TCFF Day 2 reviews: ‘Gladiators: The Uncertain Future of American Football documentary, We Are What We Are and Honeymoon Suite shorts


I’m not a huge fan of football but I watch enough of it as I sometimes accompany my husband watch a Vikings game. Even a casual watcher would realize how violent American football is, but just how violent? Well, this documentary sure is an eye-opener if you will. I read a comment how this documentary ‘tackles the issue of brain injury head-on.’ Can’t say it better myself and filmmaker Todd Trigsted and writer Michael Oriard gave us a well-researched and well-crafted about an intriguing subject matter and made something that’s thought-provoking and educational in an entertaining way.

I like how the documentary gave us a history of America’s favorite spectator sport from the late nineteenth century and the huge part it plays in the educational system as well as the economic and social aspect. It’d be unthinkable to see this sport being banned, though it did came close a few times in the past for being too violent. The numbers of victims the ‘gladiatorial’ sports claimed year after year is staggering, not just the professionals in the NFL but also in schools and colleges throughout the country. Thus the title of the doc is so fitting as it’s really no different from the deathly games of the Roman republic where gladiators fought to the death. The only difference is the time it took for the players to finally succumb to it. I guess it’s inevitable that players would get injured, we know it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ Yet few knows the danger of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, which refers to the long-term brain damage that occurs from multiple concussion or brain injury. It’s nuts to learn that a high percentage of players actually get back playing again after being unconscious on the same day, when the doctors say they should at least be off the field for at least a week after that happens!

Through talking heads of former NFL players as well as medical experts in the field, complete with all kinds of data and imagery of the brains of people with CTE, I don’t think I can look at American football the same way again. It’s similar to how watching The Cove documentary would not make me want to go to SeaWorld again, I don’t know if I’d let my kids play football. Of course it’s not as simple as that and this film isn’t just blindly against the sport. In fact, some of the former NFL players talked about how all the surgeries and pain they went through is worth it because they got to play a sport that they love. Even one of the brain surgeons talk about how all his boys play Football even though he knew the danger of the sport.

I think people who enjoy American football or even those who are only a casual watcher like me should see this documentary. Unlike some documentaries that often felt tedious and bogged down by all the statistics, Gladiators always kept me engaged and entertained. The score by bassist Michael Manring adds so much to the tone of the film, which is key in making an entertaining film in general. I don’t even mind watching this again when it’s out on Netflix as I’d love my hubby to see it. It’s perhaps one of the best documentaries I’ve seen to date that strikes the perfect balance between enlightening and entertaining.

4.5 out of 5 reels



We Are What We Are is a horror film about a family with a secret that spans hundreds of years. It stars Bill Sage as Frank Parker, the father of a family of three who’s wife has just unexpectedly died, as well as Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner who play the daughters of Frank Parker who are also grieving to start the film over the loss of their mother. Another major player in this film is Michael Parks, recently acted in Red State and Django Unchained who plays Doc Barrow, the local town’s doctor who is starting to uncover the Parker’s family secret.


This movie is spectacular not just as a horror film but just a film to experience. It keeps the viewer guessing as to what exactly is going on with the Parker family. Even when the secret is revealed the film still has some shocking moments most audience members won’t see coming.

The movie takes place in a small town with forest all around and has just been hit by a flood. The film has a very gloomy look to it. The cinematography is very well done. The film’s gloomy look adds to the tone of the movie as the plot unravels to reveal itself. The shots taking place at night are lit well enough to know and understand what is going on, and keep the gloomy look to the film in a sort of blue and green color palette.

Bill Sage puts on a great performance as Frank Parker. The sympathy factor on whether to love or hate his character is all over the place throughout the film, due to his performance and understanding of the character. He’s able to hook the audience early on due to his grieving but slowly as more is revealed about himself and his family, his performance becomes more awestruck as well as the opinion of whether he is a good guy or a bad guy.


We Are What We Are is a great thriller to enjoy. It does have a bit of violent content but if you can deal with some gore, this is a horror movie to experience. Through its mysterious plot, engaging characters and performances and the gloomy tone, We Are What We Are is a rarity among horror films as this film is willing to keep going darker and darker in its plot and content. Whereas some other horror movies would let up before the audience gets too uncomfortable, We Are What We Are will keep most audiences uncomfortable in certain scenes for much longer than what they are accustomed to experiencing.

4 out of 5 reels


Honeymoon Suite


Honeymoon Suite is a Chinese short film about a hotel manager and an American guest who requires extra care due to his situation. This movie, though a short film, has a plot that should not be spoiled in its nature, and should be seen with fresh eyes. The movie has excellent prosthetic special effects and a clever script for the story its telling. It uses the short film form very well and while some great short films usually make the viewer want more of that story in a feature film, Honeymoon Suite gives you just enough to make the viewer satisfied. A must see among short films.

4.5 out of 5 reels


So that about wraps up our Day 2 reviews. Any thoughts about any of these films?

23 thoughts on “TCFF Day 2 reviews: ‘Gladiators: The Uncertain Future of American Football documentary, We Are What We Are and Honeymoon Suite shorts

  1. Ted S.

    I wanted to go see Gladiators since I’m a big football fan, I watched a lot of stories of how retired players really suffer from the injuries from their playing days. One of the players, Jerome Bettis, was a running back and he said he couldn’t barely walk the day after the game since he got hit so many times on Sundays. An ex-Viking running back Robert Smith actually retired early because he didn’t want to be walking with a caine by the age of 50, he retired in the prime of his career at the age of 28. He was set to make more millions since his contract was up and he was still an elite player and the Vikings was going to give him a big contract. But he injured his knees a few times and didn’t want to keep playing.

    I saw bits and pieces of the original We Are What We Are, sounds like they didn’t just much for the remake. I might give it a rent.

    Good work on the coverage Ruth! I hope to stop by soon and check out a couple of movies.

    1. Hi Ted! I think you’d really enjoy watching Gladiators doc as it’s a very well-done documentary that’s got some rich, insightful content but also entertaining. I think you’d recognize a lot of the people being featured here, but yeah, lots of those experiences are so heartbreaking and at times tragic. There a former NFL player who shot himself in the heart in suicide but he wrote a note that he wanted his brain to be donated for research. So even in his depression he knew there’s something wrong in his brain that he wanted it to be used in a study.

      If you like horror, I think We Are What We Are is worth your while.

      1. Ted S.

        Oh yeah, I think I know who you’re referring to. It’s sad what happened to these players, especially the ones who doesn’t have any other talent besides playing football, once they’re done with the game, they couldn’t find work. I wonder if the documentary included one player who had to leave the game early because of injury and now he can’t support his family and they’re almost homeless.

        I might see the original in its entirely first before checking out this remake. But since I already know the big surprise within the story, it might not be as fun.

    1. Oh cool! I saw a photo of the looong rush line at Toronto After Dark, good thing you got to see it! It’s actually my volunteer blogger’s review as I’m too scared to watch something so gory 😀

    1. If you can stomach the gore, sounds like it’s a good one Chris. I’m curious but I don’t think I can deal w/ the unrelenting terror, ahah.

  2. All of these look great, particularly Gladiators. I read somewhere that most football players play with a minor injury the majority of the time. It’s a dangerous sport, but I’m a fan.

    1. Hi Josh! Yeah, all those millions these players make hardly seem worth it if you see how much pain they endure and the long-term damage. It’s definitely a great, insightful documentary.

  3. Enjoying your TCFF coverage very much Ruth, thanks for reviewing WE ARE WHAT WE ARE, I was seriously wondering about the gore/violence level. It actually sounds interesting.

        1. Well, I think your gore tolerance is higher than me, perhaps you can handle it. Sounds like the story is really good though, so there’s that 😀

    1. Hi Fernando! Glad to see you stop by. The review of WAWWA is up now, courtesy of my volunteer blogger. Curious to hear what you think as you’ve seen the original.

  4. I might have to check out Gladiators. Sometimes I wonder why I’m drawn to football so much, especially since it’s such a barbaric sport. There’s something about the strategy, the big plays, the atmosphere… plus it’s so fun to watch. But yeah, it’s good to see some of the more serious side effects of the sport brought to light lately. I believe there was another recent documentary, Head Games, that discussed brain injuries in football and other sports as well.

    1. Hi Eric! Yeah, there’s a lot to appreciate and enjoy in football and that’s why people are drawn to it, both the players and fans. But it’s always important to keep in mind how much is too much and how to keep the injuries to a minimum.

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