Cinematic Spillover: Short Reviews of El Chicano and Clara

Artwork by Kiko Martinez

Here are a couple of short reviews of movies that will be released at San Antonio theaters or on VOD platforms May 3.

El Chicano

Briarcliff Entertainment
If you’re hoping that El Chicano might do for the Latino community what Marvel’s Black Panther did for African-American moviegoers last year by making a positive cultural impact and celebrating representation at the highest levels of Hollywood – don’t hold your breath. Even if you do consider El Chicano a Latino superhero movie and not the cliché vigilante flick it really is, the anemic storytelling featuring a cast of stereotypical Mexican vatos do stereotypical Mexican vato shit is the exact type of narrative El Chicano needed to avoid to be taken seriously. Instead, first-time director and co-writer Ben Hernandez Bray and co-writer Joe Carnahan (Narc) penned a half-baked superhero from scratch, El Chicano, a masked biker and urban legend in East Los Angeles with a lot of history and little personality. When LAPD officer Diego Hernandez (Raúl Castillo) learns that there might be a link between a group of murdered gangbangers, his dead twin brother and El Chicano, AKA the Ghetto Grim Reaper, he does everything in his power to seek justice (and vengeance) against the cartels that are running the streets. This includes (spoiler alert) taking the reins (and wielding an Aztec knife) and becoming El Chicano himself, which basically takes the entire movie to happen. If anything, Bray is confident in what he has created – a movie that seems to only exist to setup a sequel that will likely never happen. Hollywood needs superheroes who are brown and proud, but El Chicano isn’t the man or the myth to lead that charge. El Chicano opens nationwide May 3.
2 stars out of 5 stars


click to enlarge SCREEN MEDIA FILMS
Screen Media Films
Clara is the kind of intimate indie sci-fi movie that can create waves in the genre if done correctly. Think of the underappreciated 2011 film Another Earth and you’ll sort of get a sense of the somber and transcendental tone co-writer and director Akash Sherman (The Rocket List) was aiming for. Sadly, Clara’s script, written by Sherman and James Ewasiuk (The Rocket List), is a mishmash of scientific jargon and lack of real emotional connection between its two leads. Actress Troian Bellisario (TV’s Pretty Little Liars) stars as the title character, an aspiring artist who takes a job as a research assistant for Dr. Isaac Bruno (Patrick J. Adams), a scientist obsessed with finding life somewhere in the universe. There are a few familiar yet interesting ideas floating around in Clara, especially when Isaac waxes philosophical about religion and the afterlife, but Sherman and Ewasiuk forget that at its core, Clara is a love story. If they would’ve dumped some of the cornball dialogue and really embraced the idea of love beyond the cosmos instead of force feeding us science fiction mumbo jumbo, it might have registered on a more meaningful level. Clara hits VOD platforms May 3.
2 stars out of 5 stars

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