Guardians of the Galaxy.

I’m sorry. I’ll probably never be a good source for relevant reviews. My movie reviews are usually of old releases, and this rushed piece on Guardians of the Galaxy is no exception. I lag far, far behind on what should be considered elementary movies to watch for a science-fiction fan, but this weekend I finally got the chance to see what all the fuzz about the Guardians was about.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a science fiction comedy set in 2014. You might try to argue that 2014 doesn’t sound very science fiction. But among the movie’s many characters, you’ll find a green woman (Gamora), a walking tree (Groot), and a talking racoon (Rocket). There are also a lot of space ships and laser guns, so it all falls well inside the boundaries of the genre we all love.

Peter Quill, who was abducted from Earth back in 1988, now keeps himself busy as a Ravager. During one of his raids, he steals a mysterious orb. Not surprisingly, the orb contains one of the most powerful forces in the universe, capable of destroying entire planets in a matter of seconds. Naturally, this makes the orb interesting for some of the more shady characters in the galaxy.

When the orb falls into the hands of one of the shadiest of them all, Ronan the Accuser, the Guardians have to set aside their differences to safe the orb, themselves, and the entire galaxy.

Continue reading "Guardians of the Galaxy."

CHAPPiE.

After a brief detour to outer space with Elysium, South African writer/director Neill Blomkamp returns to Johannesburg, the location of his 2009 blockbuster hit District 9.

In the not-so-distant future, Johannesburg is trying to handle its massive crime problem with the use of autonomous robots. They are the sledge hammer of the Joburg police force: First in and thus usually on the receiving end of a shotgun slug or a rocket launcher payload to the head. But that’s OK, their artificial intelligence is limited and they are, after all, machines; nothing but human servants.

The company making the robots, Tetravaal, is, unsurprisingly, doing great and orders for new robots are stacking up. The only Tetravaal employee who isn’t celebrating is soldier-turned-engineer Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), who’d much rather see his remotely controlled, i.e. non-autonomous, MOOSE be successful. Moore doesn’t trust artificial intelligence, and he is willing to do what it takes to see the robots fail. A guy who really enjoys his AI, however, is Moore’s nemesis, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel). Wilson is the mastermind responsible for Tetravaal’s successful robotic police officers, and when he is not busy overseeing R&D and manufacturing at work, he sits at home occupying himself with “several terabytes of compiling and coding”. One night, he manages to create a stable, self-aware AI. All he needs now is a host, and with his access to Tetravaal resources, Wilson steals a damaged robot scheduled to be decommissioned.

Wilson’s new AI is uploaded to the robot and CHAPPiE is, quite literary, born.

Continue reading "CHAPPiE."

Avengers: Age of Ultron.

I’m generally challenged when it comes to superhero knowledge. Ask me to tell you if a particular character is a DC or Marvel creation and I’d have to take a guess that would most likely be wrong. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a good superhero movie.

The the eleventh installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Avengers: Age of Ultron. You might know the Avengers. I don’t. I know of a few of the characters, like the Hulk and Iron Man, but I had no idea that those to merry fellas had joined forces with other superheroes to “fight the foes no single superhero can withstand.”

Avengers: Age of Ultron doesn’t waste any time with boring introductions and throws you right into the action: The Avengers are raiding a Hydra outpost defended by what might be extras from the new Star Wars movie. I have no idea what I’m looking at, but that doesn’t matter because there’s a lot to look at. I can almost smell the smoking GPUs that were scarified to create this amazingly CGI intensive sequence. After having killed an impressive number of Hydra henchmen, The Avengers find what they are looking for: Loki‘s scepter.

Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Bruce Banner (the Hulk) discover an artificial intelligence within the scepter’s gem, and secretly use it to complete Stark’s “Ultron” global defense program. The Ultron project was intended to defend the human kind, but since most movies about artificial intelligence these days tend you focus on the negative sides of AI, you can probably guess where the movies heads from here: Ultron decided that the best way to save humans is to wipe them out.

This sounds like a job for The Avengers, doesn’t it? Yes, it does.

Continue reading "Avengers: Age of Ultron."

RoboCop.

RoboCop (2014).Back in 1987, the original RoboCop, a great, dystopian, science fiction movie, was released. Perhaps not Blade Runner-great, but a movie both critics and viewers could agree was one of the better science fiction piece they’d seen. I was 9 years old in 1987 and I didn’t see RoboCop until many years after its release, but I still remember the cardboard cutouts the 9-year-old me peeked curiously at in the video store: “Part man, part machine, all cop.”

Now, almost 30 years after the release of the original RoboCop movie, Hollywood has decided it’s time for a remake. With all its modern computer graphics, the 2014 version should easily blow the 1987 version out of the water. Right?

I’ll have to admit it’s been a while since I saw the original RoboCop, but I should still be capable of comparing the two. Maybe comparing them isn’t really the right thing to do, a movie should perhaps be judged for its own achievements and not by how it compares to whatever movie it’s based on, remakes, prequels or sequels. But it’s still very natural to make the comparison. When you go ahead and remake a science fiction classic, you are digging a huge hole it’s easy to fall into: Your movie will be compared to the original version.

Continue reading "RoboCop."

The Wolf of Wall Street.

The Wolf of Wall Street. Every now and then a story comes along that is just too good for Hollywood to pass on. Jordan Belfort has such a story. In the 1990s, he founded the brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont which functioned as a boiler room marketing penny stocks, where he defrauded investors with fraudulent stock sales. During his years as a stock swindler, Belfort developed a partying lifestyle, which included a serious addiction to Quaaludes. Stratton Oakmont employed over 1,000 stock brokers and was involved in stock issues totaling more than $1 billion, including an equity raising for footwear company Steve Madden Ltd. Belfort was indicted in 1998 for securities fraud and money laundering. After cooperating with the FBI, he served 22 months in federal prison for a pump and dump scheme, which resulted in investor losses of approximately $200 million.

The life of Jordan Belfort and the rise and eventual fall of his company has now found its way to the silver screen with the help acclaimed director Martin Scorsese and baby-face actor Leonardo DiCaprio. There are, of course, more actors in the movie – there are even a lion and a monkey, much to the annoyance of PETA – but DiCaprio stars as Belfort himself.

Continue reading "The Wolf of Wall Street."