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Archives for : Susan Kamyab Stephens

Movie Review: “Possessor: Uncut” & “On the Rocks”

This week I review the Neon’s new sci-fi thriller, “Possessor: Uncut” and Sofia Coppola’s new comedy, “On the Rocks”. Both entertaining films, but one satisfies more than the other. Watch the review below to find out which movie you should see this weekend.

“Possessor: Uncut” is playing in select theaters now.

“On the Rocks” is playing in select theaters now and will be available on Apple-TV October 23.

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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: “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is Not Going to be Everyone’s Jam

It’s been over 30 years since we first met Bill Preston (Alex Winters) and Ted Logan (Keanu Reeves). In their first adventure, they had to travel back in time to pass a history class. In their second trip, it was a mission to win the battle of the bands. Now they are back to fulfill the prophecy of saving the universe with their rock and roll in “Bill & Ted Face the Music”. Too bad their band, the Wyld Stallions, is pretty much washed up and haven’t made a good song in years.

Bill and Ted are now middle-aged men still married to their wives, Joanna and Elizabeth (now played by Erin Hayes and Jayma Mays), and fathers to two teenage girls, Thea and Billie (Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine). The two still have hearts of gold, but are more clueless than ever. It seems as though their daughters take after their fathers.

As the plot begins, Bill and Ted are assigned by Kelly (Kristen Schaal), daughter of George Carlin’s time-traveling tour guide, to write a song that will save the world from temporal collapse. Only problem; they only have 75 minutes to do it. To make the deadline, the two dudes set out to travel in time to find versions of themselves that have already written the song so they can plagiarize their own work. Meanwhile, their daughters embark on a parallel quest to put together the best back-up band ever, which includes past icons like Jimi Hendrix (DazMann Still) and Kid Cudi, as himself.

It pains me to say I was not the biggest fan of this film. And yes, I enjoyed the first two movies. Don’t get me wrong. The entire cast does a great job with the material they are given; and it is so wonderful to see so many of the original cast back together again, especially, William Sadler as Death. Even a new addition, like Anthony Carrigan as Dennis Caleb McCoy had hilarious one-liners.  The issue here is the script.

The premise is solid and simple, which with I have no problem. It’s the dialogue and in-between that is so ridiculous. Even though the film is around the same runtime as its predecessors, it feels rushed due to the multiple characters and chaos. The film is just all over the place.

By the time the movie finally finds its rhythm, it’s basically over. There’s an over-the-top ending that has a decent but surface-level message about how we should all try to be more excellent to each other, but it’s not worth the hour and 20 minutes of disarray it took to get there.

Unfortunately, “Bill & Ted Face the Music” didn’t capture the same whimsy and charm we’ve seen before. I’ll admit, even if I knew the film was bad I’d still want to see these guys finish out their journey. So that being said, if you’re a newbie to the franchise, I suggest you skip this one. But, if you are a fan of the original films you may be too curious not to see if, and how they finally save the world.

Rating: 2/5

“Bill & Ted Face the Music” is available On Demand and in Select Theaters.

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Movie Review: “Chemical Hearts”, “Words on Bathroom Walls”, & “You Cannot Kill David Arquette”

Here are reviews of three new films, available for streaming or a night out at our newly reopened movie theaters. Check out my thoughts on two teen dramas, “Chemical Hearts” and “Words on Bathroom Walls,” and the new documentary, “You Cannot Kill David Arquette.”

“Chemical Hearts” is available to stream on Amazon Prime

“Words on Bathroom Walls” is playing at select theaters.

“You Cannot Kill David Arquette” is available On Demand August 28.

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2nd Annual African American Film Critics Association Award Winners

THE AFRICAN AMERICAN FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION (AAFCA) FETED TELEVISION’S BEST OF THE YEAR AT THE 2ND ANNUAL AAFCA TV HONORS ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 22

John Legend, Viola Davis, Sterling K. Brown, Mindy Kaling, Rashida Jones, Josh Gad,
 Leslie Odom, Jr. and more gathered virtually to celebrate

The full awards ceremony will be available to the public for viewing at 3:00pm Pacific Time today on the  AAFCA YouTube Channel


Photos of winners and honorees are available at the AAFCA TV Honors web site August 22nd, 2020 – The African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) handed out 11 awards, two honorary awards, and the inaugural AAFCA ADCOLOR Breakout Creative of the Year award today to celebrate the excellence, innovation and diversity in television this year.  In addition to celebrity presenters such as Octavia SpencerRashida Jones and William Jackson Harper, the virtual awards ceremony also celebrated the extraordinary work of our first responders, government leaders, firefighters, reporters, and others from around the country by featuring these local heroes as presenters during the event. A portion of the proceeds from the event were donated to the National Association of Black Journalists’ Covid-19 Relief Fund. The event, hosted by actress/comedian Aida Rodriguez, was sponsored by Morgan Stanley.

2nd ANNUAL AAFCA TV HONORS AWARD RECIPIENTS & PRESENTERS:

Best Animated Series: “Central Park” (Apple TV+)
Creator and star Josh Gad and cast member Leslie Odom, Jr. accepted the award, presented to them by Oscar® winning filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry (“Hair Love”) and the Honorable Hank Johnson, Congressman for Georgia’s 4th District.

Best Young Adult Series: “Never Have I Ever” (Netflix)
Co-Creators and Executive Producers Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher were joined by series star, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan to accept the award, presented to them by young actor Niles Fitch (“This is Us”) and Cherelle Barsdale, a frontline Nurse from the University of Michigan Medical Center.

Best Short Form: “I Promise” (Quibi)
Executive Producer, Jamal Henderson accepted the award, which is the inaugural award for short form at the AAFCA TV Honors, presented by actor Derek Luke and Dr. Christopher Emdin, Associate Professor of Science Education at the Teachers College at Columbia University.

AAFCA ADCOLOR Breakout Creative of the Year: Janet Mock, “Pose” & “Hollywood” (Netflix)
Awarded to a creative of color whose career, in its early stages, demonstrates a vision and commitment to diverse and inclusive stories that reset and disrupt the industry across multiple platforms. Presented to writer/director/producer, Janet Mock by “Pose” stars MJ RodriquezHallie Sahar, and Indya Moore.

Best Docuseries: “Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children” (HBO) and “The Last Dance” (ESPN Films/Netflix)
The Executive Producers of “Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children,” John LegendMike JacksonTy StikloriusMaro Chermayeff, and Sam Pollard accepted the award, presented to them by “P-Valley” stars Brandee Evans and Nicco Annan and Chicago Fire Lieutenant Quentin Curtis who is also the founder and president of the Black Fire Brigade. “The Last Dance” team was unable to attend and AAFCA accepted the honor on their behalf.

Best TV Movie: “The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel” (Lifetime)
Music Director Donald Lawrence, Director Christine Swanson and Co-Executive Producer Holly Carter accepted the award, presented by Simone Missick, the star of CBS’ “All Rise,” the Emmy® nominated star of NBC’s “The Good Place” William Jackson Harper and Reverend Dr. Jamal H. Bryant from the New Birth Church in Atlanta, GA.

Breakthrough Performers: Jeremy Pope / Laura Harrier “Hollywood” (Netflix)
Jeremy Pope and Laura Harrier accepted the award, presented to them by “Entertainment Tonight” host Kevin Frazier and EMT professional Chief Tanya Rivers.

Best Male Performance: Sterling K. Brown “This is Us” (NBC)
This marks the second year in a row that Sterling K. Brown, the Emmy® winning star of “This is Us” has won the Best Actor award at the AAFCA TV Honors. Brown is currently nominated for two Emmys® – Best Actor in a Drama Series for “This is Us” and Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,”- making Emmy history as the first Black lead/supporting actor to be nominated in both drama and comedy categories.  Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph (“Ray Donovan”) and Dr. Ala Stanford of Stanford Pediatric Surgery, who founded the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium in Philadelphia, PA., presented the award.

Best TV Comedy: “Insecure” (HBO)
Showrunner Prentice Penny accepted the honor which was presented by actress Tichina Arnold (star of CBS’ “The Neighborhood”) and LAPD Deputy Police Chief Regina A. Scott.

Best TV Drama: “For Life” (ABC)
Creator Hank Steinberg and series star Nicholas Pinnock accepted the honor, presented by “Queen Sugar” stars Tina Lifford and Omar J. Dorsey and WeDat’s Chicken and Shrimp Restaurant Founder and Owner Greg Tillery of New Orleans, who has been on the front lines of Covid-19 donating food to frontline workers and others in need.

Inclusion Award: MACRO Television Studios
Marta Fernandez, the President of MACRO Television Studios accepted the award which recognizes a network or production entity that demonstrates a powerful commitment to diversity and inclusion. AAFCA Founder and President Gil Robertson and award-winning KNBC Journalist Beverly White presented the award.

Best Actress: Viola Davis, “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)
Viola Davis was presented the award by fellow Oscar® winner Octavia Spencer and Mayor of Montgomery, AL Steven Reed.

TV Icon Award: Kenya Barris
Kenya Barris, creator of ABC’s “Black-ish” and “#blackAF” on Netflix, accepted this honor which recognizes a veteran of television who has forged a path in greatness and demonstrates a commitment to telling diverse stories. The honor was presented by Rashida Jones.

ABOUT AAFCA
Established in 2003, AAFCA is the premier body of Black film critics in the world, actively reviewing film and television, with a particular emphasis on entertainment highlighting the Black experience in the US and throughout the rest of the African Diaspora. For more information on AAFCA and its programs visit http://AAFCA.com.

Movie Review: “The Kissing Booth 2”

This week I review Netflix’s ne teen, romantic comedy, “The Kissing Booth 2”! In this sequel to the 2018 film, “The Kissing Booth”, high school senior Elle (Joey King) juggles a long distance relationship, college applications, and a new crush.

“The Kissing Booth 2” is currently available on Netflix.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 3.75/5

“The Rental” is available On Demand July 24.

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Interview: Gina Prince-Bythewood & KiKi Layne talk “The Old Guard”

Netflix has a new film release: “The Old Guard”, a film adaption of a popular graphic novel. The film tells the story of a covert team of immortal mercenaries who are suddenly exposed and must now fight to keep their identity a secret just as an unexpected new member is discovered. I got a chance to participate in a virtual interview with Kiki Layne (actress) and Gina Prince-Bythewood (director). Check out the full interview below!

“The Old Guard” is available on Netflix now!

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Movie Review: “The Sunlit Night” Fails to Shine

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Eirik Evjen

Even Jenny Slate’s quirk and charm can’t help this mess of a movie.

Based on the novel by Rebecca Dinerstein, “The Sunlit Night” follows Frances (Slate), a struggling painter from New York City.  After her boyfriend breaks up with her, she finds out her sister is engaged and her parents are separating. Feeling lost and hopeless, she wants to leave home immediately; and gets an opportunity to paint a barn in Norway in a town where apparently the sun never sets.

Up until this point of the film, you’ve been treated to a funny and witty comedy with a lot of potential. Unfortunately once Frances arrives to Norway, all that potential goes out the window. The audience is left to endure a slow “self-discovery” that is all over the place.

Once Frances is acquainted with her new employer, she meets a few new people. She happens to run into Yasha (Alex Sharp), a Russian-American baker who has come to Norway to give his father a proper Viking funeral. That’s when the film suddenly turns into a “romantic comedy”. I use that term very loosely. In the quiet and rare moments spent between Frances and Yasha, there is no chemistry. There’s not even a spark. This relationship is incredibly forced and doesn’t make much sense. The reasons for why the two even like each other are vague.

Jenny Slate and Alex Sharp star in “The Sunlit Night”

The random, forced comedy of a Viking tour guide (Zach Galifinakis) and Yasha’s cold, absentee mother (Gillian Anderson) didn’t help the story either.

Slate does a fantastic job with the material she is given and the scenery is beautiful, but the “The Sunlit Night” fails to shine. It’s a dim, dull tale. Director David Wnendt seemed to have a great starting point, but didn’t know where to go from there. I still don’t understand the point of the movie, or how the characters evolved by the end of the film. But honestly, I didn’t care enough about any of them.

Rating: 1.5/5

“The Sunlit Night” will be available On Demand July 17.

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Movie Review: “Irresistible” and “Relic”

This week I’ve got reviews of a couple hot new films for you to see. “Irresistible” is a sharp satire of political campaigning from Jon Stewart, and “Relic”, tells a haunting story that will hit close to home for many viewers.

“Irresistible” is available On Demand June 26.

“Relic” is available On Demand July 10.

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