Stargate (1994): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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The discovery of a mysterious device in Egypt will teleport a linguist and a Colonel with a military mission galaxies away to a world where Ra rules over an ancient civilization.

Who built the pyramids? How were the pyramids built? When were the pyramids built? Blending history with fiction, Rolland Emmerich manages to build up an engaging premise surrounding the aforementioned questions which, to this day, people post online or publish books and articles.

“Stargate” has everything. Brilliant directing and photography, strong storyline, relatable characters, impressive visual and sound effects, great performances, excellent music score, and right editing pace. A solid sci-fi flick with no kitsch and no cliche, offering an entertaining take on Egyptian Mythology that will especially satisfy the thought-provoking conspiracy lovers believing that once the aliens paid us a visit. And not only.

That said, between them and those who think that “Stargate” contains “Americans liberating the world” right-wing hidden messages, “religion is oppressive” beliefs, and “power to the people” left-wing ideologies… I’ll side with the “Aliens built the pyramids mirroring Orion” dudes…

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Bird Box (2018): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

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In a post-apocalyptic present, a mother with two kids run for their lives as a menacing presence of unknown origin, when seen, forces people to take their own lives.

Here’s the film’s obvious pitch: “The Happening” (2008) meets “A Quiet Place” (2018). Let me put it this way… It doesn’t meet either. Both of them raise important questions but provide, to a certain level, some answers leaving the viewer speculating about the cause and effect based on the clues they provided.

“Bird Box” raises questions and doesn’t bother at all with answers. No one with the basic level of intelligence will stare at the ceiling as the end credits roll down contemplating what potentially could these entities (?) be. Not revealing them is absolutely fine in my books. The unseen yet sensed ominous presence can be terrifying indeed. Not revealing their origins, their purpose, their powers, nothing whatsoever, makes them as unrelatable as the characters themselves. So, yeah, there is that too.

Susanne Bier has done a terrific job behind the camera. “Bird Box” is a well-shot, well edited, and well-produced film. So, I will quote (again) Howard Hawks: “You can’t fix a bad script after you start shooting. The problems on the page only get bigger as they move to the big screen”. Months before, Netflix also produced “How it Ends” (2018) with the reviews being as embarrassing as they come – especially on how it ends! I guess history teaches us that we are not taught from history after all…

Sandra Bullock is still an amazing actress and still keeps nailing the parts she gets. Even in this one. So, I really hope that we see her in films she deserves to be in and not films like “Ocean’s Eight” (2018). Actually, I hope we never have to see again any film like “Ocean’s Eight” (2018). Not even blindfolded…

Never Let Me Go (2010): Drama / Sci-Fi

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Three kids who grew up together in a posh, strict, and ostensibly ordinary boarding school, become young adults and face the life they were destined to have.

How would you feel if you found out your whole life is already chosen for you? How about both chosen for you and a lie? Once I thought that sci-fi without visual effects is like a lift without a mirror. How wrong was I?! “Never Let Me Go” is not the only film that makes it to that list. But it makes it to the top – my humble opinion anyway.

Its strongest suits:

  • Kazuo Ishiguro’s powerful existential drama diving into the human psyche.
  • Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley delivering electrifying performances.
  • Rachel Portman’s enthralling and spellbinding score.
  • Mark Romanek’s best film yet.

The film’s pace might put the average viewer off. It is a slow burn but it is of great importance not only to understand the characters but to become them. See life how they see it. Experience pain how they do. Be there for them when they curse the day they were brought to life.

The book goes into deeper depths analyzing or emphasizing characters and situations, and that way, everything becomes clearer in the end. The film doesn’t and therefore it raises more questions than answers.

Be patient and pay attention to the details. With acting that brings tears to your eyes and soundtrack that adds “hope, humanity, and heartbeat” in an alternate, seemingly heartless reality, “Never Let Me Go” is a depressingly beautiful, cinematic adaptation that strikes a chord.

Jumper (2008): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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A man with teleporting abilities, living a carefree life, gets caught in an ancient war between Jumpers and Paladins.

There is a lot of negativity surrounding this film. It was meant to be a franchise but the box office results scratched the idea off the producers’ mind. From where I stand, Michael Rooker has been under-utilized. For a guy who usually does the villain in the story, it’s really great to see him as a washed-up yet filled with remorse dad who pays the price. I would definitely want to see more of him on the screen. Samuel Jackson is always great but could have been even greater as the fanatic Paladin. Reciting passages from the Bible like in “Pulp Fiction” (1994) would have elevated his character to the sky.

Jamie Bell is always at his best so there is nothing much to say, which leaves us with Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson (who got engaged after the film). Once again, there could have been a strong story between them – and even stronger subtext for the film – after what happened in their childhood years.

To cut the long story short, production and budgetary issues watered down a what could have been a brilliant story and a brilliant film. That said, it definitely deserves a watch as you’ll spend an entertaining hour and a half forgetting about your own problems. For this one, my round of applause goes to the visual and sound effect department. Spot on!

Franklyn (2008): Drama / Fantasy / Sci-Fi

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Loss and despair connect four troubled souls in two intermingled, alternate realities.

I have spoken of underrated films before but “Franklyn” definitely gets the cake. I watched it almost ten years ago and so much I wanted to talk about it with someone who had watched it as well. But no one had. And to this very day, hardly anyone still has.

Gerald McMorrow, possessing the exceptional intellectual ability, is the artistic mind behind the camera, who writes and directs something unique as “Franklyn”. Despair, escalating to delusion, paranoia, and schizophrenia, all fester the human mind and soul, shape people’s fate, and twist (?) the concept of religion. In front of the camera, Eva Green, Ryan Phillippe, Sam Riley, Bernard Hill, and the late Susannah York will hold you spellbound with their performances.

