In Time

by CosmicTwin3

 

2011, Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried. Written and directed by Andrew Niccol.

Let me start by saying that I have a weakness for thought-provoking science fiction movies that are well executed.

Imagine a world where someone has figured out how to capture, add to, and delete from the remaining time of any individual’s natural lifespan. There is no money; anything that can be bought or sold is traded in terms of time – a few minutes for a cup of coffee, a couple of hours for a bus ride, decades for a car. Generations of genetic engineering means no one physically ages past 25 but once you turn 25, you have only one year of free life left.

The poor work every minute they can as soon as that clock starts ticking down to replenish their lifespan time. Most live at a basic subsistence level with barely more than 24 hours left to them at any given point in a day, so they run everywhere they go performing tasks as quickly as possible. They cannot afford the luxury of simply taking a few minutes to enjoy their family or savor a peaceful moment. Conversely, the wealthy have accumulated so much time they can live for hundreds of years – and never look a day over 25. It’s a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer because the rich control the price of everything the poor need to buy.

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is one of the hardworking poor. So far he has managed to survive 3 years beyond his 25th birthday when he suddenly becomes the beneficiary of a gift he didn’t ask for; a century of time from a man who had tired of being one of the idle rich and wanted to die. At first Will wants a taste of what he’s never had; a glimpse of how the 1% live and the opportunity to experience it for himself. It isn’t long, though, before Will is identified as an imposter in the wrong time zone. Having all that time makes him a threat to the system that allows the very wealthy to live forever and keeps the poor too busy with basic survival to question why the system works the way it does.

Justin Timberlake is very good as Will Salas and Amanda Seyfried does a nice job in her role as the rich girl who may be just bored enough to seek out a little adventure. The way the plot unfolds is pretty standard as a nice young man gets caught up in a situation not of his making and must survive by his wits while he drags a pretty girl along with him. What elevates this movie above just another formulaic ho-hum predictable thriller wannabe is the idea that time has replaced money and everything – from the food you eat to the clothes you wear to the apartment you rent – is valued in time. (This is a very entertaining and original sci-fi movie, but not superior to Source Code. If you missed Source Code in a theater, see it on disc! Director Duncan Jones delivered a Hitchcockian thriller with a mind-blowing premise that will have an observant viewer pondering possible alternative outcomes for a very long time.)

The creepiest aspect of In Time is that there is not a single person who looks older than 25. Everyone appears to be young and healthy as if the Shangri-La of Lost Horizon has grown to encompass the entire globe. But this is no Shangri-La where peace and harmony are valued above all else; when money doesn’t exist, what do greedy people seek to accumulate? What will they do when a Robin Hood-style champion of the people starts taking time from the rich and giving it to the poor? After seeing this movie you won’t be able to use the phrase “living on borrowed time” without thinking about an entirely different meaning.

Three boxes of popcornCosmic Twins rating: Triple Serving 

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Trollhunter

by CosmicTwin3

2010, Norwegian with English subtitles. Directed by André Øvredal, stars Otto Jespersen, Robert Stoltenberg and Knut Nærum. Original title: Trolljegeren.

“Why problem make when you no problem have you don’t want to make?” The ultimate government cover up?

Filmed with hand-held and sometimes shaky cameras, this is the story of three college students who set out to do a bit of investigative journalism and end up discovering a terrifying truth. Does that remind you of some other movie – The Blair Witch Project, perhaps? I’m wondering when Blair Witch became a genre all its own when I wasn’t looking. No matter – back to the review…

It seems there is a wild bear problem and the three intrepid students are determined to get to the bottom of it. When they arrive to interview the government-sanctioned and licensed legal bear hunters, there is some controversy about a mysterious hunter with questionable credentials. Who is this guy and why is he so weird? Recognizing a potentially interesting story when they see one (or perhaps just hoping for something less mundane than bear hunting) the trio begins stalking the mystery man to find out just what he’s up to. His beat up old camper and bizarrely outfitted truck offer no explanation for his nocturnal forays into the wild.

The kids are persistent and refuse to give up their pursuit of The Truth, whatever that may be. When they follow the mysterious hunter into the woods one dark night, they find out the awful, horrific reality as they come face-to-face with – a troll. Trolls are big, mean, and scary. Really big, really mean, and really scary. The three students, appropriately freaked out, get a crash course in troll-ology from the Trollhunter. Turns out that not only is he the only government-sanctioned and licensed trollhunter in Norway, it is a super-secret, classified job because the government denies the existence of trolls. When one gets out of hand, the trollhunter is sent to kill the rogue monster and wipe out all traces of its existence. The government then provides a more or less plausible explanation, complete with manufactured evidence. It’s a nasty business – literally – with ravenous randomly rampaging trolls exploding or turning to stone, depending on various factors.

How can all the various types of trolls – and there are many – be kept out of sight and limited to remote areas? More importantly, what has happened to cause a “troll outbreak” that has made the lone trollhunter exhausted, irritable, and more frustrated than usual about the red tape and paperwork associated with his government job? Can the three neophyte journalists keep up with all the action and remain unscathed? Why does it matter if any of them is Christian? What begins as a freaky adventure with a “You’re not going to believe this!” quality gradually develops into a harrowing struggle for survival. Along the way we are treated to some truly inspired storytelling and absolutely mind-boggling special effects that elevate what might otherwise be just another B-grade monster movie to an absorbing visual spectacle.

The filming style is a direct descendant of Blair Witch, but is neither as annoying nor tedious as that one was because the shaky camerawork is not done to excess. The moments of absurdity and humor sprinkled into the mix feel completely natural, as does the crew’s initial bewilderment and then growing terror. Woven into the narrative are some priceless references to fairy tale images of trolls, particularly a sequence involving a bridge and some goats. I’m sure I must have missed some Norwegian culture-specific in-jokes, but I don’t care. The realism of the CGI trolls is reason enough to recommend this one, but the story is also original and well told. Come for the trolls, get a kick out of the whole package.

The rights to this movie have been bought by Hollywood and an American remake is in the works. I don’t know how they could improve on the original, but I confess that I would like to see it without having to read subtitles. I don’t ordinarily mind subtitles, but this time it detracted a tiny bit from the total absorption in the movie I could have experienced otherwise. Also, it would have been even better in a theater instead of at home on Blu-ray, but we must make do with what is available. If the remake doesn’t go overboard on the special effects, keeps the action in Norway where it belongs, and delivers just as fresh and entertaining performances from the main characters, it could have potential. My advice is to see the Norwegian version first. Then you’ll have a leg up on all those poor unfortunates who won’t realize that the American version is an imitation of an original.

Two boxes of popcornCosmic Twins rating: Double Serving (plus a handful of M&Ms)

Dream House

By CosmicTwin3

2011 Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts. Directed by Jim Sheridan.

Anyone who has the slightest interest in basic psychology or dream interpretation probably knows the significance of a house – the family’s home – as a symbol for something else: the “self.” Upper floors in the house represent the higher consciousness while the basement represents the basic, primal, hidden aspects of the personality, and sometimes even the darker, negative desires. In other words, the condition of the house reflects the subject’s state of mind.

Dream House opens with Daniel Craig’s character choosing to leave a lucrative, successful job in the city to move to a suburban home with his wife (Rachel Weisz) and two little girls, where he will be a full-time writer. This is the house of their dreams where they spend their days painting and decorating, basking in their good fortune and the love they share.

It isn’t too long, though, before something sinister disturbs the tranquility of their idyllic existence. Strange and frightening figures lurk in the darkness outside, scaring the children as well as Mom and Dad. One night Dad is awakened by a strange noise and searches the house to find a group of teenage goths partying in the basement.

Dream House Movie Poster

In search of a reason for these happenings and protection for his family, Dad starts making inquiries and discovers that their “dream house” was the scene of a grisly murder five years before – a mother and two daughters were shot to death by their husband/father who was unable to stand trial for the murders due to his impaired mental state. He spent five years in a mental facility and has just been released. Could this be the man seen lurking in the shadows, watching the family who now occupy the house? Is he a danger to them? The one sympathetic neighbor (Naomi Watts) who talks to Daniel Craig also seems to be hiding something. Does she know something about the house or the murders that she isn’t willing to disclose?

Piecing together the puzzle of what’s going on takes Daniel Craig into some very dark corners of his own mind; the truth he discovers threatens not only his sanity but the very existence of his family. Before long the beautiful house of his dreams takes on the appearance of a deserted, dilapidated house of horrors. But how much is real – and how much is only in his mind?

Jim Sheridan has infused an otherwise run-of-the-mill suspense film with believable scenarios, relying not on shock and gore as so-called “entertainment,” choosing instead to thoroughly develop sympathetic and likable characters. Even when what you might think is the “big reveal” occurs sooner than expected, the story has you hooked and demands full attention through to the end. Daniel Craig’s excellent performance as a man driven to madness trying desperately to protect his family elevates it from a somewhat predictable thriller to an absorbing character study. A demonstration of his exceptional acting skills is provided while watching him come to the inevitable realization of the actual truth. And the one or two scenes giving us a satisfying look at those ripped abs doesn’t hurt a bit.

Two boxes of popcorn

Cosmic Twins rating: Double Serving

Black Swan

by CosmicTwin3

 

2010 Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassell. Directed by Darren Aronofsky.

Black Swan was creepily wonderful. Darren Aronofsky really knows how to make a psychological thriller that will make your flesh crawl and have you squirming in your seat. Natalie Portman is my pick for the best Oscar this year. With all due respect and kudos to the other nominees in that category, Natalie turned in an incredible performance while dancing ballet in this movie and that has to be worth some extra points.

Black Swan

Nina Sayers (Portman) strives for technical perfection in every ballet she dances. Sometimes oddly childlike, dominated by a doting and overbearing mother, ballet is her entire world. Elated to be chosen to dance the lead dual roles in Swan Lake, Nina’s joy slowly turns to apprehension as the new ballerina in town (Kunis) demonstrates the perfect blend of sensuality and skill that just might challenge Nina’s place in the ballet company.

As they are polar opposites who are also rivals for the same role, Nina has trouble accepting Lily’s friendly overtures without suspicion. Urged by the artistic director (Cassel) to loosen up and study Lily’s technique, Nina starts to exhibit increasingly more paranoid behavior. Is Lily her friend? Or is she out to get her? Lily’s determination to dance the most perfect Swan Lake ever seen consumes her psyche and leads to a terrifying descent into madness.

A full bucket of popcorn!Cosmic Twins rating: Full Bucket