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My Daughter's Secret Life (2001 TV Movie)
8/10
Surprisingly well done
1 July 2019
Some aspects of this reminded me of the film "21", but this is very much its own story. Of course, I have to admit watching Elisha in this production was its own entertainment, but beyond that this was a reasonably realistic look at the dark side of gambling among highschool kids in the proverbial affluent neighborhood . . . an all too real dilemma that many have faced in real life.

For some, at least, gambling really is an addiction, just as powerful as any drug. I've never been afflicted with it myself, so for quite some time I had difficulty understanding or believing this. But then I saw this happening, witnessed first hand how compelling the grip of this addiction really can be.

Given that background, I could actually watch this production and had no trouble at all believing the story and characters portrayed. For an obscure made for TV Canadian film, this was surprisingly well done.

Other gambling themed films have mostly been over the top, absurdly over done portrayals of this life, but Lucky Girl was pretty much spot on, perhaps the best yet bringing this concept to life. Of course, I'm not going to hint at how this ends, but it's not what most viewers would probably expect, it's a bit closer to actual reality.

Sometimes the best dramas with a message get hidden away in obscurity, this may be just such an example. I can be good with 8 stars.
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Altered Carbon (2018– )
10/10
I doubt anyone will lament the time spent to watch this.
20 June 2019
Remarkably well done. I ventured into this production not really knowing what to expect, there was no preconceived vision of what this should be, or adapted from. Are there some vignettes that are so far out into the fringe, that suspension of disbelief is simply not possible? Yes . . . I'm not going to describe those particular scenes as such might be interpreted as spoilers.

But, even with those fringy parts injected every so often, the overall concept parallels much of what the current transhumanist culture cites as elements of an inevitable future world; consciousness injected into recycled human "skins", AI avatar nano-entities, co-evolution with the enhanced quasi humanoids, and so on.

Is this production perfect? No, of course not. But is it interesting and entertaining to watch and experience? Absolutely yes.

As for the production quality, definitely first rate. This is a big budget production, as the quality of the sets, visuals and CGI clearly indicate. At the very least, just as a visual art piece, this is something to look at. The world building template that this story evolves into is richly constructed and detailed.

Some might argue a bit on the quality of the script writing in some of these scenes, perhaps in the context of taste, as what fits well for some viewers may be unsatisfactory for others, but I had no such troubles with this. The story and its myriad subplots moves quickly, there isn't much filler or dead space content, as is often the dilemma facing other episodic productions.

Even if you're not a sci-fi fan per se' there is enough here which goes far beyond the boundaries of that particular definition to be thoroughly engaging. This is a high end risky venture, which could have turned out badly (as other such episodic sci-fi productions have), but in this case they pretty much got it right. At the very least, a lot of credit for even attempting such a production.

The casting is superb, but if I had to pick a "favorite" from this crew, that would have to be Dichen Lachman. She is remarkably unique, has a presence you will notice immediately as she enters her first scene, and that memory will last long after you've watched this entire series.

I could go on, but the short version is, this deserves 10 stars, which is a rating I very rarely grant any production. Partly for quality of production and thematic content, and partly for the effort it took to create such an unusual and risky production, and actually have it work.

I doubt anyone will lament the time spent to watch this.
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Alien Warfare (2019)
1/10
How did this ever get funded as a production project?
2 May 2019
I was curious enough to see what could possibly be bad enough to warrant such consistently horrendous ratings. OK, curiosity satisfied . . .

So . . . the question that comes to mind is, how did this ever get funded as a production project?

Seriously, this is so absurdly bad in every possible way such a thing could be evaluated, I just have to wonder.

There are lots of scripts out there, directors, actors and production teams who dream of having the chance to get their project funded, some worse than others, some with genuine merit; many truly interesting indie productions have been spawned from such humble beginnings . . . but even in that comparison, this is below the bottom of the barrel.

OK, I couldn't even watch the entire thing, it was just too embarrassingly painful.

In a way, I was hoping this could at least become the new "Plan 9 From Outer Space" for the 21st century, but no, doesn't even rate that status.

Sorry . . . if zero (or negative) stars was an option, that would be my choice, but OK, one star will have to do.
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Scenic Route (2013)
5/10
Interesting up to a point, but a bit too long, overly dramatized . . .
28 April 2019
Yes, I know, this is supposed to a sophisticated character study, with an endless cacophony deep dialogue . . . a philosophical journey traversing the uncertain terrain of the human condition, as extruded through the mandrel of the two primary characters in the film.

This is one those productions shot with an extremely low budget, but relied on the aforementioned deep dialogue to carry the story to its intended fruition.

Given that criteria, the acting really was quite well done, which would theoretically propel this production to spectacular experiential status. Unfortunately, it never quite got there.

It just got old after awhile. I get it, we were supposed to enthralled by the endless deep dialogue, delving into the dark corners of the human condition, impressed with the sophisticated delivery by the two main characters and so on.

But unfortunately, that's not what happened here. This entire production could have easily been shortened down to about half of its length, and likely would render a better version of this story.

Part of the problem with this is that I just couldn't relate to either of the two characters being portrayed here, but especially "Carter". Crazy emotional outbursts, mired in layers psychodrama, we were supposed to be swept up into this emotional maelstrom. Especially toward the end, the "big message" was simplistically dished up on a platter.

I suppose for some of the commentators here, this all seems like some radically new concept piece to be explored and pondered upon. Truth of the matter, though, is that this is not new anything. The premise of this story is woven into a tapestry of cliches all too familiar with myriad other films along the same lines.

Was it a terrible production? No, for what it is, there's enough here to justify the 90 minutes consumed by watching it.

However, would I be watching this again? No, once is enough.

5 stars seems about right for this one.
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Nighthawks (2009)
wrong video with the title
9 April 2019
I don't know where else to submit this, but the video that is posted here is for a virtual reality documentary, completely unrelated to the title "NightHawks" (Nschtraven).
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Little Fish (2005)
7/10
Interesting slice of life snapshot of reality . . .
23 March 2019
I liked this film, very much, but I will also have to admit my bias. The sole reason I began watching was really because of Cate Blanchett, who I could watch in virtually anything, and not regret the time spent doing so.

Having said that, once I got started in this production, it did pull me in to see how the various subplots turned out, and of course, to find out what the fate of Cate's character (Tracy) would eventually become.

This is not a flashy film, nor are there super elevated tense moments punctuating the story, as is so common with many productions of this genre', but rather an evolving character study of Tracy's relationships and circumstances in her life, which come to light at various junctures like pieces of a puzzle assembling the whole picture.

There's much going on, with the present and past family dynamics which shape the circumstances Tracy finds herself in, and her ultimate choice of desperation to fulfill an otherwise unresolvable goal she is aiming at, and the consequences of where that choice is leading her.

Hers is a life of previous drug addiction, and other various troubles she got herself into, and the people around her who emerge from similar backgrounds, some now past that point, but others still submerged in that dark canyon.

It's a bit difficult to describe this story in any greater detail without accidentally opening up any spoilers, so I'll just have to leave my description as it is.

However, my suggestion would be that this is a film worth seeing . . . it might seem a bit slow at first, but as the different layers of intrigue and emergent back stories explaining the various character's current circumstances become apparent, you might find this as interesting as I did.

I was somewhat stuck between 6 and 7 stars, but will give benefit of a doubt here with 7 stars.
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Ms .45 (1981)
7/10
Corny, low budget . . . and very entertaining
2 March 2019
This is one of those uniquely offbeat, low budget B grade productions that is actually very entertaining in its own, well . . . unique way.

Among some, this has become a sort of cult classic, and I can see why.

Is this for everyone? Possibly not, but in its own context of subject matter, story, aesthetic and quasi indie production style, this could easily be seen as one of those rare gems that just seems to have that right mix for an eclectic film experience.

The basic story is our lead character Thana, played by the astonishingly beautiful Zoe Lund, who works in a NYC garment district fashion sweat shop as her day job, and as part of that day job has to walk the daily gauntlet of leering and taunting male lowlifes, with the usual assortment of catcalls, "hey baby" one liners and all that. Her female sweat shop co-workers have thicker skin, flipping off the usual assortment of male taunting scumbags as part of their daily routine, but Thana is a bit more . . . sensitive.

Not to make light of the actual reality of sexual harassment, this is the extreme example of such lowlife BS inflicted upon women.

But final straw for Thana was getting raped, twice in the same day . . . that part of the film is genuinely painful to watch.

At which point, Thana, who manages to get a gun from the 2nd rapist, who she dispatched to the next world during said rape, decides she has a mission in this world, and embarks upon such with steely determination.

Of course, there have been numerous other films with this same basic story concept, Jodie Foster's "the Accused" perhaps being my favorite choice in this genre', but this particular production has it's own unique character which sets it apart from the others.

Yes, there is some gore (well, a lot of gore), but it's not in your face raw meat scenes, more like implied gore as a consequence of what's being portrayed, with a few vignettes worth noting (serving the ground up remains of her 2nd rapist to the nosy neighbor's dog being a memorable example thereof).

The entire aesthetic of this production is very 1980s NYC; grimy, gritty, attire, attitudes and settings of the time.

In any case, I'd say this is definitely worth checking out. The story goes a bit off the rails in the ending grand finale scenes, but even as over the top as such may be, it does seem to fit the overall ambiance in its own way.

Corny, low budget . . . and very entertaining, definitely 7 star material.
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Blue Jasmine (2013)
10/10
I just LOVE this film, have seen it more than a few times . . .
4 February 2019
I just LOVE this film, have seen it more than a few times (and that's exceedingly rare for me).

Of course, will have to admit being more than a bit partial to Cate Blanchett, one of my most favorite actresses of all time, so there might be a bit of a bias there.

But as for the film itself, in classic Woody Allen style, the subtle but bitingly real comedy of the scenarios and character studies, absolutely spot on. I live in this area of northern Cal, have seen first hand exactly these sorts of characters and situations. If anything, Woody did his research well and absolutely nailed it.

As for Cate's character, yup, I can think of a couple of situations in years past when I really did encounter "Jasmine" . . . oh my, complete with the procilivity for Xanax and vodka, and self induced delusional worldviews which progressively decayed into incurable functional cluelessness.

The production quality is absolutely first rate, the treatment of each scene is almost like a series of self contained works of art in their own context. As suggested earlier, the character studies are about as perfect as can be crafted, having actually encountered some of these archetypes in real life.

I'm not going to expand upon or critique the many vignettes and subplots woven into this production, as so many others have to great detail. I'll just summarize by suggesting that time spent to absorb this production is time well spent, it's definitely one of Woody Allen's better productions, and will very likely stand the test of time.

Without the slightest hesitation, 10 stars
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Sucker Punch (2011)
8/10
Maybe not for everyone . . . but for what it is, can be uniquely entertaining
31 January 2019
You'll either get this, or you won't; it's definitely not for everyone. However, if you just go into this with an open mind, and no specific expectations, you might find the experience entertaining, maybe get the metaphorical messages woven within, but at the very least have an appreciation for the profound visual artpiece that this production is. On the surface, of course, one could simply pass this off as a ridiculously silly story populated with absurdly one dimensional, cliche characters. But then again, there's much to be symbolically extracted from this story if one wants to look at the layers within. Even under the worst of circumstances, and the characters here are most certainly mired in a very dark situation, a dream can still flourish from which empowerment can be possible. Such is the nature of Baby Doll's potential demise, having been brought into this terrible situation as the outcome of her abusing scumbag father's scheme to rob her of her inheritance by having her committed to an insane asylum, where her fate is to become lobotomized. However . . . The story, such as it is, is not meant to be taken literally, but rather appreciated for the metaphorical messages within, wrapped up into a series of visually spectacular fantasy vignettes. As suggested earlier, this production is not for everyone, but I'm guessing most viewers will still come away from this having experienced something uniquely entertaining. The production quality is first rate, and even though the characters here are meant to overly exaggerated cliches, the acting was well done. Given the ambitious nature of what was being attempted, this could have turned out much worse, it was definitely a risky gamble to try to pull this off and have it work as intended

I can go with eight stars here and not feel that's overstating it's value as a well done, graphic novel fantasy artpiece.
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Life Itself (2018)
9/10
Even is this is not your "usual" sort of film, I would still strongly suggest taking a chance with this one.
24 January 2019
Even is this is not your "usual" sort of film, I would still strongly suggest taking a chance with this one.

Is it a bit overly melodramatic in some places? Well, it could be interpreted that way. But backing away from that particular critique just a bit, the actual production quality is absolutely first rate, and everyone delivers their characters about as perfectly as could be done.

