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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: “Antebellum” and “Kajillionaire”

This week’s movie review features two very different films: Antebellum is a high profile mystery, thriller with a disturbing twist; Kajillionaire is a low key dark comedy that relies on quirky characters and dysfunctional family dynamic as a foundation for the story. Both films boast some highly respected actors and developing writers/directors. Which one should you go see?

“Antebellum” is available On Demand September 18, 2020.

“Kajillionaire” opens in select theaters September 25, 2020.

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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: “Knives Out” & “Honey Boy”

Check out my reviews of two fall films that just might show up during Oscar season: “Knives Out” and “Honey Boy.” “Knives Out” is a whodunit with even more twists than a Bavarian pretzel and “Honey Boy” is Shia LeBeouf’s compelling revisit of his years as a child/teen star with a problematic father.

“Knives Out” is currently in theaters.

“Honey Boy” hits theaters December 6.

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Interview: David Harbour talks “Stranger Things” Season 3

STRANGER THINGS Production still Season 3

The sleepy town of Hawkins, Indiana …and Upside Down… are back! And fans of Stranger Things can finally exhale on July 4 when the Netflix hit returns for season three. I had a chance to sit down with with David Harbour (Sheriff Hopper) and talk about the hit series and his Texas roots.

“Stranger Things” Season 3 releases on Netflix July 4!

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Fantastic Fest Reviews: “Halloween”, “An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn” & “Cam”

Halloween (2018)

The opening night film at Fantastic Fest was none other than the highly anticipated sequel, Halloween (2018). Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic role as Laurie Strode to come face-to-face with masked serial killer, Michael Myers, who has haunted her since the traumatic night four decades ago.

The film is inspired by John Carpenter’s classic. But filmmakers David Gordon Green and Danny McBride decided to ignore all the other sequels that followed the original Halloween from 1978, and create a story that changes Laurie’s past. In other words, 40 years later Laurie is a bad ass. Michael Myers is not her brother. And, she’s prepared to take on whatever he throws her way.

Laurie Strode is one hell of a grandma in Halloween (2018). Though her daughter (Judy Greer) still resents her for making her grow up as a survivalist since childhood, her granddaughter, Allyson, (Andi Matichak) adores her. This creates tension anytime the family is all together. It isn’t until Halloween night that Michael Myers returns to wreak havoc, and finally finish the job he started 40 years ago. Only this time he’s up against 3 generations of Strode women.

Halloween (2018) far from a stand out horror flick. We’re basically seeing the same formula just different ways of murder. However, this film is a lot of fun! McBride’s writing shines throughout the film, and it’s the comic relief that provides any sort of originality. But don’t get me wrong, I love this formula and it’s great to see Curtis back in action in a role she handles so naturally. The movie entertains the whole time through and will leave you satisfied.

Rating: 3.5/5

 

An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn

Surprisingly enough, the people that brought us The Greasy Strangler, which I hated; has now made An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn, which I really liked a lot. Jim Hosking is back with a second feature that maintain his same style and his same personal dialect. Only this time, he let go of the nauseating grease murderers and swapped it out for characters we could actually care for.

Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) stars a Lulu Danger, a recently unemployed woman who is unsatisfied with her marriage to sleazy Shane Danger (Emile Hirsch) and life all together. In an attempt to fix the couples financial troubles, Shane steals from his brother-in-law. Which then makes him the target of the world’s worst hitman (Jermaine Clement). But Lulu sees this as an opportunity, she runs off with the hitman in hopes that he can help her track down her old flame, Beverly Luff Linn (Craig Robinson).

This offbeat comedy takes a minute to warm up to. You might not be sure of the flow it’s taking. But once it gets going, it’s actually quite delightful. The all-star cast does a fantastic job, and this might be my favorite performance by Aubrey Plaza. There’s a very unique and corky chemistry between Plaza and Clement that’s almost endearing.

An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is the light-hearted deadpan comic relief that I was craving during a marathon of graphic horrors at Fantastic Fest.

Rating: 4/5

 

Cam

After letting Cam marinate for a bit, it quickly became one of my favorite films of the fest. Daniel Goldhaber’s feature debut is smart, sexy, and disturbing.

