Dramatic Steps to Tell ‘An American Ballet Story’ No One Knows

An American Ballet Story Rating: 7/10 Director and Writer: Leslie Streit Style: Documentary Time: 94 minutes Trailer: vimeo.com/672952777 Review by Mike Szymanski Even if you are a dance aficionado you may not have heard of Harkness Ballet. Even if you are — or were — a professional dancer (and I know more than just a few) you probably never heard of Rebekah Harkness, who founded that … Continue reading Dramatic Steps to Tell ‘An American Ballet Story’ No One Knows

‘The Whole Lot’ Has a Whole Lot Going for It

The Whole Lot Rating: 7/10 Director: Connor Rickman Writer: Matthew Ivan Bennett Style: Drama Time: 75 minutes By Mike Szymanski Don’t pick a character that you like or relate to early on in this family drama. Chances are, you may change your mind about him or her pretty quickly, and many times in this twisting reunion of brother and sister. “The Whole Lot” really has … Continue reading ‘The Whole Lot’ Has a Whole Lot Going for It

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Flies Higher Than The Original

Top Gun: Maverick Rating: 10/10 Director: Joseph Kosinski Writer: Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie Style: Drama Time: 137 minutes Rated: PG-13 By Mike Szymanski Sequels are usually never better than the first. In fact, most of them pale in comparison to the original film.Some notable exceptions may be the second “Alien” movie (“Aliens”), or “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” and many saythey loved … Continue reading ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Flies Higher Than The Original

If You Dream of Getting into The Industry, This is a Must-See: ‘Movie Money CONFIDENTIAL

Movie Money CONFIDENTIAL Rating: 10/10 Director and Writer: Rick Pamplin. Style: Documentary Time: 101 minutes by Mike Szymanski This is a subject I know a lot about. Not only have I taken a lot of classes about the film industry, and have two bookcases full of dusty books about breaking into the business, but I’ve watched the plethora of how-to documentaries that parse out secrets … Continue reading If You Dream of Getting into The Industry, This is a Must-See: ‘Movie Money CONFIDENTIAL

We Are All One Step Away from ‘One Road to Quartzsite

One Road to Quartzsite Rating: 7/10 Director and Writer: Ryan Maxey Written by: Ryan Maxey, Josh Polon, Sophie Hardeman Style: Documentary Time: 105 minutes Official Site: https://www.facebook.com/quartzsitefilm By Mike Szymanski I loved the 2021 Best Picture winner “Nomadland” partly because it was a bit frightening. It came out while the world was quarantined and in the middle of the pandemic, and I felt like I … Continue reading We Are All One Step Away from ‘One Road to Quartzsite

The Heart-Ache in ‘Stay Awake’ Focuses on How Two Brothers Deal with It

Stay Awake Rating: 8/10 Director & Screenwriter: Jamie Sisley Style: Family Drama Time: 94 minutes By Mike Szymanski Although the disease of addiction is rampant throughout small communities throughout America, very few films have truly captured the pain and angst of what it does inside a family than in “Stay Awake.” The frustrations of the two brothers in the movie are issues that anyone can … Continue reading The Heart-Ache in ‘Stay Awake’ Focuses on How Two Brothers Deal with It

When Getting ‘Crabs!’ Is A Good Thing: A Succulent Horror-Comedy To Get Your Claws Into

Crabs! Rating: 10/10 Director & Screenwriter: Pierce Berolzheimer Style: Horror/Comedy Time: 80 minutes By Mike Szymanski Lately — well at least for the past two years — it is very rare that I laugh out loud over a movie, and this one had me doing it from the first scene. So thank you “Crabs!” for getting me to giggle in this strange and unfunny times. … Continue reading When Getting ‘Crabs!’ Is A Good Thing: A Succulent Horror-Comedy To Get Your Claws Into

A True Story About A Mother’s Fight for her Child is Featured in ‘Three Corners of Deception’ (Movie Review)

Three Corners of Deception Director: Meleeka Clary Style: Drama, Docu-Feature Rating: 8/10 By Mike Szymanski This is a most fascinating docu-drama. This movie called “Three Corners of Deception” records the true-life story of Dr. Maleeka Clary who also is the screenwriter, director and actress in the movie. Maleeka got into a nasty marriage and lost custody of her son by what she says is a … Continue reading A True Story About A Mother’s Fight for her Child is Featured in ‘Three Corners of Deception’ (Movie Review)

A Simple Indie Film Filled with Tears, Drama and Silence in “Lotawana”

By Mike Szymanski Sometimes a true “Film” is about filmmaking, not the dialogue. A lot of silence permeates this moody, picturesque film that’s an impressive first feature by Trevor Hawkins. Every scene, every camera shot, every moment is a piece of art, framed in nature and natural surroundings as we follow this couple who live on a sailboat, and take life where the wind send … Continue reading A Simple Indie Film Filled with Tears, Drama and Silence in “Lotawana”

Inheritance Italian Style

By Mike Szymanski Think of “Inheritance Italian Style” as like a dark comedy melodrama with wacky characters, over-the-top acting, and unpredictable liaisons all set in a beautiful countryside estate. It’s enjoyable, heart-felt, ridiculous, sad, and funny. Five sisters come together to discuss the dividing up of the family furniture well before their parents are gone in a large villa in Sicily. The countryside and the … Continue reading Inheritance Italian Style

‘Look Away, Look Away’ Doesn’t Look Away from Both Sides of the Confederate Flag Controversy

By Mike Szymanski It starts off ugly. This documentary starts off with the ugly rantings of a guy who brought a gun in with a Confederate flag and murdered nine innocent people at the Emmanuel AME Church in South Carolina. Then, the filmmaker, writer and director Patrick O’Connor talks about the flag of his home state of Mississippi that has the Confederate flag as a … Continue reading ‘Look Away, Look Away’ Doesn’t Look Away from Both Sides of the Confederate Flag Controversy

“Overrun” is Overdone and Underwhelming”

By Mike Szymanski Take every gangland cliche and put them together into one big jumble and that’s what you’ll find with “Overrun.” That includes the exploding briefcase, the Russian bad guys, a pair of inept goofballs, an innocent kidnapped sister, brutal torture, lots of gunfire, and mix in corrupt cops, bounty hunters, car chases, ex-military rogues, martial arts, double-crossing, and painfully on-the-nose dialogue. The saving … Continue reading “Overrun” is Overdone and Underwhelming”

Why Haven’t You Had The Luxury Of Discovering This Cool Band? This Doc Tells It All

By Mike Szymanski Luxury, had I known of them in the 1990s, would have become a favorite band of mine in my youth had I known about them. Their influences were the same as mine that I loved as a young teen, when the parents of the up-and-coming band members were giving their children albums from KISS, and Queen, and the Beatles. What may have … Continue reading Why Haven’t You Had The Luxury Of Discovering This Cool Band? This Doc Tells It All

’12 Mighty Orphans’ Offers a Story of Hope During Tough Times

By Mike Szymanski Everyone wants a story of hope during tough times, and this is a story inspired by true events during the tough times of the Great Depression. How appropriate then, to bring the story to light today in the middle of some very tough times, too. With a stellar familiar cast and a ripe pack of new talent, “12 Mighty Orphans” reminds me … Continue reading ’12 Mighty Orphans’ Offers a Story of Hope During Tough Times

Rachel Mason Reopens a World of Memories and Family Dynamics in her Netflix Hit ‘Circus of Books’

By Mike Szymanski When I first met Rachel Mason, I was unprepared for the wave of personal emotions, memories and love that would overcome me after first being touched by this talented performance-artist-turned-filmmaker. Her touching family story is told in “Circus of Books” which thankfully has eclipsed “Tiger King” as Netflix’s go-to odd documentary. It’s a story about her family, but it was also about … Continue reading Rachel Mason Reopens a World of Memories and Family Dynamics in her Netflix Hit ‘Circus of Books’

Visits at the House on Fuller Street

By Mike Szymanski He cut through the park to get to Fuller Street, scurrying past the hunched Russian with the captain’s cap selling wilted lettuce and soft apples from the back of his Isuzu pickup. Heinrich smirked at the vendor, who tipped his cap. Although they never ever exchanged more than a few words, they shared a lifetime of past secrets. Selling fruit and vegetables … Continue reading Visits at the House on Fuller Street

The Hammer

By: Mike Szymanski How does it happen that as we get older we seem to catch up to our parents? At some point we seem to pass them up and seem older than them. And, the older we get it’s amazing how many things we ignore, or conveniently forget, about how difficult it was growing up with each other. Maybe we get closer because one … Continue reading The Hammer

Oscar ‘Branding Events’ Compete to Offer Bags of Goodies to the Stars

By Mike Szymanski In an effort to set themselves off from similar “gifting suites” during the Academy Awards hype, a few of the companies putting on these giveaways to the stars now call themselves “branding events.” Nevertheless, in this world of celebrity hype and Hollywood, there still remains a hierarchy, even among these give-away events. Gifting suites started in the early 1990s as a way … Continue reading Oscar ‘Branding Events’ Compete to Offer Bags of Goodies to the Stars

LA Food Ways’ Tells the Story of Spreading Food Around and Ending Waste

By Mike Szymanski Mike Szymanski is part of the California Institute of Contemporary Arts (www.cica.org) that helped fund the LA Food Ways documentary as well as the upcoming Atlanta project, and has funded Raphael’s GreenWish (https://www.greenwish.com) foundation. Actor, activist and filmmaker Raphael Sbarge is obsessed with food lately. In his latest documentary he melds the history of Los Angeles with the creation of food sources … Continue reading LA Food Ways’ Tells the Story of Spreading Food Around and Ending Waste