Pop bands more or less playing themselves in semi-fictional movies are not new: The Beatles starred in “Help!” and “A Hard Day’s Night” in the mid-1960s, the Monkees were in “Head” in 1968.
Now the K-pop boy group P1Harmony are the marquee attraction in a science-fiction feature that explains how the six members got superpowers in a world overcome by a lethal virus. Yes, this is K-pop meets the apocalypse. And “A New World Begins” (sometimes titled “The Beginning of a New World”) is a lot better than it needs to be.
The premise is that drones carry slithering wormy things that burrow into people’s flesh and eradicate their emotions, leaving only murderous impulses — victims essentially become rampaging killers, with results that are surprisingly gory.
The story starts off in a wrecked Seoul, and the director, Yoon Hong-seung, proves his mettle in nifty action scenes — the first half-hour is as well made, if not more, as most wham-bam sci-fi you can stream right now.
Then we switch into what feels like a completely different story that follows a seemingly disparate group of people played by the band members. The change is jarring (hint: it involves different time lines) but eventually the movie starts to make somewhat nutty sense until a mad ending I’m still trying to parse. It’s all rather unique, to say the least.
In this Uruguayan movie, “the catastrophes” have affected people’s vision in such a way that they see only shades of gray — they have become truly colorblind. And if you need to know exactly what happened during those catastrophes, “Grey Eyes,” devoid of the usual explanatory recaps, might not be the movie for you. This is allegorical science fiction, like “Blindness” or “Children of Men” (well, not quite as good as those, but you get the drift), and the nitty-gritty of plot points is secondary.
Somewhat ironically, considering the subject, Santiago Ventura’s film is visually striking, as spots of color appear in the black-and-white images. This is not a new trick, but it is used effectively here, especially since the scenery is stunning.
And we see quite a bit of it, as there is a road-movie element to “Grey Eyes.” Little Ana (Cecilia Milano) and her protectors Zeta (William Prociuk) and Jota (Rafael Soliwoda) are on the lam, carrying a suitcase filled with a synthetic drug that allows those who take it to see colors. Needless to say, these pills are highly addictive and highly coveted, including by less-than-savory characters.
The film is not always easy to follow, so it is best to switch off the rational part of your brain and just go along for the ride — though calling it a trip might be more accurate.
The French actress Nora Arnezeder has an off-kilter, slightly opaque presence not unlike that of Kristen Stewart. This makes her an asset in genre movies because she disrupts the action’s flow with often impassive line readings, or by making you wonder what she might be withholding. This was the case in “Army of the Dead,” where she played the coyote/scout Lilly, and so it is again in Tim Fehlbaum’s “The Colony.”
Arnezeder plays the lead role of Blake, who is dispatched to check out a planet for possible human occupation. That she lands on a waterlogged Earth is the film’s twist on space exploration. Blake grew up on Kepler 209, where an elite few settled after Earth became uninhabitable. But Kepler turned out to not be so great after all — people have become infertile — so maybe Earth is worth another shot.
The film unfurls on a beach in a haze of fog, with the husks of tankers emerging strikingly from the mist, symbols of a once-mighty humanity’s fall. In a way, the film duplicates its lead’s ghostly presence: “The Colony” does not reinvent the postapocalyptic wheel, but its dreamlike mood and environmental message help create a mostly absorbing atmosphere.
We first meet Nolan (Sloane Morgan Siegel) on Dec. 24, 1999, as he’s frantically breaking all the mirrors in his house, then setting up lethal booby traps in front of the last one. This may be pushing Y2K anxiety a bit far.
Except Nolan has his reasons: Mirrors are portals to parallel dimensions, and he’s pursued by a man with a Freddy Krueger vibe. Nolan manages to convince Mae (Elise Eberle), the sister he has in at least one world, that something weird is happening. Making the most of a budget that must have been rather limited — the movie largely takes place in an aggressively nondescript suburban house — the director Cornelia Duryée nicely sets up the vintage vibe: CDs as weapons, an excellent use of the Mudhoney grunge nugget “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More.” Best of all is an effective humor that’s not only rare in low-cost indies but captures the time during which the movie is set.
Emily Blunt was the best thing in the underrated sci-fi film “Edge of Tomorrow,” from 2014, but unless you count Mary Poppins as a badass warrior, her career as an action lead has not quite taken off as it should. In “A Quiet Place Part II,” Blunt confirms that she could anchor any franchise, playing badassery with heart. Or maybe it’s heart with badassery.
This long-delayed sequel to the writer-director John Krasinski’s unexpected 2018 hit continues to explore a world rendered mute by necessity rather than, you know, a virus: Murderous aliens with acute hearing but Mr. Magoo sight have laid waste to Earth, and the only way not to alert them to your presence is to remain quiet. The ever-resourceful Abbott family is back, with Evelyn (Blunt) now at the helm and in a world that is expanding beyond their familiar compound — way beyond, since boats play a key role.
Although Blunt plays a battle mom, her Evelyn is not a superheroic warrior but a human being who feels all too real. Even better, she carries the movie with the young actress Millicent Simmonds. Together they are a formidable pair, and I can’t be alone in wishing for more installments of their survival tales.