The take away here is that life is a complex jigsaw puzzle of pieces, of which we only get a partial picture as it assembles over time. There can be terrible moments of trauma which we might experience, from which can be spawned completely unexpected but remarkable, even spectacular eventual consequences.

I've seen and experienced my own share of such, so perhaps I have a bit of a personal bias here, but I would suggest that if you have a pulse, and even a passing capacity for appreciating life's variables, you might appreciate this well crafted production.

At the very least, I can't imagine regretting the time it took to watch this.

As stated earlier, it might have been a bit heavy handed on the melodrama in some spots, it could have actually been more compelling if delivered in somewhat more subtle fashion in those spots, so it didn't quite make a 10 for me.

But I have no problem recommending a well deserved 9 stars.
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5/10
An interesting "perfect storm" of all the wrong possibilities . . .
7 January 2019
An interesting "perfect storm" of all the wrong possibilities converging into a single night of evolving chaos.

All things considered, could something like this actually happen in the real world?

Well, maybe . . .

Without explaining any specific details here, the question arises to what extent would someone go to protect their life situation and that of their family, if they found themselves in a circumstance that did not start off with ill intent, but ended up with a very narrow set of options to work with as their situation deteriorates.

If anything, this is something of a character study of clashing worlds, that of the executive family man, and some very poor decisions rendered into an already precarious scenario, mixed together with the irrational angst of teenagers, and in particular, a freaked out girl fueled with a bit of drugs amplifying her already bipolar state of mind.

Not a bad film, certainly not as bad as some of the reviews provided here.

The acting was reasonably well done, and for the most part, the suspension of disbelief was within a range of plausibility.

Would I spend the time to see this again? Probably not, but I'm not lamenting the time spent watching it either.

It at least deserves 5 stars . . .
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7/10
Interesting concept, the format is still a sort of work in progress . . .
29 December 2018
Interesting concept, but I actually found the multiple choice options that kept popping up more annoying than actually adding to the experience.

Of course, it's an experimental format, a logic tree of multiple outcome options wrapped around a story about game developers, creating games which deliver experiences driven by logic trees of multiple outcomes.

Having actually lived in the SF bay area during mid 1980s among the computer graphics and game developer ecosystem of the time, I could relate to the general thematic aesthetic, even though this production was actually centered on the parallel culture of that time in London.

The psychedelic trip scene is particularly well done.

Overall, well acted, good production quality. Everyone delivered their characters well, but Will Poulter's "Collin" definitely resonated, having personally known characters quite similar in real life back in the day.

Of course, there had to be that clever little bit near the end (not saying what that is, of course), with a reference to Netflix.

But having to go back and forth, redoing various logic links to and from different alternate scene branches just became tedious after a certain point, and actually began to detract more than add to the viewing experience.

I can appreciate the attempt to explore experimental media formats to deliver a uniquely compelling experience . . . but maybe this one didn't quite hit the target as intended. At least that's how it was for me.

I'll go with seven stars for the effort.
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Vikingane (2016– )
7/10
Monty Python meets the Vikings . . . sort of
27 December 2018
Well, this production is definitely different.

Set design, costuming, scene details, and casting are all incredibly well detailed, which is what makes this series so . . . odd. Just by aesthetic appearance, one would think this is going to be a serious, edgy drama centered around Viking raids, plundering and pillaging, lots of gratuitous violence and so on.

But no, that's not where this production goes, although there are definitely more than a few moments of Viking violence sprinkled about in this saga. What does actually happen instead is a bizarre, twisted comedy, wrapped around the vicissitudes of daily life, much of which parallels said vicissitudes of modern life, but extruded through the mandrel of 7th century Viking village existence management.

There is definitely a sort of quasi Monty Pythonesque motif woven throughout this production.

Maybe it might not be for everyone, and most certainly, if you are looking for a more "traditional" sort of Viking adventure / drama type of series, this is definitely not that.

But, if you happen to have a passion for offbeat, way outside the box comedy set in the most unlikely of circumstances, this might be just the cup of tea you're looking for.

Speaking for strictly for me, my primary motivation for watching this production is to watch the astonishingly striking Silje Torp, who is absolutely spectacular to look at and perfectly matches her Viking persona.

So OK, aside from my infatuation with the spectacular Ms Torp, the ongoing comedy and plot threads, such as they are (the plot threads are mainly just a scaffold for the perpetual ongoing humor vignettes and character studies) are enough to keep me with this, at least for a few episodes. I could see where this might eventually start to run out of fresh material . . . but for the moment, still quite entertaining.

If anything, just for original concept, I'm good with seven stars for this.
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7/10
A delightfully edgy, psycho-tech, AI gone amok indie production . . .
23 December 2018
A delightfully edgy, psycho-tech, AI gone amok indie production . . .

OK, so it's a bit ridiculous, over the top, soul eating AI gone amok extravaganza, done on a shoe string budget . . . but that's what makes this curious, obscure indie production so delightful.

If one wanted to pick apart the key story ingredients of this production, it's not exactly new territory. However, the way these ingredients are combined, like re-organizing the pieces of a puzzle, create a somewhat different picture composed from already familiar pieces.

It's a bit difficult to outline how these pieces fit together without crossing into spoiler territory, but the basic gist centers around the creation of a highly adaptive, emotional cognition engine type of AI platform. That part of the film actually is fairly close to the current reality, as such adaptive cognition engine systems already exist and are being deployed in numerous AI apps all over the world.

Where the story here takes off from current reality and into more, well, esoteric territory is when the system begins to acquire the "soul" or consciousness of the key software developers working on this system, with dark and foreboding violent consequences.

Almost the entire production is viewed through the system's sensory portals, with much of the production actually portrayed through a quad split screen computer interface. It sounds a bit weak describing here in writing, but the way this was composed, it actually comes off fairly well.

If anything, this production deserves credit for making the most of minimal resources, but having enough content and character to pull it off.

In particular, Mei Melancon is the perfect embodiment of the "Nora" character . . . I've actually worked in tech development projects with exactly that type of character as portrayed.

All the cast delivered a fairly reasonable portrayal of your typical collection of assorted code developers and hyper nervous project managers grinding away under impossible deadlines (an all too familiar scenario). Even though the story itself definitely wandered far into the ether of far fetched fantasy, the character studies were pretty much spot on.

I'm hovering between 6 and 7 stars, but will give benefit of a doubt and go for 7.
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Muse (VIII) (2015)
5/10
A bit long, less would have definitely been more . . .
13 December 2018
This could have been compressed into a much shorter production. As such, it would have been a perfect match for much of the content presented in the DUST series of sci-fi shorts, for example.

However, at almost 2 hrs in length, this was more than just a bit too drawn out.

I get it, the director was hoping to get the audience thoroughly engaged with the two primary characters with the exceptionally long "character study" dialogue sequences and all that, but the end result was creating more impatience as the seemingly endless (and obvious) dialogue sequences just became evermore predictable, as was the "surprise" ending (which became more or less obvious half way through, or even sooner).

There is an interesting philosophical punchline, as it were, in the final minute or so of this production, but it seemed like a very long way around the barn to finally get there.

If anything, the general theme is faintly reminiscent of the "Humans" series, but in that production, there were vastly more interesting and unique characters, evolving scenarios, plots and subplots within subplots that could carry the general concept over multiple episodes, and did so exceedingly well.

In this production, it was very much a single stage set theatrical play production, put to film. Not that being "low budget" is necessarily a bad thing; many well crafted productions have been remarkably compelling with even less resources to work with.

But in this case, less would have definitely been more.

Heather Weeks, given what she had to work with, did a fine job delivering her character Evelyn. Taylor (Jack Hadrian) just didn't seem to exactly fit right as the purported artist character. Not faulting the actor here, maybe more of a casting mismatch.

In any case, it's not entirely a waste of time to watch this, but neither would I suggest a second viewing.

I'll go with five stars . . .
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Siren (II) (2013)
8/10
Definite kudos for originality of concept, and well acted.
13 December 2018
Not even sure how to categorize this, but it was well worth the time spent watching.

Interestingly unique story. The only film comparison that even remotely comes to mind is "Perfume", although the settings and circumstances are completely different, except for the singular thread of similarity being the consistent theme of pheromones and their potential powers (and consequences) thereof.

In an odd sort of way, Leigh (Vinessa Shaw) would have been the theoretical ultimate object of desire in Perfume, in that here

character here is that of a woman who is apparently afflicted the phenomena of extreme and overpowering pheromones, to the extent that she literally sells her "essence" to a corporate perfume lab to make her living.

In this story, however, Leigh's special uniqueness has led her to a life of complete self imposed isolation, with the perpetual consequence that any ordinary man who encounters her is immediately overtaken with an involuntary and irreversible, chemically induced obsession.

That is, until she encounters the presence of Guy (Robert Kazinsky), who is apparently immune because of his lack of sense of smell . . . but that's just the beginning.

No spoilers here, so not going any further with this explanation, except to say that there is much more to this story as it unfolds.

Very interesting character study, wrapped around a compellingly unique combination of sci-fi, psych thriller (for lack of a better description) and fantasy, sort of. Ultimately it's an expose' of the fragility of the human condition, under unique circumstances, and the consequences thereof.

The ending was a bit of a stretch, but still, definite kudos for originality of concept, and well acted.

A solid eight stars for a well crafted and conceptually unique production.
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May (2002)
7/10
A rare gem this is . . .
10 December 2018
A rare gem this is. If there was ever a role and story made for Angela Bettis, this is it.

Of course, this particular genre of quirky, quasi comedy-horror inde production may not be for everyone, but even for those for whom this may not be their usual cup of tea, there still might be more than a but of entertainment value they can relate to.

Without going into too much story detail which may accidentally slip into spoiler territory, the basic concept is a character study of various individuals with their own, well, uniqueness, of which May (Angela Bettis) is, of course, the central character of interest.

It's May's continual attempts to intersect with the other characters in her evolving social microcosm that begin to send her down a road of evermore extreme reactions and interpretations thereof.

Her attempts at connecting with a potential boyfriend, further complicated with interludes with a lesbian girlfriend that then occupies her attentions, exacerbate this morphology,

Her work in a veterinary hospital is a sort of precursor to her eventual, well, morphology of what she becomes, and the results of that morphology.

In the genre of quirky inde film productions, this definitely rates its own merits of uniqueness, even though there have been many others which have tried to capture this type of stylistic content.

A solid seven stars for this one.
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10/10
This is a film I've watched more than once, and will watch again . . .
14 November 2018
In true Ridley Scott fashion, this is a spectacularly well crafted example of the artform.

Even though I'm somewhat familiar with this history, I make no claims of even remotely being a scholar in this context, so I did not enter into this film experience with that particular orientation.

Of course there is going to be drama, romantic interests, various intrigues which may not match the real history, but that's not really the focal point here. What is the focal point, and what is well conveyed is an immersion into a unique time and cultural era, with its various complexities, conflicts, and intrigues which very much shaped the history that has led to our current world.

As for the production itself, the scenes and camera work are absolutely first rate.

" Ridley Scott received many letters of thanks and congratulations from Muslim groups for his even-handed depiction of the religion. " I can believe that, as I was keenly aware of the delicate nature of portraying this history in such a production, but came away with the feeling that this was a genuinely even-handed effort to deliver this theatrical vision of the time.

As for the cast, where to even start?

Well, the short version is, A+ crew throughout, don't think this could have been cast any better.

But for my personal favorites here, hands down top of the list are Liam Neeson, and Eva Green.

Of course, I freely admit I could watch either of these two in just about anything, and not be lacking for joy in the experience.

Having said that, the performance of everyone here was absolutely spot on. This is a film I've watched more than once, and will watch again.

Without hesitation, 10 stars . . . well done!
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Cargo (2009)
7/10
Interesting, worth the time to watch at least once . . .
26 September 2018
Maybe not the absolute best of the genre, but certainly is worth the time to watch.

It's a bit difficult to describe some of the more interesting aspects of this production without accidentally providing spoilers, so my rendering of such here might be a bit limited.

At the very least, the visuals are remarkably well done.

The basic concept is the cargo ship going into deep space with its mysterious cargo, and the theoretical world Rhea, which is supposed to be a beautiful paradise of a world, as an alternative to Earth which has been ravaged by horrific industrial pollution, disease and environmental damage.

However, as this journey progresses, various layers of intrigue begin to become apparent, nothing is as it seems to be at first . . . and that's about as far I'll go in portraying the story.

I thoroughly recommend seeing this in its original German with subtitles.

The acting is well done, even though there are a few spots in the story that are a bit of a cliche'. Stylistically some scenes are very reminiscent of the original Alien film scenes, but this is not about alien lifeforms causing havoc on the ship, quite different actually.

Given the overall caliber of this production, definitely rates a solid seven stars.
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Black Panther (2018)
2/10
Embarrassing disappointment . . .
7 September 2018
How sad . . . I was truly looking forward to a uniquely crafted film experience, but no matter how much I wanted to have that experience, it just wasn't there.

Much effort was devoted to the sets, aesthetic motifs, and beautifully outfitted actors. As a plotless visual artpiece, it had its moments. Beyond that, it was an embarrassingly silly attempt at a story, filled with mono-dimensional cliched characters.

I can appreciate the cultural concept that was being attempted. In that context, this could have been a spectacular opportunity for the Marvel franchise, but it was sadly missed.

To say this production was a disappointment would be more than an understatement. That it actually ended up on Netflix so soon after its run in the theaters is an appropriate assessment of this unfortunate missed opportunity for something that could have been so much more.

For visual aesthetic, it deserves 2 stars . . . but beyond that, not much can be said for this unfortunate production.
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10/10
Exceptionally well done
13 August 2018
I'm quite a fan of the sci-fi short film genre', have seen most of them produced to date, but FTL stands out among the best produced so far.

It's a perfect balance of well produced graphics, story, direction and acting compressed into a 15 minute experience. This is not an easy accomplishment.

Not to give any spoilers here, but there are various somewhat subtle but interesting little side features, such as the q-sat (quantum entangled realtime comm satellite) launched into Mars orbit, which add to the full fabric of this production. But it's the human aspect of this production which really stands out.

Exceptionally well done.

Absolutely a 10 for this one
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Kiss Me First (2018– )
10/10
Big kudos for an unexpected hidden gem of this caliber lurking about on Netflix
7 July 2018
There have been numerous VR themed sci-fi flims produced over the years, but nothing even comes close to this one.

I was a bit skeptical going in, being that this was originally a made for TV mini-series from Scotland, produced in part by Netflix.

However, having just finished watching this entire series, I've gained considerable respect for some of these more obscure productions which can be discovered as hidden gems.

Unlike most of the other "usual suspect" sort of VR / gamer themed films, this is not a simplistic action packed production filled with stereotypical one dimensional characters, endless repetitive chase and fight scenes, gratuitous exploding whatevers and so on.

Yes, there are some moments with these elements, but as such they are genuinely integral components to the evolving story, and are by no means designed to be the central features of attention.

This is by far the one of the most cerebral, complex and well developed stories ever created around the nexus coordinate of a VR world intersecting with the real one, and the potential extreme consequences thereof, at least that I'm currently aware of.

A possible comparison of such cerebral content might be made with the film "the Congress", starring Robin Wright playing herself as an actress who becomes a virtualized entity immersed in a virtual world with, well, extreme real world consequences, but the actual story (and experience) of that film is completely different from that of Kiss Me First.

Of course, I must admit I haven't read the book from which Kiss Me First originated, so perhaps my review may not be as contextually complete as others offered here.

Having said that, as one having entered into this production with no pre-conceived expectations, I was not in the slightest disappointed.

Others here have already outlined key elements of the story and various subplots, so no need to repeat them here in this review.

I will offer, however, that the production quality is superbly spot on and contextually appropriate. The CGI is not overly gaudy, but just aesthetically rich enough to convey a sense of presence that fits well within this framework.

I could probably watch Simona Brown in just about anything, but here she really shines. A better fit for the character(s) "Mania / Tess" would be difficult to imagine, she absolutely nails it.

That's not to take away from Tallulah Haddon, who plays her counterpart lead character(s) "Shadowfax / Leila".

These two together really make the film come to life, and then some.

Everyone in this production delivers.

Big kudos for an unexpected hidden gem of this caliber lurking about on Netflix.

I very rarely give a full 10 stars . . . but here, absolutely.
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Interstellar (2014)
10/10
Probably the easiest 10 I've ever voted for a film . . .
7 June 2018
Probably the easiest 10 I've ever voted for a film, and that's saying a lot since I very rarely score any film of any genre with a 10 or even a 9.

This production is so radically different, even if you don't happen to be a sci-fi fan or one who ponders the greater questions of existence on this world and in the universe, this production will open up this realm of thought via a journey that is spectacular.

