Showing posts with label sci-fi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sci-fi. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Everything Watch: Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)




Watched:  09/24/2022
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Directors:  Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert

Look, one would really need to watch this movie 2-3 times and plan on several thousand words to really talk about Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022).  Suffice to say, this movie was very, very much in the wheelhouse for a lot of us, and if it was nominated for - and then won - awards, I might have respect for the awarding industry and begin to believe that it actually recognizes what cinema can do.

I am painfully and tragically aware that some will watch the movie and say "oh, they were trying too hard" or "that was just weird for weird's sake".  And, if that is your takeaway, I wish you well on your journey through life.  Sadly, you and I are going to view this rock we live on, and our time here, with wildly different eyes.

Everything Everywhere All at Once will be one of the films that I'm going to hold close, because we don't get them very often.  Whether you think the movie is saying something new - and, arguably, it is not - it is saying it beautifully, artfully, and humanely.  And maybe when we need it most.  

Sci-Fi and fantasy always are at their best when they are  allegories which may reflect, shift or challenge our views.  And whether we're considering response to a technological change and vast societal ripples or deeply personal stories, the closer we hew to recognizable reality, the greater the impact.  There's a reason we well up as Spock makes a sacrifice for the crew - it's a statement on the logic of serving the greater good, not on the problems of a made-up warp-core technology.  But it's a lesson forgotten again and again in comic books, television and movies, which become about the concepts and less about what it says to the audience about the world or themselves.  

SPOILERS

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Watch Party Watch: They Live (1987)




Watched:  09/02/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  John Carpenter

I saw They Live (1987) twice in the theater.  I still think it's a pretty keen movie, and would now make for an interesting TV series or something.  

But, yeah, when I was twelve, there was some sci-fi coming out (see: RoboCop, Running Man, arguably even Spaceballs) that was kind of tricking studios into making movies that were some curious cultural commentary dressed up in action-adventure guise.  Which, you know, is what good sci-fi should be, anyway.

They Live mostly went under the radar, and I recall straight through college being The Only Guy In The Room Who Had Seen It, but as I kidded/ not kidded - it's not like I wasn't getting what these movies were on about.  But I do think in the past 30-something years, people have eventually seen They Live, and it's not everyone's cup of tea.  I can still bathe in the nostalgia I have for the movie and remember what it was like getting served up the movie's messaging as a novelty (there's always a 12-year-old out there getting these ideas for the first time).  But, I mean, as a 47-year-old, it is, as someone at the watch party said, a bit like something written by a college freshman.

It's got some strange pacing and budgetary constraints that keep the hard sci-fi stuff crammed into just the last few minutes.  The pacing is super odd, from the kind of draggy first twenty minutes of set-up to the five and a half minute fight in the middle of the film.  We clearly needed more Meg Foster, but that's always true.  And I think it's 100% intentional that the aliens look ridiculous.  Because they're grotesque and laughable at the same time, and that's just good stuff.  Make it weird, man!

Anyway, it was a kick to watch it with people who hadn't seen it.  

Meg Foster will come with her own special FX, thank you


Monday, August 8, 2022

Aliens Watch: Prey (2022)




Watched:  08/07/2022
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Dan Trachtenberg

I had not heard one word about Prey (2022) before my social media lit up when it dropped on Friday (two days ago).  Frankly, I ignored the chatter for half a day when I saw mention it was a Predator movie, which is not in the year 2022 that is something that gets me terribly excited.  I love Predator, but everything after in the franchise sort of exists on a sliding scale, and attempts to merge it with Aliens somehow devalued both.  

Suffice to say, I have not seen every Alien, Predator or Aliens and Predator movie over the past 35 years.  

Thus, I was inclined to ignore the movie til I heard the basic set-up and that some trusted sources generally liked it.  Some quite a bit.  

I finally watched the film this morning, and... yeah.  This is the best Predator related thing I've seen since watching Bill Duke dry-shave in a jungle.  They kept the scale manageable, they remembered we know the Predator set-up, and that the thing to do now is to make the movie have personal stakes for the lead.  They will be changed in some way by the experience, and not just because they experienced pants-eradicating terror facing an alien invasion.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Amazon Watch Party Watch: War of the Worlds (1953)




Watched:  07/29/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Byron Haskin

It's tough to beat this sci-fi classic.  And I write about it pretty often.  So I'll be brief.

Here.  Here.  Here.  and Here.  And part of why we even have a "mars" category here at The Signal Watch.  

I own a model of the Martian craft and of a Martian.  This movie is absolutely my jam.

Anyway, you can read prior posts about that, but it was indeed a lot of fun to watch the movie with other people, some of whom had seen it, and some not.  It's a high water mark of science fiction film for a reason, and I expect that won't diminish for some time.  

Even Spielberg seemed to only bounce up against this version with his 2005 version of the story.  But I think there's room for all the interpretations.  And all the movies (see:  Independence Day) that riff on it or rip it off.  

Anyway, it disappears from Amazon Prime Monday, so you have like a day or two to watch it for "free".

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Watch Party Watch: Man's Best Friend (1993)




Watched:  07/22/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Second
Director:  John Lafia

I saw this movie in the theater and was mostly curious about it because I had absolutely no memory of what happened in the film.  I was 18 and it was during my college winter break so I was home, so I'm pretty sure I was sober, but...  man.  Aside from one very iffy CGI shot, I had nothing.

The basic gist of the film is that the world's most negligent reporter decides to break and enter at a science-place where it turns out Lance Henriksen is doing gene-splicing to create "the ultimate guard dog".  Why?  No idea.  We're never told.  But Ally Sheedy accidentally earns some life-debt from "Max" the ultra-dog whom she spirits away (hint: never take an animal from a lab) and brings to her home.  

She lies to her live-in boyfriend about where she got the dog, and - as a reporter - if she airs any of what she's got on tape, she is absolutely going to jail.  That's B&E and larceny.  

Well, this is ostensibly a horror movie, so it turns out the dog isn't just murderous, he can climb walls or trees, swallow cats like a python and piss acid?  I remembered none of this.  But I did remember there's one shot where they do the Predator CGI shtick where he's kind of clear and then you can see him.

I'm not a *huge* fan of complaining about movies having tone problems*, but this movie has them.  It genuinely feels like a 90's kid's film at times, complete with the neigbor kid who acts like he's 45 and 13 at the same time and wears the neon colors you saw kids wearing in movies and TV in the 90's, but not in real life.  

There's kids telling fart stories that are irrelevant to anything, but then bearing witness to cat murder and simply running away lest they be implicated in the cat murder, which is probably the only honest thing in this movie.

What is impossible to determine from the film's various murders and wacky cops is whether this movie is kidding or not, or a comedy or not.  It's not funny, but you can tell someone decided this movie should be "fun", so we murder a mailman, etc..  And you have to wonder if Ally Sheedy's insane negligence and obliviousness were supposed to be funny.  Oh, also, there's the implication of dog-on-dog non-consensual sex.  Which... seems played for laughs?  Well, the mid-90's were a weird time.  

In an era of "content" and rapidly forgotten films, it's easy to forget that stuff like this was hitting cinemas on a regular basis.  We had studios like New Line - who released this movie - who were like "sci-fi killer dog?  And no one suspects?  So... like one of those trash 450 page horror novels you get at the airport?  GREEN LIGHT."  I mean, this is a $6 million movie.  There are about four sets, and the rest is spent on talent, which is kind of sweet, actually.  And they made a profit of some sort if Wikipedia is to be believed.

But, make no mistake - this movie is absolutely terrible.  



*it usually tells me more about a viewer's expectations of the way they think a movie is supposed to be versus what the movie is

Monday, July 18, 2022

Watch Party Watch: Futureworld (1976)

Behold - Paltrow's mom getting with a Robo-Brynner



Watched:  07/15/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Richard T. Heffron


When I was in maybe 8th grade, my brother and I rented the original Westworld, declared it "rad as hell" and pondered renting the 1976 follow-up Futureworld.  If a movie about robots going berserk in the old west was cool, wouldn't the follow up be even better - in a sci-fi playland?

Well, I remember us telling my dad we were going to rent Futureworld, and my dad saying "Sometimes sequels aren't as good as the original.  Like this one."  In retrospect, I realize this means sometime my dad had tried to watch Futureworld.  

For Houstonians, this movie provides an extra treat as a bunch of it was filmed around town.  Thrill to seeing the underground tram at G. Bush International!  Say "isn't that Jones Hall?" as the leads enter Delos.  Wonder where they are in the Johnson Space Center for great stretches of the film, and why NASA agreed to this shit!

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Watch Party Watch: Princess of Mars (2009)




Watched:  07/01/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000s
Director:  Don't care

In it's way, Edgar Rice Burrough's novel A Princess of Mars is maybe the most important book of the 20th Century that you've never read.  Published in 1912 as a serialized adventure, it laid the groundwork for 20th and 21st Century science fiction and fantasy of a certain swashbuckling flavor.  You do not get to Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Dune or Star Wars without the book.

It's had two adaptations that I know of - this one by SyFy Channel's unholy love child, The Asylum, and then the billion dollar dud from Disney, which I quite like as it's own thing.  

This movie had two things going for it:  
1)  A book beloved by 12 year olds that should have been a slam dunk to adapt, even for The Asylum
2)  Traci Lords

I am here to report that Traci Lords is a force even (especially?) when she's standing in the middle of a smoking crater of where a film was supposed to be.  All told, if you came to see Traci Lords, there's not really enough, but is there ever enough Traci Lords?

The movie was... bad.  Absolutely handicapped not just by a slim budget but by what they chose to excise from the book, what they added in, and then 79 minutes of the 90 minute run time all telling and zero showing.  Which is a really fucking dumb way to use your money when it comes to retelling A Princess of Mars.  

Not actually a set pic.  This is just Traci Lords on a Thursday.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Friday Watch Party: A Princess of Mars



I love the novel A Princess of Mars, by Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs.   It's some bat-shit sci-fi-fantasy that's wildly imaginative, weird, violent and romantic in the way that would have deeply satisfied me at age 13.

A while back (2012), Disney had its famous catastrophe with John Carter, a several hundred million dollar adaptation of the book(s).  But that book is out of copyright, and three years before that bomb hit the screen, our friends at The Asylum, grabbed Antonio Sabato Jr. and someone we don't talk about nearly enough, Traci Lords, and they went out to the Vasquez Rocks and made a movie.       

I've only seen about thirty minutes of this back in 2009, but it always stuck with me.  And not just because it features Traci Lords.  I felt like, hey - this is them kinda trying.  It's still The Asylum, so, you know, it's got it's quirks. 

  • Day:  Friday July 1
  • Time:  8:30 Central
  • Service:  Amazon
  • Cost:  $2

Friday - Click Here to Leap Into Adventure


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Amazon Watch Party Watch: Krull (1983)





Watched:  05/20/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade: 1980's
Director: Peter Yates

Even as a kid, I had no real affinity for Krull (1983).  It arrived as part of the fantasy movie blitz of the 1980's, and I didn't see it in the theater.  The trailer had some interesting imagery, but I just didn't watch it.  At some kid's birthday, I watched the Fire Mares part of the movie, said internally "what the @#$% is this?", but wasn't super interested.  But, as a kid with time on his hands and a VCR, eventually I watched the film.  However, most of my memories of the story itself are from a comic book adaptation I picked up somewhere.  I think we only bought the first issue.  

About 16 years ago, Columbia House was in its death throes and had moved into DVD's.  I gave it a whirl and picked up 11 DVDs for $11 or whatever, and among my pickings was Krull.  Jamie and I tried to watch it, and I decided "this is boring" and we didn't try again.   On a rewatch, I am not sure why we thought it was boring.  It's not.  That's not really the crime to which the movie could be held accountable.

In fact, it's a very, very pretty movie.  The sets are immaculate and gigantic.  The exteriors are all over Europe in lovely pastoral settings.  There's some truly fantastic visual stuff happening, and in a lot of ways, the movie is genuinely well-directed when it slows down to have a beat or two.  The director, Peter Yates, is no slouch and did one of my favorite new-to-me films from the past few years, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which could not be more different if Yates had physically been trying to get as far away from that movie as possible.

But, real talk, they kinda forgot to give anyone but the asshole wizard any personality beyond the thinnest layers atop an archetype.  It's weird.  There's an exposition guy who tells the "prince" what to do.  The price is princely (read:  nice but dim), and the wise old man is wise.  The stoic cyclops is stoic.  Perhaps because the actor cannot see and therefore cannot move.  

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Watch Party Watch: American Cyborg - Steel Warrior (1993)




Watched:  04/22/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Boaz Davidson

A movie that actively resists how movies are supposed to work, American Cyborg: Steel Warrior (1993) eschews character, story, pacing, and more to tell the plot outline of a cute blonde carrying a jar-of-baby to a port to give it to Frenchmen whilst being stalked by a robotic gym coach.  Luckily, she's saved by Unfrozen Caveman Hero Joe Lara.  

The movie has exactly two modes:  (1) uninspired fighting - 90% (2) awkward romantic moments - 10%.

It's a movie that is only 90 minutes, but somehow feels 4 hours long, because it has no story and thinks it should make up for that with the exact same fight sequence happening over and over and occurring in 10 minute spurts.  It's insane.

Anyway, I hate it and want to eject it from my brain as soon as possible.  So this write-up is over.




Monday, April 11, 2022

Sci-Fi Watch: World Without End (1956)




Watched:  04/10/2022
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Edward Bernds

From YouTubeTV:  

An astronaut (Hugh Marlowe) and his buddies land on 26th-century Earth and find men meek and women friendly

I mean, yes.  

I have no idea how I recorded this movie, but I did.  I'm guessing by accident.  I put it on to see what it was, and - while not good or great - there's a bit of The Time Machine and what we'll all know from Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes to this movie.  

Some astronauts return to Earth only to find they didn't just pass through space, they passed through time - a few hundred years.  On the surface, they find giant spiders and brutish troglodytes, and as they meet a race of subterranean people who seem much more like the people they left, they find that there was a nuclear war at some point.  While safe in their underground city, the men have turned weak and fearful, and the women - hot and mini-skirted.   And disappointed in their men.  So of course they like Rod Taylor popping his shirt off and bringing the gun show.  

Anyway, it's mostly curious in that it seems like Hollywood did watch the movie and said "we could do this better".  And they were not wrong.  Just twelve years later, Planet of the Apes - with Rod Serling and the original novel behind it - doesn't just turn the opportunity into a sex fantasy/ reinforcement of our exceptionalism as mid-Century Americans.  


Thursday, April 7, 2022

Watch Party Watch: Flash Gordon (1980)




Watched:  04/01/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Mike Hodges

In a lot of ways, Flash Gordon (1980) maybe came out at exactly the wrong time and set the tone for what would be a problem for comic-based material until X-Men in 2000.  

With Star Wars and Superman released to critical and financial success, Dino De Laurentiis began mining the properties that had influenced the creation of both properties and set the tone in Hollywood that Marvel and DC couldn't get anything green lit for years - but somehow pulp characters would get movies.*  As The Incredible Hulk and Wonder Woman disappeared from TV, Buck Rogers showed up on the small screen, and De Laurentiis went and tapped Lorenzo Semple, Jr., one of the main brains behind the 1960's Batman series, to bring Flash Gordon to the big screen.  

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Watch Party Watch: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension (1984)




Watched:  02/25/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  W.D. Richter

A first viewing of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension (1984) is not an easy task, I would assume.  

I saw Buckaroo Banzai on its release in the theater thanks to a dad who was not particularly nerdy and didn't care for nerd culture, but had certainly enjoyed serials and whatnot in his youth, and absolutely got what the movie was selling.  And I loved it.  Absolutely was into the movie.  I still love the idea of a team of folks with specialties standing between civilization and chaos.  And I got that the movie was funny and winky.  

But I also watched it over and over on cable and recorded on VHS for a bit through middle school.  What I didn't know was that the movie had flopped.  Horribly.  I mean, it made sense that my dad had to drive us across town to the one theater showing the movie, which was mostly empty.  But I also had seen Adventures in Babysitting in a theater so empty of anyone but me and my pals, the manager had come in before the movie to tell us "no monkeyshines", and that's an American classic.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Watch Party Watch: The Keep (1983)




Watched:  02/18/2022
Format:  Amazon 
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Michael Mann

This is not a good movie, but it is a fascinating movie.  If you hate Nazis (and I do!) it's not unappealing to see a supernatural force take them apart.  

I found out during this viewing that I had been given some wildly inaccurate information about the origins of the film - that it was based on a Richard Matheson novel (it is not) and that in the original novel, it's Dracula in the Keep, thus the Carpathian mountains (completely and utterly wrong).  Frankly, having read the description of the novel, I like the idea of Dracula cooling in a Keep in the Carpathians a whole lot more than the description of the novel, which sounds like a very matter-of-fact fantasy novel that would not be my jam. 

The appeal of the film is in watching early Michael Mann with a budget and - if you're so inclined - a Tangerine Dream score that matches the action.  It's a dreamy, music video of a movie with minimal dialog and falls squarely in a rare 20-year period where that was maybe fine in film.  Before, people would not have known what you were doing, and after, movies started filling in every crevice of a film with wall-to-wall exposition.  

I was pleased the assembled watch-partiers were more or less fine with the movie, all things considered.  I guess when Sheena was our last touch-base, this is like Citizen Kane.  

Anyway, there's some interesting dynamics at play as it's clear the main evil supernatural force is a big ol liar and the promise that he may just murder his way to Berlin and melt Hitler is a bit of bullshit to convince Ian McKellan to help him out, but for a brief moment, you think "well, maybe we can let this extradimensional being tear shit up.  Enemy of my enemy, etc..."  Also, the movie makes a fine point about how citizens can get caught up in the bullshit of their nation's leaders and become subordinate to the true believers, who generally are not the kind of folks who really want to have to answer to.


Tuesday, January 25, 2022

PODCAST 180: "A Clockwork Orange" (1971) - A Signal Watch Canon Episode w/ SGHarms and Ryan




Watched:  01/20/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Stanley Kubrick



Ryan welcomes old droog and new co-host SGHarms to viddy a bit of the old ultraviolence as we discuss a bit of popular cine. It's Kubrick's much-discussed 1970's masterpiece, and there's plenty to talk about. Join us for a sloosh, my brothers, as we sort through all that Master Kubrick has brought us. 

If you have not seen this film, be aware that discussion of the film will include covering the film's depiction of multiple forms of violence, including sexual violence. Proceed with caution.

SoundCloud

YouTube



Music:
Clockwork Orange Title Theme (based on Purcell's "Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary" - Wendy Carlos
9th Symphony, 2nd Movement - Ludwig Van Beethoven, Berlin Philharmonic


Signal Watch Canon

Monday, January 17, 2022

Watch Party Watch: The Brain From Planet Arous (1957)




Watched:  01/14/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Firstish
Director:  Nathan Hertz

I'll tell this story again here, so...

The year is about 1978 or 79.  For reasons I cannot remember, my mom has to keep me busy while she deals with something else in the house.  I am about 3 or 4.  My mom does something she never does:  she puts me in my folks' room and turns on the TV and says "look at that til I get back".  I am left alone with a black and white movie on the TV.

The movie is well underway, I don't understand what's happening and then this shit appears on screen:


I lose it.  Giant floating menacing brains with glowing eyes are not something I yet take for granted.  

Friday, January 14, 2022

PODCAST 179: "Soylent Green" (1973) - a 2022 SciFi Episode w/ JimD and Ryan



Watched:  01/05/2022
Format:  Tubi
Viewing:  First
Director: Richard Fleischer




JimD returns to talk what to expect in the new year and what to look for as you consider healthy eating in 2022. It's a Sci-Fi classic that isn't all that great! But it has a neat ending. And garbage trucks. And some name cast, which is just weird. Join us as we try not to crowd you with our opinions!




Music:
Soylent Green - Fred Myrow


Sci-Fi Nerdery

Thursday, November 4, 2021

PODCAST: "Foundation" Sci-Fi TV discussion w/ JuanD and Ryan




Watched:  09 and 10/2021
Format:  Television Apple+
Viewing: First
Decade: 2020's
Director:  various




Juan and Ryan ponder what has come before to consider what is happening now and what will happen next as they take on the famously unfilmable series of books from one of the greats of American sci-fi. Join us as we run the numbers on a show that's epic in scale, and maybe dropping a space elevator on the fans of the books.




Music:
Foundation Main Theme - Bear McCreary


Sci-Fi Playlist

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Muad'Dib Watch: Dune (2021)




Watched:  10/24/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Denis Villeneuve

Well, whatever opinion I have will be wrong, by everyone who watched this movie.  And, especially, if you read the book.

I've only read Dune once, years ago, at the recommendation of RHPT and StevenH (and probably Lauren, if Steven was pitching it).  That said, I thought it was a singular reading experience.  My inability to return to the book has much more to do with life being short and me doing other things rather than my lack of love for what I read.

I think people who read and grok Dune are changed a little after, maybe in tiny ways, but a bit.  I cannot imagine approaching a Dune movie without having read the book - I know watching Lynch's version without having read the book led to me giving up 20 minutes in.  But after reading it, I was like "oh, yeah, this is maybe not the best way to do this, but ok."  Similarly, before reading the book, I could only follow the SyFy Channel TV mini-series version of Dune so far before I was like "y'all are on your own".

So - I have no idea what those who didn't read the book took away from the movie currently in theaters and running on HBOmax.  

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Cameron Watch: The Abyss - Director's Cut (1989)




Watched:  08/28/2021
Format:  DVD I bought on ebay
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  James Cameron

I would have been about 14 when The Abyss (1989) hit, and it arrived as a sort of prestige sci-fi film.  I remember seeing it in a packed house on a Saturday within the first week or two it was out (with my pals), and it was a*very big deal*.  

It became a staple of our rotation, but one you had to make time for.  The thing was 2.5 hours long.  It felt smart and somewhat relevant.  A Cold War story and not so displaced from our own time and technology, an underwater oil platform made sense - especially as run by roughnecks and fairly blue-collar technical crew.