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Review: “Annihilation” is Trippy Transcendence

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Alex Garland proved he knows how to conceive smart, gorgeous, and intense science fiction with Ex Machina, but with Annihilation, he demonstrates that he isn’t just a flash-in-the-plan director. His follow-up film contains another heaping dose of profound characters, intelligent dialogue, and enough gorgeous and psychedelic sci-fi imagery to make the eyes refuse to blink. Even though Garland’s film is based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, he approaches the material as though he read a mountain of European sci-fi comics, binge-watched Fantastic Planet, or went on the best acid trip of his life. The results are nothing short of transcendent.

Earth has been hit with a strange meteor that collides with a lighthouse in Florida. From its arrival, an expanding barrier referred to as The Shimmer starts to claim the area around the state. Many teams enter to find out what is causing this phenomenon, but nobody comes back. Enlisted for the latest expedition inside is Lena (Natalie Portman), a biologist and former soldier. When her soldier husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) is the only survivor of the last mission and not in the best of conditions, she decides to venture inside to find a reason for the alien season. She’s accompanied by the all-female team of the shrill psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the kick-butt soldier Anya (Gina Rodriguez), the glasses-wearing tech Josie (Tessa Thompson), and the stoic volunteer Cass (Tuva Novotny).

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Naturally, weird stuff starts happening to the group once they enter The Shimmer. They start losing track of their memories, forgetting when they first set up camp for the night. They uncover exotic foliage and plant life, otherworldly in how it grows and contorts the environment. And, of course, some nasty mutations go on the offensive, including alligators and bears that don’t quite seem to act like alligators or bears. One by one, the crew is picked off the further they trek through the oddly infested lands to reach the lighthouse and uncover the mystery.

Garland is so confident with this story that he not only shoots it non-linear but even begins the movie with the ending, stating outright who died on the mission before we even see it. The visuals slowly ease the viewer into its worlds, both the internal conflict of Lena’s strained relationships and the weirdness of the Shimmer land. This is no mere monster island of creepy critters that want to repopulate their species or dominate human life. Without giving too much away, the entity causing the Shimmer has more in common with light refraction than little men from Mars that want to kill us.

But how could I possibly spoil the film’s unbelievable and mostly dialogue-free third act that is pure cinema ambrosia? What the entity turns out to be and the real intentions are revealed in a vivid experience of the most surreal, beautiful, and frightening of a dreamlike sequence. To even describe beat for beat what goes down won’t even come close to spoiling the visual splendor and chilling discovery of trying to figure out this puzzling picture. Any assumptions one might have had about where this story goes will melt away at this point in the film. I spoke with another critic on this ending who responded that he turned to his wife and stated that he hadn’t been this high since 2001: A Space Odyssey. And it’s an apt comparison for a finale that invites the audience to come closer with its weirdly intoxicating examinations of mysterious forces and our place in the world.

Annihilation encompasses so much of what makes science fiction creepy, emotional, and mind-bending. There’s been talk that Paramount had wanted to rework the film, fearing that it would be too intellectual and complicated for wider audiences. Perhaps it is, but it’s a film worth taking a chance on for Garland’s astounding vision that was not tampered with on the final cut. It is a shame that other countries will only be seeing this film on streaming services as opposed to the theater. A movie this grand and beautiful deserves to be seen on the big screen as Garland intended. Going back to the comparison to 2001: A Space Odyssey, I heard tell that Stanley Kubrick’s classic would garner repeat viewings from audiences that would get high around the theater during intermission and come back inside to lay on the floor during the film’s mesmerizing second act. Is Annihilation that good? Let’s just say I wouldn’t venture into the alley behind the theater, but that I’d be finding a seat closer to the screen.

[author title=”About the Author” image=”http://popstermedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/mark_mcpherson-300×221-150×150.jpg”]Movie Reviewer Mark McPherson has been all about movies since working at a video store in his youth. His talents range from video editing to animation to web development, but movies have always been his passion to write about.[/author]

Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Have you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. 😉

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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