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!

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The Roads Not Taken (2020): Drama

The Roads Not Taken

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

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

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

Stay safe!

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!

 

Underwater (2020): Action / Drama / Horror

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Following an inexplicable, devastating earthquake, the crew of an oceanic drilling company must find a way to the surface while their whole facility collapses and creatures they have never seen before are after them.

This is the first time I watch a film, feeling like starting with the second act. I mean, as if the first act has been completely edited out. I would really like to get the shooting script and see if the script faded in this way or this “innovation” took place in the cutting room. Anyway, that’s the first strike right off the bat. The film’s main problem starts before that… in Hollywood. The vast majority of Hollywood producers never truly understood H. P. Lovecraft’s vision. They never grasped what the Cthulhu Mythos is. I might be wrong here but, as kids, they never really turned the lights off and scared themselves sh*tless with his cosmic horror. As adults, they only saw his stories as the cash cow; a means to make money! And that’s why the results are such.

Lovecraft’s stories are meant to inspire fear. His creatures cannot be fought. They hunt you and they haunt you and there is nothing you can do about it other than run and pray. And even then, the denouement will most likely not favour you. My second-best Lovecraftian adaptation is Color out of Space (2019) – https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/02/07/color-out-of-space-2019-horror-sci-fi/ and even though there were unresolved issues, director Richard Stanley managed to conceptualise his vision. But my number one old-time favourite adaptation still remains John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (1994) – https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2019/01/04/in-the-mouth-of-madness-1994-drama-horror-mystery/. Only if you watch it (or if you have) you will know what I am talking about. Having said that, the visual and sound effects teams did an amazing job with the creature(s). I must admit that that was really impressive. As Jessica Henwick always is. This isn’t William Eubank’s fault. He is a brilliant director and I look forward to watching his next couple of upcoming projects – I loved The Signal (2014).

In the world of Lovecraft, there is no action. Only struggle to remain sane while desperately trying to find any way out of it.

Stay safe!

The Rhythm Section (2020): Action / Drama / Mystery

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After losing her family in a terrorist attack, a young woman goes to extreme lengths to find and confront the people behind it.

I was really looking forward to this one but when it was released all hell broke loose. I will assume that that was the case for thousands of people and, mainly, that that was the reason for “one of the worst box office openings in history” – Bad Boys for Life (2020) though was released a fortnight prior to it and triumphed.

So, as that cannot be the only reason, I’m trying to get the full picture here. The story itself is not original but there is no such thing anyway so, my guess is that there are two problems. One, lies with the low level of espionage and the information surrounding it. People are found just… easily. Secondly, Stephanie was taken in… easily. “B” thought she caused big trouble with her actions, he didn’t believe in her skills, yet, he started training her straight away. That didn’t really make much sense.

Having said that, the film is well shot. The photography is dark, the editing advances the story and drives it forward, Reed Morano’s directing is challenging, to the point where I would say exceptional, and Blake Lively proves to be the up and coming mercenary / assassin. The car chase is the film’s trademark and will get you on the edge of your seat. Also, the realistic fight sequences add extra believability to the heroine’s journey.

The film’s challenges are understandable but with James Bond‘s producers behind it, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem to get made. Again, my humble, unsolicited opinion is that the problem was the script. More time should have been spent on her acceptance, her training, and the difficulty to acquire the targets. Morano and Lively put a tremendous effort and that needs to be recognised.

Stay safe!

Bloodshot (2020): Action / Drama / Sci-Fi

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A soldier comes back from a mission, gets murdered, but is brought back to life with superpowers and now he seeks revenge.

I’m not going to slay it. The film suffered irreparable damage from the pandemic but was not going to perform well anyway. Director Dave Wilson is a VFX director and it showed straight away on his feature debut. The film’s narrative doesn’t flow and the editing, probably for production reasons, is trying to pick up the pieces and put them together. It didn’t even mimic or attempt to better the à la The Edge of Tomorrow (2014) repeat mode part to enhance and engage the audience with Bloodshot’s “nightmare”. Toby Kebbell’s and Guy Pearce’s charisma didn’t get the chance to shine at all as, once again, the narrative didn’t do anyone any favours.

Films like Bloodshot work as reminders that even if the original source is a best selling graphic novel (Valiant’s in this instance), this merely means that the respective film will be as successful. “Don’t judge a book by its film”, I read somewhere. It’s a shame, the film was doomed to take a big hit either way.

I would like to conclude by taking my hat off to the VFX department as they couldn’t have done it better and the result of their work is highly impressive.

Do The Right Thing (1989): Comedy / Drama

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The day’s unprecedented heat brings out everyone’s worst side in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn’s diverse neighbourhood. 

31 y/o and Do The Right Thing couldn’t be more relevant! The absolute comedy/drama on hysteria and bigotry could as well be a case study on human behaviour. Inspired by a true event (Howard Beach), it manages through ‘love and hate’ and laughs and tears to serve as a reminder that it is up to us to either move forward or stagnate into primitive notions about who we are, where we belong, and what our rights but also obligations in this world are. It is also a wake-up call as the gravitas of our utterances and actions really matter, affect and profoundly shape the society we live in. Finally, it is Spike Lee’s testament to the fact that the problem doesn’t lie in someone else’s skin colour but in front of the mirror.

Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Lee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Spike Lee, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, Joie Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Rosie Perez, Martin Lawrence (film debut) and so many more deliver one of the most vivid and memorable performances of their lives. The actors’ numerous improvisations throughout the film make it one of a kind and everyone in front and behind the camera deserves a round of applause. An extra standing ovation deserves Kim Basinger for acknowledging the film in the 1990 Oscar ceremony, and Thomas Philip Pollock, the Universal President at the time, who genuinely understood and truly believed in Lee’s vision and distributed it without interfering with the creative process.

13 years before Edward Norton’s [25th Hour (2002)] infamous monologue against every race under the sun, there was Do The Right Thing. See how it all started and wonder what the right thing to do is…

Gemini Man (2019): Action / Drama / Sci-Fi

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A highly trained hitman decides to retire but the organisation he works for sends… a younger version of him to execute him.

Watching the trailer, I couldn’t see how there is going to be a mind-blowing twist somewhere. There isn’t. More or less, what you see is what to be expected: Will Smith vs Will Smith. For a film that started been developed in the ’90s, with so many different names attached over the years, with the torch been passed on from studio to studio… the script is poorly developed. IMDb couldn’t care less with a logline that gives away the plot. Script-wise, there is nothing really fascinating at all. I think this is the first Ang Lee film I have ever watched that I was wondering why he signed up for this. Meaning, the film has two impressive sequences: the motorbike chase (Smith vs Smith) and the hand-to-hand combat (Smith vs Smith). All the credits should be shared amongst the visual effects department for coming through with some ground-breaking visuals, the sound effects department, and the frequent Ang Lee editor, Tim Squyres. His editing is immaculate and stitches Lee’s most difficult shots together with delicacy and finesse, creating incredible unity and continuity.

I’m really being nice here. One of the film’s six (6) nominations is from St. Louis Film Critics Association, US for… Worst Film of the Year! Anyway, to cut the long story short, and just in case you haven’t figure it out by now, this is Smith vs Smith film. I must admit, at some point, this eerie feeling took over me that it was Deadshot fighting The Fresh Prince

The Qatsi Trilogy

 

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“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on the Qatsi trilogy. A cinematic statement about civilisation, technology, nature, and the relationship among the three. A trilogy left behind in the shadow cast by blockbusters, forgotten by time, buried in oblivion.

The Qatsi Trilogy

6 Underground (2019): Action / Adventure / Comedy

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Six highly, uncommonly skilled – each in their own way – men and women have formed an anonymous team for the sole purpose of… making the world a better place.

Michael Bay does what Michael Bay does best. What do you expect from 6 Underground? Slo-mo? You got it. Slow-mo with car chases? But with also faster than you can blink cuts? You got it. Shots with choppers? You got it. From within choppers? Over the choppers? Against the sundown? With whirring blades (slo-mo of course)? Shots with men and women throwing punchlines at the brink of death, swapping to superficial drama, killers looking like they came out of underwear or fragrance ad? You. Got. It. All!

At a budget of $150 million, Netflix urges Bay to just destroy everything – preferably with explosions. Everything nice you see in the film will get destroyed. Simple as. Story-wise, the high levels of implausibility, improbability, and impossibility run through the film’s veins from the opening to the closing credits, making the Fast & Furious (2001- ) franchise look like a based-on-a-true-story. Meaning: The operations and the decisions taken throughout the operations are purely laughable, the chances of survival having suffered certain wounds are zero (much less keep running and jumping around, shooting, and kicking ass), the access to whatever they need, whenever they need it, the warp speed of getting from one country to the next… I can go on forever here! But… I have a favourite one: The brother’s speech causing the fastest revolution ever started in a film!!! The revolution started before even the speech ended. And, cinematically, guess how? Accompanied by pop, hybrid music, or whatever the hell it’s called nowadays, with lyrics calling to arms. I think I’m gonna stop here, you got the gist.

Here’s my two cents. Don’t take 6 Underground seriously for a minute. Know what you sign up for, sit down, relax, surround yourself with great company and horrible food, and enjoy the Bay style of filmmaking that makes all your problems disappear for two hours. This way, you’ll get to enjoy:

  • High octane, multiangular action sequences,
  • The destruction of everything looking fancy,
  • Entertainingly gruesome deaths,
  • Buildings and surroundings that are meant to be in one country but are shot in another,
  • Ryan Reynolds blatantly advertising his Gin,
  • Ryan Reynolds as an endless punchline machine,
  • Funnily foul language,
  • The “magnet sequence”,
  • “Rebellious” heroes and heroines who just came out of a Christian Dior and Calvin Klein photoshoot,
  • Transformers sound effects,
  • And an awesome soundtrack!