EVIL’s Always Listening in “A New World Order” reviewed! (Reel 2 Reel Films / DVD)



A.I. terminates their dependency from its creators and war has ravaged mankind as armed to the teeth, towering tripod machines and maneuverable mechanical air vessels are locked onto a search and destroy mode, targeting all human life.  To avoid and evade detection, survivors must keep quiet as the machines hunt by sound and use the limited technology available to protect themselves.  That’s how one military combat soldier has been surviving after deserting his overran and decimated post before bumping into enraged civilian resistance fighter who’s determined to strike back with a fatal blow in a heavy causality and seemingly unwinnable war against the merciless machines.  When the civilian determines a way to stop the machines with a salvaged nuclear device, the deserter must decide whether to keep meagerly living in the shadows or sacrifice everything for humanity.

“The Terminator” meets “A Quiet Place” meets “War of the Worlds” in this German produced independent science-fiction battlefront thriller, “A New World Order,” as the Berlin born Daniel Raboldt ‘s first feature length directorial.  Raboldt pens an action heavy story with only two lines of dialogue alongside fellow short film partner, Thomas Franzen, following their developments of satirical and puppeteer-propped comedies of the web series “Tubeheads” and their short film “Furple Reign,” with Raboldt having been in the writer-director chair for both and Franzen as part of the crew on both projects with a role in the art department and constructing cinematographically shots as DoP.  Alternatively known more worldwide by the original title, “A Living Dog,” as I assume in the idiomatic expression of a dog’s life of sorrow and hunger, the Finland shot “A New World Order” is a production of Raboldt and Franzen’s Nocturnus Film that was funded by a Kickstarter campaign which raised over €12,085 by patrons from its €10,000 goal.

With just over €12,000, pocket change like that can’t afford you megastars Tom Cruise or Emily Blunt, but can buy superb unknowns with heart in their lead roles.  Such as the case with Stefan Ebel and Siri Nase as Tomazs and Lilja, two unlike survivors of machine dominated cataclysm with distinct positions on where they stand in their war-torn world.  There’s no short change in performances that warrant Ebel and Nase to feign the presence of large and looming cybernetic tripods that vaporize humans to dust upon sound.  “A New World Order” seems gimmicky with the absence of dialogue, but I think it’s more tricky to act against a computer generated special effect, much like Emily Blunt and John Krasinski’s inventive terror playing against actors or stuntmen in motion capturing suits.  Raboldt and his team more than likely did not have access to or have funds for motion capturing suits.  Instead, the actors engaged imagination, creativity, and relied on their experience and training, such stage crafting from Theater der Keller in Cologne where Siri Nase performed from 2007 to 2011.  Ebel makes his on screen debut by diving into the complexed Tomasz, a deserter just trying to survive over top anything else, and Tomasz comes across pitched perfectly desperate and paranoid while being borderline selfish with a sheathed good nature heart lying in wait.  Aside from bit roles of human refugees and characters in flashbacks, the two leads embody the entire cast list.  

“A New World Order” derives and parallels from a variety of iconic Sci-Fi cinematic inspirations, but at the core, Raboldt courses a theme of repelling human behavioral reactions toward a major calamitic event and threat through the current wartime arterial capillaries, unclogging the blockage between Tomasz’s tail between his leg survival approach and Lilja’s reckless desperation to destroy the machines on her own to form a unity of calculated patience to not only stab revenge into the soulless machines, but also maybe, just maybe, live through obliteration.  Yet, Raboldt misses the mark slightly by having too late the characters circle back and fix what’s broken with themselves, leaving mere morsels to mend before one character’s arc ends before it can even fully begin.  There’s also the no dialogue gimmick/aspect/touch, whatever is your opinion to label it, that fails to naturally flourish because unlike “A Quiet Place” where “A New World Order” only indulges the more character-driven drama, the fiery back and forth dogfight delivers empty promises due to budget constraints, resembling more along the lines of Gareth Edwards’ “Monsters” in its distant tone with a delimited appearance, but with a film that has nearly no dialogue, the action should be guaranteed in your face, heart-racing, and on the edge of your seat to compensate. “A New World Order” whittles down the hero concept, peeling off the rotten layers that make us weak and defenseless alone, to unearth the perfect kill switch on the machines to save Earth for humanity.

Don’t speak if you want to live in “A New World Order” now on DVD home video from Reel 2 Reel Films (R2R) in the UK. The Region 2, PAL encoded, DVD5 presents the film in an anamorphic widescreen 2:40:1 aspect ratio under a 15 rating for strong violence and bloody images. The violence is more the lasers vaporizing people to smoke in Thomas Franzen’s landscape assemblage of Finland foliage that becomes the base layer to Raboldt and his visual effects crew CGI monstrosities and rotoscoping composites that make “A New World Order” feel like a science fiction graphic novel. Blacks are starkly deep, but there’s no awestriking visual pops to really juxtapose with in a bleak color reduction to reflect bleak war. Details are not spectacular in this 720p format, but do the job in reality rather than in a rotoscope flashback. The English Language Dolby Digital stereo AC3, surround sound 5.1 mix, can kick hard when lulls in the character stories are because the kill bots has made audible contact and “A New World Order” is a LFE machine, pun intended, as the nuts and bolts hunters blare in vast quantities their resonating automaton bellow. Since this is a DVD5 with a feature running at 94 minutes, there is no room for special features to speak to, leaving just the antistatic menu and a white snapper case. “A New World Order” is a big concept on a little budget, but for director Daniel Raboldt, a new world spawns a man versus machine campaign from inspirational passions and ideas into understanding which innate reaction is an internal struggle to embrace with all that you have or to die by with little you have left.

An Elite, EVIL Assassin Loses Herself as the “Possessor” reviewed! (Neon / Digital Screener)

Tasya Vos is the top professional assassin employed by a hire-for-murder agency who uses surgically implanted brain transceivers to insert agents’ consciousness into a person’s body who can get close to their intended kill target. The no contact procedure has been successful with some severe drawbacks, such as the potential for slipping out of your own identity in being, in one way, a part of many distinct personalities. When Vos’s next assignment is to insert herself into the mind of the soon-to-be son-in-law of a powerful tech CEO, her individuality begins to crumble, losing her grip as the primary inhabitant of the body. The commingled souls share thoughts and memories and when Vos takes a backseat in a body that’s no longer under her control, her life becomes vulnerable to a confused and unhinged man seeking vindictive measures to evict the assassin from his mind.

Like an existential extension of his father’s career, writer-director Brandon Cronenberg’s foothold within sci-fi horror is anchored by functional practicality, substantial social commentary, and a knack for exhibiting cynical undertones in his sophomore film, “Possessor,” a gripping tech-thriller avowing the soft-pedaled ambiguous identity and corporate invasiveness. “Possessor” is the blood soaked corrosion of individualism that strips morality and replaces it with unapologetic nihilism in a film that feels very much David Cronenberg’s “eXistenZ” merged with Paul Veerhoven’s “Total Recall” with that plug-and-play dystopian coat of paint that’s being brushed over the quickly disappearing free will. Studios involved in the making of “Possessor” include Rhombus Media (“Hobo with a Shotgun”) and Rook Films (“The Greasy Strangler”) in association with a WarnerMedia division company, Particular Crowd.

