Fantasia Film Festival 2021: Seobok (2021)

Seobok (2021)

Director (and writer): Lee Yong-ju

Cast: Gong Yoo, Park Bo-Gum, Jo Woo-Jin, Park Byung-eun, Jang Young-nam

Ex intelligence agent Ki Heon is tasked with safely transporting Seo Bok, the first ever human clone, who holds the secret of eternal life. Several forces try to take control of Seo Bok to serve their own agendas. – IMDB

Seobok is a 2021 South Korean sci-fi action thriller which tells the story of an ex-intelligence agent Ki-hun who is asked to take on the task of safely transporting the first ever human clone Seobok who has been genetically engineered to not only have eternal life but also carries the possibility of eternal life and cures for all kinds of diseases. As Ki-hun tackles with his own illness that tortures him and isn’t expected to live long, he is offered the chance to be a part of the clinical trial in return for successfully completing the task. As the plan incurs different changes due to other parties trying to take Seobok for their own plans and goals whether out of fear or greed, Ki-hun and Seobok start to bond as they escape from one situation to the next.

Seobok is a fairly straight-forward science fiction action thriller. In terms of the science fiction and the human clone, the story itself along with its supporting characters have a fairly predictable trajectory. Immortality and eternal life is something that feels almost too good to be true and that brings on its own plans from different organizations and people involved and that is expected in a plot like this. However, Seobok stands out because it spends a lot of time building up the relationship and chemistry between the two main characters, Ki-hun and Seobok played respectively by Gong Yoo and Park Bo-gum.

Gong Yoo is probably most known for his role in Train to Busan where he takes on a rather different role. This role takes on a more rough and angry sort of character which is frustrated with a lot of things happening to him and around him and in turn, this tense character is faced with Seobok, a human clone who has never seen the outside world and is fascinated with everything that he sees. As the plot unfolds, the two grow through Seobok’s fascination but also the constant straight-forward conversations about his human clone, his abilities and immortality down to human nature giving it some fun fish out of water moments that help break through the intense action scenes. The conversations build up these two characters a lot giving them both sufficient back story to make them both truly connect to its audience. The two carry on almost like a father-son and mentor-student sort of relationship which becomes rather endearing as Ki-hun starts changing his mind about Seobok and understanding his pain. While also struggling with Seobok’s telekinesis powers which increasingly grow out of control as he starts facing more dangerous situations and making some questionable judgments.

What makes Seobok stand out other than the chemistry is absolutely the role of the concept of immortality and the character of Seobok, fittingly so as the movie is titled after him. Seobok is played incredibly well by Park Bo-Gum who carries the blank expressions and calmness as he faces all the crazy situations happening around him to the point of disregard when everyone seems to be threatening but also asking all the right questions and giving off the image of how clear-minded he is right down to the powerful ending when the revelation that he understands the entire situation and actually just wants something very human and simple but the fact that he was created to fulfill a purpose and the discussion of whether a human clone is considered a person. The human elements of Seobok grounds this film and that is the charm of South Korean films when they are executed well to be able to carry out these moments. The moral and ethics of human clones and how they should be treated is what essentially what makes this film really hit hard making the ending pack such a huge punch and makes the audience think about this whole immortality, eternal life, playing God and the right and wrong of the situation and whether the whole thing could have been resolved in another way.

Overall, Seobok is an incredibly well-executed film. The two main characters have such a powerful presence in the film. The story is a lot more profound than the basic science fiction film but actually focuses itself on the morals and ethics of the whole situation which packs a bigger punch because Seobok is portrayed so well. A big part of the film is also in how well-written and focusing on the conversation dialogues more than the action. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have its own share of action-packed sequences which all increases in intensity as Seobok’s power comes into play. Seobok is an absolute gem: well-crafted, well-executed and poses some excellent questions that will linger far after the film is finished.

*Seobok is playing on demand on Fantasia Film Festival virtual platform from August 5th to 25th. You can find more info HERE.*

Fantasia Film Festival 2021: Tiong Bahru Social Club (2020)

Tiong Bahru Social Club (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Bee Thiam Tan

Cast: Thomas Pang, Guat Kian Goh, Jalyn Han, Jo Tan, Munah Bagharib, Noorlinah Mohamed

Ah Bee goes on a comedic odyssey through Tiong Bahru Social Club, a data-driven project to create the happiest neighborhood in the world. Little by little, his encounters with the neighborhood’s residents reveal the absurdity of life. – IMDB

Tiong Bahru is a Singaporean comedy film set in Tiong Bahru in a little community that aims to build an algorithm that will generate the most happiness whether its the people, the employees or the environment and activities offered right down to an AI in the room that tries to keep them positive. Yet, this world with all the colorful pastel environment and the smiles at every corner points out a very odd and awkward vibe where happiness is an inner thing and not so much one based on an algorithm.

While its easy to see influences of films like The Grand Budapest Hotel, Paradise Hills or video game We Happy Few (in a less sinister way), whether its from a visual style, color palette or even tone, Tiong Bahru feels a lot more simple and even odd. Perhaps when any community tries to create happiness, it always feels a little overdone and forced and that brings a lot of awkwardness and yet, as the main character Ah Bee leaves his current job to be an employee at the Tiong Bahru Social Club, his already rather simple life with his mother becomes even less fulfilling despite all the positive remarks from his AI or the happy co-workers around him and the happiness workshops, his assigned client Mrs. Wee, an elderly woman who loves cats and thinks of herself as a cat but is very sarcastic about the entire social club concept. As rude and direct that Mrs. Wee is towards everyone, she is almost the anchor of reality in this community and because of that, her character is one that stands out. Much like the two female co-workers Orked and Geok who each of have their own roles in his life with the former having some odd but feels natural and happy interactions versus Geok which eventually is deemed as his “perfect match” and is an awkward interaction where they follow the rules to pursue a happy relationship right down to a nifty little animated scene about having sex.

The film in general focuses on the main character Ah Bee (Thomas Pang) who shares his inner thoughts and remains fairly quiet throughout with the others around him about his thoughts on society and how that’s changed his view of life from the modern society providing too many options that create a difficulty to make decisions to viewing a simple party question of shoot, shag and marry into a philosophical question. Ah Bee is a character in all his oddities and awkwardness. He feels like a person that wants to please those around and trying to break out of his normal routine life to find a whole other sort of routine life in the Social Club that allows him to finally make a decision. Thomas Pang does a great job at carrying this role throughout as there are some very odd moments and probably his most notable connection is with the Tiong Bahru cat (I honestly remember it being how they addressed the cat) which leads to an fantastic scene of him eventually getting a bunch of elderly residents helping him look for a cat. Being a cat person, its both funny and heartwarming. Especially when all these residents were initially there to talk to him about complaints. So much for being a happy community when you think about all the random complaints everyone has.

Tiong Bahru Social Club is a pretty fun film. In reality, it never really feels like there’s any turning point or whatnot to Ah Bee’s slice of life working and living in this community but when he decides to leave, that probably is where the character’s subtle changes in his mentality is most vibrant. Perhaps not exactly an exciting movie to watch for many as there doesn’t seem to be a lot going on and even the science fiction, while some parts making it feel a little suspicious, isn’t exactly fleshed out except for the technology that runs the social club. However, the visuals, color palette and the cinematography sets a pretty decent mood for this film. In all its deeper messages about modern society and happiness, Tiong Bahru Social Club is a rather feel-good sort of film.

