Happy Death Day 2U (2019): Comedy / Horror / Mystery

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Once she thought that she had fulfilled her purpose and closed the loop, Tree finds herself waking up once more on her birthday… but nothing is the same. 

Here’s an analogy for you. The first one was kinda scary and kinda funny. Now, this one is not scary and very funny. So, what do you think? Does that make it a better sequel? There is also an upgrade: The mixture of Groundhog Day (1993) and Back to the Future (1985). The good news is that there is no bad news. What you think you sign up for, it is exactly that. There is some suspense, the science is laughable but no one is trying to convince you otherwise, the editing adds to the film’s quality and creates the desired emotions, and everyone is playing their part as they should be. Speaking of, there is one surprise; a happy one…

Jessica Rothe! The film’s source of hilarity is also the cause of the heart-warming drama that will cut your breath short even for those tiny given moments. Director Christopher Landon does an excellent job directing the mother/daughter sequences so, congratulations are also in order for the actress Missy Yager.

Very enjoyable! It will definitely make you forget our miserable reality even for that hour and a half. 

Stay safe!

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Knowing (2009): Action / Drama / Mystery

Knowing

A fifty-year-old list of numbers prophesying every major catastrophe that took place ever since will make a professor of astrophysics, and a single parent, to race against time to prevent the ones that are yet to happen.

Is pessimistic optimism a term? Does it make sense? It doesn’t, does it? Be it as it may, that’s the oxymoronic feeling you get out of Knowing. But first things first…

“Randomness vs Determinism”, from a philosophical and/or scientific point of view, will become the setup’s foundation, and your mind’s internal debate while watching the confrontation unfolding. One of my favourite Nicolas Cage movie from the noughties where, back then, I couldn’t find many flaws. Watching it now for a second time, eleven years later, I spotted certain plot holes and gimmicks but I didn’t let them get in the way. Yet, it answers all the questions it raises halfway there (not even in the end), and that feels a bit spoonfed for my taste. Regardless, Cage is the right man for the job, Rose Byrne delivers a great performance, the kids are surprisingly convincing, and Ben Mendelsohn, be it in a leading or supporting role, always nails it. Once again, it’s a shame that the film answers everything for you.

The man in the director’s chair is Alex Proyas, a director whose niche is dark fantasy/sci-fi. My personal bests are: The Crow (1994), Dark City (1998), and I, Robot (2004). Unfortunately, he has not been involved in many projects and some of them, I believe, were beneath him. I look forward to watching something of his ’90s style soon.

(Not)Fun fact: The film predicted the BP’s oil spill in the Mexican gulf the year after.

Stay safe!

The Vast of Night (2019): Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi

The Vast of Night

New Mexico, 1948: A switchboard operator detects a frequency like anything she has ever heard before, a radio producer broadcasts it, and myth, reality, and paranoia start blending into one.

Act I: The phenomenal antithesis between fast-talking actors and protracted shots. To be more specific, we are talking about up to 10-minute dolly and steady-cam shots. Great set-up and character introduction along with made-up experiments that get you into the low budget sci-fi mood and make you chuckle with their “accuracy”.

Act II: Past the slow-burn intro, the clash between reality and storytelling of loneliness becomes as vague as the editing techniques pacing it. It takes yet another heroine of life to wind the pace down and get you comfy with another story from the “fortress of solitude”, the plot point that leads to…

Act III: A resolution with no twist, yet a worthy ending. An ending that the two previous acts promised and did not mislead you about.

Meet Andrew Patterson! The writer/editor/producer/director behind The Vast of Night. The filmmaker who is known for… The Vast of Night. I had never heard the guy before. Well, guess what? IMDb hadn’t either. So, here’s the question: Who cares?! The man made this film almost on his own (using three different names). An honest tribute to The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The War of the Worlds (1953), and The Twilight Zone (1959) with suspenseful sequences accompanied by, among others, Cretan (Greek) music!

You watch the film, then you look at his picture and you can’t help but wonder: “Doesn’t he look like one of them alien conspiracy bloggers/vloggers”? Again, who cares?! Patterson is a talent! He got turned down by, I don’t know, 15 major film festivals? Few of them accepted him though and shared his vision. And I’m glad Amazon Studios did as well. I take my hat off to him. He’s a living, breathing, walking proof that all of us need to stick to our dream and keep it real. Andrew, cheers for that geezer!!! Much appreciated!

An extra, special bravo goes to Sierra Mccormick and Jake Horowitz for being true thespians and delivering Patterson’s dream.

Stay safe!

The Unknown Woman (2006): Drama / Mystery / Thriller

The Unknown Woman

A woman’s promiscuous past becomes a constant reminder in the present and a motive for every obscure step she takes.

Giuseppe Tornatore proves time and time again over the decades that his diversity knows no limits. I remember watching Cinema Paradiso (1988) in the theatres as a kid and even though there was a lot I missed back then (I caught up the second and third time I watched in the years that followed), I believe it solidified the foundation of my love about cinema. The Unknown Woman, one of the three films he made in the noughties – with Malena (2000) and Baarìa (2009) being the other two – is a suspenseful, dramatic, physically but also thought-provoking mystery/thriller about the search of hope. About a woman driven by her past sufferings, in the hopes that life will smile at her for once. Tornatore though doesn’t believe that the past should be left in the past. He believes it will always be part of us no matter how hard we try to run away from it.

Kseniya Rappoport and Clara Dossena steal the show on screen. Ennio Morricone (over the last 60 years!) fills the atmosphere with doubt with his tachycardic music, amplifying and constantly prolonging the suspense until the film’s denouement. But here’s the thing:

“It’s not a film until it’s edited” – Michael Kahn

Massimo Quaglia, Tornatore’s loyal editor, is the one who “stitches” the film together with artistry. The flashback’s metric montage invisibly permeates the present with extremely meticulous match cuts. Outstanding chemistry!

Most of the time, we think we’ve had it bad in life. Guess what? While sometimes life gives us the shortest straw, to others she gives nothing but pain. Why? Because she can. The pandemic but also the unfathomable, bottomless human buffoonery have proved, once more, that life is not to be taken for granted. Make the most of it and…

Stay safe!

Forgotten (2017): Mystery / Thriller

Forgotten

Things take an unexpected turn for a family after a young man sees his older brother getting abducted and comes back days later with no memory of what happened, acting like a different person.

Narrative like only the Koreans know how to develop. Dramaturgy that knows no boundaries and is unconditionally unleashed to shock you to your core. Huge comeback from writer/director Hang-jun Jang who seems like not taking particular interest in the film industry. Regardless of the reasons, and even though it flew a bit under the radar, Forgotten is the type of film that will get your undivided attention. You cannot miss a thing otherwise you’ll have even more questions. Very intricate with numerous twists and turns, Forgotten does not hold any punches. It might not be Oldboy (2003) but it will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat.

The South Korean film industry (Hallyuwood, informally) is a dominant player in the market. Partially, yes, because the government is heavily investing in it but also due to the produced films’ impact globally. Money might open a plethora of doors but it is the sheer talent that walks such filmmakers through them, stirring the focus once more towards the beautiful artistic side of the industry and taking it away from the ugly scandalous one that we have all had enough with.

P.S. I didn’t know it was a Netflix film until I accidentally stumbled upon the information on IMDb – no logos in the opening or closing credits.

P.P.S. That’s for you cuz! Thanks for the recommendation!

P.P.S. Jiyoung, if you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend it. If you have, why didn’t you tell me about it??? 🙂

Stay safe!

The Hidden Face (2011): Drama / Mystery / Thriller

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Strange occurrences start happening when an orchestra conductor decides to move on with his life after his girlfriend ostensibly split up with him and suddenly disappeared.

Before I start saying anything, I want you to know that I was skeptical for the first half an hour. A skepticism that faded away past the first act.

It’s been years since I wanted to watch it and I’m glad I finally got the time. I’ll start with the acting which is shockingly convincing. Excellent job by all actors and actresses who convey the drama, the thrill and the horror portrayed, especially Clara Lago. Director Andrés Baiz handles the story cautiously through very restricted narrative so he doesn’t reveal the inciting incident until the time is right. And when he does, he makes sure that, through the editing, all information is very tightly revealed for what is about to happen. Of course, the round of applause starts with Hatem Khraiche’s suspenseful story.

If you are wondering why I was skeptical in the beginning of the film, I will only say that if past events are integral to the story and will be revealed to us anyway, we are accustomed to flashbacks opposed to getting the whole story at once and distract us from the main plot. Only later on it made sense from the editing’s point of view. It might sound incoherent as a sentence now but please watch it – without knowing anything – and think about it.

Stay safe!

Angel of Mine (2019): Drama / Mystery / Thriller

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Years after losing her daughter in a fire, a woman’s mental state takes a turn for the worse when she starts thinking that she is still alive.
Have you ever started watching a film not knowing anything about it other than something, down the line, somewhere is going to really go sideways and you just don’t know what that is?

Well, Angel of Mine happens to be one of them. A constant agony of what Lizzie (Noomi Rapace) is gonna totally screw up to the highest degree. The success of the film relies on that and it does indeed achieve it. Part of the reason is because kids are involved and part of it is because adults like her are involved.

As the slow-burn escalates, while nothing really substantial happens, you won’t stop wondering how far is she gonna take it?! And then it’s the ending… but I’m gonna leave that up to you. My only comment is that Fatal Attraction (1987) was that successful because of that kind of escalation; that climax. Anyhow, congratulations to both Noomi Rapace and Yvonne Strahovski for their remarkable performances.

Over the years I have convinced myself that a film should not have a single mood from the beginning till the end. Angel of Mine is unsettling and dead creepy throughout. And even though that’s not a plus, the abyss of the human mind, the vastness of its capabilities, the infinite goodness, but also its unfathomable limits to cause pain in any shape or form can be terrifying.

Stay safe!

Castle Freak (1995): Drama / Horror / Mystery

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After inheriting a castle in Italy, a man moves there with his family to start anew, only to face unimaginable horrors created by an eerie and sinister presence.

Fancy watching a loosely-based-on-a-Lovecraft’s-short-story-B-movie? And by B-movie, I mean following-all-the-80s-conventions-kitschy-as-hell! Damn, that film took me back years… Castle Freak is exactly what you would and should expect from the poster above. Yes, it is that enjoyable and it’ll take you down the memory lane or will introduce you to the 80s and early 90s horror era where plotholes do not matter and mean nothing. Third collaboration between writer/director Stuart Gordon, and actors Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton after Re-aninator (1985), proving how well they perform together in front and behind the camera – all three based on Lovecraft’s stories. Crampton is a veteran in Lovecraftian adaptations and, consequently, one of my favourite actresses.

It is definitely not the best adaptation – I’ve elaborated extensively on that issue – but you may as well just watch it as a standalone. It will definitely take your mind off things and… horrifically entertain you.

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)

About Elly (2009): Drama / Mystery / Thriller

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A group’s picnic takes a turn for the worse when a kid almost drowns and a woman mysteriously disappears.

Have you ever wondered what makes a film a good film? How about a brilliant film? Anyway, About Elly‘s brilliance lies in the simplicity of the story and the unfolding’s convolution. The common denominator for both is human nature and our unique ability to perplex our lives so we can give them meaning. There is an underlying beauty behind things we don’t fully understand, such as the intentions behind one’s utterances and actions and About Elly explores such notion to its core. What it also explores is the subjective perception of happiness and the false assumption that everyone finds it or experiences it the same way; something seemingly insignificant that can have incalculable consequences. The perfect storm is created when… the truth behind the intentions and happiness is revealed. And that’s what I’m gonna leave you with, story-wise.

Writer/director Asghar Farhadi has been phenomenal since the beginning of his career and I’ll follow up with more of his achievements. This is the first Iranian film to be submitted for an Oskar, and even though it didn’t make it, Farhadi’s next film did and won – A Separation (2011). This is Golshifteh Farahani’s last film before she got banned from Iran [for leaving her country and working with Riddley Scott in Body of Lies (2008)]. It is not my place to judge the policies behind the country’s decisions but she’s a heroine in my eyes and I hope one day I get to meet her. Until then, I take my hat off to all cast and crew who brought to the world cinema this masterpiece.

They say that truth is liberating, that it can set you free. Well, among others, it depends on how you find out or when you speak it.

Stay safe!