Come True (2020): Horror / Sci-Fi

One of the most intriguing and atmospheric opening sequences I’ve seen in a while. The first act’s slow pace, music, and cinematography betray a feel-good 80s horror that promises not to disappoint. And it doesn’t (to a certain extent)!

Writer/director Anthony Scott Burns has done his homework on sleep, dreams, and nightmares and carefully and patiently unfolds a narrative that, if you haven’t read anything about the plot, will most definitely surprise you. Positively or not you are about to figure out for yourselves.

The dream sequences are the most vividly and terrifyingly surrealistic images since Silent Hill (2006) and The Cell (2000) – the only Jennifer Lopez film I have got to enjoy. Jungian psychology, Escher’s portrayal of illusion, and Clive Barker’s horrifying vision of the human psyche’s darkness, all blend into one, bringing to life nightmares that make us question the way our mind, consciously or not, interprets reason and the way we understand and explain our fears.

David Cronenberg has been a tremendous influence on the Canadian cinema and Burns, having specialised in horror, adds his own personality and vision to intrigue you, get and maintain your undivided attention. In the end, I must say that I did get confused and found myself remorselessly scratching my head, and even though I love proper WTF endings, Come True runs out of steam before you start rolling your eyes in disbelief. Shame because for the 2/3’s of the movie, I had nothing negative to say. I guess the denouement is the toughest part of the script.

Stay safe!

P.S. Certainly, I am not the only one feeling like Riff came out of Hogwarts…

Lifeforce (1985): Action / Horror / Mystery

An alien vampire race is found in space and brought to a lab in London but, upon escaping, chaos and doom threaten to destroy our planet.

Ask anyone why they remember Lifeforce… And as much as I understand why, this is the reason why the film bombed! An alien sexbomb wreaking apocalyptic havoc in London sounds peculiar to say the least. The film didn’t even make half of its production cost back because a naked Mathilda May and her astonishing beauty stole the show and left everyone uninterested in its shallow science. BUT…

Lifeforce has become a classic and watching it 25 years later, I must say that it is case study of how to deconstruct a B-movie. I don’t think I’ve ever read more production details on a film such as this. What’s more, the vast majority of these details revolve around May’s backstage nudity or how the film’s failure showed during the early stages of principal photography.

Despite how my review sounds so far, especially in times like these, Lifeforce is the form of escapism that will truly entertain you (I mean, read the logline). Based on Colin Wilson’s novel, “The Space Vampires” and directed by Tobe Hooper, the film offers a lack of seriousness and superficiality that harms no one and, if anything, reminds us the cinematic, low-budget, sci-fi era that, once upon a time, was as believable as today’s advanced CGI. The practical effects, the make-up, the effort given not to be rated pornographic, the budget restrains, to name but a few, constitute it a very hard film to make. No words can describe the satisfaction you will get though while watching it. So, forget reality for a couple of hours…

Stay safe!

Pulse (2006): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

Mysterious entities, start taking over a group of friends through an obscure wireless signal that starts spreading rapidly all over the city.

I’ll be quick… Dark and promising opening sequence that once it gets you hooked it unhooks you with its formulaic narrative. The audience it addresses becomes clear straight away and is none other than… American pre-millennials. Just before the social media, androids and iPhones become our lives, this the generation that started carrying everywhere their cell phones with the ostentatious design.

In case you are wondering why I am doing a review now, it is because I’ve had that DVD on my shelf for the last 15 years and I never got to watch it. Now, I know why. Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s original script and Wes Craven’s adaptation were, allegedly, significantly altered by Ray Wright, something that made Craven walk out before production even started and renounced the film. Besides Wright, director Jim Sonzero did not do a good job either. Unfortunately, he treated his audience like they were mentally incapacitated and that alone is a reason to look down on the film. I’ll give you one example to get an idea. Kristen Bell is wearing make-up from beginning till end. No matter what happens, the make-up is intact. Shocking that there were two more (horrendous) instalments after that.

I’m not going to waste your time. To sum it up, the story could have been promising, the script is dull, the filmmaking techniques were outdated way before the film was made, and it is not Kristen Bell’s and Ian Somerhalder’s fault for being in it. They are really good actors. Watch it at your own risk.

Stay safe!

Synchronic (2019): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

A new drug on the streets, causing obscure and mystical effects, will make two paramedics from New Orleans reevaluate life.

