[REVIEW] Therapy Dogs or I’m Glad I’m Not a Teenager

As you all know I recently finished covering the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. For the most part it was a disappointing festival with nothing that is likely going to stand out by the end of the year. It’s ironic that one of the most successful “Sundancy” films I saw this week, Therapy Dogs, is going to be released at the Slamdance Film Festival instead of Sundance.

In the film director Ethan Eng takes an underground documentary approach to a narrative chronicling him and his friends senior year of high school. They tell their friends it is a high school yearbook video but it’s actually a feature film.

This is the kind of movie you used to get at Sundance all the time. Friends making a movie together and capturing an authentic look at their worlds. Now it is far too much of the Netflix/Amazon films that don’t feel particularly grounded.

Therapy Dogs at times feels too raw and authentic. It will certainly make you glad you aren’t a teenager today. The drug use and other damaging behavior can be quite shocking. There is also a scene in a strip club that was way too long and felt like part of a different movie.

That said, there are a lot of sequences that feel genuine. One of my favorite parts was all the promposals and any time you see the dance and choral performances at school. As hard as high school can be it is a time where you can explore your talents without the weight of a career or family to worry about.

Eng says at the beginning of the movie “It’s the movie you all deserve…the truth about high school.” and I think that is true. Watching Therapy Dogs reminded me of the brilliant documentary Minding the Gap, where director Bing Liu follows his friends in a documentary for many years. It’s a similar dynamic here where you get to see how these teens live and how most of the preconceived ideas people have aren’t true. For example, they show the partying and then there is a big title card that says ‘Parties Suck’. It’s that contrast between behavior and actual emotion which makes Therapy Dogs a fascinating watch.

Therapy Dogs is a hard R rating but in fairness so is high school. You can watch it on demand as part of The Slamdance Film Festival right now (passes are only $10)

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Current Mini Reviews (Am I Ok?, Rifkin’s Festival, The Royal Treatment)

Hey everyone! So we had my last day of Sundance today. I ended up with 24 films watched and a bunch started that I chose to not complete (I gave myself that out this year). In general, the festival was a disappointment this year. There were a number of films I enjoyed but nothing I can see ending up in my top 20 of the year. And a lot of my most anticipated were either disappointing or ones I didn’t finish. It’s a real bummer but I hope you enjoyed my coverage. I did the best I could to be fair and enlightening in my mini reviews each day.

Now I have one more Sundance film to review and a few other recent watches I’d like to talk about.

Enjoy some mini reviews!

Sundance: Tig Notaro's Am I OK? Takes Probing Look at Coming Out as an  Adult – The Hollywood Reporter

Am I Ok?

From the summary Am I Ok? looked like the sweet romance I’d been looking for at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Unfortunately, that was not the case. It’s instead a coming out story, which would be fine but the none of the characters in question were very appealing or likable.

Dakota Johnson plays Lucy, a woman who finally admits she is gay, after her best friend Jane is moving back to England (she’s from England originally so not sure why this is a huge surprise). It seems like the narrative is going to be a friends to lovers story but it ends up being a lot of quarreling, fighting and overall obnoxious behavior. Then most of the time is spent with Lucy dealing with a crush on a lady at work not on anything to do with Jane.

Am I Ok? has nice moments but it could have been a lot better. I feel like a lot of films at Sundance this year were rushed with half finished scripts. Maybe they will improve the films before wide-release? Who knows but this one didn’t work for me.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Rifkin’s Festival

While the festival was busy pumping out indie fare a new film from Woody Allen was quietly released entitled Rifkin’s Festival. Like most of Allen’s recent work it is a mixed bag of his best and worst tendencies.

The positives is with the film being set in a Cannes-like film festival in San Sebastian, Spain, Allen has a lot of fun commenting on the arthouse film crowd and prestige filmmakers like Godard, Fellini, Bergman and Orson Welles. He even has dream-sequences that recreate the iconic moments from these classic directors. That was entertaining.

