One line summary: Reasonable thriller rescue in space, circa 2079.
The action is set in a SciFi universe of the year 2079. There is a prisoner uprising in the orbiting maximum security prison in orbit around Earth. Compounding this is that the daughter of the US president was in the prison doing interviews at the time.
As the film opens, Snow is in custody, and is being beaten/interrogated by Scott and his thug. The subject was a botched operation where Snow's contact Frank was killed, Snow escapes for a bit, and gets a briefcase to his contact Mace before being captured. After he's done, Scott leaves Snow with Harry.
In a parallel thread, the president's daughter travels to the orbital prison that is still under construction. The prison is run by a corporation and uses stasis/sleep to keep the prisoners quiescent. Emilie is trying to find out whether the prisoners are suffering damage from stasis are experiencing psychological or physical damage from the process. Snow gets pointed to the prison as an inmate.
Emilie's first interview goes woefully bad: the prisoner escapes, has a gun and a plan for opening all the stasis cells and wakening the prisoners. Emilie is wounded, but escapes temporarily. The prison rebellion is successful. They activate the prison orbiter's defense systems, so a massive armed rescue seems out of the question...at least without massive losses.
The Secret Service has a change of heart toward Snow, and injects him onto the station almost unnoticed. Emilie is captured, but is unrecognized at first. During the negotiations between the prisoners and the Secret Service, the prisoners find her credentials.
Snow manages to spring her, and to find Mace. Mace has some severe mental damage, but Emilie manages to decipher his seemingly wild speech. Emilie refuses the rescue plan as long as there are hostages on the station.
They escape the station via an improvised solution before a massive strike hits the station. Snow is re-incarcerated, but Emilie finds the case.
Will Emilie be able to get Snow out of trouble?
Cinematography: 8/10 Mostly fine, but some of the CGI seemed a bit out of date for 2012, but not too bad.
Sound: 8/10 Few problems.
Acting: 6/10 Peter Stormare, Guy Pearce, and Lennie James were good. Vincent Regan and Joseph Gilgun were OK. Maggie Grace and most of the rest of the cast I could have done without.
Screenplay: 5/10 Meh. The exposition of motivations was weak. Why would Emilie be interested in Snow? Yes, he had something to do with her rescue, which she tried to sabotage whenever possible. Just what was in the briefcase, for which so much effort was expended? Why would anybody care? As it was, the only thing interesting about the film was rescuing a privileged daughter who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
One line summary: A bad 21st century spaghetti western in Japan plus gore fest.
One star of five. Two black holes for acting and screenplay.
Asami has fought gangsters before and does some more in this film. She gets taken in by a family, and a good third of the film seems to be the group just waiting around, going to the arcade, chatting while getting drunk, and other mundane activities.
Every so often, some evil doer shows up, and Asami fights them. She dispatches a couple one night, then has to fight Akira. That ends badly for Asami.
More people get hurt after Asami recovers. Asami gets more galvanized.
Will Asami prevail against the gang violence? If she gets that far, will she get revenge versus Akira?
Cinematography: 6/10 Lots of bad lighting. The spaghetti western camera work (shooting through heat mirages, long shots with narrow focus, filtered shots of the sun, and so on) were so-so and did not add that much.
Sound: 6/10 Incidental music reminiscent of Spaghetti westerns. Spoken word seemed clear enough. Foley was a little exaggerated, but that's common enough in such films.
Acting: 2/10 Bad.
Screenplay: 0/10 Bizarre mix of low level silliness (documenting playing kids' arcarde games; women giggling while getting drunk), comedy, cult nonsense, gore fest, and spaghetti western traditions. None of it was very good, and the disparate pieces did not fit together well at all. Incredible cruelty for the sake of amusement was much too common. Catching bullets in the bare hands? Done three times, but should not have been done once.
One line summary: Fools slaughter each other on a space station.
One star of five; three black holes for acting, screenplay, and SFX.
Terran Special Forces versus Allied Airborne on a space station, whatever that might mean. Humans are being turned into zombies, sort of. These zombies are not weaker; instead, they are quicker, stronger, smarter, and less and less vulnerable to weapons as they get older. The zombie transformation is accomplished by programmed nanobots, not viruses or bacteria or radioactive substances. There are androids as well as humans and zombies.
The protagonist, Helen, is an android who wakes up after a memory wipe. Half an hour in, I've got context, more or less.
Throw in a solar cannon that creates wormholes through time. Right, why not? There's a mission to protect the cannon from the wrong people. Just what the 'real' mission is, is a bit wobbly.
