Tag Archives: future

The Martian – Review

7 Oct

Ridley Scott is known for his ability to craft some of the most epic movies in modern film. GladiatorKingdom of Heaven, and even the crime epic American Gangster all fit nicely into this category of huge films. Now we have a movie based off of a novel by Andy Weir, and in my opinion, this is a pretty absurd choice of book to make a movie out of. Not because it’s a bad story, but it’s actually too great of a story with different story lines that not only spans continents, but planets. If I was a major Hollywood film maker, a project like this would intimidate me, but leave it to Ridley Scott to take the source material and make it into one of the stand out movies of 2015.

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In the not too distant future, NASA sends a group of scientists to Mars to learn more about the desolate, red planet. When a violent storm cuts the mission short, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead. NASA releases the news, but are then shocked to learn that Watney is alive and well and has been stranded on Mars. Watney knows that it may be up to four years before the next mission can arrive to rescue him, so he begins working to make the dead soil of Mars into a place that he can live on. Meanwhile, NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) and Ares III mission director Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) start devising multiple different plans to not only provide food for Watney, but also find a way to rescue him from Mars as soon as possible. This may ultimately fall on Ares III commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and the rest of her crew, forcing them to turn back around and get Watney home.

I can’t stress it enough that the story of The Martian felt absolutely enormous. Not only does it cover over a year of time, but also involves so many different characters that each have very important jobs to do throughout the entire ordeal. There isn’t one character that felt wasted throughout the whole thing. It was also cool to see that even for some of the most minor roles, good actors would still fill their shoes. For example, one of the people that completely changes how NASA approaches the whole problem is astronomer Rich Purnell played by Donald Glover. This character is only in a few scenes for a few minutes, but they still casted a great actor to fill that role. Other than the people I already mentioned, there’s other actors like Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Benedict Wong, and Sean Bean. It’s one of the best casts that’s been assembled in recent memory.

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What seems to be surprising most critics and audiences is how lighthearted this movie actually is. Sure, it’s very dramatic and some of the scenes can get really intense, but I found myself laughing through a lot of the movie. The character of Mark Watney is literally what this story needs. Instead of letting his situation get the better of him, he remains optimistic and cracks jokes throughout the entire movie. If it wasn’t for him keeping his good humor, this would be an unbearably depressing movie. It’s also cool to see how his optimism affects the other characters and keep them from throwing in the towel before something can be done. Pretty much, this movie keeps you feeling great the whole time, and never did I feel like the situation was absolutely hopeless.

I can’t really find anything to complain about with The Martian. Not only is it very well written and acted, but it’s also a beautiful looking movie. In order to get the perfect look for his Martian landscape Scott and the rest of his special effects team filmed in Wadi Rum, Jordan, which has a red desert. That location shooting combined with excellent special effects makes this film visually immersive. Harry Gregson-Williams’ low key score also accentuates the drama very nicely.

While Ridley Scott hasn’t made perfect movies and has recently slipped a little bit, The Martian is proof that he is still able to take huge stories, compress them, and successfully put them on film. This film is an achievement of special effects, but also stands out with it’s quick writing, believable characters, and feeling of hope and good humor that spans the entire two and a half hour run time. Nothing in this movie feels wasted, which means everything feels important and that isn’t easy to do. This is an outstanding movie.

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District B:13 & District 13: Ultimatum – Review

16 Jun

What happens when you have action film master Luc Besson and combine his talents with gravity defying parkour and limb snapping martial arts? The result is an action movie that seems to have been forged by the gods for the gods, high on top of Mount Olympus. District B:13 is a prime example of how action films should be made, and like many action movies, it got a sequel. District 13: Ultimatum is also a marvel because it’s a sequel that actually compliments the first film well instead of just getting pooped out in the name of money.

Let’s start in 2004 with District B:13.

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In the not too distant future of 2010 (remember this movie was made in 2004), the French government constructs a wall around a particularly violent ghetto, District 13. Three years later, most government run buildings and organizations, including the police, have disappeared from the ghetto leaving the people to fend for themselves. Leïto (David Belle) is a “criminal” from the ghetto who spends his days fighting against the gangs that run the city. When he finally gets mixed up with drug lord Taha (Bibi Naceri), his sister is taken and turned into an addict. Leïto soon meets police officer Damien (Cyril Raffaelli), who has a mission to infiltrate Taha’s gang to procure a neutron bomb that belongs to the government, but is set to go off within 24 hours. Taha wants the bomb, Leïto wants his sister back, and Damien wants to complete his mission, so the two team up to bring Taha’s reign of terror to an end and save Banlieue 13 from certain destruction.

