Sign in using your account with
Self/less: Sense/less, Mind/less Sci-Fi Action
Who would have thought that Ben Kingsley and Ryan Reynolds would ever end up in a film together, let alone playing the same character? On one hand, you have an Oscar-winning heavyweight and one of the most reputable 'real' actors working in Hollywood today; on the other, you have a critically unloved pretty-boy whose first big break came on a sit-com. Well, they are and they do in Tarsem Singh's disappointing sci-fi thriller, Self/less.
Written by David & Alex Pastor, the film is centred on billionaire businessman and New York magnate, Damian Hale (Kingsley), who has recently become afflicted with an aggressive form of cancer.
Eager to beat death, Damien is soon drawn to genetics expert, Professor Albright (Goode), who claims that his controversial 'Shedding' procedure can transfer Damian's consciousness into a young, healthy artificially-created body (Reynolds). Awakening as a stranger, he begins a new life in New Orleans as Edward Kittner and lives as any young, good-looking fellow would – lots of partying and lots of women, of course. However, he begins to suffer hallucinations of a woman and young girl and when he forgets to take medicine prescribed for the issue by Albright, he begins to realise that there's more than meets the eye with the 'shedding' process.
Self/less' central premise is intriguing enough and the narrative of man wrestling with his mortality has endless philosophical and fantastical possibilities. This is why the film starts off strong; it sets up an absorbing and charming introduction to Damian's life, though it all quickly descends into silly chase scenes and bizarre shoot outs and its potentially interesting ideas take a backseat to the conventions of action.
Another cause of the film's steep decline – and possibly its biggest pitfall – is the fact that Kingsley is so commanding in the opening, that Reynolds couldn't possibly take the character further or deeper. It's difficult to dislike Reynolds and he has box office draw; he hasn't quite found his place, though, and is still waiting for that one big performance.
Favouring style-over-substance, there are no real or meaningful contributions to the sci-fi cause in Self/less which ends up being a forgettable affair.
Returning to the world of wizards and all things magic, J.K Rowling’s screenwriting debut in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has produced mixed results. Following the massive and the enduring success of the Harry Potter film franchise, the story is both magical and visually arresting. However, although definitely entertaining, the fun factor seems to have been squeezed out of the proceedings.
The plot follows ‘magizoologist’, Newt (Redmayne), who travels the world in search of magical animals in order to learn more about their powers. During his travels to New York City in 1926, Newt ends up losing his magical suitcase – a portable zoo of sorts which accidentally finds itself in the hands of an aspiring baker, Jacob Kowalski (Fogler) – setting off a chain of chaos.
The incident soon attracts the attention of Tina Goldstein (Waterston); a federal agent working for the Magical Congress of the United States of America who, after some persuading, reluctantly joins our hero on his quest along with her mind-reading sister, Queenie (Sudol).
Working from an original screenplay penned by J.K Rowling herself and directed by David Yates – filmmaker who helmed previous Harry Potter films – it would be easy to assume Fantastic Beasts to be nothing more than a blatant cash-grab which hopes to profit from long-time Harry Potter fans. However, although not as developed or as absorbing as one might have hoped, Fantastic Beasts proves to be a worthy addition to the fantasy arena which delivers an enchanting premise of eccentricity and magic.
Set seventy years before a boy named Harry Potter first walked the halls of Hogwarths, the film benefits from a degree of creative freedom to expand on its premise, introducing new stories, characters and an array of magical beasts along the way. However, there seems to be too much going on and the film struggles to keep up with the sheer amount of characters and sub-plots, failing to offer any substantial back stories or weight support them. The performances are relatively likable, with Redmayne embracing Newt’s love for magic with an gawky energy, though the rest of the cast – including Collin Farrell and Jon Voight - fail to make a similar impact.
Fantastic Beasts is an entertaining piece of cinema which will more than likely please die-hard fans that have been waiting to return to the world of wizards and magic. However, it’s not exactly what you might call an exciting movie or even a fully developed one; while it has sown the seeds for the films to come, as a standalone piece, it fails to really wow.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.