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.

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: 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.

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.

Review: Bright

A bright is a being that can hold a magic wand without exploding. Magic wands are so powerful that only a few people can touch them, and everyone else wants to control it because of the immense possibilities of it. And if you get all five in one place you can summon the dark lord, and enslave the humans once more.

So when a wand turns up on the wrong side of town everything goes wrong, and there are only two cops standing in the way of the destruction of an entire city.

The premise had me from the first commercial. An orc cop? Yes, please! Fairies stealing from bird feeders? Okay! Elves and centaurs on LA streets? Sign me up!

I was not disappointed. The story line was good, even if the ending was a bit predictable. The main characters were well fleshed out, and I loved the interaction between the orc and main cop. Of course the orc has problems of his own since everyone wants him gone, especially other cops.

If there was one disappointment it was that magic was mostly window dressing. There are a few integral scenes where magic plays a roll, and the orc civilization is fairly fleshed out, but we know very little about elves (other than they are rich snobs) and other races are only briefly mentioned or seen in a couple frames standing still.

Overall worth watching, and I hope for a sequel.

Review: The Thinning

thethinning-001-1046x700The world is over populated, and the UN has decided every country on earth must lower their population by 5% every year to stop the worlds decline. Some countries enact legislation to prevent births, but the USA enacts another law, a far more deadly law. A law in which everyone is tested every year, and the bottom 5% are taken away to be executed.

That’s the premise of YouTube Red’s new movie, The Thinning. A distopian world where 5% of the population is killed because they are the least intelligent. Only what if someone was tampering with the test results? What if it was all based on a lie?

This reminds me of the made for tv movies from SciFi. Entertaining, interesting, maybe even thought provoking. But you look too deep and you tend to see the plot holes. There are a lot of plot holes, but they are small and only noticeable if you are looking for them. Usually they come down to things like “this character shouldn’t be able to do that so easily” sort of devices, so for a YouTube original movie I gave it a pass.

It was very thought provoking, and I have to admit I saw the ending coming. Even so, I quite enjoyed it. I hadn’t heard of Logan Paul before this movie, but I might check out some of his other work now.

If you don’t have YouTube Red to watch this then you could consider getting the free trial and checking it out. There are a few shows on YouTube Red that are pretty good, but I honestly just like the fact that I haven’t seen a commercial on YouTube in months. The extra content is a bonus.

If you like distopian movies, or sci-fi of the week novels, this movie might hit that spot. But just enjoy it for what it is and don’t pick at the plot holes.

Review : Arq

​First, the not spoiler review

Netflix original movie, Arq is a fast paced action adventure. I went in knowing nothing about the movie other than it was a Netflix original and sci-fi. When things started going I ended up glued to my seat trying to figure out what was going to happen next. I loved this movie! I hope it gets a sequel because I would love to see more of the world.

The entire movie takes place inside one house. You do get a feel for the world outside the house, but they manage to do a beautiful job of telling a story with this limited set, and only six characters. 

I honestly think I got more enjoyment of the story because I did not know what to expect. I came in blind and was able to take in the pieces as they were given to me, and got more interested the farther down the rabbit hole we went.

Now, for the spoilers

Arq isn’t a new idea. Time looping and sci-fi have gone hand in hand for as long as most of us can remember. I can think of several Star Trek episodes, plus movies like Primer, Looper, and Groundhog Day. All of which deal with people repeating a day, or week, or moment over and over again.

Arq is, however, creative in the way they do it. One person remembers. As they loop more people start to remember, and each new person who remembers causes new complications along the way. The fact that all of this is happening during a home invasion just makes it even better. 

The interaction between the two main characters is fantastic! And the fact that it keeps changing as they keep learning new things about each other through the loops is great. 

The ending was a bit of a OMG moment. I thought “fantastic, let’s go to the next episode, this is great.” That’s when I realized it was a movie, not a series. This would make such an interesting series!

Hoping they make a sequel to this. It really deserves one.

Review: Jason Bourne

imagesDon’t you love how they did away with everything except his name? Jason Bourne, because we all know his name and his story. It’s become a part of our culture, and our references. There are so many memes about Bourne that he needs nothing except the name and the face.

But I find the Bourne series interesting in other ways too.

Last week I did a review on Stranger Things. Set in the 80’s, it had a lot of references to things I knew back then. That included one moment in the show when the father tells his wife “Don’t worry, their the government, we can trust them.” (Or something like that.)

On the other hand there is Bourne, and other movies like it, that emphasize that we can’t trust our government. When I was growing up we had The Great American Hero and 007 who fought for the government to stop the bad guys. Now both of them are working against the government, taking a stand against what they think is wrong.

We don’t trust our government like we use to. We don’t expect them to be working for the “greater good”, whatever that is. We do expect many people in government to act in their own self interest. The sad part is, nothing has changed. The same people in government are doing the same things they’ve always done. We just took the blinders off. Things like Snowden and the NSA have made it harder to stick our heads in the sand. Not that we can do anything about it.

So we go to the movies and we watch shows like Jason Bourne or Jack Reacher where a lone man fights against the odds to bring corrupt people in the government to justice. Why? Because we survive off hope. Just like many turned to comics and stories back during WWII for a little hope that the war would someday end.

I will say, Bourne was a great movie. Lots of action, lots of conspiracy and twists and turns trying to figure out who was really at fault. And in the end Jason Bourne only has some of the answers, leaving room for yet another installment. But not enough to feel like it wasn’t a complete movie. It’s some of my favorite kind of escapism.

My impressions of “Mad Max: Fury Road”

MM-Main-PosterJust got home from watching Mad Max Fury Road. I only remember fleeting parts of the original Mad Max. I do remember watching “Thunder Dome” as a teenager. Tina Turner was amazing in that. What I remember of both movies was fantastic, dark, gritty, and filled with action.

The new Mad Max carries a lot of those same qualities. Dark and gritty, filled with action. And it was amazing. A true action movie filled with all sorts of explosions, phenomenal chase sequence, and moments where you are just trying to figure out who is a good guy.

The story was more then just action though. There was a lot of great characterization (though little of it had to do with Max, himself.) But to talk about that, which I have to because I’m also a story teller, I’ll take you behind a cut since there are going to be spoilers.

(Click ‘read more’ to risk spoilers.)

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Maleficent and Disney’s new direction

If you haven’t seen Maleficent yet, then you should. It’s a beautiful movie with gorgeous imagery, and strong characters. The plot is a nice twist on a fairy tale we all grew up with. And the ending has an epic battle worthy of the name.

They did a beautiful job of adding just enough prosthetic to Angelina Jolie’s already very expressive face. It gave her higher cheek bones, and made her seem leaner, almost gaunt, with wide mouth rimmed in red. In some scenes, especially those containing maniacal laughter, it was pretty amazing to watch. She embodied the evil Maleficent I watched when I was just a little girl. The scary dark fairy bent on destroying the life of the beautiful Aurora. She really made the movie what it was.

Now, beautiful scenery, characters that pop, and a plot that twists old stories and makes you wonder what is up and what is down… Lets just get into what I really love about this movie. I’m going to put it behind a break. DON’T READ IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS! (just a few of them.)


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