the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘movies

As always, my “best of the year” is the best stuff I consumed this year.  It may not have been created this year, but I read it or watched it this year.

My favorite novels that I read in 2018

Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee

The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

The Scar (reread) by China Mieville

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

Nova by Samuel Delany

 

 

My favorite short stories, novellas, and novelettes that I read in 2018. Huh. I read a lot of short stuff in 2018!  and a lot of really good short stuff!

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Acadie by Dave Hutchinson

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

The Inconvenient God by Francesca Forrest

Time Was by Ian McDonald

“Monologue by an unnamed mage, recorded at the brink of the end” by Cassandra Khaw, Uncanny Magazine

“On the Day You Spend Forever with Your Dog”, by Adam Shannon, Apex Magazine

 

 

My favorite science fiction movies of 2018

Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman

Bird Box (on Netflix), starring Sandra Bullock

(honorable mention to Arrival and Interstellar, because I watched them both about 20 times while we had Amazon Prime in 2018)

 

As 2018 wraps up,  2019 is already looking to be amazing.  Because, this.

Finally!  I’m writing a spoiler-free post!    There might be some easter eggs in this post, but no spoilers.   that means you can’t put spoilers in the comments either.

 

We went and saw the Annihilation movie last weekend.  I knew it was going to be different from the book (and oh boy was it different), and I was nervous the screenwriter was gonna screw it up and that I’d hate it.

Good news!  I freakin’ loved it!

 

And now for a spoiler free discussion about some huge that is way different in the movie than in the book.  I am of course, talking about the ending. You know, that big climactic scene with the big climactic music where the biologist finally reaches the geographic goal of the expedition and gets some exposure to what the hell is actually going on.

 

This climactic scene is drastically different than anything that happens in the book, and there are two items in the scene that sort of take the place of other things that happen much earlier in the book.

 

Anyway.

 

The big climactic scene with the big climactic music?

 

I fucking loved it.

 

It was surreal, it was shocking, it was mindblowing, it was beautifully done, it was violent but somehow peaceful it was claustrophobically overwhelming it didn’t require or ask for my understanding.

 

ok, but why did I respond so positively to that scene?   I can’t get it out of my head, I really had this very strong reaction to it, like there was this weird magnetic pull, like I was staring into a black hole or a supernova. It felt like the first time I saw the Milky Way, that i had to grab onto something because I was afraid i was going to fall off of the Earth and if I did it would be ok because I’d be falling towards that.

 

I’ve been thinking about it, trying to figure out why that scene worked so well for me.

 

After thinking about it for a few days, I finally figured it out.

 

The big climactic scene has hardly any dialog.  It’s all non-verbal communication and physical movement, with moments that border on interpretive modern dance.  it was all motion and sound, no words to muddy anything.   I was drawn to that scene for the same reason I loved the first episodes of Samurai Jack: minimal dialog.

 

And I guess I often find words needlessly distracting, they box me in, I have to figure out what the inflection and context mean.  don’t get me wrong, i love words, i love books, i love reading. But spoken word sometimes doesn’t work for me (or it works too well – I get all distracted by the pitch of the person’s voice and the shape of the syllables). With minimal dialog in that climactic scene, I was finally able to focus on the bigness of what was happening.  I could focus on it on my own terms, with my own interpretation.

 

in my opinion, the lack of dialog was a brilliant choice.  Your mileage may vary.

 

Have you seen Annihilation?  did you like it?  If you didn’t read the book, and went and saw the movie, did it make any sense to you?   Even though it was very different from the book, I feel like the movie was a stack of easter eggs for fans of the book.

 

no spoilers in the comments, please.

Instead of bitching for 1200 words about how unwatchably terrible Valerian And the City of a Thousand Planets was (and I wanted to like it! I tried SO HARD to like it!) I will instead point you in the direction of this love letter to Luc Besson’s masterpiece The Fifth Element.

(click the link, not the picture)

I was finishing high school when this movie came out, and I’ll admit, I was just a smidgen obsessed with it.  I still remember the vague promos that came out months ahead of this movie. They didn’t say anything about what the movie was about, or who was it in.  Yes, I was a very impressionable teen, but wow those promos made an impression on me! I had no idea what this movie was going to be about, but I knew I had to see it.

 

When the movie finally came out, I’d never seen anything like it, I didn’t know movies like this could exist. I had no idea if I was watching a movie, or a music video, or both at the same time.   Great art direction, fun set design, fun soundtrack, great aliens,  snarky script, and it is even more over the top than Baz Lurhmann’s Moulin Rouge.

 

If you can believe it, there are people who have never seen The Fifth Element!  What would you tell someone who has never seen this movie to get them to see it? How would you convince them that this 20 year old scifi flick is worth their time?

 

Also?  LeelooDallasMulitpass!

 

 

Up In The Air and The Devil Wears Prada are basically the same movie, and they aren’t what you think they’re about.

