Category: Science-Fiction

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t isolate itself from its predecessors, like it does the citizens of Gotham. It is constantly referencing the mythology and the prequels, little nuggets that the pure fan-boy can appreciate. The director, Christopher Nolan, commented on the graphic novel “The Long Halloween” with much praise, and that is the sort of recognition that makes us assured that he’s the man for the job, or should I say was. His trilogy has marked itself on the wall of epic blockbusters, juxtaposing itself boldly against The Matrix and even The Lord of the Rings. But this isn’t the breakthrough conclusion that acts like a parent to the earlier entries; no, this is a bomb-flying thrill ride at times, but a slow-paced dialogue romp at others. It’s not the sort of comparison that does any sort of cinematic justice.

Batman has been gone for eight years, following the death of Harvey Dent. When a notorious villain involved in the League of Shadows surfaces, who they call Bane, he is pumped into confronting evil once more. A death-trap, his physique is not as tuned as Bane, and the Police haven’t stopped hating him. He deals with personal meditation similar to the strenuous training in the first Batman film, “Batman Begins”.

“I believe in black eyeliner.”

The first quarter of the movie, I feel, is unbearable. It is the worst constructed aspect of the film, with redundant dialogue and one-line emotions. Bruce Wayne has become a recluse, and people are starting to poke fun at him; long-nailed Wayne and the like. But do we really need several unknown and unexplored characters throwing out nasty puns about him? Then, we see Alfred for the first time, directing a kitchen full of young maids preparing the meals for a banquet; he is the hearty caretaker, not an objective wedding planner. But then, Nolan turns it around with a waterfall of emotion: Alfred tells Bruce how he wishes he had a family, and would move on from the Batman gig. He tells him about his dreams. While this Is expected in the conclusion, and there are definitely hugely poignant moments between the two, the frequency of there tear-sharing causes it to have less of a punch.

One thing that causes The Dark Knight Rises to seem like a recovering of 2009’s The Dark Knight is that Mr. Wayne is coming out of retirement. We watch Bruce inch himself back into the world, re-establishing his friendships with Foxx and Jim Gordon; but we know them, and we know how they will respond, essentially with the same elbow-nudging wit as everyone else. I really think the dialogue was neglected here: 2009’s Dark Knight is jam-packed with philosophical and memorable ramblings.

Selina Kyle a.k.a Catwoman

Here, the one-liner is prominent and over-used. And the only one who deserves and can perform them, Is Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman. A master jewel thief and a secret Wayne admirer, she leaps hesitantly between her own self-interests and actually making a difference, while always bursting with her signature sass. Spoiler: She doesn’t really purr at all.

John Blake

There are a lot of new characters in Rises, and pretty much all of them were involved in Nolan’s film ‘Inception’. Introduced is police officer John Blake, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, who is an idealistic orphan with a strong intrigue for the Harvey Dent/Batman case. He believes Batman didn’t kill Harvey, or at least refuses to believe it. He was a sign of hope to him and the other children at the orphanage. Jim Gordon soon becomes aware of the Police Officer, and moves him over to his side. He is an overall strong character, even if not entirely necessary, especially on the final film.

Bane

The villain of Rises is the notorious Bane, a brass-shouldered leader with a clan full of devoted followers. His story is told in a Roman-like fashion, showing him at a young age, living underground in the hell of a Gotham prison. He did what no-one else could: he made the jump into the light, as a young child. The connections between this film and Batman Begins makes me think one ought to back it up and watch Batman Begins again; Scarecrow will seem funnier. And with the League of Shadows being referenced a lot in Rises, some will be clueless, but if you see Batman Begins, It all connects beautifully and conclusively. Even Liam Neeson makes a guest appearance from his earlier role, albeit only for a few seconds.

Miranda

Marion Cotillard, the actress playing the delusional wife in ‘Inception’, stars as Miranda, a charity-driven woman trying to work with Wayne to better the world. She is sensitive and business-like, and even despite obvious differences between the two, they grow on each other and become intimate. She takes over the company when Bruce steps up to the Bat-mobile, and is trusted to watch over a Russian scientist’s fission reactor that could potentially provide sustainable energy. The scientist is in the first scene, I believe, since the first scenes of a movie you don’t know who to focus on, I settled for Bane. The scientist was taken out of the plane, which was crashed by Bane and company, and pronounced dead: In reality, Bane parachuted him out.

People were saying from the start that Bane was difficult to understand through the mask. His breathing and talking are one in the same, and the static does sometimes make it difficult; but mostly whats causing the difficulty is the purposefully off-pitched acting from Tom Hardy. He follows a string of low-pitched words with an accentuated high-pitched voice, creating a chilling enthusiasm behind such massive biceps.

The camerawork is staged very similarly to the other Batman films. Slow pan-ins to old men with jaws hanging low in awe, scrolling scenery of the city. Mostly every scene transition converts into a pan, moving in towards something, whether its Catwoman cracking a safe or a Wayne board meeting. During the exposition, this transitional panning is used to a conscious point: let’s slow down the cutting and the drowning Hans Zimmer score and actually have some intertwining plot strings. And it lasts nearly an hour.

The Dark Knight Rises has memorable parts, though it also has parts that create gaps in the chronology out of lack of profundity. Even with a few narrative bumps, it is still an intense, world-encompassing, (well, city-encompassing), film with enough characters to give us a tour of the whole city.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The Amazing Spider-Man reboot has of course caused a hoopla of ‘what?’ and confusion, since only several years ago the franchise had concluded. The first Spider-Man was Sam Raimi’s vehicle, a wondrous display of set-pieces and talent: But with the new Spider-Man, we see a new look, tone, and feeling for the character. Here, Peter Parker has the on-the-fringe personality that is so attracting in the movies: Avenger flicks have made huge gross amounts in movie history. His parents left him at a young age with his Uncle Ben, played with the old-style charm of Martin Sheen, and Aunt May. Although It distinctly establishes its own uniqueness, there are some scenes that seem strangely similar.

I liked the fact that Spider-Man had to create, spindle shall we say, his own webs. It put a limitation to his tower-swinging capabilities; after all, you can’t be heroic without an Achilles heel. It has a true effect of trying to fit-in with a modern-retelling; the characters use smart-phones and Bing search engines, but the drama always remains in the neatly-wound realm of superhero flicks. When Peter comes home, late at night, bloody in the face, the Aunt assumes nothing, or seems not to; and right after Peter is bit, he comes home in a jittery sweat, eating and catching flies between two fingers: Why couldn’t Uncle Ben ask him if he was on coke? These are domestic people, let’s show it that way.

Garfield’s Parker is a lot more narcissistic with his own feelings, partly because more tragedy is involved in this Spider-Man. There are many scenes where he is teary-eyed, and easily visible behind his dusty, bloody face. He needs Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone, and at first it seems to be a Romeo and Juliet story, only the Montagues end up dieing instead of the children. There scenes have a vibrant, muted expression, and an innocence that is too far gone in Peter’s life.

The villain in The Amazing Spider-Man is a bit unusual. We don’t necessarily have that subjection of hatred towards him like most superhero flicks; he is a brilliant scientist with a desire to change his life and handicap, and even the lives of others. Though, after recording himself deep in the sewers, we see that he is not only turning into a reptile, but also a ideological mess; he has the sort of impenetrable mindset that insists on helping the world by turning them all into lizards like him. A brooding tale of deceit, responsibility,  and family history.

Gattaca

The power of will, the ability to rip through expectations and assumptions: These are a few of the themes that tag along in the film Gattaca, an off track train, a whizzing, fresh science-fiction film with enough substance and personality to please all sorts of viewers. Ethan Hawke plays Vincent Freeman, a boy who was born into a genetically perfected world with real, untampered genes. His mother and father wanted one natural child: This decision does not fly well with Vincent’s life and society, especially since early on, and maybe because of, he hoped to become an astronaut in deep space.

Like poor eye-sight in the Air Force, Vincent doesn’t have the right genetic credentials for the job, but that won’t stop him. He hires a man who creates for him a new identity–for Vincent’s case, he is given partnership with Jerome Morrow, who is in a wheelchair because of an out of country accident. Jerome is dedicated to Vincent’s cause: He gives him hair, urine, and all kinds of genetic necessities, so that Vincent can pull it off in astronomy school and be considered one of the genetic elite–which Jerome is. There, he must balance his quasi-genetic equilibrium and come out on top with the overt goal: To get blasted into space.

Vincent, or Jerome to them, works at the space base, admired by his higher-ups for his perfect work, and seems on his way to space. But, after the mission commander is murdered, a full-fledged investigation begins, and Vincent must cover his tracks, and replace those in less suspicious areas with Jerome’s follicles. This shows a new, young detective, who from the start one can predict is his brother: They have such a dualistic relationship that it would seem inevitable. And this detective, the genetically perfect brother, has Vincent’s real eyelash, found near the crime-scene.

In the midst of his determined path at the base, Vincent meets Irene, played by Uma Thurman, who he soon falls in love with. Between them is the soft unknown balance between what she knows about him, and what she doesn’t. And when she finally discovers his true genetic identity, she is all but outraged: silent and accepting, her inadequate heart, as she mentions laughably to Vincent, always made her feel less than most. To Vincent, this is like worrying about a sliver when he has a rod in his chest. The dramatic irony invoked in the movie is a huge factor in it being consistently engaging.

The film-making is definitely science-fiction: It has all the props involved in such a bundle. Linear shots of architecture, high ceilings and odd attire, but it although it fulfills the archetype and formula of design, it has much mores substance than most films. In the core is a semi-satire on our genetic convictions, and possible convictions, for we are just now getting into the realm of choosing gender and gene-type. It is a predictive exercise with a round of excellent performances, and a provocative, engaging plot.

Scanners (1981)

Scanners, directed by horror wise guy David Cronenberg, is a film where the director seems to be smoothing out his style. A majority of the shots involve the camera panning towards a character, in a shoulder shot, with his or her eyes gazing up at something with their big, scanner eyes. It’s done repetitively, and runs tiresome, but the plot is taken into newly explained depth and the actors always make it involving. Cameron Vale, the guy that reminds you of Luke from Star Wars with his sense of virtue, is used by Doctor Paul Ruth to fight against the scanners who have joined together. The leader of this underground group, who we meet personally when he assassinates a scanner at a presentation, is Darryl Revok. He will stop at nothing to find Cameron, and has already killed many scanners who wouldn’t cooperate with him.

The film has a way with muddying the motivations of its characters. No-one from the start is who they seem to be, except Cameron, who as a scanner barely has a personality because he thinks and thinks all of the people’s thoughts around him, as a telepathic. Dr. Paul Ruth has a serum that can suppress this and make all input from other thoughts gone. I’m not sure why Cameron didn’t want this more than he did, for it was the whole problem before Dr. Paul found him.

It ultimately doesn’t let us know who to root for; we are in contact with several double-sided misfits, but don’t know if what their doing is wrong. I think the lack of motivation in Cameron is a key disappointment; what did the Doctor do to get him on his side? Put fifty people in his room and let him suffer from their thoughts? Grumble his raspy voice like a wise-man?

The set-design is always meticulous and atmospheric, though. The scene where Cameron goes to the Artists house is incredible, where he has a massive skull made out of some sort of clay. They hide inside of it, and while the artist walks out and is blown to pieces by guns, Cameron resides inside the head, a metaphor, and scans all of the people around him. He walks out fine, but the artist has died.

The film boasts fine performances and an engaging plot, no matter how under developed the characters were compared to Cronenberg films like ‘The Fly’. It’s a gruesome, horror aficionado’s hot-list entree.