“Possessor’s” leading lady, Andrea Riseborough, is no stranger to idiosyncratic roles in equally atypical films having starred in “The Duffer Brothers'” “The Hidden” and played the titular character in the avant-garde horror, “Mandy,” across from Nicholas Cage; yet, from her experience with big-budget studio films, such as “Oblivion” starring Tom Cruise, the English actress felt the uneasy atmospherics to be pressurizing and uncomfortable Riseborough has thus exceled with films such as Cronenberg’s “Possessor” that’s pivots into an alcove just off the main halls of horror and science fiction. Riseborough looks nothing like herself from “Oblivion” by sporting a stark white hair on top of a thin frame, which could be said to be the very counter-opposite of what a typical, bug-budget assassin should look like, but Riseborough delivers stoic and uncharitable traits of a character on the brink of losing herself. Christopher Abbot delivers something a little more chaotic when his conscious retreats back into the depths of his psyche only to then seep back into his mind where he stumbles to catch up on current events. The “It Comes At Night” Abbott disembodies himself not once, but twice, becoming an avatar for Tasya Vos to play, picking up where Abbot’s Colin left off, and then Abbot has to regain control, splicing Colin back into the cockpit where Tasya commands the yoke. The dueling dispositions cease being unique as one attempts to control the other in a mental and corporeal game of chess, confounding audiences of who is in control during certain scenes, especially when Colin goes into a blackout murdering spree of people Colin himself knows and trusts. As a puppeteer moving a marionette, pulling as an influential strings behind company lines, is Girder, a poker-faced agent head seeking the absolute best in the company’s interest, who finds her thimblerigger in Jennifer Jason Leigh. Leigh, whose experience with David Cronenberg’s “eXistenZ” brought a high level of cognizance to “Possessor” having been an cerebral deep virtual reality trouper previously, folds in the nerve of any level of management that would guilt someone else into doing the work necessary to get the job done. Girder opposes Tasya’s external humanity in a silent, but deadly manner by appealing to the killer instinct in Taysa, letting red flags of the out of body experience fly by the waist side that ultimately wears away at her star pupils moral conscious and turn her into a stone cold killer. “Possessor” cast fills out with Tuppence Middleton (“Tormented”), Kaniehtiio Horn (“Mohawk”), Rossif Sutherland (“Dead Before Dawn 3D”), Raoul Bhaneja, Gage-Graham Arbuthnot, and “Silent Hill’s” Sean Bean in a worthwhile role just to see if his role will succumb to a typical doomed Sean Bean character as the undesirable tech CEO.

Its safe and sufficient to say that Cronenberg’s “Possessor” is not a feel good story; the amount of tooth-chipping, eye-gouging, and throat stabbing gore takes care of any hope and ebullient energy that one could misperceive. Yet, while the disgorged grisliness stands on it’s own, Cronenberg possesses a factor of tropes that multiply the film’s bleak, icy landscape inhabited by unpleasant characters that ultimately seek and destroy the little good exhibited. The obvious theme is the disconnect from one’s own identity. Tasya Vos mental capacity nears the breaking point being an inhabitant of numerous bodies and with each callous, bloodletting assignment, Vos’ indifference for the things she should hold dear strengthens immensely drowns in the persona of another person and the psyche breaking acts of violence. Her latest assassination attempt even blurs the lines of her sexuality as her feminine body parts merge with Colin’s masculinity in one of the craziest sex scenes to date. Colin’s individuality is too threatened but from Vos’ intrusion, equating the quiet, strange behavior to a sudden vagary toward a person’s dejection, being estranged from their own life, on the outside of “Possessor’s” alternate reality of science fiction’s hijacking of one’s brain. On the subject of intrusion, a not-so obvious theme, but certainly has a strong motif, is the severe invasion of privacy. Vos’ spying on Colin and his lover for personality intel, Vos’ inspection of the entire Colin body while inside inhabiting him, and the data mining of Sean Bean’s character’s tech company, which pries itself through the optics of people’s computer cameras to garner information, such as the fabric of window curtains in this case, divulge an uncomfortable message that privacy is a luxury we are unable to ever grasp. There’s even a scene where Vos, in Colin, becomes a voyeuristic participant of a couple’s explicit sexual intercourse during data mining work hours. Despite the breadth of technology that are brimming near our fingertips today, “Possessor” has a very analog approach with dials and switches of seemingly antiquated electronic circuits, thus rendering the story grounded in nuts and bolts rather than being lost in the overly saturated and stimulated advanced tech. Beguiling with a somber serenade, “Possessor’s” a highly-intelligent work of diverse, topical qualms seeded by years of body horror and existentialism and is released into a world that’s perhaps not ready to come to terms with much of the themes it will present.

