BIRTH/REBIRTH (USA 2022) ***
Directed by Laura Moss
BIRTH/REBIRTH tells the birth or rebirth of a dead daughter. The birth/rebirth is the result of an experiment a pathologist conducts to her success. It is a re-telling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein classic with a few notable differences.
Firstly it is a female re-telling. All the characters are now female. The doctor is still a doctor but a pathologist. A new character, a mother is involved and the monster is also a female. Secondly, there is more humanizing in the story. All the characters are displayed as human beings with real emotions that matter. Thirdly, the story takes a different direction after the ‘monster’ is created. The monster is also not a monster but a ‘previous human being’.
Rose (Marin Ireland) is a pathologist who prefers working with corpses over social interaction. She also has an obsession — the reanimation of the dead. Celie (Judy Reyes) is a maternity nurse who has built her life around her bouncy, chatterbox six-year-old daughter, Lila (A.J. Lister). When one tragic night, Lila suddenly falls ill and dies, the two women's worlds crash into each other. They embark on a dark path of no return where they will be forced to confront how far they are willing to go to protect what they hold most dear.
Director Moss does her utmost best to make her Frankenstein tale as credible as possible. She invests the first third of the film into examining the 2 characters of her story. She shows a diligent rather worried human being, Rose, just not a crazed experimenter. When the two initially meet, Rose has her nose hit by the door and the following scenes show her with a bleeding nose, which causes the audience to have some sympathy for her. Celie the mother is shown to be a caring yet desperate mother who would do anything to bring her dead daughter to life, regardless. Her desperation to search for her missing daughter initially also takes some screen time. Director Moss clearly established the raison d’être of both women to continue the Frankenstein experiment much further.
BIRTH/REBIRTH is largely a female picture. The two protagonists are female, the experiment is the daughter and the director of the film is also female. Director Moss keeps the female issues at hand, not letting them cloud the main story. Both actresses Ireland and Reyes are totally convincing in their roles. The interaction of the two characters, initially strangers then forced to bond together make a large part of the storyline,
BIRTH/REBIRTH is an impressive directorial debut from Laura Moss (a filmmaker from NYC whose work has screened at Tribeca, Rotterdam, and SXSW+ who has reimagined Mary Shelley’s classic horror myth Frankenstein into credible modern setting with real people with real issues. As believable as it is, the film is more mysterious than scary with the story leading into a different ending that would also only lead to disaster.
BIRTH/REBIRTH opens Exclusively On Shudder Nov 10th, 2023.
CYBERBUNKER: THE CRIMINAL UNDERWORLD (Germany 2023) ****
Written and directed by Max Rainer, and Kilian Lieb
This documentary reveals how a group of hackers powered the darkest corners of the internet from a Cold War-era bunker in a quiet German tourist town. The word underworld has a double meaning - as in crime and also underneath ground level.
CyberBunker was an Internet service provider located in the Netherlands and Germany that, according to its website, "hosted services to any website except child pornography and anything related to terrorism". The company first operated in a former NATO bunker in Zeeland, and later in another former NATO bunker in Traben-Trarbach, Germany. In 2013 the company purchased its second bunker, in Traben-Trarbach, Germany. The film has aerial footage that shows the bunker and its idyllic surroundings. But one has to go below the surface to find out what is really going on.
The film is a well-documented account that is arranged to pique one’s interest from the film’s very beginning The film opens with the introduction of the founder, known as Xennt, the mastermind, being interviewed supposedly from prison. The doc also claims that lal video surveillance seen in the film are re-enactments.. Xenntclaims that the site will host everything except child porn and terrorism. But his high ideals eventually led to criminal activity. The film examines all the 5 levels of the bunker and what each level hosted. The employees also called teams, have breakfast and dinner together and may live there while often frequently visiting the German town close by. But the company sees money and financing. The doc reveals that the money comes from hosting pornography. They were hosting porn sites as a cash cow, generating traffic, and getting money in whatever way they can. When the major of Traben-Trarbacj had complaints about criminal activity, Xennt invited the mayor to come to take a look and insisted that there was nothing to hide and that all doors were always open for inspection.
There are quite a few interviews that enhance the film’s credibility as well as provide intrigue, including from the FBI and the director for the Wall Street Market. The interviewees are one of the intriguing points that make this doc tick. Xennt is also interviewed showing that he had the charisma to attract all the people to work under him
The doc should be seen with a recent doc called BILLION DOLLAR HESIT, also about web hackers. Global, dynamic, and eye-opening, BILLION DOLLAR HEIST tells the story of the most daring cyber heist of all time, the Bangladeshi Central Bank theft - a good companion piece with CYBERBUNKER.
At its best, the doc plays like a suspense thriller. An undercover investigator posed as a volunteer and entered the facility to gather information. The founder, Xenon himself welcomes the investigator posed as a gardener who planted spruces and stayed without getting any pay for his job. The investigator also brought in another investigator, posed as a cleaning lady who had access to all the rooms in the bunker
All good things or rather in this case, all bad things eventually come to an end. CYBERBUNKER: THE CRIMINAL UNDERWORLD, a Netflix original (mainly in German), one of the best doc of the year, is informative, scary, and thankfully highly watchable for its easygoing treatment of the material. It opens for streaming this week on Netflix.
THE MARVELS (USA 2023) **
Directed by Nią Dacosta
Disney has and is still going all out on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The latest offering is a lesser-known Marvel action superhero called Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) who has had her own movie called CAPTAIN MARVEL and now returns with the latest film, THE MARVELS with two sidekicks or teammates. The production cost is a hefty $250 million. THE HUMGER GAMES prequel which opens next week, cost a modest $100 million in comparison. It is like make it or break it. And the film is a terrible mess of story and narrative in too expensive a film.
The film features the characters Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau, and Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is the sequel to the film Captain Marvel (2019), a continuation of the television miniseries Ms. Marvel (2022), and the 33rd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It stars Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau, and Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, as the 3 main heroes.
Following the events of Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers destroys the Supreme Intelligence, which subsequently leads to a civil war among the Kree. Hala becomes barren as it loses its air and water, with its sun dying as well. In the present day, Dar-Benn, the new leader of the Kree, succeeds in finding one-half of the Quantum Bands, of which Kamala Khan has the other half. Dar-Benn harnesses the power of the Band to tear apart a jump point in a space, which would later be discovered by S.W.O.R.D. Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson in the rare role where he does not use the ‘mf’ word), now on S.A.B.E.R., hosts the Kree-Skrull Peace Talks and calls in Carol and Monica Rambeau to investigate a jump point anomaly near S.A.B.E.R. When Monica touches the jump point, she, Carol, and Kamala switch powers. The switching causes the three to fight each others' Kree enemies, leaving the Khans' house destroyed in their wake. As the three women return to their original places, Fury and Rambeau visit Kamala on Earth.
A bit of humour is provided by the Khan family as Kamala struggles with her superpowers. But the humour is very slight in this supposedly lighter-hearted Marvel action superhero movie. The villain is also less evil than usual and actor Jackson delivers one of the mildest roles in his career. Even the formidable Jackson was unable to provide any laughs.
As the uninteresting film jumps all over the place, just as the action heroes jump all over the universe, the effect eventually gets quite numbing.
This clearly is an action hero movie with a female slant, with the villain and the female teammates action heroes.
True to form as in all Marvel films, one has to stay till the end of the end credits for a surprise.
THE MARVELS have received mixed reviews by many critics, and good reviews by some more sympathetic reviewers. THE MARVELS opens November the 10th in theatres.
STAMPED FROM THE BEGINNING (USA 2023) *
Directed by Roger Ross Williams
The film in a phrase to paraphrase the content covers ‘the history of racism’.
Contrary to popular conceptions, the film reveals, though the point is not explicitly stated, that racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Instead, they were devised and honed by some of the most brilliant minds of each era. These intellectuals used their brilliance to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation's racial disparities in everything from wealth to health. And while racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited. In shedding much-needed light on the murky history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose them--and in the process, gives us reason to hope.
The film’s source material is the excellent National Book Award Winner of 2016 by Ibram X. Kendi entitled - Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas. Kendi is also featured in the film speaking on racism,
Award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, that if we have any hope of grappling with this stark reality, we need to, and the film strives to aid the audience in understanding how racist ideas were developed, disseminated, and enshrined in American society.
The film dotes on a few examples to stress the case against racism. When the first black woman published a poetry book, it shocked the white people’s world so much that they believed that such art could not originate from a black person. Phillis Wheatley is this woman who produced art. She was interrogated to determine if she wrote the poems. What gives white people this right to question the black woman? That is the question posed and a very relevant one. Another case examined is the legitimacy of the President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Since the 1790s, he was rumored to have had children by his slave Sally Hemings. According to scholarly consensus, Jefferson probably fathered at least six children with Hemings, including four that survived to adulthood.
The film works like a history lesson and the illustrations shown on the screen remind one immediately of identical illustrations (there are a few animated sequences though where the illustrations move to life) seen in history textbooks. True to form, the film starts with the origin of the word slave. The word originates from the word slav and the first slaves that worked were Eastern European Slavics before African slaves were used. The reason black slaves were more popular is that they could not blend in with the white population if they escaped compared to the while Slav counterparts.
The film cites Bacon’s Rebellion as the rebellion against the privileged white landowners by both the white and black slaves arguing it was a spark in the start of whiteness and black segregation. But it does not state the real purpose of this rebellion, thus distorting the facts to suit the film’s purpose. Bacon’s Rebellion was an armed rebellion held by Virginia settlers that took place from 1676 to 1677. Nathaniel Bacon led it against Colonial Governor William Berkeley after Berkeley refused Bacon's request to drive Native American Indians out of Virginia. Thousands of Virginians from all classes (including those in indentured servitude) and races rose up in arms against Berkeley, chasing him from Jamestown and ultimately torching the settlement.
STAMPED FROM THE BEGINNING though biased against all white folk in general (hardly anything good to say about white folk), does shed excellent light on the origin of racism. The film opens on Netflix for streaming on November 10th.
THE STONES AND BRIAN JONES (UK 2023)
Direct by Nick Broomfield
(Review to be posted Friday evening)
TESTAMENT (Canada 2023) ***
Directed by Denys Arcand
Click on the link for review: