ORBzine - Disaster 2014 Movie Reviews

TITLE & REVIEW

The Darkest Hour

The Darkest Hour Emile Hirsh ( Speed Racer ), Olivia Thirlby and some other American 20-somethings go on a trip - like in any good horror movie these days. However, this time the trip is to Russia. Unfortunately, Moscow is the target of an Alien Invasion. The American teens get chased around by invisible monsters. The result is suspenseful, to say the least.

It is nice to see something of global significance portrayed somewhere outside of North America. The SPFX are great, but the plot requires some suspension of disbelief. Invisible aliens are one thing, but the idea of a residential apartment being converted into an enormous Faraday cage ...

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    Skyline

    Skyline Eric Balfour ( Texas Chainsaw Massacre Remake ) and his GF go to LA to see his best buddy, Donald Faison (Scrubs) and his trophy wife, Brittany Daniel . But after a night of partying (and basic character development, so we are meant to care what happens to them) ...

    It starts with a huge cloud of superheated water vapour, like in Independence Day . The twenty-somethings watch as something deadly trashes the city centre in the distance, like in Cloverfield . Finally, in the harsh light of day we get to see Giant CGI robots stomping people, like in Transformers

    This is the first big Alien Invasion film in a long time (well, since Signs ) but it seems to be cobbled together from so many other films. It is competently done, but not exactly original.

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    Battle Los Angeles

    Battle Los Angeles Alien spacecraft attack Los Angeles, and a bunch of survivors must fight their way out of the ruins. Yes, that was the storyline of the recent release Skyline . But this time, the protagonists are a US Marine Corps squad led by Aaron Eckhart ( The Core, Dark Knight ). So it should be even better, right?

    On a rescue mission in enemy-held territory, they team up with USAF Intel specialist Michelle Rodriguez (last seen a similar role in Avatar ) and veterinarian Bridget Moynahan (playing against type).

    The film's defenders claim it is a positive portrayal of the USMC. But the central characters, despite a gratuitous characterisation segment at the start, are merely a bunch of interchangeable redshirts. Their strategy is based on supposed air superiority by the USAF, but the Marines do not actually call in air support even when ambushed and surrounded. Luckily, the aliens use the central control system that we saw a decade ago in The Phantom Menace . Yes, the USMC stormtroopers are defeated repeatedly by villains who would be hard-pressed to menace Jar-Jar Binks! And some idiots think this is a POSITIVE portrayal of the marines?

    This is not even a good action film. The predominant use of shakey-cam in all the action sequences make it very hard to work out what is going on. It is over ten years since Spielberg popularised it in Saving Private Ryan, and it has become a cliche in every battle scene since then.

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    Battle of Los Angeles

    Battle of Los Angeles Yes, this is The Asylum's straight-to-DVD cheapskate version with a similar-sounding name.

    Los Angeles is invaded by flying saucers. Luckily, it is defended by the reservists from the California Air National Guard. Also, a Ninja-babe ( Nia Peebles ) from Majestic 12 is in town.

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    Attack The Block

    Attack The Block This is the Directorial debut of comedian Joe Cornish, familiar to British audiences from the Adam and Joe Show.

    A woman on her way home from work is mugged. The crooks then fall foul of some Alien monsters. The survivors hide out in the drugs den of local dealer Nick Frost ( Paul ).

    Although the protagonists are a gang of hoodies, there is a moral tone to the film. The leader of the street gang (John Boyega - Star Wars: The Force Awakens ) must learn to take responsibility for his actions.

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    After Earth

    After Earth This is set in the far future, when humanity has an interstellar civilisation. Jaden Smith (Karate kid (2010)) is a young rookie cadet. His emotionally distant father, the General (real-life father Will Smith - Last Man on Earth ) tries to bond with him by taking him on a trip. Their starship crash-lands on Earth, which has been abandoned and returned to a feral state. The animal life-forms are aggressive (and CGI).

    The General is injured, so Jaden must save them both. However, he is haunted by the memories of his sister's death at the hands of an alien monster. His sidearm is a Ranger staff-weapon from Babylon 5 , which can reconfigure itself into any of 21 different types of blade. There are no projectile weapons in the future, it seems.

    M Night Shyamalan delivers a competent film. There is no twist ending, it is all quite straightforward. Will Smith is good, as always, but his son carries almost the entire film.

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    Oblivion

    Oblivion Earth was invaded by a race of Alien scavengers, like in Independence Day . Earth's moon was destroyed (like in The Time Machine ), and the shifts in gravity caused Earth's tectonic plates to shift. The Aliens wanted to suck up Earth's oceans, but now the humans have evacuated the planet and are doing it anyway.

    Some Alien invaders still survive in the shatters remains of Earth. The hydro-rigs are protected by security drones - a flying version of ED-209 from Robocop . Tom Cruise ( Mission Impossible ) is a technician who repairs the drones. He lives with Victoria ( Angela Riseborough ) in a mountaintop penthouse.

    Our hero's memory has been wiped (like something out of Philip K Dick ), but he has mysterious dreams about Olga Kurlyenko . Of course, things get a lot more confusing.

    Things really kick off when Cruise meets Morgan Freeman ( Shawshank Redemption ), Nicholai Coster-Waldau - Game of Thrones and Zoe Bell (whose lines seem to have been cut from the final version of the film).

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    Edge of Tomorrow

    Edge of Tomorrow In the near future, a meteorite has crashed into Germany. It was carrying an alien species, the Mimics, strangely named because they are like CGI octopi on crack. The aliens spread across Europe like the Nazis seeking lebensraum, until they are stopped by the English Channel in the West and a Sino-Russian army in the East. To match the Sino-Russian offensive, the Allied General (a Churchill/Eisenhower composite played by Brendan Gleeson - Harry Potter ) must launch an invasion of Normandy!

    Tom Cruise is a Military public relations officer. When he disagrees with the General’s plan to send him to the front line, he is branded a deserter and left to the tender mercies of drill sergeant Bill Paxton ( Agents of SHIELD ). Cruise and a squad of expendables (including Jonas Armstrong - Robin Hood 2006 ) are sent into the meat-grinder, ambushed by aliens who knew they were coming and have tactics that negate the humans’ technological advantages.

    Cruise gets contaminated by the aliens’ secret weapon - they have the ability to reset time. He also links up with super-soldier Emily Blunt , and discovers that her success was due to time travel too. She becomes a sort of a love-interest to him. This is never developed as a plot thread, and the compulsory sex scene from 1980s action films has been left out so it can get the 12A/PG13 rating that modern action movies are lumbered with.

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    Age of Tomorrow

    Age of Tomorrow Scientist Kelly Hu leads an expedition to discover alien life. Unfortunately they get trapped on the alien world while the aliens invade Earth!

    Back on Earth, the great cities of America have been invaded. Luckily, even though the military get easily defeated one firefighter leads the fight back. He looks a bit like Dean Cain, but it turns out that he is a different actor. Presumably they could not afford the REAL Dean Cain. Yes, this is the cheaper version of him!

    Robert Picardo ( Star Trek: Voyager ) is the US General who leads the human resistance in a counterattack against the alien invaders.

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    Troll Hunter

    Troll Hunter This is found footage, like Cloverfield . A group of Norwegian college students film a documentary. They follow a man who they think is a wildlife poacher. But he is hunting something far more dangerous ...

    Trolls, the monsters of scandinavian folklore, are real. Well, convincingly portrayed though CGI. And since the cast has no stars, just talent, there is a convincing amount of tension on-screen.

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    Pacific Rim

    Pacific Rim In the near future, Earth is invaded by giant monsters. The Military call them Kaiju, a reference to the Japanese origins of Godzilla , and build giant robots (Jaegers) at the rate of one per Mega-city. The next step is to build a giant wall along every inhabited coast. Seriously? The smart thing to do would be to abandon all coastal cities, and relocate the population inland. After all, expanding existing cities like Denver would be easier than building a massive wall of the scale shown.

    Each Jaeger needs two pilots, whose actions are linked with a mind-meld. The mind-meld machine is necessary for plot reasons - it allows amped-up character interaction between the PTSD twins, and it allows a comedy-relief scientist to meld with a Kaiju brain.

    Do these things not have ejection pods? Well, it turns out they do - but only when the plot demands it.

    To put in some phony jeopardy and excessive character development, as well as unnecessary personal motivation, it turns out that BOTH the pilots have PTSD from previous encounters with Kaiju. Seriously? This is so much worse than in The Great Escape, where the tunnel-digger was claustrophobic and the forger was blind!

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    Atlantic Rim

    Atlantic Rim If anyone has seen Pacific Rim they will know it is a B-Movie with a mega-dollar budget. In contrast, this is a B-Movie with a B-Movie budget - and it shows. The CGI SPFX are surprisingly good when one considers how woeful the acting is - perhaps it is just the direction that lets it all down.

    An oil rig in the North Atlantic is attacked by a giant monster. US Navy Admiral Graham Greene ( Wolf Lake ) orders a diverse trio of pilots (like in Stealth ) to search and destroy. David Cochaki from Baywatch is the lead man, who has a problem with authority figures and all the other clichés of the archetype. The token babe and token black guy are there to back him up.

    After a couple of small fights, the monsters come back for a climactic battle. Meanwhile, the Admiral has an underling who wants to nuke the combat zone. Unfortunately, our heroes are in the middle of it ... on Manhatten island!

    For all its problems, this low-budget knock-off is actually better than the original! Yes, dollar for dollar this effort gives better value for money than the Guillermo Del Toro movie.

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    Godzilla / King Kong Franchise

    Godzilla (2014)

    Godzilla (2014) Juliette Binoche is a nuclear scientist at a power plant in Japan. In events reminiscent of the Fukushima disaster, a mysterious tsunami endangers the reactor and kills a lot of people.

    Ten years later her husband (Bryan Cranston - Total Recall (2012) ) is a conspiracy theorist who thinks a gigantic Kaiju monster caused the tsunami. He loses his security clearance because he is clearly insane … However, it turns out that the Kaiju (AKA Gojiru, AKA God-Zilla) is real, and the US Military have been monitoring it for decades. Their own paranoid secrecy meant they ignored and blacklisted potentially the greatest scientist they could have recruited onto their team!

