Fantasia Festival 2019: Vivarium (2019)

Vivarium (2019)

Vivarium

Director (and co-writer): Lorcan Finnegan

Cast: Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris, Eanna Hardwicke, Senan Jennings

Vivarium is a 2019 science fiction thriller about a house-hunting couple ends up being shown to a home located in a labyrinth of a cookie cutter neighborhood and abandoned by the real estate agent with no way out.

Choosing to start the film on the note of baby birds being knocked out of their nests by a cuckoo bird trying to take over is an odd way and sets the tone for Vivarium and even the story concept. With only a general knowledge of the couple, Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg), mainly their careers and an idea of their compatibility together as two weirdos (as they call it), they set off to find their perfect home which leads them to discover the office of Yonder run by Martin (Jonathan Aris) who awkwardly gets the couple to go visit one of the houses. As they drive into the rows of green tinted houses, identical to each other, they get to number 9, not a starter house which includes a baby’s room. Not long after, Martin disappears and they can’t find their way out and a box arrives full of necessities and then another box arrives with a baby. Their task is to raise the baby and get released.

Vivarium is a slow-burn movie. Its weird and bizarre, making the couple who considered themselves weirdoes initially to really be the normal ones thrust into this deserted suburbia. If we look at it in three acts, the movie sets up its scenario fairly quickly. For that, it deserves credit for giving it that dark humor and a dose of oddness, furthered by the feeling of hopelessness. However, the movie might be using uniformity as the creepy environment factor however the only creepy thing about the second act is the timeline of the child they need the raise, which gives an idea of how long they’ve been trapped there as well as this child who has a creepy voice and likes to imitate them. That one tone of life and the routine lifestyle might instill fear for some but mostly, it felt a tad repetitive and dragged the story out longer than it needed to and only dropping little hints of change to sustain interest on the mystery of why they are there and who is this child. What does make it for a lot of the slowness in the second act is the final act that turns up the story quite a bit as things start unveiling and the one reveal is the most thrilling part of the movie as a whole.

The technicalities of this film is what makes it stand it. First, the most notable is the color palette and the location of having these identical houses paired with a quiet background, that emphasizes on the sounds. The green of the houses to the blue skies with the cloud-like clouds  makes it feel like a story book fantasy and in turn gives it a fake-ness. This makes it feel an obvious distance and abandonment and with that loneliness. At the same time, the emptiness of the location is further emphasized with the cinematography and how some shots are shown. There are some captivating shots looking down as they drive around this labyrinth of  houses, trying but not finding their way out. Then there are shots of pulling way to show distance and shots where the character is centered to show probably the control of the situation. There are lot of deeper messages being conveyed here. It gives the story its depth and its creepy moments. Its leaves a lot for interpretation on the fears of life, uniformity, the routine, homeownership, the family model, the concept of work and having the need to find purpose and something to do everyday.

Vivarium has a lot to thank for its small cast and both Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, especially the latter, that carries this film forward. Imogen Poots takes on the role of Gemma and she does it with so much heart. Even in some of the slow moments, the camera gives a lot of context on her emotions from her reactions to her facial expressions as she interacts with the boy and Tom. While Jesse Eisenberg has a less role as his character has some truly powerful moments and yet, the rest of the time, his character is affected a lot more by the situation that he is in. Especially worth a mention is the almost cameo role of Martin, played by Jonathan Aris which excels in its dark humor execution.

There’s a lot to appreciate in the craft of Vivarium. However, its not a film for everyone. It takes starts off very strong, lags in the center and then amps up in the final act with a lot of style. Its mostly of movie of moments and probably one that needs a few more viewings to capture its true depth and meanings.

After Hours: Europa Report

The next After Hours episode for Movies and Tea is here. This time, its my pick for Europa Report, a found footage sci-fi of sorts.

Head over to check it out and tell us if you’ve seen this one (or even heard of it)!

Movies and Tea

On this episode we check out the indie sci-fi found footage movie “Europa Report” which recounts the fictional story of the first crewed mission to   Europa, one of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter.

We question if sci-fi can effectively be done on a budget as well as the effectiveness of the found footage genre plus more.

Further Viewing

Life
The Martian
Moon
Event Horizon
Gravity

Music on this episode

Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare
Bear Mccreary – Theme from Europa Report

Listen to the Show

Anchor
Itunes
Spotify
Podomatic 

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Double Feature: I Am Mother (2019) & Tau (2018)

Its time for the next double feature! This time we have a double Netflix Original sci-fi films. The first being 2018’s Tau and paired with the recently released I Am Mother.

Let’s check it out!

