Star Wars: The Force Awakens–A Movie Review

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Jun 042016
 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Movie PosterA scavenger (Daisy Ridley) and a renegade stormtrooper (John Boyega) enlist the help of legendary smugglers/freedom fighters Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca to transport a droid carrying information regarding the whereabouts of long-lost Jedi Master Luke Skywalker to General Leia Organa of the Resistance before it falls into the hands of Kylo Ren and the First Order.

Director: J.J. Abrams
Written by: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt

Cast: Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Adam Driver, Gwendoline Christie, John Boyega, and Daisy Ridley

Lay was working today, Saturday, so I finally watched this on Amazon. Continue reading »

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire-A Movie Review

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May 312014
 

Wow, I am way behind getting my movies reviewed, but we also haven’t been to see as many lately. I also haven’t been writing much here, as I’ve been writing for hours every day for work, so there’s little enthusiasm left at the end of the day, to keep writing. But, I want to do better, so here I am trying to catch up some.

Hunger Games:Catching Fire Movie PosterA year after winning the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and her partner, Peeta Mellark must go on what is known as the Victor’s Tour wherein they visit all the districts. But before leaving, Katniss is visited by President Snow who fears that Katniss defied him a year ago during the games when she chose to die with Peta. With both Katniss and Peeta declared the winners, it is fueling a possible uprising. He tells Katniss that while on tour she better try to make sure that she puts out the flames or else everyone she cares about will be in danger. But unfortunately she fails to do that. So Snow decides to enact what is known as the Quarter Quell, the right to make a change to the Hunger Games, which he is allowed to do every 25 years. He decides to hold an edition of the Hunger Games wherein previous winners will compete again. Their mentor Haymitch thinks their best chance to survive is form an alliance with some of the others. They decide to align themselves with Finnick and his partner, Mags. But Snow is secretly hoping Katniss will be killed.

Director: Francis Lawrence

Writers: Simon Beaufoy (screenplay), Michael Arndt (screenplay), Suzanne Collins (Novel)

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Jack Quaid, Taylor St. Clair, Sandra Ellis Lafferty, Woody Harrelson, Josh Hutcherson, Paula Malcomson, Willow Shields, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Bruce Bundy, Nelson Ascencio, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci

Run Time: 46 min Category: Adventure, Sci-Fi Relase Date: 22 November 2013

I never expected to like either of the Hunger Games movies, but me and Lay liked both. He liked this one slightly less, but I thought it a was very good sequel. We always find people in the games to root for, and of course, they always die. Continue reading »

Avatar – A Movie Review

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Jan 202010
 

Avatar Movie PosterAVATAR takes us to a spectacular world beyond imagination, where a reluctant hero embarks on an epic adventure, ultimately fighting to save the alien world he has learned to call home.

We enter the alien world through the eyes of Jake Sully, a former Marine confined to a wheelchair. But despite his broken body, Jake is still a warrior at heart. He is recruited to travel light years to the human outpost on Pandora, where corporations are mining a rare mineral that is the key to solving Earth’s energy crisis. Because the atmosphere of Pandora is toxic, they have created the Avatar Program, in which human “drivers” have their consciousness linked to an avatar, a remotely-controlled biological body that can survive in the lethal air. These avatars are genetically engineered hybrids of human DNA mixed with DNA from the natives of Pandora… the Na’vi.

Reborn in his avatar form, Jake can walk again. He is given a mission to infiltrate the Na’vi, who have become a major obstacle to mining the precious ore. But a beautiful Na’vi female, Neytiri, saves Jake’s life, and this changes everything. Jake is taken in by her clan, and learns to become one of them, which involves many tests and adventures. As Jake’s relationship with his reluctant teacher Neytiri deepens, he learns to respect the Na’vi way and finally takes his place among them. Soon he will face the ultimate test as he leads them in an epic battle that will decide nothing less than the fate of an entire world.

Genres: Action/Adventure and Science Fiction/Fantasy; Running Time: 160 min.; Release Date: December 18, 2009; MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking

Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang and Michelle Rodriguez.

Directed by: James Cameron

I am skipping ahead a little by writing this review, as I’m behind on a couple of other movies I’ve seen recently. I went to see this Monday. It was a holiday, Lay was working and didn’t want to see this, so it was a good time to go. I saw it at Westshore Mall, and the theater was nearly  full.

There is no doubt this is a visually beautiful film. Cameron, with WETA Workshop and ILM, have truly outdone themselves. They have created a very real seeming alien world, and made it a work of art besides. I saw the 3D version after some debate (I don’t generally like 3D), and suggest that is the only way to see it. I appreciated the fact they used the 3D effect merely to help immerse you into this world, and not using it as “device” merely for the sake of the effect (no scary creatures jumping out of the screen at you).

The actors played their parts well, and the characters came through as realistic and believable. It was a good screenplay, but frankly could have easily been 30 minutes shorter. It was also a bit predictable and clichéd. I read a comment somewhere that it was like “Dances With Wolves” meets “Star Wars”, and I can certainly see how that was an apt comparison…in nearly every detail.

I can see why some neocons and others of the believers in “American Exceptionalism” would be unhappy with this movie. It is clearly an indictment of colonialism, and points out how Americans (and everyone in this movie from earth appears to be at least english speaking) abuse natural resources and have a sense of entitlement about it. Also, it clearly portrays our own sense that “our way” must always be better. So, yes Virginia, there is a political message here, and it comes through loud and clear. Maybe some people will take it to heart.

This would normally be a film I’d recommend seeing, but suggest waiting to see it on DVD. However, because of the stunning visuals in the film resulting from the colorful world Cameron has created, and the 3D effect, I have to suggest watching it in the theater on a big screen.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (2 votes, average: 6.00 out of 10)
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District 9 – A Movie Review

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Aug 232009
 

District 9 Movie PosterThirty years ago, aliens made first contact with Earth. Humans waited for the hostile attack, or the giant advances in technology. Neither came. Instead, the aliens were refugees, the last survivors of their home world. The creatures were set up in a makeshift home in South Africa’s District 9 as the world’s nations argued over what to do with them.

Now, patience over the alien situation has run out. Control over the aliens has been contracted out to Multi-National United (MNU), a private company uninterested in the aliens’ welfare — they will receive tremendous profits if they can make the aliens’ awesome weaponry work. So far, they have failed; activation of the weaponry requires alien DNA.

The tension between the aliens and the humans comes to a head when an MNU field operative, Wikus van der Merwe, contracts a mysterious virus that begins changing his DNA. Wikus quickly becomes the most hunted man in the world, as well as the most valuable — he is the key to unlocking the secrets of alien technology. Ostracized and friendless, there is only one place left for him to hide: District 9.

Genres: Science Fiction/Fantasy; Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.; Release Date: August 14th, 2009 (wide); MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence and pervasive language.

Starring: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt, Sylvaine Strike, John Sumner

Directed by: Neill Blomkamp

Lay and I went to see this movie at an 11 AM showing last weekend. I’d read all these great reviews, and thought it might be a decent film. Unfortunately, I was somewhat disappointed.

This was clearly a political parable, and I think this is what makes everyone rave about the film. I agree It was an interesting story from that perspective and had all expected ingredients including a hapless bureaucrat, an evil corporation, and nasty mercenaries. It is an examination of how we treat people we don’t like, and how we prefer to get our problems out of site.

The best science fiction challenges us to look at ourselves from a different perspective, and provides a story that is, with a some suspension of disbelief, plausible. This movie did none of those things. The story was an excellent depiction of how we treat others we consider “less” than us, but it was obvious in that respect. The primary story line was so full of holes as to become distracting.

Here’s a list of some of those holes:

  1. The aliens have an arsenal of many different sophisticated weapons beyond our technology, but never use any of them to demand better living conditions. Instead they trade them all for cat food.
  2. The ship seemingly doesn’t function for three months where the aliens are starving before humans go and cut a hole in its hull. But is the able to revived work more than 20 year later?
  3. It seems unlikely one alien and his son could run the whole ship, and it doesn’t seem they took any food.
  4. Why isn’t a large section of JSB, located directly under the ship, worried that ship may lose power can land on top of them?
  5. The smart alien and his son spent 20 years finding pieces of their own technology that contain a fluid they use to get their “control module” back off the ground. Why are any pieces of the ship missing? There is no mention of the command module being damaged, nor the main ship.
  6. It seems unlikely so many of the aliens would be so unintelligent. If so few of the aliens have the knowledge of how things work, how can they manage 100’s of thousands of the dumb aliens along with the ship?
  7. It seems unlikely that humans and aliens would so easily be able to understand each other’s language. We can’t even figure out Dolphin-speak let alone an extraterrestrial language.

I’m very glad we saw the movie at a reduced matinee price. I suppose it’s worth putting on your Netflix list, but I would have been disappointed if we’d payed full price.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 10)
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Jumper – A Movie Review

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Apr 262009
 

jumperA genetic anomaly allows a young man to teleport himself anywhere. He discovers this gift has existed for centuries and finds himself in a war that has been raging for thousands of years between “Jumpers” and those who have sworn to kill them.

Genres:  Action/Adventure, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Adaptation and Teen; Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.; Release Date: February 14th, 2008 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some language and brief sexuality.

Starring:  Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Bell, Diane Lane, Max Thieriot

Directed by: Doug Liman

I’ve finally subscribed to NetFlix and this was one of my first movies from the service. We watched this nearly two weeks ago, so I am obviously way behind in my reviews.

So let’s discuss the movie. The concept is an intriguing one…this idea of being able to teleport one’s self to anywhere in the world. What a fun power that would be, and lead character, David, played rather stiffly by Hayden Christensen, discovers the power during his high school days, and heads off to from an unhappy home to learn to use his power.

He leaves behind a girlfriend, but eventually comes back to get together with her, at which time he finds he’s not the only one with the power. He also learns there is a group of people who don’t have any special powers who are out to kill all the ones who do have them.

The ideas were just never well developed, and I have not yet figured out why this group of people have been around, apparently throughout the ages, with a mandate to kill the Jumpers, nor do I understand where they get their resources, so the whole thing just kind of falls flat.

I guess if you’re willing to suspend disbelief (and it is a sci/fi movie after all), then it’s not terrible, but it certainly goes to low-end of my scale.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
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Oct 212007
 

Astronaut FarmerA NASA astronaut (Thornton), forced to retire years earlier so he could save his family farm, has never given up his dream of space travel and looks to build his own rocket, despite the government’s threats to stop him.

Director:
Michael Polish

Genre:
Adventure, Science Fiction, Drama

Cast:
Billy Bob Thornton, Virginia Madsen, Max Thieriot, Jasper Polish, Logan Polish, Bruce Dern, Mark Polish, Jon Gries, Tim Blake Nelson

This was the first movie I downloaded and watched using the Tivo and Amazon.com’s “Unboxed” system. I’ll write more about that in a later post. I approached this movie as just a good time – a celebration of the joy that comes with hope, and, in the end, of victory.

Overthinking the unwise choices made by Farmer along the way, or the clanky plot bits ( what’s with the FAA hearing in the high school anyhow?) just ruins the fun. When I read the reviewers critiquing the decisions to mortgage the farm, the taking of the kids out of school, I thought “haven’t they seen Its A Wonderful Life?”

Not a great film, not a think piece, but lots of entertainment value, and, in the end, a great message about the power of the human spirit. .

Billy Bob shows surprising calmness. Virgina Madsen again threatens to steal a movie, doing wonders with a small part. Bruce Dern reclaims his throne as king of the over the hill gang in a small role, not allowing his eccentricity to be abused into craziness for once. Even most of the bit players are wonderful, from the farmer kids to the lawyer, to the waitress.The campy FBI agents are unwanted comic relief, though.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
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The Journey Matters

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Jun 012006
 

It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end. –Ursula K. LeGuin

LeGuin, who has written a wide range of prose from the ’60s through today, is making a statement similar to Holmes quote from yesterday’s post. Basically that the journey matters. We may have a goal in mind, but it can’t be the all-consuming thought. When we take a laser focus on the goal, we loose touch with the world and the people around us. We miss golden opportunities and the beauty that can be life.