Movie Review – Crimes of the Future

Crimes of the Future (2022)
Written & Directed by David Cronenberg

The horrors that humanity is wreaking on the planet are being repaid on the species at a rapidly intense rate. Right now, back in the area where I used to live, they are experiencing a heat bubble bringing temperatures into the 100s-110s over the next week. Even here in the Netherlands, we saw a couple days’ bump of warmer temperatures than average temps for the time of the year. The ocean temperatures are rising as the byproducts of our mass production are pumped into the atmosphere, ice caps are melting, and with each passing day, microplastic or other toxins are discovered in overwhelming numbers in our bodies. Against such a bleak tableau, the future of humanity feels quite hopeless. There seem to be two paths: the entirety of the human race works to radically reduce the harm we have caused to lessen the collapse around us, or our bodies are forced to adapt to a polluted, poisoned world.

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Movie Review – Undergods

Undergods (2020)
Written and Directed by Chino Moya

Western society is in its twilight. It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not; it is. All it takes is stepping back a bit, viewing this particular political hegemony from an intellectual distance, and seeing the decline in real time. I am 40. When I am 50, society will be worse than it is now. And so on and so on until I die. There is potential goodness in people, but there are also potent, influential institutions devoted to sowing division, agitation, and distraction. So what will that future world, that sprawling landscape of inhuman Hell, possibly look like? Filmmaker Chino Moya posits this blasted wasteland, populated with brutalist architecture. The irony here is that, like all good science fiction, Moya isn’t talking about the potential future but reflecting on what he sees in our present through a lens of fantasy.

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TV Review – Severance Season 1

Severance Season 1 (Apple TV+)
Written by Dan Erickson, Andrew Coville, Kari Drake, Anna Ouyang Moench, Amanda Overton, Helen Leigh, and Chris Black
Directed by Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle

So Apple TV+ officially has its first great show. I was curious about the streaming platform at its launch in 2019 but didn’t find any of that initial batch of programs worth keeping up with. They weren’t terrible, just nothing that caught my attention. We watched the first and second seasons of Servant, but I haven’t found myself interested enough to watch the latest one. Then I started seeing a solid buzz about Severance, a show whose title seems so generic. I’d seen Adam Scott’s face in the marketing materials and thought it was just some workplace comedy I wouldn’t be interested in. Oh, how wrong I was. By the time we got to the final episode of the first season, I was fully convinced this is approaching Twin Peaks levels of good. In the same way, Lynch & Frost were using the tropes of the primetime soap opera, Severance has taken the workplace comedy and turned it completely on its head.

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Movie Review – The Skin I Live In

The Skin I Live In (2011)
Written & Directed by Pedro Almodovar

Most of the legendary filmmaker Pedro Almodovar’s films are overflowing with warmth & color. They may touch on sensitive subject matter, but the characters within these stories are usually ones we like and want to be around. This is not the case with The Skin I Live In, Almodovar’s first foray into science fiction/horror. Instead, he has made a cold, desaturated movie that is beautiful in a dark & disturbing way. The film reflects how one of its central characters has become desensitized, literally feeling nothing any longer. Sex in this picture is not an act of love & beauty but discomfort & suffering. There’s no farce or melodrama here. Unlike the rest of Almodovar’s filmography, this is a work that comes out of a dark, angry place.

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TV Review – Raised by Wolves Season Two

Raised by Wolves Season Two (HBO Max)
Written by Aaron Guzikowski, Julian Meiojas, and Karen Campbell, 
Directed by Ernest Dickerson, Sunu Gonera, Alex Gabassi, and Lukas Ettlin

Few shows being made today are as a pretty wild trip as Raised By Wolves. While watching the season two finale, I think my emotions could be described as confused & stunned, but all in a good way. I think I’ve reached the point where I do not see the show as doing anything important or trying to make a serious point, but the intensity that the showrunners have who think they are makes it such an entertaining experience. Going into the second season, my expectations were reasonably lukewarm. The first season concluded on an odd note that had me wondering where the narrative would go next. Instead of bringing things back down and being grounded to a degree, Raised by Wolves ramped it all up.

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Movie Review – After Yang

After Yang (2022)
Written & Directed by Kogonada

The aesthetics will strike you first when watching writer-director Kogonada’s newest film, After Yang. The world feels influenced by Asian & Scandinavian architecture, fashion, and overall design. It’s done in such a subtle manner, using elements from various sources that have a visually pleasing unity. This is not the neon glow of Blade Runner’s future, but a warm, earthy home with a family going about their life. It’s the sort of portrayal of the future that feels revolutionary in its mundanity. Technology is not an object of spectacle; it’s blended into people’s everyday existence. The characters and the film never directly comment on these things because, in real life, we don’t outwardly talk about an appliance as we use it, declaring wonder. We lose the magic of these things we have created; they become a part of the domestic landscape.

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Movie Review – Time of the Wolf

Time of the Wolf (2003)
Written & Directed by Michael Haneke

Throughout his career, Michael Haneke has been interested in how the media will present information or events versus what experiencing those same things would be like. He’s often pointed to the screen as a filter that blocks humanity’s perceptions of the actual emotional weight of trauma. Frequently Haneke protects his audience from the sight of violence but uses sound to make sure they do not forget the pain inflicted on a person. Time of the Wolf reads as a response to apocalypse-porn popularized by director Roland Emmerich starting with the blockbuster Independence Day. These ends of the world are almost always bombastic, full of massive explosions, and ending with humanity triumphing somehow. Haneke refuses to leave it like that, and so he went about making his own film.

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Movie Review – The Truman Show

The Truman Show (1998)
Written by Andrew Niccol
Directed by Peter Weir

In 1991, screenwriter Andrew Niccol began shopping around a spec script for The Malcolm Show. It was a science-fiction thriller set in New York City that focused on a man discovering his life was a television show, and he tried to escape the control of his handlers. Many directors were considered: Brian DePalma, Tim Burton, Sam Raimi, Steven Spielberg. Eventually, the studio chose to go with Peter Weir, who saw the script as too dark. Instead, he wanted to emphasize the satire of the situation, still holding onto the core existential dread of the concept, but presenting it with a lightness to counter that thematic weight. 

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Comic Book Review – Descender Deluxe Edition Volume 1

Descender Deluxe Edition Volume 1 (2017)
Reprints Descender #1-16
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Dustin Nguyen

Jeff Lemire is one of the most prolific comic writers of the current era, having penned some of the most memorable books of the last few years. He broke out with titles like Sweet Tooth and The Essex County trilogy and now authors superhero, science fiction, horror books, and more. I’ve been following his fantastic Black Hammer universe at Dark Horse comics for a few years and am close to wrapping up Twin Peaks-like Gideon Falls. So I decided to look at his other work at Image Comics, starting with this space opera epic clearly inspired by Astro Boy. 

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Movie Review – The Matrix Resurrections

The Matrix Resurrections (2021)
Written by Lana Wachowski, David Mitchell, and Aleksandar Hemon
Directed by Lana Wachowski

It came as a surprise when I saw a new Matrix film in production. It seemed like a film series that, while successful, was done. Yet, Lana Wachowski decided to make a stand-alone film that revisits this world. I would argue that this doesn’t work as a coherent, cohesive movie but is a fantastic piece of therapy put on the screen. What I mean by that is that Lana has stated in interviews that the idea for Resurrections came out of her grief following the death of her parents. She expressed that she felt such an aching loss from their passing and found herself drawn to two of her favorite characters: Neo and Trinity. In this way, Resurrections is part of Lana’s healing process, and thus I enjoyed it more than most big-budget movies I’ve seen in a while.

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