ORBzine - Unreality 2014 Movie Reviews

TITLE & REVIEW

Inception

Inception This was directed by Christopher Nolan , and (much like the heist itself) works on a number of different levels. Unfortunately, the dense plotting means that many viewers may be out of their depth.

Leo DeCaprio ( Titanic ) and Joseph Gordon Levitt ( Looper ) are hi-tech thieves who steal secrets from their victim's head. To do this, they have to enter the person's subconscious and interact with their dreams - a dream within a dream, as Edgar Allen Poe put it.

Our heroes are hired to do the impossible - to plant an idea in a man's mind. Their target is Cillian Murphy ( Batman Begins ). They recruit a team that includes Tom Hardy ( Star Trek: Nemesis ) and Ellen Page (the girl from Juno).

As an added distraction, Leo has the same subplot he did in Shutter Island - he is haunted by the death of his suicidal wife. This time she is played by the French actress who (like Tom Hardy and Gordon Levitt) appeared in Nolan's next Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises ).

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    Looper

    Looper Joseph Gordon-Levitt ( Inception ) is a Looper, a hitman in the year 2044. He and his compadres wipe out a steady stream of victims sent back from 30 years in the future. Apparently the far future's technology means that destroying a body is impossible. However, this has not prevented a psycho named The Rainmaker from slaughtering dozens of people and taking over the Five Syndicates. This Gang War is the source of the Loopers' victims, but they are now assigned to take out their future selves.

    As with all good Film Noirs, something goes wrong and our protagonist must go on the run. His future self (Bruce Willis, who already did this in Twelve Monkeys ) comes back, on a Terminator -like rampage to kill The Rainmaker and save the future.

    The problem with this story is the number of shocking coincidences. Our hero blunders into the families of TWO suspects, both within handy walking distance for him.

    Another Time Travel veteran, Garret Dillahunt ( Sarah Connor Chronicles ) pops up as a hitman. And Emily Blunt seems to be in everything these days, as she tries an American accent as a farm-girl.

    The result is a contrived mess full of temporal paradoxes. Unfortunately Time Travel in fiction only works in ways that the writer feels benefit the plot. Nobody cares about getting it to make sense any more. If reading this paragraph gives you a sense of deja-vu, either you are a time traveller or else the facts in it are true of so many Time Travel stories that it tends to get repeated a lot.

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    Adjustment Bureau

    Adjustment Bureau This is billed as Jason Bourne meets Inception , though it is nowhere near as action-packed as either. It's a romance with supernatural overtones, based on a story by Philip K. Dick .

    Matt Damon ( True Grit ) is a US Politician who meets Emily Blunt , an English ex-pat ballerina in NYC. But a group of supernatural entities (angels in all but name) who can alter reality have been ordered to manipulate his destiny and keep him apart from the woman. They call in Archangel Terence Stamp ( Phantom Menace ), who isn't afraid of using extreme methods.

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    Cloud Atlas

    Cloud Atlas This movie, adapted from a novel, follows a handful of people through six reincarnations as they weave interlocking stories across multiple time zones. Since the film runs for three hours there is no point in trying to summarise it all in a few paragraphs, so here are the basic outlines:

  • 1849: dying lawyer on a ship with a runaway slave
  • 1936: suicidal bisexual composer in England
  • 1972: journalist investigating Nuclear power plant
  • 2012: publisher on the run from creditors
  • 23rd Century: bio-engineered humanoid goes on the run
  • post-Apocalyptic: locate a communications structure while avoiding cannibals

    Each segment is told in a different fashion - melodrama, comedy, action-adventure and so on. The SPFX are incredible, and the make-up (which allows the cast to play different age groups, and even different races) is awesome.

    The Cast themselves are incredible. Halle Berry is her Oscar-worthy awesomeness, as always - but the real knockout is Tom Hanks ( Green Mile ). He conveys a series of different characters (or different takes on the same character) that are entirely convincing, and show his incredibly diverse range.

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    Source Code

    Source Code Jake Gyllenhall wakes up aboard a train. He has amnesia ... and as soon as her orientates himself in his new surroundings, a bomb goes off and kills everyone.

    It turns out that our hero is a time-traveller, sent back by Dr Jeffrey Rush ( Casino Royale ) to Quantum Leap into a dead man's body and find out who the bomber is.

    When our hero is not reliving the 8-minute time loop, he is trapped in a capsule - like Ryan Reynolds in Buried, communicating with an Erin Grey lookalike in full military dress uniform via a computer interface.

    This is a nice take on time travel - it has some interesting limitations (reminiscent of 7 Days ) and works on a number of levels. There is a love story, a 24-style anti-terrorist plot, and a scifi setting where the science is actually part of the plot. The excellent script is topped off with a competent director and a great cast - there is no weak link.

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    Deja Vu

    Deja Vu Urban terrorist Jim Caviezel ( Passion of the Christ ) sets off a bomb. Local police detective Denzel Washington investigates. Val Kilmer ( Willow ) borrows Detective Denzel for foot-work in a project, to solve the crime using Time travel.

    Denzel is a dreadful cop. He's so keen on following a suspect that he charges off alone to do what is obviously a two-man job. The result is that he causes multiple traffic pile-ups, involving god knows how many civilian casualties.

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    Kaboom

    Kaboom Thomas Dekker ( Sarah Connor Chronicles ) is a bisexual college boy ... who stumbles across a murderous conspiracy. Or was he just really high, and imagined the whole thing?

    As things get more and more convoluted, it becomes obvious how much the writer/director owes to Twin Peaks . Other good news is that this Indie film actually has the courage to let the female cast show their breasts in the sex scenes - unlike The Roommate , a recent dire mainstream Hollywood effort.

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    Time-Traveller's Wife

    Time-Traveller's Wife Eric Bana has a genetic abnormality which manifests itself when he gets stressed. He finds himself naked, usually in the woods. Yes, he's reliving his time as the Hulk - only this time he time-jumps (without a time machine). That said, he usually only does it within his own lifetime.

    Rachel McAdams is the title character, wife to Mr Bana. She sticks with him through a dozen miscarriages, because his offspring time-jump in the womb. Can they successfully carry a child to term?

    The other problem is, because she can see flashes of his life in a non-chronological sequence, she sees him bleeding from a lethal-looking gunshot. But he cannot change his fate, so he is doomed to live out the inevitable.

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    Time After Time

    Time After Time Jack the Ripper (David Warner - Time Bandits ) steaks a time machine from Bookish pacifist nerd HG Wells (Malcolm McDowell - Clockwork Orange, Tank Girl ). The novelist follows the serial killer, and finds himself a fish out of water in 1979 San Francisco! Luckily, Mary Steenburgen helps our hero.

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    Frequency

    Frequency This is a Hollywood time-travel thriller. Through the power of magic realism, Jim Caviezel ( Passion of the Christ in 1999 talks on the CB radio to his dad (Dennis Quaid - Dragonheart ) in 1969. There is some great father-son bonding. But they must team up to catch a serial killer. Unfortunately, as with all dramatic Time Travel stories, they change things for the worse.

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    Time Travellers, The

    Time Travellers, The Three scientists and an engineer create a time portal. They wander through, but get trapped. They meet Native American savages and hi-tech humans. They are in 2071, after a nuclear war. The survivors plan to go to Alpha Centauri. They have a teleporter beam. So why not just send the teleporter to Alpha Centauri, avoiding the necessity to build a colony ship?

    This film evokes memories of movies like Genesis II and The Langoliers . The Melrose scene is unconvincing, but the colony scenes are best. However, the ending is original.

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    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button This is based on a short story by F Scott Fitzgerald, updated for the 21st Century and brought to life by David Fincher .

    The title character is born with a strange medical defect - he ages backwards. Eventually he looks like Brad Pitt ( Fight Club ), and falls in love with ballerina Cate Blanchett . In real life the actors are about the same age, but here thanks to make-up they age in opposite directions. As time passes in New Orleans and Benjamin is seemingly unchanging, one is reminded of Interview with the Vampire .

    Typical of Fitzgerald's work, this is a slow and tedious drama. UK Comic 2000AD covered this idea in a 3-page Future-shock This is dragged out to over two hours, in an era when 90 minutes is about average for a film.

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    Sucker Punch

    Sucker Punch Zach Snyder delivers something with the comic-book visuals of Watchmen and the neo-Gothic anachronistic stle of Tim Burton's Batman . The intro is a music video to a re-mixed Annie Lennox song, where our heroine (a petite 20-year-old Buffy type) gets put into an asylum. She meets up with girls of her own age ( Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens ). but that is where the similarities to John Carpenter 's recent disappointment The Ward end.

    The girls fantasise that the drafty old Victorian Asylum is a more comfortable prison - a Moulin Rouge-style bordello where they are unjustly imprisoned, and our heroine only has five days to escape. And when she dances ...

    The heroine goes into a deeper fantasy, a dream within a dream - like Inception ! This is a World War One analogy, there the girls dress like Japanese school-girls embracing girl-power (think Kill Bill meets DOA: Dead Or Alive ) must slaughter armies of steampunk zombies, and stray orcs left over from Lord of the Rings ... Like 300 , but with girl-power.

    But is it anti-Feminist? Every female character is powerful and positive - the only dangers are fantasies, remember? (or are they?) The male characters are negative - with the exception of the mentor (Scott Glenn - Silence of the Lambs ) and a cop at the end (Ian Tracey). But the males are supporting characters, functionaries. This movie more than passes the infamous Bechdel test. But it shows that female empowerment is a male fantasy. And that seems to have created a negative backlash.

    In short, this is a love-it-or-hate-it film. In this reviewer's opinion ... watch it yourself, make your own mind up!

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    Lost Highway

    Lost Highway This is a David Lynch Film, and the structure certainly shows that. It is reminiscent of Mulholland Drive In more than one way.

    Bill Pullman ( Independence day ) is married to Patricia Arquette . But all is not well ...

    The middle section centres around Balthazar Getty ( ), a young man who gets seduced by a femme fatale (also played by Patricia Arquette ). She is the moll of gangster Robert Loggia (best known from a similar role in Scarface).

    The problem with this as a film noir is the surreal undertones that confuse matters.

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    Back to the Future Franchise

    Back to the Future

    Back to the Future Marty McFly (Michael J Fox - Teen Wolf ) is a typical 1980s Californian teenager. He plays guitar, hangs out with a mad scientist, and skateboards to school every day with a Huey Lewis soundtrack. Mad Scientist? Yes, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd - Who Framed Roger Rabbit? ) invents a time-machine and installs it in a DeLorean car. Thanks to the intervention of some Libyan terrorists (stereotypical 1980s bad guys) Marty ends up driving that DeLorean back thirty years to 1955.

    The first twenty minutes of the story is spent setting everything up for the 1950s. Conveniently for Marty, every middle-aged person spent the entire day telling him what they did in the EXACT WEEK he gets sent back to. All he has to do is not interfere with the timeline. Can he do that? Well, he ends up having to play matchmaker with his own parents ( Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover - Charlie’s Angels ) or he will disappear from history, and can never go Back to the Future.

    This is a wonderful piece of film-making that works well on every level. Yes, the exposition-filled First Act seems clunky - but this is a comedy-drama, it should not be taken too seriously. What seems amazing is that the 1980s Marty would fit in so well almost thirty years later, while by travelling thirty years into the past he is completely a fish out of water. The 1950s is as foreign to him as it would be to us. In all fairness, Life on Mars did that with the 1970s. But it still makes the mind boggle.

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    Back to the Future III

    Back to the Future III This takes up where the previous film left off. Marty was abandoned in 1955, but Doc Brown sent him a letter on how to find the time machine. The Doc is in 1885, but Marty discovers that Mad Dog Tannen will murder him. Marty goes back to 1885, instead of forward to 1985 ...

    Once Marty and Doc are together again, the duo must re-enact the events of the first film, but in the wild west instead of the 1950s. Also, instead of Marty trying to discourage his own mother's romantic attentions, Dr Brown starts a burgeoning romance with schoolteacher Mary Steenburgen .

    There are plenty of references to the previous films. Marty meets his ancestor, who looks just like him - and for some strange reason his wife looks like Lea Thompson ... meaning Marty's parents were cousins! Marty poses as Clint Eastwood, and re-enacts one of the most famous scenes from the spaghetti Western series.

    There is an element of character development in this installment. Marty always gets riled when bullies insult him or challenge him - will he mellow out into a more Nineties type, and prevent the terrible personal future that awaits him in Back to the Future II ?

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    Lovecraftian Stories

    The Whisperer in Darkness

    The Whisperer in Darkness This is an extended feature-length version of one of HP Lovecraft's short stories. The screenwriter added a third act, to give the story a climax and some closure. It is monochrome, shot in the manner of a 1930s Universal Studios-type Horror.

    A scientist investigates a farmer's claim that aliens and cultists inhabit a mountain near his remote farmhouse. He is completely genre-blind, making every cliched mistake in the book. But Lovecraft's works are probably the SOURCE for most of the cliches, so we have to give it a bit of leeway. The execution is excellent, taking us from suspense to a dramatic climax that grows effortlessly from Lovecraft's premature ending.

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    AM1200

    AM1200 A man on the run with stolen cash (a la Psycho ) ends up in a dead end ... He gets lost, and by incredible coincidence arrives at a spooky abandoned-looking radio station. The only inhabitant is John Billingsley ( Enterprise ) - who is almost unrecognisable, and gives an excellent performance.

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    Die Farbe

    Die Farbe This is an extended feature-length version of one of HP Lovecraft's short stories, The Colour out of Space. The modern-day bookends to the story explain why the setting has switched from New England, USA, to Weimar Germany.

    An American OAP goes missing. His son goes to Germany to find him. A German OAP tells him an incredible story ...

    Back in the 1930s a meteorite hit a remote farm. The rock from space dissolves into the ground, mysterious, creepy and suspenseful descent into insanity and horror.

    The film was shot in black and white, which works well since the story is set in the 1930s. Also, since the story is about an alien - imperceptible - colour, we cannot expect to actually see it.

    The climax - the colour itself finally appears - involves great SPFX. But it is too in-your-face to fit in with the relatively low-key film. The script is good enough, though - the confusions are tied up in a nice little twist.

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    Stephen King Adaptations

    (Stephen King's) Rose Red

    (Stephen King's) Rose Red Nancy Travis and a group of no-name actors investigate a haunted house. The story drags on for about four hours. Stephen King wrote it, ripping off bits of his far superior stories ( It, The Shining ). He even has a cameo as a pizza-delivery guy named Carrie.

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    (Stephen King's) Bag of Bones

    (Stephen King's) Bag of Bones Novelist Pierce Brosnan ( Goldeneye ) moves to a small town, and befriends single mother Melissa George . But something nasty happened in the woods, and now a ghostly presence is wreaking a terrible curse on certain bloodlines. The woman's son is one of the accursed ...

    This is yet another Stephen King piece, ruined by dumbing-down for the mainstream audience.

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    Carrie (2013)

    Carrie (2013) Carrie White ( Chloe Grace Moretz ) lives alone with her abusive, religious fundamentalist mother ( Julianne Moore ). At school the cast is rounded out by gymn teacher Judy Greer , Good Girl Chrissy (who looks like Kate Bosworth acting ten years younger than her real age) and School Bitch Sue.

    This is a remake of the classic 1970s film by Brian DePalma . The new Director ( Kimberly Pierce ) is one of the few females to helm such a large-scale project. Although the story was written by a man ( Stephen King ), the main five roles are all female. The male roles (originally played by William Katt and John Travolta) are held by new faces.

    Moretz has to carry the film, and delivers a great performance as always. But she already covered this ground in Kick-Ass 2 , where she played a High School outsider persecuted by Mean Girls who delivers a violent reprisal.

  • 2000
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    The Mangler

    The Mangler This is based on a short story by Stephen King , and directed by Tobe Hooper

    Detective Ted Levine ( Silence of the Lambs ) investigates an accidental death at a commercial laundry run by crippled old Robert Englund ( Nightmare on Elm Street ). Someone got pulled into a massive laundry press, and squished to a pulp. It turns out this is not the first time someone has been killed or mutilated by that particular machine.

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    The Mist

    The Mist This was directed by Frank Darabont , based on a novel by Stephen King . It is shot using video rather than film, which makes it look cheap and nasty at the start but really pays off later with the darkness, gloom and CGI monsters.

    Thomas Jane ( Deep Blue Sea ) is an artist who creates posters for movies. His wall includes John Carpenter's The Thing , while his current masterpiece is The Dark Tower (the obligatory Stephen King reference). However, his domestic bliss is ruined by bad weather. An overnight storm is followed by a strange mist that blows in from the direction of a secret US Military lab.

    Our hero and his pre-teen son end up trapped in the local supermarket with a variety of townies, including three familiar faces from The Walking Dead - Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn and Melissa McBride.

