Fantasy/Horror Films, Science Fiction Movies

Mini Review:Ex Machina

Ex Machina is an R rated film due to lots of nudity and a bit of knife-weilding.  So far so good.

A Bill Gates wannabe picks one of his own employees, Caleb, and sends him to a private island where the development of actual operational androids appear.

Some critics have called it “boring” — you know, the kind of critic who watches five minutes, zones out and writes ‘boring’ on an Amazon.com review — but it’s far from that, although a bit disappointing.

If you watch carefully, the writing is really well done.  Hints are dropped at the beginning, such as mentioning the inventor is God and that the (spoiler) android Ava turns on her creator.  Frankenstein reference.

Or when the inventor mentions we will be seen as we see ancient Man and then how the ending wraps up is comical if thought-provoking.

Caleb is caught in the middle.  Should he trust the inventor?  Should he go along with the android’s desire to escape?  You as the audience root for Caleb and Ava, but at the end you find your desire somewhat displaced.

Interested?

I picked up the Blu Ray and it has some special features, but the movie I felt could have ended on a more positive note — on the other hand it ended like it was meant to!

Lots of female nudity, thus the R rating. It’s OK, they’re androids!

Recommended.

 

Science Fiction Movies, Thrillers

Film Review: Star Trek Beyond!

Star Trek Beyond

First Thoughts:

Loved the opening scenes with the Enterprise getting some docking time at the newest Starbase that fits one million people!

Special effects were great without being overwhelming.  Director Justin Li (Fast & Furious 6) kept the lens flares to minimum.

Chris Pine is growing into his Kirk role.  He really got the Shatner vibe down and adds his own flair to it.

As I have enjoyed in Trek over the last four decades, the character-driven characters, the relationship between Spock & Kirk as they come to grips with not only the possibility of their breaking up and taking other opportunities but also to do the standard save-the-universe story with some original twists.

Details:

Love the details.  What would the 25th century use as phones?  Would they consider our current hard rock music “classical”?  Right down to the make-up, the costumes, the occasional cars & trains, all makes for a world as real as Roddenberry could have envisioned.

It’s a story of revenge, of greed, and of sacrificing others so that you may achieve immortality.  Or so it seems.

Action:

The movie is a bit too fast paced, and gets to the action pretty quick with just a bit of backstory and set-up.  It got a bit too fast for me, so I had to rewind and make sure I didn’t miss anything.  Illusion weaponry and clever dealings with the bad guy makes this a tough world for Kirk!

Final thoughts: 

Tributes to Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin (played Chekov, and recently died in a freak home accident) were touching without being maudlin.  And yes, this film is much better than the other two.  Looking forward to more!

Science Fiction Movies, Thrillers

Film Review: Mockingjay Part II – Hunger Games

First Thoughts:

 Though I do not particularly like how directors lately have been breaking a final movie into two parts, extending it and making it dull, I thought the last adaptation film of The Hunger Games pretty good.

 Story & Plot:title

Follows the book fairly faithfully as our reluctant heroine fines herself played between the enemy camp of President Snow and the snarky calmness of Coin. Coin plays her well, manipulating Katniss to be the face of the rebellion.

It’s only when others are being killed or are justifying why it’s OK to murder and kill that she has finally had enough, though her personal solution could be construed as hypocritical, I thought it a relatively fitting ending.

 ** Spoiler **

The book ended with Katniss being a housewife. In the film, she becomes a mom.  OK, fine.  But what of the outside Districts and such?

 Final Thought:

I thought Jennifer Laurence a bit too serious in the role, how she would stare at others who paid tribute to her, or walk into an area where people would gather to see her and give them that stare. She rarely smiles and seems so distraught throughout the film.  Did not like that.  Great characterization from all the actors, great special effects.

Some scenes are too horrific for younger kids.

Classic Films, Comic Books!, Science Fiction Movies

Movie Review: The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-IMAX-HR-2The Avengers: Age of Ultron
First Impressions: Full of action, pathos and humor, not canon but I didn’t care.

