Ranking SXSW 2023 Movies

Hey everyone! I am so excited to finally be getting you my thoughts on the SXSW 2023 Film Festival and my ranking on each of the 11 films I saw while in Austin, Texas (12 if you consider Shazam: Fury of the Gods.)

Let me start by saying I had a great trip. It was my 2nd time in Austin and it’s such a fun town. The festival is massive, not only covering movies but music and innovative speakers. My pass was just for the movie portion but I’d like to go back again sometime and go to some concerts and other entertainment while I’m there.

I had heard some complaints from friends who arrived at the festival before I did- waiting in long lines, it taking 3 hours to get their badges- but that wasn’t my experience. I stayed mostly to the suburbs and got into everything I wanted to see whether I had an express pass or not.

I’m so grateful to the Chandler Family for letting me stay with them. It was so cute their little girls made my room a hotel room for my stay complete with a homemade key-card and reader. I honestly miss them and wish they lived closer so I could see the whole family more easily.

May be an image of 2 people and dessert

I also got to see friends attending the festival like Katie Carter and Anthony Digioia as well as my old friend Emily who drove all the way from San Antonio to have lunch. My only wish is that I lived closer to my friends because I miss them so much when I’m gone.

Ranking the Movies

Now let’s get to the movies. Like I said I saw 11 movies at the festival and it was a good mixture of documentaries, shorts, and both big and indie releases. There wasn’t anything that I hated (which is always nice at a festival) but some I liked more than others. Here goes:

11. Is There Anybody Out There?

I have to admit I fell asleep for a portion of this one. Part of that is fatigue on my part but the other part is a documentary that would have been better as a short. I think Ella Glendining is a super cool person and I enjoyed following her journey to find others with a similar disability; however, it starts to feel repetitive after a while, which hurt my interest. It’s not bad just a little on the dry side.

5 out of 10

10. With Love and a Major Organ-

I have mixed feelings on this one. It has some surreal and quirky moments and I appreciate its trying something new and artistic. However, some sequences seemed to be strange for strange sake and I left feeling unclear with what the director Kim Albright was trying to say. It’s set in a world where you can remove your organs, particularly heart, and give it to someone else- usually as some kind of act of revenge. Clearly she’s trying to say something about loneliness and modern-day relationships but I’m not really sure what that is? It’s an interesting movie but one that didn’t quite come together for me.

6 out of 10

9. You Were My First Boyfriend

Here we have another film I think would be better as a short. There’s lots of good ideas in You Were My First Boyfriend and I defy anyone to watch it and not find sequences they relate to, but there are also segments that feel way too long and it lost my interest. For example, director Cecilia Aldarondo spends a long time recreating a Tori Amos music video because it was a favorite of hers as a teenager. What could have been a few sentences about how music impacted her as a teenager ends up as a 20 minute making of a music video. That said, I did like the segment recreating a bullying incident at a sleepaway camp and it reminded me of when I had a similar incident in 8th grade. The title is kind of misleading because the high school crush segment is brief and it is more about her childhood best friend. That part I enjoyed and found quite moving so it was a mixed bag.

6 out of 10

8. Black Barbie: A Documentary-

I hate to sound like a broken record but this is another documentary that would have been better as a short. There’s a lot of good stuff here about Black Barbie but also the history of diversity at Matel and dolls in general. I loved hearing from the creator of Black Barbie and the other Black designers working at Matel over the years. The problem is they spend a lot of time on research with kids playing with Barbies and it starts to feel repetitive and dry after a while. Still, I’m glad this came out the year of the Barbie Movie and I hope people seek it out and have their kids play with all kinds of Barbies and dolls.

6 out of 10

7. Late Bloomers

This is a sweet if a bit overly-long friendship story. Karen Gillan plays a depressed young woman who breaks her hip spying on an ex-boyfriend of hers. While recovering she meets a Polish woman named Antonia who she begrudgingly begins to help and become friends. This helps her understand her own Mother who has Alzheimer’s. I think a lot of people will be able to relate to Karen’s character  and while it does drag at times it has its heart in the right place.

6 out of 10

6. Animated Shorts Program

I am so grateful to Morgan at Rotoscopers for helping me get my press credentials. As such I reviewed the animated shorts over on their site including my ranking of all 10. You can read that here.

5. Hung Up on a Dream

Pretty much every festival I attend has a band documentary- usually a classic rock band that is underappreciated. Sundance had one on The Indigo Girls, NYFF had one on David Johansen and the list goes on. SXSW has Hung Up on a Dream which is about the band The Zombies. Of all these band documentaries this one is towards the top. The journey of The Zombies is so unique and I felt like I got to know each of the band numbers. It’s not your typical wild rock n roll life but more of a story where luck often wasn’t on their side but they enjoy the ride anyway. It was cool 2 of the band members were there and had a panel after the movie. They seem like really cool guys and I enjoyed learning about them.

7 out of 10

4. Tetris

Because of my eye issues I don’t play many video games but Tetris is the one exception. I’ve wasted many an afternoon mixing up blocks into rows, so I was fascinated to learn about all that went down in the creation and licensing of the game. Taron Egerton plays Henk Rogers who discovers the game in 1988 and Nikita Efremov plays Alexey Pajitnov who invents the game in the USSR. The movie starts off a little slow. The first 20 minutes feel like nothing but board meetings but then when the USSR, Japan, UK and USA factions all get involved it starts to get more exciting. Eventually it becomes a story of unlikely friendship between Alexey and Henk. It was neat to have the real life Henk and Alexey at the screening but even so this story of international intrigue should entertain any fan of the game.
7 out of 10

3. Peak Season

Bittersweet love stories seem to be the theme of 2023. We had Past Lives, Flora & Son at Sundance and now Peak Season at SXSW. This one is set in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming and follows engaged Amy (Claudia Restrepo) as she finds a friend in local vagabond fly fishing instructor Loren (Derrick DeBlasis) while her fiancé is away. Of course I prefer more traditional romances but this is still very well done. The dialogue feels authentic and natural and the mountains are stunning. I think anyone who loved Cha Cha Real Smooth last year will enjoy this movie- except I prefer this and its ending to that.

8 out of 10

2. Join or Die-

I’ve been a big fan of Robert Putnam’s work since I was a political science undergrad from 1998-2002. If you don’t know he wrote a book called Bowling Alone which looked at trends in joining groups and how that impacts all parts of American life including politics. In this movie Join or Die we catch up with Putnam and see how group behavior has changed in the 20 years since his book. If you think about it so much has changed in those decades including obviously online groups and the recent pandemic. I honestly think everyone should watch this movie. It’s put together in an approachable and entertaining way and it’s a conversation we need to be having.

8 out of 10

1. Molli and Max: In the Future-

Naturally SXSW was very proud of the fact this year’s surprise Best Picture winner EEAAO premiered at their festival in 2022. And in my opinion if any film is going to repeat that success it is this quirky sci-fi romcom Molly and Max: In the Future. This film basically takes When Harry Met Sally and puts it in a brightly colored engaging space world. I’m not the biggest sci-fi person but this doesn’t take itself too seriously and has fun with a world of bright colors and 2 friends, Molli (Zosia Mamet) and Max (Aristotle Athari) who meet with an undeniable spark and then proceed to spend the next 2 decades running into each other and almost falling in love. I enjoyed pretty much everything about this fun romance with an engaging script and visual effects that include miniatures, practical effects and CGI/green screen. It all worked quite seamlessly and Athari and Mamet have delightful chemistry. I hope this gets a good rollout because it is charming.

9 out of 10

So there you have it! I had a great time at the festival and saw a lot of terrific movies. I also got to cover my first red carpet for a movie (or series) premiere while I was there which was a wonderful experience. It was for the Disney Plus series A Small Light, which I didn’t get to see yet but had a great time talking to the cast and crew.

What do you think of the movies I saw? Any stand out to you or look interesting? Let me know in the comments section. 


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Sundance 2023 Recap and 21 Film Ranking

Hey everyone! The 2023 Sundance Film Festival has come and gone and I decided to do things a little differently this year for my coverage. I didn’t get accepted as press for some reason but I had the locals Salt Lake pass which allows me to see anything I wanted playing in Salt Lake City. Instead of doing the daily logs I’ve done in the past I decided to enjoy the experience and stick my immediate film reactions to twitter and instagram.

I was also trying to think of some way my coverage could stand out and came up with bringing Marcel the Shell along with me to the festival. I’m no Jenny Slate but it was fun

In my attempt to actually enjoy the festival I also was a little pickier this year and only saw movies I had heard good buzz about and thought I had a good chance of liking and to my pleasant surprise I actually did like almost everything I saw. I don’t know if I was just so happy to be back at Sundance after 3 years but it was an entertaining slate this year.

2023 Sundance Ranking and Quick Thoughts

1. Judy Blume Forever– If you’ve followed my writing for any amount of time you know I’m a sucker for a well made documentary and this about novelist Judy Blume is no exception. I was particularly blown away by the letters she received and the correspondence she had with thousands of children over the years.


2. You Hurt My Feelings– Director Nicole Holofcener actress Julia Louise-Dreyfus reunite (I love their work in Enough Said) for this very funny comedy about marriage and the lies we tell the people we love. This is going to be released by A24 and I hope it doesn’t get dismissed as one of their artsy films because it’s quite approachable and funny. I even recommended it to my parents who hardly see any movies. Especially married couples will be able to relate to this story and its wonderful dialogue. The letter left at the end for Tobias Menzies shrink character is particularly hilarious.


3. Radical– We’ve seen this type of inspirational teacher story because but this is done so well and Eugenio Derbez is so strong it worked very well. It tells the true story of a teacher in a deeply poor failing school in Juarez, Mexico and it will bring on the tears so be ready. The kids are all great as well as strong supporting performances from the adults playing the other teachers and parents. I loved it


4. Theatre Camp– Everyone knows I’m a theater geek so this comedy about a struggling theater camp was made for me. Evidently a large percentage of it was improv and the actors like Ben Platt, Molly Gordon and Patti Harrison (who I have loved in everything I’ve seen her in) are all up for it. If you are expecting a lot of Amy Sedaris you might be disappointed but if you want some good natured laughs it’s a great choice.


5. Flora and Son– family stories and non-traditional romances were a big trend this year at Sundance and this sweet little movie from one of my favorite directors, John Carney, is one of the best. The only reason it’s not higher is Flora (Eve Hewson) is a lot to take in at the start of the movie, very rude and caustic to everyone around her, but we see her grow and change until we end up rooting for her. Jack Reynor is great as her ex-husband, Oren Kinlan is the ‘son’ of the title and is funny as an aspiring rapper, and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt is charming as the LA guitar teacher Flora becomes friends with online. The music wasn’t quite as strong as Carney’s other films but still a heart-warming little movie perfect for Sundance.


6. Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Feel Kinda Left Out– Despite its unwieldly title this is a very endearing family comedy about a teenage boy Calvin (Jacob Buster) who is trying to find his parents after they were abducted when he was 6. Emma Tremblay plays Itsy the new girl at school and she and Calvin have a lovely friendship. Obviously the story in this film is unique but it’s also funny and some emotional moments. In some ways it reminds me of Napoleon Dynamite but not as deadpan in the humor. One of the best family films they’ve had at the festival in a long time


7. Fairyland– Another family story at the festival. This one about a father (Scoot McNairy) and daughter (Emilia Jones among others) growing up through the 80s and 90s in San Francisco. McNairy is excellent and the script covers a lot of time without it feeling maudlin or boring. Geena Davis appears as the more conservative Grandmother but I appreciate she is written with nuance and not a one-note cliché we often see. It seems like others didn’t enjoy it as much as I did but I found it quite moving.


8. The Disappearance of Shere Hite– As the title suggests I had never heard of Shere Hite before this documentary which is fascinating because she was such a prominent figure of her time with her book on female sexuality called The Hite Report. My only question is for someone who seems so shocked by the media’s depiction of her she went on a lot of salacious shows and said shocking things. I think the documentary could have dove into that more. If she wanted to be treated like an academic why is she going on Maury Povich and shows like that. Still it was an interesting watch


9. Fair Play– They are billing this corporate drama as a thriller and that’s a stretch but it is well made and acted. Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich are terrific as a toxic couple who both work at the same investment firm in New York. When Dynevor’s character gets the big promotion jealousy and envy start to ruin their relationship. This film does have shocking scenes of violence and rape but it builds tension very well and I was genuinely unsure with what was going to happen and how it would end.


10. Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis)– This is a fun, light documentary about the 1970-80s company Hipgnosis which created some of the most iconic rock album covers for the likes of Paul McCartney and Pink Floyd. Nothing outstanding here but I like these kind of behind the scenes documentaries and the interviews are well done and engaging.


11. The Persian Version– Another film about family at the festival and overall it had enough heart to enjoy but it tries to tackle to much and ends up feeling messy. Director Maryam Keshvarz tells the story of her Iranian-American family particularly herself and her Mother. I think she should have focused just on the Mother but there’s enough good here to recommend.


12. Past Lives– It seems like I’m more mixed on this bittersweet romance than my friends. Greta Lee, Yoo Teo and John Magara are very strong as the leads, but I found the experience very stressful to watch because I didn’t want her to cheat on her husband who I enjoyed so much. I couldn’t help but wish the movie was telling a different story while I was watching it but that’s me putting my traditional rom-com loving self onto the movie. For what it is, it does tell a bittersweet love story well, but I just found it stressful to watch.


13. L’immensità– This film is a spotlight film from the Cannes Film Festival last year. It’s another family story at the festival and is very well made and acted by director Emanuele Crialese. He captures the feel of 1970s effectively and Penelope Cruz is fantastic as the unhappy housewife and mother who still loves her children despite being in an unhappy marriage. All 3 kids are excellent including trans child actor Luana Giuliani. It’s a bit ambling and repetitive but I still enjoyed it.


14. Blueback– You all know how much I love the ocean and this movie about a Mother/Daughter diving team in Australia has amazing underwater footage. The story is sweet and Mia Wasikowska is good as the grown-up daughter with Eric Bana having a great time as the pirate-esque fisherman friend of the family. However, it should have just been the younger girl’s story because anything involving the Mother and her stroke is very saccharine and didn’t feel accurate to what little I know about how strokes work (for example, she just starts talking in full sentences out of the blue after not being able to for months.) Still, the water imagery and main relationships worked enough for me to recommend.


15. The Longest Goodbye– In all the films I’ve seen about space travel there aren’t that many which tackle the psychological toll on the astronauts and that’s what this film tries to do. It comes from the perspective of preparing an astronaut for a trip to Mars, which if attempted would take 3 years in space. Everything is interesting in this film but it was on the dry side and was a little dull.


16. Polite Society– I will not be surprised if we hear a lot about this film going forward and its director Nida Manzoor. It has a ton of energy and its lead Priya Kansara is charming as are all the actors (another family story.) The story is a bit all over the place and couldn’t balance its competing tones but it still had enough fun for me to recommend. I appreciate they made her terrible at martial arts until the one moment where she summons all her powers to defeat the villain. I think people who loved EEAAO will like this wacky movie.


17. Fancy Dance– We have another story about family, this one a mystery and drama. Lilly Gladstone plays Jax a Native American woman who has been searching for her missing sister for years and tryign to raise her high strung niece (Isabel Deroy-Olson) at the same time. Gladstone is very good in the lead role and the ending worked for me but it did have some pacing issues that make it lower on my ranking.


18. The Amazing Maurice– this was the only animated feature film of the festival and overall I enjoyed it. The story is based on a popular Terry Pratchett novel about a cat that becomes friends with a group of talking rats and they figure out a cheap way of making money. I like the animation and the voice-work is first rate including Hugh Laurie, Emilia Clarke and Gemma Arterton. The story felt a little muddled and didn’t do much for me but it’s alright (and it’s getting a 2000 theater rollout starting this weekend!) If your kids enjoy animated films about animals they will have a good time.


19. Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields– This documentary is actually 2 episodes of a show that will be released on hulu. For the most part I found the first part to be more intriguing and compelling than the 2nd. It tells the story of actress Brooke Shields and her work in Hollywood from a very young age. She has many positive experiences but she is also exploited, sexualized as a minor and dealing with an alcoholic Mother/manager. The second part while still containing some compelling stuff felt like it dipped into an advertisement for her Beginning is Now website than a movie. Still, there are definitely enough good parts to recommend especially that first part.


20. It’s Only Life After All– Another documentary about folk rock stars: The Indigo Girls. I knew almost nothing about them before watching so learning about their journeys is fascinating. I also enjoyed seeing how their platonic friendship played out over the years. The problem was the focus on the activism (while commendable) felt repetitive and took away from time spent about the music. I’m still amazed they have never been on SNL after all these years of writing hits. They even had an Indigo Girls skit. Shame on you SNL!


21. Shortcomings– Shockingly this is the only film from the festival I will be going rotten on (a miracle for Sundance!) and it’s not a terrible film, just not for me. The problem is Justin H Min plays Ben an annoying, insufferable 20-something who thinks he knows how everyone should live their lives and what they should like particularly when it comes to movies. Nobody is good enough for this guy and the problem is the movie isn’t funny enough to pull off such an unlikable lead character. Sherry Cola is great as his best friend but she can’t save it.


So there you have it! All 21 films I saw at Sundance. What do you think about these movies? What sounds the most intriguing to you? I would love to hear in the comments section.

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[REVIEW] ‘TILL’ or Mamie and Emmett Making a Difference in 2022

There has been a lot of buzz out of NYFF over Till and in particular Danielle Deadwyler’s performance as Mamie Till. I saw the film at a screening here in Utah the day I came back from New York and for the most part I was impressed. There will be some who claim it’s too safe, but  I appreciate what it is trying to do.

Director Chinonye Chukwu made a choice to focus on Mamie and her grief rather than depicting the violence of the situation. Of course, Mamie’s son Emmett Till was murdered by supremacists for whistling at a white woman in Money, Mississippi in 1955. Mamie insisted his casket be left open for all to see what the men had done and then she testified at the trial where the murderers were acquitted by an all-white male jury.

I recently complained about She Said feeling too safe and sanitized, so I understand why some will claim that here. However, that movie felt self-congratulatory and self-important in a way I didn’t love. That’s not the case here. We are meant to focus on Mamie and her strength and courage and Deadwyler does a fantastic job with her portrayal.

Till is a movie I can see playing in schools for years to come and as such the PG-13 has value. It’s important we have the violent films, but also key to have ones that can help introduce teens (13 and up) to history and begin important discussions that are unfortunately still topical to this day.

I vividly remember watching a TV movie called Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad  (ad) at school and it having a big impact on me.  I’m sure it’s not the greatest film as far as production values and gritty realism but it was effective in introducing me to American history and making our heroes comes alive.

Till Poster Depicts a Heartfelt Moment Between Mother and Son

Like I said, I can see Till having that kind of legacy in classrooms. It effectively portrays the grief Mamie experienced without relishing in the evil of the perpetrators. We see Emmett’s body without watching the lynching taking place and that has value particularly for younger viewers who will be able to relate with Emmett.

There are parts of Till that feel like a TV movie (which I’m fine with) particularly in the production values and supporting performances but Deadwyler and Whoopi Goldberg as Alma, Mamie’s Mother, elevate everything. If you have middle and/or high school age child take them to see Till and have a discussion with them about what happened to Emmett and how we can make our world better even today. That conversation is what will make Till a great film more than anything you’ll see on the screen.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Hey everyone! Yesterday I finished up my last day at the NYFF and am now having a leisurely weekend in the city with my friends. After the movie I met up with Conrado and we had a nice lunch while recording a special episode of The Criterion Project on the festival which will air on Monday. It was a lot of fun so don’t miss the episode.

The festival picked an interesting film to close things off: The Inspection by director Elegance Bratton.

I’m not sure why the movie is called The Inspection (something with boot camp or marines would make more sense but whatever) but in the film Bratton tells his own experience as a gay Black marine in boot camp in the mid-2000s. Going into the film I was expecting something more traumatic and negative but it actually was more inspirational and positive about his experiences.

Trauma is there but most of the time his trauma is the same as anyone going through boot camp. We get to see how grueling that experience is but he gets out of it and is a better man with a band of brothers who support him.

Gabrielle Union plays his Mother and her character is the most devastating aspect of the film for French. I definitely give her a lot of credit for taking on such an unlikable, cruel character.

Jeremey Pope is strong as French as are the other recruits with him in boot camp.

For some The Inspection will be too conventional and simple, but I appreciate Bratton sharing his experience with us. It’s an inspiring story that will make you cheer by the end. In a way that was quite refreshing especially for an indie festival.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So I’ve seen 8 films at the festival. Thank you to NYFF for admitting me as press and for any of you reading these logs. I would love to hear what of the films I’ve written about stand out to you and that you might seek out.

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Hey everyone! I had another great day at NYFF including getting to meet one of my online friends Alli. We went to this wildly overpriced seafood restaurant (they charged $9 for a little bowl of rice!) but had a good time (it was quite stressful trying to navigate New York in the rain! A kindly doorman helped me get a cab. Thank you!).

Anyway, I saw 2 movies at the festival and they were interesting watches. No panels today but I still had a good time. So here goes:

Return to Seoul

I’ve always been someone that believes adoption can be a beautiful and wonderful experience but there’s no question it carries with it an array of emotions and challenges. Return to Seoul dives into that with the lead character Frederique or Freddie coming back to Seoul to meet her birth parents (she was adopted by a French family).

The film makes some big time jumps so you get to see Freddie through different periods of her life each time trying to balance her French and Korean sides. It’s all beautifully filmed with good performances particularly from Park Ji-Min who plays Freddie.

The only challenge is Freddie is a young selfish character who can be frustrating to watch at times. I don’t mind an unlikable character but particularly in the last section where she’s a soulless business-woman it was a lot to take in. The pacing is also of the indie-variety that may be challenging for some viewers.

Overall Return to Seoul is a memorable look at one woman’s look into her complicated identity.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

She Said

As seems to be the case lately, I feel torn on the new movie from director Maria Schrader depicting the Harvey Weinstein investigation, She Said. It’s a perfectly well done journalism film in the spirit of All the President’s Men (which I admittedly don’t love) and Spotlight. The performances are good, the reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey are admirable people who are good at their jobs.

However, it all felt a little too tidy and safe for my liking. Only Hollywood could make a movie about the Harvey Weinstein scandal where basically only he and his bland board of directors are at fault. Despite the fact that actors like Jane Fonda have admitted they knew what was happening and didn’t do anything (the problem was more than just one man, it was systematic). When Ricky Gervais got upset at the Golden Globes he may have been uncouth, but he was right about the way so many knew what was happening and did nothing.

Hollywood loved Harvey and some of the actors who are portrayed as heroic in the film could have done more to help others avoid this and other horrible men. I understand that’s up to them in their journey as a victim but it just rubbed me the wrong way how the movie didn’t acknowledge the greater Hollywood problem.

That said, the investigation by the 2 journalists is done well. Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazaan bring a lot of personality to the roles (although I wish they hadn’t acted like postpartum depression is solved by…working hard?) Anyway, Jennifer Ehle steals the show, as she usually does, playing a victim Laura Madden who was one of the few allowed to testify because she wasn’t under a NDA gag order from a settlement.

Like I said, I feel torn on She Said. It’s fine but its weaknesses irritated me. It could have been a lot more daring and had something to say (Mulligan’s Promising Young Woman was divisive but far more evocative.) I think someone outside of the Hollywood system would have been a better choice to tell this story. Then it wouldn’t feel so sanitized and safe.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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NYFF Log Day 3: Armageddon Time, Personality Crisis

Another day of NYFF 2022 has come and gone and it was mostly notable for the fact I got to see my friend Austin Burke and watch 2 just ok movies.

So here’s my thoughts:

Armageddon Time

This film comes from director James Gray and is semi-autobiographical about his life growing up in Queens in the 1980s going to a private school run by Maryanne Trump (the former president’s sister played by Jessica Chastain).

