Sunday, December 24, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)

Copyright: RLJE Films
I went in with big expectations when I started watching Brawl in Cell Block 99. S. Craig Zahler, its author, and I really mean author because the man wrote, scored and directed the film, completely mesmerized me with his previous film, Bone Tomahawk. Now, the story of a weird Wild West is exchanged for the universe of drug pushers and the things they willing to do to protect their loved ones. Also, it uses Vince Vaughn in his best form as the main character who finally provided his career with the thing he should have gotten from True Detective.

But, while it’s a fun and gritty movie, Brawl in Cell Block 99 is basically a reskinned Bone Tomahawk. Its first half features a long exposition and plenty of character building, which then drastically switch at one point, landing its protagonist in hell (again). From there, he has to fight to find salvation (again). While this is loose setup, it still feels very repetitive and for me, takes away a lot of points for this otherwise promising weird thriller. Zahler needs to mix it up a bit for his next film because this formula is getting a bit stale.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Indie Showcase: Hongo (2017)

For any independent movie, there is always the dilemma of how should a particular film present itself. Should it be flashy and shocking from the first moment, trying to catch the viewer with this effect alone? Or should it try to play it cool and slow, allowing the viewer to gradually become immersed?

Hongo, made by the Misguided Perceptions Media Group is an interesting movie that apparently uses a little bit of both approaches. The film tells the story of a convict that get paroled and released into a world where he ends up struggling just to get by. Desperate for any option, he listens to the recommendation of this parole officer and contacts a man who offers him a job.

At this point, the film takes a sudden and menacing. In an unknown open space, he and other individuals are placed in a surreal, but a very deadly situation.  As their plight begins, so does the film take a step into a horror-thriller domain.

Aside from an interesting plot, Hongo features great cinematography, with excellent shots of serene nature, which is a complete contrast to the frightened and desperate character. The film also features really cool editing, especially when it comes to its action-drive second part. The trailer clearly shows this fact near its very end with a great jump-scare.

All of this makes Hongo a very promising gender-bending film that you should check out. If you want to learn more about the movie and where you can watch it, use this link.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Documentary: An Inflammatory Approach (2017)

Copyright: Dreamscape Media
The place where Western pharmaceutical and medical practices meet and clash with those outside of the same realm is always an interesting one. Teddy Hayes, a UK filmmaker recently explore the same domain when he traveled to India to meet a doctor who developed a completely new approach aimed at resolving inflammatory illnesses. The result is a fascinating film called An Inflammatory Approach and here’s what the documentary page states:

A medical discovery offers an alternative treatment to inflammatory-related diseases. Bobbili, India is where the work of Dr. Apparao Peddapalli has reaped incredible medical results despite business-related conspiratorial challenges-specifically the systematic discounting of his proven results by government and global pharmaceutical companies. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Two Paragraph Review - Wind River (2017)

Once more, the movie world puts a sniper rifle in the hands of Jeremy Renner, but this time, it exchanges the sun-scorched wastelands of Iraq for the frozen wastelands of Wyoming. There, a murder of a young woman belonging to the local Native American tribe brings in the law enforcement, but also many questions related to a community struggling with real-life problems, as well as their cultural identity and a sense of purpose.

The film was made by Taylor Sheridan, who had his part in movies like Sicario and Hell or High Water, which makes him a prime author of modern gritty thrillers. Wind River is also a very good thriller, but not much than this. For me, the main issue that comes across is the lack of real depth in relation to the Native American angle of the story. Aside from the expected sympathy for their silent plight and somewhat simplistic representation of many struggling characters, the film ends up being something that just did it research and then completely forgot about Wyoming or its inhabitants. For me, Mystery Road is an example how this type of a story can be told with less cinematographic polish but with a more hearth, which Wind River lacks just a little bit.

Monday, October 23, 2017

FilmFish – The New Way of Finding Great Movies and TV Shows

When I recently came about FilmFish, a new movie/TV show recommendation service, I didn’t have too many expectations. After all, we live in the world where everyone recommends everything all the time. This is probably one of the reasons I kind of gave up on many traditional resources that were once very relevant to me. As the social media phenomenon took off, so did the concept of recommendation became blurred and lost in the previously mentioned social media noise.

But, as I soon realized, FilmFish was something completely different. Now, two weeks after I first started using it, I can safely say it is the best alternative cinematographic recommendation websites I ever came across. Firstly, it offers an across-the-board recommendation for TV shows, including all the major league players like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, and HBO. This way, it elegantly bypasses the problem of native service recommendations where they only suggest their in-house content.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Crowdfunding Push: Betta Fish

The playing field of indie filmmaking is very wide, but as I stated several times before, for me personally, the genre of thriller is the domain where the best works of this type have been made. Now, a new ambitions film is looking for funds to create what its crew is hoping to be an innovative modern neo-noir thriller. The project is called Betta Fish and here’s how its Indiegogo page describes the plot:

The story revolves around Danny Bishop, a mischievous, manipulative gambler with a history as a prodigy con artist. Fresh out of prison and in trouble due to a large debt to Alex, the beautiful, elegant, malicious mob boss queen of the city, Danny has a worthy opponent. 

Motivated by the pain of her enemies and the destruction of Danny, Alex swears to kill him and his family if he does not pay his debt, putting Danny on a collision course with old friends and rivals in his quest to succeed.  This socially progressive story involves a mixture of race and diverse communities, centering on family and the right to equality.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Two Paragraph Review - Baby Driver (2017)

Copyright: Sony Pictures
This movie is all about the beats. Each shot and frame are designed to support the songs and their beat track, which is in itself an impressive feat. At the same time, the simple story of a reluctant heist driver caught below the paw of a big gangster is told well, adding another layer of deliciousness to this excellent cinematic dish. This way, Baby Driver isn’t so much about fast cars or cars of any kind, but about the way we keep our lives in the rhythm of it all.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Indie Showcase: Pain & Music (2016)

Over the last few years or even the previous two decades, there have been some very solid cinematic works of art about the world of African-American music scene. Currently, Empire is a TV show that found mainstream success with its formula, while the slightly less-known Atlanta made by the brilliant Donald Glover is leagues in front of it when it comes to its simplicity and humor.

In the movie domain, Hustle & Flow made a few ripples over a decade ago but has practically disappeared since. Now, a new indie movie desires to continue on this path. It is called Pain & Music and it's currently available on Amazon Prime. Here's its official description:

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Short Film Review: Loyalty or Betrayal (2017)

A strong film can be made out of a huge range of elements which are set in an even bigger number of possible relations. This is why there is no definite recipe that makes a perfect film and also the same reasons why so many great yet wildly different movies exist. Still, most excellent works of art, including cinematography, come with a single distinctive advantage that either allowed them to be great or eventually made them that way. This element is called simplicity.

With a healthy degree of simplicity, any movie project stands a chance to become something extraordinary. Jonathan Vargas is a young filmmaker who has not created a masterpiece with his latest short film Loyalty or Betrayal, but has made a simple and incredibly effective work of art. It has its flaws, but it covers all of its bases in a wonderful manner, making it a dream come true for any jury on a short indie film festival.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Indie Showcase: Beer & Seed

The history of contemporary film shows that one of the most grateful domains for indie releases is the genre of comedy. From Kevin Smith’s Clerks to Summer of Blood and Safety not Guaranteed, all of these great movies managed to get so much out of very little. Beer & Seed is a film that utilizes the same approach and goes for that dark comedy space in an otherwise familiar and friendly environment.

The official description of the film pitches it this way:

What happens when you follow a navy veteran who goes back to college? A world full of fat girl sex, drugs, gambling, violence. In a creepy comical look, Bill goes through the issues of working and trying to pass through college. In this well crafted Indy film, Bill Cox takes you on a journey where crazy is the reality at Central College in Beer & Seed, a classic "Stoner Film".

