Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Interceptor

Movie Name:
Interceptor
Year of Release: 2022
Director: Matthew Reilly
Starring: Elsa Pataky, Luke Bracey, Aaron Glenane, Mayen Mehta, Paul Caesar, Belinda Jombwe, Marcus Johnson, Zoe Carides, Kim Knuckey, Deniz Akdeniz, Che Baker, Nick Barker-Pendree
Genre: Action, Adventure
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 1
Watch it on Netflix

Synopsis and Review
Another release hailing from Netflix, "Interceptor" is the feature directorial debut for Matthew Reilly, a well known writer/novelist. The film follows the story of Captain JJ Collins whom we first encounter working in a nuclear missile interceptor base in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. She is there following a high profile case where she reported sexual misconduct by one of her superiors, which in turn rendered her as a pariah of sorts, which also sparked her deployment to the remote base, as opposed to her dream job in the Pentagon.
Her base is soon attacked and most of her team is killed, with only a few managing to survive, including herself. She and the remaining survivors retreat to the command center, where they notify the events taking place to the chain of command. The attackers are interested in deploying nuclear devices but their main intent is blackmailing governments in order to make money from those threats. As Collins holds her ground, her main opponent Kessel, tries by every means necessary to dissuade her and get access to that control room.
"Interceptor" comes across as a Cannon Films release from the 1980s, either featuring Chuck Norris, Michael Dudikoff or Cynthia Rothrock, all of which had flourishing and prolific careers with that studio during that timeline. It's a film that is trying to be taut and a somewhat sophisticated B-Movie, claiming some classic influences including John McTiernan's "Die Hard" (and even some more modern influences, such as Denis Villeneuve's "Sicario"), where essentially the central hero has to overcome a formidable and apparently far more powerful opponent, only to succeed when everything seems lost. Sadly this film never manages to create characters that have some depth or substance, this being applicable to both the lead, but also the supporting characters, the latter of whom are clichés which are quickly tossed aside. For a film with a central female character, most of her backstory is crudely developed, and not much is expanded upon. It's a film where its premise is fairly engaging, but one where the story development and dialogue were barely developed, and one where director Matthew Reilly merely illustrated what was on the pages, without adding much nuance, humor or sense of dramatic urgency to what is happening on the screen. The cast is sadly also forgettable, while the production team, including cinematographer Ross Emery, try to bring some verisimilitude to what's happening on screen. For all its noise, it's a forgettable endeavor. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Fire Island

Movie Name:
Fire Island
Year of Release: 2022
Director: Andrew Ahn 
Starring: Joel Kim Booster, Bowen Yang, Conrad Ricamora, James Scully, Matt Rogers, Tomas Matos, Margaret Cho, Torian Miller, Nick Adams, Zane Phillips, Michael Graceffa
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6
View Trailer

Synopsis and Review
Another streaming platform also releasing original films is Hulu, and this time around they're releasing a Searchlight Pictures film (previously known as Fox Searchlight, which produced and released films such as Guillermo Del Toro's "The Shape of Water" and Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton's "Little Miss Sunshine"). The film follows the story of a group of gay friends who meet on a yearly basis, to spend a brief week together on Fire Island. The story focuses in particular on two of those friends, Noah and Howie, who have been close for quite some time, though now they see each other much less since Howie moved to the West Coast to work on a startup, while Noah has stayed in New York. Noah has long been comfortable with having multiple flings with men, whereas Howie has had his fair amount of challenges in connecting with men. Noah decides to be a wingman for Howie, and make sure he has an exciting vacation. Things get to an auspicious start when Howie meets Charlie, a sweet man who has recently broken up with his boyfriend. Things also quickly shape up for Noah, who has an immediate attraction to one of Charlie's friends, the quiet Will, though his assumptions quickly create some friction between the both of them. As they navigate the niceties of living in that bubble, they soon realize this may be the last Summer they all have together.
Andrew Ahn made a name for himself with the features "Spa Night" and "Driveways", both of which were met with positive critical responses. This new feature of his is based on a script by Joel Kim Booster, who is also one of the lead actors in the ensemble (he plays the somewhat jaded and cynical Noah and he also has previously written for TV Shows, including the hilarious "The Other Two"). The film, unlike for instance Norman René's "Longtime Companion", which also took place in Fire Island, and also with a group of gay friends, opts to be much more lighter in tone, though with some interesting observations as to what happens in the gay universe (or at least in that particular microcosms, the film is also inspired by Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice"). The director manages to create a believable sense of camaraderie between the group of characters, even if at times some of those characters definitely feel like they're inhabiting different realities (namely the over the top friends who come across as very roughly drawn caricatures). There are indeed interesting observations in terms of the power dynamics that are established within this bubble of an existence, and the film also briefly illustrates some of the current trends that are front and center within the gay community, but for the most part, the characters themselves, while sufficiently engaging, are very thinly defined and aren't given much in terms of motivation. The film needed a stronger point of view in terms of where these characters are actually going, and also pose some questions in terms of what makes that caste system be what it is in that island (and in the gay world itself). What is left is indeed watchable and entertaining, but also fairly superficial. The cast manages to be quite engaging, with particular emphasis going to Bowen Yang, while the production team is equally strong, namely featuring the beautiful cinematography from Felipe Vara de Rey. Worth watching. 

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Crimes of the Future

Movie Name:
Crimes of the Future
Year of Release: 2022
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux, Scott Speedman, Don McKellar, Kristen Stewart, Tanaya Beatty, Nadia Litz, Welket Bungue, Ephie Kantza, Lihi Kornowski, Yorgos Pirpassopoulos, Jason Bitter, Sozos Sotiris, Denise Capezza
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Horror
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6
View Trailer

Synopsis and Review
Writer/Director and occasional actor David Cronenberg is back, following an eight year hiatus since the premiere of his previous feature, "Maps to the Stars". "Crimes of the Future" is also an original script of his, the first he has tackled since he directed "eXistenZ" in 1999. The film which takes place in the near future, focuses on a couple known for being performance artists. Saul Tenser and Caprice, those are their names, have an artistic process where she takes/removes new organs that have developed within Saul, doing so on stage, using sophisticated and somewhat clinical devices (she was previously a medical professional who specialized in trauma). Saul experiences discomfort when sleeping and even eating, as if though his body is fighting against some of the habits and foods he is providing. This is something he and Caprice can't quite understand. Their name recognition in the art world brings them under the attention of the National Organ Registry and its two investigators. They are researching and documenting interesting developments occurring in human bodies. Saul has also fallen under the attention of Lang Dotrice, who has quietly and alongside an army of anonymous collaborators, been developing food substitutes based out of plastic. As Saul realizes all these different agendas, he alongside Caprice, have to tackle a demanding challenge from Dotrice and be truly faced with how human bodies have changed and adapted to the world itself.
"Crimes of the Future" is an interesting mélange of quite a few David Cronenberg films, including aspects of "Videodrome", "Dead Ringers", "Naked Lunch" and also the previously mentioned, "eXistenZ". The film once again plays with the concepts of what the human body actually is, and just as importantly, how the body has evolved in the face of the ecological meltdown humans have brought on the planet itself. It continues to expand on the themes of the director, though this time around, the element that seems to falter more bluntly in the film, is the contextualization of the narrative itself. In all of his films, Cronenberg has always managed to operate with limited budgets, but thanks to very resourceful production design teams, the universes he illustrates are usually impeccably rendered. This time around however, the choice of film location, and even the production design itself, fails to create something truly unique, mostly highlighting the limited budget of the production. Also the theme of Performance Art in which these characters move through, feels just a bit too artificial (it doesn't mesh as well as the artists he previously captured in his narratives, for instance in "Scanners"). The cast is however deeply invested in the narrative, and they're all solid presences, including Viggo Mortensen (who worked with Cronenberg in "A History of Violence", "Eastern Promises" and "A Dangerous Method"), Lea Seydoux, Kristen Stewart and Don McKellar. It's a very interesting journey, one that definitely aligns with many of the topics the director likes to focus on, but ultimately this journey feels under developed, something that his previous endeavors, particularly the ones from the 70s, 80s and 90s always excelled on. It's nonetheless worth watching, from a truly unique voice in cinema. 

The Adam Project

Movie Name:
The Adam Project
Year of Release: 2022
Director: Shawn Levy
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner, Catherine Keener, Zoe Saldana, Walker Scobell, Alex Mallari Jr., Braxton Bjerken, Kasra Wong, Donald Sales, Esther Ming Li, Ben Wilkinson
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5
Watch it on Netflix

Synopsis and Review:
Another big budget film stemming from Netflix courtesy of the creative team of Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds (who also worked on the successful "Free Guy", while Levy has also been a prolific producer on his own, including working with Netflix on the highly visible "Stranger Things" show). The narrative introduces us to Adam Reed, a fighter pilot who in a dystopian 2050 is in the midst of trying to time travel in order to save his wife, Laura. Just as he's about to make that jump in time, his captors catch up with him, and in the process he is injured, and he is also accidentally sent to 2022. In that timeline, his own self is a 12 year old, who is bullied in school and who is having some issues with his mom, particularly since his dad passed away in the previous year due to a car accident. As the Adams eventually interact and the older one briefly explains what's going on, he is soon also tracked by his captors. Just as he's about to be taken back, his wife Laura appears and manages to save them both. She explains they have to go back to 2018 before time travel got discovered, and get their father to somehow stop everything, since he's at the genesis of that discovery. The Adams decide to do so, even if Laura has to stay behind once more.
Shawn Levy who has been having an extremely busy career in production, has also managed to amass a substantial directorial output, from feature films to TV shows and Miniseries. Following the entertaining and successful "Free Guy", which had its fair share of delays due to the Pandemic, "The Adam Project" is more of a formulaic and not as compelling feature as his previous collaboration with Ryan Reynolds. The film tries to retain certain aspects of sci-fi films of the 80s, including some nods to Steven Spielberg's "ET" and John Carpenter's "Starman", but the narrative itself lacks originality, not to mention, fails to provide much dimension to the characters themselves. The main antagonist herself, Sorian, seems to initially be defined and characterized as a conflicted authority figure in 2018 which is a stark contrast with her Start Trek villain approach in 2050 (and Catherine Keener has very little opportunity to do much with this character). The same thing going for Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo's parents characters, who come across as perfect sketches of what parents are supposed to be, as opposed to characters with some motivations. Ryan Reynolds as usual manages to keep the action lively, consistently funny, and he always does so effortlessly. This time he has good support from Walker Scobell as his younger self. While some of the visual effects look a bit cheaply applied, the cinematography from Tobias A. Schliessler is solid, as is the score from Rob Simonsen. Overall it's a film that while not terrible, it also isn't very memorable.