56 posts categorized "Sci-Fi"

July 23, 2016



The big thing that this movie is farthest away from (as its title promises) is authentic storytelling. All the fancy-schmancy sci-fi spectacle and charismatic actors in the film can’t make up for some of the clunkiest screenwriting in recent memory. Like a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces don’t fit, “Star Trek Beyond” jumps between giant action set pieces lacking in context, nuance, and expositional background. The narrative is a sloppy mess.

I veer away from Hollywood films more and more these days. When I do come around to take its latest temperature I’m more disgusted than ever.

Critics and fanboys can blow all of the hot air they want about this film’s supposed connection to the original Gene Roddenberry television series, but boy, they are wrong.

A sad example arrives via the late Anton Yelchin’s underdeveloped role as Chekov. The essential Star Trek character is squandered beyond belief. He’s reduced to a few overheard, throwaway, one-liners.


Idris Elba is also terribly wasted in the villainous roll of Krall. By the time the movie gets around to Elba’s big scene, it’s too little too late. What a waste of awesome talent.

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Sofia Boutella, and Anton Yelchin all give inspired performances that get shoved under the rug of a movie lacking a developed narrative arc.

With its five contributing scriptwriters, “Star Trek” feels exactly like the by-committee screenplay you’d expect from so many chefs in the kitchen.


Rated PG-13. 122 mins. (C-) (Two stars — out of five / no halves)

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June 16, 2015


Solaris Auteur and gifted film theorist Andrei Tarkovsky, son of a celebrated Russian poet, Arseniy Tarkovsky, carried his father’s keen sense of elevated philosophical exploration into his films.

Inspired by filmmakers such as Buñuel, Eisenstein, and Bergman, Tarkovsky intuitively apprehends the flexible nature of the filmic medium to incorporate abstract ideas ranging from deeply held romantic values to metaphysical and political realities from a personal perspective. He allows provocative images (frequently drawn from nature) to editorialize and expand on the human condition that he studies from a plaintive viewpoint.  

Polish author Stanislaw Lem’s 1961 novel provided the basis for “Solaris,” a film that Tarkovsky considered the weakest of the seven features he made during his career. The dystopian psychological drama is set during the ‘70s-era Cold War in the context of ready-made science fiction.

Solaris2The burly Lithuanian actor Donatas Banionis plays Kris Kelvin, a Russian psychologist mourning the death of his wife Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk). Kris visits his father at their solitary family home on the last day before Kris travels to a distant research space station orbiting the planet Solaris. The station’s three-man skeleton crew have fallen prey to a strange phenomenon that has rendered them useless. Discredited “pilot” Henri Berton visits with Kris and his father to show them a film of his testimony before a government review board, from years ago, of his own experiences on Solaris. Now an old man, Berton can barely stand to watch his former self describe a gigantic “four-meter-tall newborn” rising up from Solaris’s lava-like ocean as he hovered above the planet’s surface in a helicopter. Like the scientific review board, Kris doesn’t believe Berton’s “hallucinations.” During the sequence, Tarkovsky seamlessly switches between color to black-and-white to add dramatic depth to the wonderfully deployed exposition.

Upon his arrival to Solaris Kris discovers a space station in disarray. Tarkovsky’s ingenious production design of a modern space ship in decline provides the viewer with a wealth of details to contemplate.  

One of the cosmonauts has committed suicide. The other two are mentally unstable. Their attempts to probe Solaris’s ocean with X-rays has resulted in the planet attacking their brains. Almost immediately Kris falls prey to the same insidious force, one that sends a replica of his deceased wife to serve as an ever-regenerating distraction from his mission. Every new version of Hari is more convincing than the last. Kris’s sense of reality will be forever changed.  

After its release “Solaris” achieved a cult status among science fiction fans for the film’s effective set designs and strange sense of suspense. Seemingly opaque thematic elements contributed to the allure of seeing the picture more than once in order to decipher its hidden meanings. Andrei Tarkovsky’s prodigious ability to conceptualize grand-scale narrative structure with a fluid sense of cinematic time continues to influence filmmakers even if few rise to such dizzying heights.  


Rated PG. 169 mins. (A+) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)

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August 05, 2014


Invasion of the Body SnnatchersPhilip Kaufman’s venerable revamping of Don Siegel’s 1956 black-and-white sci-fi horror classic delved deeper into nitty-gritty details of a pod-induced mass transformation of humans into emotionless doppelgängers. In so doing, Kaufman gave his movie the visual lift it needed to instill palpable dread and fear in an audience that didn’t know what hit them.      

The filmmakers use a recurring image system of spider-web similes, which act as a unifying filter of discord. San Francisco has been turned upside-down over night. Everything is different. Garbage collectors are busy on every street collecting the grey fuzzy waste from swapped-out bodies.


Donald Sutherland plays San Francisco health inspector Matthew Bennell with a cozy sense of paternal confidence that makes him seem immune to anything that could possibly usurp his empathetic soul. Civilization’s sudden loss of compassion to a population of cold conspiratorial aliens, incapable of something as simple as laughter, proves a terrifying idea when played out to its logical extreme.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Casting Donald Sutherland in the lead role proved to be a coup for Kaufman. Strains of Sutherland’s iconic performance in Nicholas Roeg’s deeply disturbing psychological thriller “Don’t Look Now” (1973) carried over into “Body Snatchers.”

WATCH: Everything you didn't know about 1978's Invasion of the Body  Snatchers | SYFY WIRE

Thematically, the film’s allegory regarding viral-groupthink has plenty of wiggle-room for interpretation because it is so profoundly vague yet universal. It’s easy to imagine authority figures such as police and politicians inhabited by aliens, because they so frequently express an utter disregard for the value of human life in favor of corporate profits for the one-percent.

Joe — hate to be the one to break this to you, but you're living with a  descendant of the hybrid… | by Roy | Medium

A significant genre-imposed rule of the movie is that its characters can’t fall sleep lest they succumb to possession. Doing so enables one of the recently arrived pods-from-space to produce an exact physical replica that will come to life after sucking the subject’s body dry of its meat, bones, and brains.

Invasion of The Body Snatchers (1978) | Nostalgia Central

Matthew Bennell’s health department co-worker Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) notices a change in her husband. She alerts Matthew to her concerns just as it seems society has begun to flip. A man in a business suit inexplicably sprints through traffic.

Kaufman sets his audience’s teeth on edge with an inventive soundscape, involving things like heartbeats. Sounds move between the film’s Dolby Stereo format, making the audience feel as if the action is taking place around them.

Invasion Body Snatchers
Kaufman’s remake gets cameo endorsements from Don Siegel, and from Kevin McCarthy, the lead actor from the original. Siegel plays a pod-changed cab driver taking Matthew and Elizabeth for a little ride. Kevin McCarthy’s character is the same as in Segel’s movie except that seems even more desperate now.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) – Midnight Only

“Body Snatchers” is famous for a couple of offbeat scenes that you can hardly believe when you’re seeing them. I won’t spoil the fun. You’ll see. 

Cross the Netflix Stream: Invasion of the Body Snatchers Movie Review

Rated PG. 115 mins. 

5 Stars

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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