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Valerian Visually Stunning Yet Comes Up Short

Valerian 3 First off, let’s put our cards on the table. French films do NOT play well in America, and French science fiction is a tough ball of wax, especially when it’s based on a little-known (in America) comic book. Not even the powerhouse duo of Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg could work their magic back in 2011 with “The Adventures of Tintin” in spite of the fact that Tintin is known all over the world but a virtual unknown in America. Additionally, the French seem to have little knowledge about making sci-fi films—they are too quirky.You can go all the way back to 1902, when Georges Melies made “Le Voyage Dans La Lune” (The Trip To The Moon). Decades later, in 1966, the Eddie Constantine movie “Alphaville” royally flopped in America.

At this point, enter Luc Besson, who in 1997 directed “The Fifth Element”. The redeeming value there was that Milla Jojovich and Bruce Willis were teamed with Gary Oldman in this French-made romp.  Here, Besson wrote and directed Valerian And The City of a Thousand Planets, and has Herbie Hancock, Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke, and Rihanna for flavour, but overall, this film asks the average American to process too much information.

Valerian 5 The opening starts off well, enhanced by David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in the background and a visually stunning, growing space station as we witness the different astronauts who met here in the past. The story tells us the station got too big, so much so that it became a threat to Earth and was set adrift in open space where it continues to be a roaming example of human technology and meeting place for space races.

Valerian 2 The French expect the viewer to connect all the dots on their own, so there ensues a series of unrelated adventures involving Major Valerian (Dane Dehaan) and his partner, Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delavigne), a couple of government agents who travel through time and space solving cases—which is the supposed foundation for a future film series with the characters. Think James Bond 500 years in the future, and you have the general idea.

The story loosely follows the history of a planet that was destroyed 30 years before Valerian’s events, involving the giant space station Alpha, and the various aliens who have made it their home.

Valerian 1 The commander on Alpha is not all he appears to be, and eventually gets his come-uppance as a secret hinted at near the movie’s beginning becomes known. Valerian has a desire to marry Laureline, and she appears receptive to the idea, yet that aspect is merely used for comic relief. Rihanna appears as a shape-shifting dancer who also has a secret.

The most expensive independent film ever produced, at well over 100 million Euros, the visual effects and grandeur of this movie are utterly outstanding, but the script gives the impression that three (maybe more) writers actually scrabbled a series of unrelated incidents together into one movie. Yes, there IS a story here, and the nimble-minded can manage to follow it, but a sci-fi “newbie” seeing his first film with Valerian will be turned off for life with the genre. At 2 hours and 17 minutes in length, it appears to go for hours without end and is chock full of action, aliens, weapons, and special effects. Unfortunately, not even Luc Besson had the glue to make this all stick together. I have little expectation of this movie breaking even in America. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if it wound up getting pulled from theatres within weeks.

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47 Metres Down is a One-Trick Pony

47 Metres Dowm 1   In this era of “female empowerment” movies when everything ever done is being recast with women (think Wonder Woman and Ghostbusters), it was only a matter of time before someone got a hold of Jaws and made it female-centric. This is that movie.

Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) are two sisters who are secretly in competition with each other.  Lisa’s boyfriend has dumped her, and she thinks going on a vacation with Kate will make everything OK. Lisa is secretly envious of Kate’s rapport with guys and she hopes vacationing in Mexico (here being portrayed by the Dominican Republic) and taking pictures to show her ex will make him jealous and willing to come back to her.

47 Metres Down 4  The fly in the ointment is that the girls meet up with a couple of local Lotharios who convince them that cage diving among sharks is just the ticket.  Lisa almost chickens out twice but finally gets roped into trying the stunt, which they both later regret. They go through a quick “crash course” about their equipment and are lowered into the drink in a cage.

47 Metres Down 3  Soon enough a large shark begins circling the cage while Lisa panics and asks to be raised up and out, which is when the fun begins. The steel wire holding the cage is frayed and weak. It snaps, sending the cage the titular 47 metres down, and the remainder of the film involves the girls’ attempts to reach the surface without becoming fish food. There are several good, jump-out-of-your-seat moments, but you quickly realise that you’ve seen all of this before in films from Jaws to Deep Blue Sea, and it begins to get monotonous.

47 Metres Down 2  The direction is relatively lackluster, and the ending is highly unsatisfactory.  You may usually come out after the movies talking about the film, but you’re more likely to leave 47 Metres Down thinking “what the hell did I just watch?”

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Life Is A Gripping Ride

“Life” is a bit of a misnomer because while it does follow life, somewhat, it’s actually a thrilling, even scary ride that doesn’t let up once you’re strapped in. The film opens up on a view of space and a space probe returning from Mars while carrying a sample of Life poster 2

the planet’s soil. What’s especially scary about this s that within the next year, we are actually sending a probe to the Red Planet to do just that. The probe is damaged by small meteorites, so the crew of the International Space Station is tasked with retrieving the probe by using a large mechanical arm, then taking the soil sample in to study it for life signs. It doesn’t go quite as planned but the task is accomplished and the soil sample gets scrutinised. British biologist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) Finds one microscopic organism in the soil, but an atmospheric accident in the lab causes the organism, named Calvin by school children, to become dormant. Hugh tries to make it

Life pic 2 active again by giving it mild electrical shocks. This has the unwanted effect of rendering Calvin violent, and it crushes Hugh’s hand and escapes into the lab, where it attaches itself to and consumes a lab rat, getting bigger in the process. Engineer Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds) enters the lab to retrieve Hugh, bur is himself attacked and killed by Calvin.

Life pic 1

From this point on, “Life” is essentially a remake of “The Blob” in space, but remains  a solid, edge of your seat sci-fi horror film as the ship’s crew gets to become Calvin’s “blue plate special”. It becomes critical when only two members are left—Dr. Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson) and David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) and the space station’s orbit deteriorates as the two debate the possibility that the reentry may not kill Calvin. Jordan decides that Miranda must use one of the two escape modules and return to Earth as he enters the other module, traps Calvin inside, and directs himself into deep space, saving Earth. All I’ll say is it doesn’t quite turn out as planned in what turns out to be a final shocker in the end.

As I said earlier, considering the timeliness of our exploration of Mars, this becomes an even more frightening film.

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84 Years Later, Kong is Still King

Kong Skull Island 1

In 1933, Merian C. Cooper astounded the world by bringing a fantastic version of Beauty and the Beast to the silver screen. It was the story of a giant ape revered as a God on a remote island where evolution paused millions of years ago and dinosaurs still roamed. It was hailed as “The Eighth Wonder of the World”, and was brought to life by master technician Willis O’Brien, with help from Marcel Delgado and a young Ray Harryhausen, that last being uncredited, but he used the experience in 1948 to create Mighty Joe Young. But enough history, let’s dissect this story.

William Randa (John Goodman) and his assistant Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) wrangle a senator to fund a mission for his Monarch Corporation, a nebulous entity shrouded in secrecy which is hunting for “large, living monsters”. The mission gets piggybacked with a geologic trip to the area, but not before Randa secures a military escort in the person of Samuel L. Jackson as Lt. Col. Preston Packard and his Sky Devils helicopter assault team.

Kong Skull Island 2

It should be noted that this story unfolds shortly after the end of the Vietnam War, and Packard and most of his men are eager for “one more tour of duty” in this adventure, which is laced with 1970s classic rock tunes the audience of a certain age will fondly remember. The target, “Skull Island” is continuously surrounded by violent storms that have kept it hidden for a long time, and has just recently been identified by satellite imagery.

As the helicopters break through the clouds, they disperse and release “helicopter bombs” to assess the geological makeup of the island. This act brings out a titanic gorilla which attacks the helicopters and knocks them all out of the sky. Among the ragtag crew is James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), an aspiring photojournalist and peace activist looking for that one picture that will make her famous. The soldiers and civilians get separated and try to get back together again. As they roam around they encounter a huge mutant water buffalo. Conrad is a former member of the British Special Forces in Vietnam and a jungle expert, so he’s a natural leader for his group, which winds up at some ancient ruins where they encounter fierce-appearing natives and Lieutenant Hank Marlow (John C. Riley), who has been living on the island since crashing there during World War II. Marlow gives them the lowdown on the native life forms on the island, which include giant spiders and ants (although we never see the ants) and a large snakelike animal with front arms and a bony head which he refers to as “skull crawlers”, a word he just made up because it “sounds scary”.

Kong Skull Island 3

Also present is a species of large cephalopod, which makes a brief appearance as a giant, active sushi bar for Kong. The skull crawlers are definitely the main threat as they are fast and ferocious, and manage to decimate the troops a bit as they amble around. Just as nasty are “ugly birds” of some mutant variety which are actually some sort of pterosaur that account for a few more deaths. Preston wants Kong dead, but Marlow is against the idea because he points out that Kong is basically the only means of protection against the skull crawlers, especially one “big one”. One of the scientists adds to the argument by pointing out that in nature, when one species is wiped out, another steps up to fill in the void.

Kong_Skull_Island_poster  This is NOT your grandfather’s Kong, and parents should be made aware that the scenes of gore and monster violence are very intense, so you may want to consider leaving the kiddies home for this one. The ending of this film is slightly upbeat, but I must confess I didn’t stick around for all the end credits to see how they were going to tie this one up with the Godzilla legend in 2020, so I may have missed a big point. The lush jungle scenery of Hawaii, Vietnam, and Australia give this film a “travelogue” look—at least until the monsters show up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Minimum Wage Hike Means Doom

wendys   A tremendous battle is brewing over a hot-button issue that will culminate in a war with no winners. I am referring, of course, to this senseless minimum wage hike being sought by a lot of workers. Sorry, but we don’t need a higher minimum wage—we need prices we can afford.

The fast food segment is bearing the brunt of this fight, and while the wages earned by many of these people could use a slight upgrade, $15 an hour is too much. My last employment was as an upper level manager in the automotive segment, and I wasn’t making $15 an hour. You’re telling me burger flipping is more important than MY job?

Let’s look at the overall picture here. Too few people are making too big a share of the  money. An actor works three months on a movie and gets paid $20 million by the studio. Why? What makes him so special? His name? An athlete plays, for example, baseball. This is more like a job because he uses his skills to a higher extent. Yet he plays in about 100 games a year (much less if he’s a pitcher), yet makes the equivalent of over $100,000 an hour. These are the people who can afford $5 million homes and $80,000 cars. You can’t, yet want the same perks they do.

mcdonalds-sign  You petition for $15 an hour without considering what your employer will do about it. First, he’ll measure your importance against the company’s financial future—and this includes his wallet. Let’s see—one of our stores has 30 employees, and 15 of them mostly take orders, making them little more than waiters. People are more tech-savvy today than ever before, so we can replace the waiters with mechanised order kiosks. McDonald’s has begun doing this in several cities, and Wendy’s announced today it’s doing this in 1,000 of its stores soon. The result? No more temperamental employees being paid every hour of every day they work, and a few machines can now do the work of those 15 workers. Within months, we’ll have saved millions of dollars chain-wide in salary and medical coverage, not to mention having to pay into the tax structure. Company wins, you lose–money, house, and job.

dennysThe scenario is the same everywhere as our governments fail to see that my plan will put a stop to this. With lower prices, there will be no need for higher wages, and we can keep the status quo. If we keep spiraling in the opposite direction, the human race is doomed. It will become too costly to employ humans, but without humans being able to earn money, they can’t but your products, and you will become archaic yourselves. Result? Total chaos and civil war. Do we want that?Think about THAT in your ivory towers.

 

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Arrival Slick New Invasion Film

arrival-poster-2    Never have I been so completely confused by such an excellent piece of film making. There is an old Eastern provern that says time is a constant, renewing circle, yet those that don’t understand it are doomed to “fall out of time and perish from their own lack of knowledge”. Time is a weapon in and of itself, and that’s the premise of “Arrival”, a movie told from the thoughts and voice-over of Amy Adams, who plays Louise, a linguistics expert who gets brought in by  Forrest Whitaker, who has worked with her before and wishes to have her around as part of his team, also composed of scientist Ian (a post-Avengers Jeremy Renner) who are assigned to investigate a giant UFO that’s stationed itself over the western U.S. Plains—assigned to decipher the aliens’ language so we can tell what they want. Turns out that 11 more such ships have stationed themselves over various parts of the world and other governments are engaged in similar operations.

The beginning of this film is originally confusing, but it quickly clarifies itself as Louise’s life as she gets married, has a girl, and eventually loses that girl to what appears to be cancer and her husband walks out on her as a result. Louise, it turns out, has some sort of sixth sense that allows her to empathise with others, which turns out to be a great help in understanding the aliens.

The team enters the alien ship by a door which opens at regular intervals each day. The aliens are large globs with six octopus-like tentacles that open up into similarly octopoidal hands. Officially, they are called “Heptapods”, but when Louise asks what they should call the two aliens in the craft, Ian suggests “Abbott and Costello”, and it sticks. The aliens have deep, sonorus vocals, but they communicate by creating circles of a cloudy inklike substance from their “hands”. They appear to float in a heavy, foglike atmosphere on the other side of a glassy wall.

