Category: Sci-Fi

Harry wasn't the only one in anguish.

Harry wasn’t the only one in anguish.

Every now and then I’ll see a film which I want to like or love but wind up despising. Sometimes Out of curiosity I will watch that film again on DVD if there’s an audio commentary and deleted scenes involved. It has to be a steadfast rule with me, though. It has to both. Sure, most of the time I’ll rent from my local library. but free or not, it has to be worth my time. But generally speaking, I’ll watch a bad movie intentionally to hear what was going though people’s minds especially if it is a writer and/or director.

My thoughts on The Amazing Spider-0Man 2 haven’t changed much since last spring. I still find it disappointing to say the least. But I’m also glad I re-watched it with commentary and viewing some deleted scenes. One can ;earn a lot from this stuff and absorb it. That’s even if you think the film is a chunk of mud.

Much was talked about Shailene Woodley being cast as Mary Jane Watson then her character edited out of the film. I wondered if those deleted scenes were on Blu-Ray, they were not on the DVD. From what it appears, it would seem that not much of those scenes were actually filmed. During the commentary with Executive Producer Avi Arad, Producer Matt Tolmach and writers Alex Kurtzman and Jeff Pinker, not much is mentioned about it. But I took note of a few details:

* It was Sony who wanted Felicia Jone’s character, Harry’s secretary to be named ‘Felicia’. This is a possible *and widely assumed) nod to Black Cat. However, in the previous film, the character in the post credits scene was supposed to have been Electro, only now it isn’t. That character is renamed The Gentleman. So this may or may not be The Black Cat character (and I hope it’s not)but the fans are assuming it is.

* A test audience was okay with the death of Gwen Stacy. Specifically parents who thought young children can handle it. Yet it seems the filmmakers think such audiences (or young children) cannot handle Harry becoming the Green Goblin. Let me tell you something right now I think kids would have been okay with the Osborn transformation. I’m willing to bet they would think it was awesome. (Also, it’s in the deleted scenes, so there’s a possibility they might get a peek at it anyway)

* Alex Garfield and Emma Stone have good chemistry. I don’t doubt this, young adult relationships seems to be Marc Webb’s biggest strength. If he didn’t have Spider-Man, imagine what he could do with something like Mortal Instruments or other young adult box office misfires. That said, one of the things that annoyed me in the previous film was the character of Gwen Stacy being borderline contrived. It’s one thing if Peter was an intern or snuck into Oscorp. It’s quite another when Gwen is one of the top researchers and she’s still in High School. Gwen still works for Oscorp, in spite of a top scientist turning into a monster and there are cover ups going on.

* Many plot points were dropped over the editing of the film, but some of them made their way into the trailers, which got our interest in the first place. Reason why they were dropped was for pacing issues. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that. But most of the time, a pickup or ADR line is needed in case those deleted scenes hurt the narrative of the film. That’s what happened in the previous film, where a supporting character was kidnapped by The Lizard and never seen again (a deleted scene “cut for time” explained the plot hole). In this film, a deleted scene shows off not just a Goblin transformation but the exo-suit as ell. It still doesn’t explain the pumpkin bombs (but my theory on that is the filmmakers are using our previous knowledge of the previous franchise so we know that’s “the” Goblin) but had there been a pickup to cover some of this “The Goblin” would not have some out of what seems to be nowhere.

* A great touching moment which I liked in the film, Spider-Man helping out a kid targeted by bullies. It is a great scene. While this isn’t the previous franchise; Peter Parker wasn’t bullied or pranked. it still is something which we can relate to and the fact that this sort of behavior is getting more attention is recent years. So what’s the downside? The ending. Same kid stands up to Rhino who has machine guns, rockets and a metal suit ten feet tall. Everyone watches, nobody runs. It’s kind of like an earlier scene with Electro and a barricaded crowd (as if they expected him to show up) and in that last scene, Spider-Man shows up after a few months off (as we are informed) and the action comes to a stop. The filmmakers and writer “thinks” this was a great idea. It isn’t. It backfires. Unless Rhino isn’t such as bad guy. letting down guard for a turn of remorse and mercy. Spider-Man is more of a fair fight and there’s more of a rematch opportunity.

Which of course, the audience is robbed of. Was The Rhino needed at all? His inclusion was a setup for The Sinister Six, a MAJOR problem with this movie’s marketing. Don’t believe me? Well, okay. Why then, in the marketing of the film, was there a big tease of the Six? Why tweet out a picture of a soundstage with “Sinister Six” on it and get the fanbase worked up over it? Why give us the easter eggs in the endless slew of trailers? They tell us we are getting a spinoff film with the Six and those characters teased at the end credits might not be even in the film.

Add all this up. It almost sounds like the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. That’s exactly what went wrong with this movie – it is a tug of war between camp (Rhino, Electro, the planes and convenience) and serious (Peter,Harry/Goblin and Gwen relations) with threads from the previous film left dangling but just enough for some interest only to be unresolved (mystery of Peter’s parents)The film should have been (and could have been) one or the other. Oddly, I’m siding with what was the best thing about Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. It wasn’t a cool villain (Sandman) but the…wait a minute. what did I just say?

No, I meant that. For the past few years, I am stunned by the outright hate-on Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. It has ts drawbacks, don’t get me wrong. but let’s get a scorecard, shall we? In that film, Harry becomes a mask-less Goblin. He has had some practice on his flying surfboard, has access to pumpkin bombs and such. Yet the strongest highlights of that film is the relationship between Peter, Harry and MJ. Flash foward to now and ASM2. Here we have another talented actor, who becomes a mask-less Goblin who can operate a Glider in less than an hour, laugh like the Goblin and use weapons which he had no prior access to. Strongest arc in the film? The Peter-Gwen-Harry dynamic.

It almost comes across to me that nobody quite has a handle on where to go with this. The franchise is far from in trouble, however, In fact, I’ll make a little bet. Should the S6 project get canned and maybe the Venom solo film and Amazing Spider-Man 3 has those characters…the series will be recast and rebooted once again, probably called Spectacular Spider-Man and then “the fans” will proceed to trash talk all the good things about the past trilogy as if it were all an abomination and yes, I’m also willing to bet someone in the wild screaming with a fist in the air “Give the rights back to Marvel!”

Like that’s going to work.


Source Code Ending Debate

Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga and Jeffery Wright in Duncan Jones' 'Source Code'

Source Code is one of the best reviewed films of 2011. There is a lot of twists, turns and drama in this sci-fi thriller where if it were just that alone, it would be fine. But director Duncan Jones (Moon) and writer Ben Ripley go an extra mile and make a decent drama out of it too. It is a must-see film if you haven’t seen it already.

It’s also a layered, non-linear film of sorts, that is so smart and sharp that it went over the heads of some viewers, as the film underperformed at the box-office. Some wonder if Jake Gylenhaal is leading actor material, since most of the films he’s been in tanked. I’m not one of those who buy into that, because I have yet to dislike his work in the films he has done since Donnie Darko. In fact, I think it’s a shame that the masses avoided ‘Moonlight Mile’ many years ago, and ‘Jarhead’ also deserved a better fate as well, and not because my fellow high school alum Ammar played the Iraqi tower guard either.

But I think folks avoided ‘Source Code’ due to early bird viewings in regards to the film’s last five minutes.

Beware all ye who read further! This discusses the ENDING of the film and SPOILERAGE is afoot!

About the ending. If it was me personally I would have chopped it right at the freeze frame moment as Goodwin decides not to pull the plug, but to reboot him and erase the memory. This way, in Steven’s mind, he did save the train and stop the bomber. He’s seen and expierienced death countless times (even the first time around, noticing the character’s “war condition” which may also play in mental truama) More importantly, he “talked” to his father for the last time. (Note: I found out this this was a bit of an Easter egg, as his father was voiced by Scott Bakula. That was a nice touch!) That’s not a real Hollywood ending, but since his mission was to identify the bad guy, and said bad guy was “caught” he still saved countless lives. If the film ended right there, it would be outstanding.

I didn’t outright hate the ending we are given, with one exception.  Because of the ending, the film blinks and becomes less than perfect. The insert shots of Chicago landmarks from earlier I feel are afterthoughts in an editing room to cover some butts. It doesn’t work for me, and I think it violates the story. Here’s why:

Steven has been in the machine for at least two months. When the train bombing happened, The Source Code project was put into effect.  Steven could only go in for eight minutes. When Stevens saves the passengers at the end, and the time unfreezes after eight minutes,it should be Sean Fentress – who we seen in the mirror and on the driver’s license. Instead we see Stevens.  While the message was sent BEFORE the eight minutes were up, it is quite alright for Goodwin to get the message in the changed reality. But the last bit of the message “is Source Code works and for her to tell him the truth when the next ‘mission’ happens.” is incorrect, given the premise of the movie and the ending itself by itself.

And that’s what’s bugging people. It’s implied that his conciousness is still in Fentress. Fentress should – should have his body back. It would have been neat if Fentress has “memories” of Stevens, and, I think, playing by the rulebook. THEN have the flashes of landmarks, meaning that those are Fentress’ memories, Not his.

So…when Stevens goes on another mission, his conciousness is transported into another person, right? Wrong! Because he’s in Fentress! The only other wild possibility is that “Fentress” is in Stevens body, but that’s not what Stevens says. In addition, Fentress’ spirit cannot be dead since he /Stevens/ saved the train. Hence, Fentress didn’t die.

But…there was that mention of being an alternate timeline, as flimsy as it is (in which case, Rutledge was also correct) and since in the “real” timeline, Rutledge stopped Goodwin from pulling the plug…

Either the ending is one big lie (the last “happy” memory of Stevens before his memory is stricken) or Ben Ripley and Duncan Jones bungled.

The filmmakers suggest that the ending is a new reality, and that everytime Stevens was sent back, a new one is created. But those alternate universes only had a span of eight minutes; the result is unavoidable. It can also be said that Stevens’ time span in “the real world” (his mind capsule) is only seconds from the time he comes back. Eight minutes are in the past, not the future. But there’s another problem with that phone call. It’s made that morning as Stevens has saved the train. Which can’t really happen, since he wasn’t sent back after he saved it
I would have been fine with it if it wasn’t for the line of ‘tell me the truth’. That one line, and the fact that Stevens is still in Fentress (did he just steal Fentress’ girl in one morning!?) does cast a big cloud over the film. Still, I can’t entirely condemn it. It gets people talking in debates. That is big accomplishment in today’s film-land.

