20150908: Action Review--Alien Outpost

Name: Alien Outpost
IMDb: Alien Outpost main page

Genres: Action, SciFi, Thriller  Origins: UK, South Africa.   Release: 2014.

Cast: Joe Reegan as Omohundro, Adrian Paul as General Dane, Brandon Auret as Savino, Reily McClendon as Andros,  Douglas Tate as The Heavy, Rick Ravanello as Spears, Matthew Holmes as North, Sven Ruygrok as Frankie.

Directed by: Jabbar Raisani.  Written by: Blake Clifton, Jabbar Raisani.

The Three Acts: 

Initial Tableau: Earth has been invaded, somewhat successfully.  The United Space Defense Force (USDF, not much to do with the once United States) was formed to respond after most human governments were rendered useless. Strong counter-attacks by the USDF sent most of the aliens packing, but bastions of aliens remain.   USDF funding dropped after the departure of most of the aliens, and the further fall of the world economy.  However, a reduced number of aliens are still about and are still dangerous.  The USDF does what it can on a shoestring budget.  The main action of the film is set in territory once part of an Islamic nation, probably Pakistan or Afghanistan since the locals speak Pashto.  The year is 2033.

Delineation of Conflicts:  The USDF personnel have to fight the aliens in a high-tech (aliens) versus low-tech (USDF) setting.  The USDF has to deal with the often unfriendly locals in a low-tech versus no-tech setting.  The particular outpost where the action occurs has to deal with shortages of munitions, trained (or any) replacement troops, food, and weapons.  The support of the outpost from distant, better funded bases seems spotty at best.  Are the outposts and the bases even on the same team?

Who will 'win' the wars of attrition? Will it be the desert, the locals, the USDF, or the aliens?  Or will the USDF and the aliens lose to the patient desert?  Will there be any changes in alliances?

Resolution: Well, watch the film.

One line summary: Earth military vs stranded aliens.


Cinematography: 5/10 This varies widely through the progress of the film.  Some of the CGI is well done; some is not.  The shaky cam footage is counter-productive as always.  The segments of traditional filming were reasonably well done.

Sound: 8/10 Usually good.

Acting: 7/10 Most of the players I have not seen perform before, but most of them did rather well.

Screenplay: 5/10 The elements of the film are not all that well put together.  This includes: CGI intervals, ex post facto troop interviews that were expertly shot, intertitles with expository text held onscreen for long periods, discussions among troops during ordinary times (cleaning guns, washing dishes, sleeping, and so on), and shaky cam action sequences.

Final Rating: 6/10

20150908: SciFi review--Infini

Name: Infini (2015)
IMDb: Infini main page

Genres: Horror presented as science fiction.

Cast: Daniel MacPherson as Whit Carmichael, Luke Ford as Chester Huntington, Grace Huang as Claire Grenich, Luke Hemsworth as Charlie Kent, Bren Foster as Morgan Jacklar, Harry Pavlidis as Harris Menzies, Dwaine Stevenson as Rex Mannings, Louisa Mignone as Philipa Boxen, Tess Haubrich as Lisa Carmichael, Kevin Copeland as Seet Johanson.

Written and Directed by: Shane Abbess.

The Three Acts:

The initial tableau: The film is set in the 23rd century, in some branch of our current timeline.  The greatest source of wealth is mining in interstellar space.  Travel is done by slipstreaming; that is, one encodes people as information, then sends the information via FTL transmission; at the destination, the information is decoded into people.  Some of the mining sites 'enjoy' high gravity and very noticeable time dilation relative to Earth.  One such site is struck by disaster.

An unexpected number of cascading failures forces a search and rescue team to search for any survivors, as well as a way to stop a scheduled payload from colliding with Earth.

Delineation of conflicts: Much of Earth's interstellar travel infrastructure has been destroyed.  Earth itself needs to be saved from a scheduled collision of terminal strength.  One of the unexpected failures that prompted the mission was a breakout of fast acting deadly plague.  How many of the team will survive, given that those infected all turn violent and do their best to kill anyone else?  Will anyone figure out the plague, if that is indeed what it is?

