Monos Review

A group of child soldiers kick a can around in a makeshift game of soccer atop a misty mountain. Blindfolded, arms out, wandering haphazardly around the foggy peak, their little hands nearly tickle the clouds. Suddenly, a messenger arrives on horseback and runs his “monos” through a standard series of military drills. Rambo (Sofia Buenaventura), Lady (Karen Quintero), Bigfoot (Moises Arias), Boom Boom (Sneider Castro), Wolf (Julian Giraldo), Smurf (Delby Rueda), Dog (Paul Cubides) and the others are assigned various tasks, approved for proposed romantic relationships, and gifted a contribution for their cause – Shakira, and black and white milk cow whom they have sworn to guard and protect, much like their human hostage Doctora (Julianne Nicholson). What begins as a playful experiment in freedom quickly devolves into a horrific descent into madness as inevitable war rears its ugly head and the stars themselves hide from the fury of man’s own damnation.

On an unspecified mountaintop somewhere in Columbia, in an undetermined period of time, director Alejandro Landes brilliantly welcomes the viewer into the void. Gone are the archetypal safety nets of good wholesome family names, exact locations, society’s gender labels, clear political affiliations, or even a rough estimate of the decade in which these characters reside. From the very beginning, the audience is kept off kilter, forced to watch a story unfold in a non-binary world wherein soldiers are humanized not only because they are children, but also because it is never quite clear if they are fighting for the right or the left, or if they are the so-called ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’. Like a heightened waking dream, the viewer is dropped smack dab into the middle of the story and told to keep up, thereby highlighting the murkiness of war and the unease with which many innocents are forced to participate.

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Whether you’re a hardcore horror fan, a casual moviegoer, or an avid comic book collector who occasionally catches the latest Guillermo del Toro adaptation, chances are you’ve witnessed some of Norman Cabrera’s legendary special effects work. Known mainly for his stunning contributions to del Toro’s Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Cabrera has had a hand in countless productions, ranging from John Flynn’s cyber thriller Brainscan, to Sam Raimi’s wickedly gruesome Drag Me To Hell, all the way to Quentin Tarantino’s ferocious femme fatale flick Kill Bill. Now, Cabrera is back on the big screen with his latest artistry in André Øvredal’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, a chilling tale of four children who learn the hard way what happens when one reads from an ancient book etched in blood. 

I had the pleasure of chatting with the man himself about his incendiary career, in addition to his work on the new Alvin Schwartz adaptation. In the interview, we discuss Cabrera’s early days under the wing of his mentor Rick Baker, his views on the classic practical versus CGI effects debate, and what went down the day when his scarecrow Harold went missing in the corn field. 

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Gentrification in the Movies

It’s not a comparison most would make, is it? After all, what could two movies that are seemingly as vehemently opposed as The Farewell and The Last Black Man in San Francisco possibly have in common? One is a story about a Chinese American woman dealing with her grandmother’s illness, and the other is an account of a young African American man attempting to reclaim a childhood home he can no longer afford.

As strange a pairing as these two A24 releases may seem at first glance, there’s a lot more shared idiosyncrasies than what meets the casual observer eye. At their core, both of these films are fish-out-of-water narratives in which white lies serve as the antidote to the terminal loss of home.

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The Case For Yara Greyjoy

(Welcome to Debate of Thrones, where a panel of Citadel-trained experts explain why someone deserves, or doesn’t deserve, to sit on the Iron Throne. In this edition: Yara Greyjoy is the toughest woman in Westeros – and the most deserving of being queen.)

Those who were fortunate enough to sail under Yara Greyjoy know what she is: she is a reaver, she is a warrior, she is Ironborn. First of her name, daughter of Balon Greyjoy and rightful heir to the Salt Throne – which, according to widespread reports, she’s recently reclaimed – tales of Yara Greyjoy have traveled far and wide across the fourteen seas. The woman with the largest fleet the world has ever seen. The siren goddess of the sea people. Cthulhu herself. The kraken’s daughter. Lady Poseidon.

If you ask me, the girl who should be sitting on the Iron Throne isn’t a golden haired tyrant coddled by a bright and sunny upbringing on dry land. The Realm deserves a ruler with a little backbone. Someone birthed from the sweat of survival. The Seven Kingdoms doesn’t need a pampered leader who has spent their life atop a royal seat watching everyone beneath them happily and willingly bend the knee. We’ve all seen what happens when you place a spoiled child in such a high state of sovereignty, and we can lest afford another Joffrey Baratheon. We’ve seen what happens when you give a mad king the keys to the kingdom, and we’ve witnessed an equally obtuse Lady Lannister torture subjects for such petty justifications as jealousy and gossip. We’ve had enough. We want a leader we can be proud of; we want to feel proud of ourselves again. Westeros deserves a woman who plucked fire from the sea.

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