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Transcendence is a Powerful and Emotional Debut for Pfister
Wally Pfister is the well-known cinematographer for doing every Christopher Nolan film to date, and here he makes his directing debut with Transcendence: a cautionary tale about what happens when Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), after co-creating the greatest supercomputer on the face of the planet, has his consciousness uploaded to it in order to preserve his life after being shot by an irradiated bullet. What follows, defies imagination, and what Will Caster called transcendence may be true.
Transcendence is an extremely plausible and frightening look at what could happen if someone were to have their consciousness meld with technology of that power. Wally's direction is truly marvelous; his action sequences echo that of Chris Nolan's Inception and The Dark Knight Rises. Jack Paglen's script was surprisingly well-written and focused, not just on scientific detail (half being speculation of proposed theories) but on the emotions between the characters, mainly the best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany) and Caster's wife, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall). The entire cast here was fantastic, and Morgan Freeman's role was actually more influential than i thought it was going to be. The visual effects are easily the best to date (so far this year), Jess Hall's cinematography was great but still not as captivating as Pfister's work on Inception, and Mychael Danna's score was incredible; haunting, evocative and compelling.
I really hope this gets astounding reviews from critics (since a lot of people seem to believe everything critics say), because Christopher Nolan was right to recommend Wally for this movie; a perfect vehicle to propel his directing career. But i hope he doesn't leave his cinematography behind for directing, because he and Nolan need to work together again, for old time's sake.
Odd Thomas (2013)
A Heart-Felt and Intense Supernatural Thriller
Odd Thomas is the film based on the Dean Koontz novel of the same name about Odd Thomas (portrayed by Anton Yelchin), a 21-year old short-order cook who has "abilities" that allow him to see the dead, and other strange phenomena. When a strange man Odd eventually calls "Fungus Bob" comes into town, followed by Bodachs, creatures that feed on pain and fear in times of great catastrophe, Odd believes Hell-on-Earth is about to arrive in their town of Pico Mundo. So, with the help of his girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin) and Sheriff Wyatt Porter (Willem Dafoe), Odd does whatever he can to prevent a slaughter the world would never forget.
Odd Thomas is the most surprisingly entertaining and incredible thriller i have ever seen. I did read the book before i saw the film, but that did not prepare me for how accurate the film would be. Sure, there are some truly fantastic book-to-film adaptations, and there are bad ones, but even with the changes from book to movie, Odd Thomas was everything i hoped it would be, and more. Stephen Sommers, who wrote and directed Odd, was in his A-game here, beating out his previous blockbusters The Mummy, Mummy Returns and Van Helsing, all of which were fun and enjoyable, but not as thought-provoking or emotional as Odd was. Anton Yelchin was just incredible as Odd Thomas, a guy who knows how dangerous the world is and how precious his ability is, and knows he is truly odd. Addison Timlin was actually very good as Stormy Llewellyn, Odd's girlfriend. The character really added to thew character development and emotional investment the audience had towards Odd, and Stormy herself. Willem Dafoe was great as Wyatt Porter, even having a bit of witty comedy attached to his character. The visual effects were astounding, especially for a low-budget, limited theater film. The cinematography was good, the music was fitting, and the script was just fantastic; it didn't insult your intelligence, it was fresh, and it didn't feel familiar. It had its own pacing (which was odd, no pun intended, really) and the camera work was just incredible; Sommers knows how to put slow- motion to good use.
Odd Thomas is a strange, dark and somewhat comical thriller that does what some big Hollywood blockbusters can't; take a story that literally reaches apocalyptic heights, with supernatural elements thrown in, and ground it in reality. I really hope Stephen Sommers and Anton Yelchin get to make the sequel because this movie was a truly spectacular thriller that everyone should at least check out.
Need for Speed (2014)
An Impressive & Entertaining Video Game Adaptation
Need for Speed is the action blockbuster based off the hit video game series of the same name. Centered around Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul), a blue-collar mechanic framed for the death of his friend, seeks revenge on the man who did it, Dino (Dominic Cooper), after spending two years in prison.
Directed by Scott Waugh, Need for Speed is an adrenaline-fueled action movie that never lets up. Sure, the movie isn't original, but what makes it stand out among other action movies (mainly the Fast & Furious franchise, which many people compare it to) is the fact that there is no CG; every car you see on screen does truly get destroyed or damaged, and the actors actually do drive the cars in most scenes. With Waugh's direction, the film is really fantastic. What brings the film down, though, is the script and some of the supporting cast. While there are moments where the script is well-written, the majority of it is just fun and ridiculous, but not stupid or dumb. Aaron Paul was great as the lead character, even if his character wasn't as complex and impressive as Jesse Pinkman. Imogen Poots was great as Julia Maddon, Marshall's "sidekick" throughout the film, whom he meets at a car auction. Dominic Cooper was entertaining as the antagonist, but his character was not-so well-scripted. The musical score by Nathan Furst was fitting and fantastic, having an array of stings and orchestral sounds to lighten and intensity the film, and the cinematography was breath-taking; reminded me a little of Wally Pfister's work with grand shots and just impressive imagery.
Need for Speed is a good, fun action blockbuster that falls short of greatness because of a lacking script, but is none-the-less an impressive and well-made movie that deserves more attention. The only reason it was panned by critics was because of the script and plot.
47 Ronin (2013)
An Entertaining Samurai Epic That Falls Short
47 Ronin is a highly fictionalized take on the story of the 47 ronin who took revenge on a court official who had the 47's leader commit seppuku. In the film, Keanu Reeves portrays Kai, a half-British Half-Japanese outcast who is called upon by Oishi, the leader of the 47. The 47 seek revenge on Lord Kira, who also has an evil witch (Rinko Kikuchi) serving under him, who killed their master.
The movie itself looks absolutely phenomenal, with amazing visual effects, an emotional and gripping musical score, and strong performances from Keanu and Hiroyuki Sanada, who portrays Oishi. The major problem that i saw with the movie was that, it was over way too fast. They left out important character development for the witch and a few other characters, which really could have added more emotional flame to the film. Plus, the movie overall could have easily been twenty, thirty minutes longer. If it were, i would say it can rank alongside 13 Assassins and The Last Samurai. The script was well-written (some cheesy lines, but overall pretty good), Carl Erik Rinsch's directing was good but had a few too many cut-aways.
47 Ronin is an extremely action-packed samurai/fantasy epic that is something you don't want to miss on the big-screen. Though, if you want to see something award-worthy in terms of writing and directing, hope for a Director's/Extended cut on disc, for you won't find it here. But great performances, visual effects and emotion really help make this movie stand out, even with The Desolation of Smaug as competition.
A Decent-Good, Demonic Thriller
11-11-11 is based on a supposed phenomenon that was to occur on the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year. No one knew what was to happen, but there were theories. In the film 11-11-11, the theory used is that a door will open, but to where? Heaven or hell? A disillusioned author (Timothy Gibbs) who lost his wife and son in a fire goes to Spain, where his father is dying and his estranged brother, Samuel, believes demons are walking the Earth, ready for hell to be unleashed.
This film is not great, but only because it was a rushed production. The writing was sloppy, but far from absolute crap like the Twilight films or M. Night's The Last Airbender, or every Syfy Channel Original Movie. The acting was just decent, with a couple scenes that were really good, some that were just unnecessary, but overall kept the movie going. Darren Lynn Bousman's directing was good, though the script nor acting helped it. The visuals, though, were actually refreshing, having some CG work and a lot of practical in an age of big blockbusters with CG-battles and epic action (CG isn't bad, just the bad directors who utilize it, ex. Michael Bay). The best thing about the film, though, is Joseph Bishara's score. Known for his work on Insidious, Dark Skies and the upcoming The Conjuring, here he melds the creepy, off-putting atmosphere of a strange thriller with horror elements, creating a moody masterpiece.
Overall, 11-11-11 is a highly underrated thriller that doesn't get the attention it deserves. If only they were given more time to work on it, they could have had a magnificent script to cover for the decent and bearable acting.
World War Z (2013)
Highly Entertaining, Globe-trotting Epic
World War Z, while based off the Max Brooks novel of the same name, is in no way a direct adaptation, and happily, this works for the film's benefit. When Gerry Lane, a former UN worker is tasked to help a scientist travel across the planet to discover a cure for the rapidly growing zombie infection, he also is troubled by leaving his family behind while the world around him collapses into chaos.
Directed by Marc Forster, WWZ is easily one of the most entertaining and epic zombie films ever made. Now this being said, many zombie fanatics will disagree, I know this, as some think you need bloody/gory violence and flesh-tearing. This movie proves otherwise, and the zombies here are among the most frightening zombies I've ever seen, being very reminiscent of the "rage-infused" zombies of 28 Days Later. Brad Pitt is at his A-Game here, being both believable as a father and an unsung hero. Mireille Enos was great as Karin Lane, being the very sensitive, but careful mother who knows how to deal with the situation instead of screaming her head off when zombies are at her back. The cinematography is absolutely stunning and breath-taking, especially after the incredible plane crash sequence. The music by Marco Beltrami is award-worthy, capturing both the horrific atmosphere of a collapsing world and human drama of what we're capable of in such disastrous times. The script, though, while well-written, went from being Oscar-material, to a normal blockbuster script that (happily) doesn't insult your intelligence, or become stupid. But there is plenty of room to make a sequel or two because the story here is much to grand for one film.
Overall, World War Z is one of the best blockbusters of the year, with good acting, directing, and polished visuals that have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. I would have to say, this is one of Brad Pitt's best films
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Stupid, Fast Fun
The Fast and The Furious films (excluding Tokyo Drift) are fantastic action movies that get better as they go, but the one in the series that stands out as a pure, stupid fun is 2 Fast 2 Furious. It takes place not long after The Fast & The Furious, with Brian O'Connor teaming up with Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson) to take down a kingpin (Cole Hauser) who threatens the work of the FBI in a huge sting undercover operation.
While this film is not original or special, it's fun and highly entertaining because it doesn't take itself seriously. The script, while being far from great, is better some blockbusters with awful scripts and directing (Ex. Transformers Revenge of the Fallen, G.I. Joe, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides). So, to be honest, I don't understand why so many people think this movie sucks when it's better than the entire Twilight series, the second Transformers, and a whole slew of other mindless movies because, well, this one does exactly what it was meant to do; be dumb, unabashed fun. Plus, Tyrese Gibson's character is hysterical, and grows through the sequels
A Fantastic and Note-worthy Experience of Good SF
In the world of science fiction, there have been many stories that have been adapted to the point where we've just grown tired of the same old stuff, but sometimes, someone comes along and re-creates that story with great vision and excellence. Oblivion is one of these movies, offering different and unique plot points, fantastic acting, phenomenal visuals and directing that is pitch-perfect. Following an alien invasion, 60 years have passed, and Earth is now a wasteland. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), a member of team 49, goes around repairing drones, which canvas the planet and eliminate the aliens still there. But when Jack is captured by a human resistance leader on Earth (Morgan Freeman), he is told that everything he knows is a lie, and that something is very, very wrong. He sides with these mysterious rebels, and begins to fight for not just love, but for his home.
Joseph Kosinski, the director and co-writer, as well as writer of the graphic novel the film is based on, creates a truly fantastically frightening world with Oblivion. His direction in many scenes is so smooth and crisp that you forget, this is only is second film. The acting is superb, with Tom Cruise being at the height of his game after doing the well-made thriller Jack Reacher, based off of Lee Child's novel. I can understand why people were upset with Morgan Freeman's short screen time, but at least he was in it. I still came to love his character because he was an important one; he made Jack see reality. Olga Kurylenko was great in her role as the mysterious woman who knows Jack from his past. The visual effects, once again, were stunning, with the post-apocalyptic Earth being truly remarkable and extremely detailed. But the aliens were a true treat in the film, being very unique and different. Now, while I see many people trying to find ways of lowering the rating for the film, like movie connections, I can say, the connections are incredibly vague and little. Those who claim this is too close to "The Matrix", it's not. Humans were enslaved, and used as batteries by machines. In Oblivion, we are nearly extinct, and aliens have come and gone. Jack Harper is a curious individual, while Neo was content with "his" reality. Malcolm Beech was a leader, but had limits, while Morpheus had zero. I could keep going, but that just takes away from the review. The music by M83 was just spectacular; a must-listen and own for anyone who appreciates musical soundtracks and scores.
