James vs. His Future Self (DIR. Jeremy LaLonde)
Jeremy LaLonde’s recent movies have truly owned their genre in a unique way. The Go-Getters was a gleefully foul play on the traditional buddy formula, and How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town was a charming sex comedy. With James vs. His Future Self, LaLonde takes a swing at crossing science fiction with a romance – it’s a sweet success.
James (Jonas Chernick) aspires to find the winning solution to time travel by spending every waking moment perfecting his research. But by doing that, he often flakes out on his closest friend and working partner Courtney (Cleopatra Coleman) and his sister Meredith (Tommie-Amber Pirie). James’ world is flipped upside-down, however, when an older man (Daniel Stern) confronts him, claiming to be James’ future self. The older man, who eventually goes by Jimmy, is a brutally honest curmudgeon who urges James to kick the time travel obsession. When James refuses, Jimmy offers an ultimatum that won’t end well for the young, loner scientist if he goes against it.
Some of these roles are routine for LaLonde’s actors (I’ve seen Chernick pull out this same sadsack personality in several other movies), but that also means the acting appears effortless in this contemporary fantasy. Stern steals the show though, as he finds a charismatic balance between being warm and abrasive. The Home Alone actor has been recently typecast as a genial father figure. And although he’s great as that type of character, it’s so much fun to see him in a looser, more spontaneous element.
Movie goers who don’t mind the occasional rude joke will find James vs. His Future Self to be very endearing. Its overall message of not taking life for granted fits really well within this far-out concept.
– Addison Wylie
James vs. His Future Self screens at Toronto After Dark on Friday, October 18 at 9:30 pm at Scotiabank Theatre.
Making Monsters (DIR. Justin Harding, Rob Brunner)
What is the price of fame in our modern, social media-inundated world? That is the question that Making Monsters asks. Or rather the question it starts by asking. Unfortunately, the film goes off the tracks during the second act, dropping its original thesis to go with the tried-and-true instead.
Making Monsters follows a YouTube celebrity couple, Allison (Alana Elmer) and Chris (Tim Loden), as they attempt to build a life together, despite the constant surveillance of their lives. They are also the stars of a scary prank channel – Chris as the tormentor and Allison as his victim. When they begin the process of in-vitro fertilization, Allison makes Chris a deal: no more pranks; it is time for him to grow up. At this same point, Chris runs into an old friend who invites the two of them to come to his new home and stay for a while. When they get to his home for a relaxing evening, the couple finds themselves alone with the old friend’s fiancé, a large number of horror prosthetics, and a healthy dose of hallucinogens. Things begin to go wrong, as Allison begins seeing scary people around the house. Is it the drugs? Chris breaking their deal? Or, something else entirely?
When these questions start arising, the film decides to discard its interesting development for a generic cat-and-mouse-hack-and-slash flick. By the end of the third act, the original idea of internet fame returns and is re-established (using some lazy fearmongering techniques), but it’s too late. The original idea is beyond salvaging.
Don’t take this as a negative review, per se. Making Monsters is perfectly fine, even enjoyable. The actors are all quite good at appearing genuine and quirky. The make-up and practical effects are top-notch. Even the narrative manages to hit plenty of high notes. But based on the film’s foundation, Making Monsters is still a marginal disappointment.
– Shahbaz Khayambashi
Making Monsters screens at Toronto After Dark on Sunday, October 20 at 9:30 pm at Scotiabank Theatre.
For more information on the festival, visit the official Toronto After Dark website.
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