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Out in Theaters: ‘BLADE RUNNER 2049’ 

Let’s get one thing straight, Blade Runner 2049 is superb and stupefying. Dreamlike production design, fiercely thoughtful direction, poetic and often brilliant storytelling, sublime world building and excellent performances across the board all add up to a sequel that fits perfectly into the cinescape that Ridley Scott imagined nearly 30 years ago while carrying its story forward in exciting, imaginative and wholly fulfilling new ways. Expanding on themes of humanity and identity native to Phillip K. Dick’s novella “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, Blade Runner 2049 both expands a world wherein humanoid androids and their homosapien masters co-exist while narrowing it down to a small ensemble of meaningful characters, all who have their part to play. This time the focus is K (Ryan Gosling), a LAPD Blade Runner who struggles with his own identity while hunting down and “retiring” outdated android models.  Read More

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Sundance ’16 Review: ‘MORRIS FROM AMERICA’

Debuting in a time where discussion on race in American cinema is at an absolute fever pitch, Morris From America explores the idea of cultural and personal identity through the lens of a 13-year old black aspiring free-styler living with his father (Craig Robinson) in the little white-washed German village of Heidelberg. Directed by Chad Hartigan, who won Sundance’s Best of Next prize in 2013 for This is Martin Bonner, Morris may be relatively light viewing but with fine performances across the board and a semi-charmed approach to talking about race and culture, Morris is a crowd-pleasing success story that could find love outside the festival circuit. Read More

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Sundance Review: WETLANDS

“Wetlands”
Directed by David Wnendt
Starring Carla Juri, Christoph Letkowski, Meret Becker, Axel Milberg, Marlen Kruse, Edgar Selge
Germany
109 Mins

Wetlands.jpg
Raunchy German picture Wetlands is graphic, poignant teen sexploration to squirm and cackle through. Helen is a young nympho with a passion for bodily fluids of all sorts and a serious case of hemorrhoids. When a shaving incident lands her in the hospital, she tries to pull a parent trap and get her divorced, and fundamentally estranged, parents back together.

David Wnendt reveals the story of Helen like a curious voyeur flipping through a teenage diary. Dexterous editing and a bevy of great scenes help to bring the Helen’s dirty flirty persona to light and though she may seem cavalier, she’s also deeply introspective, a trait courtesy of Carla Juri’s youthfully vibrant performance.

Anal fissures, sperm pizza, and tampon trading all find their way into the film at one point or another but instead of alienating the audience with a mastubatory sense of exploitation for exploitation’s sake, each bit is deeply comic and helps fulfill our understanding of the character and the film.
 
The bouquet of scandalous sexual contortions are provocative and repulsive yet oddly alluring and instinctually sexy. With the definitive pit stains of European cinema, these hygiene hijinks are surely controversial, especially for an American audience, but dig much deeper than its surface vulgarity.

I mention that the film feels distinctly European but not just for the heinous sexual acts in themselves. Rather, the fact that Wetland‘s has a main character that lacks deep-seated shame for her sexuality curiosity and an eccentric pride for her peculiar kinky appetite begs a kind of conversation that the MPAA and Americans at large are uncomfortable with. Painting in broad strokes though it may be, America is a country truly afraid of their sexuality – a nation that quells their sexual urges with locked door pornography and wet-dream restraint.

Wetlands would be sure to stir up an ocean of controversy if released in even the most art house of American cineplexes, and would be virtually assured an NC-17 rating, but the sad truth is that a US release is a very unlikely reality. The fact of the matter is that this is the type of film deemed too raunchy, too pornographic, and too risqué so will likely only be found around the festival circuit. And what a shame that is.

No matter how far off the mark of acceptable, this is a film I will gladly champion. It’s an immaculately made, cleverly told, visually stunning, brilliantly acted piece of fiction. It’s even based on a Charlotte Roche novel that is a certifiable sensation in Germany so it’s carries a bit of cultural heft with it as well. This kind of story about self-experimentation is important because it doesn’t try to pass judgment on its subject so much as it attempts to excuse her need to figure herself out, no matter how disgusting that may be at times. But considering this is a time period where you randomly start bleeding, your face pocks out with zits, and your gender parts start blossoming, what about teenagedom isn’t gross?

These are the types of messages that teenager’s need to hear most – that it’s ok to be weird and quirky and different from the flock – and sadly enough these types of stories won’t likely be allowed here because culturally we’re not comfortable with our sexuality. It’s not that I’m preaching that teenagers need to see all the explicitness of Wetlands to get this kind of point across but it’s more in line with what they need in their lives than a Hannah Montana role model is.

Like a German Amelie if Amelie had an anal fixation and had been written by Chuck Palahniuk, Wetlands is bold, esoteric, borderline brilliant adventure of self-discovery by way of reaching inside oneself.

A

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