Film Review: The Curse of La Llorona (dir by Michael Chaves)


The Curse of La Llorona is a boring film about a scary legend.

The legend of La Llorona is a well-known one in Mexico and the southwestern half of the United States.  It’s a story that I was told by both my mom and my aunts and, as a result, I never went off with a stranger while I was growing up.  Of course, I also had some pretty intense nightmares but that’s kind of the point.  If someone tells you the story of La Llorona and you don’t end up having a nightmare about being drowned by a weeping woman, they didn’t tell the story correctly.

La Llorona was originally named Maria.  She lived, in a rural village, with her family and she was famous for both her beauty and her virtue.  When a wealthy nobleman saw her and immediately proposed to her, Maria accepted.  However, the nobleman’s father was upset that his son was marrying into a poor family and he refused to accept Maria as his daughter-in-law.  Maria and her husband ended up having two sons and living in a house by the river.  Maria’s husband doted on their sons but he ignored her and eventually, Maria learned that he was having an affair.

In a fit of blind rage, Maria drowned her children in the river.  After realizing what she had done, Maria died of grief.  However, when she arrived at the gates of Heaven, she was asked why her children were not with her.  When Maria explained that she had lost them, she was told that she would not be allowed to enter Heaven until she found them.  Now, known as La Llorona (or “the weeping woman”), she wanders the Earth, crying and looking for her children.

Where does one find La Llorona?  It depends on who is telling the story.  Some stories say that you’ll only see her near a body of water.  My mom used to tell me that La Llorona could be anywhere, including under my bed or in the bedroom closet.  Regardless of where you might find her, La Llorona is always wearing her wedding dress and she’s always sobbing.  Approach her and she’ll grab you and either kidnap you or drown you, all the while begging for forgiveness.  Many have seen La Llorona but few have survived to tell the story.

“And that is why we do not talk to strangers,” my mother would say while I looked out the bedroom window, searching for the sight of La Llorona walking through the Texas night….

Unfortunately, The Curse of La Llorona never comes close to being as scary as the stories that I used to hear when I was growing up.  Instead, the film is a standard Conjuring-Insidious-Paranormal Activity type of film, with La Llorona continually popping up out of the shadows to frighten a social worker and widow named Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini), and her two children.  The film has a few jump scenes but it never creates enough atmosphere to be consistently scary and, even worse, it reduces La Llorona to just being a typically malevolent spirit in a wedding dress.  In the end, the film itself doesn’t seem to really understand what La Llorona wants nor does it have a clear idea of what she can or cannot do.  As such, the whole movie has a slapdash feel to it that makes it difficult to really maintain any suspense.

Technically, The Curse of La Llorona is a part of the Conjuring Universe.  Not only does the film take place in the 70s (which was apparently the decade when all the ghosts and spirits went crazy) but there’s also very brief flashback featuring that ugly Annabelle doll.  However, neither Patrick Wilson nor Vera Farmiga puts in an appearance, which is a shame because The Conjuring films really only work because of their chemistry.  Instead, Raymond Cruz shows up as an exorcist named Rafael.  Cruz gives a likable performance but, again, one gets the feeling that the film wasn’t sure what exactly it wanted to do with him.

Anyway, The Curse of La Llorona is a disappointment.  Fortunately, there’s a lot of good and genuinely frightening Mexican horror films about La Llorona.  I recommend checking out 2006’s Kilometer 31.

The Weeping Woman (1937, Pablo Picasso)

Film Review: Avengers: Endgame (dir by the Russo Brothers)


(Minor Spoilers Below!  Read at your own risk.)

So, how long does the no spoiler rule for Avengers: Endgame apply?  There’s so much that I want to say about this film but I know that I shouldn’t because, even though it had a monstrous opening weekend, there are still people out there who have not had a chance to see the film.  And while this review will have minor spoilers because, otherwise, it would be impossible to write, I’m not going to share any of the major twists or turns.

I will say this.  I saw Avengers: Endgame last night and it left me exhausted, angry, sad, exhilarated, and entertained.  It’s a gigantic film, with a plot that’s as messy and incident-filled as the cinematic universe in which it takes place.  More than just being a sequel or just the latest installment in one of the biggest franchises in cinematic history, Avengers: Endgame is a monument to the limitless depths of the human imagination.  It’s a pop cultural masterpiece, one that will make you laugh and make you cheer and, in the end, make you cry.  It’s a comic book film with unexpected emotional depth and an ending that will bring a tear to the eye of even the toughest cynic.  By all logic, Avengers: Endgame is the type of film that should collapse under its own weight but instead, it’s a film that thrives on its own epic scope.  It’s a three-hour film that’s never less than enthralling.  Even more importantly, it’s a gift to all of us who have spent the last ten years exploring the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The film itself starts almost immediately after the “Snap” that ended Avengers: Infinity War and we watch as Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner, returning to the franchise after being absent in the previous film) finds himself powerless to keep his family from disintegrating.  After often being dismissed as the Avengers’s weak link, both Clint Barton and Jeremy Renner come into their own in the film.  As one of two members of the Avengers who does not have super powers, Clint serves as a everyperson character.  He’s a reminder that there’s more at stake in Endgame than just the wounded pride of a few super heroes.  When Thanos wiped out half the universe, he didn’t just wipe out Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and Groot.  He also left very real wounds that will never be healed.

