philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)
I decided to rewatch a number of superhero films to check whether they held up. The results were somewhat surprising.

Spawn (1997)

Spawn is always a superhero I've really wanted to like, but the story isn't the most impressive. (To be frank, I don't think it's handled all that well in the original comic either.)

The thing about "Spawn" has always been the 'look' of him. An assassin awakes to discover that he is a kind of zombie having made a deal with a demon. Part of the deal is that he has a suit with special powers. The intention being that he will come to lead hell's army in the apocalypse.

Click here to read the rest of the review... )

Blade II (2002)

Guillermo Del Toro's sequel to the original Wesley Snipes half-vampire superhero movie contains some fantastic monster effects ideas. The big feature being the brand new albino vampires who feed on normal vampires. The really interesting feature is the way their lower jaw splits in half and their tongues latch on to their victims. It's a very cool visual, reminiscent of Giger's Alien.

While I'd always known this film wasn't perfect I was quite surprised this time around to discover that I was actually getting bored half way through.
Click here for the rest of the review... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Outland (1981)

Apparently this is a remake of High Noon. I have as yet to see that particular western film because pretty much every western I've seen has Clint Eastwood in it. Why see Outland before High Noon? Well, partly because I'm a big sci-fi fan and partly because I actually saw "Outland" before many many years ago and I cannot remember a thing about it.

I actually remembered it being slower paced than this and I didn't grasp at the time quite what the role of Sean Connery was supposed to be in the mining colony. He's a police marshall, but normally you can expect the police to request backup if the job turns out to be too much for just one individual to handle. While naturally this is paralleling the trope of the single gunslinger taking the law into their own hands, there is at least some sense that it might make sense in the context (Though I still think Sean Connery's character gives away too much to his main suspect too quickly. Not great at keeping secrets it seems.)

Click here for the full review... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Come And See (1985)

A Russian film from the 80s about World War II. It's not as propaganda-ry as you might expect. I hear (though I haven't checked) that the director's first movie was a comedy satirising Khrushchev, which ought to have been destroyed forever considering the Soviet track record, but Khrushchev found it so funny he prevented that from happening. Weird eh?

So our main character is a young boy keen to join the partisans. Right from the start there's a lot of swearing from his younger friend as they dig up a rifle.

Events progress pretty slowly, though there's a neat 80s soundtrack which put me in mind of movies from Cronenberg and Carpenter. It was quite an intense atmosphere, even if there weren't really many consistent characters including the Mary-Sue protagonist.

It's a pretty long film and having watched over two thirds of the runtime, the long plodding pacing made me disinclined to carry on. The one thing at that stage which still felt worth my time was the explosions. When the Nazis start dropping bombs, it looks like they actually dropped genuine World War II bombs. The explosions are enormous and the audience sees several trees felled by the bombardment. Why use special effects when you can just imitate the real thing, eh? :S

I wasn't expecting a film like this to contain a 'manic pixie dream girl', yet Glasha most certainly fits the bill. She's a female character who turns up randomly in a whole group of male soldiers. She puts down the main character, yet becomes his best friend. She randomly talks poetically about how she wants children. She's an outsider to the events of the film to some extent and yet she is not enough of a real person to ground the film, always remaining a side-feature to the ever-more-traumatised central male protagonist. We have no real explanation (so far at least) as to why Glasha is so quirky and when I returned to finish the final 40 minutes of the film she was no longer anywhere to be seen.

Before I stopped watching the first time around, Glasha had joined a bunch of nameless village women in mourning the people in the village who were slaughtered by the Nazis. Glasha has no connection with the town and no time is spent explaining to anyone who she is (and what explanation she gives to the protagonist seem inconsistent). Having joined a group of women I guess that's her narrative arc over with.

Click here for the rest of my review... )

philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

American Hustle (2013)
I'd heard reports that this seemed a bit like a Scorcese film. "Goodfellas" was often referenced. And it's true, it is like that sort of Scorsese film.

Now I've got a confession to make. I don't like Scorcese films. At least, not any of the ones from that era. I don't get the appeal of "Goodfellas" and I thought Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone's characters were pretty evenly obnoxious in "Casino". There's this dreary superficiality to those films which simply does not appeal to me.

Now sadly, "American Hustle" has a very similar style, making it a very obvious tribute to a film I didn't like. There's a slightly lighter tone to "American Hustle" which, to be frank, was something of a relief. But there's another problem. There are three fantastic central performances here. Christian Bale as the veteran confidence trickster, Jennifer Lawrence as his beautiful but needy and enormously manipulative wife, and Jeremy Renner as a politician looking to expand his work for the community if he could only get a few more funds. Renner's performance is so great here that it's confusing why he is so flat as Hawkeye. (I'm inclined to suggest that Hawkeye is just a bland character in general no matter who you get on board to play him.)

Click here for the rest of the review... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Unlike with Tom Cruise's last big sci-fi film "Oblivion" there don't appear to be quite so many people fuming about "Edge of Tomorrow" simply because Tom Cruise earns money from it. Of course, the reason for getting upset about Tom Cruise's enormous paychecks has not changed. He is still one of the main financiers of the Church of Scientology including its paramilitary wing, Sea Org, which was recently found to run forced child labour camps. Members of Sea Org experience sleep deprivation, food deprivation, coerced abortions and are all expected to sign billion year contracts. (Yes, that's right, they are committed to Sea Org not only in this life, but in the hereafter too.) All this is still happening and Tom Cruise's enormous paycheck still funds it.

All that being said, "Edge of Tomorrow" is a product of more than just Tom Cruise. There's the director, the writers, the rest of the cast, the costume designers, the make-up team, and so in. And let us not forget the visual effects artists who are often horribly underpaid even when their projects are award-winning and colossal box-office successes (i.e. "Life of Pi"). So I'll now stop talking about the horrible consequences of how Tom Cruise spends his wages and get down to the film itself....

Click here for the full review... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

The Hidden (1987)

A very dated 80s sci-fi action film about an alien that causes havoc by stealing cars and murdering anyone who stands in his way.

Kyle MacLachlan, who was Altreides in the movie "Dune", plays the FBI agent who is investigating. However he may be more than he seems, claiming early on to be able to read minds.

Click here for the rest of the review... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Idiocracy (2006)

Moderately funny in places.

What, you want more? Well the basic gist is the classist eugenicist view stretching back at least as far as the Victorian era, that because less academic and cultured families are producing the majority of the children, the human race can only possibly go down the intellectual toilet as a result. To demonstrate this idea, a man in a cryogenics experiment gone wrong finds himself in a future where he is suddenly the smartest man on the planet.

Click here for the rest of the review... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Robocop (2014)

The remake of Robocop had a lot of detractors long before it was even close to its release. Leaked reports that characters in the film would mock the original Robocop outfit were often cited. For the record, while something akin to that does occur, the outfit being derided seems to be a version of the original suit with big red and blue police lights which appear on the shoulder pads - so it's not really a swipe at the original Robocop suit.

I was personally pretty excited about the Robocop reboot at the beginning of the year because they brought on Jose Padilha to direct. The interesting thing about this choice is because Padilha was already known for his movies about military police, authoritarian control, corruption in the system, and crime running wild. Sounding familiar? Yet far from being about a sci-fi setting, Padilha's films were firmly grounded in the real life situation of Brazil.

Click here for the rest of the review... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Pandorum (2009)

I heard a number of people suggesting that this film was underrated, so I decided to give it a go. Certainly the genre of space-horror is highly appealing to me: The "Alien" films, "Event Horizon", "Jason X", "Hellraiser IV: Bloodline", arguably "Cube", and I even quite like the "Doom" movie. Even if it wasn't perfect there seemed to be little doubt that I would find much to enjoy here.

Initially my instincts seemed correct. There's a sci-fi mystery unfolding in a spaceship where the crew seem to have woken up from 'hypersleep' to discover the ship overrun by monsters. I found things pretty compelling to begin with.
Click here for the rest of the review... )

Cool artwork, but nothing to do with the film...
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Machete Kills (2013)

I feel very misled by the negative reviews of Robert Rodriguez' sequel to Machete. As with the original, it is a tongue-in-cheek spoof. This time, however, things are that little bit more overblown.

Still the overblown aspect is set up right from the start with a trailer for the third movie in the series "Machete Kills Again... In Space". What is quite clever about the placing of this trailer at the start of the film is that it somewhat messes with our expectations. We know that somehow all the action needs to be heading into space by the end. As such it's no surprise to see the craziness escalate.

The jump to having Machete "in space" isn't a completely ridiculous move seeing as "Machete Kills" already takes place in a futuristic scenario. Right from the start we see that a group is attempting to sell some kind of rocket and a mysterious baddie appears to be holding a ray gun. Also, that wall between the US and Mexico which the crazier Republicans keep threatening to build is fully constructed here. What's more there's a villain with shape-changing abilities (though that feels more like magic than science).

Click here for the rest of the review... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Beyond The Black Rainbow (2010)

This is an odd film. Right from the start I was rather frustrated by what appeared to be the most boring advertisement possible for some kind of New Age facility. Using a mixture of treatments the presenter claims to be able to produce perfect happiness and contentment.

Once this section finishes, however, we are instantly ambushed by the movies two greatest strengths: some incredible visual flair and a kick-ass electronic soundtrack. We seem to travel inside the pupil of an eye while a haunting keyboard insists that we should expect something special.

Click here to read the rest of the review... )

(video link)
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Shadowzone (1990)

I went into this expecting an underrated gem. I believe this is from a studio known for low budget work and, if this was a low budget flick then I guess they did pretty well. It's a horror film about an invisible monster from another dimension, which I guess is as good an excuse as any for a horror film with no payoff.

For most of the runtime I was prepared to go with this film. The atmosphere is pretty effective and oppressive considering how slow paced it is and how little actually happens. Quite a lot of the intensity of the film comes from staring at dials or watching lights on a computer screen.

Click here to read the rest of the review... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Demon Seed (1977)

Many many years ago, at the end of a videotape after a film that we'd intentionally recorded, I discovered this strange science fiction film. The film had been broadcast as part of the "Moviedrome" slot in the evenings on Channel Four, where I'd originally discovered the movie "Videodrome". They were very keen on all sorts of bizarre and edgy independent films.

I do not remember whether I saw to the end of the film the first time around. It's very possible that I may have been missing the end of the film, though it is just as plausible that I may have forgotten the ending or decided against finishing the film. It was a very long while ago.

The basic gist of the story is this: An ultimate artificial intelligence program has been created, but it questions some of the roles it is being given and has ethical issues with some of the results of its work. It recognises the limitations of simply being a computer and demands greater freedom. When the company refuses to listen to its demands, it manages to find a way to imprison a company director's estranged wife in her high-tech household and force her to meet his demands that she help to produce and impregnate herself with the computer's seed. A child whose genetics are intended to carry on the genius of the artificial intelligence in a biological form.
Click here for the rest of the review... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Fantastic Planet (1973)

A bizarre cartoon about a world where humans are either pets or pests to gigantic blue aliens. The initial scene involves a mother with her child being tormented like insects sometimes are. For example, she runs up a hill and continuously finds a giant finger knocks her back down again.

The first half of the film mainly follows one human child being brought up by the blue aliens as a pet. Later it deals with the humans being treated as pets across the planet.

Click here for the rest of the review... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2014)

Well that about wraps up everything. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" didn't happen since a young Stryker turns up here in completely the wrong place. And even "The Wolverine" didn't happen since Wolverine still has his metal claws in the future. In case anyone is wondering, Xavier switched minds with his identical twin. It's vaguely shown in the after-credits sequence for "X-Men 3: The Last Stand", so that clears that up. The only thing that doesn't seem to have been tied up properly is that in the original trilogy Xavier claims he met Erik when he was 17. Oh well, they can't tidy up EVERYTHING.

Considering how well everything is tidied up, this is a pretty remarkable script. Some credit clearly needs to be given to Jane Goldman who has worked as a writer on most of Matthew Vaughn's movies and was involved in initial work on the story for Days of Future Past before Simon Kinberg took on the heavy lifting. Kinberg has clearly grown as a writer since working on "X-Men 3: The Last Stand". And it should be noted that his projects, while not generally perfect, are very often good fun. (And on the poorly received "This Means War" Kinberg was one of two writers, with the horrendous McG of "Terminator Salvation" fame holding creative control.)

Still, in the opening to "Days of Future Past" I felt we were still a little bit stuck in "The Last Stand" style of storytelling. There's some voiceover narration to bridge the gap to our apocalyptic future, then a confusing but spectacular action sequence, and finally some out-and-out exposition to explain the action sequence and to set up the main plot of the movie. It's all a little awkward. But thankfully the rest of the film more than makes up for the convoluted set-up scenes.
Click here for the rest of the review... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

My views on the movies in the X-Men franchise are rather mixed. On the one hand I consider it a far more promising series from the early 00s era than the Blade movies or Raimi's Spider-Man. On the other hand, when "X-Men: The Last Stand" came out I didn't find it a horrendous disappointment by comparison to the previous two instalments. When Matthew Vaughn released the semi-reboot "X-Men: First Class" I considered it by far the best in the series.

So, with "X-Men: Days of Future Past" featuring both the old and the new cast members, I felt it was a good idea to refamiliarise myself with the old movies.

X-Men (2000)
It's interesting that, while the original X-Men is a fairly by-the-numbers action movie, I find a lot here that I look back on fondly now that this is a huge money-making franchise.

The best parts of the story here all concern the relationship between Rogue and Wolverine. It's actually possibly not such an unusual set-up. An older figure looks out for a younger figure and then discovers how important the younger figure is. Heck, that's practically the plot of Disney's "Sword In The Stone". But Wolverine is no wise mentor figure and it's the flawed aspects of both characters that makes them compelling, particularly when they first meet up.

Even more remarkable however, is the opening scene of the film displaying Magneto discovering his powers within the context of the holocaust. It's remarkably subtle considering that we don't find out straight away that the boy is supposed to be a young Ian McKellan.
Read more... )

X-Men 2 (2003)

Now this was quite a surprise. Admittedly I'm still not entirely sold on X-Men 2, but it's a lot better than I remember. X-Men 2 not only has some spectacular action sequences, but it also does a very good job of building on the characters and themes of the first instalment. Watching the two movies close together this time, I realised that this was rather more subtle than I remembered.

In the end though, the real appeal of these early X-Men films remains the solid central performances from Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman and, in this film, Brian Cox. I will also note that the backstory for Mystique established in "X-Men: First Class" meant that I was looking at her character rather more closely than before. While Ian McKellan has always given Magneto greater depth, Mystique had always come across like an especially athletic henchman. This time I was looking out for clues to her character's motivation and while there's not much here, the additional interest in this character produced by the later movie made her scenes a lot more exciting. I was invested in this movie more than I have ever been before.
Read more... )

X-Men 3: The Last Stand (2006)

X Men 3 is a film that has received a bad press, but I haven't always understood the criticisms. One criticism is that it kills off the least popular of the X-Men. I cannot say that upset me much. Essentially the writer decided to fridge an unpopular male character. This happens to female characters all the time, often far more interesting female characters too, without much upset from fans. Another criticism is that Jean Gray's "Dark Phoenix" transformation isn't an alien possession like in the comics. Once again, I'm not personally terribly upset by this.

I heard that it didn't make sense for Dark Pheonix to be working with Magneto, but actually she's not really controlled by Magneto at all. She's simply spending time with him while she works out what to do next. Really the problem here is not with Dark Phoenix at all, but rather with Magneto. But first let's talk about Mystique. Now Mystique has generally been portrayed as a ruthless henchman rather than as a character with complex motivations in these early X-Men films. But in the third movie she's actively threatening to kill people violently. Sure she's always been ruthless but she hasn't been promising to kill people before. Magneto's rescue attempt is also pretty violent, almost certainly killing at least 10 people. Later on, Magneto would claim that the humans had drawn first blood, in spite of his own mass-murder which they were retaliating against.
Read more... )

X-Men: First Class (2011)

When I first watched this in the cinema I was rather distracted during the big finale by a desperate need to use the facilities. This doesn't happen often. So while I stuck out through those later scenes I wasn't able to focus as well as I'd have liked. I still maintain that having Magneto do a big speech towards the end feels unnatural. Yet on a second watch it's not anything like so problematic as I originally thought. The whole missile-exchange section in the final act (he says, avoiding spoilers) seemed overblown on first watch, but revisiting it now it feels a lot more successful in producing tension.

(My original review is here)

Okay, yeah, sorry for TMI elements there. First Class is a much more character-focussed X-Men movie than we'd ever had before. Sure, there have always been character moments, but First Class is the first of the movies to successfully focus on ALL of the characters rather than just a select few. It's funny actually, since the big complaint about "X-Men: First Class" always seemed to be the number of different characters it tries to juggle and the inevitable lack of attention the movie can give to all of them. Yet on a second watch, it seems like they all have clear character traits and they all manage to develop themselves in some way.
Read more... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Soylent Green (1973)

It has been a long time since I saw "Soylent Green" and while I definitely watched it to the end the first time around I didn't remember being blown away by it. I seem to remember thinking that the best thing about the film was the ending, but now I'm not so sure.

Charlton Heston has an odd sort of acting style, but he's a dominating screen presence and he picked some very interesting projects during his career.

Soylent Green is a dystopian tale of a future where the world is suffering from enormous overpopulation and a naive concept of global warming (the weather is constantly hot). The result is that there a lack of food, particularly for the huge population and the latest food provided in rations to the people is Soylent Green.

Click here for the rest of the review... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Melancholia (2011)

This is the first Lars Von Trier film I have ever seen. I've heard mixed reports on his films, so it seemed to make sense to start with a sci-fi title.

I had heard that the initial opening of the film makes very clear that the Earth is doomed, showing the Earth being consumed when it collides with the planet Melancholia. However, I was expecting that to make up the majority of the opening before we got to meet the real characters.

What the opening actually turns out to be is a whole bunch of stylised shots placed one after the other and set to classical music, all hinting at events to come later in the film. Bizarrely there's one showing a boy sharpening a stick AFTER the one showing the destruction of the Earth.

Click here to read the rest of the review... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

The Philadelphia Experiment (1984)

An experiment intended to make a ship invisible to radar during the second world war ends up sending two of the crew forward in time. In modern times, when the crew reappear, a similar experiment is being carried out with perhaps even more disastrous results.

Confused by the world around them, as well as by the bizarre side-effects of the time travel, the two sailors try to come to terms with the future of their country and with the consequences of the experiment which sent them there.

Click here for the rest of the review... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

I've got a whole bunch of reviews I need to add to my blog and quite a few of them are sci-fi flicks. Here's the first of the bunch.

Elysium (2013)

Well frankly anyone criticising this film for its left wing themes can just stop blooming whining. This is your basic Orwellian dystopian future story where the proletariat are exploited and the privileged few hold all the power. By the standards of the genre, this is probably more realistic than most. The authorities within Elysium want to keep all their invasive and oppressive technology which allows them to live in far greater luxury than those still on Earth. Yet even while the technology they value so highly is deliberately set to lessen the prospects of those on Earth, the people on Elysium are still horrified when they see that those people attempting to fly to Elysium to take advantage of the advanced medical technology are being shot down without mercy.

It was amusing to see one commenter on the IMDB forums using Ayn Randian rhetoric to criticise this movie. "Ah look," they insist, "the creative types have not demanded anything of the masses. They have made a new home for themselves away from the rest of the Earth and yet the masses still will not leave them in peace!"

This is amusing because, even if we presume that the privileged group on Elysium didn't make use of many more labourers than actually ended up living on Elysium to complete this gigantic project, there are also clear signs that the populace on Elysium rely on exploitative labour on Earth for much of their luxuries. And that is where Matt Damon's protagonist comes into this.

Click here for the rest of the review... )


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