The summer movie season may still be a week away, but there's plenty of excitement to be found at your local cineplex, thanks to Marcus Theatres' first-ever CineLatino Film Festival, opening up tonight and running through the weekend at the Marcus South Shore Cinema in Oak Creek.
The theater will pack a dozen Spanish-language and Hispanic-focused features into just a few days, so how do you choose? Well, here are six standouts from the CineLatino lineup.
1. "How to Be a Latin Lover"
The film festival will open its inaugural curtain tonight with an early VIP screening of the bilingual comedy "How to Be a Latin Lover" and for good reason: It's the biggest – and arguably broadest – movie of any of the weekend's selections, telling the tale of a former Lothario dumped from his marriage, dumped out of his life of luxury and now dumped onto his estranged sister's couch, where he hopes to get his groove back – and help her awkward teen son discover his.
But while American audiences are very familiar with its supporting cast – featuring Rob Lowe, Michael Cera, Kristen Bell, Salma Hayek and Rob Corddry; you probably even know the director, Ken Marino ("Party Down," "Childrens Hospital") – "Latin Lover" will hopefully serve as a fine formal introduction to its leading man: Hispanic writer, director, producer and overall funnyman Eugenio Derbez.
In 2013, the Mexican star stunned Hollywood with the box-office success of his Spanish-language comedy "Instructions Not Included," outgrossing the likes of Vin Diesel ("Riddick"), Chris Hemsworth ("Rush") and the combined efforts of Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone ("Grudge Match") on its way to $44 million. The next year, Variety named the most influential Hispanic male in the business. And yet to many American moviegoers, Derbez is still a mystery.
Not likely after "How to Be a Latin Lover."
Upset you missed it at tonight's VIP premiere? No worries; it'll be showing several more times during the film festival, as well as throughout the rest of the week.
Want a peek into the summer movie season? Grab a ticket to "Lowriders," which will be showing a pair of times Friday night before its eventual wide release next month. The coming-of-age drama follows Danny, a young East L.A. street artist trapped between his demanding father's love of lowrider culture and his ex-felon brother's old criminal life.
As you'd expect from a summer release, "Lowriders" comes with its share of stars, including "Sons of Anarchy" co-star Theo Rossi, "Supergirl" Melissa Benoist and up-and-comer Gabriel Chavarria (also set to appear in the summer's "War of the Planet of the Apes"). Plus, you've got Demian Bechir, who's nabbed an Oscar nomination, and Eva Longoria, who co-produced "John Wick." Honestly not sure which of those achievements is more impressive. Either way, that's a lot of potential coming audiences' way next month – or less than 24 hours from now if you're on the ball.
3. "Las Horas Contigo"
Talking with Rolando Rodriguez, Marcus Theatres chairman, president and CEO, as well as one of the key minds behind the CineLatino Film Festival, he noted that family was a major theme they wanted to find for their selections. "Las Horas Contigo," which translates to "The Hours with You," certainly falls into that category, telling the story of a young woman coping with her grandmother's health while also attempting to reconnect with her estranged mother – all while dealing with her own impending, unexpected journey into motherhood.
While the film doesn't appear to have received much of a release for mainstream critics, Spanish-language critics and publications praised the film for avoiding the potential melodrama and emotional exploration of the story. Plus, not only is "Las Horas Contigo" diverse in bringing Hispanic characters to the big screen, but it's a sadly rare story focusing on women, as told by a female writer-director, Catalina Aguilar Mastretta. So there's plenty of reasons both on and off screen to spend a few hours with "Las Horas Contigo."
4. "Everybody Loves Somebody"
Keen-eyed cinephiles may recall that the Spanish rom-com "Everybody Loves Somebody" – from the same writer-director as "Las Horas Contigo" – actually already came out this year. But like many Spanish-language films and those aimed at Hispanic audiences, the movie received a fairly limited release, grossing just under $2 million overall. Sometimes these small distributions are because, well, the film just isn't very good.
That's apparently not the case for "Everybody Loves Somebody," however. When it first came out in February, critics noted that, while it's not really reinventing the rom-com formula, it demonstrates how that formula can work when it's well-acted, well-written and well-shot. "Everybody Loves Somebody" may not have gotten much love in its first go-around in theaters, but lucky for it – and you – here's a second chance.
No, it's not about the 33rd President of the United States. In fact, Truman's not even the main character of the movie that bears his name; he's just the dog (a very good dog, though). Instead, the dramedy follows two old friends brought together as one copes with a terminal health condition. Renowned film critic Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "There are things in life and art that are so simply beautiful that they must be witnessed, and (lead actor Ricardo) Darin's in 'Truman' is one of those." So I think what he's trying to say is that it's pretty good.
The CineLatino Film Festival will kick off its first go-around with two soccer docs: "Ronaldo" and "Messi." And picking which of the two is best on-screen is just as tricky as trying to pick which of the two is best on the field. For those wanting to fill their futbol fix with film, however, the edge goes to Leo.
The Argentinian's story is told via "a documentary-narrative hybrid," a peculiar-sounding mix ... until you discover it's Alex de la Iglesia behind the camera. He's the Spanish cult director who was most recently behind a bonkers disturbed-clown dark dramedy ("The Last Circus") and an only slightly less-bonkers horror comedy about crazed witches ("Witching and Bitching"). So yes, I am very intrigued to see what the guy behind THAT does with not only the documentary format, but the true story of a sports icon.
The CineLatino Film Festival runs Thursday, April 27 through Sunday, April 30 at the Marcus South Shore Cinema in Oak Creek. For a complete list of movies, showtimes and special events, as well as purchasing tickets, visit Marcus Theatres' website.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.