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3.9 out of 5 stars
Sugar
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2009
Format: DVD
Sugar was beautiful, heart-felt, and realistic. I loved the flow of the movie, showing Miguel "Sugar" Santos' journey, from his days in Dominican Republic to the US. It felt I was watching an actual documentary. You'll see him struggling with the language barrier, finding his own identity as a person while traveling in the U.S., being a "product" for the Minor Baseball League. Compelling and it'll make you wonder how the Major/Minor Baseball Leagues recruit these players, understanding the process of choosing certain players AND the politics behind it.

Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are fantastic once again with the story-telling, dialogue and the care with research (back stories of real life ballplayers) to tell this story so perfectly. And the lead actor, Algenis Perez Soto was impressive, considering this was his 1st acting role. I highly recommended this movie!!
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76 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2009
Format: DVD
PREFACE: This 1-star review is not of the film Sugar (as I have yet to even see it) but of the decision that was made to cut this film down from an R to a PG-13 for its DVD release.

Sugar was released theatrically with an R, and is on Blu-Ray with an R, but the DVD version has been sanitized into a PG-13 order to reach a 'wider market.' This so-called 'wider market' neglects grown-ups and teens who are allowed to see R-rated movies but don't own a Blu-Ray player, which in actuality, is the WIDEST demographic!

Blu-Ray is not the standard yet. One day it will be, but it is not yet what the majority of people own. This was an atrocious marketing decision, as was the studio's decision to castrate one of the BEST-REVIEWED movies of the year.

There have been sanitized versions of films released on DVD in the past, but always alongside a separate unrated or theatrical version. However, this is the FIRST time, in my memory, that a sanitized version has been released on a format ONLY. Think about it like this-- this is the equivalent of Huckleberry Finn being only available abridged in print form, and only available unabridged on Amazon Kindle. It's insane, it's anti-art, it's anti-artist.

The word needs to be spread. Standing idly by will only mean more films receiving this same unfair treatment in the future. If you disagree with such practice, vote that this review was helpful, and post a review of your own.
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44 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2009
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
The original theatrical release of Sugar was rated R, as is the Blu-ray version. Sadly, the standard DVD version has been censored in order to get a PG-13 rating. It is not obvious in the Amazon listing that the standard version has been modified, so beware. Buy the Blu-ray version if you want to see the film as originally released.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2009
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Why is it that the majority of baseball movies of the past 20-25 years are comedies? Think about it: Bull Durham, Major League, Little Big League, Angels in the Outfield, etcetera, have all been played for laughs. Frankly, most of the baseball movies that HAVE gone the serious route just haven't cut it, but "Sugar" works...and it works well.

"Sugar" is about Miguel "Sugar" (or "Azucar") Santos, a teenaged pitcher from an impoverished background in the Dominican Republic. You get to watch how Sugar progresses from a baseball academy in the DR to his signing with the fictitious Kansas City Knights, who then send him to the equally fictitious Bridgeport Swing of the very real Class A Midwest League. In this movie, "Bridgeport" is actually Davenport, Iowa, home of a real Midwest League team that plays its home games in John O'Donnell Stadium (one of the little jewels of minor league ballparks).

The movie then shows the culture shock Sugar experiences in Bridgeport: His English is weak, he doesn't understand midwestern social norms, and is very homesick. He hurts his arm while pitching, but keeps quiet because he is afraid he'll be sent back home if the team knows about it (they eventually figure it out). Ultimately, Sugar's optimism gives way to disillusion, and the flick makes its way to the finish on that note. I won't give away the ending.

This is perhaps the most realistic baseball movie I've ever seen, and I have spoken with a Yankees scout from Mexico who agrees that what happens in "Sugar" is very typical in Latin America. It's a real meat market down there when it comes to baseball, and this movie nails that aspect of the game as well as the very real culture shock young Latino players experience when they come to the USA.

