The Room [2019]

The only thing more dangerous than a man who can’t get what he wants, is a man who can get whatever he wants.


Not to be confused with one of the worst films of all time with the same name, The Room, directed by Christian Volckman, follows Matt and Kate as they embark on the exciting new venture of HOMEOWNING. Matt is some sort of artist which seems pretty irrelevant tbh and they talk about how he’s gonna make a shit-tonne of money one day so she can stay at home. Which she kinda does anyway… Anyways, back to the plot! They move into a massive, old manor and as they are decorating realise that they have a strange room in there that appears to give you everything you wish. So they go on a bit of a bender before realising that the thing they truly wish for is the one thing they can’t have… a baby. Before long they realise that nothing created in ‘The Room’ can survive outside; that there is some sort of mystic power that exists only in the house. Matt, meanwhile, seeks to find answers from someone called John Doe, the previous occupant of the house who reportedly murdered his parents who tells him that in order to live, his parents had to die (suggesting that anything made in the room has to kill its creators in order to live) like some sort of ultimate sacrifice.

Kate wishes for a baby and starts to care for it like her own, calling it Shane. Over time we see the child grow older, completely cut off from the world. They tell Shane that he cannot go outside because it’s not safe to do so. Tensions grow stronger over time and in one moment of rage, Shane manages to get outside and ages rapidly and painfully.

Soon the kid learns about the room and intentionally ages himself into the body of man (whilst still having the mind of a child). He fights Matt and knocks both parents out before taking on the guise of Matt, pretending that the child had in fact died in combat. Then ensues a long scene of the real Matt trying to find Kate, and both of them running through a labyrinth of houses being chased by Shane, all within The Room. Eventually, they manage to beat the kiddo and make it out alive.

Or do they?

I found this film fairly enjoyable. I thought it was a pretty decent film and a good premise, quite tense, helped by the growing tensions of these three characters locked away in a small space.

I enjoyed that once Matt and Kate had worn out the novelty of the room and the capitalist desires they initially had, that they turned to more wholesome desires. Just goes to show how quickly that sort of meaninglessness can burn.

There’s one scene where Shane(?) is trying to get into the door – Matt has removed the key and locked it away – and he breaks down the panels next to the door and crawls through tree roots, which it turns out are intertwined throughout the house. Something about that scene, and the look of the door to the room, how Matt initially finds it and the key itself really reminded me of this 2010 horror/thriller ‘Don’t be afraid of the dark’ starring Katie Holmes. In fact, in that film, Katie and her family move into an old manor. There’s vines and shrubbery everywhere. They tear down a wall hiding THE SCARY DOOR to a room not with wishes, but instead spooky toothfairies… so quite a different film but it had very much the same feel to it, aka secret door thriller. There’s something about that old adage, ‘curiosity killed the cat’, in these types of films. You see the characters punished for their curiosity by opening the door that obviously shouldn’t be opened… it’s literally the oldest story in the book, you know the one where Eve was told not to eat the apple and she did, and then Adam and Eve were banished from heaven… or when Pandora opens the box she’s told not to open and unleashes all the evils unto the world. It’s a strange trope to keep repeating in horror or thriller films because humans are curious by nature, and our curiosity literally invented the wheel and other cool shit, so to repeatedly punish ourselves through these films is pretty humorous to me.

I liked the twist at the end, though I gotta say I saw it coming and I wish it was a little more subtle than it played out. Lots of directors are following in Christopher Nolan’s shoes, post-Inception, which really set the/a bar in terms of how thrillers should be. It feels like in the last 10 years I’ve seen a lot of thrillers which hamfisted their way through endings with a OR IS IT moment, which could have been way. more. subtle. I really enjoy the ones that get it right, because they get me thinking a lot more, or reading into moments questioning what I think I saw a lot more. This was not one of those films… it was more like IS IT? YES IT IS. No questions. TBH I completely forgot I watched this film within about four days of having watched it, so even though overall I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed it whilst I was watching it, it became pretty forgettable.

Overall, enjoyable film but pretty formulaic. I read someone review this as an act of genius, but perhaps they were watching a different film, because that’s not the impression I got. Still worth a watch, but take it with a pinch of salt!

