Movie Review: Upgrade (2018)

Movie Review: Upgrade (2018)

An uneven but interesting sci-fi thriller that will make you scared of your Alexa.

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Finally, a movie that dares to ask the question "What if Siri was evil?". Leigh Whannell, noted alum of the "Saw" and "Insidious" franchises, takes this question seriously, skewering humanity's increasing reliance on artificial intelligence with the new sci-fi thriller "Upgrade". The film struggles with its cumbersome revenge plot, but there are plenty of interesting questions raised along the way. You may even think twice about talking to your Alexa after this.

The film takes place in the not-too-distant future, where our society has become increasingly mechanized and automated. Self-driving cars fill the highways, tabletops have touchscreen capabilities, and houses operate with AI systems. Even the Hollywood gold standard for impractical but flashy futuristic technology, the holographic computer display, makes an appearance. Humble mechanic Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green, looking distractingly like a knockoff Tom Hardy) rejects the aid of computers. He is a man who works with his hands, repairing and restoring old cars (while listening to vinyl records, naturally) for rich clients. Grey and his wife, Asha (Melanie Vallejo), deliver a refurbished muscle car to the subterranean home of the billionaire tech genius, Eron (Harrison Gilbertson). The creepy Elon Musk wannabe shows the couple his latest invention, a miraculous piece of nanotechnology known as "Stem", which can supposedly control and connect to any electronic device.

On their way home, the couple's self-driving car makes an unexpected detour into a seedy area of town. The car promptly crashes, leaving Grey and his wife at the mercy of a gang of villains. The criminals shoot Asha and Grey, leaving her dead and our protagonist quadriplegic. Enter Eron, who offers Trace a chance to walk again with the aid of Stem. One nondisclosure agreement and a top-secret surgery later, and not-Tom-Hardy is up and mobile once again. Stem is implanted into Grey's spinal cord, connecting into his nervous system and communicating with him through his eardrums. The two maintain a tenuous rapport, with Trace wary of his new A.I. companion (and as if the Tom Hardy resemblance wasn't enough, the Stem/Trace banter bears a strange resemblance to Hardy's interactions with his alien symbiote in the "Venom" trailer). Trace, now armed with the power of technology, decides to track down his attackers. The police officers of the future are not much help, even with their dystopian fleet of patrol drones monitoring, so vigilante justice is the only logical route for Grey and his microchip pal.

Trace proceeds to track down and, much to his chagrin, kill the people responsible for his wife's death. You see, Stem has the ability to override Grey's motor functions if granted permission. Our protagonist is better at fixing cars than fighting cyborg military veterans, so he must give himself over to the A.I.'s control in order to survive. These fight scenes are some of the stronger points of the movie, with the camera following Grey around with mechanical motion-controlled precision as Stem pilots his body. His unwillingness to engage in the violence that his body commits on autopilot is perversely funny, like some weird offspring of "John Wick" and "Idle Hands". Both the police and Eron catch on to Trace's revenge scheme, with the police wanting to apprehend the supposedly quadriplegic killer, and Eron wanting to prevent his experimental technology from being linked to murders. The race is on as Grey must outwit his pursuers and keep Stem from overstepping its control of his body.

There are some truly interesting, if not unsubtle, themes at play in "Upgrade". As technology continues its endless march of progress, it is important to consider how much control we give computer systems over our lives. Everything in this movie's vision of the future is automated or computerized in some way. Not even analog technology can save the day. In the same year that we get the mostly pro-VR "Ready Player One", "Upgrade" gives us imagery of VR addicts in a derelict building reminiscent of an opium den. It may be lunkheaded, but the messages are sufficiently alarming.

The major flaw with "Upgrade", coincidentally is with its universe. The story Leigh Whannell decides to tell is just not as interesting as the various things hinted at in this sci-fi setting. Grey's revenge plot gets repetitive around the time he offs the second bad guy and decreases in excitement as it becomes increasingly obvious the movie is headed for a dumb villain reveal (which, alas, it is). I was much more interested in the strange cyberpunk underworld that exists just below the cold, sleek surface of the movie's futuristic technology. Whannell is more concerned with cheap thrills, and that is totally fine. I just wish the movie had focused more on the stuff in the periphery.

Rating: 5/10

Cover Image Credit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=36PDeN9NRZ0

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35 Major Life Facts According To Nick Miller

"All booze is good booze, unless it's weak booze."
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Fact: If you watch "New Girl," you love Nick Miller.

