Plan 9 from Outer Space

Plan 9 from outer-space is a passionately made film by a very, very incompetent director; his characters shout to each other in dramatic tones; the monster monotonously growls as his hands are extended far out his chest. Plan 9 is an uproarious movie that visibly gets everything wrong. The introduction is redundant and unedited, and with dialogue as laughable as a comedy. But the effort is there: through the tin-foil suits and the pretentious voice-overs, Ed Wood shines in the background, gleefully watching: and the idea of him designing these scenarios is what makes his films so loved, not necessarily even the movies themselves.

The film casts seemingly unknown stars, and has a continuum of poor voice overs, like the old man slowly walking out his house, fore-lorn of his wife’s passing.  The plot follows the arrival of a starship and their ability to rise the dead; grave-diggers from outer-space! In glossy purple and silver suits, the space-agents talk to their captain with soldier-like gesture, chin-straight. The attempt at nuance is very funny, with stern saluted faces, and a fantastic scene where the woman space-agent cant control her freeze-gun, and the ginormous ex-police chief now zombie heads straight for the kill, the homosexual-like male space-agent, who horrendously gasps in fear, arms flailing. Phew, that was close, they say. Too close.

The all American storyline of a pilot and his worry for his wife is entertaining, also; he first spots aliens as he points it out to the other man in the cockpit, flashing in the sky. It all ends with the man with the blonde hait with a little curl on the front re-appearing, re-assessing the importance of what we have seen today.  The importance of our place in: The worlds greatest cheese movies!

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Alphaville

Jean Luc-Godard seems to think if you correlate number-tags to a woman’s neck you can call yourself science-fiction; although it may not be the normative spaceship piloting fair, Alphaville is unique in its philosophical approach. William Gibson, author of Neuromancer, cites Escape from precinct 13 as an inspiration to his writings, a John Carpenter film, when a character mentions, paraphrased, “I flew over Normandy during the invasion”, and by this single strip of contextual dialogue, it emits a time and place unrealized simply by exteriors; this is done often in Alphaville, as the time in which filmed does not permit the use of special-effects that we have today.

Near the end of the third act the director positions aerial shots stationed on Lemmy backing out by way of a stolen car and zigzagging out of the parking lot, causing the whole scene to feel predetermined; above, a deity, spectating the intergalactic missions of Lenny.

The stark black and white camerawork sets a somber mood, and the lengthy film, when pushed past its own pretensions, is also very interesting and engaging.

Minority Report – Film Review

Although I’m not a surging fan of Spielberg’s movies, “Minority Report” is an overlooked gem in his filmography. It features a super sci-fi atmosphere and a universe as special as it is bizarrely complex.

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

Tom Cruise leads as  John Anderton, traversing the viewer through a journey of corporate corruption. The film poses a complicated narrative about the various contradictions within the concept of free will. The movie is based off of a short-story/novella by Philip K. Dick, an author who specialized in dissecting the legitimicy of our reality.

Their is a gloomy, closet-light sort of decor to the whole film. It isn’t a romance sci-fi, or even a extremely flashy science fiction movie, but a dark, sometimes depressing outlook on loss; in parts it reminds one of Ridley Scott’s noirish Blade Runner.

In this world, in 2054 A.D., government has the ability to predict future murders and stop them in their mind-dwelling tracks; It’s called the Pre-cog program, and involves three telepathic visionaries of the future outputting  information to the agency.

The troops flee out and arrive at the potential murder area to conflict with the violence. Chief Anderton is the best at his job: Spielberg confidently shows Anderton’s confidence with full frontal views of him moving his arms with virtual information, swinging it, and looking for clues on the motherboard.

The staging is excellent in the way it takes the plot with the utmost sense of importance, even if most of the film is frantic getaways. I don’t think its much of a criticism to say it consisted only of getaways, because each pit-stop is revealing of the times; he’s not hiding behind garbage cans, but getting his eye-removed so he can re-enter his past-employed  building, or finding an elderly women with an odd love for botany.

It reveals the society’s technology all at the same time: Much of this was of Spielberg and crew’s own invention, since Philip K. Dick’s story has little explanation of devices used, and was never one to bother on such descriptivism anyway, being a writer concerned mostly with character and plot.

The film is a masterpiece of super-detective science fiction, wildly synced action sequences and incredible art and concept design. The actors fill out their characters skillfully, including Max von Sydow as the president of the pre-cog program and Collin Farell as a snoopy investigator.

Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn

Star Trek: Wrath of Kahn, directed with great science-fiction ability by Nicholas Meyer, is a space-zipping adventure, a battle of vengeance and past moors. It’s based on Gene Roddenberry’s classic television series that brought modern-problems into space, and it retains the same stars with William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Spock.

The film starts as a meditation on Captain Kirk’s purpose: During this time in his life, he trains future starflight commanders, through the simulations he excelled at. But his longtime friend and doctor, McCoy, played by DeForest Kelley, sparks a nostalgia on Kirk’s solemn birthday. He dreams of more exploration. He receives this, but through duty, not self-action: After two of his men port onto a desolate planet, they find a compound ravaged by time, and are soon taken over as hostages by Kahn, a vengeance-bent genetically-engineered man, putting Captain Kirk responsible for his wife’s death. He wants the genesis, a matter-expanding device that can create whole planets.

The spaceship battle of wits that ensues between the two masterminds, the calculated Kahn and the human strategist Captain Kirk, is for the ages. The set design is highly-efficient, and the logical-dialogue is spot-on. I was never a fan of the star trek series, but even if one is not, The Wrath of Kahn is still a crowd-pleasing affair: fast, pulp-like vengeance, and a strong storyline and characters. A must-see for any science-fiction fan.

Moon

Director Duncan Jones’ debut film, “Moon” is a movie reflective of its five-million dollar budget: It’s smart, tenderly thoughtful, and provocative. Why is it that the two-hundred million films are always the worst? The director is the son of David Bowie, but also has a degree in philosophy and it is shown with gratitude here; “Moon” with its phlegmatic interior and the character’s calculated schedules undoubtedly bears resemblance or ‘ode’ to Stanley Kubrick and 2001: A Space Odyssey, at least in my mind.

The film centers around a single man, lost in space with sporadic duties of maintaining America’s moon base. At the beginning, a corporate-product advertisement of solar energy is shown, seeming to throw off an aroma of “even in clean energy, their still remains the same old manipulative rags.” Breaking down craters with large manufacturing machines and clearing the way for  solar power: alone in the desolate grey of the moon, Sam Bell, played wonderfully by Sam Rockwell, supplies solar energy to the citizens of earth.

The film takes a twist from this seemingly well-off business, when Sam Bell finds a space-suit beneath in the crevices of the space-hull, frosted-over. The man is put into the medical ward, with the advanced technology handling the healing procedures, just like when Sam Bell woke up from the crash, when he had been distracted from his own distant memories. When the man fully heals, Sam finds that he looks exactly the same as himself. This then starts the movie, the point of action, and the climax.

The dialogue between the two is at times funny, but at times also devastating to watch. They are looking at themselves, and all the known and irrefutable truths about the individual are destroyed for each other. Without the recognition of oneself, you have no sense of responsibility: Why should I act good, when my twin, with the same memories and body, acts bad? Their isn’t a line that can be drawn to distinguish people  and their innate human idea that they are unique. It is, when we break things down, the leading force of our continuing existence: Would you want to accomplish things if it didn’t represent a single thing, you?

Moon meditates on such large subjects as immoral responsibility, corporate greed, and existential pointlessness. The film is a stark, melancholy and absolutely beautiful photo-book of realistic Moon and space images: a must-see film, especially on HD blu-ray.

Film Review: Dark City (1998)

6/10

Dark City is a voyage into the unknown, into a world with no sunlight nor hope, where memories are imprinted into minds as if on a conveyer belt. It embodies this premise with great style and overall structure, but lacks sharp dialogue or logic that would make it a truly great cinematic experience. It is one of those films where it does cool tricks for the camera, but when the plot demands the use of those tricks it falls short.

The story surrounds John Murdoch, (Rufus Sewell), who wakes up in a bathtub to find he doesn’t remember anything: He looks at himself in the mirror, like so many more inspired folk in cinema of the past have done, and tries to think about his identity. Nothing. He dresses himself in clothes that are stashed around him, and knocks over a glass-bowl with a goldfish in it. He picks it up, and puts it in a tub: If he has no memory, how does he remember language and that fish require water? The cop later comments on the peculiarity of a murderer saving a fish, and this starts the hesitation of Inspector Frank, played by William Hurt, on whether or not Murdoch truly is a murderer, or if he was set-up.

The real set-up is the world: The doctor, played by Kiefer Sutherland, is forced to imprint false memory’s every night at midnight. He is the most inconsistent character in the movie, and the director is confused with his own characterization. He wants the doctor to be weak and cowardice, yet also brave in his end-goals; If he didn’t make him limping and with  Scrooge-like mouth gesture, he might be a character of true depth. Instead, we don’t know what he is thinking or what to think of him, which makes his end-goals all the less dramatic.

John Murdoch also had a wife, who he was angry with for ruining their monogamy. The imprinters have Murdoch’s past memories inserted into one of their own, and this man now follows the clues of John’s memory towards where he thinks he would go; Murdoch has his wallet and his ability to read the context of a related person, like his Uncle.  The imprinters show loads of self-empowered energy, omnipotence the director wants us to indulge in. They are able to fly, we see, but when they really need to, like when chasing after Murdoch on top of houses, they seem to not be able to: Why not?

The film is a bold science fiction movie that just plain loves itself too much; the appeal of the imprinters, with white placid skin and dark clothing, wears thin and the front shots of their assembly becomes nothing special.  The relationship between Murdoch and his wife, Jennifer Connelly, is turned upside down after the realization that their love was imprinted; yet, during the final scenes, where it is Hollywood fitting for them to fall in love again, Murdoch seems to distracted with his power and thoughts to want to display any dazzle, which is exactly what Director Alex Proyas and his fellow screenwriters are doing.

Film Review: 2001- A Space Odyssey

2001 is a synthesis of Kubrick and Clarke’s storytelling capabilities, and is an unattainable standard for space-bound pics, at-least the ones with clear hard science-fiction motives. Duncan Jones’ ‘Moon’ is under Odyssey’s wing, among others, including its admittedly sub-par sequel. Like most repeatedly say, the movie is a picture book of poster-ready images, never once escaping its own brilliance.

The beginning of 2001 is at a dry, desolate landscape, filled with wandering apes. The sun and moon rise to form eclipses, a gnostic metaphor for inspired evolution, which soon comes in the form of a dark, rectangular monolith, one of the greatest images in cinematic history. The apes cower and groan at its sight; but this jump-starts their evolution, and the next part in the story flips millions of years later, to a space-shuttle heading for the moon. Dr. Heywood Floyd is preparing to brief a group of supervisors about the cover-story for whats been found on the moon: No one presently knows exactly what it is. The monolith?

The third act is the day-to-day lives of the 2001 Astronauts, Dave Bowman and Frank Poole. The two converse casually, eat the normal vacuum-frozen meals, creating an eerie comfort to their surroundings. They sit at the same table, while looking at two different video-tablets on the same interview. One can see they do their own things, while also able to speak and be friends. The split between them is a robot, named HAL 3000. A rectangular output-device with a glowing red dot as a face, HAL turns the scheduled space-shuttle into horror and chaos; he alleges a part to need maitenance, as part of a scheme to take out the two astronauts and safely clear the way for the missions end-goal. Human-error is what HAL fears the most, but perhaps not as much as having his plug-ripped.

The phlegmatic manner in which the shots are placed, by Stanley Kubrick, is worth a generation of film-students study. Each scene has an importance, and they are all aesthetically innovating; the scene I found the most impacting, was the claustrophobic moment when Bowman and Poole are conniving on the strange actions of HAL, inside a sealed Pod. The camera turns into HAL’s POV, and we see him focusing on each of the astronauts lip-movement, through close-up panning; he’s studying their rebellion.

Anyone interested in this movie should read Arthur Clarke’s ‘The Lost Worlds of 2001’  with some real unique journal entries of him working diligently for months with Kubrick, who he regards very highly as a professional and a friend. The movie will never be forgotten: a dark, pessimistic view of artificial intelligence.