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PopCult January 2019 Digest

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Movie Review – The ‘Burbs

The ‘Burbs (1989)
Written by Dana Olsen
Directed by Joe Dante

The quiet cul-de-sac of Mayfield Place has been shaken up by the arrival of the Klopeks, a reclusive family who has allowed their house and property to fall into decay. Their neighbor, Ray Peterson has the week off from work and has decided to peter around the house which allows him to fall under the influence of his friends Art and Rumsfield. They are convinced that the Klopeks are murderers, Satanists, mad scientists, or some combination of these things. Ray is continuously pulled back down to earth by his wife Carol who implies this isn’t the first time her husband has allowed himself to be carried away with wild fantasies like this. She is determined to convince him the Klopeks are perfectly reasonable people. However, then something strange happens: the homeowner at the end of the street, Walter vanishes without a trace, and all signs point to the Klopeks.

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TV Tryouts – Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies (HBO)
Season 1, Episode 1 – “Somebody’s Dead”

Written by David E. Kelly
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée

There is so much television I hear I should watch and with 24/7 streaming services abounding it can quickly become overwhelming. To finally get a taste of all these great shows I will start doing TV Tryouts. Each month I will watch a couple of pilot episodes of series I have been hearing rave reviews about and see if that first episode can hook me to keep watching. Now, an argument you might make is that you have to view the first six or entire first season before a show “gets good.” To that, I say, “I just don’t have the time.” A television series should have strong enough writing that its characters, dialogue, and plot naturally compel me to keep watching. If it doesn’t then that’s ok, plenty of shows for everyone.

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Movie Review – Shoplifters

Shoplifters (2018)
Written & Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda

Osamu is the patriarch of a makeshift family living in the shadow of poverty in Tokyo. His partner Nobuyo is the mother with adopted son Shota, half-sister Aki, and grandmother Hatsue. Osamu and Shota routinely shoplift food from neighborhood grocery stores, having developed a system of signals and distractions. On their way home after a recent venture, they find Yuri, a little girl they have talked to before alone on her parent’s apartment balcony. Feeling sorry for her level of neglect they bring her home for dinner. Nobuyo helps Osamu bring her back after and they overhear Yuri’s parents fighting, her father hitting her mother, and the admission that they never wanted the child in the first place. Nobuyo decides to make Yuri a part of the family and from their life goes on as it always has. Until one day a news report announces that Yuri’s parents have filed a missing person report.

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Movie Review – Monsieur Lazhar

Monsieur Lazhar (2011)
Written by Evelyne de la Chenelière and Philippe Falardeau
Directed by Philippe Falardeau

At school in Montreal, two students discover that their teacher has hung herself in the classroom. The school works quickly to push the class past this event by repainting & rearranging the room while having a psychologist make periodic visits. A new teacher is found in a rush, Mr. Lazhar, an Algerian man who goes on about his experience teaching at a university in his former home country. Lazhar brings an approach unfamiliar to the students, emphasizing the techniques of grammar and spelling over more expressive forms of learning. He reads Balzac to the children and requires them to take dictation. One student, Alice, expresses her still simmering anger and confusion over the suicide of their teacher in an essay. This outburst causes Lazhar to re-evaluate his methods and the needs of his class.

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Comic Book Review – Justice League International Volume 6

Justice League International Volume 6
Reprints Justice League America #31-35 & Justice League Europe #7-11
Written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis (with William Messner-Loebs)
Art by Adam Hughes, Bart Sears, and Art Nichols

So we reach the end of the JLI run that DC Comics has decided to collect. In these pages, we get the first official crossover between America and Europe with The Teasdale Imperative story arc. In a small European village what seemingly appears to be a vampiric horde has surfaced, spreading its condition slowly but continuously. Not only has this drawn the attention of both branches of the Justice League International, but The Spectre and The Grey Man (from waaaaay back in the first story arc). Through a series of increasingly complicated twists and turns Simon Stagg, an antagonist of Leaguer Metamorpho becomes involved. Everything culminates in a battle where the League isn’t even necessary. To quote Elongated Man in the aftermath, “It’s over? I still don’t understand what ‘it’ was.”

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Movie Review – Elena

Elena (2011)
Written by Oleg Negin & Andrey Zvyagintsev
Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev

Elena has been married to Vladimir for two years, having met him when he was hospitalized, and she was his nurse. This isn’t the first marriage for the two, but it is a comfortable, content one that can see them into their twilight years. Elena lived on the lower economic fringes of Moscow, and so entering Vladimir’s posh upper-middle-class lifestyle has been a blessing. However, Elena has a grown son with a family living in a decaying tenement. Her grandson Sasha has reached the age where, if he is not enrolled in university, he’ll be faced with compulsory military service. Elena implores Vlad for money she can give to her family, but he sees the whole lot as shiftless layabouts. Elena worries further when Vlad’s estranged daughter Katya comes back into his life. A moment will happen when she takes drastic action, but can she live with what she does?

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Movie Review – Alps

Alps (2011)
Written by Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthymis Filippou
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

The Alps are a secret society of four weirdos who provide a strange service for people. If someone has lost a loved one a member of the Alps will learn everything they can about the deceased and recreate them for a fee, acting out moments from their life. One member, The Nurse has been spending time playing the role of a lighting shop owner’s wife and has crossed a line of intimacy while still playing her part. At her day job, she meets a young girl who was injured in a car accident. Eventually, the young girl dies and The Nurse volunteers to play her for her parents, while not informing the rest of the Alps of what she is doing. The Nurse becomes absorbed in this life, experiencing a kind of family she did not have and even becoming intimate with the dead girl’s boyfriend.

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