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Movie Review: “The Strangers: Chapter 1”

Froy Gutierrez as “Ryan” and Madelaine Petsch as “Maya” in THE STRANGERS Trilogy, a Lionsgate release. Photo Credit: John Armour for Lionsgate

You might remember the 2008 film, “The Strangers” based on a
horrifying true story of a home invasion. “The Strangers: Chapter 1” is based on the series but is the first installment of a new trilogy directed by Renny Harlin.

After a young couple’s car breaks down in an eerie small town, they are forced to spend the night in a remote cabin. What was supposed to be a relaxing evening turns into a nightmare, as they are terrorized by three masked strangers who attack them with no mercy and seemingly no motive. This first chapter is a promising start to the new saga, as Harlin creates a disturbing, realistic setting with subtle jump scares that make you uneasy from the moment they enter the secluded home.

The film does have a bumpy start. The acting and dialogue feel very much like a CW drama, but once the couple arrive at the cabin, the story really finds its footing and succeeds in making you never want to take a vacation in the middle of nowhere. However, you will be eager to see what’s to come after this first movie, as it does end with a “to-be-continued”. Another draw to the film is the two leads, Riverdale’s Madelaine Petsch and local Dallas native, Froy Gutierrez do a solid job as a long-time couple with natural chemistry. It’s the care you have for them that makes you want to see this tragedy through. And I’m sure you’re wondering how this story compares to the 2008 movie. No surprise, there’s a lot of similarities, don’t expect anything original, outside of a different romantic dynamic and possibly a different outcome.

“The Strangers: Chapter 1” may not leave a lasting impression, but it does provide all the ingredients for a decent scary movie. There’s mounting tension, creative shots, and enough haunting images that make for a thrilling good time. And with all 3 films planned to take place over only a few days, you can’t help but want to see what’s coming next.

“The Strangers: Chapter 1” opens in theaters May 17, 2024.

Rating: C

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Movie Review: “The Fall Guy”

Ryan Gosling takes on his most thrilling role yet in Universal Pictures newest comedy, The Fall Guy. It’s best not to take this film too seriously, it’s based on the 1981 television series and pays tribute to stunt work, taking full advantage of any opportunity for high-flying tricks. To say this film is action-packed would be an understatement.

Gosling plays Colt Seavers, a retired stuntman, who quit the industry after a severe injury. He is pulled back into the job with the hopes of rekindling a romance with his ex-girlfriend, Jody, who is now the director of a blockbuster film. The only problem is the star of the movie is missing and Colt must find him before Jody’s film is canned.

At first, “The Fall Guy” throws a lot at you at once. It takes a minute to find the groove of the film, but once the film finds its footing, audiences are in for a non-stop, electrifying, good time filled with humor thanks to the witty dialogue by writers, Drew Pearce and Glen A. Larson. Through all the explosions and fight sequences, there’s a gripping story about the typically unrecognized hard work of stuntmen and women. We’re shown how they are repeatedly put into life-threatening situations for a quick “magical” shot that’s pivotal to a movie. But director David Leitch takes this premise one step further by adding a romantic comedy element that only elevates the story.

Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt dazzle on-screen. The two of them surprisingly convey enough heart to charm audiences even while they make you burst out laughing from their several comedic scenes. “The Fall Guy” is an exciting moviegoing experience, providing jaw-dropping action, loveable leads, killer soundtrack, and ridiculous chaotic fun. Making it the perfect popcorn flick.

Rating: A

“The Fall Guy” opens in theaters May 3, 2024.

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THE IDEA OF YOU Interview w/ Director Michael Showalter

“Solène, a 40-year-old single mom, begins an unexpected romance with 24-year-old Hayes Campbell, the lead singer of August Moon, the hottest boy band on the planet.”

I got a chance to speak with incredibly talented filmmaker, Michael Showalter about his new romantic comedy that digs deep and pulls at your heartstrings.

I highly recommend everyone watch “The Idea of You” when it streams on Prime Video on May 2, 2024.

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Movie Review: “Abigail”

It’s rare these days to not be able to predict the end of a movie, especially one that appears to be formulaic, but I can assure you, you won’t know what to expect from Universal Pictures’ new, surprisingly funny thriller, “Abigail”.

After a group of criminals kidnap the ballerina daughter of a powerful, wealthy man, they must wait 24 hours in an isolated mansion to collect their 50-million-dollar ransom, but things quickly go awry when the group discovers they are locked inside with no normal little girl. What proceeds to happen is an entertaining, creatively shot blood bath that will shock and humor audiences.

The plot is straight-forward, but the production and performances elevate what could have been a bore. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett film a balanced narrative that flows much like a ballet performance. There’s a good rhythm at the start and engaging theatrics throughout with Abigail’s random, but impressive dance moves right before she remarkably lands her bait. And while the band of crooks do a fine job, it’s our young star, Alisha Weir who steals the show. She’s natural at playing an angelic scared little girl, who in an instant can flip the switch to a terrifying demonic tiny dancer.

