Papillon (2017): Adventure / Biography / Crime

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Convicted for a murder he didn’t commit, Henri Charriere is sent to the Devil’s Island where, along with a fellow inmate, they plan an escape of a lifetime.

Based on Charriere’s memoirs, directed by Michael Noer – “R” (2010) and “Northwest” (2013) – and written by Aaron Guzikowski, “Papillon” didn’t get the publicity it deserved. Was it because people (or critics) thought that Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek couldn’t replace Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman respectively? Was it because the story wasn’t known to today’s era audience? Or is it maybe because classic films should be left alone and be remembered for what they achieved when they were made?

Directing, Acting, Script, Photography, Soundtrack, Costume Design, all work as one and fulfill their purpose. The editing is disruptive though which unfolds the story intermittently. There must be an “Editor’s Cut” or “Director’s Cut” version, surely. It seems as if scenes, even sequences, have been omitted from the final cut. Crucial to the story elements that would make the audience engage more with “Papillon’s” suffering.

Overall, it is a very decent, intense, and gritty remake and cast and crew deserve to be recognised for this effort.

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Boy Erased (2018): Biography / Drama

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A boy is sent by his parents to a church-supportive gay conversion program after revealing to them that he has “impure” thoughts about men.

Joel Edgerton proves time and time again that he was born and destined to be both in front and behind the camera. A fine addition and a major representative of the Australian film school.

The film: Garrard Conley’s heartfelt memoir is masterfully adapted for the big screen with nothing but emotion, sensitivity, honesty, and courage. Nicole Kidman, Russel Crowe, and Lucas Hedges give amazing performances, become mother, father and son, and open their house’s door for you to experience the suffering of their family’s drama. Non-linearly narrated, “Boy Erased” seems to be slightly holding its punches but delivers a clear message and puts the situation into perspective, establishing the backward, medieval, and shameless position of the church in the 21st century.

Life: “Boy Erased” is a drama that countless families across the globe face every year and, in their despair, they rely on a higher power to give them an answer to a natural, conscious choice that poses no question. The diversity of homosexual personalities, idiosyncrasies, quirks, and foibles extends as far as the heterosexuals’, the “normal”. And to this very day, men of science try to contextualise the “gay gene” – good luck isolating it from the “straight” one! And certain men of the cloth, and followers of an organisation, whose knowledge of the world is summarised in a fictitious book that is divorced from reality, want to cast out the “demon of homosexuality”.

Do we believe in God or do we believe in what others interpret of what God is? I remember being taught Jesus saying “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone”. But for the life of me, I can’t remember been taught about Him condemning homosexuality. We are soon entering the third decade of the 21st century, and by now, the State and the pharisaic Church should have been distinctively separated.

God is not to be blamed here. He Himself (is it ‘him’?) is the victim and sad creator of our decadent species. But there is still faith that the minorities in this world, who strive to make a difference, regardless of their age, gender, IQ, ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs will one day grow more… and more… and more… and will dethrone archaic establishments, status quos, and organisations that have been ruling since the dawn of time. And “issues” such as homosexuality will stop being treated as “witch hunt”, will become accepted and, hopefully, soon after, will be taken as a matter of course where no one could care less.

And to quote the late Curt Cobain: “I am not gay, although I wish I were, just to piss off homophobes”.

A Prayer Before Dawn (2017): Action / Biography / Crime

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A dynamite!!! A film that doesn’t beautify violence and criminality. A true story that doesn’t heroize bad choices yet creates a hero through them. Through real mud, blood, piss, and shit, “A Prayer Before Dawn” tells the real story of British boxer Billy Moore who rose from it like Phoenix. Incarcerated in one of Thailand’s most infamous prisons, Billy Moore found the courage to reflect on his life, learn from mistakes in the worst possible manner, and literally punch his way out of there.

Shot with real Thai ex-inmates, (deliberately) occasionally subtitled, “A Prayer Before Dawn” breaks all Hollywood taboos. There are no easy ways out – actually, there is no way out – shockingly violent, hellish scenes that pass on the fear and agony that Moore had to endure, and masterfully crafted realistic, ostensibly non-choreographed fights. Moore, trained by the natives, showed them how it’s done, in a close-to-dying status.

Practicing muay thai myself for almost twenty years I have the deepest respect for Billy Moore who teaches, other than the martial art itself, life lessons on perseverance, human values, weaknesses and strengths, physical and emotional torture, regret, acknowledgment, paying back society, and more. I take my hat off to you Billy.

Last but not least, I applaud Joe Cole for his astounding performance. Look forward to seeing him in more brilliant films like this one.

Snowtown (2011): Biography / Crime / Drama

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A few years ago, my really good friend Ben and I, sat down, ordered Chinese, and put “Snowtown” on. By the time food arrived, none of us were hungry and for the whole duration of the film we didn’t say a word to each other. Damn, we barely spoke after…

There are some depressing films out there. Then there are some very depressing ones, extremely depressing ones… and then there is “Snowtown”! Based on the “bodies in the barrels” truly horrible, infamous murders, Justin Kurzel’s lens captures and depicts torture and murder like you’ve never seen before – and probably never will. Lacking – deliberately – artistic charisma,  “Snowtown’s” realism is unsettling as much as it is disturbing, projecting pure, raw violence as it is.

This is not just another film on serial killers. This is “Snowtown” on serial killers in Australia by Justin Kurzel! Where antiheroes and villains are valued less than dogshit! Where barbarity, savagery, and sadism are at their zenith! Where the “bathtub strangulation”, the “dog and the gun”, and the “brothers having a fight” sequences stay imprinted in your brain for aeons!

Congratulations to the actors and actresses for delivering “despicable” amazingly!

You’ve been warned!

P.S. Do I recommend it? Definitely!!!

BlacKkKlansman (2018): Biography / Comedy / Crime

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Sarcastic, serious, light, but also profound, “BlacKkKlansman” hits the nail. Incredible performances, stupendous directing, and meticulous writing mix perfectly for more than two hours in a film stamped with Spike Lee’s persona and talent.

John David Washington, Adam Driver, and Michael Buscemi, infiltrate and take down from the inside Topher Grace’s “KKK” in a humorous and not depressing way and add some entertaining fiction to these, based on a true story, events. Laura Harrier, Ryan Eggold, and Jasper Pääkkönen are equally exceptional.

There has been some negative reviews regarding the different approach the film has comparing to the book but people need to realize that the moving pictures is an entirely different medium which addresses a much larger and diverse audience. Consequently, if the film doesn’t focus on the undercover work against the black activists, or presents the “KKK” as caricatures, us, the viewers, we either accept or not the adaptation’s angle on the subject matter.

Before you start casting stones though, just in case you haven’t watched it yet, or simply missed it, “BlacKkKlansman” makes you smile and laugh for the first two hours and brings tears to your eyes only for the last two minutes because it is about love and hope rather than hate and despair.