The Tomorrow War (Amazon, 2021)
Thirty years in the future humanity is fighting a losing war against a horde of kick-ass aliens, and tomorrow’s army recruiters travel back in time to round up people from today to come to the future and help fight the enemy. Now, is that a cool premise or what?
The main character is Dan, played by Chris Pratt, and through a variety of twists and turns, it falls upon him to save the world and in the process save his family too. Lots of edge-of-your seat action, and the pendulum swings back and forth between “we’re all going to die” to “we got this.” Chris Pratt turns in a decent performance, along with J.K. Simmons, although the script
doesn’t ask much from them—just hold a gun, point, and blast away mostly.
So, I’m just going to come out a say it: I enjoyed this movie. Yes, yes, the dialogue is painfully clunky. Just ignore it. I know, I know, the plot is so implausible and full of holes, it gives you a nasty ice cream headache trying to make sense of it all. Don’t bother. Just put your brain in neutral and go along for the ride. The best label I can find for the film is “Guilty Pleasure.”
If you require more than CGI eye candy and tons of whizzing bullets, you can try to spot all the different action/horror movies of the past that inspire many of the scenes. Without even trying, I saw Aliens, Starship Troopers, World War Z, and the wonderful B&W classic, The Thing from Another World. I’m sure there are a bunch of others.
So, to watch or not to watch? Well, if you’re up for a fast-paced adrenalin rush, grab that bucket of popcorn, drizzle extra butter on top, and push play. It’s a fun ride.
Infinite (Paramount+, 2021)
This seemed like it would be a decent sci-fi film, boasting some big names: e.g., Mark Wahlberg and Ejiofor Chiwetel. The premise is certainly catchy. A group of people called infinites are reincarnated life after life and they remember all of their past lives. The rest of us Hoi Polloi are apparently reincarnated too, but we just don’t remember our past selves.
The movie focuses on Mark Wahlberg, who spends most of his life thinking he’s a schizophrenic until he meets up with a secret “infinite” cabal, who unlock his memories. Of course, there are bad people, viz., a group of evil infinites led by Chiwetel who want to destroy the world. Why? Don’t ask. It didn’t make much sense.
The film is at its best with action sequences involving fast cars, lots of guns and booms, and a few ridiculously over the top stunts. Tons of CGI razzle dazzle.
The film is at its worst when it comes to plot and characterization. Lots of solid actors running around earnestly trying to breathe some life into their characters, but there isn’t much they can do with this script. As for the plot, when it wasn’t radiating total nonsense it was shallow and bland. At the end of the flick, I really didn’t care if the bad guys destroyed the world or not. Yeah, go ahead and put us all out of our misery.
And then there’s the ending. What a mess. Maybe this movie will die and reincarnate as a decent film. Here’s hoping.
Sadly, I can’t recommend this movie to anyone, although possibly hardcore Mark Wahlberg fans will enjoy watching him give a mostly high school play-like performance.
The Ice Road (Netflix, 2021)
I only watched this because Liam Neeson is in it. At 69 he looks great and can still deliver a punch. Good to see him so spry. As for the movie, it may be the stupidest one I’ve watched this year, and I’ve seen a boatload of stupid so far.
The plot is simple and as predictable as the sunrise. Mine blows up. Liam and a motley crew of companions must drive semis across Canadian ice roads to save the lives of miners trapped underground. The clock is ticking. Thawing ice is one enemy, but there are others. Evil corporate greed is a bigger one. Yet, Liam emerges through the explosions, wrecks, avalanches, and chases to deliver the goods and help save the day.
The CGI is laughable. The script is strictly paint-
by-numbers and full of unintentionally funny lines that Liam and his co-stars manage to deliver with stern and serious faces. The action sequences are unimaginative and, frankly, boring. What really sinks this movie, though, is that it is so ridiculously nonsensical. I found myself rolling my eyes during scene after scene after scene. Finally, the protagonists are so shallow you really don’t care if any of them survive or head off to the great glacier in the sky.
In sum, watching this movie was a mistake. However, I like to believe that there is an audience for every movie, no matter how much I may dislike it. So, who might enjoy this flick? If you are a big Liam Neeson fan, you might like seeing him in action again. Be warned, though, he’s just going through the motions, punching the clock, and collecting a paycheck. Who else? Well, if you were a fan of that reality series about ice road truckers, you might like seeing big rigs roaring across the ice with lots of explosions and evil corporate lackeys wreaking havoc. Otherwise, run.
Awake (Netflix, 2021)
First, the good news. Awake is based on a catchy premise: What if something happens (and we’re not really sure what) that causes the entire global population to be unable to sleep? Well, we would have a world of very grouchy people, right? No, it would be worse. A few characters climb up to the lectern early on to deliver solemn proclamations about the horrible dangers to the human body when deprived of sleep. Plus, whatever it is that caused this disaster (someone later speculates it might have been a solar flare...excuse me, huh? Nevermind), it vastly accelerates the bodily effects of sleep deprivation. Gasp! So what might normally take a couple weeks, now takes days (sorry, come again? Nevermind). I’ve never seen a movie about a sleep deprivation pandemic, so give Awake some
credit for its originality.
Second, the bad news. There isn’t much to the story. A mother goes on a danger-filled journey with her son and young daughter to find a secret research hub that is working on a cure. Why? Simple. The daughter is unaffected by the disaster and is still able to sleep. We’re told this many times, but we can see it for ourselves because we witness shot after shot of her sleeping away. Strangely, I found myself yawning and fighting off the urge to follow her lead and sleep off the rest of the movie.
In very quick order, civilization collapses and people turn into crazed, violent monsters. Of course they do. Yet, for all that, this isn’t really an action-filled, white-knuckle ride. For example, we have a long scene midway through inside a library where Mom studies maps. Maps?
Anyway, eventually Mom makes it to the research facility, whereupon the movie promptly slows to a crawl again. Then, as Yeats would say, “things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” Yeah, but how does it end? I can’t give that away, except to say that with only minutes left before the end, the script waves a magic wand, the writers reach into a black hat, and voilà, they pull out a magical solution.
All I can say is I want my one hour and thirty-seven minutes back.