Let’s face it- watching the news and following current events in our country today is just plain torturous. It all starts at the very top, with our Federal leadership, their lackeys and acolytes, and of course the mainstream media that plays right into their hands.
It’s a very diabolical sociological cocktail, with social media the most potent and toxic ingredient of all. If you’re sick and tired of hearing about who’s trending online right now because of what deplorably offensive thing they said (and probably don’t even actually believe his/herself) on cable news, then you should turn the TV off, put the phone down and go see a movie instead.
Better yet is an entire film festival, and that’s where the Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport) has you covered, with the second annual Cinepocalypse, a top notch collection of genre films. The fest opened this past weekend and runs until Thursday night.
Here are reviews of the three films that we saw at Cinepocalypse. Be sure to show up exactly on time for any screening that you do attend. All movies start on time- this is not like the regular mainstream movie theaters, where the actual start time comes 22 minutes late, after all the previews, ads and other assorted rubbish.
(On a side note, another good escape from the darkness of current events these days are pet Instagram accounts- there’s a reason we’ve seen an explosion in these, and a growing audience for them)
The Devil’s Doorway (Midwest Premiere)
Dir: Aislinn Clarke
Every “found footage” genre horror film will be compared to 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project” as that was the movie which popularized this format in mainstream American culture. Thus, the perfect synopsis of “The Devil’s Doorway” is a Northern Irish version of Blair Witch meets “The Exorcist,” with elements of “The Shining” and “The Ring.”
If you’ve spent some time in the Emerald Isle or have ancestry from that part of that world, you might enjoy this film slightly even more in a few subtle ways. You can not be into horror films and still enjoy this 77 minute movie, which wastes absolutely no time at all.
Set in the fall of 1960, it’s an eerie tale of two priests: lead character Father Thomas Reilly (Lalor Roddy) and his sidekick Father John Thornton (Ciaran Flynn) who travel to a secluded Northern Ireland “Magdalene Laundry,” an asylum the Catholic church sends “fallen women” to. The fallen women classification includes orphans, prostitutes, mentally ill and those pregnant out of wedlock.
The two fathers are on assignment from the Vatican to investigate a supposed miracle- blood dripping from the eyes of a Virgin Mary statue. Instead they encounter a combative Mother Superior who is much more of a hindrance than a help to their ambitions, and meet a demonically possessed pregnant teen whose child arrived via way of unholy immaculate conception.
The padres then discover a horrifying conspiracy that ends in the only way a film like this should end. However, there is a slight bit of a twist ending, and in order to see it coming you have to pay attention the whole way. Luckily, it’s a creepy film that moves at a fast clip, keeping you disturbed and frightened at every turn, so you’ll be fully engaged.
Whenever the Satan vs. Humans Who Devote their Lives to God motif is employed in a film, Catholics always make the best protagonists. Why?
I can’t explain it, you just have to be someone raised in that specific sect of Christianity to comprehend why their match-up opposite Lucifer and his minions in these sort of dark, twisted fantasies always makes for more entertaining films.
Juice (Writer/Director Ernest R. Dickerson in attendance)
Dir: Ernest R. Dickerson
Dickerson made his directorial debut with this film that rivals Jeff Pollack’s 1994 offering “Above the Rim” for the position of “movie that incessantly airs after midnight on TNT, following a NBA game that was played on the west coast.”
It chronicles four Harlem teenagers who plan a grocery store robbery to earn “the juice,” but one member of the quartet ends up taking a very dark turn, seduced by the power of holding a gun. The group of four protagonists comes apart at the seems, until a final showdown between the emerging villain and the last former partner-in-crime standing.
Juice is a timeless, legendary film among hip-hop fans, and it features early screen appearances by Tupac Shakur, Omar Epps, and Samuel L. Jackson. The crime thriller helped put Epps on the map, developing him into one of the most prominent black male actors of the 1990s. It also launched the movie career of Shakur, who at this time was very well known, but only in the hip-hop world, and only for his music.
If you saw last summer’s Tupac biopic “All Eyez on Me,” then you’ll recall the scene depicting Juice, and the murderous sociopath Bishop that Shakur portrayed. As for Jackson, well Juice is one of his 999 quadrillion bazillion screen credits.
The Captain (Midwest Premiere)
Dir: Robert Schwentke
Based on a very disturbing true story, the film follows Willi Herold (Max Hubacher), a German army deserter with the rank of private who stumbles across an abandoned Luftwaffe captain’s uniform during the desperate final weeks of the Third Reich. Empowered by his new stolen identity, Willi finds that most, if not all of his Nazi band of brothers will follow any orders, no matter what they may be, if they originate from higher up the chain of command.
“Captain” Herold, and later the “Express Court” that he forms, commit a string of deplorable atrocities that can make this black and white German film in English subtitles quite difficult to watch some times. While intensely compelling and thoroughly engaging, “Der Kaupptman” is also not for the faint of heart.
However, given what happened in Charlottesville last summer, the current President’s some of the Nazis there “were very fine people” reaction, and the fact the Nazis and their fellow repugnant lot will be marching in D.C. again this summer remind us- this isn’t just a WWII period piece, it’s also a movie about current events.
The promotional blurb for The Captain labels it “a profound reminder of the consequences of social conformity and unchecked political power.” That cautionary tale applies as much as to our current political climate as it does to the final days of WWII in Germany. Towards the end of The Captain, there are a few scenes of “we’re all inevitably screwed anyway, so let’s just live it up in these final moments” debauchery. The wine, women and song, eat, drink and be merry portions of the film are certainly a welcome respite from all the carnage.
It can be quite frustrating watching the very young, but very genocidal Capt. Herold find apologist after apologist for his morally depraved acts, but you can take heed in knowing that the war criminal eventually got what’s coming to him in real life.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, is currently a regular contributor to SB Nation, WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.
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