I Am Mother (2019): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

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Years after the extinction of mankind, a girl, born in an underground facility and raised by an android she calls “Mother”, discovers one day that the outside world is not what she was taught it was.

Very interesting feature directorial debut from Grant Sputore. I Am Mother is a small budget, one-location sci-fi that definitely worths your time. Many questions are raised with some of them answered and, purposefully, some of them not. Read between the lines. Information is carefully revealed and spread throughout the three acts, and that is what paces the story brilliantly.

Excellent performances by Clara Rugaard and Hilary Swank. A huge congratulations to Rose Byrne for providing her voice for Mother but also Weta Workshop for creating her. Last but not least, kudos to all producers and Netflix who spent every penny wisely, proving (once more) that low budget films have as much or more to offer than Hollywood mega-budget blockbusters.

Hint: Who is the woman that inexplicably shows up knocking…

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

Captive State (2019): Sci-Fi / Thriller

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Nine years after alien forces invaded and colonised Earth, an underground movement, stealthily, plans an attack to fight back.

This is not the “cinema of attractions”. No Independence Day (1996) effects with marching songs while shouting “we will fight” narrative. Captive State focuses on the world’s political and socio-economic state after the extra-terrestrials’ colonisation, leaving out the early terraforming practices. As stated next to the title, it is a sci-fi/thriller and not an action film. Political-espionage case scenarios resembling Europe just before WWII cannot be avoided.

The acting is solid and so is the photography and directing. If you asked me what I think it lacks the most I would say emotional investment. I felt hard to engage as the main characters are underdeveloped. Also, the masterplan gets too complicated on occasion even though it offers the desired twist. I guess the script could have gone through maybe a couple of more rewrites.

A perfect example of a groundbreaking sci-fi/thriller came only ten years before “Captive State” and it is none other than District 9 (2009) – Neill Blomkamp’s finest film to date.

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

Bumblebee (2018): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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With Cybertron at war, Optimus Prime sends B-127 (Bumblebee) to Earth to establish a base for the Autobots and protect the planet.

Prequel to Transformers (2007), Travis Knight’s first live-action film “Bumblebee” takes a more classic look of the original cartoon series. The opening sequence reminded me of my childhood years but my nostalgia faded away upon Bee’s arrival on Earth. Memories were temporarily restored half-way watching again the tunnel from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and Back to the Future II (1989).

Stereotypical American bimbos meant to be hated, stereotypical American jerks no one could care less about, stereotypically American army being thick as pigshit, and main characters that I would love if it was actually 1987 and I was 5. Did I mention that the storyline was so predictable?

To be fair, Bumblebee’s final battle against Shatter and Dropkick was quite impressive.

P.S. OK, it was funny when “Bee” ruined blondie’s car.

P.P.S. Steve Jablonsky where are you???

P.P.P.S You can find it here: https://amzn.to/39uqrXI

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

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A struggling fisherman, obsessed with catching a particular fish, finds a new purpose when a mysterious woman suddenly shows up in his little island.

Difficult to say much without giving away spoilers. Acting and cinematography are “Serenity’s” strong suits. Directing and editing do their best to reveal the right information at the right time, keep the suspension at the highest level, and the viewer constantly engaged. Does it work? Not for the majority of it. Why?

I have the suspicion that by reading the script, the film’s good intentions would be revealed. On-screen, this is not the case. The story itself is all over the place and that heavily affects character development. The film is definitely not as bad as some claim it is but with A-list cast and crew certainly one would expect more.

As with any other film, watch it and shape your own opinion. You might like it, you might not. At least, you’ll know the reason(s) why.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/37kl0bX

Upgrade (2018): Action / Sci-fi / Thriller

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In a world that technology controls every aspect of life, a technophobe not only finally embraces it but also upgrades himself to solve his wife’s murder.

Producer/Writer/Director Leigh Whannell, who penned the script for Saw (2004), and Blumhouse Productions bring to life an action/thriller that mustn’t go unnoticed. Logan Marshall-Green gets into the role and does a brilliant job as an ordinary man who’s going through… an upgrade and comes out extraordinary.

Visual effects that help the story move forward and the story itself easily avoids cliches and gimmicks. A highly recommended, low-budget sci-fi set in an ostensibly utopian future but with a lot more realism than meets the eye.

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

Contact (1997): Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi

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A scientist who has devoted her life to discovering extraterrestrial life form not only has her breakthrough but also uncovers a secret message.

Carl Sagan:  “The astronomer of the people”. Astrophysicist, author, researcher, and controversial figure regarding his scientific, political, and religious views.

Robert Zemeckis: The enormously talented director of films such as the Back to the Future franchise, Forrest Gump (1994), and Cast Away (2000).

Two and a half hours of lessons about life… on this planet or the next. And Carl Sagan was there since day one to make sure that everyone got the science right. And that everyone got a glimpse of what he “saw”. Of what he envisioned. Unfortunately, halfway there, cancer beat him and left his last breath. He was 62.

Fortunately, his adaptation, his vision, was left in the brilliant hands of Robert Zemeckis. Zemeckis grasped Sagan’s concept of the “Encyclopaedia Galactica” which is based on the science fiction novel “Foundation” by Isaac Asimov and delivered a heartfelt drama about a girl who turned into a woman with the brightest of minds and who wouldn’t stop until she discovered the truth.

The truth that science should be seeking. And not at the expense of people. The same truth that faith in something higher than ourselves should be doing. And again, not at the expense of people. “Contact” is a sci-fi/drama that doesn’t patronise, exploit, manipulate or try to impress with fake, non-coherent, uneducated scientific jargon. It takes its time to find a middle ground between science and religion and make it about not who is right and who isn’t but about respecting the fellow human being who just happens to have a different view of the “cosmos” than ourselves.

It is amazing how the real-life discovery of an arctic meteorite from Mars coincided with the film’s shooting and how Zemeckis grasped the opportunity and adopted Bill Clinton’s actual interview which looks like it is custom-tailored to the film’s discovery. Luck and talent are beyond understanding here.

Lastly, I find it really interesting how in a film that is primarily sci-fi, having so much to offer to our way of thinking, the best shot (my opinion anyway) is a young Ellie running up the stairs, after having found her dad lying on the floor, to get his medicine.

“Contact”… One of the best political, social, humane science fiction you will ever get to watch.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2stTny9

The Man who Killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot (2018): Adventure / Drama / Sci-Fi

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An aged American war veteran is sent to the Canadian wilderness to kill… the Bigfoot.

I had no idea this film existed until I came across the title. And then I said… “Damn! Now I have to know how Hitler and Bigfoot co-exist in the same sentence”. I’ll tell you this, ostensibly, the film makes no sense whatsoever and one would think that writer/director Robert D. Krzykowski smokes way too much. But this is not the case!

This is purely my interpretation of what the film is about so, feel free to have your own should you decide to watch it. An old man who once achieved so much and a nation owes him is left with nothing but his dignity and loneliness in a world he does not understand anymore and no one to share it with. And when he is just about to bite the bullet, the government knocks on his door to assign him with an unfathomable mission, and the opportunity to once more save the world.

Did I say too much? Sam Elliott and Aidan Turner as old and young Calvin Barr respectively and Caitlin FitzGerald as Maxine deliver subtle yet powerful performances making this film with the confusing title an existential drama on the painful feelings of loss and regret. So, what is the rest all about? That’s up to you to figure out.

P.S. The last flashback scene is heartbreaking…

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2Q6CxyF

Prospect (2018): Drama / Sci-fi / Thriller

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Father and daughter land on a planet’s remote, exotic moon to harvest precious gems and get rich but between merciless people and dangerous forest dwellers, escaping becomes the ultimate goal.

Directors Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl shoot the feature version of their homonymous short, on a $3.9m budget. And the result pays off. Well-directed, well-paced and well-acted, Prospect invests in a claustrophobic opening sequence and amazing shots from space. While on the ground, intentionally or unintentionally, the film can be pitched or could have been pitched or maybe it was pitched as “Mad Max in an alien moon”.

Films like Prospect make me more optimistic. It is an indie, low budget sci-fi that pays respect to the genre and the art of cinema with cast and crew fully supporting and believing in it. And so did the fans who applauded its minimalism at the festivals and didn’t care if props and costumes were handmade by, among others, cosplayers!

Inspirational! Well done!

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/39j0DO6

Replicas (2018): Crime / Mystery / Sci-Fi

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After losing his family in a car accident, a synthetic biologist breaks every physical law and ethical barrier to bring them back.

I’ll get right to the point… One of the early debates in the film is between Will Foster – the scientist – and his wife Mona about the existence or not of the “soul”. I don’t know about humans but “Replicas” definitely lacks it. Writer Chad St. John seems to know about the tech side of the film but he, director Jeffrey Nachmanoff and the production team seem to neglect the emotional side; the feeling of desolation that absolutely ruins a man upon losing his family, the feeling of joining them, the feeling of lying down and not getting up ever. Much less, not lying down at all and have the clarity to apply science levels you have never applied before. Especially from Chad St. John I would expect more as he also wrote Peppermint (2018) where he emphasised a lot on the assassination of Riley North’s (Jennifer Garner) family and the soul-crushing aftermath.

And from an, allegedly, thought-provoking sci-fi/drama turns into action… I don’t want to keep on going, you got the gist. “Replicas” is a messy, soulless film that cast and crew, from pre to postproduction, didn’t believe in. It could have been a lot more. Shame.

If you fancy watching it, you can find it here: https://amzn.to/2u0IiFv

Glass (2019): Drama / Sci-Fi / Thriller

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A security guard with extraordinary abilities tracks down a dangerous man with twenty-four personalities while the mastermind patiently awaits.

Nineteen years later, “Glass” finally makes it to the big screen only to give some answers and raise more questions. M. Night Shyamalan’s heroes and villains from “Unbreakable” (2000) and “Split” (2016) are brought together, unite, believe and doubt themselves and each other, and eventually clash. Here’s what happened straight after the film was released: It was pounded by the critics and deified by the audience. I guess the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes.

The pace is the main issue. The two hours seem significantly longer as the first act seems a bit rushed whereas the second, due to the lengthy psychotherapeutic verbosity that ostensibly leads nowhere, drags and feels like a marathon. As for the third act, since it’s a Shyamalan film, I can’t say anything without giving away spoilers. What I can say is though is that there are certain concerns regarding the unbelievability of certain events, and events that give the trilogy a whole new direction you will either love or hate. A bold move but, at the end of the day, that’s Shyamalan for you.

Mr. Glass’s character development is another issue. He has become as intelligent as the script needs him to be. And that is partially why the story is led to a certain direction that, on occasion, lacks common sense. Then there is the when and how everything is happening; the timing, the understaffed hospital, the low security, the underdeveloped final clash…

BUT… don’t go in there with your own expectations of how you would like it to begin, develop, or end. Remember that with Shyamalan’s films one can only wonder if what they are watching is the end or merely the beginning. If it helps, focus on the acting which is breathtaking. The, once again, meticulously chosen hero colour pattern. The directing and the photography which makes it a world-class thriller. And keep in mind that the characters from “Unbreakable” (2000) and “Split” (2016) belong to two different studios which collaborated for the first time (and according to Shyamalan probably the last) to bring this project to life. So, a lot of Industry Professionals truly believed in it.

Think of “Glass” as a confrontation of a man’s ultimate altruism against another man’s monstrosity, orchestrated by a third man who believes that humans would be physically and mentally capable of everything… if they only knew how to trigger their true identity.

Or don’t think of any reviews or critiques, just go and watch it, and see for yourselves…

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

Unbreakable (2000): Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi

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A comic book gallery owner discovers that the lone survivor of a horrible accident has an amazing ability.

It is only befitting to review this one at this point in time and… you know which one is going to be next! Now that “Glass” (2019) has been heavily promoted as the third part of an otherwise stealthy trilogy, “Unbreakable” has been given a lot more gravitas.

When it was first released in 2000 some people loved it, some people laughed at it, some people were just left scratching their heads. I will avoid major spoilers about the ending just in case someone hasn’t watched it yet. As a standalone, there was really no closure. When it comes to ‘Mr. Glass’, justice was served. But what about David Dunn? He finally found his calling, and then what? Was that the end of the hero’s journey? To discover an ability and do nothing with it afterwards?

