Advertisements

Tag Archive: The Adjustment Bureau


Review by C.J. Bunce

Everything’s connected.  Everything’s vulnerable.

The visionary behind the groundbreaking 1997 science fiction film Gattaca has at last delivered his next worthy sci-fi follow-up.  The direct-to-Netflix movie Anon is equal parts future crime and noir detective thriller.  It stars Clive Owen (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Children of Men, Sin City) and Colm Feore (Thor, The Chronicles of Riddick, Paycheck) as police detectives in a near-future Earth where smart phone and computer technology has merged with the mind.  Technology and science have evolved to allow humans to instantly identify and search their minds and a database shared with everyone as they move through their day–as if Google Glass tech was inside a contact lens wired to the brain.  Written, produced, and directed by Andrew Niccol, writer/director of Gattaca and writer of The Truman Show, Anon features a police detective nicely synthesizing Rick Deckard, Frank Bullitt, and Dirty Harry Callahan.  Only an actor as unique as Clive Owen could pull that off.

With a world similar to Gattaca–but a colder, stark, and concrete-filled version of a rigid, totalitarian future close to that of the Prime side in the world of the Starz series Counterpart–telling lies has become a thing of the past.  The detectives must track down an unidentifiable woman, the anonymous hacker of the title played by Amanda Seyfried (Veronica Mars, Ted 2, Mamma Mia!), sought as the criminal behind a string of murders.  This hacker can erase memories and replace real thoughts with replaced images, and we see the best example of this as Owen’s detective pursues the hacker in a busy subway.  Oddly, this dystopia doesn’t feel as horrible as that of Mad Max: Fury Road, or Blade Runner, or Terminator.  It’s just not that far removed from the wired life of today.  Which should be enough of a cautionary warning.

Stark but slick and cool like The Adjustment Bureau, not only the visuals of Anon but the music is haunting and cold, thanks to an inspired score from Christophe Beck (Ant-Man, Edge of Tomorrow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  Surreal camera angles and the use of shadow firmly plant the audience in this future thanks to cinematographer Amir Mokri, and you can credit production designer Philip Ivey (District 9, Elysium) and art director Aleksandra Marinkovich (Crimson Peak, Kick-Ass 2, Total Recall) for a stunning, new vision that leaves behind tech noir for something fresh and different.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Review by C.J. Bunce

Do you want to see the best series opener you’ll probably see this year?  If you’re a J.K. Simmons fan–and even if you’re not–set your DVR for tonight’s premiere of Counterpart on Starz.  It’s Dirty Harry meets The Adjustment Bureau as J.K. Simmons plays mild-mannered Howard Silk, a thirty-year veteran of a low-level interface job in a Berlin carryover Cold War installation.  But his world is turned upside down when he learns an experiment back in the 1980s split time apart and created a duplicate world, and he meets his counterpart–the Howard Silk from the other side, a brusque, 007 spy, who has little patience for his genetically-identical, under-achiever self.

Could Counterpart be J.K. Simmons chance at a coveted television role like Tatiany Maslany’s multiple roles in Orphan Black?  We can only hope.  His role is similar to Jason Isaacs’s dual role in the 2012 series Awake.  But will there only be two Howard Silks, or more?  With so many characters in series these days not making it through a single character arc all season, Simmons’ Silk gets plenty of development in his first hour.  It’s clear we’re going to get a season of Simmons vs. Simmons, and the series opener allows for audiences to witness plenty of nicely filmed interactions between the two.

It’s exciting, smart, dramatic, and even poignant.  Silk’s wife, played by Olivia Williams (The Sixth Sense, The Postman, Rushmore) on this side of the timeline is in a coma, and Silk visits her to read to her each night.  He is confronted by her brother, an unlikeable sort played by Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica, Horatio Hornblower).  Sara Serraiocco plays a badass counterspy.

Check out this trailer for the series:

Continue reading

Numbercruncher

“Dying young, a brilliant Mathematician discovers a way to cheat the terrifying Divine Calculator.  He schemes to be endlessly reincarnated in the life of the woman he loves, no matter how often the violent bailiffs of the Karmic Accountancy cut short each life.”  

