Sunday, December 27, 2015

Film Review - Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Copyright: Walt Disney Studios
George Lucas was the guy who invented the concept of the Force, and then 30 years later decided that the Force was actually produced by midi-chlorians, a type of microorganism in the blood of a person. After that, he apparently realized that he just doesn’t get these new kids, which is the reason why his last three films in the Star Wars franchise failed so miserably, even when it comes to selling a lot of merchandise (for some reason, not many people bought Hayden Christensen T-shirts).

At that moment, he did something unattainable for most despots through history and released the reins to someone else for the Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Lucas was done and many felt really happy that he was out of the picture.

The guy who filled his shoes was J.J. Abrams, a film industry veteran that must have been Cardinal Richelieu or someone like him in his past life because he continues to swim like a champion in the shark-infested waters of Hollywood. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Film Review: Sicario (2015)

Copyright: Lionsgate
There’s a lot of justice in the fact that Benicio Del Toro had the opportunity and the privilege of being a part of two seminal films about the War on Drugs, almost exactly 15 years apart. One is Traffic while the other one is Sicario and this review will perceive them both as a single chapter in a bloody and futile endeavor.

Both films are crucial in their presentation of how the US collective subconsciousness is grappling with the issue of drug trafficking in the Americas and the violence it breeds in the ever-widening cracks left by poverty.

In my Sicario review, I have to congratulate the director Denis Villeneuve for continuing his streak of fantastic movies that includes Enemy and Prisoners. As intense as always, Villeneuve in his latest film tells two stories – first covers a driven and honest FBI agent accepting a role in a task force with a semi-secret, semi-legal mission that will include both the US and Mexico territory.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Film Review: Ted 2

Copyright: Universal Pictures
There is a lot to be gained by completely letting go of some cinematic ideas (and ideals). In Ted 2, this is demonstrated by the readiness of its director and writer Seth MacFarlane to disregard the previous installment of the series and everything that happened there.

This way, MacFarlane slithers back into his TV zone of comfort, where he makes one more Family Guy episode that only happens to last two hours and includes live action and not animation.

There’s no doubt that he is a smart and talented guy, but I kind suspect that he sees himself as the golden god of comedy. Unfortunately for him, he isn’t, especially when it comes to feature-length movies.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Film Review: Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Copyright: RLJ Entertainment
So far, Bone Tomahawk is one of the best films of 2015.

Films like it are only enforcing my strong belief that we’re living in the golden age of neo-western film. Furthermore, it seems that the standards set by films like The Salvation, The Retrieval, and the Das finstere Tal are constantly upgraded by other filmmakers who dare to push the genre into its next developmental chapter.

Here’s one way to describe it: Bone Tomahawk is a film that somehow managed to get connected with the spirit of Quentin Tarantino circa 1991 and offer him a chance to use a cast of choice to make a western horror dead-pan delivery dark comedy. The man that got the opportunity to channel this spirit is S. Craig Zahler, who made his debut with this film.

Before this, Zahler worked as both writer and cinematographer. But, in this film, his directorial results can only be described as flawless.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Film Review: Extinction (2015)

     Copyright: Vertical Entertainment
The best way to describe the movie Extinction is to perceive it as a weird dream about a script about a time after a zombie apocalypse. The film opens in the present time, where an outbreak of some kind transformed patients into rabid killers, brought the army onto the streets and people were being evacuated to the protected zones.

Two friends, Patrick and Jack, along with a pregnant woman, try to reach safety. A decade later, society has fallen apart and the world has entered a new ice age (for whatever reason), most are dead, but Jack and Patrick are neighbors, living apparently secure lives while one of them is also raising a child, the nine-year-old Lu.

But, here’s the twist – the two men are not communicating with each other in any way, even though only a road separates the two houses.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Film Review: Dark Places (2015)

Copyright: A24
From its onset, the Dark Places movie emits that particular vibe that tells that this film will not be a huge success with the audience. As a dark mystery and a thriller, it begins on a really somber note, showing a mass murder of the Day family in which a brother was accused and sentenced for killing his mother and two sisters.

The remaining sister Libby Day, then a small girl, is two decades later a grown woman, (played by Charlize Theron), who still lives off of the charity coming from random people who learn her cruel fate. Libby, now a jaded and detached individual, learns that in spite of this, the money is drying out, so she is forced to listen to an offer from a shady organization, who desires to reopen her case and find out what really happened that night when the murders took place.

The introduction of this group is one of the most impressive and unexpected elements of the film, which is both out of place (in a good way) and extremely intriguing. It is a shame that later on, the same element loses all relevance to the story.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Crowdfunding Push - Abattoir: Waiting Room

Imagining you're an animal in the slaughterhouse sounds like a really bad idea, but this short film being made in Serbia explores the exact same idea. Here's what Abattoir: Waiting Room Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign page states: 

What if we are not the most powerful creatures in the universe? What if "the others" have the power and reason to serve us what we deserve? What if "the others" are here just for that - to show us how wrong we are doing?  Two humans, one “waiting room”, many questions, and two stories. First one: the host (played by famous Serbian actor Radoje Cupic) is a vegan who didn’t do much to save the animals, besides the fact he stopped eating them; his karmic punishment is an existence with never-ending brief residents who are about to end up as a meat products. Second one: newcomer (played by highly regarded Nenad Pecinar) is just one of many with the same questions, behavior, and fears. As a meat-eater, he will end up as a… you can guess.

Abattoir: Waiting Room campaign is entering its final 12 hours and has currently collected over 20% of the funds it is looking for. Check it out here and see if you can help this film out.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Film Review: Knock Knock (2015)

Copyright: Lionsgate Premiere
It’s not good to be bad, and being bad might end with you being killed, is what Knock Knock movie is trying to tell us. Temptation can be interesting and fun, and it can even dance around in your living room in a shower robe, but at the very end of temptation, something horrible and sharp might lurk in the dark.

Essentially, this is all well and nice, but the cog in the mechanism of this revenge horror film is its main actor – Keanu Reeves. This man has plenty of, shall we say, unorthodox talent and a strong screen presence, but here, the actor transforms into a devastating miscast right during the opening scenes.

Let’s take the first few moments of the film. Here, we see Reeves’ character, a man by the name of Evan Webber, being woken up by his loving wife and family. Webber is an architect in his 40’s and he has a gorgeous spouse and kids straight from a cereal commercial. At this point in time, all is splendid in the Webber household, but still Reeves acts as an alien who suddenly appeared in a human body. This alien studied human culture for a long time and prepared for this situation in simulators, but through an error, he arrived there way ahead of schedule.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Coming Soon: Fingerface

When it comes to low-budget films, it's possible that Andrew Dawson managed to break the mold. This filmmaker created a feature-length romantic comedy using only his own fingers and a whole lot of hours of creating scenery, filming and doing everything else a film needs. According to the Fingerface official site, the plot of the film goes like this:

After losing his job, Giles does the only logical thing. He gets very, very drunk. And in the haze of the bar he sees a girl. Not just any girl. Giles is sure that she’s the girl of his dream from the night before. Her name is Stephanie and it turns out that she’s a lot harder to impress in real life than in dreamland. To win Stephanie’s heart, Giles has to travel the world, turn his back on his friends and give up his other dreams of becoming a musician. But is she worth it? And is Giles really in love, or is it just good, old-fashioned lust?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Film Review: The Visit (2015)

Copyright: Universal Pictures
M. Night Shyamalan is a polarizing figure, which some adore and many others shun. 15 years ago, he burst onto the scene with a one-two punch that included The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, one of the most impressive mystery films of the late 1990’s. But then, as the age of the 21st century came about, Shyamalan kind of lost his touch, or was unable to evolve it into the new age, constantly reverting back into his comfort zone of early X-Files episodes, both in terms of narrative and visual delivery.

His subsequent films all lacked that synergy that could combine a twist-based idea with an interesting and attention-worthy movie plot. Instead of that synergy, most of them just ended up being a Twilight Zone episode turned into uninteresting films. Other, none-mystery films like After Earth were just horrendous and should be forgotten as quickly if possible. But now, out of nowhere, 15 years after losing artifact of cinematic super-power, Shyamalan found it in the most unlikely place – a horror comedy from the found footage genre.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Film Review: Dope (2015)

Copyright: Open Road Films
It’s both strange and interesting to see that for the upcoming generation of teens, mainly those born in the late 90’s, the same decade is slowly becoming a part of an urban legend. Like the 80’s for those who are 10 or 15 years older, the time period that has passed since then allowed this decade to receive a shiny gloss that makes it look very appealing. Dope is not a film about the 90’s nostalgia, but the fact that it does include it as one of the main plot points shows that its creators and producers were able to recognize emerging trends. Fortunately, they didn’t ruthlessly exploit them but instead coated the bitterness of the film’s core message in an easily salable form.

It’s only when Dope is inside of our bellies that we recognize the grim topics it explores – mostly the rampart 2.0 racism that still dominates over the African-American and Latino communities in the biggest US cities. Its director Rick Famuyiwa is by no means a household name, but after this film, it is undoubted that he will receive plenty of exposures.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Film Review: Pay the Ghost (2015)

Copyright: RLJ Entertainment
Since Nicolas Cage became a one-man-meme generator a couple of years back, a notion has grown in the public consensus that the man simply can’t act very well or according to the designated character. Of course, this idea elegantly ignores films like Vampire's Kiss, Wild at Heart, Raising Arizona, Guarding Tess, Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation. 

