Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Movie Review: Exodus: Gods & Kings

Exodus: Gods and Kings
Directed by: Ridley Scott.
Written by: Adam Cooper & Bill Collage and Jeffrey Caine and Steven Zaillian.
Starring: Christian Bale (Moses), Joel Edgerton (Ramses), John Turturro (Seti), Aaron Paul (Joshua), Ben Mendelsohn (Viceroy Hegep), María Valverde (Zipporah), Sigourney Weaver (Tuya), Ben Kingsley (Nun), Hiam Abbass (Bithia), Isaac Andrews (Malak), Ewen Bremner (Expert), Indira Varma (High Priestess), Golshifteh Farahani (Nefertari), Ghassan Massoud (Ramses' Grand Vizier), Tara Fitzgerald (Miriam), Dar Salim (Commander Khyan), Andrew Tarbet (Aaron).

Ridley Scott has done his best over the past 14 years to keep the old school epic alive. In the past 14 years, Scott has made films like Gladiator (2000), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Robin Hood (2010) and now Exodus: Gods and Kings. I was never a fan of Gladiator – I know many love it, but to me it was overlong and over dour, and I didn’t think his attempt to make Robin Hood into Braveheart really worked very well either. The Director’s Cut of Kingdom of Heaven however is one of the best epics in recent years – bland lead Orlando Bloom aside. Exodus: Gods and Kings is his attempt, along with Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, to bring back the Biblical epic to the big screen. This is, inarguably, an attempt by the studios to tap into the Christian audience that feels underserved by Hollywood studios (because they are). What Exodus shares in common with Noah are that both attempt a more serious, less preachy Biblical epic than we are used to seeing. As with Russell Crowe’s Noah, Christian Bale’s Moses has more doubts, is more flawed, more human than we are used to seeing in movies of this nature – or at least that is the attempt here. But Scott isn’t very good with this human side of his Biblical figures. While he uses special effects effectively, and gets many of the “big” moments in the film right, he gets almost all the quieter, more human, more introspective moments wrong. There are moments in Exodus that are almost laughable – and it becomes impossible to take it seriously. If you believe Howard Hawks’ definition of a great movie serious – three great scenes, no bad ones – than Exodus is perhaps half a great movie – it certainly does have three great scenes. The problem is most of what surrounds them is bad – really, really bad.

The movie opens when Moses (Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton) are already adults – and it quickly establishes their character – Moses is strong, brave and principled, Ramses is vain, egotistical and rather petty. Although Ramses’ father, Seti (John Turturro), says the two are as close as brothers, there is no real evidence of that in the film – Moses clearly likes Ramses, and does save his life, but from the get go, Ramses seems to view Moses with suspicion – as if he knows that one day they will come into conflict. Moses doesn’t know his real life story – how he can to be raised in the royal family, even if he’s outside of it. It isn’t until he goes to see the Viceroy (Ben Mendelsohn), who is charge of the Hebrew slaves, and finds him to be corrupt. He also talks to some of the Hebrew elders – one of whom, Nun (Ben Kingsley), tells him his true origin story. Of course, this gets back to Ramses, who banishes Moses – who goes off and lives his life, still keeping his origin secret, marrying and having a son. He doesn’t return until God – oddly in the form of a British child – speaks to him, and tells him to lead his people. This sets off the part of the story we all know – the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, etc.

It is in these big moments where the movie works quite well. Scott uses CGI well, and the Red Sea sequence is quite thrilling, if completely unbelievable. Even better is actually a quieter sequence – when the plague of the first born dying, which is done in darkness, and features the only moment of Edgerton’s performance that is effective – when he comes in to find his infant son dead. It is a masterful moment. The problem is, even though much of the CGI and action work is well done, that quiet moment is the only quiet one that actually works.

Part of the problem is the performances. Bale has a tendency to be a little too serious in his roles – sometimes it works, but here, his Moses is, like Russell Crowe in Gladiator, a downer for most of the movie. You cannot say he’s a whiner, because he never whines, but his yelling sounds a lot like whining. The movie hints at some of the same things that Aronofsky’s Noah does – that perhaps Moses wasn’t chosen by God, but is just insane, but Bale doesn’t go as far as Crowe did in that movie. Edgerton is given a pretty much unplayable role – his Ramses is so poorly conceived on the page, that I don’t think he ever really had a chance to deliver a good performance. The same could be said of Aaron Paul as Joshua – whose role seems to be to walk in on Moses every time he’s talking to God, and then slowly backing away. The two best performances are by Turturro and Mendelsohn – and for the same reason. They seem to understand how ridiculous the movie is, and how even more ridiculous their characters are, and rather than try to sell that, they play it to the hilt Yes, they go over the top – but that’s precisely what the roles need.

