It’s that time of year again already! M trekked across the street for her annual Oscar party, and I settled in for some science fiction flicks that I’ve somehow managed to never see. First up?
Primer must be one of the most recent movies I’ve ever watched on Oscars night, but it’s still been on my list for entirely too long. If you’re not already aware, it’s a super-smart independent time travel film. This particular DVD has been sitting on my shelf for the better part of a decade; I knew it was complex and intelligent, so I didn’t want to sit down and only half watch it, as I knew I’d get lost doing that.
I’m glad I gave it my attention. Partly because it was really solid, and I liked it a lot, but also because I’d heard right… this movie had some serious expectations for its audience. I paid attention throughout, and I’m no dummy, but I still checked online the next day to make sure I’d caught everything (I did pretty well if you’re curious). Really glad I finally got around to seeing this.
This is the first year that I actually invited other people to join me for Oscar night. Life being what it is I still ended up mostly soloing the first and last films, but I had a couple other viewers for the most anticipated movie of the evening:
Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity (1985)
Daria and Tesa, ready to fight back.
This was pretty much just as amazing and bad as we all expected it to be. Chunks of plot seemed to exist purely so they could justify the title, and it was way beyond cheesy. High points included the bickering androids using ‘robot voices’ to accuse one another of shirking work and tattling, the completely random insertion of a ‘phantom zone’ (full of zombies, for the record, and no phantoms at all), and a villain that – from about 2/3 of the camera angles – looked like an uncanny-valley clone of Christian Bale.
The plot is ostensibly a ‘most dangerous game’ sort of deal, but it takes most of the movie to get to the game itself, and the main hunt only lasts about 20 minutes. We were all very entertained, though, so we’ll call this one a win this time around.
Daria leads Rik back to the castle, after a long night of setting up two traps that will accomplish little to nothing…
Silent Running (1972)
This is probably the youngest I’ve ever seen Bruce Dern. He cares for one of the Earth’s last forests, in a dome attached to a spacecraft. The other 3 members of his crew don’t care so much, and when they receive orders to jettison and nuke the forests so that their ship can be converted into a commercial freighter, poor Bruce is the only one not thrilled with the orders.
Tragedies occur, things go south, and Bruce is left trying to care for a single surviving domed forest with the help of three squat little bots; he renames them Hughie, Dewey, and Louie. Tortured and alone, he eventually reprograms the drones for medical needs, poker playing, and other useful skills, and goes a little stir crazy while he’s at it.
I liked this one as well (it was a good year for SciFi night), and I’ve been meaning to watch it for ages. It’s on tons of ‘you need to watch these’ science fiction film lists, but it always got bumped for other things. No more! It wasn’t exactly a fast-paced film so it may not be a great fit for everybody, but it certainly feels timely (environmental issues haven’t exactly faded into oblivion over the last few decades), and was a fine closing to 2018’s Oscar Night SciFi Superfest. Here’s to next February!
Well, last weekend was the Academy Awards, which of course means M went across the road for her friend’s Oscar party, and I sat down at home with a bunch of Science Fiction movies I hadn’t seen (generally because they were before my time). This year I started with Time After Time, and it was delightful!
This one’s been on my list for years, but kept getting pushed aside up make way for other movies. I’m super glad I finally at down and watched it. HG Wells (Malcolm McDowell) chases Jack the Ripper (David Warner) through time and space to 1970s San Francisco, and meets a lovely and independent young lady (Mary Steenburgen). Madcap adventure, romance, and comedy ensue. Wells is charming and wonderfully naive, Jack is cruel and confident, you get the idea. I totally recommend this.
It was so good that I decided I could go high risk with my next selection, and that is how I found myself watching Metalstorm: the Destruction of Jared-Syn.
3d, PG, 1983. I almost feel like that’s saying enough. This is one of those post-apocalyptic road rage movies that were so prevalent in the wake of Mad Max. Mostly they just make you realize what a genius George Miller was/is. Everything feels slow and unimpressive, the vehicles look lame, you get the idea. Maybe that’s more accurate though… What are the odds that everybody working on a car after the apocalypse is some sort of monster garage hero? This one isn’t what I’d call actively bad, it’s just not at all good. The bad guy is filling a giant crystal with stolen souls, the good guy always leaves his helmet in the tank-car, there’s a girl and a scoundrel and an honorable subvillain. It checks all the boxes, but does so with a crayon.
The final movie in this 2017 Oscar trifecta was The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, and what a closer! Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller) is a rockstar/scientist (and brain surgeon?) who uses a rocket car and a black box to punch a dimensional home through a mountain, inspiring an interdimensional alien exiled/trapped on Earth to rally his War of the Worlds compatriots and steal the black box, triggering an interdimensional incident that could result in global thermonuclear war. Along the way we meet Buckaroo’s fan club slash militia, a romantic interest that seems to be the long lost twin of hours ex-wife, and a series of ever-less useful bureaucrats and aliens. I definitely enjoyed it, but I think I mostly just love that it exists; it was a very different era for truly creative endeavours.
That’s it for now. I’ve gotta say, I’m truly excited to see what I dig up for next year.
Games aren’t the only medium I didn’t fully explore as a child. As much as I love sci fi (and as much as I always did), there are a ton of classic science fiction films that I missed as a kid. Let’s be honest, this isn’t a genre that spends much effort avoiding sex and violence. I got to thinking about this a while back and decided to start tracking down some of the movies I didn’t see the first time around (and a few that I did but just wasn’t old enough to appreciate).
This weekend was one of those opportunities. My boy was asleep at a good time every night and I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be. And so: damnation alley (1977), a boy and his dog (1975), shivers (1975), and hardware (1990). Damnation alley was pretty meh, although it did make me want to reread the book. The zelazny classic involved a hard run through an irradiated death zone in a super tank. The movie spent the first 15 of its 91 minutes just getting to the apocalypse, which I’m sure seemed poignant to somebody back in ’77 but was completely unnecessary to the movie. Pretty much the entire budget seems to have gone into the supertank; the rest of the effects are pretty terrible, and the ending was ridiculously abrupt.
Boy and his dog I actually saw as a kid, and is a pretty solid example of something I just wasn’t in any way old enough to appreciate. I think I probably drew pictures or read while it was on, because its incredibly dark and I don’t remember any of those bits. Weird and sorta twisted (the post-apocalyptic world depicted here is a pretty misogynistic hellhole), but I enjoyed it. Not sure how close it came to the source material but I may have to find out.
Shivers struck me as pretty cronenbergy (like zombies but with sex!) and fairly so so. Some gross and disturbing bits but again, that’s pretty much cronenberg’s wheelhouse. Considering it was a movie about parasite-infested sex zombies it was pretty clean on that front. Can’t see myself bothering to watch it again.
Which brings us to hardware. Sorta bad and good at the same time. Pacing was a little rough (the last 20 minutes seemed to pull a bit of a point break) but the movie overall was lots of fun. Some action, some cool-looking robot parts, and a crapload of mayhem.
All told, best oscar night in ages.