Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Monday, March 26, 2012
Kirby Krackle is an indie rock band from Seattle, Washington. They call their style of music "geek rock" or "nerd rock", as their songs involve comic book and video game characters. They have released three full-length albums; a self-titled Kirby Krackle debut album in 2009, E For Everyone in 2010, and Super Powered Love in 2011.
For more info on this wicked cool genre geek rock band go to their web site at: http://www.kirbykracklemusic.com/
Sunday, March 25, 2012
I’ve decided that I should try to share some of the many comics that I read each and every week. In my Comic Book of the Week feature, I’ll select my favorite comic from the week that I read it and not necessarily the week that the comic was released – although I will try to pick comics that are recent enough to be available at your local comics shop.
I have a small confession to make. Every Sunday morning – when most people are either going to church or nursing hangovers; or in some cases doing both – I am relaxing in bed with a cup of my favorite coffee and reading comic books. I buy on average twelve to eighteen comics every six weeks, which I pick up from my subscription service at New England Comics (Hi, Doreen and Tom!). I then read two or three of these comics every Sunday morning. Because I gave up reading superhero comics published by Marvel, DC or any other company, I read a lot of horror, science fiction and fantasy comics that have nothing to do with men-in-tights. I’m always looking for something new and exciting, so that means I buy a lot of new comics series. My latest new series that I’m trying out is Saga.
COMIC BOOK OF THE WEEK! SAGA #1
Saga is a continuing series published by Image Comics that the company describes as a “Star Wars-style action collides with Game of Thrones-esque drama in this original sci-fi/fantasy epic for mature readers.” It is written by Brian K. Vaughan, whose best known for his sci-fi Vertigo series Y: The Last Man, a post-apocalyptic science fiction series about the only man to survive the apparent simultaneous death of every male mammal on Earth. Saga is drawn by Fiona Staples, who previously worked on The Secret History of the Authority: Hawksmoor with writer Mike Costa for Wildstorm and Mystery Society with writer Steve Niles for IDW Publishing. I have never read any Vaugugh’s books, except for his four issue stint on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight for Dark Horse comics, so I had no idea what to expect stylistically from him. My only exposure to Fiona Staples’ artwork was her work on The Mystery Society for IDW that ran as a five issue miniseries, which I did thoroughly enjoy. The combination of the concept and the art was enough for me to give Saga a read.
Saga #1 is a real bargain, as it is forty-two pages of full-color comic story with no advertisements for just $2.99! It tells everything you need to know about the main characters and the galactic-wide world that they inhabit. The story centers on Marko and Alana, who are a man and woman that are on opposite sides of an interstellar war that find each other and end up having a child together. This causes them no end of trouble and they end up being chased by both warring factions. These factions are the supporters of the planet Landfall and its opposing side the supporters of its satellite Wreath. Now a mercenary has been hired after Marko and Alana’s initial escape, to hunt them down and kill them, but take their child back to the Wreath. Meanwhile, the Robot Kingdom’s King has sent a prince to find and kill Marko and Alana as well. In the midst of all this, Marko and Alana are given a map that discloses a location that may or may not lead to their freedom… or something more!
WARNING: Explicit language on this page of SAGA #1!
I absolutely loved Saga! Vaughan has done something incredibly difficult: he has merged the hardware of science fiction and the magical elements of fantasy and combined them into an epic space opera adventure series! In this first issue alone we see robot-head people, winged people, horned people, a giant “lying cat” and a vast assortment of other fantastical creatures and people. All these things are wonderfully realized by the art of Fiona Staples. Her work is somewhat reminiscent of the more realistic Manga artists, but her loose brushed line work and dynamic cell-style coloring make it very much her own unique style. A word of caution for people who assume comics are for readers of all ages: Saga is rated by Image M for Mature. If Saga was a movie, it would definitely be rated R. Saga uses explicit language, features graphic violence, complete nudity and even open sexual scenes. As an older reader, these elements did not bother me and in many ways contributed the reality of fantastic elements in the story. However, if you are sensitive to these adult depictions and situations, then Saga is probably not for you.
If you like something that combines the best qualities of science fiction and fantasy, give Saga #1 a read!
This is the first of what I hope will be many more features on my favorite podcasts!
Wikipedia defines podcast as: A type of digital media consisting of an episodic series of files (either audio or video) subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication. The word is a neologism [a newly coined term, word, or phrase, that may be in the process of entering common use] derived from "broadcast" and "pod" from the success of the iPod, as podcasts are often listened to on portable media players.
I have been listening to podcasts for many years now. I first began listening to podcasts on my computer on their websites’ MP3 players. The first such podcast I remember listening to this way was Slice of SciFi back in March of 2007, when they interviewed Amanda Tapping and Damian Kindler on the then Web series Sanctuary.
It wasn’t until I was given a “hand-me-down” iPhone 3GS that I became fully immersed in the world of podcasting. Thanks to the ease of the iTunes interface and being able to subscribe to podcasts, I now listen to about twenty different podcasts a week; with subjects ranging from Sci-Fi Television to Comic Books. If you have a favorite genre interest – be it a particular TV show or type of film or comic books or just fannish stuff in general – there is a podcast on that subject!
Podcast of the Month for March 2012 is:
Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy!
Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy is an interview/talk show hosted by editor John Joseph Adams (Wastelands, The Living Dead) and author David Barr Kirtley (New Voices in Science Fiction, Fantasy: The Best of the Year). Each episode features an interview with a leading figure in the world of science and science fiction, followed by a discussion of science fiction books, movies, video games, and more.
Guests include novelists such as George R. R. Martin (A Game of Thrones), Charlaine Harris (the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series), Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club), William Gibson (Neuromancer), Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay), Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game), China Miéville (Perdido Street Station), and R. A. Salvatore (The Dark Elf Trilogy), as well as filmmakers such as Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) and Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), comic book writers such as Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) and Chris Roberson (Superman), video game designers such as Ron Gilbert (The Secret of Monkey Island) and Chet Faliszek (Left 4 Dead), science writers such as P. W. Singer (Wired for War) and Mary Roach (Stiff), and scientists such as Neil deGrasse Tyson (Nova scienceNOW) and Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion).
Season One (2010) was produced for Tor.com, the website of a major science fiction book publisher. Season Two (2011) was produced for io9.com, a science fiction and futurism website owned by Gawker Media. Season Three (2012) is currently being produced for Wired.com, the website of the popular tech magazine Wired.
If you are looking for professionally and impartially executed interviews of writers of books, television and film, then Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy is an exceptional podcast to start with. Most podcasts run at about one hour, with the first half-hour being dedicated to the featured writer for that episode and then the second half-hour usually features hosts John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley talking about other media events related to the author or subject featured in the first half of the program.
An excellent example of this is episode #55 [posted February 29, 2012] that featured an interview with Michael Chabon, the author of Wonder Boys and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, who discussed working for Disney and writing the screenplay [with director/co-writer Andrew Stanton and co-writer Mark Andrews] for the 2012 movie John Carter. In the second half-hour John and David, who are knowledgeable authors/editors and Burroughs-philes in their own rite, give a detailed and very opinionated review of the John Carter film, from the perspective of two men who have read the entire series of books about John Carter. One fascinating thing I found out about their review is that the many inconstancies between the books and the movie were received both positively and negatively by the podcasting duo.
If you want to listen to their podcast review of John Carter yourself, go to this link: http://www.wired.com/underwire/2012/03/michael-chabon-geeks-guide-galaxy. If you want to go to their web site and check out some of their other podcasts, go to this link: http://geeksguideshow.com/
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
In the third part of Zombzany Meets Doc Freak titled "Silent for a Spell", Zombzany is sitting on his throne, while “Doc” Freak and Bill E. Bones are standing behind him. Zombzany is already complaining about the films, when he turns around to stare at Freak and Bones who are having a conversation of their own. Zombzany, in a huff of humiliation, zaps “Doc” Freak with an even more powerful spell of silence, in order that Zombzany might continue with his monologue uninterrupted.
Coming back from yet another film, Zombzany drones on about a film he obviously knows little about and behind him, the still mute “Doc” Freak pantomimes frantically behind Zombzany’s back. Finally taking notice of the manic Freak, Zombzany – at the end of his very short rope – lashes out with his most powerful spell yet: A spell of Immobilization! In obvious contempt of the now “stiff” Freak, Zombzany places his staff – which also doubles as a magical light – in the inert hands of “Doc” Freak. Pleased with himself, Zombzany introduces the next film of the horror movie marathon.
Enjoy, Zombzany Meets Doc Freak - Part Three - Silent for a Spell!
Thursday, March 15, 2012
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes was too heavy handed for me to completely enjoy. While I liked many individual aspects of it, as a whole it felt too preachy and tenacious in its message."
Science Fiction, Drama, Action & Adventure
Starring - James Franco/Will Rodman, Freida Pinto/Caroline Aranha, John Lithgow/Charles Rodman, Andy Serkis/Caesar, Brian Cox/John Landon and Tom Felton/Dodge Landon
Director - Rupert Wyatt
Writer(s) - Pierre Boulle, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver
PG-13 – intense and frightening sequences of action and violence
1 hr., 45 min.
Let me begin this review by admitting that I have never been a fan of the original Planet of the Apes films. I do think the first film, 1968’s Planet of the Apes deserves to be recognized as an important science fiction film historically, but it is still not one of my personal favorites. For this reason, I did not even try watching Tim Burton’s “reimagining” of Planet of the Apes in 2001. I had little to no interest in seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes either, but the plethora of positives reviews from both critics and fans alike moved me to give it a try.
Will Rodman is a scientist working for the biotechnology Gen-Sys and is experimenting on chimpanzees with a viral-based cure for Alzheimer’s disease. One of the female chimps gets violent in front of Gen-Sys investors, so Will's boss orders the chimp handler Robert to euthanize the rest of the test chimpanzees and orders a stop to the project. Will takes the baby of the female test chimp home and continues to test the drug on the chimp at home.
Caesar is injured after escaping from Will’s home, so he takes him to the San Francisco Zoo where primatologist Caroline Aranha treats Caesar’s injury. On Caroline’s recommendation, they secretly begin taking Caesar on outings to the redwood forest at Muir Woods National Monument.
We find out that the reason Will is obsessed with finding a cure for Alzheimer's is that Will's father Charles is suffering from the disease. As Caesar grows, it becomes apparent that the drug has worked and Will injects his father with it. It works, but gradually Charles’ immune system fights the viral-based cure and he becomes ill again. Caesar witnesses a confrontation between Charles and their neighbor Hunksiker and Caesar attacks Hunksiker to protect Charles. This causes the authorities to place Caesar in a primate shelter run by John Landon, where he is treated maliciously by the chief guard, Landon's son Dodge.
Will develops an even more powerful drug and sets up a new deal with Gen-Sys to begin testing it. Caesar escapes from the primate shelter and steals the drug to use on his fellow simian inmates, in order to facilitate a mass escape to freedom.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was too heavy handed for me to completely enjoy. While I liked many individual aspects of it, as a whole it felt too preachy and tenacious in its message. I genuinely disliked this film’s persistent portrayal of humans as either fearful (both chief guard Dodge and neighbor Hunksiker) or patronizing (both Will and chimp handler Robert). The film wants you to sympathize with Caesar’s plight so much that it never allows any of the humans in the film to act in any kind of positive fashion. I think the portrayal of Caesar (via motion control CGI) by Andy Serkis was strong enough that I could have sympathized with him without the heavy-handedness of the “man is bad – animals are good” message.
The skill of the CGI apes and the fantastic integration of them into the live action was some of the best I’ve yet seen. The realism of the various simians really helps to make you want to root for the apes; especially during the climatic sequence on the bridge. Unfortunately, much of the good work done by Weta Digital on the chimps is undone by the melodramatic script.
I did end up liking Rise of the Planet of the Apes almost despite myself. Still, it left me feeling disheartened about mankind in general and the scientific community in particular. Too often films posing as science fiction are actually anti-science (see just about any Michael Crichton film). Rise of the Apes falls too far into this category and I cannot recommend it as a science fiction film. However, it is still worthy of seeing if for no other reason than to admire the skill of both Andy Serkis and Weta Digital.
TECHNICAL: Acting – 8 Directing – 8 Cinematography – 8 Script – 7 Special Effects – 10
VISCERAL: Visual – 10 Auditory – 8 Intellectual – 6 Emotional – 8 Involvement – 8
TOTAL RATING - 81
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
"John Carter sweeps you up in its epic story and never releases you until the very end!"
Science Fiction-Fantasy, Action and Adventure
Starring - Taylor Kitsch/John Carter, Lynn Collins/Dejah Thoris, Willem Dafoe/Tars Tarkas, Samantha Morton/Sola, Dominic West/Sab Than, Thomas Haden Church/Tal Hajus
Director - Andrew Stanton
Writer(s) - Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon
PG-13 - intense sequences of violence and action
1 hr., 58 min.
John Carter is based on the novel "A Princess of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs, published under the title "In the Moons of Mars" and serialized in All-Story Magazine in 1912. The film does an excellent job of taking an old fashioned “planetary romance” and making it into a story with just enough pseudo-science to make it acceptable to a 21st Century cinema fan. This fan was not only engaged by such a fanciful concept, I was fully captivated by it. John Carter succeeded on the most important level of all and that is it entertained me!
The film begins with the “death” of John Carter in 1886, who leaves instructions to his nephew – a fictionalized Edgar Rice Burroughs - to entomb him in a crypt. He also leaves Burroughs with a journal of his adventures on Mars, with instructions not to publish it for another 21 years. The rest of the film is the tale set down by Carter in the journal.
Carter, emotionally distraught by the death of his wife and child at the hands of the enemy at the tale end of the Civil War, sets off west to find his fortune in gold and start his life anew. Instead, he finds an ancient-looking relic that somehow transports him to Mars. Not understanding where he is, Carter is amazed that on this desert landscape that he finds himself, he can leap hundreds of feet at a time. Soon, Carter is found and captured by the local Green Martians known as Tharks, who are a tribal six-limbed race. After learning their language, Carter discovers that he is on Barsoom and has no way of returning to his own planet Jasoom.
Carter learns of a sacred area of caves; where ancient writings tell tales of technology that seem similar to that which transported Carter to Mars. Taken there by the disgraced Thark Sola, Carter discovers the secrets of Mars. But before he can implement a plan of escape, he is caught in the middle of a war between the Red Martians, who are in the midst of a civil war. Sab Than is a warrior who has gained the power of the mysterious priests of Mars that enable him to destroy entire flying ships with a single energy blast. He is using this power to take over all of Barsoom. One remaining city is fighting back, but is losing and Sab Than demands the hand of its Princess Dejah Thoris to stop him from destroying its inhabitants. Carter helps the Princess escape, then goes on to fight Than, with the help of his Thark alies and its leader Tars Tarkas.
John Carter sweeps you up in its epic story and never releases you until the very end! Carter as played by Taylor Kitsch is a taciturn but likeable man, who always does the right thing, even if reluctantly at first. Dejah Thoris as played by Lynn Collins is a strong and beautiful woman, who is equally at ease fighting with words or a sword. Tars Tarkas as voiced by Willem Dafoe is the loyal tribal leader, who respects Carter for his acts of courage and his respect for the customs of his people. The rest of the cast is filled out by fine character actors, who all respect the material, even when it calls for them to recite dialog that feels a trifle stilted. One of the standout Barsoomian characters is Carter’s faithful Calot, which is a dog-like creature that is able to outrun even a Thoat (a Barsoomian horse) and John Carter himself.
There are wonderful airship battles throughout John Carter, which are reminiscent of ancient Earth sea ship battles, as they inevitably end with one party boarding the other ship and fighting hand-to-hand and sword-to-sword. All the action in John Carter serves a purpose and is not just there to serve as eye candy.
Everything from the designs of the airships, to the costumes of the Red and Green Martians are done with wonderful attention to detail that really help to make Barsoom feel real. It is quite an accomplishment of the filmmakers to create such a fanciful world, yet make it feel tangible and lived in.
I can’t recommend John Carter highly enough! Such an ambitious cinematic undertaking deserves to be supported, so I recommend seeing it at the theater and not waiting to watch it on DVD/Blu-ray or other means. I personally would like to see a sequel to John Carter and the only way that can happen if people go to see it at the theater. If you like exhilarating science fiction and fantasy adventure, you will definitely love John Carter!
TECHNICAL: Acting – 9 Directing – 10 Cinematography – 10 Script – 9 Special Effects – 10
VISCERAL: Visual – 10 Auditory – 10 Intellectual – 8 Emotional – 10 Involvement – 10
TOTAL RATING - 96
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
As a lifelong Doctor Who fan – both the classic and the new series – and a fan of video gaming, I was very excited to find out that the first Doctor Who video game to be released for PlayStation 3, Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock is coming to PS3 and Vita through PlayStation Network this March. Here are some highlights of an article posted on IGN.com on March 8, 2012:
Details on The Eternity Clock have been scant to date, but as the launch window approaches BBC Worldwide has opened the doors of the TARDIS to reveal what this side scrolling platformer is all about - and true to form, it's a lot bigger and more complex on the inside than one might previously have imagined.
First and foremost, BBC Worldwide and developer Supermassive Games are deadly serious about creating a game for proper gamers, aimed at your typical PSN user - 18-30 year old males, with the title getting a PEGI 12 rating for 'mild violence'. Rather than just farming the license out like they did for the two previous Nintendo titles (Evacuation Earth on DS and Return to Earth on Wii), BBC Worldwide actively sought developers keen to work on the franchise, choosing SuperMassive Games (Start The Party!, Tumble) from 6 original pitches.
"The franchise is growing enormously and the amount of time and money you invest has a huge impact on the game you get, so licensing it to people isn't going to get you the best quality. This time we're actually putting in the BBC's own money and working with really good partners."
The time and money seems to have been well spent upon first impressions. Crucially the game is evocative of an episode of the show. With lovingly-recreated distinctive cinematography showcased by the Unreal Engine 3, Matt Smith and Alex Kingston providing over 5000 lines of dialogue along with motion capture, AND a full score by show composer Murray Gold, the feeling of actually participating in an episode in uncanny.
The game is set over 17 levels across four fundamental time periods on Earth - Elizabethan, Victorian, present day, the near future - and with several extra-terrestrial locations from the show thrown in for good measure, including the Cyber-factory, the Dalek Ship and the Stormcage Containment Facility, which you break out of as River Song using her hallucinogenic lipstick. Spoilers!
Ostensibly a side-scrolling platform puzzler with some stealth elements thrown in, Simon estimates that The Eternity Clock will offer a new player between 8-10 hours of gameplay. There are a variety of puzzle mini-games peppered throughout the levels which you'll need to conquer to unlock doors, time portals, and lifts. If you're playing co-op, the puzzles become co-op too, meaning you'll have work together to solve them – much like the Doctor and his companions do in the show.
The Eternity Clock has been planned as a long term investment for BBC Worldwide with future instalments and DLC on the horizon, possibly to tie in with the show's 50th anniversary in 2013. "We've got really big plans. This was planned to be the first in a series of games, so the story is set up in that way," Simon explained. "It gets left on a clear cliff-hanger. The eternity clock is a big part of that. We haven't announced anything yet, but I expect there will be some DLC."
For the full article which includes some cool screenshots of the game as well go to this link: http://ps3.ign.com/articles/122/1220205p1.html?RSSwhen2012-03-08_072000&RSSid=1220205
Meanwhile, watch the trailer below and if you’re a PlayStaition 3 owner and a Doctor Who devotee like me get ready to fire up the TARDIS and go on an adventure through time and space in Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock!
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
"There are so few science fiction films that are interested in dealing with actual futuristic science or the affects it has on future society, that I think it is important to support even the unsuccessful endeavors like In Time."
Science Fiction, Dystopian SF, Action
Starring - Justin Timberlake/Will Salas, Amanda Seyfried/Sylvia Weis, Olivia Wilde/Rachel Salas, Cillian Murphy/Raymond Leon, Timekeeper, Vincent Kartheiser/Philippe Weis and Matthew Bomer/Henry Hamilton
Director and Writer - Andrew Niccol
PG-13 - violence, some sexuality and partial nudity, and strong language
1 hr. 49 min.
Isaac Asimov (1920 – 1992), prolific author of both science fiction and fact, wrote “science fiction is that branch of literature that deals with human responses to the changes in the level of science and technology.” The reason he deliberately referred to literature in his definition of science fiction is that he held Film and Television science fiction in very low esteem. In fact, when asked by reporters if the current  boom in science fiction affected him, he would reply, “Not at all.” In an essay entitled ‘The Boom in Science Fiction’, in which Asimov differentiates literary science fiction from cinematic science fiction by designating it “eye sci-fi”, Asimov wrote, “Eye sci-fi has an audience that is fundamentally different from that of [literary] science fiction. In order for eye sci-fi to be profitable it must be seen by tens of millions of people; in order for science fiction to be profitable it must only be read by tens of thousands of people.” *
I bring these observations of Asimov’s up; because a film like In Time attempts to do in “eye sci-fi” what literary science fiction does more frequently and more often to better affect. In Time uses an advance in medical science technology to explore humanity’s response as a society to this radical change in the human condition. In Time espouses in 2161, genetic alteration has allowed humanity to stop aging at 25 and as a result people must earn more time or die within a year. “Living Time” has become the currency of the day and is displayed on people’s left forearm. People work to earn more “Living Time”, but also must pay with this time for everything from rent to a cup of coffee. The world has also been divided up into “Time Zones”, with the poor living in ghettos like Dayton and the Time Rich living in luxurious cities like New Greenwich. It is obvious that director and screenplay writer Andrew Niccol is using “Living Time” as an allegory to our current world economic structure and – at least in most of the world – is based on the uneven distribution of resources of a society that is based on the fundamentally dysfunctional economic system Capitalism. In Time attempts to use this allegory to more subtle effect than in previous cinematic efforts. Unfortunately, its ambitions overreach its realization.
In Time is told from the point of view of Will Salas, who is a factory worker living in the ghetto of Dayton and is a few years into his “living time”. Every day, Will earns just enough at the factory to pay for his daily expenses and for another day of life. While at a local bar, Will makes the acquaintance of Henry Hamilton, a 105-year-old man. Will tries to warn Henry that he should be careful of “time theft’, which is the involuntary act of transferring one’s life time to another. Henry is assaulted by local gangster Fortis and his middle-aged Minutemen, but Will manages to help Henry escape the bar with his living time intact. Grateful, Henry gives all but five minutes of his living time to Will while he is asleep, then proceeds to end his remaining time by falling off an overpass.
Will calls his mother Rachel and asks her to meet him so he can tell her of his good fortune. Unfortunately, Rachel does not have enough living time to pay for her bus ride to meet Will and she “times out” just as she rushes the last few yards to meet him. With over a century of time, Will decides to go to the luxurious Time Zone city of New Greenwich and gamble his living time to gain even more time. Will enters a casino and meets a time-loaning millionaire Philippe Weis and his daughter Sylvia. Will beats Philippe in a game of cards and wins over a thousand years. Sylvia, who acts the pampered rich girl, invites Will to a party at her father’s mansion. Once there, Philippe’s guards grab Will and take back all but two hours of his time life. Will then takes Sylvia hostage, escapes back to Dayton, only to be ambushed by Fortis, who steals most of Sylvia’s time. Will shares his remaining hour of time with Sylvia and the two go on to rob time banks with the short-term goal of extending their own lives. Eventually Will and Sylvia expand the scale of their robberies, not only in the hope of improving the lives of all the citizens of Dayton, but to disrupt the unequal distribution of time throughout all the time zones.
While I like the concepts that In Time plays with, I never really bought into them as being a viable reality. If medical science ever did create immortality through genetic manipulation, I don’t think that it would be equally distributed throughout the population as it is in this film. For the very reason that it would create massive overpopulation and unemployment; a situation our current society is dealing with even without near-deathlessness. Given that this process is somehow transmitted to offspring and cannot be controlled, how is the living time clock implemented to begin with? I just found myself asking too many questions while watching In Time to become involved enough in the problems of Will Silas to care about them.
Another thing that I find irritating about near-future science fiction films is their lack of any kind of futuristic look. All the vehicles, buildings and most of the tech in In Time are basically the same as our current time. If a film wants us to believe it is taking place one-hundred-and-fifty years in the future, it should give us some indication of that by showing us better technology or at least different visual designs! This lack of visual detail takes the viewer out of a film just as much as poor acting or special effects.
Even with its theoretical and visual incongruities, In Time might have been an exciting action film that at least touched on some interesting themes. Regrettably, it also underwhelms in the action department as well. The few car or foot chases that take place are staged fairly unimaginatively and add little to the dramatic tone of the film. Andrew Niccol’s previous forays into writing and directing have also been hit and miss. I thought Gattaca (1997) was a flawed but affective sci-fi drama, but his other film S1m0ne (2002) was nearly an unwatchable bit of melodramatic fluff. Hopefully, he will learn from In Time’s failures and attempt to bring a little more depth and forethought into his next film The Host, due out next year.
Despite all my criticisms, In Time is still worth the effort to watch. There are so few science fiction films that are interested in dealing with actual futuristic science or the affects it has on future society, that I think it is important to support even the unsuccessful endeavors like In Time. It would be impressive if a filmmaker could prove Asimov wrong and make an “eye sci-fi” film that could be compared equally to some of the best of their literary brethren.
TECHNICAL: Acting – 8 Directing – 8 Cinematography – 8 Script – 7 Special Effects – 8
VISCERAL: Visual – 7 Auditory – 8 Intellectual – 8 Emotional – 7 Involvement – 8
TOTAL RATING - 77
*Isaac Asimov, “The Boom in Science Fiction” Asimov’s Science Fiction Adventure Magazine, Fall 1979
Monday, March 5, 2012
In the second part of Zombzany Meets Doc Freak titled "Freak-Out Loud", Zombzany has returned to his throne and is lecturing Doc Freak on how to behave while he is hosting the Scare-a-thon. Zombzany informs Freak that he should stay off camera, merely observe and most importantly not interrupt Zombzany's informative explanation of the films. Freak agrees and then trudges off camera after Zombzany shouts at him for blocking his shot.
Zombzany begins his description of the first film of the evening, Universal's 1931 classic Frankenstein, but then proceeds to make many factual errors about the film. Doc Freak cannot stand aside and listen to Zombzany's incorrect and incompetent meanderings on one of his favorite films, so he leaps on camera and begins shouting in Zombzany's face. Zombzany uses a spell of muting on Doc Freak, silencing him in order that Zombzany can continue with the Horror movie marathon in peace. Freaks tramps off camera inaudibly mouthing obscenities at Zombzany.
Enjoy, Zombzany Meets Doc Freak - Part Two - Freak-Out Loud!
Sunday, March 4, 2012
"If you are interested in a smaller scale film that deals with a pandemic disaster on a very human level, then give Phase 7 a try."
Science Fiction, Horror, Post-Pandenmic and Dark Satire
Starring - Daniel Hendler/Coco, Jazmin Stuart/Pipi, Yayo Guridi/Horacio and Federico Luppi/Zanutto
Starring - Daniel Hendler/Coco, Jazmin Stuart/Pipi, Yayo Guridi/Horacio and Federico Luppi/Zanutto
Director and Writer - Nicolas Goldbart
R - Includes adult themes, adult activity, hard language and intense bloody violence.
1 hr., 37 min.
I’m always looking for something new and interesting to watch in the science fiction film genre. There are very few big-budget mainstream films that deal with dystopian themes that emphasis character. Usually I have to find these types of films in the independent or direct-to-DVD market and because their budgets are so small, they often are not very well produced or acted. Fortunately, Netflix offers a very good selection of foreign films in their streaming service and many of these films deal with this subject matter with a slightly higher level of quality. Phase 7 (Fase 7) is a Spanish language film shot in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a native cast and directed and written by former film editor Nicolas Goldbart, that takes the pandemic film genre on at a very personal level.
The story is fairly straight forward. Coco and Pipi are a young couple who live in a new high-rise apartment complex where they don't have much interaction with their neighbors. Pipi is seven months pregnant, so when the apartment building is sealed off as part of a government-ordered quarantine, at first they aren’t concerned and are prepared to wait it out. After several weeks, it becomes apparent that the epidemic has become a stage six world-wide epidemic and now the few remaining apartment dwellers are on their own. Coco, who is not prepared to deal with such a life-threatening situation, is helped by his fellow fourth-floor neighbor, Horacio, who has prepared for such an occasion. Soon, as food becomes scarce and tensions become elevated, neighbors become enemies and survival becomes the priority.
Phase 7 doesn’t offer anything different from many other films in the pandemic science fiction sub-genre. What it does do is do it on a small enough scale to make it feel more realist and relatable on a human level. While Coco, the young husband and father-to-be, is not the most relatable or plausible of protagonists, he does grow as a character as the film progresses. The standout character is Coco’s neighbor, Horacio, the survivalist who must force Coco to not only accept the dread circumstances that the pandemic has caused, but learn the use of firearms and other means to protect his wife and future family. The only unrealistic character in the film is Coco’s wife, Pipi, who never seems to grasp the danger that they are in and spends most of the film eating and sleeping, oblivious to the actions of her husband.
After a fairly slow-paced set up, Phase 7 picks up the pace in the middle acts. Even though many of the action scenes in Phase 7 aren’t anything we haven’t seen before, they are shot and acted with enthusiasm and a slight comedic edge that I haven’t seen in a film since Robert Rodriguez’ El mariachi (1992). Despite the dystopian setting, Phase 7 never gets bogged down in melancholia or hopelessness.
As a non-Spanish speaker I found The English sub-titles unobtrusive to the energy of the film, as Phase 7 is carried as much by the emotive expressions of the characters as by their dialogue.
If you are interested in a smaller scale film that deals with a pandemic disaster on a very human level, then give Phase 7 a try.
TECHNICAL: Acting – 8 Directing – 9 Cinematography – 8 Script – 9 Special Effects – 8
VISCERAL: Visual – 8 Auditory – 8 Intellectual – 9 Emotional – 8 Involvement – 9
TOTAL RATING: 84
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Thank you for voting in my first “which of these films do you plan on seeing” poll of 2012! The results of the nine people who voted were most interested in seeing Underworld: Awakening with 7 votes (77%). I did see this film at the theater and was pleased I did. The next highest vote getter was Chronicle, which received 3 votes (33%). I was not that interested in seeing this at the theater, as I am not a fan of found footage films. However, the generally favorable reviews from both fans and critics alike make me wonder if I made an error by not seeing this one at the theater. I will definitely be renting Chronicle as soon as it is available. Bringing up the rear with 2 votes (22%) was Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, a film I have no interest in seeing – not only because I didn’t finish watching its putrid predecessor Ghost Rider (2007), but also because I was never a fan of the comic book on which it was based. Last and most certainly least was Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, which received 1 vote (11%). I liked Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008), which this is a quasi-sequel to, but only as a rental - and a low priority one at that. Thanks to all nine of you who voted in this poll – you know who you are – and you may now consider yourselves Genre Guardian Generals!
A NEW POLL!
Once again on the right column of this page, you will see at the top of the column the next poll that I’ve posted. This second poll includes the titles and release dates of all the major SF, Fantasy or Horror films that are being distributed to movie theaters in the month of March 2012. They are: John Carter, The Hunger Games, Wrath of the Titans and Mirror Mirror. As always, I appreciate anyone who reads GUARDIANS OF THE GENRE! to place a vote for any of these films that you plan on seeing at the theater and I will at least attempt to see the top vote getters. Of the four films listed, John Carter is the only film I definitely plan on seeing at the theater.
Thank you for reading GUARDIANS OF THE GENRE! and hopefully participating in the new poll!