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.
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.
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.
Rhapsody of Love is an ensemble but feels like the thematic potential gets short-changed in order to make room for too many plotlines. The stories don’t ever really get the chance to thrive or take root. Despite the warmth and good-natured intent here, the numerous conflicts presented lack nuance and wind up feeling amiss … Lives, loves, and ambitions subsequently clash and the film concludes in direct-to-camera interviews — abrupt given that director Hopwood only introduces them at the very end … Most of the women are growing in their careers and have big dreams, and yet––apart from Jess—they are often depicted as selfish, insensitive, or spoiled … The most powerful moments are the most understated, frequently platonic (rather than romantic), or containing very little dialogue at all.
With the support of his loving mother (Sarah Lancashire, the BBC’s Last Tango in Halifax), best friend Pritti (Lauren Patel), and self-appointed mentor, Hugo (Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Jamie commits to developing his identity, connecting with his distant father, and preparing for one unforgettable Prom. Based on the stage-musical of the same title, which is based, in turn, on the BBC Three documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, some of this film does trend towards the theatrical: in large crowd scenes, onlookers often stop and focus on the main characters as they deliver moving soliloquies. It suits the film’s own inner workings and style, though, and the musical numbers feel far more organic. Transitions from speech to song and dance are consistently seamless, in large part due to the cinematography (Christopher Ross, Cats). The fashion is likewise stunning. Wardrobe is almost a character in this film and the costume design by Guy Speranza (The Last Vermeer) sparkles in every possible way… Director Jonathan Butterell lands a startlingly impressive feature debut. Coupled with Tom MacRae’s screenplay (based on his own book and lyrics from the stage show) and Dan Gillespie Sells’ music, they deliver a film that’s fresh and highly entertaining. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie probably won’t convert any viewers who don’t generally like musicals, but for those that do, this one will undoubtedly leave you humming, dancing, and smiling.
The trailer for Best Sellers features a fast-paced edit with rousing rock-and-roll backtrack and several of the most comedic and wacky moments from the film. However, the stakes run much deeper than one might expect. Lina Roessler’s directorial feature debut presents a slow-burn journey of material, emotional, and physical struggle for her two leads, Lucy (Aubrey Plaza, Black Bear) and Harris (Michael Caine, Twist). This is not a quirky, off-beat dark comedy, but a wistful and often heavy-hearted tale of pride, purpose, and family legacy.
My review for Dating & New York on Film Festival Today! If you like rom-coms (especially those of the 80s/90s/Nora Ephron variety) then definitely don’t miss Dating & New York!
Wendy and Milo…are courtship-weary millennials still pining for romance and…Wendy, a pragmatist, concocts an idea (and a contract): best friends with benefits. Milo, an idealist, is dubious of the arrangement at first, hoping for a real connection. Still, despite warnings from friends and Milo’s own misgivings, they proceed … From the jump, this is an of-the-moment story about dating-app culture and overall virtual communication … Nothing happens, plot-wise, that you can’t at least predict from the start. The surprises are found in smaller moments within those expected beats: when characters break through the digital haze, call each other out, zero in on mistakes, flaws, and quirks. The tonal shift should be jarring but it actually draws you further in. Much of this is owed to Reale and Young-White’s performances.