Top Ten Lists: 2000-2010 – Sci-Fi

Just this past week, I stated seeing ‘Best of’ lists all over the place, specifically, the ‘Best’ science-fiction of the last decade. Typically, such all of the lists I found looked something like this:

1. ‘Children of Men’
2. ‘Moon’
3. ‘District 9′ [Read more →]

‘Predators’ (2010)

I saw it and I was impressed. And I say that as someone who falls squarely on the Alien side of the fence when it comes to ’80s high-concept horror.

The problem with both previous Predator flicks were that there was very little high-concept. In both preceding entries ( Predator and Predator 2 ), the Predators and the humans were on Earth.

In the first film, the Predators interrupted Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hunt for something or other, and in the sequel, they appeared in a very hot L.A. summer, getting in the way of a police investigation of some sort. In each, it is strictly humans vs. Predators. [Read more →]

‘Shutter Island’ (2010)

[ WARNING :Uncharacteristically, this review is all SPOILERS, but this film is so well put together that you should consider my spoilers a feature, rather than a bug.]

Operation Paperclip Nazis working in criminal sanitariums off the coast of Washington State? Mind control? A WWII veteran and widower with PTSD? Visuals by David Lynch.

It’s 1951 in this film and the most unfortunate thing about Shutter Island is that Scorcese and writers Stephen Knight and Laeta Kalogridis decided that it’s okay not to make sense. They decide to just let go. Film is a visual experience and flourishes are flourishes, so why the fuck not? If your local cinemat can affor to spend $750k on a new 3D projection kit, you can sit and watch Martin Scorcese orchestrate some crazy in 2D. On Shutter Island, the Eater Eggs and Red Herrings run thick, wild and free. So wild, that you may want to pause and consider throwing a few back, before deciding which ones you want to take home to eat. [Read more →]

‘Watchmen’ (2009)

With the publication of Watchmen in 1985, comic books took a sudden, dark and grity turn, similar to police drama after Steven Bochco’s ‘Hill Street Blues’. Like Grant Morrison’s ‘Doom Patrol ‘, and later, ‘ The Authority ‘ and Marvel’s ‘ Ultimates ‘, ‘Watchmen’, the book is not about about capes and tights, but rather the misfits who choose to pursue auperheroics. In ‘Watchmen’, Alan Moore seizes upon the idea that great power might produce monsters — individuals devoid of values and restraint even as they fight the ‘good’ fight.

Terry Gilliam attempted to bring ‘Watchmen’ to life twice, once in 1989 and a decade later, in 1999. He gave up because he felt that the story couldn’t be adequately covered in 2 hours’ time and that the material might be better dealt with as a miniseries, Though there is no Gilliam ‘Watchmen’, I credit ‘Watchmen’ and it’s alternate-apocalyptic 1985 for the rich visual landscape of thr film that Gilliam went on to produce in the mid-’90′s, ’12 Monkeys’ (1995). [Read more →]

‘Pandorum’ (2009)

It’s unofficial, but the disappointment that was ‘Event Horizon’ (1997) now has a sequel.

The misguided mash-up that resulted in Hellraiser — in Space … by Executive producers Paul W.S. Anderson and Jeremy Bolt have now given us Alien -meets- Serenity -meets- The Descent -meets- Defying Gravity -meets- 2001:A Space Odyssey -meets- The Abyss -meets-Cube-meets- Sunshine, allowing the worst aspects of each film a moment for a pirouette of inexplicability.  3 of those 7 movies had serious story problems.

Like the 4 different posters in the movie’s advertising campaign, the PR can’t seem to determine whether the movie is science-fiction, horror or something else completely. While that combination might sound somehow enervating, the fact is that where those producers missed with their horror-fied remake of Andrej Tarkovsky’s ‘Solaris’ is exactly where this duo have missed with ‘Pandorum’. [Read more →]

‘District 9′ (2009)

district_9 All the reports that I’ve read have said that director Neill Blomkamp and Wingnut Films elected to do ‘District 9′ while they were in a holding pattern while they were waiting on a green light from Microsoft to do a live-action adaptation of the Halo video-game.

Imagine a couple million dollars of filmmaking equipment, and empty studio and several tens of state-of-the-art technicians waiting on some Seattle lawyers, and you get the idea. though the film is a little more substantive than  that. [Read more →]

‘Up’* (2009)

up_poster1 Pixar’s tenth film in 15 years, ‘Up’ charms with its tale of Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner (voice)), an old man befuddled and disgusted by the changes around him, and Russell (Jordan Nagai (voice)), a wilderness scout bent on earning his last badge for “assisting the elderly.”

Threatened with the forcible removal from his house, the last remaining one in the midst of a high-rise construction zone, Carl takes the drastic step of attaching thousands of helium balloons to his house so he can fly off in search of the adventure he and his beloved departed wife Ellie never got to take, the journey to Paradise Falls [Read more →]

‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ (2009)

I didn’t read ‘X-Men’ as a kid (I was more of a ‘Fantastic Four’ nerd myself) so I can only judge this film based on how well it hews to the bible it has already set up in the first three ‘X-Men’ films. By that standard, ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ succeeds…mostly.

Wolverine is by far one of the more interesting of the first-generation X-Men. He’s cranky; he carries his own moral code around like an invisible cloud often circumventing plans and strategies to do what he believes is right; he’s confident, and he’s practically indestructible. [Read more →]

‘Star Trek’ (2009)

I’ve long since quit my enthusiasm for things Trek, but J.J. Abrams has made a much-needed and refreshing reboot of the franchise; however this renewal seems to owe as much to the original Star Wars trilogy as it does Trek.

Granted that Abrams and his writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman add a little time travel quirk that creates an alternate reality for this new Trek, it does come off with a bit more verve than the original series had some 40 years ago. Both the writing and the SFX have improved, just as Desilu Studios never gave Roddenberry $75M to shoot a single episode. [Read more →]

‘Yes Man’ (2008)

Let me say up front that I don’t normally like Jim Carrey movies. He’s like a less funny, flatulent version of Buster Keaton . Despite this, I was intrigued enough by the premise of Carrey’s new film ‘Yes Man’ to plunk down $10 and spend an hour and 45 minutes of my life.

Carl Allen (Carrey) is the definition of a drone. His life is a well-worn path consisting of work, the video store, and falling asleep on his couch. His wife left him over a year ago, his job as a junior loan officer is a dead end that only encourages his tendency to say no to life. A chance meeting with Nick (John Michael Higgins), whom we are given little information about and are meant to assume is “an old friend,” and Nick’s raves about how the power of yes changed his life push Carl to attend a motivational seminar by Terrence Bundley (Terence Stamp) during which he is singled out. [Read more →]