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Look – up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a satire on anti-refugee paranoia? Is it a religiose parable of...

Look – up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a satire on anti-refugee paranoia? Is it a religiose parable of guilt and redemption? Is it a Euro-arthouse superhero origin myth?

Difficult to tell. Kornél Mundruczó’s Jupiter’s Moon is a messily ambitious and over-extended movie with some great images; like his previous picture White God it leaves behind the somewhat torpid realist mannerisms of his even earlier films such as Delta and skirts the fringes of sci-fi and fantasy. In fact, it is about a Syrian refugee who recovers from bullet-wounds inflicted by a trigger happy immigration cop and realises he has a superpower. He can fly!

It reminded me in some ways of Alejandro González Iñárittu and that film-maker’s fascination with the miraculous in Birdman, and also Biutiful. There is also something of Richard Linklater’s woozy visions in his Rotoscope animation Waking Life. This film was treated to some hooting and booing on its first screening in Cannes; it is a very odd, singular piece of work: not the visionary masterpiece it assumes itself to be and muddled in its effects and ideas. But certainly bold. It loses altitude yet never becomes earthbound.

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The action kicks off in the conventional terms of a thriller. Aryan (Zsombor Jéger) is a Syrian refugee from Homs who is trying to make his way into Hungary from Serbia, along with his father and many other wretched souls. They are all caught, and find themselves in a web of cynicism and corruption. Stern (Merab Ninidze) is a crooked Hungarian doctor who takes bribes from refugees to smuggle them out of the camp to hospital where they can disappear. László (György Cserhalmi) is an aggressive border cop who is not averse to taking his own cut for making the paperwork vanish.

But these men are confronted by a terrifying phenomenon. Aryan was shot by László, and as a result he can fly. So the schemingly exploitative Stern takes his bewildered new protégé on a tour of rich patients, demonstrating his superpowers, claiming angel-like gifts of healing – for huge cash fees. Yet Aryan is desperate to find his dad, from whom he was separated, and who it seems without his son’s protective presence is getting coerced into a jihadi terrorist plot. And Stern too is convulsed with guilt: he faces a civil malpractice suit for a botched operation carried out while he was drunk. So the “angel” Aryan could redeem him.

The idea of flying has poignancy as well as spectacle. Refugees, more than anyone, are subject to fences, borders, walls; they may well fantasise about a miracle which allows them to float over them to the promised land of the European Union, and to partake of the prosperity which allows the wealthy west to abolish the gravity which crushes them. (The title is a reference to Jupiter’s moon Europa: it is understood to have water which could possibly support life-forms.) There is also a brutal, if ambiguous kind of satire at work in conferring superpowers on refugees. I found myself thinking of a line in Armando Ianucci’s HBO comedy Veep: a much hated political lobbyist dismays everyone by becoming personally wealthy. One of his enemies snarls: “It’s as if Hitler could fly ...”

But what would it be like if someone really could fly? Jupiter’s Moon persuasively suggests it wouldn’t be like a Marvel comic book, but more as if he suddenly had the ability to play the violin with masterly skill: a power which earns gasps but also suspicion and which may destroy him. Jonathan Lethem’s “superpower” novel The Fortress of Solitude hints at something similar.

The problem with Jupiter’s Moon is that it is crammed with lots of other things - including a thriller-ish plot about terrorism involving an underground subway chase from the 1970s, and a full-on shootout in a hotel which Michael Mann might have enjoyed. But there is something arguably misjudged about a narrative which rather unreflectively suggests that refugees naturally have terrorists among their number.

Jupiter’s Moon isn’t a total success – but it’s aiming at the stars.

IRON SKY 2 - Official Trailer #2 (2017) | Sci Fi Action Movie HD

IRON SKY 2 - The Coming Race 2018

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Arc of Justice: Russell Crowe Eyes Role Opposite David OyelowoRussell Crowe is in talks to join David Oyelowo in the ada...

Arc of Justice: Russell Crowe Eyes Role Opposite David Oyelowo

Russell Crowe is in talks to join David Oyelowo in the adaptation of Arc of Justice

Russell Crowe (Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind) is in negotiations to co-star with David Oyelowo (Selma, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) in the upcoming film Arc of Justice for the Mark Gordon Company, according to Variety. Jose Padilha (Narcos) will direct the film, written by Max Borestein and Rodney Barnes. The film is based on the 2004 book by Kevin Boyle, “Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age.” The book tells the true story of a racial incident in Detroit in 1925 involving African American doctor Ossian Sweet (Oyelowo). He was charged with murder, and famous lawyer Clarence Darrow took on the case. The book won the 2004 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

The official description of the book, published by Ohio State University, reads as follows:

“In 1925, Detroit was a smoky swirl of jazz and speakeasies, assembly lines and fistfights. The advent of automobiles had brought workers from around the globe to compete for manufacturing jobs, and tensions often flared with the KKK in ascendance and violence rising. Ossian Sweet, a proud Negro doctor-grandson of a slave-had made the long climb from the ghetto to a home of his own in a previously all-white neighborhood. Yet just after his arrival, a mob gathered outside his house; suddenly, shots rang out: Sweet, or one of his defenders, had accidentally killed one of the whites threatening their lives and homes. And so it began-a chain of events that brought America’s greatest attorney, Clarence Darrow, into the fray and transformed Sweet into a controversial symbol of equality.”