Yet the delivery of this quirky story is delivered through the voice of a foul-mouthed British thug in such a way that it… actually works.  Numbercruncher asks questions involving the biggest topics of life and death yet balances humor and despair in a pretty stunning and imaginative way.

Bastard Zane is a thug.  A dead thug.  He speaks in the local accents of the street kids in Attack the Block or Daniel Craig in Layer Cake, and could easily fit into the crime noir world of Road to Perdition.  And he’s experiencing the real afterlife, not one of angels and pearly gates, but of accountants running the grand show—it’s like the worst case scenario for those afraid of tax men and accountants: heaven is run by numbercrunchers.  Writer Si Spurrier quickly gives us his set up in a way that puts this story alongside the afterlife treatments of Steven Spielberg’s Always, Albert Brooks’s Defending Your Life or even the Philip K. Dick-inspired The Adjustment Bureau–and far better than Jerry Zucker’s Ghost.  And then he proceeds to let his characters chase each other down.

Numbercruncher page

Continue reading

Edge-of-Tomorrow-Poster

Emily Blunt is a standout in every film she’s in.  As the obsessive mom in Looper, the forbidden girlfriend in The Adjustment Bureau, or even as Miss Piggy’s receptionist in The Muppets–she’s someone we can’t get enough of.  The first trailer is out for the futuristic sci-fi flick Edge of Tomorrow, and it appears Blunt will have a major role, starring opposite Tom Cruise. (Flash forward to our opening day review here).

Cruise, of course, continues to pump out two movies a year these days.  Pretty exceptional for a Hollywood superstar who has had a movie in the theater every year except eight since 1981.  And many years he has starred in two films.  More importantly he has delivered the goods in every action film he’s made–from Top Gun to Mission Impossible, from Minority Report to War of the Worlds, from The Last Samurai to Valkyrie, we can’t enough of Tom Cruise, too.

Edge of Tomorrow clip

Continue reading

UK Blu-Ray art for Looper

If you happened to miss last year’s theatrical release of the sci-fi crime thriller Looper, you might give it a shot now on DVD or Blu-Ray.  Although it has some bits and pieces that don’t quite come together and leaves you wondering whether what you think happens at the end is the same as what the director intended, so many great scenes, acting, and sci-fi concepts will have us go back to watch this one again.

In part, it’s what I was expecting from another Joseph Gordon-Levitt sci-fi film–Inception.  Inception was over-hyped and more commercially successful, but ultimately didn’t deliver the promised surprises and complexity, but that’s where Looper’s story does it better, with its back-and-forth, twisty time travel tale.

Young Joe meets old Joe in Looper

Continue reading

By C.J. Bunce

Today we know what happened to Charles Van Doren, either through living through the aftermath of the quiz show scandals or watching the movie Quiz Show.  Like McCarthyism and later like Watergate, certain events poke at the public and make you question what is going on around you.  Comparing ourselves to readers in the 1950s we know that we never made it to Venus  colonization in the 1990s.  We know that Marilyn Monroe would die young.  We know that Tucker’s automobile would not get very far.  Imagine the era of the Cleavers in Leave it to Beaver.  When Sandra Dee didn’t have to worry about her future but could smile and make everyone happy on the big screen.  Imagine back to the world of the Twilight Zone, but the Twilight Zone neighborhoods before weird things start to happen.

To me, it all looks black and white.  That is of course because of television, because movies had color in the 1950s.  Kodak photos were in color in the 1950s.  But even if you grew up in the 1970s you got to see everything your parents watched because of the miracle of cable TV.

Of course Time Out of Joint could take place anywhere, but it is roughly 1958 when Philip K. Dick wrote Time Out of Joint that we meet Vic and Ragle and Margo and Junie and Bill.  A time when Charles Van Doren was winning game shows on television.  Upheaval in the Middle East.  Recession, millions unemployed.  Familiar?  A normal family: Vic who works the registers at the grocery store, stay-at-home wife but civically active Margo, and son Sammy.  Margo’s brother Ragle, irresponsible, single, 46 years old and flirts with the neighbor’s wife, lives with Vic and Margo and spends the day answering contest entries in the newspaper.  He works as hard as anyone who works full-time, simply to keep winning the contests, and he has won two years in a row–national champion, his photo published in the newspaper.  Publicity of Ragle as local winner was good for the local paper.

If you have ever moved across the country to a new city, you probably felt uneasy at first.  Maybe its the new trees that look like nothing you grew up with.  Ocean where you knew only plains.  Seasons that don’t change quite right.  Simple things like grocery store chains you never heard of in your several years as resident of planet Earth.  And yet some things are familiar and you gravitate toward those places.  Maybe it is something as familair as a Target store or A&W root beer stand.  Anything that can help you get your bearing.  maybe you put your phone down at home and later find it in your car.  Too much on your mind?  Or is it something else?

Neighbors Bill and Junie Black come over to Vic and Margo’s with espresso and lasagna one night.  And tidbits of information make the reader feel like something is a little off.  Sammy’s radio gets no signal, and we learn there has been no radio reception nearby for years.  As a reader, you are slowly sucked into a world like our expected America of the 1950s, but something makes us uneasy.  Vic walks into a room fumbling for a light cord that is not there.  He doesn’t remember the room having a light switch.  Soon Ragle becomes the central character in our trip back 50 years.

Vic is paranoid.  But not so much as Ragle.  No surprise, since this is the age of paranoia, right?  Russians, civil defense alerts…all ready for the Bay of Pigs coming soon to a bomb shelter near you.  Everyone is a bit… paranoid, everyone except Bill Black.  Vic suggests Ragle can pull it all together, after all, he solves riddles with data and charts and scientific-precision calculations in their living room.

Later in the week Ragle asks Junie to go swimming, a break from strategizing his contest entries.  She recalls walking up steps where there should have been three steps but there were only two.  Ragle can’t seem to get the oddities out of his brain.  He walks to the soft-drink stand to get a beer, and it dematerializes leaving a note that states “SOFT-DRINK STAND.”  Ragle thinks he is having a nervous breakdown.  He wants to quit the contests and take a vacation out of the country.  He tells Vic.  Vic and Ragle agree something is wrong.  Somehow “the time is out of joint.”

Sammy has more slips of paper he picked up at the site of some old houses Margo was trying to have leveled by the city to protect kids from getting hurt there after school.  Ragle buys the slips of paper from Sammy and goes to the ruins and unearths several magazines he is not familair with and a phone book from an unrecognizable town and time period.  He begins calling the numbers and the operator says to try the call again.  He questions the operator and she hangs up on him.  He flips through the magazines.  One features a story that Laurence Olivier is dead.  “But he’s alive, I know it,” says Margo.  And there is a photo of a beautiful woman none have them have seen before and the magazines speak of her as if she is famous.  “Marilyn Monroe.”  The magazine says she is famous here in America.  But that can’t be.  No one has heard of her.

As readers, and suggested by Dick, is Ragle just mentally ill?  After all, he lives with his sister’s family at age 46.  He doesn’t have a real job but sleuths out word games not by solving puzzles, but like the kids that ace the SATs because they figured out the supposedly random code of the bubble dots.

The next morning neighbor Bill Black gets to work and receives a report.  About the phone calls being made.  He rushes to the office of a man named Lowery.  Could all this be happening?  Is Ragle sane again?  Suddenly we are thrust into a world that could be found in the TV series Lost.  But this experience is for more personal, far more real.  Hints at the world Dick would later write that would become the film The Adjustment Bureau and short story “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale,” that M. Night Shyamalan would uncover with The Village, that Bruce Willis encountered in Mercury Rising, that Rod Serling would investigate in “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” and countless other Twilight Zone episodes.  That The Truman Show would unapologetically borrow from decades later.  But there is more here.  Dick reveals ideas in his novels in a way that seems relevant and current, even 50 years later.  Time Out of Joint is no different, and is one of my favorites of all his works.

My hints at read-alikes and watch-alikes above will give you a hint at themes to expect in this solid science fiction work that today would be side by side with mainstream bestsellers as the science fiction is only a small part of what happens to these characters.  Looks for themes that Dick pursues in later works, like the meaning of what is real, who we are.  I have a stack of all but one of Dick’s works and plan to make my way through many of them again and others for the first time.  If you have only met Philip K. Dick through the numerous movies based on his works, then there is a giant volume of brilliant novels, and maybe even more brilliant short stories that lies ahead.  Time Out of Joint would be a great entry into Dick’s work.

Review by C.J. Bunce

As Hollywood slowly realizes that Philip K. Dick wrote forty-four novels and 121 short stories, you’ve got to wonder what took them so long.  The best of his works are his short stories.  In a parallel universe you could see each story as its own episode of The Twilight Zone.  It’s probably why more of his short stories have made it to the silver screen than his novels (not to knock any of his novels).

The most recent addition to the PKD stories adapted for the screen is The Adjustment Bureau.  And it may be the best yet.  And yes, I am including Blade Runner.

The Adjustment Bureau pulls ideas from PDK’s short story, “The Adjustment Team.”  The film is good enough and close enough to the original story that you easily feel both the story and movie exist in the same place.  More so than PKD’s complete novels or stories, it is his ideas that still amaze readers and audiences.

In “The Adjustment Team” and The Adjustment Bureau, there are… “others” on this Earth.  Not aliens, but akin to angels.  They are members of the Adjustment Bureau, which in turn works for the Chairman, presumably a manifestation of God, but we don’t need to get into that detail to believe what is happening.  Also, the Bureau–the visitors who are always here–are not frightening aliens or strange apparations like we have seen in The Matrix or They Live.  Very easily this film may not be science fiction at all.  In that concept, this is a very PKD story, as he often toyed with religion in a very serious way and challenged the religious world around us.

There is a Plan–one best timeline for all events–and when circumstances show that the Plan is straying, the Adjustment Bureau is sent in to do what is necessary to get the Plan back on track.  In the short story, that means a dog needs to bark on queue.  In the movie it means the protagonist needs to spill his coffee at a certain moment, or he will end up in a chance encounter with the girl of his dreams.  There lies the rub, for our protagonist is a truly good guy, a good Senator on a path to the White House, compared to other sci-fi senators that usually have ulterior motives, like we saw in The Dead Zone.  If this senator ends up with the girl of his dreams, the woman he is destined for, he will become content, and will lose the desire to complete his political path.  Yet there is no choice when the Plan is involved.  So what is he supposed to do?

As with PKD’s story, the believability of the timeline science and the ability to interfere with chance meetings, coupled with fate and destiny, make the movie nicely high concept for a not-so-elaborate production.  It is also not epic or overblown–it doesn’t need to be; what is at stake is the love of two people for each other.  The treatment of that reflects a similar treatment in an equally great PKD story adapted for film, Paycheck.  You also don’t see a lot of sci-fi that would make a great first-date flick.

I liked Matt Damon’s character and performance here over any other to date.  Emily Blunt is perfect as the target of his affections.  Plenty of cameos are also fun, including Jon Stewart, James Carville, Mary Matalin, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg playing themselves.  The very best performance and role comes from an unusual character that we get to know and appreciate, Harry Mitchell, played by Anthony Mackey.  Terence Stamp (Zod from Superman I and II) as Thompson and John Slattery as Richardson are also perfectly cast as members of the Bureau.

The world of the Bureau is not overly complicated and amazingly easy to fall into.  The themes of fate, happenstance and missed opportunity have rarely seen such a nice treatment in film.  The lack of any need for special effects, overly long action scenes and irrelevant tangents results in a very polished final film that is all about story.  For such a great PKD-inspired film that remains true to PKD’s original world building, for great performances, entertaining twists, and a fun overall movie, The Adjustment Bureau gets 5 of 5 stars.

%d bloggers like this: