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.

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


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

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


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

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


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.

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

SXSW Day 2 Log (I’m Fine, Twyla Moves, US vs Reality Winner, Here Before, Tom Petty, Recovery)

Hey everyone! After a rough start to the South by Southwest Film Festival Day 2 proved to be much better. In fact, I liked all 6 films I watched today to one degree or another. Hooray!

So let’s get started with the recaps!

I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)

I have to say COVID is proving to be a better setting for storytelling than I might have guessed. In this first entry writer, director and star Kelley Kali gives us a day in the life of a grieving widow trying to get housing for herself and her daughter during the pandemic. She travels around down in roller skates and does various gig work and gets more desperate as the day goes on.

It’s a sobering film but Kali is such a likable presence on screen it keeps us invested. It kind of reminded me of the first act of Moonlight in a lot of ways. Some will find the slice of life concept to be a dull but I enjoyed it.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Twyla Moves

Twyla Moves is a documentary done by PBS for their American Masters series (it actually airs this weekend on TV). I really enjoy American Masters and this goes right along with what they do. It kind of reminded me of Ailey about Alvin Ailey from Sundance 2020 (which was also for AM).

This one is about choreographer Twyla Tharp who I had never heard of but is absolutely incredible. They listed off her resume and she had major projects every year since the 70s including films like Hair and Amadeus. I kind of wish it had gotten into more of her backstory and personal journey but it stays mostly in the professional realm but still fun to watch.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

United States vs Reality Winner

From the minute I heard federal secrets dropper Reality Winner’s name I wanted to learn more about her and that’s what this documentary does. It’s fairly basic in its presentation but the story is so strange and compelling it doesn’t need much manipulation to work. If you want to learn more about Reality than give this one a watch.

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Here Before

If you are looking for an artsy thriller at the festival Here Before may be the movie for you. It stars Andrea Riseborough as a woman who becomes convinced her new neighbor is actually her dead daughter reincarnated. This is a beautifully made film with an excellent performance by Riseborough (who is almost always good even in Birdman which I do not like). The pacing is very slow in this one and there were times my attention drifted away but still enough good to recommend.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free

Obviously this Tom Petty film will be a must watch for fans of him and his music. However, I also think it will be interesting to anyone who has a love of music and is curious to go BTS of the making of an album. In this case it is his ‘Wildflowers’ album and of course everything is touched by the knowledge of his sudden passing in 2017.

If you are looking for Tom’s backstory or how he became a musician that’s not what this is. It’s a showcase of the making of an album and all the people and hours of work that went into it. As a lover of music I enjoyed learning about the process and hearing lots of great Tom Petty songs!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy


My friend Jonathan actually told me this movie was premiering at the festival. It stars Mallory Everton (who also cowrote and directed) and Whitney Call. They are both stars of the comedy skit youtube show Studio C and they bring that zany energy to this hilarious comedy.

Recovery is definitely a hair edgier than what you get on Studio C but it should be fine for adults. It’s about 2 sisters who have to go get their Grandma from a nursing home infected with COVID. A comedy like this comes down to the writing (which is very funny) and the chemistry which these 2 have in spades. I loved i! You may think it’s too soon to laugh at COVID but give it a chance. I bet you will find yourself cracking up just like I did.

It’s definitely the best of the festival so far. I loved it!

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

NYICFF Blog 1 (The Bears Famous Invasion, Beans, Nahuel and the Magic Book)

Hi everyone! Today marks my first day covering the New York Intl Children’s Film Festival and it started with a bang! I saw 3 movies with many more to come.

If you want to learn more about the festival check out my preview video:

Here are my quick thoughts on the films I saw today:

The Bears’ Famous Invasion

This film is also referred to as The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily and it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 and at Annecy in 2020 to great acclaim. It is the debut work of Italian illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti and it’s strongest attribute is the beautiful and lush animation- it has the appeal of a true work of art.

The story behind the art is a wandering storyteller and his daughter who get caught in a cave with a bear so they start telling stories about the bears and their acts of heroism.

The Bears’ Famous Invasion throws a lot at the screen with wars, ghosts, sea serpents and more but it is kept light by the storytellers and a free-spirited tone. My only flaw with the project is the white subtitles were often difficult to read especially with the nearly constant snow backgrounds in the film. Probably not the best choice!

Nevertheless I had a great time with this film and it was a terrific way to start off the festival

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy


Beans was my live action entry for the day and I must admit I found it to be a baffling film, which I did not enjoy. It seems to have the best of intentions telling the story of the Mohawk tribal protests in Quebec in 1990. The director Tracey Deer uses a combination of fictional events and real footage (reminded me of Spike Lee in Blackkklansman) but unfortunately it all feels more messy than moving.

Before the movie starts the festival announcers say this is for “kids” ages 14+ which is 14 a kid? I find this a puzzling decision on the part of the festival because this movie would definitely be rated R as it has the F word many times. And that’s not the only objectionable content, which would be fine I guess if the movie did anything interesting with that content. Instead it reminded me of Hillbilly Elegy in the way it wallows in people’s misery without having any insight on what do with those sorrows.

I left thinking who was this made for? It’s definitely not for kids and it sure wasn’t for me.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Nahuel and the Magic Book

We finished the night with an animated film out of Chile and Brazil called Nahuel and the Magic Book. This is a very well done fantasy adventure about a young grieving boy who finds a magic book called The Levisterio. He uses the book to help him conquer his fears and face bullies but then it has consequences he can’t imagine.

I’ll admit that I lost track of what was happening a few times in the film. There is a lot going on but I still enjoyed the ride. The animation is beautiful and there are some great segments. I particularly found a recurring theme of black birds attacking him in a giant swarm to be chilling.

Kids will have a great time with Nahuel and the Magic Book and both boys and girls should enjoy it equally. It’s an exciting adventure for the whole family with gorgeous animation (the animation kind of reminded me of Steven Universe in style).

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

What about you? What have you been watching at the festival and if you’ve seen these 3 movies what do you think of them?

Current Mini Reviews

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well (or at least as well as can be expected during this crazy time). I have certainly been hard at work both watching and creating content. I am so blessed to be able to do what I do.

While I would love to be a full time critic I am extremely blessed to be able to write/create my reviews and be a part-time corporate blogger for the rest of my job. However I don’t only post to this site. Recently I have reviewed:

For Backseatdirectors


Made in Italy/Chemical Hearts

The Rental

For Rotoscopers

H is for Happiness


Rachel’s Reviews

Secret Society of Second Born Royals


I’ve also been doing a lot of fun stuff on both of my podcasts Rachel’s Reviews and Hallmarkies Podcast (and more) and some cool videos on my youtube channel like my first ever Tier Ranking video!

On to the Mini Reviews

With that out of the way let’s share some mini reviews!

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles

Fans of the Food Network and Top Chef will enjoy this documentary that follows famed chef Yotam Ottolenghi as he puts on an event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in honor of Versailles. Ottolenghi assembles his crackpot team of eccentric bakers and jello-makers (yes you read right) and their artistic process is fascinating and a lot of fun to watch. I particularly liked chef Dinara Kasko as she fights for her pastry vision from a pushy man who wants her to take the easy way out.

Where Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles doesn’t work as well is in the final act change in messaging. It feels tagged on after so much excess and opulence the entire movie to all the sudden have a social conscience. Not everything has to have a message or speak to the injustices of our time. It’s fine to have one documentary that is just about escapist cakes. No more.

Still it’s a fun movie and available in theaters and on demand.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Give or Take

One trend I’ve noticed over the last few years is lots of movies about the male experience and in particular unlikely male friendships. Whether it be an Oscar winner like Green Book or smaller films like To Dust or Papi Chulo we seem to be fascinated as a culture with men and their friendships. Now we have the latest in this trend with the indie film Give or Take and for the most part it works quite well.

Give or Take tells the story of an estranged son (Jamie Effros) who comes home to bury his father and struggles to get along with his father’s spouse Ted (Norbert Leo Butz- who I’ve enjoyed since his Broadway days and they almost let him sing in this!). The film explores themes of forgiveness, loss and what moving on means. The comic relief from people like Cheri Oteri is less effective and the relationship between Martin and his former flame Emma (Joanne Tucker) didn’t really work for me. Still, if you are up for a small, low budget drama it’s worth a watch.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Stars and Strife

With the current political climate being a continual cess pool of despair and depravity I was honestly quite hesitant to watch the new documentary Stars and Strife. Political documentaries very easily veer into the propaganda camp and are more for building up the ideology of the ardent believers than for making persuasive arguments.

Well, color me shocked when Stars and Strife actually turned out to be a hopeful film examining our current condition and how we might be able to dig our way out. It might be too optimistic for some people but in this day and age I will take a little hope where I can get it. It’s also very even-handed with people who worked in Bush and Obama administrations weighing in. This film is available on STARZ and to rent VOD.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Human Voice

Right now as part of the New York Film Festival you can have a special film festival type experience right from your own laptop. The great Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar has made a one-woman short with Tilda Swinton during quarantine and it’s a delight to watch. In addition, with your purchase you get an interview with Swinton and Almodóvar, which includes a passionate speech from the director about getting back to the big screen experience as soon as we possibly can.

The short The Human Voice is ”freely based” on the Jean Cocteau play La voix humaine and is about a woman waiting for her ex to pick up his things and dog in their apartment but he never comes. Both the dog and woman are abandoned and angry yet it is very fun to watch. I love the way Almodóvar uses color and Swinton is fantastic. It captures the sense of isolation we’ve all been feeling lately and is definitely cathartic to watch.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

4 movies today all smile worthy! I love when that happens. What have you been watching? Any recommendations?