Archive for the Sci-Fi Category

Pacific Rim Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Action, Anime, New Movie, Review, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2013 by russellsreviews

There are a lot of genre’s in film. Spy, romantic comedy, adventure, horror, super hero, drama, science fiction, and martial arts just to name a few. Genre’s sometimes slowly fade, but never fully go away and sometimes make huge comebacks like what we have seen with westerns and the musicals lately. That cannot be said about the monster genre. No, I’m not counting those really awful movies on the Sci-Fi channel like Sharknado. I’m not even talking about Frankenstein or wolfman. I”m talking about the giant city stomping monster movies like King Kong and Godzilla. The last one ever made was in Gamera the Brave in Japan in 2006 and the last anyone in the west would remember is the remake of King Kong by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame just the year before. Pacific Rim is director Guillermo Del Toro and Legendary Pictures attempt to bring back this beloved idea to a newer generation. If Guillermo Del Toro stopped there he would have already been my hero. Del Toro then tries to infuse some elements of mecha anime that have never been attempted in live action before. The very thought of this mix is enough to make my head explode of excitement.  Does Pacific Rim deliver on my high expectations and more importantly is it accessible for the mainstream to sell without loosing it’s purpose?

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Pacific Rim twists the formula for giant monster movie. The world has been thrown into terror being constantly attacked by giant monsters called Kaiju. Instead of scientists scrambling to make some ray gun or bomb to stop them, or having the planet’s own kaiju take it down which we have seen over and over, humanity fights back by building towering robots to defend themselves. This theme has been used over and over in anime, but has never been attempted in live action for whatever reason. I imagine the cost of making a story like this believable and digestible for the American public would be a master undertaking and a huge gamble. I can not give anymore props to Del Toro and Legendary pictures for taking on this project. The world is fully realized and the giant almost human looking robots called Jaegers are sight to behold. You will scream with joy in your head every time one launches or lands. Each evil Kaiju has a unique look to them and fighting abilities making every battle different and a surprise. Sparks, metal, buildings, and even pilots will get tossed around in the warfare. This is the reason why you see this film.

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The human characters are just as varied and over the top. The characters of the film will be where most people will start to distance themselves from the film however. All of the side characters are played to their part times 10. This was done on purpose and each character is a common trope in the mecha genre. The scientist who is a little more interesting in the enemy than he should be, the mysterious cool general,  overly bully co-worker that gives no respect, and a girl with a troubled past. If you are unfamiliar with these archetypes these characters might come off a little ridiculous and off putting. They all still fair better than the lead character Raleigh Becket. I don’t know if they were trying to have a normal center in all the madness, but instead he comes off too safe and quite frankly very boring. I cared more about the funny scientist dying in the middle of the film than I did about Becket in final fight scene which isn’t a good thing. I don’t really blame the actor fully because I just think there wasn’t much room for him to perform. Then again neither did Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost the leader of the Jaeger team and he still was fierce and more memorable so maybe I can. Idris Elba is a beast of an actor and needs to be in more movies. Charlie Day as the quirky Dr. Newton Geiszler was my favorite character for how he reacted to everything was probably the same way I see myself reacting to a world where their are freaking giant robots and world destroying monsters duking it out.

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The main gripes of Pacific Rim is that dialogue of the characters let down the film for achieving true greatness and might keep more people from seeing how ground breaking this film is. The concept was high, the world was brilliant, art design was perfect, and the ideas were smart, but somewhere some of the lines just failed to elevate it. The dialogue was not stupid like in transformers it’s just sometimes wooden. I give it credit for adding in anime elements, but I wish Del Toro took it a little farther with the weapons and really show of how dark and creative anime can get. Speed Racer did a much better job translating anime into the big screen and wished it used that movies techniques of story telling between the fight scenes. This review sounds like I’m bashing the film, but I”m not. Pacific Rim is awesome for what it is and I strongly recommend it, but I’m afraid some people might only see the flaws and not notice the nuances of what’s going on. I just wanted them to take it to that next level so bad.

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I loved Pacific Rim. I loved the action and the chances it takes. I”m so happy it was made and Guillermo Del Toro deserves big praise and more fans. He just made me a fan. I just wish they took a little more chances on the story and main character. It’s a fun ride. Just sadly don’t expect anything more than beautifully choreographed Kaiju vs Jaeger action. It’s a summer film not based on a old TV series, video game, a remake, or comic book. Pacific Rim is original and deserves to be applauded. If you have any itch to see it please do. This might be your one and last chance to experience this genre.

