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. Continue reading

Dead Man’s Letters

dead mans lettersDirector: Konstantin Lopushanky. Starring: Rolan Bykov, Iosif Rykliv, Viktor Mihaylov. USSR, 1986. IMDb: 7.7. My rating: 4/4. Post-apocalyptic portrait of mankind’s last days.

– The whole history of mankind is a history of a slow suicide of a living matter that by sheer accident acquired an ability to think – but that did not know what to do with this fateful ability. It could not find any better use for it than invention of the most effective ways of a total suicide.
(of of the main characters)

Endless piles of rusty metal, interminable yellow twilight, dirty radioactive puddles of mixed water and blood. And dead bodies. Dead bodies everywhere. Children, men, 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.

And imagine shot all of this in a Tarkovsky-like manner – the director Konstantin Lopushansky actually worked as assistant during ”Stalker” filming.

Perestroika was a crucial time for Soviet cinema as well. More and more things became allowed – the censorship started to close eyes on occasional nudity, violence, absurdism – things that were all cut ruthlessly before 1985. ”Dead Man’s Letters” and ”City Zero”, probably best examples of Perestroika cinema in the sci-fi genre, are the result and the reflection of that weird epoch, and it would be difficult to imagine them elsewhere. Continue reading

Mimic

Director: Guillermo del Toro. Starring: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, F. Murray Abraham, Giancarlo Giannini. USA, 1997. Budget: $30 million. IMDb: 5.9. My rating: 3/4. Gothic gloomy tale about giant bugs vs humans with incredible visuals.

– How come you love bugs so much?
– These guys were building castles while dinosaurs were still wimpy little lizards.
(Mira Sorvino’s character about her passion)

mimic

I must confess that I approached “Mimic” with some kind of suspicion. I adore Guillermo del Toro. He is an incredible artist with unique visual style, but being just his second feature film (“Cronos” was the first one and it had good critical success, by the way), I had a doubt that it wasn’t already that Guillermo del Toro we all know and love. It’s also his lowest rated movie on IMDb. Damn, I couldn’t have been more wrong. A thousand apologies. Darkness blended with acid colours, gothic gloom in Victorian style, church-like sewers, unborn creatures, gore and blood. Pure joy for the heart. Continue reading

Triangle

TriangleDirector: Christopher Smith. Starring: Melissa George, Michael Dorman, Rachael Caprani, Henry Nixon, Liam Hemsworth. UK, Australia, 2009. Budget: $ 12 millions. IMDb: 6.9. My rating: 1.5/4. Unscary horror wrapped in a dull time-looped puzzle.

– Well listen we don’t have to go today if you don’t want too.
– No I do… I… I… I wanna go.
– You sure?
– Yea… yea!
– Yea? OK!
 Lets go sailing!
(a typical dialogue)

Most movies about time travel/time loops share one thing in common. No, it’s not what you thought. It’s an immense and inexplicable character obtuseness. I mean, what would a normal person do if he travels in time and meets his friends or even himself? Of course, kill everybody, do odd stuff he wouldn’t normally do, write scary messages to your counterpart and maybe slaughter him as well! Otherwise time travel is not fun, right?

It’s also the first thriller I have ever seen that takes its own plot so carelessly – the poster itself is already a spoiler. Continue reading

Lazer Team


Director
: Matt Hullum. Starring:  Burnie Burns, Gavin Free, Michael Jones, Colton Dunn, Allie DeBerry, Alan Ritchson. USA, 2015. IMDb: 5.7. Budget: $2.4 million. My rating: 3/4. Action sci-fi comedy about four losers saving the world.

– My calculations show that, scientifically, we’re screwed.
(Neil)

– Guys, guys, guys. Help, help. Hagan, I promise I won’t try and bang your daughter.
(Zach)

It’s going to be a tough one. Probably I have never seen a movie that borrows so much elsewhere while still has its own little charm. Bashed by critics and mostly loved by the public, it holds the record as the highest-funded film through Indiegogo. With a decent amount of dick weird humour and tons of pure geeky fun, ”Lazer Team” may not always convert quantity into quality, but it’s itching to start a fight. If you adored stuff like ”Paul” or ”Iron Sky” (and I bet you did…) and are ready to embrace “21 Jump Street”-style humour, here’s a new piece of nerdy sci-fi awesomeness. Add ”Galaxy Quest”, some warm 80-s low budget sci-fi feel and here we are.

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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 is 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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