This movie is, in my definition, a perfect action film. It’s fast, over the top, and well edited and shot. The parkour scenes flow together very smoothly thanks to Pierre Morel’s direction and steady hand behind the camera. The film editing also works with the kinetic movement of the characters and the narrative, jumping from scene to scene with chaotic precision. The stunts were also all choreographed by one of the costars, Cyril Raffaelli, and his work is out of this world. Not only are the action scenes some of the most unique martial arts you’ll see, but the parkour literally seems to defy gravity at times. There’s so much to look at and laugh in amazement.

District B:13 pretty much has everything you’d want in an action movie. I’ve heard complaints that the story is pretty weak, and I’d have to agree that it does have a very weak story. Let’s be honest though, I wanted to watch this movie for the action and the stuntwork and some cool cinematography. That’s exactly what I got, and the story is passable with a pretty strong message at the end. This is a movie I’ll be sure to watch over and over again.

In 2009, District 13: Ultimatum was released, which reinforces the theory of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

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After waiting three years for law and order to finally come to District 13, Leïto recognizes that it may never come and still works at bringing down corruption wherever he finds it, from police to drug lords. Leïto soon finds himself in the possession of a video that proves corruption on a massive scale stemming from the government’s sort of private secret service. Damien, who is needed out of the picture, is placed in jail and is in need of Leïto’s help. As if breaking out of jail wasn’t hard enough, they are soon faced with a much bigger problem. The leader of the the department titled DISS, Walter Gassman (Daniel Duval) is working to get the president (Philippe Torreton) to bomb sectors of District 13 to create a new section of high rise apartment buildings and businesses.

As you can probably surmise from that summary, this sequel is a lot more intricate and complex than its predecessor, which isn’t necessarily the best thing for a movie like this. What made the first film such a success was the acrobatics and well choreographed fight scenes, not an overly complex story of interdepartmental corruption. Sure, that was part of it, but it didn’t completely take over the movie. Do not get me wrong, though, this is still a superior action movie. The fight scenes are still completely off the wall, if not as skillfully shot and there is even a great use of vehicular stunt work, which was probably the most memorable part of the movie.

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District 13: Ultimatum doesn’t quite match the level that the first film did, but it is a worthy sequel. The action and choreography gets a little bit bogged down with a convoluted story that sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t, and feels a bit recycled at the same time. It was still great seeing the two protagonists teaming up again to save District 13 once again. The simplicity of the story worked well in the first one by allowing it to keep up a fast pace. This one is not as fast or exciting, but still worth a watch.

District B:13 and District 13: Ultimatum are great examples of how to properly do an action movie, and even how to construct a sequel that doesn’t feel forced. This is why I consider Luc Besson to be the king of the action genre and that the best action movies do seem to mostly stem from Europe.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road

17 May

It’s going to be very hard writing this review considering my brain has just been blown through the back of my head and splattered all over the back wall of the theater. Anyone who is familiar with the Mad Max movies knows that the series doesn’t shy away from complete insanity. George Miller has created a dystopian world where gangs rule the wastelands of what used to be planet Earth. Now, what Miller has done with Mad Max: Fury Road is not only redefine the term “survival of the fittest,” but has also raised the bar for any action movie to be released in the future.

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Still haunted by the death of his family, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) continues to wander the wasteland and simply survive. Of course, it’s never that simple for Max and he soon finds himself in the hands of the War Boys, who are led by the maniacal and vicious King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). During what should have been a routine pick up for gas, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) makes a quick detour into the wasteland. The truth of the matter is that she has all of the king’s wives in the back of her tanker and is taking them to the safety of her old home. As always, Max is inadvertently thrown into the mix, and with the memories of the family he failed to save haunting him, he decides to help the wives and Furiosa get to their destination, which may prove difficult with an army of War Boys and factions chasing them through the vast nothingness.

It’s almost like I can’t even process everything that I witnessed in Mad Max: Fury Road.  To be honest, it’s kind of refreshing. It’s as if George Miller took the book of directions on how to make a movie and tossed it out the window in favor of sheer insanity. There is so much spectacle that I actually felt exhausted when the movie was over. At the very beginning, there’s a little bit of set up to get the viewer into the world once again, but don’t get too comfortable. Before you can even say “Rockatansky,” you’re being thrown into one of the most unreal car chases you may ever see at the movies. When it was over, I was actually kind of worried because I didn’t want to have seen all of the coolest stuff at the beginning of the movie. I really had nothing to worry about.

