[REVIEW] Arlo the Alligator Boy

One of the great things happening over at Netflix is the fostering of new and innovative animated talent. Whether it is I Lost My Body, Klaus or Over the Moon creative men and women are being given a place to explore and make beautiful films. The latest entry is basically a pilot for a new animated TV series called Arlo the Alligator Boy made by first time director and animator Ryan Crego. Honestly story and pacing-wise the film is a mixed bag but as a pilot for a 20-episode series it establishes the characters enough to make me want to tune in; therefore, it does its job.

In this film we are introduced to an alligator that is anthropomorphic and talks like a human boy (hence the title). Much like in the movie Elf, Arlo finds out he has a father in New York City and decides to go there in order to find his father and figure out who he is.

Along the way Arlo meets up with a rag-tag group of friends who help him on his journey. There’s a tiger, a pom-pom girl, a dinosaur and more. The further Arlo goes the more wisdom he adds to his team much in the same way that Dorothy adds to her team in The Wizard of Oz.

The animation in Arlo is also a lot of fun with whimsical details and beautiful watercolor-inspired backgrounds. It reminded me style-wise of something like Steven Universe or even Hilda.

The music by Alex Geringas and Crego doesn’t always fit the vibe of the scenes but it is still good music and some of the musical sequences especially at the beginning are catchy. It feels like a show that could have quality songs like Elena of Avalor.

Where the movie loses me is when Arlo gets to NYC and there is a back and forth between him and his Dad. It felt really long, and I struggled to stay invested. The ending is very predictable and it just wasn’t engaging me the way I wanted it to.

However, despite some script problems, Arlo the Alligator Boy has a big heart, enchanting animation and is a good start to a 20 episode series. The whole family will love it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEWS] Oscar Nominated Shorts

Hello friends! Here’s something you may not know but I love watching shorts- especially groups of shorts. There’s something satisfying about watching a little morsel of storytelling whether it be animated, live action or documentary. The only problem is sometimes the Oscar nominated shorts can be tough to get a-hold of but this year they are available to stream from your neighborhood arthouse theater. For $30 you can watch all 3 slates of shorts and support your local theater, which is an awesome thing to do. Click here to find out more.

Anyway, let me give you my quick thoughts on all of the shorts and what I think should win the Oscar:

Documentary

The documentary branch was my favorite group of nominees. This is much different than the normal feature film documentary branch which is almost always disappointing (including this year with no nomination for Dick Johnson is Dead! Outrageous!).

Nevertheless, I liked all 5 of these documentary shorts and they were all so different it is difficult to rank them.

2021 Oscars Best Documentary Short Subject Predictions - Variety

  1. Hunger Ward- this follows 2 women- a doctor and a nurse- inside a hunger ward in famine stricken Yemen. What I liked about this one is how authentic it felt. There’s no sense of the director manipulating the viewer. They are following the subjects around watching things happen. There’s a particularly devastating scene where an infant dies and the doctor has to go into another room to cry. It’s devastating but very real and moving.
  2. Do Not Split– This 36 minute documentary puts you on the ground with the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests in 2019-2020. This is another documentary where you feel like a fly on the wall watching what is happening. They don’t try and tell you what to feel but just show the events and leave it at that.
  3. A Love Song for Latasha– a very sweet documentary about the family and friends looking back on the life of Latasha Harlins who’s killing set off what became the LA riots in 1991. I think this one will win and it’s not undeserving.
  4. Colette- this follows a student who is looking to learn more about the Holocaust and meets Colette Catherine a 90 year old Holocaust survivor. Their friendship is very sweet and it’s overall a moving story about a time we can’t forget
  5. A Concerto is a Conversation– Probably the most conventional of the group, this is still a sweet short about composer Kris Bowers as he looks into the history of his Grandfather and his dry cleaning business in Florida.

My favorite is Hunger Ward because it felt the most authentic and moving of the 5 but they are all good. Definitely the strongest grouping of the 3 categories.

