Current Mini Reviews- Prom Pact, Chevalier, Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant

Hey everyone! I hope you all enjoyed reading my in-depth post on Suzume. Unfortunately I do not have time to write so prolifically for every movie but here are some quick thoughts on 3 recent new releases.

Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant

The Covenant Budget and Box Office Collection Prediction
They actually made a special announcement at the screening to make sure we included Guy Ritchie in the title. So there you go sir. It is officially your movie…

That said, I actually enjoyed Ritchie’s latest true story war film. It starts out kind of slow following these Afghan soldiers into several skirmishes before the plot starts going. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Sergeant John Kinley who is stuck in the Afghani desert with Taliban hunting him down. When injured his local interpreter Ahmed saves him through a series of miraculous and brave ordeals before making it back to the base and to safety. Then Kinley becomes obsessed with finding Ahmed and getting him and his family to the United States.

Some are going to be turned off by any kind of war story but once the film started going with the rescue I found it quite gripping. I was genuinely invested in Ahmed and John’s story and if they were going to make it to safety. The acting by Gyllenhaal and Dar Sajim, who plays Ahmed, is outstanding and I think no matter your political persuasion you’ll be rooting for these 2 men to save each other. It’s really a story of friendship more than a story of war. It’s the kind of movie my Dad will love and that’s a good thing! An inspiring true story.

7.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy


If you follow my content you know how much I enjoy a good costume drama. It’s for this reason I was looking forward to the new film Chevalier, which tells the story of 18th century Black composer, Chevalier de Saint-Georges or Joseph Bologne who at one time composed for Marie Antionette. Unfortunately despite the best efforts of star Kelvin Harrison Jr Chevalier is sunk by a mediocre script that can’t decide whether to be campy fun or serious melodrama and it ends up choosing tedium instead.

With this type of film you either want it to be over-the-top bodice-ripper like with Netflix’s Bridgerton series or take itself seriously like a Merchant Ivory film from the 90s. If it was silly I wouldn’t mind that almost none of the actors have French accents or speak in ways appropriate for a the time period. I wouldn’t mind the sloppiness of the costumes or the weakness of the production design. It would all be part of the escapism.

Instead I found myself getting both annoyed, bored and frustrated. The whole thing felt way longer than the trim 107 minutes. It’s a shame because there is a good story hidden in Chevalier. Just wish they’d gotten a better screenplay so I’d be either entertained or edified by it. Sadly it did neither and I left disappointed.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Prom Pact

Prom Pact | Disney+
As we’ve seen recently with the terrible The Whale teen characters in movies can be a bit of a sticking point for this critic. When they are continually portrayed as miserable, sulking creatures I become frustrated and disengaged with the story. I know it’s a tough time of life but at a certain point they start to lose their humanity when there is no kindness presented. This is why I found the latest teen rom-com from Disney Channel and Disney Plus, Prom Pact to be so refreshing and enjoyable. It’s definitely the best DCOM we’ve seen in a while and one of the best teen rom-coms of the last decade. I am a big fan of the To All the Boys… films on Netflix and this is as good if not better.

What I loved most about this film is the characters and how they start out as cliches of the genre (the nerd, jock, prom queen etc) and then expand out of those cliches as we get to know them. It’s what John Hughes did with his beloved teen movies in the 80s. Peyton Elizabeth Lee is fantastic as the girl who wants to get into Harvard so she befriends a jock athlete she thinks is a cocky jerk played by Blake Draper but there is more to him as they spend time together. There is also her best friend played by Milo Manheim and they have a nice character arc through the story. He has a crush on prom queen played by Monique Green. There are also adult characters: a guidance counselor played by Margaret Cho and Peyton’s Mom played by Wendi Mclendon-Covey (I love both of them and could have seen even more).

This is not the most unpredictable of scripts but it is so well executed and everyone involved has great chemistry. I love how it is about more than just romance but about friendship and growing up. These are teens I was rooting for and had to forgive each other on occasion- flawed yet pleasant and enjoyable to spend nearly 2 hours with. I’d say Prom Pact is a real hidden gem of 2023. Watch it! I know you’ll love it!

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Suzume or Let’s Process an Earthquake with Makoto Shinkai

Anyone who has followed my writing knows I’m a big fan of Japanese animator (or anime) Makoto Shinkai. His film Your Name from 2016 won  my heart, and I’ve been a big fan of his ever since. It is fair to say he has familiar tropes he works with and he has not been able to quite capture the glory of Your Name in his subsequent films; however, he is a bold storyteller and there is always a hope to his pictures which win me over. Such is the case with his latest film Suzume. It’s not perfect and he will lose some in its embrace of fantasy but I still found it a creative and dazzling experience. One I recommend anyone to get to the theater and support (it’s getting a pretty big rollout so now is your chance to support anime!)

Suzume has a lot going on but it basically tells the story of a teen girl named Suzume who meets a mysterious man named Sota one day who is looking for local ruins. She follows him to an abandoned section of town where they find a door which is a portal to a fantasy world called Ever-After. Then through various contrivances she ends up with Sota on a journey to stop a supernatural force called a worm from destroying all of Japan by causing earthquakes.

Part of the reason Shinkai wanted to explore this story was the after-effects of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Parts of Japan never really recovered from the destruction and this inspired a story where Suzume and Sota (and sometimes her aunt Tamaki are on a road-trip to find the keystones throughout the country. There are also a lot of tributes to the great Hayoa Miyazaki with a city called Miyazaki, a magical cat named Daiijin and a quick wink to Whisper of the Heart.

Shinkai also makes the bold choice of having Sota turn into a chair for most of the movie. I was a little bit skeptical of this with the trailers but it honestly worked very well. Never has a chair had so much personality and charm. Daiijin the cat was also very mischievous, making life very difficult for poor Suzume.

The animation is of course outstanding as any Shinkai movie is and the music from RADWIMPS is the perfect accompaniment (and more of a traditional score than a JPOP background than their previous collaborations.) I interviewed the band back in 2020, which was a super cool experience. But my favorite part of the film is how it kept surprising me. I didn’t know where it was going and after seeing such a bland film in Super Mario Bros the week before it was so exciting to see a bold, inventive animated film from Shinkai.

I also appreciate how Shinkai uses the narrative to help the Japanese people process what happened to them with the earthquake (as he has done with comets and floods in his 2 previous films.) It’s so refreshing to have someone with such a hopeful outlook tackling such issues as climate change and national trauma. It makes me as a viewer and fan want to do more to help my community heal from our own problems (for example, the Great Salt Lake is drying up here in Utah.) Rarely are disaster films so encouraging and profound.

Suzume': Makoto Shinkai Completes a Disaster Anime Trilogy | IndieWire

There are some flaws with Suzume. I think the design of the worms is a strange choice, not just its phallic similarities but also how different it looked from the 2D designs of the rest of the film. It looked cheap which is something I never thought I’d say about a Shinkai film.

Also while the road-trip for the most part worked well it gets bogged down with the relationship drama between Suzume and her aunt Tamaki. The comic relief with Tamaki’s boyfriend Serizawa can also get old quick and for how rushed some parts of the narrative feel these travel sections can be frustrating.

All that said, I still loved Suzume and can’t wait to watch it many times to gain more from it each time. I am sure the Academy will continue to ignore anime, which is a real shame because Suzume is a film that deserves to be recognized for its creativity and boldness. I hope you get a chance to see it and let me know what you think when you do.

8 out of 10

Smile worthy

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Blind Spot 88: Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

When I decide on the Blind Spot picks for each year I try to have a variety of favorites- critical darlings, arthouse films, cult classics, box office winners etc. This month’s pick, Jeanne Dielman, 23… is definitely of the arthouse variety but it became a point of conversation last year when it ended up at the top of the list in the recent Sight and Sound Great Movies poll. Because I never attended film school, I admit I had never heard of this film before the poll and was shocked to see it make number one. Now I have seen it, and I still don’t understand it! Let’s talk about it:

Jeanne Dielman, 23… is a slice of life type film that tells the story of a woman named Jeanne who is a bored and unhappy housewife who makes money on the side as a prostitute. Most of the movie is watching her perform basic household tasks like polishing shoes and peeling potatoes.  For a 3 hr 20 m movie very little happens although Delphine Seyrig does a very good job portraying Jeanne in some long and uncomfortable takes.

I happen to like watching people cook so I actually enjoyed those sections. You do start to see little differences between day 1 and day 2 of her daily activities. It all leads to some violence at the end but even that is treated by director Chantal Akerman with a sense of ordinariness.

