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Sci-Fi

Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell

They really did think they were going to get sweaty nerds in a lather with this flick

dir: Rupert Sanders

2017

Well. That was something.

Yes, this is the part where I talk about something other than the film I’m pretending to review. I have seen the Japanese animated movie at least a thousand times, and I had the soundtrack, or at least songs from it on various music-playing devices for ages and heard those crazy Japanese wailing banshee songs at least 10,000 times. The (original) movie is in my DNA. Hearing that they were going to make a new version of it, I thought, rightly “so what?”

My relationship with the original, whatever it might be, can’t really be changed or tainted or in any way damaged or even really improved by something that comes out twenty years later, can it? Is this like what happened with the Indiana Jones flicks, where the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls made me hate myself for liking the first three movies, and childhoods were destroyed etc etc?

Rating:

Arrival

Arrival

With hope and patience and open hearts, no matter the colour of blood they
might pump, perhaps we can figure this puzzle of our existence out.

dir: Denis Villeneuve

2016

There aren’t many science fiction films that leave me crying or thoughtful as I sit blubbing through the credits. The reason is this – most science fiction flicks aren’t really science fiction flicks. They’re action flicks with science fiction set dressing and costuming.

Arrival is definitely not an action flick masquerading as a science fiction flick. It is certainly about a first contact scenario with what we would call actual alien aliens, who appear on Earth without even the courtesy of an advance email or nothin’.

They just appear, and they don’t even seem to want anything. They don’t want our resources, or our women, or anything. They just sit there, in their ships, waiting.

This is enough to make the leaders of several countries think “We should be blowing the ever-living fuck out of them, because their very presence makes us uncomfortable”.

It’s frustrating to see, but when I look at the world we currently live in, it doesn’t seem that far fetched. When some ‘just listening to right-wing extremists on the internet’ Marines think, for no sensible reason “well, let’s just blow them up!”, it seems discordant, and arbitrary, but again, I look at Trump’s America, and I don’t think the naughty soldiers would have even been able to wait as long as they did.

Rating:

Rogue One

Rogue One

I don't know why, but seeing the addendum "a Star Wars story" makes
me want to claw my eyes out for some reason.

dir: Gareth Edwards

2017

Yeah, so, Star Wars movies: for or against?

They always make a billion dollars, they’re as familiar as cheesecake with a similar level of consistency and taste, and they’re completely and utterly unnecessary.

And yet…

I ask myself what need there is (other than the financial) in this world for more Star Wars movies, especially since there seems to be no intention or interest in telling any ‘new’ stories, just in telling the previous ones again and again. The Force Awakens was maligned by some for being a retread of A New Hope, but what would you even say about this one here, Rogue One, replete with its fixation on daddy issues, ending, as it does, exactly at the point where A New Hope, or Star Wars, as we used to know it as, begins?

It’s less of a new construction, and more of an annex or extension on an existing McMansion that’s already plenty monstrously big okay thanks for asking bye.

It was, somewhat dishonestly, touted as a substantially different kind or type of Star Wars film, since it didn’t have any Jedi or Skywalkers in it and had a very different emphasis, being predominately more of a war movie, or at least as much of a war movie than usual.

Rating:

Midnight Special

Midnight Special

He's not from around here and he's not like us and he looks a bit funny.
And the kid's a bit weird, too.

dir: Jeff Nichols

2016

Strange yet familiar. That can be a potent combination. It can also be a boring one that fails to elicit any feelings, positive or negative.

Midnight Special is strange, certainly, as is any flick in which you have bug-eyed Michael Shannon in any role. He brings the weird to virtually any flick he’s in, no matter how large or small the role. He’s just that kind of guy. But the real ‘twist’ here is that Michael Shannon’s character isn’t the villain, or some random paranoid lunatic screaming about the doom that awaits us all, but a caring father trying to protect his special-needs son from this harsh and uncaring world.

Well, actually, as in many of these situations, it’s sometimes the world that needs to be protected from them.

This isn’t the origin story for some superhero kid, but it almost plays out like it should be. It’s very much all mysterious in the beginning. Two grunting guys in a car with a kid along for the ride drive recklessly through the night getting away from something or towards something else. We know the cops are after them, but we don’t know why.

