Come to Daddy (2019): Comedy / Horror / Mystery

A letter from his estranged father requesting a visit will make a young man go to his remote cabin in an attempt to reconnect with him.

I always find it intriguing how does one pitch films like this. Right off the bat, Come to Daddy gets you acquainted with two profound quotes:

“The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children” – William Shakespeare

“There is no one else like my daddy” – BeyoncĂ©

Go figure… Then, you get to experience Norval (Elijah Wood) with an atrocious haircut, sporting a pedo-tash, paying a visit to his… eccentric, and profoundly disturbed dad, Gordon (Stephen Mchattie). I’ll tell you this, both of them are awkward, their dialogues are awkward, their father/son relationship is awkward, the sheriff is awkward, the coroner is awkward, everyone is awkward, and the whole film is awkward… until the twist. Then it gets even more awkward.

Throughout the film, I didn’t know whether be ready to get scared or laugh or… And while thinking about it, Dandy shows up pooing, getting off the crapper, and picking up a brutal fight with goofy Norval, unrolling the toilet paper stuck in his bumhole while at it – admittedly, the most enjoyable scene. Eventually, I didn’t get scared but I did laugh out loud with the occasional, inventive, and anything but inspirational, surrealistic tragicomedy.

Inspired by Ant Timpson’s dad’s passing, the story is a mixed bag that, in the end, you’ll just either turn it off and go to bed, say “that was fun!”, or facepalm sighing and wondering why you did that to yourselves. Personally, I like unpredictability, absurdity, and mixed genres. I just prefer it when there is something in the end to take away.

The reason I decided to watch it was the leading duo. Mchattie and Wood are very versatile actors and I have enjoyed them in most films they’ve been in. Wood, having been in numerous Hollywood films in the past, has left most of it behind him and has started focusing on roles like Norman. Wilfred (2011-2014) and I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore (2017) are two previous examples of the kind of people he portrays with great success.

Anyway, Come to Daddy is highly recommended if you are really confused with your life, feeling lost, or having daddy issues.

Stay safe!

A Christmas Horror Story (2015): Fantasy / Horror / Mystery

It’s Christmas Eve, and five interwoven stories reveal the dark side of Christmas.

A Viking-looking Santa who is about to face something evil, a radio host who wants to lift your spirits, a student film crew that investigates a violent ritual school crime, a family who just wants a Christmas tree, and an Anti-Christmas spirit that is released, chasing wicked people.

Very promising and original opening sequence that will most definitely get your undivided attention. Every story unfolding is a treat and, despite their flaws, they are still dark, eerie, and enjoyable for, admittedly, mostly millennial horror fans but not exclusively. Surely not for the whole family, each and every one of them, twists the meaning of Christmas and explores the darkness within us in days that our light is meant to shine. The ending is a real twist that, unfortunately, is no fantasy and our world has seen similar in numerous variations. For the avoidance of spoilers, I cannot elaborate further and, personally, I feel like I shouldn’t do it anyway.

The stories unfold in the fictional town of Bailey Downs. The same town where the Ginger Snaps franchise takes place but also, partially, Orphan Black (2013-2017). Filmmakers behind both projects collaborated for this one.

Last Christmas film review for this year! Stay safe and Merry Christmas!

A Christmas Carol (2019): Drama / Fantasy

On Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge gets three visits from spirits that show him the error of his ways.

Unarguably, the darkest adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas tale to date. Right off the bat, poisonous truths are coming out of Ebenezer’s mouth, almost impossible to argue with. Why be nice to each other only once a year, indeed… But its darkness doesn’t solely lie in the writing’s truths. It lies in the acting, and above all, the haunting photography. A constant darkness from the opening sequence to the end credits. Keep these elements in mind for what comes next.

The Ghost of Christmas Past takes him on a journey that leaves some… eerie details to the imagination. Excellent storytelling that will get your undivided attention in an attempt to process if the story you’ve read and watched repeatedly in the past is currently taking the direction you suspect it does. And it does, indeed.

The Ghost of Christmas Present shows him the consequences of that past; a past that seems ostensibly irredeemable. It picks on nineteenth century’s socioeconomic problems that could not be a better fit for the present day (massively pounding on capitalism!). The emphasis on that family’s love and what he had been deprived of, and consequently never knew it existed, smoothly shape Ebenezer to what the spirits hope he will become.

The Ghost of Christmas Future is meant to be the real treat; the relentless. But here, unfortunately, the TV adaptation starts losing ground and the role of the Ghost of Christmas Future is cut short. The mini-series becomes too explanatory for an audience that is by now clear is not kids. Thus, certain explanations are not needed, but they are given nonetheless. Then, everything happens too fast as if the filmmakers suddenly realised that the mini-series’ runtime is coming to an end and they must hurry. But then, more explanations are given, forgetting the “show, don’t tell” rule. Furthermore, in the end, the story feels incomplete as the denouement does not address certain issues, i.e., “redemption” from his nephew or the coal miners’ families.

Guy Pearce, Andy Serkis, Stephen Graham, Jason Flemyng, Johnny Harris, and Charlotte Riley are but a few of Britain’s finest actors who perform brilliantly in front of the camera. Joe Alwyn and Vinette Robinson make excellent additions to that cast and play a significant role to the story’s development. Behind the camera. Steven Night, Ridley Scott, and Tom Hardy, among others, put on the producer’s hat and – in my humble opinion – must have done some serious pitching to the BBC to take on such distribution. I guess, if you are about to adapt a classic that has been adapted numerous times before, you may as well do it in a way that it has never been done before.

Stay safe and… Merry Christmas!!!

The Night Before (2015): Comedy / Fantasy

Three lifelong friends who are about to spend their last Christmas together, get tickets to a party that will put their lives into perspective.

Vulgar language, anecdotal situations, surreal characters… anything you can expect from a Rogen/Goldberg production. Co-writer/director Jonathan Levine teams up again Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, after 50/50 (2011) and with the amazing Anthony Mackie joining the crew… the fun has started already. On a second thought, more or less, everyone has worked with someone else more than once in the past. And, of course, James Franco pops up! Oh, did I mention Michael Shannon, Lizzy Caplan, and Mindy Kaling? This is quite the gang.

This is a trippy journey that, in its vast majority, it is very much to the bone. References to Die Hard (1988), Home Alone (1990) and Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, make it a great buddy, Christmas film, especially, in times like these. Ultimately, it’s very predictable but you wouldn’t expect anything else from a Christmas movie, even an R-rated one. In all honesty, the church sequence is hilarious and the confession moment at Caplan’s front door is quite funny. Then, the amount of improvisation by almost everyone is also admirable.

Love it or loathe it, that is the kind of comedy you sign up for. Should you decide to watch it, just go along. We all deserve a laugh these days.

Stay safe!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012): Drama / Romance

A lonely freshman befriends two seniors and gets to experience life for what it really is.

The epitome of modern American indie cinema! Watching it again eight years later, I realised the film hasn’t aged a day. Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller make an incredible acting trio and their chemistry lies in the details. Just pay attention to the simplistic beauty when a “baked” Charlie unintentionally tells Sam about his best friend or when Patrick dances on Charlie’s lap during The Rocky Horror Picture Show scene. Even though not saying or doing much, Paul Rudd is inspiring and great addition to the cast.

Author of the book, screenwriter, and director Stephen Chbosky shocks his audience with his character-driven achievement. Each sequence amalgamates with the next and all of them masterfully compose an introvert teenager’s stepping into a life he once only dreamed of. If you’ve watched it, did you even notice that they have no cell phones or that they are not talking about social media? Did you wonder what the date is? Since the first time I watched it, I have learned how to “read” films in a more concise manner. Pay attention to the editing, for example. How much does it give away throughout the film about the ending? In the end, how much do you get to see and how much is left to your imagination during the shockingly culminating scene?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower could have been an entirely different film in the hands of the late John Hughes but, as it stands, it is a must-watch and a reminder that some times, less is more. Its powerful narrative does not try impress anyone. It just captivates everyone.