4 STARS

Star Trek: Into the Darkness Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Action, New Movie, Review, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2013 by russellsreviews

In 2009 J. J. Abrams breathed new life in the Star Trek series. He managed to update it to make it more exciting for a newer generation while at the same time keeping everything in place to appease the long time trekkies. The film was not just smart science fiction, but just plain fun to watch for anyone. J.J. tries to keep the momentum going with it’s long awaited sequel Star Trek: Into the Darkness.

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Star Trek: Into the Darkness faces a new set of challenges that might be harder to deal with that the original reboot. Now that the new Star Trek universe has been set how can you top the first? If you push for more action and please the new fan based you run the risk of disappointing your very loyal fan base. Do you take the chance of a more traditional route building on what you made and greatly encouraging the trekkies that the reboot was more than a one hit wonder, but then loose the mainstream push you gathered? J.J. Abrams once again decides to take the same approach as his first and tries to get both.

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Trying to accomplish both in this sequel the film starts off with a high concept adventure movie and then about half way through throws  a twist bringing back a famous story from the original show. Just like before the movie does a great job of explaining how this event could happen before it did in the show and fits very well being something new as well making it feel like it fits into Star Trek lore perfectly. That being said it does bring about the only negative I can see in the film. If you are a long time Star Trek fan you will probably guess who this person/twist is and even though the writers flip the roles you will know how it ends. It’s still exciting seeing it all play out, but it does lower the score of the film in my eyes.

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I can not finish this review without talking about the break out performance of actor Benedict Cumberbatch playing John Harrison. You might recognized him since he played Sherlock Holmes in the perfect British TV mini series Sherlock and if you don’t you will remember him now. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto reprise their roles so well that the fact that he even stood out above them only testify how great he really is. He out does the original character and bring not just charisma, but true superiority. (Hint, hint)

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Star Trek: Into the Darkness is just as smart and entertaining as the first reboot. All of the crew members you know and love get their time to shine and perhaps even more so. Did I forget to mention Klingons? Yup, the fan favorite race finally makes an appearance and with a unique interesting take, but don’t worry they keep the essentials of what makes them so popular. This new Star Trek doesn’t surpass the original only because it looses some steam because it retreads some old ground, but everything else is done so well its only as good as the first. Sometimes when a film tries to better its former sometimes it can get a little ridiculous and loose its heart. Being only just as good as the awesome first film isn’t a bad thing. In this reviewer’s eyes that’s a huge compliment. When this film ends you will be ready to go on a five year voyage of the Starship Enterprise. To boldly go where no man as gone before.

4 STARS

Gantz movie review

Posted in 3.5 Stars, Foreign, Horror, Japan, New Movie, Review, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , on January 23, 2011 by russellsreviews

After the successful live-action adaptations of Death Note, Detroit Metal City, and 20th Century Boys its becoming more common for Japanese film studios to take a chance on a mature manga/anime series. Gantz is the newest one by creator Hiroya Oku. However, Gantz is a much different beast than all the others before it. Its not that the manga isn’t as deep, but it goes to some very dark and intense places for it’s characters. Does the Gantz movie pull any punches or stay true and risk loosing a broader audience?

Kei is a underachieving teenager simply waiting for his train to arrive. A drunken man stumbles and falls on the tracks and everyone, including Kei, just stares and being curious to see what happens next. The only person who decides to help turns out to be Kei’s childhood friend, Kato. With the pressure of seeing his friend, Kei drops down to help raise the drunken man back on the platform only for them to be ones crushed by the oncoming train. Kei and Kato immediately find themselves with other killed strangers in a small locked white apartment with a giant black ball in the center room. Are they really dead? Where are they? How did they get there? More importantly why are they there?

