Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Finally! A rendition of Pinocchio that’s actually good. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is dark, sophisticated, gorgeous, and witty. It’s an instant classic and certainly a worthwhile view for adults and children alike. 


Some children’s films can get annoying fast. One of the reasons I like directors/writers like Guillermo del Toro is because he brings an eerie darkness to his work. If you’ve ever seen Pan’s Labyrinth you know what I’m referring to. Del Toro offers that same ghostly foreboding in Pinocchio. The movie is charming and amusing, sure, but it incorporates somber themes in both its visuals and its storytelling. 

Much like the animation style of Tim Burton, del Toro plays with muted, shadowy lighting and color choices. There are a lot of purple, black, gray, and neutral undertones. Fantasy characters like the fairy are angelic and spooky all at once. 

The film also doesn’t shy away from the sad and unsettling events that underlie the story of Pinocchio. Instead of glossing over the loss of Geppetto’s son, the beginning of the film spends time explaining his life and death. Death isn’t some unspoken, abstract notion. Del Toro respects his young viewers enough to explain this sad reality as honestly as he can. That loss is a result of war, which we see subtly referenced throughout the remainder of the film as well. Even Pinocchio himself dies at one point, and it is through that experience that he learns what it means to be truly alive.


Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio doesn’t dumb anything down. It evolves into much more than a fairytale because of these choices. He approaches the mature elements of the tale with sophistication and honesty. This variation of Pinocchio not only focuses on themes of loss and war, but it also references history and religion, as well as hate and abuse. 

The story takes place across two time periods: World War I and World War II in Italy. We see how the politics and struggles of that time affect Geppetto and the villagers and change the way they live. Nazi salutes, Hitler youth camps, and a Mussolini cameo are juxtaposed by Geppetto’s carving of Jesus on the cross and Pinocchio’s profound question of why the people in their town love the wooden man on the cross but don’t love him, a wooden boy.


In a throwback to the enchantment of the original stop motion animation, del Toro teams up with Jim Henson studios to build the stunning design of this film. The animation is absolutely lovely. The characters carry so much personality in the details of their faces, their costumes, and their movements. The few musical numbers scattered throughout the film are short and whimsical. They compliment the rest of the movie naturally. 


It’s so fun to revisit films from your childhood as an adult and pick up on nuanced humor that you previously missed. This film offers those moments with brilliant wit. There are many jokes in Pinocchio that children may appreciate, but adults can really enjoy many of them on another level. And if you know some Italian, you can even pick up on some additional cute jokes as well. 

For example, when Pinocchio first comes to life, it freaks out Geppetto. He tells Pinocchio to stay home while he attends church. Of course Pinocchio doesn’t listen, and when he shows up in front of the full congregation, he is met with disbelief and fear by the church goers. One member of the congregation shouts “malocchio” which means jinx in Italian and is pronounced Mall-oak-ee-oh. Pinocchio responds with, “Pinocchio!” assuming the woman was trying to say his name, not curse it. There are plenty more humorous moments I could reference, but I’ll let you enjoy them organically when you watch the movie yourself! 

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio carves its own path. It doesn’t reflect Disney’s well-known version, with several changes made to characters and plot points. The voice talents of greats like Ewan McGregor, Christoph Waltz, and Tilda Swinton add even more allure to the magical story. This is a stunning and wholly well-done interpretation of a classic tale that is well worth your attention and time. 


What a unique approach to a sci-fi film! Prey (2022) is a prequel to the Predator movie. You know, the 1987 film where Schwarrzenegger goes full-force-testosterone fighting an alien warrior he meets in the Central American jungle? It led to a whole batch of additional movies like Predator 2, Alien vs. Predator, Predators, etc. 

I love my Arnie.

Prey is the Predator origin story, set 300 years prior to Arnold’s adventure, when the first extraterrestrial warrior scout came down to earth. It follows a girl named Naru from the Comanche Nation. Naru is desperate to prove herself as a warrior, but, the task isn’t easy. The women of her tribe take on the roles of healers and gatherers more than warriors, so no one is really taking her seriously. 

One afternoon, Naru sees a strange “lightning” in the sky and tells her brother about it. He thinks nothing of it. A few days later while they’re out hunting, she comes across foreign tracks and a snake that’s been skinned alive. She tries to tell her hunting party that something strange is going on, but they dismiss her yet again. 

