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2.0 review – A worthy attempt that doesn’t last enough

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2.0 review – A worthy attempt that doesn’t last enough

Director: S. Shankar

Running Time: 2h 30m

Cast: Rajinikanth, Akshay Kumar, Amy Jackson

Movie Score: 55%

*[0-50%-red (poor); 50-70%-yellow (average to good, better and promising); 70-90%-green (very good to great); 90-100%-blue (outstanding to perfect and a masterpiece)]

THIS IS A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW OF THE FILM

When S. Shankar first introduced us to the humanoid character of Chitti in 2010’s refreshing Robot (or Enthiran), expectations were always on a high regarding its next installment. And the latest release, 2.0 is the sequel that surely and aptly nails it when it comes to surpassing the technical benchmarks of its predecessor. But there’s more to it than meets the eye, which needs to be understood now by the Indian cinema lovers.

As cinemagoers and die-hard sci-fi fans, those who might have thought it would also kill it in terms of breathtaking story and plot, then sadly there’s nothing like that happening here in this extravaganza.

There’s a thing, which needs to be clarified now, to make sure that people know why the treatment to a film’s storyline and characters matter so much. You just can’t escape by saying, “At least some directors are trying to come up with different genres like sci-fi!”

Okay, agreed. But how long will it take for an Indian director, to do justice to the story in a movie as massive as 2.0? No hard feelings for director S. Shankar here; he’s a great Indian film director and there’s no doubt about it. When he helmed Robot back in 2010, it worked wonders because it was a totally new take on something like Artificial Intelligence-based characters and it served the purpose back then, that is, to entertain and mesmerize.

But after that, Shah Rukh Khan’s Ra.One also came in 2011, and that movie too had everything right as far as the technical genius of comparison to Hollywood is concerned, but that movie also killed itself. Why? Because the director didn’t just focus on a straight simple superhero/sci-fi storyline that could have worked by keeping the characters as genuine as possible, without creating masala and drama by inserting utter nonsensical scenes and dialogues, and for what!

After 2.0’s release, most of the people are also saying that we should support movies like these because they are not the typical, repetitive love rom-coms of Bollywood or any other overdramatic film that’s usually made in India for entertainment. And that 2.0 is different from those crap films.

But how is it any different when the director of the film just couldn’t keep the storyline intact which makes you totally exhausted after a while, because it fails to keep you hooked. Just investing in huge cost and expenditure on special effects doesn’t mean that you’ve put an effort, and thus you deserve to get a credit. Its high time Indian movie makers and especially the directors realize this simple thing. It’s really very easy to understand but unfortunately, the present scenario is totally contrary to it.

What was really required here was to carry the momentum of characters in a way the audience could relate to and want to understand more of them and their situations and perspectives. But in 2.0 only boredom prevails thanks to the carelessness on the part of the treatment given to the plot, that’s just so badly predictable.

More: BoxOffice: Disney’s Ralph Breaks The Internet collects $22MN on Friday!

Mind that this review is not an intentional attack or something on the film; not at all. But what the end result should have been, was just not there and that’s the reason 2.0 also gets added up to the collection of those Indian sci-fi films that were just made to be seen, ‘not for being remembered’.

If over Rs.550 crores were spent just for leveling with Hollywood’s sci-fi flicks (some of which are masterpieces when it comes to the part of storytelling also), without thinking about making the film a great sci-fi Indian story ever told, then it’s a big shame.

If you really want the Indian audiences to start appreciating the efforts that go into the attempts like 2.0, then the makers of the film itself should think of why, how, and what exactly they are making. It’s not that there aren’t garbage Hollywood sci-fi flicks; there are many. But the ones which are considered the benchmarks are also there in great numbers. And why is that so? Because the directors and makers do justice with the plot, by refusing to add any mindless and illogical element to the storyline or to any character involved.

When that starts to happen in India too, it will be a memorable and defining moment for the Indian cinema.


It’s not that 2.0 will also turn out to be a big box-office bomb like the officially deserving Thugs of Hindostan (that was another costliest Indian film ever made, turning out to be the biggest disaster of all-time), in fact, it’s already collected a great amount from the ticket sales. Akshay Kumar and Rajinikanth have put their efforts, but the film hasn’t, on the part of the ‘script and its power’. It could have been a great powerhouse performance packed film, with all the VFX and technical prowess combined.

From the beginning till the end, everything that runs on the screen just doesn’t matter unless it’s a great VFX scene and thank goodness that at least that aspect is mind-blowing for 2.0. It’s the only thing worth watching in the otherwise weak story-driven movie. And if you get the chance of watching it in 3D, just go for it once. It will make your jaw drop.

More: 10 MCU Movies Coming in Next 4 years By Disney’s Marvel Studios: 1 film dropped!!!

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Body of YouTuber Gabby Petito Found in Wyoming

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Officials believe a body found in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming, is missing 22-year-old YouTuber Gabby Petito.

An autopsy is currently underway, Teton County coroner Brent Blue confirmed to Fox News Digital. The body was found on Sunday by a search team with the aid of bloodhounds.

Authorities say the human remains fit the description of Petito, whose mysterious disappearance generated headlines all over the world.

The “Van Life” vlogger was last seen in August in Grand Teton National Park with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, 23, who is considered a “person of interest” in her disappearance.

Photo may have been deleted

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The couple traveled from New York to Wyoming on a cross-country road trip in August. Laundrie raised suspicion when he showed up alone in Petito’s van at his parents’ home in Florida on Sept. 1.

Police discovered Petito’s 2012 white Ford Transit parked outside the Laundrie home on Sept. 11, after Petito’s mother reported her missing.

Laundrie quickly lawyered up and refused to speak to police.

On Friday, Laundrie’s lawyer reported him missing. However, Laundrie’s family insisted he was “in hiding” due to the growing crowd of news media and curious onlookers outside the Laundrie home.

Laundrie was last seen at the home on Tuesday, Sept. 14.

Inside Edition aired police bodycam footage that shows a distraught Petito moments after a heated argument with Laundrie during their road trip in Utah.

A witness spotted the couple arguing at a grocery store and called 911. Police pulled the van over outside Arches National Park.

“We’ve just been fighting all morning,” Petito said in tears in the bodycam video on August 12. The officer asked her to step out of the van and she complied.
 

 
“I just quit my job to travel across the country, and I’m trying to start a blog — a travel blog. So I’ve been building my website, so I’ve been really stressed,” Petito said.

“She just gets worked up sometimes,” said Laundrie who was observed with fresh scratches on his face.

Photo may have been deleted

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Petito told the officer she was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder. She said she feared Laundrie was going to drive off and leave her stranded at the grocery store.

Laundrie told the officer she scratched him when he pushed her hand away.

A family of travel vloggers believe they spotted Petito’s van parked off the road in Grand Teton National Park on August 27, around the time it is believed Petito went missing.

Jenn Bethune shared footage of the van on YouTube. She spoke with Petito’s mom who thanked her on Sunday for sharing the footage.

The video footage was the lead that prompted authorities to search the park for Petito.
 

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Venice 2021 ‘Last Night in Soho’ Review: Nostalgia Takes a Terrifying Turn in Edgar Wright’s Latest Thriller

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Venice 2021 ‘Last Night in Soho’ Review: Nostalgia Takes a Terrifying Turn in Edgar Wright’s Latest Thriller

When someone says, “I was born in the wrong era,” it usually means two things: they’re easily charmed by aesthetics, and they don’t contemplate historical social issues too deeply. Both statements apply to Ellie, the protagonist of Edgar Wright’s Venice-premiering Last Night in Soho. But they also apply to the director himself, who delivers a beautifully stylized portrait of 1960s London that seeks to deconstruct the glamorization of the past while failing to deliver its own strong commentary on the issues of the times.

In his favor is that Wright is a director who clearly has fun playing with genre, as evidenced by his breakthrough zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead, the hipster musical Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and the more recent action-romance Baby Driver. In his latest film, he collides time travel with giallo to tell the story of Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie), a timid present-day fashion student, and Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy), a bold aspiring diva in late ‘60s Soho. Ellie has just moved from rural Cornwall to London to enroll in fashion school, but with her homemade clothes and introverted personality, she doesn’t quite fit in with her peers. She decides to move out of the student residences and take an old-fashioned room in a house in Goodge Street, hosted by the stern but nostalgic Miss Collins (Diana Rigg in her final performance). What she doesn’t know is that the room used to belong to Sandy, whose presence still haunts it. Every night when Ellie goes to sleep, she steps into the blonde singer’s memories — sometimes shadowing her, sometimes becoming her — and relives the decade she loves through another’s eyes. But history isn’t all appearances, and as Ellie grows closer and closer to Sandy, she grows closer to seeing the truth of what happened to her.

As introduced by her recurring visions of her dead mother, Ellie is an unreliable narrator. Putting the audience into her head — making us see what she sees — is key to the psychological thriller aspect of the film. To this end, Wright goes for maximalism to charm his audience with Sandy and her world. Styled with an iconic Brigitte Bardot bouffant and pink A-line dress, Taylor-Joy is all beauty and ambition, sipping vespers and flirting her way into a career with talent manager Jack (Matt Smith). She’s the kind of woman that every shy girl envies and soon, Ellie is dyeing her hair blonde and buying a white patent leather jacket to replicate the look.

Sandy’s world is rounded out with glamorous production design by Marcus Rowland and costumes by Odile Dicks-Mireaux, while Chung-hoon Chung’s cinematography switches her in and out with Ellie through a sleek series of mirror tricks and transitions. Wright keeps the energy high, dazzling the audience with a spectacle of colored lights, quick editing, music by the likes of Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, and Sandie Shaw, and names like the Café de Paris and the Rialto Revue Theater.

But Sandy’s apparent rise to stardom is too smooth, and the audience can feel the dream beginning to crack into a nightmare. The surface stays the same, but the meaning changes: Jack slides from manager to pimp, the Rialto from theater to showroom, the audience from spectator to client, and the star from Sandy to Alexandra to Lexie to Alexa, depending on the night. The girl Ellie wants to be doesn’t want to be herself anymore.

Venice International Film Festival

This turn was expected, even anxiously awaited. It’s easy to be Sandy when everything is going well, but who is she when things fall apart? Ellie is never able to touch her or talk to her, even in a heartbreaking scene that features Ellie shattering through a mirror in a bar to hug Sandy, only for the dream to abruptly end. Wright chose to make a film about women and gender exploitation, and so we want to see Sandy’s struggle and Ellie’s empathy; we want to see how Wright uses these dual timelines to dig in on the #MeToo movement, the casting couch, objectification, and women’s solidarity in the face of all this.

What he delivers instead is an army of suited, faceless specters who are so insistent as to become more annoying than frightening; a creepy old man who may or may not be a figure from the past; and a love interest whose innocuous presence leaves the audience neither hot nor cold. In summary, the second we get close enough to Sandy to see a three-dimensional portrait come into view, Wright pulls her away and turns our attention to the men of the story instead. The relationship between these two women is left at the wayside as Ellie runs around London, growing increasingly paranoid as she tries to get to the bottom of her visions of blood and knives.

Not that some good jump scares, slasher sequences, and mistaken identities don’t have their place, and Wright does keep the audience guessing up until the end. But it’s halfway through that Wright’s fascination with style trumps his sensibility for the themes he’s introduced. The shadowy men pursuing Ellie are a powerful visualization of the constant threat women feel out in society, yet Wright takes the meaning in another direction that strikes the wrong note. He does the same with Sandy, whose fate as a character is entirely a reaction to what’s happened to her rather than an independent action stemming from her inner strength or thought process.

That being said, Last Night in Soho is a spectacle, the kind of movie that is genuinely fun to see in theaters. Wright plays off the themes of the times more for flavor than otherwise but does so with the style and music of the ‘60s as well. It’s inspiring to see a director have so much fun with the subject matter he’s chosen, using all the tools cinema provides to create the kind of moments that could never happen in real life. But it does leave the lingering question: is it really so hard for a male director to tell a story about women?

