The Old Guard (2020): Action / Fantasy

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A group of immortal mercenaries is been set up and hunted down, but together they’ll take down anyone who stands in their way.

Well-shot! Good job by Gina Prince-Bythewood as international films, especially of that magnitude, can never be easy. Too many locations, too much cast and crew, too many permissions to shoot, and too many visual effects. I believe it’s her most ambitious film to date so, well done! Charlize Theron and her multinational/multiracial team of mercenaries create great chemistry in front of the camera, offering plenty of action but also laughter when they take out and wield their weapon of choice.

Now, I would say that the film’s score is not a perfect match. Maybe I kept having the graphic novel in mind while watching, and, while reading the comic back in the day, that’s not the music I had in mind. I can understand that the film’s target audience is not me so, for younger people maybe it makes more sense. It is very well edited though (on that music), so the rhythm and pace compensate.

Before hitting “play” remember: This is a Skydance & Netflix production. The Old Guard follows the standard, New Hollywood narrative, aiming at an audience that has no interest in Italian neorealism. It is entertaining though and I enjoyed all the effort put from everyone in front and behind the camera. I hope you do as well.

Stay safe!

I Still See You (2018): Fantasy / Horror / Sci-fi

I Still See You

After an experiment kills millions of people, the living must get used to coexisting with the ghosts the dead left behind. 

Right… I’m gonna cut to the chase. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. I don’t judge the film but its intentions. So, if you decide to watch it, this is what you sign up for:

  • Teenage scenery. 
  • Emo girl.
  • Weird guy no one likes except for the emo girl.
  • An American(!) school full of students where no one is obese.
  • In fact, an American(!) school full of (white) people where EVERYONE could as well be an underwear model.
  • Back to the emo/weird, they are investigators, come up with a theory that no one ever thought before or believes now, and fall in love.
  • In the end, you’ll never guess, they were right all along. Every other buffoon scientist wasted their degrees.
  • Music, which is not bad at all actually, accompanies every single sequence as the narrative and dialogue are beyond understanding.
  • Speaking of something decent, photography and set decoration are dark and compelling respectively.

To conclude, do you remember the 80s and 90s teenage horrors? Then forget about this! I don’t like doing reviews like this one and I have no idea what possessed me to watch it – Maybe the past, glorious days of Dermot Mulroney. Strictly under 15. Please provide ID before hitting “play”. You’ve been warned!

To everyone responsible for this film: Do not underestimate your audience’s mentality! It is immoral and, for that, you pay the price ==> Opening Weekend USA: $815 (Source: IMDb). Producers, accept the facts:

  • The US is a country of multiculturalism.
  • There are people who may not fit the profile to advertise fragrances but they are beautiful in their own way nonetheless.
  • Cast actors and actresses according to their skills, not your fantasy of the ideal appearance. 

Stay safe!

Fantasy Island (2020): Adventure / Fantasy / Horror

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An island that has the power to grant your greatest wish, welcomes a group of people who have no idea what they signed up for.

I’ll start with the good news: I didn’t know what to expect so, you would never guess… I had no expectations! Now, for the opposite of good news: The amazing story behind Fantasy Island is inundated with nothing but American clinches, that ruin the aforementioned amazing story.

The American cliches include, but are not limited to: stereotypical characters, stereotypical punchlines, stereotypical resolutions and revelations, and stereotypical editing and redirecting. Hands down, the dramatic fantasy that stands out is Maggie Q’s (Gwen) who, by the way, is a brilliant actress and an astonishing woman. But the genres are too mixed and so are the viewer’s feelings towards everything that’s happening. It is not a disservice to the Fantasy Island (1977) series but it has nothing much to do with it either. If you want to watch a great blend of such genres, The Cabin in the Woods (2011) is what you need to watch!

A real shame as Fantasy Island stresses two important facts of life:

  • Careful what you wish for!
  • Your so-called liberties in life have a limit; where your fellow human beings’ begin…

Stay safe!

 

Dagon (2001): Fantasy / Horror / Mystery

Dagon

After their boat sinks, a young couple finds refuge in a decadent Spanish fishing town, with half-human dwellers, and an ancient deity waiting to rise once more.

It’s been months that I wanted to write about Dagon. I first watched it in VHS in 2001 and I was left in awe. Throughout the years I forgot a lot about it though and moved on. Part of the reason is that I wasn’t the avid admirer of H.P. Lovecraft that I am now. Another part of the reason is that I didn’t “read” films the way I do now. In March, the beloved writer, producer, and director Stuart Gordon sadly passed away. Gordon was a loyal Lovecraft fan who honoured him with films such as this one, Reanimator (1985), and Castle Freak (1995) https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/04/19/castle-freak-1995-drama-horror-mystery/.

Ezra Godden and Raquel Meroño make a brilliant on-screen couple and I for one, I can’t hide my admiration for Raquel. Also, the last film of Francisco Rabal. The location is eerie, the story is thrilling, and the plot is horrifying. Good, old-fashioned storytelling that makes Dagon a smashing adaptation of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”. There is only one downside: The visual effects. Unfortunately, there are sequences that VFX will put you off, especially if you watch it for the first time now. My advice is to just turn the blind eye. It’s been almost 20 years and it is a low budget film. Let this one slide and get a small taste of Lovecraft’s petrifying mixture of “dream and reality”. I believe I have watched every H.P. Lovecraft adaptation to date. Beside Dagon, my top 3 are:

  1. In the Mouth of Madness (1994): https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2019/01/04/in-the-mouth-of-madness-1994-drama-horror-mystery/
  2. Color out of Space (2019): https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/02/07/color-out-of-space-2019-horror-sci-fi/
  3. The Lighthouse (2019): https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/03/03/the-lighthouse-2019-drama-fantasy-horror (veeeeery loosely / inspired by)

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…

Doctor Sleep (2019): Drama / Fantasy / Horror

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Dan Torrance, years after the horrific events of The Shining, a disheveled adult now, must overcome his fears and protect a young girl with a similar ‘shine’ from a cult that feeds on gifted children.

Imagine you are a young and successful director granted permission to write and direct the sequel to a film adaptation famously hated by the author of the book on which it was based, and that that same author will be your producer. Let’s make it more intricate by saying that the previously adapted film became a horror landmark, but the author – who hated it – made his own mini-series version that was… unremarkable. More interestingly, both the author and the director were Grandmasters in their departments respectively; the author is called Stephen King and the director Stanley Kubrick. Which adaptation is your sequel based on?

As a lifetime fan of both Kubrick and King, and a recent fan of the young and successful writer/director Mike Flanagan, this review hurts more than anything I have typed so far. Flanagan did a lot of things right: He recreated the sets of the Overlook hotel with surgical precision, the ’80s characters as he supposed to, cast the right actors for the right roles, and a sequence that truly pays homage to The Shining (1980): The moment between Danny entering the Overlook Hotel and Rose arriving.

Unfortunately, these positive aspects are overshadowed by the script. A script that was written in such a way as to satisfy both King and the true Shining fans. A recipe for failure. The risks start accumulating automatically the moment you decide to pick up from where Kubrick left off. Steven Spielberg, one of the best directors of our time, sat at the director’s seat and finished off A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) after Kubrick sadly passed, and even he faced backlash for doing so. The script here faces a lot of issues in terms of both character and story development. Indicatively (no spoilers), just to get an idea, the characters have an undetermined level of shines both in terms of quantity and quality. Incidentally, that causes serious issues with the strategies followed by both heroes and villains before, during, and after the standoff.

The Shining is a psychological horror that turns into a paranormal horror in an invisible and inexplicable to the viewer way. Stanley Kubrick directed it with mastery, Jack Nicholson delivered a breathtaking performance (Shelley Duvall paid a heavy price), and we, the audience, jumped from one kind of horror to the other with our jaws on the floor. Doctor Sleep is an amalgamation sequel of two incompatible versions that are heavily undecided as to whether to be psychological or paranormal, ending up being neither.

Despite the tempting references to other King films as well, I would suggest that you didn’t consider it a direct sequel. Instead, you should watch the series Castle Rock (2018 – Present) which has finally managed to do what other productions have failed to do in the past (no spoilers) and does so with great success.

End of Days (1999): Action / Fantasy / Horror

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It is the end of the millennium, Satan has taken a human form while looking for the woman who will bear his child, and it is up to a suicidal ex-cop to prevent the end of days.

Arguably, one of the best, darkest… and underrated films Schwarzenegger has ever been in. Brilliant fast-paced and edited realistic action with a just over fifties, sentimental Arnie been purely tough as nails. Great shooting scenes, great fight scenes, and great chase scenes that make two hours fly by. But the awesomeness doesn’t stop here. The slow-paced sequences testing the heroes’ and antiheroes’ ‘faith’, and the drama of a young girl standing in the midst of chaos, who never chose to be special, make the End of Days an unforgettable choice to put a close to this year and decade. The film’s highlight: Arnold fighting the Satanists and the Devil in the alley.

Arnold, having undergone a heart surgery two years prior to the film, comes back performing extreme action sequences and nailing the self-destructive, rock bottom, action antihero, taking as much as he can give back. Gabriel Byrne is evil as hell – pun intended – and brutally tortures everyone crossing his path with utter style. As for Robin Tunney, she’s magnificent and I can still see why I fell for her in my early twenties. My last ‘congratulations’ goes to the director and director of photography Peter Hyams who pulled this off and brought Andrew W. Marlowe’s solid, very dark yet optimistic script to life.

Again, arguably, Schwarzenegger’s last prominent film.

Enjoy, and have a healthy, happy, productive and creative new year. Be well!!

Mr. Destiny (1990): Comedy / Fantasy / Romance

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Leading a repetitive life, Larry Burrows, on his 35th birthday, wishes his life was different, more exciting… and this is exactly what he gets!

How many times have I watched this film is beyond me… And I think I’m gonna grow old and grey and I’m still gonna be watching it. Yes, it’s very similar to the classic masterpiece It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), but since I was a kid when it first came out, I grew up with it, and I couldn’t help but stop thinking about… what if my life was different? As I kept growing up, till this very day, till this very moment, writing this review right now after just having watched it (again), I am wondering why does this film age so well? What is it that makes it so diachronic that I can’t stop having enough of it.

I guess I wouldn’t watch it any other period other than Christmas/New Year time. It is the time when, if not all of us, most of us contemplate a bit more about our new year resolutions. It is that time where we look back and ask ourselves, what could I have done differently? What do I lack? What do I have in abundance? Why would I want my life to be different anyway? It might be all these would haves, should haves, could haves that loop in our minds with warp f@£$%^& speed causing this effect. I think I’m digressing…

Anyway, Larry Burrows is John Belushi. And not like a film poster kind of way. I mean that I can’t imagine anyone else portraying him and I kinda don’t want either. Michael Caine is visual poetry. Linda Hamilton is to fall in love with and proves, once more, to be so diverse actress that I take my hat off to her and bow. Rene Russo always had been and always be lighting up the screen when appearing on it. As for Courteney Cox, she is… a killer! Last but lost least, it is an absolute shame that we don’t see the amazing Jon Lovitz in many films anymore – series mostly.

Mr. Destiny had a big impact on my life, and it has inspired my screenwriting in ways that I can’t begin to describe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have over the decades.

The Hudsucker Proxy (1994): Comedy / Drama / Fantasy

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An ambitious young man is put by the board of directors as president in a… convoluted company involved in a stock scam.

‘It takes a village to make a film’… and The Hudsucker Proxy is the living proof – and the best side of Hollywood. Joel and Ethan Coen write (alongside Sam Raimi), direct, and produce one of their best and underrated films to date, focusing on a man’s ambition, the crowd’s paranoia, the Media’s superfluous vanity, and the corporate greed! In addition, Carter Burwell’s music, Dennis Gassner’s production design, and Roger Deakins’ cinematography pay a true homage to the films of the ’30s and ’40s. Thom Noble’s meticulous and precise editing paces the film from beginning to end. Great montage sequences delivering passion, laughter, drama, and rhythmic film magic.

A naive Tim Robbins, an extremely articulate Jennifer Jason Leigh, a sexist Bruce Campbell, and the legend Paul Newman develop amazing on-screen chemistry and one cannot help but fall for them. The film’s brilliance is such where the devil’s in the details. For example, Robert Gallagher’s character ‘Vic Tenetta’ shows up for just a few seconds and the screen lightens up.

And now for the shocking facts: Not even one Oskar, Golden Globe or Bafta Nomination. 3 wins and 3 nominations all and all. And that’s not just it! It cost approximately $40M and made $2,816,518. I think, sometimes, it’s surprising what makes people tick and what doesn’t. But I know that, always, when it comes to the film industry, all bets are off!

Clown (2014): Drama / Fantasy / Horror

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A father tries to please his kid on his birthday by dressing up as a clown only to get stuck in the suit, start losing his mind, and transform into… something else.

This is not another clown film! Clown cuts straight to the point, gets you to feel the hero’s pain, introduces you to the origins of what once was and what it came to be, and all hell brakes loose.

Released three and a half years after the date’s wrap, the film managed to get a limited release. Producer Eli Roth once more proves he owns the throne of twisted horror as his investment definitely satisfies secret, depraved pleasures and needs. Jon Watts, believe it or not, the director of Spider-man: Homecoming (2017), co-writes and directs the distorted, kid-eating-blood-and-gore version of what most kids love and some fear the most, making everyone who watches the film not want to see or hear about a clown ever again.

The psychological horror is, unfortunately, replaced by some kind of humour and cliches, ruining the film’s ending and, ultimately, its full potential. Regardless, should you decide to watch it, make sure you know what you sign up for. If you are a horror fan like myself, you’ll enjoy the thrill of an underrated, sadistic hero’s journey.

Dean… thanks for the recommendation. This one’s for you mate.