There is humor in this movie, but it's incidental. The baseball as played in the movie is quite good, and Algenis Perez Soto, who plays Sugar, is actually pretty good as a pitcher...he is not some actor who tries to look like a ballplyer. He's pretty charismatic, too. There are subtitles, too. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a REAL baseball movie, and only wish I could give it more than five stars. "Sugar" is a winner.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
(THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS)

On one level, this movie follows a well-trodden path -- the quest of a young hotshot kid for fame and fortune in the big leagues. But it is a notch above that in its exploration of the exploitative world in which U.S. baseball franchises milk a small Caribbean nation for talent, hoping to find the next Sammy Sosa. For every major league slugger or golden arm unearthed, scores of lives lay shattered -- the lives of the wannabes who for one reason or another don't quite make it.

Sugar is an aspiring pitcher with a 97 mph fastball and a bamboozling curve ball. In the Dominican Republic, we join him at a training camp where teenagers eat, drink and sleep baseball, all hoping and dreaming for a shot at the big time. Their regular education forgotten, they are drilled in the basic English vocabulary of the game -- "home run, double play, I got it, etc etc."

Sugar gets his shot at training camp and is sent to a minor league team in the cornfields of Iowa where he boards with an elderly couple who provide a home for a different young player every year. Hardly knowing a word of English, he's fish out of water. But everything goes well at first as he wins his first few games. Then, all of a sudden, he loses his form, loses his cool and eventually walks out on the team and makes his way to New York, just another illegal immigrant trying to build his life. At that point, the movie also loses its focus.

It's an interesting take on the seamier side of the baseball industry but the characters are not sharply enough drawn for the movie to be truly involving. Sugar seems like a pleasant young man but we hardly know what, if anything, is really going on inside his head. The movie is pleasant -- but one feels it hardly scratches the surface. It takes no risks and never tries to go deep.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 1, 2009
Format: Blu-ray
I always appreciate a film that relays the story you hear nothing about in the headlines, or sometimes anywhere. As stated in the special features numerous times, this is not a baseball movie, but a film about those that love the game, while barely making a living at that.

The story follows one prospective big league dreamer as he works from the fields of the Dominican Republic to the minors in the US. When the movie ends, I think it helps one learn so much about so many people you never hear about on the sports page. Believable performances beginning to end.

The picture clarity is as expected from a Sony BD release: the colors are vibrant, the clarity well defined, even in most of the night footage and the sound is decent as they went the TrueHD on this. The supplements are thorough and include:
* Making of, 14:32 minutes: filled with plenty of background interviews and thoughts behind the story and production.
* Domincan Dream, Playing Baseball 13:00 minutes: covers more about the film festival in the DR and how it helped highlight this story. Some Sammy Sosa interviews and red carpet footage for the cast/crew.
* Casting, 4 minutes: Soto's casting tape, heck of a job for never acting before.
* Deleted scenes, 7 minutes: five scenes that showcase the usual original quality of film prior to going Blu, would have preferred to see them in the film, especially once you know this is about him, not just the sport.

An A/B/C coded BD that lives up to being a great film preserved adequately like HBO Films and Sony usually do.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon December 1, 2009
Format: DVD
Sugar is an intruiging story of a young man from the Dominican Republic whose only dream is to play in the American baseball big leagues. He is a talented pitcher who was signed by the KC Royals organization, but has to prove himself in his native Dominican Republic before he can get a shot in the majors farm leagues. Then after a KC Royals training camp he is called up to play 1A ball in Iowa.

Imagine this, you speak very little English...make that, well, no English, not enough to get along in the states anyway. You leave your friends, family, girlfriend, and the only life you have ever known for a life of practice, high-level competition, player rivalry, sometimes unreachable levels of self-expectations, and a must-win mentality, plus this all happening to and around you in an unfamiliar culture that provides a confusing background for your new life.

This film provides an extremely insightful view of life for talented, but very young foreign players and their eventual fates. No, this is not a fairytale story of overcoming challenges, it's a dose of reality.

