Ammonite Review

Francis Lee usually writes and directs character studies that focus on small people and small places. He takes these people and places and puts a microscope on them. Normally, nobody would care about the subject matter, but his deft hand brings out the character of said people and places. Ammonite is Francis Lee at his most precise. He doubles down on two main characters and a nondescript location most couldn’t find on a map.

The two main characters are played by two heavyweights in the acting landscape. Kate Winslet has been nominated for seven Academy Awards and won one for The Reader. Saoirse Ronan has been nominated for four Academy Awards in her young career, and while she has yet to win one, she probably will one day. These two incredible actresses knew what they were signing up for with this film and with Francis Lee directing. These are the kinds of roles most actresses would dream of playing in their careers.

Winslet plays a paleontologist in 1840’s England. She is just running her little shop while taking care of her mother. One day, a gentleman comes along who’s interested in her services. He wants her to take care of his ailing wife who has a bout of melancholia. They eventually spark up a friendly relationship with one another. This was an unexpected outcome for both women. 

This film has a lot of silence in it. The dialogue is very limited. Lee used other ways to get emotion and what the women are thinking out of the actresses. Subtle eye movement and hand gestures get across a lot of what these women are thinking and feeling. Eventually, all the foreplay and silence leads to one of the most sensual scenes in movie history. These two giants in the industry strip away all their inhibitions and just go at it. A scene that was long in coming from the start of the film. This scene pays off all the waiting while watching these incredible actresses do their best to express everything in the script, with and without dialogue.

Stephanie Fontaine and Sarah Finley both deserve awards consideration for their stellar work as cinematographer and production designer. The vistas that Fontaine creates are marvelous to behold. Capturing this period couldn’t have been easy for Finley either. The streets and docks looked real as real gets. Also the costume designer, Michael O’Connor deserves a round of applause as well. The dresses and clothes from every member of the cast looked as authentic as possible. 

Lee and the cast and crew turned what could have been a rip-off of Portrait of a Lady on Fire into a beautiful character study of these two women, both very different from one another, but find common ground once thrust together. This film stands on its own as a beautiful piece of cinema. It could be misconstrued as boring or lifeless. It’s not! Both Winslet and Ronan deserve awards consideration once again for their stellar performances. In a stacked year that might be difficult for one or the other. It’s good to see different kinds of films and not the same cookie-cutter things that always litter the cineplexes.

4 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean BoelmanFounder/Lead Criticdisappointment media

Uncle Frank Review

Alan Ball is primarily known for writing tv shows such as Six Feet UnderTrue Blood, and Here and Now, as well as the Academy Award-winning Best Picture from 1999, American Beauty. He has done some directing as well, mostly tv shows, but in 2007, his biggest film to date, Towel Head, came out. Uncle Frank is the first film he’s directed in a while. 

The titular character is portrayed by Paul Bettany. He’s like a big brother/friend to his niece, Beth (Sophia Lillis). His wisdom helps guide her through college and life. She is a little naive and shy about the ways of the world. They both belong to a devout southern Christian family. That said, Frank has a secret that can irrevocably shatter the family dynamic as they know it. The two of them have to navigate this to keep the family together.

This film is a period piece set in New York and South Carolina in 1973. The dichotomy of these two locations is part of what makes this film so enjoyable. The title character can be himself in his home in New York. He has the freedom to be who he really is and wants to be. His family home in Creekville is quite a different place entirely. His family has strict Christian beliefs. He is not able to be as open and honest back home in South Carolina.

Alan Ball balances these two locations perfectly. Using a road trip to bridge the gap between them helps the transition flow seamlessly. As writer-director, he is in full control of the atmosphere he is trying to create. The time period clothes, hair, and cars are all authentic and fit in this story as well. Ball shows he’s no novice at this directing game. This film might elevate him into someone people are looking forward to seeing what he does next. This film is that good!

Paul Bettany is a good actor with a diverse range. He has done some comedies but has also done some dramas in his day. That said, most people know him from playing Vision from the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Even though he has given some nuanced performances before as side characters, Uncle Frank might offer the best performance of his career. He has to balance being a mentor to his niece while also being an adult. He balances softer moments with dramatic moments which gives the character gravitas.

Uncle Frank dances around some difficult subject matter. The period in which this film takes place adds to the drama of the story. Amazon Prime has put out some good films and shows this year, but this one is one of the best. Even though there haven’t been a lot of films in theaters this year, streaming services have filled the gap perfectly. Bethany is a strong contender for awards consideration as well. This is a very good film that needs as many eyes on it as possible.

4 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean BoelmanFounder/Lead Criticdisappointment media

Hillbilly Elegy Review

Ron Howard has directed all kinds of films in his 40-year directing career. He’s done biopics. He’s done period pieces. But this is the first time he’s directed a movie for a streaming service. Hillbilly Elegy is a combination of all of these things. This is quite different than everything he’s directed before. 

J.D. Vance (played by Owen Aszalos and Gabriel Basso as a child and an adult, respectively) is a young man attending Yale when his story starts. It goes back and forth between the present day and the past when he was a teenager. It focuses on his relationship with his mother Bev Vance (Amy Adams) and his grandmother (Glenn Close). This was a tumultuous relationship at best, during both his childhood and the present day. Even though this story is basically about J.D. Vance, the stars of it are Amy Adams and Glenn Close. They both shine in their respective roles.

These types of stories have been done before: the type that has a man or woman telling their story from rags to riches, going from a tough upbringing to a successful businessman, athlete, musician, or such. These types of stories can be relatable to the masses. A lot of people can watch these films and get emotional because of how they bring out the feels. Hillbilly Elegy does that in spades.

This film had some production issues that made it hard to follow along with. The editing style can be confusing to some watching the film, going back and forth from past to present. The cinematography is a little clunky at times as well. Howard was going for a little grainy feeling to the film, but it was a little too much grain. Some of the acting by Amy Adams was a little too much. This was almost a turn-off! 

All in all, Hillbilly Elegy was an enlightening film. It was a slice of life story that was most enjoyable. J.D. Vance’s story was very relatable to me and I’m sure many others watching it at home on Netflix. The acting was a little over the top, but effective to get the motivations of the characters across. Both Amy Adams and Glenn Close are definite Academy Award contenders. The movie is good, but not great. Ron Howard has done much better in his career.

3 Stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean BoelmanFounder/Lead Criticdisappointment media

One Night In Miami Review

Regina King has been having quite a great few years in her career rrcently. First, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk in 2019. Just two months ago, she won an Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Mini-Series or TV Movie for the HBO mini-series Watchmen. In-between, she made One Night in Miami based on the Broadway play of the same name from Kemp Powers.

The film is based on a fictional meeting of Muhammad Ali/Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), and Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) in a hotel room after Ali beats Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship of the world. Malcolm X uses this meeting to introduce the men to the ways of the honorable Elijah Muhammad and to let Brown and Cooke know Cassius/Ali is the newest member of the Muslim religion.

Ben-Adir recently played Barack Obama in The Comey Rule. He’s making it a habit of portraying real people. His role as Obama was relatively small in The Comey Rule. In One Night in Miami, he’s in most of the scenes of the movie. He tries to convince the other three men of how important they are in the civil rights movement. The fact they are all champions in their chosen field gives them a platform to stand up for other black Americans. They can get on camera or stage and express their opinions on their race and or religion. How their people are being mistreated in the country by the law.

Odom Jr. came into the limelight in the country with the worldwide sensation known as Hamilton. It was a huge Tony winning Broadway play and it thrust Odom Jr. into superstardom along with Lin-Manuel Miranda. He recently started alongside Cynthia Erivo in Harriet. His portrayal of Cooke is a conflicted one. He’s confused about his place in the black community. As a producer of music, he feels he can get artists to use their gift as singers to express their opinions on the civil rights movement going on in the ’60s. He has delayed his own involvement, though. Malcolm X hopes to change his mind and gives him the push he needs to get involved.

