Greetings! Have you ever wondered if a movie's worth blowing the money on to see at the theater or what to add next to your NetFlix queue? Then you've come to the right place! Enjoy!

"The Machine" Review

With Neill Blomkamp's Chappie bombing critically and at the box office, it seems like the old trope of sentient robots is in a slump. (Not really. Just bad movies.) While poking around Netflix I noticed The Machine (super awesome creative title, no?) starring Caity Lotz, who is Sara/Black Canary on Arrow. Listed as being about how the British Ministry of Defence (note Brit spelling) steals the first self-aware cyborg and trains it to be a killer, it sure sounds like Chappie, but with a cute girl. Because reasons.

In a dark and rainy future (because of course), we open with a scene where a horribly wounded soldier whose brain injuries (a third of his head is missing) have been treated with cybernetic implants. What appears to be a medical miracle quickly goes very wrong and much blood is spilled.

The scientist behind the science (Toby Stephens) recovers and is next seen running Turing tests on AI candidates including a supposedly promising one created by Ava (Lotz). He hires her and they work on the program and he scans her face and brain which comes in handy when she's murdered by Chinese agents. (I guess England didn't get the memo that it's not allowed to portray China in a bad light because money.) They create a robot duplicate of Ava (right down to the boobs, which someone remarks on) and plop in the doctor's quantum computer brain with Ava's AI.

Despite the scans, the Machine (as they address it) isn't Ava, but the usual sci-fi trope of a childlike naif of an innocent soul in an uber-strong murder machine body. Of course the military wants to make a weapon out of her. Of course the Machine develops feelings for the doctor. Of course something is going on with the other wounded soldiers with implants who despite supposedly having mysteriously lost their ability for speech are clandestinely communicating with each other in a garbled electronic tone. Of course.

It's all quite familiar and thus dull. I have to believe that the review quotes praising this movie are from tubby nerdgins who are just happy to see glimpses of shadowy female pseudo-nudity because for all the pretensions of depth pondering on the premise of a thinking, feeling machine, it's been done a zillion times before in films like Ghost in the Machine and, of course, Blade Runner. The subplot about the doctor's sick daughter doesn't make sense either; how does AI cure her and is he hoping to transfer her broken consciousness into a robot chasis?

Clearly a low budget movie, the makers definitely get the money on the screen where it counts with some impressive visual effects, especially when Machine glows from within (glimpsed in the trailer which makes it look more an action movie than it really is). Lotz, who was a mixed bag on Arrow, is good here, adequately portraying the narrowly constructed role of child-intellect-in-dancer-body. If you're a fan of her Arrow, you may find The Machine mildly diverting, but overall there's not much ghost (soul) in this machine.

Score: 3/10. Skip it.

"Mockingjay - Part 1" Review

Before we started watching (full title) The Hunger Games Colon Mockingjay Dash Part 1, my girlfriend asked, "What is this now?" to which I replied, "It's the first half of the third part." "When does the second half come out?" she asked. "This Christmas. They should really do these two-parters six months apart." Even better would be to stop milking the cash cow with needless splits when one three-hour movie could do the work more efficiently than two two-hour films.

I thought The Hunger Games books read like a single epic 1155-page novel in nine acts, escalating from a tale of one girl's survival to war story detailing the overthrow of a tyrannical government. There was a broad arc to the proceedings though the final two chapters are absolute crap that read like amateur fanfic tacked on at the last second because the author was writer's blocked and they had to make a predetermined release data. (They'd better be fixing this for the movie.) But in splitting the last third into to two the flow is broken.

So what do we have? It opens shortly after the ending of Catching Fire with a nightmare-stricken Katniss Everdeen (J.Law) recovering in District 13, the previously thought destroyed area whose rebellion prompted the Hunger Games to remind the serfs that the Capitol was running the show. (Unfortunately, most of the back story about how and why D13 was spared has been cut as if they were pressed for time.) We're introduced to President Coin (Julianne Moore), the leader of D13, who is reluctant to accept Plutarch Heavensbee's (Phillip Seymour Hoffman in his last performance as he ODed while shooting) advice that Katniss be used as a propaganda symbol in videos. (It's a bit of a pip to see three Best Actor/Actress winners in the frame when they first meet.)

Hopelessly stiff and unconvincing before the camera inside a studio, it's decided to send Katniss into the field to appear before the people in order of capturing honest emotional moments. They get their wish when a visit to a makeshift hospital after a bombing run prompts a 2nd Capitol attack killing the wounded and Katniss' impassioned message to President Snow (Donald Sutherland, evil as always) that "If we burn, you burn with us." As the video spreads, the rebellion starts in earnest.

Throughout, though, interviews with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) with Caesar Flickerman (a subdued Stanley Tucci) are beaming out indicated he's either gone native in the Capitol or being forced to chide Katniss. This leads to a rescue mission to get him and the other survivors of the Quarter Quell and the cliffhanger conclusion.

Unlike the other movies so far, there's not much action in Mockingjay - Part 1 with the trailer moment shooting down of the planes happening in the first half of the movie and a geographically improbable rebel attack (seriously, why are walkways there?) later. Most of the movie is Katniss crying and having nightmares and there are redundant scenes of returning to the smoldering ruins of District 12 which was annihilated for real after the end of the Quarter Quell. They really could've trimmed it down to 90 minutes of a three-hour movie, but again, money.

The performances are uniformly good, especially Elizabeth Banks' miserable Effie Trinket, trapped underground in D13 with no makeup and pretty things, and Natalie Dormer as the video director capturing Katniss in the field sporting a mock-copied hairstyle with one side shaved. The half-assed handling of the books' clumsy love triangle pads things out as Gale (Liam "brother of Thor" Hemsworth) darkly glowers around, but whatever. There are little moments between Katniss and the others which show the benefit of casting AAA-grade actors in what could've been tossed off as trifling pulp.

If it bothered you that Catching Fire, the middle chapter of The Hunger Games trilogy, was like The Empire Strikes Back in that it sorta didn't have an ending, then you're really going to dislike how Mockingjay - Part 1 ends on a beat more suited for a serialized television series like Arrow where a shocking revelation in the last moment teases the viewer to tune in next week. Separated by a year, this just doesn't make for satisfying movie watching though, but because it allows studios to double their money, we're not going to see this trend end anytime soon.

Score: 6/10. Rent the Blu-ray a week before The Hunger Games Colon Mockingjay Dash Part 2 comes out.

DirkFlix. Copyright 2010-2015 Dirk Omnimedia Inc. All rights reserved.
Free WordPress Themes Presented by EZwpthemes.
Bloggerized by Miss Dothy