Tag Archives: Science fiction

Guardians of the Galaxy

At the Movies

gotgBefore seeing this film I was only vaguely aware of the Guardians of the Galaxy since I never regularly followed any space based comics so I had very few preconceptions about this film. This lack of familiarity has been taken into account and Marvel has given us a big colourful space adventure that assumes no previous knowledge and only marginally connects to the other Marvel films. The basic story is that a team of criminals are forced together by circumstances to combat the plans of a genocidal fanatic who threatens all life in the galaxy.

Right from the first appearance of Star Lord (Chris Pratt) this film sets its tone as he dances his way through the ruins of building to steal the Orb. We get a real sense of what sort of idiot this guy is when he picks up a rat creature to use as a mic as he sings along to Come and Get your Love on his battered ancient Sony Walkman. Star Lord’s real name is Peter Quill and he was born on Earth but got kidnapped by space pirates when he was about eight which is where all his dated references and taste in music come from.

Next we meet green-skinned Gamora (Zoe Saldana)  who worked for the villain Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) but has had enough of working for a fanatic and wants to steal the Orb for herself. She was adopted by the Mad Titan Thanos who has manipulated and modified her into a weapon then lent her out to Ronan to assist in his plans for genocide and destruction. She has had enough crap and doesn’t take any more from Star Lord.

The next two come as a pair Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel). Rocket is a smartarse bounty hunter, thief and whatever else it takes to make a living when he’s a creature created in a lab and is only two foot high that looks like a raccoon. Groot is an intelligent tree and very necessary muscle for Rocket’s schemes and he is very strong and able to recover from serious damage. Amazing work has been done to bring these two CGI characters to life in a way that makes it believable that they are there interacting with the live actors it no surprise they are the breakout characters of this film since they manage to not only deliver plenty of laughs they manage to bring some the more emotional moments too

The last member of the five man band they meet in prison and he’s a huge lump of angry muscle called Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) who has been jailed for going on a campaign of vengeance across the galaxy after his family were killed and now he really wants to kill Ronan. No-one gets most of Star Lord’s jokes but Drax’s culture apparently doesn’t understand metaphor so we get a nice running joke of Drax taking figures of speech literally.

Star Lord convinces them that they can all get what they want if they work together. They can escape prison, sell the Orb and split the money then when Ronan comes after Gamora Drax will get his chance to kill him.

The villain side does not get much focus since the film spends the majority of time with the Guardians. Ronan the Accuser is the chief enforcer of the Kree interplanetary empire and he cannot accept the peace treaty that has been forced on the empire by their enemy the Xandarians. He needs the Orb as the price of gaining the help he needs to take vengeance on Xandar. He is a fanatic so is devoid of humour and I thought he made the perfect foil for the irreverent humour of the Guardians .

Assisting Ronan are Korath (Djimon Hounsou) and Nebula (Karen Gillan). Never really learned much about Korath but Nebula is another one of Thanos’s weaponised adopted daughters and when she fights Gamora there’s a sense of long familiar antagonism. I have mentioned Thanos a few times and though his fingers are all over this story I’ll just say he is firmly in the background and leave it there.

There is no skimping on the supporting cast. The Nova Corps are an interplanetary military style police force based on Xandar led by Nova Prime (Glenn Close). They are the ones who put the Guardians in prison and include actors such as John C. Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz and they really become important in the film’s climax.

Another important group of characters are the space pirates called Ravagers led by Yondu Odontu (Michael Rooker) and these are the ones who snatched Peter Quill from Earth as a boy. Yondu really doesn’t liked being cut out his share of money for the Orb and with his whistle-controlled arrow and gang of cyborg enhanced pirates he’s on Star Lord’s trail.

The set designs in this film are stunning, from the squeaky clean streets of planet Xandar to the prison asteroid called the Kyln, but the most stunning is Knowhere, a lawless trading post set up in the moon-sized head of an ancient being called a Celestial. This is where the Guardians meet The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) and just a glimpse of his collection will make many comic fans happy.

Watching this film is the most fun I’ve had at the cinema this year. The story has a great sense of humour from a team of likeable characters which is a great way of introducing the scale of the greater Marvel universe with its battling empires and maniacal warlords. Every member of the cast do an amazing job bringing these strange characters to life but that’s helped by the familiarity of Star Lord character with his time capsule memories of 1988 pop culture and tapes of music that helps give us Terrans something to connect with.

There is a great deal of buzz about his film and I think that comes from just how refreshing it is to watch a film that just revels in sheer joy of the world it creates. It is such a rich world that I look forward to revisiting it and catching just how many things I missed in my first viewing.

Rating 9.0/10

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Posted by on August 3, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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Bluray Shelf

inception bluray 001I honestly though that I had reviewed this film before when I saw it at the cinema or when it came out on Bluray but I guess I haven’t so this will be a SPOILER HEAVY review.

I had a great time watching this film right from the first time I saw it and subsequent viewing has only enhanced that experience. Christopher Nolan has earned himself a reputation as a skilled storyteller willing to work with non-traditional narratives though this film is not as challenging as Memento. When you look beyond the science fiction technology It is basically a heist movie which means there isn’t much in the way of characterisation apart from the main character of Cobb

Industrial espionage in the unspecified but not too distant future has gone to whole new level after the invention of a Mad Science device that allows people to enter another’s dreams. This has been developed for the military to help with training but has other even less legitimate uses. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is skilled at working with a team to steal secrets from the minds of others by putting them into a dream state and then taking them into another person’s dream which has been designed to give Cobb and his team control over the environment.

Cobb and his team of Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Nash (Lukas Haas) are trying to extract secrets from energy company boss Saito (Ken Watanabe) but Saito is onto them and knows he’s in a dream so Cobb has to make a quick getaway before the criminal Cobol conglomerate employing him catches up to him and punishes him for his failure. One of the consequences of the existence of people like Cobb is that targets like Saito have been taught techniques to defend their subconscious from attacks though it seems he also had help from Cobb’s dead wife Mal (Marion Cotillard).

Saito captures Cobb and Arthur when they are trying to escape thanks to Nash’s betrayal but Saito is not angry. He wants to hire them to carry out an inception which is the planting of an idea into the mind of another. Arthur quickly dismisses it as impossible but Cobb tells Saito it can be done. Maurice Fischer (Pete Postlethwaite), the owner of the largest energy company in the world is dying and Saito wants Cobb to plant the idea of breaking up his father’s company when he inherits it into the mind of Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). Saito promises Cobb he will be able fix it to allow him to return home to the United States and tells Cobb to go ahead and assemble his team.

Cobb goes to Paris to talk to his father-in-law Miles (Michael Caine) who is a professor at a university there. He gives Miles gifts for his children who are living with his mother-in-law in the US since his wife’s suicide and Cobb’s exile. He’s really in Paris to recruit one of Miles’ students as an architect and after setting Ariadne (Ellen Page) a puzzle design task he agrees to give her a try. Next scene is Cobb introducing Ariadne to the dream manipulation concept while they are inside a dream in his head.

Ariadne takes to the idea fairly quickly, manipulating the environment easily but this raises another problem, if the subconscious of the dreamer notices it is being manipulated by alien elements it will become hostile to that alien influence. The people populating the dream start attacking Ariadne then the image of Cobb’s wife Mal appears and stabs Ariadne. If you die in a dream this wakes you up from that dream.

Ariadne is not happy that Cobb didn’t warn her about being attacked by Cobb’s subconscious, especially since his unresolved issues with his wife’s suicide are so bad that they prevent him from being an architect himself. These personal issues are actually the main plot of the film but only Ariadne and Cobb seem aware of the problem. What killed Ariadne in the dream was Cobb not Mal who is created from Cobb’s memories.

Cobb visits Eames (Tom Hardy) in Mombasa and convinces him to join the team. Eames doesn’t need to be convinced that inception is possible since he agrees that it is but that is very difficult. Eames knows a chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) that can provide the sedation that they will need since Cobb wants to go down into three levels of dreams within dreams to plant the idea deep into Fischer’s subconscious. The only element left is the opportunity which comes in the form of a ten hour flight to Los Angeles. Cobb is thinking about how they will infiltrate the airline but Saito just buys it.

With his team assembled they all go into the dream of Yusuf where they don black masks and kidnap Fischer and Eames takes on the character of his godfather Browning (Tom Berenger). They demand Fischer tells them the combination of his father’s safe which contains his father’s secret will. This is all part of planting the concept of a secret in a safe that Fischer will fill in with his subconscious. Normally their task is to discover what Fischer’s mind puts on the will but the point of inception is to plant the idea they want him to find. This does not go smoothly as it turns out that Fischer has been prepared with training for these mental attacks and his subconscious response is very militarized. Then a freight train comes out of Cobb’s subconscious, sabotaging the mission and resulting in Saito getting shot.

Normally dying in a dream results waking up but Yusuf explains that they are too sedated to wake up that way and instead they will end up with their mind trapped in limbo, a sort timeless zone deep in the subconscious. So Saito has to stay alive or he will lose his mind. I should mention here the time extension property of the dream. Time moves 12 times slower in the dream and this goes for each level so on the second level time moves 144 times slower and in the third level it is 1596 times slower. As for limbo it seems that you can live entire lifetime there in a few hours of sleep.

This is the source of Cobb’s secret guilt. Cobb and his wife used the technology to share a lot of time in the dream world together where they created entire cities out of their memories. But Mal became depressed and withdrawn in the real world and wanted to spend all her time in the dream world, ignoring their two children. To get Mal back to reality Cobb planted an idea in her head that the dream world is not real. Unfortunately Mal carried this into the real world and killed herself to try to get back to ‘reality’ and now the image of Mal keeps leaking out of his subconscious trying to get Cobb to kill himself too. This is why Cobb knew inception was possible and also why inception is just not a good idea.

All through the film every time Cobb enters the dream world Mal would sabotage his mission and she is endangering the minds of whole team. But Mal is just a manifestation of Cobb’s guilt and he has avoided confronting her because his memories are all he has left but when she shoots Fischer on the third level and holds him hostage in limbo, Cobb and Ariadne have to go rescue him leading to a climax that resolves both plots.

There is a danger that a story about the dreams within dreams could get confusing but by giving each level a distinctive look I never a problem knowing what is happening. The visuals are amazing through the whole film but the sequence where all the dreams are coming to an end was just stunning. Arthur’s free-fall sequences were really well done but I think I missed how they explained why the snow fortress in level three was not also in free-fall.

Some people have perceived an ambiguity in the ending that may suggest that Cobb is still in a dream or may have always been in one because his spinning top totem didn’t fall before the credits appeared but I think they are just screwing with us. It is true that that the world Cobb calls reality does have some the same elements as the dreams like Cobb being chased by agents of Cobol but that reality is also completely missing appearances by Mal which is only true of actual reality. This is a very exciting action thriller that has all typical elements of a heist story like the different gang member with their character quirks and areas of expertise though at its core is about a man learning to forgive himself and move on from his loss. Some may think it is over rated but I think it is a film that neatly accomplishes what it set out to do

Rating 9.5/10

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Posted by on June 23, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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The Zero Theorem

Cinema Review

zero theoremI am one of those who grew up with Monty Python and have enjoyed many of the films of animator turned director Terry Gilliam from Jabberwocky to Brazil and Time Bandits so i was off to the cinema on the opening weekend of his latest film. I had an enjoyable time all right but it didn’t really have some of the emotional punch of his best films

Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) is an entity cruncher at a powerful company called Mancorp. This is apparently like number crunching but more complex. Qohen has a strong dislike of commuting to work through the sensory overload of the city streets to the even more chaotic office where he works. He appeals to his supervisor Joby (David Thewlis) to be allowed to work at home but only Management can authorise that. Qohen is obsessed with the notion that one day his phone will ring and the person on the other end will tell him the meaning and purpose of his life and this is why he wants to work from home though he does really hate going outside.

The supervisor invites Qohen to a party where he can meet Management who turns out to be Matt Damon in suits that always match his background but Qohen finds little sympathy from the man. The party is just as chaotic as at the office with everyone bumping into each other as they manipulate phones and tablet computers. A young woman called Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry) tries engaging Qohen in conversation but Qohen just wants go home.

Next day Qohen gets examined by three doctors to see if he is sick and can work from home but that doesn’t seem to go very well so it’s a surprise when Joby tells Qohen that he is getting his wish to work from home on a special project called the Zero Theorem. This is long term project that has apparently been going for years burning out the minds of anyone working on it including Joby. This doesn’t seem to worry Quinn. He gets working on the project but every advance he makes seems to crumble away to nothing and he doesn’t really know what it is he is working on. It turns out that the Zero Theorem is proposition that the universe is meaningless. As he fails to make progress Mancorp send him Bob (Lucas Hedges) a teenage technical wiz to help with any technical issues and Bainsley is sent to help him with psychological emotional problems. The film really does a great job evoking a sense of the world where everyone is hyper connected by technology but Qohen is alone in his converted church. Gilliam likes playing with these ironies and another character later says of Qohen that he’s spent so long looking for the meaning of his life that he has led meaningless empty life

This is a very Gilliam film with a quiet unassuming lead being overwhelmed by a world dominated by trivia and noise. There is no real malevolence or deliberate in the politics of this dystopia, just a sense of decay through apathy, greed, vanity and selfishness. Advertising is intrusive and pervasive and Qohen is constantly being watched by Management. The world is like day-glo daytime version of the urban techno dystopia of Blade Runner but with technology that has a sort of leaky pneumatic feel of Brazil. There is quite a bit of humour especially with Tilda Swinton as a computer psychiatrist called Dr Shrink-ROM that Qohen consults and a pair of violent bungling henchmen who work for Management. It is not going to be a film that will have broad appeal but I enjoyed my visit to Gilliam-land even if the story felt a bit flat at times.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on March 16, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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Big Ass Spider

