Coherence (2013, James Ward Byrkit)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is one of those super talky, high concept science fiction films which feels like it was written for the stage. (Many of these have been written for the stage, but this one apparently was not.) There are a lot of these by this point and it’s sort of become its own sub genre. I’m not sure that’s a good thing necessarily. It’s a genre that’s heavy on ideas and a little too weak on much of what most of us love about science fiction (imagining a different future). SPOILERS Read More

Passengers (2016, Morten Tyldum)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

I feel like every single time I watch one of these legendary blockbuster bombs I find myself asking the same question: did I watch the same movie as everyone else? Make no mistake: this is not a good film. But once you’ve been told something is The Worst over and over again, your expectations get so low that you end up seeing positives, I guess. Passengers is a mediocre sci fi film – really it’s two sci fi films stuck together – but it is not the worst movie of the year. If you think it is, I suggest you go Read More

Limetown (2015)

Categories: 2015 and Podcasts.

Limetown is an engrossing hard science fiction story that mostly manages to avoid the issues that seem to accompany these fictional podcasts – mostly the audio equivalent of the found footage film problem; in this case, ‘why is everything recorded?’ It’s a reasonably compelling mystery that keeps enough hidden for long enough. There’s still some nonsense typical of conspiracy theory stories, but it’s limited. Of the fictional podcasts I’ve listened to so far, it’s certainly as good as I’ve heard. 7/10 Read More

The Scorch Trials (2015, Wes Ball)

Categories: 2015 and Movies.

I did not like the first film at all. But that movie had a “high concept” that I could at least respect on some level (though it struck me as something I would have dreamed up as a teenager), even if the execution was pretty awful. But this movie is worse. Yes, that’s right. It’s worse. SPOILER ALERT if you care about your subpar young adult film adaptations… Read More

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015, JJ Abrams)

Categories: 2015 and Movies.

I must say that, when I learned that the new trilogy would not follow the Grand Admiral Thrawn arc, a little part of my teenage self died. The only Star Wars books, I ever read, I enjoyed them at the time. But, upon, reflection, it’s probably for the best, as this guy was one of those villains who was too clever, so that…well, that would have been spoilers. Anyway, it’s probably for the best. Read More

The Message

Categories: 2015 and Podcasts.

The Message is a fictional podcast, something that might have worked in the Golden Age of Radio, though with obviously higher production values and a much better understanding of science. It’s a neat idea and it mostly works: It turns out that the US government (but of course) has been sitting on an audio message received from extraterrestrials back in the ’40s. They’ve been trying to decode it unsuccessfully ever since. It’s a conceit appropriate for the format and, though the listener has to stretch credulity a few times about the audio access this podcaster gets, it’s compelling enough that Read More

Stonehenge Apocalypse (2010, Paul Ziller)

Categories: 2010, Movies, and TV.

How do I put into words how monumentally dumb this movie is? I’m not really sure. It’s one of those films that you want to live blog o live tweet because of the inane/insane lines, the utter ignorance of scientific facts and the budget (and what is forces the characters to do/say). It’s just awful. There’s stuff about Stonehenge detonating volcanoes and destroying the world. There’s stuff about a map that is among the most poorly drawn maps I think I’ve seen in a movie. There’s a hilarious (willful?) ignorance about how governments work. There’s the totally awful CGI (though Read More

The Purge (2013, James DeMonaco)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

The opening text this movie displays, explaining what ‘the purge’ is, is basically the pitch meeting for this movie. The filmmaker likely walked into an office, said those exact words, mentioned some actors for the key roles, and got this green-lit. This film is a perfect symbol of what is wrong with “high concept” films that are just a pitch: it’s underwritten (in so many ways – it’s not actually 85 minutes, folks, that includes the credits), it resorts to cliches once the premise is established, it is not entertaining, it’s not smart – it’s just a steaming pile of Read More

Another Earth (2011, Mike Cahill)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This is a movie that, by its very title, advertises itself as science fiction. But it’s not, not really. I mean, it’s barely science fiction. Not in the way you expect. MILD SPOILER ALERT Rather, it’s a film about redemption and, regrettably, it follows that ridiculous movie cliche where the person who seeks redemption inserts herself into the life of her victim without his knowledge. This cliche is ridiculous because people don’t do this. And it’s a cliche because this is far from the first movie I’ve seen where this happens. The movie handles it rather well, but we’re left Read More

Oblivion (2013, Joseph Kosinski)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

Point form review: It’s never a good thing when your film opens with 5 minutes of expository narration. Everything looks like the ‘70s version of futuristic. The Scavengers remind me of Jawas. There’s not much of an explanation as to why sometimes boats are higher than opera houses… Plot feels pretty telegraphed. Flight recorder is in the wrong module! Major continuity error. Otherwise, I guess it’s half decent. 5/10 Read More

Pandorum (2009, Chrstian Alvart)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

Pandorum has a neat concept to start, but unfortunately it is undercut by overly explanatory title cards – better the movie open with Bower coming out of his chamber, I think. But, that being said, otherwise the movie seems quite strong at first. The reveal is way too early, but otherwise it’s good. There are some silly science fiction cliche set pieces – for example a reactor that is impossible to get to – but otherwise the movie is a fairly good science fiction horror movie, with enough interest and jumps until SPOILERS!!! Two unnecessary and dumb twists ruin the Read More

Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013, Frank Pavich)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is a fascinating movie about one of the most important films to never get made. (If you think that’s hyperbole, you learn at the end that it probably isn’t.) Though a lot of the bullshit about the film being an new leap forward in film art would be kind of hard to take (especially most of what Stanley and Winding Refn spout), most of the people involved in the film are so earnest about their enthusiasm for the picture, it’s hard not to get caught up. And, regardless of what you might think of Jodorowsky’s actually completed films (of Read More

Snowpiercer (2013, Joon-ho Bong)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

It’s great when genre flicks get celebrated and take on a life of their own. And I’m glad that a reasonably smart one such as this has become such a big thing (at least online). But while Snowpiercer is highly entertaining, like so many “high concept” action films, it’s flawed and it’s also kind of long for the concept. I’m not objecting to the idea of the train which, in itself, is kind of silly. Rather I’m objecting to the way the train is laid out. See, the train makes lots of sense, I guess, if you are one of the Read More

The Essential Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1995) edited by Leonard Wolf

Categories: 1995, Books, and Fiction.

This is an immense edition of what is otherwise a pretty short novella. It is nice that a story like this would get this kind of treatment, but it’s kind of over the top. For example, the novella itself is rather over-annotated. How is that possible, you ask? Well, even one of the footnotes has its own footnotes. (Yes, that’s right, a footnote has multiple footnotes to itself.) And while some of this information is interesting, much of it is inconsequential and repetitive. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide is one of the great works of horror Read More

Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011, John Pogue)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

I thought I had seen the original but I was just getting it confused with some other “Stuck in a building, being chased by rabid humans” movies and, well, I’ve seen [Rec], so I basically have seen the original. This is all kinds of stupid. Aside from following the usual cliches of this now-overdone genre, the movie has some serious lapses of logic, the two most annoying being how they apparently can’t leave this “locked down” terminal, even though there’s a jetway to the outside right there – I’m totally buying an electronic lock on the door at the end Read More

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011, Rupert Wyatt)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This is the second attempt at “rebooting” the Planet of the Apes series and, I must assume, the more successful (since the Burton remake hasn’t let to other films). It is apparently intended as a prequel to the original film, and not as a straight-up remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, of which it is kind of similar to (a film I saw, perhaps in part only, something like a decade and a half ago). I haven’t seen any of the original films in ages, but this certainly feels like a serious attempt to make a better Read More

Europa Report (2013, Sebastian Cordero)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is a well-intentioned “hard” science fiction film that is hampered severely by the found footage technique – which, in 2013, is really, really tired – mixed with a Timecode-esque use of split screens, about zero budget, and some giant leaps in logic that such a “hard” science fiction film isn’t supposed to have. I admire these people for trying to make an intelligent space thriller, even through their “space” is nothing in comparison to the “space” of Gravity. But the budget is really limiting: the CGI is routinely terrible – the solar storm looks horrid – and all the Read More

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013, J.J. Abrams)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

I was somewhat of a Star Trek fan in my youth: I watched TNG pretty much all the time it was on – both new episodes and reruns – I watched DS9 and Voyager and I watched enough reruns of the original series, to the point where I probably saw a small majority of that show. But what I feel I spent the most time on were the original six movies. I’m not sure I quite know what changed: I know I’ve changed. I know what I like and dislike in films has totally changed. But I think it’s not Read More

Aliens vs. Predator – Requiem (2007, Colin Strause, Greg Strause)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This is actually significantly better than the original AVP in that a lot of effort is put into character development and sense of place. But that being said, too much time is put into that stuff. At the end of this day, this is a movie about one set of monsters vs. another, and that’s what the audience wants to see. We don’t care about these people, we just want to see them die. Here are a couple hilarious problems: This small town has the sewer system of a major city; People show up and say things like “Hello” and Read More

District 9 (2009, Neill Blomkamp)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This feel’s like an attempt at combining an alien invasion movie with a Peter Watkins-style fake documentary. It isn’t entirely true to form, since we see the alien side of things and we can’t really understand how given that there shouldn’t be cameras around them. And that remains a major problem as the film progresses, and we see more and more stuff that couldn’t possibly fit in to the mockumentary. And that’s too bad, because otherwise we have a really cool idea anda  really powerful reworking of the sci-fi genre. It’s still a pretty great film, but I feel like Read More

Congo (1995, Frank Marshall)

Categories: 1995 and Movies.

First of all, I thought I had seen this years ago but I remember about 15 minutes of it, so I guess not. Somewhere in here there might be a reasonably entertaining “jungle adventure” movie. Maybe. I have read a couple of Crichton’s novels, and they were better than their films. I am assuming the source material for this film wasn’t this flawed as a result. Putting aside how realistic the story isn’t, the film still could have been successful, but apparently the filmmakers decided their audience was not intelligent: the gorillas are people in suits, the setting often doesn’t Read More

The World’s End (2013, Edgar Wright)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

I didn’t like this at first: Gary is just too pathetic; it almost hurts. I get why people like this, as he’s realistic, but frankly I don’t know why these people would spend time with him. But things really pick up when the twist happens, it’s really too bad that the previews and the publicity campaign ruined it. I enjoyed the climactic joke, which I won’t reveal, as it is how I felt the first part of the film. 6/10 Read More