Current Mini Reviews (Broker, Rickshaw Girl, Fairways to Happiness)

Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well. I am deeply ensconced in Sundance Film Festival and will have reviews of all the films I have been watching (I am not doing daily logs like I’ve done in the past because I’m trying to enjoy the experience more this year.) So far it has been a terrific festival and I’m so glad to be back attending in person again.

If you missed it I was on Good Things Utah for the first time as their movie critic. Check it out

In the meantime, I have a few current films to update you all on.

Rickshaw Girl

It’s always fun when you see a film that helps you dive into a different culture and country. Such is the case with  Amitabh Reza Chowdhury’s new film Rickshaw Girl. It tells the story of a teenage girl named Naima who dreams of making it as an artist in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This is based on a popular children’s book and the director weaves together animation and live action to tell Naima’s story.

The film is helped by a vibrant and lovely performance by Novera Rahman as Naima and the animation is a nice touch when telling the story of an artist. I only wish the animation had been done in 2D instead of CG to make it feel more like Naima’s art.

They also make the choice to have some dialogue in Bengali with no subtitles and some in English. I’m guessing this is to add to the chaos of the city but it felt like chaos for chaos’ sake. Still, there’s enough here to enjoy in the sweet story and Rahman’s performance to recommend it. You can find it on amazon (ad) and other streamers to rent.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Fairways to Happiness

We can all use a little boost in our spirits every now and then, right? I know I can. Well, if you are looking for a quick motivational documentary than Fairways to Happiness might be a good choice. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel and could definitely be called cheesy but I like a self-help cheeseball movie every now and then.

In the film Doug Morrione is inspired by his move to Dubai to interview expats and people from around the world on what makes them happy. He also weaves in the struggles of an amateur golfer name Eugene, and examines why so many get joy out of the solitary peace of the golf. I don’t golf but I can understand the appeal. For me it is being in a lake surrounded by water that gives me joy. For others it might be art or hiking. Whatever it might be what is it that makes humans happy? That’s an interesting question Morrione dives into.

If you like this kind of motivational, self-help documentary than Fairways to Happiness is a fun easy watch.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Broker

The true gem of this group is the latest film from Hirokazu Kore-eda called Broker. Kore-eda is a filmmaker I love, and while his films always do well at Cannes and other international festivals I don’t think he gets enough credit here in the states. He makes lovely films full of humanity and Broker is no exception.

Like his 2018 film Shoplifters, Broker tells the story of a fractured family brought together by crime. It is set in Korea (Kore-eda’s last film was set in France called The Truth so evidently he can direct in any land or language!) but Broker is about a group of people that are operating a human trafficking ring where they sell babies to struggling couples that are left at a baby box in a church.

Song Kang-ho is fantastic as Ha Sang-hyeon, the leader of the trafficking ring and Lee Ji-eun is great as a young Mother who leaves her baby and then becomes involved in the enterprise. Obviously human trafficking is terrible but Kore-eda works hard to bring out the humanity in each character so by the end you at least understand where they are coming from even if you don’t agree with their choices.

I’d say Shoplifters is still the better of the two films but Broker is definitely worth checking out and supporting.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘PLANE’ or DIE HARD on a PLANE Works

There is something to be said for a movie that knows what it is and executes that well. It’s not pretentious or trying to be high art- just a simple genre film. Such is the case with the new action shlockfest, Plane, starring Gerard Butler directed by Jean-Francois Richet. Fans of the show 24 (which I am) will recognize much of Jack Bauer in Butler’s character Brodie Torrance (he’s even got a suitable tough guy name). You can also see elements of MacGyver and Die Hard in the film. It’s your classic innocent but tough guy put in an untenable situation where he saves the day fighting bad guys (and nature).

In the film, Butler plays a pilot of the plane from the title and after flying into a storm from Singapore they are forced to crash in a militia controlled island in the Philippines. The crash landing makes up the first act of the film and I thought it was very well executed. Maybe it’s because I travel quite a bit and always get nervous when we reach a bumpy section but seeing all the steps before they have to brace for impact was very effective.

