HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:64
It’s very rare to see a family friendly film come from Shout Factory. Well, besides the nature documentaries and space doc’s they have been specializing in, but most of the time it’s a lot of niche classic films from the 70s and 80s mixed in with a healthy dose of horror for the “Scream” sub studio they own. “Endgame”, on the other hand, is one of the their “Shout Kids” lineup and is one of the Dove.org family recommended films that usually get funneled to Alchemy, Lionsgate, or even a few of the other niche studios. The movie is not a revelation or anything, but it makes for a cute family rental, playing off the old classic tropes of an underprivileged high school making it to the big leagues.
Jose (Rico Rodriguez) comes from a single parent family where his mother, Carla (Justina Machado), works her tail off so that she can provide for her children. Jose is a chubby little kid who is just going through the throws of puberty, not to mention being over shadowed by his soccer star brother. The only real thing that Jose seems to be good at is chess, having been taught by his Abuelita (grandmother) who was married to a Mexico Chess master. Being in one of the most disenfranchised districts in Texas, the school that he is at isn’t exactly loaded, but one of the teachers, Mr. Alvarado (Efren Ramirez, most notably “Pedro” from “Napoleon Dynamite”), wants to give the kids a chance at something better and devises a way to build a chess team with Jose at its core.
As much as it is about chess, “Endgame” seems to want to be about a lot of different “after school special” type of clichés. Jose loses his brother in a fatal auto accident, which completely sends his mother Karla on a downward spiral as she gets caught up in her own pain and ignores Jose even more. This leaves Jose to deal with the loss of his brother with only his Abuelita as his rudder (who both seem surprisingly unshaken comparatively). Then we have to mix in a dash of illegal immigration, as his best friend and chess compatriot is taken by border patrol once her parents are busted. And of course his mother’s only words are “I’m sure you’ll make other friends” in her emotionless grief stricken state.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=74393[/img]While all of this is going on, Mr. Alvarado is bankrupting himself almost to fund the kids tournaments, even going so far as to sell pickles on the side of the road for gas money to and from events. There is the obligatory few rounds of complete and utter failure, but lo and behold, the underdogs pull it off and make it to the state finals with breathtaking results.
“Endgame” is not exactly a game changer in the underdog sports story. It’s based off of the real life experiences of the Brownsville chess team, but highly fictionalized from what research I could do. Which in and of itself is no big deal, as long as you do it and right, and “Endgame” does a little bit right, and a little bit wrong. Much of the “right” comes from “Modern Family” star, Rico Rodriguez, who plays a very likeable Jose. Valention Rodriguez and Efren Ramirez also are more than capable at generating a likeable character set, but Director Carmen Marron seems to want to cram too much into a short time frame. The death of Jose’s brother is certainly decent, but much of the grief from the incident is given to Justina Machado, while Jose is left to learn chess. The problem with that is mommy dearest is a VERY unlikeable woman even though she’s not meant to be portrayed that way. You can obviously tell that her older son was the favorite and that Jose was second best, and her constant grief over him while ignoring her youngest son makes that even more obvious. Then we have the weird mixture of cramming in illegal immigration issues, as well as other after school special fare to fill out the already short film.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=74401[/img]The 1.78:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray looks quite pleasing here, with a standard looking digital encode on a budget. Everything looks clean and clear for the most part, but sometimes a bit TOO clear as the digital encode very OBVIOUSLY looks digital in nature. Skin tones are natural and colors tend to be very lightly color graded at best, leaving a fairly neutral looking color palette. Black levels are pretty solid and everything looks hunky dory in the overall grand scheme of things. Sometimes I noticed a little bit of contrast boosting here and there, making the skin tones take on a slightly pallid look, but other than a few small nitpicks here and there the transfer looks good.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=74409[/img]The audio track also takes a bit of a queue from the films low budget. The 5.1 track is rather good most of the time, with strong dialog and good use of the front sound stage, but the cheap budget issues show some cracks and flaws in the audio’s sound design. One or two times I noticed a faint crackling in the front speakers, with the biggest offender being on the bridge as the two kids are admiring their trophies together. That and you can hear the background noise on the boom mike as wind or other atmospheric conditions aren’t filtered out. It’s mostly noticeable during the chess match where Jose beats the blonde for the very first time. Other than those two flaws, it’s a strong mix that is very front heavy, and pretty much standard fare for a drama.
• Commentary with Carmen Marron
• Deleted Scenes
• Hispanic Heritage Promo
“Endgame” is a cute and rather sweet family film that works exactly as expected for one of the “Dove.org” recommended films (although definitely a bit lighter ono the religious bent as most of the Dove.org films are). There’s nothing wildly fresh or invigorating about the underdog story, and plays by the numbers, but it is a family safe film that is not overly cheesy in any way. In fact, for child actors most of them did really really well. Audio and video are standard for a budget release, but the extras are surprisingly decent, and the film itself makes for a solid family rental.
Starring: Dimitri Agado, Cassie Brennan, Jose D. Cantu
Directed by: Carmen Marron
Written by: Carmen Marron, Hector Salinas
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Shout Factory
Runtime: 90 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: July 5th, 2016
Buy Endgame On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Family Rental
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