Monthly Archives: April 2010

Avatar

Jake Sully has just been given the chance of a lifetime, unfortunately it has come at the cost of his brother’s life.

After Jake’s brother is murdered in a mugging, Jake is recruited into the ‘Avatar‘ program in his place. The Avatar program, funded by The RDA corporation, is a program in which scientists merge human DNA with that of the locals from the planet Pandora, known as the Na’vi to create Na’vi clones in order to communicate with them. Jake’s brother had been scheduled to ‘pilot’ one of the clones and it was feared that his clone would be rendered useless until Jake, being his brother’s identical twin and therefore exact DNA match was signed on to take his place.

The scientists of the Avatar program wish nothing more than to explore Pandora, collecting samples of the indigenous plant life and to open peaceful communications with the Na’vi people. The RDA corporation however have far more sinister motives for being on Pandora. Pandora just so happens to be a rich source of unobtanium, a metal worth far more than gold. The RDA also have a security team, Sec-Ops which consists of thousands of ex military solders who are trained to shoot first and ask questions later and who have little regard for the inhabitants of Pandora.

Most people involved with the Avatar program are reluctant to use Jake considering Jake is a paraplegic ex marine with absolutely no Avatar training. Jake soon proves his value to the team however when on his first outing he makes contact with one of the Na’vi, Neytiri, the daughter of the chief of the local tribe. At first Jake’s only interest is learning what he can of the Na’vi in order to report back to Colonel Miles Quaritch, the superior officer of Sec-Ops so that RDA can devise a plan to remove the Na’vi from their village inside the Hometree, which just happens to sit atop an extremely large deposit of unobtanium. Things become complicated for Jake when he finds himself falling in love with not just Neytiri but with the Na’vi and Pandora itself.

I’m of two sides when it comes to Avatar. The visuals are of course stunning, there is no doubt about that. Everything from the landscape to the Na’vi is so realistic and lifelike that it just makes you believe that such a place could actually exist. The Na’vi are beautiful as well as enchanting and the viewer has little difficulty cheering for these underdogs. Even the love connection between Jake and Neytiri is sweet and sincere.

My only real complaint with Avatar is the entire human race.

Avatar takes place in 2154, that’s 144 years from now but according to James Cameron, not only do humans not evolve into a kinder more intellectual species… we get worse. I understand the message behind Avatar, really I do but to think that out of thousands of humans stationed on Pandora only five, FIVE actually have an ethical dilemma about slaughtering an entire sentient species that just so happens to be able to speak English, is unfathomable to me. When Sec-Ops is burning down Hometree and setting the Na’vi alight with it, why does only one person say ‘fuck this, this isn’t what I signed on for’?

Is the message of Avatar that the human species is doomed to being little more than Neanderthals? Even after another 144 years are the majority of humans still going to have the ‘Kill em all!’ mentality? Will we never grow into the peaceful species I hope we could be? Sure it may be naive to think that humans could ever live in peace but think about just how far we’ve come along already. Yes there is still war, yes there is still poverty but there is also social awareness, there is compassion, there are organizations such as Amnesty International and UNISIF whose goals are to spread awareness and compassion and to stop suffering around the world.

I guess what I’m saying is that even though I enjoyed watching Avatar, my vision of the future of the human race differs greatly from that of James Cameron. I guess only time will tell whose vision holds true. To quote John Lennon, ‘You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…’

Avatar stars Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, Giovanni Ribisi, C.C.H Pounder, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Joel David Moore, Dileep Rao, Laz Alonso and Wes Studi and is avialible on DVD and Blue-ray on April 22 2010.

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The Fourth Kind

After the brutal death of her husband while the both of them were in bed together, psychologist Abigail Tyler (played by Milla Jovovich) decides to return her family to Nome Alaska for a fresh start. Things aren’t easy, her son has grown estranged from her and her daughter now suffers from conversion disorder, also known as hysterical blindness, as the result of witnessing her father’s death.

Abigail hopes to just move past the tragedies in her life by burying herself in her work. An odd coincidence comes to her attention when several of her patients all claim to be seeing the same white owl watching them from outside their bedrooms in the middle of the night. Each patient is plagued by nightmares and Abigail decides to hypnotize one of them with disastrous results. After being forced to remember what has been happening to him the patient refuses to discuss it but later that night decides to murder his family and then kill himself.

It is not until she hypnotizes another patient that Abigail begins to suspect what is actually going on in Nome Alaska. She begins to believe that the people of Nome and maybe even she and her family are being abducted by aliens. Of course the authorities don’t believe her, despite some rather convincing video evidence and she isn’t even sure herself until she hears a recording of herself being abducted. The recording, made while Abigail had fallen asleep while taking dictation, is filled with her screams of terror. It has also captured the strange voice of someone who is speaking what sounds like ancient Sumerian.

Everything becomes far too real for Abigail when the police place her under house arrest sure that she had something to do with her patient’s murder-suicide. They also hold her responsible for her other patient breaking his back during a second hypnosis session, leaving him paralyzed. When her daughter goes missing and no one believes that aliens were the ones who took her, Abigail decides that she must go under hypnosis herself in an attempt to make contact with the aliens and get her daughter back.

Set as a mockumentary, The Fourth Kind claims to be a recreation of actual events that had happened in Nome Alaska during 2000. Going so far as to show ‘actual footage’ of events side by side with the recreated scenes throughout the film as well as providing narration in the form of an interview with the ‘real’ Abigail Tyler the film goes all out trying to turn viewers into believers. There was even quite an elaborate viral campaign on the internet providing ‘real’ information as ‘proof’ of the films authenticity.

I don’t have cable, which of course means that I can’t see movie trailers unless I go searching for them online. This means that I had little information on The Fourth Kind aside from the occasional bits found on the web. I didn’t even know about the viral campaign or that The Fourth Kind was being touted as ‘the real deal’ and I think this was a good thing. It seems that many viewers were angry that they had been ‘duped’ by The Fourth Kind and thought that what they would actually be seeing is actual footage of real alien abductions mixed into an authentic recreation.

This of course makes me wonder if it has actually been that long since The Blair Witch Project, a film which also used the premise of being the ‘real deal’. In fact doesn’t anyone remember Orson Welles’ infamous radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, a broadcast that many people believed was an actual news report about the Earth being invaded by Martians? Lets face it, if there was actual footage of people being abducted by aliens it’s highly unlikely that it would end up as part of a feature film. More than likely such footage would be confiscated by the feds and everyone involved would be ‘dealt with’.

I rather enjoyed The Fourth Kind. Cleaver storytelling mixed with interesting blending of both ‘real’ and recreated footage, the film actually gives the feel that maybe, just maybe what the viewer is seeing could be true. It’s a movie that allows you to put away the skepticism for an hour and a half and just go with the flow. It doesn’t matter if the story is real or not, it’s entertaining and that’s enough for me.

The Fourth Kind is now available on both DVD and Blue-Ray.

For being an entertaining way to spend an afternoon I give The Fourth Kind four smiley guys.

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-Chris

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Come one, come all and bare witness to the wonders of Doctor Parnassus’ amazing Imaginarium. A doorway into the very mind of Doctor Parnassus, the Imaginarium allows people to step into their imaginations and experience them in ways they never thought possible. To step into the Imaginarium is to be transformed forever but whether it be change for the better or for the worst remains to be seen. You see, it’s not only Doctor Parnassus who holds sway over the Imaginarium, there is also the evil Mr. Nick to contend with.

Over a thousand years ago Doctor Parnassus (played by Christopher Plummer) had been a monk charged with the responsibility of keeping the world existing by continually telling the story of the world. It was believed by his order that if they were to ever stop telling the story the world would cease to exist. When Mr. Nick (played by Tom Waits) pays the monks a visit he challenges their beliefs and forces them to stop telling the story of the world by magically sealing their mouths shut. When the world does not end after all Parnassus assumes that it is because there are people all around the world telling stories and as long as those stories are being told the world will continue to exist.

Believing this to be a ‘weak hypothesis’ Mr. Nick asks Parnassus if he is a betting man and so begins a thousand year gamble between the two. Throughout the centuries Parnassus and Mr. Nick make wagers on who can collect the most souls with Parnassus winning the first wager in which he is granted immortality. Sadly immortality comes with a high price and after hundreds of years Parnassus finds himself a broken shell of a man in a world no longer interested in imagination.

Here in the present, Doctor Parnassus is the leader of a destitute traveling theater troupe consisting of Percy, a fellow monk and loyal friend (played by Vern Troyer), Anton, a young apprentice (played by Andrew Garfield) and Parnassus’ daughter Valentina (played by Lily Cole). Parnassus now spends his days drinking and telling his daughter tales of his past and how he met and had fallen in love with her now dead mother. The worst part is that in order to have Valentina’s mother fall in love with him he had asked Mr. Nick to grant him youth and mortality with the price being the soul of any of Parnassus’ children upon their sixteenth birthday.

As Valentina’s sixteenth birthday approaches Parnassus is granted one last chance to save his daughter. A final wager between Parnassus and Mr. Nick, a race to be the first to collect five souls, shall determine the fate of Valentina. Things look hopeless, that is until the troupe rescues Tony (played by Heath Ledger), a man hanging from a bridge who claims to have amnesia. There is more to Tony than meets the eye but has he been sent by providence to help Parnassus and his daughter or is he merely a pawn of the evil Mr. Nick?

I had been waiting to see this movie ever since I first heard it was being filmed. Of course the fact that The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus had been Heath Ledger’s last film before he died had a lot to do with that. Thankfully, as sad as Heath’s passing was this film stands as a wonderful tribute to a gifted actor.

The movie is full of charm and whimsy and is unmistakably a Terry Gilliam production. The tale of a man who foolishly continues to gamble with the devil, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is fun yet bittersweet as it is Heath Ledger’s final film. The use of Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell to represent the many faces of Tony while inside the Imaginarium not only saved the film, it could have easily been originally written that way.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is slated for DVD and Blue-Ray release on April 27th 2010.

An absolutely wonderful film I give The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus five very happy smilin’ dudes out of five.

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-Chris

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Welcome to Cult Hero

Greetings and welcome to the first post of Cult Hero!

If you’ve made your way here from my other site, It Came From the Public Domain! you will already know that that is where I like to showcase classic movies from horror, science fiction, fantasy and thrillers that have fallen into the public domain.

As much as I love classic movies my interests are much broader so I have decided to create a sister site to It Came From the Public Domain! It’s here I hope to share with you my thoughts and reviews on current movies, books, music and television. And since I happen to live in Stratford Ontario, home of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival there are bound to be a few play reviews showing up from time to time as well.

I hope you enjoy reading Cult Hero as much as I enjoy sitting around watching movies and television, reading books, listening to music and being opinionated.Β  πŸ˜‰

-Chris

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