Passion Project (The Florida Project review)

Not everyone gets a fairytale, but if you will it you can absolutely have a happy ending. And this movie will have you pondering those ideas over and over again.


The Florida Project (2017)

Cast: Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe
Director: Sean Baker
released on blu-ray February 20, 2018
********* 9/10

IMDB: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Audience Score 79%
The Guardian: *****/*****

Sean Baker makes movies about topics that he wants to see on the screen. Movies about the lives of illegal immigrants with gambling debts, street hustlers, intergenerational friendships, and trans sex workers. People who are very real, but who have less then glamorous stories to tell.

An American director, cinematographer, producer, writer and editor, Baker’s best known for making independent films about the aforementioned subjects. Notably Starlet, the iPhone filmed Tangerine, and most recently The Florida Project. Fun fact, supporting actor Willem Dafoe has been nominated for an Academy Award in his portrayal of Bobby Hicks. But what’s it about?

Special thanks to IMDB user Huggo for the synopsis.

Halley (Bria Vinaite) lives with her six year old daughter Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) in a budget motel along one of the commercial strips catering to the Walt Disney World tourist clientele outside Orlando, Florida. Halley, who survives largely on welfare, has little respect for people, especially those who cross her, it an attitude that she has passed down to Moonee, who curses and gives the finger like her mother. Although the motel’s policy is not to allow long term rentals, Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the motel manager, has made arrangements for people like Halley to live there while not undermining the policy as he realizes that many such tenants have no place to go otherwise. Halley, Moonee and Moonee’s friends, who live in the motel or others like it along the strip and who she often drags into her disruptive pranks, are often the bane of Bobby’s existence, but while dealing with whatever problem arises, Bobby has a soft spot especially for the children and thus, by association, their parents, as he knows that Moonee and others like her are just children acting like a children under whatever guidance they have, Moonee who has less guidance than most. Although there are some lines which he will not tolerate to be crossed, Bobby lets most of the disruptive things that they do go, largely as long as it does not affect the bread and butter of the motel, namely the tourist trade. The summer in this collective is presented, when Moonee and her friends, such as Scooty, are out of school and are left largely to their own devices while self-absorbed Halley does whatever she wants, often just staying in the room watching TV. Halley is supposed to look after Scooty, the son of Halley’s friend Ashley, they who live in the unit immediately underneath Halley and Moonee’s, while Ashley is at work at a local diner. In turn, Ashley pilfers cooked meals from the diner to feed Halley, Moonee and Scooty. Over the course of the summer, Halley systematically begins to alienate one by one the people who are her unofficial support by responding with that disrespect to anything she feels is against her. As such, Halley begins to take more and more extreme measures to maintain the life she leads with Moonee.

I think the director himself said it best when he described the experience he wanted to create in making this film. So many people are concerned with seeing a story in three parts. Setup, confrontation, and resolution. But this is story about summer vacation. It so happens that the summer vacation is set in ghetto motel right beside Disney World, but it is a summer vacation nonetheless. Not everyone has two parents, a house, and food on the table.

And while the subject alone should be enough to hold your interest, what makes it even better is the sheer weight Baker holds up by documenting, studying and paying attention to the details of these peoples lives. Halley is on a road to ruin, and Moonee is likely headed in the same direction, but just right now, for this moment, we get to see her and her friends having fun in the environment they live in.

Pros: There is so much to reflect upon in the way that the movie opens, over a simple act of rebellion, later ending on the same sour notes. There is no bowtie with which we can neatly resolve this story, but where a movie like The Place Beyond The Pines relies heavily on obvious drama to drive home the point of the family ties that bind, The Florida Project is that much wiser in it’s presentation.

ConsIt’s difficult to believe that Halley is so devoid of feeling that she is incapable of wrestling with personal demons. In an era of social media darlings, Bria Vinaite has quite literally been shopped from Instagram.

I know in my hearts of hearts why Willem Dafoe was given a best supporting actor nod, but I can’t help but be enamoured with the characterizations between newcomers Bria Vinaite and her would-be daughter Brooklynn Prince. Perhaps it’s the raw nature of their performances, and perhaps it’s that it reminds me a lot of my favourite director Richard Linklater (and how I wish he had made this movie instead of Last Flag Flying), but either way The Florida Project has captured a moment in time, and quietly asked us to observe the forgotten poor outside a magic kingdom.

Runtime: 1 hour 51 minutes

Points of Interest: The Florida Project was an early production pet name for Disney World. The motels filmed are true-to-life locations and many of the people seen during the film were actual residents and staff of the buildings. The final scene was shot on an iPhone as Disney World has strict rules about filming without park consent.

I can’t help but vote for a film shot by a guerilla director, and one which sheds light on a group of people often ignored by the greater population. While they live in great poverty, the joy they find in life is encouraging.

theories Summarized

I think I may have found a new hot director to watch, keep your guard up Linklater, the new kid on the block just might supplant you sooner or later. And I’m not sure if it’s obvious you should watch this movie yet, but please do yourself a favour and check it out.

And if you want to see another timotheories cast member who’s super excited to share a film review, just take a look-see at one Chris Murphy. He has a solid Watch Culture video review on Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman, which I can almost assure you will convince even the most stubborn to give it a shot.

What do you think though? Is The Florida Project worthwhile? Did we miss the mark on our Wonder Woman review? Hopefully you have good things to say, but either way… Check it out! And remember… Like! Comment! Subscribe!


The Vibranium Standard (Kendrick Lamar, Black Panther: The Album – Music from and Inspired By review)


Comic book movie soundtracks are supposed to remind you of the movie, and by and large, most of them do the trick, though my favourites have always been the original Spider-Man trilogy OSTs. And it’s tough to stand up to those Sam Raimi films when we’re talking about thematic music. Nobody does it better then Danny Elfman, except maybe, Kendrick Lamar.


Kendrick Lamar – Black Panther: The Album, Music from and Inspired By

released February 9, 2018
******** 8/10

Black Panther: The Album – Music from and Inspired By (also known as Black Panther: The Album) is a soundtrack album for Marvel Studios latest and greatest, Black Panther. In case that wasn’t obvious to you yet, this is a project with some weight behind it.

Now, to be perfectly honest, this isn’t a Kendrick Lamar album, but it must as well be his love letter to Blaxploitation music of the 1970s and 1990s gangsta rap, with a conscious hip hop flavour of the day.

He pretty much curated the whole thing, and shows up on at least 40% of it’s tracks. His record label, Top Dawg Entertainment, also takes a producers credit. Consequently, each of the featured artists work really well together, and each song adds to the theme of the movie, with Lamar typically sounding the weakest of any of the authors. But if Lamar is one of the worst parts, then why do I say that this is a Kendrick Lamar album? Mainly, because he is all over the record, providing direction to it’s theme, and even Kendrick Lamar at his worst is far more interesting then the majority of commercial artists out there today.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time going over each of the individual tracks, but you should know that the themes of blackness as identity, politics, royalty, spirituality, and vulnerability all work together to show off the strengths of the movie, without actually being included in the film score. That’s right, this is a soundtrack inspired by the film, but when you listen to it, there are obvious lyrics which connect us to both protagonist T’Challa, and villain Killmonger.

Pros: There is a lot of amazing cultural influence going on here, from The Weeknd, to Vince Staples. to Khalid, to Schoolboy Q, to Ab-Soul, to Jayrock. It’s A-list hip hop and R&B artists working in concert to send a message about responsiblity.

Cons: If you are hoping for a follow-up to Kendrick Lamar’s 2017 studio album, Damn., then you are going to be disappointed. And as much as this is a Kendrick Lamar influenced soundtrack album, it would have benefited from being a true Kendrick Lamar album with artist features where necessary.

Runtime: 49 minutes

Points of Interest: In it’s first two weeks out, Black Panther: The Album has remained No. 1 on the Billboard album chart. There are a handful of direct references to the movie in certain tracks, rapped by Kendrick Lamar himself.

Getting the support of artists like 2 Chainz and Future is important to a whos-who of contemporary hip hop, but what is even more significant is the message contained therein and the status of the film as it reinforces the voices it needs to be heard. I haven’t seen the movie myself yet, but listening to the soundtrack on repeat of this week is making me even more impatient to check it out.

theories Summarized

It’s not a perfect album, but it is an essential soundtrack collection, and the best representation of a current hip hop to a commercial audience. I’m impressed by the album overall, and while Lamar is a bit subdued in the presentation, his voice continues to stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

And speaking of Kendrick Lamar, my official video review of David Bowie’s Blackstar is now up. In this video Brendon and I tackle the final work of Ziggy Stardust with humour, inspiration, and an extra-special dose of smooth jazz. And if you want to figure out the Lamar/Bowie connection, you’ll just have to watch the video.

Thanks for taking the time to read the review, watch the video review and hopefully you’ve left a comment or two. If you liked what you saw, click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel! Come back tomorrow for a film review about The Florida Project. There’ll be more theories!


Do It Yourself Board Games (Alex Racine interview preview)

Alex Racine ( makes board games.

What started as a passion many years ago, has slowly evolved into a full-blown career. Inventing his own version of hackie sack was the tipping point, and successive ventures into game design via collaborations with his roommate, and hosting outdoor carnival games helped him refine his craft. This year is different though, he now works part-time and designs board games every day.

But don’t be fooled into believing that all he does is 3D print his game components, come up with some box art, write the rules and then go.

No, there is a lot more to DIY board game making then you might think. There is production to be resolved, funding to acquire, marketing to solicit and a great many more aspects that the average hobby gamer hasn’t even considered when they boast of how easy it would be to perfect Monopoly or Risk. Like so many things in life, we all think, I could make a better game then that guy, but what the heck what about securing a distribution deal hobbyist guys and gals?

And we haven’t even considered all of the play testing that goes into the design of a game before it can even be considered worthy of a trial outing. Fortunately, Alex laughs at all of those challenges, because this isn’t the first game he has tried to complete, and it definitely won’t be the last. Uprise! is the first game that he wants to use crowdfunding to support his passion, and with another game called AnchorWhat? in the works, I can tell that this is the start of something beautiful.

Which is why I think you should stop pondering the details and let Mr. Racine provide the education on how you too can become an expert at doing it yourself – making board games, that is.

theories Summarized

It was a lot of fun to record this preview with Alex, and luckily for you, dear readers, this is only a sample of what we have in store.

I just know you’re going to enjoy the full-length interview, all of the questions I threw Alex’s way were easily defended with the swift roll of a die. Board games, 3D printing, invention and more are on the list for next week, so please subscribe to ensure you are the first to know when I release the interview. And if you liked it, like it, share the content and leave some comments for me. timotheories may be a passion project, but I can take criticism, direction, and all of your love. And especially the theories.


You Learn From Your Brothers (Last Flag Flying review)

I think you can learn a lot about an institution from how it’s offspring take off into the world and live their adult lives. This week’s movie review addresses that idea with warmth, drama and humour.

And just like real life, is simultaneously messed and unresolved.


Last Flag Flying (2017)

Cast: Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne
Director: Richard Linklater
released on blu-ray January 30, 2018
******* 7/10

IMDB: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, Audience Score 70%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Richard Stuart Linklater is my all-time favourite director. And he’s been my favourite ever since I first watched Waking Life back in 2003 (even though the movie released in 2001). I was barely an adult then, so you might have to cut me some slack on the the time it took me to discover him. Point of fact, Chris and I will be sharing a Cross Talk in coming weeks about our favourite directors, so rather then dig into why I think he’s so amazing as I normally preface these posts, I’ll just share a couple of quick anecdotes now. I’ve reviewed two of Richard Linklater’s films before – Boyhood and Everybody Wants Some. And I recorded that upcoming Cross Talk episode before I watched this movie.

I’ve included the distributors synopsis below and modified it slightly to provide some context…

Thirty years after serving together in the Vietnam War, Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell), Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and the Rev. Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) reunite for a different type of mission: to bury Doc’s son, a young Marine killed in Iraq. Forgoing burial at Arlington National Cemetery, Doc and his old buddies take the casket on a bittersweet trip up the coast to New Hampshire. Along the way, the three men find themselves reminiscing and coming to terms with the shared memories of a war that continues to shape their lives.

Naturalism is one of the major tools in Linklaters belt. He always manages to bring out the best and brightest of mundane aspects of life. Probably my favourite scene from the whole movie is the experience Carell’s character Doc has upon seeing his dead son when he demands that the military personal open the casket up for him. The camera pans out perfectly and we experience the secondhand emotion a third party would have normally by watching the very real and vulnerable grief someone extremely close to the recently deceased emote. I also enjoyed the interactions between Bryan Cranston’s Sal and the Colonel, that desire to challenge authority is common in many of Linklater’s characters.

And finally, the character of Doc appears very grounded in reality, though we never see him fully open up about his feelings, it is obvious how much he struggles with this unexpected turn of events.

Where the movie becomes a problem for me is in the interactions between the three main characters. They have spent a lot of time apart, and by circumstance are suddenly thrown back into each others lives, but it’s difficult to see why they ever got along or supported each other in the first place. This might be a failing on my part in not fully absorbing the awkward tension these men generate attempting to relate to each other after so much time apart. But I hope with subsequent viewings I can get to the bottom of the tone being explored here.

Pros: Linklater always manages to tell a real story, and stir up a ton of emotions running the gamet of the topic at hand. Never fully committing to one viewpoint or arc, he leaves the viewer with the choice to take something from the film or leave it. It’s difficult to swallow during a film about politics, death, and war.

ConsThat said, It does feel kind of superficial at times, and you don’t really believe the relationships these guys had could endure enough to take the road trip. Yes, they are professional actors, and they are all talented enough to sell their individual roles, but somehow it just doesn’t work thematically at all times.

Linklater has proven he can make any kind of movie, but all the elements of the film manage to conflict in such a negative way, it’s tough to accept this as film with his typical calibre of intent. It never feels especially revelatory, only sad and shallow.

And to sound even more contradictory, while I actually think the themes of patriotism, military service, and political ideologies are dealt with in a mature way, I wish at least one of the protagonists had chosen a side and let the film respond to it.

Runtime: 2 hours 5 minutes

Points of Interest: The film is supposed to be a spiritual sequel to The Last Detail. Laurence Fishburne was Richard Linklater’s only choice for the character of Mueller. Principal photography took only 32 days to complete.

The concept is strong, and I can see what Linklater would have been drawn to it in the first place, but in the end it’s not strong enough in each of it’s parts to overcome the challenges presented and commit to a real anti-war message, instead choosing comedy and drama outbursts to convey the consequences.

theories Summarized

Taken together, each of the three protagonists add their own layer to this film about enduring after war-times. Brotherhood is strong, and I am reminded of the film The Deer Hunter, if only because the challenges of psychology, disruption, and resolution echo throughout both films consistently. Showcasing how two or three men raised in the same household (so to speak) could take different paths. It’s a profound statement to make, and as I mentioned earlier, a lesser director would have definitely missed all of the subtleties and disparate viewpoints within the issue. But ultimately, Last Flag Flying falls short for me, and is only a good film, not a great one. And that’s my theory.

That said, I have a really solid Watch Culture video that directly addresses the effects of war on the soul, and it serves as an excellent metaphor for impotence and decay. Surprise, surprise, a comic book movie was able to get an R rating and tell an engaging story. Can’t you tell how excited Mike and Chris are to discuss Logan? I can!

Logan will likely make you cry, but in a good way. And better still, it resolves so many threads of The Wolverine, while paying tribute to Hugh Jackman’s tenure. Check it out! And remember… Like! Comment! Subscribe!


A Mild Case Of Flashback (54.40, Keep On Walking review)

Every time I look at you, I go blind. In the mornin’ I get up, and I try to
Feel alive, but I can’t.

Maybe it’s because I’m lovesick, and maybe it’s that you’re so intense. Most likely it’s because you are making music inspired by the 1990s in the 2010s and no one seems to have noticed.



54.40 – Keep On Walking

released February 2, 2018
****** 6/10

54-40 are a Canadian alternative rock group from British Columbia (BC) that have been playing together for over thirty five years. Their name is taken from the slogan 54-40 or fight! which was originally spoken during the Oregon boundary dispute between the US and Canada in the early nineteenth century.

The group was established back in 1981 and was a three piece for their first couple of years, and has been a four man band ever since that time, seeing a few lineup changes in their drummer over the years and second guitarist Phil Comparelli was replaced by Dave Genn in 2005. But Neil Osborne (vocals, guitar) and Brad Merrit (bass) are founding members who have stuck it out.

I’ll admit that I haven’t listened to a lot of their music over the years, but I am familiar with their more popular singles Ocean Pearl and I Go Blind.

Keep on Walking is their fourteenth studio album, and was prefaced by the band touring with the single of the same name for about a year. They sprinkled in other tracks as they toured, but I have to wonder if that process is a good measuring stick. A lot of the time, older bands will play night after night, maintaining a crowd of fans, but failing to realize the reason those fans are there in the first place – to hear the songs that charted and established the groups reputation.

I’ve seen Trooper live at least three times in my life, and every time I saw them, they would “share” a new song they had been working on, except that it had been new for over three years at that point.

Pros: I liked that Sublime Like Me, Hold My Kiss, and She Calls Us One are exploring a broader range of musical sounds, but each track is distinct in instrumental choices and nuanced with arrangements.

Cons: Despite all of the growth we witness at key points, as the album reaches it’s final two tracks (Sometimes It’s Not OK, Life Goes On) there is a regression, and in a few short minutes, it’s back to the safety net.

Runtime: 38 minutes

Points of Interest: The band will be touring throughout 2018 and into 2019 to promote Keep On Walking and their 2016 greatest hits album LA Difference. It’s been seven years since their last studio album, Lost in the City.

When it’s all said an done, Keep On Walking was enjoyable at times and definitely makes me nostalgic for a different time in my life, when things seemed simpler and music was more clearly defined. The problem of course, is that it’s not 1995, it’s 2018, and musical tastes should reflect the era, not the other way around.

theories Summarized

The challenge with making music (or any art form) for several decades is that you will invariably be asked to make what you know, and some artists rise to the occasion, while others continue to evolve over time. There isn’t necessarily a right path to take, but in the case of 54.40 I don’t think that their musical sound is appealing enough to justify playing a distinctive kind of music at this stage in their career. This album seems to be best suited for diehard fans, and lovers of 90’s alternative rock music – and that’s my theory.

That said, I have a great piece of 1990s alternative rock that you absolutely should listen to. Rage Against the Machine’s Battle of Los Angeles is a timeless rap rock record that deserves a listen if you haven’t heard it before. And if you have, I think it might be time to dust off your CD player and give it a whirl, it’s guerilla radio at it’s finest.

Thanks for taking the time to read the review, watch the video and hopefully you’ve left a comment or two. If you liked what you saw, click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel! Come back tomorrow for a film review from Richard Linklater.