Two strong elements in the film that I feel like sharing: Perception’s immense power and a father’s unconditional love.

“Franklyn” is art. And like any other form of art, it examines the world through its own prism. I guess it is up to us to examine our world through our own life’s prism.

Mail Order Monster (2018): Drama / Family / Sci-Fi

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A little girl is trying to cope, after having lost her mom, while dealing with life itself, bullies, and her father with his new girlfriend by putting together… a robot.

A low budget, indie, PG film which Jax Productions and Stay Relevant Productions managed to bring to life with respect to family values. Loss, grief, rejection, love, and self-reflection have been responsible for causing all of us sleepless nights throughout the course of our life. And Paulina Lagudi, with skill, imagination, and artistic temperament produces, writes, and directs a heartfelt story on nights like that.

Josh Hopkins does a brilliant job as a dad trying to do his best, and it’s really nice to see the always mesmerizing Charisma Carpenter as the “woman next door” relying solely on her acting. Last, but definitely not least, look out for the incredible Madison Horcher and Emma Rayne Lyle who, given the opportunity, will be two of the most sought-after actresses of their age.

Kin (2018): Action / Sci-Fi

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Mysterious humanoid entities, a vindictive gang, and the authorities are after a young man that just came out of prison and his little brother who is in possession of a hyper-advanced weapon.

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that “Kin” is a solid film. So why’s that, uh? Because it tanked! And we won’t see more of it! Homage to “The Terminator” (1984) and “Aliens” (1986) (both by James Cameron), “Kin” flies entirely under the radar and massively underdevelops at the box office. Really shame! I would love to have watched it at the cinema as both the visual and sound effects are imposing but I was totally oblivious to its existence. Well… if it wasn’t for the critics once more I guess. You know what… I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve spoken about it.

And if you are wondering “what are you doing then?”, I’m telling you that I may be reviewing films but it is their intentions that I criticize and I’m after. And “Kin”, even though flawed, it has noble intentions. It is an action/sci-fi PG-13 flick with a relatable subplot, decent action sequences, not original, yet entertaining sci-fi concept, and a whole cast and crew that believes in it and gives it their all. And that includes Mogwai’s brilliant soundtrack.

Feel like staying in? “Kin” is available on DVD and Bluray waiting.

What Happened to Monday (2017): Action / Crime / Drama

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Seven identical sisters are being hunted down in an overpopulated world where all families are limited to one child.

Noomi Rapace portrays brilliantly all seven identical sisters in this action flick that, overall, looks like “Orphan Black” (2013) meets “Minority Report” (2002) meets “The Matrix” (1999). Tommy Wirkola, an expert in the comedy/horror genre [“Dead Snow” (2009)], takes “What Happened to Monday” more seriously creating an interesting sci-fi which, interestingly enough, IMDb doesn’t classify as “sci-fi”.

Regardless of the semantics, Netflix hit the nail buying the copyrights for this dystopian thriller that despite its minor flaws, impossibilities, and fair amount of negative reviews, it manages to entertain, and raise certain ethical, social, and political questions that, when all motives are revealed, will make you think twice on who to cast your stone at.

Well done to the whole international cast and crew who managed to pull it off and bring out a Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov-like world.

Arrival (2016): Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi

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I could write a thesis on “Arrival”… I’ve been to a linguistics seminar, I’ve been to a psychology on perception seminar… Most of the known sciences out there can analyse “Arrival”, each from its own perspective. It is hard to elaborate on its key points without giving away spoilers so I will choose my very few words extremely carefully. Whether you have watched it or not, maybe you’ll find my standpoint somewhat useful – I hope so anyway.

There are three concepts you need to pay attention to:

  • Language
  • Time
  • Perception

Keeping these in mind, here’s the film’s concept: Louise, a renowned linguist, and Ian, a distinguished mathematician – among others – are enlisted by Colonel Weber, after twelve alien spacecrafts suddenly appear, ostensibly randomly, around the world. As the big nations are planning on attacking the spacecrafts, Louise is racing against time to find a way to communicate with the aliens and prevent a global disaster.

Then the end credits scroll down… And now, years later, I still find myself pseudo-wondering, what do I really know about these concepts? But shortly after, as usual, life snaps me out of it and then I wonder, what do I really know about anything?

I salute the cast and crew for mastering such depth and complexity.

The Darkest Minds (2018): Sci-Fi / Thriller

 

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Here’s what both you and I know: Most kids died and an adult world hunts down and imprisons the remaining ones as they have abilities. Go figure…

I’ll try to be civilized and ask some questions that, hopefully, might get you thinking. When you write and then read a formulaic script that “bad” is not even the word, do you know it? Production-wise, when you force multiracial cast to do better at the box office, how do you feel? In America (obesity’s motherland) how come no one’s fat? Even worse, how come every person on screen could may as well be an underwear model? Is this how you need to look like nowadays to be promised a career as a thespian? What is it with Hollywood’s obsession to create glamourized films and franchises where weaponized revolutionary kids fight weaponized conformed kids and a decadent, unreasonably, incomprehensive system – see “The Hunger Games” (2012), “Divergent” (2014), “The Maze Runner” (2014), “The 5th Wave” (2016), now this one…

I find unfathomable beauty in films – Asian, European, American (Hollywood or not) – that don’t have background music all the time to instruct me how to feel. Where their stories leave a lot to imagination and are open to interpretation. Films that respect principles and don’t use them and abuse them, and monetize them to satisfy pockets. And for the teens out there who fall for these polished, pseudo “I wanna fight fellow teens and government for freedom” bullshit, check out “Battle Royal” (2000) and weep.