Tag Archives: Science Fiction films

The Faculty-1998

The Faculty-1998

Director-Robert Rodriguez

Starring-Josh Hartnett, Piper Laurie, Salma Hayek

Reviewed June 4, 2017

Grade: B

Having watched The Faculty, a  teenage horror/science fiction flick,  at the time of release in 1998 (now almost twenty years ago!), I fondly remember sitting in the movie theater watching this soon to be cult classic take hold of its audience. Despite some now dated (in 2017) special effects, the story holds up well, and what a treat to see some “stars of tomorrow” mixed in with some venerable veterans, take center stage. The Faculty stirs up a strange hybrid of classic films (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Alien, and The Breakfast Club) to create a fun, and gory, horror film.

The action takes place in a small town said to be somewhere in Ohio, though the film is actually shot in Texas. A football town, and home of the Hornets, sports are central to Herrington High school- both to students and faculty. It becomes immediately evident that some of the staff is not “right” after two of the teachers stab Principal Valerie Drake (Bebe Neuwirth) with a pencil and scissors and flee with no emotions late one night after a faculty meeting.

Later, student Casey Connors (Elijah Wood) confesses to his group of friends that he believes the teachers are being controlled by aliens. Naturally, they are skeptical until strange events among the staff begin to take shape once the students watch the staff’s activities closely. The film then turns into a clever whodunit as one student after another is revealed to be infected and therefore an alien.

A highlight of The Faculty is its stellar casting- there is the younger set of actors, who share great chemistry together- Josh Hartnett (Zeke), Wood (Casey), Jordana Brewster (Delilah), Clea Duvall (Stokes), Laura Harris (Marybeth), and Shawn Hatosy (Stan) all make up the troupe of characters thrown together due to unlikely circumstances to figure out the big mystery- who amongst the staff is an alien and where they come from? All of the students are from different social classes, which make their antics unique- Zeke, the rebel, Stan, the jock, Stokes, the “weirdo”, and Casey, the nerd. In this way the film reminds me of The Breakfast Club, a mid-1980’s “coming of age” high school film.

Additionally, the staff comprise some of the best in the business- stalwart Piper Laurie appears as the drama teacher, luscious Salma Hayek as the sexy school nurse, comic Jon Stewart as the science teacher, and rugged Robert Patrick as Coach Willis. What a treat for film fans to watch a film such as The Faculty to see a bevy of popular film and television stars amongst the cast.

Director, Robert Rodriguez, most notably known for creative left of center works such as Machete and Sin City and for being a frequent collaborator of Quentin Tarantino in his edgy collection of films, helms a rather mainstream piece of work in The Faculty. Clearly, the film is targeted for your typical, mainstream audience, but with the right blend of clever quirks added in.

Delicious is the ode to the classic science-fiction classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers, only set in a suburban high school. Clever still is the revelation of the teachers as the robotic “pod people” or aliens from outer space. This cute reference, in 1998, and still today, is an innocent knock on authority figures as the high school kids slowly get their comeuppance against some of the staff.

There comes a point in the film where nearly everyone is an alien and the film runs out of gas. However, the final scene is wonderfully constructed as the film ends as just another day in the life of a small town high school- life goes on and all is well. The Faculty is a treat to watch in present times as a “trip down memory” lane experience.

Arrival-2016

Arrival-2016

Director-Denis Villeneuve

Starring-Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Reviewed May 9, 2017

Grade: B-

Arrival is the latest entry into what has become a recent trend of science fiction themed films to garner Academy Award praise, either by way of technical achievements or in the case of Arrival, a surprising Best Picture nomination in addition to the more traditional awards notice for categories like sound effects and editing. Traditionally, science fiction fare tends to get little or no recognition in major categories, all the more surprising is the films under the radar style inclusion with the big guns.

Similar in style to recent films such as Interstellar and Gravity, Arrival ultimately proves a disappointment as a complete film, succeeding only in specific avenues like its musical score and a sort of surprise twist ending that the film presents, but at times is downright to say nothing of its tedious moments. Needless to say, I disagree with its Best Picture nomination wholeheartedly.

Not claiming to be the world’s greatest science fiction fan either, at times Arrival does have glimmers of success (mainly in the first act) and some high points in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey (the greatest of the greats in the genre), but the good moments ultimately fade as the story lumbers on only to show a brief resurgence in the final act. Sadly, the rest of film is rather middling.

In a role seemingly written just for her, Amy Adams stars as Louise banks, a linguist professor living and teaching in Massachusetts.  When one day a series of twelve extraterrestrial aircraft appear across the world, Louise is summoned by an Army Colonel (Forest Whitaker) to travel to a remote area of Montana where one aircraft has taken up residence, and assist a physicist,Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) in communicating with the aliens. Their goal is to determine why they have come to planet Earth. Interspersed with the main story are strange flashbacks of a life Louise briefly spent with her daughter, who appears to have died of cancer as a teenager.

The premise of the film is reminiscent of another film named Contact, made in 1997, and starring Jodie Foster. In fact, the film seems to borrow aspects from several other famous science fiction films such as the creepy, ominous score that harkens back to 2001: A Space Odyssey in its mysteriousness, to the oddity of The Day the Earth Stood Still. So much so that the film reminds me  too much of other films, it therefore has little identity of its own, especially throughout the mid-section of the film.

Other than the character of Louise, there is no character development and this is glaring among the male cast of top talents like Whitaker and Renner- in fact, the roles are glorified throwaway roles. Save for Renner’s limited involvement in the films climactic “twist”, admittedly barely raising the film above mediocrity, neither character serves much purpose and could be played by any actor.

Whitaker’s G.T. Weber has little motivation other than to convince Louise to take part in the mission. The film also seems unsure whether to delve full force into a romantic entanglement between Louise and Renner’s Ian. Certainly a flirtation exists on the surface, but the film never hits a home run with it. Couldn’t meatier story be created for these two storied actors?

The unique extraterrestrial, a hybrid of tentacles, fingers, and funny eyes,  appearing as a pair humorously nicknamed Abbott and Costello, is impressive from an artistic perspective and this does help the film. Also, the fact that the characters are unsure whether Abbott and Costello are friends or foes is slightly intriguing, but the films main negative is that nothing much really happens other than repeated attempts by Louise to communicate, whimsically staring up into the camera in wonderment, and ultimately figure out the alien’s messages and purpose.

