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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

I was 18 years old in 1986 when the whole Chernobyl thing went down. If you think the anti-Russian sentiment in the United States is at a fever pitch today, it’s nothing compared to what it was in the mid-1980s—especially when the nightmare occurred.

I confess that my teenage self—worried about my first year in college and the fact that I had to drive a Volkswagen Rabbit through the Adirondacks—didn’t pay enough attention to what was going on in Russia. I knew that there was an accident, and that some radiation escaped. It wasn’t until years later that I started to understand what really happened: The planet was almost irreparably altered.

HBO’s excellent five-episode series about the Chernobyl disaster, which concludes tonight, does a heart-wrenching job of showing the human toll and sacrifice it took to keep Russia and the planet safe. Jared Harris is superb as a scientist sent in to figure the whole mess out, as is Stellan Skarsgard as the government stooge sent along with him. It’s grueling, scary stuff, and it’s educational.

I’m four episodes in, and I’m convinced TV will have a hard time topping this series this year.

Chernobyl is now airing on HBO, and is available on HBO’s streaming services.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

The Boxtrolls, nominated for a Best Animated Feature Film Oscar, is another weird film from the studio that also made Coraline and ParaNorman.

As far as appearances go, this is the best film in this Oscar category, which also includes Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Most of the work is traditional stop-motion animation, with some fine digital animation included as well.

The story follows a young boy named Eggs (the voice of Isaac Hempstead Wright), who is being raised by strange creatures who live below the streets of London. The creatures wear boxes for clothing, and Eggs gets his name because, quite simply, his box says “Eggs” on it.

An evil exterminator looking for a higher station in society (Ben Kingsley) contracts to kill all of the boxtrolls, putting Eggs and his buddies in danger.

The voice cast also features Elle Fanning, Jared Harris, Nick Frost and a barely recognizable Tracy Morgan.

The story doesn’t hold up as well as that of Big Hero 6, but The Boxtrolls is still a lot of fun—and it scores points for being extra-twisted.

Special Features: The disc is packed with behind the scenes featurettes and commentaries. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Here we go with another low-cost, poorly lit, flimsily shot horror movie that substitutes loud, jarring noises and cheap parlor tricks for genuine scares.

Jared Harris (Mad Men) plays Professor Joseph Coupland, a snobby chain smoker who is conducting an inexplicable experiment on mental-patient Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke). I say inexplicable, because I never did figure out what in the hell was going on. I can tell you that the experiment is being filmed by an amateur filmmaker (Sam Claflin), which allows for some of that “found footage” horror-movie feel that has gotten old. As far as I could gather, Jane is possessed, and the professor is trying to prove that she is just sick, although he seems to believe there are dark forces at hand, or something like that. It’s all very confusing and, ultimately, very stupid.

Director John Pogue provides what he would like to think are shock moments, but they are just irritating. He favors sudden, loud noises, and there’s something about the timing that renders his scare attempts impotent.

It was a true task to sit through this thing.

The Quiet Ones is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews