Ma Vie de Courgette (My Life as a Zucchini) (2017) (New York International Children’s Film Festival 2017)

Courgette (Zucchini) is a young boy who has had a tough life.  His father is gone and his bother drinks a lot of beer.  One day, something happens to his mother and he ends up placed in a group home.  Through learning to trust others with the other kids in the home, he also learns to love himself and others.

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My Life as a Zucchini (Ma vie de courgette) (2016)

I truly, truly hope that when “My Life as a Zucchini” comes to the states that people to come to see it. I want people to seek it out, I want people to take their families, and I want everyone to tell others about what is easily one of the best animated movies I’ve ever seen. “My Life as a Zucchini” is simple and it’s short, but its rich in human themes, and complex characters that you’ll fall in love with. Rest assured I fell in love with every single character, and understood even the antagonists. “My Life as a Zucchini” isn’t a film that shoehorns in a villain. It’s merely a slice of life about the pitfalls and emotional turmoil that comes with being an orphan in a very cruel, and often difficult world.

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Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Lee Chandler is a man who is literally a hollow individual who spends his entire life going through the motions. He works a hard job as a superintendent for four apartment buildings, gets little to no respect, and falls asleep every night in his basement hole in front of his television. On rare occasions he stops by his local bar to get drunk and engage in fist fights with locals. He may not have died the night his house burned down with his children in it, but he might as well be in his grave. Chandler isn’t a man who has given up any hope of a happy life, but a man who has given up on himself and only himself. “Manchester by the Sea” has every opportunity to be a sickly sweet sitcom about a man learning to live again thanks to his nephew. Until the very end, though, director Kenneth Lonergan’s drama is a somber, incredibly compelling masterpiece that confronts guilt, grief, and the difficulty of dealing with losing someone we loved.

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Pearl (2016)

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE – Director Patrick Osborne gave audiences the beautiful and sweet animated short “Feast” about a dog’s love for food and his owner. With “Pearl,” Osborne breaks out of that smaller narrative to create a sweet, touching, and incredible ode to music and the power of family. Patrick Osborne created “Pearl” as one of the first VR animated short films that allowed audiences to experience the movie in 360 degrees.

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The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

Easily one of the best films of 2016, Kelly Freman Craig’s “The Edge of Seventeen” is a wonderful drama comedy teeming with engaging characters and compelling human dilemmas all of which garner a sense of sheer sadness. Not since “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” have I seen a drama comedy evoke the themes of John Hughes so beautifully. Too often when directors and writers try to invoke Hughes, they forget the key element to their narrative that the main protagonists can be and often are as flawed and selfish as the supporting characters and antagonists. The same can be said for “The Edge of Seventeen” where Hailee Steinfeld is incredibly adorable and compelling as Nadine Franklin. From the moment we meet her, Nadine is her own worst enemy, she’s someone who is always doubting herself and on the verge of a break down.

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Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again (1990)

As someone who spent a lot of his youth buying Archie comics every single chance he got, “To Riverdale and Back Again” is a mix of disappointing and confusing. Even in 1990, studios thought the Archie comics were a bit dated and old fashioned for live action formats, so they basically made the whole universe of Archie and gave it mortality. They take the entire gang shoot them over a decade in to the future where they are all confused middle aged folks trying their best to figure out the current predicaments in their lives. While the premise has a lot of potential to be original and unique, it really isn’t. The concept is painfully old hat, while the movie itself is not just bland, but 1990 bland. That’s that flavor of vanilla that was almost kind of impossible to swallow, even for a half hour.

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Suck it Up (2017) [Slamdance Film Festival 2017]

I’ve always been a fan of movies that examine how deaths can affect the ones we love and how it can create a pretty significant ripple. “Suck It Up” is a bit of “Garden State,” and “Ordinary People” mixed with mumblecore here and there. While I appreciate director Jordan Canning’s efforts to create this drama about how the death of one of the more important people in their lives affected them drastically, the script from Julia Hoff seems to be almost bereft of drama to the point where scenes just stretch out in to nothingness. There are a lot of really drawn out moments where almost nothing happens. In brief scenes where Canning tackles the dynamic between our characters Ronnie and Faye, “Suck It Up” presents only slight glimmers of an emotional character study.

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I’m Not Ashamed (2016)

“I’m Not Ashamed” is a movie in desperate search of a martyr. Brian Baugh’s “I’m Not Ashamed” takes the true story of Rachel Joy Scott and completely sidesteps facts in favor of a sickeningly exaggerated tale of faith, and persecuted Christians in America. Rachel Joy Scott was the first victim of the Columbine massacre, and drew particular attention for a piece of art she made before the massacre that centered on two tear soaked eyes and their thirteen tears. Allegedly it was prophetic of what occurred in Columbine and represented the thirteen lives lost on that day. “I’m Not Ashamed” works over time to turn Rachel in to a female Jesus Christ who literally sacrificed herself during the Columbine massacre for some kind of holy purpose we will never understand. The writers turn Rachel in to a potential prophet taken down before her prime, and by turning the entire day in to a case of angry atheists taking their anger out on others rather than turning to God.

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