NYICFF Blog 1 (The Bears Famous Invasion, Beans, Nahuel and the Magic Book)

Hi everyone! Today marks my first day covering the New York Intl Children’s Film Festival and it started with a bang! I saw 3 movies with many more to come.

If you want to learn more about the festival check out my preview video:

Here are my quick thoughts on the films I saw today:

The Bears’ Famous Invasion

This film is also referred to as The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily and it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 and at Annecy in 2020 to great acclaim. It is the debut work of Italian illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti and it’s strongest attribute is the beautiful and lush animation- it has the appeal of a true work of art.

The story behind the art is a wandering storyteller and his daughter who get caught in a cave with a bear so they start telling stories about the bears and their acts of heroism.

The Bears’ Famous Invasion throws a lot at the screen with wars, ghosts, sea serpents and more but it is kept light by the storytellers and a free-spirited tone. My only flaw with the project is the white subtitles were often difficult to read especially with the nearly constant snow backgrounds in the film. Probably not the best choice!

Nevertheless I had a great time with this film and it was a terrific way to start off the festival

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Beans

Beans was my live action entry for the day and I must admit I found it to be a baffling film, which I did not enjoy. It seems to have the best of intentions telling the story of the Mohawk tribal protests in Quebec in 1990. The director Tracey Deer uses a combination of fictional events and real footage (reminded me of Spike Lee in Blackkklansman) but unfortunately it all feels more messy than moving.

Before the movie starts the festival announcers say this is for “kids” ages 14+ which is 14 a kid? I find this a puzzling decision on the part of the festival because this movie would definitely be rated R as it has the F word many times. And that’s not the only objectionable content, which would be fine I guess if the movie did anything interesting with that content. Instead it reminded me of Hillbilly Elegy in the way it wallows in people’s misery without having any insight on what do with those sorrows.

I left thinking who was this made for? It’s definitely not for kids and it sure wasn’t for me.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Nahuel and the Magic Book

We finished the night with an animated film out of Chile and Brazil called Nahuel and the Magic Book. This is a very well done fantasy adventure about a young grieving boy who finds a magic book called The Levisterio. He uses the book to help him conquer his fears and face bullies but then it has consequences he can’t imagine.

I’ll admit that I lost track of what was happening a few times in the film. There is a lot going on but I still enjoyed the ride. The animation is beautiful and there are some great segments. I particularly found a recurring theme of black birds attacking him in a giant swarm to be chilling.

Kids will have a great time with Nahuel and the Magic Book and both boys and girls should enjoy it equally. It’s an exciting adventure for the whole family with gorgeous animation (the animation kind of reminded me of Steven Universe in style).

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

What about you? What have you been watching at the festival and if you’ve seen these 3 movies what do you think of them?

[REVIEW] ‘Kim’s Convenience’ So Good I Binged Watched 4 Seasons This Week

I am not a binge watcher. It is probably my least favorite way to consume content. However, every once in a while I find a show where I just can’t help myself. I enjoy it so much I have to devour it! The CBC show available on Netflix Kim’s Convenience is such a show. There are currently 4 seasons with 2 more coming, and I can’t recommend it more highly. It’s funny, sweet, authentic and just great.

Kim’s Convenience is about a Korean Canadian family that owns a convenience store in Toronto and is based on a play of the same name by show creator Ins Choi. I’d love to see the play someday because it creates a setting for the show that feels authentic and true (it reminded me of Lin Manuel’s similar set up with his In the Heights musical).

Paul Sun-Hyung leads the cast as the father or Appa of the Kim family and owner of the store. What I appreciated about his character is he is a funny loveable curmudgeon who is set in his ways, but he also is a flawed character that is estranged from his son. This makes him more than just the butt of jokes but someone we can relate with and become invested in his journey.

Jean Yoon is equally strong as the matriarch of the family. She is famous for her pokes when people are frustrating her and her sneak attacks when she wants to get her way. But again she’s not a cliche character because the separation of her family is quite devastating for her throughout the show. I loved her character so much.

All the characters are great. Andrea Bang as Janet is fantastic as the daughter of the family. Simu Liu (who is about to blow up in Marvel’s Shang-Chi) is wonderful as the estranged son Jung who is trying to rebuild his life after a rebellious youth. I absolutely loved his relationship with his boss Shannon played by Nicole Power. She’s just weird enough to be charming and funny.

The supporting cast is wonderful with people like Jung’s best friend and roommate Kimchee (Andrew Phung) and the whole cast at the car rental place Handy that Jung, Shannon and Kimchee work at. You could honestly have an entire show just at Handy.

I think what’s most important about Kim’s Convenience is the writing. There honestly isn’t a bad episode. It’s so funny and it creates a family I cared deeply about. Sure it pokes fun at Korean stereotypes but that’s not the main source of the humor. Mostly it is about relationships and everyday problems anyone from a family can relate with.

The entire cast has chemistry together and even small roles like Amanda Bruget as Pastor Nina are so well executed. With weaker writing such a role could have been a bland overbearing religious figure but she’s not. She’s funny, flawed yet sincere and that’s the way all the characters are.

