Do The Right Thing (1989): Comedy / Drama

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

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

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

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

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21 Bridges (2019): Action / Crime / Drama

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A drug robbery goes horribly bad, police officers get killed, and a hard as nails cop shuts down Manhattan in order to get them.

It feels like anything positive I have to say about the film is going to be generic and everything that is wrong will be thoroughly detailed. So, I’ll try to balance it out. The corruption in the police is old news. One man fighting against the system, too. The fact that racism is left out is hopeful. And shutting down Manhattan to achieve a bust is… innovative. 21 Bridges is definitely entertaining and will make you forget your problems for an hour and forty minutes. But implausibility becomes a major issue.

It’s giving me the sense that a third of the film is missing. A third of the film has been left in the editing room. In an hour and forty minutes, we don’t get enough character development. ‘Trigger’ doesn’t earn his name and yet it shows towards the end that he has skills. Ray (brilliantly played by the always brilliant Taylor Kitsch), the guy that is not to be messed with no matter what does not get the time (or opportunity) to go against ‘Trigger’ and give us, the audience, a spectacle. So, their brief encounter is anticlimactic. Then, the four hours script-time (the timeframe in which the cop killers need to get caught) must be squeezed into less than an hour screen-time with action that happens way too fast and disillusions the magic. To cut the long story short, the parallel action is at warp speed, jumping from one clue to the next, leading to resolution, leaving us with no absorption of any information. With the Russo Brothers putting on the producers’ hat, I would expect more detail, especially with character development.

To finish up on a good note, the robbery in the opening act is meticulously shot, with the editing offering clean cuts and, coincidentally, clean action. Also, Chadwick Boseman is the right man for the role and if you want to see him properly unfolding his action skills, watch Message from the King (2016).

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…

In The Blink of An Eye (2019)

Being an Anthology of the Further Legends of Ellicott City’s Blink Man

Edited by K. Patrick Glover

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In January 2019, I watched and reviewed Erik Kristopher Meyers’ Butterfly Kisses (2018) – https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2019/01/30/butterfly-kisses-2018-documentary-horror/. Myers’ documentary/horror became a fresh approach to the kind of horror that has faced a lot of ups and downs over the decades. His fresh approach proved that the genre is not dead yet and that, in the right hands, it has still a lot of scares to offer.

The mystery of Peeping Tom/Blink Man and the Ilchester Tunnel has become an urban legend. From Hagerstown to Ellicott City, his story has ‘travelled’ through hearsay, horrifically realistic imagination and utterly nonsensical descriptions. Regardless, when K. Patrick Glover met one day Myers, the two of them gathered some incredibly descriptive authors and put these stories together. Will you manage to tell which story is based on (un)substantial evidence and which one isn’t? No. Will you recognise the truth when you read it? No, you will not. The real question is, does it matter? No, it does not. Because you will allow yourself to live the suffering, the horror, and the agony that these (non)fictional people endured. ‘In the Blink of an Eye’ is the blurry line between two worlds. One of them is real, and one isn’t. Turn off the lights while reading, and your inevitable human curiosity in finding out which one’s which will inadvertently become a descent to folkloric paranoia.

Highly recommended for the horror fans and not only as it generates a lot more questions than it aims to answer. ‘Blink Man’, the legend under the microscope, turns the tables and the observer becomes the observee. Humans turn into a case study themselves as he brings out the murky and obscure ways the human mind creates realities. Man’s unprecedented archetypal fears take over reason and interpret what we sense – or we truly believe we sense – through an unbeknownst to us chaotic, ghastly prism.

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.

Doctor Sleep (2019): Drama / Fantasy / Horror

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Dan Torrance, years after the horrific events of The Shining, a disheveled adult now, must overcome his fears and protect a young girl with a similar ‘shine’ from a cult that feeds on gifted children.

Imagine you are a young and successful director granted permission to write and direct the sequel to a film adaptation famously hated by the author of the book on which it was based, and that that same author will be your producer. Let’s make it more intricate by saying that the previously adapted film became a horror landmark, but the author – who hated it – made his own mini-series version that was… unremarkable. More interestingly, both the author and the director were Grandmasters in their departments respectively; the author is called Stephen King and the director Stanley Kubrick. Which adaptation is your sequel based on?

As a lifetime fan of both Kubrick and King, and a recent fan of the young and successful writer/director Mike Flanagan, this review hurts more than anything I have typed so far. Flanagan did a lot of things right: He recreated the sets of the Overlook hotel with surgical precision, the ’80s characters as he supposed to, cast the right actors for the right roles, and a sequence that truly pays homage to The Shining (1980): The moment between Danny entering the Overlook Hotel and Rose arriving.

Unfortunately, these positive aspects are overshadowed by the script. A script that was written in such a way as to satisfy both King and the true Shining fans. A recipe for failure. The risks start accumulating automatically the moment you decide to pick up from where Kubrick left off. Steven Spielberg, one of the best directors of our time, sat at the director’s seat and finished off A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) after Kubrick sadly passed, and even he faced backlash for doing so. The script here faces a lot of issues in terms of both character and story development. Indicatively (no spoilers), just to get an idea, the characters have an undetermined level of shines both in terms of quantity and quality. Incidentally, that causes serious issues with the strategies followed by both heroes and villains before, during, and after the standoff.

