film

Review Catch-Up: Upgrade

Written and directed by Leigh Whannell, “Upgrade” is a revenge-thriller with a futuristic sci-fi setting not unlike that of “Blade Runner”s. My plan was to catch this one when it was in theaters this past summer, it just never materialized, but I am so glad I came back to find it after video release. This pulpy, body-horror, grindhouse, genre flick isn’t what I expected going in, but I immediately fell in love with the concept of the film after the hook.

Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) is a simple man in a complex world. In a time of fully automated cars and advanced biomedical technologies Grey stands out. He’s a mechanic that works on classic American muscle cars with a deep-seated love for the analog ways of the past. With Laura (Belén Rueda), the love of his life, they lead a productive life together despite the technological gap between them. After putting the finishing touches on one of his sales cars, he brings Laura with him to drop it off to the buyer, a reclusive big-tech genius named Eron (Harrison Gilbertson). While there, Eron shows Grey and Laura his latest project set to revolutionize the world, STEM. A computer chip the size of a beetle, STEM is an A.I. capable of lightning fast processing power and immense data crunching ability. Grey, being the analog purist that he is, isn’t impressed by the reveal while Laura ogles over the new possibilities. On the way home, their automatic car disobeys orders and takes them into dangerous neighborhoods before quickly accelerating into a pole and flipping the car, killing Laura in the process. A gang of people flood the streets and pull Grey from the wreckage and shoot him in the back of the head, paralyzing him from the neck down.

Fast forward to Grey immobilized in a hospital bed when, surprise surprise, Eron waltzes into his room to offer him an.. Upgrade. Again, Grey turns down the offer. Seeing his partner die before his very eyes hasn’t exactly motivated him to want to live, and especially thrive, by technological augmentation. After he hits rock bottom emotionally and psychologically, he reconsiders and accepts Eron’s offer. After the surgery, Eron informs Grey of the need for secrecy surrounding STEM as the experimental tech isn’t exactly legal.

With his mobility regained Grey immediately goes into detective mode to find Laura’s killers. It is here that STEM (Simon Maiden) chooses to introduce itself to Grey by helping him follow the clues. STEM is also handy for a good fight. After verbally giving STEM permission, the A.I. takes control of his body and efficiently, brutally, attacks any opponents. The fight scenes in this movie are a great deal of fun! They, cleverly, have an extra layer of visual comedy in play. When Grey is fighting, his face reveals his horror to the actions of his own body with STEM at the wheel. He smashes plates over assailants heads while his face recoiles from the creative violence at hand. That’s just brilliant. Eventually a local cop, Cortez (Betty Gabriel) starts to sniff out Grey’s suspicious activities. She was fun as a threat for Grey in the film but there wasn’t a lot of characterization with her.

This film was exactly the kind of sci-fi that I enjoy. Thought provoking ideas mixed with paranoia about a changing world, and some extreme B-movie violence thrown in for good measure. It was funny, it was dark, it was just a damn good science-fiction film. I highly recommend it, but especially if you enjoy other modern sci-fi flicks like “Annihilation” or “Ex-Machina”.

Final Score: 2 Muscle Cars and 1 talkative A.I.

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film

Review Catch-Up: Paterson

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, “Paterson” is a meditation on the struggle, lyricism, and poetry of everyday life. The film focuses on Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey, who writes poetry in his fleeting free time. He lives with Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), the love of his life and the yang to his ying. While Paterson lives a life of simple routine with flourishes of artistry, Laura chases her dreams of artistic freedom through whichever flight of fancy that catches her imagination. From being the owner/chef of a cupcake bakery one evening to taking Spanish guitar courses online so she can pursue her latest dream of being a country music star.

Paterson (The film) is structured around a week in his life. From overhearing casual conversations on his routes to catching up on the latest developments of the local Romeo and Juliet of the neighborhood bar (William Jackson Harper as Everett and Chasten Harmon as Marie), the film isn’t concerned with anything other than the small, mundane, beat of it’s protagonist. One of the more poignant scenes of the film happens when Paterson is walking home and he decides to accompany a young girl until her mother returns from a nearby apartment. He sees that she has a notebook of writing too, she shares a poem of hers, and in that moment the film captures the beauty of such random acts of serendipity; two strangers sharing an appreciation for their craft.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll love this movie, it is “slow” and “nothing happens”, however if you find yourself needing a break from the noise, confusion, and chaos of your own every day life- then this film may just be what you need. I honestly went into this film not knowing if I would actually enjoy the experience or just be resentful of time spent on this whereas it may have been better spent on other priorities, I’ve seen Jim Jarmusch films films before and haven’t ever been really impressed or absorbed by them. (I’ve seen “Stranger than Paradise” “Dead Man” “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” and “Broken Flowers”) This is the only film of Jarmusch’s that has worked for me this far, though I can at least understand why some people enjoy “Broken Flowers”, but it’s not for me. This a solid Feel Good movie, perfect for a cold and blustery winter night.

Final Score: 7 days in Paterson, New Jersey