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Behind her eyes [TV] [2021]

Everyone has secrets…


This show turned up on my Netflix account recently and not knowing anything about it, my partner and I thought we would give it a try. It seemed to really tick my partner’s box in terms of type of shows she tends to watch whereas for me, I prefer sci-fi (obvs) but we gave it a watch and the show was really surprising. There are big spoilers in this post so YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

The show started out with a sexy liaison between Louise and David who meet by chance in a bar when Louise’s friend stands her up. Their chemistry is palpable and they share – DUN DUN DUHHH – a kiss before David calls it off and leaves abruptly. The next day Louise goes into work and realises that David is – DUN DUN DUAHHHHHH – her new boss! And he’s – DUN DUN DAHHHHHHHHHHHH – married! They agree to move past it but obviously it keeps happening over and over again and turns into a full blown affair. Meanwhile, there’s a parallel story about David’s wife Adele which paints David in this controlling light. Adele has no control over her own life which David sees to, calling her multiple times a day to check in on her and prescribing her heavy medication. Adele intentionally runs into Louise and befriends her, thus beginning a very weird love triangle where both Adele and David are hiding the fact they are friends with or seeing Louise, and Louise is also omitting this to both. Adele appears to be both vulnerable and mentally unstable and it’s hard to know what’s really happening. I feel like the story tries to force to you to question morality because of all these different scenarios that present themselves paint the main characters in this polarised way, but all the characters in this show are so flawed. The ex boyf, the best friend, David, Adele, Louise. The only pure character is Louise’s son who was the most adorable little boy <3

As the story unfolds, you see more and more pieces in this puzzle. We learn that Adele was in a mental institution, that her parents died in mysterious circumstances leaving her a massive mansion and grounds, that David was suspected of having something to do with their murder as he rescues her from this fire that has killed them. And then there’s this character Rob who you’re really not sure how he fits into it. He meets Adele in the mental institution and talks of Adele being like his escapism so when she is released from the hospital and invites him to the mansion, he jumps at the chance.

And then stuff starts getting REALLY REALLY weird out of the blue. It turns out that Adele has this supernatural ability to leave her body and go on adventures. She confides this in Rob who she has been coaching all along. Similarly in present day timeline, she clandestinely teaches Louise how to do this and gradually Louise pieces together that Adele knows about her and David because she has been watching them this whole time using her weird powers and that she might be dangerous.

We find out that David helped Adele cover up the death of Rob which David eventually owns up to Louise and goes to the police. Then right at the end, Louise realises that Adele is trying to take her life. Louise uses the paranormal abilities to jump into Adele’s body hoping to save her only to discover it’s a trap and Adele is definitely not who we think she is.

I really thought this was just going to be another sexy show about two cheating adults who can’t get enough of each other and the more I watched, the more it unfurled into this fantastical, paranormal thriller. I thought it was a pretty inventive storyline with a nice twisty ending, but then I didn’t like how polar the story was trying to paint the actions of the characters. Additionally, I really didn’t like how much they used old tropes in TV and film, like the ‘crazy wife’ or the ‘sexually promiscuous secretary’ or the ‘sexually promiscuous POC’ in fact! Even the cold and abusive way that David was acting in this, the storyline turned it around as if he was only acting that way because he was scared, poor him. He was only controlling his wife and cheating on her and cutting her off from the outside world because he was scared, which I don’t really buy. There’s this one scene where he’s like ‘thank you, you saved me, I’m going to march right to the police’ and he just walks off into Kings Cross station through open barriers and I half expected him to just disappear and never return. TBH I felt like they let him off really too easily given that he covered up what turned out to be a murder. He would have been an accessory if this were real, but instead he and ‘Louise’ lived happily ever after………

That said, I did enjoy watching the show. It was pretty entertaining and such a messy drama with such broken characters. The relationship between David and Louise is so sexy that it’s easy to get drawn into. I think more could have been done to develop the main characters so that they could be more nuanced, more colourful but I liked the Stepford wife gone wrong vibe and the twist. Additionally both performance from Louise and Adele were stellar. The paranormal aspect felt a bit tacked on; it hid under a nightmare remedy guise and I wish more had been made of it to show the impact of it on David and Adele’s relationship. For instance, David talks late in the series about how Adele appears to ‘know things she shouldn’t’ but earlier on when Louise and David are cheating, he doesn’t seem to mind or worry about that which seems inconsistent. In any case, enjoyable and spooky series and like Sharronda from ‘Pay or Wait’ says, Louise should have minded her own BIZNEZ! I’m glad I watched it.

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Ch-Ch-CHANGES!

Hai, what’s new with you?! SOPHFIFEST.com has some new changes. Check them out 🙂


EVENTS

Events have moved from FACEBOOK.com and are now at MEETUP.com! Users can get easy notifications about upcoming events and join in on discussions there. I’ve re-jigged the website to streamline this change.

Check out the event pages here which will take you through to MEETUP.com

THE WATCHERS

THE READERS


SHOP

Like SOPHFIFEST’s logo? Like t-shirts, hats or hoodies? Want to support DIY movements?

SOPHFIFEST’s shop is coming in February in partnership with Printful.com. All profits made on orders will go straight back into running SOPHFIFEST.com events!

Countdown below!!! So excite!!!

2021-02-01T10:00:00

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until

SHOP OPENING!

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The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension [1984]

“Sealed with a curse as sharp as a knife. Doomed is your soul and damned is your life.”


Thanks to Sam for hosting this watch party! This was on my watchlist and I was so happy to watch it with the gang, finally!

Buckaroo Banzai, directed by W.D. Richter, features a star studded cast of Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jonathan Banks and much, much more! The story follows Buckaroo Banzai, “an adventurer, brain surgeon, rock musician” and his band of merry men, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, as they dash to protect the planet from a bunch of evil aliens looking to take over the world!

Hmm what can I say about this film? Well… Dr Hikita and Buckaroo are trying to perfect a machine (called an oscillation overthruster) which will allow people to pass through solid matter. Buckaroo drives the machine in his car and ends up in the 8th dimension. He finds something under the car which seems to be an alien creature. Meanwhile, learning about their tech successes, Dr Lizardo (a scientist who had ALSO attempted to create the same machine, and was in an insane asylum) decided to break out. Apparently in creating the same machine he had found himself in the 8th dimension as well, was attacked by aliens, and his body was taken over by an evil alien. There’s a bit where a messenger called John with a Caribbean accent comes to Buckaroo and crew and lets them know that he is from one group of aliens called the Black Lectroids that has been at odds with another evil group of aliens called the Red Lectroids, and it seems like earth is about to get caught in the crossfire. Also a bit in there where Buckaroo gets electrified and can see the aliens in their true form, a bit where he finds a love interest in a bar, some slug torture, Banzai tries to kiss an unconscious woman and he gets immediately and painfully electric shocked (honestly served him right) and then at some point, the film finishes and the gang do a catwalk past a sign saying Buckaroo Banzai and it rolls to credits…

There’s a lot to unpack there, but mostly one big question… What the hell did I just watch? This film has a big cult following and is a lot of fun, but it’s a very silly film. There’s a lot going on, and also nothing going on. I believe one critic called it “unintelligible” which I would have to agree with, because it was pretty hard to follow. It seems like the writer(s) threw everything they had at this film and that Peter Weller and friends were just having a fun old time in front of a camera; meanwhile John Lithgow goes through a whole gambit of European accents, never really landing on the one he is attempting to nail (Italian).

Parts of the film gave off the same vibe I felt when I watched ‘American Astronaut’, which was this grease-monkeys feel. Though I thought that AA was excellent, whereas this film went on a weird journey that was all over the place.

Also, how can a film have that many stars and yet feel so low budget?! In one scene, the characters put ‘glasses’ which were clearly made of bubble wrap, supposedly to protect their eyes or help them see an alien. It’s unclear why. At one point all the scientists were wearing glasses to illustrate how smart they were, and then later abandoned that idea apparently. There was a moment at the end where – after the characters strutted past in slow-mo – the camera pans to the Buckaroo Banzai sign and I said “nothing says high budget film like gaffa”. You could clearly see a K on the brick wall, showing where the makers had attempted the sign prior lol. There was this level of pride they seemed to have in the film at that point, like they were collectively saying “nailed it” as they walked away. Did they nail it? Well that’s up for debate!

So all in all, great cast. Very fun, weird film. Probably the most diverse 80s film I’ve ever seen, including lots of ace Black and Asian peeps <3 though only one woman… who ended up only being the romantic element of the film. There was literally a scene where she is kissed by Buckaroo into consciousness, like some sort of sleeping beauty. It’s one of those films you need to watch with pals for maximum banter. I’m really glad I watched it with a group because it made it a lot of fun. Don’t watch it after taking drugs because you will trip out. You have been warned. I’m usually a big fan of weird, but even this was a bit too weird for me but maybe I need to watch it again. Jeff Goldblum in every scene was probably the highlight. Particularly dressed up as a cowboy in the end.

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Flatliners [2017]

“What happens to us after we die? The only way to find out is to see for ourselves.”


Thanks to all the WATCHERS who joined me for the January watch party of this little gem. We had such a lot of fun and banter-galore!

So this film is both a remake and sequel to the 1990 film of the same name, directed by Niels Arden Oplev and stars Elliot Page, Diego Luna (of Y tu mamá también) and some other peeps!

First things first. If you’re coming into watching this thinking ‘wow Elliot Page? It’ll be a gem’, I gotta pre-warn you that this is not gonna be one of those films… I’m not one to usually suggest people don’t watch films. I think you’re an adult and can make up your own mind, but this one was pretty basic.

Medical student, Courtney (Page), is looking to crack the code behind what happens to your mind when you die and decides to rope in a couple fellow students. Page is hooked up to a neuroimaging machine, tells the two colleagues to stop Page’s heart and then resuscitate in 60 seconds. They begrudgingly do so after Page explains a waiver has been prepared and that they need not worry about repercussions. Page’s pals do the deed and Page survives. Then #hardpartayyyyy. Thus starting a cycle of subsequent students in the friend group trying the same, tensions around will they/won’t they save them from dying in time and then the group go into party mode. There’s a plot in there where all of the students who tried the experiment end up seeing what appears to be malevolent ghost but they don’t really address this until pretty much the end of the film but don’t worry they all learn something in the end…

Sooooo…. This film wasn’t what I was expecting. I love Page and he normally has a good track record for starring in at the minimum ‘average’ and at best ‘excellent’ films… I was really hoping that this ‘remake’ would extrapolate from the original – an already average film… maybe make it even better? But from all accounts that’s not the case. The scriptwriting was weak. I mean, I had a lot of fun watching it with all the fun WATCHERS and I don’t regret watching it, but had I watched it alone I think I would have thought it was a waste of time!

Erm so pretty big spoilers ahead: I really hoped, like a lot of the WATCHERS, that more of the sciency bits would have been expanded on. It felt like they threw in some well-known parts of the brain and said they flared up on the monitor, but didn’t really expand on that in any way when there was certainly opportunity. The budget for the film showed that they had money for a great deal of technology, the visuals and the soundscape (more on that later) were decent. Where it fell short was the reductive script… It seemed like jump scares for the sake of jump scares tied together with a few scientific terms and everything else was a footnote or an afterthought.

The experiences the characters had after death were so inconsistent that it didn’t seem believable. Some became haunted by people who had died (one at fault, the other not), others by living people who were apparently still on their mind and the take away is YOU GOTTA FORGIVE DUDEEEEE JUST FORGIVEEEEEEE. None of them had any redeemable characteristics. They all seemed like thoroughly terrible people from start to end. The main and supporting characters seemed two dimensional. There were two Black women/POC/BIPOC in the film which I was excited about and the script seemed to focus on at least one of them a little (Sophia), showing her to have a little dimension as a studious and anxious person… And THEN, following from her out-of-body experience, they have her fuck the shit out of one of her co-characters. Who doesn’t like a sexy scene? However, the choice they made for the only POC/BIPOC character to play that role, and the focal, uncomfortable and aggressive way it is done further builds on this hypersexualised stereotype in film that comes up time and time again that Black women are somewhat sexually deviant. This is further contrasted when we see a second sexually romantic relationship between two white people in the film but their sexual endeavour is portrayed in a gentle way. It creates this idea that Sophia is animalistic, fetishising something that is actually healthy. And then there is her mother figure, the only other POC character in the film who is desexualised and to me came off a bit like a mammy stereotype. They’re too pretty pervasive stereotypes in film so…

The only saving grace of the film is that the soundscape composed by Nathan Barr is pretty stellar.

So in conclusion, great soundtrack, very little storyline and pretty poor characters though fairly acted well despite what they were given! Jump scares actually made me jump even though I knew they were coming. That said, it felt like the film did neither the horror, nor the science fiction that well so… I personally wouldn’t recommend watching this. If you’re gonna watch any Flatliner, make it the original but listen to the 2017 film soundtrack so you get the best of both worlds! Also I still love you Elliot Page.

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I am Ren [2020, SciFi London 2020]

“They want you to think you did it…”


Directed by Piotr Ryczko, this film follows Ren (Renata), mother to Kam and wife to Jan. As a family, they seem like the image of contentedness and perfection until one day Jan comes home to a house in complete disarray and Kam and Ren in a state of despair and shock. Ren is bruised all over her body as is Kam, and she has intrusive memories of two men she doesn’t know observing her. Whilst recovering, she overhears her husband talking to two men that she has malfunctioned and that she should be packed up and thrown away. Ren is taken to a psychiatrist who asks her what has happened and she tells him that she is REN, an android and that it is an error. Her memory is fractured and she is unable to remember what went on that day. A woman called Ela tells her “humans might have some memory loss, but not you” and asks her if she can run a diagnostic and access her memories with a special key to find out what has happened, further insinuating that Ren’s husband cannot be trusted. Ren goes to her son Kam to find answers saying she believes she has been with him for only three years, but he shows her pictures which contradicts this belief.

Later, Ela accesses her memories and Ren sees the father Jan beating the child and talks Kam into running away with her. To prevent capture, she jumps into a frozen lake but is caught and has to remain for further psychiatric care. Whilst in care, she sees an advert for REN androids that ends up being about a toy and her belief structure begins to fall apart. The film ends on her seeing her family but there is someone with them. DUN DUN DAHHHHHH!!!

Wow what can I say. I thought this was a well made film, and what a great film to close the festival with. I know I’m going to be thinking about it for some time to come, because the ending was really ambiguous. I’m not sure which parts of what I saw was actually real. You could view it as a film about mental health and the ending is about a broken women seeing what her mind is projecting or she really was a REN android, and the unit she was taken to was for broken androids or they’d be turned into parts eventually. I like that ambiguity of the whole film. Particularly because the person REN befriends (Ela) feeds into her and my own (as the viewer) paranoia.

I don’t remember much of a soundtrack so I think it was pretty low key, and the visuals were kept pretty normal with quite monochrome and dull colours in the cinematography and costuming. So it’s really all about the story. The lake scene where you see her in the water after she has jumped in looks pretty rad. It’s quite an iconic looking scene. They hold her there for a while to savour the moment of her sinking.

So all in all, top film. Really enjoyed it. Nice concept and twists. I don’t know what to believe happened, even now. Nothing super flashy about the cinematography, but it was a well written story I thought. Go watch it.

Thanks SciFi London 2020 for putting these feature and short films up. I’ve got a few more short film reviews to share, but I’ve had such a ball watching all of these stories. The bar has been very high this year and I cannot wait for 2021. I liked having a virtual viewing just because I’m quite a home-body and I like writing/typing my thoughts as I go, which you can’t do in a real cinema, so I hope you have a virtual offering for future fests (thank you plz plz plz)! See you next year!

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Into the Forest [2015]

“We have each other”


‘Into the Forest’ is a Canadian film, somewhere between science fiction and horror-drama. It stars Elliot Page, Evan Rachel Wood and Callum Keith Rennie who are a family who find themselves in the middle of a continent-wide power outage which turns society on its head. There’s only really one sci fi element to the film in that it’s kind of a dystopian future type dealio, but the scenario is something that could very well happen and explores everything that can go wrong.

Society starts to lose its damn mind, like it is wont to do in the midst of a crisis, and the family are forced to retreat to their cabin in the woods hoping to wait the outage out. However, the situation turns from bad to worse to even worse(r?) and it’s almost like this little family are super cursed.

Page and Wood are very believable siblings; their love for each other is quite palpable on screen as they try to comfort one another while their world is falling apart through food scarcity and tragedy.

This is quite a heavy, dark film. There’s one particular moment where something happens and the camera focuses on Wood’s face. She acted it so well, and as a viewer watching her act it was like I was kicked in the chest. That scene is really powerful.

I thought generally it was a little slow, but I get the sense that this is necessary given the topic. The passage of time while you wait for normality to happen would probably feel like things are plodding on. I like that – SPOILERS – you never really know why it all happened in the first place, and you don’t really get a sense of closure with the film. You watch it just waiting for things to go back to normal but the family have to instead adapt to their ‘new normal’. It makes it seem more real somehow. Some similar films might end with “OH BTW IT WAS ALIENS” or “AND OMG IT TURNS OUT EVERYTHING WAS OKAY IN THE END” so this was a refreshing take at a different perspective.

So all in all, this film is really all about family, and how important your family are for your survival whatever shape that takes. The lush woodland was obviously totally stunning. I thought it was really well acted. The concept is a simple one but was explored thoroughly like the Director rinsed the shit out of it. I thought it was a decent film if maybe a bit slow, though I wasn’t ‘blown away’ by it. Worth a watch.

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Sci-Fi London 2020

SOPHFIFEST’s December 2020 WATCHERS club has been pushed back one week, but for a very good reason!


SCI-FI-LONDON 2020 is happening 8-13 December and due to COVID it’s going to be virtual this year. Cannot wait. Also, tickets are super cheap at £20.20 for the whole festival, or £5 per film if you only want to watch the odd film.

I’m particularly excited about the feature films (synopses below):

  • Live (08/12) – a dystopian story where humans aren’t allowed to be in contact with one another, which given our current COVID/lockdown situation seems very on the nose.
  • Mirror Human (09/12) – this film follows the lives of three characters and explores androids. The synopsis is quite elusive so I guess I will watch and find out!
  • Cosmic Candy (09/12) – a film about a hallucinogenic candy which looks really vibrant and trippy and full of action.
  • Minor Premise (10/12) – this film is about scientific experimentation gone wrong. Ethan finds himself fragmented into different timelines after trying to finish his father’s invention and has to rely on partner/colleague Dr Alli Fisher to find the answers. I’m excited to see how this thriller unfolds.
  • A report on the party and the guests (11/12) – this is a film about a creature on a secret mission but is also about a pandemic and humanity destroying itself.
  • I am human (11/12) – this film is about cyborgs living as part of humanity and explores the human brain and what makes us human.
  • The American Astronaut (11/12) – on my current watchlist. This is one of the top 100 science fiction films of all time, so I’m excited to finally see this.
  • Truth or Consequences (12/12) – the film is set in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (yes, this is a real place!!) and explores the concept of humans colonising new planets but what if you were left behind. I’m really interested in this idea, the further we advance into space exploration and I’m looking forward to this offering.
  • Skyman (12/12) – this film follows Carl who believes he will be the victim of repeat alien abduction. Is he right? Let’s find out! It’s also co-directed by Daniel Myrick of The Blair Witch Project! Woah!
  • I am Ren (13/13) – this film is a thriller about Artificial Intelligence and follows Renata trying to find answers to a mysterious event.

There are also 30+ short films this year to explore. Check them out here.

I’m really excited to see so much diversity in this year’s offering. This is the direction that science fiction film needs to be moving into. More women, more BIPOC/POC, more LGBTQ, more disabled, more neuro-diverse creators and actors. Representation FTW!

Get your pass soon: https://sci-fi-london.com/ SOPHFIFEST will be chatting about films seen on this site and normal social networks so check those out coming soon 🙂 ONE MORE WEEK! ONE MORE WEEK! ONE MORE WEEK!

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Annihilation [film, 2018]

“It’s destroying everything.”

“It’s not destroying everything. It’s making something new.”


Thanks to those who came to the SOPHFIFEST watchparty in November! This is the film we watched 🙂 Massive spoilers below, but I promise you that you will thank me…

It’s quite hard to describe this film but if I had to, I would probably say it started like a phenomenon-adventure film and ended like a beautiful, strange Lady Gaga music video.

The first thing that struck me, having read the book, was how unlike the book the film was. Having read into some of the background, I can now see why. The film was the lovechild of Alex Garland, writer and director of such films as Ex Machina. Apparently his vision for the film was to make a loose adaptation of the book. The main characters and themes and some of the ideas that came out of the book are there in the film, but much like the prism landscape in Area X they went into Garland’s mind, were changed irrevocably, and came out different… and I can’t say it was for the better…

There were some things which really bothered me (we won’t even go into detail about the noiseless love-making scene which creeped me out)…

With the exception of one scene at the top of the movie, it felt like Lena’s driving force only related to her husband and finding out the truth for him. The book, however, reveals that her and her husband are quite estranged and that her reasoning for wanting to go into The Shimmer was much more complicated than that, so the film missed the mark on that.

It bothered me that it felt like I didn’t know any of the supporting cast members that well, i.e. Lena’s colleagues who also went into Area X except what I was told… that they were women with little to no ties to the earth outside of Area X (due to cancer/loss of children) and one of them was probably gay. I felt like the director interpreted the book to suggest that the peripheral characters did not deserve to be afforded any nuance and at times the agency to tell their own story themselves, which was offputting to say the least. In the book, they were travelling for days, and whilst the spotlight was on Lena it didn’t mean I didn’t get to know the other scientists. I wondered how different the film would have been if the script had been written by a woman. It felt like a lot of time was spent trying to convince me this was a Feminist film (with a big F) but then fell totally short.