Certainly the cast Allen has assembled is up for the challenge with people like Wallace Shawn, Gina Gershon, Richard Kind and more. However, the problem comes with the 78 year old Shawn playing the ”Woody Allen” role as the supposed pedantic lover torn between 2 beautiful young women. It was unbelievable to put it mildly.

In Allen’s previous film A Rainy Day in New York he had Timothee Chalamet in the Allen-esque role and I think that was the right way to go!

Still just for the cinema parts I’d give it a watch.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Royal Treatment' Review: A Noble Netflix Romp - Variety

The Royal Treatment

For people outside of the Hallmark bubble they may be unaware of the flourishing business that is the royal genre of films. Whether it is on Hallmark with movies like A Royal Queens Christmas or Netflix with another Princess Switch movie (and that’s only a few of the many releases) there seems to be a never ending supply and demand for what are essentially Cinderella stories at the movies. Now our latest is The Royal Agreement on Netflix.

This film stars Mena Massoud as Thomas, the prince of fictional Lavania who hires hairdresser Izzy (Laura Marano) to help with his arranged wedding preparations. Of course he falls for the hairdresser instead of his intended bride but movies like these are about execution not originality and for the most part this is executed well.

The Royal Treatment is a cute movie that reminds me of The Beautician and the Beast– a movie I love. I appreciate the charisma of both leads and the humor the script brings in. In particular Izzy’s friends Destiny (Chelsea Preston Crayford) and Lola (Grace Bentley-Tsibuah) are a lot of fun as they bring some spice to palace life.

If you are a fan of royal movies you’ll enjoy The Royal Treatment. It does not break the mold but I had fun with it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it. I was going to include a couple others but it’s late and I will save them for a future post. I hope you are all doing well and watching some great movies. Let me know what you recommend!

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

Maika

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 4: (Brian and Charles, Cha Cha Real Smooth, The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future)

Hey everyone! Yesterday was the 4th day of Sundance and it was also my birthday. As such I only saw 3 movies at Sundance because of family commitments. It was a mixed day of movies and I definitely have an unpopular opinion on one of them…If you are a seasoned Sundance attendee there is always a festival darling you don’t love like everyone else. It’s part of the Sundance experience.
Here we go!Brian and Charles
My favorite film of the day is the sweet little dramedy Brian and Charles. Director Jim Archer has taken his 2017 short film of the same name and expanded it to feature length. I haven’t seen the short but I would definitely be curious to do so after enjoying this longer version (a lot of Sundance movies I think would be better as shorts).
Brian and Charles tells the story of a man named Brian who in a fit of loneliness builds a 7ft robot to be his friend named Charles. The film is done in mockumentary style and the whole thing is just charming. There isn’t a ton of plot but the script is witty and David Earl is sweet as the robot-creator Brian.
If you like big-hearted films that will make you laugh Brian and Charles is a good one.
8 out of 10
Smile WorthyCha Cha Real Smooth
On the surface Cha Cha Real Smooth should be a movie I love. It’s a romance with attractive leads and a script that can be quite charming. The problem is it tries to be subversive of those tropes leaving me disappointed.
The positive of the film is Cooper Raiff as the 22 year old Andrew who is trying to figure out his life while working as a party starter for bat/bar mitzvahs. He seems to only be successful in starting one party and the rest of the time he fails at his job but it appears to be enough to keep him regularly employed. As I said, Raiff is charming in the role, and he captures the likable aimlessness of young John Cusack. I also enjoyed his interactions with young autistic teen Lola played by Vanessa Burghardt.
I wish the movie had been content to leave him as a friend with Lola’s Mom named Domino played by Dakota Johnson. Instead it flirts with romance but the 2 don’t have chemistry and as she’s engaged to another man it ends up feeling more awkward than swoonworthy. I won’t give away the ending but I found it unsatisfying. Other people seem to be enjoying it more than I did, but I felt the film was trying to convince me it was a happy ending when it was not especially for Domino.
I can see why Cha Cha Real Smooth is getting a lot of buzz for Raiff’s performance but the script let me down, so it’s a miss for me. Not horrible but in the end frustrating.
5 out of 10
Frown WorthyThe Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future-
Going into the festival The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future was one of my most anticipated. The story of magical realism intrigued me and it looked beautiful. Now having seen the film it’s another mixed bag for Sundance 2022.
What I liked about the film is the beautiful cinematography and music. Director Francisca Alegria does a good job creating a sense of time and place and immersing you in the experience. It is also creative and surprising.
Unfortunately the narrative takes forever to get going and the story is on the thin side. It seemed to take forever for the promised drama of a Mother returning from the swamps to materialize. Until then it was a lot of traveling and doing chores. I was just like ‘where’s the drama?’.
I think The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future is another example of a Sundance film that would have been better as a short. There’s just not enough story here for a feature film. Nevertheless, it is pretty so not devoid of merit.
5 out of 10
Frown Worthy
So there you have it. My thoughts on the 3 films I saw at Sundance on my birthday. I recommend checking out Brian and Charles. Let me know what you think!

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

Master

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

Summering

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

Resurrection

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

Dual

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

Emergency

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

[REVIEW] ‘Summer of Soul’ or Sing Out Harlem!

There’s nothing like a live concert! This is especially true when you get multiple artists playing together in a musical festival or celebration. The combined energy from the performers and the audience is intoxicating and something I adore.

Imagine adding more to that with the historical and musical significance of the Harlem Cultural Festival that occurred in Harlem in 1969. After over 50 years the footage from this landmark concert has been released in the new documentary Summer of Soul, which you can watch in theaters today or on hulu streaming. It is one of the best films of 2021. No question.

One of the challenges of a documentary like Summer of Soul is how much of the music to show while also providing cultural and political context to the songs, performers and festival itself. Some may wish for just music but director Ahmir ”Questlove” Thompson does a great job balancing these demands. I particularly loved the first-hand accounts of both performers like Gladys Knight and The 5th Dimension singers, and concert attendees who witnessed the events. It really gave a feel for the full concert experience and how important it was to all involved.

“You put memories away and sometimes you don’t even know if they are real” is the closing thought of the documentary by one of the concert attendees and it captures the power of this type of film. It not only chronicles what happened with amazing music but it reminds of the impact it had on real people, on their lives and how it made the world a better place. In doing so it hopefully encourages us all to listen, celebrate and sing out as much as we can today.

And even if you don’t care about any of the historical or cultural importance watch Summer of Soul for the amazing music. Everything from Motown, R&B, gospel, blues and more is featured and some of my favorites are Mahalia Jackson, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Family Stone and more. It’s absolutely incredible and you won’t regret checking it out.

Turn on Summer of Soul for a documentary that combines history, music, soul and the Black experience perfectly.

9.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Sundance Log 2021 Day 6 (The World to Come, Amy Tan, Users)

Hey everyone! I am writing this having finished the 2021 virtual edition of the Sundance Film Festival. I definitely missed my normal festival experience but there were some good parts of being at home. I got to connect with all of my online friends watching movies and the experience wasn’t as grueling as the live format can be.

I want to express my gratitude to the festival organizers for putting together a wonderful event that ran pretty seamlessly. I was honestly expecting there to be more problems than there were. I also had better luck with my movies this year than last year so that was nice.

This morning I had a blast going on Austin Burke’s channel to talk about the festival and more (we went on some very interesting tangents about how we create our reviews and dealing with toxity).

But I have a few more reviews to share with you from the end of the festival. Here we go:

The World to Come

This film tells the story of 2 lonely pioneer women who become friends and then fall in love on the American East Coast frontier. It stars Vanessa Kirby, Katherine Waterston, Christopher Abbott and Casey Affleck. I have mixed feelings on this film. On one hand it is beautiful to look at with music by Daniel Blumberg.

I also thought the 2 leads had nice chemistry and Casey Affleck does a really good job playing a husband trying to do the right thing in a difficult situation. However, certain details were distracting. It might sound nitpicky but their hair was so unrealistic, all loose and flowing. It looked like it had been worked on at a salon with a curling iron instead of a prairie hairstyle. The whole film had a cheesy harlequin feel about it instead of a gritty realistic look I think they were going for. The narration added to this corny feel.

I’m on the fence about it but I give it a mild recommendation

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Amy Tan: An Unintended Memoir

I think this is probably the best out of all of the celebrity bio-docs at Sundance and I enjoyed all of them. Writer Amy Tan let’s us get really close into her family, writing and personal life. She is particularly frank about her Mother and their strained relationship. At one point her Mother even tried to kill her in a group suicide delusion. I honestly don’t know how you can forgive someone for something like that but she did. It made me want to revisit The Joy Luck Club both book and movie now that I know more about the author (as well as her other books).

If you have any interest in writing, movies, immigrant experiences or people you’ll like this film. I also really enjoyed the animated sequences throughout.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Users

My last film at Sundance is a documentary called Users and it is not a great note to end the festival on. It’s the kind of pretentious groan-worthy films unfortunately the festival is known for. The movie is supposedly a poetic treatise about man and nature. In reality what it is consists of pretty images of the Earth along with images of children. Honestly it makes something like Ghost Story or Tree of Life feel plot-heavy.

Some may want to say I didn’t get what the movie was saying but I got it. I just didn’t care about it. It’s a message of man vs machine we’ve heard literally since the beginning of film. It’s pretty but that’s about it. To think this beat Misha and the Wolves for best documentary is outrageous.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

So there it is my final log from the festival. I hope you have enjoyed my review. Did any of you get to see the festival? I would love to hear your reviews for what you saw! What movies in February would you like to see me give reviews for?

Sundance Log 2021 Day 3 (Street Gang, Prime Time, R#J, Rita Moreno, The Sparks Brothers)

Hey everyone! Today I watched 5 movies at the Sundance Film Festival and could have watched a 6th but I am so tired I can barely keep my eyes open to write this vlog so another movie was out of the question. Needless to say I am going to make this short and sweet.

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street

This documentary continues the tradition of the childhood nostalgia docs found in films about Big Bird, Elmo and most expertly done with Fred Rogers in Won’t You Be My Neighbor (the gold standard). In that tradition this film does its job. I particularly liked the early parts about the creation of Sesame Street as a show for kids in urban areas with Black and Latino kids. Most of the later stuff I already knew from the Big Bird documentary. If you grew up watching Sesame Street than you will enjoy this one!

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It

In another documentary we get a bio-pic of EGOT winning actress Rita Moreno. This doesn’t break the mold but it is a perfectly entertaining piece on the actress.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Prime Time

Next up is a film from Poland called Prime Time. This is a short film at 93 minutes and it does a good job building all the tension that would come with a hostage situation of a TV news station on New Years Eve. The only thing I was unsure on is the man’s motivations for doing what he did. They could have fleshed that out better. Still worth seeing.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Sparks Brothers

This documentary is done by Edgar Wright and tells the story of the Sparks Brothers Band who started in 1967 and are still working together to this day. For 53 we’ve managed to stay both relevant and under the radar musicians that are not afraid to challenge convention. The Sparks Brothers is definitely way too long at nearly 2.5 hours but the brothers are charming enough to keep me engaged. I also enjoyed the animated sections in between the live action segments. It made me want to look them up on Itunes and get to know their cool sound better.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

R#J

In what is most likely to be the most divisive film of the festival R#J left me torn on how well it was able to execute its vision. Basically through social media it tells the classic story of Romeo and Juliet. I appreciate the experimentation and it fits in most of the original play with a lot of the language. But…it does feel gimmicky and its hard to get into the heart of the couple via social media. Still I found it fascinating and appreciate the risks taken. It’s a bold experimental take on a classic.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So all fresh today!! Nothing but smiles. What about you? Did you catch anything at Sundance?