All posts by Tarek Fayoumi amateur film critic in Chicago!

I am someone who strives to become a professional critic. I watch and review many movies. I view the eyes of movies as something as an art form. I have followed many critics over the years, but once I was thirteen I knew writing film reviews was going to be my passion. I learned from watching multiple episodes of Ebert And Roeper in my teen years, and then in middle school I began writing film reviews for a newspaper club. I am also an avid fan of the arts of Chicago including Theatre, Comedy, and music. Films, however, are my primary focus.

Palm Trees and Power Lines

Being an adolescent is a time of challenge for many individuals. There is peer pressure and a desire to be popular. There is also disconnect in young people’s relationships with their parents. In Palm Trees and Power Lines, the lines of disconnect and peer pressure intersect in this tale of a girl who just wants to feel loved. This movie is visually moving and utterly surprising. The film deals with deep emotions and will change the way many look at individuals growing up in challenging times. Through the eyes of actress Lily McInerny, we experience her vision of what she feels can bring her life and happiness. She is someone who deserves both, but the way she receives them may not be what everyone anticipates.

Palm Trees and Power Lines is focused on the pressures of a teen girl. There are many romantic opportunities for the girl. The issues, however, are that she feels like her mom does not connect with her, and her friends are strange. These issues cause her to not have the best judgment regarding what direction to go in her life. Palm Trees and Power Lines displays many of the emotional behaviors which can cause an adolescent to not think straight or think for themselves. The film is a vivid work of art that crosses boundaries. Despite the disturbing scenarios, it is faithful in its illustration of wanting to be connected.

The plot Palm Trees and Power Lines centers on Lea (McInerny). She is a teenage girl who lives with her mom Sandra (played by Gretchen Mol.) Lea feels disconnected because her mom cares about having a social life which does include Lea. Although Lea’s mom does not have bad intentions, Lea surrounds herself with friends who drink and get into other mischievous teenage behavior. All of this stops when Lea meets Tom (played by Jonathan Tucker.) The age difference between them is huge and concerning. Lea is only seventeen and Tom is in his thirties. When they’re together, Lea feels happy and connected. However, as they continue to hang out and have that romantic vibe, some red flags appear. For example, when Lea goes out with Tom, she is asked numerous times if she needs help which makes Lea question what Tom is like.  Still, she feels too connected to let him go.

The relationship between Tom and Lea raises a lot of eyebrows. It even shifts Lea’s behavior towards her mother. When her mother tries to be there for Lea, Lea becomes rebellious and acts like her mom is distracted. While her mom is distracted, she is not a bad person. Lea struggles to see who is looking out for her, as her relationship with Tom grows stronger. Since their romance is already inappropriate, Lea feels she is invested in being part of Tom’s life. Therefore, she spends more time with him than working on herself or her other problems in her own life.

The theme of Palm Trees and Power Lines is heavy and emotional. Some may find it hard to watch which I did during a few scenes. It is a story in which Lea must decide if she wants to continue the situation she is in with Tom. Is she truly happy?  Is Tom realistic about his feelings? With the age gap, there is a series of consequences that can ruin both their lives. Palm Trees and Power Lines demonstrates how adolescents make poor decisions during difficult times which made me feel empathy for Lea in the film.

One fact I reflected on throughout Palm Trees and Power Lines was that in young adults much of the human brain is not yet fully developed. This was evident in Lea’s performance. Because of her age, she does not understand what it is like to be in love or committed, but simply wants to feel cared for. Palm Trees and Power Lines is one of the heaviest representations I have seen related to the consequences involved in poor judgment while growing up. It is mesmerizing, although it may be hard to sit through a second viewing. Three stars.


65 Review

The meaning of 65 is “65 million years ago and is intended to be an attention-grabbing fact. The movie is a blur of sci-fi fascination with technological captivation. It also has a lost planet vibe where there are endless surprises. The world in 65’s futuristic setting may be appealing, but I was not very impressed. A better way to describe 65 would be to say it is like the world of a video game merged with a film. The video game is along the lines of Halo, and the movie a bit like Jurassic Park. Two factors that may sound interesting to correlate, unfortunately fail to deliver.

There is not much of an intriguing plot while the film progresses from one catastrophe to the next. To help provide a better understanding, 65 starts with a ship crashing on an unknown planet. The captain is Mills, played by Adam Driver. All his passengers are gone, his ship has malfunctioned, and he has one survivor. The survivor is Koa, played by Ariana Greenblatt. Koa is Mills new mission. She is his responsibility to get to safety and to help her find her way home from this unknown planet which is full of dinosaurs and all kinds of strange scientific stuff. 65’s scenery is amazing, but it is like a video game. The movie adaptation has a very poor setup to its premise.

Much of the action in 65 just keeps happening without any explanation. It also seems like it borrows elements from other sci-fi classics.  For example, the ship in the film looks like the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek, and the world looks like the video game Metroid Prime.  The film is poorly written.  If the movie were to be more interesting, it should have created more questions for its audience. Is there more to the crash on the planet? Is there a reason why the planet is extinct? Are there resources on the planet for survival? 65 is a ride of rushed boredom that does not focus on factors that could entertain its audience.

There are a few points in the film when I did find the dangers on the planet enjoyable because they were visually stunning. Otherwise, 65 does not do much justice as a sci-fi adventure because it is not adventurous. It is a film that feels like a rip-off TV series that did not sell me at all. In fact, most video games based upon movies usually do not turn out that great either. In addition to 65 being nothing original, its technicalities, its characterizations, and its writing are all glitchy and cheesy. Watching it requires the attention-span of watching paint dry.  My experience with this film equates to watching a video game I was bored of playing.

Is 65 terrible? No, it is mediocre. Is it visually excellent? Very much so. Are there hidden treasures of sci-fi excitement? Not really. How many stars does it deserve? I would rate with only two stars because it lacks in many qualities.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods Review

The word, “Shazam!,” is where the positive superhero factor usually comes into play with a Shazam movie. In Shazam! Fury of the Gods there is a whole lot of “Shazam!” and much superhero nostalgia, but the film is actually somewhat of a trainwreck. The pacing is off, and I found myself wondering whether I could take this sequel seriously. For a continuation of a superhero franchise, this one felt very forgettable. It relies too much on the slapstick of its heroes and enemies, instead of focusing on the central conflict in the film. Director David F. Sandberg directed the first Shazam film in 2019, and he’s back for Shazam! Fury of the Gods, but this one just doesn’t seem to be one that will enthrall its superhero fans.

In Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Billy Batson (played by Asher Angel) is back as the superhero Shazam. As fans of the franchise know, when the word “Shazam!” is used Billy turns into the adult version of himself and he is recognized as the Shazam superhero. The adult and superhero version of Billy is played by Zachary Levi. The team of heroes and misfits are also back, ranging from Superhero Freddy (played by Adam Brody), Superhero Darla (played by Meagan Good), Superhero Pedro (played by D.J. Coltrona), and others. The enemies are Hespera and Kalypso (played by Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu).

In addition to the heroes, there is a god character who helps Billy. That character is also named Shazam and he is played by Djimon Hounsou. Sadly, though, the film does not develop this character enough or take it seriously.

Again, the directing in this film just seems out of focus. The pacing is off and the excess of humor detracts from the superhero importance. There is also not enough backstory about the enemies. The film leaves the audience wondering who is more powerful. Instead of lots of superhero jam it just keeps resorting to the buzzword, “Shazam!,” to keep the enticement going.

The credit I do give Shazam! Fury of the Gods is that it keeps its family-friendly approach. And that will help sell it to its target audience. But unfortunately, it is one of those continuation films that will leave much of the audience not appreciating the franchise. I still do, but this film didn’t help my appreciation. Overall, I just wish it could have stepped up its action, its twists, and given us some hidden gems of what is to continue in the franchise. This sequel was not very detailed, and when there is not much detail to a superhero franchise it doesn’t gives its audience enough information to anticipate what to expect down the road. I will say that I didn’t totally hate Shazam! Fury of the Gods, but I definitely didn’t love it, and it fell way below my expectations. Two stars for Shazam! Fury of the Gods.