Category Archives: Science Fiction

Approaching the Unknown (2016)

Previously Ad Inexplorata “Toward the Unexplored

Director: Mark Elijah Rosenberg
Starring: Mark Strong, Sanaa Latham, Luke Wilson, Charles Baker .UK. 1h 30m

A deeply philosophical sci fi drama that borders the aesthetics of lo fi and challenges a lot of immortal questions about mankind exploring anything about the world around them as well as the wells of unknowns from within.

There’s a ton of highly sophisticated looking tech and a groundbreaking invention at the centre of this one way trip into the void. But Director Mark Rosenberg is more focused on creating an intelligent and driven character and isn’t happy until he’s peeled back all of his layers to get the most intimate look into a fictional character that I’ve seen in a long time. Apart from his pet project, which literally milks water from rocks, the rest of the tech isn’t the shiny fan dangled aspect but Captain William Stanaforth (Strong) does know this machinery all too well inside and out but it doesn’t mean everything is going to run smoothly despite his expertise. Continue reading Approaching the Unknown (2016)

Flatliners (1990)

Director: Joel Schumacher
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt, and Kevin Bacon. USA. 1h 55m

One question has plagued mankind since the dawn of time, what happens after death? Is there a big party in the sky, do you get to rekindle your relationships with your ancestors? But what happens if you just enter the afterlife and return, does this make you a god among mortal men? In Joel Schumacher’s science fiction thriller, the question is raised and sharply dodged as the cast fumble around personal nightmares and repetitive resuscitation scenes.

Shortly after his greatest achievements, Lost Boys (1987) and St Elmo’s Fire (1985) he came back with this pious theological piece, which is dramatic but becomes silent and empty when it attempts to give reason and answer to it’s meaning, in fall fairness it’s hard to answer what lies after death but if you’re going to make a movie about it, you really should have a theoretical process in place. Continue reading Flatliners (1990)

Monster Island (2019)

Director: Mark Atkins
Starring: Adrian Bouchet, Jonathan Pienaar, Natalie Robbie, Donna Cormack Thomson, Chris Fisher, Eric Roberts, Toshi Toda .USA/South Africa. 1h 29m

Trying to blend ancient folklore monsters into a modern sci-fi story just makes for a really poor Godzilla rip off seem like goldust in comparison. But coming from Mark Atkins, the B Movie god who made a slew of strange shark movies, it’s interesting to see some attempt to add in a backstory for once.

Using a mediterrainan style setting (although filmed in South Africa) there’s an attempt to make things seem exotic and distant, tropical and mysterious, but the research team who had enough warnings makes a terrible set of decisions and set themselves on a path of destruction in order to chase a giant critter that they witnessed crushing their expensive equipment, just because.

Adrian Bouchet stars as Billy Ford, who’s in charge of an advanced remote deep sea diving team, but when they witness a giant tentacle crush one of their remote machines, while setting up a demonstration for a rich backer, they decide to go in deep and investigate. Billy and his team seem to have access to everything, private choppers, boats, subs, both robotic and remote controlled but not much common sense. When they notice that the top of Reveen has vanished and is in fact a living lava blooded monster, they decide to fight back. This strange crustacean/octopus monster manages to kill a nuclear armed Russian sub but they get away and then luckily the government inspector who forced her way on board to make sure they are all working to strict guidelines, remembers that high university professor tried to teach her about these legendary monsters but she thought her tutor was talking shit, so they fly over and pick her up.. Sometimes I wish my life was this simple. Either way they awake a giant “Guardian” who isn’t Godzilla so the movie begins to not only let its audience down but things are now depressing as well.

Bouchet comes across like a cub scout leader, the tutor seems a bit away with her meds and Eric Roberts pops up from time to time as some admiral or something but all he does is shout down a phone with Toshi Toda wandering around in the background (maybe they skyped in their performances?) The special effects are terrible, when you don’t have money for good or intelligently lead CGI then just don’t go there, for a production like this I’d have been more impressed with a man in a suit, I’m an advocate for more monster men in suits if you didn’t guess.

