Panos Cosmatos’ “Mandy” came out in 2018 like a hurricane, sneaking up on even the biggest Nic Cage fan boys, and it’s one of the best films of the year. “Mandy” is a fever dream, and surreal revenge thriller that features Nic Cage at his best. Cage plays against a world that’s equally as loony as the man he portrays, who goes up against foes that in the eyes of a blood thirsty man seeking retribution for his slain lover, are purely monstrous beings dancing in hellfire.
Eva Vives’ drama comedy about a fracture comedienne is one of the most honest and engaging dramas of the year, and “All About Nina” is a success mainly because of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s stellar performance. Winstead is one of the most underrated and overlooked actresses of modern cinema. She’s mostly been relegated to playing supporting characters and final girls most of her career, but given the right material she’s shone in roles that should have earned her awards notice. She was immense in “Smashed” and she’s remarkable in “All About Nina.”
Writer-Director Miguel Duran’s “Monsoon” is one of the most beautiful dramas I’ve seen all year. In a sub-genre that’s often either overly exploitative or tends to be silly, “Monsoon” is a restrained and very subtle tale about loss, love, and trying to find the need to move on with your life. I knew very little about “Monsoon” going in, so suffice it to say I was taken completely by surprise. Miguel Duran really delivers a gem that audiences confronting the death of a loved one would be wise to see. “Monsoon” is a riveting and just downright heavy drama about death and the beauty of life, and I was sucked in from minute one.
A trainee nun, Natalia, goes home after an accident kills her mother and leaves her father dying. Once home, she discovers family secrets and goes on a self-discovery trip with friends. There she learns even more and puts her own soul at stake.
Writer/director Gonzalo Calzada takes the concepts of good versus bad, god versus evil, Catholic versus pagan, family, legacy, and destiny and plays with them in a dark realm tinged by demonic forces and curiosity. The story here is done in a way that works for its characters, letting them get exposed and built before throwing in the evil/demonic elements. Most of everything here works and goes towards creating a cohesive story and world. Some of the timeline and exposure may feel a bit off as it foes, but it all makes sense by the end. Calzada has a story here that he knows how to tell and he gets it out here on the screen in a way the viewer can easily watch, connect with, and be entertained by.
In the early 1980s, a man’s goes on a rampage to find his loved one’s killers after dealing with loss, grief and its many stages most definitely including anger. His love for her was all encompassing and nothing will come in the way of his revenge, not even demons.
Based on a story by Panos Cosmatos who co-wrote with Aaron Stewart-Ahn and directed, Mandy is a mayhem-y film that starts mellow and filled with love. It takes its time setting up the relationship and care between Red and Mandy before Mandy gets dispatched, making her someone the viewer can care about and can be attached to before she gets killed. This does also mean that it feels a bit long in the first part before Red gets through his grief and to his revenge. That being said, when the revenge begins, it goes full force, balls to the wall, insane. The film’s last third or so is blood-soaked violent goodness where every and all tools can become a murder weapon that makes a ton of damage.
Panos Cosmatos’ “Mandy” will be a film that not everyone will click in to. What could be a typical revenge thriller about a man avenging his wife is transformed in to a brilliant and mesmerizing trip in to insanity and literal hell. We know so little about Nicolas Cage’s character, but once he’s lost everything in his life, he descends in to a madness and hellfire that’s both horrifying and awe inspiring. Every single frame of “Mandy” is a mind blowing moving painting, one filled with vast colors and shades. The world Red and Mandy share is so vast, but is set just for them and them alone.
It’s amazing how prophetic Satoshi Kon’s “Perfect Blue” was back in 1997. Even though it was released at the beginning of the internet age, “Perfect Blue” is a very strong and still very relevant tale about rabid fandom, gate keeping, obsession, and the struggles to maintain one’s own sense of self and agency in a world where growing in one’s career means relinquishing our dignity and discretion. In a time where actresses are being chased and harassed off of social platforms, “Perfect Blue” conjures up so much interesting and familiar imagery and plot beats, and ultimately is about the cost of rabid fandom.
Written and directed by Justin McConnell, Lifechanger is an exploration of mortality, letting go, love, and what people are willing to do to keep going without changes and what they are willing to accept to keep their lives on their preferred path. While the film is a horror film at its core, the story is about much more than the simple kills and shapeshifting, it’s about taking over lives, making one’s own life. The way this is approached creates a story that is easy to follow even with the switches in lead person and the multiple storylines. The film keeps everything in order and easily understandable. As the story advances and the lead narrates the story, the reasons for it all become clearer and they are not just for survival.