Current Mini Reviews

So it is time again for one of my current mini reviews wrap up! As per usual this won’t include any films I did a full review for but I only  have so much time so mini reviews will have to do for some films!

Make sure you check out my podcast where me and my friends dive into all kinds of content including television like Doctor Who, monthly Talking Disney and Obscure Animation, animated news and movie previews and wrap-ups.

So let’s talk about the movies I’ve seen!

superhero girls atlantis

DC Super Hero Girls: Legend of Atlantis-

I’ve  really enjoyed the previous 2 DCSHG films and while this wasn’t as strong it was still an enjoyable outing for our girls. This film is about a Book of Legends being stolen from Super Hero High so the girls go under water to Atlantis where they meet Mira and Siren and fight the thief. The animation is very bright and colorful. The voice work is great. It’s empowering and has a nice message. If you have kids, they will love it.

Smile Worthy

71 out of 119

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Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween-

I actually enjoyed the first Goosebumps film more than most (but I have no attachment to the original books) and while this was not as bad as the trailers made it look it wasn’t particularly strong. It particularly suffered from the comparison to the recent House with a Clock in Its Walls, which I greatly enjoyed. If you find it on cable it’s harmless but a little of the ventriloquist dummy Snappy goes a long way. I’d say there is about 45 minutes of the movie where Snappy is the only villain. Jack Black is hardly in the movie. It just wasn’t very creative or fun scary.

Frown Worthy

80 out of 119

liz and the blue bird

Liz and the Blue Bird-

One of my favorite films of 2017 is Naoka Yamada’s A Silent Voice. It was a beautiful, emotional movie about the relationship between an ex-bully and the deaf girl he seeks forgiveness from. Naturally, I was very excited for Yamada’s next effort Liz and the Blue Bird and it’s a good movie but it didn’t wow me like I hoped it would. It’s about 2 girls who are part of a band (part of an anime series called Sound Emporium). It was a little unclear what their relationship is but there were touching moments and the fairytale (told alongside the main story) of Liz and a mystical blue bird is lovely. As I said in my longer review for rotoscopers.com “while it is not in the same league as A Silent Voice, it is as sweet and pleasant film that’s worth a watch”

Smile Worthy

55 out of 119

mfkz

MFKZ-

Now I admit I didn’t really do my homework on this movie. I knew it was an R rated film but I didn’t know what MFKZ met and I think the advertising was a little deceptive (it means something NSFW). If I had done the research I usually do I wouldn’t have seen it; however, I did, and I hated it! It’s not that the movie has adult themes. I’m fine with that. The problem is the story is complete chaos. Nothing makes sense. Everything is flying at you and assaulting your eyes (and ears). It was exhausting. I know some people think chaos is creative but it usually is just chaos to me. This year I really enjoyed a movie called The Night is Short Walk on Girl which is bonkers crazy but there is still enough consistency with the characters, character design and tone that it worked for me. This was just miserable.

Frown Worthy

111 out of 119

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Tito and the Birds

I actually got the chance to interview the director and producer of this beautiful animated film over on rotoscopers. It is a dystopian story about a world where fear is a disease. This fear spreads quickly through the town and the children are left to try and find the antidote.  The animation style has an oil painting aesthetic that is unique and beautiful. The message can get a little heavy handed at times, but I still enjoyed it. Wouldn’t be surprised if it comes up as an indie animated film nod for this year’s Oscars.

Smile Worthy

27 out of 119

nightschool

Night School-

I’m one of the few people who thought the trailer for Night School looked funny. I enjoy Kevin Hart on occasion and it seemed like a cute premise. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the film. Tiffany Haddish continues to not impress me (I realize I haven’t seen Girls Trip). Her character is shrill and overbearing (and worst of all not funy). It was rough!

Frown Worthy

107 out of 119

nutcracker and the 4 realms

The Nutcracker and the 4 Realms-

I was really pulling for this movie for a couple of reasons. First, if it was good it might encourage Disney to make more creative films over their remakes. Second, there has never been a good Nutcracker movie and as a huge Christmas movie fan that’s a problem. Honestly the best Nutcracker movie is Barbie as Nutcracker (for real). This movie had almost no conflict and the visuals were not unique or fun enough to save it on their own. There are long segments where Clara is just watching things happening (literally on stage). Then she is told what to do in long scenes of exposition. It just couldn’t escape from the weight of its own boredom.

Frown Worthy

98 out of 119

Freddie Mercury

Bohemian Rhapsody-

I know the production history of this film was rocky but my love for Queen and their music still had me hopeful a serviceable biopic would come out of all that mess. Unfortunately the songs and a good lead performance are the only things to recommend this pedestrian effort. The script was terrible especially the dialogue. It reminded me of one of those music biopic movies they used to have on VH1. Some might argue they had to keep it predictable because they were dealing with true events but they didn’t even stick to the true events so that’s no excuse. I refuse to believe that an icon like Freddie Mercury was this bland and by the numbers rockstar we’ve seen a million times. I was very frustrated while watching this film. Save your money or watch A Star is Born again. It may be fictional but it reads way more real and nuanced than this film

Frown Worthy

101 out of 119

holiday calendar

The Holiday Calendar-

You guys know I love Christmas movies and The Holiday Calendar is one of Netflix’s holiday offerings this year. It’s about a woman who gets a magical advent calendar that predicts good things happening in her life. This is very predictable, but I thought it was sweet. I particularly liked the lead guy Quincy Brown. They keep the lead girl, Kat Graham, a little too unlikable for too long, but I still overall enjoyed it.

Smile Worthy

67 out of 119

jane and emma2

Jane and Emma-

This is a faith-based film about the relationship between Emma Smith (Prophet Joseph Smith’s wife) and a black convert named Jane Manning. It zips around all over their relationship while remaining grounded on the night before Joseph’s funeral as they were caring and protecting the body. I think non-Latter-day Saints might found some elements strange but it is written by Melissa Leilani, who I have interviewed, and she did a good job developing the characters. The acting is also solid and affecting. It’s well made and something I think all of my faith should see. Emma deserves her moment of vindication this film gives her. Many of my church have long vilified her for not going West and that’s not fair. Plus, Jane’s story is fascinating as she faces  some persecution for being black from Saints who were at the same time being persecuted.

Smile Worthy

38 out of 119

So there you have it! The latest slate of mini reviews. Let me know what you think of them and my rankings. How would you rank them? Is there anything I haven’t seen which you would recommend (I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with Hallmark stuff as of late). I would love to have your recommendations!

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All Saints Review

Before I start my review of the faith-based film All Saints I have a bone to pick with my Mormon/Christian readers. Frequently I will hear or read a refrain that “Hollywood is corrupt and producing nothing but garbage.” I recently was disgusted when a fellow Mormon critic, Jonathan Decker, tried to give advice on Wonder Woman. The vitriol and judgement in the comments of the article was frankly shocking and very discouraging (the comments appear to have been taken down...). Here you have someone who is trying to do a service for them and all they seemed to care about was being his judge and jury.

If I was in a room with these people I would ask them about All Saints, Freetown, We Love You Sally Carmichael, Tim Timmerman: Hope of America, or any number of squeaky clean Christian/Mormon films that have come out recently? Did they support such films? Probably not because they aren’t really interested in following the Lord’s counsel to seek after ‘anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.”  No, they want to feel morally superior to others who make such an effort and judge them for seeing films like Wonder Woman. Shame on you!

If you aren’t willing to seek out what is good then I have no interest in your opinion on what is bad.

There I said it…

So let’s get back to the movie at hand. All Saints! This is a faith-based film that is done right. It is based on a true story about a man who becomes a pastor for a small struggling church in Tennessee. He is originally supposed to prepare the church for closing but a group of Karen refugees (Southeast Asia near Burma) join his congregation. They are very needy and one night pastor Michael receives inspiration to start a farm at All Saints church. The movie then shares the experience of growing this farm which is by no means an easy thing just because it is inspired from God.

This film has a 91% on rottentomatoes which is unheard of for a Christian film (not a ton of reviews but still) and there is good reason. Not only is the acting strong across the board but it doesn’t fall into the traps of a typical faith-based film. There really isn’t preaching to the audience or atheist shaming but just an actual story involving human beings that feel real. The Karen are treated very respectfully and the relationships grow in a relatively realistic way. Never did I feel like Christians were shouting at me or that Jesus was magic like you got in movies like War Room.

In a lot of ways it reminded me of McFarland USA, which was another film about gatherers and in that case a white coach who come to understand one another and love their unique community.

A movie like All Saints is not going to change your life or be an Oscar winner but I’m certainly glad I saw it. I feel inspired and uplifted and want to try and reach out to my community after seeing it. I did not feel judged or preached to but merely I had spent 2 hours with some pretty nice people who had a thing or two to teach me.

That’s what Paul taught us to do. “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” so I would challenge you to follow this counsel and give All Saints a watch.

Overall Grade B+

We Love You, Sally Carmichael! Review

Today I had a fun experience! I got to attend a movie premiere- red carpet and all. It was just a little local film but it was still a fun experience to see the cast and have them introduce the film called We Love You Sally Carmichael! Fortunately it also turned out to be a fun little romcom to boot. This is a small local film but it is not a faith-based film, so anyone who likes romcoms will enjoy it.

The is directed by Christopher Gorham who also stars as Simon Hayes. He is an author with social anxiety who has written a huge best selling romantic teen novel series similar to Twilight (the digs at Stephanie Meyer and Twilight were very obvious but tastefully done). Because of his anxiety, Simon chooses to write under a pseudonym Sally Carmichael. He is also embarrassed by the lightness of the novels and their popularity.