Resolution:  Well, watch the film.  This one has a fairly rousing conclusion.

One line summary: Horror presented as science fiction.

  a. Cinematography: 6/10 This is a mixed bag.  Much of the film is dark or sad-looking with a strongly depleted palette.  Other parts have sufficient light, good framing, nice focus, and reasonable set design. Here and there shaky cam showed its ugly head.

  b. Sound: 8/10 The dialog is clear, and the background music is fine for the situations.

  c. Acting: 7/10 Harry Pavlidis, Luke Ford, and Daniel MacPherson were rather good.  Most of the other actors were not on camera that much.

  d. Screenplay: 5/10 The central cliches are present; that is, of horror that is presented as science fiction.

Final rating: 6/10


20150907: Horror Review--The Pact II

The Pact II
  1. Fundamentals.
    1. Title: The Pact II
    2. IMDb: Users rated this 4.3/10 (1,711 votes)
    3. Rotten Tomatoes:
      25% of critics liked it of 8 critical reviews posted
      15% of viewers liked it from 227 viewer ratings
      Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

    4. Status: Released
    5. Release date: 2014-09-05
    6. Production Companies: Preferred Film & TV
    7. Tagline: It's Starting Again...

    8. Budget:  Budget estimate not available at review time.
    9. Revenue: Revenue figures not available at review time.
    10. Runtime: 96 minutes.
    11. Genres: Mystery, Horror, Thriller

    12. Written and directed by: Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath.

    13. Starring: Camilla Luddington as June Abbott, Caity Lotz as Annie Barlow, Scott Michael Foster as Officer Daniel Meyer, Haley Hudson as Stevie, Amy Pietz as Maggie Abbott, Patrick Fischler as FBI agent Terrence Ballard, Nicki Micheaux as Lt. Eileen Carver

    14. TMDb overview: The sequel is set just weeks after Annie Barlow's deadly confrontation with the Judas Killer. In this elevated sequel, we meet June, a woman whose carefully constructed life is beginning to unravel due to lucid nightmares so awful they disturb her waking life.

  2. The three acts.

    1. Setting the initial tableau: June is an artist who illustrates the dark visions she has.  She is also a crime scene cleaner for hire.  The film opens to her scrubbing up the mess in Annie's apartment after the first film.  Some weeks later, there is a semi-copycat killing.  June's boyfriend is Officer Meyer from the local police force.  Early on, they squabble about June's spending time with her mother Maggie.  He tells her about the latest bloody crime, and the arrival of FBI agent Ballard.  He agrees to recommend her as the cleaner for this latest mess.

    2. Delineation of conflicts:  Maggie has many needs, and expects daughter June to fulfill them, but she is not that good at notification in regards to scheduling.  June gets tired of her professional schedule being squeezed.  Officer Meyer thinks the FBI agent Ballard is a high-handed pain; Ballard thinks Daniel is a low level factotum.  June keeps venting her dark visions through illustration, and lets Ballard know her low opinion of him.  Ballard has plenty of demands for Lt Carver, but little to offer in return.

      Ballard delivers some information bombshells to June about her mother and her connection to the original crimes of the Judas Killer. This increases June's distress, and everyone's hard feelings in general.  As one might expect from such films, more bad things start to happen.

      As the second act deepens, the petty irritations are still there, but pale in comparison to the quest to identify and stop the murderer.  Is June the murderer, or perhaps Ballard?  Is the supernatural truly involved, or do we have odd behaviour due to stress?  Will it actually help to bring Annie and Stevie (both from the first film) back to consult?

    3. Resolution: Well, watch the film.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Murders continue in the sequel.
    2. Three of ten.  Early on I thought 6/10, but the jump scares, shaky cam, the back biting, and the screenplay in general wore me down to 4/10.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 4/10 The film has the TV movie-of-the-week look.  This is not a compliment.  It has a few passages of shaky cam, which never fares well with me. 

    2. Sound: 3/10 I can hear the actors, which is sometimes a good thing.  The background music does contribute some creepiness.  However, jump scares are what I consider cheap jack stupid tricks: the viewer is shocked by slamming into a sudden upward facing cliff of sound.  Worse yet, the residue of each such collision is that the protagonist looks like a weakling or a fool; neither of these makes me more interested in the film.

    3. Acting: 4/10 I predict that this film will receive no award nominations for good acting.  None of the players were terribly bad, but the director did not get good performances either.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10  On the one hand, there was nothing inventive or new.  On the other hand, there were plenty of cliches, irritation instead of suspense, unexplained phenomena, and unconcluded conversations.


20150906: Comedy Review--Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Name: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
IMDb: Hitchhiker's Guide main IMDb page

Genres: Comedy, Adventure, SciFi, Romance

Cast: Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) as Ford Prefect, Zooey Deschanel as Trillian, Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox, Anna Chancellor as Questular Rontok, John Malkovich as Humma Kavula, Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin, Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast, Helen Mirren as voice of Deep Thought, Stephen Fry as Narrator.

Written by: Douglas Adams (novel); Douglas Adams and Karey Kirkpatrick (screenplay).
Directed by: Garth Jennings.

The Three Acts

1. The Initial Tableau: We start on Earth, where an ordinary fellow (Arthur Dent) soon discovers that his house is about to be demolished for the sake of a bypass.  His friend Ford Prefect drops by to inform him that Earth is about to be blown up.  While Arthur's house is completely demolished, Ford prepares him for leaving Earth.  During this short stint, Arthur tells Ford about his feeling of loss over Tricia McMillan, whom he had recently met.  However, she ran off with some fellow who claimed he had a spaceship.  Ford and Arthur barely escape before Earth is destroyed.

2. Delineation of Conflicts: The Vogons do indeed blow up the Earth.  Ford and Arthur are tortured by having to listen to Vogon poetry.  They are about to be executed because Arthur insulted the poetry written by the torturer.  By a massive coincidence (one of many), they are rescued by Zaphod Beeblebox, the president of the galaxy, and Trillian, who once called herself Tricia McMillan.  So, all is well, and the film ends, right?

Well, no. Arthur learns that Ford and Zaphod are old friends and also aliens from worlds other than Earth.  Ford is a writer who is doing research for a new edition of Hitchhiker's Guide.  Zaphod had stolen the one vastly expensive ship Heart of Gold whose engine is the improbability drive.  Rontok is after Zaphod for kidnapping the president (Zaphod; figure that one), and she sends the Vogons after him.  Zaphod has some unfinished business with Humma Kavula (his previous political opponent), which causes him to search out Deep Thought and ask for a particular gun that Humma demands.  While with Deep Thought, we get entangled with the quest for the question to life, the universe, and everything.  Deep Thought knows the answer (42), but not the question.  Zaphod, Arthur, and Trillian wrangle about why she left Earth (and Arthur) with Zaphod, and about who ordered Earth to be destroyed.  The clinically depressed robot Marvin laments all the pieces.

3. Resolution: Some issues are resolved in this film.  The book that spawned the film was only the first in a series, after all.  When Arthur meets Slartibartfast (played brilliantly by Bill Nighy), the third act takes off.  Slartibartfast works for a concern that builds planets.  Perhaps all this could be put back together, but will it?

One line summary: Slow start, strong finish.

a. Cinematography: 10/10 Taken as a whole, this is a beautiful film.  Even the charts were a visual asset.

b. Sound: 8/10 The dialog is clear, and background sound added to the proceedings.

c. Acting: 8/10 Malkovich was brilliant in a small role, as were Rickman, Mirren, and Fry as voice actors.  Bill Nighy gave a wonderful performance.  I liked Ms Deschanel better than I usually do.  Mr Freeman played the character he usually plays, an ill-equipped ordinary being who somehow perseveres to see tough goals achieved.  So, he was a fine choice to play Arthur Dent.

d. Screenplay: 6/10 This is an odd duck.  The beginning was so slow it almost demanded yawns.  However, the building of context through the film led to a brilliant and dense comedic impact in the last 20 minutes.  The start, though, was so bad that the wife and I nearly abandoned the film to watch, well, anything else.  I am glad to have stuck with it, but would not watch it again.

Final Rating: 8/10