 

I adore Anna Kendrick, and I’ve seen Up in the Air about 10 times. I laugh at all the travel scenes, because I’ve been there done that (and the St Louis airport has some surprisingly nice restaurants). Up In the Air is a good, but not great movie. And with The Devil Wears Prada who can say no to an all-star cast of Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, and Emily Blunt? So these are obviously two really fun movies for me. These two movies are supposed to coming of age stories about young women who chase a dream career and blah blah blah . . .

 

Coming of age story? Yeah, well, they aren’t about that at all.  Imma gonna spoil the plots for you, okay? Both movies have nearly identical plots, that among other things, are pretty predictable. So I don’t feel like I’m actually spoiling anything important here.

 

up-in-the-air-girl

Anna Kendrick in Up In The Air

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Today’s guest post is from Lesley Conner. Lesley is one of my go-to people when I have a crazy idea at 4am and need someone to tell me that yes, the idea is crazy, but let’s do it anyway.  Everyone should have a Lesley in their life.

 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers, on Page and Film

a guest post by Lesley Conner

bio pic Lesley ConnerLesley Conner is a writer, social media editor and marketing leader for Apex Publications, and Managing Editor for Apex Magazine. She spends her days pestering book reviewers, proofreading, wrangling the slush pile, doling out contracts, and chatting about books, writing, and anything else that crosses her mind on the @ApexBookCompany Twitter account. Most of her nights are spent with a good book and a glass of wine. She recently sold her alternative history horror novel, The Weight of Chains, to Sinister Grin Press. It’s slated to be released in early 2015. To find out all her secrets, you can find her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers has become an iconic cultural reference over the years. If things feel off, if people seem to be acting a little strange, whispers of how it must be the pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers fly. I smile and bob my head like I know exactly what people mean, and go on with my day. And the thing is, I do know what they mean…. vaguely. In the hazy vision of a giant seed pod popping open and a perfectly formed, adult body emerging to take the place of my friends and neighbors kind of way.

Until recently I hadn’t read Invasion of the Body Snatchers or seen any of three movies that the 1955 novel inspired. I knew the basic premise of the story – we all do – an alien species is taking over Earth by replacing all of the humans with exact replicas grown in giant pods. But beyond that… shrug, I didn’t know.

bodysnatchers book cover

So when the chance came up to do another vintage sci-fi post for Andrea, I decided it was time to find out more, reading both the novel and watching the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers so that I could compare and contrast the book to the film. (Why did I pick the 1978 film? Besides the fact that Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, and Jeff Goldblum were in it? It was available through Netflix streaming. I searched and pushed play. Easy peasy.)
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Bicentennial_man_film_poster

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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.

 

200px-The_bicentennial_manThe 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).

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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.

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The story follows three generations of an African American family in Florida over the course of about 30 thirty years. While I was very satisfied with the complexity of the characterizations and the historically accurate details put into the narrative, the story itself seemed oddly lacking in speculative elements.

 

Starting in 1937, we  meet Mayola, who at fifteen is interested in attending Texas A&M, she reads all summer and saves her nickels so she can reach her dream.  She gets a job as a maid at an all white resort at Wakulla Springs.  It pays so well, she’ll have her college funding in no time. The springs are natural, obviously, but since it’s private property, only white people are allowed to swim there. They are filming a Tarzan movie, and Mayola inadvertently spies on the movie folks while sitting at her favorite shady lunch spot. she knows all about Tarzan, she’s already read all the books. The star, Johnny Weissmuller, had been an olympic swimmer. This acting crap pays the bills, but he’d rather be swimming. On a moonlit night, Mayola and Johnny go swimming together. She’s terrified of losing her job, he’s desperate to go swimming with someone who can keep up with him. He doesn’t care that she’s a stranger, or a girl, or an employee of the hotel, or black. He’s only interested that she’s interested in swimming.

 

The next section follows Mayola’s teen aged son, Levi. It’s 1953. Mayola never made it to college, she’s still working at the hotel and trying to keep her son interested in his studies, so he can go to college. Another movie crew is at Wakulla Springs, this time filming The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Levi soon befriends the actor who plays the creature, Ricou Browning, who is more than a little impressed with Levi’s ability to swim underwater for minutes at a time.  Levi becomes Ricou’s apprentice, of sorts. It’s better than sitting at home listening to Mayola go on about her boyfriend, Jimmy Lee, who has just returned from Korea.

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Two little Star Trek gems entered my life recently:

SAM_3422

The comic book, circa 1986, is a quick and funny little story, about how Kirk and crew outsmart a group of aliens who invade the Enterprise. In command of the Excelsior, Kirk teaches Saavik a little something about humor and hunches, and we get to meet Lt. Naraht the Horta. Comics is the perfect medium for this kind of story, as it’s too light and fluffy  to survive being a filmed tv episode.  Not exactly canon, DC did this series of comics in the mid 80’s, to follow the crew of the Enterprise after Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  But I coulda told you that just by looking at the cover art and flipping through the comic book.

One of the many things I enjoy about the lifespan of Star Trek is what I like to call art-direction-dating. Similar to  carbon dating, the use of Star Trek art-direction-dating allows a fan to date an image, screen shot, film credits intro and uniform by the style of title font, and by Kirk’s hairstyle.

But mostly by Kirk’s hairstyle.

See how his hairstyle goes from late 60’s blonde-ish straight-ish hair with a side part, to 80’s more brown than blonde and curly on top, and then to a 90’s whatever moptop/toupee thing.

See what I mean? can totally date everything by the hair.

See what I mean? can totally date everything by the hair.

Piece of pie to date the comic to mid 80s.

moving on . . . to the second Star Trek goodie.

SAM_3428 Read the rest of this entry »

There’s a new trailer out for Star Trek Into Darkness.  It’s a pretty fucking epic trailer.

go watch it over at Wired.

Looks awesome, yeah?  i want to stand up and applaud after watching that.

but do these J.J. Abrams movies feel like Star Trek?

And does it matter?  Does Star Trek have, for lack of a better term, umami, that is or should be present in the J.J. Abrams films? and if yes, what is that particular flavor?

discuss.

 

I’ll go first. You know how a lot of people were annoyed with the X-Men prequel that came out a couple years ago? Long time fans said it didn’t jive with the cannon story line and ret-conned a bunch of stuff. my only experience with X-Men is the movies, so if characters and plotlines were changed from the comics I had no way of knowing.  The way Abrams is handling Star Trek makes me really sympathize with those X-Men fans.

It’s Ok.  I saw the movie first too.

How many times have you said:

That movie was awesome! what? you say there’s a book? Dude, I can’t wait to read it!

So many times have I seen a movie, loved it to pieces, learned there was a book, loved *that* to pieces,  and went on to have a simply lovely time.  This has been going on my entire life. I give movies and TV all the credit for getting me into science fiction. A child of the 80s, I knew who Han Solo was before I knew who Isaac Asimov was,  I thought Carl Sagan was just that guy who did the cool outer space PBS show, I knew David Lynch had something to do with this weird epic scifi movie that made no sense but looked and sounded really neat, and I stayed up late to watch reruns of Star Trek (back then it was just Star Trek).

The best thing about seeing the movie first? Since you don’t know what you’re missing, you’re probably not going to walk out of the theater saying “that movie sucked”.  Well, maybe you will, but it won’t be because they didn’t follow the book.

Here’s just a few recent examples of movies that got me to finally pick up the book:

Howl's.Moving.Castle.full.151358

Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones’s famous children’s book gets the Miyazaki treatment. I admit it, I’m shallow.  A few minutes into the movie I was madly in love with Howl’s voice. An hour and a half later I was in love with the entire movie Sure, Miyazaki played fast and loose with the characters and put his own spin on the ending and on Howl’s “secret”, but it’s such a pretty movie, and certainly one of my favorites from Studio Ghibli.  After watching the movie a few times, I read the book, and greatly enjoyed it.

john carter of mars

Disney’s John Carter of Mars/A Princess of Mars – panned by critics, I actually really liked this movie. It was well paced, the CGI martians were cool, I liked the premise, I liked the opening. Other than a plot that didn’t make much sense, it was a fun adventure movie. (also, I’m shallow. I have no idea what color his eyes were. My attention was umm, elsewhere.) I downloaded an audio version of A Princess of Mars, and it’s awesome! I don’t agree with all the changes they made when adapting the book to a screenplay, I do understand them. Had I seen this movie after experiencing the book, I probably would have panned it too.

lord of the rings movie poster

Lord of the Rings trilogy – yes, I suck, I’d never read these until about a year ago. But I liked the movies! Nice visuals, great music, excellent cinematography, great acting, what wasn’t to like? After ten years of my other half (who loves The Lord of the Rings almost as much as he loves me) nagging me to read them, and me giving him lame excuse after lame excuse, it was my enjoyment of the films that finally got me to read the books. Doing it as part of a read along with some other bloggers didn’t hurt either.

hunger games

The Hunger Games – that was one damn good movie. my family loved the book and have been bugging me to read it for a while. I will. . .  eventually. It’s going to get me addicted to this super trendy YA post apocalyptic stuff, isn’t it?

Dune 1984

Dune (1984) – yes, that one, and you had to know this was coming, and okay, this isn’t so recent.  I was ten or eleven years old the first time I saw this on T.V., and it was love at first sight. Mind you, I had absolutely no idea what was going on, or why it was important, but I was fascinated by the imagery and the epic music.  I read the book as a teenager, and took my first step in a life long love affair with science fiction. And yes, the book is a zillion times better than the movie. But I had to start somewhere, didn’t I?

now it’s your turn.  What movies or tv shows got YOU to finally pick up the book?


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.