Amid all the flash, explosions and huge special effects of the Science Fiction films coming out this year, there are a couple that look to embrace the more somber aspects of the genre. ARRIVAL seems to be one of those films, and it snuck up on me out of nowhere. Not to be confused with The Arrival, the 1996 Charlie Sheen film with those backward legged aliens. No, this year’s Arrival starring Amy Adams, Forest Whitaker and Jeremy Renner feels like it will be a thought provoking film, as perceived by the trailer. November is looking good for film. Check it:
Here’s a new show coming this fall that’s caught my attention. Just from looking at the trailer I get the feeling that this will be along the lines of Sense8, but will work better in some areas. Also, I’m feeling the cast. David Ajala, Will Yun Lee and Lizzie Brochere play characters that are dreaming a shared dream. They each have concerns for their loved ones and are looking for answers. But there is an even bigger picture to this mystery that they are not aware of. Watch the trailer and see if this is something you might be interested in also. Coming this fall on USA network – Thursday, Oct. 13th at 10PM EST.
Thanks to Pokémon GO, augmented reality (AR) has been on our minds quite a bit. By merging the virtual world with the actual world on a grand scale so quickly, many outrageous Pokémon GO stories sound like urban legends …did you hear the one about these GO players who found (fill in your favorite Law & Order subplot here). And with the release of “Nerve“–a movie about young people playing an online game of truth or dare that has them doing anything to break the internet (and each other)–the theme of technology as both terribly addicting and simply terrifying persists.
Several movies have played on that constant tension in our relationship with technology: as much as we are compelled by the promise of technology for humanity, we are often as repelled by the perils of what technology could change about our humanity.
This movie was social commentary on top of social commentary (compliments to Rod Serling!). Filmed roughly five years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the shadow of the Cold War loomed large along with concern for harnessing nuclear power responsibly, as evidenced by Charlton Heston’s anguished cry during the movie’s iconic ending, “You finally did it!”
Combine the audacity of HAL 9000 with the military hookup of Skynet, and you have Colossus. Starring Eric Braeden (best known as soap opera bae Victor Newman on “The Young and The Restless”), this movie is the classic story of A.I. Knows Best for Humans (Whether Humans Like it Or Not).
Ok, the virtual reality special effects in the movie don’t quite hold up today–but this ’90s kid appreciated the sci-fi/horror take on “Flowers for Algernon.” If anything, the take home message of this movie is beware of geeks bearing oculus rifts!
This cyberpunk actioner starred a pre-“Neo” Keanu Reeves as a data courier with some very valuable information in his head. Set in the year 2021, most of the world’s population suffered from NAS, or “nerve attenuation syndrome”, a debilitating illness brought about by humanity’s heavy reliance on technology.
A #SaturdayNightSciFi fave of mine–this film is highly underrated. Taking on racism, politics, complex relationships and cybernetic voyeurism–“Strange Days” is that rare blend of scifi noir. What makes me love this film even more is knowing this production had strong women at the helm in front of and behind the camera: “Strange Days” was directed by Jane Campion, and starred Angela Bassett and Juliette Lewis.
The first trailer was good. Then I watched it in 3-D and all the special effects popped out; I knew I had to see this in IMAX. Then the second trailer came out for SDCC and it just reinforced my 3-D plans for the film. This looks like a supernatural INCEPTION movie on drugs. Mikkelsen is going to shine as a villain. Still not too happy with Swinton playing a 500 year old Tibetan man, though I love Tilda in everything she has done. Either way, in November I will be sitting and waiting for that Marvel intro.
When most people think of John Carpenter, the focus often shifts to his work as a director. After all, Carpenter has made a career of filming distinctive thrillers, killers, and chillers. [For the public record, this blogger’s John Carpenter Top 5: “They Live”, “Starman”, “Big Trouble in Little China”, “Escape from LA”, and “Halloween”].
Seeing Carpenter backed by a full band on a stage surrounded by screens at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC, I was treated to something special: a chance to fully appreciate Carpenter in his dual roles as moviemaker and musician. John Carpenter: Live Retrospective was an audio-fueled journey through film as well as an intimate introduction to Carpenter’s most recent albums “Lost Themes” and “Lost Themes II.”
A Feast of Feels and Chills
When Carpenter opened with the main theme from “Escape from New York”–the crowd cheered as the iconic title sequence came into view. Scenes from the movie flashed before our eyes like memories. Indeed, one of the fun aspects of seeing Carpenter perform was the challenge of focus. I had to tell myself: “OK, I’ve seen this film before. Eyes on him.” How often do I see John Carpenter at work rocking out on the synthesizer?! Admittedly there were a few songs I had to go into listen-only mode because the images were still too spine-tingling for me after all these years (namely, “Prince of Darkness” “The Thing”, “The Fog” and “In the Mouth of Madness,” in case you are wondering).
Variations on a Theme
After getting the crowd hyped with some familiar compositions, Carpenter then transitioned into his new music–but not before stating in earnest “Hello, DC. What’s up? I’m John Carpenter.”
Carpenter’s first new track of the night was “Vortex” from Lost Themes–a sultry rock number performed with spine-tingling precision, heightening your anticipation for the doom that looms in so many of Carpenter’s films.
Listening to the new music for the first time made realize how much Carpenter’s scores had such a western feel. The storytelling in Carpenter’s films, whether horror or scifi, come down to being stories about people facing adversaries and surviving their harsh realities–it doesn’t get much western than that! In “Distant Dream” from Lost Themes II, I found myself bopping to the unknown with a foreboding backbeat.
Oldies but Groovy
I loved the pacing of the show–it was a nice balance of classics and new music. About six songs in, Carpenter and his band (which featured son Cody Carpenter, also on synthesizer) put on black shades and you knew it was “They Live” time! All of a sudden the theater transformed into this Barbara Kruger-esque art installation as the words “OBEY” “REPRODUCE” and “CONSUME” flashed on the screen in black and white alongside scenes from the movie. It was great to hear the crowd cheer loudly with the late Roddy Piper the onscreen. Released in 1988, “They Live” reigns as Carpenter’s most relevant and most woke film for the times in which we find ourselves.
About five songs from “They Live”, Carpenter took a moment to talk to the crowd “I love horror movies. Horror movies will live forever.” Then that familiar piano tapping started….Yes, this is “Halloween” aka #AwwYeah time! At this moment my eyes were fixed on Carpenter–his movements were effortless–he didn’t need to look at the screen–he was Halloween! My “Halloween” gush quickly gave way to goosebumps as Carpenter scored up some scares for the remainder of the set.
When Carpenter was about to cue the last song, he looked into the crowd with fatherly concern and said, “Please drive carefully going home…” I quickly thought to myself-Wow, John Carpenter is so sweet. With mischief in his voice, he added “Christine is out there!” Oh, John Carpenter is so subversive! The crowd went wild as scenes of the Plymouth Fury on the rampage flickered before our eyes–reminding me that “Christine” was truly a collaborative effort by two of my favorite masters of horror.
Post-show crowd at The Lincoln Theatre, DC
At the end of the show, I found myself surrounded by other Carpenter fans–many wearing OBEY shirts–just marveling at what we had witnessed. Putting on my shades, I left the theater grateful for the concert adrenaline and the pep in my step–if there is anything you learn from a Carpenter movie, you never know what’s really behind you!
The tide is high but I’m holdin’ on / I’m gonna be your number one / I’m not the kind-a girl who gives up just like that, oh no
-Opening Lyrics to “The Tide is High”, Blondie (1980)
In “The Shallows,” Blake Lively takes to the screen as Nancy, a down and out med student in need of some beach R&R in Mexico. But just when she thought it was safe to go into the water, her island paradise turns to an aquatic hell with a shark set on seeing her blood in the water. While this (wo)man vs. nature theme treads familiar territory, “The Shallows” still manages to keep you holding your breath in suspense as Lively struggles to keep her analytical head above water and strokes ahead of the killer shark. **3.25 Cosmic Afros**
The start of “The Shallows” begins as you would expect–in “all fun and games” mode, taking its time to set up a trouble-free paradise. We find blonde and blithe Nancy chatting with Carlos, a local with a heart of gold, as he drives her to a secluded beach. (Carlos is played earnestly by Spanish actor Óscar Jaenada–if you want to see what he can really do with more screen time, check him out alongside Marcia Gay Harden in 2015’s indie “After Words“). Director Jaume Collet-Serra (who, by the way, has directed Liam Neeson in 3 films) gives requisite beach aerials and surfing close-ups. Collet-Serra makes some interesting technical choices that work well (kudos for integrating FaceTime in a way that seemed natural–after all, our phones are as much a part of the narratives of our lives as the people in them) and some that don’t quite hit the mark (lingering shots and cutaways of Lively on the beach skew voyeuristic than wistful). But once the first shark chomp happens, the action flows more than it ebbs. I actually found myself cheering for the shark and Nancy simultaneously–the more the shark did its worst, the more I was looking forward to Nancy strategizing at her best.
“The Shallows” hits that summer popcorn movie sweet spot for me: thrills, chills, and an element of surprise in just under 90 minutes. And what was that surprise, you ask? An ornithic co-star named Sully “Steven” Seagull. Yes, a seagull! Let’s face it: since Tom Hanks starred alongside Wilson in 2000’s “Cast Away”, the bar was set high for “best companion of a marooned lead” (and set high by a volleyball, no less). As soon as Sully the Seagull came into the frame–I knew he was beyond your basic bird. Kudos to animal trainers Katie Brock-Medland and John Medland for their work with Sully in perfecting that wingman chemistry. He’s a natural and I hope his movie career takes flight in a big way!
“The Shallows” actress Blake Lively on the set with her wingman co-star Sully “Steven” Seagull.
I have to admit, I really didn’t follow much of the press around the release of “The Shallows.” Actually it wasn’t on my radar until my fellow GSBpodcast co-host MDawg mentioned it in our movie trailer talk segment a few shows ago. Like many moviegoers, I expected this box office weekend would be dominated by “Independence Day: Resurgence” buzz, whether or not it lived up to expectations. I also remember not being particularly impressed by the first “Shallows” trailer I viewed.
It wasn’t until I saw a second trailer where Lively was timing her swim escape like an augmented reality math word problem, that “The Shallows” hooked my interest. There are not enough actioners out there showing women who can–as Matt Damon said with gusto in 2015’s “The Martian”–science the sh*tout of their situation. [Dear Readers, try this exercise at home: Create a Top 10 survival movie list of films featuring a female lead going against the odds using her scientific or tech savvy “The Martian”-style. Oh, and you can only use onemovie from the “Alien” franchise. If that list was too easy create, try creating another Top 10 with women of color in the leading role. Ready? OK? GO!]
Nancy is certainly no Ripley–her brief characterizations only touch the potential of how a female lead in this type of action movie can be portrayed, particularly given the film’s buoyant denouement. But given the “surprisingly strong” opening box office of “The Shallows”, bubbling to the surface again is the question if Hollywood will be intentional in supporting more action films featuring female leads with depth of character, and be, you know, less shallow? The tide is nigh!
Joseph Mallozzi – his standard pose for listening to writers pitch ideas.
In this episode we talk to Joseph Mallozzi, one of the creators and Showrunner of the hit Syfy TV series Dark Matter, and writer / Exec. Producer of Stargate SG1, Atlantis and Stargate Universe. We talked about his work on season 1 of Dark Matter and how he came up with the story, characters, and his process. He also dropped some advice for new writers and how starting in animation might be the way to go. With his stories and views as an accomplished writer of science fiction TV, plus his 3000 DVD Anime collection, Joe was an excellent guest. Enjoy.
Here are some questions we asked Mr. Mallozzi:
Was Stargate your Muse?
Where would you have taken Stargate Universe?
Did the Dark Matter comic come first?
How did you meet your writing partner Paul Mullie?
You seem to gravitate towards ensemble casts, is it the more the better?
You can also listen to Joe’s interview and all of the other Geek Soul Brother and the Nerdy Venoms podcast episodes in iTunes and Stitcher.
In this special episode (GSBPodcast Ep.282) Geek Soul Brother had the honor of talking with Natalie Chaidez – the Showrunner for the new series on the Syfy network – Hunters. We talked about the diversity of the show, how Natalie got into the business, and time travel shows. Natalie’s career includes – 12 Monkeys, V (2010), Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles and Heroes. We even talked about a cool detective show from back in the day with a young urban vibe – New York Undercover.
Here are some questions I asked Ms. Chaidez
What drew you to the project of Hunters?
What has been the best aspect of joining the SciFi network?
The story has unfolded beautifully with each episode. Does it reveal itself in the book in the same way?
I’m looking forward to having Natalie Chaidez on the podcast again, if nothing else just to talk about more science fiction we love. We had a great time. You can also find the podcast in iTunes and Stitcher.
When I first heard that HBO was doing a series version remake of Westworld I was excited. Not only because it’s up there with my other favorite classic science fictions, but the network should be able to do the 1973 film justice and take the Micheal Crichton story to a new level.
Suddenly androids are the new black. AMC Humans, Syfy’s Dark Matter, a slew of films the past few years have been supplying us with human looking machines of every type. But from this trailer, we seem to be in for the kind of android we haven’t seen on TV since Lore from Star Trek: TNG. I guess we will have to wait until this fall to draw both guns and a processor and tune to see the android apocalypse start.
I went to the theater with low expectations because of early reviews. Still, I reserved my judgement because I just can’t get into premature Nerd Hate. Okay, let me start with the good stuff first because word on the streets is this latest film is trash.
Oscar Isaac did a decent job as Apocalypse, but with some good writing, he could have brought it to another level. Fassbender kills once again in his more personal scenes. And the one and only part I was looking forward to was seeing Quicksilver do his thing again, and I was not disappointed in the least. Now for the bad stuff, and there was plenty. Maybe not enough to rate the film less than 5 out of 10 like Tomato critics are giving it, but enough to make me rant for a bit. The story was too elementary and the writing could have been much better. I have to ask a question – Why would you let the writer of the most hated X-Men film ever even touch the script of Apocalypse? Kinberg wrote Last Stand and his X-Men days should have been over after that. The second thing to mention was the special effects. Some were good, like Arch Angel’s wings or Quicksilver saving people, but other effects were atrocious. I know this story was set in the 80s, but that didn’t mean they had to make the green screen effects look like they were from the 80s too.
Many of you blerds out there wanted to know if Storm was decent. Yes, and no. Ororo, the pickpocketing girl in
Cairo was decent. Shipp played the young rainmaker with a mischievousness from Storm’s early days in the
comics. But once she became the Storm that we know, the acting was dialed down to smirky grins and a whole lot of hand waving to make lightning bolts. The same happened to Olivia Munn as Psylocke. I don’t think she had 3 sentences to say in the whole film. And that was the problem, no one in the film stood out and made you connect with them except Evan Peters as Quicksilver. and maybe Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) because he got some laughs. And then there was Apocalypse himself.
This was not the Apocalypse I knew from the comics. No transforming hands into weapons. No growing huge, though they did throw in a cheat scene. This was just another example of a superhero franchise featuring a villain that they didn’t do justice to. Truthfully, Apocalypse was just a fashion and hairstylist student trapped in a bad guy’s 5000 year old body. If you see the film, you will know what I mean. I don’t want to complain about the one other thing that didn’t work because I would be spoiling it. Let’s just say they needed to wait and let the story and new characters build in the franchise before revealing this and that. But even with all those bad aspects to the film,
I still think non-nerd critics are giving it too low a score. Geek Soul Brother gives X-MEN: APOCALYPSE 3..25 OUT OF 5 COSMIC AFROS.