Past Movie Review: Contact

The movie Contact was inspired many years ago by the book Contact which was written by the late Carl Sagan. The premise of the book and the entire movie that came out in 1997 was that if there is no other life in the Universe than this would be a “great waste of space”. Clearly there is no arguing that logic, but the real issue is, if there is life, isn’t it equally as likely that it is so many millions of light years away, that it would be impossible for any alien lifeforce to travel that far or even find us, given that the Universe is so vast and traveling at the speed of light or greater than the speed of light is not possible.

Jodie Foster is the star of Contact in arguably one of her best roles. I thought that the science behind this movie was great to see, with the huge array telescopes that monitor all signals coming from space, and a series of complex computer software programs that are able to figure out where the signal is coming from and capture it so it can be analyzed. There are scenes in this movie after a message has been received that include some of the best science I have ever seen any science fiction movie and what follows is even better, where the message is figured out and a massive machine for interstellar travel is built from a message that is embedded in a television signal from the 1936 Olympics, which was held in Berlin Germany. The spacecraft and concept behind it that was built from the alien message was fantastic and one of the best ideas I have ever seen for space travel.

I also liked and strongly related to the real-life work backstabbing and credit taking that happens in this film, where Jodie Foster’s boss, played by Tom Skerrit, who was dead set against Foster’s career of listening for life in outer space only to later take full credit for the discovery and steps on all of Foster’s responses at every meeting with Government officials who rush to undermine her project. Matthew McConaughey plays of all things a member of the clergy and provides the religious perspective on aliens visiting from outer space, and James Woods does a great job playing the evil Government representative, who does everything he can to sabotage this amazing contact with aliens.

Where this movie fails, although not completely is at the very end where I thought that Foster’s encounter with some sort of alien presence was not a satisfactory or logical conclusion to what was a great story with great special effects up to that point. The shame of the ending scene is that it really doesn’t make any sense, given the great science before this scene, which is why the ending does not work. The only upside of the ending is that it does make you think about what could be out there and then makes you think about what was the real point of this whole story in the first place.

Despite this unsatisfactory ending, I have always thought that Contact is one of the best science fiction films ever produced and should be seen by everyone, whether or not you believe in extraterrestrial life. This movie is also expertly directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Past Movie Review: All The Presidents Men

It could be a considered either a fluke or a coincidence but the fact is that 40 years ago, in 1976, 3 of the most important films in movie history were released. The first 2 Rocky and Network are both also reviewed in this blog, the third is “All the Presidents Men”, which was about the break-in at the National Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, that created the greatest political scandal in this countries history, known as Watergate.

In my opinion the story of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, both young reporters at the Washington Post, and what they went through to get the most important political story of all time, is far more interesting than the Watergate scandal or Richard Nixon’s paranoia that lead him to make a huge mistake that ruined his presidency and ultimately his entire life. Woodward and Bernstein made literally thousands of phone calls, they were lied to hundreds of times by hundreds of people, they desperately tried to get information through interviews and tracking down hundreds of leads, most of which lead nowhere, but they never gave up, and because of their dogged determination were ultimately successful in uncovering a series of criminal acts by not only many people who worked for President Nixon but ultimately the President himself.

I found the acting in All the Presidents Men outstanding, about as good as it can ever get in any movie. Jason Robards won a best supporting actor for playing Ben Bradlee, who was the executive editor of the Washington Post but for some odd reason, neither Robert Redford or Dustin Hoffman were not nominated for best actors even though in my opinion this movie represents one of the best movies either of them were ever in. I for one have long given up on the logic of the Academy Award nomination process. At least the movie was nominated for best picture which ultimately went to Rocky.

I found this entire movie fascinating not only with the great acting but with showing the process of uncovering an extremely difficult story that changed the history of this country. It is also interesting to see the technology from 40 long years ago and the use of typewriters and copy paper, which had to make the lives of any reporter so much more difficult than it is today with the use of computers and software. All the Presidents men represents for me one of the best reasons to go to the movies, to learn something about history that you didn’t know before. This movie was directed by Alan J. Pakula who was also not nominated for best director. The actress Jane Alexander was nominated for best supporting actress for her small part in the movie.

All the Presidents Men is a classic and hugely important film that should not be missed.

Past Movie Review: The Matrix

In this history of movies about science fiction, I would have to say that the Matrix series of 3 movies had the best scientific idea I have ever seen. The first Matrix movie came out in 1999 and was written and directed by Laurence and Andrew Wachowski, known at that time as the Wachowski brothers and who are now amazingly both transgender women, now known as Lilly and Lana Wachowski and this has to be one of the few times in the world that two brothers have both decided to become women later in life. The last two Matrix movies, Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions came out 4 years later in 2003.

The idea of the Matrix series about machines and computers taking over the world and dominating humanity is not a new one. What was the great new idea was how machines dominated humanity in the Matrix, by creating a fake world generated by computers and injected into the sleeping brains of humans who were farmed in huge warehouses where they are used as batteries to power the real machine world. The Matrix was this computer generated World, and in order to break out of it, you had to be given a special pill that breaks you out of the fake Matrix world and into the real machine world which was a dark depressing planet ruined by nuclear war.

The other original and great idea about the Matrix fake world are the abilities that human beings can have when they are in charge of injecting themselves into it by using their own computers there they can have incredible Karate skills that are a central part of many of the action scenes in all the Matrix movies. In the second movie Matrix Reloaded, there is a highway scene in the Matrix that is arguably one of the best action scenes using cars and motorcycles ever filmed in movie history. The producers actually built a highway to shoot this incredible scene that involved huge crashes with cars and tractor trailer trucks that are extremely impressive to see. Keanu Reeves is the star of all 3 of the Matrix films and these movies were the highlight of his career, both in terms of acting and financially as the Matrix trilogy has made Reeves very rich.

If you have not seen any of the Matrix movies, you owe it to yourself to see one or all of them, as they are some of the best science movies ever made.