Tag Archives: Sci-Fi

Just Because You’re Invited, Doesn’t Mean You’re Welcome

The other night my better half and I watched “Get Out”, a horror / thriller movie from writer / director Jordan Peele in his directorial debut.

Daniel Kaluuya & Allison Williams

The film opens with a young black man walking down the street in the suburbs late one night, clearly slightly lost, and we see him get abducted by someone. The significance of this becomes apparent later in the movie. Next we meet black photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya – “Sicario”, “Johnny English Reborn”) and his white girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams – “Girls”, “College Musical”) as they discuss their imminent trip to spend the weekend at Rose’s parents house in the country.

Bradley Whitford & Catherine Keener

Chris has not yet met her parents but Rose assures him that even though they don’t know that he is black they are not racist and it will be a problem-free experience. Arriving at the house Chris is reassured to find that he is made to feel welcome my Rose’s parents – neurosurgeon Dean (Bradley Whitford – “Saving Mr. Banks”, “The Cabin In The Woods”) and hypnotherapist Missy (Catherine Keener – “The Interpreter”, “Into The Wild”) – though Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones – “Contraband”, “Antiviral”) seems a little intense.

Caleb Landry Jones

However it’s when Chris meets the Armitage’s black servants Walter (Marcus Henderson – “Whiplash”, “Halfway”) and Georgina (Betty Gabriel – “The Purge – Election Year”, “Experimenter”) that he begins to notice that things don’t seem quite right as their demeanour is decidedly odd.

Betty Gabriel & Marcus Henderson

An annual get together at the Armitage house is taking place that weekend too, and when the guests turn up Chris meets Logan King (Lakeith Stanfield – “Straight Outta Compton”, “Snowden”), another black man who behaves rather unusually.

Lakeith Stanfield

To say more about the plot would be something of a spoiler, so I’ll avoid doing so. What I will say, though, is that I thought that this was a really well handled movie that explored racism from ordinary middle-class white folk and from police officers (extremely topical, particularly, stateside of late) and manages to turn many typical horror movie conventions upside down whilst still remaining gripping and entertaining. Performance-wise, all the leads do a good job but Kaluuya is particularly effective and impressive in his role as Chris.

Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams & Jordan Peele

My wife did her regular media-stacking trick of reading up online about the film even as we watched it, so was able to tell me as the final credits rolled that the original ending was less upbeat than the final version, and although the planned version would have arguably have been more realistic and in keeping with the rest of the film I can understand the reasons for Peele making the change and think it means that the conclusion is an easier watch. Either way, however, this is a very good film that makes an uncomfortable subject matter accessible and gives the viewer plenty to think and talk about. Recommended viewing…

He’ll Kill To Find Her

“How far will he go to save his daughter? How far will he go to get revenge?

It’s 2053 and climate change has left billions homeless and starving – easy prey for the pandemics that sweep across the globe, scything through the refugee populations. Easy prey, too, for the violent gangs and people-smugglers who thrive in the crumbling world where ‘King Death’ reigns supreme.

The father’s world went to hell two years ago. His four-year-old daughter was snatched from his garden when he should have been watching. The moments before her disappearance play in a perpetual loop in his mind. But the police aren’t interested; amidst floods, hurricanes and global chaos, who cares about one more missing child? Now it’s all down to him to find her, him alone…”

Lost-Girl-by-Adam-Nevill-390x591

British supernatural horror writer Adam Nevill has followed up his sixth novel “No One Gets Out Alive” with the rather different “Lost Girl”. OK, so the title may seem a bit derivative given the seeming increase in books with the word “girl” in of late – “Gone Girl”, “The Girl On The Train”, “Luckiest Girl Alive”, “The Good Girl” etc., but the subject matter on offer here is very distinctive.

