Pick of the Litter – July 2016


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters

(Columbia) Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Chris Hemsworth. Who ya gonna call? One of the 80s most beloved films gets a reboot. There has been some grousing that the team of paranormal exterminators is all women, and that has led to a great deal of grousing on the Internet. I know, who would have thought that people on the Internet grouse? Seriously, director Paul Feig has made some of the funniest comedies of the past few years and generally utilizes a female-centric cast. While I generally would have preferred a sequel (although original Dan Aykroyd reportedly makes a cameo here), I’m really looking forward to this. July 15

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Buddymoon

Buddymoon

(Orion) David Giuntoli, Flula Borg, Claire Coffee, Brian T. Finney. Left at the altar on his wedding day, a former child actor is convinced by his German friend, DJ Flula, to take his honeymoon anyway – a hike in the Pacific Northwest’s Cascades Range. Reluctant at first, the two good friends prove to be anything but compatible hiking partners as neither one is used to the great outdoors. But gradually, they find their stride and maybe, discover what it means to be buddies. This played the Florida Film Festival this past April. July 1

Life, Animated

Life, Animated

(The Orchard) Jonathan Freeman, Gilbert Gottfried, Owen Suskind, Ron Suskind. An autistic child presents challenges for his or her family, but Jonathan Freeman’s family faced some enormous ones with him. Their love and devotion to him moved them to create an entire language using Disney animated films so that they could communicate with Jonathan. This documentary, showing their triumphs over adversity, has been wowing the festival circuit since it first made an appearance at Sundance earlier this year. July 1

Microbe and Gasoline

Microbe and Gasoline

(Screen Media) Ange Dargent, Théophile Baquet, Audrey Tautou, Diane Besnier. Michel Gondry is one of the most imaginative directors in the world and his latest is in many ways his most accessible film yet. It is a coming of age tale about two misfit young boys, certain that they will never fit in, who decide to leave town and take a road trip across France to find a place they do fit in. Not being old enough to drive, much less afford a car, they build one of their own – a kind of an RV if you use a little imagination and you can bet Gondry uses a lot more than a little. July 1

Captain Fantastic

Captain Fantastic

(Bleecker Street) Viggo Mortensen, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Frank Langella. Ben has raised his family in what can only be termed as a counterculture method. Away from civilization and technology, he has crafted a simple life for he and his family. When his wife gets sick, he relents and takes her to the hospital but it’s not enough. Her death sets Ben up against his wife’s heartbroken father, who determines to take the children and raise them in civilization before Ben kills another of them. This film is an allegory of the left vs. the right in a year where politics are everything. July 8

Fathers and Daughters

 Fathers and Daughters

(Vertical) Amanda Seyfried, Russell Crowe, Aaron Paul, Jane Fonda. Following the death of his wife, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author suffers a mental breakdown and is forced to give up his daughter while he recovers. 27 years later, his now-grown daughter struggles to forge connections of her own while trying to help a young girl who has lost everything. From director Gabriele Muccino, Oscar-nominated director of The Pursuit of Happyness. July 8

Our Little Sister

Our Little Sister

(Sony Classics) Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho, Suzu Hirose. Three beautiful young women, sisters all, attend the funeral of their father, from whom they’ve been estranged for his philandering ways. When they arrive at the funeral, they discover that he left behind a fourth sister with the woman who they had blamed for wrecking the marriage of their parents. When they discover she has no place to go, they invite her to stay with them. This Japanese film looks beautiful from both a cinematography standpoint but also an emotional one and is based on a popular graphic novel. July 8

Tulip Fever

Tulip Fever

(Weinstein) Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, Dane DeHaan, Judi Dench. In 17th century Amsterdam at the height of tulip mania in the Netherlands, a young artist is hired to paint the portrait of the wife of a well-to-do merchant. The artist and his subject fall in love, beginning a game of cat and mouse with the husband that might have deadly consequences. With a script by Tom Stoppard and a cast with some of the best actors from Hollywood and Europe, this is undoubtedly a must-see. July 15

Don't Think Twice

Don’t Think Twice

(The Film Arcade) Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Birbiglia, Gillian Jacobs, Kate Micucci. A tight-knit New York City improv group has been laboring in relative obscurity in the city. When one of their number gets called upon to join the cast of an SNL-like TV show, the rest of his troupe begin to realize that they may not be destined for stardom after all. A bittersweet look at life in the comedy lane. July 22

Can We Take a Joke

Can We Take a Joke?

