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

 

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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…

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The Lighthouse (2019): Drama / Fantasy / Horror

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Two lighthouse keepers are left stranded in a small island of New England in the late 19th century where, every day that goes by, they sink into paranoia.

Willem Dafoe vs Robert Pattinson in an amazing psychological horror that ends up not being one(?) First things first… The story is loosely based on an actual event where two Welsh lighthouse keepers, Thomas and Thomas, were left stranded on a lighthouse during a severe storm and they went berzerk – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smalls_Lighthouse#Smalls_Lighthouse_Tragedy

The extreme and adverse weather conditions seen in the film are real! Cast, crew, and equipment suffered big time from the freezing temperatures and the strong winds and, only for finishing it, they deserve a big round of applause. For, ultimately, creating a masterpiece they deserve an even bigger one. Especially, the Egger Brothers who researched and studied everything you see on screen: From how to make a lighthouse, to the 19th century New England sailors’ dialect, to how the mermaid genitals would probably look like (and the sound department which… naturally and practically created Dafoe’s farts). The film cost approximately $4M, it made just over $17M, and a tiny part of that budget was given to create fake seagulls. So, no seagull (nor human) got killed while filming.

26 wins, 96 nominations, and 1 Oscar nomination for the photography which gave the film an astonishing early photography look. Dafoe and Pattinson go against each other’s throats and deliver performances you wouldn’t believe. We all know that Dafoe is an incredible actor. Here, (after a series of brilliant performances), Pattinson establishes himself as one of the best actors of his age, and we all try to simply erase The Twilight Saga franchise from our minds. I take my hat off to both of them. Robert Eggers, in an interview, stated that: “Nothing good can happen when two men are trapped alone in a giant phallus”. Their performances prove him wrong (wink).

As a huge Lovecraftian fan, I was happily shocked when the psychological horror started taking a turn towards… Sorry, no spoilers! See for yourselves and try to piece together the one-eye crow, the mermaid, the… something else keep vaguely appearing and last but not least, how does the light connect everything and what it might hide…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Nothing (2018): Horror / Thriller

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A recent college graduate who’s lacking inspiration decides to leave everything and everyone behind him and spend a few nights in an unknown forest to… find himself.

I am a huge fan and supporter of indie films, especially the ones that money was hard to come by and the filmmaker is grateful for finally finding some. Having said that, I’m glad that writer/director/actor/producer Clayton Thompson managed to make this film. Unfortunately, the result is utterly unfulfilling, having (the) nothing to offer to the found-footage subgenre – pun intended.

The first act extends from childish to moronic. For a horror/thriller with 80′ duration, the first 20′ are just… nothing. Nothingness keeps prevailing for about 25 more minutes in the second act. So, here we are. More than half-way there. Then, can you guess what’s happening in the last half an hour? Confusion caused by nothing!

Read the logline! The decision to go out there alone, without knowing where that ‘out there’ is, how far away that is from everything, with no means of communication or orientation skills whatsoever, without knowing how any animal sounds like or knowing aaaaanything about survival is probably, by far, the most horrendous idea under the Sun. If the (un)civilised world we live in is not enough for someone to write volumes upon volumes of fiction/non-fiction… a few nights on their own will do f@ck-@ll to their creativity and probably get them killed… by accident.

Just watch The Ritual (2017).

I Trapped the Devil (2019): Drama / Horror / Mystery

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When unexpectedly visited by his brother and sister-in-law, a paranoid man is left with no choice but to tell them that… he has trapped the devil.

My manager texts me the other night: ‘Hey. Have you watched I Trapped the Devil’? I go: ‘Have I watched what’?! She goes: ‘One word – Weird’! I go: ‘I’m sold’!

So… Producer/writer/editor/director Josh Lobo and actors/producers Scott Poythress, AJ Bowen, and Susan Burke put together an indie horror/mystery that will leave you scratching yourselves. The first five minutes or so, eerie music accompanies every shot of the film when absolutely nothing happens. Then, awkwardness takes over and you can’t help but ask yourselves ‘what was that all about’?! A question that will lead you to Steve’s revelation that he has trapped the devil and will lead the protagonists to the basement where someone is indeed hermetically sealed behind a wooden door with hanging crosses. As you can understand this is when it gets interesting… for a while! The climax takes place when Karen goes by herself to the basement and then the film takes a turn for the… indifferent?

As a huge fan of indie films (of every genre) but also the 80s cult ones, I definitely recommend it because you will want to know which one it is: Is he mad or he has actually done what the title implies? In my opinion, it could have focused on that subject alone and the film would be a nail-biting, psychological vs paranormal experience. Its attempt to epidermically explain evil though fails it with flying colours and leads it to an anti-climactic ending.

Do not take my word for it though. Turn the lights off and try to guess who ‘The Man’ behind that door might be.

Do The Right Thing (1989): Comedy / Drama

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The day’s unprecedented heat brings out everyone’s worst side in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn’s diverse neighbourhood. 

31 y/o and Do The Right Thing couldn’t be more relevant! The absolute comedy/drama on hysteria and bigotry could as well be a case study on human behaviour. Inspired by a true event (Howard Beach), it manages through ‘love and hate’ and laughs and tears to serve as a reminder that it is up to us to either move forward or stagnate into primitive notions about who we are, where we belong, and what our rights but also obligations in this world are. It is also a wake-up call as the gravitas of our utterances and actions really matter, affect and profoundly shape the society we live in. Finally, it is Spike Lee’s testament to the fact that the problem doesn’t lie in someone else’s skin colour but in front of the mirror.

Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Lee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Spike Lee, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, Joie Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Rosie Perez, Martin Lawrence (film debut) and so many more deliver one of the most vivid and memorable performances of their lives. The actors’ numerous improvisations throughout the film make it one of a kind and everyone in front and behind the camera deserves a round of applause. An extra standing ovation deserves Kim Basinger for acknowledging the film in the 1990 Oscar ceremony, and Thomas Philip Pollock, the Universal President at the time, who genuinely understood and truly believed in Lee’s vision and distributed it without interfering with the creative process.

13 years before Edward Norton’s [25th Hour (2002)] infamous monologue against every race under the sun, there was Do The Right Thing. See how it all started and wonder what the right thing to do is…

Knives Out (2019): Comedy / Crime / Drama

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A patriarch’s ostensible suicide will pique the interest of an eccentric detective who will make everyone in the family reveal their darkest secrets.

Two major pleasures we’ve had in Thanksgiving 2019: An evening full of American football and Knives Out. Focusing on the latter, writer/director Rian Johnson offered a refreshing take on the ‘whodunit’ crime/mystery genre. He topped it up with comedic characters and hilarious shenanigans and the result was highly entertaining. Brilliantly written, directed, edited, and acted. I can’t say with certainty which actor stands out because… everyone does! And that’s what happens when almost everyone has worked with someone else in a different film and there is no bad blood at all. Well-paced, with everything falling into place as it should have. Despite the far fetched (to my liking) revelation, it definitely is one of the best films of 2019. I take my hat off to all cast and crew in front and behind the cameras. I’m not saying anything else!

Gather your family, your friends, your pets, your other half, all of them or none of the above, get something to eat and drink, and place your bets. See who’s gonna get it. Regardless of what I or anyone else thinks, it definitely worths your time and might rejuvenate your passion for the genre and might, just might, take you back to similar masterpieces of the past such as: Gosford Park (2001), The Usual Suspects (1995), Murder by Death (1976), Sleuth (1972), And Then There Were None (1945), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) up to The Last Warning (1928).

Jojo Rabbit (2019): Comedy / Drama / War

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A young boy who struggles in Hitler’s Youth finds out that his well-respected by the Nazi party mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their house.

Unwillingly, I was informed that an archipelago of 10/10’s swarm across IMDb about JoJo Rabbit. So, I thought to myself, ‘interesting…’ Having been familiar with the plot, I thought that it would be The Pianist (2002) meets Top Secret! (1984) – weird, I know! Well, it wasn’t. So, I am partially to blame for this as I prepared myself for something that was simply not. The first hour or so made me smile on a couple of occasions but I struggled to find it funny. Then, due to the particular type of satire, I struggled to find it dramatic. 30 wins and 142 nominations, including Oscar win for Best Adapted Screenplay, and I couldn’t make my mind until about an hour into the film whether I like it or not.

But then the last half an hour the film found a balance that, me personally, I think it lacked before. And Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, and Sam Rockwell made this last half an hour a proper gem. This last half an hour got my undivided attention. If you’ve watched it or if you intend to watch it, let me know what you think. Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, and Stephen Merchand are brilliant additions to the cast. Scarlet Johansson’s two Oscar nominations this year must have a put a yet greater smile on her (lovely) face. In the Marriage Story (2019) she definitely deserved that nomination. Here, once again, I struggle to see why. Shame that Sam Rockwell wasn’t heard much, he makes all the difference in the world.

Regardless of what I think of the film, Taika Waititi is a true artist so, I really hope you enjoy it.

 

21 Bridges (2019): Action / Crime / Drama

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A drug robbery goes horribly bad, police officers get killed, and a hard as nails cop shuts down Manhattan in order to get them.

It feels like anything positive I have to say about the film is going to be generic and everything that is wrong will be thoroughly detailed. So, I’ll try to balance it out. The corruption in the police is old news. One man fighting against the system, too. The fact that racism is left out is hopeful. And shutting down Manhattan to achieve a bust is… innovative. 21 Bridges is definitely entertaining and will make you forget your problems for an hour and forty minutes. But implausibility becomes a major issue.

It’s giving me the sense that a third of the film is missing. A third of the film has been left in the editing room. In an hour and forty minutes, we don’t get enough character development. ‘Trigger’ doesn’t earn his name and yet it shows towards the end that he has skills. Ray (brilliantly played by the always brilliant Taylor Kitsch), the guy that is not to be messed with no matter what does not get the time (or opportunity) to go against ‘Trigger’ and give us, the audience, a spectacle. So, their brief encounter is anticlimactic. Then, the four hours script-time (the timeframe in which the cop killers need to get caught) must be squeezed into less than an hour screen-time with action that happens way too fast and disillusions the magic. To cut the long story short, the parallel action is at warp speed, jumping from one clue to the next, leading to resolution, leaving us with no absorption of any information. With the Russo Brothers putting on the producers’ hat, I would expect more detail, especially with character development.

To finish up on a good note, the robbery in the opening act is meticulously shot, with the editing offering clean cuts and, coincidentally, clean action. Also, Chadwick Boseman is the right man for the role and if you want to see him properly unfolding his action skills, watch Message from the King (2016).

The Other Me (2016): Crime / Drama / Mystery

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A criminology professor is invited to provide his insight into a series of meticulously planned murders that blur the lines between legality and morality.

Not having watched a Greek film in years, I’ll admit that this one was a pleasant surprise. Sotiris Tsafoulias writes and directs a cerebral but also existential ‘whodunit’ film where the protagonist (Pigmalion Dadakaridis) races against time to find clues about murders that wake up demons of his own. Very interesting story with an, inevitably, convoluted development. Maybe too convoluted though on this occasion. Being spoiler-free, I’ll try to be as less vague as possible.

To me, it becomes a major issue the fact that the killer has not the relevant background to perform the murders in such a manner. Either I missed it or it is not explained properly how such knowledge has been gained. When you do watch it, please let me know if I missed it somehow. Secondly, and this has been an ongoing problem in the Greek cinema, the acting is quite stiff or flat. But this is not necessarily only the actors’ fault as directing, to a certain extent, dictates the thespians’ acting. For example, Ioanna Kolliopoulou (Sophia) – 2018 Winner of the ‘Melina Merkouri Theater Award’ – is a very expressive young theatrical actress who could have served as the protagonist’s ‘driving force’. Something that here is not obvious at all. Thirdly, and this is again a major one, the editing. The editing, among other things, defines the film’s pace and rhythm and, especially in films like The Other Me, carefully reveals not the information the audience wants to know but the information they need to know when they need to know it. Here, the editing is reasonably misleading – as it should have been, but the film’s rhythm and pace are monotonous. Something that heavily reflects on the film’s mood.

Actors Pigmalion Dadakaridis, and Giorgos Chrysostomou (Manthos Kozoros) stand out for their performances. Director of Photography Giorgos Mihelis creates an excellent noir atmosphere and an also excellent mise-en-scène. Last but not least, I give a round of applause to the Makeup Department; spot-on job!

I definitely recommend you to watch it as I know very well how hard it is in Greece to make a film and trust me when I say that The Other Me is an achievement. Money shortage, production companies lacking the know-how, and a series of governments who couldn’t give two s%#@& about the Greek film industry prevent the artists from unfolding their true talents. On a final note, I hope the Greek cinema develops an identity, mixing the influences coming from the world cinema with genuine Greek elements that one day will lead to a wider distribution.

You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSmArtOew08