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Category Archives: Sci Fi

A rundown of the biggest films to hit so far this summer…
            A great improvement on the first Captain America film in 2011. Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo have honed their craft shooting parody action scenes on NBC’s Community and Winter Solider greatly benefits from this. Possibly the first film in the Marvel extended universe to have any actual stakes, this will hold us over nicely until Guardians of the Galaxy/Ant-Man/Dr. Strange hit theaters in the coming years.

FilmFire review:
4.25/5 forms


            Another fun but non consequential romp from Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield. Ridiculous and cringe worthy coincidences litter this film all the way through but it doesn’t stop it from being very entertaining. A lot of universe building stuff à la Iron Man 2. Paul Giamatti is wasted in a sea of third act villains.

FilmFire review:
3.25/5 forms


            A total joy to watch. Intense slow burn through the beginning stages of the film until we get what we’ve been waiting for. Bryan Cranston shines but is the only relatable character in the movie. The lead actors are terribly written and given less than nothing to do, but it doesn’t stop the film from being wildy enjoyable. Insane ending climax that is brutally satisfying.

FilmFire review:
4/5 forms


            A return to form for Bryan Singer, his first time directing an X-Men film since 2003. Fast paced and much more enjoyable than any of the X-Men movies from the last decade, Days of Future Past is a a ton of fun to watch. It manages to successfully combine the old and young casts into one film without seeming bloated with characters, something Sony should learn to do with their rambling Spider-Man franchise. The interesting take on time travel mechanics makes it a joy to watch.

FilmFire review:
4.5/5 forms


            A complete butchering of the original fairy tale, there’s almost nothing of merit here besides Angelina Jolie chewing scenery. Completely takes the evil out of the witch and sanitizes all of the dark and broodiness from the original. She doesn’t even turn into the dragon. Maybe fun for families with little kids, but this is another case of Disney cashing in.

FilmFire review:
2/5 forms


It’s Oscar time again, and that means its time for my top ten movies of the year.
2013:

  • 10. The Place Beyond the Pines
  • An epic sprawling story of how bad decisions have consequences that can affect future generations.

  • 9. The Way, Way Back
  • My favorite of the slew of the indie comedies that came out this summer. Sam Rockwell steals the show and it’s great to see Jim Rash pop up in a few scenes.

  • 8. Inside Llewyn Davis
  • A fun and quirky story of just how much rejection one can take. Great acting all around and another notch in the Cohen Brothers belt.

  • 7. Rush
  • My surprise film of the year. Manages to create suspense out of cars racing in circles while staying away from all the cliches of the sports genre.

  • 6. All is Lost
  • Robert Redford gives a great nuanced performance of a man going through absolute hell to survive when his situation continues to go from bad to worse.

  • 5. Gravity
  • An intimate story of love and loss set in the most beautifully horrific setting one can imagine: space. An absolute visual spectable and unmatched technical achievement. Believe the hype.

  • 4. The Wind Rises
  • A beautiful tale of the sacrifices it takes to achieve your dreams. My favorite Miyazaki film since Spirited Away in 2001.

  • 3. The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Scorsese’s ballsiest directing gig also features DiCaprio’s best performance yet. The funniest scene of 2013 involves Leonardo crawling down a flight of stairs in a half paralyzed state. Raunchy and hilarious.

  • 2. Captain Phillips
  • Tom Hanks gives my favorite acting performance this year in the most intense film of 2013. Hanks puts on a pure acting showcase as he delivers a gut wrenchingly exposed performance in the final scene.

  • 1. Short Term 12
  • A heartbreaking and superbly acted account of the inner workings of a foster care facility. Far better written and acted than all of the over exposed Oscar-bait this year *cough 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Nebraska* , Short Term 12 is my favorite movie of 2013.


