Misha and the Wolves Review

Documentaries can be straightforward sometimes or they can be a little off the wall. Every once in a while you get a doc that tells a story that’s so incredible it is too good to be true. Misha and the Wolves is a little bit of all of this combined. I don’t know how the filmmakers heard of this story. I didn’t hear about it before I saw this film.

The gist of this story is that a woman who lives in Massachusetts gets a book deal with a local small publishing house after telling her story on a local radio show. Her story is that she traveled from the Netherlands to Germany on foot. While traveling she befriended a pack of wolves and lived among them as a child. After a trial for the funds from the book become national news, this story takes some unexpected twists nobody could see coming.

The film takes place in seven or so different segments with titles such as the publisher, the genealogist, or the private investigator. Each segment introduces new characters and a new side to this wild story, the next crazier than the last. The talking heads say all kinds of things that are not easy to believe. At one point it’s a story of he-said-she-said. You just don’t know who to believe.

This film reminds me of Three Identical Strangers from a few years ago. It had a similar story that was too crazy to believe. Misha is a woman that you just don’t know if you could believe or not. There are a lot of people capable of telling tall tales. It has happened for years now. If some tell a story you’re programmed to believe what they say, so why should people not believe Misha when she tells such an incredible story?

She got so much acclaim off of the book and impending trial that she was able to get a movie made of her story. Misha and the Wolves was made into a film by a French production company and came out in 2007. Disney even tried to buy the rights to this story. The telltale sign that all of this could have been made up is when Misha turned down Oprah and her book club. You would think she’d be through the moon about being on Oprah, but she wasn’t.

This film has a lot of interesting plot points and twists and turns in it. The filmmakers keep you on your feet the entire time watching this film. Misha is a fascinating person… or is she? That’s what they are trying to get at. Is this story so hard to believe it’s unbelievable or is all these talking heads that show up at various points in the film a bunch of liars themselves? That’s for the viewer to determine themselves. And they are brought on an incredible ride in the process.

3 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman

Founder/EIC disappointment media

Lily Topples the World Review

The thing about a good documentary is it has to engage the viewers with a fascinating story that draws the audience in. Even though Lily Topples the World is pretty much a straightforward doc, it has what it needs to be interesting and fascinating and that’s its subject, Lily Hevesh. Her story is not that of an average success story. She turned lemons into lemonade in her life.

Lily was a Chinese orphan who was adopted by the Hevesh family at the age of one. She was a quiet child and not until she found domino toppling did she find out who she really was. It helped her develop a love of art and engineering she never knew she had until she started on this hobby which will eventually turn into her life’s work even though she is only twenty years old at the time of the filming of this documentary.

This is what America is all about: the story of making something of yourself from nothing. It’s as they say the rags-to-riches story. This is such an American Dream for anybody, let alone a little orphan girl from China. The filmmakers relied on the sympathy card with this film. Lily is a very sympathetic subject. That makes for a very enjoyable film all the way around. You can’t help but root for her in everything she does.

The key to an effective documentary is the filmmakers have to get down to what drives the film. Yes, Lily’s story is that of a huge success story, but not without the key plot point will this film and her story work. And it does because this key plot point drives the film forward so all the talking heads and falling dominoes mean something at the end of the film. That’s what makes a great documentary. 

The world of YouTube celebrities can be a beneficial one. As a YouTuber myself, I understand how this whole can be fun if you’re in the right community. Lily is adored by those in her community and also fellow domino topplers. They put her on a pedestal because in their eyes she’s the greatest at designing and toppling dominoes in the world. It’s a niche thing but she has a massive following nonetheless.

Lily Topples the World is an interesting and fascinating film. It’s about a very niche topic. The subject of the doc is by far the most interesting thing. Her life is defined by the American Dream and that’s what is so great about this film. The filmmaker makes her very engaging and relatable. Her friends and fans worship her and that’s the top of the iceberg of who she is as a person and success story.

4 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman

Founder/EIC disappointment media

Without Remorse Review

Tom Clancy is no stranger to having his book get turned into movies. His Jack Ryan character has been in six films and a hit streaming series on Amazon Prime starring John Krasinski as the title character. The character of John Clark, another Clancy regular, has appeared in two of the Jack Ryan films. Liev Schrieber portrayed him in The Sum of All Fears and Willem Dafoe portrayed him in Clear and Present DangerWithout Remorse, a film long in development, is the first time the character of John Clark has headlined his own movie. This time he is portrayed by Michael B Jordan.

Jordan’s Clark is an elite Navy Seal. He’s part of a special task force that deals in covert ops. After one such operation, members of his team are being knocked off one by one until these men eventually come for him. In the process, they kill his wife and unborn child. He is mad and will stop at nothing to get justice for his wife, child, and deceased team members. From this point on, the action is hot and heavy. 

This cast has other big-name actors in keys roles as well. Jamie Bell is a CIA Administrator with a shady side to him. Guy Pierce plays a military politician who has his own agenda on what is good and bad for the country. Also Jodie Turner-Smith (Queen & Slim) may be Clark’s only friend in a complicated world. What’s up and what’s down and who among these people can he trust is the main issue in this film.

A film with a heavy military presence can be full of action set pieces. Some of the behind-the-scenes crafts come into effect with these scenes. Such as production value, cinematography, and sound/editing. This film and its behind-the-scenes craftsmen and women do a great job making this film as realistic as possible. There are times that the sound and camera work is some of the best ones seen. The problem isn’t the craft aspects of the film.

The problem with this film, long in production, is the script. It had twists and turns that aren’t very believable. It has a lot of clunky dialogue coming from all the lead actors. It’s not their fault because they do everything they can to deliver this dialogue. Also, the writers try to be too fancy with the military jargon. I know it’s based on Tom Clancy’s works so it has to have smart dialogue, but it just comes out wrong time after time. This is the real problem with this film.

Jordan and company do as well as they can with this dialogue. If It was in the hands of worse actors it could come across as comedic in nature. They make the most of a bad situation. The actual production of the film is done very well from the sound to the camera work. Everything is first-rate. This property has been in limbo for quite a while and it makes sense with the end product. Amazon scooped it up but it didn’t make any difference. This film needed a new script.

2 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman

Founder/EIC disappointment media

The Mitchell’s vs the Machines Review

Road trip movies have been a thing now for at least four decades. Films such as National Lampoon’s Vacation are iconic films in this small genre. The thing is there haven’t been many — if any — road trip movies in the animation genre. The Mitchell’s vs the Machines is quite the road trip movie with a twist on it. As the title suggests, this family runs afoul of a robot apocalypse.

Abbi Jacobson voices a teenage girl who had a good relationship with her father, but in most terms, she starts to develop ideas and ways of doing things that are different from what her father likes. Her father, voiced by Danny McBride, can’t seem to do anything right in his quirky daughter’s mind. After a fight at the dinner table results in his daughter’s broken laptop, there might be no coming back for him. As a last-ditch effort, dad decides to cancel his daughter’s plane ticket to college and packs her, her brother (Michael Renata, who also serves as director), their mother (Maya Rudolph), and the family dog in the car and they go on a cross-country road trip to bring her to college. Hopefully having a family bonding experience on the way.

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, famous for the 21/22 Jump Street movies and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, are once again producers of a trendy animated feature film, but this time, not a comic book movie. The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a fun family adventure. They got on board with the writer/director Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe. This is a very entertaining property for the whole family. It was a no-brainer for them to get involved with this film.

Pixar has cornered the market on animation in the world, but Disney Animation and Illumination have upped their game over the years. Netflix has gotten into the animated feature game over the last few years with The WilloughbysOver the MoonThe Little Prince, and Klaus. One of the best parts about The Mitchells vs. the Machines is its animation. It is a little different than we’ve seen in the past, but it jumps out at you in a colorful and very vivid way. It also has a grain to it that makes it stand out as well.

One of the key factors in a good animated film is its cast, and the cast of this film isn’t the best, but it’s not the worst either. McBride, Rudolph, and company do the best they can, but it’s Abbi Jacobson who is the standout. Her character has a lot going on as a teenage girl about to go into college. Girls that age can be a bit of a handful for parents. They are going through a lot of female issues. McBride and Rudolph play the parents very empathetic and understanding of her issues.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a fun experience for the whole family. It has good voice-over work and great animation. The story is one we’ve seen before but not done this exact way. This is a very cool way to do a road trip movie. Michael Rianda does triple duty on this film and it’s all on the screen to see. This film might give Netflix its fifth Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature in three years. It’s definitely going to be in the conversation come awards season next year. This is a very worthy film of such accolades.

4 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

–Sean Boelman

Founder/EIC disappointment media

City of Lies Review

Movies based on true events can be terrific or they can veer off track and end up not very good. City of Lies is a bit of a mixed bag. The idea of this film is fascinating even though I’m not a fan of rap music. The world that rappers exist in is an interesting one. They sing about drugs, crime, and violence in the urban neighborhoods they come from. This makes their lives interesting from that aspect. The overall selection of this story is the problem, not the people it tries to depict in it.

Russell Poole (Johnny Depp) is a Los Angeles Police Detective. He has spent two decades trying to solve the deaths of The Notorious B.I.G and Tupac Shakur. He has been met head-on by his superiors at every turn he takes. Not until an eager reporter, Jack Jackson (Forest Whitaker), who’s looking to make a name for himself, comes sniffing around does this story get any traction. He wants to know why these murders haven’t been solved and who’s to blame for the ineptitude. 

The film has archival footage of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. It shows all the angles within this case. So why do the police department and lawyers involved keep creating so much red tape? That’s the question Poole and Jackson have to answer. Alongside Depp and Whitaker are a great group of character actors portraying all the men involved in this coverup. Among them are Shea Whigham, Toby Haas, Xander Berkley, and Dayton Callie. 

Good films about the investigation should be able to draw the viewer in and let them engage with the story. The deaths of these two rap icons is that story. The investigation and reporting of this story are convoluted though. This film goes in so many different directions it’s hard to tell up from down. It has a time-lapse aspect of it where Depp’s character is, in the end, working on a case, then it goes back to the present in the film to show Poole and Jackson investigating it. That’s on top of archival footage. It’s a bit all over the place. 

This film should have been put out into theaters, but it has been mired in controversy, the least of which is Depp’s personal life. The murders were very suspicious in and of themselves. The film is based on the book Labyrinth by Randall Sullivan. That is an apt title because this film is very confusing at times. Brad Furman gives it his best, though. He tried to adapt this book as simply as he could, but the time-jumping and archival footage mixed in made it hard to follow along with.

Stories about real people are fascinating, especially those that died. The investigations are sometimes complex and involving, which translates to good drama on screen. Sometimes the material being adapted is too complex, which makes for a convoluted and confusing film. That’s what we have here. Despite the controversy surrounding the film and Johnny Depp, the acting from him, Whitaker, and the others is quite good. The setting is fine as well. The story just needed some fine-tuning and maybe a few rewrites. Who knows… maybe it shouldn’t have been made into a movie at all?

3 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman

Founder/EIC disappointment media

Riders of Justice Review

Mads Mikkelsen has had quite the career for himself. This past year he’s worked with Thomas Vinterberg again on the Academy Award-nominated Another Round, which has a nice ensemble cast similar to Mikkelsen’s latest film Riders of Justice. He’s made a career of working with very effective casts.

Mikkelsen’s character Markus is in the military. While his wife and daughter are back home. The wife and daughter take a train ride and an explosion happens on the train. His wife is tragically killed in the explosion, but his daughter survives. Markus has to come home to take care of his grieving teenage daughter. When a man named Otto (Nicholaj Lie Kaas) surfaces who might have answers on whose responsible for the death of Markus’s wife, it starts them down a road of investigation they may now return from.

Otto enlists a couple of friends of his for assistance. Lennart (Lars Brygmann), a hacker, and Emmenthaler, (Nicolas Bro) a computer engineer, both of whom have very helpful skills in finding out who is responsible for this bombing. Alongside Matilde’s boyfriend Sirius (Albert Rudbeck) and Bodashka (Gustav Lindh), this group of people makes quite the motley crew. They seem to like to most unlikely group to be working together to uncover a terrorist plot, especially the hard-nosed military man Markus.

This awkward strange group of people can lead to some comedic and angry moments. At times, members get punched in the face, left on the side of the road, yelled at, and picked on by various other members of the group. In the end, they come together to uncover this plot. Even though Markus has his military skills, he’s not equipped with everything he needs to bring these men to justice. That’s where all the other people in the group come in, even if they may or may not be a hindrance to the cause.

Even though this film deals with serious subject matter such as a terrorist bombing and the death of a loved one, it also has some levity to it. These characters aren’t necessarily the most knowledgeable when it comes to violence, interaction with others, or being told what and what not to do. One of them pretends to be a psychiatrist and this is a funny scene. Another one acts as he knows about firing weapons because has can put one together, but when it’s time to act on his so-called knowledge he’s afraid. It’s these moments that make to film more than what it seems like on the surface, which is a revenge thriller.

Based on an idea from the director, Anders Thomas Jensen and Nicolaj Arcel, this film had a lot of fun moments mixed with tense character study moments. It had action mixed with a family drama. This film had it all: a star in Mads Mikkelsen mixed with a great cast of supporting actors and an engaging yet topical story. Despite its seemingly violent nature, it is a very heartfelt film that people should seek out once it comes to theaters or streaming.

4 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Mogul Mowgli Review

Riz Ahmed is having quite the resurgence in his career lately. After a star-making role in the HBO mini-series The Night Of, he has been doing some great work, as evidenced in Sound of Metal last year from Amazon Prime. He has garnered an Academy Award nomination for his role of Ruben Stone, a heavy metal drummer who is starting to become deaf from being too close to all the loud music. His role in Mogul Mowgli is warily similar to that one that got him so much acclaim.

Zed (Rid Ahmed) is a British-Pakistani rapper. He’s about to embark on a world tour. This is the big break in his career he’s been waiting for. Before the tour, he decides to go back home to visit his family, who he’s not seen in over two years. While there, he falls ill and it could be a life-threatening disease. This could mean the end of the tour and his career as a rapper.

Zed’s family and girlfriend, Nina (Aiysha Hart), both have reservations about what he should do moving forward. Should he get treatment or and or pass his slot on the tour to another rapper? These are tough decisions for anybody in this situation. Everybody has ideas on what’s good for Zed. His family has reservations on whether or not this was the right career path for him and his girlfriend is thinking of the dollar signs. These are tough moments for anybody in the situation Zed is in.

Filmmaker Bassam Tariq made this film from a screenplay from Ahmed and himself. They knew this world of the British-Pakistani family dynamic very well. The overbearing father figure is one we’ve seen in plenty of movies before such as Blinded by the Light. These are familiar tropes that are interwoven perfectly throughout this hard-hitting drama.

Giving the lead character in a film a disease is a way to bring out the dramatic moments of the main character. Adding in dream sequences makes the overall story that much harder to handle for him, and therefore making the film a difficult one to watch. As the viewer, you feel bad for what this character, Zed, is going through. People can relate to this type of thing. Everybody has family who is or has been sick and it’s not always easy to deal with a sick relative or family member. These aspects of the film work very effectively.

I’m not the biggest fan of rap music, but the rapping was understandable and played into who the main character was. Using this as the way to get into the mind of Zed was a perfect avenue to go down. The acting was flawless from everybody involved and may garner Ahmed another Academy Award nomination next year. The parts of the film about where he is from and what he is all about as a British-Pakistani Man work as well. They help the viewer to get invested in him as a character and eventually care about him. This film is an exceptional character study on the level of The Father and Sound of Metal.

4 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Concrete Cowboy Review

Some of the best movies tell stories we may have never heard of before. It’s always nice when a slice-of-life story comes along that is very interesting and strikes a chord with viewers. Concrete Cowboy is one such film with a very touching story.

Cole (Caleb McLaughlin, Stranger Things) is a troubled teen in Detroit. His mother has had enough of his antics. She decides to take him to Philadelphia to live with his estranged father. While there, he gets a hard lesson about life and becomes friends with the locals. They have an interest in training and riding horses. This might be a way for Cole to communicate and relate with his father Harp (Idris Elba).

Films like this are very interesting because of the aspect of the lost character. In this case, it’s Cole. He’s a lost soul that needs finding. An old friend named Smush (Jharrell Jerome, When They See Us) embraces Cole and tries to mentor him. This may not be the path he needs to follow. He needs to come to this conclusion on his own though. This tight nit horse community may be the answer he’s seeking for his future.

Concrete Cowboy has a sense of family to it. This inner-city film has subject matter that is different from your average urban-set film. The father-son relationship at the center of it is the heart and soul of this story. Ricky Staub, the director, and Gregory Neri and Dan Walser, the writers, come from a very good angle on this film. They get on the inside of this community and bring the father-son angle to a high. It’s a perfect combination of storylines.

The heart and soul of the film also come from the horses depicted in it as well. The trust one needs to be able to ride a horse and train it is very hard for anybody, let alone a teenage kid who has never been around horses before in his life. That love and respect of the rider and horse is a beautiful thing when done right on film. Movies about horses are a subgenre of sports movies. They can be very inspiring at times. This film is an inspiring story.

Netflix has done a nice job acquiring or producing new projects from up-and-coming filmmakers. Some of them can be considered good films and some aren’t as impressive. Concrete Cowboy is one of the former. It is an original urban inner-city story such as Cut Throat City or Charm City Kings. The family aspect is a very familiar one, but an effective one in bringing the whole story all the way around to home base. Along with the horse parts of the film, the acting is very solid as well. This is a good first outing for the director and writers.

4 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman

Founder/EIC disappointment media

Tina Review

What I remember about Tina Turner is her huge success in the ’80s with the album Tiny Dancer and her huge hit single “What’s Love Got to Do With It”, which also serves as the title of the biopic about her abusive relationship with her partner and collaborator Ike Turner. I also remember her starring in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Tina Turner is more than all that though a lot more.

Turner was born in Nutbush, Tennessee and she came up singing in the baptist church as a young girl. That’s where Ike Turner found her and brought her into his band as a backup singer. He soon realized her talents and they started producing soul music and eventually rock and roll music together. Their inevitable explosive relationship, depicted in the film, ended very badly and in divorce. This was widely known. Like a caterpillar, Turner would blossom into a beautiful butterfly. 

The ’80s were like a new lease on life for Turner and people loved her for that. Interviews and huge concert tours fueled the success of Tiny Dancer. It allowed her to be the rock star she always wanted to be. Her shucking and jiving on stage was legendary. Nobody could dance like her on stage. Add in her iconic voice and you had an artist like no other. In an era of pop singers like Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Whitney Houston, Turner stood toe to toe with them.

As a rock fan, Turner’s voice was second to none for me. I can recall listening to her songs over and over again when I was a kid. She just resonated with the kind of music I liked. Sure the others were huge stars, but they couldn’t hold a candle to Turner in my mind. She had a grasp of her voice that I just loved. It influenced my music interests for decades to come.

The abusive nature of Turner’s relationship with Ike Turner resonated with me as well. As a kid, my father and mother got into huge fights over finances and whatnot. My father drank a lot and hit my mother and us kids. This made me resent him for years to come. Violence in a relationship is sad because you start with love and things just decline from there. A lot of families can relate to this. Turner used this to drive her career and prove she could be successful without Ike. It worked!

Turner’s songs were iconic and her presence was second to none. She had an aura about her that made her forget her past and focus on the future eventually following in love again. Her collaborators such as Roger Davies on her music and Curt Loder, MTV, in her book, helped show she wasn’t defined by her past or her relationship with Ike Turner. Her success has shown what a powerful presence in music and pop culture she has become.

4 Stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman

Founder/EIC disappointment mediaShow more

Godzilla vs Kong Review

Warner Bros. landed a deal with Legendary Films and with that came the MonsterVerse. WB wanted to create this shared universe between Godzilla and King Kong to compete with Disney and Marvel to some extent. To a lesser extent. they do. Marvel/Disney has a lot more characters and can do many more films. The MonsterVerse is bigger in other countries like the pacific rim and continents like Asia and Australia. WB hopes to get their revenue from that part of the globe where these characters are more popular.

This film picks up a few years after the last film, Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Godzilla is attacking an Apex Facility in Pensacola, Florida. A local podcaster (Brian Tyree Henry) is investigating these occurrences with the help of Millie Bobby Brown’s character from the last film. The leader of Apex (Demián Bichir) has a sinister plan to get rid of the titans. The plan gets a little confusing but also involves Alexander Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall, and a little girl who can talk to Kong.

The inevitable part about these Godzilla and King Kong films is the human characters that drive the plot forward. Some have evil plots using the titans for their own nefarious means, such as Bichir, Samuel L. Jackson, and Charles Dance, and some are friendly towards the titans like Ken Watanabe, Millie Bobby Brown the little girl who can communicate with Kong. Most of the time the human characters just get in the way of what everybody wants to see: the titans battling and destroying stuff.

Godzilla vs. Kong has what everybody wants: epic battles between Godzilla and King Kong. The locations are interesting, though because who has the advantage in each place they fight. That sometimes weighs in on who wins each battle. Eventually, these two titans have to put away their egos of who is the best of the best and team up to fight a common foe. This is an epic battle, to say the least. These battles were great, but I give the edge to the King of the Monsters on that front. 

The plot in these films is usually just there to drive the film forward. That being said, the plot this time around was a little convoluted and hard to understand. A lot of the film is wasted on this upside-down world. I still don’t understand how a hole in the ground leads to the middle of the Earth. That was a contrived reason for Kong’s size change as well. It’s simpler when a nefarious bad guy has the plot to destroy the Titans.

All in all, Godzilla vs. Kong is a good popcorn flick. You just take your brain out and enjoy the action and destruction and ignore the human characters altogether, except the little girl who can communicate with Kong. That’s an interesting relationship I wished we would have seen more of. The destruction of Hong Kong is an epic battle between the titans and a familiar foe. Sadly, we had to wait until the end to get something worth caring about.

3 Stars

Dan Skip Allen