Pengabdi Setan / Satan’s Slave (2017) – Review: A phantasmal love-letter

Review: As an avid fan of Siswono Gautama Putra’s 1980 cult classic Pengabdi Setan (a.k.a. Satan’s Slave), Indonesia’s most versatile director Joko Anwar crafts a highly inventive yet highly respectful remake—a nightmarish love-letter to a nightmare­—in his own version of Pengabdi Setan.

Mr. Anwar reinterprets the original phantasm, reconstructs the core elements and injects his cinematic virtue to create a déjà vu experience over his fresh concepts of nightmare. Some core elements from the 1980 film are reimagined to fit Anwar’s concept; a completely new backstories are added into the foray; but the whole terror remains there. Even, at some points, this remake appears to be more compelling and terrifying than the original. Continue reading “Pengabdi Setan / Satan’s Slave (2017) – Review: A phantasmal love-letter”

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Gerbang Neraka (2017): Genre-defying mess

Review: Gerbang Neraka a.k.a. Firegate (literally ‘Hell Gate’) combines an urban legend about Gunung Padang in West Java with sci-fi bravura and horror apparition into making a rare genre-bending Indonesian film. The film focuses on an excavation process of the allegedly oldest pyramid structure in the world (said to be older than Giza in Egypt and Mayan in Mexico), which lies underneath a mountain. Like in other ‘pyramid films’, the excavation was plagued from beginning to end, with body counts start to rise from day to day.

There came the film’s trinity: a young archeologist who believes in no supernatural power, Arni (Julie Estelle), a struggling heresy-laden tabloid reporter, Tomo (Reza Rahadian), and a celebrity ‘demon hunter’ Guntur Samudera (Dwi Sasono). Intertwined by their own ambition in regards to Gunung Padang pyramid, those three protagonists began to intersect each other’s life and unravel a hideous secret about the mega-structure. Continue reading “Gerbang Neraka (2017): Genre-defying mess”

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) – Review

Review: Taking up where the first film left, Kingsman: The Golden Circle revolves around the downtown-boy-turned-secret-agent, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), as he finally joins the rank of Kingsman.  While the young agent calibrates into his new secret life—including living in his deceased mentor’s (Colin Firth) mansion and secretly dating a Swedish princess he once saved, the secret service is undergoing a massive attack from a colossal crime organization called The Golden Circle. To cope up with the attack, Eggsy must enlist the help of the Statesman a.k.a. Kingsman’s American counterpart.

Matthew Vaughn apparently got highly invested in making Kingsman that he finally made his first sequel. This time, Vaughn—along with his frequent collaborator, Jane Goldman—takes the liberty in expanding this globe-trotting espionage bravura. His passion can be seen from his eagerness to amplify what he achieved best in the first film into double-powered action panache. It’s bigger in scale and in duration (clocking in at 141 mins); but, is it more fun? Barely.

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The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017) – Review

Review: The LEGO Ninjago Movie unfolds how the exhilarating idea of presenting a pop-culture-laden animation based on brick toys could falter quickly. It’s only been three years since Chris Miller and Phil Lord first spawned The LEGO Movie in 2014; but, this third film in LEGO franchise shows that the formula starts getting worn off.

It still offers electric bantz, refreshing gags and zillion references to pop culture—making it an enjoyable joyride. However, Ninjago’s lack of innovative formula starts showing the symptoms when it is often caught playing and recycling ideas used in LEGO Movie and LEGO Batman Movie to use in a different terrain. You’re not wrong when you think you have a déjà vu while watching this.

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Wind River (2017) – Review

Review: In Wind River, Taylor Sheridan again demonstrates a prowess he once showcased on writing tenure for Sicario and Hell or High Water. His painstaking flair for slick and immaculate script—with penchant to coherence and symmetrical storyline—is utterly exquisite. With Sheridan running for both writing and directing gigs, we finally get to see his full-creative-control mode; and, lucky you, it’s taut and clever as you might imagine.

The title refers to a snow-covered Native American reservation in Wyoming, which becomes the setting of this film. It’s the place where a hunter, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), resides. As he tracks a wild mountain lion who preys on local cattles, the all-white-camouflaged hunter accidentally finds a local girl’s body… dead and stark. For the case, FBI sends rookie Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), who immediately team up with Lambert to investigate it.

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Detroit (2017) – Review

Review: As timely and important than ever, Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit makes an unsettling yet poignant film about racism-induced Afro-American uprising in Detroit circa 1967. While Bigelow presents downtown Detroit riot in Hurt Locker fashion where smoke soaring high and dusty ruins are practically adorning every corner of the city, it’s not the carnage which is highlighted; but, the root of it all: white’s oppression.

Combining real footage with sharp recreations of the event, Detroit immediately plunges into the warzone, displaying the horror and volatile circumstances. Without warning and proper exposition, pivotal characters—including racist cops, undervalued security guard, white girls among black, black ‘Nam veteran & black musicians—are introduced and lured into the climactic standoff patiently; while audiences are expected to draw the thread between them. Circumstances, characters and the film’s message culminate in robust one-location havoc in a place called Motel Algiers.

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