Author Topic: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)  (Read 5537 times)

Offline CX

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CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« on: April 06, 2015, 12:10:27 AM »
I'd thought about waiting until I finished posting my anime reviews before starting this thread, but the more I've thought about it, the more I realized that was kind of pointless.  Plus, some of you who aren't really into anime might get more out of this thread anyway, as this set focuses more on sci-fi movies, though I don't restrict myself to just that genre. 

I mostly focus on stuff that isn't as well known to mainstream audiences in the hopes of making more people aware of them.  In the case of the things I review that are well known, I guess it's mainly to add my two cents to what has generally been said about them in the many other reviews there are for it.  I'd actually hoped to start out with Avatar or Abrams Trek (2009), I guess I just haven't been able to bring myself to start on what would be some extensive, in-depth looks at movies I find to not be very good, yet seem to be immensely popular.  Some of that also might be a reluctance to actually watch those movies again, as I'd have to in order to take the detailed notes needed to do those reviews.  Yeah, it'd be easy to just lay into them because I don't like them, but I still try to be fair and give enough information about whatever it is I'm reviewing so even if you disagree with me, you could still make an informed decision about something you might be considering taking the time to watch.

As with my anime thread, I'll be posting an index at the end of this first post, and updating the index with direct links to each review I post as I post them.  As of yet I haven't come up with a list of favorites or recommended works, but I might as I build up more reviews.  As it stands, my list here isn't nearly as long as my anime list.

Please feel free to comment on my reviews, and with your own thoughts on the media I review.  Be warned, though, that as I can get rather in depth with my reviews, that they often contain some spoilers.

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« Last Edit: November 06, 2015, 01:46:38 AM by CX »
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Offline CX

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2015, 12:11:30 AM »
Cargo
(2009 movie)

While this movie was a bit small in scope and definitely derivative, it was still an okay movie, and pleasant to watch.

Taking place in 2267, the movie follows protagonist Dr. Laura Portmann as she signs up for a cargo run that she hopes will pay for an emigration to Rhea.  Rhea is the driver of the plot here, as it is Earth's only colony world, which is important because Earth itself has become uninhabitable due to an ecological collapse.  Humans now, for the most part, live in huge orbital stations that are overcrowded and were never really meant to be home to so many people.  So basically Rhea is humanity's only real hope of having a home again, as far as anyone knows.  It's also where everyone wants to go, but few can afford to do so.  Laura's sister actually won a lottery, which is why she is now on Rhea.  The two communicate regularly, and Laura's sister isn't happy that Laura signed up for this cargo run in light of recent terrorist attacks which have been intensifying recently.  The terrorists are sold by the news as just being essentially anti-technology, though to be honest after learning the "truth," I can't say the media was all that far off.

Laura goes aboard the Kassandra, a run-down old cargo ship with an extremely small crew, a fluctuating scale, and a rocket engine arrangement that makes me cringe.  It's an eight year mission to an unnamed "Station #42" (four years there, four years back), and to accomplish this, most of the crew is going to be put into cryogenic sleep, with each crew member taking turns running the ship in 8 1/2  month shifts.  As an aside, the cryo-sleep was probably the most original aspect of this movie, as it had people lay fully-clothed inside a tub full of what looked like runny applesauce.  Unfortunately between the look of the ship, which was run down and had dripping water in places, and the small number of crew members, I really couldn't help but be reminded of Alien.  It even had a male captain with a female first officer, two male mechanic types, and a female computer expert.  Basically Laura took the place of the insane Ash robot, and there was a creepy security officer who joined the crew at the last minute, and that was the only really difference in the set-up.  What followed was basically the same kind of mystery/horror plot as Alien, except here it was a human they were looking for instead of an alien, and at first no one believed that Laura hadn't wandered into the ship's cargo bay, which was supposed to be off-limits to even the crew while the ship was in transit.  There's also the way that not everything is as it appears, and that certain crew members are also keeping secrets and have their own agendas, it's just that there are more of them instead of just a crazy android played by Bilbo Baggins. 

Crew members are picked off one by one, starting with the captain.  While he conveniently has a security camera in his eyeball, unfortunately he didn't see who his attacker was.  The rest of the crew, save the first officer and the computer chick, venture into the cargo bay to check out the cargo container that the captain had found open before someone chucked him over the railing.  Inside they find a young girl in a cryotube and realize that the container is full of them.  The plot thickens a bit, because the first officer is immediately angry and insists that they put the girl back.  She isn't happy when the security guy and Laura pull rank, as they have security and medical concerns they can't simply ignore.  Plus they want to know why they're hauling humans and there was nothing about this in the cargo manifest. Laura also has the computer expert, Yoshida, look into where the ship is actually going.  At one point she'd sent a message to her sister, and instead of it taking an impossibly long amount of time to ever hear back, she got a response in only 20 minutes.  You can probably see where this is going, because it turns out the ship is heading for Rhea, and for some ludicrous reason, the ship's course can only be set at the start of the mission and can't be changed along the way, so it was impossible for the captain and first officer to not know where they were going.  Then Yoshida turns up dead.  Naturally, Laura suspects the first officer, but right around that time the first officer uncovers that the security officer isn't who he appears to be and has him arrested.  This is super-awkward for Laura, as they'd totally just had sex in the airlock.

After some brief misdirection, we finally find out what the hell is going on.  There was a stowaway and the security guy was working with him.  Both of them are from the terrorist group.  Also, the first officer was keeping the fact they were headed to Rhea secret, because as it turns out, Rhea is The Matrix.  Apparently humanity is in the planet-wrecking business, as when they tried to terra-form the semi-habitable planet they'd called Rhea, it ruined that planet's ecosystem, too.  But rather than leave the people who thought they were going to colonize a new planet in orbit of Earth, they decided to build a station in orbit of Rhea that they could plug people into without their knowledge in order to keep up appearances while humanity searched for another planet to colonize.  Also, the mechanics mutiny for no reason against their first officer and decide to help both Laura and the security guy out, even though he's a terrorist.  They do end up finding the stowaway and end up killing him, and along the way Laura finds a video that shows Earth's ecosystem is practically recovered.  Despite the fact this could have been faked, she just accepts it and ends up going along with the terrorist plan to blow up the communications antenna that allows communication between Earth and the colonists, with the provision that they get her sister out of there in the process.

As they arrive at Rhea, they are able to set up a time-delay on what is apparently an entirely automated process of unloading their entire cargo.  The mechanics again just decide to betray their crewmates, this time screwing over Laura and the fake security guy and the two poor saps they pulled out of their cryotubes so they can enter the Matrix themselves.  Basically Laura has just enough time to see her sister and send the message she was supposed to in order to inform everyone that Rhea was a lie and that they had proof they were bringing back – the little girl that they'd pulled out of the cargo hold and thawed out, as she had all the implants for being plugged in the way they were supposed to be.  Unfortunately Laura's sister can't be pulled out, though it's never really explained why, because the security guy had actually found her physical body even though he'd had all of five minutes to do so along with setting the bomb and rescuing Laura from drifting off into space because of a faulty fuel cell that left her with no thrusters.  While she was in the Matrix talking to her sister, he swapped out fuel cells with her because he knew with the combined mass of both of them they'd never make it back to the ship in time for it to leave, which it apparently was programmed to do all on its own.  This goes about how you'd expect, with an attempt at drama from Laura losing the insta-romance she'd just developed with this guy.  She does just barely make it back to the ship, and even manages to take out the now completely insane first officer on her own before hunkering down with the little girl for the four year journey back to Earth.

Now there are a number of problems with this movie, the first being a lack of development or even just getting to know the characters, even though there aren't that many of them.  Even Laura, the main character, is a relative unknown.  It's also rather convenient the way she just instantly trusts and believes certain people despite not having any reason to.  For instance, how did she know that the video she saw of a restored Earth was genuine?  How did she know that the security guy, who admitted he was a terrorist and was working with the head terrorist from the news at the beginning of the movie, was only planning to blow up the communications antenna and not the entire station?  After all, that terrorist group had blown up civilian targets prior to that using rhetoric that showed an anti-technology bent, so why wouldn’t they blow up the Matrix/Rhea colony, as it was all a lie?  Sure, she ended up being right in trusting these things, I guess, but really she had no logical basis for doing so.  Which, speaking of, now that the gig is up, wouldn't Earth's government now want to intercept and probably destroy the Kassandra in order to prevent this proof Laura spoke of from getting out?  After all, it's not like anyone who saw her message has any reason to believe her, so proof would be kind of important.  There are plenty of other nitpicks I have, but really the next biggest one comes from character development in that what little of what there was felt forced.  The biggest example of this is the romance between Laura and the security guy.  After all, she seemed scared of him up until he just suddenly decided to kiss her, with good reason as she was at first suspected of breaking the law.  Then with the way he snuck a kiss as she turned to look at an alarm that had gone off, well, I'd just have to think most women wouldn't go for that kind of thing.

The rest of this show's main weaknesses had to do with how derivative it was.  Essentially it was Alien meets The Matrix, with an environmental message thrown in for fun.  I'm not going to be too hard on it, because while it was derivative, I wouldn't really call it much of a rip-off, aside from the inside of the Kassandra, which was very similar in some ways to the Nostromo.  And aside from that and the other problems I mentioned, the movie was somewhat enjoyable to watch.  I'd actually recommend this mostly just for people to get a look at sci-fi from a country other than the United States, as this one comes from Switzerland and the spoken language is German.  This unfortunately not only means having to read subtitles but that the VFX tends to look more like something out of a game than a movie, but it's still an interesting experience and I'm glad I watched this movie.  6/10.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


Offline CX

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2015, 10:28:24 AM »
Ikarie XB-1
(1963 movie)

Well, this movie was definitely ... different.  Sort of.  It's very representative of sci-fi from the 1960s, which is to say it's all about the wonders of space and how awesome it would be to explore it.  Actually comparisons to Star Trek would be fairly apt, but I'll get into that later.  The reason I'm writing this review isn't because I especially liked or disliked it, but because I feel it's important more people should know about this movie.  Why?  Because it was made in Czechoslovakia back in the 1960s, and it's a movie not many people seem to know about.  I sure as hell had never heard of it, and it's only by chance that I happened to see it on a list of obscure sci-fi.

As I said, as far as sci-fis in the 1960s went, this is fairly representative of other movies of that decade.  Much like Star Trek, it follows a crew of explorers from many different countries on the most advanced ship Earth has developed, the starship Ikarie XB-1.  Their mission – head to the Alpha Centauri system and check out a mysterious "white planet" which they suspect might have intelligent life on it.  The ship is fairly small, so its crew is rather small, though they seem to enjoy rather spacious interiors in which they can partake in rather the quaint recreation (by today's standards) of ballroom dancing.  Of note is the inclusion of women, but since this was still the '60s, they didn't do a whole lot outside of being romantic interests and/or serving as a moral voice of reason at times.  The voyage itself is supposed to take 28 months with the ship travelling at nearly the speed of light, which also means that relatively speaking, 15 years will have gone by on Earth when they finally reach their destination.  I can't verify off-hand if that figure is correct or not because I'm kind of lazy and don’t feel like it, but I was rather impressed that the writers remembered that it would be no small task to decelerate the ship to more normal speeds when the ship comes across something the crew decides to check out.

As for the actual story, it's fairly good for the time, but as far as my tastes go, I found it kind of boring and preachy.  You know, like a lot of episodes of Star Trek. ;)  It had some pretty high ideals, and there was plenty in there about anti-militarism and how humanity should all just get along and peacefully explore space and the like.  The crew is pretty much just excited to be doing what they're doing, and the movie makes sure that they never really let up about it for most of the movie.  Not all of the crew members feel the same way, thankfully, but unfortunately the majority of them meet bad fates, and mostly this seems to be to reinforce certain things the movie was preaching.  For instance, the Ikarie comes across an unknown derelict vessel that looks like a flying saucer.  It's actually a little amusing at first, because the crew keeps referring to it as being antiquated.  To be fair, the movie is supposed to take place in 2163 (exactly 200 years in the future), and they determine this ship to be from the 20th century, but still.  I guess this is just an example of zeerust or something, because the closest 20th century Earth came to a flying saucer was the Avrocar, and that little project died before this movie was even made. 

Anyway, two members of the crew go over to check out the derelict, and they able to determine that the ship actually is from Earth in addition to being so obviously antiquated next to the vaguely iron-shaped Ikarie.  What's more amusing is that to press home how old this derelict is supposed to be, the people inside are all dressed up in 19th century western clothes and appear to be playing poker in an old style saloon.  The only difference is that this saloon's second level has a control room in it, and it's here that they find the main stash of these strangely named gas canisters like the one that they believe is responsible for killing the entire crew of this ship.  Why they'd have them like this is a mystery, but really this ship is just a thinly veiled slap at the United States.  I say this because it's really obvious that the ship is supposed to be American, and the people on board are described as being paranoid and savage, which, let's face it, this movie was made in a Soviet satellite country.  The bit with the nuclear arsenal on board was just the icing on the cake, though it also serves to kill off probably my two favorite characters and leaves the Ikarie without its chief engineer (I think).

Oh, and speaking of taking shots at the US, one of the older members of the crew has a robot not unlike the one from Forbidden Planet, and it's made fun of by the rest of the crew for being old and quaint.

This is also the point where the movie got a little more interesting for me, and not just because I was laughing at the attempt to bash my country, either.  The derelict actually was the first clue in a mystery that makes the movie slightly less boring.  It seems that two crew members who had gone outside to replace some component of the ship developed a strange kind of sickness, which also seems to have infected the rest of the crew.  One of these two crew members dies and the second kind of freaks out and goes running around the ship, damaging equipment and injuring crew members.  This is actually the in media res start of the movie, and it finally comes full circle at what's almost the end of the movie.  The crew member is eventually talked down by one of his friends, and the crew can finally go back to the problem at hand, which is that all of them are being exposed to a strange kind of radiation, which is the actual cause of the sickness the first two had come down with.  They can only speculate about a "dark star" that is invisible to them as the source of this radiation, and given the paranoia the second crew member displayed, they theorize that this is the actual cause of the derelict's crew killing each other.

Unfortunately for them, they can't think of anything to really do about it, as the ship's hull is only delaying the inevitable, and members of the crew are already starting to sweat profusely and act paranoid (in somewhat comical ways).  The best they can think of is to knock the entire crew out because being unconscious slows down the effect of the radiation (somehow).  The catch is, they might not wake up and might miss the mysterious white planet they now see as their only hope.  Some of them also want to just go back to Earth, and there's almost a mutiny over this decision.  In the end they go through with it, and naturally everything turns out all right.

Sorry for the spoiler, but whatever.  Speaking of spoilers, it turns out there was life on the white planet and it protected them from the dark star by creating some kind of shield around the Ikarie.  The crew cheers, a shiny white city appears and the movie just kind of ends.

I've seen this movie described by some as being "intelligent" and "subtle."  I'd agree to the first part, though mostly in light of the particulars of the Ikarie's travel being consistent with actual physics as best as I can determine without breaking out the calculator and doing some math, which is kind of pointless anyway since it's just a movie.  As for "subtle," I can't really see any evidence of that.  For the most part I just found the movie and its characters boring and clichéd, so much so that I couldn't even keep track of who was who among the crew.  Much like Gene Roddenberry's revised ideal humanity from the TNG days, the crew was pretty much uniform in characteristics and in how boring they were.  Probably the most interesting among them were the crabby chief engineer and the old guy with the robot the crew made fun of.

As for the movie itself, I have to admit that the interior sets are pretty impressive considering when and where this movie was made.  The exterior shots, not so much, though I suppose they might have also been impressive for when and where the movie was made.  It's just that the "space" parts of the movie looked very unimpressive to me, and in fact "space" looked more like a black cloth with something like Christmas lights on or behind it.  I'm not going to bash the models too much, but it was painfully obvious that the establishing shots of the ship flying through space were made by keeping the camera stationary while some stage hand pushed the model along a wire that it was hanging from.  It actually made me wonder when the people making these movies first thought of keeping the model stationary and moving the camera to simulate motion.

While I am kind of down on this movie, though, I still have to admit that it's kind of impressive for when and where it was made, and that's actually why I'd recommend that you check this movie out if you're a sci-fi fan.  It may not be among the best sci-fi movies as far as I'm concerned, but it's okay, and at the very least it'd give you a chance to see something from another country and another time.  I'm also going to go against my usual standard of saying that if it has an English dub, you might as well watch it in that, because from what I understand the version of the movie with a dub not only cuts out quite a bit (which isn't necessarily a loss), but changes other aspects of the movie for the hell of it.  One of the things it apparently changed was to change the name of the planet the crew was trying to visit to being the "green planet" with the lame twist being that this was actually Earth and that we'd actually been watching aliens.  So if you're going to check this movie out to see what it was all about, you might as well see it in its original form with subtitles.

It's actually a little hard for me to rate this, so we'll just call the 4/10 rating a ball-park figure.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


Offline CX

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2015, 12:03:53 PM »
Enemy Mine
(1985 movie)

This is a highly influential movie that I've been meaning to see for quite a while now, and I finally got to see it.  Of course here "influential" means that everyone and his uncle has ripped this movie off in some form or other.  Some are a lot better at it and actually comes off as homage rather than a rip off, but most of them are exactly that and frankly aren't much better than the original.

Oh, don't get me wrong, at its heart this is a good story.  I actually kind of want to read the book this was based on now.  It's all about enemies going from just working together to ensure their own survival to adopting one another as family.  It's the kind of story that's been told plenty of times, even before this movie came out, so really it's like an old WWII movie that's given a sci-fi setting.  That in itself isn't bad, and in fact most of the good sci-fis are stories that could be told without the sci-fi elements.  The main problems that really hurt this movie are the extremely slow pacing, the focus on the wrong part of the story, and that the story is lost part-way through the movie in favor of a white guilt film.

We follow pilot Willis E. Davidge of the Bilateral Terran Alliance as he narrates the majority of this movie for us.  He informs us that humanity has continued to expand thanks to its space-going technology, and that just like the wars of the past, humanity has always found something to fight over.  In this case humanity is after resources, and an alien species known as the Drac already lays claim to the systems with those resources in them.  So on the distant future of July 11, 2092 (yes they give an exact date), Davidge sets out on another battle, this time to defend the station from a Drac attack.  He gets a bit of target fixation after one of these Drac fighters successfully destroys a human fighter and pursues it into the atmosphere of a nearby planet.  He successfully manages to shoot it down, but the Drac pilot just ejects and its wounded fighter collides with Davidge's, mortally wounding his radar officer (somehow) and causing him to crash land on the rocky planet surface, which fortunately for him turns out to have a breathable atmosphere.  Unfortunately his fighter was made of explodium, so all he got out of the fighter aside from his dying radar officer was what he happened to have on his suit.  This includes a shiny chrome lighter pistol, so he goes out in search of the Drac pilot for a little payback, as he's convinced he saw the ejection pod land not far from where he crashed.

This is how we get our introduction to the Drac pilot, Jeriba Shigan, as he skinny-dips for no apparent reason in a nearby green pond.  There was a definite attempt to make the Drac alien here, from their reptilian appearance to the fact that they apparently only have one gender.  As an aside, the make-up was actually pretty good in that parts of it were made to move to give off that alien and reptilian vibe, but unfortunately it also looked kind of funny and my friends and I couldn't help but laugh at it.  Davidge's first impulse is to shoot Jeriba, but there's a storm coming and he ends up dropping his lighter pistol.  Undaunted in his mission to kill Jeriba, Davidge gets some fuel from Jeriba's crashed fighter and lights the surface of the pond on fire while he laughs like a maniac. When this fails to kill Jeriba, he next tries to grab a pistol from the Drac's escape pod, only to get electrocuted.  Fortunately for him, Jeriba apparently feels sorry for him, so rather than kill him he just takes him prisoner.  A meteor shower is what first causes the two of them to temporarily put their differences aside so they can look after their immediate survival by sharing a cave.

From this point on, the two slowly learn each other's language as they work together to survive on this hostile planet, though to begin with it's a case of Davidge doing all the work as Drac's prisoner.  They eventually lose this confrontational relationship and grow to be friends, as saving each other can do that for people.  Of course there are a few hick-ups here and there caused by random fighting that almost leads Davidge to kill Jeriba, only stopping himself just short of doing so.  This is what would theoretically be the good part of the movie, except that this takes up so much of the movie and the pacing is set so slow, it just ends up being damn boring.  Another negative point for me is that there's the suggestion made that the two of them are able to befriend one another because the Drac have a very similar religion to Christianity.  Being agnostic, the suggestion that everyone can get along as long as we're all the same religion just causes me to roll my eyes.  Oh well, at least the Drac bible is a lot more condensed than the Christian version.

After their initial misadventures, the two of them apparently get really close, because Jeriba is pregnant. By this point, it's been a couple of years or so, so this kind of makes one wonder, and brings up some thoughts of "The Left Hand of Darkness." 

The make-up sex was apparently pretty fantastic.

I'm sure plenty of fan fiction has been written about this, and I'm sure plenty of people would like the idea of these two bumping uglies, it kind of ruins the theme of two enemies becoming loyal friends to one another through mutual adversity by taking it way too far.  The movie even plays this up, because Jeriba is portrayed as a lot more feminine from this point on, and Davidge acts a lot like a proud papa.  However, the movie cheats a bit even on that, as once Jeriba dies in childbirth, the kid, Zammis, refers to him as Uncle.  We are then bored to death with a long montage of Zammis growing up over the course of another year or so.  It's at this point that the white guilt film starts.

It was painfully obvious from when we first heard Jeriba speak that he was played by a black actor who was really playing up an African accent.  It also didn't take my friends and me long to associate Drac with black.  Just to drive this home, every single human you see is white, because much like James Cameron's Avatar the white guilt apparently loses some of its potency if you show the actual minority the aliens are supposed to represent acting as the oppressors.  So in the same way Avatar lacked any actual west Indians, this movie lacks any black humans.  And since the audience apparently wouldn't understand this idea without Drac people in chains, that's exactly what we got.  They called the slavers "scavengers," but really these were the people getting at the resources humanity was apparently after to begin with.  Davidge has been looking for a way off this rock since he got there, but apparently no one has thought to come looking for their missing pilot on the planet they were last seen entering the atmosphere of, so the scavengers appear to be the only way Davidge might have at rescue.  Unfortunately there's the complication that he has a Drac child he swore to protect and to eventually return to his people, and the scavengers are in fact slavers who love nothing more than to slap shackles on Drac people and whip them while they cackle like the evil white people they are.  You can probably guess what happens next.

So Davidge finally gets shipped back to his home station as a corpse by a BTA warship that just happened to be wandering nearby after three years, only naturally he isn't actually dead.  Of course the movie feels the need to slap an insult at agnostics before this is revealed.  It also doesn't help that the first thing he mumbles after he's magically revived himself is something in Drac after some jerks tried to rip off his tiny Drac bible. He's suspected of being a Drac agent despite having been found on the same planet he disappeared entering the atmosphere of after three years looking like someone who hasn't had a shower, shave, or haircut for three years.  His friends, who we only ever saw in the first few minutes of the movie, stick up for him, but he's still grounded.  Not that this stops him from immediately stealing a fighter and blasting his way out of the station so he can go save Zammis.

Despite feeling like this could be only the mid-point of the movie, it is finished up in a highly predictable manner, after which the movie suddenly switches narrator's to helpfully explain to us that Davidge not only fulfilled his promise to Jeriba, but that Zammis went on to name his kid after him.  The end.  Nothing at all about any consequences of what Davidge did to get back and rescue Zammis, nothing about any politics that might have happened as a result of this little episode.  Nope, the end.

Dear god was this a bad movie.  No, it wasn't horrible, but it was still bad.  Not only is it boring as hell and a white guilt film, it lacks the kind of depth, cleverness, and even subtlety that some of its rip offs manage to have.  For all the time we spent with Jeriba and Davidge, we really don't learn all that much about their characters or their cultures beyond some very basic things that they exposit to one another.  We also learn nothing about any of the other characters or the politics at play here.  It's pretty much just a movie about how white people hate and take advantage of Drac people, and how it takes an enlightened white man to fight for and free them while they don't help at all.  I'm hoping the book is better.

If I would "recommend" this movie, it would just be so you can see the influence it had on so many other rip-offs of it.  But be prepared to be bored.  2/10.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


Offline Fiery Little One

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2015, 03:26:43 PM »
This one I know. I'll admit it's been years since the last time I saw this one, but I liked it. The bit with the slavers and especially the mine, from what I've heard, was forced in by TPTB because they seemed to be of the thinking that 'viewers are morons' and wouldn't get what the title actually meant. (shrug)
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Offline CX

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2015, 10:43:47 PM »
Eh, Hell in the Pacific was better.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


Offline CX

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2015, 11:26:33 PM »
Dante 01
(2008 movie)

This is a French sci-fi movie, which is something of a rarity as I understand it, because apparently the general attitude in France is that sci-fi is kid's stuff.  Apparently whoever made this movie wanted to make sure people understood that this wasn't a kid's movie because the first thing we see is a montage of a naked man being thawed out followed by a naked Asian woman getting dressed after going through a similar procedure.  Honestly the fact that you don't see much French sci-fi is pretty much the only reason I'd ever suggest watching this movie.  This is yet another one I found on a list of supposedly "good sci-fi you've never heard of."  That isn't to say that this movie is bad, but it isn't what I'd really consider good either, mostly because it just came off as strange and kind of pointless to me.

I'll be the first to admit that there are times I just don't get movies that are too cerebral for even me, even though I tend to like them that way.  I also don't begrudge movies for trying to be deep, because as a rule I tend to like that, too.  But for me, the key word here is "trying," because while I could tell the movie was trying to make us think and ask questions, unfortunately the kinds of questions I was asking myself were more to do with the plot just not making sense and less to do with the kind of classic existentialist questions most sci-fi that fancies itself to be cerebral tries to get you to ask.  Now, this could be because I just didn't get it, but I don't think so.

The movie takes place on a small space station which gives the movie its title.  It orbits an aptly named planet, Dante, which is undergoing a perpetual state of lava and/or magma flow on its surface.  The station is actually a small research base, which conducts experiments on prisoners who were basically given the choice to be human guinea pigs or face execution.  There aren't very many prisoners and there aren't many researchers either.  Overall the movie goes for that dark and gritty feel that has been popular with sci-fi since Alien.

The movie begins when a strange man who ends up being called Saint Georges is brought on board along with a new researcher with secret orders.  Georges is put in with the general prisoner population and is almost immediately killed by one of his fellow prisoners, who is quite insane, because he actually thinks he's doing Georges a favor by relieving his pain (he gets better).  It's understandable why Elisa, the new researcher, might want to study Georges, because apparently he was supposed to be the sole survivor of an alien encounter, which would explain why Georges seems to be in a perpetual state of drunkenness (we get plenty of POV shots).  It just makes no sense at all why she'd go about it this way, especially in light of her secret orders being that she can kill all the prisoners with the experiments she's conducting with nanotechnology.

There's a lot of strife amongst both the researchers and the prisoners, who don't like or trust the newcomers.  Mostly this strife, which usually takes the form of the prisoners trying to kill each other, just serves as a means of showing Georges's unique gift, which seems to be that he can heal people by eating some strange little tentacle monster that's latched on to people and only he can see.  This is kind of weird, because these little monsters apparently represent everything from psychological problems, to the nanoprobes Elisa injects into the prisoners, to a slit throat.  Unfortunately there were no little anime girls for them to rape. ;)

This comes off a little as something right out of Scientology, but these creatures and Georges's ability are never really explored that much because ironically the movie is kind of on the short side.  Since one of the other research scientists suspected Elisa's motives and wanted to know what her secret orders were, he had one of the prisoners hack into her files.  Problem is, as soon as he found out, he went nuts and hacked the station, screwing up its orbit so it would crash into Dante.  The prisoner then kills himself, and as he was the only hacker among them, there is no way to restore control of the station.  Around the same time, the head midget amongst the prisoners, César, has his goons stab Georges to death, which I guess is what Elisa was waiting for, because no sooner does this happen then she has him on a table and is ready to carve him up to try to "learn" about him.  The other scientists giver her grief about this and everything else she's doing, but she has the authority to override them.  Of course in the time they take to argue, Georges is apparently able to heal himself and comes back to life.  He takes Elisa as a hostage, but only so he can return to the prisoner's quarters and heal the little prick that tried to have him killed, as Elisa had injected him with her little nanorobots.

It's about this time that everyone realizes they're screwed.  The researchers who have been there for a while want to cooperate with the prisoners to save the station, as the only place they can restore control of the station is under the prisoner's quarters.  This is a completely transparent device to get everyone to work together for their mutual survival, and as an added bonus César gets a chance to redeem himself in the process.  Also completely transparent is the problem this causes them, because even though none of them trusts Elisa even a little bit, they leave her in the control room to look after things while everyone else gathers in the prisoner's quarters.  Naturally, she betrays them, even though there was no reason at all for her to do so.  Basically she knocks everyone out using the same gas system that was usually used on the prisoners to control them and to knock them out for them to conduct their experiments.  Unfortunately for her, one of the prisoners whom the audience was not meant to sympathize with was conveniently able to train himself to hold his breath long enough to not get knocked out by the gas, and tries to take Elisa hostage with him so he can escape along with her on the station's only escape shuttle.  The movie then punishes both of them for being bad people, as it turns out the hacker had sabotaged the shuttle along with the station.

Speaking of dying, redemption is death, so César volunteers to save the station by going down into the manual control room because he's smallest.  The already small passage leading to there is flooded with scalding hot water, which means anyone attempting to make the swim will be bulked up with protection.  So they go through a lot of trouble wrapping him up in insulation and the like that's supposed to protect him and tell him the secret code he has to punch in, only for all of his protective gear to disintegrate right after he jumps in the water.  Then he makes it to the room only to die before he can actually do anything.  So basically the point was to watch him die a horrible death after being boiled alive.

None of that matters, though, because Georges saves them all.  I'm not sure how exactly, but it had something to do with the little tentacle monsters and him turning into energy, or something.  He just kind of goes out in a space suit between the station and the planet, turns into energy, and magically transforms Dante into something livable.  I'm not sure how this saved the station or the people on it, because I'm pretty sure there weren't any escape pods or anything.  The movie just says he "changed the context" by terraforming the planet because he couldn't save the station.  But wouldn't have magically returning the station to its orbit been easier than terraforming an entire planet?

This is just one of many questions the plot made me ask myself.  Other questions included:
  • If they know nothing about Georges and his only "crime" seems to be surviving, why is he being treated like a violent prisoner?  All the other prisoners were only there in lieu of being executed, why is Georges being treated like them when they don't even know anything about him?
  • If this station is so special, why is Elisa allowed to kill all of them just so she can do a little research with her nanoprobes?  If Georges is so special, why is he among those to be killed?  Since Georges was so special and despite all the evidence, why does she not believe the conclusion the other scientists have come to about Georges being able to heal the sick or mortally wounded prisoners?  What point was there in bringing him there if she wasn't even going to study him for whatever might've happened to him as a result of his supposed alien encounter?
  • Why don’t any of the scientists try to confirm Elisa's orders and authority?  None of them trust her from the start because she's obviously underhanded in what she's doing.  Then they left her in a position to betray all of them.  Why?
  • What was this movie even about?

That last one may be a bit harsh, but to be honest the movie doesn't seem to be about a whole lot other than playing through a bunch of sci-fi tropes to have Georges turn into energy after he terraforms a planet.  I will admit though, that for not being about a lot, it is a little interesting. It helps that the pacing isn't too slow even if it's clearly attempting to be more cerebral than 99% of modern sci-fi.  I'll also give it some credit for that, even if it didn't really succeed all that well at it.  Either way, it's more interesting and less boring than Enemy Mine, so it has that going for it.  3/10.
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Offline CX

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2015, 11:18:50 PM »
Silent Running
(1972 movie)

This is a space hippie movie.  There, I said it – there's no longer any need for you to watch this movie.

I'm actually kind of disappointed, but then the name and some of the stuff I read about this movie made me think it was some kind of military drama.  Then I read the Wiki article on it.  Then I guess I watched this movie anyway, just to see why so many people like this movie.  I've since come to the conclusion that the same kind of people who liked Avatar probably liked this movie, since it had a very warped, pro-enviro-fascist message.  I'll get to the fascist part in more detail, but mostly it has to do with the completely one-sided manner in which this movie has been set up in order to justify killing human beings in order to save plants.

Speaking of the set up, this movie takes place in a future in which some ecological disaster has happened and all plant life has become extinct.  How all animal life didn't follow soon afterward is something of a mystery, but then not a lot in this movie makes sense.  Take, for instance, that American Airlines operates space freighters, and that for some reason they have been entrusted with the care of the last of Earth's plant life, which is grown in large greenhouse-like structures attached to the ships.  The idea of keeping plants alive in a closed environment makes sense, since bringing plant life back later would be a no brainer, one would think.  What doesn't make sense is crewing the ships with people who want nothing to do with plants, and only putting one botanist/ecologist on one of the ships in the fleet, and then parking the ships in orbit of Saturn, where they would hardly get any of the light they'd need to survive.  Then there's the order that comes out of no where from the president (of Earth?) to jettison the bio-domes and blow them up with the nuclear warheads all the freighters carry on board for just such an occasion.  And not only do the rest of the crew members not bother to check on the authenticity of this order to use nuclear warheads or think it strange in any way, but they go about it happily.


"Make sure those trees are good and dead men."

And really, that's the thing about this movie – not only does none of it make any logical sense, but it's completely one-sided in how it presents every other character, except Freeman Lowell, the biologist/space hippie, as an utter and complete asshole.  Well, I lied, there is one other character who acts fairly sympathetic to Freeman and is probably the closest he has to a friend, but frak him, there are trees to save.

From the very beginning of the movie and up to the point Freeman loses it and kills all of them, all of his crewmates are the biggest douches you could ever meet, and they seem to take a special joy in tormenting Freeman.  They like to race around the ship in these weird four-wheeled carts and make a point of going right through Freeman's garden, almost running him over in the process.  They later make fun of him for keeping the garden and for eating the real vegetables he grows in it.  Apparently humanity has found a way to artificially synthesize some kind of substitute that they are all living on (no word on how the planet continues to have oxygen and scrubs the build-up of carbon dioxide), which is still no substitute for the real thing.  Hell, even I see the appeal of real vegetables, and I'm not even a fan of them.  But hey, they have to make sure they make fun of him for taking any kind of interest in those plants they're all being paid to haul around and keep alive.  At least until they get the order to kill them with nuclear fire (it's the only way to be sure).  They sure did seem happy for people who'd just lost their jobs, too. 

Really, though, this is just so we hate all of them and think that Freeman is somehow justified in killing all of them.  Hell, he even kills the one guy who's been trying to be his friend all along and is the only one amongst all the crew members to not be happy about blowing all the plants up with nuclear warheads.  Then we're supposed to feel sympathetic to Freeman as he's too much of a coward to even bury the man himself, and instead has one of the three robots the ship has do it for him.  All of this came off as the lamest attempt to make the audience just ignore the fact that Freeman had gone off the deep end, murdered several people, and hijacked the ship he was serving on.

Freeman then goes on to show an amazing aptitude for (fake) electrical engineering and robotics despite being a plant guy when he builds new control chips which magically reprogram the robots on the ship so they can perform surgery on him, because the would be friend he murdered actually managed to do a fairly decent job of defending himself before he was killed.  Freeman also manages to set a course through Saturn's rings so as to fool all the other ships that there's been some kind of accident, so they'll all think he and everyone else on the ship is dead.  Then he programs the robots again, so they can help him plant trees.  Oh god, I can't help but laugh at that, and the montage with hippie music made it even worse.

And since nothing else in this movie makes sense, he decides that he's going to set a course for deep space, because those plants will all grow up big and strong in interstellar space, far away from the light of any star.  It's not like a biologist would know that or anything.  He even acts all surprised when the plants all start dying.  (Just imagine I'm laughing again at this point).  Well, his little attempt at piracy ends up failing because in all the vastness of space, another member of the freighter fleet he broke away from just happens to stumble upon his ship.  And since he fooled them into thinking that all the others died in some kind of accident, they're on their way to rescue him like any decent human beings would be.  But since the plants come first, he's terrified that they'll be sure to finish the job of destroying the last dome he managed to save.  He then rushes to set up artificial lights and makes sure to leave one robot behind to take care of the plants while he then jettisons the last dome into space to drift on its own.  Not that it matters, because there will probably be a shortage of water or a lack of heat not long afterwards, ensuring all the plants die anyway.  Freeman then makes sure he waits until the dome is clear to blow up his ship and his would be rescuers along with him when he sets off the nuke that was meant for the last bio-dome.

