ARQ


Time after time.

Time after time.

(2016) Science Fiction (Netflix) Robbie Amell, Rachael Taylor, Shaun Benson, Gray Powell, Jacob Neayem, Adam Butcher, Tantoo Cardinal, Jamie Spichuk. Directed by Tony Elliott

 

There are times in our lives where we all want a do-over. What if you had to do over the same three hours and every time you did, you still managed to muck it up?

Renton (Amell), a scientist, wakes up with a gasp. He is in bed with his former flame Hannah (Taylor) when masked men barge into their bedroom. And as things turn out, Renton ends up dead on the floor. But then he wakes up again.

He quickly realizes he’s caught in a time loop, one which is lasting precisely three hours, fourteen minutes and fifteen seconds (math majors will get the significance). It’s the near future and in this dystopian vision, a single corporation essentially rules Earth. Renton has been working on a new energy source that will break the hold of said evil corporation and save the planet – the air is already unbreathable.

The baddies want to confiscate Renton’s experiment and kill the inventor of the device that can threaten their employer’s stranglehold on the world and it seems they are succeeding but Renton remembers what is going on from loop to loop and Hannah is beginning to too. Can the two of them figure out how to break out of the loop and use the device Renton has invented to buy freedom from corporate tyranny?

This is a bare bones Canadian production that doesn’t utilize a whole lot of effects or a lot of cast. It mostly takes place in several rooms of a single house, and of course there are no costume changes. Still, one gets the sense of a large budget than what they likely had. Kudos should go to the production design crew for making this look apocalyptic and futuristic without resorting to a whole lot of CGI.

Amell has mostly a lot of small screen experience and that’s fine for something like this that is destined mainly for streaming and home viewing. His performance is solid but not as inspiring as I would have liked in a character like his. I’ve enjoyed his work on TV but he hasn’t yet shown that he can take a feature and carry it yet. Taylor is more intriguing here, but to be fair she has a lot more to work with than Amell, whose character is essentially sci-fi dystopian hero 101.

Like most movies set in a time loop (the most famous being Groundhog Day) there is a certain amount of repetitiveness here that is inevitable. Some movies with this theme handle it better than others; this one is definitely on the lower end of the scale in that regard. The middle third of the movie feels a bit like a slog in places.

Still, as Netflix entertainment goes there is a certain amount of niche filling that this satisfies. Those who like sci-fi and time travel conundrums will probably end up liking this as well. Mainstream audiences may be less enthusiastic but Amell is hunky, Taylor is gorgeous and the baddies are nasty enough to make this a worthwhile investment of time for certain Netflix subscribers.

REASONS TO GO: There are some interesting concepts here.
REASONS TO STAY: As with many time travel films, there is a lot of repetition.
FAMILY VALUES:  A fair amount of violence and some sensuality.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT:  The film played at the Toronto Film Festival before opening on Netflix.
BEYOND THE THEATER: Netflix
CRITICAL MASS: As of 10/11/16: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Synchronicity
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT: Blair Witch

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New Releases for the Week of August 5, 2016


Suicide SquadSUICIDE SQUAD

(Warner Brothers) Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Ben Affleck, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Cara Delevingne. Directed by David Ayer

There are some jobs that a superhero just can’t do. They are far too valuable to risk. That’s when you send in the other guys, or in this case, a government-selected group of super-villains who have nothing to lose and are completely expendable. Given no option but to succeed or die, will they take on an impossible task and perhaps save the world, or bicker among themselves and go down in flames along with the rest of us?

See the trailer, a clip, a promo, a featurette and a video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX
Genre: Superhero
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language)

Bazodee

(Serafini) Staz Nair, Kabir Bedi, Natalie Perera, Valmike Rampersad. The daughter of an Indian businessman agrees to marry a wealthy man in order to get her father out of the crushing debt he’s under. However, at her engagement party she meets an intriguing reggae musician with whom she develops a complicated friendship…which leads to forbidden feelings that catch the eye of the protective brother of her fiance who sets out to ruin everything and everyone involved.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Romance
Now Playing: AMC West Oaks

Rating: PG-13 (for some suggestive content and brief language)

Nine Lives

(EuropaCorp/Relativity) Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Robbie Amell, Christopher Walken. A workaholic Dad on the eve of his biggest career triumph ever is on the way home to his daughter’s 11th birthday with the gift she’s always wanted – a cat. He hates cats, but had to scramble to find a gift and this is what he came up with. After a terrible car accident, he awakens with his consciousness inside the cat. He begins to get an entirely new outlook about his family through the eyes of the cat and begins to understand what he could potentially lose. It will take an extreme effort on his part to earn back his humanity and rejoin the family he’d taken for granted for so long.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Family Comedy
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG (for thematic elements, language and some rude humor)

Max


Max prefers kidfingers over ladyfingers.

Max prefers kidfingers over ladyfingers.

(2015) Family Drama (Warner Brothers/MGM) Thomas Haden Church, Josh Wiggins, Luke Kleintank, Lauren Graham, Robbie Amell, Mia Xitlali, Dejon LaQuake, Jay Hernandez, Owen Harn, Joseph Julian Soria, Raymond W. Beal, Edgar Arreola, Jason Davis, Pete Burns, Miles Mussenden, Joan Q. Scott, Ian Gregg, Andrene Ward-Hammond. Directed by Boaz Yakin

]It is a Hollywood truism that it is never a good idea to work as an actor with children and animals, unless you like getting upstaged. Sometimes, of course, it’s unavoidable – families must have their films and they are often crawling with kids and pets.

Max is a dog working for the military. He and his handler, Kyle Wincott (Amell) are in Afghanistan, where Max faithfully sniffs out weapon caches for the Taliban and alerts the platoon when there’s trouble. However, all of Max’s training can’t save Kyle from a Taliban ambush.

Back home in Texas, Kyle’s family is living day to day; his ex-marine Dad Ray (Church) bears his wounds that he got in Desert Storm and runs a storage facility. His wife Pam (Graham) relies on her faith in God to get her eldest son back home safely and to keep the peace between Ray and their youngest son Justin (Wiggins). Justin is at an age where he is, quite frankly, a jerk – like most teenage boys. He has little or no respect for either parent (less for his demanding Dad than his Mom), plays videogames all day long and has no interest in spending his summer working for his Dad who really needs the help. He is also burning bootlegged copies of videogames that haven’t come out yet for a local hoodlum named Emilio (Soria), who is the cousin of his best friend Chuy (LaQuake).

The Wincott family is devastated by the news of Kyle’s passing. It is Max, however, who is the most inconsolable. His relationship with Kyle and devotion to him is such that he is of no use back in the field; he suffers from PTSD (and yes, dogs can be afflicted by it) and won’t let any other handler near him. The Army ships him back to Texas where he was first trained to see if anyone can deal with him. They bring the dog to Kyle’s funeral, where he breaks hearts by running up to the casket, pawing at it and with a piteous whimper lies down at the foot of it. Why don’t you go get a tissue now, I’m sure you need it.

Anyway, the only person Max responds to is the sullen Justin. As it turns out, Justin is beginning to respond to Max, too – after his mom forces him to take care of the dog on his own. It would seem an insurmountable obstacle for Justin, who doesn’t know the first thing about caring for a dog. Fortunately for him, another cousin of Chuy – this one not involved in anything illegal – named Carmen (Xitlali) – has raised pit bulls in her family for ages, so she agrees to help Justin out. The two start to take a shine to each other.

However, things get complicated when Kyle’s buddy – Tyler Harne (Kleintank) returns from duty early and gives Ray an account of Kyle’s death that puts the blame squarely on Max. Ray is all for putting a bullet in the dog’s head after that but cooler heads prevail. Max clearly doesn’t like Harne – he gets upset whenever he’s close by, barking and trying to break his chain to get at the former Marine. Justin thinks Harne is up to something. When Justin’s suspicions prove correct, Harne has Max taken away by animal control to be put down and when Ray finally figures out that his younger son has been right all along, kidnaps Ray to hand over to the drug cartel that he is selling weapons that he liberated in Afghanistan to with the express instructions to take his buddy’s dad to Mexico and make him disappear permanent-like. It’s up to Max to escape doggie death row and aid Justin in finding his dad.

I liked the first part of the premise – bringing a military dog home and helping the dog heal from his PTSD, while simultaneously helping the family heal from the grief of their loss. Had they stuck to that story this might have been an excellent family film. Unfortunately, they add the whole far-fetched junior detective angle that just turns the movie into an Afterschool Special and not a particularly good one.

What saves the movie is Max himself; the dog is absolutely wonderful, the kind of dog that epitomizes why the species is Man’s Best Friend. One can see why the military and law enforcement both rely heavily on dogs, particularly those of Max’s breed. Max will definitely tug on your heartstrings and in a movie like this one, frankly that’s his job.

I didn’t talk much about Carmen in the story summary but let me tell you, Mia Xitlali may have an unusual last name but she also has unusual talent to back it up. She’s absolutely a knockout in the looks department but she has plenty of screen presence to make her a talent to watch out for, so long as she doesn’t go down the Selena Gomez path. Latin actresses don’t often get really juicy roles but hopefully one will come this lady’s way – I know she’ll make the most of it when one does. Mark my words, this girl has a future ahead of her.

Wiggins, who was impressive in the far better Hellion, is less so here. Mostly, he’s the victim of awful writing; Justin is so sullen and so angry at the world that it is absolutely excruciating to spend time with him. Sure, this might be more typical of teenage boy behavior – and I helped raise one as well as having been one, so I know they can be real jerks – but most teen boys, even my son, had redeeming qualities. Eventually Max turns Justin around but by the time he does, you’re pretty much already over Justin. Sadly, Yakin gave Wiggins some cringe-inducing dialogue to speak and you can almost see Wiggins wincing when he says it.

I get that this isn’t meant to be a work of art but it could have been so much better. I think the story that takes up most of the first part of the movie is far more compelling than the Disney Channel detective show that makes up the second. I wish Yakin had trusted his main story to carry him through although to be fair, it’s quite possible (and even likely) that the studio may have had something to do with adding the kids save the day second half. In addition, when a filmmaker casts actors the caliber of Graham and Church and then gives them little to do but look stern or sad, that’s a bad sign. Still, those looking for family entertainment that isn’t animated in a year in which it seems like the only good option for families is Inside Out could do worse than seeing this as a break from multiple viewings of Pixar.

REASONS TO GO: Max is terrific. Some nice cinematography. Xitlali shows some legitimate talent.
REASONS TO STAY: Pedantic story. Church and Graham criminally underused. Justin may be a “typical” teen but far too abrasive to get much audience sympathy.
FAMILY VALUES: Some violence and peril, disturbing war sequence and some thematic elements.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Five dogs play Max, who is a Belgian Malinois (not a Belgian Shepard as is at least once remarked upon in the movie) which are a breed used often by the military and police; the primary canine actor, whose name is Carlos (great name!) also appeared in the movie Project Almanac.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/9/15: Rotten Tomatoes: 38% positive reviews. Metacritic: 47/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Bolt
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT: Meet Me in Montenegro

New Releases for the Week of June 26, 2015


Ted 2TED 2

(Universal) Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane (voice), Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth, Giovanni Ribisi, Morgan Freeman, Sam J. Jones, Patrick Warburton, Michael Dorn. Directed by Seth MacFarlane

The magically animated teddy bear Ted is living the good life now. Although his thunder buddy has broken up with his girlfriend, Ted’s relationship has blossomed and he is going to get married, and the two are even thinking about having a kid. The trouble is, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts needs Ted to prove that he is human. That’s going to require some legal-type stuff and there’s a hottie named Samantha L. Jackson who might just be the ticket to Ted’s happiness – and his pal John’s as well.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard (opens Thursday)
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug use)

Max

(Warner Brothers/MGM) Thomas Haden Church, Josh Wiggins, Lauren Graham, Robbie Amell. Max is a specially trained dog that sniffs out bombs and mines for the army in Afghanistan. When his handler is killed in action, Max is severely traumatized and is taken out of service. He is shipped back stateside to the family of his beloved handler and makes a bond with their teenage son. However, when a dangerous situation threatens the family, the hero in Max will need to re-emerge if he and his new friend are to save the day.

See the trailer, a clip, an interview and a music video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Family Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for action violence, peril, brief language and thematic elements)

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

(Fox Searchlight) Thomas Mann, R.J. Cryler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman. A high school senior tries to remain as invisible as possible to avoid any sort of relationship which might cause him discomfort. He spends most of his free time making film parodies of classic movies with his only friend, who he describes as a co-worker rather than a best friend. However, when his mom insists that he spend time with a girl in school who has just been diagnosed with cancer, he finds something that is worth all the trouble he had tried to avoid. This was perhaps the most acclaimed film to come out of Sundance this year.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and a featurette here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard (opens Thursday)
Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Enzian Theater, AMC Downtown Disney
Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements)

New Releases for the Week of February 20, 2015


The DUFFTHE DUFF

(CBS) Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Bianca A. Santos, Skyler Samuels, Romany Malco, Nick Eversman, Ken Jeong, Allison Janney. Directed by Ari Sandel

A young high school senior who is pretty content about her position in the school’s social hierarchy is shocked to discover that she’s better known around campus as the DUFF – Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Working to rehabilitate her image with a slick but charming football player, she takes on the school’s official designator of labels (doesn’t every school have one?) to find that the only label that’s important is the one you give yourself. Or something along those lines.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard (opens Thursday)
Genre: Teen Comedy
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for crude and sexual material throughout, some language and teen partying)

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

(Paramount/MGM) Rob Corddry, Adam Scott, Chevy Chase, Craig Robinson. Having used the Hot Tub Time Machine to make their lives better, the three buddies find that using the time machine for their own purposes has a cost of its own.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, a promo and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for crude sexual content and language throughout, graphic nudity, drug use and some violence)

McFarland USA

(Disney) Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Morgan Saylor, Vincent Martella. In a Central California high school mostly made up of the children of Hispanic farm workers, school and work in the fields are all any of them have to look forward to. However, some of them are fast – that attracts the attention of new PE coach Jim White who proposes to establish a cross country team. The group’s devotion to family, incredible work ethic and belief in one another will take a little known farming community high school and transform it into a place of champions.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, a featurette and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: True Sports Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for thematic material, some violence and language)