20161031: Drama Review--Magnolia

Name: Magnolia (1999)
IMDb: link to Suspicion page

Genres: Drama   Country of origin: USA.

Tom Cruise as Frank TJ Mackey, Jason Robards as Earl Partridge, Julianne Moore as Linda Partridge, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Phil Parma, John C. Reilly as Jim Kurring, Henry Gibson as Thurston Howell, William H. Macy as Donnie Smith, Alfred Molina as Solomon Solomon, Philip Baker Hall as Jimmy Gator, Melora Walters as Claudia Wilson Gator, Melinda Dillon as Rose Gator, Jeremy Blackman as Stanley Spector, Michael Bowen as Rick Spector.

Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson.  Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson.
Tom Cruise as Frank TJ Mackey
The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
The film opens with voiceover describing three silent vignettes shot in sepia.  Each vignette describes a situation that involves coincidences that one sees are not coincidences upon explanation.

We step forward to the actual motion picture, with no voiceover, full colour presentation, and modest camera work.  There are a small number of groups of people living their lives in Los Angeles toward the end of the twentieth century.

Frank Mackey is a speaker for hire who specializes in charging lots of money to help men hone their skills at finding women willing to have sex with them.  He has support staff for his presentations, and people who answer the phones for him.

Earl Partridge is busy dying.  His young wife Linda is not handling it well.  Male nurse Phil Parma tries his best to listen to what Earl wants as the end nears.  The four dogs stay near Earl and Phil.

Jimmy Gator has a long running game show that pits three adults versus three children in a contest of depth of knowledge about anything under the sun.  The star of the show is young Stanley Spector, whose depth in so many areas is marvelous. His father, however, is just demanding.  Jimmy's daughter Claudia is a bit of a lost soul.

Donnie Smith was once a game show wunderkind.  However, he was struck by lightning in early adulthood, and lost his mental coherence.  To make things worse for Donnie, his parents absconded with his earnings and frittered the money away.  He has difficulties retaining a job.

Delineation of conflicts:
Frank has a media interview which proves difficult, and which pushes him toward his past, including Earl, his biological father.  Phil tries to get in touch with Frank to let him know that Earl is dying.

Jimmy tries to patch things up with Claudia and to come clean about a few issues with Rose.  Jimmy also has health problems, which come out sideways on his game show.  The unnatural pressure placed on Stanley causes a huge disruption in the game show, and gives Stanley some much needed courage.

Claudia goes on a drug binge after a loud screaming match with her father Jimmy.  The noise she generates on her stereo prompts calls to the police by her neighbors.  Jim Kurring catches the assignment from LAPD dispatch.  Jim's civility and calm decency confront Claudia's seemingly limitless rage.

Donnie tries to connect with his unadvised romantic target, who is a handsome bartender at a local bar.  He has no leverage, and looks incredibly stupid versus Thurston Howell, who is rich and has better success vis a vis the same target.  Donnie's drunken failure sends him off to another even bigger act of desperation.

Linda's guilt from mistreating the much older Earl during their marriage sends her down the road of desperation as well.  Can this be fixed?

Frank finally gets done with his interview and hears that his dying father wishes to see him.  Does he make it in time?

Intervention, in the forms of the LAPD and a rain of frogs, stops and reverses some of the foolishness.

Resolution: The threads come together skillfully.

One line summary: Clever ensemble piece.
Frogs falling from the sky


Cinematography: 4/10 Bucket of shit.  Why the hell do I have an HD monitor for this VHS crap?

Sound: 10/10 I could hear the dialog, and much of the background music was delicious.

Acting: 10/10 Fine acting by a at least ten of the fine cast coupled with skillful direction.

Screenplay: 10/10 Nicely done.  The concluding actions appear a little weird at times, but not silly or preachy.  The three hours and eight minutes did not drag.

Final Rating: 8/10


20161027: Comics Review--Mad Max Fury Road

Name: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
IMDb: link to Mad Max: Fury Road page

Genres: Action   Country of origin: AU, US

Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, Hugh Keays-Byrne as Immortan Joe, John Howard as The People Eater, Richard Carter as The Bullet Farmer, Nicholas Hoult as Nux.

