Damian Alcazar

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Crónicas Review


Excellent
In the late '70s and early '80s, one man is believed to have slaughtered over 300 little girls. Pedro Alonso Lopez, the "Monster of the Andes," holds the ignoble title of being the worst serial killer in history after his unimaginable string of murders in Columbia, Peru, and Ecuador. Crónicas, from writer/director Sebastián Cordero, translates those killings to the present day, in a media-saturated Latin America. He posits, in this riveting thriller, that if it had happened today, the results may have been even worse.

The film opens with one of the most harrowing depictions of a near-lynching ever captured on film. In a small town in Ecuador, mourners hold a funeral for the most recent victim of the "Monster of Babahoyo," whose tally of tortured, butchered children is already in the hundreds. After the ceremony, the twin brother of the victim is suddenly run over in a tragic accident. In a murderous rage, the father of the boy and some of the townspeople attempt to immolate the driver, Vinicio (Damián Alcázar). At the last minute, he is saved in part by the efforts of Manolo (John Leguizamo), a famous telejournalist there to cover the slayings.

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Men with Guns Review


Excellent
I've never been a huge fan of the work of John "Mr. Pretentious" Sayles, and Men with Guns is hardly short on pretension, but this is truly one of his best films. It's also one of his least-seen movies, and it's no wonder why: The story is told almost wholly in Spanish and concerns an urban, Mexican professor who chooses to travel into the jungle to find out what has become of his students -- all bound for rural destinations where they have pledged to help the poor populace. The professor's journey is hardly one of nostalgia, as one by one he finds they are dead or vanished, victims of the cruel army (aka "the men with guns") that have been ravaging the countryside. Chilling and gripping, despite the typical overwroughtness of Sayles. Federico Luppi, as the professor, looks like a Mexican Bob Barker. Surprisingly, this doesn't detract from the rest of the picture.

El Crimen Del Padre Amaro Review


Weak
Whether appearing on the front page of the morning paper or being the butt of a Late Night joke, Catholic priests just can't seem to catch a break. These days, knocking the Church is in vogue -- and director Carlos Carrera isn't about to let this opportunity pass him by. Carrera's latest film, El Crimen Del Padre Amaro, so brazenly criticizes the priesthood that it had bishops all over Mexico calling for a boycott. Instead, the film took in more at the box office than any other movie in the country's history.

Now showing to U.S. audiences, Padre Amaro tells the tale of a newly ordained priest who falls from grace with a little help from a rural Mexican community. The handsome Padre, played by Gael García Bernal of Amores Perros and Y Tu Mamá También, begins his stay in Los Reyes as the sort of kind spirit who gives his money to an old man after being robbed on a bus. By the end, though, he's no better -- and perhaps quite a bit worse -- than the corrupt elders who surround him.

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El Crimen Del Padre Amaro Review


OK

Bearing subtle but uncanny structural similarities to American mob movies like "The Godfather" and "Goodfellas," Mexico's highest grossing homegrown film of all time is a substantive parable about an honorable young priest corrupted by desire, temptation, ego and ethical turpitude within the Catholic Church.

"El crimen del Padre Amaro" stars sharply handsome Gael García Bernal (ubiquitous of late in the Mexican imports "Amores Perros" and "Y Tu Mamá También") as Father Amaro, an eager, newly ordained, 24-year-old priest whose ideals are tested and found wanting when he's assigned to a small-town parish run by an canon-transgressing elder clergyman.

Father Benito (Sancho Gracia) may be dedicated to his congregation, but he's also in bed figuratively with local drug cartels -- their donations are funding construction of a new church-run hospital -- and literally with a local widow (Angélica Aragón). Coincidentally, it is this woman's eye-catchingly angelic, devout but extremely sensual teenage daughter Amelia (Ana Claudia Talancón) who is the initial catalyst for Father Amaro's downfall.

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