Movie reviews: Tomorrowland: A World Beyond, Poltergeist, The New Girlfriend

23 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Damon Lindelof’s Persecution Complex: ‘There Are People Who Are Gunning For Me’.

The movie opens with disenchanted inventor Frank Walker (George Clooney) squabbling with idealistic teenager Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) about the best way to explain ‘Tomorrowland’ to the viewers, and soon we’re whisked back to the 1950s and what appears to be a Norman Rockwell-designed World’s Fair, where the young Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) showcases his new invention, a jet-pack. But Britt confessed: “Luckily they gave her some driving lessons, but I was like, first of all she’s from Manchester, this girl doesn’t know how to drive on the right side of the road.The Lost showrunner dishes on his new film Tomorrowland, fellow geek god Joss Whedon’s Twitter exit, and how being off Twitter has changed his life for the better.A few minutes into “Tomorrowland,” it becomes clear that Disney’s latest live-action adventure isn’t going to brood over the apocalypse or depict a purely desolate future.

Ridiculed by competition judge David Nix (Hugh Laurie), the devastated Frank is consoled by young Athena (Raffey Cassidy), who shows him how to access Tomorrowland, a secret futuristic city designed by the finest minds in the world. In the year and a half that Tomorrowland co-writer Damon Lindelof has been off Twitter, he’s been a much happier person for it. “I couldn’t resist knowing what everybody was saying about me and it just ended up making me feel bad,” admits Lindelof, who still endures his share of outrage over Lost even though it’s been half a decade since the head-twisting show sent fans grumbling into their message boards. AFP PHOTO/ DAVID MCNEW (Photo: DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images) SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — KCBS Entertainment Editor Jan Wahl reviews “Tomorrowland” directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles), which tells the story of a quest to find the titular location by a former young inventor (George Clooney) and a science prodigy (Raffey Cassidy). What follows, and despite the sci-fi trappings, belongs very firmly in the Victorian storytelling tradition, a tale of moral improvement in which the cynical, pessimistic adults who have squandered the planet’s resources learn a harsh lesson about the value of optimism.

Ignoring the haters is a lesson Lindelof has now poured into Tomorrowland, the sincere-to-a-fault, $190 million sci-fi mystery from Disney based on Walt’s most ambitious vision of a better tomorrow: a futuristic utopia built on the kind of optimism and belief in progress that America could afford to dream of during the Space Age. George Clooney hams it up delightfully as a genius recluse dragged grumbling from his bolt-hole, although even he has to doff his ham-cap to the deliriously evil Hugh Laurie, and Brad Bird (who also co-writes) has terrific fun playing around with the conventions of the sci-fi conspiracy thriller, offering a teen-friendly Close Encounters of the Third Kind jam-packed with Spielbergian motifs.

Britt said: “Raffey had to do much more than I did, I was always wimping out, doing my little moves, and she was like ‘pow’, never crying at all and I was just a total pain.” She meets an older cynical man named Frank (played by George Clooney) who introduces her to Tomorrowland—a mysterious place where all of the most brilliant minds of the world have established an arcology—their own fantastic Utopia. The city of Tomorrowland is itself visually impressive if not radically new in terms of design (it’s the setting to The Jetsons, basically), and if you’re prepared to overlook a couple of clunky narrative twists, Tomorrowland is an rollicking feel-good adventure. She finds herself the Chosen One when a spunky android in the body of a 12-year-old girl gifts her a pin with the power to glimpse Tomorrowland, an inter-dimensional scientific Shangri-La where the best minds of humankind were recruited to make the future bright. A remake of the classic 1982 horror, Poltergeist (15A) stars Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt as Eric and Amy Bowen, who have just downsized to a new home after Eric’s redundancy.

But the real future turns out not to be as bright and shiny: A clock counts down to a predicted apocalypse, prompting Casey, Athena and Frank to try to save the fate of a crumbling planet Earth. Their older kids Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) and Griffin (Kyle Catlett) are both understandably disgruntled by the move, but six-year-old Madison (Kennedi Clements) is thrilled to discover that a host of new — albeit ominously invisible — friends are already in situ. He now spends his days sealed off from the world, counting down the hours to the apocalypse as a bank of monitors tracks every breaking broadcast catastrophe. With the awe of “Alice in Wonderland” and a hint of the futurism of “WALL-E,” Bird’s “Tomorrowland” feels very much like a Disney-fueled vehicle, but one which heavily cashes in on the power of positive thought — think of the best-seller The Secret, which Lindelof named-dropped while discussing “Tomorrowland.” The movie packs on the cheesy believe-and-you-can-achieve Disney mantra quite heavily, but it’s nevertheless refreshing to see a positive spin on the dreary future that fills the big screen today. “Tomorrowland” has already been labeled the anti-“Hunger Games,” a departure from the typical nihilism. “The future we’re getting fed a steady diet of is sort of post-apocalyptic,” Lindelof told The Huffington Post. “The idea that something kind of terrible happens and now the dregs of humanity are roving the desert in tricked-out cars or shooting arrows at each other, that’s kind of what the future is.” While Lindelof — who, let’s not forget, is the co-creator of “Lost” and HBO’s ultra-depressing “The Leftovers” — admits he loves those types of stories, he wanted to discover what a different kind of future would look like, and whether or not audiences would even want to see it. David Lindsay-Abaire’s update of Steven Spielberg’s original story is full of references to contemporary issues and technology — the looming threat of overhead power-lines, for example, may (or may not) play a part in awakening the terror that follows — but the story’s essentials remain the same: when Madison is sucked into another dimension, able to communicate with her family only via static-drenched images on TV, the family must do whatever it takes to bring her back.

Nowadays, inundated as we are with a 24-hour news cycle of war, sickness, disaster, famine, drought, Ebola, Kimye, and other assorted harbingers of Armageddon, there’s little room left for optimism. While this approach is hardly something we see in movies or on television today, it does reflect a mindset of an earlier generation, before hope was vanquished by pessimism. “When both Damon and I were young, the world was still a rough place,” Bird told HuffPost. “There were wars and injustice and pollution, and all the things we have today, but the attitude towards the future was that we were going to solve all these problems and that the future was this bright thing just over the horizon.” It was this question of “What happened?” that fascinated Bird and Lindelof, leading them to use Disney’s theme-park land as the inspiration for what the word “Tomorrowland” actually meant to society, then and now. “In a broad sense, it’s about Walt Disney’s view of the future, that it was an exciting thing, that it was a giant opportunity [rather] than this burden we come to think of it as, this coming disaster,” Bird said. Each one of those regions has its own unique theme and Tomorrowland is a showcase of futuristic rides and attractions—or at least what seemed futuristic 50 years ago.

Devastated when her best friend Laura (Isild de Besco) dies, Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) vows to watch over Laura’s husband David (Romain Duris) and baby Lucie. Tomorrowland also sends a twofold message to bureaucrats, politicians, the media, and haters in a time when we’re constantly inundated with doomsday scenarios: Leave these poor hopeful souls alone and the human race might have a shot. It’s a moment where “Tomorrowland” breaks the fourth wall and holds the viewers responsible for the apocalypse that could come if we succumb to resignation. “The big cosmic shrug, I don’t get,” Bird said. The director made a point to claim “Tomorrowland” isn’t necessarily a political film, but he does hope that audiences walk away with some sense of desire to contribute to a better future.

David swears that he has dressed in his dead wife’s clothes only to soothe Lucie, but soon the truth comes out and Claire is helping David as he tentatively explores his new feminine identity, Virginia. He’s so used to shouldering attacks from his critics for everything from Lost to Prometheus to Star Trek: Into Darkness, he warned Bird before they took on Tomorrowland that The Lindelof Effect could bring more scrutiny than usual.

Written and directed by François Ozon, The New Girlfriend begins as a quirky exploration of the different ways in which people cope with bereavement, but it soon takes a more profound tone as Claire and David begin to invest themselves heavily in the character of ‘Virginia’. The mix of fantasy with science was very significant for Walt Disney and you can see elements of NASA and Disney’s appreciation for science throughout his work and theme parks.

Tomorrowland is clearly meant to inspire the dreamer out there who might be the one to find a cure for cancer or solve global warming, but it also declares that media-induced cynicism is humanity’s real enemy. Our hope is obviously that the movie can be for anyone… but there are individuals, and I count myself as one of them, who used to be very hopeful and have started to become kind of cynical, have started to calcify. Saying, “You’re holed up in your house just waiting for the end of days, but I’m going to come knock on your door and say, ‘Get out of your house,’ because I know there’s a part of you that once said there was a much brighter future. We can’t just sit here idly by, we have to activate, it’s going to be hard work, we’re going to have to risk our necks, there are going to be people out there trying to hurt us, but let’s rally around us.” I’m making the movie for them.

Hopefully, though, Tomorrowland and Casey will inspire people—particularly young women—to apply their imaginations and ingenuity to craft a better tomorrow for all of us. Do you find it ironic that to write this story about defying the naysayers, you teamed up with a writer who’d thoroughly criticized your work on Lost? When I was on Twitter, if I said something mean, the play that it would get, the amount of favorites and retweets, was like 50 times what it would be if I said something nice. To be completely honest, my deal was up and I had an incredible experience working with the people there and I wanted to do a couple more seasons of The Leftovers, if they let me. As someone who sticks your neck out in your projects that already tease these big mysterious payoffs, do you think you got more flak because you involved yourself in the social conversation and made yourself more of a target?

So if I say I screwed up, or I’m a fucking idiot, or I could’ve done better that time—if I’m taking shots at myself, I’m inviting people to go, “If Lindelof is doing it to himself, that invites me to do it to him.” And also, I put way too much thought into crafting clever tweets. It feels powerful when you say something that a lot of people respond to, and it is a little bit of a light side/dark side thing where the dark side is just much more, “Oh my god, you’re starting a feud with someone!” I’m not on Twitter any more, but I’m still in the pop culture sphere. Joss Whedon also recently, publicly, quit Twitter after enduring a ton of snark and hate over Avengers 2, and after making tweets critical of other films that he then apologized publicly for. Understanding obviously that Brad [Bird] has a tremendous amount of goodwill, I said to him, “Look, I desperately want you to make this movie because collaborating with you would be a dream come true.

That said, I want to tell you before you get involved with me that my name on anything has a cachet, and not necessarily in the best way.” Particularly as it regards mystery storytelling or ambiguous storytelling. It’s sort of the equivalent of saying, “Damon, you always fall for really tough, blond Catholic girls, and every time you go out with one it just ends poorly.” It’s like, yup! I know that I can go write a TV show that’s just a good, old-fashioned procedural where every episode there’s a little mystery and they solve it, and that’s that. Whether we accomplished that or not is in the eye of the beholder, but I’m proud of it, and I don’t think I could have gotten Bird and George involved if it didn’t have some substance to it.

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