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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: F9 is a Ridiculous Ride

Before the screening of this film started our theater was greeted with some wise words, “leave all logic at the door.” I had to continuously remind myself of this thought during the entire two and a half hours of non-sense that is “F9”.

I was pleasantly surprised with the premise of “The Fate of the Furious”, so it’s upsetting that “F9” didn’t deliver the same quality to their storyline. In “F9” Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are living in a secluded home with Dom’s son, little Brian. Their quiet life is interrupted by some old friends who have been sent an SOS from intelligence operative Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell). His plane, which was holding captured cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron) and part of some “dangerous” weapon, was brought down somewhere in Central America. We quickly find out the person responsible is Dom’s brother, Jakob (John Cena), who he has never mentioned until now!? What happened to not turning your back on family, Dom?

The mystery behind these brothers’ past is revealed in flashback sequences featuring teenage Dom (Vinnie Bennett) and Jakob (Finn Cole). These scenes were actually the best parts of the film. Bennett and Cole show promising talent, and the older setting took us back to the roots of the franchise with simple street races. Man, I miss those. Less used to be more in the first, “Fast and Furious”.

As we are sporadically informed why Jakob and Dom no longer speak, we are taken on an insane, wild ride. Just when you think you’ve seen it all and it can’t get any crazier, it does! It’s literally out of this world. I could give further explanation of the plot, but why bother? It’s forgettable and not important.

Thankfully, the film is self-aware of it’s lunacy. Tyrese Gibson’s character, Roman, even suggests the crew might be some sort of super soldiers with invincibility. But everyone else thinks the thought of this theory is comical.

If the point of these films is purely to entertain with action, cars, explosions and some humor, then I guess “F9” did its job.

I understand these films aren’t looking to win Oscars. I don’t mind these characters dodging bullets, or Dom having superhuman strength; or even cars in space. In fact, I can appreciate the originality. But, does the script have to be so irresponsible and cheesy? It doesn’t have to be realistic, but the franchise is capable of a more coherent screenplay; i.e. films 1, 5, 6, and 8. That being said, we’re still going to watch the 10th and however many more they make, because we’re invested in these characters and their story.

“F9” sparks laughter, excitement, confusion, and eye rolls. Familiar faces from previous Furious films make surprising cameos and John Cena makes a great addition to the cast. Fans of the saga will be satisfied and somehow still want more.

Rating: C

“F9” opens in theaters June 25, 201.

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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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Movie Review: “Nobody” – A Familiar But Fun Action-Comedy

Writer Derek Kolstad has graced us with the amazing “John Wick” movies; and for that I am forever grateful. If you don’t already know, John Wick is the badass who got ultimate revenge on those who murdered the dog his late wife left him. Each film has been an exciting thrill ride that leaves us wanting more. However, the same may not be said about Kolstad’s newest film, which feels almost too familiar.

Universal Pictures’ “Nobody” follows Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk), a middle-aged family man who barely has any life left in him. His marriage is stale, his son thinks he’s a wuss, but his daughter seems to actually like him. 

His repetitive, mundane routine is shaken up when two intruders break into his home and trigger a surprising rage in Hutch. We come to find out that Hutch is not just some mild-mannered man. He has a violent past and bears the skills of a trained assassin. He has sworn a life of normalcy, so he takes the high road and lets the intruders leave. But when he goes on a mission to take back what they stole from him, he witnesses a group of drunk men harassing a young woman on a bus. He channels all his pent up anger on them and goes full “Wick”. Unfortunately, those men have powerful ties that are now looking to get revenge on Hutch and his family.

Director Ilya Naishuller does a fine job with this movie overall, but the film has it’s flaws. The obvious being you are continuously comparing it to “John Wick”. Aside from that, there is a slow start. The action doesn’t really come into play until nearly halfway. Even the break-in scene is underwhelming for what is essentially the catalyst to Hutch getting back into his “old ways”. It doesn’t even come close to the feeling you have watching John Wick’s innocent puppy get killed by those monsters. (I wanted them all to pay!). In this movie they almost make you have empathy for the intruders. Which makes the later scene of him attacking the harassers on the bus feel a bit forced. Don’t get me wrong, it’s entertaining and fun to see the fight not take itself so seriously. But the entire time you’re watching, you’re wondering did these men really deserve such a blood bath?

However, it’s such a delight seeing Odenkirk in this role. He proves he is just as much of a badass as Keanu Reeves, Bruce Willis, and Denzel Washington. In fact, he’s the most realistic one. His minor injuries and reactions to pain makes him more human than the typical action star. The guy is a likeable character, which is more than I can say about his family.  With the exception of his father played by the great and hilarious Christopher Lloyd.

“Nobody” is short and sweet. There’s lots of value in it’s simplicity. It’s just hard to label the film as a stand out, because films like “John Wick” and “Equalizer” have done this story better. That being said, Odenkirk’s performance alone is enough to make this film worth watching.

Rating: 3/5

“Nobody” opens in theaters March 26, 2021

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Movie Review: “Raya and the Last Dragon”

“Raya and the Last Dragon” follows a warrior named Raya, whose on a mission to find the last dragon and save her world from the monsters that destroyed it. Watch the video below to see my full review of the movie.

“Raya and the Last Dragon” opens in theaters March 5 and available on Disney Plus Premier Access.

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Movie Review: “Bliss”

Amazon Studios new sci-fi thriller, “Bliss” is a mind-bending headscratcher. The film follows Greg (Owen Wilson) who, after losing his job and recent divorce, discovers he’s been living a computer simulated world. Susan Stephens shares her thoughts on the film along with suggestions of two romances to watch during this Valentine’s Day weekend.

“Bliss” is available to stream on Amazon Prime February 5, 2021.

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Interview: Carlson Young talks “The Blazing World”

“The Blazing World” premieres at Sundance this weekend. I spoke with Director, Writer, and star of the film, Carlson Young to discuss production, the meaning behind the movie, and fun facts about the actor/filmmaker.

“The Blazing World” will be screening indoors at the Texas Theatre on Sunday, January 31, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased through thetexastheatre.com. Or, if you would like to watch the film at home for the same price, you can buy tickets through tickets.festival.sundance.org.

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Top 10 Best Films of 2020

10. Soul

“Soul” follows, Joe (Jamie Foxx), a music teacher who has lost his passion for music and sense of purpose. But when he is transported into another realm to help someone find their spark, he discovers a new appreciation for life.  The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for this movie. Whether you have a dream you haven’t accomplished yet, or you feel as though your life hasn’t amounted to anything; take a second to reflect on all the good you already have. Your health, your family, your friends; our life is not as bad as we sometimes make it out to be. And remember to appreciate all the little things, even if it’s as small as a good slice of pizza.

9. Words on Bathroom Walls

“Words on Bathroom Walls” follows Adam(Charlie Plummer), a passionate cook who appears to be a typical teenage boy until an incident in his High School reveals he has schizophrenia. He is expelled, and forced to finish out his senior year at a Catholic High school. It’s there he meets, Maya (Taylor Russell). Their relationship in the film is tender and sweet, but the beauty of “Words on Bathroom Walls” is getting to see perspective on a mental illness that isn’t shown often, especially through a romance. This is something else that deserves representation and understanding. And though the film centers around Adam and Maya, the relationship between Adam and his mom is just as powerful. Her tenacity shows us a mother’s love is unconditional.

8. Let Him Go

After the death of their son, Margaret and George Blackledge (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) have held on to the light in their life, their grandson, Jimmy. But when their daughter-in-law (Kayli Carter) remarries to an abusive man, Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain), he takes both her and Jimmy away to his family’s secluded home in North Dakota.  Margaret and George leave their ranch in Montana, and go on a mission to save what’s left of their family. Some may not find this movie special, but it transported me back to the theaters with how well it was shot and the incredible performances. You can’t help but feel for this couple, and want them to do whatever is necessary to get their grandson back.

7. On the Rocks

Bill Murray plays, Felix, a playboy art dealer who, long ago, walked out on his wife and children for the first of many women. He’s selfish and self-centered, yet you can’t help but love the guy. When he hears his daughter, Laura (Rashida Jones), is concerned about her husband’s many work trips, he assumes the worse and encourages her to look into the matter with him.  This film is such an easy and humorous watch. This is in big part due to the natural chemistry between Murray and Jones. Felix is trying to make up for lost time by taking this unfortunate circumstance as an opportunity to spend quality time with his daughter, who he genuinely cares for. “On the Rocks” highlights a sweet, yet unconventional father/daughter relationship, while also shedding a light on marriages that could use a little refresher.

6. Irresistible

I know politics is a touchy subject, but the beauty of “Irresistible” is that it really doesn’t try to sway you on either side. They focus more about how ridiculous a campaign can get and how much it costs. It’s not about conservatives versus liberals. Instead, the film makes you question the two party system. The all-star cast which includes Steve Carrell, Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper, and MacKenzie Davis all give top-notch, hilarious performances. The banter between Carrell and Byrne alone makes this film such a delight. “Irresistible” is the insightful, laugh-out-loud comedy we needed during this election year. Putting into perspective what is truly important in any leadership role. 

5. The Kid Detective

To all my fellow “Harriet the Spy” lovers, this movie is what I imagine happened to the male version of Harriet. Abe Applebaum (Adam Brody) was a once celebrated kid detective. Even adults used his services. But after he fails to solve the mystery of a kidnapping of a young girl/friend, he is no longer the same quality detective. Fast forward to his 30’s, he’s a washed up drunk, taking any minor case he can get to make end’s meat. That is until he is presented with his first murder case. I know a lot of you probably haven’t heard of this film, but it’s a really fun watch. Brody carries the movie with his wit and charm, but the story is just as engaging. “The Kid Detective” is truly the hidden gem of 2020.

4. Onward

I’m surprised by how high I have this film on my list, but since January I can’t get this movie or the ending out of my head. It’s one I get emotional just thinking about. On the day of Ian Lightfoot’s (Tom Holland) 16th birthday, he and his older brother (Chris Pratt) are given a gift from their late father. Turns out it’s a spell that will bring their dad back to life for 24 hours,  giving Ian a chance to finally meet his father. But the spell doesn’t go exactly as planned. At first glance, this seems like a possibly boring, one disaster after another road trip that will end predictably. It’s safe to say that’s not the case. Although this is a film about a son seeking a relationship with his father, it also recognizes those in our lives who unexpectedly became a father figure and shaped us into the person we are today.

3. Palm Springs

Not since “Groundhog Day” has any film with the similar formula been worth raving about (Except for maybe “Happy Death Day”). That is until “Palm Springs”. It manages to put a refreshing spin on the romantic comedy genre and time loop narrative. Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) are two wedding guests reliving the same day. Samberg and Milioti are a dynamic duo with amazing chemistry. The film is heavier than you might expect. Nyles and Sarah are stuck together without even death as an escape. A romance grows, and soon they are partners in crime making the most of their care-free new existence; even if it comes with a rapid loss of meaning. “Palm Springs” is funny, sweet, and has a surprising little twist. 

2. Uncle Frank

If I could give anyone the Oscar right now, it would be Paul Bettany for his powerful and gut-wrenching performance in this film. I really hope this movie doesn’t go under the radar during award season, because it deserves recognition for its performances alone. Set in 1973, the film follows a teenager named Beth (Sophia Lillis) who leaves her rural Southern home to study at a New York University where her beloved Uncle Frank (Bettany) teaches. While there she discovers Frank is gay, and has been living with his long time partner, Wally (Peter Macdissi) – a secret he’s been keeping from his family for years. After the passing of his father, the three of them take a road trip home to North Carolina, and Frank is forced to face the worries and trauma he’s been running from. This film is my biggest tear-jerker of the year. I’m talking ugly crying. Watching Bettany play a character who has to hide his true self from his family in fear of how they might react is heartbreaking, and sadly, still relevant. “Uncle Frank” is a film everyone should watch.

1. Promising Young Woman

If you’ve heard me talk about this film, it should come as no surprise that it would make the top of my list. The movie has romance, comedy, mystery, revenge, and an all-star cast. “Promising Young Woman” features Carey Mulligan as Cassie, a med-school dropout who seeks revenge on a traumatizing past event. Not since “Hard Candy” have I enjoyed such an enticing revenge story. Mulligan is at her best, showing such complex emotions. She varies from cold-hearted to heartbreaking. This is a cautionary tale that would serve well in high school and college classrooms. Especially geared towards men who don’t seem to understand what consensual sexual activity means. The film goes beyond the actions of the men responsible for the sexual assaults. It also highlights those who turn a blind eye, and even the parties responsible for defending the guilty. “Promising Young Woman” is funny, dark, unforgettable, and for me, it’s the best film of the year.

The Best of the Rest:

11. Black Box

12. Shithouse

13. A Secret Love

14. Yes God Yes

15. The Trial of the Chicago 7

16. The Mauritanian

17. Da 5 Bloods

18. Freaky

19. Another Round

20. The Broken Hearts Gallery

Top 5 Worst Films of 2020

5. The Rhythm Section – I except more from Jude Law and Blake Lively at this point in their careers.

4. Underwater- A Knockoff underwater version of “Alien”. But bad, so bad.

3. The Sunlit Night- Terrible movie with the most forced and awkward sex scene.

2. The Prom – Had no idea James Corden was a bad actor until this film. Honestly, I couldn’t pay attention anything else.

1. The Witches (2020) – I almost forgot this movie happened. I’d like to keep it that way.

Trevor’s Top 10

10. Yes God Yes
9. Sonic the Hedgehog
8. Freaky
7. The Mauritanian
6. Palm Springs
5. The Old Guard
4. The Kid Detective
3. Promising Young Woman
2. Irresistible
1. Uncle Frank

Movie Review: “Wonder Woman 1984” Fails to Soar as High as its Predecessor

It pains me to write this review, as the first “Wonder Woman” movie was one of my favorite films of 2017. Patty Jenkins directed/wrote a simple, yet, thrilling, and charming story. It still holds up today as an incredible film. Sadly, the sequel, “Wonder Woman 1984” does not carry that same merit.

First off, what the heck!? I mean who approved this script!? Did they even refer to the last movie??

I just had to get that out. It is extremely frustrating, because we know DC can’t seem to figure out how to create the same kind of quality superhero movies like Marvel. That was until the first “Wonder Woman”. They found a gem in Patty Jenkins, and I know she is capable of much better than this.

“Wonder Woman 1984” picks up 66 years after Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) helped end World War 1 with the help of her friends and self-sacrificing boyfriend, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). She’s now in Washington DC curating ancient artifacts; working with a socially awkward Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig). She is still saving the world, but she’s unhappy and living a lonely life without any loved ones.

Diana’s life is pretty routine until a foiled mall robbery shakes everything up. The incident leads to the discovery of an old artifact known as the dream stone, which grants wishes, but also takes something in return. It’s a dangerous tool that leads to a series of catastrophic events when it falls into the hands of a ponzi scam artist, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal).

The acting in “Wonder Woman 1984” is good. Gadot has some stand out moments, particularly in a heartbreaking, emotional scene with Pine. And Pascal plays a hilarious, wacked out nut job. And Wiig does a fantastic job as Barbara/The Cheetah. She was actually my favorite part of the film. I just wish they utilized her more as a villain. Though Pascal is great to watch, I would have loved seeing Wiig in her full evil mode for much longer than what we’re given.

The problem here is in the writing. It goes beyond campy into cheesy territory. The opening sequence of the film is promising. But early on after Pascal steals the artifact, the movie just goes downhill. It gets muddled, and doesn’t even make that much sense. Maybe too many people were involved in writing the story, or maybe they were trying too hard to make a unique plot. But it didn’t work. They focused on corny jokes and a fluffy subject matter instead taking the route of the previous film’s darker tone. There are minimal action scenes, and the few we see have no real impact or awe factor. And I can’t go into detail, but there are so many problems with the ending. I would vent about if I could.

As a fan of the first “Wonder Woman”, I still have to advise you watch this sequel, and form your own opinion. There’s still some fun moments, and the characters are enjoyable. My only advice is to go in with the lowest of expectations.

Rating: 3/5

“Wonder Woman opens in theaters and streams on HBOMax December 25.

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