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Review: Spectral

netflix-spectral-prostokat Part war movie, part sci-fi ghost story, Spectral was an amazing cross genre movie. A lot of action, a lot of mystery, and a whole lot of “what the heck just happened?” in a good way.

Set in a somewhat futuristic society where troops are trying to protect yet another city from displaced insurgents, a loan engineer finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place. Go back home and forget he saw anything, or stay and help figure out what’s killing soldiers and civilians alike. Ghost like apparitions that could be soldiers in invisible camouflage, or….something else.

The main focus of this movie is the battle between the soldiers, and the apparitions, less about the personal interactions. You won’t find a sappy love story, or heart warming coming to know yourself. This is all about the action. And there is a lot of it.

spectralgrenadesThe “ghosts” are grounded in some pseudo science, giving some explanation as to what they are and where they came from. As is the weaponry the soldiers fight with. But the pseudo science is really glossed over, and you can’t take a look at it too closely or you might see just how unrealistic it is. However, some of the visuals they use to get the science across is pretty amazing. Weapons, armor, and techno gizmos are awesome to look at, and a cos-players dream.

Being as this was an action movie, above all else, I had to appreciate some of the military tactics, while scoffing at others. They do make a convincing formation moving into a building. They do not, however, utilize tactics for entering an unknown location. Information is the key, and they didn’t seem to have much before rushing into a building headlong. Plus one of the scientists is so head strong that she takes some stupid risks to prove her point. Bad tactical risks.

I also found it curious how quickly their engineer was able to whip up a bunch of gadgets. The world is about to end and he has time to make enough weaponry to outfit an entire battalion? Hard to suspend your disbelief on that one, but the ending battle was glorious because of it.

For all the pseudo science, I did find the lore of the ghosts to be interesting. I liked how they presented them, and how they stopped them. The visual effects were beautiful, as well. The ghosts had just enough weak points to made the battle scenes more interesting, but were still a formidable foe. It was only the Achilles heel that managed to take them out in the end.

Still, for a military sci-fi movie, it isn’t so overbearingly military that I lost interest, and the paranormal has enough of an interesting angle that it might keep more action junkies happy to the end.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2016 in Review

 

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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.

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2016 in On Writing

 

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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.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2016 in Review

 

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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.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2016 in Review

 

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Review: Stranger Things

stranger-thingsThis has to be my favorite TV series this year. And it’s on Netflix.

Last year my two favorites were Dare Devil and Jessica Jones, both on Netflix. Okay, Game of Thrones is probably also. So yes, top three. Netflix is doing an amazing job of producing some fantastic shows.

If you haven’t watched Stranger Things yet…GO DO IT! Seriously, it’s a slow burning thriller set in the 80’s, and so good.

I have to admit that some of it is nostalgia that makes me love it. The sets are done with old wall paper, and wood paneling just like my grandmothers house use to be done up. There are Ferrah Fawcett hairdo’s (though not many) and lots of 80’s music.

But the story is what compels you to keep coming back. There is so much mystery around the young girl, and the underside. And while the whole series has a satisfying ending with all of the ends tied up they leave two new mysteries that leave a HUGE opening for a second season. I’m really looking forward to that second season.

The acting in this series is fantastic. I forgot what a great actress Winona Ryder is. She plays a desperate mother trying to save her son even when all the evidence points to him being dead. She seems to go a little crazy, which is exactly perfect for that character.

But it isn’t just her. The four kids that play the main characters are fantastic, each in their own way. Millie Bobby Brown who plays Eleven does a wonderful job of playing a semi mute child, and yet providing a lot of the emotion of every scene she is in. David Harbour and Charlie Heaton also stand out, trying to help those they care about while they are struggling with their own demons of their past.

If you love mystery, and thrilling story telling without being too scary, Stranger Things is a wonderful show.

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2016 in Review

 

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Suicide Squad: Review (no spoilers)

I know, the critics hated it. Suicide Squad got trashed by critics while the fans seemed to really enjoy it. Odd how that works.

I will admit, I’ve been a big Batman fan from a very young age, and I absolutely, unequivocally, LOVE Harley Quinn. I always have, I always will, I own the comics series she’s that awesome. Just a little crazy, completely without fear, and always trying to find some bit of normalcy even when everything’s not quite going right.