Storyline:

Basically Tony Stark comes up with a perfect machine capable of protecting the Earth. Or so he hopes. By sarcastically saying “peace in our time” (alluding to the same phrase spoken by Chamberlain as he signed a non-aggression treaty with Hitler in 1938 – we know how that went down!) Ultron clicks on it and finds that Man, full of the lust of war and greed, decides he will bring that kind of peace, too – the quiet of a graveyard!

Special effects:

Great stuff with Jarvis and Ultron. Even the colors contrasted well! The banter scripted was at times annoying as Jarvis slowly (too slowly to save himself) realizes Ultron, coming online faster than anyone realized, begins assimilating Jarvis! Yikes!

Evil large supply of robots built by Ultron, flying through the sky. Only one instance of an exploding fireball. Always must include one fireball in these kinds of films.

Pathos:

The beautiful sadness of Bruce Banner and Black Widow (yikes, what would Kirby say?) was a bit maudlin and sad. Your girlfriend would probably like this part. It was “OK.”

Revenge:

The whole film was based to a greater or lesser degree on revenge. Is revenge a good enough motivation for killing? Only Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver can answer that.

Take Over the World:

There’s always an element like that. Love how the origin of the Vision has changed to a Stark/Ultron hybrid who has none of Stark’s smart-aleck jokes, nor Ultron’s death wish. Vision was the most under-rated character of this film as he brings the team together.

Credit Scene:

In this film, the credit scene is in the middle of the credits, not the end.

Final Words:

Whedon did a great job putting this together. He gave just enough to the fan boys to make us wanting more; he appealed to a general audience that does not read comic books (Muggles); and he didn’t overdo it on the special effects.

Pros & Cons:

Pro: Dream sequences and Easter eggs. See the Roy Thomas Band in Cap’s dream?
Con: Tony Stark’s bad jokes; Hawkeye’s scenes slowed the film considerably.
Great: Stan Lee Cameo! Iron-man’s Hulk-buster!
Not so Great: No Pepper Potts! Wait until the year 2018 for an Infinity Gauntlet!

Recommended from this DC fan!

Science Fiction Movies

Film Review: The Edge of Tomorrow!

edge-of-tomorrowThe Edge of Tomorrow

First Impressions:

I’ve always liked Tom Cruise’s science fiction films, from Minority Report, Mission Impossible I to Oblivion. In these he finds himself supporting one group or goal and having to suddenly change himself to counter-act a group or goal that is no longer survival and could mean his death if he continues on the path he finds himself. So he goes it alone, new, untraveled ground, to find himself and to fight the group he formerly supported.

Not so with Edge of Tomorrow!

Unusual for Tom’s usual characters, he plans a PR man who encourages people to join the fight against the alien invasion that is rapidly taking over Europe and threatens to jump the Channel and England. Humans are losing and losing badly.

It’s clear not all the public relations in the world will save the planet from this implacable enemy, but Tom tries very hard to make it so. Until they call him in for active duty!

He is a coward at heart and wants nothing to do with actual combat. After some interesting altercations, he finds himself on the battlefield, meets an alien called an Alpha, and almost accidentally kills it – and finds himself 24 hours earlier, lying on baggage in handcuffs, as he was the day before. Which is today. Of course.

Plots and Plans:

Really liked this movie! Not only the Groundhog Day-style living the day over and over, but in each incarnation trying to find a way to beat the alien threat. The aliens have time travel technology in their blood and know what we’re going to do before we do it. Only Tom’s character has the way and method of stopping them.

He teams up with a soldier who knows of his ability and tries to use it to beat the aliens.

The story is not so much about the aliens, but about the slow change of Tom’s character – from a coward who wants to stay behind the lines to a man who realizes that only through his own actions will he stop a major threat to Man.

Conclusion:

Not to give too much away, but Tom’s relationships with the people in this film develops well and the characters that support him run pretty well throughout the film. The army sergeants, the “J Company” troops and others were a bit cardboard and not developed well at all. This could have been a five star film if I really cared about what happened to them.

This is not your Dad’s Groundhog Day! It’s a plot point that carries with it a message of standing up to your fears and realizing your goals despite unimaginable odds.

Great special effects! The ground swells with these aliens, look like spinning octopuses with large glowing eyes and can slice you up really well! Their weapons are energy balls that tear through the troop transports, that make hand-to-hand combat nearly impossible. You go to the battlefield of death! Except if you’re Cruise – then you die again and again and again!

A physical film, action and guns, heroes and inner enemies. A must-see film.

Cast & Crew:

Tom Cruise Cage
Emily Blunt Rita
Brendan Gleeson General Brigham
Bill Paxton Master Sergeant Farrell

Directed by
Doug Liman

Writing Credits
Christopher McQuarrie … (screenplay) and
Jez Butterworth … (screenplay) &
John-Henry Butterworth … (screenplay)

Comic Books!, Science Fiction Movies

Movie Review: Does Whatever a Spider Can! Great Sequel!

Amazing Spiderman 2

Wow, what a movie! I did like the Sam Raimi versions, but this actor has really gotten down the wisecracking wallcrawler down pat.

The story is one of relationships, of making decisions and of paying the consequences, some of which are not that great.

There are many deviations from the original comic book story by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, but I am happy with the whole Gwen Stacy/Peter Parker story. Unlike the Raimi films that concentrated on Mary Jane Watson, it was Gwen who was one of Peter’s very first loves (yeah, Betty Brant was there too, but I digress).

Another variation is that they’re not high school kids but college grads. Gwen makes a great valedictorian speech about hope and about what to do when there is every reason to give up.

Another subplot deals with Peter’s dad, Richard Parker. Why was he abandoned? Why was Peter left with thinking his dad was a bad guy?

Plots!

Wait, am I describing a comic book movie or what?

One thing about this film is that a general audience who has a passing interest in comics will like the film. Women will likely love the Peter/Gwen relationship, and how the ghost of Capt. Stacy gets in the way of Peter’s decisions regarding her.

Guys will like the wallcrawler spinning through NYC, capturing the bad guys and being interesting in the corporate plans of Oscorp, an ostentatiously benign group that has been working on plans for domination, making a better world through intimidation perhaps.

sunrise love cityscapes movies spiderman emma stone peter parker gwen stacy the amazing spiderman_www.wallpaperfo.com_16Bullied!

Jamie Fox is great as the unwitting subject of an experiment that turns him into Electro, who becomes an intelligent force of Nature. How will Spidey defeat him? And the Goblin, Harry Osborn, also at the short end of the stick when it comes to be accepted by those who matter most. I hope there is more of him to come. Lots of potential here.

Secret labs, a crazy Harry Osborn who has a fatal disease, the Goblin as you’ve never seen him and some hints that a Doc Octopus or a Vulture is in the works (check out the secret lab with its armored tentacles or the vulture-like wingspan on display).

Listen to the ringtone, old timers. Guess from where that is?

Final Word: And check Sally Field – she has not lost her flare for drama as an Aunt May who knows her boy is not her bio son, but she raised him that way. Pretty powerful performance.

Check it out. And stay through the credits! Amazing how people still walk out when there is so much more to know about our friendly neighborhood Spiderman.

A mid-credit scene, but my theater did not have an end-of credit scene.

Go see it! See the first film first, as that will fill in the gaps in discussions regarding the Lizard and what he was all about.

 

Comic Books!, Science Fiction Movies

Movie Review: Ironman 3!

Comic book fans who know all about the Mandarin and his origins can forget all that when they see this film.  The film is made by Marvel, but for the general audiences who know nothing about the character or mythos.  It can stand on its own, but better to see Avengers first before seeing this one.

Here’s my review, written at the time of the movie’s release:

[THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE THEATRICAL RELEASE].

Ironman 3 ** MINOR SPOILERS **

First Impressions:

Though I was a bit disappointed that the storyline was not about Chinese megalomaniacs with 10 alien rings of power, I did enjoy the non-stop action and humor!

Storylines and Plot:

Well heck, you can read most of that on IMDB or other user reviews. I will say that Tony Stark has to be the most prepared guy in the universe.

After further improvements in his armor and even getting to a point where the armor comes to him and parts of it can act independently, we find the only reason he’s doing this is to immerse himself on what he does well – a mechanism for controlling is panic attacks!

We forget sometimes that Tony is just a guy. A very smart guy but really behind that superior façade it must be a shock that there are aliens and gods in the universe and that he was barely able to hold his own with the technology that he has to hand.

Rather than being an advertisement for the earlier Avengers film (and that would be a natural conclusion, LOL), it’s similar to Ironman 2 – an exploration into Tony the man.

I love the Marvel films because they are more than about the heroics. This may fall flat with fan boys but the producers want a film that resonates with the general public, and Ironman 3 does just that.

ironman 3Best Scenes:

Destruction of the Malibu home yet there is some pretty clever moves that ensure survival from a missile attack by black helicopters.

Mid-scene reveal of who The Mandarin really is (and no, he is not a Chinese dictator who has alien rings of power – dang it!) as he is surrounded by beauties. Humorous bathroom scene.

The people that Tony dissed at a 1999 New Years’ party and the resultant backlash 20 or so years later. Some surprises.

Though it is scientifically impossible for the body to heat to 3000 degrees, the film made the idea somewhat plausible – the weaponization of scientific discoveries is not completely unheard-of.

Pepper Potts kicking some violent action!

Bottom Line:

Plenty of great action scenes – some ties to terrorism and the media’s slavish reporting of it – and the power of what one man can do to either conquer the universe or conquer himself.

Recommended!

[Do stay tuned for the end-of-credits scene!]

Science Fiction Movies

Film Review: Star Trek – Into Darkness!

(I originally wrote this one in June 2013 when the film was released.  I’ve been a Trek fan since being a small boy in the ’60s.  I’ve met the actors who play Lt. Uhura and Mr. Spock.  I’ve seen William Shatner live on stage.  Abrams was brave throwing a film into the teeth of the maddened Trekkie fan.  Love it or hate it, it’s a bold move.]

star-trek-into-darkness-poster[Review is for the Theatrical Version — in IMAX!]

** Some Spoilers **

Into Darkness is an excellent follow-up to the 2009 film, Star Trek.

The alternate history that J.J. Abrams writes still has a lot of the borrowed items from the original TV and movies to make the film interesting to fans, yet for those not into the “canon,” the film stands on its own as an interesting science fiction film.

** Spoilers **

As you may have heard by now, the Botany Bay was discovered earlier than in the original time-line and someone who knows better wants to militarize the Federation and wants to use Khan for that purpose. Let’s get a man who knows how a military mind works and use him to handle the Klingon threat.

Quite a story!

** End Spoilers **

Relationships:

The film is very character-driven. Now this may seem at odds to you if you enjoy a film full of special effects and warp-speed ships. Even so Kirk is the same brash self who will break the rules if it means saving a life.

The film starts out with Kirk swiping a holy scroll from natives – white, wild natives with eyes that blink backwards — weird, but I digress. And somehow we have his science officer about to blow a cold fusion bomb into a volcano and save the planet. Yeow! And the Enterprise having the ability to land on the surface of a planet was a new look as well.

Some fans squawk about Spock having a relationship with Uhura. First, it’s not that unheard of. Remember in the original series with Apollo? And second, it’s done in a tasteful manner and really could have been cut out altogether!

The primary relationship of course is the Kirk/Spock dynamic. As in the original series, Kirk, Spock and at times McCoy really go at it. Would have liked this to have been better scripted with more banter and some humor injected here.

The other relation is between Khan (played coolly by Cumberbatch) and the Federation – playing on others emotions, playing them to get what he wants – fascinating character. As Kirk, he cares about his crew – frozen and awaiting revival – and besides wanting revenge on the Federation, he wants Kirk – very dead!

Cons:

Scotty in this film is a riot of a Scotman – but Chekov not so much. Not all characters come off well. Would have liked to have seen some more romance with the Carol Marcus character. Ah, well.

Special Effects:

See the film on the big IMAX screen. The cost is prohibitive but the effects are well worth it. The chase through a pink/purple Peter Maxx-like jungle, the new “warp speed” and the speed chasing with Klingon space cruisers is worth the price.

Make-Up!:

The Klingons, must mention the Klingons. They make a brief and exciting entrance half-way through the film as they confront a powerless shuttle containing Kirk and a few hand-picked men – who smartly took off their red shirts, LOL – and as in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the view of Klingons have again changed.

Music!:

The score is excellently done – the mix throughout was amazing and fit each scene well. Alexander Courage’s score is inserted where appropriate. Stay for the end credits and listen to the coda. Awesome stuff.

Bottom Line: A must-see especially for “Wrath of Khan” fans. You’ll see many similarities to an interesting story that will keep you on the edge throughout.

Science Fiction Movies

Film Review – Oblivion!

[THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE THEATRICAL VERSION.]

Image

“Jack Harper: 60 years ago, Earth was attacked. We won the war, but they destroyed half the planet. Everyone’s been evacuated. Nothing human remains. We’re here for drone repair. We’re the “mop-up crew”.

If you want to see a fun film with romance, excitement, plausible futuristic inventions, weaponry and computer-control, complete with Big Sister and the apparent salvation of the human race, watch this film.

The film’s beginnings concern an apocalypse of sorts, where in 2017 Man won, at a terrible cost, a war with an alien invasion. The remnants of that war, fought by the alien Scavs, want Jack (Tom Cruise) but not to kill him but to capture him.

The cloud condo (I like to call it) has everything, complete with swimming facilities, showers, food and a hot red-headed, Brit-accented woman (Victoria) who also happens to be Jack’s lover and communications officer.

Every morning Jack goes out on patrol, fixes downed drones, and they complain to “management” up in “Tat”, a large module miles wide, that is shuttling the last of humanity to its new colony on Saturn’s moon, Titan.

And every morning the communication from Tat asks , “Are you an effective team?” and all hell will break loose if it’s other than “Yes!”

Who could ask for more?

There’s more to the story than that. We are introduced to an apparency. And like Matrix, there is more than meets the eye and all is revealed, in bits and pieces, as the alien resistance, led by Morgan Freeman’s character, Beech, is also not all it seems.

Plots and Points:

I won’t reveal much, just to say the story will be familiar to many sci-fi fans. The action is non-stop (but it’s not a military film), and the story slowly unfolds (but it’s not Matrix). The plausible machinery (the dragonfly-like helicopter-ship with space travel capability) and Jack’s cool, futuristic motorcycle are fun to watch and experience.

The film’s expostulation of what our world will be like is shocking – New York is completely wiped out. We have the library, subway system and the Brooklyn Bridge at hand. What sci-fi movie does NOT have the Statute of Liberty’s arm up in the air, a common feature in these types of films since the Planet of the Apes!

Best scenes: Getting your cycle stolen from aliens. I mean, that’s really a shame! The humor as Jack catches that ball at the stadium, site of the 2017 World Series. And the hideaway that Jack keeps, a mountain lake and cabin, with remnants of humanity’s technology (great Jazz vinyl) unknown to his partner Victoria.

When a signal brings down Odyssey, a ship that’s been in orbit “pre-War”, and one survivor, a woman who had been in his flashback dreams, completely destroys all the harmony and substance of Jack’s world and sends him on a frantic hunt to find the truth or meet elimination at the guns of drones!

Bottom Line: If you like your sci-fi with great scenes, seamless CGI and a constant plot with no pausing, then see this film. The film does take some concentration and if you’re observant, you can follow along just fine. In fact I may get the DVD to fill in any points I missed.

IMAX, was worth it!

Cast & Crew:

Directed by
Joseph Kosinski

Writing credits
Joseph Kosinski (screenplay) and
Karl Gajdusek (screenplay) and
Michael Arndt (screenplay)

Cast

Tom Cruise … Jack

Morgan Freeman … Beech

Olga Kurylenko … Julia

Andrea Riseborough … Victoria