Archive for the ‘Science Fiction and Space Shit’ Category

Johnny Mnemonic

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

tn_johnnymnemonic

RELEASE DATE: May 26

RELEASE DATE: May 26

When we talk about JOHNNY MNEMONIC now it’s usually with a smirk. Rapid advances in the technology that it speculated about have made some of its vision of 2021 goofily dated. Star Keanu Reeves (BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA) was still solidifying as an action star and brought a funny surfer dude lilt to his slick underworld messenger character Johnny. And even at the time it was considered a failed moviefication of William Gibson’s “cyberpunk” style of sci-fi, which had a strong reputation as a cool, edgy type of literature as opposed to the old timey painted cover fantasies of previous eras. But they turned it into what was seen as some cheesy Hollywood bullshit.

Since the mid ’80s, tales have been told of the brave souls trying to adapt Gibson’s debut novel Neuromancer into a major motion picture (directors attached have included Chuck Russell, Chris Cunningham, Joseph Kahn and Vincenzo Natali). But this short story adaptation, directed by installation artist/occasional music video director Robert Longo and written by Gibson himself, beat it to the screen by 20 years and counting. They just had to replace the mirror-eyed “razor girl” character Molly Millions in the story with the regular-eyed Jane, because Molly was tied up with the rights for Neuromancer, since she’s in that too.

Gibson and Longo originally set out to make a $1.5 million black and white sci-fi noir, but couldn’t get the funding, so they agreed to a $20 million version with TriStar Pictures, whose other productions that year were THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, HIDEAWAY, 3 NINJAS KNUCKLE UP, JURY DUTY, MAGIC IN THE WATER, DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS and JUMANJI. As artistic types and Hollywood rookies they may have been out of their depth trying to make a summer blockbuster with the star of SPEED, and Longo didn’t get his cut anyway. It turned out undeniably messy. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mad Max: Fury Road

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

tn_furyroadSPOILER WARNING. I mean, I can’t stop you from reading this, but I’m not being careful about spoilers because for crying out loud see this movie IMMEDIATELY. Quit your job if necessary.

Usually if you’re still watching a movie for the first time, it’s kinda premature to start thinking “this is a masterpiece.” Not so with MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. It’s part 4 in an old series, but it truly feels like an entirely new type of movie. It is thrilling, explosive, inventive action at its most pure and relentless, yet it manages to weave a moving and powerful story around and within and through the hundreds of spectacular stunts. As he has in each successive MAD MAX movie, director George Miller re-invents his post-poxyclipstic world with even more ornate detail and flair than before, unfolding a fantasy world as teeming with weird characters and happenings as the whole HOBBIT trilogy without ever dumping a bunch of exposition on us. He explains what we need to know economically, mostly visually, and leaves the rest for us to daydream about.

This is a movie that will transform people’s brains. It just might be the most elaborate action movie ever made, both in the complexity of the stunt sequences and in the meticulous design of the people and things in it. Now the cars aren’t just cool and beat up, they’re built from unlikely combinations of multiple vehicles piled on top of each other, covered in spikes, flame throwers, animal skulls and creepy doll heads, with weapons hidden inside and out and half naked goons climbing all over them firing guns and throwing spears and bombs. Steering wheels are removable, heavily decorated and carry some sort of religious significance. One character pulls his off and holds it aloft during a chase to show that he’s ready to die. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ex Machina

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

tn_exmachinaHere’s one of those classical science fictional tales, like THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU or JURASSIC PARK, where an outsider comes to a remote estate or island and sees the game-changing technological breakthrough of an eccentric genius working outside of the constraints of societal and ethical norms. You know what, I’m gonna go ahead and make the generalization that if a helicopter is required to get to the location of the experiment then you’re in trouble. That’s what I’ve learned.

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson, TRUE GRIT) is a lowly code-writer for the giant search engine Bluebook who wins a contest and/or is mysteriously summoned to spend two weeks with the reclusive company founder Nathan (Oscar Isaac, THE NATIVITY STORY) at a high tech laboratory/compound/bachelor pad out in The Middle of Fuckin Nowhere, Norway. It turns out here’s there because Nathan has built an artificially intelligent robot and wants someone to talk to it and test if he considers it to be conscious or not. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fortress

Monday, April 20th, 2015

tn_fortressFORTRESS is one of those rare b-movie (or B+ movie?) gems that you come across every once in a while that has everything: good cast, great gimmicks, unexpected emotion and substance, cyborgs. It’s a 1993 sci-fi action movie, but clearly without a summer blockbuster budget, so it feels somewhere between Paul Verhoeven and ROBOT JOX. And that makes sense, because it’s the same director. Man, why did I never see this before? Didn’t I know it was a Christopher Lambert movie directed by Stuart Gordon? Don’t I believe in the auteur theory?

Lambert plays Brennick, an ex-soldier (“the most decorated captain of the Black Berets, yet you quit in disgrace…”) busted with his pregnant wife Karen (Loryn Locklin) trying to sneak out of the country because it’s illegal to give birth twice. They both end up at the Fortress, a giant underground, privately owned prison. The convicts become property of the Men-Tel Corporation and used for prison labor. Their job: to keep building further into the ground, making more room for more convicts to build even further. That’s my favorite concept in the movie because it so deviously illustrates the problem of the prison industrial complex. Zed-10, the computer program that runs the place (voice of the director’s wife Carolyn Purdy-Gordon), keeps saying the Men-Tel slogan “Crime does not pay.” But of course for them it does. (read the rest of this shit…)

Le Dernier Combat

Friday, March 13th, 2015
rookies

Yeah, I know, I’m mostly talking about LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL here. And I respect him as a prolific b-action producer. So sue me.

tn_derniercombatLE DERNIER COMBAT (or THE FINAL BATTLE) is Luc Besson’s first feature, and apparently he was pretty different in 1983. This is a black and white post-apocalypse movie and in contrast to all the international co-production action vehicles he’s been writing with Robert Mark Kamen for so many years it’s very much not high concept. It has no hook.

It also has no talking. I’m not sure if whatever ended civilization as we know it also removed everyone’s ability to speak, or if just nobody in this story bothers to ever do it. But this is one Besson movie where you can’t say the dialogue is bad.

It mostly follows “The Man” (Pierre Jolivet, also co-writer and producer and a prolific director in his own right), sort of a goofball taking shelter from the post-apocalypse in an office building with not too bad of a set up. He has a plant, some furniture, an oven, a cassette deck, a mattress, plenty of space if he ever wants to take up tai chi or breakdancing or anything like that. It’s pretty dusty in there, though. The movie opens panning through his living space and there’s some kind of panting you can hear and you see his naked legs and then you see that he’s humping an inflatable sex doll. Not exactly an iconic entrance like Mad Max or somebody. (read the rest of this shit…)

Space is the Place

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

tn_spaceistheplace“Equation-wise the first thing to do is to consider time as officially ended. We work on the other side of time. We’ll bring them here through either isotope teleportation, trans-molecularization, or better still, teleport the whole planet here through music.”

There’s no way around it: SPACE IS THE PLACE (1974) is a crazy fuckin movie. And not in the common manner of movies that are obviously trying to be weird to get a rise out of you. More like you watch it and wonder who the hell made this movie. Actual crazy people? A UFO cult of some kind? Inmates at an asylum that uses free jazz and guerrilla filmmaking as therapy? The people in question, crazy or not, are Sun Ra and His Intergalactic Solar Arkestra, the one-of-a-kind cosmically themed avant-garde jazz army from Philadelphia by way of New York by way of Chicago by way of Saturn. They land their space ship in Oakland, California, hang out a while, perform, and try to find ideal new recruits for their all black space colony.

Sun Ra wasn’t always a space man. Early in the movie we see him as Sonny Ray, the piano player at a black Chicago night club circa 1943. The real life Sonny Blount indeed played clubs like this. He was a talented pianist backing up touring musicians and leading his own highly skilled bands, renowned for being able to play in many styles.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Predestination

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

tn_predestinationPREDESTINATION is the latest in the line of Ethan Hawke genre movies I am as of this moment dubbing “Hawkesploitation.” These movies are not always good, but they usually have at least a few interesting ideas and they always benefit from his efforts. He doesn’t phone it in. Here he brings his likability and goodwill from BOYHOOD to an attempt at movie-fying a weird Robert A. Heinlein short story called “All You Zombies.” The writer-directors are Michael and Peter Spierig, the Australian twin brothers who previously directed Hawke in the unheralded gem DAYBREAKERS. So I was excited to see this, knowing nothing else about it.

Turns out it’s a Timecop story. Hawke plays some kind of agent for some kind of agency who’s traveling through time (using a device disguised as a violin case) trying to stop a bomber responsible for attacks more deadly than 9-11. They don’t specify that, but they say how many people died, and that this guy is the only one to evade them. So we can assume 9-11 has already been erased.

But this Timecop gets blown up and his face gets burned off and when he’s healed up enough for his next mission he’s pretending he’s a bartender in 1975. (read the rest of this shit…)

Jupiter Ascending

Monday, February 9th, 2015

tn_jupiterascendingFirst of all, I’d like to thank the Wachowskis for their unprecedented run of crazy, idiosyncratic big budget studio genre movies, and wish them luck in whatever their new vocation is.

I love the Wachowskis without reservation. BOUND is alot of fun and THE MATRIX is a brilliant sci-fi action classic and then everything they’ve made since then has been messier and crazier. But for them to make sane movies would be a waste of their talent. They can keep pushing the envelopes of special effects technology and storytelling technique as long as they also keep challenging the limits of what a studio can sink hundreds of millions of dollars into. And while I understand some of the disappointment in the MATRIX sequels, I also think that most of it comes from people wanting them to just do the same exact shit again. To me those movies are brimming with excitement about which unexpected turn they can make while also continuing to top themselves in action spectacle.

And then they got to make SPEED RACER. And they must’ve suspected that wasn’t gonna light the world on fire. They are heroes.

Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy their new sci-fi-fantasy joint JUPITER ASCENDING like I did the MATRIXes or SPEED RACER, and didn’t intellectually admire it as much as CLOUD ATLAS. It has way less ambition than that one and a little more boredom. I can respect that it’s something that nobody else would ever make, or want to make, or want to have made. It’s ballsy in how shamelessly corny it is. But it’s a shame that their worst one by far will be their last. (I’m assuming. After this many big budget flops in a row you gotta figure they’ll be washing dishes at Warner Brothers until they’ve worked off their debt.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Cyborg

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

tn_cyborgYears ago when I saw a little movie called DOUBLE TEAM I remember coming out of the theater and running into an acquaintance, a friend of a friend named Corey who was waiting for the next show. We got to talking about Van Damme, and it was kind of shameful how many of them he mentioned that I hadn’t seen. So this guy decides right then and there that we’re gonna meet once a week in a neutral location and we’re gonna watch a Van Damme movie. And I don’t remember how long we did that but it was probly a month or two of important learning. You know, it’s the same as with KICKBOXER or BLOODSPORT, you try to find a mentor or a buddy to take you under his wing, and that’s how you get your start. So shout out to Corey. And I hope I’m doing my part to pass on these lessons to the next generation.

Anyway, that was the last time I saw CYBORG. On a screen bigger than I’ve ever owned, but full frame VHS, and when I was younger and dumber in my ongoing journey to filmatistic enlightenment. Here’s all I remember: Van Damme doing the splits between two walls, a guy with sunglasses grunting, being bored.

Okay, I wasn’t that far off, this is sitll a bit of a chore for me to get through, but I repsect it more at this stage in my evolution. CYBORG is from the Cannon Group, it’s directed by our friend Albert Pyun, it doesn’t really have any concepts that separate it much from other post-apocalypse movies (with a little BLADE RUNNER and TERMINATOR influence thrown in the mix), but the thing I didn’t get back then is that it’s a fuckin art movie. The plot is minimalistic, there’s very little dialogue, lots of wind and dreamy slow motion. Van Damme plays a mysterious figure apparently called “Gibson Rickenbacker,” a so-called “slinger” or bounty hunter helping a woman named Pearl (Dayle Haddon, NORTH DALLAS FORTY) who has the cure for a deadly plague to travel through the wasteland to Atlanta. And she’s part robot, by the way. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Incredible Melting Man

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

tn_meltingmanShortly after getting a nice view of the rings of Saturn, astronaut Steve West and his colleagues get blasted with space radiation. Steve manages to make it back to earth alive, but now he’s… incredible.

He wakes up suddenly in a hospital, his face Darkmanned in bandages. He goes to a mirror and pulls them off to find that yes, he is a melting man. He’s caught the Space Melt. All his skin looks like melted rubber or wax and constantly drips slime. This is upsetting to him so he starts smashing things. Before trying to calm him down, before calling security, a nurse (Bonnie Inch) who sees him drops the two glass jars of cold blood she was bringing him and runs away screaming. There’s a long slo-mo shot of this. Throughout the movie nobody ever reacts to him like he’s a man suffering from a horrible ailment. They act like he’s a bear running at them. And it turns out their instincts are right, because he mauls almost everybody he sees.

For most of the movie Steve wanders around a small wilderness area where he beheads a fisherman who looks like Willie from ALF and encounters some kids playing hide and seek (one of them mistakes him for Frankenstein). There’s more slo-mo when the severed head floats down a stream and then over a small waterfall. I pictured the effects guys jumping up and down and high fiving each other when the floating head bumped a tree branch and spun around to show its face to the camera. (read the rest of this shit…)