Month: March 2014

The Machine: review

The Machine is a British indie sci-fi movie, first screened last year before its general release in 2014.  Set in the near future, the West is in the midst of a new cold war with China that has sent the world into economic depression.  Technology is leading the race for military innovation and advantage and this is the heart of the film.  Vincent (Toby Stephens) is a robotics scientist working for the British Ministry of Defence (MoD), striving to create the first self-aware robot, but not necessarily for military gain: he has a young daughter with a degenerative muscle disease meaning she will eventually die.  Whilst testing new programming, a new scientist Ava (Caity Lotz) proves to have a breakthrough and is offered the chance to work with Vincent.

The dark secrets inside the military base are revealed little by little as we see Vincent’s experiments (wounded / brain-dead soldiers from the conflict) having their “consciousness” examined.  Unable to show themselves as intelligent, they become confused and violent before being killed.  Leading the mission for the self-aware machine is Thomson (Denis Lawson), who shows little remorse or compassion for anything at all: soldiers who are missing in action and then experimented on are effectively “disappeared”, kept hidden from their own families.  Somewhat disturbingly, most of the soldiers at the base are themselves failed robotics experiments: intelligent enough to follow orders to the letter, but without the ability to communicate with their human masters.

As Ava starts work in the base and programming with her software begins, her curiosity grows and she sees the experiments for the cruel that they are.  After being spied on by Thomson, Ava is “killed” but brought back to life using her own programming.  Vincent, trying to cope with his daughter’s condition sees that she could hold the future, not just for advanced robots but as a way of preserving his daughter – in a pretty weird way.  But the movie really leaps forward on many levels from this point, with Thomson truly showing his colours:  weaponising Ava and controlling and manipulating her emotions for his and the military’s ultimately nefarious aims.  However Thomson, realising the danger that Ava poses, Vincent is asked to remove her conscious.  Tricking Thomson by removing an irrelevant piece of hardware, Vincent sets his course against the military and with the help of Ava and the other robots, escapes from the base to live with Ava and the new version of his daughter.

There is a lot going on in The Machine. All of the above takes place in 91 minutes and if not answered, seeks to question what humanity is, what it is for, what love is, what being human is and how we as the human race must face this inevitable future reality. There are shades of both Blade Runner and Metropolis – drawing on those films’ own questions about the human mind, controlling robots and where the dividing line between man and machine is drawn. How intelligent are we as a species and how easily is this replicated in robots?  This film takes Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics and elaborates on them, engaging its audience.

I thought this film was brilliant and for one that I believe to be shot on a small budget. It thoroughly deserves its place among the best of British sci-fi films. Scenes inside the base are perfectly dark and dreary and those in the outside world, lit far more positively. Toby Stevens plays the burdened, frustrated scientist with a weariness and exasperation I could really relate to. I think Caity Lotz does steal the show though. Convincing as a brainbox but even more so as a robot and bringing exactly the right level of humanity required, to the role. The film was apparently shot in Wales on a very low budget and whilst I wouldn’t say that this is obvious or noticeable, it does make sense when you see how sparse the sets are and how they’ve been used and filmed.  It quite rightly won the Raindance Festival Best UK film in 2013.

Unusually for me, I thought The Machine was too short – another 15 minutes or so would have, I felt, given more substance to the wider global context of the robotics arms race and revealed more about Denis Lawson’s character, Thomson. It could also have served to give us more about the relationship between Vincent and Ava. Not to detract from a really great film though. The Machine is well worth watching on the big screen while you can. And if you can’t catch it in cinemas, then definitely watch it in one go, without ads otherwise all the intrigue and ambiguity will be lost. As brightly lit as the final scene is, there is something deeply dark being shown here.  A coldly beautiful movie and incredibly thought provoking.

In cinemas right now – here’s the trailer to enjoy.


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Hercules Teaser: The Rock Roars!

Since I follow the Rock on twitter (who knows when he might hint at another super secret military intervention before the president of the US) we have been seeing his dedicated transformation to become the mythical superhero Hercules.

Directed by Brett Ratner (he who is hated so much by the geek community) and focussing on the Thracian Wars, unlike Renny Harlin’s Legend Of Hercules (releasing to much less fan fare this friday in the UK) which was much more a prequel to the godly character.

The Rock is awesome even if he looks quite silly with a lion’s head on his head, but I’d watch pretty much anything with the man in it.

This is a short teaser but I’m sure we’ll be hearing and seeing quite a bit more around the July 25th when the movie hits our shores.

Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures’ film HERCULES, starring Dwayne Johnson, bows on July 25. Based on Radical Comics’ ‘Hercules,’ this ensemble-action film, featuring an international cast, is a revisionist take on the classic myth set in a grounded world where the supernatural does not exist. HERCULES also stars Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes, Peter Mullan and John Hurt.



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300 Rise of an Empire Review Upodcast

Almost a decade after dining in hell, we revisit the CGI vision of ancient Greece set through the eyes of Zach Snyder and Frank Miller. Ad Film maker, Noam Murro takes over the directing reigns with returning cast members Rodrigo Santoro, Lena Headley and David Wenham together with new additions Sullivan Stapleton and Eva Green.

Were they able to recreate the CGI magic? Or should this sequel have found a better home on DVD?

The Box office suggest otherwise with respectable 147M (and counting at the box office). We break it down for you in this episode of Upodcast.

Listen/Stream/Download below or subscribe to iTunes to never miss a beat.

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Leave the World Behind Review

Breaking up is never easy, and saying sorry can sometimes be just as tough – so it seems for Swedish House Mafia in Leave the World Behind, the new film from Christian Larson which documents the trio’s final million-ticket-selling world tour.

It begins with show number one of fifty – the lights come up, tens of thousands of people are screaming, arms up and open wide. The words flash up on a giant screen We Come, We Rave, We Love. A curtain the size of the Vancouver Dam falls from the stage to reveal Axel ‘Axewell’ Hedfors, Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angelio a.k.a Swedish House Mafia. The beats erupt, the arena explodes into an all out assault on the senses, and for several minutes, you feel you are part of it; that you’re sharing that experience with those who were really there. There’s no doubt about it, Swedish House Mafia are a musical force to be reckoned with. Or sadly, ‘were’ a force to be reckoned with, because this is there last ever tour and the last time these adoring beat-seekers will see their heroes perform on stage together. But why?

Is it down to all the regular clichés? The drugs? The personality clashes? Too many T.V.’s out of too many hotel windows? The problem is, I’m still not sure, and I don’t think they are either.

Leave the World Behind conveys a band in a constant state of frustration and disarray. They don’t hate each other, but are downright scared that they might start hating each other. The fans don’t want them to break up, and at times, they don’t particularly want to break up either, but something has become amiss between three guys who started out as just three friends out to spend every night on stage as if it were their last. The good times clearly can’t last forever. Things change and of course, people do too.

Larson tries to show us these changes. From party people to family men, some differences a clear, but these are in contradiction to other things we see; leaving the family to work on material, only for the interest of certain members seeming to waiver. There’s an elephant in the room, but this is a band hell bent on partying around it as opposed to blasting it away with those massive beats. The anger and frustration of three friends growing apart but still tied together by the most wonderful thing they have created is clear and yet no-one seems to have the guts to just come out and speak about it. Perhaps that’s just human nature and in real life, some questions will always go unanswered, especially when friendship is on the line. Although it seems Swedish House Mafia would be in a far better place if they were just honest and communicated properly with each other.

Larson gives us real insight into what made this trio such a giant in contemporary music and how their songs touched millions of fans. He also manages to show us the other side of being in a band with friends, and although this is by no means new territory to cover, it’s still a sad sight to see these guys drifting apart and completely unsure what to do about it except push the eject button. In the end, they sign off as a band that went out on top. A brave decision, but in light of Leave the World Behind, perhaps one made of less heroic choices. If you can’t confide in your friends, who can you confide in?

Leave The World Behind hits selected theaters in March.

Paul Mcghie is an Award-Winning Screenwriter, Director, London Lift-Off Film Festival Judge and git. You can check out his feature project here. His work is on Vimeo or you can follow him on twitter @DirPaulMcGhie


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Gulaab Gang Review Upodcast

Gulaab Gang released last friday and provides the unique pairing of Bollywood screen Godesses Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla squaring off against each other.

Released in a very crowded weekend of 2 other releases (Queen and Total Siyapaa) but pushed by a massive Marketing and PR push, Gulaab Gang has performed below most people’s expectations.

This episode we chat with Anisha Jhaveri, about why that happened? If actresses of the 90’s have the skill set required to pick the right projects? Or was it a case of director Soumik Sen taking too much on for his debut feature.

You can check out Anisha’s write up on PopXo by clicking here.

Listen/Download/ Stream our Upodcast below, Or subscribe to our stream in iTunes and never miss a beat!

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Sin City: A Dame To Kill For Trailer

It’s been 9 years since the last Sin City and the sequel has pretty much been talked about since that day. Co-Directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller bring together an amazing cast with some returning faces.

Here is the poster and trailer:

From the Press Release:

“Sin City” graphic novels back to the screen in SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR. Weaving together two of Miller’s classic stories with new tales, the town’s most hard boiled citizens cross paths with some of its more reviled inhabitants”

The first movie was groundbreaking but will it be able to do the same after almost a decade? The trailer seems to be more of the same visual style and noir elements, so let’s see!

Sin City: A Dame To Kill for releases on august 22, 2014.