New Releases for the Week of February 1, 2019


MISS BALA

(Columbia) Gina Rodriguez, Anthony Mackie, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Thomas Dekker, Matt Lauria, Aislinn Derbez. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke

A Mexican-American woman, visiting family south of the border, is drawn into the world of the drug cartels with the lives of those she loves most on the line. Working both sides of the line, she must find a strength and power of her own if she and her loved ones are to survive.

See the trailer and a video featurette here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Action
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of gun violence, sexual and drug content, thematic material, and language)

Destroyer

(Annapurna) Nicole Kidman, Sebastian Stan, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany. The career of an LAPD detective was forever scarred when as a young cop she was placed in an undercover position with a vicious gang in the California desert with tragic results. Now with the leader of that gang re-emerging, she must confront the demons of her past in order to put the gang down once and for all.

See the trailer, clips, a video featurette and B-roll video here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Crime Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, Old Mill Theater

Rating: R (for language throughout, violence, some sexual content and brief drug use)

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga

(FOX Star) Sonam Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Juhi Chawla, Rajkummar Rao. A young woman is pressured by her family to marry which isn’t unusual in India. However, she must contend with a writer who is completely smitten with her, a secret love that her family will never accept and a truth that may shatter her.

See the trailer, clips and a promo here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Now Playing: AMC West Oaks, Cinemark Universal Citywalk, Touchstar Southchase

Rating: NR

The Gandhi Murder

(Rising Star) Stephen Lang, Om Puri, Vinnie Jones, Rajit Kapoor. In the aftermath of India’s independence from the British empire, religious differences threaten to tear the nascent country apart. Three different police officers in three different parts of India gradually become aware of a threat against national hero Gandhi’s life and all three must make key decisions that will save either the country or Gandhi. This is reportedly based on true events.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: True Life Drama
Now Playing: AMC West Oaks, Cinemark Universal Citywalk

Rating: NR

Garabandal: Only God Knows

(Mater Spei) Fernando Garcia Linares, Belėn Garde, Rafael Samino, David Cruz. In the summer of 1861 in a village in Northern Spain, three young girls are visited first by the Archangel Michael, then receive over two thousand visits from Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The parish priest and the commander of the local Civil Guard must cope with the sudden notoriety and influx of supplicants seeking answers and with the hierarchy of the Church, some of whom seek to hide or exploit the young girls.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: True Life Faith-Based Drama
Now Playing: Regal The Loop

Rating: PG-13 (for brief violence)

The Least of These: The Graham Staines Story

(Skypass) Sharman Joshi, Stephen Baldwin, Shari Rigby, Manoj Mishra. An ambitious Indian journalist is assigned to go undercover to investigate Staines, an Australian missionary who is accused of forcibly converting poor and sick Hindus to Christianity, which is illegal in India. What the journalist discovers will cause him to choose between telling the truth and improving his career, all leading up to a terrible tragedy that would shake the foundations of Indian life.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, AMC West Oaks, Regal Oviedo Marketplace, Regal Waterford Lakes

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements/disturbing images)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Then Came You

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

Animal
Bufo Alvarus: The Underground Secret
Capernaum
Holiday
The Image Book
My Online Valentine
Saint Bernard Syndicate
Sharkwater Extinction
Whiskey On Beer

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG:

An Affair to Die For
Peranbu
Sarvam Thaala Mayam
Vandha Rajavathaan Varuven

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

[None]

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Destroyer
Miss Bala
Then Came You

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Miss Bala


The life of a beauty queen is harder in some places than others.

The life of a beauty queen is harder in some places than others.

(2011) Drama (Fox Searchlight) Stephanie Sigman, Irene Azuela, Miguel Coururier, Gabriel Heads, Noe Hernandez, James Russo, Jose Yenque, Juan Carlos Galvan, Lakshmi Picazo, Javier Zaragoza, Leonor Vitorica, Hugo Marquez, Eduardo Mendizabal, Sergio Gomez Padilla, Felipe Morales, Sergio Miguel Martinez, Gabriel Chavez, Leticia Huijara Cano. Directed by Gerardo Naranjo

Innocence is a commodity that falls by the wayside in a corrupt society. It is hard not to take sides when absolute power rules with brutality and intimidating force and often the side you take is not one taken of your own free will.

