Tag Archives: science fiction

Lost Boy – Short Film Review


A visually stunning sci-fi short film that relies entirely on visual imagery to tell its story. The plot is rather vague and ambiguous, but there are several very clever cinematography tricks used against the backdrop of a desolate, dark landscape.

It seamlessly uses the pan across an object, swipe to a different character, pan, swipe, different character. The slow pans move in closer to the subject following each successive swipe, just like Spielberg did in Jaws as Brody watched the town folk swim in the water while he sat back and nervously watched.

In this story, the antagonist isn’t a shark, though, it’s a large android-like figure with a red band of light covering his eyes, like Cyclops from X-Men. He is chasing after a cyberpunk-looking figure, who’s often running in slow motion, the background a constant source of tension. The ‘cyclops’ weaves in and out of the frame horizontally, creating a demonic aura, though we don’t completely understand his moral position by the end of it.

Great world-building and production design, though it plays out more like a music video than an actual narrative. I couldn’t tell you the motivations of the characters if I tried, but whatever they are, they looked cool going after them. Personally, I would have liked the terminator-style chase sequence to be a bit more frantic and have a little less slow motion. The slow motion implies that we care deeply for this character’s livelihood, but we don’t. Speed it up and it becomes more energetic, intense, and engaging, instead of just simply pretty to look at.

Directed by Ash Thorp and Anthony Scott Burns

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Dredd 3D (2012)

I was happy to be able to see Dredd not only in 3D, but also at a multiplex specializing in I MAX. It was a truly exciting film: from the beginning scenes spanning across the outer region of Mega City One, with towering buildings scattered across the land, to a zooming motorcycle hosting a well-equipped Judge: In this case, Judge Dredd. Played by Karl Urban, who seemed at first a little too much of a character actor, he puts on the boots and shows he’s got the muscle for the job. Wearing a mask that covers him from the nose up, he has the huge task of working with minimal gesture, and not making it look campy and forced, like Sylvester Stallone did in the original movie.

The plot is fairly simple and objective: a veteran judge is forced to take a rookie along, only to end up imprisoned in a tower swamped with gun-men and drug hounds. This rookie, though, is not the normal wanna-be judge. She is a very powerful psychic: she can twist the mind and predict the future based on the thoughts surrounding her. Quite the asset for a police raid, yes. The special drug involved is called ‘Slo-mo’, a substance that causes the user to slow down in time, seeing action and motion at a very low speed. This is used conceptually to great effect: when two men are thrown off a building, we understand why they are forced to take this drug. And we pity, unlike Judge Dredd.

The character of Dredd is not very complex: It seemed that in the original film, they tried more to pry into the skin behind the helmet, and the poor execution caused that to fail. But here they don’t seem to be trying to pry at all. It seems more attention has gone towards the action and intensity, which are both top-notch, while Dredd says little besides one-liners, some stronger than others. The one-location premise, though, is sometimes a bore: It’s hard to imagine the unpredictable when you know the location is static; it’s one of those movies where you wonder how it could go on and where it’s going to be headed next, which isn’t always a good thing.

The lighting and set-design for Dredd matches it’s tone perfectly: It’s dark shadows and gritty decor are a reflection of the corruption and abuse ongoing in Mega City One. Essentially, Dredd holds the same plot foundation as The Raid: Redemption from 2011, though the style is undoubtedly different. In The Raid, swat-teams are designated to take down a drug building: in Dredd, only two armored Judges are sent out.

Prometheus

Ridley Scott stirred many science-fiction fans into the tongue-wagging mindset, waiting happily for the arrival of the next Blade Runner. Prometheus is not of the same order, but does blend incredible digital effects with strong performances. The plot, though, doesn’t run away from the same outline of the Alien films: Quiet, intelligent woman goes with a crew of rowdy boys hired by a corporation whose motivations are unknown, and slowly and somewhat suspensefuly are killed down to that last woman. In Prometheus, based on the characters behavior, you wont have to second-guess who is going to drop dead next. But, hey, maybe some fans take comfort in familiarity; or even worse, the filmmakers do!

