Sunshine

“If this movie was American, it would doubtless be a bunch of American cowboys being sent up with fireworks and catch phrases.”

 

A wonderful review of this hugely underrated movie by Assholes Watching Movies. I can rewatch it endlessly. Like in case of “28 Days Later“, Alex Garland and Danny Boyle’s collaboration brought an incredible result. And why? Because – among all other things – they had a good solid script.

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Alex Garland’s second movie, “Annihilation“, will be out pretty soon. trailer was released recently and it looks absolutely hypnotic.  I really think in 20 years he may become what Villeneuve is now if he continues like that.

The cast is impressive – Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny and Sonoya Mizuno. Really looking forwatd to it.

 

ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

50 years into the future, the sun is a dying star, and Earth will die along with it. We send a ship of astronauts to bomb the sun back into shining but the team goes awol somewhere out in the million miles of space. So we send another one, but this IS IT. Mankind’s last hope. We’ve officially mined all of Earth’s resources for this motherload. No pressure!

sunshine02The new team includes Rose Byrne, Chris Evans, and Cillian Murphy. They’re clearly already under stress when we meet them several years into their trip to the sun, but shit’s about to get a whole lot messier. Just as they’re approaching the most dangerous part of the mission, they receive a signal. It’s a ping from the lost ship. It’s been 7 years since anyone’s heard from them…they can’t still be alive, can they?

The crew debates whether they should divert their…

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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 arrived 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.

 

What I liked. It’s actually easier to describe ”Space Station 76” by saying what it isn’t.

 

It’s not exactly a comedy – at least, not if you understand modern comedy only as ”21 Jump Street” or Seth Rogen-like comedy. It’s more of a Jim Jarmusch vs Wes Anderson on a 70-s space station-like film. Deadpan humour. You never know when the characters are actually joking – well, probably except for the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot, the true gem of the film.

 

It’s not really a science fiction, or, at least, not in first place – the film mostly mocks its retrofuturistic sci-fi setting and ridiculous 70-s costumes, but in a nice and elegant way. It’s not a pure parody – the film really cares about its characters, never using them just as subjects of ridicule. It’s not an art-house movie – the film is not that experimental and distant from the viewers. Last but not least, it has R rating and uses it smartly – no dick jokes, but deadpan humour. The scene with the frozen dog was just nuts.

 

Combination of all this makes ”Space Station 76” pretty unique – and as it often happens with movies of  this kind, the audience hardly got it. ”I wanted to explore what it was like to be a child growing up in the summer of the 70s, which was my experience, but I wanted to tell it in sort of an artistic way by setting it in the future as we had imagined it would be in the 70s”, said Jack Plotnick in an interview.

 

There’s a weird funny episode when Liv Tyler’s character, Jessica (who just arrived at the space station) and Matt Bomer’s character, Ted (who has been living there for a while with a psychotic wife) are trying to approach each other and having a meaningful intimate conversation. Ted has an artificial arm that sometimes goes out of control. When Jessica, following her romantic impulse, puts Ted’s arm on her heart, the hand goes rogue and starts to squeeze Jessica’s left tit. All of this showed with in a deadpan manner, finishing with Jessica finally saying ”I think I should go now”.. If you like that kind of humour, you’ll find ”Space Station 76” brilliant.

 

Visually it’s a beautiful film. You may accuse it of anything but the style. It really squeezes most of its tiny budget, citing 70-s science fiction classic like Logan’s Run and Star Wars. And Dr. Bot, oh! That’s the quintessence of artificial intellect and a good parody. It reminded me of another oddball movie ”Dark Star”, the episode when Sgt. Pinback was trying to convince the Bomb N. 20 not to explode.

– I need to tell you I have just been feeling… so much better since we started treatment. I mean, like, even just my dreams  have just been better. You know, like, I haven’t been having all those feelings… and I’m just really feeling in the now.
-Feelings can sometimes pull one out of the now and put them in the then. Live in the now, not in the then.
– I don’t wanna be in the then. I wanna be in the now.
– Talking about the now can put one in the then.
– I don’t want to be in the then, I want to be in the now. I wanna move forward…
– Don’t move too far forward, you’ll be out of the now. Not too far forward.  Stay in the now.

(Misty visits the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot)

 

– What are you thinking in the midst of this silence?
– Actually, I was thinking about smoking.
– Cigarettes contain carcinogens which may cause cancer in carbon-based life forms.
– Right.
– You are a carbon-based life form… therefore, cigarettes may cause cancer inside you.
– Thank you.
– You’re welcome.

(The captain visits the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot)

 

What I didn’t like. Space Station 76” is at times uneven, especially in the first part. The photography, the acting, the music – all is well-crafted and you feel the movie was made as a passion project, but it’s the screenplay that occasionally sags, running out of fuel – maybe because it was written by 5 different people? Some scenes intended as funny left me perplexed. Some felt really unnecessary. Some plot lines got lost in the middle and didn’t get the development. A more carefully crafted screenplay would really help the film. It’s especially seen in the first half of the film, with the second being more juicy and concentrated.

All the actors created memorable and bright characters – maybe, even too much, as at times they seemed little bit too monotone in their role, like playing the same note over and over. Of course, it was intended as a part of the movie’s style, but a little more versatility wouldn’t harm the film. Liv Tyler (superhero satire “Super“, sci-fi “Robot & Frank“, “Armageddon“) was a nice exception to that, as her character was actually alive, with doubts and flexibility. It was great to see Patrick Wilson (Nite Owl in “Watchmen“, “The Conjuring”) who added a weird touch to the film with his pseudo-sexist obsessions.

The production. The project was originated by Jack Plotnick at his house while experimenting with his friends and favourite actors. This is his debut film, but Plotnick is by no means a newbie – he is in first place an actor with 20+ years of experience (”Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, ”Drawn Together”, ”Wrong”).

Worth watching? Decide by yourself. ”Space Station 76” is an interesting project, but definitely not for everyone. If you like weird and touching humour of ”Super”, ”The Lobster” or ”Defendor” combined with a retrofuturistic sci-fi look on the 70-s, definitely yes. I started to watch it with bias but learnt to appreciate it more and. Visually stylish and delicate, ”Space Station 76” still leaves weirdly good aftertaste, even far from being perfect. It’s an odd little movie that is trying to find its own tone.

2.5/4
Watch also: if you want too see a weird sci-fi comedy, have a look at “American Astronaut“, “Dark Star” or “Kin-Dza-Dza“.

Mars Explorers Wanted

Saw a graffiti when coming back home…

…and it reminded me of NASA posters I saw recently. They were originally developed for an exhibition at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in 2009:

NASA is currently planning to send humans to low-Mars orbit in the early 2030s (remember the probe that crashed there 1 year ago?). Here you can read more about journey to Mars overview.

And this gorgeous shot is not from the next “Alien” installment – it was taken on the Mars surface during the spring in the Northern hemisphere (May 21, 2017) by the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Over the winter, snow and ice have inexorably covered the dunes. Unlike on Earth, this snow and ice is carbon dioxide, better known to us as dry ice.

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A Trip to Mars (Himmelskibet) / posters

soviet-movie-poster-trip-to-mars-1925

This is not a Soviet film as you might have thought, but a Soviet poster for “A Trip to Mars” (“Himmelskibet“), a silent 1918 Danish film, one of the earliest productions in space travel sub-genre of science fiction. It’s interesting to note that Denmark didn’t make another science fiction film until the 60-s.

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This original poster was cool, but not as the Soviet one.

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Pay attention to the writings.

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I won’t review it since this oldie is mostly interesting for cultural reasons and cinephiles (I’ve already covered “Aelita“, a silent Soviet movie about, guess what, also a trip to Mars! It seems like people really preferred Mars to the Moon), but moviessilently.com did a terrific film analysis, here are some highlights:

  • “The spaceship is called the Excelsior but it looks more like a fat little airplane.”
  • “It seems that Mars was once warlike but then some guy showed up and said, “Hey, what if we make love and not war!”
  • “The performances are very… European, especially among the human characters. There was a tendency in European silent cinema to treat film acting as a series of poses, which leads to a choppy set of movements as the performers check items off the list. “Let’s see, I need to be excited then determined then indignant…”
  • “The first key problem with the film is that modern science fiction fans have seen this scenario before but always with a twist.”

