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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: “A Simple Wedding” is a Joyous Occasion

Growing up, I watched so many rom-coms and admired actresses like Meg Ryan, Molly Ringwald, Sandra Bullock, and so many other women playing characters looking for love. To an extent I could relate to them and their awkward/quirky personalities, but I never really saw myself. It might be part of the reason why I never thought I’d get that kind of romance in my life (I was wrong).

In these last couple of years, Hollywood has revived romantic comedies by bringing other cultures to light (i.e. Crazy, Rich, Asians & The Big Sick). Even Netflix has stepped it up with To The Boys I Loved Before and Always Be My Maybe. And just by watching these films with ethnic leads, I have felt slightly more represented. Because, as an Iranian-American, this is as close as it’s going to get. Luckily, that’s not true.

Director/writer, Sara Zandieh brings us, A Simple Wedding. The film follows Nousha (Tara Grammy), a thirty-something woman trying to avoid the pressures of marriage by her traditional Persian family. After purposely sabotaging her latest engagement, she unexpectedly locks eyes with a bisexual, artist named Alex (Christopher O’Shea) while at her friend’s protest. Their connection is instant. And after a passionate first date, the two become inseparable and eventually move in together.

However, Nousha’s family has no idea Alex exists. That is until they see him half-naked during a facetime chat. This leaves them no choice but to have Alex finally meet Nousha’s mom (Shohreh Aghdashloo), dad (Houshang Touzie), and grandma (Jaleh Modjallel). They are less than thrilled that he’s not a Persian doctor, and even more bothered by the fact that they are living together; and they can’t have their daughter living in sin. Within minutes of their first meeting, Nousha’s family has somehow gotten the couple engaged, and are planning a quick and “simple” wedding. An already complicated situation becomes more complicated when Alex’s family comes into the picture, and the two cultures collide.

The creators of My Big Fat Greek Wedding bring us a similar formula, but different ingredients. There’s insight into the Persian culture/wedding traditions, and a fair amount of focus on both set of parents. This time producer, Rita Wilson is in front of the screen as Alex’s divorced mom who can’t stand being around her ex (Peter McKenzie) and his hubby (James Eckhouse). Yet, she does like spending time around Nousha’s uncle, Saman (Maz Jobrani).

All the family members do a wonderful job portraying loving, yet at times hilariously selfish parents. O’Shea effortlessly plays a true, free spirit who loves whole-heartedly; not seeing race or religion. But at its core, the film thrives on Grammy’s endearing performance. She doesn’t play a woman who seeks love and feels lonely. She’s smart, independent, has great friends, and a good job. She’s not this loser girl that finally got a guy to notice her. She just finally noticed the guy, and wants to continue the relationship without any expectations.

I know I’m gushing quite a bit about this film, and I am sure I’m being bias given the subject matter. With the news lately, it’s nice to see Persians presented in a more positive perspective. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Everyone deserves to be represented, no matter your race, orientation, size, etc. And no matter who you are, you can relate to the message this film offers about how love requires “sacrifice, understanding, and forgiveness.”

This movie has its flaws, but it’s sincere. And if you still enjoy the simple romantic comedies we used to indulge in back in the 80’s & 90’s, then allow yourself to enjoy A Simple Wedding. It’s a sweet date night flick, and an all-around fun time.

Rating: 4/5

A Simple Wedding opens in theaters and On Demand (Including Amazon and iTunes) February 14, 2020.

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Fantastic Fest Movie Review: Opening Night Film – “Jojo Rabbit”

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The very unique director/writer/actor, Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) brings us this delightful, bittersweet comedy about a Hitler loving boy who learns discriminating against others who are unlike you isn’t as cool as the Nazi’s made it to be. Check out my full video review!

“Jojo Rabbit” opens in theater October 18.

Interview: Greg Berlanti, Nick Robinson and Alexandra Shipp talk “Love, Simon”

There’s a reason why “Love, Simon” is getting so much love.  The film is a charming coming-of-age story that everyone can relate to.  It’s one of my favorite movies of the year and I was thrilled to get a chance to sit down with director Greg Berlanti, and stars, Nick Robinson and Alexandra Shipp.  We discussed the pros/cons of social media, best romantic spots, what kind of characters they’d like to see represented in big studio movies and more!

“Love, Simon” is playing in theaters everywhere.

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Interview: Jake Johnson and Steve Berg talk “Digging with Fire”

digging for fire
I sat down with Jake Johnson (writer/actor) and Steve Berg (actor) to discuss their latest film, Digging for Fire. We talked about love, the key to a healthy relationship, and Jared from Subway?  It was definitely an interesting interview!

Digging for Fire is available to watch on VOD.

Interview: Michiel Huisman discusses “The Age of Adaline”

I sat down with Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones) to discuss his new film, The Age of Adaline. We talked about the blessing of growing old with someone you love, which decade he would have enjoyed living in, and the importance of banter in a relationship.  Click the link below to see the full interview with the star.  The Age of Adaline opens in theaters on April 24.

“The Age of Adaline” Interview with Michiel Huisman

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Interview: Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, & Nicholas Sparks talk “The Longest Ride”

I got a chance to sit down with Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook), Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland), and Scott Eastwood (Fury) to discuss their latest film, The Longest Ride.  We talked about love, how to impress someone you’re dating, sacrifices made in relationships, and the teachers who impacted them.  It was a fun and interesting interview! 

 Click Here to Watch “The Longest Ride” Interview

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The Longest Ride opens in theaters April 10th.

Finding “The One”-Top 5 Films that put your Love Life in Perspective

Are you looking for “The One” this Valentine’s Day?  Or maybe, you’ve already found that person.  In honor of this heart-filled holiday, I’ve made a list of the top 5 films that can put your love life in perspective.  These films are geared toward everyone, whether you’re in a relationship or not.  For couples, these movies could shed light on issues you may be having, or just make you appreciate that special someone in your life.  For singles, this list can maybe help you better understand what you’re realistically looking for in a relationship.  Either way, all 5 romantic movies are great choices to watch this V-Day.

Here’s what I take away from these films…

5. Don Jon (2013)

Listen and Connect

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, Don Jon, discusses how the media can often lead us to objectify people and treat them more like things instead of humans.  A lot of times movies and television can give us a false expectation of what we’re looking for in a partner.  Though it can be fascinating to watch a Hollywood romance or adult films, we must separate fantasy from reality.  Maybe the person you’re dating or crushing on fits the mold of what you expect in a partner, but is it really what you want?  Truly listen to that person and make sure you connect with them on both, a psychical and emotional level. (Don Jon is currently available to stream on Netflix)

4. Ruby Sparks (2012)

Nobody’s Perfect

We’ve almost all had that check list which bullet points the requirements for our partners.  Whether it’s based on their looks, or their jobs, or even their sense of humor, it DOES NOT matter.  That list needs to be deleted from your brain.  We have no idea what we want until we meet “that someone.”  Ruby Sparks is about a novelist (Paul Dano) who writes an ideal female character (Zoe Kazan) that comes to life overnight.  The film focuses on how there is no perfect person.  Part of really loving someone is seeing their imperfections and dealing with them in a way that isn’t bothersome to you.  When you wish your partner was a different way, it can actually speak more about something in you.

3. 500 Days of Summer (2009)

Different Points of View

I’m aware I’ve referenced this film a few times for my top 5 lists, but that’s only because you can take away so many lessons from the story and characters.   In 500 Days of Summer, Tom (Gordon-Levitt) believes his entire relationship with Summer (Deschanel), up until they break up, was perfect.  He’s in love and she’s almost so clearly not.   I truly believe the cruelest feeling we can experience is strongly caring for someone who doesn’t reciprocate that same feeling.  It makes you wonder how it was even possible to have those feelings in the first place.  Unfortunately, people are stuck in this situation all the time.  In the film, Tom copes with his heartache by reflecting back and noticing the signs.  For the most part, entering a relationship shouldn’t be that complicated, both people need be on the same page.  If one person is stalling to commit, then he or she may not be right for you.

2. TiMER (2009)

Do you Believe in Soul Mates?

If you could install a device that counts down the exact moment you’re going to meet your soul mate, would you want to?  Oona (Emma Caulfield) got one.  Only problem is her TiMER is blank, meaning her soul mate hasn’t yet signed up for the service.  This film raises the question of whether or not you believe that there is ONE perfect person out there for each of us.  And for those who have doubts in their own relationships, do you think there is someone else out there better suited for you?  Though very few have heard of this movie, TiMER is a charming, thought-provoking story that everyone should make time for.  (TiMER is currently available to stream on Netflix)

1. The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

Life is Too Short

I’m sure many people don’t want to ball their eyes out this Valentine’s Day, but I assure you The Fault in Our Stars is much more than a movie about teens with cancer.   Gus (Ansel Elgort) and Hazel’s (Shailene Woodley) inspiring, genuine love story reminds us to make the most of each day.  In a romantic aspect, life is too short to not be with someone you care about.  If you’re lucky enough to truly fall in love, then don’t take that love for granted.  Because even if it’s short-lived, you won’t regret the time spent with each other.

Theatre Review: “Beauty & the Beast” is a Terrifically Enchanting Musical

Rating: 4.5/5

It’s as true as it can be.  Disney fans will be in bliss as they watch one of the most beloved classics come alive on stage. Beauty & the Beast performed as a Broadway musical may seem like a tough feat with the surely difficult theatrics that the play would need to pull off.  Fortunately, AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Winspear Opera House put on a magical show that the whole family will enjoy.

Beauty & the Beast is one of the most beautiful tales of how the beauty within prevails over any outer appearance.  When Belle (Hilary Maiberger) sacrifices her own freedom in exchange for her fathers, she is forced to stay in an enchanted castle that is run by an angry and bitter Beast (Darick Pead).  To ease her distress, Belle is comforted by the other unusual members of the house who happen to be a candle stick, a clock, and tea pot.   Little does she know that the fate of everyone around her, including the Beast, hinge on whether or not she can fall in love with someone who looks like a monster.

Following the original Disney animated feature, this musical still contains the same script and music, but has added a few originals songs that go along with the familiar score.  The new songs blended in perfectly with the story, but they were no match for the classic soundtrack we all love to sing.  When “Gaston” is performed by the tavern patrons and the well-played arrogant Gaston (Tim Rogan), you might think “it doesn’t get any better than this.”  The musical number is humorous, creatively choreographed, and thoroughly entertaining.  But you have spoken too soon, because you have yet to witness the luminous, breath taking, work of art that is “Be Our Guest.”   The song begins with the voice of Hassan Nazari-Robati, who gives a stand out performance as the hilarious talking candle stick, Lumiere.  Hassan, along with the eloquent Kristin Stewart (not Twilight) who plays Mrs. Potts, lead the rest of the enchanted objects in a colorful dance that is enhanced by the vibrant set design (Stanley A. Meyer) and well produced lighting (Natasha Katz).  I am delighted to know that I will surely dream about dancing plates and silverware tonight.

They could not have cast a more perfect Belle.  Hilary Maiberger is no stranger to playing a Disney princess.  Having played Cinderella and Jasmine in previous musicals, she handled the role of Belle with such ease, and not once did she over act her character.  Her vocals are incredible, best out of the entire cast.  When she sings, goose bumps appear, as well as a smile on your face.  Her leading man played by Darick Pead did a fantastic job as the intimidating, yet sometimes juvenile Beast.

Beauty & the Beast the musical throws in some extra comedic moments that will only add to your laughter, and music that you will want to add to your play list.  I could go on and on about this lively performance, but I’d rather you allow yourself to be a guest and take pleasure in this remarkable “tale as old as time.”

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

There’s action, there’s romance, and best of all there’s ELVES in the anticipated Hobbit sequel.  Now if only the film could have been one hour shorter, we might have had a consistently enjoyable adventure.

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his dwarf companions pick up right where they left off in the last film.  They continue their journey to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug the dragon(Voice by Benedict Cumberbatch) .   During this part of their quest there is more excitement and a bit more obstacles that occur.  Including giant spiders, imprisonment by elves (which brings us familiar faces), and a hefty amount of fish!  All while, Bilbo is still in secret possession of the mysterious and magical ring.

The Desolation of Smaug is far more thrilling than the last film.  There is much more action, better visual effects, more interesting sub plots, and of course there are elves in this film.  The only race that knows how to kick ass!  The first appearance of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) returning to the big screen caused applause in the entire theater.   And toward the end of the film, I wanted to applaud for any appearance of those smooth, deadly archery skills.  I wish the primary focus of this movie was the elves.  There was never a dull moment when they were on screen.  And I must say, Evangaline Lilly fit in perfectly with the Elven clan as the heroic Tauriel, who will seemingly be caught in an interesting love triangle.

The reason I didn’t absolutely love this film is not because it was 2 hours and 41 minutes.   Please, almost half the Oscar contenders I watch are that long.  It is because it felt like 2 hours and 41 minutes.  I can deal with a long movie that has a purpose for every scene, and needs to be almost 3 hours long to convey all the important details.  What I can not handle is unnecessary and dragged out scenes that make you loose the escape that a film like The Hobbit usually creates for its audiences.

Regardless of the irritating lag times throughout the film,  Lord of the Ring fans will still be pleased with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  And Peter Jackson leaves the audience with a hell of a cliff-hanger that will guarantee another box office hit for his future installment.

Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is in theaters now!

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Official Trailer HD