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When his beautiful, mysterious neighbor disappears without a trace, Sam tries to find the parties responsible, unraveling a string of strange crimes, unsolved murders and bizarre coincidences in his East Los Angeles neighborhood.
Initial release: August 8, 2018 (France)
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Budget: $8.5 million
Box office: 1.8 million USD
Nominations: Palme d’Or, Cannes Best Actress Award,
ccording to its dictionary definition, satire is supposed to use “humour, irony, exaggeration and ridicule” to “expose and criticise people’s stupidity or vices”. The third feature from David Robert Mitchell, about a hipster nerd who tries to solve a murder mystery using cryptic clues lifted from cereal packets and zines, could be read as an exposé of “incel” culture, a winking send-up of mouth-breathing man-children unhealthily obsessed with pop culture, unable to hold down jobs or relationships because they’re too busy playing vintage video games and masturbating over comic books.
Mitchell does use humour, soundtracking a scene in an underground club to Cornershop’s 1997 track Brimful of Asha’ (“It’s old music night at the Crypt”), and I suppose it’s meant to be ironic that Sam (Andrew Garfield) spies on his topless neighbour with a pair of binoculars (his friend uses a drone), given Hollywood’s history of sexualised female bodies. The film’s occasional, atonal lurches into bloody violence might be described as moments of exaggeration and it’s certainly an act of ridicule when thirtysomething Sam is sprayed by a skunk while wandering LA’s Eastside neighbourhood in the first act, the bad smell following him for the remainder of the protracted runtime (an agonisingly slow two hours and 20 minutes).
We’re encouraged to smirk at Sam’s pathetic attempts to play detective and figure out what happened to disappeared neighbour Sarah (Riley Keough, wearing a Marilyn Monroe-style beauty mark and white, two-piece swimming costume), but the film takes his quest seriously. It is too infatuated with its own cryptic mythology, too fawning in its references to LA noirs (Kiss Me Deadly, The Long Goodbye, LA Confidential and Mulholland Drive) and too self-indulgent to be praised as parody, let alone an effective critique of its boring protagonist.
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In 1970s Los Angeles, the legendary ghost La Llorona is stalking the night — and the children. Ignoring the eerie warning of a troubled mother, a social worker and her own kids are drawn into a frightening supernatural realm. Their only hope of surviving La Llorona’s deadly wrath is a disillusioned priest who practices mysticism to keep evil at bay.
Release date: April 19, 2019 (USA)
Director: Michael Chaves
Producers: James Wan, Gary Dauberman, Emile Gladstone
Production companies: New Line Cinema, Atomic Monster Productions
hings go bump in the night — and, as an occasional change of pace, in the middle of the afternoon — with a frequency that will neither surprise nor disappoint genre fans throughout “The Curse of La Llorona,” an efficiently formulaic shocker inspired by the centuries-old Mexican legend of the titular bogeywoman. It’s set in Los Angeles during the early 1970s, for no readily apparent reason other than to justify the what-the-hell inclusion of Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly” theme on the soundtrack. But its true location clearly is a distant corner of producer James Wan’s “The Conjuring” extended horror-movie universe, which gets a fleeting wink-wink hat-tip early on with a clever cameo appearance by Tony Amendola in his “Annabelle” role as Father Perez.
Linda Cardellini strikes a credible balance of maternal instincts and mortal terror as Anna Garcia, a social worker and widowed mom who suspects the worst when she discovers a woman in her caseload has been keeping her two small boys locked in a closet in their apartment. Despite the mother’s frantic insistence that she’s been driven to extremes to protect her children from an ungodly evil, the boys are taken away from her and placed in foster care. Within hours, they are found drowned in a reservoir — and Patricia (Patricia Velásquez), the distraught mom, is considered a prime suspect.
As it turns out, however, the real culprit is La Llorona, aka The Weeping Woman, the malevolent spirit of a 17th-century Mexican beauty who drowned her own two children in a jealous rage to punish her unfaithful husband, and now walks the Earth to claim, or kill, other unfortunate youngsters. But wait, there’s more: Because Patricia blames Anna for her tragic loss, she prays for La Llorona to add the social worker’s young children, Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) and Chris (Roman Christou), to her hit list. It doesn’t take long for prayers to be answered.
First-time feature director Michael Chaves is a great deal short of subtle while, as regularly as clockwork, he utilizes La Llorona (portrayed by Marisol Ramirez as a decrepit apparition in a white gown and veil) to provide the jarring pay-off for slow-build scenes featuring sudden gusts of wind, slamming doors and windows, and portentous shots of dripping faucets, unwinding car-window handles, and a backyard swimming pool that appears roughly the size of Rhode Island.