Directed by: George Miller.  Written by: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris (screenplay).
Max, Furiosa
The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
Max gets caught by a colony (the Citadel) which exists in a desert of heat and nothing.  The colony has water, and produces edible food.  It trades with the Bullet Farm, which has lead and gun technology, and Gas Town, which has petrol and the like.

Imperator Furiosa decides to take a new direction.  She leads a run to Gas Town and the Bullet Farm, but takes five young women capable of breeding with her instead of produce.  She gets off the usual routes.  Her home colony sends warriors against her, and gets reinforcements from the Bullet Farm and Gas Town.

There is a long fight.

Delineation of conflicts:
Furiosa wants the young women to be free and not breeding slaves.  Everyone else disagrees. There is a large scale fight in which perhaps 20% of all the resources of the three towns is destroyed.  Brilliant.  No one cares about that; winning is everything, even if it means cutting your own carotid artery.

Max starts as a portable supply of untainted O-negative blood.  Max would like to free himself of his nightmares; he did not save his wife and child from all this badness.  Max eventually joins Furiosa as a badly treated slave.  He would like to be free.

Furiosa heads into a giant sandstorm and more or less escapes for a while.  The pursuit is far from over.  What will end this nonsensical behaviour?

Resolution: There is change in leadership after many deaths, the loss of much water, petrol, food, and mechanisms that still work.

One line summary: Visually engaging, logically stupid.


Cinematography: 2/10 Ugly, garish, ridiculous.  Absurd camera filters, vile makeup, stupid closeups.  Some of the 3D effects were just plain terrible as well as terribly stupid.

Sound: 2/10 Ugly, garish, pointless, irritating, jarring.  It sucked.  Electric guitars on a road trip?  These stupid sods don't have enough resources for such extended displays of conspicuous waste.

Acting: 2/10 Were there actors?  I read somewhere that Charlize Theron was in this, but she reputedly is a better actor than any of the women I saw in this POS.

Screenplay: 2/10 Pointless absurd dystopian crap.  Much of the fight choreography was too embarrassing to be performed by the Keystone Kops.

The opening is in voiceover with irrelevant inter-titles.  That is always a bad sign.

This whole abomination is set against strong politics of scarcity: water, food, oil, petrol, steel replacement parts for vehicles clearly too old and decrepit to run at all, and medicine, and so on.  Despite this, everywhere the leads go, the local people have enough food, water, gasoline, bullets, and, when needed, brand new motorcycles with just the right equipment. But of course, they do not.  The entire film is infeasible, even though it's not supposed to be a fantasy.

There is practically no dialog in this steaming pile of dung.  What dialog there is entirely stupid.

Final Rating: 2/10 I would recommend this film to no one, unless I wanted their IQ to drop.  I felt disgusted by the director's hatred of reason and of viewers.

Of course, if one is just looking for a popcorn movie, this one is fine.  Many people die.  Huge amounts of precious scarce resources are lost without any goal being achieved.  Brand new hardware shows up out of nowhere (around 15 brand new motorbikes in perfect condition in just one scene).  It's like a sort-of realistic Transformers movie.  That is, it is complete and utter bullshit.


20161026: Comedy Review--Deadpool

Name: Deadpool (2016)
IMDb: link to Suspicion page

Genres: Comedy   Country of origin: USA.

Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, Morena Baccarin as Vanessa Carlysle/Copycat, Ed Skrein as Ajax, T. J. Miller as Weasel, Leslie Uggams as Blind Al, Karan Soni as Dopinder, Brianna Hildebrand as Ellie Phimister/Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Style Dane as Jeremy (Pizza Guy), Gina Carano as Angel Dust.

Directed by: Tim Miller.  Written by: Rhett Reese (screenplay).

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
Deadpool tries to take out Ajax on a crowded bridge setting: gunfire, blades, cars crashing, motorcycles being destroyed.

Then we have a massive flashback.  Wade is a former Special Forces member who had 41 confirmed kills to his credit while on active duty.  He's a bit down on his luck, and scrounges money by terrifying local scumbags of minor repute.  He meets Vanessa, the woman of his dreams, and they fall in love.  Unfortunately, he contracts cancer, and does not have long to live.

Vanessa looks for cures.  Wade tries out an offer that seems too good to be true, but he goes for it anyway.  The shady group offering the service forces his body to mutate.  Good news: Wade recuperates extremely rapidly from almost any injury, including the cancer.  Bad news: his new normal state is just as ugly as hell.

Ajax, the fellow in charge of the mutating, was not doing it out of the goodness of his heart.  He intended to sell Wade as a high value soldier of fortune.  With a superhuman effort, Wade escapes Ajax.  He finds Vanessa, but cannot bring himself to show his face for fear of losing her.

Wade cannot be with Vanessa, so he decides to take revenge on Ajax.  This brings us back to the beginning of the movie.

Delineation of conflicts:
Ajax wants to control and sell Wade, even with his new name, Deadpool.  Deadpool wants to retain his freedom (might work), get revenge on fellow mutant Ajax (maybe; seems difficult), and get his old good looks back (nope).

Complicating this are Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, two strong warrior mutants who work with Professor Xavier.  They wish Deadpool to settle into the community that Xavier fosters. Deadpool regards this as just another form of slavery.

Resolution: We have a typical no holds barred massive cliche fight at the end.

One line summary: Cure is worse than the disease.


Cinematography: 7/10 Too much CGI, too much slow motion nonsense, too much absolutely fake looking X-Men bullshit.

Sound: 7/10 I can hear the dialog, which is good.  Music seems to be poorly chosen or mixed; I got zero enjoyment from it, especially the music I like when heard on its own.

Acting: 5/10 This was a real mixed bag.  I liked TJ Miller, Morena Baccarin, Leslie Uggams, and Ed Skrein (though to a lesser extent).  Ryan Reynolds was hiding behind a mask for most of the film, and he might as well have been a cardboard cutout with an attached speaker.  His whiny voice was a grating irritation.  Gina Carano was better than I expected, but that is not saying much, since I expected nothing good from her, based on past performances.

Screenplay: 4/10 I liked the opening credits.  I got more laughs from them than I got from the rest of this film.  In general I dislike flashbacks.  Finishing the giant, oversized flashback took us into the second half of the film.  Breaking the fourth wall is another of my strong non-favourites. This film is full of that.  The relentless PC horseshit (any women can beat up any man, children can beat up adults, and so on) was as boring as it was predictable.

Final Rating: 5/10 Perhaps if the jokes had been funny, or if Ryan Reynolds had not used that falsetto voice, I might have liked the film better.  The property did well at the box office, so perhaps the sequels will be better than the first one.  As a popcorn movie, it was fine: people get killed by unthinking bastards, things blow up, valuable things get ruined, lives are shot to hell.

20161016: Action Review--Bourne Identity

Name: Bourne Identity (2002)
IMDb: link to Bourne Identity page

Genres: Action   Country of origin: USA.

Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, Franka Potente as Marie Helena Kreutz, Chris Cooper as Alexander Conklin, Brian Cox as Ward Abbott, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Wombasi, Julia Stiles as Nicky Parsons, Clive Owen as The Professor, Gabriel Mann as Danny Zorn.

Directed by: Doug Limon.  Written by: Tony Gilroy, W. Blake Herron (screenplay),  Robert Ludlum (book).
Outside Embassy
The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
On a rainy night after a card game, Italian fishermen spot a man's body floating in the Mediterranean Sea. They reel him in, attend to his medical needs, and take him to Marseilles.  He has amnesia.  He also has clues: two bullet holes in his back, and an implant that tells him he has an account at a bank in Switzerland.

His safe deposit box proves helpful.  He has passports from various countries under a host of names, lots of currency of different countries, a modern pistol and other odds and ends.

His opening the safe deposit box triggers all sorts of reactions.  His going to the US Embassy does not help, since the Marines and the CIA are now after him, as well as the local police.

