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An unsettling feminist horror movie

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Alec Secareanu and Carla Juri in Amulet

Alec Secareanu and Carla Juri in Amulet
Photo: Magnolia Pictures

Is it possible for someone to truly earn forgiveness if they refuse to forgive themselves? That’s the question that looms over Amulet, the feature directorial debut of the actor Romola Garai, best known perhaps for her role in Atonement. Were that title not already taken, it would perfectly fit Amulet: “Before your God, the ancients… They didn’t believe that you could forgive yourself,” confides the film’s main character, Tomaz, in a tense moment of spiritual reflection and grief. “It wasn’t yours to give.” He wants absolution without the conviction to confront his wrongdoing—a struggle that drives at the very heart of this unsettling supernatural thriller.

Tomaz, played by Alec Secăreanu of God’s Own Country, is an itinerant day laborer living in a squatter’s den on the outskirts of London. He’s also a former soldier, and is plagued by guilt-stricken nightmares about his time as the lone sentry of a checkpoint in the center of an enormous, foggy forest. At night, he binds his hands with duct tape, as if afraid of what he might do in his sleep. After a fire forces this destitute man onto the street, he’s taken in by the warm, generous Sister Claire (Vera Drake’s Imelda Staunton), who offers him a solution: In exchange for free room and board, he’ll work as a repairman and companion for Magda (Carla Juri), who’s caring for her dying mother.

Things are not as they seem, of course. Magda’s mother is either possessed by something evil or is that evil herself—the distinction is never made clear. What is clear is that Tomaz’s efforts to free Madga from her curse are an attempt to make up for past transgressions. Garai has described Amulet as “feminist horror,” and that makes more sense as the film goes on, slowly transforming from an eerie cerebral horror fantasy into a full-blown rape-revenge parable of cowardice and sin. It’s never quite said aloud what Tomaz did during the war to cause him so much guilt and pain, but there’s plenty of implication in his ascetic aloofness and furtive glances at Magda, before Garai reveals her hand to the audience in the final act. Sexually charged imagery and yonic symbolism abound: With every shot of a chaste white dress, blood-soiled bed sheet, or hand peeling apart the slit-opened innards of a dead fish, the film foreshadows the mounting physical tension between Tomaz and Magda.

Given the film’s feminist aspirations, it would be a mistake not to cite the immeasurable talents of its principally female cast. Given a much roomier role than the one she occupied in Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, Juri makes Magda deeply compelling in her emotional inscrutability; her arc is just as complicated, if not more so, than Tomaz’s—and it’s further complicated by how Amulet inverts and plays with the dynamic of a supposed protector and his charge. Staunton, meanwhile, masterfully pulls back a veil of care-worn magnanimity to reveal the contempt and disdain seething beneath.

Imelda Staunton in Amulet

Imelda Staunton in Amulet
Photo: Magnolia Pictures

Amulet is simply gorgeous to look at, too. That much is apparent from the film’s opening alone, as the camera steers into the dream space of Tomaz’s memories through a sea of evergreen treetops and looming forest trunks bathed in morning mist. Cinematographer Laura Bellingham interweaves the real and unreal into a tapestry of uneasy calm and malice; she breaks up the moments of emotional tension and collapse with tremulous shots of pooling rainwater, sun-dappled tree leaves, and snails inching across moss-laden rocks. This sensibility is echoed in the design and lighting of the film’s primary setting, Magda’s derelict house, with its patches of black mold and water damage seeping across the stucco plaster and peeling wallpaper. The lighting, which throws a yellowish malaise over darkened corridors and dining rooms, is as sickly as the house’s dying occupant. Amulet’s sound design is impressively distressing: a moaning refrain of hushed chanting and twinkling chimes that only grows more insidious and unsettling as the movie wears on.

Around the midway mark, we’re told through a scene between Magda and Tomaz that love is a sacrifice, and that the act of romance is nothing if not an offering at the altar of that sacrifice. “I told myself, if I freed you, I would have a right to be happy again,” Tomaz eventually tells Magda. But his sacrifice is little more than selfish self-flagellation; there’s a world of difference between an act of contrition and an appeal for absolution, one which reveals not only the heart of a person’s intent but of their character. Amulet elevates these themes of repentance and sin through deft editing, strong performances, and a chilling score. It’s an evocative, confident debut, recalling the metaphorical horror of Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook or Babak Anvari’s Under The Shadow, even as it announces the arrival of a singular new voice.

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Disney Plus Mulan Fails to Make an Impact

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Disney Plus’s most anticipated movie of the year was Live-Action Mulan, the infamous remake of the 1998 version of the Disney classic Mulan. With a budget of almost $200 million and alot of hard work involved, the film release’s expectations and excitement were at an all-time high. Disney’s marketing team left no stone unturned in promoting the film throughout the world as Mulan was one of the most influential female protagonists in a Disney movie. 

Mulan was known for her power and courage to take a step towards change and create a name for herself instead of becoming a burden for her family. She brought them honor but not through finding a compatible suitor, but through her bravery in fighting amongst the opposite gender when it was considered a taboo. 

But did the real Mulan walk in the footsteps of the animated one? Did it create an impact as strong as the classic version, which people love and adore even after 23 years? Sadly, no. The live-Action Mulan was nothing like the 1998 Mulan because it was not supposed to be that way. 

The old Chinese folklore inspired the Live-Action Mulan. The Balad of Mulan, which was different, more serious, and portrayed a much more feminist approach by eliminating any romantic or cartoonish elements or characters from the remake. 

The elimination of the character of Mushu came as a surprise for all the die-hard Mulan fans who were anticipating the voice-over of Eddie Murphy in a better-animated dragon who is by Mulan’s side, aiding in tough times. We did see a dragon, but it was a silent companion only coming in need. The remake also got rid of all the eventful songs which were hummed as we watched the animated version all the time.

Another setback was the mediocre release of Mulan during the Pandemic, which basically ruined the official March release. Mulan eventually made the screen on September 4 on Disney+ Premier Access, a pay-to-view for $30 across the US. In contrast, countries where Covid-19 was under control, saw a theater release like China. But that hardly made 50% of the total movie budget. Disney hoped to make some dollars in China by accurately depicting the Chinese culture and actors, but that didn’t happen either. 

Viewers with access to Disney+ also did not venture enough on the Premier Access service. What further disappointed the release was Mulan’s availability on multiple torrents and platforms for free in HD quality on its release. VPN users worldwide watched the movie for free without paying a whopping amount of $30 for a single film, while the whole service along with other streaming services cost ⅓ of the price. 

Live-Action Mulan was also under scrutiny for shooting in the Xinjiang, the region of China where Uighur Muslims were detained and imprisoned in concentration camps. This sparked outrage over the entire social media, where Muslims worldwide protested against the Chinese government’s actions. Disney+ did not state an official apology on their platform, nor did they acknowledge their wrongdoings, probably to stay clear of the Chinese government’s atrocity. 

Meanwhile, even within China, Mulan failed to impact the Chinese audience as they have a much better take and approach to recreating any Chinese epic or myths. Their cinema is far more advanced in portraying their culture with local actors and a local production house. As we all know, China has a strict censorship policy on international content, and they have an alternate of their own. It applies here as well. 

Lastly, the ill-natured tweet of the lead actress Liu Yifei, openly supporting the Hong Kong Police’s atrocities when China was implementing new security policies on Hong Kong, claiming it as a part of the Chinese government. The Hong Kong police came under fire for mistreating peaceful protestors and using harsh means to disperse the crowd. This tweet leads to #boycottmulan across the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Thailand. 

Liu Yifei made no outright apology. 

Despite so much anticipation, live-action Mulan came under alot of controversy and failed to make a solid impression on the audience, despite holding a strong message for its feminist audience. Wrong timing and a few wrong decisions cost Disney millions of dollars and somewhat tarnished the reputation of their remake sagas. 

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5 Underrated Shows on Netflix USA You Must Watch Right Now!

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American Netflix is home to hundreds of TV shows across multiple genres. Still, it could be hard at times to find something binge-worthy on it. Now we all have that one friend that’s perfectly content with re-watching their favorite TV series, but the rest of us normies find it a tad boring. We’re on a never-ending hunt for the next big show hoping to inject some excitement into our otherwise mundane existence. However, with so much to choose from, it’s only natural that a few gems go unnoticed when scrolling through the recommendations. 

Don’t sweat it! After spending endless hours of research, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 underrated shows on Netflix USA that are definitely worth your time.

Can’t access US Netflix in your home country? There is an easy way around. Just download a Netflix VPN, connect to a US server, and start streaming. 

  1. 1994

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 5 episodes

Year of release: 2019

1994 is a modest 5-episode docu-series offering the perfect guilt-free, binge-watching experience. The show revolves around a promising presidential candidate in Mexico who stands to threaten the status quo. Seen as a threat by the powerful elite, he gets shot during one of his televised political rallies. If the events of the first episode seem unusual, then what follows is downright bizarre. 

Viewers are in store for surreal events backed by actual interviews and real-life footage that ups the ante with each passing episode. 1994 is a fascinating, informative, and rich account of one of the most turbulent times in Mexico. It not only gives viewers a glimpse of the past but also a story that follows a narrative very close to what we’re seeing in our present political climate.

