Review of Gringo & Annihilation
By: Jason Bechard

Hey, I Watched This! Reviewing Movies I've watched recently.

Hello again! Well, after last month's "trying ordeal", I was in desperate need of some good, or at least decent, films to "cleanse" my palette of the suckitude that was Deep Blue Sea 2 and Amerigeddon. Luckily, I found some. Both are fairly new releases, that I heard very little about.

Of course, I will do my best to avoid spoilers, but I make NO promises.

First up, Gringo directed by Nash Edgerton, and starring Joel Edgerton(Black Mass, Life, Red Sparrow), Charlise Theron(Mad Max: Fury Road, Monster, Atomic Blonde), and David Oyewolo(Selma, The Cloverfield Paradox, A Wrinkle in Time).

Here's the synopsis from IMDB, " a dark comedy mixed with white–knuckle action and dramatic intrigue, explores the battle of survival for businessman Harold Soyinka (Oyelowo) when he finds himself crossing the line from law–abiding citizen to wanted criminal."

This story is so much fun. As things progress, they do a great job of sliding the puzzle pieces together, sometimes slowly to build tension, and other times they slam together suddenly, surprisingly. This movie plays out kind of like a heist movie, with a lot of misunderstandings, which lead to odd coincidences, and circumstances. There are a lot of surprises that just pop up unexpectedly, which really made this a fun ride!

I thought the casting was great. Oyewolo will fantastic as "Harold" a corporate schlub, who always works hard, and does his best, but doesn't see that his entire world is built on fragile lies. And, when he does, his "everyman" attempts to regain some power, are very haphazard and endearing. I could relate with his reactions. I will admit, the few things I have seen Joel Edgerton in, he never really stood out to me. Not very memorable. But, he is very memorable in this film. SUCH A SLEAZEBALL! So believable! Theron played a perfect corporate bitch, that will do ANYTHING to get what she wants. I don't think I have ever seen her in a role like that, and she was great in it. Not to mention, SHE'S SO HOT! One of my favorite actors working today, Sharlto Copley(District 9, Elysium, The A–Team) pops up half way through the movie, and damn near steals the show, with an interesting character that is part humanitarian, and part bad–ass covert agent. But, I'll take Copley in anything!

Overall, the story was fresh, and moved really well. The acting was great, and the visual look of the film, did a good job of showing a stark difference between "clean" corporate America, and gritty "back street" Mexico.

Definitely worth checking this one out. It is a lot of fun! I give it 4 stars!

The next film I watched is "Annihilation", written and directed by Alex Garland, who wrote and directed 2014's amazing sleeper hit "Ex Machina".(If you haven't already, you should really see "Ex Machina".) Annihilation stars Natalie Portman(Black Swan, V for Vendetta), Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Inside Llewyn Davis), and Jennifer Jason Leigh(The Hateful Eight, Single White Female).

Here's the IMDB synopsis, "A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don't apply."

This film is hard to categorize. Drama, adventure, horror, sci–fi, it fits them all. Overall, it is cerebral sci–fi flick, akin to 2001: A Space Odyssey. There is some action at play, in small doses, but it is more of a dramatic piece.

The story keeps you guessing as to what is happening. This strange "Shimmer" has engulfed an area around a lighthouse, and is slowly expanding outward. No communications in or out, and no explorers seem to make it out alive! As we follow Portman and Leigh's team through their expedition, they start to understand what is happening inside, but no explanation as to why? The ending is left open to interpretation by the viewer, and my interpretation might spoil things for you, so I'll leave that out. Although, I will say, between Ex Machina and Annihilation, Alex Garland is kind of setting a pattern, and that's all I am going to say.

Portman was really good at portraying "Lena" as a wounded, heartbroken widow, who struggles to hide her feelings behind a facade of being a hard–ass at work, and when she gets pulled in to the expedition, she has to continue the facade. Add in the revelations of guilt and shame she is harboring as well, and we see her performing a delicate balancing act, and not always keeping that balance. Portman did an excellent job with it. Jennifer Jason Leigh's character is very strange. A psychologist who has chosen to lead the latest expedition, and seems to have no real empathy for anyone. Very cold, and blunt, but as the movie progresses we get a sense that she too is hiding her true feelings, possibly of immense guilt, for all the previous expeditions, she sent in, and subsequently lost. I was spellbound by Leigh's performance at times. So good! I can't say much about Isaac's character, both because we don't see a lot of him, and because it could spoil things. But I will say, he was also spellbinding. The questions surrounding him really drew me in.

Annihilation has some very interesting visuals, that really make it stand out. Inside the "shimmer", the shimmer was constantly visible, but only on the periphery, so it didn't distract from the acting. And after the characters theorize an analogy of a "Prism" effect, certain images really do look stunning. A flowing kaleidoscope visual, with a harsh, contrasting, soundtrack, really made the climax something memorable. And again, very reminiscent of the classic 2001:A Space Odyssey.

Overall, Annihilation was really good, but I know it's not going to be for everyone. I myself, have to be in a rare type of mood, to really enjoy this type of cerebral sci–fi. A lot of people, want more "bang for their buck", and don't want to have to think about it too hard. Myself included. Be that as it may, still an excellent film.

I give Annihilation 4 stars.

See you next month, Folks!