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


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:


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

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


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:


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 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


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


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

TIFF Day 1 Log: As in Heaven, Petite Maman

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. This week has been very busy with all my normal busyness plus getting ready for the beginning of TIFF (The Toronto International Film Festival). I am blessed to be accepted as accredited press with the ability to participate in the digital festival (I hope to go in person next year but I was too afraid of getting caught in Canada with a surprise attack of COVID to go this year.

Unfortunately the festival had a rough first day with the digital player not working on any browser. This caused them to reschedule some of the screenings and I was only able to get 2 films in. On the plus side I was able to get ahead on other projects so I should be able to watch more movies this weekend.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on the 2 movies I did get to see today as part of the festival

As in Heaven

As in Heaven (Du som er i himlen in Danish)

First time filmmaker Tea Lindeburg tells a story about a young girl named Lise who is trying to help her family get through the long couple of days of her Mother being in labor and enduring a difficult pregnancy. Her and her children struggle with the thought of losing their mother and Lise hopes to someday escape the small world of her farm.

This movie is beautiful with some of the most striking cinematography I’ve seen in a long time. I also felt like I connected with the characters as my Mother had difficult pregnancies when I was a teenager (obviously this is a period piece but I still connected with the worry).

It will definitely be too slow for some as there isn’t a ton of plot. It’s a fly on the wall kind of movie where you watch and experience life with the people in the film. It also has some pretty grisly birthing scenes so viewer beware! Still I was moved by As in Heaven and I recommend it to anyone who can handle the pacing and challenging subject matter.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Petite Maman

One of my most anticipated films of the festival was CĂ©line Sciamma’s Petite Maman. I really enjoyed her film Portrait of a Lady on Fire from 2019 and this more modern story of 2 young girls looked very sweet.

Unfortunately, now that I’ve seen it I must own to being quite disappointed. Nearly everyone else I know seems to be loving this so maybe my hype hurt my experience but I didn’t see anything special in this film.

I was right about the 2 girls being cute. They are adorable little girls and the child actors do a great job playing and having fun together. They don’t feel like the too precocious child actors you sometimes get in Hollywood films. We all know kids just like these girls.

The problem is with the script. Nothing really happens. You spend a weekend with the girls as they help pack up one of their recently deceased Grandmother’s homes. That’s it. They pack things, eat cereal, build forts. It’s cute but not enough to sustain a feature film. It’s once again an indie festival film that would have been much better as a short.

It’s interesting because both Petite Maman and As in Heaven are slice of life narratives but the latter worked more because the stakes are so much higher if the family loses their mother. In Petite Maman it’s cute but the emotional weight isn’t there. Like I said, I’m definitely in the minority on this one but that’s part of the festival experience. I always have a couple festival favorites I don’t love.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

So there you have it. Hopefully tomorrow I will have many more films to log! Happy movie viewing!

Tribeca Film Fest 2-7 (A-ha, Anthony Bourdain, No Man of God, ClayDream, Dating & New York, Wolfgang)

This week is a busy one for me. I am covering 2 festivals: the Annecy Film Festival for and the Tribeca Film Festival here on this blog. I’ve already given my first review for Tribeca but have watched 6 other films. Here are my quick reviews:


This is a pretty basic bio-doc about celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck but as a wanna-be foodie I enjoyed it. It’s interesting to learn Wolfgang had a very abusive stepfather and left his family as a teen and didn’t contact them again for almost 2 years. It was also great they got his first employer Patrick Terrail on the doc with him still upholding the old idea of a restaurateur makes the restaurant not the chef. Again, this doc doesn’t reinvent the wheel but I enjoyed it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

A-ha: The Movie

This film is very similar to the Sparks doc at Sundance this year or the GoGos documentary last year. This formula follows a forgotten band and goes back through their highs and lows. This time it is the 80s hit band A-ha and just like Sparks they are still together performing music (although they did break up a time to two unlike Sparks).

One of the most interesting parts of this documentary is seeing how much a band like A-ha meant to their homeland of Norway. While we have a number of Swedish bands I don’t think there have been many from Norway.

I could have used more info about their iconic music video but they do weave animation throughout. If you have interest in this band and their music I bet you will like it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Dating & New York

On surface Dating & New York should be my jam. I love romantic comedies and there are many great ones set in New York City. I also like indie romances like Sing Street or 500 Days of Summer. Unfortunately this film didn’t come together to make a satisfying romcom.

The biggest problem with this film is its stars Francesca Reale and Jaboukie Young-White didn’t have any chemistry and the script feels aggressively indie: like it is trying to hard to be twee and dare I say hipster.

I honestly found the movie to be quite annoying so you could say the script just didn’t work for me.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy


I have a fondness for animator Will Vinton. My friend Stanford and I have reviewed the Puppetoon movies compiled of his films and interviewed Arnold Leibovit about them. We also reviewed his trippy The Many Adventures of Mark Twain for Obscure Animation. This documentary tells us Vinton’s story and how he almost became a mini-Walt Disney (which was his goal).

Then he becomes in bed with Phil Knight of Nike fame and his studio ends up becoming what we now know of as Liaka Studios invested in by Knight for his son Travis. I loved seeing all the old claymation by Vinton and his life was fascinating. This is another documentary that is basic but the subject matter is interesting enough to make it worth a watch

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

No Man of God

I have no idea why Hollywood seems so fascinated with Ted Bundy? It seems like practically every day we here of a new movie or docuseries being made about him and his crimes. Maybe because he seemed handsome and charming? But why do we assume handsome and charming people cant be serial killers?

It’s weird and I was hoping this film might shed some light on the fascination but it really doesn’t. Elijah Wood plays Bill Hagmaier, an FBI agent sent to ‘profile’ Ted Bundy. This film is a lot better than the recent version starring Zac Efron (which I hated) but it still left me cold. What are we supposed to take away from this evil man? The script should have given me that insight.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain-

Kitchen Confidential is probably the first R rated memoir I’ve ever read. I picked it up at an airport in 2007 and despite the author Anthony Bourdain’s crass style I found the book to be completely mesmerizing. Evidently I wasn’t alone because Bourdain became a huge star on show after show after writing his memoir.

Bourdain, however, wasn’t entirely comfortable with the spotlight and sadly committed suicide in 2018. It’s all too prosaic at the beginning of the film when he says ‘this isn’t a story with a happy ending’. I appreciate this documentary doesn’t make him a squeaky clean character. He’s flawed, rude to his friends, difficult but so many people still loved him.

This film is done by the same people who made Won’t You Be My Neighbor which I adored and even though Bourdain is no Fred Rogers I feel both films get to authentic places about their subjects even if it is much sadder ending here.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy