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Dark City Movie Review

Dark City is a Film Noire Detective story and Matrix-esque Science fiction movie by the director of ‘The Crow‘. My reaction on watching it was ‘How did I miss this?!’ In 1998, with so many good movies being released and poorly publicized as a teen horror flick, Dark City passed under the radar. In a way it is unfair to describe Dark City as ‘Matrix-esque’, since it predates The Matrix, it would be fairer to say The Matrix is like Dark City.

So, what do they have in common? They are both movies about not trusting/questioning your reality. But I would personally say Dark City goes further with the concept, since it is not just about questioning the current situation, but your past, your memories and the essence of who you are. Non-human ‘agents’ who can manipulate the world chase the protagonist (the roof-top chase in both movies are strangely similar). There’s also a mental training scene. The protagonist is special, one might almost say, unique. *wink*

The point is not to do a direct comparison of the movies, but had things gone differently, Dark City could easily have had the reception the Matrix later received with it’s somewhat derivative knock-off.

The antagonists of Dark City are strange alien beings call ‘the Strangers’ that look like a cross between the Cenobites of Hellraiser and the Gentlemen from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They re-shape the world by an ability they call ‘tuning’. They want to understand humans by taking them apart and putting them back together again, giving them different memories and different lives, to locate the soul. I liked this inhuman motivation. What I didn’t like was that it’s inserted that they need to do this to survive, but it is never explained how this will save them. Are we supposed to feel sorry for them now? I think I would have found their experiments more sinister if it was simply something they wanted, rather than needed, to do.

The cast is a stellar team of mostly British film and TV actors. It’s likely you’ll recognise quite a few of them, even if you have trouble placing from where – which fits the mood of misplaced memories. Rufus Sewell plays John Murdoch; he was part way through the ‘tuning’ when something went wrong and is trying to discover who he really is. Jennefer Connely, of Labyrinth fame, is the female lead and it’s interesting to note that Labyrinth imagery turns up a lot in the movie. I think this is symbolic of the journey to find oneself. Connelly also sings some beautify, offbeat versions of well-know songs. I wonder if these slightly ‘off’ versions are also due to reality being messed with?

The atmosphere in the movie is impressive. It is always night (“What was the last time you remember doing something during the day?”) and the entire enormous City is an intricately built set. When reality is altered the special effect is impressive and eerie. Dark City is effective at world-building and the back story unravels as mystery. You see other minor characters in the background in different roles as clues [SPOILER] that their memories have been altered and they are now living different lives as the Strangers experiment every night. Small visual clues are scattered throughout so rewatching is rewarding to see what you missed. A seemingly insignificant memory from the past leads to an earth-shattering plot-twist.

If you like beautiful, dark, dreamlike imagery then this is for you. If you like conceptual sci-fi that asks you to question the nature of your reality then this is for you.

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Wizards (1977) Movie Review

Wizards (1977) is a cult animated movie by Raph Bakshi which combines the post-apocalyptic and fairy tale setting. The titular ‘Wizards’ are twins that look nothing alike: Avatar is a Ginger Gnome whilst the other, Blackwolf, bears a striking resemblance to an Undead Saruman. And guess what? One is good and one is evil – but which?

Wizards 1977-Epic-Fail-Review (5)
War Machine.
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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Movie Review

I reviewed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug but I put off reviewing Battle of the Five Armies for a long time because I find it rather upsetting to watch. It feels a bit like this movie is trolling me. It has some nice scenes particularly as Martin Freeman does an excellent performance as Bilbo, parts of the movie are very beautiful and well executed but then it will pull some bullsh*t to just ruin everything! Mainly it is CGI battle stunts which are the offenders. We got some of that in The Desolation of Smaug but Battle of the Five Armies is worse, possibly because CGI battles are the meat of the movie. There’s also too much filler which includes the Tauriel/Kili/Legolas love triangle and (shudder) Alfred.

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So this made the cut but some of Tolkien’s original work didn’t. Good call. NOT!
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Moon (2009) Movie Review

Moon, directed by Duncan Jones son of David Bowie, is a 2009 science fiction movie with a very small cast, in fact it almost entirely features one character with the only other human characters appearing on video (of which there are roughly four). This is because Sam Bell works entirely alone on the moon to provide energy for Earth with the aid of computers and a AI/robot called GERTY. Besides that he has no one but himself for company and himself to rely on 😉

moon-2009-movie-review-sam-rockwell-moon-buggy

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Movie Review

hobbit-desolation-of-smaugI have to eat my words here. In my review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (which I loved) I said I didn’t care how much they milked the Lord of the Rings franchise. Well I take it back! You’ve milked enough! No more milk for you – I’m cutting you off.

It’s difficult being the middle child in a film trilogy, and Desolation for me felt like a really long set up for Battle of Five Armies. It doesn’t resolve anything by the end, saving it for the next movie, which left me feeling unsatisfied. I have read the book so I feel they could have reached a resolution here whilst still having a cliffhanger and plenty of conflict left for the finale. This would have made it feel more like a complete and satisfying movie in and of itself.

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Logan’s Run Movie Review

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Logan’s Run is my 2nd favourite movie of all time (FYI my first is Labyrinth). Now I’m going to explain why.

Logan’s Run is a Science Fiction movie made in the 1970’s. It is set in a post-apocalyptic future where humans have sealed themselves in a domed city. The city is a utopia, automated systems provide all of life’s necessities leaving mankind free to pursue an existence of pure hedonism, but there’s a catch: nobody lives past 30. It’s Logan’s job, as a ‘Sandmen’, to kill anyone who tries. These people are known as Runners.

logans-run-flame-gun

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Star Trek Into Darkness Movie Review

I watched Star Trek: Into Darkness on my Birthday and really enjoyed the experience as did everyone who watched it with me. The core actors really have the bit in their teeth and do an even better job at delivering these well-known characters than they did before which is good because Into Darkness invites comparisons. In some cases they are Chris Pine and Zachery Quinto are delivering the same lines previously spoken by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, but always with a twist. Star Trek: Into Darkness is an ‘alternate reality’ Trek following the new time-line established in Star Trek (2009), so it continues to explore the idea of change and consequence a la the Next Generation‘s episode Tapestry. It’s the same yet different, and we see how the characters differing experiences affect them, shaping their characters and sending their lives in new directions.

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Primarily Into Darkness is an action movie; it moves from one fast-paced scene to the next with nary a pause, but they keep it fresh by changing the location and type of action. The scenery and special effects are just beautiful; often very colourful I’m sure they are borrowing from the 1960’s Original Series colour palette. It’s a refreshing change from the often all-too-grey movies we are seeing nowadays and gives it its own unmistakable style. Nicely done!

However, the fact that I liked the film isn’t going to prevent me from ripping it a new one! There’s much to praise but there’s also much to criticise. Into Darkness is an exciting, visceral experience but beneath the action, special effects and lens flares it has more holes than a wheel of swiss cheese.

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The Hobbit: An unexpected Journey Movie Review

It’s winter, and with the cold weather and darker days it’s not unusual to feel a bit down in the dumps. That is how I was feeling when I went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey but it succeeded in lifting my spirits. It is the story Bilbo Baggins, a fussy, stay-at-home Hobbit who has barely been beyond his front door, that is until Gandalf the wizard volunteers him to join an adventure with 13 Dwarves as their ‘burglar’. It is a feel-good film with a lot of humour and a satisfying conclusion, even though it is the first instalment of three films.

Bilbo Baggins is going on an adventure!
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Movie Review: Gamerz

Gamerz Movie PosterGamerz (spelt with a ‘Z’ to distinguish it from the -much better- The Gamers) is a Scottish indie movie about fantasy role-play gaming (RPGs). I was particularly enthusiastic to see this movie because it’s a British production and I am a British gamer. However it wasn’t what I expected because it isn’t really about gaming, it is a character piece about disparate people from different backgrounds being brought together and the relationships/conflicts which occur between them. The game is a vehicle to bring the characters together.

Gamerz follows Ralph, an extremely isolated young nerd whose parents died in a car crash. He is bullied and downtrodden so escapes into his imagination, creating his own fantasy world in which he is in complete control. When he starts University he takes over the role-play society and becomes Game Master, running an adventure campaign using his own setting and his own rules. The players hang on his every word. Ralph falls for the society’s only female gamer, Marlyn, a sexy Goth who, unfortunately, is as mad as a box of frogs. Also one of the bullys from Ralph’s neighbourhood – the drug-dealing, car-jacking Lennie – wants in on the role-playing action. He, too, is attracted to Marlyn, and soon things start to spin out of Ralph’s control. Will his house of cards come tumbling down?