Friday, November 29, 2013

Face/Off (review)

Face/Off is another film from the large collection of quality science fiction released in 1997 (including titles such as Men in Black, The Fifth ElementStarship TroopersContact, and Gattaca). I don't know what it was about that year, but it was undeniably a great year to be a sci-fi fan. Face/Off is less of a pure sci-fi movie (no spaceships, aliens, or lazers) and more of an action movie with a sci-fi premise (face swapping). Directed by John Woo (Mission: Impossible II), it should come as no surprise that the movie's action is of the highest caliber. If you're looking for a serious film this is certainly not the place to look, but if you desire something silly and fun, Face/Off definitely delivers.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (analysis)

I was recently browsing the American Film Institute's various lists of the best films of all time and realized there were two movies on its Top 10 Science Fiction list which I hadn't seen (the other was The Day the Earth Stood Still and don't worry, I've seen it by now). I loved the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers, so I decided to give the original 1956 version a shot.

I prefer the remake since I feel like it had this amazing use of lighting and maintained a strong sense of horror throughout (and of course the ending is so unbelievably iconic), but for what it's worth it's definitely a tight competition and I know there are those out there who will disagree for much more intelligent reasons than simply "it came first." The 1956 film plays much more like a classic film noir than a horror or science fiction film (especially with its voice-over narration), and many viewers may end up preferring it for that reason alone. Unfortunately I'm not here to discuss the differences between the original film and its remake (they're very different). Today I'd like to answer a single question about the movie which I found interesting: what do the pods signify?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Knight and Day (quickie)

Knight and Day (2010) is one of the most polarizing movies I've ever seen. I don't mean that some people I talked to loved it and some people hated it, I mean I literally am on both polar opposite ends of the spectrum of enjoyment with this movie. On the one hand, this was one of the funniest action/comedies I've seen in a very long time. This movie is up there with True Lies for me in terms of the excellent combination of the two genres. Tom Cruise's character and dialogue are both hilarious and perfect in almost every way. There's that great scene on the airplane where Cameron Diaz is in the bathroom psyching herself up to flirt with Cruise while he's beating up secret agents without her knowledge. Comedy is different for everyone because of differences in taste and all that, but for me this was the highlight of 2010 in terms of comedy (I also don't watch many comedies, so that might be a factor).

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (review)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the sequel to last year's The Hunger Games, and for those of you looking for a quick, cut-and-dry answer, I think everything here is at least as good if not better than the original. Most of it, actually, is significantly better. Maybe this is because both the writer and director changed along with some of the production staff, or maybe they succeeded thanks to being given more artistic freedom after the success of the first film. I'm not here to tell you why it was better, I'm here to tell you how it was better. The movie runs just under two and a half hours long, and when it ends you'll still want more. Oh, and for anyone who cares, no, I have not read the books.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Value of Science Fiction (analysis)

Jeff Russell's Starship Dimensions

Maybe it's just me, but I feel like science fiction has a bad reputation. I have a distinct memory of going to see Oblivion with some friends, after which they said that it was fun but a little too unreal. While they enjoyed it for what it was, they didn't see the thematic value it contained. I don't think this was their fault as a viewer; on the contrary I get the feeling that the reputation of science fiction as little more than escapism conditions our brains to ignore the films' deeper aspects and just enjoy their spectacle. There are gonna be some spaceships, some aliens, and probably some battles between the spaceships and the aliens. Then when people do get critical of sci-fi they level their critique at the wrong things: you can't use a fire extinguisher as a jet pack, artificial gravity wouldn't work like that, those aliens don't look real. We need to change the way we think about science fiction because it can be much more than mere fantasy. (Massive spoilers ahead.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Blade Runner (analysis)

I've been watching the different versions of Blade Runner and wanted to explain the major differences between them and how they change the experience of watching the movie. For those of you who weren't aware, there were many different versions of this film made for various purposes, all of which are described briefly here and many of which can be found in various collector's editions (this is the one I have). The various cuts of the film fall pretty neatly into two categories based on three major alterations which were made for the two most recently released versions: the removal of the voice-over narration, the addition of Deckard's unicorn dream, and the removal of the studio-imposed happy ending. These three things drastically change both the experience of watching the film as well as the film's overall meaning.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dredd (quickie)

SO MUCH FROWNING. Karl Urban's Judge Dredd in the recent reboot simply titled Dredd (2012) is obviously a bit of a caritcature, but there's something about his iconic frown that epitomizes this movie. Not that the movie will make its audience frown (although it very well may do that), but that this movie just does its own thing from start to finish. There are a few things keeping this movie from being a total disaster: the action sequences are definitely exciting, the soundtrack and sound design in general are both phenomenal, and there's a tremendous amount of style throughout the film (the art department definitely studied the B-Movie Handbook on How to Portray Excessive Violence). But on the negative side of things, the writing is pretty terrible. I don't just mean the dialogue (which occasionally borders on mediocre), but the storyline. It feels more like the movie is trying simply to string together its various fight scenes than to actually tell a story. This is the embodiment of style over substance, so without further ado let's talk about its substance anyway.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ender's Game (analysis)

This article was originally written for and published by the wonderful folks over at Literary Traveler. For more of my material on Ender's Game, check out my predictions from before the film was released as well as my original review. No, I haven't spent way too much time thinking & writing about this movie. I don't know what you're talking about. Anyway, here are some more thoughts on the adaptation of Ender's Game.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Untangling Memento's Narrative Structure

Earlier this week I took on the task of explaining certain basic plot elements in the movie Donnie Darko, so today, for my magical 100th article since beginning this monstrosity of a website a little over a year ago, my wonderful girlfriend Alice gave me the brilliant idea of writing something similar for the only movie I've watched over 100 times: Christopher Nolan's Memento. If you haven't heard of the film I really can't recommend it highly enough. It has a bit of a cult following for being one of those movies that is "hard to figure out," but like many mind-bending movies before it, Memento is great for reasons unrelated to its confusing plot.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Christine (review)

Recently I've been absolutely in love with the movies of John Carpenter. A bit of an interesting entry in his early career is the horror/thriller Christine (1983), a movie I didn't realize is adapted from a Stephen King novel of the same name. Among other things I didn't realize the first time I watched this film was that it contains a critique of its subject matter. I thought it was your typical male fear-fantasy of feminine jouissance simply brought into the realm of automobile fetishization. After a quick chat with my good friend Garth and another trip through the movie I've been convinced of exactly the opposite. So today I'm here to tell you why fans of Stephen King or horror in general should probably go see John Carpenter's Christine.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Witness (quickie)

As someone who grew up with Han Solo and Indiana Jones, there's a soft spot in my heart for Harrison Ford. A few months ago, I ran around the internet looking for more movies starring him and stumbled across the 80's police-drama-slash-crime-thriller Witness (for those of you looking for the same, check out Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation, it's the youngest I've seen Ford in a relatively big role and it's just a fantastic film). I finally got a chance to watch the movie, and while there's not really anything wrong with it, it's also not the most amazing movie you'll ever see.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Donnie Darko (analysis)

Donnie Darko is constantly featured on popular lists of the most confusing movies of all time. This phenomenon fascinates me since none of the movies on these lists are all that confusing. I mean, if you really want to have no idea what's going on in a film you need look no further than art house cinema. These movies tend to lack any sort of cohesive narrative structure whatsoever, whereas the movies populating these confusing movie lists all tell stories which are easy enough to follow but which simply contain confusing elements. For instance, two other common inclusions are 2001: A Space Odyssey and Memento, the first of which merely contains an ambiguous symbol (the monolith) and the second of which doesn't proceed chronologically. Similarly, anyone can tell you what happens in Donnie Darko, but what seems more interesting to audiences is what this sequence of events means.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ender's Game (review)

Well, this is awkward. A week ago I predicted that Ender's Game would be little less than a total disaster. I thought it would lose the novel's impact and reverse its message, and perhaps even worse than that I called the director names. Fortunately, I was mostly wrong, and now there is published evidence that I cannot predict movies based on trailers.