Review: ‘Sacramento’ (2024), starring Michael Angarano, Michael Cera, Kristen Stewart and Maya Erskine

June 13, 2024

by Carla Hay

Maya Erskine, Michael Angarano, Michael Cera and Kristen Stewart in “Sacramento” (Photo courtesy of Vertical)

“Sacramento” (2024)

Directed by Michael Angarano

Culture Representation: Taking place in California, the comedy/drama film “Sacramento” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Asians and Latin people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two estranged best friends have a tension-filled and sometimes wacky reunion when they go on a road trip together from Los Angeles to Sacramento. 

Culture Audience: “Sacramento” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and road trip “buddy” movies with good acting.

The comedy/drama “Sacramento” has an over-used formula of two people with opposite personalities who go on a trip together. However, the cast members’ believable performances capably balance the movie’s shifting tones of whimsical and weighty. “Sacramento” had its world premiere at the 2024 Tribeca Festival.

Directed by Michael Angarano, “Sacramento” (which was filmed on location in California, mostly in the cities of Los Angeles and Sacramento) is about life’s growing pains and the crossroads of decisions about maturity and lifestyles that are often experienced by people in their 30s. Christopher Nicholas Smith and Angarano co-wrote the screenplay for “Sacramento,” which begins by showing protagonist Rickey (played by Angarano) by himself in a wooded area near a creek. Standing on the opposite side of the creek is a stranger named Tallie (played by Maya Erskine), who shouts out this sexual flirtation to Rickey: “Nice dick!”

Rickey (a never-married bachelor with no children) is intrigued by this stranger and is immediately attracted to Tallie. He suggests that they spontaneously get in the creek and swim to each other. She agrees. He strips down to his underwear, but Tallie suddenly changes her mind and doesn’t go in the water.

It sets the tone of what types of personalities they have: Rickey is very impulsive, and many people in his life think he’s irresponsible. Tallie is less likely to be a risk taker and is more of a realist. Rickey decides to swim to Tallie. Over the rest of the trip, they flirt with each other and eventually hook up sexually. What happens to their relationship is eventually revealed in the movie.

One year later, in Los Angeles, Rickey’s on-again/off-again best friend Glenn Mullen (played by Michael Cera) is assembling a crib for his soon-to-be-born first child. Glenn gets frustrated because he can’t put together the crib in the way he thinks it’s supposed to be. Glenn becomes so angry, he shakes off one side of the crib in frustration. It soon becomes obvious in other scenes that Glenn is a neurotic control freak with an obsessive-compulsive attitude about cleanliness and sticking to routines.

Glenn’s supportive wife Rosie (played by Kristen Stewart) is laid-back and very understanding about Glenn’s quirks. Adding to Glenn’s overall frustration, he has recently been laid off from an unnamed job. Rosie, who works from home in an unnamed job, has offered to be the household breadwinner until Glenn finds another job. She suggests that Glenn can be a stay-at-home father for a year while she financially supports the family. Glenn somewhat reluctantly agrees.

Based on conversations in the movie, Rickey and Glenn have known each other since they were children. But as adults, Rickey has been in and out of Glenn’s life. Even though they both live in the Los Angeles area, it’s not unusual for Rickey to cut off contact with Glenn for several months and then make contact and expect them to resume ther friendship right where it left off. This flakiness has made Glenn feel very estranged from Rickey.

But there would be no “Sacramento” movie if Rickey and Glenn didn’t have a reunion. Rickey, who is chronically unemployed, is seen trying to lead a grief support group that used to be led by his deceased father. Rickey’s style of counseling is considered too aggressively judgmental, so he’s asked to leave the group.

Feeling lonely, Rickey suddenly shows up unannounced at the home of Glenn and Rosie. Glenn isn’t happy to see Rickey, but he’s polite enough to make time to talk to Rickey. Through a series of events, Rickey convinces Glenn to go on a road trip to Sacramento (which is about 386 miles northeast of Los Angeles) because Rickey says his father recently died, and his father’s dying wish was to have his ashes spread in Sacramento. This “dying wish” is a lie. Early on in the trip, when Glenn isn’t looking, Rickey spontaneously fills a tennis ball container with dirt and pretends that the container has the ashes of his dead father.

The rest of “Sacramento” has some clichés from many other road trip movies of this ilk: The two travelers frequently bicker with each other. They meet unusual characters along the way. Something goes wrong with the vehicle being used for the trip, such as running out of gas, a mechanical malfunction, or the vehicle gets stolen or towed. And as defenses come down, the two quarrelling people on the road trip show vulnerability to each other and reveal personal secrets.

What saves “Sacramento” from watered-down mediocrity is the fact that the main characters are written in such a specific way, they can’t be described as shallow or generic. Angarano and Cera have genuine chemistry with each other that makes it easy for viewers to believe and feel invested in this volatile friendship, which is at the heart of the film. “Sacramento” doesn’t do anything that’s really inventive (and some of the scenarios are a bit too much like a sitcom), but it’s a solid option for people who want to see an entertaining film that will make viewers laugh, cringe and possibly feel some sentimentality.

Vertical will release “Sacramento” in select U.S. cinemas on a date to be announced.

Review: ‘Candy Cane Lane’ (2023), starring Eddie Murphy

November 25, 2023

by Carla Hay

Thaddeus J. Mixson, Genneya Walton, Madison Thomas, Tracee Ellis Ross and Eddie Murphy in “Candy Cane Lane” (Photo by Claudette Barius/Amazon Content Services)

“Candy Cane Lane” (2023)

Directed by Reginald Hudlin

Culture Representation: Taking place in El Segundo, California, the fantasy/comedy film “Candy Cane Lane” features a racially diverse (African American and white) cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A married father, who’s desperate to win a local Christmas decorating contest, makes a misguided deal with a corrupt elf, who forces him to gather items that are mentioned in the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Culture Audience: “Candy Cane Lane” will appeal primarily to fans of star Eddie Murphy and anyone who will tolerate badly made Christmas movies.

Eddie Murphy, Jillian Bell and Madison Thomas in “Candy Cane Lane” (Photo by Claudette Barius/Amazon Content Services)

“Candy Cane Lane” is a rotten, weird, and unfunny mess. Add this junk to the list of Eddie Murphy misfires meant to be crowd pleasers but just turn off many people. There’s also a semi-accidental animal cruelty scene that’s played for laughs. Horrendous.

Directed by Reginald Hudlin and terribly written by Kelly Younger, “Candy Cane Lane” is the type of outdated and tacky movie that could’ve been released direct-to-video in the 1990s. But the fact that some big names were involved in making this movie (Murphy and Oscar-winning “A Beautiful Mind” producer Brian Grazer are two of the “Candy Cane Lane” producers), and because there was a large-enough budget for the movie’s over-reliance on visual effects, “Candy Cane Lane” looks misleadingly like a cute and glossy comedy.

About 15 minutes into the movie, viewers will find out there’s nothing cute about the onslaught of bad jokes, dull scenarios, annoying characters, and a tangled story that just seems to be making up things as it goes along. “Candy Cane Lane” goes off on so many different tangents, it’s like a bunch of half-baked ideas thrown into a trash heap that’s left to fester and then gets covered up with some shiny Christmas embellishments to attract viewers. There are some very talented comedic actors in “Candy Cane Lane,” but they often look somewhat embarrassed by the utter garbage that they have to say as their lines of dialogue.

“Candy Cane Lane” is the first feature film for screenwriter Younger, whose two previous screenwriting credits are for Disney+ shows: the 2021 TV special “Muppets Haunted Mansion” and the 2020 limited series “Muppets Now.” It just goes to show that hack screenwriters can get awful screenplays made into a movie if they know the right people who are willing to waste their money in making this type of humiliating dreck. “Candy Cane Lane” star Murphy is considered to be a great stand-up comedian, and he can excel in sketch comedy, but he has very questionable taste in choosing his family-oriented projects, which are usually low-quality (even with large budgets) and way beneath his talent.

“Candy Cane Lane” (which takes place in El Segundo, California, and was filmed in nearby Los Angeles) begins by telling audiences about a big annual Candy Cane Lane contest that takes place in El Segundo. It’s a Christmas decorating contest for the exteriors of people’s homes. The household that’s chosen as the one with the best decorations is the winner of the contest. A local cable TV station called Prism Cable gives coverage to the contest, which also has a Candy Cane Lane parade. Expect to see a lot of garish and ugly Christmas decorations in this movie that is supposedly “award-worthy” by Candy Cane Lane contest standards.

Chris Carver (played by Murphy) and his neighbor Bruce (played by Ken Marino) have been extremely competitive with each other because of this contest, which Bruce has won for the past four years. Bruce and Chris put up a front of being friendly with each other in public, but in reality, they see each other as fierce and bitter rivals. Winning this contest becomes an obsession for Chris, but then other things happen in the movie where the contest becomes almost like an afterthought, and “Candy Cane Lane” really goes off the rails into irredeemable stupidity. The character of Bruce is barely in the movie; his screen time is less than 10 minutes.

Chris and his wife Carol Carver (played by Tracee Ellis Ross) have three children. Their eldest child Joy Carver (played by Genneya Walton), who’s about 17 or 18 years old, is a star on her high school’s track team and is in the process of applying to universities. Middle child Nick (played by Thaddeus J. Mixson), who’s about 16 or 17 years old, is an aspiring musician who is in the school’s marching band. Youngest child Holly (played by Madison Thomas), who’s about 9 or 10 years old, doesn’t seem to have any interests. Holly is written as a walking cliché of what bad comedies do when the youngest kid in the family is a girl: She is only there to look cute, make some wisecracks, and help the adults when they need help.

