GEEK OUT!

ELYSIUM (Directed by Neill Blomkamp. Starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley. 109 mins)

Neill Blomkamp exploded onto the movie scene in 2009 with his Oscar nominated debut film, District 9. Thus, expectations have been running high for his new work – Elysium. Could Blomkamp avoid the dreaded sophomore slump? Although reviews have been mixed and while I will admit that Elysium does not come near the heights of District 9, the film is entertaining, thought-provoking and a superb addition to the burgeoning original sci-fi movie canon.

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GEEK OUT! PACIFIC RIM [REVIEW]

Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim is the latest in a recent line of original scifi blockbusters that more or less began with the phenomenal success of Christopher Nolan’s Inception. And if like me, you thoroughly loved the creatures in Hellboy 2, then you would have a heightened sense of anticipation for del Toro’s take on the classic ‘giant robot vs monsters’ genre.

Set in the near future (2020s), the setup is typically apocalyptic: Earth is under attack by Kaiju: colossal monsters which have emerged from a portal on the ocean floor. To combat the monsters, humanity unites to create the Jaegers: gigantic humanoid mecha, each controlled by two pilots whose minds are joined by a neural bridge. The war has reach a critical juncture and unless the people behind the Jaegars are able to execute one last gambit, it’s the end of the world!

Alright, so the plot’s nothing to shout about. Del Toro envisioned Pacific Rim as an earnest, colourful adventure story, with an “incredibly airy and light feel”, in contrast to the “super-brooding, super-dark, cynical summer movie”. And it shows. The characters are cyphers, the story resolution is cliched and there is no grand themes – what you see is what you get – in other words.

But that’s precisely the point – “what you see” is staggering! The action sequences make the film – like it or not – powerful scenes of all-out battle between Jaegars and Kaiju, that’s the main reason why Pacific Rim succeeds where other movies involving fighting robots failed big time (are you taking notes, Michael Bay?) 3D IMAX is the absolutely essential viewing option for Pacific Rim – it should be the default option – as the massive action will literally fill up your eyes with gorgeous eye candy.

For me personally, I felt like a little boy again thrilling to those old Ultraman/Godzilla/Rodan and Sinbad movies – no surprise here as Pacific Rim is obviously del Toro’s loving tribute to Ray Harryhausen, Ishiro Honda and Eiji Tsuburaya – but this time the realism factor was pumped up to the max! It is difficult to describe without spoiling your fun – suffice to say that I was going – Wow! Wow! WOW! throughout each awesome battle scene.

For the true-blue geeks out there, you’re going to want to watch it again just for the action sequences!

Pacific Rim is showing in cinemas now.

 

 

 

GEEK OUT! IRON MAN THREE [REVIEW]

Iron Man 2 was only half a movie, in my humble opinion. The first half was quick-paced and exhilarating but then the wheels came off and the movie came to a tired conclusion. The sequel did well at the box office but one sensed that director Jon Favreau had lost interested in the franchise that he had kickstarted. So when it came to talk about the third Iron Man movie, Favreau passed and Shane Black came onboard.

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GEEK OUT! OBLIVION [REVIEW]

Truth be told, I was excited when I saw the first trailer for sci-fi Tom Cruise action movie vehicle Oblivion. It looked intriguing. Of course, a trailer really does not tell you anything about the movie itself. I was also excited by the fact that Oblivion was an original premise (based on a story co-authored by director Joe Kosinski) and perhaps was hoping that it would be as good as District 9, Moon or Inception.

It isn’t.

Ultimately, Oblivion is a huge disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is a visual treat throughout. For most of the first thirty minutes or so, Oblivion comes across like Wall-E meets I Am Legend (the Will Smith remake), updated with cool gadgets, weaponized drones, sexy encounters between Jack Harper (Cruise) and his colleague Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) and menacing ones with alien beings called ‘scavengers’. The setting is a dystopian future (2077) where the earth is dying after a war with aliens (which humans won, it seems) and humans are about the leave the planet and start a new life on Titan.

However, things are not as they seem (when are they ever?) – Harper has memories of another woman (strange, as his former memories have been removed), he meets this woman when her ship crash lands on earth and Harper is captured by the ‘scavengers’ and discovers the truth.