*Tiong Bahru Social Club is screening on demand on Fantasia Festival’s virtual platform throughout the festival from August 5th to 25th. You can check out the info HERE.*

Fantasia Film Festival 2021: Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (2021)

Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (Droste no hate de bokura, 2021)

Director: Junta Yamaguchi

Cast: Kazunori Tosa, Aki Asakura, Riko Fujitani, Gota Ishida, Yoshifumi Sakai

A cafe owner discovers that the TV in his cafe suddenly shows images from the future, but only two minutes into the future. – IMDB

Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes is a Japanese indie low-budget one-take time travel sci-fi comedy Japanese. Look at those hyphens. A few of those things might even sound like gimmicks but let us not forget the success the surprises that One Cut of the Dead (review) brought using a similar low-budget one-take concept. While its hard to say that this one is as clever as that one but comparing a zombie movie to a sci-fi comedy is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. While time travel and time loop films usually are rather complicated deal with a lot of loopholes most of the time, but this plot execution flips it around to feel like a much more simple sci-fi element and focuses it more on the events and people involved.

Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is another type of beast in itself. Its fun and extremely enjoyable in all its absurdness and time loopy elements that at some point, it almost feels like it might lose itself and not exactly know how to get out of that loop to wrap up the plot and somehow, it does using something as simple as TV and PC monitors and a delayed surveillance camera link creating a 2 minute void. The concept feels so simple and other than wondering who actually has monitors with such long cables that you can run up and down the stairs with a screen within one setting, there’s a lot of credit to give for a movie filmed entirely on iPhone in one-take.

There’s something so great about simplicity in films. Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes dials it down. All it takes is 2 screens facing each other and a constant growth in the cast from one person to two and slowly the group forms with friends and employees each offering up their thoughts on how to use this 2 minute advantage. As each person in the group pitches in their thoughts on how to profit from the future, they soon realize that its unreasonable to go too far ahead as they have to keep the loop consistent. 2 minutes might not feel like a lot of time and yet, it creates a lot of busy work as they use it to pull minutes ahead in time to utilize the future to teach the past selves that help their present situation. Its a pretty clever execution overall. Perhaps, it might not work if you dissected the film in depth but I do have to admit that at a certain point, the loop just got a little hard to track but the plot itself was so engaging that it sold the time loop element convincingly.

While the films general time loop concept seems like a much simpler affair, the cast here is what brings in a lot of the charm. The cast itself consists mainly of members of a theatrical troupe and this is their debut as film actor in collaboration with the voice talent Aki Asakura for The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. While film might be new to the cast, they all deliver really well. The main character Kato (Kazunori Tosa) is a fairly quiet character that constantly brings in his reluctance to know about the future to the other people while he’s contrasted by the other much louder and colorful characters that are both friends, customers and employees who push the whole thing forward as they start off testing out the time loop in ridiculous outfits and little tasks to eventually bigger plans of how to expand the time loop and the many ideas to help them make money in whatever small way. This eventually to leads to a much more “dangerous” situation as they pull in others. While no one ever feels like they are any sort of the threat and the film never feels like it has the ultimate peak and turning point like other films, somehow the film does wrap up in both an absurd and heartwarming way.

Overall, Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes might almost sound like a gimmick playing with the one-take as the jump-off point but its so much more than that. A simple time loop concept with a fun plot that pushes itself further and further in plot set in one location, albeit an entire building, and a charming cast of basic characters keeps both the sci-fi and comedy elements fresh and entertaining. Its a fun little ride from start to finish, no matter how absurd it might seem. Don’t forget to stick around to see some of the filming process inserted in the credits with a hilarious looking moment as they scrabble up the stairs with cables, cast and crew, really showing how one takes really take the entire team to make it all happen.

*Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes is on demand on Fantasia Film Festival’s virtual platform from August 5th to 25th. You can find more info HERE.*

Double Feature: The Platform (2019) & The Predator (2018)

As I took a few days off to get my mind back on track and figure out what needs to be written (because I basically forgot after Fantasia Festival), we’re back on the double feature! As we gear into October’s Halloween Horror month, I’m leaving some horror on Shudder for next month so we’re focusing on the rest of the alphabet with only Netflix choices and maybe some shortcuts along the way.

Picking up where we left off, its time for the P selection. The first is a Netflix movie called The Platform and paired with the fourth movie in the Predator franchise called The Predator. Let’s check it out!

The Platform (2019)

Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia

Cast: Ivan Massagué, Zorion Eguileor, Antonia San Juan, Emilio Buale, Alexandra Masangkay, Zihara Llana

A vertical prison with one cell per level. Two people per cell. One only food platform and two minutes per day to feed from up to down. An endless nightmare trapped in The Hole. – IMDB

The Platform is a Netflix Original Spanish sci-fi horror film which works a lot like Snowpiercer where its moving horizontal through a train, this one moves in a vertical structure via a platform that passes from the top levels to the lowest levels. As a man gets trapped there, his conversation with his cellmate becomes one where he starts to notice the patterns and the system and wants to fight for a change to actually survive this ordeal. The backstory and mystery of why these people are there and how do they get out is all a key part to the story. Sure, the platform itself plays a big part as the people shift every while from one level to another so that they can experience the upper and lower levels and the ugly and selfish side of humans in the face of survival.

Netflix automatically started the movie in its dubbed English version for myself which was a decent experience. It would be interesting to watch it again in its original audio. Overall, The Platform is a pretty good film. It builds up on the mystery and the intensity of the situation pretty well and has a decent pacing and execution throughout.

The Predator (2018)

Director (and co-writer): Shane Black

Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera, Jake Busey

When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled scientist can prevent the end of the human race. – IMDB

There are days I wonder why we just keep going back to making more and more of a franchise when it should’ve been left at the first movie. It sometimes feels like Predator is one of those situation, maybe because I’m also not a huge fan of this franchise in comparison to Alien franchise, I guess. Although, credit where its due, Predators (review) was a pretty fun one even though I think some people wasn’t a big fan. Back on track to this one, the story here is far-fetched and it runs rather off track the further it goes. The only thing that worked for it was the ragtag team and the twist of the concept of the predators end-game although the whole “twist” of what they wanted wasn’t exactly a twist but fairly obvious.

I don’t hate on this completely since I thought Olivia Munn’s character was fairly resourceful and there’s some familiar faces with Thomas Jane and Keegan-Michael Key, two people that I rather enjoy in movies. Then there’s the little boy played by Jacob Tremblay who right away is different but intelligent for his age. The characters do work rather well. Its a pity that the story gets a little odd especially when the Predator world starts showing up with alien pups which was supposed to add some humor which it kind of did at times especially with whatever it would fetch back.

Its a fairly flat experience. Its not good but not horrible either. There are some glaring issues with it for sure but then, the director definitely has a special place for this movie as it puts in some references to the original film (or at least a very obvious one).

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films?

Fantasia Festival 2020: The Block Island Sound (2020)

The Block Island Sound (2020)

Director (and writer): Kevin McManus & Matthew McManus

Cast: Chris Sheffield, Michaela McManus, Neville Archambault, Jim Cummings, Willie C. Carpenter, Jeremy Holm, Matilda Lawler, Trisha McManus Heidi Niedermeyer

Something terrifying is happening off the coast of Block Island. A strange force is thriving, influencing residents and wildlife alike. – IMDB

Set on the island south of Rhode Island called Block Island (which I knew nothing about prior to this movie), The Block Island Sound uses its setting, the small town community as well as the mystery of conspiracy theory, reality or another unknown reason as its basis. Its main draw is the unsettling suspense and horror behind each development and how the targeted characters, first the father followed by the male lead character Harry falls into this unknown state that sporadically has him doing things he doesn’t want to and shouldn’t do.

A lot of the unsettling and eerie nature comes from its music score and sound effects and background sounds blended with the scene. Starting from this radio static that sounds almost like growling meshing with the frequency. There are also these different types of droning sounds that can easily get under the skin. Let’s face it, directors and scripts that can build on the unknown and mystery and execute it well can make a movie a million times scarier just by the power of the viewer’s imagination and anticipation.

The Block Island Sound is a giant mystery that fluctuates between the different pieces of evidence and the various opinions of people on the island. Its a question of what is going on overall that constantly hangs in the air. Someone rambles on about government testing and conspiracy theory, another believes its just sleepwalking and then there’s the science and medical deduction of electromagnetic sensitivity. Its a choice of what will be believed by the viewers with the little pieces presented. Its always the unknown until the final act where things starts making a little more sense. While the mystery part might drag out maybe one scene too much of Harry’s situation as a part of this whole unknown, the end game and final act is completely worth the wait and is absolutely more than the sum of its parts. It circles back to a conversation at the beginning as the wrap-up that is done so clever.

With any movie like this, subtle and focusing a lot on the reactions and interactions of the characters involved, the cast and character design is a big part. Neville Archambault starts off as the dad and he starts off the movie already in an unsettling manner from what he does and just the look in his eyes. As it seems to transfer over to his son Harry (Chris Sheffield), its hard to not see a different way of how he derails from realizing something is wrong and trying to resist whatever is happening to him. And then, there’s the balancing role who is doesn’t understand what is going on as the “good sister” Audrey (Michaela McManus) that pulls out a decent role especially since her character creates a little contrast. However, if there was a character that brought the most convincing side of the whole equation (and I’m not usually someone who believes in this) is the character of Dale who starts talking about all the conspiracy theories he believes in and it starts right from the first act and throughout the film and each time being doubted in the film which makes you wonder whether its the deal here since that’s how movies usually go.

The Block Island Sound is a story that needs to be experienced and let the story reveal. The more I talk about it, the surprise of the viewing will be ruined. Its a case of knowing less before going in and letting yourself follow and figure it out on your own. Block Island is a great setting and the story itself was done pretty well with some very slight pacing issues in the middle. The unsettling feeling is fairly on point as well. This is a good science fiction horror mystery story.

Conscience (Short Story) by Jonathan Pongratz

Conscience
by: Jonathan Pongratz

Rory Bennels lives in a world ruled by a business entity known as the Corporation. For years he’s executed cerebral uploads for the recently deceased, but when the famed anarchist Epher Lore ends up in his lab, a series of events occur that shakes Rory’s world to the core. – Goodreads

*Received in exchange for honest review*

Running a swift 37 pages, Conscience is a science fiction novel set in a futuristic dystopian world. As with short stories, its a fairly quick-paced as the story sees Rory experiencing an error with his cerebral upload that would usually go smoothly. The story gives a little slice of this world and who the Corporation is. As the plot dives deeper between the interaction of these two characters, Rory starts seeing another side to the world that he thinks that he knows and having to test which truth that he would believe to lead up to the end.

For a short story, the characters actually get rather padded out especially since the anarchist Epher Lore is one that takes on this different approach of being transferred into a robot by accident and as they call it, becomes immortal for most part which makes it a bad situation for Rory and the consequences from the Corporation that he is afraid to face. The dialogue between Epher Lore and Rory also have a lot of weight in the whole scenario as the characters somehow build their understanding of each other. Epher Lore is more than the anarchist that he has been caught for while Rory also develops throughout the story from the starting point until the ending. For a short story, its a bit of surprise how well the characters are written.

Conscience is really just a snippet of this futuristic dystopia and the world that it could be with the Corporation and these characters and some robots/AI put in the mix. It outlines a general state of the world on hand and yet leaves so much room to build this world. Some of the individual science fiction elements might not be completely unseen or unique but its how Jonathan Pongratz delivers and puts together these elements that gives it a distinctive turn of events. With how this story ends, it leaves an intriguing space to revisit this world if ever he decides to write another story and one that I’d definitely be interested to read more of this world if it happens.

Score: 5/5

Other Jonathan Pongratz stories: Reaper

Blog Tour: No Signal (iMe Series #2) by Jem Tugwell

NO SIGNAL BLOG TOUR v2

No Signal (iMe series #2)
By: Jem Tugwell

No Signal

Publisher: Serpentine Books
Publication Date: June 4th, 2020
Pages: 336
Available in Paperback, eBook & Audio

In a breathtaking follow-up novel to ‘PROXIMITY’, Serge says it’s the ultimate Augmented Reality game. He’s chosen his Ten carefully – the reckless, driven and strong. He tests them. Ten become Four.
DI Clive Lussac wants to fight the system that controls everything, but he’s ill and losing the people closest to him. In the middle of eco-protests, he’s lost four tourists.
As Clive’s world unravels, he and his partners DC Ava Miller and DS Zoe Jordan race to find the tourists and the true reason behind the game. It may already be too late. – Goodreads

No Signal is the sequel of Proximity, the second book in the iMe series. While the first book was set on creating a technothriller set in a futuristic dystopia where technology has now become the tool that governs every single person’s life to every single detail to create a crime free and healthy society through their technology iMe and set a very solid foundation for this world building. No Signal had a kick-off point in this established world that took a different path. This time, its not about a crime set in one city using the technology and the different ways its governed from police to citizens to all the red tape involved but it takes the angle of a further technology called iTourist that sees a person who creates this augmented reality game that leads the four remaining challengers from around the world to enter into this controlled world to race for a big prize at the finish line. Other than the technology and crime-solving elements, this story also has dives into a little bit of this dystopian future’s politics.

No Signal is divided chapter to chapter from a few different point of view.  Its a lot of characters to maneuver at first as it bounces between last book’s main character police detective Clive Lussac, “game master” Serge and the four challengers. This is a great structure to approach this story as it gives a good overlap from one location to the next while also being able to keep the book paced incredibly well and really action-packed and also to connect better with each of these characters. The connection from the first book actually is only through Clive Lussac and his character still maintains a lot of the traits from the first one that makes him notice the things and plays along the more experienced cop role as he leads another younger partner after his partner in the last one has moved to another department. If there was anything, it felt a little unnecessary to put in his personal life drama. It connects to the first one and maybe makes him more human but the story stood well enough on its own focusing on the thriller on hand.

One of the most outstanding parts of this series is definitely the use of its technology. The technology itself has so much detail from how it evolves and what it is capable of doing. iMe still plays a lot as it controls the citizens in this space whereas the rest of the world seems to not be controlled like this future UK. As it brings people from outside of this country inside, the technology behind iTourist is really only an introduction but it adds another element when the scenario changes as they find a way to complete their challenge without this country’s monitoring. Every point of No Signal is done with a lot of thought in its execution and how each plot point should land and give it further intrigue and thrills. For a sequel, it keeps the same intensity as its first book and dives deeper into this world. Honestly, I can’t wait to see where else this world can go to hopefully a next novel.

Score: 4.5 out of 5 

You can also check out the review of the the first book, Proximity HERE.

Amazon Australia : https://amzn.to/2WcgE2z
Goodreads link  : https://bit.ly/2WbnhSN
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jem Tugwell is a crime fiction author with a Crime Writing MA from City University.
NO SIGNAL is the second book in the iMe series and follows his thrilling debut novel PROXIMITY.
Jem is inspired by the fascinating possibilities of technology, AI and the law of unintended consequences. In a past life, Jem had a successful career in technology and investment management, and he lives in Surrey with his wife and dog. He has two great children. Outside of his family and writing, Jem’s loves are snowboarding, old cars and bikes.
GIVEAWAY
As part of the blog tour, Serpentine Books is running a Rafflecopter competition to give a way 2 signed copies of Proximity (it is open to UK addresses only).

Blackthorn by Terry Tyler

Blackthorn
By: Terry Tyler

Blackthorn

The UK, year 2139
One hundred and fifteen years ago, a mysterious virus wiped out ninety-five per cent of humanity.  Blackthorn, the largest settlement in England, rose from the ashes of the devastated old world. It is a troubled city, where the workers live in crude shacks, and make do with the worst of everything.  It is a city of violent divisions, crime, and an over-populated jail block―until a charismatic traveller has a miraculous vision and promises to bring hope back to the people’s lives.  Blackthorn falls under Ryder Swift’s spell, and the most devoted of all is the governor’s loyal servant, Lieutenant August Hemsley.  Twenty-one-year-old Evie has lived her whole life in the shacks. She and disillusioned guard Byron Lewis are two of a minority who have doubts about Ryder’s message. Can they stand against the beliefs of an entire city? – Goodreads

Blackthorn is a story about beliefs and cults in a dystopian future where the balance has been offset. In the current state of the world, calculating back the years of how this story is sets up its future scenario, it almost hits a little too close to home. However, much like the other book that I read Hope from Terry Tyler, this author excels in building immersive dystopia worlds. In Blackthorn, its one that works thoroughly from the society’s lowered population built up and almost driving everything back to the basics in older times with different societal classes doing different jobs and someone ruling over the different cities/districts by richer families and the concept to carry on the family name by passing it on.

This brings in all kinds of characters that weave together a story of bringing back the concept of faith in the Bible and having the community come together to be better in order to reach the Light. With that, it brings up questions of how truthful the situation actually is as well as the motives of different decisions by the different characters that manage to bring in some deeper characters. Characters is where the story is executed well as it bounces between the perspective of three characters: Lieutenant August Hemsley, a lower class baker Evie and guard Byron Lewis. Their different perspectives of the different elements of the society completes the picture in many of the scenarios and fills in those blanks to connect the dots while at the same time, having perspectives from different characters also creates enough gaps of the unknown to have their own secrets and msyteries in the story that slowly unveil in the third part. With that said, the book is divided into three parts plus an epilogue, giving it a progression of time and shift in time and events as well as Blackthorn’s position.

If there was something to criticize about this book, its that the pacing at times felt lacking here and there. It had to do with its length perhaps and that some moments were made to create a link between the perspectives of the three. Provided that most of the time, the three views did work very well together but at times, it did make some situations a little longer to read. Plus, with three characters, it also needs to create enough dilemmas to solidify their purpose, push and feelings towards the society and predicament. Although, I say this, overall Blackthorn is a satisfying read. Its world-building and dystopian future plus the intricate details of putting all the three characters together from little events popping up in their passing at the beginning to having the three characters’ path intersect was done really well. Despite its little moments, its still well-executed in the scope of the story that it wants to tell.

Score: 4.5/5

Check out my review of Terry Tyler’s other book, Hope HERE.

BITS 2019: Majic (2019)

BITS 2019 banner

Majic (2019)

Majic

Director (and co-writer): Erin Berry

Cast: Paula Brancati, Richard Fitzpatrick, Marc Hickox, Michael Majeski, Debra McGrath, Paulino Nunes, Anand Rajaram, Michael Seater

An anti-conspiracy video blogger thinks she is slipping into an alternate reality after being approached by an old man claiming to have worked for the legendary Majestic-12 (aka majic), the covert US spy agency, created after the UFO incident at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. –IMDB

Majic is a mystery science fiction thriller that lands a lot of its punches. In the field of anti-conspiracy and research regarding secret agencies, its hard to be certain what side of it is real even what evidence can be trusted. This is what Majic does exceptionally well. As it dives into the world of debunking conspiracies, we follow a video blogger on a secret meeting with an old man claiming to be part of the Majestic-12 or as he calls it, Majic. As she follows the path he offers her, she ends up going on a road that ends up messing up her timeline. The reality she knows has suddenly slipped into an alternate reality where she struggles to find what is the reality and what is the cause. Is it related to UFOs? What is the truth?

As she falls down the rabbit hole of what is real, all she has left is herself to figure it out and yet, in a story that flips back and forth in what is real and what isn’t, Majic executes its mystery so well that its hard to not sucked into it and get our own minds boggled as well. It remembers that its story is where the complexity lies and keeps the rest of the elements simple and straightforward.

MAJIC

Other than having a well-built mystery, what lifts Majic is a clever script. Its dialogue between the characters leave a lot of room for the suspense and mystery to build. It adds questions on top of questions and doesn’t leave a lot of answers lying in the open. Each encounter is slightly cryptic and yet the back and forth never drags and keeps it intriguing. With a clever script, you also need a great cast to execute it. Paula Brancati plays as the central character Bernwood who does an incredible job in capturing the many states of the character, right up to the big final twist which pulls the whole story together. At the same time, she is faced against two strong performances by Anderson, who is played by Richard Fitzpatrick as well Specter who is played by Paulino Nunes. The latter actually almost feels like this confusing verbal spar that is so satisfying to watch.

Majic

There isn’t enough great things to say about Majic. Its a film that will become a hidden gem of this year (or at least I hope so). It keeps a lot of the other elements simple to boost up the fantastic performances given here especially with a strong female performance by Paula Brancati. Its been a while that I’ve watched a mystery that truly boggles the mind right to the very end with a rather mind-blowing ending that pulls it all together and adds substance to the little detail that ties it all together. Its bit wordy and packed with a lot of quick dialogue for some but this one was a surprisingly great film and one that shouldn’t be missed.

BITS 2019: Dead Dicks (2019)

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Dead Dicks (2019)

Dead Dicks

Director (and writer): Chris Bavota & Lee Paula Springer

Cast: Heston Horwin, Jillian Harris, Matt Keyes, Kristina Sandev

After Becca receives a distressing call from her suicidal brother Richie, she rushes over to his apartment and finds him alive and well – surrounded by copies of his own dead body. – IMDB

Its hard to imagine what experience to expect when you go into a film called Dead Dicks. Is it supposed to be funny and not serious? Or even in general what direction it could all go. As the movie get through its first act, it starts to fit together why its this title, which actually takes a warning in the beginning about seeking help for suicidal thoughts via a hotline and then right away picking up its first opening scene with an intense suicide scene.

Dead Dicks has its dark humor approach to the whole issue while also leaving in some bloody horror, some science fiction and a lot of drama as the siblings both try to get rid of the bodies while dealing with their lack of communication of their feelings towards each other whether its Richie’s suicidal tendencies or his mental illness to Becca’s fear of sharing her successes. The story goes much deeper than is anticipated and gives it a lot to think about by the end. Its easy to expect this as the title is fairly multi-layer from Dick being short for Richard and it having multiple dead Richie’s on the scene as well as the whole layout.

Dead Dicks

Dead Dicks chooses to have a one location setting. The majority of the events happen in his apartment with some starting scenes outside or in the vicinity of it. This gives the apartment a lot of depth in layout and the various places that the different deaths can happen and the bodies. The location has somewhat of a treasure trove element where behind every close door, there is something more to discover that furthers the story. It gives it some twists. Some that are surprising and probably one that felt a tad more predictable. Its one that emphasizes on the details of each scene.

Dead Dicks

The final element that brings the whole film together are the siblings, Becca and Richie played by Jillian Harris and Heston Horwin respectively, who do a fantastic job in each of their roles. Their roles build quite a bit over the course of the film. It has this subtle development as the one night of events brings them both together as they communicate with each other about their own feelings to all come together for a very touching (yes, I said touching and emotional) final act. Its really quite an unexpected moment.

Overall, Dead Dicks is a film that hard to really explain. Its title makes it hard to take it seriously and describing the first part of the film without giving any spoilers also makes it sound rather weird. However, its a movie that is well worth a watch. There’s a lot of appreciation in how it executes the “less in more” in its details, the one location setting, the focus on very little characters of mostly just the sibling relationship which is rather dysfunctional and the effect of mental illness and suicide tendencies. Its rare to call a horror film genuinely emotional and powerful and yet, this one does achieve that. Its not a film for everyone but if you aren’t sensitive to the two elements mentioned above, this one has a lot of unexpectedness to it that really comes together in a subtle way.