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The action just kept getting better and better, and the movie only slows down a few times. If it didn’t, I’d probably be dead. But the action isn’t the only spectacle on display. Believe it or not, this is a beautiful movie in pretty much every way. The way the blue of the sky contrasts with the yellow and orange of the sand looks amazing and there’s something mesmerizing watching the slow motion destruction. It’s all calculated so well that I can only describe it as synchronized mayhem. What only adds to how great it looks is that most of it was done through stunts and practical effects. Sure, there’s CGI in this movie and it looks great, but most of what you see is actually happening, and that’s pretty mind blowing.

I’ve heard complaints that Max doesn’t do enough in this movie and that Furiosa is actually the main character. My response to that is that, yes it feels different in the sense that Max isn’t the only hero. In all of the movies, Max is thrown into a situation that he doesn’t want to be in, and in really no way is he an interesting character. His role is to save the day, sure, but also be our eyes and ears to the anarchic world of the future. The most interesting things in this movie and the other movies is the world around him and the villainous scavengers that inhabit it. The fact that Furiosa is the main focus is cool because she’s a badass, but it’s still clear that Max is crucial to her success in the movie.

Mad Max: Fury Road feels a little different from the other entries in this series, but it is actually a superior movie to The Road Warrior, which I didn’t think could be topped. Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, and Hugh Keays-Byrne are all completely in character and the action is some of the best you’ll ever see. To anyone who is a fan of the Mad Max movies, it’s necessary to check this movie out, and really it’s necessary for anyone who likes to have fun. It’s one of the best movies of the year so far, and may end up being my favorite movie of the summer.

In Time – Review

23 Feb

One thing that I look for in movies is originality, and while the story for In Time may have similarities to previous works in science fiction, it’s still one of the most original movies to come out of Hollywood in a long time, especially in a world of sequels and reboots. Andrew Niccol showed his talent for science fiction in the memorable and boring sci fi film Gattaca, and here we are once again in a futuristic world of his creation. In Time shows a dystopian world that seems fresh and new and for that I give it a lot of credit. Unfortunately, the execution could have been done a hell of a lot better.

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In the future, humans are being genetically engineered to live to the age of 25 and the only way to live longer is to earn more time on a biological clock that is implanted and shown on the left forearm. Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is a poor worker who lives day to day with less than 24 hours on his clock. After receiving over 100 years from a suicidal businessman, Salas comes to see how unfair the system is and how the wealthy can live forever. Soon, Salas begins a campaign to break the system along with his hostage turned partner Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) who comes from a wealthy background herself. As the duo continues stealing from the rich to give to the poor, a determined Timekeeper, Ray Leon (Cillian Murphy), remains hot on their trail with a mission to uphold the system of economics already in place.

When this movie first started, I was all for it. The dystopian world that was created was both believable but also anchored in a sort of unspoken history if that makes any sense. I could believe that, by the way people spoke and acted, the world actually got to this point. Also the whole idea of the currency being measured in time made me stressed out. I’m the kind of person that always has to know what time it is, how much time I have to do something, and if I’ll have any time left over. This world would be impossible for me to live in, so the stakes were high. It got the exact reaction out of me that was intended, so I’ll definitely give it that.

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Now let’s take a step back and look at the movie as a whole. The idea is fantastic and the cinematography by Roger Deakins is great as you would suspect, but that’s really where the excellence stops. The word I would use to describe this movie is “serviceable.” Maybe part of the problem was that I went into In Time expecting a whole lot more than I actually got. What the movie turned out to be was a lackluster science fiction Robin Hood/Bonnie and Clyde type story. That’s totally cool, but when the pacing is so weird, the movie just begins to feel uneven and often boring. There isn’t a whole lot of action, which is fine, but when the movie slows down, the scenes of drama and dialogue aren’t especially hard hitting.

The acting talent in this movie is also questionable. Justin Timberlake and Cillian Murphy were just fine in my opinion, but everyone else was either underutilized or not good. Both Olivia Wilde and Johnny Galecki, two actors who were giving good performances, were in it for a total of 10 minutes each. Amanda Seyfried, a main character who was in most of the movie, blew the big one. I never really was a fan of hers, and this just solidifies my opinion. Every line she delivered was hollow or phony and I just didn’t believe her at all. Isn’t that kind of a main requirement for an actor?

In Time works as a mediocre film with a strong sci fi story that just isn’t used well. The acting is hollow and the pacing is just plain awkward. It’s so disappointing that a movie with so much originality and such a great premise is wasted on something that ends up being a derivative popcorn flick that could’ve used a double shot of excitement and cleaning up. I mean, really.

Her – Review

3 Feb

What do you think people would say 50 or 60 years ago if you were to tell them that in the future we would be talking and dating people we met on a crazy invention called the internet? Wouldn’t be even stranger to try to explain that sometimes people don’t even each other before they begin a relationship? We have entered a crazy time in social networking and relationships, where our connectivity is almost crucial to our friends and significant others. Her not only explores this in a way that doesn’t seem like it’s been said a hundred and ten times, and it also provided a more than worthy love story that may arguably be the best since Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.

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Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a sad and lonely man who works for a company that writes personal letters for other people. Theodore has been avoiding signing the divorce papers from his wife and childhood friend Catherine (Rooney Mara), and as a result has become introverted and uninterested in any kinds of relationships, including rarely seeing his good friend Amy (Amy Adams). One day, Theodore purchases an OS (Scarlett Johansson), or Operating System, that he customizes to have a female voice, and when he learns that this computer is able to think for itself and have an identity the two become friends. The OS names herself Samantha, and her and Theodore begin a romantic relationship. Life seems to finally be going well for him until it becomes apparent that Samantha is learning and evolving in a much faster rate than can ever have been expected.

While Spike Jonze doesn’t have a particularly long filmography, you can’t argue that it isn’t impressive. Films like Adaptation and Being John Malkovich have proven that he is an exceptional film maker, and his background in music videos also shows that he has a good visual style. Now with Her, he shows that he has major talent in the writing department. Jonze deftly mixes his absurdist humor with some real, down to earth human drama. That might sound kind of odd considering what this movie is about and how crazy the storyline is, but I feel like a lot of people could connect with the characters in this movie.

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It really says a lot about the actors in this movie how they are able to build such a great relationship, even when they don’t see each other face to face and don’t even touch in any sort of way. Joaquin Phoenix handles the arc of his character very well and Scarlett Johansson, who only provides her voice for the film, does a great job at making a computer as lovable as the HAL 9000 was feared. Amy Adams also does a good job as Theodore’s documentary film making, hipster friend who plays on the cliches of that demographic in a very funny way. As good as the actors all are, if it wasn’t for Spike Jonze’s incredibly strange screenplay, complete with believable and human dialogue, Her wouldn’t be as great a film as it is.

Most of all, I think, is that I really like what Jonze is trying to say with this movie. It’s a pretty obvious statement on the case of relationships and friendships that have become very impersonal thanks to online social networking, where you don’t even have to be near the person to have a full blown conversation. It’s also a clever look at the future, and the kind of things that may or may not be acceptable if we keep going on the same path that we’re on. Not only is its messages something to listen to, but it was refreshing to see a love story that is different from the ones that come out all the time that pretty much seem to be following the same formula and have the same characters.

Her is a real one of a kind movie that made me so happy once it was over. This isn’t because the movie is especially hilarious and uplifting, because it’s actually a really sad experience. I was happy because it was just so well written, filmed, and acted and that it provided me with a different trip than I’m used to. It is a very absurd movie with an outlandish plot, but if you can get past that you will really appreciate everything about Her.

Blade Runner – Review

25 Jul

I should really be ashamed of myself for having waited 21 years of my life to see Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. I have read Philip K. Dick’s outstanding novel on which the film was based, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and was completely sucked into the dystopian city that he brought to life. To begin with, I was surprised with the similarities between the book and the movie after hearing how different they were, and I was also surprised that I have to call this film a little bit over rated.

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Deckard is (Harrison Ford) is a retired blade runner, a branch of the police force whose main objective is to hunt down and “retire” androids that are called “replicants.” After four advanced Nexus-6 models escape from an off planet colony and come to earth, Deckard is forced out of retirement to hunt them down. These new models are a bit more tricky to find, however, due to advanced emotional control and, in some instances, false memories implanted into their brain to give an “emotional cushion.” This assignment will prove to be a life changing one as Deckard begins to see that he may be playing for the wrong side of the law.

Ok, I know I’m going to get a lot of heat for this one, but I have to be totally honest. I felt a little twang of disappointment with Blade Runner. Part of me thinks that I was expecting a bit too much from it. Another part of me realizes that Deckard is a really boring character whom I really didn’t care for. In the novel, seeing the world from his perspective and getting the inside scoop on his thoughts made him a much more interesting character. As the main protagonist, he just doesn’t really work. I’m way more interested in Rutger Hauer’s role as the lead replicant, Roy, who brings more humanity to his role than Ford. On top of that, we are introduced to characters early in the film which we then don’t see again for what seemed like a really long time. Then after all of that, the movie seems to wrap up really quickly.

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So, while the movie bothered me at some parts, it really does exceed in others. For one thing, the special effects are superb. Seeing the spinners flying through the dystopian Los Angeles, complete with advertising zeppelins and moving billboards as tall as skyscrapers is mind blowing. If anything, Blade Runner deserves a spot on anyone’s list of best science fiction films for the visuals alone. I hear a lot of complaints that this is a very dark movie and can be hard to see things at times. This is true, but Blade Runner falls into the sub genre of tech noir, which means it’s science fiction in the style of classic noir films. Thankfully, that god awful narration by Harrison Ford has been taken out of the re-releases!

Like the book, Blade Runner is definitely a philosophical tale. Deckard begins to see throughout his journeys that destroying these androids is a moral dilemma. In what I consider to be a fantastic monologue given be Hauer towards the end, he explains that his replicant eyes have seen things that most humans on earth would never believe, and when he is gone, so are the memories. The theme of eyes is very important to the story, and visually, Scott even went so far as to make the character’s eyes glow at some parts by reflecting a small light directly at them. The eye is the window to the soul, people say, and that is what the movie can be boiled down to. Deckard is hunting the androids because they have no soul, even though his job is more soulless than the androids he is killing.

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In my honest opinion, Blade Runner is just a tad bit over rated, even though the more I really think about it, the more I am liking it. Some things about it could definitely be changed, even though it’s been tinkered with throughout the years so  much so that even George Lucas would be blushing. It’s not my favorite sci fi movie, and objectively it isn’t the best, but it is something of a marvel and is definitely a reminder that blockbusters these days don’t have as much of a philosophical or soulful push that they had just a few decades earlier.

Renaissance – Review

14 Sep

It’s important for a movie to have style. Style gives a film a unique mark that separates it from all the rest. Unfortunately, it isn’t a rare thing that a movie will become so overly stylized that it detracts from its success. Case and point: Renaissance.

 

Paris, 2054. The city has become a maze of streets, railways, and alleys that are carefully monitored by law enforcement.Ilona Tasuiev (Romola Garai), an employee for the mega-corporation, Avalon, is kidnapped for an unknown reason. Enter Barthèlèmy Karas (Daniel Craig), a street wise cop hired to track her down by any means necessary. During his investigation, begins to work with Ilona’s older sister, the mysterious Bislane (Catherine McCormack), and soon discovers the the web of corporate and moral intrigue runs deeper than he could have possibly imagined.

Everything about this film is part of a recipe for success. The stunning visuals, the interesting plot points, and just the way the story unravels is cool to watch. Just like if you were making any type of food, too much of one recipe will start to overbear the rest of the flavor. This is the main issue with Renaissance. The visuals are so stunning and overdone that I started just looking at the movie rather than watching it.

 

Other than the overwhelming visuals, the story was just not involving at all. Things moved on before I got a chance to really process what was happening, and there was little to no explanation of things. The crazy black and white effects also put characters in such ridiculous shadow, sometimes, that I had no idea who I was really looking at, and then the scene was over. Great.

I’m a little bent out of shape about this movie because I really wanted to like it. There were times where I finally got adjusted to the animation and effects and then the scene would change. Once the scene changed I would get lost in the animation again and spend more time adjusting to the surroundings. Again, the animation is absolutely fantastic and very reminiscent of Sin City and A Scanner Darkly. Unfortunately, I was more into what the film looked like and not so much the story or the characters.

 

I feel like the story is definitely there. Like I said, there were times where I was really invested in what was happening onscreen, just not as much as I really should have been. The characters do have to make some interesting moral choices and there are a few good twists that had me legitimately surprised, but by the end of the movie, I was more than ready to turn it off and go do something else.

I can’t say that I’ve ever really had this problem before. Normally I really enjoy an overabundance of style in movies. Any Guy Ritchie (except one that will go unmentioned) has a crazy amount of style that, when mixed with the plot and characters, make the films worthwhile. In Renaissance, there was too much style and not enough good characters or plot elements. I’d definitely say check it out for the visuals alone, but there really is no need to see it twice.