Review: ‘Un Rescate de Huevitos,’ starring the voices of Bruno Bichir, Maite Perroni, Oliver Flores, Dione Riva Palacio Santacruz, Carlos Espejel, Angélica Vale and Mayra Rojas

September 7, 2021

by Carla Hay

Toto (voiced by Bruno Bichir), Willy (played by Carlos Espejel), Toporocho (voiced by Claudio Herrera), Bacon, Di (voiced by Maite Perroni), Bibi (voiced by Angélica Vale) and Confi (voiced by Gabriel Riva Palacio Alatriste) in “Un Rescate de Huevitos” (Photo courtesy of Pantelion Films)

“Un Rescate de Huevitos”

Directed by Gabriel Riva Palacio Alatriste and Rodolfo Riva Palacio Alatriste

Spanish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Mexico and Congo, the animated film “Un Rescate de Huevitos” features a group of talking animals, as well as human Russians and Mexicans.

Culture Clash: A greedy villainess, who collects valuable eggs for a Russian baron, steals two young “golden eggs,” whose rooster father and hen mother go on the hunt to rescue their children.

Culture Audience: “Un Rescate de Huevitos” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching family-friendly animated adventure stories.

Duquesa (voiced by Mayra Rojas) in “Un Rescate de Huevitos” (Photo courtesy of Pantelion Films)

“Un Rescate de Huevitos” (which means “An Egg Rescue” in English) is a lightweight, fun-filled ride for people who enjoy animation with a predictable story arc that’s entertaining, thanks to the variety of characters and amusing situations. The movie might seem to be a little overstuffed with characters for very young viewers or for people with short attention spans. However, the adventurous plot of the movie is very easy to follow, which makes “Un Rescate de Huevitos” a crowd-pleasing film for many generations.

Directed by brothers Gabriel Riva Palacio Alatriste and Rodolfo Riva Palacio Alatriste, “Un Rescate de Huevitos” is the fourth in Huevocartoon Producciones’ “Huevos” animated series of films that follows the life of a rooster chicken named Toto, beginning from when he was an egg in the first movie to now being a husband and father in this fourth film. The Alatriste brothers (who co-founded Huevocartoon Producciones) co-wrote the “Un Rescate de Huevitos” screenplay.

In “Un Rescate de Huevitos,” Toto (voiced by Bruno Bichir) and his wife Di (voiced by Maite Perroni) are living happily on Granjas el Pollon (El Pollon Farms) somewhere in Mexico. These two lovebirds have welcomed two golden eggs into their family: a boy named Max (voiced by Oliver Flores) and a girl named Uly (voiced by Dione Riva Palacio Santacruz).

These new parents (especially Toto) are very protective of their eggs and get some babysitting help from their egg friend Bibi (voiced by Angélica Vale), who is dating Toto’s egg best friend Willy (played by Carlos Espejel), a former military sergeant. Even though the eggs haven’t become chickens yet, they have minds of their own and want to be independent. Max is very resentful of his father Toto being overprotective, and they have disagreements about it.

The farm’s human owner La Abuelita (voiced by María Alicia Delgado) is so entranced with the eggs’ golden appearance that she enters the eggs into a contest for ranchers and farmers can show off their young animals. The eggs win the grand prize. La Abuelita is proud and delighted, but her joy won’t last long because the eggs are about to be stolen.

At this contest is a Russian egg collector named Duquesa (voiced by Mayra Rojas), a ruthless villain who wants eggs as treasures and as delicacies. She’s looking for chicken eggs to complete her collection. Duquesa (which means “duchess” in English; her real name is Guadalupe) works for Barón Roncovich (voiced by Humberto Vélez), who hosts a gala event in Africa for society’s elite from all over the world. At this event, rare eggs are served as delicacies.

Duquesa immediately wants the golden eggs for Barón Roncovich’s upcoming gala, so she offers to buy Max and Uly for $200, but La Abuelita declines the offer. But that doesn’t stop Duquesa, who orders two hired thugs who are bothers—Panzovich (voiced by Héctor Lee) and Gordimitri (voiced by Juan Frese)—to follow La Abuelita and her family back to the farm. The thug brothers send animal moles with mind-control helmets to the farm to steal Max and Uly.

Uly and Max’s loved ones are frantic when they find that out the two eggs are missing. They form a rescue group consisting of Toto, Di, Willy, Bibi, a goofy Cascarón egg named Confi (voiced by Gabriel Riva Palacio Alatriste) and a mute bacon strip called Bacon. The thugs betray the moles by leaving the helmets on, and the moles can’t take them off without help.

Willy and Bibi find track down one of the moles, whose name is Toporocho (voiced by Claudio Herrera), and they free him from the helmet. In gratitude, Toporocho tells the rescue group that the eggs are on a plane headed to the African country of Congo. The rescuers hitch a ride on the plane, but a series of events get them thrown off the plane and into the jungles of Congo, where they have no idea where they are.

Meanwhile, Max and Uly have been placed in a collector’s jar. They are being held captive with other eggs who are in the same predicament: Torti, a slow-speaking turtle egg with powerful jaws. snake egg Serp (voiced by Gabriel Riva Palacio Alatriste); crocodile egg Coco (voiced by Rodolfo Riva Palacio Alatriste); lizard egg Lagatijo (voiced by Gabriel Riva Palacio Alatriste); ostrich egg Manotas (voiced by Gabriel Riva Palacio Alatriste); iguana egg Iguano (also voiced by Rodolfo Riva Palacio Alatriste); ostrich egg Huevo de Halcón (voiced by Armando González); eagle egg El Huevo de Águila Real (voiced by Mauricio Barrientos); famine quail egg Huevo de Codorniz (voiced by Ximena de Anda); and peacock egg Pavi (voiced by Mónica Santacruz).

Other characters that make appearances in the movie include chicken-eating opossums (and partners in crime) Tlacua (voiced by Fernando Meza) and Cuache (voiced by Rodolfo Riva Palacio Alatriste). There are also two monkeys named El Chango Bananero (voiced by Freddy Ortega) and El Chango Petacón (voiced by German Ortega that are talent scouts for a “Congo’s Got Talent” show, with a lion named Rey León (voiced by Jesús Ochoa), also known as Leonidas I.

One of the best things about “Un Rescate de Huevitos” is that it keeps the adventurous spirit consistent throughout the entire movie, whose pace doesn’t lag. The captured eggs are transported a refrigerator, where they face near-freezing temperatures due to a mishap and almost face death. There’s also some sly commentary about humans, such when the “king of the jungle” lion says, “No one can beat humans. They are the worst predators.”

As the chief villain, Duquesa is a over-the-top character, as expected. In terms of visual style, she seems to be greatly inspired by the Disney character Cruella. And her snarls and cackles are hit all the right beats, but she’s more campy than scary.

The animation for “Un Rescate de Huevitos” is very above-average, but not outstanding. The best visual scenes are in the jungle during the “Congo’s Got Talent” contest. What keeps this movie engaging is the way that the jokes flow well and stay true to the characters.

There are no heavy-handed and preachy messages in “Un Rescate de Huevitos.” It’s simply a breezy escapist movie about family and the appreciation of loved ones. Sometimes that’s all you need if you’re looking for a movie that children and adults can enjoy.

Pantelion Films released “Un Rescate de Huevitos” in select U.S. cinemas on August 27, 2021. The movie was released in Mexico on August 12, 2021.

Review: ‘499,’ starring Eduardo San Juan Breña

September 6, 2021

by Carla Hay

Eduardo San Juan Breña in “499” (Photo by Alejandro Mejia/AMC/Cinema Guild)

“499”

Directed by Rodrigo Reyes

Spanish and Nahuatl with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Mexico, the docudrama “499” features an all-Latino cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A ghostly Spanish conquistador from the 1500s experiences culture shock when he finds himself in Mexico in the early 2020s. 

Culture Audience: “499” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in movies that blend scripted content and non-fiction content to offer a social commentary on the effects of colonialism.

Eduardo San Juan Breña (third from right) with Honduran migrants in “499” (Photo by Alejandro Mejia/AMC/Cinema Guild)

The docudrama “499” offers a bold satirical look at what would happen if a Spanish conquistador from the 1500s suddenly had to live in modern-day Mexico. The movie cleverly shows actor Eduardo San Juan Breña (also known as Eduardo San Juan) in the role of a ghostly, time-traveling conquistador who interacts with non-actors in Mexico. Various people, including this mysterious conquistador, provide voiceover narration. Needless to say, he can’t quite get over the shock that Spain is still not in control of Mexico.