Yes, it’s true that his choice of films in the 21st century wasn’t exactly stellar (Bangkok Dangerous, for example) and his manic energy often comes out in sublimely weird ways, but essentially, in my opinion, Cage has absolutely nothing to prove anymore.

Now, he obviously works using the Michael Cain rule of accepting all that is offered to him in his price range and Pay the Ghost is strangely one of the best films he participated in over the last few years.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Film Review: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)

Copyright: Paramount Pictures
The latest installment of Mission: Impossible franchise seems determined to impress right from the first minute. As the well-known images of Tom Cruise hanging from an ascending cargo plane appear on the screen, along with a visceral feeling of anxiety (the director Christopher McQuarrie knows his action sequences), the audience is left to witness a film flawlessly made for the 5-second attention span generation.

As the story progresses, there is no time to slow down the action or take a break. The thriller and action modules just come one after another, linked together by a vague plot about a terrorist organization wanting to change the world for the better by killing important people and blowing things up.

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt runs around once more, looking fit and stylish, strangely untouched by over 20 years since the first Mission: Impossible films both in stature and the way he presents his character. In the subsequent 2 hours of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, several fantastic segments take place, covering everything from suicide bike chases to suicide breath-diving hacking intrusions.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Film Review: Self/less (2015)

Copyright: Focus Features
There are several key points to this film which really remind me of the movie Limitless, and it’s not just because of its name. In both films, fringe science unlocks something incredible for the main protagonist, but also opens the door to something really dark once the protagonist breaches its chrome and shiny surface. 

In both films, the main character is a person full of energy and the will to live, but who is somehow bound to their current, undesirable state – in Limitless, it was the lack of professional drive that kept its main character down.

In Self/less, the main character is Damian, an incredibly wealthy old man who is coming to the end of his natural life. But Damian can’t accept the notion of mortality that easy, so he seeks a company offering a chance to start all over, using a device that transfers his mind into a new, synthetic body, grown from scratch.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Film Review: Broken Horses (2015)

Copyright: Fox Star Studios
For me, Broken Horses is a strange, ill-fitting mixture of a distinctive cinematic sensibility and a precisely defined time and place in which the film is supposed to be set. The film’s director, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, started working on films over 40 years ago, but in this piece, he only manages to end up as a person who is coming from a completely different place of creative thinking, and gets lost in a strange land of different cultural values and approaches to telling tales.

Broken Horses is a story of two brothers who get separated in a small southern US town when their father and the local sheriff, gets murdered. One brother goes away and becomes a successful musician, while the older one remains, falling under the influence of a local crime boss. Many years later, the younger brother returns, but he is not wanted in the dust bowl of his old hometown.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Film Review - Insidious: Chapter 3

Copyright: Stage 6 Films
No matter how I approach it, I have to conclude that Insidious: Chapter 3 is an okay film. As a whole, it lacks any serious problems, but also any cutting-edge twists on the defined formula to make the movie anything more impressive than a slightly average horror. If this film was a car, it would be a 5-year old Volkswagen Polo – sure, it’s a comfortable and reliable vehicle that doesn’t mostly leave anyone hanging because of an unexpected issue, but it’s still hard to get really excited about it.

Leigh Whannell, an old buddy of the Insidious/Sinister/Conjuring horror guru James Wan, got a chance to direct this film and he did a solid job. The film moves at a steady pace and like most Wan-like modern horrors, it builds up its tension quickly and effectively, mainly because all those Millennials watching it don’t have the time to sit through a prolonged introduction. Still, as a not-too-ambitious film, it keeps its viewers interested throughout.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Film Review: Love & Mercy (2015)

Copyright: Roadside Attractions
The goal of the Love & Mercy and its director Bill Pohlad are clear from the first moment of the film, which show John Cusack as an older Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys who wants to buy a car somewhere in the 1980’s. Wilson, now an unrecognizable middle-aged man, lost all of this drive and creativity that help him create one of the most successful bands in the U.S. history.

Deeply troubled by emotional issues and under the constant supervision of a strange psychotherapist, Wilson loses days and months, maybe even years in a haze of prescription drugs and complete lack of interest in anything in the world around him. Then, without any warning or sign, the story rewinds 20 years into the past, where the young Brian, now at the top of his game, desires to make an incredible album which will break away the Beach Boys from their fake surfer vibe he gradually came to despise.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Film Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures
It's always great to see artist evolving, even if this process alienates some of their old fans. Guy Ritchie is definitely prone to evolution, but it’s obvious that the same process for him takes place in phases. His first phase started in 1998 with the cult classic Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, after which he developed his contemporary London crime phase. The same had some good films and some average ones, but it nonetheless ended with RocknRolla in 2008. 

After this, Ritchie moved the setting of his new phase backwards one century and developed two Sherlock Holmes films, which were both successful and impressive action flicks, having in mind the serious overuse of the original material in pop culture. Now, with The Man From U.N.C.L.E, the third phase of Guy Ritchie has begun and it brings style and substance on a completely new terrain for its director.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Crowdfunding Push: Thunder Chronicles Epic Fantasy Film

Thunder Chronicles Epic Fantasy Film crowdfunding project is definitely very self-explanatory. As the title suggests, it's aiming to raise money for the production of one of the first (if not the first) epic fantasy films which will be entirely created in the region of Southern Serbia. The project's official Indiegogo page states:

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Film Review: Child 44 (2015)

Copyright: Lionsgate
There are a lot of hard, fake-sounding Russian accents in this film. Imagine as if every male character tried to sound like an actor from the original C&C: Red Alert game – we’re talking weird emphasis on random words and a tendency to overly dramatize everything being said, because, apparently, that’s how people talked back in the dark days of the USSR. 

Its director Daniel Espinosa leaves this to be the strongest impression of the Child 44 film, which meanders through its characters and the soviet state that was organized, according to the film, in a very incoherent manner.

Its case is not helped by the fact that Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman lead a great cast, or the fact that Noomi Rapace once again creates an unusual and engaging character. This story of the film was moved to the big screen from a Tom Rob Smith’s novel by the same name. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Film Review: Good Kill (2014)

Copyright: IFC Films
A long time ago (speaking in video game industry terms) Ron Perlman declared in the opening segment of the Fallout franchise - war, war never changes. While the same might be true in a metaphysical sense, in a purely practical one, war definitely changes. 100 years ago, people still expected to charge the opposing forces using cavalry with real horses and real sabers (once such charge even took place in 1939 when the Polish forces carried this out in desperation). Today, however, people in the Western nations, especially the US, exchanged animals for a much more potent combat sidekick – robots.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Film Review: Final Girl (2015)

Copyright: Cinedigm
Part proxy renege fantasy, part action film, Final Girl is a type of story that tries to produce a smooth visual experience, but offers very low amounts of substance. If follows Veronica, a specially trained killing machine who is planted in the midst of a group of young psychopaths who kidnap girls and hunt them in the forest as their own wrapped form of entertainment.

Veronica enters the pack and begins killing the killers and hunting the hunters. Sadly, this is the entire Final Girl film. As a narrative, it looks more as a draft of a story than the story itself, because it appears to be lacking any divergence from a single line plot. Of course, like Mad Max: Road Fury clearly showed, there is nothing wrong with a one-liner films, but only if they have a strong delivery. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Film Review: Spy (2015)

Copyright: 20th Century Fox
With Spy, its director Paul Feig delivered a great comedy which elegantly erases the elements of masculinity and bravado from the James Bond type of films. This simple action then reverts the entire narrative into its truer form of completely ludicrous comedy. 

In the film, Melissa McCarthy plays Susan, a desk officer in the CIA tasked with protecting her designated field agent Bradley, played by Jude Law. When Bradley gets killed in a strange encounter with a beautiful woman, Susan decides to leave her computer and become a field agent herself, in the hope of finding the persons’ responsible for Bradley’s death.

In a fantastic cooperation with Feig, Melissa McCarthy unleashes a tour de force of comedy, where she quickly shuffles between physical gags and a really aggressive type of verbal humor (better said, verbal insults). The second element demonstrates some excellent writing with jokes that are both smart and unpredictable. As the plot develops further, Feig drops McCarty’s character into every deeper waters of intrigue, danger, and suspense, where Susan’s actions also need to become bolder and even more insane. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Current Shortcomings of True Detective Season 2

Copyright: HBO
I was trying to figure out what feels less than right in the new True Detective season. Like practically everyone, I really loved the Season one. From the first moment, it had that synergy of place and characters that was just magnetic in a sweaty, sticky, wrong way, but didn’t leave me feeling uncomfortable for a long time (maybe this is its only shortfall from being a truly groundbreaking show like The Wire).

Of course, I had big expectations from Season Two, especially because Collin Farrell (ever since I saw Tigerland, I am certain that the man is a great but underappreciated actor). But, at the same time, I knew that replicating the formula from the first seasons would be impossible, so I was just hoping for something interesting. 