Video almost on Demand

1656281_586345511459484_2063871959_nThis one of those B-Movies that  parody the genre like many of the Troma films and the much of the output of Full Moon or Roger Corman. It is a creature feature with mad science, a giant deadly monster, gun happy military and a city in peril but it is also mainly a buddy comedy

Alex Mathis (Greg Grunberg) is a pest exterminator that takes his work very seriously but despite his experience he still gets bitten by poisonous spider while helping a mad cat lady (Lin Shaye) with her pest problem. He goes the hospital get the bite treated and a dead body is brought in and taken to the morgue. The body turns out to contain the Big Ass Spider and it is already creepy enough at the size of a medium size dog. It bites the morgue attendant and the hospital manager sends Alex down the morgue with Jose Ramos (Lombardo Boyar) the security guard.

Jose really likes Alex, impressed by his knowledge and self-confidence  and bizarre little spider impersonation he keeps doing and Alex likes the way Jose actually listens to him. They track the spider down in the basement of the hospital and just as it is going jump on Alex Lieutenant Karly Brant (Clare Kramer) arrives and shoots at it. While Karly and Alex bicker and Alex tries to put the moves on Karly the spider gets away into the sewers.

The military are led by Major Braxton Tanner (Ray Wise) and they have tracked the spider to the hospital. They have a scientist Lucas (Patrick Bauchau) with them who has of course being doing mad science and created this spider by accident when trying to create giant tomatoes. They thank Alex and send him and Jose on their way though Alex does try to put some moves on Karly again.

Alex is about just walk away but his new buddy Jose talks him around and convinces Alex that he can find the spider. They figure out it is in the drainage tunnels in the LA river but when they get there the army are already there and it’s killed a mob of homeless people by webbing them up, dissolving their bodies with digestive juices then sucking them up. It is grisly but the film avoids showing too much

Alex and Jose track the spider down to the woods in a local park and get there just as the spider goes on a rampage slaughtering people and webbing others. The first victim is a lecherous old jogger that fans of low budget Troma films will recognise as Lloyd Kaufman and he gets eaten to the very obvious sound of someone munching celery. The spider is now as big as an elephant and killing everything in it path. Alex and Jose attract the spider with Alex’s truck and it chases them right into roadblock the army have set up.

There are few surprises in this film which has sees the army give it their best shot with guns and missiles but it  is up to Alex and Jose to actually take down the spider and rescue the girl.  I liked the comedy double act of Alex and Jose and the film reminded be of other films like Tremors though I can’t say the special effects or supporting performances were as good as Tremors. Some of the spider effects looked really creepy but there were times it just looked like a big cartoon.

Rating 6.5/10

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Posted by on March 9, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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John Dies at the End

The Hard Drive

photo_08I have been waiting a while to see this film because I’m a fan of director Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm films and the excellent Bubba Ho Tep but like almost all independent films it never got cinema release and the their UK distributor went bust so there’s still no UK release yet but it is available on iTunes so I downloaded it. I heard very mixed reviews but that just intrigued me more. Fortunately my wait was rewarded with a strange quirky film with a good sense of humour and I  have already watched it a few times.

This film is narrated by its main protagonist David Wong (Chase Williamson), a young man who has a meeting with a writer Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti) at a quiet Chinese restaurant. David has something he wants to tell Arnie but the story is so fantastic he is approaching it slowly. The film is basically the stories that David recalls as he talks to Arnie, often in answer to a question from Arnie but there are many asides to the audience too.

There is not a obvious central plot but the stories revolve around the effects of a strange new drug called soy sauce and David’s adventures with his best friend John (Rob Mayes) afte they have taken it. This is a black liquid that seems to move around as if it has life of its own. John gets the drug from a fake Rastafarian who talks bollocks called Robert Marley (Tai Bennett) and he calls David in a panic the morning after. The main effect of the soy is to change the user’s perception of space and time so they can perceive past, present and future in different order. One example is when John is trying to explain this to David and David gets a phone call from John from some other time. One side effect of the soy is the ability to perceive creatures from other dimensions and portals into them.  Now they use their soy abilities to help people who are having strange problems and we it has other properties and other sinister secrets.

There’s a plot of sorts involving a police detective (Glynn Turman) who is investigating the deaths a group of soy users who all exploded including Robert Marley but this only a small part of the film. There’s a charismatic TV psychic Dr Albert Marconi (Clancy Brown) who helps the boys out with guidance and practical assistance when the boys find themselves in over their heads. There’s also a strange intense man called Roger North (Doug Jones) who seems to be wanting to guide the boys.