Observant viewers will notice even before it’s pointed out later in the movie that all of the Carver kids have Christmas-themed names. Nick is obviously named after St. Nicholas. Even the name Carol has a Christmas association to it. These names are supposed to be an example of how Chris has a fixation on Christmas. Chris Carver’s name is somewhat similar to Kris Kringle (also known as Santa Claus), but the frequently whiny and petulant “Candy Cane Lane” protagonist Chris Carver has none of the appeal and charm of Kris Kringle.

Christmas isn’t the only thing that’s a fixation for Chris, who is somewhat fanatical about his loyalty to his college alma mater: the University of Southern California (USC). Chris (who is a sales executive) and Carol (who’s a manager at a peanut factory) met when they were students at USC. Chris expects all of his children to also go to USC.

However, Joy announces to her parents near the beginning of the movie that she doesn’t want to go to USC and would rather go to the University of Notre Dame, which is more than 2,100 miles away in South Bend, Indiana. Chris does not take this announcement very well and thinks that Joy will change her mind about going to USC. This conflict over Joy’s choice of universities is awkwardly brought up later in one of the movie’s many poorly written and sloppily staged scenes that fall flat with unamusing jokes.

Chris will soon have more to worry about than which university Joy chooses to attend. He’s laid off from his job at a company called Sydel Twain Industrial Plastics, where he was a longtime employee, but the company’s new owner is making staff cuts. Trevante Rhodes has a useless cameo as an executive named Tre, who coldly tells Chris in a conference room that Chris is no longer working at the company.

Chris gets a wrapped bathrobe package as a parting gift from the company. “I don’t want your fleece!” Chris says angrily. He quickly changes his mind and says maybe he does want the fleece after all. If you think this is hilarious, then feel free to waste time watching “Candy Cane Lane,” because this is what the movie is trying to pass off as “comedy.”

Chris eventually tells Carol that he lost his job, but he asks her not to tell their children because he doesn’t want the kids to worry, especially during the Christmas holiday season. Carol has her own job concerns: She really wants a promotion, which could happen soon if she impresses the right people.

It just so happens that the Candy Cane Lane contest has announced that this year’s grand prize is $100,000, which makes Chris even more determined to win, considering he doesn’t know when he will find his next job. With the contest approaching, Chris forces his kids to help him get new Christmas decorations. Chris and Holly find a “pop-up store,” which sells elaborate Christmas decorations. Chris and Holly go to this store multiple times in the movie and don’t seem to think it’s strange that they are always the only customers in the store and there’s only one person working there.

The first time they visit the store, Chris and Holly are in awe of all the unique decorations. They are greeted by a seemingly helpful employee named Pepper Mint (played by Jillian Bell), who convinces Chris to buy a massive artificial Christmas tree that is packaged in a container shaped like a giant sardine can. While ringing up the sale at the cash register, Pepper tells Chris that he doesn’t have to read the fine print on the long receipt before he signs the receipt. “Honestly, it’s like signing your life away,” she says with obvious sarcasm.

It turns out that Pepper is really a corrupt elf, who tricked Chris into signing his life away. Chris gets the spectacular tree that he wants: It magically unfolds into a giant 12-tier tree that can best be described as looking like stacks of Christmas cookie circular tin containers that are glued together. The tree is such a sensation, it makes the news on Prism Cable.

Prism Cable has two irritating news anchors: perpetually perky Kit (played by Danielle Pinnock) and constantly jaded Emerson (played Timothy Simons), who are an excruciatingly ridiculous on-air duo providing commentary throughout the story. Kit has decided that her irksome nephew Josh (played by D.C. Young Fly), who has an alter ego as a social media influencer named Sunny Roberts, deserves to be on TV, so she lets this dolt become an “on the scene” correspondent.

The Carver family tree’s lights are so far-reaching, the lights can be seen by an airplane in the sky. The problem is that by opening up this tree, Chris has triggered the unwitting “bargain” that he made with Pepper. Suddenly, things mentioned in the Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” start appearing randomly in the Carver family’s lives. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” famously mentions a partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds, five golden rings, six geese that lay eggs, seven swimming swans, eight milk maids, nine dancing ladies, 10 leaping lords, 11 pipers and 12 drummers.

They don’t appear in the order that they are mentioned in the song. Everything is haphazard, just like this entire movie. The seven swans are the first to appear, as they end up in the Carver family’s backyard swimming pool. Somehow in this very disjointed story, Chris finds out that in order to get out of this deal with Pepper, he must give her the golden rings. And so, there’s a “hunt” to track down these rings.

But that’s not where “Candy Cane Lane” gets really mindless. There’s a huge swath of the movie about Chris discovering that there are talking miniature figurines in Pepper’s shop. The figurines (which are all dressed as Christmas people from the 19th century) look, act and move like human beings. Pepper is keeping these figurines captive against their will.

Three of the figurines get the most dialogue out of all the other figurines. Pip (played by Nick Offerman) is a top-hat-wearing Brit who is the leader of the trio. Pip’s American sidekicks are sassy maiden Cordelia (played by Robin Thede) and goofy lamplighter Gary (played by Chris Redd), who occasionally bicker with each other. The other figurines that appear briefly in the movie to sing are a group of five carolers, played by the real-life singing group Pentatonix. The members of Pentatonix are Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Kirstin Maldonado, Matt Sallee and Kevin Olusola.

Pip, Cordelia and Gary are desperate to be “free from the torment of eternal Christmas” under Pepper’s captivity, according to Pip. This all leads to an “escape and chase” part of the story that further jumbles the already idiotic plot. It’s as if the filmmakers knew they didn’t have enough ideas for the part of the story about the Candy Cane Lane contest and decided to come up with some bad ideas as filler.

Although there’s a disclaimer at the end of “Candy Cane Lane” that says no animals were harmed during the making of the movie, there’s some obvious contempt for winged animals in this film, because depicting and seeing these animals get hurt are used as wretched jokes in the movie. For example, in a scene where Carol is giving some powerful executives a tour of her factory, she sees one of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” chickens hiding in a packing box. In a panic, while the executives aren’t looking, Carol takes the bird out of the box and cruelly throws it at some operating assembly line equipment, where she knows the bird will be immediately decapitated. This decapitation is not explicitly shown on screen, but the movie makes it clear that the bird has died because of Carol’s reckless actions, and the “Candy Cane Lane” filmmakers want viewers to laugh about it.

The acting performances in “Candy Cane Lane” range from mediocre to stiffly awful. Murphy is just going through the motions playing the “stressed-out dad” character that he has played in several other terrible comedies where he’s the family patriarch who gets involved in some problems. Bell’s depiction of the Pepper character is a weak parody of Christmas villains. Apparently, Bell thinks bugging out her eyes makes her look menacing. Pip, Cordelia and Gary can best be described as irritating as pesky flies.

David Alan Grier shows up as Santa Claus, in a cameo role that is written in a racially problematic way, considering that people call him “Black Santa” in the movie, and he speaks like a lower-class person. (“Candy Cane Lane” screenwriter Younger is white.) When a white Santa Claus is in a movie, no one in the movie says, “Oh, look, there’s White Santa.” A black man with the name Santa Claus in a movie doesn’t have to be identified as “Black Santa” by the movie’s characters, and he doesn’t have to get reduced to speaking like an angry black man from the ghetto. It’s very passive-aggressive racism from the “Candy Cane Lane” filmmakers.

And for the love of cinema, the filmmakers of these horrible “comedies” about African American families need to stop making every African American teenage boy in the family have integrity problems and/or portrayed as not being a good student in school. “Candy Cane Lane” has an unnecessary plot development about Nick being deceitful by hiding a secret from his family: He’s close to flunking in his math class, and his parents find out about this lie.

“Candy Cane Lane” is not the type of atrocious film with moments that overcome the lousy parts of the movie. “Candy Cane Lane” just gets worse and worse, until there’s no hope the story will ever recover. And just like many obnoxiously terrible movies, “Candy Cane Lane ” has end credits with a blooper reel that shows the cast members enjoyed making this trash. It’s probably more enjoyment than most viewers will get if they have the endurance to watch “Candy Cane Lane” until the very end.

Amazon MGM Studios released “Candy Cane Lane” in select U.S. cinemas on November 24, 2023. Prime Video will premiere the movie on December 1, 2023.

Review: ‘The Bell Keeper,’ starring Randy Couture, Kathleen Kenny, Reid Miller, Cathy Marks, Mike Manning, Bonnie Aarons, Daniel Dasent and Chaz Bono

November 3, 2023

by Carla Hay

Reid Miller and Kathleen Kenny in “The Bell Keeper” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)

“The Bell Keeper”

Directed by Colton Tran

Culture Representation: Taking place in Southern California, the horror film “The Bell Keeper” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with one African American and one Latina) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Several young people travel to a remote camping area that is believed to be the hunting ground for a serial killer who appears after a mysterious bell is rung in the woods. 

Culture Audience: “The Bell Keeper” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching terrible horror films.

Randy Couture in “The Bell Keeper” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)

“The Bell Keeper” is about terror that is unleashed after anyone rings a mysterious bell that’s in a remote wooded area. A serial killer keeps vigil over the bell. Someone needs to sound the alarm that “The Bell Keeper” is pure dreck in horror filmmaking.

Directed by Colton Tran, “The Bell Keeper” tries very hard to be the type of horror film that drops in sarcastic jokes to lighten the mood. The problem is that this comedy in “The Bell Keeper” is cringeworthy, outdated, and just not funny at all. Joe Davison and Luke Genton co-wrote the awful screenplay for “The Bell Keeper.”

As bad as the movie’s screenplay is, the acting in “The Bell Keeper” is worse and makes everything much harder to watch until the movie’s idiotic ending. There are some tacky horror movies that are entertaining to watch because they are very self-aware of their low-quality filmmaking and have fun with it. “The Bell Keeper” is not that type of tacky horror movie.

“The Bell Keeper” takes place in an unnamed city in Southern California. The movie was filmed on location in Los Angeles, Santa Clarita, and Ventura County. The opening scene takes place at night and shows two gory murders in a (cliché alert) secluded wooded area that has the fictional name Bell Lake in the movie.

The first person murdered in the movie is a man in his late 20s named Gary Beaumont (played by Nick Theurer), who is beheaded by a muscular man carrying an ax. After killing Gary, the murderer takes Gary’s driver’s license because the killer collects the driver’s licenses of his victims and hangs these licenses on a wall in his home. Gary’s girlfriend Nadine (played by Bailey Castle) is tied to a chair in a shed-like building. The murderer then kills Nadine in the same way that he killed Gary.

Viewers soon find out that this killer’s name is Hank (played by Randy Couture), who has become a local legend (not in a good way), because he’s suspected of being a serial killer but has remained elusive. Hank is believed to be a recluse who lives somewhere in the woods, where there is a mysterious bell located outdoors. According to stories in the area, every time someone rings the bell, Hank appears to hunt down and kill whoever rang the bell and any willing accomplices.

After Gary and Nadine are murdered, a group of five young people take a trip to Bell Lake to make a documentary about urban legends. They arrive by a recreational vehicle camper that’s co-owned by the two brothers who are on the trip. Younger brother Liam (played by Reid Miller), who’s in his late teens, has been living in the camper after secretly dropping out of college. Liam, who loves smoking marijuana, has been making money by selling marijuana that he is growing in the camper.

Older brother Matthew, nicknamed Matt (played by Mike Manning), is in his mid-20s and is the opposite of Liam in many ways. Matt is arrogant, vain, and knows what he wants to do with his life. Liam and Matt have had a tense relationship because Matt has a long history of bullying and insulting Liam.

Although Matt and Liam both own the camper, Matt has to ask Liam’s permission to use the camper for the trip because Liam is the one who’s been paying for the upkeep of the camper, which is actually a grungy mess. Liam is tasked with being the driver for this trip. Matt is the cinematographer for this documentary crew.

Also on this trip is Matt’s confident and friendly girlfriend Holly (played by Cathy Marks), who is directing this amateur documentary. Holly has been trying to mend the fractured relationship between Matt and Liam. She’s hoping that this documentary will be the definitive documentary that will solve the mystery of Bell Lake. (In other words, you just know if Holly finds the notorious bell, she’ll want to ring it on camera and film what happens next.)

The other two people on the trip are sound technician Gabriel (played by Capri-Antoine Vaillancourt) and documentary host Megan (played by Alexis B. Santiago), who are hooking up with each other in a “friends with benefits” situation. Gabriel and Megan are both dimwitted and shallow. Megan is a diva who has some of the worst jokes in the movie.

On their way to Bell Lake, the five travel companions stop at a gas station in this remote area. Matt and Gabriel go in the gas station’s convenience store and meet a buffoonish park ranger named Eugene Carlson (played by Chaz Bono) and a menacing-looking cashier named Jodie (played by Bonnie Aarons), who both warn Matt and Gabriel not to go to Deer Lake when they find out that’s where these travelers are going.

Jodie shouts, “It’s not a joke!” She grabs Gabriel and yells at him: “Hank is ruthless!” Aarons gives a very over-the-top performance in “The Bell Keeper.” Even though Aarons shares top billing for “The Bell Keeper,” she’s only in this one scene in the movie. Her screen time is less than five minutes, but her performance is so extreme, it will probably make viewers laugh instead of feel terrified.

Meanwhile, outside the gas station, a woman in her early 20s is handing out copies of a missing person flyer. Her name is Brittany (played by Kathleen Kenny), and she’s the younger sister of Gary, the man who was slaughtered in the beginning of the movie. At this point in the story, no one except for the killer knows that Gary is dead. Brittany hands a flyer to Liam, who says he hasn’t seen Gary.

Liam is instantly smitten with Brittany, who says she’s headed to Bell Lake too, because that was the last-known place where Gary was seen with Nadine. Liam nervously tries to flirt with Brittany to let her know that he might want to date her. However, Brittany tells Liam that he has no chance with her because she’s a lesbian. Liam still wants to get to know Brittany better, so he invites her to set up her tent close to where the RV camper will be parked at Bell Lake.

The rest of “The Bell Keeper” alternates between boring scenes of people talking and poorly staged action scenes. Of course, the bell is found and rung. Hank comes out of the shadows and goes on a killing spree. The chase scenes are sloppily edited and don’t look believable at all.

As shown in the movie’s trailer, ringing the bell also causes those responsible to turn into demon-possessed creatures. It’s supposed to make “The Bell Keeper” viewers wonder: “Who’s the real menace here?” But it just makes it easier to predict who will live and who will die.

There’s also a part of the movie involving a devil worshipper named Jackson (played by Daniel Dasent), in a terribly conceived part of the story that just makes the plot more of a jumbled mess. “The Bell Keeper” filmmakers made an effort to not have the answers to the movie’s mystery be too obvious. But in doing so, there’s a revelation that just creates more plot holes.

“The Bell Keeper” has some watchable moments when it comes to the friendship that develops between Liam and Brittany. But the acting in this movie is so relentlessly terrible, it takes you out of the intended horror, and it ruins the movie. The worst acting in “The Bell Keeper” is from Couture, who recites his lines as if he’s reading a dictionary that he has a hard time understanding. “The Bell Keeper” is simply one in a seemingly endless stream of trashy horror movies that aren’t very fun to watch and are quickly forgetton.

Screen Media Films released “The Bell Keeper” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on October 13, 2023. The movie will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 5, 2023.

Review: ‘On Fire’ (2023), starring Peter Facinelli, Fiona Dourif, Asher Angel and Lance Henriksen

October 7, 2023

by Carla Hay

Asher Angel, Peter Facinelli and Fiona Dourif in “On Fire” (Photo courtesy of Cineverse)

“On Fire” (2023)

Directed by Peter Facinelli and Nick Lyon

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional city of Colberg, California, the dramatic film “On Fire” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: During a forest fire that rages through more than one city, a building construction worker disregards warnings not to go into the fire, so that he can rescue his family members who are trapped. 

Culture Audience: “On Fire” will appeal primarily to people who like suspsenseful movies about forest fires.

Lance Henriksen and Peter Facinelli in “On Fire” (Photo courtesy of Cineverse)

“On Fire” is a mostly credible depiction of a family trapped in a forest fire. This adrenaline-packed drama, which has solid acting and serviceable visual effects, is a blend of predictable and unpredictable. Along with the family crisis are various attitudes about the correlation between climate change and forest fires.

Written and directed by Peter Facinelli and Nick Lyon, “On Fire” has a simple concept but it does fairly well in stretching out the concept into a briskly paced 80-minute movie. Lyon and Ron Peer co-wrote the “On Fire” screenplay. It’s the type of movie that will never be considered for any major awards, but it’s not a bad way to pass the time for viewers who are looking for a movie that does a good job of balancing the natural disaster aspects of the story with the human relationship aspects of the story.

“On Fire” starts off by letting viewers get to know the family at the center of the story, which takes place mostly within a 24-hour period. In the fictional city of Colberg, California, the Laughlin family lives in a fairly isolated wooded area. (“On Fire” was filmed on location in Northern California.) The family members are tight-knit but have their share of conflicts and squabbles.

Married couple Dave Laughlin (played by Facinelli) and Sarah Laughlin (played by Fiona Dourif) have a loving marriage. Dave has recently started his own building construction business, which hasn’t been profitable yet. It’s caused some tension in his otherwise happy marriage. Sarah thinks Dave should consider doing a job where he can make money, but Dave doesn’t want to give up his struggling construction business.

Sarah, who is eight months pregnant, is working during her pregnancy in some sort of customer-related job where she has to wear a name tag and be on her feet for hours. Whevever she works, either the place does not offer paid maternity leave to full-time employees, or Sarah works there part-time and doesn’t qualify for maternity leave. Sarah has to work because she and Dave are heavily in debt, mainly because of the costs of starting his business.

Dave and Sarah live with their teenage son Clay Laughlin (played by Asher Angel), who is in his last year of his high school. Clay, who is good guy, is a talented athlete on his school’s track team. Also living in the household is Dave’s 80-year-old widower father George Laughlin (played by Lance Henriksen), who uses an oxygen tank. George has respiratory problems because he’s been a heavy smoker for years.

George is cranky and rude, usually to Sarah, because he resents the fact that she won’t let George smoke cigarettes, and she monitors other things about his health. During an argument between Sarah and George, he calls her a “bitch.” Sarah gets upset, while Dave comforts her. Dave tells Sarah that George is difficult with Sarah because Sarah reminds George of George’s late wife Rosemary, who was also strong-willed and outspoken.

In the few hours leading up to the forest fire that reaches Colberg, the family smells smoke from a forest fire going on in the nearby city of Parker. All the news reports are saying that Colberg is not in any immediate danger, because a ravine separates Parker and Colberg. There also hasn’t been a forest fire in Colberg for at least 40 years.

However, members of the Laughlin family notice some other warning signs (besides the overwhelming smell of fire smoke) that Colberg will soon be in danger from the forest fire. A huge flock of birds are seen fleeing in the opposite direction of Colberg. The sky also starts to get darker from smoke, even though it’s still in the afternoon.

Dave doesn’t want to take any chances, so he goes to the nearest hardware store to stock up on fire safety supplies. The store’s owner Marv (played by Glenn Morshower) is one of the people who says he’s not worried about the fire reaching Colberg. Dave, who already owes the hardware store some money, tells Marv to put all the supplies that Dave gets on Dave’s running tab of debt.

Of course, it’s no secret that the fire does reach Colberg. It happens so quickly, residents barely have time to evacuate when the emergency alert is sent. The fire in Colberg is later identified as a spot fire, which is ignited by embers that float from the perimeter of the main fire.

After leaving the hardware store, Dave frantically drives toward his home to help his family evacuate, but there’s a police roadblock in the way, because it’s unsafe to go back into that part of the woods. Dave desperately tells the police officers at the roadblock that his family needs help evacuating. Dave is told a rescue team can go to Dave’s family, but Dave gets impatient and drives through the roadblock.

The rest of “On Fire” shows many obstacles that the Laughlin family members experience in their attempts to go to a safe area. There are car-related mishaps, cell phones that can’t work because the fire is affecting cell phone towers, and more than a few injuries. In addition, as the fire rages around them, there’s the danger of smoke inhalation. Sarah’s pregnancy is also a major concern.

Interspersed with scenes of the Laughlin family’s ordeal are scenes of a 911 operator named Kayla (played by Ashlei Foushee) taking phone calls from scared and confused people who are trapped in the fire. It’s Kayla’s second week on the job. Although she keeps calm while he’s on the phone with callers, the movie shows how the stress starts to get to Kayla when she’s not on the phone.

“On Fire” doesn’t get preachy about climate change, but the movie does show how people have different views about how climate change can be connected to an increase in forest fires. Current scientific research shows that global warming creates an environment that makes it easier for forest fires to start and spread. Marv is the type of person who is basing his opinions on how things were in the past, instead of acknowledging current science. Dave is the type of person is more open to looking at the current science of the environment, because his work in building construction depends a lot on environmental issues.

“On Fire” makes good use of its low budget and a relatively small number of cast members to make the movie an engrossing experience if viewers don’t have high expectations. Not everything in the movie looks completely realistic. The smoke inhalation issue would be a lot more serious in real life, compared to how it looks in the movie. And some of the dialogue and scenes are a little corny, especially toward the end. However, “On Fire” delivers an engaging and memorable story about a family who have to fight for their lives during a natural disaster.

Cineverse released “On Fire” in U.S. cinemas on September 29, 2023.

Review: ‘Pretty Problems,’ starring Britt Rentschler, Michael Tennant, J.J. Nolan, Graham Outerbridge, Charlotte Ubben and Alex Klein

March 27, 2023

by Carla Hay

Britt Rentschler, J.J. Nolan, Graham Outerbridge, Alex Klein, Charlotte Ubben and Michael Tennant in “Pretty Problems” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

“Pretty Problems”

Directed by Kestrin Pantera

Culture Representation: Taking place in California, the comedy/drama film “Pretty Problems” features a nearly all-white cast of characters (with one African American) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A middle-class married couple looking to spice up ther lives are invited to a party retreat at a vineyard by a flaky rich woman, who introduces the couple to the equally flaky people in her inner circle, including her husband and another couple of shallow partiers.

Culture Audience: “Pretty Problems” will appeal mainly to people who are interested in watching repetitive movies about people who get drunk at upscale retreats.

Britt Rentschler and J.J. Nolan in “Pretty Problems” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

A satire such as “Pretty Problems” could have been a clever parody of shallow and materialistic people, but this tiresome movie ends up being as vapid and annoying as the characters it is trying to mock. Watching this movie is like being stuck somewhere for 103 minutes and watching nothing but people acting stupidly drunk and thinking that they’re hilarious. It’s an endurance test, because there’s almost nothing in this movie that is truly unique, while the characters just aren’t interesting. The one-note jokes quickly run out of steam very early in the film. “Pretty Problems” had its world premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.

Directed by Kestrin Pantera and written by Michael Tennant, “Pretty Problems” strains to keep the comedy momentum that it seemed to have started in the film’s first 15 minutes. In the beginning of the movie, viewers see that married couple Lindsay Simpson (played by Britt Rentschler) and Jack Brown (played by Tennant) are stuck in a rut in their relationship. They aren’t breaking up, but they’ve become a little bored with each other. The movie begins with a sex scene of Lindsay and Jack in bed together and being “out of sync” and not connecting the way in the way they did when they were happier in their relationship. And then, Lindsay and Jack are shown masturbating separately in the shower.

Lindsay works as a sales clerk at a trendy women’s clothing boutique. Jack works as a probation officer. They don’t have children. One day, when Lindsay is at work, a wealthy homemaker named Catherine “Cat” Flax (played by J.J. Nolan) is in the store and strikes up a friendly conversation with Lindsay. The next thing Lindsay knows, Cat has convinced Lindsay to go on her lunch break with Cat. In the back patio, Lindsay and Cat have some wine (one of the many “Pretty Problems” scenes where the characters are drinking alcohol), and they talk about their lives.

Cat is married to a self-made billionaire businessman. They have twin children, who are never seen in the movie. Cat tells Lindsay that Lindsay looks too smart to be a retail sales clerk. Lindsay admits that her dream is to have her own fashion business, with either her own brand of designer clothing or a high-end retail store. Even though they’ve just met, Cat offers to invest in Lindsay’s dream. And that’s how Lindsay finds out that Cat is rich.

But is Cat’s generous offer for real, or is it just drunken rambling from a bored woman with a lot of money? When Cat goes back into the store, she spends a long time lingering and being somewhat of distraction to the store employees. Finally, Lindsay’s supervisor Georgia tells Lindsay: “If your friend isn’t going to buy anything, I’m going to ask you to leave.” Cat then proceeds to buy a massive number of clothing in the store, so that Lindsay can get the credit for selling the merchandise.

When Lindsay is at home with Jack, she enthusiastically tells him about Cat and how they became “fast friends,” as well as the large purchase that Cat made to help Lindsay look like a great salesperson. Lindsay says to Jack: “I sold more in that boutique in six minutes than I sold in six months.” Lindsay also tells Jack that Cat has invited them to an adults-only party retreat at a vineyard in Sonoma, where Cat and her husband have one of their homes.

Jack is skeptical because he thinks that he and Lindsay won’t fit in at this retreat. He’s not just skeptical. He’s also paranoid that they might be targeted to join a weird sex cult. Lindsay is excited and intrigued and says she wants to go to this retreat, with or without Jack. After much whining and hesitation, Jack agrees to go with Lindsay to the retreat. They take their car for the road trip to the vineyard.

When they get to the vineyard, Cat is drunk (as usual) and introduces Jack and Lindsay to her husband Matt Flax (played by Graham Outerbridge), who proceeds to tell Jack that Matt recently bought Jack’s favorite beer distributor. Jack and Lindsay are then introduced to the other couple who are part of this group retreat. Carrie (played by Charlotte Ubben) is a ditzy model/actress, who is the latest fling for Kerry (played by Alex Klein), who is living of off his family’s trust fund. Kerry’s grandfather invented Tater Tots. One of the first things that Carrie and Kerry do after they meet Lindsay and Jack is brag about spending $65,000 on champagne and cocaine.

The rest of “Pretty Problems” is just a series of scenes showing these six partiers getting intoxicated, having mindless conversations (where there’s more boasting and flaunting of wealth and possessions), and making fools out of themselves in various ways. There are some very unoriginal scenes where the group has a “murder mystery game” and then do some karaoke. Lindsay is eager to fit in with this group, but Matt starts out as very uptight and acting like he’s above all the drunken antics. And then, someone puts Ecstasy in Matt’s drink without his knowledge or consent, and he starts acting like an idiot too.

Meanwhile, the employees of Cat and Max have to deal with serving these partiers and staying calm and rational as things get more chaotic. Dan (played by Clayton Froning), who works for the Flax couple as a majordomo, is a former Sea World trainer. He also happens to know Lindsay from when they were in high school together, and he had the name Big Dick Dan. It’s so predictable what kind of history Lindsay has with Dan and what Matt’s reaction will be when he finds out.

Other employees include party planner Becca (played by Katarina Hughes) who is a Rhodes Scholar playwright; master sommelier Georges (played Tom Detrinis); and shaman Gigi (played by Vanessa Chester), who leads a meditation session like a teacher has to lead a classroom of unruly kids. There is nothing special about any of the performances in “Pretty Problems.” In fact, some of the cast members over-act and therefore ruin what could have been hilarious satire.

