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Angelique Flores is the executive editor of Home Media Magazine. Her two home entertainment passions are Latino film and fitness. Flores has executive produced Home Media Magazine’s Latino DVD Conference and Latino DVD Awards. As a freelance journalist, her work has appeared in The Hollywood Reporter, Hispanic magazine, the Los Angeles Times, as well as other regional publications in Southern California. She is a graduate of Stanford University.


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22 Oct, 2012

Blockbuster’s Latino Stores: Parte Dos

Last month Blockbuster launched its Cine Latino movie section, as you may have already read from my colleague Erik Gruenwedel’s report. For all the details, read his story, but in a nutshell: Blockbuster added these Cine Latino sections in 200 of its 900 U.S. stores, with more than 60 Latino new and catalog movies for all ages. The launch was timed with National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 - Oct. 15) and included store celebrations as well as a Block Party Sweepstakes, which closed last week. The available films include Los Inadaptados (2011, Mexico), 2033: Apocalipsis Futuro (2009, Mexico), Pastorela (2011, Mexico), A Paradise Under the Stars (2000, Spain), Manuela y Manuel (2007, Puerto Rico) and Bitter Sugar (1996, Cuba).

Blockbuster said it plans to revise the collection on an ongoing basis, based on feedback and demand from customers.

This isn’t the first time Blockbuster has reached out to Latinos. In November 2002, the retail chain launched its Latino initiative in 700 of its then 5,670 stores. At the time, the company expanded its merchandising, added bilingual marketing and in-store signage, and beefed up its inventory of films aimed at the Latino communities it was serving.

And Latino consumers seemed to have taken notice then. Keep in mind, this was before Redbox and when Netflix was still a few years old. But our in-house research at the time showed that 56% of Latinos who rented DVDs (again, before there was Blu-ray), rented at Blockbuster.

I wondered what happened to those initiatives and why they faded out. Blockbuster seems to be in the same boat. A company spokesperson admitted they unfortunately “don't have access to valuable institutional knowledge” of that program, which is understandable considering the chain’s bankruptcy and sale to Dish. Still a shame.

“While we have historically stocked some Latino content, right now we are intent on creating a customer-focused entertainment destination to meet the needs of the local Latino communities,” the spokesperson told me about Cine Latino.

To be honest, I was at first a little bemused by this initiative, wondering just how in touch Blockbuster is with Latinos. I’d never heard of many of these titles touted, and I wondered how much the average Latino family would be interested in them. As most research shows, Latinos are huge consumers of movies, and they mostly prefer to see the regular blockbusters that any American would — they just might need Spanish subtitles or dubs. However, a lot of us Latinos in the United States do speak English.

But then as I kept thinking, I realized Blockbuster does get us, not only as consumers but also as members of the movie industry.

First of all, my hat goes off to Blockbuster for recognizing National Hispanic Heritage Month, which often goes unnoticed by non-Latinos and has been less and less remembered in our industry.

Second, they had a sweepstakes for a block party. How often do you see block parties in Latino neighborhoods? (For those not in the know, the answer is: pretty frequently.) Yes, we like to party, and we like to have big parties. Blockbuster apparently knows this.

And third, besides product, how else do you make a consumer feel welcome? Good, tailored customer service. A Blockbuster spokesperson told me the company is hiring all bilingual employees in their Latino stores. So even if your abuela is asking about the new “Espider-Man” movie, the clerk will be able to answer her in a language she’s most comfortable speaking.

Now, let me get back to their selection of films. I, at first, wanted to see some recognizable titles, directors or actors. But I quickly turned my disappointment around when I realized I had just learned about a new batch of Latino films I was unfamiliar with and would like to see. Most consumers immediately know Pedro Almodóvar and Gael García Bernal and their films, but not so much the talented directors Leon Ichaso or Jorge Ramírez Suárez.

So not only is Blockbuster reaching the Latino consumer with the mainstream hits already in stock, but the company also is informing us of what else is out there that we might not know about. In addition, they are helping highlight Latino talent in films, which is something that Latinos in the business could always use some help with.

A Blockbuster spokesperson told me, “We selected the most popular films that also had English subtitles.” Again, the company is going beyond serving the Spanish-speaking Latinos. They’re also reaching out to non-Spanish speaking Latinos as well as non-Latinos who might be interested in Latino cinema. What a better all-around celebration of Latino culture for everyone.

