I Am Mother (2019): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

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Years after the extinction of mankind, a girl, born in an underground facility and raised by an android she calls “Mother”, discovers one day that the outside world is not what she was taught it was.

Very interesting feature directorial debut from Grant Sputore. I Am Mother is a small budget, one-location sci-fi that definitely worths your time. Many questions are raised with some of them answered and, purposefully, some of them not. Read between the lines. Information is carefully revealed and spread throughout the three acts, and that is what paces the story brilliantly.

Excellent performances by Clara Rugaard and Hilary Swank. A huge congratulations to Rose Byrne for providing her voice for Mother but also Weta Workshop for creating her. Last but not least, kudos to all producers and Netflix who spent every penny wisely, proving (once more) that low budget films have as much or more to offer than Hollywood mega-budget blockbusters.

Hint: Who is the woman that inexplicably shows up knocking…

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The Prodigy (2019): Horror / Thriller

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A kid’s disturbing behaviour gradually starts signaling that a sinister force might be guiding his actions.

The “possessed child” theme has been beaten to death. And The Prodigy doesn’t have an original angle. Acting, directing, cinematography, all work well together. Even the idea is – somewhat – solid. Its development to a story and then to a script though isn’t. It heavily relies on the sound design for good, old fashioned jump scares. Now, the editing could have saved a big part of it but it didn’t. It revealed almost everything in the first act, leaving nothing to the imagination, subtracting the speculation, and consequently, sucking out the mystery. It is not the editing’s fault though.

Producers and directors should have realised that the “horror” audience has seen all that already and brainstorm for new ideas that keep the genre fresh. And in this instance, scary.

Cold Pursuit (2019): Action / Crime / Drama

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After his son gets murdered, a snowplow driver tracks down and goes after everyone responsible for his death.

Hans Petter Moland, writer/director of films with a unique character such as Aberdeen (2000) and his latest Out Stealing Horses (2019), impresses this time by remaking his own film In Order of Disappearance (2014) – all three led by Stellan Skarsgård. The film was shot in early 2017 but was released only recently. I guess it would have done better had it been released before a controversial interview Liam Neeson gave earlier this year.

Politics aside, Cold Pursuit is enjoyable adding some dark comedy to the aforementioned genres, resembling Fargo (1996) and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999). Julia Jones, Emmy Rossum, and Tom Bateman stand out. A lot of similarities can be found with the original film, especially in tone and rhythm, and both of them make one wonder who was Nels Coxman before…

Captive State (2019): Sci-Fi / Thriller

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Nine years after alien forces invaded and colonised Earth, an underground movement, stealthily, plans an attack to fight back.

This is not “cinema of attractions”. No “Independence Day” (1996) effects with marching songs while shouting “we will fight” narrative. “Captive State” focuses on the world’s political and socio-economic state after the extra-terrestrials’ colonisation, leaving out the early terraforming practices. As stated next to the title, it is a sci-fi/thriller and not an action film. Political-espionage case scenarios resembling Europe just before WWII cannot be avoided.

The acting is solid and so is the photography and directing. If you asked me what I think it lacks the most I would say emotional investment. I felt hard to engage as the main characters are underdeveloped. Also, the masterplan gets too complicated on occasion even though it offers the desired twist. I guess the script could have gone through maybe a couple of more rewrites.

A perfect example of a groundbreaking sci-fi/thriller came only ten years before “Captive State” and it is none other than “District 9” (2009) – Neill Blomkamp’s finest film to date.

The Perfection (2018): Drama / Horror / Thriller

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Leaving one of the best music academies as a kid, Charlotte, with a twisted plan in mind, seeks now her old mentor and the younger girl who replaced her.

Daring, perverted, gruesome, and brilliant at parts, The Perfection utilises De Palma’s split diopter shots, Hitchcock’s shower scene ‘staccato’ editing, and Aja’s unsettling way to convey paranoia. Netflix’s new horror avoids cliches, scares, amuses, entertains, and gives you a good run for your money. Allison Williams and Logan Browning, accompanied by operatic music, hold no punches, seduce one another, but also ourselves, and steal the show. Excellent directing by Richard Shepard who masterfully orchestrates everyone and everything. Two things though:

Interesting but quite ironic for Miramax to choose such a theme to produce. Also, I wish it didn’t get that explanatory. It doesn’t leave much to think about once the end credits start rolling. Editing should have left certain information out or carefully reveal some of it at the end of the third act.