That’s as far as I want to go as a set up, because the main draw of the series for me is seeing these mysteries played out and never know whats going to happen next to the characters. From the very first time I watch the anime of Gantz I felt that the story could translate very well to the big screen and would no doubt blow the sci-fi genre craze wide open if the the action was done well. The only problem is the original Gantz goes to some disturbing limits. This will ultimately be the deciding factor if you will enjoy the film or not if your a fan. To be honest there were parts of Gantz that went to far in my opinion. I know the main character did some really nasty immature stuff and part of showing all that sex and violence was for you to see how far Kei grows as a human being, but it was borderline too far  sometimes and crossed over to being simply there for shock value and to get the very same people Kei is growing out of to watch the show. The Gantz movie rolled back the unnecessary sex and made Kei into much more likable guy from the start. Gantz might have pulled back a little too much in some areas that hurt it from being near perfect, but in this reviewer mind it also helped making it a more balanced movie. If you were one of the fans of the Gantz manga that liked it only for how messed it up it got sometimes you will feel jipped. Fans should not worry about the action side of the film. All scenes are very close to the original and are surprisingly good.

For those that know nothing of Gantz are in for a real treat. You have a lot of the fat trimmed out for a more streamlined version and are in for something totally fresh and interesting. A fair warning though. The version shown in American theaters is dubbed and dubbed very bad in some emotional scenes that did twist some powerful scenes into unintentionally funny ones. Some fans will predictably cry foul, but a lot will walk away feeling pretty satisfied and will be excited to see what the sequel might bring.

3.5 STARS

Tron Legacy Review

Posted in 2.5 Stars, New Movie, Review, Sci-Fi, video games with tags , , , , , , , on December 22, 2010 by russellsreviews

The original Tron motion picture has a very special place in many peoples hearts. Tron never reached Star Wars like fandom or Blade Runner critical success, but remains a classic to this day. Tons of fans wanted a sequel, and would line up to see what the world of Tron could look like using today’s graphics. Disney is finally giving them what they wanted and betting fans will fill the seats. Can Tron Legacy live up to the hype that’s been building for over 28 years?

Tron Legacy tries its best to reconnect you to the first film and does a fairy good considering the first film came out in 1982. After years building his company Encom into the Tech giant of the world is very close to inventing something that could change the world even more.  Expect for an unknown reason he disappears abruptly, and leaves his only son Sam behind. Sam grows up never really getting to know his father other from all the stories of this computer world he always talked about making which leads him to try to harm the company that he feels that kept his Dad away from him. Shortly after this cry for help, Sam finds out from a close family friend that there is a slim chance that his Dad could be still around just hiding out in his old arcade building he used to run. Sam investigates and doesn’t find his father, but accidentally gets digitize in the very world that his dad told him stories about.

The movie does a good job shifting focus from Kevin to his son Sam, but not long after the awe and the excitement of seeing the world of Tron in 3D wears off that you start to see that Tron Legacy has been stripped of what makes the original so memorable. If you have seen any trailer for the movie then you pretty much know what almost every fight scene and plot point that’s going to happen in the first hour. The only mystery is why Kevin Flynn got trapped there. Your not shocked when Sam finds his father alive 40 minutes in because well you saw him in the first five seconds of the trailer. This development takes too much time in the first act that the movie plot would of benefited from simply the teaser trailers. The first Tron had tons of wonderment and you never knew what or who could be coming at you next in this computerize world. Yes, this being the sequel your obviously not going to have the same awe, but literally if you have see the trailer, minus a flying battle and a guest appearance of the music group daft punk, you have seen everything the movie has to offer. You have a new disc battle and light cycle to look forward to, buy both are quick and over in the first 30 minutes. The original Tron was ahead of its time handling tough topics of what could happen if computers got to powerful (which by the way Tron came out way before Terminator), what it means to be human, and makes you think about religion. Tron Legacy never goes deeper than the chase. Tron had an interesting villain that was relative and somehow made sense to be a threat in our world and the computer world. Tron legacy’s Clu was interesting concept, but never fully emotionally fleshed out besides a couple lines of meaningful dialogue at the end of the film. Not to mention that Tron, the program himself, is hugely misused. The first Tron was exactly Shakespeare either, but made most of its fans from the fantasy of what a world would be like living in the computer. So if the graphics and world lived up the movie could still work right?

Right, however in my opinion that doesn’t measure up either. The 3D really added nothing to the experience, and the world never felt realized. Tron was a little silly and campy in the graphics, but for its time it was mind blowing. It started new techniques that even creator of Pixar gives credit for helping him start CGI like graphics. Tron Legacy is very paint by the numbers graphics. You never feel like your in another world. Everything is too dark and the characters and world just look like ours just with neon lights everywhere. Legacy does nothing overly special or groundbreaking. The first movie did a better job in making you feel in a computer world and it was made 28 years ago. Clu, the villain of the film, is a CGI recreation of a young Jeff Bridges that looks good in the Tron world, but very plastic in the real one.

