So this week, I delved into my long list of email requests for reviews, and yes, I am honored to say film PR folks are reaching out to this Native Nerd asking for reviews of their film projects. To be honest, I am flattered, so thanks to them for that.
This week’s reviews start with two sincerely eye-opening and mind-altering documentaries titled “iHuman” and “In Bright Axiom,” an indie ‘found footage’ horror film “Followed” and two other movies “Before I Fall,” a teeny-bopper take on ‘Groundhog Day’ that delivers a lot more than I thought it was going to, and “Mr. Right,” a funny action rom-com. The last two movies I sincerely just stumbled on in a random search on Netflix.
For the most part, I am delving into film projects like the documentaries and indie horror flick I received due to the fact I want to preview something you may not have even heard of yet and may consider seeing. In the midst of social distancing, most of us are on the same page in terms of watching movies on Netflix and my reviews are likely something you have already watched.
That said, here are my reviews for this week.
My #NativeNerd scoring system
When reviewing movies, I employ the decimal system to a tenth of a point. So instead of 7 stars, I might give a 7.4 out of ten. Some movies aren’t an eight but deserve a little more than a seven.
9.2 out of 10
My quick quote: “iHuman is informative, terrifying, disturbing and yet, incredibly fascinating. I will never look at my phone, laptop, tablet or a security camera the same again.”
Synopsis: iHUMAN shows a growing conflict in the tech world. On one side corporations like Google claim we need AI to solve climate change, cancer or hunger. On the other side people like Bill Gates and Elon Musk fear AI is the biggest threat to humanity. iHuman investigates the consequences of the power concentration of the multi-billion dollar AI industry that barely has any regulations. Some compare artificial intelligence to the nuclear bomb as we do not know the potential power or the consequences of this new technology. What is coming our way? iHUMAN features interviews with thought-leaders and innovators including: the "father of (modern) A.I." Jürgen Schmidhuber; chief scientist at OpenAI Ilya Sutskever, Google whistleblower Jack Poulson, computational psychologist Michal Kosinski, techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci, journalist Lee Fang and deep fake pioneer Hao Li.
Wow, and whoa. Talk about a slice of eye-opening pie. Look, I get it, our world is a growing web of technological innovation and a digital melting pot of digital information, but “iHuman” blew my mind.
Directed by Tonje Hessen Schei, this documentary takes the viewer on a journey that they have already ridden, but much like a child unaware of any sort of danger in a volatile environment, we have been riding this ride with our eyes closed.
iHuman takes us on this ride, with our eyes wide open. And while they are open, that security camera on that building over there is looking at our eyes, documenting them, and is likely tapped into some sort of algorithmic data collection device, calculating what we are going to do next.
“iHuman” follows the trajectory of Artificial Intelligence or AI and its importance to this world. The film shows how entire corporations are being funded to research this technology, which independent of human interaction, can think faster, solve problems at thousands of times the rate of a human brain, and after it’s creation, doesn’t need much in the way of any further human intervention.
Privacy comes into play when governments are able to identify it’s population with facial recognition, speech recognition, and more.
According to scientists in this film, AI can even discern statistically how facial structure can indicate such possibilities as our culture, sexual orientation, and even if we are a threat to society.
George Orwell’s ‘1984’ Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator and the takeover of the human race by machines doesn’t really seem so far-fetched in our future.
I highly recommend delving into the world of “iHuman” but be warned, you will never look at technology the same.
In Bright Axiom
8.5 out of 10
My quick quote: “A telling documentary about lost souls earnestly searching for connectivity in a non-connected world. These souls however, in all their appreciation to learning answers, might just turn on such a movement’s creator.”
Synopsis: The producers of Dispatches from Elsewhere and The Institute bring a new film to streaming platforms in North America on July 14. “In Bright Axiom” is a documentary about The Latitude, a secret society that promises transformative experiences and mind-expanding insights as long as you trust their immersive social experiment. Best Documentary - Skiptown Film Festival in Hollywood. Best Film - Mile High Film Festival. Official Section - SF DocFest and DocNYC.
Perhaps you read my review on “Dispatches From Elsewhere” earlier this year. “In Bright Axiom” is the veritable true-life story of ‘The House of Latitude,’ a secret society that strove to answer life’s questions by offering an alternative view of the world, as if anyone selected to be involved, might find answers to their life’s unanswered questions.
“The House of Latitude” was a society that sought to invite participants into an alternate reality game that sent them on quests through the San Francisco Bay Area and other locations near to the region. What started out as a quest for some, turned it into nearly a religion. Or perhaps not nearly, but fully immersive.
During the documentary, I recognized a lot of behaviors similar in many ways to Native cultural appropriation, many participants in the film used terms such as tribe, or regalia in the organization’s adornments. I felt nearly sick to my stomach. But not due to the documentary, but due to the exposed truth unearthed by the director Spencer McCall.
The doc is excellent, if truly unsettling, as it shows the way in which people that are not connected to their origins, their possible cultures, are now striving to find meaning in their life’s path. They found answers to end their disgruntled life outlooks, but when they saw the organization’s real origin, they felt disgruntled yet again.
The film shows that perhaps we shouldn’t invest in someone else to answer our own life’s questions—as they are rarely what we need them to be.
The creators of the organization eventually found themselves in need of support, which was disastrous, as the film shows.
A brilliant film, that also makes you want to look away, or even wonder why no one ever may have invited you to explore the game. But then you are just as thankful to escaped such a path.
Director: Spencer McCall (The Institute)
Social Media: #inbrightaxiom
7.0 out of 10
My quick quote: “Followed” is a fun and scary romp through the mysterious Lennox Hotel through the eyes of a social media influencer. A fun film filled with jumpscares and eerie moments.”
Synopsis: When aspiring social media influencer “DropTheMike” is offered a lucrative sponsorship to grow his channel, he's joined by his video crew on a visit to one of the most haunted hotels in America, where he'll give his audience a horrific night of thrill-seeking the likes of which they have never seen before. What begins as a fun investigative challenge including the infamous Elevator Ritual quickly descends into a personal hell of true evil, begging the timely question: how far would you go to pursue internet fame?
“Followed” is worth watching. Though there were a few times where I would have liked a little more sincerity—I am not a big fan of the “Oh you big dork, I am going to get you! Rarrr! (Cue tackling your friend on the bed giggling then slapping his butt”)— Or giggling at a fart as you prepare the drone for venturing into the creepy basement filled with weird mannequins. Aside from this, the light-hearted nature of this movie was its charm.
Overall, this indie horror film is a lot of mindless fun. And though some of the film-viewing world might be tired of “found footage” movies, filled with selfie footage, or throwing down the camera on the bed while you console a scared colleague, which just happens to get the shot, I actually thought this film was cool.
There was a bit of “Gosh guys, I am not sure we should be doing this” repeated over and over, I can say that really is the essence of horror films.
But I do get the sense the director, Antoine Le, might be finding his voice in a very good way. I liked the way the social media aspect, watching different videos, going through the world of a “YouTube-like” platform was unique. Meaning the way he approached it through the eyes of “DropTheMike” however, I would like to see this guy really have this channel outside of the film, in this real world, which would lend its way to a more immersive experience.
The haunted ghost cat concept was a bit over the top, and even hilarious as were a few of the other moments. But I came away from the movie with a smile, and so, I can recommend it. It’s a lot of fun, though I might have been laughing at a few non-intended funny moments. Or maybe they were ... either way, it was a ton of fun.
“Followed,” according to the PR folks, is slotted for a June 19 release date and then will be expanding to June 26, both only in drive-in movie theaters.
I would love to see this movie at a drive-in. Bring a shop vac for all of the spilled popcorn during jumpscares.
Visit https://followedhorrormovie.com/ for additional details.
Before I Fall
8.4 out of 10
My quick quote: “How far can you emulate the ‘Groundhog Day’ story and still make a worthwhile film, apparently far enough with ‘Before I fall,’ as I truly enjoyed it”
Synopsis: Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) seems to have it all: popularity, a loving boyfriend (Kian Lawley) and a seemingly perfect future. Everything changes in the blink of an eye when she dies in a car crash but then magically wakes up to find herself reliving the same day over and over again. As Samantha tries to untangle the mystery of a life derailed, she must also unravel the secrets of the people closest to her and discover how the power of a single day can make a difference.
At first glance—and I am sure to be far from the only critic to say this—I thought “Before I Fall” was simply going to be a contemporary “Groundhog Day” remake. Well, it is so to speak. But what I didn’t expect was something about this film was so genuine and so real, that I was able to dismiss any initial misgivings after venturing in.
This film continued to gain credibility in making a real statement for me. As it continued to zoom repeatedly forward through Samantha’s last day in a thoughtful, sincere and heart-wrenching way. It was wholly successful. I would be the first to admit I am hardly a fan of any sort of teeny-bopper film, but this wasn’t that.
There was at first a bit of over the top “Heyyyy bitches!” type of girlfriend slander that I rolled my eyes too, but maybe that was the point. But what continued to happen was the all-too-familiar heartache I felt as a kid in high school as I was the kid often overlooked, or criticized, bullied and abused. The pain in this film was a bit too real for me, and thus, what started as criticism, became an appreciation for something real.
There were still a few moments I expected or a few realizations that I knew I was likely to see, but I also appreciated some of the things I didn’t expect, as when Samantha goes too far in the opposite direction of her character, as a bit of internal rage erupts from being held to one social narrative.
The movie makes its way to a satisfying conclusion, with a few surprises, but the biggest surprise of all I must admit, was how much I enjoyed the film. For all of its ridiculous teen behavior, there were real people here.
Now on Netflix.
8.2 out of 10
My quick quote: “I love the ridiculous humor in “Mr. Right.” Just enough over the top to enjoy it, without losing my attention to the plot, as much as it could never really happen. But who cares, it was super funny”
Synopsis: A woman (Anna Kendrick) comes to a crossroad when she finds out that her new beau (Sam Rockwell) is a professional assassin who kills the people who hire him instead of the intended targets.
This film has been on my radar for a while, and since it's been out for a few years, a lot of you out there have likely seen it. But I like both Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell as comedic actors, so I had a bit of time and watched it for a bit of mindless fun.
It was truly mindless, as Rockwell plays a clown-nosed assassin who continued to crack me up throughout the movie. And so does Kendrick, whose one-liners always make me laugh. Rockwell meets Kendrick, he teaches her the skills needed to kick butt, and the duo go off into the assassin world sunset.
Great premise, great fun, even if its ridiculous nature is so far off from possible I couldn’t buy it—I didn’t care as that was the movies’ fun.
Go check it out if you want to laugh, because I sure did.
Now on Netflix
#NativeNerd Vincent Schilling is the associate editor for Indian Country Today and a film industry certified movie reviewer. Have a film, product or another review request? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out via Twitter @VinceSchilling and Instagram @VinceSchilling.
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