Note: The author of this review attended a special screening of The Florida Project at the Arclight Cinemas in Los Angeles, followed by a Q&A with writer/ director Sean Baker, writer/producer Chris Bergoch, and cinematographer Alexis Zabe (moderated by LA Times’ Glenn Whip). Any quotations from this review come from that Q&A.

Following the critical acclaim of his 2015 film Tangerine, writer and director Sean Baker tackles another seldom-portrayed subject matter in his newest film, The Florida Project. From the script to the set, the film is infused with the smart, subtle choices Baker and the rest of his team.

The Florida Project follows the charming, foul-mouthed Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her imprudent, often reckless mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) as they live day-to-day out of a motel in Orlando, Florida. Set on the outskirts of Walt Disney World, the story juxtaposes the park’s magical hopefulness with the decidedly unmagical lives of those living in its depressed backdrop.

The film is vibrant from the opening credits, in both energy and design. The audience is introduced immediately to Moonee and her similarly impetuous friends, screaming vulgarities at an innocent grandmother. Moonee’s mother, Halley, feigns disappointment and regret when confronted with this transgression, and it becomes clear that this is not a conventional mother-daughter relationship.

While Moonee and Halley as characters may not make the most dynamic duo, the performances from Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinaite bring an unusual charm to the pair; their relationship on screen is mostly endearing enough to distract from their objectively despondent situation–an impressive feat for the pair of newcomers, to be sure.

If there is Brooklynn Prince Oscar buzz, it will be warranted. It doesn’t quite make sense to say that she ‘steals the show’ because she is the protagonist, but you get the sense that she would have stolen it even if she wasn’t. She carries this weighty film with aplomb, delivering scripted lines like a seasoned actor and improvising other lines like many seasoned actors can’t. As Baker remarked, “She was born to do this.”

The integration of tremendous improv into an already incredibly written script produced dialogue that doesn’t feel real so much as it is real. Baker was committed to his young actors  “having the time of their lives” on set. Baker’s style in this respect has created an authenticity that serves as the cornerstone of the entire picture.

It is a movie meant to be seen through the eyes of a child. Cinematographer Alexis Zabe spoke  about some of the photographic decisions that helped build this world: “We were trying to remember what the world was like when we were six years old…The colors are brighter, the sense are more alive…You concentrate on the beauty of things.” Zabe also credited Production Designer Stephonik Youth in bringing the child’s perspective to the screen, and realizing the importance of walking a line between ‘making it real, and keeping it a notch above reality’ to represent that perspective.

The sternly warm (or warmly stern?) motel manager, Bobby (Willem Dafoe) is perfectly cast. Throughout the movie, Bobby is confronted, tangentially or directly, with every conflict that faces Halley and Moonee. He meets these confrontations with a variety of responses–humor, incredulity, stubbornness, rage–but always with real sympathy. Dafoe’s performance makes it easy for the audience to feel that sympathy with him, even if, at times, the characters don’t deserve it.

A movie about the plight of a directionless low-income family in Orlando is, on paper, highly-susceptible to melodrama. Despite the litany of scenes and events that could justify it, the movie avoids the overly-emotional and instead chooses to ebb and flow its tension, remaining effectively stingy with its catharsis.

In that sense, the movie is definitely a slow burn; it focuses more on establishing and exploring the world in which the characters live, then allowing that world to become a character itself. To fully appreciate this movie, it requires a patience that few movies require in today’s landscape. It is, however, that specificity of pace, of tone, and of narrative that make The Florida Project beautiful.

If you’re in the Boston area, The Florida Project is currently showing at the Boston Common, Coolidge Corner Theatre, and Kendall Square Cinema. Check it out!

Welcome to’s Greatest Weekend. Let us plan your weekend for you!

Every Saturday we will bring our readers a list of events and activities that will guarantee your weekend to be fun and will bring you to places in Worcester that you may have never thought to go to or have never heard of before.

Our staff has chosen ten fun things to do this weekend. If you have any other suggestions for the Greatest Weekend, please comment below or email us at [email protected].

Here’s this weekend’s – 9/30 & 10/1 – list! Enjoy!

Saturday 9/30

Chili and Chowder Fest

Get your appetite ready.

The Worcester Chili & Chowder Fest will return for its third year on Saturday, Sept. 30.

The event will be hosted by Vintage Grille at 346 Shrewsbury St. and will be held from 1 PM to 5 PM.

Bellas Bartok and August First at Bull Mansion

Bella’s Bartok is described as “The circus punk powerhouse infuses klezmer punk with pop sensibilities into a spectacle that can’t help but compel you to dance!”  August First is described as ” Blues-Grassicana” project from New England that celebrates the many musical incarnations of Jerry Garcia”

18+ to enter, 21+ to drink. Doors at 8 PM, show at 8:30, $12 Admission  -Make your dinner reservations in our bistro before the show, at Free Parking in our chestnut/pearl st lot, entrance via chestnut street

Brews, Bikes and Blues at 3 Cross Brewing Company

Funky renewed space. Great in-house craft beer. Cool business with a unique vision.
Lots of acoustic music!

The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

The Imperial Lion Dance Team is proud to present the Annual  Mid-Autumn Moon Festival 2017!
Location: Chua Pho Hien – 96 Dewey Street, Worcester, MA Time: 5:00PM – 9:30PM

Parade with lanterns around the block with the Imperials, Lion Dance Performance,Drumming challenge, and much more!

Rock Night: WPI Music Fest at Ballot Box

Starring LIfe Time Supply of the Basement Bands & Dead End Friends

Sunday 10/1

Tour the Bancroft Tower

Take a historical tour of the Tower and experience a 360 degree view of the City.
10 AM – 2 PM at Salisbury Park

Special Park Spirit members only early access to the Tower from 9 AM – 10 AM

80’s Skate at Skylite

Come on down for some 80’s roller skating! Friends and Family invited down for three hours of fun on the new skating surface!
$5.00 admission.

Watch the Patriots Game

Visit your favorite local bar or restaurant and watch the New England Patriots take on Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers

AbilityFest 2017 at Institute Park

Seven Hills AbilityFest 2017 will be our third annual event for our community to celebrate the abilities of children and adults with life challenges. AbilityFest provides an opportunity for community-wide fun through participation in either a 5K road race or the 1-mile “Murphy Mile” walk – all during a festival of arts, music and inclusive activities. Join us for#AbilityFest

Civil War Movie Series: Gone with the Wind

Celebrating our 160th Anniversary! #MechHall160

#MechanicsHallCinema presents  #CivilWar Movie Series featuring Gone With The Wind starring Clark GableVivien LeighOlivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard,Hattie McDaniel, and Thomas Mitchel

Beverages and concessions, raffles and more!  Your movie ticket includes a brief historical tour of Mechanics Hall. The tour begins at noon and will last approximately 30 minutes.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie is the third big screen adaptation of the construction toys that most of America grew up with.  Directors Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, and Bob Logan capture much of the fun, tongue-in-cheek humor that the previous features perfected, and brings a new world, Ninjago, into the mainstream.

The story of Ninjago focuses around Lloyd (Dave Franco), who is a typical high school student who doubles as a city’s protector along with his friends. Lloyd also happens to be the estranged son of the evil overlord Garmadon (Justin Theroux), which is a source of constant ridicule at school.  Ninjago is introduced to the audience by Mr. Liu (Jackie Chan), a shop owner explaining a hero’s journey using Legos in a live-action sequence.  The viewer is then transported to the animated world of Ninjago, and the fast-moving story takes off from there.

The directors kept to the winning formula of the previous films by voicing the characters with well known and very talented comedic actors.  Kumail Nanjiani voices Lloyd’s friend/fellow ninja, Jay, and does a great job of being a funny, nervous, realist, much like his character in Silicon Valley.  Fred Armisen, a Saturday Night Live alum, voices Cole, and Michael Pena voices Kai.  Both actors are very funny and bring a lot of life to the movie.  The female ninja, Nya, is voiced by Abbi Jacobson, while the robot ninja, Zane, is voiced by Zach Woods, who brings his analytical comedy that he perfected in The Office to the film. Jackie Chan provides the voice of the ninja’s sensei, Master Wu, and brings an air of credibility to the martial arts aspect of the film.

The best character in the movie is Garmadon, who is an absent father to Lloyd, and also his archnemesis.  Theroux is very entertaining in the role and gives Will Arnett’s Batman character a run for his money as the most arrogant, likeable character in the franchise.  While being a villain hell bent on taking over Ninjago, he also has many heartfelt moments with the main character, in a way that the Lego movies have tended to do.

The film draws many influences from martial arts movies of the past, including clips and overt references throughout the movie.  The movie starts out with a Power Rangers-esque vibe, where each member of the team has their own power (in this case it is elements) and their own giant robot vehicle.  It then moves onto the ninjas’ journey of self discovery.  The film is rife with pop culture references, and some good celebrity cameos, and it is entertaining for an adult and suitable for a child.  Although a little short, it definitely is entertaining and enjoyable.  Even though the first two installments set the bar high, Lego Ninjago is almost on par with both and is a great watch for the whole family.

I’d consider myself fab and fun, but fit is definitely a stretch. A weekly spin class seems to be my only real intense workout and besides that a light jog seems to do the “trick”. But, if you think about it… What more could you want as a personal goal?

I think I would gladly take all three if I had to choose. So, what can combine all three of these qualities into something? Well, a quarterly subscription box! Fab, Fit, Fun boxes combine all three things into one small package.

For a little background information before I spill all the “deets” on of the coolest boxes you can receive in the mail, let me explain a little bit more.

There are three steps in this box as they say… 1. You Want It: every season a handpicked box by the Fab Fit Fun team that will coincide with the particular season and what it will offer you. 2. You Get It: receive the box at your front door, depending on if you are an annual customer, or seasonal, which you choose when you’d receive. Lastly: 3. You Love It: your box including glamour, fitness and fashion.

So, if you like surprises and want to look forward to something fun in the mail, I think the Fab, Fit, Fun Box is a perfect season treat for yourself. We are all hardworking, young individuals where $50 quarterly or $179.99 annually won’t break the bank for the cutest little [big] arrival in the mail.

Recently, one of my besties Emily — hey girl! — told me about her Fab Fit Fun box she was getting and she was incredibly excited. Before the box came, she got to request a few more items and pay an additional amount of money for more in her box.

I just had to see what all of this fuss was about – and if I am being honest – I am already impatient for my next FFF Box to come, and I think I may be more ecstatic than Emily!!

Opening this box was like a dramatic effect… I was SO excited about everything. It was like I never have even had the opportunity to purchase these items, and now *poof* at my fingertips ready to be owned and loved.

So, without further-a-do… Lets see what I got!

  1. Private Party: Gym Bag- A cutie pie gym bag that says “Will Workout For Cupcakes”. Yes, that was requested over “Gym and Juice”. I am in fact more of a cupcake girl- chocolate with vanilla frosting if you’re looking to treat me to something nice. But first maybe I should gym first. How cute to put your gym sneaks in here to bring along with you for your workout?! It is a denim bag with cream straps. I’d say one of my fav finds in the box.
  2. Molr Dental Club: Organic Carbon & Coconut Teeth Whitening Powder and Toothbrush- Okay, yes- definitely seems interesting but having white, squeaky clean teeth intrigues me. This is made with charcoal, which is an active trending product right now in the market. I am all about the white and clean teeth club and if this will help me get in… Sign me up! … Another option I could have chosen was an Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse, but this was a little intimidating knowing how much attention I have to pay to my blonde hairs and brown roots… Ugh did I just admit that?
  3. Whish Beauty: Mud Mask- A full size mask that comes is in a pump bottle. The ingredients include bentonite clay which is actually formulated in weathered volcanic ash! I am a sucker for face masks… There is nothing better than pulling out the impurities on your face, am I right?
  4. Mer-Sea & Co.: Scarf- cozy, comfy, and versatile! This scarf was wrapped up perfectly, and once I unraveled it, it was massive! Perfect for traveling, a cooler day…. To drape off your neck, or loop around, or even off the shoulder, you pick how you wear it and own it.
  5. The Jetset Diaries: Cable Knit Beanie- Here, I could have chosen a belt, or ask for a “surprise”, which the FFF Team picks for you. In hindsight, maybe the belt would have been the better option thinking ahead with my chunky tunic sweaters and leggings… It would add nice detail. BUT not to say I won’t have a bad hair day on a weekend day where the beanie is a must have. (Sunday and Saturday days off= my hair will NOT be done until at least 5pm… So, I received this color in black and the cable stitch includes the detail all around. Simple, but gets to the point.
  6. Deco Miami: Lavender Cuticle Oil- smells and looks nice!! Love lavender and the color purple, although, one thing I do for myself is get my nails done. So this is not as big of a win for me as it would be the other products. My sister loves cuticle oil, and my nail beds are so dry so maybe FFF is just trying to tell me something!
  7. Mytagalongs: Hot & Cold Gel Pack- the perfect ice or hot pack with simply the cutest sayings! Mine came with a cute saying too. These are perfect for after workouts, long days in pumps at the office, or after Monday morning’s slipping, and falling down your own stairs in new shoes… Ugh- if you’re wondering, I had a speedy recovery!!
  8. Trestique: Matte Color & Shiny Balm Lip Crayon- personally love a good lip balm.. Always up for trying a new one out, but I am currently into a new lip brand (stay tuned!!!!). So, this would probably be a product I give my mom to try, or just keep in my work bag for a quick touch up if need be.
  9. Imm Living: Coxet Wire Heart Ceramic Jewelry Holder- I currently use a wine bottle that holds my top favorite bracelets, and this is the perfect table piece to showcase my favorite earrings. The rose gold is a nice splash of newness into my jewelry tray, and ties together the whole box perfectly.

Not so bad for $49.99, right? Everything retailed and added up to over $200. Fab Fit Fun sends along a newsletter with everything in the box, how much it is actually worth, and some tips, and ways to use and wear. All in all, I am impressed with the box and found it fresh and innovative.

With much consideration and thought, I compared Fab Fit Fun to my other subscriptions. Ipsy and Birchbox, and as much as I love all of my samples of moisturizer and mascara sitting under my bathroom cabinets…I feel as though the full size mix of fashion, glam, and fitness will give me exactly what I want.

Fab Fit Fun makes you wait, and you know what they always say… Something good is worth the wait! So, Seamless & Savvy is all for the Fab Fit Fun box and can’t wait to get the next one for winter, you should too!

Make sure to follow the fashion adventures with Seamless & Savvy on instagram: seamless_savvy

Stay Fab, Stay Fit, Stay Fun, but most of all Stay Savvy!

WORCESTER – According to a recent national economic impact study, the nonprofit arts and culture industry in Greater Worcester generates more than $125 million in annual economic activity.
The Arts & Economic Prosperity study, conducted by Americans for the Arts – the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education –  shows that the arts and culture programs in Greater Worcester support 4,062 full-time equivalent jobs and generate nearly $10 million in local and state government revenues.
“In Worcester, we understand that art works. Worcester is home to world-class art, theatre, and concerts, and they add tremendous value, not only to our culture but to our economy,” said City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. “As a city, we must continue to cultivate our creative economy, which is crucial to our continued success as a great place to live, work, study, and play.”
Results from the study show that nonprofit arts and culture organizations spent $64.5 million during FY 2015. That money generated more than $46 million in household income for local residents, over $3 million local government revenue and $2.5 million in state government revenue.
“This study demonstrates that the arts are an economic and employment powerhouse both locally and across the nation,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “A vibrant arts and culture industry helps local businesses thrive and helps local communities become stronger and healthier places to live. Leaders who care about community and economic vitality can feel good about choosing to invest in the arts. Nationally as well as locally, the arts mean business.”
“The empirical data from this study is eye popping, it proves the arts and culture industry is a major factor in the economic well-being of the Worcester community and its populace,” noted Michael Traynor, Worcester’s Chief Development Officer. “The creative economy is an indispensable component of our economic development agenda.”
In addition to spending by organizations, the nonprofit arts and culture industry leveraged $61.2 million in event-related spending by its audiences. In Worcester, these dollars support 1,261 full-time equivalent jobs and generate $4,215,000 in local and state government revenues.
“The study confirms that the arts in its many forms, contributes to the economic vitality of our city and region. Worcester’s growing restaurant and foodie scene is just one example of how the arts and creative economy can come together to create jobs and generate revenue,” noted Timothy P. Murray, president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce
“Cities and communities we want to live in are those that have both economic viability, and social capital. Great cities and towns that are exciting , thriving communities embrace arts, culture and creativity. Creativity sparks the economy and build community. “noted Erin Williams, Cultural Development Officer for the City of Worcester.
“The impact of cultural assets and organizations should be measured not just in dollars but in the way the arts elevate our entire city,” said Mayor Joseph M. Petty.  “Beyond just brick and mortar construction and development, a modern eighteen-hour-city needs a vibrant culinary and cultural sector to move forward.”

WORCESTER – Walking down Shrewsbury Street late last Thursday night, this reporter couldn’t help but notice how quiet it was, how few people were out walking around, and how each bar and restaurant passed was practically empty.

It was a relatively warm night, and college was already back in session — a typical boon for weeknights at the city’s bars following a long summer run of relying on Worcester residents that were actually in the city and not on vacation.

When a Shrewsbury St. restaurant owner — who wished to remain anonymous — was asked if he would answer some questions about Worcester’s nightlife, he responded bluntly.

“What nightlife?,” he asked in return.

For the owner of a well-established restaurant on the city’s famed “Restaurant Row” to answer so candidly speaks volumes about the current state of the city’s bar and restaurant scene.

A major concern for the restaurant and bar owners we interviewed was whether or not the city’s college students have the means to — and desire to  — leave their dorms, apartments and homes to bar hop and dine out on weeknights.

On Tuesday, Sept. 19, staff members from conducted a survey of more than two dozen restaurant managers, employees and owners from Shrewsbury St., the Canal District, downtown Worcester and Park Ave, as well as sales personnel from local beer and alcohol distributors.

The three questions that were asked of each person were – 1. How has business been since the start of September? 2. Has the return of the college students improved business? And 3. Do you agree with what some of our readers have told us: “There’s no one out in Worcester anymore” and why do you agree with that?

The majority of those surveyed said that business has gotten slower since the summer and deemed it atypical or that the nights that were typically busier no longer were, but other nights have developed foot traffic, and that in comparison to other years, the traffic in their bars and restaurants were down across the board.

“Business is down everywhere,” said a liquor salesman who wished to remain anonymous with sales routes in Worcester. “I couldn’t give you a definitive answer as to why, but I see it in my paycheck every week.”

Shrewsbury St. Worcester

John Richard, co-owner of Parkway Bar and Restaurant on Shrewsbury St, said, “Business typically picks up for us this time of year, mainly on the weekend. I think it has to do more with people not going to the beach for the weekend and getting back into their weekly routines.”

“However,” Richard continued, “I agree with the readers that there is no one out in Worcester anymore because I can see it with my own eyes. I guess Friday and Saturday nights are okay, but if you go out in Worcester during the week after 8 PM it’s become a ghost town. That wasn’t the case a few years ago.”

“It’s funny, but our busiest time of the year is summer. So when September rolls around, I don’t feel it gets better with the college kids coming back,” Vintage Grille owner Robyn Caruso said.

Most notably, only one bar owner — John Rinaldo of The Muse on Main St. — said that business had actually improved during the week since the start of September.

Rinaldo told, “I really don’t have many customers that are undergrads. That said, I’ve definitely seen an uptick in business post-Labor Day.”

So where is everyone? What happened to “Thirsty Thursdays” for college students? And what factors are playing into the lack of a city’s nightlife?

Many restaurant and bar owners we surveyed listed several reasons that they all agreed on: there are so many restaurants in the city today compared to five years ago that the same nightlife population is spread out across Worcester, there are so many city-wide activities (bar crawls, beer festivals, cookouts) geared to college students and young professionals that are held during the day or immediately after work — leading to many people “calling it a night” early, and — although none of them could pinpoint why — most that were surveyed said it seems as if the young crowd has less money than people of the similar age group did five years ago.

However, the majority’s verdict is: No one is leaving their house.

Most people that were surveyed said — in one way or another — “Everyone is staying at home” and named Netflix, social media, dating apps, sporting events on television, and other activities as more affordable means to stay entertained and social compared to bar hopping and dining out.

In fact, one business has taken off in Worcester because of the large amount of individuals staying in on weeknights and some weekends.

According to Rob Simon, Growth Operations Manager for Foodler, the home food delivery business is thriving because people are staying home and ordering delivery from Worcester’s restaurants.

“We had a great summer [in Worcester] and a definite uptick in business since the start of September,” Simon said.

While people continue to choose to stay home, host parties, binge-watch their favorite series and play board games, the surveyed group of restaurant personnel all said that they would have to think outside the box to continue to pull in customers and hope that their weeknights turnaround quickly, while the city’s bars and restaurants continue to enjoy their busy weekends.

A new report from Wallethub has Worcester ranked among the “least fun” cities in America.

The report — 2017’s Most Fun Cities in America — compares the country’s 150 largest cities against 58 key metrics including the per capita rate of festivals, restaurants, parks and playgrounds, movie ticket cost, fitness centers and bars.

Among the 150 cities, Worcester ranked overall in the bottom 33% at #117 — the lowest recorded score among cities in New England and far behind Boston’s ranking of #45. The rankings were measured by three separate rankings for Entertainment and Recreation, Nightlife and Parties, and Overall Cost Effectiveness.

Worcester’s worst ranking was in Entertainment and Recreation — coming in at #147 of the 150 cities studied.

The top three “most fun” cities in America were Las Vegas, Orlando and New York City. The three “least fun” are Fontana, California, Brownsville, Texas, and Oxnard, CA.

Source: WalletHub

WORCESTER – On Saturday, the streets of Park Ave and Elm Street were transformed into a massive gathering of arts, music and performance at the 15th annual stART on Street festival in Worcester.

stART on the Street has expanded to include over 300 Artists who come from across New England and beyond, and a festival held in both the fall and spring.

Artists display works ranging from ceramics and paintings, to hand-crafted soap and martial arts exhibitions. In Elm Park, musicians in a wide display of genres, such as Folk, Indie, and Hip-Hop performed.

“We take a lot of pride in our performers; they’re some of the best in the world,” said Gabe Rollins, one of the coordinators of the event. “We try to make to the music as diverse as possible.”

Though Park Ave was closed down for the display, it didn’t stop local businesses in the area from taking advantage of the event.

The comics and pop culture shop That’s Entertainment offered 20 percent off products under $200 to those attending the event, while neighboring Blue Jean’s Pizza offered an outdoor stand selling pizza to hungry passers-by.

Food trucks were placed throughout the event selling sausages, cotton candy and lemonade.  A food court was set up in the Auto Zone parking lot, while an alternative vegan food court was set up along Elm Street.

“The people who put this on do an awesome job of it,” said Dick Taylor of West Boylston, a visual artist who specializes in photography and digital imagery who has been coming to the event since 2007. “They bust their butt every year to make sure everyone has a good time.”

While Taylor sees his work as just a creative hobby, others, such as Ritza Elizabeth, a newcomer to the festival from Holden, who originally hails from Arizona, hopes to attract investors and boost her image.

“I’m trying to be like Walt Disney or Hello Kitty,” says Elizabeth, who designs several unique characters and brightly colored murals based on the landscape of the Southwestern U.S. “This festival is about joy and warmth, and supporting each other.”  

“There’s such a wide array of things to see, it’s impossible to see it all,” said Nikki Erskine of Shrewsbury, another coordinator for the event. “That is why we rely on the public to share with us.”

This winter, stART at the Station, will take place on December 3 at Union Station in Worcester frodm 11AM to 5PM. Information and inquiries about the event can be obtained by visiting their website,, or by emailing [email protected]

American Assassin, directed by Michael Cuesta, is about as clichéd and convoluted as an action movie can be.

Based on the 12 novel series by Vince Flynn, it follows the training of Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien), a CIA recruit who, after witnessing the death of his fiancée, is on a mission to destroy the people who have wronged him.

The film also stars Michael Keaton as his mentor, Stan Hurley, and Taylor Kitsch as the film’s villain, “Ghost.”

American Assassin opens with almost immediate action, and guns are blazing on a beautiful Spanish beach, as terrorists attack and Rapp’s fiancée Katrina (Charlotte Vega) is killed in the process. This scene sets the stage for the almost constant action that the film offers.

Fast forward, and after 18 months of grieving, the audience is shown that Mitch is still very much intent on finding and killing the men who killed his fiancée. This is shown through a sequence of scenes in which Mitch “plays by his own rules” in his mixed martial arts gym and at a shooting range, prompting the people around him to be afraid and uncomfortable. He also spends much of his free time looking up extremist propaganda videos in order to get closer to his enemy.

Mitch arranges for a meeting with his potential target, and when he finally gets his chance at vengeance, the CIA intervenes and takes him. Rapp is recruited to be a part of a task force that could give him some closure for his tumultuous past, which includes tracking down the masterminds behind a potential terrorist attack and plutonium heist.

The plot was very confusing, and really did not make a lot of sense. The Mitch Rapp character did not have much depth, and the people around him were cookie cutter characters that are basically stock parts in every action movie from the last 20 years.

The vengeance factor tries to emulate John Wick, but does not live up to that movie’s fun, gratuitous overkill that made it such a cult hit. The technology aspect is very reminiscent of the Mission: Impossible movies and Enemy of the State, and it feels too familiar to really be that effective.

It is almost as if the director takes almost every action movie trope and mixes it together hoping it will stick.

The action scenes are very well done, and basically drive the whole movie. The hand to hand combat is very exciting, and the car chases and explosions that are expected of contemporary action movies are par for the course. The special effects are thrilling, and a cringe-worthy torture scene involving some peeled fingernails will make a strong-stomached viewer wince. A scene on the ocean transporting the stolen plutonium is fun and intense. The movie is filmed very close to the characters, which gives the movie the feel of a first-person shooter video game, and the quick camera-work attempts to give the viewer the same feelings of anxiety that the main characters are feeling during the intense scenes.

The best performance in the film is Michael Keaton’s Stan Hurley. Keaton’s career has been given new life after his commanding performances in Oscar-worthy films such as Spotlight and Birdman, and his alpha male portrayals of characters like the chief in The Other Guys and as Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

The character of Stan Hurley is a hard-boiled leader of the team, and the training sequences before actually heading on their globe-hopping search for the antagonist give his character the most interesting story of any of the characters.

Taylor Kitsch, although a very talented actor, does a mediocre job of portraying the film’s villain. The character of “Ghost” is ripped straight from the plot of a bad James Bond movie, straight down to the former allegiance and training he had with Hurley. Ghost and Mitch Rapp are foils to each other, and the film tries to emphasize the point that each operative is expendable, and can be broken at any time.

The female leads of the movie are CIA director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) and Turkish spy Annika (Shiva Neeger).  The character of Kennedy is a prototypical head of an organization with a soft spot for the protagonist, and has good chemistry with Keaton’s Hurley.  Lathan does a good job of being a level-headed counterpart to Keaton.  Annika is a questionable ally to Mitch Rapp and Hurley, but does a serviceable job of being Mitch’s partner throughout the film.  Both actresses do an effective job as their respective characters.

The film requires an extremely healthy dose of suspension of disbelief, as the play-by- his-own-rules tactics of Rapp would surely land him in deep trouble with the real United States government, never mind with almost every international organization in the world. The vigilante style of Mitch Rapp is eventually appreciated and celebrated by the film’s major operatives.

Hick’s Flix Says: I thought that American Assassin was definitely over the top and hard to believe, but if you go in looking for a fast-paced, high-flying action movie without any thought at all, it is worth the watch. If you are looking for a thoughtful thrill-ride with international espionage and suspense, I would definitely look elsewhere.

WORCESTER – In it’s 15th year celebrating local art and culture, stART on the Street has grown from a small street fair in Main South to one of new England’s most loved and attended festivals.  Featuring over 250 artists, 30 performance acts (including a variety of local and regional bands and musicians), street performers, kids activities, representation from organizations throughout the city, and of course food, this is a family event with something for everyone.

There’s a lot to see, a lot to do, and a lot to enjoy, but to be sure you get the full creative experience, here are the 5 things you won’t want to miss at stART:

1.  The Art.  Pure and simple.

Featuring local, regional, and national artists exhibiting work that showcases their incredible creative talents for others to appreciate and purchase, stART provides a unique opportunity for collectors and first time buyers to see countless styles and techniques in one space.  It allows you to connect with the artist you are buying from.  Learn about their creative process, their history, their passion, and make a real life connection to the piece you are buying.  Many artists will be working and demonstrating right on the street, and the Youth Market hilights the talents of up and coming creatives under the age of 18.

2.  Music, Music, Music, and Performers.

With three musical stages hosting live bands, and street performers throughout the festival, visitors can decide what they want to experience.  Rock.  Jazz.  Folk.  Youth groups. Listening to a solo performer play their original music, dancing in the street to the groove of a local band, or being entertained by a street performer, the sights and sounds of stART are integral to keeping the vibe of the day fresh, funky and fun.

3.  The Hands-On Experience.

Keeping true to it’s roots as an art festival, stART has many hands-on activities for families and artists of all ages.  Build something big in the middle of Park Ave.  Print, paint, and create something beautiful with one of many local studios, museums, and organizations who are hosting these one-on-one experiences.  Try something new while you’re at the fair, and pick up information on how you can continue your creative experience with classes, workshops, and events happening throughout the community.

4.  Feed Me Seymour.

A festival is nothing without food, and stART has you covered!  With so many restaurant options in Worcester, and food being an art unto itself,  you will want to spend some time trying some of the local cuisine.  Food trucks that feature everything from slow cooked BBQ to Hot Dogs to your favorite fried dough.  Local dining favorites are popping-up with selections prepared just for this event.  Park Avenue is lined with restaurants who will be open to serve visitors wanting a more traditional setting.  There are several vegan options, some healthier options, a food court, and of course the more traditional street sweets and treats.  Come hungry.

5.  The City. Don’t Forget Her.

Worcester is experiencing a renaissance of sorts,especially when it comes to art and culture.  People are out.  Out shopping.  Out Eating.  Out enjoying the urban landscape.  Take it in.  Spending the day at stART allows you, your friends, your family, to experience a day in Worcester that you won’t soon forget.  In between the art, visit Elm Park and enjoy the tranquil setting that exists right here in the middle of the city.  As you walk down Park Avenue check out the architecture and detail on the buildings.  Do a little people watching and you’ll see families, students, young professionals, and people who’ve lived here all of their lives, laughing, loving, and enjoying the city of seven hills.  Visit the non-profit area of the festival and talk to some of the local organizations about the good work they are doing and how you can get involved.  Worcester. The city. The heart of New England.  Don’t miss it.

stART on the Street is this Sunday, September 17th from 11am to 6pm, Park Avenue, Worcester.  Visit their website at for more information on the days event, and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates throughout the day.  stART is FREE to the public.