The lack of overall plot wasn’t too much of problem for me because I liked the characters and their sense of humour. It is a stoner horror and there is a sense that like other stoner films this film is a series of stories linked only by the characters and mood and the conversation between David and Arnie. The effects are weird more than horrific with a mixture of CGI and physical effects with puppets etc and they help create a dreamlike quality to this film that is similar to the feel of the other films Coscarelli has done. I Like the quirky sense of humour and think I’l be watching the film a lot and as a bonus the music is pretty good too.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Oblivion

Bluray Review

Oblivion Bluray 001When this was on at the cinema I chose to wait for Bluray because it seemed it was the type of science fiction film I`d enjoy more free from distractions at home. It`s quite tricky avoiding spoilers when YouTube and Twitter are so full of comedians that use films for their material and especially when you catch the hint that the film has a major twist that is partly spoiled in the trailer because it involves a very famous actor that marketing would insist has to appear in the trailer. I know this that it is difficult to market a film properly without spoiling the plot but the hints from the trailer were quite major.

We get some narration from Tom Cruise’s character Jack to set up this tale of a two person tech team assigned the job of maintaining the security drones that protect the enormous water mining rigs hovering over the oceans. Earth had been invaded by aliens known as scavengers and while humans have driven of the invaders the use of nuclear weapons had left the Earth a blasted wasteland so most of the human race had set up life on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn.

We don’t get to see the humans on Titan as the film focuses on Jack and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) as Jack flies around the planet fixing drones and Victoria stays up their control centre/living quarters monitoring the him and relaying orders from their boss Sally (Melissa Leo) on the huge inverted pyramid space station that controls the drones. The drones are under attack from the scavengers who seem to be strange figures we see hanging around watching Jack as he fixes drones. When he gets fed up with his routine maintaining drones Jack has found a quiet unspoilt valley by a lake where he has built a hut and collects books and other artefacts of the world before the war such as a record turntable and a large collection of vinyl records. They have only a couple more weeks of duty left before they too leave for Titan.

The whole set-up is suspicious and Jack is curious about things he has started remembering despite having his memory wiped before the start of their mission. This why he’s picking things up and taking them back to his shack. This comes to a head when Jack rescues a woman called Julia (Olga Kurylenko) from a cryopod when a spaceship crashes to Earth. Jack recognises her from his memories and when she recovers she reveals that she knows Jack. Julia’s presence dramatically changes the cosy intimate relationship between Jack and Victoria and while Jack focuses on getting answers to questions Julia’s presence raises Victoria sees Julia purely in terms of the threat she presents to her relationship even though she expresses it in terms of the threat to their mission.

The last half of the film is when the truth gets revealed and we meet Beech (Morgan Freeman). I can`t say I was too shocked by the revelations of Julia and Beech since, as I said, the trailer had prepared me for just such a twist. It does signal a change in the film from an intimate film science fiction about two people alone on a blasted planet to an ending with your typical sci-fi action with guns, laser beams and explosions. It’s not a bad ending and is done very well even if it isn’t very original. I liked the look of the blasted Earth with New York buried under silt up to the level of the observation deck of the Empire State Building. The future tech such as the drones, the flying ship and living quarters had a pretty good consistent look about it and was in sharp contrast to the post-apocalyptic landscape. The cast is excellent which is what I expect from with actors with their experience. Tom Cruise can do this type of role easily since he always seems to really get into the characters he plays and Andrea Riseborough was really good. The other actors did their part well enough but since they appear halfway through the film during action scenes there’s isn’t too much time for depth of character. Overall it’s a solid decent science fiction story

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Posted by on August 30, 2013 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: The World’s End

Cinema Review

worlds endThere’s a lot of talk in the publicity about this being part of trilogy of films by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost but this film is as different from the previous two films as Hot Fuzz was from Shaun of the Dead. It shares with them the idea of taking a genre film plot and setting it in England with characters more familiar from comedies. This time it’s the alien invasion Sci-Fi genre that gets the treatment and the film does a good job delivering authentic a science fiction action film with their trademark irreverent humour.

Gary King (Simon Pegg) is a man whose life peaked as a teenager and its been downhill ever since  He ropes in his old school buddies to relive what he remembers as the best night of his life: a pub crawl around twelve pubs starting with The First Post and finishing with The World’s End. We get introduced to the four others completely from Gary’s perspective as teenagers so Oliver (Martin Freeman) is nicknamed Oman because of a birthmark on his forehead, Peter (Eddie Marsan) is alright because his family are wealthy and Steven (Paddy Considine) is the rival ladies’ man. Andy Knightley (Nick Frost) was Gary’s best friend and wing man. A sixth person mentioned is Sam (Rosamund Pike) Oliver’s sister that Gary once had sex with in the disabled toilet of a pub.

All Gary’s friends have gone on to be adults with jobs, wives and children and they are not really that interested in a pub crawl round the town they all left far behind with a desperate loser who has not emotionally grown since their school-days. Their memories of Gary and that night are not as warm as Gary’s so he has to manipulate each of them into joining him out of pity

When they arrive back at their hometown the place is cold and indifferent to them and there’s certainly no warm welcome. They check into a hotel (run by Julie Deakin who played the landlady in Spaced, an early TV collaboration of Pegg, Frost and Wright). Then the pub crawl starts at The First Post which has had a corporate makeover that the friends refer to as being Starbucksed (though Wetherspooned might have been more accurate). Gary gives them an enthusiastic historical introduction to the pub and seems to expect the barman to remember him which he doesn’t. Gary orders five pints but Andy interrupts and says he wants water. This really upsets Gary but Andy doesn’t care about pleasing Gary and hints that Gary is reason he only drinks water now.

The next stop The Old Familiar is identical to the first pub even down the customers but has a different barman who still doesn’t recognise Gary. In the third pub Gary gets the instant recognition he wants but that’s because his photo is pinned to a wall of shame full of customers who have been barred for life.

At the fourth pub The Cross Hands Gary picks a fight with a teenager in the toilet whose only offence was to ignore Gary bragging about how cool he used to be. He finds out the young man is not in human but some sort of modular android and destroys it. Andy and the others come into the toilet to talk about one the nastier lies he told to get them there. Soon they are battling a gang of teenage androids. They realise that have no idea how many people have been replaced by androids and the sensible plan is to leave immediately but Gary talks them into carrying on with pub crawl to avoid alerting the other androids that they know about them. Andy downs four shots to catch up and get drunk enough to go along with Gary’s stupid plan.

As they go on they discover the aliens’ plan but Gary drives them on to finish the pub crawl because that really is more important to him than the end of the world. Simon Pegg’s character is definitely not a hero in this film and he drives the story forward by his misguided quest. A lot of the comedy comes from his immature behaviour and the way he drags his straight-laced friends along for the ride. The film starts slowly building a very realistic character dynamic before it shifts up a few gears into a high action finale.

The casting includes familiar faces that have worked with Pegg, Frost and Wright before such as Mark Heap, Michael Smiley, Reece Shearsmith and Darren Boyd. There’s also a very well-known actor who hasn’t been credited who has a small but important role in the story. The cast are just great and there’s naturalness to their interactions.

Like other films by Wright, Pegg and Frost this film is influenced by the films they have loved, in this case it’s science fiction films and the broad theme certainly owes a lot to Invasion of Bodysnatchers (the 70s remake rather than the original). I’ll have some fun spotting them when the film comes to Bluray. There’s a running gag that they can’t agree what to call the androids who are bit touchy about being called robots and they eventually end up calling them blanks

This film might not be quite as funny as Shaun of The Dead or Hot Fuzz but it still has more laughs than many other comedies and there’s a real depth to characters. The theme of the film is the battle for individual freedom with all its flaws against compromising and conforming but it’s done with the wit you’d expect from these writers.

Rating 8.0/10

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Posted by on July 21, 2013 in Film


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Review: Pacific Rim

Cinema Review

pacific rimI went to see this film mainly because I have enjoyed the previous work of director Guillermo del Toro. I have only a casual knowledge of anime and in particular stories of giant human-piloted machines (or mecha) that fight monsters so I wasn’t sure I would enjoy this. This film succeeds in giving us the spectacle of destruction that it promises but still keeps the story grounded on a human scale.

When Earth comes under attack from an invasion of giant monsters (called kaiju) from a rift at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to another dimension the nations unite to create giant machines capable of killing them. These machines are called Jaegers and have to be operated by two pilots whose minds are linked by a technology called the drift. Because these pilots are putting their lives at risk to save they are celebrities and some have the ego to match.

This all explained in narration and montage by one of the pilots Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) who pilots a jaeger called Gypsy Danger with his brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff). We get to meet their commander Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and the ops technician who runs the monitors and comms op Tendo Choi (Clifton Collins Jr.). Raleigh and Yancy take Gypsy Danger out against an enormous kaiju. The fight does not go the brothers’ way Yancy gets killed leaving Raleigh to kill the kaiju alone. All this happens before the title screen comes up and the film starts.

The film restarts five years later and the world leaders tell Pentecost that they are shutting down the Jaeger programme in favour of building giant walls to keep out the kaiju. Raleigh is a homeless drifter working on the construction of one of the walls. Pentecost decides that even if the governments have turned their backs on them the Earth still needs them so he wants to keep going with one final push to try to seal up the rift. He recruits Raleigh who is afraid of going back into the drift since he was connected Yancy when he died.

The story of the fallen hero who re-enters the battle and regains his confidence and the respect of his comrades is not exactly novel but it is the backbone of a story that really does a good amount of character development for a film that is about giant robots killing monsters. Pentecost has a young assistant Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) who really wants to be a pilot and is by far the best qualified to drift with Raleigh. Pentecost is reluctant to let her but he relents and we learn the reason for this fatherly concern later as we see more of her backstory.