So if you haven't figured out where the fascist part of enviro-fascist comes from by now, I suppose I could just explain the part where he kills everyone who disagrees with him, and even suckers some people in who are trying to save his homicidal ass so he can kill them too.  But hey, they committed the crime of nuking some plants, so naturally the movie wants you to think they deserved it and that Freeman made some kind of a noble sacrifice.  While I agree with the idea that killing any hope the planet has for a return of its plant life even if it's somehow managed to find a way to survive without them and all the ecological disasters that would unleash, what really happened in this movie is that Freeman went insane and killed a bunch of people to save some plants.  And this is the guy the audience is supposed to sympathize with.

If you happen to agree with that message, though, I'm sure you'll love this movie.  For everyone else, well, it's fun to laugh at while you watch.  It also has some pretty good visual effects considering when it was made.  I also dug the name of the ship, which was Valley Forge.  That didn't make much sense considering that the other ships were named after forests, but it does when you consider the fact that the interiors were shot on board the retired carrier USS Valley Forge along with a few other freighters in the moth ball fleet at the time.  The sets actually looked pretty decent, too, considering that they were basically dressed up WWII era ships.  Anyway, I'm not going to throw this movie much of a bone, because it's insulting and makes no sense.  1/10.

And why the hell did they call it "Silent Running?"
« Last Edit: March 27, 2017, 09:57:07 AM by CX »
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Offline CX

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2015, 08:07:28 AM »
2001: A Space Odyssey
(1968 movie)

This is actually a somewhat intimidating movie to review, simply because it represents so much more than some dude on the internet can interpret and opine about and do it justice, or for that matter without simply repeating what everyone and his sister has already said about it.  The other aspect is the way this movie is treated by fans and people who love to hate it alike, though in this case, that aspect of it is why I'm even bothering to write this review.

It's said that this movie is one that you either love or hate, and considering some of the various reactions I've seen to this movie, I can see where this impression comes from.  This is especially the case for the people who really love this movie, because for them, both it and its creators are beyond any criticism.  Usually the implication from them is that if you don't like this movie and see it for the "masterpiece" they feel it is, then you're just too stupid to get it, and you better not have the gall to criticize either this film's creators or the film itself, because Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke are geniuses and we mere mortals are like unto amoebas next to them.

I really couldn't disagree more with fans of this movie, more about their attitude than with the quality or lack thereof of the film itself.  While I respect both Kubrick and Clarke, they were both mere mortals themselves and have since proven themselves as such.  And while I'm not a film "expert" and I tend to think a lot more with my left brain than my right, that's because I'm a mechanical engineer, which also means I'm hardly an idiot.  I also have done film studies (arts & humanities credits FTW!) and I've wasted plenty of my spare time watching various movies and TV shows.  And since I'm an engineer, it kind of follows that I have a pretty analytical mind.

But enough about me, what about this movie? 

Honestly, I don't feel all that strongly one way or the other about it.  It's certainly not a bad movie, but to be fair that's at least in part because it isn't really a normal movie.  A "normal" movie would follow a particular set of characters who have a varying degree of importance, and a plot of some kind that tells a story.  There is definitely a story, and there are characters, but in this case the characters really aren't important other than as generic people who are just there to tell the story and nothing else.  The characters are never explored all that much except for HAL 9000 to a very limited extent, and there are at least two sets of characters the wide-spanning story go through before it even gets to Discovery One and her crew.  This makes the structure of the story unconventional to say the least, and done by anyone else, this might have come off as being somewhat amateurish.  After all, it seems as if the beginning and end of the story were planned out, with everything else being filled in later on in order to suit those two parts of the story.  I got that impression because of the abrupt nature of two of the three transitions between the four parts of the film.  This lack of a traditional story structure is also very likely to be where most of the hate comes from as far as the more venomous critics are concerned, and for everyone else, the slow pacing probably just makes the movie boring as hell to watch.

I can only speak for myself, of course, but really it tends to depend on what kind of mood I'm in as to whether I find this movie boring or not.  When I first saw this movie as a teenager, though, the beginning of the movie made me wonder if I'd somehow picked up the wrong movie and gotten some kind of scientific documentary instead.  And really, the movie loves to take its sweet time in its first half.  There are long static shots of landscape followed by scenes of people in chimp suits moving around with some kind of wild pig that looks like it was filmed at a museum of natural history.  There are also the open and unanswered questions, and really, anyone can ask questions, so I can understand why for some people this is a negative.  I'd even agree that other movies and TV shows have tried to do the same thing and completely sucked at it.  My more logical side, however, does see the benefit of doing the movie this way, because most of it actually is part of the overall big picture that movie is trying to get across.  So what's the big picture?  Again, speaking only for myself, I'd say that it's about some extraterrestrial force taking an interest in the inhabitants of this planet and either forcing evolution or somehow helping it along, with the end result being that humanity become creatures of the stars.  The monoliths then serve as the primary conveyers of this, acting at key moments in the development of humanity.

The thing is, everyone is going to see this differently, because everyone has a different way of interpreting things, and some people go a lot deeper than others in looking for some kind of meaning, even in the most innocuous things.  There's also the unfortunate effect of pop culture, because when I first decided to watch this movie back in the '90s, I didn't know a thing about the "Dawn of Man" portion of the movie because all anyone ever talked about was the "Jupiter Mission" part of the movie, and maybe just a little bit about the other two parts that took place in the far off future of the late '90s and early 2000s.  So while I saw an expansive movie about the evolution of humanity through the influence of an alien intelligence for purposes unknown, apparently many others saw a movie about the dangers of technology and the roles it plays in our lives.  To be frank, though, I blame that on all the fan service.

"Fan service?" You ask.  "What fan service?" 

Well, some of you might actually be asking, "what's fan service?"

This is a term mostly associated with anime and manga, and since I'm an anime nerd that's simply the term I prefer to use.  Within anime and manga this term is most often used when referring to gratuitous nudity and sexual content, but really it means anything that is only there to please the audience.  Non-sexual fan service in anime might then be a really cool giant robot.  When it comes to sci-fi, this tends to be all the really cool space ships, or if it's a dumbed down dumb action "sci-fi," this can include when those ships fight and all the really cool explosions.  When it comes to 2001 though, what I'm mainly referring to are all the long drown out shots in the second part of the movie.  What?  You thought I meant I think people masturbate to the space ships?


*fap!*fap!*fap!*fap!*fap!*fap!*fap!*fap!*fap!*fap!*  Aww yeah, I love a good aft.  ;)

While some of it does simply serve to illustrate how common space travel is at this point in humanity's continuing evolution, a lot of it is simply showing off.  Now, to be fair, damn near every aspect of everything that was show is based on actual scientific and engineering knowledge and concepts that were available at the time, it's just that it's like they crammed as much as possible of it into this movie.  Some of that technological fan service-I mean prediction actually turned out to be spot on, like flat screens built into the back of airline seats and glass cockpits, while just as much seems to simply be a zeerust product of when the movie was made.  And no, I don't just mean the clothing, art style, or the continued sexism, I mean things like the Velcro shoes.  Sure, you'd need something like that to "walk" in zero gravity, but for me it came off as silly because it would have been so much easier to move about using various handles and foot-holds to move about and reorient one's self than to use Velcro shoes and a circular portion of the ship to "walk" around into another orientation.

One thing, though, is that no matter what you think about this movie or what you thought it was about it, it was very influential and innovative, not just in its content, but also in how it was made.  As an engineer, I'm impressed with both of those aspects of the movie, because some of the things they built to film this movie are amazing by themselves, let alone some of the technology the movie's makers predicted well before it was actually invented.  This movie has also been ripped off and referenced in a lot of different ways, too.    Actually, I saw a more recent example with the anime series Planetes.  Not only does it feature a space station and passenger liners that to an extent resemble the ones in 2001, but those passenger liners also have all female flight attendants and all male pilots who wear uniforms that are almost exactly like the ones seen in 2001, though with some minor differences, like color.  Oh, and there's a fusion powered space ship that's set for an extended mission to Jupiter. ;)  It's seeing little things like that after having seen this movie that enable a viewer to grasp just how much of an influence this movie had, and to an extent that's actually a nice thing to see.

That about sums up my thoughts on this movie and I would definitely recommend that you watch it.  At the very least, you can more fully grasp the influence this movie has had not only in the entertainment industry and pop culture, but also just in everyday life through the various technologies that were predicted well before their time.  And even if you don't interpret the movie the same way I did – that of a commentary on the evolution of humanity through its use of tools – the nice thing about this movie is that it really is left open to interpretation.  It's pacing is slow, but even so, as long as you're in the right frame of mind for something slow and thoughtful rather than something fast and exciting, you should be able to enjoy this movie.

Now for the controversial part of this review - the rating.  While plenty of people, including plenty of art and film institutes, think this is the most awesomest movie evar, I just think it's an okay movie.  Sure, it’s thought-provoking and innovative, and it's set apart from movies before it was made, when it was made, and since it was made, but really that's why I even rank this movie as highly as I do.  It does have flaws, from fan service and which stem from its unconventional nature.  For instance, I like characters and character arcs, and this movie didn't really have any – that's just my own personal taste, and while I do try to be fair, my rating does reflect my tastes as well as the typical technical aspects of story and themes.  So, my verdict: 8/10.  Take it or leave it, but don't insult my intelligence by saying I "just don't get it."
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


Offline Bernd

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2015, 11:26:23 AM »
Some very interesting views!

I think you're being a bit harsh on "Enemy Mine" and on "Silent Running" for their political messages (or the messages you find in them). I agree that "Enemy Mine" is overall boring, but I like the provocation that lies in "Silent Running".

And regarding "2001", I would wish that recent science fiction films had more of  this kind of fan service than of the usual space battles and explosions.  ;)

Offline Fiery Little One

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2015, 02:46:05 PM »
I've seen this movie a few times, again not in years, and read the book, in Junior High. Does the book clear some things up? Eh, a little bit, but almost exclusively in the form of inner monologues that typically get left out when adapting something.
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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2015, 09:43:28 PM »
I think you're being a bit harsh on "Enemy Mine" and on "Silent Running" for their political messages (or the messages you find in them). I agree that "Enemy Mine" is overall boring, but I like the provocation that lies in "Silent Running".
I just can't get over how he killed people over trees, or how the movie rather lazily attempted to make him seem justified in doing so.  That second part is why I gave the movie such a low score.  Much as if I ever get around to reviewing Avatar, yeah, some of it is disagreement with the politics the movie is preaching at me, but what really leaves me unimpressed and results in a lower score on my nebulous scale of good is how the movie goes about setting things up in order to do the preaching.

Quote
And regarding "2001", I would wish that recent science fiction films had more of  this kind of fan service than of the usual space battles and explosions.  ;)
I didn't mind it, but to be honest I really have to be in the right frame mind to watch it, much as with Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Watching either of those movies with my friends helps to illustrate, however, that there is some basis in the arguments apologists have made for the modern action blockbuster.  It's all so very disappointing.   :-\


I've seen this movie a few times, again not in years, and read the book, in Junior High. Does the book clear some things up? Eh, a little bit, but almost exclusively in the form of inner monologues that typically get left out when adapting something.
There are a lot of differences between the novel and the movie, which were both being made at the same time.  One of the major differences is that in the book, the destination is Saturn rather than Jupiter, and the large monolith is located on one of Saturn's moons rather than floating in orbit of the planet.  Also, HAL actively tries to kill Bowman by opening the pod bay doors to vent the ship rather than counting on him to go out after Poole.   Rob Ager of Collative Learning actually suspects that Kubrick went out of his way to ensure that the movie deviated from the novel, and he does make a compelling argument.  Of course he went and deleted the video where he made this argument, or I would have posted it here for you.   :-\  He does have a couple of videos up on his interpretation of the meaning of the monolith still up, though.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2015, 09:57:29 PM by CX »
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #12 on: April 21, 2015, 12:51:40 PM »
2010: The Year We Make Contact
(1984 movie)

Yet another somewhat controversial movie, apparently, although in this case it again mostly comes from fans of the original 2001 film.  I can honestly say that I don't see what the big deal is, because just like 2001 it isn't a bad movie, and it even manages to be genuinely creepy in places.  In fact, the opening of 2010 almost makes 2001's story look a lot more mysterious and chilling than it was when I actually watched the movie.   2010 does have plenty of flaws, though, but I'm going to guess that the main reason for all the fan hate comes way more from the drastically different tone between the two movies than something as trivial as there being sound in space, although I've seen both points argued.