Live Action

The live action category of Oscar nominated shorts are the most forgettable of the group. It’s only been a few days since I watched them and they have mostly left my memory but here goes:

  1. The Present– it’s a simple concept. A Palestinian man is trying to buy his wife a birthday present of a fridge but in order to do so he must cross an Israeli security crossing. He does so with his daughter and unfortunately things get tense and uncomfortable.
  2. Two Distant Strangers– with its timely topic I predict this short will win even if I prefer The Present. It tells a time loop story where a Black man is living the same 24 hours where he gets killed by a cop every day. It is a gimmick but it works as a little morality play in a short
  3. Feeling Through– a sweet short about a man who ends up helping a deafblind man to get home off the bus. This is the first film to cast a deafblind actor and the unlikely friendship between the 2 men is endearing and authentic.
  4. White Eye– this follows a man who thinks he has found his stolen bicycle and what happens when he tries to retrieve it from the immigrant who stole it to help his daughter. It was fine but I wasn’t very invested in the story or the 2 unlikable lead characters.
  5. The Letter Room- I’m afraid this short feels like one which received a nomination for its celebrity casting more than the story quality. Oscar Isaac plays a cop in a federal death row penitentiary who is charge of reading letters to the inmates. Despite being warned against it he becomes too invested in the letters and tries to get involved. This one was honestly very dull and I didn’t care about the story or what was happening.

Animated

When you purchase the animated shorts they include 3 bonus shorts with the package and honestly I preferred all 3 of those bonus shorts over any of the 5 nominated shorts. I guess that says something. I would love to ask them why they picked these 5 shorts because there were some exemplary shorts not nominated like Pixar’s Loop and Out.

Who knows? But here’s my thoughts on the nominees:

  1. Burrow– in what looks like a Beatrix Potteresque illustration Burrow tells a very cute story of rabbit who wants to find her own burrow with a bathroom disco and all. On the way she runs into many different burrows and gets offers to live in many places but it is not home.
  2. Yes People– this is a short about 6 people living in an apartment and all you get is the grunts of the highs and lows of their life. I know some of my friends hated the animation but I thought it had a charm to it. It had an every-day living quality to it that I enjoyed.
  3. If Anything Happens I Love You– I love the simple 2D pencil animation of this short and it has a touching message but it is also a bit heavy-handed for 12 minutes. The topic is a school shooting and the grief the parents feel at their great loss. I do think this short will probably win but it wasn’t my favorite even though I appreciate the style and message.
  4. Opera– If all you care about is style than this one might suffice. It takes you into a miniature world with workers making the lights go on and the water run. It was fine but just didn’t do much for me. No real story.
  5. Genius Loci– this is the short I had the most trouble remembering days later. It made no impression on me either visually or message-wise. It’s about mental illness and a young Black woman, her memories and her dog.

So there you have it for the shorts. Did you get to see any of the shorts? What did you think of them? What were your favorites and what do you think will win? Let me know in the comments sections

[REVIEW] Godzilla vs Kong: 4th Times the Charm for this Franchise

I have to be honest I was not looking forward to the latest Monsterverse film Godzilla vs Kong. While the idea of getting back in theaters and watching a spectacle film excited me, this franchise hasn’t delivered a single film I could recommend so far. Could they nail it on this 4th and possibly last entry in the series? Surprisingly I am here to tell you: yes. Chalk it up to low expectations, but I had a great time with this battle of the titans- Godzilla vs Kong!

Godzilla Vs Kong' Roars To $123M Offshore Bow, Sets Covid-Era Record –  Deadline

Let me start off my praise by saying this movie looks great. I hated Godzilla: King of the Monsters mostly because the spectacle (the main draw of such a film) was ruined by choppy editing and constantly obfuscated visuals. What’s the point of going to such a film if you can’t see what is happening on screen? So frustrating.

Well here they get it right. The visuals are crisp and clear including an amazing final act in Hong Kong with the city’s beautiful fluorescent lights framing our 2 big monsters.

Godzilla vs Kong's human storyline was the "biggest challenge"

I hate the phrase ‘turn your brain off’ but let’s say Godzilla vs Kong isn’t exactly a thinking man’s movie. It’s not trying to be an allegory or say anything particularly profound. The closest we get is a little girl named Jia played by newcomer Kaylee Hottle who forms a bond with Kong and see’s him as the prisoner he is. Her performance reminded me of the best in King Kong action movies where Kong is made human through his bond with a woman or child. (BTW I am definitely #teamKong and especially love the 1933 King Kong with animation by Willis O’Brien).

Godzilla vs. Kong Details On Brian Tyree Henry's Character

There is also Brian Tyree Henry as a podcaster who follows the conspiracy theories to help break down the Apex  Corporation that runs the Monarch program (thankfully the story is a little more grounded this time around unlike the insane plan of Vera Farmiga’s character in Godzilla: King of the Monsters). I feel like I almost have to enjoy a movie who’s hero is a podcaster LOL! Henry, Millie Bobby Brown and Julian Dennison’s characters become a trio that have a nice chemistry together and are fun to watch on screen.

And that’s the admittedly over-used word to describe Godzilla vs Kong: fun. It has enough story to facilitate Kong and Godzilla fighting it out and when that fight happens it delivers. Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg) helps things along with an energetic score and it all makes for a classic spectacle time at the movies and that’s not something I have been able to say with this franchise so far.

Godzilla vs Kong will be available on HBO Max and in theaters but if you can go safely I encourage you to support your local theater because that’s where this movie deserves to be seen. Either way I think you will have a good time with it. I certainly did!

8 out of 10

Blind Spot 63: Highlander

When I added Highlander to this year’s Blind Spot picks I didn’t know what to expect. I’m not the biggest fantasy fan and it being R rated made me skeptical it would be for me. However, for the sake of variety in the series I decided to give it a try.

And the verdict?…

I quite enjoyed it! Honestly the first 30 minutes or so were a little confusing with the narrative switching from 1985 to 1536. I could have used a little more exposition to lay out the world and rules of the magic. However, the action was so good and the film so well made it was still fun to watch. Then as the story progressed I picked up on what was happening.

Highlander tells the story of Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) who is an immortal starting in 1536 (think Braveheart with magic) and an immortal bounty hunter in 1986. At the start he takes out a man named Iman Fasil and when he cuts off his head there is an event called the Quickening which is like an electrical shock throughout the parking garage. This is a really fantastic sequence.

Then things move on as we switch from his life in 1536 getting trained by Egyptian from Spain Sean Connery to tracing down the evil Kurgan Clancy Brown in 1985. The women are a little bland for my taste here but other than that all the characters are a lot of fun and well cast.

One of the most impressive parts of this film is how well it is directed and made. The camera is nearly constantly moving and the the director Russell Mulcahy makes interesting choices in the angles he uses and the way the action is staged. This helps draw us in and makes the ever changing world feel consistent even when it isn’t.

I also appreciate how unpredictable and unique Highlander is. I guess the sequel and rest of the franchise tarnished its image but I legitimately didn’t know what was going to happen. It can feel a little random at times but I was still overall very entertained.

There has been some talk of a Highlander reboot happening and I find that prospect to be very interesting. I think it’s a property that has a ton of potential to improve and make even better than this original. If it was up to me I would ask Taika Waititi to direct it. His energy seems tailor-made for this film!

As I said the female characters are bland and sometimes the narrative can be confusing but I wish more fantasy films took such risks and didn’t take themselves so seriously. Highlander ends up being a good time whether in 1986, 1536 or 2021.

