Blind Spot 69: Perfect Blue

Originally my plan for this month’s blind spot pick was to cover the anime Her Blue Sky. It was done by writer and animator Mari Okada who created Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms and A Whisker Away. Both films I enjoyed a lot. Unfortunately Her Blue Sky is not available anywhere I could find both streaming or on US playable physical media. This forced me to find a different anime selection and after some discussions with friends I decided to finally watch the classic Perfect Blue by Satoshi Kon.

Satoshi Kon has been fresh on my mind lately because I just watched a documentary on his life as part of Fantasia Fest 2021. Back in 2016 I reviewed his masterpiece Millennium Actress for rotoscopers.  I also covered his film Tokyo Godfathers in 2019 as part of this blind spot project. And finally my friend Conrado and I recently covered Paprika as part of our Criterion Project podcast.  So, it is appropriate I would finish this Satoshi Kon immersion process with quite possibly his most famous film in Perfect Blue. Perfect Blue tells the story of a woman named Mima who gives up her career as a popstar in order to become a serious actress. Unfortunately she ends up getting a role in a show called Double Blind where she has to perform in a rape scene (this is the reason I had avoided this movie until now). At the same time she is asked to do this she is being stalked and threatened (even letter bombs).

Mima starts to have conversations with her old popstar self and the line between reality and dreams becomes more and more confusing (a theme of Satoshi Kon).

The animation for Perfect Blue is absolutely stunning. Satoshi Kon weaves layers of backgrounds so multiple things are happening in each frame. You also feel for Mima’s character and want her to be treated fairly.The movie also uses music very well, which allows the viewer to become fully immersed in the story.

Perfect Blue also takes on deep themes of celebrity, fandom, identity, dreams, mental health, suicide, sexual discrimination and more.

The downside to the film is with so much happening both in the animation and story it can be confusing and difficult to follow. This is especially true when you have Mima talking to her former self and another person who is delusional thinking herself to be the “real Mima”. Even with the dub it’s still felt overwhelming to watch and keep track of.

There are also disturbing elements but I wouldn’t say it is gratuitous. It’s all part of the story and important to Mima’s progression.

What do you think about Perfect Blue? Is it a favorite of yours or is it not for you? Let me know in the comments section. Also let me know what anime you’d like me to review that I haven’t? I would love to know.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Current Mini Reviews (Blue Bayou, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Silent Night)

Hi everyone! I have officially finished with TIFF and it’s been a great experience. This morning I watched my last movie for the festival, Silent Night and that makes 23 movies watched and reviewed. I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts on these artistic and ambitious films. Even with 9 I did not recommend I still appreciate the experience of attending a festival and watching a large number of films in a short period of time. It gives you a whole different perspective than a typical ordinary trip to the cinemas.

Anyway I have 3 movies to report on today. One I saw at TIFF and the rest were at screenings. Here we go!

Silent Night

I must admit I haven’t seen many apocalyptic or end of the world movies. I’m naturally more of an optimistic person so such dour films don’t appeal to me. Now with director Camille Griffin’s Silent Night we not only get the end of the world but it is combined with Christmas, making for a very weird combination.

In this film a family and friends are gathering to celebrate Christmas knowing the end of the world is coming the next day. A tornado of toxic gasses is going to pass over and they can either take a suicide pill first or wait to die.

The cast for this strange film is fantastic. Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode have great chemistry as the hosts of the party. Rufus Jones, Annabelle Wallis, Kirby Howell-Baptiste and more play their friends and Roman Griffin Davis and his twin brothers play their children.

Unfortunately the script doesn’t do much to flesh out the characters outside of the fact they are all going to die, which obviously makes the movie very depressing. Some people may like the depressing version of a Christmas movie but it is definitely not for me and I didn’t take away anything profound that would make all the sadness worth it. My advice is watch Anna and the Apocalypse instead. It’s zombies end of the world and is much more entertaining.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Everybody’s Talking About Jaime

You all know I love musicals and 2021 has proven to be an amazing year for the genre with films like In the Heights, Vivo, Dear Evan Hansen and more. Now we have Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and it’s another win!

