City Of God (2002) -- 6/10.
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Born in February 1986, Jonathan Paula is a professional YouTuber and creator of the hit web series, "Is It A Good Idea To Microwave This?". In April 2006 he founded Jogwheel Productions, a new media production company that specializes in web video. He has been reviewing films since 2003, and professionally since 2009. Jon graduated from Emerson College in 2008 with a degree in Television Production / Radio Broadcasting. He currently lives in Rockingham, NH with his wife Rebecca.
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~~ Review Script ~~
This foreign film, firmly entrenched in the coveted top-20 highest rated films on IMDB, is the true-story about two boys growing up in the violent "City Of God" neighborhood outside of Rio De Janiero in Brazil - one becomes a photographer, the other a murderous drug-dealer. City of God, which is entirely in English subtitles, feels a lot like a Portuguese version of Scorsese's Goodefllas - except with delusional and hopeless children, rather than Ray Liotta and Robert DeNiro. Perhaps it was because of the subtitles, or because all of the little Brazilian kids looked the same to me, or perhaps it was because of the non-linear and sporadic narrative, but I found myself struggling to follow the complicated plot and character paths for most of the first half of this film. When things finally settled in, and after most of the supporting cast had been killed off - I was pleasantly surprised by City Of God - which finally started to come into its own, rather than just little Godfather-esque cut-scenes of people being murdered. The immensely large cast of local amateurs all did a terrific job, but none of them really stood-out, and I found it difficult to really connect to any of the main characters. I will say this though: the cinematography and editing in this film were absolutely outstanding - keeping things moving at a blistering pace, all while maintaining a very stylized, almost music-video look to some of the shots. The dirty slums of Rio are portrayed with gritty and striking realism that really immerses you in the sounds and sights of this hellish neighborhood. And although this film, and all of it's characters are closely based on a true-story, I couldn't help but feel like it was poor-man's version of much better Gangster films that had come before. Although beautifully shot, written, and acted - I quite honestly wasn't that impressed with City Of God, I'd go so-far-as-to-say I was even bored at times. Perhaps it was because I had set myself up for an amazing film, or because the subtitles kept me distant from sympathizing with the characters - but I really didn't think this movie was anything special. That being said however, I did enjoy the film, especially the last hour - and I can certainly appreciate it for what it was trying to accomplish - so it wins back some points from me there.