Alien (1979) Review

Alien (1979) Review

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Written by: Dan O’Bannon

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt

Rated: R

Run-Time: 1h 57 min

Genre: Horror, Science-Fiction

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

Availability: HBO Max

After a space merchant vessel receives an unknown transmission as a distress call, one of the crew is attacked by a mysterious life form and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun. (IMDb)

When you really take the time to think about it, there aren’t that many films that stand the tests of time, especially when it comes to science-fiction. Alien is one of the few that thoroughly holds up and does not suffer from details that come across as dated. Of course, viewers may not spend to much time considering the few aspects that are due to the ongoing thrills of this film. 

Whether you view this movie as your standard alien horror or slasher flick, Alien is a terrifying movie. The titular alien is a literal killing machine who kills for sport more than anything else. It’s invincible, quiet, and very good at hiding. One could be in the same room as you, and you may not notice until its too late. 

If you don’t have anxiety, this film may give it to you. All the while you’ll be rooting for the original horror-movie badass Ripley, who almost single-handedly takes badassery to another level. 
Alien is a near-perfect film that’s hard to pick apart without turning into a nitpicky asshole. Its an overall well-rounded film with great acting, special effects, and direction. After 40 years it remains untouchable, even with the more recent attempts to reboot the series. Alien is a once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Invisible Man (2020) Review

Directed by: Leigh Whannell

Written by: Leigh Whannell

Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer

Rated: R

Run-Time: 2h 4min

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

Availability: HBO Max

When Cecilia’s abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see. (IMDb)

Over the past couple of years, there has beem a renaissance of horror with many films going back to the roots of the genre. Films such as Get Out and A Quiet Place break the monotony of jump-scare heavy horror and revitalise techniques long underutilised. 

The Invisible Man does what 2017’s The Mummy tried to and with a much lower budget. For a while now, Universal has been trying to bring back the classic horror icons with the hopes of creating a creature-verse comparable to Disney’s MCU. The Invisible Man is their second and successful attempt at doing so. 

Despite not having the best trailer, The Invisible Man is hands down one of the best films of 2020 with utterly exceptional acting and atmosphere. The film shows considerable restraint, taking its time to build up to real terror. The audience is forced to experience the film in the protagonist’s, Cecilia’s, point-of-view; sympathising with her while being kept partially in the dark about what’s really happening. Even then we’re told what is happening, you can’t be entirely sure. 

This film wears many masks as well. Not only is it a revival of a classic of the same name, but it’s also an examination of domestic violence. At one point, the film becomes less of a psychological horror movie and more of a revenge flick. All the while, it is a prime example of how the legal system can neglect the victims of domestic abuse. 

This is a must-watch film, really, don’t argue with me. Of course, as with most horror, beware the potentially triggering content.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Cargo (2018) Review

Cargo (2018) Review

Directed by: Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke

Written by: Yolanda Ramke

Starring: Simone Landers, Martin Freeman, Marlee Jane McPherson-Dobbins

Rated: TV-MA

Run-Time: 1h 45m

Genre: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

Availability: Netflix

After an epidemic spreads all over Australia, a father searches for someone willing to protect his daughter. (IMDb)

Cargo is a unique zombie film, one that breaks the monotony of the modern zombie flick by bringing something refreshing to the table. With a character-driven story, Cargo is less about the scares and more about how much you grow to care for the characters. Whenever they are faced with a challenge, which is definitely plentiful, we fear for the character’s lives but the deeper implications of their deaths. 

This movie, as mentioned above isn’t particularly scary in the traditional sense. You’re less scared of the zombie’s themselves and more scared of the events that would follow being bitten. This film manages to avoid the gory horror that is so prevalent in zombie films and settles for a low key storyline. 

The film also tackles a lot of important themes: such as the injustice towards the aboriginal people of Australia, and the process of death, illness and mourning. And while the film manages to have a happy ending, it’s more bittersweet than truly joyous. You’ll find yourself relieved, but also mourning. 

This is a film that is more accessible to a wider audience due to its character-driven storyline. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a “family-friendly” horror film, but its close. If you like horror but can’t really handle extensive gore and violence this film is a must-watch. For those who like those things, this movie should have enough to satiate your zombie craving.

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The Platform (or El Hoyo) (2019) Review

The Platform (or El Hoyo) (2019) Review

Directed by: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia

Written by: David Desola, Pedro Rivero

Starring: Ivan Massague, Zorian Eguileor, Antonia San Juan

Rated: TV-MA

Run-Time: 1h 34m

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%

Availability: Netflix

A vertical prison with one cell per level. Two people per cell. One only food platform and two minutes per day to feed up to down. An endless nightmare trapped in The Hole. (IMDb)

The Platform is one of those expected Netflix gems that keeps the somewhat obsolete service intact. It’s a member of what I would consider a current horror film renaissance, a return to form. This film is simply exceptional, but not for the faint of heart… or weak-stomached. 

At a glance, The Platform seems like your run of the mill torture porn flick, full of exploitation but little substance. But it takes very little digging to find the themes the film is presenting in the most explicit way possible. One of the purposes of torture porn is the exhibition of the human human body at it’s extreme and it plays heavily on our morbid curiosity. The Platform, however, adds a layer of social commentary about subjects rarely explored through such means. 

This film really is just a big “fuck you” to capitalism. It blatantly displays the injustice and inherently unfair nature of capitalism while also highlighting the flaws of total communism. It brings class, sex, and race to the forefront with how closely related it so often is with one’s social standing. The film does all this in the most imaginative and in-your-face way imaginable. 

And, most amazingly, this film manages to connect itself to classical literature by drawing clear parallels to Cervantes’ Don Quijote, even going so far as to heavily display it in the film and quote directly from it. The protagonist even resembles the naive chivalry of Don Quijote through image and spirit. This connection is entirely unexpected but works well for the overall message of the film. 

The only issue with this film is the lack of outside information we are given on the world. We are told this is a dystopian society but are given little information as to how due to the contained nature of the film. This sort of soft world-building doesn’t detract from the story but does leave many questions in the mind of the viewer. 

I truly recommend this film but warn that some of the content is not suitable for some audiences. The film includes depictions of mutilation and cannibalism, visual and thematic devices many viewers cannot handle. But for those more seasoned horror fans, this film is an interesting and terrifying watch. 

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Fahrenheit 451 (2018) Review

Fahrenheit 451 (2018) Review

Directed by: Ramin Bahrani

Written by: Ray Bradbury (source) Ramin Bahrani (screenplay)

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Aaron Davis, Cindy Katz

Rated: TV-14

Run-Time: 1h 40m

Genre: Drama, Science-Fiction, Thriller

Rotten Tomatoes: 33%

Availability: HBO Max

In a terrifying care-free future, a young man, Guy Montag, whose job as a fireman is to burn all books, questions his actions after meeting a young woman– and begins to rebel against society. (IMDb)

Fahrenheit 451 is one of my favourite classics by my most favourite classic author. It has been adapted twice, the most recent being in 2018. This was the version I watched for this review, and for me, this adaption didn’t quite hit the mark. 

It’s evident Bahrani took creative liberty to modernize this story, that was originally written in the early tv-era, way before the advent of the internet. Bradbury was never a fan of the internet, or technology for that matter, so in that sense, this film stayed true to portraying it as a powerful and scary thing. This version takes focus away from television and shifts it social media– an understandable change for the modern audience. The writing we do see people reading in the film is heavily laced with acronyms and emojis, emulating the comment section of many a live video on Instagram and Facebook. 

In taking so many creative liberties, a lot of the story was changed. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but in the case of this film, I feel it differs too greatly from the original tonally. It doesn’t hold the same weight as the book and is more of an aesthetic depiction of a dystopian future. 

One thing this film definitely did right was it’s casting. Michael Shannon is amazing as  Captain Beatty and Jordan’s performance is emotional. Together, they carry this movie farther than any of the other actors. They maintain the tone set in the film well and deliver believable performances. 

For viewers who are not familiar with this film’s source material, this film may be entertaining; but for those acquainted with Bradbury’s original may not enjoy it as much.

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Extinction (2018) Review

Extinction (2018) Review

Directed by: Ben Young

Written by: Spencer Cohen, Brad Kane

Starring: Michael Pena, Lizza Caplan, Amelia Crouch

Rated: TV-MA

Run-Time: 1h 35min

Genre: Action, Drama, Science Fiction

Rotten Tomatoes: 33%

Availability: Netflix

A father has a recurring dream of losing his family. His nightmare turns into reality when the planet is invaded by a force bent on destruction. Fighting for their lives, he comes to realize an unknown strength to keep them safe from harm. (IMDb)

This movie, at best, is hard to quantify for a number of reasons. 

At this point, I’ve seen this film twice. And both times I found myself struggling to maintain interest. This film has an exceptionally unique concept but falls short in execution. It doesn’t quite follow the beats of a proper thriller and takes a long time to gets where it wants to go. This film is definitely philosophical because it does not necessarily end with your common film resolution. It ends with a question: can people and AI live together in harmony?

The best part of this movie is the concept, followed by Pena’s performance. We are used to seeing Pena in comedic secondary roles, but with being at the forefront of this film we find that he has a great range of emotion. After a point, he might as well be carrying the whole film on his shoulders, as he makes lacklustre reveals have more weight than they would have with a bad performance. If anything, this film shows that Pena has the potential to take on more serious roles, as well as play more major roles in future films. 

In a way, I want to call this movie a hidden gem of Netflix, but at the same time, it doesn’t seem quite good enough to call it that. It’s a surprising film, but not one I’d willingly watch more than once.

Subjective Rating

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In the Shadow of the Moon (2019) Review

Directed by Jim Mickle

Written by Gregory Weidman, Geoff Tock

Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman, Micheal C. Hall

Rating: TV-MA

Run-Time: 1h 55m

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Science Fiction

Rotten Tomatoes: 59%

Currently streaming on Netflix.

He’s tracked her for decades. Every nine years, she kills again. His obsession could destroy him– and everything he loves. (Netflix)

If the title doesn’t draw you in, then Netflix’s thumbnail will. The description doesn’t do it justice. At least, it doesn’t do the concept justice; because not even the film managed to do that. 

For the most part the film isn’t bad. The only issue with it is that it’s not well paced, at all.  The film begins on a high note, introducing use to the stakes of the film. It’s pleasantly paced, but this doesn’t last very long. It doesn’t seem like the editing team knew what they were trying to do most of the time because the film can’t seem to make up its mind whether it wants to be a quick action-flick or a satisfying slow-burn sort of story. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if it weren’t for the fact it makes it unnecessarily hard to maintain focus when watching the film and detracts from it’s most important scenes, including the big reveal. 

The concept of the film, when you ignore the execution, is extremely interesting and promising. With that said, it is also a bit of a headache, but in a good way. It’s one of those films that you have to think while watching, and a background understanding of topics tackled is definitely helpful.

In the end, I’m not sure if I can say I recommend this film or not. Maybe if you have nothing else to watch? Or if you’re a hardcore sci-fi fan? Whether you decide to watch it or not I think it’s over agreeable that this is a one-time watch deal.

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Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Review

Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Review

Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Written by James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis

Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly

Rated: PG-13

Run-Time: 2h 2m

Genre: Science Fiction

Rotten Tomatoes: 62%

Available on Hulu and HBO Max

A cyborg uses her prodigious fighting skills to take on corrupt authorities in a future dystopia. (Hulu)

It’s not every day that a film introduces its titular character in what may very well be their lowest of lows. When we are introduced to the cyborg Alita she is, for all intents and purposes, long discarded trash. Regardless of this her brain, as well as her core power source, are still in prime condition. It takes the work of one Dr. Ido to restore her into working order. With a new body and new life, Alita, who remembers nothing, is forced to adjust to her new surroundings while trying to remember her obscure past. Dr. Ido, who becomes a father figure to Alita, and a young man named Hugo, her love interest, help her along the way. 

I didn’t know what to expect from a movie based off of a manga, let alone a film based on such an extensive and well-written manga. When the trailer first came out, I must admit I was concerned; especially since it follows the disappointing 2017 Ghost in Shell adaption. Like most viewers, I was taken aback by Miss Salazar’s exaggerated eyes. When first exposed to the imagery, I admit that the effects of the uncanny valley were strong. This detail can be somewhat ignored after you take into consideration that the manga makes a point to give Alita exaggerated features, though, if I recall it was originally her “large” lips. This detail would prove to be the only character design decision I found myself continuously questioning. 

My main qualm with the film is that there were often times the CGI was poorly executed. As a result, there were scenes in which I found myself being pulled out of the film, solely due to the poor integration of computer-generated backgrounds with the live-action actors. Additionally, the digital augmentation of Alita’s face often came off as awkward, most notably in the scene in which she tries chocolate for the first time. Otherwise, the film was beautiful and fully embraced the cyberpunk aesthetic.

For the most part, I have minimal complaints with the film. I was pleasantly surprised by the character development as well as the overall execution. I wouldn’t call the film your run-of-the-mill origin story. For what it’s trying to achieve in regards to its source material, I would call it successful. Many may say there isn’t really a plot, but as a introductory film to a potential franchise, the film gets the job done. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, which was not what I expected.

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I Am Mother (2019) Review

I Am Mother (2019) Review

Directed by Grant Sputore

Written by Micheal Lloyd Green, Grant Sputore

Staring Clara Rugaard, Rose Byrne, Hilary Swank

Rated: TV-14

Run-time: 1h53m

Genre: Drama, Horror, Sci-fi 

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

The film is available on Netflix.

I watched the trailer for this film almost as soon as it came out, as I do with most films. The title and thumbnail did little to reveal the true nature of the film and I wasn’t particularly interested in it until I actually watched the video. The trailer does a good job of showing the viewer that this film definitely has a mysterious aspect to it. The only downside I might add is that it also manages to present the film as a classic AI-takes-over sort of film. The concept itself is not cliche, but at this point it becoming so due to the over-saturation of stories regarding the techpocalypse. As a result I’ve watched many movies that fall under this sub-genre but this film is an interesting presentation of these concepts. 

This film presents expository information in a very interesting way that at face value seem more simple and unimportant; to later reveal it really is very important to the plot as it unfolds. Things such as time is measured in days, rather than years, this proves to be a key in what is considered the big reveal. This decision is ingenious because when you see that it’s been 13,867 days since the infamous “extinction event” you are not immediately aware of exactly how long that is because we’re used to being presented this information in a more understandable year-based timeframe.

There are a lot of admirable aspects of this film. The acting is good, the visual storytelling is very good and the use of practical effects is present (which itself is amazing). Times like this I find myself a little disappointed that Netflix originals generally don’t include behind-the-scenes featurettes because God! I would love to see how they implemented the practical effects in the production to achieve such smooth yet robotic movements. (From what I currently understand the character of “Mother” was an actor in a suit, but I still like to know the process of learning how to move in the suit and imitate mechanical movements in such a believable manner.)

I also very much enjoyed the story this film is trying to tell. There is a level of moral greyness and ambiguity at times that makes the actions of the characters more unnerving. In the end, some details are left open, but not to the detriment of the film. In the end you leave with more questions that you started with, but in a good way.

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