This film is based on the stage production of the same name and it tells the story of high school student Jamie New who’s dream is to become a drag queen performer. Jamie is played by newcomer Max Harwood with energy and charisma.

My favorite part of this movie is how positive and life affirming it is. For the most part everyone is kind and encouraging to Jamie. I particularly loved his mother Margaret played by Sarah Lancashire. Her song ‘He’s My Boy’ is the highlight of the film. She sang it like a Broadway pro.

There is of course opposition for Jamie including a bully at school and his Father’s disapproval but it still overall feels positive and uplifting. Richard E Grant could get a supporting Oscar nom for his wonderful performance as a mentor for Jamie.

The songs aren’t especially memorable, but I still thoroughly enjoyed this big-hearted film.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Blue Bayou

There are certain movies I’m glad I have seen but never want to watch again. The new film Blue Bayou is one of those films. It’s a devastating film that profiles an important issue I didn’t know was a problem. It tells the story of the LeBlanc family that lives on the Louisiana Bayou. Wife Kathy (Alicia Vikander) is pregnant and father Antonio (Justin Chon- who also directs) is trying to make it as a tattoo artist. He was adopted as a child from Korea but things get complicated as the government tries to deport him.

The success of this film will depend a lot on if it emotionally gets you or not? It got me. I was crying especially a very brutal end. I am sure some will think it is too much and it might be but it worked for me. Chon and Vikander have good chemistry and little Sydney Kowalske is great as Kathy’s little girl Jessie. They feel like a believable family to me.

The weaker part of the film comes in a side plot with Linh Dan Pham who is a Vietnamese immigrant who befriends Antonio despite her having cancer. I didn’t see the point of her character. She didn’t add anything to the main conflict and her entire presence could be cut without changing a thing.

Blue Bayou is also a beautiful film that captures the magic of the Louisiana swamps well. It’s devastating but a film you won’t soon forget.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

There you have it. Let me know if you get to see any of these films what you think. Thanks!

TIFF Day 7: (Where is Anne Frank, Ali & Ava)

Hi everyone! This may be my last log from TIFF. This weekend I am attending the FANX Con in Salt Lake so I probably won’t have time to watch any more TIFF movies (I would like to watch Silent Night, but we will see). Overall TIFF has been a great experience, and I am so grateful to the team there for giving me the opportunity to cover the festival as press. I hope I have done a good job and given all of you, my readers, an idea of the independent films which are coming out soon to a theater or streaming service near you. There have been misses (including the 2 I will review today) but even the misses are interesting to analyze why they don’t work.

So I hope you have enjoyed my TIFF coverage and hopefully next year I will be able to attend in-person for the first time!

Meanwhile, here are my thoughts on today’s movies

Ali & Ava

Going into Ali & Ava I was looking forward to it. I love romances and the summary of “2 people both lonely for different reasons, meet and sparks fly” sounds like my jam. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me. The main problem is Ali (Adeel Akhtar) and Ava (Claire Rushbrook) had no chemistry and the script didn’t give them enough cute moments which we want in this kind of romantic film. Instead they had a lot of unpleasant stuff to deal with like putting up with Ava’s annoying teen children who don’t approve of her choices.

I also must admit to struggling to understand most of the dialogue. The accents are very strong and the actors mumble their lines making me wish I could have watched with subtitles. Maybe there was charming stuff going on and I just couldn’t understand what they were saying? I doubt it but still it was hard to get into the dialogue when I cant decipher it.

If you don’t have that issue perhaps you will enjoy it more than I did? However, in the end a romance comes down to chemistry and it wasn’t here in Ali & Ava. Oh well!

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Where is Anne Frank?

There are times when I feel bad writing a negative review. I’m not made of stone and it’s hard when you can see so much love put into a piece that doesn’t completely come together. Such is the case with director Ari Folman’s new film Where is Anne Frank. Of course, I love animation so I was especially rooting for this film to be great but it was a mixed bag at best.

