Annihilation

March 1, 2018

annihilation-plant-evolution-elementsWell trodden territory in some ways, and yet also utterly unique in it’s derivations for a (US, at least) theatrical release, Alex Garland’s Annihilation is the kind of messy, intriguing, and at times utterly enthralling science fiction that drives me to consider it beyond the walls of the multiplex even as I’m sure much of it doesn’t hold up.  A (very loose, from what I’ve been told) adaptation of the first of the Southern Reach trilogy of novels by Jeff VanderMeer, the film sees Natalie Portman as an ex-army biologist thrust into a top secret base in Florida after her presumed dead special forces husband returns home after a year absence before promptly spewing blood all over the back of an ambulance.  The base is observing a phenomenon called “The Shimmer”, based on the fact that it, well, shimmers the color spectrum.  She volunteers to join a team that’s potentially on a suicide mission to venture into The Shimmer to better understand it’s peculiar affect on everything around it, especially as the “everything around it” is expanding rapidly.  Things go Stalker pretty quickly, with ample time for brief bouts of the sci-fi horror Garland has ventured in previously in his screenplays for Sunshine and 28 Days Later Read the rest of this entry »

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Godzilla

May 16, 2014

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“I don’t want to disappoint our Japanese public, especially Godzilla.  Haha! I’m just kidding, I know he doesn’t care what humans do.”

-Tracy Jordan, 30 Rock

 

The Godzilla property is a difficult one, to say the least.  It’s greatest effort is largely considered to be it’s first, back in 1954, because it so effectively harnessed what was great about romping science fiction in the nuclear era.  Less than a decade after the national trauma wrought by nuclear weapons in Japan, not to mention the vast destruction of Tokyo experienced by so many, it directly confronted national fears about the nuclear age while still firmly rooted in B-movie territory.  That kind of smuggling genre picture gave way fairly quickly to high camp, especially as Toho studios saw the merchandising potential and box office receipts that kids fare brought to their coffers, and Godzilla became a leathery fun guy hero.  Neither would be particularly easy to pull off in 2014, certainly not for American audiences not pre-geared to the campy aspects of the legendary character, oft considered an affectionate cult curio that’s most famous Stateside these days for a resurgence in the 90s that saw a terrible American version that not only couldn’t avoid the pitfalls inherent to the picture, but decided to create a whole slew of new ones, as well as a Nike ad campaign that saw the man in suit version going head to head with Charles Barkley in one-on-one basketball.  Read the rest of this entry »

Gravity

October 9, 2013

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The seven year wait for Alfonso Cuaron to follow up what is, for my money, one of the greatest movies of the 21st Century, Children of Men, has been fraught with rumour and false starts and delays, but it has finally come to an end with Gravity, a science-fiction thriller that is short, fleet, and about the most stunning purely cinematic experience of the year.  Cuaron’s career has bounced from children’s films, both small-scale (A Little Princess) and as big as they get (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which I have never felt to be great but which certainly saved the franchise from shiny, cash-in ignominy), to adult character dramas (Y Tu Mama Tambien), and of course, dystopian sci-fi parables (Children of Men).  His visual chops have never really been in doubt, and though he’s become one of the most technically innovative directors working today, it’s not easy to tell quite what film you’re going to get from him.  In this case, we have a survival story that is extremely simple in story and concept, and incredibly complex in execution.  It is, in essence, the most basic form of Hollywood you can conceive, in the best way possible. Read the rest of this entry »

Oh District 9, what hath ye wrought?  To nobody’s surprise, that relatively small-budgeted sci-fi romp’s success spurred on the Hollywood braintrust into making not one but two similarly themed invasion yarns.  The first of these was Skyline, directed by visual effects team The Brothers Strause (ugh), eager to cheaply follow up their not-smash success Alien vs. Predator: Requiem.  Some legal troubles came about because The Brothers Strause (ugh) were also doing visual effects work on Battle: Los Angeles, or something along those lines.  This is utterly ridiculous, of course, because there are scores of directors and writers that could sue both parties for shameless intellectual property theft.  Read the rest of this entry »