Dinosaur-riding Nazis in ‘Iron Sky, The Coming Race’ and more
By Noel Murray
Jul 18, 2019 | 4:33 PM
'Iron Sky: The Coming Race'
The Laibach song that plays under the opening credits to "Iron Sky: The Coming Race" ends with a heavily accented voice growling, "Let's make Earth great again," just before the movie commences a fantastical tale of ancient shape-shifting aliens controlling human affairs. It's a provocative start. What does this goofy science-fiction picture have to say about foreign meddling and populism?
Anyone who saw the original 2012 moon-Nazi movie "Iron Sky" already knows the answer: Not much. It'd be a stretch to call these clumsy adventure-comedies "satires." Any references to contemporary politics are merely meant to titillate.
Picking up nearly 30 years after the original "Iron Sky," "The Coming Race" stars Lara Rossi as Obi, the daughter of the first film's heroes. When the last survivors of the human race — huddled on the Third Reich's old moon base — realize their colony's on the brink of collapse, Obi leads an expedition to obtain a new power source from the fabled underground home of the alien Vril.
The scenes inside the Vril's "hollow Earth" HQ are suitably wacky, with alien versions of world leaders, ranging from Caligula to Mark Zuckerberg. Anyone who's ever wanted to see action sequences involving a dinosaur-riding Adolf Hitler or a robed cult of Steve Jobs disciples will find what they're looking for here.
But just like the first "Iron Sky," the sequel is frustratingly unfocused as a commentary on the modern world — and even more so as a story. It has the seeds of several nifty ideas, scattered loosely, left untended.
'Above the Shadows'
A shot of magical realism adds just a little bit of kick to "Above the Shadows," a heartfelt indie drama about a woman belatedly reckoning with a childhood tragedy. Writer-director Claudia Myers brings some imagination to a story that on the whole is too drippily conventional, given the cleverness of its premise.
Olivia Thirlby stars as Holly, who as a preteen lost her mother — the one person in her family who understood her bookish, introverted personality. Not long after her mom died, Holly began fading from reality, until she became literally invisible, and forgotten by her father and siblings.
The first 15 minutes or so of "Above the Shadows" sets up Holly's strange circumstances and how she's learned to live with this as an adult: by becoming a scandal-sheet paparazzi, able due to her condition to get shocking exclusive pictures. Then she meets Shayne (Alan Ritchson), an ex-MMA champion whose career and personal life was derailed by her photos of his affair. When she realizes Shayne's the one person who can actually see her, Holly dedicates herself to facilitating his comeback.
The life and times of an invisible woman is an interesting story. A movie about two outsiders who help each other realize they need to re-engage with the world? That's more run-of-the-mill. Thirlby gives a good performance as someone who finds it easier to remain a non-person than to make any effort to fix her life. But the more Holly comes into view, the blander her character becomes.
'Into the Ashes'
In writer-director Aaron Harvey's moody neo-noir "Into the Ashes," Luke Grimes plays Nick Brenner, a reformed ex-con working a blue-collar job in a pleasant small town, where he's married to the sheriff's daughter. But some of his former colleagues feel betrayed, so they track him down, determined to remind him who he really is.
This is a classic noir premise: the good man with the dark past who can't avoid being stained by all the messes he's created. And Harvey's cast — which includes "Longmire" star Robert Taylor as Nick's lawman father-in-law and Frank Grillo as one of Nick's angry old buddies — has exactly the right look and presence for this kind of picture.
But while Harvey does a fine job evoking the violent, character-driven crime pictures of the 1970s, he can't quite make "Into the Ashes" feel original enough to be vital. There are too many prestige cable dramas now that are just like this movie: oppressively self-serious and drearily grim, with more investment in their premise than their plot.
Take "Grumpy Old Men," add superpowers, and the result is "Supervized," a genial comedy that'd be easier to like if it weren't so excruciatingly unfunny. Between the witlessly raunchy dialogue and the rudimentary jokes about superheroics, director Steve Barron and a team of screenwriters waste a fun cast that includes Tom Berenger, Beau Bridges, Fionnula Flanagan and Lou Gossett Jr.
Berenger and company play retired heroes, crankily whiling away their days at a retirement home, overseen by an officious administrator who makes sure they don't use their powers. When they suspect that a conspiracy is afoot to sideline them permanently, the old crimefighters put their awkwardly fitting costumes back on and swing back into action.
Don't expect "The Incredibles" here, though — or even "The Bucket List." The actors all look like they had a wonderful time making "Supervized," but the material they were given to play is pretty dopey, and way too basic. It's an insult to superhero fans and senior citizens alike.
In the befuddling horror/caper mash-up "Ring Ring," Malcolm Goodwin and Kirby Bliss Blanton play Will and Amber, two telemarketers who get even with their jerky boss by stealing their company's proprietary information. The scheme goes awry when the phone containing the data is stolen by a violent, paranoid drug addict named Jacob (Tommy Kijas), who imprisons Will and Amber when they show up at his house on Halloween.
Directed by Adam Marino (who also co-wrote the story with Namam Barsoom and Daniel Wallner) “Ring Ring” tries to cover a lot of ground in a ridiculously short running time. The three principal actors are all pros, with plenty of TV and movie credits; and they’re charismatic enough to be good company. But the story around them keeps changing every 20 minutes and lacks payoffs. It’s like a series of uncompleted writing prompts.