Bad Genius (Chalard Games Goeng) (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

A straight A+ student, Lynn sells the right to cheat of off her for money which her family desperately needs so she can maintain going to private school where she has a better chance at a better education. As the stakes go up, she gets involved in a plan to cheat on an international university entry classification test. From there on, things become stressful and nerve-wracking for her group of friends and herself.

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Baby Driver (2017)

Edgar Wright has proven himself to be one of the most unique and creative living directors today and the man has only honed his craft to deliver a great spin on a classic crime tale about love, and redemption. “Baby Driver” is a remarkable turn for Wright who creates a pulp masterpiece. “Baby Driver” is a powerful and emotional tale about a truly engaging protagonist who is sinking in to a world of violence and murder, and has no idea how to get out. We’ve seen movies about getaway drivers before, but “Baby Driver” works to the benefit of Wright’s strengths including dynamic characters, sharp humor, and amazing editing.

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You Get Me (2017)

Netflix’s newest original film is a derivative and silly “Fatal Attraction” wannabe that wouldn’t even pass muster in a discount movie theater. “You Get Me” feels shockingly dated, almost like something released in 2001, and barely skids by as background noise. Its narrative is achingly paper thin to the point where the movie submits itself to endless montages filled with silly club and dance music. Even the finale is botched with a ridiculous ode to “Sunset Boulevard.” Director Brent Bonacorso struggles very hard to deliver a modern day digital version of “Fatal Attraction” when it barely registers as a “Swimfan” clone.

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Pickup (2016)

Jeremiah Kipp and Jessica Blank’s “Pickup” is the incredibly uncomfortable portrait of an uneasy relationship where a woman is stuck in a perpetual cycle of self-destruction that promises to become very dangerous, if she isn’t careful. Director Kipp is very wise to lead us in to a final scene that is very ambiguous and leaves the audience wondering what will happen next, and I appreciated that. “Pickup” involves a horrendous situation where once it explodes, everyone will feel the pain. And it likely involves two people that know the explosion is coming and both of them are doing everything in their power to prevent it before they have no choice but to face it.

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Kairo/Pulse (2001)

Kyoshi Kurosawa’s “Kairo” is a film dripping in terror that deliberately paces itself as a slow burning end of the world tale. Rather than an all out orgy of gore and carnage, “Pulse” eventually explodes in to something of a last gasp of humanity, and a civilization that ends in a whisper and somber whimper. “Kairo” is written as something of a two act structure where Kurosawa opts for a film that’s episode in the vein of “Pulp Fiction,” and then smashes together in the stunning climax. Much of what we see seems and feels random in many places, and events collide allowing for a cogent unfolding of events that doesn’t just make sense but feels so meticulously planned from square one. What makes “Kairo” so haunting even when the credits have drawn to a close is the way the director opts less for splatter and gore, and more for a requiem that depicts mankind as a stain and nothing more.

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Bloodlands (2017) [FrightFest Glasgow 2017]

An Albanian family with inner turmoil finds itself in the middle of a “blood feud” following a clan reputed to be connected to a mountain witch steals from their business.

Written and directed by Steven Kastrissios, Bloodlands’ story is based in the folklore and traditions of the Balkans with a blood feud creating most of the stress to the characters and conflicts. The film develops as a drama for most of its run time with a few bits and pieces rooted in the horror genre until the epilogue which falls directly and completely in the horror genre. His characters feel rooted in reality while going through hell and back. The family is not perfect, they have issues, they argues, they seem to only by together because they have to or because society says they should at times, which all leads to feeling like a lot of dysfunctional families out there and makes the characters feel real. The father is strong headed while the mother is a gossiper who gets a lot of crap for it. Their kids show interest in leaving their country or at least area which is something most teens/young adults go through. The film shows this family in a true light, with their issues, loving each other warts and all. This family is the root of the film and basically the root of the story in every way possible.

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