Archive for the Science Fiction Category

Her

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction with tags on February 14, 2014 by Mark Walker

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Director: Spike Jonze.
Screenplay: Spike Jonze.
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Chris Pratt, Portia Doubleday, Steve Zississ, Bill Hader.
Voices: Scarlett Johansson, Brian Cox, Spike Jonze, Kristen Wiig.

Love is a form of socially acceptable insanity

After bringing the warped and surreal works of Charlie Kaufman’s “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation” to the screen, director Spike Jonze carved himself a reputation for the off-beat. However, a misjudged adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s story “Where The Wild Things Are” followed and I have to admit that doubts were raised about his abilities. I wondered how much of Jonze was in his earlier films or did he actually need Kaufman in order to construct something of substance? On the evidence of “Her“, though, it’s apparent that Jonze is the real deal and fully capable of crafting his own original work.

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Europa Report

Posted in Science Fiction with tags on December 5, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Sebastien Cordoro.
Screenplay: Philip Gelatt.
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Sharlto Copley, Christian Camargo, Anamaria Marinca, Embeth Davidtz, Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra, Dan Fogler, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Compared to the breadth of knowledge yet to be known… what does your life actually matter?

Being released in the same year as the big-budgeted and visually stunning “Gravity” would normally hinder the successful chances of any other film in the science-fiction genre. However, Sebastien Cordoro’s “Europa Report” actually manages to find it’s own niche and invigoration by relying purely on a strong premise and confidence in it’s delivery. It will, most certainly, not pull in the revenue or audience of “Gravity” but it’s proof, yet again, that coughing up the green isn’t always necessary when venturing into the cosmos.

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Gravity

Posted in Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction with tags on November 22, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Alfonso Cauron.
Screenplay: Alfonso Cauron, Jonas Cauron.
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney.
Voice of: Ed Harris.

Clear skies with a chance of satellite debris“.

In 2009, director James Cameron opened the floodgates on the innovation and possibilities of stereoscopic filmmaking when he delivered “Avatar“. Since then, it has been experimented and tinkered with by many filmmakers but now, four years later, Mexican director Alfonso Cauron has set a whole new benchmark.

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Moon

Posted in Drama, Science Fiction with tags on November 20, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Duncan Jones.
Screenplay: Duncan Jones, Nathan Parker.
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Dominique McElliogot, Benedict Wong.
Voice of: Kevin Spacey.

I hope life on Earth is everything you remember it to be“.

Being the son of legendary musician David Bowie must put a lot of pressure on you, especially if your chosen profession is also to entertain. However, this is a pressure that director Duncan Jones seems to relish. His talents are used in a different medium from his father but equally as impressive with this relatively low-budget debut and he produces one of the finest science fiction film’s for quite some time.

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Oblivion * * 1/2

Posted in Action, Science Fiction with tags on September 28, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Joseph Kosinski.
Screenplay: Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt.
Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo, Zoe Bell.

Say what you will about Tom Cruise but there’s no denying that his choice of projects have always been bankable. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s most of his films and performances were of a particularly high standard. The same could be said of the 00’s as well. However, over the last three years, cracks are beginning to appear; “Knight and Day“, “Rock of Ages” and “Jack Reacher” have failed to register any form of quality. On the surface, “Oblivion” has all the hallmarks of the Cruiser getting back on track but, unfortunately, proves just as lacklustre as the aforementioned duds.

In the year 2077, Earth has been obliterated by an alien race and the surviving members of humanity have moved on to inhabit Saturn’s moon, Titan. Jack (Tom Cruise) and his wife Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) have remained on earth, though, to protect machinery harvesting the planet’s resources before Jack begins to suspect that his mission isn’t as straightforward as he thought it was.

Director Joseph Kosinski follows up his previous science fiction film “Tron Legacy” with another venture into the future. He works from his own graphic novel and delivers an intriguing premise that pays homage to classic Sci-Fi movies like “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Planet of the Apes“. His setting is suitably bleak (captured beautifully by cinematographer Claudio Miranda), his use of visuals are striking and his tone is perfectly sombre. In fact, Kosinski actually assembles a good addition to the science fiction genre. Unfortunately, his assembly soon falls apart due to a script that’s devoid of any substance or characters that we can invest in. The pace is lethargic, to say the least, which only really registers that a lot of the film is just padding. Nothing happens for a good chunk of the movie and when the plot is finally opened up, it fails to make sense or hold any form of coherence. Even if it did, your likely to have lost interest by that point anyway. Cruise wanders around aimlessly (presumably in search of characterisation) and the likes of Morgan Freeman and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau needn’t have turned up at all. The most frustrating thing overall, though, is that the big reveal is one that we’ve seen many times before and all, but completely, rips-off Duncan Jones’ far superior “Moon“. The similarities are almost shocking and I wouldn’t have been surprised to have seen Jones’ name on the screenwriting credits.

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Kosinski is a director that may yet find his feet. He certainly has an eye for sumptuous visuals and can stage a fine action set-piece. However, he really needs to work on a coherent narrative and one that isn’t as dull or desolate as the landscape that his characters roam.

Mark Walker

Love * *

Posted in Drama, Science Fiction with tags on March 14, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: William Eubank.
Screenplay: William Eubank.
Starring: Gunner Wright, Corey Richardson, Bradley Horne, Nancy Stelle, Roger E. Fanter, Ambyr Childers.