The trippy, otherworldly, and oneiric opening sequence pins you down and gets your undivided attention. Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) become immediately relatable from the get-go while you are trying to establish how is everything connected. As the incidents increase, the plot’s mystery and intricacy are accompanied by an equally dramatic subplot and both of them unfold together on Jimmy LaValle’s amazing soundtrack that expresses the characters’ psychosynthesis.

In my humble opinion though the film reaches its peak with the heartbreaking sequence of Steve’s dog, Hawking – honestly, I couldn’t breathe properly. Steve realises how the drug works and, from then on, it becomes too explanatory too fast for my taste, disillusioning too early an experience that stops raising questions anymore. Having said that, please, don’t let it discourage you. Watch it as it is a great low budget, indie sci-fi, and both Mackie and Dornan do a great job in front of the camera.

Behind the camera, writers/directors/producers/cinematographers/editors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead prove once more their unquestionable talent. From Resolution (2012) to Spring (2014), to The Endless (2017), to Synchronic, they constantly prove that filmmakers don’t need millions of dollars to bring to life something innovative; something that follows certain rules, breaks others, and, ultimately, still manages to be groundbreaking, didactic, and entertaining. Twenty years ago, Christopher Nolan started on small budgets and then the world became his oyster. As Steven Spielberg did thirty years before him. It seems that the filmmaking partners Benson and Moorhead, gradually, are given more and more funding. If they stick to their unique point of view – and don’t get sucked by Hollywood – they will keep performing cinematic miracles.

Stay safe!

Possessor (2020): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

A secret agent, who works for a shadowy organisation that has the technology to control people, is sent on a mission to assassinate a high-profile target, but with unexpected consequences.

As a huge fan of the Canadian film school, I will tell you that Possessor does not disappoint. Films like that need to be highly praised, if anything, for their boldness. Writer/director Brandon Cronenberg is not to be compared with his father (David) as he has his his own distinct voice to narrate a story worth telling. The influences from eXistenZ (1999) and Videodrome (1983) might be visible but even these works are not parthenogeneric, and every generation “steals” from the generation before it, anyway. This has always been the case in art and science and that is the root of evolution (maybe of devolution too). My only “like his father” reference is the theme of “sex”. Brandon has taken over the torch of sexual exploration and mental darkness as projected through the lens, and I believe in future films of his we’ll see a lot more. The hallucination scenes are only the beginning…

Possessor‘s practical visual effects most definitely stand out, giving meaning to to the original purpose of visual effects before they became the means to overshadow a mediocre or bad narrative. Cronenberg’s high-concept, hi-tech, cinematic schizophrenia dictates what effects are needed and to what end, allegorically cautions the audience of the brain’s unknown vastness, and offers the thrill of its exploration by presenting the shock of the characters’ experiences through their own decisions.

Andrea Riseborough has proved time and time again that there is nothing she can’t do in front of the lens and mesmerises with her performance. Christopher Abbott, is a rising star and he’s terrific in everything he’s been in. Watch Sweet Virginia (2017), The Sinner (2017), and It Comes at Night (2017), if you don’t want to take my word for it – and that’s just within a year. As for Jennifer Jason Leigh, no introductions are needed as she’s been constantly offering her versatility to the cinema for over forty years now.

To conclude, Possessor is a must-watch that adds value to the Canadian film school and excites with its uniqueness and unpredictability. Regardless of the film schools though, it distinguishes itself from the traditional Hollywood narrative and blends the horror/sci-fi/thriller genres in a way you have not seen before. Pay attention to the opening sequence’s details. Gabrielle Graham, as a theatrical thespian, captivates with her performance and Cronenberg guides her character, Holly, to commit the poetic crime in a way that only Shakespeare would describe. From then on, it’s all uncharted territory.

Stay safe!

The Mist (2007): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

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When a mist out of nowhere brings with it monsters beyond anyone’s imagination, a diverse group of people in a supermarket must do whatever they can to protect themselves from the monsters or from each other.

Probably an unpopular opinion, but this is one of my favourite Stephen King adaptations. The film cuts right to it when at the same time develops the characters and brilliantly builds up the suspense. And when the mist covers the city and everyone’s trapped in the unknown… that is the calm before the storm. A calm that cuts your breath short only to take it entirely when the storm unleashes, gradually, what is beyond everyone’s imagination. Admittedly, the visual effects are not what they should have been but, please, see past their mediocrity.

