Posts Tagged ‘sci-fi’

*** This review contains galactic spoilers ***

An unlikely group of freedom fighters team up to steal the Death Star schematics.

An interesting mix of exciting heroic and tragic characters. Director Gareth Edwards Monsters, Godzilla) and team are careful not to take anything away from the iconic 1977 classic Star Wars and successfully add to it, i.e the Death Star here doesn’t blow up planets in this instalment not to take any impact away from its destructive powers in A New Hope. Still it shows it’s immense firepower as Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso goes about finding her father in a sea of defectors, rebels and insurgents including Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). With great Star Wars action setups and battle scenes, that one could only have dreamed of recreating with toys as child this Star Wars story has plenty of thrills.

Loaded with nods to the series and standing on its on two feet. The costumes effects and sets are fantastic and it captures the feel of the originals and bridges the prequels, Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) adds to this. Michael Giacchino’s music complements John Williams’ previous scores. Edwards creates a sense of urgency here which helps reinforce Episode IV stakes including the famous first ’77 on screen appearance of Darth Vader. It’s also co-written by John Knoll, who joined Lucas Industrial Light & Magic 30 years ago and worked on Willow (1988). J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens captured the original trilogy’s spirit holistically, but Edwards manages to conjurer up the feel of the 1977 Star Wars Magic.

The CGI characters of dead and favourites while not technically perfect are executed well enough too excite fans, namely the appearance of Tarkin (a resurrection of the great Peter Cushing’s character) and a pivotal female favourite who appears in the closing. Some X- Wing pilots, Red and Gold Leader have clever cameos. As well as an array of droids, littered throughout are the likes of the Cantina’s Ponda Babba and Dr. Evazan, R2D2 and C3PO. Extended purposeful meatier character appearances included General Dodonna, Mon Mothma, Vader himself (in three important scenes) who does not disappoint.

Director Edwards doesn’t get hung up on on these cameos of sorts and keeps his eye on creating a wonderfully crafted grittier Star Wars film. The acting arguably surpasses its predecessors with too many actors to mention. Hardened rebel Andor played by Diego Luna cements a place in Star Wars history but Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Îmwe steals scenes as a blind warrior. There’s plenty of heart courteous of Mads Mikkelsen and lead Jones’ Erso. Notable is Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO who provides some great one liners as well as a memorable emotional moment. The star though is debatably Ben Mendelsohn as villain Orson Krennic, with the bureaucratic gravitas and emotional depth to leave a lasting impression.

What it comes down to is that Edwards like Lucas manages to put on screen a Shakespeare-like tragedy mixed with Flash Gordon wonder that has all the familiar simple themes which makes stories great.

Solid Star Wars entertainment all the way.

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*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A survival documentary filmmaker runs into trouble when he comes up against more that just the local animal life.

With a major spoiler from the outset, imagine and episode of Bear Grylls mixed with the Predator (1987) and an alien design reminiscent of District 9 (2009) and you’ll sort of get feel of Man Vs. Half of the fun of director Adam Massey’s offering is guessing for the first half what is the main character up against.

Man Vs. echoes the likes of Exists, Blackfoot Trail, Bigfoot County (2012) Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes (2012) Willow Creek (2013), The Hunted (2013) while not a found footage film per say, thankfully it’s a mix of presenter Doug’s camera views, go-pro POVs and a traditionally shot film perspective (similar to REC 3 (2012) and The Pyramid (2014).

In terms of execution Massey’s film surpasses genre expectations due to traditional shot segments and well executed practical and ‘monster’ special effects in the last quarter. It has a very small cast ensemble. Thanks to a great performance from Chris Diamantopoulos as Doug, channelling Grylls, he single handily keeps Man Vs. interesting while he does his TV show bits for the majority of the film and believes he’s being hunted by a bear, wolf or even a crazy fan of his show.

The Canadian natural forest setting framed by Miroslaw Baszak sells Massey’s story. Writer Thomas Michael leaves enough clues – skinned bodies, chess boards, black goo, dead fish to keep you guessing what Doug is up against but if you’ve seen 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) you’ll see the twist coming. That said, Michael and Massey successfully create a small scale paranoia tale on the backdrop peripheral of something larger going on. John Rowley’s score is effective throughout, but especially in the closing where realisation hits Doug and rescue by his team and acquaintance are skewed.

While the genre is worn, if you like the aforementioned movies you’ll get a kick out of Massey’s addition to the genre. Three quarters survival show and a quarter sci-fi. Recommended.

*** This review contains superhero world destroying spoilers ***

1983, an ancient mutant awakes to reclaim the Earth. Only a handful of inexperienced mutants can stop him and his newest recruit – the powerful Magneto.

Director Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse has the synonymous superhero city-level destruction with amazing effects, yes it feels a worn but the focus remains on the popular characters and their relationships. It magnifies all the best of the genre, serving up a solid story that remains pin sharp clear throughout.

The Valley of the Nile opening is the most interesting of the film, Singer conjures up a Stargate, Gods of Egypt hybrid where we’re introduced to the excellent Oscar Isaac in almost unrecognisable make up as the mutant Apocalypse. Notable is Death played memorably by Monique Ganderton, one of The Horsemen who saves Apocalypse allowing him to recruit some familiar mutants later. These include Angel (Ben Hardy channelling the late Heath Ledger) and a young Storm, Alexandra Shipp. Olivia Munn’s Psylocke has an edge and a costume in which she steals every scene.

The series time resetting and continuity malarkey aside there are many anachronisms littered throughout – t-shirts, glasses and locations etc. that were not around in 1983. Also there are ‘fridge logic’ instances, for example Magneto should be about 50. Between First Class and Apocalypse, 20 years have gone by but many of the characters remain youthful, Magneto should be about 50 having being around 10 in 1944, Rose Byrne’s Moira MacTaggert appear to not have aged a day and so on.

There are several films crammed into one and it works thanks to the central friendship story-line that’s heart to the film. After the visually fantastic opening the first hour establishes what the characters have been up to, the latter half is then a face off between the players. World-destroying, operatic mutant, Isaac (who is somewhat a Tom Hardy acting chameleon) makes Apocalypse menacing. Simon Kinberg’s script keeps Apocalypse engaging retaining a comic feel even though it is nihilistic at times. Debatably indifferent, Singer and Kinberg never allow Apocalypse reach Nolan & Synder’s bleakness or the polish of recent Avengers and it’s Marvel movie counterpart outings. There’s fun to be had, Quicksilver (American Horror Story) Evan Peters gives X-Men: Apocalypse one of the most memorable scenes where he uses his super-speed to save students and a dog from an exploding mansion to the The Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’.

For die-hard X-Men fans Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine cameo restarts his original story with a gruesome killing rampage. The acting is what you’d expect for a cast boasting such well known faces. Grappling with the dark side of her abilities Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey even though given little to do until the action packed closing is a good addition. Mystique played again by popular actress Jennifer Lawrence never quite matches her older counterpart, Romijn. Likewise Cyclops, Tye Sheridan doesn’t meet Marsden’s presence. James McAvoy as good actor as he is still can’t shrug off Patrick Stewart’s Xavier shadow. Whereas Michael Fassbender gives Magneto’s story-line the emotional depth it requires especially after his family are murdered. Finally Nightcrawler – Kodi Smit-McPhee learns to hone his powers and is a great addition.

The characters are all interesting but Psylocke and Storm embody the way this entire series has changed its female characters; giving them emotional integrity, swagger and complexity as much as possible in a sea of other characters. In all the special effects, sound design, costumes and amazing sets X-Men: Apocalypse gets close to evoking the friendship nature of the comics. It also reflects a morally grey rather than black and white view of the world without endless rain and gloomy lighting.

Yes, there’s a Stan Lee cameo and of course there’s a anti climatic post credit scene which follows on from Wolverine’s aftermath. Overall, Singer’s back to basics story and fast pace in a wash of other recent superhero films offers (by the skin of its teeth) enough new thrills to pass the time with. Worth watching for Issac’s troubled Apocalypse and Ganderton’s small pivotal role alone.

The ultimate resort: VICE, where customers can play out their wildest fantasies is shaken up when artificial inhabitants becomes self- aware.What starts off as a respectable sci-fi thriller never really explorers or develops its interesting premise turning into a chase picture with guns being uninspiringly fired left right and centre poorly imitating The Matrix’s (1999) modish feel in the latter half.

It’s reminiscent in part of Michael Crichton’s West World (1973) and Future World’s (1976) concept that then delves into the realms of a staged The Purge: Anarchy (2014) mixed with a pleasure park gone wrong and carbon copied Blade Runner dialogue scattered though out. What sits uncomfortably in Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore’s dialogue and Brian A Miller’s depiction, is that the park goers fantasies are either excessively sexual or sick and awfully violent in contrast in tone to the exaggerated gun play action.

With great physique not even Ambyr Childers’ look and performance as Kelly lighting up each scene as the park’s on the run self-aware artificial robot can help the clumsily action and expository sequences. With a lack of back story Thomas Jane tries his hardest with a clunky script and given his performance in the comparable Surrogates (2009) Bruce Willis is flat and looks bored. Bryan Greenberg’s Evan and Brett Granstaff’s James feel miscast and actors Charlotte Kirk and Johnathon Schaech are sorely underused.

As well as the classics there’s The Machine (2013), Automata (2014), Impostor (2001) and other quality low-budget movies or the Almost Human TV Series to name a few which have tackled the themes in a superior fashion.

Even the sequel enticing ending feels forced. Aesthetically Vice looks great and the score is fitting to the well-lit sterile environments. If only Vice we’re half as good as the actors cast, lighting and locale it could have been an entertaining A.I film to add to the shelf.

In time for my favorite time of year, early I know but we’ve already put the Halloween decorations up in my home! 

The rights to both vampire thriller Blood Hunger and zombie chiller Dead Pulse have reverted back to myself. After this Halloween the novels will become unavailable.

They possibly may be resurrected in second editions depending on publishers. While the first editions satisfy, in retrospect their not as polished from an editing standpoint as I would have wished but no use crying over spilt milk. Still they’re entertaining horror travel reads. Even the industry’s big players are feeling the pinch and its difficult for the most seasoned authors to earn a crust so I’m not holding my breath for the novels to be picked up.

All is not lost in a shallow grave my sci-fi novel The Final Version is being well received. Again thank you for reading, thank you for your support and have fantastic Halloween.


THE FINAL VERSION CoverSet a reminder!
Updated 1 Sep 2014 : The Final Version peaked at #12 in the USA cyber punk Kindle Chart. Thank you for making it happen👍🌆🔫
For this weekend only my science fiction The Final Version kindle edition will be totally free, journey through the history of genetics and be catapulted to a post-apocalyptic future, a conflicted dystopian utopia of cyberpunk, cryogenics and government-conspiracy.

Watch the trailer here:

Get it free this weekend here:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Final-Version-A-Esmonde-ebook/dp/B00K34ZPSA

An alien invasion triggers a nuclear war that decimates the Earth. 60 years later the few aliens called Scavengers are kept at bay by drones which guard generators producing fuel for the human survivors one of Saturn’s Moons. When a generator is sabotaged the ‘Tech’ drone engineer, Commander Jack Harper, begins to believe that there is a conspiracy at work.
 
Credit to director Joseph Kosinski it’s a fantastic looking film, the special effects are wonderfully finished, it is a visual treat from the decimated moon to the wastelands of New York City, Oblivion feels and looks real with the few action scenes a finely executed. The futuristic Apple-like props and set designs with slick costumes ooze cool even if reminiscent of opening of Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes re-imagining.
 
Despite a handful of writers, even with its generic script thanks to the high concept coupled with Tom Cruise and Olga Kurylenko’s performances it has its emotional core. Andrea Riseborough is notable as Victoria and is the most effective of the cast while the talents of Morgan Freeman and Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau are limited to expository bit parts. Even Kurylenko really isn’t given much to do.
 
The score by Anthony Gonzalez’s French electronic band M83 is outstanding, this coupled with the old soundtrack tunes add to the atmosphere and nostalgic themes running through Oblivion.
 
The few Lucas-like chase scenes albeit breathtaking are nothing we haven’t seen before and the whole film hinges on another film’s concept. That said, if you’ve not seen Duncan Jones subtler 2009 science fiction offering Oblivion may deliver more surprises. Sci-fi ideas are often recycled – here concepts from the original Planet of the Apes, Solaris and Logan’s Run to name a few, to be honest it would be an extensive list to name everything Oblivion borrows.
 
As a sci-fi homage it works, for new comers to the genre it should be a blast. Nevertheless, for an A-list film with so much talent involved you expect something more original, even definitive or less derivative.
 
Still it is great to see Cruise in another sci-fi and with a great score Kosinski’s offers a grand looking, solid piece of entertainment. Recommended.
 
Oblivion on IMDB
The World’s End (2013)
 
Five friends return to their hometown to relive a pub crawl they never finished in their youth, however, they find their town has been invaded by interstellar beings ‘Blanks’ and the crawl could literary kill them.
 
Director/writer Edger Wright returns with this British set, sci-fi, beer-fuelled pub crawl yarn. Once again like Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007) what makes this so likable is the Simon Pegg and Nick Frost combination – the two have great chemistry, they’re not only funny but warm too. There’s plenty of camaraderie between the five friends mixed with the humorous restlessness of a school reunion.
 
The on location feel gives it an air of realism and captures a current British small town perfectly. Wright once again shows that he’s at the top of his game, the action scenes are wonderfully executed and the effects are superb. The soundtrack oozes nostalgia and accompanying music score is fitting. Some jokes my go over some international viewer’s heads, but the majority cater for all.
 
The first half of the film injects the most one liners and comedy output with the old gang rejoining and their return to the town, while the second is more action orientated when they go head to head with the invaders. The beings glowing eyes are reminiscent of Demons (1985) while the set up feels like Invasion of the Body Snatcher (1956/78) only with a twist and the closing confrontation plays out like an episode of Star Trek/Doctor Who followed by an outlandish flash-forward.
 
There’s plenty of homage’s thrown in just for fun, Pegg as washed up excitable alcoholic/drug intoxicated Gary King plays against the usual nice guy, here he’s a man you love to hate, you really want him to succeed. Frost is kick-ass lovable. It’s strength is that you care about the fate of the characters. The supporting cast are excellent including (surprisingly well cast) Rosamund Pike, Martin Freeman to name a few and a surprise cameo by an ex-Bond.
 
If Shaun was on the money, and Hot Fuzz was wordy, The World’s End is somewhere in between. Highly recommended.
 

View on IMDB

Led by Luc Devereaux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) a cloned UniSol Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) are now wanted by the government who will do anything to find them a wipe out their UniSol army for good.
Universal Soldier fans maybe left scratching their heads, however, sci-fi action fans looking for slick, stylish direction with hard hitting violence and a Philip K. Dick tone – in the vain of Impostor (2001) maybe impressed by director John Hyams offering.

While not a fun hammy 90s hit like it’s original, this is smaller personal intentionally vague story adds another angle on UniSol. Reckoning may have benefited from being a stand alone low budget Dredd/Memento/Bourne-like film as it’s so far removed to the original’s feel.
This is actor/stuntman Scott Adkins film with very limited screen-time for Van Damme or Lundgren which isn’t such a bad thing as their characters have become dismembered to those in the first outing. Nevertheless, Adkins as John carries it under Hyams games console shoot ’em up direction. While this film may not be Adkins Jason Statham ‘star vehicle’ it shows he’s a convincing action man with some range of emotion to match as John goes on his hunt for Devereaux in some Apocalypse Now (1979) homage of sorts.
With excellent camerawork, lighting, stunts, ambiguous script, perfect moody atmosphere it’s not a normal action film – and with nudity, blood and horror like gore it’s not for the faint hearted either.

Don’t expect a rehash or even the Universal Soldier you fell in love with and you may be surprised by this basic, dark, testosterone injected ride. Now somebody needs to remake 1987’s cheese-fest Dead Prey with Adkins as the lead.

20120724-185539.jpgAfter the Harkonnen’s processes are no longer deemed satisfactory the Atreides family is requested by the Emperor of planets to oversee the extraction of a precious commodity known as Spice on Arrakis. However, an ongoing feud between Harkonnen and Atreides leads to treachery and double cross. A gifted young adult of the Atreides family after being exiled and thought dead turns to the denizens to restore order, not knowing that he maybe the prophesied messiah.
It’s not often that a miniseries limitations can be critically overlooked; however, Dune is the exception due to its intriguing multi-layered, character loaded presentation. Should Dune have been made recently with a filmatic look and budget of recent TV series’ it may have become an archetype version of Dune.
John Harrison’s screenplay and direction is at times cleverly subtle, however, on occasion it is bland and clichéd. Notwithstanding much of the scripts highs and lows maybe be courteous of Frank Herbert’s inspiring, influential novel source material as it’s been around since 1965.
The cast donning elaborate costumes are on fine form and wrestle well with Harrison’s and Herbert’s dialogue. The ensemble include the likes of Giancarlo Giannini, Saskia Reeves and Zuzana Geislerová who plays the creepy Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam. Julie Cox is captivating as Princess Irulan Corrino and William Hurt is perfectly cast as the heavy burdened, ill-fated Duke Leto Atreides. Notable is Karel Dobrý who gives a memorable and resonating performance as Dr. Pardot Kynes. Lead Alec Newman as Paul/Muad’Dib carries the story arch and weight of the series successfully.
The effects and backdrops vary in quality and execution, some are wonderfully realised and ingeniously produced while others take you out of the moment, comparable in distraction to Ian McNeice’s Baron Harkonnen breaking the fourth wall with theatrics to the camera.
You can take or leave the actors, special effects, action scenes and sets the real star of the show is the story which can be revisited, dissected or just taken at face value. As with all grand sagas there’s a lot going on, with an array of characters to keep track of. Perhaps there’s too much for the casual viewer and it may be disappointing to those wanting to see a straightforward space adventure.
Nevertheless, through all its short comings it’s an epic story on a sweeping scale only hampered by its budget restrictions and occasional delivery.