Arrival 1.jpg After a while, communication appears to become possible as the team mathematically analises the pictures of the “idea blobs” the aliens make, but several of the worldwide teams have apparently lost something in the translation and disconnect themselves from the info net that was set up. Even our own team is tricked into carrying explosives into the ship, but as it explodes, the aliens isolate Ian and. Louise from the explosion. That’s when Louise really realises that these are not evil entities, but the world prepares a violent conflict anyway, led by China, Sudan, and Pakistan. Louise re-enters the craft and sees only one alien. Her query reveals that the other was fatally hurt by the explosion. She apologises for the attack and fathoms out the whole story. The aliens have come to help us figure out how to make use of time as a commodity, a tool, a “weapon” (this “weapon” reference is what others mistook for aggression.

Arrival 3.jpg From that point, we go through a “fast-forward” segment where Louise manages to reach the Chinese warlord and convinces him of the aliens’ true purpose, leading into the various world powers agreeing to defuse tensions and work together again. The crisis is averted and the alien ships leave.

This is definitely not your run-of-the-mill invasion film, more in the vein of the original “Day the Earth Stood Still”rather  than “Independence Day”, and in the end you tend to remember Louise rather than the aliens. This is a highly intellectual tour-de-force that plays out a bit slowly in the beginning but always stays on track. It gets 5 Tomahawks all the way.

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New Direction for Religion

Religion as a whole has plagued humanity for at least thousands of years, ever since a forgotten troglodyte realised that he could get people to do his bidding if he could convince them that a “supreme being” could back him up.

The original plan has seen some changes from time to time and the story spread from one place to another, much like mother-in-law jokes. Some people actually had “inside information” on this entire charade, and incorporated the truth into the thread by incorporating multiple gods into the equation. This happened at a time of “enlightenment” across the world, and soon the religious cannon of various cultures had multiple gods that were named differently and regionally in Roman, Greek, and Norse mythology. Even the Arab and Hindu cultures were caught in this spiral for a time.

The original con game has had its ups and downs over the years, but the truly enlightened individuals reported even the strange events that would eventually reveal religion for what it is—misplaced science that those with lower intellect couldn’t figure out.

Throughout the Bible are multiple examples of advanced science and weaponry. The book of Ezekiel contains one of the most highly detailed sightings of aliens and their ships in recorded history. The Walls of Jericho were destroyed by a sonic weapon. The Hebrews who fled Egypt were aided by an advanced species who displayed cunning weaponry that allowed the Red Sea to be split by a similar weapon that kept the waters behind invisible walls, and when power to those “walls” was turned off, Pharaoh’s army was wiped out. Those aliens remained in a ship that glowed so brightly it was described in such terms as “a pillar of fire”.

The story about Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot’s wife “turned to salt” is easier to believe if you apply modern physics to it. The place was destroyed by an atomic weapon and Lot’s wife was burned to a crisp by the radiation. Modern history showed many such examples in World War II Japan when we bombed it.

Even that resurrection tall tale can be explained by scientific means. Why is the Shroud of Turin so enigmatic? Was Jesus really wrapped in it? Yes he was, and after his “death”, Jesus was wrapped in chemically embedded cloth and subjected to radiation treatment that brought him back to life. Even today, the world’s three superpowers (Russia, China, and the USA) are trying to replicate this and create new armies from dead people, even though they are unaware of how this will affect the dead bodies.

To make a long story short, all this conflicting array of stories is causing more people to doubt previously held religious beliefs. It’s becoming increasingly clear that this universe wasn’t wished into existence by some cosmic magician with a bipolar disorder problem. Even a few decades ago, God was still the “Supreme Being”, but today it’s Jesus. This is supposedly because they’re both the same entity. If anyone else claimed that, he’d be locked in a padded cell. Truth is, people are beginning to realise that an omnipotent, benevolent god would never treat “his” creations the way we are—destroyed by constant wars and deadly diseases, as well as continuous geophysical manifestations.

No, a truly all-powerful creator would protect his work by never allowing wars or disease to happen. Jesus is easier to believe in because he was a man—or at least a suitable hybrid developed by aliens through artificial insemination, if you really understand how Mary was “visited” by emissaries of God and became pregnant without sexual hijinks.

The world’s population no longer is willing to believe its various governments that say there’s no such things as UFOs. They’re beginning to see the light when people like me say that the truth is in the science hidden away in the Bible and that the government knows this and is covering everything from UFOs to sea monsters.

Religion is changing, and when the change is complete, the world may regret having lied to people so long.

 

 

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