Films viewed in 2011

Posts Tagged ‘Sci-Fi’

467. The Time Traveler’s Wife

In romance on February 1, 2012 at 4:33 PM

Dir. Robert Schwentke

A Chicago librarian with a gene that causes him to involuntarily time travel tries to hold together a complicated marriage.

MY TAKE

Poor Rachael McAdams. She would be so easy to look at if her romantic movies weren’t so hard to watch. The Time Traveler’s Wife, for one, could use a complete re-edit so the first dramatic moment didn’t happen a full hour into the story. Then of course there’s the creepy factor that’s hard to shake as Eric Bana meets her at different stages of her life, in no logical order, that precludes us from ever understanding their “real” relationship – whatever that is. We’re left with a tale that tells us two people are in love, or were in love, but we never get to feel it. Actually focusing on the wife might have also offered an entry point, instead of leaving us just watch an experiment go wrong.

 

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343. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

In Action on October 21, 2011 at 10:17 AM

Dir. Rupert Wyatt

During experiments to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, a genetically-enhanced chimpanzee leads other apes to freedom.

MY TAKE

I didn’t think Hollywood needed to get into any more monkey business, but I was wrong. Rise of the Planet of the Apes resets the origins of the famous franchise with enough intelligence that we don’t feel like the studio is just throwing it’s old crap at us. The special effects steal the show, giving us incredibly emotive eyes and distinguishable primates that allow us to get lost in the story. The film isn’t without it’s head scratching moments – like the unreasonably violent ape keepers and the fact James Franco phones in his entire performance – but by the time things finally go ape shit, I was craving more. Too bad the end credits seem to zoom over the meat of an inevitable sequel.

331. The Thing

In Horror on October 14, 2011 at 9:56 AM

Dir. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.

The discovery of an alien craft in Antartica leads to a confrontation between graduate student Kate Lloyd and scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson.

MY TAKE

The Thing walks a strange middle ground of being a remake in spirit, but a prequel in practice. As such, purists of John Carpenter’s classic will be happy to see upgrades include not one, but two inexplicable flame-throwers, a new version of the hyper tense alien-testing scene, and a genetic mutation of Kurt Russell himself in the icy eyes of Joel Edgerton. But a sexed-down Mary Elizabeth Winstead is our new hero in this impressively made sci-fi thriller that embraces the rhythm, mood and visuals that made the original so effective, but also has the freedom to cover new ground. Aside from some overly energetic camera movement during the action scenes, most genre fans should be pleasantly impressed at this intelligent 80s metamorphosis.

322. Captain America

In Action on October 8, 2011 at 11:23 AM

Dir. Joe Johnston

After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America.

MY TAKE

Captain America: The First Avenger is one yankee doodle dandy superhero picture. Set in the 1940s, actor Chris Evans is impressively transformed from a scrawny wannabe to a bulky super solider in an origins story not just of the titular hero, but the entire Marvel universe.  The action is great, the humour is refreshing, and the plot is compelling throughout. The most ingenious part of the film for me was having Cap transition from being a wartime mascot (who gets his own line of comics) to being an actual called-upon hero.  And at the end, instead of just having a tacked on set-up for The Avengers, the last emotionally bittersweet line actually gave me goosebumps.

288. Logan’s Run

In Sci-Fi on September 28, 2011 at 3:50 PM

Dir. Michael Anderson

An idyllic sci-fi future has one major drawback: life must end at 30.

MY TAKE

At the 1976 Oscars, Logan’s Run won a Special Achievement Award for visual effects. Boy must that jury have felt stupid after Star Wars came out a few months later. At times, I thought I was watching a made-for-TV Sci-Fi movie from the 50s – and a bad one at that. Aside from the fairly impressive Carrousel death sequences, I’m surprised anyone would accept the cardboard robots and establishing shot miniature cityscapes. But the story is cool and treated with adult sensibility, so I’m optimistic that the long gestating remake won’t be as embarrassing.

282. Johnny Mnemonic

In Canadian on September 27, 2011 at 2:49 PM

Dir. Robert Longo

A data courier, literally carrying a package inside his head, must deliver the overload before it kills him.

MY TAKE

The cyber-punk saga Johnny Mnemonic has on outside chance at becoming a cult-classic re-discovery. In this thematic warm-up to The Matrix, Keanu Reeves uses his “wet brain” to deliver a strangely intense yet fun performance. Dolph Lundgren takes the same direction a bit too far, and Ice-T feels like a wannabe, but overall the Canadian film has an impressively unique look and feel. Director Robert Longo only made this one film before slightly altering his name and becoming an NHL goalie (at least I assume that’s what happened to him).

281. Transformers 3D: Dark Side of the Moon

In Action on September 27, 2011 at 2:03 PM

Dir. Michael Bay

The Autobots and Decepticons race to learn the secrets of a hidden spacecraft on the Moon.

MY TAKE

Few franchises elicit such equal amount of fan-boy contempt and cash as Transformers.  Director Michael Bay, the one-man Nickelback of Hollywood, once again creates some of the most amazing scenes we can barely even see. Filming in 3D forced Bay to ease up on the average shot length, but the story is still typically convoluted nonsense and the characters are completely interchangeable. I will, however, defend Shia Labeouf for bringing his A-game “holy shit” face to the action, plus the extended climax of a collapsing building and winged skydivers got me pretty pumped.

277. Contagion

In Thriller on September 26, 2011 at 4:05 PM

Dir. Steven Soderberg

An international team of doctors try to deal with the outbreak of a new and incredibly deadly disease.

MY TAKE

Is it a coincidence that I had flu symptoms the minute I stepped out of watching Contagion? I don’t think so. But Virus-Vision allegations aside, the film effectively capitalizes on the recent H1N1 paranoia by treating the subject with a clinical matter-of-fact detachment. Steven Soderberg’s realistic style might actually be worse for fear mongering than if it would have been sensationalized (like the disaster epic 2012). The film also doesn’t end as much as simply conclude, leaving a few fill-in-the-blank resolutions for the large cast of many stars. Gweneth Paltrow’s best scene, by the way, is her autopsy.

229. Another Earth

In Drama on September 6, 2011 at 3:30 PM

Dir. Mike Cahill

On the night of the discovery of a duplicate planet in the solar system, an ambitious young student and an accomplished composer cross paths in a tragic accident.

MY TAKE

Much like last year’s Never Let Me Go, Another Earth just uses a sci-fi premise to explore larger themes of loss, redemption and re-birth. Using only a few (too many) sky shots of an approaching planet, this is a straight-up character drama and indie filmmaking gem. Writer/star Brit Marling is solid throughout, and during the climax, was on another level than her co-star. The final shot will also get people asking questions, but I was satisfied with the conclusion it allowed me to draw.

228. Apollo 18

In Horror on September 6, 2011 at 3:04 PM

Dir. Gonzalo López-Gallego

Decades-old found footage from NASA’s abandoned Apollo 18 mission reveals the reason the U.S. has never returned to the moon.

MY TAKE

The “Found-footage” subgenre of horror isn’t going anywhere, but Apollo 18 should have gone back to the editing room. “Blair Witch in Space” actually looks better than all the others, but struggles to maintain its diegetic logic more than most – especially at the end. The epilogue title card may be the most laughable I’ve ever seen. Seeing the film with a bunch of Quebecois friends also made me realize how much the dialogue is just control room bafflegab and acronyms that don’t even mean much in English.