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. 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…

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Suspiria (2018): Fantasy / Horror / Mystery

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Berlin 1977: A girl arrives at a world-renowned dancing school only to discover obscure entities harbouring haunting secrets.

“Suspiria” is a prime example of the endless highbrow/lowbrow “battle”. The reviews escalate from 1/10 to 10/10 and back in the blink of an eye. It is not for everyone! Expel the Hollywood narrative prior to entering into this world of darkness. Know the kind of films you like, and the kind you don’t. Have you ever seen me reviewing a comedy/romance? I would come back and slate every frame of it. But I’ve said before, I’m not here to slate films. I’m reviewing their parameters and examine their intentions. Pick a narrative you like and should you choose to go for something different, which I highly recommend every now and again, don’t rip it apart straight after.

Even though a remake of Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” (1977), Luca Guadagnino’s homonymous paganistic world runs almost a full hour longer than the original, acting more as exploration or expansion, and preparation for the “Three Mothers” trilogy (Make sure to stay for the post-credit scene).

If you like watching a film and paying attention to details at the same time, then directing, photography, and certain montage sequences, i.e. Susie dancing and Olga… suffering, will blow your mind away. If you are into experimental cinema as well, you’ll love the storytelling too and consequently the film as a whole.

I knew Dakota Johnson has had her big breakthrough with the “50 Shades of Grey” trilogy but, as I really tried and failed to watch even the first one, I was not familiar with her acting skills. Here, she definitely commits to the project and proves herself more than worthy. She completes 2 years of ballet training prior to taking this role, excels at her diversity, and I take my hat off to her.

Then there is the one and only Tilda Swinton who, like the amazing Kate Blanchet, can master any role as a woman as much as a man of her age, younger, older, or really freaking old. In this instance, she is three entirely different characters. I couldn’t admire her more. Plus, she just doesn’t get old! She is like a female Keanu Reeves!!!

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 head. 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 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.

The Village (2004): Drama / Mystery / Thriller

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A late 19th-century, isolated Amish-like community lives by strict rules in a valley surrounded by forest, inhabited by creatures that don’t let them enter it.

Box office-wise it didn’t disappoint. M. Night Shyamalan’s reputation was not what it used to be after “Signs” (2002) but he was still the golden goose of Hollywood and people were still fascinated by his third act’s twists. It was the reviews that didn’t do it any favours.

I’ve blamed marketing before, and I strongly believe that this is one of them cases too. Getting the crowd intrigued and messing up with their expectations are two different things, separated by an indistinct, fine line. In the end, it can go either way which is why marketing’s job is so crucial.

The photography is haunting, the score is Oscar-worthy, and the chemistry between Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard electrifying. I will say nothing about the plot as… it is up to you to figure that out.

Watch it as you would watch “The Twilight Zone” (1959) having no expectation whatsoever, knowing though that nothing is what it seems.

In the Mouth of Madness (1994): Drama / Horror / Mystery

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A cynical insurance investigator is hired by a publishing company to find a disappeared, renounced horror writer while global psychosis starts plaguing his readers worldwide.

I was a kid when I first watched it in the cinema. And then a young adult when I watched it in VHS. And here I am now, an adult, watching it in Blu-ray and feeling like a kid all over again. “In the Mouth of Madness” is one of John Carpenter’s best works, one of Sam Neil’s best performances, Michael De Luca’s best script, and, without a doubt, one of the best psychological horrors you will ever watch in your time. Fantasy and reality, sanity and insanity, pronoia and paranoia… all blend in to “bring to life” and pay tribute to H.P.Lovecraft’s horror fiction. Probably the best film that has captured the essence of the abstruse and horrifying Cthulhu Mythos. I say nothing more. Turn the lights off and get sucked into madness!

H.P.Lovecraft died in poverty and only posthumously he and his works were recognised. “In the Mouth of Madness”, a homage to Lovecraft, was not a commercial success, yet today, it is a critically acclaimed horror; a classic. I am so perplexed by what makes people tick most of the times. I guess, like almost everything else in life, we only learn the hard way and only when it’s too late – if that! Because it’s so hard to see what’s in front of our eyes the whole time and appreciate it while it’s there. Same with people…

You know what? I’m gonna write the sequel and send it to New Line Cinema. F@!% it!

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018): Crime / Drama / Mystery

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Drew Goddard ladies and gentlemen! Drew Goddard… From “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1996), to “Alias” (2001), to “Lost” (2004), to “Daredevil” (2015), Drew has contributed and made an impact on the TV series most of us grew up with and loved. But his talent is not restricted to TV. For the big screen, he wrote and produced “The Martian” (2015) and got his first Oscar nomination. Before that, and I deliberately left this one for the end, he wrote and directed “The Cabin in the Woods” (2012). An absolute experience – a separate review will follow soon! So, what’s so special about “El Royale”?

Directing, editing, cinematography, soundtrack, all work together confluently to bring the script’s crime, drama, and mystery to life. Dazzling and meticulous mise-en-scene accurately portraying the 60’s, rhythmically edited to a wonderful soundtrack, unfold harmonically numerous vantage points, intricate timelines, and diverse, complex characters who play an integral part to the puzzle’s missing pieces.

I’m not done yet. Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, John Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Offerman, and, last but not least, Chris Hemsworth shine on camera creating unfathomable chemistry between them. Given the chance, I would happily do the lamppost.

“El Royale” raises mysterious, fictional questions amalgamating with history, providing some answers, yet leaving you with different (and maybe more) questions. Shut your phones, pay attention to the details, and above all, get sucked into this beautiful cinematic experience!

Contratiempo (2016): Crime / Mystery / Thriller

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A young, successful businessman teams up with a lawyer who comes to his rescue only three hours before charges are pressed for murdering his mistress.

This is what you are getting into:

  • Twist after twist after twist in a story where truths and lies are deceitful and interchangeable!
  • Numerous vantage points that raise “what happened” and “whodunnit” questions, from the beginning till the end.
  • Missing parts of an intricate puzzle that its pieces are scattered over an uneven canvas.

“Contratiempo” (The Invisible Guest), is a labyrinthine and meticulously crafted journey seeking the truth. Writer/Director Oriol Paulo, following the mind-bending success “El Cuerpo” (2012), sets the foundation, slowly and carefully builds up and unfolds tension, and finishes up with a hair-raising, jaw-dropping third act to remember. Take your hats off to acting, photography, and music. Absolutely blazing!!!

I’m not giving anything away. Get comfy, grab a cuppa/coffee/booze/whatever floats your boat, turn the lights off, your phone on silent and… Shhh! It started…

Searching (2018): Drama / Mystery / Thriller

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A parent’s greatest fear!

Having seen his wife losing the battle with cancer, a man does everything in his power to find his missing daughter.

From a storytelling point of view, “Searching” is spot on. Right pace, believable dialogues, attention to details, and twists and turns, all of them keep you on the edge of your seat. Then, John Cho’s performance is outstanding. You feel his agony and pain all the way throughout the film.

From a technical point of view, I prefer the “hand-held” kind of shooting, especially in dramatic situations like this one. Adds a lot more… “depth”. “Searching” is the kind of new sub-genre of films called “Computer-Screen”. Following the path of similar films like “Megan is Missing” (2011) and “Unfriended” (2014), “Searching”  resurfaces the power but also the vulnerabilities of the internet and the social media. What’s more, the true naivety in human nature. I hope, at least, watching films like this one, people start thinking twice before the “knight in the shining armour” shows up out of the blue online promising compassion, money, happiness or whatever else the internet predators promise.

“Computer-Screen” sub-genre reminds me of the “Found-Footage” where it started off really well showing tremendous potential but it was then beaten to death in horrors and sci-fi films that were vomiting and the camera-shake made you vomit some more. Just for the sake of “Oh! people like it. Let’s apply it everywhere”. I’ve spoken before about some producers so… Hopefully, with this kind of films, they’ll be more careful even though I sincerely doubt it.

Enjoy “Searching” before certain people smell its success like flies around s#@%.

First Reformed (2017): Drama / Mystery / Thriller

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Tormented by his own past, a minister of a local congregation, in the outskirts of New York, counsels a young couple with deeply unsettling results for everyone.

Paul Shrader, writer of “Taxi Driver” (1976), “Raging Bull” (1980), and more, comes back with yet another provocative film which he also directs. “First Reformed” is not for the average viewer. It is for the patient one and the one with the sheer will to understand that actions trigger incalculable reactions, be it on the planet or on the human psyche. Very slow paced with no intention of impressing or pleasing anyone, “First Reformed”, becomes judge, jury, and executioner, standing up for the environment and God opposite religion and mankind. A character-driven story, with directing that clearly defines the editing pace and acting that shows you without telling you. And the few times it does, it shocks!

Rationalizing it might not be the best way to approach it as, other than the aforementioned, “First Reformed” puts under the microscope and subliminally scrutinizes sanity and how, unbeknownst to us, everything is connected.

Incident in a Ghostland (2018): Drama / Horror / Mystery

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Have you ever heard of it? I am afraid it is one of the “limited release” casualties that went under the radar. I guess it didn’t please the right people… but sure hope it scared the crap out of them…

After “Martyrs” (2008) and “The Tall Man” (2012), Pascal Laugier comes back with the psychological horror “Incident in a Ghostland”, only to project, once again, his terrifying vision on the darkness of the human psyche. The shock will hit you from the opening sequence. Two brutal invaders attack a mother with her two little daughters the night they move in the house they inherited. I say no more. What follows after, is a constant interchange between drama and horror which leads up to a non-linear, ceaseless, inescapable torture.

Hauntingly brilliant performances, sadistic unfolding, and a breathless twist are solid reasons to spend an hour and a half… in the dark.

P.S. My warmhearted wishes to actress Taylor Hickson who got injured while filming, and received several stitches.