Monthly Archives: February 2013

Bronson (2008)

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About as peculiar of a movie you’ll find, Bronson is a highly unique, highly surreal biographical drama that is visually extreme and darkly comic. Bronson is brought to life on the big screen by the brilliant Nicolas Winding Refn who’s anticipated follow up to 2011’s cult hit Drive, Only God Forgives, is ready to hit theatres in May of 2013. Tom Hardy takes on the visceral and challenging role of press proclaimed “most violent prisoner in Britain,” Michael Gordon Peterson, who later changed his name to Charles Bronson with the help of his bare-knuckle boxing promoter. Bronson is a polarizing look into the life of Charles Bronson and the harsh conditions and frightening reality he lived in.

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As a young adult, Michael Peterson (Hardy) had his head full of incompetent schemes and the need to make a name for himself. With a shoddy shotgun with the barrels sawed off, Peterson went off to achieve his dreams by robbing a post office. After being apprehended rather quickly, Peterson was sentenced to 7 years in prison. During that time, Peterson continued on his wayward path to stardom by physically assaulting other inmates and guards. Eventually serving 34 years in prison, 30 of which were in solitary confinement, quite possibly by choice, the young ambitious man that was Michael Peterson turned into a turmoil hardened man capable of anything.

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Focusing just as much time on the undertones and artistic value of Charles Bronson as well as the anger and rebellion. Refn and Hardy transform what could have been a tale of cerebral violence into a multidimensional character the audience can sympathize with. Tom Hardy goes all out for Bronson. Adding roughly 40 pounds to his frame, every ounce of effort Hardy puts into this film pays dividends which haven’t been seen since his best outing in Stuart: A Life Backwards. Refn enhances the comedic quality of Hardy and displays it subtly, the way it should be dealt with alongside the bitter and at times upsetting themes throughout Bronson. Bronson may not be for everyone, it is unorthodox, elemental, and excessive. That being said, Bronson is a cinematic highlight containing a career defining performance from Hardy and is an early building block for one of best current directors Nicolas Winding Refn, all these qualities make Bronson a must see.

Bronson: 8.5 out of 10.

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The Prestige (2006)

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If you’re looking for a film that keeps you guessing, is full of tricks, and will leave you infatuated with its characters till the very end, The Prestige just might be for you. In my opinion, The Prestige is Christopher Nolan’s best and most complete film. Written by Christopher and his brother Jonathan, The Prestige is the ultimate magic trick that keeps on giving, viewing after viewing. Christian Bale (Batman Begins) leads a superb cast that includes: Hugh Jackman (X-Men), Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation), Michael Caine (Children of Men), and Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings). With its nonstop twists and a script that never undermines the audiences intelligence, The Prestige is full of sacrifice, guilt, and struggle. With Nolan behind the scenes and a stellar cast up front, The Prestige is not to be missed.

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Nearing the end of the nineteenth century in London, Angier (Jackman) and Borden (Bale) are a couple of stagehands for a friend while learning some tricks as both are upcoming magicians. One night during a routine performance, Angier’s wife dies and he places the blame on Borden. Angier and Borden continue to work at their craft as enemies and competitive rivals. As both come into their own, fame begins to bestow itself upon them. Their competitions become more violent and elaborate while both attempt to sabotage the others career. When Borden perfects and begins to perform the greatest trick the world has ever seen, Angier becomes obsessed with discovering the secret and will stop at nothing to obtain it.

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In the history of cinema, I don’t believe there has ever been a rivalry quite like this. Nolan has proven with every feature he has helmed that he is the creator of instant masterpieces and the mental kick the film industry has been waiting for. With the exception of Following (1998), Nolan’s full length feature debut, The Prestige is possibly his most underrated piece. Christopher and Jonathan provide the foundation of anguish, loss, and loyalty through a clever screenplay adapted from the Christopher Priest novel of the same title. Nolan’s ability to control and manipulate his cast into the perfect tones, external movements, and emotions is unparalleled. Bale and Jackman steal the show as usual as they both hurdle head first down a mountain of regret and anger. Through a vicious competition they had no hand in starting, Caine and Johansson are remarkable as they try to decipher their loyalties and scramble to make the right decisions. The Prestige is intelligent, violent, and at times very disturbing, but is a definite must see.

The Prestige: 9 out of 10.

Just a quick note. As the blog has just been started, for now I will only be posting reviews of some of my personal favourites and lesser known pieces of film genius. Reviews for current and upcoming films will begin this weekend starting with Chan-wook Park’s Stoker.

Sunshine (2007)

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Following in the tradition like other science-fiction defining films such as: Solaris (1972), 2001:A Space Odyssey (1968), and Moon (2009). Sunshine uses the complexity of physics and the elegance of the cosmos to create one of the most complete genre films to date. With a star studded cast featuring Cillian Murphy (Inception), Rose Byrne (Insidious), Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger), and Mark Strong (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Sunshine is not only visually stimulating but is also incredibly acted. Directed by Danny Boyle, a current all star behind the camera, Sunshine is both hypnotic and eye opening. Don’t spend too much time on the science of it all, regardless of its authenticity, it is after all, science fiction and a film.

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In the not too distant future, a group of astronauts and physicists are assembled to pilot a mission to the Sun. The reason for the voyage is to restart our dying star. Previously, a similar mission was sent to reignite the Sun, however communication was lost and the ship and its inhabitants were never heard from again. The package the crew is sent to deliver is a stellar bomb which should theoretically restart the Sun. On their journey to our dying star, the crew receives strange signals and encounters severe setbacks and tribulations.

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Whether it’s the slow transit of Mercury or the approaching, immense Sun, the music used to accompany these visuals makes the film. With John Murphy lending his contribution in completing the score with the bands Underworld and I Am Kloot, Sunshine would not be complete without its hauntingly epic compositions. All the while Boyle is using simplicity and awe inspiring moments such as never before seen celestial imagery and our closest encounters with the solar system to stir the audiences imagination. Sunshine literally and figuratively goes places we only dream about and accomplishes its journey with flare and style. Leading the way for the cast is Murphy who’s portrayal of a torn physicist admiring the universe, essentially living his dream while it’s marred by the circumstance is astonishing. Byrne is marvellous as she is constantly contradicting her characters moral and emotional sides. Evans and the rest of the crew follow Murphy’s dynamic suit into the abyss, while Strong is outstanding as an insane rogue astronaut. Sunshine is somewhat of a looking glass into the Earth’s inevitable demise and how humanity must come together to delay the apocalypse.

Sunshine: 9 out of 10.

Martyrs (2008)

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Warning: Do not take this film lightly. Martyrs is quite possibly the most disturbing film you will ever see. Leaving myself and my colleague distraught, horrified, and exploding with disheartening questions. Martyrs will eat at your soul and make you beg for the existence of an afterlife. Martyrs is full of blood, fright, religion, and humanities relentless pursuit of redemption. Martyrs is essentially everything that a horror film should be: terrifying, psychotic, emotional, and challenging. Directed by Pascal Laugier and starring the outstanding duo of Morjana Alaoui and Mylene Jampanoi, Martyrs is the sound that keeps you awake at night and the reason you crave forgiveness. Do not watch this film. You may convince yourself that you want to see it, but I implore you to consider the alternative.

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After being the victim of an abduction and the subject of physical and mental torture, Lucie (Jampanoi) manages to free herself from her captors and escape on foot. Lucie is placed in an orphanage where she becomes best friends with a young girl named Anna (Alaoui). Fifteen years after her terrible ordeal, Lucie and Anna are on a quest to find her captors and inflict their own form of justice. Arriving at a seemingly normal home in the suburbs, Lucie quickly passes judgement without consulting Anna. What happens next is a horrid series of events that leaves Anna and Lucie in pain, vulnerable, and searching for answers.

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If you plan on watching Martyrs despite my warning, please view it, as best you can, in it’s natural form. This means unrated and if you must, the English subtitles are on and the original French dialogue, no dub, as this is the only way to view Martyrs. I would only recommend Martyrs to a seasoned veteran of horror and cult films. Even that wasn’t enough to shield me. I don’t know if it is possible to watch Martyrs and have a perfect sleep the following night. If you happen upon Martyrs by mistake or you only watch horror films on special occasions, do not watch Martyrs, you will regret it. I have nothing against this film, in fact I love it. In my opinion it is the perfect horror film, which is the problem. Martyrs exceeds its boundaries and accomplishes what every other horror or thriller sets out to do, terrify to the point of sleeplessness and doubt. Excellent direction from Laugier and powerful performances from the two female leads Alaoui and Jampanoi, Martyrs sets the bar and leaves everyone else trying to reach it.

Martyrs: 10 out of 10.

A brief explanation on the rating.

I awarded Martyrs a perfect 10 based on the simple fact that it is the definition of its genre. As far as I am concerned there is no where else to go. No other horror or thriller that has been made even remotely comes close to challenging Martyrs. By no means is Martyrs my favourite film (although it is one of them), it is just the perfect horror/thriller and should be treated with respect and viewed with caution and optimism.

2013 Oscar Predictions and Results

Visual Effects: Prediction: Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer, and Donald R. Elliot (Life of Pi). Runner Up: Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey). Winner: Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer, and Donald R. Elliot (Life of Pi).

Writer-Adapted Screenplay: Prediction: David Magee (Life of Pi). Runner Up: Chris Terrio (Argo). Winner: Chris Terrio (Argo).

Writing-Original Screenplay: Prediction: Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained). Runner Up: Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty). Winner: Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained).

Short Film-Live Action: Prediction: Curfew. Runner Up: Death of a Shadow. Winner: Curfew.

Sound Editing: Prediction: Paul N.J Ottosson (Zero Dark Thirty). Runner Up: Wylie Stateman (Django Unchained). Winner: Paul N.J Ottosson (Zero Dark Thirty) and Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers (Skyfall).

Sound Mixing: Prediction: John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, and Jose Antonio Garcia (Argo). Runner Up: Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, and Ronald Judkins (Lincoln). Winner: Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, and Simon Hayes (Les Miserables).

Music-Original Song: Prediction: Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth (Skyfall). Runner Up: Walter Murphy and Seth MacFarlane (Ted). Winner: Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth (Skyfall).

Production Design: Prediction: David Gropman and Anna Pinnock (Life of Pi). Runner Up: Eve Stewart and Anne Lynch (Les Miserables). Winner: Rick Carter and Jim Erickson (Lincoln).

Short Film-Animated: Prediction: Paperman. Runner Up: Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare.” Winner: Paperman.

Foreign Language Film: Prediction: Amour. Runner Up: War Witch. (Side note- I cannot believe Rust and Bone was not nominated). Winner: Amour.

Makeup and Hairstyling: Prediction: Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell (Les Miserables). Runner Up: Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater, and Tami Lane (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey). Winner: Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell (Les Miserables).

Music-Original Score: Prediction: Alexandre Desplat (Argo). Runner Up: John Williams (Lincoln). Winner: Mychael Danna (Life of Pi).

Documentary Feature: Prediction: Searching for Sugar Man. Runner Up: The Gatekeepers. Winner: Searching for Sugar Man.

Documentary Short: Prediction: Mondays at Racine. Runner Up: Inocente. Winner: Inocente.

Film Editing: Prediction: Tim Squryes (Life of Pi). Runner Up: Michael Kahn (Lincoln). Winner: William Goldenberg (Argo).

Cinematography: Prediction: Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi). Runner Up: Robert Richardson (Django Unchained). Winner: Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi).

Costume Design: Prediction: Paco Delgado (Les Miserables). Runner Up: Joanna Johnston (Lincoln). Winner: Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina).

Directing: Prediction: Ang Lee (Life of Pi). Runner Up: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln). Winner: Ang Lee (Life of Pi).

Actor-In a Supporting Role: Prediction: Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook). Runner Up: Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained). Winner: Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained).

Actress-In a Supporting Role: Prediction: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables). Runner Up: Sally Field (Lincoln). Winner: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables).

Animated Feature Film: Prediction: ParaNorman. Runner Up: Wreck-it Ralph. Winner: Brave.

Actress in a Leading Role: Prediction: Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty). Runner Up: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook). Winner: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook).

Actor in a Leading Role: Prediction: Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook). Runner Up: Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln). Winner: Daniel Day Lewis (Lincoln).

Best Picture: Prediction: Argo. Runner Up: Zero Dark Thirty. Winner: Argo.

One last side note. After the improbable snub of The Dark Knight, I thought for sure the academy would do right by The Dark Knight Rises, apparently not. Final overall score is 13 correct, 5 runner up winners, so I was way off only 6 times, not too bad.

Wake in Fright (1971)

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As much a story about the human condition than excessive violence and outrageous acts. Wake in Fright is an early look at boundaries and the chaos created by vulnerability and self degradation. A word of warning to those offended by violence towards animals, misogyny, and homosexuality, do not watch this film or read this review as it will leave you infuriated. Directed by Ted Kotcheff (First Blood) and starring Gary Bond and Donald Pleasance (Halloween), Wake in Fright premiered at Cannes in 1971. Regarding the kangaroos, none were killed simply for film exploitation. The film crew accompanied licensed professionals on a sanctioned, routine kangaroo hunt and obtained their footage through correct means.

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John Grant (Bond), a bonded teacher, is forced to take temporary shelter for the night in the small town of Bundanyabba while he waits for his flight to Sydney. During his stay, Grant encounters numerous residents who seem suspect. They continually force him to consume alcohol and when a kind police officer introduces him to an addicting form of gambling, Grant loses all his money and is at the mercy of the town. Taking charity from the locals, Grant is introduced to a group of loud, ignorant, malicious individuals who kill time in unorthodox, sinister ways.

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Being able to glorify morals, principles, and stability through slaughter, alcohol, and devious sex is an astounding feat. One that director Ted Kotcheff had no problem accomplishing with Wake in Fright. It is also no easy task to leave Martin Scorsese speechless, but Wake in Fright left Marty scrambling for words. The mix of outlandish content and classic outback scenery is to perfection and balances what is possibly the greatest Australian film ever made. Gary Bond is terrific as an indecisive, confused tourist turned psychotic, indulgent narcissist. Wake in Fright may leave the squeamish with their dinner on the floor, but for the strong willed, Wake in Fright is an exhilarating descent into madness.

Wake in Fright: 8 out of 10.

The Trip (2010)

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The comedy in The Trip is a lot like every other form of humour, dividing and opinion driven. This film is not for everyone. The laughs are evenly spread throughout its hour and forty five minute runtime, with breathtaking views of northern England anchoring a surprisingly melancholic theme. Starring Steven Coogan (Tropic Thunder) and Rob Brydon (Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels)  as themselves, the two create tons of electricity thriving off of one another’s constant bid to outperform the other. The Humour is subtle and intelligent in this Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People) directed dramatic comedy. You may or may not laugh out loud, but there is no denying the sorrow and artistic quality behind the hilarious back and fourths.

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Steve Coogan accepts an offer from The Observer, a sunday newspaper,  to tour northern England and review it’s top restaurants for their column. Coogan only takes this job on to impress his current girlfriend. However, when his girlfriend backs out, he is forced to invite his friend Rob Brydon along for the ride. As the journey begins, Brydon and Coogan start to partake in useless and hilarious competitions of creative feats. Throughout the trip, more and more personal details come to the forefront regarding Coogan and Brydon and we are allowed a glimpse into the tribulations of their lives.

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Boasting a highlight reel of precise impressions and awkward banter, The Trip is as funny as it is endearing. As well as shots of immaculate northern England, The Trip uses wit and aura to create a unique cinematic experience. Steve Coogan, in my opinion is one of the most underrated actors in film today and his performance in The Trip verifies my claim. A snippet, no longer then a few minutes of Coogan imitating his travel colleague in a mirror is one of the most honest realizations captured on film. Brydon seizes the chance to strut his stuff and performs admirably alongside Coogan. Winterbottom captures these two comedic men at their best while encompassing human flaws and our strive to do right despite them.

The Trip: 8.5 out of 10.

Take Shelter (2011)

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A modern poetic thriller centred around a family on the verge of collapsing. Take Shelter combines apocalyptic terror and mental illness to create a constantly shifting cinematic nightmare. Directed by Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories), who’s much anticipated release Mud, starring Matthew McConaughey is set for theatres later this year. Take Shelter’s two bright stars are oscar nominee Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) and co-star, also an oscar nominated heavyweight, Jessica Chastain (Tree of Life). With layer upon layer of spirit and dread, Take Shelter succeeds in adapting a believable tale of horror and the effect the absence of mental stability has on family, career, and upon one self.

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Curtis (Shannon) is a hard working father and husband who starts experiencing hallucinations and vivid nightmares. Choosing not to confide in his wife Samantha (Chastain) what is happening, Curtis’s condition worsens. When Curtis begins to hallucinate an apocalyptic storm in the future, he begins to construct an expensive, time consuming storm shelter. When social and career altering decisions are being made without consulting Samantha, Curtis’s family begins to fall apart. As he tries to deal with his illness and building the shelter, Curtis now must repair his personal relationships.

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From the moment Take Shelter begins, it sets it’s hooks in you with striking images of storms and cataclysmic occurrences. Beyond any doubt, Take Shelter holds Michael Shannon’s best performance to date and one of the best of 2011. Shannon’s portrayal of a man suffering from anxiety and paranoia is stunningly accurate. Shannon completely invests himself in the character and for two hours, you forget it is just a film. Chastain is perfect as always and once again makes her performance look effortless. As far as direction, Nichols uses the power of Shannon’s acting to drive the film in majority but adds the beauty and scariness of nature to compliment the spectrum in Shannon’s character. Take Shelter is literal, exact, ambient, and resplendent, the summit of what cinema should be.

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Take Shelter: 9 out of 10.

Moon (2009)

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One of the most eerily stunning science fiction dramas of all time. Moon is a superb cosmic journey with unique circumstance and family drama at its core. Directed by Duncan Jones, who is emerging as an unstoppable force in the sci-fi genre with this directorial debut and his follow up, Source Code. Moon is bolstered by Sam Rockwell’s towering performance of a homesick mining astronaut on the dark side of the moon. Moon also features Kevin Spacey as the voice of GERTY, a friendly computer who assists in the running of the lunar base, as well as serving as company to Rockwell’s character.

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Sam Bell (Rockwell) is counting down the final weeks until the three year contract he agreed to with Lunar Industries expires. Bell, who is silently lonely, longs to return to Earth and be with his wife and daughter. Bell is the only employee aboard the base aside from an intelligent, speaking computer named GERTY (Spacey). With direct communication to Earth disabled, Bell may only send and receive messages, no live contact. Bell is used to transport helium-3 harvested from the moon back to Earth. Helium-3 is the most abundant, clean, sustainable resource used to provide the Earth with energy. On a casual venture to perform maintenance to one of the harvesters, Bell accidentally crashes into the machine. When Bell wakes, he is faced with painful symptoms and slowly comes to the realization that he may not be alone.

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As angelic as it is depressing, Moon soars over its low budget to bring a thought provoking, universal epic to the big screen. Sublime directing from Duncan Jones turns this one man show (performed perfectly by Rockwell) into a multidimensional, emotional roller coaster. Capturing the grand scale of space and the significant details in our insignificant lives (in comparison). Jones achieves incredible feats with limited resources. Without playing the role of spoiler, Rockwell gives a must see performance, in my opinion, one of the best ever. Rockwell distinguishes his character from content, optimistic to severely blurred and in authentic anguish. Unfathomable range and literal pain is the best way I can describe Rockwell’s acting in Moon.

Moon: 9 out of 10.

Cronos (1993)

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This isn’t Twilight and this isn’t True Blood, this is plausible vampirism? If ever such a thing could possibly exist. From Guillermo del Toro, comes his first full length feature, Cronos. You may be familiar with Hellboy and the instant classic that is Pan’s Labyrinth, but Cronos was the launchpad for one of the most visionary directors of our time. Cronos features Federico Luppi (The Devil’s Backbone), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), and Claudio Brook (The Exterminating Angel). Cronos has proven over time to be a worthy opponent against Bram Stoker’s numerous interpretations and Let the Right One In as the prime examples of vampirism on film.

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Jesus Gris (Luppi) an antique dealer nearing the end of his time stumbles upon a golden scarab. When Gris accidentally triggers the scarabs mechanisms, it drives several tiny spikes into this body. Soon after, Gris begins to suffer symptoms that are similar to that of a vampire. When Angel (Perlman) purchases a statue from Gris which once held the scarab, he returns it to his uncle Dieter (Brook) without the life altering device. Dieter is nearing his death bed and has tried numerous times to retrieve the scarab. When Dieter uncovers that the scarab has been withheld from him, he becomes excessively angry and sends Angel on destructive missions to recover it. As time passes, the changes the scarab inflicts upon Gris become increasingly more visible, painful, and strange.

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Cronos will seep into your brain and force you to ask questions you never thought you would ask yourself. Can blood ever be that appealing? Could I ever murder to sustain my own life? What if I didn’t have a choice? Del Toro takes the audience back to the world of fantasy and makes the realm seem real if only for a couple of hours. With Cronos, del Toro proves that simplicity is sometimes the best policy and that when turned into something not of this world, love and kindness remain, not just a monster. Luppi achieves great strides as a caring guardian while dealing with the monstrous traits exploding from his body and mind. Perlman delivers a performance that is worthy of the audiences sympathy, even though at times he is menacing. Overall, Cronos is a well acted and superbly directed film worthy of the most cold blooded individuals.

Cronos: 7.5 out of 10.