Adapting video games into newsworthy feature films seems like a precious treasure forever out of Hollywood’s reach, even when the source material seems tailor-made for the blockbuster treatment. Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg star in Unexploredthe latest attempt to turn game cartridges into celluloid gold.
Holland plays Nathan Drake, a young man who grew up alone in an orphanage after his older brother, Sam (Rudy Pankow), ran away to avoid arrest for breaking into a museum. Now working as a bartender, Drake is approached by a stranger named Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Wahlberg), who tells Drake he knows where Sam is and can reunite him with his brother if he helps locate a lost treasure whose he needs to find before his villainous rival, Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas). A few globetrotters and several double crossovers ensue, before a big CGI-laden finale. A dividing line of audience enjoyment can be drawn between those who have or have not played Uncharted games. The uninitiated might find a lighthearted action movie starring Spider Manwhile those who know the adventures of Drake and Sully will probably see it as a missed opportunity.
The story of UnexploredThe long road to the big screen is probably more interesting than the movie that finally came out. The video game adaptation was relegated to development hell for over a decade, with a cavalcade of writers attached to the project at one point or another, including Silver Linings Playbookis David O. Russell. The film was ultimately directed by Venom and Gangster Squad director Ruben Fleischer, who brings his usual anonymous sensibilities to the production. Mark Wahlberg was originally signed on to the film to play the role of Nathan Drake, but the time it took for cameras to start rolling meant the former head of the awesome group aged from the heroic head in the role of avuncular mentor. Wahlberg eschews the character framework that had been set for Sully, who in the games is a cigar-chomping father figure and peddles Drake jokes; Wahlberg instead sticks to his usual “say hi to your mother for me” schtick, which makes the Drake and Sully dynamic more tense and controversial in the film adaptation than in the source material.
Tom Holland is usable in a seriously badly molded part. The film acts as a prequel to the games’ narratives as a way to avoid Harrison Ford’s ill-calculated decision to cast the perpetually teenage Holland as a dashing, debt-ridden action hero. Even on the film’s own terms, Holland’s youthfulness clashes with the needs of the role. For example, at the start of the film, Drake works as a bartender at a fancy bar in a big city, but when Holland is pouring the drinks, it looks like an underage customer has managed to sneak past the bar. Holland brings the right amount of charisma needed to direct a blockbuster movie; however, he fails to differentiate his performance as Drake from his portrayal of Peter Parker, which highlights the limits of his range as an actor at this phase of his career.
Unexplored is an instantly forgettable CGI light show. A spin-off adventure film built from the bones of a game series that was itself made in the mold of classic adventure blockbusters. It fails to make illicit the escapist fun that the game series had in abundance, nor does it manage to create its own original thrills (it should come as no surprise that the most action sequence exciting and most inventive, involving Drake and crates falling from a cargo plane, is pulled straight from the games). Viewers may be best served by pulling a compilation of cutscenes from YouTube. Out now in theaters.
A programmer for Alexa-like software thinks she heard a violent crime over the audio feed from one of her company’s devices. Incredibly prolific filmmaker Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven, Magic Mike) directs this sleek Hitchcockian techno thriller with an abundance of style. Zoe Kravitz stars as Angela, an agoraphobic programmer working to improve the response functionality on a smart speaker called Kimi by listening to Kimi users’ audio streams and updating the devices’ response to commands who do not calculate. After hearing what she believes to be a violent assault on one of the Streams, Angela begins to investigate, which leads to more dark revelations and a conspiracy that rises to the top of society.
Written by David Koepp, Kimi is a fast-paced thriller that feels both timeless and thoroughly modern. The film is set in the midst of the COVID pandemic, at the height of the lockdown, which worsens Angela’s condition and also forces her to be confined to her apartment, watching her neighbors through her window as she resolves a crime and becomes increasingly paranoid – a blatant homage to Alfred Hitchcock rear window.
Kravitz is very good as Angela, playing with agility all the angles and emotions the character demands. Soderbergh constructs the film so flawlessly that it seems effortless, but the dynamic cinematography and propulsive editing suggest there’s been a lot of thought put into the film.
Kimi is a gripping thriller that plays on modern concerns of surveillance and technological overreach with a classic approach to film structure. Available on HBO Max.
From Sean Baker, the director of The Florida Project, comes a darkly comic character study about a charming dustbag. Simon Rex, former MTV VJ, rapper and star of horror movie 3, stars as Mikey Saber, a penniless former porn star with a motor mouth. Mikey has returned to his small hometown of Texas City, Texas to try to stay with his estranged wife Lexi (Bree Elrod) because he has nowhere to go. While staying with Lexi and her mother Lil (Brenda Deiss), Mikey begins selling weed and hanging out with their slow-witted neighbor, Lonnie (Ethan Darbone). Mikey soon becomes smitten with Strawberry (Suzanna Son), a girl who works at the local donut shop, which he believes could be his ticket out of the dead end town.
Baker steers the film with assured confidence, as he dives into an extremely uncomfortable subject matter with ease and without holding the audience’s hand through it. Where a lesser filmmaker may have highlighted Mikey’s predatory actions through ominous musical or cinematic choices, Baker allows scenes to unfold in a naturalistic style that doesn’t signal to the audience how they should react emotionally. to what is happening. The film feels inspired by 1970s cinema, with its gritty 35mm film and its focus on an irredeemable protagonist, but it is intentionally tied to 2016, the presidential election of that year taking place on the periphery of the film. As in his earlier work, Baker creates an unvarnished, non-judgmental portrait of a subsection of America that is often overlooked or overlooked by most other films and people.
Rex gives a phenomenal performance as Mikey, creating a character that is both gross and endearing. The decision to spend a lot of time with Mikey before he met Strawberry allows the public to start liking and rooting for him, which will then make your skin crawl as he begins to prepare it to become an industry star who spat it, and so many others, back off. But even after Mikey proves himself to be a shameless manipulator who will take advantage of anyone who lets him, he’s still charming. Which speaks to Rex’s on-screen charisma and acting ability, which we’ll likely see more of in the future, now that the polymath has gained acclaim after years of finding his footing in Hollywood.
red rocket is a unique film that won’t appeal to everyone, but will undoubtedly leave an impression on everyone who watches it. Available now on VOD.