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Movies You Missed

October 25, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: The Pact

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 11.50.24 AMThis week in movies you missed: In honor of Halloween, I go looking for a scary movie that scares me.

First contender: The Conjuring (just released on video). The first hour was genuinely disturbing, and I wouldn't give it one star. But once they started explaining everything with hokey backstory, my chills evaporated.

Second contender: a super-low-budget indie called Resolution about a dude who chains his buddy up in a Cabin in the Woods to force him to shake a meth addiction. The few critics who saw it, liked it. The concept was interesting, but I didn't find it scary for a second and had trouble staying awake.

Luckily, the third time was the charm. Returning to the deep and indiscriminate well of Netflix Instant horror, I discovered The Pact.

What You Missed

Young mom Nichole (Agnes Bruckner) is alone in her childhood home preparing for her mother's funeral. She's Skyping with her kid when something odd happens. "Mommy," the little girl asks, "who's that person behind you?"

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October 15, 2013

A Movie Not to Miss: The Act of Killing

TAOK_MakeupWhen people commit mass murder, they get locked up. Or maybe they evade prosecution, in which case they keep a low profile for the rest of their lives. When reporters come around with cameras and ask them about the massacre, they say, "I wasn't there" or "No comment."


Not always. In the documentary The Act of Killing, we enter a place where mass murderers are still wealthy, respected, supported by the ruling regime. They don't just confess to their crimes. They boast of them. With help from a film crew, they re-enact incidents of torture and murder using costumes, fake blood, music and cheesy Hollywood clichés.

It may be the most surreal and disturbing thing you've ever seen on screen. It's certainly the most powerful movie I've seen this year.

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October 11, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: Extracted

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 12.41.09 PMThis week in movies you missed: I play Netflix Instant roulette and watch a movie I never heard of with an intriguing description.

What You Missed

This is a first feature from writer-director Nir Paniry. It is not Mike Judge's Extract.

The description that made me watch:

Thomas Jacobs can enter a person's mind and view their memories, until a freak accident leaves him trapped inside the mind of a criminal. For four years, Jacobs fights to break free, until he makes a desperate bargain with the convict's own thoughts.

What this doesn't tell you is that Tom (Sasha Roiz, pictured) isn't psychic. He has invented a memory-viewing device that, for some weird reason, gives him a third-person view of a given subject's recollections, just like a movie. Once hooked up, you can traipse around somebody's head and experience their dirty secrets without being detected by their subconscious.

Naturally, the Powers That Be (represented here by a single slimy corrections-department honcho) want to use the device to prove crime suspects guilty.

Tom has scruples about signing a contract with a nascent police state. But he also has a baby on the way and needs dough, so he agrees to be hooked up to a scuzzy young convict (Dominic Bogart) who insists he didn't kill his girlfriend and wants his conviction overturned. Shenanigans ensue.

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October 04, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: Room 237

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 3.20.54 PMThis week in movies you missed: When Cinephiles Go Too Far, the movie.

What You Missed

So you consider yourself a fan of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Maybe you watch the 1980 flick every Halloween and croak "redrum" every chance you get. But do you really know what The Shining is about, or what makes it a masterpiece? According to the five film critics who narrate this documentary from director Rodney Ascher, you don't know jack (or Jack).

You see, The Shining isn't actually about a haunted hotel, a psychotic writer or the dangers of cabin fever. It's about the genocide of the Native Americans. No, wait, it's about the Holocaust. No, wait, actually, The Shining is Kubrick's way of confessing that he participated in faking the Apollo moon landings on a soundstage. That's just so obvious when we see little Danny wearing his Apollo 11 sweater.

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September 27, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: Any Day Now

AnyDayNow_002This week in movies you missed: In 1979, a gay couple sets out to adopt a kid "nobody else wants," only to find out society isn't ready for a two-dad family.

What You Missed

Rudy (Alan Cumming) is a drag queen from Queens who makes his living lip-synching  to disco hits in an LA gay bar. Paul (Garret Dillahunt) works for the DA's office, wears three-piece suits and is still deep in the closet.

Their one-night stand turns into something more when Rudy seeks Paul's legal help to deal with a touchy situation. Rudy's junkie neighbor (Jamie Anne Allman) has been carted off to jail, and her neglected teenage son, Marco (Isaac Leyva), who has Down syndrome, won't stay put in a foster home. Rudy has formed a bond with Marco and doesn't want to see him slip through the cracks.

Paul opens his home to Rudy and Marco, and the three quickly become a family. But when the state becomes aware of the two men's relationship, they must defend their right to raise a child — with the odds stacked against them.

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September 13, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: High Tech, Low Life

Tiger_mist1This week in movies you missed: a visit to China, where two citizen journalists sneak over the "Great Firewall" to offer alternatives to government-sanctioned news.

What You Missed

When 27-year-old blogger "Zola" (real name: Zhou Shuguang) hears about a government cover-up, he's on the case. To mock the official story about a young girl's death — rumor is, she was murdered — he makes a viral video of himself on the bridge from which she supposedly leapt. Some call it insensitive, but Zola gets hits.

Far away in Beijing, 57-year-old "Tiger Temple" (real name: Zhang Shihe) is on his own crusade. He's helped the city's homeless find housing and biked more than 1000 kilometers to shoot footage of farmland flooded with sewage.

Zhang started his dangerous career as a critic of the government with videos of his kitten — because who would censor a talking cat? But now his blogging is starting to attract real attention.

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September 06, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: The Killer Inside Me

090529-The Killer Insi0009This week in movies you missed: a mostly faithful version of Jim Thompson's pulp classic about a sociopath hiding in plain sight.

What You Missed

Everybody in the Texas town of Central City likes Lou Ford (Casey Affleck). He's such a nice, clean-cut, soft-spoken young man — a sheriff's deputy who doesn't even carry a gun. Sure, he's not the sharpest tool in the shed, and his corny remarks get on your nerves, but he's a good guy.

They don't know that Lou Ford has a pretty kinky thing going on with the prostitute (Jessica Alba) who lives on the edge of town. They don't know his slowness is an act. They don't see him letting off steam by putting out his cigar in a bum's palm.

They don't know that Lou Ford has a plan to avenge himself on an old enemy (Ned Beatty) that happens to entail a vicious, cold-blooded double murder. And then another murder, and another.

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August 30, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: 56 Up

Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 11.01.00 AMThis week in movies you missed: Catch up with a British TV documentary series that has spanned almost a half century — and think about your own mortality.

What You Missed

In 1964, Granada Television ran a documentary profiling 14 British kids from various regions and social classes. The announcer intoned, "Why do we bring these children together? Because we want to get a glimpse of England in the year 2000. The shop steward and the executive of the year 2000 are now seven years old."

Well, it's 2013, and those "children" are nearing 60. Every seven years, the documentary crew (helmed since the second film by Michael Apted) has returned to check in on them, producing a one-of-a-kind record of how people evolve, or don't, as they pass through their lives.

For instance, the viewers have watched Neil Hughes transformed from a lively, imaginative kid to a college drop-out to a homeless man to a local politician. His schoolmate, Peter Davies (pictured), followed a more consistent path as a schoolteacher and lawyer — but he also has a late-in-life musical career.

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August 23, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: Antiviral

AntiviralThis week in movies you missed: Writer-director Brandon Cronenberg, son of David, demonstrates the apple doesn't fall far from the tree with this high-concept science-fiction indie.

What You Missed

Imagine if celebrity culture really got out of control, and you have the world of Antiviral. Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) works at the tony Lucas Clinic, where ordinary people come to have themselves injected with celebrity diseases. Do you worship Beyoncé? Now you can suffer through a flu virus taken straight from her body! And pay for the privilege!

Actually, all the celebrities featured in the film are fictional. The clinic has an exclusive arrangement with blonde bombshell Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon), who is so idolized that consumers also clamor for steaks grown from her muscle cells. (And, yes, they eat them. The film's celebrity butcher shop is worth seeing.)

Syd himself is addicted to the viruses of the famous, shooting them up before the general public gets a chance. But when he goes to collect a new bug from Hannah, he gets more than he bargained for. This one is killing her.

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August 02, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: Come Out and Play

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 10.11.26 AMThis week in movies you missed: This horror flick asks: Would you ever deliberately hurt a child? What about a gang of children who were trying to hurt you?

What You Missed

Francis and Beth (Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Vinessa Shaw) are a married couple vacationing in Mexico. They have two kids at home and one seven months along. In a rented boat, they head out to an island known for its carnival festivities.

But the island appears to be deserted except for its children. Radios crackle with a desperate voice speaking a foreign language. The kids just stare at the newcomers, refusing to answer questions.

Then Francis encounters an old man — and watches as a small girl beats him viciously with a stick, and her friends finish him off. Another surviving adult tells the couple what happened in the village. By that time, it's too late for them to think about anything but survival.

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