Chaos Walking (2021): Action / Adventure / Fantasy

Many years into the future, on an unknown planet, a male-only settlement is after two youngsters who are in search of truth.

Interesting premise! Like any decent sci-fi, behind the top dollar spent and the fancy visual effects there is a metaphor. Chaos Walking‘s is the actual settlers’ terraforma atrocities. Arguably though, that takes the back seat when the film decides to focus on the projection of the human inability to control their thoughts; men’s anyway.

As the story unfolds more truths come to the surface and more metaphors can be picked up that are also, eventually, overshadowed by men’s uncontrollable projected thoughts. Regardless, pay attention to the mayor’s and the priest’s role. You won’t be surprised about their character development if you’ve read a thing or two about colonisation.

After the script’s many rewritings, extensive $15M re-shoots took place, during which Tom Holland broke his nose, passed out trying to hold his breath underwater, and had his wisdom teeth pulled out. No wonder why the film’s release date was pushed back a year… And after all that, humongous plot holes are still there like a stains that failed to come off after many washings. The most striking one: The shuttle that no one saw falling from the sky. A shuttle that no one heard or felt crashing next to the farm either. The best part? By the time Todd saw it, some pieces were still on fire but Viola had already dag 2 graves and was out and about stealing food. I mean… never mind!

It’s a shame that experienced directors like Doug Liman and studios like Lionsgate Entertainment still struggle that much when money and resources are not an issue. That’s why audience thinking outside the box diminish Hollywood productions. Shame really…

Stay safe!

Outside the Wire (2021): Action / Adventure / Fantasy

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A disgraced rookie drone pilot and a prototype android officer are sent to enemy territory to stop a nuclear attack.

Very bad from the very beginning! Having served in the special forces, let me put it this way: There is NO WAY you can get away with what Harp did! You are done! Finished! In and outside the army! From thousand of miles away, eating gummy bears, chilled, while marines in the battlefield drop like flies, and then you kill your own! NO. WAY.

I would say that from then on the film goes downhill but this would require for it to have started from a certain height. It starts from the bottom and stays there. It miserably fails to evoke any emotion at any level in all three acts. No suspense, no drama, no humour, no relatable action, no relatable characters, and then, no science, no reason, confused moral compass, and confused geographic compass. All the confusions and the no’s are nothing but the result of a bad production that is the result of a terrible script. It is like John Wick (2014) meets Terminator 2 (1991) meets Lord of War (2005) that finally meets none of the above and fosters a two-hour, old-fashioned, American, propagandistic, nonsensical, pedantic mashup of nothingness.

I do value Netflix, director Mikael Håfström, and Anthony Mackie and I hardly speak like that about the films I review. This one though undermines human intelligence and has immoral and dishonest intentions so, I’ll pretend I never watched it and move on. I suggest you do the same, and if you haven’t watched it, don’t!

Stay safe!

The Midnight Sky (2020): Drama / Fantasy / Sci-Fi

A dying scientist, based at a remote arctic research centre, needs to warn a satellite’s crew members not to return to Earth due to a mysterious cataclysmic disaster.

People sent me a lot of negativity about it, negativity that bore a lot of resemblance to Ad Astra (2019) https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2019/12/05/ad-astra-2019-adventure-drama-mystery/. Now, I’m not saying that that was a perfect film but it wasn’t remotely as bad as they made it to be. How about this one, then? Does it worth your time?

Producer/actor/director George Clooney has put his heart and soul to it. He might not be appearing enough lately – his last feature film was Money Monster (2016) – but in front of the camera he is as great as he meticulous behind it. Suspense’s favourite narrative technique is “delay of resolution”. The journey of Augustine and Iris to the weather station will make your heart skip a lot more than a beat as will the meteor shower’s sequence in space. Extra credits go to the sinking container scene. Both the journey on Earth but also in space, go through various tribulations and the dramatic parts in between will give you the time to bond with the characters. Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Tiffany Boone, and introducing Caoilinn Springall, give amazing performances and enhance both the drama and the suspense.

But I believe the film’s strongest suit is the narrative structure where the fabula and the shyuzet are organised in such manner that reveal only what you need to know, when you need to know it. Keep postponing what you want to know. What has happened will not be revealed to you that easily and will you definitely need to read between the lines. The levels of knowledge vary throughout the film. You don’t know exactly what Augustine knows but you still know a lot more than the crew does. On the other hand, you know almost everything that is happening on the satellite when Augustine knows nothing but you know as much as they do when it comes to the global disaster. No matter what the narration remains restricted at all times and you are not the omniscient spectator you would like to be.

After most of it is said and done, it all comes down to what your expectations are prior to hitting ‘play’. It is not an action film. It is a cosmic journey to finding a place to start anew and it an esoteric journey to remorse, redemption, and our deepest regrets. Yet, people found the ending… unfulfilling.

It is not the ending that is unfulfilling. It is the connection with ourselves, and, consequently, the connection with the people we love and they love us back.

Stay safe!

Click (2006): Comedy / Drama / Fantasy

An ambitious architect who thinks that everything is an obstacle to his success finds a remote that, allegedly, can solve all of his problems.

Honestly, I never thought this would be one of my favourite comedy/dramas – especially with Adam Sandler in it. But the story resonated with me for more than one reason. Let me get the pleasantries out of the way though.

Adam Sandler is funny, he is made for roles like these. The exaggerated tragicomedy surrounding a remote that controls your life could be a bunch of different films in the hands of different writers. Steve Koren and Mark O’Keefe wrote a condensed comedy (for the first part) about a guy who just wants to succeed in life as he had enough looking at the greener grass next to him. He finds this remote and, as probably most of us, uses it exactly as a child would. With Sandler always being a man-child, it is guaranteed that the remote’s uses will be definitely inappropriate. Changing colour of himself or the shape of others, muting them, dubbing them in different languages, and so much more, deems Click, admittedly, a funny comedy. Until it turns into drama…

The dire long-term effects of the remote’s use are seen halfway into the film and the realisation of what has happened, is happening, and will be happening from that point on is also the unfortunate time of one’s life where they realise that… Time. Does. Not. Go. Back. No matter how hard we wish it did, it does not. Click is paying close attention to that fact and sugarcoats it with humour but still manages to make your eyes wet. I’ve written some mediocre reviews on other Sandler films, but in this instance he is good. The balance between comedy and drama is maintained very well by director Frank Coraci in the second part of the second act and hits you a bit harder than you expected as you never saw it coming when you initially put the film on.

Regarding the rest of the cast, Kate Beckinsale brightens up every shot she’s in, David Hasselhoff is hilarious, Julie Kavner is amazing, and Henry Winkler deserves a special reference. The sequence where he looks at Sandler and says: “I love you son” and then turns around to leave, is a tearjerker. If you think otherwise, you are not human. Winkler significantly contributes to the dramatisation of the film and his performance is out of this world.

Oh, you also get the film’s full force for another reason. Michael Newman (Sandler) reminds you of you. Reminds you of these times you said: “Can’t wait to be done with this…”, “Can’t wait for this project to end…”, “Can’t wait to finish…”. Newman is all of us who don’t appreciate the present, the today, the “now”. Newman represents all of us who don’t appreciate the beautiful person next to us, the fact that we and our people are in good health, and how much “love” can enrich us with everything money or fame can’t. Careful what you wish for…

Stay safe!

P.S. As per IMDb, R.L. Stine, in 1995, in his “Tales To Give You Goosebumps” wrote something similar and almost sued Sandler for plagiarism but it was all considered in the end… a coincidence. After all, they could both be based on the old French tale, “The Magic Thread”.

Powder (1995): Drama / Fantasy / Mystery

Born to a mom who was hit by lightning while she was pregnant with him, a kid grows up and shows abilities and IQ like anyone has ever seen.

The year draws to a close and, as always, I choose to watch films that, at some point in my life, they meant something to me. Powder is one of them.

From narrative’s point of view, it’s all about a boy who’s special and the physical and mental differences between him and the rest of the world make him a loner. Very well written and directed by Victor Salva, excellent performances by Mary Steenburgen, Sean Patrick Flanery, Lance Henriksen, and Jeff Goldblum, and brilliantly composed by the late Jerry Goldsmith. Setup, confrontation, and resolution are meticulously developed, offering moments of self-realisation in regard to what we know and what we think we know and how we deal with it. After everything is said and done, in the last scene, just ask yourselves this: where does Powder return to?

From sociology’s point of view, it tackles quite a few aspects… Our schools are incapable of handling different and, consequently, incapable of teaching anyone how to handle different. Our society is still in the dark ages, on an ongoing witch-hunt with modern torches and pitch forks. Our level of understanding about what is going on around us or what lies ahead is laughable – Yes, that includes especially the people we entrust to guide us. Finally, our inability to comprehend the fact that we are not on the top of the food chain and we should stop acting like it and respect nature as much as we should be respecting one another despite our so many differences, quirks and foibles. You wanna make a change but you don’t where to start? I follow Michael’s advice: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror”…

Stay safe!

P.S. I believe the film would have performed better if the director Victor Salva hadn’t been convicted for child molestation a few years prior to the film’s release. Thus, much of the “touching” in the film was misinterpreted or interpreted, after the wrap, in an inappropriate way. But, please, don’t see it that way because it has nothing to do with it. I don’t know how much that affected Salva’s career as he kept writing and directing.

P.P.S. It is not mentioned why Doug is not speaking to his estranged son. Why don’t you all take a guess…

A Christmas Horror Story (2015): Fantasy / Horror / Mystery

It’s Christmas Eve, and five interwoven stories reveal the dark side of Christmas.

A Viking-looking Santa who is about to face something evil, a radio host who wants to lift your spirits, a student film crew that investigates a violent ritual school crime, a family who just wants a Christmas tree, and an Anti-Christmas spirit that is released, chasing wicked people.

Very promising and original opening sequence that will most definitely get your undivided attention. Every story unfolding is a treat and, despite their flaws, they are still dark, eerie, and enjoyable for, admittedly, mostly millennial horror fans but not exclusively. Surely not for the whole family, each and every one of them, twists the meaning of Christmas and explores the darkness within us in days that our light is meant to shine. The ending is a real twist that, unfortunately, is no fantasy and our world has seen similar in numerous variations. For the avoidance of spoilers, I cannot elaborate further and, personally, I feel like I shouldn’t do it anyway.

The stories unfold in the fictional town of Bailey Downs. The same town where the Ginger Snaps franchise takes place but also, partially, Orphan Black (2013-2017). Filmmakers behind both projects collaborated for this one.

Last Christmas film review for this year! Stay safe and Merry Christmas!

Fatman (2020): Action / Comedy / Fantasy

When a rich boy is let down by Santa, he hires an eccentric hitman to kill him.

Well, isn’t that a Christmas film… A pistolero Santa who has a dodgy contract with the government of the United States of America ends up in a gunfight with an assassin.

How can I put it… it’s like a Christmas western shot in the North and Santa is the wanted man on the bullet hole poster. While the hitman tries to track down Santa, here’s what you get: the military outsourcing elves to produce more weaponry and the logistics behind Santa’s operation on Christmas Eve. You know what you get when the hitman actually tracks down the Republican, training-like-Rocky-Balmoa Santa? That’s something you need no commentary on. Writers/directors Eshom and Ian Nelms know exactly the kind of film they want to make and the final cut’s tone and pace give justice to their cause. Mel Gibson, Walton Goggins, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste understand their vision and offer nothing but pure entertainment.

Feeling stuck in your own house on Christmas day? Fatman is your unconventional Christmas movie that will keep you company for an hour and a half. Can you take it seriously? No. Is it meant to be taken seriously? No. So, sit back, relax, and digest the turkey.

Stay safe!

A Christmas Carol (2019): Drama / Fantasy

On Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge gets three visits from spirits that show him the error of his ways.

Unarguably, the darkest adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas tale to date. Right off the bat, poisonous truths are coming out of Ebenezer’s mouth, almost impossible to argue with. Why be nice to each other only once a year, indeed… But its darkness doesn’t solely lie in the writing’s truths. It lies in the acting, and above all, the haunting photography. A constant darkness from the opening sequence to the end credits. Keep these elements in mind for what comes next.

The Ghost of Christmas Past takes him on a journey that leaves some… eerie details to the imagination. Excellent storytelling that will get your undivided attention in an attempt to process if the story you’ve read and watched repeatedly in the past is currently taking the direction you suspect it does. And it does, indeed.

The Ghost of Christmas Present shows him the consequences of that past; a past that seems ostensibly irredeemable. It picks on nineteenth century’s socioeconomic problems that could not be a better fit for the present day (massively pounding on capitalism!). The emphasis on that family’s love and what he had been deprived of, and consequently never knew it existed, smoothly shape Ebenezer to what the spirits hope he will become.

The Ghost of Christmas Future is meant to be the real treat; the relentless. But here, unfortunately, the TV adaptation starts losing ground and the role of the Ghost of Christmas Future is cut short. The mini-series becomes too explanatory for an audience that is by now clear is not kids. Thus, certain explanations are not needed, but they are given nonetheless. Then, everything happens too fast as if the filmmakers suddenly realised that the mini-series’ runtime is coming to an end and they must hurry. But then, more explanations are given, forgetting the “show, don’t tell” rule. Furthermore, in the end, the story feels incomplete as the denouement does not address certain issues, i.e., “redemption” from his nephew or the coal miners’ families.

Guy Pearce, Andy Serkis, Stephen Graham, Jason Flemyng, Johnny Harris, and Charlotte Riley are but a few of Britain’s finest actors who perform brilliantly in front of the camera. Joe Alwyn and Vinette Robinson make excellent additions to that cast and play a significant role to the story’s development. Behind the camera. Steven Night, Ridley Scott, and Tom Hardy, among others, put on the producer’s hat and – in my humble opinion – must have done some serious pitching to the BBC to take on such distribution. I guess, if you are about to adapt a classic that has been adapted numerous times before, you may as well do it in a way that it has never been done before.

Stay safe and… Merry Christmas!!!

One Magic Christmas (1985): Family / Fantasy

A mother who lacks the Christmas spirit gets a visit from an angel who shows her what the meaning of this season is.

Remembering Mary Steenburgen in Christmas films, and more particularly in Elf (2003): https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/12/24/elf-2003-adventure-comedy-family/ I remembered One Magic Christmas. You see, I may not fan of Elf that much but this is a different kettle of fish. Director Philip Borsos invests in both story and character development and, if you are watching it for the first time, you won’t really know what to expect, or, at least, when to expect it. It takes forty five minutes for the inciting incident to happen but, until then, poverty, especially during the festive days comes to the foreground and that can be a film on it’s own. Countless of families were struggling then as much as they do now. They have been ripped apart while the vast minority is having a laugh. Destitution sucks the joy out everything and replaces it with misery and downright cynicism. Working from paycheck to paycheck, not being able to afford a decent meal – much less to dream… Can love be enough?

Well, that’s what the film is about. We all have the right to laugh and we all need hope. And Steenburgen, even though her reactions are watered down due to the nature of the film is absolutely thrilling. You might be watching a Disney film but don’t underestimate the harsh realities it dares to show. Do you know when you are watching a good film? When is full of plotholes, makes little sense, but still sucks you into it and evokes the emotions it was meant to.

Hey, it’s Christmas season so, turn the blind eye to the horrible reality out there and remember how you used to feel this time of the year as a kid. It will make a lot more sense then…

Stay safe!

P.S. Film debut of the amazing Sarah Polley.

P.P.S. Despite his ongoing battle with leukemia, Philip Borsos kept directing till his last breath, at the age of 41.

The Night Before (2015): Comedy / Fantasy

Three lifelong friends who are about to spend their last Christmas together, get tickets to a party that will put their lives into perspective.

Vulgar language, anecdotal situations, surreal characters… anything you can expect from a Rogen/Goldberg production. Co-writer/director Jonathan Levine teams up again Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, after 50/50 (2011) and with the amazing Anthony Mackie joining the crew… the fun has started already. On a second thought, more or less, everyone has worked with someone else more than once in the past. And, of course, James Franco pops up! Oh, did I mention Michael Shannon, Lizzy Caplan, and Mindy Kaling? This is quite the gang.

This is a trippy journey that, in its vast majority, it is very much to the bone. References to Die Hard (1988), Home Alone (1990) and Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, make it a great buddy, Christmas film, especially, in times like these. Ultimately, it’s very predictable but you wouldn’t expect anything else from a Christmas movie, even an R-rated one. In all honesty, the church sequence is hilarious and the confession moment at Caplan’s front door is quite funny. Then, the amount of improvisation by almost everyone is also admirable.

Love it or loathe it, that is the kind of comedy you sign up for. Should you decide to watch it, just go along. We all deserve a laugh these days.

Stay safe!

A Ghost Story (2017): Drama / Fantasy / Romance

A white-sheeted, nostalgic ghost, permanently resides in its home and everything that, in the passage of time, becomes after that.

A friend of mine called me, laughing at IMDb’s reviews on this one. So, even though I don’t really look at reviews before I watch a film, I only read the titles. I’ve seen cases before where reviews are either 1 or 10 and nothing in between, and since the titles were entertaining, I decided to give it a shot.

Let me be clear from the beginning. A Ghost Story is not for everyone! What we are dealing with here is an interesting yet peculiar storytelling with protracted steady medium and long shots that initially make little sense. The narrative unfolds though and life, linearly or not, moves on with just a few edits. Be patient with these shots and think that your life does’t have cuts either. It would also help if you perceived the narration as omniscient – being everywhere simultaneously. During this journey, I couldn’t help but feel the ghost’s loneliness and entrapment. The ability to manoeuvre in time and the inability to do nothing about it. Imagine yourself seeing the world spinning, confined by your questionable existence. An existence that is unknown to everybody as much as it is to you. But still you wait for someone to finally acknowledge this questionable existence you have become. Admittedly, after the ghost’s free fall, the convolution becomes also questionable. But please remember what I said earlier about the non-linear.

Have you ever wondered what the origins of déjà vu are? Cinema is a form of expression. That’s why it’s art. The aforementioned protracted shots make sense somewhere halfway through the film while understanding the narrative and David Lowery’s subjective perception of time and space. Let the mise-en-scène inaudibly “speak” when the silence is deafening. You may be wondering where is she? Has she become a ghost too? Has she gone to a final destination? Is there a final destination? But then think of something that you can, potentially, answer. Who is waiting for you?

Stay safe!

P.S. A few days after I watched it, it came to light that one of the producers was accused of raping one of the film’s young girls. Hollywood’s depravity spreads like pestilence!

Hubie Halloween (2020): Comedy / Fantasy / Mystery

A man who has always been mocked and bullied in his hometown takes it upon himself to save this year’s Halloween.

I hadn’t watched an Adam Sandler film in a while but I watched Uncut Gems (2019) last year, I was happily surprised, and I said “why not”? Well… now I’m saying “why”?! Hubie Halloween‘s audience is very, very, very, very restricted. The film’s level of humour barely scratches the bottom from start to finish but that’s not what bothered me the most. Hell, it wasn’t even Sandler’s voice.

The film’s theme is walking on thin ice. 99.7% of an American town, with a dark history of hunting down people with pitchforks and torches, in 2020, is making fun of and is brutally bullying someone having a mental illness – whatever that is. It gets worse though… That town’s once most beautiful woman – Julie Bowen, who still is that town’s most beautiful woman – happens to be that very same town’s nicest girl and part of that 0.3% that actually likes him; with the 0.2% being her nerdy son and the girl he wants to get who also happens to be as merciful and that town’s most good looking high school girl. The rest of the characters are just caricatures. Seriously messed up characters in regard to their role in society, sank at the dark pit of Hollywood’s cliché.

Sandler and Bowen worked together in Happy Gilmore (1996) and admittedly they are A-list actors. Ben Stiller, June Squibb, Michael Chiklis, Maya Rudolph, Shaquille O’Neal Rob, Schneider, Ray Liotta, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, for better or for worse, become part of it. Almost everyone from Grown Ups 1 and 2 but also other films too. Sandler is a great collaborator and top-shelf comedian. Sometimes though, he just seems to be signing for everything under the sun, and Netflix seems to constantly condone such mentality. The movie is dedicated to the late Cameron Boyce who was meant to be part of it. It’s shuttering he’s not with us…

For films that can easily get misconstrued or go under the radar, I always advise to spend a couple of hours forgetting about the real world’s real problems and enjoy these films regardless of their flaws. This is not the case here. Go for all-time horror classics instead. The film’s message seems dumb, but deep down is actually mean-spirited, and I’ll dare to say harmful.

Stay safe!

The Old Guard (2020): Action / Fantasy

The Old Guard.jpg

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

Fantasy Island.jpg

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://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.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://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2019/01/04/in-the-mouth-of-madness-1994-drama-horror-mystery/
  2. Color out of Space (2019): https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/02/07/color-out-of-space-2019-horror-sci-fi/
  3. The Lighthouse (2019): https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/03/03/the-lighthouse-2019-drama-fantasy-horror (veeeeery loosely / inspired by)

The Lighthouse (2019): Drama / Fantasy / Horror

The Lighthouse.jpg

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 nee year. Be well!!

You can find it here:

UK: https://amzn.to/2ZFlYwx / https://amzn.to/36dZvcz

US: https://amzn.to/2Q8l4Wi / https://amzn.to/39p5UDK

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.

You can find it here:

UK: https://amzn.to/2SCYjve / https://amzn.to/2SIVp8e

US: https://amzn.to/2F2mhYP

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!

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2Mra0BC

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.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2Zx1gPr

The Crow (1994): Action / Drama / Fantasy

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A man, after been brutally murdered, comes back to life to avenge his and his fiancée’s death by killing the ones responsible one by one.

Even though deeply stigmatised and remembered as the film that Brandon Lee was killed, The Crow still remains Lee’s legacy and a ’90s goth, revenge, Halloween classic. One of Alex Proyas’ finest films that unfortunately spawned sequels that should have never been made. Ranked 37th in IGN’s Top 100 Comic Book Heroes, the film has significant differences to the graphic novel but, proudly growing up with it, I can reassure you that, despite its flaws, it will be admired by every future generation to come.

The production details vary from ground-breaking VFX to complete the film after Lee’s death, to sets getting destroyed, to numerous people getting injured, and to cast and crew constantly abusing cocaine from the set to the toilets. Regardless, if you grew up with it as well, it will take you for a stroll down memory lane and if you were too young or not born yet, it will travel you to an analog world before the digital era took over.

Both father and son will always live in our hearts.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2QpMXZ6

Sleepy Hollow (1999): Fantasy / Horror / Mystery

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An eccentric constable is sent to a village called Sleepy Hollow to investigate three mysterious murders but he gets more than he bargained for when he encounters The Headless Horseman.

Twenty years later and it’s still captivating. Tim Burton adapts for the silver screen the legendary Celtic and German folklore and creates one of the most atmospheric, period gothic fairytales you will have ever watched. Sleepy Hollow is purely a masterpiece. The perfect balance of horror, comedy, and fantasy with an equally “magical” and intense subplot. Like Shakesperean thespians, all actors deliver amazing performances that enhance the film’s genre. Danny Elfman’s eerie score gets your undivided attention from the opening scene and Emmanuel Lubezki’s hauntingly beautiful cinematography may have lost the Oskar to American Beauty (1999) but this merely means anything as you will probably have never encountered anything like it in any other fairytale adaptation [Maybe, Edward Scissorhands (1991) or Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)]. The “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” Oskar was well earned for building the Sleepy Hollow from scratch within three months. As the and crew stated: “The feeling one had walking around Sleepy Hollow’s sets, and in particular the town at Lime Tree, was almost as if you were walking around the inside of Tim Burton’s head.”

Sleepy Hollow is the best side of Hollywood. A side that is often forgotten by the studios but should be a reminder that quantity (the $100M budget) can be indeed spent wisely and increase the film’s quality. A reminder that visual effects are meant to be used as a means to advance the story, and not dominate the film overshadowing its narrative. Words cannot beautify Tim Burton’s classic. A must-watch not only for the Haloween period but also for times of classical storytelling nostalgia.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2MCpnqS

Sucker Punch (2011): Action / Adventure / Fantasy

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After losing her mother and accidentally killing her sister, a young girl gets institutionalised, mentally withdrawing to an alternate reality, to produce an escape plan.

There is no real need for yet another review on Sucker Punch but, stumbling upon a horrible critique the other day, I felt like watching it again and writing about it. Directing, acting, cinematography, visual & sound effects, editing, music, casting, costume design, makeup, art direction, stunt coordination, choreography… get 10/10.  The opening sequence alone could be a landmark for montage in the 21st century’s Hollywood.

As for the script, this is an excruciatingly dramatic story written and uniquely developed by Zack Snyder. A more symbolic logline could be: A fragile, young girl descends into madness after reality hits her harder than she could ever imagine, not even giving her the time or arsenal to defend herself. Possibly the most artistic way of examining the mind’s coping mechanisms in multiple layers. Read between the lines; there is a huge amount of information waiting to be discovered. For more spoilers, have a look at this one. Very interesting: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0978764/trivia?item=tr1610675

It’s always easy to cast stones and judge from the comfort of our couch. To go out there and actually do though is what takes real “cojones”. You don’t have to like it. Whoever thinks s/he can do a better job, by all means, give it a shot – and write about your experience. The number of hours and amount of effort put to bring such a film to life is beyond understanding. If you are passionate about German expressionism, Italian neorealism, experimental/avant-garde, or even art-house cinema and you still decide to watch it and don’t like it… at least don’t attack it.

They say words are mightier than the sword. Unfortunately, in this case, it proved to be true.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2tS9kP0

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988): Adventure / Comedy / Fantasy

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In times of war and reason, Baron Munchausen shows up to inspire with a story of a lifetime that bypasses reality and goes down the rabbit hole of evocative fantasy and mythical adventure.

From Constantinople to the moon, to the centre of the Earth, to the belly of the beast, and back, Baron Munchausen travels towards fabled worlds encountering heroes and deities. Nostalgia, love, dreams, childhood innocence and hope rise up through Munchausen’s escapades. A social commentary inspired by the Odyssey… delineated in a British aristocratic manner.

As one of my first cinematic experiences, Terry Gilliam makes me reminisce about my childhood years and the way I used to see the world. Where, like in the film, reality and imagination blend into one and shape a harmless world where even the abhorrent tragedy of war can be a lot easier to swallow and man’s cruelty be tolerable.

John Neville, Eric Idle, Sarah Polley, Jonathan Pryce, Uma Thurman, Robin Williams (unpaid and uncredited) and the rest of the cast shared Gilliam’s vision of a better world than ours and supported him to see it through as the unfathomably humongous production complications wouldn’t stop appearing.

But reality’s misfortunes were defeated by prevalent, mythical will that projected it eventually to the silver screen.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2ZvlmJQ

Mortal Engines (2018): Action / Adventure / Fantasy

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Hundreds of years from now, the world as we know it has been destroyed, the remaining cities have been mobilised, the major cities are hunting down the smaller ones, and two youngsters do everything in their power to change the status quo.

I’ve spoken before about budget and creativity as I have spoken before about the transferrable problems of a script to the big screen. I guess it was meant to be a saga but chances now are slim to none. Remember the “Golden Compass” (2007)? I’m not surprised. Mortal Engines‘ visuals are stunning. Hands down. The cast does a pretty decent job too; that is not a problem either. What was it then and it bombed?

Every time I watch a film, I’m always looking for that shot. The shot that will make me say “damn”! And then I’ll have to rewind and so can watch it again. What I’m also going for is a good line. Something that will make me say “I wish I have thought of that”! So, when independent films with 1/50 of Mortal Engines‘ budget have both, and “Mortal Engines” has none, it is only natural not to be impressed. To add insult to the injury, the same applies for the editing. Not only is there not even one good montage sequence, but the whole film feels rushed. It feels as if it got “chopped” fast to flush you non-stop down the FADE OUT.

Just “From the Producer of…” won’t cut it. Because as a household name, if you bring it up, you have to live up to your expectations and the reputation that precedes you. Shame really. Not for the money thrown away really, but mostly for the actors who want to catch a big fish, they let the small ones go, and they end up catching a boot.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2MA7IA2

Suspiria (2018): Fantasy / Horror / Mystery

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Berlin 1977: A girl arrives at a world-renowned dancing school only to discover obscure entities harbouring haunting secrets.

“Suspiria” is a prime example of the endless highbrow/lowbrow “battle”. The reviews escalate from 1/10 to 10/10 and back in the blink of an eye. It is not for everyone! Expel the Hollywood narrative prior to entering into this world of darkness. Know the kind of films you like, and the kind you don’t. Have you ever seen me reviewing a comedy/romance? I would come back and slate every frame of it. But I’ve said before, I’m not here to slate films. I’m reviewing their parameters and examine their intentions. Pick a narrative you like and should you choose to go for something different, which I highly recommend every now and again, don’t rip it apart straight after.

Even though a remake of Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” (1977), Luca Guadagnino’s homonymous paganistic world runs almost a full hour longer than the original, acting more as exploration or expansion, and preparation for the “Three Mothers” trilogy (Make sure to stay for the post-credits scene).

If you like watching a film and paying attention to details at the same time, then directing, photography, and certain montage sequences, i.e. Susie dancing and Olga… suffering, will blow your mind away. If you are into experimental cinema as well, you’ll love the storytelling too and consequently the film as a whole.

I knew Dakota Johnson has had her big breakthrough with the “50 Shades of Grey” trilogy but, as I really tried and failed to watch even the first one, I was not familiar with her acting skills. Here, she definitely commits to the project and proves herself more than worthy. She completes 2 years of ballet training prior to taking this role, excels at her diversity, and I take my hat off to her.

Then there is the one and only Tilda Swinton who, like the amazing Kate Blanchet, can master any role as a woman as much as a man of her age, younger, older, or really freaking old. In this instance, she is three entirely different characters. I couldn’t admire her more. Plus, she just doesn’t get old! She is like a female Keanu Reeves!!!

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/37cEhfe

Constantine (2005): Action / Fantasy / Horror

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Occult detective John Constantine teams up with a policewoman when her sister allegedly committed suicide, and all hell brakes loose.

Now, that’s how you adapt a graphic novel! Before Warner Bros and DC started getting those shockingly dreadful reviews, there was “Constantine”. Hardly a superhero, definitely an antihero, John Constantine exists in the DC Universe and kicks demonic and angelic ass in his own blunt, cynic, and supernatural way.

Behind the camera, Francis Lawrence and his team, write, edit, and direct an action/fantasy (although not horror really) with a lot of humour, amazing photography, and great visual effects that help the story advance. If there were any gimmicks, flaws, or holes you wouldn’t bother finding them and, even if you did, you would turn the blind eye as it is that enjoyable.

In front of the lens, Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Djimon Hounsou, Shia LaBeouf, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Tilda Swinton, and Peter Stormare stand together and clash against each other throwing countless punchlines and keeping you entertained for two solid hours. Well, if you are too religious maybe not that entertained.

Anyway, I give my permission to Warner Bros to hire Francis Lawrence and his crew back to rebuild DCCU.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/37dIQpG

Sorry to Bother You (2018): Comedy / Fantasy / Sci-Fi

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In a parallel universe, in Oakland, a telemarketer goes from having nothing to having everything to losing it all over again when in reality he had it all, lost it, and then tries to gain it again.

Is it perplexed? So is the film… Before I write any review, I make sure not to read other reviews or critiques so I know for a fact that I am stating my point of view and my point of view alone. “Sorry to Bother You” is “Comedy”, is “Fantasy”, but it is not “Sci-Fi”. It looks like a fresh take on Charlie Kaufman’s way of thinking, topped up with Boots Riley’s unique approach. Before watching it, the range of comments I had heard spanned from “genius” to “moronic” and from “amazing” to “horrendous”. So, chances are that you will either love it or loathe it. Here’s what I think…

Cassius Green represents the number of times you have asked yourself “Why does no one see how wrong the world is”? At first, he sees it. Then he becomes part of it. And then he wakes up, gets out, and does something about it. Lakeith Stanfield is brilliant as Cassius who lives in a surrealistically psychedelic world, like ours, just more artistically – Kaufman-esque – portrayed. Well, in our world, Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America, a laughable joke from “The Simpsons” (1989), so not that much more…

Steve Lift (Armie Hammer) represents the system that feeds off greed. And our ambition to do something more with our lives, and become something better, and change that system, can fool even ourselves and become that very same greed that feeds it.

“Sorry to Bother You” parodies our world not because it wants to undermine it. Boots Riley comprehends the “If you want to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh or they’ll kill you” (George Bernard Shaw) mentality, and through a respectful, meaningful, and didactic parable, makes you laugh but also “see” how much work needs to be done so our world can be a tad more understood.

Last but not least, Detroit, who is none other than the one and only, breathtaking, and always a dazzling woman and actress Tessa Thompson represents love. In a subtle and artistic form, she has always been the one to prevent us from going astray and make us become the people that we always hoped we would be.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2SybxJK