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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)

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

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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

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Quick Review: “Dark Places”

DARK PLACES marks the second film adaptation of a Gillian Flynn novel. And no, it’s not a GONE GIRL sequel. This film just proves once again that Flynn knows how to capture her audience with intricate story-lines that keep you on the edge of your seat.

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Interview: Joel Edgerton talks “The Gift”

We sat down with triple threat star, Joel Edgerton (Director/ Writer/ Actor) to discuss his new film, “The Gift”. We talked about bullies, rumors and much more! There’s a reason why critics are loving this film. It’s the must see summer thriller!

“The Gift” opens in theaters August 7.

Click Here to Watch “The Gift” Interview with Joel Edgerton

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Movie Review: “McCanick” Features a Dark and Powerful Performance by Cory Monteith

Before the young Glee star passed away last July, he had finished production on the buzzed about crime-drama mystery, McCanick, where Monteith hits close to home by playing a drug addict.  Fans of the late actor will enjoy a bitter-sweet performance, as Monteith is the best thing about this slow and slightly anticlimactic film.  And I’m not just saying this as a biased “Gleek.”

Detective Eugene “Mack” McCanick (David Morse) finds out that Simon Weeks (Cory Monteith), a young criminal, has been released from prison.  He sets off for a brutal manhunt along with his partner (Mike Vogel) who is in the dark about his intentions, and fails to get permission from the Chief of Police (Ciaran Hinds).   His paranoia of Weeks exposing a secret from his past causes Mack to lose all morality and respect for the law.  As he continues to search for Weeks, Mack leads his partner and himself down a dangerous and violent path.

I had hopes for this film given it was one of Monteith’s last.  Monteith’s performance didn’t fail me, but the story and execution did.  The beginning will intrigue audiences.  The mystery of why Simon Weeks was in prison and why Mack cares so much that he is out will keep the film barely alive for an hour and forty minutes.  There are a number of theories that will roll through your head as you watch.  But one by one, as those theories become improbable, you are left with complete confusion until the very end.  Sadly, once the secret is revealed, be prepared for disappointment and possibly even more confusion.

Morse does a decent job as the enraged detective hunting his prey.   It is his unknown motive and all his actions before catching Simon that make you lack care and empathy for his character.  He just comes off as a psychotic, dirty cop.  Although, if the goal was to have you sympathize with Monteith’s character as a lost, orphaned druggy that has seemingly changed his ways since prison, then mission accomplished.

McCanick is more of a character development film rather than a thought provoking, interesting story.  The past from both of the lead characters’ lives have molded who they are now.  We are shown flashbacks of the two before Weeks’ arrest, giving more insight as to who these characters were.

I would refrain from having high expectations of this film.  But for fans of Cory Monteith, McCanick will be a poignant reminder of how this rising talent passed on too soon; and that he was more than just Finn Hudson.

McCanick opens in theaters March 21.

McCanick Official HD Trailer

Originally posted on RedCarpetCrash.com

TV Movie Review: “The Grim Sleeper” is a Disturbing Murder Mystery

Once again, Lifetime is reiterating the fact that you should never accept rides from strangers.  Only this time they have taken a frightening and sympathetic route.

The film is based on the true story of a serial killer who went unknown for nearly 20 years killing dozens of women in Los Angeles beginning in the 1980s.   Known as “The Grim Sleeper,” he would shoot or strangle his victims before having sexual contact with them.  He would then take Polaroids of the dead, naked women and store them in his garage as keepsakes.  The film follows LA Weekly reporter, Christine Pelisek (Dreama Walker), as she persistently investigates these unsolved murders.  Things turn slightly more emotional when Christine finds out the families of the victims have no idea that their loved ones were killed by the same psychopathic murderer.  Accusations of racial discrimination surface when it becomes known that the killer is targeting African American women.  The victims’ families and Christine unite to finally push the police into finding “The Grim Sleeper” and put him to rest.

I particularly enjoyed this Lifetime murder mystery more than most for many reasons.  The lead actors all performed remarkably well, especially the star of the film, Dreama Walker.  Her portrayal as the feisty and amusing LA reporter was not only fun to watch, but touching as well.  There was much more to her character besides getting a career changing front page story.  She cared about the victims, and realized they all had someone that loved them.  It was interesting to see a reporter care from the start, instead of halfway through their investigation where they “grow a heart.”  The scene stealer was the man behind the eerie voice of “The Grim Sleeper.”  I prefer not to say who played the role of the terrorizing killer.  I know you can just look it up like I did before watching the film, but I recommend that you go in blindly if you haven’t heard anything about this story before.

Director Stanley T. Brooks did such an incredible job of keeping you locked in and dying to know “who done it,”  that I would hate to spoil that reveal for you now.  I will say that when you finally see “the sleeper” in the end shot, it is one of the most haunting faces that is almost impossible to forget.

There are a lot of elements to this film that will seem familiar to past Lifetime dramas; rape, murder, mystery, strong woman.  But after a repetitive streak of the usual story-line, “The Grim Sleeper” stands out among the rest with actually succeeding in getting the audience to care and look beyond a crazy killer.  We are reminded that every life matters, and if there is anything we can do to prevent actions like these from happening again, we should take them.  An example of that action in this film was notifying the press.  If you make enough “noise” somebody is bound to listen.

The film wasn’t perfect in every aspect.  There are some forced relationships and a few subpar supporting actors, but it doesn’t matter.  “The Grim Sleeper” achieves its goal as an entertaining and intriguing film that sends a valuable message.

“The Grim Sleeper” premieres Saturday, March 15 at 8pm ET/PT.

Originally posted on RedCarpetCrash.com

Movie Review: “The Past” Is A Storytelling Masterpiece

Academy Award winner Asghar Farhadi once again showcases his unpredictable and enticing storytelling skills in his latest drama thriller.

Four years ago Ahmed (Ali Mosaffa) left his French wife, Marie (Bérénice Bejo), and her two daughters from a previous marriage, to return to his homeland, Iran.   Now he has come back to France to finalize his divorce so his wife can remarry.  Upon his arrival, he comes to find out that Marie’s oldest daughter, Lucie (Pauline Burlet), can not stand the future husband to be, who also has his own son.  As Ahmed begins to discover the reasoning behind Lucie’s hate, secrets of how Marie and her fiancée got together start to unfold; leading to one shocking truth after another.

I think it’s best to not go into too much detail of the events that occur in this film.  The beauty and brilliance of the bilingual movie, spoken in both French and Persian, is how you are not able to figure out what will happen next.  In fact, you will probably assume that you have the entire story pegged out already.  It is definitely laid out that way in the beginning.  But like his format in A Separation, Farhadi makes the audience suspect multiple scenarios while keeping them on the edge of their seats.

The Past features spellbinding performances by the entire cast, with a stand-out performance by Bérénice Bejo.  Famously known for her role in The Artist, Academy Award nominee Bejo is even more captivating with sound.  Alongside her remarkable acting is the exceptional direction.  Farhadi not only writes a scintillating, detailed script without heavy dialogue, he also shoots his scenes in the most creative, yet subtle technique.

For anyone who enjoyed A Separation, I guarantee you will not be disappointed with The Past.  Following the same style and tone, this film draws you in and keeps you guessing till the very end.  The magnificent final shot will leave audiences experiencing various emotions when the last character that you would expect, sheds a tear.

Rated PG-13 for mature, thematic material and brief strong language.

The Past hits theaters on January 17.

The Past Trailer HD

Originally posted on RedCarpetCrash.com