Hardwired

April 13, 2010

Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 2009

Directed by: Ernie Barbarash

Written by: Michael Hurst

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Moderate

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

Key Cast Members:

  • Luke Gibson: Cuba Gooding Jr.
  • Virgil Kirkhill: Val Kilmer
  • Hal: Michael Ironside
  • Punk Red: Tatiana Maslany
  • Punk Blue: Juan Riedinger
  • Keyboard: Chad Krowchuk
  • Rating: 4 out of 10

    Overview: I heard about this movie from the Columbia House DVD club, then bought it after reading the description. After doing some research about it and learning about it being released direct to home video, I got to watch it… and found out why it went direct to video. To take some of the best cyberpunk themes, add some major star-power, then squander it on what would have worked better as a television pilot episode only shows that cyberpunk still has Hollywood seeing $$$ despite recent failures like Repo Men.

     

    The Story:

    Hardwired Cityscape at Night

    Just a few years from now, corporations control and observe everything.

    Luke Gibson (Gooding) and his pregnant wife get involved in a car accident. She dies on the scene, and he is hospitalized with brain damage (amnesia) and no insurance. The Hope Corporation finances his brain operation, which involves a Psi-Comp implant on his visual lobe. He soon starts having hallucinations, which are commercials that only he can see and hear. But hackers manage to tap into the implant and give him messages which lead him to Keyboard, a former Hope employee turned hacker, who has information that can stop The Hope Corporation’s plans for the implants.

    Psi-Comp Implant

    Cyberpunk themes… they got ‘em. There’s little question about this being cyberpunk; It’s practically dripping with cy-punk themes throughout. The Psi-Comp implants can be used to control people, either with persistent commercials or a painful “fail-safe” that can blow your head off, depending on how Hope Co. feels about your finding out about the truth about them. The hackers try to free Luke from Hope’s control over him by using the implant themselves. Hope Co’s. cameras everywhere watching most everything that goes on. There’s even holographic projections of corporate brands above and on cityscapes and landmarks, owing to how corporations had bail out governments due to their failed bailouts. About the only thing missing would be the dystopic atmosphere, though through sound bytes from televisions indicate that the dystopia is financial.

     

    So what could (or did) possibly go wrong? With Hardwired’s abundance of cy-punk themes, it might be hard to imagine that this could not be the next Blade Runner. That might be the big problem: It’s trying to be the next Blade Runner. Not that aspiring to be such a classic is a bad thing, it’s just most cyberpunk movies lately are trying to be Blade Runner, and they try so hard that they ultimately fail to be even a good movie. Let’s try to make a good movie first, then you can try being Blade Runner. Best way to start is to actually do something with those themes. It’s obvious the makers seem to know about what cyberpunk is, but it’s also obvious they don’t know what to do with it all. Maybe they should hang out here for a while…

    Hardwire Cyberpunks

    Are you certain that the one on the left is Punk Blue and not Punk Green?

    Another problem is more “technical,” the operation scene when Luke gets the implant. Inside the operating room, Luke is sitting upright, but a scene through a security cam (assumed to be in the same O.R.) shows him lying down, face up, even though the doctor just finished drilling into the back of Luke’s neck. It’s not like every movie is one-hundred percent accurate, but such noticeable goofs early on can make the rest of the film less believable. Also, the hackers use the chip to send Luke information a la “augmented reality.” His eyes were not replaced with holographic projectors, so we should not be able to see the transmitted data in front of his face. Seeing that stuff as Luke sees it, first-person like, would have worked better.

     

    Conclusion: It’s hard to put Hardwired down because it has a great idea, but some bad implementations may have doomed it to direct-to-video hell and lack of reviews. The only other review called it “cheesy, seriously cheesy.” Plus, the ending practically begs “please let us become a franchise,” though it might serve better as a pilot for some futuristic TV series. Maybe.

    So much potential…

    Virgil Kirkhill (Val Kilmer)

    It looks like Bruce Willis now has some competition for the most WTF hairpiece.