As far as the story goes, there is nothing really especially bad about it, and at times it is actually pretty interesting to watch, because in this case there is a lot more focus on the story and the characters.  We even have a main protagonist this time – Dr. Heywood Floyd.  The pacing also matches a more typical movie, and if 2010 has any real faults, it's that it's a fairly typical movie of the time.  That works both for and against it as far as I'm concerned, because it both makes the movie more interesting to watch, but also fills it with plenty of clichés and dates the movies as being from the '80s even more so than anything from 2001 dates it to the '60s.

I'm speaking mostly of the enviro-hard-on that most movies, or at least most sci-fi movies of the '80s tended to have.  There was also a fascination with whales and dolphins at the time, and this is again reflected in the movie.  I mean, a dolphin tank in the living room?  Really?  Even if Dr. Floyd's wife is a marine biologist, talk about bringing your work home with you.  There's also the overall tone of the series, and the end "lesson" that's declared at the end of the movie, which is that humans are just tenants of this planet, and that it got some kind of warning from the "land lord" to take care of it and behave.  How this is derived from what actually happened is the real mystery, though.  And then there are little things like characters going on about how they love the color green, "trees... and grass," right before they start talking about how much they love hot dogs so we don't think they're some kinda limp-wristed environmentalists or something.  After all, nothing says manly like shoving a wiener into your mouth. ;)

As for what else dates this movie, it mainly has to do with the whole Soviet/American "we can totally be friends" theme that is the main backdrop of the movie.  This is far from the only movie to do this kind of thing, and really it just adds to the whole zeerust factor of any "futuristic" movie that includes the Soviet Union.  The touchy-feely-ness of the American and Soviet characters finally being forced together through adversity just kind of adds to the corn factor.

That being said, I did kind of like the way American engineer Walter Curnow and cosmonaut Max Brailovsky form a friendship through working together, which feels a lot more natural than Dr. Floyd's "bond" that forms with the commander of the Russian space ship Alexei Leonov.  I have mixed feelings about the situation back on Earth as far as the Soviet Union and the United States being on the brink of war in what's pretty much just a repeat of the Cuban Missile Crisis as far as I could tell.  It does help to add tension and make the audience feel the space crews' frustration, but at the same time it really doesn't seem like part of the same movie.  This also sharply contrasts with the much friendlier way the whole political divide was in 2001, where it barely mattered.  Dr. Floyd even seems to have some Russian friends that he actually meets up with on the rotating space station before heading to the moon.  One thing I'll give to this movie though is that it has a lot less fan service in it, so there's that I guess.

The actual story is pretty straight forward as well.  There was naturally a big controversy caused because of the failure of Discovery One's mission, and a lot of mystery surrounding what happened.  The story, then, is about finding out what happened as well as to an extent resolving what the black monolith orbiting Jupiter was about.  That's about it. 

The movie's strong points in that story involve how well it is able to set up the story.   The movie starts by giving a short synopsis of all the relevant information from the first movie the audience needs to know even if they haven't seen it.  The first scene in the movie informs us of the political situation the world is in, sets the stakes, and gives us important information of what's happened since the first movie, not only as far as the Discovery and the monolith, but for Dr. Floyd.  A few more scenes inform us more about the political situation between the US and Russia. 

On the other end of the spectrum movie also tries to do some character drama/development with Dr. Floyd and his family, but this falls kind of flat to me.  While it does flesh out his character a little, I found myself not really caring.  And in the end all it really served as was a set-up for Dr Floyd to do some captain's log style narrations every few scenes and at the end of the movie, which is itself a drawback as far as I'm concerned.  Any writer can just have some narration to explain something, but it takes a little skill to show the audience instead of just telling them.  Really the only place to do this and not come off as lazy is when there's a time restriction of some kind, and I can't help but feel that was the case with this movie.  Or maybe it was just lazy writing; I don’t know.

I also found the big payoff at the end to be both interesting and a let-down, because while it added some drama and mystery to everything, especially as it was just getting started, in the end it turned out to be some lame environmental message.  On the other hand, it does add something as far as the whole monolith thing, which are apparently tools to help life along or something like that.  The drawback here is that humanity is no longer as important as it was in the first movie, but this likely goes back to the whole environmental message thing.  That's just a theory I have, though.

So when it comes to answering the question as to whether this is a good movie or not, I'd pretty much just say that it's as good as 2001.  It was strong where 2001 was weak and weak where 2001 was strong, so it all kind of evens out in the end as far as I'm concerned.  I'll never really get the fan hate over this movie, though.  8/10.
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Offline Fiery Little One

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #13 on: April 21, 2015, 02:36:27 PM »
For me the let down on this one is the fact that it seems very much like different people were behind the scenes and while that can be a good thing, if they got what the previous movie was saying, or very bad, if they didn't. I feel the crew behind 2010 fall into the latter category because it feels so much like an 80's movie completely at odds with the feel of 2001, in terms of the tone.
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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2015, 12:52:55 AM »
And yet it was a fairly good adaptation of the book.  There were some odd choices made as far as what changes were made for the screen (Dr. Chandra is supposed to be Indian, as his name suggests anyway), but it was still pretty faithful to its source material.  I still liked the book better, though. 
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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #15 on: April 22, 2015, 01:14:59 PM »
Pandorum
(2009 movie)

You know, in some ways I feel a bit like writing this review is a waste of time and effort.  On the other hand, it's a movie that, as far as I could tell, hasn't gotten all that much exposure, so I'd like to kind of put the word out there, even if this isn't a very good movie.  Actually the only other review of this movie I've seen bashes it by saying The Descent did everything this movie did only better, and really I don't think that's very fair.  Really both movies are only okay movies – neither especially bad but definitely not good either.  I'll get to The Descent in its own review, but as far as it comes to this movie, well, like I said, it's an okay movie, and basically it's every sci-fi horror you've ever seen.

Saying this movie is derivative is entirely fair, because it does take a lot from so many other sources.  The Descent, yes, but also Alien (like every other sci-fi horror since 1979), The Cave (which was better than The Descent), Pitch Black (which was pretty good for a B-movie), The Time Machine, and arguably a bit from the Lord of the Rings film franchise.  That being said, it's actually an interesting movie to watch, with just enough suspense and mystery to keep me watching it through the laughably corny parts to the fairly predicable end.

The movie follows Corporal Bower from the moment he's rudely awakened from a dream, alone in a cryo-tube that's in a dark room.  He also conveniently has no memory of his identity, but knows that not only is he on a ship, but enough about the ship to explain to Dennis Quaid that they're probably screwed unless they can fix the ship's reactor. 

Oh, yeah, Dennis Quaid is totally in this one, and he's actually pretty good in it.  He's no Michael Ironside, but he's still pretty good in any role he's in, even if it's sometimes in a "so bad it's hilarious" kinda way.

To the movie's credit, though, it does a fairly decent job of setting things up and revealing a little bit of information at a time.  Bower goes on a little adventure through the air ducts and stumbles into Mordor.



He comes face to face with these Orc things that are so obviously not human that they obviously have to be.  Bower at first puts forward the idea that these things are aliens, but if you honestly believe that even at this point, you obviously haven't seen many movies like this.  And speaking of, I can't help but notice this trend in a lot of sci-fi's lately to make everything spindly and full of spikes.  Actually those Orcs kind of match the ship, they're on, the Elysium, which looks like something John Eves (who designed the space octopus in Abrams Trek) would have drawn up.  Oops, spoilers...

So after his first encounter with the space-Orcs, Bower figures out that the things want to eat him, and that he's actually trapped on the Nostromo, or basically the set of so many other "space" ships since Alien came out.  Apparently filming things in a factory setting where things are grimy, greasy, and full of dangling chains and wide open spaces makes things "dark and gritty" and somehow more realistic even though it’s supposed to be a space ship.  Anyway, despite the fact he's been mugged by a hot German woman named Nadia, seen a dead guy caught up in a cannibal trap, and nearly been been eaten, he has to press on through the entire ship to get back to the reactor so he can pull a Ctrl-Alt-Del on it.  Along the way he meets some other people, one of whom gets eaten, another who actually rescues him, and Nadia again, who seems to only be there to inevitably hook up with him.  Nothing quite like greasy cleavage and a chick who will "fucking cut your ass" I guess. ;)

So even though this woman has no reason to go anywhere with him, she just decides to anyway, after first revealing that the Elysium is a technologic Ark, carrying the genetic material  necessary to completely pollute the planet their ship was sent to colonize with other life from Earth.  But, hey, the reactor's either going to explode or just go completely dead, so why not tag along, I guess...

After dodging more Orcs in slightly better lighting, the trio makes its way through the most inefficiently designed cargo bay I've ever seen that holds a crap-load of other cryo-tubes, complete with the obligatory grate over a massive fan, which is apparently where the Orcs toss the remains of the people they've eaten, and take dumps while they're at it.  Naturally Madia and Bower both fall right into it, and for added bonus points they have to actually hide in it up to their eye balls while an Orc tries to decide if there's something down there or not.  I can't help but note again how so many movies have done something like this, no doubt excusing it by saying it highlights what people will do to survive.  To me, it just comes off as a form of porn, meant to gross out the audience while also apparently getting some people off on this kind of thing.

So after our happy couple crawls out of the filth, they end up in the obligatory fight with one of the Orcs just to show the audience how hard it is to kill one of these things while miraculously not ending up with a serious injury themselves in the process, all so they can end up face to face with the nose-less Orc leader who was apparently just there to enjoy the show.  So Bower, Nadia, and the Asian man who came to Bower's rescue but can't speak English end up running into another seemingly normal human, who not only conveniently has a recording of the message that set everything in motion, but kindly explains everything that happened between when the flight crew on duty received a message from Earth that told them they were all that was left and when the movie takes place.  He even has some nice artwork to act as visual aids for his story.


"Long ago, in the before time..."

The self-described chef is even nice enough to finish the story even after he's knocked out the trio, which he follows up by suspending them by the feet.  He's even such a nice guy that he explains how this was all a trap he set up and how he's going to eat the three of them.  Bower actually manages to talk his way out of this, the reactor once again coming to his rescue.  This is frankly the most ridiculous part of this movie, not only because of the exposition, but because of how everything plays out.  It really is a cliché storm.

In the mean time. Dennis Quaid has come face to face with himself, or rather Corporal Gallo, as he crawls naked and covered with grease out of another hose-filled air duct.  It really isn't that hard to figure out that "Lieutenant Payton" is actually Gallo, who went insane upon hearing that they were the last of humanity and that Earth had magically disappeared in one day, so I don’t consider it much of a spoiler to tell you this, even though the movie tries to treat it like a big twist M. Night Shyamalan might be proud of.  This is the next most ridiculous part of the film, because after the big reveal, which takes the form of Payton/Gallo fighting to inject himself with a sedative, not only does he not fall asleep, but he decides he's perfectly cool with the fact that he's completely insane.

The whole premise of the movie is actually based on this made-up condition/disease called Pandorum, which is basically just space insanity.  Bower is shown to have some of the symptoms right from the start of the movie, and Payton/Gallo shows them soon after he meets the younger version of himself and remembers that he's a crazy frakker.  Apparently anything can bring Pandorum on, though, because after finding out Earth was gone and the 60,000 people on the ship were all that were left of humanity, the first thing he does is to kill the other two members of the flight crew that are on duty with him.  He then declares himself a god and goes about torturing the rest of the crew, you know, like Captain Janeway. ;)  He eventually gets bored and goes back to sleep, but not before giving a bunch of the colonists an injection of magic juice that was meant to help the colonists adapt to the planet they were colonizing but instead made them "adapt" to the ship, making them all turn into cannibalistic Orcs.

Oh, and the ship has actually already finished its 123 year journey (gee, wonder where they came up with that figure) long ago, and has been sitting on the planet for 900 years, having landed in one of its oceans.  This is revealed when Payton/Gallo opens up the pointless blast shield that had been closed when everyone finally made it onto the bridge, and the characters are able to see phosphorescent sea life outside after an initial "shock" of not seeing any stars outside.  Then Bower completely loses it, blasting a random panel because he thinks an Orc is coming out of it, sending it flinging into the big glass canopy.  Naturally the glass breaks and floods the room, along with apparently the rest of the ship, because I guess space ships don't have separate sections that can be sealed off from one another in case there's a hull breach. 

Thanks to the hull breach, the ship ejects all remaining cryo-tubes from the ship, including Bower's, which he quickly crammed Nadia into.  This then reveals that the ship isn't actually in the deep ocean, but rather a shallow that's right next to shore, which just doesn't fit at all with what was just shown.  The helpful text on the screen then explains that there are a whopping 1,213 people left, which basically just means that there's incest in humanity's future, because I'm pretty sure this isn't a genetically diverse enough group of individuals left to avoid it.  Oh, and let's not forget that our hero Bower has a full-blown case of space crazy – sounds like a happy ending to me. ;)

Okay, as horrible as this movie might sound, it actually isn't really all that bad.  I'd even be generous enough to say that it's more interesting than most other movies like it, including The Descent.  It's worth a watch, although once is probably enough.  5/10.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


Offline Fiery Little One

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #16 on: April 22, 2015, 04:51:36 PM »
I've considered this one a few times, but it was always advertised as a straight up horror flick that just happens to take place on a spaceship which isn't really my thing.
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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #17 on: April 22, 2015, 09:52:59 PM »
It takes quite a bit from Alien in my opinion.  It isn't all bad, though.
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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #18 on: April 24, 2015, 11:55:50 AM »
The Descent
(2005 movie)

This is a film that's received a lot of praise in some circles because it's seen as being different from the standard horror flick.  I can't say I really agree all that much with that, and I'll explain why soon enough.  First, though, I have to put the disclaimer out there that I'm not really a horror movie fan, though I do watch some of them if they sound interesting.  The Descent sounded like it might be one of those movies, but in the end I didn't care for it because it still had pretty much all the same clichés that I don't like about horror movies, chief among them stupid characters.  The thing is, when a movie is filled with stupid people, I find that I can't really sympathize with them all that much, so I don't care what happens to them.  If they're really bad, I actually start to cheer for whatever or whoever is hunting them down.  The Descent avoided the latter, but not the former.  Instead, it was safely in "meh" territory, much like Pandorum.  One thing that does separate it from Pandorum, though, is that it takes its sweet time instead of diving right in, in an attempt to make us feel sorry for the characters, I guess.

It's been said that this movie represents female empowerment somehow, and that it avoids the typical romantic subplots that most horror movies have.  The same people who say that kind of thing also criticize most horror movies for basically boiling down to "monster chases attractive female character," and naturally the implication there is that this movie somehow avoids that.  But really, it doesn't.  In fact, the only movie I've seen that avoids both the romantic subplot and "monster chases attractive female character" storyline is The Thing.  Actually, I bring this up because this movie is often compared to it specifically for that reason, the specious claim being that the only difference here is that the cast is all female rather than male.  Unfortunately for these reviewers, they've forgotten a rather important element from the start of the movie that comes into play at the end of the movie – an affair between the protagonist's husband and one of her friends.  Because while this friend, Juno, is later made out to be the antagonist for the group for several reasons, really what it comes down to for me is that the main character, Sarah, ends up taking revenge on her, not for any of those reasons, but really for the affair with her husband right before her family was destroyed. 

You see, right in the beginning of the movie, we're introduced to Sarah, Juno, and Beth, another of their friends, along with Sarah's husband and young daughter.  Sarah and her friends like doing extreme sports, and in this case they're white water rafting while the husband and kid watch from shore.  When the women are done and meet up with Sarah's husband and kid on shore, it becomes really painfully obvious that Sarah's husband has developed a case of yellow fever (Juno is played by an Asian actress in case you didn't get that ;) ).  But, that isn't a problem for too long, because as Sarah starts to question her husband about it on the drive back home, he gets distracted enough to cross the center line, and naturally that's just when another vehicle comes along to kill both the husband and the kid by impaling them through the heads with pipes while leaving Sarah alive.  I'm sure for some people this was a horrific turn of events and shocking or whatever, but I saw it coming from a mile away, and it all played out as a really obvious attempt to make me sympathetic toward Sarah.  I didn't really understand fully why the movie was trying this hard until later on, though.

So, fast-forward to a year later, and Sarah is meeting up with all of her friends in the good ol' US of A to do some spelunking.  We're introduced to three more characters, but they aren't really all that important, so I'll only mention Holly.  Why?  Well, just look:



*sigh*  So kawaii... ;)  I mean, short spiky hair, cute with a spunky, enthusiastic attitude – my kind of woman.  Unfortunately women like that seem to tend to be lesbians, both in the movies and in real life, but I can't say one way or the other in this movie because it pretty much avoids any romantic implications other than what you might read into it on your own depending on how dirty your mind is.

Now, the movie takes a decent amount of time establishing the friendship between these women and their hobby for extreme sports, of which caving is only one of them, apparently.  This is both good and bad because it gives the audience information, but in the end it failed to really make me feel anything for these characters one way or another when it came to their little cave adventure.  Then, not long after this, some of the characters, namely Juno and Holly, start to develop personalities that start to wear on me very quickly.  Holly in particular becomes rude, mouthy, and overconfident, so it should be unsurprising that she's the first to die.  What might be surprising is that it takes about and hour into the movie for this to happen.

Anyway, the basic plot of the movie is actually pretty similar to The Cave, which came out the same year.  Basically, a group of people wanders down into an unknown cave and gets picked off by mutant human cave dwellers after getting cut off from the only known exit.  The main differences, aside from tone, are that in The Cave there's a larger team of mixed races and sexes and that the creatures are more like bats, which can both fly and swim.  In The Descent, the creatures look like Morlocks from The Time Machine.



Juno planned this adventure that would get most of them killed as a way of making up to Sarah, as she explains later.  The problem was that Juno took them to an unexplored cave and lied about it, telling them that instead they were going to a well-explored one.  The thing is, this makes no sense, because most of the women are pretty new to the whole caving thing, and Sarah in particular has a thing with closed in spaces.  Oh, and Juno never told anyone where they were going.  Convenient.  This is pretty painfully obvious to me as a way of making Juno out to be the antagonist of the group, even while the movie, at the same time, makes her out to be someone who fights to save her friends.  The thing that's supposed to seal it later on is when, after fighting really hard and losing against the Morlocks to keep them from dragging off Holly's body, Beth, for some unknown reason, quietly sneaks up behind Juno right after she's finished killing one of the monsters and gets a pick-axe to the neck.  Now Juno really obviously didn't intend to kill Beth, but really the only bad thing she did was to freak out and run off instead of looking after her.  But the movie insists that this is an unforgivable sin, like Juno meant to kill Beth, so in spite of all the fighting Juno does to try to save her friends, including the body of one who was already dead, this is all basically so Sarah has an excuse to kill her.  And while the movie reasons that this is for revenge over Beth and leading them all down there, it was fairly transparent for me that it was more about the affair from the beginning of the movie, and this is actually brought up toward the end of the movie.  So really it doesn't avoid the romance subplot at all, it just shoves it more into the background than usual.  It also doesn't avoid the "monsters chasing attractive female characters" plot in the least, so the only thing really of note here is that during the main storyline in the cave there are no male characters for any of the women to fawn over.

The movie isn't all bad, though, as cliché-filled as it is.  It actually does have one point toward female empowerment in that the women don't freak out so much as to be completely useless even though there are things trying to kill them, and they even fight back.  That was actually kind of refreshing because the usual response to "monster chases attractive female character" is for said character to shriek and run away whilst acting stupidly and not even attempting to fight back.  It also didn't overcompensate by having the women be completely bad ass either, so the characters themselves were fairly well-rounded and believable.  I'll also give this movie a point for managing to successfully gross me out without resorting to gore porn.  Instead, it reminded me of seeing animals get eaten, only with Holly being the one getting eaten by these cave dwellers.  And while normally I might crack a joke here about a woman getting eaten out, I have to say that the way the body and head moved combined with the hyena calls made it so I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

But that's pretty much it on the positive side.  Everything else is either neutral or bad as far as I'm concerned.  They even do the thing with making the characters crawl through gross stuff and let the monsters crawl over them without them getting noticed that so many movies have done on more than one occasion, not to mention the fake happy ending where the main character seems to make it only for it to turn out to be a dream or delusion.  The only thing that makes it worse is the sequel, which implies that despite overwhelming odds, both Juno and Sarah survived long enough to be in the sequel.  But since it wasn't obvious that this movie was going to have a sequel I guess I can't really dock it for that, but that won't stop me when it comes time to rate the sequel.  Instead, this ending was somewhat ambiguous, though it was definitely leaning toward "everyone dies," which isn't the usual, but isn't all that unique either. 

Overall I found this movie to be fairly average; definitely not deserving of the majority of the praise that's been heaped upon it by some.  Like Pandorum, it wasn't really especially bad, though it did have plenty of eye-roll worthy moments and the same kinds of leaps in logic.  I still think that The Thing, The Mist and Alien are the best horror movies I've ever seen because they're just good movies by themselves, so it is still damning with faint praise to say that The Descent was probably okay as far as horror movies go.  Keep in mind that most horror movies involve stupid people doing stupid things until they're killed as far as I'm concerned.  So with that, I'd rate this movie a 5/10.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2015, 01:08:30 PM »
The Descent: Part 2
(2009 movie)

If you ever had any illusion that The Descent was a good movie, you really might want to avoid its sequel.  Not only is it filled to the brim with the standard horror movie clichés, it's also basically the plot of the first movie all over again, with very few differences, only now it makes even less sense.

The movie starts with the standard misdirection scare when some old hillbilly type manages to barely avoid running down a deer, only to have Sarah slam up against the window in exactly the same fashion as the jump scare in the first movie's fake ending.  And really, this is where the movie starts to not make sense, but only later on as the stupid adds up.

The movie doesn't take as much time to set things up this time, very quickly expositing things like Juno being a senator's daughter and that there are cave specialists searching for the missing women from the first movie, but in the wrong cave since Juno didn't report which cave they were going to, and a well-meaning Holly, having been mislead, filed a plan with the authorities for the wrong cave.  But since Sarah turned up, they now have a lead, though the movie also goes out of its way to try to say no one will end up knowing what happens later on due to the Sherriff's insistence that a lid be kept on this new lead.  Conveniently, Sarah has amnesia for the past few days, and even relives the death of her husband and daughter just to tug at our heart strings.  Since she's covered in blood and has obviously been in a fight, the sheriff immediately suspects she's killed her friends.  When the lab matches one of the blood types she's covered in with Juno, the sheriff really suspects her, then for no logical reason decides to drag the obviously traumatized woman back down into the cave she escaped from to help them look for the other women. 

Why the sheriff's office is running this investigation is but one of many things that don't quite add up.  For instance, one of the first things that happens after Sarah is found, presumably having been taken in by the old hillbilly and having been reported by him, is that the same old hillbilly leads a deputy with a bloodhound to the entrance to an old mine so they can do the standard scene where the dog gets scared and comes out whimpering before taking off in the opposite direction.  Then, an the assembled team of the sheriff, a female deputy, Sarah and the three-person cave rescue team goes down into the mine using an ancient elevator that magically still works so they can get down a shaft that would have been impossible for Sarah to scale, and end up at a boarded up cave entrance that was where some miners were said to have disappeared down.  Of course, the entrance was still boarded up, which makes one wonder just how the hell Sarah managed to get out of there.  It was at this point that I'd already started to give up on the movie due to the utter lack of basic logic, but I was still going to give it a chance.

After the team made it further into the cave they found the half-eaten body of one of the women, and even though it was pretty obviously done by an animal, the sheriff suspects Sarah (a running theme if you haven't noticed), which isn't helped when she conveniently remembers the Morlocks and freaks out, injuring one of the cave rescuers in the process.  What happens next is pretty much the same as what happened in the first movie, complete with an isolating cave-in.  Then the characters are picked off one by one, only this time they act a lot more stupidly than the characters in the first movie.  And magically, Sarah, and as it turns out Juno, have become completely hardened bad-asses who can kill the cave dwellers more or less at will.  Of course to survive the ending of the first movie, Juno, who'd had a pick-axe put through her calf by Sarah, would have had to fight off at least a dozen of the things, whereas Sarah was pretty much just staring into the flame of her make-shift torch while more crawlers called off in the distance.  Apparently having a big sharp piece of metal put through her leg wasn't so bad for Juno after all, because she moves like it never happened.

Anyway, the sheriff, being the dumbest of all of the characters, ends up handcuffing Sarah as soon as he gets the chance, despite the protests from the deputy she saved, and really just common sense given where they were at.  Naturally, they get to a part of the cave where the combined weight of Sarah and the sheriff causes a collapse and both of them are left hanging for their lives.  This is another point where nothing makes sense, because without much hesitation and Juno egging her on, the deputy brutally cuts off the hand of the sheriff, sending him to his death.  You know, a man she was made out to have the utmost respect for and had probably worked with for quite a while, because she is supposed to be one of his most trusted deputies, and she kills him, just like that, because Juno and Sarah have both become hardened survival experts who believe in sacrificing others to save their own skin, yet inexplicably not only let bygones be bygones between them but have taken a liking to the deputy and so decide to save her.  *takes breath*  And the stupid isn't even over yet even if the movie basically is.

It was fairly obvious from almost the beginning of the movie that the deputy was supposed to be the protagonist, though it does shift around quite a bit.  But as the movie moves on it focuses more and more on her.  So when the three of them finally find a way out of the cave and they have to sneak past a bunch of feasting cave dwellers, both Juno and Sarah end up dead, having lost their main character immunity.  Actually that scene in particular is so horribly over the top that it's laughable.  Only to add to that, the deputy wriggles her way out of the cave through a hole that minutes ago had been big enough for a giant cave dweller to drag a moose through, in what looks like a direct rip-off of the fake ending from the first movie.  And just so as not to disappoint us that it wasn't a complete rip-off, there's no happy ending after all.  Actually I was expecting one of the cave dwellers to have come out after her, but it turned out to be the old hillbilly, who suddenly appeared out of no where to take the deputy out with a shovel to the face.  He then drags her back to the hole so the creatures can get her, the implication being that he's keeping the secret of these things' existence for some unknown reason.

And really, that right there is where the stupid hits full force, because if the old hillbilly had actually been serving this role all along, why then hadn't he done the same thing at the beginning of the movie when Sarah first showed up?  And since there actually are a few more people who knew where the team went in and what they were up to, how would killing the deputy keep the secret anything more than temporarily?  After all, as soon as the other people who knew about the other cave figured out something bad happened to the other team, there'd be yet another search, and it'd just keep going like that until someone finally managed to get back with information about these creatures.  But really what it comes down to is that this movie shouldn't have happened, because the old hillbilly should have killed Sarah at the beginning of it.  The ending just doesn't jive with how he brought Sarah in to the hospital and cooperated with authorities in the beginning.

Now while the first movie was pretty much just okay, this one was definitely bad.  Not only was it filled with the same clichés and gross-out stuff (some of them had to hide out in the Morlock's toilet), but it actually ripped off the first movie quite a bit on top of it all.  None of the characters were the least bit interesting, and even if the deputy managed to be a little sympathetic, she still did enough stupid things and failed to be interesting enough on her own for me to care what happened to her.  So as you might guess, I was underwhelmed and unimpressed with this movie.  1/10.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


Offline CX

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #20 on: April 29, 2015, 09:54:36 AM »
Moon
(2009 movie)

This is an outstanding movie, and a return to the old style hard sci-fi from earlier decades that has been almost completely absent from more modern sci-fi.  It's a pity that it hasn't gotten much notice, and that it was completely shut out of any kind of major awards outside of the sci-fi community.  I'm actually kind of afraid that I can't do this movie justice, because while it's easy to make fun of a bad movie, it can be a bit harder explaining why a movie is actually good.  Actually the only reason why I'm trying is just to help to get the word out there more about this movie.  I only learned of its existence myself thanks to random article reading over at TV Tropes.

This movie is able to do a lot with so little – the cast is small, there isn't a lot of VFX, and there's no real action to speak of.  Yet, it remains very interesting to watch, leading the viewer along as it reveals information until the truth is finally revealed.  It introduces the main character, Sam Bell, and shows you not only his daily grind, but his hopes, his hobbies, and his dreams without going over the top on anything.  It's easy to sympathize with this character, and to root for him against the opposition he faces later on. 

The story isn't expansive like 2001, but thanks to the characters, which includes a computer named GERTY, it is soul searching.  At first it doesn't seem like much – just the story of some guy alone on the moon, harvesting helium-3 as a power source for Earth.  Actually it almost wouldn't seem out of place for a movie from the '60s, but once the introductory part of the movie is over, this quickly changes.

As part of his job, Sam has to go out and check up on the automated harvesters, which are somehow extracting helium-3 from the lunar soil, as well to get the helium-3 they've extracted to Earth using automated rockets.  Helium-3 is the new magically clean power source that's all the rage on Earth right now, and Sam is introduced as a sole employee on a 3-year contract.  Naturally, only a couple of weeks shy of going home, strange things start happening.  Sam starts to see things, and on the way out to check up on a harvester, it causes him to crash into one of them and the rover he's in gets a hull breech from the collision.  He manages to get his helmet on before passing out, and this is where the movie does a little slight of hand with us and shows him waking up in the station's medical bay.  GERTY asks him if he can remember "the accident" and Sam apparently can't.  He also can't move very well, as if his muscles haven't been used for a while.

As Sam recovers, more and more things aren't adding up.  For instance, a problem with the communications system that prevents real-time communication with Earth that was an annoyance and just part of life on the station, apparently isn't a problem after all.  He catches GERTY having a live conversation with company executives on Earth, and when questioned about it, GERTY acts like a kid who's just been caught watching porn and denies it.  This is another way the movie is able to misdirect, because with everything GERTY is saying and doing in order to keep Sam in the dark and to keep him from going outside, it seems like it might be something along the lines of HAL 9000.  But thankfully, this movie is actually refreshingly original, so it doesn't do that.  Instead it gets stranger, because when Sam finally does make his way outside and out to the disabled harvester, he comes face to face ... with himself.


"I think I'm a clone now, there's always two of me just a hangin' around..."

Okay, I spoiled it a bit there for you, but this is one of my reviews, so you should kind of expect that. ;) 

As you can see from the picture, Sam does go through some growing pains and finds himself to be a lousy roommate.  Of course, both of them are convinced that they are the original Sam Bell, at least until they get into a fight following one of them looking around for some secret part of the station.  And this is where Moon separates itself from 2001, because GERTY is actually a friend.  He actually comes right out to the Sam we were first introduced to and tells him that he's a clone, explaining everything about how he got to the mining station. 

Finally, the two Sams work together and uncover more and more about what's going on, like why they can't communicate directly with Earth.  GERTY also reveals the past logs of the previous clones, as well as the final fate of all of them – to be knocked out and incinerated under the pretense of being put in cryosleep for the trip home.  Apparently all of the clones also suffer from health problems toward the end of their "contract," as the first Sam is now also getting random nose bleeds, vomiting blood, losing teeth and the like.  This Sam also finds out that the daughter he thought had just been born is now a teenager, that the beautiful young wife he thought he was having marital problems with has been dead for some time now, and the original Sam Bell is still very much alive.  That scene in particular is touching, as this clone realizes his mortality, and laments how he only wants to go home.

There's some question in the movie as to whether the treatment of the clones is something that would be criminal or not.  Either way, Sam wants to go home and the two clones work on a way to make that happen.  They realize that a number of things need to be in place in order to make that happen, including one of them staying behind to die, so that the "rescue" team that the company has dispatched will be fooled – otherwise, both of the clones will likely be killed by this team.

One of the clones makes it, and the very end of the movie reveals that this was definitely more than just unethical on the part of the company.  This does raise an interesting point, though, as to the rights clones, who are nonetheless still human beings, would and should have.  So while this movie might not be as big as 2001 in scope, it's still an interesting and worthwhile movie, and it's a shame that it hasn't gotten more recognition, or even just more exposure for that matter.

Another thing, Sam Rockwell is an excellent actor, and it's a pity that more of his roles don't allow him to show this off as much as this one does.  Usually he tends to get cast as a rather one-dimensional character – either comedy relief or a bad guy.  Here, he really gets a chance to shine in a dramatic role as an everyman.

If I was to knock this movie for anything, it would really just be because it kind of dates itself through the whole environmental thing at the beginning of the movie and in the attitude toward corporations revealed more toward the end of the movie.  There are also a few logical missteps here and there, and it does feel a bit unresolved in the end, though to be fair we don't really need to see what happens to Sam per say, I just would have liked it better that way.

Other than that, this was a very enjoyable movie to watch, with a very focused and interesting story and characters.  I would definitely recommend that you watch this movie.  9/10.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


Offline CX

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #21 on: May 01, 2015, 09:08:11 AM »
On the Beach
(1959 movie)

This movie follows very much in the steps of movies like The Day the Earth Stood Still in it's anti-nuclear angle, but, unlike those other movies, it does so without being quite as patronizing.  Instead, it's a rather depressing movie about the end of the world, which has a compelling story and interesting characters that kept me watching it straight through.

At first it seemed like something along the lines of The Stand, where while most of humanity has been killed, there are some survivors which might lead to a future for the species.  Here we follow the U.S.S. Sawfish, the last surviving American submarine following World War III, which took place in the far off future of 1964.  The movie never says who started this nuclear war, which was kind of lame, but in retrospect that's because it might distract the audience from what the movie was actually trying to say.  This movie isn't about who started the war, or who was right and who was wrong, just that all life in the northern hemisphere has ended, and that nuclear fallout is spreading over the globe.  Australia is pretty much the last safe haven for our American submarine crew, who have been doing reconnaissance work for the Royal Australian Navy.  The interesting thing is that despite the fact that from the beginning of the movie, everyone knows that the fallout will eventually reach Australia, they're carrying on more or less normally – the only sign anything is off is the occasional mention of the end coming, and shortages of fuel and the like.

Actually one of the first things that happens in the movie, aside from a young Australian officer, Lieutenant Peter Holmes, being assigned to the Sawfish as a liaison for an upcoming  unknown mission, is that said young officer and his wife conspire to set up the American captain, Dwight Towers, with a woman they know as an alcoholic and something of a slut.  Pretty much everyone is trying to have a good time, though this being the '50s and all, they aren't real open about anything beyond going to parties and drinking a lot.  A few people still hold on to hope, though.

In any case the idea is that Towers is supposed to hook up with Moira Davidson, the alcoholic slut who was hooked up with him, in the hopes that both of them would find some comfort.  Towers, though, has a bit of an issue in that he refuses to accept that his wife and kids are dead, and refuses to go very far with Moira.

While the start is a bit slow, it does a fairly good job in setting up both the setting and the characters, introducing everything a little bit at a time in an engaging and personal manner.  It's actually pretty charming.  But it does take it about a half-hour to get to the point.

The main plot of the movie involves sending the Sawfish as far north as possible to check on the radiation levels in the arctic.  A scientist has theorized that the radiation levels might be low enough at the extreme northern and southern latitudes that it might permit humanity to survive, either in Australia or in Antarctica.  The Sawfish is to test this theory by going as far north as she can and checking the radiation levels.  In addition to this, a signal is picked up from the general vicinity of San Diego being transmitted in Morse code, and it's hoped that there might be some survivors there, which would then indicate that there was some hope for the survival of humanity.

In the meantime, there's more discussion about the end coming, and what to do when it comes, or for that matter in the five months or so until it comes.  Our young Australian officer has actually been trying his best to get a hold of some euthanasia pills for his family, as he's worried he won't get back in time to be with his family when the radiation gets there.  He manages to get a hold of them, and tries to explain to his young wife how to use them before he leaves, but she refuses to discuss it, especially when he tells her that she'd have to give it to their infant daughter.  She's also majorly in denial about everything.  To contrast the difficulty Holmes and his wife are having, Towers and Moira are growing closer together, in spite of Towers remaining steadfast that he's married and won't betray his wife.  There's actually a rather touching scene as Towers breaks down, explaining to Moira that it had simply never occurred to him that with the life he was leading that something would happen to his family and not him.

Actually, come to think of it, there is one main fault the movie has, which is the tendency to mood swing back and forth between sad, touching scenes like that and more comedic scenes that tend to follow right afterwards.

Anyway, the Sawfish carries out its mission, heading up to the arctic first.  She puts her periscope near Point Barrow, Alaska, but finds that the radiation is actually higher than in the mid-Pacific.  Disappointed, they head back south along the west coast of the US and stop by San Francisco, with some shots of the deserted streets that I'm sure must've been eerie at the time the movie came out.  This was apparently done for the benefit of the crew, so they could see home one last time before they headed back to Australia.  Unfortunately this city actually was home for one of the crew, and he kind of loses it and leaves the sub.  Later he's found just fishing in the bay, waiting for the radiation to kill him.

The Sawfish next goes to San Diego to check out the mysterious signal.  Luckily for them, it's from a place that's right on the shore.  In keeping with the general mood of the movie at this point, the signal is found to be caused by some product placement blowing up against the telegraph key, powered by a hydroelectric damn that's kept going even with no one to watch it.