Silent Running / posters

silent-running-by-olly-moss

Some of you may rightfully wonder why the name of Mark Kemrode, the film critic, is floating on the poster. The answer is simple – he likes to float, too this is a cover of his book, “Silent Running“. He often said that the film is one of his all-time personal favourites, citing his preference for it over “sterile and emotionless” “2001: A Space Odyssey“.

Now I start to doubt even more in the sanity of top-notch movie critics as calling “Silent Running” the best sci-fi film is just insane – for a serious cinema critic, not fanboy like me. But that does not make the book cover any less beautiful. It was designed by Olly Moss and he did a bunch of awesome movie posters, including very original “Star Wars” posters (and it must be very difficult to make an original SW poster!). Amazing work.

…and just for the record, the other most recent time I ranted about insane movie critics was when ebert.com rated “Alien: Covenant” 4/4.

Here is another poster oldschool poster.

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And a wonderful photo from the shooting.

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I reviewed the film before, so check here my GIFs about the film and the amazing special effects of the flight through the Saturn rings here. That was something incredible.

Plus, here’s some interesting info about “Silent Running” that I didn’t cover in my review. “After the success of Easy Rider (1969), directed by Dennis Hopper, Universal Studios hit upon the idea to let young filmmakers make “semi-independent” films for low budgets in hopes of generating similar profits. The idea was to make five of these movies each for $1 million dollars or less, not interfere in the filmmaking process, and give the directors final cut, a level of control seldom allotted to even the most successful directors. The movies produced were The Hired Hand (1971) directed by Peter Fonda, The Last Movie (1971) by Dennis Hopper, Taking Off (1971) by Milos Forman, American Graffiti (1973) by a young and impressionable George Lucas, and lastly Silent Running. Released in 1972 (5 years prior to the release of the first Star Wars film), Silent Running is an environmentally themed American sci-fi film written, produced, and directed by the legendary filmmaker and visual effects pioneer, Douglas Trumbull.” Thanks to Supercult Show blog that did a very comprehensive write-up about the film.

Now… Suntory time, as Bill-motherfucking-ghostbuster-Murray once said.

032 Silent Running - Silent But Deadly Poster

What makes science fiction so great? The answer is not so evident as you might think.

I am pretty terrified as today I came across probably the best science fiction genre descriptions ever.

“Science Fiction is a genre where the component parts are often more interesting than the whole. My blog is a prime example of this – I often post images from movies which aren’t really ‘great’ but the stylings and aesthetics often are – case in point here with the USS Cygnus from the Disney movie The Black Hole.” (Simotron)

black-hole-cygnus-crop

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“I’ve re-watched the movie a few times and yeah, it’s not great but there are a lot of great things about it. The soundtrack by John Barry (of James Bond fame) is excellent, epic and ominous – check out the theme here and a personal fave ‘Durant is Dead‘ – the moment in the film where it gets really dark and urgent.

The effects – while often pretty shonky have some real stand-out elements – the backdrops star-fields are often a luminous dark blue, more like the depths of the ocean than the standard cover-up-the-wires black and the main ship – the USS Cygnus is pretty much unique in science-fiction in it’s design – like a flat, Gothic oil-rig – or sometimes described as a Cathedral.

It’s completely different from the flat-grey, battleship-style popularised by Star Wars (those built from Airfix kits) – it’s as if the ship doesn’t have a ‘surface’ at all and before it lights-up (from within) it’s completely black. If you check out the Japanese sci-fi art below you can also see that some attempt was made to reconcile the interior and exterior structure of the ship which is pretty rare. Looking at that diagram of the layout and knowing the film you can see that the crew’s movement around the ship actually makes sense.”

Simotron

black hole cygnus crop

Science-Fiction is a genre where the component parts are often more interesting than the whole. My blog is a prime example of this – I often post images from movies which aren’t really ‘great’ but the stylings and aesthetics often are – case in point here with the USS Cygnus from the Disney movie The Black Hole.

I’ve re-watched the movie a few times and yeah, it’s not great but there are a lot of great things about it. The soundtrack by John Barry (of James Bond fame) is excellent, epic and ominous – check out the theme here and a personal fave ‘Durant is Dead‘ – the moment in the film where it gets really dark and urgent.

The effects – while often pretty shonky have some real stand-out elements – the backdrops star-fields are often a luminous dark blue, more like the depths of the ocean…

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The Black Hole / posters

BlackHoleLores

Very sweet retrofuturistic poster.

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The original 1979 poster.

The Black Hole” was the the first Disney movie with a PG rating. “At $20 million, plus another $6 million for the advertising budget, it was at the time the most expensive picture ever produced by Disney. The movie earned nearly $36 million at the North American box office, making it the 21st highest-grossing film of 1979″, says Wiki.

Screenshot_20171001-142431

Another original 1979 poster.

I really loved this comment to the post by Wolfman which just says it all: “One of my favs as a kid and still love it with a passion. The effects and print still hold up today. I watched it on blu-ray a few years back. Has to be one of Disney’s darkest movies, well that and The Hunchback of Notre Dame!! “Hellfire” jeepers. Two of the best robots too. Who couldn’t love Roddy Mcdowall voicing VINCENT and Slim Pickins playing the broken southern BOB. Incidentally I’m posting a mix later of a robot music mix i’ve done featuring those two and few other robotic friends from film.”

Top 10 Soviet Science Fiction Movies

Here is my Top 10 Soviet sci-fi movies with a dozen of modern trailers I made specially for it while studying some video editing.

†1924-1988 selection.

Beautiful new ambient, shoegaze, dreampop, synthpop and techno soundtracks included.

 

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1. ”Stalker”, 1979.

A cerebral timeless masterpiece by Andrei Tarkovsky, probably the most renowned and influential Soviet/Russian director. Loosely based on a story by important Soviet science fiction writers Strugatsky brothers (and seen by many as a prophecy for several upcoming catastrophes including Chernobyl), “Stalker” could be interpreted as a philosophical tale about destiny and choices. But there’s much more that that. It’s simply one of the most important cinema achievements ever, let alone science fiction. The story follows three men as they penetrate deeper into into a mysterious area called “The Zone”, each of them for a different purpose. A thinking sci-fi geek’s must-see. This movie is like a Universe, there are always new layers to discover. Read more here and here.

Music by Bowery Electric.

2. ”City Zero”, 1988.

Theatre of the absurd, a mysterious tragicomedy, a dark metaphor. The late 80-s, without doubt, were the most prolific period for the underground culture in Soviet Union, especially rock music but also cinema. ”City Zero” is the finest dark offspring of that epoch. The film is normally classified as sci-fi/mystery – but if you analyze every single scene separately, there’s nothing completely impossible. It’s the sum of all parts that is greater than the whole… The famous headcake scene actually happened once in Russia. But looking at the whole story makes you feel like slowly drowning in the swamp… It’s kind of ”Donnie Darko” goes on ”Mulholland Drive” in ”The Twilight Zone” atmosphere. My full review here. Watch online here.

Music by Auktyon (Аукцыон).

3. ”Dead Man’s Letters”, 1986.

Directed by K. Lopushansky, surely the most faithful of all Tarkovsky’s followers (he worked as assistant on ”Stalker” set), this film is a heavy and realistic portrayal of the end of the world. Endless piles of rusty metal, interminable yellow twilight, dirty radioactive puddles of mixed water and blood. And dead bodies. Dead bodies everywhere. Men, children, women. Everywhere. There is no hope here. It’s finished. There is no ”if”. The doomsday clock has moved. We are just witnessing the final decay of small group of survivors that will last several months, probably. There is not even a single hint about their survival. It’s a death rattle. Just a matter of time. My full review here. Watch online here.

Music by Ital Tek.

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Alien / goofs

I’ve always considered this film to be a perfect one (and still think so), just these 2 shots bother me each time I see them… The doll of Ash on the left should have been done way more carefully.