Category Archives: Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) Movie Review By Philip Henry

 

Terminator - Dark Fate Review

Director: Tim Miller
Screenwriters: David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes, Billy Ray
Stars: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes

I have to admit my hopes were not high for this sequel-come-reboot. Though I quite liked T3, I thought Genisys was a mess and Salvation was irredeemably awful. I obviously wasn’t the only one with this opinion. Dark Fate serves as a direct sequel to T2, presumably in the hope the others will be wiped from the timeline.

The film starts off by introducing us to Dani (Natalia Reyes) and her normal, humdrum life. This is the Latino girl we saw in the trailer and assumed was a kid. She’s actually not a kid, she’s just a very short woman. Anyway, as per usual, a terminator and a protector arrive in a big whirly ball of electricity and we soon realise this ordinary girl isn’t going to be so ordinary in the future.

A lot of people are comparing this to The Force Awakens; saying it’s just a new spin on the old formula, and this is true, but it’s also what made the first two (and arguably the third) Terminator movies work. The CG mess that was Salvation attempted to do something new in the wake of Judgement Day, and Genysis just tied everyone’s head in knots with too many time travel paradoxes, so I’m not against them going back to the original template.

Series creator James Cameron gets a story credit but not a screenplay credit, so it seems he was involved in the early stages and then left the directing to Deadpool’s Tim Miller while he went back to work on his 20 Avatar sequels. It would’ve been great to have Cameron back in the director’s chair, but Miller is as good a stand-in as we could’ve hoped for. He handles the action like a seasoned pro and though the film is light on humour, the few moments of levity we get are well judged and funny.

Unfortunately, the film isn’t perfect; there are a couple of things about it that did niggle me. The opening flashback scene with Linda Hamilton de-aged does not look good and I don’t understand why. Doesn’t everyone use the same de-ageing software? Why do Marvel’s de-aged characters look so good and yet Sarah Connor looks like a PS4 character? The other niggle concerns the military assistance they receive at the beginning of the third act. Sarah says at one point that she is wanted in all 50 states and had a whole episode of America’s Most Wanted dedicated to her, and yet when she calls an old army buddy he not only gives her Top Secret tech weapons, but also access to an army base and lets her take a very large plane! This is never explained and seems like a plot contrivance just to get them into a plane. It’s a shame because one very minor tweak could’ve made it a lot more believable. The army guy who helps them is an African-American with the name-patch HUNT on his fatigues. What if that patch had read DYSON instead? Little Danny Dyson all grown up? Just sayin’.

As someone who went in fully expecting to hate it, I’m glad those two points are really all I have to complain about. I enjoyed this film a lot. Mackenzie Davis delivers the sort of fast, well-choreographed action and violence we expect and hope for from this franchise. Granted, some of it still is CG, but we can’t have everything. Arnie arrives quite late, but he’s a welcome addition to the group when he does and his strained relationship with Sarah keeps things tense.

It’s unfortunate that Dani doesn’t get the story-arc Sarah had in the first film. Where Sarah was an apologetic waitress who wouldn’t confront a guy who cancels minutes before their date, but ends up fighting and destroying a T-800, Dani spends most of the time being protected and letting others do the fighting for her. She does fire a few shots and have a bit of a shout near the end, but it’s not the gradual transformation that would make her believable. It feels a bit like they’re saving that stuff up for the sequel which is always a mistake.

Gabriel Luna as the Rev-9 plays it completely emotionless, except when he’s mimicking someone, and while we can all understand why the actor would make this choice, it does give him all the personality of a toaster. The T-1000 didn’t say much either but he had an intense stare that told us what lay beneath the poly-mimetic alloy was something you should be scared of.

The storyline is basically a reset, so depending on how this one does at the box-office, we may be getting more films with Dani being chased by increasingly upgraded terminators. Unlike Arnie, I don’t think the producers will be asking Gabriel Luna to reprise his role if there are future sequels. He does what the script asks of him but it’s not the sort of iconic performance that would make fans salivate for his return.

