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

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

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

The Adjustment Bureau (2011, George Nolfi)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

I guess there are some SPOILERS! Imagine you’re marketing a movie in the early 2010s. It’s a science fiction cum romance disguised political drama or thriller. But it has the advantage of starring Matt Damon, one of the world’s biggest movie stars of the era. It also stars Emily Blunt, an up and coming female star. So you give it a title and say ‘Hey check out this new political mystery/romance with Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.” Wouldn’t that be enough? Then, when the rather awkward science fiction twist that comes very early in the first act would be a Read More

Love (2011, William Eubank)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This is like a low-budget, more human-centric 21st century 2001. It’s more concerned with ideas than plot and with visual experiences rather than clarity. I agree with others that it probably warrants multiple viewings. However, after one viewing, SPOILERS! I get it, at least I think I do. But there are too many echoes of 2001 for me despite the dissimilar narrative ideas at play. The symbolism is too similar and some of the underlying ideas are also too similar (though this is a much happier film). I appreciate films like this a lot of the time – and maybe 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

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012, Colin Trevorrow)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is one of those whimsical little indie dramedies about self-discovery that have just been everywhere for the past decade or so. This one adds to the formula with an ensemble cast (usually these films are focused on a central protagonist rather than a group of people, though not always) and, particularly, with a slight science fiction touch. It was actually the science fiction that drew me to the film and I didn’t realize I was really watching something with a lot of of self-discovery and not much science fiction. Everything about it is generally fine: I laughed a few Read More

In Time (2011, Andrew Niccol)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This movie opens with terrible expository dialogue that explains the monumentally stupid premise. I felt like I was in the pitch meeting myself. I could imagine the joy on some douche-bag executive’s face as he or she thought how great this concept was. I mean, honestly, the first third or more of the film feels like an unfinished pitch, it’s that terrible. Things pick up considerably when the film goes all Bonnie and Clyde on us and it actually becomes reasonably entertaining, despite the idiotic premise, and so I raised my rating one whole point, because I laughed at a Read More

Cloud Atlas (2012, directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

Some novels are just plain unfilmable, and sometimes you wonder why people try. But watching this, and not knowing the novel, I’m not sure this one is such an unfilmable novel. (Maybe I’m wrong.) A lot of the time I find I don’t really see the bombs other people see. I don’t know why that is – though I would guess it has something to do with my expectations being so low once I see a “bomb” that I am nearly always pleasantly surprise – but I find it is the case more than it is. This one such bomb Read More

Under the Skin (2013, Jonathan Glazer)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This review contains spoilers. This is a fascinating, complex and audacious take on the ‘sexy alien predator among us’ sub genre I was briefly into as a teenage boy back when Species came out and I loved Natasha Henstridge. Make no mistake, this is a very, very different take on the theme. I figure this plot can go one of two ways: the alien among us (even if they are not posing as a sexy lady) either wants to destroy us all and must be taken down in a violent showdown, or the alien wants to become us. Glazer chooses 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

Total Recall (2012, Len Wiseman)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

Let’s get the good of this totally unnecessary remake out of the way: The production design is fantastic, worthy of Blade Runner – which is (very) heavily inspired by – the Fifth Element, Minority Report and the equal of respected modern sci fi epics like Pacific Rim. It’s better than the original, I would say.   And there are a number of neat ideas that didn’t originate with the original film (almost as if they were created in a script that wasn’t intended as a Total Recall remake but were later hijacked to a new purpose…) not the least of which 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 Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Francis Lawrence)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

For the first little while I was enjoying this a lot more than the original, which I did not enjoy at all. There was a lot less exposition of the mythology – we are plunged into the world this time, and it (mostly) assumed we know where we are – but when the Third Quarter Quell stars, it’s deja vu all over again, as they say. Fortunately, this time around things are a little (and I mean slightly) more ambiguous, which is a breath of fresh air after the first movie’s so blatant Good Versus Evil dynamic. It’s still very 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

Civilwarland in Bad Decline (1996) by George Saunders

Categories: 1996, Books, and Fiction.

I had no idea what this was. This book was bought for me as a gift because of the civil war painting on the cover and the gifter and I didn’t bother to read anything on the back. Anyway… The comparisons to Vonnegut are pretty accurate, only Saunders is darker and more offensive. As someone who used to worship Vonnegut a little too much, I think they are also unfair. Saunders is his own writer and though Vonnegut is the easiest comparison, I think it’s safe to say that he is original enough – and definitely funny enough – that Read More

Outlander (2008, Howard McCain)

Categories: 2008 and Movies.

I really wish movies like this would try just a little. Just a little. This is essentially Vikings and Aliens but it wouldn’t be so horrible if a little more effort was put into it: Canada substitutes for Norway – which might not be so bad if the CGI weren’t so terrible but it regularly feels like the actors are standing in front of a good old Hollywood backdrop – the character motivations are the same as every other movie like this, everything is amped up to the ridiculous and, yes, the CGI is legendarily bad. But it’s the ridiculousness Read More

Pacific Rim (2013, Guillermo del Toro)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is about as intelligent and well-produced a re-imagining of Gojira as I can imagine, but that isn’t saying much, is it? I mean Gojira and its offspring aren’t exactly smart movies, and they aren’t exactly the picture of high production values. But Del Toro goes really big, and going so big he seems to have won a lot of people over. I’m not sure bigger is better – though if you’re going to make a giant monster movie, bigger is indeed better – and I find myself wondering if this could have been just…you know, more fun. Only one Read More

Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009)

Categories: 2003 and TV.

Battlestar Galcctica, the reboot, is probably the greatest science fiction TV show of all time. (That obviously depends on what we mean by “science fiction”, as if I included the original Prisoner in that genre, maybe I would be forced to rethink my position. And no, no version of Star Trek has ever particularly impressed me.) It has the highest production values of any science fiction show to date, it has the most complex mythology outside of Star Trek, and its characters are not one-dimensional – in fact most of them are quite complex. At its very best, it was Read More

Dredd (2012, Pete Travis)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

I liked this movie the first time I saw it when it was called The Raid. In all seriousness, this is like a mixture of that film and a video game ‘plot’. Having never read the comics, I can’t say whether they actually stole it from The Raid or not. This is an improvement on the Stallone version, which isn’t saying much. The whole thing is reasonably entertaining but I can’t help but think I’ve seen it before. Meh. 4/10 Read More

Quark (1977)

Categories: 1977 and TV.

I certainly wish I had enjoyed this more than I did. I like the premise and I really appreciate the Star Trek fun-poking, even if that could have been a little more consistent. The problem for me, I think, is that I loved Get Smart as a child / tween but I doubt I could sit through it now. Same goes for this: Buck Henry’s sense of humour is from another time and those of us who have grown up with Python, SCTV, KITH etc have different – and I would say higher – standards. Frankly it’s just not funny Read More

The Prisoner (2009)

Categories: 2009 and TV.

I was certainly sceptical of this but I guess I couldn’t help myself. I have a fondness for the original even though the second season was unnecessary and kind of terrible and even though the whole series has dated rather horribly. But I don’t know what these guys were thinking: they have changed enough of the story to make it somewhat unrecognizable: the village is significantly less creepy this time around and far less sinister given that there are actually people who want to get out. The new version is an excuse for over-directing galore and some pretty odd pacing Read More