Stowaway: The Coldest Equations… are Massively Contrived – Netflix Review

This movie took everything cool about The Martian and flipped it.

SUMMARY

A two-year mission to Mars is launched with a three-person crew: Captain Marina Barnett (Toni Collette), biologist David Kim (Daniel Dae Kim), and medical officer Zoe Levenson (Anna Kendrick). After takeoff, it is discovered that a launch plan engineer, Michael (Shamier Anderson), has been trapped inside of a vent after being knocked unconscious. The three start to bond with their unexpected guest, who is understandably pissed about not seeing his wife or kids for two years. However, it’s determined that Michael’s accident also broke the CDRA, the device that removes Carbon Dioxide from the air, meaning that everyone on board is going to suffocate unless they can find a way around it… or sacrifice someone. 

Guess which one.

END SUMMARY

This film feels like yet another attempt to adapt the 1954 short story “The Cold Equations.” In the story, a young girl stows away on a rocket to a colony, unaware that her added weight on the ship throws the fuel off so much that, if she stays, the ship won’t be able to land and they’ll kill everyone in the colony. She sacrifices herself after the pilot realizes there isn’t enough time to teach her how to fly. The point of the story is that space is cold and unforgiving and, most of the time, you are subject only to the laws of physics. Since its publication, it’s been mandatory reading for most aeronautical engineers, which has led to so many people proposing solutions and pointing out the ridiculous nature of having such thin margins for error that it’s literally shaped how spaceflight missions are staged. This film, unfortunately, suffers from the fact that space travel has advanced so much since the premise was created that the plot has to keep screwing the crew over to keep it going.

There’s a usually not this much hiding space in these adaptations.

First, they have to miss a literal person being in the ship during inspection. Moreover, during inspection of one of the most crucial elements in the spaceship. That’s a stretch, but sure, let’s say someone’s lunch ran long and they phoned it in. Human error and such. Then, since the movie already concedes that the ship could sustain a fourth person easily (because they put so many spare parts on the ship in case of emergency), they have to have him break the carbon dioxide scrubber in the process so that there’s an actual issue. Also, they can’t have a working spare. Now, if having an issue with a CO2 scrubber sounds familiar, that’s because it was a plot point in the film (and real-life story) Apollo 13, in which Nasa had its engineers figure out how to adapt a CO2 scrubber from spare parts around the ship. It literally was held together by duct tape, but it worked. This film keeps having their solutions fail (mostly because they’re not great solutions) so that they actually have to have the debate over the ethics of sacrificing someone. It constantly feels forced to me, particularly when compared to The Martian or other films where smart people overcome impossible situations.

In real life, they managed to use duck tape, socks, and spare parts to put a square peg in a round hole.

The performances, particularly Anna Kendrick as the lone voice of dissent against sacrificing anyone, are all great, but that really doesn’t change the fact that it’s trying to force a problem into a movie that seems like it shouldn’t have one. Then there’s the pacing, which is extremely slow for a film that seems to be depending on some kind of urgency. The dialogue isn’t bad, but it doesn’t save the long, boring scenes. Cinematography is, admittedly, pretty great, as is the set design, but not anything that takes it beyond other, similar movies.

Beautiful film, but you’ve seen much of this before.

Overall, I just couldn’t get into the film enough to really care about the stakes. I know what they were going for, but I don’t think it worked this way.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Hulu Review – The Day Shall Come: A Solid Work of Satire

The director of Four Lions brings us a story of law enforcement framing a group of people for their own gain.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Moses Al Shabazz (Marchánt Davis) is the leader of a small commune in Miami called the Star of Six. He has a wife, Venus (Danielle “Taystee” Brooks), a daughter, Rosa (Calah Lane), and two followers X (Malcolm Mays) and Afrika (Andrel McPherson). Moses is depicted as being mentally ill and off of his anti-psychotic meds, leading his commune in worshipping Allah, Black Santa, and Toussaint Louverture. Despite his claims of wanting to overthrow the entrenched white powers, Moses strongly opposes any firearms. FBI Agent Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick) sees Moses during a live-stream and decides to use him as a patsy. She intends to bait him into dealing with Reza (Kayvan Novak), a pedophile shopkeeper that the FBI uses to act as a fake terrorist go-between, so that she can claim Moses is engaged in revolutionary terrorist activities to advance her career. 

He’s on a horse.

END SUMMARY

If you’re not familiar with the writer/director of this film and Four Lions, Chris Morris, he’s a British satirist who appeared in the first season of The IT Crowd and directed some of the comedy Veep. He’s notable for his off-kilter humor and dark satire. This film is no exception to that legacy. I consider it to be in the same vein as Sorry to Bother You, although that movie is much more surreal. If you don’t like that kind of humor, you will not like this film at all.

This is probably his most famous role.

The key to this movie is how well Davis plays the lead. He is an active revolutionary who, ultimately, just wants to help everyone more than just glorify himself. When negotiating with what he thinks are terrorists, Moses only asks for farm equipment and a horse, because he thinks those will ultimately be more helpful to his cause than guns. Despite the fact that he is definitely insane, Moses is not a threat. In fact, he’s unquestionably more moral than all of the members of the FBI who deal with him. While his psychosis is the thing that makes him have difficulties getting support or keeping his farm active, it’s also what drives him to try to fight against oppression in the first place. If Davis hadn’t done such a great job walking the line in his portrayal, this could have come off with the exact opposite message that the film was going for. 

It’s tough to have us laugh at a tragic character while sympathizing with a comic one.

That’s not to say that the supporting cast aren’t equally important. Many of the best actual “joke” sequences arise from watching Afrika and X try to work under the strange and sometimes conflicting orders of their leader. I also have to give credit to the delivery of all of the FBI agents in the film, because it’s hard to put so much fake gravitas into the absurd things they’re saying. Danielle Brooks is also hilarious as the long-suffering wife of a man with such insane ambitions. 

I mean, at least they work for a guy with a horse.

The downside to the film is that it never quite goes as extreme as it probably should for a satire, although I think that’s because Chris Morris wanted to keep it realistic enough to draw comparisons from potential COINTELPRO actions and the like. It also definitely isn’t as quotable as most satires are. 

Overall, I recommend it for people that have a dark sense of humor. The ending is one of the best parts, so make sure to stick with it.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Netflix Mini-Review – Mr. Right: This Was So Close To Amazing

I caught a hitman comedy I missed from 2015 and it really should have been good.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Martha McKay (Anna Kendrick) is recently single and slightly crazy. Professional hitman “Clown Nose” (Sam Rockwell) is recently getting out of the contract killing game by murdering all of his clients and is extremely crazy. Clown Nose is being hunted by a former associate, Hopper (Tim Roth). Martha and Clown Nose (AKA Mr. Right) meet and the two hit it off solidly. Despite both of their odd natures, they quickly develop affection. Unfortunately, Mr. Right gets caught up in a scheme involving the mobsters Von Cartigan and Richard Cartigan (James Ransone and Anson Mount) and their henchmen Johnny Moon and Steve (Michael Eklund and the RZA), with Martha getting dragged along with him.

Image result for mr. right film
Wuv, twue wuv.

END SUMMARY

Somehow, I didn’t hear about this film when it came out, but apparently it just got added to Netflix and I decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately, it turns out that there was a reason why this movie didn’t get on my radar before now. It’s not that this movie was really “bad” in the way that, say, Gigli is bad, it’s that this movie should, by most metrics, have been awesome, yet it really isn’t.

Image result for mr. right film
I mean, Sam Rockwell in a clown nose shooting people should be amazing.

I love Grosse Pointe Blank, Deadpool, Pulp Fiction, John Wick, and even Shoot ‘Em Up, so I can say that I have a certain fondness for the humorous hitman genre. I’m also a huge fan of Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick, including the former’s role in Seven Psychopaths, and the pair have a ridiculous amount of chemistry in this film. Despite the fact that the movie almost completely relies on them falling in love at basically first sight, you can feel the spark between them vividly enough to buy it. Similarly, despite their extreme eccentricities, their performances somehow make it seem believable. The RZA and Rockwell have a similar chemistry as “frenemies.” The hitman scenes are extremely comically violent, although in a rated-R way, something that usually works well for me.  

Image result for mr. right film
Martha has a solid character arc… mostly?

However, the movie manages to fall flat on its face. First, the pacing is terrible. The movie has to rush through their courtship in order to make sure that we can have an entire third act dedicated to action sequences. The problem is that I genuinely enjoy watching them interact and I think that more time would have worked to the movie’s benefit. Second, like all movie hitmen, Mr. Right is hyper accurate and somehow can’t be hit by return fire, but this movie takes that way beyond the normal suspension of disbelief. He’s basically got superpowers and it really takes the audience out of it at times. Third, the plot is slightly more complicated than it needs to be, due to the simultaneous and separate plotlines involving Mr. Right and Martha, Hopper, and the mobsters. Then there are like 3 short subplots that also don’t help matters. Lastly, the dialogue is… well, it’s Max Landis’s college screenplay, so that probably explains why it doesn’t quite work most of the time.  

Image result for mr. right film
The whole “Dancing to Dodge Gunfire” thing seems great on paper, I guess.

Overall, the problem with this movie isn’t that it’s bad, but that it could so easily have been really great with minor changes. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.