Movie review

Movie Review: 'Life'

In space, no can you hear you go 'Huh?'

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Sometimes it's the way a story is told that makes it special – sometimes it's not. In the case of "Life," a new big-budget sci-fi thriller, a threadbare plot gets tarted up with high-end special effects, decent actors and a "Twilight Zone" ending, but leaves one wondering, "Just how persuasive was the pitch to get this greenlit?"

As we’ve seen in the “Alien” movies, a life-form, born and bred in the hostile outer reaches of space, must be relentlessly tenacious by its nature. It must be virtually indestructible and possess immense physical strength, but it is simply an organism that is trying to survive. It has no moral compass and no intellectual judgment over what’s right and wrong. If, by our standards, it is evil, it is evil only because it uses instinctual cunning to defeat whatever comes at it.

So, when Bill Paxton as Hudson in “Aliens” asks, “Is this gonna be a standup fight, sir, or another bug hunt?” you’ve gotta snicker, albeit a little nervously, because of what’s to come.

In “Life,” an ill-fated Mars mission results in a single unmanned capsule tumbling through space. Six astronauts aboard a space station orbiting Earth position themselves directly in its path in order to perform a risky maneuver to capture it before it falls into our atmosphere and burns up. Inside are precious mineral samples the astronaut-scientists are dying to study. Get it? “Dying to study?” Sorry, couldn’t help it.

The samples are said to contain the first real evidence of life from the mysterious red planet.

As you might expect, while investigating its properties, Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) takes a sample and sets about trying to wake it up. Unsuccessful at first, he tries altering the atmosphere inside the container to replicate conditions in Earth’s prehistory and sees some activity. But, when he pokes it with a little electric prod, he gets a serious and deadly reaction.

As in most of these creepy-monster-from-space movies, we’re given little plot points to file away for later, like knowing this thing contains a cell structure that is, individually, both muscle and brain and all-eye throughout its being. So, when it grows and begins to do its screamy-hand flailing thing to the other astronauts — played by Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ryan Reynolds, Olga Dihovichnaya — it does so with great efficiency and a weird sense of logic. This is where the dead giveaway is rooted for where the story is ultimately headed.

There is a wild-creature rationale at work here, which the humans seem to fall for at every turn. But, by the time the end credits roll, at a time when the audience should be admiring the cleverness of director Daniel Espinosa’s well-plotted screenplay, we’re left wondering if Hudson’s simple-minded declaration was true in the first place.

“Life” is rated R for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror.

This film is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Also showing in Taos

The following were compiled from press materials

CHIPS

MPAA rating: R for crude sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, some violence and drug use

Mitchell Storyteller 7

Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) and Frank Ponch Poncherello (Michael Peña) have just joined the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in Los Angeles, California, but for very different reasons. Baker is a beaten-up former pro motorbiker trying to put his life and marriage back together. Poncherello is a cocky undercover federal agent investigating a multimillion-dollar heist that may be an inside job – inside the CHP.

The inexperienced rookie and the hardened pro are teamed together, but clash more than click, so kick-starting a real partnership is easier said than done. But with Baker’s unique bike skills and Ponch’s street savvy, it might just work — if they don’t drive each other crazy first.

This film will be screened daily.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Power Rangers

MPAA rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, language and for some crude humor

Mitchell Storyteller 7

Five ordinary teens — played by Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, R.J. Cyler, Ludi Lin and Becky G. — must become something extraordinary when they learn that their small town of Angel Grove and the world are on the verge of being obliterated by an alien threat.

Chosen by destiny, our heroes quickly discover they are the only ones who can save the planet. But to do so, they will have to overcome their real-life issues and before it’s too late, band together as the Power Rangers.

Grown-up actors Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks and Bill Hader also appear.

This film will be screened daily.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

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