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The Curse of La Llorona | SXSW Movie Review

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When The Conjuring released in 2013 it was a surprise hit earning over 15 times its original budget. Although the film wasn’t immune to the clichés of the genre, director James Wan executed them so effectively that nearly every viewer succumbed to fear.

The success has led to numerous sequels, spin-offs, and spin-off sequels, and soon Wan will be passing the torch to Michael Chaves to lead the mainline series. Before that, Chaves gets a trial run with the tangentially related The Curse of La Llorona, a film that unfortunately feels all too familiar.

Set in the early 1970s, the film follows social worker and single mom Anna (Linda Cardellini) who intervenes after discovering Patricia (Patricia Velásquez), a mother in her caseload, has kept her children locked in a closet for several days. Soon after being placed in foster care the two boys are found dead in a reservoir.

Believing Patricia to be the culprit Anna seeks her out, but soon discovers it is the work of La Llorona, a malevolent spirit who murdered her own children and now seeks to take the lives of others’. Blaming Anna for the loss, Patricia prays to La Llorona to take the social worker’s young son and daughter instead leaving Anna to hunt for a way to break the curse.

La Llorona’s underlying conceit places a considerable amount of weight on the matriarchal role, something the studio undoubtedly understood when they cast such a familiar face for the part, and Cardellini carries this responsibility without issue. She balances a maternal resilience with the utter terror that accompanies this type of situation, and is the biggest factor in creating any engagement with the audience.

Consistently working against said engagement is the lack of freshness in the script and the scares. It’s an effort to get spooked when you can correctly count out the beats before the next appearance of La Llorona who appears quite frequently, and while the design elicits a reaction the first time it dwindles over time. It also suffers from groan-worthy character decisions. This happens frequently enough that by the last third scenes that are designed to draw out tension instead invoke laughter.

This feeling is amplified when viewed with a large crowd which interestingly inspires a positive viewpoint. It’s easy to see why these movies have continued to garner so much attention and money. La Llorona does feel formulaic in the way that a Marvel movie can down to the well timed instances of levity; in this case brought to you by a rather fun performance from Raymond Cruz. Yet, when viewed with a crowd like the one at SXSW the eye rolls are done in unison and the theater can breathe a collective sigh of disbelief at the stupidity of a character decision. There’s something of worth, albeit distant from what made the original films so buzzworthy, in the communal nature of this popcorn horror.

For those who have been fans of the Conjuring universe, including the “bad” entries, thus far seeing this opening weekend could inspire a fun theater experience although largely at the film’s expense. For everyone else, here’s hoping that Chaves learns from The Curse of La Llorona and takes a few more chances next time he steps up to the plate.

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Caesar’s Reign Comes To The Big Screen With New Trailer For Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes

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Director Wes Ball breathes new life into the global, epic franchise set several generations in the future following Caesar’s reign, in which apes are the dominant species living harmoniously and humans have been reduced to living in the shadows. As a new tyrannical ape leader builds his empire, one young ape undertakes a harrowing journey that will cause him to question all that he has known about the past and to make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is directed by Wes Ball (the “Maze Runner” trilogy) and stars Owen Teague (“IT”), Freya Allan (“The Witcher”), Kevin Durand (“Locke & Key”), Peter Macon (“Shameless”), and William H. Macy (“Fargo”). The screenplay is by Josh Friedman (“War of the Worlds”) and Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (“Avatar: The Way of Water”) and Patrick Aison (“Prey”), based on characters created by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver, and the producers are Wes Ball, Joe Hartwick, Jr., p.g.a. (“The Maze Runner”), Rick Jaffa, p.g.a., Amanda Silver, p.g.a., Jason Reed, p.g.a. (“Mulan”), with Peter Chernin (the “Planet of the Apes” trilogy) and Jenno Topping (“Ford v. Ferrari”) serving as executive producers.

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Masterchef Is Back! For Halo Season 2

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A quick recap – Halo is set in a war-torn 26th century, where humanity led by the United Nations Space Command or UNSC and their supersoldiers known as Spartans, fights against the onslaught of the alien conglomerate known as the Covenant. The full dust-up of Halo Season 1, can be found here. Onward into the introduction of Halo Season 2!

It’s been six months since the forced separation of Spartan Masterchief John (Pablo Schreiber) and Cortana (Jen Taylor), and the Silver Team has been sent on a mission to evacuate residents of the planet Sanctuary before the Covenant glasses the whole thing. This comes with its own set of challenges, given the resistance of the planet’s inhabitants, and it doesn’t help that Masterchef starts seeing things right in the middle of trying to save some marines. Or is he? Those energy swords the squad of Elites were carrying looked worryingly real.

Back on Reach, the Silver Team is entirely dismayed to learn they have a brand new Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) representative come in as the new boss, to finally replace the traitorous Halsey, James Ackerson (Joseph Morgan). And of course, Ackerson manages to immediately get under Masterchief’s skin, by not only expressing far too much interest in John’s relationship with Cortana but also apparently disbelieving of John’s report of his encounters on Sanctuary. That just means Masterchief has to go around, if not entirely over, Ackerson’s head.

Elsewhere, Soren (Bokeem Woodbine) is trolling the slave markets in his boredom, only to stumble across a soon-to-be indentured servant who claims he knows the whereabouts of the UNSC’s most hunted human, Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone). That should bring a huge bounty, but really, Soren should’ve known better by now.

Halo Season 2 premieres Thursday, February 8th, 2024, and will continue to air every Thursday, only on Paramount+!

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Reborn as a Vending Machine I Now Wander the Dungeon’: I look forward to your next use!  

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If the title of this delightful little isekai anime entry didn’t give it all away, our nameless protagonist is a vending machine fanatic who, after being killed by a vending machine, gets reincarnated in another fantasy-style world as one! 

Japan has a tendency to give birth to all sorts of crazed fads that can last for decades, and no one does better when it comes to the vending machine industry, too. These days there are vending machines that will serve you sushi you can actually eat, hot pizza in the box, wagyu steaks, freshly popped popcorn, and a whole mind-boggling array of tasty treats, and other non-edible but still useful items! Umbrellas! Condoms! Oxygen masks, sterile bandages, shoes, and emergency clothing! Actually, far more things that we use on an everyday basis, could be considered as technically a vending machine, and the anime explores that beautifully. Into the world of vending machine fanaticism, we dive! 

So our poor protagonist never gave a name, and inevitably when he’s discovered by his first official friend the starving hunter Lammis, she dubs him “Boxxo”. Like many isekai that seem to take inspiration from video games and RPGs, Boxxo discovers he ways he can communicate, level up his existence, and even evince magic-like powers and attack and defend against monsters and enemies. Though in the beginning, and as an underlying theme throughout the show, Boxxo is primarily concerned with providing unique never-before-tasted-in-this-world food and drink to the amazed folk, human and otherwise. 

Boxxo’s prices are entirely reasonable and hey, he can even choose to give out his wares for free on occasion, so his popularity immediately skyrockets. Lammis with her awkward charm and prodigious strength blessing, introduces Boxxo to other friends of Clearflow Lake Village and associates along the way – Director Bear, an actual bear-monster who’s the head of the Hunters Association; Lammis’ friend Hulemy, the insane genius magic item engineer; the Bearcats Suco, Pell, Short and Mikenne, cheerful hunters with astronomic appetites; even suspicious Kerioyl, leader of the Menagerie of Fools party. 

The show approaches the practicality and versatility of the true vending machine with amusement, but also with the love true fans display for things they’re passionate about. Certainly, things like a brothel needing a condom vending machine exist in our world, but to toss them into a potentially more innocent other-world isekai is a welcome and often hilarious treat. The show celebrates the cheerful idiocy and devotion of the fans to their chosen fandom, in this case, yes vending machines, but also the spirit of the lonely otaku finally finding their Tribe! 

Pay your coins to watch ‘Reborn as a Vending Machine’ on Crunchyroll now! 

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