Throw in references to scripture. What scripture? Written by whom?
Just what do these people eat or drink? Where to they get their energy? (No solar panels on the space station, no nuclear generator. Hm.) When did gravity generators get invented? The people walk around on the space station as if it were a building on Earth.
Will the final mission be accomplished, so that scripture will be fulfilled? That seems to be the question.
Cinematography: 7/10 Mostly good, but loaded with bad framing choices.
Sound: 5/10 Poor.
Acting: 0/10 Non-existent.
Screenplay: 0/10 Boring, absurd, almost context free.
SFX: 0/10 Beyond bad. Done by people who have no acquaintance with physics, or just hate it. The CGI is ridiculous for the most part. Blood effects are entirely laughable.
One sentence summary: A thoughtful Asian ghost story.
Young soldiers who speak Chinese share ghost stories about the minute before midnight.
Tan is the designated weak member in the group and receives a lot of static for it. He gets tied up and stuffed into a locker in the middle of the night. Bullying in Asia. No surprises.
Jeremy tries to help Tan through the military training course. The endless references to ghosts and past suicides keeps Tan on a downward mood. Jeremy tries to steer him away from this thought pattern, since Jeremy's early childhood included some fakery in the profession of mediums. This is the setting when the last, worst, road march through the jungle is undertaken.
Tan gets lost. His pack is found, and the sargeant tells the recruits to go look for him. It starts raining. They find his body; Jeremy thinks he sees a woman watching.
The sergeant tries to blame the supernatural for the loss of Tan. This captain will not have it.
The recruits are uneasy the following night in the barracks. Jeremy thinks he sees Tan's ghost, for instance. Making matters worse, the next morning Jeremy receives word that his father passed away. The next day, while out walking, Jeremy sees an old woman gesturing to him silently; Lim and Dragon do not. That evening Chester starts banging his head against the lockers, then speaking in a weird voice.
They bring in a priest for Chester; the rites seem to help a bit. Chester shows Jeremy where he and Tan had a strange experience. Something had grabbed Tan's leg and Chester had beaten it off with his rifle butt.
Jeremy's dream about Chester dying comes true soon enough. Jeremy meets the two principal characters from a couple of the ghost stories told early in the film. Dragon, Lim, and the sergeant find Jeremy, but do not see the ghosts themselves.
Jeremy returns home, and the gift he thought he never had lets him see his dead father.
The movie jump shifts forward in time, and the ghost story cycle starts again.
Cinematography: 8/10 A bit bland, but always competent.
Sound: 8/10 A bit bland, but always competent. It was loud enough for a Chinese speaker to understand, and perhaps a quarter of the conversation is in English. The subtitles were fine.
Acting: 10/10 Wonderful.
Screenplay: 8/10 Moves along well.
One line summary: Small budget, but good acting, story, and direction.
Setup and Plot
Journalist Anne Roland's college friend James has gone missing. Renny, the last man to see him alive has also gone missing after being interviewed extensively by police. Anne pursues; her editor helps by connecting her to gonzo journalist/personality Thomas Blackburn. She hopes that Blackburn will increase her knowledge of the drug that James ingested as an experiment for his next book.
During a visit to Blackburn's house, Anne meets his chemist friend Callie, who has synthesized some of the drug. The trio drinks smaller quantities than James took, but the effects are still strong. When Blackburn and Anne wake up from the drug's knockout punch, Callie is nowhere to be found.
Interleaved with the contemporary story are bits of archival footage that chronicle government experiments with some similar effects. The electricity is temporarily lost, screaming ensues, the patients get free of restraints, and the patients are not to be found immediately.
Blackburn and Anne find Callie's lab, which contains a number of clues. Will this be enough to let Anne solve the riddle of James' disappearance?
Cinematography: 6/10 There was a lot of archival film (black and white, low resolution, blurry) and shaky cam footage (variable, but mostly bad). However, unlike many other directors, Erickson seemed to know quite well how to use bad footage to increase the feeling of threat and isolation that thrillers need.
Sound: 8/10 The music and foley were good for increasing suspense and creepiness.
Acting: 8/10 Katia Winter and Ted Levine had a large percent of all the spoken lines. Both of them did fine jobs.
Screenplay: 8/10 The script was not perfect, but did keep my attention. The plot moved forward quickly enough that my usual strong disgust for found film was not invoked. The providing of just enough clues to keep going was well done, and the exposition of motivations was nicely executed. About the time that I thought the film was more of an adventure/thriller, the ending reminded me that it was truly a horror movie. Well done.