Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Logan's Run (review) 70's Sci-Fi Week

Logan's Run (1975)

Of all the movies I'll be reviewing this week, Logan's Run appeared most frequently on the various "Top Sci-Fi" lists I perused looking for ideas. This movie's following confuses me slightly since it not only lacks the depth present in a lot of films in this genre, but it also fails to achieve the level of immersion which is basically the goal of any good sci-fi. That said, Logan's Run definitely has some of the highest production values of the movies from this era (Star Wars of course being a notable exception), so maybe people just like it because it's pretty. I'm being slightly unfair since part of the problem is that the movie just didn't live up to my expectations (curse you, Internet!) and it does have some truly great moments and some pretty okay things to say about ideology. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Soylent Green (review) 70's Sci-Fi Week

This poster and the tagline are so great...

If you've heard of this movie (well, you have now in any case) and the ending has not been spoiled for you yet then you should really turn around now and go watch it. I won't spoil it without warning, but seeing this movie without knowing the ending must be quite magical. Soylent Green is basically the companion piece to Monday's The Omega Man in that the premises are basically reversed: in The Omega Man, Charlton Heston lives in a world with a dwindling population, while in Soylent Green Charlton Heston lives in a world with a bloated population. There are a lot of other much more minor similarities between the two (they both feature strong female and black characters for one), so it's no wonder they have producer Walter Seltzer in common.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Omega Man (review) 70's Sci-Fi Week

Spoiler: I review neither of these.
I've been on a 70's sci-fi binge recently and figured I should share what I found. As a child who grew up with Star Wars (and, to a lesser extent, Star Trek) sci-fi has always had a special place in my heart. Imagining where society will be in the future is both enjoyable on a pure fantasy level and also has a way of revealing current cultural issues and ideological tensions other genres lack (of course I'm not doing contemporary sci-fi, so, whatever). Special effects in the 70's were in the process of evolving into their contemporary counterparts, and there's something entertaining for me watching movies struggle to find a balance between hilarious costumes and clunky dialogue on the one hand and detailed sets and occasionally convincing work with models on the other. And of course the green screen. The wonderful, wonderful green screen.

So yeah. I have 7 70's sci-fi reviews for you of movies you'd typically find on those Top 10 style lists the internet seems to have an insatiable desire for (I even discovered two of them through these vile lists). While I don't want to rank these from best to worst (especially since I'm leaving out some of the absolute best 70's sci-fi like Star Wars and Alien) they will appear in approximately reverse order of how much I liked them. The reviews will be organized by sub-genre: Monday (today) and Tuesday will be post-apocalyptic, Thursday and Friday will be space adventure with the Wednesday review as a sort of bridge between these two styles, and then Saturday and Sunday will be absurd and surreal. Let's get started!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Bechdel Test (analysis)

The origin of the Bechdel Test.

So, if you weren't aware, there's this thing called the Bechdel Test created in 1985 by Alison Bechdel (in the comic strip above) for the purpose of some culturally-aware humor and since used by film critics to evaluate gender bias in film (and other media apparently—thanks Wikipedia!). In order to pass the test (if you didn't read the comic) a movie must (1) have two named female characters in it who (2) have a conversation about (3) something other than a man. Pretty simple. The problem is that according to bechdeltest.com, only about half of all films pass (the website definitely leans more toward American movies but certainly doesn't exclude foreign film). So what does this mean?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Prestige (analysis)

Are you watching closely?

The following is a close reading of Chistopher Nolan's masterpiece The Prestige (2006) based on Todd McGowan's amazing analysis in the relevant chapter of his book The Fictional Christopher Nolan. You don't have to read the book to understand what I'm about to say since my article is meant to stand on its own feet. I just wanted to acknowledge my inspiration in this regard since Todd has been and continues to be my biggest influence in the world of film theory. Thank you, Todd.

The Prestige follows two rival magicians, Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) on their quest to create the world's greatest magic trick. As with many of Nolan's non-Batman films, the story does not unfold chronologically and instead is told through each man reading the other's diary. For your comprehension as well as my own, and to make sure we're both on the same page, I've made a strictly chronological account of what takes place in the movie. Major spoilers ahead.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Seven Psychopaths (quickie)

So the first thing that will likely occur to anyone with a functioning brain who watches Seven Psychopaths is that it's an incredibly self-indulgent movie. It's directed by Martin McDonagh (of In Bruges fame, check out my review if you're interested) and is about a character named Marty trying to write a screenplay to a movie called Seven Psychopaths. Yeah. So I feel like that right there could either make or break the movie for you depending on how you feel about that sort of thing. Personally I enjoyed the metatheater (although I usually do). The one thing that bothered me a little about it was that he basically uses Colin Farrell to defend his mediocre female characters (I liked Linda Bright Clay for what it's worth).

Sunday, July 7, 2013

World War Z (quickie)

I've read a couple reviews arguing that World War Z is a bad movie because it had a faulty premise: trying to make a bloodless, gore-free zombie movie.* I actually thought the PG-13 zombies were pretty great, and the scenes where the zombies are all in swarming-mode were really fun to watch (I would hesitate before bringing children to see this—no blood doesn't mean no nightmares). World War Z is a bad movie (or at best a mediocre one), but for a different reason. As many have already discussed, the film takes all the politics out of the book and throws them away. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it makes the movie into pure spectacle, and if you're going to make a pure spectacle movie then you can't blow the biggest shots in the trailers. Sure, showing a massive horde of zombies scrambling over each other to climb up a wall is probably going to get people to come see your movie, but they're all going to be disappointed when that's all you've got to offer. You have to have something more up your sleeve.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Moon (review)


I'm on a bit of a sci-fi kick recently, so when I heard this year's Oblivion being compared to 2009's Moon I had to give it a shot. While Oblivion is undoubtedly more exciting, it's also trying to be, which is something that I wouldn't say about Moon. Whereas Oblivion is a solid 5 beer movie since it has lots of fight scenes and chase scenes and explosions and stuff, Moon clocks in a little lower since the pacing is a bit slower and there are significantly fewer things that go boom. That said, I liked Moon more than Oblivion for two very specific reasons.