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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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

Robot and Frank

Robot and Frank

On bended knee, I ask that you marry me, Dear Robot

dir: Jake Schreier

Films about old guys battling dementia don’t sound like a lot of fun. If you saw that flick, at least I thought it was an actual movie, of Clint Eastwood getting into an argument with a chair last year and losing, then you know how sad it can be.

Really sad. But where there’s inspiration, there’s hope. Someone fairly clever came up with a sci-fi premise that does what the best kinds of science-fiction stories do: they use some kind of presently non-existent technology to tell us a story relatable to the people of today.

Frank (Frank Langella) is a grumpy old bastard, as if there’s any other kind of old guy in movies. The first thing we see him doing is burglarising a house. He’s pretty rough at it, but he knows what he’s doing. As he’s extracting everything of worth through lockpicking and brute force, he spies a picture in a frame, and wonders how a picture of himself as a younger man with his kids has found it into his target’s house.

It takes a while, but he figures out, too late, that he’s been knocking off his own house in the middle of the night.

So, yeah, we get to see two things: he’s a thief by nature, and he’s got some kind of neurological/cognitive issues, especially as they relate to memory.

Rating:

Total Recall

Total Recall

With all their money you'd think they could afford to
give him a bloody shave for once

dir: Len Wiseman

Who dares say this remake is unnecessary? WHO DARES?

And they include the scene with a three-breasted prostitute, so what are you complaining about?

Total Recall, the flick from the early, early Nineties, is not really the classic some are pretending it is. Sure, it’s an Arnie film from before he got too ripe, and it was directed by Paul Verhoeven, someone for whom the words "tasteless misogynist excess" are a badge of honour instead of the grave insult they're intended to be, and it was pretty freaky and entertaining at the time. But it's no 2001. It's definitely on the goofy, trashy side of the sci-fi cinematic spectrum.

It also, like this flick, didn't really have that much to do with the original Philip K. Dick short story it pretended to be lifted from. That story, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, was a very short story indeed. It also included no more than a depressed guy who goes to a memory implantation place where he wants some fantasy implanted that he's the most Important Person in the Universe. Turns out, the staff of the place realise, he actually is.

And that was it. Nothing about Mars, or three-breasted prostitutes, freeing the slaves or violent divorces. Nothing about mutants or superspy triple agents and defective holographic headgear.

Rating:

Men in Black 3

Men in Black 3

Men in Black: When will this shit end?

dir: Barry Sonnenfeld

And the world keeps on spinning, thanks to the Men in Black who keep us safe from the decent films in the multiplex. Sorry, I meant safe from the scum of the universe. It seems like I'm saying every few reviews that such-and-such movie is unnecessary, especially when it's a prequel - sequel - new installment in a fifteen part series, and MIB3 is unnecessary, but then let's not get too hoity-toity about this whole cinema business. None of them are really that necessary, let's face it. In this cruel, brutish world they're philosophically the equivalent of whipped cream out of a can or those tiny yapping dogs idiots are sometimes shown carrying around in their handbags.

And yet I love them. Movies that is. Films in all their glory.

Whilst I'd label MIB3 even more unnecessary than most movies, it was not an entirely wasted experience. Sure, it was a waste of money, in all senses of the word, and perhaps of the time spent watching it would have been better spent punching oneself in the urethra, but I did not hate this film completely. I could almost say that I enjoyed several bits of it.

Truly. Bits. Here or there. Overall it's a ludicrous absurdity whose sole purpose is to shovel more money to the Church of Scientology through Will Smith's paycheck, but I did not hate all of it.

Rating:

Prometheus

Prometheus

Gaze upon the face of your disappointed god and despair

dir: Ridley Scott

This film doesn’t need to exist. It didn’t need to be made. But I’m glad Ridley Scott made it, and I’m glad I watched it. I guess.

I even saw it in 3D, and not only did I pay for the experience by literally paying money, but also by incurring a headache from watching it that plagued me for hours afterwards. I don’t think, when our bodies were being Intelligently Designed by some kind of benevolent Creator, that our ocular physiology was ever designed to watch films in such a way. I think 3D is probably a form of blasphemy, and that it should be declared a mortal sin by the Vatican, or NASA, or the Stonecutters.

Even with the heavy toll I paid, I do have to admit that it looked utterly splendid, and that it used the 3D effectively to give both a sense of space and of the alienness of the two main locations in the film, being the ship called the Prometheus, and structures on the surface of an inhospitable planetoid.

The very first scenes of the film, before the title, show a somewhat luminous looking humanoid chap drinking something clearly not fit for human (or otherwise) consumption. The horripilating liquid, which looks like that foul Jagermeister stuff, comes in this totally manky cup, so we can safely assume it’s not very hygienic, whatever it is.

Rating:

Iron Sky

Iron Sky

Go back to where you came from, space Nazis

dir: Timo Vuorensola

What the hell was all that about?

At first I was disappointed because I thought it was going to be a biography about actress Ione Skye, the 80s / 90s It Girl, daughter of folk singer Donovan, former wife of Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz, current wife of irritating Australian singer Ben Lee (!), star of such beloved classics as Say Anything and Gas Food Lodging, and mother to several hundred children. Surely that’s more important than Space Nazis?

But there is absolutely nothing about Ione Skye in Iron Sky. Iron Sky might have benefitted a little by including something about her, since it contained almost everything else in the known universe in its running time. Nothing about wavy-haired ingénues from another time, though, sad to say.

Instead it has a premise that’s pretty much the beginning and the end of the entire thinking behind the entire film that employed hundreds of people for several months: Nazis on the Moon. What else do you need when you’ve got such a ‘killer’ idea?

Rating:

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

Something's missing. Needs more... fire, that's it

dir: Gary Ross

For readers of the book the only question is whether Jennifer Lawrence is a credible Katniss Everdeen. For people who haven’t read the books, it would surprise me if they care at all, and surprises me even more that they went in such droves to watch this film, which they have. It’s the biggest film of the year, thus far, which is pretty surprising in itself, and also gratifying.

In my mind at least, the success of The Hunger Games trilogy has always been a statement of quality against that other titan of the teen – young adult genre, being the Twilight series of abominations. Katniss is the anti-Bella Swan, in that she’s a decent and enjoyable female character to follow, who has agency and makes tough decisions concerning her fate and the fates of others. In contrast, Bella is a blank who has two hot supernatural boys fight over her.

There’s no need to fight over her, boys, she’s definitely not worth it.

But Katniss, Katniss Everdeen… It was like Suzanne Collins was saying ‘this kinda thing can be done right’. And so even if the story comes across as a melange of Battle Royale, Running Man, Predator, Nineteen-Eighty-Four and every reality television cliche of the last ten years, it's still the product of a worthy endeavour.

Rating:

John Carter of Mars

John Carter of Mars

Yeah, how and why did this movie fail again? It should have
been bigger than Titanic based on this image, which should
be spraypainted on the side of a panel van near you if there
is any justice in this universe, and we know there isn't.

dir: Andrew Stanton

‘Old-school science fiction’ is one of those phrases that seems like it’s too oxymoronic to be allowable to be used in common parlance and polite company. Even if it’s meaningless semantically, I’m still going to use it because I think it’s totally applicable. And what do I mean by such a phrase?

Tarzan in space.

Maybe Flash Gordon is a better example of where it’s coming from. At the very least, it’s not robots and star ships and ethical dilemmas about helping lichens on distant planetoids.

It’s just about a guy, called Herman Merman, no, sorry, he’s called John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), and he was on the losing side of the Civil War. The American one, not the one in England, or Liberia. In the pursuit of a cave full of gold, he mysteriously appears somewhere else. Somewhere very much else.

Without him knowing it, he’s turned up on Mars, which the locals call Barsoom. And on Barsoom, there are really tall green four-armed Martians, some other reddish looking ‘white’ human types, and some shapeshifting shitstirrers, who look like whoever they want. It’s too difficult to unpack the racial implications of much of this stuff, so it’s easier to just drop it on the ground, and back away quietly.

At the very least it’s not as obviously retrograde as that other paragon of science fiction, being Dances with Avatars.

Rating:

Real Steel

Real Steel

Look at me, robot, look at me. My ears are up here, you pig

dir: Shawn Levy

It’s Robot Rocky. Anyone telling you anything different is a liar, and you can call them a liar to their face. Tell ‘em I said it was okay.

