Sundance Review: Divinity

Set in an otherworldly human existence, scientist Sterling Pierce dedicated his life to the quest for immortality, slowly creating the building blocks of a groundbreaking serum named “Divinity.” Jaxxon Pierce, his son, now controls and manufactures his father’s once-benevolent dream.

Not going to lie I watched Divinity five days ago (at the time this was written) and I still don’t quite know what to think of it, Divinity was a last minute addition to my Sundance schedule. I added it mainly due to hearing some talk about it being a very “out there film” and that description doesn’t even begin to describe this film. 

Divinity is if you took Mad Max and Tetsuo: The Iron Man, mixed with 16mm black and white cinematography and then made it like taking a psychedelic drug, there’s so much creativity here that it’s truly insane. The use of the 16mm black and white cinematography heavily reminds you of those very strange experimental films you come across every now and then only in film form. It also does remind you a bit of the universal monster movies as well, there’s some really spectacular use of stop motion and live action during the final battle of the film that gives it such a unique look to it. 

The cast is quite great as well, Stephen Dorff is quite great but the one who steals it is Moises Arias who really gives such a interesting performance that matches the tone the film is going for, the direction from Eddie Alcazar is quite a strong one it puts you in this world where just about anything can happen. The viewer is immediately taken into this world through the visuals and cinematography that does a lot of the talking, there’s so much creativity and imagination here that is truly exciting. 

Divinity is definitely not going to be for everyone, having that said if it sounds like your type of thing I do recommend checking this one out once it releases. 

Divinity currently has no release date. 

8/10 B+

JUNG_E is a beautiful film with well done dramatic moments that is mixed in it’s ideas.

In a post-apocalyptic near-future, a researcher at an AI lab leads the effort to end a civil war by cloning the brain of a heroic soldier — her mother.

JUNG_E is directed by Yeon Sang-ho directed of Train To Busan, The King Of Pigs, Psychokinesis and a few others. And unfortunately it’s disappointing to hear this but, there just isn’t a whole lot to say about JUNG_E. 

I will say that it is an improvement over Peninsula that honestly doesn’t mean much when you remember just how disappointing Peninsula was, JUNG_E nails it when it comes to the more emotional dramatic moments that Sang-ho uses in a lot of his films. Heck that’s one of the many reasons why Train To Busan is so loved by many and is still talked about to this day, there’s one scene in particular during the third act that really hits it out of the park especially when combined with the score of the film. The score is also really strong here, it hits those emotional notes really well and it has the atmosphere to back it up too. Lastly the film is absolutely gorgeous it’s a beautiful film to look at and really adds to the overall tone it’s going for. 

What hurts JUNG_E however is mainly the lack of world building and a lot of the ideas just not fully coming together, the world of JUNG_E looks and sounds really awesome the problem is we don’t get a whole lot of in depth information about it. We get some basics but admittedly some of the basics really end up being Sci-Fi cliches, being 99 minutes also really didn’t do the movie any favors either. It definitely needed more time in the oven to properly tell the story of the world and have it’s ideas fully develop. 

Overall JUNG_E is definitely not bad and is a decent movie but could have been so much more. 

JUNG_E is available on Netflix. 

6/10 C+

Strange World is a forgettable sci-fi adventure.

The Clades are a legendary family of explorers whose differences threaten to topple their latest and most crucial mission into uncharted and treacherous territory.

I know this is a common cliche to say in movie reviews of movies that had a lot of potential but I’m going to ask it anyway…what happened here? I will say the animation is very colorful and has a lot of detail to it plus I really liked Ethan (voiced by Jaboukie Young-White) as well as the rest of the cast. They all give pretty solid voice work that adds to their characters quite well, even if some of the characters aren’t exactly that well written. Which is when the problems start to occur…the writing, what you have here is a pretty strong cast that unfortunately has to work with a very lackluster script that really doesn’t offer anything new to the table. A lot of this is a very basic Sci-Fi story of a group of people who get stuck on a planet, there’s some nice representation here (at least when you compare it to Disney’s other films) but that doesn’t help the movie all that much. Ethan is a great character that’s surrounded by a very bland movie that unfortunately doesn’t take the opportunity to explore the movie’s themes, there’s a few scenes that dance around the movie’s themes but don’t flat out want to tell them. Having that said I do think there’s some cute father and son bonding moments here that are effective and are by far some of the highlights of the movie. Strange World is just one of those Disney films that sort of exists, it’s not particularly bad but it’s a very forgettable and uninspired movie that could have absolutely been great had the writing been far better.

Strange World is available on Disney+

5/10 C

Avatar: The Way Of Water a masterfully crafted and written film that surpasses the first film.

Jake Sully and Ney’tiri have formed a family and are doing everything to stay together. However, they must leave their home and explore the regions of Pandora. When an ancient threat resurfaces, Jake must fight a difficult war against the humans.

I’m not someone who was a huge fan of the first Avatar, it was a gorgeous film that I absolutely respect what went into making it, having that said I absolutely loved Avatar: The Way Of Water. I guess this is James Cameron’s whole thing of making sequels that a lot of people could consider better than the first film (depending on who you ask of course), The Way Of Water fixes all of the problems that were present from the first film. First off the characters are a lot more fleshed out to the point where the viewer can grow a connection to them, there’s so many character moments here that really give these characters so much development and personalities. The overall theme and connection of the characters is family, which yes is done quite a lot in film, but James Cameron gives it this very human like feel, as well as it feeling very natural rather than making it seem like a plot device. The story is the other major part that this movie really improved, all three acts are exciting, beautiful and masterfully done in there own ways turning this film into a huge powerhouse. The story much like the characters goes into the family element and really nails it down well, this isn’t much of a surprise but the film is absolutely gorgeous. If you thought the first film was breathtaking Way Of Water ups it by really being such a good word building film that captures the beauty of Pandora, the underwater technology is just incredible it’s by far some of if not THE most beautiful underwater shots in film. The action scenes are truly fantastic and have so much detail to each of them, there’s this huge adrenaline rush feel to the action scenes that are truly exciting. The cast does such a fantastic job of bringing these characters to life each of them brings so much beauty into the film that completely captures why this film completely works. It’s the human connection between the characters that really makes the film shine, a huge amount of detail to each scene and just the overall fairy tale like atmosphere that gives the film a whimsical feel.

Avatar: The Way Of Water is available in theaters.

10/10 A+

The Lair is another misfire from Neil Marshall.

When Royal Air Force pilot Lt. Kate Sinclair is shot down over Afghanistan, she finds refuge in an abandoned underground bunker where deadly man-made biological weapons — half human, half alien — are awakened.

In case Hellboy and The Reckoning weren’t proof enough that the glory days of Neil Marshall are over than The Lair just confirms it. While The Lair isn’t as bad as the two previous mentioned movies it’s still a horrible addition to Marshall’s career. It’s pretty much if you took any sci-fi movie where a bunch of creatures attack from the last 10 years and did absolutely nothing new with it, the acting and writing are beyond abysmal and like in The Reckoning there’s a few so bad it’s hilarious moments but not enough to save this movie. Even the actions scenes and creature designs are very poor, I get this was on a low budget but a lot of it was very uninspired a huge disappointment due to knowing how capable Marshall is as a director and his creativity. Which is probably the main point I’m trying to get across here, the creativity is just no longer in his movies, The Descent, Dog Soldiers and Centurion had so much creativity, atmosphere and character to them that were and still are really great (The Descent being one of my favorite horror films of all time) the same can’t be said for The Lair, it’s a terrible sci-fi monster movie that is very disposable that you will quickly forget about after watching.

The Lair is available on all VOD platforms.

1/10 F

Significant Other falls short with it’s interesting ideas.

Sinister events plague a young couple when they take a backpacking trip through the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Significant Other is one of those movies that has the right ingredients to make a really interesting little movie, but only meets at the halfway point. Maika Monroe gives a strong performance here, she really turns what would otherwise be a lot of dull moments into something truly interesting. The atmosphere is definitely there as well, the movie quickly establishes a thrilling and haunting atmosphere that works for quite awhile until the movie starts to become a bit too goofy. Especially during the third act where the twist while I can see what they were going for, doesn’t quite stick it’s landing. It’s a bit too goofy and takes away from the atmosphere that made the movie pretty thrilling, there’s a few decent character moments here that really work and the setting combined with the atmosphere works well. The movie itself just doesn’t fully come together in the end.

Significant Other is available on Paramount+

5/10 C

Vesper is an interesting Sci-fi film even if it’s familiar.

Struggling to survive with her father after the collapse of Earth’s ecosystem, 13-year-old Vesper must use her wits, strength and bio-hacking abilities to fight for the future.

Vesper is definitely an interesting little Sci-Fi film that really expands itself as it goes on, the film does start out a bit rough with a lot of slow burn elements that don’t exactly work all that well here. Mainly due to the story itself actually being a bit more straightforward than you would think, but once it gets going the film becomes quite an Interesting exploration. The characters are quite intriguing particularly Raffiella Chapman’s character Vesper who gets a really solid backstory and several character moments as the film goes on, there’s some world exploration here that definitely could have been used a lot more, but for what’s presented it’s a quite decent look at a post apocalyptic world that introduces some ideas that are pretty investing. The film does follow a few familiar Sci-Fi film tropes but at the very least the film does things a bit different, as I said before the slow burn elements are kind of just there. They are very unnecessary especially with the story being told where it’s actually straightforward and really doesn’t need these long moments of silence to digest what’s happening on screen. If you can get through that you are in for a very investing ride.

Vesper is available on all VOD platforms.

7/10 B

Mona Lisa and The Blood Moon is an entertaining ride.

When a struggling single mother befriends a mysterious woman who has supernatural powers, she sees a lucrative opportunity to make some fast cash. However, their crime spree soon draws unwanted attention as the cops start to close in.

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is an interesting little movie, that while story wise it really isn’t anything special it makes up for it with a lot of other elements that go together quite nicely. The cinematography combined with the setting of New Orleans is truly a lot of fun and adds to the movie’s overall atmosphere, the performances are overall pretty solid particularly Jeon Jong-seo and Kate Hudson who have great chemistry and really steal every scene they are in together. Craig Robinson is also a fun addition as well, the direction from Ana Lily Amirpour (director of The Bad Batch and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night) is really fantastic here, we get more character development than we usually would when it comes to films like this. There’s some character driven moments that are very investing and really drag the viewer into the film, Mona Lisa And The Blood Moon might be Amirpour’s weakest film mainly due to the story feeling a bit too recognizable, but it’s still a very entertaining movie that I do recommend giving a watch, it’s a solid introduction to her work.

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is available on all VOD platforms.

7/10 B

Quick Review: The Alternate

A struggling filmmaker who is forced to confront his idealised self after unlocking a portal to an alternate dimension where all his dreams have come true.

Unless you haven’t seen a single Twilight Zone episode or haven’t watched a low budget Sci-Fi movie before this might not be a bad watch. Otherwise prepare for a lot of Sci-Fi tropes that really don’t add anything new to the genre, there’s some decent shots here considering the budget and the acting isn’t as bad as you would expect. But this ends up being more of a chore to finish than anything else.

The Alternate is available on all VOD platforms.

4/10 D+

Alienoid is a wild blend of ideas and elements.

Gurus in the late Goryeo dynasty try to obtain a fabled, holy sword, and humans in 2022 hunt down an alien prisoner that is locked in a human’s body. The two parties cross paths when a time-traveling portal opens up.

Alienoid is what happens when you combine so many different ideas and elements from other movies and TV Shows then proceed to go wild with it. The movie is a mess but it’s the type of mess that is a whole lot of fun and strangely has charm to it as well. There’s bits that reminded me of Power Rangers, Terminator, Transformers, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and so on. That’s a very crazy movie that isn’t afraid to go all out, the performances are pretty solid, the writing is engaging and genuinely hilarious plus has a lot of charm as well. The main flaw comes from the almost two and a half hour running time that really stretches itself for far too long, it really starts to overstay it’s welcome but luckily it’s enjoyable for most of it. Alienoid is flawed but it has a lot of charm and is wildly entertaining that you just can’t help but like it.

Alienoid is available in theaters.

7/10 B