Annihilation of My Cynical Ways

People, am I getting soft on my film criticism? From enjoying Greatest Showman to giving Killing of a Sacred Deer a positive review, here I go again with Annihilation, written (from a Jeff VanderMeer novel) and directed by Alex Garland.

During the flick, in the multiple sweater wrapped comfort of the refrigerator known as Siesta Key CineBistro, I was dying to start snarky Mystery Science Theater like comments. Annihilation takes itself waaay too seriously. The monotone dialogue reminded me of Killing of a Sacred Deer (could this be a new trend? Like the musical shoe gazing genre of cinema?).

But here’s the thing: because the movie is a one tone wonder, the reincarnation, dust to dust motif is able to take root and make an impact that really didn’t hit me (or should I say ‘seed’ until the day after). That last comment will only seem brilliantly creative after you’ve seen the film.

In addition to the theme’s strength, the acting, again while monotone, is mesmerizing to watch because of its relentlessness. Natalie Portman is always interesting to watch, furrowed brow and all. One of my all time actress faves (see my previous Good Time review) is Jennifer Jason Leigh and here she ascends fantastically as the cancer stricken leader. Gina Rodriguez is also a stand out and has the most emotionally expressive role in the entire film.

A pressing scene was one of my favorite’s due to its intensity and personal flashback provocation to a sensation I have had in the past.

The soundtrack (Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury-aside: why do I have to dig for this info? Soundtrack composers get ripped off on accolades!) which I’ll go back and re-listen to on Itunes preview, was indeed a piece of art which crescendos to a gorgeous climax at the end. And Garland obviously possesses enough of an old soul to use an old CSNY song, “Helplessly Hoping” that I had never heard before, so come on, he’s my kind of guy.

Still, there were some annoying aspects:
1. I just don’t like Oscar Isaac, he just bores me to tears no matter what he does.
2. The editing could have been much tighter, in fact take out a lot of fluff and add more about an extra-marital affair that NP’s character was having. I mean even bread (monotone) needs a little pepper and olive oil sometimes.
3. The two extra actresses on the mission were superfluous on the mission and made the film seem more banal. Though I do understand you have to have someone to kill off. Perhaps better writing or acting could have helped.
4. Special effects were on the weak side up until the end. The ‘shimmer’ (mawkish name) looked like the film seen on the utensil used to blow bubbles out of the bottle.

Being thrifty due to ye old pension still nine months away, I probably would not have spoken so positively about it had it not been for the gift card (thank you Steve Ralph) of which I spent the remainder. Hence, Annihilation not only reflects the theme of the film, but also a descriptor of my gift card balance.

Tom Cruise shouldn’t be a punchline: Edge of Tomorrow

You shouldn’t wait till the Edge of Tomorrow to see this film. See it on the brink of today.

And let’s discontinue the Scientology jokes, shall we?

Tom Cruise not only chooses again and again self-deprecating characters (think his rotund balding exec from Tropic Thunder to the frightened military officer in this film), but delivers each performance with sincerity.

As for his public persona, Tom Cruise has learned not to jump on couches declaring his love for a woman or proselytize his patriarchal views as he did with Today Show’s Matt Lauer years ago. He’s left the ring as media’s punching bag. If anything, his silence almost admits that he either is: a. is what people have said, a bit of a controlling religious zealot or b. that he has taken Polonius’s advice in ‘to thine own self be true’ and be darned with the rest of ya.

Emily Blunt’s been great in everything, from wonderfully wounded in Her Sister’s Sister, to glowing scarecrow in the corn of Salmon Fishing in Yemen to a believable Linda Hamiltonesque action hero in Edge of Tomorrow.

Edge’s story is the perfect metaphor for life; that we wake each morn to die another day. That we take our punches and become smarter and stronger . We battle rejection, cancer, divorce. We keep on trying until the demons have been slayed. That we learn to keep our mouths shut on opinions and simply lead our lives using our own genuine compass.

The best gift films give us is the empowerment that lingers well after you leave the theater. After Edge of Tomorrow, my grip on the steering wheel was more confident, the turns and traffic feeling like an alien easily conquered. And I’ll wake up tomorrow knowing I can face another work week.