Crimes of the Future (2022): Drama/Horror/Sci-fi

In the not-so-distant future, certain humans evolve in unexpected ways, and while some embrace it and see the artistic side of it, others only want to suppress it.

Intricate, interesting, and largely unspecified. It’s been eight years since we last saw a feature film from David Cronenberg – Maps to the Stars (2014) so, brace yourselves. The first act, and the Orchidbed in particular, inevitably leads back to Cronenberg’s early films that gave him his unique identity – The Brood (1979), Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983), etc. Such elements can also be found throughout the rest of the film (the Sark autopsy, the Breakfaster Chair…) but it’s not just the prosthetics or the visual effects. The surrealistic acting, the Kafqu-esque atmosphere, the blurry distinction between art and science, and the dark consideration of what both are, constitute a dystopian, decadent future (not far from present-day) whose reality seems to belong to another Earth similar to ours, with humans identical to us, but with (un)natural elements and behaviours that are barely recognised or understood. The Fly (1986), Naked Lunch (1991), and eXistenZ (1999) add to the films mentioned above and, in their own respect, they have shaped equally different realities.

From a filmmaking point of view, admittedly, I didn’t find it challenging. Douglas Koch’s photography serves the narrative well, but that is pretty much is. The narrative in and of itself though is. Cronenberg has a long history of examining society through the lens of sexuality and technology and Crimes of the Future isn’t an exception. The new ways of experiencing pleasure, the alien-like technology that fulfills specific needs, and the evolution of people who consume… “plastic”, are all allegories of the world we live in. Did you get them? If yes, what did you think of them? How effective were they? If you thought they weren’t, why?

I find it hard to imagine how Cronenberg pitched this script, especially when it came to defining the audience. Shot entirely in Greece with actors from all over the world, the film has, on one hand, a universal taste, and, on the other hand, a small crowd to follow. Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, Scott Speedman, Lihi Kornowski, Don McKellar, Nadia Litz, Tanaya Beatty, Welket Bungué, and Yorgos Pirpassopoulos do a great job in front of the camera, but the narrative is such that can leave you undecided in regard to their chemistry.

To every Cronenberg fan: Watch it! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it.

Please, don’t forget to share, and subscribe. If you enjoy my work and dedication to films, please feel free to support me on https://www.patreon.com/kaygazpro. Any contribution is much appreciated and valued.

Solidarity for Ukraine 🇺🇦 🙏

Stay safe!

Double Helix (2021): Short/Drama/Sci-fi

Two siblings escape their home and hide in an abandoned school, but the “Song of Life” will unexpectedly change their lives.

Concise, current, and thought-provoking. Writer/director Sheng Qiu brings to life the intentionally unemotional, Double Helix that shows without telling that “life” has yet to be defined.

Protracted shots, montage sequences, minimalistic soundtrack, underplayed performances and “Lynchian” narrative examine the ancient human attempt to become God and its inevitable consequences. Based on Jinkang Wang’s famous science fiction novel “Song of Life”, Double Helix combines Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” with the superfluous human need to explore boundaries we could overcome, but not necessarily should. Great watch! I hope one day we get to see the feature, preferably, with both Xi’an Cao and Zhenzhen Xiaoli. Extra credits go to cinematographer Ranjun Xu, and editor Jianfan Yu.

Please, don’t forget to share, and subscribe. If you enjoy my work and dedication to films, please feel free to support me on https://www.patreon.com/kaygazpro. Any contribution is much appreciated and valued.

Solidarity for Ukraine 🇺🇦 🙏

Stay safe!

After Yang (2021): Drama/Sci-fi

In the not-so distant-future, a family’s A.I. breaks down, and, when certain secrets are revealed, everyone starts reevaluating life’s values.

Going from kinda melancholic, to kinda funny, to clearly confusing, Kogonada’s After Yang determines from the very beginning what kind of a film it is. Based on the short story by Alexander Weinstein “Saying Goodbye to Yang”, After Yang walks a tightrope, loses its balance and falls, depending on your school of thought, either onto monotony or somnolence. If you are a fan of Yorgos Lanthimos’ emotionless films, Dogtooth (2009), The Lobster (2015), and The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), you might find it interesting – and it actually is. It’s no surprise Colin Farrell is in it as he has been in two of Lanthimos’ films and, I’m glad he is for it shows that he is beyond Hollywood cliché roles that boost his personality and not his acting skills. Next to him, Jodie Turner-Smith (Kyra), Justin H. Min (Yang), and Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja (Mika) complete the main, and wonderfully diverse cast.

On the other hand, personally, I prefer films that evoke emotions as their expression fills me with emotions, and, consequently, I express myself. After Yang left me emotionally flat; I grasp the philosophical approach, but I believe it falls short cinematically. Having said that, pay attention to the editing when characters philosophise; the expression of their thoughts right before the expression of their sentences. What does that mean to you? How do you interpret it? What’s the reason behind it? Photography, admittedly, adds to the quality of the film as do certain visual effects, still though, I struggled to get emotionally attached to the narrative. In the end, I liked how the story concluded and how it got there as it left me speculating and/or imagining the real meaning of the plot. Some more questions for you: What does family mean to you? What do memories mean to you? What are we without them?

As mentioned above, there is philosophy aplenty involved. Its cinematic approach though might leave you unengaged with the narrative – but, it may not. This might be due to the kind of action, the kind of utterances, the flat performances, or, simply, the way the story unfolds. I would recommend it to a particular audience as some people I know would watch it and debate or accept my arguments and others would fall asleep the first half hour, blaming me then and asking for their time back.

Now that you know, it’s up to you.

Solidarity for Ukraine 🇺🇦 🙏

Stay safe!

Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021): Action/Fantasy/Sci-fi

A man with a dark past is sent to an allegedly cursed place to find and bring back a missing woman.

Experimental, surrealistic, and intricately poetic. Don’t expect to make much sense in the beginning… Or in the middle… Or in the end… I’ll keep it deliberately brief so you can decide for yourselves if this is your cup of tea or not.

It seems like Nicolas Cage and Sofia Butella’s story takes place in a dystopic, surrealistic, post-apocalyptic, Westernised Japan stuck (metaphorically) in (a futuristic) time. How did that happen? It doesn’t really matter. Through diverse filmmaking techniques, such as Tarantin-esque and Lynchean, Prisoners of the Ghostland is inundated with surrealistic performances and utterances, and oneiric (dreamy) and trippy sequences. Furthermore, the spirit of ancient Greek drama that guides it, from the chorus to the means of expression, adds to the hero’s journey on the way of redemption. What to expect, in a nutshell: A story that doesn’t make too much sense, in a film that doesn’t care to explain (not the way you would expect to, anyway). And neither feels guilty about it nor apologises for it.

For your information… the film faced certain setbacks. Director Sion Sono suffered a heart attack and the film was moved from Mexico to Japan, and that delayed the production for about 1 year. It took 17 years for the writer Reza Sixo Safai took to get the film made so, if it wasn’t for Sion’s health, it still would have been 16. This is the fourth collaboration between XYZ Films and Cage who, once more, goes on berserk mode. If you are interested, Mandy (2018): https://kaygazpro.com/2018/12/01/mandy-2018-action-horror-thriller/ and Color out of Space (2019): https://kaygazpro.com/2020/02/07/color-out-of-space-2019-horror-sci-fi/ are equally colourful and crazy. But even they make more sense than this one. Oh, if that’s your thing, don’t forget this one: Willy’s Wonderland (2021): https://kaygazpro.com/2021/11/24/willys-wonderland-2021-action-comedy-horror/

Cage’s surrealistic acting is unique and it’s his trademark. Love him or loathe him, he has managed to stand out and create a specific fan club that follows him. He even got acting schools to focus on his way of performing, calling him the David Lynch of acting (Lynch has praised him already). Needless to say that Butella is mesmerising as ever and, as in previous films, she doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty.

Now that you know, it’s up to you of you are going to give it a shot or not.

Solidarity for Ukraine 🇺🇦 🙏

Stay safe!

Mother/Android (2021): Drama/Sci-fi/Thriller

A pregnant woman and her boyfriend seek a safe place to survive the uprising of the androids that have eliminated most of the human world.

Hollywood’s post-apocalyptic attempt to thrill, doesn’t hit the spot. I’m gonna keep this deliberately short. The good news is Chloë Grace Moretz. Moretz was born to become an actress thus, she is amazing no matter what kind of film she’s in. Even in films such as the Shadow in the Cloud (2020): https://kaygazpro.com/2021/01/20/shadow-in-the-cloud-2020-action-horror-war/ that had a great premise and incredibly poor development (mother against monsters vs mother against androids).

Everything else is a three-act free-fall to solid concrete. Producer/writer/director Mattson Tomlin’s film lacks the understanding of both the apocalyptic and the post-apocalyptic stage. Simple as! There is nothing more to it. It is an underwhelming idea of what would have happened if androids rebelled against the species that created them. James Cameron succeeded in providing that version of our future about thirty-eight years ago and has yet to be surpassed.

Admittedly, some handheld shots work really well, but it is the narrative that doesn’t. Other than androids’ predicament, certain human decisions and actions are far beyond understanding, such as nine-month pregnant Georgia’s decision to save Sam. That defies all wrongs of decision-making ever made in the human history of wrongs. Yeah, that much sense it makes! And I will not even get started on the countless plotholes. Shame, really. But I insist on Moretz’s amazing performance (at everything she’s in).

Stay safe!

P.S. To every aspiring screenwriter out there – including me: Producers who constantly claim they seek perfection, innovation, and uniqueness in your scripts in order to consider it… they are lying!

These Final Hours (2013): Drama/Sci-fi/Thriller

With only a few hours left before the end of the world, a man needs to decide where his consciousness lies.

Impactful and soul-wrenching apocalyptic indie drama! Right off the bat, the end is nigh! The comet has hit the Earth, half of the world is already gone, and Perth is the last place the firestorm is going to hit! James’ last journey to redemption is also our tour to the end of humanity. The comet may be the one that kills the planet, but it seems that humanity has died way before that. The journey consists of violence, amorality, guns, drugs, partying, death aplenty, and… maybe hope, right before it dries up. Twelve hours to a destination that, in this case, it actually matters as much as the journey itself.

The film’s quality shows in all three stages of production. The script is solid, the mise-en-scene is thoroughly meticulous from beginning till end, and the editing moves the story forward by pacing it, keeping the interest always at peak level – excellent use of flashbacks. Writer/director Zak Hilditch incredibly utilises his small budget, investing it in an apocalyptic drama that reveals the hair-raising nature of ours, but also the one that makes us proud of the tiny little things we have or we can achieve in life… even right before death.

Nathan Phillips, Angourie Rice, Jessica De Gouw and Kathryn Beck deserve a massive round of applause for their incredible performances that bring to life characters that go through an unfathomable situation. The end of the world is something that we may not be thinking about seriously but These Final Hours is a nightmare but also food for thought for all of us. The Australian cinema has proved time and time again that it can deliver gripping and gruesome dramas and horrors, and this one is no exception.

Stay safe!

Real Steel (2011): Action/Drama/Sci-fi

In the year 2020, where robot boxing is the main sports event, an ex-boxer and his estranged son discover a robot that has the potential to win fights, but also bring them closer.

Redemption, salvation, and hope in an adventure for the whole family! This is Hollywood adventure at its best! Behind the cameras, wearing the director’s hat, Shawn Levy, and wearing the producers’ hat, Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg create a wonderful and inspiring story, for kids and adults alike. Based on the short story by Richard Matheson, John Gantis’ screenplay focuses on the estranged father/son relationship, and through robot boxing, the journey of reconciliation. Atom becomes the Deus ex machina of hope for them two and, consequently, for all of us who have stopped or forgot looking for it. The “David vs Goliath” fight is as old as the Bible, and, to his day, it still inspires, again, kids and adults alike, to face our fears and keep walking regardless of what life throws at us. The “delay of resolution” narrative technique fits perfectly here as both the story and character development unfold in an old-fashioned way, avoiding gimmicks, easy ways out, and yawnsome obstacles that stagnate the story.

Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo make an incredible father-son duo, Anthony Mackie, Hope Davis, the late James Rebhorn, and Kevin Durand complete the fantastic cast but… Evangeline Lilly is the one who lights up the room every time she’s in the shot. Her acting simply evokes all the intended emotions and her appearance is just mesmerising. Another special reference deserves the film’s editor Dean Zimmerman who spots the solid acting, isolates those responses, and places them exactly where they need to be placed to amplify the suspense, but also the drama. When you get a chance to watch it – or re-watch it – pay attention to the final battle between Atom and Zeus and see how these reactions within the action enhance the passion. When and how often he cuts to each character, but also how long he cuts to them makes the whole difference in the world. I’m not gonna bore you with it, and don’t really pay too much attention as you’ll miss the most important part; the story itself.

Probably my favourite Shawn Levy film, as much as I’m fond of all of his films in general. Definitely worth a watch and re-watch. With a plague hovering over our heads for over two years now, any inspiration is welcome.

Stay safe!

P.S. From the simplest boxing moves to the “rope-a-dope” technique, was all supervised by Sugar Ray Leonard himself.

The Matrix Resurrections (2021): Action/Sci-fi

Mr. Anderson lives an unfulfilled life, but glimpses of a different reality make him question what is real, what isn’t, and if he should follow once again the white rabbit.

Sour wine in a new, unmarketable bottle. Films that have impressively elaborated on the human consciousness, so far, involve, but are not limited to: Koyaanisqatsi (1982), Dark City (1998), The Thirteen Floor (1999), Inception (2010), Sucker Punch (2011), and, of course, the original Matrix Trilogy (1999 – 2003). Again, to name but a few. In The Matrix Resurrections it becomes clear that the Matrix, for the people still living in the Matrix, was just a game and the person who designed the game was no other than Thomas Anderson – a game designer working for a major company. In a meeting they have, the company’s CEO establishes that their parent company, the entertainment conglomerate corporation WarnerMedia will go ahead for the “Matrix 4” game with or without them. “Originality” becomes the key point of the meeting. Ironically, this is exactly what The Matrix Resurrections lacks. In a nutshell, and spoiler-free summary here are the major issues that The Matrix Resurrections suffers from:

  • Agent Smith has been upgraded to incomprehensible levels while his personality has been degraded – no disrespect to Jonathan Groff as it is his character development’s fault, and not his. If Hugo Weaving was offered the role, I can see why he gave it a pass.
  • The Analyst goes from God level to b*tch level within a few sequences so he left me utterly bamboozled; a shocking inconsistency. Between him and the Architect, there’s no comparison whatsoever. Again, not the actor’s fault (you’ll see who).
  • Morpheus is a pure downgrade. Remember the original Morpheus’ inspirational speech in Zion. If yes, stick to the memory, nothing like it here. Understandable why Laurence Fishburne had nothing to do with it (even though his answer was cryptic).
  • Io: Again, remember the wild dance (and sex) in Zion after Morpheus’ speech? Io develops no connection with the audience whatsoever.
  • Neo’s and Trinity’s chemistry, albeit existing, it is constricted by the narrative’s shallowness.
  • The choreography and fighting styles not only don’t stand out, but also look fake. Everyone just fights the same way. One style fits all. Especially, given that Keanu Reeves is portraying John Wick, the fight choreographer should have paid a lot more attention to the details.
  • Remember, upon the original trilogy’s release, how many of us ran to the music stores to buy the soundtracks’ CD’s? Well, this is not the case here either.

I feel I need to stop before I annihilate everything about it. The bottom line is that nothing is memorable. It is actually forgettable. Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss age like a good wine, but I wish I could say the same thing about the film itself. If anything stood out at all, that is Bugs! Jessica Yu Li Henwick should get all the praise. It feels like she is the only one who goes the extra mile for what she says and does, and her effort is my only takeaway after the end credits start scrolling down.

Films are products of their time. Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix Resurrections does not only lack originality, it also lacks the original trilogy’s mysticism. It provides answers too soon, too fast, to trivial questions compared to what the original Matrix (1999) raised back then. It lacks the original characters’ authenticity and passion, and it lacks the narrative’s existential philosophy.

Warner Bros has been following a very dangerous distribution technique with its affiliated company HBO, distributing to both cinemas and HBO Max simultaneously. I guess as long as their parent company’s (AT&T) stock goes up, they don’t care as much for the films themselves. Welcome to the business of art. Or, is it the art of business…

Stay safe!

Don’t Look Up (2021): Comedy/Drama/Sci-fi

In a good news/bad news situation, two relatively unknown astronomers discover a comet, but they also go the extra mile to let everyone know that is going to hit the Earth.

Hilarious, depressing, and ultimately illuminating! Don’t Look Up cuts straight to the chase. A comet is about to hit the earth and the government and people are in la-la land. For the first half an hour, I was wondering when the comedy will stop overshadowing the drama. But when all characters and events were presented, I realised that this comedy will be camouflaging the drama throughout. Aristophanes “gave birth” to comedy in Athens, in times where his city was suffering under the Spartan siege. “Satire”, “farce” and “parody” are elements of comedy that ridicule and criticise people, society, and governments with the intention to raise awareness, but also educate. And this is the kind of comedy Don’t Look Up is.

The government is a joke and the majority of the people they represent even more so. Writer/director Adam McKay condenses quite a few messages into his film, but shows without telling that politics, social media, and tabloid are more important than life itself. Stupid shows and hosts, indifferent pop role models, and scandalous and moronic politicians all develop as part of the subplot that supports the comedy behind the horrific and dramatic plot, namely the extinction-level event that only surfaces the human buffoonery.

I particularly liked the parts that served as mockery to, additionally, certain Hollywood apocalyptic films, capitalism, and the influence of lobbies on our society and government. The part that I particularly didn’t like was Ariana Grande’s concert sequence that, in my opinion, cherished one of the things it successfully managed to trivialise minutes earlier; the indifferent pop role models. I can understand the antithesis it tried to create with the “rednecks”, but, for me, it ended up contradicting itself. Of course, the best part is actually the end. For obvious reasons, I cannot disclose it but it is surely the appropriate denouement of the two-hour laughter and thrill that preceded it.

McKay always manages somehow to assemble incredible cast – here, five Oscar winners and two Oscar nominees: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, and Timothée Chalamet. With them, Rob Morgan and Ron Perlman complete the diverse cast.

There is so much one could say about films like this. Surely, it’s a great Netflix investment that some people will like and some people won’t. Ironically, a film that mocks capitalism/lobbyists, “influencers”, and uses a comet as a metaphor for the global warning is distributed by a colossal company and adored by social media addicts and people who could’t care less about the environment. Go figure! Maybe, “satire”, “farce” and “parody” actually describe the world we live in. I still believe there is hope though.

I very much hope you enjoy it, as well as this festive period. This is my last film review for 2021.

Stay safe!

P.S. I believe it was George Bernard Shaw who said: “If you want to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh or they’ll kill you.”

P.P.S. If I had to vote for the most hateable character, that would be Peter Isherwell. The things I could say about this guy… Marginally, in second place, comes Jason Orlean.

Encounter (2021): Sci-fi/Thriller

An ex-Marine runs away with his kids in the middle of the night, in an attempt to save them from an extraterrestrial organism that takes over people.

Captivating premise, convoluted and disoriented elaboration. Very intriguing opening sequence with interesting visuals that leads only to questions. An unknown amount of people seems to have been infected by an extraterrestrial organism that arrived on Earth inside an asteroid. The connection between that and the reason why Malik has taken the kids, although it makes sense, or should makes sense, is a head-scratcher. That is because the information is being given, at first, in a disjointed way.

Answers kept coming as the narrative unfolded, but I couldn’t help but notice the mixed feelings I’ve had during the process. It felt like while things were happening nothing was happening. The soundtrack, the sound levels, Malik’s relationship with his boys, the subplot’s connection to the plot… The latter, especially, confronts, contrasts, even contradicts the initial questions, something that raises yet another question: How bad is he? I say no more about the events, as spoilers are not allowed.

Once all answers are given, the uncertainty and confusion are been instantly replaced by transparency, and while that is meant to happen, that fact that the fog gets dissolved instantly, it disrupts the pace and rhythm. I can’t say with certainty if it’s the script that’s causing it or the editing, but I’ll go with the script. Writer Joe Barton and writer/director Michael Pearce raise ambiguous feelings while developing both the characters and the story and, admittedly, Jed Kurzel’s original music, albeit atmospheric, it interacts with the visuals in a way that… cancels out the intended feelings. Which, in all honesty, I am not sure what they were meant to be. This ambiguity reflects on Riz Ahmed’s and Octavia Spencer’s performances who look as bewildered about their utterances and actions.

If I had to put my finger on, I would say that the major cause of this is the epidermic approach of what is happening to (or with?) Malik. Again, I can’t anymore. Have a look for yourselves. I don’t regret watching it, but I’m glad I didn’t have any expectations. Maybe, you’ll feel differently.

I hope you enjoy it, as well as this festive period.

Stay safe!

Sputnik (2020): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

When a Soviet spaceship crash lands and its astronaut is taken to a secret facility, an unconventional scientist is called in to examine its sole survivor who didn’t return entirely alone.

Well-crafted sci-fi horror made in Russia. Ego Abramenko’s Sputnik has a horror/sci-fi vibe that levels with Hollywood blockbusters. As much as this is promising, it poses the following issue: If it was dubbed in English, it would be like watching a Hollywood film. And more specifically, the Alien franchise. The name relates to space exploration and the first artificial satellites Russia sent orbiting around the Earth. It also means ‘companion’ or ‘fellow traveler’ which refers to the alien organism the astronaut is carrying inside him (information provided by IMDb).

By being shot, mostly, in the Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute of Bio-organic Chemistry in Moscow, the audience can get a good sense of Soviet architecture, but also its harshness that is connected to the regime at the time. I very much enjoyed the first act and its slow-burn build-up, the plot point that connects to the main incident, and the narrative’s development until the first part of the second act. From then on, the action takes over, and even though the slaughter is appealing, it turns into a standard Hollywood-like film that is well-shot and well-edited, and that is it. What could I expect more? Drama and/or horror within the action. See Alien (1979), you cannot take your eyes off the chase because action, thriller, and horror blend in smoothly, and, simultaneously, unexpectedly.

In Sputnik, the action is expected, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t watch it. The visuals are impressive, the photography is dark, and the editing manipulates the information provided to large extent. Oksana Akinshina does a great job as the unconventional scientist who struggles between science and politics and proudly holds the films on her shoulders. Go for it and, if anything, get a fresh take of the ‘blockbuster’ meaning.

Stay safe!

Titane (2021): Drama/Horror/Sci-fi

In a time where a series of unresolved crimes is on the rise, a go-go dancer with a metal plate fitted into her head runs away, only to be found by a tortured fire chief who accepts her as his son.

France’s official submission for the ‘Best International Feature Film’ category of the 94th Academy Awards in 2022 aims to shock with raw violence and perversion and not to please with aesthetics. The one filmmaker who could truly shock blending sci-fi, body horror, sexuality, and profoundly perplexed personalities is David Cronenberg and he never made it to the Oscars. Consequently, that kind of violence and perversion doesn’t seem new to me and as much as I enjoyed the film, I can’t see how all these nominations and wins occurred. As for the Oscars, it’s been years that I don’t understand how the nominations and the awards are given even though I’ve done thorough research on it. You see, theory and practice don’t always match and I’ve given up with Hollywood’s moronic policies, moral and social indecisiveness, and corruption.

Anyway, back to Titane, Julia Docurnau’s provocative lens starts right off the bat with no warning whatsoever. And, no, I’m not referring to the dance or the homosexuality;  I couldn’t care less. It’s not even the sex with the car. It is Alexia’s inclination for murder. Docurnau’s lens focuses on Alexia’s effortlessness to take multiple human lives and showcases it as easy as the murders themselves. And as much as I don’t see where most of the nominations came or are coming from, the fact that Agathe Rouselle only got that one nomination is shocking! Roles like these make or brake actors/actresses, but most definitely attract attention. Regardless, I truly believe she deserves a lot of ‘trophies’.

From then on, the narrative’s perversion takes a different form in that of a man who accepts her as his son and their sick relationship. I wish I could tell you more, but you’ll get no spoilers from me. See for yourselves and make up your own minds. I will conclude by expressing my admiration of Docurnau’s natural ability to capture the unnatural. Should you’ve watched her previous work, Raw (2016), you wouldn’t be surprised. Should you haven’t, you should. By the way, I couldn’t detect the ‘sci-fi’ genre, and judging by the characters, I would with certainty replace it ‘fantasy’.

I admire her as a filmmaker and that is not due to her close-ups or the DePalma split shots, or even her films that much. But because she’s an amazing storyteller. She knows what kind of story she wants to tell and she knows how to tell it with no hesitation. Love it or loathe it, Palme d’Or worthy or not, just accept it for what it is.

Stay safe!

Snatchers (2019): Comedy/Horror/Sci-fi

A teenage girl has sex for the first time and wakes up the next day pregnant with an alien that wants to multiply and conquer the world.

Funny and entertaining, that’s it! Starting off with living, breathing high school clichés, I couldn’t see how this was going to be promising. Boy, am I glad to be wrong. Snatchers might not be horror per se but, as aforementioned, it is funny and highly entertaining! Mary Nepi, Gabrielle Elyse, J.J. Nolan, Austin Fryberger, Rich Fulcher, and Ashley Argota are nailing their parts and under the meticulous guidance of the directors Stephen Cedars and Benji Kleiman, who are in full control of every shot they’ve taken, and through ‘snappy’ editing, they control the narrative’s pace and rhythm throughout all acts. I know it’s not a film that has been or will be talked about, but films like Snatchers highly indicate that editing defines principal photography. In other words, postproduction starts in preproduction however convoluted that may sound.

There is so much to say about certain filmmaking details, just like the one mentioned above, but, honestly, I find no reason to implicate film theories when you can just enjoy it without my verbosity. It makes one wonder the reasons behind certain malicious reviews when, even just watching the trailer, you know what you sign up for. The script’s nonsensical trajectory makes actually sense as it adds to the non-believability which is actually intentional and slyly parodies similar actual horror films that most of us have grown up with.

To sum it up, Snatchers is great fun, especially for millennials but not only. Don’t take it seriously as, again, intentionally, it doesn’t take seriously itself. Something that I actually prefer to self-righteous and self-important films that aim to pseudo-philosophise, be wannabe didactic, or end up being pedantic. Based on the 2015, 6-minute homonymous short film by the same directors and main actors, Snatchers earns its stripes in the comedy/horror pantheon and I very much look forward to watching Kleiman’s and Cedars’ next project. Remember, the comedy-horror balance is not written on stone and it takes a whole village to be achieved.

Stay safe!

Reminiscence (2021): Mystery/Romance/Sci-fi

A private investigator with access to people’s memories unfolds a conspiracy that also involves the disappearance of his beloved woman.

Interesting yet intricate plot that tells more than it shows. What has happened, but not to the full extent, becomes pretty straightforward from the very beginning. Until the inciting incident, a sci-fi, neo-noir unfolds that emphasises on nostalgia. Once it becomes clear what the story is about, the plot and the subplot become respectively unclear. I struggled to figure out which is which. One is a decent love story and the other is a decent crime one. But which one is the plot? And what are they together if both of them are the plot? Or the subplot? See the confusion?

There is a jigsaw waiting to be put in order and Hugh Jackman, Thandiwe Newton, Rebecca Ferguson and (the massively underrated) Cliff Curtis do a great job putting it together, but the film’s imbalance, and the editing’s rhythm and pace do not help. Director Lisa Joy, the woman behind Westworld (2016-2022) gets Newton and Angela Sarafyan on board and even though she did a very decent job putting it together the result was not probably exactly what she hoped for. That said, the extremely poor box office does not reflect on that result – Budget: $54,000,000 (estimated) / International Box Office: $11,900,000. You will not regret watching it so go for it.

Here’s another one for you. At times, it felt like this was a film about Hugh Jackman, who, in his fifties, he still looks the same awesome, well-trained, good-looking man he was ten and twenty years ago. Not saying this is positive or negative but it becomes yet another factor that takes the focus away from the story and, consequently, distracts. Again, I hope you forget your problems for about two hours and enjoy it.

Stay safe!

P.S. Fun fact: Lisa Joy is the wife of Jonathan Nolan, brother of Christopher Nolan who has directed Hugh Jackman in Prestige (2006)

P.P.S. Fun fact 2: Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson worked together before in The Greatest Showman (2017)

A Quiet Place Part II (2021): Drama/Horror/Sci-fi

Right after losing her husband, Evelyn needs to take her kids to a safe place and find a way to use their new “weapon” of defense.

Intense, horrifying, and breathtaking first act (Day 1) that captivates before catching up with the present. From then on, and after the first “hunt”, the pace slows down but the thrill remains.

The parallel stories unfold equally well and their suspense escalates effectively, maintaining the initial thrill. And for that the credits go to the film’s editor, Michael P. Shawver. The good editor controls at all times the film’s pace and rhythm and reveals what only needs to be revealed and not what you or I would like to be revealed. The good editor also knows the footage they have, weaves the story’s plot, and defines the final cut – alongside actor/director John Krasinski, in this instance. The problem with so many match-cuts and identical parallel action is that it makes the plot more sci-fi than the alien beings themselves. That level of synchronisation, potentially for more mature audience, ruins the whatever believability a genre like that can have. Regardless, Krasinski’s greatest achievement here is directing the actors. He proves to be an actors’ director and that shows in the dramatic sequences – that’s what I think anyway. Without drama there is nothing to be thrilled about or anyone to empathise for. Speaking of, the incredible performances from Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Millicent Simmons, Noah Jupe and Djimon Hounsou make you feel for each and every one of them for everything that’s happening to them. Furthermore, pay attention to the excellent use of sound… or the lack thereof!

There will always be the question regarding whether certain decisions were stupid or not, but then, if not every, almost every classic horror deals with ambiguous or moronic decisions for narrative purposes. A Quiet Place Part II respects its audience’s intelligence and offers a post-apocalyptic sci-fi/horror worthy of its predecessor that, in just over an hour and a half, excites and makes you forget pandemics, lockdowns, increased number of cases, vaccinations, and ridiculous politics.

Stay safe!

In the Earth (2021): Horror/Sci-fi/Thriller

While a pandemic has swept across the world, a scientist and a park ranger venture out into the woods to find a fellow scientist who may have had a significant breakthrough.

Brutal, psychedelic, relatable, but overly intricate horror that defies Hollywood’s conventions. From the very beginning to the first plot point one gets the feeling that the editing choices – the jump cuts – are eager to move the story forward. Move it towards where, is a good question. In the meantime, Martin’s secrets and, somehow, obvious dishonesty seem to be preparing the ground for something that will play a role when the twist reveals itself.

Scenes like the “stitching” and the “ritual” turn the sci-fi from torture horror into something more… folklore! As the psychological drama keeps blending with the gore, the suspense intensifies and one can only wonder how can this possibly have a happy ending. Before you find out what kind of ending the film is gonna have, the experimental chase sequence reveals more information and, in an intricate way, the combination of utterances and actions up to that point start making sense. Due to the film’s nature, it is difficult to go into it further without spoiling for you, so this is where I am going to stop.

Ever since Kill List (2011), writer/editor/director Ben Wheatley has been one of my favourite filmmakers of his generation. Kill List was his first and massively successful effort to switch from a realistically gritty thriller to a cult horror that defies reason. In the Earth is not far off, but its experimental, hallucinatory and psychedelic nature, at times, gives a whole new different vibe. The film’s photography (Nick Gillespie) and 80s music score (Clint Mansell) become assets to a convoluted, and head-scratching narrative that ultimately confuses, but I’ll dare say that it does not disappoint. I’ve heard a truck load of awfully negative comments and I believe that this is the result of false expectations. Small things that influenced me a tad negatively are sequences that involve the aforementioned secrecy and dishonesty that didn’t really lead anywhere therefore, it was just misleading for no apparent reason. Other than that, Joel Fry, Ellora Torchia, Hayley Squires, and Reece Sharesmith have a great chemistry between them and deliver amazingly convincing performances.

What you’ll make of it, depends on your understanding of the narrative. Pay close attention to what is said in all three acts. Our current pandemic is obviously the film’s source of inspiration, but its development is a Ben Wheatley original film with twists and rich visuals.

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!

Oxygen (2021): Drama/Fantasy/Sci-Fi

A woman wakes in an advanced pod, not knowing exactly what it is, and how or why she got there, but she only has ninety minutes to find a way out.

Claustrophobic and captivating! From the very beginning the questions “what’s happening?” and “how on Earth is she gonna make it?” are raised. As the narrative unfolds, the next question is “what would I do if I were her?”. Before even putting it on, Buried (2010) came to my mind which is probably the most claustrophobic film I have ever watched. Therefore, unintentional comparisons were unavoidable.

Oxygen lets you “catch your breath” a lot more than once which I’m not sure if it should have. What’s more, I object a tad with its constant non-diegetic sound, and let me tell you why. I would assume, without wanting to know for a fact, that if I were trapped in there I wouldn’t be listening to any music. Just my increased heartbeat and my heavy breathing – the dietetic sound. But that’s just me.

Writer Christie LeBlanc and director Alexandre Aja restrict the narrative till half-way through. What you know is strictly what Liz does. When the subplot becomes clear(er), the twist is revealed, everything starts making sense, claustrophobia is lost, but relatable to all of us drama replaces it. In short, there is a culminating moment that defines the outcome and justifies everything that you have found out that far. And that is as far as I go. I hope you enjoy it!

Aja has given us brutal – and I mean brutal – horrors such as Haute Tension (2003), and The Hills Have Eyes (2006), some funny or less believable horrors such as Piranha 3D (2010) and Crawl (2019), but also more psychological or paranormal ones such as Mirrors (2008) and The 9th Life of Luis Drax (2016) – and Horns (2013). Oxygen successfully adds to his list of horror/thriller diversity.

Despite their similarities and differences, I will make only one comparison between Buried and Oxygen: The identical dolly-out shot. I am sure Aja has watched Rodrigo Cortés’ film and I found it very interesting, even peculiar, that the exact same shot was used. Anyway, if you haven’t watched Buried, and you somewhat liked Oxygen, then it’s a must-watch!

Last but most certainly not least, Mélanie Laurent nails her part and without her superb performance, everything else would have failed. She’s absolutely amazing and gets my round of applause!

Stay safe!

The Importance of Dystopia in Sci-fi / Horror

Tonight, I created a short, yet concise episode about something that I was contemplating some time ago and published for the first time in The World of Apu online film magazine. As the episode’s title implies, it is regarding the pessimistic or even horrific view of our future.

References

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/society

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/utopia

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/dystopia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Dialogues_of_Plato

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldous_Huxley

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Lob

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_K._Dick

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Asimov

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octavia_E._Butler

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Bradbury

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_C._Clarke

http://theworldofapu.com/category/film-analysis/

Dystopian Films

Metropolis (1927)

The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)

Alphaville (1965)

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

The Omega Man (1971)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

THX 1138 (1971)

Mad Max Franchise (1979, 1981, 1985, 2015)

Brave New World (1980)

Escape from New York (1981)

Blade Runner (1982)

Videodrome (1983)

Nineteen Sighty-Four (1984)

Threads (1984)

Brazil (1985)

Dead Man’s Letters (1986)

RoboCop (1987)

The Running Man (1987)

Total Recall (1990)

Demolition Man (1993)

Fortress (1993)

The Stand (1994)

The City of Lost Children (1995)

Judge Dredd (1995)

12 Monkeys (1995)

Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

Strange Days (1995)

Waterworld (1995)

Starship Troopers (1997)

The Fifth Element (1997)

Gattaca (1997)

The Postman (1997)

Dark City (1998)

Pleasantville (1998)

eXistenZ (1999)

The Matrix (1999)

Battle Royale (2000)

On the Beach (2000)

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Equilibrium (2002)

Minority Report (2002)

Resident Evil (2002)

The Time Machine (2002)

28 Days Later (2002)

Code 46 (2003)

I, Robot (2004)

The Island (2005)

V for Vendetta (2005)

A Scanner Darkly (2006)

I Am Legend (2007)

28 Weeks Later (2007)

Children of Men (2008)

Blindness (2008)

Daybreakers (2009)

District 9 (2009)

The Road (2009)

Watchmen (2009)

Book of Eli (2010)

Never Let Me Go (2010)

The Divide (2011)

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Looper (2012)

Snowpiercer (2013)

The Congress (2013)

Elysium (2013)

The Purge (2013)

The Zero Theorem (2013)

The Rover (2014)

Z for Zachariah (2015)

Westworld (2016 – )

The Handmaid’s Tale (2017 – )

Hotel Artemis (2018)

Ready Player One (2018)

Brave New World (2020)

Stowaway (2021): Drama / Sci-Fi / Thriller

A series of dilemmas and decisions divide a crew on its way to Mars when they discover a passenger who shouldn’t have been there.

Very well-written and shot first act, paying extra attention to the orbital mechanics’ math but also the heroes’ reactions during the launch. The discovery of the stowaway passenger intensifies the thrill and the agony regarding who this person is and why he’s there begins… Well, not immediately!

The second act starts off a bit slow, not interested in providing crucial information straight away. Don’t be put off by that though, pace yourselves. Everything slowly and steadily is falling into place. When the dilemma is presented, questions such as: What would I do… How would I do it… What if I were him… How the hell did it come to that… and maybe more, will get you engaged.

Writer/producer Ryan Morrison and co-writer/producer/director Joe Penna wrote and directed respectively a very claustrophobic drama / thriller / sci-fi full of moral decisions and dilemmas and XYZ Films, as always, made sure to invest in the film’s technological realism for a heartbreaking, yet – kinda – believable outcome. Speaking of believability, Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Shamier Anderson, and Toni Collette give very decent performances and have good chemistry with each other.

The denouement is, arguably, over-dramatised but it still serves the narrative’s purpose. I believe that the lukewarm reviews derive from the desire for more action something that the film somewhat lacks. Don’t be discouraged though, its other qualities compensate and, while in lockdown, having nothing much more creative to do, Stowaway becomes the escapism we potentially need/want.

Stay safe!

Come True (2020): Horror / Sci-Fi

One of the most intriguing and atmospheric opening sequences I’ve seen in a while. The first act’s slow pace, music, and cinematography betray a feel-good 80s horror that promises not to disappoint. And it doesn’t (to a certain extent)!

Writer/director Anthony Scott Burns has done his homework on sleep, dreams, and nightmares and carefully and patiently unfolds a narrative that, if you haven’t read anything about the plot, will most definitely surprise you. Positively or not you are about to figure out for yourselves.

The dream sequences are the most vividly and terrifyingly surrealistic images since Silent Hill (2006) and The Cell (2000) – the only Jennifer Lopez film I have got to enjoy. Jungian psychology, Escher’s portrayal of illusion, and Clive Barker’s horrifying vision of the human psyche’s darkness, all blend into one, bringing to life nightmares that make us question the way our mind, consciously or not, interprets reason and the way we understand and explain our fears.

David Cronenberg has been a tremendous influence on the Canadian cinema and Burns, having specialised in horror, adds his own personality and vision to intrigue you, get and maintain your undivided attention. In the end, I must say that I did get confused and found myself remorselessly scratching my head, and even though I love proper WTF endings, Come True runs out of steam before you start rolling your eyes in disbelief. Shame because for the 2/3’s of the movie, I had nothing negative to say. I guess the denouement is the toughest part of the script.

Stay safe!

P.S. Certainly, I am not the only one feeling like Riff came out of Hogwarts…

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!

Pulse (2006): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

Mysterious entities, start taking over a group of friends through an obscure wireless signal that starts spreading rapidly all over the city.

I’ll be quick… Dark and promising opening sequence that once it gets you hooked it unhooks you with its formulaic narrative. The audience it addresses becomes clear straight away and is none other than… American pre-millennials. Just before the social media, androids and iPhones become our lives, this the generation that started carrying everywhere their cell phones with the ostentatious design.

In case you are wondering why I am doing a review now, it is because I’ve had that DVD on my shelf for the last 15 years and I never got to watch it. Now, I know why. Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s original script and Wes Craven’s adaptation were, allegedly, significantly altered by Ray Wright, something that made Craven walk out before production even started and renounced the film. Besides Wright, director Jim Sonzero did not do a good job either. Unfortunately, he treated his audience like they were mentally incapacitated and that alone is a reason to look down on the film. I’ll give you one example to get an idea. Kristen Bell is wearing make-up from beginning till end. No matter what happens, the make-up is intact. Shocking that there were two more (horrendous) instalments after that.

I’m not going to waste your time. To sum it up, the story could have been promising, the script is dull, the filmmaking techniques were outdated way before the film was made, and it is not Kristen Bell’s and Ian Somerhalder’s fault for being in it. They are really good actors. Watch it at your own risk.

Stay safe!

Synchronic (2019): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

A new drug on the streets, causing obscure and mystical effects, will make two paramedics from New Orleans reevaluate life.

The trippy, otherworldly, and oneiric opening sequence pins you down and gets your undivided attention. Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) become immediately relatable from the get-go while you are trying to establish how is everything connected. As the incidents increase, the plot’s mystery and intricacy are accompanied by an equally dramatic subplot and both of them unfold together on Jimmy LaValle’s amazing soundtrack that expresses the characters’ psychosynthesis.

In my humble opinion though the film reaches its peak with the heartbreaking sequence of Steve’s dog, Hawking – honestly, I couldn’t breathe properly. Steve realises how the drug works and, from then on, it becomes too explanatory too fast for my taste, disillusioning too early an experience that stops raising questions anymore. Having said that, please, don’t let it discourage you. Watch it as it is a great low budget, indie sci-fi, and both Mackie and Dornan do a great job in front of the camera.

Behind the camera, writers/directors/producers/cinematographers/editors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead prove once more their unquestionable talent. From Resolution (2012) to Spring (2014), to The Endless (2017), to Synchronic, they constantly prove that filmmakers don’t need millions of dollars to bring to life something innovative; something that follows certain rules, breaks others, and, ultimately, still manages to be groundbreaking, didactic, and entertaining. Twenty years ago, Christopher Nolan started on small budgets and then the world became his oyster. As Steven Spielberg did thirty years before him. It seems that the filmmaking partners Benson and Moorhead, gradually, are given more and more funding. If they stick to their unique point of view – and don’t get sucked by Hollywood – they will keep performing cinematic miracles.

Stay safe!

Possessor (2020): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

A secret agent, who works for a shadowy organisation that has the technology to control people, is sent on a mission to assassinate a high-profile target, but with unexpected consequences.

As a huge fan of the Canadian film school, I will tell you that Possessor does not disappoint. Films like that need to be highly praised, if anything, for their boldness. Writer/director Brandon Cronenberg is not to be compared with his father (David) as he has his his own distinct voice to narrate a story worth telling. The influences from eXistenZ (1999) and Videodrome (1983) might be visible but even these works are not parthenogeneric, and every generation “steals” from the generation before it, anyway. This has always been the case in art and science and that is the root of evolution (maybe of devolution too). My only “like his father” reference is the theme of “sex”. Brandon has taken over the torch of sexual exploration and mental darkness as projected through the lens, and I believe in future films of his we’ll see a lot more. The hallucination scenes are only the beginning…

Possessor‘s practical visual effects most definitely stand out, giving meaning to to the original purpose of visual effects before they became the means to overshadow a mediocre or bad narrative. Cronenberg’s high-concept, hi-tech, cinematic schizophrenia dictates what effects are needed and to what end, allegorically cautions the audience of the brain’s unknown vastness, and offers the thrill of its exploration by presenting the shock of the characters’ experiences through their own decisions.

Andrea Riseborough has proved time and time again that there is nothing she can’t do in front of the lens and mesmerises with her performance. Christopher Abbott, is a rising star and he’s terrific in everything he’s been in. Watch Sweet Virginia (2017), The Sinner (2017), and It Comes at Night (2017), if you don’t want to take my word for it – and that’s just within a year. As for Jennifer Jason Leigh, no introductions are needed as she’s been constantly offering her versatility to the cinema for over forty years now.

To conclude, Possessor is a must-watch that adds value to the Canadian film school and excites with its uniqueness and unpredictability. Regardless of the film schools though, it distinguishes itself from the traditional Hollywood narrative and blends the horror/sci-fi/thriller genres in a way you have not seen before. Pay attention to the opening sequence’s details. Gabrielle Graham, as a theatrical thespian, captivates with her performance and Cronenberg guides her character, Holly, to commit the poetic crime in a way that only Shakespeare would describe. From then on, it’s all uncharted territory.

Stay safe!

The Mist (2007): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

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When a mist out of nowhere brings with it monsters beyond anyone’s imagination, a diverse group of people in a supermarket must do whatever they can to protect themselves from the monsters or from each other.

Probably an unpopular opinion, but this is one of my favourite Stephen King adaptations. The film cuts right to it when at the same time develops the characters and brilliantly builds up the suspense. And when the mist covers the city and everyone’s trapped in the unknown… that is the calm before the storm. A calm that cuts your breath short only to take it entirely when the storm unleashes, gradually, what is beyond everyone’s imagination. Admittedly, the visual effects are not what they should have been but, please, see past their mediocrity.

The narrative is astonishing. It feels like the world’s schools of thought are gathered in a supermarket and argue realistically as you and I would have if we were stranded, surrounded by such extra-dimensional calamity. Every character in the store is relatable. Love them, loath them, side with them, or mock them… they constitute society as we know it. They form the mob, they become demagogy. See how the tide changes, how easily everyone shows their true colours when the sh*t hits the fan. Where would you stand – or think you would?

Frank Darabond, after masterfully adapting The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999) adapts yet another Stephen King novel, delving into the human nature while toying with the idea of hellish dimensions and man playing God. Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, William Sadler, Jeffrey DeMunn, Melissa McBride, and Alexa Davalos, most of them frequent Darabond collaborators, side with each other or go against one another and offer you an unforgettable thrill.

As I said, stick to the psychological side of it, turn the blind eye to the digital VFX, and place yourself in that supermarket. As for the end, I have written an article on soundtracks and powerful cinematic moments so, feel free to check it out only after watching the film as it gives away the one of a kind Greek-tragic-irony-like twist: http://theworldofapu.com/powerful-sequences-soundtracks/

Stay safe!

The Midnight Sky (2020): Drama / Fantasy / Sci-Fi

A dying scientist, based at a remote arctic research centre, needs to warn a satellite’s crew members not to return to Earth due to a mysterious cataclysmic disaster.

People sent me a lot of negativity about it, negativity that bore a lot of resemblance to Ad Astra (2019) https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2019/12/05/ad-astra-2019-adventure-drama-mystery/. Now, I’m not saying that that was a perfect film but it wasn’t remotely as bad as they made it to be. How about this one, then? Does it worth your time?

Producer/actor/director George Clooney has put his heart and soul to it. He might not be appearing enough lately – his last feature film was Money Monster (2016) – but in front of the camera he is as great as he meticulous behind it. Suspense’s favourite narrative technique is “delay of resolution”. The journey of Augustine and Iris to the weather station will make your heart skip a lot more than a beat as will the meteor shower’s sequence in space. Extra credits go to the sinking container scene. Both the journey on Earth but also in space, go through various tribulations and the dramatic parts in between will give you the time to bond with the characters. Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Tiffany Boone, and introducing Caoilinn Springall, give amazing performances and enhance both the drama and the suspense.

But I believe the film’s strongest suit is the narrative structure where the fabula and the shyuzet are organised in such manner that reveal only what you need to know, when you need to know it. Keep postponing what you want to know. What has happened will not be revealed to you that easily and will you definitely need to read between the lines. The levels of knowledge vary throughout the film. You don’t know exactly what Augustine knows but you still know a lot more than the crew does. On the other hand, you know almost everything that is happening on the satellite when Augustine knows nothing but you know as much as they do when it comes to the global disaster. No matter what the narration remains restricted at all times and you are not the omniscient spectator you would like to be.

After most of it is said and done, it all comes down to what your expectations are prior to hitting ‘play’. It is not an action film. It is a cosmic journey to finding a place to start anew and it an esoteric journey to remorse, redemption, and our deepest regrets. Yet, people found the ending… unfulfilling.

It is not the ending that is unfulfilling. It is the connection with ourselves, and, consequently, the connection with the people we love and they love us back.

Stay safe!

The Cured (2017): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

The once-infected world by a disease that was turning people into zombies has now been cured, but those who had turned face now society’s discrimination and wrath for all the things they did.

Reinstatement, remorse, forgiveness, redemption, tolerance, stigmatisation, and family are the exceptional qualities that separate The Cured from the mainstream Hollywood post-apocalyptic zombie outbreak calamity.

I have to thank my mate Gary for reminding me of this one, commenting on #Alive (2020) https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/12/12/alive-2020-action-drama-horror/. Acting as a social commentary and fragile post-postapocaliptic metaphor for the real world we currently live in, without getting into historical or sociological analyses, The Cured is indirectly associated with the Irish modern history but also the whole world’s rehabilitation system and the stigma one carries trying to reinstate.

Writer/director David Freyne has done a brilliant job behind the camera, and Sam Keeley gives the justice broken Senan deserves. Actor/producer Elliot Page has always been amazing in everything he’s been in and his acting is a force to be reckoned with.

The (North and South) Irish film school of horror is making huge steps over the last few years, rightfully earning its stripes in the industry. If you are not familiar with Sea Fever (2019) https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/04/19/sea-fever-2019-horror-sci-fi/ and A Good Woman is Hard to Find (2019) https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/09/24/a-good-woman-is-hard-to-find-2019-crime-drama-thriller/ make sure you spend some time to get around them.

The film’s title would have worked equally well as The Cur(s)ed.

Stay safe!

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.

Stay safe!

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.

Stay safe!

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/

Primer (2004): Drama / Sci-Fi / Thriller

Four friends, in an attempt to be innovative, invent something beyond their wildest dreams.

I remember watching Primer coming out of the army. As much as I was into films, I couldn’t “read” them the way I do now and, of course, the physics behind it meant nothing to me then and, respectively, without asking much, I accept it now. Consequently, I cannot comment on it, but I can speak of the filmmaking itself.

The voice over indicates that what we are watching has already happened and, for some reason, their story is worth telling, even though the first act indicates the opposite. So far, it looks like a mockumentary on a bunch of guys who are working on something that even they don’t know what it is. Much less the viewer.

Half an hour into it, the first plot point comes in strong. Both the main characters but also the viewer are now aware that they have invented a time machine. Narrative-wise, I will not reveal anything else. What has already been established is that composer / actor / sound designer / editor / producer / writer / director Shane Carruth, since the opening sequence, has remained meticulous with his writing on both character and story development. By the way, I have never seen anyone taking on so many different roles. Anyway…

What would you do if you knew you could travel in time? What would your thoughts be? What would you be afraid of? What would your reservations be? How far back would you go? Would you acknowledge causality’s dangers? Carruth does an amazing job perplexing even further his low budget’s sci-fi narrative and, at the same time, he maintains the dialogue more realistic than any of could develop it.

I do not understand certain people’s choices. Why isn’t Carruth a household name? Why show so much talent and then let go? Just do another film ten years later and that’s it? I know he struggled but the guy managed to make Primer with… $7,000. This is the most impressive and tiniest nano-budget mind-bending feature ever existed.

Ultimately, I am convinced that the film itself is greater achievement than its invention.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe!

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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.

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

I Still See You

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe!

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

The Vast of Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe!

The Corridor (2010): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

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A group of friends gathers to spend a typical “cabin the woods” weekend in a remote area but they discover a phenomenon that will make them descend to paranoia.

Film Industry: One of the most rewarding yet inconsistent industries out there. See director Evan Kelly, for example. After directing The Corridor, his feature debut, he vanished. And the film did actually well. So, why? Shame, whatever the reason may be.

About the film now… A just over an hour and a half Canadian, indie, low-budget, slow-burn thriller which takes half of that time to kick in. Something that begs the question, how much patience do you have? If you do have it, and you watch past the pleasantries at the bonding part, it becomes realistically suspenseful. Everyone reacts to “the corridor” the way you and I, potentially, would have. Until paranoia takes over!

You will not encounter any Hollywood conventions here, something that increases the unpredictability and, consequently, the suspense. The acting though is not favouring the film and, in the end, it looks like the script is losing track of how it started or where it wanted to go. Unfortunately, the photography doesn’t help much either whereas the editing is doing its best to stitch it together.

I know… I started by praising it and then my review went down the hill. I really did like the story but the script’s and the film’s development in the Production stage came out a lot poorer than it was probably intended in Preproduction. So, does it worth your time? I’m not saying you will definitely like it but if you are up for a different cinematic rhythm, cliche-free, then this might be the one you are looking for. Or not. I for one, I’m glad I gave it a chance despite its flaws.

Stay safe!

Sea Fever (2019): Horror / Sci-Fi

A doctoral student joins the crew of a trawler that encounters an unknown species which infects their water supply.

The photography is the first thing that will get your attention. Dark, with a claustrophobic mise-en-scène, it will captivate you, as well “trap” you in that trawler and “force” you to take the journey with the crew. The editing’s brilliant match cuts connect very interesting visuals that move the story forward keeping only what is necessary and leading you to the third act’s suspenseful denouement. Hermione Corfield is the right choice for the awkward, antisocial, doctoral student whose acting adds extra believability to the film’s scientific, yet realistic horror. The rest of the cast also deserves a massive “BRAVO” as they make their respective roles utterly relatable. Writer / director Neasa Hardiman brings to life an excellent Irish horror/sci-fi and, I for one, look forward to watching more of her future endeavours.

Yes, you’ve probably seen films like Ghost Ship (1980), Virus (1999), or Triangle (2009) but Sea Fever has it’s own story to tell and it’s highly recommended. It escapes (for the most part) the Hollywood standards and cliches in both character and story development and creates an intriguing premise that will keep you on the edge of your seats.

Unfortunately, our dramatic and devastating reality makes Sea Fever very timely and adds even further realism to its horrific theme and our even more horrific reality.

Stay safe!

Vivarium (2019): Horror / Mystery / Sci-Fi

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Trying to find their ideal home, a young couple is lured and trapped in a suburban neighbourhood where every house and street is identical and seemingly no way out.

Entirely allegorical, Vivarium joins the club of independent mind-bending films such as Triangle (2009) and Coherence (2013). Does it hit the mark though? It starts by trying to but halfway there it seems that it abandons the idea itself. Based on the short film Foxes (2012), also written and directed by Garrett Shanley and Lorcan Finnegan respectively, its feature adaptation gives the impression of “surrendering”, flattens out until the end of the second act, then it picks up until the end… but the viewer is already “gone” by then. Third collaboration between Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg, showcasing once more the undeniable on-screen chemistry between them.

Personally, I did like it and it did kill some time but when it comes to “Sisyphusean” films, killing some time is just not enough. The end of the second act is worth watching so the toughest part is to try and keep track until then. Maybe not the best film during the quarantine days but if, like me, you are a fan of one-location allegorical thrillers, don’t have any high hopes and give it a shot. You might find yourselves relating to the protagonists more than you expect.

Stay safe!

Bloodshot (2020): Action / Drama / Sci-Fi

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A soldier comes back from a mission, gets murdered, but is brought back to life with superpowers and now he seeks revenge.

I’m not going to slay it. The film suffered irreparable damage from the pandemic but was not going to perform well anyway. Director Dave Wilson is a VFX director and it showed straight away on his feature debut. The film’s narrative doesn’t flow and the editing, probably for production reasons, is trying to pick up the pieces and put them together. It didn’t even mimic or attempt to better the à la The Edge of Tomorrow (2014) repeat mode part to enhance and engage the audience with Bloodshot’s “nightmare”. Toby Kebbell’s and Guy Pearce’s charisma didn’t get the chance to shine at all as, once again, the narrative didn’t do anyone any favours.

Films like Bloodshot work as reminders that even if the original source is a best selling graphic novel (Valiant’s in this instance), this merely means that the respective film will be as successful. “Don’t judge a book by its film”, I read somewhere. It’s a shame, the film was doomed to take a big hit either way.

I would like to conclude by taking my hat off to the VFX department as they couldn’t have done it better and the result of their work is highly impressive.

The Platform (2019): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

The Platform.jpg

An unconventional prison with unknown underground levels called The Hole, starting from top to bottom, provides food for inmates through a platform that is always consumed disproportionally… as no rules apply.

Do you remember Cube (1997)? Welcome to the 21st-century, Spanish Netflix version of it. Brilliantly produced, directed, edited and acted, The Platform will “brutally” entertain you and keep you on the edge of your seat. The photography offers the claustrophobic environment that, on occasion, it will suffocate you as much as the inmates.

The weak link here is the writing though. There are at least two obvious plotholes that, unfortunately, no department spotted – or cared to fix.

1. The levels’ inexplicable temperature rise/drop: It wouldn’t be a plot hole if there was a visible source causing it.

2. The inmates’ transfer from level to level. It wouldn’t be a plot hole if, once again, we saw some kind of gas coming out of… somewhere that knocks them out. Also, swapping everyone, from every level, at the same time, having only the platform as a way of accessing each level increases the implausibility.

I’m a huge fan of the “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story”. How can you ignore the facts though when no one bothers to disguise them? Please, do watch it! I highly recommend it. The above-mentioned plotholes are spoilers-free. It is tempting to analyse the film’s message as well but I can’t do it without giving away the plot so, I’ll just leave it with you. I hope you enjoy this Spanish achievement as much as I did.

 

P.S. My warm-hearted wishes to the Spanish people – but also the rest of the world – who suffer great losses.

After Midnight (2019): Drama / Horror / Sci-fi

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Following his girlfriend’s disappearance, a man starts questioning his sanity when what appears to be a beast starts lurking outside his house, in the darkness.

The amazing photography shows from the opening scene! Narrative-wise, the non-linear timeline adds to the suspense by manipulating the fabula and the syuzhet, increasing the tension – when there is some. Unfortunately though, the photography, the narrative structure, even Brea Grant’s amazing presence, and, what could have been an otherwise strong story… amount to nothing! And by nothing I mean NOTHING!

This is what I don’t get. The story is meant to be horrific and dramatic, something that the photography utterly supports, BUT the comedic style of directing prevails, leaving the viewer with a big freaking question mark and mixed feelings as to where it is heading. And it ended up heading nowhere. The 14′ minute shot is intriguing in a theatrical way and would be interesting to find out how many takes they’ve had. And that is my only takeaway.

The Silence (2019): Drama / Horror / Sci-fi / Thriller

 

The Silence.jpg

When a team of excavators accidentally releases an ancient species into the world, a family does whatever it takes to survive the apocalypse.

It seems that films where creatures that attack when one makes noise or just looks at them are high in demand. The Silence is one of them films and starts off very strong. It seems down the line though that it holds its punches, only to release them afterward. A (Netflix) film unfolding such an apocalyptic disaster though shouldn’t be undecided. Once it takes that road, it may as well go all the way. Anyway, the film is rated PG 15 so the limitations in language, gore, and to a certain extent, plot and character development are understandable. If you are a fan of the noise/sight restriction kind, you’ll get to enjoy it. It doesn’t bring anything to the table other than a sense of realism about human nature under extreme circumstances.

With the number of viruses we have faced in the last couple of decades, the coronavirus definitely gets the cake for making us think twice about what we might wake up to or taking life for granted. At the end of the day, whatever the nature of any pandemic calamity, our goal will always be to save ourselves and the people around us whatever means necessary. And that’s what The Silence is all about. Unfortunately, the ending doesn’t give it any justice whatsoever.

P.S. A major plot hole can be easily spotted so if you do find it, ignore it and enjoy an hour and a half of your escapism.

P.S.S. Damn, that scene where they let the dog go…

Color Out of Space (2019): Horror, Sci-Fi

Color Out Of Space.jpg

A meteorite of peculiar color, carrying a hostile living organism, strikes a secluded family farm and turns their lives into a sadistic nightmare.

What an opening scene!!! But I’m not convinced that the rest of it is how H.P. Lovecraft envisaged it. But first things first. It’s great to see the talented – yet hurt from the Industry – writer/director Richard Stanley coming back. After The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) fiasco, Stanley strikes again and, directing-wise, the film lacks nothing. Chasing it for years, the film’s Odyssey finally came to an end when he finally found the money to finance it in early 2019. The acting is also solid. Very convincing performances add to the film’s pros and Nicolas Cage, once more, proves that no matter how many memes, trailer compilations, or other creative visual and audio fun they make out of him that he will not give two s#$%^ and will keep on being… Nicolas Cage! Every, God knows how many unknown films/flops he’s been in every year, there’ll always be this one film that will stand out and perpetuate Cage’s ongoing on and off glory.

The major con is the production’s decision to make it look like the paranoid, cult film Mandy (2018) – same production company behind it. Lovecraft’s world, the way I grew up with visualising anyway, has nothing much to do with this adaptation. The bold, exaggerated colors create a visually incoherent landscape that overshadows the narrative. But don’t take my word for it, what do I know anyway? John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (1993) is, arguably, the best Lovecraft adaptation out there. If you haven’t watched it, and you are a ‘Lovecraftian’ horror fan, you will fall in love with the film’s paranoia (Do you read Sutter Cane?).

Regardless, Color Out Of Space is a low budget must-watch that definitely deserves your attention. It is not commercial enough but that means nothing. Once you turn your screen off, parts of the film will keep looping in your head. What makes me happy is that, even posthumously, Lovecraft’s legacy is still alive and very rich. Which is exactly the opposite of how he died…

The Wave (2019): Sci-Fi / Thriller

The Wave.jpg

A young lawyer goes out to celebrate his promotion with his co-worker and friend, ending up in a wild party and getting dosed with a hallucinogen like anything anyone has ever experienced before.

Now, that’s some next-level trippin’! If you know nothing about it, read nothing about it. Justin Long is still the actor he was when he first became famous in Jeepers Creepers (2001) and he still proves to be making solid choices regarding which films he’s going to be in. If you liked him in Comet (2014) – which if you haven’t watched, you need to – you will definitely love him on this one. Donald Faison, Tommy Flanagan, Katia Winter, and Sheila Vand are brilliantly getting into their roles and everyone adds to the film’s hilarity. Feature debut for director Gille Klabin who I hope he gets the recognition he deserves after this one.

Even though IMDb doesn’t include ‘Comedy’ in the genres next to the film’s title, rest assured that it is. So, do not try to rationalise it or find plotholes. For an hour and a half, just get along and enjoy the realistic performances against a surrealistic (or unrealistic) scenario that is way too much fun to be put into context.

Gemini Man (2019): Action / Drama / Sci-Fi

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A highly trained hitman decides to retire but the organisation he works for sends… a younger version of him to execute him.

Watching the trailer, I couldn’t see how there is going to be a mind-blowing twist somewhere. There isn’t. More or less, what you see is what to be expected: Will Smith vs Will Smith. For a film that started been developed in the ’90s, with so many different names attached over the years, with the torch been passed on from studio to studio… the script is poorly developed. IMDb couldn’t care less with a logline that gives away the plot. Script-wise, there is nothing really fascinating at all. I think this is the first Ang Lee film I have ever watched that I was wondering why he signed up for this. Meaning, the film has two impressive sequences: the motorbike chase (Smith vs Smith) and the hand-to-hand combat (Smith vs Smith). All the credits should be shared amongst the visual effects department for coming through with some ground-breaking visuals, the sound effects department, and the frequent Ang Lee editor, Tim Squyres. His editing is immaculate and stitches Lee’s most difficult shots together with delicacy and finesse, creating incredible unity and continuity.

I’m really being nice here. One of the film’s six (6) nominations is from St. Louis Film Critics Association, US for… Worst Film of the Year! Anyway, to cut the long story short, and just in case you haven’t figure it out by now, this is Smith vs Smith film. I must admit, at some point, this eerie feeling took over me that it was Deadshot fighting The Fresh Prince

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.

 

Code 8 (2019): Crime / Drama / Sci-Fi

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A power enabled construction worker teams up with the wrong people in an effort to save his dying mother.

Canada strikes back! Only three months after Freaks (2019) https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2019/11/30/freaks-2019-drama-mystery-sci-fi/, Code 8 makes an appearance and leaves a lasting impression. Take the superpowers out and you are left with a strong existential drama about working-class people who try to survive one day at a time and a son who would do anything wrong under the Sun for his dying mom. Great performances from the cousins Stephen and Robbie Amell but also Kari Matchett, Laysla De Oliveira, Greg Bryk, Kyla Kane, and Vlad Alexis. Directing, editing (great opening sequence montage), photography, production design, visual and sound effects are of Hollywood standards, proving that the studios don’t need hundreds of millions to make a decent sci-fi. Also, the music nails it and it is not used as a means to tell you how to feel at all times. It is minimal as it is emotional. Through the crowdfunding website Indiegogo, the producers managed to gather over two million dollars from 28,400 backers. Both Freaks and Code 8 come from the Canadian film school and leave a different flavour to the one left to us by the X-men franchise. A round of applause for all cast and crew!!!

Code 8 spinoff series has already been announced by the film’s director Jeff Chan and writer Chris Paré. Really looking forward to it as there is still so much to unfold in terms of both story and character development.

You can find it here:

UK: https://amzn.to/2steelj / https://amzn.to/2skNgfO

US: https://amzn.to/2ry5ObM

 

Event Horizon (1997): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

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Having gone missing for seven years, spaceship ‘Event Horizon’ reappears having come back from a darkness beyond human understanding.

One of the best psychological, sci-fi horrors you have ever watched: Alien (1979) meets Hellraiser (1987)! The ‘tragedy’ with Event Horizon is, as usual, the studio. When uncreative people in high places interfere with art, art always suffers the consequences. Paul W.S. Anderson’s 130′ original, ‘graphically violent’ cut forced Paramount to cut 30′ and water it down. Both the studio and Anderson regretted doing it! Twenty years later (2017), Anderson stated that the year after the film’s release he and a producer started looking for footage that due to bad archiving had gone missing. Most of it was destroyed, some of it was of poor quality and some of it was found as far as a Transylvanian salt mine!

From cruciform shapes to spinning tunnels and rotating interlocking circles, Event Horizon marries the antithesis between religion and science, showcasing the man-playing-God hubris, and offering us the results in an entertainingly, bloody way. The film has become a cult for both sci-fi and horror fans alike. The Making of ‘Event Horizon’ (2006) is a documentary that whoever liked the film MUST watch. The production details give away the great lengths Anderson went to, to bring this film to life.  Philip Eisner’s script is solid,  Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill are brilliant, and the Production Design is Oskar-worthy. Unfortunately, the studio forced the editing to damage the film’s unimaginable potential. It is wishful thinking that the series in development will live up to the film’s expectations and include the ‘Old Testament Speech’ and the ‘Dimension of Pure Chaos’ analysis.

The detailed, infamous captain’s log ‘orgy of death’, the ship’s return, and the extended black hole’s Bosh-influenced ‘visions from hell’ have made all our imagination run wild over the years, hoping that, one day, the film’s re-release will re-surface missing footage, and will re-appear to us to reveal what it has seen…

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

 

The Room (2019): Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi

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A young couple moves into a house with many secrets and a room that… grants wishes.

I’ve been told that in Los Angeles, everyone has an idea about a great film. Do you know why almost no one makes it? Because no Industry Professional cares about any kind of idea. The Room is based on a brilliant idea: What would you do if all your wishes could come true… inside your house! Very thrilling idea. Especially, if you ask for a kid.

Its development though irreparably ruins it. Noël Carroll, in “Toward a Theory of Film Suspense” analyses suspense, its development, and its potential outcomes. Highly recommended read. Here, Matt is looking for the room’s key, he finds it. He wants to find that man, he finds him. The man calls at the house and the kid picks up the phone, he knows exactly what has happened and explains everything.

I don’t want to be more negative about this one. Feel free to watch it and make up your mind. The film’s intentions are noble, it just lacks of… almost everything! Very unfortunate.

Freaks (2019): Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi

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With the excuse that people will want to hurt her, a girl, locked insider the house since birth by her insanely overprotective father, manages to escape only to realise that he was right all along.

Push (2009) meets Stephanie (2017) made in Canada. A great narrative accompanied by great cinematography. The compelling atmosphere and the very persuasive acting – a standing ovation for the young actress Lexy Kolker – examine thoroughly, even create a case study, on the philosophy of the masses in regard to what it’s like to be different, to stand out, to be able to perform miracles, to feel like a freak and alone…

Turn the lights off, get your other half, your friends, or just a nice drink and enjoy it!  I was thinking of writing that films like Freaks need our support so we can have a lot more of them but, truth to be told, we need eye-opening films like Freaks so we can reevaluate, the norms of the societies we live in but also, as André Bazin would ask, ‘What is Cinema?’.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2Q1Tav7

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