There’s 80% of a movie here. Sadly, that missing 20% is sort of essential to pull it all together. Director and co-writer Edward Drake (Breach) either was unable to deliver the missing footage or simply over-edited the movie in a way that excised important aspects of the plot. Honestly, I don’t know which, but more than once I had to ask WTF about situations and comments where the base information was never revealed or setup events don’t seem to have occurred.
Now here’s the thing. Bruce Willis (Breach) and Frank Grillo (Skyline) are the names that helped sell the production, I’m sure. And they deliver exactly what you’d expect them to deliver…dry wit, hard action, dark comedy. But about the only character with any set of levels is Adelaide Kane, and her role is relatively small, if integral.
The initial concept, that of first contact gone (maybe) wrong, is classic and full of possibility. But the level of male toxicity (and I even hate typing that statement) makes the rest of the story inevitable and just plain sad. There is no nuance, no humanity to the decisions and actions, despite some lip service to moral implications.
You can comfortably skip this and miss nothing. But if you insist, just strap in for the action and let the plot just wash over you like bullet points.
Breach is perfect example of what happens when bad movies happen to (relatively) good actors. This creature-feature or horror-in-space is the worst sort of tripe masquerading as science fiction. Somehow I made it through to the predictable and absurdly obvious ending, but it wasn’t for lack of groaning and yelling at the screen.
But, because some of the talent really is worth something outside of this absurdity, I feel like they should be mentioned…if nothing else as a cautionary tale. Let’s start with Bruce Willis (Motherless Brooklyn) in one of the main leads spouting riffs from all his old parts. Clearly the part was an ego massage and paycheck, but it certainly didn’t use many of his abilities, other than not laughing at his own dialogue. He’s essentially part of a collection of misfits that include Callan Mulvey (Mystery Road), Timothy V Murphy (Snowpiercer) sporting one of the worst Texas drawls you’ll ever hear, Thomas Jane (Predator) in a throw-away and silly piece of bravado, and Rachel Nichols (Man in the High Castle) all of whom, to their credit, also manage to not choke on awful lines and stupid choices.
But the real lead of this piece is the unassuming and unlikely Cody Kearsley (Power Rangers). He isn’t awful, he just isn’t the least believable. Sadly, his intended and babymama-to-be, Kassandra Clementi (Home and Away), has the better backstory and opportunities, but she ends up on ice for most of the movie.
As to the script and story, well the logic and dialogue are just painful at times. John Suits (The Scribbler) did what he could, sort of, with the “script” from Edward Drake and Corey Large, but his choices weren’t all that brilliant either.
As far as I’m concerned, this bit of space has a quarantine beacon around it that should be warning you off. Should you choose to violate that boundary, you’re on your own. I’ve done all I can to help you.
Up front, this isn’t a good movie. It has interesting ideas, but while it starts in one place, it ends somewhere else entirely. Which isn’t to say that the breadcrumbs for the final moments aren’t there from the start, but the path getting there is less than well marked and the trip feels more like chaos than a focused point. Guy Moshe (Bunraku – a movie I do recommend) spends a good deal of the time explaining the world through flashbacks and conversations that trend metaphysical. But it feels more like these were fixes for either a boring script when done chronologically or a fix to a script that was lacking after-the-fact.
And the acting…well, isn’t very good. Even James D’Arcy (Life Like) failed to make reasonable hay with the stilted script. Then again, he was just as often acting against no one or against some really rather poor performances by his wife, Anna Brewster (Versailles), and his simulated girlfriend, Gabrielle Cassi. Even Delroy Lindo (A Life Less Ordinary) couldn’t do much with an odd and alternately over and underwritten part.
Basically, this is a movie that never feels quite in control or advanced beyond the rehearsal phase. It goes interesting places, but more as a discussion than as an emotional journey. Moshe is a better filmmaker than this. Don’t waste your time here, but do keep an eye out for his next. Perhaps he’ll find his mojo again for that one.
I accept the fact that some folks may find this entertaining. I didn’t. I couldn’t even finish the movie. The blending of the animation and real world was, at best, odd and, at worst, just pointless. I don’t know what Tim Story was thinking when he agreed to take on this project with a script by Kevin Costello (Brigsby Bear). The blended animation and real-world makes no sense at all in action or substance.
Add to this that the acting, despite some reasonable talent, was stretched beyond credibility. It never found a tone that worked. In fact, Chloë Grace Moretz (Greta) couldn’t even modulate her voice to sound believable. Michael Peña (Fantasy Island) is absurd from the get-go. And, frankly, Jerry is just a dick in this story, way beyond what I remember from the cartoons growing up.
Perhaps the studio got what they wanted in the resulting movie. Maybe, even, Story hit the marks he was aiming for. What I can say is that I wasn’t the target on just about any level. I couldn’t appreciate the technology, the humor, nor the drama. I rarely turn off a movie, but after 30 minutes of this drivel I had to save my evening and I ran away. You shouldn’t even start.
I’ve not written up some of the new and returning shows over the last few months, so dropping them together in a bunch here. More will be coming in the next few weeks, but this was getting long enough already…
Call Me Kat
This odd offering by Mayim Bialik (Big Bang Theory) is a unique and not entirely comfortable show. It may eventually find it’s feet, but it’s best to think of it as a sketch show or comedy half-hour rather than a story so far. And the abuse of the great Swoosie Kurtz is near criminal. By way of context, this show is based on the UK’s Miranda, adopting the quasi-stand-up nature of the original but trying to push it more toward ensemble…. BTW, if you haven’t caught Miranda, it’s a fascinating to compare the two and it boasts Tom Ellis (Lucifer) in the wish-he-were-my-boyfriend role.
If you loved The Office, this is probably a show for you. I didn’t and it isn’t for me. It’s just too broad and full of, well, stupid people who aren’t supposed to be stupid or, worse, couldn’t be that stupid and be where they are in life. Given the talent involved in this show, it’s a real shame.
Call Your Mother
This is a show on the bubble. Kyra Sedgwick (Ten Days in the Valley) manages to walk the line between very broad humor and honest emotion. Whether the writing can keep up with that challenge and create storylines we care about long term…the jury’s still way out on that one, but I’ll give it some more time.
Oh, god, just no. Awful, unbelievable, absurd, insulting, frustrating, and painful.
The Expanse (series 5)
Twenty years ago, the end of the first season of Farscape was termed “the multipart cliffhanger from hell” by its creator. And it was…and it took a good part of the next season to resolve and cover what happened. The current season of The Expanse reminds me a lot of that structure. After bringing things to a huge climactic pause at the end of the previous season, the various characters are scattered across the solar system pursuing various storylines that will, by necessity, be intertwined and eventually bring them back together. As the show preps for its final season, this is level-setting and putting all the pieces in place for the final confrontations to come. A good season with revelations and some resolutions, especially for Dominique Tipper’s (Mindgamers) Naomi and Wes Chatham’s (Escape Plan 2) Amos, but mostly it serves as set-up for the end.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (series 2)
After its heart-rending and brilliant opening season, I was worried the magic wouldn’t last. It has. And the show, at least so far, continues to build on its characters and conceit. If you’ve yet to try this one out, you absolutely must…and start at the beginning. Yes, it gets heavy, but it builds to one of the most beautiful finales you’ll ever see. And it never loses its sense of humor or love of its characters.
I’m sorry, I just had to. I had to! And now I have so you don’t have to.
Don’t get me wrong, in the proper altered state of mind, it would probably entertain the right viewer (likely Millennial or younger). But it’s no Shaun of the Dead, though it is in the same vein. It’s self-aware and unapologetic. But there are no really sympathetic characters and the shy 75 minutes wraps up in a rather unsatisfying, if fair, way (given the script). I will grant the cast and crew that they really just went for it without apology.
When you watch a biopic, you come to it with two main objectives. First, you hope to learn a bit about the subject themself, their life and personal drives, successes, and demons. You also want to know more about how they impacted the world and people around them. Bertrand Bonello’s painful Saint Laurent focuses very much on the first, but neglects just about everything else.
To begin with, you have to care about fashion to even approach this movie. Why else would you care? I’ve seen many such biopics on the fashion industry and was tangentially involved in it for many years as well. But even with my more-than-average knowledge I had trouble following the plot and points Bonello wanted to make. He structured the film using multiple time frames, always jumping ahead to an inflection point in Yves’s life and then rewinding to show us how he got there, and then setting the next point and doing it all over again through to his death…sort of.
The point is that we just don’t care about the man. We don’t really see anything positive from his actions, only his debauched and depressing spiral trying to find himself while somewhere offscreen, somehow, he builds a fashion empire. We have no sense what he really contributes to that empire, other than his name, nor what made it so important to world fashion. I can’t even tell if Bonello did it from love or loathing.
Honestly, this is a movie to avoid regardless of your interest, unless it is entirely puerile for either the main actor Gaspard Ulliel, who does a lot with what he was given to work with, or for the gay clubbing world of Paris fashion in the 70s-90s. Ulliel is backed up onscreen by Jérémie Renier (Frankie), Léa Seydoux (The Lobster), and Aymeline Valade (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets), not to mention the suitably weird and creepy Louis Garrel (The Dreamers). Well “backed up” is a little of an overstatement. They provide some local color and framework, but very little substance.
In the end, Bonello does bring it to a point/comment: regardless of Laurent’s life, it didn’t affect his art and impact on women’s fashion. In other words, love the art not the man or, perhaps, an artist’s personal life shouldn’t be part of the equation. Either is a legitimate point to argue, but it didn’t require 2.5 hours of descent into disaster (if it is to be fully believed) that was his life.
I don’t mind mixing science and the metaphysical, but I do need some credibility under it all to hold the story and message together. High Life misses on almost all counts. The crux of the tale is, frankly, absurd and such a bad science fiction premise that I had to force myself to continue with the story. In addition, the emotional and metaphysical aspects of the story are, at turns, trite and, at turns, so self-referential as to be completely obfuscated.
Director and co-writer Claire Denis (Let the Sunshine In ) is no stranger to mixing narrative with metaphor. Perhaps there was a bigger point here she was trying to make, but it missed me almost entirely. Certainly there is commentary on love, sex, parenthood, and redemption. But there isn’t a clear through-line that knits it together into a whole. We end up with something more like Dark Star meets Sunshine, but with all the negatives of both and few of the positives of either.
Honestly, I can’t recommend this, even with Robert Pattinson’s (Maps to the Stars) subtle performance and Juliette Binoche’s (Summer Hours) rather frentic, untethered one. There are definitely better ways to spend a couple hours of your life than trying to pick apart this confused, philosophical mess.
Have you ever watched a film and thought: this would make a great play? Golden Exits definitely struck me as better suited to the stage than screen. It is full of long, introspective monologues that attempt to be-ever-so-insightful-and-clever about the world, but really just come across as pompous on screen. Director Alex Ross Perry guided his actors well, but his script for them was just ponderous and over-written for film.
Honestly, I knew little of the story going in. I checked this movie out for the cast, which had Emily Browning (God Help the Girl), Mary- Louise Parker (RED), and Chloë Sevigny (Lizzie) in major roles. In addition, Analeigh Tipton (Warm Bodies) and Lily Rabe (Pawn Sacrifice) add to the female pack. Each of these women had challenging paths to explore, even if the script rarely let them go very far with it. Mixed into their various struggles were Adam Horovitz (While We’re Young) and Jason Schwartzman (Big Eyes) who succeed and fail variously as partners and friends to those around them.
But there just isn’t anyone who is very sympathetic in this story. Some manage to do the right thing…eventually. But, primarily, they all muse about either doing the wrong thing or anything, as long as it’s different from what they’re doing now. The story is, essentially, how they manage to leave what they’ve got behind them, or at least start to. Basically, it is a very unsatisfying film with actors struggling to make mountains of text feel natural…or at least interesting enough that we don’t care that it is completely unnatural. Despite the cast and the game attempt, save yourself some time and find something else to take you on a journey of self-discovery.
This is one of those odd situations where you can appreciate the artist but hate the art. At least I did. Gaspar Noé (Love) puts a lot of technical joy into Climax, with interesting camera work, edits, and choreography. He even managed to attack the structure of film in service to his goals. I can’t say I could tell you what those goals were, but the opening of the movie and the first 20 minutes are designed to make you pay attention and to put your expectations off-balance.
But none of the characters he provides us are particularly likable. Even Sofia Boutella (Hotel Artemis) is more repulsive than magnetic. Without a connection to the characters what happens to them is empty, however real they are being portrayed.
Ultimately, I fast-forwarded a large part of the second half of the movie in hopes of finding a purpose or at least a moment of interest. I never did. And the final reveal just didn’t matter to me. There is some commentary on the nature of people in the story, but nothing you haven’t seen before done better. Noé doesn’t even manage to portray the bending of reality for the characters in any kind of new or unique way (like The Man Who Killed Don Quixote managed). So, my recommendation? Skip this and never wonder what you missed. You’ll have missed nothing. But check out Noé’s other work at some point. He is talented and willing to buck convention and expectation to achieve his purpose. When you play in that arena, you’re allowed a failure or two in pursuit of your art…even if that means you more often fail than succeed.