Saturday, March 25, 2017

LIFE - Review


I love space – science fiction thrillers, so it was a very easy call for me to make sure to see Actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds in the film simply called “LIFE”. A contemporary story of a six-member crew on the International Space Station that is on the cutting edge of one of the most important discoveries in human history: the first evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars.

Early on in “LIFE” we discover a deep space probe has landed on Mars and is the process of returning to earth with some precious cargo in the way of Mars soil on board. But as it goes through the gauntlet of the asteroid belt between Mars and Earth it is severely damaged. The result is rather than returning to a control docking on the ISS it must be manually snared on the exterior of the space station with a large magnet mechanical hand before it burns up in Earth’s atmosphere

Moving at a high speed, Chief Engineer Rory Adams (Ryan Reynold) exits the ISS to successfully ensnare the probe. Shortly thereafter we see Chief Science Officer Dr. Hugh Derry beginning to conduct his research on what looks like to be a fossilized single cell organism that appears to be dead in the soil. After many repeated attempts to stimulate the organism, Dr. Derry does figure out a way to bring it to “Life”. However unbeknownst to Dr. Derry and the entire crew at that very moment his decision will end up having dire unintended deadly consequences as they all (we) will soon discover the single cell creature they casually name “Calvin” proves to be a far more intelligent entity than anyone had reason to suspect.

REVIEW: First the visual esthetics of “LIFE” itself are impressive, i.e. the interior – exterior of the ISS, the suits, the look of earth from space and the movements of objects in weightlessness are right on par with the 2013 highly acclaimed film “Gravity”, as well as the story line structure (initially) with the far more critically acclaimed iconic 1979 effort “Alien” which I believe this film draws most (if not a lot) of it inspiration from. Unfortunately, those are the only things that will keep your interest keenly focused on this metaphorically speaking Titantic-ish story in space.

I have several issues with this film. First, they had four characters in the film who had four distinct foreign born accents which at times while they spoke English still had me muttering to myself “WTF were they saying”; little did I know early on it really didn’t matter to the overall plot. Second, while the ship’s crew appears to be highly accomplished by their titles of professional achievements i.e. engineers, medical officer, science officer, pilot etc., etc. they still managed to come across like a bunch of teenagers who could not figure out why they lost their bandwidth signal on their I-Phones while traveling through the Holland Tunnel in New York; translation they appeared to be an emotionally muted and dumb crew. Third because of their lack of genuine authentic intellect both cerebrally and emotionally, they consistently came across as one dimensional throughout the entire film, having little in the way of personal development as to who they are then or who they were prior substantively and why they were in space. One could only concluded it wasn’t important enough to the Director, so instead he put just the bare minimum emotional meat on their bones to set them up for their real eventual value to the film which was to be a series of systematic victims on a progressively slow and ploddingly deadly treadmill for the octopus looking “alien life form” to gruesomely kill.  Finally, when the films comes to its grand finale, the actual last scene itself was so lacking in anything one would describe as being smart or having thoughtful clarity, well should you see it you probably will react as I did by rolling your eyes in the back of your head for its clumsily flat and uninspiring conclusion.

“LIFE” while it does have some moments of real arm gripping tension, overall still lacked anything approaching what one would should reasonably expect from a science fiction story aka “intrigue”. Rather “LIFE” gave me the feeling of someone lathered a film story together solely with splattered on digital paint hoping it would eventually masquerade itself into something cinematically dramatic.  The overall result was (as far as I could see) was what I found lacking throughout the film's execution itself. It’s lacking in real palatable danger. It’s lacking in real legitimate nail biting chaos. It’s lacking in real emotional smart conversation. And finally it’s lacking in a real meaningful narrative screenplay with human depth and consequences to pull it all together. All I got was a feeling of lukewarm immaturity as an attempt (I guess) by the Director to not get too deep by ephemerally appealing to a more low attention span millennial  crowd with just enough of the great similarities from the superior predecessor “Alien” to make his film work for today’s audience.

Director Daniel Espinosa delivers for its 1:51 minutes running time an unfortunate dropped ball on this space story, which is even more disappointing given dropping a ball in the weightlessness of space is impossible.

“LIFE” unfortunately never floats at all into your imagination, rather it floats around and around like something is on life (less) support.

"Alien: Covenant"...................Where are you?

2.75 Stars   

Saturday, March 11, 2017



Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Hiddleston, Brie Larson and John Goodman, the producers of "Godzilla" reimagine the origins of one the most powerful monster myths of all in the newly released film called “Kong: Skull Island" or more commonly known as “King Kong.”

Since the original film from 1933, and counting international films as well, this is the 12th adaptation of this primate adventure, with this effort telling the story with a new twist of the principles entire story’s plot and development experience exclusively taking place on the island during the full 2 hour running time.

The film starts out in 1973 when a diverse team of scientists, along with US Army soldiers and some adventurers collectively discovering from a spy satellite a Pacific island that up until now had been hidden by its own unique cloud leaving it undetected and as far as anyone knew uninhabited as well. But given there had been many unexplained sinking of ships in close proximity to the island’s location, the highly trained group set out to explore this mythical island in the Pacific in spite of what appears to be many great unknowns about what’s on the island in spite of it obvious beauty.

Once they arrive, the team learns very quickly that this island is the domain of a mighty giant ape the natives there call “Kong” and with their immediate confrontation setting off a major battle, this story is reduced to the basic case of survival between man verses nature.

REVIEW: On the surface the film is fun to watch with first rate CGI action development, but what is glaringly obvious from the outset and subsequently throughout is the writing is very clumsy and largely ineffective of ever coming close to building up any genuine tension or real dread. Nor does it help make the lives of the many members of the cast have any real importance or consequences to their plight on being on such a dangerous island. Instead they collectively seem to be cannon fodder; essentially almost too many cast members to keep count, which in my minds becomes clear they are there for the express purpose of an extensive body count throughout the film before they all are killed or eaten. You add an even clumsier direction and a lot of underwhelming acting performances and you are then left with what looked less like a real modern 2017 action movie on a big theater screen and more like watching a PowerPoint Presentation about a movie idea someone wanted make about “a giant monkey”.

Finally, the director seem to be unable of creating any new plot twist to this story beyond the isolation of the island itself. So what does he do? Well he recycles or borrows if you prefer numerous scene ideas from almost every meaningful and consequential military story and or animal adventure film from the past films 40 years. Scenes almost identical in their look and their execution from such iconic efforts as “Apocalypse Now”, “Aliens”, “The Deer Hunter” “Platoon” and “Predator” to adventure films such as Godzilla, Jurassic Park and Jurassic World.

KONG: SKULL ISLAND is not the worse action reimagined story of an iconic character and story, but this effort is clearly one of the least smart films of its type I have seen in a while.

So I recommend you can see it now or you can wait on it to rent on demand, either way I can honestly say you won’t be bored. But in my critical film going mind if you spend $185 million making this film again in some form which in this case felt like sitting through a story board PowerPoint briefing for 2 hours, at least the next time around (2020 "Godzilla vs King Kong") seriously think about spending a third of that big budget on some better writing so as to create enough imaginative and connective consequential tissue that will stick as to what is being said and what is being shown really matter between cast and story

2.75 Stars