Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category

ArrivalArrival is the finest first contact film since District 9 and takes its place alongside that work and Spielberg’s standard setter, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, as one of the best tales of the initial meeting between humans and extraterrestrials ever told on film. (Note: Comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey are unfair; Kubrick’s masterpiece occupies a unique and special place.) Arrival earns this distinction by way of its thoroughly original take on the alien life forms that come to Earth in 12 huge elliptical ships that hover off the ground in an inexplicable set of locations that include Russia, China, Australia, and Sudan. The aliens in Arrival not only sport an unexpected look, but their manner of communication is something we have not seen in a mainstream movie before.

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ThirstFirst things first – Thirst is a lousy name for this movie. It’s a pretty bad one for almost any movie at this point, considering how many times it’s been used in the last 40 years as a film title. On almost every occasion, the movie in question has been about vampires. That’s not the case here. This Thirst is about an alien that arrives on earth hungry. Yeah, apparently Hunger as a title might have given too much away.

And that beautifully illustrates the core problem for this movie – it’s lazy, sloppy work. The inspiration likely came from the mind of a nine-year-old boy who spent his school days drawing fantastical creatures in his spiral notebook and his nights watching Alien, Predator, and Terminator movies. The monster in Thirst is a B movie classic – with a lizard body, an alien mandible, predator dental work, a terminator metal skeleton, and an anus in the middle of its chest. Nice work, kid.

Unfortunately, that same nine-year-old apparently wrote the screenplay. How else to explain that the character among the group of eight wandering the Utah backcountry who is given the most backstory is among the first killed? Or that no proper motivation can be given for the group going further away from civilization after a dead body is found? Or that the most annoying among the many annoying characters sticks around until almost the end? (more…)

10 Cloverfield LaneThe only risk audiences rushing to see 10 Cloverfield Lane face are overinflated expectations from a brilliant guerrilla marketing campaign and sterling initial reviews (Rotten Tomatoes currently has a tally of 90% favorable). And, yes, there is the matter of the title which may lead some to believe this is a sequel to the 2008 monster movie, Cloverfield, which was a Godzilla found footage flick produced by JJ. Abrams. It’s not a sequel per se, although Abrams has said that this film, which he also produced, belongs in “the same universe.”

Forget about that for now. You don’t need to have seen the other film to fully enjoy this one, and, besides, the latest one is just a helluva lot better. In fact, 10 Cloverfield Lane is just about the best genre movie you’re likely to see this year. Right down to the batshit crazy third act, 10 Cloverfield Lane is pure drive-in fun.  (more…)

Midnight SpecialMidnight Special was one of the real treats of the recently concluded 67th Berlinale Film Festival. The first showing was the film’s world premiere, and the inclusion of a genre movie into the Competition section of the festival was a welcome change from the programming approach of recent years. The initial showing occurred in the coveted first Friday evening time spot and was prefaced by a red carpet march of key crew and cast members including director/screenwriter Jeff Nichols and actors Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, and Kirsten Dunst. The film unspooled, and the proverbial good time was had by all. (more…)

The Force AwakensStar Wars: The Force Awakens is a movie that demands a second viewing by most filmgoers – fanboys and casual observers alike. The reason for a repeat is rather simple. The heightened expectations surrounding the film’s release left most audiences in a state of diminished awareness, capable only of following the action from Point A to Point B and forming immediate visceral reactions: good, bad, loved it, hated it. Our eyes were wide and unblinking, but also unfocused on the less obvious and without the needed peripheral vision to incorporate all aspects of the production into our criticism. (more…)

HFilm audiences in Berlin have enjoyed two opportunities to see the film H. this year, first at the Berlinale in February and then, more recently, at the Fantasy FilmFest in August. It is a movie that does well with a second viewing as the allusions to the Helen of Troy mythology from the Iliad and The Odyssey can be distracting rather than illuminating the first time around. As the events slowly unfold on screen, filmgoers can feel as if they have wandered into a graduate school literature class without reading the assignment or even having access to the CliffsNotes version. Letting go of these concerns during a subsequent viewing allows audiences to escape a sense of frustration and enjoy the pleasures of understated storytelling within a technically sound framework. Of course, you still need to devote more mental energy than in most films, but here, one feels as if it is worth the effort even if there are elements that must be pushed to the side.

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TomorrowlandDisney as cult is not a new concept. The Corporation would never choose such a descriptor, but neither has it ever shied away from behavior that justifies the label. Walt Disney saw his company as the landscapers of the future, the architects of the social engineering that would lead us into a brave, new world that simultaneously held the small town values of a past that never existed with a technology-solves-everything, squeaky clean and dazzlingly white future that could be ours if we purged ourselves of our baser vulgarities. (more…)