Monday, October 14, 2013

Cloud Atlas Part I- Critic's Review

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Cloud Atlas, an interesting philosophical film to watch. All in all, it’s an excellent movie, though it probably will confuse some Americans. It’s more of a European flick, to be precise-a German flick with all of its artistic cinematography, philosophy, and x-rated sex in a rated-R movie. Having watched many German films, myself, I suspected that a German scriptwriter had his hands on this project, perhaps even a European,  so I looked up those involved in the project and who should be one of the co-writers and directors of Cloud Atlas other than the one and only Tom Tykwer? In case you don’t know who Tom Tykwer is, he’s the script writer and director of one of Germany’s most famous movies,  Run, Lola, Run. Yes, he definitely has his finger prints all over this film with its episodic, angst ridden, fast beat scenes which have many twists and turns. And of course, as I mentioned before, the philosophy. Germans are the thinkers in the artistic world, and their art usually revolves around a dystopian, Franz Kafkaesque bizarre world…much like the one in this film.

But I would be remiss not to mention the influence of the Wachowski siblings in this film, and it’s very present as well. They are responsible for films such as the Matrix trilogy with its futuristic setting in a dystopian world, as well. However, they’re more futuristic than Tykwer who likes to write about modern society and casts Ben Whishaw in all his movies (he is also in Cloud Atlas). The Matrix trilogy’s theme of being a suppressed prisoner in a system created by someone else, and empowering yourself to breach that system through self-empowerment and unity is also present in Cloud Atlas, as I’ll explain in another blog.

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In this world, we are taken through the lives of more than 70 characters who continue to reincarnate but remain in each other’s lives in one form or another in six different plots for 500 years.  For example, Tom Hanks plays the characters  Dr. Henry Goose, the hotel Manager, Isaac Sachs, Dermot Hoggins, Cavendish Look-a-Like Actor, and Zachry who is in love with or whose life intersects with  Halle Berry’s characters Native Woman, Jocasta Ayrs, Luis Rey, Indian Party Guest, Ovid, and Meronym. Obviously, this is an actor’s film because it’s character driven and challenges the actors’ versatility.  As a person who dabbled in acting when I was young, I believe it’s one hell of task to play multiple characters at the same time; it almost takes a photographic memory to keep each character separated. But they do, and the actors do an excellent job of it. Of course they do, you have the skills of likes of Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent and other A-listers to support the film and bring dimension to the characters.

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As for the storyline, the fact that it ruminates for a brief moment over the vignettes at the beginning of the film, I feel, was a downfall for a commercial film catering to an American audience which doesn’t watch, nor appreciate, many artistic films.  On the other hand, I believe it was part of the movies’ artistry-feeding into its theme of oneness, as it is clear that these characters share versions of the same problems at the same time though they live in different periods of time, with different socio-economic backgrounds, different physical traits, different races, genders, ages, sexual orientations etc. But moving quickly from character to character in the beginning, was perhaps the screenwriter’s way of showing that they are one and the same character –you have the rebel who empowers the exploited heroine, the heroine that is exploited, and the villain who is doing the exploiting.  It doesn’t matter who each character is, really. But at first you’re confused and have no idea what the story is about until it starts to connect later on in the movie.  To sum it up, the hook is lousy, though artistic, and the storyline and its themes were superb. Which is probably why it won many awards in Germany. Will it win awards in the United States? Probably not, but that’s because it’s polarizing here in the United States-some people love its themes and vignettes which take tangents but ultimately jell to form a few cohesive storylines and then there are those who believe that the development is messy and incohesive. You do have to have your thinking cap on when you watch this movie, but it's one of those movies that you love when you understand it. 

This is a movie you have to see for yourself if you want to know more about the storyline. If I were to sum it up, it would take a lot more than a few pages to untangle this intricate storyline in a coherent, interesting manner. Instead, I will focus on quotes in vignettes in relation to a few important philosophical themes I saw in the movie. And hopefully it will help the American, and even Canadian, movie watcher have a deeper understanding  and appreciation for this bold film. But that's another blog.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

World War Z

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World War Z. Brad Pitt, zombies, action…great, campy combination. It all starts out in Philadelphia traffic, which is devastating enough, during a period of martial law, which isn’t devastating this film. It’s devastating in the truther conspiracy world where martial law brings about a police state, strict curfew, unlimited surveillance, and Fema camps. But it’s all hunky dory in this film, daddy makes his kids breakfast in your perfect suburban home. It’s what happens when he sees a man pounding on someone’s car window then attacks the driver inside, that is devastating. No, he doesn’t have an extreme form of road rage, he has turned into a zombie, and turns anyone be bites into a zombie…kind of like a vampire, but not sexy.   