It doesn’t take long for “Pretty Problems” to run out of ideas after making its point over and over that rich jerks who are drunk or high on drugs are still jerks, but the drinking and drugging just amplify their awful personalities. “Pretty Problems” might have been better off it were filmed like a mockumentary short film, but it still wouldn’t erase the movie’s unremarkable acting and dull dialogue. If people want to see a witty and dark satire of wealthy people behaving badly in gorgeous settings, then viewers are better off watching HBO’s “The White Lotus.”

IFC Films released “Pretty Problems” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on October 7, 2022.

Review: ‘Moving On’ (2023), starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Malcolm McDowell, Sarah Burns and Richard Roundtree

March 27, 2023

by Carla Hay

Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in “Moving On” (Photo by Aaron Epstein/Roadside Attractions)

“Moving On” (2023)

Directed by Paul Weitz

Culture Representation: Taking place in California (and briefly in Ohio), the comedy/drama film “Moving On” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: After their former best friend from college passes away, two elderly women decide to get deadly revenge on the friend’s widower for a despicable act that he committed 46 years ago. 

Culture Audience: “Moving On” will appeal primarily to people who are fans the movie’s stars and fairy-tale-like movies about acting on revenge fantasies.

Malcom McDowell in “Moving On” (Photo by Aaron Epstein/Roadside Attractions)

Neither terrible nor great, “Moving On” will mainly appeal to viewers who like seeing Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin work together on screen. This comedy/drama with a deadly revenge plot is really a harmless story about appreciating true friendships. It’s recommended only for people who want something to do to pass the time and aren’t expecting anything outstanding from a movie that has a talented cast and director who’ve made better films. “Moving On” had its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.

Written and directed by Paul Weitz, “Moving On” begins with a senior citizen named Claire (played by Fonda) leaving her home state of Ohio for a trip to California, to attend the funeral of a longtime friend named Joyce. Claire, Joyce and a woman named Evelyn (played by Tomlin) were the best of friends in college. Claire isn’t going to the funeral just to grieve. She wants to go to California to kill Joyce’s husband Howard (played by Malcolm McDowell), who has no idea that he’s the target of a murder plot.

Claire has been married and divorced twice. Her most recent divorce was 15 years ago. She has an adult daughter (from her second marriage) and two teenage grandchildren. Claire currently lives alone and has a beloved pet Corgi named Daschel. Evelyn is the only person (other than Claire) who knows why Claire would want to kill Howard.

Evelyn is a retired professional cellist who used to be part of a classical orchestra that traveled around the world. She has arthritis, bursitis and tendonitis, which obviously ended her career. Evelyn lives in a retirement building in California, not far from where Joyce and Howard live. Evelyn, who has been living openly as a lesbian for years, is grieving over the death of her wife Annette, who was also a classical musician. Annette and Evelyn met in 2006, and they were married in 2009, shortly before Annette died.

At the funeral, Claire is warmly greeted by Joyce’s adult daughter Allie (played by Sarah Burns), who lives in Pennsylvania. Also with Allie are her two daughters Devin (played by Haley Wolff) and Joycie (played by Cosette Abinante), who are about 8 to 10 years old. Allie is very kind and patient with her father Howard, who can be rude and abrupt with people. At the funeral, Claire tells Howard that she’s going to kill him, but he thinks she’s joking.

Howard gives an effusive eulogy about Joyce at her wake, but Evelyn interrupts and makes a bombshell announcement: During and after college, Evelyn and Joyce were secret lovers and were very much in love with each other. Their relationship ended though, and Joyce went on to marry Howard. Allie and Howard are shocked, in denial, and insulted that Evelyn would make this announcement during the wake. Eventually, Evelyn is asked to leave, and Claire leaves around the same time.

In the car, Claire tells Evelyn that she’s not surprised that Evelyn and Joyce were lovers because Claire always suspected it. Claire and Evelyn catch up with what’s been going on in their lives, because they haven’t seen each other in years. In this private conversation, Claire tells Evelyn that she’s going to murder Howard when she gets the chance to do so. Evelyn knows why Claire wants to kill Howard and thinks it’s bad idea, but then agrees to help Claire.

Claire hasn’t figured out how she’s going to murder Howard. And so, the movie has some frivolous and not-very-funny scenes of them trying to plan this murder. Claire and Evelyn go to a gun shop so that Claire can buy a gun. But then, they find out that Claire can’t legally buy a gun in California, because she’s not a resident of California. Claire and Evelynn also discuss other methods of murder, such as poisoning.

Someone who was at Joyce’s wake was Claire’s first ex-husband Ralph (played by Richard Roundtree), who lives in California, and who is happy to see Claire after years of not being in contact with her. Howard invited Ralph to the wake, because Ralph knew Joyce when Ralph was married to Claire. Ralph’s second wife Zora died four years ago.

And it isn’t long before Ralph makes it known that he’s interested in seeing Claire again, even though he knows that she lives in Ohio. Before you know it, Ralph has invited Claire over to his house for dinner. Also at the dinner are Ralph’s daughter Joie (played by Amber Chardae Robinson) and Joie’s two sons (played Jeremiah King and Isai Devine), who are about 9 to 11 years old.

“Moving On” sort of wanders and drags out the murder plot in ways that get a little tiresome. Claire and Evelyn fumble and bungle their attempts to decide how to murder Howard. And they find the weapon they are going to use from an unlikely source.

Evelyn has become acquainted with a boy of about 8 to 9 years old named James (played by Marcel Nahapetian), whose grandfather Walt (played by Vachik Mangassarian) is an ailing resident living in the same apartment building as Evelyn. James and his parents (played by Eddie Martinez and Santina Muha) visit Walt on a semi-regular basis. And one day, James mentions to Evelyn that his grandfather Walt has a gun.

James mentions it when he tells Evelyn that James’ father wants to teach James how to use a gun to go hunting. James would rather wear dresses and jewelry, and play “dress up” in mock fashion shows with Evelyn, who encourages James to be himself and pursue these passions. However, it’s obvious (without it being said out loud) that James’ parents wouldn’t approve of James’ fashion interests. Evelyn knows that she and James have to keep these types of activities a secret because of homophobia.

“Moving On” has these moments of kindness and compassion, but there are also some mean-spirited slapstick comedy moments that aren’t uproariously funny, but they’re capably acted by the cast members who are in these scenes. Viewers find out that what Howard did to Claire was so damaging, she kept it a secret from Ralph, and it ended up ruining Claire and Ralph’s marriage. Even before the secret is fully revealed, it’s easy to figure out what the secret is, because the clues are so obvious.

“Moving On” makes Howard into a caricature-like villain, which is kind of a mistake and the easiest way to depict this character. What would have been more interesting is to have Howard be very skilled at hiding his despicable side. It would also explain why he got away with what he did to Claire and why she kept it a secret: She was afraid that no one would believe her. She also didn’t want to hurt Joyce by telling Joyce the awful truth about Howard.

People should not expect “Moving On” to be a completely lighthearted film. There are some heavy and dark issues in the movie. And not all of them are handled in the best way. However, the movie keeps things interesting enough for viewers who want to find out what will happen next. There’s a fable-like quality to “Moving On” that isn’t preachy, but it shows that getting deadly revenge for a grudge can be more toxic than what caused the grudge.

Roadside Attractions released “Moving On” in U.S. cinemas on March 17, 2023.

Review: ‘Jesus Revolution,’ starring Joel Courtney, Jonathan Roumie, Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Kelsey Grammer

March 1, 2023

by Carla Hay

Joel Courtney and Anna Grace Barlow in “Jesus Revolution” (Photo by Dan Anderson/Lionsgate)

“Jesus Revolution”

Directed by Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in California in the early 1970s (with some flashbacks to the 1960s), the faith-based dramatic film “Jesus Revolution” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A troubled and wayward teenager finds his purpose in life when he joins a group of hippies who become born-again Christians. 

Culture Audience: “Jesus Revolution” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching faith-based biopics that make real events and real people look overly contrived for the purpose of the movie’s agenda.

Jonathan Roumie (second from right) and Kelsey Grammer (far right) in “Jesus Revolution” (Photo by Dan Anderson/Lionsgate)

The problems with “Jesus Revolution” have nothing do with religion. This 1970s-set biopic drama about Harvest Crusades founder Greg Laurie has too many bad scenes with hokey dialogue and subpar acting. Many of the cast members are not convincing as hippies. It’s an unfortunate drawback to the film, whose very foundation is about how counterculture hippies in early 1970s California became Christian fanatics who were part of the Jesus movement that spanned from the late 1960s to the early 1970s.

Directed by Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle, “Jesus Revolution” is a disjointed and somewhat rambling movie that can’t decide how much it wants to be a biopic (which it mostly is) and how much it wants to be a historical drama about a Christian youth culture movement that peaked in 1972. Erwin and Jon Gunn co-wrote the “Jesus Revolution” screenplay, which is based on Laurie’s 2018 memoir of the same name. The movie has a lot very corny and trite scenarios that don’t look authentic at all. If this movie had not been based on a true story, then this lack of authenticity might be easier to overlook.

In its over-reaching zeal to put a glossy spin on this movement, “Jesus Revolution” never adequately addresses how hippies who wanted to drop out of society and turned to drugs could then want to become part of society and preach against their formerly “sinful” lifestyles. “Jesus Revolution” makes it look like all it would take for people to change their lifestyles so dramatically in a short period of time is to attend a few services at a church led by a sympathetic pastor. “Jesus Revolution” also looks like it deliberately omitted a lot of unflattering information about Laurie during the period of time in his life that is depicted in the movie.

Greg Laurie (played by Joel Courtney), who is the main protagonist of “Jesus Revolution,” is shown in the beginning of the movie attending a Christian group mass baptism at Pirate’s Cove in Pismo Beach, California, sometime in 1971. Most of the people getting baptisms at this event are people in their teens and 20s. Greg is about 18 years old at the time. At Pirate’s Cove, Greg is being interviewed by a reporter named Josiah (played by DeVon Franklin) from Time magazine. Josiah asks Greg, “How did you end up here?”

The movie then flashes back to a year earlier, when Greg was a student cadet at a strict military academy. At the time, he was still living with his alcoholic, divorced mother Charlene (played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley), who pressured Greg to attend this school. Greg’s father abandoned the family when Greg was a very young child and has not been in contact with Charlene or Greg ever since leaving.

It’s not clear how long Charlene has been an alcoholic, but the movie implies that she went on a downward spiral after Greg’s father left the family. Flashbacks to the 1960s show that Charlene is often a neglectful parent who gets involved in several bad relationships. (Jackson Robert Scott has the role of an adolescent Greg in these flashbacks.) In real life, Greg Laurie’s mother was married seven times. He and his mother also moved around a lot.

In the movie, Greg keeps hoping that his father will come back to the family someday, but Charlene abruptly tells him not to bother thinking that Greg’s father will ever contact them again. When Charlene decides to move to California for a fresh start, Greg is upset because he thinks that his father won’t be able to find them if they move. Charlene and Greg settle in California’s Orange County, near Long Beach. By 1970, Greg is enrolled in a military academy and not liking it very much. He is a loner who doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere.

One day, Greg (who is an aspiring illustrator) is taking photos at a park when he meets a hippie around his age named Charlie (played by Nicholas Cirillo), who is friendly and very stoned. Charlie immediately notices that Greg has been staring at Charlie’s attractive blonde friend named Cathe (played by Anna Grace Barlow), so Charlie introduces Cathe (pronounced “Cathy”) to Greg. Cathe is impressed that Greg reads the work of poet/writer Allen Ginsberg, because she does too. It’s at this point in the movie that you know Cathe and Greg will eventually fall in love with each other. Greg is instantly smitten, but he’s insecure and shy, compared to confident and outgoing Cathe.

Charlie and Cathe invite Greg to a “happening” (a gathering of young people who want to party), which is taking place in Laguna Beach. Janis Joplin (played by Erin Schaut) is doing a concert on a beach. The concert looks very fake because die-hard Joplin fans know that she never did this type of beach concert in real life.

The way Greg goes to this concert looks very phony too. Charlie and Cathe show up outside the window of a classroom where Greg is. They tell him he needs to go with them to the concert right now. When Greg gets up to leave, the classroom instructor says that if Greg leaves, he can’t come back. Greg tells the teacher that Greg is counting on not coming back.

Meanwhile, a Christian pastor named Chuck Smith (played by Kelsey Grammer) and his devoted wife Kay Smith (played by Julia Campbell) are watching the TV news in their home and expressing disgust at the hippie movement, which they think is degenerate and the cause of lot of America’s problems. “They need a bath,” Chuck sneers when he comments about hippies. (In real life, Chuck Smith founded the Calvary Chapel movement.)

Chuck leads a Costa Mesa, California-based church that is struggling with a dwindling congregation. Chuck and Kay have a slightly rebellious daughter named Janette Smith (played by Ally Ioannides), who’s about 17 years old. Janette looks bored every time she has to go to church. Unlike her parents, Janette thinks “what the hippies are doing is beautiful.” She tells her skeptical parents that hippies want the same things that conservative Christians want: “peace and love.”

One day, Janette is driving by herself on a deserted road, when she sees a hippie in his 20s who is walking by himself. Because Janette is fascinated with hippies, she stops the car and asks this stranger if he wants a ride. It’s a very unsafe thing to do, but Janette doesn’t care, because she wants to get to know a hippie instead of just hearing about hippies from the media. The hippie says yes to Janette’s offer for a ride.

His name is Lonnie Frisbee (played by Jonathan Roumie), and Janette immediately brings him home, to the horror of her parents. Lonnie admits to Chuck that he takes illegal drugs for “spiritual enlightenment,” but Lonnie insists that he is also very religious and believes in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t take long for Lonnie to invite his hippie friends to go over to the Smith house without asking permission. (How rude.)

And then the next thing you know, Lonnie and his hippie pals are going to Chuck’s church, where Lonnie gives a rambling sermon while barefoot. Some of the congregation members are repulsed and quit the church when Chuck refuses to reject and ban the hippies. Chuck sees the benefit of having young people increase his church’s attendance, so he eventually learns to accept the hippies.

Meanwhile, Greg gets involved in taking drugs and partying a lot with Charlie and Cathe. He becomes part of Lonnie’s born-again hippie Christian crowd when he meets Lonnie by chance one very rainy night. It’s another scene that looks entirely fabricated for a movie.

Greg is a passenger in a car driven by Charlie, who is intoxicated from unnamed substances. The car is swerving on a street and narrowly misses hitting another car. Greg is so freaked out, he gets out of the car and runs away. And when he runs away in the rain, he sees Lonnie walking by himself on the street, which is apparently the way that teenagers in “Jesus Revolution” meet Lonnie.

The rest of “Jesus Revolution” is a predictable slog of Greg and Cathe getting caught up in the born-again Christian movement, where they recruit other young people. Lonnie becomes an important part of Chuck’s ministry. Greg joins a Christian rock band called Love Song. Cathe’s father Dick (played by Nic Bishop) disapproves of Greg because Greg doesn’t come from a “good family.” And there’s more family drama with Greg’s mother Charlene.

Of course, “Jesus Revolution” has lots of scenes of young hippies gathered in large groups and praising the Lord in ecstasy. Although the movie makes it look like it’s all a natural high, the reality is (as Lonnie hints at in the movie), a lot it was probably done under the influence of drugs. And that’s one of many reasons why “Jesus Revolution” doesn’t look entirely honest, because in the movie, realistic drug issues are either ignored or dealt with in a preachy manner.

Although many drug-using hippies no doubt gave up having a druggie lifestyle after becoming born-again Christians, the movie doesn’t really acknowledge that a lot of the hardcore drug-using hippies who became part of the Jesus movement didn’t just wake up one day and decide to quit using drugs. “Jesus Revolution” makes it look like all these drug-using hippies suddenly became clean and sober once they became born-again Christians. In reality, people’s lives are much more complicated than that.

“Jesus Revolution” also avoids acknowledging that although the Jesus movement preached inclusivity of everyone, the young hippies (almost all are white) who get the focus in this movie came from middle-class and affluent families—in other words, people who could afford to “drop out” of society or go to college and not have the responsibilities of a steady job for a few years. At one point, Lonnie says: “We’re all orphans. We’re a movement of orphans.” Well, a lot of these “orphans” had trust funds.

Chuck’s acceptance of these hippies into his church probably wasn’t as altruistic and spiritual as the movie makes it look. There was probably a financial incentive too. More congregants can result in more donations for Chuck’s church. A lot of these hippies might have been walking around in bare feet, but they weren’t poor.

There’s a very mushy scene where Chuck responds to some churchgoers’ complaints about the hippies attending church in bare feet. In order to prove that he has the humility of Jesus Christ, Chuck washes the feet of the hippies (just like Jesus did in the Bible) when they enter his church. Chuck goes from being a hater of hippies to being one of their biggest supporters in his community.

“Jesus Revolution” has a good selection of soundtrack songs, including Rare Earth’s 1971 hit “I Just Want to Celebrate” and the Doobie Brothers’ 1972 classic “Jesus Is Just Alright.” However, the movie just looks like a bunch of cast members playing 1970s dress-up (some of them in really cheap-looking wigs) and reciting their lines of fake-sounding dialogue. And ultimately, the movie looks more like a fairy tale than an authentic depiction of real people involved in a historical movement.

Lionsgate released “Jesus Revolution” in U.S. cinemas on February 24, 2023. A special sneak-preview event of the movie was held in select U.S. cinemas on February 22, 2023.

Review: ‘Fear’ (2023), starring Joseph Sikora, Andrew Bachelor, Annie Ilonzeh, Ruby Modine, Iddo Goldberg, Terrence Jenkins, Jessica Allain and Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris

February 13, 2023

by Carla Hay

Joseph Sikora, Annie Ilonzeh, Ruby Modine and Andrew Bachelor in “Fear” (Photo courtesy of Hidden Empire Film Group)

“Fear” (2023)

Directed by Deon Taylor

Culture Representation: Taking place in 2020, primarily in Kyburz, California, the horror film “Fear” features a cast of predominantly white and African American characters (with a few Asians and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A group of friends gather at a remote lodge to celebrate one of the friend’s birthday, and their worst fears become a reality when they find out the lodge is cursed. 

Culture Audience: “Fear” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching horror movies that are bad in every single way.

Tip “T.I.” Harris in “Fear” (Photo courtesy of Hidden Empire Film Group)

With a COVID-19 pandemic theme, the horror flick “Fear” is an idiotic time waster with a muddled story, tacky visual effects and weak ideas that are ripoffs of better-made horror films. Avoid this boring junk. Although there are a few fairly well-known entertainers in the movie’s cast, that star power isn’t enough to save “Fear” from its utter stupidity.

Directed by Deon Taylor (who co-wrote the atrocious “Fear” screenplay with John Ferry), “Fear” is yet another horror movie about people stuck in a remote location while terror is inflicted on them. In the case of “Fear,” this remote location is the fictional Strawberry Lodge in Kyburz, California, which is in the Lake Tahoe area. A group of nine people have gathered at the lodge to celebrate the birthday of woman in her 30s named Bianca (played by Annie Ilonzeh), who has a Ph. D. in religion.

Bianca’s boyfriend Rom Jennings (played by Joseph Sikora) has arranged this gathering as a surprise for Bianca. Rom is an author whose specialty is writing books about the paranormal and the unexplained. The movie opens with Rom doing a TV interview, where he says that he’s working on his next book, which will be about “the mythology of the Americas.”

Rom says of his forthcoming book, “I can’t really tell you too much about it, but what I can say is that is does squarely focus on the mythos and the mythology surrounding fear and the concept of fear.” He adds that he’s researching an area in Northern California that “permeates fear.” Rom then makes this obvious statement: “Fear is very real.”

During Rom and Bianca’s car drive to the Strawberry Lodge, they’re listening to the radio and hear a news report about Angel Wilson, a woman who disappeared from the Lake Tahoe area in 2015, when she was 26, and she is still missing. Bianca asks Rom to change the radio channel. It’s at this point you know that Angel will be mentioned several more times in the movie.

The seven friends of Rom and Bianca who have gathered to celebrate her birthday have mostly generic personalities in this poorly written movie. There is barely any information given about them, such as what they do for a living or how they know Rom and Bianca. The lodge has been rented so that these friends can have the place all to themselves. (How convenient for a horror movie.)

The other people in the group include Michael (played by Iddo Goldberg), a Brit who is Rom’s agent. Lou (played by Tip “T.I.” Harris) has been Rom’s friend since they were in eighth grade. Accompanying Lou on this trip is his girlfriend Kim (played by Tyler Abron), who is a single mother to an underage son.

Benny (played by Andrew Bachelor, also known as social media personality King Bach) is a photographer and the most inquisitive and talkative person in the group. Two other friends are a dating couple named Russ (played by Terrence Jenkins) and Meg (played by Jessica Allain). Another person in the group is Serena (played by Ruby Modine), who is superstitious and wears a “lucky” necklace with her at all times.

Rom has told Lou and Russ that he wants to propose marriage to Bianca, but so far (including during the trip to Strawberry Lodge), Rom got scared and couldn’t go through with his marriage proposal. It’s mentioned that this is the fourth time that Rom has failed to propose to Bianca. This marriage proposal is mentioned so many times, you’d think it would be a buildup to a big part of the story, but it isn’t.

Upon arriving at the lodge, the guests are greeted by a creepy hostess named Miss Wrenrich (played by Michele McCormick), who says that her family bought the lodge and rebuilt it after the lodge burned down in 1853. The lodge was originally built in 1838. Later, through research on the Internet, Benny finds out that the area has a sinister history of a group of witches calling themselves Las Brujas, who defended themselves against criminal Gold Rush miners, who would kidnap, rape, and sometimes kill women in the area.

Miss Wrenrich takes Bianca’s hand and says to her: “You carry the light, my dear. You’re a beacon.” This movie isn’t subtle at all about who’s most likely to survive the murder and mayhem that will ensue. Before she leaves, Miss Wrenrich insists on taking a group photo of the guests. She uses a Polaroid camera.

The COVID-19 pandemic is mentioned several times in conversations, although no one is social distancing or wearing masks. Because no one in the movie mentions being vaccinated, the movie appears to take place in 2020, before a COVID-19 vaccine was available. It’s mentioned briefly that Michael asked all of the guests (except for Bianca, since this gathering was a surprise to her) to take COVID tests before coming to the lodge, and all they all agreed. However, several of the guests become paranoid because Lou has been coughing frequently. Lou gets defensive when he finds out that some of the people in ths group suspect that Lou might be infected with COVID-19.

While gathered outside around a small bonfire one night, the friends confess their biggest fears. And it’s at that moment that you know that their fears will happen at some point in the movie. Bianca’s biggest fear used to be losing her religion, but more recently, her biggest fear has been losing the ability to breathe. Serena, who had a traumatic car accident when she was a child, says her biggest fear is losing control.

Russ says his biggest fear is blood. Kim says her biggest fear is not being able to take care of her son. Meg can’t swim, so her biggest fear is drowning. Lou says his biggest fear is not being trusted, especially by the people who depend on him. Benny was once handcuffed in a police brutality incident, so his biggest fear has anything to do with cops and handcuffs. Rom says his biggest fear is losing Bianca.

The rest of “Fear” has nothing but dull and not-very-interesting jump scares. As for the missing person Angel Wilson, who is mentioned numerous times in the movie, that’s a subplot that is badly mishandled and ends up being worthless. “Fear” is also completely worthless if people are looking for an entertaining horror movie.

Hidden Empire Film Group released “Fear” in U.S. cinemas on January 27, 2023.

Review: ‘Missing’ (2023), starring Storm Reid, Joaquim de Almeida, Ken Leung, Amy Landecker, Daniel Henney and Nia Long

January 20, 2023

by Carla Hay

Storm Reid and Megan Suri in “Missing” (Photo by Temma Hankin/Screen Gems)

“Missing” (2023)

Directed by Will Merrick and Nick Johnson

Culture Representation: Taking place in 2022, in the Los Angeles area and in Cartegena, Colombia, the dramatic film “Missing” (a spinoff of the 2018 film “Searching”) features a racially diverse cast of characters (African American, white, Asian and Latino) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: An 18-year-old woman who lives in Van Nuys, California, goes on a frantic search (mostly on her computer and phone) to find out what happened to her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, who both disappeared during a vacation trip to Cartegena, Colombia.

Culture Audience: “Missing” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of “Searching” and who are interested in fast-paced mystery thrillers.

Nia Long in “Missing” (Photo by Temma Hankin/Screen Gems)

“Missing” somewhat devolves into climactic scene clichés in the movie’s last 15 minutes. The rest of “Missing” is an absorbing and occasionally implausible twist-filled thriller about how technology can be used to solve mysteries. “Missing” is a spinoff movie of 2018’s “Searching” (about a father who uses computer technology to search for his missing teenage daughter), and “Missing” has some clever ideas and surprises that aren’t in “Searching.” However, the ending of “Missing” is a little too close to copying the ending of “Searching,” by playing too fast and loose with perceptions about the life or death of the missing person.

Will Merrick and Nick Johnson wrote and directed “Missing” (which is the feature-film directorial debut of Merrick and Johnson), after the duo served as editors of “Searching.” Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian, who co-wrote “Searching,” are credited with the story concept for “Missing” and are two of the producers of “Missing.” Chaganty made his feature-film directorial debut with “Searching,” which showed most of the father’s investigation happening on various computer screens and smartphone screens.

“Missing” follows a similar format of having most of the investigation shown on computer screens and smartphone screens, but “Missing” flips the script of “Searching”: Instead of a parent looking for a teenage daughter, “Missing” has a teenage daughter looking for a parent. In the case of “Missing,” this daughter has no other family members who can help her in this search.

“Missing” begins by showing a family home video from April 13, 2008, during what will be the family’s last trip together. James Allen (played by Tim Griffin) is on a kitchen floor with a kitten and his daughter June Allen (played by Ava Lee), who’s about 4 yearsold and who has the nickname Junebug. It’s a lighthearted family moment until June’s mother (played by Nia Long) notices that James has gotten a nosebleed.

The movie then shows that someone is looking at this home video in 2022: June Allen (played by Storm Reid), who is now 18 years old. It’s June 2022, and June has been looking sadly at this video because her father died in 2008, and Father’s Day is coming up in less than two weeks. June lives with her overprotective mother Grace Allen in Van Nuys, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. June has recently graduated from high school, and she doesn’t have any big plans for the summer.

This year will be the first year that June won’t have Grace nearby on Father’s Day. That’s because Grace is going on a romantic vacation trip to Colombia with Grace’s fairly new boyfriend Kevin Lin (played by Ken Leung), who is the CEO of a start-up company called All-Brand Consulting. The movie later reveals that Kevin and Grace met through a dating app. June’s relationship with Kevin is emotionally distant, and he’s been making attempts to get her to accept him because he says he’s in love with Grace and expects to be in a long-term relationship with her..

June is looking forward to having the house to herself and no adult supervision during Grace and Kevin’s weeklong vacation in Cartegena, Colombia. June has been tasked with picking up Grace and Kevin from Los Angeles International Airport on June 20, 2022. Grace has left behind some spending money for June, who ignores Grace’s complaints that June’s voice mailbox is full and needs to be cleared. June sometimes gets frustrated or amused when her mother gets confused by how to use a smartphone, such as when Grace mixes up using FaceTime with using Suri.

Even though June is dependent on Grace for nearly every necessity in life, June is at an age where she resents being treated like a child. Grace has asked her close friend Heather Damore (played by Amy Landecker), who’s a well-meaning and inquisitive attorney, to check in on June while Grace is away. June, who doesn’t really care for Heather, says with annoyance: “Mom, I don’t need a babysitter!” June also gets very irritated when Grace calls her Junebug, because June thinks that she has outgrown this childhood nickname.

While her mother is away, June spends a lot of time partying with friends, including her best friend Veena (played by Megan Suri), who has bought alcohol by using money that June gave her from the amount that Grace left behind. Montages of photos on Kevin’s social media show that he and Grace are having a lot of fun in Colombia. When it comes time to pick up Grace and Kevin from the airport, June almost oversleeps.

June has let the house become a mess, so she quickly uses Taskrabbit (an app for temporary workers) to find a housecleaner to tidy up the house before Grace gets home. Taskrabbit is shown and talked about enough times in the movie, it’s a little bit of overload on brand placement. When Grace gets to the airport, Kevin and Grace aren’t there. Grace and Kevin also aren’t responding to any attempts to communicate with them.

Feeling worried and confused, June calls Hotel Poma Rosa, the place where Grace and Kevin were staying in Cartegena. Her concern turns to alarm when she finds out that Grace and Kevin were last seen leaving the hotel two days ago, but they left behind all of their belongings. June knows a little Spanish, but she is able to communicate better in Spanish by using Google Translate. The front-desk clerk who talks to June on the phone says that the hotel has video surveillance for the main front entrance, but after 48 hours, the video gets recorded over.

By now, Grace’s friend Heather and June’s friend Veena have joined in on the frantic search. Through her attorney connections, Heather has contacted the U.S. Embassy in Columbia to file a missing persons report. The FBI has assigned an agent named Elijah Park (played by Daniel Henney) to lead the investigation, but he warns June that the FBI doesn’t have jurisdiction for certain crimes in Colombia. First, the FBI has to find out if any crimes have been committed in this missing persons case.

The FBI can’t guarantee that someone can be sent in time to look at the hotel’s video surveillance footage. And so, June takes it upon herself to use Taskrabbit to find a local person in Cartegena to do it for her. She ends up hiring a compassionate and resourceful middle-aged man named Javi (played by Joaquim de Almeida), who becomes a valuable aide in many things that June asks him to do in the search. It’s explained in this “race against time” movie that June can’t go to Colombia herself because she’s finding out important things at such a rapid pace, getting on a plane to Colombia would slow down her investigation.

Much of June’s investigation involves Internet searches and video phone calls, but the tension is ramped up by quick-cutting editing, so that looking at all these computer screens doesn’t get boring for viewers of the movie. Just like in “Searching,” the more the protagonist investigates, the more information is revealed to expose certain secrets. “Missing” keeps viewers guessing until a certain point if Kevin is a victim of foul play, or if he had something to do with Grace’s disappearance. And just when it looks like the movie will go one way, it goes another way, until the last (very predictable) 15 minutes.

All of the cast members give watchable performances in “Missing,” with Reid offering a very realistic and empathetic portrayal of June. She carries the movie quite well in expressing the myriad of emotions and experiences that June has in the story. Most of the other characters in the movie are somewhat generic, except for enigmatic Kevin. Leung skillfully handles this role that viewers and some of the movie’s characters can’t quite figure out up until a turning point if Kevin is a “good guy” or “bad guy.”

“Missing” also credibly depicts the obstacles faced by a teenager looking for a loved one who’s disappeared, since some people don’t take June as seriously as they would if she were a much older adult. It’s why it looks very believable that tech-savvy June would want to take matters into her own hands instead of waiting for law enforcement officials who’ve already shown and told her that they’re very busy with other things. Even with June’s believable “take charge” attitude, there are still some hard-to-believe moments in “Missing,” which uses lot of the quick-cut editing to mask some very improbable occurrences that happen much quicker in the movie than they would happen in real life.

And woe to anyone watching this movie who’s computer-illiterate, because some of the computer terminology and functions in this movie will just be too confusing for people who aren’t familiar with the apps and gadgets shown in the movie. Conversely, “Missing” is so reliant on showing computer technology of 2022, this movie will eventually look very dated. (“Missing” also has inside references to “Searching,” including a scene where June watches a true crime show called “Un-Fiction,” which has an episode with recreations based on the case that was in “Searching.”) There’s nothing award-worthy about “Missing,” but it’s still very entertaining for anyone who wants to spend nearly two hours watching an intriguing mystery film.

Screen Gems released “Missing” in U.S. cinemas on January 20, 2023.

Review: ‘Mid-Century’ (2022), starring Shane West, Sarah Hay, Bruce Dern and Stephen Lang

December 19, 2022

by Carla Hay

Chelsea Gilligan and Shane West in “Mid-Century” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“Mid-Century” (2022)

Directed by Sonja O’Hara

Culture Representation: Taking place in mainly in the fictional city of Mandarin, California, the horror film “Mid-Century” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Latinos, African Americans and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Two spouses, who are doctors, move into a haunted house built in 1955 by an architect with a sinister past. 

Culture Audience: “Mid-Century” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching boring and predictable horror movies.

Mike Stern and Stephen Lang in “Mid-Century” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“Mid-Century” does nothing unique or interesting in this witless and dreadfully dull story about ghostly revenge. The cast members’ performances are as flat and unremarkable as the wood panels of the mid-20th century house that spawned the movie’s title. It’s yet another formulaic movie about people who unwittingly move into a haunted house and find out too late what the house’s secrets are.

Directed by Sonja O’Hara and written by Mike Stern (who is the movie’s producer and who has a supporting role in the movie), “Mid-Century” doesn’t have an original concept, but it could have at least delivered a lot of suspense. Unfortunately, the movie fails on every level of horror entertainment. Instead of jump scares, “Mid-Century” is more like to bring big snores to people who waste any time watching this lackluster misfire.

“Mid-Century” begins by showing a renowed architect named Frederick Banner (played by Stephen Lang), sometime in the 1950s, in the fictional city of Mandarin, California. Frederick seems to be friendly when he greets his new neighbor Anthony Waxtan (played by James Gaudioso) when they’re outside: “How does the Mrs. like the neighborhood?” Anthony replies cheerfully, “She’s on cloud nine.”

Anthony’s wife Joanne Waxtan (played by Ellen Toland) might like the neighborhood overall, but she doesn’t like the way that Frederick has been leering at her. Joanne tells Anthony that she caught Frederick staring at her in the couple’s garden on a previous day. A concerned Anthony tells Joanne not to speak to Frederick.

Later, Anthony gives Joanne some lingerie as a gift. While she’s alone in the room, Joanne tries on the lingerie, while intruder Frederick lurks in the hallway and watches. Frederick then makes his presence known by creepily saying to Alice: “You and Anthony look so happy together. I admit, I haven’t felt like that since my Alice passed. You sure do look lovely, Joanne.”

A startled Joanne shouts for Anthony to help her. Frederick tells her, “Lower your voice, please. Don’t make me take off my belt.” It’s then that viewers see that Anthony can’t help Joanne. Anthony is outside the house, and he’s dead, hanging from a noose. It doesn’t take a genius to know who killed Anthony.

After “Mid-Century” reveals from its very first scene what Frederick was all about, it takes a sluggishly long time for the current residents of a Frederick Banner-designed house to discover his sinister past. The movie fast-forwards to the present day, when married couple Tom Levin (played by Shane West) and Alice Dodgeson (played by Chelsea Gilligan) have arrived in Mandarin to temporarily live in a house that was designed by Frederick Banner and built in 1955. Tom and Alice are both doctors who previously lived in San Diego, but they moved because Alice was sexually harassed by a supervisor named Dr. Volker (played by Bill Chott), and she quit her job over it.

Tom and Alice have rented the house for the weekend, but they might settle permanently in Mandarin if they like the area and if Tom can set up his own practice there. The house is owned by a weird man named Eldridge (played by Stern), an acquaintance of Tom’s and Alice’s who recommended the house to the couple. The trailer for “Mid-Century” already reveals what was supposed to be a surprise in the movie: Eldridge is really Frederick’s son, who grew up in foster care after his parents died. And you know what that means.

Later in the story, Tom and Alice find out that Frederick’s first wife Alice disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1958. Frederick’s next wife was Joanne, the widowed neighbor whose husband was killed by Frederick. Joanne and Frederick died a month apart in 1983, in the same house where Tom and Alice currently live. Frederick passed away first. Joanne died of a heart attack.

“Mid-Century” is overstuffed with a multitude of horror clichés. It isn’t long before Tom and Alice find out that the house is haunted. The usual things happen: Dead people appear and disappear in ghostly form. The house’s current residents do research in old books and newspaper articles to try and find out the history of the house. And certain people in the story end up dead.

Two other characters are part of the story, but not in a very interesting way: Marie Verdin (played by Sarah Hay) is someone connected to Frederick’s past. The truth about Marie is incredibly predictable. Another name from Frederick’s past that comes up is Emil Larson (played by Bruce Dern, shown in flashbacks), who died in 1976, at the age of 92. Emil, who had a huge influence on Frederick, is described in the movie as an author, futurist, painter and agnostic mystic.

“Mid-Century” has a “reveal” about Frederick that is supposed to be shocking, but it’s really as bland and underwhelming as the rest of the movie. All of the cast members play their roles as if they’re going through the drab motions of people who just don’t care enough to give convincing performances. “Mid-Century” is so monotonous and lacking in creativity, it’s the type of dud that will be forgotten quicker than you can say, “Stupid horror movie.”

Lionsgate released “Mid-Century” in select U.S. cinemas on June 17, 2022. The movie was released on digital, VOD, Blu-ray and DVD on July 26, 2022. Peacock began streaming the movie on October 24, 2022.

Copyright 2017-2024 Culture Mix
CULTURE MIX