Current Mini Reviews (Cheaper by the Dozen, The Cow, More Than Robots)

Hey everyone! Before I head off on a little vacation tomorrow I wanted to log a couple of reviews for new films I recently saw. I wish I could write a full review for each of them but sometimes there just isn’t time.

So here goes!

Cheaper by the Dozen: Cast and reviews for the 2022 version of the classic film | Marca

Cheaper by the Dozen

One of my favorite books is the memoir Cheaper by the Dozen written in 1948 by Frank B Gilbreth Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey about their childhood in a family of 12 raised by Frank and Lilian Gilbreth who were motion study experts that had a large family. It’s such a funny, charming book that was made into a wonderful film in 1950 starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy. Unfortunately this part of the story has been largely forgotten with the remake-in-name-only version starring Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt. Now we have this 2022 version and whatever good was in the story has been diluted into a family sitcom and not even a good one at that.

The casting in this Cheaper by the Dozen is good with Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union and the intentions were good with their blended brood of 12. Unfortunately the script was written without regard to nuance or authenticity. Especially when it tries to be topical it completely falls flat and often screamed of tokenism rather than any kind of diversity to be praised. People, especially within their family, don’t talk in speeches ready for a PSA on Disney Channel (this could have been a DCOM but a weak one at that). I also could have done without the entire plotline of Braff and his breakfast spot being franchised. It was badly done.

Instead I would watch the 1950 film, the original Yours Mine and Ours or if in a pinch the 2003 film before watching this…

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

SXSW 2022 Schedule

The Cow

Going into SXSW the thriller The Cow was actually one of my most anticipated films of the festival. I like a tight thriller and Winona Ryder and Dermot Mulroney are usually strong in their projects. Unfortunately this film proved to be more groan than thrill worthy.

In the film Ryder plays a woman who rents a cabin with her boyfriend only to arrive and find a couple already staying there. After staying the night with the strangers Ryder finds her boyfriend is nowhere to be found with little clues to his whereabouts.

I know the movie The Cow is trying to be but with each reveal it gets more insane and ridiculous by the minute. Let’s just say it involves a cult and the cow of the title isn’t the animal. By the end I was rolling my eyes instead of being intrigued or scared.

There may be some people that will enjoy this insanity but it definitely wasn’t for me. Watch at your own risk.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

More Than Robots Trailer Deutsch German (2022) - video Dailymotion

More Than Robots

It’s interesting there is almost an entire genre of ‘smart kids’ documentaries at festivals. With everything from Science Fair to Spellbound I expect to be introduced to geniuses each year at Sundance and the other festivals. This year’s entry appears to be More Than Robots which you can now watch on Disney Plus but was screened at SXSW. I always seem to enjoy these genius kid documentaries and this one is no exception!

More Than Robots tells the story of the child entrants in the FIRST Robotics Competition starting in early 2020. Obviously the teams and competitions were interrupted by COVID but even that was charming to see how the teens learned from the experience and served each other and the younger students coming after them. It can focus too much on the teams in Los Angeles rather than Japan or Mexico but I still enjoyed seeing the young inventors and the robots they create. This documentary should inspire lots of kids to try their hand at engineering and to build their own amazing machines!

(The FIRST Robotics tournament in 2020 and onward is sponsored by Lucasfilm, so the Disney Plus tie-ins with More Than Robots are present throughout which may annoy some viewers).

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy


Day 3 of SXSW is in the books and I ended up with 4 movies for the day. I haven’t pushed it super hard this festival. Trying to enjoy myself rather than watching movies all day like a machine. Plus, I have other things I have to watch/work on for my podcast.

Anyway, let’s talk about the 4 movies of day 3:

A Lot of Nothing

Film has always been a way for filmmakers and their audience to deal with and discuss hot topics of the day. However sometimes in their zeal to be relevant they will forget to tell a good story. Such is the case with A Lot of Nothing. The film tries to talk about police violence on Black men and women and instead becomes a story about unhinged people who become less realistic with each decision they make.

The film stars Cleopatra Coleman and Y’lan Noel as a married couple who find out a cop who is unpunished for killing a Black teen lives next door. Coleman’s Vanessa decides to release her own brand of justice and abducts the man and things get crazier from there. I get director Mo McRae is going for satire but there still needs to be some believability in the character and his or her choices. Not the case here. The more bizarre especially Vanessa’s choices got the more disengaged I became as the viewer. Perhaps this will work for some but it’s a skip from me.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

The Thief Collector

I’m not sure why but there is something about the art world that makes for good documentaries. Whether it My Kid Could Paint That or The Price of Everything there’s something voyeuristic about diving into the luxurious world of art. With The Thief Collector we have another great example.

It’s set up like a mystery around the heist of a painting in 1985 by Willem de Kooning from the University of Arizona. The painting was stolen by Jerry and Rita Alter who seem like the ideal All-American couple. It’s only after their death do researchers find the painting but a confessional of many other pieces they stole and perhaps deeds even more sinister.

While this probably would work better as an episode of Dateline (certain parts involving a septic tank go on too long), director Allison Otto keeps things light and fun. I particularly enjoyed the intentionally campy reenactments. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if in a few years we get the narrative movie version of The Thief Collector. Until then we can enjoy this engaging documentary.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Seriously Red

I consider myself a big Dolly Parton fan. She’s a talented writer, singer, actress and I just admire her as a human. Although Seriously Red is about a Dolly Parton impersonator I was hopeful it would tap into the legend’s vivacity and charm. Sadly this wasn’t the case. Seriously Red has some good performances and music but it’s brought down by a lead character missing Dolly’s charm.

In the film Krew Boylan plays a woman named Raylene or Red who begins to work as a Dolly Parton impersonator. Along the way things get messy as she has relationships with an Elvis and Kenny Rogers impersonator. Unfortunately Red is also a jerk to most of the people in her life including her long-suffering friend Francis (Thomas Campbell). She uses people when they are convenient and then spits them out when she’s done with them. In general, Red comes across more insufferable than endearing and as she is the main character of the film that’s a problem.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Millie Lies Low

Millie Lies Low is a film that does a lot of things right but doesn’t quite come together. It tells the story of Millie, a girl from New Zealand, who after missing an important flight because of a panic attack spends the day faking having arrived in New York rather than telling her friends and family she’s still in New Zealand.

Millie is played by Ana Scotney and she does a good job creating a sympathetic character that we worry about more with each scene of the film. The problem is we aren’t given enough context as to why Millie participates in this charade? Her friends and family seem supportive and friendly. Has she had panic attacks before? Also does she not want to go to the school in the US? I felt tension as she made increasingly poor decisions but again I needed more context as to why she was making such choices.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Another day at the festival has come and gone! If you saw any of these films let me know what you think! 

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After an amazing first day of SXSW day 2 was definitely more of a mixed bag. I again only watched 3 movies because of other responsibilities I have but I hope to be able to catch up with more films on Monday and Tuesday. We will see how it goes!

Let’s talk about some movies:

Facing Nolan

I don’t have tons to say about Facing Nolan. It’s a perfectly serviceable biodoc about pitcher Nolan Ryan. It’s the kind of film you’d see on an average episode of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series and fans of Ryan and baseball will undoubtably enjoy it. I like biodocs. It’s fun to learn about people and what made them the people they are but if you are looking for something that transcends the genre this isn’t it (and it doesn’t have to be it).

I did appreciate the variety of subjects interviewed including former President George W Bush. Like I said, baseball fans will especially enjoy Facing Nolan, so it does its job.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

I Love My Dad

It’s interesting how we all accept Mrs Doubtfire as a sweet family comedy because we grew up with it and it has such a likable tone and actors. However, when you actually think about it it’s kind of creepy. It’s a similar dynamic with I Love My Dad. It’s a comedy about a man lying to his ex and his son in order to ingratiate himself in his son’s life. It’s just replaced prosthetics and make-up with internet catfishing. Unfortunately, Patton Oswalt’s character takes things so far his character is irredeemable. The more I thought about the film the grosser it became.

Oswalt plays a man who is estranged from his son and decides to start catfishing him as a beautiful young lady in order to boost his confidence (the son is suicidal at the beginning). Like I said, it starts out sweet and innocent enough but then when it gets to sexting and other lewdness it’s weird and I don’t think I could ever forgive a father for doing what Oswalt does.

I Love My Dad ends up feeling like more of a horror movie than a family comedy.

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

32 Sounds

I have no doubt Sam Green’s new documentary 32 Sounds will be used in film school classes for decades to come, and such instructional settings is probably where it belongs. It’s unlike any movie I’ve ever seen with interactivity that feels novel and fresh…for a few minutes and then I was ready to move on.

32 Sounds strives to teach the viewer about sound in film and how it impacts the movie-going experience. They start the film asking the viewer to watch with headphones or at a theater if possible. Then there are various exercises they ask the viewer to participate in. The viewer are asked to respond to different sounds or think about what memories different sounds bring to the surface.

It’s definitely an interesting experiment in film but probably best as an instructional youtube series than a long feature film.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Are you attending the festival? What did you think of these 3 films? Would love to hear your thoughts. 

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SXSW Log 2022: Day 1 (Your Friend Memphis, Skate Dreams, Crows Are White)

Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well and having a great weekend! Yesterday marked my first day attending the virtual edition of the SXSW film festival. I thought long and hard about attending the festival but with a New York trip already planned for March I didn’t feel like I could do it. Unfortunately that means I miss out on some of the films being screened but there are still many worthwhile films to watch.

For the first day I watched 3 documentaries and I’d actually recommend all 3. They are each very different from each other but found them all rewarding and worth watching.

Here are my quick thoughts:

Your Friend, Memphis

Like many indie documentaries I do think Your Friend, Memphis would be better as a short. It’s subject Memphis DiAngelis is compelling but the events of his life can drag in spots (as would be the case with most of our lives). Memphis has cerebral palsy but he doesn’t want that to define him. Film is his passion but his struggle to be taken seriously is often met with patronizing speeches if not outright

I appreciate Your Friend, Memphis avoids maudlin or inspirational disability weepie traps but some of the time spent on his crush with a singer named Seneca don’t go anywhere and could have been lessened or removed. Still I overall recommend Your Friend, Memphis and would be a good double-header with The Peanut Butter Falcon from 2019.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Skate Dreams

Anyone who might have been tempted to say ‘skate like a girl’ as a term of derision will want to shut their mouths after seeing the new documentary Skate Dreams. In the film director Jessica Edwards chronicles the history of female skateboarding and it’s engaging interviews and great skating footage make for an entertaining watch.

For some this might be old news but I knew nothing about the start of this sport so I found the stories of early skaters to be very interesting. It was also honest about the challenges and blessings of increasing popularity including the recent addition of the sport to the Olympics.

If you like skateboarding at all Skate Dreams is a winner.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Crows Are White

The final documentary of the day Crows Are White proved to be something special. Ahsen Nadeem’s film starts out as a simple story following the monks of Mt Hiei, Japan but then morphs into a personal story about his own faith journey and the acceptance he years for from his traditional parents.

While I do think the film drags on in sections (although even the slower parts can still be delightful like a whole scene with a monk going gaga over ice cream sundaes), when it works it really works. There is a scene where Nadeem finally is honest with his parents and you want so much for him to be accepted by them, so when he isn’t it’s quite devastating. I loved the dynamic between Nadeem and his wife and the ending is very fulfilling.

There are parts in Crows Are White that feel staged but never so much it took me out of the moment or made the story feel illegitimate.  This is a moving, emotional story that is worth searching out and supporting.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

I’d say day 1 was a pretty good start to SXSW. Hopefully in day 2 I will get some narratives to recommend. If you saw any of these films let me know what you think! 

If you enjoy what I do please consider supporting at patreon where you can get tons of fun perks