Life review Jake Gyllenhaal hits the retro rockets for sub-Alien space horror

Gyllenhall and Ryan Reynolds play members of a scientific team investigation material from Mars that turns out to contain a hostile life-form

Like the anonymous phone call in a horror film that turns out to be coming from inside the house, Life is a sci-fi thriller about a contamination crisis: a crisis that goes on pretty much uninterruptedly for around an hour and three quarters. Its a serviceable, watchable, determinedly unoriginal film starring Jake Gyllenhaal about a parasite-predator in a spaceship, a creature which can only survive by feeding off a pre-existing host. The expressions on the spacepersons faces here may give a guide to the feelings of Ridley Scott and everyone involved with the 1979 classic Alien when they see it. Life is indebted to Alien, to say the least, although its final, perfunctory hint of a conspiracy doesnt approach Aliens powerful satirical pessimism.

Actually, Lifes screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (known for box-office smash Deadpool) seem also to have been as impressed as everyone else by Alfonso Cuarns sci-fi drama Gravity, with their scenes of lone astronauts wobbling about outside the spaceship which is always liable to get smashed to low-tech smithereens. At the last moment, Reese and Wernick and director Daniel Espinosa hit their retro-rockets for a neat little 180-degree twist, thankfully reversing the prevailing mood of sucrose fatalism. It has the audience leaving the cinema with ironic grins on their faces.

Life is about a liaison spacecraft which at some time in the future is hovering outside Earths atmosphere, acting as both floating science lab and halfway house. An automated craft is about to arrive from Mars after a long flight, freighted with red rock and dust. The crew must effectively catch this craft, like a mailbag chucked from a speeding train, decant its contents and analyse them in secure conditions which mean that any possible bacteria contained in this material dont infect anyone down on earth. But to their astonishment and excitement, the crew find that within the dust is what looks like a tiny, living monocellular organism. They have given a big fat yes to David Bowies immortal question.

Loyal … Ryan Reynolds in Life. Photograph: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

A schoolkid back on the home planet wins a competition to name this entity and her choice of Calvin might annoy the Catholic church until it becomes clear what kind of a creature Calvin is. Its growing at an alarming rate in its petri dish, like a little two-armed jellyfish the size of a nickel. Then it grabs the little spatula with which one of the scientists is prodding it, with surprising strength and hostility. And it keeps on growing.

The crew itself is international and diverse: their missions sponsors are described as American, Russian and Chinese although that might just be a description of the films target market territories. Gyllenhaal is the quiet, introspective Dr David Jordan, Ryan Reynolds plays hot-tempered and fiercely loyal crew member Roy Adams, who is a good friend to the chief scientist Dr Hugh Derry, played by Ariyon Bakare. Rebecca Ferguson plays the supervising medic Dr Miranda North and Olga Dihovnichnaya is another scientist, Katarina Golovkin.

As Calvin gets bigger and bigger and more and more resourceful, the film seems always to be echoing to the sound of doors and pods and hatches being clanged shut, just in time, as Calvin lands on them with an almighty squelch or too late, and Calvin slithers through. Perhaps its appropriate for a country obsessed with walls and boundaries. The metaphorical potential is cutely signalled early on when Rory says that the teams proposal to cultivate an organism from the tiny life-form is some Reanimator shit a movie reference Dr North dismisses as irritatingly obscure, although the Frankensteinian-hubris parallel isnt wholly out of line. Later, Adams is seen with a copy of Freuds Interpretation of Dreams, and it could be that in dreams, or in waking life, the idea of a yucky, tiny little beastie getting bigger and bigger signals all kinds of fear: fear of sex, fear of invasion, fear of penetration. However, the legendary jump-scare for John Hurt at the beginning of Alien did all that much more effectively.

The crews memories of the kids bedtime book Goodnight Moon are supposed to lend a little gentleness and humanity to the film, and a bit of a narrative breather, but this third-act conceit only succeeds in replacing a creeping sense of tiredness with sentimentality. Much better is the jeopardy and tension of the movies final sequence. He leaves it very late, but Espinosa brings his film back to life.

