A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006)
I had never even heard of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints until I rented Charlie Countryman (2013) at the Redbox. When you rent Charlie Countryman, you get A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints as a bonus movie. They give you a two-for-one, a double sided disc for the price of one movie. It’s a Shia LaBeouf double feature. They are both indie films. This was all the more intriguing to me, so I watched each movie the other night. You can guess what one of my next reviews will be.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints was based on the book with the same title. Surprisingly enough, the man who wrote the book, Dito Montiel, also directed the movie. The movie is a film adaptation of Dito Montiel’s life growing up in Astoria, New York in the 1980s. The story is a look into a messed up childhood in a rough part of the city. It follows the struggles of inner city teenagers, Dito (Shia LaBeouf plays young Dito, and Robert Downey Jr. plays grown up Dito) and his friends as they are becoming adults. The circle of friends are pitted against drugs, violence, sex, love, hate, loss, and hardship. All the while, Dito wants to escape New York and try to make a better life for himself somewhere else.
The rest of the noteworthy cast includes Channing Tatum, Chazz Palminteri, Dianne Wiest, Rosario Dawson, Melonie Diaz, Martin Compston, Scott Michael Campbell, Anthony DeSando, Adam Scarimbolo, Peter Anthony Tambakis, Laila Liliana Garro, and Eric Roberts.
I’m surprised that this movie got past me 8 years ago, because the cast is excellent. I should have been aware of this film earlier. It’s another low-budget independent film that slipped through the cracks.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints was hard to watch, at times, but it was also hard to stop watching. The film was an excellent depiction of how rundown certain areas of the country can be and how it affects the people living there. It’s indeed unfortunate, but it’s in-your-face honesty. Some people won’t be able to handle the honesty of this movie. The trashy characters, obscene language and other vulgarity, along with the sex, nudity, and mindless violence, among other things, will be too much for some.
But, you have to take the sweet from the sour. There is indeed a silver lining in this story. The headlining actors in this film are exceptional. The movie makes you feel like you are in the slums with the characters experiencing it all. The actors portray a remarkable friendship and camaraderie that helps you come back to the reality that people often try to be good even if they are bad.
The story is rigid and rocky, but the writing and acting make it all worthwhile. Here is an unknown gem for those who are willing to give it a chance.
I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
If you liked A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, you might also enjoy the following movies:
White House Down (2013)
I expected White House Down to be basically the same movie as Olympus Has Fallen (2013). Besides the actors, almost everything about each film looked very similar. It is very weird to me that two movies that are so much alike would be released the same year and so close to one another. For some reason I got it in my mind that White House Down was going to be the ugly cousin of Olympus Has Fallen.
White House Down follows a former military man (Channing Tatum) who brings his daughter with him to the White House where he managed to get a job interview to try to become a Secret Service Agent. He brings his daughter along with him to the White House because she is a huge fan of the President (Jamie Foxx). While there, they decide to take a tour. During the tour the White House is attacked and the man does what he can to protect his daughter and the President.
The film was directed by Roland Emmerich and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, Nicolas Wright, Jimmi Simpson, Michael Murphy, Rachelle Lefevre, Lance Reddick, Matt Craven, and Kevin Rankin.
This movie surprised me. It exceeded my expectations. I liked it a little bit better than Olympus Has Fallen. It was not quite as predictable as Olympus Has Fallen and I felt that the actors did a better job. Also, it seemed like White House Down had fewer flaws than Olympus Has Fallen.
The film was intense and exciting. The attack on the White House was eerily realistic. There was a lot of good action. As with most action movies, some of the action was a bit unbelievable at times. But, for the most part, this didn’t take away from the film.
Tatum was likable as he usually is. Foxx was better than I thought he would be as the President. When the two teamed up together, they were both pretty entertaining and even funny at times.
The rest of the actors played their parts well. Besides Tatum and Foxx, Woods and Jenkins stood out above the rest.
Overall, White House Down is a fun ride worth taking.
I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
If you liked White House Down (2013), then you will probably enjoy the following movies:
The Company you Keep (2012)
The Company you keep is based off of the novel with the same name written by Neil Gordon.
I was excited to see this movie because I often enjoy movies about investigative journalism, not to mention the cast is fully loaded with talent. Redford directs and stars alongside LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Susan Surandon, Stanley Tucci, Terrence Howard, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Richard Jenkins, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Elliot, Stephen Root, Anna Kendrick, Brit Marling, and Jackie Evancho. Redford may be getting old, but he still has the star power to bring together a big A-list group of actors to make a movie.
The Weather Underground is an anti-war activist group that was around during the Vietnam War era. I had heard about this group before, but I went into the film knowing absolutely nothing about them. The movie explains what the group was all about, but given the fact that the story is based off of a novel, they sort of mix fact with fiction.
Like most films about investigative journalism, the story moves along at a slow to steady pace as the reporter tries to figure things out about the story that he is trying to tell. There is plenty of time for character development and the dialogue is well-written. Great actors tend to pop up out of the woodwork like weeds when these types of movies are made and The Company you Keep is no exception.
It was refreshing to see Robert Redford acting again. He hasn’t been in a movie since Lions for Lambs (2007). Although he has always been a tremendous actor, he really has aged. They tried to make him seem younger in the film by dying his hair and having him jogging in one scene. But, when all is said and done, the movie icon was too old for the part he was playing. This fact took a little bit away from the film.
The person that really stood out the most was Shia LaBeouf. He has strong screen presence, and when he is not doing a Transformers movie, his charisma can really take over a movie. The rest of the cast played their parts well but, LaBeouf was the glue that held the film together.
The Company you Keep was quality filmmaking with a few flaws. The flaws weren’t very noticeable until a little over halfway through the film. Redford did his best with the story that he had, but ultimately the movie was anticlimactic and it became predictable. The dialogue was great, the acting was superb, but there were few surprises along the way to make the movie stand out.
The film was worth seeing, if only to watch masters of the acting craft at work.
I rate this movie a 7 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Rent.
If you liked The Company You Keep, then you will probably enjoy the following films: