13th (2016): Documentary / Crime

The astronomical rise of the prison population in the US throughout the decades, through victimization of ethnic minorities and partnerships between correctional facilities and private corporations.

A brave new world! Well, not so new really. Well, not so brave either I guess. Writer, producer, and director Ava DuVernay hits the nail on the head with a revealing documentary on the, once inexplicable, rise of the prison population and its deep connections to the racial inequality, the capitalist system, and their common denominator which is none other than the continuously manipulative governments.

I am pretty convinced that DuVernay’s footage was dozens of hours long and she could probably have had about three documentaries like 13th. While evaluating her footage, she decided to narrow it down and tell the story the way she did. The documentary’s strong suit is the information it provides on the connection between the era of slavery to the media and cinema and The Birth of a Nation (1915) to the present era, and how is all connected to the rise of the correctional facilities industry. I for one, and not being American, I didn’t have the foggiest so that was, while unpleasant and disheartening, an eye-opening experience. The research was also solid and the archive footage was strong and extremely effective, it literally put a lot into perspective.

And even though I learned loads about the disgusting, filthy companies that profit from human suffering, I didn’t get around why the poor who can’t get out of prison have been incarcerated to begin with. I got an idea, don’t get me wrong, but instead on spending some time to expand on it, it expanded on movements and actions that were not related to the rise of the prison population.

The editing in documentaries such as 13th plays a catalytic role in narrative formation. Documentary is research. The filmmaker does not really know where it will lead or how it will really lead them where it will. It is a journey. O.J.: Made in America (2016) is a perfect example of that. 7 hours and 47 minutes, after editing, that focuses on the chronicle of O.J. Simpson, the anchor of the documentary, and only expands to the events that surround his case.

Regardless, 13th is a must-watch as is DuVernay’s previous work Selma (2014), and the biographical When They See Us (2019) – reviews to follow.

Panagiotis, this one’s for you mate. Thank you for the recommendation.

Stay safe!

Midnight FM (2010): Action / Crime / Thriller

During a radio producer’s last show, a serial killer invades her home threatening to kill her family.

The overwhelming suspense! Three thrilling acts that will keep you glued to your seats until the very end. There is not one dull moment throughout the film. Korean suspenseful narrative that, as usual, it does not hold back and does not disappoint. This is a story-driven thriller where all utterances and actions are held accountable for is going to happen next.

Excellent directing that the fast-paced editing unfolds the fabula and syuzhet exactly when the information is needed to be disclosed. Soo Ae and Ji-Tae Yoo shine on camera, creating a stimulating chemistry. Extra round of applause goes to the little girls for their equally brilliant performances.

Midnight FM is a must-watch and no matter what I say will not make it more appealing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Stay safe!

The Town (2010): Crime / Drama / Thriller

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A band of thieves terrorise the banks of Boston but when personal feelings and the FBI get in the way, everyone’s loyalty is at stake.

10 years old and not outdated a bit. Thrilling action and suspenseful drama to keep you pinned to your seats for two hours. Since the beginning of his career, Ben Affleck has been proving time and time again his undeniable talent both in front and behind the camera. Think of The Town as Heat (1995) meets Good Will Hunting (1997). An exceptional mid-90s action film, fifteen years later. Next to Affleck, Jeremy Renner will make you wonder, “is he actually such an asshole?” He is meant to be one and he nails it as he nails the accent. One of his best performances to date. Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, and Blake Lively couldn’t have been a better choice, and Titus Welliver, Chris Cooper, and the late Pete Postlethwaite are as hateable as they were meant to be. A-list form head to toe!

I know that you probably have watched it. If you have, watch it again. It is most definitely worth it. If somehow you’ve missed it, make it your next film!

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 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!

Capone (2020): Biography / Crime / Drama

Capone

Having spent 10 years in prison, Capone gets to spend the last year of his life at his mansion, suffering from dementia and visions of a violent past.

A few people asked me to watch it and tell them what I think. Well, here it is…

There are four (4) different points that need to be looked at rather than overlooked: The most obvious is Tom Hardy who, no matter who he portrays, he portrays them with effortless artistry. So, don’t pick up the stones yet. My next point is the A-list cast who supports him equally well and poses no threat to the film whatsoever. Then, it’s the makeup. Now, here I can see that you are looking at the stones again. If I had started watching the film ten minutes into it, I would think it’s a zombie or vampire Capone. The problem escalates and climaxes with the fourth point which is the writing that is all over the place. It seems like it parodies Capone’s end, and I can understand how this can be somehow offensive even if it’s regarding a criminal like him.

Writer/editor/director Josh Trank thought it would be a good idea to combine approaches taken by David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick and portray the well-known Italian-American as if he’s walking between two worlds. In such light, a major issue becomes the main genre that officially characterises the film and, consequently, the viewers’ expectations. As someone who doesn’t know much about Capone’s last year, I didn’t see it as biographical as I didn’t see any crime either (that one shooting doesn’t count).

Trank was somehow lucky – even though that might be an inaccurate term. Should the film had a theatrical release, chances are that it would have suffered a similar or worse fate than his last film five years ago. My humble opinion is that he is a great independent director who faces a lot of issues when it comes to collaborating with major studios. Chronicle (2012) is a solid proof of that.

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 Outsider (2020): Crime / Drama / Mystery

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When solid, undisputed evidence points at a man committing a despicable crime, family, friends, and law enforcement try to determine how he could have done it… when he wasn’t there.

One of the best Stephen King adaptations with the HBO guarantee! Ben Mendelsohn and Jason Bateman work brilliantly both in front and behind the camera and with them, Bill Camp, Jeremy Bobb, Mary Winningham, Paddy Considine, Yul Vazquez, Julianne Nicholson, Marc Menchaca, and Cynthia Erivo fight against an… asymmetric threat! A threat that only HBO would build up so much and so meticulously that you have no other option but to actually believe in it eventually as much as the series’ biggest “Doubting Thomas”.

The acting is gripping and the episodes’ cliffhangers, phenomenal. The screen will suck you in while trying to establish what would you do, how could you explain it, and the ways in which you would have acted. The formation of the aforementioned unlikely alliance will take you to a journey where you’ll be constantly craving for more as the deeper they dig, the darker and eerier the rabbit hole turns.

Even though it can’t get scarier than watching the news, turn the lights off, forget our soul-sucking reality, and enjoy the horror that is meant to entertain you rather than harm you.

Stay safe!

I See You (2019): Crime / Drama / Horror

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Strange phenomena occur in a detective’s house while he’s trying to bring his family together and investigate the case of a disappeared kid.

How on Earth did this one go unnoticed??? I See You defies the Hollywood conventions and comes out of nowhere to shock you with its originality. Director Adam Randal and writer Devon Graye do a tremendous job behind the camera and Helen Hunt, Jon Tenney, Judah Lewis, Owen Teague, and last but not least Liebe Barer work perfectly with and against each other and keep you on the edge of your seat. Films like this, still prove that to this day, no one can predict the success of a film. Distribution, marketing, timing, and innumerable production miscalculations that you and I will never find out, all blend in, sometimes all at once, and work in favour or against a film that either make it or break it.

Regardless of the outcome, I See you is highly recommended and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I’m not gonna say much… Actually, I’m not gonna say anything at all and let you guys feel the thrill. The timelines, the acting, the music, the lack of it, the vantage points, the twists and turns… are all you need to escape our reality and the abhorrent times we currently live in.