Sci-Fi

Flatliners (2017)

Hands up if you didn’t realise this was a remake of a 1990s Kevin Bacon film

So, my hand is up. Especially when I made the connection halfway home after viewing the 2017 reimagining. Flatliners posed a really interesting question at the beginning of it’s film as it questions what happens to us after we die.

Whilst the premise kind of intrigued me, with the trailer placing five medical students all are trying to prove something new in medical science. And Ellen Page’s Courtney takes centre stage for this discovery. What lay beneath was peculiar though, instead of being profound and using the existence of the afterlife as a platform, it rather focuses on the sins of the flatliners.

Flatliners does open in almost a subliminal message to not check your phone whilst driving as Courtney with her sister is involved in a crash because Courtney was checking her phone. As the result of this crash, Courtney carries guilt about causing the death of younger sister.

She invites Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) and Jamie (James Norton) to help her with a project. The project? To intentionally cause a near-death experience, and record the brain activity. Much of this film would rely on the performances of the cast and their believability of this ‘experience’. Unfortunately, when Ellen Page flatlines, it shows no more life than she did when on-screen.

And this continues with the rest of the cast, as it does touch on the motivations of the rest of the cast but I felt Niels Arden Oplev’s choice was to get the bulk of the story rather than nurturing these characters to grow. As a result, Flatliners actually bored me fairly early on. Also, it seemed apparent that Sophia and Jamie fit a mould that is all too common, as Sophia bends to her mothers beck and call whereas Jamie is the preppy guy that is coasting his way through the internship.

After Courtney’s flatline experience, she seems nonchalant about it all, until rounds the following day with her medical student colleagues and answers the questions without hesitation. This sets up the rest of Flatliners after they all connect Courtney’s newfound knowledge to her near death experience.

So what do the others decide to do? Stop their hearts as well and tap into a newfound consciousness, of course. Aside from Ray (Diego Luna) who remains severely against what is now being called ‘flatlining’. After everyone goes through their experience the film then enters strange territory as it becomes a paranormal, psychological thriller of sorts.

But for that to work, it has to be convincing. And I don’t think Flatliners manages to get convincing in any regards. The cast do not make the hauntings convincing either, probably down to their quite unlikable characters, but also the borderline idiotic venture they put their bodies through. Diego was the only shining light throughout the film as he constantly opposed this ridiculous study from the start.

As I mentioned Oplev seemed dedicated to the cause of the paranormal and psychological elements held within Flatliners. However, because I had already lost interest at this point due to the lack of substance behind the characters, I couldn’t get on board with how the film played out into it’s climax. It chose to adopt a few jump scares which were very foreseeable and thus became even more boring.

I have no idea if the 1990s was similar, or completely different, but with this reimagining I have no intention to view the original. The film does feel fairly apt for it’s runtime and doesn’t drag it’s feet so much, but I just couldn’t get invested in a largely unlikeable characters and idiotic nature of the story. Flatliners certainly flatlined for me.

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Cor. What a title. 

The ability to build worlds within film has advanced an incredible amount, especially since the days of James Cameron’s Avatar. Luc Besson has had his hand in the Valerian pie for a long time, and recently thought that the technology was there for him to create Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Besson worked to adapt the French comic book series for the screen, but the title sticks out like a sore thumb considering the comic series is called Valerian and Laureline. I had a certain sense of apprehension for this as the last Besson film I had the ‘pleasure’ of watching was Lucy, and I absolutely loathed that film. But the trailer managed to lure me in with the visuals and the science-fiction element to the film.

Valerian (yeah, I’m just going to call it that from now on) hooked me from the opening sequence as the space station expands and welcomes other nations on-board. As it expands, alien life begins to join and the station grows exponentially into Alpha. As it reaches critical mass, it is pushed out of Earth’s orbit to travel by itself.

Besson apparently sat on this film for some time, and it’s clear to see why as world building that is undertook in Valerian is exceptional, from the market to the whistle-stop tour of the Alpha station is incredibly vibrant. Unfortunately for Besson and Valerian the enjoyment for the film slowly begins to fade when you look past the pretty visuals in the opening thirty or so minutes.

Generally speaking the scripting was just downright awful. And especially cringe worthy when agent Valerian (Dane DeHaan) was trying to woo? his partner agent Laureline (Cara Delevingne) by saying the most inane things. Some of the lines had me shaking my head in disbelief that they had made the final cut. Dane and Cara themselves were good in the role, but Cara’s character does fall into the standard damsel in distress character although Laureline as a character seems to be better than that.

But I don’t think the scripting was helped by the narrative, as it seemed to be jumping all over the place as Besson tried to mash together the love story between Valerian and Laureline and this mysterious element that they have found themselves pulled into. Often it felt as though it wasn’t sure which direction the film wanted to be pulled in.

The film does stand at over two hours, but unfortunately does feel like it’s over three hours as it slogs its way between the narrative, scripting and the indulgent visuals. I don’t think this could have been helped as Besson took the time to dress the screen in the incredible visuals, which were incredible to watch unfold on the screen.

I did enjoy the pairing of Dane DaHaan and Cara Delevingne as they bounce off each other, and do seem to have an interesting chemistry on-screen. Cara was the better off the two regardless of her damsel in distress characterisation, and Dane plays the cocky, arrogant character to perfection, regardless of the script-vomit that tumbles out of his mouth.

It has to be said though, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets only has one true winner, and that lies in the visuals. Besson builds incredible worlds, from the inter-dimensional market to the Thousand City Planet of Alpha and it’s incredulous atmosphere. I mean water, a fully submerged water section on a space station. Really?

However, between the scripting and the narrative being all over the place it’s not something that makes me want to rush back to see it all over again. Aside from the dazzling visuals and Cara’s performance as Agent Laureline, there is little to enjoy about this film. Even the score pulled me out of the film, by sounding reminiscent of Star Wars. As I try to recount the film, I have come to realise that it is less-than-memorable, with only a few glimpses sticking out, including the marketplace sequence being one of better in the film.

If you find yourself going to see it, see it on the biggest screen possible, but other than that, I wouldn’t rush out to see it, which is a shame as I wanted to like Valerian more.

Alien: Covenant (2017)

Ridley Scott returned to his famous franchise with Prometheus back in 2012. If you were anything like myself, you could not wait for the next instalment in the Alien franchise. So fast-forward five years and Scott has followed up the whirlwind piece of Prometheus with Alien: Covenant.

Now while it’s not important to have seen the original Alien films, it’s pretty important to have seen Prometheus as the events of Alien: Covenant takes place ten years after Prometheus and both prominently features the character of David. (Michael Fassbender)

This caught me off-guard a little bit, because after the events of Prometheus, I was confused as to how Fassbender’s David managed to make it safely onto the Covenant ship, practically unscathed. This comes down to the testament of Fassbender’s android performance in Prometheus and the feeling that David is all-too real. However on the covenant ship he takes on the role of Walter, a new and improved android.

Walter assumes a practically identical role to David, caring for the ship whilst the crew are in cryosleep, as the crew head to a planet that is perfect for terraforming whilst Walter tends to the colonists and embryos ready to start a new world. The ship is struck by a neutrino blast that causes the now-awoken crew to question Walter’s commanding of the ship and by chance, due to this blast, they stumble on a seemingly perfect planet to begin their new life.

I thought the music was perfect for Alien: Covenant, and was really extenuated by the mysterious and tense setting of the mysterious planet they land on. From the wide-open spaces that Ridley Scott is incredibly good at, to the small-enclosed spaces of the Covenant ship, the film was made even tenser with that claustrophobic feeling.

(And that use of Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla was gorgeous)

With Prometheus being the origin story for the Xenomorphs that plagued Ripley and co throughout Alien franchise, Alien: Covenant is continuing that trend and peeling away more of those layers. But Ridley Scott continued to tie in attitudes to religion and strongly  conveys the messages of creation and meeting your maker throughout Alien: Covenant.

The themes throughout the 120 minutes really worked and were not piled too heavily onto the story. Otherwise there may have been an overconsumption of this, which would have led to it ruining the story. I thought the narrative structure was brilliant, especially as it builds up around the newly found David and his story of the Prometheus ship and crew.

The great thing about Alien was the terrifying xenomorph that plagued the crew and that there wasn’t much gore used throughout, rather it relied on the closed space and tense battle between it and Ripley. Alien: Covenant has decided to use an abundance of gore through the xenomorph attacks, which is fine, but I feel as though it sometimes it overused and lets the film down in areas.

The casting was electric for the lead roles of Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterson and Danny McBride but I felt everyone else was kind of subpar and throwaway characters. McBride’s Tennessee was an interesting character and worlds away from the comedic background that he has become known for. Waterson seemed to be channeling the headstrong Ripley in this film, but not before showing emotion in the opening scenes that seemed to be devoid of Ripley in Alien.

(That was also different, as the crew were made up of couples in charge of safely navigating to Origae-6)

Fassbender was electric as he channelled two different characters, the companionist Walter and the vengeful and conniving David. The difference between the characters was excellent and was really effective for the different moods they were conveying and I feel as though that is testament to Ridley’s direction through the film.

I was really impressed, and feel as though Ridley Scott’s prequels are currently going strength to strength. I thought the narrative structure on the film was apt, considering what was revealed in the first instalment and was perfectly played out on the screen with the help of David. However, the clear winner is the world building that Ridley Scott is just renown for, from the mysterious planet expanse, to the closed-off spaces that add to the tense scenes within the film.

The planet that the Covenant crew descend on it, is just incredible. Although the film does falter in certain sections, those feelings are soon washed away with the incredibly scenery and intriguing characters throughout Alien: Covenant.

Just like Prometheus, I want to see the next instalment. Now.

Midnight Special (2016)

Midnight Special was one of my highly anticipated films of last year, but unfortunately did not manage to get to see it in the cinema, but eventually it made an appearance on a streaming site that I was able to access. Jeff Nichols’ fourth feature length film looked to be quite the science fiction thriller piece, so I was excited to finally watch it.

Majority of the promotional footage and trailers featured the image of a young boy that seemed to radiate a blinding blue light from his eyes. In Midnight Special, our first meeting with the young boy, he is wearing goggles and noise-cancelling ear mitts whilst reading a comic book. During this introduction with Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher), we see Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton watching the news, regarding the kidnapping of Alton and the case being placed on amber alert.

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Already Nichols has managed to tell the opening segments to the story with enough vigour to grip me, but also with the help of an intense car journey down the back lanes of the southern states of North America. Without relaying too much information, the film quickly changes the pace with an FBI-raid on a ranch, which houses a cult.

What becomes clear is that Roy Tomlin, (Michael Shannon) the man responsible for the kidnapping of Alton, is actually the boy’s father. But also that Alton has a special ability to intercept secret encoded satellite messages. This obviously is quite the concern for the FBI and the American government, so they want Alton located, as much as the cult to bring him back ‘home’.

Jeff Nichols’ manages to keep up the fast pace as Roy and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) continually avoid the police, but also the cult members that were sent by cult to find Alton. But the trouble is during this rip-roaring pace; the question remains as to why this is all happening?

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What begins as a rip roaring pace and filling the opening segment with mysterious characters, Midnight Special begins to lack in a strong storyline as it enters the latter half of the film. In instances, a strong storyline is sometimes superseded by the strong characters and with a strong cast containing Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver, one would suspect Midnight Special is one of those instances.

It isn’t.

The plaudits of acting would rest on Jaeden Lieberher’s shoulders, as Alton seemingly becomes weaker and the film bores into it’s second hour, and Lieberher’s performance is convincing amongst the others, well, less than convincing performances.

For me, Kirsten Dunst’s maternal character was pretty much pointless in the story and did not add any width to the story. She didn’t have the intrigue that Roy and Lucas did during their introduction, but even their mysteriousness eventually slipped away. Adam Driver’s NSA analyst was an excellent inclusion as he accepts the mystery that is Alton, but Jeff Nichols’ did not manage to effectively incorporate this into the story enough, he focused on the mad chase that surrounded Alton and the mysterious coordinates that Sevier (Driver) works out.

As I previously mentioned, Nichols created what was seemingly a science-fiction thriller and there were certain aspects within the film that was enjoyable, including the pace to the opening of the film, and some wonderful shots of the sun setting and rising. Unfortunately for me, the enjoyable sections of Midnight Special were too few and far between when the film lost its way with the story, but also the less-than-convincing cast performances.

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Midnight Special could have become a cult classic, but the story seems to have taken a cop-out route and it just doesn’t seem to make much sense, for me anyway. The cast had me filled with promise, considering the ability of them but again, I felt let down by Shannon & co aside from Leiberher’s performance. Alas, the opening hour was good and thrilling, culminating in a meteor shower that looked majestic, but from there the film slowly begins to drop off and seemingly loses itself in free fall. As much as I enjoyed the opening hour, I could not shake the closing hour practically ruining the film for me. Unfortunately Midnight Special was a bit of dud.

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

This is strange. I watched this at the cinema and loved it, but never got round to posting a blog on it confessing my somewhat love for the sequel to JJ Abrams newly-imagined Star Trek franchise. I re-watched this on DVD and I must admit, these lovestruck feelings soon disappeared.

So, if you’ve been living under a rock, JJ Abrams rebooted the Star Trek franchises and has made it an action-fest heavy with CGI and etc. The first I liked, it was enjoyable and not being a huge Star Trek fan it was nice to watch a new franchise from a fresh perspective. However, the second one is an even further CGI-infested action thrown together with some of the original Star Trek quotes to what I can only assume is to please the original Star Trek fans.

In all honesty, I understand why the first scene was included, but personally, I probably would’ve preferred seeing the London HQ being blown up in retrospect. It just seemed to me that JJ Abrams loves those shots where the enterprise is rising up from water or the clouds. “Look at my majestic vessel” springs to mind.

Needless scene? Yes or no?

Needless scene? Yes or no?

So, the lowdown on this story is that the Starfleet Headquarters is destroyed on the inside. An ex-starfleet member, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) attacks every captain and first officer when they’re meeting, during Starfleet protocol. Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) is killed. Sad sad times. Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) who just lost the command of the Enterprise due to failure in the mission we see Jim on in the first scene, is reinstated and goes and is ordered to pursue and kill John Harrison, who has fleed to a Klingon planet on the edge of Starfleet’s boundaries (dun dun dunnnn). You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that the Klingons are the sworn enemy of Starfleet. Everyone knows that.

There’s a little bit of a twist, but when I say twist, it was a plan that was to start a great war between Starfleet and the Klingons through Jim’s rash decisions. But then there’s just other ‘twist’, but more of an act of vengeance by Khan. I won’t explain, because it’ll ruin the story. It’s strange, but builds it up for areas that are just full of action. The characters are similar, with nothing spectacular in their display, because I feel the main focus of this film is the action-based sequences. However, that being said Uhura (Zoe Saldana) has a stronger role in this, than the first. We do get to a more humanised side of Spock occur with the big thing toward the end of the film, as he his bromance with Captain Kirk strengthens regardless of Spock not feeling logical about it (It makes sense when you watch it, trust me). Not being a fan of the original film or series I’m not sure how much Spock shows his human side if it were. Could someone tell me?

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It’s good, don’t get me wrong. But the sequel upon second watching lacked something I felt in the cinema screening. It might be cinema, with the sequences built and acted out for the cinema surroundings. Given that, the film is enjoyable and doesn’t feel too long with the run time of just over two hours. But the ending was sort of a anti climax of sorts, it was more of a iconic Star Trek ending, but I still felt deflated and disappointed with the ending.

As I mentioned about the whole of the Star Trek franchise being rebooted it’s working, it’s roping in more of an audience, but as for the older Star Trek fans, is there any similarities? I can’t answer this, aside from some of the quotes like the shouting of ‘KHANNNNNN’. Some sections I feel as though there are including to please the original fans, because they felt out of place, different from the rest of the film? That could be just me though?

However, whatever JJ Abrams is doing with this franchise, it’s working to an extent, as there is room for more films down the line with the reimagined cast which although are not outstanding, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are playing with good effect. Such as becomes with the big science fiction films, comedy has played a dab hand in some of the films, and Star Trek: Into Darkness does include some elements, primarily from Captain Kirk’s mannerisms and Scotty (Shaun Pegg) confessing madness of situations. One thing I did pick up was Benedict Cumberbatch really enjoyed enunciating his words in this film. It’s worth a watch if you’ve seen the first one, or simply looking for a science fiction film, or simply wanting to get into the Star Trek franchise, realistically though with JJ Abrams, you know what you’re expecting from a film like that. Don’t expect anything too amazing.

3/5

Oblivion (2013)

Before you continue to read this post, this will contain spoilers, for only one of the plots made me kind of upset at the extent of it.

I still haven’t actually seen Tron: Legacy, but just looking at both Tron: Legacy and Oblivion it can said director Joesph Kosinski has an affinity for special effects. On paper, this filmed looked excellent and vastly superior to others in the same category.

Earth was subject to an attack by Alien forces, that destroyed the Moon which caused earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters that ravaged the Earth. Then the scavengers came, this led to the firing off the nukes. As Tom Cruise says “We won the war, but lost the planet”, they relocate to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon whilst Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) serve as drone maintenance for the large power stations that are converting seawater into energy for the colony on Titan (Don’t ask me how, I have no clue either)

Jack Harper is haunted with memories of being atop the Empire State Building and seeing this woman all the time, which is strange because he had a memory wipe. And he is also continually attacked by the scavengers during patrols and finding drones that have been scavenged for parts.

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-Spoilers-

The narrative is acceptable, but does wear thin toward the end of the film as it all becomes a bit predictable with the plot and what is to occur in the sequences. The only plot that had me shocked was Jack ends up arriving in the ‘Radiation Zone’ only to discover Tech-52, another Jack Harper and another Victoria at the tower, but in viewing I could see it happening as soon as he enters the radiation zone. The big climatic one at the end of the movie, to be honest is an anti-climax. As soon as discovering that the scavengers are in fact humans, which in fact resemble some sort of sand people from Star Wars, are fighting against the Tet (the big spaceship that destroyed the moon) it’s clear to what is actually inside the Tet. And in all honesty, it reminded me too much of Hal 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Although, the recording of the blackbox being played to make the story come full circle is apt and works for the story in a largely average storyline.

-End of spoilers-

The extent that Kosinski goes to map out this post-apocalyptic world that Jack patrols is excellent and truly wonderful to watch, a sunken into the land Empire State Building, shells of boats but not only this, the canyon that Jack discovers houses a wonderful waterfall and serene landscape. Especially the little house that Jack had built by the lake. It’s a beautiful little place. Kosinski’s eye for detail makes this film very easy on the eye and more enjoyable as you are immersed into this world.

As I mentioned in the spoilers section, the storyline is largely average and all a bit expected. The story I would say has three big plot turns, the survivor Julia (Olga Kurylenko) and the scavengers being the first and the resolution ending at the Tet being the finale. But as most Tom Cruise films show, the plot is always a bit expected regardless of the enjoyment taken from it. I suppose that’s a nice way to sum it up, it’s enjoyable, but expected.

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The soundtrack score was produced by M83, which happens to produce some excellent music, and obviously keeping in time with the futuristic element in the film, the music is an electronic blend of sounds that is captivating when listening to it away from the film.

The film stands at just over 2 hours, but doesn’t feel lengthy. I believe that’s down to the spectacular detail in which Kosinski takes us on, in this adventure. And partly due to the fact that the enjoyment factor is there regardless how predictable the story is. The acting is nothing special in all fairness, just an average Tom Cruise performance. With the blended soundtrack and this adventure, it’s great, but the predictability makes the movie nothing groundbreaking, but enjoyable nonetheless.

These plot holes that I eluded to in this is not my only spite, despite receiving the next top billing, Morgan Freeman appears in the film for a maximum of about half hour, if that (I didn’t work it out). But I feel as though Morgan Freeman’s inclusion in the film was just an effort to sell tickets as his role was quite minimal, his right hand man, Sergant Sykes (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) could’ve had his role in all honesty.

3/5

Phantoms (1998)

I must clear up the reasoning behind this movie, I am only watching this film for one reason and one reason only. The reasoning is a quote from a film called Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Jay states that “Ben Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms, yo” to Ben Affleck who is playing someone else. Odd I know, but brilliant in action.

The film is set in Snowden, Colorado, where Lisa and Jennifer Pailey are heading to Jennifer’s home, but only to find her housekeeper dead and everyone in a usually busy town, missing. They head to the town bakery, to find the severed heads of the baker and his wife in the oven, this where the Sheriff and his deputies intercept them. The Pailey sisters (Lisa played by Rose McGowan and Jennifer played by Joanna Going) spooked investigate a local hotel with Sheriff Bryce Hammond (Ben Affleck) and his deputies Stu Wargle and Steve Shanning (Liev Schreiber and Nicky Katt). where they discover the name of Timothy Flyte coupled with The Ancient Enemy and of course, everyone dead or missing.

After this discovery and the clump of metal left on a bed that previously wasn’t there, they converge on the police station in aid of trying to get help and to find out this mystery name, Timothy Flyte. He is found and taken to a base close to Snowden where he reveals that this thing is “chaos, chaos in the flesh.” After calling for aid, they are attacked at the police station by a large moth-like creature and it attacks deputy Wargle, who has been peculiar up until this point. Upon examination of the deputy after the attack, they discover that Wargle had his eyes, brain and the soft tissue on his face eaten by the moth creature.

“Hey, you wanna see somethin’?”

Flyte is taken to Snowden in hope of trying to find a way to stop this ancient enemy as it is referred too, where he explains he believes this ancient enemy has wiped out civilisations including the Mayans. Accompanied by a small army to try and find this ancient enemy, they arrive in Snowden, only to be wiped out apart from Flyte, the Pailey sisters and of course, Sheriff Hammond.

Peter O'Toole here, confronting the 'Phantoms' for the final sequence.

Peter O’Toole here, confronting the ‘Phantoms’ for the final sequence.

Much of the rest of the film not much really happens, apart from the ending where everything goes down so to speak. (The final scene was quite good though). I say the rest of the film, majority of this film was very much below average, painfully  below average. As they discover the ancient enemy absorbs information and gathered this knowledge that the ancient enemy has become to believe it is all powerful and immortal. A God. They discover a way to destroy this entity, and decide to put it into practice. And whether or not it works I leave with you, if you want to choose to watch this film.

I imagine this film in surround sound and big screen it would’ve been much better only for the effect though, but as for the actual film, I felt it was too much like The Thing, the original. As the indistinct noises, the morphing into dogs and people and of course the way it attacks the people left is all too familiar with The Thing. Ultimately, I did not expect big things after the reviews score and the sole reason I was watching this film is the reference in another film. I would not recommend this film at all. It’s quite lackluster and any action and thriller-esque only comes from jump tactics employed.

The acting is not brilliant either, Ben Affleck is probably the quietest character in this film and least memorable. Liev Schreiber probably has the best performance as Wargle, as he is very creepy and someone whom you wouldn’t want to be around with for very long. To anyone else who has endured this, um, experience, what did you think? Was Ben Affleck the bomb for you?

1/5 – (For Ben Affleck)