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‘You Won’t Be Alone’: Film Review | Sundance 2022

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‘You Won’t Be Alone’: Film Review | Sundance 2022

Witches in folklore tend to be outsiders who, whether self-exiled or cast out, look at the communities they’ve left with scorn and/or envy. Not so the protagonist of Goran Stolevski’s You Won’t Be Alone, who, having never known social bonds before, slowly assembles her understanding of humanity with something like awe.

A film that begins with a shaky footing but grows more convincing each time its subject takes a challenging new step, it contains horrors but is not at all a horror film: It’s for viewers who care about ancient folklore and myths for their own sake and their meaning as archetypes, instead of asking, “how can this be used to transform a simple genre story into an arthouse hit?”

You Won’t Be Alone

The Bottom Line

A distinctive witch’s tale.

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Release date: April 1 (Focus Features)

Venue: Sundance Film Festival (World Cinema Dramatic Competition)

Cast: Alice Englert, Anamaria Marinca, Noomi Rapace, Carloto Cotta, Félix Maritaud, Sara Klimoska

Director-screenwriter: Goran Stolevski


Rated R,
1 hour 49 minutes

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Noomi Rapace is listed first in fest catalog credits and featured prominently in key art, but she’s just one of a few actors playing the role, and gets far from the most screen time. We meet the witch as an ordinary human infant, recently born to an angry woman in a 19th-century Macedonian village. The mother is visited by a frightening figure whose body is covered in scars — sometimes called a “wolf-eateress,” she is known in local lore as Old Maid Maria. She wants to take the baby.

The mother bargains, asking to keep her child until her 16th birthday. Then, foolishly believing she can trick the old witch, she hides her daughter in a sacred cave, where she grows up feral. High up in the cave, a hole offers a glimpse of sky and sun. By the time the girl’s a teen, we suspect that patch of blue has nourished her more than the visits in which her frightened, protective mother brings food.

The Old Maid gets her prize, of course, and is soon leading the girl out into a world she gazes at with little comprehension. Stolevski lets us witness just enough to understand that Maria, and now her companion, can take the form of humans and other animals, but that doing so is fatal to the host. (Many fistfuls of innards are exchanged in the transformation.) We hear the youngster’s thoughts in a whispery Malickian voiceover, with syntax almost too strange to comprehend.

At first she longs for her absent “whisper-mama,” aware that her “witch-mama” has made her “me-the-witch.” Then the two are separated, and me-the-witch stumbles into the first use of her abilities, stealing the form of a woman (Rapace) in a small farm hamlet.

But all she gets is the woman’s body, not her understanding of language or how to behave. She staggers around as naked and curious as an ape in 2001. Villagers think the woman has gone mad, made senseless by beatings from her husband. No wonder that the first things the young witch learns about people are how much women talk when they’re alone, and how silent they are with men around.

It’s all so strange, she marvels. But what isn’t, when you think about it? She attempts to learn the humans’ ways, here and as she moves around taking other forms. Now and then Maria pays her a visit, offended that she has chosen mortal company. They’ll figure you out, the crone warns. They’ll tear you to pieces. But the youth continues to push forward, astonished by even cruel realities as she becomes better at playing the part of a human.

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Stolevski depicts the young creature’s journey toward humanity with sensitivity and increasing investment. While an uncharitable viewer might find things to mock in the strangeness of the first half-hour, few will have that impulse beyond that point; and one hesitates to suggest different ways the writer/director might have brought us to the point at which one incarnation of the young witch (Alice Englert) seems at the threshold of happiness.

Still, the film never emerges from the threat of its title, which would be a comforting promise in most other contexts. Maria, whose own story we eventually learn, will not easily abandon the child she stole. And even those who barely understand the world know that no life ends happily. From a certain kind of stranger’s perspective, though, the experience may be worth the price one pays.

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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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