The summer movie season is almost upon us, but thanks to the return of Marcus Theatres' CineLatino film festival, the excitement of big laughs, superhero adventures and more is starting a few weeks early.
Beginning Wednesday, April 10 and running through the weekend at the Marcus South Shore, Majestic and Renaissance locations, the CineLatino film festival brings more than a dozen Spanish-made or Hispanic-focused stories – the kind often overlooked and underrepresented by major studios – to the big screen, from tales of superheroes to screams of laughter and horror, movies for kids of all ages to under-seen classics from one of film history's most famous comedian.
There's even a few special premieres, including the Milwaukee debut of the upcoming horror flick "The Curse of La Llorona" as well as two groundbreaking Spanish superhero sagas – one comedic ("Superlopez") and one serious ("El Chicano").
Best of all, the Hollywood endings continue well after the credits roll as the film festival will donate a portion of its net proceeds to local Hispanic health and education causes – plus the opening night "Noche de Energia" kick-off screening of the dance drama "Shine" serves as a fundraiser for the Aurora Cancer Care - Spanish Clinic. The first two years of CineLatino raised more than $40,000 – with more to come with this year's edition.
The five-day festival also includes a party of makeovers, community-building conversation and health discussion sponsored by Susan G. Komen Wisconsin, not to mention a workshop for the next generation of filmmakers making movies on their mobile devices, a tailgate and a family fiesta. But, of course, the stars of film festival are the films itself – and to help pick the perfect película, here are seven standout selections from Marcus Theatres' third annual CineLatino. (Specific showtimes and details for the entire lineup are available at Marcus Theatres' website.)
1. "El Chicano"
We've been living in superhero-obsessed times for more than a decade, but somehow we haven't yet gotten a Spanish caped crusader. Until now – thanks to "El Chicano, a superhero tale with an all-Hispanic cast about a L.A. detective (Raul Castillo of Netflix's "Seven Seconds" and Rian Johnson's upcoming "Knives Out") who turns into the masked vigilante El Chicano when his twin brother is found dead with ties to an all-powerful cartel.
The movie comes with an under-represented, diverse perspective on the genre and a proven Hollywood pedigree – Joe Carnahan, who created the wildly underrated "The Grey" and the very fun "A-Team" big-screen adaptation, co-wrote the screenplay, with longtime stunt expert and popular TV comic book director Ben Bray helming the picture – plus its premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival last fall scored some serious positive buzz, landing it a high-profile wide release next month. With all of that in its favor, even surrounded by other massive comic book mashups this summer, "El Chicano" could pack the biggest punch of the bunch. And you could see it first.
2. "El Angel"
Judging by everything that's ever trending on Netflix, we sure love true crime tales – so here's another one! "El Angel" tells the true story of Carlos Robledo Puch, known in Argentina as "The Angel of Death" due to his horrific crime spree of murders, robberies, kidnappings and other inhumane acts – all before he turned 21. It's certainly a grim story but also a well-told one, earning a fresh score from Rotten Tomatoes critics, a place at the Cannes Film Festival last year in its Un Certain Regard category and the honor of Argentina's Best Foreign Language film entry.
3. "Gran Hotel"
What's old is new at the 2019 CineLatino film festival, as the event is bringing in not one but two classic movies from one of arguably one of Mexico's most famous funnymen: Cantinflas, whose terrifically tricky wordplay created its own words, earned the praise of screen comedy legend Charlie Chaplin and brought him a prolific career complete with a trip to Hollywood and an appearance in the Best Picture winner "Around the World in 80 Days." I'll recommend "Gran Hotel," about a bellhop struck with amnesia, but either that or the outlaw comedy "El Siete Machos" would make a delightful blast to the past.
4. "The Heiresses"
The story of "The Heiresses" may sound like one of the smaller films of the CineLatino festival – following longtime couple Chela and Chiquita as they attempt to cope with their dwindling wealth, with the latter landing in jail and the bitter former having to work even harder to make ends meet and to reengage with the world. However, Marcelo Martinessi's film is one of the biggest critical favorites of the past year, winning multiple awards at the lauded Berlin International Film Festival, earning Paraguay's pick as its entry for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars and nabbing multiple four-star reviews from critics – many in particular applauding the lead performance from Ana Brun as Chela. In a field of superhero movies and big premieres, don't let this subdued and nuanced drama slip by unnoticed.
5. "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"
Listen, when you get a chance to see the best movie of 2018 – full stop – on the big screen, you take it. The Best Animated Feature winner is an exhilarating breathe of fresh air, both in its truly eye-popping comic book visual style and its great story combining a thoughtful drama about a black teen finding his heroism and the comedy of a cartoon pig with superpowers. And believe me, the idea of calling the fourth version of the same superhero in barely more than a decade "fresh" is as baffling to me as it is to you – but "Into the Spider-Verse" deserves it. And be sure to stay through the end of the credits.
6. "Ma Ma"
There's been a disturbing lack of Penelope Cruz – pardon me, that's Oscar-winning actress Penelope Cruz – at the cineplex over the past few years. She's moved mostly to moderately noteworthy foreign films, only appearing in four Hollywood movies since 2013 – and two of those are "Zoolander 2" and "The Brothers Grimsby," both of which you definitely forgot existed and you're better off continuing to do so. So cheers to an opportunity to see a great actress on the big screen again, with a meaty and significant role to dive into – as is the case with the CineLatino selection "Ma Ma," a drama about a woman who learns she's pregnant in the midst of a battle against breast cancer.
An additional cheers to CineLatino's "Eso Es Vivir" event on Saturday, April 13 centered around the film. Translated to "That Is Life," the "Eso Es Vivir" event will feature a social gathering, drinks, makeovers, a presentation from sponsor Susan G. Komen Wisconsin and, of course, a screening of the film – complete with a talkback afterward with Dr. Federico Sanchez, oncologist and leader of the Aurora Cancer Care - Spanish Clinic. It's a good time and a good movie, starring a good actress, all aligning for a great goal.
We end this list with the first movie of CineLatino 2019: "Shine," a dance drama about two Puerto Rican brothers on opposite sides of gentrification in their city, but united by their love and skill for salsa dancing. The footloose film will kick off the festival on Wednesday, April 10 from 5:30-9:30 p.m. at the Majestic Cinema of Brookfield, featuring food, drink, an appearance from choreographer and star Gilbert Saldivar and, of course, the movie itself as the evening's centerpiece. What better way to get you moving to CineLatino this week than a movie that's sure to move your body, your feet and hopefully your heart as well.
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.