Archive for the ‘Science Fiction and Space Shit’ Category

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.

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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…)

Interstellar

Friday, November 21st, 2014

tn_interstellarYou guys heard of this INTERSTELLAR? Came out recently. It’s Chris Nolan’s take on the wide-eyed space exploration epic. The type of sci-fi movie that keeps its feet partly on earth, has no lasers or star wars in it whatsoever and tries to seem relatively semi-quasi-plausible by modern scientifical-esque theories. It’s definitely supposed to be a spectacle, but not in the complicated-cgi-creations-loudly-smashing-things-into-a-million-cgi-particles way we generally get now, or even the how-did-they-even-do-that style of the INCEPTION hallway scene. More in the LAWRENCE OF ARABIA sense of gigantic landscapes. It’s the type of movie made by and for people who get awe struck staring up at the stars and weepy at the thought of specific astronauts. People whose imaginations get boners from the idea of a manned mission to Mars more than they would from a monster biting the head off a robot.

So the truth is I’m not the audience for this movie. I was better in monster biting head off a robot class than in science. When a guy sitting by me in the theater said he read that the black hole created for the movie was so “mathematically accurate” that scientists were now making discoveries based on it, I literally had no idea what that meant. Still don’t. On several different levels. So keep that in mind when I tell you I liked, didn’t love INTERSTELLAR. But I’m still gonna write about it, ’cause this is America. (read the rest of this shit…)

Species

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

tn_species“Don’t go. Please! I want a baby.”

SPECIES is one of these movies of the ’90s that isn’t very good but that represents a weird enough collision of influences to be interesting. It’s a studio genre movie so it has an all-star cast. Ben Kingsley (PRINCE OF PERSIA, BLOODRAYNE) leads the government monster hunt, and his team of specialists is Forest Whitaker (BLOODSPORT), Michael Madsen (BLOODRAYNE), Alfred Molina (PRINCE OF PERSIA) and Marg Helgenberger (FIRE DOWN BELOW).

Behind the scenes they got a couple of legit horror technicians in the mix: composer Christopher Young, whose eerie score is very similar to what he did for HELLRAISER, and monster designer H.R. Giger does his biomechanical thing like in ALIEN, but this time with bonus eyes and boobs. This was the first time his creatures got the computer animation treatment, an exciting development in those days. It was only two years after JURASSIC PARK and just doing everything digitally was still in the future, they had to put in some effort to do it so it was usually a big deal. The digital parts look almost charmingly crude now, but luckily they got puppets and costumes in there too, like you did back then. (read the rest of this shit…)

Under the Skin

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

tn_undertheskinThis director Jonathan Glazer, I can’t really put my finger on him. SEXY BEAST I didn’t like all that much, but most people seem to, or at least they did at the time. British crime comedy stuff, mostly normal, but people forget the weird interludes with the half man/half bunny. What was that about.

Second movie BIRTH. Not as recognized, but I loved that one, a unique and creepy thriller with potent Kubrickian filmatism. Got me excited for movie #3, which turned out to take nine years and be his least commercial work so far even though it’s a sci-fi movie that has Scarlett Johansson taking her clothes off. The thing that gets me is none of these movies seem like the same director to me. He’s mainly a commercial and video director, so he likes to play with different styles, but that never stopped David Fincher or Spike Jonze from being identifiable. Maybe I’m missing it by seeing them years apart.
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Cherry 2000

Monday, August 11th, 2014

tn_cherryCHERRY 2000 is a quirky post-apocalyptic adventure, one with a cool sci-fi western premise and alot of underlying oddness and satirical observation about life in the ’80s. The action is slightly stilted, and I think director Steve De Jarnatt (who followed this up with the pre-apocalyptic MIRACLE MILE) is more comfortable doing funny twists on the genre than sincerely following its tropes, but I also think there is a good faith effort to deliver the goods. There are lots of machine guns and blowtorches, some explosions, some great stunts involving a car hanging from a crane. When the weinery yuppie protagonist decides to man up he does it by setting fire to a bunch of cars and rigging an explosion that knocks over Tim Thomerson and swarms him with bees. Not bad. (read the rest of this shit…)

Guardians of the Galaxy

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

tn_guardiansPeter “Star Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt, ZERO DARK THIRTY) is a wannabe legendary space outlaw, a good fighter with a cool breather mask and ship who takes gigs from unsavory characters retrieving rare objects and stuff. A Transporter, if you will. When he finds something called “the orb” for a scary space guy with the scary space name of Rhonan the Accuser, he learns that it endangers everybody in the galaxy, and he decides he’s against that. So he teams up with an alien lady trying to snatch it from him (Zoe Saldana, but green this time instead of AVATAR blue), two bounty hunters trying to capture him (Bradley Cooper [MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN] and Vin Diesel, both voicing cartoons), and a psycho they met in prison (Dave Bautista, RIDDICK) to try to get it somewhere safe, wherever the fuck that would be. I don’t think they discuss throwing it into a volcano like a lord of the rings would do. (read the rest of this shit…)