Sci-Fi

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

Minority Report

The eyes have it

dir: Steven Spielberg

2002

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 autistic chap in comparison.

Fans of PKD will wonder whether this is a faithful adaptation of his book. I haven't the faintest idea. I've read most of PKD's books, but this one slipped past me, and I haven't been able to find it in any of Melbourne's second hand book stores. At a guess I'd say that Segnor Spielbergo kept what he needed to, added shamelessly, and left out a whole bunch of unnecessary stuff. PKD's books, whilst short, often rambled off onto strange tangents which neither the author nor the book would ever recover from. Endings would come from nowhere, presumably when PKD had either completely lost the plot, lost interest, ran out of drugs or lost his marbles (again).

Here, the main question is whether a) the John Anderton character as written and directed is 'faithful' to the pseudo-heroes PKD would have in his books, and b) whether perpetual shit-eating grin wearer Tom Cruise could possibly be up to the task of portraying him.

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: 

Signs

dir: M. Night Shyamalan
[img_assist|nid=1028|title=Signs and more signs for your own protection|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=763]
It's an interesting film, I'll give it that much. And it's a credit to M. Night Shyamalan that he manages to get the best performance out of Mel Gibson that I've seen in nearly a decade. As for how successful the film is overall, well, that's hardly a question for the ages.

Box office-wise, Signs has managed to dispel the fear that arose of "one hit wonderness" after the lackluster receipts that the far more ambitious Unbreakable was responsible for. He's managing to incorporate the quite difficult aspects of credible film making and ticket sale success, and then some. He is undoubtedly a populist director, making stories that are on the surface fairly straight-forward that manage to tap in to either the collective unconscious or issues of pop cultural currency without being either pretentious or lowest common denominator shit-stupid.

His level of subtlety is not what I would call delicate, but this film at the very least stands as a testament to his willingness to tackle commonplace ideas with his own individual take, willing to not always give audiences what they want initially with the view of giving them something completely different at film's end. It's a conceited bait-and-switch, I know, but as someone who's seen literally thousands of films over the years, it's something I can appreciate.

Rating: 

Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes 2001

you handsome devil, you

dir: Tim Burton

2001

Even though it's been out for only two weeks, already the topic of this film is straining to raise even the mildest level of interest anywhere. We get gangbanged by the hype regarding new films leading up to their release, they're released, then everyone collectively reaches over and hits the snooze button. Being ever timely in my responses, now that any interest has pretty much waned, I have seen fit to post a review of Tim Burton's latest coke fueled extravaganza.

Tim Burton's only real mistake was in remaking what is usually referred to as a "classic". He should have remade a different classic, that being Planet of the Gapes, originally directed by Tom Byron, starring himself, Allysin Chaines, Alisha Klass, Sabrina Johnson and a host of other starlets and studs. I have not the courage or the mortal fortitude to tell you readers what a "gape" is, suffice to say it is one of at least a hundred things I wish I'd never seen, and curse the internet each day for inflicting it upon me.

Regardless, the mere concept of doing a remake of Planet of the Apes is enough to raise people's hackles, and as appealing to long time fans as it would be to announce to Christians that you're planning on re-writing the Bible, replacing all references to "God" and "Jesus" with "Dingus". They'd love that.

Calling it a "reimagining" was a cheap copout on the part of Burton's publicity machine. They're completely different films. Truth is, I don't think the original was all that great to begin with. Charlton Heston has never been a credible actor. He's been in some semi-decent films, but he himself is the hammiest actor in movie history. His jaw eternally clenched like he's contracted lockjaw after being bitten by a rabid dog, his pained delivery, is only matched by his pathological penchant for overacting.

Rating: 

AI: Artificial Intelligence

AI Artificial Intelligence

Fuck off Pinocchio

dir: Steven Spielberg's Mexican non-union equivalent

2001

Oh beautiful people, what with the planes falling out of the skies and the burning of empires, and thousands of souls going to meet their makers, is it even appropriate to talk about something as unimportant as a film? A movie, in fact? Yes it is...

Let me create a hypothetical situation for you: You work as a job placement demon, as they all are at those particular agencies. You have two positions to fill. Job 1 requires a qualified person to take the reins at a child care centre. Job 2 requires a highly qualified and experienced person to take control of a whorehouse. Yes, a whorehouse. There's no other adequate PC term that can be used in its place. Brothel always sounds kinda dirty to me. Which is appropriate, me guesses.

You have only two people on your books in terms of wanting jobs. They are both hungry, hungry for the acclaim that comes only from working in a prestigious position. Unfortunately for your Key Performance Indicators, those two people are Steven Spielberg and a very dead and overrated / underappreciated Stanley Kubrick. Let's say that you're in the added unfortunate position whereby they get to decide which jobs they get to go for. Hilarity ensues.

Spielbergo should not be put in control of a whorehouse. But he still wants to,desperately wants to, and you can't say "no" or "know", because it's his decision. Kubrick can't really say anything because he's dead, really. He knows that his alleged protege is not up to the task of being the big pimp/madame on the block, but he can't stop him, seeing as he is currently pushing up daisies, maggots, and other flora/fauna. It's a hard decision, needless to say.

Rating: 

Solaris (1972)

Solaris

Cool poster. Shame about the nonsense though...

dir: Andrei Tarkovsky

Solaris is supposedly a towering achievement in Soviet filmmaking, right up there as the Russian answer to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, from the Russian director most considered an auteur and visionary, er, just like Kubrick. Fans of Solaris say it’s an insult to compare the two. Detractors say it’s being too kind.

And by all the gods did they get that right. Both films, judiciously used, are a viable substitute for anesthetic narcotics in modern surgery, and have, hopefully less side-effects when they knock viewers the fuck out. There are stretches of 2001 that knock me out every time, every single goddamn time I see them. Solaris is like that except it has this effect for most of its interminable length.

The stories are very different. People who saw Stephen Soderbergh’s recent remake with George Clooney in the lead role will know generally what it’s about, but others will be stunned, stunned I tell you with how out there the premise is.

Solaris is a strange planet with a strange ocean. People who’ve gone there report strange things happening to them, but they are not believed. A psychologist called Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) is sent to a space station orbiting the planet in order to find answers as to what’s caused the scientific mission to fall into disarray.

When the film opens we are greeted with around 10 minutes of nature scenes. Ten goddamn minutes of water in a babbling brook, reed fronds floating lazily in the water, some frogs, wet rocks. This is even before you’ve realised what a deathly experience the flick is going to be, which is like the jab you get in your hand before they switch the gas on.

The nature scenes around Kelvin’s father’s house are important only in that they establish that Kelvin is from the “natural” world, and will spend most of the rest of the film wandering around in an unnatural environment far from home.

Before he sets off into the cosmos, there are something like 15 dull minutes of Kelvin driving around Tokyo through the uninteresting industrial bits and lots of tunnels. Lots of goddamn tunnels.

In the scenes detailing Kelvin’s journey to Solaris, despite being well rested and fully caffeinated, I swear on all that is unholy it knocked me out at least a dozen times. I kept passing out, rewinding the DVD in case I missed anything, and then passing out again.

I’m not a sleepy, dozy individual generally. I don’t drink when I’m watching flicks for the first time, and ganja has never been a part of my daily diet. So how it could have this power effect on my brainwaves is a mystery to me. It’s just that good, it must be.

Rating: 

Pages