Insomnia File #59: True Spirit (dir by Sarah Spillane)

What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable or Netflix? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If you were having trouble getting to sleep last night (or this night, for that matter), you could have turned over to Netflix and passed the time watching True Spirit, a rather wholesome biopic from Australia.

Teagan Croft stars as Jessica Watson, who, at the age of 16, became the youngest person ever to sail solo, non-stop around the world.  For Jessica, it was not only the fulfilment of a childhood dream but it was also a true test of survival as, towards the end of her journey, she got trapped in a very violent storm and, at one point, her boat was actually 15 feet below the surface of the ocean.  For the nation of Australia, it was a moment of great pride despite the fact that many of the same people who celebrated Jessica’s accomplishment had earlier tried to prevent her from making the journey.  (Indeed, the film suggests that one reason why Jessica was in such a hurry to start her voyage was because the Queensland legislature was literally putting together a bill that, once passed, would have made it illegal for her to do so.)  The film begins with Jessica already in training for her voyage.  One mistake during a trial run leads to her boat nearly crashing into a tanker, a reminder that, as beautiful as the ocean may be, it can still be a dangerous place.  With the help of Ben Bryant (Cliff Curtis) and the support her parents (Anna Paquin and Josh Lawson), Jessica is determined to make her voyage.  She not only wants to set a world record but she also wants to prove that, even though she’s dyslexic, she can still accomplish anything that she sets her mind too.

There’s really nothing that surprising to be found in True Spirit.  Even if you didn’t already know the true story on which the film was based, you wouldn’t be surprised by how Jessica’s voyage goes.  But, at the same time, it’s a well-intentioned and almost achingly sincere film, one that celebrates a worthy accomplishment and which features a likable lead performance from Teagan Croft.  It’s a film that is determined to focus on the positive, though it certainly doesn’t shy away from the fact that nature can be frightening and unpredictable.  There’s nothing particularly edgy about True Spirit.  Despite a nicely executed storm scene, this isn’t All is Lost.  But it will hold your attention and it’ll probably leave you in a good mood.  It did for me!

Finally, I can’t complete this review without mentioning that Todd Lasance plays a rather obnoxious television journalist named Atherton.  Would it be too much to hope that his name was meant to be a reference to William Atherton, who played a similar reporter in the first two Die Hards?

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure
  40. The Spanish Prisoner
  41. Elektra
  42. Revenge
  43. Legend
  44. Cat Run
  45. The Pyramid
  46. Enter the Ninja
  47. Downhill
  48. Malice
  49. Mystery Date
  50. Zola
  51. Ira & Abby
  52. The Next Karate Kid
  53. A Nightmare on Drug Street
  54. Jud
  55. FTA
  56. Exterminators of the Year 3000
  57. Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The Monster
  58. The Haunting of Helen Walker

Retro Television Reviews: Hang Time 3.17 “Mary Beth’s Parents” and 3.18 “The Laugh Riot”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

This week, Indiana’s greatest basketball team heads for the ski slopes!

Episode 3.17 “Mary Beth’s Parents”

(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 8th, 1997)

I did a double-take when this episode opened with shots of a snowy ski lodge.  It wasn’t so much that this episode was taking place outside of Indiana (as we did just go through the whole California thing) as much as I thought the show had already done a ski lodge episode, one in which a man dressed as a yeti was trying to keep Mary Beth’s father from developing the land.  However, once the episode began, I realized I was thinking of the episode of California Dreams where everyone is invited to Lorena’s father’s ski lodge.

(That said, I’m pretty sure it’s the same set that was used in not only California Dreams but also Saved By The Bell: The New Class.)

Instead, in this episode, Mary Beth’s parents have invited the entire basketball team out to a ski lodge to help celebrate Mary Beth’s birthday.  That includes Coach Fuller, who is super excited about going ice fishing and catching a legendary bass.  Again, that’s not surprising.  In the world of Peter Engel-produced sitcoms, parents were always inviting and paying for their children’s friends to come vacation with them.  But you do have to wonder why only the basketball team has been invited.  Doesn’t Mary Beth have other friends that would have wanted to come?  Obviously, Mary Beth is close to Julie and Kristy and she and Vince have an unlikely flirtation going on.  But why invite Teddy and Michael, two people with whom she’s had next to nothing to do with over the course of the series?  And why invite Coach Fuller?  Fuller’s an adult.  Does he not have a life outside of his job?  Does no one find the idea of a man in his 40s going on vacation with a bunch of high school students to be a little bit creepy?

That said, even though he shouldn’t be there, Fuller is super-excited about ice fishing and the team is super-excited about watching him ice fish, which really doesn’t seem like something to get that excited about.  However, there’s more going on here than just Fuller trying to relive his fishing glory days.  Instead of going ice fishing, Vince stays back at the lodge and overhears Mary Beth’s parents talking about getting a divorce!  Vince can’t bring himself to tell Mary Beth about what he’s heard and, if we’re going to be perfectly honest, it’s not really his place to tell her because he’s not family.  However, when the rest of the team returns from Fuller’s fishing cabin, Vince tells them and then Mary Beth walks in right when Teddy is making the same point that I just made.  “If anyone is going to tell Mary Beth about her parents getting divorced, it should be Mary Beth’s parents!” Teddy says while a stunned Mary Beth stands behind him.

Now, let’s give the show some credit.  At first, Mary Beth is in denial about her parent’s getting divorced and then she moves into the anger phase and then the bargaining stage.  And, for me, it brought back a lot of memories of going through my own parent’s divorce and the show, at first, handled things with a lot more sensitivity than you would expect from a Peter Engel-produced sitcom.  But then, because this is a Peter Engel show, things get cartoonish as Mary Beth tries to save her parent’s marriage by recreating their honeymoon in Mexico, which means that Mary Beth speaks in an exaggerated Mexican accent while Vince puts on a sombrero and a fake mustache.  It doesn’t work but, fortunately, Mary Beth moves from anger to acceptance in record time.

Again, let’s give some credit where credit is due.  I’ve been pretty critical of the Vince/Mary Beth pairing but Megan Parlen and Michael Sullivan both have a lot of chemistry in this episode and Sullivan, in particular, is better here than he’s been in any of the previous episodes.  And even the ice fishing storyline pays off as the normally stiff Reggie Theus really gets into trash-talking a legendary giant bass.  Fuller catches the bass (which is obviously a fake, rubber fish) but then he tosses it back in the lake.  It would be a touching moment if the bass actually looked like real, living fish as opposed to a rubber toy.

Flaws and all, this was ultimately a pretty good episode.  Will the streak continue with our second ski lodge episode?

Episode 3.18 “The Laugh Riot”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 8th, 1997)

We’re still at the ski lodge!  Mary Beth’s parents are nowhere to be seen but we know that they’re still getting divorced because Vince gives Mary Beth an expensive ring to help her get over it.  Awwwwwww!  Unfortunately, Mary Beth loses the ring, which leads to her going through a lot of trouble to keep Danny from finding out.  But then she finds it in her pocket and everything’s okay.  Yay!  This whole storyline made me anxious.  I hate plots that could easily be resolved by one person just telling the truth about what happened.

Meanwhile, the Lodge is holding auditions for a new comedian to perform at their comedy club and Danny decides to audition, despite the fact that he’s only there on vacation and will presumably be going back to Indiana in a day or two.  I’m not sure that Danny has really thought this through.  When Danny gets get on stage, he suffers from stage fright and freezes.  Fortunately, Teddy joins him on stage and they become a comedy duo.  They’re both hired!  But Teddy eventually realizes that stand-up comedy is Danny’s dream and he allows Danny to perform the show alone.  It’s kind of pointless, as none of the jokes are particularly funny and it’s kind of a stretch to imagine a club full of wealthy adults going crazy over Danny joking about reading his girlfriend’s diary.

This episode features an extended sequence in which Danny imagines himself as being Jerry Seinfeld.  CRINGE!

Next week, the ski lodge adventure continues!

Monday Live Tweet Alert: Join Us For TC 2000 and Money Train!

As some of our regular readers undoubtedly know, I am involved in hosting a few weekly live tweets on twitter.  I host #FridayNightFlix every Friday, I co-host #ScarySocial on Saturday, and I am one of the five hosts of #MondayActionMovie!  Every week, we get together.  We watch a movie.  We tweet our way through it.

Tonight, for #MondayActionMovie, the film will be 1993’s TC 2000!  Selected and hosted by @BunnyHero, TC 2000 imagines the year 2000 as only a film made in 1993 could! The movie starts at 8 pm et and it is available on YouTube.


Following #MondayActionMovie, Brad and Sierra will be hosting the #MondayMuggers live tweet.  Tonight’s movie, starting at 10 pm et, will be 19965s Money Train, starring Robert Blake, Woody Harrleson, and Wesley Snipes!  Money Train can be found on Prime!


It should make for a night of intense viewing and I invite all of you to join in.  If you want to join the live tweets, just hop onto twitter, start TC 2000 at 8 pm et, and use the #MondayActionMovie hashtag!  Then, at 10 pm et, switch over to prime, start Money Train and use the #MondayMuggers hashtag!  The live tweet community is a friendly group and welcoming of newcomers so don’t be shy.  And reviews of these films will probably end up on this site at some point over the next few weeks. 


4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Francois Truffaut Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, on what would have been his 91st birthday, TSL pays tribute to the great Francois Truffaut.  No one captured the act of falling in love in life, people, and cinema with the skill, sensitivity, and humor of Francois Truffaut.  It’s time for….

4 Shots From 4 Francois Truffaut Films

The Soft Skin (1964, dir by Francois Truffaut, DP: Raoul Coutard)

Stolen Kisses (1968, dir by Francois Truffaut, DP: Denys Clerval)

Day For Night (1973, dir by Francois Truffaut, DP: Pierre-William Glenn)

The Story of Adele H. (1975, dir by Francois Truffaut, DP: Nestor Almendros)

Music Video of the Day: Diferente by Steve Aoki feat. CINCO (2023, dir by Dusty Deen)

If this doesn’t get your week off to a good start than I’m afraid you’re just destined to have a bad week.  I take no pleasure in reporting that.  It’s just the way that the stars have aligned.