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Sunny Pawar in Lion: He was just a normal boy; now a Hollywood star lives in our area

The eight-year-old actor received a heros welcome as he returned home to a slum from the Oscars. His family are dealing with the fame from his role in Lion

Its 11am and the Pawar family are dressed to impress. The women have put on sparkling saris and the men are in clean, ironed shirts. The man of the moment, eight-year-old Sunny, the child star of the Oscar-nominated film Lion, is inside the house, getting his face aggressively powdered by an aunt, while an uncle sprays him with perfume and adjusts his oversized jacket. Ive come at a bad time, clearly, but the family are polite enough to invite me to stay as they prepare for a photo op with a local politician.

The domestic chaos is a stark contrast to the glitzy, star-studded life Sunny has led for the past three months while touring America to promote the film. Sunny plays a young Saroo Brierley, who was separated from his biological mother aged five before being adopted by Australian parents. The film, based on Brierleys autobiography, A Long Way Home, has received international acclaim, including six Academy Award nominations and two Bafta wins.

Sitting outside his family home in the Kunchi Kurve Nagar slum near Mumbais airport, Sunny recalls being whisked around the world with an international film crew. It was like a dream, he says. Neither he nor his father had left India. First Kolkata, then Indore, then Australia and then America for three months.

The whirlwind journey ended last week after the Oscars, where a beaming Sunny was lifted into the air by the host Jimmy Kimmel, as The Lion Kings title track played in the background. Some have criticised Kimmel for using Sunny as a prop in a racist joke, but Sunny doesnt see it that way. It was fun. I loved it, he says.

Sunny and his father returned to India on a flight that landed at 2am on Wednesday. A swarm of local news crews and journalists greeted them at the airport along with a mob of relatives. He has brought a good name to our whole family, says Raviraj, a distant relative who was there. We all went and nobody knew where the arrival gate was, so all of us were squashed in that airport lift, going up and down until we found him.

They beat drums, they set off fireworks, says Dilip, Sunnys father. They brought flowers and covered him with garlands. The reporters crowded around him, Sunny look here, Sunny do this. They even came back to our house with us, and they stayed until 4am. They wouldnt leave until Sunnys grandfather shouted at them for harassing the kid, he says.

In Mumbai, home to the worlds most prolific film industry, making it into the movies is the epitome of success. Thousands of people travel to the city from small towns and villages around the country every day, hoping to be cast in a Bollywood blockbuster. But with a tightly knit, powerful film fraternity that rarely embraces outsiders, successes like Sunnys are few and precious. He was selected from over 2,000 children, says Dilip. They came to his school to do auditions, and the director says he was a natural in front of the camera.

Sunnys family are from humble origins. His father used to sweep streets, but was fired for having too many days off to take Sunny to auditions. For the past two years, he has been Sunnys business manager, touring the world and helping him practise lines on set. I never, ever thought Id reach this point in my life, says Dilip. My first son, and he has made me so proud.

The film has turned Sunny into a local hero. Posters slapped on the slums walls read: Congratulations Sunny on your achievement. Outside the house, the family have set up a stage, carpeted in red and covered in confetti left over from a welcome home ceremony. There is a floor-to-ceiling photo montage of Sunny meeting American celebrities, as well as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Children from the slum who wander past after school point excitedly at the pictures, whispering, Thats Sunny meeting the Rock, referring to the WWE wrestler-turned-actor, Dwayne Johnson. All of them claim theyve watched Sunnys film, though its easy to call their bluff as none of them recognises Dev Patel, the films lead actor, who also starred in Slumdog Millionaire. He must be some singer or something, says one child. No, hes Sunnys acting coach, says another.

He was just a normal little boy, says Vasu, Sunnys mother. Now everybody says, Oh, a Hollywood star lives in our neighbourhood. Overnight, Ive become the mother of a movie star. She admits she hasnt seen the film yet. I was waiting for Sunny and his dad to come home so we could watch it together, as a family. But Im so proud.

Sunny was only five when he started auditioning for the role of Saroo. Between travelling to locations for shoots, he attends the government-run Air India Modern school where, he says, he gets none of the benefits of being a movie star. None of the kids treat me differently. Its exactly the same as before. They havent even seen the film, he says.

The role has given Sunny new ambitions. I want to work in Hollywood, Bollywood, everything, he says. Ive learned so much, like the sign language of the director for example. When he signals, I know I have to be sad, he says. Its hard work. You have to follow all their instructions and you have to try to show real emotion, from the heart.

Nobody ever taught him to act. He learned it on his own by watching TV, says Dilip. He loves watching Rajinikanth, he says, referring to a south Indian actor whose film release dates have been declared holidays by companies in an effort to avoid hundreds of staff requests for leave.

I like his action scenes, says Sunny, jumping in. I hope I can work in an action movie like that one day.

Though Dilip and Sunnys tour of America coincided with Donald Trumps arrival in the White House, they remained oblivious to rising anti-immigrant sentiment sweeping the country. We got there when Obama was still president so we didnt have any visa troubles like I know others have, Dilip says, in reference to Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian film-maker who could not travel to America to receive his Oscar because of Trumps travel ban. We did not feel for a second like foreigners there. The people there have done so much for us, says Dilip. When you go to work, they give you so much respect and love. The whole public is appreciating Sunny, they made him a suit to wear, they took him to the Oscars. They treated us like we were members of their family, really. There was no question about race or religion.

Despite their new fame, the family still live in their same small house. I ask naively to see Sunnys bedroom. Dilip laughs. This is chawl, madam. There are no bedrooms here, he says, referring to labourers accommodation. He shows me a brightly coloured room with peeling paint and bare walls, except a Ganesh-themed calendar. Here we roll out mattresses and sleep.

Outside, in a metal cupboard, the family keep their valuables. Perfumes and jewellery are pulled out, tested and replaced, as they rush to get ready to visit the local politician who has asked to meet Kunchi Kurve Nagars new star. I ask how many people live under the same roof. Its our whole extended family, Dilip says. Ive never counted but it must be more than 50 of us.

Sunnys family were initially reluctant to let him work in the film. One of Sunnys aunts had cancer, she was very sick. At that time, we were trying to sort out all his passport, visas, so he could travel. Then she died, and in our tradition, you have to spend a month in mourning. So we were going to pull out of the whole thing, Dilip recalls. I had told the producers no, we cant come. But then the family really supported us. They said, no you have to go, its such a big opportunity for Sunny. And he really wanted to do it. So we went.

Two taxis pull up outside the house and the family pile in. The politician is waiting, one relative says, hinting that our interview has concluded. I ask Dilip what he plans for Sunnys future, and whether he will go back to work. Lets see, he says. For now, all our days are filled with doing interviews and meet-and-greets. Sunny will go back to school, he will take his exams. But maybe he will get more film work. Who knows? We havent planned anything.

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Academy president on Oscars boycott: Trump ban made ‘artists into activists’

Speaking at the annual Oscar luncheon, Cheryl Boone Isaacs criticized Trumps travel ban that has led to several nominees saying they will sit out ceremony

Amid the opulence and grandeur of the Beverly Hilton ballroom, president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs used her speech at the annual Oscar nominee luncheon to criticize Donald Trumps executive order banning entry for travellers from certain muslim countries, saying: America should always be not a barrier but a beacon.

Last year at the luncheon nominees referred to an elephant in the room which was the burgeoning outrage over diversity; this year it was the absence of film-makers affected by the travel ban. Taraneh Alidoosti, who stars in nominated film The Salesman, and the films director Asghar Farhadi both said they would not attend the ceremony in reaction to the recent actions and executive orders of president Trump.

Each and everyone of us knows that there are some empty chairs in this room which has made academy artists [into] activists, said Boone Issacs, addressing their absence.

There is a struggle globally today over artistic freedom that feels more urgent than at any time since the 1950s. Art has no borders. Art has no language, and doesnt belong to a single faith. No. The power of art is that it transcends all these things and strong societies dont censor art; they celebrate it.

She added that America should be a beacon rather than serving as a barrier to creative freedom. We stand up in support of artists around the world we stand up to those who would try to limit our freedom of expression and we stand up for this fundamental principle: that all creative artists around the world are connected by that unbreakable bond, and more powerful and permanent than nationality and politics. And just as our work does not stop at borders, borders cannot be allowed to stop any of us.

Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali arrive for the nominee luncheon. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Boone Issacs also suggested that the academy played a role in shaping public opinion over issues such as diversity. She said: When we expand our membership, when we reach out to be inclusive, we set a shining example. When our storytellers tackle issues of importance from religious intolerance to racism to sexism we become agents of change.

The defiant tone was decidedly different to last year when Boone Issacs was in defensive mode as the #OscarsSoWhite controversy played out during the 2016 awards season. There were references to the work she has done since then, such as introducing 683 new academy members (46% were women and 41% people of color), who will have a say on who wins the awards, saying that over the last 12 months real progress has been made.

That progress could be seen in this years nominations as the academy managed to avoid having a third consecutive year without any nominees of color in the acting categories. This year nominations include: Denzel Washington and Viola Davis for Fences, Ruth Negga for Loving, Dev Patel for Lion, Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures and Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali for Moonlight.

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Flying Lotus reacts to walkouts at Kuso’s Sundance screening: ‘I tried to warn folks’

Musicians first feature-length film prompted some to leave screening due to its graphic content, with one site calling it the grossest movie ever made

Electronica star turned film-maker Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison) says he tried to warn people about the nature of his first feature-length film after reports of mass walkouts during screenings at this years Sundance film festival.

The film, Kuso, which was described as a mix of live action, puppetry and animation in its promotional material, was screened as part of the film festivals Midnight selection.

Technology website the Verge called the film the grossest movie ever made, criticizing the gore and mutilation before adding: Its really easy to imagine Kusos creators laughing at critics trying to apply meaning where there is none.

Kusos trailer

On Wednesday, Flying Lotus tweeted to address the reports, claiming that critics had been warned about the content and that less than two dozen people left the premiere early.

It was only like 20 people out of like 400 who walked out, he wrote. Wasnt as dramatic as they make it out to be. I tried to warn folks.

He also tweeted that the press screening was where the large walkouts took place before adding that hes considering distributing the film himself after the initial reaction.

FLYLO (@flyinglotus)

All this talk makes me not want to sell Kuso and self distro myself.

January 26, 2017

The film features an appearance from George Clinton and was co-written by British film-maker David Firth, who is best known for his Salad Fingers cartoon and his contributions to Charlie Brookers Screenwipe. When an earlier version of Kuso screened at a short film, Pitchfork reported that some audience members were given sick bags before it started.

Ellison has made films before, and at last years Sundance festival his short film collaboration with Eddie Alcazar, FUCKKKYOUUU, screened and in 2015 he provided the score for Khalil Josephs m.A.A.d., which was part of the festivals NEXT competition.

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Who thinks Meryl Streep is overrated? Trump, Clooney and Streep herself

The Fantastic Mr Fox star showed his support for his co-star after the president-elect went on the attack over her Golden Globes speech

It turns out that president-elect Trump shares more opinions with those out-of-touch liberal movie people than he might like to acknowledge. After all, the view that Meryl Streep is an overrated actor was first expressed 12 years ago by Meryl Streep herself. Picking up her 2004 Emmy for best actress in Angels in America, she admitted to the audience: You know, there are some days when I myself think I am overrated. This was met by the same cacophony of laughter that presumably greeted Trumps tweets this week, in which he lambasted Streep as one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood.

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They Live: John Carpenter’s action flick needs to be saved from neo-Nazis

Far-right antisemites have claimed Carpenters anti-Reagan 80s action flick as an allegory for Jewish media control. That couldnt be further from the truth

Pity the poor artists whose work is wrested away from them and used to nefarious, often political, ends. Its one thing to talk about the death of the author, quite another to hear that hit song you wrote used as intro-music at campaign rallies for a politician you despise. Then theres that awkward moment when your work is feted and celebrated for all the wrong reasons by exactly the wrong kind of audience.

That happened to director John Carpenter when neo-Nazis and antisemites took to claiming on white power websites that Carpenters campily paranoid 1988 sci-fi action flick They Live, was an allegory for Jewish control of the world. This meme has been floating around the stagnant white-supremacist backwaters of the internet since about 2008, disappearing and then resurfacing as dependably as herpes ever since.

Carpenter tweeted in words he probably never imagined himself having to use: THEY LIVE is about yuppies and unrestrained capitalism. It has nothing to do with Jewish control of the world, which is slander and a lie.

In the movie, a nameless, homeless protagonist (played by Canadian pro-wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper) stumbles into a worldwide conspiracy when he finds a pair of sunglasses that enable him to see the world as it really is. Advertising billboards for conventional products now reveal their subliminal subtexts: OBEY and SUBMIT and CONSUME. MARRY AND REPRODUCE. NO INDEPENDENT THOUGHT. Further, he can now see that about one in 10 of the people around him are ferociously ugly and scary robotic creatures with bacon-like skin and bulbous eyes. Theyre an alien race, it turns out, in the process of enslaving the Earth, mainly through the use of television, and exploiting its inhabitants until nothing remains. Then theyll move on to their next target planet. We are their cattle We are being bred for slavery, says one member of the underground resistance (mostly people living off the grid, and thus unsusceptible to media brainwashing). Were like a natural resource to them All we really are is livestock. Everything climaxes in the TV studio that, with the help of willing earthling collaborators, beams out subliminal propaganda to the clueless earthlings at home.

So in this vein of thinking, the aliens are the Jews, at least as the neo-Nazis perceive them, a parasitical, invasive race of inhuman exploiters, and the collaborators are those literal betes noires of the far right, the race traitors. The media, in this reading, is just the Jew media of the white rights fever dreams. Meanwhile, the two-fisted homeless heroes are the racially enlightened battalions of StormFront and their ilk, and the sunglasses represent that common rite of passage for a budding young Brownshirt, the racial awakening.

The racial awakening is the white supremacist equivalent of being born again. A shift in perspective, accompanied by a jettisoning of the intolerable shackles of political correctness, and suddenly you see everything history, society, economics, culture entirely in racial terms, literally in black and white. Somewhere in their attitude to the revelatory sunglasses one detects the whiff of projection.

Lets allow Carpenter to project his own thoughts. He gave his version after a screening of Halloween at the Hero Complex Film Festival in 2013 where the neo-Nazi interpretation, apparently then in remission, was not even mentioned. [They Live] was giving the finger to Reagan when nobody else would, he said. By the end of the 70s there was a backlash against everything in the 60s, and thats what the 80s were, and Ronald Reagan became president, and Reaganomics came in so a lot of the ideals that I grew up with were under assault, and something called a yuppie came into existence, and they just wanted money. And so by the late 80s, Id had enough, and I decided I had to make a statement, as stupid and banal as it is, but I made one, and thats They Live.

This is in line with what we know of Carpenters political attitudes, which on balance veer towards a kind of post-60s left-libertarianism. His best movies arose directly from the suburban ennui of the Eisenhower era he grew up in: atom-bomb drills in school, the Bomb itself, 1950s television, consumerism, mindless conformity. And of course from the movies of the time, which are chock-a-block with reference to invading aliens: The Thing From Another World (which Carpenter would remake in 1982), I Married a Monster from Outer Space, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Invasion of the Bodysnatchers by Don Siegel. That last movie has been dragged back and forth across the political spectrum too. Conservatives say its about the mindless conformity imposed by communism, leftwingers that its about the mindless conformity imposed by McCarthyism. Siegel wisely let them fight it out among themselves, but then, no one was accusing him a Jew of making a secretly antisemitic action movie.

The eye of the beholder rules all in this instance. Unlike the online Klansmen, I dont see anything Jewish about the invasive aliens or their use of media (you could just as easily argue it foresees Fox News). Instead, I see the Nazi occupation of France or Poland, made all the more frightening by the fact that they dont even know theyre occupied. However, I did spot the alien-robot politician on TV almost directly quoting and giving the finger to Reagans 1984 re-election campaign slogan: Its a new morning in America The nightmare Carpenter is trying to awaken from is a rightwing one, the Reagan Invasion. As Carpenter told the LA Weekly recently, What are you going to do? Its absolutely foolish.

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