Review: Another Life season 1

I love scifi. I grew up watching Star Trek, Aliens, and Flight of the Navigator. Some of them have aged better than others, but that feeling of exploring new worlds and new technology never gets old.

So when I saw Another Life on Netflix I was hopeful. Here’s a crew traveling across the universe to talk to aliens, and find out why they sent a probe to earth. A simple plot, but one that leads to a lot of possibilities.

In the first episode the captain of the ship is introduced. Actually, she wasn’t the captain, she hadn’t been on a ship in a while, but she had more experience so they sent her to take over the ship from the man she once trained. This cliche had been used in Star Trek multiple times, so I wasn’t too mad about it. It did set the show up to be cliche driven, but for some good old fashioned scifi I could play along.

Then the captain is waking from soma (a dream tank that lets people sleep for months while on a voyage) and everything is going wrong. That’s where I started…noticing things.

This is a scifi show. It has space ships, aliens, and a holographic AI. It also has a lot of teen drama. There’s a love triangle, drug use, parties, lots of rivalry, and people throwing around their ego’s like they had a fire sale on them or something.

The crew wasn’t really a crew. It was a collection of people that occasionally worked together when out of soma for a few days. Then they climbed back in the tube and went back to sleep. They didn’t interact, didn’t really know each other, and had no protocols. The crew talked back and second guessed the captain continually, to the point where they had shouting matches, and a mutiny in the first episode. Then instead of locking the mutineers in their quarters, or putting them back into soma, the captain just lets them wander the ship, which results in another incident. Even if you accept that this is a brand new crew NONE of them have discipline. What government in their right mind would send an undisciplined group of rag tag humans on a mission to save the planet? Chain of command is there for a reason, and governments aren’t going to give that up in the future because it works too well.

Regardless, by the fourth episode the character shenanigans start to level out and there’s a little more depth to their interactions, but there are a few other things going on as well.

The science was sometimes thrown out the window in favor of some sort of plot. The AI fails to notice a moon but he can read oxygen levels from orbit. Said moon was clearly within the Roche Limit and should have been ripped into pieces. Coms don’t work in one episode and they do in the next even though they didn’t fix anything. Other things I would say are major plot points so I’ll skip them.

Other design elements of the ship just speak of incompetent design. The ship has all of their electronics connected so that one wire being cut causes catastrophe across the entire ship (none of the writers hear of redundant systems?). The soma tubes are made of unbreakable glass and don’t have manual overrides in case of an emergency. Most of the things are small, but they are there.

I did like the performance by Katee Sackhoff (Captain Nico) and Samuel Anderson (the AI). They were my favorite parts of the show, and did well with what they were given. The writers also did a good job of creating a mystery around the artifact, and some tension in some areas. I just feel like the writers took a crash course in scifi, and didn’t actually grow up with it.\

Another Life is a good popcorn series. If you aren’t looking for hard science with lots of accuracy, and you don’t mind plot-holes or stereotypical characters with a little drama thrown in, you’ll enjoy it. But if you try to break down the science, or try to make the plot make sense in some places, you are going to have a bad time.

The Platform- is there a message?

It’s always interesting when you have a movie or book that is just esoteric enough that you can read different things into it depending on where you are in life, but the person who wrote it refuses to tell you what they actually meant. The Platform (on Netflix) is a movie just like that.

This Netflix original horror movie is about a man who volunteers to be locked up in a prison so he can quit smoking. In this prison you are on a floor that has a giant hole in the center. Every day a platform lowers through the hole and you have two minutes to eat whatever the people above left for you. But there are more than 200 floors, and the people above are hungry.

I almost think this is a psychological horror movie because most of the horror is dealing with the starvation, and knowing that you never have control over this fundamental need to eat every day. However, there are a lot of gory things that happen as well.

The basic premise of the story was interesting. How do you convince the people above you to eat less so that more people can eat? How do you get everyone to ration, especially since you can’t speak to everyone? Especially if many of the people locked up with you are criminals who already committed terrible crimes, and have no compunction about committing more?

If I had any complaints it might be the dialog for the film. I couldn’t tell if it was written poorly, or a translation problem. The film was done in Spanish, and we watched the English dub of it. Because it was dubbed there was, obviously, lip syncing issues. Some of the dialog sounded forced, and unnatural. It tries not to give too much commentary while giving you information on the situation. It could also be that they are trying to increase the unsettlingness of the whole situation with the way they are talking.

The whole movie seems to be a commentary on society. Those above take as much as they want and leave the crumbs for those bellow, and those at the very bottom are left with nothing. But how do you stop that chain? You can try getting everyone to ration, take only what they need, but often they just think “this is the way things are” and go along with it.

It’s an interesting thought experiment, and the movie has a brutal way of presenting it. Considering that each set of prisoners stays on a level for thirty days and there are many, MANY levels, there are probably just as many people dying from starvation as there are from suicide and murder.

Bird Box – The people or the monster?

Since our family is stuck inside right now we got a subscription to Netflix. That means Bjorn and I have been going through all the old movies that we’ve heard about, but didn’t have access to. Today we watched Bird Box.

The basic premise of Bird Box is a woman trying to survive a calamity that has effected the worlds population. Some sort of creature has arrived on earth and if you see it you will commit suicide in the most expedient way possible. Five years after the initial outbreak happened Malorie has lost everyone, is running out of food, and options. She has to get her two children to a safe haven miles away down a river without seeing anything.

But the movie isn’t about the creatures, or the world falling apart. It’s about Malorie and her personal journey to connect with other people amidst all this craziness. She had a terrible father, their mother left them, her boyfriend disappeared after she got pregnant, and her sister committed suicide the first day of the outbreak. She has kept everyone as far away as possible since then to protect herself. Even her children.

This is much like “A Quite Place” in that the story centers around the people, not the outside influences. I guess that is why I love movies like this. I tend to write stories with things in the background that may be dangerous or scary, but the true story focuses on the person. Footprints is about a man dealing with his fathers death, but there’s a monster in the woods. The Scarab Necklace is about a woman trying to find some confidence, and there’s a cursed necklace. Even my series, The Witch’s Trilogy, is about a girl trying to discover what and who she is, and there are acolytes trying to sacrifice her to a big sea monster.

In this sort of story telling there is definitely a monster, but it could often be exchanged for something else. In The Quiet Place and Bird Box it could have been a pandemic, or an alien, or a monster from the deep. The only thing that really mattered was the story of the family trying to find their way in a messed up world. The mechanism of the monster did make things a bit unique, one depending on sound the other on sight, but ultimately they were not the main feature.

The movie, itself, was well done. There wasn’t a lot of dialog, most of the story heavily relying on motion and action to tell the tale. What dialog there was made a point. Malorie’s inability to connect was shown right down to how she talked to her children, giving them short, easy to follow instructions, never showing them much love, and just making sure they survived. But as Tom says surviving isn’t living. You have to have something to hope for or what’s the point.

I think right now this story hit home with me. Like the people here we are cooped up in our homes, fearing an invisible creature outside. We are unable to be close to others, and things have gone a little crazy. But like Malorie we need a little hope, something to live for. There’s a point to all this madness, we just have to look for it.

Review: Sonic the Hedgehog

Just came out of Sonic and… I loved it!

I’m actually not the target market for this movie. I’ve never played a Sonic game, though I did watch the cartoon with my kids when they were young. But all of my kids are grown up so I didn’t go to the theater with a gaggle of children, either. It was just me, my boyfriend, and our room mate. Everyone well over 30. And we all enjoyed it.

This was just a fun film. The action was great, the jokes hit home, the heartwarming parts made me feel for Sonic. I became invested in what happened to this little blue hedgehog, and even if certain parts were a bit predictable it still made me want to see it through to the end.

The Sonic movie first came into the lime light by producing a trailer with a hedgehog that stepped too close to the uncanny valley. Fans were upset. YouTubers made videos, tweets rang out, and everyone agreed that this abomination needed to be stopped. The studio listened, and the new hedgehog looks much closer to the video game models.

Bigger eyes, smaller body, the customary red shoes, and, most important, no human teeth. It was an incredible improvement. Let’s hope listening to the fans pays off, because I know I am a happy movie goer.

Jim Carrey gave a fantastic performance as Dr. Eggman. It felt a lot more like his original films, Mask, and Liar Liar, if a bit toned down. Some slapstick comedy, and some funny lines to really drive home the character.

The only odd thing about the movie is the awkward product placements. Zillow was a little less awkward, but Olive Garden really took the show. I don’t know if their line about never ending pasta was written by Olive Garden or the writers of the movie, but it was really over the top. At least the two main characters played it off as if they were in on the joke to help offset it. I do wonder if they had all the sponsored products because they were counting on the movie not pulling in many viewers. It is geared more to a younger crowd, and it may have been the fan uprising about the terrible CGI critter that finally clued them in that adults might like it as well. And it appears they may have lost a shoe sponsor by switching out the fancy foot wear.

Overall this was just a lot of fun. Sometimes that’s all you want from a movie, and Sonic paid off in spades. Plus! The ending hints at a possible sequel. I’d watch it.

 

Review: Rise of Skywalker

Since the movie just came out today I won’t be writing any spoilers today, just an overview, and I’ll give my spoiler review in a week or so.

Okay, first, let me tell you where I’m coming from as a fan of the Star Wars movies.

I grew up in the 80’s, and I watched the original trilogy on laser disks that my parents had. I watched them a lot because they were some of my favorite films, and they shaped my view of science fiction (or rather science fantasy) going forward.

The second trilogy came out and we watched all three of them in the theaters. While there were parts I wasn’t a fan of I still enjoyed them. There was still decent story telling, even if a few characters weren’t that great, and the Anakin story arch wasn’t that strong. The clones, the large scale battles, and especially the beautiful sets and dresses for Padme all made me love Star Wars even more.

Then the Disney movies started. The first one gave me hope. Sure, Rey was a boring character that didn’t seem to have much direction or personality yet, but there were some great moments, and some call backs to the original series that gave me hope that they were taking their ownership of the Star Wars franchise to heart and really going to do it justice. They just needed time to get their feet under them and the next movie would be even better.

Rogue One I loved. It seemed like a fully developed movie, with a great cast, fantastic story line, a lead actress with a personality and some character flaws to over come. By the end of the movie I was about in tears because I had grown to really love those characters and believe their friendship and camaraderie to the end. That, in my opinion, is one of the best movies in the series.

Then the Last Jedi happened. I did a whole review of that movie here, but suffice it to say that while there were some nice scenes I still think the writing was garbage, the pay out for the first movie fell flat, and I feel that it is one of the WORST Star Wars movies that ever existed. It was so bad I didn’t even care about Solo, and still haven’t seen it. Maybe I’ll watch it when it comes out on Disney Plus cause I’m still not willing to pay for it.

So when Rise of Skywalker was announced I wasn’t that keen on seeing it. If my boyfriend and our room mate hadn’t been going (and paying) I probably wouldn’t have. But we did… And I think I’m glad I did.

First, I didn’t hate it. I don’t think it was the best Star Wars, but it wasn’t the worst either. There were some parts I actually enjoyed, and I thought they did a better job of giving Rey a personality, even though I still think she (the character not the actress) was one of the weakest parts of the movie. The actress did what she could with the character, but from the start they billed her as an all powerful Christ like figure there to save the world who never fails at anything, and there isn’t a lot you can do with that except… well… succeed.

Still, when I look at the last movie and what Abrams had to work with I was surprised how well he put together a coherent plot. He had to deal with all the hype of who Snoke was and what he represented being utterly destroyed upon his death. He had to deal with a demoralized Poe, a broken rebel alliance, and a cowardly Luke Skywalker. And then he had to make a coherent story where the good guys win.

The general complaints I had were that the director, Abrams, had to cram so much into the movie that everything ended up being quick cut, and I at times I felt like I was getting too much information at once. And the ending. I hated the ending.

There will be people who absolutely love this movie. I know at least three of them, one of which has already watched it twice. There will be a small amount of people who hate it, though some of them are hating on it more because of how the fandom was treated after Last Jedi then the movie itself. I think if they had been treated better instead of being called all sorts of awful things then they may have had a kinder view of the movie, even with it’s flaws.

For me the movie was a 7/10. It was a good popcorn movie with a few cringy parts, but the ending made me never want to watch it again. Would I recommend it? Only if you’re walking in with lower expectations. If you go in with lower expectations and get an okay film I think you’ll enjoy it. If you’re expecting it to be the best movie ever then you’re more than likely going to be disappointed.

Review: Code 8

Code 8, this isn’t your parents super hero movie.

You know the super powered mutants that saved the world, and did good deeds? No, this is a world where supers are second class citizens, left to be homeless and destitute because the unpowered are afraid of them. A world where what you are matters more than who you are.

Code 8 is a dark, gritty film. Think outlaw X-men in a heist film and you’ll come close. And it’s all around fantastic!

Back in 2016 they released a short film of Code 8 where an electric powered man, Connor, tried to save one of his fellow powered co-workers, and ended up causing an EMP that knocked out power for several city blocks. That was a fantastic film, well received, and incredibly well done with both CGI and practical effects that gave you a window into a fully developed world.

After that short film they went to Indiegogo and got funding to make a full length movie. At 1.5 hours long they expanded the world, added some characters, and made a few changes to really set it apart.

First, in the original short film Connor had a son. In the feature length film he has a mother who is getting sicker as the film progresses. The lack of money, and inability to save his mother from a disease they can’t afford to treat is the driving force behind his character.

