Tag: Sci-Fi

Palm Springs

When Palm Springs hit Hulu, I will admit, I hadn’t heard of it. I knew nothing going into it either, outside of a few key members of the cast.

I’d like to say that the cast was enough to get me to watch it, but that isn’t true. I literally only watched it because I heard good tidings from others about the story and the acting behind it.

This looked like a very skippable movie. Some sort of Rom Com? Let’s just say that I think going in totally blind is definitely a worthwhile endeavor for this one. I do describe what the movie is about and why it is unique in the plot description below, so feel free to ignore that if you’d rather just run in. This is a good time to just check my rating and decide on those merits alone!

grief
Trust? In swim trunks like these? 

Nyles (Andy Samberg) is at a wedding in Palm Springs, California. His life is aloof, he seems weird, he is wearing non fancy clothes to the wedding His girlfriend (Meredith Hagner) is freaking out about his strange behavior, but he doesn’t care. Nyles has his eyes on on Sarah (Cristin Milioti), the maid of honor. And before he can seal the deal, he gets shot with an arrow by Roy (J.K. Simmons) and that is pretty damn annoying.

After the arrow incident, Nyles crawls towards a mysterious glowing cave with Sarah following, despite his best attempt to get her to leave, and then the next morning, Nyles wakes up to relive the day over again. But this time, so does Sarah.

You see, Nyles has been living this time loop of this wedding he barely cares about for a very, very, long time. Every death, every sleep, no matter what, he goes back to waking up the same bed with his same girlfriend. But now, Sarah is stuck in the loop with him (and so is Roy, which is why he is pissed at Nyles). Well, now at least there are two of them to try and figure out how to get out. Two people who can make the day feel less meaningless. And maybe they can figure out a way out eventually.

Also starring Jena Friedman, Jacqueline Obradors, Dale Dickey, Tongayi Chirisa, June Squibb, Chris Pang, Tyler Hoechlin, Camila Mendes, and Peter Gallagher.

geysey
It took them 400 days of shooting to get the beer spray lined up so perfectly. 

So given the genre and type of film it is, why is this one worth the 4 out of 4?

Well, despite it being a famous type of a movie with a really famous and cherished example of the plot line in movie history, it isn’t that overdone yet. I bet you can’t think of more than five examples of that plot line being used (although there are more than five, but not too much more). People just feel it had peaked early. Well, by having two characters go through this plot, it allows a lot more room for growth and potential, because we have more people who are in on the secret.

It is a brilliant idea, and one that I am surprised (as far as I know) not been done before. It lets us get to know our leads as co-stars and not just one person surrounded by the supporting actors. Samberg is his usual self, but maybe a bit more darker with his tone, because he has been at this for awhile and has practically given up. Milioti was a delight, and watching her journey at the beginning all the way through the end, as a strong independent person, to get things fixed, was great. And it featured a cameo from a professor at Rice University who I know, so that was cool too.

Palm Springs is a unique concept on an old plot, and a refreshing take on it all. Add in two fantastic leads and a great moment from Simmons, this is a top tier film for 2020 (given how awkward this year is) and one that should be experienced.

4 out of 4.

The Vast of Night

The Vast of Night is certainly not a film I had heard of before receiving a screener. Starring no one famous, by a first time director, with a low budget, not going to theaters.

“But nothing is going to theaters now!” Well, yeah, I know that. But this might have never gone to theaters if they were open. Instead, it is on Amazon Prime (as of Friday, May 29).

And now you know why I am just going to start the intro.

operator
And after this review, we will plug you back into your regularly scheduled scrolling on your social medias.

DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz) and Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) are two younger kiddos living out in New Mexico in the 1950’s. They are both hip in the tech world too. DJ Everett is the host of his own radio show in his local community, full of interviews of people from town and elsewhere, hoping to make it big and leave his small community. Fay is interested in the future of technology and getting better at it herself, and is his switch board operator for the show.

During one night, most of the community is caring more about a local basketball game, but the show must go on. And in the early parts of the show, Fay hears a strange noise, one she has never heard before, nor has anyone she asks. In fact, when she brings this to Everett’s attention, this becomes their new focus, playing it for others to see if they can help them figure out what made that noise.

And they get a call. A mysterious person. Saying they heard the noise before, long ago, but afraid to let that story go public. This leads to another story, more secrets, more missing people, and more disbelief.

But this is 1950’s New Mexico and a small town, what could possibly be tormenting this town?

Also starring Gail Cronauer and Bruce Davis.

caller
Yes, we get people talking on the phone, get hyped!

This is clearly a film on a small budget. Don’t worry, it is obvious to the viewers what must be going on really early on, and only isn’t obvious to those in the movie given the time period it is taken during. A lot of it is a set up for the ending, but despite the budget, you will get to see something for those afraid they won’t.

Most of it is teasing to the ending, as I just said, so we are relying on characters literally just talking to each other. Thankfully, the director decided to go with long takes for most of these conversations, so they ooze out natural pacing and behavior. One of the two main story tellers is only able to be heard on the phone, but Davis has a nice voice to listen to and helped really start the build of the tension. I know what you are thinking. A movie with people talking on the phone for awhile? Is it like Locke? Eh, not really.

It is relatively slower paced early on and really takes awhile to feel tense, but by the end tense it is despite the still relatively low stakes. The cinematographer and composer really put in good work to make the build up. It was an average movie for most of it until it built up by the end.

The leads of Horowitz and McCormick work extremely well together and do a lot of work with not just their words, but their faces as well. They have that curiosity and drive to solve their own mystery with their own individual reasons behind it.

The Vast of Night is a low key film that will build up the thrills by the end, dealing with strange sounds and radio waves, and great performances from its leads.

3 out of 4.

Bloodshot

Hey, hey, heyheyhey. Vin Diesel. You’re looking kind of rough there. Are you stressed out? Are you getting enough sleep? Because you are looking a little…Bloodshot there.

Hyuck hyuck hyuck.

Of course Bloodshot is based on a comic, and no one really is aware of that. If it ain’t Marvel, DC, or even Dark Horse, ain’t no one give a damn. And sure, through some of the images, it looks like Diesel looks like the comic, so they are going for the same thing here.

See, if you didn’t read my words, you would have just assumed this is Diesel living out another of his Sci-Fi/Fantasy fantasies. Giving him cool powers and letting him run around like he bribed the DM of his campaign. Alas, this isn’t OG made up stuff, but a sourced material made up stuff.

punch
Every punch is sourced.
Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) is one of those elite soldiers of America, who is good at killing and not being killed. He just returned from vague mission, where he did good things for America, and now he can go on vacation with his wife (Talulah Riley). But uh oh. Ray doing good, means bad guys are mad at him.

This one bad guy, Martin Axe (Toby Kebbell), dances his way in to their life and kills the wife, and kills Ray for not giving them good information. And end of movie!

Oh wait, no. Some company, RTS, brings Ray back to life, full of nanobots. Now he is a super soldier. Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) has brought him back to life, knowing only he died in war and didn’t have anyone claim his body. Ray’s memories are gone and he has a new purpose.

But, if he tries hard, maybe memories will return to him and he can get revenge on that dancing madman. That’d be swell, now that he is a superhero.

Also starring Alex Hernandez, Sam Heughan, Eiza González, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, and Lamorne Morris.

nanos
All the bots, all the time, always ready to party. 
Do you like emotional robots? Because then I have a film to not recommend. Because apparently being made of nanobots for your blood means you will stop feeling anything and somehow turn wooden, not metal.

Diesel smiles a couple times in this movie, generally when he is with his wife, and that is it. Everything else is super serious and stern. This movie takes itself far more seriously than the events on the screen should allow. I need some passion or winks or something to keep me more interested in the very weak plot.

The film I am giving an average rating for only due to originality. The plot could have gone a lot of ways, realistically, and it didn’t go the dumbest way. Audiences, whether they want to or not, have to pay a little bit attention and can’t just be impressed by some punches.

I will also highlight two scenes in particular. The flour fight scene was probably the coolest scene. The lighting gave it some fun visuals that really amplified the moment. And two, the elevator Spider-man deleted scene. Where Doc Ock is involved as well. This sounds ridiculous, and it is ridiculous, but I appreciate them doing this long fight scene in the bright light and not hide it all in the darkness.

But this film has weak acting all around. Average effects. A poor plot. And some okay twists. Somehow exactly what I expected without watching the trailer or knowing anything about the movie going in, weird huh?

2 out of 4.

Ad Astra

Years ago, James Gray gave us The Lost City of Z, based off of a book and a real life dude, and it was very ambitious. It felt a bit too long, but it had a lot of good going for it, and I know some critics who had it on their top of the year list.

I hadn’t seen anything else from Gray, but I have seen all of his films since then. You know, this one, Ad Astra.

Space Drama? Brad Pitt? Mystery?

Sign me the god damn fuck up.


Sorry Mr. Pitt. I will watch my language in the future.

Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is a decorated veteran in the armed forces, and has lived a life full of patriotism, honor, and sacrifice. He does his job, and he does it well, with little fuss. He also has a famous father, Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), the most successful astronaut explorer in human history. He has done so much for space travel and has been held in the highest of honors, and also for this fact, been completely absent from Roy’s life.

Their emotions are distant, both mentally and physically.

And then Clifford had to go missing, on his further adventure yet. No one is sure what happened to his crew. Maybe he died. Maybe he is alive. But the folks are having a sure enough difficult time trying to get in contact with him, so they figure maybe his son will have a better shot. At the same time, there are these pulses that are putting a damper on space travel and getting worse and worse, and they might have something to do with why Clifford and his crew have gone missing.

Can Roy find his father? Basically a man he has already been searching for his whole life?

Also starring Liv Tyler, Ruth Negga, and Donald Sutherland.

recording studio
In space, no one can hear you scream. Unless you have a space recording studio.

Where does one begin with a movie like Ad Astra? The previews don’t tell a lot, and neither did my plot section. This is a movie about the journey, about the dangers of space and putting real limitations on our travel. I don’t believe everything was fully explained in terms of how things worked, but they felt realistic. It felt like a real potential for our future, without relying on mysterious future technology too much.

No mysterious space magic or space technology lasers here to solve the day, no siree.

And this is a movie to showcase Brad “The Pit” Pitt. One who knows nothing about him would assume almost that he isn’t acting. He is very passive, telling more with his inner monologue and face than his lack of actions with others. The sins of the father story line is strong here, and so on the nose it is the entire face.

Ad Astra is a movie that is best experienced on a large screen, with large speakers, and an open mind. It is definitely light on the action (despite glimmers and shocks), and heavy on the sorrow. This is a strange epic that is completely unforgiving along the way with one main story to tell. It will be hard to top this level of care that went into an original story this year, but one I am glad I was able to witness.

4 out of 4.

Captain Marvel

Here we are, the first “marvel” film of 2019, and maybe the last of them to be reviewed. Whoops.

Now technically, Spider-Man: Far From Home is a Sony movie. And maybe this will come out before Avengers: Endgame. It depends on if it finally breaks that damn record. I’m trying to hold out.

But let it be known, that damn it, I saw Captain Marvel opening weekend! I just didn’t write a lot in the spring and I am catching up. It’s not out of hate, or sexism, or anything like that. It is just I don’t want Disney to profit off of my reviews if I don’t get invited to see them early anymore.

Brie
Yes, this website is why Disney makes so much money. 
Kree good. Skrulls bad. That’s what Vers (Brie Larson) was taught. She is a warrior in the Kree kingdom, following the Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening), trying to protect the galaxy and the universe. Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) is her mentor, and commander of their group of super soldiers. He looks out for her, but she is having problems unlocking her potential.

Either way, they know they need to stop the Skrulls. They can change shape and pretend to be other people! Anyone might be a Skrull, and it is important to have secret phrases to deal with the threat. Threats like Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), leader of the group of Skrulls and a threat to the Kree way of life, and other planets! They go to a planet, pretend to be the citizens, slowly take over, and boom, their planet.

This battle takes them all to planet Earth. It is important to note this is 12-13 years before the events of Iron Man, before Y2K wrecked house. And Vers, when she gets to Earth, is going to have even more memory problems than before, and has to work with local human security, like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) pre-eye patch, in order to stop the Skrull threat and unlock her true potential.

Also starring Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Clark Gregg, Gemma Chan, Lashana Lynch, Algenis Perez Soto, and Rune Temte.

Skrulls
I don’t know why they’d want to shapeshift. They don’t like green? Elphaba-syndrome much? 
Captain Marvel is fun and entertaining while also introducing a lot of backstory into the MCU. I bet you never knew you wanted to know how Nick Fury lost his eye, but once that question is answered, you’ll never be the same.

Danvers is a great and strong as fuck character. It has been awhile since we got a character that seemed like they could destroy the world if they wanted to. She has powers comparable and potentially surpassing Thor, Hulk, and Dr. Strange, who I’d put as the biggest three in the MCU. Scarlet Witch should be higher, but they have more downplayed her actual abilities while talking them up, and odd choice. But Captain Marvel has the power and the talk. She will fuck up all the shit.

Like a lot of other recent solo movies, this one failed to feel like it did a lot different than the other previous 20 movies to warrant a higher grade. 3s are great, and better than the occasional 2 these MCU movies can make.

Again, more importantly, this adds the Skrulls to the MCU, which are going to allow some bigger huge storylines in the future, especially if they want to kill more superheroes and it be okay.

3 out of 4.

Glass

Surprise, its M. Night Shyamalan! He has been on a bit of an upswing lately. After he did The Visit, which was better than expected. And after he did Split, which was really great thanks to acting performances and of course, a surprise sequel.

Now, with Glass, we find ourselves with a trilogy no one would have expected a few years ago. Split works really well as a sequel to Unbreakable, maybe more so because no one expected it to be a sequel.

Unbreakable still holds up today, as a slow origin story and realizing that one might be something greater than everyone else around him. With Glass he has quite a task. Can he fully combine these two films, and bring about some sort of resolution? Because I don’t think anyone is expecting it to continue after Glass, into some just Shyamalan franchise of supers. An update is what we want, not a never ending story.

But hey, I am willing to change my mind should this be awesome.

Door
“Yo lady. Check that door. It’s glass, isn’t it?”

It turns out, that the more I talk about really what goes on in this movie, the more I might accidentally give away in terms of it its plot. As of now, Kevin Crumb and company (James McAvoy) have created the Beast and are causing havok, doing their own thing. Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) is returning to her regular life, and is in a better home situation.

Dunn (Bruce Willis) runs his own security business, while also spending time looking for people to help, and right now, The Beast. His son (Spencer Treat Clark) is now grown up, but still on his side and his “tech base guy”.

Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) has been in a mental hospital for some time, and his mom (Charlayne Woodard) is still alive! And we also have Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) as a psychiatrist, who has a very specific niche.

Also starring Luke Kirby and Adam David Thompson as workers.

Ceiling
What a climatic battle of super people! Wait

First of all, I think general audiences are going to HATE Glass. We have the potential ending of a franchise, two superhuman forces coming to collide. Is it going to be an epic game of cat and mouse? Is it going to be a huge brawl after huge brawl? How is he going to make it feel realistic like Unbreakable?

No, nothing like that. Instead, most of what I imagine people will suspect is going to happen really quickly, and the other 85% of the movie will be something you did not expect. I know I didn’t, but I didn’t see a trailer and so went in with my own regular expectations.

