Michael Scott

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Annihilation


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Movie: :4stars:
4K Video: :4.5stars:
Video: :3.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :3stars:
Final Score: :4stars:



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Movie

Alex Garland made HUGE waves in the science fiction community with his feature film debut a few years back. Ex Machina was not the PERFECT film (very few first films ever are), but it was about as close to a perfect robot film as one is likely to get. It was introspective, deep, twisted, and actually was hard sci-fi, instead of the action adventure stuff that the genre has devolved into over the years. I truly loved the film, and it acquired several academy awards as well. Fast forward a few years and now he’s poised to bring another hard sci-fi film to the market with Annihilation, but instead of going with the rise of the bots, switches over to an alien experience. A move which suits his esoteric take on humanity’s struggle within, as well as a vehicle for some absolutely mind blowing visuals. While it may not be his best work, Garland does a good job at keeping his story interesting enough to keep your attentions, and deep enough to require multiple viewings before giving a complete analysis of the film.

Being a mixture of Event Horizon and Solaris, Annihilation is a bizarre sci-fi film that follows a couple through an alien environment on Earth. Lena (Natalie Portman) is seen being debriefed by a group of hazmat wearing scientists for the opening shot of the film, where they state that Lena has been over 4 months inside of “the shimmer”. Shooting back in time we get some backstory, with Lena being shown as a grieving widow for her special ops husband Kane (Oscar Isaac). Only thing is, Kane ISN’T dead, and shows up randomly on her doorstep only to collapse. On route to the hospital Lena and Kane are confiscated by a group of black coated feds, and the young scientist is thrown into a whole knew world. It seems that three years ago a strange phenomenon happened out in the Midwest. A shimmering force field came down over an isolated lighthouse, and has been expanding ever since. Exploration team after exploration team has been sent into the middle to find out what’s happening at the light house, but no one has returned… Until now, with Kane being the first survivor.

Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is building a team to go in once more, and with her husband on life support, Lena volunteers to go in with her. Initial exploration into the shimmer (as it’s dubbed) shows just what they expected. Blocked electronic communication signals. But what they didn’t expect was the strange floral and fauna mutations that dot the landscape. The entire world is being changed from the inside of this ever expanding shimmer, and as the ladies go deeper and deeper into the center of it, they have to come to grips with their own self destructive behaviors. Behaviors that will become instrumental in finding out what is at the very heart of the apparition.
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Annihilation is complex film, but one that is also rather simple if you look at it. The story is told from the point of view of the “unreliable narrator”. A move that actually isn’t evident until much later in the story and actually adds a layer of introspection to the film as well. At first you think that everything you are seeing is 100% fact, but when you come to grips with the fact that everyone in the shimmer is being “altered” (I won’t go into much detail there), it brings to the mind that maybe not everything you’re seeing is accurate. Just what she is TELLING the viewer (and the Hazmat suited scientists) happened. The story is initially rushed, with Garland cramming a ton of later events into the opening sequences, but then backtracks considerably. He also uses a ton of flashbacks to the flashbacks interjected throughout the movie, setting up later portion reveals with them, but done so in a rather fractured way (which sometimes really took me out of the movie).

The mental madness of the film is one of the biggest draws, as Garland weaves together a world that is technically familiar to us all, but also becomes alien and foreign the further and further into the shimmer the scientists go. The final act is a mind bender, but one that is actually indicative that Garland had a hard time tying together all of the loose ends of the film. He opens up so many introspective questions and avenues to follow throughout the film, but when he brings forth the big reveal, it’s almost like he can’t figure out to finish up what he started. He also relies a bit too much on esoteric visuals that are meant to be stunningly beautiful and masquerade as deep and intellectual, but really are just a bit too confusing for most mass audiences. HOWEVER, that’s not to say the movie fails completely in the third act. Garland answers enough questions, or gives you the tools to answer some of the questions in such a compact and soft manner that you really need to view the film 2-3 times to get a good grasp of what was going on. I know that my second time through the movie I picked up a LOT more than I did upon the initial viewing, and by the third time I chewed through it (theater, blu-ray, then 4K UHD) I was piecing together a little more of the subtext.




Rating:

Rated R for violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality




4K Video: :4.5stars: Video: :3.5stars:
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Annihilation is a bit of a conundrum in the video department. On one hand it is NOT a visual stunner, but on the other hand it really is. Let me explains. The film was shot by Bob Hardy, and much like Ex Machina, has slightly flat look to it, with a mild haze of gauziness going on. Colors are few and far between, but the saturation levels of what color we DO see is amazingly deep. Look at the inside of the shimmer when the team first comes through. Or the bright hypnotic shades of the final “encounter” at the lighthouse. Fine details are incredible (although the gauziness sometimes robs the image of a LITTLE bit of detail), but the HDR/Dolby Vision is the real highlight of the film. When comparing the Blu-ray to the 4K UHD it’s simply a night and day experience. The Blu-ray is given a solid encode, but the heavily stylized flat look of the film is a bit too much for the Blu-ray to handle properly. The blacks are crushed, the gauziness is enhanced, and the detail levels aren’t THAT good. The 4K disc, in comparison, is a revelation. The HDR makes the colors so much more vibrant when on screen, and the black levels are massively cleaned up. The banding and crush seen on the Blu-ray are near nonexistent, and the depth and clarity of the shadow details is jaw dropping. There’s still some crush throughout the film, but it’s not nearly as bad.







Audio: :4.5stars:
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The Dolby Atmos track for both the Blu-ray and the 4K UHD is quite the compliment to the incredible visuals. The opening shots of the film aren’t really pushing the limits of the Atmos capabilities, but once we get into the shimmer the track comes alive with a huge layered sense of ambiance. Rustling of trees and crunching of feet are pinpoint precise, while the overheads are engaged with increasing regularity. Vocals are crisp and defined, locked up front where they should be and evenly balanced with an impressive dynamic range. The more action packed sequences (such as the bear, or the alligator) arrive with some incredible intensity, filled with pulsating LFE (that goes to some seriously low levels) as well as chaotic use of surrounds as well. Needless to say, Annihilation really excels in the audio department, giving us a nuanced track that really is excellent.






Extras: :3stars:
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• Part 1 – SOUTHERN REACH
- Refractions – See how director Alex Garland created the tone, textures and color palettes for the various film environments on set.
- For Those That Follow – Listen to the cast's perspective on their roles and learn why they found the story so intriguing.
• Part 2 – AREA X
- Shimmer – See how filmmakers transformed real set locations to create the world of Annihilation.
- Vanished into Havoc – Check out all the action as cast and crew walk you through the mind-blowing stunts and special effects.
• Part 3 – TO THE LIGHTHOUSE
- Unfathomable Mind – Learn why the visual effects are integral to achieving director Alex Garland's overall vision for Annihilation.
- The Last Phase – Listen to the cast and crew share their fondest memories from filming Annihilation.







Final Score: :4stars:


Annihilation is not a perfect sci-fi film, and it is not as revolutionary as Ex Machina, but it makes a really deep film that renders itself more palatable for the hard sci-fi viewers rather than the masses. It opens many a question door, and gives the audiences tools to answer them, but Garland’s film does suffer from being a bit TOO lofty at times, and flying a bit too close to the sun. It wanted to be Arrival, but came out just short of it. The Blu-ray is a decent disc, but the 4K UHD transfer blows it out of the water, but there is a catch. The 4K UHD disc is exclusive to Best Buy for a few months while the Blu-ray is given a wide release, so if you don’t have a Best Buy near, it might be beneficial to wait until the wide release for the 4K UHD disc. Definitely a good watch.


Technical Specifications:

Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson
Directed by: Alex Garland
Written by: Alex Garland (Screenplay), Jeff VanderMeer (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 HEVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), Spanish, French DD 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Studio: Paramount
Rated: R
Runtime: 115 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: May 29th, 2018






Recommendation: Good Watch

 

Todd Anderson

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Looks like something I need to see. Ex Machina is one of my favorite flix of the last several years.

Purchasing!
 

Michael Scott

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as I said in the review, get the Best buy 4K disc, it knocks the doors off the Blu-ray visually.
 

Todd Anderson

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Luckily, I have a Best Buy close by... and it's video section is so small, this should be easy to find :T
 

Jon Liu

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I just picked up my copy and am looking forward to watching this one. I blind bought it, but people keep saying that if I liked Ex Machina, and Arrival, this title would be a no-brainer.

Between this and The Matrix which I finally got today on UHD, I should be a very happy camper for the next couple of days!
 

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Thanks for the review. Will get this one as well. :)
 

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Wife and I saw it last night. We thought it was too long to prove a point but we enjoyed the story and visuals.
 

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I’ll be picking up this and The Matrix today at Best Buy. I’ve been chasing for a copy of The Matrix for a week now with no luck. Order confirmed for in store pick-up so tonight’s gonna be a sweet movie night!
 

Michael Scott

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I’ll be picking up this and The Matrix today at Best Buy. I’ve been chasing for a copy of The Matrix for a week now with no luck. Order confirmed for in store pick-up so tonight’s gonna be a sweet movie night!
usually helps when you go out AFTER the release date to pick a movie up, huh? ;)
 

JBrax

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Todd Anderson

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Jeff, we need to crowdfund a tent for you. That way you can set up shop outside of BB weeks in advance.
 

JBrax

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I’m not sure how many titles I’d camp out for but The Matrix would have been one. Good lookin out though Todd! :T
 

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Finally got around to watching this today and we both enjoyed it. As Mike alluded to I think there was a definite Arrival vibe to it but not quite as effective. Still a good watch IMO.
 
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