Episode 194: The Edge of Groundhog Day

July 9, 2014

194

Tom Cruise is back to join the Starship Troopers and help Incept Groundhog Day against Aliens in Edge of Tomorrow.

Okay, the above snarky, reductive synopsis makes Edge of Tomorrow sound like a crappy knock-off, it’s best bits cannibalized from of a handful of better films. Though you could argue that is technically accurate, it’s a description which doesn’t do the film justice—a film which is probably the last, best original science fiction film we’re going to get for a decade.

I do say “original” because though it borrows elements from other films, such as the rag-tag band of marines from Aliens, remember that the rag-tag band of marines from Aliens were an homage to classic war films like The Dirty Dozen. The seemingly unbeatable alien invaders in Starship Troopers weren’t a new concept when the book was written and absolutely old hat when the film was made. If there was an element of deja vu in Groundhog Day it was partially that the gimmick of time-loops was already an old standbyIf there are any wholly original concepts left in sci-fi, they haven’t cropped up in the past four or five decades so we shouldn’t criticize a film too harshly for not offering one up now.

And I say Edge of Tomorrow is the “last, best” sci-fi film we’ll see because, judging by the dismal box-office reports of Edge of Tomorrow‘s opening weekend, audiences have guaranteed we’ll only see reboots and superhero movies until people stop going to see those too. Eventually it will probably find a word-of-mouth audience on Netflix (which I imagine is of little interest to the studios) and in time will become a sort of sci-fi action classic alongside AliensThe Matrix, District 9 and Inception—but without making the studios the kind of bank those films did. For now it’s being painted as the biggest genre bomb since Waterworld.

Which is too bad since it’s the antithesis of Waterworld—a true turkey which bombed because it was an actively, aggressively, unapologetically terrible film. Something audiences don’t seem to care about as long as the words “Star Trek” or “Marvel” or “DC” are attached to the title.

So when I call it the last, best original science fiction film, it’s being measured by a bar set dishearteningly low.


Episode 190: Oh Captain, My Captains

May 1, 2014

Click to download episode

A double review of William Shatner’s documentary, The Captains, which is a tribute to his own vanity, as well as the latest Marvel Comics movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is barely about the titular soldier.


Episode 182: The Hobbit 2 – Electric Smaug-a-loo

January 3, 2014

Click to download Desolation of Smaug episode

 

This week, without a party of a dozen dwarves to lead the way, just the two of them, like Sam and Frodo, Jakob and Mandi enter the desolation. The Desolation of Smaug, specifically. Or Smahowg, as he’s known to his friends. Apparently.

 


Episode 179: Nerd Hurdles Catches Fire

November 27, 2013

179-BLOG

Kathie is back to discuss the latest Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire. Also, urine and minor spoilers if you know absolutely nothing about Hunger Games.

 


Netflix Follies — Terminator 2: Judgement Day

June 24, 2013

FOLLIES

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♠ Terminator 2: Judgement Day

I wanted to watch this again because I’ve thrashed it hard over the years (23 of them to be precise) and lately have begun to suspect I was being unfair to it. Judgement Day seems to be the franchise favourite among fans and sometimes I have a knee-jerk negative reaction to popular favourites.

So what were my issues with the film going in? Basically just that they’d taken the gritty, ultra-violent, campy B-movie, sci-fi action/horror of the original Terminator and sanitized it into an almost family-friendly, Spielberg-esque boy-and-his-robot buddy movie. I remembered it being basically E.T. if Elliott was a juvenile delinquent and E.T. had been a time-travelling hunter-killer cyborg. While I’ll always have a nostalgic love for E.T., doing a Terminator version was just a terrible concept from the get go.

The heart-warming tale of boy and his robot

Rehashing the same time-travel paradox gambit from the first film was probably a bit dodgy to begin with, but I had a huge problem with the switch-up in making Arnie a good guy this time around (at his insistence if I remember correctly). The concept might have been okay if, instead of playing a reprogrammed T-800 sent back to protect John Connor, he was  a human being—the one that the T-800’s appearance was based on. Having this “good guy” version of the T-800 completely destroys the character. He’s simply not interesting unless he’s indiscriminately killing people without mercy or remorse. Maybe human-Arnie could even have been fighting robo-Arnie! Or maybe someone like Dolph Lundgren could have been a T-900 cyborg? Anything would have been better than this neutered version of the T-800 and the weird liquid man.

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Episode 169: Star Trek Into Snarkness

May 23, 2013

Nerd Hurdles Snark Trek Into Darkness

This week the nerds hurdle into darkness (see what we did there?) and as a result Kathie snarks on Captain Kirk while Mandi has a Zack attack and Jakob is dumbfounded neither of them had seen Wrath of Khan before.

A few interesting Into Darkness reads and links regarding the more sexist aspects of the film:

FELICIA DAY, asks “Where are the women?  The strong women?  The women we’d like to see in 200 years?”

DAMON LINDELHOF says, Alice Eve underwear scene was ‘gratuitous’

SLASHFILM says, “The whole thing is over within a minute, and ends with Carol still in her bra and panties. Her lingerie isn’t even all that sexy. But — and memorize these next two words, because they’re basically my entire thesis statement — context matters.”

THE DAILY DOT says, “Are we expected to believe that a mysterious plague has wiped out 75% of the women in the galaxy?”

Also, Benedict Cumberbatch looks even more like an OTTER with water streaming down his face.


Episode 158: James Bond and Skyfall

November 23, 2012

Click to download James Bond episode

With the release of SKYFALL, pretty much every media outlet has been making a big deal out of this being the 50th anniversary of Bond, James Bond. Though, really, it seems like every time there’s a new Bond film out, there’s a retrospective of all the past Bonds, girls, villains and cars. The list is just gets a little longer each year. So though the world really doesn’t need yet another look at Bond, we’d be remiss in not tossing our thoughts onto the pile.


Episode 148: PROMETHEUS

June 13, 2012

Click to listen to Prometheus Podcast

What an utter trainwreck of a film.

A lot has been written about it already. Notably, this HitFix piece covers most of what we ramble about in the episode. And we’re not the only people to talk about it either. The Dread Media podcast (see episode 250) have almost the same conversation that we do. Only they’re a little nicer about it (at least they’re trying to be).

One thing almost all the podcasts and articles on the subject have on common (other than nearly unanimous derision at this travesty of wasted potential)  is the bafflement at the Peter Weyland character.

Why would you hire someone with the star power of Guy Pearce and then put him in the least convincing old man make-up since the ’60s? Further, why are the character’s motivations completely ambiguous. What drives him? What’s his agenda? It’s got to be more than a trite, banal desire for immortality, right?

Well, apparently you were supposed to watch this clip before seeing the film.

Though, as it turns out, Pearce is actually kind of laughable as the young Weyland too, at least his character (and the casting) actually makes a little more sense. But only a little. Big questions like why he had to fake his death for two years remain unanswered.

But at least you can see the kind of driven megalomaniac he was as a young man. The kind of guy who spend trillions on some vague speculation that maybe there’s some aliens somewhere that are advanced enough to give him “more life.” It’s not the perfect explanation, but if this short clip had actually been IN THE FILM then I might have been more lenient on Weyland’s completely superfluous character’s inclusion in the story.

So, given that none of the characters in this film have clear motivations or behave in any kind of rational manner, one has to wonder what other important material was left on the cutting room floor (rumour has it there’s also cut footage of the young Weyland “dream speaking” with David). Do all the characters have nice little five minute explanations in their back pocket waiting for the DVD release? And would that fix the film?

I don’t think it would.

After all, there’s an excellent short about the android David (Michael Fassbender), the most compelling character in the film, which I did see before hand.

And, no, it did not shed light on his baffling behavior. Even exempting a fair amount of inscrutable robot logic, he puts whole series of events into motion which ultimately have no relevance to the story other than to drive the plot. Or even less than plot-driving devices, they’re merely action sequence set-ups. Whatever reason he had for infecting Holloway with alien DNA, and trying to prevent Shaw from aborting her alien fetus, had no baring on the film’s plot as a whole.

There have been a few theory’s floating about the Internet that his actions are a result of his needing to circumvent Asimov’s First Law of Robotics.

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

In this light, his overly complex plot to commit patricide (if that is in fact what he was doing at all) begins to make sense. Except at no point are we given any reason to assume Asimov’s Laws of Robotics apply to this film. The only film you can make the assumption the Laws apply in is I, Robot. If the writers intended for David to be circumventing the make-believe rules of another fictional universe, it needs to be stated at some point.

Perhaps in Weyland’s introduction of David to the group (in which everyone is oddly nonplussed) would have been the perfect time. It would have taken five or ten seconds of screen time to make the next hour and half make some kind of sense. Or it could have even been in the above promo clip.

The preceding clip doesn’t explain anything about Dr. Elizabeth Shaw’s (Noomi Rapace) baffling belief that the “Engineers” exist, had the ability to create human life and, if found, would even have the slightest notion of what their ancient ancestors were up to on Earth.

That’s kind of like someone showing up in a UFO in my backyard and asking me to explain what my Teutonic ancestors motivations for sacking Rome was. I can only speculate based on what I know from quasi-historical pulp novels.

The only proof Shaw, Holloway and Weyland have about the “Engineers” are a few ambiguous cave paintings. Though they might be enough to go on to suggest Earth had been visted by extra-terrestrial life, their greater assumptions entirely lack proof.

For Shaw it’s a matter of faith. Literal religious faith, in fact. Which is interesting. As an atheist, I was more than willing to believe in her irrational belief she’d literally “found God” and wanted to meet him. But based on what? There needed to be another 10-20 minutes of their discoveries which lead them to believe these cave-paintings had anything to do with the creation of human life and not simply playing a game that involves tossing stones in the air.

Even completely delusional UFO conspirists have reems of “proof” about these kinds of things. Not five cave paintings.

And why did the aliens opt for crappy cave paintings and not the exquisite, far more detailed, HR Gigerian murals the crew finds on the planet? Besides that, why did the aliens leave a “road map” not to, as it turns out, their home world but  their weapons installation? For that matter, why develop their weapons of mass destruction on another planet at all?

I suspect there’s not enough cut footage out there to explain any of the flaws in the film.

Perhaps there’s 15 seconds of biologist Milburn getting high with geologist Fifield which explains why he so irrationally tries to befriend an angry space cobra.

Perhaps the scene were Fifield comes back as a zombie was intended to come before Holloway’s infection.  This would explain Miss Vickers’ (Charlize Theron) absurd insistence on keeping him off the ship, his own readiness to be burned alive and the complacency which the entire crew takes his extermination.

Perhaps there’s some kind of explanation about the whole space zombie thing.

Perhaps.

But I don’t have faith there is.


Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D Aroma-Scope, stinks

August 25, 2011

I really didn’t expect to go to Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D Aroma-Scope, but my co-host and light of my life,  Mandi, was insistent. Rarely have I seen her so excited for an upcoming movie that wasn’t about teenage wizards (or vampires). Actually, I’ve never seen her so excited for any film.

It wasn’t too surprising, I figured, since the first Spy Kids movie was truly excellent and the second two instalments were pretty great as well. Not only were they family films made by a proper director—not just cheap product rolled off a studio assembly line—but they also showed there was more to Robert Rodriguez than ultra-violent, post-modern grindhouse flicks. They had heart, a unique style, great writing and they had great casts. Some of his best work by far.

I would have been more confused by Mandi’s excitement if I’d known Mandi had never actually seen a Spy Kids movie. I didn’t know until we were pulling into the cinema parking lot that she was going purely for the Aroma-Scope experience. As far as seat-filling gimmicks go, this one apparently works (except our theatre was only about 20% full).

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Ultimate Hurdle Round 2: Tron Vs. The Matrix

December 24, 2010

I’ve always had a problem with The Matrix.

The premise is simply too absurd. I don’t mean the idea that reality is a digital construct. That one I can buy. But the idea the titular “matrix” was designed only to keep the brains of billions of comatose prisoners alive so they can act as power generators for a race of intelligent robots throws a monkey wrench into my suspension of disbelief machine.

Certainly the amount of power needed just to keep their life-support pods active would use up the paltry amount of electricity the human brain produces. I can’t even reasonably believe a person could power their own pod. I just can’t do it. It’s preposterous. I spent a decade arguing it’s the stupidest sci-fi concept ever committed to film.

But then I saw Tron: Legacy. It makes The Matrix look like Shakespeare.

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