Vengeance Review

B.J. Novak might be a name not many people are familiar with, but he’s actually been around in the business of acting and directing for a while now. He’s most famous for his role in the NBC sitcom The Office from 2005-2013, where he played Ryan Howard, but he also had a small role in the Quentin Tarantino Film Inglorious Basterds. In his latest project, Vengeance, he writes, directs, and stars for Focus Features.

Ben Manoalowitz (B.J. Novak) is a man who is trying to find himself. He is a journalist and fledgling podcaster in New York. One morning, he gets a call from Ty Shaw (Boyd Holbrook), the brother of an old flame, saying she died and he needs to come to Texas for her funeral. When he gets there, he gets the idea of starting a podcast investigating her death. He enlists the help of a friend back in New York, Eloise (Issa Rae), who has experience producing podcasts.

Novak’s character starts to get to know the family of Abilene (Leo Tipton), and he quickly realizes that this town is not a big place and the people in it aren’t that hard to figure out. He started questioning the locals, such as two law officers with no interest in the case, a local small-time music producer (Ashton Kutcher), and some cartel members. Everyone seemed to like this woman. But that leaves the big question: why would anyone kill such a nice girl that everyone in town liked?

Novak relies on his dry sense of humor in this film, and most of the characters have a similar sense about them. He tries to ingratiate himself with the family, which is his way of getting them to open up about their sister/daughter. He becomes a part of the family in a way when in actuality, he barely knew the woman in question. They take him in like he’s one of their own, but they harbor a big secret. In fact, this entire backwater Texas town does.

Novack’s filmmaking style and storyline aren’t necessarily the best. It leaves something to be desired. The camera work isn’t all that special, and the story was predictable. He relies on some famous friends to help him in the film, like cameos from John Mayer and such, to get the audience to the fact that this film is slow and plotting and doesn’t say anything about these people we couldn’t figure out from the very beginning of the film. He needs work in his writing and directing characters; his own character isn’t all that interesting either. He is pretty dull.

Vengeance is one of those films where a somewhat notable actor decided to go out on their own and test the waters to see if they could make something people would like. The fact of the matter is this film is slow and plods along like a snail, and the characters, especially Novak’s, are uninteresting to watch and listen to. Although a decent effort by Novak and company, the movie is all over the place in terms of tone and quality. I’d say he should go back to sitcoms where he’s safer in his environment.

2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media

Paper Girls Review

The comic book genre has come a long way since the dark and brooding Batman films of Tim Burton and the statuesque Christopher Reeve in Superman and its sequels, notably the second one by Richard Donner. Sure, the occasional Barb WireThe Crow, the Blade trilogy, or The Walking Dead has come along, but most comic book movies or tv shows have been about superheroes. That has all changed recently with the new show from Amazon Prime called Paper Girls

The show starts with four teenage girls Mac (Sofia Rosinsky), Erin (Riley Lai Nelet), Tiffany (Camryn Jones) and KJ (Fina Strazza), getting ready to deliver their newspapers the morning after Halloween in 1988. While on their newspaper routes, they see purple lightning in the sky. They go to check out the phenomenon on their bikes. What happens next is crazy. They inadvertently get involved in a war between two groups of warring time travelers. One group is the resistance, and the other is the law.

This show is based on the comic book series by Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chiang. Vaughn is no stranger to getting his series turned into films. He wrote the Kick-Ass and Kingsman series, both of which became movies. All the episodes have a familiar look to them not to confuse the audience. This is due to good directing, writing, and cinematography. Paper Girls is produced by Legendary, which is no stranger to spectacle films, so this show was going to look good no matter if it was bad or good. It’s pretty good, though. It kind of has a realistic look to it, like a Michael Mann film. 

One of the things that makes this show entertaining and engaging is the relationship between the four girls. They all have different motivations and attitudes towards the world, making them not always get along with each other. They come from different backgrounds and are of different races and sexual orientations, and so forth. They are really a different subsection of the country as a whole. A lot of girls their age, I think, will gravitate towards this show in different ways. With school getting started in August, this might be a popular show for teenage girls to watch, and if they like it, they can tell their friends.

There is a sci-fi aspect to this show: time travel. This show does a pretty good job of dealing with this popular trope. I feel time traveling has been overdone in Hollywood, but this show deals with it in an exciting way. These girls need help to get back home and how they figure out how and who they can trust and not trust is the main focus of the show. Along the way, they learn a lot about each other. Back to the Future comes to mind when I think of how the story unfolds, but it’s done very well. And writers should learn from Vaughn on this point.

Paper Girls was a lot of fun. Before I started watching the show, I hadn’t heard of the comic book series from Chaing and Vaughn. It just had an interesting premise, and it seemed cool to me. I’m glad I gave it a chance now because I really enjoyed it a lot. The sci-fi aspect, including the time travel, was good, but the four girls and their relationship, good and bad, throughout the show was the driving force for me. These young actresses were outstanding and kept me engaged with them throughout their ups and downs in the series. I think many girls their age will gravitate to this show for a good reason they can relate to them as well.

4 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media

DC League Of Super-Pets Review

Warner Brothers and DC have struggled to find success with their super-hero films.  Some have been good, some have been just alright, and some have been not-so-great at all.  But with The League of Super-Pets, WB and DC may have just finally figured out what it takes to make a great superhero movie!  A good, clean, fun-filled, family-friendly film with everything you’d expect – from super-villains with an evil plan to spectacular battles to heart-warming friendships to a rag-tag team of heroes who must not only find their own identities, but also come together to save their mentors.  And just because these heroes happen to be animals, it does not make it any less of a fantastic movie!

The League of Super-Pets provides us with a completely different take on Superman’s origin – from the viewpoint of his dog, Krypto (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson).  Joining young Kal-El on his journey from the doomed planet of Krypton to Earth, it is Krypto’s job to take care of his boy.  But what happens when that boy becomes a man and finds love in the form of Lois Lane?  Where does that leave Super-Man’s Best Friend?  Well, this movie explores that answer and more!  Krypto is questioning his place in Superman’s life when Lex Luthor (Marc Meron) sets in motion events that ultimately give some unsuspecting shelter animals powers they could never dream of – from invulnerability to size-changing to super-speed to electrical blasts.  And when the Justice League is defeated and kidnapped by … Nah, that would be telling! … it is up to Krypto to convince Ace (Kevin Hart), PB (Venessa Bayer), Chip (Diego Luna), and Merton (Natasha Lyonne) that they can be heroes and enlist their aid in saving the Justice League. 

Yes, the movie may be aimed at a younger audience, but it is definitely an enjoyable film for adults as well! There is plenty of humor, which is kept clean and at a level that all ages can enjoy it, and there is plenty of cartoon, comic adventure and battles that will definitely keep children and adults alike glued to the screen.  And even though the main characters are animals, it is easy to get drawn into their journey, as each one must come to face their own fears – whether it be losing one’s owner, conquering one’s insecurities, overcoming one’s uncertainties in battle, or even just dealing with one’s faulty eyesight.  The dilemmas are just as real as the ones we call face every day, and that’s part of what adds to this film’s success.

Admittedly, the characterization of Superman, Batman, and Aquaman may not be exactly what we are used to seeing – and the Green Lantern in this movie is not the Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Kyle Raynor, or even Guy Gardner that we may be familiar with – but they are not the stars, after all, so WB and DC can be forgiven for taking a bit more liberty with their characters in order to allow the Super-Pets to truly shine. The League of Super-Pets is definitely a film not to be missed – it is super-adorable, it is super-fun, and it is everything a superhero movie should be!

4 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

A Love Song Review

Sometimes the best movies are those that are understated. Quiet and slow can be more effective than gut-busting laughter or large explosions and action scenes in films. Even though those could be fun as well if done right. A slower, quieter film like A Love Song lets the actors and the story be the film’s star, and that’s what director Max Walker-Silverman achieves with this film.

Faye (Dale Dickey), usually a character actress now she gets the starring role, is a woman camping off the grid in Colorado. She spends most of her day and night fishing the nearby lake, reading, and sometimes stargazing. She has sent a message to a man from her past to meet her at this very campground. Lito (Wes Studi) has a black lab, and he and Faye have much catching up to do.

