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.

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Sorry to Bother You (2018): Comedy / Fantasy / Sci-Fi

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In a parallel universe, in Oakland, a telemarketer goes from having nothing to having everything to losing it all over again when in reality he had it all, lost it, and then tries to gain it again.

Is it perplexed? So is the film… Before I write any review, I make sure not to read other reviews or critiques so I know for a fact that I am stating my point of view and my point of view alone. “Sorry to Bother You” is “Comedy”, is “Fantasy”, but it is not “Sci-Fi”. It looks like a fresh take on Charlie Kaufman’s way of thinking, topped up with Boots Riley’s unique approach. Before watching it, the range of comments I had heard spanned from “genius” to “moronic” and from “amazing” to “horrendous”. So, chances are that you will either love it or loathe it. Here’s what I think…

Cassius Green represents the number of times you have asked yourself “Why does no one see how wrong the world is”? At first, he sees it. Then he becomes part of it. And then he wakes up, gets out, and does something about it. Lakeith Stanfield is brilliant as Cassius who lives in a surrealistically psychedelic world, like ours, just more artistically – Kaufman-esque – portrayed. Well, in our world, Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America, a laughable joke from “The Simpsons” (1989), so not that much more…

Steve Lift (Armie Hammer) represents the system that feeds off greed. And our ambition to do something more with our lives, and become something better, and change that system, can fool even ourselves and become that very same greed that feeds it.

“Sorry to Bother You” parodies our world not because it wants to undermine it. Boots Riley comprehends the “If you want to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh or they’ll kill you” (George Bernard Shaw) mentality, and through a respectful, meaningful, and didactic parable, makes you laugh but also “see” how much work needs to be done so our world can be a tad more understood.

Last but not least, Detroit, who is none other than the one and only, breathtaking, and always dazzling woman and actress Tessa Thompson represents love. In a subtle and artistic form, she has always been the one to prevent us from going astray and make us become the people that we always hoped we would be.

Stargate (1994): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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The discovery of a mysterious device in Egypt will teleport a linguist and a Colonel with a military mission galaxies away to a world where Ra rules over an ancient civilization.

Who built the pyramids? How were the pyramids built? When were the pyramids built? Blending history with fiction, Rolland Emmerich manages to build up an engaging premise surrounding the aforementioned questions which, to this day, people post online or publish books and articles.

“Stargate” has everything. Brilliant directing and photography, strong storyline, relatable characters, impressive visual and sound effects, great performances, excellent music score, and right editing pace. A solid sci-fi flick with no kitsch and no cliche, offering an entertaining take on Egyptian Mythology that will especially satisfy the thought-provoking conspiracy lovers believing that once the aliens paid us a visit. And not only.

That said, between them and those who think that “Stargate” contains “Americans liberating the world” right-wing hidden messages, “religion is oppressive” beliefs, and “power to the people” left-wing ideologies… I’ll side with the “Aliens built the pyramids mirroring Orion” dudes…

Bird Box (2018): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

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In a post-apocalyptic present, a mother with two kids run for their lives as a menacing presence of unknown origin, when seen, forces people to take their own lives.

Here’s the film’s obvious pitch: “The Happening” (2008) meets “A Quiet Place” (2018). Let me put it this way… It doesn’t meet either. Both of them raise important questions but provide, to a certain level, some answers leaving the viewer speculating about the cause and effect based on the clues they provided.

“Bird Box” raises questions and doesn’t bother at all with answers. No one with the basic level of intelligence will stare at the ceiling as the end credits roll down contemplating what potentially could these entities (?) be. Not revealing them is absolutely fine in my books. The unseen yet sensed ominous presence can be terrifying indeed. Not revealing their origins, their purpose, their powers, nothing whatsoever, makes them as unrelatable as the characters themselves. So, yeah, there is that too.

Susanne Bier has done a terrific job behind the camera. “Bird Box” is a well-shot, well edited, and well-produced film. So, I will quote (again) Howard Hawks: “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”. Months before, Netflix also produced “How it Ends” (2018) with the reviews being as embarrassing as they come – especially on how it ends! I guess history teaches us that we are not taught from history after all…

Sandra Bullock is still an amazing actress and still keeps nailing the parts she gets. Even in this one. So, I really hope that we see her in films she deserves to be in and not films like “Ocean’s Eight” (2018). Actually, I hope we never have to see again any film like “Ocean’s Eight” (2018). Not even blindfolded…

Never Let Me Go (2010): Drama / Sci-Fi

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Three kids who grew up together in a posh, strict, and ostensibly ordinary boarding school, become young adults and face the life they were destined to have.

How would you feel if you found out your whole life is already chosen for you? How about both chosen for you and a lie? Once I thought that sci-fi without visual effects is like a lift without a mirror. How wrong was I?! “Never Let Me Go” is not the only film that makes it to that list. But it makes it to the top – my humble opinion anyway.

Its strongest suits:

  • Kazuo Ishiguro’s powerful existential drama diving into the human psyche.
  • Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley delivering electrifying performances.
  • Rachel Portman’s enthralling and spellbinding score.
  • Mark Romanek’s best film yet.

The film’s pace might put the average viewer off. It is a slow burn but it is of great importance not only to understand the characters but to become them. See life how they see it. Experience pain how they do. Be there for them when they curse the day they were brought to life.

The book goes into deeper depths analyzing or emphasizing characters and situations, and that way, everything becomes clearer in the end. The film doesn’t and therefore it raises more questions than answers.

Be patient and pay attention to the details. With acting that brings tears to your eyes and soundtrack that adds “hope, humanity, and heartbeat” in an alternate, seemingly heartless reality, “Never Let Me Go” is a depressingly beautiful, cinematic adaptation that strikes a chord.

Jumper (2008): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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A man with teleporting abilities, living a carefree life, gets caught in an ancient war between Jumpers and Paladins.

There is a lot of negativity surrounding this film. It was meant to be a franchise but the box office results scratched the idea off the producers’ mind. From where I stand, Michael Rooker has been under-utilized. For a guy who usually does the villain in the story, it’s really great to see him as a washed-up yet filled with remorse dad who pays the price. I would definitely want to see more of him on the screen. Samuel Jackson is always great but could have been even greater as the fanatic Paladin. Reciting passages from the Bible like in “Pulp Fiction” (1994) would have elevated his character to the sky.

Jamie Bell is always at his best so there is nothing much to say, which leaves us with Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson (who got engaged after the film). Once again, there could have been a strong story between them – and even stronger subtext for the film – after what happened in their childhood years.

To cut the long story short, production and budgetary issues watered down a what could have been a brilliant story and a brilliant film. That said, it definitely deserves a watch as you’ll spend an entertaining hour and a half forgetting about your own problems. For this one, my round of applause goes to the visual and sound effect department. Spot on!

Franklyn (2008): Drama / Fantasy / Sci-Fi

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Loss and despair connect four troubled souls in two intermingled, alternate realities.

I have spoken of underrated films before but “Franklyn” definitely gets the cake. I watched it almost ten years ago and so much I wanted to talk about it with someone who had watched it as well. But no one had. And to this very day, hardly anyone still has.

Gerald McMorrow, possessing the exceptional intellectual ability, is the artistic mind behind the camera, who writes and directs something unique as “Franklyn”. Despair, escalating to delusion, paranoia, and schizophrenia, all fester the human mind and soul, shape people’s fate, and twist (?) the concept of religion. In front of the camera, Eva Green, Ryan Phillippe, Sam Riley, Bernard Hill, and the late Susannah York will hold you spellbound with their performances.

Two strong elements in the film that I feel like sharing: Perception’s immense power and a father’s unconditional love.

“Franklyn” is art. And like any other form of art, it examines the world through its own prism. I guess it is up to us to examine our world through our own life’s prism.

Mail Order Monster (2018): Drama / Family / Sci-Fi

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A little girl is trying to cope, after having lost her mom, while dealing with life itself, bullies, and her father with his new girlfriend by putting together… a robot.

A low budget, indie, PG film which Jax Productions and Stay Relevant Productions managed to bring to life with respect to family values. Loss, grief, rejection, love, and self-reflection have been responsible for causing all of us sleepless nights throughout the course of our life. And Paulina Lagudi, with skill, imagination, and artistic temperament produces, writes, and directs a heartfelt story on nights like that.

Josh Hopkins does a brilliant job as a dad trying to do his best, and it’s really nice to see the always mesmerizing Charisma Carpenter as the “woman next door” relying solely on her acting. Last, but definitely not least, look out for the incredible Madison Horcher and Emma Rayne Lyle who, given the opportunity, will be two of the most sought-after actresses of their age.

Kin (2018): Action / Sci-Fi

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Mysterious humanoid entities, a vindictive gang, and the authorities are after a young man that just came out of prison and his little brother who is in possession of a hyper-advanced weapon.

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that “Kin” is a solid film. So why’s that, uh? Because it tanked! And we won’t see more of it! Homage to “The Terminator” (1984) and “Aliens” (1986) (both by James Cameron), “Kin” flies entirely under the radar and massively underdevelops at the box office. Really shame! I would love to have watched it at the cinema as both the visual and sound effects are imposing but I was totally oblivious to its existence. Well… if it wasn’t for the critics once more I guess. You know what… I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve spoken about it.

And if you are wondering “what are you doing then?”, I’m telling you that I may be reviewing films but it is their intentions that I criticize and I’m after. And “Kin”, even though flawed, it has noble intentions. It is an action/sci-fi PG-13 flick with a relatable subplot, decent action sequences, not original, yet entertaining sci-fi concept, and a whole cast and crew that believes in it and gives it their all. And that includes Mogwai’s brilliant soundtrack.

Feel like staying in? “Kin” is available on DVD and Bluray waiting.

What Happened to Monday (2017): Action / Crime / Drama

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Seven identical sisters are being hunted down in an overpopulated world where all families are limited to one child.

Noomi Rapace portrays brilliantly all seven identical sisters in this action flick that, overall, looks like “Orphan Black” (2013) meets “Minority Report” (2002) meets “The Matrix” (1999). Tommy Wirkola, an expert in the comedy/horror genre [“Dead Snow” (2009)], takes “What Happened to Monday” more seriously creating an interesting sci-fi which, interestingly enough, IMDb doesn’t classify as “sci-fi”.

Regardless of the semantics, Netflix hit the nail buying the copyrights for this dystopian thriller that despite its minor flaws, impossibilities, and fair amount of negative reviews, it manages to entertain, and raise certain ethical, social, and political questions that, when all motives are revealed, will make you think twice on who to cast your stone at.

Well done to the whole international cast and crew who managed to pull it off and bring out a Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov-like world.