Away (Netflix 2020)

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There is much buzz about the Internet and multiple reviews on this new show. People are hankering to lift off from the planet earth and watch an inspiring Sci-Fi series to get their mind off of earthly riots and pandemic. Well, as most reviews you will read, this new series isn’t going to lift you off very far. Instead, it’s going to keep you grounded in earthly soap opera antics and introduce you to a dysfunctional spaceship crew that can’t quite get it together until the end.

I will be frank with you. I watched the first three episodes and then skipped to the last episode, leaving behind a few unseen. The short synopsis of the the ones I missed filled in the blanks enough for me to try and reach a climatic ending of a Mars walk.

I have no complaint with Hilary Swank. She is a fine actress who has her share of awards. As she plays, Emma, the commander of the mission, her story is more grounded in earthly problems with her husband having a stroke and leaving behind her teenage daughter for three years while she sets off to Mars and the unknown. In space, she can’t quite get the support of the crew she is supposed to lead.

The rest of the crew, who are all from different countries, can’t seem to get it together as a team. There is backbiting, complaining, no trust in their commander, and the same old crap we deal with on earth is flown off toward Mars.

The spaceship has more problems than a car with 100,000 miles on it, creating small crises along the way that need fixing or else the mission is doomed. For some reason, you don’t quite feel that being doomed is all that bad, when five people can’t work together for a common goal.

Then there are the technical problems that some people are ranting about in reviews. Frankly, I was quite surprised, too, that talking on a cell phone from a spaceship far beyond the moon was possible. The reception is better than what we get on earth.

If you are looking for a cool science fiction series, you will be disappointed. If you’re looking for the same old earth-antics, coworker angst, and family problems played out in outer space, this one is for you. The only good scenes were when they landed on Mars after the eight-month voyage (and yes, they make it), taking another giant leap for mankind but not for television.

Archive (Movie 2020)

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Now streaming on Amazon, a newly released movie you can rent for $6.99 since you cannot see it in the theatre (thanks to Covid19). The only reason I tuned into this science fiction fantasy flick was to see Theo James, having gone gaga over him in Sanditon, wearing a cravat.

I usually like robot movies, and there have been a few good ones over the years. The most recent Humans (3 seasons); Short Circuit; I, Robot; Wall-E; Bicentennial Man (some of my favs), and if you need a list try this article, “The 100 Greatest Movie Robots of All Times.”  Well, Archive has your robots, with a semi-familiar trope of dying and you’re “consciousness” being downloaded onto a computer chip.  It’s been done in a few other movies, with the hopes of immortality.

Archive is just that. A person dies and their conscious essence is transferred into a machine whereby the family can continue to communicate with the dead person for a period of time.  Apparently, this version of transfer has a shelf life. Eventually it fades, and you still are forced to say your final goodbye.

Meet George Almore, played by Theo James, the computer robot-maker geek, who has his wife’s archive in a black box. He works for a company that makes robots, so why not use the tools he has to develop one that can house his dead wife eternally. He has made two versions already, each growing only so far, taking on a life of their own.  One has the mental capacity of a five-year-old and the other a teenager.  Now on version number three, she is more life-like, fully conscious, and he’s the happy camper to have her return. He gives her a humanoid body, clothing, hair, and he’s dancing around the complex with the reincarnation. Frankly, it would have been a lot better for the guy to go through the stages of grief and get over it rather than go through everything he has to try and recreate his wife.

Theo James has very little action with anyone breathing in this movie.  It’s definitely played out in the future, with high tech. He is held up in the mountains of Japan in a secure facility doing these things all alone, with his two first versions as companionship. He interacts with them in a loving fashion, because after all that have an itsy-bitsy part of his dead wife but they are not the full capacity he wishes. You will see clips of flashbacks of his former life with his wife and how she dies in a car crash.

Sound is a bit iffy in this movie, and trying to understand the robots with their tin-like voices can be a chore. There is a bit of mystery surrounding the security system that is always down, his ranting boss who comes on video chat, and a strange visit by the Archive people to check on the black box.

It’s the ending that will gobsmack you, and frankly, I didn’t see it coming until he picks up that receiver and he hears a certain voice. SPOILER ALERT: Think of the ending as a mix of the Sixth Sense and the Matrix.

Well, the movie is okay. Nothing for me to rant about. I’m not blown away by it. I should give it a three for Theo’s good looks, but the popcorn was pretty plain and the tropes recycled.


Arrival (Movie 2016)

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When I woke up this morning, I didn’t want to think about much of anything.  I just wanted to go to the show and do one thing – forget about the post-presidential election insanity.

So I picked Arrival to help solve my doldrums, and now as I sit here writing about the movie, my brain hurts.  As I said, I didn’t want to THINK!  If you’re going to see this movie, don’t bring your 3-D glasses, bring your thinking cap because you’re going to need it.

Arrival means they arrived.  You know, those aliens we’ve been waiting for since H. G. Wells wrote War of the Worlds. After twelve strange crafts position themselves around the world in various countries, the one question looms in the minds of everyone.  What is your purpose coming to planet earth? Of course in order to ask that question, the two parties need to communicate. Have they arrived to help, visit, or destroy the human race?

If you’re looking for action, stay home.  If you’re looking for a somber, as well sometimes depressing flick, this is for you.

Enter Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams. Louise is a linguistic specialist. The movie begins (after nine – count them nine – I kid you not – movie trailers) on a depressing note of death, with her beautiful young daughter dying at an early age.  Louise can barely function through her grief until the arrival of spaceships across the globe. Because she’s the best, the military seek her out to help communicate with the beings from another world.

The story is slow, and the sun barely shines in any shot. In fact it’s very gray in tone and scenery, so you may need a  shot of Vitamin D afterward. There are multiple flash backs in the movie.  Be prepared to be hopping from past, present, and future.  Louise Banks never smiles, except when she reminisces about time with her daughter. In the here and now, though, she is focused on the beings in the ship and saying hello.

I have no idea who comes up with these interpretations of what aliens should look like. These are a bit like octopuses in their shape, which always makes me question their fine motor skills in order to build the technology they come up with in these films.  But who am I to judge if someone doesn’t have fingers or toes?

So why are they here?  Well, if I told you that it would spoil it for my readers.  All I can say is that it tries to bring to its audiences an emotional tale of life, loss, and the future.  It didn’t take me into a forgetful frame of mind about our current state of riots and unrest on planet earth since there were similar scenes of the world gone crazy.

I would have preferred to see some alien from the original The Day the Earth Stood Still arrive on earth and tell the humans to get their act together or else.  I feel like we need a good chewing out by an advanced race on about how we appear to the rest of the universe.  You’ll get none of that in the Arrival, so I’ll leave you with these thoughts to get my point across.