Monday, April 29, 2013

C2E2: Day Three

So Day 3 is the final day of the 2013 C2E2 and I have to say that I am a little thankful for that. I’m not complaining, but conning for three days straight is physically tiring. But there are still plenty of awesome things to see and do this fine Sunday afternoon! Shall we begin?

First off I was planning to catch the Q&A panel with some of the cast of The Pirates of the Caribbean films - David Bailie, Kevin McNally, Lauren Maher, Lee Arenberg, Martin Klebba and Vanessa Branch. Unfortunately the public transit system was not on my side and it took me forever to get to the convention center, so I ended up missing the panel completely. Sorry internets. :(

But I did make it to the Marvel: X-Men panel with plenty of time to spare. Even though I don’t regularly keep up with all things in the comic book realm of geekdom I did want to cover at least one panel dealing with it. This seemed to be as good an opportunity as any. The panelists were Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, Editor Jordan D. White, Rick Remender (Uncanny Avengers), Brian Wood (X-Men), Ramón Pérez (Wolverine & The X-Men), Declan Shalvey (Venom) and Arune Singh (Director of Communications). They discussed plenty of upcoming storylines for their respective books and made a special announcement which was so important that MTV was covering it -- in the coming months they will release a new comic book series titled “Wolverine: Killable”. I think the title says all you need to know about it. My friend who was with me at this panel joined me specifically for this announcement and didn’t seem too impressed. None of the crowd did either if I remember correctly.

Next up was another Marvel panel titled “The Next Big Thing” with Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, Editor Jordan D. White, Kieron Gillen (Iron Man), Mark Waid (Indestructible Hulk), Josh Fialkov (Ultimate Comics Ultimates), Nick Spencer (Secret Avengers), David Marquez (Ultimate Comics Spider-Man) and Arune Singh (Director of Communications). Most of the guests were recycled from the previous panel, but I didn’t seem to mind because they were entertaining to begin with. My problem with both of these Marvel panels is a personal one… I don’t read any of these comic books they were discussing so I was lost the entire time. I assumed they’d be talking about their plans for the future of the company and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but that didn’t really happen. It was just “Wasn’t that cool when Cyclops shot Scarlet Witch in the face and she went crashing through the Quinjet?” and more questions like that from audience members. The highlight was when one of the writers spontaneously played the main theme to the 90s X-Men cartoon on his ukulele.
I did take something away from these panels – I am glad I don’t spend hundreds of dollars a month on all these crazy titles because I’d be one broke mother fucking geek. I mean seriously, there’s like thirteen different “X-Men” titles out there! Is that really necessary? All the storytelling you’re wasting on all these variations of the exact same concept could be saved for a couple of titles and you’d be set up with years’ worth of material. I know that the more titles they put out the more money they will make, but in my case I’d get burned out on the sheer overload and keeping track of all the individual storylines would make my brain leak out of my ears. I don’t know how some of these people do it, but more power to you. I’m a HUGE "Green Lantern" fan, but I don’t buy every issue of the multiple spin-off books. I ignore some completely (“Red Lanterns”, “Sinestro Corps”). I think I read five comic books seriously and that’s it. I might start reading “Wolverine and The X-Men” just because it sounds like an interesting idea.

Lastly was the panel I’d been waiting for all day – the Game of Thrones Q&A with James Cosmo and Natalie Dormer. Regardless of the fact that I’m not completely caught up with the current season of the popular cable show I wanted to attend, spoilers be damned! It was worth it. James Cosmo was what you could call a gentle giant. His easygoing manner and great sense of humor won the audience over and me as well. He answered every question enthusiastically and some in great detail (discussing filming in Iceland). I wished more people had asked questions about his role in Braveheart, but his one description of filming the epic battle scene he was involved in was pretty awesome. Natalie Dormer was great as well, if not a little passive aggressively bitchy. She wasn’t mean, but she seemed to cop a bit of an attitude toward fandom. It’s cool as she told the audience it was her first ever convention appearance so I’m sure she was a bit overwhelmed. Regardless, she had the best moment of the night when a fan began to proclaim what at first sounded like his undying love for her coming to an end. “I need to mend this rift between us” I believe his exact words were. She tensed up as if she knew something like this could come from some unbalanced uber fan. When she asked him “And why is that?” he explained “I’ve seen your chest, now you can see mine” as he lifted his shirt to show off his freakishly ghost white torso. The crowd went absolutely nuts and Dormer had tears in her eyes. Once this kid sat down she told us that when he started his crazy rant she grabbed Cosmo’s hand for dear life. There were awkward moments (a fan demanded that Cosmo recite a line from his character’s death scene in the novel) but most of the time the panel was a light and breezy affair. I especially enjoyed when a fan asked is Cosmo had brought any specific item back with him from his time on Game of Thrones. His response was “Frostbite!”

Once that panel let out it was the end of the 2013 C2E2. Literally. It ended at 5pm and that was when the whole convention shut down. I was sad that it was over since I didn’t get to see nearly everything I wanted to, didn’t get to check out all the cool cosplay on Saturday (sorry Mary!) and being of the absentminded variety of geek I forgot to bring business cards to hand out to the vendors that repeatedly asked for them. On the other hand I am fucking exhausted both physically and mentally. Audio/visual overstimulation and walking around for hours in improperly cushioned sneakers can ruin a man! But there’s always next year to get it all right!

C2E2 2014 - bring it!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

C2E2: Day Two

With all my personal interests out of the way I dedicated myself to attending as many panels and Q&As that pertained to movies, television and gaming as I could on Day 2. It was a long and rough day (the chairs provided are wreaking havoc on my tailbone) but I got through it and had a blast in the process.

First up I ran over to the IGN Theater, which is a massive auditorium in the McCormick Place Convention Center, and got in line to see geek icon Patton Oswalt talking about his love of everything nerdy. I was under the assumption it would be more of a stand-up comedy type of show since two years ago that’s exactly what he did at the convention. He talked about a variety of subjects that everyone seemed to respond to, from J.J Abrams taking over the Star Wars franchise (“I’m cautiously optimistic.”) to deciding which was better - The Phantom Menace or Spider-Man 3 (“Herpes or gonorrhea?! Don’t make me decide!”). He also discussed his Marvel/Star Wars crossover rant from a recent episode of Parks and Recreation in which he guest starred. He proclaimed he was told to improvise one minute’s worth of dialogue to have in the background as Amy Poehler’s character talked to another in the foreground. It was all a big joke on him because there was never any intention for the filmmakers to tell him to stop. So for over 7 minutes he came up with the most elaborate and bizarre idea for a crossover ever and only stopped when his mouth literally dried out. Funnily enough, some of the best moments were due to fellow comedian Brian Posehn sending Patton Tweets during the panel criticizing him. As it turns out Posehn was hiding in the theater and was basically heckling him online. “Go back to Dagobah you fat bastard” was my favorite. When Patton realized his tormentor was in the room with him was a great moment. He seems like a supremely knowledgeable dude and is hilarious to boot (I’ve only seen one of his stand-up routines on Netflix and that’s it). It was a fun panel and I hope he returns to Chicago soon.

Next was a Q&A with Burt Ward and Julie Newmar from the 1966 Batman television series. Adam West was originally scheduled to be in attendance as well but had to bow out due to an injury. This was an awkward panel because, and nothing personal against the two key note speakers, Ward and Newmar looked like they were miserable up there on stage. This was highly apparent when the moderator announced that both of them would be available for photo ops in the autograph area (both of them slouched and their facial expressions went from half smiles to grimaces). Regardless, they took all questions in stride and answered them honestly. Although I refuse to believe that Burt Ward was ever a martial artist no matter how many times he proclaimed he was. There were some odd questions asked (“Why did The Joker’s hair go from brown to blonde?”) and some answers were purely filler (“Why did you want to play Catwoman?”). This was my least favorite panel of the day due to how uncomfortable the stars were, but it did give my actor friend and I an idea for a sketch we could make for our comedy webseries Winter & Construction.

The third panel was with one of the greatest character actors of all time… Ron Perlman! He is at the convention to promote the upcoming season of his hit television series Sons of Anarchy and the sci-fi action summer flick Pacific Rim, but surprisingly there were very few people interested in asking him questions about them. I was also pleasantly surprised that he’s not as surly as I always thought he appeared to be in interviews. He’s extremely funny and has one hell of a filthy mouth. My favorite moment was when asked about his method when voice acting for the character of Slade in Teen Titans. His response was that he tried to channel Hannibal Lector, but had to filter it through what was appropriate for a Saturday Morning Cartoon, but his intention was always to “scare the little motherfuckers”. When he revealed that he enjoys doing voiceovers more than film work due to the lack of waiting around associated with that process I have to admit I was genuinely surprised. Like one person proclaimed, “You make every movie, bad or otherwise, instantly watchable”, and I have to agree. Now that I’ve done some research and have seen the huge amount of voiceover work he’s done over the years I am truly taken aback. This guy gets around, but not in that schlocky Nicolas Cage way. The huge question I was hoping someone would ask, and someone did, was when we could expect Hellboy III. Perlman was excited about the prospect of returning to that franchise, but due to Guillermo del Toro’s insanely busy schedule he doesn’t know if it will be made any time soon. He did say that he’s been “laying on the Jewish guilt” to get him to begin working on the project. I hope he does, especially after he said that del Toro “designed it as a trilogy”. I love those films and hope we get the epic conclusion he set up in tose two movies.
Fourth was a stand-up comedy trio called Comedy Mutant, led yet another geeky comedy icon – Brian Posehn. Now this guy, while the funniest of the three comics we saw, is of the toilet humor variety of comic. Not that I’m complaining, but I thought that style had sort of been phased out over the years. Apparently I was wrong, or Posehn is the sole comedian championing its return. Regardless he was a riot despite his multiple fart jokes. He did a short set before introducing Mike Drucker, who is also a comedian of the geek variety. I think my actor friend who was with me summed him up best, “he took his time to set up the jokes and made sure the payoff was worth it”. Drucker was very funny and his insights into geek dating, however true or false they may be, were pretty awesome. Next up was Myq Kaplan, who is the exact opposite of Drucker. This guy was all about lame catchphrases (“BOOM!”) and rapid fire delivery that made him hard to follow. He did have some good material, but for the most part you had to “wade through a lot of unfunny crap to get to one joke that worked” as my friend put it. He’s the weakest of the three comedians. Posehn then returned to the stage to close out the show with a 15 minute set. I enjoyed the show regardless of the ups and downs, and I have the intense need to find a vendor who is selling the Halloween III shirt Posehn was wearing ASAP!

Next was a panel discussing the proposed steampunk television series Lantern City championed by none other than TRON himself, Bruce Boxleitner. Executive Producer Trevor Crafts and series writer Matthew Daley discussed the ideas behind the show and the incredibly interesting world it will take place in with fellow Executive Producer Boxleitner and cast member Mira Furlan (Babylon 5). Announced last year at the San Diego Comic Con, Lantern City is being shopped around to various networks so they can go to pilot. The audience was shown a brief teaser featuring the main characters (the actors playing them here will not be the ones ultimately cast for the series) and narrated by Boxleitner. I didn’t really show much and was a little confusing since I had no frame of reference, but the designs of the sets, costumes and world looked intriguing. Daley said that the overlying theme of the story will be “what lengths would you go to in the name of love”, and that it revolves around three people from our world who are accidentally transported to the alternate reality of the Lantern City and must find a way to survive and return home. He also talked about the details of the social class structure he came up with that sounds interesting. They also told the audience that they want to represent the Steampunk community accurately, so they are accepting information and design ideas from the public to help keep it authentic. They seemed to be truly interested in hearing what the community wants to see in the show, and while they aren’t going the Star Trek route by allowing anyone to submit story ideas, the idea of encouraging feedback and discussion among the Steampunk community and the show’s creators is a genius move to build excitement and hype. I’m sold. I even pre-ordered a graphic novel they announced will be available this summer that will serve as a prequel to the series (I get lots of extra goodies for being one of the first 100 to do so). You can pre-order it by clicking here. I think the show will definitely find an audience, especially if it’s on SyFy or another genre friendly network (one audience member screamed “Don’t let it be Fox!”). The casting of popular genre actors John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings), Raphael Sbarge (Once Upon a Time) and Gigi Edgely (Farscape) is also a big plus. I’m excited to see it in action when it is (hopefully) broadcast in 2014.

And lastly I attended a Q&A with The Walking Dead star Chad Coleman (who one person in the Lantern City audience discovered is being courted to star in that show). I didn’t stay for the entire panel, but it was plainly obvious that Coleman was a little nervous about the questions he would be asked (most likely for fear of accidentally giving away spoilers), but he handled everything in a very fun and professional manner. I wasn’t really enjoying myself since I don’t watch The Walking Dead, but once I found out he voiced Coach in the popular video game Left 4 Dead 2 I began to get interested (I love those games). He seems like a personable dude, and after he accepted to shake the hand of a Left 4 Dead fan and told everyone that “anyone who wants to shake my hand, just come up here” he completely won me over. He’s the goods.

And that wrapped up Day 2 of my C2E2 experience. I saw lots of cool people and learned a lot about future projects and gained further insight into geek culture. Tomorrow marks the final day of the con, and I’m looking forward to what I will find within… and for it to end. Seriously, my tailbone is fucking killing me!

Here some pics from the day's events:

Saturday, April 27, 2013

C2E2: Day One

April 16, 2010 was opening day of the first ever C2E2 (Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo). I wasn’t planning on going, but I made a last minute decision to check it out being that it was the inaugural year for a new convention coming to town. I did not enjoy my experience at all. There were no interesting panels aside from Kevin Conroy (the voice of Batman in countless DC Universe animated shows) and all the vendors were selling basically the same items. Other than DC (who was handing out gobs of free swag) none of the comic book companies that were in attendance had anything going on other than the standard meet and greet with artists/writers, most of whom I did not know due to not being very up to date on my funny book peeps.

April 26, 2013 is the opening day of this year’s convention and I haven’t felt the need to go back to C2E2 until now. I managed to obtain a press pass and see how things have improved in the past three years and report my findings here on the Geektastic Film Reviews blog. I’m pleased to say that I was 110% impressed with everything I saw and participated in.

My priority for today was a purely selfish one, and that was to have actor Bruce Boxleitner (TRON, TRON: Legacy, Babylon 5, Bring ‘em Back Alive) autograph some TRON posters I proudly display in my humble abode. One is an original 1982 one sheet and the other is a limited edition Mondo poster based on the original film. Mr. Boxleitner was extremely polite and gracious and actually marveled at my one sheet for a few moments before putting his mark upon it. He told me “This doesn’t look like a reproduction. This is an original as far as I can tell.” This put a smile on my face as we chatted about my TRON obsession and how I have a small shrine to all things on The Grid in my apartment. My girlfriend Miranda told him my collection was big (she exaggerated a bit) and he assured us “There are some people around here that would give you a run for your money”, so I was happy he was enjoying the fact that people are still finding pleasure in such and old film. As he signed my Mondo poster he stopped to look at it and shook his head in dismay. “It’s a beautiful poster, but where am I on it?!” We all shared a good laugh as he gave the stink eye to the large image of Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn that’s front and center on the poster and proclaimed “I bet Bridges funded this one himself.” I shook his hand as I told him that it was a pleasure to meet him and that was that. It’s always nice when you meet someone you’ve admired since childhood and find out they are as cool and down to earth as anyone else.

Enough about my little hero worship geek out. On to the events!
When I saw that there would be a shadowcast to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode, “Once More with Feeling”, I immediately added it to my itinerary. Back in 2007 I saw a shadowcast to this episode at Dragon*Con and I found it immensely enjoyable. It turns out that would be the last time that anyone would be able to put on a show of that kind without the consent of 20th Century Fox for fear of getting bitch slapped with a cease and desist order. So when I saw that one was actually approved for this con I knew I had to see it because it could be a long time before another one gets the greenlight. The acting/improv troupe that performed the shadowcast is known as Pineapple Shaped Lamps from North Carolina. They seemed to be on the ball for the entire show and, like any shadowcast worth their salt, mixed in fun little additions of their own to the scripted material. They seemed like they were having a ball and it was quite infectious. During what would have served as the commercial breaks the troupe played their own advertisements which just so happened to be filmed sketches for fictional products, my favorite being “Drug” which was a parody of modern day medication ads. I think I enjoyed the shadowcat from Dragon*Con more since they interacted with the audience a little bit more and the audience heckled back (“It’s Tuesday, Dawn must be in trouble again!”), but these guys and gals were pretty top notch too.

It was at this time I noticed that the lines for the autograph area, which was right next to the shadowcast stage,  were getting a little crazy. I was kind of appalled that someone like Ron Perlman had maybe 3 or 4 people waiting in line while the freaking Green Power Ranger’s queue was crazy busy. HE’S FUCKING HELLBOY! Show respect to The Right Hand of Doom fools! But I digress…

There really weren’t any panels I was interested in attending for the next few hours, so I decided to do my shopping/wandering today instead of Saturday and Sunday when it’s stupid packed. Artist’s Alley is always a great place to spend some time and this one didn’t disappoint. My girlfriend had a custom drawing made of her favorite comic book heroine Zatanna with her cat who shares the same name. We chatted with some of the table owners, purchased some of their wares and admired everyone’s immense talent. There are some great artists out there that aren’t getting the attention they deserve. For realz.

As the con started to wind down for the day I lined up to get into a Q&A with geek goddess Felicia Day (The Guild, Geek & Sundry, Supernatural). It was quite packed, but I managed to snag a seat pretty close to the stage with a decent view. She’s a little snarky, but in a playful way and I found her sense of humor to be adorable. Questions asked ranged from her inspiration to begin a webseries to where she sees the homebrew web content phenomenon going in the future. One person brought up the Veronica Mars Kickstarter phenomenon and she was all for it as long as the projects look like they would be worth the donation. She said that The Guild was funded via the “kickstarter to Kickstarter” – a Paypal link on their website. I found some of her insight into low budget filmmaking extremely helpful and encouraging. One person asked her opinion on when would be a good time to start creating content for someone thinking of jumping on the bandwagon. She almost immediately shouted “Now! You have a phone in your camera that can shoot high definition video… what did I just say?!”  That got a good laugh. Being the poster child for internet phenoms she gave nothing but kind words and support to everyone who brought up their aspirations to find some sort of audience on the internets, and coming from her that’s kind of awesome. She also repeatedly thanked the audience, standing in for all of geekdom, for embracing her projects and jumpstarting her career. It all came from a place of honesty and goes to show why she’s so adored by the nerd community. She’s good people.

Lastly I attended a screening of the Maniac remake with an actor friend of mine. I had been looking forward to seeing this flick since I heard of it going into production because the original fit within my criteria to warrant its existence (see my review of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake) and the interesting casting of Elijah Wood as the main character who just so happens to be a deranged serial killer. I will post my review of the film separately once the con ends on Sunday evening.

All in all it was a successful and fun first day at C2E2. I can't wait to go back tomorrow! In the meantime here's some pics I snapped during my journeys on Day 1.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Zombieland: The Series - "Pilot"

When Zombieland the movie came out in 2009 it was hyped up beyond belief, and when I rushed out to see it opening day I was disappointed in the extreme. The Bill Murray cameo aside, I found it to be an unfunny zombie craze cash in that tread on the ground that Shaun of the Dead had previously. Everyone else seemed to praise the everloving shit out of it, but I’m still not in that camp. Not to say that I wouldn’t be interested in revisiting it sometime down the line, or give the Amazon Prime online series a shot.

Zombieland: The Series picks up not long after the movie ended. Tallahassee (Kirk Ward), Columbus (Tyler Ross), Wichita (Maiara Walsh) and Little Rock (Izabela Vidovic) are wandering the wasteland of L.A. looking for survivors and a new place to call home. When they are told by Detroit (Kendra Fountain), an OnStar employee and (voice only) guardian angel of the group, that the Eastern seaboard is free of infection they begin their long journey to safety.
I’ll not mince words… this pilot is absolute shit.

All of the actors, who are replacing the feature’s players (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin), are horrible and grating on the nerves. Kirk Ward as Tallahassee is the worst of the bunch. He can’t seem to tone his performance down from 11 and acts like he’s on a perpetual crystal meth high. Tyler Ross is decent, but he’s trying way too hard to channel Jesse Eisenberg’s nervous charm and comes off as more of a creeper than a real character. Not much time is devoted to Maiara Walsh or Izabela Vidovic, but they don’t fare much better. I couldn’t stand any of them. The casting is terrible with only the voice of Kendra Fountain as Detroit being tolerable.
Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who also wrote the feature this tripe is based on, seemed to forget how to make characters likable. They made Tallahassee a man child who can’t stop saying “vagina” in differing ways, Columbus is now a stalker obsessed with the eternally bitchy Wichita and Little Rock now boils down to a child who likes to say “fuck” a lot. For some reason they keep throwing Columbus’ “Rules for Surviving Zombieland” (yes, the characters call the world Zombieland) around as if it were scripture along with Columbus’ constantly annoying narration which breaks the fourth wall way too often. The ongoing joke of the group being cursed is run into to ground (every time they find a survivor they are quickly taken out by a random zombie attack or environmental hazard), jokes are recycled from the movie too often (“Zombie Kill of the Week”) and all the attempts at humor fall right on their face. Everything feels phony and forced, and ultimately this is what ruins the show completely.

The special effects are look like they are out of a Nintendo 64 game (too much CGI blood), the make-up FX are lame and everything from the sets to the costumes look cheap. In fact, the whole production has a rushed feeling to it, and reminds me of the crappy TV shows that you would find on television at midnight circa 1999 like Cleopatra 2525 and Relic Hunter.
I only laughed once, and it was at the opening scene where a couple of snarky office workers complain about their first world problems while the apocalypse begins outside the large windows right behind them.

If this pilot is supposed to whet my appetite for more episodes to come I’d have to say that it did the exact opposite. I could now care less about this series and the feature it’s based on. This is one of the worst excuses for a cash grab I’ve ever seen. The Walking Dead is raking in millions of viewers every week and this sorry excuse of a series is hoping to piggyback some of that success now that zombies are a hot television commodity. Don’t give Zombieland: The Series one single moment of your time. If you liked the concept of Mob Doctor this show is for you. Everyone else stay as far away as you can.

0.5 out of 5

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Oblivion

I’ve been looking forward to and simultaneously dreading the release of Oblivion ever since it was announced. I’m a Tom Cruise fan (regardless of his wacky personal life) and seeing him teamed up with Joseph Kosinski, director of TRON: Legacy, was like a film geek’s wet dream. I am a HUGE fan of Kosinski’s previous film (just take a look at my apartment for proof) and couldn’t wait to see what he had in store for the audience. The problem was that the trailers seemed to be giving away the entire movie, and if there’s one thing I hate its going into a movie when all the best bits have already been ruined (A Good Day to Die Hard, anyone?). Fortunately that isn’t the case at all.

In 2077 a war with alien Scavengers (Scavs for short) leaves the Earth devoid of life. Humanity has colonized Titan, and technician Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his assistant/lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) have been left behind to make sure the planet’s remaining resources are gathered and transported to their new home. When Jack finds a crashed spacecraft containing a woman from his past (Olga Kurylenko) his world begins to unravel as he learns that things are not at all as they seem.
Oblivion is an odd film. It has some story structure problems, certain points of exposition are repeated multiple times and there are some pacing issues. All these gaffs were present in TRON: Legacy as well, but I was able to overcome them because I enjoyed the world, plot and characters more than the faults. The same applies here. Despite some minor hitches I found Oblivion to be a fantastically engaging, interesting and emotionally charged film experience.

After completely wowing me with TRON: Legacy, director Joseph Zosinski’s sophomore effort goes for something a little more low key and personal. The script was co-written by him, Karl Gajdusek and
Michael Arndt based off a graphic novel by Kosinski, so it’s safe to say he knows this story back to front. Sure his penchant for flashy visuals and set designs are at work in full force once again, but he really seems more interested in making sure the love story at the heart of the film works instead of filling every frame with pulse pounding action. He still needs to work on directing his actors a little better, but he knows how to design fantastic environments and present them in beautiful ways. His style has improved and he opted for subtle over bombastic in every way possible, even during the action scenes. I wanted to stay within the world he created past the end credits.
Tom Cruise turns in some great work here as focal character Jack Harper. He sells the grandeur of the ruins of the old world, his boring and thankless job and his ultimate confusion and acceptance of the situations he finds himself in as the plot progresses into territories I never saw coming. He does his usual Cruiseisms, but it’s expected and it works for the part. Andrea Riseborough plays her part of Victoria with a strange detachment and aloofness that seems bizarre and out of place at first, but once the ball gets rolling it makes a whole lot of sense. Olga Kurylenko is a beautiful woman and a decent actress, but Kosinski’s lack of experience shows through her performance. She does her best, but she seems overly wooden and unengaging for most of the film, only coming to life during the last 20 minutes or so. It’s not a huge issue, but it bugged me since a lot of the story rests in her hands. Morgan Freeman doesn’t have a big part, but what little time he gets on screen he rocks like no other. He gives weight to some hapless exposition and made me believe every bit of info he gives to Harper, no matter how ridiculous.

All the sets, costumes and ship/weapon designs have a bit of a TRON: Legacy look to them, only with 100% less luminescence. At first the sky high apartment the main players reside in looks a little too extravagant for the state the planet is in, but it makes sense later on. Everything has a purpose and a function that’s explained in a way that won’t make your eyes cross (I’m looking at you Ultraviolet). Sure things have an overly clean and sanitized look, like the Enterprise bridge in the new Star Trek films, but it works. I especially liked Harper’s dome ship and the cool looking motorcycle that popped out of it. The pool outside the apartment was rad too. The cinematography by Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi, TRON: Legacy, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) is absolutely beautiful and goes to show that there’s a reason he won an Academy Award (although the film he won it for didn’t deserve it from what I’m told).
The musical score by M83, composed by Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Trapanese (from Linkin Park, and composed the music for the unjustly cancelled series TRON: Uprising), is utterly fantastic. Like Daft Punk’s techno fused score from TRON: Legacy, M83’s electronic vs. orchestral work is phenomenal. I found myself humming the main theme after the movie ended. The song used over the end credits, “Oblivion (feat. Susanne Sundfør)”, uses that main theme in a wonderful way. It fits the film like a glove and enhances it like any classic score should. I’m getting the soundtrack the next chance I get.

Like I said earlier, the trailers didn’t give away the main gist of the story. There are plenty of surprises in store for the audience that hopefully will knock you on your ass like it did me. I will not go into spoiler territory, but even though these twists and turns were welcome and worked within the plot, they are lifted directly from other science fiction movies. One in particular is blatantly plagiarized, but I will not name it due to it ruining a great reveal. It did bug me at first once I started noticing glaring similarities to other flicks, but find me a movie that doesn’t do that as well. As long as it’s pulled off in a way that works it’s not that big of a deal to me, as is the case here.
Another thing that irked me was something I talked about in my review of Django Unchained… if you’re going to cast someone like Zöe Bell in your movie you had better have something awesome for her to do. I don’t even recall her having any lines. This is a cardinal sin in my cinematic rulebook. The same goes for Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who Game of Thrones fans will recognize as Jaime Lannister. He doesn’t do anything outside of shooting a gun and looking grizzled. Such a waste of talent.

As the case with other recent films like Looper and Prometheus, Oblivion is pure science fiction and not sci-fi. It’s not about explosions and action, but about people and ideas that make you think and feel. The main theme of “love will set you free” is handled extremely well and is quite poignant at certain points in the story. While it does have some popcorn sci-fi elements scattered throughout the script, it’s treated in a serious manner that doesn’t go into cheesy territory. Some glitches aside I adored the everloving shit out of Oblivion. I went in not expecting to like it thinking that it was ruined by the previews, and walked out having seen a new favorite film that I feel will be pretty divisive amongst genre fans. You’re either going to buy into it or check out. I bought into it wholesale and didn’t want it to end.
Oblivion is one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year. Go see it immediately, in IMAX if possible. You owe it to yourself to see a great science fiction movie before the glut of corny summer sci-fi begins filling multiplexes nationwide.

4.5 out of 5