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Horror

The Ghost That Guides Donald Glover: Hiro Murai

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The Ghost That Guides Donald Glover: Hiro Murai

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Donald Glover...

is on track to become the worlds most complete and widely influential entertainer we’ve had in recent history.


Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino has the world buzzing right now. From his hit show Atlanta on FX to the chart topping genre blending exploits of his music, Glover is on track to become the worlds most complete and widely influential entertainer we’ve had in recent history.

It would be redundant to list the many talents this man possesses, as chances are, you’ve read or heard about them in all of the many blogs, interviews, articles, etc that are currently flooding the internet about him right now.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you know all about Glover’s success as an actor and musician. You’ve probably memorized every word of his song—and instant classic—“Redbone” from his latest album “Awaken, My Love” or have already been charmed to death by his charisma oozing turn as the suave card playing scoundrel Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Chances are, you already know: This man can do it all.

Most recently though, “This is America” is driving the Glover conversation into another stratosphere. The song and its accompanying video have sparked the world’s consciousness with its socially charged message and it’s deliciously detailed symbolism. With what is being called a masterful execution of his conceptual vision he has perfectly leveraged entertainment to “introduce a narrative into pop” as Justin Simien, creator of Dear White People, so perfectly put it.

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A collaboration

 

that is creating an icon... 

Now, like I mentioned above, if you’re reading this now, I am pretty sure you’ve seen all there is to see regarding this song. From the reaction videos on Youtube to the “10 Things You Might Have Missed…” blogs swirling around the windstorm of attention Glover has garnered since this song’s release. And, while I am biting my tongue a bit and may find myself working up another 500+ words on the video itself, I am a little more interested with what, or rather, who is behind this and many other of Glover’s visual masterpieces. I am more concerned with the unsung hero who is eerily crafting everything you know about Glover's work. It's a collaboration that is creating an icon and he is perhaps today's best kept Hollywood secret.

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HIRO MURAI

His surreal aesthetic is key to everything we know and love about Donald Glover.

From the growing shadow of Glover’s incandescent success hides a ghost. A haunting vaporous eye that is guiding the visual landscapes of a lot of Glover’s music videos, movies, and TV shows. From the brooding dark, director Hiro Murai emerges as that ghost. A faceless specter hovering above, beside, and many times through everything that Glover does. Murai's surreal aesthetic is key to everything we know and love about Donald Glover.

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Like a ghost

Murai effortlessly phases between the ordinary and the unusual within a moments notice.

Like a ghost, Murai effortlessly phases between the ordinary and the unusual within a moments notice, a quality that has become synonymous with Glover and something we've become accustomed to seeing in FX's Atlanta, which Murai has directed on multiple occasions. In fact, of the 21 episodes of Atlanta from Season 1 & 2, Murai has directed 14 episodes. The only other director with more than two directing credits is Donald Glover, who has directed 4 episodes in its two seasons.

We (The Beta Report) have recently talked about the sudden shift Atlanta has taken in its second season. From socially poignant satire to the surreal ubiquity of a black Justin Bieber, a pet peacock, or the existence of an invisible car. No matter which direction this show went, it was always hilarious. However, the second season has taken a rather dark turn. Every episode now feels like it’s part of a Black Mirror-esque series within the Get Out universe (Is this America?).

It’s not to say that this season is lacking in humor, its more that—like everything Glover and Murai do—its social complexities and moral dilemmas are layered beautifully within its stellar writing, mesmerizing visual cues and terribly deep symbolism. However, now its all shrouded in foreboding. And though the first season of Atlanta had the same visual aesthetic: a warm smoothed contrast giving everything a polished grit that borders on ethereal urban dreaminess. This new season carries that same look, but dips it in fear. Turning the lighthearted glow of season one into less of a dream and more of a waking nightmare. 

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He has

mastered the art of the unexpected.

While Murai's work with Glover has definitely propelled him further into the spotlight, its what he’s done outside of Glover's universe that has made me fall in love with his work even more. The reason being, Murai has mastered the art of the unexpected and it’s evident in everything he does. His conceptualization and style appeals to our curiosity, and much like the alluring fascination people have with ghosts, he entices us with the mystique of the unknown. Again, much like a ghost, we're drawn in by two things: familiarity and mystery, themes he utilizes to optimal effect in all of his work. Paired with the power, persuasion and politics of the source material he is adapting, the end product is a force to behold. Ultimately, we're possessed by the spirit that dwells within his work and the evocative power that permeates from his style. 

Take for example, these two videos Murai directed: Michael Kiwanuka's "Black Man in a White World". 

And, Flying Lotus' "Never Catch Me" featuring Kendrick Lamar.

Like everything he does, these two videos have this palbable surreal energy coursing through them. They both effortlessly move between reality and the intimate realness of a dream, and they never give you a chance to differentiate between the two. In both instances, Murai can only be successful in creating and cultivatating that mind bending conflict by executing his vision with unwavering conviction, which he does with religious fervor. But, he also exhibits perfect control. And, not just of his camera, but of the narrative itself too.

In both videos, Murai vividly navigates through the stillness of every scene, focusing on the seemingly normal and lucid authenticity of the world he’s placed in frame. He furthers his empathetic manipulation by accentuating the familiar, allowing us to settle in and become part of the story he wants to tell: the church pews, the flowers, children jumping rope, the electric lines, a helicopter, the city streets. We’re subconsciously lured in by its relateability. That is until he decides to flip things on their heads, juxtaposing the ordinary with the sudden unforeseen chaos that is now commanding our attention on screen: dancing children jumping out of the coffin, the car crash, and the flying man. Like the viscous drawl of a phantom moving from one haunted room to another, his work is arresting and at the risk of being redundant, the end result is: haunting. 

Without the ghost that guides our eye, his unearthly lens and transcendental style, we wouldn’t know the genius that is: Donald Glover.

Without the ghost that guides our eye, his unearthly lens and transcendental style, we wouldn’t know the genius that is: Donald Glover.

Murai has worked with a long list of artists like: A Tribe Called Quest, Queens of the Stone Age, Earl Sweatshirt, Flying Lotus, Michael Kiwanuka, The Shins, Spoon, David Guetta, and of course, Childish Gambino/Donald Glover, to name a few.

In fact, Murai has collaborated with Glover on multiple platforms: Music Video, TV, and Short Film as well. I’d be so bold as to say that without the ghost that guides our eye, his unearthly lens and transcendental style...Without Hiro Murai, we wouldn’t know the genius that is: Donald Glover.

If you guys would like to see more of his work, make sure and check out his website: hiromurai.com.  

J.

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Netflix's New Horror Classic: Verónica (REVIEW)

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Netflix's New Horror Classic: Verónica (REVIEW)

There is something rather intoxicating about one’s native tongue and the beauty that flows from its timbre. Almost like a sacred incantation that ensnares your ears, the spellbinding appeal of its words caress the deepest recess of my soul and makes me feel ancient. These words like roads, roots, veins connect me to the richness of a history that spans hundreds and thousands of years before me. Again, it is quite bewitching. With that said, watching this horror movie in Spanish, for me, was doubly enchanting and by far, more haunting than anything I’ve ever seen before.

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Complete Annihilation: A True(ish) Horror Story

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Complete Annihilation: A True(ish) Horror Story

The last couple of years have been bursting with top flight sci-if and horror films that are not only critically and publically acclaimed, but genuinely terrifying as well. With the success of IT, Get Out, Green Room, The Witch, Sinister, and Cloverfield Paradox, the path has been cleared for more ambitious and utterly terrifying tales to be told. This brings me to this week’s best horror offering: Annihilation.

 

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REVIEW: The Vault (2017)

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REVIEW: The Vault (2017)

We all had that one place either in our house or in our neighborhood that we all knew was haunted. Living in California my whole life, I never experienced the horror of a haunted basement or the demon possessed furnace like in Home Alone. But, we did have an old shed that was attached to our neighbor's garage and our laundry room that we all knew was the doorway to hell, or the home of some flesh eating monster that was just waiting for one of us to walk in and say its name: El Chamuco, La Chankla, La Llorona!

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       January Movie Magic     Top 3 Movie Picks For This Month   As the mountains of tamales, turkey, ham, or whatever else you guys have for Christmas and New Years begin to dwindle down to valleys of already ruined resolutions and regret. And, the post-apocalyptic world of wrapping paper, glass bottles, and the instantly forgotten gifts strewn across what was formerly known as your house is becoming too overwhelming and you just need to escape...Never fear, January 2018 seems to have some great films to help you abandon the rebuilding efforts for just a few hours, or at least until the toasters, blenders, and all other household items you’re planning to return to Target become sentient and take over the world. But, never mind all that, let’s take a look at some of the movies coming to a theater near you in January:        Insidious: The Last Key     January 5, 2017        </iframe>" data-provider-name="YouTube"         As you guys might already know, I am a covert horror fan. I love horror movies, but those around me don’t really enjoy them as much as I do. So, I keep quiet, hide my little secret and sneak away in the misty shadows of my living room couch and indulge my blood curdling, cringe worthy, machete slashing pleasures on TV as my loved ones fall asleep. And with horror movies now having quite the resurgence with films such as IT, The Conjuring Franchise, Get Out, Paranormal Activity Franchise and of course, the Insidious franchise, it’s a great time to be a horror movie fan. So, for our first choice of movies to watch in January, I’ve chosen Insidious: The Last Key.  The Last Key is the fourth film in the Insidious movie franchise. These films follow the paranormal adventures of Elise Rainier as she continues to investigate the supernatural disturbances plaguing this world. In this film, she helps a family in the city of Five Keys, New Mexico. The film is directed by Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan and co-writer of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension) and produced by Jason Blum (of Blumhouse Productions: Get Out, Paranormal Activity Franchise, Split, The Purge Franchise, The Visit, Hush, etc…) and James Wan (previous director of the Insidious films).  One of the things I love most about horror films is the mythology behind them, and all of the Insidious films have done a great job of establishing layered and wholly terrifying worlds that feel lived in and real. One other thing I love is their creative use of the particular rules of their universe/environment. In this case, The Further, is a middle ground or a type of limbo or purgatory where many evil spirits have remained looking for an opportunity to come back to the living world by possessing a living host. But, one of the truly interesting things about this place is its use of time. Because the rules of time don’t apply as they do for us in the real world, they have managed to weave an intricate narrative web between the four films that answer questions and pay dividends in previous or later movies. Making one film just as important as the other and truly forming an enthralling movie watching experience. Aside from all that, the movie itself just looks bone-chillingly creepy and simply terrifying.  Now, if you haven’t seen the previous three films, I’ve added this video below that summarizes the basic gist of the previous films and also explains how they all connect.  Again, Insidious: The Last Key is in theaters today.           </iframe>" data-provider-name="YouTube"               Den of Thieves     January 19, 2017        </iframe>" data-provider-name="YouTube"         Everyone is trying to create the next Heat, the Michael Mann classic that thrust the Los Angeles crime thriller to prominence. While most films may fall short of that comparison or may shy away from admitting Heat’s influence on their own, Director Christian Gudegast embraces the challenge of creating the next great bank robbery classic in his upcoming L.A. crime saga, Den of Thieves. And, based on the trailer itself, it appears he might have touched on something similar to Mann’s masterpiece.  The film stars Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, 50 Cent, O’Shea Jackson, and others. This is the film’s synopsis: “Den of Thieves follows the intersecting and often personally connected lives of an elite unit of the LA County Sheriff's Dept. and the state's most successful bank robbery crew as the outlaws plan a seemingly impossible heist on the Federal Reserve Bank of downtown Los Angeles.” Tagged as: “Thieves without fear. Cops without limits.” this pulse-pounding L.A. thriller may seem, on its face, as a run of the mill forgettable bank heist movie, and though it might be, I am intrigued by its seemingly transparent approach of the law enforcement unit as being even more ruthless and vicious than our supposed villains. The title, Den of Thieves, is then an obvious allusion to the blurred lines between our hypothetical heroes and villains. The now ambiguous title makes you ask who in fact this title is alluding to. And, given the present social climate present in 2018, this issue of optics and the dichotomy between our preconceived notions of good and bad, hero and villain, thieves and cops and the reality as exists today, might be as poignant a message to make as ever.  Another thing to watch is the chemistry between our leading men. It’s interesting to see both of these characters cast in the roles they’re in as both seem to be able to straddle the line between “good” and “evil”. Both seem capable of revving up their intensity to make difficult and perhaps irredeemable choices at a moment’s notice while at the same time oozing with charm and charisma, making them hard to hate. Though Gerard Butler and Pablo Schreiber may not have the same intense chemistry that Pacino and De Niro had in Heat, I like both of these actors, and I am sure they will turn in something great and memorable.  Den of Thieves is in theaters on January 19, 2017.        Maze Runner: The Death Cure     January 26, 2017           </iframe>" data-provider-name="YouTube"         Better than a lot of its teen-action-heart-throb-drama-book-movie-adaption counterparts, Maze Runner has actually been, great! It’s been a solid action/adventure romp that merits your hard earned money at the theater. And, much like another successful film in the teen action genre, the Hunger Games, its strength truly lies on its lead characters and the bevy of amazing supporting actors that truly makes this stand apart from the rest…Yes, I’m looking at you Divergent and Twilight. In this case, Dylan O’Brien as Thomas and Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt are legitimate stars. O’Brien, who recently starred in American Assassin with Michael Keaton, is believable as the archetypical action hero. Then Sangster, who is particularly good as the gun-slinging baby faced sheriff in Godless on Netflix, with his quippy yet courageous persona is the perfect Steve McQueen-esque foil to O’Brien’s Yule Brenner lite de facto leader role. Sprinkle in the always great Aiden Gillen, Patricia Clarkson, and Giancarlo Esposito and the results exceed all expectations.  Here is the film’s synopsis: “In the epic finale to the Maze Runner saga, Thomas leads his group of escaped Gladers on their final and most dangerous mission yet. To save their friends, they must break into the legendary Last City, a WCKD-controlled labyrinth that may turn out to be the deadliest maze of all. Anyone who makes it out alive will get answers to the questions the Gladers have been asking since they first arrived in the maze.”  If you guys haven’t seen the last two, I would honestly recommend that you give them a chance. They’re more than serviceable and are actually great action films worthy of their franchise and worth your time.  HONORABLE MENTIONS  If none of the ones above seem to tickle your fancy, January has a lot of other great offerings too. Check out the list of honorable mentions below. There's a great mix of drama, action, and something for the kids as well.   Molly's Game (1/5/18)  The Post (1/12/18)  Proud Mary (1/12/18)  Paddington 2 (1/12/18)  12 Strong (1/19/18)   Of those above, I think The Post has my money. Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk, with Steven Spielberg directing seems like a sure fire Oscar hit. If you guys have any other suggestions that you'd like to make, please feel free to comment below and we'll make sure and mention them in our next episode.   Well, thanks for reading the first (of many I hope) blogs of 2018. I will be doing my best to bring you one (or more) a week. So, stay tuned.   J.

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As the mountains of tamales, turkey, ham, or whatever else you guys have for Christmas and New Years begin to dwindle down to valleys of already ruined resolutions and regret. And, the post-apocalyptic world of wrapping paper, glass bottles, and the instantly forgotten gifts strewn across what was formerly known as your house is becoming too overwhelming and you just need to escape...Never fear, January 2018 seems to have some great films to help you abandon the rebuilding efforts for just a few hours, or at least until the toasters, blenders, and all other household items you’re planning to return to Target become sentient and take over the world. But, never mind all that, let’s take a look at some of the movies coming to a theater near you in January:

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Blind Binger's Guide: Top 5 Movies on Netflix

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Blind Binger's Guide: Top 5 Movies on Netflix

It’s about that time again: A new Blind Bingers Guide to Netflix Bliss. Yes, I know, you were all patiently waiting for The Beta Report to gently caress your head and tell you everything will be ok and take you by the hand and guide you through your dark metaphorical Netflix bedroom. A bit much? Ok, well, here we go...

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A Killing Dream: Wes Craven

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A Killing Dream: Wes Craven

He was the darkness that spoke your name, as eyelids slowly shut, he saw your death. He saw your face, a thousand just like you, together, always the same. He was the madman at your door, the hands underneath your bed.

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