Rating:

The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens

To be a badass, one must first look the part of the badass.
And have a cool lightsaber.

dir: J.J. Abrams

2015

It’s with a sense of relief more than anything else that audiences have found themselves celebrating what’s happened. The relief comes from knowing that George Lucas isn’t involved anymore. It also comes from wondering what would happen once Disney got its grubby mitts on the biggest franchise in the cinematic / merchandising universe.

As a nerd of longstanding membership of the global dateless wonders club, yes, I did really enjoy this flick. Sure it’s got a stack of issues, but at no stage are you enduring the flick (like at many, many parts of the prequel movies) rather than enjoying it.

The most hackneyed and cliché remark that reviewers are going to make is the same one I’m going to make now: Lucas was and still maybe is a visionary capable of creating not just a ‘world’, or world-building, but of creating something on the scale of a galaxy. Galaxy-building is not a common thing, or an easy thing. And yes, by ‘creating’, I mean conceiving of and representing something on a truly grand scale. At no stage did anyone confuse this with him being a great storyteller or a great director of actors.

There Lucas sits in his great man-cave (the Skywalker Ranch), muttering to himself after being shown this: “If only they’d added more lightsabers. Something with fifteen lightsabers at the same time. More 50s diners and more drag racing. Also, awkward conversations about sand and feelings…”

Rating:

The Martian

The Martian

One man against an entire planet, and the planet loses

dir: Ridley Scott

2015

You’d have to really, really like Matt Damon to want to spend about 2 ½ hours with him, just watching him do chores and talking to himself.

I mean, I like him well enough, but even for me it requires a level of commitment I’m not sure I possessed.

And then there’s the Ridley Scott factor. The last occasion where I spent time with him as he ‘transported’ me to another planet , I’d shelled out a small fortune to watch Prometheus in an absurdly gilded theatre in 3D (the ones where they serve you food and or drinks during the film if you so desire, and the seats are individual recliners). Let’s just say that my determination to watch Prometheus at all costs in a cinema did not lead to an outcome where I thought the money it cost was well spent.

No, in fact had I spent the same amount of money on a bunch of crack and handed it to the first person I saw outside the theatre, it would have led to the same profound feeling of foolishness and disappointment.

Rating:

Terminator Genisys

Terminator Genisys

It's all from the future, but just like the past, but there's more
of it, so it's comforting? Audiences, rejoice!

dir: Alan Taylor

2015

We don’t need another hero. We don’t need to know the way home. All we want is life beyond Endless Sequels, Reboots and Thunderdome.

We probably don’t need more Terminator movies either, truth be told. It is not shameful to admit when you’ve had enough of something. It’s considered appropriate to leave at least a little bit of food on your plate when fine dining in the homes of the high and mighty, to show a modicum of self-restraint and forbearance, or at least that’s what it says in my copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette guide, which I always scrupulously follow to the letter in this as in all things.

So it’s okay if, as a nation, as a species, we say politely but firmly “No, but thank you” when more Terminator is offered to us. Audiences didn’t thrill to this at the box office, because I’m not sure that anyone understood the idea that there was any more story to tell.

Thus far, including this one, there have been five Terminator movies. Also, two seasons of a television series relating the adventures of Sarah and John Connor, with no Austrian cyborgs in sight. You could argue, from a nostalgic perspective, that since the idea and the image of the Terminator itself is so engrained in pop culture, that saying “no” is churlish because it’s so well known.

Rating:

Chappie

Chappie

This little tyke is just learning his ABCs, but can also
rip your bloody arms off! Auntie Jack would be so proud

dir: Neill Blomkamp

2015

I mentioned in a recent review that, fortuitously or not, the week I saw this was a week in which a couple of other AI-related movies came out, and that this was a significantly different version from the other.

How different? Well, if you’re a fan of South African hip hop outfit Die Antwoord, (let’s face it, why would anyone be?), you can delight yourself by watching a flick where they mostly star mostly playing themselves using their stage names, and oh yeah there also happens to be a robot hanging around with them too.

The Johannesburg police have been replaced with robots, or at least supplemented with them. One of the engineers working on the goofy robots gets this idea that he wants to create a cop robot that has self-awareness. How does he achieve this? Um, somehow.

A defective robot is his guinea pig, into which he inserts a magical program that will, all other things being equal, let him appreciate art and maybe write poetry one day.

The defective robot itself has only a short time frame in which to experience all that life can provide. The creator, whom Chappie refers to as ‘Creator’, didn’t do this deliberately as a control or anything, or to be cruel. It’s just that, you know, like the benevolent and all powerful yet insecure deity of the Old Testament that ‘created’ us with a use-by date, it’s a feature, not a deliberate bug.

Rating:

Ex Machina

There's appropriate touching, there's inappropriate touching,
and then there's "This touching is an abomination unto the Lord".

dir: Alex Garland

2015

It’s funny that I’ve gotten to watch two films with pretty much the same premise within less than a week of each other (or their release), and yet they take the same basic story (artificial intelligence) and go in two completely oppositional directions.

Both have flaws, but they’re interesting, to me at least. The other flick I’m talking about is Chappie, but I’m not going to spend this review talking about a different flick. Even if there’s far more bizarre stuff to talk about with the other flick.

This flick takes a cool, calm approach to its subject matter. It’s basically a three-hander, well, maybe four, confined to one location (an incredible looking place in Norway, part carved out of the earth, part high tech glacier?), with muted themes and even more muted action (before the ending). Mostly, it’s a film where a guy called Caleb (Domhnall Gleason) chats with his boss Nathan (Oscar Isaac) and someone else called Ava (Alicia Vikander).

Someone else… someone else. This someone else is not as others might be. She possesses a very expressive face for something that is basically just a very complicated iPhone. And boobs too. Why would you put boobs on a robot?

Well, apparently there are very good reasons. Boobs can be a lot of things to a lot of people. They can also be a great diversion or an even better distraction.

Rating:

Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending

The Wachowskis: Finding new ways to make you regret
ever liking any movies they've ever made

dirs: Andy and Lana Wachowski

2014

I can’t really understand how the Wachowskis can keep getting these budgets for their movies. It’s insane. I can’t get an extension on my overdraft, but the Wachowskis, whose last few movies have lost an extravagant sum, close to like 500 million dollars, and yet someone keeps bankrolling them.

They’re like the Donald Trumps of the moviemaking industry. Maybe they have photos of someone, maybe the amount of money they made on the Matrix movies gets them a free pass for life.

I have no idea, but if they are given like another $200 million for their next movie, there is no justice or fiscal sanity in this world.

Nah, just kidding. I knew those two abstract concepts never existed in the first place.

If it does, amazingly, happen, it won’t be for a sequel or another instalment in the Jupiter series. I have no doubt, really, considering it cost so much to make and could not have made its money back, no matter what is claimed on various sites through the so-called ‘foreign’ markets.

Saddest of all is that somehow this is considered at least a partially ‘Australian’ movie, due to who put money into what, and a lot of the post-production work. Damn, someone’s career should be toast over that one, or at least someone deserves to be mocked over Friday drinks at the very least.

Rating:

Interstellar

Interstellar

I often look up at the night sky and wonder if Matthew
McConaugey is looking down upon me

dir: Christopher Nolan

2014

Last year’s big entry in the ‘serious’ science fiction genre was a lot more ambitious than Gravity. Don’t get me wrong, Gravity was plenty ambitious, but its ambitions were reserved towards putting the main character through an increasingly more technically complicated wringer with the desperate hope of getting back home always dangling just out of reach.

Interstellar is bigger. It’s not aiming for the atmosphere (or lack thereof) just above our planet. It’s aiming to become the next generation’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

If that was truly the case, it should have aimed to be a hell of a lot more tedious.

I know 2001 is a classic. I know this because everyone keeps saying it’s a classic. The same consensus tells me that Forrest Gump and Titanic are classics. So if everyone says something is a classic, ipso facto it’s a classic.

With that established, as I repeat every time the topic of 2001 comes up, I cannot for the life of me stay awake during that goddamn film. The only time it didn’t put me to sleep it was showing at the Astor cinema, and I was a child seeing it for the first time, confused out of my mind, but wide-eyed.

