Archive for the ‘movie reviews’ Category
Bicentennial Man is a 1999 film directed by Chris Columbus, and stars Robin Williams, Embeth Davitz, Sam Neill, Oliver Platt and Hallie Kate Eisenberg. It’s based on the 1993 novel The Positronic Man by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, which was an extension of Asimov’s 1976 Hugo and Nebula award winning novelette The Bicentennial Man. I’ve read a lot of Asimov (and a middling amount of Silverberg), but I haven’t read either the award winning novelette or the later written novel. So this review will be just of the movie, I can’t even speculate what scenes from the books the screenwriters skipped or expanded upon.
The story opens with an android being delivered to the Martin residence. Through the young daughter’s mispronunciation of the word android, the robot gains the name Andrew. Only Mr. Martin is excited by their new “gizmo”, and after the daughters both try to damage Andrew, the new family rule is that Andrew must be treated with the same respect due any member of the family. Soon the girls start treating him like a visiting cousin: someone who can help them with their homework, but someone they shouldn’t bother unnecessarily. After all, he is a “household robot”, he was purchased to help with housework, clean, garden, and fix things around the house. as the years pass, the youngest daughter, whom Andrew refers to as Little Miss, forms a special bond with him. (And yes, Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics are very quickly presented, but never dwelled on).
Asimov’s guesses about the future were entertaining and fascinating for me. The opening scenes take place in 2014, and commercial androids are commonplace and becoming popular for wealthy families to have at home. But there are no cell phones, no digital cameras, no facebook, no big screen tv’s, no home computers, very little digital technology. Even later in the movie, as the decades pass, flying cars and holograms make an appearance, but no mention of suborbital anything, or smart phones, or genetic modifications, or social media. And as the decades go by, even robots go out of fashion.
Last Saturday we joined another couple to see Interstellar. I’ve made this review as non-spoilery as possible, but quick tl;dr is that I absolutely loved this movie.
Interstellar, Directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Matthew McConaughey, John Lithgow, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine , Davie Gyasi, and Jessica Chastian. Rated PG-13
The premise of Interstellar is that Earth is doomed. A blight is killing the crops, and no matter what you want to be when you grow up, you’re gonna be a farmer, because it is now everyone’s duty to get as much food out of the ground as possible. Cooper, an ex-test pilot, lives with his father-in-law Donald, his son Tom and his daughter Murphy. His daughter is convinced there is a ghost in her bedroom who keeps pushing books off the shelves, and he tries to explain to her that ghosts and poltergeists don’t exist, she’s got to go about understanding what’s in her room in a scientific way.
Cooper still dreams of flying, and his daughter has inherited his love of astronautics and physics. I won’t tell you how, but Cooper and Murphy come to the attention of a government agency who has a Plan A to save humanity, and a Plan B. Plan A involves the cinematographic beauty of the movie: flying a ship through a worm hole and into another galaxy, in the search for another planet for humanity to inhabit. Along with an old army robot, Cooper and a small crew of scientists take a small ship up to a mothballed space station to start their journey. Plan B is the twist, and well, that would be a spoiler. Which is too bad, because it’s the big idea of the whole thing.
Interstellar was a gorgeous movie to watch. The rings of Saturn, black holes up close and personal, a star frozen in an eternal moment of being on the event horizon of a black hole, the vistas of the planets the expedition lands on, all of the visualizations are stunning to behold. And this might be the best visual representation of we’ve ever come up with for what a black hole might look like.
From the drawings we’ve seen in astronomy textbooks, a black hole is a disk that sucks stuff in, looking almost like the drain in your bathtub, right? but as Romilly explains, thats a 2d representation of something that is 3d. Whats a 3d version of a circle? A sphere, of course. So the black holes are spheres, which at first blush, looked to me like a Herbertian no-ships. And just wait until you see the black hole that has a star dying in an endless moment on the event horizon! For more info on that, check out this spoiler free article on how they designed the black holes at Wired.
First things first:
Have you seen the movie yet?
do you plan to?
If your answers were “No”, and “Yes”, do not read this post. It’s cup runneth over with ridiculous quantities of snark and epically major spoilers. I suppose you could scroll all the way to the bottom and just read the last few sentences for the whole point of the post. But even that might spoil the film for you.
Ridley Scott got me a present. Something he’s been working on for a while. Something old skool Alien fans such as myself would certainly be excited about.
By “old skool Alien fans”, I mean those of us who were weaned into science fiction horror by Ellen Ripley and H.R. Giger. A series of films ripe with suspense, movies you only watch in broad daylight with all the lights on. Sure, the plots are simple (another distress call? didn’t this end really badly for the last ship that answered a distress call?), but the people were smart. They talked about what they planned to do, made contingency plans, found appropriate weapons, and they intelligently went about their business. Thanks to spot on direction and creepy sets, the suspension was through the roof. Thanks to well written dialog and plotting, the films were peppered with lighter moments and small talk, quickly giving depth to characters. This was a film franchise that was all about show instead of tell. Remember that scene with Ripley at the very end of Aliens (granted, that was one directed by James Cameron) when she’s in the nest with the queen? Not a word is spoken, and no words are needed.
So, with baited breath, I opened the gift Ridley Scott had made for me.
This is where the spoilers start, btw. You’ve been warned.
Starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Defoe, Sam Neill
No matter how many times vampire stories are done to death, they just won’t die. But at least some of them attempt to be unique.
A few years in the future, a vampire plague ravishes the earth. Other than not being able to go outside during the day, life eventually goes on. Banks and schools and companies still run, lawns still get mowed, curtains are blackout fabric, and the business day runs from sun-down to sun-up. Human-farming has become a big business, as has trying to develop a blood substitute.
Humans quickly become a dying breed, usually captured for farms, or instant use. As the vampires turn more and more humans, their source of sustenance, human blood, is drying up.
Without human blood or a functioning substitute, the vampires will degenerate – pointed ears, lose their hair, they turn into cannibalistic bat-like creatures. That is the point at which humanity is truly lost.