ABC Film Challenge – World Cinema – E – Escobar: Paradise Lost (2014) Movie Review

Director: Andrea Di Stefano

Writer: Andrea Di Stefano (Screenplay)

Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Hutcherson, Brady Corbet, Claudia Traisac, Tenoch Huerta, Ana Giradot

Plot: In Colombia, a young surfer meets the woman of his dreams – and then meets her uncle, Pablo Escobar.

Tagline – Nobody escapes Pablo Escobar.

Runtime: 2 Hours

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Strong Second Half

Story: Escobar: Paradise Lost starts as Canadian surfer Nick (Hutcherson) has moved to Columbia to start a business with his friend Dylan (Corbet) giving surfing lessons, he meets a beautiful local woman Maria (Traisac) falling in love along the way, only to learn that her Uncle is Pablo Escobar (Del Toro).

Nick does get welcomed into the family with what starts as a friendly welcome from a political figure, but soon Pablo shows the darker side, which both Nick and Maria want to escape from, but know if they run, they will end up like most of the victims against Pablo, dead.

Thoughts on Escobar: Paradise Lost

Characters – Pablo Escobar is the know criminal drug lord, here we meet him as a family man first, who will always welcome honest people into his family before showing his darker side, which will show how deadly it is to cross the man, with his ability to strike fear into the people of Columbia. Nick is a surfer that just wants to live in paradise, where he meets a beautiful woman, only he gets drawn into the life of crime by her uncle, where he is torn between going through with crimes or risking his own life. Maria is the woman that Nick falls in love with, they both want to enjoy the paradise they are living in, even if her Uncle has deadlier plans.

PerformancesBenicio Del Toro is strong in the leading role and shows the emotionless state of mind of the crime lord, while Josh Hutcherson does show us just how desperate his character become through the situation he finds himself in. the rest of the cast are fine without needing to do as much as the leads in the film.

StoryThe story here follows a surfer that finds himself working for crime lord Pablo Escobar against his will after starting to date his niece. The story does show us how innocent the romance starts out being, your typical boy meets girl, before it shows how much control Pablo Escobar had on everyone around him, striking fear into anyone that was against him by killing anyone he didn’t like. We see how Nick is trying to find a way out of this hell, to be with the love of his life and the consequences of being in this world. The first half of this story is slow moving, but once Nick is given his assignment, things get a lot more intense.

Crime/RomanceThe romance side of this film is your typical boy meets girl, it is all sweet until he meets the family, which does show us the crime world that we are thrown into under the crime lord who isn’t afraid to kill people, including family.

SettingsThe film does use the backdrop of Columbia well, it shows that the paradise would be a beautiful place to wake up to and how the deals could happen without people knowing.

Scene of the Movie – Nick’s mission.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The slow first half.

Final Thoughts This is a crime thriller that starts slowly but once we hit the half way mark it becomes edge or your seat battle between Nick and Escobar’s men.

Overall: Could have been saved with a stronger start.

ABC Film Challenge – World Cinema – B – Birds of Passage (2018) Movie Review

Director: Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra

Writer: Maria Camila Arias, Jacques Toulemonde Vidal (Screenplay)

Starring: Carmina Martinez, Jose Acosta, Natalia Reyes, Jhon Narvaez, Juan Bautista Martinez, Miguel Viera

Plot: During the marijuana bonanza, a violent decade that saw the origins of drug trafficking in Colombia, Rapayet and his indigenous family get involved in a war to control the business that ends up destroying their lives and their culture.

Tagline – Generations of tradition. Consumed by greed.

Runtime: 2 Hours 5 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Watching Spiral is Fascinating

Story: Birds of Passage starts when a young woman Zaida (Reyes) gets released upon the world, where the men must earn the right to marry her, with Rapayet (Acosta) winning this right, he is trying to do something different in the business for the tribes, looking to move into Marijuana sells, knowing the new booming market could improve the economy of the country.

With the business thriving Rapayet must deal with problems on his own side, with his partner Moises (Narvaez) who is starting to get out of control, testing the patience of the locals in the Wayuu tribe, forcing Rapayet to fix the problem as the war on drugs is only just starting.

Thoughts on Birds of Passage

Characters – Ursula is the town’s elder, if she doesn’t approve of a decision, the people will not get it through, she expects traditions, respect and hard work from every member of the tribe to make sure everything runs smoothly. Rapayet is a member of the Wayuu tribe, who has connections outside of the tribe, which sees him move into the drug trafficking business, he marries Zaida and sees his business continue to grow, only for him to see more enemies arrive in his life. Zaida emerges from her tribes tradition ready to find a partner, she ends up with Rapayet and learns about the world of drugs from seeing the better things coming their way. Moises is the partner to Rapayet who starts to get out of control with his actions, forcing Rapayet into a world of bloodshed that he never wanted.

PerformancesWhen we come to the performances, we do get to see Carmina Martinez and Natalia Reyes bringing the traditional female figures in this world to life, while Jose Acosta brings us the quiet drug lord who is constantly torn between both worlds.

StoryThe story here follows a small tribe that enter the drug trafficking world as we follow 20 years of their time in this world, having to face different problems, while remaining traditional. This is an interesting story because it does show how traditions in tribes can be pushed to the limits when people look to branch to new levels, when we dive into the drug side of the story, it is everything we have seen before, with everything slowly going out of control because of the actions of a few reckless greedy people. For how the story is told, it shows most of the story through the eyes of how Ursula sees the traditions going out of her hands.

CrimeThe crime side of the film does follow how the tribe enters the world of drugs and how things slowly start to get bigger and deadlier.

SettingsThe film does us the settings to show the changes, with the small village, before moving into the brick houses, while also showing us the beauty of the roads which will only lead to death.

Scene of the Movie – The traditions.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The crime side of everything has been done before.

Final Thoughts This is a wonderful looks at how family traditions can clash with the rising dominance of the drug world in Columbia, all to deadly consequences.

Overall: Hard Hitting Drama.

Al Pacino Weekend – Scarface (1983) Movie Review

Director: Brian De Palma

Writer: Oliver Stone (Screenplay)

Starring: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia, Miriam Colon, F Murray Abraham

Plot: In 1980 Miami, a determined Cuban immigrant takes over a drug cartel and succumbs to greed.

Tagline – He was Tony Montana. The world will remember him by another name…SCARFACE.

Runtime: 2 Horus 50 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Gangster 101

Story: Scarface starts when Cuban immigrant Tony Montana (Pacino) leave Cuba to start a life in America, he isn’t happy by starting with the everyday labour jobs, before getting a chance to work with his friend Manny (Bauer) who draws him into the world of drugs, a place where Tony thrives.

As Tony learns the business, he looks to make his move to become the biggest drug lord in the country, with deals everywhere, taking out the competition if they ever get in his way.

Thoughts on Scarface

Characters – Tony Montana is a Cuban immigrant that went to Miami to start a new life, though he didn’t want to work for it, well not in the legal way, he gets put an entry into the drug world and he gets turn by the power he could get by becoming a drug lord, being straight with the people he deals with and going above the people he doesn’t trust heads. Manny is the best friend of Tony who has always helped him in Miami, he is always by his side as he rises up the industry never questioning him until he starts getting out of control with his decisions. Elvira is the beautiful woman that is with a drug lord that Tony eliminates, she is being forced to stay with Tony, where she is drawn to the drugs that he is suppling, which is the main reason she stays around. Gina is the little sister of Tony’s she is always being protected by him, as he doesn’t like anybody getting close to her.

PerformancesAl Pacino is wonderful in the leading role, showing how easily he can morph into any gangster figure and make a huge impact on screen. We do see most of the supporting cast working very well through the film, getting their moment to shine opposite Pacino.

StoryThe story here follows Tony Montana as he goes from Cuban immigrant to drug lord in Miami, slowly starting to lose control of the situation as more enemies appear looking to take the throne he has taken. When it comes to the drug lord films, we do always know how they go, somebody gets in at the bottom and finds a way to rise to the top, to become one of the most dangerous men in the business, even if this means that the police and other enemies have come out of the woodwork to take his position. The way that Tony slowly becomes more corrupt with power is the highlight of the storytelling process in this film.

CrimeThe crime world we enter shows how Tony would do anything to get the power in the world, he gets put through a traumatic experience with his first visit to the world and after that he doesn’t care about the violence he leaves behind him.

SettingsThe film shows us the different times that Tony has had, from his first arrival to his mansion he claims as his own after he gets all the money in the world.

Scene of the Movie – Say Hello, to my little friend.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – It is too long, we have a lot that we don’t need to see.

Final Thoughts This is one of the strongest gangster movies, showing the drug lords rise to power and just how much it changes him on the way up.

Overall: One of the Best.

The Host (2020) Movie Review

Director: Andy Newbery

Writer: Finola Geraghty, Brendan Bishop, Laurence Lamers (Screenplay) Laurence Lamers, Zachary Weckstein (Story)

Starring: Mike Beckingham, Maryam Hassouni, Doughie Poynter, Nigel Barber, Suan-Li Ong, Togo Igawa, Tom Wu, Derek Jacobi

Plot: A opportunity arises for Robert Atkinson, a London banker who risks his bank’s money to leave the mundane behind to start a new life.

Runtime: 1 Hour 42 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Crime Horror 101

Story: The Host starts as we meet down on his luck Robert Atkinson (Beckingham) who has filled his life with bad decisions, including an affair with a married woman, stealing from his bank and gambling with money he doesn’t have, facing even more trouble, he gets offered a deal to make a delivery to Amsterdam.

Once in Amsterdam, Robert finds what seems like a simple delivery, taking a turn when DEA Agent Herbert Summers (Barber) picks him out and Robert is caught in the middle of completing the delivery or jail or something way worse.

Thoughts on The Host

Characters – Robert Atkinson is a banker that has spiralled out of control, he steals from work, gambles with money he doesn’t have and has cut ties with most people in his life. To get out of his problems, he is offered a delivery job, one that will clear most of his debts, it seems simple enough, but it does take a turn for the worse for him. Vera Tribbe runs the accommodation that Robert stays in, it is a giant house that is filled with secrets behind her welcoming nature. Steve is Robert’s brother that has tried to help him get back on the right track, no matter what he has done in the past, he will help him through the toughest time. Herbert Summers sees the delivery Robert is on and looks to use him to get what he needs in the battle against the gang running deliveries around the world.

PerformancesMike Beckingham takes the leading role, showing us just how desperate his character has become, Maryam Hassouni is the star performer in the film with her truly dark turn, where Dougie Poynter, Nigel Barber and Suan-Li Ong giving strong supporting performances too.

StoryThe story here follows a man who is down on his luck making a deal with a gang leader to make a delivery to clear his debts, only for this simple task to take a very dark turn. This does start out looking like it will be a routine crime thriller with somebody needing to clean up their debts, we get the mix Robert getting stuck in the middle of the criminals and the law. This story does take a big twist, which will surprise and go in a very different direction which is shocking to see. The story does try to blend the two together, but does struggle though because we focus on the crime side dragging us in, only for most of this to get forgotten through the horror side, which does take over the second half of the story.

Crime/Horror/MysteryThe crime side of the film does feel routine for the most part, only this takes the back burner once the horror side of the film is unleashed, which is surprising by what happens.

SettingsThe film is mostly set inside the mansion like house in Amsterdam, the house shows us the mystery with the size, the secret rooms and the eerie feel to it.

Scene of the Movie – Vera’s true nature.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The crime side of the story does seem to get forgotten once the horror comes out.

Final Thoughts This is a crime thriller that is covered with a big horror twist to everything going on which is nice, only it does seem to get stuck in the middle of both sides.

Overall: Killer Twist to the Crime Thriller.

THE HOST is available on demand from 17th April 2020

Hard Eight (1996) Movie Review

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson (Screenplay)

Starring: Philip Baker Hall, John C Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L Jackson, F William Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman

Plot: Professional gambler Sydney teaches John the tricks of the trade. John does well until he falls for cocktail waitress Clementine.

Tagline – If you stay in the game long enough, you’ll see everything, win everything, and lose everything.

Runtime: 1 Hour 42 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Slick, but Not Glossy

Story: Hard Eight starts when Sydney (Hall) sees John (Reilly) looking dejected outside of a diner leaving Vegas, Sydney offers to give him 50 bucks to return and learn of him how to make the fortune he always wanted.

Two-years later John works with Sydney with connections including Jimmy (Jackson) that know how to work the casinos, with Sydney always making himself presented in a proper way, while John falls for a cocktail waitress Clementine (Paltrow) which sees the partnership start to hit a couple of stumbling blocks.

Thoughts on Hard Eight

Characters – Sydney has been around the casino scene for years now, he knows how to pick out the people that could help make him more money and in John, he sees his latest target. He does have a good thing going, he makes sure he knows the staff and knows how to clean up any messes that come his direction. John is a dejected young man that is on his way out of Vegas needing to make enough money for his mother’s funeral, he gets a helping hand from Sydney are learns getting himself into a comfortable life, until he meets Clementine, where he starts to make mistakes which put the whole operation in doubt. Clementine is a cocktail waitress that is desperately trying to get enough money to clear her problems, she is willing to go to extreme levels for this, which sees her putting partnership between Sydney and John in the air. Jimmy the reckless man that has worked with John before, Sydney doesn’t like him and his behaviour doesn’t help his case.

PerformancesPhilip Baker Hall is fantastic in the leading role, he is either in or narrating nearly every scene and does manage to dominate every time he is on camera. John C Reilly plays everything he needs to well, showing his naïve nature at times and how he got to the right position, keeping the nervous nature coming through. Gwyneth Paltrow great too, while Samuel L Jackson brings the character that does seem like he is on edge to life too.

StoryThe story here follows an veteran of the casino scene that knows how to pick out the best people to get money without being caught cheating or using the casino for work, that is until things start to get out of hand. This story focuses on people rather than the way the two make money, which shows that not everybody is as clean as you think with secrets always being up people’s sleeves. This is an interesting story, though it never truly gets going on the levels other films might well have when it comes to dealing with the same subject matter.

CrimeThe crime side of this film shows us just how the people operate on the other side of the law, which shows their own weaknesses to the world, while showing how they keep everything together.

SettingsThe film uses the casino settings to show us how the shady people would be operating to make sure they stay on top of everything.

Scene of the Movie – Late night visit.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – We don’t really learn enough about what the bigger plan would be in the casinos.

Final Thoughts This is an interesting story even if it doesn’t reach the top potential, it tries to be slick and apart from the standout performance from Philip Baker Hall, we don’t get enough from the deeper story involved.

Overall: Interesting.