Posts Tagged ‘science fiction

30
May
13

After Earth

Today, the average life expectancy for someone born in the United States is approximately 77 years for males and 80-81 years for females.  Whatever the number of years we’re privileged enough to spend on God’s green Earth may be, we can rest assured those years will consist of ups and downs, both personally and professionally.   Now, one person who had his share of ups and downs professionally is director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs).  Shyamalan’s latest directorial project is the new film, After Earth, starring Will Smith.

After Earth is a futuristic science fiction film that takes place, much like its title implies, after planet Earth has undergone extreme warfare and tremendous environmental stress, making it uninhabitable for human beings.  After Earth is the story of a strained father-son relationship between General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) and Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith).  An event, which we see in frequent flashbacks, serves as the primary reason for the great amount of tension between Cypher and Kitai.

While traveling through space to a routine military exercise, in which Cypher has reluctantly allowed Kitai to tag along, their spacecraft malfunctions.  In an attempt to save the crew, Cypher orders the ship crash land on planet Earth.  During the crash all of the crew is lost except Kitai and Cypher who has sustained badly broken legs, which one is life threatening.  To save himself and his father, Kitai races against the clock as he ventures out into the unknown and unpredictable land that is now Earth as Cypher directs Kitai’s every move from the crashed spacecraft.

Without a doubt the biggest grievance After Earth commits is how the film decides to utilize its biggest asset, Will Smith.  The film’s trailer and poster lead you to believe Will Smith is the star of the show, but unfortunately he really isn’t. Instead, Mr. Smith is reduced to basically a voice over role with occasional scene of him grimacing from the pain of his damaged legs.  Most screen time is devoted to the younger Smith, Jaden.  Although, Jaden isn’t terrible, he’s not ready to carry an entire film himself, not yet anyway.  Also, for some odd reason, Will and Jaden display British-like accents that appear and disappear throughout the film.

As I mentioned, After Earth is a sci-fi actioner, but it takes a considerable amount of time getting to any action.  Until any combat begins, the film muddles along with long, extended scenes with monotone dialogue with little to no expression from the actors.  When the action does begin, it’s fairly consistent and rather entertaining. However, it’s pretty standard fare for a sci-fi action film and brings nothing new to the table.

After Earth is better than a typical Shyamalan directed film.  On the other hand, it’s below par for a Will Smith flick. However, the film’s redeeming qualities; the father-son relationship dynamic and enjoyable action sequences are not enough to keep it from drowning in a sea of clichéd sci-fi mediocrity.

Best Buy Latest Deals – JUNE 2-8, 2013 – Warm Bodies – Blu-ray Disc

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20
May
13

Star Trek into Darkness

There are many things in today’s society that produce legions of fans.  For instance, take any big name performer or singer today and a mass of screaming and adoring fans trampling each other for better seats at the local concert is sure to follow.  But, as we all know singers and performers are a dime a dozen and as their star begins to fade, so do fans and as a result album and concert sales.  However, as fickle as some fans of today’s pop culture tend to be, you will have a hard time finding a more loyal and faithful fan base than Star Trek fans or “trekkies”.   This past weekend, trekkies had a reason to head out to the multiplex as J.J. Abrams Star Trek into Darkness, starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, opened.

The sequel to 2009’s hit Star Trek, sees the return of all the same crew.  Star Trek into Darkness wastes no time getting into the action as we meet the crew from the Starship Enterprise mid mission and the action literally starts from the first frame.  After completing the opening mission where a valuable crew member of the Starship Enterprise is nearly killed, the film really kicks it into high gear and takes the crew and the audience along for the ride.

While being debriefed at Enterprise Headquarters, we learn of a terrorist bombing at an important Enterprise base, where hundreds are killed.  After learning the identity of the individual responsible, the Starship Enterprise is sent on a dangerous manhunt to capture the fugitive alive and bring him to justice.

Before I begin, I must admit to not being a Star Trek fan.  I’ve also never watched a single Star Trek episode.  I did, however, see the first 2009’s Star Trek and did find it mildly entertaining.  With all that being said, Star Trek into Darkness is one of those rare films where it is actually action from the opening credits to the end credits.  The story is exciting, attention-grabbing right from the get go and there isn’t a dull moment the entire film. As fast paced and action packed as the story is, I did find myself predicting the major twists and turns along the way and when they were going to happen and was right on almost every occasion.

The directing here is both top notch.  Star Trek into Darkness is a rare film for yet another reason, there is not a single wasted scene the entire movie. Everything in the film is necessary to tell the story.  Often times with films like these, they seem to throw in an unnecessary love story and that does not happen here and it makes for a much tighter, cohesive film because of it.

While not a “trekkie” or even particularly looking forward to this film, Star Trek into Darkness is an enjoyable way to spend a night out.  It’s a fast paced, fascinating, thrill ride that does not let up until the end credits roll.   So, sit back, buckle up and take the ride!

19
Apr
13

Oblivion

One look at Tom Cruise’s body of work and you’ll notice he’s done it all. With his latest film, Oblivion, Cruise steps into the science fiction genre.

Oblivion is set in post-apocalyptic USA in the year 2077. In a speedy voice over, we learn humans have won the war against the alien Scavs, machines programmed to destroy, but a select number of humans, Jack Harper (Cruise), had to remain behind to clean up the mess.  As a consequence of the war, all humans were subject to a mandatory memory swipe. Memory swipe and all, Jack keeps seeing visions of walking by a beautiful woman in what appears to be New York City.

Main character, drone technician, Jack Harper (Cruise), spends his days going into what remains of Earth repairing drones so they can continue fighting the Scavs.  Jack only has two more weeks left of duty and can then join the other humans on another planet.  During a routine maintenance outing, Jack discovers a spacecraft falling to the ground.  Upon investigation, Jack discovers the woman he keeps having visions of locked into a protective casing.  Before the Scavs destroy her, Jack is able to drag her to safety, taking her to his house.  After hearing who she is and what she was doing, Jack learns not everything is what it seems.

Oblivion is visually stunning.  There are expansive desert landscapes and magnificent sequences of intergalactic matter. The film’s setting is beautiful and you’ll want to keep your eyes on the screen for that reason alone. This is easily the best aspect of the film.

The acting is decent, nothing cringe worthy. However, early on Cruise is robotic and looks uncomfortable. As the film progresses, he relaxes and delivers an average performance.  Morgan Freeman, who’s underutilized, is good in his small role.

Anyone looking to Oblivion for action will not be disappointed.  Almost from the opening scene, there’s someone running from gunfire and continues to right up until the end credits.

Easily the biggest complaint is the story is so hard to follow.  Once you think you know what’s going on, a twist happens and takes the film in a completely different direction.  This happens on several occasions.  If you’re seeing Oblivion, do not leave your seat until it’s over or you will be lost.

08
Apr
13

The Host

 

The past weekend provided us with yet another rather uninspiring line up of new releases at the theater.  Jurassic Park, a film in theaters twenty years ago and the hyper violent and gory Evil Dead, made their way to the multiplex.  Watching a film that perpetually plays on television or being subjected to a 90 minute nonstop blood and gore fest didn’t appeal to me.  Instead, I decided to give Andrew Niccol’s The Host, starring Saoire Ronan and Diane Kruger a try.

The Host, based on a book of the same name, is penned by Twilight author Stephanie Meyer.  The central story revolves around an alien invasion of Earth where the aliens implant an alien soul into human bodies.  The number who are human is slim and is dwindling fast as the memories in the humans lead the aliens to other humans.

In the opening scene, Melanie, the main character, jumps through a window in order to kill herself and evade capture from the aliens.  Miraculously aside from a few cuts Melanie is perfectly fine.  Melanie’s will to survive is so strong that after being implanted with an alien host, we see her memories and hear her thoughts throughout the film. Wanting to find and protect her brother, Melanie sends the alien residing in her on a wild goose chase in the desert.  Soon after and before dying in the desert, Melanie is taken into an isolated campsite with the few remaining humans.  Melanie’s presence is met with an expected apprehension because of being a human with an alien host.  Melanie must fight survival and try to convince aliens and humans to peacefully coexist.

For a romantic, scfi-action film, there wasn’t a whole lot of either romance or action.  The film is on cruise control for the most part.  There’ll be one scene of action and then several minutes with nothing that moves the story forward.  I’ve never seen a film that meanders in places for so long like The Host.  However, when the story does move forward, it’s not half bad.  It’s a fairly interesting concept.

The acting in this film is ten times better all-around than anything in the Twilight series.  These actors don’t make you cringe with every word that comes out of their mouth.  It’s not great, but did exceed my expectations.

The Host is not a perfect film, not by a long shot. It meanders terribly, some cheesy lines, and some questionable acting.  However, it did exceed my low expectations.

19
Mar
13

Looper

What would you do if you came face to face with a 30 year younger or old version of yourself?  Would tell your younger self to study chemistry in college instead of education?  Would you ask your older self how many kids you eventually have?  Would you wonder how you ever let yourself go?  Or would you just try to literally kill yourself, like in Rian Johnson’s Looper starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis.

Looper features Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe as a looper, who kills loops or people sent from the future, at point blank range, as they appear out of thin air.  We soon learn from the voice over provided by Joe that a looper failing to kill their loop is the worst possible thing that could happen for a looper.  It can severely alter the future, past, present, and puts the life of the looper at risk.  One day, as he stands at the ready with gun in hand, Joe (Gordon- Levitt) senses something is off.  His loop isn’t on time and when he finally does appear, he’s able to see his face – its Joe from thirty years in the future (Bruce Willis).

During Joe’s from the future’s capture, his wife is killed.  Determined to prevent this from happening, Joe (Willis) seeks out the “rain maker”- the individual, who in the future, makes time travel possible to snuff him out before he does.  With only a series of numbers and a map, Joe (Willis) marks out three possible locations of the “rain maker” and begins killing the children who may grow up to be the “rain maker”.  Present Joe (Gordon-Levitt), with the entire looper organization and future Joe searching for him finds shelter at a farm house with Sara (Emily Blunt) and her son Cid.

There are many films that have encompassed a time travel element and most of the time, it’s the same old thing with the same old boring, convoluted story.  Looper is able to use time travel incorporated with a fun, fast paced, exciting, and edge of your seat story that never gets boring.  However, since we’re dealing with the two actors playing the same character, there were times the story gets a bit confusing.  Looper is a film where if you miss any of it, you’re going to be lost.  If you’re going to watch Looper, you better stay tuned or you’ll be back tracking a lot.

The acting is nothing extraordinary, but what you would expect from a film of the action/sci-fi genre.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s star continues to rise as he’s shows once again, he’s able to carry a film.  Bruce Willis, playing his normal tough guy who shoots first and asks questions later, is good as well, expect for a few rather odd facial expressions.  Jeff Daniels, who plays Looper king pin, felt odd and out of place.  For a role that would seem to call for a mean, intimidating figure, Daniels just doesn’t fit the bill.   Instead, he looks like as if he just woke up with wild hair as he lounges around in a bath robe.

Looper is fast paced with a fascinating and intelligent story with a creative spin on time travel that many films aspire to, but fail miserably. Simply put, Looper is the perfect combination of the sci-fi and action genres that hasn’t been seen since The Matrix trilogy.




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