Film: Oblivion

Recently I picked up the DVD of Oblivion cheap. I’m not a fan of Tom Cruise, and spent most of my time watching The War of the Worlds remake wishing his charcter and family to die. However, for £5 I thought it a risk worth taking.

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I was pleasantly surprised. So much so that before writing this, I thought I’d go back and watch it again, just in case I’d had too much to drink, or my memory had been altered by the cats/aliens.

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Cruise’s character is a drone repair engineer. Not a superhero. The story unfolds with him doing just that, nothing glamorous. However, it is obvious that something is odd in this post apocalyptic world (I won’t elaborate on the story here, too repetitive).

The best thing about this film is the scenery and hard sci-fi elements. It’s also enjoyable because it is not a re-boot, re-imagining or re-make. The scenery is stunning, and in contrast to most sci-fi, its done in really sunny and light camera shots.

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The least believable (for me) bit was the “tower”, you’d need some seriously strong materials to cope with wind shear, or some futuristic technology. Good CGI and camera shots however allowed me to suspend disbelief and enjoy the spectacle.

Much to my surprise I really enjoyed this film. Only downside was it left me with questions about the principle antagonist. Maybe a sequel ?

If you can get it cheap this is a good film and gets a thumbs up from me. 🙂

Battle Star Galactica

As a kid I watched the original Battle Star Gakactica series (BSG), so when they brought out the new ‘reimagining” I was interested. As I don’t watch TV let alone satellite, it took a couple of comments from the Byakhees to persuade me to invest in the first few DVDs, and its something I didn’t regret. Last week, thanks to the taxman, I got a load of money and treated myself to the original 1970’s version.

So after nearly 30 years I watched it again, I knew that one of the main criticisms of the original series was that it recycled footage a lot.

My veridict

I can see virtually all of the main charcters from the “reimagined” series easily enough. There was a lot of good acting and characterisation that came out despite the rather stilted dialogue, and ’70’s hair styles. There was way too much recycled footage of spacecraft and radar images, way way way too much !

I felt that the plots were rather rushed compared to the modern version which is rather odd as most people complain that TV shows today are too fast. No, in this case the original series tried to pack too much into their episodes and missed out loads of stuff – well unless they were simply missing a lot of back story. Talking of which, whilst the original series used various colloquial terms, like ‘frack’ (but not as often), it was littered with inconsistencies about whether they were leaving star systems, galaxies and so forth which the new series didn’t. This jarred a lot.

Starbuck’s role was understated even though he was often the central character in the plot. Apollo’s role was underplayed, especially his relationship with his father, and as for his sister…it seems strange any military would send an entire family into combat on the same ship.

For the colonial fleet to encounter so many ‘marooned’ human civilisations was also annoying. You don’t just suffer amnesia across an entire culture to that extent. One or two marooned or isolated settlement yes, but for every other planet to have them, well…

The computers again were quite quaint, and just goes to show how far we have come.

the news series starts out well, and many of the first series’ plots echo those from the original 1970’s series, and are much better conducted than the original series. The characters are much stronger. Sometimes the story lines can feel slow, but with hindsight they are paced about right. The re-use of stock footage is also lower though it does go on unsurprisingly.

I noticed that the ships in the colonial fleet were modelled on the originals which was a nice touch including the Rising Star’s concept.

The main disappointment is that most of the Cylons are the human masquerades, not the robotic type. There should have been more of the robots. Ironically there are many hat tips to the original series including the original “men in tin can suits”. They were at least a step up from the effette brain head cylons from the original series.

The new series is also much more consistent in its terms – there is no mention of new galaxies as it is plain they are travelling through a single galaxy. Scientifically it is also better for this, and has the issues of food and water supplies added to the plot. That said, some of the story arcs are too long and could have been shortened.

To summarise, the 1970’s series is full of good ideas, marred by some poor scripts that hurry the plot along, some hammy acting and so on. the new series is much more gritty and dark which you’ll either like or loathe.

Film: Total Recall

Just been to see the remake of the film Total Recall.

Stop reading now if you havent seen it as there are spoilers below.

I was expecting a mildly entertaining action movie that could have been entitled “Total Remake”, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. I like the original Total Recall film, and like some of the cheesy humour it has in it.

The first and obvious points to note are that the: background is totally different; and the technology is radically more advanced. However, the basic plot is there.

In fact the second point is often unnoticed these days. The science fiction from pretty much the 1980’s and before has been over taken in many ways. Ok, we don’t have warp drives or stuff, but the day to day computing technology is way in advance, and the use of hand held digital phones, PDAs, tracking devices and so on are unrecognisable with yesterday’s science fiction.

The background is very different – it’s not set on Mars. The colony is now the remains of Australia (Freemantle IIRC). There is a lot of back story that doesn’t get a lot of air time and I’d hope any DVD pack would fill us in on some of this, but it basically seems a series of NBC wars have rendered habitable areas limited. So there is a struggle between the United Federation of Britain, and the Colony with Quaid/Hauser the double agent which matches the first film.

There was at least one blatant hat tip to the original film, which I won’t spoil for you, but did make me want to laugh, and the high proportion of Asiatic culture was also a h/t to both Blade Runner and Firefly, but also a healthy dose of Russian/East European culture as well.

The SFX were good, and whilst some of the protracted sequences were a bit wearing, they were interspersed with a goodly dose of scenes driven by dialogue and proper acting (Bill Nighy criminally under used). There were only a couple of points when I wanted to slap the main protagonists[*] – NO YOU DO NOT WAIT TO HAVE A SMOOCH AT THE END OF A NEAR ESCAPE WHEN THE EVIL PERSON IS WATCHING YOU AND CAN PROBABLY SHOOT YOU. Quite by co-incidence today’s Torygraph has a good article about how Hollywood’s obsession with SFX is detrimental to the overall film making experience. I prefer films with good dialogue, a decent plausible plot, good acting over and above a violent adrenaline rush of chases and explosions. This is why I like films like The Big Sleep, Schindlers List and so on that contain few if any action scenes and/or SFX.

Minor annoyance, the evil troops are ‘synthetics’…robots…and bear more than a passing resemblance to Star Wars’ Stormtroopers.

Apart from the evil evil evil one that is the bodyguard to Cohaagen…(think The Black Hole…)

I think we’ve moved on a bit from there.

This remake I think was a good one – not the best – but certainly worthy of lasting attention. I may be wrong, but I think I’ll get the DVD for further watching if I can’t catch it in the cinema again. Thinking about it, its like comparing the original series of BSG, with the remake. Each has its +/-s, each is unique, and each is enjoyable for those reasons.

I also recommend getting VIP seats in cinemas. Have been in them three times now, and the whole experience is much better. Being a tall guy, I need the leg room, don’t want to crane my neck upwards etc…ok I’m getting picky in my old age…bah humbug…

One thing that did shock me though, and it has nothing to do with the film, was the large number of clearly under-age children in the cinema. This is not a gross out film by any means (sexually, linguistically or in terms of violence), but it really is not suitable for kids who looked no more than 8.

[*] Whereas within 15 minutes of watching Speilberg/Cruise’s remake of “War of the Worlds” I wanted the entire family to die very very quickly. Painfully.