The narrative is astonishing. It feels like the world’s schools of thought are gathered in a supermarket and argue realistically as you and I would have if we were stranded, surrounded by such extra-dimensional calamity. Every character in the store is relatable. Love them, loath them, side with them, or mock them… they constitute society as we know it. They form the mob, they become demagogy. See how the tide changes, how easily everyone shows their true colours when the sh*t hits the fan. Where would you stand – or think you would?

Frank Darabond, after masterfully adapting The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999) adapts yet another Stephen King novel, delving into the human nature while toying with the idea of hellish dimensions and man playing God. Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, William Sadler, Jeffrey DeMunn, Melissa McBride, and Alexa Davalos, most of them frequent Darabond collaborators, side with each other or go against one another and offer you an unforgettable thrill.

As I said, stick to the psychological side of it, turn the blind eye to the digital VFX, and place yourself in that supermarket. As for the end, I have written an article on soundtracks and powerful cinematic moments so, feel free to check it out only after watching the film as it gives away the one of a kind Greek-tragic-irony-like twist: http://theworldofapu.com/powerful-sequences-soundtracks/

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!

The Cured (2017): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

The once-infected world by a disease that was turning people into zombies has now been cured, but those who had turned face now society’s discrimination and wrath for all the things they did.

Reinstatement, remorse, forgiveness, redemption, tolerance, stigmatisation, and family are the exceptional qualities that separate The Cured from the mainstream Hollywood post-apocalyptic zombie outbreak calamity.

I have to thank my mate Gary for reminding me of this one, commenting on #Alive (2020) https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/12/12/alive-2020-action-drama-horror/. Acting as a social commentary and fragile post-postapocaliptic metaphor for the real world we currently live in, without getting into historical or sociological analyses, The Cured is indirectly associated with the Irish modern history but also the whole world’s rehabilitation system and the stigma one carries trying to reinstate.

Writer/director David Freyne has done a brilliant job behind the camera, and Sam Keeley gives the justice broken Senan deserves. Actor/producer Elliot Page has always been amazing in everything he’s been in and his acting is a force to be reckoned with.

The (North and South) Irish film school of horror is making huge steps over the last few years, rightfully earning its stripes in the industry. If you are not familiar with Sea Fever (2019) https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/04/19/sea-fever-2019-horror-sci-fi/ and A Good Woman is Hard to Find (2019) https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/09/24/a-good-woman-is-hard-to-find-2019-crime-drama-thriller/ make sure you spend some time to get around them.

The film’s title would have worked equally well as The Cur(s)ed.

Stay safe!

Superhero Movie (2008): Action / Comedy / Sci-Fi

A low self-esteemed and constantly bullied teenager gets bitten by a radioactive dragonfly and develops superpowers.

There are two reasons why I watched it… again. Leslie Nielsen, and the Aunt Lucille farting sequence! Other than that, what can I say? It is an hour and fifteen minutes of that kind of humour that was washed up even twelves years ago. I think it is the first time that I tried to analyse what makes it funny – if written and executed properly. That kind of humour has several components. It requires:

  • Some pre-existing knowledge on the films been parodied,
  • Exaggerated and utterly disjointed scenes,
  • The heroes’ reactions to the superfluous, anecdotal stimuli causing the disjointed scenes, but their immediate forgetfulness straight after until something else happens.

I was not planning to make a review, and if I’m being honest, I haven’t really. I just wanted to put in my two cents about the particular comedy sub-genre. I wish there was something else to say, really. Even though it’s silly, to say the least, a couple of sequences will make you laugh – such as the Aunt Lucille farting sequence! And, hey, we do need some laugh. Especially, these days.

Stay safe!

Tenet (2020): Action / Sci-Fi

A man is tasked to save the world with a mission that defies the laws of physics as we know them, given only the word, Tenet.

Like any other Nolan film, Tenet requires an analysis rather than a review. But I’ll simplify things as best I can. A type of film like this requires a humongous amount of time in preproduction. And they have spent that time wisely. That is why from both production and postproduction point of view, the film is immaculate and unlike anything you have ever seen. No matter what I say, it won’t make it better.

The problem lies right off the bat with the script though. The similar opening to The Dark Knight (2008) poses a significant issue. There is a preexisting knowledge on the Joker where you know who he is and what he is capable of. And if you don’t know the full extent, you find out in a brilliant manner in minutes. Then, the film cuts to people you have already met from Batman Begins (2005), and gradually, it escalates keeping everyone in the loop. In Tenet, no one is aware of anyone or anything, and without any ado, Nolan keeps bombarding you with more and more information where everyone seems to start getting it, but the viewer. Fear not, though. The science is fictional – pun intended – so please, don’t feel bad if you don’t get it. You won’t get it if you watch it a second time either. Nolan himself doesn’t really get it (hence, leaving our certain details) but the impressive filmmaking and the delusion that you might get it if you pay close attention compensates. The similarities in narrative can be compared to Interstellar (2014).

For a film that examines paradox, it is interesting how for something that no one knows anything about, no one thinks twice before they instantly and unhesitatingly say what they have to say. Same applies for planning and acting. At the end of one sequence they find out about something, at the beginning of the next one they have already the equipment, they have already traveled round the globe, and have already come up with a meticulous plan.

George Méliès was running the camera backwards over a hundred years ago so, even though from a filmmaking point of view, Tenet is not parthenogenesis, it surely is a unique concept, exteremely well planned, and amazingly executed. If it wasn’t for this goddamn pandemic, it would have easily joined the billion dollar club.

Stay safe!

P.S. The indie, and unfathomably much lower-budget version of Tenet is Primer (2004): https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/11/26/primer-2004-drama-sci-fi-thriller/

Primer (2004): Drama / Sci-Fi / Thriller

Four friends, in an attempt to be innovative, invent something beyond their wildest dreams.

I remember watching Primer coming out of the army. As much as I was into films, I couldn’t “read” them the way I do now and, of course, the physics behind it meant nothing to me then and, respectively, without asking much, I accept it now. Consequently, I cannot comment on it, but I can speak of the filmmaking itself.

The voice over indicates that what we are watching has already happened and, for some reason, their story is worth telling, even though the first act indicates the opposite. So far, it looks like a mockumentary on a bunch of guys who are working on something that even they don’t know what it is. Much less the viewer.

Half an hour into it, the first plot point comes in strong. Both the main characters but also the viewer are now aware that they have invented a time machine. Narrative-wise, I will not reveal anything else. What has already been established is that composer / actor / sound designer / editor / producer / writer / director Shane Carruth, since the opening sequence, has remained meticulous with his writing on both character and story development. By the way, I have never seen anyone taking on so many different roles. Anyway…

What would you do if you knew you could travel in time? What would your thoughts be? What would you be afraid of? What would your reservations be? How far back would you go? Would you acknowledge causality’s dangers? Carruth does an amazing job perplexing even further his low budget’s sci-fi narrative and, at the same time, he maintains the dialogue more realistic than any of could develop it.

I do not understand certain people’s choices. Why isn’t Carruth a household name? Why show so much talent and then let go? Just do another film ten years later and that’s it? I know he struggled but the guy managed to make Primer with… $7,000. This is the most impressive and tiniest nano-budget mind-bending feature ever existed.

Ultimately, I am convinced that the film itself is greater achievement than its invention.

Logan (2017): Action / Drama / Sci-Fi

In 2029, where the X-Men are gone and mutants are on the verge of extinction, an elderly and slowly dying Logan must lead Charles Xavier and a young mutant to safety when an evil corporation goes after them.

I don’t write about superhero films, really. As much as I’ve watched them all and as much as I’m a graphic novel collector, I prefer to keep a distance. But I intend to write about my top 5 (to date) as I truly think they are powerful films and, in my humble opinion, the best of their kind. And, after watching it for the third time, Logan most certainly still remains in that top 5.

First and foremost, because of Hugh Jackman and Sir Patrick Stewart. Secondly, due to (co)writer/director James Mangold. The trio makes a combo that brings to life an unprecedented, R-rated, existential drama/fiction, no one expected to see. Mangold’s genius lies in synthesizing the narrative; the character and the story development. Such synthesis requires a thorough understanding of who the Wolverine was and what he had accomplished, while never managing to make peace with his nature and never overcoming his loathing for his nurture. And that, respectively, requires a thorough understanding of the difference between thinking of knowing what an antihero is and the unfathomably harsh reality of having to live with yourself and everything you have done, for almost two centuries, to become that wrong perception.

Officially, the film is a standalone and it follows neither the original X-Men’s timeline and its prequels nor the franchise’s prequels. However, Charles Xavier is mentioning the Statue of Liberty incident, and he reminds him that he found him in a time that he was a cage fighter. This, by itself, does not mean that the franchise prequels’ timeline is not followed either. In fact, the Samurai sword from Wolverine (2013) can be briefly seen as well. I think that the only one that has been left out of the canon is X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) but Kinberg’s film has already been forgotten and left out of every timeline ever existed right after it hit the big screen.

From Wolverine (2011) to… Old Man Logan, the hero’s journey has had its ups and downs but this is the best denouement a cinematic (anti)hero has ever seen.

Stay safe!

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Spoilers!

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Deep down I knew The New Mutants (2020) would take the torch after Logan. I knew it! “New Mutants” is brought up as a concept in Logan and the The New Mutants trailer was reeking of Essex Corporation. It is a bloody shame that, after waiting for so long, with a unique trailer for the X-Men franchise, and so talented new actors it was such a disappointment. Not only that but it had a huge plothole too. The film takes place after Logan – so after 2029, but we don’t know exactly when. By then, the X-Men were long gone, yet one of the new mutants speculates that the doctors’ bosses are the X-Men, non-verbally implying, specifically, Charles Xavier. One of them, at least, should have got their facts straight.

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!

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 Corridor (2010): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

The Corridor.jpg

A group of friends gathers to spend a typical “cabin the woods” weekend in a remote area but they discover a phenomenon that will make them descend to paranoia.

Film Industry: One of the most rewarding yet inconsistent industries out there. See director Evan Kelly, for example. After directing The Corridor, his feature debut, he vanished. And the film did actually well. So, why? Shame, whatever the reason may be.

About the film now… A just over an hour and a half Canadian, indie, low-budget, slow-burn thriller which takes half of that time to kick in. Something that begs the question, how much patience do you have? If you do have it, and you watch past the pleasantries at the bonding part, it becomes realistically suspenseful. Everyone reacts to “the corridor” the way you and I, potentially, would have. Until paranoia takes over!

You will not encounter any Hollywood conventions here, something that increases the unpredictability and, consequently, the suspense. The acting though is not favouring the film and, in the end, it looks like the script is losing track of how it started or where it wanted to go. Unfortunately, the photography doesn’t help much either whereas the editing is doing its best to stitch it together.

I know… I started by praising it and then my review went down the hill. I really did like the story but the script’s and the film’s development in the Production stage came out a lot poorer than it was probably intended in Preproduction. So, does it worth your time? I’m not saying you will definitely like it but if you are up for a different cinematic rhythm, cliche-free, then this might be the one you are looking for. Or not. I for one, I’m glad I gave it a chance despite its flaws.

Stay safe!

Sea Fever (2019): Horror / Sci-Fi

Sea Fever.jpg

A doctoral student joins the crew of a trawler that encounters an unknown species which infects their water supply.

The photography is the first thing that will get your attention. Dark, with a claustrophobic mise-en-scène, it will captivate you, as well “trap” you in that trawler and “force” you to take the journey with the crew. The editing’s brilliant match cuts connect very interesting visuals that move the story forward keeping only what is necessary and leading you to the third act’s suspenseful denouement. Hermione Corfield is the right choice for the awkward, antisocial, doctoral student whose acting adds extra believability to the film’s scientific, yet realistic horror. The rest of the cast also deserves a massive “BRAVO” as they make their respective roles utterly relatable. Writer / director Neasa Hardiman brings to life an excellent Irish horror/sci-fi and, I for one, look forward to watching more of her future endeavours.

Yes, you’ve probably seen films like Ghost Ship (1980), Virus (1999), or Triangle (2009) but Sea Fever has it’s own story to tell and it’s highly recommended. It escapes (for the most part) the Hollywood standards and cliches in both character and story development and creates an intriguing premise that will keep you on the edge of your seats.

Unfortunately, our dramatic and devastating reality makes Sea Fever very timely and adds even further realism to its horrific theme and our even more horrific reality.

Stay safe!

Vivarium (2019): Horror / Mystery / Sci-Fi

Vivarium.jpg

Trying to find their ideal home, a young couple is lured and trapped in a suburban neighbourhood where every house and street is identical and seemingly no way out.

Entirely allegorical, Vivarium joins the club of independent mind-bending films such as Triangle (2009) and Coherence (2013). Does it hit the mark though? It starts by trying to but halfway there it seems that it abandons the idea itself. Based on the short film Foxes (2012), also written and directed by Garrett Shanley and Lorcan Finnegan respectively, its feature adaptation gives the impression of “surrendering”, flattens out until the end of the second act, then it picks up until the end… but the viewer is already “gone” by then. Third collaboration between Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg, showcasing once more the undeniable on-screen chemistry between them.

Personally, I did like it and it did kill some time but when it comes to “Sisyphusean” films, killing some time is just not enough. The end of the second act is worth watching so the toughest part is to try and keep track until then. Maybe not the best film during the quarantine days but if, like me, you are a fan of one-location allegorical thrillers, don’t have any high hopes and give it a shot. You might find yourselves relating to the protagonists more than you expect.

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.

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

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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.

After Midnight (2019): Drama / Horror / Sci-fi

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Following his girlfriend’s disappearance, a man starts questioning his sanity when what appears to be a beast starts lurking outside his house, in the darkness.

The amazing photography shows from the opening scene! Narrative-wise, the non-linear timeline adds to the suspense by manipulating the fabula and the syuzhet, increasing the tension – when there is some. Unfortunately though, the photography, the narrative structure, even Brea Grant’s amazing presence, and, what could have been an otherwise strong story… amount to nothing! And by nothing I mean NOTHING!

This is what I don’t get. The story is meant to be horrific and dramatic, something that the photography utterly supports, BUT the comedic style of directing prevails, leaving the viewer with a big freaking question mark and mixed feelings as to where it is heading. And it ended up heading nowhere. The 14′ minute shot is intriguing in a theatrical way and would be interesting to find out how many takes they’ve had. And that is my only takeaway.

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…

Color Out of Space (2019): Horror, Sci-Fi

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A meteorite of peculiar color, carrying a hostile living organism, strikes a secluded family farm and turns their lives into a sadistic nightmare.

What an opening scene!!! But I’m not convinced that the rest of it is how H.P. Lovecraft envisaged it. But first things first. It’s great to see the talented – yet hurt from the Industry – writer/director Richard Stanley coming back. After The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) fiasco, Stanley strikes again and, directing-wise, the film lacks nothing. Chasing it for years, the film’s Odyssey finally came to an end when he finally found the money to finance it in early 2019. The acting is also solid. Very convincing performances add to the film’s pros and Nicolas Cage, once more, proves that no matter how many memes, trailer compilations, or other creative visual and audio fun they make out of him that he will not give two s#$%^ and will keep on being… Nicolas Cage! Every, God knows how many unknown films/flops he’s been in every year, there’ll always be this one film that will stand out and perpetuate Cage’s ongoing on and off glory.

The major con is the production’s decision to make it look like the paranoid, cult film Mandy (2018) – same production company behind it. Lovecraft’s world, the way I grew up with visualising anyway, has nothing much to do with this adaptation. The bold, exaggerated colors create a visually incoherent landscape that overshadows the narrative. But don’t take my word for it, what do I know anyway? John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (1993) is, arguably, the best Lovecraft adaptation out there. If you haven’t watched it, and you are a ‘Lovecraftian’ horror fan, you will fall in love with the film’s paranoia (Do you read Sutter Cane?).

Regardless, Color Out Of Space is a low budget must-watch that definitely deserves your attention. It is not commercial enough but that means nothing. Once you turn your screen off, parts of the film will keep looping in your head. What makes me happy is that, even posthumously, Lovecraft’s legacy is still alive and very rich. Which is exactly the opposite of how he died…

The Wave (2019): Sci-Fi / Thriller

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A young lawyer goes out to celebrate his promotion with his co-worker and friend, ending up in a wild party and getting dosed with a hallucinogen like anything anyone has ever experienced before.

Now, that’s some next-level trippin’! If you know nothing about it, read nothing about it. Justin Long is still the actor he was when he first became famous in Jeepers Creepers (2001) and he still proves to be making solid choices regarding which films he’s going to be in. If you liked him in Comet (2014) – which if you haven’t watched, you need to – you will definitely love him on this one. Donald Faison, Tommy Flanagan, Katia Winter, and Sheila Vand are brilliantly getting into their roles and everyone adds to the film’s hilarity. Feature debut for director Gille Klabin who I hope he gets the recognition he deserves after this one.

Even though IMDb doesn’t include ‘Comedy’ in the genres next to the film’s title, rest assured that it is. So, do not try to rationalise it or find plotholes. For an hour and a half, just get along and enjoy the realistic performances against a surrealistic (or unrealistic) scenario that is way too much fun to be put into context.

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

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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Sarah Connor and an enhanced human from the future must fight against the most advanced Terminator ever sent back in time, protecting a young woman whose existence is the key to humanity’s fate.

Old wine, new bottle. The franchise’s sixth installment acknowledges only Terminator (1984), and Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) and pretends the ones in between never happened (or ‘occurred in alternate timelines’).

The pros: The story contains – or repeats – the necessary elements from T1 and T2 making actually Dark Fate look and sound like a Terminator movie. Linda Hamilton defies age. Mackenzie Davis kicks ass. Gabriel Luna… keeps coming back. And last but not least, even though I was skeptical at first glance, Arnold Schwarzenegger always was and always will be the Terminator.

The cons: Even though the story borrows the best elements from the previous films, the script relies on T1‘s and T2‘s previous glory to stand out only to, eventually, get overshadowed by them. James Cameron and Tim Miller are both visual effects directors, leading to a VFX overuse. Which is exactly what T1 and T2 weren’t. Cameron’s and Miller’s opposite personalities clashed and that showed heavily on the editing suite – where all fights between them took place. Dark Fate, as collateral damage paid the price for it. Lastly, Natalia Reyes, an otherwise very charismatic actress, landed a role that was plainly flat. And it wasn’t her fault. Going from crying and never fired a weapon to the moronic, wannabe heroic level ‘I will stand and I will fight’ makes everyone yawn to tears – something that eight (8) writers and co-writers who read it got the goosebumps.

Filmmakers need to keep in mind that #movements are there, in their majority, for impressions and popularity. Not everyone but most people, from all over the world and every walk of life, join these movements to give meaning to their lives and express themselves, from the comfort of their couch and the safety of their house, in a way that they never could face to face. The systematic effort to please these groups keeps leading to film failures and fans’ profound disappointment. Because hashtags are for free, films aren’t.

Does it worth your time? It does. Remember, film= escapism. For just over two hours relax and forget all your problems. If anything, it will be probably the last Terminator you will ever watch.

 

Code 8 (2019): Crime / Drama / Sci-Fi

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A power enabled construction worker teams up with the wrong people in an effort to save his dying mother.

Canada strikes back! Only three months after Freaks (2019) https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2019/11/30/freaks-2019-drama-mystery-sci-fi/, Code 8 makes an appearance and leaves a lasting impression. Take the superpowers out and you are left with a strong existential drama about working-class people who try to survive one day at a time and a son who would do anything wrong under the Sun for his dying mom. Great performances from the cousins Stephen and Robbie Amell but also Kari Matchett, Laysla De Oliveira, Greg Bryk, Kyla Kane, and Vlad Alexis. Directing, editing (great opening sequence montage), photography, production design, visual and sound effects are of Hollywood standards, proving that the studios don’t need hundreds of millions to make a decent sci-fi. Also, the music nails it and it is not used as a means to tell you how to feel at all times. It is minimal as it is emotional. Through the crowdfunding website Indiegogo, the producers managed to gather over two million dollars from 28,400 backers. Both Freaks and Code 8 come from the Canadian film school and leave a different flavour to the one left to us by the X-men franchise. A round of applause for all cast and crew!!!

Code 8 spinoff series has already been announced by the film’s director Jeff Chan and writer Chris Paré. Really looking forward to it as there is still so much to unfold in terms of both story and character development.

You can find it here:

UK: https://amzn.to/2steelj / https://amzn.to/2skNgfO

US: https://amzn.to/2ry5ObM

 

Event Horizon (1997): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

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Having gone missing for seven years, spaceship ‘Event Horizon’ reappears having come back from a darkness beyond human understanding.

One of the best psychological, sci-fi horrors you have ever watched: Alien (1979) meets Hellraiser (1987)! The ‘tragedy’ with Event Horizon is, as usual, the studio. When uncreative people in high places interfere with art, art always suffers the consequences. Paul W.S. Anderson’s 130′ original, ‘graphically violent’ cut forced Paramount to cut 30′ and water it down. Both the studio and Anderson regretted doing it! Twenty years later (2017), Anderson stated that the year after the film’s release he and a producer started looking for footage that due to bad archiving had gone missing. Most of it was destroyed, some of it was of poor quality and some of it was found as far as a Transylvanian salt mine!

From cruciform shapes to spinning tunnels and rotating interlocking circles, Event Horizon marries the antithesis between religion and science, showcasing the man-playing-God hubris, and offering us the results in an entertainingly, bloody way. The film has become a cult for both sci-fi and horror fans alike. The Making of ‘Event Horizon’ (2006) is a documentary that whoever liked the film MUST watch. The production details give away the great lengths Anderson went to, to bring this film to life.  Philip Eisner’s script is solid,  Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill are brilliant, and the Production Design is Oskar-worthy. Unfortunately, the studio forced the editing to damage the film’s unimaginable potential. It is wishful thinking that the series in development will live up to the film’s expectations and include the ‘Old Testament Speech’ and the ‘Dimension of Pure Chaos’ analysis.

The detailed, infamous captain’s log ‘orgy of death’, the ship’s return, and the extended black hole’s Bosh-influenced ‘visions from hell’ have made all our imagination run wild over the years, hoping that, one day, the film’s re-release will re-surface missing footage, and will re-appear to us to reveal what it has seen…

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

 

The Room (2019): Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi

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A young couple moves into a house with many secrets and a room that… grants wishes.

I’ve been told that in Los Angeles, everyone has an idea about a great film. Do you know why almost no one makes it? Because no Industry Professional cares about any kind of idea. The Room is based on a brilliant idea: What would you do if all your wishes could come true… inside your house! Very thrilling idea. Especially, if you ask for a kid.

Its development though irreparably ruins it. Noël Carroll, in “Toward a Theory of Film Suspense” analyses suspense, its development, and its potential outcomes. Highly recommended read. Here, Matt is looking for the room’s key, he finds it. He wants to find that man, he finds him. The man calls at the house and the kid picks up the phone, he knows exactly what has happened and explains everything.

I don’t want to be more negative about this one. Feel free to watch it and make up your mind. The film’s intentions are noble, it just lacks of… almost everything! Very unfortunate.

Freaks (2019): Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi

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With the excuse that people will want to hurt her, a girl, locked insider the house since birth by her insanely overprotective father, manages to escape only to realise that he was right all along.

Push (2009) meets Stephanie (2017) made in Canada. A great narrative accompanied by great cinematography. The compelling atmosphere and the very persuasive acting – a standing ovation for the young actress Lexy Kolker – examine thoroughly, even create a case study, on the philosophy of the masses in regard to what it’s like to be different, to stand out, to be able to perform miracles, to feel like a freak and alone…

Turn the lights off, get your other half, your friends, or just a nice drink and enjoy it!  I was thinking of writing that films like Freaks need our support so we can have a lot more of them but, truth to be told, we need eye-opening films like Freaks so we can reevaluate, the norms of the societies we live in but also, as André Bazin would ask, ‘What is Cinema?’.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2Q1Tav7

Alita (2019): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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A dismantled cyborg found in a scrapyard is put together by a rather unconventional doctor but when she wakes up with no memory and hell-bent on discovering who she is, she goes against anyone who stands in her way.

Amazing visuals! Director Robert Rodriguez, producer James Cameron, and the visual effects department perform magic with the film’s visuals. A lot of credits goes also to Junkie XL for the soundtrack and the sound department for sound effects, sound editing, and sound mixing. Actually, almost all departments do a brilliant job in the film. I guess now you are waiting for the “but”…

In a $170M film the “but” is the story! Inundated with cliches, no twists, predictable character development, and no suspense whatsoever it makes all the A-list actors yawning while performing. Rosa Salazar and Ed Skrein do the best they can though as heroine and villain respectively. Shame really. With Rodriguez and Cameron in the credits, one would expect at least an extraordinary story, something along the lines of the films both of them have given us over the last four decades. Alita, unfortunately, is not one of them…

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