As part of a trilogy, the scope changes. It makes you now want to go back and watch it again, get to know the characters once more, and see how they can potentially be connected to the 24 personalities of Kevin Crumb in “Split” (2018) before you go to the cinema and watch “Glass” (2019). Remember the scene at the football stadium when David Dunn heads for the drug dealer? What if you suspected that the mother and child he brushes past and senses child abuse just before, is believed to be little Kevin with his mom? Hmm…

Anyway, “Unbreakable” is arguably M.Night Shyamalan’s most innovative and resourceful directing, Eduardo Serra’s darkest cinematography, and one of the best James Newton Howard’s score. It marks the fourth collaboration between Bruce Willis and Samuel Jackson who are both irreplaceable. Memorable moments:

  • The hooded rain poncho obscuring Dunn’s face.
  • Long tracking shots and high and low camera angles to create the illusion we are in a graphic novel.
  • Repeatedly seeing Mr. Glass through or around glass to remind us of his connection with it but also his weakness.
  • Respectively, the raincoat David Dunn wears in most scenes to “protect” himself from the rain (water).
  • The graphic novel’s colour patterns; Dunn wears green and Glass purple.
  • Speaking of, the saturated colours over the muted colours at the station.

“Unbreakable” is not a superhero film, yet it follows the hero’s self-discovery path. And even though it is not a graphic novel adaptation, is most definitely made that way to “beam us up” to the narrative storytelling of the world of pictures.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/39bP6js

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stargate (1994): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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The discovery of a mysterious device in Egypt will teleport a linguist and a Colonel with a military mission galaxies away to a world where Ra rules over an ancient civilization.

Who built the pyramids? How were the pyramids built? When were the pyramids built? Blending history with fiction, Rolland Emmerich manages to build up an engaging premise surrounding the aforementioned questions which, to this day, people post online or publish books and articles.

“Stargate” has everything. Brilliant directing and photography, strong storyline, relatable characters, impressive visual and sound effects, great performances, excellent music score, and right editing pace. A solid sci-fi flick with no kitsch and no cliche, offering an entertaining take on Egyptian Mythology that will especially satisfy the thought-provoking conspiracy-lovers believing that once the aliens paid us a visit. And not only.

That said, between them and those who think that “Stargate” contains “Americans liberating the world” right-wing hidden messages, “religion is oppressive” beliefs, and “power to the people” left-wing ideologies… I’ll side with the “Aliens built the pyramids mirroring Orion” dudes…

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/351f5a0

Bird Box (2018): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

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In a post-apocalyptic present, a mother with two kids run for their lives as a menacing presence of unknown origin, when seen, forces people to take their own lives.

Here’s the film’s obvious pitch: “The Happening” (2008) meets “A Quiet Place” (2018). Let me put it this way… It doesn’t meet either. Both of them raise important questions but provide, to a certain level, some answers leaving the viewer speculating about the cause and effect based on the clues they provided.

“Bird Box” raises questions and doesn’t bother at all with answers. No one with the basic level of intelligence will stare at the ceiling as the end credits roll down contemplating what potentially could these entities (?) be. Not revealing them is absolutely fine in my books. The unseen yet sensed ominous presence can be terrifying indeed. Not revealing their origins, their purpose, their powers, nothing whatsoever, makes them as unrelatable as the characters themselves. So, yeah, there is that too.

Susanne Bier has done a terrific job behind the camera. “Bird Box” is a well-shot, well edited, and well-produced film. So, I will quote (again) Howard Hawks: “You can’t fix a bad script after you start shooting. The problems on the page only get bigger as they move to the big screen”. Months before, Netflix also produced “How it Ends” (2018) with the reviews being as embarrassing as they come – especially on how it ends! I guess history teaches us that we are not taught from history after all…

Sandra Bullock is still an amazing actress and still keeps nailing the parts she gets. Even in this one. So, I really hope that we see her in films she deserves to be in and not films like “Ocean’s Eight” (2018). Actually, I hope we never have to see again any film like “Ocean’s Eight” (2018). Not even blindfolded…

Never Let Me Go (2010): Drama / Sci-Fi

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Three kids who grew up together in a posh, strict, and ostensibly ordinary boarding school, become young adults and face the life they were destined to have.

