Puzzling out the impossible from the improbable in ‘Coherence’ (Oscilloscope)
In what could have been another apocalypse-is-nigh freakout, James Ward Byrkit’s highly cool Coherence drops a dinner-party full of yuppies into a hard-to-define sci-fi mystery after a comet passes over Earth and starts causing curious anomalies.
Coherence opens in limited release Friday. My review is at Film Journal International:
There are eight people in the dinner party, but the film is focused on Em (Emily Foxler) and her creeping dread. A dancer with a nervous streak, she’s first concerned by her phone’s screen spontaneously cracking as she drives to the dinner party. Once at her friends’ place, there’s a flurry of anxiety over the appearance of Em’s boyfriend drama-magnet ex-girlfriend. When dinner finally starts, Em starts talking about the comet, telling a story about a supposedly similar event in Finland during the 1920s after which people started acting … strange. It turns out somebody else at the table experienced a cracked phone screen too. Then the lights go out. And people start acting … strange …
Here’s the trailer; it actually manages to not give anything away:
Brad Pitt tries to save his family in ‘World War Z’
In case you missed the last zombie apocalypse to come running into theaters with bloody abandon, World War Z is out today on DVD, Blu-ray, and all other home viewing media.
My review of the summer’s surprise hit (all that talk of reshoots and budget problems), Brad Pitt vs. the Flesh-Eating Undead, can be found at Film Journal International; here’s part:
Zombies are people, too. That’s one truth understood by the better stories in the genre, from Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend to Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake. At no moment in Marc Forster’s churning and unfocused World War Z are the rampaging CGI hordes of the undead made to appear like anything more than swarming bits of computer code. Many of the human actors don’t fare much better…
The rather vague ending left a gaping opening for a sequel, which is apparently being planned right now but has not been officially greenlit yet.
Here’s the trailer:
Having gone after the zombie movie and the cop action flick previously, the writing/acting duo of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg (the new Star Trek‘s Scottie, for those of you who don’t get out as much) has now made a movie in which the pair go on an epic bender and end up facing down the apocalypse. The inspiration lies in a particular brand of postwar British sci-fi (think Village of the Damned and Dr. Who) which will be less obvious to American audiences than their earlier works like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Still, good inebriated fun.
My review is at Film Racket:
For all Simon Pegg’s happy chaotic lunacy as Gary, The World’s End doesn’t seem promising at first. There are scads of fine performers on hand, and a good jolt of energy, but the latter comes almost entirely from Pegg’s overanxious mugging. Without much preamble, Gary (first seen delightedly recounting that night of epic drunkenness in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting) explodes back into his friends’ comfortable yuppie lives and convinces each of them to follow him back to their small home town and start that pub crawl over again as an epic tribute to old times…
Here’s the trailer:
And so begins the last couples’ brunch of the 21st century…
Almost perfectly designed to come and go quickly from theaters, leaving mostly silence but a few nattering and persistent fans in its wake, It’s a Disaster is a tart comedy for chilly times. From my review at Film Journal International:
The current vogue for apocalypse stories gets a refreshing redo in Todd Berger’s nimble comedy about a miserable brunch that turns only mildly more sour after the realization that everyone is just hours away from death. The lack of both zombies and stars, not to mention the inside-out mockery of genre tropes, will keep wider audiences at a distance. But strong word of mouth could result in a small cult hit, at least among those who don’t mind a film whose attitude toward its doomed characters is simple and damning: Good riddance…
It’s a Disaster opened yesterday in very limited release; find it however and wherever you can.
Here’s the trailer:
David Mitchell’s 2004 novel Cloud Atlas is one of those books that has been long assumed to be unfilmmable. But then the Wachowskis apparently noticed Natalie Portman reading it while they were shooting V for Vendetta and decided, why not? For good measure they brought on Run Lola Run‘s Tom Tykwer for additional directing help. The result is a nearly three-hour karmic sci-fi epic that just keeps hitting crescendo after crescendo.
My full review is at PopMatters:
Eager to entertain and suffused with nervous energy, Cloud Atlas spans many continents and about half a millennia of human history. As faithful to David Mitchell’s novel as any $100 million enterprise could be, it’s the most daring, thrilling, satisfying, swiftly churning engine of big screen adventure to come along in some time. It even works in a halfway decent Soylent Green joke, which one would imagine wasn’t possible anymore. And oh yes, Hugh Grant plays a bloodthirsty cannibal…
Cloud Atlas opens tonight in wide release; check it out in IMAX if possible.
You can see the extended trailer here:
Good enough that Colson Whitehead is covering the Olympics (somewhat post-facto) for Grantland. (His conversations with the W.G. Sebald app beat most of what NBC had to say.)
But even better that once his first piece actually takes him to London itself, Whitehead’s thoughts immediately turn towards the apocalypse:
…I started scoring events in terms of what they’d offer in a human-annihilation-type scenario. Offensewise, archery skills seemed like an obvious asset at first. But the archers’ high-tech bows wouldn’t survive a day of jumping off roofs, tromping through sewers, and escaping cannibal hordes. The bows were items of cruel but fragile beauty, with their carbon limbs and polyethylene strings, their V-bar extenders and side-rod stabilizer doohickeys. Great for the marksman’s art, but no good in a volume-kill scenario. You’d be better off with a simple machete. The qualifying heats made it clear that swimming is a good life skill or whatever, but only marathon-distance swimming was going to help you make it to the island after a squabble over rations or sex resulted in your tiny escape vessel overturning. Triathlon, I decided, with its endurance super-combo of swimming, biking, and running, solved multiple problem areas. I made a note to see it in person.
Whitehead published his own take on the zombie apocalypse last year, Zone One. Not so much archery in it, sadly enough—he left that to Suzanne Collins.