Stay safe!

P.S. Charlie is an older freshman. I totally missed it the first time as I haven’t read the book but pay attention to the cake’s candles and liaise it later on to the conversation he is having with his brother.

P.P.S My beloved Ioanna, you know this one goes out to you 🙂

Cold War (2018): Drama / History / Music

During the 50s, in Poland, a music director and a leading singer fall in love but after they agree to defect to France they part ways.

What a year for cinematography! First time in Oscar history that three out of five film nominations were foreign films. There are so many production details that could turn my review into an analysis. My contribution here though is not encyclopedic but merely an alert on why you should watch it (if you haven’t) and not miss out.

Shooting in chronological order and changing the filmmaking style over the (screen) years respectively, writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski makes the second film in his native language, after the amazing Ida (2013) – which I admired watching in a beautiful theatre in London – he recasts Joanna Kulig and Agata Kulesza but also numerous members of the crew. Needless to say that Tomasz Kot breaths his role. An amalgamation of Pawlikowski’s parents story and a real-life folk dance group, Cold War explores love, lifestyle, ambition, inflated ego, self-aggrandisement, and, in times like these, the inevitable involvement of goddamn politics in everything we do and say in our lives. Cold War is a chronicle of this perplexity called life, seeking the long-lost happiness within us, bringing to the surface our inability to always miss it when it was in front of us.

Other than photography, the acting too deserves a standing ovation – the film got an 18-minute one in Cannes Film Festival. And before I go… “It’s not a film until it’s edited” – Michael Kahn. Like the aforementioned Ida (review to follow), Cold War is masterfully put together, teaching when not to cut. Even though more obvious in Ida, here as well, Jaroslaw Kaminski meticulously cuts between action and reaction shots and builds both narrative and character, setting the pace and rhythm of the film. Ask yourselves this: how long after does the editor cut when the scene’s action is completed? Respectively, how long does the editor keep the reaction shot, where there is one?

Contrasting Hollywood cinema, Cold War wins the impressions with its simplicity, developing relatable, everyday characters, living in political and social unrest that inevitably become victims of their own desires and passions; their human nature.

Stay safe!

The Psychology of Horror: Preparedness and Purpose

Tonight, I’m interviewing Dr. Mathias Clasen. Mathias, among other things, is Associate Professor at Aarhus University, teaching at the School of Communication and Culture, director of Recreational Fear Lab, and Associate Editor of Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture. Literary Darwinism, Gothic, Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Apocalyptic and Post-apocalyptic Texts, but also Cognitive and Evolutionary Theory are only but a few of the research areas he specialises in. Tonight, he is talking to me about a very interesting research of his on the pandemic and horror films but also explains what it is that attracts us to the genre.

https://pure.au.dk/portal/en/engmc@hum.au.dk

https://au.academia.edu/MathiasClasen

http://horror.dk/mathias/

https://esiculture.com/

Goddess of Love (2015): Drama / Horror / Mystery

Having found out that her boyfriend is cheating on her, a drug addict and mentally unstable woman starts losing sense of reality.

I find it intriguing when people ask me about films I am not aware of and then I wonder, “why don’t I know it”? Well, I don’t want to brag too much but, most of the times, there is a good goddamn reason. Of course, then, I have found myself being oblivious to films I should have known hence, I watch more or less, many of the films people suggest I should “definitely” watch.

Goddess of Love is a pseudo neo-noir that I should not definitely watch. Playing around with words, I could have said that it’s a film that I should definitely not watch. But I’m not gonna put it that way. I just found it awkward, meaningless, and boring. Admittedly, I don’t know anyone from the cast or crew so, I can’t comment on their past work. What I do know though for sure is that if I had a girlfriend like Alexis Kendra, I wouldn’t cheat on her (even with Elizabeth Sandy).

In all fairness, I have never cheated and if haven’t done it so far, I will most definitely not do it in the future. The film touches on infidelity, abandonment, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and eroticism but doesn’t explore any of it, approaching seriously epidemically the human relationships, making every character unlikable, unrelatable, indifferent, pitiful, and I’ll dare to say hateable. Even Venus – not the cat, luv…

I know, there is a twist. But by that point, for the viewer, it is a bit too late. Just to finish on a positive note, Kendra and Sandy are playing their parts quite well.

A Ghost Story (2017): Drama / Fantasy / Romance

A white-sheeted, nostalgic ghost, permanently resides in its home and everything that, in the passage of time, becomes after that.

A friend of mine called me, laughing at IMDb’s reviews on this one. So, even though I don’t really look at reviews before I watch a film, I only read the titles. I’ve seen cases before where reviews are either 1 or 10 and nothing in between, and since the titles were entertaining, I decided to give it a shot.

Let me be clear from the beginning. A Ghost Story is not for everyone! What we are dealing with here is an interesting yet peculiar storytelling with protracted steady medium and long shots that initially make little sense. The narrative unfolds though and life, linearly or not, moves on with just a few edits. Be patient with these shots and think that your life does’t have cuts either. It would also help if you perceived the narration as omniscient – being everywhere simultaneously. During this journey, I couldn’t help but feel the ghost’s loneliness and entrapment. The ability to manoeuvre in time and the inability to do nothing about it. Imagine yourself seeing the world spinning, confined by your questionable existence. An existence that is unknown to everybody as much as it is to you. But still you wait for someone to finally acknowledge this questionable existence you have become. Admittedly, after the ghost’s free fall, the convolution becomes also questionable. But please remember what I said earlier about the non-linear.

Have you ever wondered what the origins of dĂ©jĂ  vu are? Cinema is a form of expression. That’s why it’s art. The aforementioned protracted shots make sense somewhere halfway through the film while understanding the narrative and David Lowery’s subjective perception of time and space. Let the mise-en-scène inaudibly “speak” when the silence is deafening. You may be wondering where is she? Has she become a ghost too? Has she gone to a final destination? Is there a final destination? But then think of something that you can, potentially, answer. Who is waiting for you?

Stay safe!

P.S. A few days after I watched it, it came to light that one of the producers was accused of raping one of the film’s young girls. Hollywood’s depravity spreads like pestilence!

Under the Silver Lake (2018): Crime / Drama / Mystery

An unemployed, soon-to-be-evicted, for some reason bad-smelling, disheveled young man is looking for a disappeared woman who only met once, only to start getting obsessed with a Los Angeles conspiracy.

David Robert Mitchell… probably most known for It Follows (2014), comes back, still paying tribute to John Carpenter, but also Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma with a neo-noir mystery/crime about a lifestyle, only known to the City of Angels. If Body Double (1984) and They Live (1988) are films you haven’t watched yet, you must do so either before or after this. Under the Silver Lake is one of them films that can be interpreted in multiple ways. “Attacking” pop culture, being pedantic to the millennials, “accusing” the old guard for manipulating the youth, diminishing star system’s mentality, criticizing Hollywood’s lifestyle, touching on mental illness… all these, and more, are possible interpretations that one can give to Mitchell’s work.

Pay attention to the recurring themes, the coincidences, the resemblances with past popular films – especially Hitchcock’s, the REM song Sam dances to, the way the girl drowns (no spoilers)… Mitchell is an asset to the independent American cinema who implements techniques from studio level films to indies that are doomed to make any money whatsoever but add quality to the American cinema and give actors the opportunity to unfold their talents by fully expressing themselves and be seen to the audience in way that, more often than not, Hollywood deprives from them. Of course, critics were divided and, of course, Hollywood’s system rejected it. Leaning on Hitchcock’s tombstone and having drinks on Grace Kelly’s grave is an allusion to an, arguably, inequitable system that really respects no one and nothing.

I’ve never been to L.A. so, I’m not sure if that lifestyle is somewhat representative of how certain people live by. But not having a job, spending money you don’t have, not caring if you’re gonna be evicted, pay for hookers with the above mentioned money you don’t have, and all that in an astronomically expensive city where, somehow, everything and everyone is related to the movie industry, where they can go to parties that happen every night – uninvited, seems like a world within a world that only the people living there, and somehow can afford it (or not), understand it. Did I mention, disregarding at the same time killers been after you? But then, I guess, that very same lifestyle might also be the root of this superfluous paranoia…

Stay safe!

Burning (2018): Drama / Mystery

A young man, leading a dead-end life reunites with a girl he used to know right before her trip to Africa, but when she comes back with a guy who has a dark hobby, everything changes.

The opening sequence’s protracted, tracking shot raised high expectations. Expectations that were met in all three acts. The cinematic realism is evident from beginning to the end in both the character and story development. Jong-su and Hae-mi will spit in the cup to put the cigarette out, their sex scene reflects on their levels of experience respectively, when Hae-mi and Ben arrive at the airport and how Lee is positioned (great subtle “show, don’t tell” example)… everything that Jong-su does and how his posture supports it, really. Try not to miss a thing! Everyone and everything is positioned or move within the frame exactly as it’s supposed to. Body language becomes imperative in understanding everyone’s intentions but also secrets. What I mean to say is that the mise-en-scène is immaculate. Especially, do not disregard Hae-mi’s pantomime in the setup. It is also the key to understanding that particular human element that will be Jong-su’s guiding force. It’s great to see Steven Yeun in a Korean film, by the way.

Burning is an example to follow from every possible aspect. Listen to the power of the diegetic sound and how it should not be undermined by its opposite. Specifically, it is a fine example of when not to cut. Each shot’s information remains fresh till the end, leaving no room for stale (the great Walter Murch’s useful definitions). Everything is catalytic to the narrative. Track how your perception between Lee and Ben perception will constantly be changing. Haruki Murakami’s and William Faulkner’s original short stories with the same name “Barn Burning” are given the justice they deserve by Chang-dong Lee in a, as co-screenwriter Oh Jung Mi put it, “a dance that seeks the meaning of life”.

False memories, deception, hidden agendas, obsession, dishonesty, naivety… are parts of us that we either hate to admit about ourselves or define us, and there is no way us knowing. And with the closing sequence’s protracted tracking shot, our chances to get the answers we want become slim to none. Not only that, but we’ll raise questions we wouldn’t think, at first, we would. Cinematic realism reflects on life’s realism, though. It is part of the exploration. And that we’ll have to accept it.

Stay safe!

P.S. George, that one’s for you mate. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Charismata (2017): Crime / Horror / Mystery

A young female detective starts suffering from a dream-reality confusion while investigating a series of ritualistic murders.

Right, I’ll be quick. I couldn’t take it seriously from the opening sequence. It’s meant to be ‘horror’ but the British humour overshadowed every chance there was to scare me – and I’m talking slim to none. Writers/directors Andy Collier and Toor Mian are obviously David Fincher fans, but the budget, story and character development, photography, editing, acting, but also the profound understanding of a serial killer’s psychosynthesis are hardly evident in the film.

But hey… Charismata is a British low budget indie horror that took time, money, and effort to get made and had no intention to fool you or undermine your intelligence. Should you decide to watch it, it’ll take your mind off things for just over an hour and a half, and actually, entertain you a little. Plus, it does have a couple of impressive shots.

Stay safe!

Logan (2017): Action / Drama / Sci-Fi

In 2029, where the X-Men are gone and mutants are on the verge of extinction, an elderly and slowly dying Logan must lead Charles Xavier and a young mutant to safety when an evil corporation goes after them.

I don’t write about superhero films, really. As much as I’ve watched them all and as much as I’m a graphic novel collector, I prefer to keep a distance. But I intend to write about my top 5 (to date) as I truly think they are powerful films and, in my humble opinion, the best of their kind. And, after watching it for the third time, Logan most certainly still remains in that top 5.

First and foremost, because of Hugh Jackman and Sir Patrick Stewart. Secondly, due to (co)writer/director James Mangold. The trio makes a combo that brings to life an unprecedented, R-rated, existential drama/fiction, no one expected to see. Mangold’s genius lies in synthesizing the narrative; the character and the story development. Such synthesis requires a thorough understanding of who the Wolverine was and what he had accomplished, while never managing to make peace with his nature and never overcoming his loathing for his nurture. And that, respectively, requires a thorough understanding of the difference between thinking of knowing what an antihero is and the unfathomably harsh reality of having to live with yourself and everything you have done, for almost two centuries, to become that wrong perception.

Officially, the film is a standalone and it follows neither the original X-Men’s timeline and its prequels nor the franchise’s prequels. However, Charles Xavier is mentioning the Statue of Liberty incident, and he reminds him that he found him in a time that he was a cage fighter. This, by itself, does not mean that the franchise prequels’ timeline is not followed either. In fact, the Samurai sword from Wolverine (2013) can be briefly seen as well. I think that the only one that has been left out of the canon is X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) but Kinberg’s film has already been forgotten and left out of every timeline ever existed right after it hit the big screen.

From Wolverine (2011) to… Old Man Logan, the hero’s journey has had its ups and downs but this is the best denouement a cinematic (anti)hero has ever seen.

Stay safe!

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Deep down I knew The New Mutants (2020) would take the torch after Logan. I knew it! “New Mutants” is brought up as a concept in Logan and the The New Mutants trailer was reeking of Essex Corporation. It is a bloody shame that, after waiting for so long, with a unique trailer for the X-Men franchise, and so talented new actors it was such a disappointment. Not only that but it had a huge plothole too. The film takes place after Logan – so after 2029, but we don’t know exactly when. By then, the X-Men were long gone, yet one of the new mutants speculates that the doctors’ bosses are the X-Men, non-verbally implying, specifically, Charles Xavier. One of them, at least, should have got their facts straight.

Jungleland (2019): Drama

Two brothers, in an attempt to score big, travel across the country for a bare-knuckle boxing match, but the way they see their journey end gradually gets in the way.

Jungleland… the type of American indie that makes your heart race, wondering from the opening sequence what on earth will go horribly wrong. That said, Jessica Barden (who for some reason reminded me of Maggie Gyllenhaal), and the magnificent duo Charlie Hunnam and Jack O’Connell are all British doing a great job posing as Americans – how about producer Ridley Scott?

Despite the great acting though, Jungleland‘s strong suit is the blur line that doesn’t distinguish ambition from greed. Writers Theodore Bressman and David Branson Smith, and writer/director Max Winkler (son of legendary Henry Winkler) bring to life a beautiful story that will make you wonder, how far would you go to make your dreams come true? And make you think how far you have gone so far…

Does it actually go horribly wrong though? That is for you to decide. The long-awaited moment has finally arrived and Hunnam with O’Connell are on screen together and reveal about their lives whatever you need to know and not necessarily what you want to. Would I prefer to see them in a British film as a Northerner and a Midlander respectively? Sure. Does it matter though that they put an accent and they are overseas? Not really. Remember, a film that lets you in halfway through and lets you out at a not expected point in time is a reminder of Ithaca; it’s not about the destination, but the journey itself.

Stay safe!

P.S. On a personal note, as I have been living for years in the city that Jack O’Connell and Michael Socha were born, I have met them both, and I must tell you that, other than great actors, they are both great human beings.

Take Shelter (2011): Drama / Horror / Thriller

Haunting apocalyptic visions will make a man doubt himself, face his family, confront society, and build a shelter for what he thinks is coming.

One of my favourite underrated, films of all time. A visually stunning film that gives the opportunity to actors to unleash their talent, the suspenseful narrative to naturally and patiently unfold, and the viewer to unconditionally absorb what cinematic experience really means. And that shows right off the bat from the opening sequence.

If you haven’t watched it, writer/director Jeff Nichols will get you wondering all the way: Is it? Is it happening? Is it in his head? But that’s not just it. Think about it… How much “different” can society tolerate? How many times were you sure you were right and no one believed you? But… how many times were you sure you were right and how did you feel when you realised you weren’t? Also, how many times have you truly followed your gut no matter what everyone else thought or said?

Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain do a wonderful couple on screen, expressing all these doubts and beliefs and transgress the rules. Shea Whigham is always underrated and I hope one day a major festival acknowledges his talent and award him respectively. Last but not least, from beginning to end, pay attention to Adam Stone’s cinematography; it is absolutely thrilling.

Take Shelter does leave the viewer with some unanswered questions but that’s part of the journey’s mystery and the reason why a film’s flavour lasts way past the scrolling end credits.

Stay safe!

Tusk (2014): Comedy / Drama / Horror

An arrogant podcaster is flying to Canada for his show, but ends up a prisoner by a mentally deranged old man who wants to turn him into a walrus.

I had to watch it again. Well, not really. But I did, anyway. It is a film that my mate Ben and I were discussing years ago and it was most definitely… challenging! Everything about Tusk is beyond understanding. The concept first and foremost: An old man kidnaps you with the intention to make you a walrus. Still, it’s not The Human Centipede (2009) but that’s meant to be a sick, disgusting, stitching-ass-to-mouth horror. Something that brings me to the another beyond understanding point which is that… this is a Kevin Smith film. The guy who brought us the Clerks franchise, Chasing Amy (1997), and Dogma (1999). But then he also brought us Red State (2011) so, I don’t know why I act surprised.

Tusk is a film that if you know nothing about it, it’ll shock you and disgust you. There is nothing I can say to make it make it more appealing or more difficult to watch. One thing I can say is that the cast nails it! Shockingly amazing team!!! Kevin Smith has experimented over the years. Cop Out (2010) was not my thing. If you asked me, it’s probably his most indifferent work to date. But all the rest of his work is very much appealing and interesting. He is a comic book nerd who has challenged and defied a lot of Hollywood taboos over the years. You’re gonna love it or loath it. Regardless, think about this: Punishment for being a pompous a$$hole has also its limits.

Ben, that’s for you my mate. I hope my review makes it to the land of the rising sun…

I bid farewell to the one and only Sean Connery. Rest in peace, sir!

Happy Halloween and stay safe!

Found Footage: The Beginning, the Escalation, and its Societal Impact

Tonight, Erik Kristopher Myers (ekm) is talking about the roots of the found footage subgenre, its evolution, its contribution to the cinema, and its effects on society. Myers is a writer and filmmaker. His film Roulette (2013) won numerous festival trophies and his latest feature Butterfly Kisses (2018) shot to the top of the Amazon charts for New Release Fantasy, scoring rave reviews. Myers has also won numerous awards for screenwriting and editing, and among others, he has been a producer for XM Satellite Radio, a reporter for WTOP News, and film critic for The Dagger and Ain’t it Cool News.

The Horror Inside Us: Leading Anxieties and False Certainties

Tonight, Dr. Michael Lee is talking about the horror inside us and why and how one’s inner certainties and anxieties can render the everyday person monstrous. Dr. Lee teaches courses on 20th-century music history, American music history, film music and film studies at the University of Oklahoma. Over the years, he has been teaching courses on the history of horror films and one of his many specialties is Vampire Cinema. He is music historian, loving horror movies with passion and began researching their film scores and their diversified styles, especially, from the 1930s and 1940s. Listen to how our perception affects the way we interpret horrors and what was Val Lewton’s contribution.

Open 24 Hours (2018): Horror

Having just been released from prison for setting her deranged boyfriend on fire, a young woman gets a night job at a petrol station, where her past catches up with her.

Promising opening shots that become too explanatory, too soon. The type of shots that fully increase the plot’s predictability. Keep watching and you’ll see that they also become repetitive too so, even if you spot a good one, chances are that you’ll watch it again (and again) minutes later and it will lose its authenticity. Do not be alarmed though because as you’ll keep watching, you’ll realise that the film is inundated with clichĂ©s that are the outcome of the aforementioned shots. Unfortunately, it all starts with the script which just borrowed parts from loving horrors of the 80s and 90s and stitched them, unnecessarily, together. I have the utmost respect for indie films as they do their absolute best for the tiny money they have managed to procure. And here, the film’s budget is not the issue.

The issue is that writer/director Padraig Raynolds decided not to leave a trademark on his film. Other than the above mentioned copies and pastes, the composer shouldn’t have tried to copy Psycho‘s (1960) staccato and the Raynolds shouldn’t have used music throughout the whole film. The power of the diegetic sound is immense, especially in narration, and it should have been used a lot more. Unfortunately, Raynolds raised the implausibility levels sky-high.

Full disclosure: I found Vanessa Grasse, who I first noticed in Leatherface (2017), very attractive so I’m a bit biased. I believe she has a lot to learn about acting and with the right guidance she’ll do really great. I for one, look forward to seeing her in more projects and I hope her natural beauty doesn’t get in the way of her promising career.

To cut the long story short, the story is original but its development screams all the cliches Scream (1996) is on about. Only “virgin horror eyes” will fall for these jump-scares and not even them won’t bother asking (more than they can count), “how the f@!$ did that happen?!” On the flipside, me counting the innumerable gimmicks, momentarily, forgot all about real life’s miseries so what the hell…

Stay safe!

A Good Woman is Hard to Find (2019): Crime / Drama / Thriller

Having recently lost her husband, a young mother is trying to protect her children from poverty and her little town’s underworld.

Goddamn poverty! Goddamn misery! Goddamn drugs! Regardless which triggers which and in what order, the defining opening shot somehow is immediately understood by the shots that follow it. Or is it?

Writer/director of Road Games (2015), Abner Pastoll, directs a gritty Irish thriller with a realistic plague, a surrealist villain, and a down to Earth heroine that has to put up with both while protecting her children. And what a heroine’s journey that is…

Pastoll creates a dark for the audience yet healthy for the actors environment to showcase their chemistry and shine in front of the camera. Sarah Bolger, Edward Hogg, and Andrew Simpson lead the way but the rest of the cast follows and supports them as they should to create this thrilling crime/drama. Much respect for the whole crew that managed to bring this low budget, indie film to life.

Now… I cannot not comment on the dildo… probably the weirdest use(s) I’ve seen outside comedy. One is, unintentionally funny. Or dramatically funny – is there such a thing? Stealing your kids’ batteries from their toys to put them in your vibrator because you are a recently widowed young mum with urges isn’t funny… just funnily portrayed. Come on, I mean, I am sure they knew the mixed reactions the scene would stimulate. On the other hand, stabbing someone’s eye with the same vibrator you satisfy yourself to save yourself from rape is nothing but ironic (but relieving nonetheless).

Despite your feelings towards it, at least, you’ll witness a security system that uses VHS, and you’ll learn what a metaphor is…

Stay safe!

Directors and Horror Films

Ashley Scott Meyers is a writer, producer and director and owns the blog sellingyourscreenplay.com where you can find practical tips and advice on how to sell your screenplay. He also runs SYS Select where you can subscribe to receive premium screenwriting leads, online coaching and mentoring, online courses, and more. Among other things, tonight, he is talking about the production and artistic differences between indie and studio level horrors, their perception by both audience and directors and the importance of narrative in filmmaking.

Ashley Scott Meyers: Writer / Producer / Director

http://www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/

13th (2016): Documentary / Crime

The astronomical rise of the prison population in the US throughout the decades, through victimization of ethnic minorities and partnerships between correctional facilities and private corporations.

A brave new world! Well, not so new really. Well, not so brave either I guess. Writer, producer, and director Ava DuVernay hits the nail on the head with a revealing documentary on the, once inexplicable, rise of the prison population and its deep connections to the racial inequality, the capitalist system, and their common denominator which is none other than the continuously manipulative governments.

I am pretty convinced that DuVernay’s footage was dozens of hours long and she could probably have had about three documentaries like 13th. While evaluating her footage, she decided to narrow it down and tell the story the way she did. The documentary’s strong suit is the information it provides on the connection between the era of slavery to the media and cinema and The Birth of a Nation (1915) to the present era, and how is all connected to the rise of the correctional facilities industry. I for one, and not being American, I didn’t have the foggiest so that was, while unpleasant and disheartening, an eye-opening experience. The research was also solid and the archive footage was strong and extremely effective, it literally put a lot into perspective.

And even though I learned loads about the disgusting, filthy companies that profit from human suffering, I didn’t get around why the poor who can’t get out of prison have been incarcerated to begin with. I got an idea, don’t get me wrong, but instead on spending some time to expand on it, it expanded on movements and actions that were not related to the rise of the prison population.

The editing in documentaries such as 13th plays a catalytic role in narrative formation. Documentary is research. The filmmaker does not really know where it will lead or how it will really lead them where it will. It is a journey. O.J.: Made in America (2016) is a perfect example of that. 7 hours and 47 minutes, after editing, that focuses on the chronicle of O.J. Simpson, the anchor of the documentary, and only expands to the events that surround his case.

Regardless, 13th is a must-watch as is DuVernay’s previous work Selma (2014), and the biographical When They See Us (2019) – reviews to follow.

Panagiotis, this one’s for you mate. Thank you for the recommendation.

Stay safe!

Midnight FM (2010): Action / Crime / Thriller

During a radio producer’s last show, a serial killer invades her home threatening to kill her family.

The overwhelming suspense! Three thrilling acts that will keep you glued to your seats until the very end. There is not one dull moment throughout the film. Korean suspenseful narrative that, as usual, it does not hold back and does not disappoint. This is a story-driven thriller where all utterances and actions are held accountable for is going to happen next.

Excellent directing that the fast-paced editing unfolds the fabula and syuzhet exactly when the information is needed to be disclosed. Soo Ae and Ji-Tae Yoo shine on camera, creating a stimulating chemistry. Extra round of applause goes to the little girls for their equally brilliant performances.

Midnight FM is a must-watch and no matter what I say will not make it more appealing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Stay safe!

Gardens of the Night (2008): Drama

Two little kids, a boy and a girl, after being abducted and mentally and physically abused, they become adults and live on the streets, doing whatever is necessary to survive.

As you may have figured by now, I’m a horror fan. Gardens of the Night, definitely not a horror film, addresses one of the scariest scenarios for every living human being, especially parents. The non-linear narrative tells the story in a way that sustains the suspense until the end. Producer /writer/director Damian Harris develops the plot in a way that will glue you to your seats and will make you want to intervene, to step in, to take action, and end the atrocity. The fact that you won’t be able to though, something that you know but you are willing to fool yourselves even for a second, will make you at least root for the kids but also the adults and pray for a happy ending. I personally hate happy endings. But not when I know that tragedies like the film’s theme are actually happening while I’m writing this review, right now.

It is a powerful film! There are shots that will make you cringe, and there shots, such as the one with the milk in the fridge and adult Leslie after the failed sex scene that will make you want to squeeze the chair your are sitting on and cry your eyes out.

My standing ovation goes to everyone: Harris for doing all the hard work. Ryan Simpkins and Jermaine ‘Scooter’ Smith, and Gillian Jacobs and Evan Ross, for carrying the film on their shoulders. John Malkovich, Peter Evans, Peta Wilson, Michelle Rodriguez, Shiloh Fernandez, Harold Perrineau and Jeremy Sisto for having cameos that anyone could have done them and yet they decided to simply participate due to the film’s nightmarish nature. Especially, Tom Arnold who has experienced first hand this nightmare and took the most detestable part. Last but not least, the rest of the cast and crew who made this film possible. Bravo!

This is the American style of filmmaking that reveals a layer of our society that no one wants to admit it exists. That no one wants to know it exists. A layer that is not buried deep under but right in front of us and yet we willingly turn the goddamn blind eye because it would shake us to our core. And then we would have to overlook ourselves just to do something about it. My utmost respect to the unknown, suffering heroes who do… and the poor souls who have to endure it…

Stay safe!

The Deeper You Dig (2019): Drama / Horror

A terrible accident haunts the man who caused it and blurs the line between the living and the dead.

This is why I love indie films. No major studio busting the cast’s and crew’s balls… only the director’s creative decisions… narrative that doesn’t have to abide by conventional rules… You know what I mean? If not, watch The Deeper You Dig and you’ll find out.

The tight script, shot and edited in an experimental American style, will get your attention from the opening shot. The music and the sound department get credits aplenty for truly understanding the writers’ and directors’ vision and creating an eerie and at the same time awkward atmosphere. For that awkwardness though and the weird dissonance there are two more people responsible: the two leading actors, John Adams and Toby Poser, who guess what? They are also the writers, directors but also the producers, editors, and composers. To top it up, they are also husband and wife in real life, and the daughter in the film, Zelda Adams, is their actual daughter as well. A family affair indeed. You wouldn’t believe how their production company is called… Adams Family!

Kudos to all three of them, they’ve done a brilliant job in every department. I wouldn’t call it a horror but definitely an interesting thriller. I will admit that past the… deep supernatural information (no spoilers), the convolution got me to scratch my beard more than once and the ending is nothing like I expected. This merely means that it’s a good or a bad thing but that’s how the creators envisaged it, that’s how they executed it, and I take it as it comes. Extra kudos to the photography and editing. That means, the quirks with the foibles. I hope you do the same.

Stay safe!

The Importance of Dystopia in Sci-fi

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on why constructing the perfect society is nothing like constructing a seemingly perfect society. In other words, why filmmakers see the future in a cataclysmic and calamitous light.

Stay safe!

Kids in Horror: Source of Evil vs Source of Resolution

Michelle Satchwell is Head of the Social Sciences Department at a large school in Derbyshire, UK. She analyses the use of kids in horror films and examines the genre through the prism of Evolutionary, Cognitive, Psychodynamic, and Social Psychology. She will definitely make you question yourselves why you feel the way you do when you watch a horror.

References:

Trypophobia – fear of irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps, e.g. buttons, crumpets, sponges etc.

Evolutionary/Biological psychology

There’s not a named psychologist, but we tend to take Dawkins and apply to psychology.

Emamzadeh (2018) Origin of common fears: A review (Psychology Today)

Parapsychology

[ESP cards]

Utts (1991) Replication and meta-analysis in parapsychology.

Cognitive psychology

[Elizabeth Loftus pioneer in the field and expert witness in courts].

Loftus and Palmer (1974) Reconstruction of automobile destruction (I mentioned experiment 1).

Loftus and Pickerell (1995) Lost in the mall study.

Jean Piaget (1952) Assimilation and Accommodation in Schema theory.

Psychodynamic psychology

Sigmund Freud (1917) Introduction to psychoanalysis.

[Id, Ego, and Superego all part of the Tripartite model of the personality in our unconscious like an iceberg].

Social psychology

Haney et al (1973) Stanford Prison experiment.

Zimbardo (2007) Lucifer effect.

Piliavin et al (1969) Good Samaritanism.

[The bystander effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSsPfbup0ac]

Behaviourism

Pavlov (1897) Classical conditioning in dogs

Social Learning theory:

Bandura et al (1961) Bobo doll experiment.

Michelle’s book: Psychology Review: A-level Exam Skills and Practice Paperback – 30 Oct. 2020 ISBN-10: 1398308013

The Town (2010): Crime / Drama / Thriller

The Town.jpg

A band of thieves terrorise the banks of Boston but when personal feelings and the FBI get in the way, everyone’s loyalty is at stake.

10 years old and not outdated a bit. Thrilling action and suspenseful drama to keep you pinned to your seats for two hours. Since the beginning of his career, Ben Affleck has been proving time and time again his undeniable talent both in front and behind the camera. Think of The Town as Heat (1995) meets Good Will Hunting (1997). An exceptional mid-90s action film, fifteen years later. Next to Affleck, Jeremy Renner will make you wonder, “is he actually such an asshole?” He is meant to be one and he nails it as he nails the accent. One of his best performances to date. Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, and Blake Lively couldn’t have been a better choice, and Titus Welliver, Chris Cooper, and the late Pete Postlethwaite are as hateable as they were meant to be. A-list form head to toe!

I know that you probably have watched it. If you have, watch it again. It is most definitely worth it. If somehow you’ve missed it, make it your next film!

Stay safe!

Valley of Shadows (2017): Drama / Horror / Mystery

Valley of Shadows.jpg

After his dog ran away, a little boy’s quest to the unknown leads him to a forest where urban legends and reality blend into one.

The obvious achievement is Marius Matzow Gulbrandsen’s cinematography. And by that, I mean Oskar-level cinematography. Young Adam Ekeli plays the part exactly as he should be and for that, other than his skills, Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen’s directing is to praise. The amazing Zbigniew Preisner’s music adds the final touch with his mesmerising and atmospheric composition. The very slow-paced rhythm and the lack of action should not put you off. Valley of Shadows is the definition of a hero’s journey told in a Scandinavian (Nordic) way. 

I stumbled upon the film completely by accident and I am so glad I did. The narrative is extremely restricted, making you experience the aforementioned journey through the kid’s eyes alone. Travel back to that age and try to remember how you perceived reality when you were little. Then, and only then, come back and interpret the events the way you see fit. I repeat, do not expect action. Pretend you are that kid having been lost in that eerie, yet dazzling forest, knowing nothing about conscious or unconscious elucidations.

Stay safe!

The Villainess (2017): Action / Thriller

The Villainess.jpg

A female assassin accepts a mission that turns her world upside down.

One of the most impressive and bloody opening action sequences you have ever seen! Nikita (1990), meets Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), meets Doom (2005). And then, they all meet a tad cliché and unnecessarily convoluted storyline.

A young girl who witnesses her father getting murdered (1), gets saved and recruited by some people (2), who help her avenge her father’s vicious murder (3), but then gets caught by a government organisation (4), which offers to train her (again?) (5), and ten years later, she starts a normal life (6), but goes back to doing missions (7). That’s the story’s development. And then there is the character’s (un)development. Finishing the second training, she comes out with fewer skills than the first.

The editing is somewhat confusing too. Ten years fly by like months. And time flies by after that too until the last mission where it decelerates to real-time. The rhythm and pace of this film is a case study. As for the directing… Honestly, it feels like the opening sequence’s director quit or got sacked during act two, and came back just for the final confrontation.

Please watch it if you haven’t already, and feel free to share your opinion. Maybe it’s me.

Stay safe!

The Wretched (2019): Horror

The Wretched

A teenager spends his summer working for his dad, falls in love, and confronts an ancient demonic entity.

Strong opening sequence to get your undivided attention, followed by some American cliche but… don’t let that trick you. The indie spirit of filmmaking makes it interesting, original (partially), funny, agonising, and quite scary. Until half-way the second act, it feels like it’s two different films eagerly waiting to become one. Past the second act’s montage, the moment you start thinking: “Yes, but how…”stop it! Play along! The Wretched beats a lot of conventions, something that makes it a highly enjoyable must-watch, summer horror flick (if you didn’t watch it last year). The HUGE POSITIVE SURPRISE is Piper Curda who is as hilarious as she is thrilling. She definitely stands out.

The Wretched is a highly enjoyable summer horror flick (not for the whole family) to spend an hour and a half, forgetting our sad reality. I hope you feel the same way.

Stay safe!

Influential, Dissuasive, and Thought-Provoking Monologues

monologue-cover.jpg

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on some of the most influential, dissuasive, and thought-provoking monologues I hand-picked. I hope these chosen ones entertain you, educate you, and, potentially, find an application in the way you see and experience life.

Stay safe!

Influential, Dissuasive, and Thought-Provoking Monologues

Stuber (2019): Action / Comedy / Crime

Stuber.jpg

Determined to avenge the death of his partner, a huge cop with limited vision recruits an Uber driver to take him to the city’s most dangerous parts.

Watch the trailer! What you see is exactly what you sign up for. If you like it, you’ll like the movie. If not… Bob’s your uncle. In a nutshell, Stuber and the genres accompanying it, describe accurately what kind of a film it is: action/comedy/crime. There is a crime and then there is a lot of comedic action that follows it. Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani make a funny duet in a project that looks like… erm… a… version of Taxi (1998)? It isn’t, but you get the idea. Mira Sorvino, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Iko Uwais, and Karen Gillan complete the cast and charm the film even more with their presence.

There is no reason to be negative and bitter about films such as Stuber. It is an R-rated funny-buddy-action flick with the only noble intention to entertain you and nothing more. After watching the evening news, Stuber is definitely the right choice before bed.

Stay safe!

The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil (2019): Action / Crime / Drama

The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil.jpg

A hard as nails cop joins forces with a crime boss to take down a serial killer.

Based on a true story, The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil will get your undivided attention right off the bat from the opening scene. The South Korean film school proves time and time again that no matter what the genre, the outcome will be fulfilling and worth every minute you spend on it. Mu-Yeol Kim and Ma Dong-seok as cop and gangster respectively, develop excellent chemistry in their unlike partnership, offering a high-octane action / thriller trying to capture an unknown serial killer.

Captivating photography, engaging editing, and brilliant character and story development. Ma Dong-seok, after his amazing performance in Train to Busan (2016) comes back, punching above his league and comes out a winner stealing the show. Also, check Mu-Yeol Kim in Forgotten (2017) https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/05/25/forgotten-2017-mystery-thriller/. Both films HIGHLY recommended.

Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the bloody ride.

Stay safe!

Primal Rage (2018): Action / Adventure / Horror

Primal Rage.jpg

A young woman picks up her husband from prison but a car accident will put them up against hostile locals and a monstrous legend of the woods.

I’ll start with the good news, it’s less. Intriguing story. Not very original, but makes an interesting bigfoot logline for a film. The ones who have worked hard on this film are the makeup department’s boys and girls, making everyone’s death gory and fun.

All the rest belong to the opposite of good news. Directing, acting, and script are at best mediocre. Shame to see a decent story be somewhat crashed by the very departments that were meant to elevate it. But the story survived the crash… only to get irreparably crippled at first and then face a slow, painful, and vicious death – worse than any creature can cause – by editing. It is by far one of the worst edited films made in modern history. Absolute shame.

R.I.P. “Sheriff”.

Stay safe!

Happy Death Day 2U (2019): Comedy / Horror / Mystery

Happy Death Day 2U.jpg

Once she thought that she had fulfilled her purpose and closed the loop, Tree finds herself waking up once more on her birthday… but nothing is the same. 

Here’s an analogy for you. The first one was kinda scary and kinda funny. Now, this one is not scary and very funny. So, what do you think? Does that make it a better sequel? There is also an upgrade: The mixture of Groundhog Day (1993) and Back to the Future (1985). The good news is that there is no bad news. What you think you sign up for, it is exactly that. There is some suspense, the science is laughable but no one is trying to convince you otherwise, the editing adds to the film’s quality and creates the desired emotions, and everyone is playing their part as they should be. Speaking of, there is one surprise; a happy one…

Jessica Rothe! The film’s source of hilarity is also the cause of the heart-warming drama that will cut your breath short even for those tiny given moments. Director Christopher Landon does an excellent job directing the mother/daughter sequences so, congratulations are also in order for the actress Missy Yager.

Very enjoyable! It will definitely make you forget our miserable reality even for that hour and a half. 

Stay safe!

I Still See You (2018): Fantasy / Horror / Sci-fi

I Still See You

After an experiment kills millions of people, the living must get used to coexisting with the ghosts the dead left behind. 

Right… I’m gonna cut to the chase. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. I don’t judge the film but its intentions. So, if you decide to watch it, this is what you sign up for:

  • Teenage scenery. 
  • Emo girl.
  • Weird guy no one likes except for the emo girl.
  • An American(!) school full of students where no one is obese.
  • In fact, an American(!) school full of (white) people where EVERYONE could as well be an underwear model.
  • Back to the emo/weird, they are investigators, come up with a theory that no one ever thought before or believes now, and fall in love.
  • In the end, you’ll never guess, they were right all along. Every other buffoon scientist wasted their degrees.
  • Music, which is not bad at all actually, accompanies every single sequence as the narrative and dialogue are beyond understanding.
  • Speaking of something decent, photography and set decoration are dark and compelling respectively.

To conclude, do you remember the 80s and 90s teenage horrors? Then forget about this! I don’t like doing reviews like this one and I have no idea what possessed me to watch it – Maybe the past, glorious days of Dermot Mulroney. Strictly under 15. Please provide ID before hitting “play”. You’ve been warned!

To everyone responsible for this film: Do not underestimate your audience’s mentality! It is immoral and, for that, you pay the price ==> Opening Weekend USA: $815 (Source: IMDb). Producers, accept the facts:

  • The US is a country of multiculturalism.
  • There are people who may not fit the profile to advertise fragrances but they are beautiful in their own way nonetheless.
  • Cast actors and actresses according to their skills, not your fantasy of the ideal appearance. 

Stay safe!

Silence (2017): Short / Drama

Silence

The impending apocalypse finds a mother and her autistic daughter spending their last moments together.

Silence is one of these short films that you watch and the first question that comes to your mind is: “What is happening?”. Upon establishing that, the question that follows is: “Why is this happening?” The answer to that lies in the hands of the filmmakers and their effort to get the funding they need to turn it into a feature. Official selection at the Los Angeles Film Festival, so I keep my fingers crossed to be seen by the right people who can add a solid setup and confrontation. Something along the lines of Knowing (2009)?

While discontinuous editing has proved to be innovative and effective in the past – see Breathless (1960) – in Silence this is not the case. I believe though that the strong message, the impressive photography (observe the changes as the doom is nearing), and the great performances by both Louise Rhian Poole and Riann Mutlow will win the impressions and writer Rachael Howard, director Lee Burgess, and producer John Ninnis will come out of the festival with a signed deal that will answer the “why”. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16Gwlb2-gw0

Stay safe!

The Vast of Night (2019): Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi

The Vast of Night

New Mexico, 1948: A switchboard operator detects a frequency like anything she has ever heard before, a radio producer broadcasts it, and myth, reality, and paranoia start blending into one.

Act I: The phenomenal antithesis between fast-talking actors and protracted shots. To be more specific, we are talking about up to 10-minute dolly and steady-cam shots. Great set-up and character introduction along with made-up experiments that get you into the low budget sci-fi mood and make you chuckle with their “accuracy”.

Act II: Past the slow-burn intro, the clash between reality and storytelling of loneliness becomes as vague as the editing techniques pacing it. It takes yet another heroine of life to wind the pace down and get you comfy with another story from the “fortress of solitude”, the plot point that leads to…

Act III: A resolution with no twist, yet a worthy ending. An ending that the two previous acts promised and did not mislead you about.

Meet Andrew Patterson! The writer/editor/producer/director behind The Vast of Night. The filmmaker who is known for… The Vast of Night. I had never heard the guy before. Well, guess what? IMDb hadn’t either. So, here’s the question: Who cares?! The man made this film almost on his own (using three different names). An honest tribute to The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The War of the Worlds (1953), and The Twilight Zone (1959) with suspenseful sequences accompanied by, among others, Cretan (Greek) music!

You watch the film, then you look at his picture and you can’t help but wonder: “Doesn’t he look like one of them alien conspiracy bloggers/vloggers”? Again, who cares?! Patterson is a talent! He got turned down by, I don’t know, 15 major film festivals? Few of them accepted him though and shared his vision. And I’m glad Amazon Studios did as well. I take my hat off to him. He’s a living, breathing, walking proof that all of us need to stick to our dream and keep it real. Andrew, cheers for that geezer!!! Much appreciated!

An extra, special bravo goes to Sierra Mccormick and Jake Horowitz for being true thespians and delivering Patterson’s dream.

Stay safe!

A Case of You (2005): Short / Drama

A Case of You

A man’s mind is playing tricks regarding when and how his relationship took a turn for the worse.

Did you ever wake up one day asking yourself, “what happened”? Struggling to put together the where, who, why, what, and when? A Case of You is exactly that! John wakes up in his apartment one morning and, in real time, he wanders from room to room trying to figure out what went wrong between him and Emily. Why he is alone. What happened.

The one 18-minute shot is impressive. It takes a huge amount of preparation in preproduction where EVERYONE in front and behind the camera gets to know EXACTLY what they need to do when filming starts. The beauty though in Jack Davie’s creation is the marriage of his directing and writing which provides practical answers and raises existential questions. No spoonfed drama here. The mind works in mysterious and, more often than not, incomprehensible ways. Try to keep track of how John and Emily’s relationship deteriorated. It’s a non-linear jigsaw and every event, every utterance, and every action is part of it.

A standing ovation for writer/director Davies, actors Jamie Draven and Julia Hickman, and every member of the crew who made this film possible. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wxTj8ZBUEo

Stay safe!

Mummy Fell Asleep (2009): Short / Thriller

Mummy Fell Asleep

A mother and her little girl go on a picnic but the past resurfaces, bringing nothing but pain.

Vague yet intriguing development from writer/director John Ninnis whose inciting incident in the first act stealthily forewarns about the second act’s conflict and intensifies the denouement’s mystery. Mummy Fell Asleep falls under the category of shorts where filmmakers purely rely on solid script and acting as money is not an option. And in this case, both pay off. Ninnis’ narrative is a reminder of Sean Ellis’ intriguing first shorts – and brilliant later features. Speaking of, imagine a feature version where characters are fully developed and you get to know the preexistent, obscure events that lead to breaking the camel’s back.  Proud winner of:

  • The 2010 Heart of England Film Festival: Best Short film Internationally
  • The Irish International Film Festival: Best Short Film under 10 mins

You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f_EpTPexqg

Stay safe!

Krisha (2015): Drama

Krisha

Having seen her family in years, Krisha returns for Thanksgiving to a seemingly idyllic reunion that couldn’t be more fragile.

Krisha is perception through the legacy of the lens that Hitchcock left behind. Directing, editing, acting, music, and sound mixing split the screen in half and let you into Krisha’s internal world. You will omnisciently follow her into the house, “hack” her cerebral cortex and see and listen through her what lies beneath the surface. Feature debut for actor, writer, editor, and director Trey Edward Shults who successfully pitched his concept to Kickstarter and adapted his own homonymous short Krisha (2014). Ever since the wheels have been set in motion and It Comes at Night (2017) – https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2019/02/02/it-comes-at-night-2017-horror-mystery – and Waves (2019) (review to follow) have become exceptional additions to the American independent cinema.

In the first act, from the opening shot (be it past or future) the tone is set. The protracted shots and the sound mixing add extra depth to the already relatable story and characters. The second act’s gradual escalation will patiently prepare the ground for what’s coming, and that is none other than an Aronofsky-esque confrontation and act three’s denouement. Watch it and make up your own mind as to what eventually happened. You can’t choose your family, they say…

Fun fact: In both the short and feature version of Krisha, Shults gathered his family members (and a couple of actors) and shot the films in his mother’s house. Yes, most of the people you see on screen are actually related.

Stay safe!

Uncut Gems (2019): Crime / Drama / Thriller

Uncut Gems

A New York City jeweler is constantly trying to find ways to pay off his debts while dealing with a number of personal issues.

Greed makes people take the worst decisions and then they wonder why their lives seem like a bottomless flush down the toilet. This is the story of Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) who represents the kind of people who believe that two wrongs make a right. The journey of a man who refuses to settle to what he has and constantly going for what he could have had, losing always more and more until… well, you’ll have to watch it!

Sandler’s comeback to the big screen is remarkable – since 2015 all of his films have gone straight to Netflix. I believe that if the Academy could take him seriously, he would have been nominated but, don’t worry Adam, we don’t take the Academy seriously anymore ourselves. Sandler has survived in the film industry for just over three decades and he’s not going anywhere yet. Actor and rapper LaKeith Stanfield stands by his side but also opposes him, still revealing his diversity as an actor and I for one, look forward to seeing him in as many mainstream and/or alternative projects as possible. Last but not least, Julia Fox is as impressive as they come. Brilliant appearance on screen no matter how you look at it.

And now the Safdie Brothers… After a number of shorts, and the impressive Lenny Cooke (2013) and Heaven Knows What (2014), they brought to us Good Time (2017) which followed their style and made a suspenseful story but… these… repeated… Pattinson close-ups couldn’t be more distracting. Robert Pattinson is a great actor but it was just too much. So glad we didn’t get many Sandler close-ups. That said, you might find the music a bit distracting but once you familiarise yourselves with their Safdie style of filmmaking, it will make more sense. Congrats to everyone in front and behind the camera. 2 hours+ just flew by.

Stay safe!

The Art of My Scars (2016): Documentary / Short

The Art of My Scars

The chronicle of a girl who decided to become a transgender man and learned to express himself and overcome his tribulations through art.

Show me a person who claims they have no skeletons in their closet and I’ll show you a liar.

Writer/director James Land follows his fellow Devonian Kay Jane Browning who got mocked, bullied, and beaten up as a little girl only to grow up a proud young man who transcended both genders’ limitations, and became a person of his own; an artist.

It doesn’t take money to tell your story. It takes to be truthful to it. It takes to say it out loud to feel liberated. Let haters laugh at you, among others, they are only shameful, dishonest, and deceiptive. Because the rest of the world will follow you, engage with you, and give you a standing ovation for who you really are. Hats off to both James and Kay for bringing this story to the surface. You can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/TheArtofMyScars/

Watching Kay’s story, I couldn’t help but wonder, is it our generation who’s gonna put an end to discrimination? Against people who just look different than we are. Against people who are physically and/or mentally attracted to whoever they choose to? Against people who just happen to believe in something different than we do? Is it gonna be us who’s gonna make this world welcome to EVERYONE?

Show me a person who found the courage and strength to reveal their skeletons in their closet and I’ll show you a hero.

Stay safe!

 

Forgotten (2017): Mystery / Thriller

Forgotten

Things take an unexpected turn for a family after a young man sees his older brother getting abducted and comes back days later with no memory of what happened, acting like a different person.

Narrative like only the Koreans know how to develop. Dramaturgy that knows no boundaries and is unconditionally unleashed to shock you to your core. Huge comeback from writer/director Hang-jun Jang who seems like not taking particular interest in the film industry. Regardless of the reasons, and even though it flew a bit under the radar, Forgotten is the type of film that will get your undivided attention. You cannot miss a thing otherwise you’ll have even more questions. Very intricate with numerous twists and turns, Forgotten does not hold any punches. It might not be Oldboy (2003) but it will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat.

The South Korean film industry (Hallyuwood, informally) is a dominant player in the market. Partially, yes, because the government is heavily investing in it but also due to the produced films’ impact globally. Money might open a plethora of doors but it is the sheer talent that walks such filmmakers through them, stirring the focus once more towards the beautiful artistic side of the industry and taking it away from the ugly scandalous one that we have all had enough with.

P.S. I didn’t know it was a Netflix film until I accidentally stumbled upon the information on IMDb – no logos in the opening or closing credits.

P.P.S. That’s for you cuz! Thanks for the recommendation!

P.P.S. Jiyoung, if you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend it. If you have, why didn’t you tell me about it??? 🙂

Stay safe!

The Lodge (2019): Drama / Horror / Thriller

The Lodge

Two children are snowed in at a remote lodge with their soon-to-be stepmom who, when strange occurrences start happening, her dark past resurfaces.

Where did that come from?! The Lodge skipped the radars and out of the blue appeared to catch you off guard and restore your faith in the horror genre. The first act’s inciting incident will move the story forward by taking your breath away (I wish I could tell you more). The claustrophobic mise-en-scène will give you no choice but to get trapped in the lodge with them. No cheap jump scares here. Just pure psychological horror! A must-watch for every horror fan!

The amazing Riley Keough has exceptional chemistry with Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh, delivering bone-chilling performances. I just wish Alicia Silverstone had more screen time. A huge round of applause goes also to writer Sergio Casci and writers / directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz who brought us the also shocking horror Goodnight Mommy (2014).

Gary, mate… you’re gonna love this one!

Ioanna mou, I wish I was there to watch it with you.

Stay safe!

Epic Plot Holes in Iconic Films

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“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on some films we loved so much – or not – that we turned the blind eye to their plot holes. Hint: One is definitely not one of my favourites, and another actually has not a plot hole…

Stay safe!

Epic Plot Holes in Iconic Films

The Hidden Face (2011): Drama / Mystery / Thriller

The Hidden Face.jpg

Strange occurrences start happening when an orchestra conductor decides to move on with his life after his girlfriend ostensibly split up with him and suddenly disappeared.

Before I start saying anything, I want you to know that I was skeptical for the first half an hour. A skepticism that faded away past the first act.

It’s been years since I wanted to watch it and I’m glad I finally got the time. I’ll start with the acting which is shockingly convincing. Excellent job by all actors and actresses who convey the drama, the thrill and the horror portrayed, especially Clara Lago. Director AndrĂ©s Baiz handles the story cautiously through very restricted narrative so he doesn’t reveal the inciting incident until the time is right. And when he does, he makes sure that, through the editing, all information is very tightly revealed for what is about to happen. Of course, the round of applause starts with Hatem Khraiche’s suspenseful story.

If you are wondering why I was skeptical in the beginning of the film, I will only say that if past events are integral to the story and will be revealed to us anyway, we are accustomed to flashbacks opposed to getting the whole story at once and distract us from the main plot. Only later on it made sense from the editing’s point of view. It might sound incoherent as a sentence now but please watch it – without knowing anything – and think about it.

Stay safe!

Angel of Mine (2019): Drama / Mystery / Thriller

Angel of Mine.jpg

Years after losing her daughter in a fire, a woman’s mental state takes a turn for the worse when she starts thinking that she is still alive.
Have you ever started watching a film not knowing anything about it other than something, down the line, somewhere is going to really go sideways and you just don’t know what that is?

Well, Angel of Mine happens to be one of them. A constant agony of what Lizzie (Noomi Rapace) is gonna totally screw up to the highest degree. The success of the film relies on that and it does indeed achieve it. Part of the reason is because kids are involved and part of it is because adults like her are involved.

As the slow-burn escalates, while nothing really substantial happens, you won’t stop wondering how far is she gonna take it?! And then it’s the ending… but I’m gonna leave that up to you. My only comment is that Fatal Attraction (1987) was that successful because of that kind of escalation; that climax. Anyhow, congratulations to both Noomi Rapace and Yvonne Strahovski for their remarkable performances.

Over the years I have convinced myself that a film should not have a single mood from the beginning till the end. Angel of Mine is unsettling and dead creepy throughout. And even though that’s not a plus, the abyss of the human mind, the vastness of its capabilities, the infinite goodness, but also its unfathomable limits to cause pain in any shape or form can be terrifying.

Stay safe!