Blood Honey (2017)

A woman returns home after an extended absence to find that things have not changed much, yet they are not what it seems.

Written by Doug Taylor and director Jeff Kopas, the film works with themes of family, grieving, mental illness, trauma, and related ones.  As it delves into the family dynamics and relationships between daughter and father, sister and brother, and others, the film develops characters that all have a connection one way or another and whose relationships are strained to say the least.  The characters created seem a bit limited as they pretty much only exist in relation to each other, except for the lead who is a somewhat more fully fleshed character.  Her trauma and evolution are central to the story here, so she makes a decent lead.  Her story is interesting and the twists keep the attention, however, the story feels like something is missing.  But, by the end, things feel more complete in a way.

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Slapface (2017)

Director and writer Jeremiah Kipp creates a very stark and somewhat creepy tale of loss, grief, and child abuse with “Slapface,” a short that is destined to grab a lot of people’s attention. At only eight minutes, “Slapface” tells the story of a young boy still coming to terms with the loss of his mother. One day he ventures out deep in to the woods and calls to something in the shadows, goading it to come out of hiding and before long is greeted by a vicious, ugly ogre in tattered clothing and long hair that zealously grasps him to the point of making him lose consciousness.

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Mune: Guardian of the Moon (2015)

“Mune: Guardian of the Moon” draws obvious influences from the likes of Studio Ghibli and Laika, and it’s a rather entertaining gem of an animated fantasy that I couldn’t help but enjoy with a wide smile. After “The Emoji Movie,” it’s very calming to know that there are still studios out there trying to deliver quality family animated entertainment. Dubbed over from the original French track, “Mune” translates well for domestic audiences, and I didn’t have a very tough time following what is a pretty nifty premise based around mysticism, nature, and the like. It also sports the classic hero’s journey trope, which isn’t so bad when it’s handled subtly.

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Annabelle Creation (2017)

A prequel to the prequel to The Conjuring films, the story here is that of how the evil doll Annabelle came to be. Years following a tragic accident, a doll maker and his wife take in a group of orphans needing a new place to live with the nun who watches over them. As they are forbidden to go in a specific room, the young girls get curious and something is awakened.

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Overdrive (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

A duo of car thief brothers runs into trouble after making a deal with a local crime boss in the South of France.

Written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas and directed by Antonio Negret, Overdrive is a fun car heist film with exhilarating chases, twists, turns, and beautiful vintage cars.  It takes a few cues from The Fast and the Furious, Gone in 60 Seconds, the Transporter series, etc and makes them all its own.  The use of the car is definitely a plot device, but it works quite well here.  The characters are not particularly deep, but as the film is mostly action car porn, it doesn’t really matter in the end.  What matters is that they are believable enough to take the viewer through the story and its twists and turns while being entertaining and fun to watch.  This film is one of those that is made for the fun of it and not to pass on some kind of grand message, something that is perfectly fine and well done here.

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Pilgrimage (2017)

A group of monks is sent to escort a sacred relic across the land in 13th century Ireland.  Along the way enemies and friends alike try to derail their mission.

Written by Jamie Hannigan and directed by Brendan Muldowney, Pilgrimage is a period piece peppered with action sequences that make logical sense within the confines of its story.  Here the monks are working with knights and others to battle enemies and bring the sacred relic their guard to a higher Catholic Church power.  The story is simple at its based, but the characters added, including a mute stranger helping the monks, create a mystery and help the tension along with the twists that take their time to come and be revealed.  This way of developing the story works well with the time period its set in and the group of characters involved.  The characters created here have some background in terms of their archetypes, but not that much information on who they are as people and where they come from or what their goals are besides keeping the relic safe or obtaining the relic.

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Sex and Fantasies in High Demand: The Girlfriend Experience

It’s no surprise that, rather than a most established performer and actress like Scarlett Johannson or Christina Hendricks, director Steven Soderbergh sought out Sasha Grey for the lead role in “The Girlfriend Experience.” Grey had spent years making millions off building the fantasies of her male (and female) audience with dozens of notable porn movies, as well as building a humongous line of sex toys that promote fantasy fulfillment for an audience that want every piece of her. Much like Grey, “The Girlfriend Experience” is about the fantasy and the reality that we may not realize isn’t always enticing.

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Broken Sword Hero (Thong Dee Fun Khao) (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

A young fighter goes on a quest to learn as much as he can to perfect his fighting skills following a hard loss.  He travels his province in search of many masters to learn from and makes friends along the way.

Written by Suwan Takongkaew and Preayaporn Boonpa and directed by Bin Bunluerit, Broken Sword Hero is an action film with a quest at it center and a philosophical angle to how it approaches some of the fights and the learning the lead does during his travels.  The way this is approached is interesting here but ultimately feels a bit long.  The story around the fights makes this a film about more than just the fights, but also about the different techniques and the human element.  Unfortunately, the film feels a bit uneven between the fighting being very strong and entertaining and the story parts feeling a bit slow and a lot less entertaining.  This leads to the whole of the film feeling a touch long with some pacing issues.

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