Alicia Vikander Anya Taylor-Joy

Oscar Time and Scary Science Experiments This Weekend at the Movies

Friday, September 02, 2016 Rob Samuelson

The fall movie season gets its start this weekend with the first major prestige picture’s release. The fall horror season kinda sorta continues from August, too. It’s a fairly light new release schedule this weekend, so let’s check out what’s available to us.

The Light Between Oceans
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Writer: Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Florence Clery

I’m on record saying that I would watch Alicia Vikander do her taxes onscreen for two hours. The newly minted Oscar winner was the only good part of The Danish Girl (which is probably why she won the award), but she really knocked everyone’s socks off as an artificially intelligent android in Ex Machina. Her costars in this latest movie, Michael Fassbender and Rachel Weisz, are pretty much in the same category.

But The Light Between Oceans looks like the type of of faux “important” melodrama that is made solely to earn Oscars rather than telling a compelling story. At least that’s how it’s being marketed, with all the soaring strings the ad people can cram into the trailer, which depicts a story of a mourning couple (Vikander and Fassbender) who adopt a baby that washed up to their lighthouse in a damaged rowboat. Writer-director Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines was (mostly) a superb epic of a family drama, so all the ingredients are there for something special. But there’s some pretty cringe-worthy stuff in the ad campaign.

Director: Luke Scott
Writer: Seth W. Owen
Starring: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rose Leslie, Michael Yare, Toby Jones, Paul Giamatti, Jennifer Jason Leigh

There seems to be little about Morgan that is novel on its face. A lab-created humanoid creature (played by The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy) discovers that she was indeed created in a lab. She begins to cause havoc once she realizes she is not free to do what she wishes. Chaos reigns, blood spills, loud sounds blare on the soundtrack. It seems like standard sci-fi horror fare of the last decade like The Lazarus Effect and Splice.

And yet, there’s the cast, including Oscar nominees like Jennifer Jason Leigh and Paul Giamatti. Kate Mara hasn’t sent film critics’ hearts aflutter the way her sister Rooney has, but it’s not for lack of talent. Taylor-Joy blew the doors off the place in The Witch earlier this year. And Toby Jones is always an unsettling presence (in a way that’s still somehow welcome). Plus director Luke Scott has his dad, Ridley’s stamp of approval (the Alien director produced this). There’s a lot of talent included in this little picture.

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