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Archives for : Drama

Movie Review: “Voyagers” Gets Lost in Space

Neil Burger’s new sci-fi thriller, “Voyagers” fails to make any significant impact.

The start of the film explains how earth is growing hotter. Drought and disease have caused severe damage to the population. Scientists are looking for a new planet that can support human life, and they find one in 2063. They decide to send a group bioengineered teens into space in order to populate the new world that is hundreds of light years away. The trip will take them 86 years. Meaning their future grandkids will be the ones carrying out the end of the mission. The only adult on board is Richard (Colin Ferrell), who leads and counsels the kids as if they were his own. To prevent chaos and create order, the teens are given a “blue drink” that has essentially been drugging them, and inhibits them from feeling, really, anything. Two of the voyagers, Christopher (Tye Sheridan) and Zac (Fionn Whitehead), figure this out. Zac angrily stops taking the substance, then all hell breaks loose.

Suddenly, the movie turns into “Lord of the Flies” IN SPACE. It becomes so predictable and wild, that you just want to skip to the end. It’s not that the storyline is boring. In fact, at times it can be engaging; but it offers nothing new. The beginning makes you think this familiar tale will have a refreshing spin. But when it’s over, you’re left wondering if this really needed to be a movie?

Story wise, “Voyagers” is nothing special. But perhaps, the purpose was to showcase the talented, young actors. However, most of their impressive diverse cast were merely background noise. The film primarily focuses on Sheridan, Whitehead and Lily-Rose Depp, who plays Sela. Depp and Sheridan play off each other well and have great chemistry, but the film never dives too deep with its characters. We get to know everyone at a surface level, except for maybe Zac whose villain-like qualities gradually grow, the more jealous he gets of Christopher.

“Voyagers” is well shot. The cinematography by Enrique Chediak is beautiful. The music by Trevor Gureckis compliments the tone of the film, and provides the right amount of suspense.

Burger’s script is not bad, either, it just feels derivative. It’s disappointing when the premise of the film allowed for so much more. I mostly wish we explored the other world. The concept is realistic, and it would have been interesting to learn more about why they chose to create new life on this particular planet. Instead, “Voyagers” chooses to focus on the characters resenting their isolation, and their lack of “feeling”. They want to take advantage of getting to experience pain and all sorts of pleasure. This raises the question of whether or not they prefer a wild-life of “freedom”, or to go back to their routine, monotonous life that serves a greater purpose; one they won’t be alive to see come to fruition.

“Voyagers” may still be worth the watch for purely entertainment purposes. It’s plays out like a teen drama you’d watch on the CW. So if that’s your cup of tea, then this film is right up your alley. Otherwise, keep your expectations low, and be prepared for a rushed and underwhelming ending.

Rating: 2/5

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Movie Review: “In The Earth”

The new horror film “In The Earth” is the mystifying tale of a devastating virus and what it will take to stop it.

Watch my full ICTN review in the video below and see if the film strikes enough fear to make it worth your time.

“In The Earth” opens in select theaters April 16, 2021.

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“Long Weekend” Interview with Zoe Chao

Bart (Finn Wittrock) with Vienna (Zoe Chao) in Sony Pictures’ LONG WEEKEND.

“Long Weekend” is a refreshing romantic drama/comedy about man who’s down on his luck until he unexpectedly meets the woman of his dreams. The film stars Finn Wittrock (American Horror Story) and Zoe Chao (Love Life). I chatted with Zoe to discuss the film, what it means to see yourself represented in the media, the current attacks on Asian-Americans and much more in this in-depth interview.

“Long Weekend” is currently playing in select theaters.

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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
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Movie Review: “Nobody” – A Familiar But Fun Action-Comedy

Writer Derek Kolstad has graced us with the amazing “John Wick” movies; and for that I am forever grateful. If you don’t already know, John Wick is the badass who got ultimate revenge on those who murdered the dog his late wife left him. Each film has been an exciting thrill ride that leaves us wanting more. However, the same may not be said about Kolstad’s newest film, which feels almost too familiar.

Universal Pictures’ “Nobody” follows Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk), a middle-aged family man who barely has any life left in him. His marriage is stale, his son thinks he’s a wuss, but his daughter seems to actually like him. 

His repetitive, mundane routine is shaken up when two intruders break into his home and trigger a surprising rage in Hutch. We come to find out that Hutch is not just some mild-mannered man. He has a violent past and bears the skills of a trained assassin. He has sworn a life of normalcy, so he takes the high road and lets the intruders leave. But when he goes on a mission to take back what they stole from him, he witnesses a group of drunk men harassing a young woman on a bus. He channels all his pent up anger on them and goes full “Wick”. Unfortunately, those men have powerful ties that are now looking to get revenge on Hutch and his family.

Director Ilya Naishuller does a fine job with this movie overall, but the film has it’s flaws. The obvious being you are continuously comparing it to “John Wick”. Aside from that, there is a slow start. The action doesn’t really come into play until nearly halfway. Even the break-in scene is underwhelming for what is essentially the catalyst to Hutch getting back into his “old ways”. It doesn’t even come close to the feeling you have watching John Wick’s innocent puppy get killed by those monsters. (I wanted them all to pay!). In this movie they almost make you have empathy for the intruders. Which makes the later scene of him attacking the harassers on the bus feel a bit forced. Don’t get me wrong, it’s entertaining and fun to see the fight not take itself so seriously. But the entire time you’re watching, you’re wondering did these men really deserve such a blood bath?

However, it’s such a delight seeing Odenkirk in this role. He proves he is just as much of a badass as Keanu Reeves, Bruce Willis, and Denzel Washington. In fact, he’s the most realistic one. His minor injuries and reactions to pain makes him more human than the typical action star. The guy is a likeable character, which is more than I can say about his family.  With the exception of his father played by the great and hilarious Christopher Lloyd.

“Nobody” is short and sweet. There’s lots of value in it’s simplicity. It’s just hard to label the film as a stand out, because films like “John Wick” and “Equalizer” have done this story better. That being said, Odenkirk’s performance alone is enough to make this film worth watching.

Rating: 3/5

“Nobody” opens in theaters March 26, 2021

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Movie Review: “Bliss”

Amazon Studios new sci-fi thriller, “Bliss” is a mind-bending headscratcher. The film follows Greg (Owen Wilson) who, after losing his job and recent divorce, discovers he’s been living a computer simulated world. Susan Stephens shares her thoughts on the film along with suggestions of two romances to watch during this Valentine’s Day weekend.

“Bliss” is available to stream on Amazon Prime February 5, 2021.

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Interview: Carlson Young talks “The Blazing World”

“The Blazing World” premieres at Sundance this weekend. I spoke with Director, Writer, and star of the film, Carlson Young to discuss production, the meaning behind the movie, and fun facts about the actor/filmmaker.

“The Blazing World” will be screening indoors at the Texas Theatre on Sunday, January 31, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased through thetexastheatre.com. Or, if you would like to watch the film at home for the same price, you can buy tickets through tickets.festival.sundance.org.

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Top 10 Best Films of 2020

10. Soul

“Soul” follows, Joe (Jamie Foxx), a music teacher who has lost his passion for music and sense of purpose. But when he is transported into another realm to help someone find their spark, he discovers a new appreciation for life.  The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for this movie. Whether you have a dream you haven’t accomplished yet, or you feel as though your life hasn’t amounted to anything; take a second to reflect on all the good you already have. Your health, your family, your friends; our life is not as bad as we sometimes make it out to be. And remember to appreciate all the little things, even if it’s as small as a good slice of pizza.

9. Words on Bathroom Walls

“Words on Bathroom Walls” follows Adam(Charlie Plummer), a passionate cook who appears to be a typical teenage boy until an incident in his High School reveals he has schizophrenia. He is expelled, and forced to finish out his senior year at a Catholic High school. It’s there he meets, Maya (Taylor Russell). Their relationship in the film is tender and sweet, but the beauty of “Words on Bathroom Walls” is getting to see perspective on a mental illness that isn’t shown often, especially through a romance. This is something else that deserves representation and understanding. And though the film centers around Adam and Maya, the relationship between Adam and his mom is just as powerful. Her tenacity shows us a mother’s love is unconditional.

8. Let Him Go

After the death of their son, Margaret and George Blackledge (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) have held on to the light in their life, their grandson, Jimmy. But when their daughter-in-law (Kayli Carter) remarries to an abusive man, Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain), he takes both her and Jimmy away to his family’s secluded home in North Dakota.  Margaret and George leave their ranch in Montana, and go on a mission to save what’s left of their family. Some may not find this movie special, but it transported me back to the theaters with how well it was shot and the incredible performances. You can’t help but feel for this couple, and want them to do whatever is necessary to get their grandson back.

7. On the Rocks

Bill Murray plays, Felix, a playboy art dealer who, long ago, walked out on his wife and children for the first of many women. He’s selfish and self-centered, yet you can’t help but love the guy. When he hears his daughter, Laura (Rashida Jones), is concerned about her husband’s many work trips, he assumes the worse and encourages her to look into the matter with him.  This film is such an easy and humorous watch. This is in big part due to the natural chemistry between Murray and Jones. Felix is trying to make up for lost time by taking this unfortunate circumstance as an opportunity to spend quality time with his daughter, who he genuinely cares for. “On the Rocks” highlights a sweet, yet unconventional father/daughter relationship, while also shedding a light on marriages that could use a little refresher.

6. Irresistible

I know politics is a touchy subject, but the beauty of “Irresistible” is that it really doesn’t try to sway you on either side. They focus more about how ridiculous a campaign can get and how much it costs. It’s not about conservatives versus liberals. Instead, the film makes you question the two party system. The all-star cast which includes Steve Carrell, Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper, and MacKenzie Davis all give top-notch, hilarious performances. The banter between Carrell and Byrne alone makes this film such a delight. “Irresistible” is the insightful, laugh-out-loud comedy we needed during this election year. Putting into perspective what is truly important in any leadership role. 

5. The Kid Detective

To all my fellow “Harriet the Spy” lovers, this movie is what I imagine happened to the male version of Harriet. Abe Applebaum (Adam Brody) was a once celebrated kid detective. Even adults used his services. But after he fails to solve the mystery of a kidnapping of a young girl/friend, he is no longer the same quality detective. Fast forward to his 30’s, he’s a washed up drunk, taking any minor case he can get to make end’s meat. That is until he is presented with his first murder case. I know a lot of you probably haven’t heard of this film, but it’s a really fun watch. Brody carries the movie with his wit and charm, but the story is just as engaging. “The Kid Detective” is truly the hidden gem of 2020.

4. Onward

I’m surprised by how high I have this film on my list, but since January I can’t get this movie or the ending out of my head. It’s one I get emotional just thinking about. On the day of Ian Lightfoot’s (Tom Holland) 16th birthday, he and his older brother (Chris Pratt) are given a gift from their late father. Turns out it’s a spell that will bring their dad back to life for 24 hours,  giving Ian a chance to finally meet his father. But the spell doesn’t go exactly as planned. At first glance, this seems like a possibly boring, one disaster after another road trip that will end predictably. It’s safe to say that’s not the case. Although this is a film about a son seeking a relationship with his father, it also recognizes those in our lives who unexpectedly became a father figure and shaped us into the person we are today.

3. Palm Springs

Not since “Groundhog Day” has any film with the similar formula been worth raving about (Except for maybe “Happy Death Day”). That is until “Palm Springs”. It manages to put a refreshing spin on the romantic comedy genre and time loop narrative. Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) are two wedding guests reliving the same day. Samberg and Milioti are a dynamic duo with amazing chemistry. The film is heavier than you might expect. Nyles and Sarah are stuck together without even death as an escape. A romance grows, and soon they are partners in crime making the most of their care-free new existence; even if it comes with a rapid loss of meaning. “Palm Springs” is funny, sweet, and has a surprising little twist. 

2. Uncle Frank

If I could give anyone the Oscar right now, it would be Paul Bettany for his powerful and gut-wrenching performance in this film. I really hope this movie doesn’t go under the radar during award season, because it deserves recognition for its performances alone. Set in 1973, the film follows a teenager named Beth (Sophia Lillis) who leaves her rural Southern home to study at a New York University where her beloved Uncle Frank (Bettany) teaches. While there she discovers Frank is gay, and has been living with his long time partner, Wally (Peter Macdissi) – a secret he’s been keeping from his family for years. After the passing of his father, the three of them take a road trip home to North Carolina, and Frank is forced to face the worries and trauma he’s been running from. This film is my biggest tear-jerker of the year. I’m talking ugly crying. Watching Bettany play a character who has to hide his true self from his family in fear of how they might react is heartbreaking, and sadly, still relevant. “Uncle Frank” is a film everyone should watch.

1. Promising Young Woman

If you’ve heard me talk about this film, it should come as no surprise that it would make the top of my list. The movie has romance, comedy, mystery, revenge, and an all-star cast. “Promising Young Woman” features Carey Mulligan as Cassie, a med-school dropout who seeks revenge on a traumatizing past event. Not since “Hard Candy” have I enjoyed such an enticing revenge story. Mulligan is at her best, showing such complex emotions. She varies from cold-hearted to heartbreaking. This is a cautionary tale that would serve well in high school and college classrooms. Especially geared towards men who don’t seem to understand what consensual sexual activity means. The film goes beyond the actions of the men responsible for the sexual assaults. It also highlights those who turn a blind eye, and even the parties responsible for defending the guilty. “Promising Young Woman” is funny, dark, unforgettable, and for me, it’s the best film of the year.

The Best of the Rest:

11. Black Box

12. Shithouse

13. A Secret Love

14. Yes God Yes

15. The Trial of the Chicago 7

16. The Mauritanian

17. Da 5 Bloods

18. Freaky

19. Another Round

20. The Broken Hearts Gallery

Top 5 Worst Films of 2020

5. The Rhythm Section – I except more from Jude Law and Blake Lively at this point in their careers.

4. Underwater- A Knockoff underwater version of “Alien”. But bad, so bad.

3. The Sunlit Night- Terrible movie with the most forced and awkward sex scene.

2. The Prom – Had no idea James Corden was a bad actor until this film. Honestly, I couldn’t pay attention anything else.

1. The Witches (2020) – I almost forgot this movie happened. I’d like to keep it that way.

Trevor’s Top 10

10. Yes God Yes
9. Sonic the Hedgehog
8. Freaky
7. The Mauritanian
6. Palm Springs
5. The Old Guard
4. The Kid Detective
3. Promising Young Woman
2. Irresistible
1. Uncle Frank

Movie Review: News of the World is an Enjoyable Ride

The last time director Paul Greengrass and Tom Hanks worked together was for “Captain Phillips”. A solid movie that was strong in its performances, but lacking in its story. Now, the two have teamed up again, and Hanks plays an even better Captain in the film, “News of the World”.

Hanks stars as Captain Kyle Kidd, a war veteran who travels from town to town five years after the Civil War, to read the news across Texas. But this man doesn’t just read the news, he brings life to it with his energy and storytelling; almost like a performance. He entertains the crowds at each stop with his loud, commanding voice.

While on his news tour, Kidd stumbles across a 10-year old girl which he names Johanna (Helena Zengel). She’s found abandoned on the road. She was raised by the Kiowa tribe, and doesn’t speak any English. Once Kidd realizes Johanna has no one to help her, he takes it upon himself to get her to her aunt and uncle’s farm near San Antonio. But this is no easy journey, and Kidd still must complete his work. Johanna tags along and watches in admiration as Kidd reads his “stories” to the towns they visit before their final destination.

“News of the World” does have some action, and there is enough intensity to keep you engaged. But be prepared for a lot of quiet and slow moments. With the exception of one shoot-out, this isn’t a very wild western. The enjoyment of the film comes from Kidd and Johanna. The two have great chemistry, and a very natural father/daughter like relationship. The dialogue between them is never forced or cheesy. The progression of the care and trust they build is incredibly heartwarming. They are both troubled and lost, but they find a home in each other.

The film is beautifully shot with luminous cinematography by Dariusz Wolski, and has a fantastic production design by David Crank. The exteriors of this film are wonderful, but what gives this movie life is the heart behind the two lead characters.

“News of the World” is an unconventional western. But regardless of your genre preference, Hanks and Zengel will win you over.

Rating: 4/5

“News of the World” opens in theaters December 25 and On Demand in January.

Movie Review: “Promising Young Woman” is a Provocative Revenge Thriller

Carey Mulligan stars as “Cassandra” in director Emerald Fennell’s PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, a Focus Features release. Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

Sometimes bad people need to be taught a lesson in hopes that they won’t do their harmful acts again.

How that lesson is taught may not always be conventional. In Focus Features new drama, “Promising Young Woman”, Cassie (Carey Mulligan) is a med-school dropout who seeks revenge after a traumatizing past event.

We first meet Cassie in a bar where is she appears to be wasted, barely able to keep her head up. She attracts several predators in suits, including Jerry (Adam Brody), a “nice guy” who offers to take her home. While in the ride share, he decides to take her back to his place instead and sees an opportunity for a little date rape. Little does Jerry know that Cassie sees an opportunity, too. She is suddenly wide awake and sober; ready to make him think twice before taking advantage of another woman again.

From this point on, we discover Cassie’s objective, but don’t always see her actions after her initial trap. Director/writer, Emerald Fennell (“Killing Eve”) chooses to leave a lot of her targets’ punishments to the imagination.

Things change after a chance encounter with an old med-school classmate, Ryan (Bo Burnham). Now Cassie is smiling, laughing, and dare we say happy? But how long will this last? And will it keep her from her ultimate mission?

Not since “Hard Candy” have I enjoyed such an enticing revenge story.  Mulligan is at her best, showing such complex emotions. She varies from cold-hearted to heartbreaking. Burnham is more charming and funny than ever. And you can expect to see some surprise familiar faces that will add to this already well-casted film.

“Promising Young Woman” is a cautionary tale that would serve well in high school and college classrooms. Especially geared toward men who don’t seem to understand what consensual sexual activity means. But the film goes beyond the actions of the men responsible for the sexual assaults. It also highlights those who turn a blind eye, and even the parties responsible for defending the guilty.

One can only hope that after watching a movie like this, it will impact audiences enough to understand how damaging any form of sexual assault or harassment can be and do what they can to prevent such acts.

“Promising Young Woman” highly entertains, as it has plenty of comedic and tender moments. But also, expect certain sequences to stay with you long after the film is over. It’s disturbing in a satisfying way. This is easily one of the best movies of 2020 and a must-see.

“Promising Young Woman” opens in theaters December 25.

Rating: 4.75/5

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