Moonfall

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 4/26/22;
Lionsgate;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $19.06 million;
$29.96 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $42.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence, disaster action, strong language, and some drug use.
Stars Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Charlie Plummer, Kelly Yu, Michael Peña, Carolina Bartczak.

Roland Emmerich has made a career of turning absurd premises into a springboard for zany visual effects. But he’s a long way from the salad days of Stargate and Independence Day.

Emmerich’s latest formulaic sci-fi disaster movie, which he directed, co-wrote and produced, is called Moonfall, because it involves the moon literally falling out of the sky. But since that’s not a problem any off-the-rack action hero can easily solve, Emmerich and his writing team have to contrive a backstory for the moon that the heroes can exploit in order to save Earth from it. And this isn’t any ordinary plot device, it’s nature-of-existence-type stuff — an idea that would usually be the subject of multi-season space operas, condensed into a few minutes of exposition within a half-hour of the end of the movie.

Anyway, the story finds Earth on the brink of destruction as debris and gravity from the approaching moon cause widespread damage. But a pair of former astronauts (Halle Berry and Patrick Wilson), with the help of a conspiracy podcaster (John Bradley) figure out the nature of the moon’s sudden change in orbit, and devise a plan to fix it by hauling a space shuttle out of a museum and sending it back into space.

That makes this the second film in the last few months, Don’t Look Up being the other, that drags a space shuttle out of retirement to lead a mission to save Earth. It’s basically impossible given how much those ships have been disassembled for display purposes, but as far as Moonfall is concerned it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ridiculousness on display. It’s not as if scientific accuracy or the laws of physics are going to be limiting factors of an Emmerich script.

There’s a point in Moonfall where you just have to tip your cap to the filmmakers for not only embracing the absurdity of their premise, but one-upping the insanity at every turn while taking it completely seriously. And when one of those filmmakers is Emmerich, that’s saying something.

Pretty much every Emmerich movie uses a high-concept premise as an excuse for some splendid visual effects imagery contextually strung together by tropes and melodrama, and Moonfall is no exception. If anything, it’s just proof that Emmerich isn’t really making movies anymore, he’s making drinking games.

The rules are simple enough. Take a drink anytime a disaster-movie cliché pops up involving the down-on-their-luck heroes, their hacky family drama, or the outsider who is thrust into the spotlight. Even better, start chugging when you recognize a plot device from another film. A partial list for Moonfall will include:

  • Independence Day;
  • 2012;
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey;
  • Armageddon;
  • Deep Impact;
  • Mission to Mars;
  • The Core;
  • Interstellar;
  • Greenland;
  • The Matrix;
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon;
  • Crimson Tide;
  • “Superman: The Animated Series”;
  • and several “Star Trek” episodes and movies.

 

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Of course, it’s not as if Emmerich’s better-regarded earlier films are so much better in quality, at least as far as the writing is concerned. After all, even Stargate needed decade’s worth of TV shows produced by someone else to cover up the plot holes in that film.

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The Moonfall Blu-ray includes Emmerich with co-writer/producer/composer Harald Kloser providing a feature-length commentary track, which doesn’t amount to much as the pair spend the bulk of it either describing what’s happening on screen or stating the obvious when it comes to story development. There’s a few good stories here and there about the cast and dealing with COVID quarantines during an efficient 61-day shoot, but not much more in the way of substance.

More insights into the making of the film can be found in “Against Impossible Odds: Making Moonfall,” a series of behind-the-scenes featurettes that run about 59 minutes in total.

A bit better is the 26-minute “Exploring the Moon: Past, Present and Future,” which is more of a conventional documentary about the moon and its history and characteristics.

On the fun side is “KC Houseman Speaks the Truth!,” consisting of four videos of Bradley’s character explaining conspiracy theories about the moon, totaling about eight minutes.

In the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack, the 4K and regular Blu-ray discs each have the same extras on them.

Game of Thrones: Season 8

DIGITAL REVIEW:

HBO;
Fantasy;
$19.99 SD; $26.99 HD;
Not Rated.
Stars Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Liam Cunningham, Nathalie Emmanuel, Alfie Allen, John Bradley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Gwendoline Christie, Conleth Hill, Rory McCann, Jerome Flynn, Kristofer Hivju, Joe Dempsie, Jacob Anderson, Iain Glen.

The eighth and final season of “Game of Thrones” is certainly its most divisive, setting off a wave of Internet debates as to whether the final run of episodes was worthy of the extensive storytelling that had been laid out before.

Much of the ire seems to be focused on the creative decisions made by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss in mapping out the final story arcs of the various characters once they no longer draw from the “Song of Ice and Fire” novels by George R.R. Martin, which formed the basis of the first five seasons.

A noticeable shift in the show’s pacing occurred in season six, once it was clear they had to create their own after reportedly receiving outlines from Martin about how he envisioned the saga more or less ending up. After season six, it was announced the show would wrap up in 13 episodes split into two seasons, with seven in season seven and six in season eight.

In hindsight, the argument goes, this timeline was insufficient in setting up the character development needed for the plot twists of the final episodes, leaving the final storylines feeling rushed while retroactively weakening the earlier seasons by both devaluing their story development and making it clear (particularly to readers of the novels) where the show missed opportunities to lay the foundation for the plot points the writers eventually decided to pursue.

The series has spent seven seasons seemingly maneuvering every character into two factions. One is the army gathering at Winterfell to fight the Night King and the White Walkers. This is the faction commanded by Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, who joined forces last season. However, their truce may be complicated by the lingering truth of Jon’s true heritage, which could present an obstacle to Dany’s claim to the Iron Throne.

Meanwhile. Queen Cersei has fortified her hold on King’s Landing through an alliance with Euron Greyjoy’s fleet and a mercenary army.

The first two episodes deal largely with various characters reuniting, setting the stage for the battle against the Night King, which takes place in the third episode. The final episodes involve the battle for King’s Landing and its aftermath.

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So, is the final season as problematic as the darkest corners of the Internet would make it out to be? Well, mostly no, but a little bit yes.

The ire seems to fall into two categories. The first, as mentioned, is the show rushing to get to the end. The second is the specific outcomes for some of the characters, which may have differed a bit from what some of the more entitled fans envisioned in their heads.

As to the second point, such is often the refrain of toxic fandom, and seems misguided. The character arcs themselves are fine and completely understandable, particularly when it comes to the most divisive of the individual stories, that of Queen Daenerys and her quest to reclaim the Iron Throne on behalf of her family.

The show has always been an examination of the dangers of tyranny and absolutism, even when the results of such governance may seem beneficial. The cycle of inherited power is itself the problem, not the potential for harm a new ruler may bring.

That being said, it’s hard to disagree that the final march to the end was a bit rushed, and perhaps could have used a few episodes to show events for the characters to experience that might reinforce their motivations in the final battles.

The final season is fine as it is, as easy as it is for fans to pick it apart, and will likely come to be better regarded once absorbed into the bulk of the show as fodder for binge viewing. While the asinine suggestion of fan petitions to “remake the season with competent writers” is beyond the realm of credibility, it’s hard not to at least entertain the idea of filming a few more episodes of material to expand on the character development, then re-editing them into the final couple of seasons (though, realistically, that ain’t happening either).

The show’s critics are also quick to overlook the many strengths of the final season, which offers some of the most stunning visuals of the series. This includes the purposefully dark and moody third episode, which uses its nighttime setting to great effect give viewers the same sense of unseen dread the characters would experience in fighting off wave after wave of undead armies.

There was some concern about the cinematography being too dark upon its initial airing, but this isn’t much of a problem with the digital HD presentation.

The other aspect of concern in fan circles were all the memes pointing out Starbucks cups and plastic water bottles left on the set for key scenes. The prominent coffee cup was subsequently digitally erased from episode four, but a few water bottles spotted under the chairs in the “Council of Lords” scene in the finale were still visible in the digital copy of the episode, at least within the first few days of its digital release. It will certainly be something to keep an eye out for in the eventual Blu-ray release that should arrive in a few months.

The digital package of the final season also includes a four-minute production featurette, a 17-minute profile of a key season from the third-episode battle, and The Last Watch, the feature-length documentary chronicling the making of the show’s final season that provides an enlightening look at the filmmakers and craftsman who brought it all together.