So thank you, Blockbuster, for your efforts. I hope this initiative takes off and sticks. If the pictures from this Sept. 22 celebration in Canoga Park, Calif., are any indication (pictured above), it seems there are some very happy customers.

 


18 Oct, 2012

Power to Pink

Tuesday night was all about the pink cause at Proactive Sports Performance Lab in Westlake Village, Calif.

Fitness expert Patricia Friberg hosted a DVD release party for her Power 4 Pink Workout DVD, timed for release during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The event also raised funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, a cause that’s important to Patricia.

“My husband (Greg Friberg) is an oncologist, and I have had a lot of exposure to the field of breast cancer research,” Patricia said. “We have sadly lost many friends to the disease, and I wanted to find a way to make a difference in their honor.”

During the evening, Patricia led a quick but invigorating workout before letting her guests get back to sipping pink champagne. It was nice to see that the encouraging and clear instructions you see from her on her DVD isn’t just for the camera but a natural part of her training. In person, she also adds a sense of humor, which is always welcome when I’m working out.   

While Patricia has worked with some big names in football and basketball, she also specializes in working with breast cancer survivors, among other things. The Power 4 Pink Workout DVD features a segment with exercises designed specifically for breast cancer survivors.

This DVD isn’t Patricia’s only contribution to the fight against breast cancer.

“I started by participating in Pilates 4 Pink several years ago,” she said of her involvement in Shape magazine’s national breast cancer awareness campaign. “Then I wanted to capture a larger audience to raise more money for the cause, so I signed up for contest to win free production on a DVD. I won the Producer's Choice Award, which allowed me to offset some of the costs of producing a DVD so I could then donate more money to the BCRF.”

But the Power 4 Pink DVD isn't just for cancer survivors; it’s for everyone. It contains an 80-minute program with great cardio, toning and stretching exercises for all fitness levels.

Another great thing about this DVD is that 100% of the net profits goes to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

“I like the BCRF because they are involved in global research and have very little overhead — 90 cents of every dollar goes directly to research,” she said.

So Patricia’s DVD will not only be a great workout for you, but it also will help support a worthy cause.

Pictured with me above is Patricia (center) and veteran fitness publicist Leslie T. McClure (right).

 


10 Oct, 2012

Working Out With a Partner

It’s no secret that physical activity in the bedroom is good for you. According to doctors, sex burns calories, can lower stress and blood pressure, and boost immunity among other health benefits.

The recently released “Lovers’ Guide” DVDs from True Mind are great tools to help maximize the benefits of sex for better physical satisfaction and deeper more intimate relationship between a couple. And who doesn’t want to be in a satisfying, healthy relationship?

The immense amount of information on these educational DVDs should be able to offer something new to even the most experienced lover. They feature information, advice, anecdotes and narrated demonstrations. These videos feature a near nonstop flow of visual demonstrations, so if you can’t deal with naked people, this is not for you. However, because the content is so detailed, it offers a wealth of information and explanations better than any lecture, diagram in a book or picture online. It also gets to the point, without any boring or overly complicated scientific details that might lose you along the way.

The Lovers’ Guide: Original Collection ($49.98) includes five discs: Lovers Guide, Making Sex Even Better, Better Orgasms for Women, Better Orgasms for Men and The Essential Lovers’ Guide. In this set, the stress is on healthy sex in a healthy relationship, focusing on strengthening relationships both in and out of the bedroom.

The Lovers’ Guide: The Essential Collection ($49.98) also has five discs that cover the topics of Secrets of Sensational Sex, What Women Really Want, Sex Play, Sexual Positions and Satisfaction Guaranteed.

The Lovers’ Guide: Sex Positions ($14.98) is the same disc that’s included in the Essential Collection. It’s just what you would expect from its title, plus an interview with the “Lovers’ Guide” creator Rob Page, who directed and produced the programs. This is a great disc to pull out, a single title for anyone who doesn’t want to invest in one of the bigger sets but still wants to enhance their sex life.

Some of these programs date back to the 1990s, but the content hasn’t lost its relevance. They were shot in an educational, responsible manner. That’s not to say they’re clinical or inaccessible or anything you might have seen in sex ed classes. If anything, they would be great to watch with your partner. So if you can watch these DVDs with an open mind and a desire to learn and be close to your partner, you should get something out of them.


2 Oct, 2012

‘Chico & Rita’ a Tribute to Cuba and Jazz


For me, rarely does a movie live up to the buzz it might get before its release. Chico & Rita was one of those rare exceptions.

The animated film is out now on Blu-ray Disc from Cinedigm Entertainment Group. (This release is one of the first new titles to come out on ancillary platforms since Cinedigm acquired New Video in June.)

The Limited Edition Collector’s Set includes the Blu-ray, DVD and the CD soundtrack.

The animated film is set in 1948 Cuba. It tells the tragic and moving love story between the talented piano player Chico and the beautiful singer Rita.

It’s like a jazz version of Mambo Kings crashing into Calle 54 and brought to life in a graphic novel. And yet, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

The film takes you through Havana, New York City, Las Vegas, Hollywood and Paris in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the detail and accuracy of these cities put you right there in those places at those times. Spanish director Fernando Trueba (La Niña de Tus Ojos, Belle Epoque, Calle 54) and Spanish artist and designer Javier Mariscal went so far as to even make sure the dancing was from the correct period. Their passion for music and Cuba, along with years of effort and creativity, were rewarded. It won the Goya for Best Animated Film and garnered a nomination for Best Animated Feature of the Year at this year’s Academy Awards — the first time a Spanish full-length animated film was nominated.

While the love story is a beautiful tale, it’s the jazz and bolero music here that really shine. The film features original music from legendary Cuban pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger Bebo Valdés. The Grammy-winning soundtrack features Valdés’ original music as well as music by Thelonious Monk, Cole Porter, Dizzy Gillespie and Freddy Cole. With names like that, need I say more?

And don’t let me forget to point out the animation. Think graphic novel here, not Pixar. This style used has kind of a colorful yet moody old-school feel that really works for the places and the time period as well as the jazz music. 

Now a limited-edition collector’s set wouldn’t be able to earn that name without some notable extras. This set comes with a 16-page excerpt from the best-selling graphic novel, a commentary with Trueba and Mariscal, and a making-of featurette. Both the making-of featurette and the commentary were done how they should be: chockfull of interesting details behind the film that help you appreciate the film on a whole new level. In some ways, the making of the movie is a story in itself. So listening to the directors, seeing the sketches and hearing all the behind-the-scenes insights on the making of the film was nearly as enjoyable as the movie.


 


26 Sep, 2012

Image Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month


We’re nearly halfway through national Hispanic Heritage month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), and I have yet to mention this recognition of our Latino cultura.

Thankfully, Image Entertainment gives me good cause. As most of you should know, we Latinos are pretty funny people. Image seems to know this, as the studio has a number of stand-up comedy DVDs from some popular Latinos in comedy. If you’ve been to any of our old Latino DVD Conferences, then you should remember some of these funnymen.

A brand-new DVD was added to the batch this week with the arrival of Paul Rodriguez: Just for the Record. I just watched this the other night, in preparation to interview the funnyman (he got sick and had to cancel). Now I remember as a little girl watching his first show “a.k.a. Pablo,” and I’ve seen a number of movies and stand-up shows he’s done. But this is Rodriguez’ first one-man show, and it shows a different side of Paul I had never seen. He talks about his childhood, moving from Mexico, growing up in Compton, Calif., and some of the challenges he had coming up Hollywood. In between the jokes, Rodriguez gets pretty serious and teary-eyed and even gets some digs in there against other comedians. Whether you like Rodriguez’ humor or not, you have to respect his accomplishments. Here he tells some interesting stories, and it’s worth checking out.

Image has another one from Rodriguez, Paul Rodriguez: Comedy Rehab, with a set from Rodriguez and other Latino comics. Also available are Gabriel Iglesias: Hot and Fluffy, Alex Reymundo: Red Nexican, Pablo Francisco: Ouch! Live from San Jose and Latin Palooza, hosted by Joey Medina. Check these out, por favor. These are some very funny guys.
 


24 Sep, 2012

Salvadorian Director Teams With Corman, Students

The crime thriller Stealing Las Vegas was quite an interesting collaboration for director Francisco Menéndez, producer Roger Corman and students from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas College of Fine Arts.

In the film, a greedy casino owner (Academy Award nominee Eric Roberts) is pitted against an ex-baseball player (Ethan Landry) and his motley group of friends, who all work at the casino and band together for a heist with a nice surprising twist at the end. In between all the drama are some quirky characters that add some laughs.

The heist film also stars Antonio Fargas, Anabella Casanova and Eloy Méndez.

I saw the film Sept. 5 at the Egyptian Theater, screened with support from the Latino International Film Institute and the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival. But before that, I viewed the film on DVD at home, not having read the press releases or a reviews or anything at all first.

And was I blown away when I learned this indie film was shot in 18 days, on a limited budget, with some first-time actors and with students as part of the crew. The production quality is as good as any other professional indie film out there.

The making of Stealing Las Vegas has an interesting backstory. The movie was part of a film project led by Menéndez, who co-wrote and directed the film. He’s also UNLV’s Department of Film chair. UNLV’s film program pairs students with Hollywood professionals on making movies to give the students first-hand, real-world filmmaking experience. Menéndez created this co-curricular program in 2001, which resulted in the short Medio Tiempo.

Not only do these students get a great learning experience, but Menéndez jokes that working with students also helps him stay within a small budget.

So, how did Roger Corman get involved?

Salvadorian filmmaker Menéndez has been teaching for 22 years and has made a couple of films himself. It was his 2008 co-curricular film Primo that caught the attention of Corman, who screened it at the CineVegas Film Festival.

“He saw what I did on the budget I did it on, and it looked good,” Menéndez said.

So Corman called Menéndez and asked him to write and a direct a working-class Las Vegas heist film.

“It’s a call everybody dreams of,” Menéndez said.

Menéndez recalled trying to get Corman’s attention years prior.

“When I did my first feature, I sent my film to him,” he said, adding that he later learned it went straight into the garbage because Corman and his people simply can’t watch the myriad films they receive.

But this time, Menéndez not only got Corman’s attention, but he got the famed filmmaker’s involvement. Corman helped produce the film.

While Menéndez’ previous work has a decidedly Latino flavor, Stealing Las Vegas is a bit more subtle in its use of Latinos.

“I wanted it more Salvadorian, but Corman wanted to diversify,” he said. “I think it’s exciting to specific about other cultures. So many times we get reduced to gang bangers and pimps.”

But in the end, you still get a good film, with good Latino actors and a good Latino director.

Oh, and another neat thing is that half the profits from the film will fund co-curricular film projects at UNLV.

The film is available on DVD for $22.98 from Anchor Bay Entertainment.


 


14 Aug, 2012

Tune in to BeFit

Lionsgate’s BeFit has added a new show to its online fitness channel.

“StarFit” features stars, trainers to the stars and trainers who are stars themselves leading a variety of short workouts. Learn how some actors get in shape through the latest trends in fitness from crossfit and zumba to yoga and parkour.

The show is hosted by the effervescent Kym Johnson, best recognized from “Dancing With the Stars” and the “DWTS” workout DVDs. New episodes premiere every Friday.

The first episode features celebrity trainer Andrea Orbeck (who has worked with Heidi Klum, Amanda Bynes, Alicia Silverstone), giving a short workout to get back your body after having a baby.

Other episodes will feature actor Dolph Lundgren doing a workout he did to get ready for the “Expendables” films; Mary Helen Bowers, who helped Natalie Portman get that svelte dancer’s body in Black Swan, leading a ballet body workout; and former MLS player Jimmy Conrad with a soccer workout.

The segments are about five minutes long and meant to give you a taste of different workouts.

BeFit is Lionsgate’s ad-supported site for free, original fitness shows, focusing on the latest trends in fitness and featuring top trainers and brands. The channel also recently launched another show, “You Asked For It,” which features host Melana Scantlin with a different fitness expert such as Denise Austin answering questions on nutrition and fitness. New episodes premiere every Thursday on the BeFit channel.


25 Jul, 2012

Brazilian Dance Weekend in Santa Barbara

Vanessa Isaac of Hip Brazil is offering her infectious Brazilian dance and rhythms at a special two-day event.

The award-winning dancer and choreographer is hosting Sensual Journey to Brazil — Weekend of Dance in Santa Barbara Aug. 11-12. The event features Brazilian dance workshops taught by Vanessa.

Classes will feature contemporary Brazilian dance and samba instruction, and are open to everyone whether you’re a dancer or not. Rounding out the day’s activities, which include live music, is a night out for a Journey to Brazil party on Aug. 11.

We all know dancing is an effective and fun way to work out, and Vanessa’s Brazilian dance workouts are so fun you forget you’re getting a cardio workout. I tried out her Brazilian Dance Workout DVD last night, and I had way more fun that I thought I would. The DVD was named the No. 1 dance workout of the year and the No. 3 overall fitness DVD of the year by Fitness magazine, and I can see why. Vanessa has an easy-to-follow style of instruction with a contagious energy that pops off the screen and into your body. Before I knew it, I was dancing samba and other Brazilian dances, and lovin’ it. The DVD also features just the music if you want to keep practicing your new moves. I just kept it on while I samba’d over to the kitchen to make my dinner.

So book your ticket now for the Weekend of Dance. Ticket prices go up after Aug. 10.

Find more information at on her website or Facebook page.

 


18 Jul, 2012

The ‘Gringo’ Gets It

I admit I hesitated to watch Get the Gringo, starring the controversial Mel Gibson, but decided that Skinny Burrito shouldn’t ignore the quasi-Latino film.

To my surprise, I really enjoyed this action-thriller. And to my surprise, it was more Latino than some Latino films I’ve seen.

The film, which streeted July 17 from Fox, is the kind of Latino-American movie I’d like to see more of. It seamlessly blends both American and Mexican cultures, maintaining the authenticity of each.

To read about the plot and Blu-ray extras first, read my review. Otherwise, stick with me here.

Using his contacts from when he made Apocolypto, Gibson — or as my grandma used to call him, Melito — had a cast and crew of both Mexicans and Americans, which I think was key in getting the culture right.

It also helped in getting the language right. The cast spoke native Spanish or English with authentic Mexican accents. (Does anyone else get distracted by terrible accents?)

The film features a number of talented and recognizable Mexican actors: Dolores Heredia, Jesús Ochoa, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Gustavo Sánchez Parra, Roberto Sosa and even the luchador Blue Demon Jr.

And bilingual director and co-writer Adrian Grunberg, though American, has worked as assistant director on such films Apocalypto, Frida, Traffic, Man on Fire and Amores Perros.

What I appreciated about this film, in addition to the fun plotline, great action sequences and funny lines, is that there are no silly gringo or Mexican stereotypes. And it wasn’t brown against white. The criminals are on both sides of the border, as are the good guys.

As seen in the extras, Melito did his research — not just on assembling the right crew but also on the prison known as El Pueblito. Gibson also had the prison location cleansed by shamans before shooting, which, to me, sounds like a very Latino thing to do.

 


5 Jul, 2012

Amy Dixon Makes Me ‘Breathless’

Last week, fitness trainer Amy Dixon worked me hard at her DVD release party, held at Equinox in Santa Monica, Calif. Amy was leading a packed room in exercises from her two new DVDs: Breathless Body: Volume 2 — The Edge and Give Me 10: Core Cuts.

Breathless Body is the follow-up to her bestselling Breathless Body: The Ultimate Calorie Burn. It’s a 55-minute mix of high intensity interval training and threshold training. Core Cuts is, not surprisingly, for the core. Both are butt-kicking workouts and not for those afraid to break a sweat. Speaking of sweat, Amy gave me an awesome baby blue Breathless workout tank from Lorna Jane that says a little message down the back of the shirt. The words are invisible at first and activated only by your sweat. Cool!

Being a fan of high-intensity plyometric workouts, The Edge has made its way among my favorite workout DVDs. Amy gives easy-to-follow instruction, and her energy is infectious. Most of the moves should be familiar to anyone who does a lot of fitness DVDs, but she adds her own twist to some of them, keeping things fresh. She also gives modifications for each exercise if you need an extra challenge or if you’re not feeling 100% and need to take it easy.

I like the format of doing four rounds with three drills in each set. Each drill has three exercises. Doing each exercise three times allows me to push myself harder with each drill. It also helps me perfect my technique and get the most of my workout.

The DVDs are $19.98 each and available on Amy's website.