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…

Angel Has Fallen (2019): Action / Thriller

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Having been framed for the attempted assassination of the President, Mike Banning is on the run trying to uncover the conspiracy behind the attack.

I’ll start with the good news, they are less. Endless shooting accompanied by foul language, and big-time clobbering is the recipe to forget all of your problems for two hours; Angel is entertaining. What’s more, there are plenty of explosions with propelled, dead bodies flying all over.

Now for the bad news… The writing and directing of Angel are unoriginal. There are no twists. At all! There is no suspense, there is no character development but fear not there is cliche aplenty. Have you ever heard before “He knows all of our moves”? Yet, it made decent money globally. The whole “Has Fallen” trilogy is that side of Hollywood that sacrifices quality without blinking. It is the side of Hollywood that doesn’t appreciate the cinema experience, bins the narrative, mocks logic, defies continuity montage, disregards human intelligence, and solely focuses on M.O.N.E.Y. I could write a thesis on what the film has failed at but as my film reviews are meant to be short, I’ll stop here. Plus, I would get depressed halfway.

The one and only Morgan Freeman is there for the money, Gerald Butler is always the right man for the job, and so is the amazing Piper Perabo. If you want to see Gerald and Piper at their absolute best though, RocknRolla (2008) and Coyote Ugly (2000) are what you need to watch.

Anna (2019): Action / Thriller

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Having hit rock bottom, Anna gets a visit from KGB who offers a way out by training her to become an assassin.

“Luc Besson: Making Assassins Since 1990”. And after Anna, I think the business comes to an end. Let me step back a bit though… Anna has nothing to offer to the genre. It has nothing to add to the numerous films on assassins out there neither from a narrative point of view nor from a filmmaking point of view. Actually, from any point of view. The story remains exactly as it was 30 years ago, and so does the character, but the film doesn’t. The film deteriorates. It becomes repetitive with less and less to offer while other films such as John Wick (2014) and Atomic Blonde (2017) dominate the critics’ reviews and box office alike.

But this is not why the business is going down. After the Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) fiasco, EuropaCorp took a major blow. Anna was meant to make the company recover but Besson’s unsubstantial personal shenanigans came out, studios backed down, distribution got axed, and Anna rubbed salt to the already existing, massive wound.

EuropaCorp may not recover from this hit. I just hope Sasha Luss finds the life jacket in that sinking ship as she has been, unfortunately, in both films. She’s a successful international model and her acting skills have proved to be solid. I wish her all the best as I wish to Besson. I grew up with his films and I still believe he has a lot more to offer to the industry.

Avengement (2019): Action / Crime / Thriller

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After years of imprisonment, a man manages to escape and heads straight for the people responsible that made his life inside a living hell.

Fifth collaboration between Jesse V. Johnson and Scott Adkins with this one and Savage Dog (2017) being my favourite ones. Originally from Sutton Coldfield, only a few miles away from where I live, Adkins is the man for the job. He trains hard and, once in front of the camera, he pours his soul out for us to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. I have a recommendation though and I address it to Johnson: With the protracted tracking shots being used more and more all over the world, I would really love to see Adkins in longer, uncut shots doing what he does best. Films like Ong-bak (2003) and Yip Man (2008) have raised the bar sky-high and I have the ultimate confidence that the Brits can do it as well. I really want to see it happening; longer shots = less editing = more continuous action. Avengement has these gritty fights that Johnson’s previous films lacked and Adkins, regardless, always delivers. Craig Fairbrass, Thomas Turgoose, Nick Moran, Kierston Wareing, and Leo Gregory are, as always, brilliant.

I hope The Debt Collector 2 (2020) adds something even more to the equation and that their successful collaboration keeps improving. Adkins needs more spotlight as he has the talent that makes martial artists half his age weep.

 

The Crow (1994): Action / Drama / Fantasy

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A man, after been brutally murdered, comes back to life to avenge his and his fiancée’s death by killing the ones responsible one by one.

Even though deeply stigmatised and remembered as the film that Brandon Lee was killed, The Crow still remains Lee’s legacy and a ’90s goth, revenge, Halloween classic. One of Alex Proyas’ finest films that unfortunately spawned sequels that should have never been made. Ranked 37th in IGN’s Top 100 Comic Book Heroes, the film has significant differences to the graphic novel but, proudly growing up with it, I can reassure you that, despite its flaws, it will be admired by every future generation to come.

The production details vary from ground-breaking VFX to complete the film after Lee’s death, to sets getting destroyed, to numerous people getting injured, and to cast and crew constantly abusing cocaine from the set to the toilets. Regardless, if you grew up with it as well, it will take you for a stroll down memory lane and if you were too young or not born yet, it will travel you to an analog world before the digital era took over.

Both father and son will always live in our hearts.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019): Action / Drama

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After Breaking Bad finale’s massacre, Jesse Pinkman, the sole survivor and now Albuquerque’s most wanted, goes to extra lengths to gather money and flee the country.

