Mary Poppins Returns
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All Critics (11)
| Top Critics (5)
| Fresh (4)
| Rotten (7)
Modestly budgeted but professional, this film has some imaginative visuals and a strong cast.
Simon hews closely to his source. That decision is likely to endear him to Dick fans.
A quaint labor of love blinkered by fidelity to an outdated text.
It's easy to glean why this unapologetically niche film nearly died on the vine.
The pic operates successfully as a study of enlightenment and a straight-ahead conspiracy thriller.
It's an odd bird, but accomplished, and essential for Philip K. Dick purists.
Explores some interesting issues but saddled with many low-budget constraints that take away its level of theatrical experience that a film like this should have.
A too-literal adaptation of Philip K. Dick's paranoid science fiction fantasy about government conspiracies, hidden realities, and conversations with parallel universes lacks the atmosphere and human feeling it demands to work on any level.
Perhaps for Dick purists, this movie will settle in without disruption, but it certainly doesn't welcome outsiders, preferring tattered credibility to needed accessibility.
A very talky Philip K. Dick adaptation that is all exposition, explanation and political prophecy, with zero empathy or warmth
Insanely bizarre, Radio Free Albemuth is a sci-fi thriller based on a Philip K. Dick novel. The story follows a music producer who believes that he's receiving visions from an omnipotent entity which he calls VALIS; meanwhile America rapidly transforms into a fascist state that cracks down on subversives. The plot goes to some unbelievably strange places with aliens and alternative dimensions. And, the script doesn't do anything to make it seem any less weird than it sounds. Additionally, the acting and production values are incredibly bad, and do a poor job of bringing any believability to this mess. Yet there's something innately fascinating about the story and how it goes to new levels of crazy as it progresses. Though it's pretty far-out, Radio Free Albemuth provides a thought-provoking exploration of timely philosophical and political issues.
In an alternate-reality America, a music producer receives transmissions from a mysterious entity known as VALIS ("Vast Active Living Intelligence System") with advice for overthrowing the fascist President of the United States. This adaptation of Philip K. Dick's paranoid sci-fi novel sat on the shelf for four years. It has TV miniseries-level production values, but the bizarre plot retains some interest. Knowledge of Dick's backstory (he really believed in VALIS) is helpful.
"Radio Free Albermuth," is the latest adaptation of one of lauded science fiction author Philip K. Dick's novels. With its unhurried pace and philosophical tone, it's closer to Richard Linklater's "A Scanner Darkly" than Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" on the spectrum of Dick adaptations. Even more than Linklater's film, "RFA" is fascinated with Dick's views on about culture, religion and paranoia. When it works, it's shows off how timeless Dick's culture insights are and at worst it plays like a '90s Scientology infomercial.
Set in alternate 1985 where a fascist President has turned America into surveillance state, record company executive Nick Brady (Jonathan Scarfe) starts receiving transmissions from extraterrestrial consciousness called VALIS, which frightens his wife Rachel (Kathryn Winnick) and intrigues his friend, science fiction author Philip K. Dick (Shea Whigham). Like David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis," "Radio Free Albermuth" is an obvious literary adaptation. The film is extremely faithful to its source material, to the point where large sections of its 110 minute running time feel like a live reading of Dick's novel.
The plot, while having the basic outline of a conspiracy thriller, is languorously paced and the characters have many long, context-less conversations that only exist for the audience to consider the ideas under discussion. It's a risky approach and unfortunately writer/director John Alan Simon doesn't have the chops to make the stylistic gambit work. If Simon had condensed Nick and Philip's seemingly endless philosophical exchanges or pared back Nick endless wanderings through atrociously rendered CG landscapes, the film might have had some narrative thrust. Alternately, had those same scenes been interestingly framed, intriguingly scored, rhythmically edited or competently acted, "Radio Free Albermuth" would still have felt off but there would've been interesting enough to offset the staginess.
Another of the film's serious problems is that Shea Whigham's keenly observant and darkly funny Philip Dick isn't the focus of the film. Whigham, so dazzling in "True Detective" as the magnetic Reverend Theriot, observes all the strange happening in his life like a warily war reporter. Whigham's protrayal of Dick, gives the film a kind ragged verisimilitude. But whenever the focus inevitably shifts back to Scarfe's Nick, the whole falls apart. Scarfe, who is high school play bad, never sells Nick's transformation from sarcastic record store employee to celestial martyr. Since that tentative, painful embrace of the miraculous is the heart of "Radio Free Albermuth," its cinematic incarnation is emotionally vacuous.
Ultimately, that lack of feeling is what dooms "Radio Free Albermuth." There is just no way to emotionally invest in something so inert. Although many of Dick's ideas about Gnosticism, alien life and the American condition make to the screen intact whereas a typical Hollywood movie would remove those ideas structure itself around the thriller elements, they were underserved by this film. It's difficult to imagine that anyone who might be attracted to Dick's ideas wouldn't be better served by reading his books rather than watching this abysmal adaptation of his book.
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