Worthy of mention is a fantastic and ominous musical score that allows the film some climactic and dark components that feel like the highlights of the film. It adds chilling, effective components. In this way, the elements raise the film up a notch from complete blandness.

The best part of the film is its ending and I rather got a bit of chills up and down my spine with the unique and inspired big reveal. In this way Arrival saves itself from being completely lackluster, but too little too late. I would have preferred the film balance the emotions, the surprises, and the thrills a bit more rather than exist mostly as a tedious, uninteresting film. Overall, the outcome of Arrival is more of a retread rather than anything new or original.

The Fourth Kind-2009

The Fourth Kind-2009

Director-Olatunde Osunsanmi

Starring-Milla Jovovich, Will Patton

Reviewed November 15, 2009

Grade: B-

I went into the theater to see The Fourth Kind certainly not expecting a classic, but rather, a few frights, chills, and something compelling. I ended up completely entertained and I believed it was a pretty good movie. However, after the credits rolled, I was left with an unsatisfying and misrepresented feeling.

The premise of the film is admittedly a bit trite. An Alaskan female psychiatrist, Dr. Abigail Tyler videotapes her therapy sessions with patients, she discovers they have possibly been abducted by some sort of alien. Yes, this sounds crazy, but the film is actually well made and rather believable all along.

The look of the film is similar to the Paranormal Activity films, a craze that was happening when the film was released in 2009. The documentary look and the interviews with the actors will be looked back on as “of it’s time”, to be sure.

The style and interspersing of “real” events with fictitious events was interesting. However, I was disappointed when I read that the supposed “real” events were entirely made up, a fact the movie never admits, and, in fact, time and time again reminds the audience are real events. I enjoyed the movie, but felt duped afterwards, rendering the film trivial.

Avatar-2009

Avatar-2009

Director-James Cameron

Starring-Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana

Reviewed January 28, 2010

Grade: A

Acclaimed director James Cameron has done it again- similar to Titanic, he has created a masterpiece, but, oddly in merely one facet of the film, not the entire ball of wax. Avatar has two main factors to evaluate- the story and the visual aspect. Both are crucial, yes, but the visual experience is immeasurable, so much so, that the story is nearly irrelevant.

Futuristic in timeline and set in the Twenty-second century, human beings begin to colonize Pandora, a lush planet, filled with lavish forests and creature who flutter about. Planet earth has become depleted of resources, causing scientists to utilize Pandora for their own gain. Poisonous to humans, visitors must wear protection. Sam Worthington portrays Jake Scully, a paraplegic former Marine, who visits Pandora and falls in love with Neytiri, a native creature of the planet.

From a story perspective, Avatar is very ordinary and nothing separates the story from others that have come before it. At the center is a love story and a rather predictable one in nature, but this is not the reason to view Avatar. Jake and Neytiri are sweet together, but I had much more fun watching the film rather than caring what happened between the pair.

Visually, Avatar is one of the most amazing films I have ever seen. The intricate style and the attention to detail are astounding- this is my favorite aspect of Avatar and why I feel that the story is really not the reason to see the film. Everything, from the art direction to the background pieces are perfectly made. Natives of Pandora are all CGI- blue/green in color, and are gorgeous, peaceful, and moving.

Avatar will likely go down in history as a groundbreaking film- it is a visual feast. The anti-war slant is also impressive to me, but the creative,technical achievements set this film over the top. James Cameron creates a magical, absorbing film that must be cherished.

Splice-2009

Splice-2009

Director-Vincenzo Natali

Starring-Adrien Brody

Reviewed June 13, 2010

Grade: B-

If you are looking for a realistic, character driven movie, this film is not for you. Rather, Splice is a science-fiction, thriller, that must be viewed while suspending all disbelief. Certainly not a work of art, and lots of plot holes, but it provides decent entertainment, bordering on fluff.

The two main characters, Elsa and Clive, while admittedly neurological-scientists, are not the brightest people in the world and their motivations change with the weather. The basic plot involves a married couple (above said scientists) who conduct an experiment to splice human and animal DNA into a new creation, a female hybrid named Dren. Predictably, things go awry, once Dren is let loose on the world.

The plot is thin and there are questionable actions, motivations, and subplots, but somehow I still found it entertaining once I simply went with it. There are cliches such as the scientists ignoring instructions, the one-dimensional supporting characters, and so on and so forth.

As a comical aside, I overheard the guy sitting behind me in the theater mutter as the closing credits rolled,  “This was the worst movie ever”. I understand where he is coming from, but did not think the film was that bad. For fans of horror or thrillers I recommend it, anyone else might want to skip this one.

Inception-2010

Inception-2010

Director-Christopher Nolan

Starring-Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page

Reviewed August 3, 2010

Grade: A-

Inception is the type of film that will leave you astounded, baffled, confused, bewildered, and many other adjectives. To put it more simply, this film needs to be pondered after the fact. This is a high compliment as it is tough to remember such a complex (in a good way!), savory film. Inception is visionary and meant to be processed.

A highly intelligent film, of sorts,  that will leave you thinking afterwards. The story is immeasurably complex and will leave many completely confused, but just go with it.

In a nutshell, it tells the story of a man who intercepts people’s subconscious minds through dreams. Different layers of their minds are revealed as the film goes along. There are also virtual levels to each person’s mind- complex, yes.

The film reminds me quite a bit of The Matrix- but better. The film has many twists and turns throughout and will keep the viewer both perplexed and fascinated. My only slight criticism is the dream sequences do not feel like dreams at all, but highly stylized action sequences. Many props given for being so inventive, though.

Never Let Me Go-2010

Never Let Me Go-2010

Director-Mark Romanek

Starring-Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley

Reviewed October 22, 2010

Grade: A-

Offering a unique experience in creative story-telling, Never Let Me Go is an excellent film that I was happy to discover. A mixture of romance and science-fiction, it tells of young love and tragedy in an interesting way- sacrifice and science can lead to dire results. Based on a 2005 novel of the same name.

A small British drama about a private school where the children are raised as typical children, but at a certain point are expected to donate organs to save other lives, the concept is quite fresh and original. The film deals with both the moral and psychological effects of the chosen ones as they attempt to allude ending their lives- if they can prove they are in love.

My initial reactions were multiple in emotion-thought-provoking, touching, and sad are what I felt. This film will make you think. It is equally evocative and thought-provoking- many times I imagined myself in a similar situation. As Andrew Garfield’s character gets out of his car on the side of the road and screams up at the sky, it is the most powerful scene in the film.

Excellent acting by the three leads (Mulligan, Garfield, and Knightley), with special praise for Carey Mulligan. Charlotte Rampling as the mysterious headmistress of the school is brilliant.

Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens-2015

Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens-2015

Director-J.J. Abrams

Starring-Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

Reviewed December 8, 2016

Grade: B

As a youngster who grew up exposed to the original three Star Wars films (admittedly, I cannot keep track nor care enough to learn the exact chronological order of the films in the franchise), the 2016 reincarnation is very nostalgic for me. Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi were magical films for a kid to enjoy and be bedazzled by. Sadly, The Phantom Menace in 1999 was a rather forgettable endeavor and did nothing to draw new fans to the franchise- nor keep existing fans engaged.

Taking center stage in this installment are beloved stalwart character’s Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in a nostalgic trip down memory lane. A slight gripe is the shamefully under-use of one of these characters. The visual effects are very impressive, the main villain is okay, and the action sequences adequate, but it is the ode to past history that keeps the long-time viewer engaged  the most. In a way, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is aptly title as it is a rebirth of sorts for the storied franchise.

Legendary actor Max von Sydow is shamefully under-utilized in a throwaway part in the films first sequence. Ironic is that he resembles deceased actor Alec Guinness, made famous all over again in the 1970’s when he appeared in the first Star Wars. A co-incidence?

It would seem that film makers are going for a modern reboot of episode IV (the 1977 Star Wars). The main character of Rey (Daisy Ridley) is clearly meant to be the new Luke Skywalker, who is known as a Jedi hero in the land, and has been missing for years. Rey has special powers and is accompanied by her sidekick droid, BB-8, a similar character as R2-D2. The villain is Kylo-Ren, son of Han Solo and Princess (now General) Leia, and reminiscent to Darth Vader. The film is a classic tale of good versus evil as the evil First Order battles the good Resistance.

I enjoyed the good storytelling most of all and prominent roles for Han Solo and Leia were good choices for the storied franchise. Newcomers Rey and her love interest, Finn, are appealing, as are fighter pilot, Poe, played by Oscar Isaac. Reportedly, this film is the start of another trio of films so we will undoubtedly see more of these characters in the films ahead.

I could not help but notice the Nazi similarities of the First Order and their soldiers- the Stormtroopers. Possessing a red quality and a Nazi- like salute to their supreme leader, they even look German in appearance. Kylo-Ren, raven haired, pale, and clad in a dark black cape, was clearly derived from Darth Vader, especially when he appeared in mask attire. He almost could have been his son.

Set thirty years since the original Star Wars, the plot is more or less similar, and I think this is a wise move in introducing the franchise to a new audience, while staying true to the rich history of the central characters and their offspring. Han Solo and Leia discuss their love affair, past adventures, and of course, their son, who has been hypnotized to the dark side. They struggle to concoct a way to rescue him and hope to persuade him that aligning with the Resistance is the only way to go.

Favorite scenes of mine include the ultimate showdown between Rey and Kylo-Ren. Set in a snowy, wintry forest, with their glistening and glowing light sabers, the scene is gorgeous from a visual perspective, as are the many scenes in one battle station or another. The re-appearance of comical C-3PO is darling.

As with the original Star Wars, humor is mixed in to lighten the mood. Han Solo and his dedicated side-kick Chewbacca, gently spar, and when Han Solo takes the group to a saloon filled with interesting creatures, the scene is light and fun. 

The real drawback for me is that the film is not all that compelling save for the nostalgia aspects. It is merely a classic battle of two wills, but otherwise, offers nothing very new and exciting. Sure there are a few new characters, but the plot is rather basic and what one would expect. 

I, personally, am not truly invested in the franchise, despite zillions of die-hard fans being fanatics of the films and their intricacies, so that is more of an opinion than a criticism of the films merits. Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens  will undoubtedly please fans and introduce new ones to a world of galaxies, and the indelible “force”. Still, a satisfying trip down memory lane.

Lifeforce-1985

Lifeforce-1985

Director-Tobe Hooper

Starring-Steve Railsback, Peter Firth

699938

Reviewed February 10, 2011

Grade: F

Lifeforce, a film made in 1985, is a film that I did not enjoy at all. It tells the story of a team of astronauts who find three pods of seemingly human bodies, who eventually return the bodies back to Earth and turn said humans into zombies. That is really it in a nutshell.

The story makes no sense whatsoever and there is no rhyme or reasons for the actions of the characters except to further the plot. No mention or details at to why they are in outer space or anything that drives the characters motives. The film is way too complicated for its own good and would have been wiser in going for a straight-forward action film rather than what we are treated to (a combo sci-fi/horror mess.

The special effects are completely dated and very cheesy. Lifeforce is completely plot driven and I did not find it gripping at all. This film is a waste of time and deserves to be completely forgotten.

Ex Machina-2015

Ex Machina-2015

Director-Alex Garland

Starring-Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac

80023689

Reviewed June 17, 2016

Grade: B+

Ex Machina reminds me of another recent science-fiction film, Her, with more of a female empowerment edge to it than the latter, which is more of a  romantic drama with undercurrents of love. In contrast, Ex Machina has a cynical tone and elements of imprisonment and psychosis, even narcissism. The film features excellent visual effects and a futuristic mystique that makes it a successful treat. Directed by first-timer Alex Garland, who could very well be a director to watch rise the ranks with subsequent projects.

Young, fresh-faced computer programmer, Caleb Smith, wins a week-long trip to remote Alaska, to spend it with his mysterious boss, Nathan Bateman, the CEO of a software company. Caleb must arrive at the luxurious, sprawling estate via helicopter as it is in a deserted area of the world and exists on mile after mile of gorgeous landscape. Nathan, played by Oscar Isaac, is both charismatic and creepy. He lives alone save for a beautiful Asian servant named Kyoko, who speaks no English, and a female robot named Ava (played by rising star Alicia Vikander). Caleb’s assigned task is to study Ava, and determine whether he can relate to her as a human, while knowing she is a robot. It is soon revealed that Nathan plans to reprogram Ava, thereby killing her. Caleb schemes to rescue Ava, but is all what it really seems?

With a cast of only four principals, it is not difficult to assess each character and their relations with each other. Caleb is clearly the least complex of the four or rather, the one with motivations readily apparent. The others are shrouded in mystery. Caleb expects a fun getaway, but instead finds himself in the midst of experimentation. Is Nathan’s desire to perform psychological tests on Ava, by way of Caleb, genuine? The audience can sense immediately that there is something off about Nathan. Merely in his thirties, how could he amass such financial success so soon? Why is he, a servant, and a robot the only inhabitants of the estate? Why does the helicopter pilot refuse to venture any further than the drop-off point? Some of these questions are answered, some remain unanswered. It is part of what makes the film mysterious and complex. Could Ava be the one doing her share of experimentation or manipulation?

Alicia Vikander deserves much praise for her role of Ava and some would argue that the talented young actress should have won the Best Supporting Actress trophy for this role instead of for The Danish Girl. I’m not sure I would leap to the same conclusion, but she does amass a ton of subdued emotion as Ava. She is complex and profound. She expresses longing for exposure to the outside world and would love to cross a crowded street just to see all the faces and different types of people. Like Nathan, there is also something not right about Ava. Is she calculating or simply soulful? But how can she be, she is a robot? I found myself comparing her to another famous film robot/computer- HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Along with Vikander, Isaac steals the film in a role that mixes creep with genius. He sits around his estate in comfy clothes a blue-collar man might wear drinking beer and studying Ava. He has sexual relations with his servant and she is expressionless. He does not treat her well so we do not root for his character- at the same time his character is tough to read. Is he experimenting on Ava or Caleb?

Visually, Ex Machina has a sleek blend of modern, crisp CGI, not at all usurping the story. There is also a scene of bloodletting that chills as much as any good horror film would.

Garland was heavily influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey and Altered States and made the film with as little budget as possible and without outside influences that might change his vision. I commend this and wish more filmmakers would follow suit. Ex Machina, while perhaps not perfect, could be a blueprint to what is to come from this young director.

The Martian-2015

The Martian-2015

Director-Ridley Scott

Starring-Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain

80058399

Reviewed February 19, 2016

Grade: C-

The latest film from heralded director Ridley Scott (notable for classics Blade Runner and Alien), The Martian is a science-fiction/space adventure involving a believed dead astronaut (Matt Damon) trapped on Mars after being thought dead by his fellow team. NASA and a crew of rescuers fervently attempt to save him as supplies run out. Extremely resourceful, Mark Watney cleverly avoids death by using his wits to survive and even prosper on the challenging planet.

Hot on the heels of several other modern science fiction, high profile offerings, such as Interstellar and Gravity, The Martian features a big Hollywood star in the lead role. Much of the action is Watney on his own, attempting to grow produce, ration food, and keep his sanity- think Tom Hanks in Castaway except on another planet, and with a “Hab”, an indoor operations station left by his abandoned crew.

The Martian has received lots of accolades- winning the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy Film- though that is poor categorization in my opinion. The film has snippets of humor and a few songs in the background, but that is really it. Unless some late 1970’s disco songs constitute a musical.

I found The Martian to be a Hollywood mainstream film in every sense- to some that may be a high compliment, but to me, I expect a bit more from a film. It is not that The Martian is a bad film- it is not, but it is mediocre in my opinion and has all the elements of an average film. The film was going for an emotional experience that I did not experience- I had little doubt that the ending would be a sweet one, wrapped in a bow.

Mark Watney is the typical all-american character in a “guy film”. He hates disco and loves ketchup. The film makes him a guys guy, so therefore the average film-goer will relate to him. He is in good shape, cracks jokes, and is likable. But that is also a problem with the character specifically and The Martian as a whole. He lacks substance. We know little about him except he has parents who never appear on-screen. The way that the film touts him as the hero and is cheered and praised, while in real-life would be warranted, in the film it just feels forced and contrived. This is not a knock against Matt Damon, who does a decent job. My beef is that the character is not fleshed out.  The well-built Damon in the beginning of the film versus a scrawny Damon at the conclusion is completely a facade as clearly a body double was used in the latter scenes. This lack of authenticity disappointed me.

I expected more from the supporting cast given the talent involved- Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Kristen Wiig all play one-note types that any actor could have played. Why were big stars cast at all? Chastain as a mission commander, Daniels as Director of NASA, Ejiofor as NASA mission commander, and Wiig as a Public Relations specialist. The casting, in particular, of Wiig in the straight-laced, stale was mysterious to me, and it was not a  particularly good portrayal….and I am a Wiig fan.

The humorous parts in The Martian border on contrived and not dissimilar to countless other films with the smart-ass remarks all containing a bland quality. Lines like “eat your heart out Neil Armstrong” seem silly and unnecessary. I expected more wit.

Let me be fair- the visual effects (it is space after all) are impressive, and it was fairly interesting to see what is supposed to be the planet of Mars, but really in this day and age of CGI effects the film is not that spectacular. I would much rather be given a compelling story than visual treats any day of the week.

My review of The Martian may seem a tad harsh, but that is only because I expected a great deal more from it than I was given. With several Oscar nominations including for Best Picture, I anticipated a top-notch film, and The Martian did not come close. Mediocrity, straightforward, and predictable describe The Martian film. I have heard, however, that the novel is fantastic. I have added it to my reading list.

Planet of the Apes-1968

Planet of the Apes-1968

Director-Franklin J. Shaffner

Starring-Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall

Top 100 Films-#97

60000539

Reviewed February 19, 2017

Grade: A

Planet of the Apes is a 1968 science-fiction, message movie, that stars one the legendary greats, Charlton Heston. At the time of release the film was a great film and quite visionary- and the message still holds up well today. Since certainly everyone on the “planet” must know the “surprise” ending, the film speaks volumes on the destruction of the world we know and love. Intelligently written, Planet of the Apes is memorable and was followed by a bunch of not so compelling or strong sequels, remakes, and reboots.

A group of astronauts crash land on a strange planet- in the distant future. The men have no idea where they are or what time period it is. The planet is inhabited by apes, who are highly intelligent and speak and act just like human beings. They are dominant and the real humans are largely mute and incapable of doing much- they are kept imprisoned. George Taylor (played by Heston) is the lead astronaut who, the apes realize, is capable of speech and assumed to be brilliant. The ape leader wants him killed, but sympathetic scientist and archaeologist apes Cornelius and  Zira  (played by Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter) are curious about Taylor and wish to experiment more.

To say nothing of the story, the prosthetic makeup and costumes are dynamic. The apes are obviously played by human actors, but the creatures do not appear fake or phony in any way. Furthermore, the sets look genuine and grand and hold up well in present times, nearly fifty years later. Nothing about the film appears to be remotely dated or losing of its original appeal as some film inevitably do.

Planet of the Apes is a political film, and this message also holds up well in present times. How human beings have ruined their planet is the main point of the film, but this is wisely not revealed until the very end, with the now famous scene of an escaped Taylor, running along the beach, only to realize in terror that the submerged and tattered Statue of Liberty is there. With horror, he realizes that human beings have destroyed planet Earth and the astronauts never actually left their own planet!

Fun and serious to watch all rolled up into one, Planet of the Apes is a film for the ages, with a distinct meaning and a story that audience members everywhere can absorb and relate to.

2001: A Space Odyssey-1968

2001: A Space Odyssey-1968

Director-Stanley Kubrick

Starring-Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood

Top 100 Films-#16

207856

Reviewed November 15, 2016

Grade: A

In my mind, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a masterpiece, pure and simple, and simply must be seen repeatedly to let the message and the experience sink in. It is one of those films that is comparable to a fine wine- it just gets better and better with age and is palpable with deep-thought and allows the viewer to experience good taste in film art. The delicious quality is meant to be savored and enjoyed- the slow pace and odd elements only enrich the film. Needless to say, it is one of my favorite Stanley Kubrick films. Simply an epic journey through space.

Made in 1968, and the year 2001 way off, the film challenges and breaks down barriers and film, as Kubrick simply makes a film that he wants to make and the results are genius. The film contains no dialogue during the first twenty or the last twenty minutes.

The film begins in the African desert millions of years ago as the evolution of man is apparent- two tribes of ape men dispute over a watering hole. A black monolith appears and one of the tribes is guided to use bones as weapons.

Millions of years later, we meet a team of scientists- led by Dr. David Bowman and Dr. Frank Poole- as they embark on a mission aboard the United States spacecraft, Discovery One, on a mission to Jupiter. The ship is mainly controlled by an intelligent talking computer named HAL 9000- nicknamed “Hal”. Hal boasts that he is “foolproof and incapable of error”. As events unfold, the film dives into a study of humans versus technology in a cerebral game of mental chess.

The film is very tough to review in an analytical way as it is so intelligent and visually stimulating- it must be experienced. It challenges the viewer to think and absorb the events occurring.

Visually it is breathtaking and still holds up shockingly well from this perspective. The use of classical music throughout- especially in dramatic scenes is effective.

The stunning scene where David and Frank converse about their suspicions regarding “Hal”, as the intelligent computer system looks on, simply an orange light, but seemingly displaying a myriad of emotions (surprise, rage) in the viewers mind, is incredibly compelling.

2001: A Space Odyssey is an enduring masterpiece.

A Clockwork Orange-1971

A Clockwork Orange-1971

Director-Stanley Kubrick

Starring-Malcolm McDowell

Top 100 Films-#9     Top 10 Disturbing Films-#7

383466

Reviewed December 10, 2015

Grade: A

A Clockwork Orange is a groundbreaking Stanley Kubrick film and my personal favorite in his collection, more than one of which appears on my Top 100 Favorite Films list.  Adapted from the 1962 Anthony Burgess novel and thought to be unable to make into a film, it becomes  a psychedelic, creative, and fascinating experience from start to finish. Bizarre and extremely thought-provoking, Kubrick tells the story of a London sociopath delinquent living in futuristic London, and the strange behavior modifications performed on him after he is apprehended by the police, in an attempt to “reform” him and transition him to be a useful member of society.

The film delves into such social and insightful themes such as morality and psychology and questions these weighty topics. Interspersed with classical music and wonderful, colorful sets, A Clockwork Orange is a masterpiece in bizarre artistic cinema.

Alex DeLarge loves classical music (specifically Beethoven), violence, and hanging out with friends. He constantly skips school, beats people up, and parties with his friends. His pet snake is his best friend, and his parents seem afraid of him. Finally arrested after murdering an odd lady with dozens of cats, Alex is sent away to prison where he volunteers for an experimental “Ludovico” technique, which Alex assumes is a “get out of jail free” card. What transpires next is a freakish and uncomfortable experience for Alex.

The film contains startling and disturbing scenes throughout- when Alex and his team of “droogs” become inebriated from a concoction of milk laced with drugs and embark on an evening of self proclaimed ultra violence, they drive to the country where they break in to wealthy author F. Alexander’s house and beat him, crippling him for life. They rape his wife while forcing him to watch, all the while Alex happily sings “Singin’ in the Rain” timing the beats of the song to acts of violence. The brutality and creativity of this scene is mesmerizing and certainly unforgettable.

We the audience might despise a character like Alex, however, sympathy is felt for him as his “reformation” begins. A disturbing scene, which is forever embedded in my mind, involves the attaching of a contraption forcing Alex’s eyelids wide open while he watches violent scenes and is administered a drug to make him sick, thereby associating the violence with illness. He becomes psychologically screwed up. Alex (thanks to a wonderful portrayal by Malcolm McDowell) is charismatic and humorous and, in some warped way, quite likable to audience, despite his devious ways.

A Clockwork Orange continues to disturb me after multiple viewings- who can forget the sinister grin that Alex wears and the creepy one eyelash with mascara that he possesses? The film sends an interesting message about human nature as Alex turns from predator to the hunted. We ask, “are human beings  naturally prone to violence”?

The direction of the film is breathtaking- the weird colors, the (as traditional with Stanley Kubrick)  long shot camera angles, the intense musical crescendos. And the genre of classical music is a wonderful and ominous choice- almost adding a level of sophistication to Alex and the violence. The weird supporting characters (Alex’s parents, the probation officer, and his parents roommate) and the suddenly fast-forwarded sex scenes were unheard of for its time.

Immensely creative and unconventional film making with a moral message and questions about society and mankind, A Clockwork Orange is a groundbreaking and fantastic, trippy experience. A masterpiece from top to bottom.

Interstellar-2014

Interstellar-2014

Director-Christopher Nolan

Starring-Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain

70305903

Reviewed September 25, 2015

Grade: B-

Interstellar is an interesting film to review. A science fiction/futuristic epic with a run time of nearly three hours, it is complex and intricate. It is the latest offering by director Christopher Nolan. I cannot say I loved this film, however, I did appreciate and marvel at the visual and technical aspects of it, which completely usurps the convoluted plot, made difficult to follow due to changing worlds and galaxies.

The film reminds me of Inception with an obvious homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the former directed by Nolan, but not quite as compelling from a story point of view as Inception was. The complexities of different entities, worlds, and layers of worlds are featured and admittedly, mind blowing, which is the weak part of the film. By making the film arguably too intelligent, it loses the audiences attention. By too intelligent, I mean too complex. As I review the film, I see two halves to it- the story side and the visual side. In Interstellar, both are essential components and one fails and one marvels.

If I am to attempt to summarize the story it goes something like this- Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a widowed, former space expert stuck in a small town in the mid-west, where he begrudgingly runs a farm, living out an unsatisfying existence. The Earths food and crops are slowly running out and the planet is dying. His two children, daughter Murphy and son Tom, face a bleak world. One day, a dust pattern with coordinates lead Cooper and Murphy to a secret NASA team intent on finding other worlds and thereby attempting to save Earth. The team is led by Dr. Brand, a college professor and science wizard, played by Michael Caine. Cooper, naturally, is chosen to lead the venture, which could take him away from his family for years. He accepts much to Murphy’s chagrin. Once in outer space- assisted by Amelia Brand (Dr. Brand’s daughter), the team embarks on an endless mission leading them to different planets and one strange encounter with a rebel astronaut (played wastefully by Matt Damon). Years later (on earth anyway) Murphy and Tom (now grown and played by Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck) assume their father Cooper is dead.

Critically, the story is way too much to comprehend and after awhile I found myself gradually letting go of the story altogether instead focusing on the visual spectacle I was treated to. The plot eventually meanders off track completely as the team traverses through a space wormhole created by an alien intelligence and travels fifty years or so without aging, while obviously life has gone on over planet Earth. Some characters age, others do not. To summarize, the story is convoluted and impossible to follow.

Speaking of the story side to Interstellar, the writing contained an irritating wholesomeness to it, especially in the early stages- pre outer space. McConaughey was given this tough guy, machismo side to him that screamed of Hollywood traditionalism- almost like “I am man- I save family”. Haven’t we seen this too many times in film? I also found the relationship between Cooper and young daughter Murphy incredibly saccharine and screamed of Hollywood schmaltz. To be fair, McConaughey was given, and succeeded in delivering, one great crying scene.

The visual aspect to Interstellar, however, is a spectacle and much, much better than the story, especially during the final third of the film. The sheer grandeur is astounding. When the crew lands on Miller’s planet, an ocean world, a great tidal wave topples their space ship killing one of the team. The massive look of the tidal wave is monumental in size and ferocity. Later, when the crew lands on an icy planet, the immense coldness and shape of the planet work perfectly in the film and one feels like they are really in outer space.

How inventive and creative was the scene where Cooper attempts to contact a character through a bookshelf. The scene was set up like a maze with different time periods, and colors and shapes, seemingly blending together was very impressive and artistic.

Visually speaking, Interstellar has some similarities to the 1968 epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Grandiose, artistic, experimental, and epic along with the obvious space theme allow the two films to be compared. However, where 2001: A Space Odyssey was about life and contains a clear and powerful message, I did not find the same with Interstellar. Instead, I did not find much of a message, but rather a confusing story, mixed with spectacular visuals.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes-2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes-2014

Director-Matt Reeves

Starring-Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman

70300076

Reviewed March 29, 2015

Grade: C+

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a summer blockbuster hit that knocks it out of the park from a visual perspective- it is magnificent to look at with creative sets and realistic images, but the story is mediocre and predictable. I think the filmmaker’s true intent was to focus on the look of this film, which is a splendid feature. The film is a slightly better than average big screen adventure with more style than substance.

Set in San Francisco- or what was once San Francisco- the film is set in futuristic times and the apes have forged a new civilization after the deadly virus has eliminated 90% of the human population. The apes are highly intelligent and manage a happy, unified existence. Then, one day, a human is encountered and, scared, shoots one of the apes. This leads to a peaceful resolution between Caesar- leader of the apes- and the humans, to each stay in their respective territories. However, the humans need access to a dam in the Apes area in order to provide electricity for themselves. Mutual distrust leads to tension, but the civilized apes and humans reach a truce. Naturally, there is further conflict as sinister humans and apes vow revenge on each other. This leads to a waging war while the peaceful apes and humans strive to work things out. A further angle of the story is the hunger for power within the ranks of the Apes which is reminiscent of Lord of the Flies. The human protagonists of the film- Malcolm and Ellie- played by Jason Clarke and Keri Russell- are a wholesome, decent couple.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a far cry from the original 1968 masterpiece, Planet of the Apes, starring Charlton Heston. To compare the two is unfair since, sadly, this one has nothing to do with the original. It is simply the same franchise tag. However, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is weaker than its predecessor- 2010’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In that one, we have a charismatic star- James Franco- and an interesting story- the apes are experimented on and their intelligence is a strong angle. With the sequel, the story if rather one note and has a machismo, us against them angle, that is not unique.

The main drawback to this film is the story limitations. All of the characters are portrayed as a) the good and sympathetic humans, b) the evil and destructive humans, c) the good and heroic apes, or finally, d) the evil, bad ape. Everyone is clearly defined for the audience and there is no ambiguity or complexities within the characters. This is a bit limiting. The evil ape Koba is purely bad and the drunken, gun-happy, humans are also purely bad.

This is not to say that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is not enjoyable- it is. It is a fun, entertaining flick. For what it is, it is fine and there is a somewhat message in the film, that there is a way to find peace and love between different species and types of people. Hopefully the audience gets that message.

The film is a summer blockbuster action/sci-fi flick that many will enjoy, however it is clearly plot driven extravaganza that could have been superior had it contained more layers to the story and more shape to some of the characters. It is worth seeing as a visual cinema treat, but scarcely more than that.

Under the Skin-2014

Under the Skin-2014

Director-Jonathan Glazer

Starring-Scarlett Johansson

70293812

Reviewed January 31, 2015

Grade: A

Under the Skin is a tough film to review- in a word it is mysterious. The general consensus is that people either love the film or hate it- it is one of those types films. I love it and it appears on many 2014 top 10 film lists. The visual creativity alone astounds me. To summarize, Scarlett Johansson plays the female alien presumably sent to Earth to meet young men and lure them, using her feminine wiles, into a pool of dark liquid where they are entrapped and subsequently peeled, their skin used for an unknown reason. The oddity of the story is as appealing as it is confusing, but somehow fascinating beyond belief.

The film is set in Glasgow, Scotland, during present times. The film has a cold, dark tone to it and the city itself seems bleak. Johansson, in an unnamed role, takes the clothes of a dead human woman and begins traversing the streets of Glasgow, picking up the men as they walk home or go to the grocery store. She carefully selects men who will not be missed- men who are loners or family-less. As the film goes along Johansson becomes more sympathetic. She yearns to become a human and to do what humans do- she goes to a diner and attempts to eat a delicious slice of cake and vomits the contents. She has a strange man on a motorcycle following her, making sure she completes her assigned tasks. Some of these conclusions are surmised as the lack of dialogue in the film adds to the mystique.

A particularly frightening scene, and my favorite in the film, involves the female alien meeting a swimmer on the beach, who is on holiday in Scotland. Her flirtation with him as she attempts to accost him is thwarted by a family in peril. A father, mother, and infant son are enjoying a day on the secluded beach. Suddenly, their dog begins to drown as the waves become too intense. The mother struggles in panic to swim to the dog and rescue it- the father then does the same. What happens next is very sad and the female alien and the motorcycle man both leave the screaming infant to die without so much as a second glance. This poses a few questions- are they aliens without emotions for human suffering? Do they not care? Do they revel in the misery? Do they simply not realize what is going on? The viewer will ponder these questions and others long after the film ends.

Later, the audience is confused further as the female alien meets a severely deformed man and they bond as she drives him to, presumably, his death. She loves his hands and is fascinated by his tenderness towards her. As they talk she shows signs of caring for a human being as they begin a sweet friendship of sorts. Why does she bond with this disfigured man instead of the more handsome men she meets? Does she in some way relate to him due to her growing feelings of being a misfit and desiring to be human? One wonders.

Visually the film is creative. Spellbinding is the sequences involving the men being submerged in the black fluid as they slowly disappear leaving only the skin. Their transformation is slow, methodical, and imaginative and one relishes in what is going on. The score is reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby in its eeriness and visually the film must have been influenced by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Under the Skin is a fantastic journey through a weird, perplexing, sometimes confusing world, but at all times leaves me thinking and glued to the activity onscreen. It is an art film that breaks barriers and provokes interest and intrigue not catering to mainstream expectations. It is what art films are meant to do- challenge. More films should take risks like these.

The Day the Earth Stood Still-1951

The Day the Earth Stood Still-1951

Director-Ray Wise

Starring-Michael Rennie

60026578

Reviewed August 18, 2014

Grade: B+

The Day the Earth Stood Still is one of the best, most credible, original, science fiction thrillers and certainly stands the test of time considering it is over 60 years old. Made in 1951, the film is a message movie that tells the tale of a spaceship that suddenly arrives on planet earth in the United States capitol of Washington D.C.

Michael Rennie is fantastic as Klaatu, the calm, poised, leader of the spaceship who, along with Gort, a 7 foot tall robot, intend to deliver a message of peace and humanity to the leaders of Earth. The arrival of the spaceship sets off a panic and Klaatu is captured, only to escape and meet local townspeople as he tries to pass himself off as human and deliver his message.

The Day the Earth Stood Still is clearly a liberal slanted, anti-war, pro tolerance and acceptance movie, but also a good, old fashioned black and white science fiction thriller rolled into one. It’s an important film. It is an edgy, questioning film that can easily still be viewed and appreciated today (sad that not much seems to have changed in the world after all of these years). It is political and the setting of Washington D.C. is wise and symbolic.

While a handful of humans are portrayed as intelligent and accepting, the majority of Earth’s human beings, especially politicians, are portrayed as war happy, foolish individuals and the viewer will question the world around him or herself, and hopefully begin to question political decisions and the horrors of war that go on and on and on.

Her-2013

Her-2013

Director-Spike Jonze

Starring-Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johannson

70278933

Reviewed August 5, 2014

Grade: A-

Her is a very unique film that is directed by Spike Jonze. The film tells the tale of a lonely, depressed man named Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, who lives in a beautiful high-rise in futuristic Los Angeles. He works as a writer for a company that creates intimate cards for people in relationships. Having suffered a recent divorce, he then falls in love with his computerized operation system named Samantha, played by Scarlett Johansson- voice only. Conflicts emerge as the relationship deepens and intensifies. Her is a love story so uniquely crafted, but also a story of loneliness and of the world of technology that we now live in.

It portrays human relationships as troubled and unsuccessful yet several characters have wonderful relationships with computers. Is this what the future may really bring with human beings? How many people have fallen in love with a fantasy or a voice on the phone? The film ponders why relationships have been changed due to technological advances and wonders what will happen even further into the future. Technology, while wonderful, has changed our interpersonal relationships and this film successfully delves deeply into that aspect. Conversation is a lost art and Her features the joys and the tragedies of technology. Visually, the film is successful in that it portrays Los Angeles in a sophisticated, ultra sleek, modern way that is fascinating to look at. Several technological games are featured (the Alien child is brilliantly comical) and the “Mom points” fascinating in its irony. Her is a deep film that raises questions and I applaud this in modern cinema.

Her is a slow moving film to be sure, but a questioning one. Her won the 2013 Best Original Screenplay Oscar and I am so glad the academy recognized the originality of this film.

World War Z-2013

World War Z-2013

Director-Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt

70262639

Reviewed June 22, 2013

Grade: B

World War Z is the type of film that is a summer hit and will most likely be forgotten over a couple of years’ time. It is a slightly above average, enjoyable action/ zombie thriller, but really not much more. It stars Brad Pitt as a former United Nations investigator called in to save the world from a zombie pandemic. The crisis is spreading throughout major cities of the world simultaneously.

The film sees Pitt traversing the globe in an attempt to find a cure for the epidemic before it is too late and the zombies make the world extinct of humans. The zombies are super zombies in that they can fly and move at lightning speed making them ultra-dangerous. The story is completely implausible and plot driven, but somehow it doesn’t matter and it works on some level. My theory for this success is that the film is fast paced and the action starts almost immediately and Brad Pitt is charismatic in the film. He is clearly the star and all the action centers around him.

The film contains some very exciting, tense scenes including a plane crash sequence and a chase around a medical lab. World War Z is clearly a popcorn film, meant to be sat back and enjoyed and not overanalyzed or taken too seriously. It is a perfect summer hit.

Alien-1979

Alien-1979

Director-Ridley Scott

Starring-Sigourney Weaver

60029356

Reviewed July 30, 2013

Grade: A-

Alien is a science-fiction success from 1979 that began a long running franchise and made Sigourney Weaver a household name. It has the brilliant direction of Ridley Scott, who sets up the atmosphere and camera angles perfectly. Arguably in the horror genre as well as science-fiction, the film is riveting from start to finish. Weaver stars as Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley, a member of a spaceship returning to Earth. The ship picks up a distress signal and is ordered to investigate. They discover an alien existence. From this point, the film certainly has a horror element to it as the members of the doomed spacecraft are knocked off one by one in pure horror fashion, but the brilliant part is you do not know when or how and many of the deaths come out of nowhere.

The captivating visual effects in this film take it to another level and the narrow spacecraft tunnels and hallways are stunning. The villain of the film, the alien, is masterful as it is mysterious to the audience. The fact that it is only sporadically seen only adds to the tension. Alien is a memorable classic that is high up there on the sci-fi genre list of excellent films.

Slaughterhouse Five-1972

Slaughterhouse Five-1972

Director-George Roy Hill

Starring-Michael Sacks, Ron Leibman

972612

Reviewed August 27, 2013

Grade: A-

Slaughterhouse Five, adapted from the novel of the same name and made in 1972, is a dream-like visual experience through cinematic time.

In the story the main character (Billie Pilgrim) is a World War II soldier who survives a horrific explosion during the war in one period of his life, and he, along with the viewer floats through time to relive, but not change, three other times in his life. It is a first person narrative. As a senior, the most engaging time period, he is transported to a lavish outer space planet where he falls in love with a Goddess.

There is a certain anti-war sentiment to the film and is certainly cerebral, unique and mesmerizing and tough to explain, but it is dreamy and clever and, after 30 plus years, is surprisingly fresh, therefore it should be experienced. It is a science-fiction type of film. My favorite scene is the humorous, yet tragic runaway Cadillac scene.

Altered States-1980

Altered States-1980

Director-Ken Russell

Starring-William Hurt

246472

Reviewed August 30, 2013

Grade: B-

Altered States is a trippy, strange horror/sci-fi hybrid film (William Hurt’s debut film) that is visually quite impressive, but the story is too far-fetched and implausible to be taken seriously. It feels like an earlier version of The Fly, but inferior to that particular film. Hurt plays an abnormal psychology professor obsessed with experimental schizophrenic hallucinatory drugs, which he takes, causing him to ultimately experience episodes of being half man, half ape through the use of a sensory deprivation tank and a strange Indian tribe comes into play. It’s a very silly premise, but somehow is believable to a point, especially in the first act. The ending of the movie proved ridiculous and uninteresting to me and seemed extremely disjointed as an entire film.

Apparently, there were lots of behind the scenes troubles with this film, which could explain the unbalanced feeling. Otherwise, the sporadic weird colors and patterns during the scientist’s episodes were effective. Drew Barrymore’s first film (she plays a toddler).

Aliens-1986

Aliens-1986

Director-James Cameron

Starring-Sigourney Weaver

60029358

Reviewed September 4, 2013

Grade: B+

Aliens takes away the rawness of the original Alien and infuses a glossier, slick look to the film franchise. The film was made 8 years later, but story-wise is set 57 years into the future when Ripley, played to perfection by Sigourney Weaver, awakens. To her horror, she discovers that the aliens have colonized and she is forced to return to prevent havoc. Militia is in tow, adding a helping of masculinity that supports the film throughout. This scenario perfectly sets up what is to become an excellent sci-fi adventure story.

There are wonderful special effects that were quite extraordinary for the time that the film was shot-1986. The tunnels and spacecraft are perfectly lit and designed, giving it a bright and fun setting and the audience knows that doom is lurking. The actual aliens are visually frightening and, compared to the original, are more plentiful. Sigourney Weaver takes center stage and leads this film successfully. I’m not sure many other actresses could pull off her level of authentic toughness and give no sex appeal in the process and successfully get away with it.

The only detraction to this film is it seems a bit dated in a purely 1980’s film way. It has an 80’s look to it and that’s not a positive. Certainly not on par with the superlative original Alien, but otherwise, a well-made, supernatural, thrill ride.

Gravity-2013

Gravity-2013

Director-Alfonso Cuaron

Starring-Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

70274337

Reviewed October 12, 2013

Grade: B

Gravity has become a film that has divided people- some have described the film as “brilliant”, “groundbreaking”, and “phenomenal”.  Due to the hype, I was expecting somewhat of a masterpiece. Not being a 3-D fan (it’s usually unnecessary), I gave in and saw it in 3-D, which did, in fact help the film. I have discovered the theory- the techies will love it, the storytellers will not.

Yes, the film is inventive and the space scenes are magnificent, so much so that I actually felt as though I was floating in space looking down at planet earth. Sandra Bullock is excellent as a lost astronaut fearful and desperate. But, the story was quite basic and, frankly, weak. I kept waiting for the plot to thicken and was left wanting much more than the movie delivered. The backstory for Clooney and Bullock was extremely limited. I must stress, though, that technically this film is astounding and deserves the praise reaped on it, but as a complete movie it did not deliver the goods.