Sometimes it’s a dilemma: what DVD should you rent or what movie should you stream or order-on-demand? Do you want a date flick, an action caper, or a goofy comedy? Weekly Surge is here to help with our reviews of recent at-home movie releases, which we’ve watched from the comfort of that favorite recliner.
Oh, the possibilities and the expectations for this sci-fi thriller. For starters, Wally Pfister makes his directorial debut. Pfister was the longtime cinematographer for Christopher Nolan, and partially responsible for the spectacle of films including “Inception,” “The Prestige” and “The Dark Knight” franchise. The cast is another reason to get excited – Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy and Kate Mara – a tiered collective of talent. The story seemed strong – a scientist’s consciousness is uploaded into an artificial intelligence he helped design, only for the system to go out of control. OK, you got us…hit play. But somewhere along the way, something does go terribly wrong. Nothing gets explained very well. The actors recite lines like they’re at a dry table read. There are fiber optic wires taking over the world. It never rises above an incredible looking, convoluted B-movie – pass.
“That Awkward Moment”
Let’s talk about the mainstream romantic-comedy prototypes for leading men, shall we? This film has all three. The first is the player – the guy who sleeps with so many women that he has a pickup/dump system for women, plus he has some redeeming quality. Zac Efron plays the player here. The second prototype is the eternal romantic/wounded lover – this is the nice guy who needs to toughen up yet retain his soft center over the course of hardships. The wounded lover here is Michael B. Jordan. Then you have your goofy sidekick – self-explanatory, but this guy can actually steal the movie if given the right storyline. Miles Teller is the goof here. Predictable is the game this film plays, and there’s never much deviation from its course. They just try to surprise you occasionally with a laugh along the way. There aren’t many awkward moments, but there are a few funny ones. These three actors are trying to make a name for themselves, but as prototypes they make this rom-com barely worth a watch.
This is the New York translation of 2008’s French thriller “Rivals.” But here’s where it gets confusing. This ’70s period piece is directed by French director Guillaume Canet, and features French starlet Marion Cotillard and British actor Clive Owen. But there are plenty of New Yorkers thrown in – Billy Crudup, Zoe Saldana and James Caan. They even mix in a little Mila Kunis for good measure. Owen and Crudup play unlikely brothers – Owen a gangster, Crudup a cop. You might think this whole thing is a mess, and there are times when the New York pace is eschewed for a French languidness. But overall the performances push this family drama/crime thriller forward, and the killer soundtrack doesn’t hurt. Despite Owen’s borrowed New York accent and mannerisms, he really steals most of the scenes he’s in. The script comes off a bit tidy at times, but the ’70s tone makes it worth a watch.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge