Category Archives: Documentary

SXSW REVIEW: “NOTHING LASTS FOREVER” (2022) Showtime

One of the most fascinating documentaries at SXSW was from director Jason Kohn, who takes on the diamond trade with “NOTHING LASTS FOREVER”. The documentary, takes a good, hard look at the world of diamond cartels and most importantly, of the difference between synthetic and real diamonds. Clue: you won’t know the difference and De Beers Diamond Corp. is of course, involved up to their eyeballs as per usual.

On the one hand, its completely fascinating and shows how diamond companies didn’t just sell a product, they sold an idea of what a diamond is, and what the fairy tale story of getting a diamond is comprised of. On the other hand, it delves deep into the synthetic diamond world with less-than-savoury characters like Martin Rapaport of the Rapaport Diamond group. Rapaport, might just be the true epitome of despicable elitist, as we watch him give a clown-car of a speech of why synthetic diamonds are “boogeyman under the bed”, to an audience of equally elitist people. It’s plainly obvious that anything that comes out of Rapaport’s mouth is said only to protect his financial interests.

Then you have De Beers Diamond EVP for brands and consumer markets, Stephen Lussier, prominently featured in this film. oh De Beers. Being Dutch, you grow up with the idea that De Beers is so good, and so wonderful as many Dutch South Afrikaans, were employed by the company that controlled almost the entire diamond trade from around 1889 thru the early 2000’s. Even in this docu at one point, they paint De Beers as saints that saved Botswana by building schools, highways, giving them medical care etc., but clearing up the idea in it’s own way by cutting to a lion doing some pretty graphic things, essentially letting you know that all that glitters is not real. We now know De Beers essentially used the Botswanian people as slaves to harness and keep the fantasy of a diamond signifying ‘eternal love’, alive. Essentially by telling the ever duped public, the bigger the diamond, the more you’re loved. For anyone who has ever seen “Blood Diamond”, just know that THAT is the more the true story of the diamond world.

Then we have Dusan Simic who simply tells it like it is. Simic is smart gemologist, sort of a madman-type personality, who seems to fall victim of his own creation. He tries desperately to develop technology to differentiate lab-grown diamonds from genuine product. While he lays it all on the line, his technology ideal fully collapses as we see him sadly end up as an Uber driver. While almost tragic to watch, he also ends the film with his new ideal of creating the perfect un-detectable perfect diamond in hand. Who knows if it’s real as we are just left wondering.

Lastly, and probably the most eye-opening and actually quite fun, is Aja Raden. She is woven throughout the film and totally blows the lid off here and is at the heart of Kohn’s diamond rip-off story. With a snarky-ness not usually seen in a documentary of this nature, Raden throws caution to the win and takes down every marketing myth ever created about diamonds. She offers up commentary clearly not the slightest bit concerned with the repercussions on her career it all might have nor her or the diamond industry as a whole, reputation. She is also the only female interviewed here as apparent early on that this is a male dominated industry, which should come as no surprise to anyone. At the end, she formulates probably the best summary of the entire industry: “they, (meaning De Beers) created an illusion so spectacular it turned into truth.” As well, noting “You don’t want people who question things. Those aren’t good consumers.” Facts.

If you’re like me, you stopped believing in the diamond fantasy years ago and seeing something like this let’s you this was the right thing. GIA certified means nothing, one thing is certain from now on, you can’t tell the real thing from a fake any longer. And that difference no longer matters to those making the billions of dollars by not just duping the every-(wo)man here, but the suppressing of billions of diamonds, as well. They are just held in warehouses around the world in order to make you think you are buying into a dream, yet a fake one at that.

Grade: A

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LOOK FOR “NOTHING LAST FOREVER” UPCOMING RELEASE ON SHOWTIME

REVIEW: “LUCY AND DESI” (2022) Amazon Studios

Who knew that it would be director/actress/comedian extraordinaire Amy Poehler that would bring us the “LUCY AND DESI” movie we all needed this year. While 2021 was us an Aaron Sorkin version, that was truly based on only just a moment in time in the life of this most beloved of all TV histories famous comedic couple, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

(Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)

This documentary is not only a love story to Lucy and Desi, it is about THEIR love story as well. One that with all it’s publicized up’s and down’s, was one for the history books in more way than just one. Here we not only learn about a long-forgotten box of discovered audio tapes from Lucy herself, but these tapes allows us to hear much of their history directly from horses mouth so to speak, Lucy and Desi themselves on home video and recordings. And boy are they a joy to watch. Here you get the true story of how Lucy started her career, as a model no less because she was stunningly beautiful, leading her to Hollywood where she was dubbed “Queen of the B’s” aka B-movies at the time, as those were the days of Hollywood starlets being signed to a singular studio and their films picked for them.

And we see Desi’s life as well, coming from a prominent Cuban family affiliated with the Bacardi rum empire at the time, and whom lost everything when the 1933 Cuban revolution took place at the age of 14, he was one of the few of his family who was sent and made it to the shores of the USA. Starting off young in Xavier Cugat’s band, Desi branched out on his own and is the man we can thank today for the infamous ‘Conga line’, something that you will most probably be participating in at most weddings, and most definitely on a cruise ship at some point or another. As well, it shows some classic Desi performances of his still-famous-around-the-world signature song, “Babaloo”.

But the two were destined to meet and that moment happened on the set of and RKO movie entitled “Too Many Girls”, sending them into a whirlwind romance, and into marriage just a short time later. That whirlwind romance never truly ended for either of them, though both moved on eventually, it’s one of those true stories in life of a love that never really dies. Amy Poehler delivers a masterful review of the rich, varied, fascinating history and this famous duo, by giving us peeks into not the just good, but the hardships as well. From Desi time in the Army and their long separations, to the Communist scandal, to Desi’s unfaithfulness stories being plastered on the front page of every gossip rag in town. But through it all, the fact that it was Lucy who demanded that Desi be her not just her real husband, but her TV husband as well – something America had never before witnessed, an Anglo-white woman, with a Cuban-born immigrant as a real life couple. And not just that, but the many firsts the couple did such a showing a pregnancy and having a child on TV, sleeping together in a double bed, buying out RKO and making it their own Desilu Studios with multiple hit sitcoms coming out of it, besides their own. And two of the biggest deals in the entertainment world at the time, making re-runs of shows possible, and having a woman run a studio. These accomplishments might not seem like much today, but they paved the road for making it as such.

Some of the best parts though come from their daughter, Lucie Arnaz-Luckinbill, as she speaks so lovingly about her parents true love story with clips from notables such as Carol Burnett, Norman Lear, Bette Midler, and Charo, sharing their admiration and love for Lucy, not just as a friend, but honouring all of her achievements and the giving moments that she shared with each of them. And sadly, it also shows the hardships of the end of their lives with Desi succumbing to lung cancer, with his daughter taking care of him till the end, yet Lucille herself coming to spend a last day with him watching re-runs of their show, laughing and reminiscing the good times. Lucy herself would pass three years later from heart issues.

Photo by Leonard Mccombe/The LIFE Picture Collection/ Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz on the launch of Desilu Studios

In the end, they said their “I Love You’s” to each other, and probably just like the rest of us, realized that even sometimes just love isn’t enough to hold you together, but it also never leaves you. And even today, we can watch those ‘I Love Lucy‘ re-runs and laugh, smile and realize, yes everyone still loves Lucy.

Grade: A

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

LUCY AND DESI will premiere March 4, 2022 exclusively on Prime Video

ROADRUNNER: “A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN”

It’s June 2006 and I find myself at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market as I lived in West Hollywood at the time and 2006 was when it was still a true Farmer’s Market, not the bougie ‘let’s sell a piece of cheese for $40’ booths it has now. It was a true place of fresh picked fruit and veggies that everyone in town came to shop at. So imagine my surprise when I see Anthony Bourdain sitting there at a table, autographing his latest book. I mean the man that once ate a cobra snake heart is there, albeit looking a little out of his element with a somewhat fake smile plastered on his face, posing for the cameras, greeting fans etc. But being the professional he was at that time, he handled it all like it was just another episode of his then show on the Travel Channel “No Reservations” – the show that brought him the fame he so craved, yet as you find out during “RoadRunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain”, might also have been just fulfilling a part of his addictive side.

“Roadrunner” opens with a short look at how Bourdain became well, Bourdain. Through the journey which started in 1999, shows how the publication of Kitchen Confidential, in essence Bourdain’s memoir, that coincidentally was one of the best books ever written about the restaurant industry – leads to his TV career, and eventually to him becoming TV’s foremost ‘man about food’. I mean Anthony basically begged the question “How do you eat your way across the world?” and then proceeded to show us exactly how to do just that. But as his hit series ‘No Reservations’ went on, it became clear that his shows became about way more than just the food. As we watched, or I did at least, how Bourdain himself noticeably grew up over the years as well. And so it became not just about the food, but about the places and the people making the food around him as well. And honestly how could it not when in 2006 while filming No Reservations in Beirut, we watch as a war breaks out right in front of him and his film crew, between Lebanon and Israel. It’s almost surreal as you see how it effects Bourdain himself as people are lying about a pool, with bombs bursting in the air maybe 5 miles away. It’s an episode that everyone involved agreed profoundly changed Bourdain’s career, and his approach to the show, from that point forward. 

Anthony Bourdain stars in Morgan Neville’s documentary, ROADRUNNER, a Focus Features release. Courtesy of CNN / Focus Features

Director Morgan Neville is giving us Bourdain just as he was, completely unfiltered, as Anthony was more than happy to share his opinions on pretty much anything and everything, and he definitely didn’t shy away from talking about his drug-riddled past. In fact it made him the person he became, along with in his love for punk rock, mostly Iggy Pop and The Ramones, both of whom he did spent time with and did shows with among the many musicians he admired. Add in his two-pack-a-day smoking habit (which he did quit after the birth of his daughter), and you have a bad-boy chef image that would stick with him, whether it was deserved or not. There was a seemingly never ending journey for a odd happiness that simply seemed to evade him even when marrying his second wife Ottavia Busia; becoming a father for the first time at age 50. His filming and production crew, most of whom had been with him since the beginning, a chore especially for his long-time crew who were finding him harder and harder to work with as he changed over to a whole new show and somewhat differing format in “Parts Unknown”. And of course it only got darker from there as Neville takes us down the final turn of Anthony’s life with the much publicized and not always liked relationship with actress Asia Argento. While he doesn’t come right out and blame Argento for Bourdain’s suicide, it’s made clear to all that his death came days after the actress appeared in tabloid photos with another man. Though to be fair, there were so many signs and Anthony himself constantly referenced how he would like to go out, to make her out to be the only source of his depression wouldn’t be right and we do see so much more, like the attempt to decode Bourdain’s final Instagram post, which shouldn’t even been tried to decode. It’s a goodbye in his own way.

We also get a good idea of how loved and respected Anthony was by giving us the appearances and thoughts of many of his peers, including his best friend Eric Ripert, his brother Chris, artist David Choe – who gives us a somewhat startling, yet insightful statement from Bourdain who tells him “and my life is sort of s— now. You are successful, and I am successful, and I’m wondering: Are you happy?” which is when we really start to realize all the cracks that have been there all along. As much as we like to look and someone else’s life and wish it to be our own, sometimes if that wish does come true, we do find out it wasn’t all it looked cracked up to be. There are ups and downs in everyone’s lives and as wonderful as it might look on the outside, the inside can be a much different story.

Grade: A-

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Virtual screening courtesy of ~ Ginsberg/Libby PR

“ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN” IS IN SELECT THEATERS AS OF FRIDAY, JULY 16, 2021 // VOD/HBO MAX/CNN to follow.

TRIBECA 2021 REVIEW: “WOLFGANG” Disney+

Where do you start when talking of a man who literally put food on the map. Let’s put it this way, years ago, when things like cell phones, Instagram, and Twitter didn’t exist, restaurants were dramatically different as well. For those who could afford it, going out to dinner at fancy Los Angeles restaurant meant being served a multiple course melangerie of something along the lines of the oh-so-austere conventions of French cooking. The food might be wonderful, but it was also things people never really ate, especially Americans. And the very high-end gourmet restaurants such as L’Orangerie and L’Hermitage were stuffy, with waiters wearing tuxedos. So not only was “he” better dressed than you were, “he” (as yes, it was always a “he”), was always rude as well. “He” always looked down on you if by chance, you couldn’t pronounce the food on the menu precisely. That all changed with Wolfgang Puck.

Puck was 25 when he came to Los Angeles in 1975. At 14, he left his native Austria, where he had peeled potatoes in the back of hotel kitchens at a very early age to escape his abusive stepfather. Wolfgang went to serve as an apprentice cook in the south of France, and then in Paris as well, before coming to Los Angeles where he worked briefly in a DTLA restaurant before going to Ma Maison. Back then the owners of restaurants were the ‘Kings’ so to speak, and Patrick Terrail was just that, the owner/king of Ma Maison. But it wasn’t till Terrail was almost on the brink of bankruptcy that he let Wolfgang become head chef at Ma Maison and create his own menu, that the restaurant got put on the ‘map’ so to speak.

After years of giving it his all to get no credit whatsoever as again, owners were king and Terrail took credit for everything Puck was doing. So upon the advice of many, but mostly his girlfriend at the time, Barbara Lazaroff, Wolfgang pooled some money together with a lot of different partners chipping in what they could, took the plunge, and bought an old Russian-Armenian restaurant that had once been a private home right on a hill up-top the famed Sunset Blvd, and viola’ ~ Spago’s was born. Lazaroff became the interior designer and it was only because of lack of money that the ‘open kitchen’ was put forth and became their trademark ‘thing’. It became famous for it and and they served pizza no less from a true wood-burning oven, with fresh ingredients only as Wolfgang himself would get up early and go to the fish market. They had product picked up from a farm Wolfgang had found about 3 hours outside of the city, talk about straight off the farm, American’s in the city didn’t know what hit them. And everyone followed suit.

Spago’s was a magical place where you could ask and answer the question; what would it be like to have dinner with a big room of the most famous people in the world, and have a blast doing it, It was said that Sean Connery, Michael Caine, and Sidney Poitier had dinner together in the center table, and no one around them would leave. I wholeheartedly believe this. From Spago’s Wolfgang Puck went on to start Chinois in Santa Monica, the first ever ‘fusion’ restaurant of it’s kind. He of course became a media darling as well, going on every talk show, starting his own brand of soup and pizza and building an empire with his name on it and of course, doing every post Oscar’s Governors Ball dinner since 1994. This doesn’t come without a price, and not just the personal cost of losing your wife and not being as present in your children’s lives as they might have wanted, but the price being a workaholic who was a part of every single decision. This includes the one to leave the old location that made him famous on Sunset Blvd. behind and open a new Spagos in Beverly Hills, featuring a menu more close to his heart, of food he grew up with alongside his famous dishes. Of course it succeeded, because how could it not, he cooked with love and from passion, and that is one recipe that always works. Add in the fact that now Bryon Puck, his son, is following in his footsteps and becoming a chef, Wolfgang seems to be making up for lost time and there is no greater success than to see that of your child loving the same things you do. Puck also had son Cameron with Barbara and has remarried to Gelila Assefa with whom he had two additional sons Alexander and Oliver, and it was lovely to see them shown all together in a kitchen teaching and learning from their Masterchef father.

Adding in a personal note, I remember my first job as an Assistant to a Talent Agent in the late 90’s, I was fresh out of school, wanted to be in this world I found so fascinating. Our offices were at 9000 Sunset Blvd, right down the street from Spagos and the first time I ever went I was terrified, nervous, excited, everything all wrapped up into one thing and it was simply and truly .. magical. There was a energy, a life to it – like it was it’s own being – and the food was fantastic. I was always a fan of Anthony Bourdain as he taught us to travel and experience food, but without Wolfgang Puck cutting the path to making food and the chefs and their staff who work 12-15 hour days making it, and to tell us what food really is and can be, we might never have had the opportunity to get to know anyone else. With that, how can you not give mad respect to the master, the original, Wolfgang Puck.

“A”

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Tribeca Virtual screening of ‘Wolfgang’ ~ courtesy of ID-PR

“WOLFGANG” DEBUTS ON DISNEY+ FRIDAY, JUNE 25, 2021

RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT (2021) Roadside Attractions

Have you ever looked at someone’s life from the outside and just said to yourself “wow, I wish I could be just like them”. Well that’s what so many thought when looking at Rita Moreno and this great in-depth documentary about one of Hollywood’s most trailblazing actors, can confirm you just might still want to be.

The now 89-year-old actress, born in Puerto Rico, Moreno came to New York with her mother as a child at age 6, leaving behind her brother and father, whom she never saw again in her life. Moreno dropped out of school at the age of 15 and earned the money for her family as a dancer at the age of 16. When the boss of a Hollywood studio was in town, she auditioned with her mother: “I styled myself like Elizabeth Taylor, because that was the only actress who looked like me at the time.” She got the contract and from then on played everyone small role that looked somehow exotic, from the ‘Indian girls’ to the Asian dancers, and yes, even the playing Russian/Hungarian girls and incredibly, all of them with the same accent.

We see the good, the bad, and the ugly side of Rita’s life, not just the ‘grazing at the surface’ good things. It shows how Rita struggled with hating her Hispanic roots, because it limited her as an actress. She tells how she was sexually abused, was forced into an abortion by her then-boyfriend Marlon Brando, with whom she had a very turbulent 8 year on/off relationship with, and then tried to commit suicide. The film shows exactly why Rita is such a beloved actress and person as despite all the obstacles and what she has been through, she never gives up and learned to value the woman she is. Rita grows into her own person throughout the movie, telling how everything that put her down at the time just made her stronger.

Doing her due research here and getting it right, director Mariam Pérez Riera visited with the likes of: Morgan Freeman, Lin-Manual Miranda, Gloria Estefan, Whoopi Goldberg, Eva Longoria, Mitzi Gaynor, West Side Story co-star George Chakiris to name a few, and Moreno’s co-star on the much loved and critically acclaimed Latina version of “One Day at a Time”, Justina Machado. She collected anecdotes about Moreno’s daughter Fernanda Luisa Gordon, (an actress in her own right who performed with her mom), she scoured film and newspaper archives with journalistic meticulousness and peppered her documentary with countless glossy recordings and glowing testimonies. All of it showing that Rita has truly always been a force to be reckoned with and not just the first Latina to collect an Oscar in the 60’s when something like that was unheard of, and then went on to be the first Latina to win the celebrated EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, & Tony) as well.

Rita wearing her film titled top

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It’ ~ has thus become a film that shows how much has changed in Hollywood and is a true monument to a young girl who evolved into a strong, wonderful woman who has done a lot for this change. And yes, if I could be even the teensiest bit like Rita, well of course I would GO FOR IT!

B+

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT” opens only in theaters June 18th, 2021

REVIEW: “DUTY FREE” (2021)

There is no First World country that treats it’s senior citizens as badly as the United States. Basically, if you don’t have a huge retirement plan and healthcare, you are essentially screwed, as we see a huge number of elderly amongst the homeless population, because you simply cannot live off of Social Security alone in this country. Herein lies the story told in by first time director Sian-Pierre Regis in his documentary “DUTY FREE”. Sadly, the story is about his own mother, Rebecca Danigelis, who at the age of 75, (well past the age of “retirement”) is fired from her job as a Housekeeping Supervisor at a hotel in Boston, where she has worked most of her life.

There is a lot of backstory given here as well as we follow how Rebecca came here from Liverpool, U.K., with her U.S. husband at the time. They soon divorced and she found herself in a relationship with Sian-Pierre’s father, who she then finds out, has a complete other family as well. So she is left raising two boys in a very miniscule apartment, on her own. As what is happening to her begins to unfold, Sian-Pierre gets the idea to make a documentary about not just her life, but what she would have wanted to really do in her life – hence, make a bucket list. He creates not just a Kickstarter account to fund this endeavor, but an Instagram as well, to document it all. Rebecca lists some pretty wonderful things for a woman in her 70’s to accomplish, most notably; milking a cow, sky diving, hip hop dancing, and probably the most challenging of all – reuniting with her long lost daughter and seeing her family, including a brother whom she hasn’t seen in 40+ years – back in Liverpool. This is kind of a dark path and should be seen by the viewer as each person can have their own take on how she dealt with what she did.

It is heartwarming to watch Sian-Pierre be so kind and compassionate to his mother and to watch them bond with one another, on the other hand, watching this elderly woman get eviction notices and try to get employment in a society where ageism is BEYOND prevalent, is also maddening and hard. Though at a quick run-time of 1 hour and 13 minutes, it’s misses the mark on perhaps telling us the true social impact of all this, and focuses on the niceties of the fun they have maybe a bit too much, whereas this is a huge, daunting issue, that I wish would have just been a bit more insightful on the bigger problem as a whole.

B-

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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ 42 West PR

“DUTY FREE” IS CURRENTLY OUT IN SELECT THEATERS AND ON DEMAND

REVIEW: “THE OXY KINGPINS”(2021) SXSW FILM FESTIVAL

Opened SXSW with this powerful documentary with “The Oxy Kingpins” which gives us an inside look at who is really behind this whole culture of pharmaceuticals and who actually is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans from all walks of life..and it’s not the dealers.

Directors Brendan Fitzgerald and Nick August-Perna take to task here interviewing some of the street distributors that ending up spending time in prison for their role in dealing oxycontin, and the startling reveal shows how little the part they actually played in this big scheme of things. ‘Kingpins’ also gives the viewer an up close look at how personally dangerous it can be to try to get information of this dangerous criminal network can be, adding a consequence to making the film engaging and informative. But the narrative is straightforward, not only noting, but giving it the feeling of just how pressing and urgently this problem needs to be dealt with efficiently.

Fitzgerald and August-Pernas’ motive is clear from the get-go in bringing to the forefront the team of lawyers that is fighting to bring the real criminals of this epidemic, the ones that should be held accountable for their actions, to justice. This helps the documentary in its quest to provides a sense of urgency that the audience can easily relate to. One of the biggest assets of this documentary, is that it stays simple in its structure and avoids big courtroom drama as well as any dense or hard to understand terminology around its theme. It specifically addresses its viewers with only the necessary information to understand that this is a matter that has long been treated lightly and nothing was done in the meantime to bring these millionaire CEOs to face justice for their greed. The brave act of exposing the damming behavior of these companies and informing the public of the numbers of victims they leave behind in their trail, is surely one that deserves recognition.

Also noticeable is the sense of delivering more than just unnecessary points of view, but instead showing us actual human stories from the addicted themselves, the dealers, and from those who have lost loved ones to due to it given to them in any quantity requested — well over the amount of what one singular human being could even take. Some towns with populations of a couple of thousand residents at best, is given millions upon millions of doses of Oxycodone and the complicity of the small town doctors and pharmacists who set up ‘pain management clinics’ is also brought to the fore front. This isn’t a film that was created out of a personal vendetta or some type ulterior motive, but it’s an all out exposure of the many entitled companies that use power to hide their footprint under the premise of providing drugs to those who supposedly need them. The fact that The Oxy Kingpins is made with straight up accurate facts and a straightforward delivery of them, gives this story true it’s power. The result is a difficult, deep cutting piece that allows the audience to see the full scope on how pharmaceutical corporations truly operate and is constantly reminding us of the many who lost their lives or were used as pawns in a larger scheme to fill the pockets of these greedy businessmen and the companies they worked for.

Rarely do I get personal in a review – but this affected me personally as someone who has had numerous surgeries I can well attest how at one point in the early 2000’s, they were trying to give it out like Good n Plenty candy and how many doctors tried to give me Oxycontin, as in pushed and pushed it on me. When I finally did try it – thankfully the small amount taken was enough to make me say NOPE! Sadly many people didn’t say no and lost their lives, their families, homes, and included people from all walks of life.

It’s an eye opening look at how those responsible walked away with millions, and those not so responsible ended up in jail or lost their lives.

Grade: B+


@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening: Courtesy of Betsy Ruddnick PR and SXSW Film Festival

REVIEW: “LUCHADORAS” (2021) sxsw FILM FESTIVAL

Going into this SXSW viewing of “LUCHADORAS” and expecting it to be just about some female wrestlers is probably the biggest misconception someone can make about this film from Directors Paola Calvo and Patrick Jasim, including myself.

This fascinating look at not only female wrestlers of Cuidad Juárez, Mexico but all the women of the city. Focusing specifically the stories of four woman – Lady Candy, Baby Star, Little Star and Mini Sirenita who yes, while they are female wrestlers are also so much more. For those who might not be aware, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, has a reputation for being the most dangerous city in the world while just across the border is El Paso, TX, said to be the safest city in the world. This stark fact is made clear when we see one of the women, Lady Candy, fighting to get her two children back after her husband has taken them over to El Paso – and stops contact with her. We watch as she attempts to get a visa just to visit them, but cost is a factor. She makes $300 a month and the cost of just the visa alone is $160. But going back to the beginning to make this clear from the start. The film begins with voiceover telling us a story about a woman riding the bus to work in one of the factories in the industrial part of the city who was abducted, beaten, and assaulted by the driver. Luckily, she survived to tell her story but it is soon after that we start to find out the true stories of the almost 100 missing women of Juarez. Any of our four women could be one of them, or even the next one as we delve into each of their varying stories of abuse and how of all things, wrestling is what letting them reclaim their power so to speak.

 Again, the stories vary here from Lady Candy’s, to Mini Sirenita who is returning to the ring after a hiatus working in a factory so that she can afford to help her adult daughter living in Mexico City because wrestling pays more. In a completely different vein, we have Baby Star and Little Star. These two sisters, who never remove their masks even in daily life, are trying to figure out the best way to honor their family wrestling legacy while setting an example for Baby’s young daughter who of course, wants to be just like her mom. What Calvo and Jasim do so well here is highlight the every day normalcy of these women’s lives outside of the ring, providing us an inside glimpse at their personas, their fears, and their dreams. But also giving focus to the everyday struggles and the fight from not only these four women, but the many women of Juarez who get out there and stand up and fight for not only themselves and their families, but for the rights of all the murdered women of Juarez. Putting it straight up – these women are more than just wrestlers, they are mothers, daughters, sisters and women standing up for themselves at a time when doing so, can get them killed.

“Luchadores” is raw and defiant, tension filled, yet also filmed with love as you can see each women’s story for what it truly is. And it is beautifully filmed showing every crack and emotion of feelings from joy, to sadness, anger and most of all, inner strength. This is so much more than just a female wrestling movie and I hope more people than just myself take the time to find this out.


I stand with the women of Juarez – and so should we all.

Grade: B+
@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening courtesy of Ryan Bruce Levey film distribution and PR services & SXSW Film Festival

REVIEW: “THE LOST SONS”(2021) SXSW DOCUMENTARY

What if one day you woke up and realized you really didn’t know who you were, as in you didn’t know your real name, your birthday or how old you just might be – how would you feel? Would you want answers to these questions and more? Well Director Ursula Macfarlane takes on just this exact question with her documentary “The Lost Sons” which is one of the incredible selection of documentaries showing at the SXSW Film Festival.

The documentary focuses on Paul Joseph Fronczak, who grew up as he puts it “in a great family” and had a wonderful childhood until on his 10th birthday as he is searching secretly for his presents and finds newspapers articles of his mom and dad on the front page – with the headlines “BABY HUNT DRAGS ON IN CITY.” As he reads through the various articles, about a baby being kidnapped straight out of his hospital crib one day after he was born, he realizes he just might be that kidnapped baby…or is he. His mother Dora and father Chester, push the narrative that he is their kidnapped son and that is that. For a while at least.

This journey is probably one of the most remarkable things to follow as it has more twists and turn than most feature thrillers and as incredible as it is, it’s all true. Paul was “found” 15 months later in Newark, New Jersey where a foster family named him Scott, until of course the FBI supposedly puts two and two together and decide he might be the kidnapped baby Paul from Chicago. Turns out he is neither Scott nor Paul – but he IS Jack, and that is the trail we follow along with. How Paul, through Ancestry test, finds out who he is really is and who his family really was. It’s a absolute mind-bender of a journey that will at some points make you laugh, cry and shock you to your core.

Much has been written about this and back when the story was first recognized for what it was that happened, it was all over every news channel around the world. People reached out that had been neighbors, friends of the family and even a babysitter. While they try to fill in some of the blanks, it seems some will just never be filled or known. There is a price to pay for finding out though and Paul pays dearly throughout his life in various ways from losing contact with his family, to a divorce to finding himself and realizing he has always been searching for something and probably always will be.

Grade: A

@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening courtesy of SXSW Film Festival and DDA PR

REVIEW: “THE BEE GEES: HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART” (2020) HBO

“The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” is informative, entertaining, and heart wrenching as Director/Producer Frank Marshall reveals the band’s soul and the power dynamic that propelled them to superstardom. Probably the most heart breaking part is it’s being told mostly from the point of view of Barry Gibb, the last remaining Gibb brother.

The memories are wonderful moments here as we are taken through the Brothers Gibb early life in Australia. Contrary to what most thought myself included, the brothers were not Australian but born on the Isle of Man and their parents then immigrated from Manchester, England to Australia in the early 50’s where they started their singing trio consisting then of Barry, and twin brothers Maurice & Robin. Returning to the UK in 1967, the height of Beatles fame no less, the Australian producer Robert Stigwood with his insightful visionary eye signs The Bee Gees and we watch as they break into the UK charts after only five months. This leads to a string of hits as well as a massive touring schedule of the USA and Europe before rivalry between Robin and Barry caused the break-up of the band in 1969, the first of a few splits they have over the years.

We follow the story along with commentary from everyone from Eric Clapton, Mark Ronson, Nick Jonas, Chris Martin and Justin Timberlake sharing either first hand stories or how they were influenced. In the case of Nick Jonas, first hand knowledge of what it’s like to shoot to fame overnight in a band with your brothers and how it can affect not only each person individually, but the family dynamic as a whole. We see how the Brothers Gibb rise to the heights of stardom, only to fall dramatically down and get caught in the tidal wave of egos, drugs, drinking and then realize together they are much stronger than when solo. The comeback is monumental as we watch how they evolve to come to Miami, Florida and make famous the ‘Miami sound’ which takes off immediately in underground gay clubs. We are also introduced to younger brother Andy Gibb, whom they refer to as the ‘caboose on the end of the Gibb train of talented brothers’ and as we know, became very successful in his own right. All this leads into how a semi-famous TV star named John Travolta being signed to a million dollar three picture deal – an unheard of deal at that time and one of these pictures was to be ‘Saturday Night Fever‘. Moving along, the brothers go to the ‘Honky Chateau’ where Elton John had just finished recording his highly touted album of the same name and it’s there that the Bee Gees go on to create that magic that was the very successful Saturday Night Fever soundtrack on which every song was a major hit.

It all comes to a crashing halt thanks to their music being labeled ‘Disco’ – something the Bee Gees did not want to be labeled into any type of genre, and a guy named Steve Dahl starting a “Disco Sucks” campaign at Kaminsky Park after a baseball game. He called for everyone to bring their most hated Disco album and burn them along with hundreds of others. Basically it ended up being more of a racist, homophobic record and book burning which The Bee Gees got caught up in through no fault of their own all equaling the end of an era. It was also the night they announced that Andy Gibb would become an official Bee Gee brother – something that sadly never came to fruition as Andy would pass later that same year.

The last chapter here focuses on another rebirth of sorts for the trio as they ended up writing some top hit songs for the likes of Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton duet, Celine Dion and of course who can forget Barry Gibb’s duet with Barbra Streisand. Barry sums up their career perfectly in noting they never wanted a label put on them even though many tried, they just had different periods in their long career.

Andy Gibb – passed away from heart inflammation on March 10, 1988

Maurice Gibb – passed from complications from a surgery on Jan 20, 2003

Robin Gibb – passed from cancer on May 20, 2012

Barry Gibb is still alive and would rather have them all back and no hit songs.

Grade: A

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Review screening: Courtesy of 42 West and HBO

“THE BEE GEES: HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART” COMES TO HBO ON SATURDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2020