The Gene Generation – Science Fiction Film Review

The Gene GenerationA very enjoyable cyberpunk action thriller. Despite often murky photography and less than convincing CGI, the storyline provides an interesting set of characters and a fair amount of heart that works together to provide a satisfying little film that is fairly well handled by first-time director from Singapore, Pearry Teo (who went on to write a neat comic book series based on the concept, DNA Hacker Chronicles).

Bai Ling is very good and holds the film together as the leather-clad assassin in a future age in which DNA is sold – and hacked – to forge identities, leaving the former persons lifeless and mutated. Squidlike tendrils abound in these mutated forms, which make for some interesting effects moments.

The rest of the cast is serviceable, with Alec Newman, as the local fugitive DNA hacker-scientist with whom Ling has an intimate association, and Parry Shen as Ling’s out of control narcissistic gambler brother, whose careless escapades predicate most of the bad stuff that happens to Ling.

The film builds an effective futuristic environment, borrowing liberally from BLADE RUNNER, MAD MAX, and other science fiction visual landmarks, while creating its own unique post-modern landscape (most effectively revealed at the final tracking shot that closes the film and gives the story a whole different twist).

THE GENE GENERATION is greatly aided by an excellent musical score by Scott Glasgow (TOXIC, BONE DRY), which provides a great sense of size and scope and expansiveness through massive chords of sampled orchestra and choir, offset with ethnic instruments and vocals associated with Bai Ling’s character. The score also emphasizes the underlying intimacy and emotional attachment sought by the characters, especially the pathos embodied in Bai Ling’s character, Michelle. A fun movie.

Bai Ling
Bai Ling

THE GENE GENERATION (2008). Directed by Pearr Reginald Teo. Written by Keith Collea, from the comic by Pearry Reginald Teo. Cast: Bai Ling, Alec Newman, Shen Parry, Faye Dunaway, Ethan Cohn, Robert David Hall, Michael Shamus Wiles.

Blade Runner (1982) – Science Fiction Film Review

EDITOR’S NOTE: If ever there were a film on which Cinefantastique missed the boat, it was BLADE RUNNER. Sure, the film received cover-story treatment in the special July-August 1982 double issue (Volume 12:5 and 12:6), including two capsule reviews that were mostly positive; however, when it came time for a full-length review in the next issue (13:1), the attitude turned dismissive. Over the next decade, the film’s reputation grew, leading to the 1992 theatrical release of the so-called Director’s Cut, at which time the magazine printed a revised review. With the new DVD release today of BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT, we present Cinefantastique’s original reaction to the film.

Ridley Scott must learn that films can’t live by design alone

Review by Jordan R. Fox

“There are certain moments in movies where the background can be as important as the actor,” proclaims director Ridley Scott. “The design of a film is the script.” Scott is a supreme visual stylist with a gift for design unequalled among contemporary directors, but he’s wrong. Design is a vital element, especially if the audience is to accept anyone’s physically imposing vision of the future, but staggering technical virtuosity – in and of itself – can never replace character and story values. And this realization points out Scott’s fatal flaw. Read More

The Matrix (1999) – Science Fiction Film Review

The surprise sleeper success of 1999, this ingenious science fiction thriller easily surpassed THE PHANTOM MENACE in imagination, action, acting, and effects – if not in box office. It also spawned two action-packed sequels that, unfortunately, illustrated the law of diminishing returns, as what once seemed fresh and original quickly decayed into repetitious formula.
Excellence can be easier to acknowledge than it is to explain, which is why writing favorable reviews can be more difficult than writing negative ones: a list of virtues is a harder to identify than a laundry list of faults. In the case of THE MATRIX, the film is filled with what sounds like a laundry list of typically brainless big-budget Hollywood excesses: a cyberpunk, virtual reality storyline; an ear-shattering soundtrack; numerous fight and chase scenes; and enough gunfire to turn a building into the concrete equivalent of Swiss cheese. Yet, somehow, these elements coalesce into a film that is much more than just another Joe Silver science-fiction free-for-all (a la DEMOLITION MAN). The Wachowski Brothers have actually written and directed a densely plotted, intriguing tale that reuses familiar material without ever surrendering to hackneyed clichés. Read More

Ghost in the Shell (1995) – Anime Film Review

Existential angst in the form of cyberpunk anime from Japan. A form of artificial intelligence has become self aware, and now it`s seeking a way to escape from cyberspace into the real world. Ironically, the special forces tracking it down are formerly human beings whose bodies and brains have been so enhanced with modern technology that it`s hard to say how much of their humanity is left. The film explores weighty issues like: What is identity? Can artificial intelligence have a soul? Consequently, it often feels closer in spirit to an art house film than to a typical science fiction thriller, despite the great action scenes. Unfortunately, the story occasionally sags under the weight of its philosophical speculation. Nevertheless, this is an exciting effort, with an interesting premise, a strong plot, and involving characters. It ranks among the best animated features ever from Japan, easily on par with the best that live-action science fiction has to offer. Read More