Category Archives: science fiction

Pandorum – Christian Alvard (2009)

Here we have a well-written scifi horror.

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

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

THX 1138 – Georges Lucas (1971)

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

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

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

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

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

Ghost In The Shell – Rupert Sanders (2017)

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

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

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

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

Cypher – Vincenzo Natali (2002)

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

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

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

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

Frequency – Gregory Hoblit (2000)

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

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

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

Retrogade * Christopher Kulikowski (2004)

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

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

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

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

Deja Vu – Tony Scott (2006)

It probably sounded like a good idea for a story. A special investigation team found a way to look 4,5 days back in time, so they can retrace people’s steps solving crimes. Things get highly unlikely when the hardware proves to be able to see everything in that past, even within apartments. If that is not enough, the package comes with a time traveling machine.

A ferry is blown up killing hundreds of people. ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) proves to have a keen eye and his is recruited for the special team by Agent Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer). Soon the investigation focuses on a young lady who proved to have died before the ferry was blown up.

I found the unlikeliness of the hardware too annoying to ‘get into’ the film. Fortunately the acting makes up a bit, but when things take ‘unexpected’ courses, my annoyance level rises again and the end is even more incredible.

The film is alright with regards to filming, action and acting, but more thought had to be given to the central theme of the film.

Deathlands * Joshua Butler (2003)

Everything about this film looks considerably older than its actual age. I was under the impression that “Deathlands” came from the time of “Mad Max“, but the first “Mad Max” is 24 years older!

As you may now expect, “Deathlands” is a gloomy, apocalyptic film playing in a bleak future. After a massive war, nothing much is left of the world and we follow a group consisting of men, a mutant and a half-mutant (it is not really explained to what the mutants mutated) on ‘adventure’.

The first half of the film has a very good atmosphere, but in the second half the very thin story begins to show a bit too clearly and this is certainly the weaker half. There is quite some blood and brutality and action, but do not expect a whole lot of script.

“Deathlands” is enjoyable, but not much more than that.

Timecop: The Berlin Connection * Steve Boyum (2003)

Not even released in the year in which the original film played, another director comes with a follow-up of the film that was released almost a decade earlier. Safe from being based on the same comic, “Timecop 2” has little to do with the original.

Of course the story is similar. A special team has the task to prevent people from going back in history and change the present/future. The title refers to difficulties of being in a position to change the past and to decide to not do it. That very moment is the start for the whole film in which two time-travelers fight each other through time.

The whole notion of (not) changing the past, traveling back and forth, etc. has been worked out into further extremes than the original film, a bit too much so here and there. “The Berlin Connection” makes an alright scifi action with recognisable elements from its predecessor (most notably: martial arts), but it is a wholly different film with (like I said) a different director, different actors, etc.

The film is not really a masterpiece, but the 4.9 on IMDb sounds a bit low (it is about my own rating too though). Then again, part 1 also only gets a 5.8. Not that that is a masterpiece, but that is more of a classic than the follow-up will be (my guess).

Timecop * Peter Hyams (1994)

I do not remember having seen, or even heard of, this film before. Perhaps this is because scifi not really was my genre in these days. Now I ran into the film second hand and I got curious if this would a 1980’ies scifi action spectacle.

The film is not as old as I thought, but still old enough to look old-fashioned. It has elements of the films of these days such as the obligatory sex scene and of course the clothing looks wonderfully like that of these days. What is also funny that the director looked 10 years ahead and set his film in 2004 with cranky-looking self-driving cars, but also voice-activated television.

Jean Claude van Damme plays the pretty boy Walker, a martial arts policeman, who is recruited for a new force that can travel back in time to prevent the bad guys from changing history in their course. This results in a amusing film that does not really try to thrive on special effects that nowadays would look dated, but rather a well thought-through story that unfolds nicely. Not even is everything chewed out so that the viewer does not have to think for himself, some clues you actually have to figure out for yourself.

Of course the film looks somewhat dated, but not so much, and it is good enough, that you should not (re)watch it as a classic of decades hence.