Prometheus

Ridley Scott stirred many science-fiction fans into the tongue-wagging mindset, waiting happily for the arrival of the next Blade Runner. Prometheus is not of the same order, but does blend incredible digital effects with strong performances. The plot, though, doesn’t run away from the same outline of the Alien films: Quiet, intelligent woman goes with a crew of rowdy boys hired by a corporation whose motivations are unknown, and slowly and somewhat suspensefuly are killed down to that last woman. In Prometheus, based on the characters behavior, you wont have to second-guess who is going to drop dead next. But, hey, maybe some fans take comfort in familiarity; or even worse, the filmmakers do!

Regardless of the screenplay letting us down, the action and pace is still there, along with the crowd-pleasing android played by Michael Fassbender. David, such a normal name for such a sophisticated machine, can see the memories of the people he guards while they lay in stasis; he loves movies, and quotes them often. He is a truly enticing character to watch on the screen, and even more so after some very eerie plot turns. The relationship between Elizabeth and Charlie seems a little unnatural; Elizabeth is a quiet woman with a despairing history, and Charlie is a shameless promoter of his own interests, drinking on the ship at will. However, the relationship’s dimensions may be explained by Elizabeth’s inability to birth: This is the couples last chance at mutual happiness.

The film accomplishes its frightening tone with a slow, evolving pace: yet, at several points in the film, I asked myself whether or not the person being killed right now was even introduced? The ship started with seventeen passengers, and it ended with one: Did it really feel like sixteen went down? These sort of elementary notions that are bypassed does not resemble the quality Ridley Scott has produced. The formula for horror, even sci-fi horror, is becoming far to transparent: Why couldn’t he have flipped it upside down, and had the people who were left in the cave at the start, (who obviously are killed), be the ones who outlive it all? The cinema has a language for form and design, but  genre-language does not win any more points, as Tarantino and many other genre-bending directors have shown.

The performances are very well done, and the crafting of each scene, in the sense of composition, is done by Scott’s signature confidence. Prometheus is a movie for science-fiction fans who aren’t perturbed by lack of thought, just awing at spectacle.

Chronicle

8/10

Chronicle holds a certain pedigree aside past superpower standards by being quick, sharp, and not slowed down by the usual pseudo-explanations of energy-weapons and tele-antics. It is a series of footage filmed by Andrew, the vital but troubled anti-hero. For this sort of filming to work it has to be confident with its own dialogue; the filmmaker must cut to scenes with an idea of where it’s going, and Director Josh Trank does this successfully and entertainingly. He doesn’t spend long minute scenes of Andrew or Matt picking up clothes off the floor, but instead makes quick shots of these personal-effects, like Andrew using his telekinesis to turn his oxygen-deprecated mother into a more comfortable sleeping position.

So my take on the hand-held cam criticism is this: it’s a novel metaphor. The cameras lack of steadiness makes it troublesome to follow in its righted-angles and thus making us have to exhibit a form of telefocus (Yes, I just said telefocus). The audience has to work and absorb with their powers of mutual information; we can understand ungrammatical and terribly spelled sentences because we are familiar with them and can make connections. The same goes for images.

The teenage innocence that bears the exposition weighs heavy in the films overall, fairly short, run-time. The film gets in gear when the turmoil of Andrews’ mother’s death and his rampaging father kicks him in the stomach, filled with superpowers and anger, a combination that any comic-book fan can predict as being fatal. It could be argued that the reasons behind his fatal-conclusion was not self-induced; indeed, it is a theme of Schopenhauer. Andrew exerted his power with destructive grace, but could have continued, if it wouldn’t have been for the intervening will of his cousin; so in the end, his cousin nor himself were the cause, but only puppets of power.

Matt, Andrews cousin, displays his interest in Philosophy, and most boldly, in like said, Schopenhauer. For movies with lack of substance It’s always key to remember the heavy-dialogue and store it to be thought about at later times. While Andrew was an introvert, which most of the time in the movies is analogous with intelligence, his cousin is well-tempered and profited with philosophy.

The cause-and-effect dualism is expertly crafted in this movie because all that’s seen is in the bounds of of their powers, a feature length exploration of ability. We don’t see how the characters arrive at the scenario, but why they are there through the action that ensues; It’s like every scene is an open frame, with wild things happening all around. The film weaves itself across its tragedies and out the other end with a sense of honest optimism. A short, yet affecting kinetic thrill ride.

The Rise of the Planet of the Apes

8/10

The rise of the planet of the apes, very long title indeed, is a science-fiction film that aims to outreach all expectations: Quickly paced, stylishly shot, and amazingly realistic CGI effects make it better than all other  planet of the apes films, leaving out Charlton Heston’s original.  It stars James Franco as Will Rodman, a scientist working on apes with new medicine-synthesis’. He invents a concoction that could possibly cure his father’s oncoming disease, and he uses it on him warily and desperately. The result is not only curing, but also enhancing; his memory capacity, ability to learn and so on; this is the premise that creates the quasi-intelligence of the apes, and the reason Caesar breaks from the ape-containment center and retrieves the vacuum-sealed medicine, in Rodman’s fridge.

There is an emotional honesty to the primal love Will has for Caesar, and the subsequent pain of seeing him wreak havoc. The super-intelligence turns Caesar into Alexander the Great, a chest-beating rioter preparing to over-take the planet. When they first escape from their prison, there is a scene where a father is driving through an autumn-looking neighborhood, tossing the daily newspapers with his boys. He gets out of the car when he sees bushels of leaves falling from the trees and onto the street, and when he looks up, it’s the apes climbing branch to branch; this sort of imagery is very imaginative, as the leaves falling reminds one of a coming apocalypse, a shedding of beauty.

The first half takes its time exploring the relationship between Will, the father, and growing Caesar. When animal-control finally has to take Caesar away after attacking a neighbor, he is dressed in a burgundy red shirt and blue pants, the same look given to the character in the 1968 version of Planet of the Apes. The film also has close-ups of newspapers and television coverage of the mission to mars, which is an ode to the original film, where the astronauts arrive at the planet of the apes after a voyage headed for mars.

The darkness of Planet of the Apes is just brewing; the upcoming sequel to the prequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I’m sure will be the evolution of the overtaking, the society crumbling. The final scenes of Rise are riveting, and display great camera choreography from the director, with Chimps swinging across the bridge with rebellious grunts, jumping onto the traffic and smashing windows. The film is a bold and welcome induction into the science-fiction genre: a super-stylized, yet incredibly sensitive look at the unexplained gap in the original Planet of the Apes.

Men in Black III

Men in Black III, directed by Barry Sonnenfield, and starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee-Jones, and Josh Brolin, is a particularly unasked for re-vamp of the Men In Black series, but surprisingly, it isn’t half bad. The cheese is a given, and its displayed from the start, with a moon-base prison-break of a Cronenberg-like mutant, hands morphing to encapsulate a squirmy little insect. Although it has creative parts, Will Smith definitely slips on his black-glasses, but also tries a little too hard in doing it. It is visible that he is prepared to make this movie great, on set as well as in his own performance. If he would have been director, the passion put into the film would have made it reminiscent of an Ed Wood film, I suspect.

Josh Brolin displayed his voice-altering ability in Oliver Stone’s “W”, and a similarly pitched tone is shown skillfully here in an attempt to imitate a young K, or a young Tommy Lee Jones.  He provides a must needed star-boost and charisma, along with a game-changing addition of the unispired but gleefully wacky Griffin, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, a predictor of the future, a transient mind-bender of possible occurrences, and a really funny mumbler of barely audible and barely punctuated sentences.

The film is uneven and the voice of Boris the Animal can sometimes be tedious and never-ending in the long dialogues with himself. I will recommend it to viewers who can handle a little meaningless comedy and a few fun science-fiction elements, but other than that, It is a standard affair.

The Hunger Games

People tend to criticize book-to-movie adaptations not because the movie really was poorly made, but the reader just wants people to be aware that they experienced and put in the effort to read the ‘better’ version.  The books were not Shakespeare,  I read them and saw the appeal, but the main point is that its fluff dressed in sophisticated clothes. The movie was solid, well paced, and far more emotionally descriptive than the novel, and containing a more suitable third-person perspective for such narrative scope. Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen, the doomed contestant in the Hunger Games, and does a very nuanced job in a very different tone than her last film, “Winter’s Bone”.

One of the best movies thus far in 2012, brash, fun, sexy and stylish: bring on President Snow’s back-lash!

The Avengers (2012)

The Avengers is as packed with stars as it is super-heroes, yet surprisingly they all deliver their characters moors and idiosyncrasies with audacity and comfort; Iron man returns as Robert Downey Jr., Hulk changing actors again with a calm-faced Mark Ruffalo, a sassy pellet-lipped Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Chris Evans Captain America, Chris Hemingsworth as the god Thor, and the barely introduced Nick Fury played by Samuel L. Jackson, who has allegedly signed his star-name onto nine comic-book related movies. Oh, and don’t forget newcomer Hawk-eye played by Jeremy Renner, a crossbow wielding assassin. The characters are mostly known by the comic-movie niche, the hulk smashing through two semi-mediocre movies, Iron Man with two well executed vehicles along with an introduction of Black Widow in the sequel, and of course the recent Thor and Captain America releases.

The story centers around the upheaveling plans of Thor’s adopted brother, Loki. The movie starts out in a panicked, under-seize state of affairs, a tense Nick Fury walking the hollow infrastructure of S.H.I.E.L.D. Loki soon-after ports into the scene, arriving in desire of the Tesseract, an unknown energy source that Nick Fury previously had under his foot. Loki succeeds and escapes along-side his blue-eyed minions, Hawk-eye and the Scientist, hypnotized by the Tesserect. Now it’s a back and forth heist for the energy source, which eventually unravels in Loki being purposefully caught and then leveraging his higher-deities onto earth, the ultimate confrontation for the assembled super-heroes.

Robert Downey Jr. leads the race with sharp wit that the less dedicated hero-fans needed. The moment-after one word responses, by the puny S.H.I.E.L.D agent and by the culturally unfounded Captain America are relaxing touches. They even joked as New york city was being overwhelmed with green scale-typico aliens. Scarlett Johansson shows well-toned, Russian-suppressed emotion alongside her sassy appeal. Mark Ruffalo was the actor I least liked, partly because his dialogue was slightly redundant, constantly saying to not let him run wild; that Is not necessarily his fault, but he was of such an ex-addict disposition to the point of being overcooked.

The exposition scenes have moments of doggedness and expected situations. But Whedon has a gift or maybe just an obsessive-like consciousness of transition, and each stock-character is a beacon to the characters’ assembly, like a little afghan girl hand-hugging the hulk towards her disease-stricken father, to have Banner and the audience discover she was a courier; and to put it simply, even if they were quietly playing chess it would be exciting; in reality, the fans prescribe the greatness to the heroes; to us, the beginning is like gangsters clambering out of limbos with sagging cigars, long-time greetings. And at least the characters are resilient, not the proto-type overacted bringin’ back the crew moment. But the film structure is far too in accord with itself for my liking. It’s like a pendulum, you are thinking too much about how far down it has swung, rather than the story; the purpose of film-devices is to advance the story, and for the same reason Hitchcock stopped his cameos because he felt it distracted his views, this pendulum camera-work does the same for me, awkward prediction of who’s coming into the panning-view next; however, this is slight compared to what a juggle the film is with so many characters, and it is truly amazing how the final-cut ends up being so well-toned and followable. The music was far from pop or techno that one might grudgingly suspect, but instead takes the preference of Iron Man and twists it a little, with bands like Soundgarden.

The Avengers is secret-agent entertainment, a dialogue of personalities, and a semi-size load of fun. It transcends the genre, and comes out swinging with a record-breaking weekend gross. But whether or not that will rise much, we’ll see. It’s usually a first come first-splurge movie, and next week it will dissipate into its own convention. Regardless, I would sit through it again, and recommend it to any sci-fi or superhero connoisseur.