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By midlandsmovies, Apr 30 2019 09:17AM



Replicas (2019) Dir. Jeffrey Nachmanoff


What is up with Keanu Reeves career making decisions? For every critical and commercial success he then opts to star in something so awful it beggars belief. As far back as Speed (followed by the woeful Johnny Mnemonic), all the way to The Matrix (followed by the unwatchable The Watcher), Keanu has moved from stone cold classics to utter drivel within months. So with John Wick being followed by the awful Knock Knock (see our review) he now moves from the excellent John Wick: Chapter 2 to new sci-fi film Replicas. And guess what? A $30 million dollar failure, the film sees Reeves as William Foster, a scientist who breaks the law to clone his family members after they perish in a vehicle accident. Sadly the film contains every plot cliché you can imagine and, whether it’s the script (likely) or the direction, Alice Eve as his wife gives a simply atrocious performance. Film fans will notice all the scenes hawked out of previous, and better, sci-fi movies including an I-Robot car crash (and Sonny-looking droid), an obsessed scientist and some Minority Report interfaces. And despite its attempts to tackle deeper issues of loss, humanity and family, the film is mostly reminiscent of the bold boringness of Transcendence. Avoid. ★★




The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019) Dir. Alex Gibney


This new documentary film tells the story of Elizabeth Holmes and her technology company Theranos, a now defunct business which was claiming to have revolutionised blood testing in the United States. Using just a small amount of blood from a finger prick, the company was testing machines that could return results of certain conditions in minutes. With their stupendous, and world-changing claims, Forbes named Holmes the youngest and wealthiest self-made female billionaire in America. However, just one year later her value was reassessed at zero dollars. What happened? Well Gibney’s documentary builds upon investigations at the time that uncovered there were significant problems with the company’s medical claims despite the endorsement of some high-flying business leaders. As a fan of Gibney’s past work – Zero Days being one of our top films of 2016 – it’s a shame to see such a lacklustre delivery of what is clearly an interesting subject. Unsure if it wants to be a study of manipulative characters like the delusional Holmes, or a take-down of Silicon Valley’s empty capitalism, the documentary sits in a sort of no man’s land of so-so interviews, archive footage and analysis. With a few tweaks and a tighter edit (it runs at 2 hours) this could have been a fantastic look at a modern-day conspiracy but despite Gibney making the complex subject matter understandable, it’s ultimately a dry recounting of the facts at hand. ★★★



The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot (2019) Dir. Robert D. Krzykowski


Directed, produced and written by Robert D. Krzykowski, the film’s title has “solo passion project” written all over it in this new adventure drama starring Sam Elliott. The story sees old man Elliott as Calvin Barr who is shacked up in his home reminiscing about his past. On a covert operation to kill Hitler, Barr does the deed but his actions are swept under the carpet by seedy government forces and the public never find out. Later on in the present and after getting in fights around town, two new government agents explain that the world is at risk of destruction owing to a virus caused by, you’ve guessed it, Bigfoot. Aidan Turner plays the young Barr whilst Mark Steger has the enviable IMDB listing as “Bigfoot” himself. All this sounds lots of b-movie fun, right? Well, sadly, categorically no. Despite having the ridiculous title of a grindhouse film, the cinematography and pacing is that of an earnest character study. Sadly this results in an inherent dull-ness and it massively fails to live up to its ludicrous premise. In hindsight that could (and should) have been a semi-serious romp in the vain of another recent historical horror, Overlord – which combined similar genres far more effectively. A wasted opportunity. ★★


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Jul 14 2016 10:55PM

Zero Days (2016) Dir Alex Gibney


After his Scientology expose ‘Going Clear’ being one of our favourite documentaries of 2015 (review here) the prolific director turns towards more dark secrets in this analysis of cyber warfare. For context, a “zero-day” is a computer term meaning a software vulnerability that hackers exploit to adversely affect computer programs or networks. The developer has zero days to correct the error once found.


And so in this riveting documentary Alex Gibney takes the viewer through technical jargon before ratcheting up tension like a dramatic thriller as a created virus is unleashed on the public. Specifically, Gibney proposes this was a joint US-Israeli effort to destabilise the nuclear power plants of Iran.


Interesting and exciting, the documentary first explains the details of the virus – which is repeatedly referred to as one “never seen before” – before showing how lines of code could actually result in breaking (and even exploding) centrifuges in a country miles away. Whilst all the while hiding itself (and its creators) from scrutiny.


I didn’t much like presentation of one witness who had been CGI’d to look like the increase-the-boobs-size-scene in Weird Science and whose subsequent look undermined a compelling argument making them much less believable.


There was understandable anonymity for many but Gibney uses that fact and other overt witness statements like “I cannot answer that” to build his case that there is even more going on under the surface. A hush-hush story with all the twists of a spy thriller, the film could have been trimmed by 20 minutes but this is an astonishing documentary.


A fantastic journey of code-makers and breakers, Zero Days goes beyond its niche technical audience and becomes a successful critique on global warfare in the 21st Century.


7.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike

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