ABC Film Challenge – Sci-Fi – E – Earth to Echo (2014)

Director: Dave Green

Writer: Henry Gayden (Screenplay) Henry Gayden, Andrew Panay (Story)

Starring: Teo Halm, Astro, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt, Jason Gray-Stanford, Algee Smith


Plot: After receiving a bizarre series of encrypted messages, a group of kids embark on an adventure with an alien who needs their help.

Tagline – No one will ever believe our story.

Runtime: 1 Hour 31 Minutes


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Fun Coming of Age Movie


Story: Earth to Echo starts as the three friends Tuck (Astro), Alex (Halm) and Munch (Hartwig) are spending their final week together before they are being forced to move for construction of a freeway. They go on one final adventure which takes them into the desert at night following a map which leads them to meet an alien.

The alien is lost and the three must work together to help the lost alien build a ship, so he can return home, this is one adventure the kids will never forget.


Thoughts on Earth to Echo


Characters – Tuck is the YouTube sensation that makes videos with his best friends, he is the reason why they have the camera in the first place and is looking for the final adventure before their move. Alex is one of the group, he is the one that will always go along for the ride without any pressure put on him. Munch is the one of the group that is always the nervous one that needs talking into going on any adventure. Emma is the one from outside the group that joins the adventure half way through bringing new ideas to stay ahead of the people chasing them. Dr Madsen portrays himself as a construction worker trying to keep a secret away from the world.

PerformancesThe child actors do all give a good performance, the three boys do act like they would be real friends and Ella does help make them feel lightly awkward. Jason Gray-Stanford is harder to watch after seeing him in Monk for years.

StoryThe story here follows four friends as they spend their last night together before being forced to move in different directions following a map which sends them on an adventure to help a standard alien return home. This has the same feeling you would say ET had, the unity between friends, an adventure they could never imagine and facing the reality things in life will be changing for these kids which is out of their control. This is a good coming of age story with the elements of sci-fi throughout.

Adventure/Family/Sci-FiThe adventure the friends go on, is a once in the lifetime one and has even more meaning because it was their last night together. This is one the family could enjoy with the sci-fi element of the film shows how the idea of aliens could leave us anywhere.

SettingsThe film is set over one night in one neighbourhood that can be travelled by bike, this keeps us understand the distant the characters will be going.

Special EffectsThe effects here are very good, which should be praised, but the problem is that this is shot like a found footage, meaning the effects should be looking this good.

Scene of the Movie –
Truck sequence.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The camera work is annoying for this style of film.

Final ThoughtsThis is a good entertaining coming of age movie that feels like it wants to be ET only to never reaches that level.


Overall: Coming of Age 101





Extinction (2018)

Director: Ben Young

Writer: Eric Heisserer, Spenser Cohen, Brad Kane (Screenplay)

Starring: Lizzy Caplan, Michael Pena, Mike Colter, Emma Booth, Israel Broussard, Tom Riley, Lilly Aspell


Plot: A father has a recurring dream of losing his family. His nightmare turns into reality when the planet is invaded by a force bent on destruction. Fighting for their lives, he comes to realize an unknown strength to keep them safe from harm.

Tagline – We were not here first.

Runtime: 1 Hour 35 Minutes


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Sci-Fi With a Twist


Story: Extinction starts as we meet Peter (Pena) a happily married man to Alice (Caplan), with two daughters Hanna (Crouch) and Lucy (Tremblay), he is struggling with nightmares of an invasion which sees him needing to protect his family, the problem is they are starting to take over his life, putting his own personal life in danger.

With Alice about to give up on Peter, the attack from his dreams starts, now he must piece together his dreams like a puzzle to help his family get out alive.


Thoughts on Extinction


Characters – Peter has been suffering from nightmares of an alien invasion, his family are worried about him, his co-workers are too, he doesn’t know how to read his nightmares, until the attack starts. He uses the nightmares as a guide to survive against the alien invaders proving he can fight, kill and protect his family. Peter is the reluctant hero making decisions that are risky for the rest of the survivors. Alice is the wife of Peter, she sees him in trouble and is getting tired of seeing him suffer, she sees the problems but once the attack starts she will do everything to protect her children. The kids are your generic, we have the rebellious teenage daughter and the younger innocent one that is trapped in the middle. We do also have people that are helping with the survival, they are mostly guides not doing too much.

PerformancesMichael Pena in the leading role is strong throughout, he gives us an everyman action performance where he believes his kids are what is important. Lizzy Caplan is good in her role without needing to letting Pena take all of the spotlight. The rest of the cast are good enough for the film.

StoryThe story here follows one man who is suffering nightmares of an alien invasion which will see his family in danger. We tease the idea that this could just be in his head, until an attack starts. We get to follow the generic save the family from the attackers storyline which works enough. The story does have a third act twist which turns everything on its head and makes you re-think what you have seen so far.

Sci-FiThe sci-fi world created shows us being in the future with the technology, the attack shows future weapons too.

SettingsThe film is set in generic city in the future, it has tall building and surrounded by trees, this is all we see for location.

Special EffectsThe effects for the most part were good, that was until the final shot which looked awful.

Scene of the Movie –
The twist.

That Moment That Annoyed Me That final shot nearly kills the movie.

Final ThoughtsThis is a sci-fi film that does work well for the and the twist in the third act does make it feel fresh.


Overall: Sci-fi film saved by its twist.




Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018)

Director: Steven C Miller

Writer: Miles Chapman (Screenplay)

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Dave Bautista, Xiaoming Huang, Jesse Metcalfe, 50 Cent, Wes Chatham, Chen Tang, Jaime King


Plot: Ray Breslin manages an elite team of security specialists trained in the art of breaking people out of the world’s most impenetrable prisons. When his most trusted operative, Shu Ren, is kidnapped and disappears inside the most elaborate prison ever built, entirely computerized and constantly changing shape, Ray must track him down with the help of some of his former friends.


Runtime: 1 Hour 36 Minutes


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Just Boring


Story: Escape Plan 2: Hades starts as Ray Breslin (Stallone) sees his team Shu Ren (Huang), Like (Metcalfe) and Kimbral (Chatham) go wrong resulting in the death of a team member. We pick up one year later we travel to Bangkok where Shu Ren is watching over his cousin Yusheng Ma (Tang) and things don’t go well as Shu Ren ends up in Hades, a new state of the art prison known for a zoo for inmates to fight.

Shu Ren uses his training to survive and plan the escape with Luke, while Ray looks to make contacts including Trent DeRosa (Bautista) to help conduct the big rescue attempt in the new prison that no one seems to be able to escape from.


Thoughts on Escape Plan 2 Hades


Characters – Ray Breslin is the man that runs the security team, we met him in the first film, he has created a team that can do the job for him and for the most part in this movie he is trying to figure out where his team is and how to get them out, his narration to Shu keeps him relevant in this film. Trent DeRosa is an old friend of Ray, he has the connections in Bangkok which brings him to Ray side, though he is mostly just here for the tech side of things. Shu Ren is the student of Ray, he has been learning how to conduct himself in the solution of the escaping from prisons and now he must put all his lessons together to figure out how to escape. Luke is another student, he is reckless as times, but will work for the team, Hush is the connection around the world with his hacking skills and Jasper is the teammate that gets let go only to end up in the prison with Shu Ren.

PerformancesWhen we come to the performance, we need to understand certain factors, first Xiaoming Huang is the star of this movie and he is good, but his character is written to handle things strongly, but seems to come off weak when it comes to knowing what he is doing. Stallone is mostly the mentor in this film, he gets a couple of scenes though he isn’t involved anywhere near as much as the first film and looks like he is here for a pay check. Dave Bautista is one of the hottest action stars in Hollywood now, he is completely wasted in this role, which is sad because he could be the star is written correctly.

StoryThe story continues to follow the lives of security expert Ray Breslin who along with his team can break out of any prison, we enter a new computerised prison with state of the art protection system which should be uncrackable. We do focus on one of the students Shu Ren more than Ray this time as he goes over the rules we learnt first time in the battle to survive the prison. If we look at the story, it does feel slow paced for the most part and doesn’t get going enough, we compromise on characters we know to cover up the lack of screen time the originals have and the prison never really feels like a prison. The whole escape seems rushed and you will not believe in anyway they won’t make it. 

ActionThe action when it comes to the fight sequences are good and you can see they bought in Xiaoming Huang for the fight sequences. The shooting scenes are fine, but nothing overly interesting.

SettingsThe film puts us in the new prison, though it is so computerised it never feels like it would be real. Outside the prison it is all generically forgettable location.

Special EffectsThe effects are not impressive either, because we do get moments of computerised electricity to contain that look bad.

Scene of the Movie –
Give big Dave a gun.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Ray is barely in the film.

Final ThoughtsThis is a bad sequel, it does come off slow and boring for the most part and is hugely miss sold on the idea Stallone is the star of the movie.


Overall: Sequel not worth watching.




Euthanizer (2018)

Director: Teemu Nikki

Writer: Teemu Nikki (Screenplay)

Starring: Matti Onnismaa, Jari Virman, Hannamaija Nikander, Heikki Nousiainen, Pihla Penttienen, Jouko Puolanto


Plot: A man who euthanizes animals as a side job runs afoul of a white supremacist.


Runtime: 1 Hour 25 Minutes


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Distrubing


Story: Euthanizer starts as we head to a small Finnish town where on the outskirts Veijo Haukka (Onnismaa) offers the people a chance to euthanizes their pets cheaper than a vet, he does give the people life lessons in his methods and only does it with sick or elderly animals. When Petri (Virman) a man who wants to get rid of his dog and is trying to become part of a white supremacist group known as soldiers of Finland, Veijo keeps the as his own.

When Petri wants to impress the group, he targets Veijo and after Veijo’s father Martti (Nousiainen) dies he snaps, getting psychical with anyone he sees to have prolonged any animals suffering.


Thoughts on Euthanizer


Characters – Veijo Haukka is a lonely man that lives on the outskirts who offers a service to people who need to dispose and euthanize their pets, he has morals and wants to make sure the animal is suffering before doing anything, when he loses his father he will not stop to get revenge on the people that crossed him. Petri is the one man trying to join a white supremacy group, he will want to impress, even if the group isn’t the biggest threat. Lotta is the nurse caring for Veijo father, she becomes obsessed with what he does enjoying the darker side of sex.

PerformancesThe performances from the whole cast keep us feeling the disturbing theme throughout. Matti Onnismaa is the stand out never blinking in his scene as you see his actions are shown on his face. Jari Virman does make us hate his character which is what we need him to be.

StoryThe story does follow a revenge ABC checklist, though we do have characters that don’t seem the most enjoyable. Veijo is euthanizing animals which does give us more disturbing side of things, while the white supremacy group never feels like that much of a threat as it only seems to have about 4 people in it. The side sex story is strange, but it does end up showing us just where the people in the world will be liking. This does have disturbing moments in and there was a point where even I nearly had to stop because of the subject matter rather than quality.

ThrillerThis film does try to build the tension, but spends too much time focusing on getting to the characters in place before anything happened.

SettingsThe film shows us a small Finnish town which shows the extremes of the people that are like.

Scene of the Movie –
Final revenge.

That Moment That Annoyed Me If you are an animal fan this will be difficult to watch.

Final ThoughtsThis is a thriller that does a revenge easily enough, though it will test the audience with the subject matter involving the animals.


Overall: Too disturbing for some.




The Endless (2018)

Director: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead

Writer: Justin Benson (Screenplay)

Starring: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Callie Hernandez, Emily Montague, Lew Temple, James Jordan, Tate Ellington


Plot: Two brothers return to the cult they fled from years ago to discover that the group’s beliefs may be more sane than they once thought.


Runtime: 1 Hour 51 Minutes


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Will Keep You Guessing


Story: The Endless starts when two brothers Justin (Benson) and Aaron (Moorhead) receive a video tape from the former cult the pair left years ago, Aaron interested in return to see if the group got their ascension and reluctantly Justin agrees to go along, first for a day, but soon it becomes longer as the two start experience strange events.

With the brother’s relationship being tested Justin finds himself being pushed our while Aaron wants to stay but are they really a cult or just a community living off the map, that is the big question.  


Thoughts on The Endless


Characters – Justin is the older brother, he has always kept an eye over his younger brother and was the one that helped him escape the cult, he wants an honest living but reluctantly agrees to return with his brother. He doesn’t believe the peace and harmony in the cult and he is the one that watches over anything that could happen. Aaron is the younger brother who receives the tape about returning, he wants to learn more about his past in the cult, which he believes is a death cult. He is drawn back by Anna a woman that seems to not aged since they were last together. Anna is one of the cult members, the one leading the video messages, she helps draw the brothers back and clearly knows more than she is letting on. The rest of the members are different in their own ways as are the other people they meet along the way.

PerformancesJustin Benson and Aaron Moorhead take the leading roles as well as the work behind the camera, they have great chemistry together and you will believe their uncertainty from their characters. the rest of the cast make their characters known through the film without taking the spotlight away from the leads.

StoryWhere do you start with this story without giving anything away? Well let’s try this, we follow two brothers with a stretch relationship that return to a cult which escaping from has helped define their lives, they are drawn back in where they must learn whether they were right to leave, but once they discover the truth things take a drastic turn, one that you will never seen coming. This is a fantasy horror that will keep you guessing and you will not figure this one out like many others in the genre. The only negative in the story is returning to one of their previous films that I for one hadn’t seen, so didn’t understand the references or reasoning of including it.

Fantasy/Horror/Sci-FiThe fantasy elements of this film are held back for the most part, but once we see them we learn the big picture which can leave you jaw dropped. The horror in the film has moments of tension and unease as we wait to see where everything will go, which dives us into the sci-fi element which again come later into the film and are used excellently.

SettingsThe film is set in and around the community, we see how they live, operate and accept people, even people who left, they are away from society which keeps them secret and the surrounding area is filled with mystery too.

Special EffectsTh effects in this film show what you can achieve with small budgets, we see how well each moment in the final third of the film becomes bigger and bigger leading to the shocking ending through the use of the effects.

Scene of the Movie –
The final ten minutes.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The references to Resolution, wasn’t sure if it was an extension of that story or just in the same universe.

Final ThoughtsThis is one of the horror, sci-fi films of the year, it will keep you guessing, has beautiful pacing that builds to the ending that will leave you shocked, great low budget work achieved from the directing pair and one you should all be watching.


Overall: Must watch fantasy horror.