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Two Movies One Plot : Deep Rising (1998) and Virus (1999)

They both start on ships and get on bigger ships, but only one ends up on a lonely island.

Released  a year apart Deep Rising and Virus seem on the surface to be very similar in plot; motley crews of morally questionable characters discover larger seemingly abandoned ships and bad things happen. Yet once the layers are pulled back it’s easy to see which has more entertainment value and why one is a cult favorite and the other is a joke.

 

Deep Rising was released in January of 1998. I was originally going to star Harrison Ford who would have fit as the rogue captain. I think he could have pulled it off.  Once he backed out, the production budget was decreased and that may have caused the movie taking a hit in the special effects department. I think this was a plus since it made for a more streamlined and  tighter film that focused on the characters.  No one was “good” in this film. The captain, played by Treat Williams, is a Han Solo, Malcolm Reynolds type. He has a sense of duty but money runs his life. He takes a job taking a group of mercenaries somewhere in the South Pacific because “if the cash is there we do not care”.

Their destination is a luxury cruise ship on it’s maiden voyage. The mercs plan to take over ship and are bringing along a huge armament with rockets and gatling assault rifles. Jean Grey is aboard the cruise ship and is a thief after the vault independent of the mercs. Just after she’s caught, the mercs inside person shuts down the ship and then an unseen creature attacks. We don’t seen much of it for a while, just cutaways and lots of blood splatter.

Once everyone meets up it becomes more of a survival get off the ship and the heist plans are abandoned.  The cast is full of unknown knowns. The captain of the cruise ship is the South African who Killed Rigg’s wife in Lethal Weapon, Kano from the Mortal Kombat movie, Kevin J. O’Connor etc. There’re some good deaths and B-movie banter and puns. Any movie that has a chase with a jet ski inside a cruse ship get’s a thumbs up from me. The final location left thing open for a sequel but I felt it was more of a fun nod to the main protagonist’s catchphrase

 

Yes this happens

This happens

 

 

Virus was supposed to be released in the summer of 1998 but was pushed back to January 1999.  I don’t know if this was due to Deep Rising having just been released, but that’s my theory.  This film has a more well known cast. The captain is Donald Sutherland who is wasted in every sense of the word. The second in command and navigation is Jamie Lee Curtis. She’s there to be the tough female lead, until it’s time to be scared, scream and be rescued. There’s also one of the better looking Baldwin brothers. This film is about a completely  amoral captain and his salvage crew that loses it’s cargo in a storm. While taking refuge in the eye to make repairs they come across what seems to be an abandoned Russian research ship.

Before we continue I have to make special mention of Cliff Curtis. He has the special recognition of appearing in both films. Interestingly he plays characters in both films closer to his nationality. (New Zealander), than many of his other roles. This guy has played almost every race

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We were all scared of Smiley
We were all scared of Smiley

 

Anyway, the crew boards the ghost ship and realize if they can tow it to shore they get the salvage rights. It’s a multi million dollar research vessel so they each have a big pay day coming, if they can get it moving again. They notice bullet holes all over the ship and electrical cords cut everywhere. They don’t care they have dollar signs in their eyes. As soon as they restore power their own ship is sunk and a lone survivor tells them that “it” needs power and they must stop it. As required in all films, we take a while to get to what “it” really is and a number of people need to get attacked before everyone is in agreement. There’s some running around and trying to communicate with the life form to discover what it wants. Obviously the extinction of mankind because the only sentient life beyond out planet would hate humans.  Who wouldn’t. The lone black guy loses it and runs off saying he’s not going to be spare parts for some cyborg army. He runs off reminiscent of the bald dude in Predator 

I have to give Virus credit that between the two movies it passes the Bechdel test. In Deep Rising the two women never know of each other’s existence. More crew are killed and turned into cyborgs. The remaining crew realize the life form is sending the ship to a nearby British satellite installation so it can send itself to any and every linked system in the world. (OK Lawnmower Man) They have to sink the ship as it’s the only way to stop it. They flood the engine room with fuel and run back into the magical negro who says he has a plan to escape. President Snow meanwhile, made a deal with the life form and got turned into cyborg willingly. After maybe five lines and some 80s Clash of the Titans fighting he gets taken out like a Terminator

Jamie Lee is taken alive after a fight with a larger machine and it actually asks her does she speak English. Now I get that it was a Russian ship but it’s been stalking them for a few hours and when they talked to it earlier it spoke to them in English. Also if you’re going to have character asked if they speak English there’s only one proper way to ask. She gets rescued there’s a chase and one more fight with a larger machine. They come across what kind of fun Bagger Vance was having. He built a bomb and and rocket propelled ejection seat. Only those with famous last names get a ride and survive.

Between these two movies, Deep Rising knows it’s a B-movie and has it’s tongue firmly in it’s cheek. There’s winks and nods to film fans from the introduction of the anti-hero “I thought you would be older” to the final scene on a beach which for years was speculated to be the island from Lost. Virus, however,  doesn’t even know what it wants to be. Science fiction, horror, no one knows. Jamie Lee herself uses it as an example of a bad movie she was in.  There’s no reason to watch Virus but if you get a chance check out Deep Rising.

Speaking of ships and boats…..

 

 

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Posted by on July 22, 2014 in Movies, Reviews, Viewpoints

 

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Video Games: The Movie; The Review

This was an interesting documentary. It’s more about the technical aspect of how video games began and were they are going. There’s plenty of nostalgia from big name game creators. I have some great memories of the beginnings of the Nintendo era. I wasn’t as into it as others. I grew up an only child so I spent as much time outside as possible and played most games over at a friend’s house. What I like about video games is the stories. they create entire worlds that they allow us to play in. They allow us to interact in a way that movies and music cannot do.

There’s been a debate questioning if video games are art. I don’t see how they aren’t they combine engrossing stories, amazing musical scores and visuals that rival the biggest summer blockbuster. What is art is subjective but if Jackson Pollock is considered art, video games are art. Watch clips from “Last of Us” and tell me there’s no art.

They lightly touch upon licensed games that were and still are produced just to cash in on a popular movie. There was a time where every big action movie had a game based on it . Either the game was released around the same time as the movie or very shortly after. Even non action films received games. The most famous example of this is the E.T. game for the Atari system that had just little over a month production time and was so bad that it and many other poor selling games were buried in the New Mexican desert

It’s like The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults but with a pay off

Not an urban legend

 

They covered Nintendo and Playstation fairly . How they were weren’t video game consoles; they were entertainment systems.  How people wanted to play as characters like Mario.  Many of the biggest games you pay as someone and not something like games of the past like “Space Invaders” or “Pong”.

I don’t think they did enough with the coverage of the rise of the ESRB and congressional hearing on violence in video games and how they are always the scapegoat whenever someone commits a violent public act. There was a great quotation asking why is it that many other nations play the same games yet don’t have half of the acts that are blamed on the medium.

I feel they also missed the mark when addressing women and gaming . From the number of female protagonist to women in creative roles. This is something that’s becoming bigger as more people speak out but for many years all we saw of women in games were the damsel in distress. There have been a few but the are easily outnumbered by their male counterparts. There are plenty of games that changing the gender wouldn’t impact the gameplay or story in any significant way. The latest excuse for the new Assassins Creed game was that it would take more time to animate a female. Which is complete bull shit since not all women a particular way. Hell in some parts of the world women pretend to be boy and men not to get killed or to go to school   In fact Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d’Armont was put to death for the assassination of a journalist during the French Revolution. 

That being said Video Games: The Movie was entertain and informative enough for those who know little but really like playing games. If you’re a real hardcore gamer you would appreciate some of the interviews they had, and wish they went on longer. I say see it and support it so more documentaries about video games area seen by the general public.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in Games, Reviews, Viewpoints

 

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Two Movies One Plot : Mission to Mars vs Red Planet

In the year 2000 Hollywood went to Mars

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It’s not hard to tell after watching which film  was directed by a TV commercial director with no experience making a movie and  Brian De Palma There’s no question which has a better plot,  themes or visuals. It’s bad that Red Planet is full of decent actors who were completely wasted in what could be confused for  big budget The Asylum mockbuster. Mission to Mars is a long drama that is about the first mission to Mars finding a greater truth about we are and where we come from. it’s about sacrifice and faith. The crew is tight-knit and a family. Two are husband and wife and it makes for a story where you care about the characters and what motivates them. Gary Sinise instead of losing his legs loses his wife and is no longer part of the mission crew. Lily Gray and Andy Dufresne’s relationship is great which makes the death between them  matter and carry weight. Red Planet is a jumbled mess of ego maniacs with a shoehorned in female captain who’s somehow former Navy and not Air Force. Not ten minutes in we get a shower scene because reasons. The preceding conversation with Trinity and Rey Curtis begins with her wiping steam off a mirror in a bathroom and him putting clothes on. It could be from a work out but then where did the steam come from? She then on day 144 of their mission didn’t lock the door just so we could get a scene of Val Kilmer’s character Gallagher, yes Gallagher, walk in on her as she steps out. Their romance if one can all it that is so disjointed that it’s told in flashbacks instead of during the normal progression of the story to explain why she cares about the systems engineer AKA glorified janitor (there words not mine) Mission had great sets a few interesting space walk moments and motivations not just to care about what happens to the characters but what the mystery was behind the “face” that was found. There wasn’t a villain to defeat but mysteries to solve. What happened to the origins ground crew, what was the sound coming from the face? How did a black man get to not only get sent but survive when so many died? Red Planet’s plot is the Earth is polluted and overcrowded so we are looking for a new home and look to Mars. Bio Engineered algae is sent for 20 years to produce oxygen. O2 levels begin to drop and a team gets sent to find out why. There are throwaway lines about how we are going to trash the new planet (true) and some bs about having faith and philosophy. This comes from Zod who is chief science officer and “soul of the crew” (again their words) This had no pay off as the resolution to the decreases in oxygen levels. He and or his beliefs would have been better suited in Mission to Mars. Untitled-2     red planet-1 Now for the major conflict(s). In Mission to Mars, the first crew members are attacked by a mysterious event and a rescue/recovery mission is sent. They run into their own issues and after finding the lone survivor, the set to solve the mystery before the leave. In Red Planet they have a small window to figure out what happened to the algae, and get back to the ship before Trinity has to leave them due to low fuel. Oh and their mapping exploration robot on loan from the Marines gets damaged during their crash and reverts to survival military mode when the crew mentions they want to pull her parts for a battery and radio. In Mission to Mars the finale is finding out the answer of why Earth had an explosion of life all of sudden and where we come from. In Red Planet the finale is  val Kilmer having to outsmart a killer robot for it’s battery. I need to point out that I find it insulting that the character played bu Carrie Anne Moss (Trinity) is named Bowman and  spends a bit of the movie alone talking to her ship’s AI computer much like David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey. De Palma’s film seems to try to strike a balance between normal sci-fi and reaching for something more. I would have prefered to have more exposition about the nature of man and our yearning to explore. It covered well enough but didn’t blow me away. It’s the stronger of the two films by light-years. Mission to Mars takes us to another galaxy while Red Planet blows up on the launch pad.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2014 in Movies, Reviews, Viewpoints

 

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Captain America: The Winter Solider

Captain America: The Winter Solider

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the eighth film in the Marvel Cinematic universe and the sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger.  Chris Evan returns as Steve Rodgers/Captain America, a super solider who after fighting Nazis in WWII was frozen for 70s years. The first was a throwback to the older war films like The Rocketeer. This entry was more of actually spy action film like Spy Game where the  plot unfolds over the course of the film.

The opening scene with Rodgers doing laps around the National Mall allows to subtly show he’s much more fit than the average man and introduces us and him to Sam Wilson, a pararescue veteran, who works for the Department of Veterans Affairs. They share a bond over how it was to live in the field vs back home and that  ties into a later scene at Wilson’s work at the VA working with a support group for returning Veterans.

One major theme of this movie  is liberty vs security. On one side is Rodgers literally Captain America, the pinnacle of idealism  and the other side of the coin is Nick Fury, director of SHIELD, a realist, who “takes the world as it is not as he wants it to be”.  Rogers only works with SHIELD because Agent Carter, his love interest from the first film, was one of the founding members. He’s used to being a soldier. Belonging to an army where everyone is moving toward the same goal. He’s not keen on the spy world where “secrets have secrets.” and lines are blurred and things aren’t black and white. This is the other major theme throughout the film.

Scarlett Johanson returns as Natasha Romanoff AKA the Black Widow. She’s given much much more screen time and character development than previous appearances.  Natasha and Rodgers have playful banter. She makes quips about his actual age he a pokes at her for most of her life being a lie since she’s a spy. I really liked that there was no forced romance. In fact there’s a running joke that she’s always trying to hook him up with other women in his life and questioning how long it’s been since he’s kissed a woman.

A big improvement with this installment is the fight choreography. There’s not as much as what most would want but when they occur they have real impact Captain America can take down regular men with ease So this time they throw multiple people at him. The other star of the film; the Winter Soldier is a presence from the first moment he appears on screen. He’s the terminator.  From their first encounter he shows that he stands toe to toe with Captain America.