Once  they land everything becomes a lot more generic. Mike Colter plays a fugitive ex-military guy who helps Butler track down help and then confronts the terrorists (who hold the passengers hostage.) His role is very basic but it worked for the movie I was watching. The terrorists are also one note evil bad guys we’ve seen a million times. It is true there are islands in the Philippines run by Muslim rebels called The Moro Islamic Liberation Front but there is no attempt in this film to humanize them or show their point of view. I didn’t really need that (I’m fine with just bad guys being bad guys) but it can be awkward when minority groups are only presented one way in a film or genre. If people are offended by that choice I wouldn’t blame them.

As an action film, Plane is less compelling when it is grounded but it is still entertaining with servicable action and likable performances from Butler and Colter. Again, this is not high art. It’s completely predictable and obvious but sometimes I enjoy a slickly made action film and this fills that need. It’s also only 107 minutes which is refreshing in this era of bloated action and superhero movies.

If you watch the trailer for Plane and it looks like fun than I think you will enjoy it. Let’s just say this film comes in for a solid landing.

6 out of 10

If you enjoy what I do, please consider supporting at patreon where you can get tons of fun perks. https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies

[REVIEW] M3GAN or My First Killer Doll Movie is Fun

For all of you who have followed my reviews you know I’m fairly new to the horror genre. I grew up thinking I didn’t like to be scared so I mostly avoided the genre and it is only recently that I have been catching up to try and have a more well-rounded portfolio of reviews. Last year I watched Black Phone, Scream, X and Pearl, Barbarian, and The Menu as well as the original Nightmare on Elm Street for my blind spot series (I have also seen Halloween, the original Scream and The Lost Boys.) I am going to continue this trend and watch  more horror this year and the first one up is the killer robot/doll movie M3GAN.

Believe it or not this film by Gerard Johnstone is my first killer doll movie. I’ve never seen a Child’s Play movie or Annabelle or anything else. You can say that makes my opinion less valid because I have nothing to compare it to but it is what it is. Sometimes a fresh perspective can be interesting so perhaps that’s what I can provide?

M3GAN tells the story of little girl and recent orphan Cady (Violet McGraw) who is being raised by her ill-equipped aunt Gemma (Allison Williams) who has designed an interactive doll named M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android). Cady is paired with M3GAN and Gemma is happy to turn the parenting responsibilities for her damaged niece over to the doll. Of course this creates some attachment problems and since this is a horror movie the doll gets more possessive of Cady by the minute.

First, I will say the viral marketing campaign for M3GAN has been hilarious and brilliant. I think I would have been inclined to see it even if I wasn’t a critic because it was so creative. Also the combination of puppetry, animatronics and motion capture to create the doll is seamless and completely believable. My favorite kind of horror has a dose of comedy and M3GAN gives plenty of humor for the audience. There’s the iconic dance in the trailer but she’s a heroine with lots of sass.

The downsides to the movie is it does take a long time to get going. It’s pretty slow for the first 30 minutes and then it finally gets going. Also without spoilers there is one death to a child that surprised me. I figured, even though he or she is a jerk they would just get hurt and not die. That is surprising! I know a lot of people have complained about the pg13 but as someone new to horror I appreciate there being some entries not as violent for us newbies!

I also thought some of the supporting acting is weak particularly Ronny Chieng as Gemma’s boss. He over-acted whenever he is on screen. Fortunately Williams and McGraw are both good and they are the main characters (along with M3GAN). Aside from being funny, the movie has something to say about parenting and how quick we are to turn those responsibilities over to technology these days.

All in all, I’d say my first killer doll movie was a success. If you are wanting to dive into a fun, silly horror movie give M3GAN a shot. From this newbie I’d say it’s a good time at the cinema.

6 out of 10

Smile worthy

If you enjoy what I do, please consider supporting at patreon where you can get tons of fun perks. https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies