Friday, October 30, 2020

Existenz (1999) directed by David Cronenberg

 The premise of this film is that a group is about to test a new advanced gaming system, a suitably Cronenbergian bio-based system that plugs unto your spine and take you into a virtual reality. Someone from a group against this sort of thing has snuck a biotin... made with bones and body parts and uses it to try and kill the developer of the game played by Jennifer jason Leigh. Her "bodyguard" actually a marketing rep (Jude law), drives off with her after the would be assassin is killed by others in the group who seemed ot expect this sort of thing might happen. the rest of the film progresses though a plot where what is in and out of the game is murky at best and there are so many twists and turns it's hard to keep track of them all. I don't think it's fair to spoil the film's endings but if you hav seen a certain number of films like this I don't think you might have figured it out long before the final shot. 

This film does harken back to  the earlier, and much better, Cronenberg film Videodrome and the bio gun here seems to be a direct reference to that movie. While this project has a great cast, they sort of sleep walk their way through to film I thought, maybe in an attempt to make it harder to figure what real and what's part of the game. It's not poorly made, the visuals are nice but lack the sexual perversion that made Videodrome transgressive while this comes across as a standard story in a story or dream within a dream that didn't leave me satisfied or even mildly surprised at the end. The gameplay in the story does not come across as credible - I am not a big video game player but this makes me wonder if anyone involved ever played an immersive game or only just heard about them second hand.  

I do love Cronenberg as a director but this one misses where it should hit and he seems to be playing off his own tropes in a way that oddly makes it predictable and a little dull. It has a pretty low budget for such a tech oriented film and still did not make a fraction of it back at the box office.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

A Shaun the Sheep movie: Farmageddon (2019) directed by Richard Phelan and Will Becher

This is not the first Shaun the Sheep movie but it is the first I've seen. I do catch theTV show time to time and that is pretty great. If you are not a fan of Aardman animation, well there is something seriously wrong with you. Wallace and Grommit are classic shorts and films and pretty much all their projects are awesome. Except for the misfortune of casting Mel Gibson in "Chicken Run" they have a pretty much unsullied reputation for great animated story telling. This film will not disappoint you. 

Shaun and his fellow sheep are up to to their usual antics of annoying the farmer and his dog when Shaun finds a space creature in the barn. Sure, there are ALL the tropes from ET, Close Encounters, 2001 etc but by are they funny and still surprising here! 

The stop motion is the top notch and still has a hand made look about it that is totally charming. There is no real dialogue spoken thought so it transfers to anyone speaking any language. Some of the newspaper headline sin my version were in german for some reason but that did not cause any confusion. It's not complicated - just lots of fun! 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Color Out of Space (2019) directed and co-written by Richard Stanley

Based on the story by H.P. lovecraft, this film follows the events after a meteorite crashes into the front yard of Nicolas Cage's family home. It's a slow burn with much of the really crazy cosmic horror bursting into the films last ½ hour. The fallen object emits a colour that no one can describe and it begins to infect and transform everything around it, especially the water supply.

The director, who hasn't done a film since he was fired from "Island of Dr. Moreau" in 1996. (Yes the version with the "incredible hum-animals!) has given us a really beautifully, overly colourful treat to watch. I can't say I found it scary, there were too many tropes but that doesn't mean it was void of creepiness and tension. Cage is not over the top, for once, and it's really the daughter's journey we follow. Lovecraft easter eggs and references are everywhere and a little distracting if you know his work well, but fun to research later if you don't. There are elements of the "Reanimator" and "From Beyond" older Lovecraft inspired films that were dripping in body horror and gore. It's not too heavy on the gore but it has a nice helping of body horror that's better seen than described. 

The whole thing gets pretty trippy but never falls into camp and it was smart enough to leave many things ambiguous and unexplained. It follows the original story to a certain extent but adds elements that take those ideas and moves them into a more modern context and make it and the family more relatable. It certainly managed to hold my attention and I would say the poster (pictured above) does represent what you are in for if you watch it!