It’s only natural to have the highest expectations after having finished Breaking Bad (2008–2013). That’s right, 9 years ago! But El Camino is closure for Pinkman and not for the series. It is important to realise that it doesn’t settle any scores. It is about a man, doing everything in his power to get away and start clean. That’s what El Camino is about. The combination of Netflix announcing it and pitching it the last minute, and people not even wanting to watch the trailer to avoid any kind of spoilers created false expectations, hence the mixed reviews and feelings.

On a final note, Aaron Paul proves to be a brilliant actor once more. And my last sentence is a farewell to the great, astonishing, mesmerising, and colossal human being and actor… Robert Forster! RIP!

Crawl (2019): Action / Drama / Horror

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During a category 5 hurricane, a young woman attempts to save her trapped, estranged father from his flooding and inundated with alligators basement.

An action, drama, horror flick that will make you forget your problems for about an hour and a half. Alexandre Aja makes Crawl a tad more serious than Piranha 3D (2010), adding a pinch of a background story to the characters that is very early washed away by the flood and replaced by gimmicks and cliches. Unfortunately, it is easily forgettable. It leaves you with nothing to talk or think about once the end credits start scrolling down. Kaya Scodelario is definitely the right actress for the role and one day we’ll get to watch her in a film that will leave us with our jaw dropped. She’s an extremely talented actress and she deserves all the spotlight she can get. I’ve been a Barry Pepper fan for years but Crawl is not the reason.

Alexandre Aja will, one day, find the way back and direct a horror that will take your breath away. The horror genre needs him and his unconventional ‘eye’ desperately. He is way better than jump scares and yawnsome sequences that solely rely on sound effects. Haute Tension (2003) and The Hills Have Eyes (2006) are an original and a remake that beats the original respectively which speak volumes of his talent and skills. I don’t know what Space Adventure Cobra (announced) is, but I hope the one after that makes me indeed, once again, forget to breathe.

P.S. I hope Sam Raimi comes back to horror as well. He’s been sorely missed…

Sucker Punch (2011): Action / Adventure / Fantasy

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After losing her mother and accidentally killing her sister, a young girl gets institutionalised, mentally withdrawing to an alternate reality, to produce an escape plan.

There is no real need for yet another review on Sucker Punch but, stumbling upon a horrible critique the other day, I felt like watching it again and writing about it. Directing, acting, cinematography, visual & sound effects, editing, music, casting, costume design, makeup, art direction, stunt coordination, choreography… get 10/10.  The opening sequence alone could be a landmark for montage in the 21st century’s Hollywood.

As for the script, this is an excruciatingly dramatic story written and uniquely developed by Zack Snyder. A more symbolic logline could be: A fragile, young girl descends into madness after reality hits her harder than she could ever imagine, not even giving her the time or arsenal to defend herself. Possibly the most artistic way of examining the mind’s coping mechanisms in multiple layers. Read between the lines; there is a huge amount of information waiting to be discovered. For more spoilers, have a look at this one. Very interesting: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0978764/trivia?item=tr1610675

It’s always easy to cast stones and judge from the comfort of our couch. To go out there and actually do though is what takes real “cojones”. You don’t have to like it. Whoever thinks s/he can do a better job, by all means, give it a shot – and write about your experience. The number of hours and amount of effort put to bring such a film to life is beyond understanding. If you are passionate about German expressionism, Italian neorealism, experimental/avant-garde, or even art-house cinema and you still decide to watch it and don’t like it… at least don’t attack it.

They say words are mightier than the sword. Unfortunately, in this case, it proved to be true.

 

Cold Pursuit (2019): Action / Crime / Drama

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After his son gets murdered, a snowplow driver tracks down and goes after everyone responsible for his death.

Hans Petter Moland, writer/director of films with a unique character such as Aberdeen (2000) and his latest Out Stealing Horses (2019), impresses this time by remaking his own film In Order of Disappearance (2014) – all three led by Stellan Skarsgård. The film was shot in early 2017 but was released only recently. I guess it would have done better had it been released before a controversial interview Liam Neeson gave earlier this year.

Politics aside, Cold Pursuit is enjoyable adding some dark comedy to the aforementioned genres, resembling Fargo (1996) and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999). Julia Jones, Emmy Rossum, and Tom Bateman stand out. A lot of similarities can be found with the original film, especially in tone and rhythm, and both of them make one wonder who was Nels Coxman before…

Destroyer (2018): Action / Crime / Drama

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A broken LAPD detective follows a lead on an old case that got her to the decadent state she currently is.

Brilliant concept and even more brilliant execution! Karyn Kusama and Nicole Kidman shine behind and in front of the camera respectively. Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan, and Scoot McNairy provide amazing support, completing a film – a masterpiece I’ll dare to say – that will keep making you question what you know and what you think you know. NOT a Hollywood recipe, and NOT for an impatient audience. An existential, slow-burn, dark, indie cop-drama set in two timelines, holding no punches.

A definite must-watch! You can like it or dislike it afterwards.