Archive for the reviews Category

The Dark Dystopia of “Eden Log”

Posted in film, reviews, sci-fi, suspense/thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2008 by worldofmatmos

In this interesting little French science-fiction film from 2007, director Franck Vestiel has crafted an eerie, dystopic underworld which leaves viewers as unsettled and engaged as the film’s protaganist. With its heavy silver-tint, dark, unnerving sets and characters, and the slow unfolding of the what-went-horribly-wrong scenario, Eden Log opens in complete darkness. Blinding, sporadic flashes of light reveal a man emerging from a thick mud, almost as if he were being born from the earth itself. Disoriented, he tries to acclamate himself to his surroundings. He fumbles through the darkness, and eventually comes upon a portable light source, which helps him to navigate the dark corners.

His first human encounter is with a man who is mounted to a wall, with strange, tree-like roots growing out of his body. This image reminded me of when the team of Space Marines encounter the first cocooned host on LB-426 in Aliens. He warns our hero, whom we discover has amnesia, of the impending doom ahead, as his body is wrought with pain as the tree roots further engulf him [we learn late in the film that our hero’s name is Tolbiac (Clovis Cornillac), and he has a unique connection to Eden Log]. Out of the shadows comes a roar, which apparently affects Tolbiac profoundly, as he races off, gripping his head in agony. Tolbiac continues his journey through the dark labyrinth, and begins to find clues that lead him to encounter the hideously deformed subhumans, the subterranean tactical police unit, and a stranger in white that helps him in his escape to the surface, all while trying to find out his identity, and what happened to him.

The film is beautifully shot by Thierry Pouget, who manages to keep the film feeling dark and dirty, whilst contrasting the cold and clinically strile areas of Eden Log. Great handheld and dynamic wide-angle camerawork reminiscient of Terry Gilliam’s films also lends a feel of claustaphobia to the frames. Vestiel plays his characters with little dialogue, just enough to move the plot along; the script places emphasis on the world, and the visuals (particularly the production design) are as fantastic as those of Vestiel’s contemporary Chris Cunningham.

Another great aspect of this film is the score by Seppuku Paradigm (aka Alex & Willie Cortes). The haunting, Vangelis-esque ambience it creates perfectly compliments the imagery, and is at the same time neither overly electronic nor symphonic.

The film has a decent plot twist at the climax of the third act, and overall I dug the whole picture. The pacing was good, the story simple and unique, and the visuals all that one would expect from French sci-fi; the design is very Moebius at times, and even feels like it could have graced the pages of Metal Hurlant. I highly recommend this to anyone who is tired of the big, lazy Hollywood effects pictures that seem more concerned with CG explosions and character animation than crafting a good story and atmosphere.

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SciFi “Sanctuary”

Posted in action/adventure, fantasy, horror, reviews, sci-fi, suspense/thriller, television with tags , , , on October 27, 2008 by worldofmatmos

Sanctuary (SCIFI, Fridays 10/9C, TV-14)

The Fall schedule this year is full of new and interesting sci-fi, fantasy, and horror projects, and the premiere of the new series Sanctuary on the SciFi Channel has quickly become a part of the top ranks of the genre. The fascinating horror hybrid is a look into the otherworldly titular organization run by the mysterious Dr. Helen Magnus, who collects and studies that which has been all but forgotten in the human world. Cryptozoological monsters and other supernatural beings are “residents” at the Sanctuary for All.

The very well-produced series from creator Damian Kindler (Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, Stargate: Atlantis) includes a variety of great effects work, ranging from the subtle (lots of green-screen composites that are seamless) to great make-up and other practical effects. The cast is well rounded and have good writing to guide them through the dark corners of the Sanctuary world. Amanda Tapping is Dr. Helen Magnus; she is revealed as the proprietor of the Sanctuary for All, where she protects the secrets of the world (and netherworld) with her daughter Ashley (Emilie Ullerup), a headstrong ass-kicking young lady who stalks the creatures of the night and helps her mother with her research. At the center of the story is our main character Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne), a forensic psychiatrist who has been searching for answers to a tragedy that had befallen him as a child, and whose secrets are revealed to him by Dr. Magnus when he crosses the threshold towards his newfound destiny. Dunne is likable in the role; his keen sense of perception is an asset to the team, and he is equal parts nerd and hero. Henry Foss (Ryan Robbins) is the goofy yet brilliant tech expert at the Sanctuary, and provides the comic relief in the series. The rest of the cast is equally good, and the pilot sets up future relationships with them. Will must now divide his time between the world and the Sanctuary, and hopefully survive the team’s future encounters.

I look forward to reviewing this series, as it seems like a lot of fun and could go somewhere. However, I have only watched the pilot episode, but look for more on here soon.

 

On the “Fringe” of Prime-Time Television

Posted in action/adventure, reviews, sci-fi, suspense/thriller, television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2008 by worldofmatmos

FRINGE (FOX, Tuesdays 9/8C, TV-14)

Headlining Fox’s 2008 Fall schedule is Fringe, a sci-fi/thriller from masterminds J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci, that is an intense thrill-ride full of suspense, intrigue, and action that is reminiscent of the original season of The X-Files.

The pilot introduces FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), who is recruited into a top-secret sector of the Department of Homeland Security that investigates rather unusual cases. When her partner (and lover) becomes a casualty of the case they are working, she seeks the help of Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), a brilliant scientist whose past achievements have landed him in an asylum for 17 years. With a little blackmail, she enlists the help of Dr. Bishop’s estranged son Peter (Joshua Jackson) to get access to him. Peter is also a genius like his father, but has instead chose to lead quite a different life.

Now employed with the FBI, Walter and Peter help Agent Dunham and her team, which includes Security Director Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick), Olivia’s good friend Agent Charlie Francis (Kirk Acevedo) and Agent Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole) unravel these mysterious happenings. Also introduced is the huge mega-conglomerate called Massive Dynamics that remains shrouded in mystery, and is run by CEO Nina Sharpe (Blair Brown), who prompts some intrigue into these investigations with bits of information regarding “The Pattern”.

The series itself is currently up to Episode 6, and much like Abram’s last epic television outing Lost, each episode is a compelling stand-alone piece that also slowly unravels the secrets of a larger, more insidious tale. What exactly is Massive Dynamics, and what is its ultimate goal? What is “The Pattern”? What is in store for us next week?

The show is impressive on several levels. First, the writing is top-notch, and coming from Abrams, Orci, and Kurtzman, this is to be expected. The high production values (especially the visual effects) rival anything else being currently produced, and although each episode has an almost formulaic cat-and-mouse hunt in the team solving their bizarre cases, each episode is loaded with enough plot twists to keep us engaged to find out the overall story and character arcs.

The characers are also well-developed and are some of the more interesting in recent years. John Noble is particularly excellent as Walter, who is easily my favorite. He is full of quirks, and his lapses between moments of genius and madness are fantastic. He also offers the comic relief in this otherwise tense series. Joshua Jackson is also great as Peter, who never comes off as too cocky or brash for his own good; he is likeable in this role and seems as though his character would be someone you’d want to hang out with. Anna Torv is also good in her role as Olivia; she is a tough yet fragile woman whose emotions help to point her in the right direction when trying to solve a case. Lance Reddick is definitely the hard-ass boss as Broyles, with his no-nonsense, follow-the-orders, need-to-know-basis attitude, but manages to come across as the most trustworthy of characters. Kirk Acevedo is limited in his role as Charlie, he is relegated to the background, but is still a worthy screen presence, and Agent Farnsworth spends most of her time in Walter’s renovated lab in the basement at Harvard.

The series covers a range of interesting and cool ideas such as nanotechology, telekinesis, cryogenics, viral warfare, re-animation, time travel…you get the point. The science is believable fiction and its entertaining suspension-of-disbelief has not disappointed yet. Abrams and crew have another hit on their hands, one that I hope will continue strong over several future seasons.

Film Review: “Ator the Invincible” (1982)

Posted in action/adventure, fantasy, film, reviews with tags , , , , , on October 22, 2008 by worldofmatmos

In the months following John Milius’ awesome fantasy opus Conan the Barbarian that made the shirtless, bulging pectorals of future California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger famous in the title role, Italian director Joe D’Amato (aka David Hills) decided to rip-off the Austrian-born juggernaut’s character with his own brainchild – Ator.

Starring Miles O’Keefe in the first of what would go on to spawn two sequels throughout the ’80s and into the early ’90s, with its sequel becoming a favorite of Mystery Science Theater fans everywhere, Ator the Invincible sets up the origin story of Ator and his destiny to fulfill his place in a long-winded prophecy about “being the one bearing the mark of Taurin, who will destroy evil” and, well, you know the rest.

So of course, baby Ator must be whisked away from his mother and taken into hiding by the warrior Griba, who will eventually train young Ator into the shirtless, bulging-pecs-of-a-warrior Miles. Ator is taken to another village where he is given to a family to raise as their own. I’ve seen better storylines from my D&D buddies back in high school, but I digress.

This typical fantasy premise is simply regurgitated by the filmmakers, and their lack of production values make it almost unbearable to watch…almost. Personally, I can watch the worst-of-the-worst cinematic trash with utter geeky delight, but I’m sure that many will have pressed stop on the DVD player by this point due to the inane dialogue and “action” sequences that feel as though they were shot and cut by a blind kid.

The production itself is ridiculously cheap-looking, so much so that one winces at the myopic “vision” of its director. D’Amato believed that he had a commercial success on his hands and that Ator would be amongst the ranks of other great fantasy films. Sadly for him, his career has become but a footnote of B-movie history and the laughing stock of audiences; the mere mentioning of his name in any opening credits elicits guffaws from audiences familiar with his work. For the obvious reasons (lack of money, poor script, poor production values, rushed schedule, etc.) D’Amato & company churned out a lackluster film from an actually not-so-poor story. Albeit an unoriginal one, Ator could have been even worse. The story is at least coherent, and has all of the familiar elements to make up a good fantasy-adventure.

Onscreen, the actors ham it up as best they can, such as Dakar (yes, his real name) playing Dakkar the tarantula-clad High Priest of the Spider delivering his [dubbed] heavy and menacing baritone with Shatner-esque timing. The British character actor Edmund Purlom, who once played a role in Joseph Mankiewicz’s Julius Caesar, is here as the warrior Griba, but he is no Obi-Wan Kenobi. Then there is Ator’s love interest and sister (eeew…well, not his real sister, but the girl he grows up with as his sister, whom he marries) Sunya, played by Ritza Brown. I kept wishing that she had been killed off so as not to endure her atrocious acting. Overall, Miles O’Keefe does a decent job with Ator, and pretty much has to carry the film himself, and given with what he had to work with, it’s quite a feat.

If you love cheesy 80s fantasy films, please check out Ator the Invincible as it is highly entertaining and will provide a great less-than-90-minutes of schlock-filled fun. This is still one of my favorites of the era, and one that I believe even warrants a remake. Also, if you get the chance, look for the Ator sequels as well. I picked my copy up in the $1 bin at Wal-Mart, and although my wife hates that I waste my time watching these movies, she understands that is my guilty pleasure. Now indulge yourself with some Miles O’Keefe action as…ATOR!

Ator the Invincible Trailer:

Ator the Invincible 2 (aka The Blade Master) Trailer: