Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Vivarium is yet another movie that takes on an added layer of accidental-slash-coincidental Quarantine Significance. Directed by Lorcan Finnegan, it’s a high-concept horror-parable in which a couple is trapped in a house — a house in an endless suburb of identical houses, a surreal setting that’s one part Escher painting, one part Sartre hell-tale. However, you’ll be happy to learn that it’s ultimately too weird to mirror too much of our current reality.
‘VIVARIUM’: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Gemma (Imogen Poots) is a teacher and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) is the school maintenance guy, and they’re in love. They want to buy a house, maybe a quaint little place in the suburbs. A storefront advertises a development dubbed Yonder, but the agent, Martin (Jonathan Aris), is like an alien from Zorbulon attempting to mimic human pleasantry. But he’s a persuasive alien from Zorbulon attempting to mimic human pleasantry, and they follow him to the house, No. 9 a cute mint-green two-story with a tidy astroturf yard among many, many, many cute mint-green two-stories with tidy astroturf yards. It ain’t their thang, but Martin disappears, and they can’t find their way out of the labyrinthine subdivision, and there’s no cell signal to use the GPS, and then they run out of gas. Right in front of No. 9.
They eat the contents of the welcome package: flavorless strawberries and champagne. Then they sleep. In the morning, they climb backyard fence after backyard fence, following the sun, which hangs like an artificial light in an artificial sky over an artificial world. The sun goes down, and they wearily jump one more fence and there they are, back at No. 9. But at least there’s a box of food. And another box arrives with a baby in it. “RAISE THE CHILD AND BE RELEASED,” reads the label. Well then.
The kid grows quickly. By day 98, the boy (Senan Jennings) is the size of a six, maybe seven-year old, and looks like a mini Martin clone, right down to the white collared shirt buttoned all the way up. Hmm. A box of food appears in the street every morning. The boy shrieks piercingly until there’s enough milk in his corn flakes. His voice sounds disembodied, like an older man’s pumped into a speaker in his throat. He mimics Gemma and Tom’s conversations with affected tones. How they got to day 98 without murdering him — well, maybe we shouldn’t go there. Tom begins digging a hole in the yard, and becomes obsessed with finding out where it leads. He works and works, and Gemma “takes care of” the boy, like a good classical hetero-suburban couple driven mad by society’s norms. But there’s obviously a game to be played here, right? Will they win? Can they win? Is there ever an end, or an escape?
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Eisenberg is frequently drawn to odd indie projects like this and The Double. The world they live in is like a haunted and empty Truman Show. The look-ma-an-allegory! concept brings to mind recent Netflix yuckfest The Platform. And endless-maze psycho-torture drama Cube is a clear reference point.
Performance Worth Watching: The creepy-little-kid thing is a cliche thing now, but at least this concept offers a fresh take on it — and Jennings is inspired enough to weird us out until nervous laughter escapes.
Memorable Dialogue: Gemma puts the dead in deadpan when she opens the box and holds up the baby: “It’s a boy.”
Sex and Skin: Gemma and Tom brief glimpse of a bare bum, mid-hump.
Our Take: Will Vivarium make us crazy, or draw out the crazy that’s already inside us? Yes! If you’ve ever felt hemmed in or tempted or teased by the school-job-marriage-home-kids wake-work-eat-TV-sleep rut-routine of Life Itself, well, here’s a cynical satire of it to almost enjoy!
Whether it’s more than that, though, I don’t know. Part of the reason the film keeps us watching is to see whether scripter Garret Shanley can successfully write his way out of the maze — and for the most part he does, in a manner that seems predictable in retrospect, but drops enticing little clues and details here and there to stoke the coals of our curiosity.
Finnegan entices sturdy performances from Poots and Eisenberg, and maintains a simple, but effective visual aesthetic, unsettling us with a purposely artificial facsimile of a suburban grid. He also stages a couple effectively chilling horror sequences to balance the light headiness of its overtly ominous concept. You’ll wish it was a little more committed to scaring us, to making us laugh, to making us question what modern society hath wrought upon the human soul, or maybe you’ll wish that the allegory wasn’t such a direct jab to the nose. But it’s ultimately admirable in its ambition and adherence to unsettling weirdness.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Vivarium is a slightly above-average entry in the genre of moral-myth horror-comedies with heavy symbolism and a little more ambition than means of execution.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.
Disney Plus Mulan Fails to Make an Impact
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.
5 Underrated Shows on Netflix USA You Must Watch Right Now!
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.
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.
- Rise of Empires: Ottoman
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.
- Wild Wild Country
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!
- Lenox Hill
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.
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!
The Advantages of Online Casino Welcome Bonuses
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.