Rss

  • linkedin

Archives for : Mystery

Movie Review: “Candyman” is a Terrifying Treat

Even as I write this review, I am a little nervous to type “Candyman”. After seeing the new film, that name instills the same fear I felt after watching the original 1992 movie.

In case you’re new to the franchise, the original film follows Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), a grad student researching urban legends who learns of the mysterious murders that happened at the Cabrini-Green housing projects. Residents suspect the killer is the notorious Candyman (Tony Todd). He was born in the late 1800s and was the son of a slave. He grew up to be a well-known artist that wealthy white people sought out for their portraits. But when he fell in love with the daughter of one his upper-class customers, her father sent a lynch mob after him. They cut off his right hand, smeared him with honeycomb, let the bees sting him to death, and burned his body on the land that the Cabrini-Green neighborhood was eventually built. When a person says his name 5 times to a mirror, bees trickle in and a few candies drop before he appears and kills you with the hook attached to his bloody arm.

Fast forward to 2019 and we’re in the middle of a dinner party where couple, Anthony and Brianna (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris) are learning about Candyman for the first time. Brianna is an art gallery director and her partner, Anthony is an aspiring artist whose suddenly fixated with Candyman. He paints the images of the most recent Candyman symbol, a misunderstood resident named Sherman Fields (Michael Hargrove), who was mistakenly accused of putting razorblades in Halloween candy. Eventually Anthony’s disturbing artwork inspires others to start uttering the word “Candyman” into a mirror 5 times, and that’s when the bodies begin to pile.

Director Nia DaCosta (Little Woods),  Producer/Co-Writer Jordan Peele (Get Out), and Co-Writer Win Rosenfeld had a keen vision for this continuation of the legendary horror. Lots of praise goes into the storytelling. Instead of flashbacks of the original film, they use silhouettes of puppet paper cut-outs to explain the history. The images are unique and engaging. They also don’t take an extremely graphic route. Although blood is shed, there’s more reaction to the gore than action. One of my favorite scenes is the death shown through an apartment window as the camera zooms out. It’s subtle, but effective bloody art.

Abdul-Mateen II, Parris, and Coleman Domingo (plays William Burke) shine as standouts with their harrowing performances. But the movie does suffer from a few amateur, secondary characters. Luckily, they are not on screen for very long.

“Candyman” (2021) does a wonderful job connecting to the first film. There’s still the same essence of the original, with a modern and more stylistic vision complimented by a stellar score. But perhaps, the most unforgettable addition to this sequel is how DaCosta, Peele, and Rosenfeld turned Candyman into a metaphor for the trauma that has haunted the black community for years. To repeat a powerful quote from the film, “Candyman’s how we deal with the fact that these things happened. That they’re still happening!” Making Candyman a frightening but significant figure.

Audiences will be buzzing about “Candyman” (2021).  It’s a fun and refreshing spin on the iconic cult classic.

Rating: A-

Share

Movie Review: “The Night House” Gives Thrills & Chills


I’ll admit, I scare easily. Films that aren’t even scary (Boo! A Madea Halloween) make me jump. But when I watch a truly, good horror film, I am on the edge of my seat, holding my breath during the entirety of the film. The only breather breaks are my screams. In David Bruckner’s new horror, “The Night House”, I screamed three times. 

After her husband, Owen’s (Evan Jonigkeit) unexpected suicide, Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left alone in their large lake house, and suddenly haunted by a mysterious spirit. Beth heads down a dangerous rabbit hole as this leads her to digging into her husband’s dark secrets. 

What Bruckner captures here is a very real and painful portrayal grief and depression. It’s not an easy subject matter to tackle, but it’s handled so well here. From Beth’s drinking, re-watching old videos of her husband, to how she interacts with her colleagues and people around her. Owen’s death has consumed Beth and is affecting her daily life and personal relationships. 

If you saw Hall in the underrated drama, “Christine”, you already know how well she can portray a woman on the edge struggling with depression. So, it comes as no surprise that Hall’s performance as a grief-stricken widow is incredibly powerful. Your heart absolutely breaks for Beth as she asks the questions one would probably have if their husband chose to end their life: Why? Was he that unhappy? How was he so good at hiding it? Did I really know him at all? Was he a monster and I had no idea? These are just a few of the questions the film will answer. 

“The Night House” is shot and edited beautifully. Paired with Kathrin Eder’s unsettling production design and the eerie music by Ben Lovett, the film makes for an engaging and terrifying experience. 

Where the film falls short, is that it’s slightly over ambitious. Though questions are answered for the most part, there might be some confusion at the end, and there are a few small plot holes. But if you can piece together a narrative that satisfies you, then this may not be an issue. 

“The Night House” is a creative story with gripping visuals and captivating performances.  

Rating: B +

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-

Share

“Spiral” Interview with Darren Bousman & Josh Stolberg

A criminal mastermind entraps those who have done wrong in the justice system and unleashes a twisted, cruel form of righteousness. “Spiral” is the terrifying new chapter from the book of “Saw” starring Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson. Susan Stephens sat down with Director Darren Bousman and Co-Writer Josh Stolberg to discuss the mystery horror.

“Spiral” is open in theaters now!

Share

Interview: Director Vaughn Stein talks “Every Breath You Take”

“Every Breath You Take is a searing psychological thriller about a psychiatrist (Casey Affleck), whose career is thrown into jeopardy when his patient takes her own life. When he invites his patient’s surviving brother (Sam Claflin) into his home to meet his wife (Michelle Monaghan) and daughter, his family life is suddenly torn apart. “

I sat down with director Vaughn Stein to discuss the importance of conveying grief, how he himself handles tragedies, the appeal of psychological thrillers and more. Listen to the full interview below!

“Every Breath You Take” opens in select theaters & premium VOD April 2, 2021.

Director Vaughn Stein
“Every Breath You Take” Interview with Director Vaughn Stein
Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

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!

Share