Naru won’t be deterred. She’s determined and powerful, and good for her, because I feel like I would have given up waaay sooner than she does. 

When she finally sees the creature for the first time (he mostly remains invisible) she has already had QUITE a day. First, she falls into a mud pit that she nearly drowns in. Then, she finds herself running from a pissed off grizzly who is hell bent on murdering her, until finally the grizzly attack is stopped only by the counter-murder of the alien who appears out of nowhere to destroy him. I think at that point, I would have just gone home. Maybe took a nap, smoked some herbs…tried to decompress.

Not Naru. She continues on the hunt for this unseen beast, and as the story goes on, she and her tribe find out the kind of demon they’re really dealing with. 

There were a few things that I think made this sci-fi particularly awesome:

#1 Excellent acting and gorgeous scenery

I was trying to guess where they filmed this, because the wilderness is absolutely stunning. The end credits showed some logos for Alberta and Ontario, so I’m guessing it was Canada. It gave me serious The Revenant vibes and I loved how that backdrop helped set the tone of the film. The music also contributed well to its eerie and epic feel.

#2 The power of human ingenuity over technology

Unlike Arnold and his commando brethren, Naru and her tribe don’t have machine guns and rocket launchers to fight this alien with. This dude is decked out in all sorts of alien weaponry, giving him a huge advantage. He’s literally ripping animals and humans to shreds with minimal effort. Naru only has a bow and arrow, the ax her father left her, and her human ingenuity to fight back with. The more times she encounters the alien, the more she starts to learn about its behaviors and the way it hunts. Her observations and quick thinking are what help her survive, and ultimately devise an ingenious plan to take the monster down.

#3 A fresh take with blended genres

Sure, the film is sci-fi, but the time period and character portrayals give it a unique historical-fiction edge. We get a glimpse of Comanche life and culture during this time, we encounter some French fur trappers, and we see the day-to-day dangers of the untamed wilderness as it would have existed for these people. All-in-all it’s just a refreshing take on a science-fiction movie. It has its share of gore, bloodshed (do we really need to decapitate this many people?), and suspense, but it’s not corny or overdone. It sets a nice balance. 

 I would definitely recommend checking out Prey, even if you’ve never seen Predator. I don’t think you need to watch the first movie to appreciate this one. It’s got its own thing going on.


I wasn’t exactly gunning to watch a film set in our current pandemic-riddled times, where a young woman is dealing with the “hashtag relatable” struggle of extreme paranoia, anxiety, and panic attacks. However, putting all that aside, Steven Soderbergh’s Kimi was pretty legit. 

Again though, much like the film Minari, I just felt the ending was too abrupt. As soon as the arc of the story unfolded and all the action came to an exciting conclusion – BAM – it’s over. Why not tie up more of the loose ends? The 2ish minute sequence that followed was, I suppose, meant to show us that the main character is happy now and living her best life, but I still felt cheated somehow. 

Kimi (2022) stars Zoë Kravitz as Angela Childs, a young woman working for a tech company comparable to Amazon. After seeing Kravitz’s performance here, I’m really looking forward to watching her kick ass in the new Batman movie this Spring. She was edgy, powerful, and whip smart. The perfect choice to star in this thriller-mystery-suspense film. 

Angela works from home (per Covid) debugging code for Kimi, a smart speaker eerily similar to Amazon’s Alexa device. Her job is to listen to recordings from Kimi users and fix instances where the speaker doesn’t register the correct response.

Aside from working, exercising, and occasionally hooking up with her neighbor across the street, Angela’s life is pretty isolated. Although she’s seeing a therapist, she still has trouble coping with her fears, and it’s so bad that she’s unable to leave her apartment. It’s also noted that she was sexually assaulted, which only contributes to her condition. She takes medication, but as debilitating panic attacks continue to plague her, Angela remains secluded and immersed in her work. 

One evening while reviewing her streams, Angela comes across a very noisy recording. She can tell something is wrong, so she works feverishly to isolate the voices in the background and make out what is being said. 

Meanwhile, we see a random dude in the building across the street who’s been watching her, and we’re left to wonder what his deal is. Is he just a creep? Is he a spy? Or just another socially anxious introvert holed up in his apartment and bored (but also still creepy for watching her lol)?

Once Angela can clearly discern the voices, she is convinced what she is hearing is a violent murder. Who are these people? Why did this happen? As the plot unfolds, Angela learns some terrifying truths about the crime.

Meanwhile, concerned with her discovery, she decides she must take action. Now, the thrill and suspense abound as Angela is physically and metaphorically forced to step outside her comfort zone and seek justice for this heinous act. 

Bold camera angles give us a sense of the chaos Angela feels as we follow her on this hour-and-a-half long thrill ride.

One of the things that pleased me most about this movie was that I didn’t feel Angela was making “stupid” mistakes. Her actions were intelligent, and I felt they realistically reflected the thought process someone might have. What would you do first? Call a trusted coworker? Would you make a copy of the recording? Several copies? Would you bring it to your employer? If your employer didn’t react the way you expected or you felt your life was in danger, would you still return home?

Instead of shouting angrily at my tv screen, I rejoiced in Angela’s quick thinking and courageous actions. This movie is a nerve-wracking but satisfying thriller whose success is due mainly to the dynamic acting of Zoë Kravitz, some artistic camera work, and realistic plot development. It’s thoroughly enjoyable, even with its mildly unsatisfying ending.

Chaos Walking

I wasn’t going to write a blog about this movie, but it keeps haunting me, so now I’m compelled. 

Chaos Walking (2021) was not a very logical movie. The evolution of the story didn’t make a lot of sense, but here’s why it piqued my interest: it offered a unique storyline at a time when I’ve felt particularly disenchanted with all the sci-fi remakes and reboots. 

I’m going to define it as a “science-fiction-comedy” even though I’m not entirely sure they meant it to be comedic… 

Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) is a teenage boy living in a dystopian future-Earth inhabited only by men. Where are all the women? Todd’s certainly never seen one. He lives with his two Dads on a farm and is bored out of his mind. 

According to Mayor Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen), a humanoid species –”The Spackle”–killed all the women years ago in a human vs. humanoid war. He and his son Davy (Nick Jonas) are the Lucius and Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter villain reference FTW!) of this story. 

The remaining men are afflicted by a phenomenon referred to as “The Noise”, which apparently broadcasts their every thought for all to hear. Interesting, right? You can already start to imagine how something like that could cause issues. 

Prentiss is one of the few men on the planet who has learned to control his “Noise”, which gives him a decided advantage over the others. They cannot see or hear his thoughts as easily as he can see and hear theirs. Yes, I said SEE, because sometimes the imagery of the thoughts is depicted as well as the thoughts themselves. 

One lazy afternoon, a girl named Viola (Daisy Ridley) crash lands on the planet. Todd discovers her ship and it isn’t long until other men in the community find out. I mean…they CAN hear his thoughts after all…Prentiss and his men decide to scavenge the site for parts and look for survivors; but they don’t find any. 

It’s not long before Todd comes across Viola, which inevitably leads to her capture and interrogation. While Mayor Prentiss tries to gain her trust, his dumb son accidentally blows a hole in the wall. This is when Viola sees her moment to escape. 

I don’t blame her. She just crashed on a planet, alone, and she doesn’t know these men or what their intentions might be. Turns out, her instincts are spot-on, because during her escape she hears Prentiss talk about his plan to prevent her from contacting her mothership, intercept its landing, kill everyone on board who’s still in cryosleep, and then scavenge the ship. 

Todd, who is both intrigued and apparently sexually awakened, feels he should protect Viola, so as she escapes on a stolen motorcycle, he rides desperately behind on his horse. Prentiss and his hillbilly posse aren’t far behind either.

After Todd catches up to Viola, the two begin their travels through the dense forest. Their mission? Find a crashed ship so Viola can broadcast a warning to her mothership. As they hike along, all of Todd’s awkward hormonal thoughts are on full display–and it’s quite hilarious.

Meanwhile, Prentiss and his men are still looking for them, which is kind of easy to do since Todd’s thoughts are LOUD and can be seen for miles.

In the midst of the adventure, we learn about Viola and Todd’s pasts and the truth behind the disappearance of the women. 

The way they wrap this whole thing up is utterly unsatisfying and leaves plot holes left and right, but even so, the film is at least fun, funny, and unique. I would probably toss it in the “teen” category because that’s the demographic it seems meant for. If you like cringey, funny science-fiction films driven by teenage hormones, give it a shot.

The Courier

Yaaaaaaaaaas. As I had hoped, The Courier (2020) delivered an assortment of my favorite film characteristics:

  • Espionage thriller
  • Period piece
  • Historical context
  • Based on true events
  • Accents
  • Creepy cobblestone alleys
  • Mustaches & fedoras
  • Friendship
  • Bravery

This dramatic portrayal is the true story of two spectacular men: A “regular-guy” British businessman and a Soviet officer—both risking it all to LITERALLY save the world. 

Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a British businessman recruited by the CIA and MI6 to help thwart nuclear confrontation with Russia and diffuse the Cuban Missile Crisis. His Russian counterpart is Soviet officer Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze), who has secretly defected from the Soviet Union to impede Kruschev’s destructive will. 

The stakes are high; the risks are even higher. Both men have families to worry about and plenty of reasons to avoid involvement, yet they forge bravely into an increasingly dangerous operation because they know the fate for all of humanity if they fail. 

What time is it? SPY TIME.

But how does a random British businessman get recruited by two of the world’s top spy agencies? I’m paraphrasing here, but it goes something like this:

“Hey Greville, you’re literally nobody and therefore perfect for a covert mission because the Kremlin won’t suspect you.”

“Uh, I’m flattered(?), but I have no idea what I’m doing so I shall decline with a respectful HELL NO.”

“Fair enough, but, if you don’t help, your family gon’ die from nuclear fallout. Oh and also, the whole world will be annihilated, and that’s just awkward for everyone.”

“Mmm, solid point. Ok, fine. But is it dangerous?”

“Nah (fingers crossed behind their backs), you’re too soft for anything that’s actually perilous. Plus, even if something did happen, we promise to protect you and your family. It’s a square deal! Now let’s talk about spy stuff…”

Meanwhile in Russia, Oleg is straight thug. As a high-ranking, well-respected official with a ton of Soviet medals for bad-assery, he plays this game better than anyone. He’s been a double agent for a few years already, but now he’s ready to push his espionage skills to the max and sacrifice everything for what he knows is right. 

Frenzzz. So cute!

Greville and Oleg begin their covert operation under the guise that Greville wants to sell industrial engineering products to the Soviet Union. Because of this ruse, the two men are able to meet for dinners and events with little suspicion.

As Oleg continues to transfer his intelligence to Greville, the two allies become friends. These heroic and intelligent individuals have an unspoken brotherhood and mutual respect. Cumberbatch and Ninidze portray an authentic chemistry that can be felt with all your being. 

But of course, even as careful as they are, suspicions eventually arise. In the second act of the film, Greville and Oleg find themselves in dangerous territory. When the jig is up and circumstances become truly dire, MI6 and the CIA have a choice to make: uphold their promise to get these men and their families out of harm’s way NOW, or leave them to endure betrayal and abandonment. 

MI6 seems good with the abandonment idea, but the CIA contact, Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan), makes a compelling case for helping Greville and Oleg: Who will want to work for us (and who will even trust us) if we break our promise and do not use all our resources to try and save these men?

The mission is arduous. It may not be wholly successful, but they have to try. The remainder of the film is a wild ride through the course of several years where Oleg and Greville (both captured) put their friendship and loyalty to the ultimate test, battling through bouts of sacrifice, humility, despair, and fear while trying to survive another day.

Will they be saved?

The Courier is an intriguing and gripping espionage thriller that reveals the important contributions of these men, and many others, who worked behind-the-scenes to stop the Cuban Missile Crisis and prevent a nuclear world war. 


My biggest critique of this movie is that the ending felt too abrupt, but I don’t have a better solution so, maybe I’m the problem, haha. In every other respect, Minari (2020) was remarkable. 

The plot of Minari is unassuming: A Korean-American family moves from California to Arkansas in the 1980’s to start a farm and live their American Dream. From there, the humble plot transcends into some really charming storytelling. It’s unexpected, and also wholly authentic; and I think there are a couple reasons for that:

#1 Insanely Good Acting & Screenplay

Half way through Minari my husband and I turned to each other and agreed that every actor in the movie thus far was blowing our minds. The father, Jacob Yi, is played by Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead, Okja), He’s optimistic and determined to make this farm a success.

His wife, Monica (Yeri Han), isn’t so sure it’s going to be worth it. Their trailer home in the backcountry is less than ideal, and she’s worried about having enough income for the medical expenses of their son, David, who has a heart murmur. David is 7 years old and his older sister, Anne, is about 9. David can be mischievous, but overall he and his sister are good children. 

Together with his eccentric, religion-obsessed neighbor, Paul (Will Patton), Jacob gets to work starting his farm. Of course, creating a farm in the middle of nowhere is a major feat, so trials and tribulations ensue. Meanwhile, the tension between Jacob and his wife escalates, and the two fight more often, which upsets the children. Both Jacob and Monica work as chicken sexers (a.k.a. they sort baby chicks by whether they’re male or female) to make money for living expenses while the crops get going. But Monica is concerned that the children need a babysitter. To appease her and also help her feel more at peace in her new home, Jacob suggests Monica’s mother, Soonja, comes to live with them. Soonja’s presence among the Yi family fills an essential gap in this story. She’s brash, silly, forthcoming, and a bit wild. Soonja brings a special personality to the community of characters and it is her influence that evolves everything. 

I remember hearing about this film via an article highlighting Oscar contenders, so I looked it up. Minari was nominated for 219 awards, including Best Picture at the Oscars. It won 108 of these nominations, but only one of those was an Oscar. That Oscar, and many of the other film awards it scooped up, went to Yuh-Jung Youn for her supporting role of Soonja. I mean, I can see why; her acting was totally enthralling. Actually, all of these actors really impressed the pants off of me, and while I credit their skills, I think the screenplay also played a big part in that.

It was written by Lee Isaac Chung who, interestingly, is a Korean-American who grew up in rural Arkansas. He was also involved in the directing and cinematography of Minari, which explains why the movie felt so genuine and truthful – its vibe was probably derived in-part from lived experiences. 

#2: Dreamy Music & Cinematography

The music and cinematography in Minari really tied it all together. The score was dreamy and delicate, and the nature-based visuals were soft and thoughtful. The music fit so well that I consciously noticed its effects as I was watching the film. It brought everything to life and created an earthy, magical ambiance. 

#3: Not Depressing

So, we know David has a heart murmur. As soon as we learned that I thought, “nope”. 

Anxiety: ENGAGE. 

We also know it’s the 1980’s in Arkansas so, hello potential racism. While this film could have depressed the hell out of everyone, they chose a less predictable route. Some race issues were addressed, but subtly. David’s health concerns were also sprinkled into the story, keeping us alert and concerned about his current state. But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the path they took and was surprised by the turn of events. It was not at all what I expected. While moments of Minari were distressing, there was nothing blatantly depressing about it. I appreciated that. 

Minari was just an all around lovely and heartfelt film. Its title refers to a plant that is popularly consumed in Korea, often in kimchi and soups. Soonja brings the minari seeds with her when she comes to stay with the Yi’s and plants them in a nearby creek bed. As you watch the movie, you’ll understand the significance of minari and the symbolism it offers us as viewers. 

Will Jacob and Monica be OK, or will their marriage fall apart? Will David’s heart murmur alter his future? Will Soonja ever stop her silliness and figure out how to be a “real grandma” to David and Anne? Does any of that even matter??? Just as the minari grows, these characters must grow too, and their evolution is worth the watch.  

Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal (2019) sounded like a film I wouldn’t want to see. My sister Danielle watched it first and relayed the plot: a heavy metal drummer and recovering addict suddenly goes deaf and has to learn to deal with his changing reality.

Mmyeah, that plot screams “depression” and “anxiety” to me so, I’ll just wait over here…

However, I am writing this post — so obviously I watched it. And I’m actually glad I did.

Riz Ahmed plays Ruben, the main character. His girlfriend and bandmate, Lou, is played by Olivia Cooke (she was Artemis in Ready Player One).

I didn’t realize at first, but I’ve seen Riz Ahmed before. Most recently as a supporting character in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Now that I’ve witnessed THIS brilliant performance, I’ll definitely be looking out for him in the future. He made Sound of Metal feel more like a documentary than a fictional drama. Sooooo visceral. So real!

Anyway, one night while Ruben and Lou are on stage, Ruben completely loses his hearing. They both freak out, but Ruben believes there’s a surgery that can fix it. The problem is, it’s expensive, and they’re living out of a motorhome and not making much money.

Lou encourages Ruben to stay at a support home for the deaf while they figure out what’s next. The hope is that Ruben can stay strong enough to resist his addiction and also learn some basic skills like sign language.

Shout out to Paul Raci who played Ruben’s mentor, Joe. He gave a truly heartfelt performance. Also, I think it helped everyone that the screenplay of this film was SOLID.

Ruben, understandably, is a mixed bag of emotions. He’s angry. He’s frazzled. He’s anxious. He doesn’t really want to be there or take part in the activities that are meant to help him. Yet, over time and with the help of a committed mentor, he starts to find a feeling of community.

However, that’s not the end of his struggle. Despite his moments of joy, Ruben is still without Lou and without his drumming passion. He’s tired of sitting around waiting for a resolution.

So, what now? Ruben decides to create his own destiny. The question is whether the person he believes he is, is the same person he is meant to be…

What’s particularly captivating about this film (aside from the impressive acting) is the sound editing. They used sound to give life to Ruben’s struggle. Hearing the world “through his ears” created an immersive glimpse of what his character was experiencing. It also provided insight into a lesser-understood perspective: what it’s like to be deaf. Is being deaf a disability, or is it part of an identity? It depends on who you ask. 

Bad Times at the El Royale

I’ve been searching for a “blog worthy” movie these past few months, but nothing sparked joy. Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) busted that dry spell. 

This crime mystery was exploding with all the classic Film Noir vibes but was completely original. It’s the story of a random group of travelers who all check-in to the dilapidated El Royale hotel. This hotel is no ordinary respite. Once a hopping hotspot for celebrities and high rollers, now, in the early 1970’s, it’s been reduced to an eerie shell of its former self. 

The El Royale has a special appeal, though. It’s split right down the center by the Nevada and California borders. A red line running through the lobby defines which side is which. 

On one half of the lobby, Nevada is represented by cool blues, purples, and silvers, with gambling tables and nightlife glamour. On the other half, California bursts with warm golds, oranges, and creams, making it feel bright and exciting. Visitors to the hotel can choose which state they’d like to stay in. 

Other than this novelty, the only thing we know about the El Royale is that some man buried a bag of money under the floor of one of the rooms in the 1940’s. The first scene of the film reveals this clue. 

Now we have a mystery to uncover, and every character checking into the El Royale is part of it. The El Royale doesn’t see very many guests these days, so the guests we meet are the only current occupants. They include:

  • Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges)
  • Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo)
  • Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson)
  • Laramie Seymour Sullivan (John Hamm)

So, obviously Jeff Bridges is in this, and yes, he is as mesmerizing as you are hoping. The rest of the cast is also truly fantastic, by the way. Aside from the hotel guests, the bellboy, Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman) is the only other occupant of the El Royale. Chris Hemsworth creeps into this film too, but you don’t need to worry about him right now. 

As with many Noirs, none of these characters are who they seem, but the film slowly presents us with each of their true identities. Who are they? Why are they here at the El Royale? All along, our recollection of the first scene lingers in the back of our minds – at least one of these characters is here for that buried cash. As for the others? The happenings about to go on at the El Royale will intertwine their fates in a way none of them imagined.  

The way writer/director Drew Goddard envisioned and executed this film is dazzling. Every choice was made with thoughtful intention. The color schemes, the cuts, the lighting, the music. As a viewer, I found myself completely engulfed in this world he created. I played detective, trying to guess where the story was going and why, but Bad Times at the El Royale surprised and fascinated me all the way through. I think it will surprise you, too.

The Snowman

There aren’t many children’s films that I would describe as “hauntingly beautiful”…but then there’s The Snowman. This short film is under 30 minutes long and has zero dialogue; but it is an absolute masterpiece that transcends generations without needing either. 

My sisters and I were lucky enough to have this film introduced to us in childhood by our Aunt, who was an elementary school teacher on Chicago’s Southside for many years. I am so grateful she found and shared this touching piece. I still cherish watching it every winter.

The Snowman is an adaptation of the children’s book written by British author Raymond Briggs, who did the original voice over introduction to the film. Later, the BBC also released an alternate version where David Bowie did the introductory voice over — I actually haven’t seen that one, so now I need to find it!  

The story is of a boy named James who builds a snowman and, on Christmas Eve, the snowman comes to life. That’s literally ALL you need to know about this film. If you haven’t seen it, you should discover the rest of the plot organically to maximize the wonderment.  

What’s most impressive about The Snowman is how they created a perfect mosaic between animation and music. The animation is gorgeous — it kind of looks like colored pencil or crayon drawings brought to life. I haven’t seen this style replicated anywhere else that I can recall. The resulting visuals feel soft, comforting, and classic. 

The story alone is innocent and lovely, but then, when you layer in the elegant music…WOW. Congratulations to their music department on successfully shaping emotion and storytelling through sound. 

The one song in the film that has lyrics, Walking in the Air, is the centerpiece of it all. I think that song, and the scene it’s featured in, are a huge factor in the haunting beauty I mentioned before. I had to dig a little bit to uncover whose voice sang it, but I finally found the answer. The boy’s name is (Was? Because he’s a man now?) Peter Auty, a St. Paul’s Cathedral choirboy. His voice is the sole accompaniment to the instruments, and it’s exquisite. If you hear this song and don’t get chills, are you even alive??! 

I watched The Snowman again while writing this, and a wave of emotions came flooding back. I laughed at the silliness, I felt enchanted by the beauty, and I cried at the heartbreak. This film is a must-see for children and adults alike. It’s something truly special and I know that once you see it, you’ll fall in love with its magic, just as I have.  


Well, this one was interesting. Overlord (2018) is a mixture of several genres (war, action, fantasy, horror) wrapped into one mentally unstable movie. The film is about a group of  American military paratroopers sent to France on the eve of D-Day. This small task force is charged with a crucial mission: take out a Nazi radio transmitter behind the walls of a fortified church. They cannot fail. The success of the D-Day invasion relies on them. 

The action/war-horror starts right from the get-go as the men take on heavy fire near their drop zone. This heart-pounding scene is white knuckle and feels eerily realistic. Our main protagonist, Boyce (Jovan Adepo) manages to get out and plummets from the fiery plane into shallow water. He then starts searching for the rest of his team, most of whom are already dead. Fortunately, Boyce is able to reunite with the few remaining troops to continue the mission. As they trudge through the forest, the men come across a strange dead creature. This is the first foreshadowing of what lies ahead for them.

Da faq are you?

Boyce doesn’t come across as your typical soldier type. He’s thoughtful, sensitive, and hesitant to kill. I can relate to Boyce because I think I’d be the same way in that situation; you want to do your job but you’re also not sure not if you’re emotionally prepared for what it will bring – and BOY does it bring the characters in Overlord some surprises. 

As Boyce and the other soldiers navigate towards their desired coordinates, they find themselves sidetracked in an occupied French village. There, they are forced to hide in a young woman’s home. Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier) lives in the home with her 8 year old brother and sick Aunt. What her Aunt is “sick” with, we don’t quite know, but we’ll soon find out.

You OK, Auntie?

After Boyce gets a first hand look at this “sickness”, and after a series of events that intertwines the squad further into the problem, it soon becomes apparent that the Nazis are experimenting on the villagers. Their goal? Figure out how to make unstoppable super soldiers. (Hint: it’s not going well for them so far…).  What’s heartwrenching about this aspect of the plot is knowing that the Nazis actually did experiment on people during WWII. But, Overlord takes that historical reality and weaves it into a reimagined fiction/horror. 

I hate your smug face, Wafner

Boyce, although less willing to kill than his teammates, is vocal about the importance of helping these people, especially since the disgusting Nazi captain/villain Wafner (Pilou Asbaek) kidnapped Chloe’s brother. The more traditional soldier-type and designated group leader, Ford (Wyatt Russell), disagrees with Boyce and wants to focus on the mission, so Boyce and the rest of the group must stand strong to convince him.  Now the team must race to save the child, take down the sinister operation, and still complete their original mission to destroy the radio transmitter. It won’t be easy with mutant-zombie super soldiers trying to murder them, but they’re going to give it all they’ve got.

This movie found me cycling through bouts of gripping the couch, furrowing my eyebrows, and cringing in disgust at meat hooks. However, even as a gore hater, I found the violence “tolerable” as it pertained to the story. To be honest, I’m still digesting Overlord. It’s got something really edgy and interesting, but I also feel like it’s missing something I can’t put my finger on. For now, I’ll just work on exorcising this image from my unconscious.