Tag Archives: cyborg

Owen’s 2015 in Film: Part 3 – March-el Cinematic Universe

With the third entry in his continuing year in review series, Owen casts a glance over the films he’s been watching throughout March 2015. As with each of the previous articles in the series, Owen will be breaking down the month by week, providing a review of one arbitrarily chosen film seen during each period.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

I know I seem to be saying this with alarming frequency, but March really was a pretty busy month for me this year. Unusually busy, I’d say. I spent most of it planning, preparing, recording, editing and occasionally even publishing various different podcasts, which in turn influenced the kinds of films I watched. Not the worst kind of homework imaginable, but it did mean some of the films I’d have liked to have spent more time watching (including a nice set of recently purchased Fritz Lang movies on bluray and those blasted Werner Herzog films I bang on about in every article) were pushed to the wayside temporarily.

On top of this, I started the month off feeling pretty ill, then recovered somewhat, only to eventually catch the flu. The real flu. Not the “slightly bunged up”, “let’s stay at home and watch a load of daytime TV” one. This, as well as spend an evening in A&E with my wife. When I said in February that it was a hectic month for me? Well, March was doubly so. It is therefore a period in 2015 that I am very glad to now see the end of.

That said, I did see some absolutely fantastic movies during the past 31 days. Some of which were re-watches, like Desperado, A Field In England, Cyborg etc. Some of those rewatches were also seen during my Marvel Cinematic Universe-a-thon in preparation for Age of Ultron‘s release as well as our upcoming Avengers minisode podcasts. Other films I thought highly of were new releases, such as Chappie and It Follows, which I’ve already reviewed right here on the podcast at the beginning of March. There were of course stinkers, as there always are. The worst offender being Kill Keith; a film I was unceremoniously forced to endure thanks to Steve’s podcast quiz triumph. Nevertheless, it wasn’t an entirely miserable month film-wise, leaving me with quite a few I’d like to share with you now! So, on with the reviews…


Week 1 – Sunday 1 – Sunday 8 March 2015

Sunday (1) – Kill Keith (2011); Monday – It Follows (2015); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – Welcome To The Jungle (2014); Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – Preservation (2015); Saturday – The ABCs of Death 2 (2014), CHAPPIE (2015); Sunday (8) – [absolutely nothing]

la_ca_0105_chappieI had very mixed feelings going into Neill Blomkamp’s latest science fiction blockbuster. Trepidation, quiet optimism, maybe even a smidge of snobbishness that a director I once heralded as the saviour of intelligent sci-fi was getting a bit too self-indulgent. Alien 5? Really? Anyway. It seems I was no less sure of my own thoughts even after watching his rogue artificial intelligence Johnny-5-meets-RoboCop movie. It took a day or two of mulling it over before I felt confident enough to commit to an opinion either way, eventually settling on a very simple “well I enjoyed it” line of reasoning, with a big BUT caveat attached to it. Sharlto Copley is not a ‘big but’ (teehee) and is genuinely hilarious as the voice of our super-sentient runaway robot protagonist, with perfect comic timing in all of his fantastically well delivered lines of dialogue. The design and CGI of Chappie is also utterly spectacular. His banged up, tattered, scrap heap look matches the gritty urban South African world he inhabits exceptionally well. Both Ninja and Yolandi (of rap group Die Antwoord, for whom Blomkamp originally wrote the film), along with Jose Pablo Cantillo, were equally as entertaining, even if they are the ‘big buts’ I’m referring to. Their rough around the edges characters and performances may not be to everyone’s tastes, as they try to raise Chappie in seclusion in order to commit a heist. Sure, they’re not exactly Marlon Brando, Bette Davis and Richard Burton respectively, but it’s not like they were trying to be either. It’s clear they aren’t traditional actors but their overblown melodramatic style was apt and perfectly suited the explosive and enthralling action scenes that dominate through the final stages. Overall, the film may be a little inconsistent (here’s looking at you, Hugh Jackman) and when it is bad, it’s very flimsy and feels rather cheap in trying to bring out any emotion in the viewer. But honestly, when it’s good? It’s fucking brilliant. Bravo, Blomkamp.


