Self-respect, self-confidence and self-empowerment are the rah-rah-rah themes of "Real Women Have Curves," a winning, if a little pandering, coming-of-age indie about a East Los Angeles Latina with a vexatious mother, a generous figure and an admirable amount of gumption.
Inspired by Josefina Lopez's autobiographical underground stage hit that premiered at San Francisco's Teatro de la Esperanza in 1990, the film centers on 18-year-old Ana (talented and appealing newcomer America Ferrera), a girl whose intelligence and ambition have always met with frustrating discouragement from her traditional family.
Freshly graduated from a Beverly Hills high school that she rode two busses every day to attend, Ana is being encouraged to apply for scholarships by a teacher who sees her potential. But her meddling, small-minded mother (the fantastic Lupe Ontiveros, "Chuck and Buck") is determined that Ana should become an additional family breadwinner by working in her sister's struggling dress factory.
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It's almost always a good sign when a movie jumps right into a pivotal scene, not bothering with opening credits, establishing scenes or any pre-fabricated title sequence.
It means the filmmaker is focused on telling a good story, and in "Criminal," director Gregory Jacobs wastes no time showing a very green small-time con artist (Diego Luna) being rescued from arrest by a life-long (but no less petty) short-con expert (John C. Reilly) who had been watching him pull a clumsy $20 scam on several casino waitresses.
In need of a new partner, Reilly takes the kid under his wing, and in a matter of hours they've swindled $200 from a little old lady (while butting heads over Luna's hypocritical selective conscience), ripped off a restaurant for another $100 in a change scam, and faked a minor car accident to get a stranger to pony up for gas money -- all in a day's "work" for the unconscionable elder crook.
Continue reading: Criminal Review