Things get messy for Simon when he writes a scathing rebuke of the series in a local newspaper as a favor for a woman named Tess (Bitsie Tulloch). To make matters worse, a big name star named Perry (Sebastian Roche) comes into town who the studio wants to star in the movie adaptation of the series.

We Love You, Sally Carmichael doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it consistently made me laugh especially Roche as the very weird movie star. Tulloch and Gorham have winning chemistry and it all works out to be a charming film.

The liar reveal plot is a bit of a groaner but the cast and laughs more than make up for it. I really enjoyed it and it is so rare that I like a comedy these days. This is one you can take the entire family and they will all have a good time. Imagine that! It’s as squeaky clean as they come!

Overall Grade- B+

Screenwriting Interview w Melissa Leilani

Hi guys!  I had the cool experience today where I got to interview screenwriter Melissa Leilani and find out what it is like to write a script.  She was the main writer for a film I loved in 2015 called Freetown.

Freetown is a faith-based film but one that is approachable to anyone.  It tells the story of a man who must smuggle 6 missionaries out of Liberia during their brutal civil war.  Things are tense and Brother Abubakar is a man of practical faith mixed with a healthy dose of skepticism.  It makes him a very compelling character.

What I really appreciated about Freetown is that it told a compelling story and let the messsaging take care of itself.  Unlike many faith based films (that I still find some value in) I didn’t feel it was preachy or forcing a message upon me.  In fact, my friend Yusuf who is Muslim liked the film as much as I did.

Here are both of our reviews:

I think you might find it interesting to watch the film and then listen to the interview about her experience.  However, I also think it will be interesting if you are just interested in screenwriting or writing in general.  We do get off topic a few times (we have very similar movie and theater taste!).  She has a theater background so her transition from playwright to screenwriter was very interesting to me.

Anyway, this is only the 3rd interview I have done, so if you have any feedback that would be great.  I hope you enjoy it.

Freetown Review

freetownAs most of my readership is not Mormon you probably haven’t heard of the film Freetown which opens this week.  It is the story of missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormons) in Liberia in 1990.  At the time there was a brutal Civil War and a group called the krahn was systematically eliminated by the rebel forces.

This of course makes for a tense situation for the missionaries some of whom are krahn and it is determined by local leadership they must be taken to Freetown in Sierra Leone where the mission president is and things are safer.  There are 6 missionaries and a member named Brother Abubakar played by Henry Adofo.

freetown5

Abubakar is a man you don’t see often in faith based films. He has a strong faith but he is also extremely practical which makes him less optimistic than some of the naive young elders. Adofo is so good playing a well rounded man who is strong, scared, brave and weak all at the same time.  On one hand it seems like he resents having to deal with the elders and put his life at risk but on the other  you can tell it is a great honor and burden which he fears he might not succeed in.  I really related to his character and can imagine that most members would feel exactly as Brother Abubakar does in such a scary time.

Nevertheless, he crams all 6 of the elders into his small car and they face one challenge after another.  Whether its rebel base stops or running out of fuel I was completely engrossed in the journey.

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The entire cast is native African actors and they are all fine.  Some of the missionaries you can tell are new at acting but it fit their fairly innocent personas and didn’t bother me. As someone who was a missionary I thought they got the little details just right.  It might seem hard to believe Elders would pass out pamphlets to people waiting for a fairy after such a trek and in such a tense situation but they totally would.  The exuberance and faith in miracles they showed was just what such elders would do in the situation.  I loved one of the elders when they are finally free the greatest joy is they can teach after 6 months! That long not teaching as a missionary would feel like an eternity.

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Not to say that the elders were simplistic because they weren’t.  They face a lot of tough questions of when to lie, when to be brave, when to expect miracles and when to use your head. It felt like the way missionaries would actually behave and there were soft moments especially with the krahn elders that were very touching.

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I was surprised how gritty it got.  It is not a movie for small children.  Far too scary for them.  The rebels are pretty terrifying and will shoot women, even old women without giving it much thought. I flinched more than once and had to look away (I’m a violence wimp in movies!).    The missionaries come very close to being shot on several occasions and it is very tense.

freetown2

It also can be a very hopeful picture with moments of joy. The missionaries are still 19 year old boys and the cast has a good chemistry together.  It felt like an authentic group racing to get to safety while still maintaining their individual personalities and struggles.

Freetown is directed and written by Garrett Batty who did Saints and Soldiers and Saratov Approach and he does an excellent job crafting a story that should inspire anyone of any faith.  The preaching and Mormon dogma is at a minimum. I really think the average moviegoer would find it a touching, gripping story.

It also looks great with wonderful cinematography by Jeremy Prusso where we get the grandness of Africa contrasting with the tightness of the compact car.  I loved the music too.

I really loved everything about Freetown. It is a moving depiction of normal people of faith facing an extremely difficult situation in a real and honest way. If you can go see it!

Overall Grade A+  Content Grade C+

Here’s my youtube review if you want to check it out. Give it a thumbs up that would be awesome.