I often find it difficult giving my opinion on independent films as I’m aware of the struggles that have been faced in order to bring it to the screen. They are hard to criticise, as the filmmaker certainly doesn’t get the same luxuries or benefits that the financial backing from a big studio would bring. However, when all is said and done, it’s ultimately the material that it should be judged upon. Such is the case with this film; it’s undeniably impressive in it’s assembly but found wanting in it’s substance.

As I can’t really be bothered to write the plot summary, I’ll leave you with the director’s own description of the story… “After losing contact with Earth, Astronaut Lee Miller becomes stranded in orbit alone aboard the International Space Station. As time passes and life support systems dwindle, Lee battles to maintain his sanity – and simply stay alive. His world is a claustrophobic and lonely existence, until he makes a strange discovery aboard the ship”.

As the film opens, we find ourselves in the midst of the American Civil War and a commentary that’s reminiscent of the work of Terrence Malick. Visually, it looks spectacular and you wouldn’t think for a second that this was shot on a shoestring budget. Debutant director, William Eubank certainly knows how to capture a scene and his work here is exceptionally well handled. There’s a good sense of atmosphere and overall, ethereal, feel to the film.
From the battlefields we are then taken to a space station that is orbiting earth and we are introduced to our protagonist who wanders his enclosed environment and ruminates on his lonely existence much like Duncan Jones’ “Moon” or Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey“. It’s not just the setting but also the existential nature of those films that this tries to emulate. Sadly, it’s nowhere near as good as either of them. The isolation of our protagonist brings about a monotony in his daily routine and that monotony is soon shared by the viewer. To put it simply, very little happens. I got the point of his dilemma and the effect that it had on his psyche but it’s laboured too strongly and the connection between the astronaut and the civil war is tenuous at best. There are many verbal musings throughout, whereby some lovely passages of words are weaved together but it sounds more poetic than it does philosophical and I think that’s where the problem lies. The film has airs and graces of having challenging, philosophical, ideas but doesn’t really have anything concrete to cling on to. I kept waiting for some revelation that would tie everything, meaningfully, together but when it arrived, it didn’t deliver the punch I was hoping for and only confirmed my suspicions of how pretentious the film really is. The only thing that really makes sense is that it was funded entirely by the band “Angels and Airwaves” (who also provide the soundtrack) and it comes across as an exercise in marketing their own stuff and no more than a glorified music video.
In fairness, it does manage to hold your interest on the visual front with some stunningly captured images and moments. However, impressive visuals do not a good film make. If it continued how it began, then it might have had something going for it but it didn’t and it doesn’t.

The major issue with Love, is that it believes itself to be deeper and more profound than it actually is.
There is such a thing in the cosmos known as a ‘Black hole‘. This certainly has a hole, and it’s head is too far up it.

Mark Walker

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Robot & Frank * * * *

Posted in Drama, Science Fiction with tags on March 12, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Jake Schreier.
Screenplay: Christopher D. Ford.
Starring: Frank Langella, Peter Sarsgaard (voice), Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Jeremy Sisto, Jeremy Strong, Bonnie Bentley, Dario Barosso.

Robot & Frank” is the type of film that could, unfortunately, suffer a lot of preconceptions beforehand. Judging it by it’s cover or title, could lead to it being written off as some low-budget, ridiculous science-fiction film. If this does happen, then more fool those that do judge, as they’d be missing out on a marvellous human drama that has a great balance between humour and pathos.

In the near future, Frank is a retired cat burglar who lives alone, while his daughter Madison (Liv Tyler) is travelling the world and his son Hunter (James Marsden) is more focused on his career. Frank also happens to be going through the early stages of dementia, so in order to help him, Hunter buys him a robot caretaker, who will tend to his every need. Frank realises the potential in this, though, and plans to restart his old profession by using the robot as his aide to burgle more properties.

First off, this is a film about memories; the fading ones of it’s lead character and the expendable ones of an automaton. What makes it work, though, is the sensitive and convincing relationship at it’s core. There’s a genuine friendship that’s built between the characters and Christopher D. Ford’s screenplay takes time to touch upon the similarities between them. Robot is entirely reflective of Frank and they could be viewed as one and the same, while lightly skimming over the philosophical theories of Descartes’ cartesian doubt. Does the fact that Frank struggles to remember the past make him any less alive than the robot, who has no past? It’s this type of attention and delicate handling of the material that brings a genuine heart (and head) to the film. It’s an earnest portrait of Alzeihmer’s while also managing to incorporate some fun by it’s schematic caper sub-plot. It’s success is largely down to the strong and convincing actors; Langella delivers a fabulously nuanced performance of a man that once led a colourful life but now finds himself with a failing memory and refuses to accept it. He’s onscreen for almost the entirety of the movie, and throughout, he’s mostly talking to piece of tin. That piece of tin is also miraculously brought to life, though, with the gentle and perfectly fitting voice of Peter Sarsgaard. For this little character (who is never given a name) to win you over is a testament to everyone involved here. Director Jake Schreier handles the material beautifully – in his directorial debut – delivering a depth and profundity with touching family moments, memories reawakened and the importance of them in relation to what it means to be alive.

Although the film deals with a superficial automaton there’s a heart that lies within and that heart beats very strongly.
It’s early doors in 2013 but this is a film that I will fondly remember for the rest of the year and beyond.

Mark Walker

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