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Archives for : Drama

Movie Review: “The Sunlit Night” Fails to Shine

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Eirik Evjen

Even Jenny Slate’s quirk and charm can’t help this mess of a movie.

Based on the novel by Rebecca Dinerstein, “The Sunlit Night” follows Frances (Slate), a struggling painter from New York City.  After her boyfriend breaks up with her, she finds out her sister is engaged and her parents are separating. Feeling lost and hopeless, she wants to leave home immediately; and gets an opportunity to paint a barn in Norway in a town where apparently the sun never sets.

Up until this point of the film, you’ve been treated to a funny and witty comedy with a lot of potential. Unfortunately once Frances arrives to Norway, all that potential goes out the window. The audience is left to endure a slow “self-discovery” that is all over the place.

Once Frances is acquainted with her new employer, she meets a few new people. She happens to run into Yasha (Alex Sharp), a Russian-American baker who has come to Norway to give his father a proper Viking funeral. That’s when the film suddenly turns into a “romantic comedy”. I use that term very loosely. In the quiet and rare moments spent between Frances and Yasha, there is no chemistry. There’s not even a spark. This relationship is incredibly forced and doesn’t make much sense. The reasons for why the two even like each other are vague.

Jenny Slate and Alex Sharp star in “The Sunlit Night”

The random, forced comedy of a Viking tour guide (Zach Galifinakis) and Yasha’s cold, absentee mother (Gillian Anderson) didn’t help the story either.

Slate does a fantastic job with the material she is given and the scenery is beautiful, but the “The Sunlit Night” fails to shine. It’s a dim, dull tale. Director David Wnendt seemed to have a great starting point, but didn’t know where to go from there. I still don’t understand the point of the movie, or how the characters evolved by the end of the film. But honestly, I didn’t care enough about any of them.

Rating: 1.5/5

“The Sunlit Night” will be available On Demand July 17.

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Movie Review: “Irresistible” and “Relic”

This week I’ve got reviews of a couple hot new films for you to see. “Irresistible” is a sharp satire of political campaigning from Jon Stewart, and “Relic”, tells a haunting story that will hit close to home for many viewers.

“Irresistible” is available On Demand June 26.

“Relic” is available On Demand July 10.

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Movie Review: “The King of Staten Island”, “7500”, & “You Should Have Left”

In the latest ICTN movie review, we check out the new film by Judd Apatow, “The King of Staten Island.” We also have a preview of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s intense, new thriller, “7500” and Kevin Bacon’s new horror film, “You Should Have Left.”

“The King of Staten Island” is available On Demand now.

“7500” is available to stream on Amazon Prime June 18th.

“You Should Have Left” is available On Demand June 19th.

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Movie Review: “The King of Staten Island” tells a Compelling Story

The King of Staten Island - Who Is Pete? - YouTube

Judd Apatow is responsible for some of the best comedies of our time including, “Knocked Up”, “40 Year-Old Virgin”, and “Trainwreck”. His films typically dive deeper than the usual comedy. He takes the time to have audiences understand his leads and provides a sincere character study. We continue to gain perspective on another lost soul in Apatow’s new heartfelt comedy, “The King of Staten Island”.

This time Apatow has teamed up with Saturday Night Live standout, Pete Davidson. Together, alongside co-writer Dave Sirus, they bring Davidson’s personal experiences to life.

“The King of Staten Island” is about a young man named Scott (Davidson) who’s still living in his mother’s basement, and seems to be going nowhere in life. Scott has had issues ever since his father passed away on the job responding to a fire when he was seven. Since then, he hasn’t been able to grow up and become an independent adult. Everything changes when his younger sister Claire (Maude Apatow) goes off to college, and his mother Margie (Marisa Tomei) starts dating another firefighter named Ray (Bill Burr).

Margie is finally able to move on and think about her own happiness. This forces Scott to get a job, and look for a new place to live. Unfortunately, Ray gets the blame for this sudden shift in Scott’s life, and naturally he hates him. The two butt heads and carry on a hilarious banter throughout the movie; which eventually leads to a powerful and emotional realization of unresolved grief.

The King of Staten Island Is the Rare Comedy That May Play Better ...

What I have always loved about Apatow’s movies is the writing. Not only is it authentic and honest, but it’s also so damn funny. The dialogue is awkwardly realistic and witty. And his always talented casts help elevate the script.

Apatow’s daughter is a knock out; and Tomei does a fantastic job, as usual, playing an endearing, sweet mom. But it’s Davidson and Burr who shine. Davidson solidifies his career by bringing humor and genuine emotion without ever appearing to try too hard. Burr is obviously funny and sarcastic, but he also has depth and just the right amount of heart to make you understand why Margie could fall for him so quickly.

“The King of Staten Island” tells a unique story about grief, loss, and love. Showing that for your own health, it’s important to confront your issues, and allow the people around you to help in the healing process.

