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Elysium: Gripping Apocalyptic Sci-Fi
Following 2009's critically acclaimed District 9, talented director, Neil Blomkamp, has stepped up to a bigger stage with Elysium; another apocalyptic, Mother Earth sci-fi feature.
The year is 2154 and Earth has become overpopulated, over-polluted and swarming with the sickly. Max (Damon), a military factory worker and an ex-con, makes his money by assembling robots in a shoddy, rundown L.A. His living conditions are pitiable and while he and the rest of the underprivileged live in the slums, the rich have found themselves a sanctuary and home on Elysium; a luxurious space station that orbits the Earth.
Equipped with deluxe mansions, lavish swimming pools, et al, Elysium is a utopian refuge. Not only do its inhabitants have everything they wish for, but the miraculous, free healthcare system is advanced to the point where cancer is curable and no one ever gets old or sick. Meanwhile, Earth is policed by robots.
While on duty at his dead-end job, Max is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation, which leaves him with only a few days to live – unless he can somehow get himself to Elysium for the necessary treatment. However, Elysium's entry is ruthlessly patrolled by Secretary of Defense, Delacourt (Foster), who isn't so keen on illegal immigrants. Acquiring the help of a local gang, Max is soon turned into a pseudo-cyborg which enables him to begin his desperate pursuit for survival. Meanwhile, Delacourt enlists her secret police, led by the ruthless Agent Kruger (Copley), to bring down the culprit.
One thing is for certain; Blomkamp's visual style is truly one of a kind. Once again, the relatively inexperienced director demonstrates real creativity and true ingenuity in that department. From the gritty reality on Earth, to the lavish and immaculate life on Elysium, it's very difficult not to get completely immersed in the magic. The action scenes are equally gripping, but some may be disappointed that Blomkamp keeps the adrenaline rushes to a minimum.
As no stranger to fighting bad guys, Damon puts in a solid performance and comes off as relatable, likeable underdog of a character. Sporting a rather unstable accent, Foster also plays her part in the grand scheme of the film, though her character is almost too archetypal. Copley, on the other hand, is the true star of the picture as the menacing villain who'll do everything and anything to take Damon down.
Taken as a whole, Blomkamp delivers and although Elysium falls short of Blomkamp's promise, it still packs enough punch to stand out from the sci-fi pack.
Despite its seemingly aggressive and gory premise, Nick Simon’s The Girl in the Photographs is one of the most uninspiring slasher movies you will have the misfortune of seeing. Attempting to cultivate a sense of paranoia and dread, the film is completely devoid of suspense, despite the late, great Wes Craven being attached as executive producer.
The story begins with college student, Janet (Isabelle), who, after returning home late one night from watching a bad movie at the cinema, is brutally attacked and killed in her home mask-wearing madmen, Tom (Baines) and Gerry (Schmitt) who, before disposing of her body, photograph their and put her pictures up around the sleepy town of Spearfish, South Dakota.
Connecting the discovery to some kind of roguish art, the police is totally unmoved by the evidence; however, local grocery store clerk, Colleen (Lee), seems to think that there is something more malicious at play. The murder soon attracts the attention of a predatory photographer, Peter Hemmings (Penn), who decides to travel from L.A to Spearfish along with his assistant Chris (Wormald) and a group of models in order to seek inspiration and create his own art. Finding Colleen, Peter soon becomes obsessed in re-creating the sadistic photo and event, but as more people go missing and the photo count increases, chaos and paranoia takes over the town.
The Girl in the Photographs is one violent and gruesome picture which doesn’t sugar coat its sadism and depictions torture. However, while the grisliness of it all seems perfectly suited to its Slasher-movie premise, the execution comes across as a little dull with the story investing very little time or interest in building any sort of mystery or suspense. The snail-like pacing is another damaging factor with director Nick Simon – working a the script written by a group of largely inexperienced screenwriters – wasting too much time allowing for a scene to unfold, igniting boredom rather than tension, while the performances fail to rise above the tedious script.
On the visual front, the film is slightly more effective thanks to the contributions of legendary cinematographer, Dean Cundey – see Jurassic Park, Apollo 13, Back to the Future. Gory, violent and exceptionally inane, The Girl in the Photographs is not completely without its terror-inducing moments, but there isn’t enough of its redeeming features to sustain it.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.