The Adam Project
Folks, it would appear that there is a director out there who has captured my interest with his titles lately, and that is Shawn Levy. Up until now, Levy has been a name with a familiar ring to it for me, but not someone whose film library I'd be able to list very easily. For those who might fall under the same category, his directorial credits include 'Free Guy', eight episodes of 'Stranger Things', 'Date Night', and a few other "lesser" titles. Like a fine wine, however, this guy seems to improve with age.
Although I feel like this could have been good for a big-screen experience, it (along with several other Netflix originals lately) finds itself entertaining us perfectly fine in the comfort of our own homes. It's getting very cool to see streaming service originals sort of "upgraded" from what they once were, and this one is no exception. I mean, this thing opens up with an incredible parallel to 'Guardians of the Galaxy', as our lead, Adam Reed (Ryan Reynolds), steels a time jet and escapes his chasers through a wormhole, taking him back from 2050 to 2022.
Here, he meets his 12-year-old self (Walker Scobell), whose father (Mark Ruffalo) has recently been killed in a car accident, and mother (Jennifer Garner) has been dealing with it since. Part of her dealing is Adam getting suspended from school, and being somewhat distant from her. As a result, a good chunk of this movie addresses the idea of going back to give your younger self some life advice - something I think we'd all love to be able to do. But the cool thing is that things work the other way around, too, suggesting that we were never once "just dumb kids".
Anyway, back to the plot, older Adam has accidentally crash-landed in 2022 due to a struggle during his escape. His aim, however, was to get to 2018, where he has learned that his wife, Laura (Zoe Saldaña) may have travelled back to and gotten herself trapped. All the while, he's being chased by the leader of a 2050's dystopian future, Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener) and her badass lieutenant, Christos (Alex Mallari Jr.). Maya, basically being the self-proclaimed mother of time travel (unofficially). There's a twist here and a turn there, and soon it becomes less about the rescue mission and more about doing what's right.
Now, can we just take a second to talk about Walker Scobell? This his his screen debut at 13 years old, and he Ryan Reynolds' the hell out of his role here. I swear, they found the perfect kid to play him, and that much is evident the second we're introduced. I've said this in the past (and on my past site) about young, rising stars (including Chloe Grace Moretz after 'Kick-Ass', Saoirse Ronan after 'The Lovely Bones') but this is a kid to keep an eye on. Let's face it, being a good match for a young Ryan Reynolds would probably be a good start if you're just starting your acting career.
As for the rest of the film, it does appear that I'm a bit of an odd man out when it comes to how much I enjoyed this. But what can I say? It just struck a chord with me. And I'm not necessarily bias towards Ryan Reynolds, as you might see in my review for 'The Voices'. I also wasn't too fond of 2005's 'Amityville Horror'. As a person, he seems pretty awesome though, and I'd like to have a beer or two with the guy. I don't know if it's the idea of talking to your younger self, the wonderful casting or the fact that I experienced a good range of emotions with it, but I loved it!
Don't Look Up
Once again, we have a film that isn't doing so wonderfully on the critical side - but it definitely has a fairly solid following from your average fan. As for myself, I think we have a movie that, at this point in time, we really, truly need, and just about everyone needs to check out. Not to preach, but it's the underlying message the movie delivers (and even punctuates with a bit, fat exclamation mark). What's the message? Well, read on.
As the film opens, we meet an astronomy Ph.D. candidate named Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), working with the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. She discovers a comet, and reports it to her professor, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio). But what's initially cause for celebration turns into cause for panic, as Mindy calculates that the comet is on a path directly towards Earth. The impact will make for an extinction level event, so is immediately reported to NASA, who then confirms the details. Kate and Randall are then sent to the White House to report their findings, along with NASA's head of Planetary Defense Coordination, Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan).
Once there, however, the scientists are met passively by President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her Chief of Staff, Jason (Jonah Hill), whose position has something kind of hilarious behind it, but I'm not going to spoil that. From there, all I'll really say is that Randall and Kate become sort of accidental celebrities, and a lot of it is to push Orlean's campaign, as presidential midterms are just around the corner. While Randall begins to make a name for himself through no real fault of his own, he experiences the pressures of being a celebrity while alternately trying very hard to get the important message of impending doom through.
Meanwhile, Kate becomes a little more of a meme, and famous for all the wrong reasons. She wants nothing more than to warn the world of what's about to happen, and can't stand how ignorant the world gets when it comes right down to it. It further dabbles in things like conspiracy theories, and people creating their own stories and theories even though there's clear-as-day data staring them right in the face. Indeed, this is another movie that will make us all take a good, hard look at ourselves. It's also done as a dark comedy, so with that, in a lot of ways, I'd compare it to something like 'Idiocracy' (but not as "dumb-fun").
I suppose I can see where critics are actually coming from when it comes to looking at the movie as a whole. The idea that the film doesn't really know what it wants to be springs to mind, and with that, perhaps there's a point. However, my personal taste sees this as something meant to be taken seriously with its message, but the execution of it is meant to be taken as a comedy about the world's general ignorance and apathy when something catastrophic comes along. We really do have it sort of programmed into us to assume that things are well in hand for worst case scenarios. But do we? I mean, do we really?
Anyway, I should point out that the underlying message of the film is just one of the better pieces of it. Otherwise, you have a pretty stellar cast of talent, and the performances are all great. Other than those mentioned, we also get the likes of Cate Blanchett, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Kid Cudi, Michael Chiklis and a few more I'm sure I'm missing. But damn, for a Netflix original, they went all out with the casting. To top it off, this is written and directed by Adam McKay; the guy who gave us the 'Anchorman' movies, and who worked alongside Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish for the 'Ant-Man' screenplay.
So, while I highly recommend this movie to people right now, I will admit that it won't necessarily be for everyone. There is a bit of an acquired taste going on here with things like cinematography and the darkness of the comedy within the script. This is one of those movies that just might make you start yelling at your screen in frustration; but that's what the comedy is all about here. Personally, I think it's a brilliant film in its execution, but there's a lot of my personal taste scattered throughout this movie as well. I tend to be a bit odd at times (just look at my passion for 'Scott Pilgrim vs The World'). Anyway, if you have Netflix and about 2.5 hours to kill (yeah, sorry, it's a bit long) I say go for it. If nothing else, it'll make you think.
The Cloverfield Paradox
I'll just cut to the chase here. This film starts in the year 2028, where Earth is in the middle of an energy crisis, on a global scale. As a result, the Shepard particle accelerator is to be tested on board the Cloverfield space station. Some believe it to be a new source of energy that can fuel mankinds needs for an infinite amount of time. On the other hand, some worry about the "Cloverfield Paradox", which suggests that they could open dimensions, allowing for things like the Cloverfield monster to come through and terrorize Earth. It even goes so far as to suggest demons.
Long story short, they test the accelerator, shit happens, and that's the basic time travel/interdimensional travel story behind where the Cloverfield monster comes from, and that's pretty much all you get. The rest of it is a rough, mish-mash of horror elements taking place on board the Cloverfield station, including a crew member of the same ship from another dimension, and for whatever reason, the ship goes after Chris O'Dowd (by the way, he's in this), seemingly trying to eat him alive, or at the very least kill him. And I just don't get it. I'll buy into interdimensional travel, I'll buy into time travel, but I can't buy into the ship just starting to do weird shit. I mean, I guess we're to assume it's possessed? After all, the crazy guy on the TV suggested it. The bottom line is that pretty much everything that happens on the ship is it's own little horror show, very closely following varying 'Firefly' plot threads.
On the other hand, we get the thing that I always thought a 'Cloverfield' sequel should be; the monster attack from a different perspective. If it were me, I'd have tried to make this a trilogy about the attack that night, each time revealing more and more important information about the creature. Perhaps even filmed in different styles. But hey, they decided to give us angry John Goodman in a vault instead. This here, is about as close as it comes. That story follows our lead, Hamilton's (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) fiance, husband, boyfriend... partner? Michael (Roger Davies). I can't reember if it was explained. Anyway, Hamilton's up in space in another dimension in another time... This is actually where it gets super confusing.
'Cloverfield', I believe, took place in "modern day", which would have been 2008. 'The Coverfield Paradox' takes place in 2028. So when the whole disaster scenario goes down, there's reason to believe that on that particular Earth that they're floating above consists of Hamilton's partner. But the on-Earth scenes have the Cloverfield monster wandering around, suggesting that it's suddenly 2008? It broke my brain. I finally gave it the benefit of the doubt, I GUESS, and said "screw it, it's all a different dimension whenever something stupid happens".
Anyway, for my money, this was mostly a throw-away. I didn't particularly like '10 Cloverfield Lane' either. For my money, the first one was the only one that held any weight, and that was mostly due to how it was made at that time. The overall story of that movie is very simple and obvious. But at the same time, it's hard for me to be too entirely mad at it for at least offering a bit more of an explanation behind the creature. It never upset me in the first movie because the mystery, intrigue and the found footage lent itself an explanation not necessarily needing to be offered. That said, I always hoped there would eventually be one. And this nudges it forward, but doesn't do it justice after all this time. I haven't given a bad rating in a while, so this is a pretty good place to start.