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REVIEW: "Sequence Break"

By Eric Hillis, TheMovieWaffler.com

originally published: 07/01/2018

REVIEW: "Sequence Break"

One of the great under-rated horror movies of recent years is Jackson Stewart’s Beyond the Gates. Two of the stars of Stewart’s movie, Graham Skipper and Chase Williamson, reunite for Sequence Break, written and directed by Skipper and starring Williamson in the lead role. Both films make for a dove-tailing double bill of horror movies that employ the genre, and the current obsession with all things 1980s, to explore the dangers of nostalgia and seeking sanctuary in the comforts of your childhood.

Where Beyond the Gates revolved around a VHS board game (younger readers may need to ask your parents), in Sequence Break it’s a stand-up arcade game (again, ask your parents - this is all making me feel very old) that causes the trouble here. Williamson is Oz, a millennial who toils away happily fixing old arcade games for a small company that sells them on to collectors. The work brings Oz small pay but great joy, and he tinkers with his machines with the care of a veterinarian coaxing a foal from a pregnant mare. It’s a job with as much future potential as that of a pager salesman though, so it’s no surprise when his boss (Lyle Kanouse) breaks the news that business is going nowhere and he’s shutting up shop in a month’s time.

After hearing the bad news, Oz heads to a local bar and gets wasted, unaware that his boss has been murdered by a mysterious hobo who leaves a brown envelope at the shop. While drinking, a pretty and outgoing young woman, Tess (Fabianne Therese), approaches him and strikes up a conversation. A fellow retro game geek, she had visited the arcade shop that day but Oz was so wrapped up in his work he barely noticed her. With the conversation very much led by Tess, the two agree to meet the following day for food and a bit of gaming.

Returning to the shop, where he sleeps on a makeshift bed, Oz finds the brown envelope, which contains a motherboard. Hooking it up to an empty game cabinet, Oz discovers it contains a game unlike no other, one which causes him to hallucinate wildly, the cabinet turning into a living, breathing organism, his experience of playing the game literally turning orgasmic as his fingers sink into the cabinet’s fleshy folds, the joystick turning rubbery and gooey at his touch. The following day, Oz and Tess hook up, beginning a passionate relationship, but Oz finds himself drawn more to the game than to the woman who loves him.

The title of Skipper’s film refers to the act of cheating a video game by skipping the actions required to complete it. In the case of classic ‘80s games, a sequence break might also refer to the phenomenon of pushing a game to its limits, to the point where it essentially self-destructs. Through such gaming terminology, Skipper has hit on an ideal metaphor to examine the rut so many young men find themselves trapped in today’s uncertain world, and how so many men (some women, granted, but this is predominantly a curiously male phenomenon) seek refuge in childish delights. Today we have a generation of grown men who refuse to act their age, spending their days playing video games and watching children’s movies rather than embracing the possibilities of life as an adult. Oz’s favoring playing a video game over spending time with a girl as beguiling as Tess says it all really.



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Perhaps Oz, and the young men of his ilk, embrace video games because they promise an end point. Unlike life, they can be conquered if you can figure out the formula, if you take the right turns at the right moments, and where the real world is a beast that morphs in uncertain ways, a video game never changes, and you get more than one life to make mistakes. Like his namesake in the 1939 movie, video games allow mild-mannered men like Oz to hide behind powerful personas, though at least Oz isn’t using such anonymity to harass people on the internet.

Comparisons to David Cronenberg have been made thanks to the body horror element of Sequence Break, and there are sexualized images of human flesh mingling with wiring that wouldn’t be out of place in something like Videodrome, but Skipper’s film, with its brief 80 minute running time, owes more to The Twilight Zone. It’s a parable with a message of advice for the viewers who may be drawn in unwittingly by its promise of an ‘80s aesthetic. While Ready Player One goes easy on its primary audience of pop culture obsessives, Sequence Break is far more scornful, like Rod Serling has come back from the grave to tell the young men of today to get a life, put the joypad down and call up that nice girl you like. Or as the film tells it, look between the ones and zeros.

REVIEW: "Sequence Break"

4  stars out of 5

Directed by: Graham Skipper; Starring: Chase Williamson, John Dinan, Lyle Kanouse, Fabianne Therese, and Audrey Wasilewski







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State Theatre Presents Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back In Concert with NJSO
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey and New Jersey Symphony Orchestra present Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in concert with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra featuring Conductor Constantine Kitsopolous on Saturday January 6, 2019 at 3:00pm. Tickets range from $35-$125. 
A Look At New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies, presents the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 which marks the festival's 37th Anniversary.  The Festival will take place between January 25 and March 1, 2019. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, experimental and short subjects, classic revivals, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 will feature over 35 film screenings. 
NJPAC Presents Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert With The NJSO
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The Harry Potter Film Concert Series returns to New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert, on Saturday, June 1, 2019 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm. See the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra perform the magical score live while the entire film plays in high-definition on a 40-foot screen.
Kean Stage Hosts "White Christmas" Sing-Along
(UNION, NJ) -- Kean Stage hosts a White Christmas Sing-Along on Sunday, December 16 at 3:00pm.  Gather your family and friends for this beloved 1954 holiday film starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. You’ll enjoy singing along to Count Your Blessings, Snow, Sisters and, of course, the iconic White Christmas. And don’t worry if you don’t know the words – the lyrics will be shown on the screen.


REVIEW: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"
For better or worse (worse in this writer’s eyes), the success of the Harry Potter franchise is largely responsible for the current Hollywood landscape of endless sequels, prequels and that awful phrase “universe building.” The Potter films showed Hollywood that it was a far safer financial model to hook audiences into returning for instalments of an ongoing series rather than taking a punt on the unknown quantity of original properties.
REVIEW: "Shoplifters"
Earlier this year, writer/director extraordinaire Hirokazu Kore-eda surprised us with The Third Murder, a legal thriller that made for a stark departure from the sentimental family dramas he’s become known for. With his Palme d’Or winning Shoplifters, Kore-eda is back on familiar ground, but this particular family drama shares much in common with The Third Murder. With his thriller, Kore-eda deconstructed the genre, forcing us to question how willingly we place our trust in a storyteller. Similarly, Shoplifters sees Kore-eda lull his audience into a false sense of security, making us develop a warmth and affection towards people who may not warrant such empathy.
REVIEW: "First Man"
The image that most defines the 20th century is that of a man standing on the surface of the moon. The man is astronaut Neil Armstrong, but we can’t see his face as he’s wearing a helmet, the glass of which reflects our collective achievement back at us. When he took a small step, we all took a giant leap with him, and Armstrong instantly became more than a mere man, a symbol. With First Man, director Damien Chazelle takes us inside the famous helmet, stripping away the symbol to tell the story of Armstrong the man.
REVIEW: "Halloween"
In 2013, John Carpenter’s Halloween received a 35th anniversary blu-ray release. The accompanying booklet credited the following line of dialogue to Jamie Lee Curtis’s babysitting heroine Laurie Strode: “Was it the boogeyman?” Of course, that’s a misquote. In the scene in question, Laurie admits to herself that “It WAS the boogeyman,” to which Donald Pleasence’s Doctor Loomis solemnly replies, “As a matter of fact, it was.”
REVIEW: "Cold War"
Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help viewing the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.

From Our Magazine

REVIEW: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"

REVIEW: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"

For better or worse (worse in this writer’s eyes), the success of the Harry Potter franchise is largely responsible for the current Hollywood landscape of endless sequels, prequels and that awful phrase “universe building.” The Potter films showed Hollywood that it was a far safer financial model to hook audiences into returning for instalments of an ongoing series rather than taking a punt on the unknown quantity of original properties.


REVIEW: "Shoplifters"

REVIEW: "Shoplifters"

Earlier this year, writer/director extraordinaire Hirokazu Kore-eda surprised us with The Third Murder, a legal thriller that made for a stark departure from the sentimental family dramas he’s become known for. With his Palme d’Or winning Shoplifters, Kore-eda is back on familiar ground, but this particular family drama shares much in common with The Third Murder. With his thriller, Kore-eda deconstructed the genre, forcing us to question how willingly we place our trust in a storyteller. Similarly, Shoplifters sees Kore-eda lull his audience into a false sense of security, making us develop a warmth and affection towards people who may not warrant such empathy.


REVIEW: "First Man"

REVIEW: "First Man"

The image that most defines the 20th century is that of a man standing on the surface of the moon. The man is astronaut Neil Armstrong, but we can’t see his face as he’s wearing a helmet, the glass of which reflects our collective achievement back at us. When he took a small step, we all took a giant leap with him, and Armstrong instantly became more than a mere man, a symbol. With First Man, director Damien Chazelle takes us inside the famous helmet, stripping away the symbol to tell the story of Armstrong the man.


REVIEW: "Halloween"

REVIEW: "Halloween"

In 2013, John Carpenter’s Halloween received a 35th anniversary blu-ray release. The accompanying booklet credited the following line of dialogue to Jamie Lee Curtis’s babysitting heroine Laurie Strode: “Was it the boogeyman?” Of course, that’s a misquote. In the scene in question, Laurie admits to herself that “It WAS the boogeyman,” to which Donald Pleasence’s Doctor Loomis solemnly replies, “As a matter of fact, it was.”








Event calendar
Sunday, Dec 16, 2018


MUSIC

CHRIS GULLACE BAND - A BENEFIT FOR ST. JUDE @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 2:00pm

SOLAR CIRCUS / DOOBIE DECIBEL SYSTEM @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

ELEVEN ELEVEN @ Lobby Bar at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 2:00pm

SUNDAY JAZZ @ Hard Rock Cafe at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 10:00am

Joy to the World: A Christmas Suite @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 4:00pm


THEATRE

Elf, The Musical @ Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven - 2:00pm

A Christmas Story @ Pax Amicus Castle Theatre, Budd Lake - 2:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm

Seussical @ CDC Theatre, Cranford - 2:00pm

Peter pan @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 1:00pm and 5:00pm

A CHRISTMAS CAROL @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 3:00pm

Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn @ Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn - 1:30pm and 7:00pm

A Wonderful Life @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 7:00pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

A Charlie Brown Christmas @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 1:30pm and 3:30pm

Hudson Theatre Works presents "And My True Love Gave To Me" @ Hudson Theatre Works, Weehawken - 5:00pm







DANCE

Cocktail Hour: The Show Featuring the B-Twist Orchestra @ White Eagle Hall, Jersey City - 6:00pm

NEW JERSEY BALLET’S NUTCRACKER WITH NEW JERSEY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 1:00pm and 6:00pm

The Nutcracker: The Russian National Ballet @ Prudential Hall @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 2:00pm and 7:00pm

Carol of the King: The Irish Dance Christmas Spectacular @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 3:00pm

Bolshoi Ballet: Don Quixote @ Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 3:00pm


KIDS

Shopkins LIVE! Shop It Up! @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 11:00am

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