ARQ

Director: Tony Elliott. Starring: Robbie Amell, Rachael Taylor, Shaun Benson, Gray Powell, Jacob Neayem. USA, Canada, 2016. IMDB: 6.4. Budget: about $2 mln. Box office: Netflix! My rating: 2.5/4. Timelooped sci-fi thriller.

– He has apples.
– Nobody has apples anymore.
– He does.
(the military guys)

– I was ordered to recover an energy turbine. Apparently, it’s a time machine.
(Sonny)

Netflix seems to be definitely interested in taking some part of the low- and mid- budget sci-fi pie (I have recently reviewed 2017 Netflix-distributed film “What Happened to Monday?“).

The plot.ARQ” is another try to fool around with the famous Groundhog Day effect, now in a very limited space. Through just few strokes and accidentally heard TV news it seems that the diminishing amount of fuel becomes the cause of armed conflicts in the world in a not so distant future. We just have the vague picture of what is happening as only in last minutes the story gets out of the appartment, where a20170211_080738 young couple tries to protect an innovative machine that could possibly change the concept of producing energy. But as they wake up in their bedroom, the house gets assaulted by strangers in masks and they got killed. Seconds later, they wake up again at the same place and time and the situation repeats as they try to find the way out of the loop to save the machine.

Welcome in the company of groundhogs!

What I liked. The movie is tensely filmed and certainly doesn’t leave you bored. With each loop (and there are a loooooooooooooooooot of them), more and more details are revealed and characters seem more complex than before, multiplying and stratifying. It’s fast paced, so you don’t have too much time to t20170211_081042hink over inconsistencies of the plot. There are also enough plot twists to keep you interested and they’re well done.

What I didn’t like. The problems arise with the casting of the main characters – unfortunately Robbie Amell does not have the drama of Jake Gyllenhall (who did a great time-loop sci-fi “Source Code“) or the wry humour of Bill Murray (“Groundhog Day“) and Rachael Taylor is not as sensitive and brutal as Emily Blunt (from another time-loop gem “Edge of Tomorrow“) and honestly was quite annoying. Amell at least tries to look trustworthy, but Taylor… most of her acting consists of a slightl20170211_081258y open mouth and widened eyes. Considering that 98% of the movie is shot in just several rooms and everything is pretty minimal, that can be a little annoying. The right chemistry here is missing. I saw her in Marvel’s “Jessica Jones” and she was much better there. Fortunately, the wild team of the unknown militaries compensate that well with more charismatic Shaun Benson and Gray Powell.

The main gimmick is used too much – the movie lasts barely 90 minutes and that is not 20170211_081023much, but almost all of the time we see the same time-loop in different variations. As we all know, exemplary exercises in minimalism are so difficult to comply. “ARQ” is no exception – though it tries pedantically. As many noted, if cut by half it would be an great episode of something like “Black Mirror“.

The production.ARQ” is a full-lentgh debut for Tony Elliott, who was mostly a screenwriter before (including highly popular “Orphan Black” and the TV series “12 Monkeys“). However, he originated the idea long time before that in 2008. The budget was under $2 million and the film was shot in 19 days in Toronto.

Worth watching? While “ARQ” is certainly not a new word in the genre and does not reach the heights set by its predecessors, in first place due to a lack of chemistry of the main characters, but it can still be entertaining and fun to watch. There are much worse time paradox films like “Triangle” (which was just ridiculous). So, maybe give it a try. Just don’t expect it to be some groundbreaking sci-fi relevation, okay?

Acting:  2.5/4
Directing: 3/4
Originality: 2.5/4
Pathos level: low
Final vote: 2.5/4

Watch also: “Source Code” is definitely a much better time-loop film that I absolutely love, and it still keeps things minimal. “Edge of Tomorrow” is an awesome blockbuster with a shitload of irony, highly recommended even for those who can’t stant Com Truise. And, of course, don’t forget “Groundhog Day“, which was recently ressurected as a musical (read about it + some curious little known facts about the film here).

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Film marketing campaigns costs & Stranger Things 2

Marketing campaign costs of most Hollywood blockbusters have always been a mystery for me.

What the fuck do they do with all that money?

Well, TV surely eats a huge amount of it:

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A rule of thumb would be that marketing and promoting costs are 30-50% compared to the films official budget, but – attention! – these costs are not included in the actual budget, so when you check Wiki or Mojo for how much some recent blockbuster did cost, remember to add roughly 40%, just to get the idea.

