A high-concept horror film that blends elements of Battle Royale and Office Space into a deliciously nihilistic experience, Greg McLean's The Belko Experiment is a lean-and-mean piece of cinema, which features a strong understanding of tension and escalation, while being gleeful in its depiction of eroding morality. The film is centered around a twisted social experiment, which finds 80 American office workers unexpectedly caged in their high-rise corporate office in Bogota, Colombia, with absolutely no way escape. Instructed over the office intercoms by a mysterious authority, the office workers are told that they must participate in a game of survival, in which they must kill or be killed, with only the strongest individuals perhaps being allowed to survive. Greg McLean's The Belko Experiment is a film which sees friends pitted against friends, coworkers against coworkers, yet its tone is surprisingly light for a film of such high stakes, as writer James Gunn, injects the entire film with a gleeful depravity, pulling off a relatively impressive balancing act which sees the film maintain its tension and stakes while never feeling overly grating, thanks to Gunn's injection of absurdist humor into the mix. The film itself should be enjoyed by horror and action fans alike, with The Belko Experiment delivering a constant and suffocating sense of escalation, with the fading sense of morality among the workers being palpable within the story. The Belko Experiment isn't exactly an optimistic film in the end when it comes to humanity, embracing the inherent selfishness of man, being an honest film about the self-preservationist aspect of humanity, one that finds nearly all individuals' regress to their most primal state when life and death are on the line. Mean, violent, and gleefully depraved, Greg McLean's The Belko Experiment is an intense and engaging action/horror hybrid that is sure to be enjoyed by fans of horror and action cinema alike.
Centered around the rivalry between two former college friends, Onur Tukel's Catfight is a devilishly entertaining black comedy that aims to deconstruct the intrinsic emptiness of revenge. Told in three distinct parts, which find these two characters oscillating between various rungs on the socio-economic ladder, Catfight details the utter stupidity of feuds, whether internalized or externalized, detailing how the longer they last, the more the reasons behind them in the first place begin to blur or at least become insignificant in the present, as these two characters profiled continuously reinforce their own disdain for one and other through their current emotional state, often coming more from a place of insecurity than from the actual past transgressions that brought about their feud in the first place. Early on, the film does a fantastic job of establishing the vast dichotomy between these two characters, structurally oscillating back-and-forth between the two of them, establishing their distinct worldviews. Veronica, a trophy wife and New York Socialite, couldn't be any more different on the surface than Ashley, the tortured, nihilistic artist, but as the film progresses, we begin to see how they are both in fact more similar than they care to admit, with their roles effectively switching when their social statuses change drastically in the aftermath of their first, violent, fisticuffs-fueled confrontation. Catfight sees each of these characters go from 'having everything' to 'having nothing' from both a personal and financial point-of-view, with perhaps the pitch black comedies greatest attribute being its ability to capture the ugliness of entitlement, detailing how both these characters become internally vial individuals when presented with status. The film dances around a rather broad, hit-you-over-the-head, stereotypical 'money corrupts" commentary, but luckily it goes deeper, detailing how power and prestige is what truly corrupts, with both of these individuals being portrayed as relatively heinous individuals when they reach their highest rung on the socio-economic ladder. You'd be hard-pressed to find a film that depicts feminine violence in the way which Catfight does, with the three all-out-brawls which serve as transition scenes structurally, being brutal and raw, filmed and choreographed in a way that tends to be only done when two male combatants are involved. In fact, their last all-out brawl encapsulates the over-arching themes of the film, finding both Veronica and Ashley once again in fisticuffs, detailing the perpetual nature of violence in these characters, detailing how it has solved nothing after all these years. A pitch black comedy and social satire, Onur Turkel's Catfight features memorable performances from both Sandra Oh and Anne Heche, being a film encapsulates the perpetual state of violence and vengeance, being a film that through comedy showcases the utter-stupidity and lack of change such violence brings.
James Mangold's Logan is a worthy send-off for Hugh Jackman, an actor who has spent nearly two decades personifying the Wolverine, a fitting conclusion to a character who finds a sense of purpose again, and eventually peace from his tortured, animalistic nature, and past, that has led him to see nearly everyone he cares about perish. Set in the near future, 2029 to be exact, James Mangold's Logan introduces us to a character in Logan who has reached the end of his rope, caring for an ailing Professor Charles Xavier in a hide out on the Mexican border. Slowly drinking himself to death, Logan is a man who has excepted defeat, borderline nihilistic and ready to leave a world that has caused him so much pain. Logan's attempts to live off-the-grid, where he isn't reminded of his legacy as an X-Men, are up-ended with the arrival of a young, mysterious mutant, who desperately needs his help. From the very first scene of James Mangold's Logan this film reminds the viewer that this is not a film for kids, featuring an extremely violent sequence that finds Logan drunkenly shred a group of local thieves who picked the wrong car. The sequence vividly announces that this film will be different, not only due to its blood-soaked R-rated carnage, but also in its depiction of Logan, a man who can barely stand due to his alcoholism, defeated, and having little interest in anything but his own demise. James Mangold's Logan isn't devoid of the tropes of the comic book genre entirely, but it certainly carries much more weight than many such films, being a story that deconstructs the hopelessness in a character of Logan who has lost the will to live. Surprisingly humanistic for a superhero movie, James Mangold's Logan is a redemption story for this tortured character, a journey to find hope again for a character who has lost all faith in humanity, uninterested in human connection due to the vast pain it has caused him in the past. Through this journey, which plays out much like a chase film, the relationship Logan slowly forms with this young mutant begins to give him a purpose again, finding himself slowly recalling the importance of human empathy and connection. Ending in a way that only feels right for such a tortured character, James Mangold's Logan finds this character sacrifice himself for the greater good, a sharp contrast to the nihilistic character we were introduced to at the onset of the film, as the film itself captures Logan finding his way back to the light, embracing the need for optimism and hope in a world that has given him very little of either.
Taking place more than a decade after the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Sofia Exarchou's Park is a harrowing snapshot of Athenian youth living in economically-ravaged Greece, a place where opportunity and optimism has eroded among the younger generations. Detailing the exploits of a group of teenagers of various ages, Sofia Exarchou's film is an exercise in atmosphere, mood, and visceral emotion, introspectively examining direction-less and broken characters, each of which feel completely trapped in their environment, many of which are raw in their rebellion to the state of their circumstances. The central character or focal point of the story is Dimitrius, an older brother, and son of a mother, whom herself seems to have accepted defeat, seemingly more interested in the bottle and an on-again-off-again relationship with a local marble craftsman. Dimitrius struggles to find work, or purpose, with the only semi-semblance of connection being what he shares with Anna, a young woman and ex-olympian, who herself is adrift. While Dimitirus is a character who finds himself romanticizing about the possibility of leaving, often seduced by the laughter and joy from the tourists, Anna is a character who seems unable to let go of her past olympic glories, dwelling on them, while only seemingly capable of drawing value or power from others through her physical attributes. Each of these characters sexual intimacy, their connection with each other seems more derived from circumstance and struggle than actual connection or choice, each simply trying to get through another hopeless day. The dichotomy is felt between the people of Greece and the other countries of the EU through tourists which visit the coast, which finds Dimitrius routinely romanticizing them, pining for the feeling the tourists seem to feel, one of relaxation, where there is a general sense of optimism about the present and the future. Park is pretty minimalist by design, having a quiet sense of desperation that is more felt than told, with dialogue being relatively bare-bones, as the filmmaker tells her story much more through visual design. Overcast skies, decaying buildings, barren fields, all serve a purpose in crafting Sofia Exarchou's story of a country which feels on the brink of collapse, with the a muted, washed-out color palate visually evoking the internal struggles of the characters and the environment which surrounds them. Sofia Exarchou's Park is a tale of circumstance and bleak prospects, yet the film never takes the easy route when it comes to creating sentimentality or drama, subverting typical escalation in such stories, instead being a film that ends much like it begins, a decision that in itself captures the quiet, all-encompassing hopelessness for Greece.
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