I can’t recommend Kim’s Convenience highly enough. It goes along with the recent Ted Lasso as a fantastic comedy with a big heart. I adored it and can’t wait for 2 more seasons!

Have you seen Kim’s Convenience? What did you think of it? What other hidden gems are out there I might have missed?

9 out of 10

[REVIEW] Escher and Tiger Documentaries

Hey friends! I just wanted to tell you quickly about 2 documentaries that are worth your time.

M.C. ESCHER:JOURNEY TO INFINITY

The first is available for rental and in some called M.C. Escher: Journey to Infinity. This tells us about the artist (or mathematician as he says) M.C. Escher but it does it through his own letters and diaries read by actor Stephen Fry.

Written and directed by Robin Lutz isn’t very concerned with Escher’s life.  It’s concerned with his work and if it counts as art or not. Most of us would look at his woodprints and drawings and say of course they count as art but the artist himself didn’t see it that way.

There are a few interviews from fans like Graham Nash explaining why they feel the work is art which makes for a fascinating contrast with the words from Escher himself. They also use Escher’s work to create new art and animation throughout the piece, which was very effective because I have a feeling they didn’t have many archival photographs to work with.

It is $12 to rent the documentary but you are supporting small local theaters that are struggling so much. Here is a link through Park City Film.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Tiger

Next up we have a new sports documentary from HBO Max diving into the world of golfer Tiger Woods called Tiger. This documentary is particularly chilling given Tiger’s recent car accident and injuries. He’s already had a dramatic fall from grace and a return. One can’t help but wonder if he can do it again?

Before continuing on with this review I should clarify I have almost no interest in golf. I recognize the skill that goes into the game. It is just not something that interests me to either play or watch. Nevertheless, I found Tiger to be a very well done and gripping documentary.

The most chilling part of Tiger is the audio they use repeatedly of Tiger’s father Earl talking about his son as a great gift to mankind, a Messianic like character that society better treat right.

“He will transcend this game and bring to the world a humanitarianism which has never been known before.
“The world will be a better place to live in, by virtue of his existence and his presence.”

This is my treasure; please accept it and use it wisely.”

Tiger tries to brush this aside as the words of a proud father but it can’t help but feel like such lofty expectations were doomed to fail. Who but God himself can live up to such promises?

As we all know Tiger did live up to the expectations when it came to golf but his personal choices caught up to him causing a moral implosion and scandal. All of this is dealt with in the documentary and I found it fascinating.

It’s too bad, unlike The Last Dance, which had Michael Jordan himself in the docuseries they couldn’t get Tiger in Tiger or anybody in his family.  That would have added some authenticity but overall I still enjoyed watching the documentary. I appreciate it tried to look for broader themes rather than a more sensationalized TMZ like approach.

Tiger is available on HBO Max and I recommend giving it a watch.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[Movie 59] ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ (Spoiler Free Review)

It has been a long time since we got a new Walt Disney Animation Studios film. Since November 22, 2019 to be precise. Now in 2021 we are lucky enough to receive 2 WDAS films: Encanto coming later this Fall and the latest film Raya and the Last Dragon. While I have high hopes for Encanto, one thing is for sure the studio is off on the right track with Raya! Disney has made a stunning animated film loaded with adventure and heart for the whole family.

Raya And The Last Dragon: Release Date, Story & Disney+ Premier Access

Raya and the Last Dragon tells the story of the title character Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) as she seeks to restore peace to her land called the Kumandra. Along the way she meets a dragon named Sisu (Awkwafina) and faces off against a tough warrior with a grudge named Namaari (Gemma Chan).

I won’t tell you much more of the plot but it should entertain both girls and boys and have something for all ages. It’s not too scary or convoluted for little kids but it isn’t too dumbed down for teenagers and pre-teens. A little boy character named Boun (Izaac Wang) should delight young and old and a giant pill-bug creature named Tuk Tuk will make everyone laugh.

The action is fast and smooth and the brightness and colors of the animation begs to be seen on a big screen. I can’t wait until I get to see it there! If you can go safely to a theater I recommend it. However, even if you do see it at home you will still enjoy it. My favorite part is how it explores themes of forgiveness and trust. I can picture many a conversation between kids and parents about the themes of the film and yet it doesn’t feel heavy-handed or preachy.

I don’t want to give any spoilers. As far as problems it gets a little exposition heavy at moments and I don’t think I got to know Raya in the same way I got to know Moana, Elsa or Rapunzel. She’s always kept at a bit of a distance from us, the audience, so she can appear tough and strong. I also admittedly missed the music. James Newton Howard’s score is fine but nothing special. I love Disney musicals and this seemed to have so many moments perfect for songs. I wonder why they decided to go away from the musicals? I missed them.

Other than that Raya and the Last Dragon is a stunning adventure for the whole family. And you don’t even have to have kids to enjoy it!

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

If you don’t want to pay the big bucks on Disney Plus consider attending this weeks NYICFF for a great price and a behind the scenes Q&A