Monthly Archives: June, 2016

"BUDDYMOON" is a historically hilarious walk in the woods by Pamela Powell

June 29th, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “"BUDDYMOON" is a historically hilarious walk in the woods by Pamela Powell”

“Honey Buddies” premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival, winning the Audience Choice Award and is now under a new title, but it’s still the same hilarious comedy, “Buddymoon.”  This “bromance” adventure film stars David Giuntoli as David, a rising acting star that’s been jilted, and Flula Borg, the relentlessly up-beat and comically irritating best man.  Written by Alex Simmons and the two lead actors, “Buddymoon” takes you on an historically hysterical walk in the woods.

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An Interview with the Filmmakers

As the “Save the Date” Wedding postcard is going through the shredder and David is chugging his rose wine from the bottle, sitting on the floor of an empty apartment with the exception of camping equipment, we know life has taken an unexpected turn.    Flula  has flown in from Germany for the wedding that has been canceled and the two decide to go on the week-long honeymoon trip together.  This trip isn’t going to be a honeymoon for either of them!

The film parallels the adventure and lives of Louis and Clark.  OK.  That might be pushing it, but the narration of the embellished diary of William Clark during significant events of Flula and David’s expedition give this comedy adventure story a fun and interesting flare.  What can go wrong does.  And what can’t go wrong also does.  From encountering a conspiracy theorist (Brian T. Finney) who just might have eaten a few too many mushrooms that weren’t shitake, to having to navigate using the stars just like David’s historical heroes, these buddies create not only a new path for themselves, but tell a story that is innovative and genuinely funny.

honey2David Guintoli (David) captures the heartbroken young man with ease, yet he makes you laugh at his terribly sad situation.  We can all relate to David and his feelings.  We then watch his patience wax and wane with his German buddy and understand his reactions and emotions as we root for him the entire time.

Flula is simply brilliant in his performance.  The perfectly timed and nuanced comedy, both physically and verbally, create the most unusual character that you want to love and throttle at the same time.  He’s literal in his understanding of the English language, and confuses concepts and words which takes you off guard momentarily, only to make you laugh even more loudly when his quirky style of reasoning finally hits you.

David and Flula are an odd couple that balance each other perfectly; a yin-yang of buddies.  Their conversations, pranks, and baring of their souls is like riding a roller coaster; so thrilling that it brings tears of joy to your eyes.  Placing these two talented actors in the most beautiful area of the Columbia River Gorge just makes this film even more enjoyable.  The beauty of Oregon is unmatched as the cinematographer captures the lush and breathtaking scenery.  The waterfalls and peacefulness of this area will inspire you to go on a “buddymoon” with your best friend…I know I am!

“Buddymoon” is an exceptionally funny and imaginative  film about love, friendship, and priorities.  This relatable and comedic film finds a way to harness each and every part of life.  With every step the David and Flula take, you’ll be craning your neck to look ahead, anticipating the next crazy and unexpected piece ofHoney1 life’s puzzle.  There’s only one thing missing:  The recipe for “Backpack Beer!”

4 Stars!

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"The Wailing" Rises above most horror films by Pamela Powell

June 24th, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “"The Wailing" Rises above most horror films by Pamela Powell”

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“The Wailing” is a classic Good vs. Evil horror film that will send chills down your spine and make you squirm in your seat. This Korean film incorporates every familiar scenario of the devil and religion, but takes it to an extreme level to keep you captivated and intrigued even at the very long running time of 2 hours and 30 minutes.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

A gruesome and inexplicable murder has occurred.  We follow Sargeant  as he and his men investigate, only to stumble upon more and more twisted and bizarre deaths in the village.  When  Jong-Goo’s (Do Won Kwak) daughter, Hyo-jin, is “infected,” he must not only fight to find the truth, but to save his little girl and the entire town.

 

Jong-Gthe_wailing copsoo and his police officer partner are an embarrassment to the force as they bumble, physically and intellectually, through their investigations.  Falling into the trap of listening to village gossip, they actually stumble upon clues leading them to the next site aka trap.  Hyo-jin transforms from a sweet, yet wise beyond her years little girl into a devil child.  No more rwailinggirlespectful little girl as the foul language spews from her snarling mouth.  She follows the same pattern as the previous victims.  Jong-Goo and his family attempt to fight the evil within using a Shaman as they hunt down the new and unfamiliar Japanese man in town whom they suspect to be the culprit.  Bodies continue to pile up.  Horrific battles between zombie-like creatures occur and plenty of blood is spilled.  It’s a massacre of the weak and easily tempted souls.

 

“The Wailing” is an intense, gruesome, and suspenseful classic horror movie filled with lots of screaming, blood and gore, and disgusting as well as disturbing images.  Where “The Wailing” walks the straight line of horror film as we get glimpses of “Frankenstein” and the townspeople hunting down the outsider who is different; and watching The Exorcist with the newest (and better) version of Linda Blair; and finally any  Zombie movie from the last several decades. However, what separates this from more traditional films is that you are actually unsure of who the victims are and who is to blame.  This mystery of sorts creates a better and perhaps newer version of a horror film.

 

1099479388-The-Wailing-Movie-TrailerInitially, there 6a00d8341c2b7953ef01b7c86cb064970bwere moments of comic relief, but those were quickly put aside allowing only tension and brutal moments.  Those visually brutal images, however, are frequently counterbalanced by stunning mountain ranges and wooded landscapes inviting you to relax…but don’t.  The film fluidly incorporates an interesting blend of both Eastern and Western religious beliefs, but the common and underlying theme, no matter the culture, is Good vs. Evil and which will prevail.

 

Written and directed by Na Hong-jin who understands how to grab a viewer, visually and emotionally, and then make you gasp, he builds suspense while continually forcing you to rationalize what is happening.  Skillful editing, meticulous attention to music, and ominous lighting, gives you the right combination to elicit fear as well as repulsion.

“The Wailing” is definitely for those who love horror, but finding a way to build a mystery into it as well will just increase your level of enjoyment.  Be warned!  This is very violent and extremely graphic!  Heed the R Rating on this film.

 

3 1/2 Stars (if you love horror films)

 

"L'attesa" (The Wait) A Masterpiece of Love and Loss by Pamela Powell

June 23rd, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “"L'attesa" (The Wait) A Masterpiece of Love and Loss by Pamela Powell”

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Juliette Binoche continues to astound me with her ability to not only find the most complicated and deep roles, but to bring them to life with a captivating performance.   Recent films such as “Clouds of Sils Maria,” and “1,000 Times Good Night” are just two examples where she exhibited absolute brilliance and the new “L’attesa (“The Wait”) continues this trend.

 

latessaA heavy darkness overlays the opening scene with somber faces as we begin to understand the gravity of the situation.  Anna (Binoche) is grieving the loss of her son Giuseppe—a mother’s worst nightmare has come to reality.  In the day that follows, Giuseppe’s girlfriend Jeanne (Lou de Laage) whom Anna has never met, appears at the door, unaware of the tragedy that has occurred.  Understandably, it is difficult for Anna to grasp this loss, but with her inability to do so, she strings Jeanne along as if Giuseppe will be returning soon.  As the two spend time together, the psychological underpinnings begin to unhinge in the most excruciating yet subtle ways.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

“L’atessa” brilliantly captures the psychological breakdown of a mother’s loss as we watch Anna attempt to recapture the happiness she had when Giuseppe was alive.  She can keep him alive in her memory and with Jeanne by keeping his death under wraps.  Pietro (Giorgio Colangeli), the housekeeper, plays an important role in Anna’s denial and acceptance, in an understated way.  As we wait for the proverbial shoe to drop, the range of emotions within our own heart catapults and plummets with every ineraction between Anna and Jeanne.

 

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Binoche’s expressions are a priceless original Renoir.  She is a master of depicting every thought and emotion with just a subtle change in her eyes, a twitch in her lip, or a pause in her voice.  With not a word uttered, we understand her motivations behind her actions, even if we don’t agree with them.  The dialogue and discomfort between Anna and Jeanne is palpable, creating an atmosphere wrought with unspoken anxiety.  de Laage’s portrayal of the young and insecure Jeanne equals Binoche’s performance.  The two balance each other with yin-yang perfection.  Anna’s wisdom and superiority that comes with age, takes advantage of the memory of being Jeanne’s inexperienced age and open heart.  Both of these characters are strikingly complex with the many layers of who they truly are being exposed bit by bit.

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“L’attesa” integrates superb cinematography and lighting to capture each emotional scene.  The set design, stark and oftentimes dark, reflects not only the situation but the internal emotional state as well.  Camera angles, particularly the wide shots, give way to the feeling of infinity—the never-ending pain Anna will endure.  The religious overtones throughout the film parallel the story of Christ as the film takes place over the Easter holiday.  Light shining through the stained glass window, the unveiling of the Virgin Mary, the betrayal of Pietro, and many other references, correlate beautifully with this tragic story.

 

“L’attesa” is a hauntingly powerful film that harnesses the psychological heartbreak and subsequent process of acceptance of the death of a son.  Beautifully filmed and deftly directed, the passionate performances bring this complicated story into clear focus.  It’s one of the most beautiful and emotionally gripping films I have seen this year.

 

“L’attesa” is playing at the Siskel Film Center beginning Friday, June 24th.  For a schedule or to purchase tickets, go to www.siskelfilmcenter.org/lattesa

 

"The American Side" Recreates Film Noir with Style by Pamela Powell

June 16th, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “"The American Side" Recreates Film Noir with Style by Pamela Powell”

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Due to popular demand, THE AMERICAN SIDE will be held over for a second week!  Stuhr and director/co-writer Jenna Ricker will be on hand for a Q & A on Wednesday, June 22 at the 7 pm showing at the Wilmette Theater.  

If you’re a fan of film noir, you’re going to enjoy this new film, “The American Side,” which replicates the beauty, style, and humor of the classic 40’s and 50’s genre.  Blending some facts with some fiction, the story takes us into murder, mystery, and science as the lackluster  gum shoe, Charlie Paczynski (Greg Stuhr), attempts to put together the missing pieces of a puzzle.  Where the trail of bread crumbs lead him could change the future of the world.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Set in the late 1970’s in Buffalo, NY, we meet Paczynski in a seedy little bar and get a glimpse into the type of private investigation he does:  photos of cheating husbands.  When his partner-in-crime is murdered, his attempt to find the murderer leads him to a long-buried mathematical secret by Nikola Tesla and those who want to keep it buried.

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Growing up near Buffalo, the term “The American Side” has another meaning which the film immediately uses creatively to depict their story.  Hearing 97 Rock from the old car radio as Paczynski drives through familiar streets immediately brought me back to high school days.  This attention to period details is spot-on accurate, allowing you to travel back in time yet still retain that sense of wisdom from the comfort of your seat in 2016.

 

Attention to detail is also found in replicating the film noir style with the exception of using color.  “The American Side” has the classic “femmes fatales,” a cynical detective, and the quick wit expected in this genre.  Although formulaic in nature, the story is intriguing with its use of facts and the unusually interesting characters that continue to surface intermittently.

 

Humor within this dark and mysterious film is intelligently interwoven into each and every scene.  The snarky retorts and quips spoken more as a side note take you off guard in a refreshing way.  There are plenty of hilarious one-liners such as “That’s a gene pool screaming for chlorine” that continually counter-balance the ominous tone of the film. Take note of The Professor (Grant Shaud) and his boat in the beginning of this movie as this character becomes a comedic highlight.

 

“The American Side” is beautifully filmed, fully capturing the style intended.  It’s dark and gritty at times as well as suspenseful, obtaining all of this with the trick of a camera angle and lighting.  Directing this style is also rather tricky, but Jenna Ricker deftly gives her actors exactly the direction needed:  a long glance; a tilt of a head; a slight smurk—it’s exactly what is needed.

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The cast is simply stellar with the writer, Stuhr, taking on the lead role.  His portrayal of Paczynski gives us the jaded, sarcastic, yet somehow hopeful private investigator who still has a moral compass.  His commanding performance never overshadows the wonderful supporting characters played by Robert Forster, Robert Vaughn, and Matthew Broderick.  I would be remiss if I didn’t point out another standout in the film, Alicja Bachleda who, prior to this film, had not been on my radar as a very talented actress.  Her timing is impeccable and her ability to convey information with a slight change in expressions is priceless.  With a tight script, succinct editing, and an extremely talented cast, “The American Side” is just the right combination for an entertaining film.  Throw in a little history lesson and you’ve got it all in this film.

 

“The American Side” is a refreshing throw back to film noir style, reminding us why we found it so charming and entertaining in the first place.  Filming in the Buffalo area is an unusual choice, but also a refreshing one.  (As this is near my hometown of Chautauqua, I’d like to thank the filmmakers for using Buffalo!)  It’s a fun romp in murder-mystery that will make you think and laugh.  What more can you ask for?

 

If you’re in the Chicago area, be sure to attend the premiere of “The American Side” on Friday, June 17 at the Wilmette Theatre, 1122 Central Ave, Wilmette.  Actor Greg Stuhr, Director Jenna Ricker, and Producer Mary Henry will all be in attendance to answer questions after the film!

 

 

THE CIFCC "Meet and Greet" by Pamela Powell

June 15th, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “THE CIFCC "Meet and Greet" by Pamela Powell”

 

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The recently formed film critics organization, the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle (CIFCC), had the opportunity to put not only faces and names together, but personalities as well!  In this digital age, we have all read each others’ columns and biographies, but until you actually meet a person face to face, you really only get a glimpse of who they truly are.  In the first of many “meet and greets” to come, we met at the Music Box Theatre’s lounge to get acquainted and take care of a little business and planning for future events.  Although I did not capture everyone on video, you can see from the stills that we all had a great time!  Check out the video on youtube to get to know a few of us!  WATCH THE VIDEO HERE

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OPEN ROADS: NEW ITALIAN CINEMA June 2-8, 2016

June 2nd, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “OPEN ROADS: NEW ITALIAN CINEMA June 2-8, 2016”

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“Cinema Paradiso” is one of the more commonly known Italian films, but Italian cinema, unfortunately, is oftentimes overlooked.   However, thanks to Open Roads and the Film society of Lincoln Center, Italian films are showcased for one week in New York City.  Beginning Thursday, June 2 through Wednesday, June 8, 2016, viewers will be privy to a wide variety of films ranging from documentaries  to dramatic comedies and everything in between.  As with many film festivals, question and answer sessions with the talent and filmmakers will take place following the screenings at the Walter Reade Theater, 165 W. 65th Street.

16 films in all will be screened one to two times over the week making it possible to catch them all.  Here are a few recommendations from Reel Honest Reviews:

“Assolo” / “Solo”

Flavia (Laura Morante) is a woman with issues.  She fears being alone, allows herself to be walked over, all the while questioning her decisions.  As she talks with her therapist (Piera Degli Esposti), describinassolog her situations, we see the hilarious and revealing situations unfold.  This introspective comedy may just hit home as Flavia finally comes into her own.  It’s a charming and witty look at one woman’s life that creatively looks back on Flavia’s life and why she finds herself in therapy.  With intelligent and precise dialogue, comedy is the beautiful result.  Showing Friday, June 3 at 6:15 pm and Monday June 6 at 2 pm.

“La Felicita e un Sistema Complesso” / The Complexity of Happiness

Enrico Giusti (Valerio Mastandrea), an emotionally detached businessman, finds his world turned upside down as he “saves” a young woman surprisingly shows up in his apartment.  Enrico seems to relate to everyone, earning their trust, and is a jack of all trades.  His understanding of people and their needs is uncanny, yet as attached as they become to him, he seems to shield any long-term involvement…until he must work his wily ways upon two older and recently orphaned adolescents, heirs to a huge corporation.  Beautiful and creatcomplexityive filming techniques augment this complex and intriguing script as we observe Enrico’s evolution.  Mastandrea who I recently saw in another Italian hit film, “Perfect Strangers,” masterfully creates his character.  His performance is simply riveting, pulling us in to his world and his thoughts.  Accompanied by Hadas Yaron as Avinoam, the two balance one another in skillful style.  Showing Saturday, June 4 at 3:30 pm.

“Viva Ingrid!”ingrid

Fans of “Casa Blanca” and Ingrid Bergman will enjoy this ode to Bergman.  Alessandro Rossellini brings her back to life in a way we have never seen.  We get a glimpse inside her tumultuous world using home movies, news footage, and previous interviews.  Seeing Bergman in a new and less ethereal light, we find that love, family, and work didn’t all mesh together beautifully as one would expect for this highly regarded actress.  Showing Sunday, June 5 at 8:30 pm.

Additional films on RHR’s anticipated highlight list include:  “Ugly, Dirty, and Bad” (Brutti, Sporchi e Cattivi), “Banat” (Il Viaggio), and “God Willing” (Se Dio Vuole).  Given the Italian cinematic delights so far, I am sure that you won’t be disappointed by any film you chose.  Check back for more recommendations and reviews soon!  For a complete listing of films and the schedule, go to FILMS AND SCHEDULE.  To purchase tickets, go to www.filmlinc.org

 

 

 

"BFFs" A Comedic Gem by Pamela Powell

June 1st, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “"BFFs" A Comedic Gem by Pamela Powell”

BFFs

Written by: Tara Karsian and Andrea Grano

Directed by: Andrew Putschoegl

Starring: Tara Karsian and Andrea Grano

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Smaller film festivals such as the Waterfront Film Festival (WFF) formerly held in South Haven, Michigan, gives viewers the chance to see exceptional films before they are picked up and distributed.  I had the pleasure to see one such film, “BFFs” a couple of years ago at WFF and finally, on June 3rd, 2016 everyone will have a chance to see what filmmaking is all about.  “BFFs” will be available on VOD (Video on Demand).  Take a chance on this indie—you won’t be disappointed!

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

“BFFs,” written by and starring Tara Karsian and Andrea Grano, look at friendship and their own relationships.  When Kat (Karsian) celebrates her birthday with her family and her best friend Sam (Grano), the pressure seems to be on both of them as to why they aren’t married with children yet.  Kat’s mom (Pat Carroll), is incessant with her cutting commentary, giving the gift of couples therapy to Kat and her now ex-boyfriend.  Sam and Kat abruptly exit, pour a little mbffcarrollore wine in the comfort of Kat’s apartment, and joke that they should go to this couple’s retreat and spa.  After all, it’s already been paid for and who couldn’t use a weekend in the hills surrounded by luxury?  The two, under false pretense, attend as a couple in trouble, but what they learn about themselves and each other is much more than they expected as the lines of their relationship are blurred.

bffs6“BFFs” gives viewers a chance to laugh almost incessantly at plausible yet crazy situations.  Kat and Sam’s lies about one another as well as their situation dig them a deeper hole giving even more fodder for developing hilarious scenes.  The two couldn’t be any more polar opposites, yet they know one another in a way that only best friends do.  You see it in their reactions.  You feel it in their non-verbffs3bal communication, and you hear it in their blunt, yet forgiving conversations.  The viewer  really gets to know each of them, but again, laughing the entire time.  Set in a gorgeous retreat center, the leaders of “Closer to Closeness” take their jobs seriously.  Each of the couples are there to work on some aspect of their lives together.  Creating outlandish yet plausible exercises for each couple, all representing various types of relationships, such as climbing a pole or giving one another a non-sexual back rub in the evening allows comedic banter as well as a baring of the soul.

The script is tight; the writing is intelligent and insightful.  The story unfolds rather eloquently as we watch these two characters develop and become more introspective—of course in a very funny way.  The style of writing and the deft direction keeps you invested in the unpredictable story which is truly refreshing.   Outstanding writing and directing are only a couple of pieces of a great film.  The cast must be just as talented and  this female duo of Karsian and Grano can do it all.  They are able to portray the comedic nuances of seasoned improvisational comedians while maintaining the composure of a respected dramatic actor.   Their timing and reactions, never over the top, but always believable, endear us to each of them while laughing aloud.  There are also a few recognizable faces in the supporting cast.  Carroll (Joan) doles out her matronly sarcasm and advice as only this talented actor could do.  Richard Moll  who you remember from the television series “Night Court” has a full head of hair as he portrays bffs2a suffocating and over-loving spouse.  It’s an ensemble cast that seems to mesh perfectly into their roles, giving viewers 90 minutes of total entertainment.

“BFFs” is a memorable and realistically comedic film about two women, best friends, and relationships in life.  Supebff8rb acting, writing, and directing brings the story to life reminding us what a  movie is supposed to do—tell a good story, and tell it well.  This, my friends, does just that.

“BFFs” opens on VOD (Video on Demand) through digital platforms such as iTunes and Amazon as well as OnDemand on Comcast Xfinity, Cox, and Time Warner Cable.  To learn more about this film go to www.bffsthemovie.com

I had the distinct pleasure to interview Karsian and Grano recently.  WATCH THE INTERVIEW HERE

3 1/2 Stars!

 

"Honeyglue" An Exquisite Look at Life by Pamela Powell

June 1st, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “"Honeyglue" An Exquisite Look at Life by Pamela Powell”

 

HoneyGlue

HONEYGLUE

Written and Directed by James Bird

Starring Adriana Mather and Zach Villa

 

Cancer.  Immediately, sadness overcomes you with the mere mention of this word.  And for a mother to hear that her daughter has this disease must be an absolute nightmare.  But what happens when that daughter is a young adult and she decides to live and fight in her own way?  HONEYGLUE opens our eyes to life and how we live it, how we find solace.  and how we look at others.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Morgan (Adriana Mather) is a typical young woman living at home with her typical mom and dad and little brother.  What is not typical, is the fact that she continues to fight a losing battle with cancer. Morgan accepts the fact that she has only three months to live and her new and unique relationship with a cross-dressing young man, Jordan (Zach Villa), with identity issues helps her in this difficult and final journey.

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“Honeyglue” tackles life changing issues such as a child’s immanent death, cancer, and letting go.  At the forefront of this film is acceptance, not just of this disease, but of other’s differences.  Diversity and individuality are seen in a beautiful and glowing, but realistic way.  Weaving the animated story of a bee and a dragonfly into this tale, delivers a powerful message about love and acceptance.  This unusual couple, Jordan and Morgan, parallel this animated tale seamlessly.

Mather skillfully portrays the quickly declining cancer patient with grace and beauty.  Behind her withering frame, there is strength and determination that is motivating.  She is able to elicit empathy from the viewer with subtle nuances of expressions and her voice.  This talented young woman shines in the shadow of death.   Villa’s performance as  the cross-dressing, gender non-specific love in Morgan’s life is simply stellar.   He appears to completely identify with Jordan’s role giving you an emotional roller coaster ride, bouncing quickly from anger to love to devastation in a heartbeat— all justifiably so.  This multi-layered personality was peeled away beautifully and artistically for the viewer to really understand this character.  Villa’s exceptional talent allows you to not only understand, but to accept and admire him.

 

“Honeyglue” is beautifully written as it addresses topics that are difficult to talk about let alone portray on the screen.  The realistic dialogue is augmented skillfully with an imaginatively animated story creating an entertaining and endearing story about love.  This is life.  It’s not always pretty and it’s not always easy, but this film reminds us to find the best in what we have and what we are given.  Live life to the fullest and embrace every moment is one of the many positive messages.  Yes, “cancer” is still a very upsetting term and this film is sad, but it is also encouraging and life-affirming.  The strength behind the writing, directing and remarkably talented main characters allows the audience to take these lessons to heart.

 

“Honeyglue” is one of those unique films that dares to not be a Hollywood story nor does is want to be.  It’s different and it welcomes those differences with wide open arms.  “Honeyglue” is at the very core a story of love, acceptance, and living.  It’ll open your eyes and just might make a difference in how you live your life.  Now, that’s a gem of a film!

 

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