    There is a far bigger threat to the world. Two other monsters are also on the loose. One looks like Cloverfield , while the other looks like the Alien Queen from Aliens . They are the male and female of a species, and they intend to breed. Unfortunately their species would be a super-predator, dominating the world. Worse, they will meet up in San Francisco, so just nuking them would be a bad idea. Not only would the bay area be rendered uninhabitable, but the San Andreas fault would dump most of the Western seaboard of the USA into the Pacific ocean. Only Gojira can save the world!

  • Godzilla (2000)
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    Kong: Skull Island

    Kong: Skull Island In 1973, a scientist (John Goodman - 10 Cloverfield Lanes ) gets a US Senator's backing to tag along with a survey of an uncharted island. He also gets a military escort, in the shape of a US Army Colonel (Samuel L Jackson - Marvel Avengers ) and his Air cavalry unit. They arrive straight from Vietnam, where they have seen a lot of combat.

    As well as the US military unit they also bring a British mercenary (Tom Hiddleston - Marvel Avengers ). Finally there is a war-protesting journalist - Brie Larson . She may seem like the token woman, and this film certainly fails the Bechdel test, but she actually has an important role in the story. Her role is a combination of the photographer (Jeff Bridges - True Grit (2010) ) and the beauty who bonds with Kong ( Jessica Lange ). All with no nudity but lots more explosions!

    As depicted in the movie's trailer, the choppers have an apocalyptic run-in with Kong. However, this is only the setup for the main storyline. The survivors must get across the island to the pickup point.

    There is an after-credits sequence that has a link with Godzilla (2014) . Yes, this is all setup for the third story in the series ... the ultimate crossover, next year's Kong versus Godzilla (2018) !

  • Godzilla (2014)
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    Kong versus Godzilla (2018)

    Kong versus Godzilla (2018)

  • 2000
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    Monsters Franchise

    Monsters

    Monsters This is a low-budget effort, shot with a handheld camera (though not Found Footage like Blair Witch Project . The actors are unknowns, possibly selected because they look like big-budget stars Skeet Ulrich ( Chill Factor ) and Cameron Diaz .

    Our protagonists are Americans, trapped in Mexico and trying to get across the American border. Unfortunately the border area is now a no-man's land full of aliens that look like Giant Squids.

    Thanks to imaginative SPFX the aliens, when they emerge, look more like jellyfish that glow in the dark.

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    Monsters: Dark Continent

    Monsters: Dark Continent

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    Planet of the Apes Franchise

    Rise of the Planet of the Apes

    Rise of the Planet of the Apes Scientist James Franco ( Your Highness ) experiments on chimps so he can cure his father (John Lithgow - 3rd Rock from the Sun ) of Alzheimers. With the help of chimp-wrangler Tyler Labine ( Invasion, Reaper ) he adopts a super-intelligent chimp named Caesar. He even sets up home with vet Freida Pinto , and all seems right in the world.

    Eventually, Caesar (Andy Sirkis - King Kong 2005 ) falls foul of asshole neighbour David Hewlett ( Stargate Atlantis ). He winds up getting thrown into a primate detention centre run by American-accented Brits Brian Cox ( Manhunter, Troy ) and Draco Malfoy ( Harry Potter ). This is where the heartwarming family drama turns into a prison movie. Will Caesar outwit his captors, leading an ape revolt? Well, if you've seen the original or the trailer (or even the title!) then you'll know the answer.

    This is far superior to Tim Burton 's reboot of the franchise. The CGI is good enough for Sirkis' performance to be mentioned as an award-worthy by critics. The plot works well, predictable as it may be. The cast is great, and tons of subtle references are thrown in.

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    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes This is a sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes . Ten years after the outbreak of the killer flu, and the high-IQ apes led by Caesar (Andy Sirkis - King Kong (2005) ) live peacefully in the forest. They have nothing to worry about, except for the occasional enormous grizzly bear.

    Humans start moving back into the city of San Francisco. Gary Oldman ( Dark Knight Rises ) is in charge, reminiscent of John Malkovich’s character in Zombie Apocalypse comedy Warm Bodies . The humans need a power source to create electricity, because they have no supply of fuel for their generators. The wind-farms and solar panels are few and far between, so the only option is the hydro-electric dam in the forest ...

    The humans try to make peace with Caesar and his clan. There are two major obstacles to this. Firstly, Oldman sends Kirk Acevedo ( 12 Monkeys ) who is the same gun-toting trigger-happy idiot he is in everything else. Seriously, this character thinks a six-shooter will make a difference when he is outnumbered a dozen to one!

    The other problem is Koba, the scar-faced ape who was so memorable in the previous film. He is Caesar’s second in command. And what was the fate of the man Caesar was named after? Killed by people he trusted in a coup attempt ...

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    War For The planet Of The Apes

    War For The planet Of The Apes

  • 2000
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    Cloverfield Franchise

    Cloverfield

    Cloverfield

  • 2000
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    10 Cloverfield Lane

    10 Cloverfield lane

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