REVIEW: La Gomera [The Whistlers] [2019]

The package arrived safely. A Romanian detective named Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) just landed on La Gomera in the Spanish Canary Islands. Because he’s unsure who’s supposed to meet him or where he’s going, he enters Kiko’s (Antonio Buíl) car with trepidation despite the man seemingly knowing everything about him. Only when they arrive at their destination to find Gilda (Catrinel Marlon) does Cristi relax since she’s the one who asked him to come and gave him the plane ticket. The reason is to teach him how to use an ancestral…

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REVIEW: We Summon the Darkness [2020]

Let the madness begin. A rash of 1980s-era satanic ritual killings puts Pastor John Henry Butler (Johnny Knoxville) front and center in rural America’s consciousness because his church is doing its very best to combat the disintegration of society with the word of God. Just as his increased television appearances rally the Bible Belt to his cause (treating rock music and other not quite “demonic” practices as sinful weapons destroying their children’s souls), however, they also work to embolden those he is forsaking. More than calling out the as yet…

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REVIEW: Vivarium [2020]

Raise the child and be released We all like to believe that we have some semblance of control over our lives. Do we, though? How much of our identity is dictated by social conditioning? Maybe it’s explicit indoctrination like that taught by religion, politics, and culture as “superior” than others. Or maybe it’s implicit like the subliminal messaging possibilities of art appropriated by marketing. You might say to yourself that you’re too smart for advertising, but what do you do when confronted by four of the same product consisting of…

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REVIEW: El hoyo [The Platform] [2019]

Obviously. We say the same thing whenever a new dystopian vision is released: it couldn’t have come at a better time. It was said when Brazil bowed and again with Snowpiercer and High-Rise after. And now it’s director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia‘s turn as El hoyo [The Platform] hits the zeitgeist in the middle of a pandemic that’s revealed empires to be as naked as Hans Christian Andersen’s emperor. Will we band together in the face of widespread adversity and recognize—sometimes for the very first time—that we must protect the most vulnerable…

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REVIEW: Swallow [2020]

I did something unexpected today. Hunter (Haley Bennett) has never had control over her life. She’s tried her hardest to claim some, however, by giving away her love. She gave it to a mother who treated her like an afterthought compared to her siblings, a career in art that always found itself to be just out of reach, and the man (Austin Stowell‘s Richie) she walked down a matrimonial aisle towards despite his only ever seeing her as a prize—a possession for a shelf of conquests someone in his socio-economic…

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REVIEW: Blood on Her Name [2020]

It doesn’t put the skin back on the cat. A lot happens during the course of director Matthew Pope and co-writer Don M. Thompson‘s Blood on Her Name … too much. This can prove problematic for what starts as a simple plot before things start turning convoluted real quick thanks to new revelations shedding light upon secrets and lies. Surprisingly, however, that perpetually escalating noise is justified. The reason stems from the fact that Leigh Tiller (Bethany Anne Lind) isn’t a murderer. Well that’s not entirely true. Technically she is…

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REVIEW: The Lodge [2020]

She can’t go to Heaven! It’s almost too perfect. After reading Sergio Casci‘s spec script and wondering who’d be best to steward it towards its next stage, Hammer Films saw Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala as easy marks. Their debut Goodnight Mommy dealt with the psychological strife that occurs when two young children are trapped inside a house with a woman they cannot trust and it does so with ample deflection, half truths, and narrative manipulation. Casci’s The Lodge is so similar that I’m surprised Franz and Fiala chose to…

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REVIEW: Les misérables [2019]

Never sorry. Always right. You have to give Ladj Ly credit for seeing the potential in expanding his acclaimed short film about a trio of Anti-Crime Brigade cops outside of Paris in Montfermeil while also knowing it wasn’t perfect. There was a lot packed into Les misérables that could use some room to breathe, but the narrative itself needed tweaking too since the character he and co-writer Alexis Manenti chose to have a horrific mistake the first time around wasn’t necessarily the correct one. So the two joined with Giordano…

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REVIEW: Une soeur [A Sister] [2019]

I remember. A woman (Selma Alaoui‘s Alie) is the passenger inside a car heading down a dark road at night. She tells the driver (Guillaume Duhesme‘s Dary) that she must call her sister (who is currently babysitting her daughter) after missing multiple messages. It only makes sense then that she’d be worried about the urgency to connect. What we soon discover, however, is that the woman on the other end of the phone isn’t a relative. Alie has actually called emergency services to covertly make an operator (Veerle Baetens) aware…

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REVIEW: Dark Waters [2019]

You think they’re gonna show me?! It’s crazy how our country protects for-profit businesses in ways that allow them to accrue astronomical profits with little to no oversight. There’s this notion that what they provide our economy outweighs the damage they inflict on our society. But who reaps that financial benefit? Rather than collect millions of dollars in taxes that could fund programs the poor need to survive, we line the pockets of the already rich and watch their trickle down faucets divert someplace else to line them thicker still.…

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REVIEW: Daniel Isn’t Real [2019]

Not insane. Awake! The title truly says it all: Daniel Isn’t Real. So when a little boy takes his stuffed animal down the street to escape his parents’ screams only to walk by a gruesome murder scene marked by a bloodied body lifeless on the ground, we understand the significance of his also finding a new friend. A young kid unable to process fear, rage, and death, Luke would naturally project his distressed mother’s (Mary Stuart Masterson‘s Claire) visage upon the homicide victim now haunting his memory before creating a…

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