Movie Review ~ Zeros and Ones

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Called to Rome to stop an imminent terrorist bombing, a soldier desperately seeks news of his imprisoned brother — a rebel with knowledge that could thwart the attack. Navigating the capital’s darkened streets, he races to a series of ominous encounters to keep the Vatican from being blown up.

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Cristina Chiriac, Phil Neilson, Anna Ferrara, Salvatore Ruocco, Valerio Mastandrea, Babak Karimi

Director: Abel Ferrara

Rated: R

Running Length: 85 minutes

TMMM Score: (1/10)

Review:  I’m going to relay an anecdote to you and I wanted you to go with me on this journey.  OK? 

OK.

I only watched The Oprah Winfrey Show on a regular basis for its last season because, what can I say, I was simply a very late adopter when it came to the most popular talk show on the planet.  During that last season I was watching an interview with The Judds, Naomi and Wynonna to be exact, and they were talking about their relationship and how they made it work.  More than anything, when she was faced with a bad situation that was what it was but that she had some control over her participation in, Wynonna said that she had learned to say to a number of things in her life “That may be fine for you but that doesn’t work for me.” and then being willing to get up and leave that particular situation in the past.  I think I had what Oprah would classify as an “A-Ha!” moment right then and there and I never looked back.  I often use that phrase in times when I’m feeling cornered, step back, and recognize I actually do have more autonomy over my actions than I originally thought.

You get this lengthy look into my brain today for a few reasons.  One, it makes this post that much longer because I have so little to say about director Abel Ferrara’s newest film Zeros and Ones that I had to think of something else to include in my write-up.  I also needed to give you background into why I made it through all 85 minutes of this film (yes, you actually DO have to watch to the very end of this movie) and then said “That doesn’t work for me.” turned off my TV, and went directly to bed.  Naming your film after the scores the movie will likely get is very prophetic on the part of Ferrara, so the longtime director with his fair share of hits and misses should be given a nice pat on the back and then a good kick in the pants for such a lazy and pointless endeavor that robs the viewer of their time and its star of not one but two good roles. 

Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) appears as himself at the beginning and end of the movie for some inexplicable reason that he actually does try to explain (but doesn’t really) and only further confuses whatever narrative Ferrara is trying to chase in Zeros and Ones.  Hawke then goes on to play twin brothers, one searching for the other in Rome shortly after a terrorist bomb targets the Vatican…or else he’s trying to prevent the Vatican from being blown up.  Honestly, I never really understood what was going on because there’s so much of us just watching Hawke tool around the city as one brother or another either behind a mask (production was done during the early height of COVID) or in full crazy mode.  The image you see on the poster is a Hawke that isn’t present in this film…false advertising, for shame!

One of the most famous songs The Judds recorded was ‘Love Can Build a Bridge’.  Well, as it relates to Abel Ferrara’s Zeros and Ones, ‘Love Can Build a Bridge but Ferrara Can’t Make a Cohesive Movie’…and that doesn’t work for me, nor will it for you.  So skippable, I was almost tempted to tell you off the bat to skip my review.  Almost. Hope you stuck around!

31 Days to Scare ~ Body Snatchers (1993)

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tumblr_l4pdcgklxb1qc8b0ao1_540The Facts:

Synopsis: A teenage girl and her father discover alien clones are replacing humans on a remote U.S. military base in Alabama.

Stars: Gabrielle Anwar, Meg Tilly, Forest Whitaker, Terry Kinney, Billy Wirth, R. Lee Ermey

Director: Abel Ferrara

Rated: R

Running Length: 87

TMMM Score: (6/10)

Review: Jack Finney’s 1955 novel, The Body Snatchers had already made it to the screen twice before.  The original 1956 version is a certified classic and, though some may say otherwise, so was its 1978 remake.  Both films managed to be timely and seemed to have a reasonable justification for existing.  In 1993, yet another take on the story was brought to the screen and while the results aren’t totally at the level of its two previous incarnations, there are a few memorable moments to keep this one apart from other retooling’s of sacred material.

To start off with, Body Snatchers had a director famous for his controversial independent features.  Abel Ferrara was hot off of Bad Lieutenant and King of New York when he signed up for this far more commercial endeavor.  Aided by a script from no less than 5 contributors, the action is moved from the small town of the original and the swinging ‘70s setting of the first remake to a military base where Steve Malone (Terry Kinney, Promised Land) has moved his family.  Stepmom Carol (Meg Tilly, The Big Chill, Psycho II) is still adjusting as the new member of the Malone tribe and isn’t helped much by Steve’s daughter Marti (Gabrielle Anwar).

Marti in particular has it out for Carol and being uprooted from her previous life is, understandably, causing the teen to be quite the rebellious hellion.  Though Marti makes fast friends on the base, her half-brother Andy (Reilly Murphy) has a rougher go of it.  When he runs way, Marti meets cute helicopter pilot Tim (Billy Wirth, The Lost Boys) and proceeds in making goo-goo eyes at him.  All is not all well, though, and the Malone’s aren’t even there a fortnight when Marti stumbles across a plot involving mysterious pods and a possible alien conspiracy.

Fans of the previous films may recoil at this horror flick aimed squarely at teenagers but in all honesty it works better than it should.  At a trim 87 minutes, it feels like it suffered some major studio edits after the fact but I’ve a feeling it was for the best.  Ferrara is remarkably restrained here, only letting loose during the finale and building up some solid unease for the first 2/3 of the film.  The cast also makes a good impression with Tilly in particular delivering memorably in one dynamite scene.

Yet another remake (The Invasion) was released in 2007 starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig but even that star wattage couldn’t salvage what turned into an incoherent mess.  If anything, it cemented the law of diminishing returns where these pod people pics were concerned.