Archive | Sci-Fi RSS feed for this section

Iron Man 3

3 May

iron-man-3-poster-1

Synopsis: Marvel’s “Iron Man 3″ pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible.

CAST

Robert Downey Jr……………………….Tony Stark/Iron Man

Gwyneth Paltrow……………………………………. Pepper Potts

Don Cheadle…………………………………. Col. James Rhodes

Guy Pearce…………………………………………… Aldrich Killian

Rebecca Hall…………………………………….Dr. Maya Hansen

Stephanie Szostak………………………………………Ellen Brandt

James Badge Dale………………………………………….Eric Savin

Jon Favreau ……………………………………………..Happy Hogan

Ben Kingsley……………………………………………the Mandarin

Ty Simpkins…………………………………………………………Harley

 

Review:  Iron Man 3 ushers in the official start to summer blockbuster season, and what a good way to kick things off.  There are three things to think about, other than the fact that this is the third installment:

1)      How solid the storyline is and how it has action, pathos and heart.

2)      How terrific the acting is with this top notch cast.

3)      Was the showing of  bomb blast that hurt the people Tony Stark loves, too soon after the Boston bombings. (More on this later)

Marvel media has been miles ahead of the competition in the Super Hero film genre, this film is another example of  their good story telling. I will start with the cast:

Robert Downey Jr. is perfect for the role of Tony Stark. He once again proves his charm and witticism as he narrates the story in flashback. In this film Tony moves away from being the playboy, millionaire, narcissist and starts to grow-up. The entire story centers on the demons he has created through the years, through his scientific research and his shallow callousness. Downey does this perfectly well; let’s just say he was born to play the part. Throughout the film you can see that Stark is fighting his own demons, he has been having PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) since the end of the Avengers and this is where the film picks-up his story. Stark is questioning his past as well what’s ahead.

Gwyneth Paltro as Stark’s girlfriend, Pepper Potts, who now runs Stark Industries, also changes but is steadfast in her love for Tony. She falls victim to a terrorist organization headed by The Manderin and the chase begins. Pepper is strong in many ways, she stands by Tony and puts up with his boyish behavior, worries about how the PTSD is effecting him and suffers through watching the Stark Mansion get blown to bits.

Don Cheadle plays Col. James Rhodes,former Stark employee, now working for the defense department. He still marvels at Tony and the two of them  ultimately are forced to work together due to circumstances. Tony always has the upper hand  as Rhodes watches in awe. Their on screen chemistry is great together.

Guy Pierce as scientist geek, Aldrich Killian, is spurned by Tony in a flashback from 1999. His experiments in genetic engineering are blown off by Tony and he spends the next 13 years, through research, plotting his revenge. How does this tie-in with The Manderin, played by Ben Kingsley, the answer  is told in the film, no spoilers here.

Ben Kingsley plays The Manderin, a terrorist who is hell-bent on teaching America and the President a lesson. The mystery lies in his bombing attacks that leave no evidence of a bomb or bomb parts at the scene of the attacks. Kingsley has many secrets and his acting as always is right on the money. He gets to play both serious and comedic and he navigates this brilliantly. He looks like he was having a good time.

This brings me to the question of the Boston bombing, was watching bombs go off  critically hurting Stark’s friend and former bodyguard Happy, a little too soon for most audiences?  Many people were critically wounded in the Boston tragedy and to see Stark seeking revenge for his friend, Happy, may be too uncomfortable for some. The filmmakers did not know in advance of the Boston events, it wasn’t anyone’s fault really that this film came out so close to the Marathon tragedy. I hope people will go to see it and just lose themselves into a good story.

On a lighter note, Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee does his Hitchcock cameo in this film. Can you spot him?…..

Recommended: camera-film-icon1camera-film-icon1camera-film-icon1camera-film-icon1

Advertisements

Oblivion

19 Apr

oblivion_ver3

“Are you still an effective team?”

Synopsis: Jack Harper is one of the last few drone repairmen stationed on Earth. Part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying threat known as the Scavs, Jack’s mission is nearly complete. Living in and patrolling the skies from thousands of feet above, his existence is brought crashing down when he rescues a stranger from a downed spacecraft. Her arrival triggers a chain of events that forces him to question everything he knows and puts the fate of humanity in his hands.