The big fights are really well done and there’s an authentic sense of damage to real things as the kaiju tear up chunks of cities and the jaegers tear up the kaiju. During the battles the focus is always kept on the human crews in the jaegers giving a sense of the stakes as the kaiju fight back.

The weakest thing in the film for me was the pair of scientists they have as their research team Dr Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Gottleib (Burn Gorman) that are crudely drawn cartoons of scientists and who constantly bicker like they are married to each other. They are working on figuring out where the kaiju are coming form and if they can seal the rift. To do this they have to contact Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman), a black market dealer in kaiju parts, to get them a kaiji brain. Geiszler was bearable but Gottlieb seemed to just be weird for the sake it and it wasn’t convincing. There was also the arrogant jaeger pilot Chuck Hansen (Robert Kazinsky) whose entire character seemed to be defined by the chip on his shoulder about Raleigh coming back.

The design of future Hong Kong really does fit in with idea of a society that has gotten used to kaiju attacks with the city rebuilt around the bones of dead kaiju too large to be removed and kaiju souvenirs and merchandise for sale. There’s even a temple of a cult of kaiju worshippers in a huge kaiju skull.

I enjoyed this film more than I thought I would though not as much as other people did. It is exactly what you expect it to be and if you think you’ll enjoy that you probably will because it is made very well by someone with a determination to get it right. Idris Elba deserves the praise he gets for his performance though Rinko Kikuchi and Charlie Hunnam give credible performances too. It is a big loud action film so if you are going to see it this is one that will probably look better on the big screen

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on July 13, 2013 in Film


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Review: Seeds of Destruction

DVD Review

Seeds of Destruction DVD 001This cheap SyFy production is a dumb lazy story with a poor clunky script and it irritated me with stupid shallow plot driven characters, cheap unconvincing CGI. It is a dumb film with no passion churned by the SyFy channel then released on DVD straight to bargain bin section next to the Asylum films   

The film opens with its mad scientist Dr Frame Marcos (James Morrison) mucking about in his greenhouse, blowing cigar smoke at the leaves of a plant then telling his assistant Noel (Daniel Bacon) about how it is absorbing the toxins and there is no monoxide, it has all been converted to oxygen though if he’s talking about carbon monoxide I wonder what the plant did with the carbon. There’s no context given for this yet but it is a nice looking greenhouse

The next scene has two ecowarriors Kate (Luisa D’Oliveira) and Joe (Jesse Moss) at a disused mine that they know has been used for illegal dumping of hazardous waste. So they are going to wait there on the off-chance that before they die of dehydration out in the middle of Nevada someone will just coincidentally pick that time to do some illegal dumping. Seriously, there is no hint from either of them that they have any information about who is dumping or when they are likely to do it. Instead they witness a dodgy science type meeting up with an even more dodgy government type. The scientist is trying to sell a seed to the government type who shows him a case of money. Kate spots a sniper who is there with the government type and the sniper spots her. This gets the government type thinking he’s been set-up and the scientist type does a runner, gets shot and spills his seed on the ground. It germinates instantly and soon there are giant roots sprouting out of the ground. The roots spread across the countryside destroying everything in their path including the government type. The two ecowarriors manage to flee and escape but the roots are racing down the road after them even though they are a plant and aren’t chasing anyone.

There’s a secret agency called Scope and they get right on the case recruiting Jocelyn (Stefanie von Pfetten) a paleobotanist to help them figure out what’s happening and put a stop to it. As it turns out years before she worked with Marcos on a search for seeds from the Garden of Eden. As soon as I heard that I knew that I was in for a whole load of stupid bollocks. I am certainly not someone who remembers the bible in any detail but I am fairly confident that there is nowhere it talks of the Gadda da Vidda being populated by monster plants that destroy the Earth. This film treats the Garden as a real place and Adam’s fall as an historical event. I normally don’t mind bible stories being included in horror films but this clunky script is not subtle and has been peppered with crude on-the-nose dialogue about belief and wouldn’t ya know it there’s a Hollywood Atheist in the person of Scope agent Jack (Adrian Pasdar) who gets to learn the folly of his ways and is of course only an atheist because of personal tragedy.

Kate and Joe are wondering how to get involved in the script so they don’t contact the authorities because Joe is a paranoid idiot at all points of this film. Kate realises that she has videotaped the number plate of the van the scientist guy was driving and if only they had access to the police database they could find who owned it. Fortunately not only do they know a hacker that can do it, the guy lives only a short drive away in rural Nevada. They get there with the plant roots not far behind them. Their friend Spit (Don Thompson) seems to be another idiot just a way of creating  more fake tension as he screws up until the roots are closing in on them. He gets killed when he goes to rescue his pussy. This gets Joe angry but we never got to know Spit except that he’s smelly hippy and an irritating idiot

Back at Scope headquarters they are watching the progress of the roots on satellite live feed. They are trying to come up with ways to stop them. The boss Wilson (David Richmond-Peck) gets to send jets to blow things up after some talk about destroying  the growing tips which any gardener would tell you is an idiotic idea. Kate and Joe see the jets and realise that they are in the line of fire so we get yet more fake tension as they drive past a wall of flame and yet escape unscathed. Back at Scope headquarters they are cheering and cracking open the victory champagne before the dust has settled. Of course they have haven’t destroyed the roots, they have just made them angry and the paleobotanist acts surprised when she realises the roots have been running under the ground and yet again I wonder why they didn’t just bring in a gardener.

The story continues in completely predictable fashion with its Hollywood Science solutions and a big showdown at ground zero. It is possibly stupid enough to be enjoyed ironically with chemical assistance and it has plenty of really stupid mad science but on its own it’s just another dumb Syfy film.

Rating 4.0/10

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Posted by on June 9, 2013 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Cinema Review

541602_534406219945617_1298245140_nI’ve been a fan of Star Trek most of my life, watching the original series with Kirk and crew and I enjoyed JJ Abrams reboot of the series with all new younger versions of the familiar characters. Rather than just going back to the start and dumping years of continuity JJ Abrams kept it all and rebooted it with time travel leaving him free to still use the characters to tell new stories in an alternative reality. The weak forgettable villain in that film could be forgiven since he was just a plot device to get the Enterprise crew together and get their roles established. This second film has them face a villain whose a lot smarter and more complex than their

The opening sequence has Kirk (Chris Pine) and the crew down on a primitive planet flagrantly breaching Starfleet’s Prime Directive with Kirk and Sulu (John Cho) being chased by the natives for stealing their sacred scroll while Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) try to prevent a world shattering volcanic eruption. This results in Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) giving Spock and Kirk a dressing down with Kirk getting demoted to First Officer while Spock gets reassigned to another ship.

Now it’s time the despicable baddie in this film John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) to makes his move and he does by curing a little terminally ill girl. He does this to extract a favour from her father (Noel Clarke) who explodes a device in a Starfleet facility blowing himself up in the process. In response Starfleet calls a meeting of it senior captains who all attend with their first officers which means Kirk and Spock are there too. This is part of Harrison’s plan and he attacks the meeting from an armed flying car.

With many of the captains injured and dead Kirk finds himself re-promoted to captain of the Enterprise. He pleads with Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) to allow him to hunt down and kill Harrison and Marcus agrees and lets Kirk have Spock back as his first officer. Spock is openly critical of the mission since going after Harrison to execute him instead of bringing him to justice is a breach of Federation law, however after the attack on Starfleet Harrison managed to use a portable teleportation unit to beam away to safety across the galaxy on Kronos, the Klingon home planet. To reach Harrison on Kronos from outside Marcus tells Kirk to take experimental photon torpedoes.

This comes to a head when Scotty (Simon Pegg) refuses to sign off on the torpedoes when told he can’t examine the warheads. Kirk has been convinced that he needs the missiles to kill Harrison without entering Klingon space and igniting a war so Kirk relieves Scotty of his position and once the Enterprise is underway he appoints Chekov (Anton Yelchin) as chief of engineering.

I don’t want to reveal too much more of the plot but when the Enterprise gets to the boundary of Klingon space things turn out to be a lot more complicated than a simple hunt for a terrorist. The film pulls out a few surprises as it progresses thorugh various action sequences full of running and jumping and fans of the old Star Trek films will see a certain familiar turn of events toward the end, which may have been a mistake since it doesn’t manage to evoke the same emotional resonance as it did the first time around and the consequences get waved away with a bit of an ass-pull.

The film has plenty of amusing character interaction and with Uhura doing her part of the action the role of attractive female is filled by Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) a science officer sent to specifically handle the top secret photon torpedoes. In many ways she reminded me of the guest characters who would appear for plot specific purposes in the Star Trek TV episodes. Bones (Karl Urban) is there and plays an important party in the story but he’s side-lined by the action. Benedict Cumberbatch gives a great over the top passionate performance as the dangerous terrorist John Harrison that really fits with the almost hysterical pace of action in this film. The film has the same strong, bright visual style as the 2009 Star Trek film and I really enjoyed it though no doubt there will be talk of lens flare again. The film might not be as great as it could have been but it’s a lot of fun which isn’t something that could be said for all the other Star Trek films.

Rating 8.0/10

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Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Entertainment, Film


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