Da 5 Bloods (2020): Adventure / Drama / War

Da 5 Bloods

Four African American veterans return to Vietnam for the first time after the war ended to find their fallen brother and leader and claim something they consider rightfully theirs.

The opening sequence hits the nail! Right off the bat, you know exactly Spike Lee’s angle on this one. From Ali’s heroic statement to the historic footage that follows, Da 5 Bloods promises to be yet another Lee’s film way ahead of its time. But it isn’t. It most certainly is not. So what happened?

The story is quite an adventure. A sweet and sour and powerful one. The heroes are relatable and so is their background. Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Jonathan Majors deliver powerful performances. Furthermore, Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography is gripping. So, again, what happened? I’ll start with the music. For a film that mocks Rambo, it surely shares a similar score that accompanies it throughout most of its moments, killing the emotion. Then, there are two major problems. The lesser problem is the editing which can make or break every film. And in this case, it is at least mediocre. So, what can be worse than mediocre editing? The script! The one too many weak subplots overshadow the main plot that has one too many gimmicks. The gold’s and body’s discovery, and the team arriving at the right place at the right time are just the tip of the iceberg. Before and after that, it just remains unreasonably and purposelessly convoluted. Shame really. Real shame. Should you decide to watch it, enjoy Lindo not holding back one bit! The best parts of the film.

Stay safe!

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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!

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!

Unorthodox (2020): Drama

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Without saying anything to anyone, a young American, Orthodox Jewish woman leaves her husband and her community to find her own path as far as possible.

Who would know that religion can liberate as much as it can oppress? Well, everyone did! Yet, here we are. Proudly marching through the 21st century, forcing people to abide by what, potentially, non-existing people, over two thousand years ago, claimed, dictated, established, and then legislated in the name of God.

Because, what a sin to want to make your own mistakes in life. To see the world for what it really is. To regret things you’ve done but also things you haven’t. I mean, what a disgrace to like someone of the same sex. To be of a different colour or simply have different beliefs that you haven’t imposed on anyone. For it is an anomaly to consider “your people” the people who have your back in life and they choose to be there for and with you, accepting you for the person you really are.

Esty’s story is a heart-wrenching one. It is a story that will make you doubt, rethink, and/or reevaluate your decisions, your choices, your fears and insecurities, your freedom. A huge BRAVO to Netflix for creating this mini-series. A huge BRAVO to all cast and crew for working so hard to such detail and especially to Deborah Feldman and Maria Schrader. And a huge BRAVO to Shira Haas, whose gripping performance shocked us to the core.

Wake up, chase, and materialise your own dreams. No one else will do it for you coz no one else can. This is Esty’s story. The everyday heroine who developed the most amazing superpower; the ability to become who she always wanted to be.

Stay safe!

The Platform (2019): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

The Platform.jpg

An unconventional prison with unknown underground levels called The Hole, starting from top to bottom, provides food for inmates through a platform that is always consumed disproportionally… as no rules apply.

Do you remember Cube (1997)? Welcome to the 21st-century, Spanish Netflix version of it. Brilliantly produced, directed, edited and acted, The Platform will “brutally” entertain you and keep you on the edge of your seat. The photography offers the claustrophobic environment that, on occasion, it will suffocate you as much as the inmates.

The weak link here is the writing though. There are at least two obvious plotholes that, unfortunately, no department spotted – or cared to fix.

1. The levels’ inexplicable temperature rise/drop: It wouldn’t be a plot hole if there was a visible source causing it.

2. The inmates’ transfer from level to level. It wouldn’t be a plot hole if, once again, we saw some kind of gas coming out of… somewhere that knocks them out. Also, swapping everyone, from every level, at the same time, having only the platform as a way of accessing each level increases the implausibility.

I’m a huge fan of the “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story”. How can you ignore the facts though when no one bothers to disguise them? Please, do watch it! I highly recommend it. The above-mentioned plotholes are spoilers-free. It is tempting to analyse the film’s message as well but I can’t do it without giving away the plot so, I’ll just leave it with you. I hope you enjoy this Spanish achievement as much as I did.

 

P.S. My warm-hearted wishes to the Spanish people – but also the rest of the world – who suffer great losses.

Bloodride (2020): Horror

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A driver enters his empty bus, sits behind the wheel, and through his rear-view mirror, sees passengers with dark past and evil stories to unfold, waiting to be carried across…

Do you remember Creepshow (1982)? Welcome to the third decade of the 21st century, Norwegian, Netflix version of it… wait a minute… this is how I started The Platform (2019) review (https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/03/24/the-platform-2019-horror-sci-fi-thriller/)… Damn! Well… it seems that Netflix is taking the “old wine, new bottle” approach. I would complain if the result was a fake or bad copy but, to my surprise, it isn’t. And this time comes from Norway.

The purposefully vague and convoluted logline is there to not disclose anything at all. Six half an hour, authentic, Norwegian, obscure stories, incredibly made and delivered, are waiting for you to sit in front of your TV in times of isolation, take your mind off our sad reality – even for a while, and enter… an evil one (six actually). So, sit back, relax and enjoy it either as a film or mini-series.

Be safe!

Point Blank (2019): Action / Crime / Thriller

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A male nurse and a crook have to team up against corrupted cops and gangsters to protect their families.

Entertaining Netflix action flick with two amazing actors, buddies from Gangster Squad (2013) and the MCU. Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo unite once more as hero and antihero respectively and spend 24 unforgettable (screening) hours together to get theirs and their families’ lives back. Netflix knows the recipe very well and does it once more. The addition of humourous elements adds to the joy and the fast-paced thrill makes your hour and twenty minutes fly by. Joe Lynch deserves the spotlight and I hope one day he really gets it as that’s the third film I’ve seen from him and I must say that his films are highly enjoyable. Worth mentioning are also: Everly (2014) and Mayhem (2017) – Good opportunity to re-watch them and review. Very well acted by both Mackie and Grillo who make an incredible duo.

Don’t fall for the negativity. Especially, in unfortunate and difficult times that all of us are facing at the moment, films like Blank Point make us forget how gloomy and nasty it is out there. Sit back, relax, and enjoy. And always stay safe!

The Silence (2019): Drama / Horror / Sci-fi / Thriller

 

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When a team of excavators accidentally releases an ancient species into the world, a family does whatever it takes to survive the apocalypse.

It seems that films where creatures that attack when one makes noise or just looks at them are high in demand. The Silence is one of them films and starts off very strong. It seems down the line though that it holds its punches, only to release them afterward. A (Netflix) film unfolding such an apocalyptic disaster though shouldn’t be undecided. Once it takes that road, it may as well go all the way. Anyway, the film is rated PG 15 so the limitations in language, gore, and to a certain extent, plot and character development are understandable. If you are a fan of the noise/sight restriction kind, you’ll get to enjoy it. It doesn’t bring anything to the table other than a sense of realism about human nature under extreme circumstances.

With the number of viruses we have faced in the last couple of decades, the coronavirus definitely gets the cake for making us think twice about what we might wake up to or taking life for granted. At the end of the day, whatever the nature of any pandemic calamity, our goal will always be to save ourselves and the people around us whatever means necessary. And that’s what The Silence is all about. Unfortunately, the ending doesn’t give it any justice whatsoever.

P.S. A major plot hole can be easily spotted so if you do find it, ignore it and enjoy an hour and a half of your escapism.

P.S.S. Damn, that scene where they let the dog go…

Marriage Story (2019): Comedy / Drama / Romance

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A married couple with a little kid decides to break up and both parties reveal their best and worst hidden sides of themselves.

Even though ‘it takes a village to make a film’ and every department plays a significant role in a film’s success or failure, five major ones (not in a particular order) need to become a solid one to guarantee Marriage Story‘s success: Directing, cinematography, editing, writing, and acting. Writer/Director Noah Baumbach, cast actors Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson during the script development and all three of them put the ‘FADE OUT’ in the end. As all three of them had been or were going through divorces, the film is largely based on their real-life experiences, and it is that kind of realism that is translated to the big screen and the film’s final cut. Everyone poured their souls in it and, as per IMDb, this is what happened: Top Rated Movies #171, nominated for 6 Golden Globes, and another 81 wins & 177 nominations.

The way editing controls the film’s pace and rhythm is remarkable. Without saying it’s right or wrong, the cuts during the dialogue – cutting from the person talking/crying/exploding to the other person’s reaction – make an interesting case as, me personally, I would expect maybe less reaction. I bet the drafts were endless though and, since the final cut works, I just take it as it comes. The mise-en-scène is flawless and Baumbach with director of photography Robbie Ryan have captured and framed only the essential to the story elements. Last and most certainly not least, Johansson and Driver purely unleash their thespian talents and, arguably, deliver the most hair-raising performances of their lives. Forgetting the high budget tentpoles they are currently in – Avengers and Star Wars respectively – they become part of a love story wrapped in self-absorption and insecurities. Interesting background production details can be found here: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7653254/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv

The labyrinthine nature of a human being knows no limits. When two human beings come together, the stakes and unpredictability are doubled and when a family is created a small society is born under the same roof. Hundreds of millions of these societies form bigger societies that constitute the world as we know it. And its intricacies and complexities can only be matched with the Universe’s mysteries.

Wounds (2019): Drama / Horror / Mystery

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A world of obscurity and darkness gradually surrounds a bartender after finding a phone left at his bar.

At first, everyone’s merry. People ‘necking’ life in shot glasses seems like the way to go in a world full of worries. Then, different people who don’t belong to that world leave behind this phone which carries… wounds that people from neither world can possibly comprehend. And then, no one’s merry anymore. And then everyone discovers their dark side…

Friends of mine were calling me over the last few months asking me if I have watched Wounds. My response was ‘no, should I watch it?’ and their reply was something along the lines of ‘no, coz it sucks balls!’. What can I say? I’m a bad listener. Or am I? So, I watched it. And so should you. Wounds is based on Nathan Ballingrud’s novella ‘The Visible Filth’ which I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t read so I can’t comment on the adaptation, compare, or contrast it. As a film in itself though, Wounds will get your undivided attention. Do not try to rationalise it. Do not try to give meaning to every word spoken or the staccato editing choices rapidly presented to you. Just watch it looking towards every corner of your screen as the mise-en-scène meticulously frames what you need to know. When, out of the blue, the end credits appear, give it a minute or two to move past the ‘WTF just happened’ feeling, try not to go apeshit as well, and only then start putting things into perspective. And even then, good luck!

Armie Hammer, Dakota Johnson, and Zazie Beetz do a brilliant job in front of the camera. Behind it, Babak Anvari, director of the eerie, paranormal Iranian horror Under the Shadow (2016), shakes hands with Netflix, defies canon and Hollywood’s jumpscares and goes for long tracking shots and slow editing to haunt New Orleans and unify two worlds that should have never been brought together.