Predators (2010)

Over Here!

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. I did not care much for the Alien vs Predator movies. The last one I hated with a vengeance in fact. I don’t know how the Aliens will cope, but there is one clear truth. The new Predator film gets off on the right foot during development and wipes the slate clean of the AvP films, which is a celebration in of itself because those two foul things are no longer canon. But for those who wanted to see another creature feature battle, Predators battle not only human prey, but other creatures and even their own that get out of line. (Well, it’s a bit more than that, but I won’t want to spoil the specific details of it.) The film also loosely ignores the events from Predator 2 (1990) although, according to interviews with Nimrod Avatal (Vacancy), the events from that film are not all discarded- only the AvP films. That’s good enough for me, that’s all I want to know. There were some spoilers that the internet gave out, such as what’s up with Topher Grace’s doctor character Edwin, and other details- but I have to admit that the demise of some characters packs some surprises, as you don’t know how they go out or in which order. There are also a few who don’t like Grace’s role and/or the actor. His lines and mannerisms come off as more small attempts at comic relief, be it obnoxious or playing the straight man. In a way, his character works. What is more interesting is that all of the characters work in this film. Continue reading

The Fly (1986)

On a subconscious level the opening title sequence of David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of ‘The Fly’ is explained late in the film. At the time, it went over the heads of the critics who were more than quick to tear the film apart due to the disturbing appeal of the makeup and creature effects. Over time, Cronenberg’s remake, like John Carpenter’s “The Thing” remake from 1982, (which was also savaged by critics at the time) has earned more respect and like the original film it is based on, has become a sci-fi horror classic in its own right. Both films had something going for them in narrative than just piles of slime, blood and mucus. Both films had the main action and drama take place in or surrounding one general location; the characters are a small handful in number and are over 25 years old and are developed enough that they are worth caring about.

The only real difference theatrically between the two is that ‘Fly’ was a hit, and ‘Thing’ was not. These also happen to be the two best years (82 and 86) for these genres.

In the opening credits of 1986’s “The Fly”, the POV is that of an insect might see as color distortion and multiple, near kaleidoscope like images. Seth Brundle, (Jeff Goldblum) well into his altered state, takes a self reflective view as the fly which merged with his DNA as the result of the experiment gone wrong. Brundle observes that his condition was really the fly, dreaming what it was like to be a man (or human). To me, that was the thesis of what the film really wanted to convey, and use it as a social commentary of sorts. The first lines of dialog back this up further as Seth and Veronica get acquainted:

“What am I working on? I’m working on something that will change the world and human life as we know it” –Seth
“Change it a bit? You’ll have to be more specific”– Veronica

After convincing Veronica to come to his place to see what he was working on (and because he can make a great cup of cappuccino) it must be noted that she is driving him home. He does not own a car due to a lifelong problem of motion sickness. During the remainder of the film, this will never be brought up again. It is the attraction to Veronica that drives Seth, as well as the scientist geek coming out of a box to not only attempt to socialize, but to impress a woman.

Continue reading

One of the best movies to come out this year, and perhaps the last decade in my view is James Cameron’s Avatar. Some folks have seen it in 2-D, others 3-D, and even others IMAX. Without a doubt, it is a sci-fi fantasy spectacle widely deserving it’s running time (a little over three hours) and all the hype leading up to it. Cameron’s first feature film since Titanic is a must see, even for the curious. Because of the different formats, I’ll even go far to say it is worthy of multiple viewings before it hits DVD and Blu-Ray. Folks, don’t procrastinate and wait for Blu-Ray. If you wait, you’ll kick yourself. It is not a perfect film, no film really is. But it is a visual feast of sight and sound; I also think the characters are fully fleshed out and the story really good, in spite of the influences of past movies.

Sam Worthington shows why Hollywood is tailoring him into leading man status; hard to think that the first time I saw the actor was mincemeat for a rabid giant crocodile in Rogue from a few years ago. (I actually liked that film, don’t let my side comment fool you). But last summer 2009 he stole Terminator 4 away from Christian Bale; in 2010 he’s the lead in the remake of 1981’s Clash Of The Titans. Titans, of course, considers stories and liberties taken with Greek mythology and fable. I know that’s what it is and where it comes from: myth and fiction. As a Christian, that sort of thing does not offend me. I know what is fiction, and what is truth. To me, the Bible is the truth. It is also true that every Christian’s walk with God is different. I’m far from perfect. But when I see a film like Avatar I know it’s science fiction.

So imagine my surprise when a small handful of reviewers critique Avatar, don’t like it all that much, and think it’s a slow moving piece of great visual effects yet chock full of New Age mumbo jumbo with strong far left undercurrents. I agree to disagree for the most part, but I found something even more disturbing than anything that the film itself can throw at the viewer, good or bad.

The attacks on these reviewers Continue reading