In the Mouth of Madness (1994): Drama / Horror / Mystery

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A cynical insurance investigator is hired by a publishing company to find a disappeared, renounced horror writer while global psychosis starts plaguing his readers worldwide.

I was a kid when I first watched it in the cinema. And then a young adult when I watched it in VHS. And here I am now, an adult, watching it in Blu-ray and feeling like a kid all over again. “In the Mouth of Madness” is one of John Carpenter’s best works, one of Sam Neil’s best performances, Michael De Luca’s best script, and, without a doubt, one of the best psychological horrors you will ever watch in your time. Fantasy and reality, sanity and insanity, pronoia and paranoia… all blend in to “bring to life” and pay tribute to H.P.Lovecraft’s horror fiction. Probably the best film that has captured the essence of the abstruse and horrifying Cthulhu Mythos. I say nothing more. Turn the lights off and get sucked into madness!

H.P.Lovecraft died in poverty and only posthumously he and his works were recognised. “In the Mouth of Madness”, a homage to Lovecraft, was not a commercial success, yet today, it is a critically acclaimed horror; a classic. I am so perplexed by what makes people tick most of the times. I guess, like almost everything else in life, we only learn the hard way and only when it’s too late – if that! Because it’s so hard to see what’s in front of our eyes the whole time and appreciate it while it’s there. Same with people…

You know what? I’m gonna write the sequel and send it to New Line Cinema. F@!% it!

Asher (2018): Drama

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An aging contract killer finds himself between a hard place and a rock during his final assignment, making him reassess his life’s goals.

I guess marketing is to blame here. The trailer promised an action film when in reality “Asher” is a drama. Ron Perlman gives an esoteric performance as Asher who revaluates his life, shows remorse, and hopes it is not too late to turn his life around. All that while falling in love with the personification of innocence (the always amazing Famke Janssen) and while everyone is trying to take him out.

Pour some wine, put your feet on the table, and give it a go. Don’t expect a Michael Bay production where everything blows up and you might be surprised.

Bird Box (2018): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

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In a post-apocalyptic present, a mother with two kids run for their lives as a menacing presence of unknown origin, when seen, forces people to take their own lives.

Here’s the film’s obvious pitch: “The Happening” (2008) meets “A Quiet Place” (2018). Let me put it this way… It doesn’t meet either. Both of them raise important questions but provide, to a certain level, some answers leaving the viewer speculating about the cause and effect based on the clues they provided.

“Bird Box” raises questions and doesn’t bother at all with answers. No one with the basic level of intelligence will stare at the ceiling as the end credits roll down contemplating what potentially could these entities (?) be. Not revealing them is absolutely fine in my books. The unseen yet sensed ominous presence can be terrifying indeed. Not revealing their origins, their purpose, their powers, nothing whatsoever, makes them as unrelatable as the characters themselves. So, yeah, there is that too.

Susanne Bier has done a terrific job behind the camera. “Bird Box” is a well-shot, well edited, and well-produced film. So, I will quote (again) Howard Hawks: “You can’t fix a bad script after you start shooting. The problems on the page only get bigger as they move to the big screen”. Months before, Netflix also produced “How it Ends” (2018) with the reviews being as embarrassing as they come – especially on how it ends! I guess history teaches us that we are not taught from history after all…

Sandra Bullock is still an amazing actress and still keeps nailing the parts she gets. Even in this one. So, I really hope that we see her in films she deserves to be in and not films like “Ocean’s Eight” (2018). Actually, I hope we never have to see again any film like “Ocean’s Eight” (2018). Not even blindfolded…

Crash (2004): Crime / Drama / Thriller

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People from every walk of life, dealing with loss, racism, and life itself, collide with each other in the city of Angels.

Find the one you hate the most. You’ll like them later on. Find the one you relate with the most. You’ll hate them in the end. Welcome to a world where all East Asians are Chinese. All South Americans are Mexicans. All Middle Easterners are “Osama”. All blacks are criminals. And all whites are rednecks.

Racism, bigotry, misanthropy… passed on from one to the next, by white to brown, to black to yellow, to another shade of skin colour and back to where it started, in an endless spiral of hatred that has no beginning but hopefully one day an end. Wait, there is more! Colour is not enough. Where do you stand in this world? Are you educated? What is your financial and societal status? You work for the government or against the government? Either way, you are a criminal. You have principles? How much?

“Crash” includes an amazing ensemble cast and explores in depth all the aforementioned, yet its message focuses on how to overcome the notion that everyone is a victim, whoever is different is the enemy, and it is always someone else’s fault. People’s interconnectedness extends to their feelings too; loss, love, pride, shame, isolation, belonging, loneliness, redemption and regret… all blend into one making it easier to accuse everyone we don’t know for ostensibly having everything we always longed-for. Until we realised we want more…

Change will not happen miraculously. A legend said it once best: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror…”

Never Let Me Go (2010): Drama / Sci-Fi

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Three kids who grew up together in a posh, strict, and ostensibly ordinary boarding school, become young adults and face the life they were destined to have.

How would you feel if you found out your whole life is already chosen for you? How about both chosen for you and a lie? Once I thought that sci-fi without visual effects is like a lift without a mirror. How wrong was I?! “Never Let Me Go” is not the only film that makes it to that list. But it makes it to the top – my humble opinion anyway.

Its strongest suits:

  • Kazuo Ishiguro’s powerful existential drama diving into the human psyche.
  • Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley delivering electrifying performances.
  • Rachel Portman’s enthralling and spellbinding score.
  • Mark Romanek’s best film yet.

The film’s pace might put the average viewer off. It is a slow burn but it is of great importance not only to understand the characters but to become them. See life how they see it. Experience pain how they do. Be there for them when they curse the day they were brought to life.

The book goes into deeper depths analyzing or emphasizing characters and situations, and that way, everything becomes clearer in the end. The film doesn’t and therefore it raises more questions than answers.

Be patient and pay attention to the details. With acting that brings tears to your eyes and soundtrack that adds “hope, humanity, and heartbeat” in an alternate, seemingly heartless reality, “Never Let Me Go” is a depressingly beautiful, cinematic adaptation that strikes a chord.

Edward Scissorhands (1990): Drama / Fantasy / Romance

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Living on the top of a hill, Edward, having scissors for hands, is at first welcomed but then abominated by a conservative society.

Potentially, Tim Burton’s greatest fairy tale. One of Danny Elfman’s best film scores. Stefan Czapsky’s most wondrous cinematography. The film that showcased Johnny Depp’s true thespian skills. The film that Winona Ryder made me fall in love with an actress for the first time. Dianne Wiest and Alan Arkin are amazing as gullible and naive parents and both the visual and sound departments deliver a truly mesmerising result.

As for the story and its development, please keep in mind that it is about Edward Scissorhands who is… different. And through his eyes, we recognise isolation, we seek self-discovery, and we find love. Similar, yet more sensitive than the story of Frankenstein, “Edward Scissorhands” could be more of a different take on the Beauty and the Beast through German Expressionism enhanced with Gothic constituents.

Try not to ask too many “whys”. Try not to rationalise actions and reactions. Try not to get too political or too scientific diagnosing Edward with autism. This is one of the best modern, love stories Hollywood has to offer. It is a magical love story…

Jumper (2008): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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A man with teleporting abilities, living a carefree life, gets caught in an ancient war between Jumpers and Paladins.

There is a lot of negativity surrounding this film. It was meant to be a franchise but the box office results scratched the idea off the producers’ mind. From where I stand, Michael Rooker has been under-utilized. For a guy who usually does the villain in the story, it’s really great to see him as a washed-up yet filled with remorse dad who pays the price. I would definitely want to see more of him on the screen. Samuel Jackson is always great but could have been even greater as the fanatic Paladin. Reciting passages from the Bible like in “Pulp Fiction” (1994) would have elevated his character to the sky.

Jamie Bell is always at his best so there is nothing much to say, which leaves us with Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson (who got engaged after the film). Once again, there could have been a strong story between them – and even stronger subtext for the film – after what happened in their childhood years.

To cut the long story short, production and budgetary issues watered down what could have been a brilliant story and a brilliant film. That said, it definitely deserves a watch as you’ll spend an entertaining hour and a half forgetting about your own problems. For this one, my round of applause goes to the visual and sound effect department. Spot on!

Scrooged (1988): Comedy / Drama / Fantasy

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A cold-hearted, spiteful TV executive, hell-bent on ruining everyone’s Christmas around him is paid a visit by three ghosts on Christmas Eve.

A modern adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Funny, emotional, didactic, “Scrooged” will make you laugh but also mist your eyes. You’ll love every second of it. Bill Murray goes over the top and exceeds everyone’s expectations. Karen Allen is a beauty and makes you smile every time she does. Alfre Woodard is amazing as always. Danny Elfman was, is, and always will be the master of Christmas scores. And last but not least, the incredibly versatile Richard Donner who orchestrates this brilliant film giving it the befitting, illustrious style it deserves. Shame that he and Murray didn’t work well together. A massive round of applause to all cast and crew for making this film a classic for us to enjoy to this very day and encourage us to… put a little love in our heart!

I take my hat off to Richard Donner and everyone in the production team where, in the most festive period of the year, in one of the most troubled years of South Africa, in their way, they offer their support against the atrocity of apartheid.

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994): Drama / Horror

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An epic vampire chronicle, from the moment he turned to the moment he found salvation.

I would dare to say the best, atmospheric, captivating vampire film ever made. Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Dazzling Cinematography. Oscar nominating Art Direction-Set Decoration and Original Score. A Kirsten Dunst to give you the chills. 22 wins and 25 nominations well earned. A Neil Jordan masterpiece.

Imagine a human being finding eternity. What would they do? How would they spend their time? What human values would they keep and what human values would they discard? “Interview with the Vampire” sees and justifies eternity through a creature of a night that, legend has it, it outlives us all. Louis and Lestat stand for the bright and dark side of what we call the “soul”. Choose a side, travel around the world, and be guided through the centuries. Debunk the myths, explore philosophical questions, find God if you can, and look for the meaning of life – if there is any.

In a fictitious world, evil, non-human beings exist and live forever, wondering through perpetuity, neither knowing nor caring about racism or homosexuality. In our real world, us, the distinguishably separated from the animals, humans, with our very short given time on this Earth, why can’t we do the same?

The film is dedicated to the late River Phoenix.

Filth (2013): Comedy / Crime / Drama

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A mentally unstable, crooked, alcoholic, drug addict cop stops at nothing to get the promotion he is so passionately after while fighting his inner demons.

I’ll start this way… Until “The Last King of Scotland” (2006), James McAvoy was not my cup of tea. By far not! After “X-Men: First Class”, I started changing my mind. After “Filth” I knew I couldn’t have been more wrong. Or, actually, I had been wrong that much once more. With Leonardo DiCaprio after “Gangs of New York” (2002). But then all of us men were. So, I apologise to both.

James McAvoy in “Filth” gave the best performance of his life in 2013. And John S. Baird directed the best film of his career – Even though “Cass” (2008) was pretty amazing too. “Filth” will make you laugh and it will make you cry, and it will make you laugh and cry again and again until you don’t know how to feel anymore about anyone. Based on the novel by Irvine Welsh, “Filth” is one of the best Scottish films since “Trainspotting” (1996), yet another novel by Irvine Welsh. Changing genre every five minutes, “Filth” is a dramatically funny, surrealistically twisted cinematic journey through the paranoia of a corrupted, deranged, bipolar cop that will drive you bonkers. It’s worth mentioning that Jim Broadbent, in the hallucinatory world, is scarily hilarious.

McAvoy’s psychedelic performance here will prepare you for his cringing performance in “Split” (2016) and the upcoming “Glass” (2019). See how it all started…

Fun fact: “Trainspotting” and “Filth”, potentially, coexist in the same universe.