Posts Tagged ‘science fiction film’

Don’t let me catch you giving any muffins to those little beggars outside!

Year Released : 1985

Director : Jim and Ken Wheat

Cast : Warwick Davis, Wilford Brimley, Aubree Miller, Paul Gleason, Carel Struykcen and Sian Phillips

Another VHS that I found at my parents house whilst I was clearing out some old belongings, “Ewoks : Battle for Endor” was the first film from the Star Wars universe that I ever actually saw. Obviously this isn’t part of the main film franchise, but it can still be considered canon for the universe given that it was written by George Lucas, so was part of the intended set up.

Unlike my last review for “Mac and Me“, I have actually seen this in the relatively recent past before I rewatch for reviewing purposes, and I seem to remember enjoying it when I watched it in my late twenties. However, as I mentioned during the aforementioned review, I now don’t view films in the same way that I did before due to reviewing them as a hobby just under three years ago. That’s the one thing that they never tell you about film reviewing, it soon becomes very difficult to watch a film without being able to notice all of the little errors. I can’t remember the last time I was able to sit back and just enjoy a film.

But away, time will tell if this film is what I remember it to be.

Plot

Some time after crashing on the moon of Endor, Cindel (Miller) has befriended the Ewok community that helped in the Battle of Endor several years before, especially Wicket (Davis). Just when their ship is close to being repaired they are attacked by a group or marauders and all of Cindel’s remaining family are killed because of a power source, as well as her and a large group of Ewoks being captured by Terak (Struycken) and his witch Charal (Philips).

Cindel and Wicket escape and are greeted by a fast creature named Teek that helps them find a cabin the woods, helping themselves to the food inside. Noa (Brimley), the owner of the cabin, soon returns and is far from happy but eventually agrees to house them for the night. Noa reveals that he has a ship that could get them off the planet, and when Cindel is tricked into being kidnapped by Charal, it’s decided to double the efforts and get the power source that Terak stole.

It soon turns into a much later battle between the Ewoks and the race of marauders.

As good as I remembered?

It’s hard to really say whether it was as good as I remembered because I recall it being fairly decent, and whilst I didn’t dislike it on this viewing, it felt somewhat humble to the point that you couldn’t ever really get into it.

The problem is that you are literally following a child, several puppets or people in costumes, and only two adult characters, one of which isn’t given any development whatsoever. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot to really get invested in because let’s face it, when was the last time you saw a film in which a small child went on a mission and didn’t achieve it? It makes it a bit uncompelling in that sense…..but it’s not a bad film.

I think the best word to describe it would be “quaint”. It’s a nice little science fiction film, with a bit of fantasy thrown in, but one thing that it definitely doesn’t feel like is a Star Wars universe film, that despite being set in the same universe. It’s hard to really call this a Star Wars film because there is very little that it has in common with the rest of the franchise, other than the Ewoks and the odd sign of technology from the series. In many ways this is more of a fantasy film given that Tarek’s army looks more like a bunch of half decomposed dead bodies, and the addition of a witch that can turn herself into a bird at any point.

That’s not to say that it’s not a bad thing that it’s not like a lot of the Star Wars films as I’m not a big fan of that franchise. I like them, but not to the point where I think they deserve the praise that they get so easily in the media.

This is a much darker film than you would expect for most other kids films. Granted, this was the 1980s and standards back then for children were less strict, afterall, the original Star Wars franchise were Universals and yet had people stabbing each other, cutting arms off, etc, but “Battle for Endor” could in some ways be considered a horror-fantasy for kids. The design of the marauders is off putting, you have very dark and unsettling environments, and the character of Noa, who I would remind everyone is a protagonist, is quite a scary (well, by the standards of films aimed at kids) old man at various points. Granted, at times Noa is also a very friendly man in his grandfather style role and relationship with Cindel, but even so.

Visually the film is reasonably quaint considering the low budget and time in which it was made. It has a pleasant enough soundtrack and as I say, certainly isn’t a bad film in how it’s been made.

Summary

Just because this is part of the “Star Wars” franchise, don’t go in expecting it to be anything like that main series as it is anything but. It’s certainly not a bad film and is a quaint science fiction film that borders on being close to a horror movie for children.

As this was apparently made for TV, don’t go in expecting a top of the range film, it isn’t. Whilst not awful, there are a few minor issues that whilst I can overlook, certainly mean that I can’t give it the approved stamp.

Not sure what else to say really.

Year Released : 1988

Director : Stewart Raffill

Cast : Jade Calegory, Christine Ebersole, Jonathan Ward, Katrina Caspary and Lauren Stanley

I’ve mentioned a few times during this site that I do find it odd when I watch films that I saw when I was young, mainly because they’re often not even close to being as good as I remembered. This has happened with numerous films that I’ve reviewed on this site, but I get the feeling none will come as close as this.

My parents are currently downsizing and therefore I’m currently on holiday so I can go through a lot of my old stuff to help them save space, and I found a VHS of “Mac and Me” (as well as a lot of older films, expect quite a few reviews of older films coming up), a film that I enjoyed a lot in my youth, but I haven’t watched it in what I estimate to be around 25 years. Since then I’ve regularly seen this film on many countdowns of the worst films ever made, including many saying that it’s a glorified McDonalds advert, so when I found the VHS I decided that it was time to relive this and see if it didn’t hold up anymore.

Hopefully this will prove to be as enjoyable as it was during my youth, but I very much doubt it as I’m now in my thirties and I’d like to think my tastes were better than back then.

Plot

A family of aliens are going about their everyday lives on their home planet when a NASA rock sampling machine accidentally sucks them up. When the machine returns to Earth the family is able to escape, but they get separated from their infant son, who finds his way into the back of a family car.

Eric (Calegory) is the youngest of the family and they’re moving from Chicago to California to make it easier for his spina bifida, but as soon as they arrive at their new home the alien starts causing trouble. The first morning sees Eric accidentally going down a hill in his wheelchair and crashing into the lake at the bottom of the cliff. He is rescued by the alien, although his family refuses to believe that this happened and gets him professional help as his mother thinks it might have been a suicide attempt.

Eventually he and neighbour Debbie (Stanley) catch the alien, which he dubs MAC (mysterious alien creature), and this proves it to Michael (Ward), but as more people find out about MAC’s existence, the more his life is in danger.

Is it as bad as people have said it is, or is it actually reasonable?

Well I’ll say one thing, it definitely wasn’t as good as I remembered it being.

Let’s start with the main point of contention that the majority have for this film, the product placements. During all of the ridicule for it I thought that the comments on product placement were exaggerated, but they really aren’t. During my viewing I noticed skittles, Gatorade, McDonalds and Coke on such a regular basis that it did start feeling like a feature length advert. I would love to know what amount of the budget was dedicated to Coke cans because they are in nearly every scene. One of the common jokes with “Fight Club” was that there was a Starbucks cup in every single scene, and I think “Mac and Me” does the exact same thing with Coke.

Having said that, it’s not as sinful as the constant references to McDonalds get in the second half of the film, including a full on dance scene in a McDonalds restaurant that just appears out of nowhere. I’ve worked in McDonalds twice during my life and can assure you that there are no dance contests, not even at kids parties. The McDonalds references aren’t even subtle, including below conversation;

Michael : ‘So, McDonalds huh?’ (Referring to Katrina’s uniform)

Debbie (Katrina’s little sister) : ‘Yeah, why don’t you stop for a Big Mac?’

And the next minute, literally the very next minute;

Michael : Know what I feel like?’

Eric : A Big Mac?

Michael : You’re a genius!

If you must insist on forcing product placement down our throats then please don’t make it so unsubtle. I’ve never seen anything like it and I can definitely see why this has caused a lot of people to criticise the film. I realise that these films have to get their money in some how, but to do it to this extent is just beyond defensible. I can’t think of a single reason to stick up for the film in this respect.

Had this not had the product placement then I think it would have certainly had more of a chance with critics and the general viewing public but I found myself unable to stop laughing at how poorly it was made in that sense. I notice product placement a lot more than I did before I started reviewing films, but at least other films try and integrate it subtlety, something which doesn’t happen here.

So ignoring the product placement, to be fair it’s not actually an awful film, it’s passable in a small way. It does contain a LOT of cliches, but this was released in the eighties so it would be unfair to criticise it for cliches by the standards of today given that a lot of them did actually start in the eighties, and wouldn’t have been regarded as cliches at the time of release.

The acting is fine (considering what they had to work with) and the characters are likeable, if a little one dimensional, but it doesn’t surprise me that not a single member of the principle cast had a lasting career in Hollywood.

To put this in some sort of context, the film currently has a rating of 3.4/10 on IMDB. Had it not been for the product placement then I’d say it was a solid 5/10, albeit slightly generously.

I’m really struggling to come up with a true positive from the film, other than the exceptionally laudable decision to actually give a role of a kid with spina bifida to a young actor that actually had that condition himself. It would have been far too easy to give it to just anyone, so to give an opportunity to a disabled actor is commendable.

 

Summary

If you can get past the multiple product placements then you might enjoy this as it’s a nice enough little sci-fi film, albeit without being spectacular. I really wanted to say something nice about a film that I loved when I was a child, but unfortunately I couldn’t think of something that was noteworthy in a positive sense.

I really can’t think of anything majorly positive about “Mac and Me” and in many ways I wish I had left it in the past. If you’re going to put this on for your young children then yes, they might enjoy it, but anyone over the age of about seven or eight might start to notice the things that would stop this being a fun film.

It’s not something I would urge you to avoid, but it certainly isn’t one that I can recommend that you watch.

I am willing to risk everything to change the future!

Year Released : 2014Untitled
Directors : Eric Small
Cast : Riley Smith, John Schneider, James Harvey Ward, Peter Winkfield and Jay Montalvo.

It takes a lot for me to turn off a film before the end but “10,000 Days” just joined that extremely exclusive club. Granted, it was only just before the end but I had put up with it for far too long by this point and couldn’t take anymore. For me this was one of the worst films I’ve ever watched, even when compared to “Zombeavers”, “Frank” and several others that I have reviewed for this site as at least those films didn’t leave me bored, they made me feel something….anger more than anything….but at least it was something. I was emotionally engaged in those films and as awful as they were, they at least had that, “10,000 Days” doesn’t.

I must admit that I got quite excited about “10,000 Days”. It wasn’t because it looked good, it wasn’t because it sounded like an interesting story (although it did to be fair), it was because it doesn’t, at the time of writing, even have a page on Wikipedia, it is extremely obscure. Even some of the films I thought were obscure that I’ve reviewed previously have had Wikipedia pages, but the only results for the term “10,000 Days” are two albums. The fact I’ve even had to create my own screenshots tells it’s own story about how obscure it is.

Much like many other films that debut on the SyFy channel, “10,000 Days” uses it’s limited budget on poor special effects and has exceptionally poor acting skills, but unlike most of the other films, this isn’t entertainingly bad, this is just outright bad. Films such as “Sharknado” or “The Room” (not from the SyFy channel but is a similar film in terms of acting) are at least amusingly bad, you can laugh at them for being so bad. This is bad without giving you the enjoyment factor of the aforementioned.

PLOT

27 years ago a comet hit the Earth and created a new ice age. Several families gathered together but then split up after an argument and now fight for control of an indoor facility, especially as the ice seems to be thickening.

One day, following an accident, members of the Beck family find a boy from the enemy group and because instantly suspicious, whereas Remy is convinced that the Becks have kidnapped him.

The Becks soon discover a frozen Air Force One and the control system for America’s old weapons. As the Becks plan to release a nuclear weapon to try and end the ice age, Remy’s group plans an attack to not only reclaim the boy, but to end the war once and for all.

300itaint

Dull, with an extra portion of bland

Very unusual start as the main character does an opening speech about what happened immediately after the comet struck, but he actually does it whilst being visible on screen. This is highly unusual as it’s usually done as a voiceover in numerous other films, so at least they’re trying something new. It does switch over for a brief moment into being a voiceover for a fight that actually looks visually impressive, presented in a similar style to the fighting in “300” before then ending in a stupid manner.

