Arctic (2018): Adventure/Drama

Long after his plane crash-landed in the Arctic, a man must decide whether to stay at the crash site or set out for the unknown to seek help.

The European way of unfolding a narrative with a touch of Scandinavian darkness and a taste of Icelandic identity. Writer/director Joe Penna and writer/editor Ryan Morrison have beautifully paced the drama that leads to the fork that saves your life or points you at certain death. And regardless what road you take, you can’t know which is which. Until it’s probably too late… Penna and Morrison have been collaborating since the beginning of their career to this very day. If you haven’t watched their sci-fi Stowaway (2021), you definitely need to: https://kaygazpro.com/2021/04/28/stowaway-2021-drama-sci-fi-thriller/. Special mention deserves the cinematographer Tómas Örn Tómasson – native Icelander – who knows exactly what he needs to shoot and how. All three collaborate perfectly behind the camera and give you a great value for your money.

And while all crew works tirelessly behind the camera, the person in front of the camera that cuts your breath is non other than the highly expressive and diverse, Mads Mikkelsen. All the struggle, the frustration, the agony, and the horror is written on his forehead while he’s trying to keep it together and save both their lives. Seeing is believing so, go for it and see for yourselves.

Arctic, Penna’s feature film debut, rightfully, received a 10-minute standing ovation at its premiere, at the Cannes film festival. Interestingly, only a few months ago I watched George Clooney’s The Midnight Sky (2020) https://kaygazpro.com/2021/01/04/the-midnight-sky-2020-drama-fantasy-sci-fi/ and I couldn’t help but compare the differences and similarities. As much as it’s tempting present them or some of them now, I’ll resist. They are, essentially, different films and for different reasons I liked them both. If you watch or have watched them both though, ask yourselves this: What drives you? What is it that keeps you going through life’s hardship? When all hope seems lost, how do you find the strength to “squeeze hard”? Don’t undermine Clooney either as both him and Penna present the world through their lens. As we experience life through our eyes.

Stay safe!

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!

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!

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!

Elf (2003): Adventure / Comedy / Family

Raised by elves, one day, a man realises he belongs to the humans’ world and goes to New York on a quest to find his real father.

Elf is the huge box office Christmas success that offered a lot of smiles. First leading role for Will Ferrell, who does what Will Ferrel does best in a comedy. He is really funny to be fair, it’s just Elf is not really my cup of tea. I know that Christmas films are meant to be implausible, cliched, and “tacky” but a man acting… the way he does, finding a girl like this, single, who falls in love with him, and with a dad like this who just manages to love him back… I know, it’s a Christmas comedy/fantasy but maybe not for my age or, simply, not for me.

Jon Favreau’s tributes to It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) are very obvious and understood – see, that’s an amazing Christmas film (the best of all time) – but I prefer other films of him from before and after the MCU or the Star Wars spinoff. Until Elf, he was a great indie yet, unknown director. At least, the film opened a lot of doors for him, making one of the biggest grossing directors of all time. Admittedly, Zooey Deschanel, James Caan and Mary Steenburgen are very much enjoyable so, it’s just maybe not particularly liking it.

By all means, please do enjoy it. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. We all need a good laugh these days. It’s been pretty miserable and depressing out there so, Elf, will do nothing but cheer you up with its silliness.

Stay safe!

Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm (2020): Adventure / Comedy

Borat is released from prison in Kazakhstan under the condition that he will go to the US to offer his 15 y/o daughter as a bribe to Vice President Mike Pence during the pandemic and the 2020 Presidential election.

I don’t know what to say, really. It’s been a while since I dropped a film in less than thirty minutes into it. Simply put, I found it appalling, indifferent, pointless, horrendous, boring, ridiculous, and above all, absolute waste of money… and my less than thirty minutes.

It is funny as much as it is provocative. Which is not at all! Sasha Baron Cohen just managed to piss, again, some more Americans off. The first Borat (2006), not a fan at either, was at least… somewhat… funny and provocative… but… I’ll be damned, it had that uncensored naked men “brawl” who left everyone thinking how on earth are they shooting this, and, more importantly, why the f@ck am I watching it? This… subsequent film has nothing to it. Borat speaks in Hebrew, Tutar (Maria Bakalova) speaks in Bulgarian, the Kazakh premier speaks in Romanian, and the vast majority cannot tell, once more, the difference. If you managed to watch it all, by all means, prove me a liar. I thought it was… well, check the second paragraph. Cohen is a great actor and he has proved it time and time again, and The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) is the latest proof – review is on the way. Plus, I so much admired him going against Facebook.

If you really want to watch a proper funny mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap (1984) is the one! What an original comedy!!! Trust me on this one…

Stay safe!

P.S. Cheerio Trump!

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”.

Stay safe!

Da 5 Bloods (2020): Adventure / Drama / War

Da 5 Bloods

Four African American veterans return to Vietnam for the first time after the war ended to find their fallen brother and leader and claim something they consider rightfully theirs.

The opening sequence hits the nail! Right off the bat, you know exactly Spike Lee’s angle on this one. From Ali’s heroic statement to the historic footage that follows, Da 5 Bloods promises to be yet another Lee’s film way ahead of its time. But it isn’t. It most certainly is not. So what happened?

The story is quite an adventure. A sweet and sour and powerful one. The heroes are relatable and so is their background. Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Jonathan Majors deliver powerful performances. Furthermore, Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography is gripping. So, again, what happened? I’ll start with the music. For a film that mocks Rambo, it surely shares a similar score that accompanies it throughout most of its moments, killing the emotion. Then, there are two major problems. The lesser problem is the editing which can make or break every film. And in this case, it is at least mediocre. So, what can be worse than mediocre editing? The script! The one too many weak subplots overshadow the main plot that has one too many gimmicks. The gold’s and body’s discovery, and the team arriving at the right place at the right time are just the tip of the iceberg. Before and after that, it just remains unreasonably and purposelessly convoluted. Shame really. Real shame. Should you decide to watch it, enjoy Lindo not holding back one bit! The best parts of the film.

Stay safe!

Fantasy Island (2020): Adventure / Fantasy / Horror

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An island that has the power to grant your greatest wish, welcomes a group of people who have no idea what they signed up for.

I’ll start with the good news: I didn’t know what to expect so, you would never guess… I had no expectations! Now, for the opposite of good news: The amazing story behind Fantasy Island is inundated with nothing but American clinches, that ruin the aforementioned amazing story.

The American cliches include, but are not limited to: stereotypical characters, stereotypical punchlines, stereotypical resolutions and revelations, and stereotypical editing and redirecting. Hands down, the dramatic fantasy that stands out is Maggie Q’s (Gwen) who, by the way, is a brilliant actress and an astonishing woman. But the genres are too mixed and so are the viewer’s feelings towards everything that’s happening. It is not a disservice to the Fantasy Island (1977) series but it has nothing much to do with it either. If you want to watch a great blend of such genres, The Cabin in the Woods (2011) is what you need to watch!

A real shame as Fantasy Island stresses two important facts of life:

  • Careful what you wish for!
  • Your so-called liberties in life have a limit; where your fellow human beings’ begin…

Stay safe!

 

Bacurau (2019): Action / Adventure / Mystery

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A pair of bikers show up in a remote Brazilian village, foreshadowing the massacre that isn’t far behind them.

What a concept! And its development is something else! Forget about the classic Hollywood narrative and character development. The built-up and the escalation have a Brazilian signature, one you haven’t seen before. The everyday people, the everyday problems, the everyday average corrupted politician… it’s all there. A brilliant antithesis to modern Hollywood films such as John Woo’s Hard Target (1993) or indie American ones such as Happy Hunting (2017).

Editing-wise, the extensive uses of swipes, dissolves, and flashbacks lead to a non-linear action and a pace that is messing with your mind; not knowing when it’s going to escalate or how it’s going to escalate. Add to that the “who is who” and what everyone is hiding and you get a mixture of Tarantino, DePalma, Carpenter, and Leone wrapped with Brazilian magic in two unforgettable hours! In a classic Hollywood narrative, every incoherence, inconsistency, and discontinuity stands out like a fart in a library. For some reason, watching a film like Bacurau, you pray for more of them.

Stay safe!

 

Jordan, cheers for this suggestion mate! Hope to see you again before you start traveling!

Charlie’s Angels (2019): Action / Adventure / Comedy

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When a young whistleblower becomes a target, the new generation of Charlie’s Angels team steps in to save her and solve a corporate conspiracy.

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times… I don’t judge films, I judge their intentions. There might have been bad/horrible films which meant well but due to budgetary reasons or other unforeseen circumstances they faced issues. Not this one though! Charlie’s Angels is, unfortunately, undermining human intelligence. Despite Elizabeth Bank’s efforts to convince us that whoever doesn’t watch her film is sexist, the film itself couldn’t be more sexist. She tried to mitigate the successes of previous female-led films by saying that even them they were meant to be profusely for the male audience. Finally, even after her film flopped at the box office, and the critics ‘buried’ it (so no one finds it ever again), she was still proud of it.

I have nothing much to say about the film: Writer/producer/director/actress Banks and the rest of the producers prove that they have no knowledge of what real fighting or Krav Maga is. The same applies to spy games, corporate espionage, and the appreciation of the human (male) life – see how both men’s death is treated (excluding the T-1000 lookalike assassin). The action couldn’t be more laughable and the messages it is trying to come across are horrendous. To cut the long story short, this Charlie’s Angels rightfully earned its flop just like Ocean’s 8 (2018) did the year before. What were they thinking? That by portraying white men as villainous and stupid the film will instantly perform well? It is an embarrassment. And that’s me done about the waste of my almost two hours.

There is something else that the creators of this film have no grasp of: How it is to be stuck into a 9-5 job that you hate or do 24-hour shifts round the clock. One of the things they would have learned – which would be beneficial to the film as well – is that wherever there is no diversity, there is a problem. Have you ever been to a working environment with just women? The amount of bitching is unfathomable! Have you ever been to a working environment with only men? Plainly boring and dull! This world needs diversity and we all need each other equally to move forward. Furthermore, we all need to stop being proud of what we haven’t earned.

Elizabeth Banks is extremely talented both in front of and behind the camera and I will keep being a fan regardless. Watch her Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) and watch her in People Like Us (2012) to get an idea. It is a shame that she tried to please the masses and pretentious social media groups. Because even they didn’t care about her effort.

 

P.S. To the mindless side of Hollywood: Stop treating us like we are dumb. We know life better than you do!

Rambo: Last Blood (2019): Action / Adventure / Thriller

 

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When the girl who raised as his own daughter gets kidnapped by Mexican human traffickers, Rambo goes on a rampage to get her back.

Let me tell you a story about John Rambo… Behind the American propaganda, and behind the real-life wars that affected real-life people in the real-life world, Rambo, as a fictional character, is a man not so different from you and me. With desires, wants, needs, feelings, and emotions. That said, he’s a natural-born killer. In Rambo: First Blood (1982), we get to see that he’s a misled soldier who has realised he is carrying this ‘curse’ and upon running out of missions to complete, all he needs is to be left alone as the world makes no sense to him. It never did and probably never will.

Cutting to Last Blood, the ‘curse’ has not been lifted but now he has found a (mission) purpose; the daughter he never got to have. The story is solid, don’t get me wrong. The idea behind Last Blood makes it a Rambo film through and through. Its development becomes the problem though. Director Adrian Grunberg, actor/writer/producer Sylvester Stallone, and the studios should have revised and tightened the script up, deciding on its tone, rhythm, pace, and continuity. Gabrielle’s father switches, in a blink of an eye, in a way I am still scratching my beard. Human trafficker Hugo Martinez knows military combat communication (somehow) but no tactics at all, and the story itself holds back on dramatic intensity, especially surrounding deaths, and goes full throttle on brutal violence like anything you’ve seen in the previous installments. Last but not least, it feels as if the writers for a few minutes forgot who Rambo is and sent him straight to an ambush that a 5 y/o would have seen blindfolded – still scratching the beard. By the way, I totally didn’t see one event coming though (no spoilers). You can read here about the funny or comic versions of other scripts that were handed in at the time before the studios chose this one to be the one: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1206885/trivia?item=tr4768586

These are the inconsistencies I am talking about. Make sure you watch the extended R-rated version which is a lot more… juicy! Be it as it may, the action is indeed brutal and if you want to blow some steam off just put it on and hit ‘Play’. Do not try to find plot holes, it’s not productive. After all, it’s not every year the year that two major franchises that my generation grew up with come to an end – https://kgpfilmreviews.wordpress.com/2020/01/16/terminator-dark-fate-2019-action-adventure-sci-fi/.

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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Sarah Connor and an enhanced human from the future must fight against the most advanced Terminator ever sent back in time, protecting a young woman whose existence is the key to humanity’s fate.

Old wine, new bottle. The franchise’s sixth installment acknowledges only Terminator (1984), and Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) and pretends the ones in between never happened (or ‘occurred in alternate timelines’).

The pros: The story contains – or repeats – the necessary elements from T1 and T2 making actually Dark Fate look and sound like a Terminator movie. Linda Hamilton defies age. Mackenzie Davis kicks ass. Gabriel Luna… keeps coming back. And last but not least, even though I was skeptical at first glance, Arnold Schwarzenegger always was and always will be the Terminator.

The cons: Even though the story borrows the best elements from the previous films, the script relies on T1‘s and T2‘s previous glory to stand out only to, eventually, get overshadowed by them. James Cameron and Tim Miller are both visual effects directors, leading to a VFX overuse. Which is exactly what T1 and T2 weren’t. Cameron’s and Miller’s opposite personalities clashed and that showed heavily on the editing suite – where all fights between them took place. Dark Fate, as collateral damage paid the price for it. Lastly, Natalia Reyes, an otherwise very charismatic actress, landed a role that was plainly flat. And it wasn’t her fault. Going from crying and never fired a weapon to the moronic, wannabe heroic level ‘I will stand and I will fight’ makes everyone yawn to tears – something that eight (8) writers and co-writers who read it got the goosebumps.

Filmmakers need to keep in mind that #movements are there, in their majority, for impressions and popularity. Not everyone but most people, from all over the world and every walk of life, join these movements to give meaning to their lives and express themselves, from the comfort of their couch and the safety of their house, in a way that they never could face to face. The systematic effort to please these groups keeps leading to film failures and fans’ profound disappointment. Because hashtags are for free, films aren’t.

Does it worth your time? It does. Remember, film= escapism. For just over two hours relax and forget all your problems. If anything, it will be probably the last Terminator you will ever watch.

 

Men in Black International (2019): Action / Adventure / Comedy

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Men in Black, the secret government organisation with the cream of the crop agents and the advanced technology from all over the known Universe is now having a mole who threatens to destroy the Earth.

The reasons are obvious as to why it didn’t perform well. Barry Sonnenfeld, director of Men in Black I (1997), Men in Black II (2002), and Men in Black III (2012) gave MIB an appealing character to men, women, and children of all ages. F. Gary Gray and the studios decided it’s a wise choice to ‘devote’ Men in Black: International to millennials and, as a result, it was turned into something unfulfilling for everyone else – even them evidently. To be more specific:

  • Online childish slang (?) such as ‘you had one job’ and ‘that happened…’ were only put there just to have these lines heard by their favourite actors/actresses.
  • Both men and women, we acknowledge that Chris Hemsworth is attractive. Fair enough, but to make him look like he just finished a fragrance photoshoot or an underwear ad throughout the whole film kills the vibe, throws the fans of MIB off, and ultimately depreciates the franchise’s value.
  • I know it’s an action/comedy/adventure but the main hero comes to realise something he never expected about himself (no spoilers). Do we feel like he is really affected by it? No. That kills the drama. And as a whole, I didn’t really feel anything about anyone as it was all…
  • Fun! Comedy works in mysterious ways and what makes people tick varies. BUT… having a punchline for everything that happens for almost two hours creates one emotion for every situation.

Men in Black: International became a lose-lose situation for studios and audiences alike. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (even Josh Brolin) became MIB by earning their stripes. F. Gary Gray is an amazing director. Friday (1995) and Straight Outta Compton (2015) are brilliant examples of his work but Matt Holloway’s and Art Marcum’s script didn’t do any favours to anyone. If you also want to admire Chris Hemsworth as a presence but also a thespian, watch Rush (2013), In the Heart of Sea (2015), Bad Time at the El Royale (2018), and of course, the Thor/Avengers franchise.

I’m not even gonna go into production details and I feel sorry for not having something good to say (except that Tessa Thompson is always mesmerising).

6 Underground (2019): Action / Adventure / Comedy

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Six highly, uncommonly skilled – each in their own way – men and women have formed an anonymous team for the sole purpose of… making the world a better place.

Michael Bay does what Michael Bay does best. What do you expect from 6 Underground? Slo-mo? You got it. Slow-mo with car chases? But with also faster than you can blink cuts? You got it. Shots with choppers? You got it. From within choppers? Over the choppers? Against the sundown? With whirring blades (slo-mo of course)? Shots with men and women throwing punchlines at the brink of death, swapping to superficial drama, killers looking like they came out of underwear or fragrance ad? You. Got. It. All!

At a budget of $150 million, Netflix urges Bay to just destroy everything – preferably with explosions. Everything nice you see in the film will get destroyed. Simple as. Story-wise, the high levels of implausibility, improbability, and impossibility run through the film’s veins from the opening to the closing credits, making the Fast & Furious (2001- ) franchise look like a based-on-a-true-story. Meaning: The operations and the decisions taken throughout the operations are purely laughable, the chances of survival having suffered certain wounds are zero (much less keep running and jumping around, shooting, and kicking ass), the access to whatever they need, whenever they need it, the warp speed of getting from one country to the next… I can go on forever here! But… I have a favourite one: The brother’s speech causing the fastest revolution ever started in a film!!! The revolution started before even the speech ended. And, cinematically, guess how? Accompanied by pop, hybrid music, or whatever the hell it’s called nowadays, with lyrics calling to arms. I think I’m gonna stop here, you got the gist.

Here’s my two cents. Don’t take 6 Underground seriously for a minute. Know what you sign up for, sit down, relax, surround yourself with great company and horrible food, and enjoy the Bay style of filmmaking that makes all your problems disappear for two hours. This way, you’ll get to enjoy:

  • High octane, multiangular action sequences,
  • The destruction of everything looking fancy,
  • Entertainingly gruesome deaths,
  • Buildings and surroundings that are meant to be in one country but are shot in another,
  • Ryan Reynolds blatantly advertising his Gin,
  • Ryan Reynolds as an endless punchline machine,
  • Funnily foul language,
  • The “magnet sequence”,
  • “Rebellious” heroes and heroines who just came out of a Christian Dior and Calvin Klein photoshoot,
  • Transformers sound effects,
  • And an awesome soundtrack!

Death Ship (1980): Adventure / Horror / Mystery

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A Nazi ghost ship rams a cruise ship, sinks it, and then comes back only to get the survivors on board and make them descent into madness.

Act I: Chessy ’70s editing, accompanied by cheesy ’70s music. Get to know who everyone is and what everyone is like. You see them having fun and then you see them sink.

Act II: Get to know the ship… and what it can do to its passengers. Or, even better, what it can make the passengers do to each other.

Act III: Standard, hiding no major surprises.

Death Ship could as well be the B-movie version of The Shining (1980), on the sea. After all, they came out the same year. Also, the same year, the same producers brought you the Terror Train (1980) – I assume you can see the connection. Anyhow, Death Ship may not be well known but I would call it the father, the instigator of every other ghost ship movie out there. So, if the three acts are as described above, do I recommend it? I do indeed. But before I say why please pay attention: You must watch it with untrained, ’80s eyes! Where a good B-movie was as entertaining. Forget the New Hollywood, the 21st century, and how the digital era advanced the filmmaking techniques (or did it?). Keep the Italian Giallo horror films in mind. Not knowing too much about films in the mid-nineties, I first watched it with my brother and we crapped our pants! Is it now outdated? It sure is, but let it trip you down the memory lane. Through an era that you were either too young or not even born. In a time where ‘Intermission’ appeared halfway through the film… Damn, I’m getting nostalgic!

Anyway, if it doesn’t scare you, let it amuse you. Cinematically, the ‘omniscient’ handheld shots are the film’s biggest asset. Crenna and Kennedy are brilliant and so is the cinematography. Last but not least, the first act’s cheesy editing becomes the second act’s conveyor of paranoia…

That one’s for you bro. Remember the scare we got that night (dog manically barking outside / grandma appearing out of nowhere)???

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/366QDFz

Ad Astra (2019): Adventure / Drama / Mystery

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After a series of cosmic power surges threaten to wipe out life as we know it, an astronaut undertakes a space mission in the hope of stopping them but also finding his father who was considered long gone.

I might not be reading reviews before writing mine but I happened to read Ad Astra‘s on a Sunday night, right after the film came out. They were horrible. I mean shockingly bad, claiming that film fails on every front. The titles alone were… hilarious. So, what did I do? I packed it up on the spot, went to the last screening, and watched it. I hadn’t even watched the trailer. So…

The film itself is not near as bad as people make it to be. Potential issues might include the following: Us, the audience, do not really experience neither the surges nor their aftermath. Through the news, we can see a number that thousands have died and this is it. Therefore, the actual reason why Brad Pitt goes to space heavily focuses on his issue with his father and partially due to his ex leaving him. He doesn’t seem to care at all about the fact that thousands have died and that the future of the Earth but also the rest of the solar system solely burdens him. The second act, yes, it is slow but this merely means anything. To me, the biggest problem of the film lies in the third act. I could thoroughly elaborate as to why but my reviews are spoiler-free so, you are more than welcome to comment when you watch it. Sources claim that director James Gray had to compromise his ending in order for the studio to give the green light. It makes me wonder how his finale would be.

None of these issues though justify the horrendous reviews. I watched the trailer afterwards and looked into a few production details. As with the film’s ending, the studio caused the biggest damage. The trailer had no idea how to promote the film. Subsequently, people thought that they are going to the movies to watch this year’s Gravity (2013), Interstellar (2014), or The Martian (2015) – which again would pose an issue as not too many people would want to watch another Matt Damon rescue. To cut the long story short, the audience was given the wrong impression and went there with false expectations. Maybe if it had been marketed as Solaris (2002) things would have been different. See the poster above as well. As if seeing close-ups of Brad Pitt for two hours is not enough, he has to be staring at us even before we enter the theatre. Oh, and read the tagline and weep.

I would like to conclude by saying that the slow editing paces the film’s rhythm as it was initially intended, Max Richter’s music is superb, Brad Pitt expresses Roy’s emptiness perfectly, and last but not least, Ruth Negga, as always, every time she makes an on-screen appearance, mesmerises.

I don’t regret being on my own in the whole theatre watching it. Knowing nothing beforehand, I perceived Ad Astra as an existential journey to the vast loneliness of space which can only be outmatched by the vast loneliness of our soul.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2skmG6u

Good Boys (2019): Adventure / Comedy

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Drugs, alcohol, obsessive teenage girls, bullying, and a sex doll are in the way of three schoolboys that are ready to party.

Yes, the guys who brought you Superbad (2007), Neighbors (2014) and Sausage Party (2016) brought you this. But what is this? This is a film that some people were telling me that I’ll be laughing through my tears and some others that it will insult my intelligence. That there would be nothing in between. So, I watched it. And there is nothing in between…

I probably counted around five to six funny moments and I’m not sure about a couple of them. It got too American for my standards on more than one occasion, but that is not the film’s major issue. The major issue is the forced, scripted humour and the forced five dozen times the kids “have to” say the word “f*ck” and its derivatives. I’m a big fan of R-rated films in all genres as there is a lot more freedom of expression both visually but also verbally but Good Boys is just too scripted and its message is clear: Provoke by having the kids swear as much as possible while getting into inappropriate situations.

It doesn’t matter really. The film cost around $20M and made over $110M so, who cares what me, you, or anyone else is saying. Hopefully, the team will do a come back with something equally provocative but naturally funny, and there won’t be any either-or; just narratively funny.

P.S. OK, the kids are brilliant!

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/36fI4Zn

Alita (2019): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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A dismantled cyborg found in a scrapyard is put together by a rather unconventional doctor but when she wakes up with no memory and hell-bent on discovering who she is, she goes against anyone who stands in her way.

Amazing visuals! Director Robert Rodriguez, producer James Cameron, and the visual effects department perform magic with the film’s visuals. A lot of credits goes also to Junkie XL for the soundtrack and the sound department for sound effects, sound editing, and sound mixing. Actually, almost all departments do a brilliant job in the film. I guess now you are waiting for the “but”…

In a $170M film the “but” is the story! Inundated with cliches, no twists, predictable character development, and no suspense whatsoever it makes all the A-list actors yawning while performing. Rosa Salazar and Ed Skrein do the best they can though as heroine and villain respectively. Shame really. With Rodriguez and Cameron in the credits, one would expect at least an extraordinary story, something along the lines of the films both of them have given us over the last four decades. Alita, unfortunately, is not one of them…

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2MzgZsg

Sucker Punch (2011): Action / Adventure / Fantasy

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After losing her mother and accidentally killing her sister, a young girl gets institutionalised, mentally withdrawing to an alternate reality, to produce an escape plan.

There is no real need for yet another review on Sucker Punch but, stumbling upon a horrible critique the other day, I felt like watching it again and writing about it. Directing, acting, cinematography, visual & sound effects, editing, music, casting, costume design, makeup, art direction, stunt coordination, choreography… get 10/10.  The opening sequence alone could be a landmark for montage in the 21st century’s Hollywood.

As for the script, this is an excruciatingly dramatic story written and uniquely developed by Zack Snyder. A more symbolic logline could be: A fragile, young girl descends into madness after reality hits her harder than she could ever imagine, not even giving her the time or arsenal to defend herself. Possibly the most artistic way of examining the mind’s coping mechanisms in multiple layers. Read between the lines; there is a huge amount of information waiting to be discovered. For more spoilers, have a look at this one. Very interesting: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0978764/trivia?item=tr1610675

It’s always easy to cast stones and judge from the comfort of our couch. To go out there and actually do though is what takes real “cojones”. You don’t have to like it. Whoever thinks s/he can do a better job, by all means, give it a shot – and write about your experience. The number of hours and amount of effort put to bring such a film to life is beyond understanding. If you are passionate about German expressionism, Italian neorealism, experimental/avant-garde, or even art-house cinema and you still decide to watch it and don’t like it… at least don’t attack it.

They say words are mightier than the sword. Unfortunately, in this case, it proved to be true.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2tS9kP0

Rim of the World (2019): Action / Adventure / Comedy

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Four teenagers meet at a campsite when the world gets invaded by aliens and it is up them to save humanity.

Well, well… if I haven’t elaborated before on exploiting kids and races! Anyway, you know what, I’m not gonna go through it again. So, let’s focus on the film itself.

It’s Independence Day (1996) meets Jurrasic Park (1993), meets Stand By Me (1986), meets E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) (and quite a few more) but, unfortunately, it’s neither! Not even close. On the plus side, it’s fun. Made me chuckle a few times. Should you decide to watch it, don’t have any expectations. Put it on and forget your problems for just over an hour and a half.

Escape Room (2019): Action / Adventure / Drama

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For a chance to win $10,000 finding their way out of a challenging escape room, six strangers must work together for, ultimately, a chance to save their lives.

Right… So… If you are under 15 y/o: Enjoy the dynamic of the characters, the kind of far-fetched yet enjoyable riddles, and the brilliant production design, art direction, and set decoration.

If you are over 15 y/o: Still watch it if you want to but I would go for something more… extravagant: Cube (1997), The Experiment (2001), Identity (2003), Exam (2009), Triangle (2009), The Killing Room (2009), Coherence (2013), The Belko Experiment (2016).

And these are just on the top of my head. There are dozens more. Two things about Escape Room: On one hand, when the producers imply that there will be more, they shouldn’t be giving away so much information in the end. It destroys the mystery by answering most of the burning questions. On the other hand, if I had to recommend it that would be for… Taylor Russell and Deborah Ann Woll!

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2FcRdWJ

Bumblebee (2018): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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With Cybertron at war, Optimus Prime sends B-127 (Bumblebee) to Earth to establish a base for the Autobots and protect the planet.

Prequel to Transformers (2007), Travis Knight’s first live-action film “Bumblebee” takes a more classic look of the original cartoon series. The opening sequence reminded me of my childhood years but my nostalgia faded away upon Bee’s arrival on Earth. Memories were temporarily restored half-way watching again the tunnel from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and Back to the Future II (1989).

Stereotypical American bimbos meant to be hated, stereotypical American jerks no one could care less about, stereotypically American army being thick as pigshit, and main characters that I would love if it was actually 1987 and I was 5. Did I mention that the storyline was so predictable?

To be fair, Bumblebee’s final battle against Shatter and Dropkick was quite impressive.

P.S. OK, it was funny when “Bee” ruined blondie’s car.

P.P.S. Steve Jablonsky where are you???

P.P.P.S You can find it here: https://amzn.to/39uqrXI

Papillon (2017): Adventure / Biography / Crime

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Convicted for a murder he didn’t commit, Henri Charriere is sent to the Devil’s Island where, along with a fellow inmate, they plan an escape of a lifetime.

Based on Charriere’s memoirs, directed by Michael Noer – “R” (2010) and “Northwest” (2013) – and written by Aaron Guzikowski, “Papillon” didn’t get the publicity it deserved. Was it because people (or critics) thought that Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek couldn’t replace Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman respectively? Was it because the story wasn’t known to today’s era audience? Or is it maybe because classic films should be left alone and be remembered for what they achieved when they were made?

Directing, Acting, Script, Photography, Soundtrack, Costume Design, all work as one and fulfill their purpose. The editing is disruptive though which unfolds the story intermittently. There must be an “Editor’s Cut” or “Director’s Cut” version, surely. It seems as if scenes, even sequences, have been omitted from the final cut. Crucial to the story elements that would make the audience engage more with “Papillon’s” suffering.

Overall, it is a very decent, intense, and gritty remake and cast and crew deserve to be recognised for this effort.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2Q6aRcQ

Triple Frontier (2019): Action / Adventure / Crime

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Five ex-Special Forces soldiers band together one last time to rob the money of a cocaine cartel boss in South America where everything can go wrong.

While watching the opening sequence, I thought to myself “Netflix hit the nail again”!  The moment I started to get to know the characters, I thought to myself “I hope the cliches stop here”. As the story started unfolding, the pit of cliches got full way before half-way.

Really shame. The photography is infallible. Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal are brilliant actors yet none of them gets the opportunity to fully develop their character. J.C. Chandor, an equally brilliant director who was behind the camera of great films such as “Margin Call” (2011), “All is Lost” (2013), and “A Most Violent Year” (2014), delivers a film this time that does not have one memorable shot. Same applies for editing where no sequence has anything unique or something to talk about.

All these are minor though. The main problem is the script. I don’t know how many times I’ve said it before but I know how any I’m gonna say it; countless!

“You can’t fix a bad script after you start shooting. The problems on the page only get bigger as they move to the big screen.” — Howard Hawks

Besides the action’s inconsistencies and the undeveloped characters, the biggest blow is the dialogue. It is extremely poorly written and the shocking part is that the aforementioned A-list actors were OK with it. It is beyond me so, I’m gonna leave it there.

Should you decide to watch it, I hope you enjoy it.

Animal World (2018): Adventure / Thriller

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Haunted by his personal demons, a man finds himself struggling with an unbearable debt and enters a world of obscure gambling where every move might be his last one.

Epically mental! An amalgamation of “Scott Pilgrim vs The World” (2010) and “Sucker Punch” (2011), masterfully put together with pure Chinese artistry and temperament. Remake of the Japanese film Kaiji Ultimate Gambler (2009) – an adaptation of the “Kaiji” manga series – “Animal World” mesmerises straight from the opening sequence and earns its stripes in the evolution of Chinese cinema.

Through brilliant editing and directing, and visual effects that bring the hero’s cognitive manifestations to life, director Yan Han unfolds a world within a world. A cosmos where love, brotherhood, perseverance, loyalty, and betrayal lead to one’s self-discovery and ultimately… their destiny. A journey revealing that math’s complexity pales in comparison with human nature’s intricacy. A life’s lesson that man came from an animal… and still remains one.

 

For Shiying. Thank you!!!

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988): Adventure / Comedy / Fantasy

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In times of war and reason, Baron Munchausen shows up to inspire with a story of a lifetime that bypasses reality and goes down the rabbit hole of evocative fantasy and mythical adventure.

From Constantinople to the moon, to the centre of the Earth, to the belly of the beast, and back, Baron Munchausen travels towards fabled worlds encountering heroes and deities. Nostalgia, love, dreams, childhood innocence and hope rise up through Munchausen’s escapades. A social commentary inspired by the Odyssey… delineated in a British aristocratic manner.

As one of my first cinematic experiences, Terry Gilliam makes me reminisce about my childhood years and the way I used to see the world. Where, like in the film, reality and imagination blend into one and shape a harmless world where even the abhorrent tragedy of war can be a lot easier to swallow and man’s cruelty be tolerable.

John Neville, Eric Idle, Sarah Polley, Jonathan Pryce, Uma Thurman, Robin Williams (unpaid and uncredited) and the rest of the cast shared Gilliam’s vision of a better world than ours and supported him to see it through as the unfathomably humongous production complications wouldn’t stop appearing.

But reality’s misfortunes were defeated by prevalent, mythical will that projected it eventually to the silver screen.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2ZvlmJQ

Overlord (2018): Action / Adventure / Horror

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An American airborne unit lands on Nazi-occupied France only to discover a horror beyond the Nazis.

Brutal, savage, and sadistic, Overlord, keeps you on the edge of your seat. If there is anything worse than the Nazis, that is the realization of their twisted psychosis. Focusing on “Operation Overlord”, an operation that took place in parallel with “Operation Neptune” (both of them put together became known as D-Day), J.J. Abrams produces Julius Avery’s historical horror where “Band of Brothers” (2001) meets the “Night of the Living Dead” (1968).

Strong first act with an even stronger opening sequence, practical visual effects that beat CGI every single time, and acting that makes its implausibility easy to swallow. Is it flawless? Nope. Is it to be taken seriously? Not really. Does one forget their problems for almost two hours and get sucked in? Hell. Yeah.

A lot of unnecessary negativity surrounds the film but people tend to oversee sometimes why a film could have possibly been made, the purpose it might serve, and the unpredictable outcome an experimental genre mixture may have.

I’ve said this before, I’m saying it again, and I will keep on saying it: I don’t aim at the film but the intentions behind it.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2QqtkzZ

Mortal Engines (2018): Action / Adventure / Fantasy

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Hundreds of years from now, the world as we know it has been destroyed, the remaining cities have been mobilised, the major cities are hunting down the smaller ones, and two youngsters do everything in their power to change the status quo.

I’ve spoken before about budget and creativity as I have spoken before about the transferrable problems of a script to the big screen. I guess it was meant to be a saga but chances now are slim to none. Remember the “Golden Compass” (2007)? I’m not surprised. Mortal Engines‘ visuals are stunning. Hands down. The cast does a pretty decent job too; that is not a problem either. What was it then and it bombed?

Every time I watch a film, I’m always looking for that shot. The shot that will make me say “damn”! And then I’ll have to rewind and so can watch it again. What I’m also going for is a good line. Something that will make me say “I wish I have thought of that”! So, when independent films with 1/50 of Mortal Engines‘ budget have both, and “Mortal Engines” has none, it is only natural not to be impressed. To add insult to the injury, the same applies for the editing. Not only is there not even one good montage sequence, but the whole film feels rushed. It feels as if it got “chopped” fast to flush you non-stop down the FADE OUT.

Just “From the Producer of…” won’t cut it. Because as a household name, if you bring it up, you have to live up to your expectations and the reputation that precedes you. Shame really. Not for the money thrown away really, but mostly for the actors who want to catch a big fish, they let the small ones go, and they end up catching a boot.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2MA7IA2