For the first couple of episodes, I wasn’t even sure that anything feels wrong or inadequate. After all, just a year later, I forgot what happened in the first season’s episodes (for example, what exactly takes place in episode 3 in the first season?), so I told myself that this is a normal buildup process of the Pizzolatto type.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Film Review: Jurassic World (2015)

Copyright: Universal Pictures
Jurassic World is a film that just hits its mark dead center. It delivers fast and hard, seemingly fully liberated from the pressure of huge production and a cast that did not spend decades in blockbuster films. First, here is the director Colin Trevorrow, who was before of this film, known only for Safety Not Guaranteed, a really clever and interesting film, but microscopic when compared to the mammoth production of the Jurassic World.
A similar situation occurs with main actors as well. Chris Pratt became huge with the smash success The Guardians of The Galaxy, but others, like Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Jake Johnson (who is still typecast as the comedy guy, even though he can do more, like he showed in Drinking Buddies), sure can act but did not exactly made hundreds of millions by being in popcorn films. But, maybe just because of this, Trevorrow glides through the story and ridiculously expensive sets like a pterodactyl (I couldn’t resist this corny pun). 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Film Review: Maggie (2015)

Copyright: Lionsgate Films
We didn’t realize it, but a zombie apocalypse is an apparently full of depressive potential. Sure, the plots often grazed depression in these types of films, but mostly while their primary emotions are based on anxiety and the need to stay alive. In Maggie, however, the focus is exclusively on depressive shades of a deadly virus outbreak, which turns people into flesh-craving monsters.

To add to the unexpected weirdness of this idea, the film introduces Arnold Schwarzenegger as Wade, the bewildered father of the main character, a girl called Maggie, who gets infected with the virus and has only weeks before she turns into a zombie. On their secluded farm, father and daughter prepare for the inevitable while Maggie says goodbye to her memories and everything around here.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Film Review: The Lazarus Effect (2015)

Copyright: Relativity Media
Like the recent horrors which were both low budget (Spring) and really AAA level (Poltergeist) this film is also significantly uneven. From the basic story of a lab team that developed a cure for death, The Lazarus Effect quickly slips into a thriller of demonic possession and personal hellscapes. The speed of this transition is not only narrative, but also quite literal, because the entire film lasts well under 90 minutes.

The cast of the film, mainly Olivia Wilde as the lead actress, glides through the action smoothly. With a couple of short stops on the regular horror path of “everything is just fine” to “we’re losing our budget” and “the short-sighted administrators put a stop to our brilliant research”, to the final “OMG we killed our colleague”, the film presents the expected milestones.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Film Review: Kajaki (2014)

Copyright: Alchemy Releasing
To a degree, it is safe to expect a significant level of brutality from a war film. Last year, Fury managed to shock me to the core, even though I thought I was desensitized to the Hollywood-type depiction of modern-day combat, especially for those films that are set in the WW2.

Kajaki is also a brutal film, but not in the sense that it presents the physical suffering of its characters (even though there is plenty of that as well), but because it shows the terrifying virtual environment where minds and bodies can exist in a parallel dimension of pure horror, but which is determined not by physical laws, but by a decision of some individual or a group of individuals which declared that a war is worth fighting for.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Crowdfunding Push: iSyndrome

A new interesting crowdfunding campaign is looking to make a short science fiction film with the topic of terrifying psychological disorder called iSyndrome. The film plans to focus consciousness and the way it is represented in the minds of individuals, but also in a wider cultural context. The iSyndrome official Indiegogo page states:

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Film Review: The Gunman (2015)

Copyright: Open Road Films
Right off the bat, the Gunman fails to properly present a time transition which bridges a 7-year period. In this timeframe, the main character goes from a mercenary and a cold blooded killer to a humanitarian well digger. But, the film is not able to present this jump in any other shape or form apart from shaving off Sean Penn’s mustache. As the story progresses, its director Pierre Morel continues to make mistakes basically in the same manner – he does what needs to be done, but the same simply does not successes in making an impression or being coherent with the broader story.

And the story is ripe with politics, danger and betrayal. Set in the Congo, England and Spain, it is worth of a thriller built on the Bourne model. Its action sequences are dynamic, fast and well crafted, providing the film with its main driving force. The talking part, however, is a lot more lukewarm and anemic, mostly because it struggles to focus on the plight of central Africa, the greed of the corporate white devils and the idea of the main character going through some form of repentance, all at the same time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

So Bad it’s Good: The Counselor (2013)

Copyright: 20th Century Fox
Many films demand a certain state of mind if they are to be experienced to the fullest. For the Counselor, that state of mind should be something between feeling very sleepy and being exceedingly agitated. In this golden zone of inactivity (sleep) and frantic activity fueled by anxiety and frustration (agitation), it produces a unique experience. Here, the film shines like a true diamond of total overconfidence, in spite of the fact that it was built on devastate foundations of a script that is not simply overly ambitious, but aims for the spot of a modern masterpiece. The result is a funny and pointless film, but not because of its plot holes and illogical series of events, but because it seems to believe that not many thrillers of modern time can be compared with it.

This is seen from the first moment when the basic relations are set. In it, Michael Fassbender plays a successful attorney and a man who desires to get into drug trafficking, but knows nothing of it. Javier Bardem plays Reiner, his guide on this perilous journey, who has more experience and a lot better fashion style. Together, they initiate a financial series of events that gradually summon a Mexican cartel to their lives when all begins to fall apart.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Coming Soon: The Stranger (2014)

Written and directed by Guillermo Amoedo and produced by Eli Roth, The Stranger tells a tale about a man who arrives into a small town looking for his wife. He soon finds the thing he is after, but this also unleashes carnage upon the same place.

The film seems really low-key, focused mainly on the actors and the rather ordinary-looking violence (which makes it all the more awful), but also pushes a supernatural premise in the mix. Recently, Roth showed that he is really keen on producing interesting mystery-horror films and The Stranger looks exactly like this.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Film Review: Run all Night (2014)

Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures
Judging by his recent films, the director Jaume Collet-Serra really digs funky camera tricks and hiring Liam Neeson as that washed-out guy who suddenly has to save the day. Run all Night film fits into this category, just like last year’s Non-Stop did. Once again, Neeson settles into the role of a guy who likes to drink and just wants to gradually and quietly kill himself via autodestructing when cruel faith decides to draft him into a noble cause.

This time, he assumes the role of Jimmy Conlon, a former organized crime hit man who must save his son from both the Irish mob and the local police during a single night that will either kill them or result in redemption. Neeson slides into Conlon like a coin into a 30-year-old pay phone, but there is a serious lack of any substance that plagues this film from the beginning to the end.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Crowdfunding Push: Black Angel

Epic fantasy is something that is currently really popular in many formats, especially video games. But, at the same time, apart from Peter Jackson’s not so brilliant Hobbit trilogy and many fringe, sort of fantasy young adult adaptations of successful novels, there aren’t many movies that delve straight into this territory. Now, there is a crowdfunding campaign aimed at funding a film called Black Angler that is going for the full epic fantasy feel. The film’s Indiegogo page states:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Review and Ending Explanation: It Follows (2014)

Copyright: RADiUS-TWC
The beauty of this film is that it really makes you watch it. Unlike regular horrors, or even other films, in its case, watching is not just looking at what the characters are doing, but also what is happening around them. While many scare-based movies go for this, the director of It Follows, David Robert Mitchell took this notion one step further by making the audience into a type of lookout system for the main characters.

In the film, a young woman called Jay has sex with her new boyfriend. But, immediately after, she learns from him that he actually transmitted a curse (sort of) to her, the same one he got from someone else. It involves an invisible creature that walks towards its victim – it does not run, just walks, but can take the appearance of any other human being. If it reaches her, she is dead. After that, he flees and Jay is left with the curse and must find a way to get rid of it or do something about it.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Film Review: Kung Fury (2015)

Copyright: Laser Unicorns
Like all great plagues in history, the 80’s nostalgia was also gaining strength unseen and hidden, sprawling in the corners of the public collective consciousness. It started with the demonic resurgence of pixel art, a form of visual design that people in the gaming industry happily buried more than two decades ago. This spread to VHS tapes, vintage computers and many other things which are now cool as cucumbers only because the generation that grew up in that period (like me) entered their fourth decade and is prepared to pay money to see more of this falsely golden decade. But like Mary Schmich remarked long ago, nostalgia is essentially a process of recycling that turns old memories into overpriced notions which we cherish.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Film Review: Poltergeist (2015)

Copyright: 20th Century Fox
Poltergeist from 1982 is one of those films that are etched into the hearts of many generations. Here, Spielberg showed how horror and utter amazement can go hand in hand while it also generated incredible amounts of money. Naturally, topping that for any would-be re-imagining is a pretty big deal, which is why, it seems to me, the creators of Poltergeist 2015 really didn’t even try.

I have to say right off the bat that I really loved this film. It has some awesome visual moments, mainly where the light from objects is used as a material element, not as something untouchable. Here, the director Gil Kenan really presented some impressive moves, which are not overproduced or hammered upon the audience by the 3D setting.

At the same time, many problematic things that often show up in horror films, like obnoxious little children or the irresistible need to make the actions of the protagonists logical (they never are and we’re never convinced as the viewers by the explanations) are completely excluded. From the first moment a child disappears, the parents are like: “This is supernatural. We have to call the Ghostbusters.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Film Review: Ex Machina (2015)

Copyright: A24
When I heard about Ex Machina, I was really looking forward to seeing it, mainly because of one name – Alex Garland. 

As an experienced writer, Garland worked on a number of sci-fi-ish things, including excellent films by Danny Boyle. But, when I saw it, I realized that the whole film indeed resides on a single name, but that’s not Garland, but one of its three main actors, Oscar Isaac.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Film Review - Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures
At one point in the Mad Max: Fury Road, a character calls bullets “anti-seeds” because you plant one and then watch something die. This is not a big part of the film, nor did its director George Miller put some special emphasis to this idea, which is delivered in less than 20 seconds and then never mentioned again.

But, as soon as I heard it, I thought to myself that this is a pretty interesting idea, but more importantly, one that I never heard before. It made sense instantly while, at the same time, it was very original and funny in a dark way. I had one of those “why didn’t I came up with that idea first?” moment. Its morbid, biting, and comical wisdom is like the entire film. In it, there is nothing spectacularly new or never seen before. But, as a whole, it’s an anti-thesis to the idea that big blockbuster films need to be stupid or made by Christopher Nolan.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Crowdfunding Push: The Chair

The Chair, a new horror that focuses on the gritty, dark corners of a human mind is currently looking for funding on their Kickstarter campaign aimed at completing its post-production tasks. It states:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Coming Soon - Mad Max: Fury Road

The critics who managed to see the film love it and all the footage and trailers we saw pointed to the same conclusion - Mad Max: Fury Road will be one hell of a film - from the violence to the beautiful cinematography and crazy action choreography, it's all here. It is coming out in a matter of days, so be ready to start planning to go and see it once it hits the theaters on May, 15. 

To get into the mood (unless you want to stay pure until you see it on the big screen) here is Mad Max: Fury Road Official Retaliate Trailer.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Film Review - Kingsman: The Secret Service

Copyright: 20th Century Fox
This movie is best described as unexpected. This is true for several layers of it. On a global narrative level, it provides a plot about Eggsy, an ordinary yob from London, who one day gets drafted into Kingsman, a non-governmental, secret spy service. 

His mentor is Harry Hart, his complete opposite - he is a gentleman from a bygone era and an individual who is determined to get the job done, even if that means repaying a man who saved his life almost 20 years ago. While he tries to mold Eggsy into spy material,  Richmond Valentine, a hugely successful tech entrepreneur, dreams about saving the world in a way that seem to be leaving plenty of corpses in its wake. Soon enough, the Kingsman take notice.

Here, the regular elements of a fish-out-of-water and a tradition James Bond plot are mixed, but throughout the film, they are constantly reshuffled and dealt over and over again, which produces a really high level of engagement. The director of Kingsman: The Secret Service Matthew Vaughn guides the film as if he is influenced by both larger than life spy films and modern, edgy sitcoms (where things like fisting or anal sex jokes are not a big deal) which makes the plot development a process that just can’t be predicted. The comic elements of the film, especially their offbeat and adult nature, provide a lot of fun during the action scenes, but also when the action dies down.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Film Review: Last Knights (2015)

Copyright: Lionsgate
One of the things that really produced a whole lot of problems for Last Knights is everything about it apart from the film itself. First of all, it has a horrible title, which sounds really similar to First Knight, Last Samurai and anything else that is “last” and includes men wielding some kind of swords. Then, it poster features Clive Oven and Morgan Freeman looking all serious while riders do serious stuff behind (or in front) of them.

Finally, the film’s trailer and synopsis suggest a variation of the 47-Ronin story, which was all done before and never lead to stellar results. When I saw this, I immediately thought that the film is trying to imitate, at least on the surface, those much more famous films, like B-production movies often do.

So, there is no doubt that the casing of this product isn’t much. But, this film is no B-production ripoff. Thanks to the cinematic gods of irony, the movie Last Knights is actually really good. First of all, its dialogs are brilliantly written. The film carries a basic story about a discredited feudal lord whose knights, mainly their commander Raiden, get without a retainer, their jobs, and their honor. Of course, an evil and corrupt official is behind all of this and Raiden does not seem like a guy who lets go of stuff easily.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Coming Soon - Avengers: Age of Ultron

Copyright: Walt Disney Studios
Finally, the day when we see Vision as a movie superhero has arrived! At last, the vision (pun intended) of that purple man with godlike powers and a nice spandex suit will rain upon our brains via our optic nerves, where it will be, without any doubt, imprinted for ever and ever. Of course it would. After all, we're talking here about Vision, a man who is like Batman, Jesus, Nikola Tesla, and Superman, all rolled up into a single figure of unprecedented importance. Many real-life events fail in comparison when they are stacked up against Vision.

With its divine appearance, the dream of countless generations who shivered in the dark caves, wondering when will they see Vision, the most relevant fictional character in the history of humanity, will thus be realized. Behold – today, on May 1st, Avengers: Age of Ultron is getting released in movie theaters around the world, but more importantly, the same film will feature minutes upon minutes of Vision footage, including those that show him slightly levitating above the floor.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Film Review: Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures
In many ways, this movie is similar to Kim Jong-un. Sure, he looks clumsy, fat and has a weird haircut that makes him look even fatter, so it’s really easy to make fun of him (unless you’re living in North Korea or working in Sony).

Jupiter Ascending, just like the chubby Kim, also practically begs to be ridiculed. It is also dumb and over the top in its decisions, probably thanks to a hugely inflated sense of self-worth which is most likely present in both entities.

But, unlike the petit dictator, Jupiter Ascending is not malicious. In the cinematic reference space, for me this means that it does not practice any form of false advertisement. It presents itself just like it truly is and does not use any tricks during its entire length that would show otherwise. In fact, it is a fairy tale, like the ones Lana and Andy Wachowski use to make when they forever changed the movie industry with the Matrix (the first movie, not the horrid series that followed, not counting Animatrix).

Monday, April 27, 2015

Film Review: Spring (2014)

Copyright: XYZ Films
Spring movie will not work as a horror film, it dawned on me almost from the first moment the main character Evan enters a conversation with his friends in a bar and right after his mother dies.

Immediately, in a very self-aware and awkward way, the script is trying to convey the idea that it is very much in control of its inherent horror tropes and ideas. It will not cater to our expectation as a horror-loving audience, it body proclaims through witty dialogues and by sending its main character to a part exile, part road trip to Italy.

There, Evan meets a mysterious, but beautiful girl with whom he shares a love of being a smart-ass. But, in the distance of their growing relationship, something is amiss and it involves monsters, but also hurt puppy feelings. Here, the focus of the film is much more honest and relevant. As Even tries to get laid, but then not much later, tries to hold onto the woman of his life, the narrative structure of the film is solid.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Crowdfunding Push: Spectrum

Mystery movies are probably one of the most engaging film genres. At the same time, they are also a genre that is notoriously hard to pull off without seeming goofy, predictable or plain bad. A new IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign is looking to develop a surreal mystery film that will from the get-go embrace its funnier side. This film is called Spectrum and its official page states:

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Film Review: A Most Violent Year (2014)

Copyright: A24 Films
Both interior and exterior of this film are about control. Inside of its plot, the main character Abel Morales, superbly played by Oscar Isaac, is a young New York businessman who desires to expand his heating oil enterprise. But, he chose to do this in 1981, one of the most violent, crime-stricken years in the history of New York. At the same time, his delivery trucks start to get hijacked, often involving violent attacks on the drivers while the same danger begins to gradually cross over into his private life.

In spite of this, Morales is determined to stay in control and do not stray from the path of doing business legally, even though his wife Anna, played by Jessica Chastain, continually pushes for other alternatives, some of which involve crime figures.

On the outside, J. C. Chandor directed this film by also providing it with a large level of precision and control. Like his miniature masterpiece All is Lost, Chandor has a talent for making compact cinematic pieces that are tightly wrapped, but still manage to feel very natural and organic.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Coming Soon - Monsters: Dark Continent

A few years back, when Monsters came out, it really made an impact on me as a slow-moving, indie drama/social commentary set in a very imaginative science fiction world. Now, Monsters: Dark Continent takes place a decade later when the alien infection spread to the rest of the world.

This time the plot is set in the Middle East, where a US army fights both an insurgency and the aliens at the same time. I'm hoping that some of the same grim feel and subtle US foreign policies metaphors that the original included will be present in this part as well.

Tom Green is directing the film as his first full-length piece, which comes out today, on April 17, in the US theaters. Check out the trailer for Monsters: Dark Continent below.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Film Review - Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)

Copyright: HBO Documentary Films
For a religion that believes in weird aliens and events that include dropping nuclear bombs into volcanoes full of dead bodies 70 million years ago, Scientology can sure be much grounded in the present time and things like lawsuits and harassment.

In this documentary by Alex Gibney, the same religion/corporation/cult is shown through the perspective of those who have left it over the years. While this might seem like a narrative which offers only a single vantage point to an issue, as the documentary proceeds, it becomes clear why David Miscavige, Tom Cruise and all others who might represented Scientology declined to appear in the film.

Generally, Scientology can be perceived as a single man’s desire to find wealth, power and personal emotional and psychological healing through the same endeavor. This man is L. Ron Hubbard, a sci-fi writer who transformed his fiction into pseudo-psychotherapy, and then transformed it into a religion.

While the tone of the film is very somber and dark, everything about Hubbard to me seem really uplifting and energetic, in spite of his obvious serious mental issues. Here, the documentary shines in depicting an emotionally extremely unbalanced person making up total nonsense and then channeling it into a system to be sold to others.