With that, the Sawfish heads back to Australia to tell everyone the bad news.  The rest of the movie is spent showing how everyone deals with the end of the world coming.  Towers and Moira end up hooking up, once of the others start up a massive car race that kills a lot of participants, Holmes's wife ends up coming to terms with what's happening and the like.  Some people naturally turn to religion, and the Salvation Army is there to help in any way it can.  Eventually, the radiation reaches Australia and the government hands out suicide pills to the population, using census data to make sure that everyone gets one.

As for the Sawfish, the captain gives his crew the choice as to what to do, and they decide that they'd like to head for home.  Towers naturally wants to stay with Moira, but in the end goes with his crew, though he doubts they'll survive the journey.  So as the title indicates, Moira watches the Sawfish on the beach as it leaves.  The last shot of the movie is pretty much there just to remind us that the movie isn't just about the end of the world, showing us the Salvation Army banner that says, "There's still time, Brother."  You can probably guess who that's directed at.

This movie is definitely a product of its time, not only in how it skirts around sex and treats the female characters, but in the prevailing attitudes of the time toward nuclear warfare, which is to say the attitudes of the people who make movies and really didn't know that much about nuclear warfare.  The movie kept harping on the fact that nuclear weapons were even created, and there seems to be some misunderstanding that even by this point, these weapons were being automated to the point that one person who "thought they saw something on a radar screen" could just push a button and set everything off.  There's also the misconception that everything would end very quickly, as the Sawfish was said to only be spared due to being submerged at the time everything happened.  And yet the cities are essentially untouched – there's just a huge cloud of radiation floating around everywhere.  In many ways, seeing the "devastated" San Francisco and San Diego made it look more like some virus had struck, leaving the cities abandoned but intact, and without any bodies around, too.

Still, this is a pretty good movie, and while it doesn't have a happy ending, it's still an interesting look at how people might deal with such a situation.  Here, civilization and even military discipline are maintained basically right up to the end where it could have just as easily broken down, especially once news had broken that there was no hope left after all.  As a certain Starfleet admiral said, "how we face death is at least as important as we face life."

While this movie could get a bit preachy at times, it didn't reach the same levels as The Day the Earth Stood Still.  I would definitely recommend this movie.  8/10.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


Offline Bernd

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #22 on: May 02, 2015, 03:53:44 AM »
I agree with the review of "2010". I think the most important thing to keep in mind while watching is that it may be a sequel but was never meant to be just like "2001".

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #23 on: May 03, 2015, 10:53:11 PM »
The Quiet Earth
(1985 movie)

Ah, another "end of the world" movie, or is it?  Well, at the very least, it's damn strange, and seems to be remembered most for its ending, which I have to admit I found interesting, if frustrating.

The movie starts off with something strange happening to the sun during the sunrise in New Zealand, at 6:12 in the morning.  Next, we're introduced to the main character as he lies buck-ass naked in a motel room, and wakes up to slowly discover that he seems to be the only living creature on the planet.  He does what I'm sure most people might do, searching as much of the country-side and nearby city as he can, looking for another person.  He even goes as far as starting up a repeating message down at the local radio station in the hope that others might come to him, or call him.  Then after about a week, he cuts loose, deciding to live at a now empty mansion and do everything he's apparently always wanted to do.  He breaks into the mall and steals whatever suits his fancy (including suits), drives a model train, drives a real train, and dresses up in women's underwear before giving a speech on a balcony to cardboard cut-outs of famous people where he declares himself president of the world.


Come on, admit it, you'd totally do it, too.

Apparently not satisfied at being President of The Quiet Earth, he decides to run into a church looking for god and ends up shooting Jesus, shortly before declaring himself god.  He then goes around and breaks things for the hell of it, and even thinks about offing himself before changing his mind.  Which is about the point that he meets his first other living person.  Lucky for him, it's a woman, and kind of a loose one at that.  Of course being alone and thinking you're the last person on Earth for weeks might do that to a person.

Actually, it's pretty lucky for the audience that our main character, Zac Hobson, is a scientist who was working on the scientific project that apparently caused "The Effect" that made essentially every living creature disappear into thin air.  He even heads back to the lab to discover that Project Flashlight was indeed completed that very morning.  He then finds the body of his boss, and almost gets trapped in the lab when this somehow sets off a radiation alarm.

It seems Project Flashlight was something a world-wide group of scientists was working on, lead by an American team, to create a world-wide energy grid that could transmit power through the air.  Actually, that's not unlike something Tesla was working on before he lost everything and died penniless.  I can't help but feel though that this is just an excuse to do a little America bashing, as both the other survivors Zac finds lambast him for working on the project and for trusting the Americans, especially as the American team was apparently withholding information from the New Zealand team.  Actually, Zac had so many reservations about the project and thought that something might not be on the up-and-up anyway, and actually had tried to commit suicide by taking pills the morning of The Effect.  Apparently the other two characters, Joanne and Api, were also both at the moment of death at 6:12 that morning.

Something of a love triangle develops between the three characters, and Api even tries to kill Zac at one point seemingly over Joanne, but fortunately the movie focuses more on what's going on with the world than this soap opera.  Apparently some fundamental constants have been changing, which Zac has been keeping track of.  He then keeps this a secret from Joanne and later Api for no real reason, simply dictating everything into his tape recorder.  When he finally shares this with the others, they head back to his place to type things into the magic computer he has set up in the mansion to show them some cool '80s graphs that indicate The Effect is going to happen again the next morning.  Just to drive the point home, the three of them get trapped in a music video for a few seconds, which Zac calls a "tremor" of The Effect.  He also then concludes that destroying the lab he was working at will somehow take down the world-wide network Project Flashlight established and thereby prevent The Effect from happening again and disappearing whoever survived the first round.

So, having decided this, the three of them break into an army base and steal a truck-load of explosives they hope to destroy the lab and transmission tower with, though as they approach, Zac's radiation detector goes off, warning of lethal levels of radiation.  They discuss how they might get the explosives close enough for their plan to work, and Zac tells them that he thinks he can grab some things from back at the mansion to rig up a remote control (which really wouldn't work too well in a radioactive environment I'm guessing).  In any case this turns out to be a lie, since he apparently knew Api and Joanne would start screwing the minute he left and he used the time to rig up a detonator for the explosives instead.  His plan sort of seems to work, though when he sets off the explosives we see the strange "tunnel of light" described by all of them from their earlier near-death experiences and Zac wakes up on a strange beach.  This is actually one of the most eerie shots of the movie, as there are strange clouds in the distance and a large ringed planet rising on the horizon (the cover of the movie gives this away).

Oh, and then the movie just ends.

It's a little frustrating that the movie ends this way, because not only do we not know how things have ended, but really we don't know for sure what's been going on to begin with.  It's actually entirely possible that all of the "survivors" are actually dead and in some form of purgatory, not that I believe in that kind of thing.  The characters do bring up this possibility, but Zac in particular quickly shuffles us back on the track that it was Project Flashlight that has caused some kind of cataclysm.

As for why I find this movie interesting, I'd have to say that it has entirely to do with the story, as none of the characters are particularly interesting.  Zac, our main character, is kind of weird in that he likes to run around naked when he's not dressing in women's underwear, but is otherwise kind of boring.  Joanne likewise doesn't have much about her that's interesting, aside from her hair-brained "theories," like that our faces are actually moldable and that our minds determine whether we're good-looking or not.  Api just seems mentally unstable, and he kind of bounces back and forth between being normal-ish and friendly to being kooky and seemingly homicidal.

The story, on the other hand, is evenly paced, and interesting, even while there isn't a whole lot to it.  It's about the end of the world and how this might have come to be, essentially, while throwing a few other things in there for us to think about along the way.  I like a decent mystery, so naturally my favorite parts were when Zac was wandering around, trying to figure out what happened.  I also kind of like the strange (as you might have guessed from my reviews), and this movie has plenty of it, especially the ending.  I didn't find it terribly deep, so for some people the ending might then ruin everything by only seeming to be there to confuse the audience.  I mostly just thought it was cool, and wondered what the hell was going on, so my only disappointment there was that the movie ended just as it was starting to get more interesting.

I don't know if this movie is very well known or not, this was another TV Tropes find for me, but I thought I'd share in any case.  I would definitely recommend this movie, but just know that this isn't exactly a normal movie.  7/10.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR


Offline CX

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Re: CX Reviews (contains some spoilers)
« Reply #24 on: May 06, 2015, 12:05:49 PM »
Planeta Bur
(1962 movie)

I know a lot of people don't realize it, but the Soviet Union actually contributed its fair share of sci-fi to the movies.  I actually caught one about a bald chick in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which overall felt about the same as Planeta Bur here.  More people know about movies like Solaris thanks to the more recent (and apparently poor) remake that starred George Clooney, but without having seen it myself I can't really fairly say one way or the other whether it's better or worse than this film.  Planeta Bur does have a few things going for it, though, mainly from a technical aspect of how the props don't all look completely like crap.  For the most part, though, it's pretty much what you'd expect of sci-fi from this era, which attempts to capture the wonder of exploring another world while saving plenty of time for the characters to get all philosophical about the origin of life and how awesome they think it would be if there was a one world government.

The story follows two Soviet space ships as they just make it into orbit of Venus.  There was originally a third, but it got taken out by a meteor first thing in the movie.  While the surviving characters are totally bummed about this, it's made pretty clear that the real "drama" here is that if they were to follow their original mission plan and now the back-up, they'd have to wait in orbit of Venus for months until a third ship could make it there.  The plan was for two ships to land on the planet while a third remained in orbit to refuel them when they came back up.  Naturally, they hatch a plan to do basically the same thing, because fortunately they have a glider on one of the ships that can carry the two male crew members and a robot down to the planet.  They are to spot a location for the other ship to land, and take off in that ship when they are done, while the one female crew member remains in orbit and tries not to freak out.  Oh, well, really she's just supposed to stay there so they can refuel the other ship and head back to Earth, but what really happened is that Soviet cinema wasn't any more progressive than its American counterpart at the time.  Actually, there's some "drama" generated on the basis of whether she'll remain calm and obey orders, or freak out and try to land on the planet in an effort to rescue the others on the surface.

Initially the movie tries to make a big deal about whether there's life on Venus or not.  I say "tries" because it does so by having characters constantly referring to this as the "big question."  Apparently the Soviet Union has been sending robot cosmonauts to the planet for some time when the movie takes place, but for some reason none of them can determine if there is any life on the planet.  This is pretty funny, because there is all kinds of life on the planet, most of which looks just like animals from Earth.  Actually, one of the first things the cosmonauts run into is a giant plant that tries to rape or eat him (I can't decide which).


Are they sure they haven't landed in Japan?

The crew from the glider did manage to find a landing spot for the other space ship, but they were forced to land in a swamp some distance away.  Luckily, the crew of the other ship just so happened to have a neat looking hover car.  Along the way, they manage to run into dinosaurs, as well as finding evidence of intelligent life on the planet.  Most of that is underwater, where fortunately there isn't anything that wants to eat them, but up on the surface they keep hearing a woman sing.  One of the old farts among the crew gripes that it's probably just some weird squid or something, but the others like to talk about the possibility of intelligent life being on the planet.  One of them thinks that the presence of humanoid life on the planet somehow disproves Darwin's theory on the origin of species, but for the most part everyone goes on about the idea that all intelligent life in the system has a common cosmic origin, perhaps as the result of alien colonists.  One of them even brings up theories on ancient aliens that I hadn't realized anyone had even thought of until more recently than this movie was made.

The ending ended up being rather rushed compared to the rest of the movie. The cosmonauts meet up and take various samples, having all kinds of fun while the lone woman they left up in orbit freaks out because they've lost radio contact quite some time ago.  Then just as they pile into the landed space ship, they quickly go from "the woman probably crashed trying to land and we need some people to camp out on the planet while we go up and look for her" to "she's up in orbit, everyone hurry up and pile in again."  Naturally this is forced along by a storm coming along and washing out the area the ship happens to be landed on, so they needed to take off before the soil gave out completely.  Kind of a sloppy ending, really.

I'd say that overall this was a fairly okay movie, but mostly from the fact that it wasn't completely insulting more than really being good.  At times it can seem to drag on, but for the most part it isn't that boring.  A very "meh" film, I guess I'm saying.  It's a look at Soviet sci-fi if nothing else.  4/10.
"Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." - TR