Category Archives: Science Fiction

Mad Max: Fury Road

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Of the early summer season action movies (Avengers, Furious 7) this was by far the best.

This had very interesting, non-stop action scenes throughout.  The action is different from your typical action movie today and that made it even better.  While the plot is very basic what was there was interesting as were the characters.

Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy were both great.  Tom Hardy is definitely one of the best actors today with diverse roles in good films.  Some of his most recent have been: this, Locke, The Drop and the Dark Knight Rises.

If you haven’t seen this yet see it while it’s still in theaters.

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I enjoyed it as well, nonstop action, kept me interested. I loved Charlize’s character, and Tom Hardy was perfect. He’s one of the best actors, and I never recognize him for some reason. I would rate this higher if it was a genre I had more interest in.

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Ex Machina

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Ex Machina is a smart, entertaining sci-fi thriller from first-time director Alex Garland (probably best known as the writer of 28 Days Later).  Domhnall Gleason plays Caleb, an employee of a Google/Facebook-like company.  He is the winner(?) of a week with the secretive company owner, Nathan (played by Oscar Isaac) on his massive estate.

Nathan has been working on an advanced AI robot, Ava, played by Alicia Vikander.  Nathan has invited Caleb, as a participant of a ‘Turing Test,’ to determine if the AI is advanced enough to pass as human.

The week turns into a cat-and-mouse game between Ava, Caleb and Nathan with lots of suspense and interesting twists and turns.  I don’t want to give away more of the plot.

The acting is great, especially Oscar Isaac as the manipulative, creepy mogul.  The special effects for Ava are also excellent.

This film is definitely worth checking out.

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Guardians of the Galaxy

Bill C’s Review – 4.25 out of 5

Guardians of the Galaxy is joy to watch. It’s a  Marvel based super hero movie with lots of humor, great energy and music and with  good action.

A toned Chris Pratt from Parks and Recreation is the excellent lead of a good cast that includes Zoe Saldana and the voice work of Vin Deisel (‘I am Groot’) and Bradley Cooper.  This is a lesser know Marvel set of unique characters and  it includes a super hero tree and fox but the filmmakers definitely made it work.

I did not see the 3D version so  I don’t know if that adds anything.  As with seemingly all Marvel comics this had an extra scene at the end but there were a lot of credits so you need to decide for yourself whether it’s worth the wait.  After Boyhood this has been my favorite movie this summer.

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Lucy

Bill C’s Review – 2 out of 5

I knew from the previews that the plot of Lucy made little sense, but since the film was directed by Luc Besson, I hoped the action would make up for it.  Unfortunately, it didn’t.

Scarlett Johansson stars as Lucy and does a fine job.  She is happy-go-lucky until drug dealers use her as a drug smuggling mule by implanting a new drug in her stomach. Things go from bad to worse as the bag of drugs break, causing Lucy to utilize 100% of her brain power. (Luckily, Morgan Freeman is giving a lecture so we know humans only use 10%). This turns her into a vengeful superhuman fighting machine. Up to this point, the film had lived up to my expectations of having a dumb plot, but the action did not redeem the movie either. In some ways, this film reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey as there were flashbacks to prehistoric monkeys and other animals, but that didn’t make much sense to me either.

The action was never boring, but it didn’t seem that original and when necessary, Besson seemed to just give Lucy a new super  power that didn’t have too much to do with brain power.  Lots of guys coming at you with guns? Give her the power to disarm all of them at once from a distance. No problem!

Besson has written/directed some great action movies, including District B13 (very highly recommended), Taken, La Femme Nikita, and The Transporter.  I’d recommend one of those instead of his latest film.

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Snowpiercer

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Snowpiercer takes place in a post apocalyptic world after a plan to reverse global warming goes awry and most life on earth is wiped out as the earth is plunged into a deep freeze.    All survivors  have been riding on a super train that needs to keep moving to allow it to sustain life.   All of this is told before the opening credits.e

The class system rules on the train with the lower classes in the back doing all the work and the 1% in front living the good life.  After several years the people in back revolt.  This is an excellent sci-fi movie with excellent, varied action.   The plot is also pretty good with a lot of  surprises/twists revealed along the way.  There’s also a good mix of humor to go along with the action and serious themes.

This is directed by South Korean (this film is in English)  film maker Joon-ho Bong who is most famous for The Host a few years ago.  The cast is excellent with Tilda Swinton (almost unrecognizable) steals the movie as one of the leaders of the upper class trying to control the lower classes.

I think this just had a limited release and might be easier to find on video on demand.  it is worth looking for.

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Edge of Tomorrow

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

The Edge of Tomorrow is a sci-fi Groundhog Day during an Independence Day like war with aliens.

As Tom Cruise goes back in time he needs to keep learning so he can get further and hopefully progress to lead the defeat of the aliens.  He is aided by Emily Blunt who had a similar ability, became a hero  at a key battle but eventually lost the power.

I really liked the first 95% of the movie.  The plot is good, they threw in a lot of good humor and showed the progression towards the goal in a clever way.

Blunt and Cruise were both good although Cruise is probably reaching the point where he should leave this role to younger people (but if Liam Neeson can  do action stuff in his 60s why not? And I see Mission Impossible 5 and a Top Gun sequel are coming up for Cruise!).

The very ending to me seemed like a big cop out.  I don’t want to give it away but would be interested to know if others agreed.  Despite the ending I thought this was a good summer action movie.

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X-Men Days of Future Past

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Things are looking bleak for the X-Men sometime in the future.  They are losing a Terminator like war as humans have come up with these killer machines.  So what are you going to do?   Time to send an X-Men (X-Man?) back in the past to try to unite the X-Men at a pivotal time in history and alter the key event that led to the present situation.

I didn’t think this was the best X-Men movie but I thought it was a pretty good one.  The action was good  and included some humorous action (although the first time travel sequence was sort of confusing to  me until they explained it).

At this point you know the key characters pretty well with Wolverine, Raven/Mystique, Charles and Magneto getting most of the screen time.   Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence stand out with most of the tension coming from the need to get Magneto to conform.  Jackman has been playing Wolverine for almost 15 years now and you wonder how much longer he can do that role but so far he can still handle it.    While a ton of X-Men are in the movie some just have cameos (Rogue/ Ann Pacquin being  probably on screen for about 5 seconds).   Peter Dinklage handles the evil non mutant role and they find a Richard Nixon impersonator for some of the scenes in the 70s towards  the end of the Vietnam war.

I did not see this in 3D although I heard that was pretty good.  If you’re a fan of the series you should definitely see this one.  If you have an extra 8 minutes stick around for the closing credits  and teaser for the next X-Men movie (and let me know what it means).

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Under the Skin

Bill C’s Review – 2 out of 5

In the Skin is a science fiction movie with Scarlett Johansson as an alien that picks up men and lures them to their death.

The film is directed by Jonathan Glazer who made Sexy Beast several years ago, but is also famous for the music videos he has directed.  While the movie is visually interesting and the soundtrack is good,  the movie is pretty boring and Glazxer never really explains why things are happening. Sometimes that is ok, but not in this case.

Johansson is good in a role that requires her to be emotionless (if they remade this with a male alien, I’d recommend Keanu Reeves).  In addition, Johansson has several nude scenes which, for many, will be the best thing going for this movie.

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

This review is not intended for those who are really into this series as all of those people have undoubtedly seen this already (probably twice). I had not seen the first movie, but I watched it on Netflix (what dedication!) once the sequel got such good reviews. I even looked up “dystopia” in the dictionary since everything I heard or read talked about the story set in a dystopian society (and they are right—an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives).

I was glad that I went back and watched the first movie to have a good context for this one. Overall I liked Catching Fire and thought it was better than the first. The movie is almost 2.5 hours long but it did fly by. The characters are interesting and the acting, good, with a surprisingly good cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, and more. For the most part, the action was good although I found some of it hard to follow. I did have a couple of quibbles about the ending. It reminded me a little of The Empire Strikes Back--I didn’t think it had a real ending. It just sort of found a good point to stop, so the next film would have a good place to start. I have been told this is how the book ends too. I also didn’t like that they had to explain at the end what happened in the battle towards the end (since there’s no way to have figured it out just by watching), and what happened to some of the characters since they didn’t show that in the movie, but wanted you to know for the next movie.

Despite the quibbles with the last 15-20 minutes overall I enjoyed this.

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I was not as diligent as Bill so I have not seen the first movie, thinking this one should be able to stand on its own. I think it does, but also am sure that I would have appreciated it more if I was familiar with the prior episode and the characters. I agree with everything Bill says in his review, including the excellent acting, the movie moving fast, and the abrupt ending, almost like it’s going to a long commercial. Very imaginative scenarios to go with a very depressing futuristic life under a powerful Donald Sutherland as “President”. The way the government thugs march in and torture and kill citizens without a second thought, much less a trial, reminds me of Syria and other hot spots in our current world. How powerless the citizenry must feel, which is the essence of this story. There’s enough humor to keep me from getting miserable watching, and some situations that stretch logic (OK, count how many arrows Katniss starts out with in her quiver, then count the number she ends up shooting, or firing, or whatever you do with arrows.). I’d be interested in reading comments of anyone who’s a fan of this series.

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Gravity

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Gravity is a visually stunning movie with great special effects.  The movie very effectively used 3D and I’d definitely recommend to see it this way.

Anyone who has seen the trailer knows the basic plot: George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are involved in an accident during a space walk and are struggling to survive.  The director effectively switches the viewpoint of the action – sometimes being third person and sometimes being Clooney or Bullock including the view from inside their masks.  Bullock has the bigger role and gives a very effective performance.

I won’t give away what happens.  The plot isn’t as strong (or complicated) as the special effects  but the tension is strong throughout and this is definitely worth seeing.

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