Contact meets The Tommyknockers meets 2001 meets The Tree of Life.
If this was the first ever mainstream movie to be produced about the possible consequences of an alien encounter on Earth – if 'The Day The Earth Stood Still' (Wise, 1951), 'The War Of The Worlds' (Haskin, 1953) or 'Close Encounters Of The Third Kind' (Spielberg, 1977) had never existed – then it would be, as it believes itself to be, an engrossing and thought-provoking watch.
'Wow! Aliens. Who would've imagined? What an amazing concept!'
But it isn't, and it's not.
Instead, this latest serving from Hollywood's inexhaustible well of infantile gloop, is an aimless meditation on illogicality and the colour grey, an utter waste of the viewer's frontal lobe.
It's not even worth downloading illegally. It really isn't.
As soon as the melancholic orchestral soundtrack begins and the camera tracks moodily along some wooden bourgeois ceiling, you can't help but sigh, 'Oh God, this thinks it's worthy.' Despairingly, it then takes around 40 laborious minutes of expositional 'realism' before, ironically, the narrative finally 'arrives'.
Since its premise, like 'Contact' (Zemeckis, 1997), is derived from the writings of Carl Sagan, you'd assume the film would go out of its way to put forward some evidence of academic and intellectual rigour but, of course, it doesn't.
As a result, you find yourself trying to plug the holes in Eric Heisserer's Swiss cheese script instead of being swept away by an existentialist story about extra-terrestrial wonder.
The film's message to the audience appears to be 'appreciate life'. My message to Paramount Pictures and 21 Laps Entertainment et al would be 'appreciate storytelling'.
- Why, throughout the whole of the United States of America, is there only one single linguist (with no previous cosmological experience) 'qualified' to communicate with these aliens? Why isn't there an entire army of Ivy League phonologists, ethnologists and body language experts working around the clock on this? It's a major development in human evolution, isn't it? Were they all busy?
- Why even attempt to interact with alien squidopods (who have no mouths or fingers) with advanced written English and expect a likeminded reply from them: 'What is your purpose on Earth'? Seriously? How many years would it take to teach a baby to say or write something similar? Why not, I don't know, start with some simple call-and-response shapes and sounds to open up a basic channel of communication? Why not display a computer-generated representation of, say, the Milky Way in an attempt to establish their point of origin?
- What's the rush? It would take decades for the trans-global community to build a meaningful and productive interrelationship with an alien species. Oh, because the Chinese are a race of demented warmongers who inherently wish to destroy any chance of acquiring new knowledge, skills and expertise. Right, okay.
- As Jeremy 'Yo, I'm a physicist!' Renner informs us, the alien ship is constructed from an unknown material which has no effect on its immediate environment. Explain to me then why 'the military' would attempt to blow this up with a cache of standard explosives when they have no idea about the collateral damage this could cause to their own base of operations and the surrounding region?
- Finally, once Amy Adams's character receives a message 'from the future' and is notified that she'll make an important telephone call to an important racial stereotype, why does she panic when she actually makes this phone call in the present tense? It's pre-destined to occur, it doesn't matter about the troops chasing her, so what's there to worry about?
Doctor Strange (Derrickson, 2016)
Big Trouble in Little China meets Inception meets Time Bandits meets The Karate Kid meets The Matrix meets Edge of Tomorrow.
As with most of these early 21st century super-generic, CGI-by-numbers movie releases, the director's signature, Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister), is written in invisible ink, his hand held in the Iron Man grip of the studio.
Without doubt, Marvelization is the new McDonaldization.
Casting uber-toff, English Shakespearean actor, Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, The Imitation Game), as the protagonist is initially interesting, but sadly his on-screen persona soon dissolves into a cross-fertilized, faux-American mush of Doogie Howser and David Copperfield.
A number of critics have highlighted the apparent 'whitewashing' of the narrative due to the casting of Tilda Swinton in the role of 'The Ancient One', instead of a globally recognisable East Asian male actor, but this is a somewhat disingenuous claim.
That is, the original Doctor Strange story was not borne out of some ancient Taoist text, but out of the white Western, Fu Man-chewed Marvel offices in 1963 New York (Strange Tales).
Like all fiction, it was never 'authentic', and was never meant to be.
This all said, my girlfriend really enjoyed it, loved the 'special effects' and the 'wub-wub-wub' sub-bass, so what do I know?
- Cumberbatch's 'ack-sent'
- Tilda Swinton's perfectly pink skull-cap
- Mads Mikkelsen's possessed Robert Smith eye make-up
- Rachel McAdams' mole
- Stan Lee laughing at 'The Doors Of Perception'
Cruising (Friedkin, 1980)
Nighthawks meets Driller Killer meets The Warriors meets Tom of Finland.
For a mainstream release this movie - written and directed by William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist) and starring Al Pacino (The Godfather I and II, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon) - is clunky, miscast, incoherent, bizarre, yet strangely compelling.
During filming there were protests by activists decrying the representation of gay, urban subculture in the film. However, placards announcing 'Plot Holes! Plot Holes!' and 'Suspend My Disbelief Now!' would have been far more appropriate.
This said, it made around $20 million at the box office at the time of its release - which is around $59 million in today's money - so what do I know?
- Pacino's height
- The 'turn-taking' dialogue scenes
- The audio dubbing
- Pacino and Karen Allen's 'relationship'
- Powers Boothe's bit-part as a handkerchief expert
- Paul Sorvino practising pool while not practising pool
- The huge, half-naked black guy's sudden, inexplicable entrance, slap and exit during the police interrogation scene
- The medieval 'fisting' scene
- Pacino dancing on poppers
- The serial killer's 'psychological motivation'
- The, erm, 'mysterious' ending