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Archives for : Susan Kamyab

Top 10 Best Films of 2018

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10. Searching

I admit, the trailer makes this film seem like a well produced Lifetime movie. But if you actually watched it, you’ll uncover a surprisingly great mystery, thriller! The beginning is essentially a live-action adaptation of the first 5 minutes of Up. The story is told through a computer screen bouncing around different platforms, from Facebook to FaceTime. Emotions are conveyed from all kinds of computer movements, even a conflicted mouse cursor.  Searching is so brilliantly executed and is furthered by its well-rounded cast.

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9. Crazy Rich Asians

Who knew that when Warner Bros acquired Crazy Rich Asians they were producing one of the most talked about films of the year! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the romantic comedies are sadly dying. Rarely are any seeing the light of the big screen, but films like last year’s The Big Sick and Crazy Rich Asians are reviving the genre. And, thank God for it. Something as simple as taking a formula we’ve already seen, but through the eyes of a different culture makes the story fresh. And it doesn’t hurt that we’re getting to see elaborate, colorful parties and the most beautiful wedding scene. Crazy Rich Asians is both visually and emotionally captivating.‬

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8. Beautiful Boy

Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet excellently play real life father/son, David and Nic Sheff. Their relationship starts off as an admirable one. They are close and truly care for each other. Which is why it is so hard to watch Nic’s addiction to crystal meth. Never have I seen and felt the pain parents must feel when all they want and try to do is help their child in need. But ultimately, they are enabling their problem. It’s gut-wrenching when you have to come to terms with the fact that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. Carell does a fine job, but it’s Chalamet who gives his best performance yet.  Quite possibly an Oscar worthy one?

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7. Tully

Tully has stayed with me ever since I watched it back in May. It wasn’t what I expected at all and you have to power through a very uncomfortable scene. But once you get to the end, it will all be worth it. Charlize Theron plays a mother of 3 who hires a night nanny (MacKenzie Davis). In case you don’t know what that is; it’s a baby sister that comes to your house in the middle of the night and allows you to sleep while she watches your baby until the morning. I’d prefer to not reveal anymore about the film, but just know it’s a good one. Tully will leave you appreciating all the efforts moms go through everyday, and understanding why any bit of help can go a long way.

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6. BlacKkKlansman

So, I did not know this actually happened! Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington) was an African American police officer, who successfully managed to infiltrate a local Ku Klux Klan branch with the help of a Jewish surrogate (Adam Driver) who eventually became the group’s leader. It’s an incredible and mind blowing story that is unfortunately relevant to today. Just wait for that ending. Though the film tackles a serious subject, they sprinkle a lot of laughs along the way. Not only is BlacKkKlansman a good movie, it truly is a film EVERYONE should see.

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5. Avengers: Infinity War

Back in 2012 when the first Avengers film came out, I was blown away by the merging of all these superheroes in one movie. It was the greatest thing ever, because Marvel knew how to develop characters and make us care about each of the superheroes on screen; while also hooking us into an entertaining story-line. Since then, they have continued to keep us enthralled with stand alone Avenger films and sequels. Finally leading up to what we’ve all been waiting for, the show down with Thanos! With even more characters to follow, Marvel handled Infinity War perfectly. Giving our heroes and villains the right balance of screen time, and also providing audiences with an original premise. Our villain doesn’t want to destroy the world, he actually wants to save it. Unfortunately, his plan requires wiping out half of everyone on earth. Infinity War is filled with emotion, thrilling action, and a haunting cliff-hanger.

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4. Love, Simon

Remember that talk about reviving romantic comedies?  Well, Love, Simon is also another great example of just that. It’s a fun and surprisingly deep film that sets a new standard for the teen romantic comedy genre, while also breaking new ground in its portrayal of coming out. A film like this one is long overdue, but better late than never.   The movie is elevated by its strong cast and beautifully written script. From High School crushes to fears of being your true self,  Love, Simon is relatable on so many levels. And prepare for an inspiring monologue by Jennifer Garner that will move you to tears.

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3. Green Book

This true story will warm everyone’s heart! I cried at the end because I was so happy over what I had just seen. Green Book follows an Italian-American bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) whose been hired to chauffeur and protect and African-American classical pianist (Mahershala Ali) on a tour through the deep South in the 1960s. Mortensen’s performance is my favorite of the year. He and Ali are a dynamic duo, sharing wonderful on-screen chemistry. Though this is a film about it’s characters, there is still an engaging story about a beautiful friendship.

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2. Black Panther

Seeing Black Panther for the first time this past February was a true cinematic experience. When we first met Chadwick Boseman’s character, T’Challa, in the Civil War, he was seeking revenge for his father’s death. In Black Panther, T’Challa returns as the new king of the secretive and technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda.  But the mysterious Erik Killmonger (superbly played by Michael B. Jordan),threatens Wakanda when he challenges T’Challa’s title as King. Black Panther remains intriguing from start to finish with its heart-pounding action sequences and its socially relevant, complex narrative. It explores issues of power and privilege, as Wakanda is torn about whether or not they should share its technological advances and risk having it fall into the wrong hands.

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1. A Quiet Place

I rarely ever call movies “perfect”. But this is a perfect film in the sense that I wouldn’t change a thing about it. John Krasniski’s passion project, in which he directed, wrote and starred in, is about a family’s fight for survival from alien-like monsters with a keen sense of hearing. Such a simple premise is crafted into an original, genuinely horrifying thriller. The film forces audiences to BE SILENT, as this is an excruciatingly quiet movie. It will essentially have you holding your breath until the very end. You are left thinking about A Quiet Place long after the film is over.

The Rest of the Films that Deserve Recognition:

11. A Star is Born
12. Instant Family
13. Boy Erased
14. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
15. The Oath
16. Isle of Dogs
17. Eighth Grade
18. Deadpool 2
19. Aquaman
20. Creed 2

Top 5 Worst Films of 2018

5. The Nun- So much potential, but falls so flat.

4. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom- How dare you put us through this movie and the death of that Brachiosaurus!

3. Pacific Rim: Uprising- I had forgotten I watched this movie.  It’s too bad I couldn’t keep it that way.

2. Venom- Turns out to be a comedy with no laughs.

1. The 15:17 to Paris- WTF happened here!?

Trevor’s Top 10

Honorable Mention: Creed 2
10. Beautiful Boy
9. Sicario: Day of the Dead
8. BlacKkKlansman
7. Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse
6. Avengers: Infinity War
5. A Quiet Place
4. Tully
3. Boy Erased
2. Black Panther
1. Green Book

Interview: Director Sean Anders talks “Instant Family”

Sean Anders’ new film “Instant Family” will be opening this weekend and he is making the rounds to promote it.  The film is based on his on experience of adopting 3 kids.  Check out my interview Anders as we discuss when it’s the right time to have kids, the best part of being a parent and more!

“Instant Family” opens in theaters November 16.

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Movie Review: “Wildlife” is a Frustrating Slow Burn

Sometimes there’s only so much a strong cast can do to make up for a story that drags. Wildlife creates some smoke but hardly ignites any flames.

Wildlife is based on the Richard Ford novel and directed by actor Paul Dano. Set in 1960s’ Montana, a young boy, Joe Brinson (Ed Oxenbould), quietly observes the gradual dissolution of his parent’s marriage. His father, Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal), is an uncompromising and principled man of meager means, but Joe has strong admiration for his dad. His mother, Jeanette (Carey Mulligan), is more practical and driven. She is a conventional stay at home wife and mother. When Jerry loses his job and sees no other option than to sign up to fight wild fires, the dangerous undertaking separates him from his family for weeks at a time. Jeanette stays home and cuts as many corners as possible until she feels she has no other choice but to embark on an affair with her boss (Bill Camp).

I’m not going to lie, I think I made this film sound more interesting than it was from that previous paragraph. With the exception of the very beginning and the very end, the rest of the film is a whole lot of nothing. So much so that it’s hard to stay interested. Once Gyllenhaal’s character leaves his family, we are stuck in a story that feels like it will never end.

Though Mulligan’s performance in Wildlife is fantastic, her character is insufferable. There are times when you truly feel for her as a lonely mother trying to provide for her child, but it’s tough to stand by her during her affair and what she allows her son to witness. Oxenbould does a fine job as the naive, yet wide-eyed son and Gyllenhaal might have stood out more, if he was actually in the film for longer than 10 minutes. However, he creates a spark toward the end of the movie that might give audiences the jolt they need to get back into this narrative.

Though it may not seem like this, I don’t think that Wildlife is a “bad movie”.  It’s not.  It’s just not anything special.  The story-line feels deflated and it is extremely dragged out.  All the performances are solid, but that’s not enough to bring life into this film.

Rating: 2.5/5

Wildlife is in theaters now.

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Interview: Rupert Everett talks “The Happy Prince”

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Rupert Everett has/had roles in a number of acclaimed television series, he is a busy voice actor and an occasional collaborator with Madonna, and he is the voice of Prince Charming in the Shrek films.  And now we got a chance to sit down with Rupert to discuss his latest project, a classic Shakespearian tragedy, the story of the end of Oscar Wilde, “The Happy Prince”.  Check out the interview below!

“The Happy Prince” is in theaters now!

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Interview: Ike Barinholtz talks “The Oath”

Ike Barinholtz, one of the Mad Minds from MAD TV, has a remarkable resume. He has credits for every creative role in television production and he has worked as a voice actor, a romantic interest, comic relief, and as a strong action character (Suicide Squad, anyone?). Currently he is making the rounds to promote his latest project: “The Oath”, a dark political comedy. (He is the producer, writer, director, and lead character.)  I sat down with Barinholtz and we discussed the sensitive topic of politics, we play a rapid fire question game, and there might be an Obama & Trump impression in there.

“The Oath” hits theaters October 12.

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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)

Interview: Josh & Jonathan Baker talk “Kin”

The indie sci-fi, drama “Kin” follows  a recently released ex-con (Jack Reynor), and his adopted teenage brother (Miles Truitt) as they are forced to go on the run from vengeful criminals.  Luckily they are armed with a powerful weapon of mysterious origin as their only protection.

I sat down with the directors of the film, Josh and Jonathan Baker, to discuss the movie.  We talked about characters, being “what makes a real man”, what they’ve taught each other, and more!

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Interview: Ben Dickey talks “Blaze”

You shouldn’t count Blaze Foley among the legendary musicians who never made it to the top. He is also properly at home in the more exclusive list of legendary musicians who died before their time. A talented songwriter and musician, Foley was popular among his friends and respected by other musicians who have recorded a number of his songs on award-winning albums of their own. Ethan Hawke has produced, written and directed a new film, starring Ben Dickey, that tells the story of Blaze Foley. Ben Dickey visited the ICTN studios and talked with me about life, music and Blaze Foley.

“Blaze” hits theaters August 24.

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Movie Review: “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is a Musical Delight

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The whole Mamma Mia gang is back! But this time we’re looking back to see how it all started.

Ten years ago the first “Mamma Mia!” introduced us to Donna (Meryl Streep) and her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). At the time, Sophie was engaged to her then fiancée Sky (Dominic Cooper), and wanted to know her father was so that he could attend the wedding. Given that there were three possible candidates, she invited all three of her mother’s past lovers, Sam, Harry, and Bill (Pierce Brosnon, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgard) to her wedding. After meeting the three men, they fall in love with Sophie and they all commit to being her father.

Now in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” Sophie is pregnant and this sparks a stroll down memory lane. Flashbacks allow us to see when her mother met her fathers, and how it eventually led to her birth. Right after college, young Donna (Lily James) decides to take a European trip. Along the way she runs into a much younger Harry (Hugh Skinner), Bill (Josh Dylan), and Sam (Jeremy Irvine). All three newcomers do a fantastic job and leave lasting impressions.

But it’s Lily James who steals the show with her striking beauty and incredible voice. Who knew this girl could sing!? James’ energy and charisma leaps off the screen. However, she’s not the only one with popping vocals. Amanda Seyfried continues to sing with voice of a Disney Princess, and her on screen Grandma played by the one and only, Cher, brings down the whole house with her powerful vocals.

The only thing more stunning than the music was the setting in Greece. The crystal blue waters and landscape is eye candy to even someone who doesn’t care about what else is going on.

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is a film that moves quickly. Since we are given brief moments in about a song length capacity with each man Donna meets, the film never lags. Although, I would not have minded seeing a longer storyline between young Donna and Sam. James’ and Irvine’s romantic chemistry makes us realize why the two characters immediately fall for each other again in the first film.

Though the plot is corny and the random bursts into song can be cheesy at times, it just doesn’t matter. Take “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” for what it is; and that’s a fun, toe-tapping musical that everyone can enjoy.

Rating: 3.5/5

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” opens in theaters July 20.

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