Film Review: The Young Cast of “Skater Girl” Shines Despite a Disjointed Script

My review for Skater Girl on Film Festival Today!

This film really made me want to bust out my rollerblades…

Skater Girl treats both the titular character and her sport with a lot of heart. Beautiful intentions are on display here, between some gorgeous, energetic cinematography and a few stellar performances by young and relatively unknown actors. The downsides are an inconsistent tone and a plot that builds to an abrupt and limited ending, dulling the many other elements of this story about being true to oneself and following your dreams … It’s a shame, too, because it is easy to see how great this movie could have been … Gupta absolutely shines in her performances on and off the skateboard. Patel is a tremendous delight, too, with whimsical counterpoints to many serious moments. On the whole, Skater Girl is quite enjoyable and worth watching

Read the full review on Film Festival Today:
The Young Cast of “Skater Girl” Shines Despite a Disjointed Script


Film Review: “Grace and Grit” Aims for Transcendence but Critically Misfires

My review for Grace and Grit on Film Festival Today.
This one was such a disappointment. I really had high hopes from the trailer.

It’s clear that there isn’t a lot of time available to establish the romance before the [breast cancer] diagnosis kicks in, but creating a foundation of profound love has most definitely been done before. Here, though, Treya and Ken’s romance winds up seeming to be based entirely on physical attraction or starry-eyed naïveté (perhaps both), due to cloying dialogue, melodramatic gazing into one another’s eyes… Particularly frustrating is the abrupt point of view switch, abandoning Treya’s direct experience for Ken’s distress. The film almost singularly depicts how the disease impacts their marriage, rather than also exploring Treya’s individual suffering. The most we get are fleeting flashbacks to her teenage self, standing in front of a mirror, exploring her femininity. There is a legitimate sense of helplessness most of us are probably familiar with when watching someone we care about suffer. That could have been a much stronger motif, had it been the starting point, but it’s not.

Read the full review on Film Festival Today: “Grace and Grit” Aims for Transcendence but Critically Misfires


Film Review: “Chasing Wonders” Is an Understated Meditation on Forgiveness

My review for Chasing Wonders on Film Festival Today!

A real challenge for any tale such as this is to create depth among even the antagonists, and this film strongly succeeds. All of these relationships feel layered and complex …

The stakes, however small and personal, are clearly defined. The story never careens too far into any extreme, avoiding becoming too volatile and maintaining cohesion, all enhanced tremendously with the stunning cinematography by Denson Baker

The film builds to a conclusion that dodges an overabundance of melodrama, opting for a more stripped-down truth that lands beautifully in its finesse.

Read the full review on Film Festival Today: “Chasing Wonders” Is an Understated Meditation on Forgiveness


Film Review: “P!nk: All I Know So Far” Delivers Fun, Candor, and Some Great Music

My review for P!nk: All I Know So Far on Film Festival Today!

I’ve always liked P!nk, but after viewing this documentary, I am a big fan. I’m so impressed and have mad respect for her as an artist, a mom, and a person.

P!nk - All I Know So Far

This is an invitation to join P!nk and her family, while she and her band reach a particular milestone: playing Wembley Stadium. It’s exactly what it advertises itself to be, in the best sense …

P!nk’s devotion as a parent and the visible delight she takes in her music is absolutely transparent.
That is the core of what drives her and, thus, this documentary
.

Read the full review on Film Festival Today: “P!nk: All I Know So Far” Delivers Fun, Candor, and Some Great Music


Film Review: “Los Hermanos/The Brothers” Is Beautiful, Sad and Joyous All at Once

My review for Los Hermanos/The Brothers on Film Festival Today!

I loved this film – I was smiling and crying while watching it and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I even rated it 4/4 stars!

Virtuoso Afro-Cuban musicians Aldo and Ilmar López-Gavilán, separated in their childhood and reunited intermittently throughout their adult lives… Ilmar studying violin abroad while Aldo remained in Cuba, learning piano. They…became masters of their respective instruments, all the while longing to someday record an album together…

The film doesn’t openly condemn anyone, keeping the focus on personal experience, not politics. It shines a light on how Aldo and Ilmar have adjusted to these political restrictions on their lives and the candid truth of their experience is enough to wrench your heart.



Source: Film Review: “Los Hermanos/The Brothers” Is Beautiful, Sad and Joyous All at Once”

Film Review: “The Water Man” Deftly Blends Realism and Fantasy

My latest review for Film Festival Today: The Water Man!

Between the new family in town, the somewhat-haunted forest, a local legend, one dying parent, an estranged relationship with the other, and running away from home, one might expect The Water Man to feel like a bundle of strewn-together clichés. Instead, David Oyelowo’s directorial feature debut is a well-paced and cohesive expedition into that strange and wondrous place where imagination meets reality…


I enjoyed “The Water Man” tremendously – even if it made me a bit misty-eyed.

I am really looking forward to whatever David Oyelowo is planning to do next!



Source: Film Review: “The Water Man” Deftly Blends Realism and Fantasy

The Incredibles

I emerged from the theatre cheering after seeing The Incredibles for the first time.   I loved it.  It was the most openly fun I’d had during a Pixar film thus far and it remains one of my personal favorites.  It’s always a joy to watch and when I think of Pixar, this is one of the first ones that springs to the forefront of my mind.

However, with this rewatch, I found it surprisingly difficult to articulate why I enjoy it so much.  What is it, exactly, that makes The Incredibles so . . .  well . . . incredible?

From the jump, story and tone strike just the right balance between quiet, wild, imaginative, witty, sweet, and speculative. I could break down elaborate, nitty-gritty examples of why this movie is so effective (Michael Giacchino‘s score, the style and art direction, homage v. originality, etc.) but, truthfully?  This film demonstrates an unusually solid example of “movie magic”; when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (for me, at least).   A lot of that comes down to the team behind it; if Pete Docter is my favorite Pixar director, then Brad Bird comes in at a very close second.  I’ve been a fan of his style since I first saw The Iron Giant (oh, how I love that film, too).  In Bird’s films, I most appreciate the dialogue, pace, and – like with Docter – the ambition.  There are blurred moral lines here.  We may not sympathize with the villains, but we understand them.  While their decisions and reactions to their circumstances may be wrong, the points they make are very often sound. 

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Monsters, Inc.

*Contains Spoilers*

Pete Docter may be my favorite of the Pixar directors.  He helmed some of my favorite of the studio’s stable: Monsters, Inc., Up, and Inside Out.  Watching Monsters, Inc., I am reminded how much worldbuilding it requires, right from the jump.   I would argue that it remains one of Pixar’s most imaginative movies to date.  It does not take place in our world – let alone a bedroom or sunny backyard – but rather delves into a parallel dimension, populated by wildly outlandish characters.  The characters dip into our world frequently, but the landscape virtually encompasses the entire globe.  That is an immense undertaking, and a huge risk.  That said, Pixar’s success with its first three films laid the groundwork for them being able to present something so “out-there,” and, thus, continue with even more radical ideas in the future.  After all, Pixar was launched on a wild, unprecedented venture, so it’s not exactly surprising.

What was surprising, however – apart from the dynamic worldbuilding and physical comedy (we’ll come back to that) – was the depth of the movie’s theme.  Of course, at four films into the studio’s collection, depicting deep themes was clearly their M.O., weaving these subjects delicately so it reaches audiences emotionally,  regardless of age, but not coming off as preachy.   And, like with A Bug’s Life, the message struck me a lot harder and a lot more powerfully as an adult.   As Sully summarizes during the film’s conclusion:

“…laughter is ten times more powerful than screams…”

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