When the film jumps forward by five yeas, we discover that the world is now a much darker place.  When we see New York, the once vibrant city is now gray and deserted.  Our surviving heroes have all dealt with the Snap in their own way.  Clint is now a vigilante, killing anyone who he feels should have been wiped out by Thanos but wasn’t.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) drinks and eats and feels sorry for himself.  Captain America (Chris Evans) attends support groups and, in one nicely done scene, listens as a man talks about his fear of entering into his first real relationship in the years since “the Snap.”  Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is living as a recluse and is still blaming himself.  Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is now an avuncular, huge, and very green scientist.  Only Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) remains convinced that the Snap can somehow be undone.  She’s right, of course.  But doing so will involve some unexpected sacrifices and a lot of time travel….

And that’s as much as I can tell you, other than to say that the film takes full advantage of both the time travel aspects (yes, there are plenty of Back to the Future jokes) and its high-powered cast.  With our heroes — which, along with the usual Avengers, also include Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) — hopping through time and space, we get a chance to revisit several of the films that led up to Endgame and it’s a thousand times more effective than it has any right to be.  Yes, one could argue that the cameos from Robert Redford, Tom Hiddleston, Hayley Atwell, and others were essentially fan service but so what?  The fans have certainly earned it and the MCU has earned the chance to take a look back at what it once was and what it has since become.

Indeed, Avengers: Endgame would not work as well as it does if it hadn’t been preceded by 21 entertaining and memorable movies.  It’s not just that the MCU feels like a universe that it as alive as our own, one that is full of wonder, mystery, sadness, and love.  It’s also that we’ve spent ten years getting to know these characters and, as a result, many of them are much more than just “super heroes” to us.  When Tony Stark and Captain America argue over whether it’s even worth trying to undo the Snap, it’s an effective scene because we know the long and complicated history of their relationship.  When the Avengers mourn, we mourn with them because we know their pain.  We’ve shared their triumphs and their failures.  Tony Stark may be a guy in an iron suit but he’s also a man struggling with his own demons and guilt.  Steve Rogers may be a nearly 100 year-old super solider but he’s also every single person who has struggled to make the world a better place.  As strange as it may be to say about characters known as Iron Man, Captain America, and the Black Widow, we feel like we know each and every one of them.  We care about them.

Needless to say, the cast is huge and one of the great things about the film is that previously underused or underestimated performers — like Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Rudd, Don Cheadle, and Karen Gillan — all finally get a chance to shine.  As always, the heart of the film belongs to Chris Evans while Robert Downey, Jr. provides just enough cynicism to keep things from getting to superficially idealistic.  Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo get most of the film’s big laughs, each playing their borderline ludicrous characters with just the right combination of sincerity and humor.  Of course, Josh Brolin is back as well and he’s still perfectly evil and arrogant as Thanos.  But whereas Thanos was the focus of Infinity War, Endgame focuses on the heroes.  If Infinity War acknowledged that evil can triumph, Endgame celebrates the fact that good never surrenders.

As Endgame came to an end, I did find myself wondering what the future is going to hold for the MCU.  A part of me wonders how they’re going to top the past ten years or if it’s even possible to do so.  Several mainstays of the MCU say goodbye during Endgame and it’s hard to imagine the future films without their presence.  It’s been hinted that Captain Marvel is going to be one of the characters holding the next phase of the  MCU together and, fortunately, Brie Larson is a quite a bit better in Endgame than she was in her previous MCU film.  Hopefully, regardless of what happens in the future, Marvel and Disney will continue to entrust their characters to good directors, like the Russo Brothers, James Gunn, and Taika Waititi.  (Wisely, Disney reversed themselves and rehired James Gunn for the next Guardians of the Galaxy film.  Of course, Gunn never should have been fired in the first place….)

And that’s really all I can say about Avengers: Endgame right now, other than to recommend that you see it.  In fact, everyone in the world needs to hurry up and see it so we can finally start talking about the film without having to post spoiler warnings!

For now, I’ll just say that Avengers: Endgame is a powerful, emotional, and entertaining conclusion to one of the greatest cinematic sagas ever.

Redemption Song: John Wayne in ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (Republic 1947)


cracked rear viewer

John Wayne  starred in some of the screen’s most iconic Westerns, but I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for ANGEL AND THE BADMAN. Perhaps it’s because the film fell into Public Domain in the mid-70’s, and I’ve had the opportunity to view it so many times. Yet I wouldn’t keep coming back to it if it weren’t a really good movie. It’s Wayne’s first film as producer, and though it has plenty of that trademark John Wayne action and humor, it’s a bit different from your typical ‘Big Duke’ film.

Wayne plays Quirt Evans, an outlaw on the run. The wounded Quirt encounters a Quaker family, the Worths, who take him to file a land claim before the big guy finally passes out. They bring him back to their family farm to nurse him back to health, and pretty daughter Penny, unschooled in the ways of the…

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Music Video of the Day: Stranger Danger by The Coathangers (2019, dir by Matt Odom)


This video is kind of weird and disturbing, which is why I liked it.  I think if you’re going to do a music video, you have to do one of two things.  You either have to make the viewer feel good or you have to give the viewer nightmares.  If you can do both, then you will have truly succeeded.

Enjoy!