The Tomorrow War (2021): Action / Adventure / Drama

On ordinary day, a group of soldiers arrives from the future to warn and train people and send them to the year 2051 to fight.

Visually stunning naivety for the whole family! Past the inciting incident, one can spot a realistic approach right off the bat. An approach that will soon be replaced by a high dose of Americanism. I’m not saying this is a good or a bad thing, but I’m saying that it focuses on a particular type of audience. Why I focus on that more than other times? Because it’s meant to be addressing international audience. It’s about saving the world and not a particular country.

During recruitment and basic training, I didn’t really feel it. Stanley Kubrick set the example in 1987 and it seems that Hollywood is still struggling to evoke or balance emotions. As the first encounter with the aliens, coincidentally, John McTiernan set another example the very same year. Scrolling credits aside, the film is about two hours and ten minutes and it still feels rushed. Something a tad more comparable to Full Metal Jacket and Predator respectively, would be War of the Worlds (2005). Steven Spielberg first dealt with aliens in the masterpiece Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and, in 2005, he blew our socks off with realistically dramatic reactions to events deriving from science fiction to our deepest fears.

I’m gonna stop rumbling now though cause I sound bitter and spiteful and that was not my intention. So, I’m gonna end with a huge positive note. Director Chris McKay has brought to life Zach Dean’s script and the result is, generally, fulfilling. The film’s strongest moment is the closure of father/future-daughter relationship which is well shot and written and most definitely pays off. While at it, Yvonne Strahovski gets my round of applause here as she shines. It’s like she’s so proud of taking that role and she acts like it. She’s amazing. The Tomorrow War is a decent sci-fi summer flick with a number of standard Hollywood flaws but a great way to spend just over two hours with your favourite company – that includes your own. We may have not been attacked by aliens or saved the world yet, but we surely need a good-feel action to excite us a bit. Give it a shot. It’s worth the shot.

Stay safe!

P.S. You need to check these trivia about J.K. Simmons and his physique:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9777666/trivia?item=tr5821635

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9777666/trivia?item=tr5821752

Fast & Furious 9 (2021): Action/Adventure/Crime

Dom and his “family”reunite once more as his unknown to everyone else younger brother has teamed up with a terrorist group to initiate a weapon of mass destruction.

Muscles, guns, explosions, supercars, and spies… all in the mix for a global audience of specific age. F9 did what most of its predecessors also did in previous years. It exceeded every unrealistic expectation! From The Fast and the Furious (2001) to Fast and Furious 8 (2017), whoever has followed the saga, has seen the gang first forming with the intent to steal and sell VCR’s and DVD players, and ending up driving against submarines. Each installment has been seen getting more and more crazy and the level of believability has been dropping exponentially. Now, it’s facing a free fall. A free fall of 2 hour and 25 minutes; the longest Fast & Furious in the franchise.

Where do I begin… Dom’s initial refusal to participate has been a cliché for a couple of decades now. One would expect that in the third decade of the 21st century writers would have moved on. Apparently not. Then, as the previous films did, this one also introduces a new weapon and/or technology. Like an uneducated Sesame Street, here, get to know about not even laughable rocket science and not even ridiculous electromagnetism. I’m not even gonna touch on the “hacking” parts. As for this type of slapstick comedy, some might find it funny so I’m not gonna go into it.

To cut the long story short, lets talk fast, without fury, about the driving. The driving and the chemistry between Vin Diesel, the late Paul Walker (RIP), Michelle Rodriguez, and Jordana Brewster is what made most of us fall in love with the first three or four films. Both of them are lost now. The sky-high level of implausibility, and therefore unfathomable CGI scenes, destroyed both. The filmmakers are now milking the cow, are competing with The Expendables (2010), and like most of these films, what massively irritates me is that they are undermining people’s intelligence. No film should ever undermine its audience’s intelligence. And that’s what F9 does. What was the amazing Charlene Theron thinking? A villain that didn’t even sweat. As if the non-existing, so far, Dom’s brother (John Cena) is not a gimmick enough, the rest of the antagonists are just shambles. Helen Mirren and Kurt Russel are there for the easy money, I get it. The rest… I don’t!

To summarise, maybe, and that’s just a speculation, if you are around 12 y/o you might find it exciting. But I hope you don’t so, maybe, Hollywood producers reevaluate, and learn how to respect their audience. By all means, if you are into VFX and the MTV style of filmmaking give it go. It will make you forget the unpleasant times we are currently experiencing, anyway. But know what you sign up for. Justin Lin is a respectful director/producer but goes for the money. I believe, after the franchise is gone, that we’ll see something amazing from him. Something that will beautifully surprise both in terms of character and story development. Finally, I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: Michael Rooker is a great actor and should be getting more screening time in everything he’s in.

Stay safe!

Wrath of Man (2021): Action/Crime/Thriller

A mysterious man gets a job at an armoured vehicle company that transports money just to find the people responsible for a crime that cost him dearly.

Crowd-pleasing and entertaining, Wrath of Man makes a decent remake of the French thriller Cash Track (2004). Fourth collaboration between the actor Jason Statham and director/producer Guy Richie that proves to be time and time again a recipe for success – at least financial. What you need to keep in mind before or while watching it is that the film is not to be taken very seriously by any stretch of the imagination. It probably represents the exact opposite of the cinematic realism that film theorists argue about (for decades). Let’s start with with basics: No one heals and reaches peak condition that fast from multiple gun shots – if they survive. Also, no one achieves so many headshots that easily. Furthermore, no one would come up with that plan as it is likely to fail in more ways than I can count. So, deliberately ignoring the film’s unrealistic scenario, let’s focus on the positives.

Statham is still kicking a$$ which makes him the right man in front of the camera. Richie still finds intriguing, non-linear ways to develop the plot from the story which makes him the right man behind the camera. Holt McCallany, Josh Hartnett, Scott Eastwood, Andy Garcia, and Niamh Algar make great a addition to the cast (comment to follow on that). Finally, what everyone was hoping to be decent is actually more than decent: the action. Wrath of Man is a series of action-packed sequences that satisfy the neurons and neuroglia of the animalistic part of our brain.

I will never mind Statham not changing his accent. I live in Derby and he’s from Derbyshire so, I wouldn’t want him to speak any other way. I actually love it! Generally though, and that’s probably because I am not a kid anymore, I do mind the hero/ine not to have a decent antagonist or people surrounding him. Which is the case here. The film’s great cast (not just the ones mentioned above) is massively overshadowed by his presence, making him look he’s leagues above everyone else. His crew, the enemy’s, and the security company’s have nothing on him, something that exponentially reduces the suspense. Eastwood’s character had a lot of potential to be a great psycho and, consequently, great villain. That is not the case though. Having said that, the guys guarding the safe are tough as nails but their role is limited. Something else that would potentially make us empathise with ‘H’ a bit more is the underdeveloped drama he had to endure. Unfortunately, it took the back seat. As a last and trivial note, it’s interesting to listen to British humour, in American accents.

To sum it up, it’s very enjoyable, don’t get caught up in the details (like I do), and spend a couple of hours watching a funny and thrilling heist with a lot of shooting and punchlines.

Stay safe!

Army of the Dead (2021): Action/Crime/Horror

A group of mercenaries is hired to pull off a heist in a quarantined, walled off, and inundated with zombies Las Vegas.

A friend of mine called me the other day, saying: “Man, have you seen the Army of the Dead? Damn, it’s been years since the last time I watched something so wank”. He then added: “I mean, it’s like gathering every Hollywood cliché under the sun, putting it in, carefully trying not to miss any.”

Well, as a Zack Snyder fan I was going to watch it anyway, but I was not in a rush. Why? For the same reason I am not in a rush to watch any film interested in profiting from the pandemic. So, it’s not personal. The good news is that the beginning is like Watchmen (2009) meets Sucker Punch (2011) a bit. The bad news is that it’s neither. Actually, everything else is bad. Starting with the characters…

Everyone is a breathing, walking, talking cliché. Sex, sexual orientation, and race – most of the burning issues of today – have been exploited by typically low Hollywood standards for commercial purposes, an event that raises questions regarding who its audience really is. Don’t bang your heads against the wall though, the answer is: masses! The typically unspecified Hollywood audience that likes unrealistic people that are nowhere to be found in our world. A surrealistic misrepresentation of every human being out there. And that’s just the characters.

The narrative… Chaos! The absolute mess! Nothing is convincing and nothing makes sense. Everything you’ve seen and experienced before, you relive it with little to no surprise. Slapstick humour with some drama in between, topped up with some (quite decent I might say) action-packed sequences. In the end, which emotion stands out? None! It’s neither funny nor dramatic nor thrilling. It’s nothing! Two an a half hours of plot holes that include, but are not limited to (no spoilers): soldiers who escort a weapon of mass destruction and have no training whatsoever, a girl with no training whatsoever who delivers headshots like pancakes, the zombie head that could have been immediately retrieved and end our suffering, zombies moving faster than helicopters, people knowing that a nuclear is about to hit them and indifferently chat… the list is endless! Oh, and no matter what happens, do not, I repeat, do not fall for the “time” theory (no spoilers). It was way out of character and out of space. Pure buffoonery to cause you an extra headache! Do. Not. Fall. For it.

This is the worst Zack Snyder film yet! I do like Snyder’s style but Army of the Dead is atrocious and its atrocity has nothing to do with technical aspects such as the “dead pixels” or the too “out-of-focus” issues caused by Red cameras combined with Canon lenses from the 60s. The average viewer does not care about that. Instead, they care about not being insulted by the narrative. No one wants their intelligence undermined and this is exactly what the Army of the Dead does. It considers its audience as dumb as the Shamblers – not sure about the Alphas.

Final notes: Ella Purnell is a really good actresses but her character is unwatchable. Same applies for Dave Baustista who, unfortunately, is the only one that actually offers some drama. The only person I only rooted for though was Chambers (Samantha Win) who literally kicked a$$! Two more highlights were the “tiger kill” and the non-CGI zombies. But if you want to watch a great outbreak film then refer to Snyder’s directorial debut Dawn of the Dead (2004).

Food for thought: Twenty years ago, still at Uni, I discovered the term “Third Cinema”. This term defined for me the differences between the “First” and the “Second”. Focusing on the First… “Solanas and Getino’s manifesto considers First Cinema to be the Hollywood production model that idealizes bourgeois values to a passive audience through escapist spectacle and individual characters.” Please, keep in mind that the Hollywood they are referring to is considered to be leagues above today’s. For more on film history, feel free to read David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson’s: Film History: An Introduction (2003).

Stay safe!

Dredd (2012): Action/Crime/Sci-Fi

In a dystopian future, where the police are judges, juries, and executioners, Judge Dredd and a rookie are sent to take down a violent gang that is dealing an extremely dangerous drug.

Misunderstood yet highly entertaining! Dredd, makes you forget whatever is happening out there but this was not the case when it was released. Back then, it evoked some mixed feelings and, unfortunately, the vast majority didn’t appreciate it. The rest of us signed a petition for a sequel to no avail. Times have changed, we have moved on and so have the actors. Karl Urban is leading The Boys (2019) now and he couldn’t care less about a role that he doesn’t show his face and people doubt it. Having said that, as far as I read recently, he wouldn’t mind taking on the role if offered. It won’t be though. What’s more, it’s interesting watching Olivia Thirlby coming out of her comfort zone shooting everything and everyone up and the transformed but wonderful Lena Headey running the vicious gang.

Dredd remains loyal to the graphic novel with the city blocks’ names, the judge’s helmet and the golden chain in MaMa’s penthouse, the “fatties”, and, of course, the Clint Eastwood voice tribute to stand out. For those who are not aware, the character is partially based on Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” so, the voice will always be that reminder.

Pete Travis, a director who deserves a lot more spotlight [see also Omagh (2004) and Vantage Point (2008)] as mentioned above, has deeply understood the anti-hero’s nature and the dystopian futuristic”cyberpunk” world, giving us a final cut that, we, the fans deeply enjoyed and, unfortunately, won’t see more of it. The reasons vary: Came out in a bad time? People didn’t really appreciate it? Studios saw only numbers and didn’t care about its quality? Whatever your pick is, it’s a shame really.

I just wanted to remind you of it. After all, that’s what every dystopia is; a reminder. And, if you haven’t watched it, knock yourselves out! It’s quite the experience.

Stay safe!

Nobody (2021): Action/Crime/Drama

An ostensibly ordinary family man is proved to have certain skills when he becomes the target of the Russian mafia and the vicious lobby behind it.

Every time someone was telling me “it’s like John Wick“, I was replying “You know it’s written by the same guy, yeah?”. If you ask me, A History of Violence (2005) is a lot more similar to Nobody‘s plot, so it’s kind of one-meets-the-other kind of thing.

As for the film itself, admittedly, it’s very entertaining. Bob Odenkirk has a certain style of acting that transcends frustration and anger like very few nowadays can. One could argue that he actually acts/expresses certain aspects of his character. Regardless, he is the man for this job and Nobody proves that Hollywood can turn you from a lawyer who can’t slap a mosquito (Saul Goodman) to an ex-black-ops “badass” (Hutch Mansell) in no time. Fair enough! Nobody shows that his acting range is surprisingly wider than we all thought and the fact that he had been training for two years prior to the film’s principal photography to nail the part, speaks volumes about his dedication. Speaking of acting, I can’t leave the legendary Christopher Lloyd out who nails every part that has been given to him in his 46-year (and counting) career. Furthermore, Connie Nielsen adds to the cast with her talent and beauty, and brightens up every shot she’s in.

Ilya Naishuller, well known for Hardcore Henry (2015), shows once more that he knows how to approach hardcore action scenes, and, more importantly, Derek Kolstad’s meticulously written action scenes. Ari Aster’s Director of Photography, Pawel Pogorzelski, and experienced Hollywood editors Evan Schiff and William Yeh complete the main crew and give an extremely satisfying result that will make you want a sequel or, at least, a prequel of the film.

The plot holes are humongous but do yourselves a favour and leave them out. The action-packed sequences and phlegmatic humour definitely compensate. I hope you enjoy it and forget, even for an hour and a half, the dark times we are still going through!

Stay safe!

Chaos Walking (2021): Action / Adventure / Fantasy

Many years into the future, on an unknown planet, a male-only settlement is after two youngsters who are in search of truth.

Interesting premise! Like any decent sci-fi, behind the top dollar spent and the fancy visual effects there is a metaphor. Chaos Walking‘s is the actual settlers’ terraforma atrocities. Arguably though, that takes the back seat when the film decides to focus on the projection of the human inability to control their thoughts; men’s anyway.

As the story unfolds more truths come to the surface and more metaphors can be picked up that are also, eventually, overshadowed by men’s uncontrollable projected thoughts. Regardless, pay attention to the mayor’s and the priest’s role. You won’t be surprised about their character development if you’ve read a thing or two about colonisation.

After the script’s many rewritings, extensive $15M re-shoots took place, during which Tom Holland broke his nose, passed out trying to hold his breath underwater, and had his wisdom teeth pulled out. No wonder why the film’s release date was pushed back a year… And after all that, humongous plot holes are still there like a stains that failed to come off after many washings. The most striking one: The shuttle that no one saw falling from the sky. A shuttle that no one heard or felt crashing next to the farm either. The best part? By the time Todd saw it, some pieces were still on fire but Viola had already dag 2 graves and was out and about stealing food. I mean… never mind!

It’s a shame that experienced directors like Doug Liman and studios like Lionsgate Entertainment still struggle that much when money and resources are not an issue. That’s why audience thinking outside the box diminish Hollywood productions. Shame really…

Stay safe!

Lifeforce (1985): Action / Horror / Mystery

An alien vampire race is found in space and brought to a lab in London but, upon escaping, chaos and doom threaten to destroy our planet.

Ask anyone why they remember Lifeforce… And as much as I understand why, this is the reason why the film bombed! An alien sexbomb wreaking apocalyptic havoc in London sounds peculiar to say the least. The film didn’t even make half of its production cost back because a naked Mathilda May and her astonishing beauty stole the show and left everyone uninterested in its shallow science. BUT…

Lifeforce has become a classic and watching it 25 years later, I must say that it is case study of how to deconstruct a B-movie. I don’t think I’ve ever read more production details on a film such as this. What’s more, the vast majority of these details revolve around May’s backstage nudity or how the film’s failure showed during the early stages of principal photography.

Despite how my review sounds so far, especially in times like these, Lifeforce is the form of escapism that will truly entertain you (I mean, read the logline). Based on Colin Wilson’s novel, “The Space Vampires” and directed by Tobe Hooper, the film offers a lack of seriousness and superficiality that harms no one and, if anything, reminds us the cinematic, low-budget, sci-fi era that, once upon a time, was as believable as today’s advanced CGI. The practical effects, the make-up, the effort given not to be rated pornographic, the budget restrains, to name but a few, constitute it a very hard film to make. No words can describe the satisfaction you will get though while watching it. So, forget reality for a couple of hours…

Stay safe!

Run Hide Fight (2020): Action / Thriller

When a group of students invades their school with weapons and take hostages, a girl needs to use her skills to save those in need.

Read that logline and let it sink in before you read further…

The film is well shot and edited and the actors do a decent job. The setup prepares you for what is about to happen, it shocks you when it does, but then it gives you all the emotional space you need to relax and “enjoy” something that is not meant to be enjoyable. Immediately, it seems like a corporate-industry-hostage situation involving pompous adult assholes that doesn’t matter if few them die in the process like unimportant stunts.

Then, from the first plot point, quite a few issues are raised:

  • The van driving through the cafeteria’s front window that no one heard smashing.
  • The gunshots at the cafeteria that no one heard firing.
  • The relaxing verbosity after the van and the first shootings that lightens up the mood.
  • The parallel stories that take the focus off and go easy on the monstrosity that plagues the United States.

And these are jut the major ones. The Die Hard missionaries and the 17 y/o female John McClane give this ongoing toxicity a sweet Hollywood flavour when no word can describe the horror of kids turned kamikazes at the place that is meant to be the starting point to change the world. I know that it is trendy nowadays to portray women doing extraordinary things, but there is nothing trendy or extraordinary about exploiting scenarios that have deeply scarred people’s lives. That applies to boys, girls, men, women, and non-binary people. Keep the trends for the social media. People’s wounds are still wide open.

Elephant (2003), The Life Before Her Eyes (2007), My Friend Dahmer (2017), and We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) are but a few films that have managed to, somewhat, realistically capture that horror. But even, they are well made films. You wanna let horror crawl under your skin? Start with Bowling for Columbine (2002) and then go through the real-life mass shootings before and after. There has never been and never will be heroism in this ongoing heart-wrenching and soul-sucking tragedy.

Just death.

Followed by unspeakable, never-ending, inconsolable mourning.

Stay safe!

P.S. You wanna know who funded this film? This is the first film for the The Daily Wire, an American conservative news website turned TV/Film production company which, according to NewsWhip, is “by far” the top right-wing publisher on Facebook: “The Daily Wire is by far the top publisher among its peers in terms of engagements to its content, with more than 130 million Facebook engagements to its web content for the year”. Just saying…

Outside the Wire (2021): Action / Adventure / Fantasy

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A disgraced rookie drone pilot and a prototype android officer are sent to enemy territory to stop a nuclear attack.

Very bad from the very beginning! Having served in the special forces, let me put it this way: There is NO WAY you can get away with what Harp did! You are done! Finished! In and outside the army! From thousand of miles away, eating gummy bears, chilled, while marines in the battlefield drop like flies, and then you kill your own! NO. WAY.

I would say that from then on the film goes downhill but this would require for it to have started from a certain height. It starts from the bottom and stays there. It miserably fails to evoke any emotion at any level in all three acts. No suspense, no drama, no humour, no relatable action, no relatable characters, and then, no science, no reason, confused moral compass, and confused geographic compass. All the confusions and the no’s are nothing but the result of a bad production that is the result of a terrible script. It is like John Wick (2014) meets Terminator 2 (1991) meets Lord of War (2005) that finally meets none of the above and fosters a two-hour, old-fashioned, American, propagandistic, nonsensical, pedantic mashup of nothingness.

I do value Netflix, director Mikael Håfström, and Anthony Mackie and I hardly speak like that about the films I review. This one though undermines human intelligence and has immoral and dishonest intentions so, I’ll pretend I never watched it and move on. I suggest you do the same, and if you haven’t watched it, don’t!

Stay safe!

Shadow in the Cloud (2020): Action / Horror / War

A young, female WWII pilot boards on a fighter aircraft, but everything escalates when a creature infiltrates it.

The animation, in the beginning, is well-made but it shouldn’t be there. It has no place within the film and it gives away what is going to come next. I can’t guess its purpose for the life of me. There is a difference between foreshadowing an event and ruining the suspense. It’s like a self-mockery.

Straight after, like it started from the second act, the film’s visuals promise a horror that will raise more questions than answers but definitely, still, deserves the benefit of the doubt. There are two things that stand out positively immediately: Kit Fraser’s claustrophobic cinematography and Chloë Grace Moretz. Rumour has it that writer/director Roseanne Liang heavily rewrote Max Landis’ script (and removed him from the production) due to the latter having been accused of sexual misconducts. Regardless of the allegations, the heavy rewrites, kept the humongous plot holes, did nothing to favour the script, and heavily damaged the film with implausibility and charade. The best part of the film is from the moment the animation ends to the moment the gremlin gets inside the plane. From then on, everything goes to sh*t. Furthermore, Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper’s electronic, new-age, ambient, space, cyberpunk music is beautifully composed but, in my humble opinion, is way out of context in a WWII movie. But then, everything else is anyway so, I don’t even know why I bother.

Films such as Hidden Figures (2016) empower women and honestly portray human kind’s fortitude. The rest is just Hollywood’s moronic way to try and milk the cow and, thankfully, gets nada in the end. Moretz is an amazing actress, Liang seems to have a spark for innovation, and I for one, bet that I will see them both in something extraordinary soon again.

Stay safe!

Redemption Day (2021): Action / Thriller

After his wife is kidnapped by terrorists, a war hero races against time to get her back.

I’ve written before about opening sequences and protracted shots and I’ve said that they raise the bar high for what comes next. In Redemption Day what comes next is, unfortunately, too American and too cliché for my standards so, it becomes the exception to the rule. Regarding the narrative, everything you are expecting to happen, does happen, the time you expect it to happen. There are no twists or no difficulties in completing the mission, really. The characters are forgettable, with the “good” ones being highly skilled, and the “bad” ones highly incompetent and stupid which makes an extreme disanalogy. The dialogue is worse than the “bad” ones mentioned above so, no further comment. Then, directing, acting, choreography, and editing, are mediocre, at best.

My distaste for the film has nothing to do with anything I’ve mentioned so far though. People do what they can, with what they have. My distaste is because of its propagandistic intentions. The film’s oversimplification of who is “good” and who is “bad” is borderline insulting. The world doesn’t work this way and Islam, or any other religion for that matter, has nothing to do with the monstrosities the human species is capable of. That is something that the film is trying hard to show but fails to do so.

I would prefer if co-writer/director Hicham Hajji made a film on the two innocent, young, female, Scandinavian hikers who were found beheaded in Morocco two years ago. That would be a challenge, wouldn’t it? No superfluous heroism, no formulaic scripts, no childish gunfights, no need for constant background music to dictate to the audience how to feel, and no goddamn propaganda that nobody needs. Filmmaking should be, among others, challenging, intriguing, and innovating. As fun and entertaining the days of Commando (1985) may have been, they are long gone and all of us have moved on. I hope some studios do the same.

Stay safe!

P.S. Andy Garcia has no place in this film.

Honest Thief (2020): Action / Crime / Drama

Having met love, a bank robber decides to quit, turn himself in, and cut a deal but nothing goes according to plan.

My issues with the film started with the first act as everything happens too fast, too conveniently. The character development is not even minimal. It jumps straight into it not having shown us how good he is in what he does or anything really about him. Then, he just happens to move into a new town and, right off the bat, he finds a single, attractive woman around his age who, cut to a year later, she decides to move in with him. And then he wants to surrender. I found it like no rapport is build whatsoever. It feels as if no investment in character or story development has been made.

Past the interesting first plot point though and moving into the second act, I must say that things get a lot more… engaging. The action is solid, the explanations given are adequate even convincing, the acting is just about right, and the chemistry between Liam Neeson and Kate Walsh appealing. The story is still not very factual but well shot and well edited, and entertaining nonetheless. With them, Jai Courtney, Jeffrey Donovan, Anthony Ramos, and Robert Patrick complete the film’s interesting cast. Of course, the one that steals the show is none other than… Tazzie!

Finally, most of what you think would happen, does actually happen, leaving nothing much to talk about past the end credits. Regardless, give it a go. For the type of action it is, and in times like these, Honest Thief will keep you entertained and make you forget for a couple of hours how many new cases were announced today.

Stay safe!

Fatman (2020): Action / Comedy / Fantasy

When a rich boy is let down by Santa, he hires an eccentric hitman to kill him.

Well, isn’t that a Christmas film… A pistolero Santa who has a dodgy contract with the government of the United States of America ends up in a gunfight with an assassin.

How can I put it… it’s like a Christmas western shot in the North and Santa is the wanted man on the bullet hole poster. While the hitman tries to track down Santa, here’s what you get: the military outsourcing elves to produce more weaponry and the logistics behind Santa’s operation on Christmas Eve. You know what you get when the hitman actually tracks down the Republican, training-like-Rocky-Balmoa Santa? That’s something you need no commentary on. Writers/directors Eshom and Ian Nelms know exactly the kind of film they want to make and the final cut’s tone and pace give justice to their cause. Mel Gibson, Walton Goggins, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste understand their vision and offer nothing but pure entertainment.

Feeling stuck in your own house on Christmas day? Fatman is your unconventional Christmas movie that will keep you company for an hour and a half. Can you take it seriously? No. Is it meant to be taken seriously? No. So, sit back, relax, and digest the turkey.

Stay safe!

#Alive (2020): Action / Drama / Horror

A sudden zombie outbreak will find two youngsters trapped in their flats opposite each other, making an escape plan.

I’m a sucker for build-up. You know, character and story development. Think of Train to Busan (2016) in this instance; patiently and suspensefully builds the narrative up before everything goes sideways. So, for horror fans who have watched countless zombie films, the opening sequence does not feel original or anything at all. I believe, the most impressive scene throughout the first thirty minutes is the police officer scene.

Things start getting interesting after the hero’s breakdown and big exodus. The action and thrill for the battle of survival pick up the pace and gradually get your attention. The pace is about to die out soon after though but is saved by the presence of Park Shin-hye’s character (Kim Yoo-bin). If you haven’t seen her in anything else, you should definitely try the same year’s and also Netflix’s production, The Call (2020) https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/12/06/the-call-2020-horror-mystery-thriller/

But then, pace, rhythm, suspense, and action all die out together faster than the film’s outbreak. It manages to pick up again, but the effort was nothing new. Shame really, I wish the filmmakers had decided what kind of film they wanted to make. It seems like the genres are cancelling one another. If it’s any consolation, the film was a shockingly huge commercial success!

RIP Kim Ki-duk  (20.12.1960 – 11.12.2020)

Stay safe… and alive!

P.S. Challenge: Try to count how many times the word ‘alive’ is said.

Superhero Movie (2008): Action / Comedy / Sci-Fi

A low self-esteemed and constantly bullied teenager gets bitten by a radioactive dragonfly and develops superpowers.

There are two reasons why I watched it… again. Leslie Nielsen, and the Aunt Lucille farting sequence! Other than that, what can I say? It is an hour and fifteen minutes of that kind of humour that was washed up even twelves years ago. I think it is the first time that I tried to analyse what makes it funny – if written and executed properly. That kind of humour has several components. It requires:

  • Some pre-existing knowledge on the films been parodied,
  • Exaggerated and utterly disjointed scenes,
  • The heroes’ reactions to the superfluous, anecdotal stimuli causing the disjointed scenes, but their immediate forgetfulness straight after until something else happens.

I was not planning to make a review, and if I’m being honest, I haven’t really. I just wanted to put in my two cents about the particular comedy sub-genre. I wish there was something else to say, really. Even though it’s silly, to say the least, a couple of sequences will make you laugh – such as the Aunt Lucille farting sequence! And, hey, we do need some laugh. Especially, these days.

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Greenland (2020): Action / Drama / Thriller

A comet’s passing ends up being an extinction-level catastrophe and a battle for survival for an estranged family.

Fast-edited action films are a Hollywood trademark. There is a misconception though that the faster a film is edited the better results are going to yield. I’ll prove my point in a second. The beginning of the first act is quite formulaic with the camera set on the tripod, playing out exactly as it supposed to. But once I was about to sigh in despair, to my surprise, just before everything goes tits up, Ric Roman Waugh, dismounts the camera and goes on a road trip where the narrative’s delay of resolution stretches the suspense to very high levels. I don’t know if that was a conscious decision or not but I must say that Greenland becomes a quite realistic, intense thriller where most humans become scarier than the comet’s nucleus. But very touching is the vast minority who, till the very end, they dedicate and sacrifice their lives to do as much good as they can in times humanity needs it the most (Comparisons with our current pandemic are most welcome).

Gerald Butler and Moreena Baccarin go through absolute hell and with them the young Roger Dale Floyd. All three of them are absolutely thrilling! This isn’t like the Geostorm (2017) bullshit that even Butler didn’t wanna be in. Everyone believes in this one and works as hard as they can to make it work. And it does work, indeed. My breath was taken with Baccarin’s performance when her kid was abducted (no more spoilers). I can’t imagine a mother acting any other way.

The point I wanted to prove is that War of the Worlds (2005), by far my favourite apocalyptic thriller, is, arguably, the slowest edited film of its kind. Same applies for Jurassic Park (1993). So, don’t get fooled by multi-chopped action sequences; it’s an illusion. Greenland invests in both character and story development and is definitely worth a watch. The two things that seem problematic to me and could have changed are the title, which gives away a ton of information, and the ending, which like Signs (2002), it should have ended when cutting to the prolonged darkness. See and decide for yourselves.

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Tenet (2020): Action / Sci-Fi

A man is tasked to save the world with a mission that defies the laws of physics as we know them, given only the word, Tenet.

Like any other Nolan film, Tenet requires an analysis rather than a review. But I’ll simplify things as best I can. A type of film like this requires a humongous amount of time in preproduction. And they have spent that time wisely. That is why from both production and postproduction point of view, the film is immaculate and unlike anything you have ever seen. No matter what I say, it won’t make it better.

The problem lies right off the bat with the script though. The similar opening to The Dark Knight (2008) poses a significant issue. There is a preexisting knowledge on the Joker where you know who he is and what he is capable of. And if you don’t know the full extent, you find out in a brilliant manner in minutes. Then, the film cuts to people you have already met from Batman Begins (2005), and gradually, it escalates keeping everyone in the loop. In Tenet, no one is aware of anyone or anything, and without any ado, Nolan keeps bombarding you with more and more information where everyone seems to start getting it, but the viewer. Fear not, though. The science is fictional – pun intended – so please, don’t feel bad if you don’t get it. You won’t get it if you watch it a second time either. Nolan himself doesn’t really get it (hence, leaving our certain details) but the impressive filmmaking and the delusion that you might get it if you pay close attention compensates. The similarities in narrative can be compared to Interstellar (2014).

For a film that examines paradox, it is interesting how for something that no one knows anything about, no one thinks twice before they instantly and unhesitatingly say what they have to say. Same applies for planning and acting. At the end of one sequence they find out about something, at the beginning of the next one they have already the equipment, they have already traveled round the globe, and have already come up with a meticulous plan.

George Méliès was running the camera backwards over a hundred years ago so, even though from a filmmaking point of view, Tenet is not parthenogenesis, it surely is a unique concept, exteremely well planned, and amazingly executed. If it wasn’t for this goddamn pandemic, it would have easily joined the billion dollar club.

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P.S. The indie, and unfathomably much lower-budget version of Tenet is Primer (2004): https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/11/26/primer-2004-drama-sci-fi-thriller/

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.

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Spoilers!

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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.

Ava (2020): Action / Crime / Drama

A female assassin with a troubled past, after having accomplished numerous missions, becomes a target herself and has to fight for her life.

Ava a film that I will spend little to no time and I’ll be brutally honest. Geena Davis is the only actress who is exempt from what comes next. She’s the flower protruding from the swamp.

Ava is badly shot, miserably edited, poorly acted, and horribly produced. What saddens me is the fact that A-list actors agreed to do this after reading a fundamentally flawed and clichéd script. Was it money? Boredom? Everyone was simultaneously high? Regardless, the result remains the same: a messed up, destined to sink and stay at the bottom, wannabe, Vidal Sassoon, assassin film.

How could they?!

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One Night in Bangkok (2020): Action / Crime / Drama

A man arrives at the airport of Bangkok, gets a gun, hires a young female taxi driver, and people with no obvious connection between them start dropping one by one.

One Night in Bangkok is more or less what you expect it to be. Producer/writer/director Wych Kaosayananda builds up the narrative slow enough for the audience to get to know Kai and Fha to justify the film’s denouement. The editing’s rhythm and pace put the film together harmonically, but quite early into the film one can realise that Kaosayananda doesn’t want to get rid of anything he has shot. And that becomes quite problematic. There is too much dialogue that could have been avoided, firstly, to tight the script up and reduce the film’s duration, and secondly, to edit out everything that the audience would have understood anyway without the heroes and villains saying it. The latter is a greater issue simply because, personally, I felt as if I don’t get enough credits as a viewer. I truly believe that about twenty minutes could have been cut out, leaving much to the audience’s imagination and also focusing on the action.

The action is another issue though that could have been done better too. By now, we have seen action films in the last couple of decades that are equivalent to a cinematic miracle. Prachya Pinkaew and Gareth Evans have offered us Thai and Indonesian productions that have left us gobsmacked. Ever since, action sequences have evolved and raised the bar sky-high. Going back to mediocre action scenes, especially starring Mark Dacascos, an avid martial artist, coming from a family of martial artists… lowers the expectations and generates mediocre reviews. Shame really.

The thing is that Dacascos is a good actor and I really hope that, even now that he is nearing 60 he can still impress us with something better written, directed, and produced. Lastly, Vanida Golten, who appears for the first time in a film, does a magnificent job. Lets hope that we see her in more projects.

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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.

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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.

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The Old Guard (2020): Action / Fantasy

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A group of immortal mercenaries is been set up and hunted down, but together they’ll take down anyone who stands in their way.

Well-shot! Good job by Gina Prince-Bythewood as international films, especially of that magnitude, can never be easy. Too many locations, too much cast and crew, too many permissions to shoot, and too many visual effects. I believe it’s her most ambitious film to date so, well done! Charlize Theron and her multinational/multiracial team of mercenaries create great chemistry in front of the camera, offering plenty of action but also laughter when they take out and wield their weapon of choice.

Now, I would say that the film’s score is not a perfect match. Maybe I kept having the graphic novel in mind while watching, and, while reading the comic back in the day, that’s not the music I had in mind. I can understand that the film’s target audience is not me so, for younger people maybe it makes more sense. It is very well edited though (on that music), so the rhythm and pace compensate.

Before hitting “play” remember: This is a Skydance & Netflix production. The Old Guard follows the standard, New Hollywood narrative, aiming at an audience that has no interest in Italian neorealism. It is entertaining though and I enjoyed all the effort put from everyone in front and behind the camera. I hope you do as well.

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Stuber (2019): Action / Comedy / Crime

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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.

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

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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.

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Primal Rage (2018): Action / Adventure / Horror

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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”.

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Knowing (2009): Action / Drama / Mystery

Knowing

A fifty-year-old list of numbers prophesying every major catastrophe that took place ever since will make a professor of astrophysics, and a single parent, to race against time to prevent the ones that are yet to happen.

Is pessimistic optimism a term? Does it make sense? It doesn’t, does it? Be it as it may, that’s the oxymoronic feeling you get out of Knowing. But first things first…

“Randomness vs Determinism”, from a philosophical and/or scientific point of view, will become the setup’s foundation, and your mind’s internal debate while watching the confrontation unfolding. One of my favourite Nicolas Cage movie from the noughties where, back then, I couldn’t find many flaws. Watching it now for a second time, eleven years later, I spotted certain plot holes and gimmicks but I didn’t let them get in the way. Yet, it answers all the questions it raises halfway there (not even in the end), and that feels a bit spoonfed for my taste. Regardless, Cage is the right man for the job, Rose Byrne delivers a great performance, the kids are surprisingly convincing, and Ben Mendelsohn, be it in a leading or supporting role, always nails it. Once again, it’s a shame that the film answers everything for you.

The man in the director’s chair is Alex Proyas, a director whose niche is dark fantasy/sci-fi. My personal bests are: The Crow (1994), Dark City (1998), and I, Robot (2004). Unfortunately, he has not been involved in many projects and some of them, I believe, were beneath him. I look forward to watching something of his ’90s style soon.

(Not)Fun fact: The film predicted the BP’s oil spill in the Mexican gulf the year after.

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Extraction (2020): Action / Crime / Thriller

Extraction

A self-destructive, black market mercenary signs up for a deadly mission where allies and enemies are difficult to tell apart.

I’m gonna start with the bad news: The script, unequivocally, has more holes than Swiss cheese. Something that, unavoidably, leads to clichés. Without wanting to decimate both the story and the plot, know what you sign up for! Two hours of standard Hollywood, action narrative, seriously lacking plausibility, and character depth.

Now for the good news: As a representative example of cinema of attractions, Extraction‘s mid-fighting sequence, where everyone is after Tyler and the kid, the seemingly almost-12-minute, protracted shot is brilliantly made. This type of filmmaking is challenging as hundreds or thousands of people put their magic touch to look as impressive. A lot of people are getting injured in front of the camera, and a lot of people are working endlessly day and night behind it. What’s more, Chris Hemsworth nails his part as the tough as nails guy who suffers internally more than he suffers when he gets run over and shot. Sam Hargrave’s directorial debut who has come a long way from a stunt double (Chris Evans’ as Captain America), to stunt choreographer to here. And been produced by the Russo Brothers, I can assume that MCU is indeed… a family. I admire people like Hargrave. He reminds me of other successful stunts turned directors and producers such as Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, and Zoë Bell. It is a hopeful sign that talent and hard work pay off.

So, who is this film for? For everyone who wants to forget our deeply damaged reality, consisting of shameless hypocrites and cowards who found themselves in power – or represent it. Turn off reality for a bit and see how popcorn entertainment can serve its purpose. My heart goes out to the people suffering. But remember:

“[…] Through every dark night, there’s a bright day after that. So no matter how hard it get, stick your chest out, keep ya head up…. and handle it.” ― Tupac Shakur

Stay safe!

Underwater (2020): Action / Drama / Horror

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Following an inexplicable, devastating earthquake, the crew of an oceanic drilling company must find a way to the surface while their whole facility collapses and creatures they have never seen before are after them.

This is the first time I watch a film, feeling like starting with the second act. I mean, as if the first act has been completely edited out. I would really like to get the shooting script and see if the script faded in this way or this “innovation” took place in the cutting room. Anyway, that’s the first strike right off the bat. The film’s main problem starts before that… in Hollywood. The vast majority of Hollywood producers never truly understood H. P. Lovecraft’s vision. They never grasped what the Cthulhu Mythos is. I might be wrong here but, as kids, they never really turned the lights off and scared themselves sh*tless with his cosmic horror. As adults, they only saw his stories as the cash cow; a means to make money! And that’s why the results are such.

Lovecraft’s stories are meant to inspire fear. His creatures cannot be fought. They hunt you and they haunt you and there is nothing you can do about it other than run and pray. And even then, the denouement will most likely not favour you. My second-best Lovecraftian adaptation is Color out of Space (2019) – https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/02/07/color-out-of-space-2019-horror-sci-fi/ and even though there were unresolved issues, director Richard Stanley managed to conceptualise his vision. But my number one old-time favourite adaptation still remains John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (1994) – https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2019/01/04/in-the-mouth-of-madness-1994-drama-horror-mystery/. Only if you watch it (or if you have) you will know what I am talking about. Having said that, the visual and sound effects teams did an amazing job with the creature(s). I must admit that that was really impressive. As Jessica Henwick always is. This isn’t William Eubank’s fault. He is a brilliant director and I look forward to watching his next couple of upcoming projects – I loved The Signal (2014).

In the world of Lovecraft, there is no action. Only struggle to remain sane while desperately trying to find any way out of it.

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