Author: Sean K. Cureton

Netflix Hidden Gem #94: Cheap Thrills

Cheap Thrills (2014) Director: E.L. Katz Genre: Comedy Drafthouse Films Synopsis: A down-on-his-luck, wannabe writer struggling to scrounge up enough money to keep his wife and infant child off the streets comes across a childhood friend and a pair of deranged good samaritans. Overview: Cheap Thrills is a wildly subversive independent comedy in the same vein as the very best theatrical works of Bobcat Goldthwait. Serving as the directorial debut for E.L. Katz, Cheap Thrills stars two of the most under-appreciated character actors of the past twenty-plus years. As former high school friends Craig Daniels and Vince, Pat Healy and Ethan Embry offer two...

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Elle Offers Captivating Condescension

Overview: An affluent French businesswoman is violently assaulted in her own home and subsequently mounts her own private revenge against her unknown attacker. Sony Pictures Classics; 2016; Rated R; 130 minutes. Violence & Condescension: Isabelle Huppert is an undeniable screen performer whose remarkable presence makes the entirety of Elle worth watching. Directed by Paul Verhoeven, Elle is about an indecent act of sexual congress with repercussions that extend decades into the past. As the sole living daughter of a local serial killer and cultural monster of folkloric proportions, Huppert plays Michèle Leblanc with an unmistakable distance from and tacit disdain for the people...

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Watching Barry In Trump’s America

In director Vikram Gandhi’s new film Barry, American citizens who have been waking up in fear every morning are offered the hope of a communal solution. Some context that you already know: A man with no prior political experience has been elected to become the Leader of the Free World, despite losing the popular vote. Donald J. Trump, a notorious philanderer, real estate developer, and reality television star, will unseat current president Barack Obama in fewer than two weeks. After eight years of social progress and liberal civility, the very worst monsters have emerged from the closet of American history. Bigotry,...

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Beavis and Butt-head Do America: Still On the Couch 20 Years Later

Based on the hit MTV animated series, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America was the feature length directorial debut of Middle America provocateur Mike Judge. After several offers were made and turned down by Judge for a motion picture production based on his original cast of characters, a Beavis and Butt-Head movie finally began to go into production in 1994, with co-writer Joe Stillman attached to develop the an original screenplay. Eventually, Stillman and Judge developed what became one of the most successful December releases of all time, making back $20,114,233 on a $12 million budget. Taking the form and...

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Office Christmas Party Offers By the Numbers Holiday Cheer

Overview: A gang of corporate misfits and wannabe executives come together to throw the office holiday party to end all office holiday parties. Paramount Pictures; 2016; Rated R; 105 minutes. Who’s Been Naughty: Sporadic studio comedy filmmakers Josh Gordon and Will Speck have come together for the third time to offer a feature film that aims to please general movie-going audiences. Office Christmas Party stars second-time lead performers Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston–who previously co-starred in Gordon and Speck’s unfortunately under-seen sophomore effort The Switch in 2010–who portray dueling executives of a national tech company facing the imminent closing of its flagship Chicago...

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Nocturnal Animals Is An Unsettling Experience

Overview: A novelist sends the manuscript for his latest novel to his ex-wife, who in turn takes its contents to be a veiled message of violent retribution for a past offense. Focus Features; 2016; Rated R; 116 minutes. Co-Dependent Fantasies: From the outset of director Tom Ford’s latest feature length endeavor, Nocturnal Animals, the question of what accounts for the distinction between fantasy and reality is tacitly posed. Affluent art gallery owner Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) finds herself exactly where all of her closest friends and most respected colleagues would expect her to want to be. After earning a graduate degree in...

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Network 40 Years Later: We’re Still Mad as Hell

Network is among the greatest works of contemporary satire in the past forty years. Its pointed skewering of the multimedia marketplace has only become more accurate with each passing year. In the fictional basic cable network Union Broadcasting System, Oscar winning screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky remarkably predicted the formation and susequent rise of such twenty-four hour news behemoths as MSNBC and Fox News. On both sides of the political divide, Howard Beale (Peter Finch) and his populist rants against the unknowable terror of the universe, as refracted and distorted by network programming executives, has found its outlet in real life...

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Revisits the Wizarding World

Overview: Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), acclaimed British Magizoologist, finds himself at the center of a civil war between magical and non-magical born Americans in 1920s New York. Warner Bros. Pictures; 2016; Rated PG-13; 133 minutes. Revisiting the Wizarding World: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is among the more effortlessly joyful blockbuster events of the 2016 holiday season. Serving as a prequel to the wildly popular Harry Potter franchise, first-time screenwriter and series author J.K. Rowling has delivered a novel avenue for longtime fans to return to her immediately familiar Wizarding World. Despite the fact that the film’s...

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Hacksaw Ridge Offers a Compelling Morality Play

Overview: Real life World War II veteran Desmond Doss – the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor – serves as an American Army Medic during the Battle of Okinawa. Summit Entertainment; 2016; Rated R; 131 minutes. Faith: Over the course of the first hour of Hacksaw Ridge, director Mel Gibson makes it clear that his latest biographical war drama will be another testament to his abiding faith in the Catholic Church and belief in the Christian God. Born out of trial and turmoil at home, Desmond Doss, played with remarkable compassion and humanitarian vulnerability by...

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Horrortown’s Haunted House Experts: Bobby Roe & Zack Andrews

Beginning in the last week of October, Audiences Everywhere will be continuing its  Horrortown series of interviews with renowned horror directors in which we will discuss current and upcoming films, and also get the artists’ take on the contemporary horror. The Houses October Built is a found footage movie that saw theatrical release initially in 2014 and served as the directorial debut of Bobby Roe. Alongside his childhood friend, creative collaborator, and co-star Zack Andrews, their horror film examined some of the surreal and frightening world and profession of operating and working as performers in haunted house attractions across the country....

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Why You Should Be Watching Easy

Writer and director Joe Swanberg got his start in the mid-2000s as an influential member of the Mumblecore film movement. Defined as a distinctive sub-genre of the American independent film revolution that has its roots in the 1990s, Swanberg and others defined themselves through a new form of cinematic Naturalism, connoting both an intensely paid attention to detail in realistic performance and dialogue. In some of the earliest Mumblecore features, many key actors were untrained performers, whose respective naïveté gave birth to much of the sub-genre’s understated pathos and emotional drama. Frequently centering around stories of 20-somethings and 30-somethings...

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Kevin Smith: A Retrospective of a Maligned Director

There are very few filmmakers who can lay claim to being beholden to the cultural zeitgeist while simulatnaously standing as its declaimed antithesis. But such a fate has befallen writer/director Kevin Smith time and time again over the course of his twenty-plus years in the business. After being heralded as an icon of the burdgeoning independent film movement of the 1990s alongside others like Richard Linklater and Gus Van Sant, Smith quickly found himself threatening to topple such what was an assumed distinction of critical prestige. Now, with the theatrical release of his latest film Yoga Hosers shortly making...

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Level Up Is A Viscerally Propulsive Thriller

Overview: An aimless young adult living in London finds himself an active player in a sinister augmented reality game that puts his girlfriend in danger. FilmBuff; 2016; Not Rated; 84 minutes. 21st Century Malaise: Within the first five minutes of writer/director Adam Randall’s feature length debut Level Up, central protagonist Matt (Josh Bowman) is made out to be an easy stand-in for many a young adult male eking out an uneasy existence in the twenty-first century. Unemployed and living with his increasingly exacerbated girlfriend Anna (Leila Mimmack), Matt’s waking life is one of haphazard malaise undercut by a deep...

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The Little Prince Examines the Impermanent Idleness of Youth

Overview: An inventive take on the eponymous Antoine de Saint-Exupéry book for children adapted and re-imagined as a contemporary animated fable. Netflix; 2016; Rated PG; 108 minutes. Idleness: Beginning with director Mark Osborne’s opening frames to his thrilling theatrical adaptation of The Little Prince, it becomes apparent that this is a movie about growing up. More precisely, it is a morality play on the presumed impermanence of idle youth. The movie opens with a brief introductory narration from Jeff Bridges as Saint-Exupéry’s infamous character The Aviator, who laments the literal mindedness of adults. Osborne then whisks the viewer away...

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Ellen Page: From Juno To Tallulah

It’s an affliction of the contemporary Hollywood actor who came to prominence during their relative adolescence that has occurred several times over. Known primarily for her star-turning and eponymous role in director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody’s 2007 indie drama turned mainstream pop-cultural sensation Juno, Nova Scotia native Ellen Page became an instantly recognizable sweetheart for a very specific class of theatergoer. Her irreverent mock-sophistication in Reitman’s career-launching production put the Canadian actress on the map, yet the years that have followed her Oscar-nominated introduction to the larger movie-viewing public has not been quite as renowned. Ever since Cody’s...

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