This was not a movie that would typically appeal to me, but I have often recommended that people expose themselves to the content they may not like. I’m squeamish; things that squirm or slither aren’t at the top of my list to pursue. I saw William Friedkin’s The Exorcist exactly one time, and I have never revisited it and will not for the foreseeable future. So, when our friend, Robert Meyer Burnett, discussed the contents of David Cronenberg’s latest effort, Crimes of the Future, which Cronenberg wrote and directed, my initial reaction was it was a film I could do without.
However, this being a weekend where no new film content was premiering in wide release, I decided to practice what I preached and sought out a theatre where this limited release was playing. So, I took a bus and a train to Lynbrook, New York, where I visited the Regal Lynbrook 13 and awaited the film with mild trepidation.
The fact is that while the film’s content is unusual, it is not so gross as to cause a curious filmgoer to run screaming from the theatre.
The film begins with a bucolic seaside scene where a young boy digs in the sand or dirt by the shore. His mother calls down from a nearby house, warning the boy not to eat anything he finds in his excavations. What seems like a standard motherly admonition and what happens afterward are central to what is happening in the film.
Later, we meet Saul Tenser, a man who suffers from Accelerated Evolution Syndrome, which causes him to grow new biological organs that his partner Caprice tattoos while the parts are still inside his body. They then perform what is called desktop surgery to remove these organs before a live audience. Saul and Caprice are being investigated by several people, including two from the National Organ Registry and a police officer curious about Tenser, and another group of people experiencing accelerated evolution in a different way.
It’s all somewhat benign, if not outright strange, but there’s unexpected violence around the next corner; so, you might want to watch your step.
As mentioned earlier, Cronenberg wrote and directed this piece; Howard Shore provides the mood music, and the actors give good, albeit strange, performances.
The more I think about it, the more I think the film would make a good companion piece to Richard Fleischer’s 1973 film Soylent Green, but you should not take that suggestion as an indication of the content of this film.
Strange as it may seem, I’m talking myself into seeing the film a second time, although I haven’t a clue when and if I’ll do that.
Rated R by the MPAA for strong disturbing violent content and grisly images, graphic nudity, and some language, Crimes of the Future is a provocative window into one dystopian future that is possibly not as far off as one might think. Put your thinking caps on and enjoy this film… if you can.
Meanwhile, I will have a purple candy bar and think about putting cashews in my forehead.
Red BandTrailer: (Parental Discretion Advised)
In real-time, 28 years have passed. In movie time, it has been a couple of decades. A young Mexican couple are making out near a bridge when they notice sparks appearing in the deck of the bridge. A large familiar sphere appears, and a nude female figure falls from the sphere to the ground. When the couple goes to investigate, the police arrive and begin to question the couple about this semi-conscious nude female in their presence. At that moment, the female (Mackenzie Davis) puts a hurting on la policia and takes the young Mexican dude’s clothes and makes her way to find Daniela Ramos. Daniela lives with her brother Diego, an aspiring musician, and their father in Mexico City. Daniela wakes Diego as he and she work in an auto plant; she doesn’t want to be late. She also begs her father to make his doctor’s appointment.
After Daniela and Diego leave for work, sparks fly at their residence and who should turn up at their apartment but another terminator, a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) who quizzes their father on the whereabouts of Daniela. Soon after, D&D’s father turns up at their work location because his kids forgot their lunch. Except Diego points out that Daniela brought their lunch. Can you guess who Diego’s father is?
Of course, you can and that’s the problem with much of Terminator: Dark Fate. Much of what we see has either been revealed in the trailer, or it doesn’t take much thought to figure out what’s going on. The previously nude female has been sent to protect Daniela. She battles the Rev-9 on the factory floor and she—identifying herself as Grace—, Daniela and Diego escape in a truck with the Rev-9 in hot pursuit. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) shows up and we’re off on another Terminator adventure.
The balance of the story is a mishmash and rehash of ideas out of originator James Cameron and a committee of storytellers and screenwriters that defy credulity. Cameron and his cohorts have devised a scenario where what happened before didn’t really happen. It’s the old problem of dealing with time travel except this time, we don’t really deal with it. We’re presented a story and expected to accept it, even though it’s banal and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Don’t blame any of this on the actors or the director. The actors do a credible job with the story they’ve been given, and director Tim Miller has kept the action moving, perhaps in the hope that the script won’t catch up to him.
All-in-all, Terminator: Dark Fate is a disappointment. The return of Schwarzenegger, Hamilton and Cameron held out so much promise, and only Arnold and Linda delivered. Here’s hoping that Cameron is saving his best material for those Avatar sequels he’s been threatening us with.
If you must see this film, wait for home video.
Roman Griffin Davis is Johannes Betzler, a ten-year-old boy who enthusiastically joins the Hitler Youth. “Jojo,” as his mother and second-best friend call him, dresses up in his uniform and talks to his best friend, an imaginary Adolf Hitler, played with delightful abandon by director, co-producer and co-screenwriter Taika Waititi. I’m most familiar, I’d imagine like most people, with Waititi’s work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I’m now destined to examine his entire body of work which, as it turns out, is rather quite extensive.
Along with his tangible best friend Yorki (Archie Yates), Jojo goes to a Hitler Youth training camp, run by Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell) or rather “Captain K,” in an attempt to make him more accessible. During their training, Jojo is tasked with killing a rabbit in a scene that demonstrates the power of peer pressure and the concepts of nature versus nurture. Jojo can’t bring himself to kill the rabbit. He ends up running into the forest to the taunts of the other campers who have now dubbed him “Jojo Rabbit.” While in the woods, Jojo imagines a conversation with Hitler which galvanizes him into grabbing a grenade from an instructor and throwing it against a tree with disastrous and unforeseen results.
Jojo is injured and while confined to his home, he discovers his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johanssen) has been hiding a young Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), in a secret room in their house. Jojo gives some thought to turning her in, but Elsa convinces him that it would have disastrous consequences for Jojo and his mother. So, instead, Jojo decides to discover what makes Jews tick. Elsa feeds his paranoia, which makes for a delightful narrative.
Waititi has taken a difficult subject and turned it into a masterwork of drama, comedy, and just a tinge of horror. He turns in a delightful comedic performance as an imaginary Hitler while at the same time constructing a tale of a town about to be liberated seemingly against its wishes. The film is exceptionally photographed by Mihai Malaimare Jr., which, combined with the direction of Waititi, communicates feelings subtly and powerfully.
Scarlett Johanssen is marvelous as a mother who is trying to raise her son among the madness of a world at war, and Davis is good as the dutiful son of his parents and the Third Reich. Throughout the film, the relationship between Jojo and Elsa evokes curiosity and tenderness. Sam Rockwell continues to turn in nuanced performances as in this one where he is at times comic and, other times, compelling.
Jojo Rabbit is currently in limited release, and it was challenging to find a theatre where I could see it. Fortunately, it opens in wider release on 8 November. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend you see it.
Some mild spoilers of the first film follow immediately.
I recently re-watched Zombieland (2009) and this movie basically picks up where that one left off except, as narrated by “Columbus,” some years later, presumably ten. The family of “Tallahassee” (Woody Harrelson), “Columbus” (Jesse Eisenberg), “Wichita” (Emma Stone) and “Little Rock” (Abigail Breslin) are still together after all these years. As the opening credits roll, they take up residence in the abandoned White House.
Columbus and Wichita are still paired off, and Tallahassee has taken a paternal interest in Little Rock, who has grown into a young woman and is now quite restless as a result. Little Rock’s annoyance at being treated like a “little girl” and a miscalculation by Columbus in his relationship with Wichita creates an event that propels the plot of the rest of the movie.
When our family leaves the White House and begins traveling again, they have to avoid a new breed of zombies, which Columbus names the T-800. These zombies are stronger, faster and more deadly than other zombies our troupe has encountered before. Incidentally, Columbus has classified the zombies they’ve come across into groups. So, now the zombie types have names to go along with Columbus’ rules.
The problem here is the way the script develops is somewhat redundant of the first film. Some very similar events happen; so if you’ve seen the first film, you might be getting a little bored as to how things progress. However, other events happen just new enough to keep you mildly interested.
While the script may be lacking, the performances are not. The characters are familiar, but the acting is fresh and delightful. There are also some new characters that we meet along the way, beginning with the daft blonde we saw in the trailer, Zoey Deutch as Madison, and an equally cliche free spirit named Berkeley (Avan Jogia).
The saving grace of the script is that it’s incredibly self-aware, and that brings enough humor to carry us through the entire film. This includes performances by “guest stars” (my phrase) Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch.
If you’ve seen the first film, you’ll enjoy the second one. Although I’ve listed it as a prerequisite, it’s not absolutely necessary to view it before viewing Zombieland: Double Tap. There’s enough exposition in Columbus’ narration that you’ll be able to follow along just fine.
I found Zombieland: Double Tap to be mildly humorous, but other people in the audience were laughing out loud, and I can understand why. There’s a mid-credits scene you should stay for and a post-credits scene you can catch at home whenever you get around to watching it there.
Red Band Trailer:
Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix team for an unconventional comic book movie about a man and a city’s descent into madness. There has been some discussion that this isn’t a comic-book movie, but it undeniably is. It is an origin story.
Arthur Fleck is a devoted son. He lives with his mother, but he is not dependent on her. Rather, he takes care of her, and he does it by working as a clown for hire. His job takes him to various places: for example, a music store going out of business and a children’s hospital. Arthur also suffers from a (real-life) condition, which causes him to laugh uncontrollably at inappropriate times. So much so that he carries a card that can explain it to people when he cannot.
The construction of the story is masterful and subversive, and it requires the audience to think and deduce some of the action going on before them. Phoenix’s performance is nuanced and skilled. It captures some of the cartoon-like nature of The Joker without it being cartoony. In some form, you respect Fleck’s struggle, and then he shocks you with his behavior. In a sense, Fleck has a code, and until the very end of the film, he never violates it.
To tell you more would spoil the experience.
Rated R by the MPAA for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images, Joker is the best comic book film with that rating since Logan.
I highly recommend it.