CAST

Tom Cruise…………………………..Commander Jack Harper

Morgan Freeman…………………………………Malcolm Beech

Olga Kurylenko…………………………………..Julia Rusakova

Andrea Riseborough………………………………Victoria Olsen

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau……………………………………..Sykes

Melissa Leo……….….Jack and Victoria’s mission control

Zoë Bell……………………………………………………………Kara

Review:  I will cut to the chase about this high concept, sci-fi, allegory about post apocalyptic earth. It is set in the near future, 2077, the planet earth had been at war with an alien species, the aliens lost the war, planet earth was decimated, and the moon destroyed. The film is directed and co-written by, Joseph Kosinski, the director of TRON LEGACY. This is Kosinski’s second film and is miles above the TRON sequel.

I found the film visual stunning, the concept being reminiscent of the end of the earth movies from the seventies. We see NY city in ruins, the Empire State Building buried up to the radio tower that sits atop it, briefly the torch from a now buried Statue of Liberty, (think Planet of the Apes, original version) and the George Washington bridge all destroyed. These images are only the tip of the ice-berg in a story filled with twists, turns and surprises. The imagery also pays homage to Trek, in its high concept themes of alien technology and to Star Wars.

Tom Cruise at 50, plays mechanic 49, Jack Harper, who has been assigned to fix the drones that protect the giant machines that clean the sea water. The fresh sea-water is made drinkable, and necessary to keep safe, for the surviving humans who relocated to the Saturn’s moon, Titan, to survive from the radiation that has destroyed most of earth. Given Cruise’s box office decline in the past several years, and his quick divorce from Katie Holmes, Cruise needs a hit film; let’s just say this could be the right vehicle and character, to stage a come-back. He is likeable, tough and adaptable as he searches for answers to his recurring dreams of a time, and place in NY, before the war. I enjoyed his performance, it wasn’t Cruise being Cruise, like in most his films, he is very believable in this one.

Andrea Riseborough plays Cruise’s mission partner, and lover, Victoria. This British Actress is a young star on the rise. She is terrific in the film, she navigates through her emotions as she sends Cruise on dangerous mission after dangerous mission.

Morgan Freeman is always a joy to watch no matter what character he plays. Here he plays the leader of the rebels, Malcolm Beech. His group are referred to by Cruise as the Scavs, the remaining alien species that live on the planet.

Olga Kurylenko plays Julia Rusokova a woman who is saved by Cruise when her spaceship crashes on the surface of the earth, brought down by a Scav homing beacon, mounted on the top of the Empire State Building. The ship is carrying a number of sleeping capsules containing human beings in hibernation. Her appearance is a turning point in the film and many surprises and revelations will follow.

Unlike Kosinki’s first film, Tron Legacy, this film is packed with emotion, secrets and riveting revelations about the aliens, the human race and its’ survival. Although there are some unanswered questions, like any good allegory about the human condition, this one examines the exploitation of earth’s natural resources, drone technology and super power demagoguery. In our world these are issues that say, Rod Serling, the creator of the Twilight Zone, would cover in a similar fashion.

Recommended:camera-film-iconcamera-film-iconcamera-film-iconcamera-film-icon

Robot and Frank

12 Oct

Synopsis: Set in the near future, Frank, a retired cat burglar, has two grown kids who are concerned he can no longer live alone. They are tempted to place him in a nursing home until Frank’s son chooses a different option: against the old man’s wishes, he buys Frank a walking, talking humanoid robot programmed to improve his physical and mental health. What follows is an often hilarious and somewhat heartbreaking story about finding friends and family in the most unexpected places.

Cast

Frank Langella……………………………………Frank

Susan Sarandon………………………………Jennifer

Liv Tyler………………………………………..Madison

James Marsden…………………………………Hunter

Peter Saarsgard………………………..Robot (voice)

Jeremy Sisto……………………………………..Sheriff

Jeremy Strong………………………………………Jake

Review: Jake Schieier directed this charming film using speculative fiction as his story telling device. For those uninitiated, speculative fiction takes what we already know exists in science and speculates what it would be like in the near future. Sort of not quite sci-fi but closer to scientific reality when applied.

The story centers around ex-cat burglar Frank, (Langella) who lives alone in his house, in a small suburban community. It is apparent he is beginning to lose his short term memory. His daily routine consists of going to the local library where he has a friendship with the librarian, Jennifer (Sarandon) then going to a local nick-knack store and swiping small things like soap shaped like a cat.

His son Hunter (Marsden) tolerates his father’s behavior but can’t let his father live alone. Hunter is particularly alarmed when Frank doesn’t remember him or his daughter Madison (Tyler). To remedy the situation Hunter, against his father’s wishes brings him a companion Robot. The Robot is specifically designed to challenge Frank’s mental abilities, keep Frank active in a positive way and cook Frank’s meals.  In short Hunter had the robot programmed to keep Frank out of trouble. The Robot even starts a vegetable garden in the backyard of the house.

We learn along the way Frank was indeed a convicted and did jail time on burglary charges. When Frank finds out a wealthy entrepreneur, Jake wants to convert the library into an interactive community space with no books just computers, he decides to start cat-burgling once again. He trains the Robot to help him case the rich Jake’s house in hopes of stealing a valuable diamond necklace owned by Jake’s wife. The Robot at first won’t comply, but sly Frank convinces the Robot that a burglary will be good to stimulate his mental faculties. The Robot acquiesces and the two of them go on a caper. The Robot/Frank bonding begins when Frank trains the Robot how to pick locks and avoid alarms.

We watch with a knowing smile as the relationship between Frank and the Robot turns to respect and friendship. When Frank’s daughter Madison suddenly appears to take care of Frank, she is against Robot technology, her shutting down the Robot causes Frank to freak-out as the heist date draws near.  When after some sly outmaneuvering by Frank, Robot gets turned back on and the heist goes as planned.

You wonder how far gone Frank really is when Jake and the town sheriff come to question him about the heist and the goods can’t be found in the house. The Robot shows the human sign of self-sacrifice when he suggests that Frank erases his memory so the police can’t access his memory of the heist.

The story is funny, heartwarming, quirky and a winner. Speculative fiction aside this is a fun movie with a great cast. Langella really knows how to maneuver between loss of memory and slyness. His performance was wonderful to watch.

Recommended:  

Total Recall (2012)

7 Aug

Synopsis:  A factory worker, Douglas Quaid, begins to suspect that he is a spy after visiting Rekall – a company that provides its clients with implanted fake memories of a life they would like to have led – goes wrong and he finds himself on the run.

Cast:

Collin Farrel…………………………………………………………Douglas Quaid/Hauser

Kate Beckinsale……………………………………………………………………..Lori Quaid

Jessica Biel………………………………………………………………………………..Melina

Bryan Cranston………………………………………………………………………Cohaagen

Bokeem Woodbine……………………………………………………………………….Harry

Bill Nighy……………………………………………………………………………….Matthias

John Cho………………………………………………………………………………..McClane

Will Yun Lee……………………………………………………………………………….Marek

Review:  Based on the 1966 Philip K. Dick short story We can remember it for you wholesale” this remake of the 199o film which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger begs the question, “Was this trip necessary?”  Major differences in this 2012 version vs the 1990 version stick out like a sore thumb.

1) Shwarzenegger’s Quaid was riddled with confusion and deep emotion over his predicament. Collin Farrel is thinner leaner and not as emotional in fact at times he just seems like he is going along for the ride.

2) No Mars involvement in the remake it all takes place on Earth.

3) The humor and satirical points made in the 1990 version are completely gone making the 2012 version less appealing.

4) The 1990 version used auto-animatronics to great affect where as the remake creates a CG I world a little too close in resemblance  to Blade Runner.

5) Both films are well crafted Sci-Fi stories except the noise level and chase scenes in the 2012 version make the last half of the film seem mundane.

In all it was like watching a long video game fun perhaps for the fan boys but a less than satisfying experience for those who appreciate say the headiness of Prometheus or the intelligence of Minority Report. The action takes place in a post WWIII world in  the United Federation of Britain a part of the world that has been divided by war. There is an elevator than runs through the earth’s core that goes to The Colony the other part of the world divided by war. Quaid becomes tired  of his monotonous life in The Colony as a factory worker and spurred by his recurring violent nightmares,Quaid decides to visit Rekall, a company that implants artificial memories. Rekall employee, McClane (John Cho), convinces Quaid to be implanted with memories of a secret agent. Quaid is tested to ensure compatibility but fails and McClane accuses Quaid of really being a spy. McClane and his co-workers are suddenly gunned down by a squad of armored police officers. While Quaid is being arrested, he instinctively reacts and kills the officers before escaping.

Kate Beckinsale plays Lori Quaid and spends too much time chasing and shooting her husband. Like in the first version she is not really Quaid’s wife but an incredible simulation. Give me Sharon Stone anytime, legs crossed or otherwise.

The plot although suggests both political and social intrigue lacks the emotional impact of the original. This film left out all the fun touches such as the Jiffy Cab, and the creepy mutants and replaced them with Star Wars like storm troopers who are in effect idiotic and a complicated cityscape that distracts rather than draws you in. Of course there still is the three breasted woman here as well, her part has been expanded in the remake. It seems the suspense, blood, humor and Schwarzenegger’s indelible performance have become so Iconic that a remake just seems like a waste of time.

Recommended:

The Dark Knight Rises

24 Jul

Synopsis: After an eight year absence and now an outlaw accused of killing Harvey Dent in the last installment, Batman returns to Gotham City to save it from sure destruction by the evil terrorists and their leader Bane.

Cast:

Bruce Wayne/Batman……………………………………………….Christian Bale

Selina/Catwoman…………………………………………………..Anne Hathaway

Commissioner Gordan………………………………………………..Gary Oldman

Alfred……………………………………………………………………….Michael Caine

Bane…………………………………………………………………………….Tom Hardy

Blake…………………………………………………………….Joseph Gordan-Levitt

Fox……………………………………………………………………..Morgan Freeman

Miranda……………………………………………………………….Marion Cotillard

Daggett………………………………………………………………..Ben Mendelsohn

Review:  The third part of this Christopher Nolan directed trilogy makes you pause and consider the nature of the relentless terrorist Bane in light of the tragedy that befell the midnight movie-goers at the now infamous showing in Aurora, Colorado. I couldn’t help but get the eerie feeling that this film could become a landmark in pushing our politicians into  passing new gun control laws, one can only hope. That said The Dark Knight Rises is the most timely and emotionally felt  story of the Nolan Batman films.

Bale’s Batman is the most multilayered of the three films as seen in his struggles going from recluse into hero. As Bruce Wayne watches his beloved Gotham City become under siege by Bane and his group of terrorists Wayne wrestles with his past and wonders if Gotham needs him to return.

Anne Hathaway plays Catwoman and she is an enigma fighting both her good side and her jewel thief/dangerous side. Catwoman is intrigued by Wayne/Batman who has been living as hermit for the past eight years and finds that she and Wayne have more in common that she needs to deal with. They are both driven by good and bad and she has to decide if she should walk the fine line and become allied with Batman.

Marion Cotillard has the least to do as Miranda a rich business woman who is also intrigued by Wayne. She is the only woman Wayne trusts to run his company after Bane using software stolen from the stock exchange wipes out Wayne’s fortune.

Michael Caine plays Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler/father figure. Caine’s portrayal is real and sympathetic once again proving how excellent an actor he is. He portrays Alfred as an unsung hero.

Morgan Freeman is the gadget inventor Fox, at Wayne Enterprises, who develops secret military projects such as specialized armed tanks, a black one that becomes the Batmobile and a new source of energy buried miles beneath Gotham that Bane is after as an integral part of the plot.

Gary Oldman is so believable as Commissioner Gordan, his understanding of the Batman and the city’s need to have him return is undeniably ingrained in him in a way that makes you realise he wishes he could be more like Batman. Oldman does this with understatement and this drives him to save his captured police force.

Joseph Gordan-Levitt plays Officer Blake who also had lost his parents and is an orphan like Wayne. His character is also relentless in saving people’s lives and is driven by circumstance.  Holy Robin Batman……although not in this movie it is alluded to perhaps for a future installment.

This film is very dark and serious compared to the first installment and some remarks the Catwoman makes about preferring to use guns as opposed to Batman who would rather fight without them becomes a poignant reminder of the tragedy that played out at the theater in Aurora. Is this a case where life imitates art or the other way around given the class warfare in our country today and the extremism of politics going on. The movie depicts Bane and company stripping the wealthy of their money and possessions and putting them on trial for their misdeeds to the public.

Should you go see it, I would say yes and keep a prayer in your hearts for the victims in Aurora and their families.

Recommended:

Prometheus

13 Jun

Synopsis:  Millions of years ago In the distant past, the spacecraft of an advanced humanoid alien race arrives on Earth. One of the aliens consumes a dark liquid, causing its body to disintegrate and fall into a nearby waterfall, thus seeding Earth with the building blocks of life.

In the year 2089, archaeologist couple Elizabeth Shaw and her boyfriend Charlie Holloway discover a star map among the remnants of several otherwise unconnected ancient cultures. They interpret this as an invitation from humanity’s forerunners. Peter Weyland the elderly founder and CEO of the Weyland Corporation, funds the creation of the scientific deep space research vessel called the USS Prometheus to follow the map to the distant moon of LV-223 several light years from Earth.

Cast: 

Noomi Rapace………………………………………….Elizabeth Shaw

Michael Fassbinder………………………………………………….David

Charlize Theron……………………………………….Meredith Vickers

Idris elba………………………………………………………………….Janek

Guy Pearce………………………………………………….Peter Weyland

Logan Marshall-Green………………………………Charlie Holloway

Sean Harris……………………………………………………………….Fifield

Rafe Spall………………………………………………………………..Millburn

Emun Elliot………………………………………………………………..Chance

Benedict Wong……………………………………………………………..Ravel

Kate Dickie…………………………………………………………………….Ford

Patrick Wilson……………………………………………………Shaw’s Father

Lucy Hutchinson…………………………………………………..Young Shaw

Director: Ridley Scott

Screenplay: Jon Spaits/Damon Lindelof

Review: I have often pondered the question of human existence. Who hasn’t asked the question “Why are we here?” or “Who is our creator?”  Ridley Scott’s uses these themes in a number of his films such as Blade Runner where the androids question their mortality and wish to meet their creator to question him about the very reason they exist at all.  Scott’s films always draw you in by use of imagery as is the case of Prometheus with it’s H.R. Geiger designed aliens and spacecraft. The film is both intelligent in it’s search for answers to human creation and solid as a Sci-Fi horror/Adventure. The combination is sure to please most audiences and fans of the Alien franchise as well.  Prometheus is so well crafted a tale that if you have never seen the Alien films it doesn’t matter because this film stands apart.

Another running theme in Scott films is the tension between corporate funding and scientific discovery where human life is incendiary to the corporate mission.  *(Spoiler Alert)*  This plays out well in this story as Peter Weyland the head of the Weyland Corp. is old and dying and funds the trillion dollar mission to find immortality by meeting his creators. Scientists Elizabeth Shaw and her scientist boyfriend Charlie Holloway had thought they recieved the funding to find the origins of mankind as created by a human species who planted DNA as an experiment on Earth. (Read the Synopsis).

Michael Fassbinder plays an android named David who studies ancient languages and human civilization was brought aboard the ship to communicate with the aliens and run the ship while the crew is in stasus for the two and a half year journey to the alien planet. His detachment/souless nature is played well by Fassbinder for he too is on a journey of discovery and lives to serve his creator. (Weyland) It occured to me the name David may be a homage to 2001’s Dave, played by Keir Dullea and to the detached HAL computer of the same film. David also has a curious fascination with the film Lawrence of Arabia and has a similiar hairstyle and physique of a young Peter o’ Toole as Lawrence.

Charlize Theron as Meredith Vickers, plays corporate detachment to the hilt. It is her job to explain to the scientists that this is the Weyland corporation’s mission not theirs. She is ruthless in her self-determination for survival and making sure the mission goes as planned. There seems to be a secret she and David share, which no one else knows, that drives her loyalty to the company and her anxiuosness for the mission to end ASAP.

Noomi Repace who plays Shaw, is as strong and driven as Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from the other Alien films. Also the film asks more questions than it answers but who said the question of creation or “engineering” as it is referred to in the film, has an easy answer. Is human – kind an alien experiment in genetic engineering?  The film does question this and shows us what might go wrong if you try to play God with DNA. The film deserves a sequel and perhaps this will answer some of the questions that were left unanswered.

The film has a horror element that like the other Alien stories is a neccessary component of an Alien film. Scott seemed to be more interested in the tough questions of God, creation and man-kind’s existence making the combination of horror and intelligence elevate the film, tho at times I felt the gratuitus horror moments ditracted rather than enhanced. I am drawn to intelligent stories and I have to say it is nice to see Scott directing Sci-Fi with his knack for realism and provoking thought over violence. Had a great time viewing this movie and you will too.

Recommended: