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With some tweaks, this could have been much better
**** Warning. This contains a lot of spoilers ****
Let's start with what I liked about this film: 1) The production design (the station looks great). 2) The actors.
The issue I had with this movie was not a lack of originality (I didn't really care whether or not it was original. I was more concerned about execution).
First of all, Guy Pearce is one of my favorite actors. However, he just doesn't suit the wise-cracking anti-hero type of character. Actually, I think it might have worked, had his lines been adjusted a bit. A few of the lines that were supposed to be funny just didn't come off that way.
Now for the REAL killer...
Pacing. I'm not talking about action pacing (that was fine). I'm talking about dramatic pacing or pacing for added impact. For example, when they jump out of the station to make planet fall -- it's really rushed. Now compare that to what would happen if this was a James Bond movie. Instead you'd have them start the jump, then it would switch to a very long shot and everything would slow down. Along with that, the musical score would change to something slower and more majestic -- giving you time to absorb the action as well as what the characters are experiencing. As part of this process, the next shot would be a close-up of the two of them and the brutal buffeting they'd get from atmospheric re-entry as well as how they're literally and figuratively bonding.
As others have mentioned, this film has a similar plot to Escape From New York. Note that in Escape, when Snake and Hauk are sitting across the table from each other, they establish that the two characters are decorated soldiers and that they're both total badasses. You know who you're dealing with right from the start and you get a sense of what Snake is all about.
Contrast that with Lockout. There's a similar meeting, but the audience is left clueless as to who exactly Snow is. It would help to explain that he's a secret service agent at the start and really show how he's been wrongly accused. The audience needs to know something about him and be able to sympathize with him. Watching this movie, even the fact that it was Guy Pearce, it still wasn't enough for me to feel sorry for the character. I just kept asking myself, "Who the hell is this character and why should I care?"
There are a few other spots in this film in which a little more meaningful character interplay would have helped. I'm not talking about radically stopping the action -- just pausing a tiny but more at the end of certain scenes, instead of cutting away so quickly. That, and more use of establishing shots.
My final qualm is with the musical score. It's incredibly generic and doesn't really change much to reflect the mood of the scenes. In fact, it sounds like the music for most modern video games. Pretty uninspired and almost like something I'd expect to hear from a stock library.
We know this is left open for a sequel. However, with these flaws, it may not receive funding; And even if it did -- would it be worth it?
Iron Sky (2012)
At this point, I've rated over 1,100 films on here and this one ranks as one of the better ones.
The visual effects are remarkable (as are the number of VFX shots). This is especially impressive considering the film's extremely modest budget. From watching the behind-the-scenes information, this meant pretty tough conditions for the visual effects/computer-generated imaging team.
Of course, no film can survive on visual effects alone, and that's where this movie rises above many of its contemporaries. The acting is great, the editing is quick (but not rushed), the soundtrack is effective, and the story is genuinely compelling and interesting to watch. Last but not least, it's a bloody funny film. I laughed my ass off, and I can't say I've had the pleasure of doing that in a long time.
There is a wealth of social and political critique in the story and it's relevant to both the past and present (and likely the future as well).
Bravo to the people who put this film together. Great job.
Realistic portrayals for a change
Excellent cinematography and fine performances. This is the first time I've seen Keira Knightley turn in such a subtle and faceted performance. It suits her well.
Other reviewers complained about things like lack of subtitles for the Japanese dialogue, lack of emotion in the performances, lack of believability in the infatuation that takes place in Japan, and complaints that the film was 'too slow'.
First: The Japanese dialogue didn't require subtitles. An observant viewer could figure out what's going on easily enough.
Second: This is one of the few films out there that actually dialed-down the tendency to over-act scenes. For this reason, it's a more realistic portrayal of human beings. I'm noticing a definite increase in the number of people out there that can't seem to identify subtle emotions. Not sure what's up with that. It's a disturbing trend.
Third: Clearly people who don't believe the in-Japan romance portion of this film have never experienced love at first sight (or maybe they're inexperienced in relationships).
Fourth: Complaints of this genre of film being too slow are ridiculous. My advice for people who have this complaint is to stick to action films (or practise observing and acknowledging visual information). Maybe take up hiking or an art class. That might help.
In summary, if you have a sophisticated eye for film and are mature enough in areas of romance (failed or otherwise), this is a film that you'll likely appreciate.
The Thing (2011)
An effective prequel
This movie is a prequel and not a remake.
Quite a few people have written negative reviews of this film.
However, after finally getting around to watching this movie, I feel that the filmmakers did a very good job of creating an entertaining prequel that respects the 1982 John Carpenter masterpiece.
Great attention to detail is put into replicating sets from the 1982 film and the level of continuity between the two films is truly remarkable. Many of the creature effects are created using practicals and I'm glad to see it. I'm especially impressed with the first major human-alien fusion reveal showing the partly-regenerated human during the autopsy scene. Nicely done.
Also of note is the female lead and the Norwegian actors. Kudos.
Finally, I really enjoyed the fact that they spent the time and money to show the interior of the ship (something that I've been waiting a long time to see and I'm sure it's something the 1982 filmmakers wished they had the budget to explore).
Where I will agree with many reviewers is that the 1982 film is the better of the two movies. Regardless, this new film deserves credit and -- believe me -- it could have been worse.
All-in-all, this is a film worth watching.
Total Recall (2012)
A vast improvement over the 1990's film of the same name.
This 2012 version of Total Recall starring Colin Farrell is a welcome improvement over the campy 1990 Verhoeven film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger). I had high hopes for the earlier Verhoeven film and was disappointed in the cartoony special effects, convoluted plot, campy character portrayals, and substandard editing.
In this new version of the film, the editing and musical score have both been improved. As a result, the events flow much better. Visual effects have -- of course -- improved. However, it should be mentioned that the 1990 film already suffered from some truly horrid special and visual effects, even for its time. Fortunately the people working on this new film clearly have a more critical eye for effects and shots. The cinematography in this 2012-release is excellent. If I were to ask for anything in this new version, it would be a bit more time for certain establishing shots, since some of them appear to have been cut a little bit shorter than they should be (giving the sense that the shot was a bit rushed).
And it's on that note that I should mention the pacing. I don't generally like action sequences, simply for the sake of action. However, in this film I'm okay with it. Regardless, the action sequences are on the verge of being an over-load; it would be nice to have just a few more scenes in which the pace is slowed down a bit. The lull points would help pull the viewer deeper into the film's richly-rendered world.
I found the main character to be much more convincing in this new version. Colin Farrell plays the character in a more realistic manner than Schwarzenegger. In the 1990 film, there was little feeling that the main character was in any real danger, since he was being played by a massive (literally) action hero. Arnie in his prime isn't someone who generally looks like he's under any real duress. Colin Farrell plays a more believable everyman at the beginning -- which more effectively sets the audience up for the reveals that follow. Nice work by Kate Beckinsale for her portrayal of a convincingly-threatening villain.
Finally, kudos to the people who worked on design development for this new film. The concepts are a joy to watch, and are brilliantly executed on-screen. Believe me, I've seen a ton of sci-fi, and this is some of the nicest to watch.
I'm sure there are many who hold the 1990 film close to their hearts. So be it. For those who are more into the immersive, atmospheric, and less-campy variety of sci-fi, this new offering is well worth seeing.
Ignore the negative reviews and give this movie a shot. After all, cinema is a highly-subjective art-form. If you're truly steeped in this genre (especially in science fiction from 1977 to 1983), I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Raise the Titanic (1980)
Worth watching at least once
Wow. I'm amazed at how strongly negative some of the reviews are of this film. I haven't read the book, and I suppose if I did, maybe I'd be tougher on this one.
But having seen it when it first came out and then once again later, I find that I liked this movie then and I still do now. It's got an excellent tone and atmosphere to it. And for me, it's a very immersive experience. The scenes are shot expertly, and the details that they could verify were done well.
One thing's for sure: I'd take this over James Cameron's Titanic any day.
Forza Motorsport 3 (2009)
A pretty solid game
Not as responsive a racer as Rally Sport Challenge 1 for the XBOX, but still a worthy game. Graphics are quite good, but not as good as what the XBOX 360 is capable of. It suffers from the unfortunate use of heightened contrast levels which seem to plague most modern games. The irony is that, by cranking up the contrast, the advantages of a 24-bit color palette are diminished. Areas that should fall into gradual shadow are reduced to black. This is what the post-production film/television business calls "crushed black levels" and is not a good thing.
The gameplay is quite good. However, the handling on the cars is generally quite sluggish. Not until a sizable amount of virtual coin is spent on upgrades do the cars begin to respond the way they should. There are a few cars that tend to fish-tail and spin out much more easily than they would in reality. Furthermore, some vehicles move like electric cars on a toy track.
Gameplay appears to have been a bit of an after-thought, in favor of supplying more cars. It isn't more types of cars that players want, it's more tracks and a very refined level of responsiveness to the actual driving experience. The cars should handle in such a way that they are fun to drive. Even the original Pole Position handles better that the cars in Forza 3. Again, look at Rally Sport Challenge (XBOX) or Flag to Flag (Dreamcast) for reference for how cars should handle in modern racing games. Having said this, I should state that the handling for the cars in Forza 3 is much better than games like Project Gotham, Total Immersion Racing, or SRS.
As for the interface and menu system, it's somewhat tedious. Part of it stems from the also modern trend of forcing the player to adhere to a calendar and schedule or set events. While not as annoying as the weak attempts to create a story like in the over-rated Dirt series of games, the navigation from course to course is initially a patience-tester. In the 1980s, this type of laborious method of track selection would have docked the game marks in the review stage. Surprisingly, this is now becoming the norm for all types of genres of video games (Virtua-Fighter 5, Dirt, Virtua-Tennis 2009, ...). Ideally, developers should be less concerned with forcing players to progress though games the way they want them to. The best approach is to let the player choose any track, any car, and any upgrade whenever they feel like it. Some may recall the old arcade and ColecoVision skill level selection system. There's a reason why that system was successful. In fact almost every 70s and 80s arcade machine includes skill level settings. Even the 1982 TRON arcade machine has 9 selectable skill levels and a level skip feature).
The real show-stealer in Forza 3 is the soundtrack. The music is remarkable and represents one of the few times since the C64 that composers actually put their heart and soul into the music. The tracks are professionally composed, mixed, and pre-mastered. The hooks are excellent, and the instrumentation choices are brilliant. It's obvious that a conscious effort was made to ensure that the music was pleasing while still suggesting a sense of speed, right down to the choice of kicks that have been placed low in the mix, rather than at the front. Arpeggiators and sequences have been given center stage with the synth pad hooks and chord progressions. All of this works to enhance gameplay and makes the lengthy load times tolerable.
If you've surmised that I'm no stranger to video games, you're correct. I've played thousands of video games in my time and have done development work for companies like Nintendo. There are lessons that all developers can learn from the past. Go back and read the issues of ZZap!64 and Electonic Games magazines that are posted for free on the U.S. Archive.org site and read what the reviewers have to say. Apply it to modern games and you'll reap the rewards. So too will the players.
"Forget it, Rick; It's 2019."
First off, this review uses parallelism between Chinatown and Blade Runner and includes spoilers for both films. As such, please stop reading if you do not want knowledge of important plot elements of either of these films.
Chinatown is a film that sneaks up on you and punches you in the face at the end. But it does it in such a way that -- for a moment -- you're not even sure what happened. Nicholson, Dunaway, and Huston play their parts brilliantly. It's truly painful to watch Evelyn fall from such a stoic person to a nervous wreck. All the while, she keeps you guessing. In fact most of the characters of this film keep you guessing in an Agatha Christie sort of way. Who's good, who's bad, who's crazy? It keeps shifting on subtle levels.
The cinematography is excellent. Nice smooth camera shots and composition. Restrained use of camera motion. Nice editing and a suitable score. The pacing is also really good. Fast enough to keep a person's interest, but slow enough to show the lush locations and buildings. The only case in which I'd subtract marks is for the Chinatown location itself. Once Chinatown is shown, it's presented fairly flat and lacking in visual detail.
After watching this film, I couldn't help but think of Blade Runner. Now I see the connections between the two films. Blade Runner owes quite a bit to Chinatown. In particular, Rick Deckard's interaction with Rachel. I can also see why Jeter's truly awful and inconsistent novelized sequel to Blade Runner (The Edge of Human) made sexual abuse references in regards to Rachel. However, dealing with the sudden shock of discovering that you're not human serves the purpose effectively enough. Adding on a borrowed element from another film on top of that is totally unnecessary.
The tone of Chinatown and the visual style of the era that it is set in forms the basis of Blade Runner's world. 1940s future-noir is the look, and the tone is equally serious. This 'tone' is something that a great deal of modern films seem to lack. Both films hold true to their tone and mood consistently while presenting a story that could be applied to various eras.
Before beginning to think that one film is copying another, consider that most art forms derive elements from earlier works. There's no question that Chinatown owes quite a bit to 1946's The Big Sleep. And I'm sure it continues on back beyond that point in film and novels. The key is how it's done:
In particular, if a writer or director has a new idea and is inspired by an existing film, then it's best if the new project be a unique world with new characters. In other words, not a sequel. In this case, Chinatown to Blade Runner. In cases such as this, scenes and characters can be similar. Even lines of dialogue can take on somewhat similar structure.
However, if a sequel is to be shot then the rules change. The viewer is much more wary of sequels and prequels. Unfortunately, there has been a rash of sequels lately that recycle lines wholesale. To re-use general plot points is one thing (and to be done subtly -- if at all), but recycling lines is often the kiss of death for a sequel.
Aliens: This film uses a plot structure that is very similar to that of Alien. However, it works because the two films are of different genres and the characters are unique enough between films.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: In this case, there was an imperative to take the film in a different direction from the first. Hence this film is very different from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It represents a completely different story, totally different motivations, mood, and plot. The two films share little in common, except for the general universe in which they exist and the main cast of core characters. Ideally, this is how a sequel should be done. Note that it does remain consistent to the previously-established Star Trek universe.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: Again, the film is unique from its predecessor. Furthermore, it falls into a slightly different sub-genre of film. The tone of Empire is much different than that of A New Hope and remains consistent throughout. Consistency is absolutely key to making any film a success. Hopefully modern directors can re-discover this concept. The screenplays are totally unique between the two films and there are no recycled lines of dialogue.
I won't name sequels that are considered to be poorly done. I'm sure readers of IMDb reviews are well aware of many examples of sub-standard sequel and prequel films. Take a look at them closely and look for recycled lines, 'homage' scenes that are nearly carbon copies, blatantly re-used plot lines, weak and highly derivative stories, inconsistent treatment of firmly-established characters, and a lack of substance.
All of this returns us to Chinatown. Here is a film that is packed with emotional substance. It's subtle yet strong. Chinatown owes its visual style and tone to the film noir era while presenting totally new material. The characters are multi-layered and difficult to strictly classify. It never tries too hard and there seem to be no absolutes in the film. And lastly -- and most importantly -- it ends exactly where it should. Perhaps the ending should be the starting point of any writer's work. It's what makes or breaks films with even the greatest level of potential.
I'm a huge fan of Alien, liked Aliens, and despite originally not liking the third movie, I actually have grown to really like Alien 3.
Prometheus had potential. But, like so many sequels and prequels nowadays, it's highly derivative, borrows situations and lines of dialogue from previous films, and is generally unimaginative.
The editing was too fast. Yes, they did a nice job on the ship interiors. But they were in too much of a rush to keep the pace up. There were shots of the interior of the company ship that were nice but too quick. Just as you were beginning to take in the atmosphere, they cut to the next scene. The soundtrack was complete rubbish; It pulled me out of the film repeatedly. The supporting actors were awful, reminding me of the bad moments of the fourth film combined with pretty much all of Aliens vs Predator. What is it with childish over-acting in so many films of this genre these days.
For characters, I felt that Vickers and the ship's captain were the two best. However, neither is really given the chance to fully develop in this film. As a fan of Alien (spoiler alert), I was pretty ticked off that the writers decided to change the ship's alien crew into humans. WTF!? Seriously, a group of ten-year-old children could come up with far more imaginative explanations of what the alien race was. So what if they biologically engineered humans. That doesn't mean that they themselves have to look like humans. Along with this particular gripe are the many seemingly random and unexplained scenes. One of the main characters of the film is infected with a 'virus' that makes him mutate slightly and wig out. Okay. Why? This along with a number of other short and definitely not sweet oddities make the film seem unfocused and scatterbrained. Finally, the lack of imagination of the presentation of the world that this series has tried to flesh out over the last number of decades is somewhat diffused by this film. It's ironic since the story actually attempts to broaden the Alien universe. Some things should never be explained, lest you ruin the mystique.
So, I give it a good rating for visual effects and for SOME of the acting.
I give it a thumbs down for the rest of the acting, the ripping off of elements from the first film, the crap soundtrack, and the general lack of tension. This movie has no real climax. Instead it has a bunch of half-baked mini-climaxes. Very unsatisfying.
Hence the final rating of "Meh!"
Advice to Hollywood: Unless a stellar writer, amazing composer, and awesome director of photography signs on, cancel any and all Blade Runner sequels now.
What's in an ending?
What we have here folks is a sleeper. I didn't hear much about this film, and barely recall seeing the trailer for it.
I finally sat down and watched Skyline. The bulk of the movie is a fairly conventional sci-fi film -- as compared to similar films of its type. The visual effects are solid, the acting is good, and the photography is nicely done. It has a definite sense of high visual quality to it. However, many other movies have boasted the same yet have failed in the task of presenting science fiction that really grips both the mind and the gut. This is where Skyline comes into play. What really makes this movie is the ending. Of course, I can't tell you what the ending is, since that would ruin the film for you.
What I can tell you is that Skyline dares to do what few Hollywood films are willing to do. And for that, I salute the film makers. Bravo!
So, where am I coming from when I say this? Well, let's just say that I've read a ton of science fiction and seen a massive amount of sci-fi TV and cinema. I typically seek out the really inventive stuff. You know, the kind of material you'd find in Heavy Metal magazine or the old Epic Illustrated series. This includes going way back and studying the classic material (1930s, 40s, 50s, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, etc...). Because of this, I often get the feeling that I've seen it all before and it's a rare occasion when someone actually does something bold or different.
I'm happy to report that Skyline was a surprise... and a good one at that.
Hang in there and watch it to the end. You won't be sorry.