A brutal attack on Fury leaves Rogers and Romanoff on their own unable to trust anyone. They use cryptic clues from Fury to track down who’s behind the attack on SHIELD and it’s beautiful fan service. This led to revelations to important deaths in the past and a “magical”  name drop by one of the villains.  Turning to Wilson the only outsider who may be able to help and his “flight suit” they take on the threat. The final battle showed off the Falcon expertly.  I can’t wait until Tony Stark get his hands on it and upgrades its abilities.

The ending leaves all who are left scattered and questioning everything they know. It was a perfect midpoint for what is going to be a great trilogy and left a very lasting impact for the entire Marvel cinematic universe.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2014 in Movies, Reviews, Viewpoints

 

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View on the not so Amazing Spider-Man 2

Everything but the kitchen sink


The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the second installment of the 2012 reboot of the classic comic book tale. Peter Parker is a high schooler who after accidentally  acquiring  the abilities of a spider, becomes a masked vigilante after losing his uncle to a random  act of violence on the street.

Part 2 begins at  about a year after the events of the first film. Peter is very much into being Spider-Man and this is where the movie shines. Andrew Garfield is just right mix of wise cracking superhero and goofy nerd. He’s  always throwing out quips at his enemies and seemingly unable to express his feeling to his on and off girlfriend. Gwen Stacy.  Emma Stone returns as the aforementioned Gwen is breath of fresh air to the damsels in distress in most superhero films and isn’t only fully competent but very helpful to Peter and his superhero duties.

Approximately the first six  minutes are all Peter’s parents back story which continues from the first film and doesn’t add much to the plot that couldn’t have been explained in exposition and was a missed chance at showing young Peter and uncle Ben and aunt May.

In the present Gwen and Peter are graduating high school and while Peter is off stopping a plutonium theft he almost misses Gwen’s valedictorian speech.  Visions of Gwen’s father’s dying words continually haunt Peter throughout and convey the inner turmoil of those close to him being hurt.  The on-screen chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are perfect. Their relationship issues aren’t artificial and they create weight and real drama.

The villain that has gotten the most headlines is Electro/ Max Dillion who after a chance encounter with  Spider-Man develops an obsession that turns deadly after a freak accident that turns grants him the ability to absorb and release massive amounts of electricity.  I couldn’t  not think Jim Carey’s portrayal of the Riddler when watched Jamie Foxx’s performance. It’s not bad but it’s not anything spectacular. His look is  amazing, but the character and his arc, if it can even be called that is very lacking. There could have been a better execution with his issues with not being noticed and then once gaining his powers using that to force the city to pay attention to him.

My biggest issue with this film and the series is the unofficial motto “Everything is connected to Oscorp” From Peter’s fathers research to every single villain and the titular hero being the direct result of Oscorp research. On top of this is that Norman Osborn has a of some hereditary disease that fuels most of the genetic research. This dovetails into Peter’s father’s research and Spider-Man’s origin.  This personally takes away from the larger world as everything is fate and not chance.

There are a few sub plots that took my out of the story. First, which was minor, was aunt May getting a job as nurse and somehow wanting to hide it from Peter. It felt like was done just to then have her working at a hospital later in the film when the power goes out for the city.  Getting a job doesn’t seem like something one needs to hide for any reason other than to create  a comedic scene where neither wants the other to do laundry and see their “uniforms”.

The  sub subplot (?) was air traffic control  losing power during the final battle with Electro.  Airplanes have their own radar they wouldn’t be completely blind and oblivious to other aircraft nearby. Movies really need to stop having the “they are going to crash in X minutes” scenario. It’s rarely accurate time wise.  There’s no need to ramp up the  drama and tension when there already was the hero fighting a super villain with his girl present. This was huge distraction for me. It took me out of the immediate battle and had me wonder what was going on in the rest of the city, was there looting, riots? People already lived through the Lizard’s attack one the city. Electro’s first appearance was in Times Square so everyone knew there was some electricity base bad guy out there and then the power goes out. People would have been panicking.The police would have asked Spider-Man to either help them or go stop the main threat.  That’s not what I should have been thinking during the climactic battle in a film.

I enjoyed the first instalment and the direction that could have taken. It played up the scientific side of Peter Parker. Not just in the development of is web shooters but how he was able to understand not only what happened to himself but how to defeat the Lizard. However with this very lackluster sequel I can see that Sony has nothing but dollar signs in it’s eyes to not only hold onto the Spider-Man franchise name for as long as possible but to milk it for all it’s worth. Sadly knowing that it’s going to make enough to break even they are going to continue down this path and really do damage to the beloved hero’s name and legacy.

 

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2014 in Movies, Reviews, Viewpoints

 

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