What do you think of Highlander? Is it a nostalgic favorite of yours? Let me know in the comments section

7 out of 10

[REVIEW] Zack Snyder’s Justice League: It’s an Event and It’s Fine

I have to be honest leading up to the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League I had no plans on watching it let alone reviewing it. Ever since my experience with Shazam I have been hesitant to note my opinions on superhero properties and have mostly only done so after long delays (see my review of Joker and Spider-Man Far From Home as examples).

The strange thing is I actually consider myself a fan of the genre and am quick to defend it against naysayers who claim it’s not true cinema (nonsense). I know I should be stronger as a critic but considering I am basically unpaid in my efforts it’s hard to muster up the energy to engage when people will threaten to kill you for your opinion.

As far as Zack Snyder I admire the ambition of his films but I find the execution to be frustrating. Man of Steel has interesting ideas but they are belabored to the point of exhaustion. Batman v Superman is bloated and yet rushed, and I hated the choice to kill Superman. Groan. Then we get 2017’s Justice League and I thought it was a hot mess. However, I liked seeing Superman (mustache and all) back to his old ways of truth, justice and the American way. It was a mess but it was my kind of mess and I enjoyed it.

Obviously I was in the minority of enjoying the film and fans clamored for a different version. Some said Snyder had a finished cut nearly ready for release. Others knew better and WB desperate to help their fledgling HBO Max service gave in and spent 70 million dollars for Snyder to finish his film. I’m glad he got to do it, and I’m glad he got to dedicate the film to his daughter.

However, now that I’ve seen it. I’m not even sure it is a film. It’s not a limited series either. It’s best described as an event. Like something you watch at an amusement park- only 4 hours long. Writing a review of this event then becomes difficult. How do we judge its quality when it is such a unique beast?

Honestly my main response after 4 hours is: it’s fine. I liked most everything with Wonder Woman. Aquaman sections were bland. The action felt very video-game inspired, which doesn’t move or excite me. The Superman parts I enjoyed even with the black suit (which I didn’t think I would like). It was nice seeing Ben Affleck healthy again in this world so I liked most of the Batman/Bruce sequences. Flash felt extemporaneous but fine. Cyborg had been oversold to me, and I didn’t think was anything special. Plus Ray Fisher has no charisma as an actor.

I still wish Snyder would use more subtly in his directing but there was more humor than his previous films. To be honest more of what I liked in 2017’s Justice League was kept than I anticipated.

I always try to ask myself when reviewing a film: did it succeed in doing what it’s trying to do? For example, when I watch a Hallmark Christmas movie I’m not looking at it under the same lens as when I’m watching Nomadland. They have entirely different audiences and purposes. That doesn’t mean I give the Hallmark movies a pass either. There are many bad ones. I just ask the question: does this movie succeed at being a good Christmas movie? I ask the same question when reviewing horror movies. Does the film succeed in being scary? Developing tone, having chilling sequences etc?

It’s the same thing with Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Does this movie succeed in what it’s trying to do? Is it a satisfying event for the fans who willed it into existence? The answer is undeniably yes. If the answer is yes (and I didn’t mind watching it) than it succeeds. That may be a convoluted explanation but there it is.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

SXSW DAY 4 LOG (Lily Topples the World, The Fallout, Swan Song)

Hi everyone! And now I am back for my final update on the SXSW festival. Honestly the festival started out rough but by the end I enjoyed most of the films I saw. There weren’t that many I adored and can see ending up on my top 10 of the year but I am still glad I attended the festival. I hope next year I can go in person but for now I’m grateful to have been able to attend in this virtual environment.

Thank you to all the volunteers and workers who made the festival a success and all the creatives who put their films out for us to judge and enjoy. I am very grateful!

So here are my final movies

Lily Topples the World

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Before watching this documentary I had never heard of domino toppling as a thing and these kind of ‘feature an odd hobby/career’ docs are always a lot of fun. Lily Topples the World tells the story of Lily Hevesh and how she creates incredible displays with dominoes that are toppled with the toppling being part of the art.

