A. I.

The Machine

f04c6c2af663d16125acc53ff0ea71e9.jpgDirector: James W. Caradog. Starring: Caity Lotz, Toby Stephens, Denis Lawson, Pooneh Hajimohammadi, Sam Hazeldine. UK, 2013. Budget: $1 million. IMDb: 6.1. My rating: 3.5/4. Noir cyberpunk tale about the border between humans and A. I.

– How do I know that you’re alive and not just a clever imitation of life?
(one of the main scientists)

”The Machine” beats the recent ”Ghost in the Shell” adaptation with an incredible ease. If it were done in the 80-s, it would have been a cult movie. But it’s a 2013 directional debut by the Welsh director James W. Caradog, so let’s just be humble and categorize it as… almost excellent.  (more…)

Space Station 76

space_station76Director: Jack Plotnick. Starring: Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson, Marisa Coughlan, Matt Bomer. USA, 2014. IMDb: 4.9. Budget: roughly 1 million. My rating: 2.5/4. Retrofuturistic black parody, Jim Jarmusch vs Wes Anderson on a 70-s space station.

– Warning. Dr. Bot must remind Misty not to become… too close to her therapist bot.
– I’ve gotta be close to somebody.
– We must keep this professional.
– Don’t be so cold.
– I must maintain objectivity.
– But I feel like…  I just feel like you and I have really been going through it here, you know? I feel like I have really been connecting with you. You know me.
– Emotion overload.

(Misty visits the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot)

– I’m a leg man, you know?

(a discussion between 2 guys about newly arrive female crew member)

Can you imagine the future with corded telephones and colonies on orbital space stations, VHS cassettes and interstellar travel? If you can’t, Jack Plotnick did it for you. ”Space Station 76” is a 1970-s version of the future that never came.

And “Space Station 76” has one of the best A.I. ever. Seriously.

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Dark Star

dark_star_ver2Director: John Carpenter. Screenplay/story: Dan O’Bannon, John Carpenter. Starring: Dan O’Bannon, Brian Narelle, Dre Pahich, Cal Kuniholm. USA, 1974. Budget: $60,000. IMDb: 6.7. My rating: 3.5/4. Odd science fiction space comedy.

– Now, Bomb, consider this next question very carefully… What is your purpose in life?
– To explode, of course.
– And you can do it only once, right?
(Doolitle convinces the bomb not to explode)

– All right, Bomb… prepare to receive new orders.
– You are false data. Therefore, I should ignore you.
(Doolitle convinces the bomb not to explode)

I must confess – I have never really liked John Carpenter. And I barely enjoy horror movies (with some notable exceptions like “The Shining”). I watched “Halloween” recently and enjoyed it at times, but if we forget for a moment its heritage, I find this cult slasher pretty mediocre. While admitting Carpenter’s immense influence, I’ve always seen most of his films made with little creativity, without that special sparkle that would lighten up everything. He is too technical in his approach, like an artisan, not an artist, who is methodically repeating similar feel and techniques in different movies. Note: I didn’t watch “Halloween”, “Escape from New York” or “The Thing” when they were released – movies that I don’t find bad, but just… pretty average in everything and with superficial characters? I’ve always felt Carpenter cares most about showing what happens to his characters, but not really the characters themselves.

But “Dark Star”, Carpenter’s and O’Bannon debut movie, made me change my mind about him. This little space comedy is like a fireworks show that you setup by yourself on a New Year’s Eve in the backyard. It’s an extravagant parody on space movies and “2001: A Space Odyssey” in particular. Fresh, well-crafted, wry and weirdly funny. (more…)

Why being honest about AI stifles good storytelling?

Jake Orthwein of Film School Rejects really nailed it. A very good article that explores the topic without bias, usual stereotypes and scientific snobbery. I was thinking somewhat similar while covering this wonderful Polish/Soviet 1978 sci-fi film about androids – ”Inquest of Pilot Pirx”, but I couldn’t have said it any better.

https://filmschoolrejects.com/ai-and-good-storytelling-68328953e0d5

Inquest of Pilot Pirx

PirxDirector: Marek Piestrak. Starring: Sergei Desnitsky, Alexander Kaidanovsky, Vladimir Ivashov, Zbigniew Lesien, Boleslaw Abart. Poland, USSR, 1978. IMDb: 6.6. My rating 3.5/4. Android and space travel science fiction thriller.

– Brown, do you believe in God?
– It’s not part of my duties.
(a dialogue between Pirx and a crew member)

– Your world is horribly empty for me, your ideals laughable and your democracy iis just a reign of schemers chosen by fools.
(one of the main characters)

“Inquest of Pilot Pirx” is one of those good old sci-fi movies I miss sometimes so desperately. Unhurried, detailed, with a smart plot and good acting, the film takes its time to prepare you for everything and develops slowly, but somewhere in the middle you suddenly realize that it’s grasping you right by the throat. Based on a series of short stories by Stanislav Lem, “Pirx” a solid psychological sci-fi thriller about human-like androids and space travel, that with years gained somewhat of a cult following, especially in Poland and ex-USSR countries. It didn’t have a lot of realistic CGI for what was largely criticized, but surprisingly it aged well – what did not seem realistic turned out to be very cool from a graphical point of view.

The style and overall feel of “Pirx” is something like “Blade Runner” vs. “Alien”… but the movie was actually made few years before them. Among all the cool stuff about androids and increasing levels of suspense, “Pirx” featured first-person view 6 years before “The Terminator” and here it’s not just some pure entertaining element, but an organic part of the plot. Good old science fiction, dammit.

”Pirx” also caused a chain reaction in my mind about several important topics:
– Why there has been no progress in A. I. development since the 50-s and do we really need it – in its classic sci-fi understanding? (short answer would be ‘no’)
– Why pre-CGI or early CGI specials effects were often more awesome than the photorealistic CGI we have nowadays?

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Metropolis

1927-Metropolis-2Director: Fritz Lang. Starring: Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich, Rudolf Klein-Rogge. Germany, 1927. IMDB: 8.3. My rating: 4/4. “The mediator between head ad hands must be the heart”.

– Who is the living food for the machines? Who lubricates the machine joints with their own blood? Who feeds the machines with their own flesh? Let the machines starve, you fools! Let them die! Kill them – the machines!
(The Machine Man, disguised as Maria)

The grandaddy of all science fiction cinema. First ever blockbuster. The above quote is not from some 90-s cyberpunk movies, it is ”Metropolis”. But the dark and haunting creation of Fritz Lang is not only interesting due to its age, cult status or influence. It’s simply a breathtaking movie to watch, regardless of its heritage. Even 90 years since its first release.

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Morgan

Director: Luke Scott. Starring: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy,morgan Rose Leslie, Michale Yare, Toby Jones. USA, 2016. IMDB: 5.8. My rating: 1/4. Sci-fi thriller about androids and stuff.

– Do you know the cruelest thing you can do to someone you’ve locked in a room? Press their face to the window.
(one of the scientists)

20170415_080345”Morgan” will surely provide you with some powerful insight about which tales Ridley Scott told his kids before sleep. It is another take on androids in the recent wake of independent A.I. science fiction and a debut feature of Luke Scott, whose father directed several movies we all adore. But “Morgan” is too immature to tell a complex story and the movie admits this quickly by itself, as it quickly abandons any attempts of being smart and tries to compensate it with some action. Not really good action. (more…)

Planet Of Storms

Director: Pavel Klushantsev. Starring: Vladimir Emelyanov, Geogri Zhzhyonov, Gennadi Vernov, John the Robot. USSR, 1962. IMDB: 6.5. My rating: 3/4. A naive space travel adventure.

– The world government will rule the world according to the laws of mathematics.planetofstorms
(a cosmonaut gone crazy)

– According to quotes from the Smith corporation, the cost of building a highway to the Sirius is 37 million dollars.
(John the Robot)

– Where are your masters?
– Slavery is forbidden by the Constitution, I am a free thinking machine.

(a dialogue between John the Robot and a cosmonaut)

– Inform us on the position of your co-travellers.
– Position horizontal.
(a dialogue between John the Robot and a cosmonaut)

There are several scenes in “Planet of Storms”, for which you can forgive it everything. 20170324_060800 (more…)

Screamers

Director: Christian Duguay. Starring: Peter Weller, Jennifer Rubin, Roy Dupuis, Andrew Lauer. Canada, USA, 1994. IMDB: 6.4. My rating: 3.5/4.screamersposter

– Well, you’re coming up in the world – you’ve learned how to kill
each other.
(Colonel Hendricksson about two screamers fighting each other)

– Jefferson, you must be confusing me with someone who gives a shit.
(Colonel Hendricksson)

For a horror story set on a faraway planet, where almost nothing alive is left and killer robots keep on furrowing the ground in search of a new prey, “Screamers” is a very sentimental movie. Under a bloody and violent disguise one can easily feel that it’s also a story about alienation and loneliness. Then mix enough dark humour, abandoned wastelands on a faraway planet, robots with human-like disguise and extreme cynicism. Yes, it’s a B-movie – and it’s exactly that type of B-movie that we sometimes need so much.

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Uncanny

uncannyDirector: Matthew Leutwyler. With: Mark Webber, Lucy Griffiths, David Clayton Rogers. USA, 2015. IMDB: 6.3. My rating: 1/4. Guess-if-it-is-a-robot-or-not science fiction.

– Your lack of focus on what’s important means you miss the big picture. And that made you lose the game.
(David Kressen)

This movie belongs to the great category called “one more movie”. What is it, you will ask me? Oh, one more movie where we have to guess:
a) if it is human or robot/android/vampire/monster/somebody else
b) who exactly is the robot and who is the human
c) after the final plot twist – oh this beloved trick, the final plot twist! – guess again who is the robot.

So… A scientist (Mark Webber) created a human-like robot (David Clayton Rogers) with perfect AI. As the scientist falls in love with the journalist (Lucy Griffiths) that visits his laboratory, the behaviour of the robot becomes stranger.

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