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Tag Archive: Ben Young


Review by C.J. Bunce

The latest big-budget movie that has arrived at Netflix could have been on par with prior Netflix movies The Cloverfield Paradox or Bright.  These are science fiction movies that have something to offer viewers, yet they probably would disappoint most if you paid to see them in the theater.  As much as the marketing for these Netflix films is trying to convince subscribers these are the “real deal,” the new sci-fi movie Extinction brings the discussion home again.  The Cloverfield Paradox had a broad, fairly well-known cast and significant production values.  Bright relied on the charisma of star Will Smith with a solid performance from Joel Edgerton working through some hefty prosthetic make-up.  So they had that minimum quality for first-out-of-the gate films for newcomer movie house Netflix.  But despite the well-known genre star cast of Extinction, the latest Netflix sci-fi movie just isn’t strong enough.  Remember the rack of B-movie sci-fi films at the old movie rental stores?  Sadly, that’s where this one would have been filed.

Michael Peña plays the father of two girls in a future Earth.  He’s having problems dealing with violent nightmares that are too real to merely be in his mind.  His wife, played by Lizzy Caplan, and their friends, all think he’s crazy.  When an invasion on par with War of the Worlds arrives in the middle of a dinner party, the father attempts to use the bits he can recall from the dreams to keep his kids and wife alive, and try to understand the menace approaching from the skies.  Peña and Caplan are not given enough to do, not enough to make us want to cheer them on, as director Ben Young drags the audience through very carefully selected architectural layouts, platforms, pathways, futuristic buildings, all slowly panning and following people walking, doing mundane things that people do.  For an entire hour nothing happens.  Luke Cage’s Mike Colter plays Peña’s boss, and when hell breaks loose you get the feeling that roles once owned by Keith David can now be handed over to Colter, as Colter becomes that take-charge leader.   But his scenes are few.  The standout performance in the film is by British actor Lex Shrapnel (K:19: The Widowmaker, Captain America: The First Avenger) who steps in to assist the family after the first barrage.  His performance brings some much-needed life, albeit too late.  But the actors just aren’t enough to save the film.

You can’t blame the cast for this one.  The slogging story doesn’t gain any momentum until the last 30 minutes, and then it must rely on a gotcha to even get viewers’ attention to stay around for the last act.  The film probably suffers from a young director and an unsalvageable script by the Oscar-nominated writer of the similarly thin and derivative screenplay for Arrival, Eric Heisserer, among others.  And it lacks a much-needed sci-fi or action flick musical score–the one thing that might have given some energy or passion to the first hour (The Nelson Brothers are listed as composers, but someone must have edited out most of their music).  At only an hour and 35 minutes, the movie drags to feel like a full 2 hours, yet the thin story could have been told in a 20 minute episode of a show like Black Mirror.  Worst of all, Extinction is devoid of any humor–an essential element of the best tense sci-fi action thrillers.

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With $2 billion put toward new content, a record stock price, and critical acclaim–this year it leads the Emmy count with 112 nominations–Netflix now dominates television.  In addition to the great new series and its catalog of films, you can’t deny the satisfaction of avoiding theater crowds to watch first-run, cinema-worthy films streaming directly to your living room.  Because the low monthly fee is already locked in, Netflix stands right there with cable TV (whether served via coax, wireless, or your old home phone line), with the largest volume of content up against those hundreds of channels it competes against.  So even if each new first-run movie on Netflix isn’t the next Oscar winner (yet–see Emmy reference above) or even the next pop hit like Avengers: Infinity War, for what feels to many like “practically free new movies,” it’s easy to give the next Netflix movie a try.  So far we’ve liked War Machine, Cloverfield Paradox, and even the strange mash-up Bright.  The next film in the sci-fi variety has the cast and an interesting trailer to make giving it a try a no-brainer.

The movie is director Ben Young’s Extinction.  Normally a plot like this might be the stuff of merely passable made-for-TV movie fare, but now is the perfect time for Michael Peña to be the lead in his own action film, right when audiences are still excited about his great work in Ant-Man and The Wasp.  He’s a future Earth everyman, only in a very Philip K. Dick twist he’s having nightmares that he believes to be premonitions of a dire future.  We get to see Luke Cage himself, Mike Colter, co-starring outside the larger-than-life superhero realm along with Lizzy Caplan, known for her roles in Cloverfield, Tru Calling, Now You See Me 2, Orange County, and Freaks and Geeks.

We always have room for another alien invasion flick, and the method of arrival in the first trailer for the film seems similar at first blush to the falling-from-the-sky visitors in Attack the Block.  But these visitors appear to be the bipedal variety of sci-fi alien.  Whatever else there is to learn we’ll need to wait to find out in the movie.

Check out the trailer for Extinction:

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