Gray always paints a nice palate to his films with cinematography by Darius Khondji and he does so here. It feels more 1970s than 80s but I’m not an expert so I trust the costume designer did their homework. The cast is very strong with Anthony Hopkins probably earning his next Oscar nomination for his supporting work as the Grandfather who fled Nazi Germany after his parents were murdered in front of him.

The child named Paul is played well by Banks Repeta and his friend Johnny is Jaylin Webb. Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong play Paul’s parents Esther and Irving.

With a title like Armageddon Time you’d think the movie would be more exciting but it’s really a by-the-numbers coming of age story. Nothing new here but it’s not bad. If you are fan of this genre than you’ll enjoy it. I actually often find that to be the case with Gray’s movies. They are usually serviceable but nothing more.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Personality Crisis: One Night Only

Some people may not know that Martin Scorsese has done a number of music-based rock documentaries including No Direction Home about Bob Dylan, Shine a Light about The Rolling Stones and The Last Waltz about The Band. Now his latest entry in the genre carries the unwieldly title Personality Crisis: One Night Only about the lead singer of the New York Dolls, David Johansen (aka Buster Poindexter).

The most interesting part of this documentary for me is it’s actually the second documentary I’ve seen about members of the New York Dolls. Another one called New York Doll came out in 2005 and is about band member Arthur Kane and how he went from punk rocker to Mormon senior missionary. It’s a fun watch:

This film, Personality Crisis, is more your standard music documentary. The most interesting part is probably Johansen exploring his Dolls persona and his Buster persona (the personality crisis of the title).

They do give long stretches of singing which I’m sure fans will especially enjoy. Obviously this is the perfect documentary to have at NYFF and I suspect it will end up on a streaming service eventually such as Apple Plus or HBO Max. If you have a chance to see it there I’d recommend it like I said especially if you are a fan of either of Johansen’s identities.

6 out of 10

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Hey everyone! Day 2 of NYFF has come and gone and I actually only saw one movie- of course it was a 4.5 hour movie so it counts for a lot!

Trenque Lauquen Pt 1 & 2

Trenque Lauquen [2022] 'Venice' Review

Evidently Laura Citarella is known for making lengthy epics focused on a personal quest or mystery but Trenque Lauquen is my introduction to her. Going into the screening was more than a little intimidating at 280 minutes including an intermission it was a lot to prepare for. Plus the summary by NYFF made the experience seem more than a little pretentious. Imagine then my surprise when the film, while definitely a long sit, is actually quite charming and accessible. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

Trenque Lauquen begins with 2 men that are looking for a woman named Laura who they both claim to be in love with. When we meet this woman we start to understand her backstory and how she wandered away from her friends and family. Laura (Laura Paredes) works for a radio station with Ezekiel (Ezequiel Pierri) and in part 1 they begin to research a love story between 2 lovers in the past with clues hidden in library books around town. As they search their bond grows and they even share a kiss.

Part 2 was a little more dry with a pregnant woman and a magical lake that somehow connects to Laura and Ezekiel. However, If you are looking for traditional linear storytelling this isn’t the film for you but if you are open to hanging out with some characters as they ask questions and ponder the world around them you might just enjoy Trenque Lauquen. 

Pierri and Paredes bring a subtle power to their roles as the lovelorn (or love-confused) Ezekiel and Laura respectively. They make for characters we want to spend time a leisurely morning with even if they give us more questions than answers in their quest for love.

8 out of 10 Part I

7 out of 10- Part II

Smile worthy

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Hi from NYC! I am here for the last week of the New York Film Festival and my first day got off to a fun start. I just have a few minutes this morning so let me quickly share my thoughts on what I watched in day 1

Women Talking

Women Talking analysis: The hidden roots of the new movie and its source material - Vox

First up was the press screening for Sarah Polley’s new film Women Talking. This film is based on a novel by Miriam Toews about a group of Mennonite women (or Mennonite-like) that meet together after a series of beatings to decide whether they are going to “stay and fight” or “leave the colony.” The cast is star-stacked with Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Frances McDormand and more.

It’s a pretty simple premise and it is well told. I was particularly invested in Foy and Buckley’s characters but the acting was strong throughout. I also thought it was well filmed and used music (particularly one classic pop song) in an interesting way.

That said there is something about the film that felt a little clinical and predictable, which kept me from getting emotionally invested in the story or its outcomes. I’d still recommend it but not a favorite of the year or anything like that.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy



The second film Unrest comes out of Switzerland in both Russian, French and Swiss German called Unrest by director Cyril Schäublin. It is about a watchmaking factory in Switzerland in 1870s where a man named Pyotr Kropotkin becomes involved in anarchist and socialist philosophical movements.

The scenes showing the watchmaking were pretty impressive, capturing the sounds and intricacies of that process. However, that can only take you so far and I’m afraid I found the characters and story in this one to be very dry and it struggled to keep my interest. I had to work not to nod off.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

So there is day 1! I’m excited to see what Day 2 has to offer.

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Current Mini Reviews (Cheaper by the Dozen, The Cow, More Than Robots)

Hey everyone! Before I head off on a little vacation tomorrow I wanted to log a couple of reviews for new films I recently saw. I wish I could write a full review for each of them but sometimes there just isn’t time.

So here goes!

Cheaper by the Dozen: Cast and reviews for the 2022 version of the classic film | Marca

Cheaper by the Dozen

One of my favorite books is the memoir Cheaper by the Dozen written in 1948 by Frank B Gilbreth Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey about their childhood in a family of 12 raised by Frank and Lilian Gilbreth who were motion study experts that had a large family. It’s such a funny, charming book that was made into a wonderful film in 1950 starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy. Unfortunately this part of the story has been largely forgotten with the remake-in-name-only version starring Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt. Now we have this 2022 version and whatever good was in the story has been diluted into a family sitcom and not even a good one at that.

The casting in this Cheaper by the Dozen is good with Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union and the intentions were good with their blended brood of 12. Unfortunately the script was written without regard to nuance or authenticity. Especially when it tries to be topical it completely falls flat and often screamed of tokenism rather than any kind of diversity to be praised. People, especially within their family, don’t talk in speeches ready for a PSA on Disney Channel (this could have been a DCOM but a weak one at that). I also could have done without the entire plotline of Braff and his breakfast spot being franchised. It was badly done.

Instead I would watch the 1950 film, the original Yours Mine and Ours or if in a pinch the 2003 film before watching this…

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

SXSW 2022 Schedule

The Cow

Going into SXSW the thriller The Cow was actually one of my most anticipated films of the festival. I like a tight thriller and Winona Ryder and Dermot Mulroney are usually strong in their projects. Unfortunately this film proved to be more groan than thrill worthy.

In the film Ryder plays a woman who rents a cabin with her boyfriend only to arrive and find a couple already staying there. After staying the night with the strangers Ryder finds her boyfriend is nowhere to be found with little clues to his whereabouts.

I know the movie The Cow is trying to be but with each reveal it gets more insane and ridiculous by the minute. Let’s just say it involves a cult and the cow of the title isn’t the animal. By the end I was rolling my eyes instead of being intrigued or scared.

There may be some people that will enjoy this insanity but it definitely wasn’t for me. Watch at your own risk.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

More Than Robots Trailer Deutsch German (2022) - video Dailymotion

More Than Robots

It’s interesting there is almost an entire genre of ‘smart kids’ documentaries at festivals. With everything from Science Fair to Spellbound I expect to be introduced to geniuses each year at Sundance and the other festivals. This year’s entry appears to be More Than Robots which you can now watch on Disney Plus but was screened at SXSW. I always seem to enjoy these genius kid documentaries and this one is no exception!

More Than Robots tells the story of the child entrants in the FIRST Robotics Competition starting in early 2020. Obviously the teams and competitions were interrupted by COVID but even that was charming to see how the teens learned from the experience and served each other and the younger students coming after them. It can focus too much on the teams in Los Angeles rather than Japan or Mexico but I still enjoyed seeing the young inventors and the robots they create. This documentary should inspire lots of kids to try their hand at engineering and to build their own amazing machines!

(The FIRST Robotics tournament in 2020 and onward is sponsored by Lucasfilm, so the Disney Plus tie-ins with More Than Robots are present throughout which may annoy some viewers).

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy