kennedy,” which was on the air in the early 1990s. And there’s a clip of Diana as a guest on “The Martha Stewart Show,” with Diana making traditional Mexican tamales with Martha Stewart.

The documentary also shows Diana at industry events, such as when she was inducted into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame at the 2014 James Beard Awards, or when she was a panelist at The Los Angeles Times Food Bowl in 2018. During a Food Bowl studio photo session separately and together with fellow chef Cámara, the photographer comments to Diana about how feisty Diana is. At one point during the photo session, Diana jokes, “Thank God my black panties don’t show.”

The documentary takes such a reverential approach to Diana Kennedy that it doesn’t really have her reflect on all the opportunities that came her way because of her privileged situation. Yes, she’s undoubtedly talented, and she has many fans who are native Mexican chefs. But Diana came up at a time when white people were almost exclusively given the best opportunities for chefs to reach a worldwide audience through the media and book deals.

Diana says in the documentary that perhaps her biggest influence was Mexican cookbook author Josefina Velázquez de León. However, Velázquez de León would never have been given the same glamorous opportunities for fame and fortune that were given to Diana Kennedy. A lot more people know who Diana Kennedy is rather than the Mexican chef/author who was Diana Kennedy’s biggest influence.

Nowadays, culinary audiences are more attuned to giving cultural credit where credit is due. Cultural appropriation is not as acceptable as it was before the 21st century. Although the documentary hints that some very talented native Mexican chefs might have been overshadowed by Diana Kennedy, there is no further exploration of that subject, since the filmmakers only seem concerned with portraying Diana Kennedy as the best thing that ever happened to Mexican cuisine. It’s a “fan worship” mentality that’s a little off-putting to people who expect documentaries to have a more objective approach.

One thing that the documentary captures well is Diana’s tireless work ethic, since there are many scenes in the film that make it obvious that she has no intentions of retiring. Diana says, “One is never satisfied. There is so much more I’d like to do.” She also says, “You’ve got to realize that cooking is the biggest comeuppance.”

Diana is also very outspoken about her concerns about the environment and where the world is headed. She gives this rant in the documentary: “I think it’s shocking that the more we are connected electronically, the less we are united.”

She continues: “And then, in certain parts of the world, machos come along like [Vladimir] Putin and [Donald] Trump and all the rest of it and want to change it. They don’t see the beauty of this world. We’re destroying our planet. We’re destroying our environment, and it’s such a loss for young people today.”

Diana also shares her philosophy on life. “You can’t win them all.” She adds, “How horrible it is for people to go around wanting to be loved and liked. You just go on doing what you know what you want to do. And at some point, the tide will turn and you make your mark—or you may not.”

Although Diana is extremely confident about her abilities and accomplishments, she shows some humility when she says, “I’m very honored the way so many people look at my books and appreciate what I’ve done. That’s all you can do—and cook for them.”

The cooking scenes in the documentary are fairly good, but not outstanding. What’s actually more impressive is the documentary’s cinematography of Mexico’s gorgeous landscape. Some of the aerial shots are breathtaking. (Paul Mailman and Andrei Zakow are credited as the film’s cinematographers.)

“Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy” is not a bad documentary. It’s just not a very insightful or revealing film. It’s the documentary equivalent of a Wikipedia page instead of an illuminating biography.

Greenwich Entertainment released “Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy” in select U.S. virtual cinemas on May 22, 2020. The movie’s digital/VOD release date is June 19, 2020, and the DVD release date is June 23, 2020.

2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘The Gasoline Thieves’

April 25, 2019

by Carla Hay

Regina Reynoso and Eduardo Banda in "The Gasoline Thieves"
Regina Reynoso and Eduardo Banda in “The Gasoline Thieves”

“The Gasoline Thieves” (“Huachicolero”)

Directed by Edgar Nito

Spanish with subtitles

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival  in New York City on April 25, 2019.

There have been countless movies made about different crimes, but “The Gasoline Thieves” is probably the first dramatic film that you’ll see about a crime that is starting to get national attention in Mexico: thieves trespassing on land with Pemex pipelines, stealing gasoline from the pipes, and selling the gasoline on the black market. This riveting first feature-length film from director Edgar Nito takes a look at the crime from the perspective of a teenage boy named Lalo (played by Eduardo Bando), who gets involved with a local group of gasoline thieves and finds out that that he is in way over his head.

Even though the characters in “The Gasoline Thieves” are fictional, they are all entirely believable, and Nito has written them as characters with the sort of quiet desperation of people yearning for a better life. Lalo is actually a good kid, who loves and respects his single mother, who lives with him in a ramshackle building. He also has a crush on a fellow student named Ana (played by Regina Reynoso), whom he hopes to impress enough to convince her to be his girlfriend.

Like many people who turn to a life of crime, Lalo is struggling financially, and he is desperate for cash. He plans to steal temporarily just so he can get enough money to help his mother and have enough cash left over to woo Ana with dates and gifts. As a gift for Ana, he has his eye on the latest cell phone that he won’t be able to afford unless he can come up with the cash quickly.

Joining Lalo in the thieving activities is Rulo (played by Pedro Joaquin), a tough older teen who has less of a conscience than Lalo does. Unlike Lalo, Rulo is more comfortable with being a criminal, and there’s the sense that Rulo is in “thug life” for the long haul. Leading the group of local gasoline thieves is Don Gil (played by Fernando Becerril), a senior citizen who acts almost like a grandfather to Lalo when Lalo is recruited to steal gasoline.

Much of the movie shows Lalo and his accomplices working together as a coordinated team to commit the thefts. Lalo essentially begins to live a secret double life—harmless student by day, reckless thief at night. He also makes tentative steps to get Ana to show interest in dating him. Ana plays it coy by keeping him in the “friend zone” while still flirting with him.

Meanwhile, the local police are investigating the gasoline thefts and are starting to close in on the gang. When Lalo finally reaches a decision about when he’s going to quit being a criminal, it has a ripple effect that spreads almost as quickly as a fire accelerated by gasoline. “The Gasoline Thieves” director Nito (who co-wrote the movie’s screenplay) has a flair for ramping up the suspense in key moments, whether through well-placed camera angles or how he weaves Carlo Ayhllón’s gripping score into each scene. The results are a haunting story that will make viewers wonder how many anonymous gasoline thieves are out there in real life who are like Lalo—fooling themselves into thinking it’s a harmless crime, and finding out the hard way that it’s not so easy to quit.

Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos set to open in Mexico in fall 2017

March 29, 2017

Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos
Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos (Rendering courtesy of Palace Resorts)

The following is an excerpt from a Palace Resorts press release:

Palace Resorts—the company that sets the standard in five-star, all-inclusive resort accommodations—is pleased to announce the highly anticipated debut of luxurious, Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos in Fall 2017.  The second property comes after the tremendous success of Le Blanc Spa Resort Cancun, the brand’s flagship property and Cancun’s #1 all-inclusive resort as designated by the TripAdvisor community. The resort located on Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula is the second property under the umbrella of Palace Resorts, a hospitality company with over 30 years of experience in the luxury all-inclusive market. This opulent beachfront property will feature the traditional facilities and over the top amenities Le Blanc Spa Resort is known for, including well-appointed designer suites, an award-winning 29,000-square-foot full-service spa with 25 treatment rooms, an incredible hydrotherapy facility, a 3,961-square-foot fitness center and wellness center, juice bars, four plunge pools, gourmet specialty cuisine, butler service, over 14,000-square-foot meeting space, four breakout rooms and much more.

Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos (Rendering courtesy of Palace Resorts)

The 373-room luxury beachfront adults-only resort, will boast whimsical suites, all over 760 square feet, with private terraces, featuring panoramic ocean views. In addition, the resort will feature seven gourmet restaurants and six bars with an extensive wine and beverage program. Incredible amenities at this adults-only oasis will include: A brand new fitness center with top-notch personal trainers, the latest fitness activities including, TRX training, Spinning & Aqua Spinning, Yoga and Pilates, as well as a meditation area, for the ultimate tranquility. The resort will also feature an array of recreational activities; 24-hour personalized butler service, as well as 24-hour in-suite service. Conveniently located just 35 minutes from the Los Cabos International Airport and, 15 minutes from downtown Cabo San Lucas, Le Blanc Spa Resort is an oasis of luxury unlike any other.

Exteriors designed by master architect Roberto Elias and interiorly brought to life by Francois Frossard of Francois Frossard Design (FFD), Le Blanc Spa Resort is a designer’s dream. With an impressive grandesque entrance, seven stories high, Le Blanc Spa Resort is an elegant, yet chic designed hotel, rivaling some of the most modern hotels in the world.

The luxurious resort will be comprised of four buildings that curve toward the ocean and permeate the flair of the local area’s rich soils.  The suites, restaurants, and bars feature ocean views, larger terraces and greater use of open outdoor spaces. The unique flora and fauna of Los Cabos, the climate, the landscapes, and surrounding mountains, played a big influence in the architect’s design of the resort. He wanted to ensure the property was in line with the original brand born in Cancun with its smooth lines, redefined corners, and elegance without complications.

Sophisticated Rooms & Suites

Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos (Rendering courtesy of Palace Resorts)

The interiors of the 373 guest rooms and suites were designed with a tranquil color palette with cool shades of white and plush furnishings.  Suites range from 760 to 1,400, sq. ft. and all feature ocean views. Suites come equipped with, private terraces, comfortable living spaces, a king or two standard double beds, oversized bathrooms with luxurious bathtubs and sophisticated rain showerheads.

Guests can enjoy personal butler service, a nightly aromatherapy menu, a selection of lavish pillows from our pillow menu and the most luxurious of in-room amenities like CHI blow dryers, CHI flatirons and BVLGARI personal products, including an array of luxury bath salts in every room. Suites are also stocked with mini-bars featuring top-shelf spirits, snacks, high definition flat screen SMART TV’s, with Apple TV and gourmet Lavazza coffee makers. Guests will rest on goose down pillows and luxury bedding with 100% cotton sheets, complimentary Wi-Fi, signature beach tote and umbrella.

A Taste of Luxury

Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos (Rendering courtesy of Palace Resorts)

Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos will offer an extensive array of gourmet restaurants sure to please even the most discerning palettes. Featuring cuisines from around the world, Le Blanc Spa Resort will offer foodies the chance to dine on exquisite ingredients with unique presentations and savory bites from around the globe.

The resort’s signature restaurant, Lumiere, is sure to impress with a seven-course French tasting menu, paired with signature wines.  Other restaurant options include:

  • BLANC INTERNATIONAL– Offering a casual dining experience, the all-day dining restaurant will offer scenic views and international cuisine and gourmet Robata Grill featuring a variety of meats, fish & chicken.
  • BLANC ITALIA – An upscale Italian dining experience awaits guests, featuring a refined upscale Italian a la carte menu, with traditional dishes with a modern twist.
  • BLANC ASIA – An eclectic mix of modern Asian fusion mixed with classic favorites, the Asian fused menu will offer an abundance of sushi, modern Thai favorites and traditional dishes.
  • BLANC PIZZA – Gourmet brick-oven handcrafted pizza awaits guests, along with other light bites.
  • BLANC OCEAN – A haven for seafood lovers, the menu will feature fresh catches of the day from the region’s best, traditional grills and Baja California’s best fish. At night, the restaurant will offer classic Mexican cuisine.
  • BLANC CAFÉ – Indulge in delicious, freshly baked goods, as well as unique French pastries, sweets and a variety of coffees, teas & juices.

Guests can also delight in high-end mixology and indulge in unique cocktails at one of the many on-property bars. Featuring an extensive list of carefully crafted libations by the resort’s top mixologists, Le Blanc Spa Resort will set the stage for any mood, with its six different bars including BLANC Stage, BLANC Lobby, BLANC Sol, BLANC Eclipse, BLANC Fire and BLANC Beach.

Le Blanc Spa Resort will also offer guests non-stop entertainment, from special dining experiences, to a gourmet coffee bar, live music, DJ, an incredible fire pit, dubbed Blanc Fire and interactive mixology classes.

An Award-Winning Spa

Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos (Rendering courtesy of Palace Resorts)

BLANCSPA will span more than 29,000 square feet and will feature a hydrotherapy area, hot & cold plunge pools, sauna, herbal steam room, chromo therapy, ice room, relaxation lounge and 25 treatment rooms where guests can indulge in a full menu of exotic and invigorating spa treatments. With unique services, featuring the latest in spa technology trends, the spa will feature ancient local inspired treatments. Other services will include a variety of massages, diamond facials and traditional salon services and more. The spa will also feature a beauty salon, boutique and state of the art fitness center.

Meet in Luxury

Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos (Rendering courtesy of Palace Resorts)

Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos will offer more than 14,000 square feet of space for corporate and social events.  Facilities will include the 8,912-square-foot BLANC CONVENTION, a room that accommodates up to 630 people, with three additional rooms—BLANC BREEZE (2,368 square feet), BLANC WIND (1,370 square feet) and BLANC BOARD (914 square feet).  The resort will offer groups the latest in technology, top-of-the-line audio-visual equipment, and a fully equipped business center, with complimentary WiFi throughout the entire resort.

Leisure Activities

Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos (Rendering courtesy of Palace Resorts)

Le Blanc Spa Resort will offer a variety of leisurely activities, allowing guests the option to unwind in complete relaxation, or get moving! Activities will include stand up paddleboard yoga, live music, karaoke, guided meditation classes, aqua spinning and more.

Giving Back

Le Blanc Spa Resort will also have a local chapter of the Palace Foundation, to ensure the resort is giving back on a local level. The foundation will provide services to the surrounding communities in the region, including health services, scholarship funds, access to medical care, environmental sustainability and will offer guests a part in conservation activities such as the turtle release programs, among others.

Le Blanc Spa Resort is conveniently located 35 minutes from Los Cabos International Airport. Resort guests can also enjoy complimentary self and valet parking services. Rates start at $850 per night for a standard double suite.

Ocean Riviera Paradise opens in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

December 15, 2016

Ocean Riviera Paradise
(Rendering courtesy of Ocean Riviera Paradise)

Ocean Riviera Paradise is now open for business in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.  Launched on December 15, 2016, the hotel is the Ocean by H10 Hotels‘ third location in Mexico and eighth location worldwide.  The hotel has 974 junior suites and meeting and event space that can accommodate as many as 250 people. In addition, there are 10 restaurants,  12 bars, Mike’s Coffee and an ice cream parlor.

The hotel has four distinct areas:

  • The Daisy area, for families, especially those with children ages 4 to 12 years old.
  • The Privilege area, for those seeking exclusive, VIP amenities.
  • The Eden area, for guests who want to have a close access to the beach of the Mexican Caribbean.
  • El Beso, for adults only.

Here are some photos of Ocean Riviera Paradise:

(All photos courtesy of Ocean Riviera Paradise)