In the end, I think what sinks Exodus: Gods and Kings is that it never really decides what it wants to be. It’s stuck between being an old school epic – which presents everything as given, and something more complex, and thought provoking. The film swings back and forth, and never really finds it footing. Yes, there are some good moments sprinkled throughout – but Exodus makes the case as to why Hollywood doesn’t make these movies very often anymore – they’ve forgotten how.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Movie Review: Top Five

Top Five
Directed by: Chris Rock.
Written by: Chris Rock.
Starring: Chris Rock (Andre Allen), Rosario Dawson (Chelsea Brown), J.B. Smoove (Silk), Gabrielle Union (Erica Long), Romany Malco (Benny Barnes), Anders Holm (Brad), Cedric the Entertainer (Jazzy Dee), Karlie Redd (Rhonda), Hayley Marie Norman (Tammy), Annaleigh Ashford (Michele), Ben Vereen (Carl), Michael Che (Paul), Sherri Shepherd (Vanessa), Jay Pharoah (Mike), Tracy Morgan (Fred), Hassan Johnson (Craig), Leslie Jones (Lisa).

Chris Rock’s first two films as a director, Head of State (2003) and I Think I Love My Wife (2007) are both okay films – that are enjoyable, but it seemed like in both Rock was somewhat neutering himself to try and gain more mass popularity. This is something he doesn’t do in his brilliant stand-up routines – which has made him one of the most loved comics of his generation. But neither Rock, nor any other director, was ever really able to translate that energy into a movie. With his third film, Top Five, Rock has finally succeeded. He doesn’t seem as worried about mass appeal this time – which ironically, could end up being his most successful film. That is because it finally taps into what makes Rock such a great standup. The film is funny throughout, but it also has an edge, and it also seems distinctly personal – as if Rock is finally channeling something of himself into his movies. A few missteps aside, Top Five is one of the best comedies of the year.

In the film Rock plays Andre Allen, a famous standup, who became a movie star with some awful looking movies, where he plays a cop who is also a bear. A recovering alcoholic, Andre now longer wants to do “funny” movies – he wants to do something more serious – like his new film about the Haitian slave revolution (which, by the way, looks just as bad). He is also about to marry Erica Long (Gabrielle Union), a Kardashian-like reality show star, in what will be a major television event. On the day his latest movie is to open, Andre has to go around New York and do a lot of press for the film – and he has his bachelor party, which of course will be filmed, that night as well. At the end of the day, he’s going to get on a plane and go to LA for the wedding. And against his better judgment, he has agreed to be followed around by a New York Times reporter, Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson). To his surprise, he actually has a connection with Chelsea – a recovering alcoholic herself, also going through some personal issues herself. And because of that, she gets him to open up more than he usually does – certainly more than we see in his other, junket style interviews.

Andre Allen, of course, does bear a resemblance to Chris Rock himself – which is allows Rock to essentially be himself on screen for the first time (or at least, be his onstage persona). There are times when Rock almost seems to be doing standup more than making a movie – a large get together with his childhood friends is a perfect example of this. This would be a problem if it wasn’t so funny – which it is, and not just because of Rock, but because he allows those supporting players to have some great moments as well. Much of the movie is made up of Rock and Dawson walking the streets of New York (or in the back of the car), just talking, and Rock indulges himself a little bit in these scenes as well. But the best thing Rock does in the film as a writer and director is to create a real role for the immensely talented Dawson to play – if Rock is ever in danger of spinning out of control, Dawson reels him back in. She is whip smart, funny, sexy and challenges Andre the way no one else ever really does – and this both interests him, and at times angers him. But it allows Andre, and Rock, to be more honest than I’ve seen him in a movie before. Rock is hilarious, playing a thinly veiled version of himself, but Dawson’s is far and away the better performance. And Rock is generous with the supporting cast as well – with great roles all around, perhaps none better than Cedric the Entertainer as a Houston promoter who Andre meets in a flashback sequence.

Top Five takes a few missteps along the way. I’m not sure I quite agree that a subplot involving Dawson’s boyfriend is homophobic – but it certainly borders on it, and is unnecessary to boot. And a third act plot twist, which is easy to see coming, is more than somewhat ridiculous, and unnecessary. I also would have loved to see more of Gabrielle Union – who we only see on the phone, and for the most part looked like a shallow, superficial punching bag – but has one scene where she shows an unexpected depth that made me want to see more of her. But she’s almost an afterthought, because the chemistry between Rock and Dawson makes it obvious where the movie is heading.

