Friday, April 30, 2021

Cliff Walkers (2020)

Zhang Yimou wades into the espionage genre with a good, if narratively messy, World War 2 spy thriller. 

The film has  four communist agents parachuting into a Japanese controlled puppet state. Their mission goes sideways from the start as they are set upon by other spies looking to stop them.

I'm not going to lie, I really don't know what they really were supposed to be doing beyond fight the Japanese. I don't think neither Zhang Yimou nor his co-writer Yongxian Quan really know what the mission is either. I don't think they care. On some level I didn't care because I was half way into the film before I realized I had no clue what the mission really was. While that lessened my enjoyment to some degree, in he end I didn't care.

The reason I didn't care is  that the film pretty much never stops moving.  The film is basically a great series of set pieces. They bleed one into another, pausing only long enough to allow us to breath . I was just carried along in the best sort of  away. The sequences really are killer and I need to see the film again just to see how the pieces were put together.

If I have any real complaint is the films insistence on seemingly dressing everyone in a similar style. Initially everyone is in similar snow where. Later it becomes black trench coats and wide brimmed hats. There are times when everyone blends together. I didn't like it because pausing to consider who was who pulled me out of the film.

Quibbles aside, this is a great old school spy  film. Its exciting it never stops moving and thee are characters you  care about. What can I say I had a great time.


Brief thoughts IT IS NOT OVER YET (2021) Hot Docs 2021

Portrait of the Dagmarsminde nursing home in Denmark. Instead of treating dementia patients with typical treatments the staff focuses on engaging and connecting with the patients via touch, cake, bubbles, hugs, conversation, walks in the woods and other unconventional means.

This is a film that will make you wonder what the world would be like if we treated patients with kindness and caring instead of locking them up and medicating them into oblivion. After hearing so many horror stories about loved ones who went to a nursing home and slipped away, it was so nice to see caregivers who treated their charges with compassion. What a wonderful thing to see the patients being human longer and engaging with the world instead of being zombified by drugs.

I was moved.

You will forgive me if I leave it there but the film kick up some stuff that i s making it difficult for me to put into words how I feel. It's not so much that I don't have the words it just that I need more time to get my words right and the need to get this piece up for the festival is making it difficult. Just know this is a great film and is recommended

Faceless (2021) Hot Docs 2021

There have been a lot of films on the demonstrations in Hong Kong protesting the crushing of democracy and free expression by the Chinese government. There have been all sorts of fly on the wall films that have put us there and in the moment, revealing the terrible things that the police have done to those wanting freedom. Into the mix comes FACELESS, a look at four people who wade into the demonstrations after the mainland authorities circumvented the local laws and made the potential cost of speaking out life in prison.

The catalyst for the events in the film is the deportation act which says that if you protest you will not be tried by the local courts in Hong Kong but you will be transported to the Mainland where you will be tried and sent away for life. The film follows four people who step up and wade into the demonstrations despite of the danger to themselves.

I really liked FACELESS a great deal. Where almost every other film on the pro-democracy protests takes an in your face shaky participant cellphone approach that puts you in the moment, FACELESS is a bit more polished. Its a film that very much puts us in the moment, but it also gives us and the people on screen time to reflect. We get to hear the words of the people we are following when they aren't in the thick of battle but are considering what has transpired. Its a small touch that lifts the film up from being one of many to being one of one.

FACELESS is playing at Hot Docs and is recommended

Wood and Water (2021) NDNF 2021

 A German woman decides to travel to see her children, and her son in Hong Kong who said he has been unable to come home because of the Pro Democracy Protests

This is beautiful film with a glorious sense of place. Frankly I've rarely felt Hong Kong as a real a place as it does here. The forests of Germany are  the sort of thing that we can reach out and touch. It is a film that is alive and full of the  life.   I would  love to see what director Jonas Bak would do if he was allowed to create a mythical world.

How you react to the film as a whole is going to be determined by how you react to the films meditative style. The film is not one full of hills and valleys but a it's a steady straight line. It moves like life, there are no grand moments, however there are small revelations that work together to create a real emotional punch. When the film ended I was forced to consider the film more than if director Bak had put a bow on anything. Days passed and it was still haunting me.

While probably not for all audiences for those who want a quiet film that will haunt them this is very  recommended.

Random thoughts on School of Hope (2021) Hot Docs 2021

The Oulad Buokais tribe in Morocco is one the last nomadic tribes. Almost every other tribe as given up the life because of over decade and a half of drought. Wanting to better the lives of their children they build a small school house and bring in a young teacher. Over the course of the film we watch how the students and teacher bond and how the teacher works to give the kids a better future.

I was moved to tears by this film repeatedly. There were so many moments where we see, I mean really see how educating our children brings hope for tomorrow. And don't get me started about the early scene where the teacher has to explain what hope is. The whole exchange just got me in the gut.

I love this film a great deal. Its a magnificent film that puts us very much in a place with the people on the screen. Its a film that really feels like real life in a way that many documentaries never achieve. Credit director Mohamed El Aboudi with giving us a real sense of where the school is and who everyone on screen is. Most documentaries never achieve that sense of place and sense of people.

Wow. Just wow.

I don't know what else to say other than SCHOOL OF HOPE will give you hope and make you feel good.

Highly recommended. This maybe my favorite film that I've seen that is playing Hot Docs.

We're All Going To The World's Fair NDNF 2021


A young girl gets lost while playing an on line video game and chatting with another player.

I haven't figure out if I didn't like ...WORLD'S FAIR because it's not that engaging or because I'm not connected to the online world as much as Casey our heroine.  I know part of my dislike is the device of having most of the film being  either people sitting staring at the computer screen or images of the computer. Yes there are other images but so much of the film is computer related my interest waned.  

My interest waning was not because what was there was bad, more that too many of the sequences run on way too long. The opening shot of the film is roughly ten minutes long.  While it sets up the sense of isolation and the character and the "world" it goes on way too long. Several other sequences do the same thing, staying  much too long.

I should point out that my dislike of the film is not the result of anything being wrong with the story, the acting (Anna Cobb is excellent in a demanding role) or the actual technical filmmaking, my problem is more with the presentation which is uneven. While there were sequences that impressed the hell out of me, the hands out of the computer sequence had me talking to the screen (and rewatching it), the pacing was off and the static meandering of much of it made it a tough slog to get through.

In all honesty there is a good chance that I am not the audience for this film. In the press notes writer director Jane Schoenbrun talks about how she is making the film for a specific audience who will find hope in her discussion of dysphoria. There is a good chance that my not being trans or nonbinary I can't fully connect with what she is trying to say simply because it is outside my experience. There is nothing wrong with that. It simply means that I will have to walk away until I can find a way to connect.

While I didn't like the film as a whole I will say that there is enough good here that I want to see what writer director Jane Schoenbrun does next.

The Gig is Up (2021) Hot Docs 2021

THE GIG IS UP is a look at the "gig" economy where people work on their own schedule for services like Uber, Lyft, Doordash, Amazon and other companies. Its a film that looks at the the pros and cons of the new way of doing things.

I'm not too sure what I think of the film. The film is a very good primer on the subject of the gig economy however there was a certain point where I kind of wished it was telling me more and bit more focused. For example the film's uneven focus is the result of the film bouncing all over the globe. We are in China and America and France or somewhere else. All of the work is kind of lumped together with the result that we don't get a sense of what everyone is doing or what each job entails. I felt a bit out to sea because I never had any sense what exactly some people were doing when they were sitting at a computer.

Frankly my reaction was simply "okay". And it left me with a desire to see another better organized film to put this one into perspective.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Wuhan Wuhan (2021) Hot Docs 2021

Director Yung Chang's WUHAN WUHAN is coming out with a potential chip on its shoulder.  The latest in a growing looks inside the city of Wuhan in the wake of the covid pandemic, it is almost certain to be compared to other films on the subject. The best thing anyone who sees it can do is simply attempt to take it on its own terms.

That is probably a weird way to begin a discussion of this film, but it is a necessary evil borne from the fact that when the film ended my first thought was "If I had seen his first I would have thought this was the best of the bunch" Clearly timing is everything.

WUHAN WUHAN follows several story lines, healthcare workers trying to battle the disease, a couple expecting a child, a psychologist trying to come terms with what is going on while trying to help others as well as others. It's a broad spectrum of life in the city that lets us know what it was like in the city at the epicenter of it all.

I was moved. More than once I was brought to tears by what I was seeing. One can never see too much what it was like to deal with an illness no one really knew anything about  but which was laying low thousands.

The strength of the film is the multiple story approach. Where 76 DAYS was largely set in a hospital and where IN THE SAME BREATH was focused on how China sought to control the narrative, WUHAN WUHAN wants to give us the big picture. This is what it was like for everyone across the board.

The truth of the matter is that WUHAN WUHAN is the film one should start with if one wants to know what was going on in the city. This is the overview that puts things into a basic context. Coming at it from after seeing several other films I couldn't help but nitpick and wish it covered things more deeply. Its a feeling that isn't fair because it was never designed to do that. Make no mistake WUHAN WUHAN is a great film, though how great will be determined by how much you have seen on the crisis in the city.

WUHAN WUHAN is recommended. It is also a must see if you haven't seen any other film on the subject.


Portrait of legendary arcade gamer Kim Cannon Arm who wants to beat his own record by playing Gyruss for a record 100 hours straight.

Forget what you think this film is, this is something else. A wickedly entertaining look at Kim, his friends and the place they hang out, it is video game documentary that is much more than a video game doc.

The truth of the matter is this is a film that is all about a kind of culture that is largely all but gone now. While arcades and arcade games have been making a slow come back, the guys in this film kind of seem to be stuck in the 1980's. Kim's love of the games dates back  to when he was a teen in the 1970's and now decades later, despite having kids and grand kids, he is still doing the same things, playing the same games. 

What isn't the same is the structure of the film. Focusing on more than just Kim, but is friends as well, the film is constantly spinning off in unexpected directions. We really get to know the guys and their lives and it makes it so much more interesting than if this was simply a film about a quest to play a game. This is ultimately a film about how some guys live their lives and find meaning.

I loved Kim and the rest of the guys.

CANON ARM AND THE ARCADE QUEST is a delight and recommended

Brief thoughts on Apples (2020) NDNF 2021


A pandemic occurs that wipes some people's memories. During it a man is stricken one night. He is brought to a hospital and the doctor's try to treat him. He is then placed in a program to give them a new life.

When this film started I thought I had a handle on where it was going, however the film quickly took some turns that surprised me and made me smile. This is a grand examination of life as seen through a different lens. Its a wonderful examination of who we are and what it means to be alive. It is full of moving small moments.

I really loved this film. Its a film that I devoured and stuck to my ribs like a great meal.



TAMING THE GARDEN is a film about conservation and the environment but it left me with little to say because all I remembered was the images. The film follows efforts of a former Prime Minister of Georgia who is up rooting giant trees and transporting them across the ocean to his own personal garden. It's a film that raises a number of questions abut wat we are doing to the environment and whether we need to keep retroconning it for our own devices. A bit slow and meandering the images, in particular the image of a huge tree on a big ship in the middle of an ocean, are what is going to stay with you as everything else fades.

LUZZU is the story of a fisherman trying to get by. He is forced to decide whether or not to keep fishing or throw in with some black marketers. I originally saw this in connection with this year's Sundance. I didn't review it then because the the final twists and turns didn't sit well with me, partly because of the headspace it put me in, and partly because it seemed to be the work of someone who feels only grand tragedy can be serious and bends the final act that way even if it feels out of place. Three months on I still feel the same way.

ROCK BOTTOM RISER is a experimental essay cum documentary about the world presented in such a way that director Fern Silva hopes to make you see the world through new eyes. While I absolutely loved the images, I found the linking material tried way too hard to make it all seem alien. I was kind of lost to the film after the opening bit that tries to link trees to people in formal attire kind of fell flat.. If you must see it do so for the staggering images.

Quick word on NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN (2020) which is playing BAM's Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema

I was not planning on seeing any films in Brooklyn Academy of Music's Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema because I simply was too busy to do so. Then I got an email from Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily insisting that I had to see NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN. Liz does not flood me with must sees, and when she does I take notice because when she come knocking it's usually for something wonderful.

NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN is something wonderful.

A mystical young man, literally seven years older than the Chernobyl explosion appears in a Polish gated community and begins to help take away their pain.

Yes, we have been kind of sort of here before, but at the same time we have not been here like this. Charming, mannered, at times joyous and always mysterious NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN is film that takes the idea of an outsider changing a community and gives it new life. Its a film where we kind of know where its going and yet we don't. We delight when it does what we expect and are even more delighted when it does something different. 

I smiled from start to finish. Frankly I loved the film so much that I wanted another go through the film rather than go back to the films I said I was going to cover.

NEER GONNA SNOW AGAIN plays at BAM's Kino Polska starting April 30th and is highly recommended.

Stealing Chaplin (2020) hits VOD and DVD May 4

Two dimwitted British con-men living in Las Vegas steal the body of Charlie Chaplin in the hope of getting enough money to payback the loan sharks the are in deep to. The trouble is things go horribly wrong and it looks like the pair may end up as dead as the body they have stolen.

This amusing mix of comedy, caper and crime will entertain the hell out of you if you let it. While never quite reaching the heights of say the Ocean's 11 films, STEALING CHAPLIN works because the cast is good and invested in what is going on. Sure our heroes are really morons but they are loveable and we like then enough that we don't want anything bad to happen to them. While never fully believable, the film is firmly in the low budget inde film world, we really don't care because we are fully invested in what happens.

I had a blast watching this film. This is the sort of film that back when we cold go to the movies I'd go to with my dad to get out of the house. It is also the sort of film we'd eat up when we ran across it on  cable (hey wait stop, that looks good)

STEALING CHAPLIN is a small gem of a film.

April Ghouls at the Riverside Drive in

After having a blast at last September's Super Monster-rama at the Riverside Drive-in in Vandergrift Pennsylvania my brother and I went back for this spring's April Ghouls. We were hoping to watch a as many of the eight films as we could. We were also planning on visiting several movie locations along the way.

The distance to the drive-in from where I live is about seven hours by car. We have to leave the confines of Long Island and schlep across New Jersey and most of Pennsylvania (it's about 40 minutes from Pittsburgh). Last time we did the drive on the first day of the fest and it resulted in my brother effectively sleeping through the films. This time we planned in travel days.

On the way to the fest we made a stop in Phoenixville. It's a beautiful little town that is working to make itself into a a hub for the surrounding area. There are stunning murals on the walls of several buildings and a great artists vibe. 

We stopped by to see the Colonial Theater which is best known as the location where te the Blob ate the projectionist before spilling out into the audience thus creating a legendary image of everyone fleeing into the street- which is recreated every year at Blobfest (which is this July 9 to 11).

Across the street from the theater is the Reads and Company Bookshop which is awesome. And while we were in town we went to Uncle B's BBQ and pigged out. Trust me, the food is awesome.

As we did last year we stayed in Monroeville at the Double Tree at the Mall. And you all know the mall, that's where DAWN OF THE DEAD was filmed. It's soon to be the new home of the Living Dead Museum,. It was previously at Evans City-near the cemetery where NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was filmed. However covid has forced it to move. While the giftshop is open the full museum opens in July.

On Friday before the movies we went to the Yak Diner (once the Yakity Yak per pictures inside). It looks like it's really run down, and it is, but the food was excellent and the service wonderful. As my brother Joe said he wishes he had won the lottery just so we cold pay to renovate the place.

Friday night at the drive in was okay. While Joe and I got to talk to several people including Mike and Jake and we enjoyed the vibe we were not so thrilled with the long delay to start things.  The theater had brought in two stars of SLEEPAWAY CAMP to sign and meet and greet. While I have no problem with that they pushed the start time of everything to after 9 because the signings were still going.

Right before it all started there was announcement that the pre-film trailers would start "in a little while" which was followed by quick change of mind that had them starting immediately.  Neither Joe nor I was happy when they shuffled the order and played the gawd awful SLEEPAWAY CAMP first. (We we wanted SLUMER PARTY MASSACRE)

While SLEEPAWAY CAMP is partly tongue in cheek, it is top to bottom awful. The story of a series of murders at a summer camp it is nothing special though it's clear it was filmed in New Yawk as can be told by the accents. Its not scary or funny and is largely labored. It also could be considered offensive by todays standards thanks to the female killer being revealed to actually being a boy forced to be a girl by her mother.

After the film Joe and I left. Our patience was shot. They were running late and after a 10 minute countdown clock, trailers and such they were going to do a Three Stooges  short.  Which meant the second film was going to start around midnight.  We headed back to the mall.

On Saturday we had a change in plans and so we headed out past Pittsburgh to see where they came to get Barbara in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. The Cemetery  is in Evans City and was worth the trip. Once we were there we stumbled around until some other people attending April Ghouls pointed out that everything was filmed with in a couple dozen feet of the chapel at the entrance

Afterward we went back to the Monroeville Mall and walked around. We stopped at Valhalla Indoor Axe Throwing and spent an hour throwing axes. Brendan who worked there was a blast. He was funny and patient and he got Joe to the pint where he could have an axe stick in the target. Me on the other hand was hopeless and only managed it 3 times in an hour.

Saturday's movies were choice. It was to be a quadruple feature of AMERICAN WEREWOLF, THE HOWLING, HALLOWEEN 3 and MASOLEUM. We were hoping to make three of the four. We made the first two  before the rain caused us to leave. The problem with the rain is that without a drizzlegaurd for the windshield or a willingness to sit in a tent, you have to keep running the wipers. Additionally we didn't want to push our luck driving home tired and in the rain on unfamiliar roads.

Seeing AMERICAN WEREWOLF for the first time in a long time I was struck by how there are huge plot problems regarding time. I never realized the short time frame of it all (which makes the romance WTF). I also could really see that  things were cut at some point because there is real sense f things not said and characters barely developed. I also realized that while John Landis hits the right notes most of the time, his desire to do things like the car crash sequence, kills the mood. Honestly the big crash at the end kills the emotion of the finale.

Joe Dante's THE HOWLING is a better film. A rethink of the werewolf legends that sends up self-help and TV journalism it is a much better constructed film. There are real laughs and more importantly real chills. Dante never forgets this is a horror film and gives us scary moments. To be certain some bits don't work, the wolf sex scene is embarrassing, but mostly this is a great film

When the film ended we headed back to our hotel.

Ultimately, rain and late start aside, Joe and I had a blast. Hell it ended with an epic ping pong game with my cousins on Sunday. Assuming the movies and our schedules allow it we will be back in September.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Aleph (2021) NDNF 2021

Trippy film inspired by the writings of Jorge Luis Borges has multiple "connected" stories spin us across the globe to Argentina, Algeria, New York, Greece, Nepal, Greenland, Thailand, Mexico and South Africa. Its a meditation on everything and the inter-connectedness of it all.

This wonderful puzzle box film is a must for anyone who love heady  mind trip films. Its a film that grabs you and takes you along forcing you to think about what you are seeing and how it all is connected to the life beyond the film.

And I really can't tell you  much more about this film except to say that you need to just see it. It is a film that you need to experience since how you see things and how you assemble it will be unique to each person. There is no real through line except that there is. This is a film that is kind of  about ideas, except that it has some people you get attached to in it.

ALEPH  is recommended.

Le Regard de Charles (Aznavour by Charles) plays Focus on French Cinema April 30

In 1948 Edith Piaf gave Charles Aznavour a movie camera and told him to record hat he saw. He continued obsessively recording his life on film until 1982.  A few months before he died he showed the film reels to Marc di Domenico and asked if there was anything they could do with the film. They then began to fashion a film about Aznavour's life which was finished after the great one passed.

Containing moments of poetry and magic AZANVOUR BY CHARLES is a must for any fan of the great singer and actor. While not a be all and end all biography, something it was never intended to be, it is a beautiful portrait of world superstar who always remained just this regular guy at heart.

Made up almost entirely of footage shot by Aznavour, the film begins with the story of his early life. Repurposing footage from later on to illustrate his early years film eventually meets up with the cinematic present as it follows one man's life on a personal level. His wives and children and friends are all here, including Piaf who had to approve the young woman who would become Aznavour's second wife, lest he immediately dump her. The soundtrack is a selection of the music Aznavour wrote mixed with the words of himself and his wives spoken by others.

There are some truly magical moments as Aznavour's words and his images come together to create some truly transcendent moments.

As much as I loved the film, I am well aware that this film may not play as well if you don't know Aznavour. This is not a flaw but a statement of fact. While the film will let you know about the man it is not going to tell you abut his many film and TV roles, nor about all of the songs he wrote nor will it let you know what it was like to see him live (I saw him several times and it was magical despite not speaking French). If you don't know the superstar you may not know why there was a film about this guy... On the other hand if you know the superstar you will understand that the big name was ultimately just a guy.

A must see for any fan of the great man , I suggest that anyone who doesn't know him give it a try as well because ultimately its a beautiful portrait of a man in his own words and images.

Mia Madre (2015) hits Ovid.TV April 30

Nanni Moretti's MIA MADRE is the rarest of rare birds, a film that will have you doubled over with laughter one minute and sobbing genuine tears the next. It made it's US premiere at the New York Film Festival 2015 and instantly jumped to top, or damn close, to being the best film at the festival and one of my great treasures of 2015.

Moretti's film is based on his experience with the death of his own mother. While editing WE HAVE A POPE his mother passed away. He knew he had to do something with the story and he turned it into a film.

The film follows Margherita (Margherita Buy) as she is hard at work on her next film. As she deals with the film and life her mother, a once mighty classics teacher, begins to decline. As she and her brother (played by Moretti) deal with the illness she tries to finish her movie and a crazy American actor played by John Turturro.

Designed to give you the head space of Margherita the film nails what its like to deal with a declining parent slipping toward death perfectly. I could see the conversations I had with my mom in several scenes. The audience around me sobbed at times, and the woman seated to my right bolted toward the end with a loud moan of "I can't deal with this any more" (an earlier comment suggested it was too close to home). Despite how it may sounds its not a depressing film, it is a glorious representation of life and when it ends you will feel really good.

While the entire cast, especially Margherita Bay, are outstanding the one you'll remember is John Turturro who shines as a crazy actor who tells the story, repeatedly, of going to work with Kubrick for a week and staying 3 months. Its a role that produces two scenes of absolute howling tears rolling down your cheeks, falling out of your seat laughter. The first involves shooting a scene in a car, the other a dance that he himself devised. This last bit will put him in the running for an Oscar and brand his career for better or ill as the role that he is best known for.

This is a great film from top to bottom. It is a glorious cinematic representation of life and it moved me deeply. I don't know what to say except put this near the top of your must see list.

A brief note on New Directors New Films 2021

 New Directors New Films starts today and coverage is coming.

We will have reviews of approximately 14 films going up over the run of the festival.

I know that I promised a curtain raiser but as this posts I will be finishing up watching the last of the films and I haven't had a chance to write up a couple others so I haven't had a chance to do a curtain raiser.

I honestly can recommend pretty much everything this year, which is really rare. While I do tend to like most of the films I see there are usually a few that make me scratch my head or dislike them. This year I really like almost all of them, Actually what is more important this is the first year where I can honestly say that I think every film I saw will have a life beyond the festival or art house circuit.

With that in mind let me say feel free to get tickets for whatever strikes your fancy because this is a great year.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Dope is Death (2020) hits theaters, both real and virtual on Friday

A look at how the influx of heroin into the ethnic centers of America  lead to groups like the Black Panthers and the Young Lords  to fight back at what they perceived as the system trying to stop their growing political power. The need to help the community lead to them taking over Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx and setting up alternative methods of drug treatment which wanted to use methadone as means of controlling the masses. Success was relatively short lived and the treatment program was shut down and a version moved to Harlem... then things went weird.

A trip back in time to the bad old days of the late 60's and early 70's when crime was on the rise and the political activism of the minorities rankled the white power structure. They knew what was best for everyone and they were willing to use their power to make sure they remained in control. Full of old photos,video and film this is a film that will put you into a articular place and time thanks to an endless stream of talking heads who put it all into context.

What intrigued me about the film was the third act twist where just as you think everything is winding down you suddenly have an armored car robbery that makes you sit up and take notice. Reality really is stranger than fiction.

This is an important film.  If you want to understand where we are today in regard to power and the political struggles of minorities in America then you have to see this film since it gives you the ground work of understanding  why things are so messed up.


Eden on Sisters With Transistors (2021)


Women have been a part of electronic music from its very beginning. While those in the know are well aware of this, they’re still all too-often overlooked as pioneers. Lisa Rovner’s new documentary, Sisters with Transistors, changes that.

The documentary uses all archival footage and interviews as it profiles several women from electronic music’s history. There are names you know (or at least ones you should!) -- Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram, Suzanne Ciani -- to some you may not -- Eliane Radigue, Maryanne Amacher. 

Tied together with smart narration from Laurie Anderson, the segments serve not only as small musical biographies of each of these women but form a larger picture of the history of electronic music. The documentary is more or less in chronological order, starting with theremin player Clara Rockmore and moving forward. It’s hypnotically structured, moving from one musician to the next through time and sometimes circling back to them as they move ahead in their careers. The segments are distinct but they all feel cohesive. I adore how much Rovner lets these women speak about their own work and music rather than bringing in a bunch of others to talk about them. I also love how much we get to hear of the music these musicians made.

Of course since more footage of later electronic musicians exist, the more focus the documentary gives to them. Some of these, such as the segment about Pauline Oliveros, feel like mini-documentaries on their own. Still, that doesn’t always work -- the extended sequences with Ciani feel slightly unnecessary -- not because she doesn’t deserve it, but because there’s already an excellent documentary about Ciani, A Life in Waves (2017). Other artists, like Wendy Carlos, don’t seem to get enough attention, but I imagine that’s only because of the lack of footage and interviews.

Rovner also only sticks to the pioneers and doesn’t bring in any of the younger women making electronic music. That’s fair -- that’s not necessarily what this documentary is meant to be about -- but I would’ve liked a bit more of looking forward rather than only looking back.

Is this comprehensive? It’s impossible for one documentary to be so, but it’s a well-deserved celebration of a group of women who deserve to be celebrated. I felt like I already knew a lot about these women and the history of electronic music, but I came away having learned a lot and being absolutely enchanted by the experience I had watching this documentary. Even if it’s not a subject you think you’re interested in, this documentary will leave you realizing how much you’ve been missing.

Eden currently has a project called In the Loop, focusing on time loop movies. New posts appear weekly on Tuesdays.

Monday, April 26, 2021

THE 2021 HARLEM INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL announces line-up for 16th edition (May 6-9)


Opening Night in-person celebration features World Premieres of Tarabu Betserai Kirkland’s 100 Years from Mississippi, and Glenn Osten Anderson’s Coogan’s Way, and the North American premiere of Anne Via McCollough’s Full Circle.

New York, NY (April 23, 2021) – The 2021 Harlem International Film Festival (Hi) today announced official selections for its 16th edition – a hybrid event taking place May 6-9. The film festival will open with an audacious presentation of two triple-header screenings at the AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9 Theaters (2309 Frederick Douglass Blvd) featuring the world premieres of Tarabu Betserai Kirkland’s 100 Years from Mississippi, and Glenn Osten Anderson’s Coogan’s Way, as well as the North American premiere of Anne Via McCollough’s Full Circle. 

The red carpet in-person event will kick off the film festival’s celebrated showcase of relatively undiscovered international cinematic gems and local New York filmmaking talent and lead into virtual screenings of 71 films and more (31 features, 32 shorts, 2 VR/360 projects, and 6 webisodes) representing over 17 countries. Other feature films making their world premieres include; Avril E. Russell’s All on a Summer’s Day; Shonnese C. L. Coleman’s Radio Theatre for Your Soul, A Docu-Story; and Ílker Savaskurt’s Reflection (Ákis). Making its North American premiere is McArthur Alejandre’s Crossroads (Tagpuan).                                                   

Harlem International Film Festival’s Program Director, Nasri Zacharia, said. “We are thrilled to return to the theater, have a red carpet welcome for our filmmakers, live audiences and Q&As, and experience the magic of film festival discovery in the company of one another the way we did prior to the pandemic. At the same time, we will also utilize the virtual presentations to not just introduce our audiences throughout the state of New York to films from around the world, but also to interact and connect with filmmakers from all over the globe. And, of course, we’ll continue our efforts to truly showcase the filmmakers and the setting of our beloved home neighborhoods of Harlem, Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, which we call the HUB.” 

Opening on Thursday, May 6, the Harlem International Film Festival will return to theaters with a vengeance by presenting two separate triple features. Three of the films are documentaries making their world and North American debuts. Tarabu Betserai Kirkland’s 100 Years from Mississippi, about the return of a proud son and his mother to the state she had narrowly escaped as a child over one hundred years earlier, after the filmmaker discovered that the stories he had accepted as family folklore for decades were actually true. Glenn Osten Anderson’s Coogan’s Way tells the story of the iconic Washington Heights bar and restaurant that welcomed all races, religions, and interests becoming a force for good in the community in the 80s and 90s. Anne Via McCollough’s Full Circle celebrates Helen Hays’ Great Gull Island Project, a 50-year quest to save two species of threatened seabirds, the Roseate and Common Terns. 

The second Opening Night trio features films making their New York premieres including; Voodoo Macbeth, a film project from the University of Southern California Graduate students collective, about the first all black cast (in 1936 Harlem) to perform Shakespeare’s MACBETH, directed by a young and arrogant Orson Welles; Rebecca Heidenberg’s Queens of The Revolution, a Cuban documentary which is a moving portrait of Mejunje, a cultural center in Santa Clara that paved the road for LGBTQ+ rights in that county, highlighting the bravery of people who have fought for their lives and identities for decades; and Celine Parrenas Shimizu’s The Celine Archive, which looks at the remarkable story of Celine Navarro, who was buried alive by her community in 1932. The story exposes issues that still haunt Filipinax American communities today. 

Two international films making their world premieres are Avril E. Russell’s All on a Summer’s Day, a British psychological thriller about a woman whose car breaks down on the infamous Highway of Tears, and Ílker Savaskurt’s Reflection (Ákis), a Turkish tribute to William S. Burroughs about guests in a hotel in Istanbul soon to have an otherworldly experience. Also making its world premiere is Shonnese C. L. Coleman’s Radio Theatre for Your Soul, A Docu-Story, about the making of an internet radio show, featuring the fascinating minds and hearts of storytellers from all genres at the Accelerated Radio Studios in Inglewood, CA. McArthur Alejandre’s drama from the Philippines, Crossroads (Tagpuan) will make it’s North American premiere at the Harlem International Film Festival. The story connects three lonely souls whose chance encounter will change their lives. 

The Harlem International Film Festival will also offer its signature curated presentations of curated Harlem Uptown and local New York produced and themed short films preceding each of the features screening during the Opening Night event.

Additional highlights also include; Kelly Walker’s My Fiona, about a woman drawn into an intimate – and potentially catastrophic - relationship with the widowed mother of her best friend following her suicide; and Joseph E. Austin II’s Sundays in July, which follows the love story that develops when a woman meets a man after she returns to New York from L.A. 

For Film festival passes, tickets, and more information on the Harlem International Film Festival go to

 2021 Harlem International Film Festival official selections


Columbia University Film Festival (CUFF) is happening now

Columbia University Film Festival (CUFF) 2021 Trailer from CUFF: Columbia University FF on Vimeo.

 Tickets are now on sale for the 33rd annual Columbia University Film Festival (CUFF).

A showcase of thesis-level work from students and recent alumni of the School of the Arts MFA Film Program, CUFF will take place virtually April 23–May 3, 2021. The festival will include 22 short films, an evening of staged script readings, Q&As, panel discussions, award ceremonies, and social events. All films will stream and events will take place on the online platform Filmocracy.

Among the festival’s many awards, Cherien Dabis ’04 will receive the Andrew Sarris Award. Named for the late Film Program professor and world-renowned critic and theorist, the Sarris Award honors outstanding Film Program alumni and will be presented Friday, April 23rd at 7 pm ET during the Screenwriting Night.

All access passes are available to the public for $20 online. Columbia University students, alumni, faculty, and staff can receive free passes with promo code. More detailed information about how to attend the festival can be found here, along with an up-to-date schedule of events.

We hope you will join us, 

Alece Oxendine, Director, Industry & Festival Outreach

Soheil Rezayazdi, Film Program Events Manager

Gavin Browning, Director, Public Programs and Engagement

 Go here to get Tickets

Columbia University Film Festival

For an up-to-date schedule of events, visit the CUFF website.



All 22 festival short films available to stream.



Filmmaker Q&A for Program Block C, 7 pm ET 

A group Q&A with the filmmakers behind the shorts in Program Block C of the festival.



Filmmaker Q&A for Program Block D, 7 pm ET

 A group Q&A with the filmmakers behind the shorts in Program Block D of the festival.



Filmmaker Q&A for Program Block E, 7 pm ET 

A group Q&A with the filmmakers behind the shorts in Program Block E of the festival.



Awards Night, 7 pm ET 

Awards ceremony of the films designated as Jury Selects of the festival. The 2021 festival jury consists of five outside jurors from within the film industry: Programmer Caryn Coleman (Nitehawk Cinema), producer Chanelle Elaine (First Match), producer Gerry Kim (I’m No Longer Here), executive Jonathan Sehring (IFC Films), and executive Sasha Silver (Hulu). Attendees are encouraged to watch the Jury Selects program immediately before the event.

Nobuhiko Obayashi's final film LABYRINTH OF CINEMA hits Mubi tomorrow

 LABYINTH OF CINEMA is a film that only Obayashi could have made. Wild and crazy but with a very serious point, the film forces us to ponder the natures of war and cinema as well as our own existence.

The simple plot outline has three people at a movie marathon launched into the on screen world of Japan at war.  They experience the horrors of war in a cinematic and not so cinematic ways as the time line gets closer and closer to Hiroshima.

If you saw Obayahi's Hanagatami you may have some idea what this is like, but even so this film gets even more crazier (fish in space). Like the earlier film which had some people I know scratching their heads, Labyrinth of Cinema pushes the envelope as to what a serious movie is. Nothing is too out there for a director who is looking to make his point. Assuming you are like me the journey can take any form so long as the payoff is worth it. Here the pay off was worth it as I was left pondering what I had just seen and why it made me feel like I had been hit with a large club. It also made me want to take another 3 hours and watch the film again so that I could truly appreciate the film on it's own terms.

While I know most people know Obayashi for his cult favorite Hausu, I've always been of the opinion that while that film is good, his other films are better. I say that because more than any other director Obayashi truly understood cinema. He knew  that in cinema there are no rules nor limits. If you can dream it and if you can sell anything is game. Yes, not all his films work, but when they do they not only tell us great stories and make us think and feel in ways that a conventional telling could never manage.(and even when his films failed they were pretty damn interesting)

Labyrinth of Cinema tells us a great story and makes us feel. It does so in a way that not everyone will accept, but that is perfectly fine since Obayashi made the film he wanted to  which is enough. It is one last singular work from a master director whose body of work was wonderfully and uniquely his own.

Highly recommended to Obayashi fans as well as anyone who want a film that is unlike any other.

El PLaneta (2021) NDNF 2021


Leo and Maria are a mother and daughter living in Northern Spain who are constantly running scams and doing deals. No matter what they are doing, they always seem to have an angle to some how get ahead, but they never really do.

Gorgeously shot in black and white, EL PLANETA delighted me. Normally I'm not a fan of a mannered film full of dry humor but something about the two women clicked with me and I was happy to go along. 

What I like about the film is that it allows us to have mixed emotions about the two women. Normally with a film like this the filmmakers want us to either like or hate their main characters. Here writer-director-star Amalia Ulman  allows us room to like, loath and feel sorry for the pair of con artists. We like them because they are charming, we don't like them for some of the things they do and we  feel sorry for them because its clear that if they played a it y the rules they wouldn't have to lay games and use their glasses the curse the people who did them wrong.

EL PLANETA is a small charmer. What I especially like about it is that while many films that play  New Directors New Films often seem to get lost after the festival this is a film that I suspect is going to have a long life down the road.



Portrait of chef Yotem Ottolenghi and his work to prepare a food gala based on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's  exhibit “Visitors to Versailles". We get know Ottolenghi and then watch as he chooses other chefs to help him and then their work putting the show together.

Every couple of years Tribeca programs a film on some event or another that the Met held. Almost always the films are great looking puff pieces that are the cinematic equivalent to a large coffee table book. OTTOLENGHI AND THE CAKES OF VERSAILLES is no exception.

A largely good looking film that clues us in on an event that tried to be as extravagant as was Versailles itself there didn't seem to be a hell of a lot to hang my hat on as a bunch of very clever chefs worked in  fancy kitchens to make food most of us could never have.  It's all really clever but there is no connection to life only to an artifice and the nuts and bolts of pulling off a fancy idea. Normally I am a food film junkie but I lost interest early and it never came back.

It doesn't help that the film's framing bothered me. I watched the film twice, once on the Tribeca site and once on a screener that was sent to me and many of the images looked wrong. Seeing them on a big screen kind of hurt my eyes as if we were too close. When I played the images on a smaller player about the size of a cell phone I found that the images looked good, but once I bumped them up to full screen they looked wrong. I'm curious if either the film was shot on a cellphone or edited that way. Then again I've seen several films shot on an iPhone but you could never tell unless you wee told.

You may like this put to me this is a great looking cinematic that tastes stale once you bite into it.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Nightcap 4/25/21 If you love movies watch whatever you want and ignore the essentials, more festivals this week and stuff


With the world turning to watch the Oscars and the vast majority of Americans probably ignoring them since the covid crisis has made them largely unaware of the nominees, I’m going to take a few minutes and just remind everyone, that if you love movies, ignore the must see lists and the awards and just follow your heart. You’ll find much more interesting things by following your nose then going up and down some pundit’s list of must see films.

I say this as a life long movie fan who keeps discovering that the films I love and treasure most are the films that are not on anyone’s must see before you die list. Okay, perhaps 7 SAMURAI is, but most of the other films that taught me about what film is and can be, are the off the beaten path stuff.  This doesn’t mean that INHERIT THE WIND is not a film I hold close to me, it just means that the delights are really elsewhere.

What the must see lists are really are the makers showing off. These are the films that this person knows and has been told are the films we should be seeing. I mean unless you are a snooty cinephile are you really going to put on CITIZEN KANE for enjoyment?  "Come on honey lets get some popcorn and pop in Charles Foster Kane."  I’ve never heard of anyone truly saying that it was their favorite film. I’ve heard it called great because of what it does and how it influenced people, but by the same token my high school science text book was great because it taught me about chemical reactions but I wouldn't want to actually read them.

Yes I’m being snide.

Frankly, must see lists are really dull. They are always  filled with the same pre-chosen films which more often than not are not as great as the pundits make them out to be.  How many times do you need to see the same films rehashed over and over again? I scan the lists and just shrug. The lists are intellectual exercises that are largely emotionless and uncreative.

What I much prefer are lists that are like “Ten great films you may not have heard of” I like those sort of lists because not only do they highlight films that deserve to be seen, but there is more creativity in them. They are more times than not made by people who really know their subject and are trying to spread the wealth beyond the same old same old.  The last two years around Halloween I made lists of horror films you probably never heard. I did so because Ted Geoghegan had made a comment about people always picking the same old horror films. I knew what he was talking about so I made up some lists.

The truth of the matter is that I have learned more about film and life watching the smaller films and steering away  from the big Hollywood stuff. The big films or the ones that repeat on all the lists are either painfully safe or have been stolen from so many times so as to be unremarkable. On the other hand most small films tend to do somethings different. They have flashes of creativity that you don’t see in the big films because the filmmakers haven’t been crushed by the studios or are maverick enough to want to try something new to get noticed.  There are so many jagged small scare horror films I love over the big budget show pieces like FRIDAY THE 13TH  or SAW

Choosing what to watch based on awards is a mixed bag. Sure you can get pointed to some great films but more times than not it’s the flavor of the moment. Worse what often happens is you get a flavor of the moment than falls out of favor. Yes some winners come back into favor  and in some cases (CRASH at the Oscars)  they never comes back into favor.

The truth is that in the case of something like the Oscars you’re just getting what was chosen because the PR people sold it. More times than not the best picture always feels like it should have been something else.  Actually what is really interesting is going over a list of films released each year and then comparing it to the Oscar nominees and winners. More times than not you’ll find a whole raft of now classic films that were deemed not worthy of consideration or the statue in the day.

As for critic association awards realize the reason that the best films they pick are more often then not not the best film in the eyes of the voters. Having run the Unseen Film Awards for a number of years I know that the best films of most of the voters was something not on the inners lists because it was something that only they saw it.

All awards are the best of the collection of films that everyone has seen. The lists of the 50 Films You Must See are just a version of that

As I have just stated the best films- the ones you want to see are the films out of the pool that everyone is swimming in because those are the films that people are cherishing.



The excellent Hot Docs begins at the end of the week and we will be running some coverage of a few of the films. The reviews will run when the embargoes lift.

Also running this week is MOMA and Film at Lincoln Centers New Directors New Films. As it stands right now we will be running at least a dozen reviews.

I am hoping to have a curtain raiser closer to the start of the festival. I am still working on it , having paused the writing to go on vacation.


Related to my vacation look for a report this week on the Riverside Drive-in Spring edition of their monster Mania fest. Once more my brother and myself ran off to Vandergrift Pa for the cinematic goodness. Additionally we’ll have made stops at the Monroeville Mall filming location of Dawn of the Dead as well as other George Romero filming sites.

We are Radical Monarchs plays Ovid.TV April 27

This is a capsule review I ran wen the film played DOC NYC

When the local Girls Scout troop was found not to be focusing on social justice issues the way two moms thought they should, they started their own organization in order to teach their girls to fight the good fight. Glorious portrait of a group of girls and their moms who are fighting the good fight. 

This is a hopeful look at the net generation of social justice warriors who are going to change the world that we all live in. Showing the good that the girls are doing, and not shying away from the misguided hate thrown their way (some people don't like the idea of kids fighting for social causes) the film will give you hope that maybe things can be fixed and that change will come. This is 100 minutes with great people.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

SLALOM (2020) plays Focus on French Cinema April 26

Lyz, a 15 year old young woman who shows great promise in pulled in several different directions by life and her coach who grows unnaturally close to her.

Slalom is the event in the film but it is also the way that Lyz, our heroine, gets through life. She swerves left and right depending on what is being thrown at her. Noee Abita is excellent at the young woman trying to make her way through life as all sorts of demands are being made upon her. It is a tale told in gorgeous widescreen images that will make you wish that you could see this on a big screen.
As much as I would love not to say that the film and it's thread of the coach taking advantage of Lyz is not a reflection of the way that some coaches treat their charges, the fact that there are constant waves of news stories breaking, makes it clear that the films depiction of a coach abusing and taking advantage of young woman seems to be on target. Its a sad indictment of the way some athletes are trained. I have to give writer-director Charlène Favier credit for not shying away in depicting what can happen.

As important as the film is in reflecting the seeming state of some sectors of sports, the film over all is not quite as compelling as it could be. Part of the problem is that some of the less meaty parts of the film seem to be by the numbers or to have been filmed with a certain amount of disinterest. Some the training sequences felt as if they were there as an after thought. Additionally the skiing sequences have to be among the least exciting  I've ever seen on screen, with Lyz seeming the slowest champion skier I have ever seen on screen.

While I like SLALOM, I'm not in love with it. Your mileage may vary.

C*****cker Blues (1979)


Tis film was the subject of a Twitter discussion recently so here is a post of the review I put up at IMDB years ago. 

A couple of things at the start. I can't accurately rate this movie. Enjoyment is based upon your love of the Stones. My feelings for the Stones is one of like not love. I do enjoy their music but I think that now they are little more a money machine with their interesting music coming out of the various side projects.

This is the story of the Stones 1972 tour (sort of, director Robert Frank is interested in doing more than a straight documentary). Mostly its following the Stones from Hotel room to hotel room and performance to performance. Its the rich and famous interacting with the not so rich and far from famous, with everyone behaving badly. In its way its a sad story as Mick and the boys seem to drift aimlessly with in the confines of their cages. How they managed to survive it and, not go mad and continue on the road is probably a story that needs to be told. This story on the other hand is a bit dull and long at 90 minutes. It comes alive in fits and starts, mostly when we get to see one of the too few musical numbers (the Stevie Wonder/ Stones piece is amazing).

This film is rarely screened since due to a lawsuit it can only be run once a year and only when the director is present. Its rather dumb if you ask me, but the Stones were unhappy with the result and how they are seen to be. Why this film is still restricted considering all that's passed in the 40 plus years since its filming is beyond me. At this point it couldn't hurt the boys at all, since all it does is give visualization to what we knew already.

If you can manage to see this and you're a Stones fan do so. If you're not a fan you may want to give it a try, if for no other reason than its a unique and rare experience (due to the law suit that restricts its viewing).

Friday, April 23, 2021

The Deep Ones (2020)


A couple trying to recover from the death on their child go to gated ocean community in Oxnard.  As they settle into the  routine of the place things begin to seem off. Strange thigs begin to be happening and bosomy young ladies are around the community’s leader.  Is it possible that the reason for everything being wrong has to do with the Elder Gods?

Of course.

Welcome to a new iteration of HP Lovecraft tale The Shadow over Innsmouth. Bumped up and expanded to feature length.

That last line is key since outside of Lovecraft’s novels, his tales are short on narrative threads. Yes, there is a through line, but Lovecraft’s tales are more about mood and headspace. They are intentionally lacking in details since what he leaves out is more often than not what scares the crap out of us. When you make a film of Lovecraft’s tales you end up with two problems, the first is that they have to give shape to things unsaid, and the other is that you have to take what should be a 20 minute film and make it 90.  Few films have managed to make it work, the best being REANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND.

While nowhere near the best film nor the worst, THE DEEP ONES is somewhere in the middle.  Blame the expansion of the almost hundred year old story into something modern. While we get lots of bits of Lovecraft’s tale, we also get a lot of new material and it doesn’t always blend together. We can feel the grafting, with the result that the film feels kind of like some of the lesser 1970’s horror films that only aficionados or regular customers of Sinister Cinema know. Frankly this is the sort of film that would have played at a drive in back in the day when they were full of low budget schlock.

Honestly I liked THE DEEP ONES. For me it was a nostalgic throw back to a time gone, Is it for you? If you don’t mind old school schlock horror that mixes scantily clad women and monsters and it’s a slow night I’d say give it a go.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Faithful (202) plays Focus on French Cinema April 24

This is the story of  Algerian dissident Fernand Iveton and his wife who struggles to keep him out of trouble as he fights the French forces in 1950s Algeria.

Well made and earnest historical drama and romance has  some killer performances  by leads Vicky Krieps and Vincent Lacoste that suck you in. Told in a alternating time shifts between Iveton's arrest back to beginning of the relationship the film really lets us know who these people were.

Unfortunately as good as the film is, there is perhaps a bit too much polish on it all. There is a fine sheen to it all and on some level it neve fully feels real but a historical romance with a tragic outcome. Don't get me wrong I really liked the film but I wanted to love it. Though to be honest I don't know if the lack of love for the film is due to the film itself or that in the last few weeks I've seen three other films of various types on the Algerian War.

My lack of made passion for the film aside, it is definitely worth a look especially if you like historical romances

GOOD MANNERS hits Ovid TV today

Art house meets grindhouse in a film that will satisfy few except those who will believe the WTF turns.

Ana is hired by an expecting single mom to be a live in helper before the baby arrive and then a nanny after.  Things go along swimmingly until Ana begins behaving badly when the moon is full. That is nothing compared to what happens when the baby arrives.

Solid first hour is a really good, if slow, domestic drama of the life and budding romance between the two women. Sure there are hints at what is to come but it's kept largely low key, even if a cat meets a bad end. The film is a compelling drama where you care about the characters and want to see where it's going.

That all changes when the baby is born and the film morphs into  a not quite a horror film crossed with a not quite a Beauty and the Beast drama. Picks up seven years later when Ana is raising the now young boy. Here the film wobbles from pillar to post as it never quite manages to get the tone right. The needing to keep an eye on the boy and his diet, especially at times of the full moon never really works and I kept wanting to ask all sorts of questions about the whys and hows. Things completely fall off the table in the closing minutes when a mob with a modern take on flaming torches appears. I damn near fell on the floor from laughing.

While I know and appreciate what the film is striving to do I don't think the film achieves it. Part of the problem is the fact that this film is 135 minutes.  Its simply way too long. Because we get so much set up the split between now and seven years on makes the film play like two different films with the same casts. The shift is so radical that the film can't really handle the tonal shift.

Then again perhaps the film doesn't know what the tone is supposed to be- Horror? Drama? Fantasy? The first hour is most certainly a thriller but I'm not sure what the second is.

While I have all sorts of plot questions regarding the second half I'm going to focus on two upfront things that don't really help the film. The first is that Miguel Lobo as Joel, the wolf boy, is very uneven in the role. Yes there are times when he nails it, but some of the monster related stuff doesn't quite work, We can see him acting. Certainly he's game but either because of his ability or the editing I never bought it.

The other problem with the second half is in the creature design which is much to cute and cartoony to ever be believable. I chuckled every time I saw it. Frankly I could have accepted it in if Joel was more human and not so wolf like, but he's a wolf with a cute kids face stuck on it its just silly. Worse it doesn't really match up with the new born version we had seen earlier which had a larger snout.

I probably should also pick on the plotting in the second half which has all sorts of problems, not to mention angry townspeople storming with torches, but somehow I find that too easy a target. There are too many points that seem like they were lifted from other films. If they can be lazy in how it cobbled together the various bits from other better films then I can decide to be lazy and not to take it apart piece by piece.

Forgive me I've seen way too many horror/fantasy/genre films. I've seen good and bad. I've forgiven a lot of bad films because they managed to provoke a reaction and set a mood. While I tend to love films that turn out to be about something other than what you think going in, I really hate it when they don't work. Great flips make sitting through questionable moments worth it. A bad story flip makes it all just a waste of time. Despite a great first half and a sputtering second GOOD MANNERS is a waste of time.

Skip it.