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How ‘Skam’ Became the Blueprint for New Teen Dramas

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How ‘Skam’ Became the Blueprint for New Teen Dramas

For its new series Gossip Girl, a reboot of the CW’s iconic 2007 teen drama, HBO Max has created social media accounts for the show’s main characters, going so far as to make Letterboxd and Goodreads accounts for them in an attempt to encapsulate the interests of current-day teens (which is pretty accurate, since most teens nowadays can’t go a day without logging what movies they’ve seen or books they’ve read). With the accounts constantly being updated to somewhat coordinate with episodes being released on a weekly basis, it immediately brought to mind one series that took a similar approach to releasing content: Skam. The Norwegian series aired for four seasons on NRK from 2015-2017 and spawned seven remakes in several countries (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United States, Belgium, and Spain), creating the Skamverse. 

Set in Hartvig Nissen School — a real high school in Oslo — the coming-of-age series, which translates to “Shame” in English, follows the turbulent lives of a loosely-tied group of friends as they struggle with a multitude of problems such as peer pressure, sexual assault, mental health, sexuality, and religion — issues that many teens are shamed for in real life. À la Britain’s Skins, each season of the Norwegian show is dedicated to a core character that is struggling with a part of their identity (although the British drama centered on a different character in each episode, as opposed to having a whole season revolving around them). Season 1 centers on Eva (Lisa Teige), a young woman who struggles with loneliness and spends most of her time with her boyfriend Jonas (Marlon Langeland); in season 2, we see Noora (Josefine Frida Pettersen) fall for the bad boy, William (Thomas Hayes). Season 3 follows Isak (Tarjei Sandvik Moe) as he comes to terms with his sexuality after developing a crush on Even (Henrik Holm); and the series concludes with Season 4 focused on Sana’s (Iman Meskini) identity as a Muslim woman living in a predominantly Christian and Atheist country. Skam became well-known for its diverse stories and distinct format.

Skam took a unique approach to storytelling that strays away from the form of conventional TV episodes. Each episode is composed of a series of clips that are released at various times of the day, matching up with the time and dates that occur in the episode to create a real-time effect. For instance, if something in the narrative happened at 2 p.m. on a Monday, the clip would be posted on the show’s website at 2 p.m. on Monday, creating the impression that you are actually watching something as it happens. At the end of each week, the snippets would get packaged into traditional episodes ranging from 15 minutes to an hour long. To accompany the clips and episodes, social media accounts were made for each character, where posts coordinated with what the characters were doing at that time of day, and text messages between the characters would be uploaded on the show’s website to offer viewers insight into the characters’ lives. Together, the clips, Instagram posts, and text messages imbued the series with a depth and level of detail that traditional TV rarely achieves. 

In the post-Skam age of teen television, teen angst is finally beginning to be portrayed in a more realistic (yet still somewhat romanticized) way, which is particularly evident in HBO and HBO Max’s recent slate of shows like Euphoria, Generation, We Are Who We Are, and the freshly released Gossip Girl. While Skam was certainly put on everyone’s radar for its format, it’s ultimately special because of its authentic portrait of teenage struggles, especially in the age of social media. It’s a show that understands that teen dramas don’t need to have musical episodes or intricate murder plots to be compelling. Skam turns what are usually the most boring moments in a young adult’s life — like sitting in bed, eating ice cream, and watching reality TV on a Friday night — and transforms them into something that viewers can’t stop analyzing and thinking about. It is so relatable that it feels like a documentary at times — particularly in its genuine portrayal of friendship, such as when the girl squad (Eva, Vilde, Sana, and Chris) support Noora after she opens up about her sexual assault rather than shaming her — which is partly thanks to the ensemble, which was composed of a cast that had little to no acting experience and were very close in age to their characters, as opposed to a cast of actors in their 20s and 30s. In preparation for the series, creator Julie Andem traveled across Norway interviewing over 50 teenagers about their lives in order to get as close to portraying reality as possible. Grounded in the everyday experiences of real teens, Skam understands its audience and that teens are by no means perfect people, but people who are continuing to learn and grow as they reach adulthood and come to terms with who they are. 

Originally only available in Norwegian, dedicated fans spread the show beyond the country’s geo-blocked borders by uploading subtitled episodes and translated text messages to Tumblr and making them more easily accessible through Google Drive. I, as a thirteen year-old, religiously kept up with everything related to Skam, anxiously waiting for something, whether it be something as little as a text message or as big as an 8 minute long clip, to be posted at a random time in the day and talking about the show at school nonstop until I convinced my friends to watch it. Spreading the show’s existence through word of mouth was how it ended up becoming a global phenomenon in the first place, after all. 

What Skam greatly succeeded at was seamlessly weaving social media with the traditional TV format, allowing viewers to immerse themselves into the realistic world of the series and creating something that wasn’t simply made to be watched or consumed, but to be experienced by the people it was portraying. Over the years, television has trained us to prioritize engaging with glossy, overly dramatic shows like Riverdale and Gossip Girl (which are still very good and enjoyable, but not exactly relatable for most teenagers), but it’s mundane slice-of-life shows like Skam, which captures the simplest moments in life, that deserve to be cherished on the same level. 

While what Skam did was still drawing upon approaches and topics seen in other teen dramas, it still explored some of the common themes and new generations in a unique way. It set the stage for teen shows operating in the digital age by taking advantage of the copious amounts of social media consumed by teens to tell a raw story that encapsulated the experience of the roller coaster ride that is navigating adolescence. 

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TIFF 2021 ‘Petite Maman’ Review: Sciamma Delivers Yet Another Astoundingly Emotional Blow 

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TIFF 2021 ‘Petite Maman’ Review: Sciamma Delivers Yet Another Astoundingly Emotional Blow 

A young girl, Nelly (Joséphine Sanz), walks into a room and bids farewell to an elderly woman. She moves on to the next room and wishes another woman goodbye. On and on she goes down the hall until she reaches a room with an empty bed. Her mother Marion (Nina Meurisse) sits on the windowsill, her back turned to us. Marion has just lost her mother. Nelly did not get to say goodbye. 

Coming off the critical success of Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma has returned with another feature, this one bringing her back to exploring the complexities of childhood. After previously delivering three solid inquiries into the coming-of-age genre prior to Portrait, Sciamma proves once again with Petite Maman that she is in a league of her own. Told with a simplicity that invites the viewer in upon the first sequence, the film radiates warmth and comfort. The simple nature of the film then guides the audience into a deeper exploration of loneliness, grief, and motherhood through the power of Sciamma’s impeccable script.

Upon her grandmother’s death, Nelly and her parents go to her grandmother’s house in order to clean it out. After spending one night there, Nelly’s mom leaves for a reason unknown to Nelly. Bored and lonely without her mother and with her father busy cleaning out the house, Nelly ventures into the woods to find her mother’s old hut she made as a child. While exploring, she meets Marion (Gabrielle Sanz), who looks very similar to Nelly. In the midst of a rainstorm, the two escape to Marion’s house. It is immediately familiar. The layout, the secret door in the wall, and the green wallpaper from Nelly’s grandmother’s… this is her grandmother’s house — but from the past — and Marion is her mother.

This impossible situation is never questioned, because questioning its plausibility is not what Sciamma is interested in. Instead, the setup allows for Nelly to see her grandmother again, as well as better understand her own mother. As children, we know our parents only as parents, less so as people. Their actions are often mysteries to us. Now, Nelly asks her mother questions before bed, wanting to know her; when Nelly befriends Marion, she immediately knows it is her mother, so she asks Marion the questions that she cannot get answers from her adult mother. The time Nelly spends with Marion reveals more to her about her mother than she could ever get from the bedtime questions she asks. When Nelly and her mother are spending the first night at the house, Nelly sleeps in her mother’s childhood bedroom. Her mother points out where a shadow in the shape of a panther used to scare her as a child. Nelly cannot see it. When she spends the night in the same room with Marion, she can finally see it. She understands. 

The richness of the script is supported by the lush, vibrant cinematography of Claire Mathon, who also photographed Portrait. Her compositions are never too loud or out of place, fitting in directly with the simple story. Reds, yellows, and oranges fill the background, making Nelly’s blue outfits pop off the screen. The film is a feast for the eyes, as well as the soul. There is also no score, but like many other Sciamma films, it does feature a euphoric musical moment that leaves your heart racing. Everything about the aesthetics creates an overall warm, inviting feeling to the film. It allows the audience to settle in and meditate on what Sciamma is exploring. 

Never boisterous, Petite Maman is a calming experience, until you are left with the credits rolling, and a stream of emotions rushing through you. Every piece laid out comes together in a quietly beautiful fashion. Its ponderings on motherhood are thorough and thoughtful, but who would expect anything less from Sciamma? Nelly’s journey begins with the death of her grandmother, but Marion’s journey began much before that. How wonderful would it be to understand our own parents? We can only hope to try, but Petite Maman exemplifies what the outcome could be. It slowly digs into your heart and connects with the child within you, leaving you with a reverent feeling of warmth and tenderness. 

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TIFF 2021 ‘Earwig’ Review: A Slow, Dreamy Trip That Descends Into Nightmare 

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TIFF 2021 ‘Earwig’ Review: A Slow, Dreamy Trip That Descends Into Nightmare 

When talking about dreams, they often only make sense to the storyteller. We dream of things that cannot be explained, that do not make sense in the real world. They can haunt us, follow us around for days, or revisit us again once we close our eyes. This is the essence of Lucile Hadžihalilović’s Earwig. With almost no dialogue and an exquisitely unsettling sound design, the film slowly drags you through an experience that can only be likened to dreaming — or being trapped in a nightmare you can’t wake up from.

The plot itself is quite bare, and describing it sounds like trying to explain your own dream to someone: A young girl (Romane Hemelaers) has ice cubes for teeth. Albert (Paul Hilton) meticulously takes care of her. He is cold to her, and they rarely speak as he replaces her teeth each day with new frozen “dentures” made from her own saliva as her teeth melt off each day. The apartment is bare and nondescript, save for a painting that the young girl, Mia, seems to be fixated on. Albert receives phone calls every day inquiring about her well-being. These are the details that are presented to the audience with no further explanation. The rest is for us to figure out.

Frakas Production

Earwig is an experience. It is extremely slow with little structure or plot, yet every frame is immensely interesting, keeping the audience’s attention. Deep, shadowy lighting obscures the characters as they walk about Albert’s bare apartment. Eyes are hard to make out at times. The almost ghostly cinematography is accompanied by piercing sound design. Each time Albert removes a mechanism from Mia’s mouth, you can hear her lips smacking together. People eating turns into an uncomfortable feast for the ears as you hear the characters chew over everything else. Teeth grinding together, rain plopping on the cobblestone — everything is disturbingly noticeable.

These pieces come together to create the unnatural atmosphere that persists throughout the film. As the plot brings up more disturbing points and becomes increasingly less coherent, the mood remains consistent. The effect is a disconnection from reality, as the film truly feels like being trapped in a dream with disjointed logic. Dread seeps into every scene. Motives are unexplained, just the same as the people behind the phone calls Albert continues to receive. Attempting to figure out why these things are happening is pointless — they are not meant to be explained.

Apart from these atmospheric qualities, the film does feature quite a few disturbing, horrific scenes. Although there is little gore, the violence and distressing behavior are still unnerving. The way they are presented is what makes them the most disturbing: there is no explanation for violent outbursts, only acceptance as the story moves on to the next scene. The manor in which these scenes are presented only add to the overall feeling of surrealness.

Frakas Production

The obscureness of the film might work for some, yet might be too off-putting for others; the slow pacing can also make it an arduous watch. If you let yourself be taken by the film, however, it could lead to a nightmarish experience that will haunt you for days. The different objects and pieces of story presented in the film will not be explained to you, instead allowing you to interpret them for yourself — much like your own dreams. Hadžihalilović’s world she has created in Earwig is entirely unsettling, and even if the lack of a cohesive plot puts off viewers, the impression the atmosphere leaves after watching is impressive. From the very beginning, it truly feels like you are entering a dream. If you give yourself to the film, there are threads left for you to unravel. They may not be able to be fully undone, but to attempt to is to attempt to understand your own subconscious or unconscious thoughts. 

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Fully vaccinated Chris Rock: ‘I have Covid, trust me you don’t want this’

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Fully vaccinated Chris Rock: ‘I have Covid, trust me you don’t want this’

BlayzenPhotos / BACKGRID

Chris Rock is among the millions of fully vaccinated Americans who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Chris Rock, pictured in NYC on Sept. 13, took to Twitter on Sunday to share the news of his Covid-19 diagnosis.

The 56-year-old actor and comedian urged his social media followers to get vaccinated.

“Hey guys I just found out I have COVID, trust me you don’t want this. Get vaccinated.”

Back in May, the “Grown Ups” star joked with late night host Jimmy Fallon that not only was he fully vaccinated, but that he jumped the line to get the injection.

“I was like, ‘Step aside, Betty White, I did (the movie) Pootie Tang. Step aside, old people’. I was like Billy Zane on the Titanic. Leo (DiCaprio) died. Billy Zane lived to see another day. I don’t want to be Leo at the bottom of the ocean… Billy Zane got another woman after that thing. In reality, you want to be Leo – but not in that movie.”

1632082544 289 Fully vaccinated Chris Rock ‘I have Covid trust me you

GAMR / BACKGRID

Rock, pictured with fellow comedian Dave Chappelle, also joked: “I’m two-shots Rock, that’s what they call me.” He clarified that he received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

In 2020, Rock made a surprise appearance at a press conference with former New York governor Andrew Cuomo to urge New Yorkers to wear face coverings.

1632082544 920 Fully vaccinated Chris Rock ‘I have Covid trust me you

JosiahW / BACKGRID

“It’s the kids who really aren’t wearing a mask, and you know, it’s sad. It’s sad that our health has become, you know, a sort of political issue… It’s a status symbol, almost, to not wear a mask.”

Over 76% of Americans have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

A recent study out of Israel found that natural immunity confers longer-lasting protection against the Delta variant than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

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Venice 2021 ‘Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon’ Review: A Superhero Coming of Age in Neon-Lit New Orleans

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Venice 2021 ‘Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon’ Review: A Superhero Coming of Age in Neon-Lit New Orleans

Just from the title of Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, it’s clear that director Ana Lily Amirpour is back with another genre-melting, hyper-stylized romp of a film – and on this front, she doesn’t disappoint. After her moody vampire western debut A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, and her follow-up cannibal romance The Bad Batch, Amirpour has established a niche of her own, defined by unexpectedly dangerous female protagonists, surreal interpretations of American settings, and an ability to plaster her films with inspirations and references without compromising on originality.

Whereas the chador-wearing, skateboard-riding protagonist of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night haunted the streets of a city caught somewhere between Iran and Southern California, and the spunky one-legged heroine of The Bad Batch wandered the wasteland of a post-apocalyptic Texas, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon pairs its leading lady Mona Lisa Lee (Jeong Jong-Seo) with the neon-lit grime of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street.

She’s just escaped from the padded walls of a mental asylum where she’s spent the last twelve years of her life, and she’s heading into town under the eerie glow of a gigantic blood moon. Under the surface of Mona Lisa’s petite size and innocent ignorance of the outside world she carries a dangerous ability: to control people’s actions by looking into their eyes (cued by a disorienting dolly zoom). This power doesn’t quite place her into the category of superhero, though, as she uses it less to administer justice than to evade the dogged New Orleans cop hot on her tail (Craig Robinson) and to scam strip club patrons out of their money with Bonnie Belle (Kate Hudson), the loudmouth dancer who takes her in.

The mind control aspect of Mona Lisa’s character adds a campy twist (reminiscent of Stranger ThingsEleven, as much for her junk food obsession as for her violent potential), but remains a surface-level deus ex machina device rather than a thematic statement. Her real defining trait is one she shares with Amirpour’s other heroines: an overwhelming sense of otherness and alienation. Society is strange to Mona Lisa, a strangeness exaggerated by cinematographer Paweł Pogorzelski’s distortion lenses and saturated fluorescents. The people she meets along her journey aren’t exactly normal or well-intentioned, either; from the trippy DJ/drug-dealer Fuzz (Ed Skrein) who uses cheese puffs to lure Mona into his car only to accidentally fall in love, to Bonnie, whose initial generosity reveals itself as cold-hearted opportunism.

Venice International Film Festival

Mona Lisa’s introduction into society teaches her not to trust appearances. Her true power is this outsider’s perspective, enabling her to cut straight through to people’s motivations with seemingly infantile questions. When Fuzz tells her he wants to kiss her she asks him why, and turns this same intense curiosity to the policeman when she asks him, “Do you like people?”, inspiring sudden moments of self-reflection in those around her.

The only relationship that saves Mona Lisa from cynicism is the one she forges with Charlie (Evan Whitten), Bonnie Belle’s angsty but honest pre-teen son. Their dynamic constitutes the sentimental core of the film in its second half, driving the action as the two attempt to liberate each other from their hostile surroundings. However, the writing and direction fail to deliver the emotional punch needed for the audience to care deeply about their friendship, or about Charlie’s relationship with his mother, or about whatever it is Fuzz feels for Mona (although admittedly, Skrein leans so heavily into the psychedelic absurdity of his character that his charm transcends the script).

Each character is unique and carries their own universe with them. Mona Lisa is a sort of impassive Alice in Wonderland, coming of age as she learns about the world around her, while Charlie is straight out of an eighties movie, and Fuzz may be the long-lost brother of James Franco’s Alien in Spring Breakers. This eclectic family keeps the attention on the screen without fail, but the members feel chosen at random, without a significant raison d’être. So it is with references to culture, as well. From Mona’s origins as a North Korean refugee, to racism towards Asian Americans, to the setting in a predominantly African-American city, contemporary subjects are peppered in for flavor without taking responsibility for their use, and as in Amirpour’s previous work she uses America more as a one-dimensional set rather than a subject for thematic exploration.

Amirpour’s priority is style, and always has been. It’s clear that she wants to make art that feels cool, to achieve those moments of cinematic euphoria when very good music combines with visual flair to render the story irrelevant; the energy takes priority. She succeeded with A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, creating a Jarmusch-esque gritty beauty with Lyle Vincent’s inky black and white cinematography and a playlist spanning from Bei Ru to Farah to White Lies. After some contrived stumbling in The Bad Batch, she’s back on the beat in Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon. Nighttime vignettes outside of a gas station or in the window seat of a diner recall moments of Mystery Train, but neon-drenched scenes in Fuzz’s tricked-out boombox of a car accompanied by a bass-heavy soundtrack from Daniele Luppi and Bottin update the aesthetic for the present.

Even though she hits the stylistic sweet spot multiple times, without a strong emotional underpinning the moments remain in the moment, rather than converging to create a larger and lasting unity. Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is fun, and creative, and gives the viewer a feeling of liberation via watching characters blithely disregarding societal norms. Amirpour’s signature melting pot of styles, genres, and inspirations reflects better than many other filmmakers the fragmented and overlapping nature of media consumption in our current times, and even if on her third film certain tropes have begun to repeat, her filmmaking still feels fresh. Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon leaves you wanting more from Amirpour’s quirky, surreal, and definition-defying mind, but also wishing that she’ll figure out exactly what it is she wants to say next time. 

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Journalist threatens Nicki Minaj’s family; ‘CNN is in the country looking for you’

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Journalist threatens Nicki Minaj’s family; ‘CNN is in the country looking for you’

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Nicki Minaj doxxed a newspaper reporter who contacted her cousin to say CNN was threatening to expose him.

Nicki has been under fire for her claim that a friend of her cousin’s experienced impotency and swollen testicles after getting the Covid-19 mRNA vaccine.

Nicki’s tweets sparked denials from the CDC, Dr. Anthony Fauci and the White House. She was reported booted off Twitter twice.

The drama boiled over on Friday after a Trinidad-based reported, Sharlene Rampersad contacted Nicki’s cousin via WhatsApp to request an interview.

When the unidentified cousin ignored the reporter’s interview request, she wrote:

“CNN is in the country looking for you. And when they find you, they won’t hesitate to reveal where you live where your gf lives… anything and anyone who is tied to you.”

Rampersad promised not to reveal his contact info to CNN if he spoke with her.

1632081437 606 Journalist threatens Nicki Minajs family ‘CNN is in the country

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Nicki was livid. She took to social media and shared screengrabs of the WhatsApp conversation between the reporter and her cousin.

Nicki claimed her cousin is now in hiding from CNN and she accused the reporter and CNN of “threatening my family in Trinidad”. She added, “it won’t bode well for you.”

In another post on her Instagram Story, Nicki called the reporter a “dirty h*e” and published her phone number.

The reporter responded: “I will be taking you to court @nickiminaj.”

Nicki’s “Barbz” reportedly called the reporter’s number and tagged CNN in their tweets.

One Twitter user wrote:

“Apparently, the real issue for CNN is that Nikki engaged in Free Speech (yes, I disagree with her stance on COVID, but, she’s entitled to it).”

Another person tweeted:

“I have always been a CNN supporter & thought the left had some sense but this situation with Nicki Minaj has opened my eyes that main stream media is all about pushing their agendas and tearing apart and LYING on anyone who doesnt fit their agenda.”

And a third person wrote:

“@CNN and @Guardian are literally harassing and THREATENlNG Nicki Minaj’s family in Trinidad if her they do not talk to them! How is this legal?! It needs to stop NOW.”

Nicki also dragged CNN host Don Lemon for criticizing her on his program.

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‘Nine Days’ Is About You

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‘Nine Days’ Is About You

Nine Days takes place in the bardo before a soul is given life. Neo-souls are tested in various arbitrary trials during which they must prove to an arbiter that they are worthy of living on Earth. It’s easy to say Nine Days is about what it means to be alive, the nature of empathy, and the reasons that people have to live, but more specifically, Nine Days is about film itself. Nine Days is about watching movies. 

In the film, over a period of nine days, an arbiter named Will (Winston Duke) interviews people for the opportunity of life. The questions he asks are about empathy and feeling, decision-making, situational understanding, learning, and adaptation. It’s a strange thought experiment where these half-formed potential creatures take on the challenge of understanding life, while having never actually been alive. 

Will has been doing this for a while. The reason he’s interviewing all these people now is because one of the souls he previously selected for life has died. Amanda, a violin prodigy, took her own life on the morning of her debut concerto. 

As Will questions the neophyte souls over nine days, he begins to obsess over Amanda’s life, reviewing the tapes he’s recorded during her time on Earth. He attempts to discover hints or clues that would indicate when she began to feel suicidal. The only way in which Will (and the other arbiters) can see their wards is through a wall of televisions; each screen showing a different soul they’ve chosen. The arbiters can also choose to manually record portions of these soul’s lives on VHS, creating a catalog of lived experience. 

Over the course of the movie Will is preoccupied by these films. Will has an empty room in his house dedicated to projecting people’s lives on the wall, and he often immerses himself in the filmed experience. The wall of televisions is an ever-present set piece, taking up most of the living room, a focal point for both Will and the neo-souls. Will watches and records his chosen lives from his little house in an expansive never-where, observing all the people he’s chosen go forth as they attempt to survive in the real world.

The arbiters are angels of the exterior. They only see what happens to their souls when it happens on screen. They only see what’s in front of them, and even then Will and the other arbiters can’t watch everything. While these screens are like a first-person POV CCTV, recordings are intentional, and must be an active choice. Arbiters can only observe these people, obsessively cataloging the minutiae of lives through recordings. But, like in the movies, these arbiters don’t know what’s going on in their souls’ heads, what they’re thinking, or what they want. Just like a film audience, the arbiters have to assume, infer, and interpret. 

As Will prepares his selections for life, he learns from his experiences with these other lives, comparing what he saw in the bardo to what he sees on screen. Will wants his selection process to give him insight into the kind of person he’s sending out into the world, trying to understand just what kind of movie he’ll watch once the soul is born, hoping to find a hint at the motivations that will end up hidden behind a television screen.

Many of the tasks that the neo-souls are asked to complete take place while watching the wall of televisions. During one of the souls’ first tasks, Will leads them to the televisions and hands them a notebook; “Write down what makes you happy,” he says. They sit and watch. Out of this they pull moments of joy, taken piecemeal from others’ lives. Like an editor cutting to the quick of a scene, each of these souls finds the parts of these movies that they love in flashes of inspiration and loveliness. Televisions become the only way that these souls learn about the ‘real’ world. 

One of the souls, Emma (Zazie Beetz), fills up the entire notebook, citing things like laughter, sunshine, feet, grass, and buildings arranged in a row. Another candidate, Mike (David Rhysdahl) doesn’t write anything. Instead, he draws a picture of a beach scene he saw on one of the televisions. The script reads early on, “this woman knows things, but she’s never experienced them.” They are asked to learn how to live through these films. They learn how to vicariously imitate experiences, even giving themselves a glimpse of what they could have outside the bardo. Film becomes a window into possibility, a form of hope, and a method of inspiration.  

The souls are given other assignments. In one interrogation, he projects images on a wall; a spider on an arm, a wallet on the ground, a kid being bullied, and he asks these souls… what would you do? Through these assignment the souls experience life through the movies. Over and over, film is central to the emotional development of these characters and Will uses film to help determine who they are and how they might act on earth. Even when the souls are answering Will’s questions in his office, without any televisions around, Nine Days will often intercut to the grainy VHS footage of what they’re describing. There are flashes of people at barbecues, riding a bike, putting brownies in a box in a production line. Again and again, the importance of film is all-encompassing. Watching film is literally the difference between life and… whatever else is out there. 

Will is deeply attached to the VHS tapes he makes of his lives and views them as more than just tools for instruction. Getting VHS tapes to use in recordings is a process—Will and his constant companion in the bardo, Kyo (Benedict Wong), often go on foraging expeditions to a massive junkyard, collecting tapes for Will to use. The moments that Will captures on these tapes provide triggers for his emotional changes within Nine Days, giving us insight into what Will actually feels. We rarely get any indications of Will’s own emotions because of his position as a professional performing a job and for the audience, as well as the neo-souls, we are often left guessing about what he’s thinking. His emotions are clearest when he’s watching film, when he’s re-viewing these tapes. 

His obsession over Amanda’s death is shown through a constant rewatching of her life. Will replays the recordings he’s made, trying to parse through what he sees now that she’s dead and what he thought he knew. His entire purpose hinges on finding answers in film. 

For all the characters, finding meaning through film is an essential action. In every moment there is something to find. Something under the surface. There are things unsaid, unanswered, unasked. Finding what isn’t captured on film is part of deciphering what has been filmed.

A moment where Will gets real answers about Amanda’s death is when another Kyo invites another arbiter into his home. This arbiter sent one of Amanda’s cousins down to live, and this cousin received a suicide note from Amanda before she died. As Will watches this recording, he sees what he missed earlier. He sees what he couldn’t find in his own films. He gets angry, for the first time really angry, not just faking it to get a reaction from the neophyte souls. Seeing this suicide note laid out on the table, he sees his own failure. He didn’t see this. He didn’t figure it out. This particular moment captured in film is a culmination of all his fears, and even though the other arbiter tries to comfort him, her small offering, “sometimes, it’s hard to keep track of all of them,” does nothing for Will. 

He failed to see this clue. His films don’t mean anything if he didn’t understand what they were showing him. 

Later that night, Will takes the VHS tapes of Amanda’s life, all of them, and burns them. This is pure catharsis, a symbolic and actual letting go. The grief, the confusion, the hurt, all of it goes up in flames. Amanda’s life is not contained in the VHS tapes, but they are a key to understanding Will’s perspective on the world—to him, those VHS takes are Amanda. Film becomes something mythic, legendary, preservative. These films are everything he has of her, and he’s letting them go. 

Even Kyo, who is not an arbiter, puts heavy emotional weight on film. In the beginning of Nine Days he shows up at Will’s house and asks if anything new has happened. He’s there to watch Amanda’s concerto. As he sits down and watches the televisions he sees another soul that Will has sent to earth—Louiza—trying on her wedding dress. He asks when the date is, and when Will responds, Kyo makes a note in his notebook, clearly planning to show up for the event. Will and Kyo plan their lives around these films. They mark ‘release dates’ and make sure to show up dressed correctly— Will even changes into a suit before Amanda’s concerto. Film is central to their existence, creating moments of anticipation and community in the bardo. 

Nine Days doesn’t just focus on the act of watching film, but also on the act of recreating moments. Even if the characters can’t experience the world itself, the fantasy of experience is repeated. Under Will’s house is a basement that has been turned into a sort of soundstage. When he goes to souls and tells them that they have not been selected for life, he asks them to write down a moment that made them feel the most alive while watching the televisions and he says that he will work to recreate that moment for them. A goodbye. A simulacrum of a simulacrum. 

When Mike — the man who drew the beach scene—asks to go to that beach, Will creates a beach in his basement. He builds a sandbox, finds a way to make a pool that leads up to the sands, and uses a projector and a recording to simulate the feeling of being at a beach. He leads Mike up to the fake-beach, and tells him to take his time. As Mike stands there, Will uses a paddle to simulate waves, and turns a spotlight on Mike, as if he were standing in the sun. Mike disappears while in the fantasy of an experience. Immersed in the ‘what could be’ of life, Mike returns to the bardo, having had at least a taste of what he imagined while watching television. 

The second time we see Will do this it’s for a woman who wants to go on a bike ride. This time Kyo helps him out, and with the use of multiple projectors, a fan, a stationary bike mounted on an axis, and even set pieces, Will recreates an actual bike ride. It’s hard to explain the sheer emotion of this scene. The entire movie has been rendered in dull colors but this scene is full of vibrancy and wonder. It’s pinks and blues, it’s overwhelmingly lovely, and it’s entirely fake. Much like movies are made on soundstages, where clever effects can fool the audience into thinking that these characters really are in Paris or on Mars, this woman’s bike ride is completely fabricated. 

But that doesn’t matter. To this woman, to Mike, to Will, and Kyo, this is the experience. It doesn’t matter if it’s real or fake or projected, it’s about how it makes these characters feel. This scene is almost identical to Oda’s short, A Sensorial Ride, which delivers the technical details of the scene but can’t compare to the rising emotion and craft of Nine Days. The experience is important, but it’s the emotions, reactions, and growth that gives the recreated moment meaning. 

Towards the end of the film there’s a dinner with Will, Kyo, Emma, and the another candidate, a man named Kane (Bill Skarsgård). Each of the characters takes time to recount a funny story, but… none of these characters have ever been alive. They’re telling stories from the television, recreating the experience through their own lenses. Will doesn’t tell a story, and instead lets these souls, who have never experienced any of this, recount the stories as they know them, each of them adding in their own commentary, comedic timing, and even impressions. Much like a film will always editorialize what is being shown, all these characters are doing the same, reminding the audience that stories will always be filtered, that film will only ever be part of the story, that it’s how we react to it and what we remember that’s important. 

Performance itself becomes a defining trait of Nine Days. Will is especially concerned with performance, both the evaluation of actions and the moments of acting. His first emotional trigger is, in fact, Amanda’s upcoming performance, which she never attends. He is constantly thinking about how people will perform on earth, as well as what their actions reveal while in the bardo. 

All the recreations Will does are performative. There is a layer in between what is real and what is experienced. But it’s the performance that sells the story. Like movies, it’s about how committed the actor is to the part. 

Will is also a performer. During one of the first evaluations, he tells the souls a story about a man in war camp threatening to kill their child. He stands and yells at the souls, becoming that evil man. It’s a shocking turn, and Winston Duke is exemplary, turning from mild-mannered into ferocious and dangerous in an instant. This is the first time we see Will performing, acting intensely to immerse the souls in simulated situations in order to evaluate their reactions.

Emma is constantly asking questions about Will’s life on earth, and he reveals that he was in a play when he was fifteen and it changed his life. We never know what Will became, but it’s clear that this performance, this moment of acting, was the singular most impactful moment of his life. 

It’s this performance that Emma asks to be recreated when she’s eventually told that she hasn’t been chosen for life. Will refuses, and asks if she’ll choose something else. She decides to leave instead, heading out into the desert to disappear. 

Emma doesn’t want recreations. Emma doesn’t want to pretend to ride a bike. She doesn’t want to stand by a sandpit and imagine it’s a sunrise. She wants the real thing. She wants emotion without filters. It’s a performance, but unlike the other requests, it’s not performative. Out of all the souls, she found life in the world she was living in, not the ‘real’ world on the screens.

We near the end of the film, the final scenes, the last moments of performance on screen. Will runs through the desert, trying to find Emma before she disappears. He finds her, turns his back, prepares, and this is the last performance, the final moments of Nine Days

He turns and he performs. Will, the actor, embodies the monologue, power and soul. He recites from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself, and this is the last act of Nine Days, giving us a performance that will move us to tears, that will show off all of Winston Duke’s prodigious skill, that makes us feel, deeply. This is a performance that brings us closer to living. It’s almost as if we were there.

By allowing a performance to be the final moment, Nine Days truly embodies the importance of film, which is what Nine Days has been hinting at the entire time. Nine Days is a meticulous, existential crisis of a movie, a film about film, the wonder of re-creation, the absolute absurdity of absorbing a story in an hour or two when there are whole, entire, beautiful, wonderful lives behind every single story. 

And perhaps that’s what Nine Days is saying; our lives are like movies. Edited down to the core of who we are, spare lines discarded or forgotten, important moments skipped over until it’s too late, until someone points out a different perspective. When we think back on the jumbled mess of our lives, it’s flashing scenes and senses and re-constructed understandings of a moment. Nine Days, at its core, is about how we see ourselves in movies, how we understand living through empathy, and how we relate to the inexplicable act of being alive by watching others live on screen. Nine Days is about film and it’s about you. 

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Kasim Reed says crime and violence are ‘tearing Atlanta apart’

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Kasim Reed said the high level of crime and violence in Atlanta is a “national embarrassment”, and he plans to crack down on crime if he is reelected mayor.

Reed is seeking reelection as mayor of Atlanta on Nov. 2. His first two terms as mayor began in 2010.

The mayoral candidate spoke by phone with Audacity Atlanta’s Maria Boynton during the Grand Opening of his campaign headquarters at 568 14th Street in northwest Atlanta.

Reed says the level of crime and violence is “tearing Atlanta apart”. He added, “right now 20 percent of the citizens of Atlanta want to leave the city.”

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Courtesy, Precious Anderson, Esq.

Reed has raised over $2 million for his campaign so far. His campaign continues hosting high-profile events, including a private reception and fundraiser hosted by attorney Precious Anderson (pictured) at her Atlanta home on Wednesday.

Reed told the invited guests that if he is reelected, he plans to hire 750 new police officers.

He also told the intimate gathering that he is going to make sure women feel safer and that people in general feel safer in Atlanta.

Also, he will reopen City Hall where workers will be accessible to the residents of Atlanta.

He also discussed his plan to make more women millionaires through his Women Entrepreneurship Initiative that he started when he was mayor.

Some Atlantans say they hope Reed will make the Katherine Janness case a top priority when he’s reelected mayor.

Katherine Janness and her dog, Bowie, were brutally stabbed in Piedmont Park on June 28. Their bodies were discovered by Janness’ girlfriend, Emma Clark, about 50 yards inside the 10th Street gate just after 1 a.m.

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“There was a slice on her face, like in an X pattern on her face,” said Clark, pictured right. “And there was a deep cut to her throat; it was cut all the way to the bone.”

Janness, 40, had been stabbed multiple times and a word was carved into her body.

“It’s a very frightening crime,” Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis told The Washington Post.

Evidence suggests the killer spent time with the body after the murder.

“And that is strange,” Willis said. “Most people commit a murder and want to get the hell away because they don’t want to be caught.”

Janness’ killing stood out among the city’s 110 homicides this year. She was Atlanta’s first white homicide victim of 2021.

Willis, who started the job in January, faced a daunting backlog of 12,000 arrests from last year that have not resulted in formal charges.

Most of the city’s homicides are committed by repeat offenders who were released from jail early due to overcrowding and staffing issues.

The city has convened 2 grand juries to sift through the evidence and return indictments. However, Willis said it could take “years” to clear the backlog of criminal cases.

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