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.

Inside Review

Nothing is more anxiety-provoking than being locked up fending for survival. In Inside there is a tone of discomfort in its harrowing premise. Inside is Vasilis Katsoupis’ second project as a director. This film involves a problematic situation where the anxiety goes to the core of its main character. Inside is Castaway (2000) taking place in a New York penthouse. One error led to someone being completely locked up. Inside brings all kinds of frustrations while focusing on survival and escaping confinement. There is no easy way to define this movie experience because audiences will take away different emotions once they see Inside for themselves.

In Inside the focus is on an art thief, Nemo (played by Willem Dafoe). He makes his way to a high-end New York penthouse to steal expensive works of art. His heist runs into trouble when alarms are triggered which seal off the whole penthouse. With the owner never there and all contacts lost once the place is sealed off, Nemo finds himself trapped. With the precious works of art surrounding him, he must figure out if he can escape or survive in the penthouse. As he realizes that it’s impossible to escape, he decides he should start making the penthouse feel like a home until he can figure out how to get out. Can he maintain his patience? What legal trouble could he face if he escapes?

Inside filled me with repulsive feelings as Nemo engages in activities he did not plan for. The penthouse has a lack of resources. There is no running water, messed up air conditioning, and barely any food. Nemo does find a way to make his resources manageable, but his bizarre mindset grows under shocking tensions. Inside caused me to feel scared due to Dafoe’s brilliant performance as someone stuck in confinement.

The features in the penthouse also contribute to Nemo losing his mind. For example, the refrigerator plays music when it is open for too long which makes Nemo even more angry. The other big anger factor for Nemo is the fact that there is a camera system through the plasma screen TV of the penthouse. He can see that there are others working and coming in and out of the building. Sadly, they cannot recognize that there is anything wrong with the penthouse that Nemo is trapped in because it is soundproof, and the main owner is never there. The film’s audience knows who the owner is, through pictures and information, but they never see him on screen.

Do not expect conversations or a whole lot of dialogue during Inside. Expect a whole lot disastrous thinking from the mind of Nemo caused by his continued frustration with finding a way out from a mission that went awry and caused him to be trapped in the penthouse. There is only so much Nemo can do to prevent himself from going completely insane in his unprecedented situation.

There are moments when Nemo narrates. Dafoe’s performance in this role slurs and goes down dark alleys. He shares a story in his narration about when he was young and was asked what items would have most meaning to him that he would save in a fire. The correlation to his narration and the situation he finds himself in is that there is no value when something valuable is destroyed. Instead of Nemo hoping to escape and make a profit from the art pieces he stole, he now finds himself in locked-up solitude creating his own art.

In the film, Nemo says, “There’s no creation without destruction!” In Inside there is a lot of creation and destruction. Unfortunately, it is a lot harder than Nemo or the audience anticipates because there is no simple answer to get him out of confinement. From my perspective, this film is an experimental thriller that keeps its audience thinking. Three stars.


Scream VI Review

“Do you like scary movies?”  Scream (1996)

I do like “scary movies” and many cult classics. Do I like Scream VI? I am neutral on that question. Scream VI is a film where the franchise does not stop its nostalgic and repetitive trends terror. The scary phone calls still come when expected. There is a killing jump in the storyline.  I found this movie to be a blur as it is a continuation of Scream (technically Scream V, but they still call it Scream), with no big changes or shocking realizations. I do not think these films should continue since the original director Wes Craven is dead. Sadly, the originality is lacking given the new direction in Scream VI.

In Scream VI, the survivors from the last film are back. They have gone through trauma, seen  harsh killings, and now they must contend with new terror in Scream VI. Sam Carpenter (played by Melissa Barrera), Mindy Meeks-Martin (played by Jasmin Savoy Brown), Chad Meeks-Martin (played by Mason Gooding), Tara Carpenter (played by Jenna Ortega), Kirby Reed (played by Hayden Panettiere), and finally Gale Weathers (played by Courteney Cox) are all back for a new terror. The new faces in the realm of the killing trail are Ethan (played by Jack Champion), Quinn Bailey (played by Liana Liberato), Detective Bailey (played by Dermot Mulroney), Anika (played by Devyn Nekoda), Jason Carvey (played by Tony Revolori), Danny Brackett (played by Josh Segarra), and Laura Crane (played by Samara Weaving). With returning victims and new characters, the trails of Woodsboro and New York are chilling with deaths by the Ghostface killer once again. But how many of them are there? Scream VI dives into a storyline that tries to add more emphasis on the evolution from the previous films.

There is a considerable amount of boredom with Scream VI as it relies on constant repeats from the franchise. There is a great deal of extended violence, but is it exhilarating? Not to the extent I was anticipating. Without David Arquette as Dewey Riley, the momentum of Scream VI hits a plateau. The previous gems of this franchise which included giggles, shocks, and awes have become a downward spiral resulting in a deteriorating experience.

There are no chills and there are no entertaining realizations in part due to different directors. The plot all comes down to how a film like this sells rather than structuring the storyline. I am sorry, but with horror, there needs to be structure. Some may be excited by numerous kills or creepy moments, but there should be an established progression. I did not experience any rewarding concept in Scream VI.  While it keeps the momentum of twists and kills, believe me, they are not very surprising or worthwhile. There is no poetic approach, and I don’t know how anyone could view this film as revolutionary. Its continuity is as stale as Scream in 2022 which again was really Scream V causing much confusion for audiences in this mess of a franchise.

In all honesty, anyone can be the killer. The line up of characters is not serious and the kills seem to happen at any given moment. The good and bad characters also have secrets up their sleeves.  It is like the director only cares about shock and awe. The enthralling factors in Scream VI are way below my entertainment expectations for a horror experience.

As I elaborate on how this franchise’s continuation is annoying, I still have a small amount of appreciation for Scream VI. It is a horror film franchise that has continued over the years which is somewhat fascinating. It is always fun to learn that characters in films find serious situations to be a joke based on what they see in the movies. The film has a comedic thread and connection between the main characters who are eventually the next target of a killing spree. I do appreciate how the humorous aspect has truly grown as the franchise has evolved. I just hope that somehow  Scream VI becomes a relic, because this film fails to be successful at all with its attempt to deliver horror for its audience. One-half star for Scream VI.

Champions Review

I am on the autism spectrum and I also advocate for others on the spectrum. Champions is about people with intellectual disabilities, and it is based on a true story, so I really loved it. It also takes place in Iowa, the state where my mom is from, which added to my enjoyment.

In Champions, a coach inspires a team of athletes with intellectual disabilities. The disabilities were confusing for the coach at first, but he turns out to be a great role model. And that is where Champions shines as an inspiration for people around the world who have intellectual disabilities.

The coach in Champions is a minor league basketball coach named Marcus, played by Woody Harrelson. Marcus has a harsh reputation, and his attitude gets him into trouble. After losing his coaching job he gets into a situation that lands him on probation and he’s required to do many hours of community service. To fulfill his obligation he starts coaching a basketball team of people with learning disabilities. In the beginning, Marcus is frustrated and feels that it is not for him. But he adjusts, and he begins to find his coaching jam again. With the help of Julio, a staff member from the school played by Cheech Marin, Marcus strives to be the coach he can be. With many players displaying different traits or routines, Marcus gradually begins to see himself as their role model, and that is one of the things I love about Champions. It shows that even someone who has fallen on hard times can help others go further in life.

Harrelson delivers a very heartfelt performance as Marcus in Champions. He learns to accept his players and how they feel about themselves. He also learns to understand how his errors means he needs to strive to improve as well. Marcus discovers that many of his players are higher functioning than he realized. One player knows many languages, another works in a restaurant, one delivers mail, and many have their own routines that they do daily. I was touched by this aspect of the film because I know that people with disabilities need assistance for some things, but they don’t necessarily need as much help as some people think. They may struggle in some areas, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t capable in other areas. It’s just that their sensitivities must be taken into consideration.

The overall message of Champions is that everyone is a winner, and that despair can turn into hope. The players on Marcus’s team became winners with Marcus’s help and inspiration. And although losing his job and being on probation was very hard for Marcus, he came to realize that although he may not be able to coach a big-league team, it wasn’t the end of the world, and coaching this team could be rewarding.

I have suffered due to my own errors, too. There was a time where I didn’t want to go to events or places with others on the spectrum. Over time though, my mentors and peers helped me find my voice. Now I thrive as a film critic, and I also strive to encourage others like myself to do what they can to live the fullest life possible. Champions reminded me that even something bad can turn into a good thing if you work hard and have the right attitude.

Champions is a wonderful experience and, again, I really loved it. It’s a film that will inspires those with disabilities and those on the spectrum, as well as people who don’t have those issues, to be winners. There is little bit of crude humor, but not much. The film has a positive outlook throughout, and its presentation is spellbinding. Three and a half stars for Champions.