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Movie Review: “Let Him Go” – A Powerful Portrayal of a Grandparent’s Love

Diane Lane and Kevin Costner are heartbroken grandparents ready to do whatever is needed to protect their grandson.

Focus Features new drama, “Let Him Go” opens with retired sheriff George Blackledge (Costner) and his wife Margaret (Lane) at their ranch in Montana spending time with their son James (Ryan Bruce), his wife Lorna (Kayli Carter), and their baby boy. Later that day, James has a fatal accident while riding a wild horse.

Years later, Lorna remarries. Her son, Jimmy, is now a toddler. On her wedding day, she seems uncomfortable around her new husband, Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain). It isn’t until Margaret sees Donnie hit Lorna and Jimmy that she recognizes the problem. When she discovers they have mysteriously taken off to go stay with Donnie’s family; Margaret and George leave their Montana ranch, and set off to rescue their only grandchild from the dangerous Weboy family.

Based on Larry Watson’s novel, the film is directed and written by Thomas Bezucha (“The Family Stone”, “Monte Carlo”). Bezucha has a way of writing compelling family dynamics. Every character has depth. The relationships between the Blackledge family isn’t picture perfect. Margaret and George have a loving and respectable marriage, but they don’t always see eye to eye. And Margaret’s relationship with Lorna is a bit rocky, as Margaret can be overbearing.

The Weboy family is a special, terrifying case; led by their vicious and abusive mother, Blanche (Lesley Manville). She controls her sons and any other man in her life. What these men lack in brains, they make up for in strength and violence. They are an odd and horrifying bunch.

“Let Him Go” is a tense journey, but the scenic drive to their destination is beautiful and adds a brief unexpected tranquility. From the tragic beginning, you’re hooked till the very end. It’s unbearable to think about the pain parents must feel after the loss of a child, but to know their is still a piece of him in their grandchild makes their mission heroic and cathartic.

The film is heavy and there is some graphic violence, but it’s a fantastic story with incredible performances. Lane and Costner are a duo that deserve a longer screen time together than they had in “Man of Steel”. The two feed off each other so naturally. And Lesley Manville is an intimidating scene stealer. You dread her character, but you anxiously await her next appearance.

“Let Him Go” is not exactly groundbreaking, but it is an engaging script and exquisitely shot. The performances alone are enough for me to recommend this watch, but there’s also thrilling action and a powerful story. It’s the perfect movie to watch with the whole family.

Rating: 4.25/5

“Let Him Go” opens in theaters November 6, 2020.

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Movie Review: “Holidate” is the Holiday Cheer we Need this Year

Netflix has so graciously brought back the romantic comedy genre with a slew of rom-coms to choose from their library. Just in time for the holiday season, they have treated us with another delightful romance with the new film, “Holidate”.

It’s Christmas Day and Sloane (Emma Roberts) is, once again, being hounded by her family to meet someone and settle down before she gets “too old”; and becomes like her aunt Susan (Kristin Chenoweth). Instead of listening to her mom, she is inspired by her aunt’s holidate. Susan brings a different man to each holiday event, allowing her to avoid feeling lonely while having no emotional attachment.

After a horrible Christmas, Sloane runs into, Jackson (Luke Bracey), another lonely single looking to date with out the commitment. They soon pledge to be each others’ platonic plus ones for every holiday in the year ahead. The film is as predictable as it sounds and is self-aware of that, pointing out that in every rom-com the two leads don’t have real obstacles. And in the “Holidate”, it’s pretty clear that there is no real issue besides the default “scared of commitment”.

What “Holidate” does offer is two strong romantic leads with great chemistry and hilarious banter. Emma Roberts shows off her comedic chops and Bracey might actually give Chris Hemsworth a run for his money. We all, at some point in time, have felt lonely during the holidays, and a holidate is a fun concept to see played out. It’s entertaining to see these how these two celebrate each occasion together. Who knew there were so many holidays?!

There are some messages you can take away from the film, like don’t let the of fear of getting hurt stand in the way of a potential love. But, you shouldn’t go into this film expecting anything deep. This is more of a raunchy, well-made Hallmark Christmas special. It’s a lighthearted escape that reminds us of how we use to celebrate the holidays before tragic times.

Rating: 4/5

“Holidate” is available on Netflix October 28, 2020.

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Movie Review: “The Rental” is a Chilling Weekend Getaway

In Dave Franco’s directorial debut, “The Rental”, two couples rent a vacation home for what they hoped would be a celebratory weekend getaway. Unfortunately, this relaxing trip turns into a nightmare.

After Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Mina (Shelia Vand) close a big deal for their company, they decide to rent an Airbnb for them and their significant others. Charlie seems to be in a happy enough marriage with an aloof Michelle (Alison Brie), but at the same time he is dumbfounded by the fact that Mina is dating his ex-convict brother, Josh (Jeremy Allen White). Needless to say, there is a lot of sexual tension during the weekend.

When the group arrives at the secluded waterfront home, they are impressed with the house; but not so much with the creepy and racist property manager. They don’t let that doesn’t stop their fun. They carry on with drinking, drugs, and sex.

The partying comes to a halt when Mina discovers a hidden camera in the shower, and suddenly, the couples must fight to survive the night.

“The Rental” is an easy horror to digest. The film is only 88 minutes long, and during that time you’re entertained by the complex relationships and intensity. There’s just a few moments of comic relief to ease the tension, but the thought of them being watched is constantly on your mind.

Franco and his co-writer, Joe Swanberg do a fantastic job with their character development. Right away we’re locked into engaging characters who start off with one persona and gradually reveal another. The writers manage to get through many different plot points, while still being cohesive. Less is more here. The set, the score, the character traits, and other small details enhance the story.

All four stars do a fantastic job, but it’s the women that steal the show. It’s impossible not to sympathize with Brie’s character, Michelle. She plays the happy and naïve wife so well. Unaware of the fact that her husband isn’t as great as he’d like everyone to believe. And we can only hope to see more of Vand after an incredibly strong performance as Mina. She’s the whole package– smart, beautiful, and not afraid to stand up for herself against a racist.

Now “The Rental” isn’t as inventive as Jordan Peele’s feature film debut, “Get Out”. There are some holes in the movie. And not everyone will be satisfied with the ending, but it’s a solid thriller that subtly goes from nerve-racking drama to shocking slasher. It’s a lot of fun, and is a promising start for Dave Franco’s filmmaking career.

Rating: 3.75/5

“The Rental” is available On Demand July 24.

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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 High Note” & “The Vast of Night”

I’ve got a couple of new film reviews for ya! First is “The High Note”, another mentor/mentee film that makes the most of its’ cast and should hit the right note with its’ audience.

Then there is the new Amazon Studios movie, “The Vast of Night”, which plays as a wonderful homage to “The Twilight Zone”. This film will satisfy that sci-fi itch with suspense, mystery, wonder and nostalgia.

“The High Note” is available on various On Demand platforms May 29.

“The Vast of Night” is available on Amazon Prime May 29.

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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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