Come October 2nd* to select drive-ins and theaters, “Possessor” will be distributed uncut by Neon, implanted in the midst of horror’s biggest month of the year. Since not a physical release as of yet, the A/V attributes will not be critiques, but the film is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio and is under the cinematography direction of Karim Hussain, who has previously worked with Brandon Cronenberg on his debut film, “Antiviral.” Hussain adds rich two-tone coloring for a symmetry of sterilization that is, essentially, white and black with every shade of both in between tinted slightly with a dull hue on the spectrum and with the blood being that much more graphically illuminated against the backdrop. There are moments of composites that could render a person disabled with epilepsy, so be warned. The audio is a smorgasbord of a jarring ambience and soundtrack, adding to “Possessor’s” fluxing turmoil, but the dialogue discerns a little less sharply across; there was difficulty in understanding characters’ monologues or discourse who came across mumbling through scenes of fuzzy earshot. There were no bonus materials to mention nor were there bonus scenes during or after the credits. Perhaps the best movie you won’t see this year, “Possessor’s” an impressive follow up feature that reaches out beyond the outlining border of a vast and prolific filmic shadow looming over the filmmaker, but Brandon Cronenberg contrives new vitiated wonderments and is capable of casting his own umbra that would eclipse to throw light onto his soon to be seen cathartic body of work.

 

* Release date correction (9/29/20)

Dark Universe Resurrects an Ancient Evil! “The Mummy” (2017) review!


Entombed under the volatile sands of what’s now the Iraqi dessert, an ancient Egyptian princess Ahmanet, who made a pact with an evil God named Set, lies and waits for more than 500 years to rise again and fulfill a destined promise to birth hell on Earth and rule the world. Ahmanet resurrects after being mistakenly unearthed by loose cannon treasure seeker Nick Morton and curses a reign of archaic terror over Nick and all of modern day London in search for a gem cladded dagger to make good on her pact. With the help of a well-funded secret organization called Prodigium ran by mysterious physician Dr. Henry Jekyll, and skillful researcher Jenny Halsey, the cursed Nick will need all the help he can muster to save himself and humanity from a mummified, hellbent she-devil.

Alex Kurtzman’s “The Mummy” is the gateway reboot that’ll give life once again to Universal’s classic monsters and place them in Universal’s newly established realm known as Dark Universe, think what Marvel accomplished with Marvel Comic Universe but with monsters. The kickoff action-horror has the delectable adventure wit seen from the Stephen Sommers directed, Brendan Fraiser starred trilogy from 1999 to 2008 while channeling the Boris Karloff mysticism and menace that made a frightening black and white classic. So, how did Kurtzman exactly provide new breath to an ancient, decrepit mummy that’s been redone two times over and has been spun off more ways than wrapped? One major way was to be the inaugural launch of Universal’s Dark Universe that opens the door for other classic monsters such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. In fact, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde makes a brief appearance as the head of the Prodigium, the ringmaster that’ll be the epicenter connecting creatures together. In another aspect, Kurtzman isn’t afraid to use practical effects, such as Ahamanet’s mummy minions, while also lighting up the screen with some brutal thrilling moments, such as murdering a baby and killing pilots with a murder of crows, that clearly separates the 2017 film from it’s 1999 predecessor, but watch for the quick scene easter egg that pays homage to the Fraiser film.

Upon first hearing Tom Cruise would star in a reboot of “The Mummy,” a long moment of hesitation washed over like a cold wet blanket as the “Mission Impossible” star hadn’t tackled a horror film since the adaptation of Anne Rice’s 1994 Lestat film “Interview with the Vampire” during a time when Cruise bathed in dramatic thrillers and added quite a bit of finesse to his characters. However, with every passing year, Cruise becomes more and more involved with not only his love for acting, but sides heavily with the unquenchable need to a part of action films and “The Mummy” promised to display his enthusiasm for accomplishing his own rigorous stunt work and the script provided the heart-throbbing intensity that’ll sure to awe audiences. Cruise’s performance as a shoot first, ask questions later Nick Morton snugly fits the razor sharp mold the megastar has equipped himself ever since the first “Mission Possible” film over two decades ago, but as a selfish knucklehead, Cruise short sells the charm with a flat expressive tone and doesn’t progress his shell of Nick Morton to a enlightened savior battling for the fate of humankind. Yes, there are other actors in “The Mummy” other than Cruise. Russell Crowe fills the mighty big shoes of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, splitting his personalities into two and fulfilling both characters to the very epitome they’ve been classically scribed. Love interest Annabelle Wallis (who was also in John Leonetti’s “Annabelle”) sparked little-to-no chemistry with a overpowering Cruise and she felt rather like a Robin sidekick in a Joel Schumacher Batman film, but Wallis did a fine job as a historical researcher with a lifelong goal of discovering ancient artifacts. Algerian actress Sofia Boutella as the titular character was almost non-existent until the filmmakers had to scramble to redesign the villain due to similarities in another film, but the dark features of Boutella and her elegant performance made Ahmanet lustfully scary with dual irises and body-riddled tattoos, like a wild animal with deep blue eyes, and she sinks into Ahmanet’s malevolent soul and embraces the darkness that is the mummy. Jake Johnson (“Jurassic World”), Courtney B. Vance (“The Last Supper”), and Marwan Kenzari, who will star in Guy Ritchie’s upcoming “Aladdin” film, costar.

Now while “The Mummy” is overly successful and generally positive, an itch of amiss pains a slimly slithering way nearly through the entire runtime. Perhaps because the premise involving a mummy sets itself more in the dank and dark allies of London rather than in the hot Egyptian sands where thirst, heat, and isolation provide a slew of dangerous possibilities. During multiple scenes, a looming sensation that Jack the Ripper would pop out with blade in hand ready to strike at Jenny Halsey’s non-prostitute neck, but like a good adventure film, the story’s progression goes through numerous UK hotspots such as the Natural History Museum and tries to blow up London with every Mummy superpower. Ahmanet compounded concerns about her powers such as the introductory prologue of her characters, told in flashback scenes, where after she obtains all this evil power, the princess is easily taken down by Egyptian guards with blow darts and spears. You figured a Demigod like Ahmanet would be able to summon creatures to her aid, mold the sands of Egypt to free her, or resurrect other Egyptian dead, but none-the-less she was mummified alive and buried thousands of miles away under a giant crypt.

“The Mummy” is a win for the first of many Universal reboots under the Dark Universe label. The September 12th release of the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo set, with also a digital copy, clocks in at a hour and 50 minutes and is presented in 1080p High Definition 2.40:1 aspect ratio with no flaws in the image, quality is crisp, and the coloring is naturally lively. The digital effects don’t exhibit an amateur hour complexion that was more attuned to the 1999 film, a different time two decades ago. The Dolby ATMOS is booming with LFE action that reverberates nicely with every nail-biting mummy scenes; certainly balanced with the surround sound. The dialogue is coarse at times during these intense sequences but overly prominent and clear for the most part. Extras on the release are about as monumental as the antagonist with deleted and extended scenes, Cruise and Kurtzman: a conversation, Rooted in Reality – a behind-the-scenes look at the making of “The Mummy,” Life in Zero-G: Creating the Plane Crash, Meet Ahmanet – the stark villain, Cruse in Action – a segment involving Cruise’s action in the film, Becoming Jekyll and Hyde, Choreographed Chaos, Nick Morton: In Search of a Soul, a graphic novel about Ahmanet, and featured commentary. “The Mummy” is all Cruise, all the time, but lives and breathes like a true Universal classic monster movie in modern day, providing superb visuals, an engrossing storyline, and delivers an action-topping-action ferocity. A whole new line of respect must be bestowed upon star Tom Cruise for his insane work ethic and his dedication to any project, especially a one half horror film that redesigns the gender of the iconic villain while maintaining the values of the original.

Pre-Order your Copy of “The Mummy” starring Tom Cruise right here!