Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Posted in Action, Adventure, Comedy, Superhero with tags on March 19, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2 out of 5.

2019’s Shazam! was about children who metamorphosized into superpowered grownups. The chronicle was charming because the developments were fresh and new. Billy Batson (Asher Angel) was introduced as an orphaned teenager that received the abilities of the ancient gods from the Wizard (Djimon Hounsou). Whenever the teen yelled “Shazam!” he transformed into a muscular hero (Zachary Levi) in a red bodysuit with a lightning bolt on his chest. He possessed strength, courage, and speed, but his brain remained as a child. He was still fraught with feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. He was aided by his adoptive siblings, with whom he shared the powers of a magical staff. They likewise became superheroes.

The “kids” are a powerful team of crime fighters in this sequel. They must face off against natural disasters in Philadelphia, like saving people on a collapsing bridge in the opening setpiece. However, their mission is complicated when confronted by the Daughters of Atlas. These villains include Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu). The sisters want to harness the power of the Wizard’s staff for themselves.

That would be enough story, but there’s so much more. Billy has turned 18. He’s concerned about aging out of the foster system. Billy is now an adult, and he looks it. He’s not the only one. Mary (Grace Caroline Currey) — his more mature and academically minded sister — has aged so much that she is portrayed by the same actress in her adult form. Meanwhile, Billy’s foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) falls for Anne (Rachel Zegler), a mysterious new girl at school who may not be all she seems. Together Freddy and Anne radiate a flicker of chemistry that I enjoyed.

Unfortunately, the rest of the film is unbearably stuffed with gags. Sure, the first picture was light-hearted. That made it a refreshing change in a DC Extended Universe previously known for Zack Snyder’s gloomy worldview (Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Justice League). Here the wisecracks are so relentless it’s oppressive. I never laughed. A series of jokes fashioned around multicolored candies are nothing more than a shameless advertisement for that product. Furthermore, Zachary Levi’s mugging performance is so tedious. The actor has dialed up the doofiness considerably. The actor smirks, sneers, grimaces, and giggles, contorting his face like never before.

Shazam is more than a manchild; he’s a complete doofus. And he blathers incessantly — rarely pausing for a breath. The rapid-fire cadence of words spewing from his mouth so fast you fear the chatterbox might pass out. His inane quips include the Fast & Furious franchise when speaking about family. Ugh! Do you ever think anything you don’t say? At one point, Billy uses a sentient pen to draft a negotiation letter. The enchanted stylus includes all the random thoughts he speaks out loud. When Helen Mirren, as Hespera, recites the letter for all to hear, it is admittedly an amusing bit. Ok, so I chuckled there.

The worst superhero movies take a simple idea and make it confusing, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is more! More people! More special effects! More plot! It has more everything but charm. It is an explosion of computer graphics and chaos masquerading as a narrative. When the Daughters of Atlas command a mythical dragon, the manifestation is so disconnected from anything resembling a logical development that it doesn’t even seem like a real threat. Explosions occur, and buildings fall. This is an exhausting display of destruction that happens to feature beloved personalities from the first movie. They do a bunch of stuff. Very little of which is interesting.



Posted in Action, Adventure, Drama with tags on March 16, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Random thought: Did anyone else watch the 1970s TV series Land of the Lost during its original run? Just me? Ok.

So I can sum up the entire plot of 65 in 10 words. “An astronaut crashes upon an unknown world and finds dinosaurs.” There are a few more details — but not much. Screenwriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods write and direct. The team also penned A Quiet Place. However, this movie solidifies the ongoing suspicion that director John Krasinski’s contribution to that script was significant. The opening crawl informs us that before the onset of homo sapiens, other civilizations across the universe (which implausibly look like humans, too) have engaged in intergalactic travel. Mills (Adam Driver) — a pilot — and his wife Alya (Nika King) live on the planet Somaris. They have a daughter named Nevine (Chloe Coleman), who suffers from an illness. The money he earns from this two-year expedition will be enough to treat her. 

Planet of the Apes understood the power of a reveal. The twist that would have made this chronicle interesting is foolishly disclosed in the first 20 minutes. The mysterious environment upon which Mills crash lands is Earth during the Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago. That’s the explanation for the terrible title. His ship has been split in half. The space pods that offer an escape are resting unharmed at the top of a mountain. Sadly the other passengers on board have been killed. Then he discovers a lone survivor — a young girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt) cryogenically frozen in a chamber.  

The story is about a trek to a mountain. This is a picture that rests on the interactions between Mills and Koa. The “Grumpy Dad-Adopted Daughter” dynamic is so very hot right now. Nearly 30 years ago, the trope gained popularity with 1994’s The Professional. It has continued with 2017’s Logan and the Netflix show The Witcher. The Last of Us on HBO is a current example. However, here the child speaks an entirely different language. They have difficulty communicating, which conveniently alleviates the scribes from writing anything of substance. This characteristic renders their discussions incredibly dull. I understand her presence. She reminds him of his daughter, but nothing is done with that idea. Oh yeah, along the way they encounter some dinosaurs. This component is practically an afterthought. 

If there’s anything positive to say — and there is — it’s that the atmosphere is visually impressive. Dinosaurs are inherently exciting. It’s why the Jurassic Park franchise has a worldwide gross of $6 billion. I will admit the special effects are amazing. There are some potent scares — augmented by loud, jarring sounds. However, more is needed to sustain this film. Even at a concise 93 minutes, there isn’t enough to support this picture’s paltry amount of narrative developments.

The stop motion animation in Sid and Marty Krofft’s Saturday morning serial Land of the Lost was nothing to brag about, but at least the story was compelling. It’s available on the TV app ReDiscover Television. If you need to satiate your “father-daughter surrounded by dinosaurs” fix, watch that instead.



Posted in Biography, Documentary with tags on March 15, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

My Octopus Teacher, Summer of Soul, and now Navalny. On March 12, the submission officially joined fellow recent Oscar winners when it received the award for Best Documentary. The win wasn’t a huge surprise. It was slightly favored to win over the other nominees. The feature had already won the top award at the Producers Guild and the BAFTAs. The picture is a political portrait centered around Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his crusade against an authoritarian regime. Given the current affairs surrounding Ukraine, its relevance as an exposé of Russian politics makes it a particularly timely selection.

The film recounts the events related to Navalny’s poisoning and the subsequent investigation. On August 20, 2020, he got sick during a flight to Moscow. The activist was hospitalized in serious condition. He was taken to a hospital in Russia after an emergency landing and put in a coma. Two days later, under accusations he wasn’t receiving treatment with his best interest in mind, he was evacuated to the Charité hospital in Berlin, Germany. It was later confirmed he had been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent. Navalny blamed president Vladimir Putin for his poisoning, while the Kremlin repeatedly denied involvement.

The high point is a jaw-dropping “gotcha” moment. Navalny, along with investigative journalist Christo Grozev and Maria Pevchikh, the head investigator for the Anti-Corruption Foundation, are all on the phone. They’ve identified a list of potential Kremlin agents likely responsible for his sickness. Adopting the persona of one of Putin’s accomplices, Navalny demands to know why the assassination failed. To everyone’s shock, the voice on the line attempts to provide an answer. While the rest of the documentary is adequate, nothing else comes close to this development.

Navalny ultimately got better in Germany. He flew back to Russia, where government officials greeted him at the airport and detained him for violating parole conditions. In February 2022, Navalny was charged with fraud and sentenced to a nine-year term at a maximum-security penal colony. Amnesty International has described the trials as a politically motivated sham. His fate remains uncertain. Meanwhile, this account remains a testament to his life and work.


Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Podcast with tags on March 15, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Back on Sunday, March 5th, CREED III knocked out the competition with a $58.6 million debut. I’m reviewing the movie on the radio for UK-based talkSPORT. Also, I discuss the courtroom drama ARGENTINA 1985 on Amazon Prime. It was up for Best International Feature at the Oscars.  (Psst…All Quiet on the Western Front won.  My appearance begins 10 minutes into the 2:30-3:00 segment (about 20 minutes from the end). Enjoy!

Source: Live Radio, Breaking Sports News, Opinion – talkSPORT

Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Podcast with tags on March 15, 2023 by Mark Hobin

On Sunday, February 26th, I talked about movies on the radio for UK-based talkSPORT.  It was all about COCAINE BEAR, a hybrid horror/comedy in theaters. Also, I discussed the season (so far) of the post-apocalyptic TV drama THE LAST OF US on HBO Max. My appearance begins 11 minutes into the 2:30-3:00 segment (about 19 minutes from the end). Enjoy!

Source: Live Radio, Breaking Sports News, Opinion – talkSPORT

Argentina, 1985

Posted in Biography, Crime, Drama with tags on March 8, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Do you love politics, history, and courtroom dramas? Argentina, 1985 is a perfect blending of the three.

The title is an accurate description of the time and place. The country has recovered its democracy after seven years of a military dictatorship called the National Reorganization Process. The current President has ordered the former commanders to be put on trial for their crimes of torture and abuse against the people. However, the accused want to be tried by a military court, but they fail to press charges. So the lawsuit moves to the civilian judiciary, where they can be tried. The responsibility for building the case against them falls on its only federal prosecutor, Julio Strassera (Ricardo Darín).

Argentina 1985 is a David and Goliath story The Trial of the Juntas concerns holding those accountable for the bloodiest dictatorship in the history of Argentina. This details the Argentine justice system. It would be a challenging endeavor. The military has all the advantages of a team of experienced lawyers. Julio Strassera is at a distinct disadvantage with limited resources and a group of lawyers that are young and inexperienced.

The first half is about assembling the team and the death threats they receive for trying this case. He’s assigned a deputy prosecutor named Luis Moreno Ocampo (Peter Lanzani ), a professor whose family has ties to the military. Strassera is skeptical but ultimately accepts Ocampo’s help. The second part is the judicial hearing, where we learn about the atrocities the de facto government committed while in control. The proceedings are broadcast, so the citizens are watching this too, and it’s turning the tide of public opinion.

The saga is a chronicle of a historical event where people were brought to justice, regardless of how powerful and protected. The legal developments of one country may seem narrow in scope. Still, we can take what happened in Argentina and apply those lessons to any regime that might overstep its authority. I appreciated the presentation of an atrocity of which I knew very little. It’s a compelling portrait, and it even manages to respectfully inject humor here and there despite the serious subject matter. Argentina, 1985 is nominated for Best International Feature at the upcoming Oscars this Sunday, March 12. Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.


Creed III

Posted in Drama, Sports with tags on March 4, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

In this continuation, Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has been retired for three years. He’s living a life of luxury in the Hollywood Hills. His singer-songwriter wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) is a hotshot music producer. Together they are raising their young daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent), who was born deaf. Donnie runs his gym Delphi Boxing Academy and trains his protégé, world champion Felix “El Guerrero” Chavez (José Benavidez Jr.). Out of the past emerges a childhood friend named Damian “Diamond Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors). Dame was an aspiring boxer. However, a shared indiscretion in their youth saw Dame locked up in prison for 18 years (he had a prior criminal record). Donnie managed to run away and escape punishment. Now released, Dame expresses his dream of a title shot against the world champion. Plus, he feels his friend owes him one. Donnie refuses at first. Then guilt weighs on him, so he gives in. Dame and Chavez go at it in the ring. Now, what are the odds that the former friends will eventually go toe to toe too?

Creed III is still part of the Rocky franchise. In that sense, this is Rocky 9 or Rocky IX if using the traditional nomenclature. However, actor Sylvester Stallone is nowhere to be found for the first time. His absence is never explained. Although he is alluded to when Dame says to Donnie, “If Apollo Creed can take a chance on some underdog, why can’t you?” Dame is a menacing presence, and as portrayed by Jonathan Majors, he is a suitable villain with experiences that serves this narrative well.

There’s tension between the two sides. You have this raw individual fresh out of jail hungry for glory vs. a wealthy and famous success thriving in contented prosperity. Clubber Lang, er uh, I mean Dame, taunts that his buddy has gone soft and is a coward. The setup bears more than a passing resemblance to Rocky III. The account even includes the death of a beloved figure and yet another training montage. The screenplay by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin won’t win any awards for innovation.

But I’ll defend the picture. You don’t come to these movies for originality. It’s about personalities. There’s enough dramatic weight to these interactions to hold our interest. A cloud of vengeance hangs over Creed III. The screenplay frames fighting as a double-edged sword that can infect your being or turn you into a celebrity. Dame believes Donnie was handed the life that was meant for him. That anger fuels a rage that has morphed into a boxer out for revenge. He’s clearly gone down a very dark path.

I was absorbed by their history together. Michael B. Jordan — making his directorial debut — and Jonathan Majors are compelling entertainers that sell these stock characters. That’s so key in a story like this. There are several subplots. Donnie and Bianca’s daughter Amara is developing a thirst for fighting. The child smacks a classmate right in the face for ripping her artwork. Amara’s parents argue over how to channel this desire. I spy a future reboot entitled Amara Creed on the horizon. More importantly, the brawls deliver. The climatic tournament at Dodger Stadium is a visual display of pugilistic prowess. At one point, the audience disappears, and it’s just two boxers alone, one-on-one, in the ring. The bout is exceptionally well choreographed. And ultimately, this is why you come to a boxing movie.


2023 Oscar Nominated Short Films (Part 3 of 3)

Posted in Drama, Shorts with tags on February 28, 2023 by Mark Hobin

The 2023 Academy Award-nominated short films have been playing in theaters since February 17. ShortsTV has made the nominees in all three categories (animated, live-action, documentary) available to audiences every year since 2006. Visit the website here to learn more about the participating cinemas and how to purchase tickets. See them before the upcoming Oscars ceremony on Sunday, March 12.


The entries in this category briefed me about nature and human nature. Tales of misery often dominate this award. This year is more positive. Even the negative efforts have a silver lining. The best documentary shorts give us everything we need to know in 40 minutes or less and do it impartially. These accomplish that goal with varying results. I instinctively resist heavy-handed narratives, but a documentary should have a point of view. Thankfully there isn’t a clinker in the group as they are all interesting.

I’ve ranked these shorts in order for their ability to captivate.

INDIA / 41 MINS / 2022
Director: Kartiki Gonsalves

Bomman and Bellie are members of the Kattunayakar Tribe, a forest community that resides in the Mudumalai Forest Reserve in Tamil Nadu, India. They are elephant caregivers who rehabilitate injured, abandoned, and orphaned baby elephants. Their lives intersect when carrying out the duties of their life’s passion. They successfully raise two baby elephants, Raghu and Ammu, and become husband and wife in the process. It’s that last part that clinched it for me. The tender presentation of these majestic animals was enough, but adding the human drama of love to this portrait just puts it over the top. Yes, it’s manipulative but so what? The most feel-good entry of the program. My pick for what WILL WIN and SHOULD WIN.

UK / 25 MINS / 2022
Directors: Evgenia Arbugaeva, Maxim Arbugaev

The setting is on the Kara Sea coastline on the Yamal Peninsula in Russia. A lonely scientist waits patiently in a ramshackle hut on a remote beach. He’s there to witness a historical gathering of walruses that temporarily leave the water between foraging periods. Stunning cinematography highlights a breathtaking reveal. But don’t get too enamored by all the beautiful wildlife on display. There is a nefarious explanation for what we are witnessing. Not surprisingly, this phenomenon is blamed on climate change. Shrinking ice is the reason. Yet another reminder that human beings are the most dangerous threat to our ecosystem. I assume the conservationist-minded people who made this documentary are not being reprimanded.

USA / 30 MINS / 2022
Directors: Joshua Seftel

Islamophobia is the theme. Richard “Mac” McKinney is US Marine consumed with rage. After 25 years of military service that comprised multiple tours in Somalia and the Middle East, he has returned home to Muncie, Indiana. However, his hatred for Muslims persists. So much so that he plans to construct an improvised explosive device (IED) and set it off at the Islamic Center in town. His wife Dana and stepdaughter Emily are unaware of his intentions. The story takes an unexpected turn when he meets Afghan refugees Bibi Bahrami and her husband Dr. Saber Bahrami, as well as their fellow believers, which includes Muncie native Jomo Williams. What could have been a very dark story ultimately incorporates kindness and rehabilitation. That people can undergo a true conversion for the better is a powerful testament. However, the unsettling idea that if the Muslims hadn’t approached Mac in just the right way, they would be dead still lingers well after the happy ending.

USA / 39 MINS / 2022
Directors: Anne Alvergue, Debra McClutchy

Martha Mitchell was the wife of John N. Mitchell, United States Attorney General under President Richard Nixon. She became a whistleblower of sorts when her public comments and phone calls became a thorn in the side of the Nixon administration. She complains of allegedly being held captive in a California hotel. The portrait elevates the outspoken woman as a hero whose sanity was publicly and unfairly questioned at the time. This heavily relies upon having prior knowledge of the politics of this era. For example, what made Watergate such a scandal is never satisfactorily explained to the uninformed. It’s been over half a century. The opinion that Watergate was a bad thing is neither unique nor revelatory. Rather superficial at 39 minutes but a breezy watch of how Watergate affected this one wealthy socialite.

USA / 29 MINS / 2022
Director: Jay Rosenblatt

Director Jay Rosenblatt interviews his daughter every year on her birthday until age 18. Watching someone age before our eyes is inherently compelling. The edited compilation is acceptable, but I suspect the presentation would be mildly fascinating with almost any child. To truly transcend requires a director to ask cogent questions. It’s not happening here, folks. “What are dreams?” and “What is power?” are emblematic of the queries. The answers predictably change over time but not in any meaningful way. Social media is filled with viral videos of parents who feature their kids. Much of what I see is more riveting than this. Either more parents should submit their work for Oscar consideration, or Jay Rosenblatt is lucky. The filmmaker was recognized in this category last year for When We Were Bullies. That didn’t win, and I doubt this will either. Kudos for getting nominated again, though. Perhaps his next movie should be entitled How do you get an Oscar nomination?


Cocaine Bear

Posted in Comedy, Horror, Thriller with tags on February 25, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In 1985 a 175-pound (79-kilogram) American black bear overdosed on cocaine. It all began when a drug lord named Andrew C. Thornton II was trafficking narcotics from Colombia into the United States. He dropped a load of 40 plastic containers of cocaine over Georgia’s Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. The cargo was too heavy for his light twin-engine plane. Thornton also evacuated and died soon after when his parachute failed to open. On December 23, authorities in Georgia discovered the body of a black bear that had eaten the stimulant. The total amount consumed was 75 pounds (34 kilograms), valued at 2 million dollars. Those are the facts, and this is his story.

Ok, so the film has taken some liberties. The animal did not kill anyone and died immediately after ingesting the drug. However, that would not make an exciting movie. This is a silly comedy mixed with severe gore. The screenwriters have fabricated a tale out of whole cloth. The bear goes on a rampage and ends up killing many people in gruesome ways. That’s it. The chronicle is half-baked.

Cocaine Bear is the chronicle of a beast that goes on a coke-fueled frenzy. She — yes, the mammal is female — has a craving for more of that addictive white powder. The bear will mercilessly kill any human in her sights. The narrative is inherently a comedy first, so you are invited to laugh, with horror being a close second. In that capacity, it unapologetically offers vivid grindhouse violence — a severed leg here, a decapitated head there. One poor soul is subject to a literal stomach churning where his intestines are ripped out of his abdomen. The simple idea is mined continuously to the point of exhaustion. I longed for a twist, plot development, or anything that might break up the monotony. The picture is a mere 95 minutes and still feels too long.

What “bear-ly” saves this B movie is a colorful cast. The starry ensemble includes Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) as a drug kingpin named Syd in one of his last performances. His underlings are his grief-stricken son, played by Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story), and O’Shea Jackson Jr (Straight Outta Compton) as Syd’s second-in-command. Keri Russell (TV’s Felicity) is a nurse and the mom of a young girl portrayed by Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project). Christian Convery (TV’s Sweet Tooth) is memorable as her little friend. Margo Martindale (August: Osage County) is a park ranger who applies perfume to incur the affection of a wildlife inspector, played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson (TV’s Modern Family). Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Da 5 Bloods) is the policeman assigned to the case. Other actors depict teen ruffians, hikers, law enforcement, and ambulance workers. They all contribute.

Cocaine Bear is this generation’s Snakes on a Plane. It’s a passable time-filler — amusing in the moment and forgettable the next day. If the title is enough to make you chuckle, then see it. If not, steer clear. The saga will be “un-bear-able.”


2023 Oscar Nominated Short Films (Part 2 of 3)

Posted in Drama, Shorts with tags on February 22, 2023 by Mark Hobin

The 2023 Academy Award-nominated short films have been playing in theaters since February 17. ShortsTV has made the nominees in all three categories (animated, live-action, documentary) available to audiences every year since 2006. Visit the website here to learn more about the participating cinemas and how to purchase tickets. See them before the upcoming Oscars ceremony on Sunday, March 12.


This year the live-action short nominees will give viewers a tour of the world. An international selection that doesn’t include the U.S. If one thing unites all of these entries, it’s that human relationships are fraught with tension. The finest of these stories ends on an uplifting note. There may be hope for us after all. The less satisfying ones conclude that people are inherently evil.

I’ve ranked these shorts in order from best to least favorite. There was a wide variation in my enjoyment of the films in this category.

IRELAND / 23 MINS /2022
Directors: Tom Berkeley, Ross White

The double-meaning title is slang for when you duck out of a party without bidding farewell to anyone. Two brothers come together to mourn their recently deceased mother. Elder brother Turlough (Seamus O’Hara) attempts to get affairs in order. He also hopes to find a relative who can look after his younger brother Lorcan (James Martin), who has Down Syndrome. Their parish priest (Paddy Jenkins) informs the duo that their mom had a bucket list. Lorcan convinces his reluctant brother to finish every item to honor her passing.

A warm-hearted Irish saga is a real audience pleaser full of cultural humor. It’s hard not to compare this darkly comedic tale about male bonds in rural Ireland with a certain pessimistic Best Picture contender. The vast difference between the philosophical worldviews of these two pictures couldn’t be more disparate. This wholesome, poignant yarn is the anti-Banshees of Inisherin. My pick for what SHOULD WIN

ITALY, USA/ 37 MINS / 2022
Director: Alice Rohrwacher

“Let them eat cake.” A group of young girls at a Catholic boarding school in Italy yearn for a playful childhood. This is Mussolini-era Fascist Italy, and resources are scarce. “The pupils” are bound by strict moral teaching. One of the girls named Serafina (Melissa Falasconi) appears to be the odd one out. While the sisters seem somewhat lenient, Mother Superior (Alba Rohrwacher) is anything but. A radio in the background broadcasts news of WWII but also music. The girls must wash their mouths with soap after singing the lyrics of “Ba Ba Baciami Piccina,” which means “Kiss me, baby.”

The longest short of the program is set in motion about halfway through when a wealthy woman visits the orphanage. She seeks the orphan girls’ prayers for her philandering husband. To strengthen their resolve, she bakes them a decadent cake she claims has 70 eggs. The dessert becomes the focus of an important decision. This account features a cast of adorable children and celebrates their innocence and anarchic spirit. Although it is advent season which is the period leading up to Christmas, this is not typical holiday fare. The tone is tongue-in-cheek. Produced by Alfonso Cuarón and distributed by Disney+. My pick for what WILL WIN.

NORWAY / 15 MINS / 2020
Director: Eirik Tveiten

On a cold winter night in December, Ebba (Sigrid Kandal Husjord) waits for the tram. While the conductor is on break, she enters the empty train to keep warm. In an attempt to close the door, Ebba pushes random buttons and inadvertently starts the tram. Then a group of various people boards the train. The narrative stars a little person and what develops when a transgender woman is harassed on the bus. Ebba struggles with what to do. The most concise contender begins on a whimsical note of light comedy and morphs awkwardly into a serious drama. That combination has made this the most polarizing of the shorts. It ultimately course corrects into a supportive tale.

Director: Cyrus Neshvad

First comes marriage, then comes love? An Iranian teenager (Nawelle Ewad) has arrived at Luxembourg Airport. Her suitcase is sitting at the carousel. Yet she fears the man (Sarkaw Gorany) waiting beyond the gate. The dialogue is minimal and offers little situational particulars. The lack of details feeds into our apprehension, just the presentation of two strangers and mounting anxiety. She makes the life-changing decision to remove her head covering and leave.

Without question a controversial practice that is a cultural and religious institution for some. This predictably takes the traditional belief that arranged marriages are bad and something to escape. Although in this case, the couple hasn’t met, and we know little about them. This portrait takes the stereotypical point of view and ticks all the boxes for a Western (read U.S.) audience. This complex subject deserves more than a cursory 17-minute condemnation.

DENMARK / 16 MINS / 2022
Director: Anders Walter

In Greenland, a young girl named Pipaluk (Mila Heilmann Kreutzmann) is distraught by the disappearance of her sister Ivalu (Nivi Larsen). Father seems to be less concerned. What is going on? Tragic story highlights gorgeous cinematography of outdoor scenery, and that’s about all to recommend. Stories about suffering children (sexual abuse, suicide, etc.) are so commonplace in this category that the drama requires significant art or innovation to surpass the inherent cliché. The “big reveal” is predictable, given it’s artlessly telegraphed at the beginning. Based on a graphic novel by Illustrator Lars Horneman and author Morten Dürr.