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Tag Archive: David Oyelowo


Review by C.J. Bunce

How far back has this latest chapter in J.J. Abrams mash-up of science fiction and giant monsters been brewing?  Back to his 2011 summer coming of age release Super 8?  Like M. Night Shyamalan, all of Abrams’ projects, whether as executive producer or director or even writer-director, may not be successful, but they both take exciting risks with their projects.  Cloverfield was a well-crafted homage to Godzilla pictures.  10 Cloverfield Lane was a genre surprise, a mix of straight dramatic horror that ended up as a sci-fi monster movie.  And this week Netflix released a theatrical worthy next installment, The Cloverfield Paradox, this time providing that relentless sci-fi horror fix perfected with James Cameron’s Aliens.  And like Shyamalan’s recent thriller Split, a cool surprise is in store for viewers.

The Cloverfield Paradox is easily comparable to one of the best Doctor Who space station-based episodes (think The Waters of Mars).  In fact absent Matt Smith or David Tennant you might forget you’re not watching Doctor Who as so many tropes from Whovian space disaster episodes are weaved into the film.  And that’s a good thing for fans of the type of science fiction stories that Doctor Who tends to attract.  The cast of The Cloverfield Paradox forms a crew you wish would be around for a TV series.  Led by David Oyelowo (Star Wars: Rebels, Jack Reacher) as Commander Kiel, with physicists played by Daniel Brühl (Rush, Goodbye Lenin, Captain America: Civil War) as Schmidt and Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Rush Hour 2) as Tam, and other crewmembers played by John Ortiz (Kong: Skull Island, Alien vs. Predator), Aksel Hennie (The Martian), and Chris O’Dowd (Thor: The Dark World), the space station Cloverfield has a legitimate international crew.  But the focus is on crewmember Hamilton played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beauty and the Beast, Jupiter Ascending), who leaves her husband (Roger Davies) back on Earth after her children die in a fire to help the scientists test a particle accelerator.  The success or failure of that test could mean a leap ahead for the planet or certain doom.

Anyone who has ever read an issue of DC Comics can understand the multi-verse science here.  Dabbling in quantum physics comes with uncertain risks, and after nearly a year of failed trials, when the station finally creates a stable particle beam, something has changed.  Leaving the audience always wondering whether this is going to be another Aliens episode or something else, the effect of the anomaly creates the stuff of The Philadelphia Experiment, smashing one reality into another.  One of the results is the appearance from another parallel universe of a Cloverfield physicist played by Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy 2, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.).  Only Debicki’s character was not on the mission in the universe the film started out in, and as radio signals reflect an apparently altered Earth below, the loyalties of the crewmembers come into question.  It’s all great fun, and the production quality is good enough–with bonuses like crew costumes from Academy Award-winning designer Colleen Atwood–that it’s a shame audiences can’t watch this play out on a big movie theater screen.

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Is it just me or do these look like the same movie?  On the one hand you have the dark and serious second chapter in the Sicario series, Sicario 2: Soldado, following a badass mercenary in the world of international drug smuggling played by Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Guardians of the Galaxy’s own Benicio Del Toro.  On the other you have the dark comedy Gringo, starring David Oyelowo as a businessman who gets caught up in a bad drug deal with a cartel in Mexico.

Sicario had some great things going for it, including Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Del Toro.  But Blunt was the lead, and the typically fantastic actress seemed stuck in a role where she was the only one making mistakes and the big bad guys were the only ones knowing what was going on.  Del Toro’s character was by far the best thing the film had going for it, the kind of character that got Kevin Spacey his Academy Award and in another year could have done the same for Del Toro.  But the 2015 film was most memorable for its long, slow, atmospheric scenes where nothing happened, making it feel like the film would never end.  But with Del Toro’s character driving the sequel and a new director (swapping Stefano Sollima for Denis Villeneuve), is there hope Sicario 2 could rise above the original?

Gringo has a different kind of cast of stars.  In addition to Oyelowo it stars Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, and Alan Ruck.  This one will be an Amazon Studios release–the studio is still looking for its breakout equivalent of a box office hit.  As with Sicario 2, again we have the theme of drug smuggling and drug deals gone bad.  both of these arrive on the heels of this year’s mildly successful and critically acclaimed drama comedy American Made with Tom Cruise, which took the whole drug smuggling concept in its own direction, poking fun at a real-life drug smuggler from the 1980s as his world crashed in on him.

So which one is for you?  Check out these trailers for Sicario 2 and Gringo:

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