It’s 5:20 pm
The cheetah and I just finished up watching our 50th film that we have reviewed. We have seen some great films,discovered some amazing talent and yes,survived a few terrible ones as well.
We don’t look for the huge studio releases but enjoy looking at small indie films or short films. Films that are often overlooked in a very,very crowded film market. And with streaming services like Amazon Prime and Netflix,films are even more quickly forgotten in a 90 minute blur.
This is where Paladin and I come in…..to talk about some hidden gems like “Standoff” in which we first saw the amazing young Ella Ballentine or “Remember” with the wonderful Christopher Plummer in one of the best films we have watched together.
We have discovered and shared wonderful films and talents like Shane Weisss,Danielle Burgio and Tim Cox. Hard working men and women like Tim Teets of o73 Films in New York and the Soska Twins who directed one of the biggest surprises that we have watched in “Vendetta”. So with that being said….the cheetah and I are glad you have found us here and hope you enjoy reading our reviews.
Walking through where else,Family Video,and “Endgame” caught my eye. Seeing a movie with chess as its subject is rarity so right away I was curious. I read the back of the DVD,saw a few names in the cast that I knew and being a SHOUT! Factory release,saw it had decent special features included.
So I ended up buying “Endgame” as a blind buy and wondered if the cheetah would be down for watching it. He was and we both settled down and away we went.
Endgame is a chess term. A game is divided into three parts,Beginning,Middle and End.
Basically the game is almost always settled in the endgame..
Jose (played by Modern Family’s Rico Rodriguez) is a young middle school student living in Brownsville,Texas with his older brother Miguel (Xander G) and his mother Karla (Justina Machado). Writer/director Carmen Marron quickly establishes the family pecking order with mom toting on Miguel,putting all of her hopes and dreams on his winning a scholarship to a big school to play soccer. Jose resents the attention given to Miguel and often stays with his grandma who has taught him to play chess.
Jose’s best friend is Dani (Alina Herrera) who supports Jose and listens to him. The two friends play chess together where Jose’s skill is noticed by Mr. Alvarado,a teacher who wants to start a chess club at the school. Jose doesn’t seem really into it however..
When Jose’s jealously gets the better of him,he smashes a trophy that his brother had won at the school. This earns him a trip to the principal (Jon Gries) who likes Jose. Jose is given two weeks in detention,when Karla finds out why it happened,she get angry and Jose hides out at his grandma’s house where she lies about seeing him.
The next day Dani and Jose are walking to school when the kids seeing a ICE raid in progress,Jose wants to check it out but Dani wants no part of it.
Later on,Dani escorts Jose to detention where Mr. Alvarado is the new teacher and he is making it a chess club/team. He fires up the kids into competing and they start to become a tight knit group. As they play at Districts,Jose plays well but after a unexpected loss,is forced to rethink his game. Just as he starts to come into his own,two very tragic incidents rock Jose’s world,threatening not only his new found confidence but could break his family into pieces forever. Can Jose (and his friends/family) survive long enough to make it to the endgame??
Wow….so being a long time chess player who played in a few tournaments when I was 13-16 years old,I both applauded and booed Marron’s script on the chess playing. I know “Endgame” is based true events where as chess teams from many depressed and inner cities schools have found chess as a route to a better life for many students.
While I think showing young girls playing is a huge plus but having them depend on their looks and flirting to win is very cliched and disrespectful. Women’s chess has never been stronger with many women among the world’s best players regardless of sex. Watching how the girls (outside of Dani) act is a real step back for “Endgame”.
Showing every white kid losing to a Latino player as a poor loser is wrong. I played players from many different races in tourneys and never ONCE ever saw poor sportsmanship.
Players are often more upset at themselves far more then any opponents. Being rude and not shaking a player’s hand will get you disqualified at any sanctioned tournament.
I also thought the handling of Jose’s biggest tragedy was mishandled badly. I think Marron had a excellent chance at exploring a dynamic rarely seen in Latin families in a realistic manner but drops the ball in having Jose’s team winning solving all of their problems. I did like the closing shot,I just wanted the story of how Jose,Karla and his grandma explored a bit more.
As far as the acting goes….it was good,Rico Rodriguez does a nice turn as Jose. His walking the line between heading down a bad path or using chess as a lifeline is well portrayed by Rico. The supporting cast,led by Efren Ramirez,Ivonne Coll as Jose’s grandma and Alina Herrera as Dani all were very strong and you really cared about them as people. Justina Machado as Karla did as well as she could with a underwritten part as the mother.
But the standout for me was Cassie Brennan. Her Sandy was a real scene stealer. She conveyed perfectly the tween girl….flooded with emotion one minute,sourness the next and wanting to a friend when Jose needed one the most. Brennan shows plenty of sass and spunk in her performance and she is a talent that will certainly be seen again very soon.
‘Endgame” is only Carmen Marron’s 2nd movie as a director. She too,has talent and I think she will do even greater things in the future. The cheetah and I will be looking forward to her next movie.
Despite being uneven and a bit cliched,I liked “Endgame” because of the strength of its cast. I think their performances covered a lot of holes in the script,even so that we gave “Endgame” a thumbs/paws up.
While “Endgame” is unrated,it would be PG-13 for themes and just a little for language.
The DVD does have Bonus Features:
Feature Commentary w/Carmen Marron
Interviews with Cast and Crew
Run time is 90 minutes.
You can get Endgame by going to their website SHOUT! Factory.
Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment below.