Archives for posts with tag: science fiction

MV5BZDRiOGE5ZTctOWIxOS00MWQwLThlMDYtNWIwMDQwNzBjZDY1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjU0OTQ0OTY@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Into Darkness was so uninspiring that Beyond didn’t prompt me to go to the cinema. And while perhaps it was better on a big screen, I’m glad its cost was only the marginal one of a Hulu membership rather than whatever crazy amount the kids are asking at the movies these days.

Jim Kirk’s (Chris Pine) birthday is coming up. You may recall that this is also the day on which his father died, and, if you don’t, this movie is going to have some daddy issues come out of nowhere to remind you. That’s right, Captain James Tiberius Kirk, all of like twenty-eight years old, and in command of the nicest fanciest fastest awesomest starship ever to grace the galaxy, is moping into his stolen scotch about how he’ll never achieve anything.

And then he acts like a dumbass.

Some lady alien (I think Lydia Wilson?) comes hurtling out of a nebula towards a space station bleating a distress call. So the Enterprise goes into the nebula after her crew that is obviously a trap. And some other alien, Krall (Idris Elba), cuts the Enterprise apart with swarms of tiny spaceships and she crashlands on a planet and the crew is dispersed and/or enslaved until Krall can unleash a weapon to destroy the Federation.

It’s basically The Rock, but in space and worse.

Because (spoiler alert, and I don’t even care) of course Krall is actually some Starfleet captain who disappeared centuries ago and then felt abandoned by the Federation and now he’s hanging out on space-Alcatraz until he can destroy space-San Francisco with his weird space-nerve gas. Somehow he has also developed some sort of magic-adjacent skill whereby he can suck the life out of people and prolong his life. All he has to do is touch them and then he starts looking increasingly weird and unlike Idris Elba and seriously why hire Idris Elba if you’re going to put him in nineteen tons of make-up.

It’s really dumb, and it doesn’t hang together, and it’s not even that much fun, even though Simon Pegg helped write it. Sulu’s happy home life is maybe the best part, and that’s fifteen seconds.

Director: Justin Lin
Rating: PG-13
Length: 122 minutes
Score: 2/5

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mv5bmtc5otk4mtm3m15bml5banbnxkftztgwodcxnjg3mde-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_In the near-ish future, aliens invade. They seem to be octopus-whirlwinds of metal and energy, and they are unstoppable. It turns out that part of why they are unstoppable is that they can manipulate time, and therefore can restart battles every time they lose. In an unsubtle touch, they landed first in Hamburg, and we see their shadow spread across Europe.

As the film begins, the united armed forces of the rest of the world are preparing for an all-out assault, a landing on the Normandy beaches from flying troop-carriers. A single victory, at Verdun (of course), has given them new confidence. Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), the Angel of Verdun, is their new hero. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) arrives in London, thinking he will continue his job in military PR. And he will, but while embedded in a unit that storms the beaches. He is…not sold on this.

This is the glory of the film. Cage is handsome, smooth, amoral, and needs a swift kick in the ass. When he wakes up in Dover and Bill Paxton yells at him to join his comrades and not wimp out of something for the first time in his life, you are on Bill Paxton’s side. You’re a little bit sorry for him as he lands in the shallows and struggles onto land, because no one even bothered to tell him how to take the safety off. And then he dies! Both he and Rita have managed to acquire the aliens’ time-shifting ability, and so Cage must figure out how to use this to win the war. Progress is incremental, and painful. Rita trains him painstakingly–his pains. Since time resets when he dies, it makes sense to put him out of his misery any time he is even slightly injured. You get to watch Tom Cruise bite it so many times.

And a lot of those times, Emily Blunt shoots him in the goddamn face. She, too, is amazing in this movie. Rita’s absolutely tough as nails, but there’s never the feeling that the rôle was written for a man, as is often the case in such situations. Since they do not share memories (time-jumping will do that), they both get hideously frustrated and sad about their inability, sometimes, to communicate. It’s surprisingly affecting.

This movie is funny, clever, different, and unexpectedly deep. You should watch it.

(Also, it has a billion minor British actors–Jonas Armstrong, Lara Pulver, Charlotte Riley, Noah Taylor–who are a delight.)

Director: Doug Liman
Rating: PG-13
Length: 113 minutes
Score: 5/5

In our continuing obsession with robots and how they’ll probably take over the world and murder us comes the entry Ex Machina. I seem to recall a lot of hype about how ground-breaking and intelligent it was. I disagree on at least one of those points.

Nathan (Oscar Isaac) is a tech billionaire who is developing humanoid AIs in his remote mansion, because obviously he is. Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a peon in his company who wins a contest to go meet the AI. Ava (Alicia Vikander) is the AI. Amid very stylish surroundings, Nathan is a giant creep, Caleb is creeped out, Ava is a really convincing robot.

MV5BMTUxNzc0OTIxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDI3NzU2NDE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_.jpgTo its credit, this movie addresses a few issues that often come up in this scenario, like “why does the AI have to be a sexy lady?” The answer to that is that Nathan is a creepy weirdo, which is at least stereotypically probable. “Why does Oscar Isaac have that terrible beard?” goes unanswered. “How did we get to the point where AIs are really plausible sexy ladies without a lot of hiccups?” is, however, terrifyingly answered by a gallery of uncanny valley failed AIs. “Can robots dance?” is a glorious yes.

This movie did, at least, kind of consider how robots might think and how this may or may not make them want to kill us all.

On the other hand, I don’t know about you, but I watched Battlestar Galactica, so….

Director: Alex Garland
Rating: R
Length: 108 minutes
Score: 4/5

This may have been the Star Wars movie we were looking for. It is both darker and more whimsical than any previous installment, and succeeds at both. Because its outcome is largely predetermined, it may lack some of the highs, but it absolutely lacks the lows.

More interestingly, this is a war movie in the way that previous forays into the universe have not been. Rogue One is willing to wonder about how collaboration, empire, and resistance actually work. The good guys squabble with each other. Moral certainty is rare. People die. It’s not exactly Armée des Ombres, but hard choices do have to be made, and victory is at least nominally uncertain. (Yeah, we’ve seen Episodes IV through VI, so it’s not actually up for grabs, but the Allies won WWII, as well, and Battle of Britain still ends on an ambivalent shrug.)

Also the new robot is amazing.rogueone

I liked it a lot, even though it left some things on the table. I wasn’t sure why they didn’t do more with Mads Mikkelsen’s Galen Erso or Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera, if they bothered to hire such recognizable and talented actors. Alistair Petrie’s head of Rebel intelligence, General Draven, should have had more to say about how reality is a thing, although Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) had a good line about it. Jyn (Felicity Jones) could have had a name I could catch–it took about two hours for me to realize her name wasn’t “Jed.”

But the fan service, such as it was, was restrained and effective. The effects were in the main excellent. Dialogue, as always, was a weak point, but the comic beats literally all landed, thanks to Alan Tudyk’s voice inside K-2SO. Donnie Yen’s wannabe Jedi Chirrut Îmwe added a new and welcome dimension to the Force.

Definitely better than Force Awakens, maybe better than Revenge of the Sith.

Director: Gareth Edwards
Rating: PG-13
Length: 133 minutes
Score: 4/5

This is a time travel movie, so the plot is tricky and sort of irrelevant. Three friends (Chris O’Dowd, Dean Lennox Kelly, and Marc Wootton) work at a sad theme park; two of them are very keen on science fiction; they are drinking in a pub and get caught in some sort of temporal anomaly. Anna Faris is Thursday Next, but for time, not books.

It’s distinctly average. O’Dowd is his usual late 2000s self–schlubby and directionless but nevertheless charming. His mates are guys who would be mates with that guy. Their combination of curiosity and cowardice is plausible and fine.

Would this movie be better if it were Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, which it rather seems like it’s trying to be? Almost certainly. Or if it had a shorter title? Very much. Will watching it make you feel like you’ve wasted 83 minutes? Probably not.

Director: Gareth Carrivick
Rating: TV-14
Length: 83 minutes
Score: 3/5

You know the drill on this one: Steve Rogers is a 90 pound asthmatic, but loves America. So he becomes Captain America in order to beat up Nazis. It’s great.

My one quibble (and this a quibble with the comics rather than the movie, really): you don’t need to have a weird occult freak villain. The SS is evil enough. X-Men handles this marginally better.

So does it rate a 5/5? I think so. It’s the most tonally consistent of any of the Marvel films, period. It’s clever without trying too hard, the humorous beats are pleasing but not overdone, and everything has a slightly stylized olive-drab vibe that is extremely successful. Plus, I’m sick of the eternally flawed superhero, because I really don’t watch comic book movies for angst. Sure, Superman’s one-note admirability is boring, but that’s because Superman is a stupid alien. Steve Rogers’s one-note admirability is adorably charming. Which you can tell because Peggy Carter, Number One Awesome Badass, falls in love with him. [Watch “Agent Carter” before it’s gone, idiots.]

And the kid that Richard Armitage throws in the harbor! He can swim and Cap doesn’t have to rescue him and that is terrific. Maybe my favorite moment.

Stray observations:

  • I love the end titles. I think they’re meant to be send-ups of wartime propaganda posters, but they’re great anyway.
  • I’ll watch JJ Feild in anything and I kind of love that they don’t even really spend any time on the Howling Commandos. It’s just all, “Oh, hey, Union Jack’s here and so is everyone else. Sweet.”
  • Tommy Lee Jones is completely phoning it in, and is still tremendous.
  • It is endlessly hilarious to me that Chris Evans is having a second career as a different Marvel superhero (yeah, I saw both of those Fantastic Four piles of garbage and own one of them). I guess it helps to be a definitional dreamboat.

Director: Joe Johnston
Rating: PG-13
Length: 124 minutes
Score: 5/5

Spoilers below, sort of.

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