I do like the animation. Folman uses some beautiful techniques to make the 2D animation move and flow on screen. I particularly liked the way Anne Frank’s diary comes alive transitioning the viewer from modern times to Anne’s time. I also appreciated the message Folman was trying to share about helping refugees and that Anne would certainly have been an advocate for their cause were she alive today.

The problem with the movie is the concept. I just couldn’t get behind Kitty (Anne’s friend in the diary) coming to life in modern times and to make it worse she falls in love with a refugee activist named Peter. While I admire the message Folman is trying to share the heavy handed nature of it had me rolling my eyes more than sympathizing with the characters. The script throughout the film is clunky and awkward especially in the final act confrontation between Kitty, the refugees and police. It was obviously well-intentioned but badly done.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

So there you have it! If you got to see anything at TIFF let me know what you liked or didn’t like. Festivals are an amazing experience and I look forward to attending more of them in the future- hopefully in-person. Meanwhile if you are at FANX say hello! I’d love to meet you. Thanks!

TIFF Day 6 Log: (Nobody Has to Know, Charlotte, The Middle Man)

Hey everyone! Another day of TIFF has come and gone and I must admit the 3 movies I have to report on today were all disappointing. It’s always a bit hard being critical of these independent films that clearly have so much love and care put into them. Nevertheless, I have to share my opinions as a film critic, so let’s see what I thought!

Nobody Has to Know

I feel like when you describe the premise for Nobody Has to Know it sounds more interesting than it actually is. The film is written, directed and stars Bouli Lanners and it certainly is an ambitious project. He plays Phil a man who loses his memory after a stroke. A woman named Millie comes to his aid but she also says they had a relationship before the stroke. Phil doesn’t know whether to believe her and we as an audience are skeptical as well. Is this a desperate ploy for companionship or a real connection Phil’s forgotten?

Nobody Has to Come explores these questions with good cinematography and performances. Unfortunately the pacing is very sluggish and the film meanders away from the core premise a lot. Maybe in a theater it would have kept my interest better but at home it did not. The acting is excellent and it is beautifully shot. Unfortunately the script let’s down an interesting premise.

To be frank Nobody Has to Come was simply dull. So I admire what they tried to do but can’t recommend it in the end.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Charlotte

Being an animation buff I was obviously looking forward to both of the animated films at TIFF. I love indie animation and have a whole podcast once a month where my friend and I focus on indie and obscure animation. Unfortunately both of the animated films (not including Flee which I saw at Sundance and loved) ended up disappointing me during this festival- particularly Charlotte.

This film tells the story of Charlotte Salomon who was a German-Jewish artist murdered at Auschwitz concentration camp after completing her series of over 700 paintings. Indeed, the most captivating part of Charlotte is the addendum at the end talking about Salomon’s works in a traditional documentary fashion. It’s a problem if a section at the end is more effective than the entire rest of the movie!

The animation is pretty bad in Charlotte which feels awkward in a movie about an artist. And while the voice cast is impressive the voices didn’t match with the characters. Keira Knightley does a good job as Charlotte but her voice seems too old for a young artist in her 20s. None of them fit!

But the main problem is the story, which manages to feel bland and ordinary when it should be exceptional. Like I said the brief documentary at the end is much better than the story we get in the entire film. You’d honestly be better off reading an article on Salomon and giving Charlotte a pass. It’s a real shame because it had a lot of potential if it was executed better.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

The Middle Man

I’m not the biggest fan of dark humor. Every so often in something like The Addams Family it can work but for the most part it falls flat and ends up being more disturbing than elevating. The Middle Man, a new absurdist kind-of dark comedy is such a film and I really disliked it. Not for me.

The Middle Man tells the story of Frank who has been hired to be the ‘middle man’ for their community which has a bizarre number of accidents (he’s not with the military or anything like that). It’s a weird dystopian without being a dystopian.

It’s hard for me to explain why I found this movie to be so irritating. Maybe it’s because it is so repetitive? Maybe it is because it is pretentious and dealing with topics like death and grief in such a trite way? Maybe it’s because it dragged on and was so obviously pleased with itself? Either way it was not for me. It reminded me of Kajilionaire which I also hated with its unlikable characters and repetitive frustrating script. However, most people seemed to like that film so maybe they will like this? Like I said- it’s not for me.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

So there you have it 3 frowns. No fun when that happens. I hope you had better luck if you are covering TIFF or with whatever you are watching. I hope the festival finishes out on a run of good movies after this weak batch. Take care!