You can't help it. He's an adorable, lovable mess of a man and you look forward to seeing him and his shenanigans each week. While living the infamous and incomparable life of Nick Miller, and obviously Julius Pepperwood— he has learned many valuable laws of the land. And, although Nick refuses to learn anything from anyone besides his mysterious, old Asian friend Tran, he does have a few lessons he'd like to teach us.

Here are 35 facts of life according to 'Nick Milla Nick Milla':

1. Drinking keeps you healthy.

"I'm not gonna get sick. No germ can live in a body that is 65% beer."

2. Dinosaurs never existed.

"I don't believe dinosaurs existed. I've seen the science. I don't believe it."


3. A paper bag is a bank.

"A bank is just a paper bag but with fancier walls."


4. Having sex is similar to delivering mail.

"I'm like a mailman, except instead of mail it's hot sex that I deliver."

5. Moonwalking is a foolproof way to get out of any awkward situation.

Jess (about Nick): "Now he won't even talk to me. I saw him this morning and he just panic moonwalked away from me. He does that sometimes."

6. Using a movie reference is also a great way.

Cece: "Come on, get up!"

Nick: "No, I don't dance. I'm from that town in "Footloose."

7. There's no reason to wash towels.

Nick: "I don’t wash the towel. The towel washes me. Who washes a towel?"

Schmidt: "You never wash your towel?"

Nick: "What am I gonna do? Wash the shower next? Wash a bar of soap?"

8. Exes are meant to be avoided at all costs (especially if/unless they're Caroline)

"I don't deal with exes, they're part of the past. You burn them swiftly and you give their ashes to Poseidon."

9. IKEA furniture is not as intimidating as it looks.

"I'm building you the dresser. I love this stuff. It's like high-stakes LEGOs."

10. You don't need forks if you have hands.

Jess: "That's gross. Get a fork, man."

Nick: "I got two perfectly good forks at the end of my arms!"

11. Sex has a very specific definition.


"It's not sex until you put the straw in the coconut."

12. Doors are frustrating.

"I will push if I want to push! Come on! I hate doors!"

13. All booze is good booze.

"Can I get an alcohol?"

14. ...unless it's weak booze.

"Schmidt, that is melon flavored liquor! That is 4-proof! That is safe to drink while you're pregnant!"

15. Writers are like pregnant women.

Jess: "You know what that sound is? It's the sound of an empty uterus."

Nick: "I can top that easily. I'm having a hard time with my zombie novel."

Jess: "Are you really comparing a zombie novel to my ability to create life?"

Nick: "I'm a writer, Jess. We create life."

16. All bets must be honored.

"There is something serious I have to tell you about the future. The name of my first-born child needs to be Reginald VelJohnson. I lost a bet to Schmidt."

17. Adele's voice is like a combination of Fergie and Jesus.

"Adele is amazing."

18. Beyoncé is extremely trustworthy.

"I'd trust Beyoncé with my life. We be all night."

19. Fish, on the other hand, are not.


“Absolutely not. You know I don’t trust fish! They breathe water. That's crazy!"

20. Bar mitzvahs are terrifying.

Schmidt: "It's a bar mitzvah!"

Nick: "I am NOT watching a kid get circumcised!"

21. ...so are blueberries.

Jess: "So far, Nick Miller's list of fears is sharks, tap water, real relationships..."

Nick: "And blueberries."

22. Take your time with difficult decisions. Don't be rash.


Jess: "You care about your burritos more than my children, Nick?"

Nick: "You're putting me in a tough spot!"

23. Getting into shape is not easy.

"I mean, I’m not doing squats or anything. I’m trying to eat less donuts."

24. We aren't meant to talk about our feelings.

"If we needed to talk about feelings, they would be called talkings."


25. We're all a little bit too hard on ourselves.

"The enemy is the inner me."

26. Freezing your underwear is a good way to cool off.


"Trust me, I'm wearing frozen underpants right now and I feel amazing. I'm gonna grab some old underpants and put a pair into the freezer for each of you."

27. Public nudity is normal.

"Everbody has been flashed countless times."

28. Alcohol is a cure-all.


"You treat an outside wound with rubbing alcohol. You treat an inside wound with drinking alcohol."

29. Horses are aliens.

"I believe horses are from outer-space."


30. Turtles should actually be called 'shell-beavers.'

Jess: "He calls turtles 'shell-beavers."

Nick: "Well, that's what they should be called."

31. Trench coats are hot.


"This coat has clean lines and pockets that don't quit, and it has room for your hips. And, when I wear it, I feel hot to trot!"


32. Sparkles are too.

"Now, my final bit of advice, and don't get sensitive on this, but you've got to change that top it's terrible and you've got to throw sparkles on. Sparkles are in. SPARKLES ARE IN."

33. Introspection can lead to a deeper knowing of oneself.

"I'm not convinced I know how to read. I've just memorized a lot of words."


34. It's important to live in the moment.

"I know this isn't gonna end well but the middle part is gonna be awesome."


35. Drinking makes you cooler.

Jess: "Drinking to be cool, Nick? That's not a real thing."

Nick: "That's the only thing in the world I know to be true."

Cover Image Credit: Hollywood Reporter

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The End Of An Odyssey: My Time As A Writer

Like all chapters in life, there has to come an end. This ending is by no means easy, but rather one that is bittersweet. But, like all odysseys, it is time for this one to end.

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When I first decided I wanted to write for the Odyssey, I was going into my senior year at the University of Maine. I had always been an avid reader of Odyssey articles, whether it was to seek advice, comfort, or sole entertainment. I was always inspired by how raw and honest each article was, and I really wanted to have the chance to write such types of articles as well. When I applied and later got the call that I had made it onto the Odyssey team at UMaine, I was ecstatic! I felt like now was finally the time I could share my innermost thoughts and feelings publicly and work on becoming a better writer.

I have always loved to write. Since the day I first picked up a pencil, writing has been a passion of mine. Now as an Odyssey member, I knew this was my chance to be truly heard.

I began by writing solely political articles, as I was a political science student and loved to shed light on controversial topics. My first article was about the then-recent presidential election. I was full of nerves the day it got published, and rightfully so, as my post drew in many critics. Facebook is a shark-tank of sorts, everyone there is waiting for just the right bait to come out and attack. However, I loved the fact that my opinions were being formally materialized for everyone to see. Pretty much anyone in the world could read my article, which served as an inspiration to keep writing.

What started as a political-only "blog" of sorts slowly evolved into a diary-like platform. I found that writing about whatever hardship I had been going through at the time helped me process it and move forward. Writing is very therapeutic, and I wasn't ashamed or embarrassed to put my private emotions out in the open, though I had received much backlash for it from many.

Yet what kept me motivated to keep pushing the envelope and staying true to my word-literally, was my amazing, influential Odyssey team. We all would share our topics for the week and vent about any criticisms we may have received after one of our articles had been published. I have been very fortunate to have such a supportive, caring team of Odyssey writers, else I likely would've regressed back to writing neutral articles.

So as weeks turned to months, writing for Odyssey felt like second nature. The pride I would feel once an article went public was indescribable. Looking back now at the 70+ articles I wrote, I can literally be transported back to a certain point in my life with every past article. I can see how much I've grown as a person and can acknowledge that I successfully was able to overcome certain obstacles I never thought possible.

Writing, just like time, heals everything.

The Odyssey saw me through the toughest times of my life, and no matter how uncertain things may have seemed at the time, what was for sure was the fact that I had the written word to fall back on. With each article that I wrote, I felt like a weight had been lifted. And not only that but also knowing that any particular article may have served to help someone else who may have been going through a similar situation, only inspired me more.

So, my decision to stop writing for the Odyssey came with great difficulty, as it has become such a huge part of my life. The adult world is very hectic, and responsibilities pile up as fast as bills. Lately, I just felt like I haven't been putting the time and effort into writing articles like I did during college. I owe it to the Odyssey community to be honest, as a privilege like this should never be seen as a chore.

I am so unbelievably grateful to have had this experience for the past year and a half of my life. Now, I have a permanent online library that represents who I truly am, and for the rest of my life I can look back at these articles and relive some of those memories. The Odyssey helped me to grow emotionally, and I met so many amazing, inspiring people along the way.

But, like all odysseys, it is time for this one to end.

Thank you to everyone who has supported my writing and read my articles. You have no idea how happy it made me feel to hear someone say how much they loved a certain article or how relatable another one was. Thank you to my Odyssey team for always encouraging me to write from the heart and never be too afraid to speak my mind.

And lastly, thank you to Odyssey, for serving as a safe, encouraging place for young people to voice their opinions and ideas freely. I will forever be thankful for this journey of growth, reflection, and expression.

Off to the next odyssey.

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