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Invest your time in this 'ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances' mystery thriller
This one is a grower. No other series I've seen has characters from all over the world or has this immense HQ cinematic immersion. The scriptwriters and actors do a great job of putting 6 or 7 ordinary people in extraordinary situations, and then making them behave as you or I would. This is a sign of very strong writing. It was confusing at first but I am certain that the complexities of this mystery will reveal themselves in all their perfectly shot technicolour glory. It is sad that some viewers will be lost either because they want a quick fix or are homophobic. It reminds me of 'The Leftovers' in that it was also difficult to like instantly but oozed quality. I cannot wait to see how this one turns out. Sense8 shows us that the world is very big, very diverse, dangerous and quite wonderful. Parochial and formulaic it is not. If you're going to check it out, give it three episodes. It should reward a binge-watch when you put some spare time aside. PS: There is a lot of rumpy-pumpy fanservice in it.
Ronald D. Moore needs to watch 'The Andromeda Strain'
Ronald D Moore's lack of interest in 'refrigerator logic' has returned to bite him. The show is similar to a cross between Michael Crichton's 'The Andromeda Strain' and David Cronenburg's 'Shivers'. It is set in the same kind of location to John Carpenter's remake of 'The Thing'. A promising start then. The issue is the missing refrigerator logic. The Andromeda Strain succeeded where Prometheus failed. In other words it delivered a credible procedural where the scientists behaved professionally, working logically against huge odds, to defeat a disease as the tension mounted. In Helix the lack of refrigerator logic is missing, such as why the CDC guys can't just report their findings directly back to their superiors in Atlanta. Politically, this would be the only option. Excluding the on-site scientists from what is going on, even after the CDC guys know there were research monkeys there, which cannot be found (oops!), and so have possibly escaped, representing a RISK OF CONTAGION, is NUTS. You don't treat colleagues like this. In a disease outbreak, with lives at stake, CDC behaviour must be rigorously controlled to avoid risk. So, the head scientist's ex-wife refuses to obey an order just because she has 'relationship issues' with her ex. In real life she would be relieved of duty on the spot. She could never work for the CDC again. She introduces risk of contagion. No. No. No. The worst part for me is that uncooperative, near-monosyllabic and irritating Japanese director. He is not punched on the nose by the CDC guys. Not once. I would have punched him several times by now and kicked him in his nuts. I will continue to watch this show in the hope that he gets clobbered. So you see, the show grabbed me. That makes it an automatic 7. Visual production values are good, and the acting good: after all you can't blame the actors for the sloppy scripts. Kudos to the Japanese actor. He is making a great fist of a poorly defined role. Loved the frozen 'wildlife' shot and the shower scene. There are bits in it which make it worth watching. The cool 'happy' music playing during moments of tension is delightfully perverse. I think it reflects the happiness of the infecting bacteria when they are doing a bit of infecting. When the world ends, this music will be the only trace of humanity left.
Kiss of the Damned (2012)
Worth a look and different from the mainstream
If European cinema in the 1960s had access to HQ digital cinematography and sound, then a vampire film made then would be like this. Xan Cassavetes has crafted a deliberately retro feel to the movie and it works. I love the soundtrack, which has variety (just listen to the opening few minutes). It uses experimental sounds to crank up the tension for example. If you ever loved prog-rock, and know then that punk rock by comparison has no class, no depth, you will love the fact (is it an in-joke?) that the baddie comes complete a with a punk rock soundtrack. Xan reveals herself to be a delightful musical snob. She is also firmly on the side of the vampires.
This great-looking movie is a mixture of what works and what doesn't, hence a seven. Kudos to getting French actress Anna Mouglalis to play Xena. While beautiful, Anna actually plays Xena as a character actor. What a voice! When her character 'loses it' later on in the film, Anna beautifully conveys the tics, twitches and desperation without overdoing it. She should be in more movies. The bourgeois party scenes are convincing. The film tells a conventional but slight, linear story, with a beginning, middle and end.
On the minus side, although the initial romance is convincing, a better film would have gone deeper into the romance and involved the viewer more, with more complex characters. Another better version would have gone all out to scare you, successfully. The 'horrific' bits here are not really horrific.
This is deliberate. The film is by design a mood piece. It is even relaxing in parts, making it a good film to 'wind down' to with your partner in the evening. Xan understands that relationships, even in a vampire flick, are more interesting than blood and screaming. But she is even more into the 'feel' of the movie. Viewers raised on the Texas chainsaw massacre remakes and their ilk might not want 'relationships' or 'feel'. If you can understand these things before you watch it, you should enjoy the movie.
Have Spaights and Lindelof become hack writers?
First of all, let me say that the visuals in Prometheus are great, so it deserves a cinema viewing. The film tries to thrill us and explain the 'Alien' mythology at the same time. However, there are some short-cuts and confusion in the script. These hint that the original ideas, or drafts of the script, were too ambitious for the movie to handle. Given the scriptwriting talent available, this is disappointing.
The acting is good. Noomi Rapace grew on me during the film. Michael Fassbinder's droid is acted perfectly. Idris Alba is the everyman we like to root for.
Charlize Theron is the best thing in the movie. Given limited screen time, her character hints at complexity and depth. A film centred around her character would have been compelling. She has never looked so beautiful on screen. She is an Oscar winner who deserved a better vehicle for her talents.
The failing in the film for me is that the 'suspension of disbelief' gets trashed over the course of it. First, there is the introduction of a careless, unprofessional crew. This includes a brutish, dysfunctional idiot who has somehow, we are expected to believe, been selected for a pioneering deep space mission. Some fifteen year-olds might have no problem with this, but I'm an adult.
Co-trashing the film is the contemptuous reintroduction of characters that the camera tells you are dead. It is a lazy plot device. Surely the writer of 'Lost' can do better than this? The re-introductions are purely for shock value. Disappointingly, in none of these scenarios is the tension allowed to BUILD SLOWLY. Hitchcock or Spielberg it ain't.
The beginning of a film should suck the viewer in to believe in a credible alternative world. Before the ship lands on the alien world, we are doing well on that point.
But, when the crew first assemble together they become a metaphor for the film's script. The crew have been so hastily cobbled together they are disjointed as a collective. They don't even know each other!
But this could not happen. Any crew would train together for months, just as in the Apollo missions. Respect would be forged and competencies and procedures deeply ingrained - to ensure survival.
But not in Ridleyworld!
Having just arrived, they openly insult each other! It is clear that no-one with a science background came anywhere near the script. Some of the crew are just not credible as members of a professional elite. To be fair, this is a feature of the Alien movies in general.
To make it worse (I'm English), the fatuous no-class insulting moron character is from the working class of London. Ridley Scott succeeds in transplanting his snobbery into deep space, the far future, and mainstream American culture all at the same time! Way to go Ridley! A real working class lad who had worked his way up to an elite space mission through the discipline of science degrees would have talent and class to burn. But not in Ridleyworld.
Come to think of it, with our 'economy', how would any Englishmen get into space? Was there a second British Empire in the 2080s? I think not! We had enough of the last one, thanks! We even cancelled Blue Streak in the 1950s! They said it could have been a space rocket, but really I think it was just a large firework. Shouldn't half the astronauts have been Chinese?
Another lazy plot device: to make something 'interesting' happen, just throw in some 'unexpected' behaviour. It a hack's trick. Good writers show class by developing things. Any lingering suspension of disbelief was killed off for me when one of the characters discovered an alien...
Did the trained astronaut OBEY ORDERS and leave it alone? - No! Did they even radio back for advice? - No! Did they attempt a scientific description? - No! Did they run like hell? - No!
So, what did they do then?
Well, they grinned at it! Yep, that's right. Grinned at it. That is not a misprint. Then, they approached it! But that wasn't enough. Oh no. They made cooing noises at it. COOING NOISES Then, they talked to it in baby language. Did it even look like a baby then? Well it slithered,and was covered in slime...
Now, do any of you out there think this is what NEIL ARMSTRONG would have done?
God help us.
Battlestar Galactica (2003)
BSG re-imagined is flawed but entertains greatly
I watched some of the the original Battlestar Galactica series as a teenager and thought it was lightweight. It had crap special effects. The acting was just too casual for such a serious situation. The 'evil' Cylons were just clunky robots. You expected them to trip up and shoot themselves. It was just for kids.
The 2003 miniseries has real drama and tension. The pacing is great - real tight and snappy like it always is in the best American shows (do you Americans take that for granted?) The special effects are good. The characters are distinctive and the actors do a good job with them. The Cylons have plus points, just as the humans have real flaws in their characters. This creates the tensions and many possibilities for dramatic interaction. Mary McDonald's character is a subtle marvel. Gaius Baltar is the most intriguing 'baddie' I've ever seen. Complex, he is a very difficult character to play. James Callis usually pulls it off. Gaius is inept, comical even, yet his influence is deadly. I'm still trying to figure him out!
Thank god BSG is character driven - this is Sci-Fi for people who are interested in people. It entertains. What more could you want?
As a 'Brit', I'm glad BSG has a 'British' character, but, hey, these people are supposed to come from 12 DIFFERENT PLANETS. So, for realism they import just one actor from the one country in Europe that's like the USA. Representing the cultural diversity of the human race this is not.
The show is racist. The 'inscrutable' oriental just might be a 'baddie'. The 'Brit' is a slimy coward. I'm not whining. Bad guys get the best roles.
Finally, happy viewing to you all. Americans have a wonderful knack of churning out high quality programs like this: Buffy,24,ER,CSI,LOST,etc... I've seen a lot of negative reviews on this site from North Americans. Well, If you think BSG is crap then you should try watching some of the sloppily produced British programs out there (have you ever see Dr Who? It's pitiful). Try and appreciate what you've got.