Hodge and Goree’s characters of Ali and Brown both want to make a difference, but they don’t know how to do so. Even with their platform as great athletes, they don’t think people want to hear their opinions on civil rights. They just want them to entertain them as a boxer who floats light a butterfly and stings like a bee and a football player who runs like a freight train through defenses on the gridiron on Sundays. These men are unsure if being part of this movement is the right thing for their images. Ben-Adir’s Malcolm X disagrees. This is why they could be such important pieces in the movement because of who they are in and out of the sports venues.

Prominently set in one location, King and the cinematographer Tami Reiker do an excellent job of moving the camera around to focus on different conversations between the four men. This was very effective in capturing the drama between them, especially between Odom Jr. and Ben Adir. They have the most contemptuous discussions about who they should be and how to represent the black community in the country. This method was similar to what Sydney Lumet did in 12 Angry Men. The more tension between characters the closer the camera got to their faces as well. This film benefits from these techniques.

One Night in Miami shows how the civil rights movement affects each man differently and how they react to their various positions on where they stand. King and company adapt this story brilliantly from the stage to the screen. Great performances from all the main players, most notably Ben-Adir and Odom Jr. help keep the flow of the film moving forward. This is a must-see film for everyone because of the issues they discuss in that hotel room. These are issues affecting black men and women still today. This was definitely the time for this great film to be released. 

5 Stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Head Film Critic/Editor disappointment

Sound of Metal Review

Movies about musicians have been very prevalent over the years. Sometimes they are about real musicians, but more often they are about fictional musicians and or their loved ones. Writers have to find a hook that ties to the musician in question. In the case of Sound of Metal, the hook is a heavy metal drummer going deaf from his craft. The hook creates a lot of drama throughout the film.

Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed) is a heavy metal drummer in a band with his lead singer girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). After jamming out one day, Ruben notices that he is losing his hearing. He lets his girlfriend know. They both notify their representative from the music company they are signed with. They say they’ll get back to them later.

Ahmed has played some interesting characters in his short acting career. Nazir “Naz” Khan in the HBO mini-series The Night Of, Bohdi Rook in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Hermann Kermit Warm in The Sisters Brothers. The role that put him on the map as an actor to look at going forward is Rick, the friend of Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Nightcrawler. Ruben might be the best role of his lifetime. He goes to levels as an actor he has never reached before. He’s in the mix for Best Actor at the next Academy Awards.

Olivia Cooke is an actress a lot of people haven’t noticed as someone who can support more dramatic fare. She is predominantly known as a horror film actress. Films like OuijaThe Limehouse Golem, and The Quiet Ones have been her norm in her filmography. The occasional sci-fi film (Ready Player One) dark comedy (Thoroughbreds), and romance, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl have littered her career. Lou in Sound of Metal is more of a serious turn for Cooke, which is good for her.

Films about people with disabilities can sometimes be contrived. They pull on the heartstrings of the viewer without giving enough backstory or info to make them care enough. Sound of Metal is the exact opposite. It gives the viewer all the information it needs to care about the lead character. By having him go to doctors and a hearing-impaired group home, dealing with the bad news he’s given, it is left up to him to decide on what he should do going forward. This is how you tell a story about a person with a disability. 

Darius Marder is a relative newcomer to directing films. Sound of Metal is his second directing job, the other being a documentary from 2008 called Loot. Yet even though he’s been to directing he’s not new to working in the film industry. He wrote the screenplay for A Place Beyond the Pines. This time around, he is writing and directing. He shows a lot of talent behind the camera as well as with his writing. Close-up shots and dialogue-driven scenes are done very effectively. The conversations have a lot of weight to them, even the ones done through sign language.

Having known someone with partial hearing loss, Marder captured this subsection of society very well. The difficulty of having said hearing loss isn’t easy to overcome. For the person with the loss or those around him or her. The performances from Ahmed and others created a world where this disability is a difficult one to overcome. People are willing to help that person and programs are available to slowly transition him or her into this different phase in their life. This film was a great look at all aspects of hearing loss and the cost it has for all involved.

5 Stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman
Founder Head Film Critic/Editor


I’m Your Woman Review

Julia Hart has directed a few movies before I’m Your Woman. Her previous work Fast ColorMrs. Stevens, and Star Girl all focus on the teen experience in some form or other. These films are very different than her new film. Hart tends to write and direct projects about younger females, and this is about a woman and her baby. It is much more dramatic fare.

Hart enlisted help with the screenplay from Jordan Horowitz. If that name sounds familiar, he was the guy on stage at the Academy Awards that had to take the Oscar for Best Picture away from his film that he produced, La La Land, and give it to Moonlight. He’s also the producer on I’m Your Woman. Hart and Horowitz have been partners on several of her films including all of the ones I mentioned before. This film is a far cry from Star Girl and the others. Those are more of a lighter fair. 

Jean (Rachel Brosnahan) is a happily married wife. One night her husband Eddie (Bill Heck) brings home a baby. He tells her it’s their baby now and she needs to give it a name. Not very soon afterward, Eddie moves her and the baby to a new town and house. After this nothing is the same. She has to go on the run with a friend of Eddie’s. Cal and Teri help her stay hidden, but not for long. The men looking for Eddie come for her as well.

Rachel Brosnahan came into prominence with the pilot of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime. She won a primetime Emmy for her role as Mariam “Midge” Maisel, the mother of two, part-time stand-up comedian. Her role in I’m Your Woman is a dramatic turn that shows she has dramatic chops as well. Brosnahan can carry any kind of movie or TV show. She that it facter producers and directors are looking for.

I’m Your Woman is a period piece set in the late ’70s. Director Hart does a really good job with that time period. The clothes, cars, and hairstyles are all authentic. This is a very good thing because it helps get the viewer invested in the characters and story. Other films have tried to get it right and failed. All the pieces are in place for this gritty period piece that makes it work. Good acting, story, and direction make a must-see this December.

4 Stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Head Film Critic/Editor


The Father Review

Anthony Hopkins is widely considered one of the greatest actors living today. His turn as Hannibal Lecter garnered him wide acclaim as he won his only Best Actor Academy Award in 1992 for Silence of the Lambs. Great performances as the eponymous former President in Nixon, Mr. Stevens in Remains of the Day, and Pope Benedict in The Two Popes have kept him at the top echelon of actors today and throughout history. But his performance in The Father might be the best of his fifty-year acting career.

Anthony is an elderly gentleman who lives in England. He has dementia which makes him unable to differentiate from his daughter (Olivia Colman) and his caregivers (Imogen Poots and Olivia Williams). Anthony’s illness causes him and others a lot of pain and suffering. Sometimes he doesn’t even know where he is. Viewers will also begin to question where he is as well. It’s confusing at times. The viewer is put in a position where they are in the shoes of Anthony.

Florian Zeller was the man who was in charge of the stage version of this story. It made sense that he would direct the film version. The screenplay by Christopher Hampton and Zeller is brought to the screen very effectively. Hopkins and co. verbalize the dialogue perfectly. The audience of the film is as disoriented as the characters are. That approach works very well. If those watching don’t know what’s going to happen next, how can the characters? Zeller kept everyone off balance throughout the film.

