Gemini Man

When I was in my twenties while on a trip to Jamaica I met an artist who lived in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. He connected me for a couple of summers to a somewhat free flowing party crowd filled with interesting people I never would have met otherwise. Some were artists. One woman claimed to be Louisa May Alcott’s granddaughter. Her last name was Alcott. I asked. She seemed surprised that I knew the name. Or maybe she was just messing with me. But strange things like that happened, and I was never sure whom I could entirely trust.
My friends and I were invited to lots of parties in the area. Other events, well, we just showed up. But we were frequent enough participants to begin recognizing people and to be recognized by others. Tim Kazurinsky, a Chicago comedian from the early days of Saturday Night Live was at one event. That was fun. And then there was the evening when a small crowd of people stood across a backyard patio, looking at me, giggling and pointing. Eventually they sent an ambassador over who began to question me:
            “Oh my God, what are you doing here?”
I was completely taken aback. Stunned silent, actually.
            “No, seriously, who do you know here? Are you following us?”
It wasn’t until I began to protest my innocence that the inquisitor took a shocked step back, said “Oh, that’s weird, you look just like…” and here I can’t even begin to fill in the name. It doesn’t matter. I had a doppelganger. Someone who looked so much like me I could have switched places. Only our voices set us apart.
So, the premise of Gemini Man was strangely relatable for me. Will Smith plays Henry Brogan, a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) sniper with seemingly super human abilities when it comes to shooting under impossible conditions. The movie begins with Brogan on his belly awaiting the arrival of a bullet train in a foreign locale. He is on a hill 2 kilometers away and the train is moving at 238 km per hour. His target is sitting in a window seat, and he becomes disillusioned when he misses the shot due to a last minute distraction. He hits the target in the neck instead of the head.
Retirement is Henry’s choice as a result of this disappointing performance, along with the development, as in many older soldiers, of a conscience. Never mind he already has 72 high profile kills to his credit. But you don’t leave DIA unless they want you to, and thus begins a tale of espionage, betrayal and ultimately, Brogan coming face to face with a younger clone of himself, sent to kill him.
The clone, a marvel of computer generated imagery, is Smith at age 25. The older Smith, age 51, is beginning to slow, to succumb to his doubts and fears. “Junior” as the clone is known has been trained since birth as a weapon, with all of the older Smith’s strengths and none of his weaknesses.
As the story develops, we are introduced to Dani, a covert DCI agent assigned to monitor Brogan. Played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, known most recently as Laurel Healy from the TV series Braindead, and Nikki Swango on the 2017 Fargo series, her cover is blown and she becomes a target along with Brogan.
We meet Clay Verris (Clive Owen), head of Gemini Global Defenses, a mercenary company of highly trained special operations soldiers, and Junior’s adopted father. Junior must come to terms with the truth of his identity, any remaining hope of becoming a normal member of society and the need to break away from the madness that has gripped Verris. There are rumors within the agency that there are plans that extend far beyond simple cloning to the creation of an army of soulless super soldiers, devoid of pain and fear.
            “We can spare parents the grief of seeing their child come home in a box,” is Clay’s moral imperative for his utterly immoral God-play.
The University of Illinois’ own Ang Lee (Brokeback MountainLife of Pi) directed Gemini Man. It was shot at the high frame rate of 120 frames per second, which gives it an intensity and hyper reality that compliments the incredible de-ageing of Will Smith. That special effect is rarely disruptive, and then only slightly so. I wondered if I would have questioned the animated appearance of young Smith at all had I not known to watch for it. That computers are clearly at the point at which actors are almost optional brings us closer to the day when talent is merely licensed and voiced-over once sufficient star power has been established. Or will completely artificial personages have stars of their own on the Hollywood walk of fame?
Gemini Man is exciting, as believable as any modern super spy thriller, well scripted, nicely acted (Smith versus Smith side by side had to be a challenge) and filled with numerous switchbacks, chase scenes and exotic locations.

Gemini Man (2019) runs 1 hour 57 minutes and is rated PG-13.
Should I see this movie?  

The Addams Family

On a dark and stormy night, Gomez and Morticia Addams, fleeing a torch-bearing mob of angry villagers, run over a large straight-jacketed man on a winding mountain road.
            “We’ve HIT something!” Gomez proclaims gleefully.
That giant human form is none other than Lurch, escapee from a nearby insane asylum. Taking him along as an adopted butler on their quest for a spooky home of their own, the adventure begins and Lurch is on hand to answer the door with the classic, “You rang?”
            “We need to find somewhere horrible to call our own. Someplace corrupt. Where no one in their right mind would want to live!” proclaims Gomez.
A flash of lightning reveals the following road sign: 

What gives screenwriter Matt Lieberman the right to make fun of New Jersey this way? Well, for one, Westfield, New Jersey was the birthplace of the cartoon’s creator Charles Addams in 1912. The community is now the site of the second annual AddamsFest, expecting 12,000 attendees from 85 towns this October.
Our screening of the latest animated Addams Family film was well attended. It appears the ghoulish cast of characters, originally created in 1938, has retained the appeal brought to life (irony intended) by the 1964 television sitcom starring John Astin and Carolyn Jones. It was a strange time in television history, with the Munsters debuting the same year. The two shows were Halloweenish, macabre fun at its best.
Subsequent films in 1990 (The Addams Family) and 1993 (Addams Family Values) starred the gigantic Ted Cassidy, reprising his original role as Lurch, along with Raul Julia and Angelica Huston as Gomez and Morticia respectively. Over the years, the franchise has spun off various cartoon series, games, movies, television specials and even a live musical production.
While this is perhaps not a compelling story or even a spectacular 3D computer animation, it is a fun feature that introduces a host of other Addams family members, albeit too briefly. All of the regulars are here, nicely voiced by current Hollywood talent, not leastly Charlize Theron (Morticia), who seems able to do just about anything, and is proving it with her most recent half dozen spectrum-wide assignments.
The Addams clan settles happily into their abandoned insane asylum, a decrepit, castle-like structure on a hill overlooking a planned community known as Assimilation, being hyped for imminent sale by big-haired reality TV personality Margaux Needler. When the surrounding swamp is drained, a protective fog evaporates and reveals the distracting house of horrors on the hill nearby. But the Addams’ want nothing more than to be accepted for who they are, as does Needler’s daughter Parker. She and Wednesday Addams strike up a symbiotic friendship, each of them learning about acceptance by emulating the other and rebelling against their respective mothers.
Meanwhile, Pugsley is failing to prepare adequately for the longstanding Addams traditional Mazurka, a sword juggling orchestrated performance that the entire Addams extended family has arrived to witness. Queue another rock-hurling mob action, this one prompted by social media savvy Ms. Needler from her subterranean surveillance lair, and Pugsley proves to have a very particular and useful set of skills. Even the spirit of the Addams house returns following a makeover that leaves it looking a bit too pastel and pretty.
Lurch is given several nice solos on pipe organ, piano, and of course harpsichord. Thing is on hand (pun definitely intended) to encourage the selection of tunes for the opening and closing sequences. And here I have to say was the highlight of the film at our viewing. When Lurch played the well-known Addams Family theme (They’re creepy and they’re kooky…) our entire audience began snapping their fingers in unison at the appropriate spots in the song. It was like a ghastly campfire sing-along, with laughter instead of singing, and a finger-snapping good time.
So gather with your shawl on,
A broomstick you can crawl on,
You’ll want to pay a call on…the Addams Family!
SNAP! SNAP!

The Addams Family (2019) runs 1 hour 27 minutes and is rated PG.
Should I see this movie?  

No Time to Die

We saw the long-awaited James Bond film recently. And not surprisingly, I began this review with the wrong title, not that it matters. The f...