When it came out in 1975, Jeanne Dielman, 23… might have seen more groundbreaking but I’m honestly tired of this disturbed/stifled housewife being one of the only ways Hollywood depicts contemporary women. Does it happen? Sure but there are also lots of women who chose to stay-at-home and raise their families and it would be nice to tell their stories as well. I wish we told more mature female stories in general but this miserable suburban woman is just real played out for me.

I suppose it’s a movie that’s a bit of a victim of its own hype. If I just saw it as an experimental indie I might be less critical but I still wouldn’t call it a favorite. That said, I didn’t go to film school so what do I know?! I guess I’m glad to have checked it off my list. If it is one of your favorites let me know why. I would love to learn.

I don’t know what rating to give this one tbh. It’s interesting more for the legacy than the actual movie, but I can’t deny that legacy.

6 out of 10

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[REVIEW] ‘His Only Son’ or God Can Be Really Mean in the Bible…

If you grow up in a Christian (or in my case LDS) household you hear the same Bible stories over and over again that it can be easy to forget how strange some of them are. For example, how strange is it that people decorate a nursery for their baby using Noah’s ark themes when that story is about almost the entire human race except one boat being drowned. While perhaps not quite as extreme this same phenomenon can be seen with the story of Abraham and Isaac. It is truly a horrific thing God is asking Abraham to do but one we learn about from such an early age it probably doesn’t feel that way.

Now we have a new cinematic version of this classic story called His Only Son and for the most part they do a pretty good job telling this troubling story. Those looking for accurate depictions of Biblical stories should be pleased. I am not a traditional Christian but nothing in this version felt inaccurate or a departure from the Biblical texts.

Nicolas Mouawad plays Abraham and he shows the terrible conflict he is feeling for having been asked by God to kill his only son. Sara Seyed plays Sarah in a convincing performance and Edaan Mosokowitz gives a humble and sweet portrayal of Isaac.

I appreciate His Only Son doesn’t shy away from the troubling aspects of the story including Abraham’s relationship with Hagar and Ishmael (although it makes when he refers to Isaac as his only son a little tough to swallow.)

My only real flaw with the film is the makeup felt excessive. I understand they are nomads but the dirt was so caked on it felt like brown-face in scenes which is unnecessary as they have a POC cast. It was just a little over the top.

Other than that, those looking for a solid adaptation of the Abraham and Isaac story will get it in His Only Son. It’s not a great Biblical epic but it does quite a bit with a small budget. The target audience should be more than satisfied and it certainly captures the faith it would take to be as obedient as Abraham is.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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[REVIEW] ‘The Super Mario Bros Movie’ or How Did I Like ‘Minions 2’ More Than This?

I pride myself on the fact I keep an open mind as a critic and give everything a fair shot. This was perhaps no mare demonstrated than in last year’s Minions: The Rise of Gru that I had little to no interest in and got super sick of hearing with its long delay but I actually ended up enjoying! Go figure! Particularly the scene with the Minions flying the airplane made me laugh, and I couldn’t deny I had a good time with the film. I say all this to point out I wasn’t out to get The Super Mario Bros Movie like some might claim. I wanted it to be good. I was excited for it. I even wore my Super Mario Bros t-shirt to the screening.


Unfortunately there’s not much praise I can give to The Super Mario Bros Movie. At best it’s an ok watch for little kids who aren’t as demanding on plot or dialogue but I bet it will be quickly forgotten by them. There’s certainly no scene as memorable as the plane scene in Minions 2. I was really hopeful Illumination would use this property as a way to push themselves visually and story-wise much like Sony did with Into the Spiderverse or DreamWorks with The Bad Guys and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish but they didn’t. The animation is fine but nothing memorable and the story is bland and boring.

I know some people were nervous about Chris Pratt cast as Mario with Charlie Day as Luigi but honestly they are fine. The problem is the script doesn’t give them anything engaging to do. In fact, the 2 brothers are separated for most of the movie and Luigi is imprisoned literally giving him nothing to do. Most of the plot revolves around Bowser wanting to marry Princess Peach I guess because she’s pretty. We are given no other reason. What a weird plot-point for a children’s movie?

My favorite part of the movie was the music by Brian Tyler on the original theme by Koji Kondo. It cleverly mixes the iconic theme with a new score to add just the right touch to the action.

The animation is bright and colorful and looks nice but nothing like the action in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish to take it to another level. If they had told me this is a straight to streaming release I wouldn’t have been surprised. There is no wow factor. Just the typical bland Illumination animation. It bums me out because I really think this was their chance to make something special and they chose to go the thoroughly average route instead.

If you want to see a basic animated film for kids The Super Mario Bros Movie I suppose will suffice but if you are hoping for something fresh, exciting, creative or funny I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere. Believe it or not Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is still playing at theaters near me. Just see that instead…

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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[REVIEW] CRAM or Just Read the Book Marc!

Before I begin this review I will state outright that my co-host of The Criterion Project, Conrado Falco, has a small role in this film and we have had the director Abie Sidell and producer Trevor Wallace have come on our show and are the reason I was aware of the project. That said if I didn’t think it was quality I would not review it so I think I can be objective about it. 

Recently attending both Sundance and SXSW I must have said 100 times- this would be so much better as a short. Too often interesting concepts for a featurette or short are stretched out to feature in order to make it marketable in a cineplex. This is a real shame and ruins some otherwise good ideas.

That said, one of the cool aspects of the new horror film Cram is its length- not a short but a featurette of 44 minutes. It would be really neat if we could get enough of these shorter genre films being made that a theater could combine them together to fill a feature film slot- Grindhouse style or like what they used to do at sci-fi Drive-ins. How fun would that be?

Anyway, Cram stars John DiMino as a college student Marc who is cramming for a college paper, getting little to no sleep, but the only problem is he didn’t read the book that the assignment is based on. He tries to get a friend Alice to let him use her paper but she refuses (of course because she would be punished along with him for turning in the same paper).

When he falls asleep writing his paper, he wakes up in a haze and an acid-trippy force has taken over the library. This is the most effective part of the film with director Sidell creating some compelling and spooky atmosphere. I like the way he used bright colors to draw the viewer into each aisle of the library.

As it gets more into fantasy the narrative started to lose me a little bit but as it’s only 44 minutes I didn’t feel frustrated long.

Overall, Cram is a scrappy little thriller that most anyone who has crammed for a test in college will understand. It’s available to watch for free on tubi so check it out. I think you’ll enjoy it.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Current Mini Reviews (Dungeons & Dragons, AIR, Rye Lane & More)

Hey everyone! I wish I had the time to write long full reviews for each of these films but unfortunately I’ve gotten behind and that’s not possible right now. I did have the chance to review some films for Good Things Utah a few weeks ago. You can check out my review of Creed III, Emily, Mandalorian s3 and The Love Club on Hallmark Channel here:

If you have seen any of these films I would love to know your thoughts.


Here’s a few more reviews:

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

It’s easy these days to be cynical about movies like Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Most of the time movies based on existing IP like D&D feel underwhelming and lazy but fortunately that’s not the case with this film from directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. I’m not even a big fantasy person and I still had a good time with this film.

Chris Pine brings his usual charisma playing Edgin, a man who becomes a thief after his wife is killed by a Red Wizard. He ends up imprisoned and the villainous Forge (Hugh Grant) takes his position including raising Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman.) Edgin then gathers a motley crew together including barbarian Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), Xenk (Rege-Jean Page) and Simon (Justice Smith).

I have no idea how well this captures the game but if you enjoy adventure stories like A Princess Bride or the first Pirates movie than you’ll have a good time with this one. It is PG-13 for “fantasy action/violence and some language” but if your kids can handle the latest superhero movies they should be fine with this.

I admit I was really tired when I saw this one at a morning screening but I still had a fun time. I look forward to watching it again and getting even more out of it. If you are looking for a grand adventure with a charismatic cast than this is the movie for you.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy


Movies about business can be an interesting enterprise. If done wrong they can be as dull as most business meetings are. If done right they can be some of the most compelling human dramas ever released. Of course people think of Moneyball and The Social Network but you can go back to movies like Broadcast News and Network. This year seems to be the year of corporate origin story movies with Tetris, Flaming Hot, Blackberry and this movie AIR.

AIR tells the story of how salesman Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) convinced Nike to bet on Michael Jordan and the Air Jordan line of shoes. The film is directed by Ben Affleck and he plays Nike CEO Phil Knight (I couldn’t help but think of poor Will Vinton and Laika Studios whenever they showed Knight) along with a terrific cast including Chris Tucker, Jason Bateman and a very memorable Chris Messina as Jordan’s agent David Falk.

