You are here

Sci-Fi

A Scanner Darkly

dir: Richard Linklater
[img_assist|nid=882|title=Through decades of bad acting, darkly|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=420|height=652]
It’s hard to make the case for why I enjoyed this flick so much, but I did. It wasn’t because of the quality of the animation, I can tell you that much. It wasn’t necessarily that I’m a fan of the source material, which I am, being a big fan of Philip K. Dick and all his Dickian works.

I think Linklater and the actors, and the animators managed to get the tone right. It even has Keanu Reeves in it, for Jeebus’s sake, and it still manages to work.

Not only Neo-Dude-Kanooie, but also former drug addict and occasional actor Robert Downey Jnr, occasional drug addict and occasional actor Woody Harrelson and rare addict and even rarer actress these days Winona Ryder.

From such humble materials comes a modest yet successfully shambolic story about a group of paranoid drug addicts and an undercover operative whose job is to monitor them, who becomes a drug addict himself.

Even thought the original novel was set in a somewhat futuristic time, the book mostly comprised an elaboration on PKD’s own experiences in the drug scene in the early 70s, and his subsequent mental illness. The story also elaborates on his ideas on the War on Drugs in its earlier form.

Rating:

Serenity

dir: Joss Whedon
[img_assist|nid=898|title=Boys and their guns. Touching co-dependence|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=400]
There’s something immensely satisfying about being able to review this film. Not the fact that I got to watch it, I mean just the very fact that it got made.

Firefly was a series that deserved to live and breath for at least a few seasons. Many found the premise somewhat outlandish, and I admit watching those first few episodes on DVD I thought “Jeez, I can see why this got shitcanned”. But the show grew on me, the actors grew into their roles, and the writing stopped trying so damn hard and started to set up some interesting plot lines and character dynamics for future shows that were never to be.

A tv show set in space is nothing new, and a sci-fi film is hardly anything novel in itself. Firefly, and therefore Serenity, had as their novelty factor a premise set on a ship in the future which looks awfully like frontier times in the Wild West. People wear those hats and dusters, and shoot bullets from shiny guns, and speak a mishmash of old slang, new slang, Mandarin insults and that hyper-aware, pop culture speak that Whedon is either renowned or loathed for, dependent on your tastes.

I can’t really see people who hated the show or never watched it giving a good god damn about the film, or really getting it, or caring about this review.

Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith

dir: George Lucas
[img_assist|nid=907|title=The main reason I turned evil? Cataracts.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=430|height=292]
It's finally over. The waiting, that is. I don't believe for a second that this is going to be the last Star Wars film. It's just way too lucrative. Capitalism demands that more films get made. Nerds demand that more films get made. Normal people and unborn generations insist as well. I don't care what Lucas himself says, this isn't the end.

The wait has been worth it. Revenge of the Sith isn't only the best of the three prequels, it's a pretty good film in and of itself. Lucas, being Lucas, makes the kind of elementary errors a first year film school student would know to avoid. But he gets a lot of stuff right as well.

He still can't write dialogue, or direct humans, but he makes do with amazing special effects, lots of lightsaber battles and a cracking story. Although, you know, I think there could have been a few more. I don't think sixteen lightsaber fights were enough.

Rating:

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

dir: Garth Jennings
[img_assist|nid=942|title=How does something so funny getting transformed into something so unfunny? Oh, yeah, Hollywood.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=430|height=274]
So I liked the “So long and thanks for all the fish” song used in the intro, in fact I found it thrilling, transporting and charming. Unfortunately it’s about the only thing I liked about the film.

It’s funny, or maybe not that funny that they (“they” being the people responsible for regurgitating this film forth, which includes Douglas Adams) could take a book beloved by so many legions of nerds for its humour and yet succeed in draining most of the humour out of it.

I’ll admit that I’m not really that much of a fan of the book in the first place. I would still like to think that they could have done a better job had a better director or producers had a bash at it. Imagine Charlie Kaufman having a go at the screenplay, and Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry directing it. If you don’t think that Americans or a French guy could do justice to it, then how about if they’d used an innovative bunch of people like Danny Boyle and his production crew, or Edgar White and Simon Pegg, the guys behind Shaun of the Dead.

Hell, maybe they should have gotten your mum to direct it. Or even my mum. Though she is busy sitting in a store window in Amsterdam’s red light district. That reminds me, need to send her those antibiotics for Mother’s Day.

Rating:

Primer

dir: Shane Carruth
[img_assist|nid=982|title=Primer|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=400]
For a contemporary sci-fi film, this is going to strike some people as downright false advertising.

There are no explosions, car chases, gigantic metropolises, shiny robots, Will Smiths or Spielbergs to be seen for miles around. So most regular muggles aren’t going to think it’s “real” sci-fi anyway.

For “real” sci-fi fans, that should be enough to pique their curiousity. Of course, when I mention time travel playing the central role in the story, they’re going to switch off and go back to masturbating over Japanese cartoon porn. God knows you’re not a real nerd ‘til you’ve done that.

Time travel has been used and abused by so many and for so long that it makes most of us role our eyes heavenward in disgust. Even nerds.

When it’s used well, as with Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the details of the how and the why of the time travel are insignificant compared to what it adds to the story. Seeing Abraham Lincoln, Socrates, Sigmund Freud and Genghis Khan striding around the San Dimas mall and interacting with late 80s Californians is worth all the silliness and Keanu Reeveses involved.

Rating:

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

dir: Kerry Conran
[img_assist|nid=981|title=There is no tomorrow for you guys|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=305|height=450]
Kerry Conran had a vision, God love him. This is a man who had a genuine ambition. Ambition is not unknown in Hollywood, to be sure. But this isn’t a case of a guy whose ambition is only to make a film, or to get wealthy, or to fuck high class prostitutes. He had a bunch of ideas for making a very particular film, and he’s been striving for over ten years to get it done. Finally, in the form of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, he’s achieved his goal. There may have been pitfalls and compromises along the way, but in the end he brought his unique vision to the screen, goddamnit. And for that he deserves to be commended.

It’s not a particularly unique or original vision; in a way he’s doing little more than what George Lucas did decades ago when he used his memories of Saturday matinee serials and Amazing Stories-type books and comics to come up with the Indiana Jones and the Star Wars stuff, to the ecstasy of nerds the world over. And sure, more recently many of the same visual and thematic influences turned up, incredibly enough in the recent Pixar treasure The Incredibles.

It is, on the other hand, resolutely his own take on all those elements, which he uses to come up with something he can call his own, even if the origins aren’t that obscure or even remotely forgotten.

Rating:

I, Robot

dir: Alex Proyas
[img_assist|nid=953|title=I can't wait for these robots to take over. I'm sure they'll be gentle masters|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=399|height=314]
Well before I get immersed in the arthouse stink of the Melbourne Film Festival, I thought I'd immunise myself with a hearty dose of mainstream blockbustery cheese.

Saying that this film has anything to do with the collection of Asimov short stories collected in a book of the same title is like saying
Michael Jackson is based on the template for a human being: in both cases the end product has little if anything to do with the source
material. The title, and the use of the concept of Asimov's Laws of Robotics are all that come from the writing of Asimov as far as the
plot is concerned. It doesn't really matter to me that much, because it's not like Asimov's going to care (he died several years ago), and
it's not as if anyone actually ever turns in their graves. Or at least I certainly hope not.

Rating:

Minority Report

dir: Steven Spielberg
[img_assist|nid=1065|title=The eyes have it|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=304|height=450]
Even with access to my hefty imagination I didn't think this would work. See, Spielbergo gypped me last year with AI, and it left me thinking that the man had traveled so far up his own anus that getting an intelligent and enjoyable film out of him was an exercise in wishful thinking.

Sometimes I am happy to be proved wrong. This film more than makes up for the lacklustre, uninspired kiddies' film AI. Even though he appears to be working in the same genre, this film, based on a Philip K Dick short story of the same name, towers over pretty much all of the recent sci-fi films that you've bothered to shell out your hard earned money for. Attack of the Clones looks like the work of a very technically minded retard in comparison.

Rating:

Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones

dir: George Lucas
[img_assist|nid=1056|title=Send in the Clowns. They're. Already. Here.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=505]
See, I had misgivings when I heard the title last year. Scratch that, I had misgivings when I heard Lucas was going to direct prequels to his smash hit merchandising empire in the first place. You'd think the man could just stay home and throw some money around with the kids, set fire to massive Cuban cigars with $5000 bills, race homeless people on a deadly indoor obstacle course, purchase small third world countries where for his amusement he can watch or physically take part as people's arses are branded with the Lucasfilm logo, or make them build pyramids in his honour. In that case, surely it is Georgie Porgie's love of creating quality films to be remembered throughout the ages that keeps him coming back to the trough for more. Surely.

I've had the opportunity to watch the film twice over the last couple of weeks, and I have to say that the second viewing was significantly less enjoyable than the first. Such a detail certainly indicates to me at least that the film's quality is no where near as high as several relieved reviewers would have you believe.

If I'd written the review after the first viewing, I possibly might have had more positive things to say. As it is, the film's flaws were magnified with a subsequent viewing, for which the rest of you who loved it are now going to have to suffer.

Rating:

Star Trek: Nemesis

dir: Stuart Baird
[img_assist|nid=1036|title=Which shine-head is which? Seeing double means seeing four Jean-Lucs!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
There is a law in economics referred to as the law of diminishing returns, or alternately known as the law of variable proportions. Essentially it states that if one factor of production is increased while the others remain constant, the overall returns will relatively decrease passed a certain point.

Accept for a moment that the number of Trek fans and other obese obsessives is relatively constant, if not decreasing over time. Establish that the amount of merchandising and truly quality television shows pumped out continues over time, with more and more money being poured into this formerly profitable venture. The law of diminishing returns states that past a certain point you cannot get back what you put in.

Rating:

Pages

Subscribe to Sci-Fi