Tag Archives: sci-fi

Alien (movie review)

ALIEN (1979)

DETAILS:

Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Sigourney WeaverTom SkerrittJohn Hurt
Runtime: 1 hour 56 minutes
Categories: horror, sci-fi, space, action, franchise
Runtime: 
1 hour 52 minutes

Release Date: June 22, 1979

OVERALL: Slower then many think it will be due to the sequel Aliens, but an incredibly rich horror story in space.

STORYLINE

In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate a distress call from an alien vessel. The terror begins when the crew encounters a nest of eggs inside the alien ship. An organism from inside an egg leaps out and attaches itself to one of the crew, causing him to fall into a coma.

REVIEW

I love the entire franchise, but to be honest up until rewatching this movie this summer (2018) this was one of my least favorite installments. However, after watching it as an adult (I had only watched it as a teen, or just post-teen, early twenties) I was always bored with it. I was wrong as I look at it now.

The movie doesn’t waste much time at all on backstory. You are given seven characters that fill specific archtypes. Instead of getting sidetracked Ridley Scott, Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, the creative influences, focus on building a slow ratcheting tension. For the first time I was able to fully gain an understanding of why it was so popular. It was the reason so many other movies have copied it.

The action and suspense are excellently directed and acted. Scott picked the best people I could imagine for each of the roles, and while he may have been unorthodox in his filming (he didn’t tell anyone that John Hurt’s chest was going to explode and an alien come out because he wanted a real response) he was very good at catching those emotions, the ambience. The sets while inexpensive were lit in a way that covers most of the issues.

This was the first time that the movie didn’t seem like it lasted 9 hours long, but that it was over almost too quickly. I can’t recommend it more for people that like a slow boiling horrorfest. I liked it enough I now own it.

 

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The Predator (2018) (movie review)

DETAILS:

Director: Shane Black
Stars: Boyd HolbrookTrevante RhodesJacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn
Runtime: 90 minutes
Categories: sci-fi, action, franchise
Runtime: 
1 hour 47 minutes

Release Date: September 14, 2018

OVERALL: A not horrible, not great sci-fi update of the Predator franchise. It wasn’t something I regret seeing in the theater, but unless you have a close personal relationship with the series, it can wait until netflix/redbox.

STORYLINE

From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home. The universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and an evolutionary biologist can prevent the end of the human race.

REVIEW

First and foremost, Shane Black really messed up by hiring on a convicted sex offender and having them work with the crew. Unacceptable and not at all forgivable. That being said, the movie itself is better than most reviews show, but doesn’t hold a candle to the original, or the 2010 Predators with Adrienne Brody and Walton Goggin.

The story suffers from trying to do too much. Too many storylines, too much detail of the universe, and honestly Shane Black (and the actors/actresses involved) wouldn’t be up to updating the franchise with so much in so little.

I wonder how much of the problems though were Shane Black and how much the studio. I have read that they reshot a ton of film, edited, etc after the studio saw the movie. Maybe the original version would have been worth it.

I do like that it isn’t a reboot, but a continuation. I think the franchise definitely has more life in it, but that is because I love that kind of sci-fi. Unfortunately I don’t think Shane Black should do the next movie.

It was worth the matinee price I paid, and yes I will go see the next Predator movie that comes out. Although that is partially because it is just something I do. I go see all the Aliens, Predators and Friday the 13ths that come out. Blame it on my horrible 80s childhood.

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Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (movie review)

DETAILS:

Director: Lamont Johnson
Stars: Peter Strauss, Molly RingwaldErnie Hudson, Michael Ironside
Runtime: 90 minutes
Categories: retro, sci-fi, post apocalyptic, space western, 3d
Release Date: May 20, 1983

OVERALL: A great retro sci-fi/apocalypse movie to watch! If you can put up with the bad special effects and bad writing.

STORYLINE

A crash-landed salvager (Peter Strauss) meets a waif (Molly Ringwald) and saves women from a cyborg (Michael Ironside) on Terra 11.

REVIEW

As the first review I want to do with movies from earlier in history, I have to say I wasn’t too disappointed.

I do believe I saw it about 30 years ago when I was a teenager, I don’t remember it too well (the hubby had to remind me which movie it was). However I do really think it weathered time pretty well.

Let’s get out of the way the bad acting/sets or especially the special effects. This is the 80s (early 80s even) and it was all about cheap special effects back then. I don’t remember them being this bad, but even back then they weren’t very good.

The actors do fairly well. There are some famous names such as Molly Ringwald as Nicki and Michael Ironside as the bad guy Over Dog. Of course Peter Strauss who is someone I also recognize plays Wolff is the main character, but he doesn’t click with me.

The story itself is a trope. Three ladies are kidnapped and need to be rescued. I was pleasantly surprised it wasn’t more rapey. Don’t get me wrong there are a couple of scenes that are bad, but for the 1980s schlock sci-fi it wasn’t as bad as I expected.

I also really liked the fact that Wolff didn’t fall in love romantically with Nicki, he became more of father figure. It is nice to see stories that don’t deal with romance at all, instead focus on other things… well as much as the bad writing allows.

Bad writing was the other aspect. I enjoyed it even with the writing because I expected it. I believe anyone hoping into this will be turned off if they don’t love horrible 80s movies.

I suspect I will see it again in a couple of years, we actually bought this copy on amazon an when I am sick, or nostalgic, it will be there.

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The Left Hand of Darkness (book review)

The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle #6)The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 9h 39m

Ms. Le Guin is an excellent author, but I just could not get into the book at all.

I suspect it is partially the same reason as Phillip K Dick, it feels very dated. Maybe I would have really liked it back in the 1970s/80s, but for me the luster has left the building.

Part of my issue is that it is another science fiction/fantasy novel that has to create so many new words, new titles and new ways of saying something that could be said in a more common vernacular. I realize she was going for immersion but it didn’t work for me. None of the wording really introduced a new idea or a new meaning so it felt like she was going overboard.

I was also a bit taken back by the gender situation with the alien races. I won’t go into detail but I am transgender myself and so it probably just hit me wrong. Ms. Le Guin isn’t someone I dislike, but it just wasn’t something that felt good or relatable to me.

The other aspect, very much like most 1970s and earlier sci-fi the pacing is incredibly slow, I had a hard time staying interested and while I don’t regret reading it, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who has never read her stuff before.

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Alien: Out of the Shadows (book review)

Alien: Out of the Shadows (Canonical Alien trilogy, #1)Alien: Out of the Shadows by Tim Lebbon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 4h 28m

SLIGHTLY SPOILERY (BUT NOT REALLY)

To be honest I wasn’t so sure about the premise of a book that happens between Alien and Aliens with Ripley. It didn’t seem like it could work.

The thing is, the book is good. I listened to the audio book so I had a fairly close sounding Ripley, and they got Rutger Haur to play Ash and that pretty much sealed it up. I am still not convinced though that they needed Ripley in this book, the author could have still set it up, but not involve Ripley, since in the end it doesn’t effect the rest of the story.

The author has a good sense of timing, the suspense is good and the story gives some additional background on aliens. It also had the action you want in these books, along with a great voice cast to keep you in the groove. Definitely a positive.

However, as a story set in the Alien universe, it is pretty darn good. I enjoyed it a lot and it helped pass the time while I waited in the dentist chair.

Pick it up, but I still think it would have been great without Ripley.

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Alien (book review)

AlienAlien by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 9h 8m

All screenplay adaptions come with one downside, you know the ending if you saw the movie. That being said this is one of the better ones I have ever read.

This isn’t the first time I have read this. Back in the 1980s I remember reading this in my middle school library and it had an impact on what I read. I found I liked sci-fi (prior to this I was mostly a fantasy reader) and I liked my first real taste of horror in a book (I have always liked horror movies).

The book keeps right up with the movie, there is the same tension even after having watched the movie and it keeps you going. The better part though is that Alan Dean Foster is able to dig deeper into the characters and give them more feeling. Even Brett, probably the single least developed character in the movie was a lot more fleshed out.

Of course the majority of the addition to the book is before they landed on the planet with little bits between scenes, but it was enough to build the world up even more.

If you like reading sci-fi and if you like the Alien franchise this is a good, quick read. I plan on reading the rest of the books, including the new books coming out that take place between each of the movies. It is a definite thumbs up!

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All Systems Red (book review)

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)All Systems Red by Martha Wells
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 3h 17m

I read this book as a whim, it was on sale on audible and I figured why not give a try. The good parts were the price, inexpensive, and the length which was under four hours. So it wasn’t a huge commitment.

Shortly after listening to the book I was glad I had picked a short book. “Murderbot” wasn’t really fascinating as a character. The character had a lot of contradictions, and I didn’t like how it interacted with the rest of the crew. Also the character made a lot of decisions out of the blue (especially at the end) that didn’t make sense based on what they were doing before.

For me, the biggest problem is that there wasn’t a lot of human emotion to connect with, and while I get it that was the point, it just wasn’t entertaining.

The weird thing is, by the end of the book I was still interested in the story and really wishing the author had done it differently. The main character was itself still boring, but I was interested in some of the side characters.

It didn’t really do it for me. I wouldn’t call the book good or bad, mostly just filler. I can say that I won’t be following up on the series, and I am not too sure I will follow up on the author.

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Enterprise (tv show)

STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE

DETAILS:

Creator:  Rick BermanBrannon Braga
Stars:  Scott BakulaJohn BillingsleyJolene Blalock
Based on: Original Star Trek TV Series

Original Network: UPN
Original Release: September 26, 2001 – May 13, 2005

Worth it?No, unless you want to go back and realize all the flaws with it.!

STORYLINE

A century before Captain Kirk’s five-year mission, Jonathan Archer captains the United Earth ship Enterprise during the early years of Starfleet, leading up to the Earth-Romulan War and the formation of the Federation.

REVIEW

A very big disappointment, but not for the reasons I had ignored watching it the first time around.

Enterprise has good actors, and the occasional great performance, especially from my favorite, Jeffrey Coombs who played the Andorian Shran with an occasional recurrent role. The sets I thought were great, along with the costuming for everyone except T’Pol (which this comes into the problems I have).

The problem comes down to the writing. It is the laziest, sexist, unimaginative writing that I have seen in the Star Trek universe, overall more so then even the first season of ST:NG. The number of rape/assaults that occurred randomly on the show (mostly using mind-melds as the stand in) were fairly common. They even had T’Pol who seems to be the constant recipient of this do it back to someone else. That bothered me a lot.

Then we get into the sexist treatment of T’Pol in general, constant forcing her into those situations, combined with that stupid body fitting outfit she wore, instead of the normal uniform. The ramrod writing of trying to shoehorn her into scenes such as the decon room where they have her sweating and posing sexually while waiting for the decontamination happens.

I also need to point out that there were very few original ideas in the series as well. Instead of taking this opportunity to maybe do something more gritty (maybe on a Babylon 5 level) they instead reworked a lot of episodes (well sometimes not even reworking) from the original series. They also tended to not tell stories linearly, instead starting from the end and going back which is not their strength (stay in your lane).

In addition there was no actual character progression, any progress in a character that was learned in a story disappeared within two more episodes. Not even counting the fact that the behavior of the characters would sometimes be 180 degrees from what they said in other episodes. I wonder if they even had a plot bible, which is a book or data store that records all the personality traits of each character and things that happen to change them, this way multiple writers have the same base character for each of their stories and it allows them to slowly change a character.

Overall the sad writing is what made this show sink for me. I can’t blame the actors at all, they did what they could. It was a chore to finish Season 4.

Pros: The actors worked hard on this and did make it more watchable (especially Jeffrey Coombs).

Cons: The writing was a mess, no permanent progression, no real original ideas, just rehashing old subjects.

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

The Ones Who Walk Away from OmelasThe Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book Type: Audible Book

It has been a long time since I read anything from Ursula K Le Guin, and I wish I had read this back then, although I may not have fully understood it.

It is a bit dated, not in a bad way, but in what feels a more simplified way things were written back in the 1970s. The overall message though made me uncomfortable when I read it (I won’t give details, I don’t want to spoil it).

I got a lot more out of it though because at the same time I am listing to one of the Great Lectures called the Great Utiopian and Dystopian Works of Literature and the professor covered this story in the first lecture (and honestly thats why I read this story).

I do have to admit though I don’t know if I will seek out re-reading any of Le Guin’s works after this. I fear having the same thing happen with their work that happens with other authors. I find that taken in context in current day the book just doesn’t stand up to what I read/thought back then.

It is only 30 something pages, it is an easy read and I would recommend people read it.

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Helix (tv show)

HELIX

DETAILS:

Creator:  Cameron Porsandeh
Stars: Billy CampbellKyra ZagorskyMark Ghanimé 
Original Network: Syfy
Original Release: January 10, 2014 – April 10, 2015

Worth it?  No, there is no reason to ever watch this, you’re welcome!

STORYLINE

A team of scientists are thrust into a potentially life-or-death situation when they arrive in the Arctic to secretly investigate what could be an outbreak of a strange disease in a secluded international research facility.

REVIEW

Don’t even bother, you have seen this a thousand times.

I wasn’t sure about the tv series. It sat on my Netflix queue for awhile, waiting for me to decide. Finally I pulled the trigger and started watching, and at first I was pleasantly surprised. Sadly, this surprise only lasted two episodes and then it began to bog down.

I wasn’t sure how the pretext of CDC investigating a disease would work or how long the premise would last. I thought maybe it was about a legitimate CDC team and we would see them go to fight Ebola, Bubonic Plague, something man-made. I thought even if they made each season about a specific outbreak I would be good with that as well. So when the first episode revealed zombie like disease I was interested, but more wary.

Sadly, the actual show seems to be about a group of “immortals” (approximately 500) who control a corporation and they want to either control or cleanse the world. Honestly the show never made it clear what exactly the consequences of those 500 immortals was, and by episode 10 I didn’t care to know anymore. This would explain why it only had a two season run. I have seen this in many many incarnations whether it was aliens, vampires, demons, or some super secret cabal of non-humans. Totally not worth it.

The acting was good, I didn’t have a problem with the cast at all. I found some of the characters interesting and if they had kept with the CDC investigating worldwide outbreaks I would have been ok with that, at the very least I would have finished watching both seasons.

Pros: The acting and the characters were interesting.

Cons: The show itself is something we have seen in different incarnations a thousand times already. A small group of aliens/immortals/vampires and those struggling against them to stop their control.

Just move on, don’t do it.

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