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.

Original vs Remake: Hollywood’s Need to Retell the Story (or the Lack Thereof)

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“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on a few international films, not particularly well-known ones, that have spawned renowned Hollywood successes (whether critical or commercial). Maybe I can get you to watch either or both of them, and then get you to ask if the Hollywood remake added to the existing film it was indeed necessary.

Original vs Remake: Hollywood’s Need to Retell the Story (or the Lack Thereof)

 

Climax (2018): Drama / Horror / Music

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Talented and diverse dancers from every walk of life gather in a remote, empty building to rehearse but a hard day’s work goes really awry while celebrating as their drinks get spiked and the hallucinations take over them.

Writer/director Gaspar Noé, well known for making his audience feel uncomfortable, helms Climax with bravery aplenty. Forget classic narratives, forget Hollywood morals and standards, forget scripts written in detail. Get into Irreversible (2002) and Enter the Void (2009) mode and just let go.

The largely improvised monologues and dialogues in the beginning and middle of the film respectively could have been trimmed a tad as the audience don’t need this large amount of information to establish a point of view about each and every one of the characters. Of course, the turn the celebration takes, creates the colossal contrast between the first and the second act.

Excellent camera work, amazing photography, powerful soundtrack, divine choreography, and brilliant performances. Especially, given that, other than Sofia Boutella, no one has had any acting experience prior to the film. The protracted shots will fascinate you as the uncut surrealism reveals in real-time the escalating paranoia reaching its… climax!

Mesmerising! Sensual! Hallucinatory! Enchanting!

 

Indie, Low Budget, and Utterly Mind-Bending

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can read my article on my personal top 5 indie, low budget and utterly mind-bending films (as the homonymous title dictates). I hope you enjoy it.

Indie, Low Budget, and Utterly Mind-Bending

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.

Overlord (2018): Action / Adventure / Horror

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An American airborne unit lands on Nazi-occupied France only to discover a horror beyond the Nazis.

Brutal, savage, and sadistic, “Overlord”, keeps you on the edge of your seat. If there is anything worse than the Nazis, that is the realization of their twisted psychosis. Focusing on “Operation Overlord”, an operation that took place in parallel with “Operation Neptune” (both of them put together became known as D-Day), J.J. Abrams produces Julius Avery’s historical horror where “Band of Brothers” (2001) meets the “Night of the Living Dead” (1968).

Strong first act with an even stronger opening sequence, practical visual effects that beat CGI every single time, and acting that makes its implausibility easy to swallow. Is it flawless? Nope. Is it to be taken seriously? Not really. Does one forget their problems for almost two hours and get sucked in? Hell. Yeah.

A lot of unnecessary negativity surrounds the film but people tend to oversee sometimes why a film could have possibly been made, the purpose it might serve, and the unpredictable outcome an experimental genre mixture may have.

I’ve said this before, I’m saying it again, and I will keep on saying it: I don’t aim at the film but the intentions behind it.

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 glorify 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.