I think the Joker was actually the weakest part of this movie. Set aside the actors performance, the writing for the Joker just wasn’t as deep and thoughtful as the other characters.

I was actually very pleasantly surprised how they managed to put in origin stories for almost all of the Suicide Squad members, and how they were caught to begin with. Then they went a little deeper, showing what made some of them tick. That brought the characters alive, giving them more dimension. The villain (who I won’t be naming) added to that depth, showing what the characters actually wanted in life. Their deepest desires.

I watched a review before going (spoiler free, thankfully) that said the movie had a over arching theme of love. I think the movie’s theme was actually love verses hate. The main villain and the woman who put the Suicide Squad together are both operating out of hatred for something. They want to destroy (or be able to destroy) the things that make them afraid. The Suicide Squad, oddly enough, is representing the choice of love in their various incarnations. In Quinn’s case it isn’t the sanest of loves, but it still is love.

This isn’t a dark brooding story like The Dark Knight, and it isn’t a non stop action movie like some of the Avenger movies. This is an action movie that has a lot of character development. It shows the men and women of the Suicide Squad coming to grips with their place in life, and becoming a team.

Also, I have to admit the main actors, Will Smith and Margot Robbie really do fantastic jobs. Viola Davis does a great job of making me really hate her character, Amanda Waller, too.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2016 in Review

 

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Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

imagesWe went out to watch the new Star Trek movie tonight, and I have to say I rather enjoyed it.

Now, I admit I’ve been a die hard Star Trek fan from a young age. I grew up watching re-runs of the original show, and started in earnest with The Next Generation. I loved how they mixed a message in with all the action and drama. There were bad episodes, but even the bad episodes were entertaining.

When they did the Star Trek reboot I was a little apprehensive. Reboots aren’t always good, as the new Total Recall and Robocop can attest (though I kind of liked the new Judge Dredd.) Sometimes they fail because they stray too far from the original source, in which case the die hard fans are left forgotten, wondering why they even bothered to stick with the original franchise instead of making something new…or they take the original source material and just grind it up and spit it out in a “modern” movie that is very forgettable.

This Star Trek reboot had some things I liked, and some things I didn’t. In many ways it did make sense to start off by completely rewriting history, and starting from scratch. I was also pleased that in the second movie they had Khan. He was an important character in the first series, and there was a lot of character development in that movie. A lot of things between the three main characters (Kirk, Spock, and McCoy) were established in that episode that needed to happen to further the new series, and Khan was a great backdrop for that all to happen.

I was slightly disappointed that the new series became much more about the action movie style then the character development and subtle commentary on the world around us. While some of the original movies were blatant about it (save the whales?) others were far more appealing. Learning to trust your friends, standing with your crew, putting differences aside in search of peace… All of them very well told, and many you didn’t catch unless you thought about it.

I was happy to see that this latest movie had a moral. It wasn’t in your face about it, and it required some thinking, but it had several morals laced in with the high action plot. I think there are a few subtle morals to the story, the biggest one being to stick with your crew when the going gets tough, and that unity in the face of adversity will see you through. And I saw a one much larger one that I can’t tell you because it would spoil the whole movie.

The other fantastic thing about this particular movie is the character development. Kirk, Spock, and Bones, are all learning to trust one another, and finding a true friendship together. The chemistry between the three main actors really felt like it was coming together, and I loved to see that. The actors are getting to know one another, and seem more natural up on the screen. They are coming into their own, which makes the movies that much better.

Overall, I’m looking forward to the next Star Trek movie. I think they are doing justice to the source material while still making a brand new universe. I hope they continue to weave those subtle morals into the story, to make the story worth telling and sharing, and making it last. Because, lets face it, action movies come and go. We have some that we really love, but there are very few that stick with us for generations. Star Trek has become such an icon of the future because it shows us a future that we want to have. It teaches lessons, and inspires science. It expands the mind instead of just entertaining it for a couple hours. And that’s what keeps us coming back for more.

But I will also admit…I was on the edge of my seat for some of those scenes! The action is top notch.

Whatever reason you go see it, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2016 in Review

 

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