Dark Fate has all the ingredients you’d expect from a Termintor movie, and thankfully the action and violence don’t hold back just so the movie can reach a lower age demographic. While it may not be on a par with T1 and T2, I think it’s at least as good as T3 – and remember I liked T3 – and much better than Salvation or Genysis.

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In the Shadow of the Moon (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

 

In The Shadow Of The Moon

Director: Jim Mickle
Writers: Gregory Weidman, Geoffrey Tock
Stars: Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman, Bokeem Woodbine

If you kill me now…
the world as you know it will end
in a very short time.

Yeah. Once again a movie about time traveling. Always interesting to see how they incorporated the paradox of time travel. And there’s always going to be someone who claims something isn’t right. Not that I really care about that because I still don’t know anyone who has actually traveled through time to provide proof whether changes in the past may or may not affect the future. Perhaps that would provide proof of whether the grandfather paradox is plausible or not. So, for me, it’s still pure Sci-Fi. And that results in enjoyable films such as “About Time“, “I’ll follow you down” or “Predestination” And this Netflix Original certainly wasn’t that bad either.

This film differs enormously from one like “Predestination“. And this in terms of simplicity. It’s not all that complicated. Don’t expect such an immense “mindfuck” as in the latter. You don’t need an immense manual or walk-through here. And furthermore, it’s a pleasant mixture of detective-movie and Sci-Fi. The tracing of a serial killer (active in Philadelphia) by the ambitious police officer Locke (Boyd Holbrook) is the common thread throughout the film.

The apparently randomly selected innocent victims, die a terrible death in which decomposing brains are the cause of the sudden death. Locke discovers that all the victims have scars in the neck area. Soon it’s said that an isotope is the cause of them ending up dead in a rapidly spreading blood pool. And when a fourth victim manages to give an accurate description of the person, a massive search is being conducted. Locke ends up face to face with a young, coloured teenager (with a thorough knowledge of combat techniques) in a blue jogging suit (Cleopatra Coleman). The biggest shock for Locke is that she knows a lot of facts about Locke. Facts she couldn’t have known. And before you know it, it’s 9 years later.

The film is divided into time periods of 9 years. Starting in the year 1988. The year that the first murders happen. It’s actually the most action-rich part. And also the most realistic. The way in which a cook, concert pianist and female bus driver meet their end, has been portrayed enormously realistic. Don’t expect an ordinary cause of death. It’s pretty bloody. And in the case of the bus driver, quite spectacular. But when the phenomenon of the returning teenager reveals itself and you finally begin to understand what’s going on, realism slowly but surely fades away and gives way to pure fiction. And gradually you realise that this isn’t a typical detective film, with inspectors (like in “Se7en“) chasing a crazy serial killer. No way. It gradually transforms into a thoughtful sci-fi and then ends in a corny drama about family issues.

To be honest, I thought the acting performance of Boyd Holbrook as the wayward Locke wasn’t bad at all. Perseverance and drivenness were exceptionally well portrayed. Because of his obsession to solve the mystery, he loses control of reality. It destroys his family relationships and interferes with his work. Gradually Locke turns into an unkempt tramp, without work and living in his car. Therefore, let me praise the make-up department of this production. And although Holbrook’s acting was outstanding, you can’t say he out-sings the rest of the cast. They weren’t bad, but you can’t speak of spectacular interpretations either. Only the action-rich fight scenes with Cleopatra Coleman as an unleashed fury pleased me as well.

No, “In the shadow of the Moon” certainly wasn’t a disastrous film. Although the story was essentially not too original. And you get that feeling that you’ve seen it all before. Probably because of that, the denouement wasn’t really surprising. Perhaps the opening scene was too revealing as well. The question of whether you can avoid disaster by drastically changing something in the past is and remains fascinating. I bet that the event they tried to undo, will be the subject of discussion once again. Just look at the politically charged opinions on other websites. Even the word “propaganda” is used all too often. The patronising tone and the explanatory nature of the film was no obstacle for me to enjoy this film. Don’t expect a groundbreaking movie. But it surely was entertaining enough. So, it’s definitely well worth a watch, this Netflix Original.

Ad Astra (2019) Movie Review By Justin Aylward

 

Ad Astra Review

Director: James Gray
Writers: James Gray, Ethan Gross
Stars: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga

The outer reaches of space are a dark expanse wherein we know nothing but distant stars and ice cold planets. Anything could be out there: artificial life, water, asteroids. But what James Gray looks for in his new film Ad Astra is the resolution for a quandary as old as dramatic theatre itself. Is the son destined to be like the father?
The levels of transcendence beyond the mundanity of the everyday are not unfamiliar territory for Gray, whose last film The Lost City of Z was one of the best films of 2016. In this new production he takes his story outside the stratosphere and into the planetary regions of Jupiter and Neptune.

Brad Pitt – his hair refreshed from the wind-swept days of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – plays Roy McBride, a steely and respected astronaut whose doughy face belies deep-rooted turmoil. His heartrate never raises above eighty, they say. The man is a legend, but not quite on the level of his father, H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones). McBride, many years previously was the captain of the Lima Project, a massive venture to the cosmos in search of extra-terrestrial life. He was the first man to reach Jupiter and Saturn. But sixteen years into the mission he and his crew vanished without a trace. Now, back on Earth, a series of Surges – atmospheric tornados – believed to be bolstered by the antimatter used to power the Lima Project, are causing havoc and threaten to destroy all life in the known universe. Is this the last trace of McBride and his lost crew?

In steps the younger McBride, tasked with going in search of his father on a covert mission to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. In a series of introspective longueurs padded out by slow-moving action sequences, McBride moves through space on a Conradian journey into the travails of his own mind as much as the dark recesses of space.

What could have been a measured drama playing the dangers of space travel with the urgency of broken family connections, quickly becomes flimsy, over-indulgent, and self-important. An early chase sequence on the Moon is so slow and guileless as to be nearly laughable. Gray’s direction is quite ham-handed so that when one particular character is killed, the audience does not know find out who until a few minutes later. There are other flaws with the direction the film takes, as many characters come and go, some appearing for no more than a minute or two with no great significance.

The film’s release was delayed by a few months, leading to rumours of studio meddling. Perhaps this accounts for the uneven use of Pitt’s breathy narration, reminiscent of Harrison Ford in the theatrical cut of Blade Runner. The voiceover does work in parts and allows the viewer into the centre of Pitt’s thoughts and feelings when there are no other indicators to go by, but for much of the film’s running time the performance by Pitt on-screen and the somber tones of the narration are at odds. At times, Pitt seems to be lost on screen, scrambling for an emotion or a gesture to work with but with no help from the screenplay. I can imagine a prompt phonecall from an executive after seeing the first cut and insisting the film is too abstract and a voiceover should be added to clear up the narrative. But it doesn’t work and only lulls the viewer deeper into the film’s pretensions.

There is one montage sequence as Pitt courses through space where we see him alone, as isolated in space as he was on earth. This is the one strength of the film as we feel of sense of weight and timelessness float by. Gray measures out this part of the film with thought and skill. But just as I got involved in the film, the monotony returns. Pitt muses over his ex-lover played by Liv Tyler – although if you blink at the wrong times, you will miss her – and this is another aspect of the story that seems to be tacked on. Also, his confusion and regret about his relationship with his father provides nothing new for a thread so widely spun in other films and dramas. And when they finally collide the denouement is so clumsy and uninspiring it resembles a messy run-in from an old wrestling show.

Ad Astra is a film with lofty aspirations, but with soul and spectacle too unevenly intertwined, it succeeds in neither widening the eyes of the audience or engaging the brain either.

Men in Black: International (2019) Movie Review By The Moviie Couple

Men in Black: International Review

Director: F. Gary Gray
Writers: Matt Holloway, Art Marcum
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani,Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Rafe Spall

Moviie Couple here!   We went to see ‪Men In Black‬: International this weekend!  Remember we are just a married couple that loves movies!  We’re here to tell you if we liked it.  Film experts we are not!  Just a quick reminder of our rating system.   Mrs. Moviie Couple and I, rate films on whether they are worth the cash spent on a night out.  we use a 1-6 Dollar Bill system.  1-2 Bills equal a waste of both our time and money!  3-4 Bills equal Meh to Pretty Good, money well spent!  5-6 Bills equal Wow!  Well worth the price of dinner, movie and sitter!  Please take our money again!

‪Men In Black: International continues and builds on the world started in 1997 with the original Men In Black starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.  MIB:I introduces us into a new recruit to the MIB ranks (The mysterious covert government organisation that protects Earth from any and all threats without the public’s knowledge)  and expands our story to the London Branch of the MIB.  The film stars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson as the new Agents in the spotlight.  They are joined by Liam Nesson and Emma Thompson as the Agents in Charge.

Rebecca Ferguson (of recent Mission Impossible fame) and Kumail Nanjiani round the cast out as alien enemies and allies met along the way.  MIB:I begins with the story of Molly and how she becomes a member of the MIB (We never spoil here at Moviie Couple) and the facing of an alien threat known only as the Hive.  As Tommy Lee Jones legendary MIB agent once told us all, there ALWAYS is a threat to Earth’s existence going on at any given time.  Our director is F. Gary Gray of Straight Outta Compton and Fate of the Furious success! New characters, Big Stars, action sequences, alien threats and alien comic relief, a space McGuffin!  I believe that covers our mission briefing.  Will Molly earn her shades? Does Chris Hemsworth save the day?  Does he manage to keep his shirt on?  Will Earth survive the newest threat to all life on our planet?  Grab your sunglasses, fire up your neuralyzers, straighten your ties and lets get right into the reviews!‬

So here we go!

Mr. Moviie Couple:  I love Hemsworth from his work in the MCU as Thor and absolutely am a huge fan of Thompson from her portrayal of Bianca in both Creed films.  So I had some high hopes coming in.  Both worked together in Thor Ragnarok, which I didn’t like tone wise overall, but I felt they worked well together in that film.  I also, for the most part, liked the MIB series.  So we have two actors I enjoy very much, a series I enjoy mostly, what could go wrong?  A LOT apparently.  This film fails us on so many levels.  Let me start by saying the first 15 minutes or so, our introduction to Molly (Tessa Thompson) and her entering the world of the MIB was very well done.  It explained a lot left out in the trailer and I was on board early, but everything after her introduction fell off a cinematic cliff.  Also this movie doesn’t just foreshadow, it foreshadows with huge NEON glowing signs everywhere!

Early scenes nearly leap at the viewer or point imaginary arrows at certain things (we never spoil) nearly screaming at the audience “THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT LATER!”  It’s embarrassing.  Every “surprise” or “shock” this film hoped to spring on you can be seen coming as early as the first 10-15 minutes in.  This movie seemed to have a road map to its conclusion almost as soon as the opening sequence was finished.  Hemsworth was his charming, bumbling, self.  Part Bond/Part Maxwell Smart and all Hemsworth.  Tessa was the best part of this film, as she made me believe she was Molly and that she was thoroughly enjoying finally being in the world she searched her whole life to find.  But the funny chemistry that led this franchise to its great success, that of Smith and Jones, is absent from this film.  Molly and H never reach that comradery or team work that even the rookie Smith did with Jones.

Even likeable Molly doesn’t quite earn her heroic moments.   Two major moments for her come, not from her skill or brains, but rather from luck or alien pals. Nanjiani is funny as the alien sidekick Pawny, but not as funny as the script thinks he is.   And in there lies the fault of MIB:I, the script or directing let this film down.  The talent is there (although wasted on the great Ms. Ferguson) , the effort is there, but the execution is lacking.  The sum does not equal the parts.  Such a let down for a once great franchise despite great talent.  I give Men In Black: International a solid 2 Bills! Ughh. What a waste of my money.  I should have caught it on TBS in a few months.

Mrs. Moviie Couple:  She summed her feelings up with one word, Predictable.  Utterly predictable!  She found Chris Hemsorth (usually a favourite of hers from the Super hero films she doesn’t care for) typical and even boring and lifeless.  She even mentioned being somewhat insulted, as a female fan, that the film makers felt a few shirtless shots of Mr.Hemsworth would make her ignore a wooden performance.  She thought Tessa Thompson’s performance was the only highlight, but still felt there was a lack of chemistry between the two leads.  She was confused throughout the film as to whether the point was to build a romance between them or not.  Neither performance leaned in either direction.  Liam Neeson did nothing spectacular for her either and she felt he simply collected an easy paycheck.

She found the “Cute” Pawny (Nanjiani) not cute, funny or likeable.  Even the aliens were generic and typical and added no fun as they did in the previous editions of the franchise.  She stated “The best thing about this movie was the free MIB sunglasses they gave us.”  The Mrs. felt this movie never should have been made.  Her final comment was how she wished ‪Will Smith‬ would show up and Neutralise her so she could forget ever seeing this movie.  “You never saw this movie, it never existed.  Go see Aladdin again”  She would beg for that memory instead.   She would have walked out if she were alone.  There must be some better things on HBO right now!  Mrs. Moviie Couple gives ‪Men In Black‬: International 1 Bill!!! Yikes, she said if our system allowed it she would have went lower!!

On the way home, We bemoaned the experience.  I continued to talk of the world of MIB, how this film didn’t even follow the established rules of preventing public knowledge of aliens and how this film could have been better. She just kept saying it was her most painful movie experience so far.  At least we got a pair of cool MIB sunglasses!  I give it 2 Bills, just a badly executed sequel.  The Mrs. gives it 1 Bill!  She wanted to walk out!  Even Hemsworth and Thompson could save this film, she wished the aliens won!  So we’ll go with an average of 1.5 Wow!  Run from this film, nothing to see here and if you do see something, get Neutralise quickly!

Till next time, Ties tight, glasses on and we’ll see you at the movies!  Be sure to check our facebook page for a clue to our next movie up for review!  Mr. & Mrs. Moviie Couple out!

Attraction (2017) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Attraction Review

Prityazhenie (original title)

Director: Fedor Bondarchuk
Writers: Oleg Malovichko (screenplay), Andrey Zolotarev (screenplay)
Stars: Irina Starshenbaum, Alexander Petrov, Rinal Mukhametov

What’s the attraction? For one thing, the film starts off with the mother of all crash landings. An benevolent alien spaceship, which sort-of resembles a massive Pokeball, gets damaged during a meteor shower and enters Earth’s atmosphere. Honouring the time-honoured sci-fi tradition of shooting first and asking questions later, the Russian military shoots it down. This results in a long, gloriously-destructive sequence in which the ship plows through the heart of Moscow, flattening buildings and killing hundreds.

This is, by far, the best scene in the entire film. The remainder of Russia’s Attraction, while visually impressive, is a bit anti-climactic, not-to-mention derivative of such American classics as The Day the Earth Stood Still and Starman. A group of teenagers, angered by the death of one of their classmates during the crash, want revenge and are determined to take their neighbourhood back (no, seriously). Yulia (Irina Starshenbaum) initially leads the revolt with the help of her hunky boyfriend, Artyom (Alexander Petrov) and his buddies. However, after an even hunkier alien, Hekon (Rinal Mukhametov), saves her life, she decides to help him return to his ship, made more difficult by her estranged father (Oleg Menshikov), who also happens to command of the troops that shot it down in the first place.

Attraction is fast moving and watchable enough, with decent performances, good action scenes, impressive production design and spots of humour (both intentional and unintentional). The familiar story, however, is hampered by some terrible writing and needlessly stupid characters. Artyom, for example, turns on-a-dime from helpful hunk to revenge-fuelled psychopath, instantly able to jump into bio-mechanical body armour to wage war on the aliens, with the help of a few hundred angry neighbours armed with clubs (Yep…that’s how you get rid of beings who’ve mastered interstellar travel). Speaking of aliens, of course Hekon is young and handsome, complete with prerequisite five o’clock shadow and douchebag hair. How else can Yulia fall hopelessly in love with a guy from another world?

Though the CG-heavy climax descends further into utter predictability than we’d like – Attraction is kind-of fun (even if some of that fun comes at its own expense). We’ve seen it all before in better movies, but it’s nice to see what another country can do with a familiar concept. And if nothing else, the Pokeball crash alone might be worth the price of admission.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) Review By Philip Henry

Fantastic Beasts Review

Director: David Yates
Writers: J.K. Rowling
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Johnny Depp

I was quite worried when the first Fantastic Beasts film was announced. I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter books and films, and the slim volume of creatures J.K. Rowling released for charity didn’t seem like the stuff of blockbuster movies; it seemed like they were just trying to milk the franchise for every drop of magic it had. But they pulled it off! The first movie was a fantastic success, not only financially, but creatively. To set the story in 1920s New York with all new characters, but still retain the familiar elements established in the Harry Potter films was a masterstroke, and one I seriously doubt they could’ve pulled off without J.K. Rowling’s involvement. She knows this world inside out, including heritage and back-stories that never made it into the Potter novels.

The first film had a pretty basic setup – a bunch of magical animals escape in New York and they have to be recaptured. This second outing doesn’t have a plot that can be summed up in one line, or even a paragraph, and that’s its main failing.

The Crimes of Grindelwald is like a lot of little vignettes instead of one complete story. There’s no clear task set out for our heroes to accomplish and so the film does feel like it chases its own tail a lot of the time. London and France are added to the list of locations and I’m not sure if this was a good idea or not. On one hand, it does give this problem a more international feel, and so upping the stakes, but on the other it just distracts from the plot as we sightsee around these new locations establishing new rules and characters.

Johnny Depp gives us yet another character with a unique look and he seems to be relishing playing the baddie, but I think it would’ve made him a stronger villain if we’d seen him doing some more nasty stuff. There is quite a disturbing death in an apartment in France, but since he gets one of his minions to do the dirty deed it gives the impression of a general doing what has to be done rather than someone who is truly evil relishing killing.

Jude Law plays the young Dumbledore and though his portrayal bares little resemblance to the wizened old headmaster we all know and love (he hasn’t even got started on that beard yet!), I’m hoping he’ll edge towards something more like the Albus we know as the movies go on. The scenes at Hogwarts give us something familiar to hang this whole story on, but once again these scenes are so badly fragmented at one point I didn’t realise we were in a flashback. This film really does feel like a script made of a hundred post-it notes for things we need to know going forward.

Emotionally I didn’t connect with the characters this time, even the ones returning from the first movie, and I think that’s because this script was trying to run in too many directions at once and forgot that above all we need to care about the characters. There’s a scene near the end which should’ve been heart-breaking, but fell flat with me, and it was simply because we hadn’t spent enough time with these people to care about them.

J.K. Rowling has said there are to be five of these movies, so we may well look back on The Crimes of Grindelwald as the movie that planted a lot of important seeds for what is to come, but I felt they could’ve done that and still gave us an entertaining self-contained story that added to the greater story arc, instead of using two hours fifteen minutes to strategically position chess pieces for what’s to come.