UPGRADE: The opening scene finds a working class “joe” (Logan Marshall-Green) toiling in his garage at restoring a vintage car in a not-too-distant future where driverless vehicles are the norm among the upper class. But when a brutal mugging turns him into a quadriplegic and widower, he undergoes his own restoration by way of a computer chip implant that not only returns his mobility but also transforms him into a killing machine who extracts gruesome vengeance upon his attackers. Higher grade science fiction invites us to explore technological advances that are to come and what their ethical and societal implications are. Australian director/writer Leigh Whannel does that by raising an intriguing idea for a technological premise that’s totally believable in its’ presentation. Whannel cleverly combines this high-mindedness with graphic over-the-top violence that’s tinged with extremely dark humor plus sequences of genuine suspense helped along by Jed Palmer’s otherworldly musical soundtrack. Marshall-Green (PROMETHEUS), looking like Tom Hardy’s (MAD MAX: FURY ROAD) long lost brother, delivers an excellent physical performance where he demonstrates that good acting can be accomplished without saying a word. The artificial intelligence (voiced by Simon Maiden) in the main character’s head is reminiscent of other computers gone awry like the docile creepiness of HAL in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) or the underrated COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT (1970). The narrative meanders down a sort of “bunny trail” in the final portion where you’re left wondering “if it was all just a dream” which seems a rather weak resolution for a storyline that does its best to be slyly intelligent amidst all the carnage. Nevertheless, UPGRADE is a definite thrill ride whose B-movie pulp deftly masks its underlying intellectual ambitions. CRITIC’S GRADE: B

DOUBLE FEATURE: With a screenplay that rotates a love story with a struggle for survival, ADRIFT gets it right on the latter front. The true account of a pair of free spirits (Sam Claflin, Shailene Woodley) stranded at sea with their boat in ruins makes for a compelling study in resilience and resourcefulness although you might find yourself wondering why this couple couldn’t figure out how to get their vessel out of the way of a catastrophic hurricane. Woodley (THE DESCENDANTS), who produced the movie, makes the work way more emotionally absorbing than it likely would be with bravura, one-peson scenes she plays like a young female Robert Redford in ALL IS LOST (2013). Director Baltasar Kormakur (EVEREST) is in very familiar territory with the kind of adventure where humans battle the elements and don’t always come out on top. CRITIC’S GRADE: B-