Star Trek: Beyond * Justin Lin (2016)

It is starting to seem as if I like sci-fi, while in fact I am just curious to see what they would make of a contemporary Star Trek film. Like with the last Star Wars this Star Trek is “based on characters created by…”. It has little to do with what I remember of Star Trek.

We have Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, but are they supposed to be children of the original characters? In a too rapid ‘intro’ we learn about the spaceship Enterprice and the world the crew lives in. The ship is sent on a rescue mission and they end up fighting a dark enemy in an unknown area of “the nebula”.

The film has humor that does not really work (in the beginning almost on ‘screwball’ level), drama that does not really work and mostly seems to want to impress as a space spectacle with star wars, but… it does not really work.

What remains is a weak film with a few elements that you may know from the old films.

Star Wars: Rogue One * Gareth Edwards (2016)

“Based on characters created by Georges Lucas”. That about sums it up. Actually, there are not that many Lucas characters in “Rogue One”, some Troopers and Vader, but the film is entirely wrapped around new characters (to me at least). Just like with the previous Star Wars film, the story is very thin, just an excuse for sci-fi action almost.

In an almost 007-like manner we have a good man who apparently ran bad, leaving behind a daughter who gets caught up by the resistance. The bad guys create a weapon to destroy their enemies and the good guys come to blow it up.

Even though the film is 135 minutes and there is not much of a story, that story is not even ‘wrapped up’, so I guess there will be a “Rogue Two” within a couple of years.

I saw the film in iMax 3D. That sometimes looked nice, but mostly did not add much. Also I wonder why after so many years of 3D, it still does not look better as it does.

“Rogue One” is an entertaining sci-fi spectacle, good enough to watch some time, but there is no need to rush.

10 Cloverfield Lane * Dan Trachtenberg (2016)

When fleeing her boyfriend, Michelle is involved in a car accident after which she wakes up in a bunker run by Howard (John Goodman).

Trachtenberg managed fairly well to have an evolving story that both surprises and lives up to expectations. What is more, as crazy as Howard seems, as crazy the film gets. It is better to not know too much of the story before you watch this film.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” is not a terribly good film, but it is entertaining and fairly original.

Hardcore Henry * Ilya Naishuller (2015)

Wooha, cult! “Hardcore Henry” is a very fast, very violent and very original film. It is a bit of a B-film, in style anyway, with a corny story and corny dialogues, all only to be able to make bloody scenes and grim humour. The film looks like a first person shooting game, shot through the eyes of Henry. Fun to see, but I find these constantly moving cameras somewhat sickeningly.

Henry wakes up in some dystopian, futuristic Russia. He proves to be some half man / half robot fighter not knowing who his allies are (if he has any). He is tossed between his ‘wife’ and some hippy resistance group, constantly getting assignments to fight somebody. The childish bad guy keeps popping up with his robot army allowing the director to make a load of chasing and (huge) fighting scenes.

“Hardcore Henry” is a bloody violent adrenaline rush with fast music. A highly amusing full-length debut of Naishuller.

Ex Machina * Alex Garland (2015)

And again a philosophical scifi. The genre seems to be booming.

Caleb is a promising programmer at a Google-like company. He is selected for a special experiment at the house of his boss, Nathan. Nathan lives in a remote forest in an extremely futuristic house where he is working on AI (artificial intelligence) robots. It is Caleb’s task to interact with the robot (Ava) and when he gets the idea that he interacts with a human, the AI has passed the test.

Ava proves to be a manipulative robot who sets out to seduce Caleb. Of course Nathan follows the two’s every move. The film is very slow and somewhat meditative, but inspite of throwing up some questions about what consciousness is, it is not convincing. Some of the obligatory surprises are visible a mile away and especially when the director felt the need to explain a bit more towards the end, things become a bit flimsy. The end contains a major flaw in the story as well.

“Ex Machina” is not a boring film and it is also nicely shot, but there are better films in the hip genre of philosophical scifi.