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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Movie Review - Dreamscape (1984)

I recently watched the movie “Dreamscape” (1984). I was pleasantly surprised with this one. I do have to say that the cover poster looks more like an ‘Indiana Jones’ type adventure but I can assure you it was not. The film is categorized as an adventure, scifi thriller mix and well, it is.

It follows Alex Gardiner (Quaid) who is a psychic but uses his power to win horse races. He has been ‘voluntold’ –forced to participate in a government funded project exploring the use of psychics to enter a person’s dream. The purpose is to assist the sleeper with hidden personal issues. Heading the project is his old friend and mentor Dr. Paul Novotny (von Sydow) and his assistant Jane DeVries (Capshaw). Alex soon realizes that the program is being steered in a sinister direction by Bob Blair (Plummer) a sort of hyper government military official. It’s now up to Alex and Jane to uncover the plot of dream manipulation and stop the nightmarish assassination of the President.

I think I’ll leave it at that. You will have to watch to find out how everything pans out. I suppose you could say the film is like “Inception” (2010) meets ‘Freddy Kruger’ from “Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984). How is that for a hook?

The acting was acceptable from Dennis Quaid –not a fan of his stuff though. Max von Sydow is fantastic as always and the world renowned Christopher Plummer is simply enchanting. Also starring is Kate Capshaw whose performance was okay but I should say at least she didn’t ruin the picture this time. (Like the time she did with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). The effects were not bad, it was a low budget but they were able to achieve the feeling with the very little available. Some impressive stop motion effects in a dream sequence and good use of lighting to let the viewer know it was a dream sequence.

The story definitely deserves an “A” for effort but I felt that the story itself could have been expanded. This movie was made in the early 80’s and it shows; everything from clothing, cars to the fear of nuclear war which was the hidden agenda. It was decent for what it was. I do recommend seeing and rate it 7/10.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Movie Review - The Man That Fell to Earth (1976)

Just when you think you’ve seen everything, there is the odd movie (or should I say weird) that is still out there. I’ve been meaning to watch “The Man That Fell to Earth” (1976) for a while now and finally got the chance. Watch out on this one!

The story follows a humanoid man; Thomas Jerome Newton who is new to Earth. He has come in hopes of bringing water back to his home planet to save it from a drought. He first meets up with patent lawyer Oliver Farnsworth and shows him multiple inventions which enables him to build an electronics empire worth millions. In his travels he meets up with Mary-Lou a young aspiring no body from a motel and they have a bit of a relationship. Thomas experiences things like sex and booze. Things turn bad when the empire’s competition starts to fight back and Thomas is later attempted to be exposed as an alien visitor. This stops his plans of launching a space ship and is taken hostage to a mountain side retreat for testing. The government finally allows him to leave after months but his business is lost and so is the millions he was going to use to fund his departure. The film ends showing Thomas has come to terms that he is not going to get home and has integrated himself into society.

The movie stars David Bowie (the singer) as Thomas. He played his part well and was very creepy about it. The movie also featured a younger Rip Torn who played his usual shifty character. The acting overall was alright. There were some special effects but nothing major. For a movie set in the 1970’s, it was what it was.

This issue with this film is the plot, now although the storyline is interesting; it was also confusing and contained a lot of holes. You don’t really know why he is there until closer to the end. The storyline mixes multiple vignettes from Thomas’s home world life but to make matters worse there were extra scenes of gratuitous nudity that did not fit in. All of this compounded to interrupting the story flow. For the most part, I sat there confused wondering what the point of it all is. What I did find out is that the story is based on a 1963 novel and spawned a TV movie as well, so it looks like the story is popular.

Did I like this movie? It was okay. I’m thinking you should view it from another angle though, just maybe I should watch it again. I’m not sure what the director was trying to achieve, perhaps art? I was hoping for a decent science fiction movie though. I will say it definitely had potential to be better but and has merit for what it is. I rate it 6/10. I would recommend viewing it only because it’s supposed to be a cult classic.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Series Review - The Walking Dead (2009) S1

My love for the zombie genre has been renewed. The AMC movie network has produced a zombie post apocalyptic horror survivor series which premiered October 31. They have only produced 6 episodes for this season and are supposed to return in 2011 for a second season.

I should point out however that the story is all about the characters. What I mean is that they are as real as you and I. The series explores what happens to us when thrown into a survival setting, are we quick to compromise our moral values and beliefs? This series shows the darker side of surviving but it also focuses on friendships and real human emotion for loss of family members and friends. As a viewer you can identify with a character and the situation they are faced.

The series focuses on a sheriff’s deputy; Rick Grimes. He was shot while chasing down a speeding car and has spent the last few months in a coma at the hospital. He wakes up only to see no one around but dead bodies scattered. He walks out exploring his new world; parked cars, blood in the street and general chaotic scenery -- unaware of what has happened. Rick later meets up with various people who aid and befriend him. Together Rick forms a following and is later reunited with his wife and child who have taken refuge in a remote quarry just outside Atlanta. Rick leads the group towards hope as they try to get away from the constant dead walking but soon realize that hope is just a dream and it is the nightmarish reality they must face.

The dialogue and story are both smart and believable. The affects are decent --zombie make-up and scenes are just amazing. There is just the right amount of gore, nothing over the top but enough you get the gist of their situation. In fact if you really didn’t care for zombies there is still much of the story that may appeal to other viewers.

If this were a movie, it would have been over long ago and you would feel empty inside. With only 6 episodes out there, I do feel empty. I totally recommend watching this series. You will not be disappointed. So with pleasure, I rate this series as it is in the first season as a 10/10. I can’t think of anything that can be improved upon but I certainly hope that season two will not disappoint but rather surpass my expectations. Any thoughts on this series?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Movie Review - Battle Beyond The Stars (1980)

I’m sure this film is classified as ‘B’ rated but nonetheless it’s fun. The movie “Battle Beyond The Stars” (1980) does just that. It is what it is, so lower your expectation.

The story is about defending a peaceful farming planet named Akir. Some galactic scourge overlord called Sador and his mutant cronies are threatening to invade. The people of Akir need help. An old man warrior suggests hiring mercenaries to defend the planet. Sadly, the only payment that the people can make is food and shelter. A teenage boy Shad volunteers to pilot a space craft to find help. Shad is unsure about how to go about his mission but he soon figures things out with the help of a teenage girl Nanelia whom he met on a space station of androids. Together, they meet up with all kinds of people, a space cowboy, aliens, warrior woman and a wealthy assassin. They all have their own personal reasons to assist the helpless planet and are happy to do so. While assembled on the planet and in orbit, the strike force defends against Sador and his attacks.

A true battle beyond the stars complete with cheesy star trekking tracks. The effects were acceptable. The acting was okay for what it was. There were a few veterans but I can’t say their performance stood out. A few laughs but nothing ‘belly busting’.

It had that space opera Star Wars feel to it along with Star Trek but lacked a story that meshed or flowed properly. It had potential to be better than it was. At times I had a hard time watching. This movie did very little for me and I place it in the middle at 5/10.

Movie Review - Sunshine (2007)

It always feels good to watch a movie that has a good science fiction theme. It’s always better when the theme hits close to home (natural disaster). What I’m referring to is the movie “Sunshine” (2007). This movie was directed by Danny Boyle (responsible for 28 Days Later).

The movie follows a team of astronaut scientists on a journey to re-ignite the sun. It is the year 2057 and the sun is dying which of course will translate to a dying earth. The mission is to reach the sun’s core and drop some sort of nuclear bomb strapped to the spaceship and then make a getaway. Easy enough right? Apparently there was a ship already dispatched to do this 7 years prior but lost contact. Things go bad when they locate the lost ship and make preparations to intercept. Some calculations are missed and the shields are not positioned accordingly which causes damage to the ship. The mission is now compromised by an unknown source sabotaging the computer systems. It is up to the remaining crewmembers to drop the payload at all costs.

I think I’ll leave it there for now as I don’t want to spoil it. There is a bit more to it but you will have to view the film to find out more.

I really enjoyed this film. The imagery was fantastic, I mean being up close to a burning sun. The camera work and effects were amazing. The acting was pretty good; everyone had their part and played it well. The movie pace was decent; you could tell it was building towards something.

I saw a lot of influences from other movies, (some of which I recently watched). For example: “2001 Space Odyssey”, “Dark Star”, “Silent Running” and a bit with “Event Horizon”. It was nice to see certain elements being used, it just pulled together to produce a worthy film.

I do recommend watching this film. It was good solid science fiction fun. I rate it 7.5/10 but note that the horror element was unnecessary. Anyone seen this?