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‘Piggy’ (‘Cerdita’): Film Review | Sundance 2022

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‘Piggy’ (‘Cerdita’): Film Review | Sundance 2022

Michel Franco’s After Lucia was a distressing drama about the awful ripple consequences of teen bullying, its grim catharsis almost as startling as its unsparing depiction of inhumanity. The breathtaking cruelty of Carlota Pereda’s feature debut, Piggy, rivals that 2012 Mexican production. Expanded from the Spanish writer-director’s award-winning 2018 short of the same name, this disturbing psychological drama spirals into blood-drenched horror, its wild genre extremities never disguising the feeling that its social commentary on violence and abuse comes from a very real and personal place.

The eerily atmospheric setting is a small community in a sweltering summer in the Extremadura region bordering Portugal in southwestern Spain. “This town is full of spite,” hisses the protagonist’s mother (Carmen Machi) of the village, which appears to be in the middle of nowhere. She’s not wrong, but nor is she exempt from that charge.

Piggy

The Bottom Line

Payback cuts deep.

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Venue: Sundance Film Festival (Midnight)
Cast: Laura Galán, Richard Holmes, Carmen Machi, Irene Ferreiro, Camille Aguilar, Pilar Castro, Claudia Salas
Director-screenwriter: Carlota Pereda


1 hour 38 minutes

Her teenage daughter Sara (Laura Galán) is sullen and alone. She disappears into the music in her headphones while reluctantly helping out in the butcher shop run by her father (Julián Valcárcel) and watching the cool kids mingle on the street outside with a mix of scowling resentment, fascination and longing. Every glimpse Sara takes of the social media feeds of the mean girls her age reveals their vicious insensitivity to her embarrassment about her excess weight, the reason for the heartless nickname that provides the movie’s title.

The incident that sets the drama in dizzying motion is one of shocking emotional and physical abuse. Sara goes to the village pool early in the morning in the hope no one else will be around. Only a shifty-looking stranger (Richard Holmes) is there, finishing his swim as she undresses and prepares to slip into the water. But before that cooling plunge into weightlessness can happen, three girls appear and begin to mock her. One of them, Claudia (Irene Ferreiro), holds back, perhaps suggesting a past friendship. But the others, Roci (Camille Aguilar) and especially the hateful ringleader Maca (Claudia Salas), are merciless.

The hard-to-watch violence is magnified when the bullies snatch Sara’s backpack, clothes and towel and run off, leaving her to stagger home, weeping and traumatized, with only her bikini to cover her. Three local boys in a passing car add to her horrific ordeal with their own spiteful taunts. But Sara is momentarily jolted out of her own pain when she witnesses her tormentors from the pool being abducted by the stranger who observed her grueling experience. He idles in his van just long enough to toss her a towel and exchange a complicit glance before driving off with a bloodied Claudia visible through the rear window, begging for help.

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Pereda drew on her own experience as a gay teen, an outsider who changed schools frequently, becoming both a target for bullying and a silent witness to the torment of others, too afraid for her own survival to speak up.

With a mix of compassion and indignation, she observes how even a basically decent person like Claudia can be coerced by peer pressure into setting aside her conscience. The script also notes the way factors like weight make people feel free to judge — one village woman after hearing how Sara was ridiculed mutters, “She’s actually quite fat,” while a grocery store clerk sanctimoniously warns her off the purchase of some unhealthy snacks, reminding her that if she eats them she has to live with the consequences.

The film reflects on the damage such stigmatization can inflict on a vulnerable teenage psyche, pointing to harsh treatment that goes back to Sara’s childhood and underlining her isolation even within her own family — from her shrewish mother; her vulgar father, whose body type she has inherited; and her bratty younger brother.

While still severely shaken by her ordeal, Sara resolves to herself to say nothing of what she saw, refusing to open up to her folks, to cooperate with police or talk to the missing girls’ parents, causing a clash between Claudia’s desperate mother (Pilar Castro) and Sara’s. Her silence at first carries the satisfying sting of payback, but morphs gradually into guilt as other locals turn up dead. Sara’s feelings are further complicated by her sexual attraction to the stranger, who continues making contact with her, initially in subtle ways. But she ultimately throws off her passive helplessness and repression, embracing her rage in an empowering crescendo of violence, which is vivid without being exploitative.

Machi is terrific as Sara’s ill-tempered mother, ferociously protective of her though far from sympathetic. But it’s Galán who carries the film. She’s riveting in her character’s gradual transformation, from a timid young woman rendered almost mute by social anxiety — yearning for invisibility in a body and a town that offers her none — to a fierce banshee caked in dirt and blood and hot angry tears. The determination on her face as she walks away from the chaos of the final act suggests that while Sara has delivered justice — and not without remorse — she will also own her role in her tormentors’ suffering, regardless of the price.

Cinematographer Rita Noriega shoots in the snug 1.33:1 aspect ratio, emphasizing Sara’s aloneness in a sprawling wasteland. The look is raw, sweaty and earthy, and the sense of place enveloping. Camera movement and use of music are minimal in the early stages, growing darker and more agitated as the tone shifts into full-blown horror and Sara moves toward her complex reckoning in the stranger’s slaughterhouse hideout. Piggy is a bruising character study, with no neat and tidy redemption arc; its emotionally cathartic portrayal of bullying and its toll packs a wallop.

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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