Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Movies 2014, Science Fiction

            There were only 4 science fiction movies that I wanted to see but failed to make it to the theater for.  "The Signal", it looks ominous and I imagine has some horror elements to it, I was intrigued but did not see it playing anywhere; "Hunger Games, Mockingjay pt1" I was disappointed in the first movie, I loved the second movie, and... I think it was silly to break this into two movies I will eventually get around to seeing it; "The Zero Theorem" I cannot say that I like Terry Gilliam's presentation of material (having only really enjoyed "12 Monkeys") but I like that he is a creative force in the industry and this is probably an interesting film that looks amazing; and then there is "Lucy" which I mostly avoided because of the "we only use 10% of our brains" myth that is the core of the movie, that falsehood needs to die and I am sure that I am being a dick about something... I will just have to mentally edit the movie to "her mind is mutating to use 10x the energy of a typical human"... Not much better but whatever.

Godzilla (Lies of a Trailer)                                                         
            I already wrote a lengthy review of this that was rather rambling and mostly complained about how derivative it was of "Man of Steel" of all things.  I disliked it immensely.  You can be boring but smart, or dumb but exciting, but you can't be boring and dumb.
Overall: 3/10
Marketed with Legendary skill.
            The biggest problem this movie has is that it is called "Robocop" inviting comparison to a classic science fiction movie from the 80's which holds up today from both a scripting and social commentary angle.  This movie in many ways is a microcosm of modern Hollywood, let's take a concept from years ago that because of its uniqueness is fondly remembered, then we will sand off and paint over that uniqueness, making things all black, soulless, and designed by corporate committee.  If I thought that was the intentional subtext of the movie I would call this movie a work of meta-textual genius... I have no faith in the creators to assume that was their goal.
            What did I like?  I really liked the scene in which they show him how little of his body remains, it is sad and strange.  I like aspects of the corporate design process (again meta-textual commentary).  I like a good portion of the investigative technology, in which he becomes a walking talking crime database that can hunt down and crush crime quickly and with results.
            What did I dislike, the stupid ending of "love conquers all", I dislike the general stupidity of Michael Keaton's character toward the end as thru most of the movie he is seen as a crass businessman, but you can see where he is coming from and how his actions make a lot of sense in the world, but then for no reason he turns into Norman Osborne, taunting the hero and threatening innocent people, stupid ending that taints the character.  There is a lack of world building, everything is very bland, there is no violent gang war, no new super drug ("Dredd" had Slow-Mo, which was amazing), there is no formidable bad guy aside from the nameless ED-209 (which in the original movie were a joke, and in this movie they are played straight).
            Honestly if you have the inclination just watch the 80's movie it is quite good.  So I will give this one two ratings, 5/10 if you like the original, and a 6/10 if you just want a generic soulless hack science fiction film.
Overall: 5/10 (6/10)
I find this poster poorly made because of the poorly rendered image of his mouth, like they edited it on in photoshop.  That and it is a really boring picture, most of them are like this.
Edge of Tomorrow                                        
            I liked this movie so much I went out and read the book.  And I want everyone to know beyond a shadow of a doubt: THE MOVIE IS BETTER.  All the book has going for it is the premise of space invasion and time loop, great premise, but the characters are dull, and due to translation issues I am certain all the humor and wit has been sucked out.  To show how translation errors are probably at work, the original title of the book directly translated to English from Japanese is, "All you need is Kill", and if that is not ENGRISH then I do not know what is.  Though the "Edge of Tomorrow" title is pretty meaningless too, and it should have been called "Live, Die, Repeat" like it is now on DVD... I am wasting time on this comparison.
            Once again I find Tom Cruise to be a great actor surrounded by great actors who make a premise that should be bonkers seem down to earth and accessible.  Emily Blunt is properly tough, Bill Paxton is salty, and Cruise is funny.  That all being said this is another science fiction movie (the other being "Oblivion") in which Cruise is miscast in the role and too much of the script exists just to justify his age, compelling a 50 year old borderline civilian press monkey into being on the front lines during an invasion is stupid, and symptomatic of other stupid decisions made down the line, as apparently all the competent military leaders in the world are all dead and we are left with General Brigham, played by Brendan Gleeson; who when confronted with proof of time travel being used by the aliens to gain an advantage in the war he ignores the implications and pushes forward with a suicidal plan.  I do not know, the movie has bad leadership so that the can do spirit of the troops can be shown as the true key to victory... Maybe.
            Something notable I did not like: The design of the aliens.  What were they thinking?  A chaotic mass of tentacles and claws that is in constant movement, I have no idea what I am looking at half the time, they move so fast and are so confusing that I find them annoying rather than threatening or cool.  Maybe I was spoiled by the Tripods in "War of the Worlds", those things are menacing, mysterious, and I know what the hell I am looking at.  Or the Xenomorph in "Alien".  Of the Bugs from "Starship Troopers".  This movie tried too hard on the designs and it is just a mess.  By contrast the battle armor used is strangely awesome, and seems to resemble current proto-types in real life, but with less polish.
            So overall the cast is great, the premise intriguing, the plot is a little contrived (there is a full blown plot hole at a key moment in the movie), and the monsters are stupid looking.  The goods outweigh the bad.
Overall: 7/10
I am strangely okay with this poster.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes                                   
            My issues with this movie begin and end with one character, some nearly nameless jerk who is prejudiced against the Apes because the plague that caused the fall of humanity was dubbed "The Ape Flu".  That is the stupidest reason I have ever heard of for disliking something, that is like being racist against black people because a member of your family was attacked by Africanized bees, or disliking Egyptians because you know someone who caught West Nile Virus.  The character's transparent stupidity is so out of place compared to the logical and well thought out motivations of the main villain and the heroes that he actually harms the movie with his presence.
This guy.  I don't blame the actor, the character's reasoning is the issue, it makes no sense.
            Aside from that one major failing the movie is fantastic.  Fantastic characters with political dynamics, character interactions, a unique sci-fi premise extended logically so as to create a world that feels real because of how it looks and how the characters live within it.  If the shitty character had not been in there, or just had a logical reason for his hostility then I would have ranked this movie even higher.  As is it is a fun movie with a lot of daring plot developments.  Maybe the last confrontation is a little trite?  Maybe some characters become too tunnel visioned?  Maybe.  But the movie works.
Overall: 8/10
This is an awesome poster.
            This is the sort of instant classic that flew under most people's radars and should be receiving more attention and praise.  As an action movie it is gorgeous, with dynamic action in a cool environment.  As political satire it is laser focused.  Dialogue is clear, concise, and does not explain too much or leave out important context, allowing the full picture of what is happening to become clear as the movie progresses.
            The movie I most want to compare this to is "Elysium" which I felt had more problems.  And these two movies are similar in a lot of ways.  Mostly in that "Elysium" has the same message of the unwashed masses being cruelly neglected by some powerful overseers.  I thought that "Elysium" had poorer villains, the environment was not as cool, the cast seemed weaker, and the dialogue is weaker.  I also prefer the bleaker and more unpleasant ending of "Snowpiercer" to the very pat to the point of naive ending of "Elysium".  While the two are both have similar messages and even similar plot points, "Snowpiecer" is just a higher quality film that does the subject matter more justice.

Overall: 8/10
This link, is an article mostly about the changing economics of film distribution and is flat wrong about most of it, using concepts such as the cost of printing reels (which with digital projectors and networked computers is an issue that no longer exists) as justification for why theater releases are not as viable anymore.  Though the irony of a movie about a populist uprising on a vehicle that exists to break thru the frozen waste being the breakout of the old economic model would be ironic.

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