From then on to the hackneyed resolution, the movie degenerates into a sequence of cliches, with planet-sized plot holes and pedestrian acting – Olga Kurylenko, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones‘ Jamie Lannister) and even poor old Morgan Freeman – and by the time the ending comes, the promise of ‘original’ sci-fi movie genre is utterly lost. Apparently, director Kosinski himself stated that Oblivion pays homage to science fiction films of the 1970s. Seriously? Well, perhaps superficially but whilst Oblivions certainly borrows heavily from the dystopian worldview of movies like Omega Man, Soylent Green, Zardoz, Logan’s Run, Silent Running and the Planet of the Apes series, it has none of the imagination, gravitas or even consistent writing that was a hallmark of the decade.

Oblivion is now showing in the cinemas.

 

GEEK OUT! LOOPER [REVIEW]

Time travel has provided some of the most inventive scifi movie concepts in history. For me personally, two of my favourite movies involved time travel viz. 12 Monkeys and Back to the Future. Unfortunately, time travel as a concept can also be highly problematic and has ruined many a promising scifi movie – Star Trek: First Contact comes quickly to mind.

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GEEK OUT! LOOPER TRAILER #2

The more I see of writer/director Rian Johnsons’s time-travel flick, Looper, the more I think that this is going to be one of the best scifi films of the year. Already, I am totally sold on the fact that the two leads – Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt – play the same person at different ages in a life-and-death struggle with each other! All possible through that wonderful scifi device called time-travel. Wonderful!! Check out the trailer. Looper opens in late September.

 

GEEK OUT! TOTAL RECALL TRAILER

Remakes can be tricky. Early on, the producers talked up the new version of Paul Verhoeven’s classic Total Recall as being more a adaptation of Philip K Dick’s short story We Can Remember ItkFor You Wholesale rather than a straight remake of the original movie. WRONG! As it is clearly apparent from this latest trailer, this is a straightforward remake of the movie as there are no three-breasted ladies or actual trips to Mars in the short story. Fact is, the short story would make a boring action movie if faithfully adapted. So is there any point to repeated the whole exercise once over again. Well… I think so. Based on the trailers, the effects and action sequences look pretty good and having Bryan Cranston on board as the villain of the piece never hurts. Also, the combined eye candy of Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale should make up for Colin Farrell’s anticipated over-acting. I mean come on, look at the image above and not picture Arnie in that chair. Try…

 

GEEK OUT! PROMETHEUS

DEJA VU?

It is epic, visually dazzling and most definitely, the prequel to director Ridley Scott’s first movie, Alien, released back in 1979. Yes all that nonsense about Prometheus not being an Alien prequel but instead being set in the same universe was simply a distraction. In fact, Scott pretty much sets out the film’s narrative based on that found in Alien.

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GEEK OUT! PROMETHEUS

IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?

With John Carter, The Avengers and MIB3 out of the way, the serious contender for your hardcore scifi fan attention arrives in 5 days time as Prometheus opens in Singapore on 7th June. Marking director Ridley Scott’s return to scifi, Prometheus promises to be an epic horror-adventure flick to keep your senses and your mind engaged.

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GEEK OUT! MEN IN BLACK 3

TIME AFTER TIME (AFTER TIME)

The expectations for Men in Black 3 were nowhere as high as for The Avengers, Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises or even The Amazing Spider-Man. In addition, the basic premise of the movie – Agent J (Will Smith) goes back in time to save Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones)’s life and therefore deliver the Earth from an alien invasion – seems trite and hackneyed. So rather surprisingly, despite its dodgy premise the movie succeeds in providing good old fashioned scifi-based comedic entertainment, never taking itself too seriously and generally being a big ball of FUN!

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GEEK OUT! FRINGE SEASON 4

AND THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY TOGETHER…

(Spoilers abound, so beware!)

About a year ago, I grumbled and lamented that the Season 3 finale had been so disappointing. Basically, I opined that removing Peter from existence did not make any sense whatsoever and was wondering how the writers would resolve this in Season 4. Well, over the course of the 22 episodes of the excellent Season 4, I’ve had to eat my words numerous times.

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GEEK OUT! AKAN DATANG*

With the resounding box office success of The Avengers, the summer blockbuster season has gotten off to the perfect start. To date, the Joss Whedon-helmed superhero movie spectacular has already grossed over US$800 million worldwide and there appears no reason to suppose that it will not surpass the billion dollar mark.

With science-fiction and fantasy themed movies capturing the imagination of the movie-going public, let’s take stock of what is the come in the months ahead and let’s speculate upon how well (or poorly – remember John Carter?) they will be received.

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IN TIME

Andrew Nichol is responsible for two of my favourite sci-fi movies. The director-screenwriter from New Zealander scripted the Peter Weir-helmed Truman Show and Gatttaca. Nichol has proven himself deft at using sci-fi narratives to provide allegories for real world themes. Truman Show pre-figured the advent of the reality show (aside from its religious themes) and Gattaca touched on the arguments over eugenics – both delivered their messages through vivid artistic visions.

In Time is set in a dystopian future where everyone stops aging at 25 but is only given one more year of life. However, time is now the currency required for living and this time can be transferred among individuals, its availability being displayed on an implant on a person’s lower arm. When that clock reaches zero, one dies instantly. Society is divided by social class living in specialized towns called, ‘Time Zones’. Clearly, the film concerns itself greatly with the income gap which is becoming more and more prevalent in the modern world.

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) lives in the ghetto with his mother (Olivia Wilde). He lives from day to day and barely gets by. One night Salas saves Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) – a rich man obviously from the wealthy Time Zones with a century of life indicated on his arm – from robbery. The next morning, Salas wakes up with 100 years extra and witnesses Hamilton ‘time-out’ and commit suicide. Before Salas can make sense of his situation, his mother ‘times out’ due to a sudden increase in public transport fares (how Singaporean eh?) – in Salas’ arms no less – and Salas vows revenge.

Sala’s anger brings him into New Greenwich (a wealthy timezone) where he meets millionaire Phillipe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser), falls foul of the Timekeepers – this era’s police force, led by Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) and kidnaps Weis’ daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried). Inevitably, the couple fall in love, morph into Bonnie and Clyde and change the world!

All well and good but the film simply does not make enough sense for any coherent message to get through. For one thing, the entire concept of the transfer of time between individuals becomes ludicrous after awhile – imagine a person carrying thousands of dollars on his or her person – as scenes of criminals simply stealing time from people attest.

Also, there are many portions of the film that are simply too convenient – take for example the robbery of the Weis time bank by Salas and Sylvia which the couple achieve without any resistance whatsoever. In a later scene, Weis is shown to have over twenty personal bodyguards but his bank has zero security?

In addition, everybody in the ghetto seems to dress inordinately well despite being steeped in poverty – it’s all too stylized to be a realistic slum. And despite the ploy of diminishing life illuminated on the arms of Salas and Sylvia, one never gets the sense that their lives are ever in danger – Salas (a mere factory worker) comes across incredibly like James Bond for much of the film. At the very end, Salas and Sylvia embark on yet another bank robbery – high heeled and dressed to the nines – it’s almost as if Nichol did not want his audience to treat his film too seriously. If so, and based on the evidence here, he will certainly get his wish.

Avoid.

GEEK OUT! : PLINKETT’S REVIEWS

I spent most of last night’s waking hours watching Plinkett’s reviews of two of those dreadful Star Wars prequels. These are featured at Red Letter Media, a no-holds barred film reviews site which I have recently discovered. Over at the Plinkett’s reviews section, we have video reviews of the Star Trek and Star Wars movies, which believe me will have you splitting your sides in uncontrollable laughter. But seriously, it is obvious that the maker(s) of these videos has put in considerable effort to come up with such detailed analysis. But be warned once you start, you will be addicted in no time at all! Not convinced, check out the trailer below. You have been warned!

FRINGE SEASON 3

I have been championing Fringe quite a bit for its daring exploration of alternate realities within the scifi TV drama. But this season 3 finale left me cold. At the end of the last episode, Peter Bishop finally got into the Doomsday Machine and re-appeared 15 years into the future. Was this another alternate realty or did Peter’s consciousness move forward in time? Disappointingly it turns out to be the latter.

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GEEK OUT!

V1K1 teaser trailer

Finally a Singapore sci-fi flick to geek out about. From the wild imagination of director Tzang Merwyn Tong.