Black Widow character poster from Avengers Age of Ultron

This week a number of character posters have been appearing for Avengers Age of Ultron. Today the Black Widow poster featuring Scarlett Johansson has appeared.

Here is the US version with the release date of 1 May.

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(I like Scarlett, she’s pretty!)

And here is the UK version. It has the same artwork but the release date is obviously a week earlier and the Avengers “A” logo is different.

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I’m not sure what is going on with the blue Tron lines…

Incidentally the main Avengers poster featuring all the characters was revealed to be a photoshopped mess so it’s nice to have the individual posters to do each character justice.

Ex Machina movie review

I recently managed to see Ex Machina in my local cinema before it’s run ended and here are some hopefully non-spoiler comments on the movie. I may follow up with a more spoiler-flavoured post at a later stage.

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Ex Machina is a movie I knew nothing about until a couple of months ago. I caught the trailer on youtube and I was immediately intrigued and became very keen to see it.

It has three main characters, indeed you could call it a three-handler as the vast majority of the movie features just those three characters interacting in one location.

Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson, is a young programmer who wins a prize to meet his boss Nathan, played by Oscar Isaac. Nathan is the founder of a search engine called Bluebook which has made him an important figure in 21st century computing and technology. But he’s a hard man to reach as he chooses to live and work alone in the middle of a vast wilderness (which it is implied he owns).

It turns out Caleb has been brought out to Nathan’s lab as the human part of a Turing test so see if Nathan’s new robotic creation has AI – artificial intelligence.

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That creation is Ava, played wonderfully by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander. Ava is one of the most perfectly realised screen robots I’ve seen in a movie. A big part of it is Vikander’s graceful performance and body language. She displays apparently human emotions but they are accompanied with slightly robotic movements. The other part of Ava’s unique look is the transparent limbs and lower torso. These have been achieved by cgi but I soon just accepted I was looking at a semi-transparent robot. It’s a truly good use of cgi as it’s not flashy, it’s just there and totally convincing.

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Caleb is introduced to Ava and begins a series of daily “sessions” interacting with her. He soon becomes attracted to her and then questions Nathan why he gave the robot female looks and apparent sexuality. Is it a case of the magician’s attractive assistant distracting the audience from his sleight of hand, Caleb wonders.

Soon Caleb begins to distrust the heavy-drinking and egotistical Nathan. And he fears for what will happen to Ava at the end of the test. Ava asks if she will be switched off. Celeb says it’s not up to him. Ava’s response is one of my favourite lines in the movie: “Why is it up to anyone?”

Alex Garland (who among other things wrote the Karl Urban Dredd movie screenplay) directs from his own script and has made a thoughtful, intelligent “proper” science fiction movie. I say “proper” in the sense that this is a story that uses a science fiction element, explores it and questions the implications of it. I’m pleased that a movie can be made that basically just has three characters in one location and still be intellectuality exciting and critically acclaimed.

It’s a movie that I have thought a lot about after seeing it and it’s one I look forward to re-watching when it comes out on home release.

As noted before I may write another “spoiler” post about the movie.

Star Trek Starships Collection – USS Grissom

Previously on this blog I had posted photos of some models from the Star Trek Starships Collection as I received them. Well, I had more or less given up doing that. However the new USS Grissom has arrived and it has prompted me to take a few photos of it.

The USS Grissom was a new starship design in Star Trek III The Search for Spock back in 1984. It was one of a number of new ships designed for that movie along with the USS Excelsior, Spacedock and the Klingon Bird of Prey.

The Grissom was principally a science vessel and we see it early in the movie exploring the new Genesis planet that was created at the end of The Wrath of Khan.

The new model of the ship is impressively large. This series of models has the scale jumping all over the place due to a “fit the box” attitude and the shape of the Grissom allows for the box to be filled quite nicely.

This is in contrast to the USS Excelsior model which is tiny. The Excelsior should be a much bigger ship than the Grissom but the Grissom model dwarfs it. I’ve included a comparison photo of the Grissom along with the Excelsior and the USS Reliant from Star Trek II.

Thankfully the makers of these models have finally come up with stands that can hold the model in place without it falling off. In comparison the stand for the USS Reliant is desperately bad and is unable to hold the ship in place for even a few seconds. It may not look like it in the photo below but my Reliant model is broken from numerous crashes.

On to the photos…

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Godzilla Equals Disappointment

Another quick movie review while I’m here.

Ok, I watched the new version of Godzilla on blu ray. It was not high on my want-to-see list but I thought I’d give it a go.

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I was disappointed to be honest. Here’s a quick summary of the plot:

Basically there’s Godzilla and then there’s two weird looking things that aren’t Godzilla. All are too powerful for humans to fight so the token Japanese scientist says leave them to fight each other. So the only thing for the humans to do is try to defuse the nuclear bomb they started ticking.

That actually is the plot right there.

Ok, so at least I can watch the destruction as the monsters fight?

Actually no, because the majority of the monsters fighting or monsters destroying cities either (a) happens offscreen or (b) is fought at night with the lights out.

So you either see (a) some “aftermath” shots of Las Vegas destroyed for example or (b) you just see murky outlines of cgi creatures in cgi smoke head-butting or whatever.

And then Godzilla beats the weird looking things by firing bad breath at them. Seriously. I am not making that up. Godzilla has atomic-powered bad breath.

The one good bit was the Halo jump which was used in the first trailer. It had the spooky music that Kubrick used for 2001. It provided a much needed sequence that was atmospheric and cinematic. The rest of the movie was very “meh” in comparison. It almost makes me think that sequence was directed and edited by a different production team.

You know, I’ve not mentioned the cast. There’s no point as they don’t actually do anything. Nothing they do makes a damn bit of difference to the story.

It’s not a terrible movie. It’s just very boring. And dark. I don’t mean thematically dark either, I mean dark in the visual sense. Did I mention they turned the lights out?

300 Rise of an Empire review

I’ve finally watched 300: Rise of an Empire on Blu Ray, a movie I’ve wanted to see for a while. I must say I enjoyed it a lot, perhaps even more than I thought I would given the mediocre rating many reviewers gave it.

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The movie is not so much a sequel to the original 300 but is part prequel, part parallel-quel and part epilogue. It is set more or less at the same time as the first movie but with a larger scale and principally deals with a number of sea battles. Apparently it is based on a not-yet-published Frank Miller graphic novel.

The movie begins with a prologue featuring the Battle of Marathon which was in 490 BC where we see Greek hero Themistocles repel a Persian invasion. Then the rest of the movie covers the three-day Battle of Artemisium followed by the Battle of Salamis which both occurred in 480 BC (around the time of the Battle of Thermopylae which was covered in the first 300 movie). So this one nicely fills in the blanks of what was happening off screen in the first movie.

The highlight of the new movie for me is Eva Green. She plays Artemesia, a Greek-born woman who was raised by the Persians and has reached the rank of general. Eva is great. No one can glare like Eva. No one can drum her fingers which as much contempt and derision as Eva can. She steals the show and makes me keen to watch the other Frank Miller sequel she appears in, namely Sin City 2.

(In case you’re wondering, yes, Eva does reveal her ample top bits. To be more precise it happens on the evening between day two and day three of the Battle of Artemisium. I expect it’s in recorded in Herodotus’s History of the Greek-Persian war somewhere.)

Lena Heady returns from the first movie as Queen Gorgo who was the wife of the Gerard Butler character from the first movie. Perhaps busy with Game of Thrones duties this time out she doesn’t appear too much but pops up at different points and also provides some narration duties.

Some Australian actor called Sullivan Stapleton plays the main Greek character Themistocles who like many of the other characters is based on an historical figure.

As a nice spin off the movie has got me interested in reading about the Greek-Persian wars of the fifth century BC. That’s a sentence I never thought I would write. Anyway I know next to nothing about them and will be looking for a suitable book to improve my knowledge.

Also I need to go back and watch the first movie again because it’s been years since I have seen it.

Edge of Tomorrow review

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Here are some thoughts on the move Edge of Tomorrow.

I first saw the trailer for this movie around December 2013 if I recall correctly. It immediately grabbed my interest and intrigued me greatly. I expect I probably watched it numerous times. Certainly I really wanted to see it in the cinema and the wait until June seemed very long.

As it turned out when June rolled around I wasn’t able to see it in the cinema so it became another waiting game, this time for the blu-ray disk.

And here it is at last. Only it’s no longer called “Edge of Tomorrow” on the box, instead the tagline “Live Die Repeat” has been promoted to full title duties. It’s kind of like renaming “Alien” as ”In Space No One Can Hear You Scream” I suppose.

I suppose “Live Die Repeat” is literally a more accurate way to summarise the story but it comes across as less poetic. Or something. It seems that the new title is an attempt to fix whatever problems caused the movie to apparently underperform at the cinemas.

In a nutshell then. It’s the near future. In fact it’s the very near future as BBC presenter Jane Hill is still reading the news if the opening “we’ve been invaded “by aliens montage sequence is anything to go by. It seems the alien “Mimics” have taken over pretty much most of Europe. Russian and china are fighting them on the eastern front and an invasion is to be launched from England to open up a western front. Hey, just like WWII!

Tom cruise plays Major William Cage who is a military spokesman for the United Defense Force. He is summoned to a meeting in London with the commander played by Brendan Gleeson and is slightly put out to discover he’s going to be accompanying the invasion force to France the next day. It’s a refreshing change of the type of character Cruise plays as Cage is a complete coward and refuses to go. Gleeson therefore promptly busts Cage down to private and has him shipped out to Heathrow airport which is where the invasion force is gathering. There Cage meets Master Sergeant Farell who is played by Bill Paxton, although it took me a while to twig on that it was Paxton.

As seen in the trailers (so I’m not spoiling anything here) the invasion is a disaster. Everyone dies, including Cage. And he wakes up back at Heathrow the day before. After a few iterations of invading and trying to survive he encounters Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski –the Angel of Verdun – who is a poster girl for the army having managed to defeat the aliens before. It turns out she once had the alien-inherited power that Cage now has and together they try to work out how to defeat the aliens.

There is a lot of dark humour to be mined from the Groundhog Day premise. For example when training together Cage frequently gets injured. So to reset the clock Rita just shoots him in the head.

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Emily Blunt is very good as Rita, an acerbic take-no-nonsense soldier focusing on getting the job done. An interesting twist is that although the same thing happened to her in the past she has lost the ability and she doesn’t share the reset with Cage. So each time he’s starting over with more knowledge about her but she’s continually meeting him for the first time.

The movie weighs in at a little under two hours long which is slightly surprising – and slightly refreshing – in this day and age of long epic blockbusters. The movie is perfectly paced for the story it is telling.

There’s some very good use of London landmarks right from the start with footage of a helicopter landing at Trafalgar square.

I can’t really put a date on it. It’s clearly set in the future given the exo-skeletons that the soldiers where and the nifty hybrid helicopter airplanes that are used to get the troops into battle. But at the same time it has a strong feel of being set in the present day which I am sure is quite deliberate on the part of the film makers.

The “D-Day” invasion of Europe sequence was very impressive. There was one bit which I would have liked to have seen on the big screen where Cruise is dangling from an out of control drop ship as it spins around. It’s all comprised of one long sequence of him being tugged around.

It’s nice to finally see the movie, even thought it was a ten month wait from when I first saw the trailer. I still have the source novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka to read and I’ll try to get that done in the next ten months.

Bond in Motion

(Sorry for the not-very-fantastic quality of the images. It was only a camera phone and the majority of the exhibits were in the basement with low lighting to enable movie clips to be played.)

On display were a number of cars and other vehicles from a large selection of Bond movies along with various props and models. Some of the vehicles from the older movies included the Rolls Royce from Goldfinger, the Little Nellie gyrocopter from You Only Live Twice, the submarine Lotus from The Spy Who Loved Me and the Aston Martin V8 from The Living Daylights.

The later movies were well represented with the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldeneye, the BMWs from Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is not Enough, the Aston Martin Vanquish and Jaguar from Die Another Day and two very badly smashed up Aston Martin DBS examples from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

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The London Film Museum in Covent Garden
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Ken Adam art of the Submarine Lotus
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Model of MI6 Headquarters
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Props from Casino Royale
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Aston Martin V8 from The Living Daylights
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Aston Martin DBS from Quantum of Solace
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Aston Martin DB5 from Goldeneye
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Aston Martin Vanquish from Die Another Day
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Rolls Royce from Goldfinger
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Lotus Esprit Submarine from The Spy Who Loved Me
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Ford Mustang from Diamonds are Forever
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Rolls Royce from A View to a Kill
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Mercury Cougar from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
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