Some may be discouraged by the nearly two and half hour runtime, but don’t let the semi-slow pace deter you from this beautiful, well made, coming-of-age film.

Rating: 4/5

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Movie Review: “The Half of It” & “Underwater” DVD/Blu-Ray

“The Half of It” is a very interesting take on the classic “Cyrano de Bergerac”. Set in Washington state instead of France and replacing the soldiers and nobles with high school students, “The Half of It” looks like another Netflix winner.

Check out my review of the new Netflix drama and the DVD/Blu-Ray release of “Underwater”.

“The Half of It” is available on Netflix May 1.

“Underwater” is available on Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital

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Movie Review: “The Lost Husband” Sparks a Glimmer of Light

All is not lost in the new romantic comedy, starring Leslie Bibb and Josh Duhamel.

Based on the novel by Katherine Center, “The Lost Husband” follows Libby (Bibb), an attractive young woman, who has lost her husband in a tragic car accident. Libby and her two children (Callie Hope Haverda & Roxton Garcia) have been living with her difficult mother (Sharon Lawrence); but when they wear out their welcome, they pack up and head to her aunt Jean’s (Nora Dunn) house.

Jean lives in central Texas on a goat farm with no TV, no Wi-Fi, and no dishwasher. However, she does have an espresso maker! In order to make herself useful, Libby is forced to help out around the house and farm. Luckily, she has the conveniently handsome and single ranch hand, James (Duhamel), to guide her through the process of things.

The relationship between Libby and James is about as predictable as you would imagine. It begins with a dislike for each other. James thinks she’s too much of a city girl and can’t possibly get her hands dirty, and Libby thinks James is a jerk. Well, good thing opposites do attract. The transition from hate to love goes quick. Besides a few bickers here and there, the film doesn’t try to fight off the pair’s instant chemistry for too long. Both Bibb and Duhamel do a great job with their roles and are a fun and charming couple to watch.

The film identifies itself as a “romantic comedy”. Though it is a big element to the story, “The Lost Husband” centers more around Libby’s growth and healing over her husband’s death and mother’s mistreatment. This is not a bad thing, and it’s refreshing that the movie went this route instead of trying to make a Nicholas Sparks knock-off.

The entire cast does a solid job and there’s even a little “Popular”(1999 TV Series) reunion between Bibb and her former co-star Carly Pope that will be nice for fans of the show to see.

There’s just no high risk conflict in this movie. Little issues pop up like a child being bullied, an annoying new friend, and even a “shocking” secret. However, these issues are either resolved quickly, glossed over, or feel very anti-climactic. We never earn our resolution.

You can easily sit back, relax, and watch this mildly dramatic story unfold. Which may be exactly what we all need right now. I point out these flaws of the film not to deter you away, but to better prepare you going in. At no point will you question where the story is headed, but you can still enjoy this smooth ride.

“The Lost Husband” is a heart-warming drama about love and the family/people in our lives who truly bring us up when we’re down.

Rating: 3/5

“The Lost Husband is available to rent On Demand April 10.

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Movie Review: “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is a Powerful and Raw Character Study

It’s a tough film to swallow, but it’s an unforgettable watch.

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” follows Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), a teenage girl from Pennsylvania, who unexpectedly finds herself pregnant. We aren’t sure who knocked her up, but we are sure she does not want to go through with the pregnancy. Unable to tell her mother or her mother’s ass of a boyfriend, she confides in her best friend/ cousin, Skylar (Talia Ryder). From there, the two head to New York on what is supposed to be a mission to take care of Autumn’s situation; but ends up being a journey of discovery and a difficult life lesson.

There is a lot to admire with director/writer Eliza Hittman’s (Beach Rats) third film. For starters, the support from all the women in the movie. They are shown as comforting and caring characters. Autumn’s mom is a bit clueless; but she does love her daughter, and shows a tender side in the brief moments we see her. The female workers at both the clinics Autumn visits, are understanding, non-judgmental, and genuinely try to help the lost young lady. But it’s the bond between Autumn and Skylar that shows a true example of a selfless and giving friendship. Both actresses do a wonderful job in the film, but it’s Flanigan who shines in her debut performance by playing her character with such grace and honesty.

However, the men in this movie are not painted in the same light. They are shown as dismissive, threatening, or perverted. When the girls come across Jasper (Theodore Pellerin) on their bus ride to the city, he appears eager but harmless. Clearly interested in Skylar, she reluctantly gives him her cell number which ends up being a resourceful tool. But as you’d imagine, he’s not as innocent as he seems.

Hittman’s raw and painfully realistic dialogue is what’s so captivating. All of Autumns conversations are incredibly natural. And the emotions hit hard when she’s at her final destination in Brooklyn answering a questionnaire given by the counselor there. She must answer a series of questions relating to her sexual history with the responses of either “never, rarely, sometimes, or always.” Hittman’s screenplay is harrowing and thought-provoking.

There are some burning questions that are left up to interpretation; and the film does drag a bit in the second act, but those are my only qualms.

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is not an easy watch, especially during our current ordeal; but it is well worth your time.

Rating: 3.5/5

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is available to rent On Demand on April 3 through any of these platforms…Amazon, Apple, Comcast, DirecTV, Vudu, Google/YouTube, Charter, Verizon, Microsoft, Dish, Fandango, Sony, Cox, Altice, Vubiquity, AMC On Demand, Redbox 

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Movie Review: “The Other Lamb” Needs more Meat

Lots of intrigue from the start, only to fall flat in the end. “The Other Lamb” fails to seek it’s full potential.

“The Other Lamb” begins with two young girls eerily sitting by a waterfall. It is clear there is something off with them. When they return home, it is to one man and a bunch of different women; some who may have been conceived out of incest. Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones) plays the cult leader who goes by Shepard. He has taken in weak and vulnerable women, brought them into a secluded forest to brainwash and isolate them from the modern world. The film follows, Selah (Raffey Cassidy), a young girl who is questioning the Shepard’s teachings.

The only real storyline is Selah’s slow realization that the women’s treatment is not right and what she discovers about her mother’s death. Director Malgorzata Szumowska and writer C.S. McMullen opt to give more of a visual telling over a compelling narrative. This allows the audience to stay interested in the movie, but not invested in the story or its characters.

Though we gain some sort of background from Selah, it’s not enough to really know how she ended up here in the first place? Who was her mother? What led to her meeting the Shepard? How did any of these women get sucked into this warped reality? These questions and much more are left unanswered. The film even shys away from showing the extent of the Shepard’s cruelty. We’re aware of his sexual and violent acts, but being able to witness just one horrendous action would strike more anger and empathy for these women.

However, not all is lost. The cinematography by Michal Englert successfully utilizes graphic shots of mangled animals to parallel Selah’s growing body and her inner conflicts. The film is beautifully shot and at times leads you to believe something bigger is going to happen here.

The film relies too much on it’s visuals and score (Rafael Leloup & Pawel Mykieytn) to make up for it’s lack of content. The performances are decent, but that actors aren’t given enough meat to chew. Cassidy has her moments, but even the talents of Huisman are under utilized.

The slow-burn intensity of “The Other Lamb” mildly entertains, but ultimately leaves you unsatisfied.

Rating: 2.5/5

“The Other Lamb” is available on VOD and other digital platforms on April 3

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Movie Review: “The Hunt”, “The Invisible Man”, & “Emma”

In this time of Pandemic, diversions help keep us sane. Now, more than ever, we need the cinema. But we need a new cinema, a safe cinema, a Shelter-at-Home cinema; and so streaming comes of age. Watch my review of “The Hunt” and recommendations of two other new films available for home viewing now: “The Invisible Man” and “Emma”. Will anyone trade some popcorn for this fine half-roll of paper towels? Anyone?

“The Hunt”, “The Invisible Man”, & “Emma” are available on Amazon, Apple, YouTube, and other various On Demand platforms at a starting price of $19.99.

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Movie Review: “Underwater” Sinks

Kristen Stewart stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Underwater”.

Well, I should have known a film released in January was not going to stand a chance. But, “Underwater” had no business being made.

This film is basically a knock off underwater version of “Alien”. Its completely derivative script offers nothing new or worth watching. Even their semi all-star cast featuring Kristen Stewart, T.J. Miller, and Vincent Cassel can’t save this sinking ship.

The film is set seven miles beneath the ocean’s surface. Down there, aquatic researchers who work for a rich mining drill company are forced to reach the surface after an unexpected earthquake destroys their rig and somehow unleashes unspecified creatures with intent to kill. See, it already sounds lame.

Our protagonist is Norah (Stewart), the mechanical engineer. Aka the Ripley. She is a badass and she manages to do a lot of her heavy lifting in just a sports bra and undies. But, don’t discredit K-Stews performance. She has grown a lot as an actress these past few years and she was honestly my favorite part of the film.

The same can’t be said about T.J. Miller’s character Paul. What was intended to be comic relief, became an awkward dude with a stuffed animal who told bad jokes. As for the rest of the cast, they were forgettable due to a script that gave no real background or depth to its characters.

The visuals were solid, but the CGI of the underwater monsters were mediocre. At times the sandy water made it hard to see them when we really needed to see them. And don’t get me started on that damn audio. I’m not sure if it was the loud score or the water, but it’s difficult to understand the cast members about 50% of the time.

I’ll give the film points on its production design and even some creative direction by William Eubank. He does make an effort to try and intensify the situation through his unique and startling shots. However, none of his endearing camera work makes up for the disaster that is “Underwater.”

Save your money and just go watch any of the current, award nominated movies.

Rating: 2/5

“Underwater” opens in theaters January 10.

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