Wonderful Paradise (2020) (Nouten Paradise) [Fantasia Film Festival 2021] 

As a family is forced to sell their house and move, the teenage daughter posts a general invitation on social media to come party in the backyard. As strangers and acquaintances show up, things get weirder and weirder. 

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Workhorse Queen (2020) [Slamdance Film Festival 2021]

It’s been a long, rough journey for drag queens to become accepted among modern society. After decades of being pushed in to the underground to celebrate their art form, now we’re at a rare moment in time where the drag profession is now being celebrated. After RuPaul’s efforts to inject the drag queen lifestyle in to the world with her hit series “Drag Race,” drag queens went from being pushed in to darkness, to now taking pictures with awe struck children, and hosting concerts with families and children.

And yet, after all of it, there’s still so much more to be done.

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Tapei Suicide Story (2020) [Slamdance Film Festival 2021]

Director KEFF’s ‘Tapei Suicide Story” is one of the most somber dramas I’ve ever seen. It’s a film about life affirmation but also about the inevitability of death. Do we have control over our lives if we can control our own deaths? Are we merely embracing fate and are oblivious to it? “Tapei Suicide Story” is a very quiet and quaint drama that works on a very dark and inherently morbid premise.

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Teenage Emotions (2020) [Slamdance Film Festival 2021]

Director Frederic Da has a knack for adding some appeal to the mumblecore sub-genre. While I normally don’t like the narrative format, “Teenage Emotions” is a great platform for it. A mix of John Hughes and Greta Gerwig, “Teenage Emotions” works hard not to be pigeonholed. It’s a teen drama, but also a candid look at the monotony of high school. It’s a romance but also lacks a clear cut resolution of the various sub-plots. It also wants to be taken as both a narrative and a semi-documentary all at the same time.

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You Have to See This! The Vast of Night (2020)

With the accessibility of independent filmmaking, often times filmmakers have chosen to pay homage to the Grindhouse era, and with often varying results. It’s not too often we can sit down to watch a genuinely scary film that pays tribute to the atomic age and the classic anthology series from the golden age of television. Andrew Patterson’s “The Vast of Night” is absolute accomplishment. It’s a movie I reviewed during Slamdance 2019 and have yet to quit talking about or boasting about since it was scooped up by Amazon Video. It’s a cinematic gem filled with horror, mystery, science fiction, and pure suspense that will hook audiences the moment the film begins.

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Jasper Mall (2020) [Slamdance Film Festival 2020]

When Victor Gruen invented the mall, it’s explained that he envisioned them being small metropolitans allowing people to commune and live. They became tax shelters and giant symbols of American consumerism until finally suffering slow deaths in the aughts. “Jasper Mall” is a somber and engaging tale of one of the last dying mega malls in America that is suffering a slow, painful death and is resuscitated, ironically, by the loyalty of its patrons and the sense of community that’s attracted to what was once a pantheon of consumerism.

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Animation Outlaws (2019) [Slamdance Film Festival 2020]

I’ve been an animation nut ever since I was a kid, and it was tough to find varieties of animation since in the nineties it was a steady diet of Disney and Disney only. I was never really aware of the vast possibilities of the medium well into my early adulthood. “Spike & Mike’s Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation” is an event I would have loved to attend early in to my teens, if only to verify that there’s so much more you can do with the medium beyond singing animals, and fairy tales. “Animation Outlaws” is a very niche documentary but an outstanding film that will also speak to all kinds of fans of film and animation.

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Mothering (2018) [Slamdance Film Festival 2019]

There are those short films that you go in to, and when they’re done, you wish they could have been so much longer. Lucy Bridger’s drama about a young girl name Mia (Sapphire Paine) who learns to live with a new foster family is subtle, sweet, touching, and actually quite excellent. I would have to see director Bridger adapt this in to a full length film someday very soon.

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