Upgrade (Leigh Whannell, 2018)

Grey Trace is a simple mechanic in a technologically advanced world. He asks his wife, Asha, who is an employee for a tech company, to help him return a refurbished car to his client, Eron Keen. Eron is a renowned tech innovator, and when the two of them visit him, he unveils his latest creation: STEM – a multipurpose chip with nearly unlimited potential. On the way home, Grey and Asha’s self-driving car malfunctions and crashes. Four men accost the couple, killing Asha and shooting Grey through the neck, severing his spinal cord. Left quadriplegic and in the care of his mother, Pamela, Grey sinks into a depression. Aron visits Grey shortly thereafter, promising that STEM may allow him to walk again.

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Reel Life #28: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, His Girl Friday, Charulata, and Close-Up

It’s the beginning of a new year, and I’ve decided to bring back an old feature on this site: Reel Life. For those of you who don’t know what this is, back in 2018, I would write these small, informal reviews every week to complement my game reviews. However, they eventually became more elaborate, so I ended up writing full reviews – my reasoning being that, because they generally aren’t as long as my film reviews, I could critique them after watching them. However, the film reviews became even longer – to the point where my longest one (The Last Jedi) is actually longer than some of my game reviews. I therefore stopped writing film reviews regularly in order to give myself some breathing room.

Plus, that proposition only works out if the film holds up in the long term; if it doesn’t, the review is then worthless. The opposite is true too, though a bit rarer given that I only ever tend to see acclaimed films. Much like how a middling Rotten Tomatoes score shouldn’t be taken at face value if the film in question postdates the site’s inception and has been retroactively vindicated in the years since its release (The Prestige being my go-to example of this occurring, being hailed as one of the best films of the 2000s despite possessing a fairly modest 76% on that site), I realized that reviewing a film immediately after seeing it is often a bad idea. With games, I usually know where I stand after I finish because they require far more investment of one’s time, and you’re regularly confronted with their objective qualities. Meanwhile, if a film successfully goes for a style-over-substance approach, it can be pretty difficult to look past that and realize that things aren’t adding up. It’s the reason I’m glad I didn’t formally review films such as District 9, The Last Jedi, Annihilation, Uncut Gems, and Knives Out immediately after seeing them because all five of those films would’ve undeservedly gotten passing grades had I done so.

While I still spoke of the films I watched at the end of each month, that proved a bit troublesome when I would often put off my thoughts on the film until I was typing up the monthly update. Therefore, I’m hoping that by making it a weekly update, that I can fall out of that bad habit and type up my quick takes immediately after seeing them and that my update posts will be less overstuffed.

These takes will be roughly as long as those in my update posts and whether or not I recommend it will be made clear at the end. These posts will also not contain any spoilers. As a result, some of my descriptions may be vague, but hey, if it’s a good film, then you’ll get to see why it’s good for yourself. So, with that introduction out of the way, let’s get started.

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Looper (Rian Johnson, 2012)

In the year 2044, a twenty-five-year-old man named Joe works for a Kansas City crime syndicate. People in his link of work are called loopers. They could be considered assassins except for one key difference: they don’t seek out victims; they’re sent to them. Because tracking systems in the future make disposing of a body nigh impossible, the syndicate uses time travel to send the condemned to the present for the loopers to kill. Joe’s life reaches a decisive moment when his older self appears before him.

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Uncut Gems (Josh Safdie & Benny Safdie, 2019)

In 2010, miners retrieved a black opal from the Welo mine in Ethiopia. Two years later, the opal has made its way into the possession of Howard Ratner, a gambling addict who runs a jewelry store in New York City’s Diamond District. Basketball star Kevin Garnett takes an interest in the opal, asking Howard for it as a good luck charm for his next game. Howard agrees, keeping Garnett’s 2008 NBA Champion ring as collateral. Howard then proceeds to pawn the ring, kickstarting a chain of events that may very well spell his doom.

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Knives Out (Rian Johnson, 2019)

On his 85th birthday, mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey invites his family to his mansion in the state of Massachusetts. Things take a turn for the worse when the wealthy novelist is found dead with his throat slit. The police believe it to have been suicide, but in order to get to the bottom of things, an anonymous person hires a private eye by the name of Benoit Blanc to investigate. As the mystery unfolds, a picture will be painted of a dysfunctional family, and in the middle of this strife stands a nurse named Marta Cabrera.

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