79 posts categorized "Sci-Fi"

October 27, 2023

STARSHIP TROOPERS — SHOCKTOBER!

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Starship_troopersPaul Verhoeven's presciently cynical satire of American politics is loosely based on Robert A. Heinlein's 1959 science fiction novel which went on to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1960.

The movie is equal parts comedy, war action, spectacle, and satirical commentary.

Verhoeven's outrageous sci-fi epic piles on layers of observations about the nature of militarization in a story about young-and-lovely high school graduates (equal opportunity for girls and boys) going off to war against an invading army of giant arachnid bugs from the planet of Kelndathu.

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All this wasted beauty. 

In the film's near future, American society has fully integrated political indoctrination through a constant barrage of public media propaganda to effect its fascist motives.

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In a world where "Service guarantees citizenship," even if the rich don't have the right to be citizens, every kid wants to do a great job for the Fatherland — and die! Oh, the glory of war. 

Starship-troopers

"Starship Troopers" is a canny war satire that outshines even Kubrick's great satire "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."

The bugs, the bugs!

Rated R. 130 mins. 

5 Stars MR. CLEANCozy Cole

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October 18, 2023

THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH — SHOCKTOBER!

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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ColeSmithey.com"The Man Who Fell to Earth" is a brilliantly stylized science fiction satire about an alien who comes to our big blue ball with a methodic plan to deliver water back to his home planet, Anthea.

Director Nicolas Roeg expands on the success he enjoyed in his experimental film "Performance," in which he turned a British rock star into an imposing film actor overnight. Where Mick Jagger played an ironic character not unlike himself in "Performance," David Bowie transforms into his alien persona with a preternatural instinct that is purely seductive.

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Bowie's humanoid alien recasts himself as Thomas Jerome Newton, an orange-haired genius with a stack of original technology patents that will enrich him with the billions of dollars he needs to execute his water transportation plan. After touching down in New Mexico Newton seeks out patent attorney Oliver V. Farnsworth (Buck Henry) in Manhattan to handle his newly minted business World Enterprises Corporation. Newton returns to New Mexico where he plans to construct a spacecraft to complete his mission.

Bowie

Mary-Lou (Candy Clark), a helpful chambermaid at Newton's hotel, romantically attaches herself to the alien. The couple move in together and slip into a comfortable pattern of American married life. She introduces him to religion, addiction, and sex as he becomes obsessed with television. He tells her, “The strange thing about television is that it doesn’t tell you everything. It shows you everything about life for nothing, but the true mysteries remain. Perhaps it’s in the nature of television. Just waves in space.”

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Rip Torn plays Nathan Bryce with his usual maniacal glee. The character is a sex-addicted college science professor whom Newton hires to create an energy system for his spacecraft. Nicolas Roeg's intercutting of analogous sex scenes with Bryce's different female partners establishes the era's attitudes. There's playful violence in the sex scenes that is jarring for their honesty and subtext.

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Yet Bryce loses his proclivity for young women in the face of his enormous salary and the challenging nature of his work for Newton. But he also becomes excessively curious about his strange but trusting employer. Bryce's tendency toward exploitation will cost the alien his anonymity to government officials who co-opt his riches.

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Based on Walter Tevis's 1963 novel, "The Man Who Fell to Earth" is a prescient story about the clash between consumerism and intimacy, and between capitalism and the ecology. Newton's alien planet represents a fading utopia that is as much a state of mind as it is an actual place. Newton's flagging sense of responsibility reflects the systematic culture of betrayal that consumes him body and soul.

Rated R. 139 mins.

5 Stars“ColeSmithey.com“ SF SHOCKTOBER!Cozy Cole

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October 15, 2023

STRANGE DAYS — SHOCKTOBER!

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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ColeSmithey.comOne of the most ambitious examples of the dystopian genre, Kathryn Bigelow's "Strange Days" (1995) is a forward-looking predictor of America's economic collapse that combines sci-fi and political elements with a back-handed love story.

Set on the potentially apocalyptic eve of the millennium, and co-written by James Cameron and Jay Cocks, the film's hook is a futuristic black-market mini-disc technology called SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device) that records real-life experiences directly from the cerebral cortex of the wearer. The recorded experiences can be relived by anyone with a SQUID player and a bootleg copy of the original disc.

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Adrenaline-pumping criminal activities and sensual encounters provide hot commodities that former LAPD officer Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) deals to "wire-tripping" junkies. Lenny desperately wants to steal back his ex-girlfriend Faith (Juliette Lewis) from Philo (Michael Wincott), a sleazy record producer who promises to sign rock-singer Faith to a record deal. At home, Lenny keeps a stash of intimate SQUID recordings of his relationship with Faith that he returns to frequently to remind him of what he’s lost. Lenny is a broken loser feeding on the negative energy that surrounds him in turbulent Los Angeles. No amount of humiliation or physical abuse is sufficient to make him forget his loss.

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The film opens with one of nine virtuosic point-of-view sequences from inside the mind of a SQUID-wearer. A gun wielding masked robber accompanies two rowdy accomplices through a Chinese restaurant where cash is grabbed before cops arrive to chase the audience-as-subjective-criminal to a rooftop showdown that doesn't end well. Lenny snaps out of the deadly event he has been viewing. He’s angry that his SQUID disc connection Tick (Richard Edson) is trying to sell him a “blackjack” snuff clip. Indeed, the four-minute sequence bristles with hair-raising energy.

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“Strange Days” owes adebt to Michael Powell’s “Peeping Tom,” the film that ruined his storied career. A key subplot involves a SQUID wearer who rapes and kills a woman upon whom he places the recording device so that she sees what he sees as he kills her. 

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Kathryn Bigelow exhibits an acute eye for detail and an affinity for maintaining an energized tempo to the action. As a woman filmmaker, Bigelow also sinks her teeth into a seething sensuality that emanates from her powerful female characters. Juliette Lewis’s nude scenes spring from the screen with slinky feline determination. Lenny’s best friend Mace (Angela Bassett) carries equal protagonist duties. Bassett’s theme-carrying character simmers with a fury that consistently erupts with ever increasing force toward the story’s socially volatile climax.

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If ever there was proof that a woman filmmaker can go toe-to-toe with the boys in the arena of complex action sequences, this is it. You’ve never seen chase scenes like these before.

Rated R. 125 mins.

5 StarsColeSmithey.com SF SHOCKTOBER!Cozy Cole

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