Overall, Oblivion is a great addition to a constantly growing sci-fi universe that has had great additions in the past five years alone, and more to come. This is not a film for everyone, being a straight-up science fiction film, but for anyone who loves action, sci-fi or good filmmaking. Now, I do see a few award-worthy things about Oblivion, including Tom Cruise's acting, M83's musical score and the visual effects, but mainly this is just one to be seen and acknowledged for its greatness for expanding the genre, and adding a fresh and creative vision to the mix, but not a contender for Best Picture, sadly, falling just short of that, but still a better film of the year.
The River (2012)
An Underrated Gem of the Television World
In 2012, a new TV show aired on ABC called "The River;" amongst the constant release of "found-footage" horror films, or those mixed with traditional film, it seemed only fitting that a television series be made too, since these movies were so popular. Sadly, "The River" was canceled after only 8 episodes, and in these 8 episodes (produced by legend Steven Spielberg) we were introduced to a place where everything we know is wrong. "The River" is centered around an expedition into the Amazon, where TV show host, role model, and father Emmett Cole (Bruce Greenwood) went missing after his 22-year of the Undiscovered Country, a TV series that involved him and his family traversing the wild. Lincoln (Joe Anderson), his mother Tess (Leslie Hope) and some of the old crew of the Undiscovered Country then begin searching for Emmett, who's last position was on the Boiuna, a part of the Amazon that mysteriously vanishes into dense forest.
"The River" is easily one of the most entertaining, thrilling television shows ever made, as its strong cast, great visuals, sleek directing and creativity create an engrossing atmosphere and characters that you love and ones you love to hate. I have no clue why this was canceled because there was so much potential for this show to be something extraordinarily great; a cross between Lost and Prometheus, except Prometheus is getting a sequel. Now, I would recommend this show to everyone because it is something truly different, and full of cerebral scares (and a few jump scares), but because of the way it's filmed I cannot; some people can't handle the "found-footage" angles and shots. But those willing to watch, mainly those who love sci-fi/mystery/horror, will not be sorry. Hopefully someone can get the guys at ABC or whoever to use Kickstarter to bring back The River.
The Triangle (2005)
One of the Best Mini-series of All Time
In 2005, the Syfy channel (when it was still the Scifi Channel) released a 3-part mini-series that told a story about the Bermuda Triangle, and how something that has been happening there is now affecting everything else, leading to an epic conclusion that will determine the fate of the planet.
Brought to us by Dean Devlin, Bryan Singer and Rockne S. O'Bannon, The Triangle stars Eric Stoltz, Bruce Davidson, Michael E. Rodgers and Catherine Bell as a group of researchers (and one skeptical reporter) who are hired by Eric Benerall (played by Sam Neil) to find out why the Triangle is the way it is, basically. Through a series of events and happenings, the group and one sole survivor of a Triangle-experience (Lou Diamond Phillips) must race to find the answer behind the world's greatest mystery. The writing and acting are both superb, top-notch and fantastic. Lou Diamond Phillips is the best out of the main six, adding a sense of paranoia and grief to the story. The visual effects lack in a few areas, but overall are phenomenal, especially in a scene where an entire bridge disappears while three of the characters are driving on it. The music by Joseph LoDuca is some of the best music i've ever heard; a mix of Harry Gregson-Williams, Jason Graves (Dead Space), and Hans Zimmer.
Overall, The Triangle is one of the best TV phenomenons to ever occur, and should be hailed as a classic; stunning, breath-taking and thrilling all the way through. A mix of non-stop questions, clever script writing, and a constant sense of urgency fill this piece of cinema which already has everything it needs to be great. Although, it's not for everyone (straight-up science fiction story) 9.5/10 Stars***