Oxygen finds a woman (Mélanie Laurent) awaking in a cryogenic sleep chamber with her oxygen fast depleting, due to an unknown malfunction, and no idea who she is and how she got there. With time running out and only the unit’s computer MILO (voiced by Mathieu Amalric) to assist her, she starts a journey to find out her identity, how she into this predicament and if she can somehow escape before her air runs out.
French language flick is tensely directed by Alexandre Aja (Crawl) from a script by Christie LeBlanc. It’s part mystery, part thriller and part science fiction, as the trapped young woman desperately tries to find all the answers and a way out of her predicament before she suffocates. It’s a taunt and suspenseful journey made even more intense by way of being set completely within the confines of the claustrophobic cryogenic sleep chamber. Mélanie Laurent makes a likable and resilient heroine and we slowly find out what the real story is here, through flashbacks and reveals, as she finds out the facts herself. It’s an entertaining film and a solid mystery thriller from a filmmaker yet to disappoint. Flick is available to stream on Netflix.
30 COINS (30 MONEDAS) (2020)
30 Coins is a Spanish horror series from director Álex de la Iglesia (The Last Circus) currently streaming on HBO Max. It tells the story of a secret and sinister religious organization that is searching for the 30 coins Judas received to betray Christ. It is said these coins will bring them apocalyptic power and the last coin is in the hands of disgraced priest and exorcist Padre Manuel Vergara (Eduard Fernández) in the remote Spanish village of Pedraza. Hell is literally unleashed on this small farm town as the search for the coin tightens.
30 Coins is a very involving, disturbing and quite creepy series as atmospherically directed by Álex de la Iglesia from his scripts with Jorge Guerricaechevarría. Aside from all the spookiness, there is a lot of gore, some unsettling creatures and it’s not afraid to use heavy biblical lore and imagery in the story. There are some very interesting characters. Eduard Fernández is a badass hero, as disgraced priest and boxer Padre Vergara, Megan Montaner was a strong willed and sexy as hell heroine as village veterinarian Elena and Miguel Ángel Silvestre was a noble hero as Pedraza mayor Paco. Manolo Solo and Cosimo Fusco were also very effective as the scary bad guys. There was also a spooky score by Roque Baños (Evil Dead, Come Play) to add to the atmospherics. It wasn’t perfect. Sometimes the narrative wandered from the main story and there was some weak CGI to lessen the effect of some scenes. Ultimately, though, it was a spooky and disturbing eight episodes of horror television. Definitely would watch a season 2!
All episodes listed below were directed by Álex de la Iglesia and co-written with Jorge Guerricaechevarría :
1. “Cobwebs” (Telarañas)
2. “Ouija” (Ouija)
3. “The Mirror” (El espejo)
4. “Memories” (Recuerdos)
5. “The Double” (El doble)
6. “Holy War” (Guerra Santa)
7. “The Glass Box” (La caja de cristal)
8. “Sacrifice” (Sacrificio)
Machete is two things an exploitation flick should never be…overly talky and overly preachy. Co-writer and co-director Robert Rodriguez seems to be more focused on bludgeoning us with his views on illegal immigration and the treatment of those migrant workers, than with delivering the promise of the trailer from Grindhouse, from which this exploitation flick homage grew. The conspiracy plot is too involved for this type of movie and too much time is spent on it rather than delivering the action that this type of film should feature. There are some cool action scenes and blood does flow often, but not enough to get us through the endless dialog sequences. Also curious is why he hired all the eye candy than does very little with them. There is only one sex scene and it seems chopped short. This is exploitation, why hire actresses who won’t disrobe? Also curious is why Rodriguez films the pre-credits scene in the dirty, broken film “grindhouse” style, then abandons it after the credits. It is nice to see, after decades of supporting roles, Danny Trejo get the center spotlight as ex Mexican Federal Isador “Machete” Cortez, but, to be honest, he doesn’t generate the charisma to be a leading man…at least not here.
The original Machete trailer during Rodriguez and Tarantino’s Grindhouse was fun, but maybe it should have stayed a trailer. Flick was co-written by Alvaro Rodriguez and co-directed by Ethan Maniquis and also stars Robert DeNiro, Don Johnson, Jessica Alba and Steven Seagal. There was a sequel, Machete Kills and talk of a third film Machete Kills Again, that has yet to materialize.
ANVIL: THE STORY OF ANVIL (2008)
Anyone who is a fan of music, especially heavy metal, should watch this fascinating, funny and sometimes sad documentary about the infamous Canadian metal band Anvil, from writer and director Sacha Gervasi. Though listed as inspiration to countless other bands, true success has eluded original Anvil founding members Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner, in their 30 plus years (now 40) together, and this documentary follows them as they continue trying. With a doomed European tour and efforts to put together their 13th album, the band simply refuses to quit despite constant adversity and disappointment. As a metalhead and former band manager myself, this brought back a lot of memories and had me rooting for these old rockers who won’t give up or grow up! Party on dudes!
NOTE: Since this documentary premiered in January of 2008, Anvil has changed bass players a few more times and recorded five more albums to date!-MZNJ
Suburban husband and father Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) lives a typical mundane life, till one night two thieves break into his home. Hutch fails to take advantage, when he has an opportunity to foil the thieves, and his manhood comes under question from some of those around him, including his disappointed son (Gage Munroe). Feeling angry about the criticism, a smoldering Hutch goes out one night to find the thieves. Things don’t go as planned and his evening climaxes with a violent outburst against a bunch of drunken thugs on a bus. One of those thugs turns out to be the brother of Russian mobster Yulian Kuznetsov (Aleksei Serebryakov), who sets out to find the one responsible for putting his little brother in a coma. But Hutch has a past that make Kuznetsov’s efforts at revenge a lot harder than the Russian gangster anticipates.
Film is directed by Ilya Naishuller (Hardcore Henry) from a script by Derek Kolstad (the John Wick franchise). Despite what could have been a fun premise-a simple suburban dad, so enraged over his questioned masculinity, that he violently takes on a dangerous Russian mobster-making Hutch a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ simply turns this into another routine action flick. Giving Hutch a secret past, making him equally dangerous, ruins the chance to take an amusing concept and run with it. It becomes yet another cookie cutter revenge flick; a B or C level John Wick…and those flicks are far better. On the plus side, Bob Odenkirk is convincing as both an angry and embarrassed suburban dad, and a dangerous man unleashed, though Serebryakov is a very routine villain. There are some good action/fight scenes and it does get quite violent, but it would have been simply far more amusing to see some milquetoast suburbanite go ballistic instead of a man with hidden skills and deadly training. Not a bad action flick for a night on the couch, but not nearly as fun or special as it could have been. Also stars Michael Ironside, Connie Nielsen, RZA and Christopher Lloyd as Hutch’s retired FBI agent dad.
A GATHERING OF CROWS by BRIAN KEENE
The town of Brinkley Springs is sealed off and besieged one night by an ancient evil that plans to feed on the souls of all the occupants of this sleepy little town. Lucky for them, demon fighter Levi Stoltzfus is staying at the local bed and breakfast, while passing through, and becomes the people’s only chance of escaping the night alive.
Another fun, chilling and gory tale from Brian Keene. It’s fast moving, filled with some disturbing sequences and, most of all, features the return of Levi Stoltzfus from Ghost Walk. Ex-Amish demon fighter Stoltzfus is a great character, who this time is up against a foe he knows little about. Keene pits his warrior of God against an enemy from before the world began. It’s a fun ride, as Levi tries to figure out how to stop them, before everyone has their souls drained and eaten. A creepy good time! As said before, another Keene book that deserves a film adaptation and Levi Stoltzfus is a character that is equally deserving of a movie or show.