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Echelon Conspiracy: A Life-Coach in the Form of a Cell-Phone
Max Peterson (West) is a computer genius of sorts. His job is to install very sophisticated security systems to protect big corporations from being hacked. However, judging by his fancy suit, perfect tan and lean shape, Max has never seen the light of a computer screen. Such is the kind of b-movie reality in which Echelon Conspiracy takes place: implausible but nonetheless fun.
Max receives a DHL package with no return address that contains a hi-tech cell phone. The phone turns out to be some sort of advanced magic 8-ball that gives Max suggestions on how to prolong his lifespan; it also receives texts with gambling insider information. Max plays along and follows the phone’s advice, thereby making tons of money and drawing unwanted attention to himself. Casino security staff notice the phone in their monitoring cameras, so they not-so-gently ask him to leave the vicinity. The FBI shows up to arrest him, and it turns out that there is more to these text messages that he’s receiving than simply cleaning out blackjack tables.
Max finds himself in way over his head: The casino’s head of security (Burns) is chasing him. A huge FBI agent (Rhames) drills him for information, and lots of men in black jumpsuits are shooting at him. Poor Max doesn’t know who to trust or where to hide from all the cameras on the streets.
After the initial gambling winning streak buzz wears off, Echelon Conspiracy turns into another NSA monitoring-room thriller, where the head of national security (Sheen) keeps shouting orders and demanding explanations from his field operatives. You’re always one step ahead of them because we’ve seen this before, and we’ve seen it (insert any spy, espionage, and conspiracy theory films ever done before here) executed far better than this. Even the sluggish action and car chases evoke a strong sense of déjà vu.
The film’s actors have fun with their performance and it plays out to the film’s advantage. Burns and Rhames are old colleagues; so they pick at each other like old friends do. West tags along for the ride and does a good enough job playing a wimpy character that can’t take charge of the situation. However, as a leading man, he’s a cut below average.
Amped thrillers like Echelon Conspiracy come with their fair share of physical and narrative preposterousness, and that has always been part of the fun. It’s the film’s lack of imagination that is more offensive. Maybe this b-film doesn’t need to live up to such expectations; after all, it did a good job of killing off two hours while keeping us mildly entertained.
Since George A. Romero's 1968 Night of the Living Dead, flesh-eating Hollows – aka Zombies, Lurkers, Biters or the Undead – have become a part of a phenomenon that is still dominating the horror-scene today.
However, with the release of Nick Lyon's Rise of the Zombies, one can’t help but wonder: who in their right mind would allow for this TV movie travesty to be released in cinemas in Egypt?
Set in a run-down and abandoned San Francisco, Rise of the Zombie's opening scenes show a group of panic-stricken folks trying to escape from the hungry hands of the infected monsters. Their mission, unfortunately, soon fails and – thanks to a badly executed CGI car crash – everyone, apart from one young pregnant woman who manages to escape, is left behind as food.
The film then shifts focus to a different group of people who have taken refuge in the infamous Alcatraz Prison. The troop is led by the sturdy Dr. Lynn Snyder (Hemingway), fellow scientist Dr. Dan Helpern (Burton) and the barmy-looking Caspian (Trejo). While Dr. Helpern continues to do his research and find a cure to kill the 'virus' which has been spreading like wildfire, Dr. Snyder believes that it's the peculiar researcher, Dr. Arnold – who has been sending in video transmits from the mainland – has all the answers.
However, it's not long before the zombies – who have apparently learned how to swim over the years – infiltrate the prison, forcing its refugees to flee and search for another safe-house and quite possibly the cure for the fast-spreading 'infection'.
The producers and the distributors for this film – The Asylum – are known for their exclusively B-list, straight-to-DVD productions, and Rise of the Zombies is a complete mockery of a film from minute one. Apart from the plot being completely unoriginal, the characters – whose survival and well-being is imperative to drive the story – fail to register with the audience and the poorly scripted dialogue, and its flimsy delivery, only adds to the absurdity of it all, though the make-up isn’t entirely dreadful
Unfortunately, the cast – which includes a few recognisable faces – can’t rise above the shabby material. Hemingway, an actress who has been seen in a good share of mindless action flicks, has never been worse. Failing to add an ounce of personality to her character, she is almost robotic in her delivery, while badass Trejo looks embarrassed the entire way through.
Predictable, cheesy, and downright upsetting, Rise of the Zombies is definitely like no other zombie-fest you'll ever see – and that is not a compliment.
Star Trek Into Darkness marks the twelfth instalment in the Star Trek franchise – which dates all the way back to 1966 – and plays as the direct follow-up to the 2009's successful reboot, Star Trek.
The film launches into action with a thrilling opening sequence which finds Capt. James T. Kirk (Pine) in deep trouble. In an attempt to save Spock (Quinto) and the natives of Planet Nibiru from a catastrophic volcano eruption, Kirk puts the entire Starfleet in danger by revealing the U.S.S Enterprise's hideout and by interfering with Nibiru’s primitive civilisation – prime directives which should never be broken.
Even though his intentions were moral, Kirk knows that he's crossed the line. Facing demotion as an executive officer and with Spock reassigned to another ship, Kirk’s lofty ambitions look more and more unlikely. Soon, all is forgotten, however, when an act of terrorism shakes London. The man behind the attack – as the Starfleet soon learns – is John Harrison (Cumberbatch); an ex Starfleet agent gone rogue, who has now escaped to the Planet of Klingons.
With Kirk and Spock reassigned to the U.S.S Enterprise once again, the crew – which includes ship Helmsman Hikaru Sulu (Cho), Chief Medical Officer Leonard 'Bones' McCoy (Urban), Chief Engineer Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott (Pegg) and Communication Officer Nyota Uhura (Saldana) – are sent on a dangerous mission to capture and eliminate the terrorist.
However, their mission – as Captain Kirk and his team soon learn – is not at all what it seems and disturbing secrets soon bubble their way to the surface.
Director J.J. Abrams - along with the team of returning writers, Roberto Orci, Alex Krutzman and Damon Lindelof – continues to breathe life into the beloved science-fiction series and his newest addition makes the four year wait for a sequel worth it. It’s nothing short of an edge-of-the-seat extravaganza with plenty of excitement to keep everyone – including the non-Trekkies – amused. Aside from the expected action-packed scenes, the writers also manage to find time for more character-oriented threads, which allow the audience to connect just a little bit more to these iconic characters.
As far as the die-hard Trekkies are concerned, don't despair; there are plenty of nods to the past and trips down the memory line with references to former characters, locations and weird alien species.
Pine seems to be settling into the role of the infamous Captain Kirk pretty well; emotional and driven, Pine possesses the charisma to anchor such an epic. Meanwhile, the terribly talented Quinto is magnetic; his restrained and cold exterior provides plenty of laughs and, at the same time, plenty of stirring moments as we witness significant character growth. Pegg and Urban offer much of the comic-relief, while Saldana unfortunately fades into the background. Most significantly, however, Cumberbatch shows plenty of depth as what is slowly revealed to be a complex antagonist.
All in all, Star Trek Into Darkness offers guaranteesd entertainment. As an exhilarating and often moving addition to the franchise, JJ Abrams has proved that remakes, reboots and sequels can still be done well. Good job.