(Goldwyn) Gilbert Gottfried, Penn Jillette, Lisa Lampinelli, Jim Norton. In this age of social media and instant gratification, comedy has come under fire for offending people. Anything that even smacks at poking fun at, say, racial stereotypes, gender stereotypes, religious stereotypes – all of these can end up getting the comedian in hot water, and sometimes in physical danger. This documentary asks if we’ve gotten too thin-skinned for our own good (SPOILER ALERT: yes we have). July 29

Viral

Viral

(Dimension/Radius) Analeigh Tipton, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Michael Kelly, Travis Tope. It isn’t often that I include a horror movie among my Picks of the Litter, but this one looks special. For one, it’s got Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman in the director’s chair, two of the brightest and promising directors in Hollywood. For another, it’s got a look that reminds me a little bit of the excellent FX series The Strain. And finally, it looks scary as hell. July 29

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Doppelganger


          I still don’t know whether to say I or we. I’m not, strictly speaking, myself. I’m a doppelganger, a copy; I’ve been duplicated on a cellular level by an alien species, something little more than a virus that hides in other life forms, changes them.

            It landed a hundred thousand years ago in the Antarctic ice. It lay there dormant for that entire time until a Norwegian research team found it and allowed it to thaw. They didn’t realize that the thing they’d found was still alive. It began to absorb and evolve, from the station’s dogs to the people. When the station was wiped out by the last remaining human survivor, one of the creatures that had mimicked a dog made its way to an American research station. The alien virus did it’s work there too, absorbing the humans until again only one was left. The station was blown up and the surviving human froze to death.

            The creature remained dormant inside a human named Childs, and when his body was brought home for burial, it burst out and began doing it’s thing. Before long, McMurdo station was completely contaminated and infected persons went to the United Kingdom, Norway, Argentina, the Soviet Union and the United States, among other places.

            The spread was slow but remorseless. I was one of the first Americans to get duplicated. I had been a medical doctor doing a routine exam of one of the McMurdo station evacuees. I put my stethoscope up to his chest and a great gaping maw opened up and tube-like tentacles fastened themselves to me and pulled me inside. I scarcely had a chance to scream before I died.

            You see what nobody tells you about the whole duplication process is that our human memories and personality is retained in the brain. I remember everything about my life; I’m still essentially “me,” only I’m not in control of my body or my mind. I long to scream a warning out to everyone I see but I can’t move my lips to form the words.

            I’ve been responsible for the duplication of dozens of people. My wife was the first. That was the hardest for me. My wife was a beautiful blonde woman, sweet and loving. She greeted me at the door and ran into my arms for a kiss. As our lips met, my face changed. Tentacles flew out of my mouth and imbedded into hers. My eyeballs changed into pincers and flew into her eyes. Her screams and cries were muffled by my kiss. Her blood flowed and I could feel her dying in my arms. I raged and screamed but the alien that I was felt nothing. It continued doing it’s thing until my wife’s tissue was completely absorbed and a duplicate of her created. Together we cleaned up the blood from the tile, saying nothing to each other and threw away her dress and underclothes which had been shredded in the process. Then we waited for the kids to come home.

            I can sometimes get images and impressions from the alien side of my body. I get the sense that this species is very, very old, perhaps dating back to the birth of the universe. It has sent emissary ships to nearly every planet there is, waiting in hibernation for life on each world to evolve sufficiently to find it and revive it.

            After that, it takes over. I’m not exactly sure what it’s/their agenda is. They seem to be something of a hive mind – they are able to function in pieces or as a whole. They aren’t really interested in the natural resources of the planets; there just seems to be some sort of biological imperative to take over every species that they can. They’ve been successful with countless races to date.

            Our human race is going to be one of them. Extinct. A distant memory in an alien hive mind. They have little regard for us. They neither hate nor pity us. Humans are merely fodder for their biological machine, the same as dogs, cats, horses and sheep. Every organic thing on this planet will eventually become part of this thing’s collective.

            There are enclaves of human holdouts still. They think that by keeping all other living things out of their remote camps that they’ll somehow escape notice or detection. They don’t realize that this species has interstellar travel – or one of the races they ingested, I’m not sure exactly. I do know that they absorb the knowledge and technology of every race, no matter how trivial or archaic, into their collective mind. They use then the most brilliant of every race to extrapolate that technology, to develop it to its logical conclusion. In this manner they get our innovation as well as our bodies. The bastards might even think that they were creating a more efficient and productive race. Doing us a favor.

            Of course, they don’t even consider us in the equation. This is just another day at the office for them and we don’t even figure into their plans. We’re a necessary nuisance, like filling out tax forms. We’re a chore to be completed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

            I weep inside because I know what the fate of our species is. I have seen it in the fate of other species in the viral mind. We will be filed away in their common mind archives, our bodies allowed to run until they break down and fall apart. Then the tissue will be used for spare parts.

            They have no concept of joy or pride. No emotion whatsoever – they just are and they do. Their minds are cold and hard, like frozen steel. They don’t understand love and they don’t want to. They look at us the same way we looked at flies; pests that are meant to be eradicated.

            I don’t see a way out. I can’t even control my own body, let alone figure out a way to stop the process. It’s doubtlessly too far gone by this time to even consider it anyway. Our species is doomed. And there’s nothing I can do but watch it happen. I can’t even scream. But I can weep. Once in awhile, I can force a tear from my eye if I concentrate hard  enough. At least I can do that much.