Now I am not saying where it went was bad, it was just extremely weird and unexpected. Specifically, Paulson’s character I really hated, and yet, we were supposed to hate her. There was just other things off with it. The situation she was in, her conversations, they didn’t feel natural so it took me out of the realism they were going for.

This is a lot more than anyone bargained for. And for a lot of the film, I was still sort of digging it. I didn’t think the direction was bad. But the ending. The ending is a mess of “twists” and what felt like a never ending movie. This movie at 129 minutes feels like its three hours. It is very slow paced, and feels like there are multiple regular ending spots.

McAvoy is still fan-fucking-tastic. What we wanted was to see more of his sides, and I lost count, but I think we get to see the rest of his many faces. We get a lot of long shots of him going between his voices, and it is great to see the many transformations.

Samuel L. Jackson is not utilized enough, Bruce Willis looks great (and old) but is too quiet and also under utilized. We need more updates, damn it. It was great to see Clark and Woodward back after so long, replacing them would have been lame.

And finally, I am pretty sure the timing is really off in the movie. It sounds like they said it took place only 3 weeks after Split. Did it? No idea. But if so, then all this talk of 19 years is bullshit, unless Split took place in the future compared to when it came out. And if Glass is only 3 weeks later, from a few years ago, some of the references made don’t make sense. Damn it, I hate it when timelines are confusing and characters can reference songs that aren’t out yet.

Let’s end the review on this note. Again, Glass is weird, it tries to do something different. It succeeded at being different. And I don’t think people will be happy with that difference.

2 out of 4.

Mortal Engines

Peter Jackson‘s name is super attached to the project Mortal Engines, despite it not seeming like a project up his ally.

Okay, it is based on a book, and he has done quite a few movies based on books or other sources.

But it also looked like a CGI hellscape of a movie. Practical effects were Jackson’s bread and butter in the early 2000’s, outside of some monkey business. Sure, he Hobbited it that aspect up in the future, but there was some attempts to not make it one big green screen, right? Right?

Well, needless to say, this movie isn’t actually Peter Jackson’s baby. He isn’t the director. He is one producer and one writer of the screenplay. He is just a big name and probably involved himself very little in the project. Whew. That was a close one. Can’t have too many duds in a row, or else no one cares about your past.

Spyglass
This is our main character trying to find Robert De Niro‘s dignity for similar reasons.

Mortal Engines takes place some 200-300 years in the future. Instead of sleek future design, we had to go a bit dystopian, and a bit steam punk. Of course some resource concerns exist, and apparently that lead to bigger and badder weapons, which wiped out a lot of technology. Now that is a thing of the past. And instead of resorting back to a feudal farming society, they realized that having a farm is lame, and they needed to be more nomadic. And when you are a nomad but the Earth is too big to wander, you just gotta take your whole house with you. And city.

And uhh, we have cities with giant wheels now, moving across the landscape, in search of places to temporarily settle, to get more resources and then, move, or whatever. And the bigger the city, the more resources they need, so they can’t just like, sit still and gather up enough to move. So instead, they invest in bigger stronger wheels and straight up try to “Eat” smaller community city/town/buildings. They can convert the people into new workers and citizens, and tear up the building material to burn into fuel.

Okay, so this is terribly inefficient. These predator cities can’t possibly survive like this unless they are munching up settlements all of the time. And these settlements are sparse. There are some settlements that don’t move, but they are behind a large wall in a pass, separating let’s say Europe and Asia, with big boom makers, so they can’t get close. Or can they…

Anyways, most of this plot is world building, because that is really the most important aspect, trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

In terms of plot, we have Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) trying to kill famed London Energy Guru Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving). Why? Revenge. Sweet. Sexy. Revenge.

Also starring Colin Salmon, Jihae, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Robert Sheehan, Ronan Raftery, and Stephen Lang.

