Tag Archives: Jorge Lendeborg Jr.

Great American Melting Pot

American Carnage

by Hope Madden

“I’m an a**hole, JP, not a quitter.”

This, I think, is my favorite thing about director/co-writer Diego Hallivis’s sociopolitical horror American Carnage. Rather than setting up one-dimensional, morally impenetrable heroes, Hallivis—writing with his brother Julio—delivers likable but flawed, and therefore realistic, characters to root for.

Those characters are mainly the offspring of immigrants: JP (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), Camila (Jenna Ortega), Big Mac (Allen Maldonado) among them. Governor Harper Finn’s (Brett Cullen) election-friendly executive order not only deports all illegal immigrants, but also detains their US-born children for failing to turn their parents over to authorities.

Some of those kids can work off their sentence by providing elder care at the Alcove, an institution run by the benevolent Eddie (Eric Dane).

Though the comedic writing is never as sharp as it should be, Hallivis’s cast supplies charm and sarcasm in equal measure. Unsurprisingly, Ortega stands out as the group’s unofficial badass. Her scowl and unlikeable demeanor are the perfect offset to Lendeborg Jr.’s good-natured tenderness.

Maldonado works hardest to elevate tepid dialog, delivering the film’s most consistent comic relief with a jovial, lovable character.

The villains, on the whole, are not the over-the-top psychopaths of traditional horror. This is no doubt intentional. Racist danger, especially as it was uncovered and amplified during Trump’s reign (the film’s title comes from his inaugural speech), is a kind of walks in broad daylight, may be your neighbor, blends into the background reality.

Other than one little dance of evil, the villain performances are somewhat understated.

The villainy is not. There’s a metaphor at work, and though it doesn’t entirely work, the goodwill Hallivis’s cast generates keeps you interested in their journey and eager for comeuppance.

What starts off with a nearly The Forever Purge vibe takes a sharp turn into creepier John Hughes territory, then another dramatically Romero pivot. American Carnage looks good and performances are solid, but the movie can’t overcome those tonal shifts.

Secret Love

Love, Simon

by George Wolf

Some of the most tired young adult cliches – narration, idealized characters, the dreaded climactic essay reading – show up in Love, Simon. 

So why is it such a winner?

Heart, smarts, and humor for starters. But it’s also the rare movie that earns points just for being here in the YA crowd, and for rightly assuming there’s no reason it shouldn’t be.

Simon (Nick Robinson) is an upper middle class high schooler in Georgia, with some awesome friends (Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.), awesome parents (Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel) and a big gay secret.

But then another kid at school comes out anonymously online, which leads Simon to adopt a fake name and reach out by email. So while much of the student body is guessing who the “secret gay kid” might be, two online pen pals bond over the uncertainties of being themselves.

Director Greg Berlanti (Life as We Know It) keeps the film moving, wrapping it with a clean, welcoming shine that would be just too peachy-keen if not for the smartly self-aware script from veteran TV writers Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker.

Adapting Becky Albertalli’s novel, the duo delivers some solid laughs (don’t mess with the drama teacher!), but more importantly, a knowing vibe that refuses to wallow in self-absorbed teen angst. Current events have reminded us that many teens are more than ready to meet harsh challenges with strength and wisdom, and Love, Simon gives them some refreshing credit.

It can’t go unnoticed that the film treats homophobic taunting as more mischievous than dangerous, but even that misstep feels ironically right. Everything about Love, Simon, from the casting to the set design, is effortlessly likable and comfortable, feeding the notion that this is nothing more or less than another teen romance.

It becomes a sweet, entertaining one, and it just might make some audience members feel a little less alone.

That makes Simon pretty easy to love.


Mistakes by the Lake

The Land

by George Wolf

In case you’re not hip to the lingo, “The Land” is Cleveland, city of champions! Sure, that recent RNC downtown was a tire fire, but a basketball championship and a contending baseball team have brought some new found respect home to the North Coast.

Writer/director Steven Caple, Jr.’s gritty feature debut keeps the winning streak going.

Cisco (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.) is a restless Cleveland teen, skipping school and skateboarding around the inner city streets with his crew Junior (Moises Arias), Patty Cake (Rafi Gavron) and Boobie (Ezri Walker). Stealing cars for quick cash, the boys pop one trunk to uncover a large stash of MDMA capsules, and quickly enter a more lucrative business.

There’s never a doubt that the local drug pusher (a terrific Linda Emond) will come calling, and the familiar genre trappings that follow do hamper the film’s ambitions. That Caple is able to prop them up with other stellar elements says much about both his raw talent and future potential.

His eye for atmospheric detail is sharp, as Caple contrasts intimate settings of the boys’ tough homelife with more panoramic shots of familiar Cleveland landmarks, achieving a nicely subtle reinforcement of the desire to escape.

Impressive instincts for camerawork are here as well, especially during the skateboarding sequences, but Caple has enough restraint to never become overtly showy. The urgent, pulsating soundtrack is another plus.

Even better, and the main reason The Land rises above its lack of freshness, is Caple’s obvious rapport with his cast, and the effective characterizations that follow.

Lendeborg and Arias have the look of real keepers, but all four youngsters are able to convey a desperation that resonates. Kim Coates and Michael Kenneth Williams provide veteran support while Emond channels Jacki Weaver from Animal Kingdom, stealing every scene with polite menace. In a smaller role, Cleveland native Colson Baker (aka rapper “Machine Gun Kelly”) again shows a charisma that could bring more substantial film offers.

There’s nothing in The Land we haven’t seen before, yet there is a style and a vision here that’s welcome, more than enough to brand Caple as a filmmaker full of promise.