TIFF Day 5 Log: Jagged, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

Hi friends! I hope you are all doing well. For Day 5 of TIFF I only saw 2 movies at the festival because I spent most of my day at a critics double screening of Blue Bayou and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Reviews of both of those films are to come, but the 2 films I did see at TIFF were very enjoyable and particularly in terms of documentaries the selections have been outstanding this year.

So here are my thoughts on today’s movies:

Jagged

If you were in high school in 1995 like I was there was no escaping the album Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette, It was everywhere and rightfully so as it is a well written, raw, honest album with tons of great songs. The documentary Jagged explores the making of that album and Morissette’s career.

I must own I had no idea she was a child singer and had her first album at 11. Then at 14-16 she was a pop singer similar to Tiffany or Debbie Gibson. When MCA dropped her she retooled and at 19 put out Jagged Little Pill. There are some upsetting revelations in the documentary about Morissette time as a teen star including allegations of abuse that may be triggering for some viewers.

What I liked most about Jagged is its narrow scope. It went through each notable song on the album and explained what it meant to Morissette and the influence it had on fans and the music scene of that time. It’s definitely a talking heads piece but everyone had something interesting to say and Morissette makes a terrific interviewee in her segment. She’s likeable and funny, which makes you more invested in her story.

Jagged doesn’t break the bio-doc music mold but as a fan of the album and her music I had a great time watching it.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Addendum- Alanis has come out saying this isn’t the story she wanted to tell. I find this confusing as it was predominantly her words so I’m not sure what story she wanted told instead? Either way it puts a shade on the documentary and I suppose it should all be taken with a grain of salt. It all seemed quite worshipful in tone to me so this is all very perplexing and surprising

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

Cats often have a rough time in the movies. For every millionth positive dog movies there is 1 cat movie. Usually they are the villains in most stories (think Babe or Fievel Goes West). Well, now cat lovers rejoice because you have your movie! The Electrical Life of Louis Wain tells the story of the patron saint of cats, artist Louis Wain.

If you didn’t know Louis Wain was a painter who came from a high brow family and became famous with his whimsical paintings of cats. Before his influence cats weren’t domesticated like they are now. You could say his paintings were the catalyst for people keeping cats as pets, which is kind of amazing (I had no idea).

Benedict Cumberbatch is strong, as he always is, playing Louis throughout the highs and lows of his life. The film tackles a lot including art, commerce, mental health, marriage and more and for the most part it does it all well. I also really liked Claire Foy as Louis’ wife and Andrea Riseborough as his feisty sister Caroline. The production values are also impressive showing they did a lot on a small budget.

My only complaint is I don’t think the movie needed to cover all of Wain’s life. It drags at times and certain time periods could have been skipped.

Other than that I think The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is a charming film about an eclectic and unusual man who happened to love cats!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’: Big Eye Lashes, Big Life

Going into The Eyes of Tammy Faye I didn’t know what to expect. Of course, I’d heard of Tammy Faye Bakker and her husband Jim Bakker but didn’t know much about them. From the trailer I was expecting something very negative about her. Hollywood, after all, is usually pretty rough on religious people especially if there is a scandal attached to them.

Imagine my surprise leaving the theater to find the movie to be overwhelmingly positive in its portrayal of Tammy Faye? In fact, it was so positive I had to wonder if the Bakker family had final approval over the script? All that said, I still enjoyed the film and especially loved Jessica Chastain’s performance as Tammy Faye. Andrew Garfield is good as well as Jim but Chastain steals the movie.

The film is based on a documentary of the same name which was released back in 2000. I haven’t seen the documentary although I am definitely curious to watch it after seeing this dramatic version. Chastain transforms into Tammy Faye not only with the makeup and costumes but also with her acting and singing. I had no idea she could sing so well. It’s a complete performance.

