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Even though Underworld: Blood Wars met all of our exceedingly low expectations, the latest installment isn’t a very good movie; even when measured against the low bar of previous Underworld films.

This isn’t a full review and I highly doubt I’ll dedicate the time to do one properly. But It’s worth a few moments to giver my overall impression of the film. It’s not good. What I enjoyed about the first Underworld hasn’t been part of the franchise for years: Surprise. I had no expectations going into each film, because I never expected a sequel.

Blood Wars takes place shortly after the events of the shockingly forgettable “Underworld Awakening” in which Selene … ahem … awakens to discover a world ruled by humans in which vampires and lycans alike are hunted to the brink of extinction. She and her lover Michael (the half vampire / half lycan hybrid) had been captured by humans and contained in a human research facility. There they were stored in some some kind of cryogenic storage along with their daughter Eve.

Underworld: Blood Wars seems to have found the previous film to be every bit as forgettable as I did. Important plot pints are glossed over or omitted completely with several issues addressed only in “blood memory” flashbacks. With a new vampire/lycan war looming, The threat from the human population isn’t even a remote concern. In fact, the film illustrates a world where Vampires still have at least one great coven. Despite the dire nature of their implied situation, the vampires clan still has time for baroque dinner parties and the lycans move about unopposed in broad daylight.

Any more would constitute a full review with spoilers and the only spoiler I want to leave you with is this: Kate Beckinsale still looks amazing in a black rubber suit. That's the only thing worth seeing here.

We here at Particleshock Science fiction have finally, just now gotten around to seeing Rogue One: A Star Wars story. I know it seems like the kind of thing we would rush to the theaters to see on the preview night, But it’s the holiday season and I’m not getting paid to do these smarmy reviews so… better late than never?

Rogue One is the prequel we've always wanted.

I’m showing my age here but I actually got to watch “Star Wars” during it’s original theatrical release, before the “Episode IV” tag was added to the title. I can tell you that Rogue One is the prequel I’ve been waiting over thirty years to see (counting from 1983’s Return of the Jedi).

What we liked:

Rogue One finally satisfies the long standing plot hole in which an engineering oversight would allow an exhaust port to function as a direct means to destroy the entire Death Star. I can’t tell you how many fan-boy conversations have revolved around this apparent lack in competence by the designers of the battle-station. It is far better to believe a willful and defiant act of sabotage lies hidden in plain sight; an undetected vulnerability engineered to be exploited as a father’s final act of revenge.

It is a war after all

The action and combat scenes are really quite exciting. The skirmish on Jedha is reminiscent of a battle with insurgents in a middle-eastern city while the battle on Scarif feels like it’s straight from a world war II beach head. Rogue One shows us a much grittier and visceral conflict between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire in general, with defectors and extremists making the war feel uncomfortably real.

A few more high points:

  • Darth Vader Is finally shown to be a terrifying lord of the sith.
  • CGI Tarkin!
  • A ton of Easter eggs.
  • CGI Leia!
  • K2S0 really steals the show.

What we weren't So Happy with:

To be honest there wasn’t much to complain about. There was some choppy editing in the beginning of the film, with some abrupt cuts. It’s jumpy for a while but eventually it does smooth out. And  what about that U-Wing fighter? These are new to Rogue One so they don’t appear in the original trilogy. The obvious question then is, where did they all go? Was every single one of them destroyed?

What it could have been.

You might have noticed, if you watched early trailers for Rogue One, that almost none of the scenes used in those trailers appear in the finished film. While that seems to be an ongoing joke in the advertising and promotion of modern movies; In this case the differences are even more glaring - likely due to the extensive re-shoots. I watched a video last night that suggested that up to 40% of the film was retooled.

I don’t have any real complaints about the final product but I am left wondering what kind of movie Rogue One might have been. Hopefully when it’s released on Blu-ray we’ll get deleted scenes and bonus features that explain the changes.

When I learned a Ghost in the Shell movie was in production with Scarlett Johansson in the lead roll, You might say I was somewhat … disappointed.

All I could think was great, More Hollywood white-washing. After seeing the trailer and behind-the-scenes look at the film's special effects by Weta Workshop, I was sold. When the film opened in theaters I was not disappointed … with the look of the world.

Is it reality, or is it racism?

I'm never sure what to think about Hollywood controversy anymore. Of course there are genuine issues. But they are often difficult to evaluate objectively. We have a habit of making social justice mountains out of logistic molehills. Case in point: Was a white actress cast in Ghost in the Shell because of racism or anti-Japanese sentiment, or was she simply cast for her proven ability to attract an audience?

One one hand, She may not be Japanese, but how can you resist Scarlett Johannsen? More importantly Mamoru Oshii, the director of the Ghost in the Shell anime films seems to agree. He said Scarlett Johansson exceeded his expectations for the character from beginning to end.

On  the other hand, you simply cannot ignore a pervasive pattern of "whitewashing" when talented actors of the appropriate ethnicity are available.

Unfortunately the film did not fair well at the box office. Probably because of some perceived racial bias. Personally I don't think there was any bias involved. It's a shame more people didn't give this movie a chance because great pains were taken to get that "Neo Tokyo" look just right.

Aside from the obvious (see our Rogue One blog post) there aren't a lot of movies scheduled to hit theaters in the next month; that I am excited about. One film that does look fun is passengers, starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. I guess I'm a sucker for a romantic comedy / space opera mash up. Is that even a genre? What movies are on your must see list?

I don't know why I never got around to seeing or reviewing this movie earlier. It wasn't horrible. It wasn't great, but it certainly wasn't the worst movie I've seen in recent months. It's actually been quite a long time since I watched this movie so this will be a vague overview at best.

The basic premise is pretty straight forward. Passengers on a long distance space flight are placed into suspended animation for the duration of the trip. The automated systems take care things like minor course corrections and the Artificial intelligence can wake specific crew members to address bigger problems, if necessary.

Passenger Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is accidentally released from his suspended animation ahead of schedule. realizing he will spend the rest of his life wandering the halls of this enormous ship alone, he wrestles with the notion of waking another passenger. In the course of his solitude Jim has reviewed countless passenger files searching for the perfect companion. He ultimately chooses a smart, beautiful writer by the name of Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence).

I think its actually quite petty that somebody decided to depict a future where we can accomplish interstellar travel, but have poverty and class struggles in a film this light-hearted.

Aurora comes to accept the plight she shares with Jim, things actually go pretty well for the two of them. They get along well and have some fun in the vast halls of the ship. Eventually a romance even begins to develop between them until Aurora learns that Jim woke her on purpose. I don't remember if Jim slipped or the robot bar-tender casually clued her in after Jim insisted there were no secrets between himself and Aurora. Either way, She was ore than a little angry with him. Some standard "relationship with trust issues" drama ensues until an emergency situation forces them to work together or die a horrible burning space death. You can probably imagine what the remaining portion of the movie is like.

Passengers half heartedly attempts to explore some antiquated issues of privilege and social class. Aurora is a first class passenger and is entitled to a stateroom gourmet meals, but Jim is essentially a Titanic-era "steerage" passenger who only gets basic meals and accommodations. I think its actually quite petty that somebody decided to depict a future where we can accomplish interstellar travel but we still have poverty and class struggles in a film this light-hearted. yeah. I'm pretty salty about that.

After all is said and done, I don't think you'll hate yourself for wasting a Saturday afternoon with this movie Which puts Passengers squarely in the Weekend Rewind category of films.

 

 

Shin Godzilla or Godzilla Resurgence is the first Japanese Godzilla movie to be made after Gareth Edwards' 2014 Godzilla film