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Soon, our protagonist, Gerry Lane, finds himself running away from an entire city which has turned into a swamp of zombies because this is the apocalypse and we are the aliens. We are destroying ourselves, not a group of little grey or large green men from another dimension. We are the enemy. I like the fact that this movie sources from different conspiracies. In this case a virus created in a laboratory to inevitably affect the global population in a lethal manner, as I’ll discuss later. It’s only convenient, I suppose, that he works for the U.N., so he, his family, and a token child whose parents turned into zombies, are able to escape the city and remain uninfected by the zombie virus.

After Brad Pitt sets up his wife, and now three children, in an aircraft carrier out in the middle of the ocean somewhere,  he goes on a mission to find the original host of  the zombie virus in the hopes of finding a cure, and saving the world from the zombie apocalypse. He ends up in Israel, the only safe haven on planet earth, other than the ocean, that has found a way to keep out the zombies- build a super tall wall that they can’t climb over. However, even Israel can’t withstand the onslaught of zombies and soon succumbs to their invasion.

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While Lane is fleeing the swarm of zombies running after him like a group of horny fans, he briefly looks over his shoulder, and observes a Buddhist monk who is surrounded by zombies, but isn’t infected with the virus. They’re also not attacking him. This is Gerry Lane’s big “Ah ha!” moment, because he realizes that these picky eaters don’t attack people who are already sick, no. And he surmises that the zombies won’t attack him if he is injected with a particular virus. Where did I see that scenario before? Oh yeah, Pacific Rim, when the scientist formed a neural bridged with a Kaiju brain which makes him invisible to the Kaiju. But it could also be inspired by the current cancer breakthrough which uses the HIV virus to kill cancer cells. 

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On his way to the pharmaceutical company with his female Israeli soldier sidekick, Segen, what should happen on the plane but a sudden outbreak of the zombie virus? You know that baby’s going down!  He clearly can seem to get a break, but he also has unusually good luck because both he and Segen are still alive when the plane crashes, and the plane lands near the pharmaceutical company that manufactured the zombie virus. Rather convenient. However, Segen has to get him to the pharmaceutical company right away because part of the airplane’s seat has punctured through his side. Does he quit his quest to save mankind and die somewhere? No. He’s singularly determined to save mankind, as well as himself, so he agonizingly makes his way to the pharmaceutical company. 

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Yes, he survives. When he gets there, the pharmaceutical company extracts the metal from his hip and he heals in no time. Now he has the opportunity to inject himself with a disease, but there is just one problem -the laboratory, which holds the specific injection that he’s looking for, is filled with doctors who became zombies.  So now he has to navigate the pass them to get to the room with the injection. Which he does successfully, of course, and injects himself with the virus while a zombie, who is chomping his teeth at him, looks on from outside the room. Which is the comical part of the movie, like the comic foil, if you will.  You can tell it’s an actor having fun playing the role, but that’s ok, because the movie’s too serious anyway and the audience needed a good laugh.

Despite all the negative expectations concerning this film…the constant rewriting of scripts, the growing budget, and the expectation that it wouldn’t come out at all, this film was really good. I felt that the script was well written. In fact, its storyline is a complete departure from the novel, but that’s also ok, because it’s interesting. People who have read the book, though, are disappointed with the film because, they say, World War Z only uses the title of the book and the scriptwriters took far too many liberties with the storyline. Perhaps the problem lies with having five scriptwriters in the first place.

As for the characters, I really didn’t feel connected to any of them, except for Gerry Lane, who monopolizes the movie. There was so much action and such little drama, you really couldn’t connect with any of the characters…except Gerry Lane. What about the Mexican family? Nope, they become zombies within a few minutes. What about his family? Usually one family member accompanies the protagonists throughout the movie, but not this time. What about Segen? No, she almost says nothing at all. What about the pharmacists? There are far too many of them and you only see them for a few brief minutes. No, this is clearly a Brad Pitt movie.

I personally don’t know whether or not I appreciate the fact that the screen writers took liberties with the zombies, though, and liberties they took. These are not your mama’s slow moving, fleshing eating zombies. These zombies are quite agile-marathon runners who bite people and have the mental acuity to form a pyramid with their bodies so they can breach Israel’s walls. You don’t want to mess with these zombies!

All, in all, the film was very good. It did it have its holes, and probably more than I mentioned. But that doesn’t take away from the fact the storyline is very original, which in itself is a breath of fresh air, considering that fact that theaters are inundated with remakes.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Comment from Writer

The universe through the artists’ eyes. How much do we know of the universe? Are there government institutions withholding vital information about an extraterrestrial presence engaging our reality, and if so, are there whistle blowers leaking this information into the public domain? Absolutely! And during their quest to write stories, sci-fi script-writers find these bits of information during their research. Some info is provided directly from whistle blowers themselves. The trick is, to research the anecdotes in the movies. How much is truly original? How much is created in the mind of the script writer? I explore ufological influences as I critique the movies. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Critic's Review of Man of Steel

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It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s rather boring. Some people liked Man of Steel, but it didn’t do too much for me. Admittedly, I watched it with a migraine which could have affected my opinion at the time, most definitely. But I suspect that I’m not far from the mark, and here’s why:

Cricket courtesy of

Storyline, the movie never went in depth. Don’t get me wrong, the anecdotes were fabulous, but they left you dangling. I found that I wanted to know more about life on Krypton. I wanted to see its culture, its people, its customs that are a stark contrast or similar to earth’s culture. I wanted to see more conflict/plotting between General Zod and Jor-El, not just a few moments before planet Krypton explodes. I wanted to know more about Clark Kent/Kal El/ Superman’s childhood, his relationship with his parents, and his relationships with other children. The story doesn’t go in depth about the conflicts in his childhood either, instead, his conflicts are resolved much too soon, such as his conflicts with the bullies...there wasn’t enough drama. As for his relationship with Lois Lane, I must admit I’m also a little biased because I loved the 80s Superman series. In the 80s, Clark Kent’s relationship with Lois Lane was more developed, you can tell that they were on their way to a full-fledged romance during the first movie. However, Lois Lane had more of a relationship with his father in this movie, which is fine, if it extended to more than a few short minutes.  I mean, everything was rather brief.

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But even though the storyline is lacking, the film still has its perks. The most obvious one being the action scenes.It's colossal, it's bold…it is almost as good as Pacific Rim’s. But it was also a little too much…too lengthy. While I enjoyed the destruction of the entire town, give me more storyline, please don’t wrap it all up in the action sequences. Though the special effects were spectacular. And, frankly, so were the futuristic costumes. 

The message was fantastic too. You have this alien from Krypton trying to adapt to our world.  It is difficult because his genetics put him at both an advantage and disadvantage over earthlings. On one hand, he could pick up a truck as if it were a small toy and save a life. On the other hand, his sensory frequency is incompatible with earth’s because everything was more visible and louder to him, as it would be for extraterrestrials who are trying to adapt to our environment. That is why our villain, General Zod, was attempting to terraform the earth’s environment in the first place, to make it easier for the Kryptonian race to live on earth. That means humans had to die, of course, but that was the least of his worries. Yet, here was this man, Kal El, who was also Kryptonian, and was attempting to protect humanity from General Zod’s invasion- even if it meant that he would be the last living Kryptonian in existence. So, General Zod’s flawed plan for the perpetuating their species didn’t exactly pan out as he planned. If, say, he found ways for the Kryptonians to adapt to Earth, they would have survived (Pacific Rim also conveyed this message in a round about way when the scientist drifted with the Kaiju. It didn’t notice his human neurological scent, so it left him alone as if he were a Kaiju). So once again, brains triumphs brawn. 

General Zod courtesy of

The other message contained within this conflict between Superman/Kal El and General Zod, is that within one branch of the same species, are two opposing factions…one who wants to hurt humanity, and one who wants to protect it at all costs. Kind of like, aliens are not all bad, like the aliens in Pacific Rim were. Well, in the Kaiju genre in general the aliens are all bad. I imagine the same would apply to an extraterrestrial presence engaging this reality…like the much feared Reptilians.  Are they really all bad? Can’t there be a few gems amongst them? And I mean Reptilians who represent a benevolent, helpful presence to humanity, rather than a hateful, destructive one. Like Kal-El. I like the fact that Man of Steel doesn’t paint one group of people with a single broad brush.

Kryptonian baby pod. Image courtesy of

So, now that  Superman is the last surviving Kryptonian, the question remains if he can perpetuate his species. At least in the physical form…as we see in the scenes with Jor-El, they can also become spirits. But can he reproduce with Lois Lane, if extraterrestrials have a different genetic makeup than humans? Unless we have a common ancestor which makes us genetically compatible, the answer is no.  According to Wikipedia, Kryptonians have a completely different genetic makeup than humans which makes it impossible for them to breed with us. So, even if Kal-El looks exactly like a human man, he can’t reproduce with Lois Lane. And who knows what he really looks like under that suit! Underneath all the bulging muscles he could even be a hermaphrodite. So what about artificial insemination? We see in the movie that the aliens were created through artificial insemination rather than through sexual reproduction-except for Kal-El/ Superman/ Clark Kent whose parents broke the law to have him naturally. But does that somehow make him different than your average Kryptonian?  Since he is genetically incompatible with Lois Lane, or any human on planet earth for that matter, that means artificial insemination is out of the question. But is his species virtually screwed? Is he truly the last member of the Kryptonian race? What about cloning? Well, science isn’t that advanced yet, we’re not supposed to be able to clone humans let alone Kryptonians, but who knows what really happens  in research facilities these days. Perhaps they could clone him, but according to Wikipedia, his genetic structure is too complex for scientists to decipher let alone clone. So, sorry Superman, now that your species is dead, there probably won’t be another Kryptonian anytime soon.  That is, unless love produces the kind of chemicals that could facilitate sexual reproduction with Lois Lane.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Conspiracy Theorist's Review of Pacific Rim

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Background and Summary

Now, this is a good movie, this is what it looks like. In my opinion, it stands out as this Summer’s best sci-fi, as I’ll discuss later on. I mentioned in my blog The Dragon’s Triangle, that there is a large, ominous body of water off the coast of Japan. Coincidentally, it is located within the Pacific ring of fire. Many IFOs and marine vessels simply disappeared into that watery grave, or supposed watery grave, because no one knows what happened to the casualties after they’ve disappeared. Could they be alive? Could they be dead? Could they have been a meal for sea faring ultraterrestrial monsters  known as the Kaiju?  According to the Pacific Rim movie, absolutely.  Though these titans, who have a symbiotic relationship with machinery, are by all accounts biological robots for real extraterrestrials hiding in another dimension on the sea floor. Their purpose as slaves? To wipe out the human population so the real extraterrestrials can colonize our planet, consume its resources, and then invade another planet once they’ve destroyed ours. It’s a tradition for them, both in the movie, and in some UFOlogical mythology.

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The movie doesn’t name the Dragon’s Triangle as the source for these alien beings, but I believe its title says it all.  Furthermore, in the movie there’s an underwater portal in the Pacific Ocean that leads to an extra-dimensional city in its ocean floor. There is a whirlpool in the Dragon’s Triangle that many have speculated serves as an entrance to an underground extraterrestrial world as well. So, to sum it up, the portal in the movie and the whirlpool in Dragon’s Triangle are located in the same region of the world and serve the same purpose, so it’s safe to assume that they’re the same thing.


Seemingly out of the blue, the Kaiju cyborgs rise out of this marine portal and slaughter humans. Supersonic planes, state-of-art tanks, nuclear submarines, anything and everything are used against these titans to no avail. So, in a last ditch attempt to save the human population from a burgeoning invasion, world governments work together to build an army of gigantic robots called Jaegers, which are comparable in size and strength to the Kaiju. These Jaegers are basically giant, hulking transformers that don’t transform into anything at all, but have their own unique abilities. They are piloted by two pilots who join their minds, or consciousness, together with a neural bridge process called drifting. Pilots can then share each other’s thoughts, emotions, memories (you have to be real compatible to drift), and control one of the Jaeger’s arms.  In other words, they become symbiotic with each other and the machinery-becoming virtual cyborgs like the Kaiju. 

The protagonist, Raliegh Becket, drifted with his twin brother for years until a Kaiju killed him.  Then he became a washed-up pilot working as a carpenter while trying his best to leave the Jaeger world behind him. But these cyborgs are constantly being upgraded, making them increasingly dangerous and unable to defeat. So his old boss, Stacker Pentecost, has no other recourse than to recruit Becket once again, and pair him with his old Jaeger and, eventually, his adopted daughter –the beautiful, ambitious, talented rookie, Mako Mori. Of course you have to have that beautiful woman who the protagonist falls in love with. 

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The fact that Becket and his old Jaeger are antiques in the squadron, proves to be a blessing in disguise.  The Kaiju have found a way to shut down the newer, more automated Jaegers, but they can’t shut down Becket’s old clunker. So, with a raw mixture of physical dexterity and Japanese sword wielding (which makes the Jaeger look like a robotic samuri…I’m in love with that detail!), Becket and Mori are able to defeat the Kaiju in the Pacific Ocean and make their way to the underwater portal. The icing on the cake is the old-fashioned nuclear bomb in the Jaeger’s chest. None of the newer Jaegers have this function, so Becket and Mori are the only pilots who have the ability to destroy the entire colony of extraterrestrials on the ocean floor. In my opinion, this movie is filled with propaganda, which is probably why it was widely panned by industry critics. But that doesn't take away from its awesomeness. 


So, why I am convinced that this is the best Summer sci-fi bar none? First of all, let me say that Guillermo Del Toro’s ode to Ray Harryhausen's The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and Ishiro Honda's Godzilla, is texturally thick…it borrows from the the Kaiju genre, the mecha anime genre, and UFOlogical genre, but it doesn’t fall flat like other refurbished movies such as Superman, Spiderman, and the endless ilk.  That’s because its storyline was all around very original and tight-tighter than the other sci-fi movies this summer such as Man of Steel, which is too episodic, Oblivion, which has a messy ending, or World War Z, which isn’t very suspenseful and borders on comical.  I’m going to review all those movies later.

As an aside, what bothers me about this film, is the misusage of the term apocalypse, which is actually a very common mistake. It simply means the unveiling of a hidden truth such as an extraterrestrial presence engaging our reality. So, it already happened in the beginning of the movie, because the aliens already unveiled themselves to the human population…yet they were planning for an apocalypse. What they should have been planning for was armageddon. 

The Pan’s Labyrinth director, obviously didn’t do a rushed, marketing job by throwing in some storylines that would appeal to a target audience’s taste, and it shows. Del Toro cultivated it like a baby, giving birth to a movie with well developed characters whose relationships were sufficiently developed, even with minimal storyline (though some critics complain that the dialogue was cheesy and had too many works for this genre, I find). For example, you learn just how much Pentecost and Mori mean to each other while she is drifting for the first time. She’s an orphaned little girl, she is frightened to death because the Kaiju are attacking her city and destroying everything in their path, and Pentecost manages to save her. As he emerges from his Jaeger like an angel, he becomes Mori’s savoir and the father figure she idolizes. The dynamics of their relationship is set as the movie moves forward not to mention they appeal to your emotions. You want these characters to survive and excel. Man of Steel, for example, didn’t bring us that type of attachment, or if it did, it was sedate as to render it unmoving.  

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The relationship between Mori and Becket, however, is not so clear from the onset. Mori doesn’t like him at first because he’s a washed up pilot joining a younger generation of fresh, new talent. So she dismisses him as too old and subpar for the job, though she, herself, is just a rookie. When Becket playfully challenges her to a duel, she learns that she underestimated his martial arts skills and that she’s not all that special after all.  She also finds out that they are compatible for drifting. Yes, you guessed it, drifting compatibility is also symbolic for romantic compatibility.  You can tell there’s some romantic tension between them in the movie, but they never connect romantically till the end, because they're focused on their mission to save the world. That’s another thing drifting is symbolic of….the importance of working together to achieve a goal...the war would not have succeeded if they didn't work together and getting involved romantically always messes things up. Plus, let’s face it, who would want to mess with daddy?  

Their relationship is realistic which is just the way I like it...with less syrup and more substance (for the most part-Stephenie Meyer created a true romantic legacy).

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Drifting also symbolizes understanding the enemy during times of war…one concept with so many symbolic meanings which is brilliant, actually. That concept was expressed when the crazy scientist, Dr. Newton Geiszler, drifted with the brain of a Kaiju. But this is more than about thinking like the enemy to defeat the enemy. This is about understanding your enemy’s motives, emotions, point of view, and perceptions of reality (something we should have done before we invaded Iraq, for example). Putting yourself in your enemies' shoes, so to speak. The only problem is that once his neural bridge connected with the Kaiju, another Kaiju comes searching for him in the city, bringing with it a new round of destruction. But it ultimately doesn’t notice him, because he has the neurological scent of a Kaiju. So by adapting to the Kaiju, he was able to survive. He also learns while drifting with the Kaiju brain, that the aliens are planning a full scale invasion, and how the pilots can successfully defeat them. No amount of macho ego-tripping could muscle their way to victory against the Kaiju. Defeating the Kaiju took brains as well as brawn.

The visual elements were bold,  beautiful, sophisticated, and very realistic. From the giant transformers to the Kaiju baby, everything was elegant and very detailed. Frankly, he also managed to do something that is unique to the 80s movies- he managed to prolong the suspense so there was no quick resolution; you were on the edge of your seat till the very end, as you should be. Being an 80s child, I appreciate that aspect of the movie very much. It was something that was notably lacking in the 90s movies and certainly didn’t improve until this movie…in 2013. Other movies left the suspense feeling rather stale and not worth watching because your hopes for the characters were appeased almost immediately…everything was resolved too soon, perhaps in order to cater to a generation or two with short attention spans. But everyone likes suspense, which is why most people who are in their 30s and 40s turn to trashistic reality television shows.  All in all, Del Toro earns major kudos for this film.