Recently by Michael Frank

Premature Movie Review: An Uneven Story with an Incredible Lead

Rashaad Ernesto Green's second film features a stellar, intimate performance from co-writer Zora Howard, only to be let down by a weak third act.
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When you first see Ayanna (Zora Howard), she looks to be in her element. She laughs with friends on the subway, flirting with guys standing opposite them. She chats without effort, but with speed and fluidity, in control of her surroundings. It provides a stark contrast to Ayanna only 90 minutes later, as Rashaad Ernesto Green’s Premature follows this 17-year-old through her summer before her first year of college. Ayanna wants to be a writer, and her poetry’s used as voiceover throughout the film, providing a constant rhythm to the coming-of-age drama. A few minutes into the film, she meets

The Goldfinch Blu-ray Review: A Beautiful but Messy Underachievement

The Goldfinch boasts an impressive cast and gorgeous cinematography, but fails to capture the intensity or depth of its adapted novel.
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Every few years, a book comes along that everyone reads. Every book club picks it as a must-do, and it becomes a cultural capstone. Books like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Road become shoe-ins to be adapted into films. One of these books was Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. The book nears 800 pages, winning the Pulitzer Prize and several other "Book of the Year" awards across publications and organizations. It polarized critics and audiences alike, becoming a source of dinner table conversation in the end of 2013 and through 2014. With a book of that magnitude, there

Interview with Brian Volk-Weiss: Comedy Producer and Creator of Netflix's The Toys That Made Us

We should all be looking forward to his take on 'Star Wars'.
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Brian Volk-Weiss is most likely a name you’ve never heard before. He isn’t center stage, nor is he the star of any movies or series. He exists in the background, behind-the-scenes, orchestrating close to 300 comedy specials as a producer and over 30 specials and series as a director. In his free time, he creates and direct multiple Netflix series, including The Toys That Made Us (four seasons) and The Movies That Made Us (one season). When he was a kid, he played with Star Wars toys, LEGOs, G.I. Joes, and Transformers. He even thought Star Wars was a documentary

AFI Fest 2019 Review: The Planters

It might not be the best movie ever made, but for two female filmmakers with no crew on set, it satisfies the audience with quirky humor and a knowing sense of completion.
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Making a movie requires patience, money, time, and a huge amount of effort. Most movies will have dozens to hundreds of cast and crew members, from actors to cinematographers to makeup artists to costume designers. Calling it a "massive endeavor" might even be an understatement. For the new indie film The Planters, there was no crew on set. All of the filming, acting, directing, writing, and everything else that comes with making a movie fell on Alexandra Kotcheff and Hannah Leder. Kotcheff and Leder also star in this quirky comedy about a telemarketer named Martha Plant (Kotcheff) living in the

Feast of the Seven Fishes Movie Review: A Genuine Italian Christmas

Though the script is uneven and the jokes often don't land, Robert Tinnell's film bursts with the kind of familial love and joy expected from a Christmas movie.
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In the next few months, Christmas movies will constantly be on television and in the theaters. For most people, new releases will be peppered into their usuals, the classics they rewatch every single year. Robert Tinnell's new film attempts to break into that cycle, with big families, big hugs, and big meals. Feast of the Seven Fishes follows Tony (a rapidly rising Skyler Gisondo), an artsy young man stuck in the family store, as he meets Ivy-leaguer Beth (an adorable Madison Iseman). Tony comes from a large Italian-American family, while Beth is a "cake-eater" or non-Italian. They spend a night

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles Blu-ray Review: Historical Animation Paired with a Dichotomy-Filled Story

Following the story of Luis Buñuel's compelling 1933 documentary, this animated feature combines surrealism and a real story that is sure to satisfy international audiences.
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Though not always the case, animated movies have a presumption of innocence, providing a movie-going experience for the whole family. Let me say this first: Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles is not a family film. Salvador Simó’s film depicts violence, death, and much heavier topics than usually seen in the animated genre. It’s not even completely animated, as the film follow Luis Buñuel’s journey in making his 1933 documentary Land Without Bread, a depiction of the very poor Las Hurdes region in Spain. This 2019 film combines real footage of that documentary with an animated plotline of Buñuel

Willie Movie Review: A Sports Hero's Story Worthy of Recognition

'Willie' tells the incredible story of a man that changed hockey, and continues to radiate positivity for friends, family, strangers, and the youth of North America.
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We've all heard of Jackie Robinson. He changed baseball forever. He changed sports forever. He is a chief sports hero of the 20th century, a man that continues to deserve recognition. There have been movies, documentaries, and plays written about him, and his story has been told countless times. Up until one week ago, the name Willie O'Ree had never touched my ears. A new documentary titled Willie explores Willie O'Ree's life, accomplishments, and attempt to enter into the Hockey Hall of Fame. If you're like me and have never heard O'Ree's name, his story is one to behold. Willie

La Mala Noche (The Longest Night) Movie Review: A Dark and Gritty Experience

The film is a difficult watch, disturbing its audience with a hurting lead character and a very real crisis.
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Ecuador's submission to the International Feature award for this year's Oscars is quite a film. Writer-director Gabriela Calvache's La Mala Noche (The Longest Night) is a drama that pierces you from the start, giving you less than ample time to breathe and get comfortable. Calvache's film, which won Best International Film at the New York Latino Film Festival, tackles the subjects of sex and child trafficking, prostitution, illness, drug abuse and addiction, and suicide all in the span of an hour and 35 minutes. We see these issues through the eyes of Dana (Noëlle Schönwald), a sex worker who is

Paradise Hills Movie Review: A Beautiful, Messy Fantasy

It might be gorgeous, but it's uneven, confusing, and swings for the fences a bit too often.
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Paradise Hills, a new film made by the hands of writer-director Alice Waddington, follows Uma (Emma Roberts) as she navigates the “paradise” of a reformation island in the future. Waddington’s world is stunning, colorful, and beautiful to look at, though the story attached is pure confusion. Uma has been sent to a correctional paradise, one managed by the Duchess, played by a sinister Milla Jovovich. Once there, she meets her roommates, Chloe (Danielle Macdonald) and Yu (Awkwafina), and then the three begin to take in their new home. It’s a home where everyone dresses in white, the food is portion

The Uncertainty of Indie Filmmaking: An Honest Interview with Harpoon Director Rob Grant

"If Rotterdam said no, probably no one would be watching this film." - Rob Grant
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Most profile pieces begin with a description of what the celebrity was wearing when they were interviewed. These pieces talk about the location, about the coolness and power the A-lister emoted, about how they felt to be in their presence. Rob Grant, director of Harpoon, is a different type of filmmaker. I sat down with Grant on a brisk morning in Brooklyn. We were bundled up in jackets, and the wind was blowing deeply into the recorder, leaving most of it ripe with static. He had bright blue eyes, a beard, a huge smile on his face. It was his

Fantastic Fungi Movie Review: Mushrooms Are (Finally) Cool

Louie Schwartzberg's "Fantastic Fungi" is a fascinating, story-driven documentary that makes you believe in the power of these mighty organisms.
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Fungi aren't something stapled to the front of people’s minds. They aren't something we think about on a daily basis. We don’t even know how to pronounce the word. They're an afterthought, as are mushrooms. For most people, they’re an add-on. They’re good with other things, parts of a whole, not standalone products. Louie Schwartzberg has different ideas, though. Fantastic Fungi, which is narrated by the critically beloved Brie Larson and who I’m sure will bring in an audience by being connected to this film, is a documentary that wastes little time in telling you the importance of fungi and

Blade: Original Motion Picture Score Review: Hauntingly Unclear

The score of the cult classic Blade from 1998 is getting its first LP release, and what a beautiful vinyl it is.
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Blade is a cult classic for a reason. It features a jacked-up Wesley Snipes, loads of vampires, buckets of blood, and action scenes that purr because of the speed of the swords. It came out in 1998, and it was ahead of its time for comic book heroes and the success they would soon enjoy. Over twenty years later though, we have received the most underrated part of Blade in physical form: an LP of the score by Mark Isham released by Varèse Sarabande It's a score that doesn't immediately jump out at you. It refrains from massive builds and

Harpoon (2019) Movie Review: A Gory, Gutsy, Giddy Voyage

Filled with blood and betrayal, Harpoon is sometimes tough to swallow, but easy to love.
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The first 15 minutes of Rob Grant’s Harpoon are slow. Grant is methodical in the way he introduces each character, using archival footage and flashbacks to give all the exposition one needs for a good story. We understand each of our three protagonists, or antagonists by the end of the film, and can plainly see where they fit within the interlocking friendships. The roles are set. The pecking order is established. And with that, Harpoon doesn’t just walk or run to the next conflicts, it sprints at breakneck speed, shattering everything in its path. The film centers around three friends,

Fantastic Fest 2019 Review: Koko-di Koko-da: Horror Through Repetition

Dying over and over shouldn't be fun, but Koko-di Koko-da sure is a creepy joyride.
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I’ve never been a huge fan of horror movies. Jump scares, bloody creatures, and demonic possessions aren’t really my cup of tea. I see them all as one movie: a predictable, harrowing couple of hours that never ceases to keep me up at night. Johannes Nyholm’s Swedish drama Koko-di Koko-da just changed my mind. Slapping together Groundhog Day with Cabin in the Woods, Nyholm produces a low-budget, comedy-horror-drama of sorts that extends the boundaries of genre. You won’t be falling out of your seat or covering your eyes with your hands while watching the film, you will be chuckling at

Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison Movie Review: A Collective Concert of Shared Heritage

The norteño supergroup pays homage to Johnny Cash and to Latinos everywhere through heartfelt time spent at this California prison.
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Though norteño music will be new to many who stumble across Netflix’s new documentary, Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison, it has been a staple of Mexican culture for decades. Los Tigres del Norte, a family band that has popularized an entire genre of regional music by releasing over 50 albums, have been family picnic regulars of Mexican-American households since the early 1970s. The San Jose natives travel to Folsom Prison, a California institution that is famous for visitors, not inmates. Los Tigres, or “little tigers” as they were known by immigration officials, are beloved for singing songs, rather

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