Monthly Archives: March 2015

Netfix: Escape from Tomorrow

Escape_From_Tomorrow_poster

I wish the movie was as good as this poster, tell you hwat.

When news broke of this cinematic venture, it was hard not to be curious – a whole film secretly shot in Disneyland? A sci-fi horror film? This had my creepypasta meeter just spinning. After much controversy, this little number finally made it’s way onto Netflix. So how’d it fare? Hush now, synopsis first.

On the last day of the White family’s Disney vacation, Jim (Roy Abramsohn) is told that he’s been fired. Despite this news, he does his best to keep a happy face for his family. Little did he know that this day would get much, much weirder: what began as a wholesome family trip became a torrent of sex, lies and possessed animatronics. The White family’s facade comes tumbling down in a venture that is not only the end of innocence, but the dissolution of sanity.

This was a movie was really just a hot mess of ideas: sci-fi, infidelity, loss of innocence – it all sounds good on paper, especially with a background as wholesome as Disney World. Personally, I love this kind of stuff. And there’s a definite appeal of something that’s gone through this amount of red tape and altercation.

I think that what first put me off was how incredibly unlikeable the protagonist was. Granted there are two sides to every relationship (and the portrayal of the wife really wasn’t helping), but the way he was ogling the jailbait (and every other woman) to the point of neglecting his children really wasn’t making me care if this man lives or dies by whatever horrible means.

Though this does happen, which is pretty cool.

Though this does happen, which is pretty cool. More of this.

The ending was also, er, problematic. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it, but it left something to be desired. Or maybe the last bit just went over my head.

The Good
As mentioned, I love the idea of Disney world as a horror backdrop, especially because they didn’t take the zombie route. Not to mention the concept of false memories crossed with temptation – it’s perfect! The sci-fi tangent was without a doubt my favorite. Really, I kind of wish the movie was more like it’s inspiration.

The Bad
Though I was left with a lingering unease (good thing), that does not help the incoherent cluster that we’re left with. Maybe if they only stuck with the science fiction and developed that more, the story would flow a little easier. Or if they did a Pleasure Island route, that would be pretty cool too. But that’s just, like my opinion, or whatever.

The Impressive
Maybe I’m just whining too much. Escape from Tomorrow definitely sticks with you, and there’s a certain charm to the guerrilla aesthetic. In the end, it comes off as a moderately-budgeted student film, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If anything, I say it’s worth checking out.

Chappie

From my first glance at the trailer, I was skeptical.

Here we have an aggressive government entity, a gentle scientist, and a wacky gentile robot who is threatening national security – because robots can’t LEARN, they can’t be SENTIENT, what is this MADNESS!? IT’S TOO DIFFERENT – KILL IT, KILL IT DEAD. And then we learn everything we’ve heard before about nature vs. nurture and BOOM you’ve got yourself a remake of Short Circuit starring my favorite zef hoodlums, Die Antwoord, as well as Dev Patel trying to shake off The Last Airbender, and Hugh Jackman’s rage-inducing mullet.

Well gee, it’s a good thing that I don’t religiously follow trailers, or else I’d be incredibly disappointed pretty much all the time. And it turns out, I wasn’t totally right. Let’s first straighten out that synopsis:

That hair really is sin incarnate.

That hair really is sin incarnate. And his khaki shorts. Pure evil.

Due to a correlating rise of crime and police mortality rate in Johannesburg, the South African government has decided to invest in a weapons corporation called Tetravaal, fronted by CEO Michelle Bradley (yay Sigourney Weaver!).

Tetravaal’s key contribution to the police force are semi-AI “scouts,” developed by Deon Wilson (Patel). Wilson has aspirations of greater uses for technology, in his spare time developing an AI that can learn and create – you know, no big deal.

After some gangland shenanigans, Chappie (impressively played by Sharlto Copely) is born. Chappie must be taught as a child would, and thanks to his gangster parents, Yolandi and Ninja, he learns quickly the good and evils of the world, while establishing his own consciousness and existence.

Meanwhile, Wilson’s über-machismo co-worker Vincent Moore (Jackman) is becoming increasingly obsessed with getting his war machine off the ground, vexed by Wilson’s success.

MOOSE really just looks like a tiny Metal Gear Rex.

The MOOSE really just looks like a tiny Metal Gear Rex.

As mentioned, I was concerned that this was going to be another one of Blomkamp’s “big mean government” deals – and I wasn’t entirely wrong, but it didn’t rub me the wrong way like Elysium did – and even Neill Blomkamp admits he messed up with that oneChappie is really more akin to District 9: It begins with a documentary style, it’s set in Johannesburg, has Sharlto Copley as a vulnerable creature, and even ends in a slum. It’s like if you took District 9Short Circuit, and Die Antwoord and tossed everything into a blender.

Speaking of our duo, I think they did alright – I mean, it’s not the first time they’ve acted. And really, they were kind of what I expected, considering that Blomkamp made a point to use their personas as a springboard. Though I would have rather seen Yolandi a bit more of a badass: after Chappie arrives, she just seemed to either coddle or lay around, smoking and waiting. Huh. Maybe I should call my mom.

I do love her pink uzi though.

I do love her pink uzi though.

On the note of characterizations, I’m amazed that Moore wasn’t written as an American (or maybe he originally was?). Here we have a man who brandishes a handgun in an office while telling coworkers to join him at church, and builds a robot that is just dripping with excess – do you really need a claw that can tear a human body in half? Okay, maybe that doubles as a jaws of life – but the cluster bombs?

Maybe making him an American would seem too obvious – like if a Hispanic man would have been cast as the lead in Elysium. Okay, I’ll quit ragging on Elysium. On the other hand, I’m not that familiar with other countries’ conservative stereotypes, so maybe keeping Moore an Australian makes sense?

AUUUUGH I WANT ONE

AUUUUGH I WANT ONE

Even though Chappie felt a bit like a re-hashed District 9 at times, I think Sharlto Copley’s performance really brings some much-needed heart into this story. Granted, he was designed with curious eyes and ears to better recognize as some sort of relatable creature (Red Letter Media talks about this sort of thing in Plinkett’s fantastic Avatar review), but the physical and vocal performance really shines through.

UH OH SPOILERS

Though technobabble was kept to a minimum (though now I know anything can be accomplished with a suped-up Roomba and enough Redbull), I still find myself wanting to know more about the construct of consciousness as data. I mean, does it get saved like a save state in that moment, like all the memories? Like in Yolandi’s case, that was a while until she was booted up again. …How would her robot walk out of the Tetravaal plant anyway? Also, wasn’t that the plot to Transcendence? (I still haven’t seen it.)

And was it established as to whether or not Chappie feels pain? I figured he didn’t (because that would have to be learned somehow), but the sniveling theatre-goers aside me seemed to believe otherwise. And if consciousness is stored, is it like you’re dreaming? Can it get infected with malware? What happens if it gets deleted? How much memory does a person take up? Maybe that would make the better movie. Or maybe I should just watch Transcendence to make sure this wasn’t already answered, but I doubt it.

YOU CAN COME BACK NOW

On the whole, I really dug this movie. It was heavy when it needed to be, but still kept things playful. In retrospect, I think that Neill Blomkamp is better at writing characters (and general scenarios) than actual stories, because it did feel more pieced together and predictable than it should have, especially given the amount of material one could work with. A tad misguided, yes, but I think Copley’s gentle take on an overused trope is worth the watch.

Final Grade: B

WYSHW: Nightcrawler

Watchin' you weave then breathe your storylines.

Watchin’ you breathe your storylines.

Oh hey, it’s been a while since I’ve written one of these. But, at least this time has nothing to do with untimely tragic deaths. Anywhoo, recently in some sort of stupor, I stumbled on this little beaut on Amazon and thought, “Oh yeah, I really wanted to see this.” I was not disappointed.

Not unlike Locke and Tom Hardy, if you can’t stand the sight of Jake Gyllenhaal you’re gonna have a bad time.

Nightcrawler follows the wacky misadventures of Louis Bloom, an obsessive, quick-talking thief who stumbles upon the exciting career of nightcrawling (or stringing): prowling the streets to record crimes, profiting by selling the footage to local news stations.

Bloom takes an extraordinary liking to this newfound activity, and aims to get this footage by any means necessary.

"Aw shit, ketchup on the carpet."

“Aw shit, dropped my fries.”

Frankly, Gyllenhaal carries this movie – he is the movie. Nightcrawler serves as a character study of a single-minded individual and his unsettling determination. Yet, as boring as this sounds, this movie gets you hooked. Gyllenhaal’s sheer intensity is absolutely electrifying (I’m kind of surprised he didn’t at least get nominated, but yeh know…), and in combination with the score (as distracting as it was at times) and cinematography, this film creates an incredibly haunting atmosphere.

Speaking of haunting, I’m not going to spoil the ending, but there’s something absolutely chilling about Bloom’s resolution. In essence, Nightcrawler is in many ways like American Psycho sans memeability…and the psychosis, sort of – it’s fairly subjective.

At least, having worked in a standard corporate environment for over a year, it was terrifying to think of how someone like Lou Bloom is the ideal boss. At least when considering his passion and forward-thinking attitude (considering extortion, blackmail and obstruction are typically frowned upon).

Even if you’re not the biggest Gyllenhaal fan, I still say Nightcrawler is worth a go. For the next What You Should Have Watched, let’s get animated.