Infact, the film obviously tries to resemble “300” whenever a battle scene is happening. It’s presented in a similar style and in slow motion and with elements such as snow being shown in a louder definition than what’s around it, which is definitely very similar to the aforementioned, the difference is that the fights in “300” keeps you interested and astounded by them, whereas nothing really happens in the fights or battles in “10,000 Days”. They aren’t tense, they aren’t violent and they are just aren’t enthralling enough.

Whilst you can actually give credit to the film for actually trying in terms of it’s visual presentation, the acting quality leaves a lot of be desired and the effort they’ve put into the fights is not replicated to even a remotely interesting level.

The first discussion between the major characters feels almost rushed, there’s not a gap between characters speaking, no gap whatsoever, and it is hard to keep up in many ways. Don’t get me wrong, in many ways it is an aspect of real life where conversations can just flow well without gaps, but in a film you need that so you can keep up.

That sums up most of the film quite well as it moves as such a pace that you’re barely given chance to catch up with or process what is happening before they’re onto the next cave collapsing, fight starting, argument happening or anything of a similar nature. It’s hard to sit back and enjoy because you’re having to concentrate permanently and not  just relax into the film.

For me that is a big problem as there are a lot of films that do require you to concentrate all of the way through to understand what’s going on, such as “Inception” but the difference is that you want to follow what’s happening in that film as you’re engaged into the story.

reachy reachy

None of the characters are particularly interesting and Remy, the main antagonist, is one of the least threatening, interesting or emotionally involving bad guys in the history of cinema. The greatest films have amazing antagonists, such as Joker in “The Dark Knight”, Norton in “The Shawshank Redemption” and Darth Vader in the original “Star Wars” trilogy. They are excellent antagonists because of their impact on the protagonist, the excellent acting or the emotional involvement you have with them, none of those apply to Remy. He is just there. He’s one of the least engaging antagonists in the history of film as far as I’m concerned.

The soundtrack is atrocious, or at the very least atrociously used. Moments that could have been genuinely tense are reduces to mere parodies of anything resembling terrifying because of the music, and there is very few scenes without music in them that actually didn’t require them. It became quite tedious. There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of music but there has to be a purpose to it.

That is easily the biggest criticism of the film that I can throw at it, and is probably the biggest sin of any movie is that it’s boring. It is exceptionally dull and after just 25 minutes I was already counting down time for it to end (the things I do for you lot). I just felt no connection to the characters, wasn’t invested in the story and for lack of words, I was bored.

I’m not even entirely sure what to class this film as in terms of genre. It’s not a comedy (well, other than the acting), it’s not a horror, it’s not a drama, maybe a science fiction so I really have to go with that, and that’s a bad sign when you have to wonder what the genre is.

Just to r0und off all the negativity, there are poor attempts at comedy, such as finding a chocolate bar from a fictional company with an army ranking name and the young adult characters thinking that the soldiers would make chocolate bars in their spare time. It was an attempt at being funny that didn’t really pay off and ultimately fell very flat.

discussion

It’s not all negative however and there are one or two moments that I did actually quite like.

An aspect that I did like was that the characters who were around before the comet hit get nostalgic of how the world used to be, such as one character remembering a trip to Aruba, only for the other person to say that it means nothing to them because they weren’t around back then. It’s quite an interesting concept in many ways and is probably very true to what it would be like.

There are several scenes like that, or scenes where the younger members of the groups discover objects but don’t know what they are, such as a young woman, probably around 20 years old, finding a bra in a plane (as you do) and looking at it completely puzzled.  Again, this would be quite realistic and is definitely a generational thing.

Summary

It’s hard to feel strongly about the film in either a good or bad sense because it doesn’t get me emotionally invested in the story or the characters. The danger feels forced rather than a genuine threat and ultimately it makes it very difficult to feel anything but uninspired.

The antagonists never seem particularly threatening to the protagonists and the characters aren’t very well developed. Even when they’re on a crashed plane that’s plunging into the ice after a tremor, it’s hard to feel anything significant either way and you genuinely don’t care if the characters survive or not.

Films live and die on their ability to make you feel anything, or at least keep you entertained, and this film fails miserably in both respects.