But “Abigail” does have its flaws. Towards the end, the film does waver and stubble over its steady beat with too many betrayals and inconsistent character identities. Which prevents it from providing the depth that was potentially there. That being said, there is still more positive than negative here, especially from the comedic timing of the entire cast. It’s very much M3GAN meets Ready or Not, just nowhere near as good. But, if you’re a fan of the horror genre, then “Abigail” is satisfying, mindless bloody fun.

Rating: B-

“Abigail” opens in theaters April 19, 2024

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Movie Review: “Civil War”

“Civil War” is about a journey across a dystopian future America, following a team of military-embedded journalists as they race against time to reach DC before rebel factions descend upon the White House. This week I review the enthralling action/drama and share my thoughts on how much of an impact it will have on audiences.

“Civil War” opens in theaters April 12, 2024.

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“CAROL DODA TOPLESS AT THE CONDOR” OPENS IN DALLAS ON APRIL 19, 2024

Documentary Explores Legendary Dancer Who Ignited Flames of the 1960s

Sexual Revolution; Dallas’s Top Burlesque Dancers With Minxe Mimieux As The Lead Dancer Will Perform Live Revue at Select Opening Weekend Shows

Picturehouse’s CAROL DODA TOPLESS AT THE CONDOR, exploring the history and impact of the legendary topless dancer who ignited the 1960s sexual revolution, will open in Dallas exclusively at the Angelika Film Center (5321 E Mockingbird Ln #230) on Friday, April 19. 

Opening weekend audiences will experience a special live pre-show revue, “Doda-esque Burlesque,” featuring a bevy of Dallas’s own top burlesque dancers with Minxe Mimieux as the lead dancer in a spectacular tribute to Carol Doda’s with a special post screening Q&A.

As the lights go down…experience a special live pre-show performance of “Doda-esque Burlesque!” A spectacular tribute to Carol Doda featuring a bevy of enchanting local burlesque performers. Sit back and enjoy as the divas of today pay tribute to the ultimate diva of yesterday. Come early! Taking place prior to the film, this live performance will have NO NUDITY, and promises to be an exciting and teasing good time!

Click here to get your tickets!

https://www.angelikafilmcenter.com/dallas/movies/details/carol-doda-topless-at-the-condor–live-pre-show-performance-of-doda-esque-burlesque

Directed by: Marlo Mckenzie, Jonathan Parker

Written by: Marlo McKenzie, Jonathan Parker

Cast: Carol Doda, Dina Moore, Charles North

Rated: R for nudity/graphic nudity throughout, some sexual material, language and drug content

Synopsis Against the backdrop of the 1964 Republican Convention, a San Francisco cocktail waitress became one of the city’s most popular entertainers after making her debut as America’s first topless dancer. The new documentary feature Carol Doda Topless at the Condor tells the story of the fresh-faced girl next door who defied convention and the law by gyrating atop a white baby grand piano and turning a North Beach nightclub into the city’s second-most-popular tourist attraction after the Golden Gate Bridge. Meanwhile, Doda’s very public use of silicone to enhance her breasts launched a new industry. Directors Marlo McKenzie and Jonathan Parker share an unprecedented look at Doda’s life and legacy, as well as a behind-the-scenes tour of the vibrant, sometimes outrageous and always entertaining world of North Beach.

Movie Review: “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire”

When there’s something strange in the neighborhood, who you gonna call? It’s the newest sequel to an 80’s classic, “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire”. This week I review the adventure comedy and share my thoughts on how it compares to the most recent sequel.

“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” opens in theaters March 22, 2024.

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IRISH WISH Interview w/ Lindsay Lohan, Ayesha Curry, & Ed Speleers

“When the love of Maddie’s life gets engaged to her best friend, she puts her feelings aside to be a bridesmaid at their wedding in Ireland.” Netflix continues to revive the romcom genre! “Irish Wish” is the feel-good love story we all need this spring.

I had the honor of speaking with Lindsay Lohan, Ayesha Curry, and Ed Speleers about the film, when they started putting themselves first, wedding compromises, what makes them feel confident, and more!

Check out the full interview and be sure watch “Irish Wish” when it streams on Netflix March 15!

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Movie Review: “Dune: Part Two”

This week I review the highly anticipated sequel to the action/adventure, “Dune: Part Two”. Did I like it more than the first movie? Watch my full review to find out.

“Dune: Part Two” is currently playing in theaters.

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SCRAMBLED Interview w/ Filmmaker Leah McKendrick

“A thirty-something eternal bridesmaid goes on an empowering, and often hilarious, journey of self-discovery.” I had the opportunity to chat with Leah McKendrick, the director/writer/star of the new comedy, “Scrambled”.

This is an early favorite film, and it was such an honor to have an emotional and fun conversation with her about a film that meant so much to me. We discussed things she wanted to highlight about her personal egg freezing journey, the importance of being a supportive friend, and much more!

Be sure to watch “Scrambled” in theaters February 2, 2024.

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