FlixChatter Review: MORTAL ENGINES (2018)

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Review by Vitali Gueron

[This review may contain plot details that could be considered spoilers, proceed with caution]

When I heard that there was a movie was coming out, produced by The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson, I was naturally excited and expected to be entertained on a massive scale. This movie coming out was Mortal Engines, a post-apocalyptic thriller directed by Christian Rivers and with a screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson. The film would be based on the novel Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve and star well known Australian-English film and stage actor Hugo Weaving. The film would be set in a post-apocalyptic world where entire cities have been made mobile by them having wheels and a motor, and there would be cities that prey on one another.

It sounded promising so I thought I would give it a go. I sat back in the theater and spent the next 128 minutes of my life being shown special effect after special effect, with very little character development or explanation of an overly complicated story to go by. Apparently, the events of Mortal Engines take place hundreds of years after civilization was destroyed by a cataclysmic event, called the Sixty Minute War, and the remnants of humanity regroup and form mobile “predator” cities. One of the greatest of these “predator” cities is the city of London. It is where Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), a low-class apprentice historian of London lives and Tom has always wanted to be pilot but never afforded the opportunity because of his class status.

Meanwhile, Katherine Valentine (Leila George), daughter of Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) who is head of the Guild of Historians and one of London’s elite. She befriends Tom and he shows her his collection of “old tech” that could be used to create powerful weapon that has the capability to destroy cities at an instant. Coincidently, (or not) Thaddeus Valentine is also plotting a mysterious energy project in the re-purposed St Paul’s Cathedral (the landmark that is atop the traction city of London). When a woman named Hester Shaw comes aboard the city of London captures a small mining town called Salzhaken, absorbing its population and resources, under orders of Lord Mayor Magnus Crome (Patrick Malahide). Shaw is revealed to be the daughter of Pandora Shaw, one of Thaddeus Valentine’s arch enemies whom he killed several years back when Hester was just a little girl. Hester tries to kill Thaddeus but Tom Natsworthy stops her and the both find their way off the traction city of London.

Tom and Hester are forced to work together, become imprisoned and get locked in the cell of a small scavenger city who intends to sell them as slaves. In the meantime, Hester reveals to Tom that her mother Pandora was an archeologist who found a piece of old tech which Thaddeus wanted but Pandora would not relinquish, therefore Thaddeus killed Pandora. Hester escaped Thaddeus with only a necklace her mother gave her. Back on the traction city of London, Katherine has grown estranged from her father, learning about his diabolical plans to use a super weapon called MEDUSA that can destroy cities in an instant. Also, Tom and Hester get rescued by Anna Fang (Jihae), a pilot and leader of the Anti-Traction League, a resistance group banding against the moving cities devouring Earth’s resources. Anna Fang is a relentless warrior and also pilots an airship the Jenny Haniver. They take the airship to the airborne city Airhaven, where they meet up with other members of the Anti-Traction League. Their meeting is cut short by a robot named Shrike (Stephen Lang), who was also Hester’s guardian as a child and whom Hester abandoned leaving to avenge the death of her mother.

Hugo Weaving as Thaddeus Valentine

Once Shrike causes the airborne city Airhaven to come crashing down, he is taken out by the members of the Anti-Traction League, but not before he learns that Hester has fallen in love with Tom. Hester, Tom, and Anna then travel to the Shield Wall with the surviving Anti-Tractionists. They meet up with with the Shild Wall’s governor Kwan (Kee Chan) and Anna convinces him to launch the Anti-Tractionist fleet against London. At the same time, London fires the MEDUSA weapon towards the Shield Wall, destroying the Anti-Tractionist fleet and creating a giant hole through the Shield Wall.

Jihae as Anna Fang

Desperate to find something to counter the MEDUSA weapon, Tom discovers that Hester’s necklace (the one she got from her mother before she died) contained a crash drive that acts as a kill switch for the MEDUSA weapon. They made their way back to London, taking heavy losses in ships and Anti-Tractionist members. They also find Katherine Valentine willing to help them confront her father Thaddeus and try to stop the destruction of the Shield Wall.

SPOILER (highlight to read) Hester and Anna infiltrate St Paul’s cathedral in London, but Thaddeus Valentine mortally wounds Anna during a sword duel. Hester is able to disable the MEDUSA weapon with her crash drive but Thaddeus Valentine is undeterred in his ques to destroy the Shield Wall and he orders his henchmen to kill the city’s control crew and ram it into the Shield Wall. With Katherine Valentine’s help, Tom uses the airship Jenny Haniver to destroy London’s engine (similarly to what Luke does in Revenge of the Jedi by flying directly into its center and blowing it up). Valentine attempts to flee London but Hester pursues him and with fights him aboard his airship, where he reveals he is her father. Tom rescues Hester and shoots down Valentine Valentine’s ship, where it is crushed when it is run over by London’s slowing tracks. The surviving Londoners, led by Katherine Valentine, make peace with the Anti-Tractionists.

In the end of the movie it is shown that Tom and Hester travel in the Jenny Haniver to see the world. To me this is the classic happily ever after ending that just doesn’t see appropriate as an ending to this epic fight. There are also way too many similarities with the original Star Wars trilogy not to notice. They way Tom wants to be pilot reminded me of Luke Skywalker’s desire to get off Tatooine in A New Hope. The way he ultimately destroys London and the budding romance between Tom and Hester are some other examples of the influence of the Star Wars trilogy in this movie. It became almost impossible not to notice the resemblances between the movies. Unfortunately for Mortal Engines, the characters had almost none of the character development or unique interest that the characters in the Star Wars trilogy had.

Overall, I was unimpressed by the main characters and overly complicated plot. One can only take so much explosions and special effects before one starts losing interest. That was the case with this one, where a movie failed to lift-off, before it even got off the ground. I was most disappointed in the main characters — Hera Hilmar as Hester was not even slightly compelling and passionate. Robert Sheehan was a little better (I first saw Robert in a Twin Cities Film Fest film last year – Ari Gold’s The Song of Sway Lake, where he was a quirky character along with fellow actor Rory Culkin) but here was also rather forgettable as Tom Natsworthy. These two were supposed to be our heroes, but rather they were just another part of the overly-complicated plot. The best character by far was Anna Fang, probably because of Jihae, a South Korea-born singer-songwriter and actress. Her wardrobe made her look straight out of The Matrix and her swagger made her a formidable adversary to Thaddeus Valentine. I would have liked – and expected — a lot more from the likes of Peter Jackson. Sadly, I got very little in return to remember this movie by.


Have you seen MORTAL ENGINES? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

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It’s been ten years since Mel Gibson‘s last directed a film; the violent adventure Apocalypto was a mild success for the controversial actor and director. Many thought that film would be a comeback for Gibson, but then his personal life took another controversial hit and he’s been out of the limelight for a few years. He’s now back with another violent film that’s based on a real life WW2 American Army named Desmond Doss, who became the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Doss (Andrew Garfield) who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, learned the true impact of violence at a young age. During a scuffle with his older brother, Doss almost killed his sibling and after that he sworn not to hurt or kill another human beings. His alcoholic father Tom (Hugo Weaving), who happens to be a war veteran himself, tends to physically abuse his mom Bertha (Rachel Griffiths), also made him despise violence. During a visit to a local clinic, Doss’ eye catches Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), a nurse who takes a shine to his humble-but-determined ways, with the pair eventually getting engaged to be married.

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However, before they’re eloped, Doss enlists in the army, uncomfortable with the idea of staying behind while others fight for their country. When he arrives for basic training, Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist, proclaims his interest in being a combat medic, refusing to take part in gun training. Frustrating superiors Howell (Vince Vaughn) and Glover (Sam Worthington), Doss’ faith is put to the test through hazing and menial labor, making an enemy out of Smitty (Luke Bracey). When the unit is finally shipped over to Japan to take Okinawa, the ferocious battle of Hacksaw Ridge presents Doss with a supreme challenge of survival and duty.

Gibson, who I believe is an excellent director, didn’t really do anything new when it comes to storytelling. We get the usual romance montage between Doss and Dorothy, Doss being resented by his peers when he refused to pick up a weapon. But when the battle starts, here’s where Gibson shine as a director. Since he had appeared in several action films, Gibson knows how to staged some of the most intense and bloodiest war battle sequences ever put on film.

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Even though his Southern accent were inconsistent, Garfield’s performance is very good here. He’s a man of faith and really stick to his principles. I was quite surprised by the effective performances by Vaughn, Worthington, Bracey and Palmer. Weaving’s drunken father character is a bit more clichéd, but it’s nice seeing ‘Agent Smith’ playing something other than a bad guy.

It may not be in the same class as other great WW2 pictures like The Thin Red Line or Saving Private Ryan, but I was glad Gibson decided to tell this story. I’ve never heard of Desmond Doss before and after seeing this film, I have nothing but respect for late war veteran.

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Have you seen Hacksaw Ridge? Well, what did you think?

Guest Review: The Dressmaker (2016)

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The Dressmaker tells the story of an outwardly successful middle-aged woman named Tilly (Kate Winslet) who returns home to rural Australia, after having been ostracized from the town as a young girl. Most of the small town, including her own mother (Judy Davis), is not pleased to see her back. Regardless, she makes her entrance as colorful and fiery as possible and forges a place for herself despite the whispers and hostility of the townfolk.

The cinematography is completely gorgeous. The story is set in Dungatar, a part of Australia that evokes a sense of Oklahoma circa the dust bowl or the kind of Kansas that only exists in the Wizard of Oz. The barren dirtiness of the landscape is showcased in stark shots of decrepit buildings, dirty streets, and naked trees against empty skylines. This very deliberate setting eventually becomes the backdrop to characters wearing bold, colorful dresses in a way that seems to visually applaud fashion for being powerful and interesting while also admitting that high fashion might just be completely ridiculous.

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I hate to be cliché about it, but The Dressmaker is an emotional rollercoaster. The fulcrum of the story is the relationship between a mother and daughter, but there are competing sub-plots of a murder mystery and a romance which occasionally usurp the story of mother/daughter storyline entirely. The overall tone of a black comedy allows the film to push boundaries and upset audience expectations regularly. Moments that the audience expects to end happily wind up being the introduction to the next tragic theme and the darkest of moments are interrupted by well-placed moments of comedy.

The talent in this film is extraordinary. Every character is a little bit larger than life, caricatures that are just reasonable enough to make an audience feel in on the jokes without ever suspending their disbelief. The script lends itself to stand out performances by all, but especially by Winslet, Davis, and Hugo Weaving.


One of my favorite casting choices was Liam Hemsworth as Winslet’s love interest. Hemsworth is a solid fifteen years younger than Winslet, so the casting is an obvious response to Hollywood’s habit of usually casting love stories with large age differences in reverse. Much of this movie’s strength lies in similar subtle feminist moments: the film reverses the genders in many of Hollywood’s storytelling habits. For instance, it is a widely criticized reality that women exist almost exclusively as love interests or mothers in Hollywood. In The Dressmaker, the opposite is true. The primary characters of the story are women and most of the men exist only in relation to their partners. Despite this, The Dressmaker does not exist in a parallel universe where gender roles are reversed: women are still primarily homemakers and men have careers. It is merely the shifting of perspective that gives us a world made up of women with deep personal lives.

The Dressmaker also excels in its acknowledgement of women who suffer at the hands of men, often their own partners. One woman’s husband is a notorious cheater who drugs and rapes her regularly. Another woman’s husband is a wife-beater and refers to most of the women in the town in a derogatory way, which the script suggests is probably because of his own perversions. The lovely thing about all the dark stories about abuse is that even though they are gross, they are understated in a way that is very true to life.

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There is a love story in the middle of the movie, which briefly disrupts the other narratives and might be the best tongue-in-cheek criticism of Hollywood romance that I have ever seen. Winslet’s character avoids her romance with Teddy (Hemsworth) for as long as possible, invoking every manifestation of the hard to get narrative that we have been fed for the last fifty years. Tilly runs barefoot down a dirt road, only to be swept of her feet by Teddy when he chases her down in his car. Tilly measures a half-naked Teddy for a suit, getting tantalizingly close while he explains that the woman he loves (her) does not want him. Teddy wakes up one night with Tilly standing at his bedside with a lantern. The couple sits atop a silo with a picnic dinner and they stare at the stars together. Every last overdone and gooey detail is there. Every romantic moment is just overplayed enough that the audience understands that everyone involved in the creation of this story understands exactly how syrupy it is. It’s still cute. We’re just finally getting the story from a group of writers who know that it’s a little too cute and have fun with that.

The value of a female-led narrative film like this one cannot be understated. Directed by Australian filmmaker Jocelyn Moorhouse, this is a film to see in theaters and in groups. The gasps and groans and laughter of the people in the theater with me were literally of a different tenor than usual, which was a wonderful, surreal experience. If you want to see a film that completely understands (and really probably loves) Hollywood, but wants to approach it with a sense of humor and an inkling for progress, this film will not disappoint. The acting is superb, the story is full of surprises, and the jokes are both subtle and in your face. This is not a film to miss.

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hollyHolly P. is a twenty-something millennial who enjoys shouting at people on the internet, riding her bicycle, and overbooking her schedule. She prefers storytelling that has a point and comedy that isn’t mean. Her favorite movies are Aladdin, the Watchmen (even though the book was way better), and Hot Fuzz.  She’s seen every Lord of the Rings movie at least a dozen times.  You can follow her @tertiaryhep on twitter or @hollyhollyoxenfreee on Instagram. She’s also on Tinder, but if you find her there she’ll probably ghost on you because wtf is dating in the 21st century.


Have you seen ‘The Dressmaker’? Well, what did you think? 

MSPIFF14 Reviews: Hotell & Mystery Road

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Happy Sunday everyone! We’ve got a couple more MSPIFF 2014 reviews courtesy of Josh from JJAMES reviews.

Hotell_posterHotell (2013)

A Swedish film written and directed by Lisa Langseth, Hotell follows Erika (Alica Vikander), a beautiful and pregnant young woman with an almost idyllic life. Already moneyed and apparently successful, she and her husband, Oskar (Simon J. Berger), have a plan for including an infant in their lives, one that begins with a pre-arranged Caesarean Section.

But their plan falls apart when their son’s birth goes horribly wrong, a fact that mandates the couple adjust. Oskar manages well enough. Erika does not, instead slipping into deep depression, because of which she joins a support group that includes Rickard (David Dencik), Pernilla (Anna Bjelkerud), Anna-Sofi (Mira Eklund) and Peter (Henrik Norlen). Each of Erika’s new friends are, in their own way, ill, and, like Erika, tired of feeling conflicted, so when she proposes an unconventional plan to collectively escape their lives, for an indeterminate duration of time, they accept. Along they way, they informally try to help one another.

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Hotell has many merits. First, and most notably, Langseth portrays mental illness exceptionally well, never playing it for laughs or forced sympathy, but rather showing its complexity and potentially debilitating consequences with acute empathy. It might be the best such portrayal I have ever seen, in any motion picture or television show. 

Moreover, Erika and Rickard are complex, vibrant characters. Oskar could be one, as well, if he had received more focus. Plus, all of the performances are top-notch, especially Alicia Vikander’s Her every expression shows a veneer of reserve and composure, but also underlying vulnerability mixed with grief and guilt, facts that are praiseworthy enough, but become all the more so when considering Vikander’s two most explosive scenes. She is award-worthy good. Mira Eklund, who plays Anna-Sofi perfectly, is almost her equal.

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Yet, despite its many merits Hotell is not as emotionally moving as it could have been, largely because Langseth doesn’t develop her secondary characters well. Oskar all but disappears for most of the movie’s last three acts, and Peter, Pernilla and Anna-Sofi are too simplistically drawn. Just as their illnesses are not given enough attention.

It is doubly disappointing, because Langseth daringly bucks genre expectations. Here the therapy group is not particularly good for each other, and none of them are necessarily ‘cured,’ facts that help solidify Hotell’s themes. And would have done so even more powerfully if some of the characters had been better developed.

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Mystery Road (2013)

Mystery-Road-PosterMystery Road is ostensibly a police procedural about Australian outback Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pederson), who investigates the murders of indigenous girls. In that sense, the film is predictable, opening with Swan being assigned a murder case and following him through his investigation. Eventually, of course, he learns the truth, and then must grapple with the personal consequences of his new, and dangerous, knowledge. If we only consider the plot, Mystery Road is borderline formulaic and certainly not inventive. On the other hand, if that is all we consider, we are unfairly pigeonholing this complex movie. 

Because, in a master-class display of showing not telling, filmmaker Ivan Sen (the picture’s writer, director, editor, cinematographer & composer) ensures the story is tertiary, important only as a vehicle to represent setting and characters, in that order. Therein is why Mystery Road opens with sweeping, late-night aeriel shots of the rural outback. The wide angles are impressive, but made all the more so by their juxtaposition with close-ups of a truck driver (Hayden Spencer) using a flashlight to check his rig’s tires and then, after hearing a howling dog, to light his walk through nearby terrain. The sequence is wordless and slowly paced, meaning our focus is on the location, not the trucker himself and certainly not his actions. Perhaps that’s why we’re startled when he finds the first body, that of Julie Mason.

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At that point, Sen cuts to protagonist Jay Swan. Now we watch the detective, becoming intimately connected to him at the same time we learn more about Winton, a rural town. Swan asks his Sergeant (Tony Barry) for extra manpower to help him investigate Julie’s death, but he’s rebuffed. So he works alone, encountering racism aplenty. Some of the residents he meets are indigenous, like Swan’s ex-wife, Mary (Tasma Walton), and his daughter, Crystal (Tricia Whitton). They live in small houses. Others are white and own farms with larger homes. Still others, including Johno (Hugo Weaving), are morally obscure, leaving us to ponder their objectives. All of which contributes to Mystery Road’s greatest strength: neither Sen’s filmmaking technique nor his screenplay tell us what to think; he shows the conditions in which his characters live and trusts that we’ll understand his message.

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That Jay is well developed and that Pederson is captivating helps, as well. As do the strong supporting performances (special mention to Weaving and Walton), and the interesting secondary characters, most of which make sense. Johno is the lone exception. Even in the movie’s climax, we do not comprehend his motives. Johno is Mystery Road’s biggest misstep, but it is easy to overlook. As is the film’s other mistake: having so many characters that tracking them is difficult. 

The flaws do not limit the picture’s effectiveness, because Sen’s minimalist filmmaking is entrancing. He uses his simple score infrequently and powerfully, punctuating scenes and cementing emotion. Ditto that for his almost tangential dialogue, and his camera work and editing cuts, each of which are reserved. The director’s decisions immerse us in his setting.

As if it isn’t sufficiently clear, Mystery Road is almost magical and surely one of the best movies at MSPIFF.

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Thanks again Josh for the excellent reviews!


What do you think of these two films? Let us know in the comments!

FlixChatter Review: Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is one of those films that transcends film genres — it’s a drama, sci-fi, comedy, thriller, all wrapped into one. Based on David Mitchell’s 2004 novel, the film follows six nested stories of six characters across time and space, and explores how the characters’ lives are connected and somehow influence each other in past, present and future.

Just how are they connected exactly? Well, that’s for the viewers to find out and watching this film is like trying to put together a giant puzzle, whilst treated to a spectacular, often dizzying array of scenarios spanning hundreds of years, from the 1800s all the way to 2144.

The first character we meet, Adam Ewing, is a lawyer who’s shipwrecked in an island in the Pacific Ocean near New Zealand. In the story he ends up discovering the the enslavement of the Moriori tribe and also meeting a doctor named Henry Goose. The next character in the following story, a 1930 composer Robert Frobisher, discovers Ewing’s account as a diary on a bookshelf at the house of an aging composer he’s working for. On and on the story goes, alternating from one to the next every 10-15 minutes or so.

What’s most amusing about this film is that the main actors play multiple characters across various stories and time periods, so in one scene we see Tom Hanks in a period Victorian-era clothing to a scientist in the 1970s, to a tribesman in post-apocalyptic Hawaii. For the most part, they did a good job with the makeup work, transforming the actors across multiple races, even gender! Sometimes I got so caught up in the different look of the actors that take me out of the story, for example, young British actor Jim Sturgess made up to look like a Korean man Hae-Joo Im in the segment involving a genetically-engineered fabricant Somni-451 set in a totalitarian futuristic society, and also Hugo Weaving as a devil leprechaun haunting Hanks’ character and also the scary female Nurse Noakes who hounds Jim Broadbent‘s character a in a nursing home. It’s also odd seeing Korean actress Doona Bae as a freckled, red-headed Caucasian woman, complete with blue contact lenses! The make up of Halle Berry as a blue-eyed Jewish woman is much more seamless though.

The first thing that comes to mind as soon as I leave the theater is that it was quite a ‘discombobulating’ experience. I have to admit that it was quite tough to follow the story as it keeps changing from one to the next before I could even figure out what’s going on. It didn’t help matters that Halle Berry and Tom Hanks in the post-apocalyptic Hawaii segment are utterly incomprehensible. I kept turning to my friend next to me in frustration, just what the heck are those people saying??!

I read that the novel was quite well-received by critics who deemed that Mitchell managed to successfully interweave its six stories. I think it may take me multiple viewings for me to say whether the movie achieves that, though I wouldn’t call it a mess like some critics do. I wish it was more emotionally engaging though. I mean, the message against prejudice, slavery, corporate greed, etc. aren’t exactly subtle, but because the movie jumps from one to the next relatively fast, I wasn’t as invested in the characters as I otherwise would.

Overall, there are a lot to appreciate in this film, most notably the visual spectacle and the performances of most of the actors. The stand-outs for me are Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, and the Wachowskis’ ‘muse’ Hugo Weaving. My favorite segment is the love story set in the futuristic society Neo Seoul. It has a Blade Runner-esque feel to it, and the chase sequences are spectacular! I’m certainly glad I saw it on the big screen and from the visual effects standpoint, it actually seems like it had a bigger budget than $102 million (Just a little trivia: according to Wikipedia, this movie was actually funded by independent sources, making it the most expensive independent film ever).

Final Thoughts: I think this is a valiant effort by the Wachowski Siblings (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run). There’s definitely an epic feel to it and given how challenging the material is, I think they did a pretty darn good job. In fact, now that the movie’s sat with me for about a week and I’ve read a bit more about the story, I actually like it a bit better. Oh and do stay for the end credits as they show which actors plays which roles, see if you could recognize every single one of them. I don’t know how this film would fare come award season but it should at least nab Best Makeup nomination!

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Well, that’s my take on Cloud Atlas. What do YOU think of it?

Hollywood Movie Draft Pitch III: Untitled Sci-Fi by Duncan Jones

As part Anomalous Material’s Hollywood Fantasy Draft blog event, I posted my dream cast last week. Now check out the movie pitch below… tentatively titled …

The Renovaré Project

(Renovaré is Latin for “to renew” or “to restore”)

Photo by thmc | deviantart.com

LOGLINE:

In the year of 3020, a fraction of the earth population are now living temporarily in a distant planet. A young military protégé on a mission back to earth discovers that everything he knows about the apocalyptic event is not what they seem.

BACKGROUND:

This untitled sci-fi drama is a mix of NBC’s The Event and the ‘V’ miniseries with elements of Equilibrium thrown in. It’s a story of overcoming unspeakable deception and the courage to fight against insurmountable odds in the name of humanity and love. Because of the nature of the storyline, the film will have more of an open-ended conclusion. I envision this to be a two-part or trilogy series.

It’s a post-apocalyptic setting… most of the world as we know it has been destroyed by a catastrophic meteor shower two years prior. Humanity is facing extinction on earth as only a select few of surviving humans are now living temporarily in a distant planet called Bhumi, a dystopian society that are far more structured and sterile-looking environment where diseases are rare and conflicts are minimized as the citizens have been “programmed” to obey and please authorities without question nor protest.

The Bhumi authorities are in fact an alien colony called the Luciens who are responsible for the meteor attacks. They are a highly-intelligent and technologically-advanced creatures who have shape-shifting abilities. They live off of minerals similar to what exists at the earth core, and their government is totalitarian in nature. They’re a slow-breeding race, so their population only numbering in the hundred of thousands. On top of that, the shrinking mineral resources on their planet slow down their reproduction ability even more.

A new leader in their society, who goes by the name Damien, wants to solve that problem, as well as create a perfect world of hybrid race of Luciens-humans who’d submit to him. The Luciens can’t simply invade earth because the high air pollution in the earth atmosphere endanger their health in much bigger impact than they do humans. Therefore, instead of a full-on invasion, the Luciens think it’s more effective to do it strategically and in phases. They’d obliterate most of the earth population (using their own bombs that are made to look like meteor attacks), sparing only those they deem intelligent enough to match their kind. These men and women are the chosen ones who were ‘rescued’ and trained months before the catastrophe happened, as they possess the skill set needed for the Renovaré project. The purpose of that is two-fold: One, to help rebuild earth once the effect of the meteor shower have subsided; and two, to be mated with their own kind to start the ‘perfect’ breed. The Luciens’ shape-shifting power enable them to blend in with humans and they use their supreme intelligence to gradually brainwash various earth leaders into believing meteor attacks are imminent and the only way to save what’s left of humanity is to create a temporary living quarter in a different planet.

The Luciens’ grand vision of the new earth

All the human survivors now living in Bhumi have been brainwashed to think that Renovaré‘s main mission is to reset the world as we know it to improve or make it better. The film’s protagonist, Joshua Prescott, has been made leader of one of the ELITE team of the Renovaré Project because of his intelligence and military prowess. The team created by Bhumi’s new government to clean up and rebuild a new, better environment on earth. Bhumi is a relatively-small planet that will not big enough to accommodate Bhumi’s targeted population of the hybrid race, but they have to make sure the climate is ready for them to move in. It’s whilst on a mission back to earth that Joshua slowly learns the truth about what he’s been conditioned to believe…  and suddenly he’s faced with a darker reality that is even more bleak than he’s ever thought or imagined.

DIRECTOR:

Duncan Jones
The 40-year-old British director may be a relative unknown to most moviegoers, but in just the past 2 years, he’s directed two critically-acclaimed movies. His directing debut Moon won Best British Independent Film in 2009. I feel that he’s got the chops to create an emotionally-engaging sci-fi flick that is heavy on the plot and character-development and less about the bombastic action sequences. I also think he can handle the romantic aspect of the story, based on what I’ve seen in Source Code.

CAST OF CHARACTERS:


Chris Hemsworth is Joshua Prescott, the film’s 31-year-old protagonist. Prescott is an aerospace engineer who’s also a pilot, tall and handsome in a grizzled kind of way, and a charismatic leader. He had just proposed to his long-time girlfriend Lena Bouvier when he’s recruited by the Luciens for the Renovaré project.


Viggo Mortensen is Bhumi’s Commander in Chief Damien and the film’s main villain. He’s the leader of the alien beings who are highly-intelligent and has shape-shifting abilities. Damien has the appearance of a man in his late 40s, charismatic with a quiet grace but is relentlessly ambitious to create a perfect ‘breed’ between his own kind and the ‘best’ of the human race.


Emily Blunt is Lena Bouvier, Joshua’s fiancée who survives the meteor strike and is a member of the remaining resistance group who knows about the Luciens and that they are behind the meteor attack. She is a nurse who’s in the middle of a night shift when the attack happens, but fortunately her father gets to her in the nick of time to bring her to safety.


Hugo Weaving plays Lena’s father, Léon Bouvier, a scientist who has been skeptical about the real cause of the meteor attack. Deeply distrustful of the government that grows increasingly strange in the months leading to the catastrophe, he builds a secretive underground scientific chamber for his research as well as hiding place. When Lena’s mother is killed in the attack, he grows even more vigorous in his quest to uncover the truth.


Romola Garai plays Saffron, the Lucien girl chosen by Damien as Joshua’s mate in Bhumi. She is one of the few female members of Damien’s ultra-secretive science program and is fiercely loyal to him and his cause. She’s been instrumental in the brainwashing process of Joshua and his team.


James Purefoy is Seth Jones, the leader of the earth’s resistance group in Europe. He lives in the same Scottish castle ruin where Lena and the remaining earth survivors dwell in. He’s a British air-force pilot whose family is killed during the meteor attack and shares Léon’s conspiracy theory of what happens on earth. He has feelings for Lena and after two years being heartbroken about Joshua, she finally opens up to him… that is until Joshua suddenly reappears.


Idris Elba plays Andrew Cudjoe, a former executive of a Global Natural Resources Corporation based in London. Because of the company’s main focus in mining, processing, and energy operations, the Luciens have surveyed his company for information even a year before the meteor attack. Andrew is Vivien’s husband, but they were separated when she got recruited by the Luciens. He’s now become Seth’s right hand man in the resistance.


Thandie Newton plays a sculpture artist Vivien, whose beauty catches Damien’s eye. She has been Damien’s lover in the past two years though like Joshua, she too has been haunted by dreams of a man she doesn’t remember. She has become attached to Damien but somehow can’t shake the feeling that there is something strange about life in Bhumi and that Damien might be keeping something from her.


Sir Sean Connery plays an ailing Protestant pastor Charles Wilby, whose son is also recruited by the Luciens. Even though he’s injured in the meteor attack, he’s been ministering the group of people to remain hopeful of a better reality despite the circumstances. He dies shortly after Joshua tells him that he’s met his son who’s one of the engineer in Bhumi’s central station.


ADDITIONAL CAST:
Jamie Bamber – Michael, Charles Wilby’s only son
Sean Bean – A Lucien general, Damien’s right hand man
David Bowie – Cameo as a Lucien cleric


SYNOPSIS:

Two years after the meteor strike, a dozen group consisting of about 24 people are sent to survey various areas of earth. They’re tasked to make sure earth is ‘ready’ to be rebuilt and report back to Bhumi’s authorities. All the human survivors now living in Bhumi have been brainwashed to think that Renovaré’s main mission is to ‘reset’ the world as we know it to improve or make it better.

Joshua Prescott is the leader of Faction 316 consisting of eight men to survey the area of formerly the UK, and set up their station in a Scottish moor. In their sixth day, they come across a group of survivors living in the basement of a castle ruin. They survive on canned foods and water they’ve managed to collect just before the meteor strike. Prescott and his team have orders from the Renovaré general to execute survivors because of threat of meteoric ‘poison’ that will potentially contaminate the area and endanger the lives of the survivors who’d later occupy the space. Prescott normally have no problem obeying orders, as he believes that sacrifices have to be made for the greater good. But when he meets Lena, a beautiful woman who’s rumpled and scrawny given the circumstances, it’s as if he’s seeing the woman in his dreams, so he’s unable to kill her and her friends. He orders his team not to harm the group.

Apocalyptic depiction of a future London by German artist Marco Bauriedel

It turns out there are imperfections in the Luciens’ memory erase program. On some individuals, the procedure has ‘leaks’ in that the subject will recall bits and pieces of their past in the form of dreams. In the last few months leading up to the mission, Joshua has been dreaming more frequently of Lena, but he has no idea who she is. The fact is, Joshua and Lena had gotten engaged just months before he’s recruited by the Luciens and had his memory wiped out. In Bhumi, Joshua has been involved with another woman, Saffron, a Lucien chosen by Damien specifically for him, yet he can’t help feeling drawn to Lena. Joshua doesn’t remember Léon even though he was pretty close with Lena’s father prior to being recruited. This convinces Léon even more that something has been done to these human recruits that causes them to lose their memory.

Seth sees Joshua as a personal rival as well as a threat to his group. The next day, he and a few of his loyal men launch an attack against Joshua, which results in several of Seth’s group getting killed in the process. Léon begs Seth for cease fire and tells him that that he believes Joshua is the key to knowing the truth about what really happened. Joshua is the only one who can provide proof of the Luciens’ existence, besides, the resistance is no match to the much more well-equipped Renovaré team. Seth reluctantly agrees.

Meanwhile, Joshua’s dreams of Lena are getting more intense ever since he came back to earth, to the point that he would wake up weeping uncontrollably. Frantically, he goes back to see Lena and Léon and find them in the middle of a praying session with Charles, whose condition is getting worsened because of the injury he sustained during the meteor attack. Yet his eyes are still full of hope as he reaches for Joshua’s hands to calm him down. He tells him about his son Michael who’s about the same age as Joshua and proceeds to show him a torn picture of him that Charles carries with him at all times. Joshua recognizes Michael as one of the engineers working at Bhumi’s central station and when he informs Charles this, the ailing 75-year-old makes Joshua promise that he’d make things right and help the survivors find the truth. The next day, Charles dies.

One of the Renovare’s team’s earth-bound stations

Joshua now feels torn between his allegiance to Damien and a life he’s grown accustomed to in Bhumi, and his strong feelings and deep empathy for Lena and the resistance group. Despite what he’s learned on earth, he still can’t fathom that Bhumi is ruled by an alien race as they look and behave just like humans. A week later, right before he makes a quick trip to Bhumi to report to Damien, Andrew finds Joshua behind Seth’s back and tells him about a strange visit he encountered in his office just weeks before the meteor attack and how his guests were very interested about the iron ore-grade commercial mining operations in various parts of the world. He doesn’t know what it all means, but figures that it might provide a clue to the origins of the Luciens. Joshua notices a tattoo of a woman’s face on Andrew’s arm, she is the splitting image Damien’s lover but he refrains from saying anything.

Back in Bhumi, Joshua and Saffron are invited to dinner by Damien at his compound. Damien is very fond of Joshua and tells him of his grand vision for earth. Joshua does his best to pretend everything is ok, but every time he looks at Vivien, he can’t help wondering her connection with Andrew. He also feels incredibly uneasy to share a room with Saffron because of his feelings for Lena, and refuses to sleep with her. In the middle of the night, he leaves his room to get some air in a secluded lake. He finds Vivien there and Joshua uses the opportunity to ask her about Andrew. Sure enough, Joshua’s description of Andrew fits the picture of the man in her dreams. Joshua tells Vivien what he learns from earth and Vivien breaks down in tears and Joshua consoles her in his embrace, telling her to make sure to keep this a secret for now. At this point, Saffron sees the two of them and thinks they’re having an affair.

The next day, Saffron confronts Joshua and threatens to tell Damien about the affair. Joshua denies it but Saffron refuses to believe him, and in a moment of panic, he lunges at her and accidentally knocks her unconscious. That night, he drugs Saffron and takes her to earth to be examined by Léon. Indeed he finds an alien DNA in Saffron, thus proving his theory. Joshua goes berserk realizing he’s been utterly betrayed and lied for the past three years, and immediately wants to return to Bhumi to kill Damien. But Lena stops him, telling him that being brash about this might actually cost them dearly. Damien is so powerful that he not only would kill Joshua but could also wipe out the surviving earth population. Right now, the human population controlled by the Luciens in Bhumi outnumbered the survivors, so the only way to fight against the alien colony is by setting the humans free of the Luciens’ ‘spell.’

Joshua realizes there is not a lot of time before Damien finds out about Saffron and his team members to grow suspicious of his activities on earth. It turns out there is a mole on his team who saw Joshua sneaks Saffron to earth. He alerts Damien immediately unbeknownst to Joshua who’s on the way back to Bhumi. Damien is furious and in his wrath, he trashes Joshua’s compound. Vivien tries to provide an alibi for Joshua but Damien accuses her for conspiring against him and in his rage, he chokes her to death.

City Chase by Tiger 1313

Damien orders his subordinates to capture Joshua who’s still en route to Bhumi. Joshua notices there are three military planes trailing him, and an intense air chase ensues. Joshua’s plane is hit but he manages to land about twenty miles from his earthbound station right in the middle of a thunderstorm. But by now he can’t go back there because members of his Faction are loyal to Damien. He has no way of contacting Léon to run away, so he must kill his former team mates because they know the location to the resistance group’s hiding place. He gets into a shootout with members of his Faction, which leads into a chase across the hilly Scottish moor. Joshua is the best-trained shooters in Bhumi, so he manages to kill them all but he does get shot in the left shoulder. Seth ends up finding him unconscious just a mile outside of the compound and brings him inside. When Joshua wakes up the next day, Lena has treated his wound and tells him Seth rescued him. She tells Joshua she was terrified of losing him again. Though he still doesn’t remember her, he falls for her all over again and they share a kiss.

Léon is ecstatic that his future son-in-law has returned and he tells the group a new hope has arrived. The resistance group welcomes Joshua with open arms, and even Andrew who’s been Seth’s best friend, proclaims that he could be the group’s new leader. Joshua suddenly realizes Seth isn’t amongst the crowd. Joshua searches for Seth to thank him for saving his life, but finds neither he nor Saffron are in the compound.

EPILOGUE

Joshua and Lena marry in a small ceremony. There is a new hope for the resistance group now that Joshua is on their side. But it’s no time for celebration as they have to move to a different hiding place in case the Luciens find out their current whereabouts. There’s also a whole new uncertainties concerning Seth and Saffron.

© 2011 FlixChatter.net – All rights reserved.


What do you think, folks? Would you be interested to see a sci-fi movie like this one? If you have any ideas/suggestions about the plot or title, please let me know.

Hollywood Fantasy Draft Pitch III: My sci-fi movie’s dream cast

My pal Castor has created quite an addiction with his annual Hollywood Fantasy Draft event. Every year, we movie bloggers get to indulge in our fantasy of creating our own movies with our favorite actors. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, chances are you’ve read my first movie pitch Hearts Want, a romantic thriller starring Timothy Dalton, Helen Mirren and James McAvoy; and the second one which I adapted from a novel of the same name, Last Voyage of the Valentina starring Rufus Sewell, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron. Yep, I have drafted the leads of X-Men: First Class previously, now you see why I’m super excited for that movie 😀

Starbuck & Apollo in BSG

Well, this time I’m going back to creating an original story like I did with Hearts Want, I’m not going to reveal the story yet except to say that it’ll be a sci-fi set in a post-apocalyptic world of the future. Yes, there’ll be droids and spaceships, etc. but at the heart of it will be a love story. I’m a romantic at heart, don’t cha know, besides, a lot of sci-fi movies I like (i.e. Blade Runner) are actually quite romantic. I also adore Battlestar Galactica series — the contemporary one, not the original — and there are plenty of intertwined romances in that one, and plenty of um, pent-up passion that rival any soap opera. The scorching chemistry between Katie Sackhoff and Jamie Bamber as the star-crossed lovers Starbuck and Apollo is one of the main highlights of the sci-fi series.

Anyway, as I mentioned in my weekend roundup post, I spent hours a couple of weekends ago bidding for the major cast for my movie. I’m happy to say that I get most of the actors I wanted, with the exception of Carey Mulligan who’s my first choice as the female lead, but Castor snatched her! But it’s ok, I actually have another replacement who’s actually one of my favorite actresses and she’s on my list of top five noteworthy young actresses!

So without further ado, let me present you …

My dream cast:


My director pick is Duncan Jones. Originally I went with Matthew Vaughn but I figure he might be too busy (and too expensive) after the success of X-Men: First Class. I feel that Jones might be a better fit for my story having just seen Source Code and hearing all the great things about sci-fi drama Moon. He’s only done two feature films so far but both are very well-received by critics and audiences alike. I just realize that all three of the directors I’ve drafted so far are Brits! And guess what, I just realized Jones is David Bowie’s son, so you can count on having Mr. Bowie to have a brief cameo in my movie 😀

Viggo Mortensen is the most expensive cast I bid for, but he should be worth the money. I need someone of his acting caliber and popularity for my movie. Mortensen is a fine actor with the kind of screen intensity and emotional depth. He also has this quiet grace about him that is unpredictable. Those who’ve seen him in History of Violence and Eastern Promises know he can be quite menacing as well, which is perfect for the role I have for him. He’s also never done a full-blown sci-fi movie, yet.

I hadn’t planned for a Lord of the Rings reunion here, it sort of just worked out that way. Hugo Weaving has always been an actor I admired, he’s my top ten favorite Aussies and his masked performance in V for Vendetta is utterly impressive. He’s also amazing in the little-seen Aussie indie Little Fish where he played a junkie, and this role would require more of that raw performance rather than his cool, bad-ass rendition of Agent Smith in The Matrix.

For the female lead and the protagonist’s love interest, I need someone who is beautiful but with an earthly quality as well as intelligence. I’ve seen Emily Blunt in several films, and she always impresses me. I especially like her performance in Young Victoria so for sure she can handle emotionally-complex roles.

For the movie’s protagonist, I wanted someone who’s young and can handle the fight sequences believably. After seeing Chris Hemsworth in Star Trek and THOR (twice!) within one month, I’m convinced he’s the right man for the job. He’s definitely got a strong screen presence, as well as being very easy on the eyes without looking like a frivolous male model. I also wanted someone who’s a natural leader with the credibility to lead a big group of people to fight for the cause he believes in. In the two films I saw him, he could also pull off the romantic scenes which makes him a compelling ‘romeo’ on top of being a bad-ass fighter.

I’ve been a fan of James Purefoy for quite some time. He seems to be somewhat typecast in period action pieces like Iron Clad and Solomon Kane, perhaps because of his astounding turn as Marc Antony in HBO’s ROME. But I know this gorgeous and soulful Brit is capable for more! I need a strong male character who’s powerful enough to go against the grain, but also one with the good sense to choose where to place his allegiance.

The fact that Romola Garai is not a household name is beyond me. The 29-year-old Brit is not only drop-dead gorgeous but is massively talented to boot. You’ve likely seen her in Atonement as the adult version of Briony (who’s played by Saiorse Ronan as a kid). People talk about Ronan and Vanessa Redgrave (who plays the older version of the same character) a lot but Garai is equally compelling as both of them in that role. She is also great in Amazing Grace and in the BBC miniseries Daniel Deronda. I don’t believe she’s done a sci-fi flick yet, so she’ll be playing a role she’s never done before in this movie.

Ever since I saw Idris Elba in Rocknrolla as Gerry Butler’s BFF, I immediately notice the magnetic quality about the tall, London-born actor. He’s also great as Hemdahl in THOR as someone who’s revered but loyal and compassionate. Elba has a natural swagger about him but he also has a comedic side that’d work well as comic relief in my movie.

I first notice Thandie Newton in Mission: Impossible II as Tom Cruise’s love interest. She has kind of an otherworldly look about her — beautiful, mysterious but also can appear vulnerable. She’ll play Viggo’s lover who later has a change of heart towards the end of the film.

Now, as you know I like to cast a seasoned actor in my movies 😀 This time we have another James Bond actor who’s reportedly already retired, but I hope that Sir Sean Connery would agree to do a small but important cameo in this movie. Not only will we’ll give him a hefty paycheck for a mere few days of work, but the filming location will be in the Scottish Highlands which should appeal to him on a personal level.

Possible Additional Cast:

  • Karl Urban
  • David Bowie

Well, what do you think of my picks? Would you be interested to see a movie with this kind of cast?