By Sean Boelman
Note: We at disappointment media do not support many of the decisions that the Tribeca Film Festival has made in regards to its treatment of the media during the 2021 edition. However, we also recognize the fact that the festival is an important launchpad for many films seeking distribution. As such, we will continue to cover films in the lineup, but will focus on the films themselves rather than the festival as a whole.
False Positive is a deeply unoriginal film with a script that borrows heavily from, if not entirely ripping off, better films. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of classic horror will be able to predict where the story is going from a mile away, and the fact that the film seems to think it is smart and subversive is, quite frankly, insulting. A decently eerie style from director John Lee and a devilishly fun performance from Pierce Brosnan are nowhere near enough to make up for this joyless attempt at atmospheric horror, especially with the ending being so outright laughable.
False Positive streams on Hulu beginning June 25.
Creation Stories is clearly meant to exist in the same vein as the much better 24 Hour Party People, a comedy-tinged biopic about someone whose hand guided the evolution of British pop. However, despite having plenty of interesting stories to pull from, the script by Dean Cavanagh and Irvine Welsh is so messy that it’s nearly impossible to make anything out of it. Ewen Bremner is solid as music mogul Alan McGee, and the soundtrack is obviously great, but the writing is just horrid, and director Nick Moran’s failed and cheap-looking attempts to infuse the film with a sleek style don’t help.
Creation Stories will be released later this year.
The Justice of Bunny King
Gaysorn Thavat’s tear-jerking drama The Justice of Bunny King offers some genuinely heartbreaking commentary on the failures of the system which it critiques, but its emotional beats are too predictable and artificial for it to be especially resonant. The performances by Essie Davis and Thomasin McKenzie are fabulous, but this story of a mother struggling to provide for her children has a script that is less than impressive. The first two thirds are sentimental but bearable, but the final act goes way overboard, nearly to the point of being unwatchable.
The Justice of Bunny King is currently seeking distribution.
Larry Flynt for President
The story of Hustler founder and unlikely Presidential candidate Larry Flynt is so insane that it got the biopic treatment in 1996, but the charm of Nadia Szold’s new documentary Larry Flynt for President is that it features lots of unearthed, never-before-seen footage from the Flynt campaign. Clocking in at a lean ninety minutes, the film is definitely very entertaining thanks to its subject’s larger-than-life personality and the often absurd antics in which he involved himself. But beyond that, it’s an interesting exploration of the issue of freedom of speech and the press, which has always been a hot-button topic.
Larry Flynt for President is currently seeking distribution.
a-ha: The Movie
Norwegian pop band a-ha has a large, passionate fanbase, so one would think that a documentary about their rise to fame would be absolutely delightful. However, director Thomas Robsahm’s approach to telling the story is very straightforward, to the point of it becoming dull. There are some interesting moments that feature animation in the style of a-ha’s iconic music videos, but other than that, it’s mostly a compilation of interviews and archival performance footage. It’s good enough to be worth watching, but there’s also no doubt that fans and the group deserve something better.
a-ha: The Movie is currently seeking distribution.
Perhaps the most influential American composer in all of history, Leonard Bernstein lived an absolutely fascinating life and the documentary Bernstein’s Wall allows audiences to hear about it in his own words. It’s a bit traditional in how it’s presented — mostly archive footage with the interviews used as voiceover — but Bernstein is such an exceptional subject that flashiness isn’t necessary. Admittedly, it’s a film that’s going to appeal more to those who are already interested in classical music, but it could also win over some fans for Bernstein’s impressive body of work.
Bernstein's Wall is currently seeking distribution.
We Need to Do Something
Sean King O’Grady’s film We Need to Do Something is an absolute masterclass in tense horror filmmaking. Following a family who find themselves trapped in a bathroom after a devastating storm, this starts out as a lean slow-burn thriller before going absolutely off the rails around the thirty-minute mark. The things that O’Grady is able to do with sound and set design are thoroughly impressive and succeed in capturing the feeling of anxiety that the film requires, and Pat Healy’s unhinged performance as the family’s patriarch is a scene-stealer. Genre fans definitely need to check this one out.
We Need to Do Something hits theaters and VOD on September 3.
Kelly Murtaugh wrote and stars in Shapeless, which is clearly a very personal film, but personal and compelling aren’t always synonymous. Following a lounge singer with an eating disorder that turns her life into a waking nightmare, the film does some interesting things with body horror, but for the most part, is just dull and repetitive. It gets its point across early on, and the rest of the runtime feels like we are trapped in an endless loop of misery. Of course, this seems to be the point, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s an altogether unpleasant film to stomach.
Shapeless is currently seeking distribution.
No matter how many are made, there is a seemingly eternal demand for nature documentaries, and the streaming services are often the ones who provide the supply. The newest film from Apple TV+, Fathom, follows two scientists who set out to decode the language behind humpback whale songs. The mission that these researchers are undertaking is pretty fascinating, even if the sound of these whale calls is so soothing to almost lull the viewer to sleep. Still, director/cinematographer Drew Xanthopoulos has a tremendous eye, shooting the film in a breathtakingly gorgeous way that will make this a crowd-pleaser.
Fathom streams on Apple TV+ beginning June 25.
Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road
If one is discussing the best albums made of all time, at least one by the Beach Boys should undoubtedly come up — Pet Sounds — but the documentary Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road seeks to remind audiences of just how prolific Wilson’s entire discography is. In terms of how filmmaker Brent Wilson (no relation) presents the eponymous musician’s story, this is a pretty standard biographical documentary, but it’s an entertaining watch nevertheless, especially for those who are already fans. And of course, the best part of the documentary is getting the chance to hear about the origins of some of the best songs ever straight from the mouth of their creator.
Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road is currently seeking distribution.
The Beta Test
Jim Cummings has become quite the indie superstar since his feature debut Thunder Road, and his newest film, The Beta Test (co-written and co-directed with PJ McCabe), is his best and most ambitious yet. Although the film is a tad busy, biting off a bit more than it can chew in terms of themes, it is a mind-blowing satire of Hollywood and social media. Many films have tried and failed to do this same thing before, but Cummings and McCabe have pulled it off in a way that is thoroughly stylish, entertaining, and anxiety-inducing, making for one of the best thrillers of the year so far.
The Beta Test will be released in theaters and on VOD this fall.
The Danish dark comedy Wild Men starts off strong, with some excellent situational humor and the promise of a twisty storyline, but after a while, one begins to wonder why it all matters. Entertaining moments are sprinkled throughout, but the film peaks early and plateaus for much of the rest of the runtime. Perhaps the best thing in play here is a great performance from Rasmus Bjerg, who does a great job with both the comedy and the action. Still, viewers will largely be left unfulfilled, wishing that the film had lived up to the untapped potential of the set-up.
Wild Men is currently seeking distribution.
Although the adjective gets thrown around a lot more frequently than it needs to be used, there is no better word to describe Elisabeth Vogler’s film Roaring 20’s than “pretentious”. Although the execution of the film as a one-take ensemble drama shot on the streets of Paris during the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly impressive, it often feels like the purpose of this film is merely to prove what Vogler was able to do. It’s gimmicky in all the wrong ways, with minimal story or character development and themes that are scattered at best. It’s a shame that Vogler couldn’t put her obvious talent to use on something more profound.
Roaring 20's is currently seeking distribution.
No Man of God
As long as audiences aren’t able to get enough true crime content, filmmakers will keep putting it out, and No Man of God is the latest film that will come and go in the genre. Strong performances from Luke Kirby and Elijah Wood keep this chamber piece about conversations between serial killer Ted Bundy and an FBI psychoanalyst from being entirely forgettable, but the whole affair is frighteningly one-note. The first two thirds are competent but largely dull, but once it gets to the climax, it starts to get outright bad with hokey and forced emotional beats.
No Man of God will be released in theaters and on VOD on August 27.
Recent years have seen an uptick in the amount of socially conscious genre films, and Delmar Washington’s feature debut No Running hopes to put a timely spin on the sci-fi mystery genre. However, the fundamental issue with the film is that first-time writer Tucker Morgan’s script has next to no suspense. There are a lot of genuinely great ideas at play within the story, but an unsubtle hand and a failure to take advantage of the intriguing premise keep the film from elevating beyond competent B-movie level.
No Running is currently seeking distribution.
The Last Film Show
A coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the cinema should be an immediate hook for any cinephile, but The Last Film Show is far too familiar for its own good. Pam Nalin’s film is impeccably shot, and it sticks the landing tremendously well, paying off with an unsurprisingly resonant finale, but the abundance of tropes (particularly in the first two acts) make this more sentimental than genuinely emotional. It clearly wants to recapture the magic of Cinema Paradiso, but it just doesn’t have the same level of oomph as that classic.
The Last Film Show is currently seeking distribution.
See For Me
Many horror movies capitalize on the very common fear of the unknown to create a sense of terror. Randall Okita’s film See For Me attempts to double down on that by having a blind protagonist, but fails to translate that to an experience that is particularly tense for the audience. It’s an entertaining and lean thriller, but a very basic one at that, and there have been plenty of movies that have done this same thing much more effectively in the past (just watch Wait Until Dark instead).
See For Me is currently seeking distribution.
My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To
Although the magnificent title is one of the best in the horror genre since the days of giallo, My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is a disappointingly dull affair. Following a brother and sister who begin to clash over the care of their sickly younger brother, this film is far more interested in mood and tone than anything else. Filmmaker Jonathan Cuartas is playing with some interesting ideas here, but the slow burn it takes to the minimal payoff isn’t worth suffering through in the name of an occasionally distinctive take on genre tropes.
My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To will hit theaters and VOD on June 25.
By Sandy Robinson
Ned Beatty passed away this week and it got me thinking about his various roles and which I liked the best. Some will say Deliverance, Network, Rudy, or as a character in Toy Story 3, but for me, it will always be the lovable nitwit Otis in the Superman franchise.
I was born in the early ’70s and other than Star Wars, the only other movie that I watched as a young kid was Superman: The Movie. Released in 1978, this movie is essentially about good versus evil: Superman/Clark Kent as the good and Lex Luthor as the evil. Played by Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman respectfully, the two main characters have their story written. By themselves, this is still a good movie; however, you need to have great secondary characters to thicken the plot, and in this case, someone to bungle Lex’s plans. That is right, Otis. Otis, played by Beatty, is a simple-minded minion of Lex Luthor and does whatever he commands, or at least tries to. In one scene, cops are following Otis into the subway as he heads to the secret base unknown to him, but not unknown to Lex who has cameras up and takes care of the police. You can actually see on Otis’s face how sorry he is because he wants to protect and help Mr. Luthor as much as he can. This character is flawed but provided the majority of the lighter, funnier scenes in the movie. When Lex first tells us of his plans and reveals the new map, we see one city named Otisville. Lex has a fit and Otis slinks back from comments. His reaction is like he’s been hit multiple times and is waiting to get hit again. As soon as Lex yells for him he comes running like nothing ever happened. Otis getting the codes wrong because he wrote them on his arm and they wore off, classic comedy right there. And his body language alone tells Lex that he screwed up and they would need another plan.
This movie, in my opinion, is an exceptionally good origin story. It is so because the actors took their roles seriously and played them to perfection. Ned Beatty played Otis perfectly and had he not, the movie may have looked silly and not very believable. You can have the greatest hero and greatest villain of all time but without secondary characters like Otis to make it more realistic. While he may be more recognizable in some of his other more serious roles, this one for me is my favorite of his. Rest in peace, Ned Beatty. Now you can fly as well.
By Sean Boelman
The 2020 Gasparilla International Film Festival was one of the first major film events to be cancelled in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but with vaccinations rolling out and audiences returning to the cinema, the festival returns for a 2021 edition featuring a lineup of exciting premieres and screenings of films that have been picking up buzz on the festival circuit.
This year’s Opening Night Film, screening on June 10 at 7:30pm at the Tampa Theatre, is Lady of the Manor, the feature directorial debut of brothers Justin and Christian Long. A comedy following a stoner who befriends a ghost at the Civil War-era estate where he works as a tour guide, this sounds like an absolutely delightful watch, and the writer-directors will be in attendance for a Q&A session after the screening.
The other big event screening is the Closing Night Film, Midnight in the Switchgrass, a crime thriller which serves as the directorial debut of prolific film producer Randall Emmett. It follows a pair of FBI agents who team up with a state cop to investigate a string of murders. Starring an ensemble cast of Bruce Willis, Megan Fox, Emile Hirsch, and Lukas Haas, the film’s local connections are sure to interest Tampa filmgoers.
Other high-profile films playing the festival include Enemies of the State, an Errol Morris-produced documentary which explores how a family is torn apart when their hacker son is targeted by the U.S. government, and Lorelei, a family drama about an ex-convict forming a bond with a single mom, starring Jena Malone and Pablo Schreiber.
In terms of films that we have gotten to see at other festivals, the GIFF lineup includes a few interesting selections. We recommend the quirky comedy-thriller Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break, which offers a goofy but entertaining spin on the revenge arc, and Superior, a visually intriguing surreal drama.
As always, the festival also includes some intriguing independent offerings. The documentary Mentally Al, about an unsung comedian, sounds like it could be both funny and endearing, and the Indian film Khape will probably fill the spot of the tear-jerking but crowd-pleasing international festival flick.
We are excited to be getting the opportunity to return to the more normal film festival experience after what felt like an eternity, and it is local festivals like GIFF and the Florida Film Festival (which happened in April in Orlando) that are starting to usher back those experiences. And we at disappointment media would like to say with all our hearts… welcome back to the movies.
The 2021 Gasparilla International Film Festival runs from June 10-13 in Tampa, FL with in-person and virtual options available.
By Dan Skip Allen
It's no secret that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were fans of the pulp serials of the early '40s and '50s. They loved the movies, don't get me wrong, but they really loved the pulp serials of Batman, Buck Rogers, Tarzan, and the like which kept them coming back week after week. The cliffhangers were almost unbearable for the duo as kids growing up on the verge of becoming filmmakers decades later. These serials were what gave Lucas the idea for Indiana Jones. With that, he got his good friend Spielberg to come along for the ride on this extraordinary adventure.
Dr. Henry Jones (Harrison Ford) is a professor for his day job, but on the weekends he goes by Indiana, whether it was the dog's name will soon be determined in later installments of the franchise. He galivants around the globe on a crazy adventure and dangerous exploits. When his friend and sometimes assistant, Dr. Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott), comes to him with the idea that the Ark of the Covenant still exists and they need to find it before the Nazis, he can't resist the chase and the danger that goes along with it. The Nazis make the perfect villain! They are set on world domination and the ark can help them get it.
Like a lot of the shorts, Indiana Jones has its share of heart-pounding escapes. He also has to deal with "Snakes? Why does it have to be Snakes?" a phobia we didn't know about until that moment. Disney even adapted one of his most famous hair's-breadth escapes into a show at their theme parks. He encounters several natives and sword-wielding assassins, as well as men who turn their back on him when he needs them the most. He does have a few friends though, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) who he meets on his trip, and Sallah (John Rhys Davies) his trusty ally in far-off lands. The stage is set for an epic adventure for the ages.
Another frequent collaborator to Lucas and Spielberg is the composer of the Boston Pops, John Williams. He has done epic scores for the Star Wars movies, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial by this point in his career, six of the most famous compositions in his long and storied career as a composer. He would need to do something even greater for Indiana Jones though. It had to live up to everything he had done in the past, but bring something new to the table. He did just that. His Raiders of the Lost Ark score is one of the best he ever did. It had such a great catch to it. It was a perfect addition to this amazing film.
Harrison Ford was an established actor by this point in his career. He had a small role in American Graffiti, but his big role came when he got the no-good swindler himself, Han Solo. He brought a sense of colorful suave ladies' man to the table in the Star Wars films. He brought an entirely different side to his performance in the Indiana Jones films. He got to flex his action muscles in Raiders of the Lost Ark. This film required a lot of running and jumping which was very vigorous and hard on him. He enjoyed every moment of it though. He loved playing Indiana Jones, and it showed on screen.
As a kid, I was looking for different kinds of films that I could get behind. I loved everything growing up. I'm not as old as Lucas and Spielberg so I didn't grow up on these serials as they did. I sure as hell grew up on Indiana Jones, though. I was about 7 when the first Indiana Jones film came out and I had never seen anything like it before. The action and adventure were off the charts. The acting, campy at times, was funny and cool. The score by Williams was so amazing as well. Everything combined for a great experience for me and a lot of other people I'm sure of. Forty years later Raiders of the Lost Ark stands up better than ever. Nothing like it has come since so it makes sense.
By Dan Skip Allen
In the last couple of decades, some mergers and acquisitions have been going on. Some of them are from Disney. They acquired Marvel, Pixar and just last year they made a huge move by buying 20th Century for 86 billion dollars. They got their entire library of films, Fox Searchlight, all the Marvel properties they owed, and their cable tv stations. Those were just the tip of the iceberg on all the mergers and acquisitions that have been made in recent years. The landscape of film and entertainment is always changing. With streaming becoming a huge media outlet, things will continue to change as long as people want to keep digesting it.
A few years ago, the telecommunications giant AT&T acquired Warner Media which included HBO, Warner Brothers Studios, and DC Comics, amongst others. This would help make AT&T one of the largest entertainment conglomerates in the world. It didn't last long. The COVID-19 pandemic caused some problems for AT&T and its plan to be a major player in the world of entertainment. They couldn't put their movies out in theaters. Which meant they could make the money back that they spent on making them. So as a stop-gap measure they decided to put their films on their streaming service, HBO Max. If you had this service, it would seem like a good idea. In the overall scheme of things, it's not a great business move. AT&T wasn't getting much money back by putting their films on HBO Max and in theaters at the same time. They were losing money. Also, people balked at this decision, especially some of their biggest talents such as Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve. And James Gunn said he would never work with them again. This all led to the decision last week to spin off Warner Media from AT&T. Discovery Media is to merge with Warner Media, which includes HBO/HBO Max, Warner Bros. Studios, and DC Comics for 43 billion dollars. Discovery is in the entertainment industry. They are a better fit for Warner Media.
On the heels of the AT&T spin-off of Warner Media, last week came the merger of Amazon and MGM. Amazon acquired MGM for 8 billion dollars, give or take a few hundred thousand. With this acquisition also came some of the big IPs, namely 4,000 plus films including the James Bond franchise, co-owned by Eon/The Broccoli Family, the Rocky franchise, Robocop, Stargate, the Silence of the Lambs franchise, the Pink Panther franchise, and the Legally Blonde franchise. Amazon also acquired the 17,000 tv shows that MGM has created in its past. All this would help strengthen Amazon Prime which is the streaming service of Amazon. They are looking to use some of these IPs to create new shows and movies down the road. The acquisition would help strengthen Amazon in the entertainment industry which is continuing to move more and more toward streaming services. This may have been a great deal for Jeff Bezos and Amazon.
With these major sales and acquisitions comes the inevitable question. What is going to happen to physical media involving these companies? With both Discovery and Amazon focusing on streaming services and theatrical releases, does physical media still have a chance with these power moves? Amazon already has a deal in place with Warner Media to sell their discs on their service Amazon Prime. The Warner Archive store is now on Amazon Prime. MGM has a huge library of shows and movies. This may lend itself to create exclusives for Amazon Prime so they get all the money, leaving Best Buy and Target out of the loop on these properties. The 4K format could really benefit from exclusive boxed sets for some of the James Bond films, Rocky, Robocop, and the others. Currently, MGM has deals in place with Criterion and Arrow Video that release physical media, but this could change with this acquisition. It may benefit everybody in the end, including Discovery who is merging with Warner Media. It would all come full circle for these companies
By Adam Donato
If one was to say that Dreamworks is just Disney counterprogramming, they wouldn’t be wrong. Their movies lack the whimsy, musical numbers, and maturity that makes Disney and Pixar the annual winners of the Best Animated Feature Award. Shrek is the only Dreamworks movie to truly stand out and cement a place for itself in film history. The sequel, Shrek 2, is considered by many as the best-animated sequel of all time, which is fair. The popular choice isn’t always the right one as Shrek 2 isn’t even the best-animated sequel made by Dreamworks. The correct answer is Kung Fu Panda 2 and a decade after its release, it’s time everyone recognizes it.
The stereotype in film criticism when talking about good sequels is to say “It’s The Empire Strikes Back of the series.” This refers to a sequel that rises above a solid foundation made in the first installment. A follow-up that expands on the characters, story, and themes of the first. It’s a darker movie with more of everything and providing depth where the audience didn’t even think there was any. Kung Fu Panda 2 does all of this. Unlike The Empire Strikes Back, this sequel has the ability to stand on its own. It’s enhanced by the first movie but tells a complete story.
In the first movie, Po learns Kung Fu. In the sequel, Po learns inner peace. Little background is given about Po in the original, besides him making noodles with his dad and playing with Furious 5 action figures. Here, we get to explore why he is where he is and why he is like no other. Not unlike Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, this animated sequel explores why there is only one of the species of the main character. Po is the only panda due to the implied genocide of all pandas, including his parents. This flash from the past is induced by a red fire emblem prominently on the shoulder of some metal bandit wolves. The audience knows the truth about the genocide, but Po is unaware and his insatiable need to find out about his past gets in the way of their attempts to save China.
The villain threatening China is Shen, the former heir to the throne of China, voiced by Gary Oldman. This peacock is one musical number away from being the greatest animated villain of all time. While he is no slouch when it comes to combat, his real strength is his wit and of course his fireworks. It’s foretold that Shen will be defeated by a Panda, hence why he ordered the genocide of the panda race. This personal connection between Po and Shen is the driving force of the movie. Shen’s ego shines as he has little respect for the dragon warrior. His overconfidence and lack of inner peace result in his downfall, which perfectly contrasts with Po’s underdog mentality and his journey to become at peace with himself. Shen is accompanied by Soothsayer, a fortune-telling goat voiced by Michelle Yeoh, who allows the movie to show Shen being vulnerable about his goals while also being one of the funnier dynamics in the movie.
Po needs to find out what happened to his parents because all he knows is that Shen was there because Po recognizes the red fire emblem on his feathers. Po masters Kung Fu in the original, but when Shen has a weapon that defeats Kung Fu, then Po has to master himself. He has to overcome his past and his pain. We get to see how his tragedy affects his friends and family. Po leaves his family and later goes rogue from his friends. His punishment for this is near death as he finally accepts his past thanks to the help of the Soothsayer. After the flashback of his life’s journey accompanied by the film’s beautiful score, it is a triumph to watch Po evade the fireworks and save the day. It’s equally as tragic to watch Shen be the architect of his own downfall at the end when he is unable to let go of his tragic past. The movie teaches us to rise above bad circumstances and that we always have a choice of who we want to be.
The ancillary characters are also handled well in the sequel. While Master Shifu was a central character in the original, he takes a backseat here, which is refreshing as lesser sequels would recycle his arc from the first movie here. That time is more so dedicated to Shen, which is what helps make the antagonist work so well. The relationship between Po and Tigress is developed as they have a couple of one-on-ones that really support Po’s arc. Speaking of Po’s arc, the side character who steals the movie is Mr. Ping. While it’s funny to see Po’s surprise in the fact that he was adopted, it’s heartbreaking to see Mr. Ping fear losing his son. Kung Fu Panda 2 can make you cry with only one-word “Noodles” and that’s impressive.
Enough about all the character and story stuff, the movie is a whole lot of fun. The action sequences are visually beautiful. There are some awesome hero shots of Po fighting with all of his friends. The fights are range fast-paced and light to emotionally tense and almost scary. The humor doesn’t falter because of the darker tone. Yes, there are still jokes about Po and his arch-enemy, stairs, which is still funny. It really is a testament to Jack Black and the rest of the voice cast for giving each of their characters their own comedic personality.
Shrek 2 and the Toy Story sequels are all great, but when talking about great animation franchises, Kung Fu Panda isn’t even given How To Train Your Dragon level of respect. This action-comedy lands both of those genres seamlessly, while also giving legitimate character depth and solid themes that pave the way for some truly emotional moments. It’s edge of your seat action that will make you laugh and cry. The entire experience is everything that the original was and more. Some may disregard this trilogy as the “fat panda” movies, but they are certainly missing out on what is surprisingly one of the most masterfully done sequels in all of animation.
By Dan Skip Allen
In Hollywood, there have some great comedic duos: Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, and Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. But arguably one of the best films that have an iconic teaming is Midnight Run. The teaming of Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin is one of genius. They are two distinctly different types of actors. One is one of the best dramatic actors of all time and the other is a comedic genius. Martin Breast knew what he had with this teaming of these two complete opposites. This film and its cast turned out to be comedic gold.
Robert De Niro plays tough-nosed bounty, Hunter Jack Walsh. He is hired by Joe Pantoliano's character to find and bring a mob accountant to Los Angeles. What he didn't know on this country-long road trip is that the authorities and the mob themselves are looking for The Duke, what they call Grodin's character. If Walsh can survive this trip across the country he has to deal with the erratic personality of The Duke which is more he bargained for. This was supposed to be a simple midnight run, as the film's title suggests.
Charles Grodin has made a career of playing characters that have neurosis or neurotic personalities in his past. Characters that are put in situations he doesn't want to be in, such as the father in the Beethoven franchise or So I Married an Axe Murderer. These are the types of characters Grodin has been known for. His nervous nature is a perfect way for him to get laughs because people can relate to this kind of character. We all have a little scary cat in us at times. Gordon played into that with a lot of his characters in movies and on television.
Midnight Run is a fun movie because it has a fish out of water story involving Grodin's character. It also puts De Niro in a lot of comedic moments which at this time in his career he wasn't familiar with. He would eventually become very comfortable playing the straight man to some great comedic actors such as Ben Stiller and Billy Crystal. His teaming with Grodin though would be his first of such a nature. These two polar opposites were made for each other. They have great chemistry throughout the film.
Midnight Run takes familiar tropes such as a road trip movie and runs with it. It has some great chase scenes and some first-rate action. Breast mixes in all the action and comedic moments perfectly. The relationship throughout the film between the two leads. This film has transcended its release in 1988 because it's funny, has a lot of action and the road trip aspect of it brings fans of these two legendary actors together for an entertaining and memorable film team-up.
By Sean Boelman
The Hot Docs Film Festival is one of the biggest markets for documentary filmmaking in the world, and this year, there are plenty of great films that appeared in the lineup. We at disappointment media got the opportunity to see some of the films that screened there, and here are our thoughts:
There is no denying that finance is one of the most confusing industries there is, and Daniel Edelstyn and Hilary Powell’s documentary Bank Job makes that abundantly clear. Following a community who sets out to defeat predatory economic institutions, the film explores how the success of our society is fundamentally tied to the concept of debt. However, there’s something really inspiring about seeing people come together to support their community like this. It’s a really interesting watch, even if it fails to make these principles make any more sense to the average person.
Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest
One wouldn’t normally think of watching a man stand at an arcade cabinet for hours upon hours as riveting cinema, but Mads Hedegaard’s documentary Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest is surprisingly compelling. Following a professional gamer who sets out to play a record-breaking one-hundred-hour session on his favorite game, this is an ode to everyone who has set their eyes on a dream and won’t give up. And in exploring the friendship that exists between the subject and his best friends, the audience will endear the audience to the story with an unexpected authenticity.
The Gig Is Up
In the past decade, the gig economy has been booming significantly, but few people recognize the extent to which we rely on gig workers for many aspects of our lives. Generally, we think of gig workers as the delivery and rideshare drivers or odd job workers from services we commonly utilize, but Shannon Walsh’s documentary The Gig Is Up shows just how much bigger it is. It’s an eye-opening film that explores how both the system and consumers are exploiting this form of labor, with some very emotional interviews that bring home the urgency of this issue.
Playing with Sharks
Acquired by National Geographic out of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, Playing with Sharks is the type of documentary that seems destined to have quite the following when it makes its broadcast debut. Telling the story of scuba diver Valerie Taylor, the film offers an interesting examination of the relationship that people have with sharks. It offers a little bit for everyone, with some gorgeous underwater footage for animal lovers and some interesting behind-the-scenes Jaws facts for cinephiles. It’s an all-around crowd-pleaser, and we need more nonfiction films like that.
Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm
Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm is yet another music documentary that promises to offer the untold stories behind some of your favorite songs. And while there is no denying of the importance of Rockfield as an institution, fans will ultimately be familiar with many of these stories. As a result, this is basically a music history lesson for people who are already versed in music history. A few interesting interviews aside, there’s really nothing to make this stand out from all of the other similar documentaries that have come out like this in the past.
Luciana Kaplan’s documentary The Spokeswoman tells the story of an amazing woman whose story needs to be heard. Following the first Indigenous woman to pursue the office of President of Mexico, this isn’t your typical rags-to-riches tale. Instead, it’s about someone who has embarked on a mission of advocacy that is nothing short of extraordinary. Admittedly, the storytelling here is pretty simple, but the film is just so powerful that viewers will be drawn in nevertheless.
The 2021 Hot Docs Film Festival ran virtually April 29 through May 9.
By Dan Skip Allen
The last Golden Globes ceremony was mired in controversy due to an article that came out saying that the HFPA didn't have any black members in its ranks. This led to a statement during the show from some of the members that they need to change that and are going to change that. After the latest article from Variety, an online Hollywood magazine, came out NBC literally canceled the broadcast until change was made.
The Variety article suggested that the HFPA has accepted various gifts in the form of vacations, watches, monetary manipulations due to various fraudulent charities, and so forth. In other words, the money went into charities which then, in turn, went to pay the members of the HFPA themselves. This whole group is just designed to ensure they have access to celebrities, parties, screenings, and high-class studio gatherings for the intent and purpose of gathering favoritism for nominations. As in Emily in Paris, Music, and other unworthy nominees.
This week, celebrities such as Scarlet Johansson and Tom Cruise have waged in on the controversy. Johansson has come out and said in an interview she had with the HFPA (Hollywood Foreign Press Association) that they borderline on sexual harassment, she was very uncomfortable in the interview. Tom Cruise has stated that he would return all three of his Globe trophies... This is coming off of Mark Ruffalo saying he was embarrassed to have won a globe at this past globes award ceremony.
The HFPA has since come out with another statement saying they will expand their ranks by twenty new members by August. Is this too little too late? A valid possible candidate was quoted in the Variety article saying they were told they didn't want to expand when they tried to join in recent years. People are saying that they won't believe what the HFPA is saying until they see it for themselves... The proof is in the pudding as they say.
The NBC announcement comes off of two major studios saying they won't campaign their films for completion in the Globes ceremony. Amazon and Netflix are the two studios that are backing out on the Globes until a sweeping change is implemented. This is why NBC has decided to cancel the show next year. Could there be a show on another network? Who knows. An announcement was made in 2008 following the writer's strike but no show was broadcast. Could this be the avenue they go down? Only time will tell. This is a combustible situation, to say the least.
I will say I enjoy the Golden Globes ceremony. They get a host that can be themselves and make me and another laugh. The show itself allows for the actors and celebrities to enjoy themselves as well. The HFPA likes to wine and dines its nominees with a great party of food and drink. This makes for a loose ceremony. The fact remains you can't take them seriously though. They split the major categories into drama and comedy or musical. This doesn't allow for a true idea of who might be the favorite come Oscars time. For instance, Rosamund Pike and Andra Day won the actress awards this year and neither contended for the Oscar in the best actress category, even though Day was nominated.
The fact remains the HFPA has to make sweeping changes. And they need to bring in more diverse members into their ranks. All of this controversy in the end is a good thing because it allows the world to point a finger at the HFPA and say you need to get your act together if you want to see your awards on tv again. NBC still has plans to air the 2023 broadcast if they are happy with the changes the HFPA has made. Here hoping they do. This show and its members need to be more on the up and up in the future. This was the best thing that could happen.
By Sean Boelman
The Hot Docs festival is returning again in 2021 with another massive slate of documentary films to be watched virtually by cinephiles and buyers across Canada. Stay-at-home festival-goers can expect to be delighted by nonfiction cinema from across the world, from new films by established masters to exciting prospects from up-and-coming voices. Below are some of the films we at disappointment media think you should check out:
In the Same Breath
There are more than a few documentaries about the COVID-19 pandemic playing at this year’s festival, but none is likely to be better than Nanfu Wang’s In the Same Breath. After debuting at the Sundance Film Festival in January, this film about how the Chinese government used propaganda to spin the story about the coronavirus in their favor has been touring the festival circuit to great acclaim. It’s probably the most eye-opening documentary I have seen yet about the topic as of yet, and viewers are almost certainly going to be shocked by what they see.
The Sparks Brothers
The first documentary by fan-favorite filmmaker Edgar Wright, The Sparks Brothers tells the story of one of the most underappreciated bands in all history. Wright and Sparks honestly seem to be a match made in heaven, as the quirky style of the former aligns brilliantly with the idiosyncratic music of the latter. Even at over two hours in length, it moves along very quickly and is one of the most tremendously enjoyable films you could see at the festival. For those of you who can’t wait to see Annette this summer, this is an amazing opportunity to learn about the guys behind its music.
Summer of Soul (...or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Questlove is perhaps best known as the drummer for The Roots, but he is a phenomenally talented multi-hyphenate, and now he can add filmmaker to his list of skills. An archival music documentary about the Harlem Cultural Festival (referred to some endearingly as the “Black Woodstock”), this contains some excellent performance footage from some of the most iconic musicians of all time. It’s a fascinating dive into the culture of the time, but if nothing else, it serves as an excellent excuse to listen to some great tunes for nearly two hours.
Although it is also about COVID-19, Udi Nir and Sagi Bornstein’s film Viral couldn’t be more different than the other film featured on this list about the same issue. Exploring how a group of individuals struggled their way through the pandemic with the help of their online lives, it’s a much more hopeful film than many of the documentaries we have seen come out of this period so far. Nir and Bornstein do an excellent job of investing the audience in the lives of their subjects, resulting in some genuinely funny and surprisingly touching moments that remind us of the humanity that unites us.
Writing with Fire
Winner of the Audience Award and a Special Jury Award in the World Cinema Documentary competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Writing with Fire is one of the most inspiring films audiences will have the pleasure of seeing in this year’s Hot Docs lineup. Following a newspaper in India run completely by women, this is a really powerful film about the role that journalism has in society. Anyone who loves to see stories about extraordinary women busting down walls will be floored by this moving film.
The 2021 Hot Docs Film Festival runs virtually April 29 through May 9.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.