Next the scene from the original film wasn’t in the full length film. They kept only a few parts, like the fact they were on a construction sight, but went in a totally different direction. They built up the action, having Connor slowly work into his powers as he has been suppressing them all of his life.

When the local crew comes looking for an electric the need to save his mother gets him to join up, and he starts down a road with the local crime boss.

The full length movie was dark and gritty. The character development progressed in a believable manner. The CGI wasn’t overwhelming, but added to the film. If I had a complaint it may be the sound. The music was on theme, but the sound mixing at times didn’t do a great job of keeping the level of the sound steady throughout. Still, it wasn’t too distracting.

The other part that could have been better is the ending. There were several plot threads in the film, and the ending tried to wrap them all up, but I still had questions. One thread I really wanted to see fleshed out more was Agent Park, and his daughter, but I had the feeling the writers were focusing all of their attention on Connor and the cops story line was just a little flavor thrown in.

If they decide to make a second movie (which I hope they do) I would love to see Connor and Agent Park working together, even if Connor is still on the wrong side of the law. That would be an awesome story. However there are currently plans to make a tv series around the property. No dates on when that will come out.

Go, watch it. You can rent it on Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, apple TV and several other places. It was also playing in select theaters in LA.

Review: Dust

Some days I get lost in the back alleys of YouTube, taking in amazing short films. Some are funny, some poignant, some beautifully done. A few stand out above the crowd as true masterful strokes.

Dust by Ember Labs is one such film. (Also available on Vimeo) This 26 min film is a mix of fantasy and science fiction that captivates the audience with the world building, and touches our emotions with the story telling.

Set in a world where everything is evolving incredibly fast, the trackers are there to record the evolutions, and find cures for diseases and poisons that might come of the quick adaptations. Humans, of course, have locked themselves behind walls to try and save themselves, but a wall doesn’t stop a virus.

The world is shown thorough the eyes of a man who has lost his way. Once a tracker, he has withdrawn into the city that he used to disdain. Now he has to venture back out into the wilderness to find the cause of a new virus, Dust, and a cure.

The CGI is beautifully done in this film. From insects with glowing wings, to interesting mushrooms that emit clouds of spores, and a large beast deep in the forest. The wilderness settings give stark contrast to the walled city rising up through the trees, and the apothecary shop sets the stage for our would be tracker.

Everything from color, to atmosphere, to sound, blends together to create a beautiful experience. Well worth the watch.

Review: Terminator Dark Fate

I loved the terminator franchise. It, like Alien, RoboCop, Star Trek and Star Wars, shaped my view of science fiction and action films. Sometimes gritty, often funny, with fantastic fight scenes and eye catching special effects.

Of course when they announced Terminator Dark Fate I watched the trailer hoping for a great new movie….and it failed to compel me. All of the things I wanted, action, special effects, a touch of humor…not there. What they did have was an all female cast. That was the important point they had to tell me in this trailer. We aren’t protecting a guy who will save the world, no, this time it’s a WOMAN. The blatant “for women” mentality behind the advertisement completely turned me off. I’m not looking for girl power, I want a good story!

But when my roommate bought us tickets I didn’t say no. The three of us went off to the theater. I hoped for a decent movie, but my expectations were not high after the trailer.

Watching the movie I have to say that the trailers did not do the film any favors. The movie is a decent enough popcorn flick. Lots of action, a few great laughs, but no real meat to the film. It was a solid okay.

A few minor spoilers beyond, but I try not to be very specific.

A few things did bother me about the movie. One, they absolutely ret-conned a large section of the franchise. This is a series that deals with time travel, so it isn’t unheard of, but the way they did it felt like they were just dismissing all the previous movies as if they didn’t matter.

In fact when the new female hero finally meets up with Sarah Conner her reaction is…. “Who are you?” She has never heard of Sara Conner, effectively overwriting the previous history.

The best part of the movie was actually Arnold Schwarzenegger. He had the funniest lines, giving them in his usual dead pan terminator style. His action sequences were some of the best. He fought off the new terminator while the person they were rescuing stood by with wide eyes watching everything happen.

On that note, let’s talk about the new cast. We have Grace, the augmented human from the future who isn’t half bad. She’s kind of a bad ass, and kicks some butt. However, I felt like we didn’t get enough time to really get to know her as anything but a body guard. She hides the reason she is helping Dani until the end, and by then I just didn’t care enough.

Then there is Dani, the person Grace was sent to save. She almost seems to go from scared little girl to inspirational leader in five seconds flat. She lets others fight her battles for her. She keeps trying to run back into danger when she knows it will kill her. Over all she wasn’t an effective character. She isn’t going to be this inspiration just because future girl says so.

When I saw the original Terminator I felt like Sara Conner was an amazing woman who dealt with the bad hand that she was given, and made the best of it. She was scared at first, but she made every effort to fight for her life, and for everyone else’s life. She didn’t keep running back into danger, or stand around staring at everyone else fighting. She ran when she needed to, and she fought when she had to. She grew into something amazing so that she could inspire her son to do the same.

Dark Fate had the same problem that a lot of modern movies seem to have. The characters don’t grow over time, it’s more of an instant thing. Something happens, or a flip switches in their head, and all of a sudden they are a new, better version of themselves, if they grow at all. It’s unrealistic, and abrasive.

The last part that I found really cringy about the entire movie was the whole “they want you for your womb, not for you” part. Yes, I get it, Conner is pissed off at the world because her life was messed up, but the whole “we want you for your womb” part was over the top and reaching. Conner was a great character because her strength inspired her son to become who he was. That was the point. Without her he would have been nothing.

Still, the cringy parts are short, and easily overlooked if you just want a nice popcorn flick to get you through the weekend. It did have some great fight scenes, and the new terminator was kind of cool with the combination metal skeleton and liquid skin. And, of course, Arnold was fantastic.

Joker….

We finally saw the Joker today. I say today, but it’s the first time in a long time that we’ve gone to a movie within the first week of it coming out.

I’m going to tell you my thoughts about the movie in general, without spoiling anything, then go a little more in depth with it from behind a cut, so if you haven’t seen it yet, and you don’t want spoilers, don’t click the link for more.

The basic overview is, I liked it. It’s a slow burn movie that slowly amps up the drama and action as it goes until you’re in the thick of things and you didn’t even realize it.

This movie is not a “super hero movie”. There are no super powers, no amazing acts that couldn’t be explained, no huge fight scenes nothing like that. Just a man, and the slow decent into madness. And certainly no heroes.

But parts of the movie are rather brutal, and at times the imagery is unsettling. The way Joaquin Phoenix moves his body, and laughs for no reason, just set your nerves rattling. He is absolutely the star of this movie, able to do something so absolutely horrifying by just being there.

Is it worth seeing in theaters? Yes, if you don’t want spoilers because there are bound to be some online. There are no super amazing FX shots, or grand beautiful sets to watch. On the contrary it’s visceral, dirty, and dingy throughout. But sitting in a dark theater with others around you wall you watch this mans life turn into a beautiful train wreck….there’s something amazing about it.

Lastly, before the spoilers, The Joker is more thought provoking than most super hero flicks. There is no true moral, no clear path through the plot line. There are more questions at the end then answer, and it is all an amazing thing to watch, and may draw you in to see it again.

Now for the spoilers.

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Review: Dark Phoenix (no spoilers)

We just got back from the Dark Phoenix and… it was okay.

There were some great action scenes. I loved a lot of the special affects. The actors did a great job with the story they were given. There were, however, a few things that didn’t make sense. Unfortunately the part that made this just okay, and not amazing for me was the character development. It really didn’t have time to develop as we hopped around from one place to another so that Fox could bring in all of their licenses characters with impunity.

I feel like the Phoenix Saga could be an amazing series, or a trilogy that is allowed to develop and mature. Let the audience fall in love with the characters, see their pain and turmoil. Don’t just cram it all into two hours and say “there’s a movie for ya.”

I actually thought Sophie Turner did an amazing job of playing Jean Grey. I wasn’t sure it would be a good fit since I had only seen her in GoT before, but she did very well, and very shortly into the movie I just saw her as Jean Grey instead of Sansa. But the plot was clipped together, with large parts of her story left feeling…unfinished. This wasn’t Turner’s doing, but rather the stiff formatting of the film.

This could easily have been broken into either two or three movies. First section would be her getting the power of the phoenix and disappearing. Second would be her coming to terms with everything. That would have fixed a majority of the problems in the film.

The cringiest part was Raven saying “maybe this should be the X-women.” She conveniently forgets that Nightcrawler and Quicksilver did most of the work and complains to Xavior that the women are doing all the saving of the men. So ridiculous. There’s nothing wrong with girl power, but please can you respect the other people that help you regardless of their sex? (The rest of the story had nothing to do with women power, it was just a throw away comment that stood out for how terrible it is.)

There were a few other sections that felt stilted, or off. A lot of it boiled down to rushing the plot and not giving time to develop the intentions and transition of peoples ideas. One second they want to kill someone, the next they decide to save her. The switch happens so quickly that it was unbelievable.

Overall it was an okay film. It did have some cool scenes, and I enjoyed seeing the phoenix effects on the big screen. I probably wouldn’t watch it again though.