Sony Pictures Classics has stood out over the years. Their films have been among some of the best with actors giving great performances. In recent years, Glenn Close, Antonio Banderas, Willem Dafoe have all garnered Academy Awards nominations in the acting categories for films from Sony Pictures Classics. The Father is another film that will surely garner Oscar nominations for both Hopkins and Colman. This film is an actors’ showcase. This would be Hopkins’s second nomination in a row and Colman’s second in three years. They are both favorites to get nominations in this lean year for great performances.

Movies about people with dementia have been more prevalent in recent years. Early-onset Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia. Still AliceWhat They Had, and Away From Her are various films dealing with this form of illness. These films handle these portions of their stories very well. The Father is the best film that has tackled these topics to date. The filmmaker puts the viewer in the shoes of both Anthony and his daughter Anne so that they can see both sides of these debilitating diseases. The writers and director really bring this topic to light more than ever before. For the performances, writing, and direction this is one of the best films you’ll see this year.

4 Stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder Lead Critic disappointment

The Trial of the Chicago 7 Review

Aaron Sorkin directed his first film in 2017 when he made Molly’s GameThe Trial of the Chicago 7 is his 2nd directorial outing, but it may be the most logical project he’s worked on since The West Wing because of its subject matter which is right up his alley. 

The Trial of the Chicago 7 depicts the culmination of the events that took place around the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, Illinois. Several groups went there that fateful day to peacefully demonstrate. What ended up happening was the police endured a riot because Mayor Daly wouldn’t let these groups get near the convention or demonstrate after hours. Chicago had strict curfew laws in effect for that time period after the convention ended. This was a recipe for disaster all the way around.

The cast is too numerous to talk about everybody, but the thing is they all are incredible in their particular roles. Mark Rylance (William Kunstler) plays the lawyer for the defense going head to head with a backwoods stone ages judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella). Rylance, an Academy Award Winner for his role in Bridge of Spies has been getting some decent roles since that big win in 2016. He’s so believable as this defense lawyer. He truly believed in the cause of these men on trial. 

Sacha Baron Cohen (Abbie Hoffman) and Jeremy Strong (Jerry Rubin) both give stand out performances as two hippy activists. They are completely over their head in this situation. Cohen’s character thinks it’s so comedic that he uses the scenario as fodder in his stand-up routine. The other wants the trial to be done because he just wants to get stoned. They both wanted to listen to rock music and express their free speech. They ended up as scapegoats for the new district attorney and his agenda. 

The rest of the cast including John Carroll Lynch, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Academy Award Winner Eddie Redmayne are all terrific as well. Sorkin assembled an all-star cast to go with his incredible script. He needed great actors to say all this great dialogue. He is a sure thing for an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay come awards season. The dialogue is said so wittingly and biting by so many members of this amazing cast. They wanted to be a part of this important film. 

Courtroom dramas are usually some of the best movies going and this one is no different. The cameras were set up to get all of the shots of the various players in this fiasco of a trial. They all had their time to shine. The real shining star is the story, though. This was a story that needed to be told. Netflix is scooping up all these mid-budget films that were otherwise hard to get made. Sorkin went to the right place with this film because this film is a hot button topic even though it takes place in the sixties. The country is going through a similar situation now as it was then. The country is a powder keg waiting to explode.

If there ever was a film set up as an awards contender, it’s this one. And for the right reasons. It’s worthy in so many categories the least of which are Best Supporting Actor, Director, and Adapted Screenplay. Sorkin has a great film on his hands and it could go the distance come awards season. This is the film the country needs to see right now. It’s a very important film on so many levels. I implore everybody to see this film as soon as possible. 

5 Stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman founder/editor head critic at

All In: The Fight For Democracy

A Film that is as important as it’s subject matter!

Over the decades, this country has had its fair share of voter fraud and even downright intimidation at the polls, mostly in the southern states but sometimes out West. Voter suppression is an old trick by people intending to fraud a particular county, district, or state. Fine print put into laws that have been passed over the years is a very frequent trick to cause voter fraud. Amendments 14, 15, 16, and 19 were very hard to get put in the constitution. All voter laws. The country suppressed different groups for many years.

Lisa Cortez and Liz Garbus decided that they were going to focus on one particular person to focus their energy and vision on: Stacy Abrams, who ran for Governor in 2018. The film explores how voter suppression affected that election and how government officials running for office shouldn’t be in charge of said election. This led her to make a concession speech mainly focused on voter suppression. This was the start for her becoming an activist against voter suppression not just in Georgia, but around the country.

Voter suppression starts with loopholes in the laws. A lot of Americans don’t pay attention to the little minutiae in the articles that are put in front of their politicians. Sneaky men and women try to get a lot of these laws passed that way. Part of it is the changing of district borders. Separating minorities is a prime example of this. Selma, Alabama in the ’60s was the straw that broke the camel’s back and LBJ and Martin Luther King finally came to terms and helped get passed the law that African-Americans can finally vote. Of course, suppression continued anyway. These towns and states got creative in their suppression this time.

In documentaries, talking heads are important. Who you have talking can sometimes make or break your film. Having them talk too much or too little is also a tightrope act. It’s very difficult to judge. The directors achieved this very well. Some political figures, judges, and elected officials are among the men and women discussing this issue. And they are effective at getting their point across to those watching the film.

This documentary is important for people wanting to learn about the voting process. How voter suppression affects all of us, not just minorities. Yes, Asians, Latinos, and African-Americans have mostly been affected by voter suppression and crooked politicians, but so have women as well. As long as white men run the government, this will continue to happen. This country needs to band together to see what is happening. It’s tearing itself apart from the inside. This coming election is very vital to stop corruption. And get these voter suppression laws out of the constitution and the state constitutions as well.

4 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Thank You

Sean Boelman

The Water Man Review

A middle of the road directorial debue

Actors becoming directors isn’t anything new to the film industry. Over the years actors have delved into the realm of directing. Some with great success, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, and Robert Redford, and others not so well. With The Water Man, David Oyelowo takes his turn in the director’s chair. It is a relative success, but not overwhelmingly so.

Gunner (Lonnie Chavis) is a young man dealing with a sick mother (Rosario Dawson) and a father (David Oyelowo) trying to keep his house and family together despite his wife’s illness. Lonnie hears about a mythic character named The Water Man that has found a way to escape death. He sets out on an adventure to find out about The Water Man. During his adventure, he meets a young girl named Jo (Amiah Miller) who helps him along the way. 

This film is a small film originally released at the Toronto International Film Festival. The size and scope of the film are definitely very obvious while watching it. It has very good cinematography by Matthew J. Lloyd. With most of the film set in the woods and mountainous areas of California, Oyelowo turns this speck script by Emma Needell into a small family drama with a fantasy twist. It just lacks the teeth it needs to get viewers to fully bite on its story. As a directorial debut, it’s not a bad outing by any means, but it’s just not on the level as some great films that came before it.

David Oyelowo is of Nigerian descent, but he’s from Great Britain. He broke onto the Hollywood scene with 2014’s Selma. He later appeared in Queen of KatweA United Kingdom, and Don’t Let Go. He has proven over the course of his career that he has chosen feel-good films to star in. Starring in and directing The Water Man, he has done this once again. It is definitely a heartwarming story we all can get behind. The Water Man is also produced by Oyelowo and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions. She doesn’t just back anybody or just any project. 

The Water Man is a heartfelt story with a twist. Most people are going to like this film for what it is — a good story with very good acting from its leads and a couple of cameos from Alfred Molina and Maria Bello. As a directorial debut, it’s solid — not great, but not bad either. Originally a Disney property, it makes sense in that regard. It definitely has a Disney vibe to it. It just doesn’t go the extra length to delve deeper into the father-son relationship between Gunner and Amos. It starts to but then bears off into the main storyline. The film would have served itself better for more biting dialogue between its actors.

4 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Thank You

Sean Boelman