Sphere (1998)

Sphere (1998)

sphere

What is it you fear? Do you fear your nightmares? Do you fear alien life? Michael Crichton is a terrific author. He has treated readers worldwide with stories that provoke the mind with thrilling entertainment. Stories such as Jurassic Park, Timeline, and Andromeda Strain shows us Crichton has quite a knack for storytelling. However I myself have not read a few of these including Sphere itself. I understand it was a mind bending thriller, no doubt, but did the movie live up to the expectations of Michael Crichton’s handy writing? I’m afraid not. Sphere starts out really well, then somehow rolls down hill. Then up again, then levels out, then down again. It’s a twirl down from a great hook then all is left is pressurized frustration on what is going on and where the story has gone.

This review would be more knowledgeable if I had read the book myself, one day I will. Because after this, I felt my time was wasted. Everything that lead up to it’s end point fizzled flat. I give huge credit to start, though. About the first half its a perfect popcorn flick. You are laughing at the jokes, asking same questions as the main characters were asking, and feeling drawn in on the suspenseful moments. It’s a perfect set up because you have a mix of The Abyss and Alien where a team is assembled and they must venture somewhere into the unknown, facing something foreign; alien. Sphere, for a moment, even feels like a horror. But the weird begins to happen and you start having withdrawals. What am I getting myself into? I certainly was not expecting that to happen. One action leaves to another. Questions seem to skip the answers and you forget totally about them. This creates plot holes galore.Like key subjects that I believed were crucial to the story manifesting a truly thought provoking thriller. Including loop holes that don’t make sense despite the bizarre circumstances. Instead, Sphere dives deep into the weird leaving nothing but vast pockets of nothingness floating abundantly. I think the movie could have made a 90 degree turn, perhaps even a 180, creating something special.

This was something truly unique. It had potential to be an underrated masterpiece or a down right classic reminiscent of Jurassic Park’s success. I’ll give it that, Sphere will keep you totally engaged. Something was always happening. The dialogue was never dumb, I actually paid attention to each characters’ contribution. I thoroughly enjoyed some of the discussions the main protagonists were having and fit the movie perfectly. Acting was even decent to say the least. The budget is there to support the film giving a glipse of a scientist’s expedition underwater would be like. 

The movie moves so fast forward though to the next event, you almost forget some key plot points that previously happened. I love movies that make me think and even ones that are open ended for discussion among the viewers, but this my friends, is no table talk. You will be as baffled as the next person. Scratching your head, trying to undo the knot in your mind that’s bent three quarters to nowhere. Leaving you at the end with no value, as if you have wasted your time. With a perfect set up and cast we hope all the chaotic wierdness will come together in the end. Too bad we’re not gifted with an imagination to forget the potential here that has gone awry. 

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Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Lucas, Lucas, Lucas, what have ye done? Taken your beloved franchise and downgraded it you have. This child-like installment had a positive force surrounding it’s premier showing, bringing back humanity’s favorite universe. Phantom Menace takes us to the beginning, to when there was balance in the force, to where we meet a young pod-racing slave, Anakin Skywalker, who contains too much “midichlorian” for his own good. Qui-Gon Jinn, a jedi master, informs young Annie the power he holds, that he is to be taught in the ways of the Jedi and is, in fact, the chosen one. This starts an epic journey across the galaxy of hardship and a dark personage with a sinister agenda.

We don’t just follow Skywalker’s first steps to becoming a Jedi, but we witness the start of a secretly planned, and I must say it is cleverly planned, that shadows this first trilogy. The Trade Federation becomes greedy, taxing resources higher, fueling a war with Naboo. The Republic’s army is weak and rumors of a Sith Lord has spread throughout the galaxy. This starts an unforeseen chain reaction throughout Episodes I, II, and III that only the unsaid mastermind himself could stop if only it didn’t benefit him in the future. The over arching story is subtle in its manifestation where it’s aftermath, the second trilogy, is more straight forward, which all can be described into one word: EPIC.

Another pro for this installment is some of the characters that were created. Like Qui-Gon Jinn who is Obi-Won Kenobi’s master during his young apprenticeship. Qui-Gon, played by Liam Neeson, as one of the best Jedi Knights and masters in Star Wars history. Most notable mention is Darth Maul, possibly the scariest, most badass, and most underused character in the whole universe! This, needlessly to say, ticked me off. Darth Maul has the awesome double sided lightsaber and horns erupting from his black, fire-like face. Oh, and really bad teeth. He had an onscreen presence that would soak up more light than Darth Vader. Although I wouldn’t go as far to say he was more powerful than Vader but definitely had the moves. Now an additional character I thought was rather sloppy and gave a childish aura was Jar-Jar Binks. As a child, myself, I thought he was funny, but now i don’t find him quite amusing as I did before. After recently watching this, I would have preferred his friend, who’s name escapes me, but you can spot him helping Jar-Jar in the Naboo scenes rocking a Fu Man Chu mustache. I would’ve liked to see him have more screen time and Jar-Jar, not erased, but less time so his comedic effort isn’t so overwhelming. And finally the wonderfully played Anakin *cough*. Again, on my first viewing i was about his age and everything was fine. But dear me, his acting would’ve been better in a Disney Channel original. However, let’s not piss this guy off, alright? He’s got enough emotions to deal with…

When Phantom Menace was released in 1999, it was during an era where almost every movie was trying out this wondrous thing that got rid of prosthetics and do this impressive thing called CGI. The CGI usage is strong with this one, and lemme tell you it’s not that impressive. This first edition to the beloved saga could have used a bit more authentic special effects. Although the pod racing scene is definitely one to check out.

I remember my dad purchasing this movie on a double VHS special edition. It had an intro before the film by George Lucas and had a Making of featurette. Good memories. Watching this movie years later and understanding the backstory and noticing the subtleties has given a whole new outlook and understanding on the second renowned trilogy. Although flawed and cringe worthy dialogue moments, this and it’s two sequels are worth watching for it’s in depth story and amazing fight scenes that range from duels to epic battles among the stars.

Bargain Bin 2

Many times a movie can slip underneath your nose and you may never have caught a whiff. Bargain Bin is an accumulative set of movies I found underrated or hidden gems. Movies I’d like to bring attention to. You may have seen one, or a few, before but I’d like to dig inside the bin and discuss what we find. Perhaps, you may have found your next ‘Movie Night’ entertainment.

Today, I have a selected list of Animated features that may fancy your itch for something light and fun. And at the same time, being captivated by the artistic worlds the stories are surrounded by.

Watership Down (1978)

The movie opens beautifully with a tell-tale backstory of the Watership Down‘s folklore, then transitions to our main characters Hazel (John Hurt) and Fiver. After a vision, the rabbits decide to move away from their warren to escape the evil humans tearing down their land. What follows is a perilous journey, testing each other’s strengths and wits. Beautifully told and masterfully hand drawn. The film can be quite gruesome at times, with images of blood and flesh tearing; it is said this is the most violent PG film ever made. But it’s balanced by the serene landscape and a fateful bird “[perfectly] landing” some dorky comic relief (if only there was more of it). Watership Down became an instant favorite of mine.

PS: The locations you see are actually based off the map the author, Richard Adams, put in his book. Also is based on some real locations in Hampshire, England.

Song of the Sea (2014)

A film i recently watched and had to tell the world about. This is a movie that could rival Ghibli Studios. The animation and the music was just captivating. Literally. When not much was happening and I got up to get a snack, my eyes were still on the screen. Song of the Sea serenades us a bedtime story inducing lucid dreams. This is one of those moments when a family will look back on and say “remember when we watched-“. A magical movie that reminded me similarities that strung to Spirited Away. I knew nothing of this movie, and i suggest you keep it that way and let yourself become enchanted.

PS: Nominated for best Animated movie of the year. I’d like to also point out the backstory of Irish folklore is very interesting. And a selkie is my spirit animal.

Pom Poko (1994)

Three of my childhood years was spent in Japan, this was when i was exposed to the wonderful world of Ghibli. Since then I have grown up watching these films and I have to say, Pom Poko is one of THE most underrated films i have ever seen. Written by legendary Hayao Miyazaki, tells a story of raccoons trying to save their land from the humans who continue to deforest their home. They’re no ordinary raccoons though, these are shapeshifting raccoons. And they will fight to survive; whether that means they put on a psychadelic, full-on trip-out show to strike fear, or simply blend in. I found myself laughing at some of the going ons because it’s actually quite funny. Yes, Pom Poko took me by full surprise.

PS: Hayao Miyazaki is no stranger to telling stories about ‘humans and their deforestation for their industrial greater good’, Princess Mononoke anyone? Pom Poko is just a little more comical.

Ernest and Celestine (2012)

Another animated feature that became an instant favorite of mine. Ernest and Celestine is a French film, in English, delivering the laughs and, i must say, is quite cute. When Celestine befriends the bear, Ernest, which is taboo, they must depart from the city life, but not without the marshmallows. The authority says other wise hence they have unfinished debts to be repaid. I truly cared for what happened between the newly found friendship as they found they are not that different at all. This movie had me laughing at the expressions being made and other situations, all making me fall in love with the genius behind this creative animation. Simply one anyone will enjoy.