The closest conceivable comparison that might be possible would be Stanley Kubrick's 2001:A Space Odyssey, but that's only a very rough analogy at best.

Every aspect of this production was crafted about as perfectly as could be given the context of the story, and what it's trying to convey. Are there technical or scientific flaws as such as portrayed? Yes, of course, much of this is wrapped around theoretical concepts which are still very much a work in progress.

But that such a complex and compelling concept could be woven into a story with such heart, mapped into the very essence of what it is to be human . . . this is a film very much worth the time spent to watch it.

My suggestion would be that you may likely watch it several times, as various layers and dimensions become evermore present in ways that may not have been initially apparent the first time going in.

A special thumbs up to Anne Hathaway, this may have been her best role ever (in my admittedly biased opinion), but everyone in this film shines.

The direction, cinema photography, production quality . . . absolutely top notch, don't think this could have been done much better.

As I said earlier, even if this is not your typical cup of tea, take a sip with this one. I seriously doubt you'll be disappointed.

My score 10+
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5/10
This would have been a great short, but not a full length feature film
17 January 2018
Not trying to be too hard on Travis Milloy, I do have considerable respect for the effort given the limited resources to work with.

However, I'm guessing many of the 10 star ratings are coming from relatively younger viewers for whom this concept is something radically new, thought provoking, etc.?

Well, actually, this is something of a retread of a retread.

Of course, I get the concept of the insistent but strangely limited AI that has to be outsmarted by the human protagonist who is, at least for the vast majority of the film, at the mercy of his AI overseeer.

And that's the real problem of this film.

It's way, way . . . way too long, in the drawn out, at times absurdly obvious dialogue and overly pseudo-humanoid persona of the AI entity. As the tediously obvious dialogue dragged on, I found myself completing the sentences between our hapless human captive and "Howard" the AI before they were finished; not a good sign.

Yes, I get the somewhat clever attempted subplots woven later into this tapestry, but seriously, this would have been a great short, but not a full length feature film.

I can forgive the production being executed on a limited budget. There have been more than a few truly creative and iconic sci-fi productions created with equal or even less investment that have and will stand the test of time.

"Moon" comes to mind as an excellent example thereof.

Sorry, this is nowhere near that status of creative content.

If you really want to see a vastly better portrayal of the not too distant future AI vs. human scenario, with the roles somewhat reversed (no spoilers here), I would strongly recommend "Ex Machina".

That will get you thinking, and not a dull moment, anywhere. And I'm not talking about big CGI and big budget, but rather how the story evolves, the dialogue, the delicate complexity of interactions, etc.

As for this production, keep trying . . . 5 stars for effort.
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Mother! (2017)
1/10
Lots of clichéd vignettes, thrown together as a sort of self evolving puzzle . . .
7 January 2018
Yes . . . one could consume endless paragraphs of pretentious art fluff verbiage, hoping to sound importantly relevant, spewing out a meandering pseudo-intellectual diatribe on the significance of this object d' art.

But why?

Sorry, at the risk of sounding like a servile dolt to some who wish to occupy their own delusional sense of self important grandeur, this was an attempt (a very clumsily failed attempt) to blurt out a rendering of the foibles of the human condition, extruded through the mandrel of this "visionary" production.

These themes have been rehashed endlessly before, and in most previous cases, at least there was an attempt at delivering some sort of coherence throughout the production.

Not here.

Lots of clichéd vignettes, thrown together as a sort of self evolving puzzle with the theoretical mission of delivering a profound message from which we can extract experiential wisdom.

Am I awestruck by this "profound" production?

No . . . fail, ridiculously so.

The "ending", which I will not reveal here of course, is tacked onto the last 30 seconds or so of the film, as a convenient out as if to summarize what's going on during the previous 2 hours, leading up to "the big reveal".

Trust me on this one . . . it's not worth the wait.

My condolences to Jennifer Lawrence for having participated in this ill-fated, over the top disaster of a purported art film.

No doubt she was paid well for her performance here, but seriously, this is not something she is likely to want to be remembered for.

OK, technically, the production quality is good, kudos for some nice set construction and camera work.

But, as others have suggested, I also want my 2 hours back.

If negative stars could be awarded, this would be a -10, or less.

However, in keeping with IMDB protocol, a single star will have to do.
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