There was also a bit where Lena shoots something and a colleague asks her where she learned to shoot like that, to which she explained she had been in the military. It made me wonder, would we the audience ever question a hypermasculine man’s ability to shoot a gun if we saw him save lives? In doing so, it felt like the audience was seeking Natalie Portman’s authority to be able to shoot a gun successfully, instead of just accepting she could do it. Imagine one of the characters in Aliens asking Vasquez where she learned to shoot in the same way, or The Terminator or any other character really. We know Lena is qualified and capable and powerful already because she shot the thing to death…

And then there’s a part where the medical character sees a man with a thing squirming inside him and she denies its existence. It just undermines women because she’s meant to be a qualified, educated person and is painted in this truly ignorant way… I read around to see if anyone else experienced this film in a similar way, and I think this blog really sums it up. I have to agree, I found the film pretty insulting.

The cinematography/CGI was strikingly beautiful. Not just the shimmer itself but the flower-people were really well done.

I also really enjoyed Jennifer Jason Leigh’s depiction of the Psychologist. The ethereal way she talked in the movie made me question whether she was real, whether any of it was real.

The pinnacle of the whole film ended up what seemed like a dance battle with someone in a metallic full bodysuit which seemed quite pointless…

In conclusion, I think this film was a beautiful waste of time, but I really didn’t like how the characters were portrayed in such a flat way. I think it had great potential. The book itself was so compelling and I really wanted to know more… but it felt like the director missed the point both in the Feminist message he tried to put out and also in the plot. I would say don’t waste your time. Read the book instead.

UPDATE 20/11/2020 – That said I know lots of people really LOVE LOVE LOVED this film. Far be it from me to write off an entire film. I would say take this film with a big old pinch of salt. It’s well casted, looks amazing but it is pretty flawed. You have been warned.

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Interstellar [2014]

“Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”


This film (written and directed by Christopher Nolan) follows engineer and pilot, Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey who I thought was an excellent choice… the lofty way he moves and talks makes it seem like he has no gravity in his body so was totally believable as a spaceman) in a time not too far in the future. Humans have ravaged the earth and along with food shortages, all their fun times are being broken up by damn dust storms. DAMN YOU DUST STORMS! These shortages have necessitated people to concentrate on survival which seems to impact all areas in life, including what pathway kids take in school. NASA has all been shut down but are operating in secret to think of ways to save humanity. Inexplicably, Cooper’s path crosses with NASA and they send him on a journey to save everyone.

The rest, as they say, is history. OR IS IT?

Okay, so I really enjoyed this movie. I thought it was really engaging, the CGI and acting was excellent. It was beautiful and had me on the edge of my seat, and I’m guaranteed to enjoy ANY film that has a robot in it… Apart from Prometheus which I thought was a bag of dicks…

Anywho… the problem I had with it is that I had trouble suspending my disbelief throughout because of certain parts of the storyline. SPOILERSSSS!

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Why would NASA be shut down as being too frivolous and expensive if their aim was to save humanity? Why would educators change the history books and teach children that space exploration was faked and didn’t happen? Wouldn’t they want, if anything, to get the best scientific minds on the planet working out how to save everyone which if anything would mean putting MORE resources into science? It seemed like the problem fell solely on Michael Caine’s character’s shoulders…

The blight has destroyed all but corn, apparently, but they still have beer. Is it corn beer? Is everything they’re eating just corn? Is the only reason it is surviving because it’s Monsanto GMO corn?

Anne Hathaway’s character tells her crew that LOVE IS THE ANSWER when asked to make a major decision which impacts literally humanity’s survival. Like, dude, you’re a scientist. But screw all your stats and figures and equations, amirightladiessss. She did end up being correct though, and this spirituality of love saving the world really echoed the film Contact, which also suggested that love was the one thing through the darkness and expanse of the universe that connected us all. This felt like an epic eye-roll moment, but maybe I’m just a cynic…

We know that time is of the essence in this film. Like Michael Caine’s character says: “I’m not afraid of death, I’m an old physicist. I’m afraid of time.” It feels like Nolan is also afraid of time, and indeed the film really wastes no time; not even to flesh out some of the major characters that appear later in the film after Cooper goes to interstellar space…

I have many more questions than answers with this film but when all is said and done, I thought it was really enjoyable.

The soundscape of the film did an excellent job of making it pretty tense and accentuating key moments, to the point where it felt like a real kick in the chest.

The science of the film was sound, i.e. how wormholes sort of work (nice paper explanation of how they work, which I remember seeing explained the same way in Event Horizon), the idea of time swelling or changing relative to black hole proximity and the multi-dimensional theory was also sound. Albert Einstein once said “People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Interstellar did an excellent, creative job of showing what that might look like and how time could be manipulated. That if humans were able to perceive more than the three dimensions we currently can, that we might perceive the past, present and future all at once! Though I sincerely don’t believe he would have survived travelling through a singularity…

The presence of scifi/horror elements in the film personally made me feel uneasy and my impending doom-ometer was going wild. I really don’t know if it was intentional, but the aforementioned Event Horizon bit… the presence of cornfields… a robot in space who I suspected any minute would turn on the crew whilst they were in stasis… all of these elements added up to create a pretty tense film.

But what I loved the most was that Interstellar prompted really deep questions in my mind about the universe and reality and time.

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So in conclusion, I think it’s an insanely epic undertaking of a film. Some say that Nolan shot for the stars and missed with this film and that it was overly ambitious. Despite its flaws, I think it was wondiferous and imperfect all at once and I would definitely recommend this thought-provoking film.

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Gemini Man [2019]

“You know when I’m happy, Pop? When I’m flat on my belly, about to squeeze a trigger. It’s the only time I’m happy.”


Gemini Man is a film about Will Smith as a hot-shot assassin who decides he wants to retire, but they JUST. WON’T. LET. HIM. GOOOOOOOO!

Without giving too much away, it’s also about science/technology and a mysterious operative who seems to know his every move. Will Smith’s character in it seems totally oblivious to the plot/what is happening though, even though he is supposed to be this hot-shot agent with an eye that could shoot a man on a moving train from like 20 miles away but he literally cannot see what is right in front of his face even when it is spelled out to him by his sidekick, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead…

So as you can tell, the film didn’t quite work for me.

I didn’t believe either of the main characters, that they were who they were portraying or that they were capable of being them. This is all down to the script because I’ve watched Will Smith in tonnes of movies and I believe him in other films where he has been some sort of agent but for some reason the dialogue in this was just real bad and had that unfortunate effect.

The flow of the film felt very top heavy. The end section should have been this epic crescendo and build up but it felt like the last fight(s) just poofed and was over.

Lastly, and major spoilers here, the CGI was just off. We’ve all seen Will Smith as a twenty something in Fresh Prince of Belair, so seeing the CGI’d clone version of him and he looked odd… too shiny, his face was out of proportion to how he actually looks.. maybe even shorter somehow… I dunno, it really threw me and took away from my enjoyment of the film. The fight scenes between Will and Will looked like someone had put two Will dolls into a washing machine and filmed the ensuing battle from behind the door. There was very little definition so it took away from the fights.

Perhaps if it was just one thing that was off, then I would have accepted and enjoyed the movie, but because everything was not quite right, and the script was not strong enough to hold the film together, it was a no-go for me. I don’t think any other actor could have done it better justice. It really was all about the script and CGI for me.

So all in all, this isn’t a film I would recommend as a must-watch. It could have been amazing but it didn’t hit the target. PEW PEW. But as always have a watch and make your own mind up 🙂

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Anon [2018]

“We have to believe our eyes, or the system doesn’t work.”


What struck me about this film very early on was how film noir it was (or at least, neo noir). It has all the major tropes of a noir film… the stylish monochrome, oppressive city landscapes, offcentre camera placements and angles/shadows, the misanthrope detective, a murder investigation, suspense, femme fetale, smoky cigarettes, revolvers and this intentional feeling of alienation for the main character as his story unfolds.

Everything has this bleak feeling in the film, which is quite fitting given the subject matter, i.e. a question that the film poses about technology, privacy and intrusiveness. They ask this question a number of times in a number of ways: “They say it’s for our safety… Why don’t I feel safe?” This hopelessness is a reflection of today’s feelings towards our own technology. It’s making our life easier, but at what cost? Are we actually happier for it? Is it worth it? (let me work it, I put my thing down flip it and reverse it….)

I really enjoyed the subject matter. Shows like Black Mirror ask the same sorts of questions about technology so it’s on everyone’s minds at the moment.

What I feel missed the mark is that a lot of (neo) noir films have their misanthrope hint to a troubled past to literally add to the mystery. If it’s subtle it preserves the mysteriousness of the character. However, in this film all the cards were laid bare regarding his past. Perhaps this was because of the surveillance element of the film, but it needn’t have been so. I didn’t need to see through his mind’s eye to know he was troubled. Just like some interactions didn’t need to develop the way they did to create tension and drama. It felt like if a little bit had been preserved, it would have given the film a lot more.

All in all, entertaining but quite a listless film that missed the mark a little for me and was just a little too predictable but in all the wrong sort of ways.

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