“In 1980, the average cost of marketing a studio movie in the U.S. was $4.3 million ($12.4 million in today’s dollars). By 2007, it had shot up to nearly $36 million,” as is stated here.

I know that most people reading this blog are from the USA and maybe you, guys, think these things are obvious, but here in Europe things are slightly different (and in average the USA have the highest TV consumption per person in the world). There are other things to take into consideration too, but it wasn’t my intention to discuss it here.

So when going out today I was literally shocked by seeing this…

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Ok, cool, you’ll say, right, but you don’t really get the context, I suppose. Same telephone booth, another angle:

Yep, that’s one of the most visited places in Europe, Milan’s delicious Duomo. But that’s not just it. If you go down in the local subway, it’s literally all covered with “Stranger Things” promotions, it is always crowded so I took photos only of these…

…but there is much, much more, and the posters are very creative. There are even upside down posters!

Now I see there they spend the money. Just buying a place like that right in the center of Milan costs a lot, and Italy rarely allows something that may damage the cultural image of the buildings (for example, most shops are forced to use the signboard of similar colour to the building if it is a historical one, and bright colours are not allowed in a historical center of any city).

And it’s no wonder. “Stranger Things” seems one of Netflix’s most marketable original shows. They created a partnershir campaings with Spotify, Lyft, Kellog’s and many others.

Well done, Netflix! Now people like me do a free promotion of your show.

***

How are “Stranger Things 2” promoted in your town? I’ll like to know it too!

What Happened to Monday? (Seven Sisters)

Director: Tommy Wirkola. Starring: Noomi Rapace, Glenn Close, Willem Dafoe, Marwan KenzariPal Sverre Hagen, Christian Rubeck, Cassie Clare. 2017, UK-Belgium-France-USA. Budget: unknown. Box office: $19 mln. IMDb: 6.7. My rating: 2.5/4. Dystopian sci-fi thriller about overpopulation.

monday-movie-poster-xl“Beyond an insult to intelligence.”
(zippersthemule)

“The film portrays a dystopian future where overpopulation has lead those in power to create a one child rule, with chilling justifications for abhorable acts in the name of protecting humanity.”
(denise-314 from the UK)

“Stunning Movie Exciting from the first minute.”
(Mahmoud from Egypt)

 

One. “What Happened to Monday” is a movie where Noomi Rapace performs 7 different roles – 7 sisters. Remember Tatiana Maslany and her multiple clone performances “Orphan Black“? It’s a tough role for any artist, so is Noomi Rapace good enough?

Two. If you ever wondered what will happen if you make a combined clone of Michael Bay & Roland Emmerich and make him become a director of a mid-budget movie, here’s your chance.

Three. Movies and plots are like jeans. The best examples look like this, solid and firm:

Think of “Children of Men“, “Ex Machina” or “Stalker“. Solid and firm.

Some others, like “Pacific Rim“, “Terminator: The Judgment Day” or “Star Wars” may have occasional plot inconsistencies, but it’s fine. They know it. We know it. It doesn’t matter. We can both get through it, still having strong orgasms watching the final result.

Other candidates, like “Armageddon” (miners learning to be astronauts? grass on the asteroid?) or “The Dark Knight Rises” (send all the police forces underground? why no! make them look perfectly clean shaven? fine!) may be pretty fucked up with plot holes and inconsistencies, but pretend like they aren’t and proudly try to masquerade them with quickly-paced action, CGI and other bollocks.

But there’s worse than that – some films (“Passengers“? Any Roland Emmerich film?) almost brag about their plot problems, proudly presenting them in-your-face as a newly discovered gem.

“What Happened to Monday” falls somewhere between the last two categories. But while Roland Emmerich’s films never take themselves too seriously, “What Happened to Monday” does.

***

Here’s a quick autopsy – the film starts like a “Children of Men“-wannabe, then spends some time as a “Passengers“-like whiny melodrams about family values, then finally – thanks to the unknown xenomorph God – abandons any attempts to appear smart and converts itself a pretty straightforward sci-fi thriller. The overall feeling after having watched this Netflix-distributed dystopia was like observing the monster from “Frankenstein” – it moves clumsily, sometimes makes a sincere smile, but you can clearly see that it wasn’t seamed too accurately and is an extremely artificial creation.

I may sound overly sardonic and happy to crush the movie’s corpse body, but “What Happened to Monday” isn’t actually a bad film. There’s a lot of cool stuff going on. Seriously. The sci-fi designs are curious, like the mirror that tells your physical condition and skin problems or a self-programming punching bag.

The film has an excellent premise – how the society turns itself into a totalitarian regime state to protect the world from overpopulation. There weren’t too many films about it, in fact, and half of them are surely from the 70-s (with “Soylent Green” being the most obvious example, plus some elements from “Logan’s Run“).

The visuals are one of the films strongest points too.

It has a wonderful cast – Noomi Rapace (the original 2009 Swedish “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo” – a very good movie, by the way; “Prometheus“), Willem Dafoe who needs no introduction (“Antichrist“, “Platoon“, 2002 “Spider-Man“) and Glenn Close (“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1“, “The Girl with All the Gifts“).

So what went wrong? The details. From the first frames you dive into a fascinating world of Mr. Cliche. He is the boss in this dystopian world. The details completely ruin any credibility of this world, and for a dystopian movie that is crucial. That’s like teaching miners how to be astronauts when you can teach the latter how to drill.

In order to avoid the spoilers, let me make an example. All the people must carry an ID card. In any time of the day and night you must be able to prove that you’re the only child in the family. Even when you go to buy some meat, you still need to give your card to the butcher – why?! But I can swallow it. Okay. But if you’re a 35-year-old-woman, it means your mum is at least 50 years old, then what’s the point? If you were the only child yesterday, it’s obvious that tomorrow you’re still the only child because your mom can’t have kids anymore. That’s a big plot hole, but while watching the film I made a rough list and counted about 10 of them, and that’s just during the first view.

Where Alfonso Cuaron was subtle in portraying such a realistic dystopia, “What Happened to Monday” uses a far simpler approach. It’s like Michael Bay filming “Children of Men“. Need to portray an overpopulated world? Just show an overcrowded street 5 times in a row. Totalitarian society? O.K., who cares how it was created and who allowed it. Just show how the police taking away the kids from the angry parents! (…and why all the kids are between 5 and 10 years old? Why they don’t take infants?) Putting illegal children in a cryocam without letting the parents to visit them? Sure!

But if you manage to close your eyes on it, it’s not a bad flick. I was delighted to see Noomi Rapace performing the role(s) of 7 sisters. Noomi Rapace, the chameleon actress… I thought she will become a major movie star 5 years ago? I loved her roles in “Prometheus” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, but due to bad luck after 2012 she did 6 movies (mostly crime/thrillers), 4 of which had less than 35% on RT and pretty low ratings on IMDb. Only “The Drop” with her and Tom Hardy seems to be a good flick (7.1 IMDb and 90% RT).

Willem Defoe, a great American actor, was okay here – his role was limited (thanks to the script!) to a kind-but-severe-uncle cliche. Glenn Close, also a versatile and and talented actress, portrayed a very cliched villain that you want to punch in the face from the first frames… but I can’t blame her for that (thanks to the script!).

Worth watching? “What Happened to Monday” may easily satisfy young unpretentious veiwers (think “Surrogates” or various YA dystopias which I can’t stand), so I get it why Netflix stepped in. For everybody else… If you want to see what happens if Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich make a baby and then make him become a director and shoot “Children of Men” sequel… you’re more than welcome! Just don’t forget that these big-bada-boom guys can still do some nice stuff, especially if mixed with seven clones of Noomi Rapace, one Willem Dafoe, a dystopian setting and some chilling thriller.

Watch instead: choose any kind of dystopia you like! “Children of Men” for a modern, minimal and extremely relevant dystopia, “A Boy and His Dog” for 70-s black satire, “Moon” for a minimal low budget sci-fi awesomeness, “Dead Man’s Letters” for all Tarkovsky’s fans, “Version 1.0” for a Kafkaesque surreal cyberpunk, “THX-1138” for an arthouse film, “Sleep Dealer” as a smart illegal workforce Mexican dystopia – all much better movies. For a quick-paced action… ”V For Vendetta” (also by no means perfect movie) or bloody lovely ”Watchmen”?

Or be a sweetheart and help ”Blade Runner 2049” that is definitely struggling in the box office.

2.5/4

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