Sundance 2022 Day 6: (The Mission, Maika, Honk for Jesus)

On my 6th day of Sundance I saw 3 films (I started a couple others but they didn’t interest me so I stopped). It’s an interesting batch of movies- all of which I enjoyed- 2 involving religion that couldn’t be more different.

Here we go with my thoughts:

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul

Satire is a tough thing to pull off. For every Dr Strangelove there’s a million misses like last year’s America: the Motion Picture or Drop Dead Gorgeous– 2 movies I really didn’t like. Now we have Honk for Jesus and it mostly works as a satire of religion and megachurches.

The film’s greatest strength is its cast with Regina Hall and Sterling K Brown in the leads. They play the couple over the megachurch who are trying to stage a comeback after a scandal. As someone with no knowledge of these type of churches I learned something while still laughing. For instance, I had no idea that praise mime was an actual thing. I guess whatever moves you but that was new to me!

The problem I had with Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul is the consistency of the laughs aren’t there- at times it feels like a full blown drama, which can be jarring when it switches from one style to another. Also I found the writing of Brown’s character to be off. For a lot of the movie we are supposed to hate him as the worst kind of hypocrite but then there are sections where it seemed like we are supposed to be rooting for him and his redemption. It can be tonally confusing.

Still, I recommend it for the performances and enough laughs to make it worth your time.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy


The festival this year was woefully lacking in its family programming. The kids section only had 2 entries and 1 of them Summering starred children but was not appropriate for them given the language and subject matter. So we were left with only Maika, a Vietnamese sci-fi film that overall I found very charming.

Maika is directed by Ham Tran and is Vietnam’s first family sci-fi film, only their 2nd entry at all in the genre. I hope it inspires other filmmakers as I love seeing genre films from all over the world. It tells the story of a little boy who stumbles across a little girl alien named Maika.

It is easy to compare Maika to films like E.T. or Lilo and Stitch but I still enjoyed it on its own. The children are adorable and the story have a campy quality that is engaging to watch.

The villains are over-the-top and the movie goes on too long but it still is a fun time. Kids will enjoy seeing a story where they are powerful and able to save the day (a friend compared it to Robert Rodriguez film like Spy Kids and I agree).

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Mission

My final film for the day, The Mission, is a tricky one for me to review. It’s subject matter, a Latter-day Saint mission, is very close to my heart as I served a mission between 2003 and 2005. Although not as fervent a follower as I once was I am still a member of the faith and so take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

The Mission is directed by Tania Anderson and it follows 4 young missionaries (2 elders, 2 sisters) on their mission to Finland. Anyone looking for a hard-edged dive into the faith will be disappointed because this is extremely positive. Maybe even more so than it needs to be? I would have been interested to hear what the missionaries had to say about gay marriage, and other controversial topics within the church (although they do spend a little bit of time talking about the mental health care of missionaries which I appreciated).

But alas it is more about the day-to-day experiences of the missionaries and it definitely captures how grueling and even lonely the experience is. It’s a very difficult time but that’s part of what makes it so impactful. If you haven’t lived it, it’s hard to describe but this does a pretty good job of showing the grind.

It’s difficult for me to rate The Mission because on one hand it brought back a lot of memories of my own mission but on the other hand I think it will be quite boring for those not of the faith. It also seems to accept viewers know a lot about the church, its teachings and the jargon of missions. For instance, they say an Elder is a district leader without taking the time to explain what that is.

More than anything I was surprised how positive the film was. It almost felt like it was made by the church or at least edited by them. If any of you see it you’ll have to let me know what you think.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

There you go! Another day at the festival is done!

Sundance 2022 Log Day 3: (Free Chol Soo Lee, Master, The Exiles, Framing Agnes, Summering, Dual, Resurrection, Lucy and Desi)

Saturday proved to be a very busy day for me at this year’s virtual Sundance Film Festival. I saw 7 films, which might be a record for me. It’s certainly a lot of movies for one human to watch in a day! I still haven’t found anything I’m over the moon about but there were some good ones. Here are my thoughts:

Free Chol Soo Lee-

First up a documentary called Free Chol Soo Lee about a significant moment in the Korean-American community that I had never heard about. In the 1970s a man named Chol Soo Lee was incarcerated and put on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. The film chronicles the grassroots effort that came about to help get Lee a new trial and an eventual acquittal. Like I said, I knew nothing about this story so it was interesting to learn about especially how the media covered the story- there was even a movie made called True Believer that is evidently terrible (I’m curious to watch it now).

Free Chol Soo Lee does what you need a documentary like this to do. It is fascinating and insightful and definitely worth a watch.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy


College campuses have long been the settings for horror films probably because they contain lots of pretty young ladies who are primed to be a final girl. This is no different in the new film Master. Director Mariama Diallo tells a story about 3 women at a Brown-esque college: 2 faculty members (Regina Hall and Amber Gray) and a student (Zoe Renee). It turns out one of the halls is haunted by ghosts and disgusting bugs. The more Hall looks into these supernatural events the more crazy things become.

Master isn’t a classic horror movie or anything but I had a good time with it. It is benefited by strong performances especially from Hall. It struggles to balance tone a bit and is more cheesy than scary but I’ve certainly seen worse in that department (the recent Black Christmas is an example on how to do this badly).

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Exiles

Next up we have a documentary called The Exiles which follows documentarian Christine Choy as she tries to start up a project she was working on after the Tienanmen Square protest. Choy is quite the character with strong opinions on many topics. I kind of wish the documentary was just about her. Flipping back and forth between Tienanmen and her makes both subjects feel underserved and frustrating. It’s not terrible or anything but I feel there is a better movie in there than The Exiles provided.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy


Going into the festival Summering was one of my most anticipated. The cast of young girls looked appealing and director James Ponsoldt has done good things in the past with films like The Spectacular Now. Unfortunately this film was very disappointing.

The problem with Summering comes down to authenticity. One summer day the  children in the story stumble upon a dead body and they spend the next few days diving into the mystery of who the man is and how he died. Maybe this story could have worked but the kids don’t respond like kids (or adults for that matter) would. They never have a discussion about calling the police or telling a parent. It’s like that throughout the film. Everything felt so phony I couldn’t get into the story or buy any of the performances. Even the adults didn’t talk like actual humans or make choices that made sense.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy


Every year at Sundance there is a movie that is nuts and I don’t know how to feel about it. This year’s entry is Resurrection. It is a bonkers movie that doesn’t really work but I admire its crazy chutzpah. It stars Rebecca Hall as a woman who lost a baby years before in a bizarre way and her attempt to exact revenge on her ex played by Tim Roth.

Just to give you an idea of how weird Resurrection gets the plot involves cannibalism and a man having a baby out of his stomach. It’s wild and Rebecca Hall is good in it, but I didn’t get what it was trying to say with all the madness. For a film to work you need a story that makes sense not just wild images.

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy


There are a lot of horror/thrillers this year at the festival (and maybe that’s why I haven’t found anything I’ve loved yet). Fresh is going to be the one to get most of the buzz but it was too scary for me. Dual is more my jam. It’s a sci-fi thriller starring Karen Gillan (who I don’t think is the best actress but I liked the movie any way). She plays 2 roles as Sarah Prime and Sarah Clone. In the dystopian world they live in you can be cloned when you are given a terminal diagnosis. Unfortunately Sarah gets cloned and then is healed from her disease and doesn’t die. This leaves clone against clone.

Unlike Resurrection, Dual takes a nutty concept but crafts an engaging story around it. I’ve seen a lot of sci-fi lately that takes itself very seriously with lots of scenes of deep staring into space and I’m tired of it. Dual isn’t a comedy by any means but it also has a good time with its concept and a script that kept me guessing. It’s a movie that will invite conversation as we debate which Sarah did what? I’m not sure everything makes sense, but I didn’t really care because I was enjoying the ride. (Aaron Paul costars and has nice chemistry with Gillan).

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Lucy and Desi

It’s always interesting when a documentary and narrative film about the same subject open around the the same time. This is what happened with Being the Ricardos (which I did not like) and Lucy and Desi (which I did like). They both tell the story of Hollywood legends Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz but the documentary in my opinion has a much clearer focus on their relationship and I felt like I learned so much more about them from watching it.

It’s interesting because Being the Ricardos set itself up as a faux documentary and then does nothing compelling with that concept. It doesn’t do much with any of its plotpoints, leaving a jumbled mess instead of a good story.

Here in the documentary we learn about how Lucy and Desi met, their struggles with infertility, the reason why they created their iconic show to begin with and more. I had no idea how big Desilu Studios actually got and how involved Desi was in the creation of many iconic television shows and films. This was all fascinating.

Director Amy Poehler also showcases Lucy’s comedic chops and how they developed from being a B-movie glamor girl and model to the funniest lady on television. I also appreciated Carol Burnett sharing how Lucy had helped her as a mentor and friend.

Lucy and Desi doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it does a good job helping us get to know such a famous couple and how their love changed the world!

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it! Those are the movies I saw on day 3 of Sundance. Have you seen any of these? If so what did you think? Take care!

Sundance 2022 Log Day 1: (The Princess, When You Finish Saving the World, Emergency)

Hey everyone! Welcome to my coverage of the Sundance Film Festival! This is my 7th year covering the festival and we started Day 1 pretty well (2/3 ain’t bad). Of course the festival itself got started off badly when the in-person portion got canceled and Sundance refused to give us our money back. It never feels good when an organization steals from you and then says ‘but you can use it as a donation if you want’. Thanks a lot!

Anyway, that’s not the filmmakers fault so I am trying to go in with an open mind to everything I watch. I even recorded a preview show with my friend Justin profiling 12 films we are looking forward to

Like I said, my first 3 films were a pretty good start to the festival. Here are my quick thoughts on all 3:

Jesse Eisenberg's When You Finish Saving the World Is a Great Debut |  IndieWire

When You Finish Saving the World

Unfortunately the festival started with a disappointment. I had high hopes going into When You Finish Saving the World. It’s A24 (which I admittedly have a mixed report card with but it’s at least usually intriguing) produced film written and directed by Jesse Eisenberg but it was not for me. It tells the story of a Mother and teenage boy who can’t stand each other and turn to replacements that they think will better fit. Julianne Moore plays the Mother and her fixation on a young teen boy staying at her domestic abuse shelter is creepy and honestly predatory. If it was a man playing the same role with a young woman everyone would be repulsed.

Finn Wolfhard plays a teen youtube music star who is terrible at writing songs and doesn’t have near the talent or chemistry to be a star. He becomes fixated on a liberal activist classmate of his and that’s just as annoying as it sounds. This movie is everything I hate in a Sundance movie. Smug, weird for no reason with narcissistic characters devoid of charm. No thank you.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

The Princess

With everything from Diana: the Musical to Spencer to The Crown we have gotten so much Princess Diana coverage in the media lately. The latest is a new documentary by director Ed Perkins. His new fresh take is the film is made completely of edited clips from media coverage of her life from dating Prince Charles to the aftermath of her death. This is an effective technique particularly when it comes to the chilling scenes of paparazzi eating lunch together chatting over her life like it is a big joke.

I don’t know if I learned anything new from The Princess but it was engaging enough to recommend. That said, can we give Princess Di a rest for a while? Everything that needs to be said has been. Let’s move on and make a Fergie movie for once 😉

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy


The highlight of day 1 is the drama Emergency by director Carey Williams. It tells the story of 3 black college-aged friends (RJ Cyler, Donald Elise Watkins, and Sebastian Chacon) who end up having to deal with a young drunk white girl in their apartment after a big frat night partying. Each young man has a different solution for dealing with the girl based on their differing upbringings and world-views. This leads to all kinds of craziness and confusion.

Similar to 2017’s Get Out, Emergency manages to combine a message with tension and humor. It’s a dynamic which is very difficult to pull off but I was engaged almost the whole way through. The movie starts off with a classroom scene that I thought was a little heavy-handed but it gets its groove once the boys start dealing with the young lady. It also has one too many puking scenes for my liking but it’s still an excellent film that should inspire a lot of conversation especially amongst young college students.

For a tense, exciting and funny time at the movies check out Emergency

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy