Mummy Fell Asleep (2009): Short / Thriller

Mummy Fell Asleep

A mother and her little girl go on a picnic but the past resurfaces, bringing nothing but pain.

Vague yet intriguing development from writer/director John Ninnis whose inciting incident in the first act stealthily forewarns about the second act’s conflict and intensifies the denouement’s mystery. Mummy Fell Asleep falls under the category of shorts where filmmakers purely rely on solid script and acting as money is not an option. And in this case, both pay off. Ninnis’ narrative is a reminder of Sean Ellis’ intriguing first shorts – and brilliant later features. Speaking of, imagine a feature version where characters are fully developed and you get to know the preexistent, obscure events that lead to breaking the camel’s back.  Proud winner of:

  • The 2010 Heart of England Film Festival: Best Short film Internationally
  • The Irish International Film Festival: Best Short Film under 10 mins

You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f_EpTPexqg

Stay safe!

Krisha (2015): Drama

Krisha

Having seen her family in years, Krisha returns for Thanksgiving to a seemingly idyllic reunion that couldn’t be more fragile.

Krisha is perception through the legacy of the lens that Hitchcock left behind. Directing, editing, acting, music, and sound mixing split the screen in half and let you into Krisha’s internal world. You will omnisciently follow her into the house, “hack” her cerebral cortex and see and listen through her what lies beneath the surface. Feature debut for actor, writer, editor, and director Trey Edward Shults who successfully pitched his concept to Kickstarter and adapted his own homonymous short Krisha (2014). Ever since the wheels have been set in motion and It Comes at Night (2017) – https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2019/02/02/it-comes-at-night-2017-horror-mystery – and Waves (2019) (review to follow) have become exceptional additions to the American independent cinema.

In the first act, from the opening shot (be it past or future) the tone is set. The protracted shots and the sound mixing add extra depth to the already relatable story and characters. The second act’s gradual escalation will patiently prepare the ground for what’s coming, and that is none other than an Aronofsky-esque confrontation and act three’s denouement. Watch it and make up your own mind as to what eventually happened. You can’t choose your family, they say…

Fun fact: In both the short and feature version of Krisha, Shults gathered his family members (and a couple of actors) and shot the films in his mother’s house. Yes, most of the people you see on screen are actually related.

Stay safe!

Uncut Gems (2019): Crime / Drama / Thriller

Uncut Gems

A New York City jeweler is constantly trying to find ways to pay off his debts while dealing with a number of personal issues.

Greed makes people take the worst decisions and then they wonder why their lives seem like a bottomless flush down the toilet. This is the story of Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) who represents the kind of people who believe that two wrongs make a right. The journey of a man who refuses to settle to what he has and constantly going for what he could have had, losing always more and more until… well, you’ll have to watch it!

Sandler’s comeback to the big screen is remarkable – since 2015 all of his films have gone straight to Netflix. I believe that if the Academy could take him seriously, he would have been nominated but, don’t worry Adam, we don’t take the Academy seriously anymore ourselves. Sandler has survived in the film industry for just over three decades and he’s not going anywhere yet. Actor and rapper LaKeith Stanfield stands by his side but also opposes him, still revealing his diversity as an actor and I for one, look forward to seeing him in as many mainstream and/or alternative projects as possible. Last but not least, Julia Fox is as impressive as they come. Brilliant appearance on screen no matter how you look at it.

And now the Safdie Brothers… After a number of shorts, and the impressive Lenny Cooke (2013) and Heaven Knows What (2014), they brought to us Good Time (2017) which followed their style and made a suspenseful story but… these… repeated… Pattinson close-ups couldn’t be more distracting. Robert Pattinson is a great actor but it was just too much. So glad we didn’t get many Sandler close-ups. That said, you might find the music a bit distracting but once you familiarise yourselves with their Safdie style of filmmaking, it will make more sense. Congrats to everyone in front and behind the camera. 2 hours+ just flew by.

Stay safe!

Extraction (2020): Action / Crime / Thriller

Extraction

A self-destructive, black market mercenary signs up for a deadly mission where allies and enemies are difficult to tell apart.

I’m gonna start with the bad news: The script, unequivocally, has more holes than Swiss cheese. Something that, unavoidably, leads to clichés. Without wanting to decimate both the story and the plot, know what you sign up for! Two hours of standard Hollywood, action narrative, seriously lacking plausibility, and character depth.

Now for the good news: As a representative example of cinema of attractions, Extraction‘s mid-fighting sequence, where everyone is after Tyler and the kid, the seemingly almost-12-minute, protracted shot is brilliantly made. This type of filmmaking is challenging as hundreds or thousands of people put their magic touch to look as impressive. A lot of people are getting injured in front of the camera, and a lot of people are working endlessly day and night behind it. What’s more, Chris Hemsworth nails his part as the tough as nails guy who suffers internally more than he suffers when he gets run over and shot. Sam Hargrave’s directorial debut who has come a long way from a stunt double (Chris Evans’ as Captain America), to stunt choreographer to here. And been produced by the Russo Brothers, I can assume that MCU is indeed… a family. I admire people like Hargrave. He reminds me of other successful stunts turned directors and producers such as Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, and Zoë Bell. It is a hopeful sign that talent and hard work pay off.

So, who is this film for? For everyone who wants to forget our deeply damaged reality, consisting of shameless hypocrites and cowards who found themselves in power – or represent it. Turn off reality for a bit and see how popcorn entertainment can serve its purpose. My heart goes out to the people suffering. But remember:

“[…] Through every dark night, there’s a bright day after that. So no matter how hard it get, stick your chest out, keep ya head up…. and handle it.” ― Tupac Shakur

Stay safe!

The Art of My Scars (2016): Documentary / Short

The Art of My Scars

The chronicle of a girl who decided to become a transgender man and learned to express himself and overcome his tribulations through art.

Show me a person who claims they have no skeletons in their closet and I’ll show you a liar.

Writer/director James Land follows his fellow Devonian Kay Jane Browning who got mocked, bullied, and beaten up as a little girl only to grow up a proud young man who transcended both genders’ limitations, and became a person of his own; an artist.

It doesn’t take money to tell your story. It takes to be truthful to it. It takes to say it out loud to feel liberated. Let haters laugh at you, among others, they are only shameful, dishonest, and deceiptive. Because the rest of the world will follow you, engage with you, and give you a standing ovation for who you really are. Hats off to both James and Kay for bringing this story to the surface. You can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/TheArtofMyScars/

Watching Kay’s story, I couldn’t help but wonder, is it our generation who’s gonna put an end to discrimination? Against people who just look different than we are. Against people who are physically and/or mentally attracted to whoever they choose to? Against people who just happen to believe in something different than we do? Is it gonna be us who’s gonna make this world welcome to EVERYONE?

Show me a person who found the courage and strength to reveal their skeletons in their closet and I’ll show you a hero.

Stay safe!

 

The Last Fare (2020): Short / Drama

The Last Fare

An angry taxi driver’s last fare will make him reevaluate his own life.

Camera over the shoulder and off to a tour around the city… just until sunset. Directorial debut for Anil Bajaj who pens the script alongside Jeff Etheridge, sits on the director’s chair, and jumps straight to his cab to give one last fare. Low budget existential drama, anchored in the essence of time, surrounded by the concepts of respect, understanding, appreciation, and the importance of knowing where we stand in this world. Surely, with a bit of extra funding, Bajaj would have unfolded a longer ride, and I for one would love to watch what could have been the denouement of a feature film, fully unfolding Sonny’s rage and frustration, hoping to lead to catharsis (watch and see for yourselves).

The mise-en-scène is meticulous and the editing carefully controls the pace and rhythm. Selectively, the piano accompanies and emotionally invests in the narrative, without dictating how the audience should feel. Last but definitely not least, Sherri Eakin becomes the relatable heroine and personification of loneliness that puts us in Maggie’s shoes, reassessing all the could haves, the should haves, and would haves of our life.

Become the omniscient passenger and take the ride with them. After all, as Ithaca teaches us, it is rather the journey that matters and not the destination.

Stay safe!

Sleep Tight (2011): Drama / Horror / Thriller

Sleep Tight

A janitor of a luxurious apartment building is hell-bent on ruining a young, happy, female resident’s life.

Jaume Balagueró! The director who brought us horrors such as Darkness (2002), Fragile (2005), and [REC] (2007), this time, brings to life something neither paranormal nor gory. Pure. Psychological. Horror. Man’s most disturbing and dark side comes to the surface and that is more terrifying than any zombie or paranormal evil. The amazing Luis Tosar (César) becomes one of the most hated men you have ever seen on your screen and the brilliant Marta Etura (Clara) one of the most beloved girls next door. This extreme divergence will make your heart skip a lot more than a beat as you will be getting this constant urge to warn Clara, stop César, wake her up, get him caught… an urge to intervene somehow anyway!

Sleep Tight is not a film where you are scrolling down on your social media and it just plays in the background. Turn off the lights, put your phone on silent or away, enjoy some good company (including your own), and question your own safety at home.

Now… Do you like odds? I have a good one for you. As per IMDb, 10 days after Sleep Tight was released, Paramount released The Resident (2011) a film with IDENTICAL plot and Hilary Swank and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the leading roles. Both are exceptional actors but The Resident is a watered-down, non-daring, Hollywood version of Sleep Tight. Go for the one that does not hold any punches.

Forgotten (2017): Mystery / Thriller

Forgotten

Things take an unexpected turn for a family after a young man sees his older brother getting abducted and comes back days later with no memory of what happened, acting like a different person.

Narrative like only the Koreans know how to develop. Dramaturgy that knows no boundaries and is unconditionally unleashed to shock you to your core. Huge comeback from writer/director Hang-jun Jang who seems like not taking particular interest in the film industry. Regardless of the reasons, and even though it flew a bit under the radar, Forgotten is the type of film that will get your undivided attention. You cannot miss a thing otherwise you’ll have even more questions. Very intricate with numerous twists and turns, Forgotten does not hold any punches. It might not be Oldboy (2003) but it will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat.

The South Korean film industry (Hallyuwood, informally) is a dominant player in the market. Partially, yes, because the government is heavily investing in it but also due to the produced films’ impact globally. Money might open a plethora of doors but it is the sheer talent that walks such filmmakers through them, stirring the focus once more towards the beautiful artistic side of the industry and taking it away from the ugly scandalous one that we have all had enough with.

P.S. I didn’t know it was a Netflix film until I accidentally stumbled upon the information on IMDb – no logos in the opening or closing credits.

P.P.S. That’s for you cuz! Thanks for the recommendation!

P.P.S. Jiyoung, if you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend it. If you have, why didn’t you tell me about it??? 🙂

Stay safe!

The Roads Not Taken (2020): Drama

The Roads Not Taken

How things are and how things could have been, happen at the same time in a man’s head, making his daughter carry the burden.

The power of independent cinema. The delivery of a beautiful yet heart-wrenching story told by relatable heroes, suffering like you and me. Ella Fanning tries desperately to follow Javier Bardem’s torture, costing her more than he will ever understand. With them, two brilliant actresses and women, Salma Hayek, and Laura Linney complete the ensemble, putting their final touch. Second collaboration between composer / editor / writer / director Sally Potter and Fanning after Ginger and Rosa (2012) with the former proving she is still evolving and the latter still promising a successful career.

When you get confused in the end, ask yourselves, whose story was it? And that will answer whose story it became. There is also a subtle message. You never know where, when, why, or by who you will find kindness so, be kind to everyone. Regardless of how they look or how they sound.

Stay safe!

The Lodge (2019): Drama / Horror / Thriller

The Lodge

Two children are snowed in at a remote lodge with their soon-to-be stepmom who, when strange occurrences start happening, her dark past resurfaces.

Where did that come from?! The Lodge skipped the radars and out of the blue appeared to catch you off guard and restore your faith in the horror genre. The first act’s inciting incident will move the story forward by taking your breath away (I wish I could tell you more). The claustrophobic mise-en-scène will give you no choice but to get trapped in the lodge with them. No cheap jump scares here. Just pure psychological horror! A must-watch for every horror fan!

The amazing Riley Keough has exceptional chemistry with Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh, delivering bone-chilling performances. I just wish Alicia Silverstone had more screen time. A huge round of applause goes also to writer Sergio Casci and writers / directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz who brought us the also shocking horror Goodnight Mommy (2014).

Gary, mate… you’re gonna love this one!

Ioanna mou, I wish I was there to watch it with you.

Stay safe!