WeWork: or the making and destroying of a 47 billion dollar unicorn (12A) ****
The playful spirit of Galaxy Quest, The Truman Show and the original Tron infuse Ryan Reynolds’ vehicle free guy, a conceptual blockbuster about a violent video game background character who begins to take control of his own destiny. Known in the gaming world as an NPC (a non-playable character), Reynolds’ Guy is an ultra-nice bank teller so used to being restrained by the sunglasses-wearing avatars of real gamers that he accepts his fate with the happy-go – lucky serenity of a character with limited options. But when an interaction with a super cool female avatar (Jodie Comer) triggers a glitch that leads to an existential awakening, her lovable persona begins to transform the game itself – much to the confusion of its megalomaniac developer (Taika Waititi).
The film nimbly jumps between the real and virtual world via Comer’s Millie, an idealistic game developer who uses his aforementioned avatar as Jeff Bridges in Tron to search the game for evidence that he was ripped off a project she and her former partner (Joe Keery) developed years earlier. As such, the film doesn’t get bogged down in all the philosophical conundrums the concept raises (it’s not a Charlie Kaufman movie, nor does it try to be). But that doesn’t mean it’s not smart. Co-written by Matt Leiberman and Zak Penn, and casually directed by Shawn Levy (the Night at the Museum and Netflix movies hit Stranger Things), it’s a fun exploration of how a creator’s personality can inform a work for better or for worse – and how sincerity can actually triumph over toxicity.
Unfortunately, this last aspect is not confirmed in the documentary by Jed Rothstein WeWork: or the making and destroying of a $47 billion unicorn. Detailing the bloated expansion of shared office company WeWork under its cult co-founder Adam Neumann, the film paints a sad portrait of youthful naivety and a damning condemnation of snake oil salesmen willing to to exploit. .
Marketing flexible office space in hipster lofts as if it were a way of salvation, Neumann comes across as a Steve Jobs televangelist, promising his misty-eyed followers (mostly entrepreneurs in their 20s and 30s) a opportunity to transform the world into an egalitarian, altruistic, communal utopia with lots of gooey mission statements about transforming “me into us”. What sets this story apart from similarly themed films about the dot-com boom or financial crash of 2008, however, is the speed with which the bubble burst. WeWork’s failed bid to go public turned the overvalued company into a corporate laughing stock in six weeks and cost many jobs, including Neumann, who nonetheless walked away with a multi-year settlement. millions of dollars a few months before the pandemic called into question the very feasibility of shared workspaces, proof that for the rich, the “me” always takes precedence over the “we”.
As an artificially intelligent romantic companion, Dan Stevens is in ironic form in a German-language sci-fi drama i am your man. He plays Tom, a humanoid AI who has been calibrated to meet the needs of Alma (Maren Eggert), a lonely academic hired to consult on the ethics of letting robots get involved with humans. Writer/director Maria Schrader uses this setup to interrogate some of cinema’s most boring romantic tropes, with Alma finding her frustration with Tom’s algorithmically programmed perfection gradually diminishing as he learns to feign spontaneity and unpredictability. in a way that makes their relationship more real. While the end results aren’t as imaginative or as nuanced as Spike Jonze’s similarly-themed ones, the odd couple dynamic between Stevens and Eggert nonetheless points to something interesting.
There is nothing particularly interesting about The mail. Based on the true story of a British businessman recruited to smuggle documents out of the Soviet Union in the run-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis, it’s like a sadly rendered forgery of The Bridge of Spies by Steven Spielberg. Benedict Cumberbatch is at his best as Greville Wynne in real life, an honest man who can’t believe he’s being asked to help Her Majesty’s Government spy on the Russians. National Theater veteran Dominic Cooke directs with minimal cinematic elan.
Beasts of the Southern Wild director Benh Zeitlin returns after a Terrence Malick-like absence with Wendy, a wild reinterpretation of the Peter Pan mythos told in the same dreamy, poetic and precious style as its Oscar-nominated debut. The film is at its best in its early days as it establishes Wendy (Devina France) and her brothers as the free-spirited brood of a former wild child turned waitress whose limited view of the world of elderly customers fuels her children’s determination. to escape it. . The movie’s magical realistic flourishes get a bit taxing once the action shifts to a Neverland-style island ruled by a mischievous wanderer called Peter (Yashua Mack), but the underlying focus on Wendy and her relationship with the motherhood takes him in an intriguing direction.
Finally this week, Johnny Depp plays famed WWII combat photographer W. Eugene Smith in Minamata, a late-period biopic chronicling the alcoholic Smith’s final mission: his 1971 expose of a toxic waste scandal in the eponymous Japanese coastal town. Although the film begins as a clichéd redemption story, it becomes more interesting as Smith quietly drifts into the background and the lives of his subjects come into play.
Free Guy, The Courier, Wendy and Minamata hit theaters August 13; WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn is available on-demand digitally beginning August 13; I’m Your Man is in limited release and on-demand digital from Curzon Home Cinema starting August 13th.
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