2018 Holiday & Awards Season Film Reviews and Recap – Cult Following #94

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It’s the thick of the Holiday film season spotlighting several new tentpole franchises and the streaming services are throwing out their big winter picks. Join us this episode as the gang spotlights several awards-season and holiday season must-sees. We have reviews of THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE, LOOK AWAY, THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT, ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE, ROMA, CAM, CHERRY POP, AQUAMAN, SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET, THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS, MEOW WOLF: ORIGIN STORY, and MORTAL ENGINES.

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Fall Movie Season & Black Friday Blu/4K Gift Guide Recap – Cult Following #93

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In this episode of Cult Following, the gang does a deep dive on the current fall season, with reviews of Netflix’s Cam. Ralph Breaks The Internet, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Roma, Suspiria, Overlord, plus capsule reviews of Slice, Lone Wolf and much more, plus a Black Friday gift guide.

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Deep Dive: Suspiria: 1977 vs. 2018 – Cult Following Podcast Xtra #1

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In this special bonus episode of Cult Following, join Victor Moreno and Adam Rutkowski as they chat about Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria in a deep dive and compare it to the Dario Argento 1977 original. Plus, the 2 discuss Walmart’s new series of VHS-inspired Blu Ray releases and talk about analog nostalgia and discuss other films and the Alamo Drafthouse in a bonus episode for Cult Following fans!

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Anna and the Apocalypse (2018) Review

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Anna and The Apocalypse

Directed by John McPhail

https://www.aatafilm.com/

Musicals were once an institute of American cinema but have only found sporadic success during the last half century. Some films might spin integral soundtracks but full on song and dance numbers are not particularly commonplace. Horror is not usually a genre known for its stage adaptations though hits like “The Evil Dead” and “The Toxic Avenger” are ample proof of the possibilities although both of those were heavy on humor and gleeful with the gore making the experience more silly than scary.

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“Anna and the Apocalypse,” a 2017 festival circuit favorite finally making it to wide release and US cinemas is a UK film that mixes the influence of its homegrown horror hallmarks “Shaun of the Dead” and “28 Days Later” harnessing the comedy of the former and over the top gore of the latter (and the somber undertones of both) and mixing with a toe tapping, clap happy sing along ready score.

On the surface, this probably sounds like a truly terrible idea hatched from an executive at Hot Topic studios who is still wondering if some ninjas and pirates should be added in digitally like Jabba The Hutt for the special edition. Reservations are reasonable with a “zombie musical” but Anna and Company stuff stockings with Billboard ready material, blood soaked sets and a very different take on holiday horror.

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The hamlet of Little Haven features a rag tag group of friends, acquaintances and enemies who on the Eve of Christmas awaken to a full-blown zombie apocalypse that’s overtaken the British Isle and as everyone learns, the entire world. The characters do develop over the course of the film through both script and song in the John Hughes mold; nothing is particularly scene stealing or mold breaking but attempts to add depth and discussion in the 90- minute running time and numerous vaudeville numbers succeed more often than they fail.

The core cast of Ella Hunt as the strong and charming Anna, intelligent and awkward outcast Steph played by Sarah Swire, Malcom Cumming portrays Anna’s meek best friend at odds with Anna’s love interest and school bully Chris played by Ben Wiggens while couple Chris and Lisa are played respectively by Chris Leveaux and Marli Siu (who reminds me a bit of a Scottish Sarah Hyland, both in appearance and attitude). All are adept at their acting craft though Ella Hunt, Sarah Swire, Ben Wiggins and Christopher Leveaux have the strongest vocal talents by far.

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And the songs (composed by Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly) are the stars here and not paying heed to the soundtracks best selections would be a sin worthy of the naughty list. The uptempo catharsis of “Break Away” is kind of Kelly Clarkson-like (fitting since the same title was one of her biggest hits, though like that song, this one also sounds like it was co-written by Avril Lavinge) with plenty of power, pathos and pop. “Hollywood Ending” is arguably the catchiest cut of the bunch, reminiscent of something off Radio Disney (the lyrics even name check the House of Mouse) with infectious hooks, gorgeous vocal layers and gooey bubblegum goodness. The in-film school holiday talent show features a short but funny “Fish Wrap” that goes over as well as one would expect but the laugh out loud portion that deserves all the accolades is the absolutely hilarious “It’s That Time of Year” where actress Marli Siu does her best “Mean Girls” song and dance routine with far more risqué lyrics and sexy moves. “Soldier At War” is pure sassy power pop that sounds like a Survivor outtake from a lost sports drama of the 80s with a 21st century gloss. “Human Voice” is another standout, it’s emotional alt rock charm having some real resonance as does the somber curtain call of “I Will Believe” that’s mournful but with a defiant spirit, giving it a gorgeous melancholy warmth. A handful of the these

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What elevates “Anna and the Apocalypse” is that while it has some initial oblivious reactions from the cast to the zombie hordes (especially evident in a memorable musical number that apes “Shaun of the Dead” with a loving homage to that horror comedy classic) the very real chaos, confusion and loss that would occur if such a catastrophe were to occur is never dampened. Many die, selfish nature abounds, the dark side of humanity rises – all common fodder for post-apocalyptic cinema but having balls to the wall brutality contrasted with sunshine showtunes creates a dichotomy that makes “Anna and the Apocalypse” a better film than most would expect and likely, a future holiday film tradition for many.

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The House That Jack Built “The Director’s Cut” (2018) Review

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The House That Jack Built (The Director’s Cut)

Directed by Lars Von Trier

www.ifcfilms.com/films/the-house-that-jack-built

When the first reviews out of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival are “audiences walked out in disgust,” that’s usually the cue to head on in. The committee already imposed a ban on director Lars Von Trier for questionable comments in 2011 and his films have been described as “daring,” “intelligent” and “a triumph” while reviews for his latest “The House That Jack Built” have included “an ordeal of gruesomeness and tiresomeness that was every bit as exasperating as I had feared” per Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian or take Jessica Kiang of The Playlists advice and “kiss your children. Go for a walk in the park. Eat a tomato like it’s an apple. Attach a love letter to your payment for the gas bill. Throw some pebbles into a fountain. Learn a few phrases in Xhosa. Defrost the freezer. Do anything — it really doesn’t matter what — rather than go and see Lars Von Trier‘s The House That Jack Built.”

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While no urge ever overcame to exit the theatre during the director’s cut of “The House That Jack Built” extended running time of 152 minutes (the MPAA approved R classified theatrical version shaves off about 20 minutes) it’s understandably not rated E for Everyone. There’s copious amounts of art house aesthetic, stark samples of stock footage, William Blake/Friedrich Nietzche philosophical musings and many of the trappings Von Trier viewers have come to expect but at it’s dark, cold heart “The House That Jack Built” is a sort of “Fight Club” meets “American Psycho” where the violence is localized, drawn out and savage. And everyone knows as Jack is more than open in discussing his perverse proclivities with girlfriends, shop keeps and even law enforcement – there are no rules, you can talk all you want and no one will believe, no challenge will be made, the hunt must continue. Some have taken it as nothing more than a spectator sport of patriarchal, Patrick Bateman approved glee, others as a mission ordained from an unseen force and a drawling, disembodied narrator Verge (who eventually does appear in the films end) or even as simply a force of nature who is an integral part of the vicious but vital cycle where evil is indiscriminate and uncaring.

In the five distinct incidents (labeled in numerical order) Jack and Virgil invite us into, we get to know Jack through roughly a decade plus in 1970s/80s Washington state as he kills a bevy of victims including Uma Thurman, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Sofie Grabol and finally Riley Keough who could be viewed the centerpiece of the slaughter, though the onslaught does not end there. There is no doubt that Jack is a serial killer, a predator stalking not only in the shadows but in broad daylight. In the beginning, we are witnesses to the fact that he is not a suave, efficient murderer but a bumbling, shortsighted shell of a man who makes endless mistakes riddled by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that give the first half of “The House That Jack Built” a Christopher Guest like mockumentary feel. Those hoping for “American Psycho” may be surprised and amused to see that Jack is not exactly the “Best In Show” when it comes to a killing spree.

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The second section descends like Dante into the circles of the Hell that Jack is both living in and that which he has created. His murders are more refined but also increasingly brazen, a craft perfected but purpose diminished; metaphorically and literally Jack is building a house, the physical one subject to scenes that beckoned for a Randy Newman song while the other is a grotesque garland befitting sonic contributions by Aphex Twin.  We do get to see the frustrations and fruits of Jack’s labor but it’s not a particularly satisfying or filling meal; the appetizer and main course are nourishing if undercooked but the bloated dessert service is anything but a treat. Some may be sickened by the violence and inhumane but devoted gorehounds are going to find this one a chore and not from boredom but because like this year’s other overdrawn entries, “Mandy” and “Suspiria” there is an appetite for more content and quality, not length and pomp.

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As a fair warning to those with sensitive palates, and is often the case for most the harm done to a baby animal by an elementary age Jack elicited the largest & loudest pangs of disgust from the audience; a revolting display to be sure but sadly ironic when the film feast on screen was paired with the side dish in the seats dining upon animals slaughtered in horrific fashion to satiate a much more real bloodlust than the gallons of Karo syrup dripping in each scene. Save for the finale, all the victims are women and children which has caused much fervor in traditional circles as well as enormous anger in the perpetually pissed SJW mob online and off but Jack’s statement is not political or socially motivated; it’s difficult to find any real meaning in his actions and that best describes most real-life monsters. The whole experience is par for the course in the end and it makes it no more outrage worthy or outrageous; this was done nearly 40 years ago with “Maniac.”

Matt Dillon plays his best Frank Zito, albeit more refined and successful but certainly not better than the late, great Joe Spinell. Dillon has always been an immensely talented actor and his work here doesn’t slouch but also feels more imitation than innovation. The remaining cast is rather stock and we rarely feel for most of them, likely Tier’s (and Jack’s) desired paradigm but even some of the most flimsy characters of the 80s slasher heyday were more likeable and memorable than those here.

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If “The House That Jack Built” foundation followed the first half throughout the entirety of the film going into further manic and absurdist territory, a greatest investment could have been garnered. The cast, cinematography, script all had  As it stands, this is one that would best remain a rental; purchase the recently released 40th Anniversary of “Maniac” and take solace in much better bloody sleaze…

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