Although people who loved the book will find much to love here – it really is a good movie – the potential impact is too soft for the epic it aspires to be.
-Kevin A. Ranson, Movie Crypt

About as good a film as you can squeeze out of a morally complex source work given today’s studio environment.
-Mark Keizer , Alt Film Guide

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy

Decades in the making, Orsen Scott Card’s “unfilmable” novel has finally hit cinemas. The first screen adaptation of Ender’s Game: Was it worth the wait? Read on to find out.

understand him well enough to defeat him

The cinematic version of Ender’s Game is, for good reason, much more streamlined and less meandering than the novel. The backbone and structure of the book are still in tact, essentially with quick cuts between the major scenes and set pieces in place of the smoother transitions the book uses. Understandably, this is about the best the filmmakers could have done considering the massive scale and stakes of the book. There is only so much that can fit in a 115 minute run time and unfortunately a lot of the books charm and whimsy is lost in translation.

then in that very moment I also love him.

As far as portraying the central storyline from the novel as cinematic as possible, the film does a pretty remarkable job. Battles at the Battle School are fully realized and well done. The effects look great across the board, particularly in a recurring all-cgi dream/game sequence that Ender has. The alien race from the book is hidden from view until the very end of the film, which works great. The creature design is unique and incredibly interesting to look at. One relatively minor flaw is the mundaneness of the set design. Battle School and Command School seem like nothing more than endless mazes of intersecting generic hallways and rooms that are shiny and metallic in nature. A little variety to these environments could have gone a long way.

One of the major flaws inherent of adapting a book of this scope to the screen is a loss of detail. This is especially evident in Ender’s Game. All the meat is there but most of the connective tissue is missing. There is virtually zero time for tension, buildup, character development or the exploration of many of the relationships Ender has in the novel. It feels like story beat after story beat, checking each major plot point off until the film is over. What ended up on the screen is very well done, it’s just missing a lot of the little things that made the book great.

And then, in that very moment when I love him…. I destroy him.”

Fans of the book will find a lot to like, but it’s not the same experience as reading it for the first time. Those who are unfamiliar with the source material may get confused at times due to the lack of quick nature of the films plotting and lack of explanatory dialogue. The way the ending of the film is written is jarring and somewhat off-putting, being much too tonally different from the scenes immediately prior. Thus, the film finishes on a somewhat sour note.

Ender’s Game is a valiant attempt at adopting the unfilmable novel and is much better than many anticipated. However, a lot of the idiosyncrasies and quirks of the book are left out and do the film no favors. It’s still a solid sci-fi film and worth checking out, who knows when we’ll see another Ender film?

FilmFire review:
3.75/5 forms


A magnificent thriller, and one of the most dumbfoundingly impressive technological feats in the 20 years since Jurassic Park put the world on notice about CGI.
–Tim Brayton, Antagony & Ecstasy

[The] director’s last effort was another great science-fiction movie, “Children of Men,” which was borne of ideas. This one celebrates sensation. And it deserves to be one.
-Jeffrey M. Anderson, San Francisco Examiner

At 327 miles above earth, there is nothing
to carry sound, No air pressure…No oxygen…

Believe the hype. Gravity, the first film from Alfonso Cuarón since 2006, is one of the best movie going experiences one can have. A total visual spectacle from start to finish, this film will have you holding your breath for entire minutes at a time. Gravity is an intimate story of love and loss set in the most beautifully horrific setting one can imagine: space.

…Life in space is impossible

This is a MUST-SEE for anyone with even a passing interest in film, and here’s why:

  • A technical marvel and achievement unmatched in film
  • Absolutely breathtaking cinematography and effects
  • The closest anyone will ever come to actually being in space (outside of attending space camp, maybe?)
  • Completely and utterly immersive, you will lose yourself watching this
  • The camera hangs on every scene with a very limited amount of cuts, essentially long “tracking shots” in space
  • Just as heartfelt and sincere as it is horrifying
  • Oscar caliber acting from Bullock and Clooney
  • Unquestionably THE best use of 3D we’ve seen in film-making to date

Take it from the master of visual effects technology himself:

“Gravity is the best space movie ever”
-James Cameron

See it in 3D, on the biggest screen you can find.

FilmFire review:
4.75/5 forms


Neill Blomkamp … keeps the action coherent and fills the plot with clever twists that make up for some of the insulting obviousness of the political allegory.
-Craig Seligman, Bloomberg

An exciting and visually stunning film, one which perhaps holds too much to a familiar path, but which is undeniably thrilling.
-John Lyus, HeyUGuys

You can save everyone.
There’s no coming back from this.

