Category Archives: science fiction

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Rian Johnson (2017)

The Christmas film of this year is another episode in the sage of the battle between good and evil.

As I got used to by now, the story is not as elaborate as is usually suggested. The rebellion is fought by the First Order who got new methods to make life difficult for the rebels. Some space battles are shown and things get hard, but end relatively well.

As for the ‘bigger story’, Luke Skywalker decided to end the Jedi order, but of course not everybody agrees. In the previous film we had a new Vader and that story is worked towards a situation in which good vs evil is not as black and white as it can be.

Even though this is Johnson’s first Star Wars the whole film looks typically Star Wars with no surprises in characters or props. Even some actors have remained the same since the beginning.

An entertaining film with no surprises.

Independence Day: Resurgence – Roland Emmerich (2016)

I am sure that I saw the 1996 original, but do not remember much of it. The follow up has so many references back, though, that things have come back.

20 Years after the original film, the world still celebrates the victory over the alien invaders of 1996. A new attack follows on that very day though and some people from the previous victory are brought back to fight the new danger.

“ID: Resurgence” has all elements of a corny Hollywood spectacle. The action is overwhelming, there are bad jokes in scenes with high tension, obligatory romance, good-looking heroes and of course a big dose of American nationalism. The story is thin and I do not find the CGI really groundbreaking.

So, this second ID film is a typical Hollywood production. Not badly done but in not a single way surprising. A typical film for a night with brainless action.

Cowboys & Aliens – Jon Favreau (2011)

Seldom does the title of a film refer so clearly to the genre, or in this case genres. Indeed, this film is a mix between Western and scifi.

There is not too much of a story, but in a Western town with much hostility among its inhabitants, spacecrafts arrive to terrorize the town. A number of townsmen and -women are kidnapped and a party sets out to find them.

A fairly typical Hollywood film unfolds with Daniel Graig and Harrison Ford as stars, the only not-so-Hollywood element is the unlikely mix of genres. This is not presented all that surprisingly though and actually they go together fairly well.

Not a great film, but entertaining.

Contact – Robert Zemeckis (1997)

This film looks older than it is. Perhaps that is because I connect Jodie Foster to older films? Perhaps I thought it to be older, for a scifi with a ‘big story’ it still is an early one.

“Contact” is based on a big ‘what if?’, but keeps pushing the original idea. What if we would receive messages from a civilization of another planet? What if this message contains a means to travel to them? And what if the technique is way different from what we are used to?

Eleanor Arroway (Foster) is a promising student in the field of space exploration, but her determination to find alien life forms makes her career difficult. Of course, after a while she succeeds against all odds, but the film does not stop there. A good story unfolds with many considerations of the discovery, scientific, religious, the reaction of the general public, etc.

The film contains some way too thick drama and Hollywood moralizing, but when you can set yourself over these elements, “Contact” is a good film about an interesting subject.

Pandorum – Christian Alvard (2009)

Here we have a well-written scifi horror.

Bower wakes up in what appears to be an abandoned space ship. He is not alone for long, because Payton falls out of his pod soon too. Bower sets out to explore the ship and soon finds out that he is not alone. Not only members of other crews wander around the ship, also some sort of zombies.

That does not really sound like a swell story, right? Well, the reason they are where they are and why the creatures on the ship are there as as well, makes a fair story. Also the film has a nice, tense atmosphere and the story unfolds slowly. It is too bad that the end does not exactly have the level of the rest of the film, but overall “Pandorum” is a fairly good film.

THX 1138 – Georges Lucas (1971)

Ha, a scifi of Georges “Star Wars” Lucas that is older than I am. The first Lucas that I review too!

The title refers to the main character who lives in a bleak future. The film plays in some sort of factory / living commune in which everybody is obliged to follow orders. ‘The system’ has its way to keep the workforce quiet, such as forced medication, rigid control and consumerism as religion (“Let us be thankful we have commerce. Buy more. Buy more now. Buy. And be happy.”)

The film is somewhat vague and not always easy to follow. Also there is an overwhelming amount of ‘surrounding sound’. Talking speakers, whistling noices, broadcasters, etc. That does make the film noted for another watch some day, since it is interesting enough for a second round.

The stages vary from minimalist (all white) to elaborate machine cities including some amusing findings for its age.

“THX 1138” is not a masterpiece. The 6.8 at IMDb is a bit on the low side in my opinion, but would not need to be much higher. Like I said, it is a descent and enjoyable film. A scifi classic. It seems that four years earlier Lucas made another film with the same main character. Let me see if I can find that one too.

Ghost In The Shell – Rupert Sanders (2017)

Many years ago in some local art gallery there was a Japanese anime called “Ghost In The Shell”. Later I saw a similar anime with a similar title (“No Ghost In The Shell” if I am not mistaken). I figured it was just the title the artist gave to his / her work, but in the next years the ghost from the shell popped up more often and now there is a film with this title? Are they all based on the same Japanese comic or is something else going on? A fact is that the present film seems to play in some future Japanese city, so I guess it is based on the same concept.

Scarlet Johansson plays a robot with a human brain (the ghost in the shell). She is an almost invincible terrorist fighter who apparently prefers to fight naked. The film begins magnificently with a weird city with 3D advertisements, a surrealistic atmosphere and a nice soundtrack. There is a bit of a ‘Matrix vibe’. Because most inhabitants of the city are either robots or modified humans, some pretty strange elements could be inserted. This part is very well done.

Later on “Major” (Johansson) starts to realise her unique position which she is not overly happy with and the film goes back to a more ‘normal’ film of an action drama sort. Story wise this is still interesting, but ‘filmographically’ the second half is less interesting than the first.

“Ghost In The Shell” is a very descent sci-fi action film with great and just good elements and parts.

Cypher – Vincenzo Natali (2002)

Man, what an awful film… I already did not like Natali’s “Splice” (2009) too much, but perhaps I thought to remember I found it alright?

“Cypher” is, to me, a film that fails on all points. There is a totally annoying story that has a plot shift every other second. The acting is awful. There are tries on vague scenes which are boring. For 90 minutes I have wondered how long it has been since I saw a film as bad as this. I sat it out, but when I had to go to the bathroom towards the end, I did not even use the pause button…

A dull man is hired by a company to be a spy. Then he is hired by the competition as counter spy and then by a third party. Both companies try to brainwash the man to try him to be another person. A Japanese looking lady seems to try to help him, but is that true? The aims of both companies seem to be nonexistent.

90 Minutes of annoyance. I cannot make more of “Cypher”. I like a weird film, but this is just bad.

Frequency – Gregory Hoblit (2000)

What is this? Again a time-travelling film? Is some future me playing jokes? Well, it’s not exactly time travelling this time.

There are two stories in this film. One is about the reckless firefighter John Sullivan. The other about his son Frank, a policeman whose life does not go exactly the way he would prefer. Then during heavy solar activity, Frank finds out that using his father’s old radio he can communicatie with his father 20 years back in time.

At the same time Frank is working on a serial killer case of a couple of decades ago so he asks his father to help out with the investigation. Needless to say that John’s actions in the past change the present and so we get a film with an alright story, but an awful happy end.

Retrogade * Christopher Kulikowski (2004)

The name of Dolph Lundgren and the cover made me think that was a 1980’ies scifi, but it is just over a decade old. 3.1 On IMDb, promising…

Indeed, in the first part the acting is awful. Fortunately this gets better. It all looks pretty old too, so the film itself lives up to my expectations based on the cover. The story is alright, but again I got a time-travelling film.

In the present time a group of investigators travel to the south pole to find meteorites. These unearthly remnants contain a virus which in two centuries almost wiped out the entire human race, so a group of people are sent back in time to prevent the virus from being found. Of course there are bad guys on board who have other plans changing the past. What evolves is an icy action thriller playing on a ship that sailed out to find the meteorites while the time-travelers try to prevent them from bringing the virus to inhabited parts of the world.

Indeed, the film is not very good, but neither did it bore me stiff or annoy me.