Upgrade

RATING: [F|👎]

Ever see a film that continually treats the audience like children that have to be led by the hand through basic addition? That’s the case with Upgrade. The short and simple version of this review is this: saturating a screen with the trappings of a transhumanist, cyberpunk plot does not give the script the right to explain away massive plot holes while claiming “deus ex machina”.

Spoilers follow, but I’m honestly writing them for your own benefit. If some young, techie, multi-billionaire starts describing their new widget as having the potential to “make humanity better” (or some other flowery, utopian, nonsense), understand that this is likely lazy foreshadowing that the new tech will attempt to usurp its’ creator. Furthermore, what good is it to present a character as a senior Detective if they can’t even put together that someone proven to be in the area of a murder (multiple murders, in this case) is clearly hiding something? No matter how unlikely that suspect might be, it’s not too far of a reach to think that they would be involved in some way at that point.

Much of the plot reminded me of early childhood programming where the enthusiastic host would stand listlessly in the frame whilst one-sidedly pleading with the non-responsive audience to identify the “elephant in the room”. Except in this case, the enthusiastic host is the deadpan AI that only the paraplegic man with the “miracle implant” can hear, and the proverbial “elephant in the room” is the thinly veiled plot to make the user dependent on said AI to give it complete control.

There was a time not too long ago when I got excited to see Blumhouse release a new thriller. With rare exceptions, that nostalgia has faded to a realization of either my growing (if not pickier) tastes, or Blumhouse’s more laissez-faire vetting. Add this pulpy excuse for a “psychological thriller” to the slush pile.

RATING: F

Deadpool 2

RATING: [B-|🍅]

The “Merc with a Mouth” is back! …And that about sums everything up. Just like the last Deadpool, it’s another “self-aware”, self-referential, sophomoric romp through the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you enjoyed the wit and oft foul-mouthed banter of the first film, you’ll likely enjoy the sequel about as much.

While much of the script is fairly blatantly lifted from the first film, credit must be given to the fact that quite a lot of the dialog practically writes an artistic critique for itself, but…

That’s just lazy writing.

— Wade Wilson (Deadpool)

As any other film in the MCU, there is plenty of slow motion filming that comes just shy of being able to be considered artful. How many more films can an audience sit through with the same stylistic set pieces and over-the-top antics of enhanced vigilantes? Ryan Reynolds, Paul Wernick, and Rhett Reese seem to be asking the same question if the screenplay is to be believed. Many scenes are packed with cynical witticisms that poke fun at the rote nature of the MCU and other “Cinematic Universes”.

Much of the writing for this outing seems to be more comfortable than that of the first film as well. While the first film came across as being just as one-dimensional as the comics that birthed the character, this one adds enough trope-based depth to simultaneously make characters vaguely relatable while showcasing the poster-board cut-out depth that these sorts of films sell. Much of the acting from the rest of the cast more effectively shows Wade’s eccentric fourth-wall breaking than the confused and pandering interactions of the first film as well. Again, that has to be given as a credit to the cast and crew.

Deadpool 2 shows that a film can be playfully enjoyable without really being artful. Considering that the main plot doesn’t fully bother with the intricacies of time-traveling paradoxes, it makes sense that it would also take the time and effort to appease fans by correcting the canonical missteps of other films based on beloved characters. Besides, if you realized that you could dramatically alter past events without any of the negative consequences, why wouldn’t you travel back and chastise yourself for thinking you finally put your foot in the door to “the big leagues”?

You’re welcome, Canada!

— Wade Wilson (Deadpool)

RATING: B-

Anon

RATING: [B-|🍅]

Andrew Niccol presents his take on a slightly distant future Orwellian dystopia in Anon. The effect of which is quietly chilling as we slowly see his concepts lurking in dark alleyways. While Niccol leaves any direct predictions of his projected reality out of the film, the subject matter is almost too timely to brush off, if not pandering to the more “alarmist” crowd. As someone who watches trends in social-media and other online venues with great interest, Anon poses a question that should be asked by anyone who utilizes our modern online tools of convenience: How much personal information are we simply giving away to the public?

To quote Amanda Seyfried’s character in response to a similar question:

It’s not that I have something to hide; I have nothing I want you to see.

While the film is pertinent to our modern era, there is something to be desired of many of the stars’ performances. Many of the characters come across as though their points of view and personal agendas are more pertinent than that of the other characters’. While this might actually be part of the effect of essentially living in an interconnected social-media that also acts as an elaborate digital government nanny, the effect of the characters’ interactions comes across as preachy and disinterested in other parties. Again, that might be the intent. Regardless, it presents an off-putting air about the characters that tends to seep into the plot itself.

This is one of the few films in my recollection that uses a first-person perspective in an effective manner. Since the main technology is an implant that allows citizens to view the world and any desirable information as an augmented reality (AR) overlay to what is in their view, it makes sense that advertisements and memories would utilize the available technology. Where the effect is truly effective at world building is when an individual decides to ignore what is being projected to them and sees the environment as it actually is. For times when memories are being shared between characters, the perspective showcases vivid reminders that nothing an individual does is ever truly private.

Overall, this shows somewhat of a plateau in Niccol’s storytelling and film making. Many of the similar touchstones for his films are still there: apathetic characters, grim circumstances, and a balanced projection of what the future might hold. However, many of the perceived short-comings could be explained away by the world in which the film takes place. Considering the film clocks in at 100 minutes, it almost could have been mistaken for a one-off special of Black Mirror.

RATING: B-