Tag Archives: science fiction

Big Eyes Meets the Star of Big Eyes: ALITA, reviewed.

Rosa Salazar is an amnesiac cyborg super-soldier in the 26th century. (Fox)

Panzer Kunist is, as I’m sure I need not tell a cinephile and aesthete as refined and discerning and educated as you are, an ancient cyborg martial art that has largely died out by the mid-26th century. More importantly, Panzer Kunst has the satisfying hard consonants of words that were forbidden on 20th century television. It seems like it could work as any part of speech, which makes it especially panzer to kunst as kunst as possible. Panzer Kunst!

On the new Alita: Battle Angel. My review is here.

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Annihilation! (emphasis mine)

ANNIHILATIONHere is a joke you will not hear on today’s episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour, wherein I join old friends Linda Holmes and Stephen Thompson and new friend Daisy Rosario to dissect (heh) Annihilation, the new thriller from Ex Machina writer/director Alex Garland starring Natalie Portman and involving lots of cool but hella gross body horror stuff:
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Under the Skin Job: Blade Runner 2049, reviewed.

DSC00760.ARW

I seldom write same-day reviews, but because Blade Runner 2049‘s embargo was abruptly lifted before it even screened in DC, I had to scramble. I’m very happy to be able to say it’s a triumph, a satisfying much-later follow-up in the new tradition of Mad Max: Fury Road, Creed, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But… better than those, even, would you believe.

Here’s the review. Enhance!

By Any Means Necessary, Any Which Way You Can: War for the Planet of the Apes, reviewed.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APESWhat a Craig Finn-style blockbuster summer we’re having this year. Nothing as visionary as Mad Max: Fury Road from 2015, maybe, or as congruent with my own sensibilities as The Nice Guys from last year, but everything I picked sight unseen for my Village Voice/LA Weekly summer movie preview—Wonder Woman, The Beguiled, Baby Driver, Spider-Man: Homecoming—has so far avoided embarrassing me. I even liked Rough Night okay. It’s possible I’m not all that discerning a critic.

But my praise for War of the Planet of the Apes is well-founded. Even though I saw the movie weeks before I was assigned to write about it, which might be why the review is uncharacteristically (I hope) light on specific observations.
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Handling the Fingering: Alien: Covenant, reviewed.

ALIEN: COVENANTMy fanboyish impulses mostly come out whenever there’s a new ALIEN. Mostly.

I tried not to splash too much corrosive blood on the deck in my dissection of Alien: Covenant.

Lost in Space: Passengers, reviewed.

Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star in Columbia Pictures' PASSENGERS.

I had hopes for Passengers, from Prometheus writer Jon Spaihts and The Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum, because I root for science fiction films in general and because I’ve just edited a story for Air & Space/Smithsonian about research into human hibernation for long-term spaceflights, which is key to the premise of this movie. But its billion-dollar ideas are undermined by its five-cent guts, as I aver in my NPR review. Bummer.

What’s It All About, Chappie?

chappie-cp

So Die Antwoord won’t be releasing a cover of “Alfie” with the lyrics updated to promote their surprisingly substantial parts in Neill Blomkamp‘s new RoboCop / Short Circuit hybrid, Chappie? Disappointing.

But then so’s the movie. My NPR review is here. Continue reading

Pop Culture Happy Hour #230: Jupiter Ascending and Chemistry

JUPITER ASCENDING

I was happy as always to join my buddies Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, and Glen Weldon on this week’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, wherein we dissect Jupiter Ascending, the “original” sci-fi epic from auteur siblings Lana and Andy Wachowski from which audiences flocked away in droves last weekend. (I reviewed the film for The Dissolve.) We also try to figure out what people mean when they talk about “chemistry” among performers onscreen. Continue reading

Gas Giant: Jupiter Ascending, reviewed.

Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis (Murray Close / Warner Bros.)

Sorry, you guys: Mercury Rising Jupiter Ascending, the Wachowskis’ latest sci-fi epic, is neither the trainwreck you want nor the home run you need. My review, for The Dissolve.

The Fault Is Not in Our Stars: Interstellar, reviewed.

Matthew McConaughey in "Interstellar"

My NPR review of Interstellar, a grand spacefaring epic I saw twice in three days and in which I am inclined to forgive many flaws. I Want to Believe, even if there’s a lot of it I just don’t.

Cruise Controller: On Edge of Tomorrow and Blockbuster Déjà Vu

"Edge of Tomorrow" boats Tom Cruise's most varied & enjoyable performance in years.

The Happy Meal-shifting blockbusters of Summer 2014 continue to deliver the goods. Godzilla was dire and painterly and majestic, X-Men was fizzy and fun, and Edge of Tomorrow — the latest Tom Cruise action vehicle to suffer from Awful Title Syndrome — might be better than either. I liked it a whole bunch, even if it ends on a more conventional note than it might’ve if, say, Christopher Nolan had been holding the reigns.

Anyway, here is my official statement.

— TRANSMISSION BEGINS —

Blockbuster audiences have seen it all, and so has Tom Cruise. He is the most resilient and longest-lived movie star of modern times, a guy whose name has opened movies, and whose overcaffeinated performances have powered them, for 30 years. (“Actor. Producer. Running in movies since 1981,” reads his Twitter bio, perfectly.)

Edge of Tomorrow, his new science fiction adventure directed by the guy who made Swingers, cleverly harnesses both our abundant affection for the fearless, freakishly energetic young actor Cruise was, and our more fickle approbation for the risk-averse, still freakishly energetic 51-year-old action star he’s become. He plays a craven Army public affairs officer ordered unexpectedly into combat against space invaders who’ve occupied, er, France and Germany. Whereupon he is slain almost immediately. Continue reading

Making-of documentary The Furious Gods reveals the people who actually made Prometheus had no idea WTF, either.

Because I routinely make terrible decisions about how to spend my ever-dwindling supply of time on Earth, I paid $24.99 (50% of MSRP) for the four-disc, 3D Blu-Ray edition of Prometheus, a film I’d harbored huge hopes for but ultimately found disappointing. A Ridley Scott film, in other words.

​I don’t have the gear or the inclination to watch a 3D movie at home, but the deluxe set that includes the 3D version of Prometheus (along with the plain-Jane 2D in three different formats, because what price piece of mind?) is the only way to get The Furious Gods, a three-hour, 40 minute (!) making-of documentary by Charles de Lauzirika, a nonfiction filmmaker whose insightful, well-edited making-ofs for similarly lavish reissues of Scott’s only two great films — all together now, Alien and Blade Runner — have already claimed many irreplaceable hours of my life.

​I’ve yet to make it all the way through the documentary. It’s long, sure, but actually it’s longer, because I’ve been watching in “enhanced mode,” meaning that when an icon appears at the top of the screen I can press a button on my remote and watch an “enhancement pod” — a video footnote, basically — containing even more nerdily trivial information about whatever specific aspect of the film’s conception and production is being discussed at that moment.

When Scott talks about casting original Dragon Tattoo Girl Noomi Rapace in the movie, you can watch her screen test. When production designer Arthur Max reflects on the creation of the movie’s titular spacecraft (which was still called the Magellan for a long time, did you know, even after the Untitled Alien Prequel acquired the name Prometheus), you can click through dozens of drawings and schematics of the ship, which I think that all of us regardless of our political differences can agree is fucking rad. You can even watch an enhancement pod about the film’s many rejected titles. Alien: Tomb of the Gods, anyone? Continue reading

Mars on Earth

So I lucked into an advance copy of Stiff author Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. Set for publication in August, the book shows us the cosmic lengths to which space agencies must go to replicate off-world conditions here on Earth for the purposes of testing their equipment — and more to the point, the puny, hungry, fragile humans who rely on it to survive in a place nature clearly never meant for us to reach.

I haven’t read any of Roach’s prior books, but it took her about a sentence and a half to seduce me with the humor and sense of wonder she brings to her uncluttered reportage of complex scientific stuff. One chapter talks about an experiment called Mars-500 wherein Moscow’s Institute for Medical and Biological Problems locked would-be astronauts in a mockup spacecraft together for 500 days, the span of time required, using current technology, for a manned ship to journey to the Red Planet and back.

The test subjects faced simulations of the various emergencies they might have to cope with on a real Mars mission, but the primary purpose of the experiment was examine the psychological effects of so long an isolation. An similar experiment the IMBP hosted in 1999-2000, using an eight-member, coed, multinational crew, ended early. There was unwanted French-kissing and, in a separate incident, writes Roach, “a fistfight that left the walls spattered with blood.” Continue reading

No, You Are Number Six: AMC’s The Prisoner on Trial

AMC’s slimmed-down reimagining of The Prisoner began its three-night run last night — somewhat shakily, it must be said. Still, if you’re any kind of a fan of what I called “the 1967 British spy-fi, allegori-stential cult TV series,” you’ll want to check out the City Paper’s Arts Desk Blog, where the great and good Glen Weldon and myself debrief at taxing length RE:the merits and demerits of the new series.

Big fun dissecting this stuff with G-Weld. Pity about show.

Part One: Arrival
Part the Second: Keep a Pig for Stability Edition
Finale: Your Revolt Is Good and Honest Edition

Cameron’s Avatar preview, review’d. Sorta.

Sam Worthington with his Pandoran alter-ego from Cameron's Avatar.

Sam Worthington with his Pandoran alter-ego from Cameron's Avatar.

I was among the 3D-specs-wearing dweebs who visited an IMAX-equipped cineplex last Friday evening for a 15-minute preview of Avatar, James Cameron’s first feature since Titanic 12 years ago. Offering a free, extended look at a movie that won’t come out until mid-December is unusual, but then again, it’s also unusual for a studio to gamble $200 million-plus on a film not based on a comic book, toy, or historical event. Also, Fox can’t love that M. Night Shyamalan has his own film coming out next summer based on an animated TV show called Avatar: The Last Airbender. More than one media-savvy person I know has confused Cameron’s film with Shyamalan’s.

Anyway, the Avatar teaser trailer kinda underwhelmed. So how did its expanded cousin play in 3D, or as Cameron prefers it, in stereo?
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