Movie Review: PRIMER

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PRIMER
IFC Films
2004
PG-13

“Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m gonna read this, and you’re gonna listen, and you’re gonna stay on the line. And you’re not gonna interrupt, and you’re not gonna speak for any reason. Some of this you know. I’m gonna start at the top of the page.”

  • Everything you think you know about modern science is about to unravel. While conducting experiments in a garage, two brilliant engineers who lead double lives accidentally discover that their project enables them to travel back in time. One man’s curiosity leads to experiments without the other’s knowledge, some with severe consequences.

I first heard about the movie Primer when I was discussing time travel sci-fi movies with the other Exalted Geeks one night at our home-away-from-home, Sean O’Casey’s. One of them mentioned Primer, and described the premise of this independent low-budget sci-fi flick. I was intrigued…but not enough to seek it out at the time.

Since then, I’ve been coming across this title included in more than a few Best Sci-Fi Movies lists. So, long story short, I finally up and rented the stream from Google Play and gave it a watch.

It’s not very often where I stumble across a movie that makes me go “wha…huh?” and leaves more intriguing questions to chew over long after it’s ended. Lo and behold, Primer has done just that. At least, with 2001: A Space Odyssey, most of the questions raised by the movie were answered when I read the novelization.Here, we don’t have the benefit of that. Instead, we have an extremely low-budget science fiction movie written, directed, produced, edited and scored by a guy who has a degree in mathematics and is a former engineer, choosing to not just dumb down the movie for us stupid people. You have to give the guy props for that. However, even I have to admit that this movie can get rather hard to follow at times. There’s a reason why there are numerous online sites and articles dedicated to trying to make heads and/or tails of the plot. Anyway, here’s my feeble attempt at explaining the story.

A couple of engineers are looking to supplement their day jobs with some tech-y start-up inventions. And in true stumbling upon genius fashion, they happen to stumble upon time travel while playing around with electromagnetic reduction of the weight of various objects. As you do. After some refining and fiddling with the process, they test it out on themselves, first going back six hours into their own past, then deciding to use this new discovery for the good and betterment of mankind to make some fast cash with the stock market. Soon, the personalities of both the individuals start to clash, and then soon thereafter the plot devolves into one that only the hardcore fans of Rick & Morty can appreciate: Their present selves try and go back to dissuade one another from doing certain things, only to run into their future selves already having gotten the drop on them, then the discovery that there’s not just one time pod in play here, havoc is wreaked on the the timeline, and the whole thing accumulates in the thwarting of a gunman, and the two parting ways, one of which decides to go to France to build a big ‘ol warehouse-sized time travel box.

So, what we have with Primer is a movie that tries to portray a sci-fi trope in the most realistic and logical sense, without resorting to techno-babble and magic technology, and more or less succeeds. I think. I mean, I would admit that I’m not exactly smart enough to really confirm that the portrayal of time travel as it may actually occurs in reality in this movie is legit; I got confused when the time travel discussion part of Avengers: Endgame happened. Usually when the science-y talk starts hitting hard and fast like that, I just go limp and let it come at me, making notes to pick it apart when I can chew it over at my own special pace.

Overall, while I’m not disagreeing that Primer is a good movie, and a rather intriguing time travel science fiction movie at that, I’m afraid my tastes in that area do run more on the Techno-Magic! side of things. Do I recommend watching Primer? Yes. Most definitely. I can’t guarantee that you’ll understand everything upon your first viewing, but definitely at least view this once. Then do some research. Yeah, it’s one of those kind of movies.

Movie Review: STARGATE Continuum

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stargate continuum
MGM Home Entertainment
2008
NR

“Have you ever tried to find the bathroom in a pyramid?”

  • While SG-1 attends the execution of Ba’al, the last of the Goa’uld System Lords, Teal’c and Vala inexplicably disappear into thin air. Carter, Daniel, and Mitchell race back to a world where history has been changed: the Stargate program has been erased from the timeline. The remaining SG:1 members must find the Stargate and set things right before the world is enslaved by the Go’auld.

The second of the direct-to-video sequel movies to the Sci-Fi favorite Stargate: SG1, this one involves time travel, that favorite go-to plot device employed in rather good science fiction. Of the two, I believe I like Continuum over Ark Of Truth…but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, here.

The story of Continuum brings back the SG-1 crew from the last season of the show, as well as fan-favorite Richard Dean Anderson and my personal favorite from the earlier seasons, the late Don S. Davis, in a story that involves that pesky Goa’uld system lord Ba’al managing to go back in time and killing the crew of the Achillies, the ship that carried the Stargate to America back in 1939. This means now the Stargate program never happened, Teal’c and Vala never existed in this timeline, and somehow Samantha Carter, Daniel Jackson and Cameron Mitchell retained their memories into this tangent universe. They somehow convince General Landry that they’re not raving lunatics (probably due to the fact that this reality’s Carter died previously in a space shuttle accident, and Mitchell doesn’t exist at all due to it being his grandfather being one of the the people who perished on the Achilles), but are denied permission to change the timeline, and ordered to lead separate lives with no contact between any of them. Then about a year later, Ba’al’s posse shows up at Earth, along with Vala–the Qetesh symbiote still residing insider her–and his First Prime Teal’c to totes take over the Earth, much to the chagrin of the other System Lords. So now SG:1 is reassembled to get the Antartic Stargate working, but things happen that prevent them to do that, so now they have to team up with the Russians, who had retrieved the Achilles’ Stargate, who agree to become friends with benefits, but then Qetesh-Vala and Teal’c show up, things go boom, and it looks kind of bleak with everyone dying, but then Mitchell manages to time-machine back in time and set everything right again. Hooray. And The End.

Oh, I loves me a good convoluted time machine story. A nice slice of “What If?” to dig into, here. Mainly, what if the Stargate was somehow lost, and the Stargate program never happened, and then the System Lords finally show up. What kind of wackiness would ensue? Also, what kind of paradoxes can we nit-pick?

As I mentioned earlier, Stargate: Continuum is my favorite of the two direct-to-video movies produced by MGM in leu of giving us more episodes of the show. Pity they didn’t produce more featuring the SG:1 cast. Regardless, Continuum works as a rather satisfying send-off to the cast and crew that kept us entertained all these years. Very much recommended to check out. Now, if only we can get some closure with both Atlantis and Universe…

Movie Review: TERMINATOR Genisys

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terminator genisysParamount Pictures
2015
PG-13

“Just make sure you show up. I don’t want to have to steal someone’s pants again.”

In the war of man against machine, Sgt. Kyle Reese is sent back to 1984 by resistance leader John Connor to protect his young mother, Sarah Connor. However, this time unexpected events have altered the past and threaten the future for all mankind. Now Reese must join forces with Sarah and her Guardian to save the world and stop the next evolution of Terminators.

So, here we are, with a fifth installment in the franchise that will not die, this one titled Terminator Genisys. And why is Genesis spelled with a “Y”, you may ask? I have no earthly idea. Because poor literacy is kewl, I guess. All apologies to Linkara, there. This time around, there’s more time travel shenanigans, more Ah-nold, more Terminators, and more headaches.

When this particular Terminator sequel came out, the outcry against this was rather loud, with proclamations of this being the very worst in the series, and that this is the movie that will finally kill the franchise dead. Which is funny, because I remember the same outcry done with both Terminator III: Rise Of The Machines, and then for Terminator: Salvation. But, I digress. What I found interesting was how they managed to write in the former Governator explaining how his aged visage got that way. Hint: Bio-SCIENCE! Anyway, the movie…

We begin things off in THE FUTURE, where we get a flashback of one Kyle Reese’s childhood in the machine war-ravaged land, being rescued by a very not Christian Bale-looking John Connor. Flash forward a bit, and we see a much more grown-up Reese accompanying Connor in his final push against the Machines and take down the A.I. Big Brain itself, resulting in the freedom of mankind once more. They succeed, but not before Skynet sends back a T-800 series you may be familiar with to terminate one Sarah Connor in 1984. So, of course, John Connor sends Kyle Reese back to that year, but before Reese blips off to THE PAST, he witnesses a much more advanced T-5000 series Terminator kill Connor. Reese then finds himself in the first Terminator movie…kinda…only he’s now being chased by a T-1000, until he’s picked up by a much more badass-than-expected Sarah Connor in a van and makes a getaway. Seems that the first T-800 was already taken out by Miss Connor and “Pops”, a similar T-800 sent back when she was 9 years old to protect her growing up.

Yeah, you might want to grab some headache medicine about now. Things are gonna get even more brain-hurty.

After your usual comedy of misunderstandings between Reese and Pops, they manage to off the T-1000 with an acid bath, and then show off their own home-made time machine they probably cobbled together from an article from Popular Mechanics or something. Sarah wants to fast forward to 1997, the original year when Skynet gains sentience and kicks off the Armageddon that nearly wipes out mankind, and take care of the problem at the root. Kyle at least is geeky enough to realize that the time stream has been altered, and the future might not be the future they would originally expect. Oh, and Kyle’s getting messages from his younger self that technically never existed. Yet. You thought I was kidding bout the headache medicine, didn’t you?

So, Kyle and Sarah decide to jump further ahead to 2017, completely surpassing whatever year Terminator III took place in, because why would you want to reference that movie? They show up neekid in the middle of a busy highway in San Francisco, missing a pickup by Pops by that much, and are taken into custody, because you just can’t wander around the streets of San Francisco all nakie nowadays. This isn’t the 60s, you know. There, they learn of the new way Skynet is going to come alive and take control of the world’s interwebs: Genisys, which is a hot new up-coming app that was created by the kid of that guy who was killed helping destroy the Cyberdyne offices back in Terminator 2. It’s supposed to link everything, and make everything something-something, Millennials like it. Of course, they manage to break out of their handcuffs, where they are then rescued by John Connor.

I’m going to pause once again to let you take another pull from whatever it is you’re using to maintain your mental stability, here. Go on, I’ll wait. Good? Let’s proceed, then…

It turns out, though, that this is the John Connor that was supposedly killed in THE FUTURE! that Kyle witnessed before going off to THE PAST!, only instead Connor has been taken over by Skynet directly by way of millions upon millions of nanobots. So then, Pops finally shows up, they manage to get away due to magnets (how do they work? Sorry…couldn’t resist), and Pops takes them to another super-secret base he set up while waiting for Kyle and Sarah to show up in THE FUT…er, THE PRESENT! Doesn’t have quite the same ring, here. Anyway, they make a bunch of bombs and load up a bunch of weapons and ammo, take off in a stolen school bus, battles the T-3000 (Connor, in case you were wondering), makes it to the Cyberdyne headquarters, fights the T-3000 a bunch more, they set up bombs, the AI messes with their heads, Pops looks like he was taken out, it looks like they may have lost but BOOM! they actually win at the last minute. Pops comes back with some upgrades that will make you groan, Future Kyle meets Present Kyle, all without ripping the fabric of space and time somehow, and everyone goes off to live happily ever after. Then a mid-credit sequel bait scene, and The End. For now.

The thing about being a fan of time travel movies and stories, is there’s a tendency to try and make sense of the “science” part of the “fiction”. I’m not even going to try to organize my thoughts enough to even begin to explain, but needless to say Terminator: Genisys has quite a few holes in it. They’re relatively entertaining holes, but holes none-the-less.

As to the charge that this movie ruined the franchise? I would have to say “no”. It did, however, try really, really hard to reboot the franchise, and came up really, really short by doing so. So now we have a Sarah Connor who was raised by the T-800 Ah-nuld model since a girl, which was never really explained who sent that one back to do so. Maybe that was a point that was going to be explored in a possible sequel, but that’s not going to happen now. So, I’m going to call it now: It was an old and curmudgeon-y Edward Furlong who sent it back. No reason. You can’t prove it wasn’t.

The parts that were recreated from the first movie I thought were done really well, and as an action movie in and of itself, Terminator: Genisys succeeds greatly. It’s just that the plot was expecting too much in the Suspension Of Disbelief area, that I had to pause more than once to make sense of things. And I’m rather good at picking up on wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimy things like that. Co’mon, you didn’t think I would go without at least one Doctor Who reference, did you?

Overall, I think Terminator: Genisys is worth checking out as a budget rental, or free streaming on Amazon or whatever service you have. It’s not terrible, but the first two Terminator movies are in no danger of being usurped as the best of the franchise any time soon.

Movie Review: EDGE OF TOMORROW

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Movie Review EDGE OF TOMORROWWarner Bros. Pictures
2014
PG-13

“Now listen carefully. This is a very important rule. This is the only rule. You get injured on the field, you better make sure you die.”

When Earth falls under attack from invincible aliens, no military unit in the world is able to beat them. Major William Cage, an officer who has never seen combat, is assigned to a suicide mission. Killed within moments, Cage finds himself thrown into a time loop, in which he relives the same brutal fight–and his death–over and over again. However, Cage’s fighting skills improve with each encore, bringing him and a comrade ever closer to defeating the aliens.

Edge Of Tomorrow is a science fiction movie that I remember seeing the teaser trailer for once while waiting for another movie to begin. It consisted of Tom Cruise in a mech suit of some kind, wondering around a battlefield with things blowing up around him…and that’s about all I remember before my brain began drifting to other, much more interesting things, like wondering if there was time to go get a package of Reese’s Pieces to mix in with my popcorn (I opted not to go). I wasn’t really planning on ever watching Edge Of Tomorrow, more out of disinterest in yet another gritty science fiction war movie, let alone one that features Tom Cruise in there. But, yet again the great ogre that is boredom reared its ugly head one weekend afternoon, and spying this on the streaming decided to kill off a couple of hours. The resulting reaction was…mixed, at best.

It’s the near future of…2015, and in a totally ironic reversal, Germany has been invaded…by a horde of intergalactic aliens called the Mimics, sort of a hive-minded Lovecraftian horror that managed to kill all the humans in their way. Five years later, the world’s combined military forces have finally managed their one victory, led by a sergeant in a mech suit that was dubbed the Angel of Verdun. This provides a much-needed boost of moral for the humans, and before you know it a major offensive in France is planned, with public affairs officer Major Tom Cruise William Cage being recruited to cover the day of the assault. Major Cage has a slight disagreement with this idea, and so he’s busted down to Private, labelled a deserter, and assigned to the J Squad for the battle. Of course, the battle itself doesn’t go well, and Private Cage dies taking out a rather large Mimic, getting covered in its blood with his dying breath. The End. Oh, wait, no…Cage wakes up again, reliving the last 24 hours leading up to the battle, with the memories of the previous attempt fresh in his head. Realizing he’s stuck in his own personal Groundhog Day hell, he proceeds to spend maybe hundreds of the reiteration of the same day trying to figure out a way to stop the Mimics once and for all. And this involves hundreds of times trying to convince the Angel of Verdun that he’s not nuts and help him do so. Of course, the standard time loop wackiness ensues, leading to finding the Big Alien Brain behind all this, which might involve Cage having to make the final assault without his timey-wimey powers.

As I was watching this, I kept asking myself, who was it that decided that Tom Cruise, of all people, needed to be an action star? This seems to be his modus operandi with movies since the end of the 20th Century. You would expect him to maybe be in a parody of an action movie, like with Charlie Sheen (Hot Shots) and his brother Emilio Estevez (Loaded Weapon 1). I don’t watch a lot of Tom Cruise movies, but going over the filmography page on IMDB, it seems that after doing Eyes Wide Shut, there’s been a lot of action movies on his list. And okay, he was in the action movie comedy Tropic Thunder, which is an awesome movie and everyone should go see it. But still, Tom Cruise still seems…off as a choice for action hero material. But, I digress.

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise when I say that I’m unfamiliar with the Japanese novel this movie is based on, All You Need Is Kill. Which is a very Japanese sounding name, there. And from what I’ve gleaned on the interwebs, there was a lot of plot streamlining for the movie, so one could say that Edge Of Tomorrow is loosely based on the novel. That said, my impression of Edge Of Tomorrow is essentially Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers. That’s the movie in a nutshell, minus the having to travel to distant planets to battle the alien horde. Mind you, I happen to dig the whole “stuck in a time loope” trope, when it’s done well, and here it’s done pretty good. Also, you get kickass mech suits and the late, great Bill Paxton as the Master Sergeant, with a whole lotta stuff blowing up. In other words, it’s an sci-fi action movie that tries to be smarter than what it really is, and the result is a rather enjoyable popcorn flick that you don’t have to think too hard about, as all the technical stuff is spelled out for you. You can just sit back, munch on some popcorn, and enjoy the show.

Overall, I did enjoy Edge Of Tomorrow the same way I enjoyed the original Independence Day, right down to the “hooray human endurance” happy ending. Mind you, I don’t understand why Warner Bros. decided to play up the movie’s tag line–“Live. Die. Repeat.”–upon the home video release. To many, that’s the actual title of the movie. I had a co-worker refer to it as that, asking “Have you seen Live Die Repeat?”, which took him describing the plot to make me realize he was talking about this movie. Regardless, you should check this out some time as a rental if you haven’t done so.