Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mind Games In The Big Easy

The body-double thriller Self/Less plays with heartstrings and plays mind games with characters and audiences alike. 


ARTH VADER (AV): Based on an original screenplay by Barcelona-born horror screen vets David “out of the dark” Pastor and Alex “Carriers” Pastor, Self/Less is a psychological thriller in the vain of The Andromeda strain, this film looks to spotlight immortality for the super rich. Billionaire Damian Hale has terminal cancer and turns to a radical medical procedure called "shedding," where his mind is transferred to a younger, healthier body. soon, he starts a new life in New Orleans an becomes engulfed in disturbing recurring images of the past life of his surrogate body. 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Body snatching is not new to the sci-fi genre, but this film does it in a way that makes it interesting and uniquely entertaining. The fact that the “snatch” can only be permanent by meeting certain conditions, kept me wondering who was going to make it to the end.


AV: The cast is a quality ensemble of A-Listers and up-and-comers. Ryan “Deadpool” Reynolds plays the role of young Damian, Ben “Mandarin” Kingsly is the terminally ill real estate mogul, Damian with Natalie “Deathrace” Martinez and perennial bad guy we love that, Matthew “Ozymandias” Goode. The competent direction of Tarsem “Immortals” Singh delivered a visually tense aura to the movie and lends itself soundly to the dramatic thriller genre. The acting was kind of expected to me, but that by no means the film showed poorly. There were other things that helped that along. How say you old friend? 

TP: The cast was very good and it was a stroke of genius to hook the audience first with Ben Kingsley as his performance was stellar for the short time he graced the silver screen Vader. I’ve always liked Ryan Reynolds although he is better in some films than others depending on the material. In this film he was pretty good and it helped that he was supposed to be channeling Kingsley because his performance kept bringing me back to that. The beautiful Natalie Martinez was very good as was Matthew Goode (whom I have not seen since “Watchmen” despite his doing lots of work since then).


AV: It is my grounded belief that visual effects are an integrated part of the sci-fi movie making process. What distinguishes one take on visual effects over another is part budget, part story and part director’s vision. In self/Less, there is an effort to make the flashback experience different, especially since it is a deep-seeded memories are less true flashbacks and more memory fragments. This film presented those moments expertly. Anything new here? No, however, in context, not in anyway disappointing. 

TP: This film did not call for too much special effects leaving it to spend a lot of time developing the characters and delivering a great story. The effects that were in the film helped bring it along and complimented the story. It’s hard to mess up a few fight scenes, car chases and explosions.…and making the mind swap aspect very simplistic, this film was a sci-fi thriller that was very light on “sci" and heavy of the “fi.”


AV: Above/Average. This film offers little new narrative to speak of but that didn’t make it a bad movie. Its not terribly inventive, not overall clever and bores and challenges your suspension of disbelief so often you wonder why you are still along for the ride. In truth, Self/Less has its moments–a good number of them, actually–but fails to deliver a knockout blow, or enough “WOW” moments that send me over the top and riding off into the sunset. Kingsley is terrific and its hard not to love Reynolds in nearly anything, but in truth, for me, Self/Less is just sort of there. Parts are near stellar and Matthew Goode is flawless and mostly liked the film. A worthy rental and certainly worth another viewing wouldn’t you say Ponty?

TP: Well Vader, if you blinked, this film got passed you as a science-fiction thriller that told a very well thought out story with lots of drama. The idea of immortality is not new, but this take on it was very unique. I enjoyed the fact that this was a story-driven film that told a multiple stories at the same time. The fact that the basis for the film started out as a search to live forever, but ended up as a story about love makes this one of the most engaging films I have seen this summer. It is also one of the few films where the trailer does it absolutely no justice at all and those that decided to pass on it because of the trailer have been wronged by shoddy marketing.


AV: There are many reasons to further explore this genre of movie-making and story-telling. There are few reasons to follow up on this film, though. The mind is a fertile landscape to craft a sci-fi master piece (Please allow Chris Nolan’s Inception as exhibit ‘A’, Minority Report as exhibit “B”). Psychological thrillers are no stranger to the sci-fi genre, but I truly feel this story has been told and I don’t need any more. What were your thoughts, Pontificator? 

TP: Well Vader, I don’t think a sequel is likely as the movie wrapped up nice and neat and stands independently as a great story about two fathers that love their daughters.


ARTH VADER rates Self/Less: An intelligently positioned, near-future, cautionary tale set to some unique and original locations in New Orleans, Self/Less is a mind transfer thriller that exceeded my expectations but didn’t fully realize it's own potential. With lots of thought-provoking thrills, the intelligent, action/thriller thoughtfully transfers six (6) Busted Blocks from one host to the next. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Self/less: With a great performance by Kingsley and good follow-ups by the rest of the cast, this film told a great story full of drama and laced with plenty of action and thrills to appeal to a broad audience. An excellent example of using a little sci-fi to tell a great story, this film shed eight (8) busted blocks to live forever on the silver screen.

Self/Less: 7:0 / 10 Busted Blocks

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Welcome To Terminator’s Uncertain Future

Alternate Timelines and Zany Franchise Twists Re-Direct Audiences To Foggy New Directions For Terminator 


ARTH VADER (AV): Time travel is a tricky thing, Ponty–and science fiction is inundated with with time travels stories. One could argue that the Terminator series is built on the concept and it would be a heart discussion. So it comes as no surprise that the core story arc of Terminator: Genysis (T:G) is about the alternative timeline that emerges form all the Terminator time traveling that occurs in the previous films and TV series (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was pretty darn good after all). I always have mixed emotions on the time travels in movies. I mean what parameters are there if they can just be erased because time travel occurred and changed the time stream, right? T:G puts some interesting twists into motion would you agree, Pontificator? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): The continuity of this film is a complete mess Vader. I won’t even attempt to explain it as it has splintered into so many different timelines with two films and the television series being completely ignored by this film, this movie creates far more questions than it answers. 


AV: Can you give a good Terminator flick without Arnold “I’ll Be Back” Schwarzenggar? Honestly we don’t know and this isn’t the film where we find out. Arnie is an integral part of the action and even offers some decent satire to the story. Jai “Insurgent” Courtney’s take eon Kyle Reese feels flat and disinteresting. Emilia “Daenerys Targaryen” Clarke also has a rather dry delivery as Sarah Connor. Director Alan “Thor: The Dark World” Taylor has a grounded vision that honestly an interesting take on the John Connor spectacle. With fairly decent cast, I felt the film didn’t take itself too seriously which might have been a saving grace. 

TP: What is a Terminator film without Arnold? Schwarzenegger returns for another round of bullets and one liners and despite his advanced age, remains classic. Emilia Clarke has swapped out her dragon for a gun and gives a fair rendition of Sarah Connor. I was never really sold on Jai Courtney as Reese like I was with the original, he just didn’t convey the same intensity. Jason Clarke is yet another take on John Connor…and I am no more enamored with the legend now than I was before. I was really hoping Matt Smith had a larger role, but I guess he would have really messed things up (or perhaps fixed the continuity) had he been tripping through the film in a TARDIS. 


AV: Visual effects shots helped make this a palatable ride, Ponty. The opening combat sequence is strong, if not a bit over-the-top and borderline frivolous. The revival of the 1980’s–style Terminator world was by far the visual effects accomplishment of this movie. With key liquid metal and robo-terminators to vibe on, T:G offers some exciting visuals for audiences looking to get their next fix on the Terminator franchise. To note, the ‘liquid Arnold’ sequence is particularly enjoyable and my favorite CGI moment by far was watching ‘young’ Arnold Terminator and ‘veteran’ Arnold go toe-to-toe. Complete with grenades, rockets and exposed Terminator exoskeletons, the scene is smile-inducing, wouldn’t you say Ponty? 

TP: The special effects were very good and exactly what I expected…except for the lack of really capitalizing on IMAX 3D Vader. I expected all the explosions, liquid metal, etc… but I also expected them to come off the screen if I’m plunking down my hard earned cheddar for IMAX 3D. I have often complained about films showing in this medium and not using it to the fullest…. and it saddened me that an opportunity was missed here as it seems they did not use it at all! 


AV: As Hollywood screenwriters scramble to shoe-horn new Terminator stories into a somewhat shaky franchise to begin with (c’mon, think about it), this is an arguably sound movie. It meanders, confuses and takes way too long to tell a story that could have been told better and more succinctly. It all fairness, the story holds and makes for a mostly enjoyable film. The thought that scent–now in the form of the new Genysis operating system–clearly a light-hearted jab at my beloved Apple OS–and imparts the cautionary tale of a new form of a singularity event, hellbent on mankind’s termination. As much as I tend to repel time travel stories, the Terminator franchise offers something others can’t; continuous story arc reboots within the continuum. 

TP: Watching this film,I had to just take it for what it was and enjoy whatever I could out of it. Trying to figure out the continuity was pointless (as any Google search will tell you) and even though there are tons of nuggets in the film and nods to some of the others, it just seems this issue with Skynet trying to take over the world and exterminate all humans will never ever end (and why should it when Hollywood is cashing in large?) The film was two hours of more of what we have already seen in the previous films and brought nothing new to the series… just some adequate summer fun layered in explosions and one-liners.


AV: Hard to envision a Hollywood in the near-future (see what I did there?!) without some kind of Terminator film in play. We are most assuredly going to get more tales of futuristic robots traveling back to our time period to kill, maim and re-write history. The films do well, they entertain and give new insight to a franchise that continuously refreshes itself with the same threat wrapped in a new package. To be honest, if I could have more Terminator films without a robe-John Connor, I’d be fine. 

TP: Word is that this was the first of yet another trilogy (rolling my eyes) and we can look forward to more human exterminating machines in the near future. I can only hope the series gets better and they find a way to thread it all together for one cohesive story. 


ARTH VADER rates Terminator Genysis: Not the summer’s biggest blockbuster, but this film does scratch your Terminator itch, if there is such a thing. While the robot-John Connor was quite nearly a deal-breaker for me, I, like most who love these films, was able to get past it and (mostly) enjoy this film. Worthy of a Saturday night rental, Terminator: Genysis offers a subdued, alternate vision of the Terminator universe that earns a skynet-defying six (6) Busted Blocks. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Terminator: Genisys: This was a fun film and was just about what I expected it to be.…meaning there were plenty of missed opportunities to make this into something much better. With the technology and competitive film industry, I was very surprised that this film was “just” good… only sending back six (6) busted blocks back through time.

Terminator: Genysis: 6 / 10 Busted Blocks