Sydney, 2022-03-11 07:00:00. Movie reviews: “The Adam Project” and more
Adam’s Project: 3 stars
Ryan Reynolds has carved out a unique and lucrative niche for himself on screen. The current king of non-IP comedy, he recently had major hits with “Red Notice” and “Free Guy,” two original films not based on a comic book or video game-based premise. This week, add to that list “The Adam Project,” a science fiction adventure movie now streaming on Netflix featuring Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Garner.
Adam Reed (Walker Scoble), a thirteen-year-old precocious child who lives with his mother, Ellie (Garner), is still stinging from his father’s death a year ago. “Son, you have to think about your future,” says Elle, “because it’s coming. Sooner than you think.”
In fact, he may have already arrived.
One day Adam finds a wounded fighter pilot hiding in his family’s garage. Turns out the stranger isn’t weird after all. It’s Adam (Reynolds) from the future; The adult version with a bullet hole in its side and a mission. “You are me,” says the stunned young man. “That’s a secret,” says the older Adam, “but yes, I was once upon a time.”
A time traveler leaps into 2022 to save the world, using information created by his late scientist Lewis (Ruffalo). To complete the mission, he’ll need to go back in time even more, this time with little Adam at his side. First, there’s a sinister time traveling (Katherine Keener) and the question of how to deal with the past while saving the future.
Time travel movies rarely make complete sense, and “The Adam Project” is no different. Time may be a flat circle, destined to repeat itself, but cinematic intrigues to jump from year to year, to change the past from the future, often make my head hurt and drive me out of the story.
The Adam Project creeps in, not because of his understanding of the paradox of theoretical physics, but because of the chemistry between Reynolds and his young partner Scoble.
Reynolds reunites with his “Free Guy” director, Sean Levy, to impart his commercial charisma and style with a joke, while Scobell, in his acting debut, is a natural frustration. He’s funny, charming, and holds his own against Reynolds, who is arguably one of the best scene stealers in movies today.
They click and because they do, the movie works. The sci-fi aspects of the story, the Stormtroopers from the future or the roaring CGI heyday, don’t make an impression like the heart and soul of the film, the ship of relationships between Adams and their father as they heal the wounds inflicted by their father’s death.
“The Adam Project” threatens to allow fireworks with special effects to overshadow its story, but it contains just enough heartwarming material to earn comparisons to the ’80s Ambling movies it clearly inspired.
Transforming Red: 4 stars
You can tell Pixar’s “Turning Red,” a charming new animated movie now airing on Disney+, was directed by someone who grew up in Toronto. Academy Award-winning director Dom Shee includes such staples of city life as the TTC card and the CN Tower, but it refers to Skydome, the original and only name for the plaza now known as Rogers Center, which Hogtown’s bona fide enhances.
Mylene Lee (the voice of Rosalie Chiang), the main character in the film, is a free spirit in a traditional family. She loves to dance and hang out with her friends and she especially loves the boy band 4*Town. “Since I turned thirteen,” she says, “I’ve been doing my own thing.”
She navigates the line between obedient daughter to mother Ming (voice of Sandra Oh) and nonconformist. “The number one rule in my family is to respect your parents, but if you get over it too much, you might forget to honor yourself,” she says.
Everything changes for Melene one morning after she went through a nightmare and before she says, “Poof!” , transforms into a giant red panda. Upon hearing a commotion upstairs, Ming investigates. “You are a woman now and your body is starting to change,” she said from the door to her obviously upset daughter.
When the truth of the situation is revealed, Ming is not surprised. Turns out, panda transformation runs in the family, and usually follows some kind of emotional cycle. Unless Milene wants to be a shape-shifter for the rest of her life, she has to listen to her parents. “There is darkness for the panda,” says Jin Lee, father of Mi (Orion Lee). “You only have one chance to get him away. And you can’t fail, or you’ll never be free.”
A private party could cure her of her ordeal, but it would have to take place under the red moon, which is one month away, on the same night as Skydome’s big 4*Town show.
“Turning Red” is a fantasy animated movie that will make your eyeballs dance. Toronto has been lovingly recreated and the characters have a character that burns. Mei’s alter ego, the giant red panda, is equal parts terrifying and adorable, a metaphor for puberty come to life, in a big way. Heading over great sound work from Chiang and Oh, it’s a Pixar-worthy effort that could sit on the shelf next to classics like “Up,” “WALL-E,” and “Toy Story.”
The coming-of-age story is well handled. The importance of family is a core message, as in many children’s films, but it’s Shi’s sensitive (and very funny) lessons of assertiveness and honesty with yourself that set her apart. Mi feels suffocated by Ming’s overprotection, but she sticks to herself, even if it’s scary. “I’m changing my mom,” she says. “I’m afraid he will take me away from you.”
“Don’t hold back from anyone,” Ming replies. “The more I progress, the more proud I will be.”
It’s more touching and subtle than you might expect from a movie about a little girl who turns into a panda, but Turning Red is this one. Don’t be afraid to be silly, serious, and honest, often at the same time. It’s a beautiful and insightful picture of the chaos of being a child and how respect, family, friends (and little boy band music) can help facilitate the wild journey. Oh, and Toronto has rarely looked better on screen!
After Yang: 3 stars
“After Yang,” a new sci-fi movie starring Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith now playing in theaters, is about the conscious life of a robot, but the firepower of Android movies like “The Terminator” has been replaced by a slow-moving, meditative movie.
Set in the near future, “After Yang” begins with the loss of AI-powered Yang (Justin H-Min of Umbrella Academy), an Android purchased by Kyra and Jake (Jodie Turner-Smith and Colin Farrell) as a cyborg companion and “Big Brother” To their adopted Asian daughter Mika (Mali Emma Tjandrawidjaja). When Yang suffers a fundamental failure and shuts down, Mika grieves the loss of Gigi, or her Mandarin older brother.
Jake’s search for a way to fix a “technical” caregiver is harder than you think. It’s more complicated than bringing your broken iPad back to the Apple Store. The manufacturer will only fix the twelve most common problems, and Jake warns that it’s illegal to access data stored in bot memory banks.
However, Jake accepts a tool to access Yang’s primary slice from the museum’s curator (Sarita Choudhury), only to discover that it has been renovated several times and holds memories from his many experiences.
Director Koganada focuses attention on the contemplative aspects of the story, rather than the mechanical, and creates introspective science fiction that elegantly and subtly explores issues of existence, grief, love, and memory. The film’s cold, detached exterior melts as showtime taps, as the sci-fi aspects of the story become a study of relationships and why we connect with the people and things we do.
Low-key but heartfelt performances from Farrell, Turner-Smith, Min and Tjandrawidjaja add emotional resonance to a speculative story meant to appeal to the heart as much as the brain.
Ultimately, the film directed by Koganada is a touching family drama with some sci-fi elements. But just because ‘After Yang’ is more exciting than thriller doesn’t mean it isn’t effective and memorable.
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