Tau (2018)

Tau

Director: Federico D’Alessandro

Cast: Maika Monroe, Ed Skrein, Gary Oldman

A woman is held captive by a scientist in a futuristic smart house, and hopes to escape by reasoning with the Artificial Intelligence that controls the house. – IMDB

One location films are always quite alluring to watch. It needs to set its space and utilize its surroundings. While Tau is mostly set in one location or at least in one building for the majority of the film, the film doesn’t only manage to use its environment to its advantage but rather it uses the main character’s relationship with an AI. Its about the future where a scientist tries kidnaps disposable people for his experiments to test his technology. In the process, this woman ends up destroying a part of his lab and ends up in his living quarters which is controlled by this AI called Tau who manages the entire house from the scientist’s needs to being the security system and so on. However, it taps into the desire for higher intelligence to learn and their desire to become human. The need for more knowledge and the curiosity builds a connection is what ends up manipulating Tau into falling for the charms of this woman.

Tau lies heavily on its characters. While it stumbles a little in its set-up and even some of the logic, its not a bad film. Maika Monroe takes up the main female protagonist role and does a fairly decent job as she uses her observation to connect with Tau, voiced by Gary Oldman, using his desires as his weaknesses. Gary Oldman takes up the voice work for Tau in a very impressive way. In some ways, Tau is resembled to a child and his bonds and loyalties also become altered as he learns more information and of the “deception” around him. Ed Skrein takes up the role of the scientist who is in a time crunch to prove that his new technology works and of course, with the resistant subject, it becomes harder and ends up causing him a lot of trouble.

Tau plays around with not only the concept of control between the different characters as well as manipulation. At the same time, one of the downfalls is overusing the emphasis of how creepy the scientist is. Ed Skrein spends a lot of time simply observing Maika Monroe’s character from afar and it highlights on her playing on his desires to be close to her and being reluctant, which seems pretty unnecessary in the spectrum of things and feels like its done only for one purpose, making some of the scenes feel a little force in the flow of events rather than it being a more natural evolution. Overall, Tau has its better and weaker elements.

I Am Mother (2019)

I am Mother

Director: Grant Sputore

Cast: Luke Hawker, Rose Byrne, Tahlia Sturzaker, Clara Rugaard, Hilary Swank

A teenage girl is raised underground by a kindly robot “Mother” — designed to repopulate the earth following the extinction of mankind. But their unique bond is threatened when an inexplicable stranger arrives with alarming news. – IMDB

Almost set in a one location throughout the entire film, I Am Mother uses the concept of a post-apocalyptic future where a robot is tasked with repopulating mankind starting with a girl. However, as the girl gets older, she starts suspecting what is outside the bunker especially after a stranger starts telling her that the robots are not what they seem. I Am Mother manages to drive its suspicions quite deep even with its tight cast revolving three characters, two humans and one robot. The thrills are quite good and to be honest, one of the most outstanding parts of the film is Mother, voiced by Rose Byrne, who not only grasps the tone very well to control the atmosphere in the bunker but also the robot design itself in its movements particularly is rather creepy especially in how it captures its speed.

While robot design and atmosphere takes a lot of credit for this film’s great execution, young actress Clara Rugaard and seasoned actress Hilary Swank does put in great performances. At the same time, the story itself is also quite clever. Its one that keeps its audience wondering along with the young girl who is telling the truth and who is lying and if so, what is the bigger plot behind it all. While questioning, what the outside world is like in this version of the post-apocalypse. Even the ending is well thought out and gives a good wrap-up to the story that addresses its many questions set out and even ties up some loose ends.

I Am Mother is definitely one of the excellent Netflix Originals to have been made. While I’m not quite a sci-fi fan, this one delivers on almost every element.

Double Feature: Tracers (2015) & Ultraviolet (2006)

DOUBLEFEATURE (58)

Its time for the next double feature! The alphabet Netflix is going a bit awkward and weird and it won’t look like the whole alphabet at this point with doubles and triples here and there for various letters. Anyways, this is the penultimate one before we finish up the 26 movies in this rundown. This time, for the T selection I decided to go with Tracers which looks like some parkour fun. I liked Brick Mansions even if the plot was a bit thin and I’m expecting a similar experience here. For the U selection, I went on to look at the Ultraviolet.

Suffice to say, the ending two movies for this rundown is going to be not the rest of the alphabet but cut very short, either way, it needs to wrap up so some other random pairings can happen. 🙂 Anyways, let’s check out these two movies!

Tracers (2015)

tracers

Director: Daniel Benmayor

Cast: Taylor Lautner, Marie Avgeropoulos, Adam Rayner, Rafi Gavron, Luciano Acuna Jr., Josh Yadon, Johnny M. Wu, Sam Medina, Amirah Vann

Wanted by the Chinese mafia, a New York City bike messenger escapes into the world of parkour after meeting a beautiful stranger. – IMDB

Just as I’d expected, Tracers is an alright movie. Its not great because its pretty predictable in how things are going to go down but its also better than I expected because of the parkour and the setting. The characters are alright but they have quite a few so it also lacks some depth. In the choice between making it more action-packed and crime or giving it more of a character oriented drama, this one leaned more onto the former, which is a pretty good choice seeing as it took the twist of these groups of parkour youths pulling off some crime jobs like stealing stuff and whatnot.

Taylor Lautner is usually dismissed mostly because of Twilight, it feels but I thought he did alright in the few Twilight films that I saw. To be fair, the whole acting job here was a little meh but the parkour was fun to watch and everyone seemed to have the reason to be there even if the romance here felt a little forced and became like the pushing force for Taylor Lautner’s character to do this because, it always felt like while it was a perk to get to know the character of Marie Avgeropoulos, he did it for the fast money. So everyone has their agenda and it tried to do this twist with the leader of the parkour group which I guess makes sense to a certain extent. Talking about Marie Avgeropoulos, I grew to like her character in The 100 even if she is super stubborn and this character here is very reminiscent of that one where she’s a pretty tough girl.

Overall, Tracers was pretty middle of the line. Its not a very memorable movie because it played a lot of it by the books but it did exceed my expectations. Aside from all the nonsensical romantic angles that really just tried to flaunt some young bodies and romantic tension to give it more conflict, the parkour bits were pretty fun to watch. There’s some decent action in the escape scene near the end. The twist was alright as well even if it was a tad predictable. I didn’t expect much from it to begin with so it exceeded my expectations.

Ultraviolet (2006)

ultraviolet

Director (and writer): Kurt Wimmer

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Cameron Bright, Nick Chinlund, Sebastien Andrieu, Ida Martin, William Fichtner, David E. Collier

A beautiful hæmophage infected with a virus that gives her superhuman powers has to protect a boy in a futuristic world, who is thought to be carrying antigens that would destroy all hæmophages. – IMDB

Honestly, there’s not much to say about Ultraviolet. Its a pretty bad movie. If it didn’t have Milla Jovovich as the main character and then some competent supporting roles like William Fichtner, I probably would have shut off the film. The premise of the film isn’t too bad set in the futuristic work and the whole blood angle and hemophages and such. All that stuff works well enough as the background premise of the story. The main issue is that the movie itself is pretty bad. The computer graphics are absolutely outdated at this point which makes it very unconvincing to watch.

At the same time, there’s a whole lot of bad acting from everyone else. Milla Jovovich might not have great acting skills but she fills up the space because its her unique attitude that always makes her stand out (even in the Resident Evil), making her the best part of Ultraviolet. Ultraviolet is a pretty bad-ass character with some fun one-liners, very reminiscent of Alice in Resident Evil, and I guess that really makes it work for her. Playing alongside her is Cameron Bright as the boy who can destroy all of the hemophages. I’ve only seen Cameron Bright in one other movie (that I remember) in Running Scared which I really liked him and think that he’s a pretty decent young actor and he does pretty well here even if his dialogue is quite scarce.

Overall, Ultraviolet is pretty meh. Nothing really does good and unless you are a fan of Milla Jovovich like me, you might even dismiss her role as Ultraviolet as well. But seeing as I am a fan of hers, this movie worked because she held it up and kept me watching. I can almost guarantee that I probably won’t be watching this again though.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two? Thoughts?

Blog Tour: Crossline by Russ Colchamiro [Review & Giveaway]

Crossline Blog Tour

CROSSLINE
By: Russ Colchamiro

crossline

First published: March 2013
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

SYNOPSIS

“A high-flying adventure of a novel, filled with ambitious ideas and a breathtaking conclusion.” — The Leighgendarium

In the SciFi/Fantasy spirit of Firefly, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Stargate, and Escape from New York…

Hotdog pilot Marcus Powell has been selected to test Taurus Enterprises’ Crossline prototype craft and its newly developed warp thrusters, which, if successful, will revolutionize space travel as we know it.

But during his jaunt across the stars, Powell is forced into a parallel universe — including a parallel Earth — where he finds himself at the center of an epic battle he may have been destined for all along.

Meanwhile, back home, reclusive oil tycoon and Taurus CEO Buddy Rheams Jr. — who sent Powell on that very mission — has a mysterious past and a secret agenda, one that could prevent Powell from ever making it back to his wife and little girl.

From author Russ Colchamiro, Crossline is a psychedelic, action-packed romp across time, space, and dimension that asks the question: once you cross the line, can you ever really go back?

ADD TO GOODREADS

REVIEW

After a slow-paced beginning to set up the scenario to the lift-off of Marcus Powell, Crossline takes a nice increase in pace throughout until its finale. As time goes by, slow beginnings in novels have begun the normal pattern nowadays because it needs the time to give its characters and story some foundation. One of the well-done parts of Crossline is how its executed. There is a structure that I enjoyed. It took its story into parts, describing its current and how it lead to this situation between Marcus Powell in the current situation and where his space expedition had ambitiously taken him while Part 2 took the step to introduce the character of Buddy Rheams Jr. who plays a key part to the story and unravels some of the mysteries left off from Part 1 in the Marcus Powell bit. As it enters the final act, it blends the two situation and the two locations together as it guides its story to the big finale. Because of this structure, Crossline ends up becoming fairly action-driven by its final part and that makes for a page-turning experience that perhaps the first few chapters didn’t do as well.

Taking a look at the characters, there is the obvious two here with Marcus Powell and Buddy Rheams Jr. While Marcus Powell doesn’t have as much of a backstory, he has a bit more of a mystery behind him because he does some actions in the start that create the situation that he’s in while also have the human aspects of family and connections. While Buddy Rheams Jr., we soon learn of his identity and his motives for this expedition, while at the same time, he has more of a past that creates his back story making his mystery the missing pieces of “What next?”. These two main characters are created very well. At the same time, there is also a contained group of supporting characters for both Powell’s side of the story on Aretha while Buddy Rheams Jr. and the Earth side of things also has its own crew which start off with some very odd characters who also get their purpose. Its always nice to have characters that serve their purpose. One of two of them are fairly underused but then, there’s no clear way how to add them more to the story but they aren’t exactly disposable either. At least, the author remembers to address all these characters by the time we reach the ending and that is a always nice to see that the characters mentioned are treated with care.

Overall, Crossline is a fun read. It starts off slow as it builds the foundation but quickly finds its footing and gradually paces the action fast and faster making it more and more of a page turner reading experience. The story’s two locations and two character focus ties into each other very effectively. There are some little issues here and there where at some points there are a bit too many characters that pop in on the Aretha situation (particularly in the final act) and it gets slightly confusing but then, most of it does a good job of creating a decent structure to make it work.

Goodreads: 4/5

Purchase links

Amazon
Barnes & Noble

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

RUSS COLCHAMIRO

Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the zany SF/F backpacking comedy series Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the SF anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.

Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two ninjas, and crazy dog Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, Altered States of the Union, Camelot 13, TV Gods 2, They Keep Killing Glenn, Thrilling Adventure Yarns, Camelot 13, and Brave New Girls.

He is now working on the first novel in a new series featuring his hardboiled private eye Angela Hardwicke, and the first of three collaborative novella projects.

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

GIVEAWAY

Details: For your chance to win a print copy of this high-flying adventure in either print or digital, AND a $15 Amazon Gift Card, be sure to click the link HERE!

Blog Tour Schedule

May 27th

Reads & Reels (Excerpt) http://readsandreels.com
She Marie (Excerpt) https://shemarieblogs.com/
Tranquil Dreams (Review) https://klling.wordpress.com/
Didi Oviatt (Excerpt) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com
Tsarina Press (Excerpt) https://www.tsarinapress.com

May 28th

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Interview) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com
Ity Reads Books (Review) http://www.ityreadsbooks.home.blog
The Book Dragon (Review) thebookdragondotblog.wordpress.com
Breakeven Books (Excerpt) https://breakevenbooks.com

May 29th

The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com
Audio Killed the Bookmark (Excerpt) http://audiokilledthebookmark.wordpress.com
Reading Nook (Excerpt) http://readingnook84.wordpress.com

May 30th

That One Nerdy Girl (Review) http://thatonenerdygirlblog.wordpress.com
Triquetra Reviews (Excerpt) http://www.triquetrareviews.blogspot.com
Reviews by Nyx (Excerpt) https://nyxblogs.wordpress.com/

May 31st

Every Book Counts (Review) https://everybookcountsblog.wordpress.com/
Jessica Belmont (Review) http://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com
Dash Fan Book Reviews (Excerpt) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/
Sophril Reads (Excerpt) http://sophrilreads.wordpress.com
The Consulting Writer (Excerpt) https://theconsultingwriter.wordpress.com

Blog Tour Organized by:

What’s Up – Week 20: New Things, Old Things and Catching Up

20 weeks into 2019 already! Spring is finally showing its face and as I go out to do more things, some of these bits might get slowed down a little bit. Its still a little too early to know but I’ve been transitioning between different elements of life and somewhat swapping my routine a little. As some TV series also winds down, I’m thinning it out a little to try to get some extensive backlog out of the way. It won’t reflect here but gradually, as Montreal events start coming into play as well.

READING

crossline

Currently reading: Crossline by Russ Colchamiro

I’ve been getting hit with some spring fatigue so I’m still reading Crossline at a very turtle pace, which needs to be remedied because I have another book lined up that needs to get started by the end of next week. Crossline is pretty good but I’ve been also watching movies with similar themes that I’m not sure if I’m getting an overdose of sci-fi. Keeping an open mind and I’m only slightly past the quarter mark in the book so its just the set-up phase done and things are started to unravel.

PLAYING

The Witness

Currently playing: The Witness

For a moment, I honestly thought this week would be no gaming at all except maybe some mobile game titles to fill up some space here. Those are going well but I like to keep it a little mysterious for the mobile games roundup segment. However, the husband started up The Witness last night and we played a few puzzles together, which was pretty cool. I’m probably going to start it up on my own also and play some of the puzzles also.

WATCHING

  • The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)
  • Europa Report (2013) – rewatch – Review

I’m not going to lie that this list kind of probably should add in rewatching Jaws 2, 3 and The Revenge to refresh my memory for the Triple feature HERE. However, I won’t because I honestly just played it in the background to remind of the story and dialogue and wasn’t actually looking at the screen. So we are left with two films. One is a rewatch for an upcoming podcast which is Europa Report, a little found footage-esque sci-fi film. Trying to get things done in advance is always a good thing. And as I’m still a tad behind on the double features, I’m also trying to save up some more movies gradually and moved onto the M selection. I’m using a general of movies in my list that are rated badly but still I would like to watch so I ended up checking out The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. I love Shadowhunters, the TV series thats in its last season (if it hasn’t already ended) so seeing how the movie interpretation would be. I’ll share my thoughts on it in the double feature but lets just say, when the background world or lore is too heavy, its hard to just rally it all up in 2 hours and hope that its not convoluted.

BINGING

Put Your Head On My Shoulder

  • Dream Space (Season 1, 2019)
  • Put Your Head On My Shoulder (2019)

Currently binging: Le Coup de Foudre, Go Fridge (Season 5), Great Escape, Produce Camp 2019, Nailed It (Season 3)

Two TV series done this week. I’m feeling quite accomplished. One of them is a Chinese social variety show called Dream Space which is something like a matchmaking show which takes a look at romance and opening up a space for single women and men to focus solely on their romantic sides for a few days. I’ll write about this variety show even if I don’t for others because its worth it. I have a few thoughts on this one and they are having a season 2 already getting new candidates so I’m pretty excited to see how it changes. As for dramas, Put Your Head On My Shoulder wrapped up as well and its a nice little dose of cuteness along the line of the A Love So Beautiful universe and they make a point at the final episodes to address that to clear up some of the suspicion that people have been having. More on that in the TV binge at some point….

Most of the things currently binging is still very much the same. The only new addition is Nailed It which released its Season 3 on Friday. Because there were too many other stuff to take care of, its probably one of the first seasons that I didn’t finish it in the first weekend but we’re about 6 episodes in so its not a whole lot left to watch but its still very fun. The only other one I want to talk about is Great Escape which is heading into some more intense escape room experiences and its getting very intriguing to say the least.

That’s it for this What’s Up!
What have you been reading/playing/watching/binging?

Double Feature: Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (2016) & Life (2017)

Next double feature comes at us with nothing too in common. For the K selection, I chose Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV which came out as the story leading to Final Fantasy XV’s video game release. For the L selection, which you will notice is going to be the first of 2 selections (the second title paired up in the next double feature with the M selection) is the 2017 sci-fi film, Life, which got relatively low ratings but remains intriguing to me.

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (2016)

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV

Director: Takeshi Nozue

Voice cast: Aaron Paul, Lena Headey, Sean Bean, Adrian Bouchet, Liam Mulvey, Alexa Kahn

King Regis, who oversees the land of Lucis, commands his army of soldiers to protect the kingdom from the Niflheim empire’s plans to steal the sacred crystal which gives Lucis its magic and power. – IMDB

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is the story that takes place before the events of Final Fantasy XV. The ending of this film introduces the four main characters in the game however doesn’t show them anywhere else in the film. With that said, this story takes a look at the kingdom and the threats as well as the soldiers abilities. Video game adaptations or even films derived from a game always has the difficulty of just appealing to those familiar with the franchise or the story. In this case, while Final Fantasy has had a lot of games so far and is a successful franchise, FF15 is a different story with different characters so the idea of making this film is a good one however the execution might not have been done quite as well as the story feels convoluted.

Voiced by Aaron Paul as Nyx, Lena Headey as Lunafreya and Sean Bean as King Regis, the character voiced here are done pretty well. At the same time, the visuals of the kingdom and even the action itself as well as the character design all are appealing. However, where this movie does fall apart is that the script isn’t written well, some dialogue feels very rigid and the story flow feels a bit slow where some parts actually start feeling a bit boring and slow.

Final Fantasy may be an overall pretty great gaming franchise however, its movies have mostly been lacking except for maybe one. Therefore, Kingsglaive might not be a good movie but I also didn’t expect to feel all that much different when I finished with it. Its visually appealing but everything else falls short in the spectrum of things.

Life (2017)

Life

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dykhovichnaya

A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars and now threatens all life on Earth. – IMDB

Life’s one of those films that I’d chalk up their general lack of box office or negative reviews on expectations and the fact that their trailer reminded the audience of an Alien rip-off. I’m not going to argue that I wasn’t affected by the trailer hence why I’ve put off watching it for so long. However, putting aside the similarities of sci-fi films and comparing it to the very fantastically done ones like Alien, Life is a pretty solid sci-fi film. Its quite entertaining that most sci-fi films in the Alien veins reminds us of the fascination of finding that we are not alone in the universe but then quickly wishes that we were because foreign extraterrestrial organisms are probably going to be much more lethal and a good part of it has to do with it being unknown. In that sense, Life’s best attributes is giving us an organism that develops and grows exponentially in a short frame of time and we learn about it just as the characters stuck in the spacecraft is at the same time.

Life is also quite good in the sense that its paced fairly well. The background music is done well especially to boost the atmosphere. With that said, the atmosphere and environment is controlled and the use of gravity and space is also done quite effectively. There is a good deal of tension throughout the film and it has a lot to do with the setup of the film being in a closed space within another closed space for a good part of the film.

Overall, Life is actually pretty good. If you can set aside some of the similarities it does have and see some of the things that are done differently. The quality of the film is definitely still there. There are tense moments and intriguing moments and the pacing is very fast paced so it helps propel the film forward without giving much time to think too much about the things in depth. Maybe its because I went into this one with lower expectations but its one that I’d gladly sit down to watch again. There are issues with it and it has to do with some of the very familiar characters which also don’t truly get a whole lot of depth because we don’t spend too much time with them before things get bad.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen either of these films? Thoughts?

Blog Tour: The Collection of the Negatives (Blood Rising Book #1) by Violet St. Karl [Review/Giveaway]

THE COLLECTION OF THE NEGATIVES
(BLOOD RISING BOOK #1)

BY: VIOLET ST. KARL

Publication Date: January 11, 2019

Genre: Sci-fi/New Adult

SYNOPSIS

In a world with skyrocketing inflation and unemployment, blood has become the new commodity, and the rarer your blood type, the more it’s worth.

After losing her job and watching her savings dwindle, Liri is persuaded by a resourceful friend to sell her blood to ABO Blood Group, where she learns she is O Negative, the most valuable and sought after blood.

Unable to afford living in New York City, Liri reluctantly decides to move back home and live with her parents, but her plan is interrupted when a virus is maliciously unleashed onto the island of Manhattan, resulting in a citywide quarantine. Before being able to devise an alternative plan, she is secretly informed of a covert mission by ABO to evacuate Negatives out of NYC. Although reluctant to trust them, it’s her only viable choice to stay alive, but unbeknown to Liri, she and the Negatives are vital to activating opposing agendas on Earth and beyond.

Add to Goodreads

REVIEW

The Collection of the Negatives is the first book in the Blood Rising series by Violet St. Karl. As a first book in a series, one of the main concepts to build up the foundation of the characters and the scenario at hand. On that level, it does a great job. The world here is reminiscent of futuristic worlds where the world has been technologically advanced and yet when the apocalypse arrives, only selected people are chosen to escape to hopefully find a way to survive and keep the humankind going on and in this premise, it is specially selected for those with negative blood types. It is a creative angle for the foundation of the story and where the key sci-fi elements are and where the story is the most strong. The new adult elements particularly the romance bits here were a bit over despite the fact that they used that angle to give the story its turning point and unravel some of the mystery as well. However, it felt like it could have been executed better.

One of the strengths of the novel is the characters. While there are some flaws further down in the novel specifically with the main character, the basis of the characters have a good balance and distinct characteristics that help give them their own edge and place in the story as a whole. Plus, there is a good basis of building up different relationships especially friendships and alliances. As I mentioned before, the romantic part is the bit that I think wasn’t done quite as well but it also has to do with the fact that its part of the “new adult” genre style which I’m not a big fan of but that is a more personal preference. Its just by the last act, there is something about it that binds together a lot of weird shift in events but then it is a good way to set up for the next book.

Overall, The Collection of the Negatives is a decent way to start up a series. It sets up its characters well enough. There are some flaws and some little execution issues but it delivers on the suspense and the sci-fi elements are very strong and also has a lot of good ideas even if its a little weird.

Goodreads: 3 out of 5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Violet St. Karl

Violet St. Karl’s love affair with science fiction and fantasy began at the tender age of four when she first saw Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, but nearly three decades passed before she started transferring the stories in her head onto the computer screen. Unbeknownst to Violet at the time of signing her lease, her Upper West Side apartment was the former site of Edgar Allen Poe’s old farmhouse, where he completed writing the Raven. However, she didn’t begin writing until receiving another sign from the universe a year later. While spending extensive time in Barcelona, she learned her flat once belonged to Mercè Rodoreda i Gurguí, a famous Catalan writer, an indication that living in the former residences of famous dead authors was no coincidence, but a sign to start writing.

After over a decade in New York, Violet recently returned to her roots in the Detroit area where is an advocate and proud Ambassador of the Authors Guild. When not writing or focused on strengthening the local literary community, she is planning which country to explore next.

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Double Feature: Eloise (2017) & The 5th Wave (2016)

Time for the next double feature.

Continuing with the alphabets, we’re at E & F. I picked two movies that has been on my list for a little while but I kept passing over it for other things. The first is horror thriller Eloise set in an abandoned psychiatric hospital and well, the only reason that this movie is on my list is because Eliza Dushku is in it and I like her from Dollhouse. For the F selection, I picked The 5th Wave. We’re finally expanding alphabets to their numerical counterparts. Either way, I like Chloe Grace Moretz and I enjoyed the novel (review) well enough that I wanted to see how they’d execute it.

Eloise (2017)

Eloise

Director: Robert Legato

Cast: Eliza Dushku, Chace Crawford, Brandon T. Jackson, P.J. Byrne, Robert Patrick, Nicole Forester

Four friends break into an abandoned insane asylum in search of a death certificate which will grant one of them a large inheritance. However, finding it soon becomes the least of their worries in a place haunted by dark memories. – IMDB

The best way to talk about Eloise might be to say that its a little more water down version of Session 9 (review) because there are a lot of similarities in how its executed but then the back story of what happened is different. While I don’t think that Eloise was as bad as I’d thought it would be, it actually has some pretty well-executed moments here and there and the characters are done well enough, of course with a relative dose of stupid decisions in the process. There’s one line that resounds as the central theme of the film throughout that when its said, it highlights the presence of the location itself and also, foreshadows the ending as well. Of course, if its a first viewing like myself, then I wouldn’t have really thought about it too much and thought only the ending as a possibility which makes the final act of the film have a nice twist to it.

Talking about the characters, they make sense pretty much although some parts are fairly obvious where its leading to. At the same time, it tries very hard to go on the psychological thriller path because it is set in a psychiatric hospital. The story actually isn’t too bad. There are a few things that are questionable. The final bit is a bit of a head scratcher even if the basis of it makes sense…kind of. The part that did actually make this not good was the pacing. The beginning to get to the psychiatric hospital takes too long and then there’s a lot of parts in the dark so a lot of scenes are pretty unclear and its probably to avoid too many torturous scenes or whatnot. Other than that, the setting and the context that is pretty overused. I’m half and half on this one.

The 5th Wave (2016)

The 5th Wave

Director: J. Blakeson

Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Alex Roe, Liev Schreiber, Maria Bello, Maika Monroe

Four waves of increasingly deadly alien attacks have left most of Earth decimated. Cassie is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother. – IMDB

Based on the novel of the same name by Rick Yancy (I linked the book review above), The 5th Wave is another one of the YA novels adapted into a movie. The 5th Wave is a mesh of alien invasion story wrapped up in survival and romance. With YA adaptations, its always about the execution as long as the source material is decent, in this case, other than bad writing which shouldn’t affect the movie part, this one was all about how it was executed. The 5th Wave does a decent job and keeps the first person narrative of Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) who narrates the film and the beginning is done really well as she sets up the foundation of how it started and what happened to date and the things that they knew. Of course, as the story diverges apart from its characters, the story shifts between more locations. What works here is that the story follows one character in their location and keeps the characters fairly limited. The pacing here works and the alien invasion story works also. I think what really  helps here is that exceeding my expectation, the romance parts are actually lesser than the survival and alien invasion part which I like a lot because that just makes more sense (although there is a part where its a bit ridiculous). However, its hard to not notice some of the really badly executed effects as well as some of the movement choreography doesn’t flow really well.

Moving along, Chloe Grace Moretz is pretty good here. She’s always been a pretty solid actress even if she sometimes ends up in some lackluster movies. She plays opposite Alex Roe and Nick Robinson, two guys in her life that fulfill different parts of the story especially as Cassie and Alex Roe’s Evan looks at what has become of the world on the outside and then Nick Robinson’s Ben Parish and a rebellious girl Ringer, played by Maika Monroe looked at the military base setting from the other angle. Its a pretty nice set-up to be honest. On top of the that, the military base itself has Liev Schreiber as the lieutenant and Maria Bello as also one of the key figures at the base. Everyone does a decent job with what they have on hand.

Its no doubt that they expected The 5th Wave to be more of a hit so that they kept the ending open-ended so a second film could happen since the book is part of a series. In some ways, with the set up of how it was done and the premise, it would be nice to see where the story would go especially with the sci-fi alien invasion elements.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen either of these films? Thoughts?

Double Feature: A Monster Calls (2016) & Battleship (2012)

Call this a little Netflix alphabet marathon again but a more relaxed and random one with no specific theme but just to get through some of those films sitting in My List. I’m going to have random movies not in the alphabet happening but I’ll try to keep to it as much as possible. The first to kick off this second round in 2019 is 2016’s A Monster Calls paired oddly, almost like a Liam Neeson double feature with 2012’s Battleship. The first I don’t know much about and the second, I’ve been extremely skeptical to see so the expectations are low.

Let’s check it out!

A Monster Calls (2016)

a monster calls

Director: J.A. Bayona

Cast: Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson (voice)

A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mother’s terminal illness. – IMDB

A Monster Calls is a stylistic fantasy drama. It works for the most part but has some bits that get a little annoying. The boy Connor, played by Lewis MacDougall is pretty decent. He matches his character quite a bit. On the surface story, A Monster Calls has a pretty generic and dramatic story when dealing with Connor and his mother and how his relationship with his grandmother, played by Sigourney Weaver. A lot of it has to do with how he deals with the situation. When the tree monster, voiced by Liam Neeson appears and decides to tell him three stories before he can help him or something (I’m a bit fuzzy on the details since its been a month or so), the stories itself and the animations used to portray them is the true heart of the movie. Its these moments between Connor and the Monster that give it depth because each story wraps up a few lessons on morals. What is right from wrong and the gray area that most kids grow up to learn about and how Connor is thrust into the situation because of his problems at home. Its also these stories which are structured with more

I’m okay with everything about A Monster Calls. It actually had more depth than I had expected it. What didn’t work so well was the pacing. It had style and some decent performances. As expected when seeing Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones as part of the cast. They were able to show the different relationships that Connor had with each of them. Because of that, the story gave a lot of depth to Connor and everyone else became more of backdrop and felt less fleshed out. The best part of the film does go to how they chose to end it and giving it a little twist that somehow brings together the tree monster and the stories in a clever way.

Battleship (2012)

battleship

Director: Peter Berg

Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Alexander Skarsgard, Tadanobu Asano, Hamish Linklater, Liam Neeson

A fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals. – IMDB

The idea of making a classic game into a movie is a pretty good idea. Battleship did have a pretty open canvas to work with seeing as the game itself doesn’t have a backstory or anything but just to set it in some kind of battle. The idea of bringing aliens in doesn’t seem like a bad thing because it can give a lot of fantasy and science fiction creative elements as well. However, its hard to pinpoint where Battleship falls apart. Everything had its issues: the story, the characters, the action, the logic behind it all. Probably its because I recently looked at Pacific Rim that the whole electromagnetic and analog thing stood out to me more than usual when I watch these films and how probably things don’t quite work that way even if on the surface, you could accept that it does (especially since I don’t know a whole lot about that anyways). Fact is, Battleship is long and repetitive. It adds too much drama and the action is very predictable. The fun element is not quite there either.

In terms of character, they were really what I was skeptical about going in. Taylor Kitsch is an actor thats been really rocky (to me). There hasn’t been one role that stood out and Battleship is the same. Its nothing special and his character is a bit irritating and shallow and the fact that he’s the main character and gets the most character development says a whole lot about that. Not that a movie like this needs a ton of character depth to be honest. On top of that, some characters that were less annoying had too short of role. The surprise of this was that Rihanna’s character was actually quite decent. I’m starting to feel like I need to re-evaluate her roles a little more. Battleship had more cons than pros and it was a predictable and forgettable movie. But hey, I didn’t have high expectations to start so it felt like it was everything I expected.

That’s it for this double feature!
A&B selection was a little good and a little bad so it kind of balanced itself out!
Have you seen A Monster Calls and/or Battleship? Thoughts?