The film stars Madeline Brewer (Orange is the New Black and The Handmaid’s Tale) as Alice, a young web cam girl who is on the rise to breaking top 50 rank on a pornographic site.  Alice lives a normal life by day, but at night she is “Lola” and constantly comes up with wild narratives to spice up her online shows. She is anxious to reach the top and beat out the other cam girls in the network. However, she never breaks her 3 rules: No public shows, no fake orgasms, and never telling “her guys” that she loves them.

Just when Alice is moving up in her ranking, she has an unwelcoming surprise when she sees a girl who looks just like her live on her web cam profile. Frantic and paranoid, Alice is on a mission to find out who has taken her identity and stolen her top rank.

Even though 60 percent of Cam consists of a bunch of web cam girls performing erotic acts, the film is incredibly magnetizing. It’s as if you’re in a trance the minute the film begins and you can’t stop watching. The neon lighting, the shocking sequences, and the captivating performance by Brewer is enough to suck you in.

Cam is the movie you didn’t know you wanted to see. It’s a tantalizing thrill-ride with a bone-crushing end that will leave you wanting more.

Rating: 4.5/5

Fantastic Fest Interview: Allison Williams & Richard Shepard talk “The Perfection”

Richard Shepard, Allison Williams, and Logan Browning on the red carpet at Fantastic Fest for the premiere of “The Perfection”.

 

This was my first year at Fantastic Fest and I was treated to a lot of great movies. But the one that stands above the rest was Richard Shepard’s (The Matador and Dom Hemingway) horror-thriller, The Perfection.

The film follows Charlotte (Allison Williams), a former child prodigy cellist, who after a decade returns to the people that helped train and groom her into the powerhouse sensation she once was. However, another woman Elizabeth (Logan Browning), has taken her place and what unfolds after the two’s meeting is better left a mystery until viewing.

Director Richard Shepard explained his inspiration behind the movie came from the structure of Korean movies like Old Boy and The Handmaiden. “American movies don’t do that sort of structure and I had been itching to do a film with horror elements.”

Allison Williams (Girls and Get Out) stars alongside Dear White People’s, Logan Browning. Both give unforgettable performances that will have audiences squirming in their seats. While the two were magnetic on screen, they were also helpful behind the scenes. “I invited both Allison and Logan in the editing room because I felt, Oh they’re going to be able to help me see things I may not see. Because an actor inherently has a bullshit detector that a lot of people don’t have. Because it’s so hard to be an actor. Actors really have to lose themselves and if something feels false, they know it almost more than anyone,” said Shepard.

Without giving too much away, you’re never certain which direction this intense thrill ride is going take until the very end. But the journey getting there is a good one. “I wish there was a way, and I guess there is, to attach some kind of monitoring system to audiences watching this movie. About like who they trust, what they think the plot is, throughout the movie; and it would be like an EKG and like spiking, you know? And I think that’s one of the things Richard does so well. As an audience member watching, you know that whoever made it is in control of it. So it’s not that awful feeling of I don’t know what’s going on and I think I’m supposed to know what’s going on. You’re like I know exactly as much as the filmmaker wants me to know in this moment, and it’s really fun not knowing anything more than that,” explained Williams.

Finding the balance of making a movie that keeps the audience on its toes while still maintaining focus is a rare skill.  And often times, a film that tries to trick the audience too much can result in a mess. Luckily, The Perfection never veers off track. “I believe that if that we can keep the audience off kilter, but at the same time have them care about the characters even when their doing stuff that they can’t believe their doing; they still care for them. It’s also challenging because you don’t want to lose your audience. You want to make the surprises feel fun as opposed to confusing.” said Shepard.

Williams then went on to explain how the film immediately will have you hooked, “It takes guts to start it off with the film’s opening shots of just static like locked frames, and its muted colors and it’s clearly a sad scene. For a film buff, there’s sort of an embarrassment of riches in there. It sort of tells you everything you need to know about the movie, but you just have no idea yet. Most opening scenes of movies are sort of tangential to the actual plot of the movie, but hopefully they’re of the same caliber. This is much more informative than anyone will know until they finish watching the movie.”

Williams added that The Perfection is a film that should be seen twice as you will gain respect for it after a second viewing and realizing how deliberate everything was. “We labored over this. We cared about every millisecond of the movie. And it wasn’t until yesterday. There was a group of us that thought about every second we put into this. And it’s so vulnerable to care so much about something. And now it doesn’t belong to us anymore; it belongs to you guys.”

Though The Perfection may be baffling at first, just relax and let the film string you along. This is a performance that’s worth sitting through.

Rating: 5/5 (The title is self-explanatory, this film is a perfect score)

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Movie Review: “Happy Death Day” Delivers Laughs and Scares

“Groundhog Day” meets “Scream” in this surprisingly funny, mystery thriller.

Sorority girl, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) wakes up hungover on her birthday in a stranger’s (Isreal Broussard) bed. She discovers she stayed the night with nerdy classmate, Carter, and rudely exits his dorm room. Thus begins her rampage of being a narcissistic mean girl to everyone who crosses her path. As we get a peek into a day in the life of Tree, we learn she ignores her father’s call, she’s sleeping with her married professor, and constantly belittles others. I know, hard to believe someone wants to kill her. As the night draws near, Tree heads to a party and is quickly stabbed to death by someone in a disturbing baby mask–oddly enough, that is the school’s mascot.  She then wakes up, and is forced to keep reliving her birthday with each day ending in her being murdered in some gruesome way. As Tree grows weaker with each consecutive loop, she must unmask her murderer and stop them from finishing her off for good.

Writer Scott Lobell does a great job with this clever script, as he adds a lot of humor and makes the film self-aware to the fact that this is a cheesy horror. The self-awareness allows for the movie to go beyond cliché lines and really have fun with a decently, thought out mystery. At this point I’ve described more of a comedy, but director Christopher Landon achieves a handful of scares that will have audiences jumping in their chairs.

The film’s story is solid, but the key ingredient here is the engaging breakout performance by Jessica Rothe. She nails the strong bitchy exterior that actually allows us to not feel guilty when we laugh at her numerous deaths, yet still gains sympathy towards her hopeful victory. Rachel Matthews, who plays an even more awful sorority sister, might provide the most laugh out moments with her over the top bitchy lines.

Whatever “Happy Death Day” lacks in the horror, it makes up for it in its entertainment. Reminiscent of the “Scream” era, it provides the same kind of “whodunit” feel that keeps you guessing till the very end.

I can’t say that this film should be at the top of your must-see list, but if you are looking for a few scares and fun time during this Halloween season, then “Happy Death Day” is the perfect choice.

Rating: 3.75/5

“Happy Death Day” opens in theaters October 13.

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Movie Review: “The Girl on the Train” is a Messy, yet Intriguing Thrill Ride

Image result for Girl on a Train

Emily Blunt isn’t the only one taking a ride in The Girl on the Train. The audience should be warned of the many back and forth jumps throughout this mystery thriller.

The film follows Rachel (Emily Blunt), a divorced alcoholic who spends everyday on a train ride that passes her old neighborhood. She watches a couple, Megan and Scott (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans), whom she views as “perfect” and almost lives vicariously through them. All the while she still tries to contact her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), who is now happily married and with a baby.

One day during Rachel’s usual stare at Megan and Scott’s house, she notices Megan kissing another man out on her balcony and freaks out! Completely wrecked by the fact that Megan would “throw it all away”, Rachel gets even more drunk and angry. When she stumbles off the train that night she sees a blur that looks like Megan. She wakes up the next morning in her place with a bloody head, and unaware of anything that happened the night before. Ironically, Megan has now gone missing, and Rachel is determined to find out what happened to her.

If you find reading that premise at all confusing, it’s even more of a mess watching it. To be fair, by the end everything ties together and there are no loose ends. But it might be a struggle getting there for some.

Yes, the plot might have been poorly executed, but that doesn’t make the story any less fun. From the moment the film began, I was on the edge of my seat trying to add up of every clue and anticipating the expected twist. Though the climax and the unveiling of surprises are far from Gone Girl standards, they were still satisfying none-the-less.

What’s certain is the subtle yet believable performance Emily Blunt gives as a functioning alcoholic. She stays committed the whole way through. So much so, that her character can be extremely frustrating at times.

The Girl on the Train may not please everyone. And yes, Tate Taylor’s direction is less than adequate as he struggles to give a steady flowing narrative. Luckily the mystery and story alone are enough to keep this ride interesting.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Girl on the Train opens in theaters October 7

“The Girl on the Train” Official Trailer HD

Image result for Girl on a Train

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

zootopia