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Thriller

Message from the King (2016)

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Message from the king

Summary

A mystMessage from the Kingerious outsider named Jacob King from South Africa arrives in Los Angeles to avenge his younger sister’s death.

Genre : Thriller
Country : USA/UK/Belgium

Cast :
Chadwick Boseman : Jacob King
Luke Evans : Wentworth
Alfred Molina : Preston

Director :
Fabrice du Welz

My opinion on “Message from the King”

“It’s Bianca.
She’s got a brother.
He’s in town, says he has what we’ve been looking for.
He’s out of control, Mike.
You told me Bianca was not a problem anymore.
Bianca isn’t a problem anymore. I’m afraid that’s his problem.”

Those who imagine the Los Angeles metropolis to be idealistically beautiful, they should adjust that view after watching “Message from the King”. The less beautiful part of Los Angeles is used here. An impoverished neighborhood where the vast majority of residents live in poverty and where crime and drugs are an obvious part of society. Ash gray ghettos full of human suffering. And that’s being emphasized by drizzly weather. The crowded mortuary is a reflection of these fading slums. A collection of nobodies who died because of an overdose, madness (drowned in a bathtub as an imaginary fish) and gang violence.

Message from the King

All you need is a bicycle chain.

This is what Jacob King (Chadwick Boseman) faces when he arrives in L.A. The reason why he’s staying in the city of angels is the sudden disappearance of his younger sister Bianca (Sibongile Mlambo). Soon he discovers the sore situation his sister got herself into and what it did to her : she earned a spot in the mortuary with a name tag on her big toe. The search for the murderers of his younger sister brings him in touch with all kind of figures. Trish (Natalie Martinez) the loyal neighbor points him in the right direction after which he meets a violent gang of Balkan criminals run by a certain Zico (Lucan Melkonian). Then there’s the rich dentist Wentworth (Luke Evans) and the wealthy movie producer Preston (Alfred Molina). And let me tell you. Some of them are getting to know the bicycle chain he just bought, in a less pleasant way.

Message from the King

Cape Flat.

For Jacob, these L.A. neighborhoods probably still look like charming neighborhoods compared to where he comes from. His sister Bianca, his deceased brother Isaac and Jacob himself, lived the largest part of their life in South Africa in the Cape Flat townships, a sandy area south of Cape Town and better known as “Apartheid’s dumping ground”. A dilapidated community where gangs rule. Both in the slums and in prison. Such as “The Number Gangs”. Isaac was a member of this notorious gang, until his death. Reason enough for Bianca to turn her back on her home country and to seek salvation in the United States.

Message from the King

I’ll be damned. It’s directed by a Belgian.

You could say this movie is a cheaper version of “The Equalizer” with Boseman having an equal personality as Denzel Washington. A cold-blooded but alert person who has control over his violent eruptions and who accurately follows the traces to solve the criminal puzzle in the end. However, the ultimate motive remains quite mysterious. Perhaps the only minus I could find in this hard-core, ultra-dark movie. In fact, it’s an ordinary revenge film that differs slightly from others because of its quirky atmosphere and tone. And afterwards I discovered the film was directed by a fellow countryman : Fabrice du Welz. Maybe that’s why this movie displays a kind of willfulness.

Message from the King

Why hesitate? Go watch it!

Even though this action-flick is soaked by cliché elements (corrupt policemen, a cunning politician and a prostitute (TeresaLights OutPalmer) who plays the Good Samaritan), you can speak of a stylish end product. No explicit violence scenes (the result is usually more explicit than the action itself) and a few star-like interpretations like that of Teresa Palmer. But especially Chadwick Boseman impressed. A man with few words, but hard negotiating techniques. From the very first instance, I was fascinated by him. In my opinion, this is yet again a rough diamond that simmers on Netflix undiscovered. Don’t let anybody stop you from watching this when you bump into it somewhere, because this will surely surprise you.

My rating 7/10
Links : IMDB

Sci-fi

Dark Encounter (2019)

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It’s incredibly hard to imagine
that four adults …
… and a dog!
… four adults and a dog
simply vanished in the course of an hour.

I saw “G-Loc” a while ago. And my first thought now was:  “Why not try another SF?“. Not only because it’s one of my favorite genres. But because “G-Loc” was horrible and a disappointment in every way. And I wanted to forget this ordeal as soon as possible by watching an SF of better quality. And luckily “Dark Encounter” was of a completely different quality than the latter. Even though that wasn’t really difficult to achieve. But in retrospect, I did wonder whether it was indeed an SF in the strict sense of the word.

 

 

Stroboscopic luminescent bulbs.

The opening scene shows mother and father Anderson coming home from a night out after which they discover that their daughter Maisie has mysteriously disappeared. However, there’s no trace or indication of a violent kidnapping. She simply vanished into thin air. In the next scene, we witness a family gathering. A family dinner where it’s abundantly clear that the pain of losing their child is still there, resulting in snappy conversations in a tense atmosphere. Until suddenly strange light phenomena are seen by Ray (Mel Raido) and he and the other present men suggest investigating the seeings. When they arrive in the forest and witness more spheres flying around and one of them disappears without a trace, they realize there’s more to it than some inexplicable weather phenomenon or local rascals playing with fireworks.

 

 

Mixed genres.

I have to admit that Carl Strathie knows how to mix different genres in an ingenious way. In general, you think that for the umpteenth time, alien green creatures are randomly abducting people to use them as guinea pigs for their experiments. Or maybe Martians who just dropped by to get acquainted. However, don’t expect impressive images of colossal intergalactic spacecraft. It’s limited to bright shining lights during a foggy night. Even though there are similarities with for example “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, you won’t be awed by an immense spaceship with lighting like the dance floor in “Saturday Night Fever”. Next, you get the feeling that you are watching a scary horror where household objects defy the laws of gravity and where lights start to flicker. And as a basis, you have a family drama about missing a loved one and the accompanying grieving process.

 

 

What a surprising revelation.

And if these aren’t enough film genres, there’s the very surprising denouement, after which the whole is suddenly approached from a completely different perspective. The sci-fi aspect fades into the background and a crime mystery demands attention. The denouement is overwhelming and most will react in a similar way as I did. “Ah, that’s what’s going on” as I thought at that moment. All I wondered is the origin of the entities that provide the clarification. Aliens? Or spiritual manifestations? Not that this matters. The end result is what counts. And thanks to this highly original twist, this film effortlessly rises above average.

 

 

This flick is worth a watch.

Dark Encounter” is a low-budget film with an original approach. Despite the fact they diligently borrowed from other well-known films, “Dark Encounter” pleasantly surprised me. And not just because of the originality of the story. But also because of the acting by the almost unknown cast (especially Laura Fraser). Plus the excellent soundtrack and sound effects. And the nostalgic feeling it gave me. It reminded me several times of similar films from the 80s. And the overall mood they managed to create. There’s something else that surprised me after reading about it. It seems as if it all takes place in the U.S. during that period. And yet this movie was entirely filmed in the UK with English actors. Amazing. In short, this SF is highly recommended.

 

 

My rating 7/10
Links: IMDB

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Action

The Silencing | Great Cinematography From A Low Budget Film

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I need to see that girl.
She could be my daughter.

 

It’s always nice to see how actors from a successful television series cope in a feature film. And especially if the genre is quite different from what they played in that series. Here Nikolaj Coster-Waldau makes a decent attempt to show that he has more to offer than playing a king’s son who prefers to perform gymnastic exercises with his sister between the sheets. His performance here is on a similar level to that of Jaime Lannister in “Game of Thrones”. Convincing enough, but not exactly of exceptional quality. A role that doesn’t annoy you. But every time you see his face somewhere, you have to think for a moment where you know that face from. This is also the case here in “The Silencing”. I was like, “Damn, where do I know this guy from?”. Only after fifteen minutes or so, I could figure it out.

 

 

Where there’s grief, there’s booze.

The Silencing” itself is of the same level. Certainly not a bad movie. But also not a movie that’ll blow you away. The story felt a bit incomplete to me. There were some improbabilities (not to say completely nonsensical decisions). And the denouement with the disclosure of the perpetrator and his motivation, I personally found a bit far-fetched. The film had something “Silence of the Lambs“-ish but then set in an extensive, forest-like nature reserve. An area managed by Rayborn Swanson (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) that has been given the name “Gwen Swanson sanctuary”. A reference to his daughter who has been missing for 5 years. It’s a place where animals can live undisturbed and protected, far from hunters and poachers. Rayborn lives an isolated life far from the civilized world. A way to silently grief about the loss of his daughter. Usually by consuming liters of alcohol. A bit strange because that’s exactly what caused that disappearance.

 

 

There’s a serial killer on the loose.

The story gets a little bit more exciting the moment a serial killer comes into the picture. Someone who probably watched “The Hunt” too much. What follows, is a cat-and-mouse game with the participation of the local female sheriff Alice Gustafson (Annabelle Wallis, series-loving fans will recognize her from “Peaky Blinders”) who herself has her hands full with the stupidities her little brother Brooks (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), a drug addict with a traumatic past.

 

 

Ridiculous things.

Without a doubt, this could have been a much better, coherent movie, provided the script was changed a bit. It’s linked together with hooks and eyes. Full of coincidences and ridiculous twists. Decisions are made that are too ridiculous for words. Alice’s surprising action at one point is understandable on the one hand. But on the other hand completely unreal. And the indifference that those involved show afterward as if nothing had ever happened, made me frown for a moment. Rayborn’s paint pot trick seemed so absurd and stupid that I spontaneously burst out laughing. Not exactly applicable to a serious thriller about a serial killer.

 

Mediocrity rules.

The Silencing” isn’t so great. A mediocre piece of movie. Actually, you could say that you’ve seen it all before in other movies. And much better movies too. Cinematographically it looks professional (despite the low budget) and the general mood is also good. But, when you love watching exciting flicks with nerve-racking suspense, you’ll be disappointed. The only thing I can’t say anything wrong about is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s acting. Solid and constant. Just like in “Game of Thrones“. Again a pitiful persona. But I’m sure I won’t recognize him in his next feature. Once again.

 

 

My rating 5/10
Links: IMDB

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Action

Tenet – The Movie Mind Puzzle Of The Year

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There were times during ‘Tenet,’ that I wanted to perform a most heinous code violation by ripping off my face mask and declaring to all that “I bloody love Cinema”. Some of the action set-pieces in this film have to be seen on the big screen to do them justice. One particular sequence on an Estonian motorway is the sort of action that makes cinema such a magical and wondrous place.  I realized at this point I had missed cinema enormously over the past 6 months and it was wonderful to be back.

As for the film itself, I was quite nervous going in. I had read from one reviewer that it was “obnoxiously complex”, that a lot of the dialogue was mumbled or drowned by an omnipresent rumble of a score and that the film was incredibly difficult to follow. I won’t pretend that I understood everything that was going on, but it definitely wasn’t the mind dump that several claimed. I certainly followed it better than I do with the average David Lynch film. The sound is an interesting point, and I’ll come back to that shortly. It certainly is easy to write a “spoiler-free” review as I wouldn’t know how to spoil it for people.

The film charges along at a staggering pace, with the 2 and a half-hour run time zipping by. Performance-wise, John David Washington surely can have as good of a leading man career as his father,  while  Robert Pattinson continues to prove all his naysayers wrong with a charming yet enigmatic performance. Kenneth Branagh manages to keep the panto villainy just about under control, but the stand out for me was Elizabeth Debicki, who added a level of grace to the proceedings.

The action never lets up, and more importantly, it all has a purpose. It is not just thrown in there to demonstrate the techniques that Nolan possesses, it is all plot-driven. From the electric prologue at the Kyiv Opera to a Mission Impossible-style raid on an art warehouse at an airport, to the aforementioned Estonian motorway to the climactic showdown at a Soviet “closed city”, this is all part of the topsy-turvy narrative.

People have claimed that they struggled to hear all of the dialogue, which makes a confusing film even more of a challenge to comprehend. I do agree, there were some scenes where dialogue was often drowned out by the surrounding wall of noise. I don’t think this is anything new with Nolan films. I have a theory that Nolan makes films if you take Inception and Interstellar before Tenet, that is designed to have repeat viewings. His films are puzzles that can’t necessarily be understood on the first watch, some trails and thoughts perhaps are designed to make people come back to re-watch. You could argue, why to make a film that once watched can be dispensed with.

I didn’t find the occasionally intrusive score spoiled my enjoyment of the film, as the spectacle more than made up for it.

This is a hugely ambitious, occasionally baffling piece of cinema, packed with some of the most audacious action sequences (all shot with practical effects btw) I’ve seen in a long time. Yes, the plot is convoluted, yes there are sequences where you genuinely need a moment. About three-quarters of the way in, Pattinson asks Washington “Does your brain hurt yet?”, the audience answers for him with a knowing “a little”. It is a feast for the eyes, which is also quite humorous in places.

It’s films like this that make me appreciate the wonder of cinema, an original, standalone, non-franchise piece of searing entertainment. I’m glad I didn’t understand all of it, as it just encourages me to go watch it again.

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