This might have shiny robots in it, or at least CGI approximations thereof, but in all honesty this entire flick is constructed as if by robots in a factory, except instead of using metal alloys and circuits, they’re using clichés so old Sylvester Stallone is tempted to run up and rub human growth hormone all over them because they’re so aged and creaky.

Into this technological whorehouse of gimcrackery they insert the compelling and obnoxious presence of Hugh Jackman playing a former boxer who ekes out a living having his robot beat up cows at county fairs.

I’m not making this up. In the first few minutes of this illustrious flick, Charlie is rudely awakened by children, finishes off a beer, then comes off worse during an argument with them. It doesn’t bode well for his skills as a smooth operator.

A former opponent in the ring (Kevin Durand), with a pretty poor Texan yeehaw! accent, despite or because of being a Canadian from Thunder Bay, goads Charlie into a bet: Charlie’s robot Ambush versus the shitkicker’s two thousand pound bull.

Rating:

In Time

dir: Andrew Niccol
[img_assist|nid=1538|title=We're so serious?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=634]
Oh, World: Stop foisting Justin Timberlake onto us as a lead actor. I know he doesn’t want to record albums anymore, but really, when he’s talking and moving, he’s not really conveying whatever the hell it is that you think he’s conveying.

He’s certainly not an action hero in the making. Where do you think this is, Taiwan? Only in Taiwan, Seoul and possibly Hong Kong do people make a career as treacly pop singers before they make the jump to action superstardom.

And what a film to try to make him the next Jason Statham, eh? A science fiction flick where Timberlake’s character, who’s from the ghetto, don’t you know, tries to upend an unfair system which keeps most of humanity in virtual slavery to Father Time.

Yeah, I know, it’s just like every single other flick that comes out, with Timekeepers instead of cops, and people literally stealing the life left to people off of each other’s arms instead of having Matrix-y type fights, but these chaps have thrown in a completely new spin on the Bonnie and Clyde set-up, so it must be good.

Rating:

Another Earth

Another Earth

We need another earth... this one's nearly done

dir: Mike Cahill

No, it's not a movie version of the soap opera that ran for a thousand years, the only rival for the daytime soap crown against Days of Our Lives. This is Another Earth.

The five people that will see this outside of the film festival circuit and at ‘special’ screenings might argue, if they found themselves at the same coffee shop or crack house, whether this is actually a science fiction flick at all. I’m not sure myself, and I’ve had a few days to think about it.

A teenage girl with the unfortunate name of Rhoda (Brit Marling) gets drunk at a party, and, whilst drink-driving her way home, hears a news story on the radio about the discovery/appearance of a celestial body in the sky that looks a hell of a lot like Earth. She tries to spy this phenomenon in the sky, losing track of the fact that she’s meant to be watching the road.

She plows into a car, killing most of the occupants. It’s a very bad thing she’s done, no-one’s saying any different, you know, so no need to get on your high horse. She is/was a bright girl, planning on becoming an astronomer, astrophysicist or astrologer to celebrities, but now that’s all gone. Once this moment of hideous negligence occurs, that bright future she envisaged disappears in that instant.

Rating:

Cowboys and Aliens

Cowboys and Aliens

Go on, say I'm underacting one more time, I double dare you

dir: Jon Favreau

It’s not even Cowboys VERSUS Aliens. It’s Cowboys AND Aliens, as if pitting them against each other in the title would be too aggressive and off-putting to audiences who just want to see them together on the screen at the same time, peacefully co-existing, standing nonchalantly side by side.

Well, they’ll still be disappointed, because the Aliens attack the Cowboys, so all hope of gentle understanding and interspecies acceptance fly right out the fucking window.

However, in the flick’s greatest conceit, rugged outlaws, cattle men, Mexicans and Apaches fight together to conquer the alien menace, which transcends the genre bounds of science fiction and enters into the realms of purest fantasy.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not an example of my natural contrariness when I say that I actually enjoyed this flick. Nor have I suffered a stroke, or a fruity outburst of dementia, nor was I on film-enhancing drugs whilst watching, or receiving passionate head for the duration.

More’s the pity. Still, I somewhat enjoyed this strange flick despite the lack of the aforementioned, or any tangible reason as to why.

Rating:

Super 8

Super 8

Yeah, based on this poster, I thought the flick was about haunted oil rigs

dir: J. J. Abrams

Homage to the 70s, homage to old cameras, homage to Steven Spielberg? Do any of these things really need to be honoured and celebrated? The 70s isn’t exactly the forgotten decade, the Super 8 camera is missed by no-one with a half decent mobile, and Steven Spielberg has made more money at the box office than Jesus and is plenty celebrated by Hollywood and all its legions of sycophants.

So what worthy thing is J.J. Abrams really bringing to the table? He’s made a summer blockbuster aping elements of Spielberg’s early blockbusters, except he has access to a whole bunch of CGI and a cast of people pretending to be characters from ET and That 70s Show. And in which gentle world worth living in is any of that necessary or ever desirable?

None. When younger directors honour the most well rewarded and celebrated directors of all time, it’s kind of like having a fund raising pass-the-hat around in honour of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett: like they’ve not had enough payola and praise already over the decades?

Rating:

Paul

Paul

Aliens walk among us. And they're very rude

dir: Greg Mottola

This flick is a perfect storm of nerd signposts and signifiers so nerdish in their nerdishness that it’s akin to watching a table full of Comic-Book Guys playing with their Magic the Gathering cards, drinking Pepsi Max straight from the bottle for an hour and a half.

However, before you suspect that I’m going to go for cheap and easy laughs mocking the indefensible, and an easy pop cultural target at that, let me just say that I am a fairly nerdy person myself (as are all people who obsessively watch movies and complain about them on the tubes of the internets, let’s be honest about it), so the question for me is whether Paul is a tolerable movie because of its nerdiness or in spite of it.

Well, the two are inseparable, really. Since its two lead characters are nerds playing nerds (quite deftly, I might add), and it’s a homage to the science fiction flicks of the 1980s (mostly, though Close Encounters was earlier), and one of its main characters is a CGI alien, you can’t really grade it on its Shakespearean qualities or its Byronic pathos.

Clive and Graeme (Nick Frost and Simon Pegg) are two British nerds who’ve achieved the dream of a lifetime by travelling to the States and going to the Comic-Con event in San Diego. Some people aim high in their dreams, others aim low, but the important thing is to have a dream, I guess, no matter how achievable.

Rating:

Battle Los Angeles

Battle Los Angeles

Big thing probably go boom by movie's end

dir: Jonathan Liebesman

Finally, Shakycam has come of age. It’s been a long, agonising adolescence, but this most painful of weapons in the director’s / cinematographer’s arsenal is now constituting the entire running length of goddamn movies. Even the opening titles get to squiggle and spaz around like a meth addict with no meth, money or people to blow for money.

Eh, it’s not so bad. Depending on the venue, I find that if I sit far enough back from the screen, instead of being actively aggravating, it’s just a mild irritant at worst and a confusing blur at best. Far enough in this context is right up the back against the goddamn wall.

World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles is the full title of the flick, apparently, which seems to imply that if it’s successful enough, an entire series of World Invasion flicks will ensue. World Invasion: Battle Morwell, World Invasion: Battle Ulan Bator and World Invasion: Battle Yackandandah are doubtless on the cards if the right return on investment is achieved. Considering the fact that much of the flick looks like it was filmed on someone’s mobile phone, and that the aliens themselves look like they were created on a Commodore 64 computer, it shouldn’t be too hard for them to break even.

Rating:

Tron Legacy

dir: Joseph Kosinski
[img_assist|nid=1383|title=Wow, it's like looking into the recent past|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=643]
Great looking film, seriously. It looks amazing. I loved every visual second of this phantasmagorical virtual shiny neon action science fiction apotheosis of computer programming.

It’s true. I play a lot of video games, I’ve watched a lot of movies, and this is a pinnacle of visual entertainment.

Oh, wait a second, I have to qualify something a bit further. I loved every single centimetre of visual real estate that didn’t involve humans or people talking.

Really, visually and aurally, thanks to an amazing soundtrack / score by Daft Punk, who have a curious cameo in full costume, so it could have been two Banksies instead for all I know, it’s amazing. But when the humans intruded, what with their annoying heads and flapping gums. The problem is when they start talking. And continue talking.

Even worse, when people say deeply stupid shit like “now that’s what I’m talking about” in a flick that probably cost a billion dollars to put together, it makes me wonder whether the studio is taking a diarrhoeic dump, wrapping it up in nanotechnological silk scarves and then singing “Happy Birthday” to me as it hands it over, expecting me to not only pay for it, but to be grateful about it as well.

Rating:

Monsters

dir: Gareth Edwards
[img_assist|nid=1336|title=It's Grim South of the Border, Down Mexico Way|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=668]

Monsters. They’re everywhere. Not just under your bed, or bursting out of your closet when you’re not looking, or threatening you on public transport with their odours and with requests for money.

They’re also, apparently, in Mexico, trying to get across the border to the States in order to make some money and eat some quality junk food. These monsters are so terrible that a huge wall has to be built in order to keep them out, away from decent, law-abiding white people.

And then there’s this strange flick some guy made about some actual monsters, as in, giant alien octopi, that have infected Central America with their casual destruction and socialist economic programs.

Clearly, military strongman and certifiable egomaniac Hugo Chavez is the real target here. Whether he is or not, there’s monsters out there, and the going is getting tough.

Rating:

Splice

dir: Vincenzo Natali
[img_assist|nid=1298|title=Polly shouldn't be|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=326]
Ah, Canadians. They make different films from the rest of the world, don’t they? Even though almost every single Hollywood flick that gets made seems to get made in Canada, there is a world of difference in style and sensibility between the two rival North American empires.

Vincenzo Natali came to prominence when he made a flick called Cube oh so long ago now. Whatever its merits, a lot of people talked about the flick for long enough that it established a career for what I’m sure is a sweet, sweet man (for all I know he stabs puppies in his spare time).

He has a reputation for make relatively low-budget high concept science fiction flicks that are ultimately, in my humble opinion, thoroughly ridiculous. The ridiculousness doesn’t completely detract from the interesting elements of his flicks, because he knows how to put them together in a competent fashion. Yet something always happens to make you doubt your commitment to his singular lunacy at some stage of his flicks. Like night following day, like hangover following binge, his flicks always, always go wrong at some point. It’s a lovely kind of wrongness, however.

Rating:

Repo Men

dir: Miguel Sapochnik
[img_assist|nid=1274|title=The things we do for money...|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=248]
And here I thought this was a sequel to the classic flick Repo Man. Repo Man: a classic for the ages, from a kinder, gentler, punkier time when Emilio Estevez was briefly cool, and when Harry Dean Stanton, well, he’s always been cool and always will be.

Now that I think about it, a sequel or remake of Repo Man would be terrible, terrible in ways that would make you hate puppies, babies and baby puppy Jesuses. So perhaps it’s not too bad a thing that Repo Men has nothing to do with Alex Cox’s 80s alleged masterpiece.

Repo Men conjectures a hopefully unlikely future where synthetic organs are the most valuable commodity on the planet. In a parallel with the health care debate in the States, and the concept of whether people should actually be able to live even if they can’t afford what the medical profession would like to charge for its services, this flick envisages a time when companies can kill people with impunity.

They’re not killing them for a laugh on a Friday night: they’re just reclaiming their property, so it’s all legal. People enter into contracts to repay the cost of surgery and the new organs, and, if they can’t keep up their payments, become dead men and women walking after 90 days of being in default.

Rating:

Inception

dir: Christopher Nolan
[img_assist|nid=1264|title=I think Leo is fighting against wet buildings in this film. Someone has to.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=664]
I don’t know what to tell you, people. On the one hand, there are parts or elements of Inception that are brilliant. On the other hand, there are whole parts and sections that seem arbitrary and cliché. And on the third hand, pretending for the moment that you’re some kind of three-handed mutant, it has an ending that I’m not sure whether it justifies the two-and-a-half hours spent watching it.

From a spectacle perspective, it’s pretty extraordinary. The sight of a Parisian arrondisement being folded over; the impact of waking someone with water from their induced dreams; weightlessness; dream perspective cityscapes; all of that stuff looks mighty purty. It’s a big budget movie where every element, every frame has been fussed over extraordinarily. Christopher Nolan, who probably can do whatever he wants as far as the studio is concerned after the tremendous success of The Dark Knight, made exactly the flick that he wanted to make. And in terms of coherence and meaning, this is a stronger film than Dark Knight, mostly because it’s not as painfully over-edited.

But then why didn’t I like the film that much?

Rating:

Book of Eli, The

dir: The Hughes Brothers
[img_assist|nid=1239|title=Mad Desolation Road of Jugger Postman Legend Omega Man Stand|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=415|height=390]
Another week, another post-apocalyptic flick gets released, meant to chastise humanity for their brutish, selfish ways and profit from our desire for self-destruction. There are so many of these post-apoc flicks coming out that you’d think humanity is obsessed with its own end or something.

Or, alternately, that screenwriters have very limited imaginations.

Hot on the heels of that other mega-blockbuster The Road, which no-one saw, and those that did promptly committed suicide (or at least thought about it a whole hell of a horrible lot), comes another flick where a barren earth plays host to the last scrambling remnants of humanity.

The great difference here, though, is that this is meant to be more fun.

Sure, life on the desiccated plains is desolate, short, brutish and Hobbsian, and cannibalism and general viciousness abounds, but, unlike the dead Earth of The Road, there is some hope here for the species' survival. And that hope travels in the form of a man called Eli (Denzel Washington), who walks West, carrying a book.

Not just any book, but The Book.

Rating:

Surrogates

dir: Jonathan Mostow
[img_assist|nid=1184|title=Some women will do anything to be models|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=375|height=509]
Huh? Is Bruce Willis so desperate for beer money that he’ll take practically any role in any piece de resistance of shit? He can’t possibly still owe Demi Moore alimony, can he?

The thing that’s weirdest about this flick is that I’m not entirely sure why it’s so weird. It’s weird in that it’s so brief, harmless and plastic. The plasticity of it all is part of the point, but it really does feel like half the film is missing somewhere, perhaps on either the editing suite’s floor or Bruce Willis’s bathroom, whichever.

It’s disturbing as well to see this strangely hilarious fantasy version of Bruce Willis, though I guess there’s some real reason for it.

This flick is a pointless and thinly-veiled allegory for the abdication of reality by pale, sweaty people who’ve ceased living real lives and who now live almost exclusively through the tubes of the internets. It’s utterly simplistic and, dare I say it, stupid, but even worse than that, there’s no real validity to the premise. It’s nonsense.

Rating:

Avatar

dir: James “It’s my world, but you can live on it” Cameron
[img_assist|nid=1160|title=The blue worlds in James Cameron's head|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=315]
For a flick that cost over 300 million Earth dollars to make, I’m not sure that the investment is always visible on the big screen, be it 3D, IMAX or otherwise. Sure, this flick is already the second most successful (in unadjusted dollars) flick of all time just behind some other obscure flick James Cameron made fifteen years ago. But I can’t really see whether it was worth all the fuss.

For three hundred million dollars, or closer to five, if you believe the sceptics who were hoping Cameron’s hubris would be repaid with failure (who now console themselves by screaming “it’s shit!” instead of “it’s going to bomb!”), you’d think there’d be scenes of Scarlett Johannson, Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz passionately getting it on in the altogether on the top of a diamond encrusted, plutonium powered aircraft carrier from which Cristal-sipping live killer whales covered in mink coats and platinum bling are catapulted into the sun.

Rating:

Moon

dir: Duncan Jones
[img_assist|nid=1142|title=Watch out for the giant circle, Sam|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=335]
Moon is an absolute throwback, to a kinder, gentler, colder era of cinematic science fiction, and it wasn’t until this flick came along that we knew we needed it so much. I won’t go so far as to say this is an utterly brilliant flick, because there aren’t really any elements of tremendous originality or mind-blowing complexity at play. But it is, all the same, a tremendously good flick. Really, really good flick.

Of course, it will bore the hell out of you if you’re expecting explosions, gunfights or aliens bursting out of people’s chests.

Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is the sole occupant and operator of a mining facility some time in the future. This facility, surprisingly enough, happens to be on the moon. Earth’s moon. The world’s energy needs are being taken care of by this facility, which uses harvesters to extract helium-3 from the surface of the moon, which Sam sends them back at regular intervals. He does general maintenance, fix-it jobs the robots and automated parts of the facility can’t take care of, and drives out with a buggy to the harvesters to fix things that have gone wrong.

Rating:

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

dir: Michael Bay
[img_assist|nid=857|title=Which one's the machine? Go on, guess|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=377]
Michael Bay may be the director most movie reviewers and commenters on the tubes of the internets ridicule and belabour with the hate, but he is extremely successful, and thus virtually untouchable. He is like a shiny metallic titan from one of his movies: towering like a Colossus, legs splayed over the entirety of Hollywood, all his withered critics mewling and mouldering in his gargantuan shadow. The worst reviews, the lowest opinions of thousands, if not millions of people, are nought but ants at the feet of Alexander the Great. We cannot mark, let alone harm him.

If you were to run an algorithm or some kind of search on a review aggregator to find out what words are used most commonly by the majority of film reviewers who tackle his monstrous products, the list would run something like this: “visually spastic” or “incoherent”, “all shiny surfaces with no substance”, “nonsensical plot”, “aggressively violent”, “assault on the senses”, “women looking like glossy pornstars”, “way too long”, “painful, stupid dialogue”, “overedited”, “two dimensional characters”, and “breasts bouncing around in slow motion”.

Rating:

District 9

dir: Neill Blomkamp
[img_assist|nid=715|title=Have gun, will travel|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=595|height=325]
It seems like a brilliant idea on paper. It even seemed like a brilliant idea in the promos and trailers and such. Truth be told it was the first genuine-seeming actual science fiction movie to pique my interest in a long time.

As the film begins, the premise is set out for us very quickly and easily. Twenty years ago, a huge alien vessel appeared above the skies of Johannesburg, South Africa. The aliens, for which we are never given a better title than prawns, are settled into a ghetto / township, all million plus of them.

The ghetto is cordoned off, and twenty years later, as an impetus to the current story we’re supposed to be watching, the organisation tasked with corralling the prawns decides it needs to move the prawns 200 kilometres away because of tensions with the locals. Mostly because South Africans, white or black, don’t want them there. They are seen, despite their hideous appearance, as really being nothing more annoying or dangerous than refugees.

Rating:

Knowing

dir: Alex Proyas
[img_assist|nid=716|title=They pay me millions to do this|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=570|height=300]
I’m not usually in two minds about any movie I’ve watched. And, truth be told, I’m not in two minds about this flick either. This is, in a lot of ways, a terrible film. The plot is terrible, the stupid things that happen are the opposite of good, and having a ham of Nicolas Cage’s magnitude in it doesn’t help either. For once, though, he is not to blame. At least, not the primary blame.

And it having been filmed in Melbourne doesn’t help either. I feel so biased and conflicted.

There is, still, something compelling not about why something big happens in this film, but what ultimately happens. I’m going to try to avoid saying what ultimately happens, because it’s a pretty big spoiler, as big as spoilers get, really.

Back in 1959, a little girl hears these mysterious whispers. They compel her to scrawl maniacally a sequence of numbers that don’t mean anything, and then the sheet of paper is coincidentally locked up inside a time capsule that is to be opened 50 years hence.

Now in 2009, a drunken astronomer (Cage) speaks to a class about whether determinism governs the universe, or whether it’s all random chaos that exemplifies what happens, down to the death of the drunken astronomer’s wife. The drunken astronomer has a depressed son (Chandler Canterbury) who hears whispering too.

Rating:

Matrix: Reloaded

dir: The Wachowski Brothers
[img_assist|nid=1019|title=When millions of Hugo Weavings are barely enough|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=670]
It's all about the sunglasses...
Even after watching the film twice, I am left perplexed and utterly confused. Not at anything actually in the film. No, what has managed to confuse me tremendously (to be honest, it's not hard to do that, microwave ovens still confound me) is the sheer abundance of people who are vehemently hating this film. In public and in private, in the sanctity of their own bedrooms and on street corners.

See, I've got not the slightest issue with anyone not liking the film and saying that it's a monumental bore. I've seen identical twins hold two diametrically opposed views on the same piece of music, and I often diverge strenuously in opinion with my closest friends regarding certain films. So I don't really get on a high horse about these kinds of things.

What I can understand is the people who hated the first film hating this one too. What I don't get is those who liked the first one hating Reloaded. I flat out don't get it. After all, it's even more like the first one than the first one is!

Rating:

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