Rye Lane Review- A Fun Rom-Com Where the Real Winner in the Film is Its Location Named in the Title

As documented in the series of films from Steve McQueen a couple of years ago London, England has a neighborhood that is mainly made up of island people from Jamaica, the Bahamas, and other island municipalities of Great Britain. Rye Lane is a real street in this section of South London in Peckham and Brixton and it’s another Sundance film that was bought by Searchlight Pictures and will air on Hulu in March. This is an early review.

Dom (David Jonsson) is a man that is crying in a bathroom when a woman named Yas (Vivian Oparah) comes in to use it. She lets him know it’s a multiplex bathroom, but she hears him crying and asks if he’s okay. When he comes out he starts walking around the art show he’s at for his friend who did all the art. That consists of lips and various parts of the mouth. She sees him and walks up to him and they start talking. They go outside and go for a walk that lasts all day.

The fun part of the walk is the two young people get to know each other and tell each other their various breakup stories. Dom saw his girl on a video call with his best friend in the background naked and Vivian said she left her boyfriend because he was more concerned with his art than her. It’s a typical romantic quandary. Two people who meet up accidentally have similar breakup stories. Part of what makes the romantic angle so good is where they go and who they run into on their journey.

This street is like a character in the film. They go to various shops and inside malls along their walk. They even stop and get a burrito. And the man who serves it to them is an academy award-winning actor who will not spoil in this review. I was very surprised to see this man in the film. The rest of the cast is pretty in smaller times as well. The journey though was fun because of the look of this street. The cinematography by Olan Collardy was gorgeous. The colors of the shops and walls and everything in between jumped off the screen. 

The story was kind of funny because there were a couple of different tricks the director, Raine Allen Miller, used to tell this tale of these two twenty-somethings. One of them was using scenes where the man or woman was explaining their situation while the actual situation was going on at the same time in the scene. It was a little strange but it worked very well in the context of the movie. Another was a rewind section with music playing over it. That was to document the time that the two spent walking together all day. These were effective tools in the way Miller told the story.

As I said various other folks pop into the film namely the exes of the two main characters. These scenes were done in a more fun way than the rest of the film. This is where the comedy comes in the romantic comedy. The exes were a bit odd and so were the main character’s friends and family members who show up in some parts of the movie. There were a couple of funny karaoke scenes as well. All around the cast was pretty good in big parts and little ones.

Rye Lane is a delightful little film that hits on a subsection of London that is rarely seen in the film. This duo is equally delightful in its own way. They have quirky things about them regarding their personalities and their friends and family. The two breakups were the perfect inciting incidents that got these two people together and it was magic on screen. They both shined in their various roles but the real winner in this movie was the location in the title. The cinematography was breathtakingly gorgeous. And it was nice to see this area get the spotlight shined on it. This will be a fun film for people to watch when it comes out on Hulu in March. Keep your eyes open for it.

This film premiered at Sundance 2023 but will be seen on Hulu in March

4 stars 

Dan Skip Allen

Skinamarink Review- A Creepy, Wild Horror Film That Is Genuinely Scary From Beginning To End

Skinamarink is a film that is labeled as a creepypasta. The definition of creepypastas is horror-related legends that have been shared around the Internet. Creepypasta has since become a catch-all term for any horror content posted on the Internet. These Internet entries are often brief, user-generated, paranormal stories intended to scare readers.  It’s a subgenre of the horror genre.

The gist of the film is this. Two children wake up in the middle of the night, as children are known to do, and they can’t find their father. They keep calling out to him but he never answers them back. Along with this, they notice all the doors and windows of their house are missing. So what do they do? They go into the living room and watch television. And play with their legos.

While all this is going on the viewer at home or in the theater is freaked out because there are scenes of a woman who pops up from time to time and spooky sounds that I couldn’t put my finger on where they were coming from. There were also some strange angles the film puts the camera on and a very odd phone call. This movie goes to some weird places. And there are a few jumps if you’re not ready for them. And some whispering from the children.

The cinematography is very interesting in this film because as I mentioned there are a lot of strange angles the camera is put in and sometimes the movie goes to color and back to black and white. The director put the camera on inanimate objects like a toy or a wall. It’s hard to see sometimes what is being depicted on screen. But the odd sounds added to the camera angles and back and forth between color and black and white make for a very spooky film. Even though there isn’t much going on, the atmospheric nature is what creates the scary and odd nature of the film.

I’d never quite seen a film like this before and I wasn’t familiar with the term creepypasta but it worked for what the filmmaker was going for. There were a lot of voices and sounds that kept me interested in what was going on. 

Actors were voicing these characters so this was a film that was purposely trying to be scary. And keep the audience watching genuinely spooked out. It worked on all levels even though I don’t get scared by horror films. I have to give the director, Kyle Edward Ball, credit. It was very effective in what it was trying to do from my perspective. The atmosphere was pretty dark and crazy which is what he was going for.

I watched Skinamarink in complete darkness to get the full effect of what the filmmaker was going for. It was genuinely a darkly scary film that the audience will definitely be creeped out by. The voices, the people, and all the camera angles as well as sounds added together to make this movie a success in my eyes. Even though I didn’t jump once during it doesn’t make it not a good film. For the budget of 15,000 dollars, this was a very creepy and spooky film. I applaud whoever green-lit this film because it’s a winner in all aspects. The entire hr and forty-minute runtime were used very well by the filmmaker.

3 ½ 

Dan Skip Allen

The Amazing Maurice Review- An Animated Film that Doesnt Know What It Wants to Be

Children’s books make for good animated films. Whether it be Dr. Seuss’s stories or Peter Rabbit, many children’s books have been turned into animated films over the years. The Amazing Maurice is based on the book by Terry Pratchett. The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. The director’s Toby Genkel and Florian Westermann do a solid job adapting this book into a movie. It was a fun adventure to get drawn into.

It’s an animated film featuring a talking cat Maurice, the title character, (Hugh Laurie) He is a sly cat who likes to use his rat friends and his human friend Kieth (Hamish Patel) to do scams and cons to make a quick buck. Until his friends start to come under attack from the Bossman (David Thewlis) and his henchmen. In Bad Blents all the food is disappearing which causes famine so the Mayor (Hugh Bonneville) asks Maurice and his friends to figure out what’s going on. Maurice needs to piece together how the disappearing food ties into his rat friends being under attack. He ends up getting some unwanted help from the Mayor’s daughter Malicia (Emilia Clarke)

Emilia Clarke is also the unreliable narrator of the film. She uses the sacred book as her means to tell the story. You could call it a MacGuffin I guess. She tells the story with a framing device. A framing device is a tool a lot of filmmakers use to help tell the story within said movie. In the case of this film, Clarke’s character is a big part of the narrative so having her as the narrator makes a lot of sense. She is a fun character and tells the story in a fun and entertaining way. She’s not the only interesting character in the movie though. 

The cast is full of fantastic character actors besides Laurie, Bonneville, Clarke, and Thewlis. The rats are played by Dangerous Beans (David Tenant), Peaches (Gemma Arterton), and Sardines (Joe Sugg). They are all terrific in their various roles. Their story is tied to the rest of the film but they have a flashback sequence that shows how they get to talk which is a fascinating story regarding trash and chemicals. Maurice’s ability to talk is tied to this incident as well. Part of the charm of the movie is all these terrific actors who voice these animatronic animals. It’s a who’s who of British acting stars these days.

This animated film isn’t a musical like a lot of them are but it has one memorable musical number called “Rats” sung by of course the rat co-stars of the movie. It’s a cute good sounding little song that gets the movie started nicely. Mostly there are a few subplots that deviate from the main story but all come together in the end. That’s part of the problem with the movie. It doesn’t have an identity of its own. It doesn’t know what it wants to be a kids’ animated film or a slick animated film with adult themes that kids can’t understand. It’s more for an older audience than for little kids. 

One of the best parts about this movie is the animation. It has a mix of different kinds of styles within the context of one movie and that was pretty cool. The people had their own style and the animals had an altogether different style from the way the humans were animated. The strength of the film is its animation along with the stellar voice-over cast. The vivid color palette lent itself nicely to this fantastic mix of animation styles. Everything jumped off the screen on my screener. It’s hard to make the animation look different but this movie had a few tricks to make it look good.

The Amazing Maurice is a mixed bag. It has multiple beautiful animation styles crammed into one film. The voice over cast is filled with British legends who are all fantastic in their various roles whether they be human or animal. The problem with this movie is it doesn’t know if it wants to be a kids film or more sophisticated animated movie for more of an adult audience. Also there are multiple plotlines that all go in different directions but eventually come together in the end. It’s hard to focus though on any one storyline or plot point. That’s the one aspect I wasn’t happy with. Hopefully audiences won’t be confused by all the stuff going on in this overstuffed animated film.

3 stars 

Dan Skip Allen

Baby Ruby Review- A Raw and Very Real Ailment Many Women Have to Deal With

Films with a baby in the title can be a bit hit or miss. You have the legendary horror film by Roman Polansky, Rosemary’s Baby, the comedy Three Men and a Baby, or the animated film Boss Baby and its sequel. These films can go in all kinds of directions. Baby Ruby goes in a direction similar to Rosemary’s Baby to some extent. Director Bess Wohl seemed to be very invested in this subject matter. It will hit home for a lot of women watching who may have dealt with what this movie depicts on screen. 

Baby Ruby is about a mother Jo (Noemie Merlant, Portrait of a Lady on Fire) who is a blogger and influencer. She is married to a butcher Spencer (Kit Harrington, The Eternals) Together they are expecting a little girl they have already named Ruby. They seem like a happy couple, that is until their little ball of joy is finally born. Something is not right with little Ruby but nobody, including maternal doctors, can figure out what’s going on.  It may have more to do with the mother instead.

The writer/director Bess Wohl creates an atmosphere of tension and confusion for the characters in the movie and the audience watching it. The characters are set against each other because of this confusion. As a viewer watching I was beside myself with disbelief because I didn’t know where this story was going. As a woman, Wohl knew where she was going with this story. As a man, I didn’t and that was why I was a little confused as we’re the characters in the film.

Women know the things they go through after having a child. Some of them handle it well and others have difficulties. This is called postpartum depression. This ailment causes a lot of mental issues for new mothers. They tend to worry a lot about their child and in this movie, she worries too much. To the extent that she comes across as crazy or delusional with all the things, she sees in her dreams or envisions. She is distraught. This film will bring back many memories for some mothers out there watching it in theaters.

Besides the obvious mental and physical stuff that Merlant goes through in this movie, she also has to be believable as a mother with this ailment. Merlant wowed audiences in other films she’s been in but this is a different type of performance. She becomes this woman who is going through this traumatic experience. I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes no matter how much money I was paid. Along with her, there is also her husband. He is also very confused and emotional by what she’s going through. Harrington uses an American accent very well and he gives a good performance opposite Merlant. She is just incredible though.

Baby Ruby uses some popular tropes to scare or frighten those watching.  That’s where the film succeeds besides Merlant. It keeps everyone watching disorientated which is why the confusion is so high in the overall story. Using these types of scare tactics is usually pretty good in a horror film but they are also used very effectively in this context. I didn’t know I was watching a horror movie. I thought I was watching a film about a baby. But in a sense, postpartum depression can be a horrific experience for those going through it.

Baby Ruby won’t be for everybody but mothers who have gone through this ailment depicted in the film will surely have an adverse reaction to what they see, in the film. Wohl creates a story that is raw in its portrayal of postpartum depression and its symptoms. Noemie Merlant gives a very emotionally good performance as this mother going through a traumatic circumstance. I am not a woman but this couldn’t be easy for anyone to go through including the husband or father of the child who has to deal with such things.

3 stars 

Dan Skip Allen

Infinity Pool Review- A Debaucherous Journey of Excess, Drugs, and Sensuality

Brandon Cronenberg is the son of legendary horror director David Cronenberg. He has a few films under his belt as well including, Infinity Pool. This film premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival to a myriad of different opinions. Cronenberg has taken over from his father with strange the types of films he likes to make. This one isn’t for the faint of heart but it’s also not that accessible for general audiences either. Like most of his father’s films.

James Foster (Alexander Skarsgard) is an author on vacation with his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) in an undisclosed Eastern European Country when they meet another couple Gabi (Mia Goth, X, Pearl) and her husband Alban (Jalil Lespart) They go out to dinner with them and eventually convince the couple to leave the secluded grounds of the resort they are staying at to go to a beach. The couple agrees and they borrow a man’s car. After a long day and night of drinking and partying, James decides he’s going to drive them back to the compound. On the way back he hits a farmer with the car crossing the dark and winding road. This starts him on a path he could never have foreseen.

The punishment in this country for killing another human being is death or if you have enough money you can pay the authorities off by having them create a double of yourself which then you can watch get killed in your place. This whole concept is strange to the Skarsgard character but he goes along with it anyway. And a little boy, the son of the farmer, proceeds to stab the double to death which gives him and his family a satisfactory conclusion to this ordeal. Anybody in their right mind would pack up and leave this country like the wife if the Skarsgards’ character wants to. Not him though he fakes losing his passport and tells her she must leave without him. And he’d be right behind her.

Cronenberg creates a series of events following the original death sequence that sends the Skarsgard character spiraling down into the world he never foresaw coming. Goths character has manipulated him into doing her bidding and she shows him her friends who are all in on this debaucherous adventure together. This film proceeds into a fever dream of drugs and wild sex and running around with masks on like  Eyes Wide Shut the Stanley Kubtick film from 1999. That was a little more straightforward than this though. I honestly didn’t know what was happening after the inciting incident but I liked it nonetheless.

Mis Goth has had a great past 10 months or so in her career. She starred in both X and Pearl by horror director Ti West. They both launched her career into superstardom. This film takes it to the next level as she goes places I never expected her character to go. She has a sinister side to her that was quite surprising. She was also very sensual and sexy. The way Cronenberg filmed her he wanted her to be a sex symbol and catch the eye of the Skarsgard character and the audience watching. She does just that. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her every time she was on screen. No matter if she was coming across as a nasty bitchy woman or not. She was just so perfect in this role.

On the other hand, Skarsgard was also in a big movie last year, The Northman, about a Viking seeking revenge for the death of his family, and a little indie film the year before in Passing where he played a racist abusive husband of a woman who was trying to pass as a white woman in the early 19th century. He goes in a completely different direction this time out. We as the viewer are watching the film from his perspective and what we see is pretty wild and crazy. He went where I don’t think many actors have gone before and I applaud him for this because it was cinematic gold. I loved every minute of the wild journey he goes on in this movie.

Infinity Pool premiered an NC-17 cut at the Sundance Film Festival and I couldn’t imagine this film getting wilder or crazier than the rated R version I watched but apparently it is. I’m satisfied with what I saw. Cronenberg brought me on a journey of debaucherous behavior and I loved every minute of it. The plot took twists and turns that were very interesting and the acting performances from Goth and Skarsgard were incredible. They both were mesmerizing and I couldn’t look away from either character while watching this fever dream of a film. There is a message about excess and don’t get into trouble in foreign countries but all that was on the outside as far as I was concerned. This is a film that won’t be for everybody but I loved every minute of it.

4 stars 

Dan Skip Allen

Knock at the Cabin Review-A Film With a Philosophical Question that is the Key to It’s Success

M. Night Shyamalan’s career has been a bit hit-and-miss. Ever since it started with the Sixth Sense back in 1999. He started pretty well with three fantastic films out of the gate but started to falter in the mid to late 2000s with dud after dud. It wasn’t until he put out The Visit in 2015 and partnered with Universal Pictures and Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions that he was able to turn around his luck. Since then he’s been on a pretty good streak of success with Split, Glass, and Old. Knock at the Cabin is his latest film and he hopes to continue his success with this film.

The movie starts out very quickly as a young girl Wen (Kristen Cui) is approached outside the cabin she is staying at with her two dads, Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Eric (Jonathan Groff) by a man who calls himself Leonard (Dave Bautista). He and his friends Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird) Redmond (Rupert Grint) and Adrianne (Abby Quinn) have a proposal for the three inhabitants of the cabin. After forcibly breaking in they proceed to tell the three people who they are and why they are there. They give the two men and child a philosophical question they must answer. And if they don’t the world will come to an end.

Knock at the Cabin is based on the book by author Paul G Trembley called Knock at the Cabin at the End of the World. The screenplay is written by Shamylan Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman. From word of mouth and scuttlebutt, they stay pretty close to the source material. The script is very strong and the dialogue said by the four invaders is very good. They have a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to the plot and the story so the dialogue has to be on point. Their story needs to make sense even if the three vacationers in the cabin by the lake don’t believe them. This story was very believable to me watching the film. 

Shyamalan is a matter of the twist in his films and surprise endings. So going into this film everyone including me thought this movie would have some kind of twist or surprise ending that would turn the film on its head. And I’ll be the first to say the so-called twist is almost nonresistant but the story speaks for itself. How the story is set up for the viewers you’d think there was a twist ending but it’s pretty straightforward. The characters give all the information away in their dialogue so it’s up to us as the ones watching if we believe what we’re seeing or not. That’s the question the movie is trying to make us answer.

Shyamalan has always gotten big actors to star in his films but this time around he relied on more character actors and one big, in-stature, actor, Dave Bautista. His claim to fame before becoming a movie star was that he was in the WWE. He’s far from that world now. Bautista is usually known for his action or comedy films but here he’s the straight guy. He is very friendly but also very serious. He has a good side to him because he’s an elementary school teacher so he is the caring type. He stretches his acting chops further than I’ve ever seen him do before in his career. This may be the best work of his career.

The rest of the cast are very good as well. It was good to see Rupert Grint in something new besides the Harry Potter franchise. Some of the others I’ve seen in a tv show here or there but Kristen Cui, I don’t remember seeing in anything that I can remember. She was a pleasant surprise to me. She held her own with much more established actors and proved she has the ability to handle some very dramatic scenes. This film had a lot of those and as a child actor, she held her own. I would very much like to see her in something else in the future. She’s a star in the making.

The movie has a beautiful aesthetic to it besides the story and acting. The cinematography by Jarin Blaschke is amazing. The outside of the cabin looks gorgeous but how he was able to use the outside light to brighten up the scenes inside the cabin was exceptional. There wasn’t a scene that looked underlit or dark for that matter. Being able to see the characters clearly was a key element of the overall story. Their clothes and complexions were part of that as well. This was a beautiful-looking film.

Knock at the Cabin wouldn’t seem like the kind of thing Shyamalan would direct but in hindsight, it was perfectly in his wheelhouse. He tells the viewer everything they need to know for them to decide on why these people are doing what they’re doing and if it’s right or wrong. The viewer along with the family has to make that decision for themselves. He puts us into the film. That’s a brilliant idea if you ask me. The question is a difficult one but that’s what the film is about. Along with good performances from Bautista and the newcomer Cui and fantastic cinematography, the movie is worth the price of admission. It won’t be for everybody but it was a very rewarding experience for me. Shyamalan is on a winning streak once again.

4 stars 

Dan Skip Allen

Emily Review- A Wonderful Portrayal of this Beautifully Talented Women by McKay

There have been a lot of period piece films depicting the lives of people in the 1800s in the United States or the United Kingdom. Sometimes they are autobiographical in nature. That’s the case with Emily. It’s about the famous author Emily Bronte who passed away at the age of thirty. From what has been said she passed away too early in life from cholera. 

Emily Bronte (Emma McKay) is a young woman growing up in England in the 1800s. She lived with her father and two sisters. She worked in the house and when she had free time she wrote poetry and played make-believe with her sisters in the rolling hills of Yorkshire. She has a curious nature about her and eventually explored her burgeoning sexuality with a potential romance with an eligible bachelor William Weightman (Oliver Jackson Cohen)

Emily Bronte is a world-famous author whose book Wuthering Heights is an autobiographical look at her life. The real Emily Bronte was a complicated young woman who was curious and interested in learning and being her own woman. Not beholden to any man. Her father or boyfriend or potential courtesans that may come calling. She wants to be her own woman despite what society at the time thought she should be like.

Emma McKay is known for the Netflix romantic drama series Sex Education where she played Marie Wiley, the object of affection from Asa Butterfield’s character. She is a sex pot. Malay has parlayed her role in Sex Education into a role in the Kenneth Branagh film Death on the Nile. The sequel to Murder on the Orient Express. She has shown much growth in her young career but the role of Emily Bronte might be the best of her career thus far.

Malay brings an elegance and glamor to the role of Emily Bronte I haven’t seen this year. Even though she’s in long dresses and hats most of the time she exudes more beauty and loveliness than any character in any film I’ve seen all year. She is an absolute standout in this role. She has her ups and down as the character but throughout she brings the character to life. Like most young women or girls they have a playful nature and MacKay brings that and much more to this character.

In this era, some diseases warrant being able to be cured at the time. Such as cholera. It killed millions of people during this era in history. It was usually spread in water and the water of the time wasn’t able to be filtered like today. The disease even affected Emily Bronte’s brother Branwell Bronte (Fionn Whitehead). The film shows the effects of this disease but doesn’t dwell on it too much. This was a small part of the story of Emily Bronte’s life even though it was what killed her in the end.

Emily shows an era in history that sometimes gets overlooked because it’s not in the United States. We forget there is a whole big world out there besides our town, state, or country. This story took place in England in the 1800s and depicted the life of the famous author Emily Bronte. The filmmaker Francis O’Connor chose to show the beautiful and curious side of Emily Bronte which is what makes this film so good. She wasn’t the easiest person to live with or talk to regarding her sisters and father but she had a spirit that couldn’t be stopped until it finally was by disease. The book, Wuthering Heights, she authored will forever live on and her memory is in that story. O’Connor made a film any young would watch and feels empathy for this beautiful woman who had so much more to give. This is a wonderful portrayal of this beautiful young woman by Malay. 

3 ½ stars 

Dan Skip Allen

Slamdance 2023 Capsule Reviews

Starring Jerry as Himself 

Starring Jerry as Himself is a docudrama about a guy named Jerry Liu. The film starts with home movies of Jerry’s family, his three sons Joshua, Jesse, and Jonathan, and his ex-wife Kathy. He Lives in Orlando, Florida, and is retired until his identity is stolen by Chinese men posing as policemen. They tell him they are working on a money laundering case, and he could be extradited to China if he doesn’t help them. He helps the authorities in China figure out what’s going on in the “secret” case until it turns out the whole thing was a scam, and Jerry lost all his money and savings. Jerry plays himself in this film, as the title implies, but it’s more than that. It’s a tale of why we should all be careful of online or phone scammers. They can come across as very realistic and prey on someone’s good-hearted nature like Jerry. Senior citizens are very susceptible to this kind of thing. That’s why family members and friends need to keep a close eye on them and what they are doing regarding social media and their financial situation. 

The Underbug 

The Underbug is an Indian film focusing on two men in a house looking for something that may or may not be creeping around in the dark. Various scenes of bugs set the mood, but a war going on outside between Hindus and Muslims takes the focus. Suspenseful music, a creepy doll, jingling, and darkness inside the house the two men are in keep the scare factor high. The constant rain outside doesn’t help either. The two men eat dinner together, but something still lurks in the darkness. Eventually, a little girl shows up. The style and feel of The Underbug keep you, as a viewer, on your toes. It’s so creepy and scary that you can’t turn away. You are afraid you might miss something. There is an undertone of political tension that drives the film forward. The little girl, I believe, is a symbol of the future of their country. Even though it has a horror movie feel, it is also about the various people and how they differ from one another based on religion and political beliefs, an idea we, as Americans, can also relate to.


Onlookers takes place in Laos and is a documentary focusing on tourism in Laos but sometimes shows the Laos people doing their job, such as washing a dog or other types of jobs. Most of the time, the Laos people sit around doing nothing or praying to their gods. However, the film focuses on people from other countries experiencing Laos and its beauty. They go canoeing, hiking, rafting, zip-lining, and mostly sightseeing. The film is a love letter to Laos, a country I had not heard of before reviewing this documentary. The movie doesn’t have any spoken words except in the distance because the director (Kimi Takesue) wants people to see the country, its people, and all the beauty within it, just like the tourists who visit it do. There are occasional motors of various forms of transportation and animal sounds in the distance, though. It is a change of pace for a film to have no spoken words, but it has sound, which works for this movie. Sometimes there are shots of children going to school, breaking up the mundanity of the film.

Where the Roads Lead

In a small community in Serbia, something is going on involving two men who want to kill another man who is part of a group building a highway on the outskirts of their small town. He may want to build a hotel for the townspeople to profit off travelers from the new road. The townspeople are so close-knit that everybody knows what’s happening, but no one knows the full story. There are shopkeepers and their little boy, a police chief, Djura, who is trying to drink his coffee and get a shave, and a girl, Jana, who runs everywhere trying to get help, but no one believes her that the new guy is in danger or that the guys who want to hurt the new guy haven’t been taken care of yet. The film displays the time to show the passing of time, and that’s a good tool. There is a humorous side to this story because of how it unfolds. There are no phones or ways of communication besides word of mouth. In a way, the film is a mystery because we, the viewer, don’t even know what’s happening. We’re kind of like the stranger in town! It’s a fun film in that regard. All the characters are interesting, and the story is fun to try to follow, no matter how complicated.

Stars in the Ordinary Universe 

The film takes place in chapters and has three distinct stories within the film’s overall length. The Superior Gene, a YouTube show with a real science teacher, is seen by a high school-age girl Park Seoyoon, who wants to try to discover the meaning of life and why she is the way she is. The film also features a second story of a boy who wishes to be president but only grows up to be an average person with no education or real possibilities and has to resort to being a Beggar King instead. The third story is about a man who can help but tell the truth, but nobody wants to hear it, so they leave him alone to contemplate his own life alone. The three stories interconnect, and all have very good philosophical ideas they are trying to convey. This was a fun movie to watch, and it gave me my own ideas about life, work, love, and other things. 

Dan Skip Allen

All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt Review- A Minimalistic Low-Key Take On Motherhood and Nurturing Youth (Sundance 2023)

Minimalist films are something you don’t see that often but when they do come out they are usually celebrated. The Tree of Life from director Terrance Malick comes to mind. All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt is another such film. It depicts the lives of Black men, women, and children in rural Mississippi. There isn’t much dialogue but when there is it’s very little and muddled. The visuals and the camera work are the real champions here.

Raven Jackson lets the viewers in on her eye site with what she decides to focus on with her camera. She has many shots that stay on characters for what seemed like forever also on people washing their hands in streams or even just shots of water or random shots of trees. A few different narratives include a father and daughter fishing and cleaning said fish that they catch and two sisters from a young age into adulthood. There is a passing of time within the film which sees the kids go up into adults.

Various scenes in the movie show mothers nurturing their babies or taking baths while pregnant. The narrative is that of how important the mother-child relationship is. The director shows these moments with beautiful tenderness and intimacy. Other moments of characters showing love for one another once again show a very intimate portrayal of love. The characters are there but they aren’t the focus as much as the aspect of who they are portraying. As in mothers, sisters, and daughters.

The cast, even though they aren’t as important as the camerawork, are some relatively famous actors and actresses. Sheila Atim, (The Woman King) Moses Ingram (Obi-Wan Kenobi), and Chris Chalk (Red Sea Diving Resort) are beautifully filmed in their various scenes throughout the movie. There are also two little girls played by Kaylee Nicole Johnson and Jayah Henry who are newcomers but they are both very good in their roles. They have a nice narrative. 

Jackson puts her glaze on creation and youth and how even in this world it’s all about love for youth and infants but also love for adults. She shows love in its many permutations in the movie and I couldn’t stop looking at all these scenes. It’s not a fantastical love, it’s a grounded subtle quiet type of love and you can’t help but be moved by the many scenes that show these types of tenderness. It’s truly beautiful to behold. 

All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt isn’t going to be for everybody. It’s not a bombastic type of film. It’s a very subtle love letter to mothers and nurturing of youth in this Mississippi community. The camera work and the cinematography are the real champions of this movie. She creates a world that is so beautiful and so tender and touching it’s pretty amazing. For those that do give this film a chance, you see a very understated minimalist film. It’s worth your time though. Everything doesn’t have to be bombastic, funny, and have explosions to be effective. 

3 ½ stars 

Dan Skip Allen

Shortcomings Review- A Film that Captures the Mundanity of Some Asians Lives (Sundance 2023)

There have been a handful of fantastic Asian set films in America in recent year’s Crazy Rich Asians, Minari, and Everything Everywhere All at Once come to mind in recent memory. Shortcomings is another such Asian set film that is based on a graphic novel of the same name by Adrian Tormine. He also wrote the screenplay. It explores the world of Asians living in California and New York.

Ben (Justin H Min, After Yang) lives in California with his girlfriend Miko (Ally Maki) and runs a movie theater there. He has a few hobbies, among them watching criterion movies. In his free time, he likes to hang out with his friend Alice,(Sherry Cola) a queer woman who has issues with her dating habits. When Miko decides she needs a break from Ben, she moves to New York City for an internship. Which leaves Ben to his own devices. So he starts to mingle with other women.

Randall Park might be a name that is familiar to some people. He is famous for Fresh Off the Boat the Asian-centric sitcom and his recurring character of Agent Jimmy Woo from Antman and the Wasp and Wanda/Vision in the MCU. Park parleys his popularity as a comedic actor into a directing gig as he has been attached to this project for a while now. He was fascinated with the everyday lives of Asian people depicted in the graphic novel. so he finally made the film after fifteen years. And he did a good job with it.

He definitely captures the mundanity of life from the perspective of these characters. Part of the charm of Shortcomings is the fact that these people hang out at cafes, watch movies on their couches, go for walks, and do everyday normal things people do. I liked that aspect of the film. Not enough movies capture the normal lives the characters have in films. The Asian cast were a nice blend of comedic actors and dramatic actors who all played their various roles in that mundanity of life.

The main star Justin H Min as Ben was an interesting guy. The way he played the main character was a bit of a cad. He had his moments and you as an audience member felt for him a couple of times but he wasn’t necessarily the nicest guy to be around. He was a bit egotistical to some extent. His self-snobbish nature gets him in trouble with his friends and especially his romantic relationships. I liked his performance even though I didn’t always like his character. That’s a sign of a good actor though. When he convinces you to dislike his character he’s doing a good job.

The rest of the cast is pretty good in the film from the employees at the movie theater among them Jacob Batalan from the MCU Spider-Man films and Tavi Gevinson a goth girl, Debby Ryan plays a girl the main character dates for a while but Sherry Cola as the main character’s best friend and Ally Maki as his girlfriend are the two standouts in smaller roles. They bring gravity to this man’s life. They are the emotional support the movie stands on and thrives on. 

Shortcomings isn’t going to wow you with its clever dialogue or craziness of other Asian set films because it’s a more grounded film about the everyday lives of these people. The graphic novel obviously shows that and the creator adopts that world perfect for the film. Park takes that screenplay and brings it to life with exuberance and excitement. The main character is quite an interesting character with his faults, we all have faults we are not proud of. This movie just captures this not-so-nice guy very adeptly. People will have a decisive opinion about the film but I liked the normalcy of it.

3 ½ 2tars 

Dan Skip Allen