Regardless of the screenplay letting us down, the action and pace is still there, along with the crowd-pleasing android played by Michael Fassbender. David, such a normal name for such a sophisticated machine, can see the memories of the people he guards while they lay in stasis; he loves movies, and quotes them often. He is a truly enticing character to watch on the screen, and even more so after some very eerie plot turns. The relationship between Elizabeth and Charlie seems a little unnatural; Elizabeth is a quiet woman with a despairing history, and Charlie is a shameless promoter of his own interests, drinking on the ship at will. However, the relationship’s dimensions may be explained by Elizabeth’s inability to birth: This is the couples last chance at mutual happiness.

The film accomplishes its frightening tone with a slow, evolving pace: yet, at several points in the film, I asked myself whether or not the person being killed right now was even introduced? The ship started with seventeen passengers, and it ended with one: Did it really feel like sixteen went down? These sort of elementary notions that are bypassed does not resemble the quality Ridley Scott has produced. The formula for horror, even sci-fi horror, is becoming far to transparent: Why couldn’t he have flipped it upside down, and had the people who were left in the cave at the start, (who obviously are killed), be the ones who outlive it all? The cinema has a language for form and design, but  genre-language does not win any more points, as Tarantino and many other genre-bending directors have shown.

The performances are very well done, and the crafting of each scene, in the sense of composition, is done by Scott’s signature confidence. Prometheus is a movie for science-fiction fans who aren’t perturbed by lack of thought, just awing at spectacle.

Men in Black III

Men in Black III, directed by Barry Sonnenfield, and starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee-Jones, and Josh Brolin, is a particularly unasked for re-vamp of the Men In Black series, but surprisingly, it isn’t half bad. The cheese is a given, and its displayed from the start, with a moon-base prison-break of a Cronenberg-like mutant, hands morphing to encapsulate a squirmy little insect. Although it has creative parts, Will Smith definitely slips on his black-glasses, but also tries a little too hard in doing it. It is visible that he is prepared to make this movie great, on set as well as in his own performance. If he would have been director, the passion put into the film would have made it reminiscent of an Ed Wood film, I suspect.

Josh Brolin displayed his voice-altering ability in Oliver Stone’s “W”, and a similarly pitched tone is shown skillfully here in an attempt to imitate a young K, or a young Tommy Lee Jones.  He provides a must needed star-boost and charisma, along with a game-changing addition of the unispired but gleefully wacky Griffin, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, a predictor of the future, a transient mind-bender of possible occurrences, and a really funny mumbler of barely audible and barely punctuated sentences.

The film is uneven and the voice of Boris the Animal can sometimes be tedious and never-ending in the long dialogues with himself. I will recommend it to viewers who can handle a little meaningless comedy and a few fun science-fiction elements, but other than that, It is a standard affair.

The Fly (1986)

The Fly, directed by David Cronenberg and starring Jeff Goldblum, is a crowd-pleasing body transformation movie about a self-made monster covering his face with the hunched back of his own mutated ugliness. Seth Brundle (Goldblum) is an obsessive scientist, focusing all of his energy on the prospect of teleportation; he has created a machine and tested prototypes, but both Seth and the audience are very conscious of his lack of humanity: people, such as his poignant love-interest, Veronica, aren’t as important to him as science.

Seth compares himself to Einstein through his practice wearing the same clothes everyday, a fresh pair, mind you. He doesn’t have time to think about what slacks to wear in the morning.

Brundle’s dreams of scientific glory are disrupted when, anxious to see the results of his machine prototype, he disregards using a viable test subject and instead calls his own number and climbs inside the small chamber of his invention. A buzzing fly follows shortly behind him and miraculously, the teleporter works: but what happened to the fly? Cue a haunting drum sound.

The movie is a character-driven exercise, a tragic and classic beauty and the beast love story. It boasts great performances from Goldblum and his sporadic love partner Veronica, played by Geena Davis. It enwraps us in Brundle’s decline, as many great films do: We know how it starts and we see where it goes. A rousing meditation on intellectual-burden, scientific-awareness, and unfiltered love.

Avatar (2009)

7/10

After the DVD release of Avatar and the overbearing presence on T.V., I’ve realized how quick it ebbed and flowed: it is not a movie you can watch over and over again. The purple shimmer of the wild-forest now seems unimaginative; the raw emotion and power of Jake Sully’s commanding now seems cheesy. And the whole concept so redundant and copied. But man, the first viewing in the theater was one of the best visual experiences ever.

The story follows paraplegic soldier, Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington, who enlists in the avatar program after his twin-brother dies; the avatar science, costing millions, cannot just let an avatar go to waste, biologically toned only to Sully’s brother, however, since they are twins it seems to work also for Jake. Then its a game of pick your interests for Jake, whether or not he wants to help the scientists or the Military and their destructive agenda, Colonel Miles Quaritch played by Stephen Lang, who wears a Naavi’-induced scar across his temple, and likes it.

The CGI technology of Avatar is no doubt innovative and groundbreaking; the impact can be seen by the box office, because a movie that brings in more than 700 million is not done from repeat viewings by fan-boys. People who rarely see movies came out to the theater for this blockbuster. The world is not green-screen painted, like Jackson’s Lord of the Rings,  it is three-dimensional and drawn-out; each specimen, flora, and fauna had to be specifically thought-out, Director James Cameron says. On first viewing, it is magical, yet on the third viewing one starts to see a pattern: Nondescript bright purple and green flowering everywhere in massive quantities. It’s an alien world, why not make it flashy. The most exhaustive part of the process had to be pre-production: they had to work with linguists to train the actors on the Naavi’s pronunciation, and had to have a pixar-size crew of animators and artists establishing the groundwork for the movies world; for this, It will doubtless be forgotten.

The story is woven out of many older stories, but it still gets the job done: a showcase for the blue-technology, actors performing as aliens, and of the magnificent landscapes, like the great winding tree, and the floating mountains. It’s mythology is bound to create a very large fanbase, and the eco-theme will no doubt spread into the easily inspired minds of young people. Visually potent and imaginative, James Cameron’s Avatar is a memorable feat in digitally created effects.

Plan 9 from Outer Space

Plan 9 from outer-space is a passionately made film by a very, very incompetent director; his characters shout to each other in dramatic tones; the monster monotonously growls as his hands are extended far out his chest. Plan 9 is an uproarious movie that visibly gets everything wrong. The introduction is redundant and unedited, and with dialogue as laughable as a comedy. But the effort is there: through the tin-foil suits and the pretentious voice-overs, Ed Wood shines in the background, gleefully watching: and the idea of him designing these scenarios is what makes his films so loved, not necessarily even the movies themselves.

The film casts seemingly unknown stars, and has a continuum of poor voice overs, like the old man slowly walking out his house, fore-lorn of his wife’s passing.  The plot follows the arrival of a starship and their ability to rise the dead; grave-diggers from outer-space! In glossy purple and silver suits, the space-agents talk to their captain with soldier-like gesture, chin-straight. The attempt at nuance is very funny, with stern saluted faces, and a fantastic scene where the woman space-agent cant control her freeze-gun, and the ginormous ex-police chief now zombie heads straight for the kill, the homosexual-like male space-agent, who horrendously gasps in fear, arms flailing. Phew, that was close, they say. Too close.

The all American storyline of a pilot and his worry for his wife is entertaining, also; he first spots aliens as he points it out to the other man in the cockpit, flashing in the sky. It all ends with the man with the blonde hait with a little curl on the front re-appearing, re-assessing the importance of what we have seen today.  The importance of our place in: The worlds greatest cheese movies!