Review by Camden Ferrell
Radium Girls had its premiere in 2018 at the Tribeca Film Festival. It has since played numerous festivals before having its theatrical release delayed due to COVID-19. This film is directed by Lydia Dean Pilcher and Ginny Mohler. While the real-life story had a significant effect on workplace safety, the film isn’t much more than a standard albeit ample courtroom drama.
Bessie and Jo are young women in the 1920’s who work in an American Radium factory where they paint watch dials. Their sister, who previously worked there, died from supposed syphilis. After Jo becomes ill, these girls advocate for safer working conditions and take American Radium to court. This true story is interesting and reveals a lot of the poor conditions at the time, and it had a lot of potential to be a galvanizing film.
The script by Mohler and Brittany Shaw is mostly decent, but a lot of the courtroom scenes feel lackluster and utilizes common tropes of the genre. There are some emotional and tender moments throughout, but it is usually met with some tepid and uninspired scenes that can inflate the runtime a little too much.
The acting in this film is very apt. Joey King (The Act, The Kissing Booth) gives a very commendable leading performance as Bessie. It is a very strong performance in spite of the material, and she is able to convey a wide range of emotions more so than anyone else in the film. Abby Quinn also gives a pretty decent performance as her sister, Jo. While most of the cast is suitable and adequate in their roles, none of them prove to be particularly memorable.
The film’s main faults come in the first half. There is a lot of meandering through its first act until it gets to the film’s inciting incident. There are characters who are given too much screen time, and there are others who aren’t given nearly enough. It comes off as unbalanced, but luckily the film finds somewhat sure footing as the actual trial and deposition starts.
The execution and blocking of the scenes are once again well-done but not particularly impressive. It’s a well-made movie, and while it suffers from its lukewarm treatment, it is still very competent. The cinematography is decent and composed well, and the score is appropriate for the period. There are a lot of parts that work well individually, but it comes off as messy when compiled.
Despite its flaws, this is a movie that tells a story about how young women took on a major corporation in order to secure better working conditions. It’s a testament to the spirit of the worker as well as an empowering story of young women in a period in which they were overlooked. It’s a film that could have been very timely but didn’t necessarily have a strong call to action for modern audiences.
Radium Girls doesn’t do sufficient justice to the real-life subjects, but it is still a mildly effective drama. It features a great leading performance from King and some strong themes, but it ultimately falls flat due to its pacing and script.
Radium Girls will be available in select theaters and virtual cinemas 10/23. Participating theaters can be found here.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Memories of Murder is the sophomore feature film from writer/director Bong Joon-Ho, recent 3-time Oscar winner for 2019’s Parasite. Upon its release in 2003, this film became a staple of South Korean cinema and the crime genre. Even though it may not transcend in the ways you would hope, this is an incredibly well-made film where Bong Joon-Ho begins to refine his craft.
Loosely based on the South Korean serial murders from 1986 to 1991, this film follows two detectives who struggle to find the killer. It’s a fascinating story that is shrouded in much mystery, and it makes for a riveting basis for the film. It uses to horror of the real-life cases and expands upon the arduous process of dealing with this case.
Bong’s script is very controlled but motivated. It’s a confidently written script with some great dialogue and character interactions. His dialogue is often witty and necessary, and this is a trait that can be traced back to this film. While it can sometimes fall into standard crime drama territory, it’s a well-written script regardless.
The acting is probably the film’s strongest aspect. Frequent collaborator with Bong, Song Kang-Ho leads this film as the fervent Detective Park. He plays the role with such conviction, and he even energizes the film’s more meandering moments. He has a fantastic screen presence that it is rivaled by few. The rest of the supporting cast is fairly decent as well, but Song overshadows all of these performances.
The film’s main flaws come from how often it can find itself imbibing in the tropes of the genre. It’s not predictable at all, but some of the beats feel similar, and others feel very boilerplate. Not to say it’s bad, but it’s not nearly as original and revolutionary as Bong’s other films. This along with the film’s 132-minute runtime can lead to this film feeling a bit bloated.
