Review: Journeyman (2017/18)


Lose yourself: Film4/Inflammable Films

I really don’t know how he does it. TYRANNOSAUR singled Paddy Considine out as a filmmaker to watch, one with a clear and distinct voice all his own. But apparently just writing and directing just didn’t quite satisfy his creative drive. With JOURNEYMAN he is not only telling his own self-penned story but he is almost the entire focus of it portraying its trauma-inflicted lead.

At the height of his fame, middleweight champion boxer Matty Burton (Paddy Considine) suffers a head injury that turns his world upside down. Can Matty regain anything of what he has lost and remain part of his family’s life?

If we’re looking for easy movie comparisons, it’s a British ROCKY meets the documentary MY BEAUTIFUL BROKEN BRAIN, weighted far more towards the latter. At this point I’ll briefly pause and ask that you seek out My Beautiful Broken Brain on Netflix if you haven’t already; it’s brave and enlightening and a great real-world primer for a drama that covers similar material. In Journeyman the fight of Matty’s life isn’t in the ring but within his debilitated mind. Most of us can’t imagine the painful, draining process of having to rewire our brains almost from scratch, having to re-learn things that are second nature to a functioning adult, like connecting names with faces, or remembering to boil a kettle to make a cup of tea.

To start with you think Considine’s portrayal of Matty’s impairment might be a little obvious, ticking off everything we all think we know about people who suffer brain injuries. Thankfully, we are taken into more uncharted territory as his story progresses, Matty’s increasingly frustrated, erratic behaviour eliciting some unexpected, hard to watch, but completely understandable reactions from his nearest and dearest. Jodie Whittaker is a perfectly-pitched co-performer, painfully selling the other side to what Matty is going through. It’s great to see that Whittaker’s copious talent will shortly be reaching a mass audience as she travels time and space, as she’s been impressing in TV drama and on the indie circuit for years.

Boxing movies as a rule don’t tend to feature much, or really be about, boxing. Journeyman sticks to this convention. The boxing ring is only a window through which we explore trauma, trials and tribulations. There’s only the single match depicted at the beginning as it’s the inciting incident, the moment where Matty is at his highest  high and about to plummet to his lowest low. Considine looks the part and the scene feels completely convincing, but the physicality of the ring is really only a warm up for what we are about to see Matty go through.

Most of the film is a low-key realist flavour of upsetting, only towards the end does Considine employ the somewhat cheap trick of playing some Nick Cave in the background to elicit a bigger round of sobbing. Lesser films would use musical emotional blackmail more often, or make an obvious point about the characters in quotable dialogue. Considine is clearly more of a show, don’t tell kind of guy, and he respects his audience enough to keep up with where the characters are without explaining it outright. A fair few of the key scenes are lengthy and unrelenting, Considine not giving his viewers the chance to look away.

Journeyman is a pretty tough watch, but it’s an soulfully fulfilling and emotionally resonating one as well. In short, put the work in and this film will repay in dividends. Seek it out, endure and reap the benefits. Just don’t leave it so long next time please, Paddy, Mr Considine. SSP

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Review: Venom (2018)


Gene Simmons? Is that you?: Avi Arad Productions/Columbia Pictures

VENOM is a bad movie. I shock you, I know. It’s not the worst SPIDER-MAN movie ever, but that’s mostly because Marvel Studios wouldn’t let Sony rent Spidey back for a cameo. The scant lip service they’re allowed to give this is frankly hilarious.

Maverick reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) loses his girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams), his job and his self-respect when he tries to bring down shady billionaire scientist Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) using stolen evidence. Meanwhile, aggressive alien lifeforms have been brought back from space and Drake’s experiments bring one into Eddie’s life…  

There is a certain joy to be had watching Tom Hardy act like nobody’s watching. The best scene in this whole sorry affair has Hardy sitting in a lobster tank chowing down on the live inhabitants, offering one of the film’s few truly memorable images. His really odd behaviour you can buy because he’s got another being taking a ride inside him, but what’s everyone else’s excuse? Nobody talks like a person in this, to the extent that I began to wonder if they weren’t all squishy aliens wearing human skins. Michelle Williams looks like she’s hating every minute of the experience, not to mention how disheartened she sounds having to deliver such lines as, “I love you, don’t forget to feed the cat” and “I’m sorry about Venom”.

The whole symbiote hunger thing never really makes much sense. At first it rejects “dead” food (leading to the aforementioned lobster tank incident) and only craves human flesh, then it starts to leech off Eddie’s organs before it seems to suddenly decide against requiring either and that Tater Tots will be enough to satisfy its hunger. It wants to conquer and consume the planet with the rest of its species but all of a sudden it comes out with “You changed me, Eddie”. Um, when? Maybe some point after they had their Gollum moment reflected in a car door.

I know this is a problem even a lot of the proper (as opposed to “in association with”) Marvel movies have, but the villain’s evil scheme reads like you’re turning over at least two pages at a time. As far as I could gather, it goes as follows: 1. Bring symbiotes back to Earth, 2. Allow symbiotes to infect the kidnapped homeless, 3. When/if a symbiote achieves “full symbiosis” we’ll apparently be ready to live on other planets because…reasons, 4. Profit?

The stretchy particle effects used to realise the symbiotes never look better than the water creature in THE ABYSS, and that was made in 1989. How long was it between the announcement trailer and the finished film? 6 months? You really couldn’t improve that shot of Eddie being pulled back onto the mid-air motorbike by liquorice tendrils? Speaking of the symbiotes’ wasted potential, for a while it looks like director Ruben Fleischer is going to do something interesting with their body-hopping behaviour, like John Carpenter did so memorably with THE THING, as mostly this happens offscreen and leaves you guessing who is the goo. But no, each time this happens it becomes almost instantly apparent who is about to spout tendrils and all tension and intrigue evaporates, making you wonder why they bothered even pretending it was a plot point.

If we get more Venom movies – and we may well get more Venom movies – and the guy with the tongue ends up fighting a succession of bad/worse symbiotes, can we at least colour code them distinctively? Venom’s final showdown is of course two special effects punching each other in the dark. I presume this is just because that’s the standard ending for the first movie in a new superhero franchise. Unfortunately this film’s action goes from dull to incomprehensible because Venom, a black symbiote, is fighting Riot, a grey symbiote.

Venom is a mess, but it’s very nearly the fun kind. Everything about it is inconsistent and ill-judged, with leaps of tone and logic galaxies wide. And yet there’s something strangely endearing about Hardy trying to make something memorable out of this cinematic sludge. SSP

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Review: Dark River (2017/18)


You have to love your family, but…: BFI/Left Bank Pictures

It’s been a pretty great few years for Yorkshire film and it’s also been an unexpectedly verdant trend of dramas set in the world of farming. Of course there are only going to be more films like this that focus on, or heavily feature, the inevitable death of farming with Brexit in full(ish) motion. Maybe there needs to be a new, more rural term for these films, instead of kitchen sink drama. Cow shed drama maybe? DARK RIVER, as the title implies, may be the bleakest of this film trend yet.

Alice (Ruth Wilson) returns to the family farm following the death of her abusive father (Sean Bean) and immediately clashes with her brother Joe (Mark Stanley) over money, attitudes to farming and who their father really was. Will the farm and the family survive so much bad blood?

One sibling bears the weight of the world on his shoulders, the other carries the weight all held behind her eyes. It’s a very effective dramatic dichotomy. There is so much packed into Wilson and Stanley’s performances, so much that is unsaid but clear as day to anyone watching them intently. Sean Bean isn’t in it a lot, but his presence looms large. He essentially gets to play a ghost for the first time in his career, which is a pretty interesting change of pace for an actor who famously dies so much on screen.

Alice and Joe hold very different, irreconcilable experiences of who their father was. “Did he suffer?” Asks Alice unfeelingly. “Yeah, he did”. When we realise the one aspect of control Alice gained over the abuse at her father’s hands you feel your stomach drop.

The Bell siblings also clash over their very different attitudes to farming, both understandable of large extent, with Joe promoting nature unfettered and Alice with an eye on what is best for the livestock and the business. Using either method is fighting a losing battle in their crumbling industry and their farm is shown to survive more by the kindness family friends (feeling sorry for Alice’s bereavement and having to put up with her brother) than as a viable business. Of course it’s not really about the farming, and you suspect even if they agreed on the method to rear and sell their cattle they would still clash as a subconscious lashing out at all the poisonous family history.

Let’s not beat about the bush, it’s not a laugh a minute. This is a film about trauma and how it impacts your whole life, and the lives of those closest to you. You have to wonder if there was ever a simpler, happier time for Alice and Joe, or whether their dad’s presence always infected their family and ruined lives.

We never find out whether their mother was part of their childhoods, whether she kept Richard in check or whether her absence somehow escalated his monstrous behaviour. The ambiguity behind the Bell family structure is one of the reasons the film lands so forcefully. Whatever factors effected the horrific situation Alice found herself in, it was abuse that happened, repeatedly, was allowed to keep happening and left her with deep scars.

Dark River is about never being able to escape the shadows of your past. Alice put up walls and kept busy in order to get on with her life, but her forced return home and seeing the state of things brings everything flooding back. Her father’s actions were inexcusable and that old adage about having to love your family starts to look pretty porous, especially as she receives such animosity from her brother, let alone sympathy. It’s been too long since Clio Barnard’s last film. Let’s be honest, her work isn’t a laugh a minute, but she always comes from a real place, completely gets humanity, out flaws and the struggle many face daily just to survive. SSP

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Review in Brief: Manhunt (2017/18)

Surprise, surprise, John Woo’s latest is very John Woo. MANHUNT’s action may take a while to really ramp up, but once it does you’ve got more people flying through the air, sliding along surfaces and rapidly expending and replacing guns than you know what to do with. You also get big, melodramatic acting, really pretty visuals and paper-thin female characters (never Woo’s strong suit, but at least there are some I guess?). The internationally released version on Netflix also bizarrely subtitles everything whether characters are speaking Mandarin, Japanese or English, which is distracting to say the least. The plot – a corporate lawyer (Hanyu Zhang) framed for murder teams up with a cop (Masaharu Fukuyama) to take down an evil pharmaceuticals company that’s making supersoldiers – is absolute hokum – but it’s still a rip-roaringly silly good time. It might not be high art, but Woo is still just about the best he is at what he does. SSP

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Review: A Simple Favour (2018)

A simple favour

Dressed for disappearance: BRON Studios/Feigco Entertainment

A SIMPLE FAVOUR is certainly something. I like going into a film without the faintest idea of what to expect and still having a really good time (GAME NIGHT was the other one of those for me this year). Paul Feig’s attempt at a Hitchcock-style suspense thriller is by no means a slam-dunk, but it’s stylish, funny and pretty dark by the BRIDESMAIDS director’s usual standards.

Super-mum/Vlogger Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) becomes fast friends with fellow mother and edgy fashion executive Emily (Blake Lively). Stephanie opens up to her new best friend but Emily does not reciprocate, then after asking Stephanie to pick her son up from school she suddenly disappears. What happened to Emily?

Something’s a bit off about everyone involved, every key player is lying to some extent and everyone has various shades of dark secrets. Every actor has to communicate so much with a look, but avoid giving the game away until the time is right for the secrets to start tumbling out.

2018 is undoubtedly the year of the Information Age thriller. As well as using social media as a method of storytelling, in A Simple Favour, SEARCHING and ASSASSINATION NATION it is also used as a tool or a weapon for characters to achieve their ends. Stephanie could never get as far down the rabbit hole of Emily’s life as she does without communication innovation and easy access to almost limitless information, and one of the film’s best “gotcha” moments comes via one of her Vlog posts.

Though entertaining throughout, the film’s first half full of intrigue and possibilities is probably stronger. It’s completely captivating, eerie and has so much potential. When we finally find out what’s what, I was almost disappointed. As twists go, the one(s) they chose to go with work well enough, but the buildup to the revelations seemed to hint at going in several much madder, more interesting directions.

It’s quite a sight to see Kendrick sharing the scene with Lively, the former looking almost comically petite and out of place in Emily’s designed-to-an-inch-of-its-life house. I’m not really a clothes guy, but Feig famously is, and he directs for an audience who eat with their eyes. Lively’s look in this film is certainly a statement, to the extent that one of her outfits completely distracted me from the important things people were saying in a key scene. The pair have great chemistry, unlikely friends bonding over dark jokes and strong martinis, the perfect and the wanting mothers, the ego and the id of their collective psyches if we’re going to be pretentious in our analysis. It’s also great to see two mothers just enjoying a bit of time away from their kids for the soapy (not a criticism) initial stretch of a movie and Kendrick and Lively really sell the more bizarre turns the story takes as the plot thickens.

I did have a small issue with tone, how some quite serious subject matter is almost shrugged off as a gag and how Kendrick’s usual sunny personality never abates even in her character’s most trying moments. This is where Feig’s usual talents of heading pure comedy vehicles doesn’t quite seem to fit – you can have levity in serious material, but effective black comedy that matches, even elevates stories about murder and vice requires a defter touch than this.

A Simple Favour offers simple pleasures from fashion show gloss to plenty of cutting insults and Anna Kendrick on her usual charming form. Also on offer are a fair few entertaining rug-pulls and a really interesting arc for our two leads. I’d be more than up for seeing Paul Feig trying his hand at material like this again, and I sincerely hope this reminds everyone Blake Lively kills it with the right material. SSP

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Review: The Predator (2018)


There’s always a bigger…crabby-faced thing?: Twentieth Century Fox/TSG Entertainment

THE PREDATOR is frustrating for a number of reasons. That said, it’s also (damning with faint praise) the best Predator sequel we’ve had so far.

The extraterrestrial Predator species returns to Earth in the form of a fleeing renegade carrying world-changing technology and an evolved super-Predator hunting him down. Humanity, as always, stands slap-bang in the middle of the carnage and our only hope may well be a group of unstable military criminals who find themselves in the wrong place at the right time…

The action is pretty well-mounted, pleasingly splattery and incorporating a surprising amount of slapstick. The message is quite clear here: humans using Predator weapons is very, very bad for your health and limb count. As creative and technically impressive as these sequences are, they could have picked some more interesting locations to shoot them in; science lab to suburbs to quarry to the woods in the middle of the night doesn’t exactly aid them lingering in your memory.

Olivia Munn has to work really hard to make her scientist character Dr Bracket stand out among all the masculine joshing and posturing of the soldiers. The film’s worst scene is an almost carbon copy of the worst film from the original PREDATOR; transposed from a helicopter to a bus and a load of guys just being toxic for the sake of being toxic. She is the most capable of the team, except when she completely misjudges the right moment to try and tranquilise a Predator, a moment of physical comedy she plays beautifully.

You can tell Black is a dog person, because he’s found a space in an overstuffed and chaotic action film for an unexpectedly adorable Predator-dog. I think this dog probably gets more nuanced character development than anyone in the human cast, which is discouraging.

The film has a character problem. Broad-strokes characters can work, if they serve their purpose to the plot and they’re memorable. Even a few hours after I watched the film I couldn’t name anyone except Dr Bracket, and I certainly couldn’t recount any of their backstories, such as they were. As far as character traits go, Keegan-Michael Key joked to stop his PTSD setting in, Thomas Jayne had sporadic Tourette’s and Sterling K Brown chews gum all the time; that’s about all I can recall. They’re just not given enough interesting to do and they certainly don’t get character arcs.

When, in the penultimate action scene, you’ve no idea whether a key character is living or dead – or even how they died if they did – you know there’s a problem in the edit. There’s no real clear through-line in any of this. While individual scenes flow well enough, the wider story flits and skips. It would be interesting to see what was left on the cutting room floor (aside for the well-publicised excision) and whether it helped the while thing make more sense.

It never becomes especially clear why the renegade Predator wants to help us. No matter how outmatched it was on its homeworld by its more evolved cousins, what does it gain by helping humanity? You can only take “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” concept that ALIEN VS PREDATOR built its story (such as it was) around so far.

In anyone else’s hands, all this would be considered perfectly serviceable, but in Shane Black’s, you just want a little more. When your best non-Tourette’s-based line is “We called it the Predator because it sounds cooler” you feel a writer as talented as Black could have given the script another pass. The Predator delivers cheap thrills and blood splatter, and may set up a more interesting sequel if this one does well enough, but it’s sadly too disjointed and half-baked to stand up on its own. SSP

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Review in Brief: Hostiles (2017)

I don’t think we’re ever going to see a Western that’s not bleak again; it just wouldn’t be taken seriously. We’ve had an influx of de-romanticised frowny-face examples of America’s Favourite Genre over the last few years (this is my favourite for the record) but HOSTILES easily keeps apace. It has jaw-dropping scenery, nuanced characterisation and perhaps the most upsetting opening scene in the genre’s history. Aside from the misjudged BLACK MASS, I really rate actor-turned-director Scott Cooper’s work; he does atmosphere well and coaxes another intense, emotionally raw performance from Christian Bale and perhaps a career-best turn from Rosamund Pike. I’m not sure the stop-start-stop-start structure of this (already long) story – as the army escort changes party members at prearranged point in their journey – always works, but by the end of Hostiles you’ll really feel like you’ve been through the trials and tribulations of the characters. SSP

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50s Review: Rear Window (1954)


A window into domestic bliss: Patron Inc/Paramount Pictures

Alfred Hitchcock loved screwing with his audience. From the many Macguffins scattered throughout his works to killing off protagonists halfway through and making us doubt our own perceptions, he used pretty much every twist and trick in a skilled director’s arsenal. In REAR WINDOW, he uses a simple but effective idea to rack up the tension and make your story more interesting: just limit your main character’s usefulness. It’s a pretty unusual thing to see for a male protagonist in a Classic Hollywood movie as well, appropriately our atypical is James Stewart who specialises in slightly askew masculinity.

Photographer LB Jeffries (James Stewart) is bored. It’s the longest and hottest of summers and a broken leg has confined him to a wheelchair. His only entertainment is daily visits from his straight-talking nurse (Thelma Ritter) and his glamorous girlfriend (Grace Kelly), and the tedious daily routines of his neighbours witnessed outside his window. Then one day Jeffries witnesses, or thinks he witnesses something horrific in an apartment across the way…

The staging of the action in Rear Window is ingenious, with the massive set’s construction on multiple vertical levels and layers going backwards, allowing for little peaks into other lives but also using the visible space to build tension and hide information. It’s theatrical and deliberately stagey to an extent, limiting both Jeff and the audience’s field of vision and drawing attention to the fact that it’s doing just this to make the story more interesting. That’s not a criticism, by the way, just noticing a prime example of Hitch effectively using film language to enhance storytelling.

This is arguably the finest film ever about voyeurism (a Hitch specialty) but unusually it promotes its virtues. Jeff starts out watching others out of mere boredom, to escape his confinement, but he ends up using his snooping to uncover murder most foul (he thinks). We’re all drawn into Jeff’s pastime, voyeurism becoming our obsession as it becomes his. Both Lisa and Stella are quick to tell him off for sticking his nose into other people’s lives but end up being carried along by the amoral excitement of it all as the mystery unfurls. His cop friend Doyle (Wendell Corey) warns Jeff to stay within the confines of the law but in his capacity as a police detective still does odd jobs for his friends to dig up evidence, and even has a quick gander himself at one of the more attractive neighbours (“How’s your wife Doyle?”).

Like most of Hitchcock’s movies, it’s the gender politics that have aged the least well. Never mind how “Miss Torso” (Georgine Darcy) is filmed throughout, the way all the women characters, even Grace Kelly, Grace Kelly are patronised by the men when they dare to express an opinion or act under their own initiative really is something else.

The main way I think Rear Window has aged so well is as an example of efficient visual storytelling, as prime case of show, don’t tell, what film can and should do better than any other medium. We very quickly get to know so much about Jeff’s neighbours from the briefest of glimpses into their lives, like you’re watching about five different soap operas at once. Miss Lonelyhearts (Judith Evelyn) and her acting out of the perfect romantic dinner to an empty apartment; Miss Torso filling the void left by her boyfriend away at sea with a succession of besotted admirers she will never reciprocate affection with; the local eccentric couple (Sara Berner and Frank Cady) who sleep under the stars on their fire escape and who let their dog out to do its business using a little basket and a winch.

Rear Window is an economic little thriller; witty, tense and full of pleasing little details. It’s also one of Hitch’s very best, and probably the most eminently re-watchable of them all. SSP

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Review: BlacKkKlansman (2018)


Get On Up (Like an undercover cop): 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks/Blumhouse

I’m still reeling from the final moments of BLACKKKLANSMAN – no other film of 2018 will pack quite as forceful a denouement. Nowhere else is Spike Lee’s mastery of blending of subjective emotion-driven storytelling with documentary filmmaking techniques more apparent, though the rest of the film is a real ride.

Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) becomes the first African American cop in the Colorado Springs PD and volunteers to infiltrate the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, making introductions by phone and persuading white colleague Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to stand in for him in person. With black student protests against police brutality and the Vietnam War ramping up, Ron and Flip witness the KKK preparing something big for when Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace) comes to town…

I know a lot of people can find Spike Lee pretty insufferable. He can come across as preachy and righteous and especially in the last decade where his outspoken persona has bordered on self-parody, but BlackKklansman could, and should, be the movie that makes everybody take him seriously again.

The film isn’t subtle, but it couldn’t be more relevant and timely. Lee and his co-writers get about as explicit as they could possibly get using the film to rip Trump and his supporters a new one. From Alec Baldwin’s terrifying populist rhetoric in the opening propaganda piece to a scene where two characters practically turn and look at the audience as they talk about what the American people would “never vote for” and the KKK declaring absolute hokum about eugenics as “indisputable fact”. Alternative facts indeed.

Lee isn’t even remotely interested in explaining the Klan or its membership, what drives them – it’s their horrific actions that matter. Much the same as today, racial prejudice in the 1970s came from ignorance and a place of fear, the privileged paranoid about losing that privilege, and the film respects its audience enough to not have to spell something so obvious out.

Lee picks apart American perceptions of themselves over the decades. He ridicules the absurdity of “White America” being the default and African Americans having to fit in to that, and if they’re lucky enough to have lighter skin they can (and did) “pass for white”. Many of these contradictions and ingrained injustices were covered in Ava Duvernay’s 13TH, but Lee builds them all into an engrossing and bizarre sorta-biopic, a true story with dramatic licence. Things may have been exaggerated to make the most of storytelling in this medium, but sometimes Lee just steps back, downs his tools and lets his subjects just tell their tale, to emotionally devastating effect.

Ron Stallworth is stuck between two worlds, not just because of the colour of his skin but because he joins and represents an ignorant, racist organisation in order to infiltrate an even worse one. He wants to make his own way in the world, make his mark with his own bold and risky investigation but as a black man in the time and place he is in he is only able to do so with the permission of his white superiors, white superiors who will categorically not have his back if things go south. The “other Ron Stallworth” Flip is potentially in more immediate danger being in and amongst Klan machinations and has his own fair share of self-identity doubts, but at the end of the day he is still white. Jewish, but white. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see both Washington and Driver in contention for the acting prizes at the next Oscars.

Thankfully a film with such a potentially grim subject matter is broken up by moments of levity, jokes at the expense of moronic figures of authority and, in one scene, the very special sight of Adam Driver being taught to sing James Brown convincingly.

Angry Spike Lee is a far more compelling figure than righteous Spike Lee. This is the film America needs right now. When it comes down to it Lee wants us to know that there is no winner in a race war, and he tells us this with mischief, style and attitude to spare. SSP

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Underwhelming Netflix Sci-fi Double Bill: We’ve been here before, but better

It’s been widely discussed that Netflix is fast-becoming a graveyard for genre films. It seems like whenever a major studio has doubts about a project in development (particularly horror or sci-fi), or one which is approaching release with too much competition, it gets dumped on Netflix. MUTE and THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX seemingly was just the first sign of the floodgates opening. Here’s my take on just two of the latest disappointments in streaming…

TAU It’s just fine. Netflix have advanced from backing and exhibiting pretty dire sci-fi films to ones that are just OK. Maika Monroe is a good actor given the right material, almost every aspect of this story has been done before, and  been done better. Her unconventional blossoming relationship with the title character is what elevates Tau to the status of a curiosity rather than a snooze-fest. It doesn’t have the intellectual chops to match conceptually similar AI chamber pieces like EX MACHINA, and it’s not visually distinctive enough to be considered style over substance either. You know the drill: morally dubious scientist creates AI because hubris, human/AI debates whether they are so very different, AI is scared of dying because HAL’s death scene was so touching in 2001. Most of it is depressingly derivative, but at least there’s a certain joy to be had in Monroe’s Julia being excitedly questioned on the world’s bigness by a disembodied five-year-old who sounds like Gary Oldman.

EXTINCTION This starts as a another bad SKYLINE or BATTLE: LOS ANGELES-alike invasion movie, falling-down-the-stairs-style editing and spotlights-as-special effects included, and it doesn’t get a whole lot better as things progress. The middle stretch is a bit more interesting and changes genres entirely because of a pretty big twist, which might have been telegraphed better had the first act been more coherent. You didn’t get one over on me, Extinction, you just didn’t explain the rules your world operates on! I think this one’s more frustrating than Tau because there’s a gem of an interesting idea in here somewhere, and with a more fleshed-out world or characters, more invention, this could have been a standout sci-fi. Michael Peña needs to have words with his agent if he wants a chance at more interesting leading man roles (which he definitely has the charisma for). Maybe we should keep on wishing for that Luis from ANT-MAN spinoff movie instead. SSP

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