Stream it on Apple TV+.
Benjamin Cleary’s thoughtful film is set in a near future that seems within reach: people travel in sleek trains and driverless electric cars; they have cameras in their contact lenses. And although it is not (yet) widespread, human cloning has become a reality. Because he has a terminal illness, Cameron (Mahershala Ali, carrying the film effortlessly) decides to secretly replace himself with a clone so that his wife (Naomie Harris) and their young son are spared the grief of his death. Cameron flees to an isolated facility run by Dr. Scott (Glenn Close), where his consciousness is uploaded into a “molecularly regenerated” copy of his body. But then Cameron struggles to let go: Cameron 2 is himself—only one little mole sets them apart—and yet he isn’t, causing complex feelings of fear, jealousy, and defensiveness. One of the few people to understand the situation is Kate (Awkwafina), a dying woman who is spending her last days in Dr. Scott’s compound after being replaced in the outside world by a clone. Bathed in the cold palette and cool detailing (these characters are listening to music on vinyl, of course) that’s de rigueur for this kind of arty sci-fi, “Swan Song” gets a little mopey, but it’s also insightful on difficulty in making important decisions. And this postulates a situation that is perhaps not so far away.
Rent or buy on most major platforms.
Roland Emmerich’s latest – such a guilty pleasure it deserves a life sentence – is the polar opposite of “Swan Song”, but the films share a big plot element that he would cruel to spoil. The author of the explosive disaster of “The Day After Tomorrow” and “2012” stays true to himself with a story in which the moon that bursts from its orbit causes large-scale destruction on Earth. A former astronaut (Patrick Wilson), a NASA mucky-muck (Halle Berry) and a “fringe astronomer” (John Bradley, Samwell Tarly on “Game of Thrones”) team up to find out what’s going on and prevent the annihilation of our planet. Naturally, Emmerich also makes room for a frayed father-son relationship that is in dire need of repair. The movie really takes off when it recycles familiar crackpot conspiracy theories to amusing effect – it turns out the moon isn’t made of cheese after all. Emmerich builds it up to a finale that’s crazy even by his own standards. Madness (pun intended) is epic, and the best possible response is to embrace it.
Despite the name, the second entry in this month’s lunar double-header is actually set on Mars, or mostly en route to it. A romantic comedy that attracts opposites with a YA bent, the film pairs barista Walt (Cole Sprouse, of “Riverdale”) and high-achieving student Sophie (Lana Condor, of “To All the Boys” franchise) on a journey to the Red Planet, where they plan to reunite with their respective loved ones. The two leads have a comfortable chemistry, especially once you get used to Sprouse’s gravity-defying hair. The moral of “Moonshot,” set in the year 2049, is that going to Mars won’t solve what’s ailing you, which is a good lesson for young lovers as well as billionaires. Indeed, Christopher Winterbauer’s film has sharp zingers under its mellow exterior – Zach Braff is perfectly cast as an Elon Musk-style manipulative tech mogul who promotes catchphrases such as “Together we can build a better world…on a different world.
Stream it on Netflix.
“Attack on Titan” is one of the most successful anime franchises of the last decade, so it’s worth paying attention when one of its main directors, Tetsuro Araki, enters another project – and another vibe. . As gigantic and violent creatures hunt humans in the dark “Titan”, Araki’s new feature “Bubble” takes a slightly softer view. In it, Tokyo has been flooded, leading the remaining residents to compete in parkour teams around the half-submerged city (the setting evokes a friendlier version of JG Ballard’s “The Drowned World” or “New York 2140” by Kim Stanley Robinson). The plot revolves around the champion “battlekour” Hibiki and the mysterious Uta, who lures him in with her song. Their relationship echoes that of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Mermaid” with touches of “The Odyssey,” which admittedly aren’t the most feminist stories. But the film, despite a few random moments, creates a fascinating world, and Araki is a terrific director of video game-like action scenes – it’s easy to go with the flow.
Last month, Amy Seimetz left the HBO series “The Idol,” starring The Weeknd and which she directed. There was the usual hubbub over creative and other differences, and you have to wonder if the powers that be had paid enough attention to the actress-director’s weirdly odd 2020 film before hiring her – they might have been a little better prepared for his style. “She Dies Tomorrow” uses disruptive narrative methods to tell a story of fractured inner landscapes, beginning with that of Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil), who is suddenly struck with the certainty that she will perish the next day. As if that weren’t enough, the people around her begin to think that the same fate awaits them. “I feel like you put this idea of dying in my head,” Amy’s friend Jane (Jane Adams) tells her. Whether this is social contagion, a startling case of unleashed influence, or a powerful doomsday premonition is hard to tell. It’s the kind of movie that’d rather get under the skin than offer explanation, and it demands to be accepted on its own fractured terms.