Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fall Movie Preview - September

It's time for school!! Well, not for me, but I am excited about the upcoming releases this fall. Each year around this time you get a funny mix of both critically acclaimed movies (Oscar-bait movies), movies that the distributors were unsure of so they didn't release them during the higher grossing summer months, and the blockbuster Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday films.

Here are a number of my personal picks and suggestions, I'll be rolling them out each week with trailers and thoughts for each one. Starting tomorrow I'll have a fall TV preview as well. Hope you get excited to see some cool movies!

I didn't include anything that wasn't related to Sci-Fi, but I know there are a number of great films coming out this Fall. What are you excited to see?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Movie Review: COWBOYS AND ALIENS (2011)


For some reason, I had heard a lot of bad stuff about this film. A good many of the people that I follow on Twitter said they didn't love it. It didn't do as well as expected at the box office (just barely beating out The Smurfs that weekend) and it didn't do well on (a whopping 45%).

All the same, I found it to be quite fun and exciting. It had a few missteps and a bit of wonkyness because of the genre blending, but overall a good enough story to warrant a view.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Portal Gun

I'm not really a huge video game person. I was growing up, but since graduating high school it's been hard for me to get into any new games. I love playing new stuff suggested by friends, but other than that I can't really find the time to play in-between watching movies and TV and writing movies and TV.

I am however, extremely intrigued by the game Portal, as well as it's sequel. The thing that amazes me most is the idea of having a gun that can transport someone. It's taking a great idea and making it better by adding mobility and puzzles.

An impressive short film directed by Dan Trachtenberg just surfaced on YouTube today. Something that I think you should see. This definitely opens up questions of a full feature soon. Right?

Watch the film here:

What did you think? Look good?

Here's my one concern: Why was she given access to the gun? How did she find it? Why would they let that happen?

Monday, August 22, 2011


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Netflix Gems: MILLENIUM (1989)

A newer feature on the blog that I will have be posting in conjunction with my Movie Review feature is the Netflix Gems.  These are films that are streaming on Netflix right now (as of the date of the posting) and are fun little movies that you may not have heard of or even thought about watching.

The first film in this series is the 1989 futuristic thriller MILLENIUM:
An airline crash investigator finds a strange device in the wreckage of a double plane disaster. The device comes from the future and the discovery of it could end the world in about a thousand of years. A mysterious woman visits the investigator and attempts to get the device back before all hope is lost. Directed by Michael Anderson. Written by John Varley (based on his short story). Starring Kris Kristofferson and Cheryl Ladd.
Subgenres: Time Travel/Romance/Futuristic
This film has a lot going for it and only a few things bringing it down.  What it has going for itself is an amazing plot and an intriguing idea.  What brings it down is a few cheesy elements and a seriously outdated style.



As one comment read on Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood news post: "And thus, the internet breaks in two." (posted by 'Mike').

It was announced today and later confirmed on Finke's blog that Alcon Entertainment has acquired the rights and Ridley Scott is attached to produce and direct a follow up of his groundbreaking sci-fi film Blade Runner.

Every movie and sci-fi geek knows that Ridley Scott directed two of the most influential sci-fi movies of all time - Alien and Blade Runner. In the last year or so, Scott has been working on a new version of Alien with a project written by Damon Lindelof (Lost) called Prometheus. From what I understand, this will not be a reboot, but more of a prequel or what-happened-up-to type film (a lot like the new The Thing).

As the commenter said above, this just may split all geeks into two factions.  Those that love the new direction and enjoy the fun of a new version of their favorites, and the other group - the ones that feel the Hollywood studios are treading on sacred ground and should begin coming up with more original ideas rather than trying to reboot and change every known movie franchise out there.

Personally, I'm in the second camp.  I wish they would try and make the NEXT Blade Runner -esque film rather than just rehashing the same thing over and over again.  I get that there are 'only twelve stories to tell' or whatever, and I don't mind if a story is "like Blade Runner meets ..." but to make an exact copy or just updated style is a bit ridiculous.  I know it's been done well in the past, and that every 30 years or so we see a lot of copies and remakes, but for crying out loud - it has gone on to epidemic proportions!

Some other funny comments on Twitter:
"Announced: August 2017 Ridley Scott to reimagine GI Jane." @wilzmak
"Announced: June 2015, Thelma and Louise Survived" @writerspry
"Announced: Aliener" @ScreenWritten

Here is the epic trailer for the epic film Blade Runner (1982):

What do you think?  Are you sick of all these reboots and rehashes?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Student Film: CITY IN THE SKY

Italian filmmaker and recent London Film School student Giacomo Cimini has had some early buzz for his short film City in the Sky.  It premiered at the 66th Annual Venice Film Festival and is available on iTunes.

What I find interesting about this film is that it has been widely distributed by the film school which is something that is rarely, if ever done.  The ability to self-publish through iTunes and other electronic mediums makes it a much easier task nowadays, but it's even harder now to find good quality.  Another interesting thing is that it looks far better than most film school films usually do.  It has it's problems from what I can tell in the trailer, but I think it deserves special note and it would be very interesting to see the film.  What do you think? Better than most student films?

Here's the trailer:

City in the Sky Trailer from Giacomo Cimini on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I've realized since the start of the new direction that I haven't really expressed what it is that I am going to focus on exactly.  Broadly I am going to write about and report on things of Science Fiction nature, but more purposefully I will be discussing issues of writing Science Fiction.

During the course of my transformation I hope to share some interesting news in television, film and books to which I will have posted under the label "Sci-news" on the Irregular Features list to the right.  Also under that list I hope to have a bunch of short stories, links to great articles and websites, and the occasional interview with an author or screenwriter about the subject.  Keep your eyes peeled for such awesomeness!

I also hope to do some wicked awesome reviews of television shows, feature films, and sci-fi novels under the respective labels to the right under Regular Features.  To explain to you exactly what I hope to accomplish with those reviews, I want you to firstly know that I am not a scholar and I am not a critic.  Sure I've taken classes on film theory and history, and sure those classes have influenced me along with the reading I have done on the subjects, but in no way am I any good at keeping all that stuff in my head.  I'm terrible at it if you must ask, so I don't think I will discuss those things to great lengths unless the right mood hits me (or if I remember something valid in a moment of brain clarity).

A few subjects that I am interested in learning about, and hope to explore in my reviews are the following:

  • God:  The treatment of god in science fiction.  The development of the idea of god and the destruction of that idea.  The concern for or lack of concern for as well as the prevailing theory that god is destroyed by science (which I do not believe).
  • Cheesiness:  We all know that most sci-fi movies and books have an element of cheesiness to them.  This fascinates me and I'm intrigued to find out why that is and how to avoid it.  Or if it's possible at all to avoid it.
  • Randomness and Irony:  A lot of things going wrong, or a lot of things going right.  I want to explore how these random actions or events influence the characters and plots.  It might also be fun to find some outlandish examples of these things effecting the outcome of the plot.
  • Sexuality:  This doesn't interest me as much.  I get it, we're sexual beings, we have desires.  I also get that nerd generally like sci-fi and nerds have a lot of pent-up sexuality.  What I'm interested is in how sexuality effects the characters and plot.  Also how it is misappropriated or thrown into a story for titillating purposes rather than genuine ones.
  • Violence:  This is another topic that doesn't interest me as much, but it is fairly prevalent in sci-fi, so I think it's a valid concern.  What I want to figure out is how violence can influence the characters as motivation or how violence is an instigator for change.  I don't really care how it is misused or overdone, although I know it is, I just want to focus on what useful purpose it has in story (if any).
  • The Technical:  This is something I am fascinated with because of my production background.  I want to exalt those that have done a good job and discuss the effectiveness of great technical work.  I also want to discuss how bad or outdated technicality can bring you out of the story and disrupt the experience.  Some technical aspects to look at are - Sound, Cinematography, Directing, Music, Acting, Editing, etc.  (In books, we can look at the technical aspects of writing - grammar, format, etc.)
  • Effects:  I am also fascinated by visual effects (VFX) and special effects (SFX).  There is a distinction between the two - visual effects are generally a trick of the camera or added computer effects within the frame.  Special effects involve more practical use of robotics, animatronics, prosthetics, plastics, explosions or other things to create an effect.  I believe science fiction has driven this industry for several years and it is a great thing to comment on and discover.
  • Themes & Cliches:  Finally, I want to keep in mind recurring themes, cliches, plots, and characters from science fiction.  We can talk and discuss about these things at great length in the comments section and hopefully we can all get really good at spotting these things throughout the litany of recurring elements in this wonderful genre.

So now that you know a little bit more about what we're going to focus on in this blog, what do are you interested in exploring?  Maybe there is something I need to learn more about and add to the list.  Comment below!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Top Ten Impending Apocalypse Movies

Apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic are some of my favorite genres.  One discusses the pathway to our impending doom, the other discusses the aftermath of such doom.

Many apocalyptic movies start out with the beginnings of the end and end with the Earth-shattering events that cause the doom.  A great sub-set of these types of movies are what I like to call "Impending Apocalypse" movies.  These are movies in which the cause of the world's doom is discovered and we fight back to try and save everyone and everything - and we're successful!  These are usually pretty cheesy blockbuster films that give us thrills and chills until the climactic cheer-inducing finale.  In this list I tried to stay away from films that were mainly on the destruction of Earth and focused more on films that were about how we fought it and won.

Below are my top ten Impending Apocalypse movies and why:

1: ARMAGEDDON (1998)
Yes, I know this one is pretty cheesy, but it came out at exactly the right time for me to really enjoy it.  I was in high school and this film had all the big stars (Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler) and it had the biggest soundtrack of the day (Aerosmith, come on!)  Another good reason to like it, is that one of the co-writers is none other than our lovable JJ Abrams!  That man is indelible.
(This is the worst/cheesiest poster I could find of the movie)

This is not the Keanu Reeves one, it's the better one (oh!) This film is interesting because it is first and foremost an alien invasion movie, but we then get to know about the impending apocalypse through the super creepy Klaatu.  It's a great premise - if we don't knock it off and play nice, aliens are going to take the world from us and give it to the more deserving.  A great call to peace and understanding.

This is an all-time classic.  Not only because of the amazing director - Stanley Kubrick, and not only because of the amazing cast including the multi-talented Peter Sellers, but because of the hilarious situations and outlook on the whole Cold War era.  It's a treat especially at the end when things go absolutely wrong and we are left to wonder about the outcome.

Alfonso Cuarón is certainly a great talent of a director.  This film is super stylized and wonderfully paced.  It's technically a mind-blowing viewing experience. The interesting premise of this film is that we as a people on Earth are no longer able to produce offspring.  Everyone on Earth is over thirty years old or so.  It presents some really great ideas about survival and what is really important in life.  A beautiful and haunting film.

I just love this idea - a post-apocalyptic future is in the balance and travelers from that time come back to our time to try and influence it.  This one is cheating a bit because as we know the apocalypse is unpreventable in this world.  The thing they are fighting about is the possibility of saving the human race with a resistance force in that future.  I think the reason this one is so effective is not only the fast-paced action, but the whole attitude and style of the entire film.  Also the new model of terminator droid is freakin' impossible to kill!

This is a classic.  How can you not like this one?  Alien invasion to the fullest extent!  The great thing about this film is how Jeff Goldblum's character is able to figure out the plot of the alien invaders and through his brilliant scientific mind is able to prevent the disaster from destroying all civilization.  This one is cheating a bit too because most of the world is indeed destroyed, but I feel that it has such a strong resistance and 'fight back' mentality that it deserves a mention.

7: DEEP IMPACT (1998)
This film is a more intelligent look at the same phenomenon as in Armageddon.  Because it is more psychological, it is more about the drama of such an event.  Also, the big difference between them is in Deep Impact there is no recovering from the disaster.  The fact that it doesn't really have much action is probably why it didn't do as well as Armageddon (since they came out the same exact year - don't you love how Hollywood does that?)  Either way, it is still a very fun and enjoyable movie.  This is under the 'let's just hide out the apocalyptic event' style rather than fully fighting it, but it's still valid for the list.

8: KNOWING (2009)
This film could have been so much better.  Well, it was pretty great I would say until the very end.  Still, it's a really cool idea and the director Alex Proyas does a great job of creating a crisis mood for the characters.  What if we could know the exact date of the end of the world?  An interesting way of fighting the apocalypse - figuring out the date and preparing for it.  Overall this movie suffers from a lot of incongruousness and unimportant elements thrown in for no reason, but it makes for fun viewing if you're interested.

9: END OF DAYS (1999)
This movie came out at the right time for apocalyptic movies - just before the Y2K disaster!  This film is a lot of fun.  Not particularly an intelligent film by any means, but good Arnold Schwarzenegger action madness.  This is honestly Schwarzenegger's last good movie (before he became the Governator).  Gabriel Byrne is totally badass and he plays a great devil.  Seriously, don't go into this thinking too much or it will be ruined, but believe that it is a lot of fun.

10: MILLENNIUM (1989)
I would say that this film is more of a time travel movie than an Impending Apocalypse one, but it still has bearing because of the crisis that humans face and the way in which they deal with it.  You have to love the cheesy 1980's costuming and dialogue.  This one's a gem and I'll be posting a more in-depth review of it later this week.  Definitely worth a few hours of your time on Netflix Streaming.

I purposefully didn't add some movies on this list because I haven't seen them yet (i.e. Rise of the Planet of the Apes, etc.), but what do you think?  What did I miss?  Do you have any favorite Impending Apocalypse movies?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Trouble for The Walking Dead

As Slashfilm reports, an anonymous source has said that the AMC show The Walking Dead has fired (or indirectly fired) the showrunner Frank Darabont right before the second season gets in full swing.

I know that Darabont was probably not the easiest guy to get along with (what auteur-like director is?), and he probably took too long and spent way too much money, but I think AMC may be shooting themselves in the foot here.  Or maybe not, maybe they're making a good move.

The question is, did they go in to this too hastily to begin with?  Did they do the initial six episodes for the first season and spend way too much money thinking they would have had bigger numbers?  I thought the show did pretty decently, I was definitely hooked in even though I had problems with the characters and story at times.  Was it that Darabont wanted a greater hold on the show to make it more distinctly his own?  I had a feeling that the first season was just a first act and that Darabont was about to kick it in gear all the way to the final shocking and amazing moments near the end of the show.  (Remember The Shawshank Redemption?  That movie knocks you off your feet in the final act.)

Now they've hired a man named Glen Mazzera to take over.  Listen, I don't know this dude, and I can't say for certain whether he will do a good job or not, but looking at his credits I truly fear for the show.  Mazzera has been the showrunner or executive producer for such procedurals as The Shield, Life, Crash, and Hawthorne.  None of those shows appeal to me.  None.  So will he do a good job?  Probably, but it may not have the same touch and style that made me tune in each week.

As for the concern that Mad Men and Breaking Bad have taken a majority of AMC's budget for original series programming:  If that's true, they should have seen that coming.  Seriously guys, you have two ground-breaking and hugely popular shows that cost a ton of money.  Now you want to add a costly genre series to the mix?  That's just too much, too fast.  AMC is still a young network when it comes to original series.  Granted they have knocked it out of the park, even when not quite landing a series (Rubicon, The Killing), they still have class and style that far outweighs any other television station on the planet right now (besides the BBC).

I truly hope things get resolved and that our second season far outshines the first, but in all honesty - these setbacks, delays and bad karma moments have me scared that this show is going to be done for by mid-season.  Sad face.

What do you think?  Did you like the show?  What didn't you like and will you be watching next season?

How Sci-Fi Changed My Life

Okay, now that I'm changing my direction in writing, I wanted to give you a bit of background in to how Sci-Fi has effected my life and how it has molded me into the person I am.

When I was a young lad, most of my reading experience was with scripture, or baby books, or Roald Dahl (still a big fan of his today).  One day my mother wanted to encourage me to read more, so she handed me a copy of Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and encouraged me to read it with her.  The book was so different from anything that I had experienced before.  It was so mature and it spoke to the loneliness and angst that I was feeling at the time.  The visuals told within the book opened up a new world in my mind and I could feel myself right along Ender watching it all unfold.  This was the first time that I could say that I envisioned the entire book.

Later on, for a friend's birthday, I went to the theater to watch the movie The Fifth Element.  We had some crappy seats, and I remember being annoyed by that until the movie began.  Once it got started I couldn't think, look or listen to anything else.  My mind and body was glued to the screen.  It was so fantastical and quick.  It was funny, but action-packed.  I remember thinking at that exact moment in my life "This is what I want to do with my life."  From that moment on I focused my time and energy into becoming a filmmaker.  I wrote stories that were in the same style (and looking back on it now, probably copied almost entirely) as the movie that had knocked me off my feet.  It has been an obsession that has lasted me for a majority of my life. I even had to buy the Blu-ray when I could afford it because the DVD just wasn't cutting it.

In the last year or so, another Sci-Fi piece of literature has effected me so much so, that it has helped drive my decision to focus my life in pursuit of writing and becoming more adept at Sci-Fi.  It was a script.  An unproduced, but up and coming spec called I'm.Mortal by famed writer/director Andrew Niccol (who also did Gattica and S1m0ne).  He has now finished production on the film and the title has changed to the generic In Time, but I warn you - do not think of this film as generic.  It has impacted me in a way that few may understand and even more may find ridiculous, but to me it is significant.  I eagerly anticipate the release of the film, but I know that because I love the screenplay so much I may be disappointed (it kind of happened with Source Code).  Either way, I am excited by writing and talking about Sci-Fi now and I hope to be able to do as good of a job as Mr. Niccol someday.

So those are only a few examples of how it has effected and changed my life.  What about you?  Have you been effected by Sci-Fi (good or bad)?  What experiences have you had that made you love/hate it?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A New Look. A New Direction.

Hey Blog Friends,

It's been a good while since I have done anything on this blog.  I've been very pre-occupied as of late (systematically destroying my life and ruining my career).  Maybe that's a bit dramatic.  Either way, I want you to know that I am now undertaking a process of transforming both my life and my goals.

The first transformation will be with this blog.  I am officially changing the direction.  From now on this blog will be specifically targeted to discussing and sharing things of a science-fiction nature.  I'll be discussing books, movies, and television that are inherently Sci-Fi.  I'll be doing reviews of these things but also talking about them from a writing perspective, hoping to both sharpen my skills and create a large network of interfriends that will help me learn and enjoy this passion along with me.

So what does this mean for my non-science-fictiony friends?  Well, I would hope that you would continue to be my friend despite my focus change.  If you really despise Sci-Fi and want nothing to do with it - I encourage you to friend me on Facebook where I will only discuss things of Sci-Fi periodically.  Most of my space used on that and Twitter will be reserved for discussions of my life and updates on what is going on.  I will warn you though, Twitter will be blasted with re-tweets of Sci-Fi news and updates of the blog.  Facebook is probably your best bet... if you haven't friended me there yet, let's correct that right away.

Thanks for your patience as I learn and adapt and grow with the new direction.  Hopefully in a year or so I will have all the bugs and kinks worked out and we can enjoy the blog daily.  Until that time, please let me know if you have any suggestions or changes that would help in creating a more pleasant reading/viewing experience.

Bless you and all that you do for me.