Dual (2022): Comedy/Drama/Sci-fi

After receiving a terminal diagnosis, a woman decides to clone herself, but when she realises she is not actually dying, she challenges her clone to fight to the death.

Solid script and solid execution! Great opening sequence that gives you a glimpse of a… sort of dystopia. Cutting to Sarah, the magnificent Karen Gillan, the comedic element surprises on a number of levels. At times, it is cut and dry, and other times, it balances between intentional and unintentional. What enhances it is the lack of emotional response, mostly by Sarah, but also by everyone else. Everyone takes this dystopic legality and morality as a matter of course, and while this is not unusual for futuristic scenarios, Dual (which if you haven’t noticed already sounds like “duel”), visually takes place in the present day.

There are a lot more pros than cons in Dual. Gillan is definitely the biggest pro. She’s a great actress, and I, for one, hope to see her in more and more projects over the years, other than the MCU. Aaron Paul is great no matter what he’s in. The writing and directing of Riley Stearns is another great pro for all the abovementioned reasons. While watching it, ask yourselves, where does it take place?* When does it take place? Why do so many people have so many different accents?

Stearns is the man behind the equally quirky, awkward, and unconventional The Art of Self-defence (2019): https://kaygazpro.com/2022/02/01/the-art-of-self-defense-2019-action-comedy-crime/. Yet another film that focuses on martial arts, without taking them seriously, to the point that actually questions their existence.

While there is darkness hovering throughout all three acts, the ending carries it more heavily. There is a conspiracy behind what happened in the forest, and while it is revealed afterwards, this unsettling feeling of false interconnectedness stenches way past the end credits. Enough said! Enjoy it!

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*At least, we know it was shot in Finland.

Moloch (2022): Horror/Mystery

A series of unexplained deaths and mysterious attacks are somehow connected to a sinister presence that is after a single mother and her little daughter.

Eerie, unpredictable, and disturbing! Starting off with one of the most atmospheric opening sequences you have ever seen, the bar is set immediately high. Thankfully, the bar stays high in all three acts. The story unfolds naturally for quite some time without explaining anything about the past, holding the supernatural back, and maintaining suspenseful sequences that make the audience wonder how all is connected. What also helps immensely is Sallie Harmsen’s (Betriek) presence, whose acting is charismatic, and her beauty astounding.

Moloch has a lot of thrills to offer. The opening sequence, the house invasion, the lift, the theatrical/feike’s myth, and the events that take place, in the end, are sequences that writer Daan Bakker and co-writer/director Nico Van Der Brink have cleverly written and meticulously constructed respectively. Brink brings to life a local folk horror full of twists that will satisfy every horror fan out there, offering hope for the future of the genre (please, refer to the numerous negative reviews prior to this one).

While Shudder specialises in horror films, they are responsible for horrors ranging from piss-poor quality to mediocre to really suspenseful ones. Moloch is inarguably their best horror to date, and, maybe, their collaboration with XYZ Films is one of the reasons. Really looking forward to their next project(s)!

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.

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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.

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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!