Have You Heard From "Timbuktu"? Review

Where is God in all of this?

I paraphrase the director of Timbuktu (2014), Abderrahmane Sissako: you can read "music is prohibited" but that is an abstraction, but when you see how music is prohibited, you understand what it means. If you are a westerner--and one suspects that is underinclusive--to see and understand is also to be outraged. However, there's a great deal more to it than that. The people of Timbuktu, a small city in Mali and former trading hub, were used to playing their music and sharing it, living their lives as best they could. Then, from 2012 to early 2013, an Islamist group, with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI), took control of Timbuktu and instituted sharia law. People left, people stayed. Tyranny never lasts forever, but people don't live forever. Even then, life under tyranny is only a half life.

Jul
19
2015
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"Two Faces Of January", And Neither Is Pretty Review

In 2002, Hossein Amini penned the Heath Ledger epic remake The Four Feathers, then passed nine years before reappearing on the scene with screenwriting turns on Drive, Snow White and the Huntsman, and 47 Ronin in rapid succession. Riding the wave of success, he switched gears and made his feature directorial debut with The Two Faces of January, starring the powerhouse trio of Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, and rising star Oscar Isaac. Borrowing heavily from classic Hitchcockian tropes, the slow-burning thriller endeavors to be a location period film of love, intrigue, and danger in the great tradition of To Catch A Thief.

Jul
14
2015
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"Metal Hurlant Chronicles" Makes As Much Sense As Its Title Review

Metal Hurlant Chronicles debuted in 2012 with a six-episode season that was followed by another sixer in 2014. Each episode is a standalone story set on different worlds and the unifying thread of the show is the titular Metal Hurlant, an asteroid passes through the solar system and encountering the various worlds that the show introduces. With a smattering of genre cameos from the likes of Blade Runner’s Rutger Hauer, Indiana Jones’s John Rhys-Davies, and Terminator’s Michael Biehn, the show shoots itself in the foot by seeming more like a narrative revue of past shows, specifically The Twilight Zone and Star Trek, than a wholly new and exciting creation.

Jul
14
2015
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"Two Men In Town" Argue About Nothing Review

Rachid Bouchareb isn’t a household name, but he’s a film festival darling. With wins at Venice, Cannes, Berlin, and Chicago, not to mention a César Award to his name, Bouchareb arrives on the American scene with a valiant attempt to capture an American tale of old animosities boiling over in the melting pot of dustbowl USA. Attracting a top tier cast with Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), nominee Harvey Kietel, winner Ellen Burstyn, and the always enjoyable Luis Guzmán, Bouchareb sets his lens on the arid sprawl of New Mexico to follow a parolee coming home to old troubles. William Garnett (Whitaker) has found Allah while serving time, following in the all-too familiar footsteps of Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, and an entire generation of young followers who converted in the ‘60s and ‘70s in search of a nation that was truly their own.

Jul
14
2015
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"Let Us" Preys On Your Nostalgia Review

Pollyanna McIntosh, who created ripples with her deranged, primal breakout as The Woman in The Woman, stars as Rachel Heggie, a rookie cop starting her first night at a remote Scottish police station where the dregs of society sit forgotten in dreary cells. Brian O’Malley makes his feature debut as Game of Thrones’ Liam Cunningham turns up on the streets and is arrested after being thought dead for years. Locked in the Silence of the Lambs-infused basement with the other monsters, he slowly preys on each, taking their souls for the sinful crimes they committed. Gore and fiery death awaits. O’Malley captures some exciting seaside imagery, but betrays his modest budget with token shots that smack of lack of time, lighting, and proper execution.

Jul
13
2015
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"Mad Max" Rides High Review

As Mad Max: Fury Road stuns audiences with its virtuoso rock-opera intensity, it’s worth the uninitiated taking a time warp back to 1979, when franchise mastermind George Miller first introduced the world to the grim, uncompromising post-apocalyptic dystopia of the Australian New Wave. Made for a slim budget of under $400k AUD, the film went on to gross a staggering $100m worldwide, launch a global cult following, and single-handedly launch one of Hollywood’s most profitable actors and directors, Mel Gibson. So put the anti-Semitism and drunken tirades on the shelf, buckle up, and hit the throttle back to the breakout performance and merciless film that redefined the very landscape of independent and, ultimately, Hollywood cinema.

Jul
12
2015
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"Killing Jesus", Along With Subtlety Review

Now he acts out the prophesy?

How did you think this was going to go? When you typed in the words, looked for the review, what did you hope to find? Answers? Reasons? Praise? Persecution? I'm not sure any review can give you what you seek. For all of the culture wars on Christianity, the previews for National Geographic's Killing Jesus (2015) show a considerable catalogue of Christian cinema distributed by Fox alone. To this list, another is added, as promised in the prophesy set down by the great producer in the sky, "If they come, we will build it...again and again and again." And so it was written and so it was, that the greatest story ever told was retold, but this time from the exact same perspective as it has always been conveyed with the same questionable over-acting and plot jumps. "Once more into the breach, dear friends," cried Bill O'Reilly. And lo, it sure was.

Jul
07
2015
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You Won't Be Shocked By What's "At The Devil's Door" Review

A supernatural horror flick involving a possibly haunted house and some good old-fashioned demonic forces, At the Devil’s Door stars Catalina Sandino Moreno (best known for her Oscar-nominated role as a drug mule in Maria Full of Grace) as Leigh, a real estate agent who discovers that the house she is trying to sell has a questionable past. She encounters a strange girl lurking inside the house who she assumes is the owners’ runaway daughter; in fact, it is Hannah (Ashley Rickards of MTV’s Awkward), a girl who committed suicide way back in 1987.

Jul
07
2015
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Scary Things Are Still Coming "From The Dark" Review

It’s a familiar story: young people head into the wilderness for a peaceful getaway or a fun-filled adventure, but encounter horror instead, whether it be otherworldly creatures or an all-too-human killer. From there, it is a battle for survival--and all too often the heroes, with all their human follies and foibles, come up short in the face of evil. It’s a basic formula for fright that has been remixed by filmmakers time and time again, with varying results: recent standouts include Eden Lake (2008), which forced Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly to endure psychological and physical torture at the hands of some terrifying teenagers, and The Descent (2005), which stranded a team of spelunkers deep underground in cave populated by bloodthirsty creatures of the same mold as Gollum--if he had rabies. From the Dark does not quite reach those films' heights, but it is solidly scary, more so than many of the other horror films I have seen of late.

Jul
07
2015
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There's Stuff To Like "Deep In The Dark" Review

Everyone off the street by eight.

When the local shows you the sacrificial altar, don't laugh, just leave. But Dr. Michael Cayle (Sean Patrick Thomas) just laughs when Phil (Dean Stockwell) explains the pre-Columbian bloody table in the middle of the woods. Cayle has bought a medical practice out in rural New Hampshire to expand his family. But, wouldn't you know it, the town is obliged to sacrifice animals to the savage Isolates who dwell in the muddy tunnels underneath or else be consumed by them--except for the eyes, which they creepily leave behind. Silly Dr. Cayle refuses to make a sacrifice, thinking it all a bunch of hooey, and tempts their wrath. Luckily, he has medical skills these creatures require.

Jul
07
2015
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