May 23

GSB Film Review: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)

Mad Max Fury Poster

 

This was an updated yet classic Mad Max film.

The story finds Mad Max caught between a ruthless clan leader called Immortan Joe and his pursuit of a group of women lead by Imperitor Furiosa who fight to escape his clutches.

Tom Hardy was good.  Though he didn’t loose himself in this role as I have seen him disappear into characters of other works in his filmography.  There was just a hint of Hardy that didn’t go away.  Watch The Drop and you will know what I’m talking about.  But this isn’t to say that he didn’t do a great job as Max.  He was a good casting choice.

Charlize was good, but I always expect her to be so if the story is decent.  Unlike Hardy, I perceived less of Theron and more of Furiosa as she became more of a prominent figure.  And Furiosa was kinda awesome.  We have seen heroines that were more badass than her in cinema, but Furiosa certainly deserves credit. Theron as Furiosa did a decent job of bringing urgency to the story where Mad Max could not.

I have to say Bravo to George Miller for conjuring up some incredible automotive action in this dystopian desolation that can only be seen in his former works.

Visually, there is more to this film than you would have thought.  If you pay attention to the cinematography and editing you will see an almost symphonic relationship between them.  I loved how at certain points the cuts and action became jagged and stuttered.  Other moments have beautiful panoramic views.  The clash between them greatly added to the adrenaline rush. I can see why the trailer alone hooked people in. Kudos to the score of the film too.

I don’t understand why some male centric groups thought this film was shoving feminism down their throats. Dude, grow a pair and stop complaining.  You still have the market cornered for heroes in film and TV.  Were there strong women in the story? Absolutely.  Were there strong women in The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome?  You best believe there were.  So what are they complaining about other than just to complain?  Weak man, just weak.  Personally, I love to see a different face waving the victory flag in my movies.  A good story and a champion to root for is all I need.

On the other side ladies, Fury Road should not be called a hard feminist film.  On that level I would give it a 5 or 6 out of 10.  The reason being that Mad Max solved many of the women’s problems in the second act.  And of course he should have.  The film isn’t called Fighting Furiosa: Fury Road.  But I will say this – if director George Miller decides to do a female hero lead film in this vast world of rolling steel and desert chaos, I would be all in.  I think he has shown in most of his Mad Max films that he is paying attention to the strength and character of his female roles.  Yooo!! How hot would it be to tell a prequel story of Tina Turner’s Auntie Entity and how she survived the apocalypse?

This movie is a fun action flick. It will not weigh heavily on your frontal lobe because the story was pretty straight forward.  But your mind will be consistently blown for 2 hours over the car racing, car crushing insanity that is approximately 98% of this film.  Geek Soul Brother gives MAD MAX: FURY ROAD 4 out of 5 COSMIC AFROS.

4-Cosmic-Afros

 

 

May 13

Why Ava DuVernay Should Direct The InHumans!

Ava DuVernay Twitter

Director Ava DuVernay

Yesterday it was announced by The Wrap that Ava DuVernay was being tapped to direct a Marvel Feature film.  There was no mention as to which film the director of Oscar winning Selma would be overseeing if she was brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there is strong speculation that she would be given the Black Panther film, which is set to open in 2018.  Marvel has pointed to wanting a black director to helm the film just as much as they have talked about looking for a female director for the Captain Marvel film set for November of 2018.

No one can criticize the choice that DuVernay has not done anything action or fantasy oriented since the Russo brothers also had not done any major action films or TV.  In fact they mostly came from a comedy background, and yet look how Captain America: Winter Soldier turned out.

Black Panther filmThis news was very satisfying, but the more I thought about it the more I wondered why the immediate choice of film for Ava to direct was one that featured either a Black Male or White Female protagonist. Underneath the positive move to include diversity behind a big Marvel feature, this felt very much like executives and fans were pigeonholing the accomplished director.

Even though I know Ava D. could pull off a great Panther film, when I look at her work I don’t see external over arching themes.  I see introspection and the inner turmoil of characters and their obstacles or choices.  If you have seen Selma, remember the moments when King was just pondering his situation and that of his followers? They were strong quiet moments that spoke loudly.  DuVernay has used those moments in her other works like I Will Follow.  She spoke about the use of silence in film on a recent podcast with KCRW’s The Treatment with Elvis Mitchell.  And in Selma, she also did an excellent job of showing the intricacies of a closely bound group of people at odds with each other in the way of King’s friends, allies and enemies.  So let me ask you this dear reader – What other Marvel property that is being turned into a major motion picture will No Doubt have powerful Silent moments and show internal forces pulling at family and external forces working to tear them apart?  Did I hear you say InHumans?  If you did, then you get a GSB virtual Ribbon!

Inhumans-Roster-Art-Marvel-Comics

For those that are unfamilar, The InHumans are a race of people with extraordinary abilities.  They were experimented on by an alien race called The Kree.  And even though the aliens abandoned their experiments, the InHumans continued to thrive in secret from the rest of humanity.  At the top of leadership is Black Bolt and his royal family.  And guess what one of Black Bolt’s powers are?  If he even utters a single word he can shatter a building.  A shout from him can level a city block.  So Black Bolt remains silent in his rulership while his wife Medusa speaks for him. Just imagine taking some of that Game of Thrones juice and pouring it into the Marvel Universe, even though the InHumans came way before J.R.R Martin created GoT.

I’m sorry but Ava DuVernay would Kill It as the director of The InHumans. Silence is one of her tools.  I know it wouldn’t take her long to see the potential of a story about an outcasted people that are feared by many, and the pressures of family fighting to stay strong in adversity.  And the icing on the cake is that the script for The InHumans was written by a black guy by the name of Joe Robert Cole.

We do need more people of color behind the scenes in Hollywood, as the ACLU has concluded recently.  But especially we need them to not be seen as just for ‘diverse’ projects.  They need to be seen for their gifts and talents and not just their ethnic background.  I’m not saying that a Black director shouldn’t be the first choice to direct Black Panther or a Female director not be chosen for Captain Marvel.  I’m saying that Ava and other directors like her can add something more to a Superhero film other than just their personal view of a particular culture.  And if you are reading this Marvel and think to yourself “She WOULD be great for The InHumans” then peep my list of 10 other directors that could direct a Black Panther film.

Either way it goes I will be glad for Ava DuVernay and look forward to seeing her getting bigger projects as her career continues to grow.

 

Apr 28

GSB Film Review: EX MACHINA (2015)

Ex Machina Fail Test

 

Story – A young programmer is invited by his genius billionaire boss to test out a new and experimental Artificial Intelligence in the form of Ava, an advanced android.

The first thing you might notice about the film is how stylish it was shot. It opens with a quick and self-explanatory scene of our main character – computer peon Caleb, winning some kind of lottery. Cut to a beautiful arial shot of him being brought to the owner of BlueNote, an uber gigantic Google like company.

From the flow of the natural setting we transition to a closed and claustrophobic house (and lab) owned by Nathan, founder of BlueNote. After a brief exchange of awkward plesentries we are introduced to Ava, an android that looks very robotic but very female at the same time.

I found myself thinking of how the CG artists of Eva captured a balance between a machine representation of the female form that was unnatural and sensual at the same time. I have to give credit to Alicia Vikander and her acting to communicate the subtle artificial sexyness.  She played it with a combination of innocence and allure mixed together.

 

 

2 claps for the cinematography and how the setting periodically reflected the building tension of the story. Very 2001 Space Odyssey-esque. And that thought of mine had nothing to do with a reference to another more famous AI. The geometry added to the idea of the triangular relationship of the characters and the drama that unfolded with it. I’m sure that shooting in a house helped with the indie budget they probably had.

I thought the characters were somewhat compelling, but felt the dialogue could have been refined a bit to reveal more of the inner workings of the players, especially Ava. I got a sense of her motivations, but not enough to be useful callback references to her actions later in the film. But that may have been the idea of the writers seeing as how the plot was trying to keep the audience on their toes. Even still, a story is more rewarding if you know why a character does what they do and those reasons are not painted as one dimensional desires.

There were a couple decent plot twists that you might or might not see coming. But the film wasn’t trying to jar you with shocking moments.  In fact I’m guessing a percentage of the audience thought Ex Machina was slow.  I’m fine with a slow build-up as long as there is a payoff. In this case there was a payoff.  But it didn’t blow me away. I will admit, films like this are not always told to blow people away.  Like Ex Machina, these stories might just give you an ‘Oh Snap!’ moment, not an ‘OH SNAPPPP!’ one.  This Alex Garland film didn’t hit me in the same way that his Sunshine and more popular 28 Days Later films did.

This film wasn’t the best AI science fiction, but it had great elements in the form of a thriller.  Geek Soul Brother gives EX MACHINA 3.5 out of 5 Cosmic Afros.

3.5-Cosmic-Afros

I wonder how the story would have played out if Ava was a male android?  if you want to see my thoughts on other films with girlie AIs, then check out my post – RISE OF THE FEMALE ANDROID FILMS!

 

Apr 26

Two New Trailers from Syfy – The Killjoys and Dark Matter

Dark Matter pic

Shot from soon to come DARK MATTER on Syfy.

 

I’ve periodically written about how the Syfy network seems to be making a push to get back some of their glory in being a premiere source of Science Fiction and Fantasy TV. Since last year they have been introducing a full menu of shows, both original and imported from other networks.  Their latest teasers have given us something new that puts us again right in the middle of space.

THE KILLJOYS is about a group of interstellar bounty hunters that look like you wouldn’t want to be on the other side of the law with them chasing your tail.  It doesn’t feel like a major budget kind of show, but the fun might be there.  Look for the premiere June 19th.

 

 

DARK MATTERS –  A group of people wake up on a spaceship with no memory of who they are or why they are there.  But somehow they each have skills that will help them on the ship.  First of all, I love seeing Roger Cross show up in my SciFi TV shows.  I’ve been a fan of his all the way back since the show FIRST WAVE premiered on the “Sci-Fi’ Channel back in the late 90s.  And there are other unfamiliar faces that might bring some fresh performances.  Dark Matter premieres June 12th.

 

 

I’m ready to give both shows a chance.  Plus a few other shows that should be popping up this year. It’s a good time to be a nerd.

 

Apr 20

Official Fantastic Four Trailer! Now We Can Say Yay or Nay!

FF Official

 

Finally we get a good look and feel for this alternate reboot of the Fox owned FANTASTIC FOUR franchise. Many of us nerds had seen what Josh Trank was capable of with his 2012 kinda superhero film Chronicle.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was a respectable achievement for an up and coming director.  Now, after a couple teasers of his latest project, we have an idea of just how corny or cool the Fantastic Four will be.

Right off the bat I can say that the acting in the film looks to be of quality. I had no worries about Michael B. Jordan in his portrayal of Johnny Storm.  He’s proven himself in Chronicle and much more so in Fruitvale Station (which you should watch).  Miles Teller, on the other hand, has been doing a lot of Fratboy comedy roles.  So to know that he was going to play one of the greatest scientific minds in the Marvel universe was asking a lot from me and the rest of geekdom to accept.  But he looks like he might pull it off.  And Kate Mara might be the most fleshed out Susan Richards we have seen yet.  See what happens when superheroes and heroines have a Black Dad? Shouts to Reggie Cathey and the casting director that suggested him.

We can also see how the producers are going for the ‘Love the Monster’ bit with Ben Grimm as The Thing, just as the Avengers made us love The Hulk.  For me, the jury will be out on that until the film comes out.

The whole story is a serious deviation from the comicbook origins of the Fantastic Four.  It’s more along the lines of the Ultimates version from what I hear.  If this would have been the first FF film that Fox had produced I would have been hating on it more than the Hate Monger.  But being that I’m so tired of reboot after reboot of the same superheroes, I’m glad to see a fresh and new take on some really old characters.

I’m still not giving this film or the trailer a complete 100% pass.  I’m definitely not sure about this Doc Doom blogger idea.  He does look a little menacing, but not enough for me to say that they have made up for the atrocious representation of him in the first 2 Fox productions.  Why did they have to bring in Doctor Doom so early anyway?  There are plenty of villains to reboot the franchise with.  And some had great concepts back in the day but could definitely use a makeover like the heroes have gotten.  I guess the producers still haven’t really dived deep into the Fantastic Four mythology to gamble their investments on other more under-rated baddies. Well, check it out and tell me what you think. Is this enough to change your opinion of the film?  Either way, I’ll be sitting in the theater in August when The Fantastic Four premieres.

 

 

 

 

Apr 16

2nd STAR WARS Trailer Shows New Faces and Old

Little by little we are starting to see how the new STAR WARS film titled THE FORCE AWAKENS will look and feel.  I’m sure all the nerdheads are happy to see their old friends Han Solo and Chewbacca cutting it up again.  I also have to say that I’m looking forward to Mark Hamell showing off all that acting experience he’s acquired since starring in the original episodes.  I’m still not seeing this mysterious Sith as much of a threat, but obviously they are saving all that stuff for later.  I’m also glad to see that John Boyega looks like he will be a major part of the story.  Let’s just hope he won’t be sacrificing himself for his white girl companion Daisy Ridley.  Don’t look at me like that, you know it could happen.  Check out the epic goodness and lets cross our fingers and hope Abrams can bring the magic back to the franchise!

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 09

RISE OF THE FEMALE ANDROID FILMS!

Ex Machina Fail Test

From around this time last year there have been several interesting films that have come to my attention dealing with robots relating to humans.  Or more accurately female robots relating to humans.  And not just female robots, but machines with artificial intelligence that are struggling with self awareness and the rights to exist.  But the struggles also spill over to the humans that have built them.  I was anxiously waiting to see several of these foreign or independent films. Gladly Netflix has included a few in their library.

I am always curious as to why a slew of films dealing with mostly the same story plots come out so close together.  I know that producers are constantly trying to cash in on hit ideas.  But I haven’t noticed a box office blockbuster dealing with androids of a womanly appearance.  So I’m not sure where the interests in this type of science fiction initiated recently.

There is always the theory that ideas that float in the creative ether fall gently on artistic souls across the globe at the same time.  I also have the thought that creatives may be able to sense a social change that is coming around the corner. Or maybe in this case writers and directors come across a piece of news about the advancement of artificial intelligence and it settles into their subconscious.  Then something else in society causes those ideas to stir and suddenly several scripts with the same overall themes have emerged in the film or TV industry. Or it could just be the illumenati getting us ready for a sexy robot invasion that will enslave mankind. Bring it HAL-ISHA

Whatever the reason, here are a few films that have gotten me excited by their trailers alone.  I have actually seen 3 of them on Netflix at the time of this post.  I think they might be something you science fiction fans will be interested in as well.

 

affiche-eva-2011EVA (2011) – I had seen this one after I watched the others, even though it debuted first.  It’s a subtle science fiction coming out of Spain.  Yes, that means subtitles. Even though it was released in 2011, I had just seen the trailer a few weeks ago and was happy to find it suddenly streaming on Netflix.  The story was about a gifted Robotics programmer that goes back to his roots when he is invited to work on a new android. The model is of a boy and he needs a human child to map the androids brain.  Seeing his former lover and now sister-in-law also sparks old feelings.  And then there is his niece – Eva.  She is a lively, smart and intuitive child and may just be the one he needs for success.  I found the film to be a well acted and compelling story though it wasn’t filled with a lot of science-y special effects.  But the ones that were there did tease my imagination.  Some may think it fell a little flat as it went on, but I enjoyed the prospects of robotic self awareness the film tried to propose.  Stay tuned for a more in depth review.  EVA stars Daniel Brühl (who will be Baron Zemo in Captain America: Civil War), Marta Etura and Claudia Vega as Eva.

 

The Machine FB image

THE MACHINE (2013) – I had the pleasure of watching this film last year.  I also had the pleasure of featuring it for one of my awesome #SaturdayNightSciFi live tweets that I have been hosting on twitter. Just follow the hashtag to get up-to-date info on the next features.

What I loved about this film is that, even though it was obviously a lower budgeted production than many hollywood projects, they deftly used every bit of money they had to give a provocative story about an innocent A.I. But the film also delivered on the action scale nicely.  Caity Lotz plays a very smart and enthusiastic scientist (ironically named Ava) that has developed a unique artificial intelligence that has caught the attention of lead scientist Vincent, played by Toby Stephens.  You might be familiar with Caity from her role as the first Black Canary on the CW show ARROW.  But in this science fiction thriller, Ms. Lotz also plays The Machine – a robot designed for research and possibly combat.  This was a cool story, though it was more of a standard plot with the android going from a child like state to demanding rights that any sentient life-form might want.  Some of the side plots added more weight to the film than just sexy fighting robot drama.  Eva was more original but The Machine had more action.

 

Automata smallAUTOMATA (2014) – Antonio Banderas can do no wrong, mostly.  I liked his role in this Sci-Fi which I caught earlier this year.  But the film was also the least of my favorite of the three that I have seen.  That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, I just appreciated the previously mentioned stories a little better.  Banderas plays an insurance investigator that searches for fraud concerning robotic mishaps over his company’s robot products.  But in his recent investigations he starts to find evidence of self awareness among some of the robots he has come across.  But this should be impossible due to the safeguards built into each android brain restricting them from true consciousness. It didn’t really bother me that Banderas’ character was a total rip from Deckard in Blade Runner.  Neither did some of the non-CG traditional effects that they used to portray the androids.  What stopped me from reaching 100% satisfaction was the few moments where the story slowed down.  And there were a few twists and turns in the other films that this one didn’t really have.  But the execution of the film was still enjoyable if only to see Antonio talking to plastic crash dummies that moved.

 

EX MACHINA (2015) – I did not see Ex Machina at the time of this post, but I plan to. This film seems the most intriguing of all the selections. The trailer sets an unsteady tone to the story with a dose of malevolence running underneath the plot.  I also wonder how the apparent agendas of the characters, including the very sexy android, will play out in the story.  “Did you give her sensuality as a distraction?” Hmmmm.  This might turn out to be my favorite of the ‘female androids that question their purpose in the universe‘ films, or maybe it will fall somewhere in between.

 

 

So are male androids just not a popular choice of android films?  Cause the only one I can think of was a film that was recently mentioned on my podcast by MDawg, one of the Five Nerdy Venoms.  ANDROID is the 82′ cult film with Klaus Kinski. “In Space No One Can Hear Your Android Kicking Your Butt!!”

Android movie

I know many producers think that the geek audience is over run by horny dudes in basements, but in reality there are a cross section of everyone represented in the fandom.  So why the cool kick-ass or femme fatale robots of late?  I have no answer other than typical stereotyping of Sci-fi fans.  At least the films have some depth to them for the most part.  Personally I love the female robotic form, but fare is fare.

 

image sources: impawards.com and others

 

Apr 04

General Zod is NOT a Family Man – THE HARVEST (2013) Trailer

Michael Shannon is a pretty terrific actor. I first noticed him for real in his feature, Take Shelter – which you should see by the way.  We all know him for good or for bad as General Zod in Man Of Steel. He actually starred in this thriller right after.

Now Shannon is playing a different kind of shady character.  Because his character and the wife in the film are sending some pretty creepy vibes in this little trailer for THE HARVEST.  They have an invilid son, and the kid has a new friend.  But why does the mom have a problem with people getting close to her son?:  And what’s down in the basement?  Isn’t that always the question?

 

IFC Midnight always has some interesting horror films or Thrillers. They may not be the best of the cinema of the macabre, but they do seem original most of the time.  I don’t know when I’ll catch this, but it will be out in theaters and available on VOD on April 10th (even thought it’s 2 years old).

Mar 21

Funky Q Review – THE SCRIBBLER (2014)

SCRIBBLER_POSTER

 

It looks like while Katie Cassidy was doing her thing on TV’s hit superhero show ARROW, she took a break to do a sort of Sci-fi, sort of superheroine film – THE SCRIBBLER.

Cassidy plays Suki, a patient that has Dissociative Identity Disorder; what we usually know as Multiple Personalities. Unfortunately she is also being questioned for the murders of several people.  Suki is a mess, but she has help.  Her doctor played by Billy Campbell (Helix) started her on a special treatment involving an experimental machine that can erase the extra personalities she’s dealing with.  And then there is the Scribbler, one of Suki’s personalities that doesn’t talk but writes backwards on everything.  The question is does the Scribbler write gibberish or is she trying to tell Suki something?

 

 

This film is a low budget feature that I don’t think I would have found if Netflix didn’t suggest it.  The tone of the film starts out a little weird and surreal.  And Cassidy is a little shaky at first  But then her character comes together as the film progresses and Suki interacts with other characters in the film.  The script has some halfway decent moments in the dialog with Suki’s friend Hogan delivering some comedic mirth. Garret Dillahunt played the role well with just the right amount of crazy and charm.

The whole film is told in flashback as Suki relates the story to the detectives that are detaining her.  She talks about the alleged murders which to her were suicides of other patients in her facility.  Suki also devulges that the machine that Dr, Sinclare had given her to erase her extra personalities was being modified by the Scribbler.  The detectives, one being a psychologist herself, find it hard to believe her story. Particularly when Suki talks about the machine having a crazy effects on her.

The film had a lot of ruff spots, but I give credit for the effort that director John Suits and writer Dan Schaffer made in producing a quirky film with good but lesser known talent.  Schaffer also created the graphic novel of the same name.  There was an interesting twist with a couple other patients in the facility.  They weren’t enough to put the film over the top in the ratings, but I liked what the creators were trying to do.  I also give some credit to the sex scene between Cassidy and Dillahunt.  It was just as surreal and weird as the rest of the film and It had an original flare to it.  So there’s that.

Geek Soul Brother gives THE SCRIBBLER 3 out of 5 Cosmic Afros.

3-Cosmic-Afros

 

Mar 18

Trailer Jive: PIXELS (2015)

pixels 02Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage and Michelle Monaghan are the only people standing between Earth and classic video game characters that have come to life courtesy of some crazy aliens.  PIXELS looks pretty cool with the visual concept of such game legends as PacMan and Donkey Kong being made of these squares of light.  And though it looks fun for kids, I’m not too sure about the wanna be Ghostbuster personas that Sandler and crew are adopting for this film.  It’s only a trailer, but the dialog seems pretty cheesy.  Still, Dinklage in a mullet that would impress the Dukes of Hazzard is entertainment all its own.  Look for the film this July in a theater near you.

 

 

 

 

 

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