Residue (dir. Alex-Garcia Lopez, 2015) – After a massive explosion in the city centre, photographer Jennifer Preston uncovers a massive government conspiracy and unexpectedly, the paranormal.
Don’t expect a fast-paced thriller with a perfect resolution. Residue is a slow-burning but promising pilot, made to build anticipation for what is to come.
Residue is excessively drawn out, and maddeningly inconclusive. That doesn’t mean it is not worth a watch. Set in a dystopian near-future, the aspiring Black Mirror episode is a plodding yet assured pilot that promises things will only get better from here.
Intrigue lies in the gripping premise of this sci-fi/horror mystery thriller, where a massive explosion on New Year’s Eve leaves the city centre in quarantine. The measure is ostensibly in place due to contamination from a bio-weapon facility. But any X-Files aficionado will be loath to take the official word for it.
Continue reading Series Review: Residue
Imperial Dreams (dir. Malik Vitthal, 2017) – Love for his family inspires Bambi to rise above a life of gang violence and broken dreams.
An inspired character study and a thoughtful introspection of the rehabilitation system. Malik Vitthal’s directorial debut delivers a powerful story of hope, bolstered by John Boyega’s impeccable performance.
It has taken some time for the 2014 Sundance hit to arrive on Netflix. But three years have done nothing to diminish the relevance of Imperial Dreams. This hard-hitting drama shines unforgiving light on the faults of an extant system that traps ex-convicts in an unyielding cycle of violence, if only for survival.
John Boyega plays 21-year-old Bambi, a former gangster determined to turn his life around for his son Daytone (Justin/Ethan Coach). But the odds are stacked against him. His partner Samaara (Keke Palmer) is in jail. The state is suing him for child support. He is unable to get a license and consequently, a job. Then, there is his criminal record, which prevents him staying with his half-brother Wayne (Rotimi).
Continue reading Review: Imperial Dreams (2014)
Pariah (dir. Dee Rees, 2011) – Brooklyn teenager Alike comes to terms with her sexual identity at risk of friendship, heartbreak, and family.
Heartfelt and resonant, Pariah presents a powerful coming-of-age journey that challenges social expectations of sexuality and gender roles.
Love in all forms, is love. But in a conservative family, love is instead a dangerous secret. 17-year-old Alike (Adepero Oduye) learns to hide it well. At home, she is the feminine daughter that her God-fearing mother Audrey (Kim Wayans) wants her to be. When night falls, she emulates her openly lesbian best friend Laura (Pernell Walker) and dresses butch, dreaming of her first kiss with another girl.
But Alike finds comfort in neither the femme nor butch identity, and her struggle is in finding her place in the world. This perspective of a black, gay woman comes from an authentic place. Describing Pariah as semi-autobiographical, writer-director Dee Rees tells a powerful coming-out story that hits home with many gay teens.
Continue reading Review: Pariah (2011)
Under The Shadow (dir. Babak Anvari, 2016) – In post-revolution Tehran, Shideh struggles to cope with the terrors of war and a mysterious evil in her home.
Under The Shadow presents an unnerving haunting beyond the supernatural, in which demons manifest in myth, war and personal trials.
It is the 1980s in Tehran. The Iran–Iraq War has left its citizens living in constant fear. Where there is anxiety, the wind blows and the Djinn follows. With her misgivings of the war at large and her personal struggles at hand, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) has left her door for the demon wide open.
It is easy to understand why. She had been on the way to becoming a doctor, when marriage and childbirth halted her dreams. Her husband Iraj (Bobby Naderi) meanwhile casts doubt on her career ambitions, encouraging her full commitment to motherhood to her quiet dismay.
When the time finally comes for her to get back on track, things unexpectedly go south. The Cultural Revolution happens, cutting short Shideh’s education and conscripting Iraj to war.
Continue reading Review: Under The Shadow (2016)
Contagion (dir. Steven Soderbergh, 2011) – A new epidemic causes panic across the globe as the Centre for Disease Control work tirelessly towards a cure.
While all too sprawling, Contagion offers a grounded and effective study in the spread of disease and fear.
In face of a worldwide epidemic, connectivity may be the death knell of civilisation. The Internet allows for the unbridled barrage of theories and speculations, in a modern world that places little trust in the mainstream media or even the government administration.
Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) witnesses first-hand what rumours can do. After his wife Beth (Gwyneth Paltrow) and son fall victim to the fatal MEV-1, he finds leaving the city an impossible task. Panic, fuelled by false news, has left supply shelves empty and all roads in chaos.
Contagion presents a realistically dire situation in face of a seemingly incurable pandemic, never shying away from the horrors of the stricken. The bleak imagery, especially in death, proves striking.
Continue reading Review: Contagion (2011)
Animal Kingdom (by Jonathan Lisco, 2016) – After the death of his mother, 17-year-old Joshua Cody moves in with his relatives for the start of a new, reckless life.
Fraught with danger and tension, Animal Kingdom makes waves in the gritty drama scene with intriguing family dynamics.
Miss The Sopranos? Meet the Codys. The family-affair crime syndicate is set to turn devious manipulation into an art. Adapted from David Michôd’s critically acclaimed film, Animal Kingdom presents a suburban underworld thriving in plain view, where Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody (Ellen Barkin) leads the pack.
The story begins the same way, with the matriarch adopting her teenage grandson J (Finn Cole) after his mother dies of a heroin overdose. J eases into the shady family business, where his uncle Baz (Scott Speedman) calls the shots. That is until Janine’s eldest son Pope (Shawn Hatosy) returns from prison, looking to regain his hold on the reins.
Continue reading Series Review: Animal Kingdom