Like all of those “terrible sharknado movies” this one is a switch off and drink a beer to make it interesting kidna popcorn flick, at times it has a few interesting links to a fake mythos but the usual abysmal rubbish that often gets served up on syfy, why i don’t know…

Rating: 2/10

R: Planet of the Sharks (2016), Sand Sharks (2012), Jack the Giant Killer (2013)
L: 20 Wonderful Made-for-television sci-fi disaster movies
5s: Mark Atkins
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Torture Ship (1939)

Director: Victor Halperin.
Starring: Lyle Talbot, Charleton Young, Irving Pichel, Shelia Bromley, Skelton Knaggs . USA. 49m
Based on: A Thousand Deaths by Jack London.

The notable short story from the creative and imaginative Jack London in 1899 saw a mad scientist experiment with death, finding new ways to kill and revive the protagonist with crazed experiments that lead to yet another more deadly invention to aid escape once the experiments get more depraved! This compelling sci fi story inspired the 1932 White Zombie director, Victor Halperin; to develop his rendition, not just based on any ship, but the mysterious Torture Ship.

Halperin speeds through through his story in record timing, and in under an hour he’s arranged a few twists and turns, alongside a whirlwind romance as a group of cons try to go about their daily lives on board a cruise while not giving away their criminal backgrounds but not realising that’s why they have been forced together on this particular ship by a crazed scientist with a fever dream. Continue reading Torture Ship (1939)

The Dark Red (2018)

Director: Dan Bush
Starring: April Billingsley, Kelsey Scott, Conal Bryne, Rhoda Griffis .USA. 1h 41m

An interesting idea with lots of character twists and turns in Dan Bush’s courageous drama that taps into the bond of blood of a particular family with uncanny powers. For the most part what seems to be a challenging time for one woman in a mental institution eventually creeps into a much more powerful action drama that has all the making of a really decent sci-fi fantasy drama but doesn’t come across with as much power as it might have if handled differently, but it did keep me glued while it transformed into something deeper and more meaningful, maybe there will be a chance to break this story open in a sequel? Continue reading The Dark Red (2018)

Mortal Engines (2018)

Director: Christian Rivers.
Starring.Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang. USA. 2h 8m.

This majestic story of the fight for freedom in a world where cities hunt each other, has no shortage of outstanding special effects and dazzling action scenes but it lacks in having a matching narrative, something as compelling and hard worked to really make this apocalyptic fantasy enough power to be a fulfilling and compelling movie, however I’m sure that I am not the target audience as I no longer have homework.

Christian Rivers has worked so closely with the writer, Peter Jackson on many of his epic blockbusters but it seems that being in the driving seat took Rivers out of his comfort zone as he struggled to keep this meaty beast under control. So much attention was directed in this film looking so specific but in reflection it’s hard not to see it as a Frankenstein of so many other projects but in reality it just feels like a live action Ghibli story but without much feeling applied to it. Rivers does achieve a consistent theme but that’s about it in terms of accomplishments. Continue reading Mortal Engines (2018)

Posetitel Muzeya / A Visitor to a Museum (1989)

Director: Konstantin Lopushansky
Starring: Viktor Mikhaylov, Vera Mayorova,Vadim Lobanov, Irina Rakshina, Aleksandr Rasinsky, Iosif Ryklin, Yu. Sobolev, Vladimir Firsov. Russia/Soviet Union/West Germany/Switzerland. 2h 16m

The jaw dropping, mind bending and highly disjointed follow on to Dead Man’s Letters (1986), shows that Lopushansky has lost none of this amazing vision of the world after an apocalyptic disaster. Usually history is written by the victors but who really comes out on top when the entire planet sinks into a nuclear winter?

From it’s dark crimson opening, it’s clear that the world is a very different place in this complicated post-apocalyptic future, that carries on from living memories of Chernobyl. The world attempts to keep things moving as a tourist attempts to traverse the barren landscape to visit a museum buried deep below the ocean. Clothed in a long black coat and carrying a single suitcase he stumbles through massive piles of waste, fights through clouds of dangerous dust and catches the saddest looking train I’ve ever seen limp down a track. Eventually he makes it to his “hotel” a house run by rich elites that looks out onto a vibrant shore that leads to a hidden fabled Museum. Continue reading Posetitel Muzeya / A Visitor to a Museum (1989)

Underwater (2020)

Director: William Eubank
Starring: Kristen Stewrd, Vincent Cassel, Mamoduou Athie, TJ Miller, John Gallagher Jr, Jessica Henwick. USA/Canada. 1h 35m

It was only a matter of time where the connection between the isolation of outer space was going to be matched by that of a deep dark space closer to the earth was going to be matched up and Cthulhu chucked in for good measure. The last milestone year for underwater horrors was 1989 which saw the release of three masterworks DeepStar Six (1989), Leviathan (1989), and The Abyss (1989) which saw fearless deep sea adventurers encountering different unknown vicious beasts and sometimes aliens while often digging deep into the earth’s crust. So why not knock it up a notch now that we have access to a lot more.. technology and green screens.

William Eubank is obsessed with a flighty spacey sci fi adventures filled with twists and turns from the epic loneliness of Love (2011) and his attempt to make a viable sci fi mystery in The Signal (2014) which looked stunning but employed too much slow mo action , he’s certainly built up an amiable arsenal of techniques and the ability to build gorgeous sets and to create a realistic other world atmosphere, nevertheless he keeps most of this new epic Underwater fairly grounded under the final act where all hell quite literally breaks lose. Continue reading Underwater (2020)

Reign of Fire (2002)

Director: Rob Bowman
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, Gerard Butler, Alexander Siddig, Ned Dennehy, Izabella Scorupco .UK. 1h 41m

I fell out of love with fantasy movies for the surreal back in my teens, I still enjoy the genre but I live for the way out psychotropic pop surreal that goes that one step beyond. The fantasy genre is riddled with stories of dragons, maidens, cruel giant monsters, laws and riddles but going back to the standard western fantasy realm only gets a film canned as a tiresome Lord of the Rings rip off, so many attempts to bring Fantasy into the modern realm have challenged many a cast and crew, this silly bu entertaining project from X Files director Rob Bowman is interesting but slightly cringe.

After years of working the TV circuit Bowman branched out into a lengthy feature which resurrects a modern tale of dragons and legendary heroes, blending castles and helicopters, a tale of ultimate bravery and sacrifice unfolds. Continue reading Reign of Fire (2002)

El Hoyo / The Hole AKA The Platform (2019)

Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
Starring: Iván Massagué, Zorion Eguileor, Antonia San Juan, Emilio Buale Coka, Alexandra Masangkay .Spain. 1h 34m

When we have the truth of our social or cultural climate thrown in our face in graphic ways it’s quite common for people to feel ashamed, disgusted or maybe intrigued by its complexity. Taking something which most are unable to comprehend or actively turning a blind eye too, and reinventing it, is threaded throughout this spectacular Spanish Sci Fi Thriller.The Platform is an incredibly busty portrayal of our current tragedy of the commons but this one is a touch harsher than the Allegory of the Long Spoons fable.

It’s a popular trend for movies made for a more astute audience to often hit the ground running, chucking it’s characters and audience into an odd situation and assuming that grey matter will get them through the fleshing out of the plot, this is so welcomed than a third of the movie being taking by the director hammering home what they want the audience to think. So after watching a Michelin style kitchen prepare perfect foods, Galder opens with the lead Goreng (Massague) waking up on a bunk, on a platform with a strange man who keeps saying obviously.. there should be a warning to buckle up because things are going to get strange, violent and incredibly deep. Continue reading El Hoyo / The Hole AKA The Platform (2019)