Regardless, a definite must-see for the Horror fans.

Destroyer (2018): Action / Crime / Drama

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A broken LAPD detective follows a lead on an old case that got her to the decadent state she currently is.

Brilliant concept and even more brilliant execution! Karyn Kusama and Nicole Kidman shine behind and in front of the camera respectively. Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan, and Scoot McNairy provide amazing support, completing a film – a masterpiece I’ll dare to say – that will keep making you question what you know and what you think you know. NOT a Hollywood recipe, and NOT for an impatient audience. An existential, slow-burn, dark, indie cop-drama set in two timelines, holding no punches.

A definite must-watch! You can like it or dislike it afterwards.

Rim of the World (2019): Action / Adventure / Comedy

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Four teenagers meet at a campsite when the world gets invaded by aliens and it is up them to save humanity.

Well, well… if I haven’t elaborated before on exploiting kids and races! Anyway, you know what, I’m not gonna go through it again. So, let’s focus on the film itself.

It’s Independence Day (1996) meets Jurrasic Park (1993), meets Stand By Me (1986), meets E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) (and quite a few more) but, unfortunately, it’s neither! Not even close. On the plus side, it’s fun. Made me chuckle a few times. Should you decide to watch it, don’t have any expectations. Put it on and forget your problems for just over an hour and a half.

Dragged Across Concrete (2018): Action / Crime / Drama

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Two suspended cops descend into the criminal underworld as they both struggle financially.

Third feature film from writer/director S. Craig Zahler who amazes once more. Cast: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Michael Jai White, Thomas Kretschmann, Jennifer Carpenter, Laurie Holden, Don Johnson, Udo Kier.

After “Bone Tomahawk” (2015) and “Brawl in Cell 99” (2017), “Dragged Across Concrete” is not the shock to the system his previous two films were but lands on screen in a time that “political correctness” has reached its peak. A slow-burn action/crime/drama which infuriates but also entertains with solid acting, writing, cinematography, editing and directing. Realistic and surrealistic dialogues which make one think, in either case, how on Earth did he come up with that (or why on Earth didn’t I think of that first)?!

With reviews as low as 0 and high as 10, you won’t find much in between. Don’t listen to anyone though (yes, not even myself)! Watch it and see where you stand in this world of violence, corruption, rights but no obligations, and opinionated masses that no matter what you say or do will offend… someone.

The world is what we make of it. I vote for communication and respect.

The Tattooist (2018): Short / Horror

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The art of tattoo and the unprecedented darkness of the artist.

Have you ever been to an under-2-minutes short film festival? “The Tattooist” is the poster child of their accomplishment. Terror, paranoia, and unfathomable blackness are synopsised in a minute and twenty seconds of ungodly, deranged insanity.

A short film by producer, writer, and director Michael Wong that needs exploring and expanding and so hope to see it becoming a feature in the very near future.

Escape Room (2019): Action / Adventure / Drama

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For a chance to win $10,000 finding their way out of a challenging escape room, six strangers must work together for, ultimately, a chance to save their lives.

Right… So… If you are under 15 y/o: Enjoy the dynamic of the characters, the kind of far-fetched yet enjoyable riddles, and the brilliant production design, art direction, and set decoration.

If you are over 15 y/o: Still watch it if you want to but I would go for something more… extravagant: “Cube” (1997), “The Experiment” (2001), “Identity” (2003), “Exam” (2009), “Triangle” (2009), “The Killing Room” (2009), “Coherence” (2013), “The Belko Experiment” (2016).

And these are just on the top of my head. There are dozens more. Two things about “Escape Room”: On one hand, when the producers imply that there will be more, they shouldn’t be giving away so much information in the end. It destroys the mystery by answering most of the burning questions. On the other hand, if I had to recommend it that would be for… Taylor Russell and Deborah Ann Woll!