Black Hollow Cage (2017)
Written & Directed by Sadrac González-Perellón
Ambiguity in media is often the point of frustration for many audience members. I can remember in college where classes read texts that left all the answers up in the air encountering students who would get red-faced with anger over the lack of finality. I was always the opposite; I cherished stories that left me hanging; they would linger in my mind for a long time. These texts were worth going back to and analyzing deeper. This comes down to two different ways of looking at life. Some people get very upset if they feel they don’t have a handle on the way the universe works and seeing it not correspond to their values. Other people accept the mystery of the void and keep going, knowing there will be blank spots and bumps in the road, that a lack of meaning is inevitable. I fall into the latter camp and so too does this film.
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The Love Witch (2016)
Written & Directed by Anna Biller
We find Elaine speeding down a California coastal highway, running away from the death of her ex-husband Larry. She starts a new life in Arcata, taking an apartment her friend Barbara used to live in, still decked out in the witchy paraphernalia that links these two women. Elaine has one focus in life, the attainment of the love of a man. Using magic, she begins seducing local men who end up overwhelmed by the feelings that bubble up inside them. Unable to process all of this love they meet their ultimate fate and Elaine shrugs it off and move onto the next guy. However, the police are investigating, and it’s only a matter of time until this witch is caught for her crimes.
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Written by Scotty Landes
Directed by Tate Taylor
Blumhouse has created a monopoly on the majority of horror in cinemas these days. Paranormal Activity was the first production that Jason Blum saw as a successful foray into horror films, and he hasn’t stopped since. I haven’t enjoyed any Blumhouse movie I’ve seen, or least I wouldn’t make an effort to rewatch anything that has crossed my screen. The factory model of filmmaking is inevitably going to deliver a majority of mediocre products and maybe once in a while something special. I don’t think Ma is that unique jewel amongst the garbage, but it isn’t awful. The core factor that keeps Ma from being a monotonous mess is Octavia Spencer.
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Written by Brian & Mark Gunn
Directed by David Yarovesky
The premise “What if Superman was evil?” is nothing new to the world of comic books. Over Superman’s eighty year history we’ve had characters like Bizarro, Ultraman, and Cyborg Superman who explore those darker aspects to a being like Superman. There have been books like Marvelman and Irredeemable that also examine these themes with even more detail. So, for comic nerds like myself, Brightburn isn’t bringing anything new to the table. However, I acknowledge that general audiences haven’t seen anything like this before, and if you are someone tired of the same old superhero origin tropes, this does offer a different take.
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Written & Directed by Gaspar Noe
The bliss of Heaven is matched by the torment of Hell. This is the central theme of Gaspar Noe’s latest film, a psychedelic odyssey into madness, performed by mostly non-acting professional dancers. They have holed up in an abandoned boarding school during a snowstorm where they are celebrating their planned trip to the United States for a competition. The night’s revelry begins with spontaneous dancing and the consumption of some delicious sangria. After everyone has drunk of the celebratory punch, they realize it’s been spiked with LSD, and the nightmare begins. As is Noe’s style, the film is structured in surprising ways with often overly showy cinematography.
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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2013)
Written & Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour
In the decaying Iranian spot of Bad City, The Girl wanders through the night, a vampire clad in hijab and chador, feasting on the not so innocent denizens. Arash is a young man struggling to make ends meet, taking care of his heroin-addicted father who owes money to local drug dealer Saeed. Arash and The Girl’s paths meander around each other for a while before their fateful meeting. A connection is felt between them, and she withdraws, scared to feel connected to a human. No matter how far she runs, invisible forces are intent on bringing them together, weaving a story of comedy and tragedy.
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12 Years a Slave (2013)
Written by John Ridley
Directed by Steve McQueen
In 1841, freeman Solomon Northrup, a resident of Saratoga Springs, New York was tricked by two white men into joining them as a traveling violinist. With his wife and children away for work for three weeks, Northrup sees an excellent opportunity to make a little money on the side and travel. Instead, his companions drug the man and sell him to a slave ring. A journey begins that brings Northrup to New Orleans and into the ownership of a plantation owner where our protagonist experiences just a taste of the hell that his life will become. From there he ends up at the cotton plantation of Epps, a drunkard and a brute who sexually abuses one slave in particular, Patsey. Northrup tries to keep his hope alive while watching those around him become brutalized and eventually murdered in some instances. Eventually, he will be free again but forever changed, terrors and evils scarred into his mind that he will never forget.
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