Monday, April 22, 2013

Movie Review - OBLIVION

We don't normally do movie reviews as a regular feature on our blog, but since I took a little time off this weekend for some R&R and went to see a movie I found entertaining, thought I would share some thoughts on it...

-Pat Morrison, Penumbra Publishing editor


2hr 5min‎‎ - Rated PG-13‎‎ - Action/Adventure/Scifi/Fantasy‎
Director: Joseph Kosinski - Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Jack Harper is one of the last few drone repairmen stationed on Earth. Part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying threat known as the Scavs, Jack's mission is nearly complete. Living in and patrolling the breathtaking skies from thousands of feet above, his soaring existence is brought crashing down when he rescues a beautiful stranger from a downed spacecraft. Her arrival triggers a chain of events that forces him to question everything he knows and puts the fate of humanity in his hands.

I enjoyed this movie a lot. Of course I am a science-fiction junkie, so I will go see about anything that doesn't have blood-dripping monsters or chainsaws in it. I have seen a lot of sci-fi stinkers, but I felt that this particular movie was well-crafted, well-acted, and suspenseful, with an element of surprise I didn't see coming. That's always a nice bonus when I don't figure out the storyline right at the beginning of the movie. Of course I had suspicions, but didn't guess the extent of the surprise until the 'reveal moment.'

My background and take on the story...

The title of the movie, OBLIVION, is obscure enough to give no clue about the storyline and leave it wide open for anything to happen. However, a look at the meaning of the word 'oblivion' indicates 'a state of forgetting or being oblivious,' and that begins to make sense as the movie progresses.

The Earth's moon has been destroyed by an alien invasion force, causing massive tidal waves and earthquakes and other destructive natural disasters that wiped out most of the human population. After humans managed to win the war, survivors were sent to an orbital space station, awaiting transport to Jupiter's moon Titan to establish a human colony there. Jack Harper and his lovely female partner make up a team, part of a skeleton cleanup crew left on Earth to monitor and maintain water-extraction equipment that is draining ruined Earth of its last precious remaining resource, to be transported to Titan for use by the new human colony.

Jack and his partner are scheduled to leave in two weeks. But meanwhile they must continue to maintain the security drones that are stationed to protect the water-extraction units from Scavs, renegade aliens still prowling Earth and causing mischief after the war. 'Command' monitors the maintenance team and warns of impending dangers while in orbital contact. When the station is out of contact, Jack and his partner are left on their own in a sky-high fortress with all-glass walls, equipped with high-tech communication and monitoring equipment - and a see-through swimming pool!

Jack and his partner don't remember anything about the war, because their memories have been 'wiped' for security reasons so they can focus on their task before final transport to Titan. But Jack wonders why, if humans won the war, they have to leave their home. The destruction is massive in places, but he has discovered a hidden place that is an idyllic paradise. And then there are the bothersome dreams he keeps having of a woman he saw at the Empire State Building before the war, before it was reduced to a shell of rubble.

When a ship module identified as human in origin breeches the atmosphere and crashes, he goes against orders to investigate. And what he finds makes him begin to doubt everything he's been told by Command.

At the heart of this movie is a slowly unfolding love story. This is clearly a Cruise-focused movie, but Freeman makes a nice contribution in his small support role, and the storyline is surprising enough to hold interest. I highly recommend this film if you are a fan of Tom Cruise, or Morgan Freeman (as I am), or sci-fi (as I am). Even if you are none of those, I think you will appreciate this movie. It is not too 'techie' to turn off general viewers, but has just enough sci-fi to satisfy those looking for that fix. You'll see plenty of remnants of iconic images a la  Planet of the Apes - without the apes or Charlton Heston. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

New Scifi Book Release - STATUS QUO by Mark Rosendorf

by Mark Rosendorf
Fiction: Science Fiction

College student Alexander Copeland worked as an assistant for astronomer Gordon Maxwell. Alex was offered the opportunity of a lifetime – to join a small civilian crew and travel to outer space to investigate a mysterious wormhole presumed to have been created by an alien species. But the top-secret government division sponsoring Dr. Maxwell’s research abruptly canceled the expedition and closed down the entire project.

Seven years later, twenty-five-year-old Alex, working as a New York inner-city junior high school science teacher, is contacted by the same arrogant government project director who tells him the original space expedition has been revived. Alex is offered a seat on an advanced space shuttle christened Status Quo, set to go through the wormhole. But Alex is immediately suspicious. After seven years, why is the project suddenly on again?

Alex’s new shipmates only add to his anxiety. Sara Maxwell, gifted daughter of the late Dr. Maxwell, has spent the last seven years in a mental institution. The ship’s pilot is a teenage boy whose only flight experience is on a simulator. The pilot’s mother, also chosen as a crewmember, is supposedly psychic. The ship’s doctor is a novice who wants nothing to do with the mission. A troubled teenage girl on the brink of suicide is also accepted as part of the crew. There’s even a convicted murderer and a cat aboard. Absolutely no one chosen for this mission has any sort of astronaut training or experience. And worst of all, the project director’s agenda appears to be making sure that the ship and all aboard never return to Earth.

It’s a conspiracy that leaves these lost souls stranded in a strange galaxy with a damaged ship surrounded by threats both human and alien. Even if this group worked together and managed to survive, could they – would they – return to the uncaring world that sent them to space to die? With the alternative looking exceedingly grim, the journey of Status Quo seems doomed. Or is it? 

Available now in print and ebook at our web site and at popular online retailers like Amazon and Smashwords...