These installations are stunning and she has found a way to make a career out of it both on youtube and working for corporate clients like the Seattle Lottery.

Lily is also an adoptee from China and it was interesting to hear about her experiences and how she identifies and doesn’t identify as an Asian American. The documentary does feel a little stretched out and would have probably been better as a short but I still enjoyed it and especially loved watching all the artwork on display.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Fallout

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This outstanding drama is written and directed by actress Megan Park in her debut film! (Megan is a veteran of many Hallmark films so it was so cool to see her have such a successful debut). The Fallout tells the story of a young woman who is dealing with the aftermath of a school shooting at her high school. The scenes of the school shooting are intense and visceral and lead actress Jenna Ortega is fantastic. (She is also in the new comedy Yes Day on Netflix that I also enjoyed. She has huge star potential!)

This film could have felt manipulative and frustrating but I bought what it was selling. It is moving and the various responses to the trauma felt real and authentic. Julie Bowen is excellent as her Mother and Shailene Woodley is her therapist and they all work great.

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Swan Song

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Swan Song is an endearing film about a man in a nursing home who breaks free for a weekend to do the hair of a beloved past client of his who has passed away. Udo Kier is wonderful in the lead role and he is the reason to see this film. I don’t know if I have ever seen him before but he’s charismatic and charming.

My favorite part about this film is how it captures the sense of longing we feel for those that have passed who we miss so much. They might be in a better place but we miss them just the same.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

SXSW Day 3 LOG (Best Summer Ever, Fruits of Labor, Aliens on Stage, Inbetween Girl, The Drovers Wife)

Hi everyone! So I am days late in my SXSW logs but I am here to play catch up. I just got so busy between watching all the films and all the stuff I have to cover for my podcasts that I missed my daily coverage of the films.

Anyway, let’s get to it and talk about some movies

Best Summer Ever

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Anyone who knows me knows I am a sucker for a musical. Even cheesy low budget musicals I defend like the DCOMS on Disney Channel I think are sweet and entertaining. As such I was excited for Best Summer Ever. I also love that it features an inclusive cast with disabled actors. I think that is fantastic. Unfortunately everything from the writing, to the acting, to the story felt painfully amateurish. Most importantly there wasn’t a memorable song in the show. I was hopeful this would be this year’s Anna and the Apocalypse but that film had good songs and was well put together.

I don’t want to be too hard on this film because obviously they had the best of intentions but it just didn’t come together for me

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Fruits of Labor

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This documentary follows several teens working in the strawberry fields with dreams to graduate from high school and improve their lives. I enjoyed following the girls and seeing their lives play out but the director is heavy handed with cheesy metaphors of butterflies coming out of their cocoon. The director needs to trust their audience that we can figure out the meaning behind what is happening.

For the girls alone I will give it a passing recommendation but it could have been a lot better.

5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Alien on Stage

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I am a huge lover of local small theater productions and I’ve missed those so much in this pandemic. As such, this documentary about a group of friends who put on a stage production of Ridley Scott’s Alien was good for my soul. I loved seeing them come together to make the clever sets and costumes and then when they get picked to perform at the West End in London it is such a happy moment! I love this group and love their story! I highly recommend checking this film out.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Inbetween Girl

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This has sweet moments and I liked all of the performances. However, I have a hard time relating to young adult, coming of age movies with such intense relationships. It’s so different from my experience. Shouldn’t teens be having fun going on dates and enjoying time together? Shouldn’t it be the exception to the rule that have intense relationships with a boyfriend or girlfriend?  It might not be fair to make my own experience the standard but at certain point I need to connect with melodrama of a coming of age story and I didn’t with this film.

