Annihilation


Viewed – 18 March 2018  Netflix

As much as I’m a fan of Natalie Portman, I confess to not really seeking out her stuff since the acclaimed Black Swan … strange when I consider that one of the best movies of the last ten years.  So I jumped at the chance to check out this latest Netflix Original movie.  Portman plays a biological scientist who following the mysterious disappearance of her military officer husband (Oscar Isaac) gets recruited by a government organisation headed by Dr Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh).  You see, a strange alien encounter has occurred affecting a now closed off area where a strange vapour has cut communications and anyone who has ventured inside, has not come back.

Annihilation

This gritty and scarily-convincing sci-fi drama is helmed by Alex Garland, the man who made Ex Machina, another great thought-provoking piece of sci-fi.  This guy clearly understands his subject and has delivered another very effective experience.  The entire movie has a tone to it that’s rather dream-like and sometimes messes with one’s head; trying to figure out what’s real and what’s not.  Add to this flashbacks exploring Portman’s and Isaac’s relationship, with several revelations along the way and this proves a meatier story than it first appears.  The alien ‘presence’ and how it effects the female scientists who go looking for answers is also handled imaginatively and gives an interesting spin on the whole alien-encounter subject, with truly unnerving possibilities.

It takes a while to get going, and is marred by some questionable CGI, and the logic behind the expedition left me a tad puzzled.  However, with strong performances across the board, especially an excellent Portman – this is well worth checking out … especially if you’re after something that will leaving you really thinking afterwards.

Verdict:  4 /5

Arrival


Viewed – 17 November 2016  Cinema

I went into this in the hope of something a bit different.  The trailer promised a more realistic version of say, Independence Day with less bombastic action and more character and believability.  Well thankfully that’s exactly what I got … and more.

Amy Adams

Amy Adams, easily one of my favourite actresses right now plays a linguistics professor who following the arrival of a series of immense objects at various locations across the globe is called in by the military to help communicate with the ‘aliens’.  The opening scenes of this movie were very well done, memories of a baby, who grows into a little girl, interspersed with the stark reality of the arrival, news footage, global panic and a incredible feeling of dread … gave this a different, more human feel than what I’d normally expect from such material.  It clearly was focusing of Amy Adam’s character and how her experiences might guide her through a very challenging and uncomfortable experience.  Jeremy Renner, another favourite plays a scientist on hand to assist Adam and help her figure out a strange language.  Now I’ll admit I was never fully on board with how they start communicating and translating what is basically a series of circular shapes, but well … Hollywood.  Yet the performances here, suitably ominous direction and some clever-ass writing made this a great deal more than I was anticipating.  The first half of the movie is a tad slow and I was thinking this was getting a bit boring … but then a twist changes all of that and made me re-think much of what I’d seen and well, brought in comparisons to Interstellar … which is all I’ll say on that.

For an intelligent, at times poetic alien invasion movie, and with strong performances across the board with only the translation thing my only nit-pic then I’d say check this one out.

Verdict:  4 /5

10 Cloverfield Lane


Viewed – 16 August 2016  Online rental

I really liked Cloverfield, one of those hand-held shaky cam movies that are like marmite to some people … it was a tense, thrilling take on ye-old alien invasion plot and the prospect of a sequel although not something I expected, certainly appealed.  Then I was to learn that this movie bares very little resemblance or connection to that movie other than the word Cloverfield. So I suppose I went into this not really knowing what to expect.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs The World) plays a woman seemingly running out on her boyfriend, but on route to wherever, is involved in a car crash – and soon wakes up in an underground bunker under the watchful eye of John Goodman’s ‘Howard’.  Howard’s a bit creepy though and fears she’s been kidnapped come immediately to mind until he starts saying the world has become contaminated and some sort of incident has occurred on the surface.

I liked this set up.  Claustrophobic, with just these characters for company.  Helped then that we get some strong performances, especially Goodman who drifts unnervingly between creepy, likeable and psychotic, leaving this viewer constantly trying to figure out his agenda.  Winstead is also very good and rather resourceful as a woman who clearly knows how to make the best of a bad situation.  However the movie stumbles a little in it’s characterisation … it deliberately vague about who these characters are which proves frustrating, especially as with Goodman you never know what to believe.  Also where the movie ends up going is particularly predictable even if the final scene proves quite thrilling.

Overall I had a good time with this.  It threw in some surprises (especially a bit involving a barrel), I enjoyed watching things play out and the tension was pretty thick at times.  I still have no clue what’s the significance of the word Cloverfield is though.

Verdict:  3 /5

Dead Space 2 impressions


I loved Dead Space.  That perfect blend of gory shooter action, Silent Hill-like psychological scares, and a healthy nod to movies like Alien and Event Horizon.  It was also damn hard in places, something that can’t be said for many games today.  So the sequel was an instant purchase, and to say I’m impressed, well …

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Aliens


Viewed – 30 July 2008  DVD

Special edition

Having not watched this movie in a long while, and actually not having seen the extended special edition at all; with the recent purchase of the Alien Quadrilogy box set, I thought I’d give it a look.

James (Terminator 2, Titanic, True Lies) Cameron’s 1986 sci-fi action movie is the follow up to Ridley Scott’s seminal Alien, and turns a slow-burning horror movie into a gung-ho marines in space testosterone-fest.  Sigourney Weaver’s iconic heroin Ellen Ripley wakes up 57 years after the first film, only to discover that a colony of settlers on the same planet that the alien was discovered originally, have ceased communication.  Knowing that something may have gone horribly wrong, she leads a band of tough, cocky Marines on a search and rescue mission, only to come face to face with a  nest of the deadly, vicious xenomorphs – and a battle for survival commences.

What makes this such a memorable movie is a great cast, with Weaver joined by Cameron regulars Michael Biehn & Bill Paxton, as well as a stand-out Lance Henrickson as android ‘Bishop’.  Now compared to much sci-fi or any action movie of the time, this is all played VERY seriously, with a gruelling 2hr 35 minute run time, but the story and the atmosphere is solid stuff and I personally never got bored.  Ok, it takes a while for the action to kick in, but by this time we’re already hooked by the characters and their situation, and the pyrotechnics are just the icing on the cake.  This extended version adds some back story to little girl ‘Newt’ and some references to Ripley’s daughter, but don’t really make for a radically different film so if you’ve only seen the theatrical cut…you’re still seeing the best this movie has to offer – and the ending is stuff of cinematic legend.

Verdict: 4 /5