Tag Archives: George Lopez

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Blue Beetle

by Hope Madden

There’s something in the bones of the new DC movie Blue Beetle that’s very familiar. Very Spider-Man. Very Captain Marvel. Very Green Lantern, The Flash and Shazam.

Mainly Shazam.

And director Angel Manuel Soto capably builds a recognizable plot from those bones. An unlikely protagonist (Xolo Maridueña) takes on superpowers without really wanting to, goes through an awkward phase of figuring out how to use them, then stumbles into danger and crime, and must eventually accept his fate and save humanity.

Blue Beetle delivers solidly on each of those plot points. Where it really makes its presence known, though, is in the way it fleshes out those bones.

Blue Beetle is unapologetically, vibrantly Latinx. It is stunning how a change of perspective revives a story.

Writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer (Miss Bala) writes rich, funny, fully developed characters and a winning cast takes advantage. Maridueña charms in the lead role while Belissa Escobedo’s sarcastic sister keeps him in check. George Lopez steals scenes as the looney, tech savvy, conspiracy theorist uncle and Nana (the great Adriana Barraza) kills it.

Plus, Susan Sarandon hams it up as villainous billionaire (is there any other kind?) Victoria Kord. It’s fun. But it’s not the film’s differentiator. This Mexican American superhero isn’t separated from his family, his neighborhood, his backstory or culture. Indeed, those roots not only strengthen the hero himself, but the entire film.

The story of underdogs facing down corporate greed, of the terrors of the global military industrial complex, the blight of gentrification, the joy of a good telenovela and every joke springs naturally and lands better because of the cultural context the filmmakers use to ground their story.

The plot may not break new ground, but the film itself feels revolutionary. Like Nana.

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The Tax Collector

by George Wolf

You may have heard Shia LaBeouf recently got his entire chest tattooed for his role as “Creeper” in The Tax Collector. Uncommon intensity from the gifted LaBeouf is nothing new, but why he would be motivated to do this is one of the many questions plaguing the latest from writer/director David Ayers.

Creeper is the supporting player here, the nattily clad and tightly wound muscle for organized crime boss David (Bobby Soto). Working for the mysterious Wizard (Jimmy Smits), David and Creeper collect “taxes” from each and every gang in L.A.

43 gangs at 30 percent each means David is living well. That is, until old rival Conejo (veteran rapper Jose Conejo Martin) returns with an aim to take over, and kill anyone who thinks that’s a problem. He does voodoo, too, so there’s a wrinkle.

Much of the film’s early going recalls Ayers’s scripts for both Training Day and End of Watch, as we follow David and Creeper on a loosely-connected series of stops, from violent tax collections to family business with David’s wife (Cinthya Carmona) and Uncle (George Lopez).

David’s expressed devotion to his home life sets up the chance of a Michael Corleone-type thread exploring the difficulty of balancing two worlds, but Ayers leaves it dangling for some stylish but empty brutality in a gang war.

Soto (from 2011’s wonderful A Better Life) and LaBeouf form an impressive duo, but they are continually let down by the script’s generic macho posturing (“We killing anybody today, homie?” “Shit’s getting real”) and over-the-top ambitions to “wash away our sins” by killing a boatload of people.

And as you might guess, LaBeouf playing a Latino gangster is troublesome. Though Ayers has pushed back by saying the character is one who has absorbed the world around him (a claim somewhat bolstered by Ayers’s own background), Creeper never gets the development needed to make LaBeouf’s committed performance land as much more than – at best – intense appropriation.

By the film’s final showdown, the biggest question here concerns the point of it all. It had to be more than that tattoo, or just standard revenge fare as deeply felt as a video game commercial.

But despite the slick camerawork from cinematographer Salvatore Totino, here we are. There are possibilities strewn about The Tax Collector that might have gelled into a robbers bookend for the compelling cops in Ayers’s End of Watch.

But like pesky overdue notices, ignore those possibilities too long and there’s a great big mess on your hands. Or on your screen.