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Home Movies/Out on Digital 1.5.2017

Jan. 3, 2017
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If There’s a Hell Below

Debra (Carol Roscoe), claiming to be a whistleblower for a secretive government agency, has a rendezvous with Abe (Conner Marx), an idealistic if naïve young alternative weekly journalist looking for a story. Unease steps up to anxiety before ascending into terror. In the debut film by director Nathan Williams, the vast emptiness of the American heartland is as much a character as the doomed protagonists. The spare dialogue carries across windblown silence in this enigmatic, thought-inducing story.

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In Order of Disappearance

The grave markers visible through the winter whiteout foreshadow the plot: The body count of cocaine traffickers rises as this Scandinavian Death Wish grinds on. The taciturn protagonist, Nils (Stellan Skarsgård), drives a snowplow in Norway’s frigid north country. He turns killer to avenge the death of his son at the hands of the local kingpin, a psychotic vegan who loves his son (and no one else). The terse thriller casts a sardonic eye on society.

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Sudden Fear

Joan Crawford plays an heiress whose heart is stolen by a brash young man (Jack Palance)—but the idyll of their sudden marriage is shattered when she learns that he also intends to steal her fortune and her life. Gloria Grahame co-stars as Palance’s co-conspirator in this 1952 film noir. Sudden Fear boasts a literate and ironic screenplay, deliberately jarring use of sound and a menacing chase scene through the nocturnal labyrinth of San Francisco streets.

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The title song (a motif in Terry Gilliam’s 1985 film of the same name) is enough to afford this 1944 romp a footnote in cinema history. A Latin-tinged musical produced by second-tier Republic Pictures, Brazil’s storyline concerns a famous American “authoress” (Virginia Bruce) writing a book on “the real Brazil.” She has a bad attitude toward Latin men, but is pursued by a local singer-tour guide (Tito Guízar). The always-flustered Edward Everett Horton adds humor.

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Rolling back Barack Obama’s reforms, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has directed federal prosecutors to seek the harshest sentences for drug offenses. Is it bad policy to fill the prison system with nonviolent offenders?

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