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Eternals

Marvel's Eternals

Here we stand, all on an angle, all pretending to look at
something. It's all ever so compelling.

dir: Chloé Zhao

2021

Strange days have found us…

Marvel is so confident in its marketing abilities that the masses will consume anything that says ‘Marvel’ on it, that they’re making movies out of the unloved, unwanted, unsuccessful parts of their back catalogue deliberately now. No-one’s been able to make the Eternals work as an ongoing series, and it’s hard to imagine that anyone was really clamoring for them to appear in cinematic form.

Ironically, this feels the least like a Marvel flick, despite being extruded ultimately into such a familiar final form.

We know nothing of these beings, of their characters beforehand, but we’ll be too familiar with them when two and a half hours have elapsed. When some of them ‘die’, we might feel nothing, not even mild surprise.

The ‘trick’ earlier Marvel flicks pulled was having a character, oh, let’s say one played by a very tall blonde Australian, which is a character known of outside of comic books but also within comic books, being Thor, a hammer wielding jerk with a murderous trickster for a brother, being Loki.

The conceit is that, sure, on this Earth we know of the Norse myth of the very strong, very dumb son of Odin who wields a hammer called Mjolnir and gets drunk a lot, but in the ‘reality’ of these movies, the myth springs from the reality, which is that there’s actually a guy called Thor, and he has a hammer, and lives in another realm called Asgard, and they’re so advanced they’re kinda like gods?

Well, if you can swallow that claptrap, let me introduce you to a bunch of other superbeings who also sounds familiarish because their names appear in a bunch of disparate Earth mythologies.

I can’t bring myself to even type their names, because it feels so generic. The important thing to say is that, there’s ten of them, and they came to Earth on a spaceship thousands of years ago, and they’ve protected humans from these monstrous creatures called Deviants. Whenever these creatures appeared, the Eternals destroyed them using their powers, and then they’d sit around for ages waiting for the next attack.

In between attacks, human civilisations generally flourished, populations grew, but the Eternals weren’t getting involved any of the other times when bad stuff happened, nor were they meant to protect humans from their own stupidity.

These Eternals mostly have analogs in old stories, because, we’re meant to think, they would occasionally get bored and tell people, or want to speak to someone’s manager, and bellow “do you know who I am and what I’ve done for your wretched species?”

Rating:

Don't Look Up

Don't Look Up

It doesn't matter whether you look up or not if you tell yourself
it's either not happening or how can I make money from this?

dir: Adam McKay

2021

Don’t Look Up. It’s not satire; it’s a documentary.

It’s not a documentary of what’s happened in the past or what brought us as a species to this point: It’s a document of why humanity’s narcissism, greed, laziness, stupidity, and willingness to swallow lies, no matter how transparently false, will not only doom our own species, but many others.

People, told the truth about what changes climate change will bring upon the planet, either collectively shrug their shoulders and keep doing what they’re doing, or actively try to find ways to make things worse. Of course, this being an American film, it’s about the general stupidity and venality of American society, that would rather jerk off to the latest celebrity gossip than spend a second thinking about reality, but let’s not pretend any other countries, including our own with its coal-hugging prime ministers, are any less fucking dumb, venal and corrupt.

Worst of all, which could be one of the reasons why the reviews have been so savage, is the media landscape that aids and abets this mentality of outrage algorithms and clickbait making stories about Real Housewives shenanigans and pop singer breakups resonating far more deeply with people than anything to do with global catastrophic climate change. In the form of two tv hosts played by Tyler Perry and an almost terrifyingly unrecognisable Cate Blanchett, the media is depicted as so uninterested in any truth, and so focused on maintaining a pleasant and comfortable illusion that ALL IS WELL, JUST KEEP CONSUMING is the only message they have to give us, all of the time.

Yes, the film is about a comet hurtling towards the earth, initially with 6 months notice before it arrives, as a metaphor for climate change. But it’s really about this fucked up society that will either ignore the problem until it’s too late, try to profit from it, or deliberately sabotage mitigations because, hey, humans have a death wish. The people who discover the comet, two astronomers, (Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio) tell this fact to anyone who’ll listen. They can confirm that it’s happening, that it’s coming. No-one really believes them, but a few people are uneasy about it. Bit concerned.

They tell their sorry tale to advisers to the president (Meryl Streep, playing the worst fusion of Hillary Clinton and the former orange fucker that you’re ever likely to see), and then to the president herself, who doesn’t believe them, who disputes the very idea of statistics, statistical results or empirical evidence, and shushes them, being more concerned with upcoming elections and her ex-pornstar boyfriend that she wants to install on the Supreme Court, and they make the concerted decision to pretend it’s not happening at all.

Rating:

The Matrix Resurrections

Resurrections

Only ageless people would think they're not too old for this shit

dir: Lana Wachowski

2021

Well. I have seen The Matrix Resurrections. I imagine I will be one of the lucky few.

I have the feeling not a lot of people are either going to watch this or like it, and the ones that do like it won’t be believed, and the ones that hate it will really, really hate it.

What I’m going to do now is not something I usually do in reviews, seeing as it’s going to be pretty annoying and not very illuminating without context. But I’m going to type out a sequence of dialogue verbatim as it was in the movie.

All the context I’m going to give you is this: Keanu Reeves, as Neo / Thomas Anderson, is alive, and works for the biggest gaming company in the world. He has a boss, and it’s the boss talking to Keanu / Neo:
“I’m sure you can understand why our beloved parent company Warner Brothers has decided to make a sequel to the trilogy.”
- “What?” (that’s Keanu saying “what”)
“They inform me they’re going to do it with or without us.”
- “I thought they couldn’t do that.”
“Oh, they can, and they will, and they made it clear they’ll kill our contract if we don’t cooperate.”

Okay. So. The people, who have made this film, including the director Lana Wachowski, didn’t want to make this film. If you include lines of dialogue in a film, and mention Warner Brothers specifically, being the company that Lana is saying she was pressured into making this film by, what possible incentive is there to make a decent flick?

I have no idea just how resentful Lana might be, but she’s certainly delivered on her contractual obligation, as have apparently Keanu and Carrie-Anne Moss.

How are their characters alive, you may ask, since we watched both of them die for the good of all humanity at the end of the dismal Revolutions? Well, the pesky machines, the AIs that dominate the Earth in the future and who enslaved humanity, literally within the context of the movie resurrect both of them, put them back in pods like they were in the beginning, and use Neo to keep enslaving humanity.

In the Matrix, as in, the virtual reality within the context of the films where most of humanity live and think is their actual real lives playing out, the machines resurrected Neo in order to have him keep enslaving humanity with entertainment.

That entertainment, within the Matrix, is the Matrix films. So the people enslaved by the Matrix are the ones who are entertained by the Matrix films / games.

So that would mean… we’re the ones enslaved by the machines? Or is it the Wachowskis, who feel they're enslaved by Warner Brothers?

Rating:

Dune Part 1

Dune

All these people worried about what spices are going to
be served at dinner

dir: Denis Villeneuve

2021

I was a bit worried when I heard that Denis Villenueve was tackling Dune, but I shouldn’t have worried. He’s probably one of the consistently best directors making big budget movies around. Look at this list of movies: Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 and now Dune, all solid movies.

Maybe I was a bit more worried about Timothée Chalamet as the lead, because, look at him, he’s Timothée Chalamet, for fuck’s sake. He’s no Kyle McLachlan, that’s for sure.

But he does okay. If ever a role called for a moody emo kid in a trenchcoat to look moody and such, well, Chalamet is your boy.

The scale is BIG, everything is really BIG. Production values, through the roof! There’s nothing cheap about this production, no siree.

I am one of the few people who actually has fond memories of the ‘original’ version of this, directed by David Lynch, that came in 1984. I liked it, but I was twelve. That’s not an excuse, it’s just that at 12 I liked a bunch of things that maybe weren’t great. I hadn’t discovered women yet and wouldn’t do so for many more years, so maybe I didn’t have a lot of life experience as to what stuff was great and what stuff sucked back then.

I saw it at the movies, and I saw it a stack more times on a VHS copy in the following years. I know that long arse flick backwards. Kyle McLachlan played Paul Atriedes, Francesca Annis played his mum, and a whole bunch of other legends played various characters. Sir Fucking Patrick Stewart was in it! Dean Stockwell! Sean Young? Jurgen Prochnow? Virginia Madsen? And there were giant worms, and people could kill people with just using their voices. And it had an amazing look to it, both retro and ultra futuristic.

I’m not here to defend that film, just to say while it might have been a bomb, no film David Lynch has ever made has ever been completely worthless (with the possible exception of Fire Walk With Me). And I read the book too, but the film always mattered more to me than the book did.

Fidelity to the book also never really concerned me that much. This flick does everything it can to make this all seem serious and important. There’s no fucking around here: everything is deadly serious. The state of, um, the universe is at stake.

Rating:

Lapsis

Lapsis

The Cube is good, the Cube is great.
We surrender our will, as of this date.

dir: Noah Hutton

2020

So…what is Lapsis really about?

I could tell you, but then you wouldn’t spend the 100 or so minutes listening to me that you could otherwise spend watching this strange, low-budget film.

This is exactly the kind of film people say they wish science fiction films were like: For those kinds of people who are bored of sci-fi becoming synonymous with explosions and supeheroics and world ending disasters, this is the exact kind of flick they CLAIM more should be made of.

And then within a few minutes of starting it, if they even hear of it, they’d switch it off and put on another fucking Marvel film. And I include Martin Scorsese in this. Well known for lamenting the lack of art and heart in the Marvel movie making production line, upon popping this on in his state of the art VCR, he’d pop it out again and immediately put on Captain America: Civil War muttering “I just love watching how Winter Soldier fucks shit up old school”.

Lapsis is low-key and fairly quiet, and it takes a long time to get to where it’s going. It seems like it’s a satire about Big Tech and such, but it’s really about the gig economy, and the ways in which the corporate world conspires to keep wages down and keep work insecure and perilous, and keeps workers isolated for its own benefit entirely.

The tech hardly matters. The job hardly matters, wait, no, the job really matters, but when I tell you what the job is that people are doing, it’s going to sound baffling.

This is set in the present world, except there has been one advance, and one other thing that’s gone wrong in the world. Regular, boring computers have been replaced with quantum computers. What do the new computers do that’s different? I have no idea. It’s not particularly obvious. There’s no difference except that when someone says “but the timetable said it’s okay to double park today”, and the parking ticket cop says “nuh uh, you should have used a quantum computer to see the timetable, which would have shown you it’s not okay. Quantum computer, quantum timetable.”

This is not a flick to watch even theoretically to find out anything about quantum computing, which is apparently a real thing in this, the apparently real world. What it means in the context of this film is, that a company, pretending to be many companies, but really it’s a monopoly, puts these metal cubes in forests, and engages trackers to drag a cable from one cube to another cube and attach it thereon.

What does the metal cube do? No idea. What courses through the cables? No idea. Why are they dragging cables through forests anyway and attaching them to cubes? We never find out.

It’s just something that people do, and it’s sought-after work. You have to have a medallion in order to get on the scheme. There are these devices like older phones which confirm your identity, tell you when to walk, tell you when to rest, and chastise you if you vary from the path.

All the while when you’re trying to trudge through the fucking forests and gulleys and such, an automated creepy crawly machine is also following behind you. If it gets to the place where you’re meant to be going before you, whatever moneys you were promised evaporate. If you tamper with the machine, security goons swoop in and hog-tie you, dragging you out of the forest.

There are points systems, hierarchies, reasons to obey and plenty of disincentives not to stray. If you’re injured on the job, they don’t care, and they don’t help you.

Rating:

Fried Barry

Fried Barry

He's got the whole world, in his hands

dir: Ryan Kruger

2020

Fried Barry. It’s fucking bonkers. And it’s South African!

I cannot recommend this enough, in that I cannot recommend this at all. It is an utterly bonkers endeavor in el cheapo gonzo filmmaking that is reminiscent of both Repo Man and countless video clips that I used to watch on Rage back in the day – no budget anarchic wonders that had energy and movement and little else.

It even has a weird intro where a serious looking government man is warning us that the content is going to be pretty racy and enjoyable in this ultra 18 Plus rated flick. He looks all official and serious, and like he’s just about to drop a defence of apartheid on us, but it looks so officially official. I think it’s a parody of warnings that used to be in front of flicks in the 1980s, but since I’m not from around there, these aren’t memories, they’re guesses.

Fried Barry is not only about a heroin addict called Barry (Gary Green) – it is about an addict who gets abducted by aliens, probed in all sorts of horrible ways, and then comes back to Cape Town even less well-adjusted and socially able than before. Whatever it is that comes back, it’s not really Barry – it just looks like Barry.

And what does Barry look like? Well. He looks like a demented, emaciated drug addict, with a bug-eyed stare, teeth that never have seen better days, a lot of acid wash denim. And now he mostly can’t even talk anymore.

People throw drugs at him now. Everyone wants to share their drugs with him. Women, always inexplicable in their choices in movies, all now must have sex with him. A woman drags him home from a club, projects hardcore pornography onto the walls of her apartment, has her way with him then promptly tells Alien Barry to fuck off.

Wherein another woman feels compelled to engage physically with him as well, but this time at least she can be assumed to be doing it for money. Joke’s on her, though, if this bonkers film has any message, it’s that you shouldn’t have unprotected sex, ever.

How bad an idea is it with Barry? Within seconds, the working girl pretending to writhe around in ecstasy is undergoing childbirth, and has a newborn Barry to remember him by?

Huh? Wuh?

Alien Barry’s journey is not really that much of a journey, in that he’s not really trying to get anywhere. He’s often standing in place as drugs are thrust at him, violence is perpetrated upon him, or everyone tries to have sex with him, but we don’t really get a sense that the alien at the controls has a mission or an intention, really, beyond seeing what life is like for a degenerate in Cape Town.

Turns out, at least from Barry’s perspective, it can be a lot of fun, if you survive it.

Rating:

Reminiscence

Reminiscence

If only there was enough booze on the planet to forget this
fucking monstrosity

dir: Lisa Joy

2021

This flick is so terrible, releasing it during this current stage (of the endless stages) of the pandemic seems even more cruel. Weren’t we suffering in lockdown enough?

Reminiscence is terrible in ways that I thought science fiction flicks had stopped being around 15 years ago. It uses imagined technology to represent people’s memories, and sets the story some time in the future where climate change has swamped coastal cities, and the higher temperatures mean people sleep during the day and mostly work at night.

But then it has people wearing suits, natty hats and ties to make it look like the 1950s, and has people walking around during the day like it’s no big deal. And while, where this is mostly set in a Miami made to look like Venice, with canals and boats and such, other times to show the dreadful impact of anthropogenic climate change, they show streets that are just a bit wet, and old fossil fuel based cars driving around like… nothing has happened.

The protagonist is always wearing a long coat and tie, loosened, around his neck in presumably 50 degree temperatures. A woman he becomes obsessed with sings jazz songs in jazz clubs, like there are jazz clubs in the 2050s, probably thanks to the work Ryan Gosling did in La La Land saving the obscure art form from oblivion.

Like, jazz clubs, straight out of the past, still exist, in the future. I was surprised not to see chimney sweeps, shoeshine boys, newsagents or internet cafes.

It’s a very traditional noir / detective kind of story with a few sci fi elements, which is stuff that can work well even in these mishmashed misbegotten kinds of lazy stories. The first Sin City flick was the absolute embodiment of all of these noir clichés, and worked in ways this flick never comes close to.

The femme fatale literally wears red when she first walks into Nick’s office. Nick is played by Hugh Jackman, who in other flicks has given credible performances with believable motivations and personality. None of that is present here, at all. There’s a scene at the three quarter mark where something really “bad” happens, where he tries to emote a lot of emotion and I found myself laughing uncontrollably.

The femme fatale is played by Rebecca Ferguson, who would be great if she was playing a poorly programmed android, but she isn’t, she’s meant to be playing a human woman. I joke about this because the writer director of this monstrosity has worked on the recent tv series Westworld, which I have watched and which is also way better than anything in these wasted two hours.

Rating:

Oxygene

Oxygen

Despite all her rage she's still just a rat in a cage

dir: Alexandre Aja

2021

How strange. This flick pretty much occurs in one location, with one actor. There are images of other people, and a couple of voices, but really we, like she, are trapped in place.

I guess we’re all trapped in place when we’re in a cinema (or at least what I remember about cinemas from 100 years ago, 1 covid year = 100 calendar years), but for this I was trapped on my couch as the captive audience for this Netflix Exclusive!

And I found it pretty compelling. I mean, I do get a little claustrophobic watching things like this (another great example is the Ryan Reynold’s flick Buried, that’s kinda and kinda completely not similar), but I think you’re supposed to, just like the character. This starts with the simple premise that these kinds of flicks often start with: person wakes up in a box that it appears they can’t escape from, and oxygen is running out.

The person here (Melanie Laurent) is French, so presumably everything that transpires is happening to a French person, including a disembodied voice that talks to her in the flat emotionless tones of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey (Mathieu Amalric) which also speaks French.

The inside of the box looks pretty high tech-ish, so we can assume that the future is possibly French? Tres chic! The men will all be boorish sexist pigs and the women classy and sexually confident?

Um, we can do better.

The additional problem the lady here has upon waking is that she is wrapped up in a whole bunch of stuff, with wrappings, and masks and cannulas and straps and all sorts of things, but also doesn’t remember who she is, or why she might be in such a contraption. The disembodied voice, let’s call it Milo, for whatever reason, answers some questions put to it, but not others. There are limits to what information it can access or tell the occupant of the box / pod / super high tech coffin.

It can’t tell her her name. It can’t tell her why she’s there, it also can’t release her from the box. But what it can do is tell her that the oxygen supply to the sealed pod is depleting rapidly, and she coincidentally only has about as much time to escape as the film seems to have remaining in its running time.

Convenient, that.

The woman in the box might not know who she is or why she’s there (has she angered some kind of high tech serial killer / kidnapper? Was she dying and was she put in the box to keep her alive? Is this some kind of state-sanctioned punishment for her crimes against humanity?), but she has that believably human drive to survive. She pieces together whatever she can find out, and however far she can reach within the pod in order to try absolutely everything in order to either escape or survive.

Rating:

Stowaway

Stowaway

One of us ain't leaving this room, and it won't be me!

dir: Joe Penna

2021

Stowaway is not really the kind of thing you expect to watch on the telly, at the movies or on a streaming service. There are no explosions, people speak calmly to each other. No-one gets shot or stabbed with a lightsaber. No aliens chomp off anyone’s faces.

It’s science-fiction, I guess, but it tries to be depicting space travel, or a mission to Mars, with technology we’re used to seeing from “real” NASA footage, or the International Space Station. Believable science of today, rather than magic science of the future.

I’m no rocket scientist, so I have no idea how accurate any of it is. Three people, three astronauts, set out on their mission, 2 years round trip to Mars, with the eventual goal of having a permanent manned base on Mars.

The Commander (Toni Collette) is Australian, for no other reason other than that they thought it would be okay. A biologist (Daniel Dae Kim) who’s going to be experimenting with algae, and a doctor (Anna Kendrick). They all get along fairly well. They’re going to be together for two years, so you would want them to be chill with each other.

Instead of always talking to NASA or to Houston, with their problems, they talk to Hyperion. In one of the grand gestures of complying with the current milieu, it’s possible it’s a corporation, like SpaceX and Virgin Blue and whatever Jeff Bezo’s space company is called.

You know, those companies billionaires start in order to thrust their proprietary phallus-like rockets into the stratosphere, just to find somewhere new to fuck up.

These astronauts aren’t like that. They’re calm scientists, or, in one case, a doctor, and they’re all about doing what needs to be done and following procedures and listening to every order given by Hyperion back home and following it.

I don’t think it’s meant to indicate compliance or obedience on their part: not too dissimilar to the relationship between the astronauts in space in Apollo 13, and the NASA nerds back on Earth at Houston in mission control, there are too many variables for three people to cover, no matter how adept.

That’s what you need the legions of nerds to figure out for you.

Thing is, though, this isn’t a situation where the ingenuity of scientists or the collective action of oodles of people will change the result. This isn’t a story about the triumph of American courage or American values or Tom Fucking Hanks.

This is a story where Science can’t magic up a solution to an impossible problem, and when all avenues are exhausted, someone might have to be sacrificed for The Greater Good (the greater good).

Sorry, couldn’t resist a reference to Hot Fuzz, though I did resist typing “crusty jugglers”.

Rating:

The Tomorrow War

The Tomorrow War

This is such a great poster. It screams "I am top billed: fuck all these
other losers and look directly at my crotch!"

dir: Chris McKay

2021

Flicks can be wholly derivative and still work. The Tomorrow War is constructed entirely from bits of dozens of older movies, and still works. I have zero problems with that. I feel so defeated by life right now that, honestly, if a film can have flashing lights in it and the dialogue mostly matches the moving lips of the actors, I’m pretty much convinced it’s masterpiece theatre.

I don’t particularly love seeing Chris Pratt as a serious dad type character wanting to desperately sacrifice himself in order to save the world, because he’s far better suited to goofy nutty characters, but he is getting old, and he is married to a child of Schwarzenegger, so maybe he hopes he’s the next Arnie? This is certainly not a comical romp, so there’s that against it, first up.

There’s an alien enemy that threatens to kill everyone on the planet, but it’s a threat that won’t happen for 30 years or so. Every second science fiction flick has ruthless aliens wanting to kill us just for existing. Just yesterday I saw a different flick where aliens want to kill all people because we’re such noisy buggers. And these creatures are somehow even nastier, and they can see AND hear, so we’re doubly fucked.

They are pretty horrible looking, and for the longest time I didn’t know what characters were talking about when they were talking about this alien enemy: they call them “white spikes”, but what I thought I was hearing was “The White Stripes”.

And I thought “hey, that’s a bit unkind. Maybe not all of their albums were as great as their good ones, but they never hurt anyone (except each other)”.

So now you know, I’ve spoiled it horribly: at some time in the future a billion clones of Meg and Jack White appear on the planet savagely killing humanity with the riffs from The Hardest Button to Button.

The greatest implausibility occurs right at the start of the movie. A house full of people, somewhere in the States, is having some kind of party, I think Christmas maybe. At this party, this party full of Americans, I mean American Americans, they have a game of soccer on the big screen television.

During the soccer match, a portal opens, and armed people from the future walk through.

The implausibility I’m talking about isn’t people coming through a portal from the future. The fundamental implausibility is the concept that a house full of Americans would be watching a soccer game, even if it’s the World Cup, even in fictional entertainment.

Rating:

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