Tag: douglas smith

Antiviral


Antiviral (2012)
★★★★ / ★★★★

The Lucas Celebrity Services Clinic provides a rather… special treatment. Their latest customer is Mr. Porris (Douglas Smith) and he wants to be infected with the herpes simplex virus that was taken directly from a celebrity he admires. One of the clinic’s specialists, Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones), advises that he inject the virus on the left side of Mr. Porris’ upper lip because it would appear as though he had been kissed by the celebrity herself. (She has herpes on the upper-right side of her mouth.) Mr. Porris thinks it is a most excellent idea.

“Antiviral,” written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg, coruscates with originality so vivid that although its images and concepts are downright disturbing, I found myself unable to stop staring at it. It is science fiction on the surface, horrific just underneath, and darkly comic in its core. It is a most relevant satire of our celebrity-obsessed culture. Here, “following” one’s favorite stars on Twitter or Instagram is not enough to quench the thirst. No, fans must feel a connection—a molecular connection—by housing viruses their idols have or had.

The film is flooded with the color white and geometric patterns. This is especially applicable to interior shots of the clinic which communicates a level of irony. Illusions of cleanliness and control are created but dealing with viruses is never a clean affair and controlling them is possible only to a point. But customers buy them—just as much as they (we) are willing to dive head-first into idolizing a person based solely on their looks, how they perform on stage, television, and movies, or their on-screen personalities.

Jones kills the challenging role as an ace specialist with an extracurricular activity. The magic in the actor’s performance is a go for broke intensity to the point where we feel uncomfortable watching his character’s body writhe in pain and suffering. He does not play Syd to be likable or sympathetic. Instead, he makes it difficult for us to figure out what Syd is thinking exactly. Syd is cunning. His cold gaze is reminiscent of Patrick Bateman’s, after his mask has slipped, in Mary Harron’s “American Psycho.”

A minor problem occurs during the last third. There are too many third parties that crave a piece of the action involving the death of a celebrity named Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon). It is difficult to keep track of them because they appear and disappear without the necessary bridges. The screenplay assumes we already know who they are and their precise endgames. At one point, I was terribly confused as to whether two of the opposing parties were really working together. I had to stop and think it through which disrupted the way I experienced the story’s momentum.

Despite such a limitation, “Antiviral” remains to be a wild and imaginative vision. Technical details concerning in its universe are best left to be discovered. One thing is certain: the material dares us to respond to it. A standout scene involves Syd going to a local meat shop and asking the manager (Joe Pingue) how people consuming the products he serves is not considered cannibalism. After all, the meat being sold from behind the glass is homegrown celebrity muscle cells.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters


Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013)
★ / ★★★★

For years, Camp Half-Blood, a refuge for half-human, half-god children of Olympian deities, has been safe from outside forces due to a magical barrier surrounding its perimeter. But when a mechanical bull manages to break through, the demi-gods become in danger of extinction. Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of Athena, has an idea: if they obtain the Golden Fleece from the Sea of Monsters, it can be used to reestablish the camp’s defenses. Although Clarisse (Leven Rambin), daughter of Ares, is chosen to retrieve the fleece, Percy (Logan Lerman), son of Poseidon, and his friends decide to acquire it, too.

“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters,” based on the screenplay by Marc Guggenheim and directed by Thor Freudenthal, is a sequel at its limpest, most predictable, and least entertaining—so frustratingly unimaginative despite special and visual effects present in just about every other scene. The story should have been more fun, daring, and intriguing given that it has ample sources of inspiration. We deserve better than this.

The material takes its time to take off—and for nothing. This is reflected in the amount of time the protagonists spend in the camp. A new character is introduced: Tyson (Douglas Smith), son of Poseidon and Percy’s half-brother. He also happens to be a cyclops. The screenplay does nothing to this potentially interesting character. We get to see that he has superhuman strength and fire does not hurt him.

However, the human element is lost. Because he is a cyclops, a select few hold a level of prejudice against him. None of it is explored in a meaningful way and so when those people who eventually come around and “learn” a lesson, they come off disingenuous. Furthermore, the relationship between the siblings is not given enough gravity. Percy, who should be the most interesting character of them all, is reduced to being reluctant to call Tyson “brother.” Really? Why not perhaps explore real emotions—like jealousy—since Percy feels that their father is closer to Tyson?

Action sequences seem very similar to one another. Oh, there’s trouble? Percy takes out his sword and swings it about. He loses grip on his weapon? Well, that’s what fists are for! Whatever happened to teamwork and creativity? Percy and his friends are supposedly on a journey together and yet we do not get a chance to feel their bond, how well they work together, and why each of them is a necessary piece to succeed on their mission.

The villain is as boring as a brick under the sun. Luke (Jake Abel), son of Hermes (Nathan Fillion—a breath of fresh air), does nothing interesting other than to look like a constipated Bond villain who tries too hard to look menacing. I did not believe for a second, at this stage in his rivalry with Percy, that he is a formidable enemy.

Based on Rick Riordan’s novel, “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” need not have darker content or tone than its predecessor to be interesting, but it must increase the ante somehow or else it risks doing the same thing. In the end, I felt as though its universe did not at all progress despite the material laying groundwork for another sequel.