  1. Rise of Empires: Ottoman

Genre: Drama

Season(s): 1 season; 6 episodes

Year of release: 2020

Following the wildly popular show Ertugrul—at least in the eastern part of the world—Rise of Empires: Ottoman features a historic mix of immaculate production value and dramatic re-enactment of the 1453 fall of Constantinople. A Turkish production, the show is entirely in English and revolves around the life of a young Ottoman Sultan named Mehmet. It shows how the 21-year old leader risks everything to conquer a city his father and so many others failed to take before him.

This point marked a crucial juncture in history: The fall of the Roman Empire and the transition of a local regional entity to that of a global superpower. While the show does have its set of drawbacks (such as the frequent History Channel-type flashbacks), the appeal of our protagonist is sure to have viewers in for a memorable ride. 

  1. Wild Wild Country

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 6 episodes

Year of release: 2018

The mere mention of Wild Wild Country in front of veteran Netflix viewers is sure to garner you some respect points. Based on a true story, Wild Wild Country tells the tale of an Indian cult that’s decided to relocate to Oregon. What ensues is a series of unusual events as the locals struggle to come to terms with the new inhabits and in particular, the eccentric leader of this cult: Bhagwan. This mini-series manages to capture and re-tell a significant—albeit unusual—event in American history and media and retell it in a way that’s sure to leave some viewers scratching their heads!

  1. Lenox Hill

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 9 episodes

Year of release: 2020

For those looking to embark on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, look no further than Lenox Hill. While we do recommend this docu-series especially if you’re a fan of Grey’s Anatomy or ER, Lenox Hill is not your average watch. It’s a far cry from what you’d call a feel-good series as it reveals the brutal reality associated with people diagnosed with really bad things.

Set in New York, the show follows the story of an ER physician, an OB-GYN, and two brain surgeons that are part of a small-time hospital competing with bigger establishments. It lifts the curtain from the otherwise romanticized emergency-ward that we’ve grown accustomed to and accurately depicts the struggles of both patients and doctors.

This highly emotional series might not sit well with everyone but if you want to watch a story about individuals that sacrifice everything to save others then this one’s for you.

  1. Borderline

Genre: Comedy

Season(s): 2 seasons; 12 episodes

Year of release: 2016

The Office is the most viewed show on Netflix according to Chicago Tribune which is a pity because its contract is set to expire on January 1, 2021. Enter Borderline, a British comedy series and ‘mockumentary’ of sorts that follows a similar pattern and humor as The Office. Set in the fictional Northend Airport instead of an office, viewers are quickly introduced to a slew of funny and ridiculous personalities.

The best part of the series is that it has its own version of Pam, Dwight, Jim, and a Michael type-boss. It also doesn’t try too hard to resemble its more popular counterpart and a few episodes are enough to make you wonder why more people aren’t watching it!

Agree with our list? Know of some underrated shows that need more love? Let us know in the comments section below!

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The Advantages of Online Casino Welcome Bonuses

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When it comes to online gambling, the industry is thriving in 2020. Although casinos are banned in many countries, people still find ways to enjoy their favorite games of chance. However, considering the level of competition on the market, it may be difficult for a beginner to find a good online platform and take advantage of all offers. In this article, you will learn the benefits of casinos’ welcome bonuses.

What Is a Sign-Up Bonus?

As we have already established, the industry is growing rapidly and companies are desperately looking for new ways to attract customers. A welcome bonus is often used by online casinos to get new leads and players in the future. However, the best casino bonuses can be easily used to the player’s advantage. Here are the main reasons you should not neglect this offer.

  1. It saves your money

Quite obvious, right? Well, this is the main reason why you should always use welcome bonuses in online gambling: it is always better to not risk your own money. It is especially true for beginners. Since they have no experience, it is fairly common for beginners to lose their initial investment and be done with gambling for good. However, if you use your welcome bonus as a way of getting the basics skills, the chances of success will rise significantly.

  1. It allows you to try several games

Another common issue beginners face is a lack of understanding of which types of games they want to try: slots, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, etc. If you use your sign-up bonus, you will be able to play several games and choose the ones you like better. Moreover, you can take advantage of a welcome bonus on several online gambling platforms. That way you will try out even more options.

  1. It will make future gambling more profitable

Besides beneficial sign-up bonuses, good online casinos usually have great loyalty programs. For instance, the company may double up to five first deposits on the platform. If you invest 100 USD, you will get 200 USD to your account. More money — more games — more chances of winning.

Although a welcome bonus is a great way of upping your gambling game, there are a few things you should pay attention to. Firstly, a good bonus does not equal a good platform. Before choosing a casino, make sure that the company is legal and trustworthy. Since there are many scams right now, it is essential if you want to save your money. Moreover, check the available deposit/withdrawal methods and their terms.

We hope that this article has shown the true power of online casinos’ welcome bonuses and how you can use them to your own advantage. Follow our tips while choosing a platform and enjoy the best gambling experience.

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