Delineation of conflicts:
The CIA wants Jason Bourne (at first just a name on one of his passports) to be dead, or to come in peacefully to their deadly embrace.  The CIA wants him silenced and covered up quickly and completely.

Jason needs to figure out who he is.  Marie is drawn into helping him after he pays her handsomely just to give him a ride to Paris, where one of his aliases lived.

The CIA, lead by Conklin, Jason's former boss, continues to hunt Jason.  Jason continues to unravel his past and evade capture.  Jason wants to know much more.

Resolution: The CIA manages to bury much of the project that Jason was involved in.  Jason figures out why he got shot and why he was floating in the Mediterranean.

One line summary: Best of the Matt Damon versions of Bourne.
Jason and Marie


Cinematography: 8/10 Mostly well done, but with some shades of shaky cam.

Sound: 7/10 I could hear the dialog.  Music was a minor asset; the best part was the music over the end credits.

Acting: 7/10 I liked the performances of Franka Potente, Clive Owen, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Julia Stiles.  Matt Damon was a mixed bag, which is much better than usual.

Screenplay: 7/10 Amnesia has been done to death, but this was a well-written take on it.  Bourne discovers all sorts of things about himself due to external situations triggering muscle memories, which was a well used but nice touch.  The scenes where Bourne confronts the people he trusted, the people who tortured him, the people who bamboozled him were discouragingly bad.  This would continue into the next two films unfortunately.  The good parts of the film, which seemed fresh and interesting in 2002, were just copied over in 2004 and 2007.  Those parts (fighting choreography, chase scenes, evasion) were a bit stale in 2004 and off the cliff bad in 2007.  The writing about Bourne's dealings with those who screwed him over were bad at the start (film 1, 2002) and got worse.

Final Rating: 7/10 I watched it again this past week and still liked it.

20161026: Action Review--Bourne Supremacy

Name: Bourne Supremacy (2004)
IMDb: link to Bourne Supremacy page

Genres: Action   Country of origin: USA.

Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, Franka Potente as Marie, Joan Allen as Pamela Landy, Julia Stiles as Nicky Parsons, Karl Urban as Kirill, Karel Roden as Gretkov, Brian Cox as Ward Abbott, Oksana Akinshina as Irena Nevski, Gabriel Mann as Danny Zorn, Chris Cooper as Conklin.

Directed by: Paul Greengrass.  Written by: Robert Ludlum (novel), Tony Gilroy (screenplay).
Matt Damon
The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
Pamela Landy is closing in on a mole in Berlin, Germany.  She hopes to identify and capture the mole, and possibly recover some 20 million USD in CIA funds from a past misadventure.  The operation goes awry in a big way, and Pam has some explaining to do.  Fake evidence is left that implicates Jason Bourne.

In Goa, India, Jason Bourne and Marie enjoy a simple life together.  Jason has headaches and nightmares about his Treadstone days.  Marie helps him make some slow progress on making sense of this.  Crashing this idyllic scene is the hitman Kirill, who kills Marie early on.

Delineation of conflicts:
Various CIA elements want to kill Jason to finally close out Treadstone, to get the person responsible for the Berlin mess, and to cover for the CIA official responsible for the lost CIA funds.  Pamela Landy keeps point on the expanded operation.  Nicky Parsons is re-engaged in the matter.

Jason would like to know what is going on.  He would like to find Kirill and dispose of him.  He would like to straighten out his memory of his first (unofficial) assignment in Berlin some years back, involving the botched assassination of the Russian Nevski.

Resolution: The need for secrecy, which seems to justify anything, wins out in several cases.  The need for the exposure of truth gets a couple of victories.

One line summary: Not as good as the first film.
Dream Diary


Cinematography: 6/10 This was a mixed bag.  Much of the film was a treat for the eye.  The claustrophobic rats' nests that were the CIA operations centers were dingy and ugly and off-putting as one might expect.  The film is a chase film, with moments of discovery regularly mixed in.  Sadly, the chase parts were weakened significantly by the shaky cam method.  Screw that misuse of resources.

Sound: 7/10 I could hear the dialog.  The music was occasionally (like the closing credits) engaging.

Acting: 5/10 I enjoyed the performances of Joan Allen, Karl Urban, Brian Cox, Franka Potente, and several of the actors with smaller roles.

Unfortunately, Matt Damon was in the film, and his character was its center.  The fight scenes were well done, but were nothing new over the first film.  As with many of Damon's performances, his wooden lack of affect was not interesting.  Rather, it forcefully demonstrates his inability to show any inner life in his character, Jason Bourne.

Screenplay: 8/10 This was a great story.  However, the film is badly weakened by the choice of lead actor and by the shaky cam trash footage.

Final Rating: 6/10 Although I liked the screenplay, I thought the divergence from the books was a serious mistake.

20161026: Action Review--Bourne Ultimatum

Name: Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
IMDb: link to Bourne Ultimatum page

Genres: Action   Country of origin: USA.

Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, Joan Allen as Pamela Landy, Julia Stiles as Nicky Parsons, David Strathairn as Noah Vosen, Scott Glenn as Ezra Kramer, Paddy Considine as Simon Ross, Edgar Ramirez as Paz, Albert Finney as Dr Albert Hirsch, Joey Ansah as Desh Bouksani, Colin Stinton as Neal Daniels.

Directed by: Paul Greengrass.  Written by: Tony Gilroy, Scott Z Burns, George Nolfi (screenplay), from the books by Robert Ludlum.
Jason Bourne, Nicky Parsons
The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
In London, UK, reporter Simon Ross hopes to expose Operation Blackbriar, considered an upgrade to Project Treadstone.  Unfortunately for Ross, both the CIA and Jason Bourne catch wind of this.

Bourne tries to protect Ross, but the CIA murders Ross.  The CIA sets about to find Bourne and Ross' source.  The CIA brings in Pamela Landy and Nicky Parsons, who have previous experience with Bourne.

Delineation of conflicts:
People with weapons are chasing Bourne.  He wants to get away.  They want to catch him or kill him.

Resolution: Can Jason find something that will get the bastards off his tail?

One line summary: Worst of the Bourne films.


Cinematography: 0/10 Endless shit.  The shaky cam never ended, and the editing was extremely choppy.

Sound: 4/10 I could hear the dialog.  The music over the end credits was good, but mostly useless during the film.

Acting: 4/10 I liked the performances of Julia Stiles, Joan Allen, David Strathairn, and Scott Glenn.

However, Matt Damon was in the film, which was a huge downside force.  His action sequences were believable about half the time.  His mind swamp of angst was a bad cross of irritating and boring.  His transformation from fighting superman to quivering spineless whipping boy for the likes of Dr Hirsch was just nauseating, and seemed to have little or nothing to do with the rest of the film.  So who cares?

Screenplay: 2/10 It's a chase film.  Again, who cares?  The delineation of conflicts section above was the shortest I've ever written.  What did it add beyond the second film?  Answer: ridiculous chase footage, fight scenes we've already watched, more angst nonsense, and some terrible film work.

Final Rating: 3/10 Unneeded pile of nonsense.

20161026: Action Review--Bourne Legacy

Name: Bourne Legacy (2012)
IMDb: link to the Bourne Legacy page

Genres: Action   Country of origin: USA.

Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross (Outcome #5), Rachel Weisz as Dr Marta Shearing, Scott Glenn as Ezra Kramer, Stacy Keach as Adm Mark Turso, Edward Norton as Eric Byer, Michael Chernus as Arthur Ingram, Corey Stoll as Zev Vendel, Donna Murphy as Dita Mandy, Dennis Boutsikaris as Terrence Ward.

Oscar Isaac as Outcome #3, Albert Finney as Dr Albert Hirsch, Louis Ozawa Changchien as LARX #3, Joan Allen as Pamela Landy, and David Strathairn as Noah Vosen.

Directed by: Tony Gilroy.  Written by: Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy (screenplay),  inspired by Robert Ludlum (books).
Dr Shearing, Aaron Cross

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
Aaron Cross walks through rough northern Alaskan landscape to a safe house.  He gets to know his fellow member of the Outcome program, #3, before he treks off to his next destination.  Aaron has been out in the cold for so long that he is short of the medical supplies that the Outcome program uses to keep him in fine fighting shape.

About the same time, large structural breakage has occurred because of the information made public by Jason Bourne and Pamela Landy.  The powers that be decide to shut down the programs Treadstone, Blackbriar, and Outcome programs for creating superb warrior agents.  To complete the job, these powers authorize the murders of all the agents.

Those murders include Outcome agents, in particular #3 and #5 (Aaron).  Beyond that, many of the scientists who do research and monitor agents end up dead.  This almost includes Dr Shearing, but not quite.

Delineation of conflicts:
Aaron escapes the first murder attempt.  He regroups, knowing that his bosses are no longer his allies. He needs to find a new source for the chemicals that keep him whole.

Rachel would like to stay alive; the powers that be think she knows too much to live.  Aaron connects with Rachel and presses her to help him find his chemical boost.  Aaron and Rachel attempt to free Aaron from his chemical dependency, and attempt to get clear of the murderous pursuit.

The powers that be press hard to kill any and all who know too much or disgrace those with public personas, such as Pamela Landy.

Resolution: Both sides get partial success.

One line summary: Best installment of the Bourne series.
Three of the murdering bastards.


Cinematography: 9/10 Often spectacular, occasionally grainy.

Sound: 8/10 I could hear the dialog.  The music over the closing credits was excellent.  For most of the film, the background music was useless.

Acting: 7/10 I liked the performances of Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Scott Glenn, Oscar Isaac, Dennis Boutsikaris, and Stacy Keach. However, the presence of the always disappointing Edward Norton and ever useless Corey Stoll almost ruined that for me.

Screenplay: 8/10 Rather good, better than the first three Bourne films.  The story moved right along, and motivations were mostly clear.  Normally I would rate this as 9 or 10, but the repulsive acting of Norton and Stoll blunted the clarity of the narrative.

Final Rating: 8/10


20161013: SciFi review--Ascension

Name: Ascension (2015)
IMDb: link to the Ascension page

Genres: SciFi, Fantasy   Country of origin: USA, Canada.

Cast: Tricia Helfer as Viondra Denninger, Gil Bellows as Harris Enzmann, Brian van Holt as Captain William Denninger, Andrea Roth as Dr. Juliet Bryce, Brandon P Bell as Aaron Gault, Al Sapienza as Councilman Rose, Jacqueline Byers as Nora Bryce, Ellie O'Brien as Christa Valis, Laura Lee Smith as Samantha Krueger.

Directed by: Mairzee Alma, et alia; see IMDb link.  Written by: Adrian Cruz, Philip Leven.
Ascension cast
The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
In 1963, a 100 year mission to a near star is launched with a select crew of 600 people.  The main action takes place around 2013, or 50 years into the mission.

Over time all sorts of challenges arise, but have been handled, for the most part.  However, certain internal pressures have started to break things.

In 2013, outside the project, not everyone is happy with the Ascension project, mostly because it is far from transparent.

Delineation of conflicts:
Those who work on the lower decks (the 'lowers') resent those who lived above (the 'uppers') and have more privileges and resources to use.  Not everyone gets permission to reproduce; this does not engender confidence and satisfaction.

The ship's crew seems to be hated by just about everyone.  The Stewardesses (led by Viondra) help buffer disputes among groups and gather intelligence.  They have more privilege than many, which is cause for resentment.

Councilman Rose spars with the Captain, both for fun and to get a more pliable Captain in place. Viondra, the Captain's wife, tries to blunt Rose's attempts and keep the Captain in place.

In the real world outside the ship, things are busy as well.  Harris Enzmann fights to keep control of Ascension, and to handle problems as they arise.  Samantha Krueger is hired to find out just what is going on in Ascension.  Enzmann and Krueger naturally butt heads.  Can Ascension actually continue without Enzmann's guiding hand?

Resolution: Given the faults of the setup, the resolution is pretty clear.  This is one more cliche implementation of 'the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.'

One line summary: Fake multi-generational space flight.


Cinematography: 9/10 No problems.

Sound: 8/10 I can hear the dialog.  The music occasionally adds tension.

Acting: 5/10 I liked Tricia Helfer and Gil Bellows.  I disliked the performances of Laura Lee Smith, Al Sapienza, and Brian van Holt.  The rest were indifferent.

Screenplay: 4/10 Meh.  There were too many cliches.  The hugely expensive experiment is riddled with obvious flaws.  The whole project is set up without sufficient oversight and transparency.  The goals of Ascension were known to a much too small set of individuals.  Worse yet, these were stupid goals.

Most of the show is about the nuts and bolts of real world science and engineering.  Then there is a jump shift.  Producing individuals gifted with massively strong occult powers is absurd in this context.

The entire final hour was a complete waste of time since the property bounds out of SciFi into the realm of bullshit fantasy.  (There is plenty of good fantasy in film; this just was not it.  This property was 5 hours of SciFi that is straight-laced to the point of being ho-hum.  This is followed by 1 hour of fantasy.  Forget this!)

Final rating: 5/10 The butt of this joke is the viewer.


20161004: Action Review--Skinwalkers

Name: Skinwalkers (2006)
IMDb: link to Skinwalkers page

Genres: Action, Fantasy, thriller   Country of origin: Canada.

Jason Behr as Varek/Caleb Talbot, Elias Koteas as Jonas Talbot, Rhona Mitra as Rachel Talbot, Natassia Malthe as Sonja, Kim Coates as Zo, Sarah Carter as Katherine, Matthew Knight as Timothy Talbot, Barbara Gordon as Nana, Tom Jackson as Will.

Directed by: James Isaac.  Written by: James DeMonaco, Todd Harthan.
Rhona Mitra
The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
Young Tim starts a walk through town with his tall, alert Nana.  In parallel, some biker thugs ride toward town.  Two or so minutes later, everyone in the town and all the invaders are in full-on deadly combat.

The invading murderers claim loudly, "We just want the boy."  Everyone in town would like to live, but each of them is willing to die to protect Tim, especially if they can kill the damned bikers first.

Delineation of conflicts:
The bullet-ridden dialectic reaches an impasse which enables a bit of narration.  The local werewolf (skinwalker) population has been present for quite some time, but it has become divided and polarized. There is a prophecy that a hybrid (Tim) will be born.  There will be three nights in which the blood moon will shine near the thirteenth birthday of the boy.  On the midnight of the third such night, the power of the hybrid will be manifest.

That power is the ability to end the curse that werewolves suffer.

Some of the werewolves embrace the power and bloodlust that the curse brings.  They want the boy dead.  The other faction cherishes their humanity, and wishes the hybrid to survive, to flourish, and to completely fulfill his destiny.

Resolution: Much of the prophecy is fulfilled while each of the two factions quite effectively reduce the numbers of the opposite side.  As the witching hour draws nigh, secrets are revealed and the plot moves forward from one last minute fight to the next.

One line summary: Not your typical werewolf elimination derby.


Cinematography: 7/10 This is a good-looking film, especially the daylight shots.  The dark inside and night time shooting was better than most in this genre.  The skinwalker masks were pretty poor, though, and there was a lot of werewolf footage.

Sound: 8/10 No particular problems.

Acting: 8/10 Rhona Mitra, Tom Jackson, Elias Koteas, and Barbara Gordon gave fine performances. I never expect much from child actors, but Matthew Knight was pretty good.  Jason Behr was better than I thought he would be.

Screenplay: 7/10 Daybreakers (2009) owes the current film for some of its concepts.  Daybreakers had a bigger budget, a more highly regarded cast, and a more detailed script.  Daybreakers was more on the science side of fantasy, while Skinwalkers was more in the traditional fantasy horror side.

In any case, I liked the film's energy, its nice combination of plot elements, and its ending.  Right up until the finish, I thought this was one of the usual bloody 'kill them all' movie.

Final Rating: 7/10