After 22 years of waiting on de-aging technology, ‘Gemini Man’ can’t digitally enhance its limp script

Most of the problems with Junior’s animation are in his nose and upper lip, but only when he’s speaking. It could be that shooting at a normal frame rate would make this digital recreation of a younger Will Smith look much better. Images courtesy Paramount Pictures.

3/10 Gemini Man, and its key concept of using one actor in two roles as both the lead character and his clone, has been in development in some form since 1997, when writer Darren Lemke sold the concept to Disney. In that timespan, between Disney not really developing the project and anyone who did want to push forward also wanting to wait for technology to catch up, it’s been rewritten by six different writers — final screenplay credits went to Lemke, Billy Ray and David Benioff — had four different directors attached and 11 different actors attached to lead at different points, including Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Nicolas Cage, Tom Cruise and Sean Connery. All this waiting and all this maneuvering was only for the technology to finally be employed in this uncurious, easily forgettable film. 

In Gemini Man, accomplished assassin Henry Brogan (Will Smith) retires from his shadowy government organization to spend more time with his remaining humanity. For reasons that either are never made clear or were buried in boring dialogue scenes I wasn’t really paying attention to, his superior, Clay Varris (Clive Owen) immediately sends a much younger assassin to kill him — Brogan’s genetic clone, known only as Junior (also Smith, created with a combination of motion capture and de-aging digital effects). 

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Adaptation leaps into 21st century, doesn’t bring ‘Addams Family’ with it

The character designs are tightly grounded in the original comics. Images courtesy United Artists Releasing.

3/10 I didn’t really know how I felt about The Addams Family as a property going into last weekend. The Barry Sonnenfeld movies straddle my birth in 1992, causing them to have a massive cultural influence on me despite my having never sat down and watched them until the runup to this new movie. One of the first special effects exhibits I ever saw was on these movies.

I started preparing for this new Addams Family with the firm belief that these characters should never be animated, ignorant of the fact they began as comic strips back in 1938 and this new animated movie is meant to be designed around those comics. This property is definitely ripe for revisitation, and it could have been really cool – Christina Ricci, who played Wednesday Addams in the Sonnenfeld films, is 39, a year younger than Angelica Huston was when she played her mother, Morticia – and I guess I can’t object to it being a cartoon.

I do object to this particular cartoon, however.

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Unfortunately, we live in a society

Images courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

5/10 Joker has been the talk of film media pretty much constantly since its Venice Film Festival debut Aug. 31 where it earned an eight-minute ovation and the Golden Lion. Between critical adulation and emerging worry that the film’s release would be marred by a mass shooting, the question on everyone’s lips was, is Joker a masterpiece or an irresponsible call to violence?

It’s both. It is extremely both.

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‘Judy’ is everything you’ve come to hate about Oscarbate

Images courtesy LD Entertainment.

2/10 The highest praise you could give Judy that it’s a comprehensive rundown in the poorest, most predictable instincts that go into making this kind of movie and a master class in what not to do.

The film recalls the last months in the life of Judy Garland (Renée Zellweger and Darci Shaw) when she headlined at Talk of the Town in London. Judy focuses on her as a hollow, drugged-out wreck of an old showgirl who can’t finish her sets, but can still belt out one or two performances of the ages per night. The film ends just a few months before her death. It also flashes back to her youth when she was first hooked on pills by her own mother to make her work long hours and routinely denied food among other horrifying abuses, but not often enough to bum anybody out. Continue reading

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‘Ad Astra’ is the terrible, majestic, urgent space opera for our time

Images courtesy — oh no, you maniacs, oh god damn it all! Images courtesy Walt Disney Motion Picture Studios.

10/10 In space, no one can hear you scream. No one can hear you do or say anything at all, in fact. That’s because in space, there’s usually no one else there.

In the near future, the United States Space Command has established permanent bases on the moon and Mars, and commercial lunar travel is just another trip to the airport. As technology marches ever further into the heavens even while our ecology continues to collapse around us, humanity has grown desperate in its search for extraterrestrial life –for any shred of evidence to break the Fermi Paradox, proof that we aren’t already doomed, an example of some civilization that has solved our current problems. USSC sends a space station, a highly classified mission called the Lima Project helmed by Cliff McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), into orbit around Neptune, the furthest manned mission in history, to conduct anti-matter experiments that may finally connect us with intelligent life.

I’ve always thought the belief in alien life and the belief in God came from the same human instinct. They manifest very differently in different kinds of people – belief in extraterrestrial life, or even the notion of it, would be explicitly antithetical to early Christian teachings, for an extreme example – but they both stem from the notion that human life being unique, that we might have this entire universe to ourselves, would be too terrifying to bear. The real horror is that, even as we study the stars and ancient texts and send radio waves and prayers into the sky in the hopes that someone, anyone, is listening, we might be completely alone.

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