Rating:

Predestination

Predestination

I'm about as confused as you look, but I'd like to offer you
a great opportunity on the ground floor as a secretary at
Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce

dir: The Spierig Brothers

2014

Predestination is the third film by the Queenslander Spierig Brothers that I’ve seen, or that they’ve made, and the first one that I can recall reviewing.

The reasons are… well, it’s not polite to say why. This will probably, hopefully for them, be their most successful film. Saying it’s their best film is damning with faint praise. Undead was half an okay movie (zombies), and half unwatchable (sci fi crap and a high pitched screaming cop that I wanted to murder more than the other characters did). Daybreakers was terrible, so terrible, such a terrible take on the vampire genre. Daybreakers took a bunch of actors I liked and made me hate them all, at least for a while.

Predestination is a different beast. It’s actually competently made. It may be complicated, but they take steps to try to explain everything that’s going on. The acting, especially the central performances by Sarah Snook and Ethan Hawke is fine, in Snook’s case great, perhaps.

Rating:

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I look forward to the next film in the series:
The Day After the Night Before the Prequel
to the Sequel of the Time of the Afternoon of
the Takeover of the Planet by the Apes! Part 8

dir: Matt Reeves

2014

I probably said a lot of similarly effusive stuff around the time that Rise of the Planet of the Apes came out, but I find it disturbing and a little sad to say that some of the best performances that I have seen in this year, or any year for that matter, were delivered by CGI apes.

The alchemy that allows performers and computer programmers to put together something so… incredible, these incredibly expressive eyes and faces, these performances that say as much if not more than words can, are kind of worrying. We are starting to look like something substandard compared to what can be created by these people with arcane skills.

Pretty soon we’re not going to look as real as the cinematic reality they’re coming up with.

There is, hands down, no greater character or performance this year than Andy Serkis / the programmers as Caesar in this film. Caesar looks and acts like such a powerfully believable character, with a face and manner so expressive, so ‘real’, that you can’t help but wonder why the humans don’t look as believable or as vital. All of the leading ape characters look so real that for not one moment did I feel like I was watching a CGI character despite knowing full well that I was.

Rating:

Lucy

Lucy

Lucy doesn't end up in the sky with diamonds, but
maybe she should have

dir: Luc Besson

2014

Mr Luc Besson: I don’t know what drugs you have access to, doubtless being able to afford shit the rest of us could only dream of; stuff so far above Class A drugs that they’re not even manufactured from ingredients found in this solar system.

Thing is, we don’t need to know about it. Whatever experiences you had taking magic mushies, DMT or ayahuasca with South American shamans, or even more obscure drugs snorted from the navels of Russian hookers, they’re for you to bore your fellow drug takers with. Sober people aren’t interested. Just like when you wake up having had a particularly vivid dream, why bother trying to play it out for someone else? That shit’s never going to make sense to another person.

“And then the priest came in, and this is the best bit, he was holding a tennis racket, and he was whacking this lady’s pineapple with it, and then we were flying, and I was saying to my girlfriend, who’d turned into Cardinal Richelieu, “Argle bargle” and he/she said back to me “Foofaraw” before we grew massive flippers and swam away.”

Cut that shit out. Or, maybe, instead spend a massive amount of money (for a European movie) bringing your delusions of humanity’s potential to the big screen for all of us to delight in.

Rating:

The Signal

The Signal

dir: William Eubank

2014

A lot of films have too much money and not enough ideas.

A lot of films have too many ideas, and not enough money.

Some films have no ideas, and no money.

The Signal is some combination of these positions. Call it a super-position if you like.

I am amazed that this flick got made and was released upon an unsuspecting, unwilling and uninterested public. Amazed. It’s so almost accomplished and so horribly amateurish at the same time. Either one of those should have damned it to not-even-illegally-downloading-it hell.

That anyone thought this could be made and shown to people, to humans, and not have them fall into dissolving pools of frustration is a testament to the optimism of humanity. This is, as far as I can tell, William Eubank’s feature debut, and it’s as if he wants people to grunt “Meh, smells like M. Night Shyamalan-type crap to me”.

Rating:

The Giver

The Giver

What you're giving me is the desire for this flick to
be erased from my memory

dir: Phillip Noyce

2014

By all the gods above and below, this is the dreariest flick I’ve seen in a long time.

I know enough about the book The Giver to know that since the 1990s the book has been on the reading list for high school students, probably causing them collectively to groan whenever they see the advertising because it stinks of homework. Same way the rest of us feel whenever Shakespeare or Anne Frank’s Diary is mentioned.

But honestly, how did this book get such traction in the American consciousness? I haven’t read the book so maybe it’s a masterpiece of dystopian allegory or didactic science fiction, but based on what’s ended up on the screen it’s a trite, dreary and fundamentally unbelievable story with a simple-minded resolution that not even a kid would buy.

And yet a lot of people have read it, and a lot of people saw the film. I remain categorically unimpressed.

It even has The Dude, and even that doesn’t work. Shameful, shameful work.

The world of The Giver is one we’ve seen many a time before. It’s a bland gated community without too many dark skinned people, and everyone is blandly handsome and polite. Plus, they’re all in black and white. In other words, it’s not just that the images we are seeing are in black and white, we’re informed, by how it changes, that the denizens of this community also see everything only in black and white, like dogs.

Rating:

Godzilla 2014

Godzilla

Go, you great ginormous gorgeous thing, you.

dir: Gareth Edwards

Come in, close the door, have a seat. We didn’t know we missed you, Godzilla, because we thought we’d had enough of you over the last 60 years. But it turns out we really missed you.

Sure, we bumped into you in 1998, in that terrible film by the German Michael Bay known as Roland Emmerich, where Matthew Broderick was meant to save Manhattan from you, but that was an embarrassing run-in. It was the equivalent of going out and seeing an ex you still think fondly of, covered in vomit and staggering in the gutter. It’s best to forget about that time.

And honestly, the halcyon days between you and the audience was so long ago that we’ve all moved on. We’ve amused ourselves with cute kitten videos on the internets, and week after week of superhero flicks being poured out into the cinemas. The question becomes: do we ever really need to see each other again?

Gareth Edwards made a flick called Monsters back in the grim, distant days of 2010. In really obvious ways it was a test run for making a new Godzilla flick, except for a miniscule fraction of the cost. The budget for Monsters was in the tens of thousands. The budget for the hair care products alone used on performers in Godzilla would have been in the millions. It’s an easy transition for Edwards to make, apparently.

Rating:

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

I wouldn't trust them to guard my corned
beef sandwich, let along an entire Galaxy.

dir: James Gunn

2014

When I first saw the trailer for this Marvel movie, which was probably playing just before another Marvel movie was about to play on the screen, I cringed inwardly, and sighed melodramatically. I do that, sometimes.

To me, because I’d never heard of these characters or this comic book ever, it smacked of arrogance on Marvel’s part, in that they’re so big now and have made so much serious bank since starting up Marvel Studios, that they could literally put any shit together and expect people to see it because it says Marvel Marvel Marvel all over the place.

Marvel. It had megaflop written all over it. If I had money to bet on its failure, I would have bet everything.

I was sure this film would die a horrible death at the box office, and it would be a stinging rebuke to Marvel’s hubristic attempts to take over the entire world. Stan Lee would have to eat dinner out of a can, they would from then on only make Iron Man movies all the time, more and more ludicrous crossovers like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four versus Loki Loki and more Loki. Disaster on an epic scale.

Rating:

Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer

That's the look of an American actor who just found out how
little he's going to get paid to be in a South Korean film

dir: Bong Joon-ho

2013

On its surface, Snowpiercer sounds like a pretty dumb idea for a movie: it’s about a train that never stops upon which the last remnants of humanity reside, due to a man-made global ice age.

Thank you for being so dumb. And if I tell you it’s based, despite its Korean director Bong Joon-ho, on a French graphic novel, you’re going to think it’s the dumbest thing since flared pants. Oui oui? Incroyable!

But if I then tell you that it’s one of the weirdest and most enjoyable flicks I’ve seen this year, then you’ll really think I’ve gone stark raving bonkers barking mad plus 1.

