Prospect (2018): Drama / Sci-fi / Thriller

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Father and daughter land on a planet’s remote, exotic moon to harvest precious gems and get rich but between merciless people and dangerous forest dwellers, escaping becomes the ultimate goal.

Directors Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl shoot the feature version of their homonymous short, on a $3.9m budget. And the result pays off. Well directed, well paced and well acted, “Prospect” invests in a claustrophobic opening sequence and amazing shots from space. While on the ground, intentionally or unintentionally, the film can be pitched or could have been pitched or maybe it was as “Mad Max in an alien moon”.

Films like “Prospect” make me more optimistic. It is an indie, low budget sci-fi that pays respect to the genre and the art of cinema with cast and crew fully supporting and believing in it. And so did the fans who applauded its minimalism at the festivals and didn’t care if props and costumes were handmade by, among others, cosplayers!

Inspirational! Well done!

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Velvet Buzzsaw (2019): Horror / Mystery / Thriller

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Hauntingly dark and beautiful drawings are found at a dead man’s apartment and upon their unlawful exhibition for personal profit, a price for greed comes along.

Fancy words, filthy words, art critique jargon, shiny dress code, and over the top personalities, to name but a few, characterise a snotty world that most of you, and most certainly myself, have never visited and probably never will. Hard to tell where writer/director Dan Gilroy stands and how he feels about this world he brilliantly depicts or why he chose such a sexual term for a title and that is pure magic.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, and last but not least, John Malkovich give Gilroy’s surrealistic world flesh and blood and don’t hesitate to blow their performances out of proportion.

Gilroy was asked about the meaning of his film and in a cryptic manner, he responded that he would like people to perceive art differently. As we have proved time and time again that we can be a horrible species, I would say that I see where he is coming from and I’ll throw in my two cents. Instead of truly trying to appreciate and see art through the artists’ eyes, we make it all about ourselves, either by showing up at an illustrious museum just to be seen there or by benefiting from someone else’s expression. How? Most likely by fancily writing about it so we can look knowledgeable and special or by monetising it, upgrading our status at the same time. One way or another, we purely exploit it and try to hide the fact that we couldn’t do it ourselves.

Meaning aside and changing the subject, having watched numerous Netflix productions, once again, I would like to throw in my two cents. I think there is a resounding statement here that has been repeatedly given for quite a while now. By Netflix. “We don’t give a s#@% !!! Is your film thought-provoking? We’ll make it! Is it bizarre? Bring it! Is it something no one wants to produce? We will! We don’t give a s#@% which festivals accept our submissions! We couldn’t care less which studios alleviate our success! We spend billions and we make even more! And we do everything! We just… Don’t. Give. A. S%#@.

Exam (2009): Mystery / Thriller

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Eight chosen contenders competing for the same position are locked in a highly respectable company’s exam room for the final test which is nothing like they have seen or experienced before.

A one-location, British psychological thriller that delves into the human psyche, and infiltrates man’s darkest thoughts. A prime example of a low-budget thriller that keeps the viewer wondering from the opening scene to the end credits what is the meaning of this test, what the question is, who truly everyone is, why were they chosen, and what is the company getting out of it.

Mysterious, entertaining, and claustrophobic, “Exam’s” storytelling relies on actual character study experiments and utilises Hitchcockian approaches that go back as far as “Lifeboat” (1944). Low budget / high standards! Hats off to cast and crew.

I say no more. Lights and phones off, and pay attention to the details. Enjoy!

Widows (2018): Crime / Drama / Thriller

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Four women who are left with nothing but debt after their husbands died in a heist are pulling a heist of their own to reclaim their lives.

Based on the homonymous 1983 British series, “Widows” (2018) takes the fight from London to Chicago. Astonishing performances from the ensemble cast with Viola Davis and Robert Duvall standing out. Then, the powerful opening chase sequence promises an action-packed drama to keep you on the edge of your seats. A promise that doesn’t deliver though…

It is not first and certainly will not be the last when a European or an East Asian director goes to Hollywood. See, for example, actor/director Mathieu Kassovitz and “Babylon A.D” (2008) or Jee-woon Kim and “The Last Stand” (2013). One way ticket back… Even though “Widows” is nowhere near as bad as the aforementioned films (by brilliant directors) or the reviews surrounding it, it lacks the Steve McQueen, fine art training, personality, and idiosyncrasy.

It lacks the suffering of “12 Year a Slave” (2013), “Shame’s” (2011) internal struggle, and “Hunger’s” (2008) realism. Maybe his first cut (around 3 hours long) offered all of the above and more. Regardless, I really look forward to McQueen’s next film, European, American, or otherwise.

 

RocknRolla (2008): Action / Crime / Thriller

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A gang of lowlife crooks called the Wild Bunch, with the help of an accountant, steal money from a Russian developer that was meant for a London mob boss who has a drug addict, troubled stepson.

What could go wrong, right?! Storytelling like Guy Ritchie only knows how to deliver! “RocknRolla” makes it to my list of the top 3 Guy Ritchie films, followed by “Snatch” (2000) and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” (1998). The editing controls the information exactly as it should have and enhances the humorous side of a British action/crime. Gerald Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Idris Elba, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, and Toby Kebbell work brilliantly together and clash with each other adding 100% A-list British quality acting.

In a different context now… What could go wrong, right?! People! People didn’t bother. I can only assume that one reason is “seen it all before”. But it isn’t. It is snappy, surrealistic, stylish, quirky, Cockney, and adds to the formula. Yet, what was meant to be a trilogy will never be. Our loss. Favourite scene: Robbing the Russians for the second time. Priceless!

Join me in filing a petition for the “Real RocknRolla”!!!

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…

Split (2016): Horror / Thriller

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A man with 23 personalities kidnaps three girls who must find a way out before the 24th is unleashed.

Sixteen years after “Unbreakable” (2000), and only just before the end credits started rolling down, we all found out that this was actually a (first) sequel. M. Night Shyamalan managed to keep us at the edge of our seats and once we said the first ‘WOW’, we realised what the marketing had managed to do. Then the second followed. Not included in the shooting script, and omitted from the test screenings, the last scene was kept under wraps, and is the tie-in between the two films. Kevin Crumb was written originally for “Unbreakable”, only to be seen in this one.

Based on a real-life person who actually had 24 personalities, “Split’s” Kevin Crumb suffers the same problem even though we get to see 9 of them on screen. Interestingly enough, “Unbreakable’s” David Dunn is based on a real-life person as well. Hmmm…

“Split”, as a standalone, is a brilliant psychological horror/thriller, with James McAvoy doing all the heavy lifting and the extremely talented Anya Taylor-Joy giving him all the support he needs. You feel for him as much as you hate him, depending on the personality that takes over. I have praised him and his talent in a previous review so feel free to see what I thought of him then and what I think of him now: https://kgpfilm.reviews/2018/12/26/filth-2013-comedy-crime-drama/

Experts on the Psychology field could argue on how much M. Night Shyamalan knows about the dissociative identity disorder, and the compartmentalization and segregation of the personalities but don’t let that distract you. Remember that it’s a psychological horror/thriller and not a documentary or a docudrama. I’ve watched documentaries propagandising inconceivable political and religious nonsense parroting biased and fallacious “facts”. “Split” is meant to give you the chills and that’s exactly what it does.

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.

Crash (2004): Crime / Drama / Thriller

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People from every walk of life, dealing with loss, racism, and life itself, collide with each other in the city of Angels.

Find the one you hate the most. You’ll like them later on. Find the one you relate with the most. You’ll hate them in the end. Welcome to a world where all East Asians are Chinese. All South Americans are Mexicans. All Middle Easterners are “Osama”. All blacks are criminals. And all whites are rednecks.

Racism, bigotry, misanthropy… passed on from one to the next, by white to brown, to black to yellow, to another shade of skin colour and back to where it started, in an endless spiral of hatred that has no beginning but hopefully one day an end. Wait, there is more! Colour is not enough. Where do you stand in this world? Are you educated? What is your financial and societal status? You work for the government or against the government? Either way, you are criminal. You have principles? How much?

“Crash” includes an amazing ensemble cast and explores in depth all the aforementioned, yet its message focuses on how to overcome the notion that everyone is a victim, whoever is different is the enemy, and it is always someone else’s fault. People’s interconnectedness extends to their feelings too; loss, love, pride, shame, isolation, belonging, loneliness, redemption and regret… all blend into one making it easier to accuse everyone we don’t know for ostensibly having everything we always longed-for. Until we realised we want more…

Change will not happen miraculously. A legend said it once best: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror…”

Bonded by Blood (2010): Crime / Drama / Thriller

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Third film on the Essex Boys murders after the “Essex Boys” (2000) and the “Rise of the Footsoldier” (2007). And is absolutely brilliant! Gruesome violence, prison, dodgy deals, backstabbings, drugs, guns, vulgar language, and Vincent Regan, Tamer Hassan, Kierston Wareing, and Adam Deacon performing magic on camera. Brilliant year for Michael Socha as well who jumped from this one to “Shank” (2010) and “This Is England ’86” (2010).

According to many (beyond my area of expertise), Essex wasn’t like this in the 90’s, something that was held against the production design. Also, the massive script liberties annoyed certain people as it, allegedly, deviated from what really happened (which is still uncertain anyway).

For all its quirks and foibles, “Bonded by Blood” is very enjoyable and for its budget, it gives you one hell of a ride.