I also had no idea Tammy Faye was an advocate for AIDS patients. In particular an interview with patient Steve Pieters where she tells him “I just want to love people” as God does was very moving.

It will be interesting to see what others think of this film. I do think they could have shown something about the victims that Jim and Tammy Faye took advantage of in their organization. Jim takes most of the blame in the scheme and maybe that is true to life but if so, it makes Tammy Faye seem like a very naive person.

Nevertheless, go see The Eyes of Tammy Faye for Jessica Chastain’s incredible performance and an unusual story of redemption.

7 out of 10

Smile worthy

TIFF Day 4 Log: (Listening to Kenny G, Julia, Montana Sky, The Rescue, Compartment No 6)

Hello everyone! Another day of TIFF has come and gone. Today I saw 5 movies and overall it was a pretty good day- especially when it comes to documentaries. I’ve realized during this festival documentaries are often my favorite at these kind of events. They aren’t as highfalutin as the fiction often is and tend to be the big-hearted stories I gravitate towards.

Anyway, I had 3 documentaries and 2 fiction today so let me share my thoughts:

Listening to Kenny G

Everyone knows or perhaps dreads the saxophone turned elevator music of Kenny G. He is the most successful instrumental musician in history and yet his name is synonymous with muzak more than music. Listening to Kenny G explores this dichotomy and it’s overall pretty interesting.

I must own I do not like the saxophone or Kenny G’s music so some of the long musical performances were a little much for me in this documentary. However, I did enjoy the discussion about jazz vs easy listening and in particular how white artists since Elvis Presley have been appropriating the music of African Americans for their own benefit.

It’s also interesting how someone like Kenny G can be both hugely successful and yet seemingly equally hated. It must be a bizarre dichotomy to live in? He seems to take it in stride but I can’t imagine going through all that.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Julia

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love and adore Julia Child. She is obviously an icon in the kitchen but I admire her spirit and moxie even more than anything she cooked. I love her so much I did a party for my book club a few years back and it was so much fun.

The new documentary Julia chronicles the life and influence of Julia Child and to be honest it is your average celeb bio-doc but I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it! It’s all about Julia and I love her so that’s all it needed to do. This documentary captures Julia’s love of life and how she dared to have a whole new life post 40. She didn’t publish her book or start her TV career until she was 50! As someone who just turned 40 that is very inspirational.

I also think Julia and Paul Child’s marriage is true relationship goals. He supported her in the long process of writing her book and she loved him till the end. It’s exactly what you want in a partner.

Julia Child was an awesome person and this documentary showcases that. Watch it!

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Montana Story

When you come from a large family like I do sibling relationships can be challenging. It’s hard to keep everyone in a family happy and content even in the best of times let alone in times of death and trauma. Montana Story explores the sibling relationship and asks how much should we expect of our brothers and sisters?

The film stars Owen Teague who is a young man trying to take care of his father who is on life support. His sister Erin played by Haley Lu Richardson comes into town and is full of opinions especially when it comes to her brother’s plans for her 25 year old horse named Mr T.

Montana Story was shot on 35mm film which you can see in the beautiful Montana mountain vistas. Some of the slice of life elements began to drag but the relationship between the brother and sister (and all their past baggage) really works.

If you are in the mood for some stunning cinematography mixed with lots of family drama give Montana Story a shot.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Rescue

I love inspirational documentaries and The Rescue is one of the best I’ve seen in a while. It tells the story of the Tham Luang Cave Rescue in 2018. Most of the movie is from the perspective of the British cave divers who came from thousands of miles away to save the 13 soccer players caught in the cave.

I remember hearing about this rescue but I didn’t know much about it. I hope you all get the chance to watch this film because I was riveted the entire time! I can’t believe the footage they got during the entire rescue. Even inside the cave they had great high quality footage! The interviews were also really good and as I heard them describe the risks of each step of the rescue I became more and more invested.

I guess they could have had more from the perspective of the families waiting to hear about their sons but I loved this documentary. It was sensational!

