Sunday, September 16, 2018

Two Paragraph Review: Upgrade (2018)

First, let's talk about the weakest part of this film - in the beginning, the movie stumbles with its exposure and buildup. The main character Gray, an anti-technology car mechanic living in a futuristic near future, seems like a fish out of the water, but not in any intended way. Sure, the plot is clearly going to an ominous place but it appears to be taking its sweet time to get there in the first 20 minutes. The screen time for this part of the story feels somehow wasted and there is no meaningful connection neither between Gray and his wife Asha, nor between him and the life he’s living.

But, with the intro into the story ending and the actual plot beginning, the movie switches gears. The biggest improvement at that point is the introduction of STEM, a self-conscious chip that bridges Gray’s damaged spinal cord and turns him into a flesh-based robot. STEM is a combination of KITT from Knight Rider and HAL 9000 and it quickly transforms the film into a brilliant action movie. With some exceptional cinematography from the director Leigh Whannell and smart and funny script (which is miles away from the awkward and sloppy opening), Upgrade is sure among the top action films of the year so far.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Two-Paragraph Review: I, Tonya (2017)

It would be a complete waste of time to watch this movie and figure out it is only a complex showreel for Margot Robbie where she demonstrates her acting talents. Fortunately, the film is not this but a dark comedy that happens to be rooted in reality. For those in the US, the story of Tonya Harding is probably well-known and the film uses this fact. It quickly rewinds her life up and down as it builds towards the key element – the entire scandal with the wounding of Nancy Kerrigan.

Here, the film for me falters. I, Tonya am neither a film about this haunted yet brilliant person nor is it about a wacky crime in the sports world of the 1990s. It is something in-between and that is why it works as something in-between bad and good. No one is to blame for this and it does not hamper the film too much, but it does end up making the movie feel like a really expensive afternoon TV release. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Indie Showcase: Sinking Sand (2018)

The plot that is based on crime and punishment is as old as time itself, even before a particular Russian novelist used it for one of his famous books. After all, it is something we're all instantly interested in, no matter what the actual story or the setting might be.

The appeal of the concept is clear and also the reason why centuries pass and it remains as fresh as ever. Sinking Sand is a new indie thriller-drama that is utilizing the very same idea. Here is how the movie explains its plot:

After a loving wife murders a blackmailer to protect her husband’s flourishing law career, she must watch as he prosecutes another for her crime.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Two Paragraph Review: Hostiles (2018)

There’s something about this film that I can’t quite put my finger upon. It is something elusive, barely visible and still impacting the entire experience of watching it. But, while I cannot pinpoint it, what I am certain is that it stops the film from being really impressive. Instead, it makes it linger between the average and the good categories, as something that belongs in neither one. Its story is about a late 19th century US army captain who escorts a family of native prisoners to their new home. He does this after many years of bitter US-Native fighting and crooked peace deals, now apparently nothing more than a jaded and violent officer, masterfully played by Christian Bale.

Now, why is the film lacking in such distinctive, slight and yet undeniable manner? It is not that the film features or forces some particular type of political message that would make it feel fake, even though it does tend to pile blame more towards the white settlers (no argument here from the historical perspective). The problem lies, for me, in those little cracks and fissures that appear from time to time, mostly in the script. A sappy moment here, an injection of banality there. At the same time, unlike small masterpieces of new-western like Bone Tomahawk, the film takes itself excruciatingly seriously. Thanks to this, it ends up missing the mark for me - not completely, but evidently. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Indie Showcase: Forbidden Power (2018)

Forbidden Power seems like an ambitious movie that is mixing an interesting blend of genres. Here is how the film described its plot:

After a one night affair with a mysterious woman, a young man wakes up alone, empowered and with a cryptic message. He uses his power in business and then searches for the women to find out where her power came from.

The movie is written and directed by Paul Kyriazi, an industry veteran with more than four decades of movie business experience. This is probably the reason why he decided to combine things like science fiction, thriller, action, and mystery, each of which is a big challenge for independent production.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Two Paragraph Review: A Quiet Place (2018)

The thing that makes A Quiet Place such an original experience is the fact that it takes away a single element of regular cinematic work - speech. It keeps many of the other sounds, like ambiance noise and even music. Yet, when it comes to human speech, the thing we hear so much in almost any movie genre - there is almost none. At the same time, the plot is full of an intensity of character interaction, especially those coming from Emily Blunt, all of whom are members of a US family stuck in a post-apocalyptic setting where making a loud sound means a certain death.

With this reduced process of storytelling, the movie managed to be a small marvel of cinematic greatness. Devoid of speeches and dialogues, it creates an engaging thriller/horror story while building a family drama in the background. Mixing all of this in some gorgeous cinematography, A Quiet Place is really a great example of successful innovation coming from mainstream Hollywood production.