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Annabelle: Creation (2017)

Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures
Dolls are creepy and Annabelle: Creation is weirdly a film about a creepy doll that (very commendably) doesn’t use the same object too much. This was a great move by its director, who fought off the impulse to make the doll front and center, which would do the story no favors. Instead, the film switches its focus between the girls of a Christian orphanage who get to travel to the middle of nowhere with their guardian nun and start living in the home of a good Samaritan dollmaker and his wife.

As the horror action begins to unravel, the director follows a single girl on her quest of moving from a victim to the main monster, switching perspectives smoothly and effortlessly. At the same time, frights are abundant and striking, but they also lead to a somewhat ineffective finish. While the ending and the last third are not bad, they do feel like a missed opportunity to score some bigger and more dramatic horror points. In this regard, Annabelle: Creation works much like its previous part, ending up a decent modern horror but still feeling very forgettable.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Copyright: 20th Century Fox
Like its predecessor, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, this film works well inside of its own micro-genre - ape-based war drama (not counting humans in this ape category here). As a direct continuation of the second part in the series, War of the Planet of the Apes uses the expectations of the audience to its advantage, always staying a step ahead of them when it comes to the way the plot unravels. This time around, like Koba some years before, Caesar is also on the war footing, but this time his target is a deranged human colonel bent on their destruction, along with other maniacal plans.

The action in the film is impressive, but what I found most interesting is the use of close-up shots of both ape and human character and their emotional expressions. I think this was used for the purpose of blurring lines between the two species, forcing the audience to become emphatic to both in one way or another. While this prolonged exposition definitely added to the films somewhat too long run-time of almost two and a half hours, it completed its purpose perfectly. Because of this, War of the Planet of the Apes is first and foremost a touching film and this is an impressive feat for the entire cast and crew.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures
I always tend to appreciate films that try something as opposed to those who try nothing. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a film that does try something new, even though it is actually two old things - a Peter-Jackson-like epic fantasy approach and the film’s own director’s signature street-hustling style that made Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels into a cult movie. But since his days in contemporary British gangster stories, Guy Ritchie began branching out and this film is one of those branches.

Of course, not all will or have appreciated the fast-talking, street-smart Arthur who is more than a reluctant hero. Epic fantasy, like porn, is often meant to be consumed in a predefined way where innovations are seen by many as something that takes pleasure away from the expected enjoyment. In spite of that collective wisdom, Ritchie did something interesting here and this might not lead to others trying to emulate his emergent fantasy style, but the film is unpredictable when it comes to its plot and rather well-acted; this especially applies to Jude Law as the main villain Vortigern. Finally, the film might not be the new Excalibur, but like the classic from 1981, it tries to mix it up.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Copyright: Paramount Picture
There’s plenty of shells in the new adaptation of the classic anime, but not many of them are the good kind like the one Major, played by Scarlett Johansson has for her body. Instead, these shells are all over the place and they represent great potential followed by failed opportunities to make any kind of a lasting connection to the audience. While there are some redeeming emotional moments brought on by the film’s end, mostly through the always creepy and always impressive Michael Pitt, but overall Ghost in the Shell is plastic both to touch and taste.

Yes, there is an endless homage to all things Japanese and cyberpunk, but the runtime of just over 90 minutes stops the film from exploring any underlying issue of identity, technological change and the meaningfulness of choice. The reason for this is most likely some heavy studio chopping and cutting, which is a shame. Instead of a meditative and gorgeous exploration of a dark future, it goes for the action feel but it underdeliveres at many of its crucial moments - the best fight scenes come at the start of the film, as if it is trying to convince its audience to come and watch it. It’s still gorgeous though.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Crowdfunding Push: Jenna The Great

Comedy films and the educational system are one of the great combos ever since the late 1970’s. Of course, everyone’s experience, including my own, shows why this is true - all those bad, weird and supremely boring times spent in school can hardly be forgotten. Now, a new independent film in the crowdfunding phase is trying to capture the same phenomena, but using an interesting and very original fantasy twist. The film in question is called Jenna the Great and here’s what its Indiegogo page states:

What on Earth would 'YOU' do if you had your last exam around the corner woke up with a genius that just happened to be a famous philosopher from Ancient Greece? A team of decorated filmmakers have teamed up to deliver this fun, wacky idea to the screen. The story sets up cocky student protagonist; Jenna waking up with our chosen favourite philosopher; Aristotle, to deliver you our funny hidden chapter of history about the most unlikeliest of friendships ever forged.

Aside from including one of the greatest philosophical minds in history as a teenager-helper to the main character, the film’s pitch is brimming with that old-fashioned down-to-earth positivity that is sorely lacking in modern sarcastic and too self-conscious films, both studio-based and indie-made. The video pitch for the crowdfunding shows a team of artists and producers who are eager to get to work on a script they clearly like and find funny and charming in equal measure. Because of all of this, there is little doubt that the end product will be a breath of fresh air that is both a lighthearted comedy about the educational system and homage to the important (if not crucial) role it plays.

The flexible campaign to raise money for Jenna The Great was designed to cover basic costs of filming and production, so any help would be very appreciated by the cast and crew. Learn more about the campaign and how you can help it out right here.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Short Film Review: Justin Bieber Role Play Harem

Identity is something we take for granted in our everyday lives. However, when these lives do not belong to regular individuals but celebrities adorned and/or despised by millions around the globe, the same identity is slowly but surely becoming somewhat of a public domain. This way, a celebrity becomes not only the human being of flesh and blood, but also an idea in itself, which has now, thanks to the internet and social media, available to everyone.

In this strange and uncrated domain is where the new film Justin Bieber Role Play Harem dives into. A social media account representing the famous Canadian pop star begins a series of relationships with other equally famous accounts, leading to tales of love, despair, exhilaration, lust and jealousy. As the film shows a series of short clips of these celebrities and the Instagram accounts that represent them, the atmosphere it builds is generated quickly and effectively, even though it doesn’t definitively show what is going on.

With no spoken words and all verbal ideas transmitted using Instagram comments, the director of the film, Sohaila Rahimi, uses images and camera movements that are almost nausea-inducing to tell this strange tale. As the film progresses, the audience struggles to keep track of the forming and imploding relationships, as the beautiful images of the celebrities fly over the screen. The minds of the viewers will be thrown into a spiraling state where they both realize this cannot be true and still continue to wonder could it be, as if some huge scandal somehow managed to elude us.
As this unnerving dance continues till the very end, I was left with a sense that no matter how this narrative approach might seem weird, I was able to become immersed in it fully. It must be that my brain is already used to process so much information using social media snippets and short exposures that a film like Justin Bieber Role Play Harem came to me completely naturally.

Some might feel a dread because of this idea, but I don’t reject it. The world is changing and so are we along with it. This film simply manages to capture a small part of it, like a snapshot of a sprout before it bursts out of the seed’s shell. It does the same it a marvelous way.

Check it out the full short film right here:

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Blame! (2017, Netflix)

Copyright: Netflix
Disclosure: I’m a huge fan of the Blame! manga which is easily the best work of art in this genre I ever read and one of the best comics/graphic novels in general. This is why I’m delighted to say that Blame! Netflix adaptation is both true to the spirit of the Tsutomu Nihei’s original and successful in plotting its own artistic course. In the film, Killy as a wanderer comes across a village in the megastructure when local electrofishers might sit on the best clue he came across since he started looking for the net terminal gene, hoping he will stop the rampant Builders and Safeguard, while allowing people back into the system.

If you didn’t read the manga (and in many cases, including my own, even if you did) this will probably make very little sense to you, but the movie manages to come to grips with its complex and odd narrative structure in a very elegant fashion, just like it approaches its animation. The visual style of the manga is distinctive and presented in full glory here, finely combined with CGI animations of the characters and fight scenes. While the film is more talkative than the manga, all of the foreboding feel of it is in there, making this a worthy interpretation of the brilliant work of art made by Nihei almost two decades ago. So, to compress my review, I can only tell you: go see Blame! on Netflix, it’s good.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Nocturnal Animals - Slick Tom Ford

Copyright: Focus Features
Tom Ford, aside from having a really cool name and looking as cool as a vintage James Bond character is also one hell of a director. I didn’t get to see his A Single Man but boy oh boy is Nocturnal Animals a deep-cutting film. Following a double narrative in which one takes place in Susan’s (Amy Adams) shattered life lived in a gilded cage of her own making and the other in a fictional book of her former lover (Jake Gyllenhaal), Ford flows across a strong screenplay like the capital ship of the Zheng He’s fleet. I know, that was one long sentence with a historical reference to boot, wasn’t it?

But, Nocturnal Animals is also a long and often hard to watch film, but it still mesmerized me like something that can only become a future neo-noir classic. A big part of this is thanks to Adams who is definitely one of the true modern genius actresses, just like Arrival showed. Her intellect, emotional range, and simple physical presence makes her a woman that easily covers everything Ford’s tale throws at her, and it does throw some curveballs. At the end, I didn’t really get what occurred before I read some interpretation, but it still made a terrific impact on me. The only downside is the strange visual and thematic loosening of the plot at the very end of the novel part, but it could be that I also misinterpreted that as well.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Colossal - Emotional Friction and Kaiju

Copyright: Neon
Man, Colossal is a weird film, but mostly in a good way. Here, we get to see that there are original ideas but also the reason why so many  Hollywood producers shy away from them - they're tough to pull off and even tougher to sell successfully. I’m still not sure if this movie ended up being what its director Nacho Vigalondo wanted to create, but it is definitely unique.

In the story of two childhood friends who are reunited later in their small town, where they lead semi-purposeless lives, the audience is shown what friction and damage can come about at small age, but also what personal forest fires can arise from them. Aside from the super-odd script which includes monsters that attack Seoul as its main point, the film utilizes Anne Hathaway and even more Jason Sudeikis (who often, for some haunting reason, looks exactly like Ben Affleck) to bring this very relatable struggle to life, both in human and Kaiju form.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Areal Shots Wars

Copyright: Walt Disney Studios
Gareth Edwards is a guy that was clearly captivated by aerial shots throughout his career. In Monsters, they worked quite well, where he used them to show something terrible, impressive and barely knowable in the distance, but they failed in Godzilla, where we already knew what was lurking there and we wanted to see more of it, not less. Now, in Rogue One, this approach works somewhere in the middle, making a not too shabby, but also not too great of a film.

The only live-action, stand-alone film in the Star Wars series opens in a very complex and hard to follow manner, jumping around both in terms of time and space. But then, Edwards creates his merry crew of suicidal rebels and other characters who will do anything to get some blueprints. This takes them right into the heart of darkness, here located in a tropical paradise with some really lacking security measures. Also, Ben Mendelsohn was great like he always is and the film felt better to me than Star Wars: Force Awakens.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Anthropoid (2016) - That Czech-English though

Copyright: Bleecker Street
Aside from touching upon the horrors of the Nazi occupation pretty much anywhere, Anthropoid delves deep into the issue of western actors struggling with a Slavic accent that is not Russian. Here, people like Cillian Murphy and Toby Jones work with local stars as they try to figure out that particular brand of Slavic English and end up sounding strange (at least to me).

Apart from that, the film showcases the assassination attempt of Reinhard Heydrich who got a back full of fine automotive leather along with grenade fragments for his contribution the Third Reich, dying a painful and slow death that is never shown on screen. What is shown is the slow buildup to the attack and then a prolonged war-themed torture porn segment featuring the assassins and resistance members being hunted down and killed in Prague.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Our Final Days Together - Short Film Series (2017)

It always fascinates me that a genre like zombie films, which is so overcrowded, still regularly provides interesting reimagining of their main premise. From under-the-radar films like Maggie to TV shows like The Walking Dead that became global phenomena, it looks like we just can’t get enough of these brain-craving monsters. But, even more interestingly, the same genre works quite well in the domain of low-budget filmmaking and Our Final Days Together series provides a perfect example.

Written, directed and shot by Jonathan Vargas, a young film author from Florida, the series currently includes two parts, both of which follow a girl named Claire, played by Vania Vieta, as she navigates the world of Miami after a terrorist unwantedly triggered a zombie outbreak which quickly destroyed practically everything. In the reality where the undead reign supreme, surviving often comes with a heavy price and series examines the same toll in great detail.

Vargas is now a veteran author in the domain of filmmaking, which is seen through his work - a constant stream of improvements and upgrades is a clear trend. In his previous big project, Gaby’s Revenge, Vargas took on a neo-noir thriller web series. This time, he clearly wants to explore the areas of zombie horror, but at the same time, cleverly, he also pushes into a drama that is cut with a great chunk of the vintage suspense thrillers.

From the construct of both films, Vargas aims to merge genres into something that is part family drama, part Hickok film, all with a healthy dressing of zombie tropes. The form in which the films are made also serves this purpose - shot in black and white, with practically no props besides a few guns, the films are bleak and bare, just like the world of death and senseless loss in which humanity finds itself in after the collapse. The gist of the films takes place mostly in the dialogues between the characters, in which the notions of old and new collide forcefully. In the old order of things, lives and murders carried a different weight than in the new one.

Now, as the zombies roam the streets and the minds of survivors become polluted and/or diluted with the horrors that the apocalypse brought, there are no good choices or correct answers. In the films, it’s like Vargas tries to say that in this type of event, we all lose, regardless of the fact that we can die right away or kill to live another day. Still, his writing, like in his previous works, manages to end up at the notion of a family and what means to lose it or protect it when the danger is the greatest. The series shows one way or the other, protecting that safe harbor is no longer possible, in spite of the sacrifice some are willing to make to protect their loved ones.

But, while the general sentiment might be pessimistic, the tension of individual films is the strongest suit of the series. From the set up to the framing, everything in these moments underlines the fact that something wicked is approaching the characters. In these pulsating, unnerving segments, Vargas shows he can master the moment with just his shots and some ambient sounds, giving the films a very engaging trait.

At the same time, Vargas steadily builds a greater narrative which will clearly follow Claire into a very uncertain future as well - like always for her, there she can find either death or safety. That is why, at the very end of each episode, the pessimism still gives way to a glimmer of hope, no matter how much doubt and violence comes with it. I can only wait for new episodes and hope Claire will not lose her life or something even more precious - her soul. 

Watch the first part here and the second part premiers in April 2017.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Film Review: Logan (2017)

Copyright: 20th Century Fox
Getting old is a tough thing to go through, apparently even more so for super heroes. Set some 20 years in the future, Logan explores the moment when powerful and relevant individuals lose all of that and just become frail people who desire nothing more than to rest and forget about their waking hours.

For Logan, now a limo driver in an increasingly crumbling US, that rest is hard to come by as his main task in life is to provide to Professor Xavier, now demented and (because of that) very dangerous, a peaceful end to life. However, a mechanical-hand-owning mercenary puts a dent in those plans when he appears, looking for a particular little girl.

Action and sadness are merged in this film is a great way, while its director James Mangold obviously wanted to make a superhero film like no other. While Nolan brought darkness and maturity, Mangold brought melancholy and resentment to the formula, both of which work like a charm. Logan is jaded and past caring (but not in that cool, rebel way), while Patrick Stewart does a marvelous job as a sick father figure who can give nothing more aside from a small grain of wisdom.

In all, it is this bitterness that builds the road on which Logan has to travel to redemption and purposefulness, no matter how tiresome or painful this might end up being. As an action film, Logan misses the mark only with its collection of villains, which are somewhat prosaic and not really engaging as the good guys.

But they don’t spoil the film, which is all about relationships. When Mangold placed all of this smart script-writing in a dystopian future that is only starting to become a real hellhole, the film ended up being something very unique and it resonated with me completely.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Crowdfunding Push – LIGHTSTEP CHRONICLES – Retro Futurist Space Opera Comic Book

Lightstep Chronicles is not a movie, but an interesting hybrid crowdfunding process that aims to firstly get its brand-new sci-fi universe into a comic book form. As the project unravels, the same universe should get its own novel, game and much more, all through its production company, Imagine Incredible Comics. Here’s how the project’s Kickstarter page pitches its campaign:

Lightstep Chronicles is a dystopian space opera devised as an ongoing comic book series. It is meant to be only the first of many series taking place in the same universe and joining together to form an expansive narrative that will tell the tale of a strange and colorful world and the secret hidden in its inner mechanism. 

Lightstep Chronicles take place in a future age, eons after our days and far away from our ancestral home, when time itself is the ultimate form of class distinction and oppression. Our galaxy, ruled by the omnipotent entity known as the Primogenitor, became a place in which the entire lifespan of the meek and underprivileged lasts as much as a single day in the life of the high and the mighty. In the midst of such a world, a young woman – an exile from a planet of fanatics bent on genetic purity – joins forces with an enigmatic Radio Pirate in order to unravel the mystery of a 1930’s radio program that seems to predict future events with eerie accuracy.

There’s definitely a huge potential in this kind of greenfield universe-building process that will quickly branch out to multiple media formats. The sum beings asked for is at the low end of the spectrum so hopefully the project will get off the ground. Check out LIGHTSTEP CHRONICLES – Retro Futurist Space Opera Comic Book official page and check out how you can help.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Film Review: Arrival (2016)

Copyright: Paramount Pictures
Let’s lay down the fact in a clear and hard-hitting way, like a good news reporter covering an event. 

Firstly, does Arrival include kids getting a terminal disease? Yes, it does. Does the film begin with the same notion, opening directly into this illness and all the tragedy and sadness that come from it? Yep.
Well, for a lot of people, this is equal to emotional manipulation on the highest level. Most of those people hated the film or they didn’t even complete it. But, at the same time, this is the only major element that can be claimed to be a problem for this film.

I’ll grant that sick kids immediately provoke something in us and they are not there by accident in any film, including Arrival, but for me, there was an intrinsic beauty in this masterpiece that didn’t even allow me to wallow on this opening cheap shot (which is not that cheap when the plot completes itself).

In the film, the best things from the fiction of Michael Crichton, including all those moments that induce a sense of wonder, fear and non-verbal amazement all at the same time - all of them are in this film. Whether it is Contact or Sphere, Arrival has that grand feeling about itself and it manages to use it with dignity and grace. As the team of scientists approach the alien spaceship, one of a dozen that just appeared above the earth’s surface, the audience steps inside with them, not only visually but also with their emotions. Here, the film sinks its hooks and does it perfectly.

The plot of the film and its captains, which includes not only Denis Villeneuve but also Amy Adams, steer it delicately yet decisively into a very personal story where all the cheap shot(s) from the start suddenly fall into place. Yes, Arrival is a film about alien visits and the magic of language, but more than any of that, it is a film about hope and love. Interstellar and Arrival begin in a similar manner, but the second movie then sheds its shallow skin and really immerses itself into an endless universe – not the physical one, but the one that is in the hearth of just one of its characters.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

My Take on the 89th Academy Awards

The 89th Academy Awards are almost here and for this year, I decided to drop my prediction list which kind of sucked in the previous years and simply list the Oscars that I hope will go to some people or works of art, along with the reasons I believe they deserve them.

In the Best Picture category, I'm rooting for Arrival hands down, mainly because it's the best work of AAA science fiction in a long time. Some might find it a bit emotionally manipulating, but I'm not one of those heartless ice-people. When it comes to Actor and Actress in a Leading Role category, I don't have any favorites, but I would really love is plenty of people on those lists didn't get one. The same goes for the supporting roles and here I have to call out Jeff Bridges who once more acted as Rooster Cogburn from True Grit, so his nomination is really a laughing matter.

In the Directing category, I'm once again rooting for Arrival and its director Denis Villeneuve, as well as in the Adapted Screenplay category. In the Original Screenplay category, I hope that The Lobster gets it for the sheer heck of it, even though chances are slim. And that's about all I got on the Oscars 2017.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Coming Soon: Delusion (2017)

A new drama by Christopher Di Nunzio, an up-and-coming US director, brings about an interesting blend of mystery and drama, along with a cast that includes Jami Tennille. Here are the basic outlines of the film’s plot:

Frank Parrillo received a letter from his wife who died three years ago. With help from his nephew Frank decides he's ready to start over. Soon after a mysterious woman appears who seems like a kindred spirit as they both battle internal issues. Still despite premonitions from a psychic and a man who Frank's not sure is even real he chooses to move forward as he confronts the demons in his head. His choice could ultimately lead him to a darker reality.

The film will be distributed by Cinema Epoch and is currently available for buying or renting in the US, UK and Canada at Amazon, while the Amazon Prime users can watch it for free.

Check out the Delusion trailer below.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Accountant (2016) – Trying to be Smart

Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures
Nothing is too much when it comes to this film, which is why it is so loaded with different snippets of ideas and narrative threads. The plot itself is relatively straightforward – Christian Wolff, a forensic accountant that is brilliant and a high-functioning autistic is hired by a tech company that wants to understand where their money is going. However, the company does not know Christian is used to working for all types of dangerous organizations, from terrorists to crime syndicates.

At the same time, two other factions are also working on this case, but only one of them is a national agency. The other group is represented by mercenaries/hit men who want to resolve the problem, no matter it might turn out to be by leaving a pile of dead bodies in their wake.

Using a combination of fast-paced action and flashbacks that showcase the childhood of a mentally and emotionally challenged boy and his brother, The Accountant is a movie that immediately seems “smart”. It hops around the plot with these backstory building blocks, combining a standard thriller with the idea of a mystery film.  Who are the boys and which one, if any, is Christian?

Other elements of the backstory are also presented through his strange memento moments and all do wonders as fragments of a broader film’s narrative. However, all of this also competes for the viewers’ attention when it comes to the present mystery of the missing money and the hailstorm of problems that will soon be upon everyone’s heads.

Yet, in spite of this, there is a sour feel to the film. The best way to describe it is to point towards Interstellar and the way it (although on a much larger scale) tried to sell itself as a lot smarter and profound than it really was. Here as well, there is that unmistakable feeling of the authors desperately trying to make everyone not think their film is plain by any measure. It is as if everyone had to come out of the theater thinking “that was some deep yet very gunfire-and-action laden experience”. Here the mandatory runtime of over 120 minutes is also present, even though 100 minutes would do perfectly.

Now, while there are plenty of witty things in the film, it’s by no means a thriller which propagates any kind of message or deeper idea. It’s fun but not as smart as it tries to be, which is an ambition that is even further decimated by Anna Kendrick playing her cut yet confused character she did so many times before.

Monday, January 9, 2017

MFM's Best Movies of 2016

2016 was the year when I saw a really small amount of films, both good and bad. But, being that 2017 arrived, it's that time to reflect and divide the fine films from the mediocre ones. Because of that, here's my list of the best films I saw in the previous year.

Hail, Caesar! - The Coen Brothers at their silver medal level - the film tries to be overtly funny, which always produces weaker results than their thrillers (A Serious Man doesn't count). Still, one of the best oddball comedies of the year.