Tron Legacy ties into the original well at the start, but very slowly through its run time disappoints. If you have never seen the original there is still stuff to enjoy, but most you will likely be a little confused and wonder what all the hype was about. Tron Legacy isn’t necessarily a bad movie, it just hurts when you think what the movie could have been.  It could have been Terminator 2 good, instead we got Terminator 3. Its still well made and enjoyable and the new character Quorra is cool and interesting. It’s still worth seeing if you have a lot of fond memories of the original, but greatly lower your expectations and maybe wait till you can rent it and save the money.

2.5 STARS

District 9 Review

Posted in 3 Stars, Action, New Movie, Review, Sci-Fi on August 17, 2009 by russellsreviews

District 9 is a very hyped and stylish marketed Sci-Fi thriller. Much like the movie Cloverfield, the movie had a crazy good viral marketing and with a low budget hopes word of mouth will carry it to huge success. After seeing the film, District 9 will no doubt be a big hit and receive many fans, but does the movie itself really earn any of it?

The movie starts much different than you expect. The history of District 9 is told in the style of a documentary with many interviews filling you in some big secret. This technique was a very good choice as it brought realism to the film, and makes you feel these events are really happening in our world today. Then the film goes back and forth from like you are watching a news show to an episode of COPS. Wikus Van DE Merwe is the smarmy agent who is assigned the difficult task of relocating the aliens, or illegal immigrants, away to a new district farther away and out of sight for mass public. The aliens have become a nuisance to the people and must be evicted. Wikus and his men mock and ridicule the aliens, who are racially called Prawns, almost enjoy torturing the Aliens out of house and home.

During one home eviction Wikus stumbles on some strange fluid and accidentally sprays himself which painfully and slowly starts turning him into the hated Prawn. Being one of them, he finally sees the injustices and crimes the aliens have been victim of. With the help of alien oddly named Christopher Johnson and his son try find this strange liquid that will not only turn him human again, but it also works as fuel to the alien’s spaceship.

The enjoyment of District 9 are based on two things, action and the supposedly deep political message. It try’s to be different and original, but under the interesting premise, its all been done before. The government is really behind everything bad is nothing new. A war crazy solider check. Corrupted political leader check. When critics and the buzz around it was great because of twist and turns, those turns better not be predictable. The twists would only seem surprising to people whose main exposure to Sci-Fi is Halo. Not to mention that the message it tries to send is complete victimization. In one interview in the first part of the film they complain that the prawns commit crimes and just run to humans and steal their cell phones for just no good reason. Later, when Wikus is running from the cops he runs up to a person and steals their cell phone. In a nut shell the movie was trying to say that all crime, acts of theft, or violence are just a product of the environment and the government or the man is the real reason for crimes. I’m sure this might be the case for very few , but for someone who has been around that crowd and being with someone who rose above all that crap find that to be just a simple denial of truth and lack of responsibility for their actions. If you happen to be a person who believes in this you will likely eat this film up. The action does live up to the hype. The weapons are somewhat creative and all pack a punch. The giant robot suit at the end of the film is realistically done and beat any action in Transformers 2. District 9 should get credit for creating the most humanity in the aliens Chris Johnson and his son since E.T.

District 9 will no doubt gain tons of followers from the action alone, but its not enough to elevate it to the masterpiece others have been calling it. For a movie that is trying to be deep and mature it sure does have immature and shallow way to look at poverty and crime. The movie is well done and has great special effects, but its benefiting a lot from its marketing tactics and the idea of what the movie is going to be when you go in the theater to what the movie really is.

3 STARS

Moon Review

Posted in 3 Stars, Review, Sci-Fi on July 8, 2009 by russellsreviews

Independent Sci-Fi films have been on a roll the last few years. Solaris, Children of Men, and Sunshine were all not only smart and deep, but touched on topics relevant for years to come. This year best chance to continue this is Duncan Jones director debut, Moon. Does Moon keep or break the streak?

Sam Bell has spent under the last 3 years mining a new energy source from the moon.  I guess in order to save the company money, he has spent the whole time alone, only with the help robot servant GERDY voiced by Kevin Spacey for companionship. With only two weeks left in his contract he has a bad accident and suffers bad injuries. When Sam awakens GERDY tells him he has been forbidden by HQ to continue working or go outside and has to wait for a rescue ship before he can finish out his contract. Sam eager to finally get home to his wife and kid tricks GERDY and goes out to the moon surface to investigate the scene of the accident himself. He finds a body at the crash site and much to his surprise its him, another Sam Bell. Is the other Sam kind of impostor like a clone, alien, or something worse? or is he simpling starting to go insane from all the solitude?

Sadly, you don’t get very long to ponder these questions. Not much longer in the film GERDY just flat out tells him/them the mystery between the two Sams. This takes the film from a psychological thriller that you are expecting from the trailer to more of a run of the mill Sci-Fi movie.  As a result Moon looses at lot of its intensity, uniqueness, and intrigue.  Instead of exploring the depths of true loneliness and being away from humanity in cold dark space, the film instead to focus solely on a conspiracy cover up. There are still good moments, but you can’t help but feel Moon lost it’s edge.

Moon is a solid movie, with even better acting from its lead  actor Sam Rockwell, you just have to change what you were expecting to fully enjoy it. Even still, they took the film in the wrong direction and missed a chance for a greater experience.

3 STARS

LOST “The Incident” Review

Posted in 4.5 Stars, Drama, Review, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized on May 21, 2009 by russellsreviews

Being such a geek about the show Lost and after the great season finale I decided I had to write a review just to get all these thoughts out of my head. Viewers started to tune out during season 2 and then even more jumped ship season 3, but after seeing this season’s finale “The Incident” I can say they are going to be left out for LOST special last season. With only one season to go and still tons of mysteries and questions left unanswered they had to start cracking them out. The “Incident” didn’t disappoint.

The opening scene reveal of Jacob opened new take on the mythos of the island. Not only does Jacob not look like the long hair bearded ghost, but he is not alone and both appear to have lived on the island for a very long time. Through out the show during flashbacks and flash forwards we learned that the castaways were oddly connected, but it turns out it was all planned by Jacob and against his new “friend” wishes. Jacob has been appearing at key moments of the cast aways lives  feeling them out, and indirectly pushing them to come to the island. In a very LOST fashion, we still don’t know for what purpose, but it appears to me that its for some sick game of destiny vs. free will. My guess is Jacob stands for good since he was wearing the white clothes, and free will, saying to Ben right before he was seemingly killed “you always have a choice.”

Whats confusing to all this is how can a person or being stand for good, yet put all these people through these trails without their approval and be for free will . It’s also troubling how Jacob dealt with Locke. What was the purpose for bringing Locke to the island? He was told and groomed from the island that he was something special and a higher power and serving for good only to fail almost everything he tried to accomplish in life. His father betrayed him, he had no friends, no love life, crippled, was left alone with no one believing in him and only to get killed by his enemy Ben. All Locke became was a loop hole for this mysterious other to find a way to kill Jacob. Jacob had to have known that Locke was going to somehow fit in this loop hole. Was this Jacob’s plan all along? Is there still something great for Locke to do or is the real Locke really just a dead body

Which brings me to what really keeps me and millions of others to tune in every week. We all love Kate, Juliet, Sawyer, Jack, Ben, and the whole crew are great, but these philosophical questions and spiritual under tones engages the real fans. The frustrated rant that Ben gives Jacob asking why after all the things he did for him and he never got to see him until now I think any religious person has struggle with in their own understanding of GOD’s plan. Hearing Jacob’s reply of “what about you” would anger anybody and Ben’s rage becomes understandable. This last phrase really makes me question if Jacob is on the good side at all. Or again this could be Jacob simply acknowledging Ben and has plans to make everything up and more to Ben and Locke. This is whats great about LOST, the questions and how there could be several answers to each one. I hope this shows the empty suits at network TV that you don’t have to nothing but reality shows, Law and Order or CSI spin offs, contests to have a successful show. Viewers will accept a challenging serial Drama as long as its unique enough to keep people coming back.

The episode could have answered more mysteries with only 16 episodes left in the show, the season finale still really did a great job of setting up the last season. The episode ended with probably the best cliffhanger since Jack’s famous “We have to go back!” and really could go anywhere the writers want it to. After seeing the LOST logo change after five seasons from white on black to black on white, the last season can’t come fast enough.

4.5 stars