The film has a few supporting characters that round out this very small cast: a couple that is camping across the lake with a decision to make of their own, a family who becomes friends with Dickey’s character, and a postman who delivers the mail by donkey. He helps to keep her optimistic about the future.

There are two stars in this film besides its actors, one of which is the music in the movie — sometimes played on a hand-held radio if she can get a channel reception on it. Also, some characters play music on guitars and sing songs. The songs bring the whole film together in a way that is quaint and delightful. 

The other star that I should mention is the cinematography by Alphonso Herrara Salcedo. He captures morning shots of the one mountain in the distance overlooking the lake. He also gets shots of the plains and hillside adjacent to the lake and campground. High shots looking down on the entire area give the viewer a fantastic perspective on how gorgeous this place she’s living in really is. It makes me want to go there and get off the grid myself if I weren’t so reliant on wifi and technology.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Dale Dickey is a character actor. She usually is typecast as crack whores or strung-out drug addicts. Once in a while, she plays a social worker. These are just the roles she’s been able to get in her career. She has a way of being withered and aged that directors are looking for, but she’s been a pretty prolific actress on the stage and small screen beside the big screen. A Love Song is the breakout role of her career, and she gives an Oscar-worthy performance.

All the little things Dickey’s character does are what bring a level of maturity to the character that I believe the director is looking for. She makes coffee or brings in her cages to catch crawfish. She has an idiosyncratic routine that keeps her going each day until that fateful day when her long-lost friend shows up at her campsite. She knows all the little details she needs to do as this character and does them to perfection.

A Love Song is an achievement in indie filmmaking that anybody, let alone its director, Max Walker-Silverman, can be proud of. He gets an amazing performance from Dickey that rivals any given this year this far, becoming this woman in such a believable way. The music and cinematography add a level of professionalism that this film deserves. This is the achievement in filmmaking that Bleecker Street finally needed. I just hope that everyone involved gets rewarded with awards and acclaim come next year at awards season.

41/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media

The Old Man Review

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a big problem for the entertainment world. One of the shows affected was the FX miniseries The Old Man, starring Jeff Bridges, coinciding with his own illness during that period. The Old Man finally came out on FX on Hulu this month, a year after it was supposed to.

Dan Chase (Jeff Bridges) is an old CIA Agent living off the grid until he is drawn back into a world of spies, terrorism, and assassins he had forgotten long ago. While on the run, he rents a room from an innocent bystander Zoe (Amy Brennaman), a woman with a troubled past of her own. Chase gets her involved in his cat and mouse game with an old FBI agent friend tasked with finding him and bringing him in Harold Harper (John Lithgow). Caught in the middle is Chase’s daughter Angela/Emily (Alia Shawkat). 

The Old Man is based on the novel by Thomas Perry, an acclaimed author of over twenty-nine novels. He is known for delivering thrilling stories and engaging characters that would be remembered long after reading the books. The same goes for this story, a miniseries on FX on Hulu. The Bridges character’s story is split into two separate arcs: One where he was a younger agent (Bill Heck) in Afghanistan fighting alongside terrorists against the Russians, and the other following the older Chase trying to save his daughter and fix things he put into motion years before.

Spy stories come in all forms, but they need two things to be successful: exciting characters and an engaging story that keeps the viewer interested throughout the book, film, or television show. The Old Man has both in spades. The characters are fascinating, and the story has layers peeled open like an onion. The various levels of this story are fascinating. The split story helps get to the crux of this story. This man has a lot of explaining to do to a lot of people, and if the answers he has aren’t good enough, people could die. That’s what he’s trying to prevent.

The one thing about this show I have a complaint about is its length. The writers adapted this story pretty well, but a more compact version would have been better. The seven episodes were a little too long for my liking. Even though the show flows pretty well, it lags in places such as moments of characters driving in cars or flying on planes. These types of scenes make for a dragging show. If the series were six episodes, it might have been a little tighter and flowed a little better — no lag in the story. And less exposition would have worked better.

Some of the things I do like about the show are the performances from Bridges, Brennaman, and Lithgow. It’s clear to see why these three are considered real pros in their field. They eat this dialogue up like it were their own and do a great job in this show. The other thing I like about the show is the layered story which could have gotten confusing but isn’t. It’s right out of the Spy 101 book, playing multiple sides against each other. It still doesn’t get bogged down. 

Three names that were integral in making this series are Robert Levine, Jonathan Steinberg, the creators, and Jon Watts, who directed two episodes of the show. These three men infused it with their knowledge and expertise, and that’s why it came out as well as it did. The novel was always there for backup, but the show needed some intrigue, deception, and character building. Setting up the world, which was set in the ’80s and the present day, was also important. It all worked very well.

The Old Man is a show with layers and layers and levels of storytelling that are drawn with a precision of a scalpel. Each piece of this story was designed to perfection. The acting by the three leads — Bridges, Lithgow, and Brennaman — alongside a few others was terrific. Everybody played a little part in this fantastic entertaining show. This show has all the features that a show such as this needs. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.

4 Stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media

The Last Movie Stars Review

Hollywood stars are fleeting, but the legacy these stars leave behind will be remembered forever. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward left a legacy of greatness, philanthropy, and a long-lasting relationship. These two huge movie stars were the last of a generation, the likes of which never will be seen again. What they have left behind will not be forgotten. 

Paul Newman wasn’t married to Joanne Woodward his whole adult life — he had another marriage before her. For many years they were in a relationship before they actually got married to one another. Between his first marriage and second (to Woodward), Newman had six children. One of which Scott died of drug abuse. His daughters bore him grandchildren and had successful marriages of their own. Their legacy lives on in them.

Ethan Hawke was approached by the children of Newman and Woodward about doing a documentary about them. He would use video transcripts to get at the heart of who these two Hollywood legends are. The original videos were destroyed; all that was left were the transcripts. Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened, and he couldn’t do the usual interviewing of the people who knew them best and had worked with them in the past. Instead, he insisted on his own friends and decided to have them play the people in Newman and Woodward’s life by reading the transcripts as them. What an ingenious way of doing a documentary. Also, this would all be done on Zoom calls, bringing this documentary to life.

Hawke didn’t shy away from the other typical thing that documentaries do: using archival footage and television interviews to break up the reading of the transcripts — going from the beginning of their careers and how they met. There are a lot of old photos that were added into film reels that showed pictures of the family from way back. The old Hollywood stuff was some of the best they used to show them in their element at premieres or working on various films together or separately. They both had very successful careers on the screen, both big and small. Hawke got to the heart of who these legends were, and he pulled no punches regarding the ups and downs in their relationship and Newman’s battle with alcoholism which almost destroyed their relationship.

Newman’s career spanned sixty years, and Woodward’s was a little longer because she outlived her husband. Newman was nominated for five Academy Awards and won one for The Color of Money in 1986. Martin Scorsese, the director of the film, was one of the talking heads in the documentary. He was just one of many who gushed about The HustlerCool Hand LukeHudThe VerdictThe Sting, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He could have won the Academy award for any of these films. The documentary goes into that briefly in the sixth episode. I wasn’t as aware of Woodward’s career, but she was as prolific an actress as he was. They both learned their craft at the actor’s studio in New York City. She won three Oscars and nineteen Emmy Awards, among many others in her career. Arguably she was a bigger star than he was.

Their philanthropic efforts, such as The Hole in the Wall Gang and Newman’s own, were connected at the hip. All the proceeds from Newman’s Own salad dressing, lemonade, and spaghetti sauce, among other products, grossed millions of dollars. Newman and Woodward never received a dime from all of this stuff. All the money went to the kid’s camps they set up for underprivileged kids in Connecticut. The documentary also goes into Newman’s racing career. This film deals with a lot about these two people’s lives. It’s a very in-depth film.

It’s a rare thing that a film can get at the heart of who it’s depicting, and even though Hawke had to do this unconventionally, it still worked to perfection. The talking heads were a who’s who of Hollywood, and the people — or as he says, his friends — Hawke got to read the transcript were cool, and they benefited the film that much more. The interviews stopped in 1991, so that’s the end of the transcripts. This documentary was a masterclass in documentary filmmaking, and it was partly an accident due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

5 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media

Nope Review

Jordan Peele surprised the whole world when Get Out came out. It is considered one of the best horror movies in recent memory. It even garnered him an Academy Award for Original Screenplay. He is now considered a must-see director. His next film, Us, was another audacious outing. He likes to make statements about society while also trying to scare the bejesus out of people. His new film Nope does both very well. And it might be his best film yet.

This film is centered around the Haywood Hollywood Horses. A horse farm in the Hollywood hills. Daniel Kaluuya plays OJ Haywood, the son of a successful horse trainer. He is carrying on after the sudden death of his father. He believes in the tradition of what his father’s father started many years ago. His sister, Emerald (Keke Palmer), isn’t as enamored with the family tradition but helps her brother carry on anyway. After a gig, she comes home with him, and they start to witness some strange events.

Peele’s films usually say something about our world or society, and Nope is no different. There is a subplot involving a sitcom and a monkey, and it’s pretty gruesome. Steven Yeun’s character has a hidden past that he wouldn’t like everybody to know about, which has brought him to this place and time, running Jupiter’s Claim a country and western town and show. 

The setting of this film is in the Hollywood Hills. It is interesting because it lends itself to the crazy goings-on that starts to happen involving the clouds and what is hidden in the hills. Peele brings a dread that is not easily understandable by the film’s three stars, but with the help of a tech guy, Angel Torres (Brandon Perea), they plan to record their findings and hope to see what is out there with special cameras. 

There are underlying messages in Peele’s films, and sometimes, these messages aren’t always very noticeable. When it comes to animals and training, it’s not easy to work with them, especially horses. Some animals are something you shouldn’t look at because they take it as a threat to their being. That translates to the film’s overall theme, and it plays into Peele’s obsession with getting themes about the human condition into his films. These themes can say a lot about who we are and where we came from, and it’s not always pretty. It’s kind of depressing to think about.

Peele used IMAX cameras to film this movie, and boy, is it an IMAX experience. He upped the scale of the film while also trying to keep it intimate and small at the same time. These characters were in their own world, and the surroundings were what was big and grandiose. It was hard to describe what was going on, but it was strange, scary, and funny all at the same time. Peele encompassed many emotions in this film, and that’s what I was going through while watching it. I had a lot going through my mind, and most of it was good thoughts about the film’s originality and how Peele continues to surprise and bring an original vision to film like no other filmmaker alive today.

The acting in the film was pretty good by most, not great, but the standout was Keke Palmer. She had all the best lines in the movie. When she spoke, I listened extra hard. She made me laugh and smile because of how her character reacted to the various situations around her and her friends and family. She acted in a way that I probably would, and it was entertaining to watch. Of course, she didn’t get the moment of the film, but that was expected because one other actor was a bit bigger star than she was.

Nope was a film that said a lot about life and the world as a whole. The sci-fi aspects of the film were filmed with IMAX cameras, bringing another scale to the film. It also had an intimate feel because of the small group of characters it focused on. The cast was pretty good, with Keke Palmer as the standout. Peele brought out many emotions in me, with joy being the biggest one when the film was over. Peele continues to surprise and wow with each new movie he makes, and that’s great!

4 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Foinder/EIC disappointment media

Fire of Love Review

love documentaries because they tell stories about someone I know, but not that well, or they can tell a story about someone or something I don’t know very much about. That’s the case with Fire of Love. This documentary tells the story of two of the world’s best volcanologists, Katia and Maurice Krafft, and why they love each other as much as they love studying volcanoes.

Katia and Maurice Krafft met each other in the ’70s while studying volcanoes. They traversed the globe from Africa to South America and China to Canada. They studied everything that could be learned regarding volcanoes, from tectonic plates to lava rivers. They wrote books and made films documenting their studies. These two never wanted to do anything else with their lives. After spending so much time together, they realized they couldn’t be with anyone else, so they married each other.

These two people literally fell in love on the edge of a volcano. That’s only half the story, though. Katia was an intellectual, and she looked at things in a very intelligent, thought-provoking way, while Maurice was a more curious type of individual. He explored by getting close to the various volcanoes they studied. These two came up with the designation of volcanoes. Red volcanoes, which are less dangerous to research and spew chunks of lava for volcanologists, and grey volcanoes, which are much more deadly, erupt a large grey plume of smoke with hot ash that is very deadly to people in their path.

Maurice’s films allowed the world to understand volcanoes more thoroughly., but various countries they are in didn’t listen to Katia and Maurice when they said that things needed to happen to avoid a death toll due to an impending volcano exposition. An old saying I like to use is “You Can Lead a Horse to Water, but You Can’t Make It Drink,” which sometimes happens when it comes to the dangers of volcanoes. People weren’t totally sure they were that dangerous. That is until many people in their path died a most agonizing death from them. What Maurice and Katia were doing was very important, and people needed to take them more seriously.

The archival footage of Katia and Maurice in this film is eye-opening. How they got so close to so many dangerous volcanoes is crazy. The fact that they narrowly escaped death many times proved what they were doing was dangerous but very important as well. They used the money they were granted and made from their books and films to do more studying and teach the world about these deadly natural disasters and how they are connected to the planet in interviews on television. They were pretty awesome, and the world needed them.

Films that tell a true story and teach the world something it needs to learn about are truly rare. The pair of Katia and Maurice were very engaging, and I was glued to the screen every time one spoke or when they were on the edge of death. The narrator, Miranda July, a celebrity in her own right, kept my ears listening to her fullest tones. She kept me so in tune with everything I was watching. It is one of the best narrations I’ve ever heard in a documentary. She was as engaging as the main couple and all the volcanoes were.

Fire of Love was literally love of the edge. The two main stars of the documentary were very engaging and interesting to watch in this film. Their journey to explore and study as many volcanoes and let the world know about them wasn’t as successful as they wanted, but they did do a lot of interviews and wrote books and movies about the journies. The narroration by Miranda July is as engaging as the main couple and the volcanoes were. This is one of the best documentaries of this or any year.

4 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Where the Crawdads Sing Review

Where the Crawdads Sing is another example of the familiar love triangle trope that the Twilight Saga or the Hunger Games franchise has used to perfection to forward their stories in each installment of the books and films. It was used to good effect in this film as well. 

Kya Clark (Daisy Edgar Jones, Jojo Regina) is a girl affectionately known as “The Marsh Girl.” She lives with her family alongside a series of canals leading to the ocean in North Carolina in the 1950s and ’60s. One by one, they all leave due to the abusive behavior of their father/husband (Garret Dillahunt). The only one left is young Kya until, eventually, her father himself leaves. Young Kya is all on her own. She grows up on the marsh, learning to fish for mussels to make ends meet and teaching herself to read. She starts to draw what she sees around her, from the shells to the insects and the wildlife. This becomes her way of life until those pesky boys come around.

This is where the love triangle gets introduced to the story. A young boy named Tate Walker (Taylor John Smith), who she ran across on her boat as a child, is now all grown up, and he is interested in the now teenage Kya. She takes to him quickly, and they hit it off until he goes to college. This doesn’t sit well with her. She’s pretty sad for a while but eventually gets over it and meets another boy named Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson). He’s a pretty popular boy in town and is even a quarterback for his local football team. He is also fascinated by her and wants their relationship to blossom. The problem is he’s hiding a secret, and this causes a rift between the two young people. When Tate comes back into the picture, this is where the love triangle gets complicated.

This film has multiple layers to it that fans of the book by the author Delia Owens. This book became a worldwide bestseller and got on the coveted Reese Witherspoon book list. This story meant a lot to many people, primarily women and older teenage girls. It’s the kind of story they love — where a young woman is swooning over two hot boys, but she can only have one of them.

The film has some very good cinematography from Polly Morgan. She brings these marshes of the North Carolina barrier reefs to life. Beautiful sunsets and sunrises are combined with various scenes of woods and beaches to create a backdrop of lush greens and a perfect setting for this film. The little fictional town of Barkley Cove, North Carolina is an additional touch that makes this story very authentic and makes this story come to life. It’s a quaint little town with a beautiful cove as its backdrop. 

An added side plot to this film of a murder mystery ties the entire film together: a trial that was fine but will not be considered one of the best in recent memory. It’s adequate to help tell the overarching story of the book. The director Olivia Newman does a competent job taking the elements from the book and bringing them to life vividly in color. 

Still, there were a few issues I had with her direction. One of the things that stuck out for me was the pristine cleanliness and newness of everything. This film takes place in the south in the ’50s and ’60s. There was only one scene in which Regina/Edgar Jones was actually dirty: when she was a kid running around in the mud in her bare feet. After that, she had new clothes, and the shack she lived in, which she called a house, seemed pretty and clean. This didn’t sit well with me. She should have been covered in dirt living the way she did, and being on that marsh, she should have been wet more often. 

Where the Crawdads Sing mostly relied on the love triangle to do a lot of the heavy lifting in the script, but a few supporting roles, most notably from Academy Award-nominated actor David Strathairn as a defense lawyer, stood out to me. Edgar Jones and the others were fine in the film, but I didn’t feel the chemistry that the story needed to build the tension it emptied that was going on between the three main characters. This was a bit disappointing until we got a twist that brought everything together in the end.

This film had a few things that didn’t jive with me, but in the end, there was enough for me to recommend it. The cinematography was gorgeous, and the story worked despite a lack of chemistry between the three leads. David Strathern is always a delight to see in any film or television project and stands out in this film. The subplot of a murder mystery worked well opposite the main story, and Edgar Jones as Kya was worth the price of admission. Fans of the book should be happy with the outcome of this film, directed by Olivia Newman.

3 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On Review

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is based on a YouTube short performed by Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate. At the time the short was made, these two were a couple. They’re not together anymore, but the short went so viral that they made it into a major motion picture that would be acquired by A24. It still retains the charm and cuteness of the shorts, though.

Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate) is a 1-inch tall shell. He lives with his grandmother Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini). They have a pet lint named Alan. After the previous owner of their house moves away, Dean rents it out as an Airbnb. He notices Marcel in the house and decides to do a documentary on him and his grandmother. The film depicts this film, if you will. It’s a mockumentary and a stop motion animated film combined into one.

What at first glance would seem like a cute little adorable character turned into a story with some heft. It could have been a little throwaway film, but it’s one of the best films of the year so far. Without getting into spoilers, Marcel’s life is more than meets the eye. When the previous owners of the house he lives in moved, that changed everything for him and his grandmother. This main plot point is the crux of the story. It worked perfectly and makes this film worth seeing.

The little things in this film are also why this film is worth seeing as well. Marcel’s ingenuity, determination, and love of his family are traits that he possesses that any shell or human being would want to emulate. He is a very nice little shell anybody who watches the film will fall in love with. You just can’t help it. Dean’s documentary makes a huge change in his life, though. It brings attention to him and his cause, but at what cost?

There are a lot of cameos in the film from notable tv personalities and celebrities. The two previous owners of the house who moved away were played by Thomas Mann (Me and Earl and Dying Girl) and Rosa Salazar (Alita: Battle Angel). These two tend to argue a lot, and that’s why they moved away and separated. This plot point was interesting because of how it caused everything in the film to happen. Without it, there wouldn’t have been a film about Marcel and his grandmother. This was pretty interesting to me.

All the little idiosyncrasies this film has are pretty cool. The voiceover work by Slate and Rossellini is fantastic. The stop motion animation is terrific. The combination of a mockumentary and an animated film is pretty awesome. The plot and how the story unfolded were very interesting to me. I wouldn’t say it’s a contrivance, but it sure worked out nicely for the entire story to make sense and move forward throughout the film. The bottom line, though, is that this is a cute little adorable film that doesn’t make any mistakes. It’s just good fun for the whole family.

4 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media