Posts Tagged ‘Michael Arndt’

Short takes: ‘Oblivion,’ ‘Redline’ and ‘Lifeforce’

November 9, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 9, 2019

One could be forgiven for having forgotten Tom Cruise’s 2013 action vehicle, Oblivion, which sank into — well, you know — seemingly within days of its release. This was somewhat unjust, as the movie turns out to be a pretty zippy science fiction actioner.

Cruise stars as Jack Harper, technician for — tower? sector? something, anyway — No. 49 on post-apocalyptic Earth in 2077. As he explains in the opening narration, humanity has survived an invasion by a mysterious alien race, but only barely. Earth is in shambles, in part because the aliens smashed the moon, causing immense earthquakes and tidal waves, and in part because humans used nuclear weapons, converting vast swathes of the planet into radioactive wastelands.

What’s left of the population has decamped to the Saturnian moon of Titan as massive hovering machines rehabilitate the home planet. Harper and his communications officer/controller, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough, also of Birdman and the Nicholas Cage vehicle Mandy), who have had their memories wiped, help guard massive installations that convert seawater to energy. These facilities and the hovering armed drones that patrol the area are occasionally pestered by scavengers, menacing remnants of the alien force who tend to stick to the shadows.

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Among the stars, war: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ revives a classic space opera but isn’t as compelling as the originals

January 7, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 7, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings together a mix of old and new characters from the mega-successful science-fiction movie series in order to launch a new sequence of cinematic space adventures.

But you probably already know that.

The plot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is set in motion by a search for Luke Skywalker, the hero who helped topple the evil Galactic Empire at the conclusion of the original Star Wars film trilogy. The missing Jedi, who wields the mystical, magical power of the Force, is sought on the one hand by the evil First Order, an Imperial remnant that retains its predecessor’s taste for mass destruction, and on the other hand by the Resistance, an ill-defined successor to the Rebel Alliance that is long on scrappiness and diversity but seemingly short on everything else.

But you probably already know that, too, because this movie has been selling tickets like gangbusters. Before it was in theaters for three weeks, The Force Awakens earned $1.5 billion worldwide, making it the sixth-highest-grossing feature in history — all without even having opened in the world’s second-largest film market. If the picture is as popular in China as it’s been elsewhere, it could just be a matter of days before the seventh Star Wars movie overtakes Avatar’s $2.8 billion in tickets sold to become the most successful movie of all time.

Which frankly leaves me feeling somewhat baffled, because while The Force Awakens — or Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens, to use the complete title — is an occasionally enjoyable movie, I’m hard-pressed to call it a great one. Director J.J. Abrams and his fellow screenwriters, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, extend the space saga originally created by George Lucas mainly by updating the formula of the original Star Wars and adding a handful of new characters.

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‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ sets up battles but can’t deliver a coup de grâce

December 16, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 16, 2013

Some years ago, while I was working as a newspaper reporter on the K-12 education beat, I went to an English classroom to cover the first day of school. I don’t remember the teacher’s name, or the exact nature of her class, but I believe the instructor worked with poorly performing students.

At one point, either before the period began or during a particularly dull stretch as the teacher was laying down the ground rules for the coming year, I was standing in the back of the room. There was a bookcase beside me, and I idly picked up a paperback volume. The description on the back was at once intriguing and obscure; it seemed to involve a young woman with a bizarre name and a repressive futuristic society and an incipient rebellion…

The book seemed interesting, but it also appeared to be aimed at young adults, so I set it aside. Still, the title of the novel, and the names of the character or characters mentioned on the back cover, stuck with me.

This, of course, is how I became aware of The Hunger Games, the best-selling trilogy of Suzanne Collins novels about a dystopian future. (Well, is there any other kind of future?)

But not until the first Hunger Games movie (with that very title) came out last year was I actually exposed to anything beyond the broad outlines of the narrative.

If you’re not up to speed, the first entry in the trilogy goes as follows: Tough, smart young archer Katniss Everdeen is the female resident of impoverished District 12 who is destined to compete in the Hunger Games. This annual competition of the autocratic nation of Panem pits 24 young contestants — one male and one female from each of the dozen districts — against each other in a battle to the death. The last person standing is assured of lifelong fame and wealth.

But by the end of The Hunger Games — spoilers follow — in an unprecedented development, two champions are crowned. One is Everdeen; the other, Peeta Mellark, the baker’s boy who for years has secretly adored Katniss.

Mellark is fairly good-looking and pretty strong, but, like the female love interests in many a more traditional action-adventure tale, the character is mostly defined by his love for the protagonist.

I liked the first movie well enough, while recognizing its limitations. There’s something rather off-putting about an entertainment franchise that implicitly scolds its fictional audience for enjoying the sight of young people killing one another while simultaneously enticing its actual audience with the promise of young people killing one another. This is true even though the actual killing in the first Hunger Games movie is de-emphasized to the point of bowdlerizing the narrative.

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