Review: ‘Painkiller’ is the perfect Bill Oberst Jr. vehicle.

Painkiller

After a man loses his daughter to a drug overdose, he begins a vigilante campaign to bring down the white-collar criminals, including the doctors and pharmaceutical companies, behind the opioid epidemic.

PAINKILLER boasts gorgeous opening titles with 360-degree slow-motion character images surrounded by raining down multicolored pills. Combined with a truly magnificent score, it feels like the audience is being set up for a wild ride. Unfortunately, the overall experience is less thrilling. The premise is intriguing. It’s a revenge story that any parent could get behind. The film gets bogged down by amateur performances from the majority of the cast. I also scratched my head at the idea that a heart surgeon, whose wife is begging for his money in a divorce proceeding, didn’t reside in a more upscale home. This could have been easily addressed by filming those scenes in the same location used for our leading man. After seeing the clarity and effectiveness of the drone shots, this detail disappointed me.

The acting is either over-the-top or underwhelming, with three notable exceptions. Khalmimah Gaston as Detective Janet Simone is an awesome scene partner for Bill Oberst Jr. Their dialogues lays the emotional groundwork that drives the plot. I absolutely believe her as a cop. She’s even-keeled and always present with Bill. Tom Parnell, who also wrote and produced the film, is very strong as Dr. Thomas Mac. While I did think his character deserved better accommodations, his chemistry with his fellow cast members is solid. That final scene is some of the best written and performed in the film. Now onto our leading man Bill Oberst Jr. The tone of his voice is intoxicating. There’s a vulnerability to his portrayal of Bill that makes the audience root for him. His scenes, both as he interacts with callers on his radio show and as he seeks revenge on those who push opioids, are captivating. He is undeniably the number one reason to watch PAINKILLER.

*ON DEMAND/DIGITAL/DVD* MAY 4, 2021

Review: Watch with glee as Nicolas Cage battles evil animatronics in ‘Willy’s Wonderland’

WILLY’S WONDERLAND

When his car breaks down, a quiet loner agrees to clean an abandoned family fun center in exchange for repairs. He soon finds himself waging war against possessed animatronic mascots while trapped inside Willy’s Wonderland.

So we can all agree that Nicolas Cage is now firmly his own genre, right? I can’t believe this is the same guy from Raising Arizona and National Treasure. He is a force of nature. When you’ve reached this cool of a status you can pretty much pick whatever project you want. Bless Nic Cage for providing the masses with his particular set of skills on screen. WILLY’S WONDERLAND is the perfect place for us to experience this latest chapter of “Cage rage’ with some popcorn on our couches.  As “The Janitor”, Cage’s combination of nonchalance and violence is pure badass. This is a dude comprised of mystery and soda. But for a significant part of the film, we’re actually watching him clean this place. This Academy Award-winning actor clean urinals. It’s the weirdest bit of intrigue to witness but talk about commitment. Alongside a vat filled with horror tropes, all used masterfully, this film is sure to be a cult classic. Dare I say, even franchise potential for his character? With a ragtag group of teens, townspeople in on the rouse, evil possession a la Child’s Play, WILLY’S WONDERLAND is a damn good time. The cast is so committed to this story you just get to sit back and watch with giddy energy as the mayhem ensues. The final third of the film is relentless chaos, highlighted by a 3-minute interlude of Cage improvising at a pinball machine. It’s pure magic. This is why we watch movies.

G. O. Parsons‘ screenplay is so batshit it works. A possessed weasel, a fairy, a turtle, an alligator, a chameleon, a gorilla, a knight, and an Ostrich provide us with hilarious and gruesome kills and calamity. The Janitor’s mission of cleaning this damn place will not be deterred. There will undoubtedly be comparisons to the Five Nights at Freddy’s games and The Banana Splits movie but who cares. WILLY’S WONDERLAND has execution that is out of this world. The creature, set, and prop builds are wild. Attention to detail is award-worthy. My mother used to work at a Chuck E. Cheese. The atmosphere built for Cage and company to exist in is spot on. The handheld camerawork is dizzying and fantastic. The lighting is often enhanced with a black light hue that is simply delicious. It’s a funhouse of horrors. This is a genre fan’s dream watch. The practical FX are bloodsoaked and brutal. The soundtrack is epic. You will be singing Willy’s theme over and over because it balances on the edge of maniacal, weird, and wonderful. Where can I buy that and an official Willy’s Wonderland t-shirt? I’m as deadly serious as The Janitor.

WILLY’S WONDERLAND is now available on VOD platforms

Amazon Prime series: Twisted and dark ‘Tell Me Your Secrets’ Season 1 is available today!

TELL ME YOUR SECRETS

An intense, morally complex thriller revolving around a trio of characters, each with a mysterious and troubling past: Emma (Rabe) is a young woman who once looked into the eyes of a dangerous killer, John (Linklater) is a former serial predator desperate to find redemption, and Mary (Brenneman) is a grieving mother obsessed with finding her missing daughter, Theresa (Baker). As each of them is pushed to the edge, the truth about their pasts and motives grows ever murkier, blurring the lines between victim and perpetrator.

Emma Hall is a new woman, or at least she hopes to be. Recently released from prison, she is the former girlfriend of a notorious serial rapist and murderer. With a new identity and the help of a mysterious man, she attempts to start over in a small Louisiana town where no one knows who she is or what she’s done, including Emma. All we know is that she claims to have memory gaps when it comes to her boyfriend’s crimes. Mary lost her daughter 7 years ago and is convinced Emma holds the key to her disappearance. When reformed rapist John is denied a volunteer position at her foundation, Mary emotionally blackmails into tracking Emma down. The audience is in for one hell of a mystery.

With multiple timelines, you aren’t sure what to believe. Tell Me Your Secrets is loaded and dizzying. The end of episode one had me catching my breath. I need to know what happened to Theresa and how Emma is connected. I can tell as a Mother, this story intrigues me. As a true crime fan, I’m invested. As a critic, I am impressed at the storytelling style. If this is just the introduction to this series, I’m hooked.

The cast is top-notch. Amy Breneman‘s woman in the edge performance is terrifying. Hamish Linklater‘s anxiety-driven reformed act gives me pause. I’m dying to see more from him already. Lily Rabe‘s perfect balancing act of darkness and trauma makes Tell Me Your Secrets as captivating as it is. If you’re a fan of The Killing or True Detective, this could be your new binge.

All 10 episodes of Season 1 of TELL ME YOUR SECRETS are now available on Prime Video