If you are a baseball fan - I mean more than someone that just likes to sits and watch games, then you will enjoy this film, I guarantee it. This is not a Disney-ized story, but it's a compelling one.

I guess you could say this film is as much about NOT playing baseball as it is about playing baseball. And that is the main attraction for me.

If you are ready to go beyond sports films like "Remember the Titans" or "Miracle" then this film may be for you.

4 solid stars.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2009
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
For those of us who've been around the minor leagues, "Sugar" is a very realistic and accurate depiction of minor league life, especially for Dominicans.

Although it's fiction, the second act is set in Davenport, Iowa with the Quad Cities River Bandits, only in the movie it's "Bridgetown" and the team is called the Swing because they wear the uniforms worn by the River Bandits before their latest name change (to save production money, no doubt). Parts are also filmed in other Iowa Midwest League towns.

The third act is not what you expect, and I'll just leave it at that.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2011
Format: DVD
Don't expect a typical sports movie (thank you!) as this is more a movie about the immigrant experience. I won't give away the story but let's just say it is a triumph of the human spirit but without the Hollywood ending where the guy gets the girl. The dream does but in a way that is more grounded in reality.

In case you have no clue about what Sugar is about, it focuses on one Dominican Republic pitcher who is trying to make his way to the Big Leagues. The movie takes us along the way from the famous baseball academies of the Dominican through the instructional/rookie leagues to Single A ball in that most foreign of places--Iowa.

You watch this movie and wonder how people who have so little (the Dominicans) can have such a vibrant, interesting and fun culture yet those who live in the breadbasket of America and want for nothing live such controlled lives that seem so lost. This undercurrent of the film is not emphasised but the scenes around the billet family's table are so telling. Despite hosting numerous Latin ballplayers the billet family's Spanish is still rudimentary and, although good people, have no concept of the loneliness of the "immigrant" ballplayer or of the reality of dumping these guys in the middle of nowhere with very few English skills.

It's a damning indictment of Major League Baseball given the amount of money it generates. Would it kill each MLB team to help out their Latin ballplayers a tad more by even hiring a translator and an ESL teacher for them? How would that cost for a baseball season? OK, I'm off on tangent.

Back to the movie, the acting is first-rate and mostly features Dominicans (including the lead who is outstanding at displaying deep emotion with just one look or action) with little or no acting experience coming in. The baseball scenes are spot on and ring so true. The whole thing shows again that HBO know what they are doing when it comes to putting out quality product.

The extras are fantastic as we get the behind-the-scenes as per plus the classic first interview with lead actor Algenis Perez Soto as well as coverage of the premiere in the Dominican which features sme nice testimonials of the film by MLBers Pedro Martinez, Sammy Sosa, Francisco Cordero and Robinson Cano.

So real historians of the Latin influence on MLB there is the Roberto Clemente reference but big kudos for throwing in the Vic Power (Google him to paraphrase the Puerto Rican shopkeeper in the film) reference.

An absolute must-see film for baseball fans both hardcore and casual.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2011
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
Sugar may be my favorite baseball movie ever. That may be because it's not really about baseball. It's about race, class, youth, potential, isolation, failure, the way America looks through the eyes of a stranger, immigration, and the desire for money & success. On the surface, Sugar sounds like dozens of other movies: a poor young guy gets a shot at the big leagues. But, Sugar isn't the typical Hollywood garbage thanks to Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, the talented filmmakers behind Half Nelson. Here, they take us inside the mind of a stranger in a strange land, trying to overcome barriers of language, culture, class, and religion. They show us that the sports world is a cruel and corrupt business that is less about fulfilling dreams, and more about exploiting youth. Sugar steps away from all the sports movie cliches about the underdog's victory and beating insurmountable odds to show us the pressure and frustration. It is complex, sad, yet hopeful, honest, raw and simple stunning. It may be the best movie I've seen all year. Buy it. Watch it. And then go buy Half Nelson. Better yet, just buy them both now.
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