Review : American Made

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“A pilot lands work for the CIA and as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.”

This is one of those movies, where at best, its a Wolf of Wall Street, and at worst they just come off as unauthentic, cheesy, and boring. This movie is pretty much in the middle. It stats Tom Cruise, who as always, is totally committed to his role and plays it very well, the movie on a whole however, is what maybe holds it all back. Its not to say that this movie isn’t good, or isn’t entertaining. Its certainly funny enough, dramatic enough, the acting is good enough, its all enough yes, but the real issue is that its just enough. Nothing here is special, nothing here takes this movie into a category above, where movies like the Wold of Wall Street live. It gets kind of bogged down in mediocrity that make it great probably for an at home stream, but nothing about it says come see me in the cinema. Also, a lot happens here, and it all needs to happen, but it can almost feel a bit overwhelming sometimes, as the movie often needs to keep up a bit of a break neck pace to get from where the story starts, to where the movie ends it. All in all though, this movie is two things combined. Its Tom Cruise being the consummate professional he always is (the man is never bad EVER), mixed with a rest of movie thats good but not great, and I feel like with this story and talent, it could have been GREAT.

Review Score : 7.5 out of 10

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TTFF 17 Review


Moko Jumbie (Trinidad 2017)

“Asha flies in from England to visit her old family home. But there’s trouble in paradise. Her aunt Mary doesn’t like her associating with their Afro-Trinidadian neighbours. Then Asha begins to realise this abandoned seaside coconut estate is not as tranquil as it looks. Trinidadian-American director Anderson’s striking imagery mingles memory and imagining, the mundane and the supernatural, in examining family, race, class, and the quest for home.”

Written and directed by Vashti Anderson, Moko Jumbie stars Vanna Girod in the title role of Asha. Those are the things I know for sure about this movie, the rest is a bit of speculation. I say that because, honestly, I’m not 100% sure what happened in this movie. It plays out very Terrence Malick esk, where it’s extremely visual, and they are good visuals, but sometimes those visuals, and the narrative don’t over lap. This movie is also about decision making, especially on the part of the film makers here, as many of the creative decisions, didn’t fit what I was seeing. A large component of this film is folk lore, and the myths and legends that came over to Trinidad and Tobago on boasts so long ago. Vanna does a great job of doing what I imagine she was directed to do, and she manages to keep a level a nuance to her performance, especially in the more quiet moments of the film. The problem is when things happen in this movie, they seem to happen almost inexplicably. One moment we have this going on, the next minute there is literally a coup. This decision making, this maybe resolution of style over substance can be a bit jarring, and makes things feel very disjointed. And while this could simply be labeled as more “experimental”, that alone can’t be a crutch to lean on. I feel like Moko Jumbie, as a script or as an idea, was something subtle, something nuanced, but the execution and final product, is muddied and murky. Moko Jumbie stands tallest on the performed of its lead and its visuals, but is let down by its creative decision making, and lack of coherence.

Review Score : 5 out of 10

Visibly Me (Short/Trinidad 2017)

“Visibly me tells the story of a 47 year old woman with no partner and no children who finds herself invisible and feels she has no choice but to find the antidote.”

Visibly Me is listed as a documentary short, but it plays out like a narrative, and I feel like a narrative is what this short really wants to be. It uses mostly voice over to tell the authors story, and to give meaning to what we see on screen. The idea of being invisible is a real big theme here, and it’s shown in the visuals, and the way this short is shot. Most of the angles and compositions have to do with the idea of being right there, but still not being scene, and it that regard they are successful. Where I think there are issues are when these concepts conflict, which I why I say this should have been an actual story, something we could identify with. If this short was made only to appeal to a very specific audience then that’s fine, but I feel like it’s meant to spread a message, over being a closed loop. Even at 13 minutes long, this short feels much longer, as it often seemed to wander seemingly aimlessly very often. All in all I think what we have here is a clash, a clash of styles, a clash of ideas, and a clash of methodology.

Review Score : 4 out of 10

TTFF 17 Review

Today we really got some good ones!

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Chocolate (Short\Dominican Republic 2016)

“Yan gets stood up by his date, and ends up meeting his friend at a local club. To get Yan out of his distress, his friend challenges him to talk to a girl who is standing across from them. Yan uses different tactics to try to lure her.”

Chocolate is one of those shorts, that gets inside you, and sticks with you. Its only 11 minutes long, but it has everything a great story needs. It has compelling characters (even with enough back story that you feel for them and where they are in life), it has beautiful story telling, its funny, its emotional, and it manages all this in just 11 minutes. I can’t say too much about it, as it is only 11 minutes and there is only so much of its story I could tell without telling it in its entirety, but this truly is a master class in telling  a story with no fat on it. There isn’t a wasted shot, frame, or sound here, and thats from the start to the very, very end. If you can see this short film anywhere at any time, please take the time and give it a look.

Review Score : 10 out of 10

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Nadie Nos Mira: Nobody’s Watching (Argentina 2017)

“Nico is a rising young actor in his native Argentina, but he wants to make it big in America —  and he’s running from some demons at home. He has some good friends in the US, and success dangles almost within reach as he makes some promising contacts. But unless those promises are fulfilled, he’s just another illegal immigrant struggling to make not only a living, but also to find a sense of home.”

Nadie Nos Mira or Nobody’s Watching is a hard film to watch. Its not that its not good, its very good, its just maybe a little too real. Like a short film I watched yesterday, this movie also has a big theme of “home”, and to a lesser extent family. It tells the story of a well known actor in his native Argentina, who for reasons I won’t spoil, leaves to pursue a greater career in New York. A big part of this movie is also the LGBT community, and the impact that still has on so many people across so many facets of life. This movie has a real, “real” feel to it, it really makes you feel like you’re right next to these characters in an almost voyeuristic way, which is part of the reason this movie is so hard to watch. There are some very intense scenes in this movie also, and they all fell warranted and earned, and not just done for shock value. This movie is very slow though, it almost trudges along, slowly pulling you through the snow to and ending you hope is better for these characters than the lives they currently live.

Review Score : 8 out of 10

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Melocotones: Peaches (Dominican Republic 2015)

“For their anniversary, Diego has planned a repeat of his first weekend with his girlfriend Laura. In fact he’s planned it too exactly, and Laura is bored by his lack of spontaneity. Luckily Diego, an inventor, can rejig his Sexotron machine, travel back in time and make everything different. Filmed in Technicolor hues, this sex/science-fiction comedy has a 1950s look, and the gadgets have a distinctly antiquated air. So Diego’s scientific experiments have some unexpected and hilarious outcomes.”

Honestly, Peaches (Melocotones), is one of those movies that you almost have to see to believe, and if you have any sense of humor at all, you will be so glad you did watch it. The film takes a lot of its inspiration from Technicolor, and 1980’s cinema, down to the wonderful synths throughout the entire score of this movie. From the jump, this movie shows you that it doesn’t take itself very seriously, and you shouldn’t either. Even though this movie is done is very serious way, its shot, edited, and everything else perfectly, and it knows everything its doing because its doing them on purpose. Even in the story itself, which takes what would be a very serious sci-fi- premise, and flips it on its head with a level of absurdity that juxtaposes the traditional tropes of such a genre. Peaches is one of those movies that doesn’t need to much to be said about it, it just needs to be seen, and I highly recommend seeing it.

Review Score : 9 out of 10

TTFF 17 Review


Salty Dog (Short\Trinidad 2017)

“When the rug is pulled from under his feet, a savvy old salt must navigate the stormy waters of his relationship with his estranged son. As tensions flare between the two, the son checks out retirement homes for his father”

Salty Dog is a short film written and directed by Oliver Milne, and features a cast, crew, and locations all related to the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago. As a short, it’s actually quite ambitious in its intended scope, and the narrative it looks to tell. Deep down I think this movie is really about homes, and the things that make them such. We see through the rocky relationship between this father and son that home for each has become two separate worlds, even if they both might be more similar than either would like to admit. You get a great sense also for the difference in lives each man has been leading, even in this shortened form of story telling. By the end, you get the idea that home isn’t always to same to everyone, and that maybe and old dog can learn some new tricks. Salty Dog is nicely done bit of story telling, with enough heart and humor to fill a movie with a longer run time.

Review Score : 7.5 out of 10


King of Peking (China 2017)

“When home entertainment enters the market in 90s Beijing, a former projectionist ropes his young son into starting their own pirate movie company, but easy money comes with its own price tag.”

King of Peking is one of those movies made to make you feel warm inside. It plays on two major fronts, our love of movies, and our love for family. You feel for Big Wong and Little Wong throughout their ups and downs. They have a strong and great connection as father and son, and that connection is built on a mutual love of cinema. And we really do get to see that love, over the 5 chapters of the movie, and we really feel like we become part of the family. It reminds all of us that love film, that through right and wrong, through thick and thin, we will always have our favorite movies, and the connections we make from them. Shot with a real warmth, paced really nicely, and written super smartly, King of Peking is one of those movies that make you smile, and want to go home and hug your parents for all they’ve done for you.

Review Score : 8 out of 10

Wrap Up : American Vandal

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When you hear the name “American Vandal”, the first thing you think of is probably some gritty new movie or series, or maybe even a series about a true crime story that needed telling….you don’t probably think about a “mockumentary” style take on one of those aforementioned series. That is however, just what American Vandal is, its a satirical take on documentary-serieses yes, but it doesn’t deprive itself of the same level of drama, with a narrative that twists and turns across all 8 of its episodes. It leaves no stone unturned, it leaves no thread unpulled, and it doesn’t miss any details.

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This series on a whole shines across all boards. The writing to start with is absolutely excellent. It pays so much attention to detail, with every hint and bit of information it releases over time. Even details as small and simple as the credits in the intro being the names of the characters because they are making this faux documentary-series shows the kind of attention to detail the writing shows from start to the very end. Each of the characters is given a deep, thoughtful, and totally believable back story and story line, which gives the characters enough weight to have you invested in them, and where they each stand in the narrative.

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The acting here is also spectacular. Not only are the roles incredibly cast in their age and diversity, but because the series takes itself and its character seriously, the actors themselves are given so much to work it, and are allowed to play out the roles in a full dramatic fashion. This series is both hilarious and emotional, and it can be both these things without trying to be either because it is simply portraying real life, and people with real lives. You believe everyone of these characters, and what they are going through at all times, and while the writing gives these actors a great base, their acting itself was needed to make and maintain that emotional connection.

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All in all, American Vandal is one of the best series I’ve seen in a long time, and one of those shows where I feel like many people would over look the quality of things like the writing and production here. If you have any free time at all, give this series a watch. It only about 4 and a half hours total, and makes a great binge.

Review : Kingsman – The Golden Circle


“When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, the Kingsman’s journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US. These two elite secret organizations must band together to defeat a common enemy.”

Kingsman the golden circle, or just Kingsman 2, tells the continued story of unrefined youth turned super spy Eggsy, in a brand new story. Everything about Kingsman 2 is meant to be bigger and better. More action, more stunts, more fights, more guns, more everything. For the most part we do get all the “more”, but we could have done with a touch of the “less” also. The Kingsman sequel definitely makes some sacrifices for the sake of bigger and better, but in that we do lose a little of the soul that made the first movie so memorable. Bringing in their American counterparts in the Statesmen, the movie basically doubles its cast of over the top, but super charismatic spies, and allows for an entire new style to be used to great effect. All the great action you would expect is all here, where the movie falters, in its character development. All these new characters have their times to shine, but that spreading of the spot light, does mean less time to dive a bit deeper. I also feel like this movie made some choices in an attempt the deepen our emotional connections with characters, but served only to take some of the best characters out, most like in preparing for third and likely final entry in the Kingsman saga. Just like the original movie, this movie is certainly over the top, and doesn’t shy away from pointing the camera directly at the lesser flattering areas sometimes, and in some cases, some might find it goes too far. The new additions to the cast are also all fantastic, and do a great job to build out the world, as well as allow for some interesting match ups going forward. All in all, Kingsman 2 is every bit the over the top action movie you would expect it to be, it just lacks a bit of the deeper soul that made the first movie one of the best movies of 2014.

Review Score : 8 out of 10

Review : Green Days by the River

A Trinidadian boy on the edge of adult responsibilities, Shellie moves to a new village and meets two girls. He is charmed by Rosalie but also attracted to the more cheerful and accessible Joan.

Green days by the River is an extremely popular and well received book from author Michael Anthony. It tells a classic coming of age story, but with some twists and turns that make it distinctly Trinidadian. This feature adaptation is directed by Michael Mooleedhar, with an adaption for the screen by Dawn Cumberbatch. There is definitely a lot to like here, but we have some problems to address also. The good here is that Sudai Tafari who is charged with the title role of Shellie, does a great job in his subtle and nuanced performance here. He does a great job anchoring the film, and keeping it grounded. The rest of the main cast here is also good, and the occasional bad delivery or over acted scene is balanced by Tafari’s performance. The score here also, while it could be a bit over bearing at times, definitely suited the material. The story of Green days is certainly a small one, but I felt like the film itself was made to feel a bit too small. It was as if a minimal amount of scenery was used to represent a much larger area. This leads into some of the movies main problems. To start, I’m not sure what the desired effect of the editing was, but it just served to chop up the movies pace, and maybe try and cover up a lack of content to provide a more flowing narrative. There is a lot of great scenery to be had here, but it felt like it was more opportunistic than planned, and in this story, Mayaro where this story takes place is a character in itself. Also it’s needs to be said that one of the most titular moments of the book, is over in a flash with little or the tension, pain, and despair of its novel counterpart. I don’t know if it was a budgetary issue, or a lack of the requisite tools, but I think any book fan would be disappointed with the movies version of those events. All in all, Green Days is a movie that gives us parts of the story we love, but lacks the authenticity of the novel it’s based on. I do think it’s worth seeing, but I wish I could recommend it more highly. (Also those big Tobago dogs were pretty skinny man).

Review Score: 6.5 out of 10