Tag Archives: Thomas Middleditch

Replicas

Neither critics nor audiences seem to like this one much, but everyone’s game to give it a try because Keanu Reeves is in it. Should you?

Replicas is a sci-fi film, not unlike Altered Carbon in terms of the science, but very much different in terms of the fiction. In the future, a dying person’s “self” (the content of their minds) can be uploaded to a server, and then downloaded into another body. Keanu plays William Foster, a brilliant scientist trying to make that concept workable at a secret facility in Puerto Rico. The upload and the download both go well, but the robotic bodies always seem to reject the process, sometimes even destroying themselves in the process. He’s been working on this for a while, but if his breakthrough doesn’t come soon, they may lose their funding. Even so, William opts to take his family on vacation – after all, he has asked wife Mona (Alice Eve) and their three kids to uproot for him, but he hasn’t been around much. So of course he accidentally kills them all in a terrible traffic accident that very night. In a grief-crazed panic, he calls fellow researcher Ed (Thomas Middleditch), and forces him to quickly upload all 4 of the recently deceased. William knows that the download into robot bodies isn’t viable, so he guilts Ed into using his own area of research to help: human cloning. And as if having a whole family of secret clones isn’t difficult enough, they have to steal very expensive lab equipment to do the job, and then lie about their success to their boss.

This premise is loaded with potential, and the film contains lots of threads that justify anyone choosing this material. So why don’t we like it?

In part, something researchers call  “uncanny valley” which basically posits that as robots become more human-like, we go from admiration to revulsion. Anything that we know is unreal, but seems real, makes us feel a bit uneasy. And now William’s living in a whole house of them – very good copies of his family, but copies nonetheless, and not entirely perfect either. As humans, we have a natural revulsion to this. 2001’s Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within had ultra-realistic human animation, and suffered defeat at the box office. Steven Spielberg’s A.I. made some serious money, but the movie creeped out both audiences and critics, some of whom have since revised their originally ambivalent reviews. But still: this stuff makes us uncomfortable, and usually for good reason.

The uncanny valley isn’t Replicas’ only problem though. Ultimately, its own ambition topples it. The first half sometimes feels a bit silly, and William’s choices are consistently problematic. Of course we’d all like just a little more time with our lost loved ones, but William takes it to extremes, and drags his buddy into the mess with him, which is a lot to ask of a coworker who only ever consented to looking after a fish.

The uneasiness generated by a family that now consists mainly of the undead (not zombies, but kinda definitely zombies) would do better in a horror film, but instead director Jeffrey Nachmanoff commits to a family drama but can’t quite make it work. And there was plenty to work with: grief, survivor’s guilt, basic human existential questions of identity of self – but instead Nachmanoff gets bogged down explaining imaginary science as if this was a term paper and not a piece of entertainment. Keanu manages to stay serious even whilst wearing the silliest hat of the future AND waving his hands in the air like he just don’t care, but the script goes from suspicious to limp and I’m pretty sure the director was in the can for the entire back 9. Replicas does not work well as a movie, but it does star the internet’s boyfriend, and for his presence alone, I bet people will continue to watch.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Do you remember there was a Godzilla movie released in 2014? Neither did I, but maybe that’s because we saw it at the drive-in. Apparently Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a sequel to the 2014 film, and apparently in 2014 Godzilla stomped through San Francisco at some point. Well, during the mayhem, Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler’s movie son died, and it really put a strain on their marriage. So they split up, and now their movie daughter Millie Bobby Brown lives with Vera in a Chinese rainforest, researching classic movie monster Mothra. Things go sideways, though, when ecoterrorist Charles Dance kills everyone else at the research lab and takes Vera and Millie hostage along with Vera’s monster-controlling sound machine, in order to wake up lots of other monsters and let them run wild.

Obviously, the plot is really dumb. And the characters have some of the dumbest dialogue of the year. Mostly espository nonsense in between assorted lame quips (and very occasionally a good quip from O’Shea Jackson Jr., probably ad-libbed). Just terrible writing. So much terrible, terrible writing. But who cares, really? Godzilla should be about the monsters, and the monsters come to play.

Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and Ghidorah feature prominently, with King Kong and a bunch of other monsters making cameos (I don’t know who the other ones are but I bet someone does!). Monsters fight in Antarctica, monsters fight in Mexico, monsters fight in Boston, and I think they fought in one or two other places as well, but who can keep track? The important thing is, when the monsters fight, the movie works. And they fight enough that all the stupid writing can just be ignored, because you know another fight will come before too long.

Maybe next time they can fill the inter-fight lulls with halfway decent writing, plotting and character development. But if I have to choose between good human-vs-human scenes and good monster-vs-monster ones, I’m picking monster fights every time. After all, the monster fights are why I went to see Godzilla: King of the Monsters in the first place!

Joshy

Joshy has planned a fun bachelor-party weekend away in Ojai, just him and his buddies celebrating his upcoming marriage with as much booze and drugs and strippers as time and space allows. Except Joshy’s fiancee commits suicide, and the weekend’s now been downgraded to just a “hangout” among friends.

Only a few brave friends arrive, besides Joshy (Thomas Middleditch): stable Ari (Adam Pally), determined to keep things light, neurotic Adam (Alex Ross Perry) whose default mode is wet blanket, and Eric (Nick Kroll), the friend with coke and bad ideas. They pick 2f03a127a57d72e5de9a6d7fb71e9cf5up some hangers-on (Jenny Slate among them) and proceed to have a very weird weekend.

How do men mourn and commiserate with their grieving friend? They mostly don’t. They mostly tamp down their feelings in favour of whatever self-destruction’s close by. The film is largely improvised, making use of all the comedic chops, so the chemistry is crackling even if it feels like the plot goes absolutely nowhere. It’s really about the presumption of our perceptions, and maybe the unknowability of people. The characters disclose things to each other, and expose themselves to us, but we don’t come away really understanding them any better for it.

Joshy has a really ephemeral quality to it, a sense that nothing can last, good or otherwise, and things will inevitably be left unsettled. This may be a comment on closure and its real-life attainability, and that’s exactly when the movie feels the most honest.

This was a humbly entertaining watch for me because I like these guys, but it wasn’t exactly earth-shattering goodness. It’s kind of a cross between a raunchy comedy and mumblecore, so take that admonition with the grain of salt it deserves.