PS: Anyone get a flashback to Totoro when the mouse started poking the bear?

Mary and Max (2009)

Mary and Max is a sweet story about long distance friendship. Based on a true story, Mary lives in Australia and writes to her friend, who she has never met, Max, who is living in a New York apartment and is diagnosed with asberger’s syndrome. They send each other letters about their private lives and sometimes a box of local goodies. The stop motion animation is fun and the different color schemes when bouncing back and forth between Australia and New York really adds to the whole experience; giving each other separate moods. Sometimes the subject matter can be dark or unexpected but it’s hard not to care for their friendship and hoping that they one day meet. I enjoyed this movie, lending me a good few chuckles which lead to a near tearjerking end.

Bargain Bin 1

With so many movies releasing every year it’s hard to keep up. A lot of time is spent on which one to watch?  Hoping you wouldn’t regret your decision after the two hours are up. You may choose one through networking because a friend told you to watch it. Or this other flick was hailed by a bunch of critics. Or perhaps you decided not to listen to anyone and watch some random movie out of the mainstream or whatever the case may be. Well, here’s someone else not to listen to: me.

I have compiled a small list that shouldn’t take up much of your time to skim through; a random selection of movies on different budgets, languages, genres, and other rubbish you may find amusing. Whether whatever weather outside, you sit on fur or leather, this is your chance to be pickey-choosey for your pleasure.

Here you go:

Hunter Prey (2010)

This small film caught me off guard. Whilst i was binge surfing on Netflix I decided to give this movie a try. I knew nothing about it and was rather impressed. A small squad is traveling with a cloaked prisoner on a distant planet when he gets loose and they must find him. Simple right? Hunter Prey is really well done for what it sets out to accomplish. Even though the soldiers’ costumes look like they were borrowed from the Clone Trooper sweat shop, it’s easy to write off for it’s still believable and the make up is also well done. Just please, do not watch the trailer. You are better off not knowing anything since the trailer somewhat ruins the twist and makes it seem more like an action movie.

PS: If you liked Enemy Mine you’d like this.

13 Assassins (2010)

I love Japanese culture and their art style. I love samurai movies even more. Takashi Miike gives himself a break from his outrageous horror/gangster films and brings us a story about thirteen samurai who are set on taking down a corrupt, evil leader. And he is evil. The film is set up in two parts basically, the first is build up. This is when Shinzaemon Shimada collects the twelve other samurai on a suicide mission and in contrary, the evil lord shows us just how evil he is. For some, the first hour may seem slow as it really lets us get to know a little bit about each character. Those who are patient, however, will be rewarded. The last hour is nothing but blood shed as the thirteen face off the many in epic fashion.

PS: I love the wide range of colors presented in every frame. Most notably when Japan’s landscape is shown. 

Session 9 (2001)

A little known horror film that came across my way through a friend. This wasn’t a movie i thought he would even like in the first place so when i watched it I was surprised that HE was the one who found it. Session 9 doesn’t need jump scares, no need for gore, just the real Danvers Mental Hospital to film in. At first, everything seems easy enough for our asbestos cleaning crew in an eerie, haunting asylum. But not everything is what it seems in this psychological horror. Hiding secrets can result in brutal fatalitie. Brad Anderson’s editing, shots, and music is what really creeps up your nerves. As well as the session tapes. There’s something about this place that will leave you feeling mental.

PS: Even though the movie isn’t widely known, those who have seen the ending and were left scratching their skull were not satisfied for it’s rather ambiguous. This is a movie worth watching with some people who are open for conversation. I, myself, loved this film for it will have you thinking for days to come.

The Fisher King (1991)

What to say about this delightful movie? I blessed myself when i purchased this without giving it a first look and  it was the one of the best decisions i ever made. It’s a story about fate and moving on from the past. When a radio DJ (Jeff Bridges) who lost his fame due to assisting a woman’s suicide, crosses paths with a looney hobo (Robin Williams) with a tragic past, becomes a comedic tale of redemption and love. Jack (Jeff) befriends the bum hoping he can help him find his true love and aid his past. All performances  are top-notch giving Robin enough room to be weird and heart warming, and letting Jeff be the down-beat cool guy. A favorite of mine from Terry Gilliam.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

I’m a little butt hurt this movie isn’t more well known, or to my knowledge it is not. You have a kick a** cast and amazing one liners. Scrap that, the whole script must be heard. Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr are perfect together, seeing that Val nearly steals the show in every scene.  Their chemistry and delivery couldn’t be any more pluperfect. The story line is a little everywhere which will take you a couple times to re-watch this. That’s not a complaint though, do yourself a favor and have fun solving this jazzed up mystery. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

PS: Still reading? Stop, i found your movie. 