Still, Top Five is one of the most enjoyable comedies of the year – and the one that shows that if Rock wants to be, he could become a great writer-director-actor. The film reminds me of Woody Allen (in some ways, you could compare it to Stardust Memories), but with a definite Rock-twist. After two bland movies in the director’s chair, Rock finally figured out what to do himself. Let’s hope he keeps going.

Movie Review: The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
Directed by: Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani.
Written by: Bruno Forzani & Hélène Cattet.
Featuring: Klaus Tange (Dan Kristensen), Ursula Bedena, Joe Koener, Birgit Yew, Hans De Munter, Anna D'Annunzio, Jean-Michel Vovk, Manon Beuchot, Romain Roll, Lolita Oosterlynck, Delphine Brual, Sam Louwyck, Sylvia Camarda.

There is a plot in The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears – but directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani are not much interested in it. Basically, they use their bare bones of a plot to string together a series of striking visuals and set pieces inspired by giallo horror movies from Italian masters like Mario Bava and Dario Argento. A man, named Dan (Klaus Tange), comes home to his apartment to find his wife has gone missing. He investigates the disappearance – and deals with a cop who shows up at inopportune times – to try and figure out what happened. This investigation brings him into contact with his strange neighbors – and also causes some hallucinations and dreams, which is where the bizarre visuals and set pieces come into play. Eventually, the movie does commit to its narrative – kind of anyway, in its closing act, but even then, the movie remains a visual experience, not a narrative one. This isn’t so much a problem with the movie, as much as an observation. The problem is that the visuals start to repeat themselves, everything becomes fractured, and the individual moments – as stunning as some of them can be – never really cohere into a meaningful whole.

Movies like this are difficult to review. You cannot really talk about the acting, because the movie barely requires the actors to act (according to IMDB, only one character even has a name) – they are props as much as anything. You cannot talk about the narrative – because there isn’t really one. So what you are left with is talking about how it all looks and feels.
 
It must be said that the film does look amazing. There are striking images throughout – from an opening image of a blade and a women’s breast, to a masterful sequence of an older couple searching for something. The movie connects sex and violence, and is also about voyeurism. But horror movies have been doing both of things for decades now, and the film doesn’t really have anything of interest to say on either subject – it simply presents them over and over again, and then moves onto the next sequence, where they’ll do the same thing again.

I cannot fully dismiss the film – it does look amazing from start to finish. But what the film made me wish more than anything is that filmmakers would, next time out, not just string together a series of visually striking set pieces, disconnected from each other and everything else, but apply their obvious visual skills, and try to come up with a narrative to match it. Because they didn’t do that this time, what we are left with is a visually stunning movie that despite all the sex and violence is actually quite dull. It would play better as a museum installation piece, where you can see some of the great work, and move on, than as a movie where you sit there and watch it from 100 minutes straight.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Movie Review: Mommy

Mommy
Directed by: Xavier Dolan.
Written by: Xavier Dolan.
Starring: Anne Dorval (Diane 'Die' Després), Antoine-Olivier Pilon (Steve O'Connor Després), Suzanne Clément (Kyla), Patrick Huard (Paul), Alexandre Goyette (Patrick), Viviane Pascal (Marthe).

25 year old Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan is constantly experimenting with his style, hoping genres with each film, and mixing in different elements, and inspirations, in each of his first five films. His first film, I Killed My Mother, was made when he was just 19 – and he wrote, directed and starred in it – and announced him as a major talent. His next three films, Heartbeats, Laurence Anyways and Tom at the Farm, haven’t quite lived up to his debut – but they were all interesting, and all showed a willingness to experiment. His fifth film, Mommy, returns to the themes addressed in his first film = and may well be his best work to date. The film is wildly ambitious, and if it has a tendency to repeat itself a little too often, and perhaps spends a little too much time showing off stylistically, it’s also Dolan’s deepest, most heartfelt film to date. In many ways, he is making a big screen soap opera – which may explain his choice of a strange 1:1 aspect ratio, most common in old TV, and once again Dolan wears his most obvious influence on his sleeve (in this case, early Pedro Almodovar). But Dolan earns his stylistic excesses, and his influences, by delivering a film that is full of life and emotional upheaval – one that constantly threatens to, but never quite, goes over the top.

The film stars Anne Dorval, who delivered a great performance in the title role of I Killed My Mother, and outdoes that here, as Diane – a lower class widow, with a troubled teenage son – Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon). As the movie opens, Steve is being thrown out of a group home because of another violent outburst – leaving Diane with only two options, take him home herself, or use a controversial new law to commit him (the film opens with a thoroughly unnecessary preamble about a new law coming into effect after the 2015 Canada Federal Election – don’t give Harper any ideas!). She elects to take him home – but it quickly becomes apparent the danger Steve represents. He can be sweet, kind funny one second, and then fly into a rage the next – strangling his mother, going on a hate fueled, racist rant on a cab driver, smashing a glass table, etc. Diane tries her best with Steve – but it’s hard. She’s lost her job, she’s lost her car, and she simply isn’t equipped to handle Steve – despite how much she obviously loves him. A little bit of hope is represented when they meet the neighbor across the street – Kyla (Suzanne Clement), a stuttering teacher on “sabbatical”, with her own family issues and traumas. But she bonds with Diane, and later Steve – and even takes up the task of homeschooling Steve – something Diane is clearly incapable of. And Steve seems to be doing better – but Steve being Steve, he’s constantly at risk at doing something that will screw everything up.

Dolan, who has always been guilty of stylistic excess (which is forgivable when it works – and it mainly works here) took the odd step of shooting the film in a narrow 1:1 aspect ratio – one that resembles old school TV, which is oddly appropriate since he’s basically making a soap opera here. But the 1:1 ratio does something else to the characters – it traps them in the frame, gives them nowhere to go, no space to move around in. There are two moments when Dolan expands the screen to a more traditional, wide ratio – and they are two moments when Steve and Diane feel happiness and freedom, which is a rare occurrence for them.

Mommy has its fair share of problems – at two hours and twenty minutes it’s a little long for a movie that doesn’t have much of a plot, and the film has tendency to repeat itself. There are a few too many musical montages littered throughout the movie, and a few too many meltdowns by Steve as well – Dolan doesn’t need to labor over either the good or bad of Steve, because it’s clear fairly early. As an actor Antoine-Olivier Pilon isn’t quite up to the level of Dorval or Clement – these are three big roles, but you never catch Dorval or Clement ACTING – something you do catch Pilon doing several times. Then again, that could be because the two female performances are so good, that it would be hard for any young actor to hold their own against them. Dorval in particular is brilliant as Diane – a woman who would be struggling with her life even if she didn’t have Steve to contend with. She’s smart, but not educated, and has to hustle to get anything out of life. She’s trying her best, but near the end of her rope. She does something late in the film that will be controversial to some audiences – it certainly is to Kyla – but her scenes after that make it clear precisely why she did it – and why she felt she had to. It is a great performance.
 
Whatever the flaws in Mommy are, the movies attributes more than make up for them. There is a brilliant sequence in which Diane imagines what Steve’s life would be like in a perfect world – a romantic, hazy delusion that allows Diane a few minutes of peace – before the whole thing comes crashing down around her. The movie is about both of those sides of Diane – the one who wants to believe that her son will be okay, and the one who knows he never will.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Movie Review: Serena

Serena
Directed by: Susanne Bier.
Written by: Christopher Kyle based on the book by Ron Rash.
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence (Serena Pemberton), Bradley Cooper (George Pemberton), Rhys Ifans (Galloway), Toby Jones (Sheriff McDowell), Sean Harris (Campbell), Sam Reid (Vaughn), Blake Ritson (Lowenstein), Ana Ularu (Rachel), David Dencik (Buchanan).

It’s never a good sign when a movie is delayed more than once, and pushed out of not one but two different years. However, once in a while those oft-delayed movies end up being masterpieces – David Fincher's Zodiac, Andrew Dominik's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Ken Lonergan's Margaret spring immediately to mind. More often than not however, being delayed that often is a sign that the movie has problems. I first heard about Susanne Biers Serena following Silver Linings Playbook – as the film reunited the two stars, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, of that film. There were even images from the film posted. But then the film just didn’t come out – it was expected in 2013, and didn’t come out. It was expected on the festival circuit this year, and didn’t get there either (it did, finally, play one this fall). Now it has been delayed in America until 2015 – where it will go VOD and hit theaters at the same time. Oddly, however, the film is getting a fairly wide release in Canada. I went, more out of curiosity than anything else. And now I know why the film was so often delayed – it’s quite simply an awful film.

Set in 1929, in Carolina, the film stars Cooper as George Pemberton – a would be timber baron. But with the recent stock market crash, and the fact that the government may reclaim his land and make it into a National Park, things are on uneasy ground. George has some land in Brazil he wants desperately to log – but he needs to make money first, so he`ll do whatever possible to make it work. One day, he meets Serena (Lawrence), the daughter of a timber baron herself, who had her entire family wiped out in a fire when she was only 12, and immediately falls in love. Serena is as smart as she is beautiful – and starts to change George's business for the better. But from the start, there is something not quite right about her. She doesn’t seem to mind the girl, Rachel (Ana Ularu) that George knocked up before they met (and who, now that she is pregnant, George is virtually ignoring) – but she eyes her uneasily anyway – especially once she herself becomes pregnant. When Georges partner (David Dencik) threatens to expose his corruption, Serena goes full Lady Macbeth with George – but feels no guilt, and tries to push things farther.

All of that probably sounds rather interesting – like if nothing else, Serena would be a good soap opera. The ingredients are certainly there for this to be that kind of film – but that isn’t the film that director Susanne Bier has made. She takes the material far too seriously – and directs her actors to underplay everything. This is a subdued movie to the point where it’s almost comatose. With all the violence, sex and melodrama on display you would think things would be directed at a fever pitch – that the actors may in fact be in danger of going over the top. The reality is the opposite. Lawrence, who is normally a firecracker in her roles, has never been this quiet. She is capable of being subtle – her best work to date remains Winters Bone, which is her quietest great performance – but her she seems to be sleepwalking through the role – even as it requires her to go pretty much insane. Cooper is even worse – he looks dead inside here, which is perhaps where his character ends up, but certainly isn’t where he begins. Rhys Ifans is horribly miscast as the violent, psychopathic badass in the movie – a role his easy, funny charm just isn’t built for.

The film does look beautiful – set in the Smoky Mountains, the films cinematography certainly makes the most of its location. But the film doesn’t work on a dramatic or thematic level. Is the film supposed to be a There Will Be Blood like commentary on capitalism? A Gone Girl like thriller (without the satire), about a man who doesn’t know just how damaged the woman he married is? And old fashioned soap opera? I honestly have no idea, and I don’t think Bier did either. Bier is a talented director – Brothers, After the Wedding and her first English language film, Things We Lost in the Fire, are proof of that. But she has somewhat gone off the rails since winning an Oscar for the mediocre In a Better World (for foreign language film). Along with last year’s not very funny or romantic, romantic comedy Love is All You Need, this is two major whiffs in a row for Bier. Let’s hope she recovers for her next film – because Serena is one of the worst films of the year.

Movie Review: Penguins of Madagascar

Penguins of Madagascar
Directed by: Eric Darnell & Simon J. Smith.
Written by: John Aboud and Michael Colton and Brandon Sawyer and Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons based on characters created by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath.
Starring: Tom McGrath (Skipper), Chris Miller (Kowalski), Christopher Knights (Private), Conrad Vernon (Rico), John Malkovich (Dave), Benedict Cumberbatch (Classified), Ken Jeong (Short Fuse), Annet Mahendru (Eva), Peter Stormare (Corporal), Werner Herzog (Documentary Filmmaker).

I had low expectations for Penguins of Madagascar heading into the movie – I was really only going because my 3-year olds favorite animals are penguins – but the first few scenes in the movie had me thinking that perhaps the movie wouldn’t be so bad after all. The film opens with narration of a documentarian filming the penguins – and the filmmakers picked the perfect the person to provide that narration – Werner Herzog. His narration gave me more laughs than the rest of the movie combined, and I was sorry he was only in the first few moments of the films. The film then flashes forward to the end of Madagascar 3 – and again made me laugh, as our four penguin heroes express the same feeling I had about that film – namely get us the hell out of here. Unfortunately, from there the movie settles more into the same type of thing as the other Madagascar films – lots of fast moving action, blinding colors, low humor, etc. It’s still probably my favorite of the now four films in the Madagascar films – but that doesn’t mean that it’s very good.

The Penguins have always been people’s favorite supporting characters in the films – and they are better characters than the four main characters in those films, which have always been somewhat annoying to me. But as with other popular supporting characters in animated films – from Scrat in Ice Age to Puss in Boots from Shrek – supporting characters are probably where they should stay. A little of them go a long way.

This movie puts the four penguins – the leader, Skipper, the thinker, Kowalski, the muscle Rico and the cute but dim private – into a complicated action movie. Dave (voiced, brilliantly, by John Malkovich) is an octopus, with a grudge against penguin-kind – he has been jettisoned from every zoo because everyone wants to see the adorable penguins, and not a gross octopus. This all started with these four – and he is out for vengeance against them, and then all penguins. The four try and stop them – but also have to deal with North Wind – a secret organization out to protect animals who cannot protect themselves. But while North Wind may have all the technology they need – they aren’t as smart as the Penguins.

The movie moves very fast – and it is fairly entertaining. There is a running joke – a stupid one admittedly – that made me laugh every time, as Dave unwittingly says celebrity names as he is giving his minions orders. I have a hard time believing that kids aren’t going to enjoy the film – it certainly held my daughters attention throughout, who quite enjoyed it. And it’s not a painful experience, as some kids movies are, for the parents. But it never really gets to the point where the comedy is sustained – where older viewers can truly just let go and enjoy the insanity on screen. Its decent – it’s well done and mildly amusing – and a step up from the other movies in the series. It’s still not a very good movie, but it’s not that bad either.

Movie Review: I Origins

I Origins
Directed by: Mike Cahill.
Written by: Mike Cahill.
Starring: Michael Pitt (Ian), Astrid Bergès-Frisbey (Sofi), Brit Marling (Karen), Steven Yeun (Kenny), Cara Seymour (Dr. Simmons), William Mapother (Darryl Mackenzie), Archie Panjabi (Priya Varma), Kashish (Salomina).

For those who believe in Intelligent Design, the human eye is often uses as the prime example of why there must be a creator at some point along the line. It is so complex, that many do not believe that it could simply evolve that way – and hence, the human eye is proof of the existence of God. It’s a rather silly theory really – but then again, Intelligent Design isn’t not really based in scientific fact, but rather in theory. Mike Cahill’s I Origins, a follow-up to his excellent Another Earth, starts as a movie about Ian (Michael Pitt) – a scientist, studying the human eye, who hopes to once and for all end the debate, and prove that the eye could in fact evolve. What’s interesting about I Origins is that it never really takes a side in the debate at all – and ends, like Another Earth did, on an ambiguous leaving the audience wanting to know what happens next. Depending on your own beliefs, you can read the ending however you want. But unlike Another Earth, I Origins just isn’t all that interesting other than in its initial premise. It has a melodramatic plot that verges on the ridiculous. The film is so subdued, where all the characters betray such little emotion, even when they are supposed to be going through emotional upheaval, the whole movie left me cold.

Ian (Michael Pitt) is a young doctoral student, doing his work on the human eye – specifically how it has evolved. He attends a Halloween party, and is immediately drawn to the eyes of a beautiful young woman in a mask – the two have anonymous sex, with him never seeing her face, but being mesmerized by her eyes – which (in a sequence both too complicated and too ridiculous to explain) use those eyes to track the woman down. This is Sofi (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), who is just as beautiful as her eyes. The two fall in love – despite being complete opposites in how they view the world (this kind of reminded me of the relationship between Stephen and Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything). I don’t want to spoil what happens next – but the movie does take some strange turns, and ends up with Ian in India –trying to see if he can find an identical set of eyes to Sofi's – something he thought was impossible, as eyes are supposed to be like fingerprints – one of a kind.

I have always like Michael Pitt as an actor – he has a quiet, intelligent screen presence, that sometimes verges on comatose, but in the right role (like in Gus Van Sant's brilliant Last Days) he can be brilliant. Here, he isn’t much helped by the screenplay or the direction, and so he comes across more on the comatose side of things. The two main women in the film – Sofi and Brit Marling’s Karen (as Pitts assistant) are also not really helped – both are playing an idealized, unrealistic version of the perfect women – although to be fair, they are still as different as they can be while still being perfect.

I also didn’t really buy the numerous twists and turns in the movie – all of which seem to be overly calculated and foreshadowed (I watched the film with my wife, and we both could see every twist and turn coming a mile away). That wouldn’t be such a bad thing, if the twists lead to some interesting material – but it doesn’t here. The closing scenes, with Pitt and a young Indian girl, are almost unintentionally hilarious (and, kind of creepy when you think about it).

Cahill is still a director I want to see more from. Like Another Earth, I Origins has a lot of interesting ideas running through it. But unlike Another Earth, the execution does not match the ideas. It’s a film that sounds really interesting – but doesn’t deliver on its promise.