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Interview/Review: Trey Edward Shults talks “Waves”

Trey Edward Shults, Writer/Director of “Waves”

“Waves” goes from bad to unbearable within the first hour; however, the second half of the film remarkably heals itself.

Director/writer Trey Edward Shults wrote “Waves” after his critically acclaimed thriller, “It Comes At Night”. He continues to keep our tensions high with his new family drama. It’s a story he explained that, “was inspired from a number of real life experiences, including meeting my girlfriend and Kelvin Harrison Jr.”

Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Alexa Demie in “Waves”

As the film begins we meet Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). He’s a senior in high school who as it all: Popularity, a hot girlfriend (Alexa Demie), and star wrestler. Life at home isn’t too shabby either. His father Ronald (Sterling K. Brown) owns his own construction business, his mother Catharine (Renée Elise Goldsberry) is a counselor, and his sister Emily (Taylor Russell) is quiet and reserved, hiding in the shadow of her brother.

Though Tyler is pretty well off, we come to discover his father is constantly pushing him both physically and mentally. He puts a lot of pressure on Tyler to be the best; pointing out that because the family is African American they don’t have the luxury of being average. So when Tyler learns of his shoulder injury, which would end his wrestling career, he decides to hide it and self-medicate. Matters only get worse when his girlfriend reveals she is pregnant.

You might think you know what happens from there, but you don’t. And you’re going to find out here.

By the second half of the film the family is barely keeping it together, and suddenly we’ve gone from Tyler’s movie to Emily’s. She is even more introverted, and doesn’t seem to have any friends at school. That is until she meets Luke (Lucas Hedges), an awkward, but nice boy who also wrestles.  The film completely shifts in tone as we see love blossom in a steady and beautiful manner. Emily and Luke’s relationship is the cure we need after an unnerving first half. 

Taylor Russell and Lucas Hedges in “Waves”

Shults wanted to essentially split the film in two and show the dichotomy of our lives. “I wanted audiences to see, in it’s structure, separate views from a male and female. How different they handle conflict, and what are their highs and lows,” Shults elaborates.

Both Tyler and Emily continuously use Instagram in a way that make us question our own use of the app. It’s a way to track a significant other’s location, stalk a crush and, of course post lots of pictures. “I was trying to make it real and honest. I don’t have social media anymore, but I can imagine how it would feel to have one. I’ve even followed crushes, but in an appropriate way (Laughs).” explains Shults.

At the core, “Waves” is a film about family. The parents are connected to both Tyler and Emily’s stories, especially their father. Ronald is more invasive in Tyler’s life and almost absent in Emily’s. This raises the question, what is the right balance of a parent’s involvement in there children’s lives? Shults went on to answer, “It’s hard to say what’s the right amount of involvement, but for this movie communication is big. It’s important that parents make their kids feel like they can always come to them for anything.  It sounds easy, but it isn’t.”

As the film comes to an end, a shattered family struggles to put themselves back together. What you witness will make you want to embrace your own family and loved ones. Shults’ hope is that audiences will “connect with the complex characters, and have a lot to think about. And maybe even give them hope in their own lives”

“Waves” is a tough start. But if you allow yourself to stay on this emotional roller coaster, it will be a ride worth taking. 

Rating: 4/5

“Waves” opens in select theater November 27 (Playing at Landmark Magnolia)

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Fantastic Fest Reviews: “The True Adventures of Wolfboy” & “Homewrecker”

Martin Krejci’s “The True Adventures of Wolfboy”

The True Adventures of Wolf Boy

“The Adventures of Wolfboy features an all-star cast including Jaeden Martell, Chris Messina, and Chloe Sevigny. The film is about Paul (Martell), a young boy with Hypertrichosis – a disease that causes him to have hair all over him, making him look like a wolf. Paul is bullied and feels alone in this world, even though he has a supportive and loving father (Messina) who only wants to make Paul happy.

On Paul’s 13th birthday, he receives a mysterious gift from his estranged mother. He sneaks out of the house on a journey to find her, and hopes she has an explanation for his condition. In an attempt to make money, he stops at the local circus. He ends up gaining an enemy in Mr. Silk (John Turturro). While on the run, Paul eventually makes some new friends, including Aristiana (Sophie Giannamore). This adventure quickly turns into a wild ride.

The film is far from original, and it’s a pretty basic story. Luckily, there are one or two surprises in there that make up for its predictability. And even though the premise is familiar, “The True Adventures of Wolfboy” finds a sweet way to portray the message of self-acceptance.

Side note: This film’s soundtrack was the best of the fest!

Rating: 3.5/5

Zach Gayne’s “Homewrecker”

Homewrecker

Lifetime should pick up this movie right way. It is basically made for TV gold.

“Homewrecker” follows Michelle (Alex Essoe), a young woman who has clearly been stalked by a slightly older and unhinged Linda (Precious Chong). After a “chance encounter” at a cafe, Linda persuades Michelle to stop by her house for a business opportunity. What was supposed to be a quick visit, turns into a nightmare.

There are a lot of problems with this movie. The editing is questionable. Mainly the bath bomb transitions that throw off the flow of the film. The script is hardly original or good, and everyone besides the two leads are weak actors. At the same time, there’s a lot to like!

Essoe is a terrific actress; quite possibly too good for this movie. Chong does a fantastic job at playing a deranged stranger whose blank stares are enough to freak anyone out. It’s actually these two who make the film a pleasure. Watching these two go from one extreme to another is a lot of fun. Bouncing from a friendship, to jealousy, to hate, to sympathizing with one another, and the emotions go on.

This is honestly a ridiculous film and an avoidable situation. But somehow, Essoe and Chong make it work. So much so, that I didn’t want their madness to end. If you like the typical Lifetime movie formula, then you’ll enjoy the hell out of “Homewrecker”.

Rating: 3/5

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!

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Interview: Director Sean Anders talks “Instant Family”

Sean Anders’ new film “Instant Family” will be opening this weekend and he is making the rounds to promote it.  The film is based on his on experience of adopting 3 kids.  Check out my interview Anders as we discuss when it’s the right time to have kids, the best part of being a parent and more!

“Instant Family” opens in theaters November 16.

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Interview: Jeannette Walls talks “The Glass Castle”

I sat down with writer and journalist Jeannette Walls, author of “The Glass Castle.”  We discussed the new film based on her memoir, the proper way to raise a family and much more!  Check out the interview below.

“The Glass Castle” opens in theaters on August 11.

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Movie Review: “Despicable Me 3” Entertains but Lacks Depth

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In the first “Despicable Me”, Gru (Steve Carell) discovered the meaning of fatherhood and how rewarding it was to care for three little girls who loved him back. In “Despicable Me 2”, Gru discovered love with his romantic interest, Lucy (Kristen Wiig). In “Despicable Me 3” Gru discovers a twin brother, Dru (also voiced by Carell), whom he never knew he had. And somewhere in all these films he takes down an evil villain more diabolical than him.

The franchise sticks with an adequate formula that entertains enough. But unfortunately with each passing sequel, the films seem to be loosing the heart of the story. “Despicable Me 3” begins with the introduction of a new villain, Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), who is a washed up 80’s child star that wants revenge on world that turned on him. After failing to take down Bratt during one of his heists, Gru and his now wife, Lucy, are fired from their jobs at the Anti-Villain League. In the midst, of trying to figure his next step, a strange man visits Gru to tell him about a twin brother he never knew he had who needs his help.

Once Gru, Lucy, and the girls arrive at Dru’s very rich mansion, they discover he is not exactly what they expected. For starters, he has a full head of blonde hair, he has an obsession with pigs, and he’s a clumsy, sweet guy who’s desperate to become a villain like his brother once was. While Gru attempts to reconnect to his old “bad guy” days, Lucy is busy trying to have some mother/daughter bonding time with the girls.

Though the twin brother story-line does offer longer legs for the film’s franchise, you have to wonder if it is worth the stretch marks the movies are beginning to show. The family relationships are excellent factors to “Despicable Me”, but it might be wise for the films to put a little more care and thought into their antagonists. At this point they are meaningless obstacles to whatever Gru is hoping to achieve.

Oh and you’re probably wondering about the minions. Yes, there is plenty of minions in this movie. I found there was a little too much of them. But if you love them as much as little kids do, you’re all set. The minions have their own mini adventure side story that you will either find adorable or an absolute waste of time.

“Despicable Me 3” is an overall enjoyable kids film. We’re given a handful of laughs and a decent amount of tender moments. However, for a film that had such a strong start, I had hoped this movie would leave me wanting more instead of worrying about what’s to come.

RATING: 3.5/5

“Despicable Me 3” opens in theaters June 30.

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Interview: Jovan Adepo talks “Fences”

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Jovan Adepo portrays Corey in Denzel Washington’s adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning drama, “Fences.” I got a chance to talk with Adepo about the new film. We discussed how much someone’s career can affect their personal life, daily movie references and more!

“Fences” opens in theaters December 24.

Click Here to Watch Jovan Adepo Interview

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Interview: Ice Cube & Lamorne Morris talk “Barbershop: The Next Cut”

I got a chance to speak with Ice Cube and Lamorne Morris about the next installment in the Barbershop franchise, “Barbershop: The Next Cut”.  We discussed biggest hometown firsts, how to protect kids from violence, and life changes from the past 10 to 12 years.

“Barbershop: The Next Cut” opens in theaters April 15.

Click Here to Watch “Barbershop: The Next Cut” Interview with Ice Cube & Lamorne Morris

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Movie Review: “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” Entertains but Fails to Charm

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Fourteen years ago “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was the word-of-mouth hit that surprised everyone with its slow success.  Such a simple plot, with lovable characters.  The simplicity is why the film was so great.  Writer and star, Nia Vardalos who play Toula, took the time to not only write a thought-out plot, but also give proper character development to both the lead and supporting cast.  Which is why we cared so much about each and every person in the movie.

Now, the Portokalos has returned and expanded.  Toula (Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett) have a 17 year-old daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris), whose just about had it with her smothering Greek family.  As she begins to apply for college she must decide between a school near by or out of state, adding worry to her already troubled parents.  But this is not the only story-line.  You see in this sequel we are given multiple plots that are somewhat interesting.

While trying to find out if Alexander the Great is one of his ancestors, Gus (Michael Constantine), discovers that his marriage license was not signed by the priest, meaning him and Maria (Lainie Kazan) were never officially married.  This is where the wedding part comes in.  Maria demands a “real” proposal and “real” wedding…que the cliche montage of the quirky wedding preparations.  All the while, Toula is so busy trying to fix her parent’s marriage, that she is neglecting her own.

Yes, there is a lot going on in this film.  Luckily, its not so much that you can’t follow the story.  It’s just hard to care about so many different plots.  It would have been nicer, if “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” followed its predecessor’s formula and stuck to one central focus.

I do admire the film for at least attempting an original story instead of recycling from the previous film.  And even though the movie wasn’t anything special, it was still enjoyable.  Luckily, we had the pleasure of knowing all these characters in a better setting, so regardless of the subpar premise, I was still happy to see their current situations.

Ultimately, the greatest factor of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was the merging of two different cultures and how though it can involve a lot of hilarious obstacles, there is a genuine and heart-warming quality about seeing two different people accepting each other and their families.  “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” just didn’t have that kind of heart to it.

That being said “My Big fat Greek Wedding 2” is still worth a watch.  Fans will get enough laughs out of the jokes and be happy to see the entire cast reunited again.

Rating: 3/5

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” opens in theaters March 25.

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” Official Trailer HD

Interview: Byron Howard & Rich Moore talk “Zootopia”

 

I sat down with directors Byron Howard & Rich Moore to discuss their incredible new animated film, “Zootopia”. We talked about not giving up on your dream job, the stereotypes directors fight against and which message from a film impacted them the most as a kid!

“Zootopia” opens in theaters March 4.

“Zootopia” Interview with Directors Byron Howard & Rich Moore

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