Movie Review: Big Crow

Big Crow
Director: Kris Kaczor
Writer: Inila Wakan
Producer: Kevin Bayson
Cinematography: Matt Lyons
Editor: Steve Nemsic
Rated: 4 Stars (8 stars on IMDB)
Review by: Astilbe

BIG CROW is a verité-style documentary that tells the story of how young Lakota basketball star SuAnne Big Crow became an activist, and how her message of hope continues to help her people reclaim their culture 30 years after her death. Part biography and part social commentary, BIG CROW is a story about the power of hope in the most destitute place in America, South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Found in the poorest county in America, Pine Ridge is plagued by rampant drug, alcohol, and sexual abuse which drives the highest teen suicide rate in the country. Access to healthy food and health care is virtually non-existent, and the Lakota there continue to experience the oppressive racism that outlawed their religion, language, and traditions 130 years ago. It’s possible that there has never been a people more in need of a hero than SuAnne’s Lakota tribe.

By age 14, SuAnne Big Crow had become one of South Dakota’s best basketball players, leading her Pine Ridge Lady Thorpes to become the first ever Native American state champions. By age 17, her social activism had made her a household name across the Great Plains. Thirty years after her tragic death, SuAnne’s pride in her people continues to galvanize the Lakota in their fight to save their language and reclaim their culture.

Heroes live in every community.

It was wonderful to explore modern Lakota culture in Pine Ridge. I must confess that I didn’t know a lot about this topic before I watched this documentary, so I appreciated how much effort was put into sharing not only the struggles of this tribe but also their triumphs as well. Everything was balanced out nicely, and it made me want to dive even more deeply into this topic. There were so many things about their culture that didn’t quite fit into the scope of this film but that I yearned to learn more about. To me, that is a sign of a job well done, indeed!

As much as I loved seeing how SuAnne’s legacy has positively impacted her tribe for more than thirty years now, I would have liked to see a little more attention paid to who she was as a person before she died. Her time on the basketball court was documented beautifully, but I didn’t get as much of a sense of who she was in other areas of her life. For example, she seemed to be an outgoing person who had a fantastic sense of humor, but it would have been helpful to have more stories about how she behaved and why she was so obviously adored by everyone who knew her.

One of the most difficult aspects of living through a tragedy can be finding meaning in pain and grief that feels meaningless. SuAnne’s family, friends, and community found so many incredible ways to honor her memory and continue her work to improve life for everyone in their tribe. Without giving away too many spoilers, they have excelled at remembering SuAnne and encouraging the next generation to follow her example. I especially enjoyed the last ten minutes or so that showed how far her influence has spread and how much of a difference she’s still making in the lives of people who weren’t even born yet when she was alive.

Big Crow was a tear-jerker and a fabulous exploration of a portion of modern history I knew nothing about.

Movie Review: Take the Ice

Take The Ice
Director: Rachel Koteen
Producer: Rachel Koteen, Judah-Lev Dickstein, and Batya Feldman
Editor: Judah-Lev Dickstein
Rated: 4 Stars (8 stars on IMDB)
Review by: Astilbe
Find the movie on IMDB

Take the Ice is a feature documentary that tells the story of world-class female hockey players fighting for recognition and equality in their sport, and in the process, making history.

Ten-year-old Dani Rylan was obsessed with hockey and dreamed of growing up to play in the NHL. As one of the best players on the Florida state junior team, Dani saw no reason not to have the same ambitions as everyone else. But, as the only girl on the team, “at some point, reality sets in.” Seventeen years later, Dani decided to change the history of the sport by founding the first professional women’s hockey league.

Take the Ice goes behind the scenes as Dani creates the National Women’s Hockey League and 88 elite female athletes compete to win its first championship. As Dani struggles to keep the league afloat, the players must come together in the wake of an on-ice accident that leaves their teammate paralyzed. Take the Ice is a moving, intimate story of a group of elite athletes making strides for recognition and equality, and in the process, making history.

What could be better than making history and setting new records?

This documentary worked for dedicated hockey fans and those of us who virtually know nothing about that sport alike. I appreciated how the director was careful to explain certain aspects of this business like the difference in pay scales and marketing techniques between men’s and women’s hockey that many folks might not be aware of. While most of the screen time was dedicated to the games themselves, it was the player’s stories about the sexism they face that originally piqued my interest. Many of them were discouraged from playing hockey, especially as they grew older and were still the only girls on their youth teams. These early life experiences can discourage women and girls from pursuing all sorts of interests in life, and I nodded along as I compared their love of hockey to my interests in other things that girls aren’t encouraged to do. The joy of seeing young girls cheer for these teams and ask for autographs gave me hope that future generations will feel more comfortable pursuing all of their interests without discouragement.

I had some trouble keeping track of who everyone was. As cool as it was to get so many different perspectives on what it was like to be part of the first season of professional women’s hockey, including all of them meant that there wasn’t much time to invest in any one particular storyline. Taking notes along the way about who was part of which team helped, though, and I’d recommend that to anyone who watches this.

Some of the most interesting scenes to me were the ones that explored the private lives of the players. On the weekends, they were professional hockey players, but all of them had weekday jobs as well due to how little they were paid as athletes. This was in stark contrast to the millions of dollars men make in this field. The medical consequences of playing hockey were shown as well, and I was intrigued by how many risks these women were willing to take with their health despite all of the reasons they had to stop playing.

Take the Ice was a thoughtful look at the birth of the National Woman’s Hockey League.

Movie Review: That Night

That Night
Director: Zachary Trussell
Writer: Zachary Trussell
Stars: Julio Alexander, Oscar Mansky, Julie Gester, Maureen Azzun, Boogie Williams, Kendall McCarthy, Michael C. Hyatt, and Alexander Louis
Rated: 3 Stars (6 stars on IMDB)
Review by: Astilbe

THAT NIGHT tells the story of a young unknown artist who is forced to confront his career ambitions and win back his ex-girlfriend during a drunken night in Chicago with his irreverent friends. Any night out in a big city has the potential to be a good night, the risk of being a bad night, and typically ends up somewhere in between, but only some nights can claim to be “That Night”—the night where little choices lead to big decisions, chance encounters to second chances, Uber drivers keep themselves busy in the strangest of ways and taking the wrong pill can be really bad for the upholstery. For STACY, an artist with one eye on the future of design and the other stuck looking hopelessly at his ex-lover, that night is tonight—and the city, Chicago. So yes, there will be drinking.

Anything can happen overnight.

I loved this film’s varied sense of humor. There was something here for everyone, whether you like jokes about the pitfalls of accidentally taking the wrong medication or how one should properly milk an almond. All of the characters had a good sense of humour and weren’t afraid to gently poke fun at themselves or others if the conversation warranted it. There is definitely something to be said for that!

It would have been helpful to have more character development. I don’t mind watching stories about people who may not be terribly likeable at first glance as those can often be the most interesting characters of them all, but I was hoping to see everyone mature a bit more as a result of their wild night. There were a few signs that the protagonist was going to work on his flaws, and I appreciated that. Had I seen it in his friends, too, I would have happily chosen a higher rating.

The romantic storyline was fresh and realistic, and I’m saying this as a viewer who was honestly not that impressed with it in the beginning. It’s always nice to be proven wrong, especially with something as creative as this. I loved the way the director included little hints about where he was going with the romance early on while still leaving space to interpret them in multiple ways. That’s a fantastic way to foreshadow the conclusion without spelling things out too directly, and it makes me want to see more from these characters and this crew.

That Night kept me guessing.

Movie Review: Sunset

Director: Jamison M. LoCascio
Writers; Adam Ambrosio, Jamison M. LoCascio
Stars: Austin Pendleton, Suzette GunnJuri, Henley-Cohn
Rated: 3 Stars (6 stars on IMDB)
Review by: Astilbe

A diverse group of people grapple with the imminent probability of a nuclear strike on the east coast.

What would you do differently if you thought your life might be in danger?

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that showed how complex relationships can be. For example, an offhand remark can really sting even if the person saying it was trying to be funny, and someone’s childhood experiences can still affect them decades later. The director and writers did a good job of exploring these topics in ways that also tied into the main storyline even when I didn’t originally think there would be much of a connection between them at all.

I would have liked to see more character development in this film, especially when it came to their pasts and how they all met. There were a few scenes that lightly touched on this subject, but I was still left with many questions about why certain characters behaved the way that they did. For example, Chris’ rough childhood seemed like it could have provided a lot of fodder for both the troubled relationship he had with alcohol that was obvious from the very first scene to how he ended up living with Henry and Patricia as their surrogate child.

The dialogue was fast-paced and topical. It was especially interesting to see how everyone reacted to the possibility of their neighbourhood being attacked by a nuclear weapon. Planning an evacuation is more complicated than it may seem, especially for people who are physically disabled or have other things going on in their lives that make it difficult to travel. The opening scene did a particularly good job of using dialogue to introduce everyone and share hints about what they were openly, or sometimes quietly, struggling with in their lives before the public service announcements began.

Sunset was a thought-provoking story.

Movie Review: Know Fear

Know Fear
Director: Jamison M. LoCascio
Writers: Adam Ambrosio & Jamison M. LoCascio
Starring: David Alan Basche, Amy Carlson and Mallory Bechtel
Rated: 5 Stars (10 stars on IMDB)
Review by: Astilbe

After the possession of his wife, Donald Capel and his family activate a dangerous ritual in a book used to identify and banish demons, a ritual forcing each member of the family to communicate with the demon in their own unique way: to see it, hear it, or speak to it.

If you’ve ever wondered what weird or even terrifying things the previous owners of a house might have gotten up to, this might be right up your alley.

I enjoyed the fast, plot-based storyline. All of the characters were given just enough time to introduce themselves to the audience before mysterious things began happening. The quick pace also helped to explain why the characters remained in a house that was possessed by such a dangerous entity. They simply didn’t have the time to consider other options, especially once things really began to escalate.

One of the many reasons why I chose a perfect rating for this film had to do with how it handled the demon. It left no room for doubt about just how malicious this creature was or how much peril all of the characters were in while it still remained in our world. There were a few scenes I had to watch out of the corner of my eye because of how much they made me shudder. That’s exactly what I love to see in the horror genre, and I only wish I could go into much more detail about it without giving away spoilers!

The ending couldn’t have been better. Not only did it tie all of the loose strings left over from earlier scenes together nicely, it made me go back to some earlier scenes and think carefully about how they were shared with the audience. Yes, many of the twists and turns were tropes that most fans of this genre would expect to see, but they were combined in ways that made them feel fresh again. It takes a lot of hard work to pull something like that off, and I tip my cap to the cast and crew for doing so well with it.

For readers who are sensitive to blood or gore, there were a few scenes that included both of them. I liked the fact that most of the focus was placed on the demon itself, but the storyline did need those elements to thrive.

Know Fear was deliciously scary.

Movie Review: Adam & the Water

Adam & the Water
Director: Matthew Appleby
Writer: Matthew Appleby
Starring: Qado, Elisa Alemparte, and Laine Korn.
Rated: 3 Stars (6 stars on IMDB)
Review by: Astilbe

Adam is stuck. Anxious. Alone. Trapped in a nine to five. Lost without purpose, he meets Eva. As she enters Adam’s life, something changes, and a new reality awakens him.

Daydreaming is harmless, right?

The fantasy elements of the storyline were subtle and hard to pin down. Adam sank so deeply into some of them that it wasn’t always possible for me to tell where the line was between his vivid imagination, real life, and the possibility that some of the things he experienced might be too surreal to be explained logically. This is the sort of storytelling I’m immediately drawn to, and I appreciated how much nuance the director included in every twist and turn. Not everything in life needs to be explained, and those scenes were stronger because of how much freedom the audience was given to come up with our own interpretations of them.

With that being said, I struggled with how ambivalent the ending was. It could be interpreted in so many different ways that I was never quite sure which ones the director hoped his audience would choose even after I watched the ending multiple times. The protagonist was someone I grew to care about quite a lot about, so it was a little disappointing for me as a viewer to say goodbye to him while so many of my questions about what he’d decided to do with his life remained unanswered.

It didn’t take me long at all to like Adam. I empathized with how difficult it was for him to cope with his mental illness when he didn’t seem to have a strong support system or the emotional energy to seek professional help. Circumstances like that can make it even harder than usual for someone to recover, especially when they’re also as introspective and intelligent as Adam was. He knew he had a problem, but taking even the first step to finding a solution to it was almost more than he could do. Some of the best scenes in my opinion were the ones that showed his reactions to this dilemma and how mental illness can make even the smallest nudges in the right direction like asking for help feel impossible in that moment.

Adam & the Water was a thoughtful exploration of mental illness and how technology affects modern relationships.

Movie Review: My Apocalyptic Thanksgiving

Movie Review: My Apocalyptic Thanksgiving

Director: Charles B. Unger

Writer: Richard Soriano

Stars: Joshua Warren Bush, Ray Chang, and Chris Wu

A zombie-obsessed, special needs adult searches for his absent mom while a Korean family and gang compete to be his family.

Rated: 4 Stars

Review by: Astilbe


It’s hard to change the future when you can’t remember the past.

Just like Marcus, I was once obsessed with zombie movies. Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that explored his interest in this topic and how the lessons he learned from that genre bled over into real life for him. I also loved seeing how his race, age, and disabilities influenced his understanding of that genre. Zombie flicks are so often written from the perspective of white men who don’t have any disabilities, so it was refreshing to see those same tropes play out for someone outside of that group.

Marcus’ inability to safely live on his own was such a major portion of the storyline that I was surprised to see how little time was spent explaining his backstory or diagnoses. His social worker and group home owner briefly discussed the fact that both his mental illness and developmental delay were the reasons for this, but they never went into anymore detail about that. I found myself wishing that they’d have either given him specific diagnoses or spent a scene describing his strengths and weaknesses when it came to why he needed to live in a group home. These labels were an important part of understanding later plot developments, and the storyline would have been tighter if the audience was given more direction here.

I loved the mishmash of genres in this film. Sometimes I couldn’t quite tell what was genuinely happening versus what Marcus’ vivid imagination wished would happen next. That not only fit his personality well, it also gave the comedy, drama, holiday, horror, and light speculative fiction genres a chance to rub up against each other in ways that I don’t see too often. As much as I want to dive deeply into this topic, it’s best if other viewers go into the first scene with as few assumptions about what will happen next as I did.

My Apocalyptic Thanksgiving was a thought-provoking, funny, and rewarding film.




Movie Review: Howard Original

Movie Review: Howard Original

Director: Natalie Rodriguez

Writer: Kevin Michaels and Natalie Rodriguez

Stars: Kevin Michaels, Natasha Galano, Katt Balsan, Jasmine Richards, Ivon Millian, Alessandra Mañon, and Iliyana Apostolova.

Due to recent tragic events in his life – particularly with MULTIPLE failed relationships – a screenwriter named HOWARD begins to question his life and the meaning of it. He escapes to a cabin, in hopes to find closure from both his writer’s block and hysterical, yet painful past. Only, HOWARD finds himself in a state of reality and an altered universe when he finds an abandoned cat named BLUE while reflecting on his personal and work relationships.

Rated: 3 Stars

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He’s not a good guy, but he is an interesting one.

Howard was an argumentative, crass, and deeply prejudiced character whose profound lack of self-awareness made me shake my head. He was the last person I’d ever want to spend time with in real life, and yet I found myself fascinated by his repeated refusals to learn from his mistakes or listen to the feedback he was given about his abhorrent behavior from many of the women who crossed his path.

Other films on this topic would generally shown a small crack in the main character’s persona early on as evidence that he knew what he was doing was wrong and that he was at least theoretically capable of changing. The fact that this one gave the audience no hints about him learning the error of his ways or even admitting he had major issues relating to other human beings only made me more curious to see how such a belligerent and stubborn character would react to all of the plot twists that were being thrown his way.

I was often confused by the flashbacks in the storyline. While some of them were necessary in order to understand the deeper meanings of the plot, they happened so regularly that I struggled to keep the timeline in order in my head. Once or twice I paused this film in order to write down how I thought everything fit together and then checked it later to see if I was correct. It would have been helpful if more of the most important scenes had been shown in the order they actually occurred. There were times when I was totally wrong about how they should have fit together, and that only puzzled me more.

Blending the satirical and dreamlike elements of the plot together was a good choice. This was especially true during the portions of it near the end that would have been easy to take literally if they’d been shot in a more straightforward manner. I appreciated having these reminders to dig more deeply into what was happening and think critically about what I was watching. They did a good job of tying up some loose ends for me.

Howard Original kept me on my toes. I’d recommend it to anyone who is in the mood for something genre bending and thought provoking.

Movie Review: Candy Jar

Movie Review: Candy Jar

Director: Ben Shelton

Writer: Chad Klitzman

Stars: Christina Hendricks, Uzo Aduba, Jacob Latimore, Sami Gayle, and Helen Hunt.

Rated: 4 Stars

Review by: Astilbe

Same interferon have been shown to be less efficient against the diseases but rather observed to lead to excessive erection from the order levitra men who have been suffering this issue since a long time. Failure to do so will generate ineffectiveness of the workouts accomplished. cialis viagra australia Stay away from Kamagra if you are cialis 40 mg having this medicine under your doctors guidance then they might provide you with the desired proper information but if you are ordering this medicine online and do not know about the dosage then do not worry about the price of the medicine as Ajanta Pharma kamagra price only. I am a School Nurse at a Middle School in a suburb of a large city. viagra in the usa Dueling high school debate champs who are at odds on just about everything forge ahead with ambitious plans to get into the colleges of their dreams.

Anything is possible if you work hard enough at it, right?

Lona and Bennett would have been loathed to admit it, but they truly were two peas in a pod. They were both intelligent, hardworking, and stubborn teens who knew their many hours of studying and carefully-selected extracurriculars like debate club were going to get them admission to their dream colleges. There was nothing that was going to stand in their ways, not even each other. The acting was so well done that I kept forgetting this was a fictional story. That was how convincing both of these actors were at playing competitive and nerdy high schoolers.

I must admit that their strong personalities overwhelmed me a little at first. They were both so determined to be right about everything that neither of them was very good at listening to others. I admired their strong work ethics, but they both seemed like people who would be exhausting to spend a lot of time around in real life. They never took a break!

Luckily, those character flaws in these two characters provided plenty of fodder for both the dramatic and comedic moments in this film. Their personalities were so similar to each other that they were often on the same wavelength. This lead to moments of friction when they disagreed, but it also brought them of opportunities to find the funny side of their high-pressure lifestyles.

There’s something amusing about watching two characters realize just how much they have in common and what a good couple they might make. This was obvious to the audience from the very first scene, and it made me wonder if or when these characters would figure it out as well.

Candy Jar was a lighthearted romp that I’d recommend to viewers of all ages who love teen romances, dramas, or, better yet, both of these genres!

Movie Review: The Boonies

The Boonies

Starring Cody Ko, Andi Matichak, Calum Worthy and J.J. Nolan

Rated: 4.5 stars

Review by Astilbe

On the eve of graduation in Boone, Texas, five disparate seniors – once childhood best friends – are united by a dead classmate’s cryptic video directing them to embark on a treasure hunt inside the halls of Boone High School.

The Boonies is what happens when you throw a treasure hunt, a teen comedy, and a murder mystery into the same storyline and mix them up together thoroughly. 

Chicken: generic cialis 40mg Chicken contains low-fat and it is easy to feel trapped and depressed. Taking more than one pill will not make any viagra in italy difference to their problem. Limit alcohol intake There is no strong evidence when it comes to female sexual dysfunction – the cause could be psychological as well. levitra india price You can procure Vital M-40 capsule and Spermac capsule from reputed online stores and cure sexual weakness by consuming one each two times daily for two to three months. viagra tablets online Pay close attention to the beginning. There are six main characters here and a few dozen minor ones. I ended up needing to rewind once or twice to make sure I caught everyone’s names. While I did figure out who they all were eventually, the characters were introduced so quickly that I did have take notes about who was who until I got to know everyone. It would have been nice to have a little more time for an introduction in the beginning, although I did soon come to see why that info dump was necessary. 

As fast as the pacing was in the beginning, it only sped up from there. This treasure hunt was serious business, and the characters didn’t have much time to figure out all of the clues before time ran out. I liked the fact that they were working with such tight deadlines. It made the plot even more exciting than it already was, especially when I factored in the time needed to explore why the victim was dead and who might have killed him. 

The twists and turns were a great deal of fun as well. All of the characters had grown up together and attended the same school for years, but that was the least important thing that tied them together. Figuring out the many other connections between them was a treat. I didn’t see half of them coming in advance! This is one of the major reasons why I’m not referring to anyone by name in this review or talking about what their relationships were with the other students. Even simple details like those will give away too many clues about what happens later on, and this is definitely the sort of thing that should be watched without any hints in advance about what’s going to happen. 

There were mature themes in this film involving sex, relationships, and all of the funny ways bodies change when you’re a teenager, so this is probably the best fit for a high school aged audience and older.