    Looker

    March 5, 2007

    Movie Review By: Dan Swensen

    Year: 1981

    Directed by: Michael Crichton

    Written by: Michael Crichton

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

    Key Cast Members:

    • Larry Roberts: Albert Finney
    • Cindy Fairmont: Susan Dey
    • John Reston: James Coburn
    Rating: 5 out of 10


    Looker Screencap

    Uneven, satirical, and oddly prophetic in its own half-baked way, Michael Crichton’s 1981 film Looker takes place in a terrifying universe of glamour, dehumanization, corporate deception, and Susan Dey hooking up with Albert Finney.

     

    SFAM NOTE: We welcome new reviewer Dan Swensen, who also runs a terrific Sci-Fi blog called the Dimfuture.net. If others are interested in joining the review team, please post a message in the review forum.

     

    Overview: The year is 1981, and pudgy, befuddled plastic surgeon Larry Roberts (Finney) becomes involved in a mystery when one of his models, dissolved in tears, arrives in his office raving hysterically about mysterious people trying to kill her. Hours later, the model inexplicably falls from the window of her high-rise apartment, and evidence of foul play points to Roberts himself. Justifiably concerned, Roberts begins playing amateur detective, teaming up with his patient (the vapid and insecure Cindy Fairmont, played by Susan Dey) to find out what’s really happening to these models, who seem to be dying off in droves shortly after visiting Roberts’ office to be “perfected.”

    Mostly relying on the incompetence of the antagonists and the near-complete apathy of the cops, Roberts eventually tracks the clues back to a company called Digital Matrix, a computer graphics and advertising firm that specializes in creating digital replicas of top commercial models. While these models are given lucrative contracts in exchange for their digital likenesses, they seem to mysteriously die shortly thereafter, their handsome royalties left unpaid. It doesn’t take long for Roberts to figure out that Digital Matrix is duplicating these models, then killing them off, as their “digital doubles” will do their job better — and for free.

     

    Looker Screencap

     

    Machines and Misogyny: In an age where digital replacement and enhancement of actors is now extremely commonplace, Looker seems both surprisingly relevant and woefully dated at the same time. Penned in by Hollywood’s desire for complete perfection, the models of Looker fret over millimeter-sized flaws, consumed with self-loathing over even the slightest imperfection. As the story progresses, the audience finds this to be more than mere vanity — in Crichton’s world, Digital Matrix has reduced human behavior to a set of algorithms, able to determine (and manipulate) the focus of a viewer’s attention with ultimate precision to maximize product exposure and desire.

    Because these manipulations require inhuman accuracy, the models themselves soon become not only obsolete, but liabilities to the company. The theme of dehumanization — the models looked upon by the corporations, and themselves, not as human beings but commodities to be used up and thrown away — is very strong in the first half of the film, underlined by a casual misogyny that may or may not have been intentional (it was 1981, after all).

     

     

    In addition to the prophetic “digital doubles” of the film, Looker’s most science-fiction invention is the L.O.O.K.E.R. device (short for Light Ocular-Oriented Kinetic Emotive Responses), a “light gun” that stuns and paralyzes the target using light. Anyone exposed to this weapon experiences a sort of “missing time” as they stand paralyzed, allowing the weapon’s user to move around, invisible and undetected, for short periods. Digital Matrix uses the device to cover their tracks, making the models’ deaths appear as suicides.

    While Looker is more than a bit plodding at times, the film’s use of this device is undoubtedly the most clever effect in the film, as characters find themselves losing time without knowing how or why. (It’s also worth mentioning that the L.O.O.K.E.R. device is the movie’s only real special effect, and provides the film’s most interesting visuals.) The L.O.O.K.E.R. device is a neat little concept, one I wish could have gotten better treatment in a better film.

     

    Looker Screencap

     

    The Bottom Line: Unfortunately, Looker is a movie with a few good ideas that don’t quite survive the runtime. The last half-hour of the movie is an extended game of “humorous” cat-and-mouse in which the heroes and villains chase each other through a virtual landscape of digitized commercials — the best of which is a genuinely macabre moment featuring digitized kids complaining about their breakfast cereal as a real human lies dead on the prop kitchen table.

    While these scenes are mildly funny on a multitude of levels (the style of commercials, for all their “digital” glory, are more akin to something out of the Fifties than anything out of science fiction), they’re out of tone with the rest of the film. Albert Finney is no action hero, and doesn’t even have the charisma necessary to be a good everyman. Susan Dey’s character is too insecure and flat to be anything but an object of pity, and James Coburn’s turn as the villain, while passable, is too brief to be interesting.

     

    A mustachioed Eighties thug gets a taste of the L.O.O.K.E.R. device.

     

    That’s not to say that the film can’t be enjoyed as good cheese, however — there are some amusingly inept moments (watch for the car “crashing” into the fountain), and the few special effects are decent enough. Overall, Looker is probably more interesting as a historical piece than as a thriller — though it’s dated badly on a number of levels, the ideas of dehumanization and artifice that it puts forth were, for 1981, surprisingly forward-thinking. It might also be interesting to note that Looker made the first real attempt at a realistic CGI character, as well as the first movie to used 3-D computer shading.

    After its release in theaters, Looker haunted the bleak hinterlands of early Eighties cable television for awhile (probably sandwiched somewhere between showings of Krull and The Entity), and is out on DVD now. Oh, and if you care about that sort of thing, Susan Dey is naked in it.

    Dan Swensen

    This post has been filed under Memory Modification, Man-machine Interface, 5 Star Rated Movies, B Cyberpunk Cinema, Cyberpunk movies from 1980-1989 by Dan Swensen.

    Xchange

    June 27, 2006

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 2000

    Directed by: Allan Moyle

    Written by: Christopher Pelham

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

    Key Cast Members:

  • Clone #1/Toffler 3: Stephen Baldwin
  • Toffler/Fisk 2: Kim Coates
  • Fisk/Toffler 2: Kyle MacLachlan
  • Rating: 4 out of 10


    Xchange screen capture

     

    Overview: Xchange is one of those movies that comes up with an interesting if unbelievable Sci-Fi premise (mind transference technology) and then proceeds to hose it beyond all recognition with a horrid script, bad acting and flat out bizarre (not in a good way) scenes. Still the initial idea about exchanging conscious minds is interesting enough to at least keep you watching for the first 20 minutes or so. Whether you care to after that is truly a matter of how much you like trashy cyberpunked Sci-Fi.

     

    Xchange screen capture

     

    The Setting: In the near future, the technology can enable a person’s consciousness to be exchanged with another. So while you may take on the speech patterns of the new “host,” your thoughts and memories are still “yours.” Furthering this technology, a company, Xchange, now uses this technology to enable instant travel across the globe. You just need to go into an Xchange office, agree upon a temporary host (male or female), and plug-in. But wait, there’s more! In addition to Xchanges with humans, the Xchange corporation has also created disposable clones with supra-human abilities that are ready-made to accept a temporary mind transferal. Unfortunately, the clones only last a few days before self-destructing (one might wonder how the development of a full human clone that only lasts two days could possibly be cost-effective, but, um, this isn’t really explored). Unfortunately for society, the near-future has turned onto a world of the haves and have-nots, where corporations sit on top of a society where life is only valued if you are a corporate stooge.

     

    Xchange screen capture

     

    The Story: Toffler (Kim Coates) is a corporate executive who has it all. His one fear is that he’s afraid of undergoing mind transferal travel, or “floating” as it has become called. Unfortunately for him, his biggest corporate customer’s CEO has been murdered and the CEO’s son needs him by his side in an hour for an important meeting on the other side of the country. Due to the time issue, Toffler is forced to undergo his first floating instance. A temporary host has been found at the last minute, so everything seems to be set. While the transferal and meeting goes off without a hitch, and in fact Toffler (now Kyle MacLachlan) has found the experience to be enjoyable, problems arise when Toffler goes back the next day to transfer into his own body. Unfortunately, the temporary host that now is traveling in Toffer’s body has not returned – worse, his current body appears to be stolen, and the Xchange corporation is asking for it to be returned. In fact, it appears that the most notorious terrorist now is in control of his body.

     

    Xchange screen capture

     

    The CEO for Xchange (Janet Kidder) asks Toffler to take on the body of a clone until his real body is found. This is Tofflers’ worst nightmare. Considering clones only last a few days or so, Toffler freaks out and escapes. Strangely, he eventually gets someone to put him in a clone (Stephen Baldwin) anyways so that he can go out and find his body. From the moment Toffler escapes until the end, we get a completely bizarre and convoluted plot of corporate slimes treating the little people like trash, and screwing whoever they need to get to the top. I could go into details, but truly, for the most part it’s about as predictable as you can get.

     

    Xchange screen capture

     

    Scenes Too Stupid for Words: OK, Xchange is almost worth sitting through just to see the quick-cut shot of the CEO chick in the buff screwing the son bad guy while arguing about their absurd take over the world plan at the same time. The narrative called for the beans to be spilled on who the bad guys were, and why they were working together, so, for whatever reasons, they tried to combine the two scenes into one. Truly, this has to be one of the most idiotic sex scenes ever put on film. There are others in Xchange that are pretty bad, where similarly, something has to happen in the narrative but they couldn’t bother spending more than 10 minutes coming up with the details. But truly, the CEO sex scene has to be seen to be believed.

     

    Xchange screen capture

     

    The Bottom Line: The mind transfer technology in Xchange could have potentially been interesting, but instead it is delivered in a completely simplistic and non-believable way. Worse, the surrounding story sucks horribly, and the acting, especially from Stephen Baldwin is pretty lousy. But again, the story idea was at least interesting, as was the bizarre floater bar. And the production values were at least on par with TV movies, so Xchange earns a solid 4 stars.

     

    ~See movies similar to this one~

    This post has been filed under Memory Modification, 4 Star Movies, B Cyberpunk Cinema, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 – current by SFAM.

    Casshern

    January 18, 2006

    Year: 2004

    Directed by: Kazuaki Kiriya

    Written by: Kazuaki Kiriya et al.

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Rating: 8 out of 10


    screen capture

     

    Overview: Like Immortel and Sky Captain, Casshern was one of the first movies filmed entirely on Blue or Green Screen. Casshern is by far the most ambitious of the three movies in terms of story complexity, symbols and messages conveyed, and in the scope of experimentation with visual effects. Unlike Sky Captain, this is NOT a feel-good Raiders-like fun romp. And unlike Immortel, which is also complex in scope, Casshern largely meets its intent from a story perspective. While Casshern is philosophically dense (I haven’t seen the anime yet, is it philosophically dense as well?), it does have some terrific action sequences. One of the best samurai sword duels I’ve seen happens here, as does some terrific robot vs. human fights. With its hard rock accompaniment, the action is almost matrix-like in quality.

     screen capture

     

    Casshern takes place in a very mechanized dystopian alternate future, in which the forces of Europa and the Greater Eastern Federation have been fighting a 50 year war for dominance. The Greater Eastern Federation has finally established control over the Eurasian continent, and now has to deal with the horrid side-effects the endless years of a chemical, biological, and nuclear war. The earth’s environment is in shambles, most of civilization has been wiped out and people usually wear protective masks when venturing outside.

     screen capture

     

    Its in this environment that Dr. Azuma, a genetic scientist, comes up with a solution to the maladies. He says he has discovered special “neo-cells” that can regenerate human tissue, and in effect, can create “replaceable parts” for the human body. An aging General with serious health problems jumps on this solution and sets Dr. Azuma up with a lab funded by the military. Casshern centers around the life of Dr. Azuma’s son Tetsuya, who in rebelling, decides to join the army. Unfortunately, he finds out that war is truly hell, and eventually ends up dying. His ghost comes back to say goodbye to his mother and fiancee, but things don’t go as planned. Unfortunately, Dr. Azuma’s research is not going very well. To extract more “Neo-cells,” the military ends up engaging in ethnic cleansing of the oldest part of Eurasia – sector 7. They bring back the body parts for the good doctor to use in extracting the Neo-cells.

     screen capture

     

    We find, however, that Sector 7 is inhabited by an ethnic group who were devout followers of a Gaurdian Spirit called Casshern. Casshern decides to make his presence felt and sends his lightning bolt down from the heavens, right into Dr. Azuma’s lab, and gives the Neo-cell “pool” the ability to bring the dead body parts back to life. After massive amounts of zombie-like people (later referred to as neo-sapiens) emerge from the pool (sparking the military to go all out in killing them), Dr. Azuma gets the idea that if he places his son Tetsuya in the pool, he will come back to life as well. This works, and Tetsuya gets reborn, but as a faster, stronger version of himself, just like the newly formed “neo-sapiens.”

     

    screen capture

     

    After the military hunts down and kills virtually all of the neo-sapiens, the few remaining Neo-sapiens escape to Sector 7, and after a cry for help, their prayers are answered when the Gaurdian Casshern sends them down an ancient stronghold, completely with robot warrior making capabilities. The rest of the movie involves the ongoing conflict between the Neo-sapiens and the Greater Eastern Federation, and the role that Tetsuya (who later takes the name Casshern when defending the local people) and his family plays in it. There is also a really nice love story that takes place between Tutsuya and Luna. They apparently have been fated for one another since birth, and will continue to be together throughout time.

     screen capture

     

    The Visuals: Casshern has some of the most astounding visuals on film. More impressive is the use of various color palettes and textures to represent various themes in the movie. Death is represented by streaking white aura around a person; war is represented in a black and white pixilated look; Impending doom is represented in yellow; green represents life; the Neo-sapiens have the dark blue and bright red colors, etc. Truly, the diversity in visual effects is the strong highpoint of the movie. Also, I found the choice of music accompaniment consistently terrific. The choices really add to the mood. Combined with the astounding visuals, we really get a tour-de-force type “blow you away” affect. . Casshern is also heavily laden with symbols and philosophical meaning. In addition to having a strong antiwar and anti-technology message, Casshern gives us interesting religious musings, and some thoughts on implications for cheating death, and a pretty powerful message for the need for co-existence with others. Most interestingly, Casshern is able to show pain and suffering on the individual “little person” level, and show how this affects the large scale picture.

     screen capture

     

    Overview: While difficult to understand (let me know if you want me to post a “page 2 spoiler” on this to explain it – it really is a very cool story), Casshern is simply an awesome picture that will develop a huge following over the years. Take the time to understand this, and you should love it. It is NOT a happy picture though, and is very emotional in tone.

     

    ~See movies similar to this one~

    Tags: cyberpunk movie review

    <span class=”iTitle”>Overview: </span> Like Immortel and Sky Captain, Casshern was one of the first movies filmed entirely on Blue or Green Screen. Casshern is by far the most ambitious of the three movies in terms of story complexity, symbols and messages conveyed, and in the scope of experimentation with visual effects. Unlike Sky Captain, this is NOT a feel-good Raiders-like fun romp. And unlike Immortel, which is also complex in scope, Casshern largely meets its intent from a story perspective. While Casshern is philosophically dense (I haven’t seen the anime yet, is it philosophically dense as well?), it does have some terrific action sequences. One of the best samurai sword duels I’ve seen happens here, as does some terrific robot vs. human fights. With its hard rock accompaniment, the action is almost matrix-like in quality.</p>
    <p align=”center”>&nbsp;<img src=”/images/casshern4.jpg” alt=”screen capture” />
    </p>
    &nbsp;</p>

    Casshern takes place in a very mechanized dystopian alternate future, in which the forces of Europa and the Greater Eastern Federation have been fighting a 50 year war for dominance. The Greater Eastern Federation has finally established control over the Eurasian continent, and now has to deal with the horrid side-effects the endless years of a chemical, biological, and nuclear war. The earth’s environment is in shambles, most of civilization has been wiped out and people usually wear protective masks when venturing outside.<p align=”center”>&nbsp;<img src=”/images/casshern.jpg” alt=”screen capture” />
    </p>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>

    Its in this environment that Dr. Azuma, a genetic scientist, comes up with a solution to the maladies. He says he has discovered special “neo-cells” that can regenerate human tissue, and in effect, can create “replaceable parts” for the human body. An aging General with serious health problems jumps on this solution and sets Dr. Azuma up with a lab funded by the military. Casshern centers around the life of Dr. Azuma’s son Tetsuya, who in rebelling, decides to join the army. Unfortunately, he finds out that war is truly hell, and eventually ends up dying. His ghost comes back to say goodbye to his mother and fiancee, but things don’t go as planned. Unfortunately, Dr. Azuma’s research is not going very well. To extract more “Neo-cells,” the military ends up engaging in ethnic cleansing of the oldest part of Eurasia – sector 7. They bring back the body parts for the good doctor to use in extracting the Neo-cells.
    <p align=”center”>&nbsp;<img src=”/images/casshern2.jpg” alt=”screen capture” />
    </p>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    We find, however, that Sector 7 is inhabited by an ethnic group who were devout followers of a Gaurdian Spirit called Casshern. Casshern decides to make his presence felt and sends his lightning bolt down from the heavens, right into Dr. Azuma’s lab, and gives the Neo-cell “pool” the ability to bring the dead body parts back to life. After massive amounts of zombie-like people (later referred to as neo-sapiens) emerge from the pool (sparking the military to go all out in killing them), Dr. Azuma gets the idea that if he places his son Tetsuya in the pool, he will come back to life as well. This works, and Tetsuya gets reborn, but as a faster, stronger version of himself, just like the newly formed “neo-sapiens.”
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <p align=”center”><img src=”/images/casshern5.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /></p>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    After the military hunts down and kills virtually all of the neo-sapiens, the few remaining Neo-sapiens escape to Sector 7, and after a cry for help, their prayers are answered when the Gaurdian Casshern sends them down an ancient stronghold, completely with robot warrior making capabilities. The rest of the movie involves the ongoing conflict between the Neo-sapiens and the Greater Eastern Federation, and the role that Tetsuya (who later takes the name Casshern when defending the local people) and his family plays in it. There is also a really nice love story that takes place between Tutsuya and Luna. They apparently have been fated for one another since birth, and will continue to be together throughout time.<p align=”center”>&nbsp;<img src=”/images/casshern_beautiful.jpg” alt=”screen capture” />
    </p>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>

    <span class=”iTitle”>The Visuals: </span> Casshern has some of the most astounding visuals on film. More impressive is the use of various color palettes and textures to represent various themes in the movie. Death is represented by streaking white aura around a person; war is represented in a black and white pixilated look; Impending doom is represented in yellow; green represents life; the Neo-sapiens have the dark blue and bright red colors, etc. Truly, the diversity in visual effects is the strong highpoint of the movie. Also, I found the choice of music accompaniment consistently terrific. The choices really add to the mood. Combined with the astounding visuals, we really get a tour-de-force type “blow you away” affect. . Casshern is also heavily laden with symbols and philosophical meaning. In addition to having a strong antiwar and anti-technology message, Casshern gives us interesting religious musings, and some thoughts on implications for cheating death, and a pretty powerful message for the need for co-existence with others. Most interestingly, Casshern is able to show pain and suffering on the individual “little person” level, and show how this affects the large scale picture.<p align=”center”>&nbsp;<img src=”/images/casshern3.jpg” alt=”screen capture” />
    </p>
    <p>&nbsp;</p>

    <span class=”iTitle”>Overview:</span> While difficult to understand (let me know if you want me to post a “page 2 spoiler” on this to explain it – it really is a very cool story), Casshern is simply an awesome picture that will develop a huge following over the years. Take the time to understand this, and you should love it. It is NOT a happy picture though, and is very emotional in tone.
    <p>&nbsp; </p>cyberpunk movie review

    This post has been filed under Memory Modification, Utopia Surrounded by Poverty, Dystopic Future Movies, 8 Star Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Good low-budget movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 – 2009 by SFAM.