Drifter (2016)

Two brothers on the run come afoul of one group after the other until they reach a seemingly abandoned desert village.  There they meet a young woman who helps them and meet with a family of crazy cannibals. Written by Chris von Hoffman and Aria Emory, based on a story by von Hoffman who also directed, Drifter is a film about survival in the desert post apocalypse that shows every character but one as bad people.  The “bad guys”, the cannibalistic family unit, are truly bad, while the brothers come off as being bad people out of necessity and desperation.  Only one character seems mostly good but also a victim of some weird form of Standahl Syndrome.  She’s the one who attempts to help the brothers before things really go to shit for them.

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Panther Girl of the Kongo (1955) [Blu-Ray]

Olive Films brings the 1955 Republic movie serial “Panther Girl of the Kongo” to blu-ray form with every episode of the cliff hanger adventures for fans. Phyllis Coates as Jean Evans is the heroine and adventurer who has been taken in to confidence by the African tribe the Utange. There she lives among the natives and begins helping them fend off various threats to their way of life. This includes a mad scientist who uses various monsters and experiments to battle with Evans. He and his cronies will do everything to push the Utange out of their village for the sake of a very valuable diamond mine.

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John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Every time he thinks he’s out, they pull him back in! Keanu Reeves’ action starring vehicle “John Wick” ended up being one of the best films of 2014, and three years later, we’re granted what is essentially “The Empire Strikes Back” of the John Wick saga. When John Wick went in to retirement, violence found him once and he wrought unholy vengeance one last time. Now that he’s been a few years in exile, living alone with his trusty pit bull, his past has returned once again. Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio shows up at John’s door aware of his mission of vengeance and now plans to take advantage of a decades old blood oath he made to him when he was working as an assassin. Handing him a very sacred reminder called a “marker” with John’s own blood in it, he plans to hold him to his oath, despite John’s protests.

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Deserted (2016)

After her release from jail for her mother’s murder, Jae goes back home to live with her brother.  As she is highly uncomfortable there, she decides to go with him and some friends to a music festival in the desert.  After encountering mechanical difficulties, they meet a group of guys traveling in an RV and get lost in the desert.  The beautiful location and landscape has them at ease at first until they realize they are lost and at risk of dying from the elements.  Written and directed by Ashley Avis, Deserted is one mellow movie where the lead is looking for herself as much as her way out of the desert.  The film processes in a slow fashion yet does not feel long or boring.  It follows Jae and her brother Robin along with old and new friends.  The dialogue seems genuine for the great majority of the film with a few hiccups that barely feel like such.  The characters don’t have much background from the start and a few bits and pieces are discovered along the way which works with the lead’s search of self.

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VooDoo (2017)

Dani arrives in California to visit her cousin for a month and have some fun away from her worries and her past.  The two girls do fun tourist things and prank each other, until something goes wrong, very, very wrong.   As things go from bad to worse, the film explores voodoo, the supernatural, and hell, all through a found footage lens.  The story created by writer/director Tom Costabile has a lot of good ideas and some truly unnerving imagery and moments.  The opening with the voodoo curse being put into place goes from interesting to freaky fairly fast.  The film itself then takes a little bit to establish the two cousins and the other players around them (including an unnecessary but not annoying cameo by Ron Jeremy) until one pranks leads to all hell breaking loose.

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XX (2017)

“XX” is yet another horror anthology, this time featuring four horror segments directed by women, all of which revolve around concepts mostly associated with women. While “XX” garners the recurring theme of motherhood, the tales themselves are based around feminine or maternal concepts that are twisted for the genre. “The Box” is a loose allegory for anorexia, “The Birthday Party” is about status, “Don’t Fall” is kind an allegory for menstruation, while “Her Only Living Son” is about a mother’s unwillingness to let go of her son and let him realize his destiny. The four very talented female filmmakers were given complete freedom and as a result we have a pretty stellar horror film, all things considering.

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South of 8 (2016) [San Diego Film Week 2017]

In the near future, during the second great depression, an ex-con joins a duo of burgeoning bank thieves as there are no jobs and he needs to survive.  At the same time, a resistance movement grows fast and a group of female criminals is causing mayhem.  As things take a more serious and more violent turn for all involved, the authorities are closing in on them. In writer/director Tony Olmos’ first feature film a few years ago, the story may be a bit exaggerated but it will feel close to what may become reality to some.  The story is set in the San Diego area amid racial and class issues, political problems, and an upswing in crime during the second great depression.

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Arrival (2016)

While many science fictions films in the past have confronted the idea of communication with alien species, as well as building a language with said species, no film like “Arrival” has accomplished the examination of the inherent importance of language with other species as a means of keeping peace and preventing disaster. Films like “Prometheus” have tried and failed to tackle the concept of galactic travel to learn about ideas. “Close Encounters” which is typically celebrated for being a film about communication never quite rises to the idea that interplay between species could hinge on peace and total war. When we meet the alien species we can never really be sure what their intent is. When the time comes to meet them face to face, “Arrival” is a world that side steps military interference in exchange for linguistic help.

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