VAFF Review: ‘Curtain Up!’ is a wonderful reminder of the vital importance of the arts

There’s some important context here: I trained as an actor, then director, then slipped into being a drama teacher for stage and screen. In the UK I taught young adults, but my first teaching job when I moved to Vancouver was at a Korean residential school. Here, I was one of a small team who had to teach performance skills to a throng of nine-year-old Korean kids, then direct them in a final performance (first The Wizard Of Oz, then High School Musical) for all their families. It was a wonderful, exhausting time, and there’s nothing to underline the absolute life-changing power of theatre then to watch young actors discover it in real time.

So go and watch ‘Curtain Up!‘, not just because it’s fantastic, but also because you’ll have a precise peek into that exact part of my life.

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VAFF Review: ‘The Closet’ is a terrifying story of botched parenthood, told through a mix of genres

The Closet

From a very early point, you’re under no illusion as to what is going on in ‘The Closet‘, the first feature by Korean director Kwang-bin Kim. It’s common for other Korean horrors to slowly shuffle towards their true nature, hiding clues in events that could easily be passed off as coincidence. Not here; it’s no spoiler to tell you that the closet in question is an ethereal doorway through which a ghost possesses, then steals, an unhappy little girl. However, ‘The Closet‘ defies expectations by constantly weaving through related genres as it tells its story – horror, thriller, even comedy. It’s not until the final third do all these disparate pieces slot together, and the result is mostly satisfying.

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Blood in the Snow Review: ‘Come True’ doesn’t stick the landing, but it’s a leap worth taking

Come True

Imagine being so afraid to sleep that you can’t even stay in your own home. This is Sarah at the start of Come True. A senior in high school, she wakes up in a sleeping bag on a playground in the films first scene.

Sarah is terrified, and rightly so. Her dreams are long, slow, camera movements through caves and hallways, past mountains and surreal sculptures, and they all inevitably lead to a dark figure with glowing white eyes.

Frustrated and terrified, she eventually joins a sleep study to try to figure out what is going on, and this is where things take a slight twist, we soon find out that the scientists conducting the study are not only studying dreams, they have the technology to see them.

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Blood in the Snow Review: ‘Parallel Minds’ looks at our near future through an indigenous lens

Parallel Minds

We all know that artificial intelligence is going to be a large part of our future. What we don’t know is how AI is going to treat us, its creators. Will it be benevolent, or will it turn on us? There’s a compelling case to be made for the latter, given how we treat our world and our tech.

Parallel Minds takes place in a near-future where a pair of scientists have created a revolutionary, AI-powered contact lens which allows people to re-live their memories. Things seem promising right up until the lead scientist is killed under mysterious circumstances. This is when the gruff detective with a checkered past arrives to solve the case, and takes on the junior scientist as his partner for the case.

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Recap & Review: ‘The Mandalorian’ Season Two, Episode One: ‘The Marshal’ is a fun western action-adventure

The Mandalorian, Season 2

The Mandalorian is back for new adventures! The second season premiere is packed with action as Mando and The Child head back to Tatooine in search of other Mandalorians. Fair warning, spoilers for the episode to follow.

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Review: ‘His House’ and the immigrant experience as horror.

His House

“Be one of the good ones.”

It sounds like a nice thing, but what it means is “don’t make trouble. Don’t make work for me.” This is the Britain that Bol and Rial arrive in, and the line they hear from Mark, the man in charge of their asylum status. Having arrived from Sudan, a country ripped apart by tribal civil war, the run-down council house they are given to stay in looks like a mansion. Nevermind the bugs, the rats, the barely functioning electrics, or the smell (“just open the window and let it air out” Mark says).

There’s little that might phase them though, having crossed two contents and a stormy ocean that claimed the life of their daughter. The cold attitude of the social workers charged with helping them is the least intimidating thing they have faced, but it’s also one of the more horrifying things in the film. It’s hard to believe that casting the immigrant experience as a horror film isn’t a well-worn trope at this point because it’s so terrifying, even when you consider the ghosts that have followed them from home.

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Home Video, Halloween Edition: 14 films and 5 binge-watches for your Halloween weekend

Halloween

Halloween Night is upon us dear readers, and on a Saturday night, no less. Any other year that would be cause for celebration, for the biggest party you can find in the most elaborate costume that you can come up with. This year we’re all stuck inside though, and what better way to spend the night with some Halloween movies.

So here are nine movies and three binge-watch suggestions for you to watch this Halloween, and which streaming services to find them on.

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Blood in the Snow Review: ‘The Return’ puts a sci-fi spin on a supernatural story

The Return

We have events from our past that are difficult to face. A parent with a drinking problem, the death of a loved one, or a ghost living in your house. Roger (Richard Harmon) is one of those unfortunate souls with all three of those things. Returning to his childhood home after the untimely death of his father Rodger will be confronted by the ghosts of family traumas he never fully understood and memories he repressed, as well as an actual ghost.

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Blood in the Snow Review: ‘Bloodthirsty’ is a slow burn with a bloody payoff

Bloodthirsty

Most of us claim that we are tired of computer-generated effects. We’re tired of fake blood spurts and CGI animals and all of it. If you’ve found yourself thinking this lately then Bloodthirsty, the new werewolf movie from Amelia Moses might be for you.

Following young pop star Grey (Lauren Beatty) whose hunger for success as she struggles to make her second album comes in parallel with a very different kind of hunger. All her life, she has been hallucinating that she is turning into an animal, that she wants to stalk and eat animals raw and bloody in the woods. These nightmares keep her up at night despite the best efforts of her doctor (Michael Ironside, in a small but fun cameo) to medicate them away.

When she heads to the remote home of reclusive music producer Vaughn (Greg Bryk) with her girlfriend Charlie (Katharine King So), that idea that these impulses are simply the product of a troubled mind is thrown sharply into doubt.

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Blood in the Snow Review: ‘Hall’ is a good idea held back by glacial pacing

Hall

Imagine that you need to escape. Your partner is abusive, and you’ve finally woken up. You take a family trip and stay in a fancy hotel. You are going to use this time to escape. This is the setup of Hall. Set almost entirely on one floor of a hotel, this drama has a woman who desperately wants to leave her husband and save her child but has never had a good opportunity until now. Unfortunately, something else is going on in the hotel.

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Blood in the Snow Review: ‘For the Sake of Vicious’ starts slow but ends big

For the Sake of Vicious

A home invasion is a nightmare scenario for anyone. Masked intruders coming into your home to do all manner of violence and cruelty. For the Sake of Vicious takes that idea and runs with it.

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Review: Anya Taylor-Joy is truly magnetic in ‘The Queen’s Gambit’

The Queen's Gambit

“There are two sides to the coin: the gift, and what it costs.” This is the lesson that the janitor tells her. The janitor, Mr Shaibel, spends his free time in the basement of the orphanage he works in playing chess. A young girl, Beth, takes an interest, and eventually, he begins to teach her. This is, in all likelihood, the closest relationship either of them has ever had. Him, a reserved man content to do his work and play chess, and her an orphan who never knew her father and whose mother suffered from severe mental health issues.

This is the beginning of The Queen’s Gambit, the new adaptation of Walter Tevis 1983 book of the same name, brought to the screen by Scott Frank for Netflix. The story chronicles the rise of a prodigy, a true genius at the game of chess. It follows her life through the 1960s as she combats sexism but also the isolation of genius and dangers and draws of alcoholism.

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