Showing posts with label robots. Show all posts
Showing posts with label robots. Show all posts

Saturday, December 3, 2016

RiffTrax Watch: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)



Thursday night Jamie and I met up with SimonUK for a Fathom Events screening of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964).  Way, way back in 2012 I watched the movie on BluRay to review the film for Texas Public Radio, and so I see no real need to write the film up again.  I'm actually weirdly proud of that review and I don't have much to add.

The screening was actually a RiffTrax performance from 2013, rebroadcast as part of a double-bill with a whole bunch of holiday shorts - originally broadcast in 2009.   And as much as I like RiffTrax at home, it can be pretty fun in a theater with lots of other folks, too.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Signal Watch Reads: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Philip K. Dick, 1968, audiobook)



The last time I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I was about 15 and had a fairly hard time keeping up with a narrative that wasn't an easily digestible Isaac Asimov plot and which didn't work with a Bradbury-esque flow to carry me over the rough patches.  I didn't know anything about Philip K. Dick other than that he was the name of the guy who wrote the book upon which they'd based Blade Runner, at the time one my new favorite movies (and, of course, still a favorite).  But, I had heard the novel and movie were different.

I really don't know why I decided it was time to read the book again other than that, like most books I read 25+ years ago, my memories of the details were fuzzy.  I mostly remembered feeling that - as screwed as the Rick Deckard of the film had been, the Deckard of DADoES? was in a far more precarious state.  I recalled a "fake" police station, Roy Batty seemed less a threat, and the world of the novel existed in a state of decay that went well beyond even the night-time drizzling menace of the film.

It's not that I had a hard time understanding the story from an A to B to C to D perspective, but Dick's books always seem to be doing what science-fiction can do intensely well, and that's act as allegory for some more universal story or truth or as a thought experiment to explore those ideas.  I'm sure I got it in that "I read what was on the page" sort of way, but there was no way for me to really relate.  Add in my trouble reconciling the differences between the book and movie and expecting the themes and plot to better dovetail, and it was a recipe for forgetting a lot of what was interesting or special about the book as repeated Blade Runner viewings had quashed a lot of what I might have remembered.

Upon a re-read, I'd argue you need to see the two narratives as separate and attempting different stories with different meaning.  There are certainly resonant thematic issues, but in making many of the changes Ridley Scott and Co. went with, Blade Runner is far more a product of expectations of films (no matter which cut we're discussing), of roles within films, and the limited running time of a movie and what can be in that story.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Robo-Watch: Westworld (1973)



It had been some time since I'd watched the 1973 sci-fi classic, Westworld.  I'd rented it with Jason some time back in the late 80's, and I think we both really liked it (but, if memory serves, he'd seen it before).    I've only seen it again once in college somewhere along the line, enjoyed it, but not watched it again anytime in the last 16 years at least.  I've tried to watch the sequel, Futureworld, but just couldn't watch the 1976 film.  Something about the pacing lost me the one time I tried to give it a whirl.

It seems HBO is launching a TV series also titled Westworld which will greatly expand on the ideas presented in the movie.  It's got an all-star cast and looks to be the sort of thing I find interesting in science fiction.*  I'll be checking it out, certainly, and have high hopes.  Anyway, it got me fired up to review the original film once again.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sci-Fi Watch: Ex Machina (2015)



So, I think Randy has asked me no less than 3200 times if I'd seen Ex Machina (2015) yet.  Really I have no idea why this movie made him think of me in particular.  And I say that without the usual first paragraph snark.  I guess because I like robots.  He'll have to show up in the comments and explain his reasoning.

I finally decided to check out the movie, mostly to see Oscar Isaac in something where he wasn't Llewyn Davis or a space fighter pilot, and, yes, he's every bit as good here as you may have heard, and we're nowhere close to seeing everything he can do.  I'm really hoping the scripts come his way that can make the most of him and not let him turn into some weird Al Pacino-like parody of a self of him we've not yet seen ossified.

If I hadn't rushed out to see the movie, it was one of those times I looked at a trailer, identified a few plot points and filled in the rest, and was okay with whether or not I'd ever see the film. "Female Automoton Is Objectified, Gets Angry, is Metaphor?" was what I pulled out of the ads I'd seen.  And, truthfully, the movie itself was, more or less exactly what I expected it to be, plot-wise and narratively, but - and I want to be very clear on this - because I think my meaning was misconstrued with the Revenant write-up - if you were going to make that movie, this was as good as that particular movie was going to get.  That's not a knock, that's a "this is where I am as a movie-goer who has absorbed a lot of stories in 40 years on this spinning rock."

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Future-Noir Watch: Blade Runner (1982)


I'm now old enough that the dates casually thrown around in the sci-fi of my youth are starting to show up on my wall-calendar at work.  Already we've passed the dates of Back to The Future 2, and - as was impossible to avoid online yesterday - the inception date of Roy Batty, the antagonist (I refuse to call him a villain) of the famed Ridley Scott sci-fi noir android movie, Blade Runner (1982).   While January 8th, 2016 is a few years prior to the events of the movie, it's also impossible not to note that in 1982, the idea that we'd have off-world colonies for the wealthy and healthy looking to get away from this back-water rock of a planet didn't seem that far-off.  Or that genetic engineering would advance to a degree that we'd be on a Nexus 6 version of artificial life-forms.

We do have some pretty good videogame systems, Google can find stuff for your computer and we can take pictures with our pocket computers, so I'm calling it a wash, technology-wise.

I was about thirteen the first time I saw Blade Runner.  I was aware of the movie prior to this time, and, rightfully so, it was considered a bit adult for me to check out and I self-selected against renting it until then.  Frankly, I wasn't expecting much, more of a Tom Selleck in Runaway or even a RoboCop sort of "we've sorta dressed up the present, put weird ties on people and called it the future" sort of movie.  And there's nothing wrong with that, but, much like Star Wars, part of what makes the thing greater than the sum of its parts is the fully immersive experience.  From retro-fitted buildings to flying cars sensibly limited to police prowlers, to overpopulated streets, class-based fashion and architecture, and the monolithic structures - the soaring hubris of progress and wealth.  All of it alien, all of it recognizable.  That was the work of the artists working on movies in this era, the Syd Meads, David Snyder, Lawrence Paull, Michael Kaplan and just countless others.

And don't forget that score by Vangelis.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Happy Birthday, Roy Batty



The internet tells me that, according to the movie Blade Runner, today is Roy Batty's incept date.


Happy birthday, Roy.  You gave 13-year-old me a lot to think about when it came to my mortality.



Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sci-Fi Watch: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)



It's been forever since I watched The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), and I wish that weren't so.  It's easy to bag on any movie from this era of self-serious science fiction, of lantern jawed scientists and sweetly passive women who just want to help our hero by making coffee or getting out of the way.  It's dated.  Right.  Got it.*

I will say, there's really nothing better than the scene with three doctors lighting up their Lucky Strikes and pondering the incomprehensibility of our visiting alien's medicine and lifespan.  That, you can take to the bank.

Six years on after the end of World War II and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, director Robert Wise (a director with just an astounding filmography) lensed one of the most influential films of the era, and I'm not just counting sci-fi, where the impact was absolutely mind-boggling.  Where Gojira looked back at the nuclear nightmare as having unleashed an unthinkable beast as a testament to man's folly, The Day the Earth Stood Still stood as a warning about hubris, about our place in the universe as we believed ourselves now unstoppable.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Giant Robot Challenge: US throws down the gauntlet, Japan accepts

I've mellowed as I've aged.  Now all I want is a quiet evening, reasonably priced cocktails, sleepy dogs and robot fights.

I am not talking about your little BattleBots or whatever...  If I wanted to see remote controlled cars running over each other, I'd hang out in a hobby shop on Saturdays.

People, we live in age of unparalleled wonders, and as I progress through my 40th year, I am now satisfied to know that, before I slip off the mortal coil, it is looking increasingly likely that I will see two multi-ton robots beat the scrap out of each other.

Cry havoc and let slip loose the bots of war!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

RoboCop Watch: RoboCop




Sometimes between viewings of RoboCop (1987) I think to myself, "Self, maybe you talk too much about RoboCop.  Maybe you should stop pestering people with RoboCop and maybe take a step back and realize that maybe all RoboCop really is is a mid-80's studio sci-fi action flick that may be pretty good, but it's not really as good as you tend to think."

And then I watch RoboCop again, and I say to myself, "Self, that was stupid and you should stop questioning RoboCop.  That movie is the absolute best."

Also, it completely and totally accurately predicted the future.  So if you ever need to know what I think the world looks like through my beady little eyes...  RoboCop.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sci-Fi Sunday: Forbidden Planet and 2001: A Space Odyssey

It's Sci-Fi movie day on Turner Classic Movies, and I'm doing some encoding of home videos and watching of movies on cable.

I first saw Forbidden Planet during the Paramount Summer Film Series, probably around 97' or 98'.  With my buddy Matt, come to think of it.

None of this ever really happens in the movie, but, whatevs...

They tell me the movie is a sci-fi version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, but I have no idea.  I've never seen or read it.  But I have seen Forbidden Planet about seven or eight times, and every time, I like it better.  Sure, it stars Leslie Nielsen of Naked Gun fame in a dramatic role, which is weird, but it's such a great bit of its time and a snapshot of exploration sci-fi that is a now-kind-of-dead genre (and if you can't see the direct impact on Star Trek, you aren't paying attention).

The visual and audio FX in this movie make it an amazing experience, with the debut of Robbie the Robot, Krell architecture, amazing sets, spaceships, matte backgrounds that are truly massive and alien.  And even the hand-drawn animation of the Id Monster holds up amazingly well, in its way.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I finally watch: I, Robot (2004)

As a kid, I read some Isaac Asimov, but not a lot.  Robot Dreams, the Robot Novels (Caves of Steel, etc..).  About eight years ago I read one Foundation novel hopelessly out of synch with what I was supposed to be doing and read Prelude to Foundation, you know, before Foundation, which was apparently not correct as it came out much after the original books - but did include a favorite character of mine (spoiler).

But like things do when you're 13, the robot stories stuck with me.  I believed in the infallibility of the Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics.  I barely even remember the stories from I, Robot anymore, but I read it three times before I finished high school.  Still remember knocking a huge chunk of it out while sitting on my folks' front porch one sunny day.

But I knew Will Smith was nowhere to be found in any of the short stories that make up the anthology of I, Robot.



The movie of I, Robot was released in 2004, and marked a very conscious decision for me not to pay to see something that I knew I would find disappointing.  I didn't remember the book well even 9 years ago, but I was pretty sure none of the stories contained within starred The Fresh Prince.


  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
In some ways, the movie is a new story based in the world of Asimov's US Robotics and with robot psychologist Dr. Susan Calvin, a recurring character in the stories of I, Robot, who appears in multiple stories at different points in the character's fictional lifetime.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Trailer for "Pacific Rim" - summer 2013

This is a movie by a big name director who decided to make a movie about giant robots fighting kaiju.

I don't know how I'm not supposed to see this movie.



Yes, it looks ridiculous, but it's a summer movie, y'all.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: The Rock-afire Explosion (2008)

My experience working at Chuck E. Cheese Pizza is fairly well documented, and so I am unsurprised that I might have a pre-disposition for an interest in the backstory and current state of part of the weird world of Pizza Parlors that double as Robot Music Shows.

The 2008 documentary, The Rock-afire Explosion (available on Netflix Streaming) seeks to uncover, really, one man's ongoing love of the robot band that made his childhood magical and the engineer who created the Rock-afire animatronic band and performances that made the Showbiz Pizza chain possible.

Honestly, it's maybe a little messed up.

see the face of your Mayan Apocalypse and behold your DOOM

I cannot begin to guess the original intentions of the filmmakers as they set out to begin interviewing private Rock-afire Explosion band owner Chris Thrash (I imagine they thought just getting Thrash and his band was plenty for a short film), but the final product is a mostly-feature-length, warm-hearted look at a man and his quirky dream.  One assumes that through Thrash the filmmakers got in touch with Aaron Fechter, the creator of the band, and an interesting guy himself.

Flechter seems a bit one part Willy Wonka/ one part Ahab, a guy who struck it big with an idea when he was very young, and who built a company that he very much cared about.  The failure of the overall Showbiz Pizza company and the fate that shook out for the animatronics group he owned is still very clearly present for the man, and there's something a bit tragic about the guy when you see what he's kept from the old days (and it certainly makes you wonder about his business acumen).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

SW Advent Calendar December 3


Yes, they come from a planet of living machines, but their artificial hearts are no less warmed by the joy of the season.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why CN's "Sym-Bionic Titan" is the best Space Fantasy/ Sci-Fi/ Giant Robot/ High School show on TV



Those of us in the know watched Samurai Jack, by the great Genndy Tartatovsky. His new show is Sym-Bionic Titan, and it is awesome.

That's Flock of Seagulls' "Space Age Love Song" playing while a giant robot fights a mega-monster from space. And, yeah, that's a girl who just unwittingly fell in love with a robot.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Watching Bad Movies: A Visit with The Dug

Anyone who followed LoM knows that we're going to watch a lot of bad movies around here, and we're going to talk about them. In fact, my taste for the abso-awesome was called upon during my hiatus (a bit like Col. Trautmann pulling Rambo in for one last mission), by our own pal, Ransom, over at Chronological Snobbery. We were asked to watch "Birdemic" in its second public screening at Austin's own Alamo Drafthouse.

The review is here, but the experience itself... in my quietest hours, it haunts me still.

This week, however, League HQ was graced with a visit from Jamie's brother, The Dug, who is sort of the Santor of Irrationally Bad Film, gleefully doling out serving after serving of the terrible.

There are, of course, different kinds of terrible.

I should preface the discussion by mentioning that I watched all three movies with the benefit of RiffTrax, and recommend you do the same.

Please stop touching my robots

Terminator: Salvation is the kind of movie that, on paper, had everything going for it, but somehow didn't gel. One can guess that a bloated budget, a director of fading notoriety, a difficult star, a pre-packaged star, re-writes so obvious that the movie feels like three movies crammed into one, a heaping-helping of pandering to the audience while simultaneously demonstrating no small amount of disdain for the intelligence of the audience...

Terminator: Salvation isn't outright unwatchable, but its a trainwreck of good intention and ineptitude.

Look, McG is just NOT a good director. Also, his name is McG. As a producer, your first clue that you should fire yourself from a movie is that you've hired a grown man who wants to be billed as "McG". And then you should maybe IMDB him to see the laundry list of poppy, dumb junk he made before Terminator.

I know Christian Bale had his famous rant during the making of this film, but watching the movie, you have to wonder if he didn't know exactly how bad this was going to be...

The bitter irony, of course, is that around the time of the movie's release, Fox was running "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" which had an infinitely better understanding of what made the first two movies work, logically drew its storylines from the premise of those movies, and featured not just Summer Glau, but Lena Headey. And they managed to make David Silver cool. Which is, like, science fiction unto itself.

I hate..! I hate..!

Twilight: New Moon is the second installment in the Twilight series, which I've ranted upon previously.

This type of film is bad, not because people weren't all doing their jobs (well, I sort of question Kristen Stewart, but...), but because its part of a media-franchise bigger than any one part, and to deviate from the script would enrage the built in audience. In short, the source material isn't very good. Wildly and inexplicably popular, but so is "High School Musical".

In this second installment of Twilight, we're asked to watch the increasingly annoying Bella Swan alternately sulk and lash out because she's been dumped by her stalker boyfriend. She then becomes "just friends" with a Native America/ werewolf played by the persistently-baffled-looking Lautner.

By adding Jacob (our werewolf) to the mix, and drawing out the emotional anguish surrounding creep-o-zoid Edward (our vampire), the film imparts the message that the right thing to do when a young lady is dumped is find a guy who would actually like to date you (and is even hunky and nice and junk), string him along, but then duck and weave at the last minute as you cross continents to get back with the guy who, all things being equal, will absolutely demonstrate the same awful behavior again (in this case, wanting to kill you and drain you of all of your blood), and leaving the guy who wasn't too likely to kill you scratching his head. The fact that officially branded "neurotic/ unforgivably erratic behavior" is made into our hero's quest for "New Moon" should only fulfill many a young man's worst suspicions about what dating will be like their freshman year of college.

For a movie about werewolves and vampires, an amazing amount utterly fails to happen (or entertain) as we focus on the wretched Bella Swan. However, we are told some interesting stuff is happening off-camera; we just don't get to see it. However, we do learn more lessons, via werewolves, that women should really learn to just step back when their boyfriends "wolf out". And if they get hurt (permanent-like), its kinda their own fault.

Slow clap, Twilight franchise.

"Useless filler" does not do this deadly dull stretch of movie justice. You could literally cut the middle 50 minutes of the film, and you'd still get where this "plot" must have been heading in order to get to whatever the @#$% is going to happen in the 3rd installment.

Oh, hi movie!

But, of course, all of this pales in comparison to Tommy Wiseau's now notorious indie darling, The Room.

To say what is wrong with the movie is missing the point of The Room. What one must assume to be the intended goal of writer, director, producer, and star, Tommy Wiseau (possibly his real name) in making "The Room" is, in actuality, absolutely no longer the point of the object smart-alecks have been lining up to watch at hip indie cinemas for, and what my reading of the internets tells me has become an odd phenomenon of audience interaction, participation, and general mayhem.

Where Nguyen's "Birdemic" is a case-study in technical incompetence, Wiseau's "The Room" seems to have most of its technical ducks in a row, but reads not unlike the booze-soaked ramblings of a colleague who just figured out his girlfriend was cheating on him. With huge helpings of "I have never really thought about how a scene works in plays, TV or movies" thrown in. Also, someone thought lots of gratuitous "love scenes" would really sell the heck out of this thing.

To talk too much about "The Room" with those who've not seen it is unfair. I can only recommend you schedule your own viewing, with booze and Rifftrax in hand.

All things must come to an end...

For good or ill, the self-inflicted pain of bad movies has to end sometime. This afternoon The Dug and K took flight back to The Left Coast. Once again, its been a pleasure having him here to ensure that my life does not go by without the glory of the finest in American Cinema.