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Compartment No 6

Especially since most of us have been shut up for the last 2 years there is something very appealing about a road trip movie. In the case of Compartment No 6 it is a train road trip movie, which as it is something I have never done sounds very appealing!

Compartment No 6 tells the story of Laura (Seidi Haarla) who is traveling to Murmansk in the Arctic Circle as the final part of her stay in Russia. Once on the train she is assigned to a compartment with Polish man named Ljoha (Yurly Borisov). The 2 don’t have much in common but they bond over the course of their train ride and we get to follow them each step of the way.

For the most part I enjoyed this film. The script is truthful and sincere with 2 dynamic characters that grow and change on their journey. I did have a hard time warming up to Ljoha. He’s a bit too rough around the edges for my taste and I would have preferred more of a romance because that’s my jam but I’m sure some will be glad they didn’t go the cheesy romance route.

The pacing in Compartment No 6 won’t be for everyone but I think there is plenty to like in the sharp script and good performances. Give it a watch if you can.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it 5 movies and 5 positive reviews! I hope you’re doing well and enjoying the festival if you get a chance to attend. Have fun!

 

 

TIFF Day 3 Log: (Violet, Mothering Sunday, Encounter, Dionne Warwick, Aloners)

Hey everyone! I had another busy day at virtual TIFF watching 5 movies (plus a Hallmark movie later that night)! It was a bit hit and miss as is always the case with festivals but I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to cover TIFF and get to see so many people’s creative output. I hope all of you get a similar experience at least once in your life. It’s exhilarating!

So here goes with today’s thoughts:

Violet

I’ve seen a lot of artistic films at TIFF but Violet is the first one that I completely connected with. It is unlike any movie I’ve ever seen before and I finished watching it excited and energized by what I had just experienced.

Violet is a tough movie to describe. It’s about a woman named Violet who works for a movie production company where she is passed over for promotions and not give the respect she deserves. One day she starts hearing a voice and having visions, which we see in images and written out on the screen.

Some will probably say it is a gimmick and it is but it totally worked for me. Director Justine Bateman and actor Olivia Munn capture anxiety and the female experience very well. Luke Bracey is also terrific in this and he and Munn have great chemistry. Violet is also only 92 minutes so it doesn’t wear out its welcome. I loved it!

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Mothering Sunday

You all know I love my period pieces so I was excited for Mothering Sunday. Unfortunately all the pieces didn’t come together despite director Eva Husson creating a handsome film on a small budget.

The story centers around a maid named Jane (Odessa Young) who is having an affair with an aristocrat from next door named Paul (Josh O’Connor). Colin Firth and Olivia Colman play Jane’s employers at her house.

Mothering Sunday has strong nudity which could have been fine but O’Connor and Young have no chemistry so it just feels tedious. There is also a flash forward with Jane as a writer and her love Donald that felt like it was from another movie.

I wanted to like Mothering Sunday more but it didn’t come together in a satisfying way.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Encounter

Encounter is a tough movie to grade. I can’t deny while I was watching I was engaged and the performances are really good. However, when I finished I wasn’t very satisfied with the conclusion or it was all put together. It also didn’t help that it was billed as a horror movie by the festival summary with ”evil bugs” attacking everyone and it is far from that description.

The film stars Riz Ahmed stars as Malik a troubled veteran who kidnaps his 2 sons to save them from their mother who he is convinced has been taken over by alien bugs. At first it seems like he might be telling the truth and that the invasion is real. However, fairly quickly any mystery is abandoned and he is declared crazy by all of the other characters including his parole officer played by Octavia Spencer.

The kids are fantastic and Ahmed puts in a good performance. I just think more could have been done to create ambiguity towards his character. We also see the kids be put in peril a lot which is upsetting without the payoff to make those scenes worthwhile.

I don’t think Encounter is a terrible movie but it could have been so much better with a more interesting script that capitalized on the films strengths better.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over

This is a pretty standard bio-doc about famed singer Dionne Warwick. It is very worshipful in its tone as most of these types of movies are. However, there were 2 things that made it worthwhile:

First, there is a fantastic sequence where we learn about a conference Warwick had with some ‘gangsta rappers’ like Snoop Dogg about the misogyny in their songs. Warwick tells them someday they will have daughters and they won’t want them listening to those songs, so they made changes. They have Snoop on the doc and he is great. It is really funny.

Another exemplary section is on Warwick’s AIDS activism. She faced bankruptcy and other financial problems and yet she continued to donate to the AIDS cause.

I usually know what I’m getting into with these bio-docs and this one did the job. It is very safe but I still enjoyed it and she sure can sing!

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Aloners

As someone who lives alone this film Aloners definitely connected with me. It is about a woman named Jina who works for a credit card call in center and lives in a small apartment alone. One day her neighbor is found dead and it starts Jina thinking about her own mortality and if she is going to be found dead alone someday.

Aloners works a lot better when it is outside of the call center instead of inside working. Gong Seung-yeon does a great job in the lead. She is positive but you can also feel the weight of the loneliness on her character. It’s brutal.

Here interactions with a young new employee at the call center are less compelling.That said, I overall liked the movie and am grateful they kept the humanity of the character and didn’t associate being alone as a negative. It’s a soul-crushing exploration of loneliness and what it means to be alone.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Have any of you watched any of these films? Let me know when you do. Thanks!

TIFF Day 2 Log: The Box, Attica, The Hill Where the Lionesses Roar

Hey everyone! Another day of TIFF has come and gone. I must own I did not get as many movies watched as I wanted because of a very busy day of podcasting obligations and other responsibilities. However, I still watched 3 movies, so here are my quick thoughts.

The Box

My first movie of the day came from Venezuelan director Lorenzo Vigas and is entitled The Box. It tells the story of a Mexican teen that is sent to retrieve his estranged father’s remains after a mining accident. While there he meets a man who looks just like his father and he follows him working around Mexico.

I’m definitely torn on this movie. It started out strong and I was invested for the first 20 or so minutes and then it began to lose me. The narrative becomes rambling and the characters don’t grow or change in the way they need to in order to make a compelling film. The young boy’s story is sad but I never emotionally connected with him or what he was going through.

There is also nothing in the cinematography or filmmaking that makes it stand out or particularly special. The Box unfortunately is a pass.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Attica

Sometimes I think I prefer documentaries at festivals. They are more straightforward and not as pretentious as the fictional films can be. Attica is a great example of such a terrific documentary. It tells the story of the 1971 prison uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York.

This is an event I’d heard of but didn’t know much about and Attica does a great job of not only informing us about the details of the uprising but showcasing as many perspectives as possible. We hear from a variety of inmates (who are very charismatic interviewees), the children of the hostages and the family of the prison staff also involved.

Some of the footage in Attica is shocking but history can be shocking. It’s remarkable how much footage director Stanley Nelson found and at times it can feel like watching scenes from a concentration camp. It’s that horrific but I never found it exploitative. I was riveted the entire runtime watching things play out and the individuals finally getting the chance to tell their stories.

I would be surprised if Attica is the best film out of TIFF but we will see. Either way it is definitely worth a watch.

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Hill Where the Lionesses Roar

When I heard this film’s title The Hill Where the Lionesses Roar I knew I needed to check it out. It sounded visceral and exciting. Unfortunately the title is probably the most interesting part of the film. It’s not a bad film but it didn’t do much to excite me. It’s pretty standard indie fair.

The Hill tells the story of 3 teen girls in Kosovo who create a friendship pact that they will be there for each other as they grow from children to women. The new actors all do a good job and there is a rawness to their performances I appreciate. It also has some beautiful cinematography and uses music well.

The problem is everything feels played out and tired. The girls end up becoming a Kosovian version of the Bling Ring and it’s hard to believe in such a small area they would stay undiscovered as long as they are. Even so, I didn’t feel like I got to know the individual girls very well. They feel like standard indie teen characters and for most of the movie they aren’t given anything interesting to do. The narrative ambles about looking for a story and not finding much of one worthy to tell.

I’m perhaps making The Hill Where the Lionesses Roar sound worse than it is. It’s a serviceable indie coming of age story. I was just hoping from the title it would stand out more.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy