Berlin Syndrome (2017): Drama / Horror / Mystery

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“One of the most transformational experiences” of her life, and “the most liberating film experience” of her career, Teresa Palmer stated. If you have any doubts, her dynamic performance will certainly convince you. On the other hand, Max Riemelt does his absolute best to make you hate his guts. The fierce chemistry between the duo works around the clock, creating a character-study to be put under the microscope. Cinematography gets a 10/10 for delivering the entrapment’s claustrophobic sense in Berlin’s atrocious winter and the direction guides the editing pace carefully towards the unwrapping of Palmer’s emotional roller-coaster.

Could it have been less than two hours? Yes. Could the ending be more satisfactory for the masses? Yes. Could… I’ll stop here. Be patient, try not to be looking for plot holes, imagine that this monstrosity is happening to you or someone you love, put your phone on silent or away, and this psychological turn visceral madness will get under your skin.

 

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Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010): Comedy / Horror

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I’ll just cut to the chase here… You feelin’ low? You wanna get high? Next stop… “Tucker and Dale vs Evil”. The remedy. The answer to your prayers. Everything that’s going wrong in this world, wrapped in one movie. It gets crazier… 10 wins, 14 nominations. If you are thinking “WTF?!” no one will blame you. If you are not thinking “WTF?!” then this film is for you.

That said, Tucker and Dale vs Evil has the most honest intentions. It doesn’t trick you for a second. A spoof that brilliantly parodies horrors from “Friday the 13th” to every “cabin in the woods”. Profusely, for the “male/female under 25” American audience. Sounds like your thing? Knock yourself out!

Hush (2016): Horror / Thriller

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Real-life couple writer/editor/director Mike Flanagan and writer/actress Kate Siegel, beautifully collaborate for a second time making “Hush”. An indie, low budget, home invasion, one location horror with a simple premise that cuts to the chase: A deaf woman needs to survive a masked intruder’s invasion.

“Hush” stands tall amongst giants of the genre such as “The Strangers”, “The Last House on the Left”, “When A Stranger Calls” and more. Flawed, yet effective, proves undoubtedly that jump scares and unnecessary screaming are not horror’s obligatory elements for success. With Flanagan’s enthralling perspective and Siegel’s and Gallagher Jr.’s extremely engaging performances, a well-paced, thrilling hour and twenty minutes will fly-by.

Wind River (2017): Crime / Drama / Mystery

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Underrated “Sons of Anarchy” actor Taylor Sheridan became the writer-director of “Wind River”, an American modern, indie masterpiece.

From the sheer will for survival to the against-all-odds rediscovery of the heroes’ inner, rigid strength, to the subject matter’s tragic truth, “Wind River” gives prominence to the animals’ humanity and the humans’ animality.

I salute all actors who poured their souls into their roles, and Taylor Sheridan who, receiving a lengthy 8′ standing ovation at the Cannes, he deservedly won the Un Certain Regard – Best Director.

Coherence (2013): Mystery / Sci-fi / Thriller

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The epitome of an indie, low budget, single location film!  The absolute mind-f@!# that, through largely impromptu dialogue and genuine reactions, makes you question who you are, and/or who you could have been, in multiple, alternate, fractured realities.

A round of applause for the Director, the Production team, and the actors who achieved this with $50K, in 5 nights, with 2 cameras, in 1 location.

A piece of advice: Instinctively, you will try to rationalize and keep track of what is happening. When you start feeling your brain cells frying, STOP!

Dirty Dancing (1987): Drama / Music / Romance

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Ladies… Ladies… Ladies… How many times, in your youth, pending boring family holidays, didn’t you find yourselves daydreaming of being a Jennifer Grey… And that, during the tedious holidays, you would meet, dance, and fall in love with a – more often than not – half-naked Patrick Swayze.

Before Hollywood’s decadence in the Romance genre… Before millions of dollars were spent on cliche, “soppiness”, unnecessary CGI, and kitsch… there was “Dirty Dancing”! There was the Jennifer Grey and the Patrick Swayze. In a production that everything that could go wrong did, I dare anyone to challenge its success and dethrone it.

As for us gentlemen… we pay our respects to Patrick Swayze – dancer, bouncer, surfer, lover… who carved the path for modern actors like Ryan Gosling and Hugh Jackman… to take on multidisciplinary roles who fight, dance, sing, become superheroes and everyday people.

Regardless… ladies and gentlemen… we all hope he rests in peace…

For Petroula.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016): Drama / Horror / Mystery

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J.J Abrams strikes back! With a one-location, slow burn, claustrophobic, gripping mystery/thriller (occasionally horror), that will keep you on the edge of your seats. Is John Goodman actually a deranged, child-abuser? Should Mary Elizabeth Winstead escape? What’s happening out there? Are they better off inside? That said, the third act put off the vast majority of the fans. But I’ll leave it up to you.  Don’t read anything about it, just watch it.

Whether it ties to “Cloverfield” (2008) or not, it is something that you need to figure out. Then, should you decide that it is a “blood-relative”, figure out how. And should you figure that one out, then when. And after you think you have connected all the dots, watch “The Cloverfield Paradox” (2018) and feel free to gouge your eyes in.

McCanick (2013): Crime / Drama / Mystery

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David Morse, as a force to be reckoned with, definitely carries the burden of this journey. Cory Monteith catches up though and along with Josh C. Waller, they all give us a gritty, realistic, bittersweet Philly taste. Corruption, remorse, tragedy, all unravel proportionally creating this low budget, indie, psychological drama along the lines of “Training Day”. Flawed, yet effective makes it worth your while as a simple story’s premise blurs its own “right and wrong” and “good and bad” lines.

Cory Monteith’s final performance before his tragic death.

Before I Disappear (2014): Drama

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In 2012, Shawn Christensen writes, edits, directs and stars in his short film “Curfew”. The year after, 2013, one fine day, leaves his house, goes to the Dolby Theatre, collects the Oscar, goes back home and decides to make it a feature. The year after, 2014, he writes, edits, produces, directs, composes, and stars in the feature version of it “Before I Disappear”. Shawn Christensen earned his standing ovations at the film festivals as he did a remarkable job in front and behind the camera.

A grim story where surrealistic antiheroes encounter realistic situations. From bottom-feeders, washed up, and wannabe gangsters, to decadent, self-destructive, hopeless “next door” people… bonding, regret, redemption, oblivion and so much more become the common denominator and compose a virtuoso and hallucinatory piece of work.

Hold the Dark (2018): Adventure / Drama / Horror

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Following the stupendous performance in “Westworld”, Jeffrey Wright takes us on a journey where a man has to travel to the furthest corner of the Earth (Alaska) to overcome his deepest fears, seek redemption, and explore/discover the abyss of human nature. Alexander Skarsgård is as cruel as they come and gives Wright a lot more than he bargained for.

Dark, allegorical, and mysterious, “Hold the Dark” stands tall to Jeremy Saulnier’s previous films Blue Ruin and Green Room with the DOP keeping it as aphotic as the human soul itself. Not for the mainstream Hollywood film goer! Ιt takes patience and attention. And pay close attention! Every utterance, action, choice, and decision truly matters to the story’s understanding. The devil’s in the details…