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Diane Carson

The best horror films translate nerve-jangling fears into frightening scenarios, tapping into conscious as well as suppressed anxieties: the malevolent stranger, the elusive intruder, or the evil doppelganger. The deliriously unnerving Australian film "The Babadook" capitalizes on those terrors, probing the dark, repressed unconscious of widow Amelia who struggles to care for and about her increasingly difficult son Samuel.

In 1995, distraught over the sudden death of her beloved mother and a painful divorce caused by her own immoderate indulgence in casual sex and drug use, 26-year-old Cheryl Strayed impetuously and foolishly decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Somewhere along its 1100 miles from Mexico to Oregon she figured she might find herself.

Swedish Director Ruben Östlund introduces Tomas, Ebba, their son and their daughter beginning a week-long skiing vacation in the idyllic looking French Alps. Taking a lunch break on an outdoor veranda, they and others are shocked when an avalanche, intentionally set off by the ski resort for snow control, heads what appears to be straight for them.

The latest installment in "The Hunger Games" franchise, "Mockingjay -- Part 1," works hard to ramp up plot intensity, all the while building to a resolution that will come only a year from now in "Part 2." That it succeeds as well as it does comes largely from Jennifer Lawrence's charisma as Katniss Everdeen: strong, self-confident, and principled.

Director Laura Poitras begins her documentary "Citizenfour" with Edward Snowden cautiously and surreptitiously contacting her. Signing his encrypted email Citizenfour, Snowden invites Poitras' involvement in revelations of covert NSA surveillance on millions of Americans, among others, scrutiny that the NSA categorically denies before Congress.

A revisionist addition to the western genre, "The Homesman" is a curious film. Its title suggests an emphasis on the cantankerous George Briggs though its focus more often falls on women of the plains, notably Mary Bee Cuddy who saves Briggs' from certain death if he'll agree to travel east, from Nebraska to Iowa, delivering three women driven insane.

The 23 Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival continues through Sunday, November 23 with a diverse feast of films on offer. Cinema St. Louis' programs organized under the theme "Race in America: The Black Experience" include one of my all-time favorite films: director Martin Ritt's 1972 narrative feature "Sounder" starring Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield.

The 23 Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival kicks off Thursday, November 13 and continues through Sunday, November 23. The 389 films offered in 239 programs include 89 narrative and 76 documentary features, plus 224 short films. I'm most impressed that 69 countries are represented in the fiction and nonfiction, live action and animation selections.

Thursday, 13 November 2014 00:00

'Nightcrawler' slinks into unnerving territory

Television news director Nina Romina asserts the cliché "If it bleeds, it leads" to her ambitious stringer Louis Bloom regarding video footage he's submitting. Lou takes it to heart and pushes beyond the boundary of legalities and good taste in "Nightcrawler." But what's more disturbing than Jake Gyllenhaal's pitch-perfect, unnerving performance is that Nina speaks the truth about our media.

Thursday, 06 November 2014 00:00

'Interstellar' soars to new heights

The themes are universal and familiar cinematic fare: family and children, hope and love, loyalty and betrayal. Their presentation is anything but routine in director Christopher Nolan's intense "Interstellar," written by Christopher and brother Jonathan. Given half a chance, their two hour 49 minute audiovisual extravaganza delivers an exhilarating and exhausting science-fiction trip through space and time.

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Karate Bikini - A Simpler Sugar

Wed November 26
Karate Bikini is an eight piece ensemble who's members hail from St. Louis and the metro area. They are a large band with a large sound. Their latest album A Simpler Sugar is full of upbeat pop songs,…