Saturday, August 29, 2020

Kung Fu Hustle

Movie Name: Kung Fu Hustle
Year of Release: 2004
Director: Stephen Chow
Starring: Stephen Chow, Xiaogang Fen, Wah Yuen, Zhihua Dong, Qiu Yuen, Kai-Man Tin, Shengyi Huang, Suet Lam, Tze-Chung Lam, Siu-Lung Leung
Genre: Comedy, Action
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7 

Synopsis and Review:
Following the very successful "Shaolin Soccer", actor/writer/producer/director Stephen Chow tackled another original story, inspired by Wuxia films combined with animated cartoons, in order to tell the story of a hero coming to his own, and finding his true calling. The film follows the story of Sing, a young man who roams the streets of Shanghai in the 1940s, alongside his best friend Bone. They both long to be a part of the Axe Gang, which dominates and bullies most of the city and surrounding neighborhoods. He accidentally stumbles across an apartment complex, dominated by some eccentric landlords, but as he tries to unsuccessfully leverage his non-existent power, he draws the attention of the Axe Gang to this impoverished neighborhood. When the Gang tries to squeeze these people for money, they discover a series of Kung-Fu masters living in there, who aptly defend the area. As people suffer, and the stakes get higher, Sing suddenly realizes there's more to life than being a thug and living a life that's based on other people's misery. He is forced to battle a formidable foe, hired by the gang, in order to save everyone's lives.
"Kung Fu Hustle" is the rare combination of a Wuxia film (martial artists), with a comedy, that manages to retain the action and thrill of those films, while also peppering the film with enough humor which prevents it from taking itself too seriously. Stephen Chow smartly creates his hero as a "work in progress" type of individual, someone who comes from nothing, and who thinks the seductively crime filled lifestyle will enable him to ascend to a position of power which he aims to attain. Much to his despair, both him and his best friend, are awfully clumsy, and can't get anything done properly, which makes the film the more engrossing. This combination of action, and cartoonish humor (at times almost literally, with the bodies stretching as if though they're actually cartoons), married with some old school sentimentality, makes for a film that is uniquely entertaining. It's a rare film that manages to be simultaneously a good representation of Martial Arts, with enough of a universal stance in terms of its humor, which enables it to be consumed and appreciated by different demographics (and of course, geographies). The uneven quality of the cast, doesn't prevent this from being a very entertaining and highly recommended feature.

Best in Show

Movie Name: Best in Show
Year of Release: 2000
Director: Christopher Guest
Starring: Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Fred Willard, John Michael Higgins, Michael Hitchcock, Bob Balaban, Will Sasso, Don Lake, Larry Miller, Ed Begley Jr., Jim Piddock, Linda Kash, Malcolm Stewart 
Genre: Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8 

Synopsis and Review:
Actor/Writer/Director Christopher Guest, followed his acclaimed "Waiting for Guffman" and the slightly less well received "Almost Heroes" with "Best in Show" which turned out to be one of the best reviewed films in his career so far. Much like "Guffman", he co-wrote the film with actor Eugene Levy, only this time around, they focus their satire on the universe of Dog Shows. The narrative is centered around a series of characters, which we accompany, as they all converge on a National Dog Show competition for Best in Show. We witness the neurosis of high strung couple Hamilton and Meg Swan, who are in couple's therapy, and whose lives revolve around their dog's needs. There's also Gerry and Cookie Fleck, hailing from Florida, who are financially struggling, and have a colorful past, particularly Cookie, who used to waitress, and date quite profusely. There's also Sherri Ann Cabot, and her much older husband Leslie, though Sherri competes and has a very close relationship with the trainer, the competitive Christy Cummings. There's also the openly gay couple of Stefan and Scott, who fully embrace the showmanship of the competition, and finally, the odd man out, Harlan who is there by himself with his bloodhound, and wants to become a ventriloquist. All these folks converge on the show, with high hopes for having their lives transformed by winning the competition.
Christopher Guest has become well known and associated with the mockumentary style, where his films are parodies, but shot as if though they're actually documentaries. "Best in Show" is a great example of this style, and one of Christopher Guest's best films. He manages to capture the over the top rivalries, showmanship and extreme focus that goes into these shows, all the while mixed with the silliness that also underlies it. In particular, he manages to depict and pepper the narrative with amazing humor, primarily due to the variety of personalities that converge on the show, some of which share a collective level of borderline insanity (the comments of the host of the show, portrayed by Fred Willard are simply fantastic). It's a film that lives from the collection of moments, of the awkwardness and deadpan of situations that Christopher Guest stages, all of which is superbly sustained by the impeccable group of actors he usually works with. Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, Michael McKean, Parker Posey, John Michael Higgins, Ed Begley Jr., Jane Lynch, are all phenomenal, and they truly make this an indelible experience. A very good film always worth watching.

Sunday, August 23, 2020


Movie Name: Shivers
Year of Release: 1975
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Paul Hampton, Joe Silver, Lynn Lowry, Allan Kolman, Susan Petrie, Barbara Steele, Ronald Mlodzik, Barry Baldaro, Camil Ducharme, Hanna Poznanska, Wally Martin, Vlasta Vrana
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6 

Synopsis and Review:
Following a career directing a series of TV Shorts, acclaimed director David Cronenberg made his feature film directorial debut with "Shivers". The film, which was produced by another Canadian team member who'd become a famous director of his own, Ivan Reitman, revolves around a series of events which unfold in a luxury and brand new apartment complex, outside of Montreal. These events are precipitated by the medical testing of a parasite on a young student, which turns out, has unpredictable outcomes. This particular parasite, has an aphrodisiac quality to it, prompting the young student to engage in sexual activity with multiple people in the apartment complex, spreading it further. When the doctor who started the studies, tries to stop what has happened, he does not realize the virus has already spread to multiple individuals in the building. As the parasite keeps spreading, the doctor who works on the premises, suddenly starts witnessing all sorts of odd occurrences being reported. He and the nurse on the job try to solve the problem, but the spread of the virus is already far beyond their control.
Following studies in sciences, and also in Literature, David Cronenberg became interested in film, and following his college studies, produced and directed a series of well received shorts. "Shivers" was his first feature, the one that would introduce him to a vaster audience, and that would precipitate his name's inclusion in the body horror genre. The film smartly utilizes a closed off ecosystem, the apartment complex, to create a sense of claustrophobia for all its inhabitants, particularly as the parasite disseminates itself further and further. The film has also been considered an allegory to AIDS, since the parasite itself is passed from individual to individual through sexual acts. Even if that interpretation is a possible one that can be taken away from the feature, this film is ultimately successful in its depiction of an experiment gone awry, of how the human body responds to alien entities and how quickly situations can deteriorate. The characters themselves are quite underdeveloped, and some of the actors chosen, are not as effective in portraying their characters convincingly, but the universe the director manages to build, is ominous, menacing, futuristic and ultimately clouded in some darkness. It's a great first step for a director who would go on to make some truly fascinating films during these last decades. Worth watching.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Project Power

Movie Name: Project Power
Year of Release: 2020
Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback, Rodrigo Santoro, Courtney B. Vance, Amy Landecker, Machine Gun Kelly, Tait Fletcher, Allen Maldonado, Andrene Ward-Hammond, C.J. LeBlanc, Kyanna Simone Simpson
Genre: Action, Crime
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 3

Synopsis and Review:
I personally suspect Netflix is on the fast track to become a new version of The Cannon Studios film group. That studio became well known in the 1980s primarily for its robust output of B-movies, which they tried to diversify by producing some auteur driven endeavors, which included a few films by Andrei Konchalovsky (namely "Maria's Lovers", "Runaway Train" and "Shy People"), Robert Altman ("Fool for Love"), Emir Kusturica ("When Father Was Away on Business") and Barbet Schroeder ("Barfly"). Netflix keeps either producing or buying and then releasing a flurry of films where the quality is irregular, to say the least. "Project Power" hails from the directing duo of Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, a directing duo known for both "Nerve" and "Viral". The film focuses on the story of three central characters, all of whom clash in some way in the city of New Orleans. They all converge on this territory, since there's a new drug being tested in the city, one that gives people extraordinary powers, only for a limited amount of time, with the additional consideration, that the users never really know what the outcome of using that drug may be (it may be lethal for some). Robin is a young woman, a high school student, who sells those pills, in the hopes of making enough money, so she can help her mother with her medical bills. Frank is a police officer who is trying to solve the problems created by this drug, while also helping Robin, who works as an informant for him. Into the city comes Art, a former soldier, who is looking for his daughter, who was taken by the creators of that drug, and who knows a lot more about its genesis. These three have to work in tandem in order to stop the dissemination of the drug, but also save Art's daughter.
"Project Power" is a film with an interesting premise: characters ingest a drug, and become X-Men powered individuals for 5 minutes or so. The film however never really knows what approach to tackle when it comes to the material. On one hand, it aims for the gritty, "Training Day"/"The French Connection" angle, where it showcases the brutal aspects of both selling and using the drugs, while simultaneously it has influences from Michael Mann's "Miami Vice", in aesthetic and even in how it captures the relationship between some of the characters. As a social, grittier statement on the effects of drugs in society, it doesn't really work, since the characters are barely developed, and just illustrating some characters disintegrating doesn't make the film more meaningful. As far as being a take on the dynamics between these illustrious men, only trying to do what's best, it also never gels, since it ultimately feels rushed. What indeed makes this film watchable, is its talented cast, with Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rodrigo Santoro and Amy Landecker, trying to do the best they can with whatever they have. It's another forgettable endeavor from these directors. 

Saturday, August 15, 2020


Movie Name: Cruising
Year of Release: 1980
Director: William Friedkin
Starring: Al Pacino, Karen Allen, Paul Sorvino, Richard Cox, Don Scardino, Joe Spinell, Jay Acovone, Randy Jergensen, Barton Heyman
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6 

Synopsis and Review:
Director William Friedkin started the 70s with a stupendous combination of films, namely "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist". Though his remake of "The Wages of Fear", "Sorcerer", has since been re-examined and held to a higher regard, upon its initial debut, it was a massive flop from which the director never quite recovered. "Cruising" came out in 1980, following a complicated shooting, which was frequently interrupted by protests from the Gay community. The film is based on the book by Gerald Walker, and focuses on the story of Steve Burns, a police officer in NY. Steve is assigned to a particularly gruesome case, one that he decides to tackle, since it's an opportunity for him to get a rapid promotion. There's a killer in NY targeting and killing gay men, in particular the ones who frequent Leather/S&M bars and discos. Steve is dispatched to go undercover, go to these places, lure the killer, or at least potentially identify him. As Steve becomes more familiarized with the clubs, lifestyle, and some of its players, his own life starts changing, something he confides with his lieutenant. As the killer continues to wreak a lethal havoc in the community, Steve suspects he may be onto someone, but at what cost will that arrest will come.
One of the common threads which permeates William Friedkin's films is the general sense of darkness that is tied with not only its lead characters, but also with the epilogue of the films themselves. In his universe, the lead characters are typically ambiguous, the hero for instance, never quite being as perfect as he seems, and the villain never quite as evil as he/she seems. "Cruising" is a good example of that, where Steve's undercover work, leads him on a discovery of this new world, forcing him to question who he is. This path he embarks on, also alienates him from his current relationships, and may even, as the film suggests, taint him to a possible murderous side. It's a film that caused controversy, in particular for the fear that it would stereotype the gay community, or at least continue to perpetuate that gay individuals are deranged killers filled with self loathing. Even if that's not the case, it's nonetheless a film filled with darkness, where Friedkin successfully builds an ominous environment. One can't help but think, that as the lead character becomes acquainted with this universe, the darkness eventually envelopes him, transforming him into something else, even if the ending is very ambiguous. The lead character dominates the narrative, while the supporting players have very little character development, which is one of the film's downfalls. Al Pacino is as always, formidable, playing Steve with a mix of ambition, incredulity and even at times, gentleness. It's an interestingly flawed film, to this day able to elicit some strong opinions, but nonetheless, a testament to the talent of this director in telling different stories. 


Movie Name: Commando
Year of Release: 1985
Director: Mark L. Lester
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Dan Hedaya, Vernon Wells, Alyssa Milano, David Patrick Kelly, James Olson, Bill Duke, Drew Snyder
Genre: Action, Adventure
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4 

Synopsis and Review:
Director Mark L. Lester was fresh off the Stephen King adaptation "Firestarter" when he directed this follow up, "Commando", which featured a screenplay by the well known Steven E. de Souza (who was then well known for his TV writing, and for Walter Hill's "48 Hours", but who would go on to write John McTiernan's "Die Hard" and even Michael Lehman's maligned "Hudson Hawk"). "Commando" follows the story of John Matrix, a retired special forces agent, who lives up in the mountains with his daughter. He's suddenly drawn out of retirement, when a deposed dictator kidnaps his daughter, and uses her as a bargaining chip, threatening to kill her, unless Matrix murders the current President of that nation. Matrix decides to escape the gridlock of the situation, and goes on the hunt for the captors of his daughter, with the help of an uncertain, but resourceful stewardess whom he recruits to help him.
"Commando" signaled Arnold Schwarzenegger's additional step in cementing his credentials as one of the action stars of the 80s. Following John Milius's "Conan The Barbarian" (alongside its sequel, Richard Fleischer's "Conan The Destroyer) and James Cameron's "The Terminator", "Commando", with its meager premise, paved way for a lot of the action set pieces and destruction that would be associated with Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and even Bruce Willis's careers. The film is essentially a big budget B-movie, one where the director doesn't spend much time defining the characters or their motivations. The motivations are clearly outlined and explained, with Matrix stopping at nothing, and killing everyone in sight to recover his daughter. Rae Dawn Chong is a mix of potential love interest, and comedic side kick, sadly her character is crudely defined and her interactions with Schwarzenegger lack chemistry and even a hint of attraction between the characters themselves (her character ultimately is an embodiment of a lot of the characterization which was provided to female characters in action films of the 80s, namely, supporting player to the virile hero, objectification, all this married with a general silliness/lack of credibility throughout the narrative). Ultimately it's a film that is quickly forgettable, but its B-movie aesthetic and approach still manages to capture some attention. 

Sunday, August 9, 2020


Movie Name: Superman
Year of Release: 1978
Director: Richard Donner
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Marlon Brando, Ned Beatty, Valerie Perrine, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford, Susanna York, Trevor Howard, Phyllis Thaxter, Terence Stamp, Maria Schell, Jeff East, Marc McClure, Sarah Douglas, Diane Sherry Chase, 
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7 

Synopsis and Review:
Director Richard Donner started his career in Television in the 60s. The 70s saw his career going to new heights of popularity, starting with "The Omen", which premiered in 76, which he followed with the successful "Superman" which was released in December of 78. The film is of course, the adaption of the comic book character, and follows the adventures of Kal-El, the remaining survivor of the planet Krypton, who is sent to planet Earth, when his parents realize the pending doom of their own planet. Kal-El is taken by a family of farmers, given the name of Clark Kent, and grows up in a small town. As he grows up and his powers become more visible, he struggles with keeping them a secrecy. Following the death of his father, he goes on a journey to discover who he is, where he's originally from and the legacy he carries within (from his Krypton family). What he uncovers sends him on a journey to become Superman, helping all those who can't help themselves, but also puts him on a direct path to clash with Lex Luthor. Lex is on course to cause a catastrophe across North America, all with the sole purpose of gaining further financial power. As Clark Kent/Superman comes to Metropolis, and starts working at "The Daily Planet", he soon finds himself captured by the talented Lois Lane, who gets involved in some dicey situations. As Clark/Superman becomes involved in society, rescuing people, he becomes more and more aware of the emotional ties that bind the ones closest to him.
"Superman" started for all counts, the big budget comic book adaptation frenzy that we're currently in. The film itself, was of course plagued with its own issues during the shooting, namely with the script and cast, but the final outcome is still, to this day, a nostalgic trip to a different perception of reality. The film is quite successful at presenting its premise and making the evolution of Clark into Superman succinctly and economically. Casting blunders aside, Richard Donner manages to capture the small town vibe, and quickly allows the metamorphosis of the teenage Clark to the adult one to be done rapidly. And that's when the film actually takes off, when the action moves to Metropolis. Richard Donner adds humor, sexiness and thrills, and thanks to the enormously talented cast, including Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Valerie Perrine and Ned Beatty, all of whom are great, the film becomes truly engaging and entertaining. It's a film where there's a joy of bringing an iconic character to life, but done intelligently, capturing just enough of each character to render them sufficiently to hold our attention. It also balances just enough thrills, romance and humor, never taking itself too seriously. The cinematography from Geoffrey Unsworth is beautiful as is the iconic score from John Williams. An entertaining film always worth revisiting.

The Conversation

Movie Name: The Conversation
Year of Release: 1974
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest, Harrison Ford, Teri Garr, Robert Duvall, Michael Higgins, Elizabeth MacRae, Mark Wheeler, Robert Shields
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8 

Synopsis and Review:
Following the immense (and justly so) commercial and critical success of "The Godfather", Francis Coppola tackled two films back to back, which would turn out to be just as successful. The first one of them, "The Conversation", premiered firstly in April of 1974, and won the Palm D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival of that year. "The Conversation" follows the story of Harry Caul, a man in his early 40s, who makes a living as a surveillance expert. He owns and runs his business, employs a few associates with him depending on the projects he tackles. He lives a solitary existence, is a devout catholic, and has very few emotional ties with anyone. He and his team are tasked with keeping track of a couple who is meeting in a busy area of San Francisco, in order to record their conversation and report back. When the original contractor of the service is unavailable, Harry decides against surrendering his tapes to one of his associates. As he further listens to the tape, fears and anxieties pertaining to previous jobs he has taken, which had unfortunate outcomes, haunt him, and worry him about the outcomes of this situation. He decides to further investigate the whole situation.
Francis Coppola managed to have one of the most celebrated and accomplished decades of any director in history. In the 70s he successfully directed "The Godfather I and II", "The Conversation" and the towering "Apocalypse Now". Of all these films, "The Conversation" may be the smallest in scope/canvas, since it mostly focuses on Harry Caul, the almost asocial center of the narrative. Coppola smartly introduces us to Harry, to his habits, and his deep commitment to what he does. We become ingrained in who this person is, and as the ghosts of his past come tumbling into the present, we also witness his despair in realizing that what he captured, may result in tragedy, yet again. It's a film that mixes a deft character study, with the conspiracy thriller, which was a trend in the 70s (one can remember Alan J. Pakula's "The Parallax View" & "All the President's Men", Sydney Pollack's "3 Days of the Condor" and even John Schlessinger's "Marathon Man"), but does so without falling into the traps of the typical studio movie. Harry doesn't get a love interest, or for that matter a way out. He's a prisoner of the life he built for himself. It's a great film, one that could have benefited from the expansion of a few supporting characters, but nonetheless powerful and filled with impact. Gene Hackman is phenomenal in the role, and gets good support from John Cazale and Harrison Ford. The cinematography from Bill Butler is wonderful, as is the score from David Shire. A classic always worth revisiting.

Sunday, August 2, 2020


Movie Name: Kika
Year of Release: 1993
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Starring: Veronica Forque, Alex Casanovas, Peter Coyote, Victoria Abril, Rossy de Palma, Santiago Lajusticia, Anabel Alonso, Jesus Bonilla, Karra Elejalde, Manuel Bandera, Charo Lopez, Francisca Caballero, Monica Bardem
Genre: Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Genial director Pedro Almodovar followed his feature "Tacones Lejanos/High Heels" with a return to his more lively comedies. At the time, "Kika" was seen as a possible exhaustion of his creative universe and a nadir to his career, but if anything it sits exactly at a point where it would allow him to start one of the most exciting moments of his film making career. The film follows the story of Kika, a makeup artist, currently living with her younger partner, Ramon. She met Ramon through his stepfather, an American author by the name of Nicholas, whom she was dating at the time. Nicholas suspected Ramon of being dead, following a seizure that left him motionless, and wanted Kika to retouch him with her makeup. As Nicholas makes his way back to their lives, after some estrangement, Kika starts an affair with him, as does her best friend Amparo. In this web of relationships, also participates Kika's housemaid Juana, whose brother Pablo, a convicted ex-porn star, just escaped the clutches of justice. On top of it all is the presence of Andrea Caracortada, Ramon's ex-girlfriend, who is now the host of a reality TV show, focused on capturing the most violent and vile that occurs in society. All these characters come crashing down on Kika's life, who ultimately just wants some direction.
"Kika" is another richly layered film from director Pedro Almodovar. There are similarities to his celebrated "Mujeres Al Borde de Un Ataque de Niervos/Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown", in the sense that Kika, much like Pepa, are the central characters, around whom the story revolves. What's so distinctive about "Mujeres.../Women...", is the tightness of the narrative, and how the action takes place in a short timeline, allowing us to witness the over the top events that Pepa has to tackle during that particular day. "Kika" is not built as a single day view into the life of this woman, but more like episodes of her life, as tensions and situations escalate, until they have this over the top climax, one where almost all the characters converge. As is always the case in Almodovar's films, the writing is excellent, flowing from the characters, a mix of everyday chatter, with some intellectual views into art and politics. Even if the film itself doesn't give much away in terms of some of its lead characters, particularly the American author played by a somewhat dour Peter Coyote, it's nonetheless a thoroughly enjoyable journey that we're taken on. It deftly mixes views on Women's sexuality, Violence on TV, all mixed with his unique and fantastic sense of humor. The cast is diverse with quite a few of his typical collaborators, including the hilarious Veronica Forque, Victoria Abril, Rossy de Palma and Bibi Andersen. Always worth watching and revisiting, from one of the most interesting and uniquely talented film makers. 

Hai Phuong/Furie

Movie Name: Hai Phuong/Furie
Year of Release: 2019
Director: Le-Van Kiet 
Starring: Van Veronica Ngo, Mai Cat Vi, Thanh Nhien Phan, Hoa Thanh, Pham Anh Khoa, Kim Long Thach, Khanh Ngoc Mai
Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5 

Synopsis and Review:
Vietnamese director (and California based) Le-Van Kiet has steadily been making a name for himself with a series of films that he has directed in his native country. His latest, "Hai Phuong/Furie", follows the story of Hai Phuong, a single mother currently working as a debt collector in a small rural area. Hai works diligently so her daughter can go to school, however the young girl is bullied for the fact that she has no father, ultimately always making her feel like a fish out of water. When she gets taken, Hai desperately pursues the captors, but they manage to get away in the direction of Ho Chi Minh City. Hai's past includes a stint in that city, where she worked in a club, something that changed when she became pregnant. Hai stops at nothing to come to the big city, and while reporting the disappearance of her daughter to the police, she discovers they have a comprehensive investigation taking place in regards to the disappearance of children, who are being sold for their organs. Making use of her martial arts skills, Hai goes up against a well organized gang, led by the ferocious Thanh Wolf.
"Hai Phuong/Furie" has been compared to Pierre Morel's "Taken", since it also tackles the abduction of a loved one, upon which the rage of the progenitor goes unstopped, overcoming all obstacles in order to retrieve the offspring. While "Taken" of course has its action in Paris, "Hai Phuong" takes place in Vietnam, and the focus of the story is on Hai and her relationship with Mai, her daughter. Also Hai's past is initially shrouded in secrecy, and as the narrative unfolds, we get more information on how she gained her skills, her past and how she found herself in the rural area where she and her daughter live. The initial set up allows for the characters to be slightly built, but the film quickly morphs into elaborate action and fighting sequences. The film is essentially a polished B-movie film, with tints from Charles Bronson's "Death Wish" series, but told from a female point of view, while also providing further insight into the cosmopolitan life of Ho Chi Minh City, and its claustrophobic alleyways. Van Veronica Ngo dominates the film with her resilience and strength, while also giving the character enough vulnerability to make her relatable and human. It's fairly entertaining to warrant a viewing.


Movie Name: Crawl
Year of Release: 2019
Director: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Kaya Scoledario, Barry Pepper, Morfydd Clark, Ross Anderson, Jose Palma, Anson Boon, Ami Metcalf
Genre: Action, Horror
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5 

Synopsis and Review:
Director Alexandre Aja who made a name for himself with the horror films "High Tension" and the remake of "The Hills Have Eyes", has crafted a tautly engineered and executed B-movie with his latest endeavor, "Crawl". The plot of the film focuses on the story of Haley, a competitive swimmer, who finds herself in the middle of a hurricane when she goes back home seeking her father. While looking for her father in the basement, she discovers he's indeed there, but has been hurt since with the rising level of the waters, alligators have come in and started attacking. What she thinks is a fairly straightforward way of getting her father out, turns out to be more dangerous, as she herself is attacked, and as both of them map out a plan, the water levels keep rising, threatening to drown them both, before they can even escape.
"Crawl" is a rather straightforward film, drawing inspiration from classic B-films, including ones from Roger Corman's producing factory (such as Alfredo Zacharias's "The Bees" or even Joe Dante's "Piranha"), in the sense that it has an economical script, few actors, and a monster motif which is what sets everything in motion. In this case, the director smartly creates a claustrophobic environment for the action to take place, as the father and daughter try to escape the basement where they find themselves in, with the water levels quickly rising. While that ends up being the most ingenious part of the film, the director quickly reveals the danger, something that he could have suggested initially and then unveiled, while the dynamics of the father/daughter relationship, adds very little to the understanding of the characters. The definition of the characters is where the film falters, since it chooses to interwove these moments of clarification and background on their existence, while in the middle of trying to survive the predators. The characters themselves are also quite generic, but in the end, the film is all about people trying to escape a lethal menace that never stops. Barry Pepper manages to convincingly create a stoic and resilient father figure. The cinematography from Maxime Alexandre is effective, as are the visual effects of the film. Entertaining even if quickly forgettable.