“Director and showrunner Sam Esmail’s approach here is almost the opposite of the J.J. Abrams ‘mystery box’ style of storytelling: Rather than teasing a bunch of eye-catching bells and whistles, he has stripped away everything but the beginnings of a character study of two people, then plunked one of them down for an ignominious landing as a waiter in a low-rent restaurant, provided no indication of how she got there, and promptly left us hanging. It shouldn’t work, and yet it does—marvelously so.”
Follow along with our recaps of Homecoming here.
“So splendidly does it work as a bone-dry portrait of Korean class conflict that you might not notice, at first, its transformation into something more sinister—the way a confounding conversation about arson and a sudden disappearance sends [protagonist] Jongsu plummeting into minimalist noir, pulling threads and chasing hunches like an amateur detective. It’s here that the film’s deliberate pace really starts to pay off. [Director Lee Chang-dong] locks us into the investigative headspace of his protagonist, letting the meaning of certain discoveries and conversations and decisions reveal themselves over time.”
Read the rest of our Burning review, and find a theater showing Burning.
“[F]or all its serious musical accomplishment and emotional excavation, Pure-O is just pure fun. The inherent sense of curiosity and restlessness in [Farao’s] rhythm-forward prog pop has only grown stronger since her 2015 debut, Till It’s All Forgotten, while [Kari] Jahnsen’s lyrics have caught up to match the complexity of her arrangements. A newfound love of Soviet disco and rediscovery of ’90s R&B collide in a transcendent new aesthetic for Jahnsen, and she’s crafted 10 songs here that expertly ride the line between romantic rapture and ruin, between the organic and inorganic. In the chorus of ‘Cluster Of Delights,’ Jahnsen sings of a ‘Desire to… communicate / To aviate / Illuminate (reach another level),’ and on Pure-O she’s done exactly that.”
Read our full A-Sides recommendation of Pure-O here.
“Accompanied by the tongue-in-cheek tagline ‘An insurance adventure with minimal color,’ Lucas Pope’s latest game is a love affair with any number of wonderfully niche things: old-school computer monitors, nautical horror, observational detective work, scrapbooking, and more. Like his last game, the upsettingly prescient dystopian immigration simulator Papers, Please, Pope’s new effort presents the players with an obsessive interest in gorgeous retro-styled graphics and the pleasures of incomplete information, forcing you to piece together how a merchant vessel in good repute ended up returning to English waters with a dead captain, a missing crew, and no obvious signs of how it all went down.”
Read the rest of our thoughts on Return Of The Obra Dinn here.
Moderan by David R. Bunch
“[David R. Bunch] published hundreds of short stories in his life, but mostly in small digests, obscure literary magazines, and even fanzines. No definitive bibliography exists; his last published work (a book of poetry) was from 18 years ago, and neither of his two collections of fiction have been in print for decades. That changes with the publication of Moderan… a fascinating testament to Bunch’s strange talent. In story after story, the author continually returned to his fictional world of Moderan, a future version of Earth through which he satirized mankind’s worst and most foolish impulses… Through his Moderan stories, the author creates a world wherein the ugliness of our desire for strength, glory, and certainty stands in stark contrast to the occasional reminders that it didn’t need to go this way.”
Read the rest of our review here.
“The story of NXIVM, a bizarre, deeply misogynistic sex cult that somehow counted Hollywood actors like Allison Mack and Kristin Kreuk among its ranks, was just too strange a story not to get its own documentary treatment. The first in-depth look at the cult comes via the CBC’s investigative Uncover podcast. Host Josh Bloch foregrounds his series with Sarah Edmondson, a former high-ranking member whom, oddly enough, he also knows from his own childhood. Rather than a lurid tell-all, the series is more interested in understanding how someone like Edmondson—a smart, independent woman from a good family—would submit herself to someone like NXIVM’s monstrous leader, Keith Raniere.”
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