This film won’t be appealing to everyone. And it could’ve easily veered into the type of “the joke’s on you” tone that’s seen in Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” movies. However, “499” puts a unique spin on a story of colonialism and how colonialism’s effects still linger today.

The movie opens with a brief caption giving a history lesson for viewers who are unfamiliar with Spain’s takeover of the Aztec Empire in the land that is now known as Mexico. The caption reads: “In 1521, [Spanish conquistador Hernán] Cortés conquered the Aztec Empire. With a few hundred soldiers and thousands of native allies, he marched from the coast of Veracruz to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan.”

In “499,” it’s almost 500 years later after 1521. And the time-traveling, unnamed conquistador who becomes shipwrecked in Mexico is supposed to be some kind of ghost, but he can be seen by people. This conquistador was a soldier in Cortés’ army, and he has no idea how he ended up in modern-day Mexico. Get used to seeing several scenes where he reacts with shock to things such as cars, telephones and modern clothing.

The conquistador’s journey in the movie follows the same path that Cortés took in his invasion of the Aztec Nation. On the coast of Mexico, the conquistador washes up on the beach and is mystified by the sight of plastic cup and a motorcycle. He gets stared at by people on the beach who have no idea why this person is dressed as a conquistador.

The conquistador sees a water gourd, grabs it, and drinks it, as if he’s been thirsty for hours. In a daze and still trying tor figure out what happened and where he is, he then wanders into an elementary school. He collapses from exhaustion and confusion.

He’s next seen by himself outdoors, wondering to himself if he’s dead or in purgatory. Eventually, he meets a young man who says that the corrupt Mexican government abducted and killed the young man’s father for being an activist and a journalist. The father’s body parts were found in a bag.

As a parting gift, the son with this tragic story gives the conquistador a blank journal. The conquistador says in a voiceover, “Cortés would cry with rage to see the savages in charge again … I discovered they were the children of the devil.”

In other words, this isn’t going to be a cute and cuddly time-traveling story about a conquistador who overcomes his racial prejudice and adapts quickly to his new environment. He literally has an “old school” mentality that Spaniards are superior to the indigenous people of this area.

In the city of Veracruz, the conquistador encounters more evidence that Mexico has an epidemic of missing and murdered people. He meets a mother whose 24-year-old son is missing. And he walks through a protest where people are angry that the government isn’t doing enough to find the men who’ve gone missing in the area. In Veracruz, he also goes to a strip club, and his reaction is what you might expect it to be.

In the Sierra, he’s captured by men for trespassing in their wooded area, but he’s released to continue his journey. He also marvels at some pole acrobats. It’s a scene that makes him look like an awestruck tourist. The movie has touches of this type of comedy, but “499” doesn’t let people forget that this is a conquistador who is very unhappy at that the Spaniards are no longer in charge of the land that he and other Spanish soldiers invaded with Cortés.

In the Highlands, the conquistador ends up on the street with some young male Honduran migrants who are looking for work. One man tells the story of how he had to leave home because he was getting gang threats. The migrants also talk about the dangers of crossing the border into Mexico, such as people extorting bribes and train hopping that could lead to injuries or death.

The conquistador is not very pleased to be in the company of these poverty-stricken and desperate men. But this stranger doesn’t know how else he can find work to support himself. It’s not as if there are employment ads looking for a Spanish conquistador from the 1500s.

The conquistador mutters to himself about the Honduran migrants: “These miserable migrants chase after the promise of glory. They remind me of us.” It’s the first indication that this displaced conquistador begins to see that a Spanish soldier in Cortés’ army might have something in common with these Honduran migrants: being at the mercy of a system where only an elite group of people get most of the power, money and glory.

What works so well about “499” is that it shows how this unnamed conquistador gradually begins to understand the damage that was inflicted in the name of colonialism. And even when a country such as Mexico is independent from a colonial country, he learns that brutality and corruption are timeless plagues on any society. The movie intends to make viewers think about how much humanity has really progressed (or not) when certain atrocities still exist today.

In Paso de Cortés, the conquistador goes on a car ride with a military soldier-turned-drug runner, who hides his identity with face coverings. In Tenochtitlan, he meets another person grieving over a loved one: a mother named Lorena Gutiérrez, whose 12-year-old daughter was kidnapped and murdered, mostlikely by criminals involved with drug deal and/or sex trafficking.

The conquistador doesn’t talk much, but “499” is able to convey a detailed story without a lot of dialogue. His interactions with the non-actors in the movie might look too staged at time, which is expected since they knew they were being filmed for a movie. However, their conversations don’t look scripted. Viewers will get the impression that the people who had conversations with the “conquistador” were told about the concept of the film and were asked to tell their unscripted stories on camera.

Non-actors listed in the movie credits are Jorge Sánchez, Martha González and Sixto Cabrera, but it isn’t made clear who they are in the movie. San Juan Breña, who makes his feature-film debut in “499,” fully commits to his role, by moving and reacting as if he’s really from a Spanish conquistador from the 1500s. At times, it looks like he’s doing a comedy sketch, but he never strays too far from the movie’s generally serious tone.

Pablo Mondragón’s musical score for “499” perfectly captures the mood for each scene. And “499” director Reyes brings the right amount of light-hearted flair so that the movie’s tone doesn’t get too dark. The unnamed conquistador isn’t supposed to be a hero or a villain but someone who is a product of a certain environment at a particular point in time.

The end of the movie shows what happened to the conquistador. It’s enough to say that he doesn’t have a time travel machine that will take him back to the 1500s. How the movie concludes is a commentary on what can happen when people open their minds up to different perspectives.

Cinema Guild released “499” in New York City on August 20, 2021. The movie’s release expanded to Los Angeles on August 27, 2021, and San Francisco on September 3, 2021, with more U.S. cities in subsequent weeks.

Review: ‘I Carry You With Me,’ starring Armando Espitia, Christian Vázquez, Michelle Rodríguez, Ángeles Cruz, Arcelia Ramírez and Michelle González

July 5, 2021

by Carla Hay

Armando Espitia and Christian Vázquez in “I Carry You With Me” (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)

“I Carry You With Me”

Directed by Heidi Ewing

Spanish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Mexico and New York City, the dramatic film “I Carry With You With Me” features a cast of predominantly Latino characters (with some white people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two Mexican men in a gay love affair reach a crossroads in the relationship when one of the men wants to move to the United States to pursue his dream of becoming a chef.

Culture Audience: “I Carry You With Me” will appeal primarily to people interested in movies about Mexican culture, the LGBTQ community and immigrant experiences in the United States.

Michelle Rodríguez and Armando Espitia in “I Carry You With Me” (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)

The emotionally stirring drama “I Carry You With Me” tells a real-life epic love story between two Mexican men who have different struggles over their sexuality, immigration and what it means to follow a dream. It’s also a poignant story about what it means to sacrifice for love and for personal ambition. And it’s a tale of self-discovery and identity that tests the old adage, “Home is where the heart is.”

“I Carry You With Me” is the first narrative feature film from Heidi Ewing, a filmmaker who’s mostly known for her documentaries, such as the Oscar-nominated 2006 film “Jesus Camp” and the 2012 film “Detropia.” Ewing didn’t completely leave her non-fiction filmmaking behind for “I Carry You With Me,” because Iván Garcia and Gerardo Zabaletae—the real-life men who became a couple in this story—portray themselves as middle-aged men in the unscripted scenes, which are a small but important part of the movie. The majority of the movie’s scenes are scripted, with actors portraying Garcia and Zabaletae as their younger selves. “I Carry You With Me” takes place and was filmed in Mexico and in New York City.

Ewing co-wrote the “I Carry You With Me” screenplay with Alan Page Arriaga. And the idea for the movie came by chance, when Garcia and Zabaletae (who are longtime friends of Ewing) told Ewing their very personal story of how they met, fell in love, and faced immense challenges in their relationship. These difficulties included hiding their romance from homophobic family members, as well as the threat of being torn apart when Garcia moved from Mexico to New York City to pursue his dream of becoming a chef.

According to the “I Carry You With Me” production notes, Garcia and Zabaletae revealed the detailed history of their relationship to Ewing in 2012, when they were all at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Garcia and Zabaletae had no idea at the time that their story would be made into a movie. Ewing says in the production notes: “We had been friends for so long, since before any of our careers took off, but I just didn’t know the details of all they had experienced. So on the plane ride home from Sundance, I wrote everything down that I could remember and sent myself an email called ‘The Mexican Love Story.’ A seed had been planted in my head and I was like, ‘Uh oh, this isn’t going to leave me.'”

Although scenes in “I Carry You With Me” take place in multiple decades, most of the film takes place in the 1990s, during the first few years of Garcia and Zabaletae’s relationship, when they were in their 20s. They met in Puebla, Mexico, in 1994, when Iván (played by Armando Espitia) was a dishwasher at a local restaurant but dreaming of one day becoming a chef. Although this story is about a couple, it’s told mainly from Iván’s perspective.

At this point in his life, Iván is still mostly “in the closet” about his sexuality. He’s a single father to a son named Ricky (played by Paco Luna), who’s about 4 or 5 years old. Iván is a devoted and loving father to Ricky, but Iván is embarrassed that he can barely pay child support. Iván is also terrified that he would lose visitation rights if Ricky’s mother Paola (played by Michelle González) found out that Iván is gay. Paola already has a tense relationship with Iván because he doesn’t make enough money to buy the things that she wants for Ricky.

One of the few people in Iván’s life who knows about his true sexuality is his best friend Sandra (played by Michelle Rodríguez), who has been his closest confidant since they were children. There are flashbacks to their childhood, when Sandra (played by Alexia Morales) and Iván (played by Yael Tadeo), at about 9 or 10 years old, would play dress-up in women’s clothing and wear makeup. Iván’s mother Rosa Maria (played by Ángeles Cruz) is a dressmaker, so Iván has easy access to the gowns that she makes as part of her work.

The movie shows what happens when Iván’s father Marcos (played by Raúl Briones) comes home one day and sees Iván and Sandra during one of their “dress-up” play sessions. He’s surprised and disgusted at seeing his son in drag, but Marcos stops short of physically abusing Iván over it. As for Iván’s mother Rosa Maria, if she ever suspected that Iván was gay, she chooses to be in denial over it, because even into his adulthood, she believes Iván’s claims that he has been dating only women.

The movie doesn’t go into details about Iván and Paola’s failed relationship. But by the time that Iván meets Gerardo, it’s obvious that Iván and Paola will not be getting back together. Iván and Paola are only in each other’s lives because they’re co-parenting Ricky. Paola is portayed as someone who is constantly stressed-out over her finances and disappointed in Iván for not being a better provider for Ricky. However, Paola has a good relationship with Iván’s mother Rosa Maria, who is very present in her grandson Ricky’s life.

Iván and Gerardo meet at a gay nightclub, where Iván has gone with Sandra, and Gerardo is by himself. Gerardo and Iván lock eyes with each other, in the way that people do when they’re immediately attracted to each other. Gerardo makes it clear from the beginning that he’s very interested in Iván because he gets Iván’s attention by shining a red pen light on him.

It isn’t long before Iván and Gerardo make their way to each other and start having a flirtatious and easygoing conversation at the nightclub. The romantic sparks between them are immediate, and they end up kissing the first night that they meet. On the night that they meet, Gerardo is very open about being gay and says that he “escaped” from his hometown of Chiapas, thereby implying that he has a homophobic family too.

Iván isn’t as forthcoming about his own family background. For example, Iván doesn’t tell Gerardo right away that Iván is the father of a child. Gerardo finds out another way, which causes the first big conflict in Iván and Gerardo’s relationship. By this time, Iván and Gerardo have become lovers, and Gerardo is aware that Iván is “in the closet” to almost everyone, but Gerardo doesn’t know to the extent why Iván is so paranoid about it.

By contrast, Gerardo isn’t afraid to live openly as a gay man while he’s been in Puebla. One of Gerardo’s closest friends is a drag queen named Cucusa Minelly (played by Luis Alberti), who is concerned about Gerardo getting his heart broken by the closeted Iván. Gerardo goes to see Cucusa’s drag queen act in a nightclub, and he walks down the street with Cucusa while Cucusa wears heavy makeup. It’s something that Iván would never do at this point in his life.

Gerardo works as a teaching assistant at the University of Puebla. He owns an apartment. And it’s later revealed that he comes from a somewhat well-to-do rancher family in Chiapas. Gerardo’s mother Magda (played by Arcelia Ramírez) and Gerardo’s father César (played by Pascacio López) know that Gerardo is gay, but they don’t like to talk about it. It’s evident when Gerardo takes Iván home to Chiapas to meet his family (Gerardo’s parents, his two younger sisters and younger brother), during the family’s birthday celebration for Gerardo. Iván is described as Gerardo’s “best friend” to the family.

Over dinner in the family home, tensions begin to rise when Gerardo’s father César asks Iván what he does for a living. Gerardo lies and says that Iván is a chef. However, Iván corrects him and says that he’s a dishwasher in a restaurant, while César reacts with a disapproving look on his face. It’s the first time that Iván sees that his sexuality wouldn’t be the only reason why he wouldn’t be completely accepted by Gerardo’s family.

Although Iván hides his sexuality from most of the people he knows, he refuses to lie about his social class, whereas Gerardo seems self-conscious with his family about being close to someone who has a menial, working-class job. Because Gerardo wanted to lie to his family about what Iván does for a living, it hurts Iván’s feelings that Gerardo seems to be ashamed of Iván’s social class. It won’t be the last time their social class differences will cause tension in Gerardo and Iván’s relationship.

The movie also has a harrowing flashback scene of Gerardo at about 8 or 9 years old being bullied by his father, who yells at Gerardo to stop acting like a girl. César is so angry about it that he drives Gerardo to a deserted farm field at night, abandons a frightened Gerardo there, and orders Gerardo not to come home until he can act like a boy. Gerardo ends up walking home by himself at night, in tears. It’s a very traumatic experience that is an example of what Gerardo had to endure until he was old enough to move away from his family.

Iván has become increasingly frustrated with his restaurant job. He had been patiently waiting for a year to get a promotion to become a line cook. But when that job opening occurs, the manager ends up hiring a nephew instead. Iván’s boss also dismissively tells Iván that Iván is lucky to have the dishwasher job and that it sometimes takes years to be promoted to a cook position.

Observant viewers will notice that Iván’s American Dream ambition is largely fueled by wanting to get out of his working-class rut. Meanwhile, Gerardo is more used to being in a comfortable financial situation, so he doesn’t have the same motivation as Iván does to start over and re-invent himself in another country. Something happens later in the movie that hastens Ivan’s plan to go to America, where Iván believes that he will have better opportunities to become a chef.

Iván’s decision to move to the United States as an undocumented immigrant is a turning point in his relationship with Gerardo. Sandra decides to go with Iván (their border crossing is one of the most tension-filled parts of the movie), but will Gerardo go too? That question is answered in the movie, which shows what happened after Iván moved to New York City. Iván’s decision to leave his son Ricky is something that haunts Iván and gives him a lot of guilt.

“I Carry You With Me” inevitably has tearjearking moments, but the movie is also filled with a lot of hope and realistic portrayals of a romance that is far from a fairy tale. There are layers to the story that authentically address the fear, loneliness and resentment that result from decisions made by Iván and Gerardo. The movie is also a keen observation of the American Dream from two different perspectives: one that sees the American Dream as a worthy goal, and one that sees the American Dream as the reason why loved ones are torn apart. And the movie doesn’t shy away from depicting the harsh realities of bigotry experienced by undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who aren’t white and who don’t have English as their first language.

All of the main actors give convincing performances, but Espitia’s portrayal of Iván is the one that will stay with viewers the most. Espitia has a wonderfully expressive face that can convey so much without saying a word. Gerardo has also gone through his share of trials and tribulations in this relationship and as a gay man, but Iván’s journey is more complicated because he has a child who will be forever affected by his decisions. “I Carry You With Me” is one couple’s real-life love story, but it has an outstanding way of speaking to larger issues of what people will do in the name of love and to make better lives for themselves.

Sony Pictures Classics and Stage 6 Films released “I Carry You With Me” in select U.S. cinemas on June 25, 2021.

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)