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

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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. 

Movie Review: Ostinato 

Movie Review: Ostinato 

Director: Luke Luoh

Writer: Paul Deichmann and Luke Loh

Stars: Barret Coates, Alina Levyz, Kyle Line, Paul Deichmann, and Daniel Wang. 

Rated: 5 Stars

Review by: Astilbe
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The first step is admitting you need help—but getting it kills. In this psychological horror short, John Fields dies by the hands of his “friends”, over and over… or does he?

There’s more than one side to every story. 

John’s character development was handled amazingly well. He had very little dialogue to work with, and yet he managed to show the audience dozens of hints about who he might be. No, I can’t go into any detail about what sort of person he was. This is something best discovered by each new viewer on their own. The clues are there for anyone who pays attention to subtle things like how he speaks to the audience or what facial expressions he makes. 

I’ll admit to being confused by what was going on in this film for the first half of it, but that turned out to be the best possible thing I could be feeling at that moment. This is the sort of storytelling that requires a puzzled audience in order to get its point across because we don’t know anything about who John is when we begin watching and the things he shares about his life don’t quite seem to fit into a coherent picture of who this guy was before violent things began happening to him. 

Speaking of the violence, this was definitely a horror flick from beginning to end. There was a psychological element to what John was going through, but the story had its fair share of gory elements as well. As with the other questions about who John was and why anyone would want to hurt him,  the film left a lot up to the viewer’s active participation and imagination. My interpretation of what was really going on could be wildly different from how someone else pieced together the same snapshots of this characters life. This was a good thing! 

Anyone who loves horror or tales that can be interpreted multiple ways as much as I do should definitely give Ostinato a try. 

TV Movie Review: A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi)

imageA review of the movie “A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi)”.

A young man is ostracized by his classmates after he bullies a deaf girl to the point where she moves away. Years later, he sets off on a path for redemption.

I’ve been a fan of animation all my life.  It was only natural to move from after school cartoons to more sophisticated anime as I got older.  Although, to be honest, not all anime is sophisticated.  A lot of it – and a lot of the stuff I choose to watch – is flat out silly.  This, however, is not the case for A Silent Voice. 

To the contrary, A Silent Voice is a much different, more serious sort of anime.  Which brings me to some content warning: this movie deals with bullying as well as suicidal ideation.   Although it is handled well, it can still be upsetting at times.

Shoko Nishimiya is the new girl in school and while she looks as normal as everyone else, she has one major difference – she’s deaf.  Unfortunately, this sets her up for bullying by her classmates, leaving her feeling ostracized and alone.  Despite this, Shoko never stops trying to make friends and to be a part of the group.  Things escalate and Shoko is eventually transferred to another school in hopes of giving her a better experience.  Sadly, this is all too common in our schools these days.  Kids can be the cruelest of people at times.  Brutal honesty at its harshest.
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tumblr_adc5b77edfeece1f62f24f54eae05045_ef4852d1_400Fast forward to high school.  Shoya Ishida, formerly one of Shoko’s biggest tormentors, finds himself on the other side of the fence.  After helping another loner being harassed by a bully, Shoya decides to search out Shoko in an attempt to redeem his past self.

He has a long road ahead of him because he was quite awful to Shoko in elementary school.  However, years of being a social outcast have changed him.  Shoya’s no longer able to look others in the eye and has no one he can call a friend.  Reuniting with Shoko changes everything for both himself and for Shoko and her family.  Slowly, they begin to build a lasting friendship that they never had the chance to start in elementary school.

ASF_01Beautifully animated, A Silent Voice is mesmerizing both visually and emotionally.  I often found myself laughing one moment at one of Tomohiro Nagatsuka’s antics and sobbing the next.  Every time a red x fell from someone’s face, I felt my heart skip with joy for Shoya.  Dark, and yet full of hope, this is a movie for families to watch together, or for friends to share with one another.  It’s all too true to reality which only makes it more of a must-see movie.  I saw so much of my own high school days in these characters, making me connect even more to them all in one way or another.  Parent or not, teen or not, I think most of us will be able to relate to the story of A Silent Voice.

Movie Review: The Tattooist

The Tattooist
Director: Michael Wong
Writer: Michael Wong
Stars: Yanhu Wang, Li Lu, Myra Mala

Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Astilbe

Behind the acclaimed work of a renowned tattoo studio lurks an unimaginable evil.

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To be honest with you, at first I thought this was a trailer for a full-length movie. Just like in “The Story of 90 Coins,” the pacing of this tale was incredibly quick. The audience was given the exact amount of information we needed to know what was going on and nothing more.

Mr. Wong is a director I’ve discovered pretty recently, and I’ve become a big fan of the way he weaves scenes together. He expects his audience to pay attention and do a little bit of work putting the pieces of the plot together. Those are both good things in my opinion, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he might come up with next.

The background music was surprisingly cheerful and the exact opposite of what I would generally expect to hear while watching this genre. It provided a nice contrast to the truly frightening things happening to the characters, especially since the audience was given so much leeway in coming up with our own theories about why such happy music was chosen for this tale.

I should warn you that this is a dark and gory story. Don’t be fooled by the short run time. Every single second is important, and many of those moments contain images of people being seriously harmed. This is only something I’d recommend for mature viewers, but it is definitely something worth checking out if you’re an adult who loves horror.

Movie Review: The Story of 90 Coins

The Story of 90 Coins
Director: Michael Wong
Writer: Bai Xuedan
Stars: Dongjun Han, Zhuang Zhiqi, Jose Acosta

Rated: 4 stars
Review by Astilbe

How much is a promise worth these days? An aspiring fashion designer finds out when she has to choose between fulfilling her promise and realizing her dream.

Young love is beautiful, but it can also be unstable.

The Story of 90 Coins explored the lives of Chen Wen and Wang Yu Yang, the man who wanted to marry her. At the beginning of this short film, Wang convinced Chen to continue dating him for ninety more days after hearing how hesitant she was to get engaged to him. He agreed to give her one coin every day. At the end of the trial period, they’d either use those coins to pay for a marriage license or buy drinks together and then part ways forever.
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Their relationship was trimmed down to the bare essentials of what we needed to know which was a great choice for this film. It was interesting to see these highlights and fill in the gaps with my own theories about what might have happened between scenes.

The audience did see these characters going on creative dates, cuddling, and doing other ordinary but quite sweet things together. I loved seeing them interact. Even though we knew almost nothing about their backstories, they both seemed to be gentle, wholesome people who were well-suited for each other.

There wasn’t a lot of time to go into why Chen was unsure about his proposal because the run time for everything was less than ten minutes. This was one of the few things I would have changed about it. Wang was handsome, kind, and empathetic. Honestly, he seemed like the perfect boyfriend to me, so I struggled to come up with any rational reasons why she’d turn him down other than the fact that they both seemed to be pretty young.

With that being said, I loved the romance. These characters really sold me on the idea that they were a good match for each other, and I couldn’t help but to root for them even when life circumstances seemed to be tearing them apart.

Do be sure to pay close attention to the English subtitles for this film if you don’t speak Chinese. There were a couple of important plot points that happened so quickly I would have missed them if I’d glanced away from the screen.

I’m glad I watched The Story of 90 Coins, and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys the romance genre.

TV Review: Dumplin’ – a Netflix original movie

Review of Dumplin’ – a Netflix original movie

The plus-size, teenage daughter of a former beauty queen signs up for her mum’s pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow in her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town.

Review by Poppy

Willowdean Dickson is a larger sized Texas teen who has a girl crush on all things Dolly Partin and who lives in the shadow of her pageant winning mother, Rosie, former Miss Bluebonnet. She’s been pretty much raised by her Aunt Lucy, a fun-loving but obese woman who teaches Will how to love, laugh and fangirl over Dolly Partin. Sadly, as the movie begins, her Aunt Lucy has passed away, leaving Willowdean one more thing to weigh her down.

On the outside, Willowdean (aka Will or, aka the unfortunate nickname her mama gave her, Dumplin’) seems confident and well adjusted, but things happen which make it clear that’s not true. When the “hot boy” at work shows interest in her, she doesn’t believe he’s genuine. When her mama calls her Dumplin’ in front of the entire school, unsurprisingly it leads to bullying from kids at school. The final straw is listening to her mom getting ready to co-host the upcoming pageant and all but ignoring Will. As a protest, and because she stumbles across some items from Aunt Lucy’s things that inspire her, she signs up for the pageant. So does her best friend, Ellen, as well as another large and insanely upbeat girl from school, Millie (who is my favorite character in this movie) and an emo/goth feminist named Hannah.

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With a little help from from drag queen friends of her late aunt, these unlikely candidates prepare for the pageant.

I won’t give any more of the story away, but while it might be a bit predictable and clichéd and occasionally cheesy, it’s fun and it’s sweet and it makes a heart happy. It’s not something I’d watch over and over again, but it was so touching and adorable. I loved the character development in Will and Hannah in particular, but also Rosie. Rosie never meant to make her Dumplin’ feel poorly, she just got wrapped up in other things.

I admit, I cried a tear or two… yes, I’m a crier at movies, it’s true. But it genuinely touched me. This movie is worth a watch. Here’s the trailer, if you’re interested in a peek: