Archive for the ‘Michael Shanks’ Category

MOVIE: Elysium (2013)

September 17, 2013

elysiumAfter watching this movie and pondering it for a few weeks (what, I’ve been busy!), the best word I can come up with to describe it is the word COOL.

This sci-fi fable about the haves and the have-nots in the year 2154 is cool-looking and it’s packed with some very cool ideas.  The main character is even a little Fonz.  But it’s also cool as in “more or less unemotional.”  And I have a few theories as to why.

Matt Damon plays ex-con Max, living on a dusty, desperate Earth and struggling to put his life right after getting out of the slammer, when he gets a toxic dose of radiation and is given 5 days to live.  DANG!

As a kid, he’d stared up at Elysium, a spinning space station just above Earth where all the rich people live, and longed to go there and be rich too.  Since, in addition to buckets of money, they also have these machines that cure every medical problem, Max decides there’s no time like the present, it’s just a question of HOW.  The government of Elysium certainly isn’t going to let some random, scuzzy foreigner aboard.  God, he might breathe on them or something!

The “how” part turns out to be a shady partnership with a criminal named Spider, who outfits Max with a brutally installed robotic exoskeleton (Blomkamp loves robotic exoskeletons), the logistics of which made very little sense to me (it’s installed over his clothes, which is going to make showering AND pooping kind of tricky, though maybe we don’t have to poop anymore in 2154?).  This will keep Max moving (and give him crazy robot strength) long enough for him to catch a nasty CEO from Elysium they know is coming to Earth, stick a metal doo-dad in his head, and download all the Elysium systems info from his brain. That’s a config.sys file worth its weight in gold — they can use it to hack the Elysium computers, make every Earthling an official Elysium citizen, move everybody up there, and let somebody else mow their damn lawns for a change.

The problem with the plan is, well, you know, the plan. For one thing, you should never count on computers when death is on the line (also: don’t go up against Sicilians).  And also, I just really feel like installing a data port with direct access to your brain is a bad idea in general.  Especially if the operation panel for that data port is located on the BACK of your head.  This didn’t really become an issue, but it probably should have.

Anyway.  Everything goes wrong, natch, and Max ends up needing medical attention, which, wonder of wonders!, he receives from his childhood girlfriend, who, wonder of wonders some more!, has a young daughter dying of cancer.  IF ONLY THERE WERE A WAY SHE COULD BE CURED!  You can see where this is headed.

And that’s the problem with this movie.  It is a spectacle, for sure — visually stunning, fast-paced, and very entertaining.  But man, was it ever predictable, not to mention obnoxiously heavy on the “assuming the audience is too dumb to understand metaphors” thing.  Yes, yes, we get it:  class struggle, the immigration situation, hippos need friends too,  CHECK.   We’re not morons, man.

Even worse, though, is the fact that while I was thoroughly entertained until the final moments, when those final moments finally hit, the first  thing I thought to myself was, “Wow, that was fun. . . and I feel nothing.”  Which is pretty weird, really, because not everybody who starts the movie gets to end it, and that ought to have triggered some kind of emotion, right?  It usually does, anyway.  But it didn’t here, and, for me anyway, Max’s old girlfriend is to blame for it.  That character, her daughter, and that entire storyline got in the way of the movie more than they contributed to it. There wasn’t enough time to strongly establish an authentic emotional bond — all the flashbacks to childhood in the world aren’t going to result in instant believable chemistry between two people in the present, and not only did I not care about their relationship, I didn’t care about her or her daughter either.  Or Max, really, for that matter.  I mean, he’s a nice guy, but his character is kind of a dime a dozen in sci-fi action movies, know what I mean?

Also, for the record: Jodie Foster WTF?  The only good thing about her in this film is her butt (which, incidentally, looked truly amazing in that suit).

Lastly, there were a lot of things in this movie that didn’t make much sense.   I don’t want to get too nitpicky here because, after all, it’s sci-fi, not sci-fact.  But let’s take, for example, those all-healing medical pods.  They can put a guy back together whose head was literally blown to smithereens, but they can’t help the guy whose brain gets damaged by a data download?  Why is that?  <– Rhetorical question, because we already know the answer is  “The first guy needed to come back to life for the plot to work, and the second guy needed to die for the same reason.”  Man, I hate it when that happens.

Additionally, the rebel plan appears to be shipping everyone from Earth to Elysium — equality at last!  But if we send everybody up to Elysium, doesn’t Elysium just turn into Earth?  I mean, you can’t magically fix dystopia with a change of scenery, even if that scenery features perfectly cut grass.  Speaking of which, I also found it  hard to imagine why anybody would want to live on Elysium in the first place.  It’s like Stepford Circle up there, first of all, and immortality in a land of perfection sounds like the boringest thing of all time.  I mean, I’m impatient with life already, and I’m only 39!  Just imagine if you had to go live on a space station with a few hundred thousand Kevin Costners and Nicole Kidmans.  Would YOU want to get in that medical pod?  Me neither.

Anyway, my point is that this movie is really, really entertaining.  It is!  I swear!  But that’s about all there is to it. It’s big and blasty and exciting and ROBOT EXOSKELETONS!, but there’s no meat to it at all, and the meat substitute Blomkamp tries to shove down our throats in lieu of actual meat is just. . . blech.  As meat substitutes tend to be.

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre: Sci-fi (not Sci-FACT!)
Cast: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, William Fichtner, Alice Braga, Sharlto Copley, Diego Luna, Michael Shanks

MOVIE: Arctic Blast (2010)

May 13, 2012

So, I recently saw both The Descendants with George Clooney and The Iron Lady with Meryl Streep.  They were both pretty much exactly what I was expecting (brilliant and quirky for the first, fascinating and somewhat morally complicated for the second).  For some reason, though, possibly that I feel they’ve already been reviewed half to death, I just haven’t felt like writing about either of them.  Suffice it to say, what you’ve already heard:  very true.  Whatever it was.

THIS movie, on the other hand, warrants the full treatment.  Why?  Because it’s SO much more fun to review good-bad movies than it is to review good-good ones.  So much more to mock!  So much more to dissect!  So much more incredibly crappy CGI to marvel over!

Now, obviously, I recently spent some time with my mother — long-time readers of this site will recognize Arctic Blast as a hallmark Meg + Mom movie.  She was down for the weekend a week ago and we found this gem on Netflix streaming and sat down to give it a shot.

As you may be aware, disaster movies always follow the same format, and this one is no exception to the rules.  What makes a disaster movie good-bad versus bad-bad though, is what the writer and director do with the characters, how tolerable the acting is, and whether the science makes ANY sense whatsoever (we will often settle for the science ATTEMPTING to make any sense whatsoever, though).

First: the formula.

Disaster movies usually have the same set two primary characters:  a very smart scientist coupled with either a political or military official. As each film opens, the scientist discovers an impending disaster of some sort and tries to report it, only to be foiled by the official, a character my Mom and I simply refer to as “The Mayor of Amity” character (Jaws fans know what I’m talking about here), who will refuse to accept whatever the scientist has said and claim said scientist is either incompetent or trying to make trouble.

Then, of course, the disaster will strike, the scientist will offer to assist, the Mayor of Amity will tell him they already have it under control, the Mayor’s plan will fail miserably, the Mayor will beg the scientist for help at the last minute, the scientist will put his plan into action, and the world will be saved.

In the case of Arctic Blast, the disaster is a sudden disintegration of the protective ozone layer over Australia, caused by a solar eclipse (which, what??).  The hole lets escape a blast of sub-zero temperatures from the atmospheric level just above it, striking the Earth and flash-freezing anything in its path. When the scientist, Jack Tate (played by Michael Shanks), tries to warn Australian officials, the dude in charge, Winslaw (Bruce Davison from the X-Men movies) tells him what he’s saying is absolutely ridiculous and makes no sense whatsoever (I would tend to agree, but that’s beside the point here).

Then the arctic blast kills two teenagers on a beach, nearly taking Jack’s daughter along with them and making it impossible for Mayor of Amity Winslaw to continue to ignore the impending doom.  As the hole begins to widen and more and more of Australia freezes to death, Winslaw finally tells the public to brace themselves for a devastating “cold snap” (putting it mildly) and has his people draw up a plan involving a multi-rocket strike to close the hole.

WHICH, fails miserably, of course, WHICH leads him to beg Jack to come up with a better plan.  WHICH he does.  WHICH works.  WHICH saves the planet.  Roll credits.

Though it may SOUND like a bad-bad movie, Mom and I rated this one as undeniably good-bad instead.  The acting is passable (Shanks and Davison are both talented dudes, and, of course, Shanks is an Ex-Boyfriend of the Week to boot) and the writer put in just enough science to make it all seem moderately well thought-out, but not so much we were sitting there rolling our eyes and/or pausing the movie periodically to look at each other and go, “HUH?”

All in all, this was an entertaining addition to the ever-growing, never-ceasing, always-popular disaster genre. (“Always popular?” you ask. Yes! A Hollywood Video manager once told us these types of low-budget disaster films were among the most-rented flicks in her store!) And old fans of Stargate SG-1 will enjoy seeing Shanks in a similar role — the gentle, passionate nerd.  Thumbs up!

[Netflix it (available on Watch Now only)]

Cast:  Michael Shanks, Alexandra Davies, Bruce Davison, Indiana Evans