HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX

CAST

Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Jupiter Ascending)
David Oyelowo (Jack Reacher)
Daniel Brühl (Rush)
John Ortiz (Kong: Skull Island)
Chris O’Dowd (St. Vincent)
Aksel Hennie (Hercules)
Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers)
Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby)
Donal Logue (Gotham)
Simon Pegg (Mission Possible: Rogue Nation)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
Suzanne Cryer (Two Guys and a Girl)

 

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)In the near future, Earth is suffering from a global energy crisis. The collective space agencies of the world prepare to launch the Cloverfield Station for testing of the Shepard particle accelerator, which would provide Earth with infinite energy if it works, but pundits fear it will create the “Cloverfield Paradox”, opening portals to other dimensions and allow horrors from those to threaten Earth. Among the crew is Ava Hamilton, who frets about leaving her husband Michael, a doctor, for potentially many years. The two struggle with their relationship after losing their children to a house fire.John Ortiz, David Oyelowo, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw in The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)In orbit, the station crew fail to achieve success with Shepard for about two years but eventually achieve a seemingly-stable beam, but it then overloads and creates a power surge on the station. After restoring basic power, they find Earth has vanished from their view, along with the gyroscope that aids in navigation. As the crew work to repair the ship, strange events begin to occur. They rescue a woman, Jensen, fused with wires behind a panel. Volkov fears something crawling beneath his skin before he is compelled to craft a gun; before he can threaten the crew, his body convulses and ruptures, revealing the station’s colony of worms within him. Mundy’s arm gets pulled into a wall, and then severed clean off; they later find the arm moving on its own volition, and when they recognize that it is try to write something, they are led to dissect Volkov’s body and locate the missing gyroscope. They quickly discover Earth and realign their communications, but pick up mistaken transmissions that state that Cloverfield Station had been destroyed and fallen to Earth.Chris O'Dowd in The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)They speak to Jensen and discover they are in an alternate dimension. In this one, Hamilton’s children had not died and she stayed on Earth as a civilian engineer, while Jensen had replaced Tam as the station’s engineer. They suspect that the Shepard device caused them to move into the new dimension, and reactivating Shepard will reverse that; Tam works out a means to then make Shepard work properly, but she is killed in a freak accident. The crew start working on repairs, while Hamilton decides to return with Jensen to Earth to be with her kids. As they prepare, Mundy is killed in an explosion caused by a strange magnetic field, which nearly tears the station in half. The station commander Kiel sacrifices himself to disengage a wildly-spinning accelerator ring from the station before it is destroyed, leaving Hamilton in charge.Gugu Mbatha-Raw in The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)Meanwhile, on Earth, Michael wakes up to discover a number of strange events happening across the planet, including witnessing the silhouette of a giant monster. On his way to offer his assistance at the local hospital, he stops to help a young girl named Molly. After learning that the hospital has been destroyed, he takes Molly to an underground shelter belonging to a friend and tends to her wounds.Daniel Brühl and Ziyi Zhang in The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)With Shepard ready to activate, Hamilton and Jensen prepare to leave, but Jensen suddenly knocks her out, uses the gun Volkov made to kill Monk and wound Schmidt, and insists that the station must stay in this dimension so they have access to the Shepard device. Regaining consciousness, Hamilton overpowers Jensen for the gun and shoots out a window, ejecting Jensen into space. Hamilton decides to return to their dimension with Schimdt, but makes a recording to herself in the alternate dimension, giving her the plans for the Shepard device, and stressing the importance of her family. Hamilton and Schimdt successfully reverse the dimension shift, and then make Tam’s modifications to engage Shepard properly to provide the energy source. The two, after reporting in, are then forced to evacuate, since they had sacrificed their life support systems to make the return trip to their dimension. As the evacuation shuttle breaks through the earth’s atmosphere, a giant monster comes up roaring through the clouds.Cloverfield is becoming a great outlet to tell really good Sci-Fi stories. Some of the best we have seen in a long time. Paradox adds to the mythos while also being its own movie. I can see from many of the reviews that this is not for everyone, I get that, but you can’t come in to these movies looking for answers, that’s not how the Cloverfield movies work. They present themselves and leave us to draw conclusions based on what we witnessed. An excellent addition to the Cloverfield franchise.

 

REVIEW: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017)

Starring

Emma Watson (Harry Potter)
Dan Stevens (Legion)
Luke Evans (Dracula untold)
Kevin Kline (Last Vegas)
Josh Gad (Frozen)
Ewan McGregor (Christopher Robin)
Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games)
Audra McDonald (Rampart)
Ian McKellen (X-men)
Emma Thompson (Burnt)
Hattie Morahan (Alice Through The Looking Glass)
Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle)

Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in Beauty and the Beast (2017)A beautiful enchantress disguised as an old beggar woman arrives at a castle during a ball and offers the host, a cruel and selfish prince, a rose in return for shelter from a storm. When he refuses, she reveals her identity. To punish the prince for his lack of compassion, the enchantress transforms him into a beast and his servants into household objects, then erases the castle, the prince and his servants from the memories of their loved ones. She casts a spell on the rose and warns the prince that the curse will only be broken if he learns to love another, and earn their love in return, before the last petal falls, or he will remain a beast forever.Emma Watson and Luke Evans in Beauty and the Beast (2017)Some years later, in the small town of Villeneuve, Belle, the book-loving daughter of a music box maker and artist Maurice, dreams of adventure and brushes off advances from Gaston, an arrogant former soldier. On his way to a convention and lost in the forest, Maurice seeks refuge in the Beast’s castle, but the Beast imprisons him for stealing a rose from his garden as a gift to Belle. When Maurice’s horse returns without him, Belle ventures out in search for him, and finds him locked in the castle dungeon. The Beast agrees to let her take Maurice’s place.Belle befriends the castle’s servants, who invite her to a spectacular dinner. When she wanders into the forbidden west wing and finds the rose, the Beast scares her into the woods. She is ambushed by a pack of wolves, but the Beast rescues her, and is injured in the process. As Belle nurses his wounds, a friendship develops between them. The Beast shows Belle a gift from the enchantress, a book that transports readers wherever they want. Belle uses the book to visit her childhood home in Paris, where she discovers a plague doctor mask and realizes that she and her father were forced to leave when her mother succumbed to the plague.Emma Watson in Beauty and the Beast (2017)In Villeneuve, Maurice fails to convince the other villagers of the Beast and Belle’s imprisonment. Gaston, seeing rescuing Belle as an opportunity to win her hand in marriage, agrees to help Maurice. When Maurice learns of his ulterior motive and rejects him, Gaston abandons him to be eaten by the wolves. Maurice is rescued by the hermit Agathe, but when he tells the townsfolk of Gaston’s crime and is unable to provide solid evidence, Gaston convinces them to send Maurice to an insane asylum.Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in Beauty and the Beast (2017)After sharing a romantic dance with the Beast, Belle discovers her father’s predicament using a magic mirror. The Beast releases her to save Maurice, giving her the mirror to remember him with. At Villeneuve, Belle reveals the Beast in the mirror to the townsfolk, proving her father’s sanity. Realizing that Belle loves the Beast, a jealous Gaston claims she has been charmed by dark magic, and has her thrown into the asylum carriage with her father. He rallies the villagers to follow him to the castle to slay the Beast before he curses the whole village. Maurice and Belle escape, and Belle rushes back to the castle.Emma Watson in Beauty and the Beast (2017)During the battle, Gaston abandons his companion LeFou, who then sides with the servants to fend off the villagers. Gaston attacks the Beast in his tower, who is too depressed to fight back, but regains his spirit upon seeing Belle return. He defeats Gaston, but spares his life before reuniting with Belle. Ungrateful and unrepentant, Gaston fatally shoots the Beast from a bridge, but it collapses when the castle crumbles, and he falls to his death. The Beast dies as the last petal falls, and the servants become inanimate. As Belle tearfully professes her love to the Beast, Agathe reveals herself as the enchantress and undoes the curse, repairing the crumbling castle, and restoring the Beast’s and servants’ human forms and the villagers’ memories. The Prince and Belle host a ball for the kingdom, where they dance happily.I was a little unsure of how I would like it. I was a child when the animated movie came out, and you know. Wondering if they would do it justice. But, I was pleasantly surprised. It mixed a bit of nostalgia, with a bit of new. It also gave a bit more depth to Belle, and her father, and I rather liked that. Worth watching. Worth owning.

 

REVIEW: THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)

Starring

Taron Egerton (Legend)
Anya Taylor-Joy (Glass)
Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones)
Donna Kimball (The Happytime Murders)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Eddie Izzard (Hannibal)
Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club)
Caitriona Balfe (Crush)
Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Harris Dickinson (The Darkest Minds)
Shazad Latif (Star Trek: Discovery)
Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle)
Alicia Vikander (Tomb Raider)
Hannah John-Kamen (Ant-Man and The Wasp)
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones)
Mark Strong (Shazam)
Theo James (Divergent)
Louise Gold (Muppets Most Wanted)
Jason Isaacs (Fury)
Simon Pegg (The Boys)
Awkwafina (Ocean’s 8)
Bendedict Wong (Doctor Strange)
Harvey Fierstein (The Simpsons)
Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Ralph Ineson (Ready Player One)
Alice Dinnean (The Happytime Murders)
Keegan-Michael Key (Tomorrowland)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars_
Sigourney Weaver (Alien)
Bill Hader (Power Rangers)

Donna Kimball in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)The Dark Crystal is a tremendous filmmaking achievement that’s only a pretty good movie. A technical marvel, undoubtedly; definitive proof that film is a collaborative medium, and a formative experience for the devoted cult that saw it when they were young and have now passed it onto their children. But also a B-, B if you’re feeling generous. Like many other big-budget genre blockbusters flying in Star Wars’ contrails during the early 1980s—David Lynch’s Dune comes to mind—it puts a fully realized, authentically unearthly realm on the screen, and then fails to give that place much in the way of a narrative.The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)Another world, another time, in the age of Westeros: Netflix funds a return trip to Thra, winding the clock back to before the emergence of the heroic Jen and Kira, to an era when the elfin Gelfling and the monstrous Skeksis lived in tenuous (and, it turns out, entirely bogus) harmony. And a moment when the grand ambitions of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Brian and Wendy Froud, David Odell, and countless others are realized in The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance.Victor Yerrid in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)That original film is first and foremost a visual experience, and the imagery still takes precedence here: Age Of Resistance recreates Thra through further acts of practical-effects wizardry, a fantasia of forest glens, desert cliffs, underground caves, and castles both majestic and austere. The premiere episode leans into this (while also giving a good indication of the series’ pace) when it breaks from character introductions in order to send the camera corkscrewing through a glamour shot of the royal library favored by Gelfling princess Brea (Anya Taylor-Joy and Alice Dinnean—with a handful of exceptions, the principal performances are a collaboration between the puppeteers on screen and actors in the recording booth). With the elbow room of a potentially ongoing series, the writers—led by Will Matthews and Jeffrey Addiss (the duo who developed the series) and seasoned genre TV vet Javier Grillo-Marxuach—get deliberate with their opening chapters, luxuriating in palace intrigue amongst the Skeksis and the establishment of the seven fractious clans of Gelfling.The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)It’s dense going, until the outlines of the heroes’ journey snaps into focus, showing the intersecting quests of the curious noble Brea, disgraced guard Rian (Taron Egerton and Neil Sterenberg), and the compassionate subterranean-dwelling Deet (Nathalie Emmanuel and Beccy Henderson). It is not coincidental that Age Of Resistance hits its hot streak once these elements are in place—and after Deet acquires a sidekick: Hup (Victor Yerrid), one of The Dark Crystal’s diminutive and gibbering creatures known as Podlings. Hup has outsize chivalric aspirations, carries a spoon he calls a sword, and generally rules.Anya Taylor-Joy in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)Age Of Resistance improves on its big-screen source material by giving viewers protagonists who are worth a damn; even Egerton—whose most interesting star turns to date have been primarily interesting because they’re bolstered by the Elton John-Bernie Taupin songbook—is an improvement over The Dark Crystal’s ineffectual, underwritten Baggins stand-in, Jen. But there’s a taller hurdle to clear in the Gelfling’s humanoid appearances, which even four decades of technological advances can’t pull from the depths of the uncanny valley. (It comes down to the eyes: Deet, with saucer-sized pupils suited to underground living, looks far enough from human for this to ever be a problem.) The effectiveness of the Age Of Resistance illusion can vary depending on the number of Gelfling on screen and the varying degrees to which their faces are articulated—large group scenes and Gelfling-to-Gelfling conversations occasionally have a ring of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson to them.Nathalie Emmanuel in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)Thank heavens, then, for the Skeksis. A monument to the Frouds’ gnarly aesthetics and Henson’s lack of qualms about frightening the youngest members of his audience, the villains loom large over The Dark Crystal. In Age Of Resistance, they occupy a role akin to that of the Lannisters in Game Of Thrones: deeply out-of-touch aristocrats who believe power is their birthright, and whose extravagances and squabbles account for the series’ most amusing set-pieces. (In a playful casting choice, Cersei Lannister herself, Lena Headey, voices a Gelfling leader on the show.) They chance upon a fountain of youth when Thra’s all-powerful Crystal Of Truth sucks the life out of a Gelfling, leaving behind only her essence—which is discovered to have a rejuvenating effect. This corruption of the planet’s most precious resource coincides with the experiments the Skeksis Emperor (Jason Isaacs and Dave Chapman) conducts on a glowing, purple hole in the ground—a “darkening” that is both key to the series’ political subtexts and a regally hued thread in Age Of Resistance tapestry of mythological nonsense.Hannah John-Kamen and Taron Egerton in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)Here, as in later in The Dark Crystal’s chronology, the ugliness of the Skeksis’ deeds manifests physically: the craggy sculpting of the puppets’ faces, their combination of avian and reptilian features, as if situated on the evolutionary scale from velociraptor to plain old raptor. They’re treated to new textures and terrors in Age Of Resistance. Sequences depicting their indulgences in the seven deadly sins don’t stray too far from their cinematic predecessors, but the staging and satirical edge remain sharp. A spa treatment brusquely interrupted by the similarly lumpy crone Aughra (Donna Kimball and Kevin Clash) is one of the first season’s comedic highlights.Victor Yerrid, Nathalie Emmanuel, and Taron Egerton in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)The Skeksis’ role in Age Of Resistance is more encore than elaboration, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not like there’s been all that much change in the ruling class skewered by the Skeksis’ chomping, preening, condescending grotesquery. They’re perfect adversaries and an essential energy, which director Louis Letterier amps up in extreme close-ups and off-kilter camera angles. They’re creepy and campy, and the production lines up a murderers’ row of hams to handle their shrieks and whimpers: Simon Pegg, making a meal of the Chamberlain’s scheming murmurs; Mark Hamill, twisting his strangled Joker vocalizations into those of a mad Scientist; Harvey Fierstein, a choice so deliciously on the nose, it’s practically a part of the puppet’s face. Imperious turns from Isaacs and Benedict Wong make sure that the characters’ true, evil nature is never too far from mind.The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)The Skeksis play the hits, but they bring some newly goopy accessories and freshly terrifying rituals, too. Bubbling, oozing pustules dot the face of The Collector (Awkwafina and Helena Smee), and the second episodes culminates in a royal-chamber sequence primed to send a new generation ducking behind the couch. A fantastical ingenuity prevails throughout Age Of Resistance: With an eye toward portraying Thra as a fully natural world, Matthews, Addiss, Grillo-Marxuach and team devised Skeksis carriages that roll across the landscape on giant pillbug wheels and a secret message etched into the geological equivalent of an Edison cylinder. Frames burst with creatures familiar and unfamiliar—each of them charmingly, refreshingly tactile.Jason Isaacs in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)And this time around it’s in service of a satisfyingly told tale with resonant themes of truth and rebellion. Age Of Resistance is the best type of YA fantasy fiction, engrossing and escapist and full of hidden depths, ideal for viewers weaned on Harry Potter and The Legend Of Zelda but not quite ready for George R.R. Martin. There is a complexity at play, particularly in the arc of Seladon (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Helena Smee), Brea’s sister whose loyalties and worldview are tested as word of the Skeksis’ treachery spreads. There are mystical MacGuffins and blind storytelling alleys littered about, but they’re far outweighed by the intrepid thrust of the Gelfling uprising and every thought of “How did they pull that off?” For decades, bands of true believers have sung the song of Thra; now, thanks to Age Of Resistance, that melody carries with the strength, distance, and richness the Dark Crystal concept has always deserved.