Movie review: Sicario

121 minutes. Directed by Denis Villenueve. Starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, Victor Garber.

I can’t think of any metric by which anyone can claim that the War on Drugs has been a success. The cartels, having expanded from South America into Central America and Mexico, are busy turning those countries into replicas of their homelands, corruptocracies ruled by whoever can afford to pay the powers that be to look the other way. Demand for the cartels’ product, driven by consumers north of the Mexico-United States border, doesn’t seem to have diminished. Nativist politicans trade on ugly ethnic stereotypes to gain popularity. American diplomacy works on the “son-of-a-bitch” system perfected during the Cold War; resentment towards our nation festers as we make alliances with what we hope is the lesser of two evils.

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My Month in Film: November 2015

Sadly, I didn’t produce as much content in November as I would have liked to. My excuses are, number one, that November tends to be my busiest month for my non-culture-writing activities, such as work commitments and volunteering; and number two, that I’ve always been sensitive to sudden temperature changes, with Chicagoland weather being particularly schizophrenic this November. We got a foot of snow during the weekend before Thanksgiving; four days later, Turkey Day itself topped off with a high temperature of 60° F. Combined with the seasonal-affective depression I’ve been prone to these last few years, I spent a lot of my November free time tired and lethargic, not particularly interested in watching and writing.

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TV Good Sleep Bad, episode 4

Once in every generation, I will have to grit my teeth and watch an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Surprisingly enough, I found a few positive things to say about it, although it didn’t exactly convert me into a Buffiac or whatever the property’s fans call themselves.

I also found an unintended theme linking the two shows we discussed this episode: things that involved, in some way or another, someone named Xander.

Xander Berkeley stars in THE BOOTH AT THE END.

In this episode, we discuss:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1.08, “I Robot…You Jane” (1997): A demon uploads itself onto the internet and immediately starts macking on Willow. I bet he still lives in his parents’ cellar, downloading pictures of…

The Booth at the End season one (2010): John Connor’s foster father in Terminator 2 sits in a diner and makes Faustian bargains with people. You read that right–we covered an entire season, but keep in mind that’s only five 20-minute episodes.

Movie review: Phoenix

98 minutes; in German, with English subtitles. Directed by Christian Petzold. Starring Nina Hoss, Roland Zehrfeld, Nina Kunzendorf.

One of our favorite themes here at the Gallery is identity: what makes us who we are, the difference between who others think we are and who we really are, stuff like that. And you don’t need to be a doppelgänger thriller like Coherence or a philosophical mindfuck like The Skin I Live In to present an intriguing take on the subject. Case in point: the German post-war drama Phoenix.

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Movie review: Experimenter [2015]

Maybe you’ve heard of Stanley Milgram, or the psychology experiment that bears his name. If you haven’t, here’s a quick summary, courtesy of Mike D’Angelo (whose A.V. Club review of Experimenter sums it up much more succinctly than I could, and I tried, several times):

Volunteers…are told that a fellow volunteer…is hooked up to a machine that gives electrical shocks. They’re instructed to ask him questions, and to press a button that shocks him each time he answers incorrectly, with the level of the shock gradually increasing. In reality, the button does nothing; all of the man’s yelps and protests, emanating from a separate room, are feigned and prerecorded. What Milgram really wanted to find out was just how much pain people will willingly inflict if ordered to do so by an authority figure wearing a white lab coat. Repeatedly, he found that about 65-percent of his subjects would deliver what they believed to be a 450-volt shock, even after the man begged them to stop and then fell into a silence implying unconsciousness.

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Movie review: The Reconstruction of William Zero [2014]

The concept of identity and what exactly makes an individual that specific individual has long been a popular concept in science fiction; with The Reconstruction of William Zero, Dan Bush, co-director of The Signal (not the one from last year), becomes the latest filmmaker to take the idea on. Conal Byrne (who co-wrote with Bush) stars as the titular William, a geneticist who emerges from a coma with only the sketchiest of memories. His twin brother helps him gradually relearn who he is…

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Television review: Hannibal, “The Number of the Beast Is 666” / “The Wrath of the Lamb”

We began this journey around two and a half years ago–winter of 2013–and now it’s over. Stories, particularly ones for television, are often judged on their endings: for example, the (perceived) weakness of Lost’s finale has surely contributed to the loss of the show’s glow over the years.

Hannibal has it particularly tough with its final two episodes, as Bryan Fuller chose to adapt Red Dragon as the series’ final storyline. It’s a familiar story, yet (as I’ve said before) the differences between the show’s structure and the novel’s require radical changes to the story we think we all know. The Lecter of Red Dragon is a ghost, a manifestation of Thomas Harris’s thesis (expressed in the final paragraphs of the novel) that it’s not places that are haunted, but minds. By contrast, the show’s title character is a more vital presence, a fixture in Will Graham’s mind made all the more potent when he’s not physically present.

How will events play out for these versions of Will and Lecter?

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