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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars They Walk Among Us
Recalling your childhood can be a slippery slope: you can choose to glaze over the bad and present an imaginary world in which very little is based on reality or you can choose to tell it like it is or was.

Whether or not Dito Monteil scrimps on the bad in his film of his autobiography, "A Guide to Recognize Your Saints" is very doubtful because this film is at...
Published on October 4, 2006 by MICHAEL ACUNA

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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars To Quote the Director: "a whole movie about people saying nothing, going nowhere"
Let me start by saying I didn't have any trouble with the coarse language or the incessant contentiousness of the characters. Nor did I have many problems with the sound-delayed presentation of the overlapping lines of dialog, or the "artsy" closed caption-style graphics, or the blacked out scenes or any of the bold, impressionistic choices that director Dito Montiel...
Published on March 11, 2007 by Connoisseur Rat


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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars They Walk Among Us, October 4, 2006
By 
MICHAEL ACUNA (Southern California United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Recalling your childhood can be a slippery slope: you can choose to glaze over the bad and present an imaginary world in which very little is based on reality or you can choose to tell it like it is or was.

Whether or not Dito Monteil scrimps on the bad in his film of his autobiography, "A Guide to Recognize Your Saints" is very doubtful because this film is at turns brutal, violent, emotionally poignant and difficult and many scenes are so truthful that they are almost impossible to watch.

There is also much beauty here: scenes of Love: Dito (a truly amazing Shia LeBeouf in a career making performance) and his father (the great Chazz Palminteri) in the bathroom after Dito's friend is killed, a grown up Dito (Robert Downey Jr.) and his mother (a tragic, loving, disappointed Dianne Wiest) on the porch stoop discussing Dito's friend Antonio (a terrific Channing Tatum )...these scenes form the emotional center of the film around which all the others rotate and draw strength from.

"AGTRYS" is ultimately a story of friendship among 5 boys (Dito, Antonio, Mike, Joey and Nerf): all desperately poor, all full of pride and bravado and all full of emotional and sexual fire with very few ways to diffuse and direct it.

Dito Monteil has created a thoughtful, emotional and heartfelt film, a memoir really, about his childhood and the people that were most important to him at that time. It truly is about the everyday Saints and Angels that people our lives and because it is set in a slum in no way diminishes its beauty and grandeur.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars awkward + tense + ... = perfectly exquisite, January 12, 2007
I saw "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" at the 2006 Sundance festival and I was blown away. If it's rough and imperfect, it's successfully so; its quirks complement the youthfully wild and tragic themes of this artfully presented memoir. Part of what made the film for me was Dito Montiel's apparent sense of humor in dealing with his past. "AGTRYS" is an infusion of sex, tragedy, violence, and uplifting spirit. I left the theatre feeling great and I've been searching desperately for the DVD ever since. Try it!
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Once more with feeling . . ., March 19, 2007
This well-made film has galvanizing performances by a young, energetic cast and some wonderful turns by veteran performers, Dianne Wiest and Chazz Palminteri (plus a cameo by Eric Roberts). The cinematography and editing create a constantly kinetic and agitated style of storytelling. The viewer is propelled between past and present, as the central character, Dito, lives and relives the experience of being a teenager 25 years ago on the mean streets of Queens. Based on the memoir of Dito Montiel (who also wrote and directed), the film covers ground we have seen in many other films: coming of age in a working class Italian-American neighborhood, where street talk is rough, violence is everywhere (both in and out of the home), and just getting through childhood alive is a major achievement.

Some viewers may wonder whether Robert Downey, Jr., is the right fit for the role he plays, but if you're a fan, you won't mind his portrayal of a perplexed and troubled man thrust into the position of making amends with a dying father who seems to have loved another man's son more deeply than his own. The DVD has a commentary by the director, an informative making-of featurette including interviews with cast members and the director, plus other material.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Guide To One Of 2006's Best Film's, March 23, 2007
A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints is truly affecting in a very unconventional way. The story follows Dito (played with electrifying realism by Shia LaBoeuf as young Dito and Robert Downey Jr. as older Dito), growing up in the Astoria part of Queens. When one of his closest friends ends up dying in front of him, he flees his life in Queens for something more. Twenty years later, his father (Palminterri) is sick and Dito comes home to take him to the hospital. When Dito left, he virtually killed the relationship between him and his father. Chazz Palminterri hasn't been this good in years. The young cast featuring "Step Up" star Channing Tatum as Dito's friend Antonio and Melonie Diaz of "Raising Victor Vargas" are a match for their older counterparts played by Hollywood A-listers, this case Eric Roberts and Rosario Dawson. This film has the strongest emotional impact of any recent film, partly because of director Montiel's unconventional style, which uses subtitles in unexpected places and brilliantly avoids all biopic clichés. This is a respectable feat alone. It's worth seeing if only for the pure raw energy that hasn't been felt this vividly in any film of this kind since Scorsese's masterpiece "Mean Streets". Make no mistake, despite the excellent group of stars this film is very much about the excellent young actors. It is worth whatever Amazon may be charging for it. Excellent and emotional.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Years Best, January 5, 2007
By 
Director Dito Montiel's "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" covers very familar ground. The coming-of-age story on the New York streets harkens back to films such as "Mean Streets", "A Bronx Tale" as well as countless others. What makes it memorable is the confident direction, bold script and steller acting.

The semi-autobiographical tale follows a young Dito as he begins to look for a life beyond the narrow world of Astoria Queens. His father (Chazz Palminteri) views Dito's pending departure as an act of betrayal to the family.

Surprisingly, one of the strongest performances comes from Channing Tatum as the doomed street thug who's life is tied to Dito's. He struts his way though the role like a young Brando at his peak. His character is the one of most vibrant and most heartbreaking seen in a film this year.

Though the genre is familiar, this film breathes new life into the tired style. It proves that it isn't the subject matter that makes a great film, but, rather the way in which it is presented.

Highly recommended.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars To Quote the Director: "a whole movie about people saying nothing, going nowhere", March 11, 2007
Let me start by saying I didn't have any trouble with the coarse language or the incessant contentiousness of the characters. Nor did I have many problems with the sound-delayed presentation of the overlapping lines of dialog, or the "artsy" closed caption-style graphics, or the blacked out scenes or any of the bold, impressionistic choices that director Dito Montiel makes in this allegedly (but not really) autobiographical tale. After all, Dito comes from the hardcore/punk scene, so it's no surprise that he chooses to push the envelope and intentionally agitate his viewers. And I prefer directors to take chances and fail rather than take no chances at all.

The main gripe I have about the film is, though it was very well acted, the writing and the story never make it clear just what Dito's father Monty (Chazz Palminteri) or Dito himself (Shia LaBeouf) see in the troubled and abrasive Antonio (Channing Tatum) character. I understand that Dito might have been just looking up to an older peer, regardless of how unruly or unpleasant he was (or the reasons behind his unpleasantness), but I just couldn't figure out why Monty would in many ways seem to choose Antonio over his own son, Dito. And since these relationships are at the heart of the film, this is a rather major flaw, in my eyes.

The film does make a great case as to why they SHOULDN'T hold Antonio in any esteem, however. Dianne Wiest (in a superb performance as Flori, Dito's mom) is constantly advocating a cautionary approach to Antonio. And when Scottish pal Mike O'Shea (played by the excellent Martin Compston - check out his standout performance in "Sweet Sixteen" if you like him here) says of Antonio, "The guy's a f---in' dick, Dito. It's because of him you're f---ed up," well - I couldn't agree more!

Anyway, I listened to the entire commentary, done by writer/director Montiel himself along with his editor, searching for clues about this character dynamic. And all I really got from the commentary about the story was that Dito (the director) has one thesis statement for this film: "This is a whole movie about people saying nothing, going nowhere." Oh, and he and the editor purposely edited out all the funny parts. Plus Dito admits that the young actors look nothing like the actors who are playing their older selves. Great - thanks for enhancing my viewing experience.

In addition, I think this movie gets too much credit/slack for being an autobiography, when in fact there is a lot of truth-bending (if not breaking) going on here. I don't want to reveal too much, but the fates of both Antonio and his brother Giuseppe are greatly exaggerated in the film. And Nerf takes a completely different course in real life. Which would be fine in a work of fiction, but I think too much value is placed on this film being a true-life memoir, when in fact it is constantly veering into James Frey territory.

To summarize, though the acting is terrific (Dianne Wiest and Rosario Dawson are especially entrancing) and the directing is somewhat fresh and innovative, the story itself ultimately left me cold. And the fact that it's not even truly autobiographical makes it even less remarkable. I'd like to give this film 2.5 stars (an average rating, not a negative one), but the Amazonian star system demands whole integers, so I'll round up to three because I admire Dito's moxie as much as I do his movie.

The DVD itself has some pretty good features: there's a 20 minute "making of" featurette consisting of many interviews with the cast and producer Trudy Styler (aka Mrs. Sting). There's one alternate opening and four alternate endings (both with and without commentary) and a bunch of deleted scenes (again, with or without commentary). There's also the 6 minute "rooftop scene," made by Dito whilst training at Sundance Labs. But if you don't like the movie itself, odds are you won't have too much interest in the features. I say, despite its high Amazon rating, approach this film with caution and maybe rent before you decide to buy.
[...]
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a powerful coming-of-age story, August 19, 2009
By 
Matthew G. Sherwin (last seen screaming at Amazon customer service) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints is a powerful film that may turn off some people because of some violent and $exual content. However, if you look beyond that (and I admit I was wondering just how many times they used "the `f' word" in this movie) you'll find a brilliant story that's very poignant, true to life and emotionally raw because of its honesty about people and their relationships with each other. The cinematography is excellent and the choreography shows good judgment. The musical score enhances the movie, too. The acting is extremely convincing and the casting is great.

When the movie begins, we quickly meet young Dito Montiel (Shia LaBeouf) who's growing up with his buddies and some girlfriends on the pretty mean streets of Astoria, Queens (NY City) during the 1980s. Dito's friends include the ultra-macho Antonio (Channing Tatum) and Antonio's younger brother Guiseppe (Adam Scarimbolo), Nerf (Peter Anthony Tambakis), Mike O'Shea (Martin Compston), his girlfriend Laurie (Melonie Diaz) and more. Dito's parents are brilliantly portrayed by Dianne Wiest and Chazz Palminteri. As the plot develops, we see Dito and his buddies leading a rather frustrating life during the course of one extremely hot and humid summer; they are young and looking for time alone with girls and some angry confrontations with other guys, including one who goes by the name of "Reaper" (Michael Rivera). When Dito gets into a fight with "Reaper" because he wrote graffiti; "Reaper" scrawls more graffiti--even some on Dito's house--that he's coming "to get" Dito and kill him. Antonio is ready to defend Dito even though they themselves have their own ups and downs; and this ultimately leads to quite an explosive scene.

In addition, Dito's parents don't meet his needs as a young teenager who doesn't really know yet what he wants from life but is old enough to know that whatever he wants certainly isn't in Astoria, Queens. His father is furious that Dito is considering leaving home with his buddy Mike to form a band in California; and Dito's mother tries her best to keep things under control even though her struggle isn't very successful.

The DVD comes with an optional running commentary by director Dito Montiel; a "making-of" featurette and more.

A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints leaves me with a very powerful impression; it makes a bold statement about the harsh realities that happen so often in life. Some may say that Dito Montiel's relationships with his friends and his family were unusual; but I think there are many, many people out there who have similar relationships, struggles, fears and occasionally some happy times. I highly recommend this film for anyone who wants a good look at what life is really like on the streets of a mighty callous neighborhood; this is a terrific coming-of-age story. Of course, fans of the actors in this movie will not be disappointed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trip down memory lane, April 17, 2007
This is a heart-gripping story of a writer going back into his tumultuous childhood in a rough Astoria-Queens neighborhood in the 1980's. When Dito returns home to try to help his ailing, estranged father, it stirs up a mix of memories surrounding friends, bullies, old girlfriends and loyalties. He's forced to face his feelings with his father and an old friend who ended up in prison. He also relives the death of a friend from Scotland who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I loved the story and the music brought up fond memories from my own childhood.

Chrissy K. McVay - Author
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tepid, August 29, 2013
I was expecting something a bit more subtle. My fault, I suppose.

Some of the dialogue was really good, but other parts were just too on the nose.

The dialogue was kind of like that of the Star Wars films. The script is reflecting very bluntly what a character thinks only to move the plot forward.

Shouldn't call it a terrible film, but you shouldn't just stamp it with approval simply because it's a personal, low-budget film either.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Growing up in Queens, June 25, 2008
Sincere and heartbreaking story about four friends growing up in Queens. They go to school together, they spend time after school together, they protect each other. One of them, the main character Dito (portrayed by Shia B. as a teenager and R. Downey, Jr. as an adult) has complicated relationship with all of them. He feels loyalty to his freinds, but also realizes that he may be loosing his life to local thus if he stays around for a while. His relationship with his parents is a complicated one. His parents got him late in their lives and they are overly protective of him. They seek to be his friends, but Dito feels that all the love is smothering him more than helping him grow emotionally and spiritually. Dito's father loves him fiercely, but is it a jealous kind of love. His father is possesive and probably fearful of his own impending death (his health is frail). In an effort to keep his son close in order to ensure that there is someone taking care of him and his wife in their last days of their lives, he pushes his son away with his stubborness and inability to let go. Before long, Dito leaves East Coast for California where he spends another 20 years as a writer before coming back to Queens where memories of his childhood start to haunt him: his first girl crush, his friend duying accidentaly when he is hit by a train, another friend murdered by the local gang member, third friend drowning is drugs and alcohol in order to hide his own hopelessness and despair and and the last friend (played by fantasticly handsome and convincing Eric Roberts) is in jail after murdering a gang member who beat Dito with a baseball bat. All these people are tied together by the neighborhood they live in and never venture from (going to Manhattan is almost like taking a vacation to them). They do not know of any other world outside their own. They are also bound by the "old world" expectations where children's roles are defined from their birth to be a caregivers and safekeepers of their parents' old ages. When that conflicts with realities of our (american) culture, our own peronsonal needs and desires it is almost impossible to reconcile the two. Heartbreak is inevitable, but it is a kind of heartbreak that does nto erase the love. To the contrary, it seems to make it even stronger and more resiliant.
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