Rss

  • linkedin

Archives for : Director

Movie Review: “The Green Knight” and “Paper Spiders”

David Lowery is an Irving High School alum who has gone on to make critically acclaimed films like “Pete’s Dragon” and “A Ghost Story”. His new movie, “The Green Knight,” is a Medieval, fantasy re-telling of Sir Gawain based on the 14th century Arthurian poem. Watch the video below to find out my thoughts on the movie, along with a review of the independent film, “Paper Spiders”, starring Lili Taylor (“The Conjuring”).

“The Green Knight” opens in theaters July 30, 2021 and “Paper Spiders” is available to rent on various VOD platforms.

Share

Movie Review: “Old” Shrivels Up a Talented Cast

At this point, we know walking into any M. Night Shyamalan (Writer/Director) film is a gamble. You’re either going to get a quality movie like “Split”, or you could get the dragged-out disaster that came after, “Glass”. Regardless, we take that risk every time because we know Shyamalan is capable of greatness (i.e. “Unbreakable” and “The Sixth Sense”). Unfortunately, Shyamalan’s newest mystery thriller is far from great. 

The premise of “Old” is incredibly intriguing. A family on a tropical vacation visit a beach that somehow causes you to age nearly a lifetime in a single day!  Sounds good, but it seems the preview alluded to a more satisfying script. 

From the get-go we are introduced to Guy (Gael Garcia Bernel), his wife Prisca (Vicky Krieps), their 11-year-old daughter, Maddox (Alexa Swinton), and 6-year-old son, Trent (Nolan River). The parents want to have one last trip together as a family before they announce their separation and reveal Prisca’s illness. Not so coincidentally, the family is offered a ride to a secluded beach for the day. Why anyone would trust a secluded anything in the middle of a shady beach, I’ll never understand. But, this family is not alone in their stupidity. They are joined by another family of 4, a married couple, and a famous rap star?  Sure, why not?

It does not take long for this bunch to figure out something is wrong with the beach. People are dying, and there is no way to get back to their drop off point.

Again, the plot of the film is actually good. It’s original, and you have no idea how it’s going to end or why it’s happening. I can appreciate Shyamalan’s creativity. The man can come up with the most thought-provoking ideas. But sometimes it’s just poorly executed.

The dialogue in “Old” is painful. From the start of the movie to the very end, it’s as if the story was written for toddlers.  Everything is spoon fed to the audience, and so many lines are forced. I’m not certain if many of the actors were bad, or they just didn’t believe in what they are saying.  Either way, it makes for a slow and difficult watch.

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least shine a light on the two glimmers of light, Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff, who play teenage versions of Maddox and Trent. These two give their all in their performances and are committed to that script. If anything, “Old” will further launch these two talented actors.

I wouldn’t be so harsh if I didn’t know Shyamalan’s skills. “Old” is a great idea that deserved a better screenplay, and maybe a better secondary cast. The premise pulls you in, but ultimately, the film leaves you out to dry.

Rating: C-

Share

“Summertime” Interview w/ Carlos Lopez Estrada & Kelly Marie Tran

“Summertime” is set during a hot summer day in Los Angeles. The lives of 25 young adults intertwine as they share their stories and passion through powerful spoken word. I spoke with director, Carlos Lopez Estrada (“Blindspotting” & “Raya and the Last Dragon”) and executive producer, Kelly Marie Tran (“Raya and the Last Dragon” & “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) to talk about the film.

“Summertime” opens in theaters July 16, 2021.

Share

“Spiral” Interview with Darren Bousman & Josh Stolberg

A criminal mastermind entraps those who have done wrong in the justice system and unleashes a twisted, cruel form of righteousness. “Spiral” is the terrifying new chapter from the book of “Saw” starring Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson. Susan Stephens sat down with Director Darren Bousman and Co-Writer Josh Stolberg to discuss the mystery horror.

“Spiral” is open in theaters now!

Share

Movie Review: “Here Today” -An Unexpected Friendship


Billy Crystal is a legend. He’s quite possibly the best Oscar host, and starred in a number of hilarious comedies. So, when you hear he directed, wrote, and stared in the new comedy, “Here Today”, you go in with high expectations. 

“Here Today” features Crystal as Charlie Berns, a nearly retired comedy writer who is part of the staff for the Saturday Night Live style variety show called “This Just In”. The majority of the writers are young and see Charlie as a dated comic. But he proves in many ways his seasoned talents are still useful. One day he goes to lunch with Emma Payge (Tiffany Haddish), a woman who has won a meal with the writer from a silent auction. After a dramatic allergic reaction to seafood, the two form an unlikely bond. As their friendship grows, Emma discovers Charlie has been hiding his health problems from his loved ones. He is suffering from dementia and is getting lost in his memories.

Emma takes it upon herself to look after Charlie. Seeing that he has a strained relationship with his two children (played by Penn Badgley and Laura Benanti), one of which blames him for their mother’s death. At times, the film toys with the idea of Emma and Charlie as something more than friends. Luckily, this is not a romantic comedy, and any suggestion of these two being intimate is absolutely cringe-worthy. The film shines when they are strictly platonic. It’s heartwarming to see two lonely people finding comfort and safety in each other.

“Here Today” tells a sweet story, and there was a lot of potential for an even better film from this premise. Unfortunately, for a movie that is labeled a “comedy”, there weren’t a whole lot of laughs.  or starters, the scenes where Crystal forgets something are incredibly sad; including a moment where Charlie can’t take his memorized route to work. That is almost unbearable to watch. The sketch show within the film, “This Just In”, is unbearable in a different way. The jokes are corny and painful. We can thank Haddish for the comic relief. Her delivery is naturally funny. It seems Crystal intended for her to rise as the comedic star.

Everyone can empathize with Charlie; and if you know anyone with dementia, you’ll recognize the truths behind this awful disease. But somehow balancing Charlie’s issues with humorless TV gags throws off the tone and takes away from what could have been a compelling story. Though it’s hard not to find some enjoyment in “Here Today”, Crystal and Haddish are a delightful pair. But as whole, something just doesn’t quite click.

Rating: 2.5/5

“Here Today” opens in theaters May 7, 2021

Share

Interview: Jeff Rosenberg & Laura Jacqmin talk “We Broke Up”

“Lori (Aya Cash) and Doug (William Jackson Harper), a longtime couple who break up just days before Lori’s little sister Bea’s wedding to Jayson. In order to not disrupt the fun, the couple decides to pretend they’re still together until the weekend is over. “

I spoke with Director/Co-writer Jeff Rosenberg and Co-writer Laura Jacqmin to discuss long term relationship break ups, the key to a good wedding speech, which celebrity couple they hope never breaks up and much more!

Listen to the full interview below!

“We Broke Up” opens on April 16, 2021

(Left) Laura Jacqmin & (Middle) Jeff Rosenberg
“We Broke Up” Interview with Director/Co-Writer Jeff Rosenberg & Co-Writer Laura Jacqmin
Share

Interview: Director Vaughn Stein talks “Every Breath You Take”

“Every Breath You Take is a searing psychological thriller about a psychiatrist (Casey Affleck), whose career is thrown into jeopardy when his patient takes her own life. When he invites his patient’s surviving brother (Sam Claflin) into his home to meet his wife (Michelle Monaghan) and daughter, his family life is suddenly torn apart. “

I sat down with director Vaughn Stein to discuss the importance of conveying grief, how he himself handles tragedies, the appeal of psychological thrillers and more. Listen to the full interview below!

“Every Breath You Take” opens in select theaters & premium VOD April 2, 2021.

Director Vaughn Stein
“Every Breath You Take” Interview with Director Vaughn Stein
Share

Movie Review/Interview: Directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz talk “The Peanut Butter Falcon”

Shia LaBeouf and Zack Gottsagen star in “The Peanut Butter Falcon”

“The Peanut Butter Falcon” is a modern Mark Twain style adventure story. The film follows Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down Syndrome, who runs away from a residential nursing home and the employee who cared for him (Dakota Johnson) so that he can follow his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. Along the way he meets Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), and the two form an unlikely brotherly bond during their exciting and, at times, dangerous travels.

This is writers/directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz’s debut feature, and it’s one of the best films of the year. A simple premise with a lot of heart. This is due in great part to the fantastic performances by Gottsagen, LaBeouf, and Johnson. 

I got a chance to sit down with Nilson and Schwartz while they were in Dallas to promote their film. It was entertaining to say the least. They are very cool dudes, who are passionate about this already critically acclaimed movie. We chatted about LaBeouf and Gottsagen’s chemistry, pro-wrestling, meeting your heroes, and much more.

Rating: 4.5/5

All hands in with Michael Schwartz (Left) & Tyler Nilson (Right)
Full Interview with Director/Writers Tyler Nilson & Michael Schwartz

“The Peanut Butter Falcon” opens in select theaters on August 9.

Share

Interview: Director/ Writer Lulu Wang talks “The Farewell”

After seeing the trailer for “The Farewell”, I was hooked into the idea of seeing this original movie. A Chinese family lying to their grandmother, who only has months to live, and deciding to not tell her. As a way to gather before Nai Nai’s (Shuzhen Zhao) final months, the family schedules an impromptu wedding.

I can tell you now, the anticipation was warranted as the film delivers in performances, emotion and overall story.

The film is based on a real lie that director/writer, Lulu Wang, and her family came up with 6 years ago. Audiences are invited into this family gathering, and will feel as though they are sitting in on private conversations.

Lulu Wang (Writer/Director of “The Farewell”)

I sat down with Wang while she was in Dallas to promote “The Farewell”.  She explained why she wanted to share this story. “I think the set-up, first of all was so ridiculous. I felt like I needed to share it; in a way like “this is so crazy can you believe it?” It was also the humor and joy that’s juxtaposed with the grief. And how this family has such a light-hearted wonderful perspective on life, that even in the darkest moments they’ve certainly taught me to not focus on the negative and to find the joy and humor in whatever levity you can.”

No matter what culture or background you come from, anyone will be able to relate to the characters in “The Farewell”. Wang described how she wrote with such authenticity. “The key is to make them (the characters) complex and not one-sided. I didn’t set out to make anyone good or bad. I just found the things that I love about them; the things that are kind of irritating sometimes and frustrating and explored all of that.”

Though we are used to seeing Awkwafina (“Crazy Rich Asians”, “Oceans 8”) in comedic films, the actress shines in a more dramatic role as Lulu Wang’s character, Billi. Awkwafina had expressed interest in the role after reading the script, and sent Wang an impressive audition tape. “In the tape she did a couple scenes, and it was really the moments where she wasn’t even talking. She was reading with this woman off screen. And when this woman was delivering lines, Awkwafina was listening. But sometimes with actors, when they’re just listening it feels like they are just waiting for their turn to speak. I mean in real life, too, sometimes people are just waiting for their turn to speak (laughs). But with Awkwafina, you could really tell on screen that she was just listening, and processing, and she had all of this conflict just going on internally. And it was amazing that she was able to do that without saying a word,” explained Wang.

There’s a line in the film about how, “If it’s for good it’s not a lie. It’s a good lie.” Wang expressed how she felt about that quote. “I think the one thing I’ve learned from working on this film is; I set out to find an answer, but I came out on the other side realizing that it’s not about the answer. It’s really just about asking the questions. I think that I’ve just come to really respect my family’s decision (to not tell Nai Nai about her illness) and recognize that it’s not my decision to make. And I feel fortunate that it’s not my decision, because it is not an easy one to make.”

Though “The Farewell” can be sad at times, there is a lot awkward laughs throughout the film. A fun moment of comic relief is seeing different family members karaoke during the not so typical wedding scene. Wang discussed her love of karaoke and her favorite songs to perform. “I have a lot. Awkwafina has been talking a lot in the press about my Bloodhound Gang song (laughs). Which like, I didn’t start singing that until my producer started singing that, and it became like an inside joke. But I have quite a few. I really like Day Dream Believer by the Monkeys. I like some good oldies. I’ll also once in a while do like Halo by Beyonce. That’s a very good karaoke song!”

The movie expresses a powerful message recited by Nai Nai, “Life is not about what you do, it’s how you do it.” Wang discussed how she’s currently living life the way she’d hope, by trying to get the most out of every moment. “I recently watched Aziz Ansari: Right Now, which was such a great show and such great title. But in the stand-up, he says that “the only thing that matters is this moment and the people that we’re with”. I was really moved by that, because after everything he’s been through and the state of the world that were in right now. I just don’t want to make work, or do anything that continues to cause divide. Like, I don’t want to spend time fighting, and so just trying to stay level headed and enjoy the moment.”

Audiences will enjoy every moment spent during “The Farewell”. It’s a must see for the entire family.

“The Farewell” opens in select theaters on July 26!

Share

Predicting the Winners: 86th Academy Awards

BEST PICTURE

“American Hustle”
“Captain Phillips”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
“Gravity”
“Her”
“Nebraska”
“Philomena”
“12 Years a Slave”
“The Wolf of Wall Street”

Will Win: “12 Years a Slave”
Could Win: “Gravity”
Want to Win: “The Wolf of Wall Street”
            

BEST DIRECTOR

David O. Russell, “American Hustle”
Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”
Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”
Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
Could Win: Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”
Want to Win: Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
            

BEST ACTOR

Christian Bale, “American Hustle”
Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”
Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Could Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Want to Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street” (Will still be happy for McConaughey)
          

BEST ACTRESS

Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
Judi Dench, “Philomena”
Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”

Will Win: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Could Win: Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
Want to Win: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
          

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”
Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”
Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”
Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

Will Win: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Could Win: No Contest
Want to Win: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
           

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”’
Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”
June Squibb, “Nebraska.”

Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Could Win: Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
Want to Win: Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
           

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, “Before Midnight”
Billy Ray, “Captain Phillips”
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, “Philomena”
John Ridley, “12 Years a Slave”
Terence Winter, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Will Win: John Ridley, “12 Years a Slave”
Could Win: Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, “Philomena”
Want to Win: John Ridley, “12 Years a Slave”
           

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, “American Hustle”
Woody Allen, “Blue Jasmine”
Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Spike Jonze, “Her”
Bob Nelson, “Nebraska”

Will Win: Spike Jonze, “Her”
Could Win: Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, “American Hustle”
Want to Win: Spike Jonze, “Her”
           

BEST ANIMATED FILM

“The Croods”
“Despicable Me 2”
“Ernest & Celestine”
“Frozen”
“The Wind Rises”

Will Win: “Frozen”
Could Win: No Contest
Want to Win: “Frozen”
            

BEST DOCUMENTARY

“The Act of Killing”
”Cutie and the Boxer”
”Dirty Wars”
”The Square”
”20 Feet from Stardom”

Will Win: “20 Feet from Stardom”
Could Win: “The Act of Killing”
Want to Win: “20 Feet from Stardom”
           

BEST FOREIGN FILM

“The Broken Circle Breakdown,” Belgium
“The Great Beauty,” Italy
“The Hunt,” Denmark
“The Missing Picture,” Cambodia
“Omar,” Palestine

Will Win: “The Great Beauty,” Italy
Could Win: “The Hunt,” Denmark
Want to Win: “The Great Beauty,” Italy
           

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2,” Pharrell Williams
“Let It Go” from “Frozen,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
“The Moon Song” from “Her,” Karen O and Spike Jonze
“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen.

Will Win: “Let It Go” from “Frozen,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
Could Win: “Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen.
Want to Win: “Let It Go” from “Frozen,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
           

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

“The Book Thief,” John Williams
“Gravity,” Steven Price
“Her,” William Butler and Owen Pallett
“Philomena,” Alexandre Desplat
“Saving Mr. Banks,” Thomas Newman

Will Win: “Gravity,” Steven Price
Could Win: “Her,” William Butler and Owen Pallett
Want to Win: “Her,” William Butler and Owen Pallett
           

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

“American Hustle”
”The Grandmaster”
”The Great Gatsby”
”The Invisible Woman”
”12 Years a Slave”

Will Win: “The Great Gatsby”
Could Win: “American Hustle”
Want to Win: “The Great Gatsby”
           

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

“American Hustle”
”Gravity”
”The Great Gatsby”
”Her”
”12 Years a Slave”

Will Win: “The Great Gatsby”
Could Win: “Gravity”
Want to Win: “Her”
           

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

“Gravity”
”The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
”Iron Man 3″
”The Lone Ranger”
”Star Trek Into Darkness”

Will Win: “Gravity”
Could Win: No Contest
Want to Win: “Gravity”
           

BEST FILM EDITING

“American Hustle”
”Captain Phillips”
”Dallas Buyers Club”
”Gravity”
”12 Years a Slave”

Will Win: “Gravity”
Could Win: “12 Years a Slave”
Want to Win: “Gravity”
           

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

“The Grandmaster”
”Gravity”
”Inside Llewyn Davis”
”Nebraska”
”Prisoners”

Will Win: “Gravity”
Could Win: No Contest
Want to Win: “Prisoners”
           

BEST SOUND EDITING

“All Is Lost”
”Captain Phillips”
”Gravity”
”The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
”Lone Survivor”

Will Win: “Gravity”
Could Win: “Captain Phillips”
Want to Win: “Gravity”
           

BEST SOUND MIXING

“Captain Phillips”
”Gravity”
”The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
”Inside Llewyn Davis”
”Lone Survivor”

Will Win: “Lone Survivor” (Just to mix things up?)
Could Win: “Gravity”
Want to Win: “Captain Phillips”
           

BEST MAKE UP & HAIRSTYLING

“Dallas Buyers Club”
”Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa”
”The Lone Ranger”

Will Win: “Dallas Buyers Club”
Could Win: ”Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa”
Want to Win: “Dallas Buyers Club”
            

BEST DOCUMENTARY (SHORT)

“CaveDigger”
”Facing Fear”
”Karama Has No Walls”
”The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”
”Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall”

Blind Guess: ”The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”
            

BEST SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

“Feral”
”Get a Horse!”
”Mr. Hublot”
”Possessions”
“Room on the Broom”

Blind Guess: “Get a Horse!”
           

BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

“Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)”
”Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)”
”Helium”
”Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)”
”The Voorman Problem”

Blind Guess: “The Voorman Problem”

We will see how many of my predictions are right…Watch the 86th Academy Awards Sunday, March 2, 2014-7pm ET on ABC.  Hosted by Ellen DeGeneres!