Movie Review – Vivarium

Vivarium (2019)
Written by Garret Shanely
Directed by Lorcan Finnegan

The concept behind Vivarium is deeply intriguing. A young couple (Imogen Poots & Jesse Eisenberg), just beginning their lives together, steps into a realty office just for a laugh. They are met by a strange realtor who is extremely aggressive in an alien polite way to get them to leave the office and visit Yonder, a picture-perfect suburb. His pitch for the house is peppered with questions about the couple’s current status and as time passes he loses the warmth once presented. Then the realtor is gone and the couple finds themselves unable to find the exit to return to their lives. They become trapped in Yonder. One morning a box appears outside the house. Inside is a baby and a message “Raise the child and be released”.

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Movie Review – Queen & Slim

Queen & Slim (2019)
Written by Lena Waithe
Directed by Melina Matsoukas

Queen & Slim is presented as a story of legendary figures who don’t realize that they will become icons. They are unassuming people, but the filmmaking informs us through its cinematography and a musical score that this is important. The first moments of the movie undercut these elements, two people sitting across from each other in the middle of an awkward Tinder date. It’s clear the situation is not going well, and they likely won’t see each other again after this. We learn a lot about Slim (he prays before he eats, he chose a little corner diner for their date) and Queen (she’s a lawyer whose client was just executed, she rolls her eyes at Slim’s prayer). The aftermath of the date becomes the inception of the entire film, a traffic stop by a police officer with ill intent on his mind.

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Comic Book Review – Gideon Falls Volumes 2 & 3

Gideon Falls Volume 2: Original Sins
Gideon Falls Volume 3: Stations of the Cross
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Andrea Sorrentino

Gideon Falls continues to deepen its mysteries and scratch that itch for fans of shows like Twin Peaks and Lost. This is a very different animal, but it still makes nods to the slow reveal of dark, otherworldly evil and ever-growing complex back history. In Original Sins, the story’s pace is faster, with the table being set in volume one. Stations of the Cross is mindblowing and drops some of the most significant character and plot bombshells while leaving room for the story to grow and expand.

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Movie Review – Jumanji: The Next Level

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)
Written by Jake Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner, and Scott Rosenberg
Directed by Jake Kasdan

At this point, Jumanji, as a media franchise, has little to nothing to do with Chris Van Allsburg’s 1981 children’s picture book. Jumanji was already distancing itself from its origins with the 1995 adaptation starring Robin Williams. The plot was given more complexity beyond just two children playing an enchanted and troublesome board game. A lot of people missed the semi-sequel Zathura: A Space Adventure that reframed the experience as a science-fiction style story. There was also the Jumanji animated series that ran on UPN for three years and drifted even further from the book.

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Comic Book Review – Venom Volume 2: The Abyss

Venom Volume 2: The Abyss
Written by Donny Cates
Art by Ryan Stegman & Iban Coello

Donny Cates’s run on Venom has been all about the strange symbiosis between Eddie Brock and his companion. It’s a fascinating study of body horror, precisely the moments where Eddie loses time and learns the symbiote was moving him around and speaking for him. The title leans into its horror elements more than it’s superhero roots. There’s also a desire to build out the Venom mythos beyond just being a part of the Spider-Man niche of the Marvel Universe.

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Media Moment (02/22/20)

One of my favorite novels of the last few years has been A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. It’s told with such a deft touch, never careening into camp and walking that sort of ambiguous line that reminds me of The Exorcist. The finale is particularly chilling as it manages to recontextualize the unreliable narrator who has been telling us their story. Since 2018 there has been lots of movement in pre-production on a film adaptation, and this week we finally got a leading actress cast.

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Media Moment (02/15/20)

So I don’t really care about the Oscars. I think it was 2005 when they gave Best Picture to Crash that I realized the whole thing was pointless. As I’ve gotten into Film more, I’ve learned that the best films often get ignored by the Academy, so whatever. However, it was quite lovely that Parasite won Best Original Screenplay, Best International Feature, Best Director, and Best Picture. It was my favorite film of 2019, so I’m that Bong Joon-ho and his work are getting more recognition. I wish the actors had gotten some nominations.

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