    What raises this above the usual monster movie is the fact that it is basically an ensemble piece, a character-based drama with a cast of stars. The supermarket worker (Toby Jones Wayward Pines ) is the insightful voice of reason, while the redneck (William Sadler Roswell ) is a slave to his emotions. The Lawyer (Andre Braugher - Andromeda Strain (2008) ) is a rational thinker who assumes the others are only joking about monsters in the mist. The check-out girl ( Alexa Davalos ) just wants to spend quality time with her boyfriend (Sam Witwer - Being Human USA ), and he in turn is a military man who knows more about the mist than he is letting on.

    The worst of all, worse even than the monsters in the mist, is the bible-thumper ( Marcia Gay Harden ). She thinks it is the Day of Judgement from the Bible, and tries to convince the others that she is a prophet so she can infect them with her own religion-inspired perjudices. Our protagonist soon learns that the last place you want to be is trapped in a confined space with a gang of bible-thumping rednecks.

    What makes this film controversial is the ending. While the original story is open-ended, Darabont gave this a definite conclusion. This is a love-it-or-hate-it scene, and if you read a negative review of this film then the ending is probably the reason. Watch the movie for yourself, and make your own mind up.

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    The Dark Tower

    The Dark Tower This starts off like Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief . The protagonist is a young boy who lives in New York City with his hot mother ( Kathryn Winnick ) and his wicked stepfather. The boy has dreams about a magical otherworld, then discovers he is the chosen one who can help save the universe.

    The otherworld in this case seems to be a commentary on modern-day American politics. Villainous Texan good-ole-boy Matthew McConaghy ( ) harrasses a couple of African-American men in Union blue - the Gunslinger (Idris Elba - 28 Weeks Later ) and his father (Dennis Haysbert - ). It turns out that in their reality, the generic term Gunslinger now means a specific kind of soldier - just like the term Huntsman was re-defined in the film Huntsman: Winter's War . However, this one has superpowers - and his revolvers were made from the melted down sword Excalibur!

    This movie is less than a hundred minutes long, but is comprised of a series of books that connects all the novels in the Stephen King universe. As a result, there is quite a lot of unexplained back-story. Strangely, none of this seems to matter. The story, simplistic as it is, has been told many times before and is easy to understand. There are good guys and bad guys, and beyond that everyone's motivation is irrelevant because they are all defined by their actions.

    The boy teams up with the gunslinger, just like the protagonist in The Last Action Hero became sidekick to Arnold Schwartzenegger's character.

    The villain has his own team, including Abby Lee , Fran Kranz ( Cabin In The Woods ) and Jackie Earl Haley ( Watchmen .

    In the end, nothing is explained but everything is tied up. No six-movie series, this appears to be a stand-alone.

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    IT (2017)

    IT (2017) This is the second adaptation of the novel. The first version was a television mini-series that was filmed in 1989. Naturally the made-for-TV show had limits imposed by network censorship. In contrast, this is a full-on horror with seamless Twenty-First Century SPFX that bring the story to life.

    This movie is set in 1989, but it seems like the setting is anachronistic. After all, the original novel was set in the 1950s and that is what this feels like. For example, this is set in a small town that is murder capital of the world. The number of dead and missing is even greater than that of Cabot Cove in Murder She Wrote. Even in the 1980s this would have come to the attention of the State Police and the FBI. However, in this film the only law enforcement is a tin-badge sheriff who can barely keep control of his own son - a vicious schoolyard bully.

    This story is about a group of children that hang out together in the summer of 1989. They are a bunch of outsiders, not easily defined like the group in The Breakfast Club. No, they are more like The Goonies , or the boys in King's other story The Body (AKA Stand By Me). The difference is that they are more diverse - there is a jewish boy, a black kid and a token girl. The bullies that harrass them are white trash, the kind that might grow up to become a Trump voter.

    The kids discover that their town is cursed. They all have nightmare visions of the things that terrify them, and at the heart of it is always ... Pennywise the dancing clown. Of course, we are half way through the movie before they actually tell each other about it.

    In the end the evil is defeated, albeit temporarily. The children bond emotionally with an exchange of bodily fluids. After all, the best way to defeat fear is with love.

    However, the monster has only gone back to sleep for another 27 years. There is a sequel movie, to come out the next year.

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    IT Chapter 2

    IT Chapter 2

  • 2000
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    1408

    1408

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    Soon

    Soon

  • 2000
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