The Villainess (2017): Action / Thriller

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe!

The Wretched (2019): Horror

The Wretched

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

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

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

Stay safe!

Relic (2020): Drama / Horror

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Mother and daughter visit the grandmother in her remote house but her suspected dementia’s sinister effects will make them question their own sanity.

One of the best psychological horrors with one of the most WTF endings in recent years. The moment I realised it’s Australian – huge fan of the Australian film school – I thought to myself: “That’s gonna be heavy.” Guess what? It was!

It all starts with Natalie Erika James’ and Christian White’s amazing script and ends with James’ exceptional directing. Charlie Sarroff’s claustrophobic cinematography will cut your breath short and the hair-raising performances by Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin, and Bella Heathcote will make you feel how they feel. Nevin, especially, makes one hell of a scary grandma that will crawl under your skin.

The film’s gut-wrenching psychological horror is the outcome of the fictional paranoia which directly derives from a real-life, agonising drama. It is the terror of what happens to so many people when they grow old while all of us wish that it is not us that it will happen to. And you would never guess who’s wearing the producer’s hat on this one. Jake Gyllenhaal and the Russo Brothers. Who would know…

Relic is a bone-chilling, metaphorical horror/drama, following (thankfully) no Hollywood narrative, offering no easy way outs, no glorified, ephemeral pseudo-heroes, and no cheap jump-scares. It is the proud representation of Australia’s film school. A school that teaches how to think outside the box and make films as harsh as life itself.

Stay safe!

The Old Guard (2020): Action / Fantasy

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

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

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

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

Stay safe!

Stuber (2019): Action / Comedy / Crime

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

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

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

Stay safe!

The Way Back (2020): Drama / Sport

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A man is offered to coach the high school basketball team that he used to play twenty-five years ago, but personal suffering and alcoholism will only exacerbate his problems.

I watched The Way Back based on assumptions. I thought it would be a Disney-like film about a man who struggles and through the kids’ basketball team finds redemption where, in the end, everyone lives happily ever after, the family watching it turns off the TV, and everyone goes to bed with a smile. Without revealing too much, I will tell you that this is not the case. Not really. Watching it, I found the lines were blurring between the plot and the subplot. Is it him and the basketball team the plot and his suffering the subplot? Or the other way around? I’ll leave this one with you, food for thought.

The Way Back has many strengths. Ben Affleck, who has faced himself several personal issues, alcoholism included, is always mastering roles such as this. Roles such as this made him famous and films like these are the reason his presence in front and behind the camera is still holding strong. Director Gavin O’Connor does a brilliant job making it an existential drama and I guess his experience from his previous drama/sport Warrior (2011) helped a lot. Then, all kids from the team deserve a round of applause as their performance is astonishing. A very well-executed film with an ultimately dramatic soundtrack.

The Way Back took a huge hit at the box office as every film did that premiered in March 2020. And it may not be Warrior, but it definitely deserves your attention. Yes, there are Disney elements in it when it comes to the basketball team and their effort to climb to the top. But when it comes to daily waking up to an “intolerable reality”, an HBO-esque feeling knocks the walls down, revealing you that in real life there is no easy way out. And, some times, unfortunately, not even a way back…

Stay safe!

The Initiation (1984): Horror / Mystery / Thriller

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A college student who suffers from a recurring nightmare and her sorority sisters decide to break into a mall one night while a serial killer is out for blood.

One of the best mediocre 80s, slasher, nonsensical, American horrors made back then. Brilliant for American millennials to get educated on how their parents acted – and what they were wearing – during their college/Uni years. Well, up until blood starts splattering everywhere.

The acting is almost as funny as the haircuts; almost. The storyline is the perfect motive to stick popcorn in the microwave and put your feet up, the music and sound effects will make you laugh out loud, choking on that popcorn, and the editing will finish you off.

Have a friend around or a couple of good ones. Share your problems, concerns, and thoughts, and when you’re done, hit play, forget our horrible reality, and enjoy just over an hour and a half of unintentional fun. I know I did.

Stay safe!

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe!

Primal Rage (2018): Action / Adventure / Horror

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

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

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

R.I.P. “Sheriff”.

Stay safe!

Possession (1981): Drama / Horror

Possession

At the peak of the Cold War, a man comes back from a mission to reunite with his family only to find out that their marriage has fallen apart and an eerie entity might be behind it.

Possession is the art of writing, directing, editing, and acting with no rules. No. Rules. It’s been at least a couple of decades since I last time watched it and the first time, not knowing how to properly “read” a film, I just found it bizarre and moved on with my life. Now that I know a bit more, I can tell you with certainty that no review or analysis can be adequate to make one understand with certainty how, what, or why everything is happening. In addition, there is no way to predict who will like it and who won’t. Personally, I couldn’t recommend this film more to horror / mystery / thriller fans but also cinephiles with whatever particular interest they have in films. If you decide to watch it, here’s what you sign up for:

  • Sam Neill’s and Isabelle Adjani’s best-ever performances. Theatrical, verbal, and non-verbal performances like anything they had delivered before and anything like they ever attempted again to this very day, almost 40 years later.
  • Andrzej Zulawski’s most intricate script. Where did Mark come back from? What is he so good at? What is happening to Anna? Why does Helen look like…(no spoilers)? Why does everyone speak and act in such a way? Are their responses somehow related to “the thing”? Where did that thing come from? The fear. The possession. The siren… Zulawski defied rules and conventions, making an unprecedented, satisfying, yet questionable horror, heavily censored in the US and banned in the UK.
  • Zulawski’s directing which haunted both Neill and Adjani, taking them years to shake off the extremely unpleasant experience they were put through. Reportedly, Adjani stated: “He [Zulawski] is a director that makes you sink into his world of darkness and his demons”. His lens is captivating and the photography mesmerising throughout all three acts.
  • Editing-wise, Possession becomes the Bible of when not to cut! The pace and rhythm are remarkable and as this is a performance-driven film, the editing is patient enough to move on to the next shot only after Neill and Adjani have given their 100% or more!

Think of Possession as The Last Tango in Paris (1972) meets Kramer vs Kramer (1979) meets The Thing (1982). And that’s what I’m going to leave you with. For readers who have watched it, if you want to, please read further.

Stay safe!

 

 

 

SPOILER

 

I cannot even begin to imagine the reactions to the introduction of hentai pornography in a live-action film, in the early 80s, in the Western civilisation. If you know any European, (North or South) American, African or Australian films including hentai tentacles prior to Possession please let me know in the comments. I believe that awe and shock don’t even come close to describing the majority’s feelings. Personally, I think that the concoction of feelings and emotions throughout the film does not fall under one category. To the point where, possibly, you won’t even be able to explain how you feel or why you react the way you do to certain stimuli. A daring cinematic experience!