Movie reviews: 'Chaos Walking' is a generic dystopian tale of unrealized potential
Tom Holland is seen in the film "Chaos Walking." (3 Arts Entertainment)
CHAOS WALKING: 2 STARS
On paper “Chaos Walking,” a new dystopian movie starring Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland and now on PVOD, seems like a can’t fail for sci-fi fans. In execution, however, the story of a world where men’s thoughts are manifested for all to see, is a letdown.
Based on “The Knife of Never Letting Go,” the first book of the Patrick Ness “Chaos Walking” trilogy, the story takes place in the year 2557 in a place called Prentisstown on the planet New World. Colonized by refugees from Earth, New World’s original inhabitants, the Spackle, fought back, slaughtering many of the male settlers and all the women. The surviving men contracted something called “The Noise.”
“It happened when we landed on the planet,” says Mayor Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen). “Every thought in our heads is on display.”
Prentisstown residents, like Todd Hewitt (Holland), walk around with their thoughts exposed like wisps of multicolored cigarette smoke swirling around their heads.
When her spaceship crash lands on New World, it leaves earth woman Viola (Ridley) stranded in this strange world. Todd, who has never seen a woman before, helps her navigate the dangers of her new home, as they both discover the deeply held secrets of New World.
“Chaos Walking” has ideas that feel ripe for satire, social commentary and drama but squanders them in favour of crafting a tepid young adult friendly dystopian story. Todd’s “Noise” reveals the kind of thoughts a teenager may have when first laying eyes on a girl, although in a g-rated fashion. His inner voice mumbles “Pretty” in Viola’s presence, but that’s about as deep into his psyche we get. It’s a shame because the “Noise” device could have been used to provide some much-needed humour into this earnest story. Or to more effectively drive the plot or the tension between the two characters.
Instead, it is inert, a ploy to add some interest to a generic dystopian tale.
“Chaos Walking” was shot in 2017, deemed unreleasable, and has been fiddled with ever since. It hits PVOD as a film of unrealized potential, a minor footnote on the IMDB pages of its stars.
TINY TIM: KING FOR A DAY: 3 ½ STARS
There was a short time when Herbert Khaury, a.k.a. the falsetto-voiced Tiny Tim, was one of the biggest and most unlikely pop stars in the world.
In 1968 he had a top twenty hit with “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” a cover of a song that originally appeared in the 1929 movie “Gold Diggers of Broadway.” He appeared on “Laugh In” and played at the Royal Albert Hall. The following year, forty million people tuned in to see him marry Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, earning the second-highest rating to the man walking on the moon. There were Tiny Tim bobble heads, dolls and games, and he was even mentioned by Snoopy in a Peanuts cartoon.
“It sounds strange to say that Tiny Tim arrived at a time when the country needed a Tiny Tim,” says television producer George Schlatter, “but we did. The world was screwed up, not unlike it is today. We needed someone who was that sweet, vulnerable and kind. Tim walked in and became a national hero.”
Then, almost as quickly as it began, Tiny Mania waned. A new documentary, “Tiny Tim: King for a Day,” now streaming via the Yuk Yuk’s website, paints a picture of an outsider artists who endured ridicule in return for the warm embrace of applause.
Narrated by “Weird Al” Yankovic and featuring animation, archival clips, readings from Tim’s diaries, musical numbers and interviews with those who knew him best, the documentary goes beyond the falsetto to reveal a performer who was haunted by shame, sexual suppression, religious stress with women and memories of his brief time at the top.
“When you look at where Herbert Khaury begins and Tiny Tim ends,” says biographer Justin A Martell, “nothing was ever normal from top to bottom, from start to finish.”
At just seventy-five minutes “Tiny Tim: King for a Day” steps lively through Tiny’s story.
Interviews with his daughter and his third wife Susan Marie Gardner, combined with the diary readings, provide insight lacking from some of the other talking heads who tend toward platitudes.
The music may not be for everyone—1960s icon Wavy Gravy says, “People either got it, or they didn’t.”—but the beyond the bromides is an extraordinary story of resilience and of walking one’s own path.
Watch “Tiny Tim: King for a Day” via Eventive in partnership with YukYuk's:
THE MARIJUANA CONSPIRACY: 3 ½ STARS
The road to legal weed has been a twisty, turny journey with many strange detours along the way, including a Canadian study called Project Venus. A new film, “The Marijuana Conspiracy,” now on VOD, details the inner workings of a true-to-life experiment that assigned “toke times" to a group of female test subjects.
Set in 1972, the story begins as a group of young women are recruited to take part, as paid subjects, in a provincially funded cannabis study. The women were isolated and supplied with marijuana. In return a team of nurses and scientists studied their reactions and did brain, kidney and blood tests.
What the women didn’t know is that they are being used as shills, test subjects in a clinical investigation determined to prove that marijuana use will lead to lowered productivity.
When the 98-day study didn’t return the results the organizers hoped for, they secretly increased the THC levels in an attempt to prove their hypothesis that smoking weed will lead to some kind of reefer madness.
“The Marijuana Conspiracy” is a multi-pronged story. It’s an historical exposé of the unethical treatment of human subjects in a bogus medical study. In light of the pandemic, it’s also a timely comment on the efficacy of government studies in regards to health concerns. Most of all, and best of all, it is also a carefully constructed portrait of the friendship and resilience of the women.
Director and screenwriter Craig Pryce gives the ensemble cast time to establish their characters and allow the audience to understand why each and every one of them signed up for this unorthodox experiment. What could have been an exercise in finger pointing instead has a deep core of humanity.
As we follow these characters they grow and adapt to their circumstances, always with an eye to the future. Solid performances from Tymika Tafari, Julia Sarah Stone, Morgan Kohan, Kyla Avril Young and Alanna Bale and carefully curated 70s period details bring the individual stories to life. Marie Ward’s performance as Nurse Alice, imagine a Nurse Ratched type, has a nice, unexpected arc that adds layers of texture to an already detailed story.
“The Marijuana Conspiracy” mixes and matches docu-drama with humour and even a taste a of horror to tell an interesting story of ulterior motives, exploitation and regulation all bound together with empathy and just a bit of intrigue.