But, then again, people who buy tickets for a rock-the-house scare fest like “The Curse of La Llorona” — and, rest assured, this movie is bound to sell lots and lots of tickets to easily satisfied customers when it opens April 19 — usually aren’t in the market for nuance and understatement. No, they really want to savor the shared experience of screaming, or at least audibly expressing startlement, each time someone or something does the equivalent of sneaking up on them and yelling “Boo!”
That same audience customarily also enjoys laughing out loud at those clumps of cliché-heavy, on-the-nose dialogue that sometimes deliberately, sometimes inadvertently, provide comic relief. Scriptwriters Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis provide an adequate sprinkling of such howlers, saving the best lines for Raymond Cruz as Rafael Olvera, a former priest turned freelance curandero (or faith healer) armed with a slew of magic potions and powders, and a sly, self-mocking wit.
Cruz infuses Rafael with such incontestable authority that you almost believe he’s proposing a rational game plan rather than rationalizing a plot contrivance when he tells Anna and her children that they might as well stick around their besieged house during the third act and fight La Llorona there because, really, she’d probably just follow them if they vamoose to somewhere safer. Even if they’d flee to a place with better lighting, and without a ginormous swimming pool.
The story of Steve, an Adélie penguin, on a quest to find a life partner and start a family. When Steve meets with Wuzzo the emperor penguin they become friends. But nothing comes easy in the icy Antarctic.
Directors: Alastair Fothergill, Jeff Wilson
Writer: David Fowler
Star: Ed Helms
Although the name “Disney” has become roughly synonymous with a multi-tentacled corporate octopus over the years, latching onto every profitable pop culture phenomenon it can reach and then squeezing it dry — it’s important to remember that it’s also synonymous with “nature documentaries,” and that it has been ever since the Oscar-winning short “Seal Island” way back in 1948.
These nature docs have, over the decades, exposed audiences and particularly Disney’s target demo of wholesome family units to the wide-ranging world of animals in their various natural habitats. For the last 11 years, the Disneynature label has been keeping this torch aflame, and their latest documentary “Penguins” is another feather in the imprint’s cap.
Sumptuously photographed and narratively benign, “Penguins” explores the life of the Adélie penguin, which is smaller than its Emperor cousins and — arguably — even cuter. Ed Helms narrates and provides the voice for our Adélie protagonist, Steve, who embarks on his first quest to find a mate, care for their children amidst harsh Antarctic conditions, and protect his young from various natural predators.
Penguins” mostly plays like an inoffensive tale of natural wonder, there are a few moments of genuine suspense. The predators who scour the Antarctic in search of delicious penguin meat range from nuisance level to, from a tiny penguin’s perspective, large and terrifying. The image of a Leopard Seal poking its giant, dragon-like head out of a crack in the ice floe, eyeing Steve’s brood like an unthinkable leviathan, could give more sensitive little kids nightmares. Or at least give them pause the next time they go ice-skating.
It’s tempting to give the penguins (and REO Speedwagon) all the credit for Disneynature’s latest, but films like this wouldn’t be possible without intrepid documentarians (working with director-producers Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson) collecting hundreds of hours of footage under extreme conditions. The images they’ve captured are, often, genuinely breathtaking and immersive. Images of penguins diving in and out of the water as their reflections give the shot perfect vertical symmetry are astounding to witness in a theatrical environment, and the narrative that Disneynature vet David Fowler has crafted from all these creatures big and small is clear and relatable.
A film like this is always a major accomplishment, so it feels like a cognitive disconnect when the actual story it tells seems so light and benign. But then, that might be the real message: We are all struggling in an imperfect world against threats of varying sizes, but in our hearts, we all feel like we’re underdogs. Like Steve the penguin, we are simply doing our best. And in the case of the makers of “Penguins,” our best can be very sweet.
The true story of the unlikely relationship between Ann Atwater, an outspoken civil rights activist, and C.P. Ellis, a local Ku Klux Klan leader. During the racially charged summer of 1971, Atwater and Ellis come together to co-chair a community summit on the desegregation of schools in Durham, N.C. The ensuing debate and battle soon lead to surprising revelations that change both of their lives forever.
Initial release: April 5, 2019 (USA)
Director: Robin Bissell
Screenplay: Robin Bissell
Story by: Osha Gray Davidson
Producers: Tobey Maguire, Robin Bissell, Danny Strong, Matthew Plouffe, Matt Berenson, Dominique Telson, Fred Bernstein
IT IS hard to talk about “The Best of Enemies” without mentioning “Green Book”. This year’s Best Picture winner pleased audiences and the Academy, but drew ire from critics for its “white saviour” narrative (like many award-winning films about race, “Green Book” explored prejudice from the perspective of a white character). The film’s detractors argued that it does little to advance the cause of racial justice, instead comforting cinemagoers by presenting racism as a purely historical phenomenon.
“Green Book” may have seemed the apotheosis of the genre, but “The Best of Enemies” is contending for that title. Also based on a true story, it is a similarly slick, entertaining and shallow drama. Set in Durham, North Carolina, in the 1970s, the film focuses on the relationship between Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson), who runs a radical activist group called Operation Breakthrough, and C.B. Ellis (Sam Rockwell), the president of the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. This odd pair is brought together when an electrical fire burns down the school in the black part of town, and Atwater’s group pushes for full integration as the best solution.
Based on a true story, The Best of Enemies centers on the unlikely relationship between Ann Atwater (Henson), an outspoken civil rights activist, and C.P. Ellis (Rockwell), a local Ku Klux Klan leader who reluctantly co-chaired a community summit, battling over the desegregation of schools in Durham, North Carolina during the racially-charged summer of 1971. The incredible events that unfolded would change Durham and the lives of Atwater and Ellis forever.
Directed and adapted by Robin Bissell and based off a book written by Osha Gray Davidson entitled “The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South”, this film gifts us with two larger than life characters who happen to be real. Their journey together in the latter years of their lives is nothing short of astonishing and quite inspirational.
While we have seen racially-charged films like The Best of Enemies before, what sets this particular film apart from the others is its ending. While some may call it fate, and others may call it faith; one thing is for sure. C.P. Ellis and Ann Atwater, two people who were conditioned to hate the other on the premise of their skin color, ended up being best friends for 30 years after that fateful charrette in Durham, North Carolina in 1971.
The charrette was moderated by Bill Riddick (Babou Ceesay), believed that the city’s biggest stakeholders who had an issue with the desegregation of schools in Durham should come together and decide whether the schools would be desegregated. No one expected the resulting events to unfold as they did. However, the unlikely friendship between Ellis and Atwater and their collaborative efforts to combat segregation serve as a testament to the power of the human spirit, denote that love is the most powerful emotion and that barriers are meant to be broken for the greater good of humanity.
This film is full of powerful lessons. Below, you will find 5 powerful lessons learned in The Best of Enemies.
Wherever Knowledge is Transferred, Error Can Be Transferred As Well:
C.P. Ellis is white, poor and not the least bit well-traveled. While he believed himself to be a professing Christian, he could not fathom the thought of being associated with a Black person. There’s a scene in which an upstanding man tries to reason with the group at the charrette calls C.P. Ellis brother. C.P retorts with conviction, “Did that nigger just call me brother?” He and his fellow Klansman taught the word of God, yet the doctrine of racism was taught and transferred as well.
When You Stand For Great Change, Prepare For Great Resistance:
Maddy Mays (Caitlin Mehner) is a white woman who was randomly selected to participate in the charrette. Maddy is compassionate and does not have the heart of a racist. Once the Klansmen figured out that her voice could sway the vote in favor of de-segregation, they used intimidation tactics to threaten her to not support segregation. They broke into her home, put a weapon to her head and make her yell out several times, “I am not a friend of niggers!” Though she had a heart for change, her compassion was met with great resistance.
As A Generalization, Most Veterans Had A Different Perspective on Race After War:
Lee Trombley (John Gallagher Jr.) is a war veteran who has served 2 tours in Vietnam, and he is known to co-mingle with Blacks in his community on an interpersonal level. He works with Black folks and even one manage his store. When asked by C.P.Ellis what he thinks of the charrette, he humbly replies, “It’s nice to hear both sides, you know?” His experience of having fought side-by-side in the war have shaped his perception and views on life. He even defends having a Black manager in his store and states, “I trust him, second only to my wife.”
Racism Is Designed To Create Division:
One night after a heated debate, C.P. Ellis goes to his car and get a shotgun out of his trunk. When Atwater confronts him, he says it’s his protection. She rationalizes with him and quips that the word of God is a defense for her, and states, “the same God that made you, made me.” Atwater in her spiritual maturity truly believes that God created us all. Her belief and persistent confrontation of Ellis eventually begin to make an impact on him.
Love Changes Things
A documentary presenting Aretha Franklin with choir at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles in January 1972.
Directors: Alan Elliott, Sydney Pollack
Stars: Aretha Franklin, Reverand James Cleveland, C.L. Franklin
Release Date :5 April 2019 (USA)
Amazing Grace” is two days of Baptist church condensed to 90 minutes and injected directly into your soul. Shot in 1972 over a 48-hour period in Watts’ New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, this stirring document captured the live recording of the most successful gospel album in history, Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace. At the height of her powers, with 11 number one singles and five Grammys to her credit, she returned to the environment and the music that honed her voice and nurtured her soul. The result became her biggest seller, earning a Grammy and quite possibly more than a few conversions. This film is a powerful love letter to the Black Church, offering a soul-shaking introduction for the unfamiliar and a grandmotherly yank of the arm for those who know—it drags you from the theater straight into the pews.
So I’m here to bear witness. Hear me testify, oh readers. As the son of a minister, this sinner has the Baptist church in his DNA. My Sundays growing up were spent sweating profusely in suit and tie, uselessly fanning myself with popsicle stick paper fans and taking side bets with my cousins on who would get happy in church that day. Years later, I sang in the chwhyuh—to use the preacher pronunciation of the word choir—where I and my tuneful brethren were instructed by the most animated of choir directors. We sang the hymns that every Baptist knows and rode the familiar rhythms and cadences of the service that befell us every Sunday morning. Black church has a soothingly repeated checklist, and though I hadn’t been to worship in at least 25 years (it’s complicated, folks—judge not!), I remembered every item on that list. I sat in the theater gleefully awaiting every single one of them, and I was not disappointed.
Oh yes, “Amazing Grace” is like Sundays at your Baptist church with one major exception: You didn’t have Aretha Franklin as your lead soloist. It’s one thing to listen to her make a joyful noise unto the Lord courtesy of Atlantic Records, but seeing her do it is something entirely different and even more exalting. Those rafters you hear raising on the record now have a visual representation, aided and abetted by Re’s Master of Ceremonies and partner in crime, gospel legend Reverend James Cleveland. Though her entrances into the church on both nights of filming appropriately dripped with a diva’s swagger, Re is for the most part very shy on camera, at least until she starts to sing. She speaks perhaps seven words in the entire film, but don’t mistake that for insecurity. The camera catches her in rehearsal inquiring what key she should be singing in, and when she gets conflicting answers, she hilariously stares daggers at Rev. Cleveland.
Rev. Cleveland is the quintessential pastor, part court jester and part sermonizer, playing to the camera (at one point, he throws a handkerchief at it) and the crowd while maintaining structure and order. Under normal circumstances, he would easily steal the show. But, as he points out, these circumstances are extraordinary, so he happily cedes control to his lead singer. However, Rev. Cleveland figures prominently in the most astonishing moment in “Amazing Grace.” As Re sings the hymn that gives the film its name, the reverend is overwhelmed with emotion, rising from the piano to openly weep on camera. His emotion is genuine, infectious and of course, a perfectly placed interaction with the viewing audience. It’s an understandable reaction as well; Re’s voice is otherworldly in this number. She vibrates as she sings, the camera catching every bead of sweat pouring down her upturned face while her body becomes a radiant beacon beaming out her unshakeable faith.
A couple are followed through their successes and failures as they work to develop a sustainable farm on 200 acres outside of Los Angeles.
Initial release: 10 May 2019 (USA)
Director: John Chester
Production company: FarmLore Films
Music composed by: Jeff Beal
Cast: John Chester, Molly Chester
Producers: John Chester, Sandra Keats
With all due respect to former Vice President Al Gore, here is an inconvenient truth about most environmental documentaries: No matter how important the message, it’s kind of a drag to sit through so many alarmist lectures about how the world is going to end and what humans are doing to speed along its destruction. That’s what makes “The Biggest Little Farm” feel like fresh air for the soul — figuratively, of course, although audiences will almost surely breathe a little easier after tuning in to this inspirational story of one couple who made an impact by entirely rethinking their ecological footprint.
The inspirational story of how a Los Angeles couple quit the city, moved an hour north of one of the most polluted metropolitan centers on Earth, and pursued their dream of growing every ingredient she could possibly want to cook with, this lead-by-example change-the-world doc is perhaps the closest cinema has come to the eco-philosophical musings of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” author Michael Pollan, who freely challenges long-held social paradigms in his work — something this enlightening doc does too. Both deeply personal and remarkably objective, “The Biggest Little Farm” offers a firsthand account of the ups and downs of married duo John and Molly Chester’s trial-and-error attempt to start a biodiverse agricultural operation on land that had long since been stripped of nutrients.
As a couple, John and Molly don’t know much about farming, but their ignorance proves to be an asset to the film, which delivers a humble back-to-nature fantasy for city-livin’ adults, while doubling as a rich classroom learning tool for younger audiences. By enticing kids with all kinds of adorable animal footage, the movie finds an intuitive way to make them care about the fate of the farm (where chickens and ducks are regularly attacked by coyotes, and gophers, snails and other pests eat away at the trees), teaching lessons the Chesters themselves observed about how the complex ecosystem could be made to regulate itself. “It’s a simple way of farming. It’s just not easy,” director and narrator John confesses at one point via typically eloquent voiceover.
He and Molly may seem like dilettantes at first, granola-minded city folk with no idea how to begin cultivating the land they’ve purchased, but they have wisdom and humility to engage an expert, a man named Alan York, who helps map out a plan to turn their newly acquired Apricot Lane Farms into a kind of modern-day Eden. York, in his vaguely loony-sounding way, spells out a plan that sounds far too utopian to be practical, and yet, the Chesters go along with it, taking land that could barely support even lemon and avocado trees and transforming it into a habitat for all kinds of plants and animals. The key, Yorke believes, is reviving the soil through cover crops, coupled with a diversity of flora and fauna — to the extent that they wind up with 76 distinct varieties of stone fruits (arranged in such a way that it looks more like a botanical garden than an orchard from the air).
A fading movie star and his unsuccessful friend are desperately trying to finish a new script for a zombie film. When a prank leads to an accidental death, the two buddies must keep their cool as they try to figure out the best way to hide the body.
Initial release: 5 April 2019 (USA)
Director: Rhys Wakefield
Screenplay: Rhys Wakefield, William Day Frank
Producers: Rhys Wakefield, William Day Frank, Eric B. Fleischman
There was a time when, for an actor in search of good roles, writing your own movie was a bold and clever idea. Then came Good Will Hunting and Swingers, and everybody thought they should do it. Then it seemed crafty (and budget-conscious) not just to write your own starring vehicle, and to direct it, but to make the story self-referential — about an actor writing a script about an actor writing a script he wants to direct about an actor who wants to be a filmmaker making films about actors. Were there too many clauses in there? Probably — just as there are already too many entries in this unpromising subgenre, with nary a Good Will in sight.
Using this tired conceit as a framework for ostensibly comic accidental murders and drugged-out dumb decisions, Berserk finds Rhys Wakefield (the head creep in The Purge) directing and co-writing, as well as starring alongside Nick Cannon, who presumably represents a glimmer of commercial hope for the grating, sometimes insufferable pic. Unfortunately, fans of the multihyphenate entertainer may find him a depressing sight here, playing a character whose haggard desperation and fright wig of bleached curls make him a far cry from the kid they loved in the 2000s.
Wakefield’s Evan is just getting dumped by his agent when we meet him — she’s sick of his constant promises to deliver a script he claims he’s writing with his movie-star pal Raffy (Cannon). He gets her to agree that she’ll keep him on if he makes good on a promise she knows is impossible: that he’ll have the script finished tomorrow, and that Raffy will commit to starring in it alongside Evan.
BERSERK centers around three so-called “friends” who make the realization that none of them has ever felt true-fear. Over the course of one night, they set out to trick each other into feeling it and nothing is too extreme. The film was directed by Rhys Wakefield as well as co-written by himself and William Day Frank. Wakefield also stars in the film alongside Nick Cannon, James Roday, Erin Moriarty, and Nora Arnezeder.
Honestly, I loved this film. It was so different from anything I’ve watched recently, and it was refreshing. It’s a series of fucked up events that happen to take place on Halloween and you never know what is going to happen next. Each performance was executed beautifully with uniquely bizarre characters that are scarily familiar.
Nick Cannon and Rhys Wakefield play well off each other throughout the film and have great chemistry but the addition of Nora Arnezeder is a must. She adds tension, drama, and intensity to the mix and delivers a killer performance. Together they create movie magic. I must also say that every time I see Wakefield smile, I can’t help but think back to his iconic “sinister grin” in the first Purge film.
BERSERK is a film you really must pay close attention to because it’s kind of all over the place, but it’s supposed to be that way. It was designed to mess with your head. It’s like one big acid trip and as a viewer, you are sucked into that experience never knowing if what’s happening is really happening. In some cases that would annoy me, but it worked perfectly for this film.
Although the film is full of twists and turns throughout the film, the end really surprised me. I thought it was going one direction until boom… it goes a completely different way leaving me surprised but satisfied. It was dangerously perfect. I highly recommend you check out this film when it releases. If you love films that draw you in with a bizarre series of events that result in crime, passion, and murder… BERSERK is for you!