Gordon, Borenstein, Hawk Koch, and Matt Jackson are producing Arc of Justice, with Josh Clay on board for the Mark Gordon Company. Are you guys interested in seeing this story on film? What do you think of the casting? Let us know your thoughts in the comments

Split Blu-ray ReviewThe timing of the announcement that Split and Unbreakable will meet in a new M. Night Shyamalan film...

Split Blu-ray Review

The timing of the announcement that Split and Unbreakable will meet in a new M. Night Shyamalan film called Glass means we can happily blow the secret of his sort of horror, sort of super-villain origin movie that is Split. It’s a semi-sequel to Unbreakable. It’s actually a really exciting concept, a welcome adult antidote to the endless DC/Marvel blockbusters. Something smaller, muted and more serious, psychological and sophisticated but still a “super hero” movie.

And now, with Split coming out on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack as well as a myriad streaming outlets, it’s easy to revisit and re-appraise the movie that has firmly cemented Shyamalan’s comeback. Split is magnificent, really, and deeply, wonderfully weird. Everything about the movie is off. The rhythm is off. The dialogue is arch. The sense of urgency is meandering and odd. The characters don’t react to situations like we expect them to react. It’s just a weird movie. And at the center of it all, bugging out and mugging and twitching and flexing and screaming is actor James McAvoy, in what is most assuredly the most alarmingly over-the-edge performance — or performances, rather — of the year.

Spit stars The Witch‘s Anya Taylor-Joy as one of three teenage girls who, after accepting a ride home with one of the chirpy young ladies’ dad, are in turn doused with chloroform by a bespectacled assailant (McAvoy) who carjacks them and dumps them in some sort of basement dungeon. But this is no mere “trap the girls and rough them up” exploitation film. How could it be? It’s an M. Night Shyamalan film and, no matter what you think of his films, he is a director who refuses to pander to convention.

Now, as you already know, Split sees McAvoy as — initially — a goggle-wearing fiend that masks dozens of personalities that are inexplicably hard-wired into his mind and body. Soon, the terrified girls meet most — but not all — of those personas, including the wily Barry and the 9-year-old innocent, Hedwig. And while the other two teens weep in horror and react in panic, believing their fates are sealed, Taylor-Joy seems to have an odd connection with her captor(s), especially the sweet-natured Hedwig. Soon we are treated to flashback footage of Taylor-Joy’s own childhood, whose darkness might just match that of McAvoy’s broken youth.

In the middle of McAvoy fluidly — and often darkly hilariously — sliding into his different (fully-realized) personalities, we cut to his therapist (Carrie‘s Betty Buckley, who despite her advanced years still has amazing legs!) who has been using the young man as her case study and who is now getting increasingly alarmed that a new personality is emerging, that of “The Beast.”

And while you have to fully bow down to McAvoy’s fearless and unprecedented turn as the one-man-asylum-from-Hell, I really think the best performance in the piece might stem from Taylor-Joy. As in The Witch (which Split has plenty in common with, especially if you read — like I did — The Witch as an allegory of abuse and how the mind snaps in order to protect itself), it’s the actress’ stillness, her wide eyes and trembling lips, that allow us to latch on to her thoughts, to her emotions. She’s already proven herself a master of that “inner voice” that defines the best film actors. And Shyamalan exploits her craft deftly, editing fragments of flashback against her fragile beauty to paint a wrenching portrait of a little girl who almost needed this dire situation to help quiet her own demons. It’s a stunning example of a director and an actor working symbiotically together; of flesh and technology joined organically as one. If you see the film, pay special attention to this performance. Because it is something special.

The Blu-ray/DVD combo pack release comes packed with juicy features, most overseen and introduced by Shymalan, who is obviously in love with his “baby,” as he should be. The first is the much-hyped alternate ending, which is introduced by Shyamalan. The director explains that he tried many times to insert this final shot into the film but found it too dark. It is, but he was wise to remove it as it really adds nothing and simply sees McAvoy sitting on a roof staring at high school girls and talking to himself. Next are a glut of deleted scenes that are classic Shyamalan flab. Pleasurable flab, however, as almost all of them involve the amazing Buckley. These scenes serve to deepen Buckley’s character and are intelligently written but would have no doubt derailed the pace of the picture. Also excised from the final cut is a key scene with the three girls chatting about their captor(s) and it probably should have been left in. The interesting thing is that all of these deleted scenes are high quality and well written and probably should have been re-edited back into the movie for an extended director’s cut. Maybe one day.

Other features include a solid making-of behind-the-scenes doc, an interview with the director and a glowing portrait of McAvoy dissecting the challenges of essaying a glut of characters and making them different and believable. All of these features are at best EPK promo fluff, however, and really don’t add up to much.

Split is an essential film and it sure is exciting for Shyamalan fans (I am one) to see him climb out of the muck and make movies that matter again.

Hounds of Love ReviewIn suburban Perth during the mid 1980s, people are unaware that women are disappearing at the hands...

Hounds of Love Review

In suburban Perth during the mid 1980s, people are unaware that women are disappearing at the hands of serial killer couple John and Evelyn White. After an innocent lapse in judgment, Vicki Maloney is randomly abducted by the disturbed couple. With her murder imminent, Vicki realizes she must find a way to drive a wedge between Evelyn and John if she is to survive. Hounds of Love is an exercise in expertly-crafted tension, offering a bold, challenging debut from writer/director Ben Young.
Rating: NR
Genre: Drama
Directed By: Ben Young
Written By: Ben Young
In Theaters: May 12, 2017 Limited
On Disc/Streaming: May 12, 2017
Runtime: 108 minutes
Studio: Gunpowder & Sky

Hounds of Love: Devastating Australian horror thriller takes an unflinching look at a very sick relationship

In Canada, we have tied to our recent history — unfortunately — an oozing, open sore of a story, a true crime tale that shocked not only our country, but the world. I’m speaking about serial rapist/murderer Paul Bernardo and his bride/accomplice Karla Homolka. I wish I wasn’t speaking about them. But I was sadly reminded of their wave of very real sexually-stepped horror while watching writer/director Ben Young’s unshakable and instantly controversial (there were walk-outs during Venice and SXSW screenings, especially from dog lovers) shocker Hounds of Love, a movie that is also based on facts Young gleaned from studying real-life sex killers.

In the case of the unfortunate Bernardo, the young handsome “boy next door” maintained a reportedly twisted, volatile sexual relationship with his wife, who enabled his every perverted whim. By night, Bernardo would prowl the Toronto streets and the peripheral areas and sexually assault women, dozens and dozens of women, his reign of terror earning him the handle “The Scarborough Rapist.” With the help and participation of his wife, he even drugged and raped Homolka’s teenage sister, an act of sexual assault that led to the girl’s death. Getting a taste for more transgressive acts, the pair ended up stalking and kidnapping schoolgirls, keeping them prisoner, repeatedly raping and humiliating them before killing, dismembering them and dumping their bodies.

The pair were caught but, due to a sickening “deal” made, Homolka claimed she was a “victim” of her controlling husband and was sentenced to minimal time, wherein she received a university education. Bernardo is serving life in prison. Homolka is now free and married with children. Chew on that.

Hounds of Love (no relation to the pretty Kate Bush album/song) charts a similar, revolting sexual/homicidal co-dependent relationship in its tale of Perth-based husband and wife killers John and Evelyn White (Stephen Curry and Emma Booth) who kidnap, sexually share and slaughter teenage girls as part of their broken, sick union. But after the pair drug and chain up the sweet, sophisticated Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings), the dynamic changes. Evelyn starts getting nervous. John is paying a bit too much attention to this new girl. He starts cutting Evelyn off from their usual shared sex crimes and Evelyn begins to feel her control of the situation slipping. What follows is a totally perverse love triangle of sorts, a satanic domestic tale that is raw and unyieldingly dark and emotionally and viscerally punishing.

But while the subject matter in Hounds of Love is upsetting and the sexual violence is difficult to watch, this is no mere exploitation film. Rather it’s a stylish, expertly-produced, sharply-directed and intelligently written chamber drama and one armed with a punishing sound design (there is a scream on the soundtrack behind a closed door that cut into my bones). It doesn’t just revel in the grim nature of sex crimes, it peels back layers like an evil onion, revealing the psychology of dangerously co-dependent, toxic love and how it can make one blind and slowly, surely strip humanity away if left unchecked. Both John and Evelyn are victims of life in a sense. Of poverty. Of ignorance. Of abuse. These are man-made monsters living on the fringe who are parasitically entwined, gnawing at each other like cancer and dragging innocents into their sinking, stinking cesspool. The performances are blistering, the pitch is fevered and the movies naturalism and focus on character provoke genuine horror. Because, as we know with people like Bernardo and Homolka, these self-cannibalizing predators walk among us. Everywhere. They wait. Watching. Ready to spread their “disease” to their carefully-curated victims. They are dogs. Hounds…

Not for all tastes (would you want to see a horror movie that was?), Hounds of Love is a thinking person’s psycho-thriller, one that I know I’ll likely not be able to shake for some time. Nice use of Joy Division too…


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