Snowpiercer has a strange premise, but it has a plot anyone can appreciate. Aboard this gleaming train, the scum of humanity are relegated to the tail section, where everyone’s dirty and it’s horribly grim. Talk of mutiny, of revolution bubbles up from their darkened bunks. Whispers here and there indicate that something’s gonna happen, and happen soon.

If something didn’t happen, well, we’d just waste two hours watching a bunch of bored, dirty, unshaved people on a train, and I see that every day for free, being one of them.

Rating:

Transcendence

Transcendence

We all know it's only a matter of time. You know in the end
the machines will win

dir: Wally Pfister

2014

Transcend… from what to what, you might ask? Transcendence is an interesting story mired by a world in which the impact of advanced technology is not as unbelievable as the actions of many of the silly, silly characters to be found abounding in this script. For there to be a popcorn friendly story, a lot of the super-smart people on display have to do a lot of dumb things, and that never bodes well for a high concept sci-fi story.

Personally, the premise (uploading Johnny Depp into the internet) is intriguing. The idea of uploading human consciousness into some kind of machine has been around for a while (predating William Gibson’s cyberpunk stuff from the 1980s), but recent advances in actual technology have to up the ante when it comes to what people dream up in science fiction. So it’s not just about a person’s consciousness uploaded: it’s about quantum computing, nanotechnology, technological singularities and artificial intelligence as well. And whatever other kitchen sinks the screenwriters cribbed from old copies of Wired magazines.

Rating:

Under the Skin

Under the Skin

Is this the expression of an inhuman, alien intelligence,
or is it the look of a person thinking "Did I remember to
turn the oven off before I left home?"

dir: Jonathan Glazer

This is a deeply unsettling film, or at least it was for me. The strongest evidence for this is the fact that the movie takes a whole bunch of Scarlett Johannson nudity and renders it unpleasant and deeply disturbing.

This is science fiction in the truest sense of the use of the term, in that it's not just an action flick with robots and aliens fighting it out over the skies of New York. It is, in some ways, more of a horror film. Right from the start the soundtrack and the sound design is structured to make us feel unsettled, and, in my case, really anxious.

You can probably find parallels between this flick and a few others, but it's fairly novel in its structure, and in the amount of information it withholds from us. There's barely any dialogue in it, and almost all of the story it has to tell is delivered visually.

As the flick starts, there are some stark and 'alien' (but really simple) looking visuals, and a screeching tone that causes goosebumps. I wasn't sure what we were watching, other than a skewed homage to 2001 in some form, but what I chose it to mean, as a muffled voice in the distance sounds like it's trying out words for the first time, is the creation of something. Something designed to look like a someone. Because the final of these introductory images is an unblinking eye.

Rating:

Edge of Tomorrow

Emily Blunt - Edge of Tomorrow

It's secretly your film, Emily, they just haven't
told Tom yet.

dir: Doug Liman

Who doesn't want to see Tom Cruise die violent deaths again and again and again? I defy anyone to say otherwise.

Well, this movie seems to have been constructed to serve the interests of both groups of Tom Cruise aficionados: those who actually like him (and what a strange bunch of people they must be), and the far more numerous group of people who behold him and his actions with contempt and fear. As the most prominent member of that church-level scam/cult Scientology, and for his many bizarre actions, he has rightly earned himself a special place in our hearts.

It's so special, in fact, that the prospect of watching him die numerous times becomes an enticement rather than an obstacle.

The premise, taken from a delightfully-titled Japanese manga called All You Need is Kill!, which I wish they'd kept as the title, has been seen in a number of formats and places since Groundhog Day, but that's the one everyone keeps bringing up, as if it's not a lazy grab. Saying "It's Groundhog Day with mech suits and aliens!" isn't creative, inventive or funny, it's just an example of how the path of least resistance to an easy idea is a testament to the fact that you shouldn't be bothering, at all.

Rating:

Riddick

Riddick

Dark, darker than the darkest dark chocolate

dir: David Twohy

You get these strange moments in the world of cinema where, because of your familiarity with its ins and outs, you get the stupid impression that nothing will ever surprise you again. It’s the height of foolishness.

The movie industry is always surprising me. How it continues to exist in this age, the sheer abundance of films it keeps pumping out to ever decreasing profits; it staggers me that it’s still going. Most of all, some of the movies they make thinking there’s an audience for them surprises the hell out of me.

That they, in their infinite wisdom, have made a third Riddick movie, imagining as they have, or at least hoping desperately that the multitudes are clamouring to see this character again, for me is on a par with a studio thinking the world wants to see a Jar Jar Binks movie. Or that the world needs, desperately craves a Turner & Hooch follow-up, or that Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger should make a sequel to Twins. Call it Triplets! Get Mel Gibson to play the middle one! Everyone from your maiden aunt to dribbling infants will kill to see that!

Rating:

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Catching Fire

Girls with bows and arrows, skills and a lot of motivation to
use them must be obeyed at all times

dir: Francis Lawrence

I don’t think anyone is surprised that Catching Fire is a better flick than the first one. Almost every single reviewer mentions it in the first few sentences of their reviews. It’s almost like there’s a groupthink – overmind controlling us all. Of course I’m totally immune to it, but, you know, watch out for it. Or, at least that’s what I’m being told to type.

The thing is, though, as much as I enjoyed it while I was watching it, I had the nagging impression that someone who hadn’t read the books would be hard pressed figuring out what was going on and why, and also why they should care.

Perhaps I’m underestimating people, and underestimating the power of Jennifer Lawrence’s acting abilities as the central character Katniss Everdeen. I’m not going to be surprising anyone by praising her as an actor and a human being: she’s great! She might have received an Academy Award for her role in Silver Linings Playbook, which is still a pretty ordinary film, but she deserves it for her work in these somewhat pulpy and grandiloquent films. Her acting is superb, no matter how absurd the situation or the moment.

Rating:

Gravity

Gravity

The title of the flick could have been "We Really Don't Belong
Out Here, People."

dir: Alfonso Cuaron

2013

People have being saying this is one of the films of the year for a year before its release, and they’re still saying it now months after it’s been out.

Just give the Best Actress thingie to Sandra Bullock, already. No-one else is going to come close.

And just give the Best Director gong to Alfonso Cuaron, too. Nothing else anyone has released this year thus far is going to come close either. Even if Spielberg releases a flick with Meryl Streep playing Abraham Lincoln riding the whale Free Willy through a tornado that kills Nazis with lightning bolts coming out of its eyes, and it’s based on a true story, it’s not going to beat Cuaron. Take that to the bank, or the bookies, and bet your house on it. Or at least somebody else’s house.

I’m not saying it’s the best film of the year so far, I’m just saying anyone who’s seen this the proper way, on the biggest screen possible, in 3D, generally is blown away by it, and I’m no different from the masses myself. I’m as susceptible as the next slob to this stuff, sitting there in an ever-expanding war zone of wrappers and spilled popcorn, that I may or may not pick up and consume from the feculent floor as the whim might take me.

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Elysium

Elysium

Kill kill kill kill kill the Poor. Eat eat eat eat eat the Rich!

dir: Neill Blomkamp

2013

Before I watched this movie, I'd heard that it was a thinly-veiled attack on the kinds of people who think the unwashed, unhealthy, unwealthy masses should be desperately scrambling after medical treatment like a bunch of low blood sugar office workers fighting to the death over the last donut. Those people, I guess, think health care should be no more a common right than everyone having the right to gold-plated flying unicorns.

These people, I believe, are called conservatives. They're trying to do the 'right' thing by conserving the precious and scarce amount of health care that's out there, because, let's face it, poor people don't deserve health care, they'd just end up wasting resources by living longer, moochier lives.

So when I heard these claims about a flick I hadn't seen, I thought it was the usual outrage bullshit propaganda these 'types' of people invariably come up with, along with blaming everything on Communists, Jews, Gays and Lesbians, Single Mothers, Dark Skinned People, or combinations thereof. You know the types of people I'm talking about: they're called idiots.

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Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim

Oi! Stay Away From Our Coathanger!, you giant
physical approximations of adolescent insecurity
and dysfunction!

dir: Guillermo Del Toro

2013

Now, I love me some Guillermo Del Toro. I love him in the way I love Abel Ferrara, Whit Stillman, Hal Hartley, Takashi Miike and other directors who make the either occasional or frequent shit movie: it's irrational, but heartfelt, and rests solely on the fact that they did one or two movies that I truly loved a long time ago.

The most curious thing about Del Toro movies is that I love the idea of them more than the movies themselves. With the exception of Pan's Labyrinth, and maybe Golden Army, I don't think most of his flicks work that well. I'm not sure if it's a cultural/language barrier thing (even though he speaks better, more articulate English than I do), or that he outgeeks me to an embarrassing level, or whether the visual level matters more to him than the storytelling aspect of his movies. Whatever it is, I don't totally get him even though I really, really like him. It's a strange relationship we have.

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Oblivion

Oblivion

Imagine a world without people. Now imagine a world
without Tom Cruise. You know which one is more
terrifying.

dir: Joseph Kosinski

The global obsession with obsessively destroying the globe continues…

This is film #437 to come out this year which either has the world about to be destroyed or a world already destroyed as its setting.

When will they just leave the world alone? What did it ever do to you? Why do you always have to be wrecking the place? Get your feet off the couch, and put that beer on a coaster, that coffee table is mahogany, arsehole!

A while back I would have said these flicks of a pre or post-apocalyptic nature reflected our anxiety about the place actually being destroyed, as in we feared nuclear war or pollution or some other catastrophic fuck up permanently. The wrecking of the world would probably be the highest stakes that a film could put up, and so you'd think we'd have to take it really seriously and really care.

Since we see a flick come out almost every week with a world on the brink or just flat out ruined already, I think it signifies that we just gave up being scared about it. We no longer fear that the world will be destroyed, or at least the people at the studios think it's no longer that shocking for us. It's commonplace, it's every day now to think about a world destroyed. And even though we're not going to be able to get internet connectivity or soy lattes in a ruined world, whether it's crawling with mutants or completely poisoned, we're resigned to it, and we're looking forward to what comes next.

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Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness: Proudly Brought to you by the NRA

dir: J.J. Abrams

It says they’re going Into Darkness, but I’m not sure what that has to do with the film. Sure, there were some shadows, some underlit places, but I hardly think that justifies such a title.

Wait, you mean it’s metaphorical, not literal? That it’s thematic, not aesthetic? Well, I haven’t been this confused since Michael Bay made a movie about something hidden on the dark side of the moon and just referred to it as Dark of the Moon. The Dark ‘what’ of the moon, Michael? Its dark chocolate centre, which I’ve heard is 80% cacao? Its dark and tortured past as a roadie for the other planets when they used to go on tour throughout the Milky Way? Its dark future as a holiday destination for bored mega-wealthy sadomasochists?

The moon plays a small part in this flick, but mostly it continues to exist and complicates the adventures of the crew of the USS Enterprise, which is a space ship capable of flying around really fast and shooting stuff.

That this is the new face of the Star Trek empire has to be accepted if anyone’s going to have any remote chance of enjoying it. Anyone who’s hated Trek all their lives and all its existence aren’t likely to hop on board the bandwagon now. With all the modern sprucing up they’ve done, the flick firmly and heroically panders to the Trek nerds like nothing ever has before.

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Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

All of these people: none of them know what's going
on either

dir: The Wachowski Siblings and Tom Tykwer

There’s something so evocative for me about the sentence fragment ‘Cloud Atlas’. I’m serious, I’m not taking the piss. When I first heard it, and I can’t remember the context, whether it was in regards to the novel this movie is based on or not, I thought it was a poetic piece of brilliance. A juxtaposition of words so simple yet so meaningful/meaningless that I couldn’t help but love it.

Maybe it’s pretentious twaddle. I don’t know. All I know is that I love the name Cloud Atlas. Imagine such a thing; an atlas, whose purpose is to define and formalise exactly what is where in a landscape, yet of the clouds, of something ephemeral and ever-changing. Ironic juxtaposition of contradictory elements or what?

Everything I’ve said there is as much meaning as I ever derived, further on, once I actually read the book and then watched the film, at a much later stage.

The book? Eh. It had its moments.

The film? Well, that’s going to take me a bit longer to unravel.

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