April 21, 2017

Ghost In The Shell


April 21, 2017



April 21, 2017



January 19, 2017


Science is giving us more and more evidence to suggest that learning a new language can rewire your brain and change the way you think. More evidence, also, to suggest that it will help to delay the onset of certain afflictions such as Alzheimer's and dementia. So is it then possible, that through new forms of language, and new ways to think, one may be able to rewire their brain to perceive time and space differently?



Arrival follows linguist Louise Banks, a university lecturer, and expert in languages, as she helps the US government decipher an alien language, that belongs to strange heptapod beings who have landed on Earth in 12 ships positioned all around the globe. Their unique way of communicating, something science can not yet explain,  has confused the world's brightest minds. It is up to Louise to unlock the secrets to their language and discover the reasons why they have to come to our planet, before world leaders decide attack is the best form of defence.


Amy Adams plays the role of Louise, and I must say I found her performance detailed and engaging. She is often someone who goes under the radar, but now has a solid body of diverse work behind her (The Fighter, Doubt, American Hustle) including two Golden Globe wins, and multiple Academy Award nominations. I suspect without her in the film, the narrative may not have worked as well with its unique construction. Not only does Adams capture the profound qualities that make her character special, she brings an extreme awareness to crafting the emotional development of the character to fit a film that does not adhere to linear concepts.


Exploring notions of time and space, and how we perceive reality is an infinite source of fun for someone like myself. Arrival managed to do this in a really original way. It was the first time in a long time that I have seen a sci-fi and thought that the 'take' of the film makers was truly new. In this instance, I could apply the theories presented to real world ideas in the present on what it might take for Humans to evolve and transcend the trappings of our 3 dimensional world in the future. Whereas something like Interstellar is a confused melting pot of ideas not clearly presented, and relies on romantic notions of the connectivity of love through time and space (I am not opposed to romantic notions either by the way), Arrival relies less on the fanciful, and more on relatable science.


If I have one criticism of the film though, it is the predictability of the government and military characters which on occasion fall into cliches that lack some imagination and invention. I did not feel specific moments involving Heads of military, or heads of intelligence organisations were written as well as the rest of the film, which moderately undermines the rest of what we see. A small criticism, but those moments did take me out of being immersed in what I was watching. My suggestion would have been to allow that information to come from elsewhere and be implied, rather than feeling the need to show us the CIA, or show us scientists from around the world. Less is more.


Really though, it's no surprise that Arrival has lasted so long at the cinema comparatively to other films. It has a fantastic cast supporting Adams - (Forest Whitaker, Jeremy Renner), and is directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Blade Runner 2049) who ensures that the core story is clear and meaningful. I ended up seeing this movie twice, and I definitely enjoyed it more the second time around. There is a lot of detail in the film that requires your attention a little more in depth than most films if you are to really take away everything that the film has to offer. It is not your traditional blockbuster aliens come to Earth movie, so if you like a little more depth to your science fiction, and films that construct emotional journeys like a beautiful piece of music (the sound track is fantastic), then Arrival is for you.


Rating: Supersac plus Minisac


Rod @ Lovesac


January 14, 2017


What would you do if you were stuck in a spaceship traveling to a distant planet all by yourself? The voyage will last your entire life time, and all the other passengers are hibernating, safe and not ageing. You will most certainly die during your voyage.  Would you wake someone? 



Passengers is a new science fiction film directed by Morten Tildum, starring Jennifer Lawrence as Aurora Lane, and Chris Pratt as Jim Preston, two passengers on the Starship Avalon, transporting 5000 colonists to their new home and new lives on Homestead II. While passing through an asteroid field, the ship is damaged, causing Pratt’s hibernation pod to malfunction. It is a 120 year voyage, and he is woken up a full 90 years ahead of schedule. He can never go back to sleep.


Spending over a year in space by himself, Pratt considers ending it all before discovering Lawrence and her passenger file, a video diary of her describing who she is, her life back on Earth, and what she hopes for the future. Believing himself to be falling in love with her while she sleeps, Pratt is left with the moral question of whether or not to wake her up, condemning her to death in space, or to let her sleep and remain lonely and die? 


If you’ve seen the preview, then you would know that Pratt chooses to wake Lawrence, and not spend his life alone, whatever the consequences. This happens quite early on in the film, and consequently is not the big reveal of the story that unfolds. Largely passengers is a film that deals with human loneliness, our need for connection with others, and the discovery of purpose and meaning in life. The relationship between the two leads -  their search for meaning, and an appreciation for what it means to truly live is an interesting and relatively easy way for us an audience to draw parallels in our own lives about what it a fulfilling life might be.


But none of these interesting themes does anything to reduce the impact of a critical question; was Pratt's decision to wake Lawrence up right or wrong? I have read elsewhere people suggest that the act is unforgivable. He wakes her up, which is in effect sentencing her to death, therefore making the story hard to buy into. I understand this point of view, from our current world perspective, you have done the wrong thing, and any positive relationship experienced post this event is predicated on a lie (how many people do you know who are with people you think they shouldn't be with?). However, Passengers is not the real world. It is set in the vacuum of space, and we are forced to deal with moral questions in the face of a harsh environment and a stress we don't understand, a loneliness we will never experience, and a world where there is no discernible hope. Who am I to judge? Is it wrong, yes. But I have never been that desperate to have a reason to live.


Suggesting that there is no validity in the relationship has some merit, but like Plato's cave, we only know the world with which we are presented. It seems to me that Pratt's decision, while critical, is not the key question to be focused on. Rather it is the discovery of Pratt's lie that is the more critical moment to be dissected. Was the way Lawrence's character reacted believable, or enough? I can believe that someone would make a decision based on their own self interest like Pratt. What I find difficult to accept is the way the film deals with these revelations. It appears to me the use of action, an impending threat, is somehow used to solve the internal conflict for Lawrence's character after learning of Pratt's deception, rather than something more concrete and human, which would genuinely explore the consequences for such actions.


The film is visually engaging with the internal structures of the ship, and is quite detailed regarding the state of humanity and technological development. I would say that the 'outside the ship' sequences are largely underwhelming, except in moments where the shots are tighter on a character standing on the edge of the Starship. Shots out into space are somewhat unbelievable, and don’t do a lot regarding the enormity of the expanse one might look out into when looking into space. I wanted to feel more of the sensation of what would draw a person to that world, as opposed to standing on solid ground.


Michael Sheen provides a somewhat interesting comic come semi serious relief as an android bar tender named Arthur, and it is through his eyes that perhaps we get the best insights into the moral consequences for the decisions we make in our lives. It is far from a dull performance, I will say that. I only wish he wouldn’t use so many affectations in his voice when delivering lines of emphasis. When he is simple in his delivery, Sheen can be commanding. He doesn't need to layer on details that are superfluous.


Pratt and Lawrence are not spectacular in the film, rather, very serviceable. Both show range, but the script does not lend itself to exploring too much of the dramatic possibilities. Every time I thought the film would really delve into the human experience, we were gifted a montage, or a typical gear shift with some kind of obstacle that requires immediate attention. It left me unfulfilled. Both are very quick witted actors, with a flare for either comedy or moments that are larger than life. But both have a depth to them, which is so often rarely prodded out in any meaningful way. Directors need to do more.


Overall I found the ethical and moral themes presented by the film very interesting, and it certainly has given me a lot to think about. However, too often the potential for depth is overlooked for the sake of action. I would very much enjoy it if science fiction film makers took a leaf out of Steve McQueen's book in the film Hunger, and just let the camera sit on actors for longer periods of time without feeling the need to have 20 different edit points. Less is more. 


Rating: Moviesac


Rod @ Lovesac 


August 11, 2016

Star Trek: Beyond

These are the voyages of the Star Ship Enterprise... Ok, you get the picture, I love Star Trek. So it was with great anticipation that I went along to watch the latest installment Star Trek: Beyond, hoping for another positive experience in this universe.

The previous two films directed by JJ Abrams were not only entertaining, they were also moving, making them, in my opinion, of substantial quality. Unfortunately, I walked away from this film feeling like it was contrived, with a somewhat tired script, which lacked the same quality of substance we had seen previously. I still enjoyed it, but they were phoning it in.

The 3rd Installment is directed by Justin Lin, of Fast and The Furious fame. If you're a fan of the TV Show 'Community' he directed 3 pretty terrific episodes, which you can go and find yourself. I recommend using Google.  Lin, along with screenwriter Simon Pegg, begin the film a little under 3 years into the deep space mission being undertaken by The Enterprise and her crew. Time has passed, and life seems to be getting a little monotonous, as it can from time to time.

Stopping at the largest space station in existence, and on the edge of the frontier, 'York Town', some down time for Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) leads to some reflection on whether this is, indeed, something that they wish to continue. Are they doing what they should be doing with their lives? The reflection doesn't last long, however, when the Enterprise is tasked to help rescue the crew of a ship, stranded on a planet on the other side of an uncharted nebula. Uncharted space. Without hesitation, the Enterprise heads out into the 'Beyond' and so the real story begins.

If you like grand concepts, such as being filled with joy at the possibility of life having greater meaning by venturing further out into the cosmos, then you will like this film. I did like this film for that reason, and the contemplative nature with which it considers our place as individuals in the great scheme of things. But from a dramatic stand point, the film is largely underwhelming. Turning points for character and story are either under explored, or extremely predictable. The only surprising thing in the film, really, is where a device is hidden. It's simply not in the place that you think.

Our Villain, Krall (Idris Elba), suffers the worst of what the cliche riddled and predictable script has to offer. While he absolutely masters what he has available, he can't make it epic or truly evil, because he is constantly undermined by the ease with which things come to characters opposing him. Neither his motivations, nor what he does seem even remotely insurmountable after the first 3rd of the film has passed. His role is underwritten, as are many of the secondary characters. You cotton on very early to what is happening, and throw your hands in the air asking 'is this really the best story they could give us after Khan?'

That's not to blame the actor. And to a certain extent, I don't blame the director either. It is a slick and big action film, and I would let him helm the next one to see what he could do. What I wouldn't do, however, is let Simon Pegg near a Star Trek script again. His brilliance in the sphere of comedy is often writing and portraying morally flawed characters who find a way to become better human beings- which I thought a perfect fit. Unfortunately he seemed incapable of writing something more nuanced. Where the flaws in character are not just someone refusing to be a good Father, rather they are based on ideology, or temperament, or great character flaws involving ego, narcissism, or even Nihilism.

It dawned on me that he is so used to writing comedy where characters are always lovable, and never truly dirty or messy, or caught at their worst moment, that he didn't know or was unable to take his characters to places where they were truly unlikable, or had great conflict, or could even be believably angry at each other over something asinine. You cannot take a two dimensional view to science fiction writing and expect a gag, or one singular moment to justify your story or character growth. Science Fiction requires depth, very nuanced, and it is always- always- an allegory for the intellectual rigors and ideas we must wrestle with in society today. The depth of script is lacking so much it gives no credence to the actors doing any more than having an existential crisis on screen, which is interrupted and mildly inconvenienced by some alien. Everything is too easy, too convenient, and as much as I like Pegg, he has not challenged himself enough and produced a story equal to what the franchise has done to date.

That being said, I know I am being technically very critical. It is still an enjoyable film, and is worth seeing on the big screen to give you the full experience of space in the great beyond. Space at the frontier of new worlds. See it to be immersed in possibility, and connect it to our own current forays into our own solar system. You will definitely be entertained, find many parts of it highly amusing, and you will come away feeling like you have also seen something authentic to the Star Trek canon. It just lacks a dynamic story, idepth of emotion, and ultimately it is the lack of substance that undermines the grand vision of what the Beyond means for us all.

Rating: Pillowsac + Minisac

By Rod @ Lovesac

August 08, 2016

Stranger Things

I'm sure many of you have seen, or at least heard about the new Netflix original series 'Stranger Things'. It seems to be in the forefront of binge watching discussions all around social media, and, believe it or not, in person when people look up from their tablets or phones to actually have a conversation with you. I'm walkin here, I'm walkin here!

But I'm not having a go, I am, in fact, one of those people who you may have seen tweeting or posting on Facebook about this series, as not only did I love it, but I binge watched the hell out of it obsessively as if nothing else existed. And it didn't. Don't judge me, that's what binge watching is, a different life. Only the couch, the odd break for food or to go to the bathroom, and the show in question make up your routine. May not sound like much of a life, and you'd be right. Except you've watched the best show ever and it leaves you with all the feels possible that are good to feel in life.

Created by The Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things is a supernatural science fiction thriller, which is a throw back to everything that you loved about the 80's. It is set in that awesome of awesome periods, and is genre obsessed to great effect. Think Goonies, meets ET, with a little bit of Twilight Zone and Indiana Jones thrown in for good mix. It made you laugh, it made you scared, it made you pee your pants a little (oh and it made you cry).

Alright, so here's the plot for you taken straight from Wikipedia. Let's cut to the chase: "On November 6, 1983 in the suburban town of Hawkins, Indiana, 12-year-old Will Byers vanishes mysteriously. Will's mother, Joyce, becomes frantic and tries to find Will while Police Chief Jim Hopper begins investigating, and so do Will's friends: Dustin, Mike, and Lucas. The very next day, a psychokinetic girl knowing Will's whereabouts is found by the boys. As they uncover the truth, a sinister government agency tries to cover it up, while a more insidious force lurks just below the surface."

It's difficult for me to pinpoint my favourite part of the series, given how much I enjoyed watching it, but what definitely requires mentioning is the strength of the acting from the kids. Finn Wolfhard as Mike, Millie Bobbie Brown as El, and Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin, in particular, give brave, funny, honest, and down right compelling performances. None of the them are over the age of 13. It's a group that listens and cares for each other, and we really see these authentic friendships and relationships on the screen.

The kids are ably supported by David Harbour (The Newsroom) as Chief Jim Hopper, a depressed Sheriff with a mysterious past, and Winona Ryder (no introduction needed, I presume) as Joyce Byers, mother of Will Byers who has vanished without a trace. These two really help to establish credibility with the narrative, and give credence to the kids taking on such challenging roles which, essentially, drive the story forward.

And forward the story does go. It is a tight 8 episode first season, and although each episode hovers around the 40 or so minute mark, nothing feels wasted. It is very economical. More importantly, though, is how full the world of Stranger Things feels, you really don't sense how long it is because you're absorbed.

It gives you this melting pot of 80's goodies, and it is this specific homage to a genre that makes the show that much more admirable. It's no coincidence either that Ryder was cast, or that someone like Matthew Modine was cast- both having started their careers in iconic 80's films such as Beetlejuice, Married to the Mob, and Full Metal Jacket. It's like the creators gave a little tip of the hat to a decade which spawned so much iconic work.

So...this series does not suck. Not at all. I enjoyed it enough to say that it will definitely get another watch very shortly. Yes, I loved it so much that I can't be bothered talking about the things I didn't like. Fair warning though, it does tend to have some thrilling and scary moments, which is why it has a PG-13 rating, but on the whole, most kids 12 and up will enjoy the series.

Rating: Supersac + Minisac

Rod @ Lovesac

June 01, 2016

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Director: Taika Waititi

Starring: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata

Based on Barry Crump's book 'Wild Pork and Watercress', Hunt for the Wilderpeople is yet another moving, unique film to come out of New Zealand, and another notch in the belt of success for director Taika Waititi, following cult hits 'What we do in the Shadows', and 'Boy.'

The film follows the story of Ricky Baker, an unstable and somewhat precocious young boy, in and out of foster care his whole life, who ends up finding a home with Bella (Te Wiata) and 'Uncle' Hector (Neill) on their farm out in the New Zealand bush. Although he threatens to run away, Ricky starts to develop a sense of belonging, which is further enhanced when he and Uncle Hector get stuck in the bush together trying to avoid the authorities that follow them. If they are to survive, the two of them must grow, and strike up an unlikely bond of friendship.

Julian Denison as Ricky Baker is the star of the movie, not only because he is the protagonist and a child actor, but because he is utterly fearless in delivering a warm, intelligent, and extremely funny performance. Taika should be commended for his excellent and deft direction, because while extremely funny, the story is full of very complex and nuanced emotions, and challenges our notion of taste, often pushing boundaries. To get such a young person to convey these complexities in a film is quite something.

My major criticism of the film is the lack of depth in some of the peripheral characters, in particular Rhys Darby. Darby (Flight of the Conchords, What we do in the Shadows, Yes Man) is one of the more funny and intelligent people I've had the pleasure of watching over the years, but unfortunately his turn as 'Psycho Sam' a conspiracy theorist gone bush to escape the government, falls a bit flat. There is a richness to a lot of the performances in the film, but while Darby was certainly zany, it felt forced and I didn't really believe the character needed to be there. 

However, this is ultimately one of the more enjoyable experiences I've had at the cinema in recent times. Movies such as Hunt for the Wilderpeople do far more to connect us to the world around us, and the people within it, than any Hollywood blockbuster, or big film with a huge celebrity in it. This film has heart, is creative, has empathy, and is relevant. You can find friendship, and a purpose, in the most unlikely of places if you are open to change, and being connected in this way helps us to move on from whatever might have happened in our past to feel whole, dynamic, and loving in the present.

Rating: Supersac

By Rod @ Lovesac

May 19, 2016

The Magicians Season 1

Produced by: McNamara Moving Company, Man Sewing Dinosaur, Groundswell Productions, Universal Cable Productions

Original Network: SyFy

Based on the books by Lev Grossman

Starring: Jason Ralph, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Stella Maeve, Hale Appleman, Summer Bishil, Arjun Gupta


There are plenty of reasons to geek out about this show, and no, I have never read the books. This is not a Harry Potter fandom moment. I tend to look at things through a different lens, and generally that lens is dissecting 'stuff' (maybe too critically as my Mother would say) without being surprised by much. So it was refreshing to get my obsessive binge watch on after finding the show 'The Magicians', which presented me with fresh new faces, thematic boldness, and a hint of sarcasm and wit to let me know that this was a clever show, despite some limitations regarding the budget.

Based on the best selling books written by Lev Grossman, The Magicians centres around Quentin Coldwater, an intelligent, but painfully needy and unsure young man, who is accepted to study at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy. Realising the world of magic is real opens Quentin up to new possibilities, as does discovering that the world from his favourite books 'Fillory and Further' is also real, but with a catch... In Fillory there lives a Villain known as The Beast who not only poses a threat to Brakebills, but the whole world.

Quentin Coldwater is played by relative unknown Jason Ralph, who captures the voice and mannerisms of the socially awkward and over thinkers to a tee. He is delightfully frustrating being his own worst enemy and greatest obstacle in life. Ralph brings a nuanced and subtle performance to the role, containing his humour to reflect the dynamic of the group of characters that Coldwater associates with. It is clever, rather than cool. Pitched very evenly.

Olivia Taylor Dudley is excellent as the equally awkward and socially inexperienced Alice. Again, there is a subtlety to her performance. She isolates specific moments through the season, which illuminate the various hang ups the character has which have eroded her confidence and self esteem. Yet somehow through all this, she retains an ability to actually keep going, which is at first fueled by searching for the truth about what happened to her brother, but is eventually filled with the realisation that she has worth, and is powerful.

Arjun Gupta as Penny, a sarcastic, somewhat aggressive magician, with the ability to travel anywhere he wants, steals a lot of  the scenes he is in with what is largely a special performance. Such a joy to watch. As is Hale Appleman as Eliot, and Summer Bishil as Margo, who function as the marvellous and wonderfully corrupt odd-not-so odd couple who are always scheming or cooking up something. Despite all 3 of these characters having quirks, or masks which we love- they really are just a front, a false face which belies true depth and pain which they need to resolve as time goes on. They all have a little pain behind their eyes.

Stella Maeve as Julia, and Jade Tailor round out the principle cast in what are strong and emotionally complex roles. Maeve gives us an insight into how far an individual can fall when addicted to something, in this case magic, while Tailor carries the weight of the world on her shoulders trying to hide her past. Both characters function as outsiders of sorts, struggling to find acceptance, and to accept themselves. They have a particularly tough job in the story, as they spend a lot of time in the real world outside of Brakebills, but their story arcs work extremely well. Their commitments shines through.

Rick Worthy, who plays the dean of Brakebills, also played Cylon #4 Simon in Battlestar Gallactica, while Amanda Tapping of Stargate SG1 steps up to the plate as a director on the series. When i saw these two were involved, my inner geek went to Level Pi to the 100th decimal. And aside from my joy at seeing these names again, it became apparent to me that SyFy had assembled a quality ensemble of people, with big hearts and large imaginations.

This is a story full of magic, about magic, which questions our own inhibitions about fulfilling our potential. What is the magic that we all possess inside to be the best version of ourselves? Will we get there? Will we be corrupted along the way? The show does suffer from slightly under developed moments, and acknowledges its lack of budget with humourous nods to the audience "we know, we know"- but all of that aside- it is secondary to the magic they have captured as a group to make something extremely watchable.

And I'm going to keep watching The Magicians when season 2 comes out, because as an ensemble of creatives they deserve an audience. I readily admit that shows involving magic won't be for everyone, but this series is more than that, and serves as a great contemporary allegory for personal growth. Ironic. Sarcastic. Witty. Clever. They are not afraid to explore complex themes, and there is always something at stake. I recommend giving it a try.

Rating: Supersac

Written by Rod @ Lovesac

 [Ratings are based out of our 7 sizes of Lovesac: Kidsac, Gamesac, Playersac, Pillowsac, Moviesac, Supersac, BigOne.  The bigger the Lovesac - the more we love the film.  Accessories are used as markers in between sizes/ratings: Tubesac 1/4, Cubesac 1/2, Minisac 3/4. ] 


May 05, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

Directors: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johannson, Paul Bettany, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, Sebastian Stan, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Daniel Bruhl, Tom Holland, Emily VanCamp, Chadwick Boseman, William Hurt, Frank Grillo, Don Cheadle, Martin Freeman


After a series of international incidents with civilian casualties, 117 Countries sign the Sokovia accords, designed to keep a tighter reign on the activities of Superheroes around the world. While Tony Stark (Iron Man) agrees that all super heroes must sign up to these accords and be subject to oversight and limitations, Steve Rogers (Captain America) believes signing away certain rights and civil liberties, no matter what the intention, will start them off down a very dangerous path. And so begins a new kind of civil war.

The Marvel movie franchise can be very hit and miss for me, a number of times I have walked away from films disappointed, but I have always enjoyed the Captain America series, in particular enjoying its dramatic qualities and deeper, more relevant story lines. Civil War is no exception, and is easily the best comic book movie I have seen to date. More importantly though, it is a great film.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t moments where something is too convenient, or a line is, perhaps, too cheesy- I can even think of one jolting moment when the timelines for two different characters talking to each other seem way out of whack. However, these moments are few and far between, and what we see unfold is generally a clever tale detailing the clear philosophical differences between people as they, ultimately, all try to do the right thing and keep the world safe. It's a case of people on opposing sides having valid points to make about the way something should be done, but staying in conflict none the less. Hence the marketing slogan "whose side are you on?"

The world of Captain America achieves a very tangible sense of reality. Anthony and Joe Russo have directed the actors very well, keeping them grounded in their performances, which allows the drama to unfold nicely, and for humour to have its desired effect when it should. As an audience member I can really connect with how they present the Captain America (Chris Evans) storyline, and his desire to do the right thing- in this instance, to protect his friend, former villain Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) aka The Winter Soldier. There always seems to be a sense of clarity and purpose in the Captain America films that is missing in a lot of the other franchise movies.

Civil War also uses multiple super heroes in this film to great effect, and in greater numbers than the Avengers movies. I would even go as far to say that this film is a superior film to the Avengers, and at no time did I feel a character was given screen time because it was written into the actors contract somewhere. Characters such as Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) make their debut in this film, and it is done in such a way so as to make complete sense and contribute to the story, nothing felt like a token add on.

There is a pathos to this movie which really drew me in, kept me attentive, and it is largely driven by the effortless nature of the performance given by Chris Evans as Captain America. His choices are simple and effective, and it is his assuredness and self belief as Cap in the face of circumstances where someone of lesser character might capitulate that I really connect with, am inspired by, and find myself barracking for throughout the film.

Civil War is gripping in a way the Avengers should have been, Cap finally explores love, and all in all we are taken on a thrilling, action filled ride. 

Rating: Supersac

Rod @ Lovesac