The Shining is a psychological horror that turns into a paranormal horror in an invisible and inexplicable to the viewer way. Stanley Kubrick directed it with mastery, Jack Nicholson delivered a breathtaking performance (Shelley Duvall paid a heavy price), and we, the audience, jumped from one kind of horror to the other with our jaws on the floor. Doctor Sleep is an amalgamation sequel of two incompatible versions that are heavily undecided as to whether to be psychological or paranormal, ending up being neither.

Despite the tempting references to other King films as well, I would suggest that you didn’t consider it a direct sequel. Instead, you should watch the series Castle Rock (2018 – Present) which has finally managed to do what other productions have failed to do in the past (no spoilers) and does so with great success.

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

Rambo: Last Blood (2019): Action / Adventure / Thriller

 

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When the girl who raised as his own daughter gets kidnapped by Mexican human traffickers, Rambo goes on a rampage to get her back.

Let me tell you a story about John Rambo… Behind the American propaganda, and behind the real-life wars that affected real-life people in the real-life world, Rambo, as a fictional character, is a man not so different from you and me. With desires, wants, needs, feelings, and emotions. That said, he’s a natural-born killer. In Rambo: First Blood (1982), we get to see that he’s a misled soldier who has realised he is carrying this ‘curse’ and upon running out of missions to complete, all he needs is to be left alone as the world makes no sense to him. It never did and probably never will.

Cutting to Last Blood, the ‘curse’ has not been lifted but now he has found a (mission) purpose; the daughter he never got to have. The story is solid, don’t get me wrong. The idea behind Last Blood makes it a Rambo film through and through. Its development becomes the problem though. Director Adrian Grunberg, actor/writer/producer Sylvester Stallone, and the studios should have revised and tightened the script up, deciding on its tone, rhythm, pace, and continuity. Gabrielle’s father switches, in a blink of an eye, in a way I am still scratching my beard. Human trafficker Hugo Martinez knows military combat communication (somehow) but no tactics at all, and the story itself holds back on dramatic intensity, especially surrounding deaths, and goes full throttle on brutal violence like anything you’ve seen in the previous installments. Last but not least, it feels as if the writers for a few minutes forgot who Rambo is and sent him straight to an ambush that a 5 y/o would have seen blindfolded – still scratching the beard. By the way, I totally didn’t see one event coming though (no spoilers). You can read here about the funny or comic versions of other scripts that were handed in at the time before the studios chose this one to be the one: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1206885/trivia?item=tr4768586

These are the inconsistencies I am talking about. Make sure you watch the extended R-rated version which is a lot more… juicy! Be it as it may, the action is indeed brutal and if you want to blow some steam off just put it on and hit ‘Play’. Do not try to find plot holes, it’s not productive. After all, it’s not every year the year that two major franchises that my generation grew up with come to an end – https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/01/16/terminator-dark-fate-2019-action-adventure-sci-fi/.

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.

 

Luce (2019): Drama

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Luce, a black kid adopted from war-torn Eritrea by a white couple, becomes an excellent school student and a political statement but a series of obscure and ostensibly unrelated events gradually reveal everyone’s true colours.

I think that IMDb got it wrong here. They put ‘Drama’ under the title when they should have described it as ‘Thriller/Drama’. Let me explain… What’s at stake in Luce is the portrayal of the American educational system as a business. The selective promotion of an ethnic minority’s minority to the outside world, solely benefiting the system, labeling this person or group as a brand, and making them the poster child of what the system allegedly represents. That hypocritic notion is Luce‘s dramatic aspect. But this notion is wrapped by its thrilling development – by J.C. Lee – into a script. Character-wise, everyone – but one – is guilty. Everyone throughout the film either reveals or gets obvious that has lied at least once or has been withholding crucial to the story information. Something that Julius Onah’s directing and Madeleine Gavin’s editing unfold very meticulously. The music carefully dictates the film’s tone, adding the eerie atmosphere of an A-class thriller. DOP Larkin Seiple with surgical precision frames everything, including only what you need to see – and not what you would like to. Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Octavia Spencer, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. shine in front of the lens, creating amazing chemistry, and make you love them and then loathe them, even love them and loathe them at the same time. But… the (not guilty) one holding no punches whatsoever and steals the spotlight is none other than Marsha Stephanie Blake. Hair-raising performance!

For better or for worse my role is to do film analysis and not politics even though most of the times I can’t help myself. Watch it and jump to your own conclusions regarding what is wrong with the US educational system, one of America’s most sore points. Interesting is also the subplot; the fear of expression due to the pushed and rushed political correction imposed nowadays and the questionable movements all around the world that aim to skin you alive if you dare to offend anyone – even unintentionally.

Don’t miss this one out. Don’t let it go under the radar.

You can find it here:

US: https://amzn.to/2FzFMsd / https://amzn.to/36I1feA