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Fantasia 2021 | The Sadness Review

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Quite simply, The Sadness is possibly one of the bloodiest and most brutal films I have ever seen. But it’s absolutely brilliant! If you don’t like blood or gore, then this is definitely not the film for you. But if you can stomach all the guts and gore, then you are in for a treat. Given the huge range of genre films shown at the Fantasia Film Festival it’s not often that Fantasia themselves have to give a trigger warning but The Sadness is just so extreme that it warrants one and Fantasia warn viewers to ‘proceed with caution’ if watching this ultraviolent Taiwanese film.

The Sadness is set in a world combatting a pandemic. There’s a virus with flu-like symptoms, that the public isn’t taking seriously. Many think it’s just a hoax surrounding the upcoming election and so everyone lets their guard. However, this mysterious ‘Alvin Virus’ spontaneously mutates giving rise to a mind-altering plague that very much ought to be taken seriously. Chaos ensues as the infected are running about like zombies doing the most cruel and nasty things they can. Murder, rape, torture; everything goes. The age of order is gone, and there is only ‘The Sadness’.

Now if you’re thinking, hang on a minute, this whole virus thing during an election year that the public aren’t taking seriously sounds a bit familiar, well you’re right. The film was entirely developed over the course of 8 months during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The development process all happened so fast with it being written in the spring, shot in summer and completed by the end of winter. The Sadness certainly isn’t for everyone; if you don’t want to see lots of blood or if you don’t want to watch a film about a virus and a pandemic then you definitely shouldn’t watch it. But if you do want to see that sort of film then you’ll have an absolute blast of a time with it.

The people infected with the virus can’t control themselves and will do all sorts of crazy things. Despite the terror that comes from the infected people being extraordinarily entertaining, the film isn’t just watching people being violently killed and seeing blood spurt all over the place. At its centre, the film follows a young couple who are on opposite sides of the city trying to find and protect each other from the chaos happening around the city.

It gets right into the action without stopping to ease you in as within the first half hour one of the lead characters gets his fingers ripped off which is very quickly followed by one of the infected eating one of his severed fingers. Instantly we know this film isn’t playing around. It’s horrific and so incredibly brutal. It’s a terrifyingly tense rollercoaster ride and for the entire runtime you don’t know who’s safe and who’s going to be viciously ripped to pieces in the next scene.

The Sadness is the feature film directorial debut of Rob Jabbaz who does a superb job with his first film. He manages to create such a suspenseful, fast paced film that has you on the edge of your seat for the entire runtime. It will shock you right to your core with the insane level of blood and violence in it. No Hollywood film would ever dare to reach the levels that Jabbaz gets to in The Sadness and it’s really great to see something this cruel and violent and to get such great entertainment value from it.

Not only is the action incredible but the film has such a suspenseful atmosphere to it. Right after we first see the outbreak and the extent to which the infected can cause chaos, the film cuts to a train. The scene holds for quite some time with nothing going on, just some casual conversations on the underground. But the viewer knows what’s about to go down. You’re sat there, with your heart racing, waiting for an attack to happen. And even though you know what’s coming and what’s about to happen, the suspense is killing you the whole time.

The film doesn’t quite manage to sustain itself throughout and it does lose a bit of momentum as it goes on. It starts to add an element of sexual violence and whilst the whole film is disturbing and unsettling, the sexual violence really elevates that unnerving feeling perhaps just a bit too far.

The Sadness is a film told with a huge amount of skill and flair as well as buckets and buckets and even more buckets of fake blood. It’s insanely horrific and visceral and simply put, it is the most brutal film you will see this year.

The Sadness had its North American premiere at Fantasia International Film Festival 2021.

We spoke to writer/director Rob Jabbaz about The Sadness and you can read that interview HERE

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Peacemaker Delivers Brutal Violence While Being Incredibly Funny And Goofy At The Same Time

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Note: This review is based on the first seven episodes (of eight)

Following on hot off the heels of 2021’s The Suicide Squad James Gunn strikes again with more hilariously entertaining superhero shenanigans. Originally Peacemaker would seem like an interesting choice of the squad to be getting his own series, especially after the final act of The Suicide Squad revealing him to be a complete asshole, but very quickly the show establishes itself and manages to make Peacemaker, AKA Christopher Smith, just a little bit more likeable.

The show opens with John Cena’s Peacemaker busting out of prison and he unites with some new teammates to defeat a bunch of alien creatures known as butterflies. On the team are leader Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji), John Economos (Steve Agee) and Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) two characters that we briefly met working for Amanda Waller in The Suicide Squad, rookie Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks) who’s by far the most interesting of the team behind the Peacemaker, as well as Peacemaker’s wisecracking friend Vigilante (Freddie Stroma). It’s a completely different sort of team to who we last saw Peacemaker with in The Suicide Squad but it allows for a much greater exploration of the eponymous Peacemaker.

HBO Max

John Cena is absolutely perfect for the character and James Gunn’s sharp writing and direction makes the show stand out. Right from Peacemaker’s ridiculous pitch-perfect opening titles up until the end of each episode it’s filled to the brim with stupidity and the sort of gags we come to expect from Gunn. It’s remarkable that the cast can perform it all with a straight face. Everything about the show has this air of stupidity to it, whether that’s in the dialogue, Peacemaker’s bald eagle pet named Eagly, or even just Peacemaker’s costume. But the show somehow perfectly balances this stupidity with seriousness as it provides a great look at Peacemaker’s character and actually gives a reason as to why he’s getting this show.

There’s far more to Cena’s character beneath the surface and beneath what we’ve seen of him previously and there’s something that deserves exploration and that’s what the series does. He’s willing to get peace at all costs no matter how many men, women, and children he has to kill to get it. The main plot line of the show about tackling the alien species of butterflies that take over a host body seems a little similar to Project Starfish from The Suicide Squad -and in fact the show even jokes about this similarity- but the show also delves into deeper issues as we experience the relationship between Peacemaker and his white supremacist dad Auggie played by Terminator 2’s Robert Patrick. There’s so much more to Peacemaker as a person and what he’s been through that The Suicide Squad just doesn’t touch on at all so this show is a good chance to really connect with him on a deeper level and it provides us with reasons to actually sympathise with this character.

We’re inundated with superhero content at the minute and Peacemaker feels distinct enough from much of what Marvel are doing, even Gunn’s own Marvel projects, however there is an easy comparison to be made between this and Amazon’s The Boys. Peacemaker isn’t quite as sharp or as smart as The Boys is, nor are any of the other characters in Peacemaker anywhere near the high quality of Amazon’s show but nonetheless it’s a delight to watch and a break from the many Marvel series we had in 2021.

HBO Max

As the show runs on a lot of the humour starts to drip away with Gunn’s juvenile style of comedy getting a bit repetitive. In particular the novelty of Stroma’s quippy Vigilante, who initially seems like DC’s version of Deadpool starts to wear off. Very quickly his stupidity and lack of awareness gets boring.

Peacemaker delivers with its heavy and brutal violence along with being incredibly funny and goofy at the same time. James Gunn shows us once again that he can make something fun and vibrant that feels like it’s been ripped straight out the pages of a comic book. It’s entertaining as hell and a great start to the year for DC.

The first three episodes of Peacemaker premiere on HBO MAX on January 13th with new episodes releasing each week.

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Mother/Android Review | This Terminator Meets The Walking Dead Hybrid Sure Is Dull

Chloë Grace Moretz gives an impactful performance in Mattson Tomlin’s “Mother/Android”, but the rest of this sci-fi hybrid picture is quite dull.

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Whether you like it or not, 2022 is off to a start (it’s too early to tell whether or not it’s a good or bad start, give it about a week or two), and I won’t wait until theatres reopen (yeah…) to write about film and TV. Kicking off my adventures in moviegoing for the year is Mattson Tomlin’s Mother/Android, a movie that came out on December 17th in the United States on Hulu but is gearing up for an International release on Netflix this week. Chloë Grace Moretz leads this sci-fi movie as Georgia Olsen, who finds out she is pregnant to Sam (Algee Smith)’s child on Christmas Eve, sometime in the near future where Androids are now part of human life.

During a party, a technical glitch causes the Androids, who are, in this world, acting as servants for humans, to become erratic and violent, causing death to anyone that comes in contact with them. Nine months have passed (for some odd reason). Georgia’s water can break at any moment, while Sam is looking for a path to Boston, where they can seek refuge in Korea, escape the post-apocalyptic hell doom of the United States and start a new life there. We’ve all seen this movie before. A survival sci-fi/horror film where characters have a plan to leave a dystopia to a promised utopia, and nothing goes according to plan.

Mother/Android follows that plot trope in the most unengaging way possible. Tomlin tries to visually explain, to the best of his ability, how the Androids were created and became part of everyday life, but the visual exposition is so minimal it becomes a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” moment. We have no idea how to what purpose the Androids were created, but we do recognize their visual inspirations from The Walking Dead and Terminator. When they don’t get shot in the face and have their face peeled like a T-800, they sure do run like brainless Zombies with the intent to kill people.

We never know what drives them to kill humans, or why they suddenly become violent. Sure, a blackout, but what caused the blackout and why did the blackout suddenly transform calm Androids into Zombie-like killing machines? These are important questions the movie never takes time to answer and instead spends most of its time with Grace Moretz’s Georgia on the cusp of giving birth inside cyclical and boring situations. Georgia and Sam go to a military base, potentially to help Olsen give birth. For the most bewildering reason, they get kicked off the base and must learn to fend for themselves. The same situation happens with their next objective. Every individual they meet, or place they visit has the same structure.

Tomlin begins by giving the audience a glimmer of hope, either through the movie’s decent-looking cinematography from Patrick Scola or through its minimalist, but emotionally-driven music from Kevin Henthorn and Michelle Birsky. Then, some lines of dialogue begin to swell hopium, until this “hope” is constantly crushed by:

a) The character’s own idiocy of not realizing the most obvious and/or never making the right decisions.

b) Androids show up. When in doubt, android it up.

c) The reality of the situation. Tomlin sets up Mother/Android‘s world as pessimistic by design. Therefore, the characters’ expectations of the promised utopia will be undoubtedly crushed. This isn’t a spoiler, but the reality of ANY post-apocalyptic sci-fi or horror film. It’s always the same, without exception.

Because of this, audience investment is at its minimum. Even if the movie does contain a few cool action sequences, including a rather exciting motorcycle chase filled with high-speed drones and, dare I say, scary-looking androids, Tomlin never gives us a reason to care about any character we spend time with, let alone care about the world they inhabit. Post-apocalyptic films are always enjoyable if the writer/filmmaker establishes the world first, before thwarting the characters in the action. Of course, they can thwart the characters first, to then establish the world, but that’s a riskier bet than the former. Tomlin decides to do the latter, but he never wants to establish the world further than “Androids evil. Georgia and Sam need to leave the USA.” Cool. But neat-looking action sequences and pretty images aren’t enough to hook people in.

Chloë Grace Moretz in Mother/Android.

Thankfully, Chloë Grace Moretz’s performance is impassioned enough that she carries the entire movie for herself. The final scene between her, Sam, and Korean officials is an absolute heartbreaker to watch, solely due to Moretz’s performance. Tomlin consistently relies on her for raw emotion, because he knows his script can’t carry the entire movie for itself. Sure, she does get trapped in a few “damsel in distress” situations, but when the movie needs her to shine, she always comes through and likely gives the best performance of her career. Her filmography isn’t filled with some of the best movies ever made, but her performance in Mother/Android almost puts hers in Suspiria and Clouds of Sills Maria to shame. She’s that good.

It’s an absolute disappointment that virtually anyone (or anything) else doesn’t work as hard as Moretz does here. She seems to have a deep affection for the material, and so does Tomlin, who infused some of his personal life in the script. But an affection for the material doesn’t necessarily equate to good material. If you’re not giving any reason to care about anything that’s going on in the movie, then the audience will check out quicker than the movie will ultimately “get going.” The truth of the matter is, this movie never gets going and gives a chance for us to care. If you want a great post-apocalyptic movie, 28 Days Later is the quintessential example of how it’s done.

FILM RATING

Mother/Android is now streaming exclusively on Hulu and will release on January 7th for International audiences on Netflix.

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The Matrix Resurrections | A Mind-Bending Sci-fi Romance

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The Matrix Resurrections is such a self-aware, meta-driven, awe-exhilarating, mind-bending sci-fi romance that features stunning visuals and absolutely insane action sequences. It’s innovative and engaging and after twenty years we finally get plugged back into The Matrix in a sequel that honours the legacy of the iconic Trilogy. 

From visionary filmmaker Lana Wachowski comes the long-awaited next chapter in the groundbreaking franchise that truly redefined a genre. The new film reunites original stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in the iconic roles they made famous, Neo and Trinity. 

In “The Matrix Resurrections”, we return to a world of two realities: one, everyday life; the other, what lies behind it. To find out if his reality is a physical or mental construct, to truly know himself, Mr. Anderson will have to choose to follow the white rabbit once more. And if Thomas…Neo… has learned anything, it’s that choice, while an illusion, is still the only way out of-or into-the Matrix. Of course, Neo already knows what he has to do. But what he doesn’t know yet is the Matrix is stronger, more secure and more dangerous than ever before. Déjà vu.

©Warner Brothers

The Matrix has truly evolved since Revolutions as it’s now difficult to spot reality from fiction, especially with code. The Matrix code is treated like a story and Jonathan Groff’s Smith quotes to Thomas “That’s the thing about stories. They never really end, do they? we’re still telling the same stories we’ve always told, just with different names, different faces. Reeves reprises the dual roles of Thomas Anderson/Neo, the man once saved from the Matrix to become the saviour of humankind, will once have to choose which path to follow. 

Moss portrays the iconic warrior Trinity, well not anymore, she’s Tiffany. A suburban wife and mother of three with a penchant for superpowered motorcycles. Things aren’t certainly the way they were before.

Every studio is after a profitable IP and as sequels come and go franchises evolve. The Matrix Trilogy has always remained in our conscience as a pop culture impact that changed the sci-fi game in 1999 with the first instalment about Thomas “Neo” Anderson a computer programmer by day and hacker at night whose life is forever changed when he swallows the red pill that disconnects him from a carefully simulated world of enslaved humans. The premise of machines rebelling against their makers was a unique concept and the utilising of people as an electrical system to fuel a dystopian world truly put an interesting twist on the potential fate of humanity. 

However their freedom came at a cost as Neo becomes “The One” a mythical figure of power and enlightenment prophecies to bring about the end of affairs and establish peace with the machines, allowing them to live in co-exisitence with the humans in the city of Zion. 

He did so, thanks to his and Trinity’s sacrifice at the end of The Matrix Revolutions, in which he was able to defat a self-replicating virus known as Smith (Hugo Weaving). Neo’s transformation from a curious worker to an actualised human being capable of changing the world felt like it holds significant relevance to Wachowski’s own life story. The Matrix was all about the desire for transformation all coming from a closeted point of view according Lilly Wachowski. 

If you talk about transformation in the world of science fiction, its about imagination and world-building and the ultimate idea of the seemingly impossible becoming the possible. 

Helming Resurrections as a solo effort makes you feel Lana’s vision. Along with her co-writers, the novelist David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas) and screenwriter Aleksandar Hemon embrace the heavy self-referential themes that exist in this day and age, specifically the opening as it takes a nostalgic approach as the writers being to poke fun at sequels, prequels and reboots. The film also begins with a satire on corporate greed and conniving marketers as the company revs up for a new sequel that doesn’t want to be made. 

The Matrix Resurrections, more so than any other instalment in the franchise is to me a film of love and about finding the ONE you believe in. It’s a story centred on the relationship between Neo and Trinity, the leather-coated, mirror shades-wearing resistance fighters introduced in the original Matrix Trilogy. Nearly two decades have passed since the release of The Matrix Revoutions and that sixty years have elapsed between the events at the end of that film and the beginning of Resurrections. Their relationship gets the films plot moving and the payoff is spectacular. Lana’s approach guides us through the reveals as there is tons to unpack when it comes to the lore of the Matrix and its implications. 

©Warner Brothers

Resurrections gives such awe-inspiring additions to the Matrix world and Mega City. It’s more modernised and showcases the nature of past and present simulations and programs especially how they reign over themselves this is particularly seen in The Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris) and Smith (Jonathan Groff). The film also updates some of the ideology and technology as phone booths and mobile phones see an absence and is now replaced with mirrors that work as doors to the physical word. 

The unbreakable Bond as mentioned above between Neo and Trinity, is an iconic romance that transcends dimensions and time, it’s the human element that propels this dystopian/futuristic vehicle. Wachowski creates great epic filmmaking that feels human and in this entry despite what the Oracle told Neo in Revolutions, every beginning does not have an end. Love never dies. It’s about the power of self-love and what’s happening in the world with regard to gender identity and relations. 

Trinity was a character in the original trilogy and a woman with such power, agency and ability. The matrix set a standard for female action heroes and Resurrections certainly lives up to that whilst also taking into account the passage of time. Trinity’s arc in The Matrix Resurrections is a reaction to the past 20 years of cultural evolution. 

©Warner Brothers

Keeping Neo on the path is a group of incredible hackers who have come to see Neo as a legend. They have studied the past and keep archives of data dedicated to his exploits which certainly come in handy utilising footage from the trilogy to help jog his memory. Bugs (Jessica Henwick) is the proverbial white rabbit on a mission to discover the one who sacrificed himself for humankind and she’s willing to take any risk necessary in search of the legend she idolises. Henwick truly pops off the screen with an infectious attitude, she’s smart and suave and has Incredible style especially her sunglasses which were designed by British eyewear designer Tom Davies. 

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays a new version of the wise and worldly Morpheus who, as always, serves as a guide to Neo whilst also fulfilling his own greater purpose on a very singular journey of self-discovery. 

The return of Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) the fierce general who once fought for the survival of Zion now sees to the welfare of her people with a familiar fire on her eyes, despite a sense of disbelief and suspicion upon Neo’s return. 

wrapping up the cast are Jonathan Groff who plays Thomas Anderson’s business partner Smith, a slick, confident corporate type with insouciant charm, a disarming smile and an eye on the bottom line. Neil Patrick Harris plays the Analyst, Thomas’ therapist who works closely with his patient to understand the meaning behind his dreams and to distinguish them from reality. 

And Priyanka Chopra Jonas plays Sati, a young woman with a wisdom that belies her years and ability to see the truth, no matter how murky the waters. 

©Warner Brothers

What follows is a journey with twists and swarms of explosive action but with the glowing sunset. The film also features a comedic tone which was surprisingly meta and hilarious. It stems from what the film utterly renders is love’s true power, showcasing Neo and Trinity’s powerful romance with sincerity. The Matrix Resurrections is about becoming whole with yourself and belief as Neo puts it “I never believed I was the one. But she believed. It’s my turn to believe in her. 

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