Pretty good mix of releases this week. I’ll start with the biggest, Pacific Rim Uprising. I enjoyed the first film a lot, but it didn’t do much at the box office, in the US at least. This sequel got rid of most of the cast minus a few supporting roles (Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, etc.). They bring in John Boyega and Scott Eastwood for Uprising. Boyega plays the son of Idris Elba who was in the first film and never once mentions having a son. This sequel barely answers where Boyega’s character comes from. Besides the two new leads, they also go with a diverse set of younger characters. They are all itching for a fight. There’s the cold-hearted Russian. The Asian. The Middle Eastern/Indian looking one. The new lead is an orphan girl who’s great with technology! Wasn’t that the exact character opposite Mark Wahlberg in the last Transformers flick? I believe it was. Another issue is you will see almost everything coming a mile away. There is a bad guy and the film wants you to believe it’s one person but it’s clearly not. You know the new girl who built her own robot will help save the day. You know Boyega and Scott Eastwood will butt heads. You know the Russian girl won’t like the new girl. You know everything well before it happens. It’s geared towards a much younger crowd who likes seeing robots giving the finger to monsters because you know, the finger is still so rebellious! I was hoping to like this because I liked the first, but unfortunately this is a major step backwards. The film does look fantastic in perfect HD though. Oh well.
Next is Unsane from director Steven Soderbergh. I really wish Steven Soderbergh shot Unsane like a regular movie because I would have loved it. It had potential to be this year’s Get Out, but I hated the style and look of the film. It was shot with iPhones and I give Soderbergh much props for trying new things, but the film was hurt by it to me. The story and performances in the movie are great. You never know if Claire Foy’s character is nuts or has a stalker. There is just enough to keep you guessing and on your toes. Like Get Out, it users a horror/thriller to bring forth issues. This film is about stalkers and the mental health/insurance problems. Is Foy crazy or is the facility scamming insurance companies? With today’s technology, how easy is it for a stalker to follow someone and get a new identity? It makes you question things and guessing until the end. Unfortunately I thought the movie looked terrible. Soderbergh is known for using color filters and I expected that. But add in the fact it was shot on iPhones and he added filters and other post production stylization and I just didn’t like it. The director has always been towards the front of the line in using new technology, I just wish this was shot in a regular way. Others think differently, but everyone knows what they like. Unsane is worth seeing because of the story and the performances. And even though I didn’t love the look, if you are a film nerd, it’s worth seeing so you have your own opinion on its style/look. I say give it a shot.
Third is The Best of Agatha Christie: Volumes 3 & 4. I think David Suchet makes the best Poirot and these collections have a few films with him as the famous sleuth. These have 7 total mysteries with some surprising big names. Jane Seymour, Richard Armitage, Gugu Mbatha-Raw appear in the Miss Marple story Ordeal by Innocence. Suchet appears in The Hollow and The Mysterious Affair at Styles. I’ve enjoyed these Christie collections having seen Volumes 1 & 2 previously. Christie’s work keeps you guessing, the films have style and fantastic production value. If you are a fan of Christie adaptations, I highly recommend these.
Next is Furious. This is a Russian film that looks like an Asian fantasy/military drama. I wasn’t familiar with the story about a group of Russians that tried to fight off Batu Khan and his Mongol warriors. The Russian leader has sleep issues and when he wakes up thinks he’s a younger version of himself and doesn’t remember anything. It really wants to be 300 and uses CGI in similar ways, but I didn’t really like this. The story is fine, I just didn’t like the look. There are some decent fight sequences and action, I just don’t like overly done CGI worlds/backdrops. If you like the over the top Asian fantasy films of late you might like this. I liked the story more than the film itself unfortunately.
Keep the Change is out this week. I’ll give the movie credit for having characters that we don’t usually see in films, socially awkward and somewhat mentally challenged. Unfortunately I just couldn’t root for David, an aspiring filmmaker. He’s his own worst enemy. He’s negative to everyone. He treats Sarah badly throughout most of the film. There’s nothing about him I enjoyed. There’s a scene where he goes on a date with a woman he meets online and it’s painful to watch. I wanted to like this because these are characters we normally don’t see, but he’s too much. Even the awesome Jessica Walter can’t save it for me.
Second to last we have In Syria. This is a drama showing a family and neighbors trying to survive life in Syria. The lead actress is fantastic as you see how people survive snipers, authority figures, bombings and more. It’s a short film (under 90 minutes) and it throws you right in the action. You don’t know much about these people, but you are put right in their situation, see what their daily lives are like. How do you live life with violence around you? Not every day has running water yet you see kids still trying to use the internet and live normally. You see a mother with her child and her husband trying to escape. You see multiple generations living together to survive. It’s a well made and well acted film that really gives you an idea of what it’s like there. I really enjoyed it.
Finally we have Zen Dog. This doesn’t come out until later this week on the 22nd on a Special Edition Blu-ray. Kyle Gallner runs a struggling virtual reality startup that promises to transport users to exotic locations from the comfort of their homes. He has OCD and witness a co-worker at a previous job kill himself. A cousin shows up at his doorstep and Gallner’s character starts taking a Chinese drink that gives him lucid dreams. The film is filled with visuals and visions of Gallner travelling in an old car, meeting a woman, and having little adventures. It’s supposed to signify his lack of adventure in his real life or at least that’s how I see it. The film is fine for one watch, but I can’t see myself watching it again. Gallner is good, but I don’t know if the movie really held my attention throughout. It wants to show how we get trapped in a daily routine, but it didn’t do much for me. If you like Gallner you should like it though.