Elysium – Neill Blomkamp’s much anticipated follow-up to his 2009 sleeper hit District 9. The world has been wondering: Will Elysium meet the high expectations of matching the success of Blomkamp’s freshman effort?

The year 2154: humanity is divided between 2 worlds…

The results are mixed, but mostly land on the positive side of things. Elysium is a fairly worthy successor, but thematically isn’t as strong of a film as District 9. Blomkamp is undeniably a talented film maker but it seems the studio may have interfered just a bit too much with his artistic vision on this one. A comparison of District 9’s modest $30 million budget to the $115 million production of Elysium proves that there was much more at stake here, and certain choices the film makes are catered to a mass audience appeal.

…We live on Earth…
In the year 2154, the wealthiest inhabitants of Earth have split from the planet and formed a utopian space habitat known as Elysium, built by the Armadyne Corporation. Citizens of Elysium take advantage of luxuries that include access to private medical bays that instantly cure any illness. Meanwhile, The rest of the population remain below in the disease riddled and overcrowded slum of a planet that Earth has become.
…The privileged live on Elysium.

Minister Delacourt (Jodie Foster) is the Secretary of Defense on Elysium. Her job: to enforce the strict Earth immigration laws and protect the Elysium border at all costs. She is the commander of the Civil Cooperation Bureau, keeping Earth in line and its citizens in place. Her strict zero tolerance beliefs when it comes to Earth immigration isn’t shared by the bulk of the Elysium government, but she will do what it takes to protect Elysium from illegals.


Jodie Foster is terribly miscast in this role. The character is extremely one-note and we never completely find out her motivations for being as evil as she is. Why does she have this unadultered hatred for the citizens of Earth? We never learn her backstory and there is no character arc to be found. Foster deserves a lot better and had very little to work with here.


“Undocumented ships are approaching elysium airspace…shoot them down!”

Agent M Kruger (Sharlto Copley) is a crucial weapon and first line of defense in Secretary Delacourt’s arsenal to keep Elysium free of illegals. One of Elysium’s most important Earth-based sleeper agents, Kruger has untold human rights violations to his name and is a professional killer. His bloodlust is unmatched.


Kruger is one of the most outrageous and intense villains I have ever seen in a film. Copely holds nothing back and plays this character as a completely psychotic madman thirsty for blood. It’s pretty fantastic to watch his insane performance, especially during the final act of the movie when he is chasing down Damon’s character. It’s a spectacle to behold.

“Whoever has this, has the power to override their whole system”
Our hero, Max Da Costa, (Matt Damon) is a citizen of Earth who doesn’t “play by the rules”. After growing up as an orphan in the streets of the now shantytown Los Angeles, he spent a good chunk of his young adult life in and out of prison. He finally commits to pulling his life together until he experiences lethal exposure to radiation during a workplace accident at his job as an assembly line worker. Told he has just 5 days to live, Max seeks a way to outmaneuver Delacourt and Kruger, breach Elysium security and receive the medical attention he needs.

Damon is always outstanding in the action hero role and he does the same great work here. What makes this character even better are the biomedical implants he has surgically added: a neural transmitter and exoskeleton suit.

We’re going to break into the most heavily guarded place in the universe

Like District 9, the story of Elysium has a very strong political allegory under the surface, although it’s much more heavy handed this time around. It’s painfully obvious how badly the film wants to make statements on border control and class discrimination but a little more subtlety would have been nice. District 9 was much more nuanced with its own metaphor for the South African apartheid, to greater effect.

The world building, artificial intelligence, creature effects, sound design and CGI are all outstanding in Elysium. It is an absolute visual feast to watch. The shantytowns and slums of Earth look incredibly intricate and detailed and juxtapose perfectly with the sun-bathed landscapes, swimming pools and palacial mansions of Elysium. The Earth police force is made up of merciless drone robots that look and sound fantastic, even the parole officers are mechanized mannequin-like robots that fit the world perfectly.

Elysium is an incredibly fun science fiction film that falls a little flat when it comes to articulating it’s themes. The actors are all solid, aside for the terribly written evil-for-the-sake-of-being-evil character played by Jodie Foster. Sharlto Copely is a standout as deranged mercenary Kruger, the film is almost worth seeing just for him. Visually, the film looks phenomenal. The environments are all beautifully imagined and the characters are designed flawlessly. Although the heavy-handed take on inequality issues weigh the film down a bit and detract from the cool and interesting visuals, Elysium is still one of the better films of the summer and a blast to watch.

FilmFire review:
4.25/5 forms


As adventures in mechanised mayhem go, the picture does, of course, crush the Transformers franchise into iron filings.
-Donald Clarke, Irish Times

Is this going to give me enough of a story and enough characters to carry the amount of rocket-punching and monster-bashing that I want to see? The answer is yes.
-Widgett Walls, Needcoffee.com

We always thought alien life would come from the stars, but it came from deep beneath the sea; a portal between dimensions in the Pacific Ocean.
Pacific Rim is Guillermo del Toro living out his wildest cinematic dreams: Giant robots battling giant aliens for the fate of mankind. The ultimate “fanboy” movie, Del Toro pulls no punches as blood is spilled, cities are destroyed, and millions are killed in the wake of a global-scale alien invasion through a portal in the Pacific Ocean.

“Something out there discovered us”

The year is 2013 when the first “Kaiju” attacks. (Literal Japanese translation of Kaiju: strange creature. Think Godzilla, Gamera or Mothra.) First just thought to be an earthquake in the middle of the ocean, a creature later emerged off the western United States coast, attacking and destroying the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, causing much destruction to city. Finally, it was killed by a nuclear bomb but the resulting carnage was devastating. This incident later became known as K-Day, the day the Earth went under attack.

The world prematurely took a collective sigh of relief, but the devastation had just begun. The next cities attacked were Manila and Kabo; the Kaiju started appearing in increasing frequency as traditional means of warfare had lesser and lesser affect. The top scientists on the planet began to brainstorm betters means of protection from the Kaiju. Inspired by robot and monster action figures, a prototype was created that would eventually become the Jaeger, Earth’s best hope for survival.

“There are things you can’t fight – acts of God. You see a hurricane coming, you get out of the way. But when you’re in a Jaeger you can finally fight the hurricane. You can win.”

Essentially a massively scaled suit of armor, Jaegers are a mobile exoskeleton weapon and the Pacific Rim’s first, last and only line of defense against the Kaiju. They were designed as giant humanoid mechs that could stand up to the Kaiju without resorting to nuclear weapons.

In order to fight monsters, we created monsters of our own.

“The Yaeger program was born. Two pilots, our minds, our memories connected. Man and machine become one.”

Jaegers are simultaneously controlled by multiple pilots from inside the cockpit, located in the “head”. The pilots are equipped with a special armor plating, allowing them to connect with the machine itself. The minds of the pilots are also connected to each other through a “neural bridge” that allows them to control the movement of the Jaeger as a team.

By 2024, there were forty six confirmed Kaiju attacks on Earth, resulting in astounding Jaeger losses. It was speculated that the Kaiju were beginning to adapt and learn how to defeat the Jaegers easier and quicker, in both land and water. The frequency of Kaiju had begun to increase so quickly that the world began to fear and prepare for multiple breaches at once, known as the Double Event and Triple Event.

This is where the events of the film begin.

Pacific Rim is a complete spectacle to watch. The astounding visuals and creature design are absolutely breath-taking. One major flaw of a lot of science fiction is boring or monotonous battle/fight scenes. This is fortunately a problem Pacific Rim does not have. The progression of Jaeger/Kaiju battles escalates to great effect throughout the first 2 acts of the film. As the stakes get higher and the body count climbs, the Kaiju become stronger and more intelligent. However, if Pacific Rim has one problem, it’s that the second act is so good the finale has nowhere to go but down. Because of this, the ending did leave me ever so slightly underwhelmed, but only due to the expectations set by the previous events of the film.

Today, at the edge of our hope, at the end of our time..

Most action films depict little about the setting and surrounding environments outside of the immediate story taking place. In Pacific Rim, the world building around the story is impeccable. The global effect of the chaos is shown as various countries around the planet try and fail to come up with solutions to stop the invasion. Kaiju religions spring up, organ harvesters sell body parts on the black market, the political and social ramifications of the tragic events are on full display here. It’s very refreshing for a film to broaden it’s scope outside of the main story arc.

..We have chosen not only to believe in ourselves, but in each other..

The characters of Pacific Rim are all fun and incredibly likable, although they hit every cliché in the book. Clichés are cliché for a reason: they’re entertaining and they work. Here we have the American badboy rebel who disobeys orders, the hard-nosed but noble British leader who motivates with an epic speech, a small-statured but deadly Asian woman with a tragic past, etc. All by the book action characters, but incredibly enjoyable and fun to root for.

..Today we face the monsters that are at our door..

This film is an absolute blast. It far surpasses the disappointing sequels and superhero films we’ve had this summer. Pushing the meaning of the word “Blockbuster” to a new level, Pacific Rim breaks new ground in the action/science fiction genre and hopefully is just the start of a very exciting new franchise helmed by Guillermo Del Toro.

..Today we are canceling the apocalypse!

FilmFire review:
4.5/5 forms


There’s plenty to like in Snyder’s hectic, rowdy film. But by the time we reach the bludgeoning excesses of the last half-hour it’s hard to shake the sense that this was an opportunity at least partially missed.
-Christopher Orr, The Atlantic

DC still has much to learn from rival Marvel in the filmmaking realm, but Man of Steel at least offers hope. Hope, and a slight headache
-Tyler Hanley, Palo Alto Weekly

Every person can be a force for good, free to forge his own destiny.
Superman has never been one of my favorite characters. I don’t care much for any of the previous film incarnations of the Superman mythos, in fact I think Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns from 2006 is pretty atrocious. To me, he always seemed more of a god than a superhero. I much prefer characters like Batman or the X-Men who are more human and relatable, with actual weaknesses. Given all of that, I was extremely excited for Man of Steel. The trailers were mesmerizing, the cast is phenomenal, I bought in to the hype and was ready to love this updated take on the hero.

Unfortunately, this film is a bit of a mess. Most of the individual scenes are fine by themselves, but there is an extremely jarring pacing between them. The film opens with an overlong sequence on Krypton explaining how baby Superman found his way to Earth. Not only is it a very confusing and abrupt way to begin, the events of what happened don’t entirely get explained until much later on.

The film cuts to various flashback sequences that break up the main storyline in somewhat awkward ways. All these flashbacks are excellent and really help flesh out Superman’s character, but when it comes to the the main plotlines that are driving the movie forward, they are real momentum killers.


General Zod is getting angry.
The pacing is a real issue, but the film still does a lot of great things. The cast, in particular, is incredible. If this wasn’t a summer movie based on a superhero, Michael Shannon would be considered for some major acting awards for his off-the-wall crazy take on General Zod. Russell Crowe redeems himself after his humiliating Les Mis performance with an eloquent portrayal of Jor-El, Superman’s Kryptonian Dad. Though he doesn’t have nearly enough screen time, Kevin Costner does his usual great work playing Jonathan Kent, adoptive Super Father. Lastly, Henry Cavill puts on a really fun performance as the Man of Steel himself, putting Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) to shame.
You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.
Man of Steel is a really dark film. For being a seemingly fun summer blockbuster with aliens who wear capes, it’s strangely lacking any sort of comedic touch or light hearted moments. If it’s not diving into gritty moments from Kal-El’s backstory, it’s showcasing the absolutely brutal fight sequences between Superman and Zod’s army.

Speaking of the fight sequences, they are almost insane to the point of being incomprehensible. The complete utter destruction and mayhem these characters cause is fun to watch, but quickly becomes mind numbing after the third or fourth time a ripple effect from a sonic boom destroys a skyscraper.


Nope, no religious imagery here
Overall, I was entertained. It certainly doesn’t live up to the crazy positive hype and outstanding marketing campaign over the last year, but it is still leagues better than Bryan Singer’s failed attempt at a reboot in 2006. The cast is great, the action is bonkers and there are some really well done individual sequences. Unfortunately, the sum isn’t quite equal to the parts here and it feels like at least a slight disappointment. Hopefully we can just chalk this up to growing pains and a slow start to what should eventually become a fully realized DC Cinematic Universe concluding in a Justice League film.
My father believed if the world found out who I really was it’d reject me. He was convinced that the world wasn’t ready. What do you think?

FilmFire review:
3.5/5 forms