Internet Hackers and Data-Traffickers in 90s Sci-Fi

October 27, 2017 Jaaŋɡ-Michael Terryjäck 0

The Three 90s Technophobe Movies That Were Onto Something…

 

 

Blade Runner: 2049 saw it’s release last week to rave reviews and box office success (although not as much as Warner Bros. perhaps would have wanted) bringing us a brand new glimpse into the world originally realised by Ridley Scott’s seminal 1982 work.

 

The best science fiction always finds a way of inspiring awe with fantastical vistas and creatures whilst offering us a new perspective on how our world works today. Both Scott and Villneuve’s Blade Runner films offer a thrilling ride through a worryingly familiar dystopian future that throws up questions about the threat of AI, automisation and human consciousness – however, there are arguably more pressing issues facing us today, namely the rise of the Information Age, Virtual Reality and Social Networks.

 

These new technologies have thrown the 21st Century into a state of flux, with the connected world always waiting with baited breath for the next groundbreaking innovation. Despite this constant stream of new ideas, it’s important to remember that many of the concerns that we are dealing with today were prefigured in films made in that dark grim decade that most of us know as the 90s.

 

These three movies opened the minds of Sci-Fi fans in the 90s and whilst not all of them will make many critics’ top 10 list, they nevertheless offered a portentous look at some of the sticky technological issues that face us today:

 

Hackers [1995]

 

Notably famed for the film that brought together stars Angelina Jolie (pre-Tomb Raider breakthrough) and Johnny Lee Miller, both on and off-set, this wacky cyberpunk thriller might have got a lot of things wrong about the way young people acted in the 90s (ie. disturbing hair cuts and excessive roller blading) but it nevertheless predicted the huge influence that hacker groups, such as Anonymous, would have on the world today.

 

 

In the last few year alone we’ve been treated to public displays of hacker powers in the shape of big political scandals such as the WikiLeaks affair to the salacious iCloud leaks of August 2014, showing us the real-world impact that disparate groups of tech-savvy individuals can have on all of us.

 

Johnny Mnemonic [1995]

 

Thousands of jobs were created during the late nineties, in response to the speculation as to the ways that the internet could be adapted to suit businesses. This dot-com bubble led to the emergence of a new class of work which was restricted exclusively to the use of a computer.

 

 

Although the bubble eventually burst somewhere during the early noughties, it still led to the creation of thousands of new roles offering a huge variety of tech-related services around the world; whether it’s server hosting in Silicon Valley, web design in India or Liverpool marketing services, these jobs can be carried out around the clock and around the world. As exciting as this sounds, there are still no current jobs that are analogous to Keanu Reeves’ data trafficker Johnny Mnemonic – who’s hunted through a dangerous sci-fi urban sprawl by genetically enhanced Yakuza assassins intent on cracking his brain for ‘hundreds of megabytes’ of precious info.

 

Existenz [1999]

 

David Cronenberg’s virtual reality thriller was unfairly overlooked upon it’s release, mostly due to it’s emphasis on lo-fi special effects and a bewildering plot. A re-watch of this curiously action-oriented film, however, reveals that the legendary auteur had his beady eye on more than just the technological advances of video games and virtual reality.

 

 

Hotshot games designer Allegra Geller (played by a seductive Jenifer Jason Leigh) is chased through both the virtual and real worlds by shady corporate types looking to stop the release of her next game – so far, so corporate-espionage thriller; it’s the intervention of obsessive fans that rings true for our world today. Never before have individuals’ lives been open to so much open criticism (or attack) and eXistenZ accurately predicted that these attacks would occur in both the real and virtual worlds, over the most trivial of things as a video game.…

3 of the Best and Worst Twin Movies

October 13, 2017 Jaaŋɡ-Michael Terryjäck 0

Some movies fall from the same money tree, for better or for worse…

 

 

Both Dreamworks and Pixar had success with their miniature-sized heroes in 1998.

 

Sometimes the business of making movies can be a terribly derivative one.

 

Call it hedging their bets, call it a coincidence or call it plain cheating: over the years we’ve often been ‘treated’ to two movies in the space of a year that either cover the same contextual ground or are even based on the exact same intellectual property.

 

Now, whilst the box office potentials of these films are evidently going to be effected by each other, there’s nothing stopping both films being well received on their own merits. For example, Antz and A Bug’s Life, two films released in 1998, both concerning a plucky ant’s journey away from his colony with the purpose of seeking a sense of individuality, were both critically acclaimed. However, sometimes there is clearly just one outright winner in both commercial and critical terms:

 

Here are three examples of movie twins that couldn’t be any more different from one another, in terms of straight up quality:

 

Lincoln [2012]  vs. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter [2012]

 

In 2012, the popcorn munching masses of the cinemas were offered two very different representations of one of the most iconic American historical figures, from two directors who only shared one similarity in their vision: seriousness. It’s easy to forgive Steven Spielberg for the seriousness of his epic historical drama.

 

In the main role of Abraham Lincoln, he cast Daniel Day-Lewis, one of the most revered actors of our time, who only emerges every few years or so to uniformally stun audiences. The Tony Kushner-penned screenplay was based on the Pulitzer Prize winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on Lincoln and his cabinet of rivals that he united to steer young America through the Civil War. It was considered a success, both commercially and critically, in addition it was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, including the Best Actor accolade, which Day-Lewis took home.

 

Benjamin Walker and Daniel Day-Lewis, two very different Lincolns.

 

On the other-hand we have Timur Bekmambetov’s effort, released 5 months earlier at the start of the summer box-office season. His adaptation, based on the Historical-mashup of novel of the same name, portrayed Lincoln in a similar serious light to Spielberg’s, with one major difference – this Lincoln moonlighted as a vampire hunter. Although the Russian-Kazakh director had found success with similar genre fare before, in the shape of 2008’s comic-book adaptation Wanted, he failed to inject his movie with any kind of levity – preferring to revere his fictionalised version of Lincoln rather than poke fun at the evident outlandishness of his situation.

 

The film not only bombed at the box-office, failing to recoup it’s marketing and production costs, but it was also savaged by critics. As admirable as his impression of the great man was, Benjamin Walker did not pick up any nominations for his performance and has struggled to rebuild his career since…

 

Chef [2014] vs. Burnt [2015]

 

Released just over a year apart from each other, both Chef and Burnt feature cooking professionals with anger issues who go about seeking redemption in very different ways. In Jon Favreau’s Chef, questionably named Carl Casper attempts to revive his ruined career by cooking with his heart and reconnecting with his family. This good-natured giant, played by the writer-director with grumpy but genial charm, sets out on the road in a food truck with his estranged son and best friend, discovering why he loved cooking to start with. What follows is a heart-warming comedy-drama that treats the senses to what can only be described as ‘food porn’.

 

Jon Favreau and Cooper lose their respective cools in the kitchen.

 

On the other hand we have Bradley Cooper’s Adam Jones (more realistic but edging on the dull) who sentences himself to cooking a million oysters in a New Orleans bar after blowing his own career in Paris a year before.

 

Several industrial extractor fans would be needed to suck out the hot air from this self-indulged cook. Adam might feel like he’s served his time, but his destructive behaviour does not end with his self-imposed exile. Soon he’s back in London, ruining his friends’ careers and blowing his lid all over again. Cooper performs well, but when a character is this much of an ass, it’s really hard to care if he wins his third Michelin Star or not.

 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice [2016] vs. Captain America: Civil War [2016]

 

In 2016, two movies were released, pitting some of the biggest names in comic book history against each other. If we were to judge these films on the merits of expectations alone, it’s safe to say that Zack Snyder’s BvS (that title is just too long to repeat) had the edge over the Russo Brother’s third instalment of the Cap franchise. When people think of superheroes, Superman and Batman are usually the first on their mind. In theory, the collision of these two heroes, a vision never before brought to the big screen, should have been a home run, but somehow Snyder found a way of turning this titanic idea into a gargantuan flop.

 

Promotional materials even suffered from a case of deja-vu.

 

Dead on arrival, a huge opening led to a record-breaking drop in the second week and, thanks to poor word of mouth, the $300m production slowly limped past $870m after 12 weeks in cinemas. Meanwhile, Civil War, dealing with the moral and physical battle between the entire cast of the Marvel Universe, fared a lot better, both critically and commercially. Made for $50m less, the Marvel Studios movie made well over $1.1bn in 20 strong weeks of business.

 

The defining difference between these productions was in the tone of the final products. Although both movies dealt with serious issues (at least for comic book flicks), Civil War maintained a rollicking sense of fun, whereas BvS became quickly bogged down in weighty dialogue and overly-dramatic musical cues. If it weren’t for the surprise success of DC’s Wonder Woman this year, I’d be declaring the DCEU dead in the water, but the release of Justice League will be the real test of the franchise’s chances.…

They Could Be Heroes…

October 6, 2017 Jaaŋɡ-Michael Terryjäck 0

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 [2017]

 

 

The head honchos at Disney, which Marvel Studios is a subsidiary of, are starting to build up a nasty reputation for not getting along with the young upcoming directors they consistently hire for their large-scale productions.

 

Despite their rigid insistence to the company line that they only want to hire directors that are capable of executing their own unique vision, the head honchos in charge of producing some of the biggest releases of the last few years have fallen out with a number of young directors hired to do just this.

 

Edgar Wright might have received a writing credit for his work on Ant-Man, but he was unceremoniously separated from the project after Marvel saw fit to hire fresh blood to re-write a script that he had spent years working on. Similarly, dynamic duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were removed from the set of the upcoming Hans Solo film after their vision of the movie didn’t quite match up with the producers’; they were replaced by journeyman director Ron Howard hot of such ‘successes’ as Inferno and In The Heart of the Sea.

 

That why it’s a surprise that James Gunn, writer-director of Guardians of the Galaxy and this year’s Vol. 2 has had no problems transitioning from small scale independent movie making to big-budget blockbusters. Although he’d worked in the movie industry for nearly 20 years, he didn’t catch the eye of the men at Disney until he released a superhero movie of his own, 2010’s Super. Graphically violent, sexually explicit and jarringly off-beat, it’s hard to see why Kevin Feige and co. thought he’d be suitable for the Guardians job.

 

The first movie proved naysayers (like me) wrong. The film was critically acclaimed and a box-office smash, what’s more – it was really good. Packed full of the off-beat humour that many thought wouldn’t fit into a Marvel film, this was the superhero movie that no one saw coming, based on a property that was unknown to the movie going public.

 

 

Coming three years later, Gunn’s sequel is by and large comprised of the same components that made the first film such a success. Rocking retro soundtrack? Check. Quick-fire bickering and banter? Check. Obligatory CGI-rammed finale? Unfortunately – check.

 

It would seem that James Gunn’s healthy working relationship with Marvel and Disney is in part thanks to his ability to balance his vision with theirs. He might well succeed in convincing the studio that it’s OK to cut away from the opening action sequence to focus on a baby tree dancing to ELO, but he doesn’t quite talk them round to omitting a laughable CGI-blob that threatens to engulf an unrelated, nameless town on Earth in the final act.

 

As much as the Guardians series hinges on it’s unique identity, separating itself from the rest of the Marvel-U, it still conforms structurally to the way the other films in the series work. An opening prologue featuring a de-aged Kurt Russell is less surprising than it should be and the aforementioned blob/CGI-fest at the end seems a little rote, in a film that otherwise chooses to play by it’s own strange rules.

 

Despite these misgivings, Gunn has produced another crowd-pleaser that serves to prove the point that Marvel is far from done with making solid, action romps for a wide, engaged audience.