As with most movies, AIR comes down to the script. Writer Alex Convery  has given us a very entertaining debut screenplay with characters that feel authentic and dialogue that pops. Aside from it being an R-rated, I think I could recommend this film to just about anyone. It’s so entertaining and engaging even though we know how it is all going to end. I could care less about basketball, Michael Jordan or shoes and I still really enjoyed this film because it’s not about any of that. It’s about people and the risks they take to make the big deal. Viola Davis is also great as Jordan’s mother.

I’m not sure why they didn’t release this last year so it could count for Oscars 2023 but I hope at least the screenplay doesn’t get forgotten for next year. It’s super fun. (They also spent a fortune on music for this movie. Get the soundtrack!)

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Rye Lane

One movie I missed out of Sundance 2023 is the rom-com Rye Lane. As a lover of the genre I was so disappointed to miss it but gratefully got to catch up with it this last week. While I don’t think I loved it as much as those who saw it at the festival I still recommend it and especially loved the lead couple of Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oprah.)

The two have a meet-cute when Yas finds Dom crying in a public uni-sex bathroom. As it turns out they have both recently been through break-ups and they decide to spend the day together strolling around London and experiencing all kinds of shenanigans.

I really loved both Jonsson and Oparah together and felt both actors had great chemistry together. I found myself rooting for both of them and being happy when they start to fall for each other, which is exactly what you want in a romantic comedy.

The humor was more hit-and-miss for me and the harsh lighting/fisheye cinematography was distracting but not so much to ruin the experience. Rye Lane is an R rated film and like I said the humor was  uneven but I’d still recommend it playing on hulu right now.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy


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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. 


If you like what I do please consider supporting me on patreon. There’s some great perks and I sure appreciate it

[REVIEW] ‘Shazam: Fury of the Gods’ or This is Completely Average and Leave Me Out of It

If you have followed my work for any amount of time you know I have quite the relationship with the first Shazam movie from 2019. I had mixed feelings on the film and ended up going rotten on my score. As one of the first to go negative, and the first female critic to do so, the world went insane and death threats came, the FBI had to be notified and it was a genuinely traumatic experience.

Shazam! Fury Of The Gods' Review: Sequel Keeps Heart & Humor – Deadline

Now we have the sequel Shazam: Fury of the Gods and I honestly struggled with what to do about it. On one hand I could recuse myself for my own mental health. I don’t have to cover it for an outlet, so why put myself through that? On the other hand, isn’t that letting the idiots win?

Eventually I decided to go with the latter and was able to find a critics screening here in Austin which I attended with my friend Sean Chandler (check out his terrific youtube channel for lots of great rankings and reviews of superhero movies and more)

Box Office Preview: 'Shazam! Fury of the Gods' Battles Soft Tracking – The Hollywood Reporter

Now I have seen the film I’m left with decidedly mixed feelings once again. I do think director David F Sandberg improves upon the first film in some ways and fixes some of the problems I had with it. The tone is much more balanced and consistent throughout the film (some might say that makes it more bland and I don’t disagree but overall it was a positive.)

They also did a better job of connecting the performances of Asher Angel and Zachary Levi. They felt more like the same person, which was a problem in the first Shazam. I also enjoyed the family spirit particularly the foster parents Rosa and Victor Vasquez played by Marta Milans and Cooper Andrews respectively.

There is also a cameo which I had a fun time with (and I guess the studio has spoiled in the trailer!) As he or she is a favorite character of mine I’m glad I got to see him or her one more time in this universe.

Shazam Fury of the Gods Tracking for Low-Key $35M Box Office Opening – The Hollywood Reporter

So where does the movie not work? Well, actually I shouldn’t even say that because it works fine but it’s all completely average and something we’ve seen a million times before. If you want a fine superhero movie with likable actors and disposable action Shazam: Fury of the Gods will scratch that itch. If you were hoping for something more than it won’t deliver. Even the characters superpowers are bland and non-descript (and all the same for the entire family?)

The cast including Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu as the Daughters of Atlas are fine as villains but bland and forgettable. Djimon Hounsou is involved in the story but not given much to do. Rachel Zegler is wasted in a boring role.

I don’t know. If you loved the original I’m not sure what you will think of Shazam: Fury of the Gods. As someone who didn’t, I did see some improvement, and I liked its heart of family, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before a million times. In the end, whatever. Go see it if you want or don’t and leave me out of it.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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