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Archives for : Drama

“Hard Luck Love Song” Interview w/ Michael Dorman & Sophia Bush

Roadside Attractions’ new film, “Hard Luck Love Song” is based off the song “Just Like Old Times” by Todd Snider. It’s a gritty love story about a troubled musician living out of motels and making bad choices. One night he reconnects with his old flame and the two experience an emotional and unforgettable evening. I spoke with the stars of the film, Michael Dorman and Sophia Bush, to talk about personal discoveries, what puts them at ease when meeting new people, and more.

“Hard Luck Love Song” opens in theaters October 15, 2021.

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Movie Review: “Candyman” is a Terrifying Treat

Even as I write this review, I am a little nervous to type “Candyman”. After seeing the new film, that name instills the same fear I felt after watching the original 1992 movie.

In case you’re new to the franchise, the original film follows Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), a grad student researching urban legends who learns of the mysterious murders that happened at the Cabrini-Green housing projects. Residents suspect the killer is the notorious Candyman (Tony Todd). He was born in the late 1800s and was the son of a slave. He grew up to be a well-known artist that wealthy white people sought out for their portraits. But when he fell in love with the daughter of one his upper-class customers, her father sent a lynch mob after him. They cut off his right hand, smeared him with honeycomb, let the bees sting him to death, and burned his body on the land that the Cabrini-Green neighborhood was eventually built. When a person says his name 5 times to a mirror, bees trickle in and a few candies drop before he appears and kills you with the hook attached to his bloody arm.

Fast forward to 2019 and we’re in the middle of a dinner party where couple, Anthony and Brianna (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris) are learning about Candyman for the first time. Brianna is an art gallery director and her partner, Anthony is an aspiring artist whose suddenly fixated with Candyman. He paints the images of the most recent Candyman symbol, a misunderstood resident named Sherman Fields (Michael Hargrove), who was mistakenly accused of putting razorblades in Halloween candy. Eventually Anthony’s disturbing artwork inspires others to start uttering the word “Candyman” into a mirror 5 times, and that’s when the bodies begin to pile.

Director Nia DaCosta (Little Woods),  Producer/Co-Writer Jordan Peele (Get Out), and Co-Writer Win Rosenfeld had a keen vision for this continuation of the legendary horror. Lots of praise goes into the storytelling. Instead of flashbacks of the original film, they use silhouettes of puppet paper cut-outs to explain the history. The images are unique and engaging. They also don’t take an extremely graphic route. Although blood is shed, there’s more reaction to the gore than action. One of my favorite scenes is the death shown through an apartment window as the camera zooms out. It’s subtle, but effective bloody art.

Abdul-Mateen II, Parris, and Coleman Domingo (plays William Burke) shine as standouts with their harrowing performances. But the movie does suffer from a few amateur, secondary characters. Luckily, they are not on screen for very long.

“Candyman” (2021) does a wonderful job connecting to the first film. There’s still the same essence of the original, with a modern and more stylistic vision complimented by a stellar score. But perhaps, the most unforgettable addition to this sequel is how DaCosta, Peele, and Rosenfeld turned Candyman into a metaphor for the trauma that has haunted the black community for years. To repeat a powerful quote from the film, “Candyman’s how we deal with the fact that these things happened. That they’re still happening!” Making Candyman a frightening but significant figure.

Audiences will be buzzing about “Candyman” (2021).  It’s a fun and refreshing spin on the iconic cult classic.

Rating: A-

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Movie Review: “The Night House” Gives Thrills & Chills


I’ll admit, I scare easily. Films that aren’t even scary (Boo! A Madea Halloween) make me jump. But when I watch a truly, good horror film, I am on the edge of my seat, holding my breath during the entirety of the film. The only breather breaks are my screams. In David Bruckner’s new horror, “The Night House”, I screamed three times. 

After her husband, Owen’s (Evan Jonigkeit) unexpected suicide, Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left alone in their large lake house, and suddenly haunted by a mysterious spirit. Beth heads down a dangerous rabbit hole as this leads her to digging into her husband’s dark secrets. 

What Bruckner captures here is a very real and painful portrayal grief and depression. It’s not an easy subject matter to tackle, but it’s handled so well here. From Beth’s drinking, re-watching old videos of her husband, to how she interacts with her colleagues and people around her. Owen’s death has consumed Beth and is affecting her daily life and personal relationships. 

If you saw Hall in the underrated drama, “Christine”, you already know how well she can portray a woman on the edge struggling with depression. So, it comes as no surprise that Hall’s performance as a grief-stricken widow is incredibly powerful. Your heart absolutely breaks for Beth as she asks the questions one would probably have if their husband chose to end their life: Why? Was he that unhappy? How was he so good at hiding it? Did I really know him at all? Was he a monster and I had no idea? These are just a few of the questions the film will answer. 

“The Night House” is shot and edited beautifully. Paired with Kathrin Eder’s unsettling production design and the eerie music by Ben Lovett, the film makes for an engaging and terrifying experience. 

Where the film falls short, is that it’s slightly over ambitious. Though questions are answered for the most part, there might be some confusion at the end, and there are a few small plot holes. But if you can piece together a narrative that satisfies you, then this may not be an issue. 

“The Night House” is a creative story with gripping visuals and captivating performances.  

Rating: B +

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.

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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-

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Movie Review: “Zola” Fascinating and Disturbing Tale

At first glance, “Zola” might have you wondering; “What in the world am I watching?” Some may even want to stop the film all together. If you power through, you will treat yourself to a captivating story and some intoxicating performances. 

“Zola” is based on the viral 148 tweets by the A’Ziah “Zola” King. In the film, Zola (Taylour Paige) plays a Detroit waitress who meets a stripper, Stefani. (Riley Keough) Stefani lures her on a road trip to Florida with her boyfriend (Nicholas Braun) and “roommate” (Coleman Domingo) under false pretenses. What she thinks will be an opportunity to strip from some quick cash turns into a terrifying sequence of events.

The best way I can describe “Zola” is like watching a really bad, but visually satisfying car accident unfold. You just can’t look away even though part of you might want to. And when it’s over, those images will forever haunt you.

What happily stays with you are the incredible performances by entire cast. Paige and Keough carry the film with their cringe-worthy, odd friendship. Stefani is unbelievably offensive and shows no self-awareness, while Zola is the voice of reason that will keep audiences sane. Another polarizing stand out is Coleman Domingo, who plays Stefani’s “roommate” aka her pimp. He is both humorous and frightening. Domingo creates a powerful presence anytime he is on screen.

“Zola” is meant to make audiences feel uncomfortable and pull you into the world of the two leads; where they are trapped and forced into unwanted sexual encounters. Director/Writer Janicza Bravo wants you to feel the same fear that these young girls are feeling.

Some will find “Zola” to be a smart, stylish, summer joyride. While others will see it as a dirty, annoying movie that gets under their skin. Either way you view it, the film is absolutely hypnotizing. And after it was done, Bravo had me under her trance.

Rating: B-

“Zola” is currently playing in theaters and coming soon on VOD.

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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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