Luckily, the film overcomes this with some harrowing cinematography. The composition of the film is very strong and visually pleasing. It is equal parts bleak and beautiful in the way it captures these horrific events. This is also supplemented with a great score that is also eerie but very fitting for the film.
This film is quite disturbing at times, and it helps the movie feel motivated, and it allows us to be more invested in the events and characters. The film also highlights many flaws in the justice system and forensics at the time. It’s an interesting film that could have done more with its material, but it still shows the blossoming of an emerging director with a bright future.
Memories of Murder may not be the mind-blowing crime drama that it has been made out to be over time, but it’s still an interesting character study and exploration of horrific murders. It is a fantastic showcase for Song as a leading actor, and it is a great directorial effort from Bong. For those trying to finish his filmography or those interested in true crime, this film might be the way to go.
Memories of Murder will be digitally remastered and play in theaters nationwide on October 19 and October 20. This Fathom Events engagement will feature exclusive content and a post-screening conversation with Bong and Edgar Wright (Baby Driver).
Review by Camden Ferrell
She is the Ocean is a documentary that most recently played at the San Diego International Film Festival back in 2019. It is directed by Inna Blokhina. While the documentary focuses on several unique and talented women, it ultimately doesn’t flow well together and creates a documentary that struggles the find footing.
In this documentary, we explore the lives of nine women, ranging from surfers to divers and to biologists. We learn about each of their own experiences with the ocean and how it has impacted their lives. This is a really interesting premise that features an exceptional group of women, but it’s a shame a lot of the promise of this film was squandered.
The main problem with the film is that it doesn’t have a natural momentum between the different subjects, and it often finds itself abruptly shifting its tone and pace, and it can become rather off putting. The film has a common theme that unites these stories, but it still doesn’t do enough to connect these stories narratively in order to create a captivating exploration of the ocean.
The strongest aspect of this movie comes from its subjects. We learn about the exploits of Cinta Hansel, Coco Ho, Keala Kennelly, Andrea Moller, Anna Bader, Rose Molina, Ocean Ramsey, Jeannie Chesser, Sylvia Earle. There’s obviously a lot of talent that I would not be able to adequately cover it in this review, but suffice it to say, they are extraordinary women in interesting fields. Their exploits in each of their respective profession is exciting, but unfortunately, it can’t save the film.
The film creates parallels between the power of the ocean and the power of women, and it’s a great message that doesn’t get the best execution. The cinematography is great and it’s educational at times, but the movie comes off as bland and fairly uninspired throughout.
She is the Ocean may appeal to those interested in ocean sports and the ocean in general, but otherwise, it might not do much for you. It has a great set of subjects, but it not particularly entertaining, and it is a disappointing documentary in the end.
She is the Ocean is currently playing in virtual cinemas. A list of participating theaters can be found here.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Mass incarceration is a brutal aspect of American society that has needlessly torn apart families and ruined lives. Garrett Bradley’s newest documentary, Time, explores the effects of incarceration through one woman’s story. This film had its premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival where it won the U.S. Documentary Directing Award. This movie functions as a time capsule of a family torn apart, and it tells its story with candor and a beating, emotional core.
Fox Rich is a successful entrepreneur, abolitionist, and author with a large family. However, her husband is serving a 60-year sentence. This film details her fight for the release of her husband as well as the memories she has captured of their family while he has been locked up. The way the film focuses on Fox Rich’s current fight for release and contrasts that with home movies tells the story in a very unique way.
Bradley’s organization of this film is rather impressive. There seems to be a lot of material, especially of pre-recorded family footage that must have been grueling to sort through, but luckily the director knows how to include this footage in moderation with the present-day scenes. The film greatly benefits from the film’s strong yet unnoticeable narrative structure which allows the story to flow naturally onscreen.
Fox Rich is a fascinating subject, and she has a great screen presence. There is never a dull moment when she’s onscreen, and she conveys her emotions and recollects her experiences gracefully, and it provides the film with an energetic boost. In addition to her, her sons are all also very bright and eloquent speakers that are enjoyable to watch as well.
Rather than exploring the systemic racism in the prison system (a subject that has been covered in many other documentaries), the film opts to focus on the detrimental effects of mass incarceration through the lens of the family unit. It’s a unique route that has some strong rhetoric founded in emotion and humanity.
This is a story to which many people can relate. Mass incarceration is a widespread issue that has terrorized minority communities for generations, and it’s an issue that won’t leave without proper leadership and reform. While this film doesn’t thoroughly explore solutions and options for reform, the film still makes a strong case for prison abolition and radical reform in the systemically racist system of mass incarceration.
One of the film’s few faults comes from its use of home videos. While it adds a lot to the film’s final product, there are a few moments that feel a little too indulgent and distracting for the narrative. Even though it emphasizes the precious memories the father missed out on, it could have been cut in a few places. Regardless, the film overcomes that fault with an abundance of empathy and a heartbreaking story of love and persistence that will hopefully become a thing of the past.
Time may be one of the most emotional documentaries of the year, and it’s one that bears social relevance over today’s current political climate. It details the unseen horrors of mass incarcerations and the toll it takes on the family unit. Bradley brilliantly tells the story of one woman fighting against injustice and the human cost of incarceration.
Time is currently playing in select theaters and will be available on Amazon Prime on October 16.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Upon hearing the word “feminism”, many people will likely think of Gloria Steinem. She is a feminist icon, journalist, and one of the most revolutionary activists of the last few decades. The Glorias is the newest movie from Julie Taymor (Frida), and it is based on the book My Life on the Road by Steinem herself. While this movie has a great cast and subject, it often comes off as bloated and not as revolutionary as the Ms. Steinem.
In this film, we are taken on a reflective road trip through Steinem’s life. We see her childhood and how it eventually got shaped into her influential and radical adulthood. The movie portrays her efforts as a journalist, a feminist, and as a cultivator of change. She led and continues to lead a great life, and it’s a great foundation on which to build this movie.
The script is mostly adequate. Written by Sarah Ruhl and Taymor, a lot of it is standard biopic material. Not to say its inept, a lot of it is actually quite enjoyable, but it falls into the same traps as other films of this genre. It has its occasional great interaction and witty one liner, but it doesn’t do enough to inject energy into this film.
The most outstanding aspect of this film is its performances. Gloria is played by four actresses of different ages. While the child actors are great, the real show stealers are the two adult Glorias. Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) plays Gloria in her 20’s, and she perfectly embodies this role. She acts with such empathy and conviction, and she handles a wide range of scenes well. The latter half of the film rests primarily on the shoulders of Julianne Moore’s (Still Alice) Gloria. It doesn’t reach the heights of Vikander’s performance, but it’s another amazing performance to Moore’s already impressive career.
The most noticeable flaw of the film comes from its runtime. It’s a hefty movie that clocks in at nearly two and a half hours, and it doesn’t do enough to completely justify that distinction. There are plenty of scenes that could have been cut or reduced, and some parts feel far less consequential than others. It was slightly unorganized, and it could have benefit from some more edits.
While the movie has a retrospective and somewhat non-linear progression form the start, it makes some daring choices in the film’s final half. Taymor is no stranger to these artistically expressive and daring moments, but it’s an attribute that isn’t entirely consistent in this film. It’s a refreshing change of pace, but these moments stand out, and it disrupts the film’s natural rhythm.
Regardless of its flaws, this is still an informative film about the life of Gloria Steinem. There’s plenty to learn for all ages, and it’s an inspiring film that establishes its social relevance in today’s current social climate. It’s a film that tells the story of one leader as a vehicle to hopefully incite change and inspire a new generation of feminists.
The Glorias may be overly long, and it may blend in with other biopics, but it’s still a great showcase for its leading actresses. It is another decent movie from Taymor, and it’s an enjoyable film for a general audience despite its R rating.
The Glorias is available on Amazon Prime beginning September 30.
Review by Camden Ferrell
American Murder: The Family Next Door is the newest true crime documentary from Netflix. Known for their entertaining and popular true crime docs, Netflix’s newest feat may prove to be one of their best endeavors. Jenny Popplewell’s newest film is a relentlessly chilling look into a very famous and horrific case.
This documentary tells the real-life story of the Watts family murders that occurred in Colorado in 2018. After a woman and her children go missing, very surprising and disturbing discoveries are made soon thereafter. This is a very famous case with which many people are familiar. Even if it’s a story that has been heard before, this is an interesting and shocking story that provide a strong basis for the documentary.
What’s notable about this documentary is its use of actual footage from these events. There are no interviews, recreations, or anything non-authentic. It uses a combination of police footage, security camera footage, and social media posts to create a detailed account of the events that transpired. It’s an interesting way to tell the story, but there is a great amount of material with which to work.
Due to the nature of the documentary, there are no performances at all or interviews that were prepared, and that gives the movie a very natural and unpredictable feeling. We get to see everyone’s genuine actions and reactions as they occur spontaneously, and it’s haunting more than anything.
True crime documentaries have a tendency to sensationalize their subjects. This movie doesn’t do that too much, but it definitely uses common techniques to artificially create heightened tension and a certain shock factor that is commonplace in the genre. However, this does also heighten the entertainment factor, which is an important characteristic for a film of this type.
Popplewell organizes this documentary very well. It’s straightforward, but it employs techniques that tell the story but jumping between the before and after moments of the disappearance. This prevents the film from having a completely linear progression that might have gotten old very quick. Considering the amount of footage there is, she also does a great job of keeping the film concise without any unnecessary moments.
For those familiar with the case, this film might not inform or shock as much, but it’s still an intimate and chilling look into the specifics of the case and all of the aspects that were involved. It may seem to use the case and the victims to create an entertaining story rather than honoring them at times, and it may be problematic for some viewers, but it really is an interesting and horrifically tragic case that’s worth checking out.
American Murder: The Family Next Door is another interesting and captivating true crime documentary from Netflix. This film won’t win any new converts for the genre, but for fans of true crime, this is a must watch documentary. It’s surprising, fast-paced, and it’s a horrific look into the tragedy that struck one Colorado family.
American Murder: The Family Next Door is available on Netflix September 30.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Kiss the Ground is a documentary from directors Josh Tickell and Rebecca Tickell. Narrated by Woody Harrelson and featuring other celebrities and activists, this is a documentary that overcomes its lulls with a powerful message that may very well save our planet and humanity.
This documentary highlights one of the leading viable solutions to Earth’s climate change. The movie talks about the many ways in which regenerating soil is possible but also beneficial and essential to preserving our planet. This is a very serious issue that is posing a dire threat to all of humanity, and it’s a great foundation on which to convey the film’s message.
Climate change is presented in such a way that it allows the viewers to truly understand how dangerous it is. The movie isn’t afraid to use numbers and statistics to show the audience how urgent this situation is. It’s organized very well by introducing the problem and its effects on the world and following that with its proposed solution. It’s a simple format, but it’s executed effectively, and it makes a very solid argument built on strong rhetoric.
The movie features a wide variety of activists, scientists, and farmers who can testify firsthand about how serious our situation is. They are very reliable sources who provide numbers, anecdotes, and evidence supporting the film’s argument for soil regeneration. They may not be the most captivating subjects, but they are undeniably informed, and they strengthen the logical arguments of the film.
There is a sense of hopelessness present throughout the film. The current state of our planet is worrying, and it’s a scary threat that seems unsurmountable. However, Tickell and Tickell understand this and are able to quell those fears with hard evidence that show that soil regeneration is a viable solution that is entirely possible if we all work together to save the Earth. While the film does highlight the politics that impede such grandiose agricultural change, there is still a small glimmer of hope at the end of this film.
Rhetoric aside, this is a highly informative film that serve as a fantastic lesson in climate change and agriculture. It teaches you about the history of the detrimental practices that have led us to where we are today, and it also provides lots of information into the machinations of soil, agriculture, and the carbon cycle. It’s a great lesson for viewers of all ages. Even if it isn’t the most entertaining lesson, it is a beneficial learning experience nonetheless.
The film’s major flaw comes from its inconsistent tone and pacing. The first half of this film is fast-paced and riveting, but in its final half, even though there is a sense of urgency, the pace shifts abruptly, and its arguments aren’t nearly as strong. The final becomes more anecdotal from the perspective of farmers, and it doesn’t do as much to argue the film’s point as the first half. Regardless, the film has a great call to action that will hopefully inspire many to learn more about climate change and the many ways in which to combat it.
Kiss the Ground is an effective and well-argued documentary that should be an essential watch for all global citizens. It may not be consistently fascinating, but it contains information that could be vital for saving our planet. Earth is headed for climate chaos, but this movie shows us that our savior could be the very ground we inhabit.
Kiss the Ground is available on Netflix September 22.
Review by Camden Ferrell
In today’s new climate, entertaining young children and families has been a big concern for many. This year has offered many family films to satiate this need for entertainment and distraction. The new movie, Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs, aims to be the next big movie for families staying at home. Unfortunately, this fairy-tale parody is devoid of character and joy, and it has some potentially harmful moments for young audiences.
In this movie, the story of Snow White gets a modern parody. Snow White steals a pair of red shoes that transform her into a beautiful princess while her stepmother is actively seeking the shoes. All of this happens while seven princes are turned into ugly dwarves and must receive Snow White’s kiss to break the spell. This is a silly premise that should be fairly mindless and entertaining, but the movie doesn’t use this premise to create a fun narrative.
Directed by Sung-ho Kong, this movie lacks the imagination for which these animated adventures are known. It lacks personality, and even the moments of action and humor feel bland and uninspired. There is the occasionally silly moment that may elicit a chuckle, but it would be an exaggeration to say its an enjoyable and energetic film.
The cast, consisting of actors like Chloë Grace Moretz and Sam Claflin, fail to bring life to this muddled mess of a fairy tale. Their performances aren’t objectionably bad, but this movie is another strong case (along with the likes of Scoob!) against casting non-voice acting celebrities for these animated roles. In theory, a highly skilled voice actor could have possibly injected some personality in the movie, but unfortunately, the movie doesn’t benefit much from its cast whatsoever.
One of the more surprising aspects of the movie is how subtly fatphobic it can come off. It initially seems to equate beauty with physical size and figure, and this is an incredibly harmful message to give children. A lot of the struggles of the characters come from their own insecurity about their appearances, and it’s questionable to show these traits as being undesirable. While the movie does briefly course-correct in its final half, it doesn’t excuse its initial implications.
Full of uninspired and meandering moments, this is a movie that won’t do much to entertain young children much less the parents with whom they will probably watch this film. It features a tepid script, bland action, and a mediocre cast that can’t save the film.
Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs is now available on VOD.
Review by Camden Ferrell
The Racer is the newest film from director Kieron J. Walsh. The film was an official selection of the 2020 SXSW Film Festival. The film is an interesting look at real-life events in the cycling world, but it sometimes feels monotonous and unengaging.
This film is a fictionalized account of the 1998 Tour de France (aka Tour du Dopage). Dominique is a domestique, a cyclist who works for the benefit of his team rather than trying to win the race. He is part of a cycling team during the Irish stages of the race, but he is surrounded by a culture of doping. This is an interesting historical event that many viewers may not know about, and it’s an interesting premise on which to tell this story.
The script, written by Walsh and Ciaran Cassidy, isn’t objectionable but isn’t impressive either. A lot of the dialogue feels clunky and unnatural. It doesn’t confused viewers with unnecessary jargon, but it doesn’t do a through enough job of informing the viewer about the many intricacies of cycling. It’s a script that is decent for the most part, but it lacks a strong character or personality to drive the film.
Most of the actors in this movie give fairly forgettable performances. Louis Talpe plays Dominique, and he leads this movie gracefully through its more exciting moments but struggles to find footing when dealing with slower and more tender exchanges. The characters are really engaging when they are in the world of cycling, but in between races, there’s something to be desired.
The film creates some realistic stakes, but it ultimately feels hollow. It doesn’t allow you to get invested in the characters fully especially when they are doping in order to win races. While the characters aren’t meant to be honorable, the movie still makes it difficult to fully invest in their story.
Walsh does a great job directing the cycling scenes. They are often very energetic, and they make great use of camera movement and composition. It’s exciting, and it’s an aspect of the movie that is severely underutilized. The movie falters during the filler scenes, and this is due to some uninspired execution that make the scenes feel more lethargic than they actually are.
Despite all of its flaws, this is still a movie that benefits from its historical basis and exciting cycling scenes. It doesn’t ever find consistency in its tone or pace, but it does show promise for the director and leading actor.
The Racer is a sports drama that may not be for everyone. Cycling enthusiasts will most likely enjoy this fictional retelling of history, but the muddled drama will most likely be a slight turn off for some viewers.
The Racer is available on VOD September 18.
Review by Camden Ferrell
H is for Happiness is another one of those movies that try to recapture the optimism and joy of childhood and adolescence. From director John Sheedy, this family dramedy feels familiar but still overwhelms with an abundance of heart.
Candice Phee is a 12-year-old girl living in the small Australian town of Albany. She is a well-read protagonist with an abnormally large vocabulary, surprising emotional maturity, and unbounded optimism. This movie follows her attempt to reconnect her broken family after she makes friends with a new kid at school. This is a coming-of-age film with a fun premise even if it feels like its been done countless times before.
The script, written by Lisa Hoppe, is charming and has some sweet and quirky moments throughout. It tackles the concept of grief and contextualizes it fairly well for the film’s younger audience. Despite how well it addresses complex themes, there are still moments that feel repetitive and derivative, and they can often make the movie drag a bit. Despite this, they wrote the character of Candice in a clever way that makes her a role model of optimism for the impressionable demographic of the film.
The performances in this movie are fairly decent throughout. Daisy Axon leads the film as Candice in what is easily the film’s strongest performance. She portrays the childlike wonder of Candice and blends it very well with the character’s intellectual maturity. Emma Booth gives a performance as Candice’s mom that is quite emotional at times. The film also features another enjoyable performance from Wesley Patten who plays Candice’s new friend.
The film’s use of color is pretty beautiful and consistent throughout. It’s a vibrancy that reflects the spirit of our protagonist, and it gives the film a very upbeat vibe throughout. The film also knows how to manipulate color in its more dramatic and emotional moments without feeling cheap.
The main problem with the film is that all of the characters feel like archetypes that have been overdone. While Candice is an enjoyable character, she is just another take on the abnormally gifted and wise child. This leads to many interactions and storylines feeling predictable and too formulaic.
Despite this flaw, there is still plenty of heart in this film. It will resonate with plenty of families everywhere who may be suffering similar problems. It’s a film that tries to simplify the more nuanced complexities of grief and closure, and this is both a blessing and a curse for the film. It allows the movie to be accessible, but it doesn’t allow the film to truly explore the depth of its themes.
H is for Happiness is a cute and family-friendly film that is sufficiently entertaining. It isn’t anything special, and it is too formulaic throughout. However, it is a visually pleasing film with plenty of heart, soul, and (you guessed it) happiness.
H is for Happiness is available on VOD September 18.