Adam Nevill
Adam Nevill

The tale is a first for Nevill in that it’s set in the future, centred on the county of Devon in the year 2053. This is a future that has seen mankind practically destroy the planet and left us very much at the mercy of a damaged and unhappy mother nature! Although there are parallels with the peak oil scenario played out in works such as Alex Scarrow’s “Afterlight” the situation described within the pages of “Lost Girl” is rather more of a nightmarish situation – extreme climate change, mass migration, pandemics, crime, violence – but sadly no less believable.

This isn’t a sci-fi future that is too far from the present to be unrecognisable, and I think that adds to the sense of realism that pervades even when the author’s trademark supernatural elements are introduced. In fact, so cleverly has this aspect of the book been penned that the reader could accept the seemingly supernatural elements to be exactly that or could write them off as the ravings of a drug-addled madman as the central character “The Father” attempts to.

I wasn’t too sure about having the main character have no name – indeed his missing daughter isn’t named until a long way into the tale and two of his contacts are only known by film star pseudonyms for the majority of the book too – but in the long run it isn’t a big deal and really doesn’t detract from an excellent and typically horrifying story.

The synopsis at the top of this post gives a decent flavour of what the book is about but it won’t prepare you for the horrors that unfold as the tale progresses. Those horrors work on several different levels – there is he horror of the not-too-distant-future-world, the horror of mankind’s treatment of its environment and fellow man, the supernatural horror and, by no means least, the horror of having your child stolen away from you.

btmI have to confess that I have a soft spot for Nevill’s debut novel “Ritual” with its mix of isolated rural horrors and black metal, but “Lost Girl” proves beyond doubt that Mr. Nevill continues to be an excellent writer who rarely puts a foot wrong. Highly recommended reading…

It’s Only Human

The latest movie to get a viewing here in the shadows was the sci-fi drama “Uncanny” directed by Matthew Leutwyler (“Answers To Nothing”, “The River Why”) from a story by screenwriter Shahin Chandrasoma (“Lower Learning”).

uncanny top

Mark Webber
Mark Webber

David Kressen (Mark Webber – “13 Sins”, “Jessabelle”) is a robotics expert. Having graduated from MIT at nineteen he has spent the past ten years working in a secure facility located in a city penthouse called Workspace 18, not leaving the facility day or night.

Rainn Wilson
Rainn Wilson

David was recruited by Simon Castle (Rainn Wilson – “Juno”, “The Office”) the billionaire owner of Kestrel Computing upon his graduation and offered the workspace and unlimited funding to further his science. Davis is attempting to perfect an artificial intelligence (A.I.) robot called Adam.

Lucy Griffiths
Lucy Griffiths

Former robotics student Joy Andrews (Lucy Griffiths – “Don’t Look Back”, “Robin Hood”) is now working as a journalist for a scientific magazine and has been tasked with spending a week studying David’s work in order to pen an in-depth feature on it.

David Clayton Rogers
David Clayton Rogers

When Joy arrives at David’s facility he asks Adam (David Clayton Rogers – “H+”, “Bloody Sunday”) to talk to her. It’s only later when Joy tells David that she can’t see it taking a week to study his work that doesn’t appear to be hugely groundbreaking that he tells her that Adam is in fact A.I.

Lucy Griffiths & Mark Webber
Lucy Griffiths & Mark Webber

As the week progresses Joy finds herself drawn to the initially smug but then awkward David who, having spent a decade locked away working, is understandably a little rusty when it comes to relationships. However, Adam seems to be showing signs of emergent behaviour and also shows signs of attraction to Joy as well as a certain level of resentment as David opens up to Joy and the pair become close.

David Clayton Rogers & Mark Webber
David Clayton Rogers & Mark Webber

As the dynamics between the three change and David and Adam’s relationship becomes strained by Joy’s presence Adam’s behaviour begins to appear to be rather more sinister and secretive. There is certainly more going on here than is at first apparent…

David Clayton Rogers, Lucy Griffiths & Mark Webber
David Clayton Rogers, Lucy Griffiths & Mark Webber

This seems to be a fairly low-budget movie and covers similar Turing Test territory to the more expensive looking “Ex Machina” which also came out in 2015. However, the storytelling here is very good, as are the performances of the actors for the three main characters (the billionaire being more of a bit part) who convey their roles convincingly. A decent sci-fi drama / thriller that, at just 86 minutes, doesn’t outstay its welcome but gets the job done. Worth a look…

uncanny btm

She’d Love To Kill Him – And Kill… To Love Him!

Taking it easy this morning I dug out an old Italian sci-fi / action / comedy film. Released in 1965 and originally titled “La Decima Dittima”, the movie was directed by Elio Petri (“Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion”, “The Assassin”) and re-titled “The 10th Victim”.

10th-victim-poster-face

Robert Sheckley - The 10th Victim
Robert Sheckley – The 10th Victim

Set in a not-too-distant future, the film is loosely based upon a 1953 short story by American writer Robert Sheckley called “Seventh Victim”. Following the film adaptation the author used the movie as a basis for a revised and expanded version of is story for a film tie-in novelisation.

The film itself opens with a narrated explanation of “The Big Hunt”. This is an officially sanctioned game that has been developed in order to avoid large-scale warfare by giving people with the wish to kill the opportunity to do so by joining the game. Each participant signs up for ten rounds of the hunt. The must be the hunter in five rounds and the hunted in five. In the unlikely event that they get through the ten rounds a surviving competitor would gain $1 million and be able to retire from the game. To complicate matters the hunter is given complete information about the person that they are tasked with hunting, the victim is given no information on who is pursuing them and must try to survive by outwitting and then killing their hunter.

Ursula Andress
Ursula Andress

A man is seen pursuing a dark-haired woman through the streets of New York, shooting at her, eventually following her into a nightclub.

Ursula Andress
Ursula Andress

The woman seems to have disappeared and the man becomes entranced by a blonde dancer wearing an interesting silver outfit and mask. It becomes clear that this is the same woman, Caroline Meredith (Ursula Andress – “Dr. No”, “She”), and she dispatches with bullets shot from her bra (no doubt inspiration for the fembots in the “Austin Powers” movie by Mike Myers. We learn that this was Caroline’s ninth hunt, and that she will be the hunter for her tenth hunt.

Marcello Mastroianni
Marcello Mastroianni

Meanwhile, at an equestrian event Marcello Poletti (Marcello Mastroianni – “La Dolce Vita”, “Marriage Italian Style”) is in the role of hunter, killing his victim by concealing explosives in their riding boots.

Ursula Andress & Marcello Mastroianni
Ursula Andress & Marcello Mastroianni

Naturally, Caroline’s victim on her tenth hunt is to be Marcello. She wastes no time in tracking him down and making herself known to him, posing as a TV reporter wanting to interview him for a live TV show. The hunt is big business in the media, providing entertainment for the masses, and so she has secured sponsorship from Ming Tea for the TV show, which is to be broadcast from the Temple of Venus in Rome. Incidentally Ming Tea was also used as a name for a rock group in “Austin Powers”!

Ursula Andress & Marcello Mastroianni
Ursula Andress & Marcello Mastroianni

Marcello is drawn to Caroline despite feeling that she could be his hunter, and Caroline herself is also attracted to Marcello. Nonetheless, the pair continue their cat and mouse manouvering, each trying to gain the upper hand, all leading to an unexpected climax in front of the TV cameras…

An ahead of its time comment on reality TV and the voyeuristic nature of the media, the film also looks at death being reduced to a commodity to promote various corporations’ products. Whether you take on board the social commentary or just view it as a very cool looking, fairly light-hearted (despite the underlying morality issues) sci-fi tale, I would certainly recommend this film for watching.5157WdEZz2L._SL

Live Forever Or Die Trying

Today my wife and I watched a 2011 movie from writer / director Andrew Niccol (“Good Kill”, “S1m0ne”), a sci-fi action thriller entitled “In Time”.

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Set in a dystopian future we find a world where humans are genetically modified so that they don’t age once they reach 25. The catch is that they only have one more year after that, and once their time clock counts down to zero they will time out and die.

Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake

The only way to avoid that is to earn more time. Money has ceased to exist. You work to earn time. You pay your bills in time. Everything is bought and paid for in time.

Justin Timberlake & Olivia Wilde
Justin Timberlake & Olivia Wilde

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake – “Inside Llewyn Davis”, “Friends With Benefits”) is 28 years old and lives day-to-day with rarely more than a day or two left on his clock. He lives with his mother, Rachel (Olivia Wilde – “The Lazarus Effect”, “Rush”) who has just turned 50. Rachel also lives pretty much day-to-day.

Matt Bomer
Matt Bomer

One night Will saves a stranger, Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer – “Magic Mike”, “White Collar”), who is 105 and has 116 years left on his clock, from local time thief Fortis (Alex Pettyfer – “Alex Rider : Stormbreaker”, “Tormented”).

Alex Pettyfer
Alex Pettyfer

Hamilton explains to Will that the time-rich people of New Greenwich hoard as much time for themselves as possible, in order to achieve immortality, and keep pushing up prices in the poorer districts to ensure that the residents there keep on dying.

Johnny Galecki
Johnny Galecki

Will awakes the following morning to discover that Henry has transferred his 116 years to him and timed himself out. He gives his best friend Borel (Johnny Galecki – “The Big Bang Theory”, “Hancock”) 10 years, as that’s how long they have been friends, and realising that he wouldn’t be safe from the likes of Fortis in his district with so much time, determines to take his mother and go to New Greenwich.

Vincent Kartheiser
Vincent Kartheiser

His plan falls apart when Rachel runs out of time on her way to meet him, so Will decides to go to New Greenwich himself to “make them pay”. Having spent his first night in an exclusive hotel suite Will meets 110 year old time-loan mogul Phillipe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser – “Mad Men”, “Elektra Luxx”) and his daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried – “A Million Ways To Die In The West”, “Gone”).

Amanda Seyfried
Amanda Seyfried

Will and Phillipe play poker together and Will wins over a thousand years from Phillipe. He is unaware, however, that the timekeepers are tracking him down to retrieve the years that Hamilton had given him.

Cillian Murphy
Cillian Murphy

When the timekeepers, led by Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy – “Transcendence”, “Aloft”), arrive at a party at Phillipe’s mansion Will takes off with Sylvia as hostage and demands a ransom of 1,000 years. Phillipe refuses to pay, so Will and Sylvia team up and begin to take time from Phillipe’s time banks and distribute the time around the poorer districts whilst trying desperately to stay one step ahead of the timekeepers, Fortis and his gang, and avoid running out of time…

A Time Clock
A Time Clock

We found this film to be very entertaining. The idea of time taking the place of money opens up numerous lines of thought, and is quite a brutal exercise really. Imagine you are having a game of poker and if you lose you’re not just broke, you’re dead. It casts a whole new light on the rich vs. poor scenario and unequal distribution of wealth.

Justin Timberlake & Amanda Seyfried
Justin Timberlake & Amanda Seyfried

That said, even on the most basic sit-back-and-let-it-entertain-you level this movie works. The action is well paced, there is some nicely witty humour sprinkled throughout, and the fact that no-one visibly ages beyond 25 means that Hollywood was able to have a fairly uniform young-and-attractive cast to appeal to the movie goer.

It’s not perfect, sometimes things didn’t add up time-wise (ironically enough) and some scenes were a little predictable and cheesy, but this film does provide a pretty decent 109 minutes of entertainment that shouldn’t leave you feeling like you have wasted any of your precious time…2597b078c7f8

God Created Man. Man Created Immortality

I’ve just had the pleasure of watching the recent American sci-fi thriller, from director Tarsem Singh (“Immortals”, “The Cell”). The movie, titled “Self/Less” was written by David Pastor and Alex Pastor (“Carriers”, “Out Of The Dark”).

selfless_1

Ben Kingsley
Ben Kingsley

Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley – “Robot Overlords”, “Stonehearst Asylum”) is a billionaire businessman who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and given less than six months to live.

Matthew Goode
Matthew Goode

Seriously ill, he receives a business card from a Professor Albright (Matthew Goode – “The Imitation Game”, “Match Point”). A scientist, Albright tells Hale about a hugely expensive revolutionary medical procedure called “shredding” whereby one’s healthy conscious mind can be transferred to a new body, artificially grown in a laboratory, allowing the old or diseased body to die whilst the mind lives on in the new body.

Victor Garber
Victor Garber

Hale decides to undergo the procedure, prior to which he arranges lunch with his old friend Martin O’Neill (Victor Garber – “Argo”, “Alias”) so that he can be seen to have “died” publicly – in reality being transferred to Albright’s facility en-route to the hospital so that the procedure can take place and his “old” body delivered to the hospital as a D.O.A.

Derek Luke
Derek Luke

When Hale wakes in his new body, Albright gives him some pills. He must take one each day to suppress hallucinations, a side effect of the procedure. When he is recovered sufficiently, Albright releases Hale, now living under the name Edward Hale, to an apartment in New Orleans where he quickly becomes friends with a neighbour, Anton (Derek Luke – “Supremacy”, “Lions For Lambs”).

Ryan Reynolds
Ryan Reynolds & Young Woman

Hale and Anton spend a lot of time together, going to clubs, drinking and having fun, and Hale enjoys spending nights with a succession of young women with bodies that he remarks he hasn’t seen “for fifty-to years”. One day he forgets to take his medication, however, and suffers very vivid hallucinations of a particular woman and child and a distinctive landmark.

self-less-2015-posterHale speaks to Albright about the hallucinations and is assured that they will pass if he keeps taking the pills, but his suspicions are aroused when Albright mentions a specific detail that Hale had seen but not mentioned. Instead of heading to Hawaii for a change of scene, as directed by Albright, Hale heads to St. Louis to find the landmark he saw in his hallucination.

When he gets to St. Louis he finds the landmark, and in the isolated house next to it he discovers photos of the woman, Madeline Bitwell (Natalie Martinez – “End Of Watch”, “Under The Dome”) and child, Anna, that he saw in his hallucination, and of his new body.

Ryan Reynolds & Natalie Martinez
Ryan Reynolds & Natalie Martinez

Hale learns that his new supposedly laboratory-grown body is that of Madeline’s husband Mark (Ryan Reynolds – “Safe House”, “Woman In Gold”) who, unbeknownst to Madeline, had sold his body to Albright in order to fund their sick daughter’s medical care.

Matthew Goode
Matthew Goode

From there on in things escalate as Albright tries to keep his project secret and get rid of anyone that could blow it, and Hale attempts to protect Madeline and Anna whilst balancing between his own persona and the intruding memories from Mark…

Natalie Martinez & Ryan Reynolds
Natalie Martinez & Ryan Reynolds

I really enjoyed this movie, despite some flaws. Even though Hale had to be re-taught how to walk in his “new”body, he managed to retain Mark’s ex-Forces combat and shooting skills when he was in a tight spot – which seemed a little unlikely, and it seemed a little unnecessary for Albright to be wanting him and the Bitwells dead too. Hale showed precious little of his original personality once in his new body, oddly given that he essentially wanted to feel immortal. Oh, and the twist involving a bullet casing towards the climax of proceedings was stretching credibility just a tad!

Ryan Reynolds & Matthew Goode
Ryan Reynolds & Matthew Goode

On the plus side, there are a number of clever twists and turns so that you’re never 100% sure who can be trusted and who cannot. And of course, it is thought-provoking in terms of “what would I do if…” in response to some of the scenarios played out here.

Ben Kingsley & Matthew Goode
Ben Kingsley & Matthew Goode

Performance wise, Kingsley is great while he is on-screen early on in the film, Reynolds is solid if unremarkable, but for me the best depiction came from Goode as the ruthless and really quite chilling scientist.

Now, the movie hasn’t had the best of reviews, and granted this premise isn’t entirely original. However whilst this is not perfect and unlikely to become a future classic, for a bit of not-so-mindless entertainment that does exactly what it says on the tin – i.e a sci-fi thriller (it ticks both of those boxes) this isn’t a bad film at all…selfless_ver6

The Incredible Becomes Real! The Impossible Becomes Fact! The Unbelievable Becomes True!

Today I watched a digitally restored version of a superb old sci-fi / disaster film. Directed and co-written by Val Guest “The Quatermass Xperiment”, “Expresso Bongo”), “The Day The Earth Caught Fire” was originally released in 1961.

day_earth_caught_fire_poster_02

Edward Judd
Edward Judd

Although mainly presented in black and white, the film begins with the picture infused with an orange tint. The action starts with a man, Peter Stenning (Edward Judd – “Island Of Terror”, “First Men On The Moon”), walking through deserted and uncomfortably hot streets of London and into the almost empty offices of the Daily Express newspaper where he begins dictating a story.

The story take us back ninety days to find, via the stories being worked on at the newspaper, that the US had detonated the biggest atomic bomb yet in a test at the South Pole.

Hit
Heatwave

Meanwhile journalists are looking into reports of strange weather conditions taking place around the globe. There is torrential rain for days in the UK followed by a heatwave leading to bikini clad young women around London. There’s flooding in the Sahara, tornadoes in Russia, snow in New York…

Leo McKern Edward Judd
Leo McKern & Edward Judd

When the Russians announce that they, too, have tested their largest atomic bomb to date – at the North Pole – and the journalists realise that, taking into account the effect of tome zones, both bombs went off more or less simultaneously, science editor Bill Maguire (Leo McKern – “Rumpole Of The Bailey”, “Ladyhawke”) and his colleague Stenning are tasked to look into it in more depth.

Janet Munro
Janet Munro

Stenning, an alcoholic divorcé, calls the Meteorological Centre and manages to upset the young telephonist Jeannie Craig (Janet Munro – “The Trollenberg Terror”, “Third Man On The Mountain”). Turning up at their building Stenning is unable to get any information from the officials about what they think is going on.

Water Station
Water Station

Soon the rivers are running dry, reservoirs are empty and the authorities are setting up community washing stations as the pipes dry up.

Edward Judd & Janet Munro
Edward Judd & Janet Munro

Having managed to charm his way into Craig’s good books, Stenning is the person she turns to when she overhears at work that the earth has shifted on its axis by 11% as a result of the dual atomic test explosions, causing massive climate change practically overnight – and far worse is to come unless the world’s scientists and governments can come up with a solution, and fast…

Shot in almost documentary style, with clever dialogue that addresses the issues whilst giving a human insight into the characters, and interspersed with real-life disaster footage and infrequent but effective special effects, this is a really good drama and holds up well despite its age.

Edward Judd
Edward Judd, Janet Munro & Leo McKern

On the acting front, I felt that Judd, Munro and McKern were all excellent in their respective roles. The attitudes of the men and women depicted are interesting in this day and age. Sexist would be the conclusion I imagine, with camera shots lingering on the occasional female derrière (though it seemed fine to me!)

day5With regard to the film itself, I think that with the conditions we have witnessed during the past few years the message on the consequences of climate change is even more pertinent today. The planet may not be knocked out of alignment but can anyone really know what effect the human race is having on Mother Nature?

day6The film ends, as it began, with an orange infused picture after Stenning  has arranged two alternate morning headlines for the Daily Express – one reading “World Saved” and the other “World Doomed” leaving us to speculate as to what happened next…

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Expand Your Universe

Last night the kids and I watched a sci-fi action film, written and directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski (“The Matrix” trilogy, “Cloud Atlas”) called “Jupiter Ascending”.

jupiter-ascending-movie-poster-1

Mila Kunis
Mila Kunis

At the beginning of the movie we are told that Jupiter Jones – named after her parents’ favourite planet – is born at sea as her mother travels from St. Petersburg to Chicago to start a new life after her husband (Jupiter’s father) is murdered.

jupiter_ascending_ver13Jupiter (Mila Kunis – “Black Swan”, “Ted”) is working as a cleaner and regularly complains that she “hates her life” and feels that she is destined for greater things.

Meanwhile, three siblings from the House of Abrasax, a most powerful royal dynasty on a distant planet, is going through a power struggle following the murder of their mother.

Eddie Redmayne
Eddie Redmayne

The three – Balem (Eddie Redmayne – “The Theory Of Everything”, “Black Death”), Kalique (Tuppence Middleton – “The Imitation Game”, “Cleanskin”) and Titus (Douglas Booth – “The Riot Club”, “LOL”) – argue over their inheritance with Balem having inherited Earth and Titus wanting to have it for himself.

Tuppence Middleton
Mila Kunis & Tuppence Middleton

It transpires that the Abrasax family business involves harvesting the populations of the planets that they own to produce a youth serum for the elite on other planets in order to extend their lives.

Douglas Booth
Douglas Booth

Balem and Titus have discovered that their mother’s DNA has been reincarnated in Jupiter and that her genetic code means that she is the rightful owner of Earth.

Channing Tatum Mila Kunis
Channing Tatum & Mila Kunis

Titus sends former soldier and human / wolf hybrid Caine Wise (Channing Tatum – “The Eagle”, “Magic Mike”) to protect Jupiter from aliens that Balem has sent to kill her. Saving Jupiter from almost certain death turns out to be a task that he will have to repeat with amazing regularity throughout the duration of the movie!

Sean Bean
Sean Bean

Caine teams up with former comrade Stinger Apini (Sean Bean – “Outlaw”, “Black Death”) to help Jupiter escape Balem’s clutches and get to the planet Ores to claim her inheritance – but naturally this doesn’t prove to be an easy task with Balem out to get Jupiter and Titus’s motives unclear too…

Jupiter Ascending
Jupiter Ascending

This movie didn’t, I believe, do terribly well at the box office and has received incredibly bad reviews generally speaking – I’ve seen it referred to as the worst film of all time even – which is a shame. Now, granted the plot doesn’t make an awful lot of sense and there are some seriously drawn out action sequences that involve so much CGI that you wonder just how much acting goes on some times.

Grey Aliens Vs. Lingerie-Clad Blonde
Grey Aliens Vs. Lingerie-Clad Blonde

There are so many things going on it almost beggars belief. These include old-school grey aliens trying to abduct Jupiter’s lingerie-clad blonde friend, military-grade angels wings, bees that can smell royalty, jet propelled hover boots, an alien orgy(!), amazing space ships, steampunk, a very tongue-in-cheek admin scene, dinosaur demons, huge gothic structures on other worlds, a state wedding, etc. The acting isn’t bad, though it’s fair to say that easily the best performance is attributable to the villainous Redmayne.

Mila Kunis
Mila Kunis

However, for all the negatives and flaws something very positive remains – this is a visually sumptuous and generally very entertaining movie. My advice would be simple – don’t think about it too much, just sit back and let the spectacle unfold before your eyes…

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There Is Nothing More Human Than The Will To Survive

I have today watched a new British film, written and directed by Alex Garland (who also wrote “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine”). Entitled “Ex Machina”, it’s a science fiction thriller.

ex_machina

Domhnall Gleeson
Domhnall Gleeson

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson – “Frank”, “Calvary”) is a computer coding programmer working for the world’s most popular internet search engine, Bluebook. One day he finds that he has won a competition at work to meet and spend a week at the home of the company’s CEO.

Oscar Isaac
Oscar Isaac

The CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac – “Inside Llewyn Davis”, “Robin Hood”) lives in a futuristic high security home hidden in the mountains, hours from civilisation.

Alicia Vikander
Alicia Vikander

When Caleb arrives he discovers that Nathan wants him to use his skills to act as a tester in a Turing Test of Artificial Intelligence on a humanoid robot that he has designed and built, named Ava (Alicia Vikander – “Son Of A Gun”, “The Fifth Estate”).

Sonoya Mizuno
Sonoya Mizuno

The only other person at Nathan’s home is his assistant Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno – “Venus In Eros”) who is unable to speak English, and is often treated with disdain by the frequently drunk Nathan.

Alicia Vikander & Domhnall Gleeson
Alicia Vikander & Domhnall Gleeson

Whilst Caleb is conducting his sessions with Ava he finds himself developing feelings towards her. Will Ava return these feelings? Is she even able to? After all, the true test is whether Ava can pass for human even though Caleb knows she is not.

Oscar Isaac
Oscar Isaac

Ava warns Caleb not to trust Nathan – but why not? Who can be trusted?

This is an absorbing film which poses questions around how much of our own personal information and even humanity we share with machines whilst we are online… who may be collecting such data and what they might choose to do with it… what it is that makes us human, etc. This is more of a psychological drama in a way, certainly it’s not your standard action based sci-fi movie.

Nathan's Home
Nathan’s Home

Visually, it’s excellent – the Norwegian landscapes where the scenes around Nathan’s home were filmed are stunning, the interior designs are very good and the rendering of Ava is superb.

The ending is a little ambiguous but I think that it is alluding to just how well the A.I. is able to adapt – even if that means adopting some of humanity’s worst traits – but I could be wrong, as I think there’s plenty of room for interpretation! Definitely a film worthy of watching and pondering over…

wBUWcOK

Civilisation Is Gone. Where Does Humanity Go From Here…?

“The world lies devastated after the massive oil crisis that was described in “Last Light”. Human society has more or less entirely broken down and millions lie dead of starvation or disease. There are only one or two beacon communities that have managed to fashion a new way of living.

Jenny Sutherland runs one of these groups. Based on a series of decaying offshore oil rigs – for safety – a few hundred people have rebuilt a semblance of normality in this otherwise dead world.

But as Jenny and her people explore their surroundings once again, they start to realise not every survivor has the same vision of a better future than their catastrophic past. There are people out there who would take everything they have. War is coming, and the stakes are truly massive…”

01I have spent the past few days immersed in “Afterlight”, a novel published in 2010, written by Norwich-based author Alex Scarrow (brother of fellow author Simon Scarrow) as a follow up to his 2007 novel “Last Light”.

Alex Scarrow
Alex Scarrow

In the first book, Scarrow expertly described the few days following bombings at key oil refineries around the globe at a time of negligible oil reserves. This, combined with the U.K.’s lack of home-grown foods and lack of long-term storage for food, combined with the sudden global unavailability of oil for the transport for goods etc. meant that the country very quickly saw a complete breakdown of society as a result. The scenario presented was all too credible, and made for a sobering read.

Now, set predominantly ten years later, “Afterlight” follows the Sutherland family that featured heavily in “Last Light”, who have managed to build a fledgling community on an abandoned oil rig in the North Sea, having left the mainland to escape the gangs that roamed throughout the country following the oil crash and breakdown of civilisation. However, when the head of the one remaining “safe zones” in London, whose own supplies are gradually running out despite careful rationing, he sees an opportunity.

I felt that the characters portrayed here are all very believable, whether they be intrinsically good or bad or caught somewhere in between. This applies also to the various scenarios that play out with themes including greed, power, politics, the unifying and divisive potential of religion, a yearning for what used to be and the struggle to survive when life as we know it has essentially fallen apart.

alexscarrow-lightPerhaps the underlying scenario here means that this won’t be a book for everyone – some will inevitably scoff that it’s too far-fetched. Personally, I felt that the contents of these two books – perhaps this one even more than the first – are much more believable than I would like to think, and again give me pause to consider the disposable consumer society in which we live in this day and age and just how unprepared we would be should some global catastrophe occur…