"Isa" is a new made-for-TV science-fiction film, unusual for its bilingual dialogue, Hispanic milieu and the manner of its release: It will severally air over
It is perhaps no accident, then, that writer-director Jose Nestor Marquez also bears the title vice president of digital video production & development, Telemundo Media (and was formerly at mun2), and that this is the first original movie from Fluency Productions, an arm of NBCUniversal Hispanic Enterprises and Content. But if on one level "Isa" is an industrial product, crafted to advance a brand, it is much more than that -- better than it has to be, and richer and more tonally interesting than the sort of original movies Syfy or Chiller usually pushes your way.
Isa (Jeanette Samano) is a brainy high school student, a math whiz who mods memory chips for spare cash and is looking forward to a summer studying computer modeling and theoretical biology; in the usual way, she has a less studious best friend, Nataly (played by Sabi) and a couple of knuckleheaded guy pals (Timothy DeLaGhetto plays one) and a flowering flirtation with a school security guard (Eric Ochoa), recently a student there himself. She lives with her aunt and uncle and leads what she assumes is a normal life, until it isn't.
The script, which involves (not to be too specific) hijacked dream power, is in many respects familiar stuff, incorporating bits of
I say, "relatively" -- there is a Samsung tie-in, this is not "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies." Nevertheless, "Isa" does a lot with a little, using sound and light and a few animated butterflies to create scenes of creepiness and wonder, and substituting "customized" junkyard tech for the tempting flashy doodads a big budget can buy. And there is evident pleasure taken by Marquez and his director of photography, Anne Ethridge, in the L.A. light, the look of the hills, the pastel mosaic of the neighborhood walls.