Chef (2014)

Chef (2014) via IMDb.

Ah, Chef. Man, if this isn’t in my top 5 (there are a lot of movies out there) then it’s in my top 10 for sure. The music, the vibe, the characters, and the story kept my interest throughout the entire film. Like it was promising me an authentic cuban sandwich by the end of it. Every time  food was being stirred, boiled, or fried I just wanted to reach through the screen and snatch it. I could smell it.

Jon Favreau has a fun and deliciously enjoyable film. By far a favorite of mine that has been cooked up from his mind. It’s about friendship, love, family, and the changing world around us. The best way to display this was between the father and son. The father: lonely, out of touch with the world and self-centered. Then his son: who needs his father and helps him rekindle a lost flame and discover the power of social media. Their bond is the perfect link between the old and new. And the storytelling is so dynamic leading one place to the next. I honestly didn’t know what to expect first time round, but really enjoyed it. Second time i fell in love. It gave me warm happy feels with a smile that resisted giving in. Especially when the food was on screen, I’d say that was the star of the show.

Everyone bounced off each other so well. You’d believe you just walked into these people’s lives for a split second to see it turn for the better. I loved it. It was made with so much love and passion. Everyone involved seemed to have fun making this as well. The dynamic flow of the film and the character interactions left no dull moment, just one tasty pleasure after the next.

Someone once asked me if i were to have made a movie, what movie would it have been? I didn’t know how to answer at first, but now, now I have found it. Did you smell it? Or maybe you started tapping your foot to the music? It’s Chef everyone. A nicely blended fiesta for everyone to dig in. Make a meal, grab a friend, poor some wine, and enjoy, my friends.

BTW: This movie is similar the French film called Le Chef. Although that film follows more along the lines of Ratatuoille. Le Chef is worth checking out when given a chance.

Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014)

Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014) – IMDb

Are you happy? What is happiness to you? Hector, a psychologist, sets out on a grand adventure around the world searching for the meaning of true happiness, something his nice and tidy life seems to be missing. During his meetings with his patients, he just hears their stories and problems but not listening. He eventually comes to the conclusion, with help of a psychic who is a patient, that he must undergo a journey for himself and bring happiness to his bland life. But if you have the woman you love and your day follows the same routine, pattern by pattern, day in day out, and you are safe, what more would you want? Hector and the Search for Happiness isn’t just about us watching Hector on his spiritually awakening journey to the corners of the Earth, but perhaps it’s him who takes us and shows us there is more out there to understand and be happy about.This is a turn for comedic British actor Simon Pegg, making this rather more mature and thought provoking than his other features, although still consisting a fun and humorous trip.

Hector seems to be trapped under something heavy he doesn’t know and we don’t. Only we find out in the final crucial, unexpected scenes when everything comes to a point. Hector still has a sense of innocence like a child inside him, refraining him from living his life. The movie has little bits of cartoonist transitions that are playful and come as an unexpected joy. He starts off from China to Africa and finally the United States, taking notes on what is happiness. He asks a variety of people who are surrounded by money, sex, and poverty. This also allows it too become an emotional journey for our protagonist. Hector is swept with love in all sorts of colors, also experiences fear but only to overcome it, and making us laugh, even out loud, throughout the movie.

Hector and the Search for Happiness was a surprise for me, normally i know what I’m about to watch but I chose this on the whim. It’s a thought provoking and heart warming movie that can even change your life! (given to a certain degree.) There is a lot to love, learn, and be happy about. You just have to search for it and let it find you. The cameos were also fun to see and be interacted with. I enjoyed this movie, not a dull moment. If I were able to travel like Hector or even for FREE, no one would see me again. I’d backpack to the Himalayas all the way down to the sandy beaches of South America and around the world for another go. Until i came to my unexpected end to an expansive, chaotic life I learned to love.

Extra: Simon Pegg was a character in The Adventures of Tin Tin and he has posters and books of Tin Tin in Hector’s office which was cool to see.

Jurassic World (2015)

Jurassic World (2015) IMDb

The park is open, welcome to John Hammond’s dream come true, Jurassic World! It’s bigger and badder and has more teeth – well than the third installment at least. It’s hard to top the first Jurassic Park but where this one suffers from predictability and lacks emotional depth, it is far superior than Jurassic Park 3 and possibly The Lost World. Jurassic World offers two hours of solid entertainment and wonderful CGI, along with some nostalgia to tie in with the first.

It’s a rather simple story and doesn’t waste time to start. We’re introduced to Zach and Grey, the children this time around who get the fortune of seeing the dinosaurs up close in person, thanks to their parents who send them off for the weekend to visit their Auntie Claire, the park director, for some relationship bonding. Too bad she’s wrapped up in her work showing off the new park attraction to the investors. Apparently, the park attendants are becoming accustomed to seeing dinosaurs like seeing an elephant. According to the investors, park visitors are becoming bored and they need to re-inject the thrill and create something new (but they’re DINOSAURS for crying out loud). So they splice several DNA traits to create something that will wow the crowd. Something monstrous and dangerous so they will remember. Once again, the mad scientists succeed. Didn’t they learn the first time? As long as it’s cool and exciting, profit and crowds keep flooding in, what’s to worry? One can only imagine what Ian Malcolm and Alan Grant would say to this irresponsibly blind decision.

Like other Jurassic films, chaos ensues. At times, Jurassic World is predictable and it can feel messy like towards the end. But it’s a fun ride nonetheless. The raptors move more like their descendants, reacting like birds. The scene in which they are introduced with Chris Pratt’s Owen, is believable and most interesting to see these animals obey commands and why. The CGI is by far the best out of the series, making the dinosaurs more life like and detailed. It was hard to tell the difference between animatronics and CGI. The genetically cross bred monster is scary and fierce. They did a great job constructing this killing machine but it still doesn’t have the same presence the T-Rex did in the original. I didn’t feel for any of the characters except Owen who I’m sure everyone will root for. He doesn’t have the same presence as Grant or Malcolm, but who wants the same guy? He’s a different character and doesn’t try to be like who they were. Owen carries most of the comedic weight (and brains for that matter). The ending fight scene is a blast and a lot more satisfying than Jurassic Park 3, even though it is total Hollywood. The theater I was in even began to clap…yea, I did, too.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Universal decided to make another Jurassic themed ride or even park. The movie, for the most part, was believable. The park itself felt real with it’s product placement and an original layout that seems like a blueprint for something we can one day have the pleasure of walking through ourselves.

This is Colin Trevorrow’s first big budget film, before this he hasn’t done much except Safety Not Guaranteed. I’d consider this a great feat. It’s a quick, entertaining film i can see him doing more of. What I found cool was that they brought back some ideas from previous installments that were scrapped. One I noticed and I was happy for was the pterodactyl scene. Originally, in the Lost World, how it was going to end was the survivors were escaping via helicopter and they get attacked by a couple pterodactyls. This scene was revived here in this feature and even kept an unfortunate pilot getting stabbed by a beak. I am not happy with the end sequence of The Lost World: Jurassic Park because I felt it was self indulgent. Given, it’s cool to see a T-Rex roaming the city streets, watching Asian people running from a giant prehistoric lizard, and crew cameos getting eaten; but it was typical Hollywood and Spielberg really just wanted to see what it would be like to release this dinosaur in public. I’d prefer that to have waited for another installment. Perhaps I will eventually divulge myself into reviewing The Lost World and further explain. But at least it was not forgotten and found it’s way here.

This 4th installment reminds me even more of the Alien films than the previous efforts. Their is a hidden motive, or agenda if you will, for Hoskins. This made me love this franchise that much more because Alien is one of my all time favorites as in story and where it has gone. Once you witness Jurassic World for yourself, you can almost see where the next will follow, it has my curiosity, since it’s a believable solution. Either the military takes control for war disposal, or worse, creates human-dinosaur hybrids.

Jurassic World is not perfect. Regardless though, you will be entertained and have forgotten or wished there never was a 3. The lack of patience it had resulted in a loss of emotional depth and some showmanship, and the writing quickly covers up the deep themes the original talked about. This sequel did what it was supposed to and kept things different without swaying too far from the core Jurassic experience. Maybe next time the scientists will think twice before bio-engineering something not naturally existent, that’s if Ingen doesn’t get in the way. There are even easter eggs littered throughout, like a woman reading Ian Malcolm’s book on the bus or the mosquito caught in the amber from the first movie is made into a larger monument. I think this is the sequel Jurassic deserves without trying to be a brainless copy. It’s a fun adventure that is refreshing, believable, and possibly the best to come out since the original Jurassic Park.

Welcome to the park of Jurassic World.