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Oblivion

Oblivion film posterSynopsis

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) has battled aliens in the 21st century.  With partner Victoria (Andrea Risborough) he must check out what’s left of Earth before most of its people left.  He must hunt “Scavs” (scavengers) hiding on Earth.  His memory has been taken from him to prevent aliens using his knowledge.  He has visions of pre-catastrophe New York and meets Julie (Olga Krylenko) among his memories that he must recover.  He is captured by freedom fighter Morgan Freeman…

Review

A very unoriginal film, its story has bits of Philip K Dick (regarding personal identity issues), Mad Max, and any other post apocalyptic film.  Visually it’s like the recent Alien, Independence Day, and Planet of the Apes.  It copies that film’s final scene where Heston discovers the Statue of Liberty as a wreck in a future world.  Undeniably, Cruise’s dream home in the sky is quite spectacular but we know his perfect relationship with Victoria is a fraud, that she is Circe to Cruise’s Odysseus because similar films have told us so.  The clues are in the perfect penthouse blandness where the merest suspicion that things are wrong, promotes frantic techno editing by mysterious controllers (usually from an implant in the hero’s head).  The visits to a devastated Earth are the usual sci-fi treatment of ‘watch out’ for the famous (now derelict) building.  The aerial battles are from Star WarsEnemy Mine, and Star Trek.  Cruise himself, of course, always must be the hero, that facial oxymoron of the innocent smirk substitutes for variety of expressions.  He squeaks his way through reality challenges like the predictable presence only he can be.  Cruise is as sterile as his hero requires him to be, there is no development of character only action man certainties built on middle American resolution into family piety.  Morgan Freeman plays his usual role as the ironically amused patriarch on the side of integrity helped out with Mad Max gimmicks.  Nothing for the mind to work on.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness film posterSynopsis

Directed by J.J. Abrams.  It starts on planet Nibiru where the crew fail to respect the prime directive (non interference in a developing culture).  Spock nearly gets incinerated trying to plug a volcano.  Then it’s London in the 23rd century and John Harrison (Beneddict Cumberbatch) is the villain who attacks London and then the Star Trek headquarters in San Francisco, killing Kirk’s mentor.  They go after Harrison who’s gone off to Klingon land, Harrison fights off the Klingons and is captured by Kirk.  Harrison is a member of a new super race and his fellows are to be found in torpedoes on board “The Enterprise”.  Kirk and his crew get involved in a fight over some bad history that Harrison shares with Kirk’s superior Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) whose daughter Dr Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) is on Kirk’s ship.  Does Kirk survive radiation, rescuing his damaged ship?  Who will win in the fight between Spock and Harrison?

Review

The opening scene on planet Nibiru with its scarlet trees and chalky humanoids with black eyes is Star Trek’s acknowledgement that Avatar is a sci-fi game changer.  It’s quite stunning in it’s depiction of alienness, the volcano scene is impressive.  London in the future is a forest of gigantic ‘Gherkin’ buildings plus Golden Compass architecture and hospital hi-tech.  The movie focuses on the details of a star ship from the fabrics of the upholstery to the Pompidou Centre tangle of tubes and machinery in Scotty and Chekov’s engine room.  It’s a pity though that the Star Trek movies have succumbed to the long leather coated chic of the fist fight and the athletic run through the streets (why run when you’ve got space age vehicles).  There’s too much violence and crash bang and wallop, as if we don’t get enough of that in all comic book films and their endless CGI.  I had hoped for more imaginative issues in keeping with creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision of Star Trek’s mission in defending liberal values in an often brutal cosmos.  For me, it would be more exiting to see The Enterprise crew deal with the cultural development of a planet like Nibiru or show a more nuanced exploration of ethical issues rather than the (admittedly entertaining) personality conflicts of the Star Trek characters we all know and love.  Trekkie fans might be placated by the film’s presentation of the original ’60s characters as their younger selves.  I often thought the perfect Star Trek TV series would be the 1960s characters with the production values of the Voyager series in the ’90s.  Spock, as played by Zachary Quintano, is effectively apologizing for Leonard Nimoy’s very formal TV Spock.  Quintano’s Spock is more humane as his adherence to logic is not a geekish fetish based on fear of emotion but an attempt to overcome emotional devastation. this rather undermines the 60s scenario in which Doctor “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) detested Spock for his coldness.  Kirk (Chris Pine) is the cheerful, rule breaking picaresque oaf who never misses any fight going.  His relationship with Spock brings out Spock’s emotional reserve as strength rather than Nimoy’s blank evasion.  Spock has a relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and they argue like any suburban couple.  Doctor McCoy’s use of colourful metaphors earns him a humorous rebuke from Kirk.  The humour usually works in the same way as it did in the 60s.  Scotty is played by Simon Pegg, the Scottish accent is straight out of Braveheart, he is yet another down to earth character with no time for the mystical pretensions that can infect the voyage.  Sulu (John Cho) gets to be in temporary command, ready to ambush any crew member with understated wit.  Anton Yelchin who plays the Russian, Chekhov, is himself a Russian but his accent made me think of the comical Ilya Kuryachin from The Man from Uncle.  Benedict Cumberbatch as the bad guy John Harrison (who is also Khan) has a voice like a purring echo in a pumping clamp of a jaw on a face like a latex covered machine.  I hoped for “Thus Spake Zarathustra” aphorisms but got rather conventional villain attitudes.  This is a missed opportunity for a more thoughtful film but it’s spectacular. Nice to see Leonard included, if only briefly.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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Total Recall

Total Recall film posterSynopsis

Stars Colin Farrell playing the role that Arnold Schwazenegger plays in the 1990 Total Recall.  Set at the end of the 21st century in a world run by Britain with Australia as a colony (?!?).  Access to these countries is through the Earth’s core.  Farrell plays a techno assembly worker who is married to Kate Beckinsdale and he has a daily routine.  He goes to a mind scan and finds out that he was a rebel leader by the name of Hauser who has been kidnapped into being an agent for the repressive government of Britain.  Beckinsdale is a government agent in on the deception.  Farrell joins the rebels courtesy of Jessica Biel.  Beckinsdale’s government plan an invasion , can Colin save the world?

Criticism

The original film was set on Earth and Mars and at the time its special effects were amazing.  Schwarzenegger acted woodenly but was an effective action man, Colin Farrell is a more sympathetic hero but his pained expression hasn’t changed much from when he was stuck in that telephone booth several years ago.  The original of the Kate Beckinsale character was Sharon Stone and the sight of her and Schwarzenegger fighting was like a superduper cage fight, by contrast Beckinsale and Farrell look like dysfunctional reality TV spoilt brats.  Is Farrell a double agent?  This film imagines London as floating high rise apartments like the rocks in Avatar, and the street scenes are stolen from Blade Runner.  It’s always gloomy and raining and people are walking about under painted parasols.  There are hi-tech advertizings and it looks like a Bombay slum stripped from its moorings.  The action is far too frenetic, masses of aerocars zipping at dizzying speeds like in I Robot or Star Wars. Given that the film has a 20 year advantage over the original, it disappoints as sci-fi.

Issues of personal identity and personal integrity in a hi-tech world are simplified to role reversals in a Dan Dare world of bewildering density.  At any moment you know it’s all fairground mirror tricks, so the film avoids anything worth saying.  It gets into some cod philosophy about the nature of memory, only to dismiss it as a disposable item, so it undermines the need for a serious look at the continuation of personal identity and responsibility.  A missed opportunity.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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Brave

Brave film posterSynopsis

Animation about a Scottish princess who will not conform to the conventional conduct expected of her by her mother (Emma Thompson) and a more indulgent father (Billy Connolly).  Her mother wants her to marry but the suitors are hopeless.  Then the princess gets a magic potion that turns her mother into a bear.  She can only change back if the princess can weave magically…

Criticism

In the Disney tradition of feisty, independent girls who are superior to the men.  It carries on the good work of Mulan, The Frog and the Princess, and Rapunzel.  However I expected more, and was disapointed because it’s too sanitized for the global market.  It’s a tartan fantasy like an animated label on a whiskey bottle.  At least we were spared a smoothie Englishman who’s always an obvious villain.  It’s a film about Scots people and there are recognizable quirks in the characters.  The fairy story itself is familiar yet colourful.  The obvious answer to my earlier complaint is that it’s only a fairy story, but can’t even a fantasy get beyond the Mel Gibson clownishness of Braveheart.  Recent historians have insisted that while the Highlands were being cleared of people, the fantasy of tartan Scotland was born:  there must be kilts and bagpipes.  Tartan kitsch appears to be a 19th century invention.  This film is Brigadoon as animation.

The Princess herself has fiery red hair (naturally she’s Scottish).  Brave, whether intentionally or not, criticizes certain present day cultural practises:  she rebels against an arranged marriage and she doesn’t like her hair being hidden by a veil.  Brave treads the well worn path of the wayward girl learning love and maturity in the end (like in any Hollywood teen Film), but interestingly there is no boyfriend.   It’s all about reconciliation with a mother who is similarly chastened.  The message is clear, we must be true to our better instincts.  Nice to watch but offers nothing really different.

 
 

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