Film Review: “Scales” Conceives a Fresh and Sinister Take on Mermaids

My review for Scales on Film Festival Today!

This film was a real experience. As part of the “stunning visuals” I mention in my review, the stunning black-and-white presentation was a real surprise and metaphor in and of itself.

Very rarely does one come across a truly unique interpratation of the mermaid mythos. They usually fall into a trope of one sort: the sweet, feminine ideal; the monstrous siren; or some unsettling mix of the two. However, in Scales, Saudi Arabian writer/director Shahad Ameen explores the mermaid concept in a fascinating new way. Here is a depiction of mermaids as nightmares and deep-seated beliefs made uncomfortably real. The story, or what there is of one, takes place in a dystopian landscape and commences with the disturbing ritual in which the citizens of a fishing village must sacrifice one daughter to the “sea maidens.”

Read the full review on Film Festival Today:
Scales Conceives A Fresh And Sinister Take On Mermaids


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: “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”

Series Review: Disappointment Abounds In “Jupiter’s Legacy”

My series review for Jupiter’s Legacy on Film Festival Today.

This one was tough to write. If you’re planning to watch Jupiter’s Legacy, brace yourself. One thing I don’t cover in this review is the cavalier attitudes towards mental illness, addiction, and suicide.

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With the yo-yoing back and forth between centuries, plus an overcrowded cast of characters, plot threads get muddled or abandoned altogether … which causes the symbolism to grow murky and elicits uncomfortable questions… A few moments manage to shine, including an Episode-Seven fight sequence featuring the non-super-powered Hutch (Ian Quinlan). The show really would have benefitted from more of such ingenuity.

The ideas of generational divides, idealism vs. harsh reality and, perhaps the most important and underused of all, action vs. inaction, may be worthwhile in theory, but they just don’t deliver in execution.


Source: Disappointment Abounds In “Jupiter’s Legacy”

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