Laura Guerrero (Sigman) is a sweet and unassuming teenager who works selling secondhand clothes with her father (Zaragoza) and little brother (Galvan). On a whim she and her close friend Suzu (Picazo) decide to enter their names for the Miss Baja beauty pageant. That night they decide to go to a local night club and party.

During the evening, a group of thugs shoot up the club. Laura, who was in the bathroom at the time, escaped but witnessed the whole thing, being one of the few survivors. Her ordeal is just beginning; she is kidnapped the very next day and taken to Lino Valdez (Hernandez), the head of the drug cartel. Lino. Rather than executing the witness however, he uses her as a courier to ferry money across the border into the United States, bringing back arms and ammunition.

Lino and his gang use her brother and father to control her, threatening to execute them if she doesn’t do as they say and so she becomes a part of the gang. When they figure she can be useful for them as a pageant winner, they get her into the Miss Baja pageant and bribe the judges into letting her win. Her high profile allows them to use her as a means of seducing the powerful General Salomon Duarte (Couturier) and gaining control over him by that means. However, when she discovers that Suzu had not survived the shooting at the club (they assured her that she had), she realizes that nobody is getting out of this alive and she is left with a big decision to make.

As thrillers go this one is raw and gritty and sometimes not so pretty, even given the beauty pageant background. It displays the effects that intimidation, violence and brutality have on the lives of those caught in the crossfire and does so very effectively. Although it didn’t make the final short list, it was submitted as Mexico’s entry into the Best Foreign Language Film for the 2012 Academy Awards.

There’s a gritty realism that shows not only the desperation and poverty of the people who live in Baja but also the arrogance, the brutality and the opulence of those in power. The consequences of our war on drugs have never had such a human face as this.

Sigman is not well known to me as an actress; she has mainly appeared in Mexican films and since this movie was made has had a recurring role on the F/X TV series The Bridge. She certainly has the beauty and the innocent look but there isn’t a lot of emotion that we get from her other than terror which isn’t necessarily a deficiency on her part – the role doesn’t really call for much else and therein lies the main problem with the movie.

We really don’t get to know Laura at all before the massacre and kidnapping. She seems like a fairly sweet kid, a typical Mexican teenager trying to help her family make ends meet. However, the movie gets into the action so quickly (which isn’t normally an issue for me) that by the time we really know what’s happening Laura is already in victim mode, and that’s really the only way we know her throughout the film all the way to its ambiguous ending.

Sometimes the ins and outs of the politics of the movie can be a bit confusing as to who is on who’s side, who is screwing who and who is at war with who. Things do come out of left field seemingly and while that keeps us off-balance a little bit, some further explanation might have been helpful, particularly for us gringos.

Where the movie excels is in its suspense and tension. From the moment the massacre starts most viewers will be on the edge of their seats, and not really sure what’s going to come at them next. Think of it as riding a roller coaster blindfolded and never sure if you’re going to go flying out of your seat. Some might find that an unpleasant experience but for the purposes here that does satisfy the Type A personality in me.

Despite the recent upsurge in quality Mexican films, this one didn’t get a great deal of attention when it was released back in the early months of 2011 which is a bit of a shame. While it isn’t as good as, say, Y tu mama tambien or Amores perros it is as good as any thriller that has come out from Hollywood in recent years.

WHY RENT THIS: Raw and gritty. Raises the thriller bar up a notch..

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Don’t really connect with Laura as much as we should. Occasionally confusing.

FAMILY VALUES: Plenty of rough language, a goodly amount of sometimes strong and bloody violence as well as some sexuality.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Loosely based on Laura Zuniga, the former Miss Sinaloa, beauty queen and model who was arrested on December 22, 2008 for narcotics trafficking.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: Unavailable.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Maria, Full of Grace

FINAL RATING: 7.5/10

NEXT: Being Flynn