Week 2 – Monday 9 – Sunday 15 March 2015

Monday – Legendary (2014), Desperado (1995), Rush Hour (1998); Tuesday – Source Code (2011), Cyborg (1989), HEATSEEKER (1995); Wednesday – A Field In England (2013); Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – Adrenalin (1996); Saturday – Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011); Sunday – Iron Man 3 (2013)

heatseekerIf you’re a fan of b-movies, it’s quite likely you’ve at least heard of Albert Pyun, if not outright adoring him. You know, aside from that failed Captain America abortion from 1990. In preparation for our upcoming Jean-Claude Van Damme Corridor of Praise podcast, I rewatched Cyborg and thoroughly enjoyed it. Which then led to me seeking out (see what I did there) other Pyun films, such as Heatseeker and Adrenaline. Whilst not without their faults – the overload of male bravado on show in both, despite having strong(ish) (relatively speaking) (ok, not exactly “strong” but “prominent”) female characters, is like being slapped across the face with a tiny steroid-reduced shriveled ball sack – I’ve come to the conclusion that whilst his movies are not going to win any awards (maybe a Razzie), just like Cyborg and another favourite Nemesis, they were in fact undeniably ambitious in their concept and design. On the surface, Heatseeker sounds like it has more potential to be a load of old shite rather than a successful project. You’ve got a futuristic world where fighters gather for a tournament and can enhance their skills with cybernetic technology provided by greedy sponsors, with our protagonist being a good man who doesn’t cheat by using these implants. It could easily have gone either way! Ignoring the terrible, soft-lighting, cringe-inducing romance scenes that come across like they’re written by a 14 year old virgin, the satire of corporations who will exploit anybody to get rich is well worked into the script. As a result, the film itself is, as expected, an enjoyable (if trashy) sci-fi action film.


Week 3 – Monday 16 – Sunday 22 March 2015

Monday – Thor: The Dark World (2013); Tuesday – Run All Night (2015); Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014); Friday – [absolutely nothing]; Saturday – The Gunman (2015); Sunday (8) – THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)

incredible hulkLater this month, we’ll be releasing a series of 10 “minisode” podcasts that are about 20-25 minutes in length, each focusing on each of the phase 1 and 2 Marvel Cinematic Universe films up to Age of Ultron. As a result, a lot of the films you’ll see listed in this article were rewatches ahead of this series. Including Louis Leterrier’s only venture in the MCU with 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. Now, I think The Transporter is an action film that’s as well directed as you’re ever likely to see for the genre. I didn’t even mind its sequel too much, nor Now You See Me from a couple year’s back. Alas, Clash of the Titans was a crock of shit and as it turns out, a film I’ve defended to death in the past after enjoying it upon its initial release, is also a disappointingly a mess. Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned flu I was paralysed with, I actually missed this podcast recording with Steve and Brian Plank. Nevertheless…. It’s not like Leterrier intended to make a bad film. It was only the second in the franchise and it does struggle to come up with a proper identity of its own (although it is a step up from Ang Lee’s attempt with Hulk). I suppose at least it tries to have that now typical Marvel humour – a mistranslated line from Ed Norton as Bruce Banner in Brazil, “you wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry” is cheesy yet sort of works. However, the problem is the script is almost written for a different film than the one being shot. It’s clunky, badly paced and more like being shown a flick book of Hulk scenes rather than being a coherent story. It’s now my least favourite MCU film – this rewatch was definitely not kind to it at all.


Week 4 – Monday 23 – Tuesday 31 March 2015

Monday (23) – Hitman (2007), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014); Tuesday (24) – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014); Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008); Friday – Amadeus (1984), DIE NIBELUNGEN: SIEGFRIED (1924); Saturday – Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge (1924); Sunday – Fitzcarraldo (1982); Monday (30) – Avengers Assemble (2012); Tuesday (31) – [absolutely nothing]

die nibelungenIf you made it to near the end of the latest five hour long, 150th episode of the Failed Critics podcast – firstly, well done! That is more of an achievement, I think, than it was for us record it. Secondly, you probably heard me half attempt to reveal my wild card triple bill, which was on films centered around, based on, or otherwise influenced by the opera. A medium that I am by no means educated about on even the most basic level. Hence me choosing it. A foolish decision, right? That’s kind of what struck me as I started to open my mouth and explain to the guys which three films I was about to talk about. Something that resulted in what can only be described as a GOB Bluth “I’ve made a huge mistake” moment due to how poorly received an idea it was! Oh well, you live and learn. Regardless of how much of a balls up it was on my behalf, I really enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone with Repo and Amadeus; and I fully expected to enjoy Fiztcarraldo as much as I ended up doing. But it was Fritz Lang’s 1925 five-hour, two-parter fantasy epic Die Nibelungen that really stood out for me. Whilst not directly adapted from an opera, rather it’s more of a retelling of an old epic poem, it did in fact take a huge amount of inspiration from Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. An opera that I have since tried (and failed) to enjoy, but maybe one day I will be cultured and sophisticated, like them fancy adults wot enjoy posh stuffs liek this. Until then, I’ll stick to my silent classics from 90 years ago that have so far brought me much joy. Such as the first part of Die Nibelungen, called Sigfried, about a young ambitious man who sets out to marry a princess and bathes in dragon blood, making him invulnerable everywhere but a specific spot on his back. It’s hilariously dated in parts, as you’d expect with funny looking dragon puppets and with antiquated notions about what being a brave man is all about. However, it’s as fantastical and wondrous today as I’m sure it would’ve been back then. The set design is just astounding and the shots that Lang managed to capture are breathtaking. Whilst the epic was incredibly popular back then, following the success of The Ten CommandmentsIntolerance and Cabiria some decade or so previously (all of which are worth anybody’s time if you’ve not yet seen them), Die Nibelungen in both of its parts is probably the best of the bunch that I’ve seen. And it’s a remarkable restoration job that Eureka! have done with this. They should be proud.


And that’s it! I’m done for another month. If you feel that I’ve picked the wrong film to review, or if you simply completely disagree with my review, then leave a comment below the article and I’ll argue my point until I’m blue in the face. Otherwise, I’ll see you again (hopefully) at the beginning of May as I look back at those films I’ve seen during this month.

A.I. In Film

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

I’d love to say that’s a quote from a sci-fi action film such as Dredd, or a Japanese anime such as Ghost In The Shell, or any other iconic sci-fi movie dealing with the rise of the machines for that matter. Instead, it’s a direct quote from one of the greatest minds of our time, Professor Stephen Hawking, when speaking to the BBC last year. The crazy nut.

Essentially, it’s a theory that fascinates me, so to tie in with last week’s release of Ex Machina, this week’s release Big Hero 6, the soon to be released Chappie, and the next ‘Artificial Intelligence’ special edition of the Failed Critics Podcast, I’ve decided to take a look at the role A.I. has played in a few famous films.

2001_30
Image courtesy of http://blushots.weebly.com/2001-a-space-odyssey.html

Artificial Intelligence is of course something that already exists in some forms in the real world; whether you’re referring to a Tamagotchi toy or even a digital Mario that can learn to beat its own game without assistance.That said, a sentient form of life created from wires and silicon is still something very much reduced to the realms of science fiction. Although the dictionary definition is somewhat oblique, what we generally mean when we refer to A.I. is the full, true, conscious self-awareness of being in an unnatural device manufactured by a person. A type of intelligence that we possess as humans, that we arrogantly claim does not (or cannot) exist in the same way in any other creature or mechanical computer. An automaton that is rather than simply does.

It is of course frequently used as the motivation of a terrifying baddie in a film, such as the killer androids on the loose in Westworld. But that’s not really an artificial intelligence. It’s more like a malfunctioning pre-programmed robot executing a series of commands. You know, if you want to get all nerdy.

Similarly, whilst there are some grey areas, such as in Paul Verhoeven’s sophisticated and ultra-violent film RoboCop, where you’re asked to consider if it’s a man inside a robotic body or robot with a man inside of it, A.I. doesn’t really refer to cyborgs either. They obviously cross-wires, so to speak, but a human brain inside of a tin can is still a biological entity. More than what we might consider A.I., which is a completely manufactured form of intelligence.

Of course, the very notion of a sentient mechanoid is enough to give even the most sensible minded person the heebie-jeebies. With that in mind, allow me to pick out five different – although equally terrifying – uses of artificial intelligence in film (albeit admittedly slightly predictable choices!)


terminator 2Skynet and the Terminators (first appearance: The Terminator, 1984)

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first, shall we. If the mere concept of an intelligent military computer causing a nuclear war based on its own logic isn’t something that sends shivers down your spine, then maybe the idea of being chased by an unstoppable shotgun-wielding motorbike-riding nightclub-crashing robot is. No? How about a relentless melty-man who can turn his hands into sword-like objects and stab you through the throat? Yeah, now we’re getting somewhere. There are many incarnations of A.I. throughout the Terminator film series, but perhaps none are as chilling as that initial idea of a single sentient machine deciding to wipe out the human race and cause a full scale world war. The clever twist in the sequel, T2: Judgement Day, is that the A.I. is both the hero and the villain of the story, of course. But the lasting legacy of the series that James Cameron started over 30 years ago now is that spine-tingling chill of the first military owned A.I., Skynet, that will inevitably lead to the destruction and genocide of the entire human race.


HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968)

You and your fellow astronaut buddy are on a exploration mission through space, the rest of your colleagues safely frozen in their cryogenic pods. Everything is all hunky dory. Well, right up until the supposedly unerring on-board computer has the awareness to make a decision that you and your crew are expendable. halLogically speaking. That is exactly what the A.I., HAL, does in Stanley Kubrick’s epic 1968 science fiction 2001: A Space Odyssey. It doesn’t necessarily make HAL a villain in the sense that he’s wrong or evil, he’s simply decided of his own accord that ridding himself of the crew will make his mission more efficient and thus heightens the viewers insecurities. Just how necessary are we, really? Maybe that is why HAL is so scary. Not because of his unemotional, sterile voice, as he ruthlessly decides to do away with his crew, but because for the most part he’s an abstract tool; just a solid red light in a metal cube that makes us feel inferior solely by existing in the first place. He’s influenced virtually every version of A.I. in film since, from Ash in Alien to Auto in Wall-E.


TRANSCENDENCEDr Will Caster (Transcendence, 2013)

It’s fair to say that both Callum and I had a difference of opinion over last year’s summer sci-fi blockbuster Transcendence. While the quality of the film overall is not a debate I intend to bring up again any time in the near future, the idea that Johnny Depp’s character, Will Caster, could have his mind transported to that of a quantum computer is an intriguing idea. Is the piece of hardware simply simulating what the mind of its creator would do in a very pre-determined and programmed way; is it actually the mind or soul of a human controlling the machine; or is the computer acting completely of its own volition? Do these even count as artificial intelligence is also a debate I don’t want to get into. What makes it worthy of inclusion on this list is the suggestion that after your physical body dies, you could have your mind imported into a computer. It’s the whole “brain in a jar” scenario that’s been used so many times before, although without a physical biological brain. The film does have an inevitable consequence as it drifts towards being about love rather than anything particularly meaningful, but there’s still a neat little idea tucked away in there somewhere!


Roy Batty (Blade Runner, 1982)

Of course a list of sci-fi films about the use of artificial intelligence wouldn’t be worth its salt without the inclusion of this Ridley Scott classic, adapted from Philip K Dick’s novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’. Whilst theroy batty role of Deckard, the bounty hunter played by Harrison Ford, is probably more synonymous with the movie, it’s the tragic story of the blonde android suffering from an existential crisis played by the charismatic Rutger Hauer that is arguably the most accomplished and well rounded aspect of the story. It begs the question, just because we can create an A.I., should we? Is it fair? It goes right back to science fiction 101 in that man wasn’t meant to play God, dabbling in sciences that we don’t truly understand. Not from a technical point of view; clearly within the context of the film, people understand how to create artificial intelligence, but perhaps not so much the consequences of gifting life and then taking it away. Perhaps the ease at which we’re ready to hit the ‘off’ switch is in turn something we should fear more than pressing the ‘on’ button in the first place.


aiDavid (A.I. Artificial Intelligence, 2001)

All right, I’m aware that perhaps even more obvious than any of the other inclusions, a film literally called Artificial Intelligence worming its way onto my list is not particularly imaginative. Especially when I haven’t even mentioned characters like Robby The Robot, C-3PO, Fassbender in Prometheus or poor ol’ Johnny 5. Nevertheless, I had to include the little boy who will never grow up, abandoned by those who created him to replace their ill son and forced to spend the rest of his time with the creepiest looking sexbot ever and his bizarre teddy bear. It’s quite a sad film, with the whole idea of replacing someone you’ve lost (or are losing) with a Pinocchio-esque robot being a rather moving subject. David narrowly escaping destruction with all the naivety of a real human boy; the apparent genuine feelings of loss and abandonment that David experiences; as well the final 20 minutes of the film, it will make you completely empathetic towards what is essentially nuts and bolts. It’s a marvellous juxtaposition between life and non-existence. The ending to the Christmas special episode of the TV series Black Mirror, called ‘White Christmas‘, drew similar feelings of anxiety about existing forever as an artificial life-form. It’s not a faultless film, of course, but deals with the complexity of A.I. better than most other films ever have.


And that’s it! Look out for the podcast due out this week where I chat to both Steve and special guest Matt Lambourne on the same topic, as well as reviewing Ex Machina in full. Until then, cheerio.