Film Review: “Gagarine” Is a Grounded Reach for the Stars

My review for Gagarine on Film Festival Today!

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.


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“Gagarine” Is a Grounded Reach for the Stars


Film Review: “Creation Stories” Is a Rowdy, Yet Formulaic Story

My review for Creation Stories on Film Festival Today.

Despite its best efforts to be something new, Creation Stories is 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.


Read the full review on Film Festival Today:
Film Review: “Creation Stories” Is A Rowdy, yet Formulaic Story


Film Review: “I’ll Find You” Tells a Deceptively New Tale

My review for I’ll Find You on Film Festival Today!

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.


Read the full review on Film Festival Today:
“I’ll Find You” Tells a Deceptively New Tale


Film Review: “Let Me Be Me” Is a Deeply Moving Family Love Story

My review for Let Me Be Me on Film Festival Today!

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.


Read the full review on Film Festival Today:
Film Review: “Let Me Be Me” Is a Deeply Moving Family Love Story”


Film Review: “Belle” Is a Peculiar Remix of “Beauty and the Beast”

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.


Read the full review on Film Festival Today:
“Belle” Is a Peculiar Remix of “Beauty and the Beast”


Film Review: “Being The Ricardos” Brims With Triumph and Tragedy

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.


Read the full review on Film Festival Today:
“Being The Ricardos” Brims With Triumph and Tragedy


Film Review: “India Sweets and Spices” Delivers Lush Spectacle and Deeper Meaning

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.


Read the full review on Film Festival Today:
“India Sweets and Spices” Delivers Lush Spectacle and Deeper Meaning


Film Review: “Red Notice” Doesn’t Deliver the Thrills It Suggests

My review for RED NOTICE on Film Festival Today.

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.


Read the full review on Film Festival Today:
“Red Notice” Doesn’t Deliver The Thrills It Suggests


Film Review: “Rhapsody of Love” Is a Patchwork of Stories That Never Fully Resonates

My review for Rhapsody of Love on Film Festival Today.

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.


Read the full review on Film Festival Today:
“Rhapsody of Love” Is a Patchwork of Stories That Never Fully Resonates


Film Review: “The Starling Packs an Often-Meandering Emotional Wallop”

My review for The Starling on Film Festival Today.
Many other reviews that have come out for this film have been fairly negative – even brutal. While I didn’t adore this film and I can even see why those critics are saying what they’re saying, I, personally, found The Starling quite moving and would, in fact, recommend it.

The Starling is a jumble of emotional turmoil and bizarre encounters. Ostensibly, the plot revolves around married couple Lilly and Jack in the aftermath of the death of their daughter, Katie … The beginning delivers a powerful, emotional presentation of loss. The film doesn’t explicitly state what happened but nails the smaller details: the impressions of the crib’s feet in the carpet, the encompassing silence, the loneliness … The cast is terrific, especially Melissa McCarthy in dramatic mode, and Kevin Kline is charming as ever, even in a smaller role. Sensitivity to this subject matter may differ from viewer to viewer but the ending falls short compared to the opening’s emotional punch. Perhaps, though, it is the intention … not to leave you in a pile of weeping pieces but rather to conclude in a slightly lighter place than we began; to breathe and smile a little easier.

Read the full review on Film Festival Today:
“The Starling” Packs an Often-Meandering Emotional Wallop“