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Nuns and digital breadcrumbs

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One of the greatest ironies of the digital era is how we invented the internet to better connect humanity, but the reality is that the age of social media is actually isolating us more than ever before.

There's plenty of decent research to suggest that the more time people spend online, the greater the association of anxiety symptoms. More studies suggest that excessive social media use can hijack the brain's dopamine release systems to create a tech addiction while simultaneously desensitizing the brain to real happiness. And now a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology reports that people who record/photograph/document their life experiences are actually 10 per cent less likely to even remember having those experiences.

That sucks, but on the other hand, all those trails of digital breadcrumbs can come in handy if someone kidnaps you and your distraught parents have to solve the crime by themselves.

Or at least that is the plot of Searching, a new flick opening this week at the Whistler Village 8.

Jon Cho (Harold & Kumar, Star Trek) stars as the father of a 15-year-old girl who suddenly disappears. With little help from the police, he's forced to take matters into his own hands and dive into the girl's laptop for clues. And the girl he discovers online is nothing like the one he'd been living with her entire life.

The latest edition in a sub-genre some critics are calling "cyber horror" (but should probably be called "cyber thriller" due to the lack of blood, guts, or shower scenes), Searching is an engrossingly tense 101-minute thrill ride that works because the language of computers and technology in the film is real and relatable.

Most of us do have draft emails we forgot we started to write that sit in a folder we never look at—or grim-sounding web search histories from investigating potential problems (it could be indigestion or... a guinea worm parasite!).

Writer/director Aneesh Chaganty is an ex-Google employee so he has the tech chops but his commercial directing experience kicks in here as well—dude has managed to make a 101-minute film about computer screens visually interesting.

Searching is like Black Mirror mixed with Taken, and the message is clear—we are increasingly isolated from each other, everyone has secrets, and our data is never truly safe. And neither are we.

Also opening at the Village 8, but without pre-screeners, The Nun is the latest prologue film from The Conjuring/ Annabelle crew. This time around, the action is set in an ancient, creepy-ass abbey in Romania with a haunted past and an unholy secret.

The trailer is freaky and what's interesting about this one is Gary Dauberman, the screenwriter, also wrote Annabelle: Creation and IT. So he's on a bit of a roll and the vibe of The Nun could provide insight into the upcoming IT: Chapter 2, Dauberman's next project.

The final new release this week is Peppermint, another pre-screener-less flick that stars Jennifer Garner (Elektra, Alias) in what looks like the standard The Punisher, John Wick-style revenge flick—family murdered, renegade justice, asses kicked.

Garner has long proven she has the physicality for a role like this and French director Pierre Morel is the dude who made Taken, so it's likely this one will deliver tense action and a nice bit of ultraviolence. Worth checking out.

On the small screen, Ocean's 8 is available for rent this week and if you pair that with American Animals it makes for a solid heist-flick double feature. (Studies show that pulling off a heist together is a good way to battle the dysconnectivity of excessive social media. Crime... creating real human connections one job at a time).

Also noteworthy as a rental/download, the Mr. Rogers doc, Won't You Be My Neighbor? is being heralded as one of the best documentaries of the past decade. Director Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom) delivers a teary-eyed ode to one of the finest, and most taken for granted, performers of any era.

Fred Rogers once said, "I went into television because I hated it." And he wanted to make it better, especially for children. Rogers, through a kid show and songs, took on bullying, fear, racism, hate, anger and even a Senate subcommittee hellbent on cutting the budget for public television. And he beat them all.

These days, more than ever perhaps, we could use a few more Mr. Rogers.

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