Terminator
“Excuse me, did you forget to drop me off in the 1960’s on your way to the future?”

Absolute garbage. That is a nice way of putting Mortal Engines. A CGI slugfest of nonsense.

Mortal Engines is what happens when you take all of the good to excellent parts of the last decade of teenage dystopian films, then throw them out the window, filling the gaps with terrible B- or C-movie plot, bad acting lines, no worries about making sense, and even more terrible plot lines. It is like the creators of Sharknado saw a book, bought its rights, and then realized Sharknado might be actually more plausible so didn’t try to make sure this movie made sense. It is what happens when you live in a green life, with a green house, green car, green girlfriend too, and then it is totally a good idea to have probably no real sets at all in your movie. It is what happens when you assume to be a success, you just need some ridiculous premise and it will make people thing you are edgy, fun, and new.

I can’t talk enough about how much of a dread this movie ended up being. At over two hours in length, it certainly had a never ending feeling and my mind certainly believed it was three hours plus. It had the nerve to both feel not fully fleshed out/rushed, and yet too long. At no point can people derive an emotional connection with these characters, as so much of the plot needs to be told in needlessly polished flashbacks from our main character. Thousands of people die in this movie, and there is barely ever a thought about them. Characters only show up at the perfect time because of poor writing, without any chance of appearing natural.

Mortal Engines has no redeeming qualities, and when you try to analyze aspects of the plot or story, it will either break apart or just completely get even more confusing. I assume this is a series, and more books/movies will maybe clear some things up. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work well with a standalone movie (Which had no sign of a sequel set up either).

And what in the flying fuck is up with the Shrike robot? I barely understand how they even exist, and just have to accept their near god level power. And it mostly implies it is a bad guy, despite clearly doing a good thing, until the very end when we are supposed to suddenly flip our switches and feel sad? The graphics and voice behind him were also, seemingly, left behind somewhere.

I spent most of the time with this movie trying to fight off sleep, and writing down lines that were delivered extra terrible/cheesy. That, and counting down the minutes until I could get out of the theater and try to put this movie behind me.

0 out of 4.

The Predator

I don’t think I saw the first Predator movie, nor did I see the next one. I did see both Alien vs Predator films though, and of course, Predators, from a handful of years ago.

I think I would enjoy the first Predator movie, it sounds like it is really well made and will have high levels of tension, especially in the end. I will put it on my list. I still know roughly the events of these films, because hey, geek and movie culture.

But to continue the string of very nondescript movie titles. this one is going to be called The Predator, because I guess there is only going to be one. That is some Highlander stealing shit right there. And since it is directed by Shane Black, I can only assume that it will take place during Christmas.

Pred1
Time to hang up the people stockings.

Let’s all head to Mexico! Where there are drug deals, of course! Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is an asshole, but he is our asshole. He is also a good soldier and sniper. Sure it basically cost him his marriage, being all soldier-y and out a lot, but he is still a good soldier. And during a mission, a space ship crashes nearby with a scary creature with invisible capabilities.

So he does what any hard working American would do in that case. He steals some of the monster’s equipment and mails it to his P.O. Box at his home city. Thanks to plot though, they go to his home, so his young autistic son (Jacob Tremblay) can find it and mess with alien stuff.

Through other plot, the alien gets captured by secret space force people. We got a real mean dickhead (Sterling K. Brown, who seems to be getting younger in his roles) who wants to unlock their potential. We got an alien biologist (Olivia Munn) who is surprisingly good at shooting things with various weapons. Hell, we have a whole bus load of “crazy” PTSD soldiers that they are hiding away who are going to be dealing with this thing.

But most importantly, this will end up taking place over Halloween. Damn Shane Black, way to trick us.

Also starring Yvonne Strahovski, Trevante Rhodes, Thomas Jane, Keegan-Michael Key, Jake Busey, Augusto Aguilera, and Alfie Allen.

Pred2
Well I guess instead of hanging stockings, they are just hanging Halloween decorations. Makes more sense.

The Predator is basically a trash movie. A movie that feels like an incredible waste of time, and did not live up to any of the expectations that I went in with. And honestly, I didn’t have many.

People tried to talk about what the trailer implied, but I didn’t see it, so I didn’t know where they were coming from. Instead, I just know it is a crap film. Why? Well, this film is basically a comedy. It is very much almost a slapstick comedy. Because we have this group of men with zany personalities (because of mental disturbances) they all have quips and one liners. This means everyone, starting with the guy who is supposed to be the joke maker, all the way down to the more serious characters. It is like they wanted to make The Avengers, but you know, PTSD army folks.

Gosh, the humor was so annoying. At no point could a viewer feel threatened or scared by the predators. When everything is a goddamn joke, it is hard for anything to really draw the viewer in. Tense moments are wasted by jokes and by extremely bad cut jobs. This film moves all over the place, and it is hard to judge how time works. We quickly go from a night scene to an early morning scene, a literal night and day difference, in the final action sequences. If there were a lot of practical effects (/people in suits) it is wasted by the other CGI effects. The kills aren’t too great. And the predator v predator fight is not worth any amount of hype.

AND HOW THE HELL ARE THEY GOING TO HAVE A FILM CALLED THE PREDATOR WITH MORE THAN ONE PREDATOR.

This cannot be the movie people were hoping to get. Somewhere a better film might exist, but really, it needs a plot upheaval and most of it to be re-shot with a different cast. Yeah, we just need a different movie.

1 out of 4.

Kin

Editor’s note: Since writing this article, which were indeed my first thoughts on the film, unbiased by others, I have read a review of Kin that I can clearly state is better than mine and makes a better point. Read it here at Texas Art & Film. I am almost ashamed because I usually notice issues like this one, but I simply missed it maybe due to the better cinematography and music of the film.

I went into Kin mostly blind. I didn’t really like the name, but I knew nothing about the story, nor did I see any ads anywhere. It felt like a secret release, but hey, I don’t watch a lot of commercials so it is hard to see.

The only thing I knew was two of the main actors listed in the movie. It still was clearly an indie movie, but while watching it, I was surprised at just how many other actors I knew or recognized. It has at least five famous or notable people, none of which are the “lead” in this film. It is surprising given the lower overall budget of the movie.

Sometimes, actors just do lower budget films for less because they like the story or whatever. And James Franco just does it for shits and giggles. I think he wants half of his films to be movies people have never heard about before.

Truck
Half of this photo is new, half of this photo is really old.

In the near future, Detroit is a piece of shit. This is true generally always, in every movie, about the near future Detroit. It is also somewhat true about present Detroit.

Eli Solinski (Myles Truitt) is a kid having problems at school. He is a black kid. He is getting suspended. Turns out his mom died recently. His mom being someone who adopted him, and he has had a hard time adjusting. His dad (Dennis Quaid) is very strict, but supportive, and stuck in his morals. His older adopted brother, Jimmy (Jack Reynor), has been in prison for awhile due to stealing some things, and he has been a bit of a stain upon the family.

Well, Jimmy gets back home, and it is awkward. It is also awkward because he needs some money. He took out a “loan” in prison for protection, so he wouldn’t have to worry about getting shanked. And his loan sharks want their money back right away, which he doesn’t have, his dad doesn’t have, but the job office might have some.

Around this same time, Eli, who has been stealing copper from some of the many abandoned warehouses, stumbles upon a strange sight. A gun. An…alien gun? Something that whirrs and boops and is totally not normal.

Long story short, Eli and his brother are going on a road trip. Some bad people are after them, but they have money, guns, and Eli doesn’t know anything bad is going on at all.

Also starring James Franco, Zoë Kravitz, Carrie Coon, Ian Matthews, and Gavin Fox.

Gun
Alien guns make my favorite gun sound, pew pew pew.

I really did go into this movie thinking it would be shit, only knowing it was some sort of family film and science fiction. But I was surprised at how hard this film tried to be a contender. It didn’t reach its lofty goals, but it had a lot of good going on with it.

The soundtrack behind it is one that is meant to really draw you in, with an electro pulse to keep tension up in non tense moments. The camera lingered over scenes. The film embraced silence without dialogue constantly to catch us up on their emotions and potential growth. It is a slow build and not just a rainstorm of action scenes to keep the viewers excited while things explode in alien gun glory.

No, it is a film about family. It is slow, and there is some crime and sad killing moments.

Now the ending of the film feels very convenient. The clues are there, and it offers at least one surprise, but it also ends the film in a weird note. Too many things are wrapped up without the appropriate fallout one would expect. It sets up a franchise that everyone can tell while watching will never come to fruition.

And honestly, it is too slow. Build is one thing, but this movie didn’t always build, but instead sort of stalled at points. The road trip felt like it would go on forever, and it was frustrating that things weren’t really moving along faster.

This was a good idea for a film, and clearly care was taken into it. It just could have also been a lot better at the same time.

2 out of 4.

Upgrade

Unless you were looking for it, you probably would have easily missed Upgrade in the theaters. I don’t think I saw a single trailer for the movie, I certainly don’t remember seeing a poster or ads on the internet.

If it wasn’t for word of mouth, this might have been something I picked up months from now on Red Box but that is a big if.

I went out of my way to see Upgrade on the final day of a local Alamo Drafthouse which was closing to move to a better location. It seemed like the sort of old school brutal 80s movie to watch in a theater like that.

An indie film, only a few stars, and a robot. Let’s do this.

Romance
Is that a generic romance from an 80’s film as well? Oh they are going all in!

Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) is a simple man, in an overly complicated and modern world. Cars are self driving now almost exclusively. Technology is everywhere. And Grey likes to restore old classic cars to their former glory. He likes to drive them too, his hands behind the wheel, not just a passenger. His wife (Melanie Vallejo) really brings in all of the money to their house.

Grey has just finished up a new car restore and is bringing it to his secret client relatively far away, Eron (Harrison Gilbertson). Eron is a secluded tech brilliant billionaire. People love his work. Grey finds out that Eron is working on a new chip that can basically do anything. It is strong enough to be a second brain.

And on the way home? The self driving car for our couple goes wild, takes them to a weird part of town, and crashes. There, Eron gets shot in the spine, paralyzing himself from the neck down.

Fuck. This ruins his livliehood. This brings him depression. This makes everything shit. Sure, they can afford good technologies for the house to help him still feel like he has control, and technology allows him to go anywhere, but that isn’t what he wants. And sure enough, here comes Eron later, offering to put a chip in his body, telling him it will restore his body so that he can move, walk, run, everything.

And then? Then he can get revenge.

Also starring Betty Gabriel and Benedict Hardie.

Face
No cool robot arms. Just a single chip in the neck! See it?

Early on in Upgrade, after we get to have the accident and the plot start to unfold, like most people, you will probably assume where the story is going to go and guess some of the conclusions. And to be honest, you won’t be entirely wrong.

Initially it turned me off in the movie, because I figured I understood where it was going, how it would end, and all of that. But the obvious is thankfully only part of the whole story and a whole lot more takes place than I expected. The ending really helps drive this film home.

Sure, before that, we basically have an action movie where a character gets to be much stronger and faster than expected, so we get to see those shocked faces, awkward movement, very choreographed (intentionally) looking fight scenes where one guy just demolishes his opposition. And it works and it is entertaining.

The film itself looks very dark, as it was going for a future techno underworld feel, while still maintaining aspects of an 80 movie. It is gritty, before gritty became a recent trend type thing.

Overall Upgrade isn’t going to change cinema, science fiction, or action movies. It is very entertaining and relatively short to recent movies, so it will be a quick way to spend less than two hours without being disappointed.

3 out of 4.