‘Candyman’: Nia DaCosta Becomes First Black Female Filmmaker To Open Pic To No. 1 At Domestic B.O.

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Deadline 29 August, 2021 - 07:50pm 23 views

Is Candyman on HBO Max?

Candyman, the horror sequel, opened only in theaters Friday. But it will wind up on HBO Max eventually, after a long wait. Currently, HBO Max streams new movies from Warner Bros. the same day they're released in theaters. CNETCandyman isn't streaming on HBO Max (or Netflix), sorry

We discuss the unexpected ending of "Candyman" with director Nia DaCosta and star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.

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Yahya Abdul-Mateen II chats with USA TODAY's Rasha Ali about the new "Candyman" film and how he approaches his success in Hollywood. USA TODAY

Say "Candyman" five times while looking in a mirror and a murderous ghost shows up to kill you – at least that's how it's supposed to go.

But if there's anything we learned by watching director Nia DaCosta's reimagining of "Candyman" (in theaters now), it's that nothing will be as we expect it. The new take on the urban legend that had people living in fear in 1992 is back with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy, a visual artist who also ends up taking on the titular role of the feared Candyman himself (surprise!), except this time he's not just a ruthless murderer but a hero as well.

After Anthony is kidnapped by local laundromat owner William Burke (Colman Domingo), whom we mistook for a friendly man, and is forced to face his connection to the urban myth, his girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris) tries to save him. She ends up stabbing William to death as she and a bleeding Anthony await help. Help does come, kind of. White police officers show up, mistakenly shoot Anthony thinking he was dangerous (surprise), arrest Brianna and give her an ultimatum that forces her to decide between snitching on Anthony and being set free or being charged as an accomplice to Candyman's murders (neither of which seem like good options if we're being honest).

Realizing her options are less than desirable, Brianna does the unthinkable. She looks in the rearview mirror of the cop's car and says "Candyman" five times, summoning the half-dead boogeyman who is now Anthony's ghost. Now normally, Brianna would be one of Candyman's victims, but he spares her and viciously murders the police officers instead, ultimately saving his boo. 

"When she called on Candyman, that's when we finally solidify that Candyman isn't just this Daniel Robitaille version, or the other versions we see, he's also, in the sense of him being a romantic hero, this force of vengeance, this source of demented catharsis," DaCosta explains. 

Up until that moment, Candyman has been seen as a victim of racial violence, from Robitaille's tragic story to Sherman Fields being ruthlessly murdered by police in the beginning of the new film. The ending gives the ghosts of all those who've died at the hands of racists a chance to reclaim their trauma, Abdul-Mateen says.

"It gives us an opportunity to say that our trauma does not define us and that no one else can claim and (co-opt) our trauma. That if the trauma is ours, then it's also ours to decide what to do with it and our trauma can become power," Abdul-Mateen says.

The premise of invoking Candyman's name draws parallels to the Black Lives Matter movement's calls to say the names Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and other victims of police brutality. Anthony's return as Candyman to become the hero for Brianna makes Abdul-Mateen reflect on the lives lost to police brutality that could've also been heroes in their own ways.

"They deserve so much more out of life than what they got… They deserve to still be here," Abdul-Mateen says. "I wish I didn't know their names. I wish that I learned their names for better reasons, for their heroic deeds, not because they were murdered and slain in cold blood."

The ending moves to give those victims vindication after their death, Abdul-Mateen explains. 

"That's what I get from that moment. We see Anthony come back and take some of his destiny, his fate into his own hands, and be the savior of a Black woman of someone that he loved, of someone who couldn't save him when he was alive."

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Candyman - 'Composing Candyman' Featurette

Universal Pictures 30 August, 2021 - 04:10am

Vacation Friends is, at its core, a buddy comedy with two couples as the leads, and the chemistry between them is brilliant, which sells even the most over-the-top sequences because you're already invested. Vacation Friends is everything you expect and yet, unlike anything you are expecting all at the same time, its moment-to-moment skewering of your expectations is part of why the blend of surreal and physical comedy works so well. Throw in some family comedy and a bit of slapstick and you've got a comedy that consistently delivers laughs from beginning to end, and easily ranks as one of my favorite comedies of the year.

The film follows Emily (Yvonne Orji) and Marcus (Lil Rel Howery), a couple looking to enjoy some time away on vacation, though Marcus also wants to use this time to propose to Emily. Pretty much nothing goes right from the time they get to the resort, though, and that's where they meet Kyla (Meredith Hagner) and Ron (John Cena). From there, the pace picks up and Marcus and Emily go on a wild ride that pushes them out of their comfort zone in numerous ways, but every time you think the film is going one direction, it swerves just before taking the full turn.

Director Clay Tarver toys with the audience at several different points throughout the film, suggesting that things are about to take a very dark turn in the story, and, each and every time, the film hooks you before delivering a big "sike!" The constant waiting for the other shoe to drop helps keep you invested in the group's ongoing story, and it allows the more lighthearted moments and physical comedy to land with more impact.

Speaking of physical comedy, there's quite a bit of it here, including several stellar scenes involving Howery and Cena. There's an art to physical comedy, and both stars simply knock it out of the park, including one sequence that has Howery choking Cena where Cena falls to the floor like a stack of lumber, and it all comes together brilliantly.

Even when you know what's coming, like in one particular sequence involving a boat, Tarver finds a unique perspective and approach that still allows it to land with the necessary punch. I rewatched that scene three times, and each time it somehow got even funnier, despite seeing what was going to happen from a mile away. Another one of these happens with a pistol earlier in the film, and, again, the sequence still sings despite knowing the outcome.

Much of that is a credit to the chemistry of the movie's cast. Howery and Orji complement each other well, and it's Emily that pulls Marcus through this wild adventure even more than Ron and Kyla. When Ron and Kyla are in the picture, though, they are simply delightful, and Hagner and Cena's performances allow two characters who should be viewed as obnoxious in many ways to instead be viewed as endearing, charming, and genuine. Sure, they make some questionable decisions, but, not going to lie, despite understanding Marcus and Yvonne's frustration with them, I was rooting for Kyla and Ron all the way by the film's end.

The movie's other running threads, like Henry (Robert Wisdom) disliking Marcus, Marcus' ongoing feud with Emily's brother Gabe (King Bach), and Marcus' co-workers not being invited to the wedding, all add something unique and fun to the mix and set up memorable scenes like the fox-hunting sequence that results in some of the most quotable lines in the film.

Vacation Friends isn't perfect, mind you, as certain spots feel a bit prolonged for the sake of it, and a trim here and there wouldn't have hurt the overall movie in any way. Gabe was a delight in the few scenes he's in, but more screen time would've been welcome, and not every joke lands, either.

That said, there are far more hits than misses, and I was laughing all the way through to the end. Vacation Friends is what you expect from an ensemble comedy, but the film wears its heart on its sleeve, spinning even the most surreal and over-the-top sequences into something heartfelt and sincere by the end. I simply can't wait to watch this again, and think you'll enjoy the ride just as much as I did.

Vacation Friends is available to stream on Hulu now.

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‘Black people know how scary the world is’: How Candyman became a story of radical justice

The Independent 30 August, 2021 - 04:10am

Even if you hadn’t seen Candyman, you knew not to say his name five times. In 1992, Bernard Rose’s beguiling horror masterpiece inspired collective trauma about bees, mirrors, and the haunting piano work of composer Philip Glass. Summon at your own risk the Candyman, the film told us, its message trickling out of the cinema and into the playgrounds of the world, where it spread among children far too young to actually see it. A towering, tortured and sensual spectre with a hook for a hand, Candyman would appear in the mirror and kill you if you said his name five times in a row. Nearly 30 years later, Candyman is back, just in case you might have forgotten him.

In the hands of filmmaker Nia DaCosta, the new Candyman – a direct sequel to the 1992 film – enriches the themes curdling under the surface of the original. It clears up some of the messier logic of Rose’s work, and reconfigures the Candyman himself as not just a scary figure of modern folklore, but an embodiment of generational trauma through the decades.

DaCosta, who also co-wrote the film with Oscar winner Jordan Peele (Get Out) and producer Win Rosenfeld, knew it would be a Herculean task to continue the Candyman story, particularly when the original film so successfully burrowed its way beneath our skin. But then she thought about why it affected so many people. “When I think about the horror films I grew up with, they mostly took place in the suburbs,” she recalls. “I’m thinking of films like Halloween, that usually dealt with relentless serial killers, or suburban ennui. They were things that I didn’t understand as a person living in a giant city. Candyman just felt closer to home.”

Like any urban sprawl, both films feel busy yet oppressively isolating. In Rose’s Candyman, a young graduate student (Virginia Madsen) investigates stories of a hook-handed killer (Tony Todd) slaughtering residents of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project. Standing on the periphery of luxury apartment buildings, the tower block is a living monument to violence and racial inequity.

In the sequel, Cabrini-Green has been demolished and replaced by a further parade of expensive housing, and blocked artist Anthony (the ludicrously charismatic Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) selects both its tragic history and the Candyman legend to be his latest inspiration. Soon he discovers chilling links between his own upbringing and Cabrini-Green’s violent past, all the while on the fringes of a new spate of murders.

DaCosta’s direction is elegant and ambitious. There are shadow puppets, dramatic crane shots and some of the gnarliest acts of body horror on film since Natalie Portman yanked off her cuticles in Black Swan. Tougher to articulate, though, is the film’s disquieting menace. There is a phantasmagoric unease to it all, from shapes in shadows that may not even be there to human bodies that move too slowly to be ordinary.

Nia DaCosta directs Yahya Abdul-Mateen II on the set of ‘Candyman'

Providing lightness amid the terror is British actor Nathan Stewart-Jarrett – of Misfits and Angels in America fame – who steals scenes as Troy, the resourceful brother of Anthony’s girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris). Like DaCosta, the original Candyman left a marked impression on him as a child. Unlike DaCosta, those feelings still linger. He wouldn’t even utter the name “Candyman” during rehearsals for the film.

“I was, like: ‘Of course I’ll say it when the cameras are rolling, but I’ll just skip over it right now,’” he remembers. “I’d bleep it for myself.” He jokes – I think – that he’s even slightly uncomfortable with the amount of times I’ve said the name during questions to him. “You’re running very close to five right now!” he howls. “I just don’t f*** around with it! Like why do it? If nothing happens, then [shrugs], but if something does happen, you’d be like: Why did I say that five times?”

Stewart-Jarrett calls Troy “the smartest person in the room”, or someone who quickly recognises that he’s stuck in a horror movie. But he’s also not alone. Throughout Candyman, Black characters express rationality, keep themselves safe, and refuse to meddle with the dangerous forces their white – and doomed – counterparts take for granted. In that sense, the film reminded me of a scene in Wes Craven’s Scream 2: upon seeing the white bodies piling up around him, a Black cameraman played by actor Duane Martin calls up a taxi, gets the hell out of town and is never seen again. So when DaCosta tells me that Scream is one of her favourite movies, it comes as no surprise.

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“The Black characters in my film are very much, ‘No, thank you – I don’t need to invite any more darkness into my life, I have enough to deal with in the real world,’” she says. “And it also plays into the trope of: Black people would never be in a horror movie because they would not go into the haunted house, or go camping in the haunted woods, or investigate the mysterious sound. ‘Nope, not for me – goodbye!’ But it was also acknowledging that Black people have an awareness of how scary the world is in a very specific way. We’re told about that from a young age in order to aid our survival.”

Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and Kyle Kaminsky in ‘Candyman'

That consciousness papers over some of the cracks in Rose’s earlier vision. His film – loosely adapted from a short story by Clive Barker – gestures towards racism, inequality and the legacy of trauma. It is predominantly a mood piece, though, one that is erotic, scary and mesmerising, but also told from the limited perspective of a white character infiltrating a world that is not her own. It’s a creative choice that comes at the expense of Candyman himself, who Todd imbues with strikingly seductive menace, but whose motivations are… a bit wackadoo.

Originally alive in the 1800s, Rose’s Candyman was a Black painter, whose rise within high society was halted when he fell in love with, and impregnated, a white debutante. He was killed by racists, who sawed off his hand and slathered him in honey, leaving him for the bees. His spirit has haunted Cabrini-Green ever since, but his murderous motives are unclear throughout the film.

The original poster artwork for Bernard Rose’s ‘Candyman'

If he is an emblem of racism and the evils of white supremacy, why is he terrorising modern Black people? And are his efforts to turn Madsen’s character into a figure of similarly folkloric horror a kind of revenge scheme, or does he just want her as his bride? Clarity is absent. The story feels occasionally half-told, or skittish when it needed to be brave.

DaCosta’s sequel entirely deconstructs Candyman’s origins, digging deep into what he represents, who he kills and what he wants. In DaCosta’s film, Candyman isn’t so much a man as a lineage. He, and the Candymen like him, are harrowing products of American racism and distrust, the violence they impart a radical form of justice.

“Nia being at the helm of this movie really changes where the horror comes from,” Stewart-Jarrett says. “It’s no longer the horror of ‘the other’. And it kind of means that the horror is deeper. In terms of nuance, it goes back to who is driving the narrative and who’s in charge of it. Candyman was ‘the other’ in [the first film]. It’s very different now. In our film, he is definitely an antihero. He exists in a different way. He’s not just some kind of weird, shadowy monster. He’s actually this very tragic man.”

Nia DaCosta directs Yahya Abdul-Mateen II on the set of ‘Candyman'

Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and Kyle Kaminsky in ‘Candyman'

The original poster artwork for Bernard Rose’s ‘Candyman'

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