Most of the film is about the lead girl cheating with a friend of hers who is dating a frenemy of hers. Something about it didn’t feel authentic or true but I’m sure others will connect with it. It’s not a terrible movie but not something I became invested in.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson

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Watching this film was a bit of a risk for me because I am normally not the biggest fan of westerns. However, it had buzz around the festival so I decided to give it a shot. I recently enjoyed News of the World so you never know with any genre. Unfortunately, The Drover’s Wife was no News of the World.

I guess it is adapted from a play and I don’t think that would be my kind of play. The whole film is so unceasingly bleak and unpleasant. I didn’t enjoy it at all. It’s well made and the performances are good but it was not for me. I couldn’t wait for it to end.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

SXSW Day 2 Log (I’m Fine, Twyla Moves, US vs Reality Winner, Here Before, Tom Petty, Recovery)

Hey everyone! After a rough start to the South by Southwest Film Festival Day 2 proved to be much better. In fact, I liked all 6 films I watched today to one degree or another. Hooray!

So let’s get started with the recaps!

I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)

I have to say COVID is proving to be a better setting for storytelling than I might have guessed. In this first entry writer, director and star Kelley Kali gives us a day in the life of a grieving widow trying to get housing for herself and her daughter during the pandemic. She travels around down in roller skates and does various gig work and gets more desperate as the day goes on.

It’s a sobering film but Kali is such a likable presence on screen it keeps us invested. It kind of reminded me of the first act of Moonlight in a lot of ways. Some will find the slice of life concept to be a dull but I enjoyed it.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Twyla Moves

Twyla Moves is a documentary done by PBS for their American Masters series (it actually airs this weekend on TV). I really enjoy American Masters and this goes right along with what they do. It kind of reminded me of Ailey about Alvin Ailey from Sundance 2020 (which was also for AM).

This one is about choreographer Twyla Tharp who I had never heard of but is absolutely incredible. They listed off her resume and she had major projects every year since the 70s including films like Hair and Amadeus. I kind of wish it had gotten into more of her backstory and personal journey but it stays mostly in the professional realm but still fun to watch.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

United States vs Reality Winner

From the minute I heard federal secrets dropper Reality Winner’s name I wanted to learn more about her and that’s what this documentary does. It’s fairly basic in its presentation but the story is so strange and compelling it doesn’t need much manipulation to work. If you want to learn more about Reality than give this one a watch.

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Here Before

If you are looking for an artsy thriller at the festival Here Before may be the movie for you. It stars Andrea Riseborough as a woman who becomes convinced her new neighbor is actually her dead daughter reincarnated. This is a beautifully made film with an excellent performance by Riseborough (who is almost always good even in Birdman which I do not like). The pacing is very slow in this one and there were times my attention drifted away but still enough good to recommend.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free

Obviously this Tom Petty film will be a must watch for fans of him and his music. However, I also think it will be interesting to anyone who has a love of music and is curious to go BTS of the making of an album. In this case it is his ‘Wildflowers’ album and of course everything is touched by the knowledge of his sudden passing in 2017.

If you are looking for Tom’s backstory or how he became a musician that’s not what this is. It’s a showcase of the making of an album and all the people and hours of work that went into it. As a lover of music I enjoyed learning about the process and hearing lots of great Tom Petty songs!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Recovery

My friend Jonathan actually told me this movie was premiering at the festival. It stars Mallory Everton (who also cowrote and directed) and Whitney Call. They are both stars of the comedy skit youtube show Studio C and they bring that zany energy to this hilarious comedy.

Recovery is definitely a hair edgier than what you get on Studio C but it should be fine for adults. It’s about 2 sisters who have to go get their Grandma from a nursing home infected with COVID. A comedy like this comes down to the writing (which is very funny) and the chemistry which these 2 have in spades. I loved i! You may think it’s too soon to laugh at COVID but give it a chance. I bet you will find yourself cracking up just like I did.

It’s definitely the best of the festival so far. I loved it!

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

SXSW Day 1 Log (Kid Candidate, Introducing Selma, Islands,Demi Lovato, Hysterical, The Lost Sons)

Hey everyone! Today begins the first day of the South by Southwest Film Festival of SXSW. This is my first year attending the festival and of course I attended virtually this year. Hopefully next year I can go down to Austin and attend in person (which is something I was planning to do last year before the world went nuts).

I have to say day 1 I am mostly underwhelmed by what I saw. Maybe I just picked poorly but there is only 1 out of 6 I really loved and only 2 I think I will go fresh on. Oh well!

Here are my quick thoughts on the films:

Kid Candidate

The documentary Kid Candidate tells the story of Hayden Pedigo who is the 24 year old who decides to run for city council in Amarillo Texas. Hayden seems like a nice enough kid but his lack of motivation to study the issues and become an educated candidate makes the whole thing feel like a publicity stunt or at best a youtube gimmick.

The director also fails to challenge him on his ideology. He appears at tea party and MAGA events but then doesn’t seem to share their beliefs (or he may and the filmmaker just doesn’t ask him about it). The parts where we get to know the Senegalese population and the way religious dogma is used by the other candidates is interesting but not enough to carry the whole film.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Introducing Selma

Introducing Selma is only tangentially a celeb biopic. It briefly talks about Blair’s acting career and shows clips from Cruel Intentions and Legally Blonde but that’s about it. She could have had any job and the story would be compelling. It profiles her experiences with MS and her stem cell treatments in 2019 (and her time with the pandemic in 2020).

She is an inspiring, authentic person who struggles at times to speak and move. What could be cloying feels true and devastating. This was my favorite of the festival for the day.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Islands

Islands is a story about a 50 year old Filipino man who must start caring for his aging Father after his Mother dies. This film has some sweet moments and if you like slice of life movies it may be worth a watch.

However, the acting feels mostly amateurish and when they have Josh fall in love it is with his cousin, which is a weird choice. It could have been a very sweet little love story if they weren’t related. This one isn’t awful but I can’t recommend it.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil

If you are a big fan of Demi Lovato you will probably enjoy Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil. As someone who doesn’t know much about her I found the experience frustrating. First, it is a docu-series put into a movie format which I think made the editing kind of weird but I felt like this is a situation of a director wanting a certain narrative that the subject wouldn’t provide.

Particularly off is a section where she tries to argue for moderation instead of sobriety and it’s painted as an inspirational moment until other guests like Elton John strongly disagree with that approach. There’s interesting stuff in there and some shocking reveals of what Demi and her team have been through but it unfortunately wasn’t put together very well. Also there is a cheap tie-in to her new album at the end which adds to feeling of being manipulated.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Hysterical

Hysterical is a documentary about female stand up comics. There are definitely key figures I wish they had interviews with like Amy Schumer and Ali Wong who are seen but not heard from. Also Ellen Degeneres is never even mentioned (Tiffany Haddish, Sarah Silverman?).

Regardless, the ladies they do talk with are funny and I enjoyed hearing their stories and talking about how the comedy scene could do better in including female voices. It wasn’t a piece to complain but to show their obvious talent. Most importantly it was funny.

7 out of 10

The Lost Sons

When I watch a documentary I always ask: ‘would I rather read an article on the topic?’ If so than the film didn’t do it’s job. The Lost Sons is such a film. It does have a compelling story of a man who finds out he was a replacement baby for his parents who had their son kidnapped at the hospital. The problem is so many key players had died or were unwilling to be filmed that there’s not enough meat on the bone for a feature film. This would be great as a short true crime podcast or newspiece but not as a feature.

The man in question Paul Fronczak does about 80% of the interviewing and I wish he had more charisma. A side of me felt like this whole thing was an attempt to buoy his failing acting career (multiple clips are shown). It seems like others enjoyed this more than I did but it’s made by the same people who did Three Identical Strangers, which was far more absorbing and effective with a very similar story.

Feels like a TV spot stretched out to a feature film. Just listen to the podcasts about it instead.

3.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy