December 31, 2016
Best Movies of 2016
Looking back at the movies in 2016. There were a few diamonds in the rough.
2016 was a worse that usual year for super hero films. The two from DC Comics and Warner brothers are miserable. The two from Marvel/Disney were about average. Fox, who opened the door to this genre with the original X–Men film, brought us one better than average and one excellent super hero film.
- Rogue One – some of the reviews for this film were surprisingly lukewarm or critical of the film. This seems pretty surprisingly unfair considering it really is a stellar entry into the Star Wars franchise.
- Midnight Special – this one is tied for first place. This was a very interesting story that contained a lot of elements of the supernatural movies I loved as a kid.
- Captain Fantastic – this might be the best movie I watched this year. Matt Ross, the actor who plays Gavin Belson in Silicon Valley, has written and directed a hilarious story about a family integrating with society after living in isolation. It's a beautifully filmed story of interesting people, with a powerful message about what really matters in life.
- 10 Cloverfield Lane – I was a fan of the original Cloverfield so I was pretty shocked to hear that a sequel was in the works. This turned out to be even better than the first film, and far more frighting and intriguing.
- Deadpool – I was completely shocked by how great was Deadpool. I went to see it with low expectations and what I watched was much better than I would have expected. Deadpool takes a lot of chances and it payed off very well. First of all, the movie is rated R, which is a big deal for a genre of films usually targeted to kids. Deadpool is most certainly not. It's very adult themed although filled with pretty juvenile humor. It works really well. You don't have to take anything too seriously because the main character and the movie itself takes nothing seriously.
- Ghostbusters – the newest Ghostbusters film was pretty good but not great. But even accomplishing that is a pretty awesome achievement especially considering the huge expectations that were placed on this film. I think it could have worked a lot better as a sequel to the original films rather than a stand–alone reboot of the franchise. Really, a few tweaks of the script and it could have followed the events established in the original.
- MCU films – Marvel/Disney brought us two pretty average entries to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Captain America Cival War, and Dr. Strange. These films were alright, but it seems that Marvel/Disney are playing it safe. The ending to Dr Strange was pretty great though. It will be intersting to see how that character interacts with the greater MCU.
- Passengers – Passengers felt like an episode of Sex in the City set in a space mall. On paper the film looked perfect: a great cast and an interesting idea. And the cast was great with perfect chemistry, it's just he story had no plot. It was almost so bad it crossed into the so–bad–its–good territory. It almost felt like it was a joke. I kept thinking: They couldn’t possibly expect us to take this seriously right? The occasional falling roomba helped to lend credibility to the idea that the movie was a prank.
- Batman vs. Superman – everyone should have known this would be a bad movie. And it lived up to those terrible expectations. It was even worse than expected. I didn't bother to see Seaside Squad after the reviews came in, and knowing it was following the footsteps of this behemoth disaster.
December 25, 2016
Sci-Fi Films in 2017
2017 should be a fantastic year for sci-fi films! It's almost amazing to think about what's in store! We have 3 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films, the final Wolverine film staring Hugh Jackman, a live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell, Star Wars Episode 8, Alien Covenant (another prequel to Alien/sequel to Prometheus), the story that inspired The Fifth Element, an adaptation of The Dark Tower … and most importantly … the long-awaited sequel to Blade Runner!!
As for Sci-fi shows there some strong ones there as well: the book Altered Carbon is coming to Netflix, which will also bring us three updates to the MCU (with: Iron Fist, The Defenders and The Punisher – a spin-off of Daredevil season 2).
Here are some trailers:
Blade Runner 2049
To say this is the film I'm most looking forward to would be an understatement. The original Blade Runner is my all time favorite sci-fi film. It is a masterpiece of cinema, and although it's getting some age on it, it visually still holds up with today's cinema, even as films made much later are looking far more dated by contrast. The original Blade Runner is a visual splendor. From the trailer it looks like this sequel will carry on that tradition. I have confidence that with Scott producing and Denis Villeneuve directing (who also directed this year's Arrival) this will be a great film.
The sequel to Prometheus prequel to Alien should hopefully answer some questions as to how the events in Prometheus lead to the events in Alien.
Valérian and the City of 1000 Planets
This might be the best science fiction film of the year. It's from Luc Besson and it's based on the French comic-book story that inspired elements of his The Fifth Element (such as the flying taxi-cabs and so on).
The Dark Tower – if you're a fan of Stephen King's work and you've read the Dark Tower series then you know that all of his creations are tied to this story. It has been hinted at in the past that there could someday be a cinematic adaptation. For instance, in the opening scenes of The Myst, the protagonist is painting a movie poster that is clearly inspired by Roland of the Gunslinger. A trailer hopefully coming soon...
Ghost in the Shell
It seems a bit odd to cast a character who is a Japanese android as a caucasian, but other than that it looks like a nearly shot for shot recreation of the original Anime. BTW, the protagonist of the original Ghost in the Shell is considered to be the inspiration of the character Trinity in the Matrix trilogy.
Logan – The trailer begins with the Johnny Cash song Hurt. I think that speaks a lot to what sort of movie this will me. The final performance of Hugh Jackman as Wolverion/Logan should be a real trip. Watch the trailer.
Six new entries into the MCU:
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Watch the trailer.
Spiderman: Homecoming – Watch the trailer.
Thor Ragnarok – We don't yet have an actual trailer for Thor Ragnarok, but we do have this.
Iron Fist – Watch the trailer.
The Defenders – Watch the trailer.
The Punisher – No trailer yet, but you can re-watch a trailer for Daredevil season 2 for the origins of this character in the MCU.
Star Wars Episode 8.
We don't know the subtitle yet for the next, so a trailer might be a while off.
December 15, 2016
2016 In Science Fiction
It's been a pretty good year for science fiction. There were several great new tv shows and movies. And I read a couple of great books that all though were written before this year, were new to me this year and as such I'm mentioning them here.
Tomorrow might be the most anticipated day of the year for science fiction fans with the release of the next Star Wars film, Rogue One – the first in the Anthology spin-off series of Star Wars films. I would probably see it even if there were no connection to the Star Wars universe. But it has an interesting connection: it's the story of how the rebel forces acquired the plans of the Death Star, the events that led up to the original Star Wars film, A New Hope. There is more freedom with these Anthology Star Wars films than the main series. So filmmakers have more room explore other interesting possibilities. The next Anthology film will focus on how Han Solo and Chewbacca met, and has
Arrival: It's nice to see a science fiction film with a strong female lead. The films takes a familiar sci-fi trope of aliens invading our world, to introduce an interesting idea about the way humans communicate and how that affects our experience of our world. It's also been a good year for Forest Witaker in science fictions films, having supporting roles in Arrival and Rogue One.
Midnight Special: Midnight Special features some great acting and an unusual and intriguing story – it reminded me of classics from my childhood such as Firestarter, DARYL and Cloak and Dagger: all stories where a kid with special powers is sought after by the government and/or other groups with malicious agendas. The storytelling/cinematography is great, right from the opening scene with the father and son, and the father's loyal friend fleeing into the night. Midnight Special was the most interesting of the science fiction films I saw this year.
10 Cloverfield Lane: This was a really surprise for fans of the original who probably wrote off the idea of a Cloverfield sequel ever coming to life. Although to be fair this is not truly a sequel, but rather another story set in that same world. The Cloverfield brand is meant to be an anthology series. That said, I think this was actually a much more interesting story than the original Cloverfield, and a lot more scary, in a psychological sense.
Ex Machina is another great film that I saw this year. It came out last year but I missed it in theaters so I had to wait until it made it's way to streaming on Amazon Prime. If you're coming down from Westworld and in need of another instersting story about AI, then definitly give Ex Machina a chance.
2016 TV Shows
Westworld: I would recommend Westworld to anyone who likes sci-fi, especially if you enjoy the sub-genres of western-science-fiction or weird-west, and especially if you like the complex riddles often found in the projects of JJ Abrams (ie LOST).
Stranger Things: Of all the shows and films I watched this year, Stranger Things was my favorite, and really special. It tapped into the same sort of magic that Super 8 was going for (another great creation) and it really felt like being transported to the world of my childhood, with all that same excitement and adventure. I truly loved the show and can't wait for season 2.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
If you're a sci-fi fan then you have likely heard of Ready Player One. It's very enjoyable especially if you have nostalgia for the great works of science fiction from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. It has references from everything War Games to Voltron to Blade Runner. And not just references; virtual reality plays a central role in the events of the story, and as such those classic sci-fi works before integral elements of the story. It's almost a remake of every great sci-fi all crammed into one story. with this book and the reading by Will Wheaton is perfect. Stephen Spielberg is working on bringing this to the big screen. I hope he takes advantage of the emerging world of Virtual Reality since that is such an important part of the story.
Leviathan Wakes by James S A Corey
Leviathan Wakes is your classic hard boiled film noire combined with an epic space opera. It's very well written and the narrative style bouncing back and forth between the two primary characters makes it hard to put the story down.