My review for Marcel The Shell With Shoes On on Film Festival Today! I adored this film and cannot recommend it enough. It’s wonderful; funny, bittersweet, lovely, brilliant. 4 out of 4 stars. If you’re able, go see it in a cinema!
The film delivers on the promise of its trailer: a surplus of wholesome charm and quirky humor throughout but underneath the whimsy beats an unironic, introspective heart. The story is both simple and intricate: Marcel is an anthropomorphic shell living with his grandmother, Connie, in an Airbnb home, occupied by the film’s director, Dean Fleischer-Camp. The Shells rely heavily on one another given their recent separation from the rest of their community. Dean (the character) gets to know them through interviews and tracking their daily life … There are moments of real stakes for everyone involved and despite the predominantly twee nature of the film, there’s no guaranteed all-encompassing happy ending. It stays grounded and even delves into the philosophy of life, death, happiness, and questioning one’s purpose. At its core, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is a coming-of-age story: face your fears, accept change, and find the beauty around you, both external and within.
My review for Press Play on Film Festival Today! I enjoyed this one immensely and highly recommend it, especially if you enjoy stories of the Groundhog Day style time-travel variety.
The oft-revisited time-rewinding narrative can be difficult to pull off. Press Play manages to do so by leaning into expectations and relishing the experience. Laura [meets] Harrison, a would-be medical student working at a local record store. [They] fall almost instantly for one another, bonding through music, and they create a mixtape over the course of their courtship… Tragedy strikes abruptly, however, when Harrison is killed. Four years later, upon pressing play [on their mixtape], she is thrown back in time by some otherworldly force and reunited with a still-alive Harrison; each song transports her back to the moment they first experienced it together. Laura tries to “fix” the future, repeatedly altering time in big and small ways … Limitations remain intact, which is especially impressive when it comes to time travel. Much of the film relies on the chemistry between its two leads; and seems to have been deliberately written that way … What might have been a grim exploration of grief, instead delves into a more positive take on the theme of letting go, becoming a broader, less harrowing examination of push-and-pull control vs. acceptance.
The film opens with archival footage of the building’s inauguration in 1963, a celebration of the new and the community’s potential. Cut to present day, however, and the buildings are in acute disrepair. As an inspection draws near, Youri — along with his close friend and fellow Gagarine resident, Houssam and local Roma girl, Diana — strives to bring the place up to code. He spends his own money to buy supplies and devotes every moment to repairs and daydreaming of space travel … here’s displacement, community, and also coming of age, communication, loyalty, and, most importantly, survival. In many ways, Youri is the metaphorical captain of the collective structure of Gagarine, prepared to go down with the ship. He is played by Bathily with steadfast strength and vulnerability and, over the course of the story, it becomes painfully clear that he, like Gagarine itself, is full of every kind of potential that may or may not ever be realized … The film ultimately leaves you with the juxtaposition of how tragedy can drive us into desperation, isolation, and melancholy, and how it can unite a community.
Despite its best efforts to be something new, Creation Storiesis a generic biopic of Alan McGee, who founded the British independent record label Creation Records. The film starts off with a compelling energy that, despite all else, is maintained throughout its nearly two-hour running time… The film’s beginning showcases a fluid blend of comedy and charm, of both the light and dark variety, in large part thanks to Leo Flanagan (Rare Beasts) as the young Alan … But the strong start doesn’t last. The casual, candid tone is just not sustainable. Over the duration, it devolves into yet another tale of music culture that spirals into drugs, depression, and the ruination of something that started so innocently. The energy and visual flair remain but the fame and wild trips just start to feel tiresome… if this particular music scene happens to appeal, then check this one out. You are far less likely to be disappointed.
While I’ll Find You might seem like an all-too-familiar period love story, it winds up being something of a collection of surprises… Young musicians Rachel and Robert meet while both passionately studying the violin in Poland. Their relationship, while at first rocky and competitive, evolves into young love, despite the fact that Robert is Catholic and Rachel, Jewish. The film jumps ahead several years when the two reunite… with the Nazi invasion of Poland, religion as a divisive factor falling by the wayside. While the rest of World War II is being fought elsewhere and, yes, Rachel happens to be the love of Robert’s life, this is one precarious attempt to save at least one family, even one life, from genocide.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film and highly recommend it. In theatres and on Amazon and Apple TV February 25th.
Kyle, at the center of Let Me Be Me, was diagnosed with autism at age six and this film is partly his story, partly the story of his parents, Jen and Jeff, and the choice they made to deviate from the norm in hopes that they might forge a closer connection with their son. The documentary uses a variety of media to illustrate the Westphals’ history, peppered with flashes of the here and now. Each storytelling style feels complementary to one another, mixing archival material from home videos, photos, traditional interviews, and b-roll from the present … The focus is not on the scientific breakdown or explanation of autism, but rather its impact on the Westphals, individually and as a whole. Reactions may vary depending on each viewer’s connection to autism but, for me at least, this film is extremely moving from start to finish.
My review for Belle on Film Festival Today! If you dig “Beauty and the Beast” re-tellings, definitely check out “Belle.” Full review on FilmFestivalToday. This film is gorgeous and deeply moving. I cried more than once because, fair warning: it’s largely a grief story.
Belle is not much of a commentary on social-media culture or technology, nor is it even a straightforward love story. Instead, it’s largely an exploration of trauma, both immediate and long-term, specifically relating to loss and abuse … the film feels a bit crowded in story and theme … That said, the emotion is deft and hard-hitting, the plot far from predictable, and the mystery of who people really are behind their U façades offers surprisingly high stakes. There’s some role-switching, but more often writer/director Mamoru Hosoda blends archetypes and motivations between characters.
My review for Being The Ricardos on Film Festival Today! This movie was surprisingly emotional for me, and not in the ways I expected. I was moved and I suspect others may be, as well.
There might be some question as to who Being the Ricardos is for … but the personal struggle at the center should appeal to a fairly broad range of viewers … Writer/director Aaron Sorkin brilliantly recreates classic moments from the groundbreaking sitcom without loitering on them. We get reference and homage but always stay grounded in the present storyline; apart, sometimes, from the framing device … Being the Ricardos may romanticize some parts of the history, but in other areas it pulls absolutely no punches … personal decisions have on the lives of everyone at the studio, professional and personal, each other included. Some of the impact is triumphant and some of it is heartbreaking, and it’s all interwoven beautifully.
My review for India Sweets and Spices on Film Festival Today. This film was a delight and I would absolutely watch it again!
India Sweet and Spices has a lot to say. There are significant statements about culture, class, generational divides, and economic disparity, but writer/director Geeta Malik (Troublemaker) has a deft hold of her film and conveys these messages in a delightful story that largely avoids clichés, staying grounded, throughout. The film has a self-awareness and compelling rhythm that draws you in and makes you want to stay … The film does an especially great job showing how individual choices affect those around us … This is really a coming-of-age story … and though the film winds up relatively happily, it doesn’t erase all of what’s come before. The characters at the center of the story have a strong sense of what matters most and, ultimately, so do we.
A heist-style action romp starring a team up (of sorts) between Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Godot seems like an inescapable win, or at least a promise of a great time. Yet despite having so much going for it, Red Notice falls surprisingly short. Writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Skyscraper) does offer some genuinely creative and fun visuals here, but they don’t entirely make up for the surface-level pastiche to be found otherwise. The film doesn’t really commit in any direction. It’s too light to be add significant pressure or stakes to the characters’ lives, but also not light and whimsical enough to be a breezy blast, either … that said, however, the twist ending sets up a sequel, which boasts a far more compelling pitch. It certainly looks more fun, anyway.