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Dead Air (2009)
Excellent Budget Film
I liked this film a lot. People have described it as like 28 Day Later - it isn't. Both films have zombies - the comparison ends there. This film is about post 911 paranoia - it says it right at the start of the film before any zombies appear the shock jock radio presenter said tonights shows is all about paranoia.
If you liked The Man From Earth or Frequency then I think you'd like this. It has that similar feel of a stage play or simple drama with heart. The actors were great- really strong in ensemble. I kind of fancy Patricia Tallman - she is easy on the eyes and she always seems like she has a warm heart - she always gives heart to a scene. The lead was really well played - he has a great voice and this film is nice to listen to which is a pleasant change from some of the more bombastic screamy action films you normally see.
So a simple genre movie with some decent exposition, terrific acting and solid pacing. You can find fault in this movie if you try to compare with movies that it is not - but I would prefer to watch this than some low calibre action crap. The world doesn't need another cheap action zombie horror - but the world could do with another few of these movies - thoughtful simple idea driven drama's. To all those involved - great job. Have watched it twice already and I enjoyed it both time.
Nice addition to the comic
Blame! is a strange one. The story is about an artificial human called Killy who has been created in order to find original humans possessing a special gene that allows them access a special network. Access to this network allows the user to control the megastructure/city the Blame! universe exists in.
The Megastructure is a large vertical city that seems to have originated on Earth but houses areas the size of Jupiter. Some of the megastructure was created by and for humans and most was created by machines. A chaotic virus has infected the megastructure causing it to build itself into increasing bizarre forms with no end in site.
The megastructure is populated by various beings - artificial humans, half human machines, silicon creatures, control creatures, clones, some kind of normal humans (lacking the required gene), and something called the safeguard.
The megastructure is out of control and the only way to fix the problem is to access it's control command network. The only people who can do that are original humans who have the special gene. Stopping anybody or anything else from accessing the control network is a body called the Safeguard. They are trying to protect the Megastructure from anything that is not an original human. However it is not at all clear that there are any original humans left so the safeguard kill everything and they cannot change their programming. It is Killy's job to find an original human to stop the safeguard and correct the megastructure - and so he travels through this seemingly endless and mostly empty vertical city searching for humans that once existed but may have died out long ago.
The Manga itself is a bizarre Gothic sci-fi set in the far future - a mix of horror, genetics and cyberpunk. The art is outstanding - the storyline is confusing and sometimes there is a total lack of coherent narrative with instead outlines of the megastructure itself, pages and pages of Killy walking through desolate tunnels and briefs introductions to creatures that never repeat in the storyline.
The anime based on the manga is more like a postcard from the Blame! universe rather than a linearly structured story. Without reading the Blame! manga first the Anime cannot make sense and like I said the Manga can sometimes be very confusing on it's own.
All that said Blame! is fantastic. Yes it is confusing, yes it doesn't have a linear story, but it makes up for that with image, feeling, and the sheer audacity of the idea's presented. The Blame! universe could be seen as a counter to Iain Banks Culture universe. A universe where things went horribly wrong and continued to go wrong even after there were no humans left. In some places there is evidence of earlier human existence - it other places it is totally synthetic and new. If you read Blame! treat it like a road movie - it has no start, no middle and no end - it is about the journey, the characters you meet and the sights along the way. There is no personal resolution as Killy is a machine, there is no real end as the Megastructure is essentially infinite, there is no meaning as this is the remnants of human technological decay and chaotic viruses.
I loved the Manga and the Anime can be seen as an enjoyable addition to the universe. In and of itself the Anime is not great as a service to fans of the Manga - I like it. 10/10 for the Manga - 7/10 for the Anime
The Thing (2011)
Honestly if you give this film less than a 7 then you haven't really thought about it very much. A classic sci-fi horror creature feature with stunning real effects, a great ensemble cast and a true passion for both previous movies.
The IMDb description of the 1951 original reads "Scientists and American Air Force officials fend off a blood-thirsty alien organism while at a remote arctic outpost". If you have seen the 1951 version, and the and John Carpenters 1982, and you liked them, then I think it is fair to say you will like Matthijs van Heijningen's 2011 version. It is a play on a theme in regards to the basic premise so it cannot just invent a new premise. Given the basic premise I think this movie hit the tone just right.
I very much enjoyed the casting. It was refreshing to see a sci-fi horror film not dominated by American types. The Norwegians were great. The ensemble acting was just excellent.
The music was effectively unnerving. It had the right feel of tension and bombast. Simple never brilliant but always effective and never distracting. Just right.
The CGI, animatronics and effects were just great. Although they might seem old hat to some people just think about it for a minute - really do you see people wearing animatronic suits while burning up in flames running around screaming. Most films would just go CGI and leave it at that but this film feels much more physical for doing it the right way. I applaud them and I can only hope we see more actual humans in our effects. Plasticky CGI (The Hobbit) and shaky camera action scenes (Elysium) are just not thrilling. The mixture of effects techniques and the punctuation of the music and effects very much make this movie stand out from the normal CGI laden poorly shot garbage.
John Carpenter is the king of tone and beat so to think it could ever compare to the original in those terms is just unfair. This version of the The Thing was a great homage to the 1982 film and to classic sci-fi horror generally.
Secret Window (2004)
I would give this a 6... not bad, never brilliant, sometimes poor.
Not bad if it's on Netflix and you've watched everything else. I would give this a 6... not bad, never brilliant, sometimes poor.
A psychological mystery about a recluse writer going through a marital break-up and a violent mystery man who claims the writer stole and published his story. Overall it is fairly standard studio production stuff that sometimes veers a bit too closely to daytime TV but you can see where it was supposed to be going. Let's put it like this while it's not The Shinning it's not Murder She Wrote either.
Neither Depp nor Turturro are particularly believable. Depp's performance is a little too mix bag. Someone a bit more downbeat would have worked better. Turturro is okay. He plays the role he does it well but it's just not believable. The other actors are more suited to the movie. It feels like a TV movie but it tries to be a Hollywood movie.
Overall it is a standard enough mystery with a fairly flat studio production and then some above average actors that don't quite seem to suit the film they're in.
I would give this a 6... not bad, never brilliant, sometimes poor.
Men in Black 3 (2012)
1960's Agent K is about the only thing this movie has going for it.
MIB 3 is not very good. The humour is missing. Tommy Lee is not in it enough and when he is in it I feel he doesn't want to be. It is not a bad movie just not a good one. Will Smith is the same old wisecracking fool but lately I feel Will Smith is not enjoying acting. A lot of his movies rely on that wisecracking youngster but he's just not that guy anymore. Will Smith is a different person and you can see he tries his best to get into the "Hell No" thang but his heart is just not in it and it rings hollow. The best actors were Griff and 1960's Agent K.
The general idea is good. Go back in time to save the day. The goofy looking aliens are still there but it doesn't work. The action scenes don't add up, there is no drama or tension at any point and the humour is hollow. And really there is only a single gadget.
The charm of the MIB 1 was the fish out of water element. The surly Agent K and the continuously amazed Agent J playing off each other in a kind of buddy movie. In this kind of movie you need to see someone experiencing the magic for the first time and you need to have two good buddies.
As it stands it's not bad. It is a monied film with high production values and it does stay true to it's own aesthetic but it loses the heart. It loses the buddy thing and it loses the wonder of discovery.
A Great Indie Film - Bravo
A great indie film. People dealing with the difficulties of life and embracing change. The script rings true throughout. The acting is solid and heartfelt. There is not a single clanger in this film. Well edited, shot, cast, directed. A perfect indie film.
The story is simple, an ordinary fat man unhappy with his life, seeing his weight become a problem for those that love him puts himself into isolation to try and deal the problem head on.
It reminded me of The Station Agent with Peter Dinklage another indie film about body issues, separation from normal society and the search for connection. Both are fantastic films and both mean a lot to me. Films about change and redemption, about the daily grind that is this life. Highly recommended!
Space Battleship Yamato (2010)
CGI is 3D but the Characters 1D
The story is basically about a great spaceship which embarks on a holy mary trip to save planet earth from invading aliens. Along the way there are heroics, lost friends, romance and sacrifice. It is a fairly straight forward affair but mostly likely satisfying and simple enough for kids to enjoy and take meaning from.
The characters are fine and for the most part enjoyable stereotypes. Unfortunately the main actor is possibly miscast as he seems too old for the role. I have never seen the original cartoon but the main character, Kodai, seems to have the insolence, passion and doubt of a teenager in the body of a grown adult male. It is a mismatch.
The lead female is eye candy and little more. The character is given the opportunity to develop but I think she is not strong enough an actor to convey the emotions needed.
There are difficulties in the script where the crew stand about feeling things and emoting while they should be attentive to the job at hand. It tries to imbue camaraderie but it is ham-fisted. Possibly to be expected but it is too much.
That being said it is an enjoyable, if overlong, film that reminds me of 80's Anime. It is a simple straight forward story based on honor, courage and sacrifice. I just wish the main character was younger and little more likable.
The Newsroom (2012)
Starts reasonably well goes down hill fast.
This show starts well but descends into farce and banality fairly quickly. It might have been good to see some of the actual pressures and decisions made in rolling news programs but instead we get a lot of hackneyed characters, self congratulation, boring relationship dramas mixed in with low whimsy and preposterous coincidences.
The last episode I watched used the fatal shooting of 6 people and the near fatal shooting of Gabby Giffords in the brain as a vehicle for moral self congratulation - ending the segment with the anchor screaming "You're a real newsman" to one of his cohorts. Poor taste indeed.
Craft and Style but no Substance
The movie is a good blockbuster. I did enjoy the movie. I saw it in 3D on a 70FT screen and it really does have a mood. It's all there - the bio goo, the Geiger backdrop, robots in the uncanny valley. As much as I enjoy escapism and the cinema of sensation there are 3 major flaws that show themselves at least every 3 or 4 minutes destroying any ability to lose yourself in the world Ridley has created.
The first is a visual flaw. Some of the shots were clearly there for the 3D experience but too many of them exist outside the reality of the story and you are shown a shot that has no relevance to anything other than the technique of 3D. This highlights the technical fabrication of cinema and so destroys the illusion of reality. You know you are watching a technique and it is so clumsy and ill fitting to the story that it breaks the spell. Still as an experiment in 3D I can forgive this and some of the 3D is stunning.
The second flaw is the countless and seemingly endless plot holes or parts that are just weakly scripted. Again they are so frequent they destroy the reality and illusion of the film. They really are outrageously bad in parts. You think OK it is Hollywood just eat your popcorn and keep watching but you expect more and are given less and so you are let down.
The final and fatal flaw is in the characterization. The characterization is patchy and haphazard - with some characters seeming to exist in different films types. You are not sure who you are supposed to root for as there is no strong lead and as a result you do not care about any of them meaning there can never be any tension no matter how loud and staccato the music gets or how gory a scene becomes. You just do not care. If there is no lead you should then fall back on a great ensemble but again the characters do not gel. They never come together as a team. They are not believable as humans or as characters. This is not a reflection on the acting but rather the characterization and script development.
I enjoyed the film, the visuals, the experience of 3D, the extension of the Alien universe - I just wish it was a better story with more believable characters. The fact that one of the 3 flaws I noted shows itself at least every 3 or 4 minutes really makes it difficult to let the film carry you away to it's world. Too much technique not enough heart.
No Cinema Paradiso
This film does not have a single relationship of note in it. I have no idea who is the lead character and as an ensemble it completely falls flat. I have no idea who reviews these movies but they have lost they're sense of smell. The acting was one dimensional and this is not the fault of the actors, this is the fault of the script. Actors are only allowed to express a single emotion throughout the entire film. There were also many seemingly useless characters in the film like the bookshop owner, the tea couple, the flower lady - I have no idea why those characters were given any time. There seemed to be three main stories but none of them were convincing or drawn out. They were superficial ham-fisted portrayals and with over 2 hours of this you have to wonder who edits in Hollywood anymore. There was a love scene to early cinema at various points which is absurdly odd as it has only the most tenuous link to the boys story - it goes on for a long time and is nothing more than a gratuitous and frankly tedious lecture - what happened to 'show don't tell' direction.
The sets looked like expensive lush sets and nothing more, no relationships, no lead character but extremely poor ensemble, confusing story arc with sections of what might as well be a documentary on early cinema - all wrapped in a bow with, count them, 4 happy endings.
If you want to see a good movie that inspired this extremely poor knock off then look for Cinema Paradiso and see how it should be done.