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Episode 326 - Red Sparrow (2018)

Released by Scribner in 2013, former CIA agent Jason Matthews first novel received much attention and praise. Reviewers felt it was a throwback to John le Carré’s best selling spy thrillers. Its realistic portrayal of the espionage trade while avoiding clichés opened up many readers’ eyes. By 2014, the novel won a number of awards, including much prestige for being a debut novel. Interestingly, even before the book’s debut, the movie rights were sold for seven figures. And now on March 2nd, 2018, that movie has been released as a starring vehicle for superstar Jennifer Lawrence.

Russian ballerina, Dominika Egorova, has an unfortunate accident that ruins her dancing career. With no guarantee to receive long-term disability, she is worried that her disabled mother will land on the streets with no home. Her uncle however offers her an option to help the Russian intelligence department in exchange for financial support. When things go wrong, she is indentured as a Red Sparrow, a type of Russian spy operative. This leads to a world she never thought existed. In a desperate play, she decides to break her own moral code in order to get out. But more importantly, will she be able to figure out a way to save her mother from homelessness and the government that was supposed to protect her?

The movie is directed by Francis Lawrence who worked with Jennifer Lawrence in the final three Hunger Game movies. The screen adaption was written by Justin Haythe known for such films as Revolutionary Road and A Cure For Wellness. The cast also includes a lineup of some very fine supporting members including Joel Edgerton, Charlotte Rampling, and Jeremy Irons. Dark Discussions Podcast takes a look at this throwback spy thriller and gives their thoughts.

Prior Podcast Episodes:    

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Episode 325 - The Ritual (2018)

David Bruckner has had an interesting path to his feature length directorial debut. He’s been in three horror “anthologies” where his segments have actually been considered the strongest. The Signal was a curious zombie-like film from 2007 and his piece was the most intense to the point where critics said they wished the film kept that tone straight to the end. In V/H/S, his tale, Amateur Night, was a boy’s night out gone wrong as throwback drive-in cinema at its best. And in Southbound, his segment The Accident, is always noted as a high point of that movie. Now in 2018, The Ritual, a very different type of horror film than anything he has ever done prior, arrived with a bang on Netflix.

Five Brits get together to plan a guy’s trip away. When a robbery causes the death of one of them, Luke, Phil, Hutch, and Dom head to Sweden in tribute to him. After a long hike in the mountains, Dom twists his leg leading them to believe they will not be able to make it back before dark. Using a map, they decide to take a short cut through a deep forest that would cut the journey in half. As they begin their trek back, each soon discovers they are in danger.

Based on the book by British author Adam Nevill, adapted to the screen by tv scriptor Joe Barton, David Bruckner brings a dark and scary tale to screen. The film made its debut late last year at the Toronto International Film Festival and caused a bidding war between Lionsgate and Netflix. Receiving fairly good reviews, the movie has already been listed as one of this year’s best early genre releases. Dark Discussions Podcast takes a look at the movie and gives their thoughts.

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Episode 324 - Annihilation (2018)

There has been some pretty intense science fiction films, specifically ones that really make you think. Classics include Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Solaris. However most recently films such as Under the Skin and the Vanishing Waves have gained cult followings. Alex Garland joined the fray with what many call a masterpiece, Ex Machina, from 2014. He’s back four years later with his second directorial effort, Annihilation, based off the high concept science fiction novel written by Jeff VanderMeer. The novel, part of a trilogy entitled Southern Reach, won many prestigious awards which garnered it much attention.

Natalie Portman stars as Lena, a college professor, whose husband has gone missing after leaving for a black ops mission. A year later he reappears, unable to remember what happened. After an unexplained medical emergency, the two are sent to a government outpost along the Florida panhandle. There, a mysterious area phenomenon known as the shimmer has transpired. Lena discovers that prior to the return of her husband from a mission within, no one had ever come back. Her husband, now comatose, remains in intensive care at the facility. When a new group of scientists plan an excursion into what is now called Area X, Lena joins them to learn what lies beyond the “shimmer.”

Alex Garland prior to directing films had written such scripts as 28 Days Later, Dredd, and Sunshine. With his latest film, the movie has gained critical praise and admiration from many. After test screens showed the film to be confusing to audiences, Paramount decided to sell the international rights to the film to Netflix while keeping the theater rights for the U.S.A. and China. The Dark Discussions co-hosts take a look at this polarizing film and give their opinions.

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Episode 323 - Black Panther (2018)

Back in 1966, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the superhero Black Panther. The character was not necessarily unique but stood out for his heritage, not just being racially black but also from the fictional land of Wakanda. Though never as popular as Spiderman and other top tier characters, he did compare to that of Ironman and Thor. After being introduced in the movie universe, Marvel Studios has given him his own film to headline.

When T’Challa’s father passes, he becomes the new king of Wakanda, a hidden nation that has been able to utilize an element called vibranium which can give special powers to almost anything. When the mercenary Klaue teams up with Killmonger, an ex-special ops soldier, T’Challa, his people, and the world are in danger. As the Black Panther, T’Challa must stop this new danger and try to save the world.

After directing the small yet critically claimed Fruitvale Station, he was given the opportunity to direct Creed, a major studio film that earned Oscar nominations. Now in 2018 he has helmed the latest Marvel superhero film which not only has received great reviews but has had one of the biggest box office openings in history. Dark Discussions takes a look at this new fan favorite.

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Episode 322 - Winchester (2018)

The Australian filmmakers, the Spierig brothers, have made a pretty good mark in genre cinema. Their zombie black comedy brought them attention and allowed them to do the fairly popular Daybreakers, a new take on vampires. In 2014 they did the very interesting sci-fi thriller Predestination and only last year helmed the highly successful Jigsaw. Now, only months after the release of Jigsaw, their latest film, Winchester, starring one of today’s top actresses, Helen Mirren, was released in early February to some interesting buzz.

Based upon the actual Winchester mansion in San Jose, California, the story behind the mansion and its original owner is a story unto itself. Sarah Winchester was the heir to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, famous for its very successful rifle, the Winchester rifle. Sarah, during her time at the mansion, had built room after room with very true rhyme or reason. Most famously there is a set of stairs that lead to nowhere.

An interesting premise for a movie indeed. So the story begins with Sarah believing ghosts have begun to haunt her, all victims from tragic deaths by the rifle. Her executives are worried that she may be going insane. Hiring a doctor, played by Jason Clarke, they have him go to evaluate her. So begins our movie. Dark Discussions takes a look at this new entrance to the ghost story film and gives their critique.

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Episode 321 - Mom and Dad (2018)

Brian Taylor has been working in genre films for over a decade. He is best known for writing and directing the Jason Statham film series, Crank, that were not only surprise hits with large cult followings, but also reviewed well by film critics. Even with their midnight movie plots, they actually have a lot of nuance to their story such as mortality, the meaning of love, and the purpose of one’s life. Taylor’s new film, Mom and Dad, seems to follow the zombie theme but just like the Crank films, the movie has more to it than the surface level that it presents.

The Ryan’s seem to be a normal family. Mom and Dad appear to be happy. The children, Carly and Josh, are typical siblings. They fight a lot and push the buttons of their parents, but all in all, their family life is good. When a news story appears saying a couple has murdered their children, the practice spreads to other families. Soon Mom and Dad are out to get Carly and Josh. The two fight to survive but wonder what is next if the two people who should love them the most want to kill them.

Again, Brian Taylor has made a bizarre midnight movie that critics are praising. Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair play the rabid parents while Anne Winters plays Carly who must not only survive but also protect her little brother. Dark Discussions takes a look at this newly released VOD film and gives their thoughts discussing not only what they felt about the movie but also what the film seems to be saying.

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Episode 320 - Session 9 (2001)

Brad Anderson is one of those directors that almost breaks out big but for some reason just hasn’t. But he has been pretty steady. He’s worked with some big names, both film and television. Performers such as Christian Bale, Halle Berry, Kate Beckinsale, Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley, among others have all worked with him. His film, The Call, actually was well received and made a good amount of box office. But it was his film, Session 9, that really got him noticed by genre fans.

In Massachusetts, the Danvers State Hospital, a sanitarium has remained closed for years. The town now wants to turn it into municipal offices, but before renovation, they need to have the building cleared of hazards, including asbestos. Gordon Fleming and his crew of four win the job and plan to do a three week job in one week to get a $10,000 bonus. While there, one of the crew discovers an old patient case tape of a woman from Lowell, Massachusetts who has multiple personalities. Soon strange things begin to occur, and each man’s personal life begins to seep not only into their work lives, but also with the history of the sanitarium.

By 2010, the film was already being listed as one of the best horror films of the new century. Though with time, it has had many competitors for the title of best of being the best of the century, the film still has held up well. Starring a number of well known character actors, the movie’s setting and ambiguous solution have given it a huge cult following. Dark Discussions takes a look at this chilling film and gives their take on the movie.

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Episode 319 - Cold Prey (2006)

Whether it is the handful of characters, or the isolated location, or the never-give-up killer, slashers have been a main stay of the horror genre since the days of Mario Bava. What keeps them fresh depends on your taste, but when a new entry to the genre gets buzz, people perk up. When the Norwegian movie Cold Prey arrived in 2006, it immediately gained attention.

Five college students head out on a skiing trip for some spring skiing. Rather than heading to the regular tourist traps, they instead hike up a non-traditional mountain and ski down its virgin slopes. When an unfortunate accident occurs, they have to find shelter until they can hike to the closest community. The abandoned lodge they find however may harbor a serial killer that wants to pick each of them off one by one.

The film was directed by the new hot director Roar Uthaug (now helming the upcoming Lara Croft movie). One of the breakout stars was Ingrid Bolsø Berdal who went on to star in the genre films Escape (2012) and the Chernobyl Diaries (2012) before becoming a regular cast member of HBO’s Westworld. The film was also written by Martin Sundland and Magne Lyngner who were behind the director’s other films Escape and The Wave. The film also had to follow ups including Cold Prey 2 which also was well received. Dark Discussions takes a look at this cult classic and gives their thoughts.

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Episode 318 - 2017 Review

We are already four percent into 2018 and some good films have come out. But last year was a heck of a year too. Dark Discussions puts together their review of all that was good and bad in 2017. Included is the consideration of 75 different films that were worthy enough to be considered as a top 20 film for genre and horror films.

Each of your five co-hosts put together a list of movies they thought were good enough to be seen by audiences. This included both a list of horror films and a list of other speculative fiction films. Afterwards we then combined them and came up with Dark Discussions definitive lists of the best of 2017. Some obvious films like Wonder Woman and Get Out appear but also little known films like The Evil Within, Radius, and Berlin Syndrome were considered.

Also included are some of our listener choices and what they felt were the best of the year. And don’t forget our top and worst scenes, scream queens, breakout star, and anything else you can think of. Dark Discussions wraps up last year in a nice tight bow and gives their listeners a good many films to go out and search for.

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Episode 316 - 2018 Preview

With January 2018 underway, it is time to visit what is coming this year to cinemas, video-on-demand platforms, as well as those genre films that are going straight to disc. Last year, horror seemed to dominate genre and there were a lot of great flicks. This year once again there seems to be a lot of great ones coming. Plus also more superhero flicks. Reboots and remakes and sequels are also arriving too.

Dark Discussions once again is back with their look forward to the new year and which films seem to interest them most. Some of the more high profile flicks spoken of include Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Annihilation, the two X-Men films, Slender Man, The Nun, and Game Night.

Some other flicks talked about include Fashionista, The Bad Man, the critically praised Norwegian film, Thelma, and a few sequels to Dead Snow and Halloween. And then at the very end we list off other films and talk about some of the latest news about movies and genre cinema.

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Episode S01 - Interviews (2017)

Dark Discussions is back with a special episode. Boutique disc labels are pumping out lost cult films. With the recent rediscovery of these 1970’s and drive-in films, a number of faux flicks have appeared. On December 12, 2017, the new film, Dangerous People, was released. Having done the festival circuit, the movie has gotten rave reviews and won awards. Co-host Mike and Phil were able to see the film at the convention Scare-A-Con during the summer of 2017. As luck would have it, the screenwriter and director, Garo Nigoghossian, was kind enough to give us some of his time and discuss the film, the process behind it, the plot, and the stars of the movie, including scream queen Angelina Leigh.

In November 2017, co-host Phil was able to interview authors L.L. Soares and Peter N. Dudar about their novels and careers. Both are Stoker nominated authors, with L.L. Soares having won the award for best debut novel. Each discusses their latest works but also all their novels and novellas that span their careers.

This special interview episode lets listeners know about some fantastic authors and a new film that is destined to become a cult classic. Listen up and send us your feedback.

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Halloween Boutique Psychotronic Reviews Volume 007

Welcome to the latest edition of Halloween Boutique Psychotronic Reviews – a podcast that reviews and critiques films released by boutique labels that have taken old and sometimes forgotten midnight movies and re-releases them in special editions where the quality of the picture is fully remastered, usually from onetime lost or privately owned negatives or prints.

This month I review four films and one television show. The movies include the 1987 slasher Slaughterhouse, the 2011 faux-grindhouse film The Disco Exorcist, the 1998 psychological thriller Jaded (starring Carla Gugino), the 2015 Japanese science fiction anime series Valkyrie Drive Mermaid, and the 1979 science fiction slasher film The Dark.

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Episode 259 - Patient Seven (The Critique)

Last week Dark Discussions interviewed director Danny Draven and actor Dan Lench of the movie Patient Seven. We learned a bit about the horror anthology and how the various shorts were award winning movies from the convention circuit. After being scooped up by the producers, a wraparound story was built around these films creating a cohesive movie.

A highly renowned doctor comes to a sanitarium to interview seven patients for a new book he is planning. Each patient is a very unique behavioral health case. As the psychiatrist's unconventional techniques become known, the orderlies become concerned and the patients become more enraged. Yet there may be a truth behind each patient's tale that not even a sanitarium can keep hidden.

Patient Seven encompasses seven award winning shorts with an eighth wraparound story that ties it all together. Zombies, vampires, serial killers, ghosts, demons, and murder fill out the almost two hour runtime. With its great score, its dark tone, and each tales unique twists, the movie has been getting rave reviews and has been considered one of the best horror anthologies to come along in some time. Dark Discussions does their critique and review of this new film.

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Episode 258 - Patient Seven (The Interviews)

Horror anthologies seem to be films that horror fans either love or hate. Many can be disjointed, have too many tonal shifts, or simply aren't any good. But there has been a huge resurgence of them recently led by such films as The ABC's of Death and V/H/S. A new film entitled Patient Seven suddenly appeared on VOD services and quickly became one of the top horror movies rented and viewed on such places as iTunes.

With seven individual stories with an eighth story as the wraparound tale, the film is quite lengthy and yet flows pretty smoothly. The cast includes some fairly well known folks including Alfie Allen (of Game of Thrones), actress Amy Smart, and genre favorite Michael Ironsides.

Additionally, the movie has actor Dan Lench, a star of last year's science fiction film, Circle, playing a pivotal role that is completely different than anything he's played before. Along with Dan Lench, Dark Discussions interviews one of the directors, Danny Draven, who also edited and put together the upcoming disc release. Get ready for part one of our two part episode of Patient Seven. This episode focuses on the people that worked on the film.