How would you feel if you found out your whole life is already chosen for you? How about both chosen for you and a lie? Once I thought that sci-fi without visual effects is like a lift without a mirror. How wrong was I?! “Never Let Me Go” is not the only film that makes it to that list. But it makes it to the top – my humble opinion anyway.

Its strongest suits:

  • Kazuo Ishiguro’s powerful existential drama diving into the human psyche.
  • Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley delivering electrifying performances.
  • Rachel Portman’s enthralling and spellbinding score.
  • Mark Romanek’s best film yet.

The film’s pace might put the average viewer off. It is a slow burn but it is of great importance not only to understand the characters but to become them. See life how they see it. Experience pain how they do. Be there for them when they curse the day they were brought to life.

The book goes into deeper depths analyzing or emphasizing characters and situations, and that way, everything becomes clearer in the end. The film doesn’t and therefore it raises more questions than answers.

Be patient and pay attention to the details. With acting that brings tears to your eyes and soundtrack that adds “hope, humanity, and heartbeat” in an alternate, seemingly heartless reality, “Never Let Me Go” is a depressingly beautiful, cinematic adaptation that strikes a chord.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2MB7poz

Jumper (2008): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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A man with teleporting abilities, living a carefree life, gets caught in an ancient war between Jumpers and Paladins.

There is a lot of negativity surrounding this film. It was meant to be a franchise but the box office results scratched the idea off the producers’ mind. From where I stand, Michael Rooker has been under-utilized. For a guy who usually does the villain in the story, it’s really great to see him as a washed-up yet filled with remorse dad who pays the price. I would definitely want to see more of him on the screen. Samuel Jackson is always great but could have been even greater as the fanatic Paladin. Reciting passages from the Bible like in “Pulp Fiction” (1994) would have elevated his character to the sky.

Jamie Bell is always at his best so there is nothing much to say, which leaves us with Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson (who got engaged after the film). Once again, there could have been a strong story between them – and even stronger subtext for the film – after what happened in their childhood years.

To cut the long story short, production and budgetary issues watered down what could have been a brilliant story and a brilliant film. That said, it definitely deserves a watch as you’ll spend an entertaining hour and a half forgetting about your own problems. For this one, my round of applause goes to the visual and sound effect department. Spot on!

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2tZ2Gqr

Franklyn (2008): Drama / Fantasy / Sci-Fi

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Loss and despair connect four troubled souls in two intermingled, alternate realities.

I have spoken of underrated films before but “Franklyn” definitely gets the cake. I watched it almost ten years ago and so much I wanted to talk about it with someone who had watched it as well. But no one had. And to this very day, hardly anyone still has.

Gerald McMorrow, possessing exceptional intellectual ability, is the artistic mind behind the camera, who writes and directs something unique as “Franklyn”. Despair, escalating to delusion, paranoia, and schizophrenia, all fester the human mind and soul, shape people’s fate, and twist (?) the concept of religion. In front of the camera, Eva Green, Ryan Phillippe, Sam Riley, Bernard Hill, and the late Susannah York will hold you spellbound with their performances.

Two strong elements in the film that I feel like sharing: The perception’s immense power and the father’s unconditional love.

“Franklyn” is art. And like any other form of art, it examines the world through its own prism. I guess it is up to us to examine our world through our own life’s prism.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/35589cc

Mail Order Monster (2018): Drama / Family / Sci-Fi

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A little girl is trying to cope, after having lost her mom, while dealing with life itself, bullies, and her father with his new girlfriend by putting together… a robot.

A low budget, indie, PG film which Jax Productions and Stay Relevant Productions managed to bring to life with respect to family values. Loss, grief, rejection, love, and self-reflection have been responsible for causing all of us sleepless nights throughout the course of our life. And Paulina Lagudi, with skill, imagination, and artistic temperament produces, writes, and directs a heartfelt story on nights like that.

Josh Hopkins does a brilliant job as a dad trying to do his best, and it’s really nice to see the always mesmerizing Charisma Carpenter as the “woman next door” relying solely on her acting. Last, but definitely not least, look out for the incredible Madison Horcher and Emma Rayne Lyle who, given the opportunity, will be two of the most sought-after actresses of their age.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2ZvO2CO

Kin (2018): Action / Sci-Fi

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Mysterious humanoid entities, a vindictive gang, and the authorities are after a young man that just came out of prison and his little brother who is in possession of a hyper-advanced weapon.

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that “Kin” is a solid film. So why’s that, uh? Because it tanked! And we won’t see more of it! Homage to “The Terminator” (1984) and “Aliens” (1986) (both by James Cameron), “Kin” flies entirely under the radar and massively underdevelops at the box office. Really shame! I would love to have watched it at the cinema as both the visual and sound effects are imposing but I was totally oblivious to its existence. Well… if it wasn’t for the critics once more I guess. You know what… I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve spoken about it.

And if you are wondering “what are you doing then?”, I’m telling you that I may be reviewing films but it is their intentions that I criticize and I’m after. And “Kin”, even though flawed, it has noble intentions. It is an action/sci-fi PG-13 flick with a relatable subplot, decent action sequences, not original, yet entertaining sci-fi concept, and a whole cast and crew that believes in it and gives it their all. And that includes Mogwai’s brilliant soundtrack.

Feel like staying in? “Kin” is available on DVD and Bluray waiting.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2SqQ45o

What Happened to Monday (2017): Action / Crime / Drama

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Seven identical sisters are being hunted down in an overpopulated world where all families are limited to one child.

Noomi Rapace portrays brilliantly all seven identical sisters in this action flick that, overall, looks like “Orphan Black” (2013) meets “Minority Report” (2002) meets “The Matrix” (1999). Tommy Wirkola, an expert in the comedy/horror genre [“Dead Snow” (2009)], takes “What Happened to Monday” more seriously creating an interesting sci-fi which, interestingly enough, IMDb doesn’t classify as “sci-fi”.

Regardless of the semantics, Netflix hit the nail buying the copyrights for this dystopian thriller that despite its minor flaws, impossibilities, and fair amount of negative reviews, it manages to entertain, and raise certain ethical, social, and political questions that, when all motives are revealed, will make you think twice on who to cast your stone at.

Well done to the whole international cast and crew who managed to pull it off and bring out a Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov-like world.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/36c1Jcg

Arrival (2016): Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi

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I could write a thesis on “Arrival”… I’ve been to a linguistics seminar, I’ve been to a psychology on perception seminar… Most of the known sciences out there can analyse “Arrival”, each from its own perspective. It is hard to elaborate on its key points without giving away spoilers so I will choose my very few words extremely carefully. Whether you have watched it or not, maybe you’ll find my standpoint somewhat useful – I hope so anyway.

There are three concepts you need to pay attention to:

  • Language
  • Time
  • Perception

Keeping these in mind, here’s the film’s concept: Louise, a renowned linguist, and Ian, a distinguished mathematician – among others – are enlisted by Colonel Weber, after twelve alien spacecrafts suddenly appear, ostensibly randomly, around the world. As the big nations are planning on attacking the spacecrafts, Louise is racing against time to find a way to communicate with the aliens and prevent a global disaster.

Then the end credits scroll down… And now, years later, I still find myself pseudo-wondering, what do I really know about these concepts? But shortly after, as usual, life snaps me out of it and then I wonder, what do I really know about anything?

I salute the cast and crew for mastering such depth and complexity.

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

The Darkest Minds (2018): Sci-Fi / Thriller

 

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Here’s what both you and I know: Most kids died and an adult world hunts down and imprisons the remaining ones as they have abilities. Go figure…

I’ll try to be civilized and ask some questions that, hopefully, might get you thinking. When you write and then read a formulaic script that “bad” is not even the word, do you know it? Production-wise, when you force multiracial cast to do better at the box office, how do you feel? In America (obesity’s motherland) how come no one’s fat? Even worse, how come every person on screen could as well be an underwear model? Is this how you need to look like nowadays to be promised a career as a thespian? What is it with Hollywood’s obsession to create glamourized films and franchises where weaponized revolutionary kids fight weaponized conformed kids and a decadent, unreasonably, incomprehensive system – see “The Hunger Games” (2012), “Divergent” (2014), “The Maze Runner” (2014), “The 5th Wave” (2016), now this one…

I find unfathomable beauty in films – Asian, European, American (Hollywood or not) – that don’t have background music all the time to instruct me how to feel. Where their stories leave a lot to the imagination and are open to interpretation. Films that respect principles and don’t use them and abuse them, and monetize them to satisfy pockets. And for the teens out there who fall for these polished, pseudo “I wanna fight fellow teens and government for freedom” bullshit, check out “Battle Royal” (2000) and weep.

If you still want to watch it, you can find it here: https://amzn.to/37mwY4X

The Meg (2018): Action / Horror / Sci-Fi

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Check this one, yeah? A producer walks into his office, sits down, and reads this script…

An experienced diver/rescuer saves literally the last minute a bunch of people while a couple of them, absolutely doomed/didn’t stand a chance, die. The doctor, who was one of the survivors and would be dead if it wasn’t for the diver, accuse him of cowardice.

Give it about a year, the retired diver is now round-the-clock shitfaced, gets a visit by an old colleague, gets offered a rescue mission, says no, takes it, saves everyone except one, in a half-naked scene is revealed to us that the beers he had been necking had steroids, one of the fit survivors accuse him of cowardice, falls in love with him anyway, they kill the Meg, then there is another Meg bigger than the first Meg, the diver rips the second Meg apart, saves the world, gets the girl. Jason vs Meg: 1-0.

The enthralled producer makes it to the “FADE OUT”, picks up the phone, dials a number and says: “Give them $130,000,000”!

If you fancy a good laugh, you can find it here: https://amzn.to/39iwf6j

Venom (2018): Action / Sci-Fi

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A lot could be said about this film and the reviews surrounding it but I’m going to keep it short and to the point.

In the graphic novels, Eddie Brock is shady. Really shady. His moral compass takes a one-way ticket. It is all about him and his career as a reporter. Then, Venom comes along, they find each other, and together they develop the ultimate hatred for Spiderman. Over the years, between Venom and Spiderman, numerous timelines have been spawned. To cut the long story short, Eddie Brock/Venom is a supervillain.

Sony’s Venom starts by being murderous and then, due to a not shady Eddie Brock, he stops eating people’s heads and just damages (severely) whoever gets in his way. Here, Eddie Brock is an honest, everyday relatable guy who just tries to keep his head above water and turns Venom into an antihero.

Separate these two in your head and just get entertained. Tom Hardy does a great job, the VFX team nails it, the script has the right amount of character development, laugh, action, and the final outcome stands tall on its own. If I were to pick on something, that would be the fight between Riot and Venom where I was struggling to figure out who is hurting whom and how.

Just enjoy it!

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

Coherence (2013): Mystery / Sci-fi / Thriller

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The epitome of an indie, low budget, single location film!  The absolute mind-f@!# that, through largely impromptu dialogue and genuine reactions, makes you question who you are, and/or who you could have been, in multiple, alternate, fractured realities.

A round of applause for the Director, the Production team, and the actors who achieved this with $50K, in 5 nights, with 2 cameras, in 1 location.

A piece of advice: Instinctively, you will try to rationalize and keep track of what is happening. When you start feeling your brain cells frying, STOP!

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

On The Beach (2000): Drama, Sci-Fi

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Almost 15 years ago, late at night, I watched it in my basement (drinking and smoking) and, in the end, three hours+ later, plastered, I was left wondering “is anyone alive”??? Over three hours of the perfect balance between world scale and personal drama/suffering that will depress and haunt you at the same time. Don’t be afraid of getting sucked into what could be the end of mankind.

P.S. I tried to watch it sober last month again – got sauced halfway there.

P.P.S. At least I’ve quit smoking…

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/35VORHg

Await Further Instructions (2018): Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi

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It is my humble opinion that when one writes a script to raise more questions than to provide answers, they need, at least, an out of the ordinary ending – a twist, that actually introduces that radical change in the direction after acts one and two. Also, especially in one-location films, characters must be relatable and compelling. This is neither the case here but acting gets a round of applause. All in all, it was an admirable effort but it could be a lot better.

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