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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He’s Out There (2018): Horror / Thriller

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A family vacation at a lakehouse becomes a nightmare for a mother and her two young daughters who become part of a psychopath’s deranged fantasy.

The oversaturation got me thinking from the opening shot. “Is there a purpose”? “What does this DOP offer to the story”? Anyway, the story itself showed signs of unoriginality since the early stages. The journey started, they made it to the house and, thankfully, the tension started building up and becoming interesting. And then, the uncreativeness came back stronger and ruined the film with tons of cliches and a high level of improbability.

Yvonne Strahovski has proven to be a versatile actress with tremendous potential. Even in a film like “He’s Out There”, she’s very convincing and she was the only reason I watched the film. Anna and Abigail Pniowski are not to blame for their performances here. This burdens solely the director.

Shame really as the potential was there. “Old wine in a new bottle” doesn’t mean to copy randomly (and badly) existing, successful styles, mix them up and paste them in a new movie.

Triple Frontier (2019): Action / Adventure / Crime

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Five ex-Special Forces soldiers band together one last time to rob the money of a cocaine cartel boss in South America where everything can go wrong.

While watching the opening sequence, I thought to myself “Netflix hit the nail again”!  The moment I started to get to know the characters, I thought to myself “I hope the cliches stop here”. As the story started unfolding, the pit of cliches got full way before half-way.

Really shame. The photography is infallible. Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal are brilliant actors yet none of them gets the opportunity to fully develop their character. J.C. Chandor, an equally brilliant director who was behind the camera of great films such as “Margin Call” (2011), “All is Lost” (2013), and “A Most Violent Year” (2014), delivers a film this time that does not have one memorable shot. Same applies for editing where no sequence has anything unique or something to talk about.

All these are minor though. The main problem is the script. I don’t know how many times I’ve said it before but I know how any I’m gonna say it; countless!

“You can’t fix a bad script after you start shooting. The problems on the page only get bigger as they move to the big screen.” — Howard Hawks

Besides the action’s inconsistencies and the undeveloped characters, the biggest blow is the dialogue. It is extremely poorly written and the shocking part is that the aforementioned A-list actors were OK with it. It is beyond me so, I’m gonna leave it there.

Should you decide to watch it, I hope you enjoy it.

Serenity (2019): Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi

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A struggling fisherman, obsessed with catching a particular fish, finds a new purpose when a mysterious woman suddenly shows up in his little island.

Difficult to say much without giving away spoilers. Acting and cinematography are “Serenity’s” strong suits. Directing and editing do their best to reveal the right information at the right time, keep the suspension at the highest level, and the viewer constantly engaged. Does it work? Not for the majority of it. Why?

I have the suspicion that by reading the script, the film’s good intentions would be revealed. On screen, this is not the case. The story itself is all over the place and that heavily affects character development. The film is definitely not as bad as some claim it is but with A-list cast and crew certainly one would expect more.

As with any other film, watch it and shape your own opinion. You might like it, you might not. At least, you’ll know the reason(s) why.

Scenic Route (2013): Drama / Thriller

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Two lifelong friends decide to go on a journey following the scenic route but their car breaks down, leaving them stranded in the middle of nowhere and surfacing suppressed feelings of a lifetime.

Indie, low budget, and absolutely stunning! The Goetz Brothers’ Drama/Thriller, penned by Kyle Killen, disguises itself as a dark comedy and makes you laugh out loud with its sheer brutality, and Josh Duhamel’s and Dan Fogler’s raw, natural talent. Laugh out loud and, admittedly, think to yourself “Damn, I wish I had said that when…”. The thought-provoking and carefully written story, the meticulous mise-en-scene, and the profound acting create a highly entertaining and compelling journey of self-discovery.

Beware though! As much as the journey itself is a reward, this one’s destination is a spine-chilling thrill. With a jaw-dropping twist that glues you to your seats, the grand finale, accompanied by Mike Einziger’s mesmerising soundtrack, takes your breath away and stays imprinted long after the end credits scroll down.

Don’t miss out!

Animal World (2018): Adventure / Thriller

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Haunted by his personal demons, a man finds himself struggling with an unbearable debt and enters a world of obscure gambling where every move might be his last one.

Epically mental! An amalgamation of “Scott Pilgrim vs The World” (2010) and “Sucker Punch” (2011), masterfully put together with pure Chinese artistry and temperament. Remake of the Japanese film “Kaiji Ultimate Gambler” (2009) – an adaptation of the “Kaiji” manga series – “Animal World” mesmerises straight from the opening sequence and earns its stripes in the evolution of Chinese cinema.

Through brilliant editing and directing, and visual effects that bring the hero’s cognitive manifestations to life, director Yan Han unfolds a world within a world. A cosmos where love, brotherhood, perseverance, loyalty, and betrayal lead to one’s self-discovery and ultimately… their destiny. A journey revealing that math’s complexity pales in comparison with human nature’s intricacy. A life’s lesson that man came from an animal… and still remains one.

 

For Shiying. Thank you!!!

Upgrade (2018): Action / Sci-fi / Thriller

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In a world that technology controls every aspect of life, a technophobe not only finally embraces it but also upgrades himself to solve his wife’s murder.

Producer/Writer/Director Leigh Whannell, who penned the script for “Saw” (2004), and Blumhouse Productions bring to life an action/thriller that mustn’t go unnoticed. Logan Marshall-Green gets into the role and does a brilliant job as an ordinary man who’s going through… an upgrade and comes out extraordinary.

Visual effects that help the story move forward and the story itself easily avoids cliches and gimmicks. A highly recommended, low-budget sci-fi set in an ostensibly utopian future but with a lot more realism than meets the eye.

Wheelman (2017): Action / Crime / Mystery

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A bank robbery goes awry for a getaway driver who tries to figure out who double-crossed him while finding a way to save his and his family’s life.

Frank Grillo at his best. Realistic action hero in a high-octane low budget film. Netflix always hits the nail when they decide to go behind productions like this one where, more or less, everything goes right. Right tempo, right duration, and right balance between action, crime, and mystery. Feature debut for writer/director Jeremy Rush who starts off really strong.

Claustrophobic at times, gripping, edgy, and engaging, “Wheelman” is, thankfully, not your typical Hollywood blockbuster with unnecessary explosions and nonsensical CGI. The best value for money you can get, and highly recommended for the Frank Grillo and action-fueled film fans.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988): Adventure / Comedy / Fantasy

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In times of war and reason, Baron Munchausen shows up to inspire with a story of a lifetime that bypasses reality and goes down the rabbit hole of evocative fantasy and mythical adventure.

From Constantinople to the moon, to the centre of the Earth, to the belly of the beast, and back, Baron Munchausen travels towards fabled worlds encountering heroes and deities. Nostalgia, love, dreams, childhood innocence and hope rise up through Munchausen’s escapades. A social commentary inspired by the Odyssey… delineated in a British aristocratic manner.

As one of my first cinematic experiences, Terry Gilliam makes me reminisce about my childhood years and the way I used to see the world. Where, like in the film, reality and imagination blend into one and shape a harmless world where even the abhorrent tragedy of war can be a lot easier to swallow and man’s cruelty be tolerable.

John Neville, Eric Idle, Sarah Polley, Jonathan Pryce, Uma Thurman, Robin Williams (unpaid and uncredited) and the rest of the cast shared Gilliam’s vision of a better world than ours and supported him to see it through as the unfathomably humongous production complications wouldn’t stop appearing.

But reality’s misfortunes were defeated by prevalent, mythical will that projected it eventually to the silver screen.

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.