Making a return after its supposed Final Chapter, Jigsaw has once again come under fire for championing guts for glory. Yet for all the bad rep it gets, the flak may not be entirely justified. As criticism continues to spew from every end, there is no better time than now to revisit the much-maligned ‘torture porn’ genre, and the movie that started it all.
Released in 2003, Saw may be well known for its creative display of gore. But it was the plotting and characterisation that proved the most intriguing. Such as is rarely done in horror, the film builds up a strong case for its fascinating villain, whose impetus goes far beyond an ostensible murder intent.
Before his big plans, John Kramer had been stricken with cancer. When he attempted suicide out of desperation, he survived. It is only with his proximity to death, did he begin to appreciate life, and it is this belief that inspired his becoming.
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Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve, 2017) – A long-buried secret leads K to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who has been missing for thirty years.
A plodding pace for thin plotting tempers enjoyment of what is otherwise a thematic marvel, with visuals made for the cinematic experience.
Just two years from the future that Blade Runner predicted thirty years ago, and we are still steps away from emotive replicants, hover cars, and instant showers. What has however exceeded 20th century expectations, is digital imagery. Film has since seen brilliant advances in simulating realistic holography and futuristic landscapes. It is hence no surprise that Blade Runner 2049 would be a visual masterwork.
What about its narrative then? Years have left the ambitious sequel at a disadvantage, asking questions that have already been asked before. Its predecessor Blade Runner had been made in 1982, when novel ideas such as singularity were rife with unknowns. The source material Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick goes further back to 1968, at a time when A.I. had been but an abstract concept.
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The Host / Gwoemul (dir. Bong Joon-ho, 2006) – A family of four will do anything to rescue their youngest, from the monster that has risen from the depths of Han River.
Far exceeding the purpose of monstrous chaos, the creature feature finds heart in a moving story of a dysfunctional family’s last shot at redemption.
Eco-degradation has serious consequences. The Host personifies the danger into a living creature, whose mutation had resulted from chemical toxins that were irresponsibly dumped into Seoul’s Han River. With no purpose beyond destruction, the monster ravages the city and stores its human prey for food. Among its kidnapped victims is Hyun-seo (Ko Ah-sung), whose family would do anything to get her back.
As with how the World War’s nuclear anxieties had birthed Gojira back in 1954, the inspiration behind Gwoemul is also found in a real-world incident. In 2002, a South Korean employee of the U.S. military poured 20 gallons of formaldehyde into the same river, leading to anti-American protests by various environmentalist groups.
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Kingsman: The Golden Circle (dir. Matthew Vaughn, 2017) – After their headquarters come under attack, the Kingsman sets out to stop the perpetrator, who has also sparked a global, drug-induced epidemic.
Doubling down on the havoc, Kingsman ups the ante on fun but needs to do better than waste its band of characters.
Perfect tailored suits, a bare essential of the Hollywood spy repertoire. From every iconic incarnation of Bond to the sharp-dressed men of U.N.C.L.E., no world-defending agent has ever left for a mission without being dressed to the nines. And so there seems no better front than a bespoke tailor shop for Britain’s top-secret service Kingsman, back again for more overblown shoot-outs.
Shame to see their neat headquarters go at the very start. Destruction rains upon good folks, who deserved much more than the hasty farewell they got. But no time for grieving, as Merlin (Mark Strong) puts it. Along with Eggsy (Taron Egerton), now up to snuff and wearing the mantle of Galahad, they fly off to Kentucky on a hunt after the culprit.
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Young Adult (dir. Jason Reitman, 2011) – Returning to her hometown, Mavis Gary is determined to rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend, who is now a happily married man with a newborn daughter.
Young Adult offers an honest, sardonic take on one woman’s arrested development, in a darkly comic and thought-provoking character study.
Some things in the past are hard to let go of. When reality fails to live up to expectations, many look for that one turning point where things had started going wrong. For Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), she believes her decisive moment to be in her teenage years.
Soon after her divorce, she finds herself fixating on a twenty-year-old first love, determined to pick up where she left off. But there is just one problem. Her old flame Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) is now happily married – with a newborn daughter.
Despite an apparent rom-com set-up, Young Adult unfolds to be much more. The incisive drama explores in-depth the deluded fantasies that quietly follow many into adulthood.
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Baby Driver (dir. Edgar Wright, 2017) – Deep in debt, a young getaway driver is coerced into working for a criminal mastermind, whose incrementally dangerous heists put him in a tough spot.
Driven by stylistic action, Baby Driver would more than please thrill-seekers who habitually set soundtracks to every little routine.
Baby Driver may seem like a novel concept, but it seems Edgar Wright has been building up to his rhythmic caper film all along. Back in 2002, he has already tinkered with the idea in his music video for Mint Royale’s Blue Song, starring Noel Fielding, Nick Frost, Julian Barratt, and Michael Smiley (whom I only wish were in this film):
His subsequent works have snuck in more than a few musical moments too. A standout scene in Shaun of the Dead saw scrimmage attuned to Queen’s anthemic Don’t Stop Me Now. Hot Fuzz introduced Sergeant Nicholas Angel to the addictive beat of Adam Ant. Not forgetting how Scott Pilgrim, well, launched the short-lived fictional career of Sex Bob-omb.
So it is unsurprising that his next project would own an equally killer soundtrack. Not content with stirring song choices, his latest stylistic adventure finds the visuals to match in a genre purely fuelled by excitement. Once the film opens with a getaway drive perfectly synced to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Bellbottoms, there is no question that the audiences are in for a real treat.
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